Month: February 2018

OUT OF INK…

Sometimes writers run out of ink….

That’s where I find myself today.

It’s not writer’s block. It’s writer’s bleak.

It’s raining and the ‘bleak’ has set it.  I know it’s diaphanous. I can put my hand right through it like it’s Caspar the Not-so-friendly Ghost. And yet it clings to me. A cold mist. And it feels so real because its breath summons the hairs on the back my neck, bristling them like the quills on a frightened caterpillar.

It will lift. I know this because I am the ‘bleak’ and the lighthouse.

Today I have no ink. I’ve run dry.

With two books scheduled for release this year and two more being considered by people in the world of publishing, I can afford to rest a notch. I will relax and sink into the softness beneath the ‘bleak’ like a dive beneath the breaking waves that roll tumultously above without buffeting me about in their chaos.

The ‘bleak’ is like the Nothingness in The Never-Ending Story. It rolls in like a thundercloud, dark and menacing and it obscures the ‘everything’ as it envelops and laps over the terrain of my mind.

But I have learned to read the weather-charts and can smell the petrichor easing up from the soil beneath my feet, up, up, into my nostrils, the tinny scent that heralds rain. I am ready when the ‘bleak’ rolls in. I rug up, take a deep breath, put down my quill and batten down the hatches. Sleep is good. Reading other writers’ words is good. Today is for soft, downy pillows, a blanket fort and some David Sedaris because god knows I’m not in any mood for Virginia Woolf.

It is actually raining. Out of the sky. A Lorikeet, fluffed and soggy, sits at my window, staring at me and I know exactly how she feels.

I will start my new writing project soon. Not today. Probably not tomorrow.

But deep, deep down in the subterranean cavern of my grey matter, a little bell rings and a tiny golden speck of light glows. My lighthouse is there. I’ll navigate my way past the rocks tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that.

It’s okay to ride the ‘bleak’. It’s okay to be grey.

Pen down and breathe…..

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BOUDICCA BITES BACK

The warrior woman has awoken.

No longer will she polish her husband’s shoes, bring honour to her father’s name, pamper and praise her little boys. No longer will she sit silently while men decide her fate. She has been silenced and shouted down and shoved into subservience while being polished and pinched and powdered pretty in pink and poked and preened and pawed and played for cheap thrills.

She is not a plaything but playful. She is not a trophy although you can earn her love. She doesn’t nag, she expects respect and says so. She won’t let men make rules that hurt her. When she says ‘enough!’ she means it and ‘no’ always means ‘no’ no matter how hard you try to bend it.

It’s 2018 and it is an awesome thing to be a woman. As the dawn of Aquarius rises, it brings a chariot with a new breed of Boudiccas, waving and shouting and singing and celebrating…the fact that they are strong and smart and hopeful.

I am a writer and I have written young adult books with strong female characters, girls who inspire, girls who make sacrifices and work to make the world a better place for not only their daughters but also their sons. They build a world for the future where women and men stand beside one another without the handicap of sexism or racism or ageism or any other ism.

In the wake of the most recent school shooting in the US, a new chant has arisen led by the youth who will be our future and for the first time in a long time, I have renewed hope for that future. I listened to Emma Gonzalez so powerfully speak out against the system that allowed a 19 year old boy to buy a gun and kill seventeen of her school-mates in cold blood. Gonzalez is the role model young women need today. She is standing up to the conservative white men in suits who line their pockets with money splattered in children’s blood. She is owning the President and the NRA like a boss!

In the wake of the election of that misogynist scary clown to the position of US President, a wave of women’s voices began to roar. A ‘man’ who admitted to sexual assault so casually, so flippantly, was elected to the nation’s highest office. He stepped into the shoes of great men. But he was a scab on a diseased society, a man-child with grabby hands and a petulant pout. Women picked away the scab and let the pus pour out. #METOO was born. Women are being heard.  More importantly, women are being believed.

I have a teenage daughter and I said to her this morning, ‘In a world of Kardashians, be a Gonzalez.’

Don’t back down. For so long, these old white men have run the joint with their power-hungry, gluttonous greed and trampled over women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, refugee’s rights, almost every basic human right that didn’t directly benefit themselves. It’s time to stand up and tell them that we don’t live in their small world. The ants are resisting the grasshoppers. The crumpled suits may well represent the one percent but we have the numbers. We are legion.

The revolution is here and Boudicca is on the frontline.

My book Victorieux, a young adult novel about three powerful young women who resist the patriarchy and wave their swords confidently, shouting ‘Bring it on! BRING. IT. ON’ will be released in October this year.

My three Boudicca-babes are

Jeanne Hachette – a poor French maid who led an army of women in resistance against the Burgundians, who sought to sack her town in 1478.

Betsy Grey – an Irish lass who was a part of the underground Irish movement against the British occupation of her beloved country in 1798.

and

Fiona McKechnie – a girl who gets caught up in the power and passion of the protest movement at a Brisbane university and marches against conscription into the Vietnam war (1968).

It’s never been a better time to be a woman. Or a young adult writer. Catniss Everdeen kicked down the door and strong girls are rushing through it en masse and it makes my heart glad. We write stories not to entertain but to inspire young people into action. They are our tomorrow.

The fight is real. The power imbalance is still unacceptable. But when a tragedy occurs that unites us all in grief and anger, it is heartening to hear the voice of a woman like Emma Gonzalez bursting through the ashes…

We are women….hear us roar. We have the blood of Boudicca pulsing in our veins. Don’t stand in our way or we will eat your frickin’ entrails!

VIVAMUS FEMINUS TEMPORE

DEAR AMERICA, YOU ARE A PSYCHOPATH.

Planet Earth, we have a problem.

It’s called the United States of America.

Dear America,

Yesterday, I watched, with the rest of the world, as the horror of another one of your school shootings unfolded in real time on our screens. Children running in fear, the heart-jolting terror in screams recorded on teenagers’ phones laid over the somehow unreal sounds of the patter and pop of gunshot. Aerial footage of SWAT teams, ambulances being loaded, the raw grief on the faces of the mothers and fathers and teachers and students, the shell-shocked Sheriff.

And then came your whining, glib, pathological call to not ‘politicize the  tragedy’ and your heartless, diseased, ice-cold and calculated plea to blame ‘mental illness’ for the tragedy because guns don’t kill people, dontcha know? People kill people. As Alan Alda said, we can all agree that people kill people but it’s also true that they do so, and far more effectively, with guns, than with their own bare human hands.

Some of you agree with me. Keep shouting the good shout.

But to the America that believes it has a god-given (that’s a bit rich) right to bear arms and worship at the teat of the NRA….

YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. YOU. ARE. THE. PROBLEM.

Yes, people kill people and the YOU are the people doing the killing with your tools of death….your toys…your rifles and shotguns, your machine guns and sub-machine guns, your automatic, assault, personal defense handbag-sized, lolly-gobble-bliss-bomb bullshit pistols. The most recent boy to inflict such pain into the community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was definitely not of sound mind but he had one thing in common with you…a love of guns. And it was that that killed those school children.  An irrational and deadly love affair with guns.

Guns are good for one thing only. Death. That’s it. Oh sure you can go and play target practice….it’s just a game…sport….(go for it….you get more points if you hit the human outline in the head). So it makes sense eh, that where you’ve got a lot of guns, you’ve got a lot of death. It’s really pretty basic. In the US gun deaths are off the chart. Here in Australia, they are rare. I’ve never seen or held a gun outside of the war museum. Never once in my entire life would a gun have helped me out of a situation. Not once. I am the mother of five and grandmother of one and none of us has ever needed a gun…or seen a gun…or held a gun…other than an over-sized plastic water gun.

Civilians are safer without guns. Civilians would be more civil, without guns.

But, America, you have more than just a problem of having way too many metal death sticks firing bullets into every man, woman, child and pet; more than your politicians being owned by the big NRA dollars; more than disenfranchised, frustrated and confused young white men with questionable racist tendencies hammering bullets into the bodies of innocent school students, children killing children; more than your paranoid fear of immigrants….

more than that

I believe that you, the United States of America, may be a psychopath. Like every human body, countries are made up of good and bad bacteria that have to co-exist. It’s naive and counterproductive to call it red and blue, right-wing and left-wing. But when your showy, loud and angry voices demand that you be able to cling onto your precious gun-rights, while a troubled teenage boy can legally buy a AR-15 and wander into a school and not only take seventeen lives but destroy hundred of others left behind, then there is a problem and you ARE THE PROBLEM. Your bad bacteria is out-of-control because you have more than 300 million guns floating around in your body!

You numbskulls offer your fricking thoughts and prayers while your head honcho sociopath wearing the orange crown of antisocial postulating, decries the terrible problem of ‘mental illness’, all the while having his butt kissed by gun lobbyists. You people make me sick and not just me but the whole rest of the world. We felt sorry for you once, twice, hell repeatedly, but there comes a time when you have to start taking responsibility for your own health and broken condition and admit it and start making amends.

This time, America, you’ve gone too far. You are that parent who is so dysfunctional they can’t look after their own kids. You need to wake up. Stop loving your guns more than your own children!

STOP LOVING YOUR GUNS MORE THAN YOUR OWN CHILDREN.

We had a prime minister who was largely a giant jerk but after our worst massacre, he banned guns, tightened the laws. BANG! And now, I don’t have to worry that my toddler is going to blow my brains out all over my peanut butter toast at breakfast time.

I DON’T HAVE TO PANIC EVERY TIME I HEAR A SIREN DOWN NEAR THE LOCAL HIGH-SCHOOL.

If I lived in your diseased country, I would be too afraid to send my children to school…any school. EVER.

America. Your schools are not safe. Your streets are not safe. America, you are not safe.

I’ve long wanted to visit you and see your Grand Canyon and shop in New York City, go to Disneyland and surf at Malibu but as long as you are suffering from this dangerous mental disorder, I just can’t risk coming anywhere near you.

America, you are a psychopath and you need help.

Your antisocial behaviour, impaired empathy (because after Sandy Hook….Vegas….Columbine….YOU DID NOTHING BUT PRAY), impaired remorse (you should feel guilty, really guilty), egotistical sense of self-worth (you are not that great and are in no immediate danger of becoming so)…..

it all points to the one diagnosis of ‘psychopath’.

You have some decent, intelligent voices over there advocating for strict changes to gun laws. They are the voice of reason. Listen to them. For the sake of your children.

Over 30, 000 people in your country die each year from gunshots. Yes they are fired by human beings but your addiction to firearms is fuelling an epidemic and you are so bound up in it you don’t know that you are sick. But take it from the rest of the world ….you need help. You can change and you need to urgently.

Don’t let those seventeen beautiful souls who were murdered by a gun yesterday become just another one of your many, many, many, many, many, many statistics.

Admit you have a problem and seek to cure it.

Love the rest of the outraged world. xx

 

MADNESS, MAYHEM AND MOTHERHOOD

The really exciting news is that I have a new book coming out on July 2nd.

A memoir.

Yes. I have done the unthinkable again and decided to chainsaw open my chest and spill out little bits of my heart all over the page for strangers to pore over. Am I a complete masochist? A complete narcissist? A complete exhibitionist?

Yes. To all of the above.

You need to be all of those things to be able to write memoir.

For the last few years I’ve been focusing on writing for a young adult audience but this one, ‘Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood,’ is for an older market. For mums and for those who’ve had mums or mother figure’s in their lives. That is most of us.

My journey through motherhood has been turbulent but also brilliant. I am the mother of five children. Five! I blame the Sisters of Mercy for failing to endorse contraception. I’ve grown three boys into men and still have two saplings under my roof. I’ve been a single mum and a partnered mum. Partnered is easier. But I also have fond memories of raising my boys alone. We were a tight unit. A team. I also have bitter, nightmarish memories of that time, when I struggled daily to pay the bills and keep food on the table; when I sat up rocking a sick child to sleep, soaked to the skin with their feverish sweat, alone and frightened.

There was and still is an enormous amount of stigma around single parenting and women cop it worst. A single dad is often seen as something of a hero while a single mum is looked upon as something of a failure. But having sailed the choppy sea myself and having witnessed many strong women bringing up wonderful kids on their own, I know that these parents, doing a double load, are incredibly courageous and inspirational. Champions.

To make ends meet, I cleaned houses, took in ironing and babysat.

But what makes my story a little different is that I was mad as a frickin’ cut snake.

Yep. It took many years for someone to slap a label on me. Bipolar. And let me tell you, juggling a household with small children on a budget made up of found rocks and feathers, with an invisible enemy living inside you like a malicious parasite, is no picnic. I called her Bad Nikki, She’d come to inhabit my body during my teens when she tried to kill me. But she was hot and cold. Not always bad. Sometimes, just mischievous. At times she picked me up on a wave of manic euphoria and sailed me way out to sea while we screamed with laughter, the wind in our hair….and then she’d dump me and leave me to drown. She’d help me write an entire book in two weeks and then stare at me from the mirror and tell me that I was worthless and the very worst mother/person on the planet and that I should jump off the nearest cliff.

But there were also many good times in my roller-coaster life of madness, mayhem and motherhood. The profoundly funny gems of pure joy that came out of my children’s mouths. The Wiggles (I had a massive crush on Greg…you know…when the Wiggles were real Wiggles). The strange and misshapen mother’s day gifts that came home from the school art and craft department. Those moments when you wake up next to your child and they turn to you, all sleep ruffled and tell you that they love you. Child-free girls’ week-ends of champagne and man-watching. Especially those weekends.

But there were yuckier bits. Losing love along the way. Being evicted for being poor. Bank fees for bounced cheques. The electricity being cut off. Eating dry weetbix all weekend….and BAD NIKKI getting in my ear to tell me to end it all. Especially that inner voice.

But I’m still standing. And the kids aren’t completely broken. Fortunately, people are pretty durable and resilient. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger ….and all that.

The book is almost at the first pages stage…..we’re fine-tuning a cover, looking for endorsements from writers that I deeply admire, and I’m just beginning to freak out of my crazy brain about how the book will be received. Will I be strong enough to deal with the haters? Because there are always haters. When you get a one star review for a work of fiction, you can shrug it off. Not everyone likes the same sort of books. But when you get a one star review for a book about YOU, YOURSELF, YOUR VERY SOUL….then it’s pretty hard not to take that personally.

I view writing memoir as a form of ‘therapy’. It flushes out some stories that need to be aired because waving them in the fresh air and sunlight dries them out and stops them from festering into a deep infection of the psyche.

So I’m feeling emotionally refreshed having spilled my guts again…

Can’t wait to hold the book in my hands and sigh….somehow I made it through the wilderness….yeah I made it through.

 

SICK AND TIRED AND HOPEFUL

I haven’t blogged for a while because after years of thinking I was largely invincible, I discovered…that I’m not.

I got kicked in the body by a wicked combo of evil autoimmune diseases that seemingly swept up out of nowhere and started gleefully destroying my joints and my muscles and my joy, to the point that I was unable to walk or function like a human being at all. I tried to write to escape from it all but found that the words all came out in a jumble, and pain punctuated every sentence instead of the usual commas and full-stops and whatnot. And I mostly just wrote swearwords all over the page in angry, fist-held, red pen!

You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

Ain’t that the effing truth. I was a lazy, cranky woman before this thing hit but a hurricane 5 autoimmune flare turned me into a blob of vitriolic bile and misery. Pain makes even the most polite person a raving maniac. Think of those cliched scenes of women in childbirth screaming expletives and generally behaving like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist. That has been me on a good day for the last couple of months.

‘Get me another f@#*king cup of tea, you bastard who can walk and laugh and do things, you miserable sack of man,’ I would scream at my long-suffering husband from my bed where I lay sweating foul-smelling-pain-perspiration into my scrunched sheets.

It really is a wonder the lot of them, husband and kids and dog, didn’t just sneak out one night and leave me to die in my own cantankerous bubble of agony. Pain killers did nothing but make me constipated. My pain was too hard-core for even Hillbilly Heroin. Nothing but a chainsaw was going to put me out of my misery. (I noticed my husband scanning a brochure for them, God love him).

I got a wheelchair so that I could be pushed up and down the aisles of the supermarket making a spectacle of myself.

‘Faster,’ I would scream at whatever poor servant was pushing the thing. ‘Stop! Back there! No, not that coffee, you completely useless prick-arse. Come back. Don’t leave me in the middle of the aisle…..’

And the housework. Nobody could do anything right and it annoyed me even though I never left the bedroom except to struggle to the shower where I would sit in a plastic chair and wash myself imagining I was a gargoyle in a fountain.

I watched that movie, ‘August Osage County’ and realised that I was fast becoming the Meryl Streep character so I threw a book at the television and determined to stop being so revolting. Pain and sickness make you a self-obsessed monster sometimes. Just look at a man with the flu!

So, to distract myself, I forced myself to write, because it was the only thing that could take me out of my own life, which had turned into a D grade horror movie. So I wrote a whole book in two weeks and I really like it. It’s not completely terrible. It has promise.  A Young Adult book. A little dark (of course). And I read it aloud to my 13 year old son as I completed every chapter and for a little while I forgot the pain and we bonded and the sun started coming out. My son loved the book and loved me reading it to him and I loved reading it to him and we all started to smile again. Awwwww.

And then the doctor put me on a course of steroids that would make a donkey win the Melbourne Cup…that was two days ago and

NOW

I am…..in some kind of drugged mania and I can walk (a bit) and feel like I might be a hybrid of Wonder-Woman and Roger Rabbit. And while the potential horrific side-effects that may come raining down on my parade (like glaucoma, diabetes, osteoporosis and psychosis) don’t sound like a picnic, I’ll take the immediate effects and take this opportunity to write this blog and to spring-clean my wardrobe and maybe put all my books in alphabetical order and cook all the food in the house and put it in neatly labelled plastic containers for the freezer. I’ve got this other idea for a book as well…and might start that as well today….and an exercise DVD because I’ve been so sedentary…and…

I’m sorry. I just took a deep breath. I’m okay.

On a more sensible note, I have a new book coming out in July. It is called Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood. Hardly surprisingly, it is a memoir. It is being published by UQP.

I am looking forward to my health stabilizing so that I can enjoy the journey. The manuscript is off to the type-setter and I am awaiting (excitedly) for the early cover-work.

If and when my family come home from school/work this afternoon, I will present them with a sparkling clean house and a big smile and now that I am almost pain-free and mobile, I will apologise for having been a torturous beast to live with for the last (ahum) three months and beg their forgiveness.

If you live with someone who has a serious health condition, please understand that it is their pain and frustration talking and moaning. Inside there is a healthy person just trying to get out. Give them a foot rub.

I feel like I’ve found the escape hatch. For a time, life may go back to some kind of normal. Hahahahaha….as if my life could ever be normal!!!!!

Happy Friday. Have a nice weekend.

Nik x