Hexenhaus

TRUMP’S WITCH HUNT

     The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, looked at the appalling events of the witch hysteria in Salem but it was actually analogous to the times in which he wrote it. The Crucible was shining a light on the Red Scare, the communist hysteria that was being promoted by Senator Joe McCarthy and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover.

     My newly released novel (also based on historical events during the witch-hunting craze), HEXENHAUS, is similarly drawing a sharp parallel between the Early European witch burnings and the situation we find ourselves in today with government-endorsed racism and Islamaphobia sweeping across the globe. The Trump rhetoric that encourages a fear of ‘the other’ is encouraging another wave of hysteria. Policies that exclude minorities or persecute refugees are burning torches of hate stirring up the bonfire of fear and we are all poorer for it.

     This is history repeating itself. Wave after wave, the fear sweeps people up in hysteria, causing them to indulge in crazy behaviour that simply feeds the powerful and enslaves the common man and woman. The Inquisition, the burning of 100,000 witches across the globe for crimes, tried in courts of law, such as ‘riding to a coven on a flying black dog’ was a brutal reaction to an epidemic of fear. Eminent, intelligent, university-trained judges convicted people of such crimes because they had become so blinded by fear and hysteria that the ludicrous became real to them.

     We can look at this and say ‘how ridiculous that superstition ran riot’ but it happened again in Nazi Germany, it happened during the McCarthy-driven terror of ‘the reds’, the communists who were going to destroy the world as we know it. It is happening again in the Western world and like the frog in the boiling water, it is creeping up so insidiously that many don’t see it for what it is and can’t comprehend that they are being played by those in power.

     Fear, such as that seen in the witch hunts, the Jewish Holocaust, the Red Scare and the current Islamaphobia, sets off a chain of nasty behaviour, crushes civil liberties underfoot and limits everyone’s freedom. Lives of innocent people get turned upside down. False accusations. Blacklists. Political repression. Torture. Murder.

     Mark my words. There certainly is climate change going on. The climate of fear is hotting up.

     The anti-witch, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic fervour shrinks us as human beings.

My book Hexenhaus tells the story of three young women caught up in the hysteria of their times. They are persecuted for outlandish and dangerously absurd accusations of witchcraft. While researching those dark burning times, it seemed incredible to me that such a horror could be perpetrated again and yet it goes on and on, only the words change.      Witch. Jew. Muslim. Refugee. Mexican. Feminist.

Fear-mongers are hungry beasts and in their greed for power they destroy us all and rob us of the many freedoms those before us fought so bitterly for, throughout history.

My book Hexenhaus shows how it happens. Please world, don’t let it happen again!

HEXENHAUS IS IN THE HOUSE

When I say that Hexenhaus is in the house what I really mean is that she is in book stores. Having this book published is a dream come true for me, one of those biguns from the bucket list crossed off….and don’t it feeeeeel good!!!

This is a tale of three girls whose stories span four hundred years and take us from medieval Germany with its witch hysteria to late seventeenth century Scotland where mysterious things are taking place in a manor house and all fingers point to the young maid and the accusation is leveled at her – WITCH…..and then there is our contemporary girl who just wants to get through her HSC and win the affections of a boy from her local small town but the burning torches start hunting her and her mother  after ludicrous, senseless gossip starts singeing the edges of their quiet lives.

My stories were drawn from family history, the very real and tragic tale of the Renfrewshire witches (sometimes known as the Paisley witches) and a letter that sits in the Hanover University Library, written by a man to his daughter from the Hexenhaus, a torture factory that became the prototype for Nazi concentration camps and the inspiration for the evil cottage in Hansel and Gretel. The modern story was drawn loosely from my own experience of living in a small town.

My characters are brave and courageous and I love them all. They are all drawn a little from myself and my two sisters.

The mass panic and hysteria that saw these girls go through absolute hell and triumph in spirit, one way or another, is a reflection, a mirror, to what is going on in our own sorry world right now. I’ll let you read it and draw your own comparisons!

You can purchase Hexenhaus (GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT) at most good book stores. Or for your shopping pleasure and without the need to get up from where you are sitting now, you can click on any of these link and order it and it will be delivered to your door (lazy option).

Dymocks

Booktopia

Riverbend Books

Abbey’s Bookshop

Where the Wild Things Are

Potts Point Bookshop

Robinsons Bookshop 

 

 

LIFT-OFF

Well, there you go! HEXENHAUS was officially launched on Monday night with the help of the sensational Bec Mac. Launching a book is really one of the most rewarding aspects of the rather solitary life of a writer. For months and months and MONTHS you sit at your laptop and tap words, sculpt sentences, shuffle paragraphs and excise entire organs from your manuscript while keeping her heart beating and the passion simmering.

When you finally have that book in your hands it is an emotional experience but when you come together with all the people in your life that matter the most, to celebrate the safe arrival of your book, it is tantamount to a spiritual experience. Thank-you to Riverbend Books at Bulimba for your hospitality.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by my publishers at UQP to breathe life into my three very special characters. Veronica, Katherine, Paisley; I salute you and I now send your stories of empowerment, courage under fire and grace in the most difficult of circumstances, into the world.

In The Crucible (which has inevitably been compared to my little book of witch hysteria)….there was the clearly drawn analogy to the hate and fear of McCarthyism, the Red Terror, fear of Communists, during the Cold War! IN HEXENHAUS I have drawn the timely parallel between the Early European witch-hunts and  irrational hysteria of imagined folk devils and the current climate in our world of politically driven ‘terror’ of others, the rife and hateful Islamaphobia that is dangerous and destructive to the inherent goodness of humanity. Love, tolerance and community are under direct attack by the insidious racism that runs, as an undercurrent, through our Western political systems. My novel of three young women facing persecution by scared and small-minded people shines a light on the source of people’s ability to be caught up in baseless hysteria when in a mob led by burning torches.

Perhaps my cautionary tale will help readers to see that historical connection. Let’s make sure that the Burning Times of the witch-hunts and the 20th century Holocaust do not ever happen again. Ever.

Hexenhaus is available in all good book stores – Dymocks, QBD and Booktopia and lots of independents like Where the Wild Things Are, Beachside Bookshop at Avalon Beach, Abbeys, Macleans, Riverbend Books, Love That Book and many, many more. Need I remind you that Christmas is coming up? Buy HEXENHAUS for yourself, a friend, your daughter and your grandmother.

Peace out.

We’ve all lived in the Hexenhaus

‘Hexenhaus’, my new novel, was released today. The 31st October. 2016.

Most people have heard of the witch trials of Salem. They were the destructive outcome of dangerous folklore. But all across Europe, from Sweden to Germany, France, Spain and the UK, the idea of the ‘witch’ became the blame pigeon for epidemics, failed crops, birth defects and any manner of misfortune. The early European obsession with witches illustrated the cultural fear and fascination with women’s innate power which was shadowy and misunderstood. The female body summoned social anxiety because of its very power to give life. Women were viewed with suspicion and wariness.

In today’s world such attitudes and superstitions sound ludicrous but we live in a society that still argues about women’s reproductive rights and the pay gap. Domestic violence is a huge problem and one in three women will be sexually assaulted by a male during their lifetimes. The patriarchal stranglehold has not completely released its grip! When a male politician can stand in front of a placard reading ‘Ditch the Witch’, a reference to the female Prime Minister of his country, the stench of burning flesh and hair still wafts past him on the breeze, all the way from seventeenth century Salem and Europe.

I have been fascinated with witches since childhood (since Samantha Stephens of the television series Bewitched to be precise). In my new novel, Hexenhaus, based on historical characters and events, I aimed to transport readers back to a time when witches were fully believed to be real. It is hard for us looking through a contemporary lens to imagine a world where the sexism was so bad and the fear of the supernatural so intense, that people, even those of great learning, wholeheartedly believed that those accused and burned were actually witches. There were other political and religious motives at play in the later periods of persecution but these were times of which we can barely conceive. Hexenhaus was written to shine a light on those dark times.

Set in Bamberg, Germany in 1626 and Renfrewshire, Scotland 1697, two bookends of the seventeenth century, the historical threads of my narrative introduce Veronica Junius and Katherine Campbell, two young women inadvertently caught up in the witch hysteria of their time. Veronica escapes to a fairy-tale, idyllic existence in the woods which is her sacred and safe place, while Katherine finds herself confronted by a small child tormented by superstition so intensely that she sees her maids flying high in the sky at night, coming to visit her and poke her with pins while demanding that she give her soul over to the grim man in black. The accusations terrify the Renfrewshire community and Katherine must fight for her very life while enduring unspeakable tortures.

The modern thread of my story, the third strand in the braid,  shows how hysteria is not confined to the darkest corners of history but still very much alive and well in our own back-yards. The witch-hunt in Bundanoon, Australia, portrayed in Hexenhaus, is a finely directed spotlight on how the media and politicians, spiritual leaders and neighbourhood-fence gossips can fan and fuel irrational fears into full-blown mass hysteria. Pick your folk devil ‘Muslims’ ‘homosexuals’ ‘single mothers’ ‘welfare recipients’ ‘people with tattoos’ and so on and so forth.. Early Europe had witches, Hitler had Jews, we have…..fill in your greatest fear here!

My brave characters of Veronica, Katherine and Paisley find themselves vulnerable to the bigotry and small-mindedness of those around them who are driven by fear and an intense hatred of things they do not understand.

‘Hexenhaus’ honours my female ancestors whose blood runs through my veins. My great great great great great grandmother was burned for being a witch. If you were to follow your mother-blood back through the ages you would all come across the same charred bones.

We are all sisters standing on the edge of the universe.

Those who suffered before me, persecuted as ‘witches’, bequeathed their strength that flows through my veins, their wisdom which has given me knowledge, their inspiration which has given birth to my new book Hexenhaus and I offer my book to the world as a way of showing my gratitude.

It is dedicated to my grandmother but also to every woman, man and child who lost their life so brutally at the gallows or at the burning stake, at the hands of a world driven mad by irrational fear.

We must be vigilant and never, ever let it happen again.

‘I fly through the candle’s mouth like a singeless moth.’ Sylvia Plath – Witch Burning.

 

Hexenhaus – countdown

We are coming into the home stretch. I can now reveal the front cover of my new novel to you. Thank-you so very much to Kate Forsyth for her lovely endorsement. Nicole Hayes (One True Thing) also has some great words of support for the back cover…but for that, you must wait.

Here’s a little taste of what Hexenhaus is all about –

“A powerful historical novel about three young women caught in the hysteria of their own times.”

In 1628, Veronica Junius flees to the woods of Bamberg, Germany, with her small brother after their parents are condemned as witches by the notoriously sadistic Hexenbischof, and are burnt at the stake.

At the dawn of the eighteenth century, Katherine Campbell, a Scottish maid, is drawn into political dissidence with the Jacobites. She is falsely accused of causing the demonic possession of the eleven-year-old daughter of the manor house. Will Katherine pay the ultimate price for her beliefs?

In the present day, Paisley Muller-McLeod, a senior student in an Australian town, lives with her single mother, a practicing Wiccan who runs a New Age shop. When hateful gossip begins to singe her mother, Paisley must navigate her way through the burning torches of small-town prejudice.

Three women, separated by a span of 400 years, find themselves weathering similar crises, all linked to the hysteria that fans an accusation of ‘witch-craft’. Has anything really changed?

The paperback will be available in Australian bookstores on October 31st, published by UQP (University of Queensland Press). It will also be available in e-book format.

Details of the various book launches will be finalised shortly.

Put Hexenhaus on your Christmas shopping list! Everyone knows someone who will love this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Gestational Blues

There is nothing more exciting for a writer than getting that call that tells you a manuscript has made it through the treacherous fertilization process – the acquisitions meeting at a publishing house. Before that time your dream of a book is just that – a dream. You may have the words down and you may have an interested editor but they have to come together and get the endorsement, the fusion, that only a positive vote in the boardroom can provide. The development and arrival of a new book are often likened to the human birth process. While defying all odds to get there, books keep arriving on the shelves. It seems like a smooth factory, a literary conveyor belt, seamless and ceaseless. But if you were to go deep within the body of the publishing industry you would see just how difficult it is for an embryonic seed of story to become a full-blown book with a cover, spine and lots of leaves. For every one that succeeds, thousands fall by the way side, forgotten, discarded, delegated to that cavernous bottom drawer or Amazon kindle.

When I got that call about my upcoming novel ‘Hexenhaus’ I swore and cried, almost like when I’d found out I’d been pregnant in real life. I was full of hope, great expectations and fear. Would it all be okay, would I like the cover, would anyone read it? Because some books, like kids, become disappointments. I jest. No kid, of course, ever becomes a disappointment. Every single one is adorable in their own way. Adolph Hitler’s mother probably liked him. Charles Manson probably made sweet gurgling noises as he suckled from his beloved mother….Not disappointments so much as …some books just don’t make a lot of friends. You know what I’m saying? But when I got the call that I was going to have a new book, I was ecstatic, relieved and overjoyed.

Nine months is a walk in the park. This gestation will take fifteen months from that phone call to delivery. You get the call, you pop the champagne and then the early boredom sets in while nothing, nothing, nothing seems to happen. It took about six weeks for the contracts to be finalised and signed because one person or another involved in the process went on leave, got sick or spent more time tending to more fertile writers’ needs. No bitterness, none. When I’m selling like J.K. Rowling I’m sure things will move more quickly. High hopes! Then I waited, no belly-swelling except for the endless chocolate biscuits and more champagne. Thumbs twirled until they nearly became unscrewed.

Then a month later I got structural edits….big sweeping changes like the order of stories. My book tells the stories of three young women’s adventures through real-life tortures at the hands of witch-hunters. This is, I am sure, much more painful and terrifying than being pulled apart by the hands of editors. At this point your characters put on more flesh and your words get snipped away so that the narrative doesn’t get lost in the detail. All good. Getting smoother. This is where you hear the words ‘story arc’ a lot.

Three or four months after that I started copy edits. This is a big book with a lot of subject matter (and torture and hedgehogs). It was a daunting copy edit made more difficult by my challenging relationship with technology. My new editor was patient and diligent with a wonderful eye for getting my baby into the best health possible for her upcoming ordeal (exposure to the harsh elements of readership). In many ways an editor is like a fairy godmother, turning bits of pumpkin into crystal.

A cover arrived fresh from the designer and with a tweak here and there, we had Hexenhaus looking good. This is like seeing a 3-D ultrasound photo of your baby. It’s very exciting.

Then came the first pages and the proof-reading. It’s amazing how inept an eye can be and even after multiple reads I would find something I’d missed. Done and dusted and ready for the type-setter….

That’s where I am at now. Awaiting a nice endorsement from a peer/literary idol…that doesn’t say….’what a load of codswollop’. Thinking about book launches (baby showers?) Getting invited to writer’s festivals for next year (that’s exciting…they are like those baby pagents where you parade your baby about in public….hmmm…not really). Starting to tell everyone and anyone that I am having a book…a book…a book….on October 31st. People are getting sick of hearing this but I DON”T CARE!

I am already thinking about her sibling and I already have a name. Victorieux. Instead of a book about three witches, this one will be about three warrior girls. You know you are impatient when you are planning your next child while still awaiting the one in your belly (publisher’s office).

I am bristling with excitement. Hexenhaus is wriggling and writhing and cannot wait to get into the fresh air of bookshops with the smell of lovely, woody untouched pages on her breath. I feel her pulsing with longing to be held by gentle, loving reader’s hands, who fall asleep at night with her resting on their chests.

It is a long, fretful, finicky time, this book-cooking caper. But it is labour of love, a magical and miraculous journey.

Write a book. Find the perfect publishing partner. It’s not easy but neither is true love. Nurture your baby and that moment when you hold her in your hands for the first time will be like no other feeling. I can’t wait to hold Hexenhaus. I feel like crying just thinking about it. Soon, my darling, soon.

A Year of Words

I’ve been wondering what this blog will be all about. What theme will it embrace? I’ve talked(rambled) about some witchy business and the rock books I liked in my first two blog entries. No theme there. So I’ve decided (after reading someone else’s) to make this blog about my year as a writer.

Writing has very little to do with words and lots to do with the spaces between the words.

I’ve been writing since I was four. Most of the things I’ve written have been self-indulgent garrulous weeds that spread across countless pages but were not meant for a greater audience. The dream of course for those who are drawn to writing, is to be PUBLISHED. In newsprint, magazine or better still…..a book.

I have decided (of course this is largely out of my hands) that 2016 will be my breakthrough year as a writer. God knows I’ve done the apprenticeship, put in the hours and now it’s time to make a splash.

It’s already the end of January and here is where I sit.

I have a young adult novel being published this year by UQP. This is very, very exciting. It is exciting because I can feel in me waters that THIS one, this epic tale of three women, spanning 400 years, all accused of witch-craft, THIS one, will make waves. This book knocked on my heart and demanded to be written. I have just been assigned my editor and I love her to pieces and this is the first time I have edited a book with someone I already knew. We will weave a spell into ”Hexenhaus” and when the hurly-burlys done….it will bewitch all its readers.

In addition to this exciting venture I have entered a cart-load of short stories into various competitions – The Newcastle Short Story Comp, The Hope Prize, the Josephine Ulrick prize, Elizabeth Jolley and will continue to fling them at whatever comps arise through the year.

I also have a manuscript, a romantic sort of drama thing, that my agent has sent out into the marketplace. It is fishing for a beloved home. This one, about grief, mothers and sharks, is a story so very close to my heart and I am in that awful waiting place – that sitting by the phone, waiting for the cute boy to call thing. Purgatory. My agent liked it. Dad liked it. Zeus liked it. I liked it. But will a publisher like it? Will it get its moment in the sun? I believe in it. And that’s a start. But as my guru davidji always tells me – ” I have control over my actions but not the fruit of my actions” and therefore I must release it to the wind and wait for a gust, a slipstream, a sirocco. I must be still. And wait. Patiently. I DON’T DO PATIENCE VERY WELL AT ALL!

I am off on a ten day Buddhist meditation camp soon where I will be silent and have no contact with others, not even eye contact. No reading. No writing. Nothing but the stillness of my own mind. That will drive me fricking bonkers but I have decided to write a book about it next. A book about ten days of absolute silence with my own thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams. Who knows what demons and flighty sprites might visit me there? My son lives on a property near the retreat so I always have the option of escaping and running away to his place….but I won’t. It is my challenge (coinciding with a significant birthday ending in a 0) and I intend to rock it and find bloody enlightenment!

The first writing comp that I entered has just announced their winner and it wasn’t me. Thanks for nothing! First strike. Writing is like playing the lottery. Sure, the odds are better. But it’s still as much luck as skill. Judges, publishers, readers. You can’t please all of them, all of the time. And there are many, many amazing writers out there that I have to compete with. It’s a dog eat dog world. Grrrrr.

Back to the drawing board…..finishing off a young adult murder mystery that I plan to enter into the Text Prize. See ya next time.

Life’s a Witch

 

My new blog. Gearing up for a brilliant 2016. My Brilliant Year. The most exciting thing about 2016 that I can think of so far……is….that I have a new book being published! This is almost as exciting as welcoming a new baby into the family, being just as terrifying and awesome and sometimes messy.

Some days I have to remind myself that this is real because the only thing harder than getting a book published, is getting a second one published and here I am gestating my third book-child.

One Way or Another was a troublesome, exciting, willful and difficult child who threw me into the public arena, howling and screaming. It was a rush. There were interviews with the Footy Show guys, three-page spreads in the Sunday Magazine splashing my dirty laundry all over the country and twitter trolls. She was a mischievous imp of a book.

Then came Sandy Feet, a gentle little boy book that whispered sensitively and wrapped himself up in angsty knots. It was a book that was born of some personal pain and drew on some of my legal studies. He will always be my very special baby.

This year …..we will have a big, epic sweeping tale of witches, yes witches. This new daughter of mine, tentatively called Hexenhaus will be strong-minded, brave and ambitious. This baby will be a lot like me – outspoken, deeply and passionately devoted to feminist issues, while employing a few mystical magic tricks up her skirts along the way. The due date is late September and little Hexenhaus is already stirring my belly with excitement.

I am looking forward to editing with a brand new editor….she will be, like the others before her, my midwife, and given that this book is about the terrible European witch-hunts it seems a fitting description given that many of the victims of that holocaust were midwives.

I am off to my first writers festival in Brisbane in April to discuss the relationship between rock and roll and literature. Exciting times.

In 2016 I will turn 50 but I go into the new year feeling about fifteen. The future looks bright. I just have to survive Christmas first…..