UQP

SOMERSET WRAP-UP

Well. I am exhausted!

I have just returned from my very first school literary festival and I was ‘literally’ (see what I did there) blown away by the enthusiasm, excitement and energy of the presenters, the organisers, the attendees and the volunteers. It was a huge success and I feel mighty privileged to have been invited. I was in some stellar company and have come away from Somerset College on the Gold Coast with a suitcase full of books to read and so many ideas my head is exploding with rainbow-coloured matter (as opposed to gray matter, you know, get it?).

I had tried to get some under my belt before the festival. And had some success. I read Fleur Ferris’s ‘Black’ while waiting for hours in the airport in Sydney (because I am that worry-wort Aunt Josephine who gets to an airport many, many hours early….just in case). I read it in one sitting and was ‘scared’ WITless. It was such a page-turning thriller. I also just finished Nova Weetman’s ‘Everything is Changed’. It packs a powerful punch to your solar plexus and gives you some tears (tissues essential). Nova and I share a publisher and publicist and we all met up for lunch on Day 1. Beautiful. Lots of laughs and some deep and meaningful conversations were had. And then I went op-shopping with Nova and I found a pair of HARRY POTTER PANTS! WINNER! Literary party pants. Tick.

As a writer who infamously never gets out of bed or her pajamas, this festival gig-thing was growing on me. I was out in the real world talking to real people who read books, some of whom had read/promised to read mine! I found my former Modern History Teacher and English teacher who popped in to my presentations to lend me some very welcome support. I won’t tell you how long ago it was that they taught me…or you would be gob-smacked by how young I look for my age!!!! Hmmmmm.

There was rain on day one and we all got muddy but thanks to things called warm showers at the luxurious Royal Pines Resort (although Benjamin Law had a bath in his room which I found out too late!), I cleaned up my act and so did the weather for the rest of the festival. I met some wonderful students. The girls from Brigidine College were a lovely audience along with the Somerset peeps. First session. First day. And my VERY FIRST SOLO PRESENTATION EVER! EVER!

I was swear-word nervous and just rabbited on about the best thing about being a writer -WRITING IN BED IN YOUR P’J’S OF COURSE … and the worst thing….the countless crushing rejections. But I managed to explain that the more rejections you aim for ….the more successes you’ll get and the better you will become as a writer by submitting and writing and submitting and writing and getting rejected and writing and writing and submitting and …then bingo success!  And then writing and submitting and on and on and on. I’m sitting on a six rejections to one success rate after five years of writing and  really, I’m pretty happy with that.  Because I write a LOT! I once wrote a book in ten days…..I am no J. R. R. Tolkien….I’m no Shakespeare….but I can bang out a book faster than most agents and publishers can read them! Of course then I have to go back and smooth it over and polish it up. I talked about banishing the dreaded ‘writers block’ (man flu for writers) with caffeine and chocolate (in huge quantities). I was asked some thoughtful questions and some randoms like ‘what is my take on pineapple on a pizza?’. I am fine with pineapple just hold the pepperoni because I don’t do meat….that did not go down well….being a vegetarian is apparently ‘lame’. I managed to have a lot of fun talking to them and did not swear once. Not once.

I missed my family…oh who am I kidding. I did not. And I didn’t miss cleaning up after them or making school lunches or cooking gourmet meals. And the reason MOST of all that I did not miss them, was the breakfast buffet by the pool with just the sound of birdsong for company…oh and the hilarious literary gossip over never-ending plates of food and cups of coffee so that there was no need to eat for the rest of the day. And someone made my bed for me! Bonus!

I had old friends come to say hello and pamper me with good food and wine. I saw my parents. Thank-you Dad for being my date to the Prologue Party. and thank-you Mum for the bizarre cookie jar present! The Gold Coast is my home town and she certainly made me feel welcome. I managed to catch some brilliant presentations by some other speakers and I learned so much about the process and the industry from them. Most of all I loved chatting to the students. It was so heartening to see kids fired up about BOOKS!

This was the most fun I’ve had since the Rock n Roll Writer’s Festival this time last year. I could dig a festival sort-of nomadic existence of hotel rooms, buffet breakfasts, stimulating conversations with award-winning writers, illustrators and film makers. (I shared an Uber with Rachel Perkins which had me a little star-struck).

Benjamin Law did the keynote speech at the impressive last-night dinner. A string quartet played. We dined on fine fare and drank champagne and talked books and books and laughed with budding writers, parents and staff from Somerset. It was brilliant. Thanks to all at Somerset. Particularly Desmond and Jack!!!

I came away stimulated to write a novel called THE WRITER’S FESTIVAL. It will be a chick lit tale about three women authors who attend a writer’s festival in a lonely small town in the middle of the red desert of Western Australia. The festival is being organised by a mysterious billionaire and has dashing writers from all over the globe attending ( and a couple of rich and famous John Grisham-types for romantic comedy/spice). None of the local townsfolk are remotely interested in books or literature and are dragged along reluctantly… but find themselves gradually inspired and intrigued by these strange writerly folk. These three lead women’s lives are connected in ways they do not realise. But someone knows. And that someone is at The Writer’s Festival. And they have been invited along for a reason! That’s the premise. It’ll probably be written in a week or three. I won’t be drawing from real writers that I met at Somerset. Or will I?? Nah. Would I do that? Writers NEVER draw fictitious characters from life. Never. Or do they? Mwhahahahaha….. 

 

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.

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.