Sunday, 27 June 2010

The missing muse is not amused but just a moose

I don't know about youse, but I'm not into the muse.

A lot of the time when I sit down to write, I don't. I stare at the computer screen and wonder what's in the fridge or pantry. I trawl through my emails, read other people's blogs, research stuff on Google (it's important to be able to comment on Kristen Stewart's frock at the launch of Eclipse). But occasionally I have moments of inspiration when I write something I think is really good and that maybe someone somewhere would like to read.

There's no angel at my shoulder or spiritual guide flitting around the room when I'm on a roll. I don't blame it on my muse if my day goes pear-shaped. It's my own fault if I frig around doing nothing.

Lucky you if you have a muse. Call me cynical (I've been called worse things) but I have no use for a muse.

In the end it's up to me to get the job done.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Do I really look like that? (or the alternative headline) Do I really look that old?

Because my short story features in the Little Gems Topaz anthology to be launched at the RWA conference in August, I was asked to submit a photo of myself to the event organisers.

I suppose it will be displayed on a screen on the stage during the official launch, along with the pics of the 13 other contributors.

Because I'm really vain and shallow, I decided not to submit any old pic. As it is, there aren't many around after 2005, when I got my first digital camera and deleted every unflattering shot.

I asked my professional photographer friend, Mr Snappy, to take some suitably serious 'author' shots. If anyone could make me look good, it would have to be Mr Snappy.

On the morning of the shoot I went for a swim and afterwards washed my hair, applied some makeup (pretty slapdash as I don't often wear it) and put on a fitted, long-sleeved top. (My bottom half was clad in tracky dacks and Ugg boots).

When Mr Snappy arrived my hair still wasn't dry (I don't use a hair dryer) and the swimming goggles had left rings around my eyes. Great. Oh, and my makeup made me look like some old slapper - too much rouge, methinks.

Mr Snappy was highly complimentary, though I was initially taken aback when he asked if I had a scarf I could wear. He didn't say it, but I know it was to hide my wrinkly old neck.

Next, he found a spot where the light was soft and cajoled and coerced me to assume a range of writerly poses. We argued about whether I should smile or not. I refused (paranoia about yellow teeth).

It was fun, but stressful. "Look at moy, look at moy," demanded Mr Snappy as I ogled the camera, about as natural as Pamela Anderson's breasts.

After the shoot ended, I could appreciate why those in the media spotlight, like Dannii and Kylie Minogue, our Nicole and Elle Macpherson might become obsessed with their looks and how they present to the public. The pressure to look and stay young must be enormous.

When Mr Snappy emailed me my pics about an hour ago, I trawled through them tentatively. He told me he'd chosen the best four. Gawd, if these are the best, I'd hate to see the rest. I can't believe I look so old.

It's interesting how we perceive ourselves. I always thought I looked young for my age, not that I might actually look my age!

The truth hurts. And gravity sucks.

PS: No, that isn't a photo of me. It's 'our' (forever young) Kylie.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Perfect conditions for Mona Vale Cold Water Classic

The organisers of the Mona Vale Cold Classic got lucky yesterday with perfect conditions for Sydney's only mid-winter ocean swim.

About 250 punters turned up for the event. About one third of those chose to wear wetties, while the rest of us opted for the naked look - budgie smugglers for blokes and cossies for the chicks.

I didn't do a warm-up before the 10am start. Although the sun shone, it was still jumper weather and the nip in the air gave me goosebumps when the wind picked up.

The water was unbelievable. Cool and clear. It's hard to describe what it felt like after the initial plunge, when your breath is sucked out of you. After the swim, I felt as though I'd been cleansed. As if all the winter germs had been purged from my body.

During the swim, a tiny wave surprised me by slapping my face at the first can (I was afraid I'd lose my goggles again, like I did last year in very different conditions).

I also became mesmerised by the 'Avatar' green weed on the reef on the way out. Electric.
Stretching out parallel to the beach, the conditions were choppy, so I struggled to find a rhythm. Coming in at the end was a little confusing, as the suport crew were telling us to swim further along the beach, rather than veer straight towards the finish line. I think there was a rip in the way.

After the swim, my knees started to shake, but the complimentary cup of hearty vegetable soup warmed my pristine innards! The swim was advertised as 1.2 km, but someone said it was more like 1.4 km.

Now it's back to the indoors and gas heater. And back to the drawing board regarding my swimming routine. My time sucked. If only I could grow flippers.

Take a look at my pics of Mona Vale. Unfortunately, there's none of people swimming. For those, go to

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Girl eats boy: who's kissing who in the 2010 production of West Side Story?

I didn't think I held conservative views about snogging and all that until I skimmed through the arts and entertainment supplement in today's paper, where an ad for the 2010 production of West Side Story caught my eye.

In it was a mid-shot pic of the muscial's two protaganists - Maria and Tony - where Maria is about to kiss her modern-day Romeo.

I mention Maria's name before Tony's because in the pic she hovers slightly above him and cradles him in her arms.

It looks wrong.

I know, I know. We're living in the 21st century, where girls are free to initiate the kiss. I'm cool with that. Power to us. Girls can be dominant - but there's a time and place.

In the newspaper photo, Tony comes across as positively wimpy, sort of 'girly'.

Because his head is in the bottom of the frame, it seems smaller, while Maria (who we can see more of, broad shoulders included) looms large on the page. Tony also looks as though he's about to faint. Maybe he already has - at the thought of being gobbled up by the Amazonian Maria.

West Side Story is about the tough boy from the 'hood and member of the Jets and the innocent, demure Peurto Rican girl who fall madly in love, with tragic consequences.

In this situation, I reckon Tony should take the lead.

It's all about boys on top, not girl eats boy.

(The pic is from the 1961 film adaptation. Tony is where he should be, cradling Maria in his arms)

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Swimming in the ocean in winter

I'm not happy when it's cold. I'm talking Sydney cold. But what do I have to complain about? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Europe and all those really cold places in the general vicinity are hell in winter. For goodness sake, people die from the cold in places like Russia.

Still, I love to whinge. It's in my genetic makeup. I'm a bloody Aussie whinger. Particularly when the temperature drops below 20 degrees Celcius. Particularly when I've just registered for an ocean swim at Mona Vale on Sunday, June 20, the day before the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.
The water is a chilly 19 degrees. I'm used to an indoor pool heated to around 25 degrees.
I've gone soft.

It's the heart of winter in Sydney and I'm going to swim in the ocean without a wetsuit. Almost naked (except for the skimpy cossie). I AM AS MAD AS A CUT SNAKE.

Let's see what happens on Sunday. Stay tuned.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

She came in through the bathroom window: why having children dooms you to a life of physical and emotional exhaustion

I was having an online chat with a friend who has two small children and she mentioned that they woke up every day at 5am.

At first I empathised with my poor sleep-deprived friend. But then I thought, what about me?

Last weekend, my eldest daughter Precious Princess (PP) crawled in through the bathroom window at 5am (she'd lost her front-door key -again).

Prior to this, I went to bed at around 11pm, woke at 2am to check if she was home, sent her a text (where are you?) to which there was no reply, called her mobile and left a message (why don't you ever answer your phone, where are you?), sent another text (why do you always do this to me? I am worried sick. You could be dead and lying by the side of the road somewhere) and left another message (do you realise how stressed this makes me? all I ask is that you call me. I can't do this anymore. where are you?).

At around 5am, I received a text message: home. safe. nightie night XXX.

My partner Spanner had to get up at 5.30am, so there wasn't much point going back to sleep. When Spanner went downstairs, he discovered a trail of dirt that started on the bathroom window ledge and ended at PP's bedroom door, which was firmly closed and remained closed (so, I'm led to believe) until early that afternoon.

As I explained to my friend, at least when they're little you have the energy to cope with them. But when they're older, you're older too.

The moral to this story is, once you have kids you will always be exhausted. And then you die.

PS: If you happen to find a key, it probably belongs to my front door.
PPS: I believe this is karma; I am being paid back for all the horrible things I did to my parents when I was PP's age.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Don't throw away the dream

The other night I dreamt I was in a huge department store (I had been locked in a cage with an echidna before I somehow arrived there - figure that one out).

Anyway, I was in the store but I'd lost my money and mobile phone. My family, who'd been with me, had disappeared and I didn't know how to get home, let alone out of the store. While the shop assistant was polite, she refused to let me use the store phone. I awoke from my dream uttering a strangled moan. I was crying!

My partner Spanner, who says he never dreams (makes sense), reckons I was upset because I couldn't buy anything.

All I know is that for several days after the dream I felt really sad and more anxious than usual. It was hard to shrug off the melancholic cloak.

Dreams are strange and often inexplicable. But they can also trigger the creative spark.

Here's what Stephenie Meyer wrote on her official website about the inspiration for her Twilight series:

I woke up from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.

More recently, Scott Turow talked about his new book Innocent, which grew from a dream. In the dream he saw a man seated on the edge of a bed beside a woman's body.

That was it. An image.

Turow held onto the idea and, in time, realised the man was Rusty Sabich, the protagonist from his hugely successful 1987 novel, Presumed Innocent. The woman, dead under the covers, was Sabich's wife.

I don't know if my dream is worth developing - unless I can somehow work with the 'echidna trapped in cage with crazy woman' idea?

The moral of this story is - hold onto your dreams, they might come in handy one day.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The story so far: a slow start to 50k in 30 days

Sloth. Snail. Sunday driver. SLOW> That's me.

It's a week into the RWA equivalent of NaNoWriMo and I have written 3173 words of my new manuscript (ms).

My goal is to complete 30,000 words by the end of the month. According to the Excel spreadsheet, designed to help participants track their progress, I have some work to do.

I don't know if I'll make the word count, but just starting the story was a huge achievement. The opening scene of my book has been simmering inside my head for the past three months (geez, it's hot in there). But could I manage to sit down and write it? No.

It's that procrastination thing I've been telling you about. I'm useless.

I wasn't quite sure how to start the chapter, so I avoided writing anything down AT ALL. But the pressure of the 50k in 30 days challenge was enough to get me motivated, and I'm thrilled with the result so far.

I feel a good book coming on. Of course, it's early days and I'm not even sure what line I'm targetting yet. I'm just going to let my characters lead me by the hand.

This week I've got heaps to do at work, which is frustrating. Plus, an 18th birthday dinner on Tuesday night. And of course, we all know s@*! happens.

But with the Queen's Birthday long weekend coming up (one of the few advantages of living in a Commonwealth country), I plan to throw off my sloth and unleash my inner Tasmanian Devil. I will write like a WILD THING.

PS: But now it's off to watch the end of MasterChef and then Underbelly.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Taking the plunge: the challenges of the winter ocean swim

It's been raining for three weeks - solidly for two.

Today, a pale sun is breaking through the clouds as I contemplate entering the Cold Water Classic at Mona Vale on Sydney's northern beaches on June 20.

It's a short swim at 1.2 km, so that's not the issue. Winter is.

I know if you live in Europe, -15 degrees is a walk in the park. But in Sydney, a temp of 2 degrees in the mornig is the lowest temp I can remember experiencing - and that wasn't in the recent past. Usually, winter days warm up to 18 degrees or more.

That is a tad chilly for Sydneysiders, of which I am one.

But that's not the main reason I hesitate. There are a couple of other factors that make a winter swim less inviting - general weather (windy, overcast), surf conditions and water temperature.

Last year, the weather was awful. Grey skies and blowing a gale. The water temp was OK, but the surf was rough and I lost my goggles when I got knocked over by a wave.

I hope the conditions will be more attractive this year.

Davo has already entered the swim. He sent me an email, pointing this out! He's on the starters list, with 23 other eejits.

There is the option of wearing a wet suit, but real ocean swimmers don't rubber up. And I rather fancy myself in the 'real' category.

Davo is going *'naked', as are 22 of the others entered so far.

I'll end up taking the plunge because I can't help myself, especially if Davo is committed - he's my lift to the gig.

*Of course, the budgie smugglers are on!
PS: This photo is from and, I believe, was taken by Glistening Dave

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

How Mark Seymour and Hunters and Collectors inspired me to get moving on NaNoWriMo

It's day 2 of the 50ks in 30 days challenge and I only just got started.

I'm down for 30,000 words - to be written in the month of June.

*I've been thinking about my story a lot - I tend to do that. But today I got the kick start I needed, inspired by a song lyric.

I was in the car and a song came on the radio. It was the Hunters and Collectors' classic from the early 1980s, Say Goodbye. Lead singer, Mark Seymour, wrote the lyrics after he and the band returned from three months on the road. Seymour's girlfriend was furious that he was hardly ever home and was always dog tired from touring.

The song features the wailing lament, sung by a group of blokes, You don't make me feel like I'm a woman anymore. I love it.

But then, and here's where I had my sparky moment, I heard the line from the song:
My heart is beating too big, it's beating too big for the space that's meant to hold it.

How evocative is that? Yet so simple. We've all had that bursting heart experience, and Seymour has it perfectly articulated. It's so much better than the tired cliche, My heart beat like a drum.

Of course I can't steal the lyrics (though it did cross my mind) but I could work on simplifying my writing style, losing the cliches and taking a more visceral approach to the descriptions of my characters' emotions.

I've jotted down some of the lyrics from one of the most famous Hunters' songs, Throw your arms around me. I've listened to it hundreds of times, but never tire of it. It's a timeless ode to that passionate, all-consuming desire we experience when we first fall into lust. It's all too fleeting.

I dreamed of you at nightime
And I watched you in your sleep
I met you in high places
I touched your head and touched your feet
So, if you disappear out of view
You know I will never say goodbye
And though I try to forget it
You will make me call your name
And I'll shout it to the blue summer sky

And we may never meet again
So shed your skin and let's get started
And you will throw your arms around me

And you will throw your arms around me

*If procrastination was a profession, I'd get the top job. "What do you do for a crust?" you ask. Pause. "I'm a professional procrastinator," I reply. "Wow, that sounds interesting," you say. Pause. "Well, it is, but then again, it isn't."

PS: I just thought I'd throw in a Hunters and Collectors album cover featuring Mark Seymour's inspiring bicep. Woohoo.