Heavily Salted

WA recently had a wet summer with heavy rains and floods, particularly in the south. A result of that was the salt lakes in the Wheatbelt filling up with new water. I’ve never seen this particular lake so blue before. The sun made the salt shimmer as it crunched under my shoes. It has crystallised over time and looks almost like ice. 

I’ve never seen the salt lake look so alluring however, these are not for swimming. 

My favourite is the old fence, now submerged but with the tips sticking out, each heavily encrusted with glistening salt. It reminded me of the harsh locations used to film Game of Thrones, especially with the skull thrown in. It looks like a path or entrance to a barren fortress, caught forever in time between the ice cold and blistering heat.

Always a Student

I read an interesting post on HONY which I shared on my Facebook page.
A gentleman is explaining that quality art comes from the dark and pining minds of people who feel they don’t belong in their artistic community. He expresses that being called an artist was the worst thing anyone could have said to him as it gave him a sense of accomplishment where he felt he didn’t need to try anymore. This spoke to me immensely.

Almost all the time do I feel inadequate as a writer – I’m currently at the stage where I’m looking back at my draft thinking ‘Oh lord, what am I doing with my life?’
The HONY post made me remember that despite the struggles and the deep down festering shortfall, I actually enjoy being a student. I enjoy inspiration from what seems like this intangible and unreachable quality of others.

A few nights ago my husband showed me a video on Facebook of a woman singing and playing bass with an insane level of talent that makes playing funk bass look easy (I’m so sorry, Facebook refreshed and I couldn’t find the link to post here). I watched it and thought – yep I’m done, don’t need to play music when there’s talent like that *flips table*. However that artist is probably looking up to her own idols and thinking…giphy.gif

We need to be students ALL THE TIME. I must like it; I went back to uni a second time which was like me volunteering to be dunked underwater by a perpetual motion engine. So there has to be something appealing in the suffering student.

My student self:

I completely fangirled at Supanova listening to author’s give their advice.

Listening to my sister talk about how every movement the rider makes on a horse is critical to the rider’s success – not just because she knows what she’s talking about, but how she speaks as the young woman she’s turning into.

Walking around the Musée d’Orsay and not only taking in the artists, but taking in the excitement and explanations of my cousin that has her own passions for the paintbrush.

Listening to my family talk about the past including their outfits, hair, drunken shenanigans, travel, and domestic violence.

Walking up the tight tower stairs of the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, The Vatican and the York Minster knowing others did eons ago.

Pouring a pint at the Guinness Storehouse.

When my husband plays guitar.

Listening to a pianist play to three people in Venice.

Meeting WA author Norman Jorgenson at the hotel bar while on my honeymoon and asking loads of probable dumb questions.

Standing in one of my in-laws’ paddocks in the Wheatbelt.

Watching my friend’s Snapchats about his PHD in science and having no idea what he’s on about.

Jumping off a cliff.

Watching my sister-in-law make her own mayo and serve it in a vintage jar like it’s no big deal.

I could go on and on and on. Maybe it’s not so bad to be found wanting.

Review: The Good Dinosaur

Credit: IMDB

Disney is getting better and better at making my husband cry. He tightens his hand on mine, as though trying to comfort me however I realise it’s his way of trying to hold it in. As we left the cinema, he laughed commenting ‘Dammit Disney, why?’
Since the visually stunning trailer including Of Monsters and Men’s hauntingly inspirational song Crystals, I’d been hanging out to see this film. Do I have kids? No. Do I care? Nope. Will I always love cartoons? Absolutely.

Its predecessor Inside Out hit me so hard in the feels, that I found myself at a ridiculous crossroads when my husband came home from work and said ‘get dressed, The Good Dinosaur starts at 6.45’. Did I really feel like crying tonight?

The movie starts by showing us an alternative to the cosmic event that made humans a dominant species – the asteroid went past Earth, and the dinosaurs continued to live on. Fast forward a few million years and we see our ‘prehistoric’ characters have evolved to living in a reality similar to that of frontier times. Arlo is the youngest and most timid or a corn farming family of Apatosaurus. Arlo’s family fall under difficult times, tugging Arlo further into his own fears and by accident, he falls into the river and wakes up, downstream and very far from home. Arlo must find his courage to try and survive in the wild with the help of a small wild cave-boy who decides to befriend him, staying as loyal as a guard dog. Arlo accepts his presence and names him Spot. Together they face the wilderness, meeting friend and foe in other species as they journey back to Arlo’s farm.
Yes, be prepared to cry.

I’m a Disney fan from way back – I still remember 1994, sitting in the cinema watching Simba try to wake Mufasa; Bambi I refuse to watch again; even the first act of Big Hero 6 made me want to throw the telly out the window – and don’t even speak to me about UP. I’m beginning to notice a recent progression in the heart wrenching scenes of these beloved movies – the writers and animators are portraying grief and loss non-verbally. UP had a whole montage where there was no dialogue expressing their life together; when they could portray Ellie’s infertility in one wordless scene and children could understand, a round of applause is deserved. I was doing so well in Tangled, until the scene where the King and Queen are getting ready to raise the lanterns; the Queen straightens her husband’s medallion and looks up to see him hanging his head, and wipes away his tear. He takes a deep breath, leaning his cheek on his wife’s palm as they share a moment of their grief together – 18 years since their daughter went missing. I think it was then, that I could microscopically understand what it must be like for families with missing children. Again, not one word was spoken during that scene. Toy Story 3’s incinerator scene; there was nothing left for the toys to do or say, except hold hands – god dammit!

The Good Dinosaur is no different in this pattern, portraying Arlo and Spot bonding through loss in a touching non-verbal scene, with strong symbolism, almost feeling like an ancient ritual to honour our fallen, and further on as Arlo and Spot realise what they mean to each other.

The computer generated scenery is dazzling; the mountain views and debris-lathered waterfalls are very real and the imagery has stayed true to the reds and roughness of a Wild West terrain.

The movie is getting some negative comments about how it stacks up to what Pixar/Disney has done in the past. Despite being a fanatic, I never walk into a movie and expect it to be like one I have seen before. I may enjoy some more than others however I individualise movies by their themes and the character’s particular adventure. Don’t walk in and attempt to stack it up next to your old favourites. This is a beautiful movie about a boy’s coming of age – if you can accept that, then you’ll enjoy it.

Bring tissues, and a sensitive other. Big boys cry too.

January’s Gone


For the past year or so I have felt like an utter husk, plodding along through life, not not achieving anything, but nothing that feels to be ‘heading in the right path’, or whatever that means. I’m a do what you love person, and for some inexcusable reason, I couldn’t find the passion to do those things. I’d procrastinate writing ALL. THE. TIME. Which is evident by the gaps in posting on this blog. I’d pick up the guitar and go from 0 to Hulk when I couldn’t learn something straight away. I have wasted a lot of time making excuses why I can’t do these things. Now I’m seeing through a recent revelation to get over myself and just do it. To stop being a whinging pillock and going on how tired I get at the end of the day. It’s been a month and I have been trying to smash the manuscript – sure I’m tired, but I go to sleep happier. I’m finding I can actually function better on less sleep due to it being purposeful, than waking up on a full sleep and still dragging my passionless rear out of bed.

I honestly have no idea what put me in a better frame of mind to get my creative act together. Perhaps since I have completed my teaching diploma in a long hard year; and I don’t mean that as to say ‘now I have found my calling’. I haven’t. I started the course to support my first degree and to have it under my belt. I have no intention to be a full time teacher. Teaching is fun, I have a lot of respect for teachers however it’s not the full time career for me. If I do teach in the future, it will be to teach kids that creativity is worthwhile, to get them thoroughly and genuinely interested in picking up books, to work with kids who have a flare for writing and don’t know where they see themselves as they struggle through puberty. This year (and a half) of study was all consuming; completing assignments, stressing about getting them right, passing, late nights, crying over the digital submissions when the websites crashed. The pracs were the easier parts! And that is saying something after stressing about lesson planning, typing, typing the lessons into multiple documents for each avenue that needs a copy, money – HAVING NO MONEY.

About 5 years ago I was tinkering with a manuscript, working full time, managing a rock band, and doing some minor freelance writing for some online publications. Those projects are now dried up and over but the point was that I had the drive then; where the hell did it go? Before I started uni again at the end of 2014, I was at my procrastinating worst, so I figured I’d better get busy learning another skill if I was just going to sit there and complain that creativity wasn’t coming easy. It was only doing such a psychotic course that I yearned for the spare time I had before.
It was such a breath of fresh air when I got that time back after completing the course yet I still didn’t dive into my eagerly awaiting projects. I said I was tired. Maybe I was. Instead I took off to Victoria for a month to help my family move house –I thought that would get some creative juices flowing. Thank god I’d pulled my thumb out enough just before my last prac started and signed up to do some book reviews for Planet Books; I took two books with me to Drysdale and those two reviews are the only scraps of writing I managed to muster up during my month away. My days in Drysdale were not to frolic around eating and drinking; I lifted furniture, I scrubbed a kitchen white again and filled it with crockery and utensils, I cooked, vacuumed, washed, drove my nanna to her appointments, took my sister out to practice driving, perused through Gumtree and op-shops for furniture they didn’t have, spent four days at a dressage festival where I ran back and forth fetching mane plaiting spray, hoof black, and shoveled horse poo at 6am. I was getting mad at myself for constantly thinking I ‘didn’t have time’ to sit down for at least half an hour and do some writing. I thought, two reviews? Surely you could’ve done better, but stuff it at least I did SOMETHING!

What’s definitely helping is Masterclass coming in April – I have a goal. I’m good at reaching goals when I can see the time frame. I’ve been acting like I have my whole life to write a manuscript – nope! This month has been the most productive with my writing in a very long time. I’ve worked on my manuscript every day, picked up my journal since the last September entry, completed a movie review and now, finally, a blog post. I ain’t getting any younger and I’m tired of being miserably comfortable.

Let me jump back to the beginning of December and tell you a little bit about my time in Victoria. I’ve done trips to Melbourne before however now my parents live on the Bellarine and the move is a huge step for them after living in Perth since the 60s (prior to that, one was from New Zealand, and the other a 10 pound Pom). I initially hesitated to go due to worrying about money but it was my husband that convinced me; he would meet me there for Christmas along with my brother and sister-in-law. It was almost like a ‘traveling solo’ experience – not entirely of course – but I was left to my own devices most of the time. It was the closest I’ve come to living in another state for a short time; great practice as I have considered moving over East. Who knows what the future will bring.
The trip there was a grand and challenging experience. A truck, the middle seat, same horizon, the Nullarbor, 3 days – this is something I will not be in any hurry to do again.

 

Heading toward South Australia

 

I’m not posh, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind that I didn’t shower in two days, or that my feet kept growing a layer of inexplicable grime, or when I saw a great landscape photo op, my dad said ‘yeah that’s nice’ and whizzed past. When we arrived in Drysdale at 4am Sunday morning I felt the same level of exhaustion, armpit dampness, butt numbness and back pain that I feel when I do a 26 hour flight to Europe. I had truck lag. It was a long, hard slog and I wasn’t even driving. The hardest part was driving late at night until 2am from Eucla (The border of WA and SA) to Ceduna, South Australia. The Great Australian Bight sat to my right (of course all my photos are blurry, cheers Dad), shrubbery to my left and then it went pitch dark, no lights and lots of animals to dodge. My lower back, pelvis and right calf ached as we discussed 19th century American presidents and Margaret Thatcher, bumping along violently on this highway of fauna death. Yet the worst part also sprouted the best part. I saw a wombat. It only occurred to me then, that I’d only seen a wombat behind glass. This fatty pumba was different. This gorgeously large, lumbering, solid creature began to walk onto the highway as we approached. We saw him early in the headlights and managed to gently swerve around him; poor thing looked at us like ‘crikey, better go back’ and shuffled himself around to go back into the shrubbery. He was beautiful.

 

 

Ceduna 6am

 

Surprising my mum was heart-warming as she and my sister had already been living over there for 8 months. Lying to her during the trip was fun, like asking her to send me pictures that dad had sent her, and even whistling my dog Slash ‘at the park’ when I was actually standing behind the Maccas in Port Augusta under 43 degree heat.

 

Port Augusta through the grotty windshield

 

Wind farm

4am and I moved to the cargo section of the truck, down the road from where they lived as we conquered the last 100 metres of the journey. When she walked into the back, wondering why everyone was so insistent she look at how they had done it up, and then saw me, cross-legged amongst a makeshift bed and two microwaves saying ‘hi Mummy’. Her face spread into this look of gleeful surprise and sat there a few moments – just lovely.

Bellarine Peninsula

 

The Bellarine is what I consider a mixture of Busselton, the Swan Valley and Lesmurdie; or beachside town, vineyards and hills. I felt familiarities, and therefore serenity (feel the serenity). Moving states from family is difficult, and we always say that ‘we’re only a four hour plane ride away’ but it’s hard to mean it when you’re not there. It was comforting to feel that it actually isn’t that far. I missed my husband and fur babies, but really they weren’t far away. But I’m not a mother, I don’t know how it feels to have my kids separated across the country.

One way to get to know a new place is to drive in it. I helped my dad pick up his cars from Brookdale and drove in peak hour traffic on a busy and strange highway. This is now a suburb I know to avoid – the traffic was manic. I went exploring on my own in the Land Cruiser through Drysdale and Portarlington, pulling over on the long roads and running into the grass seed filled median strips to take pictures of scattered and orderly hay bales, (it’s an obsession, stay tuned).

 

Portarlington

Portarlington Jetty

 


I spent four days in Werribee among the horsey set where it was a wonderful experience to watch my baby sister win the Aachen Challenge. I haven’t seen her compete in a long time, and going back 13 years when she fell off her pony during a musical ride at four years old to seeing her aiming for Grand Prix level gets me all choked up.


  
We drove up Arthur’s Seat, where I was able to appreciate that I’ve been fortunate enough to see the original namesake in Edinburgh. I found a secret garden in Portarlington in the form of a nursery. We rescued a fallen nestling in a stable. My sister and I sung Hello at the top of our lungs. I played Wii Golf with my complete family on Christmas morning. I stood on a beach made of sharp, glassy shells and watched fat Victorian seabirds go Alfred Hitchcock on a jetty.

Secret Garden in Port Nursery

  

View from Arthur’s Seat

 

My mind had a much needed break in this alternative reality. When my husband and I boarded the plane back to Perth, it felt odd to go, but also as though I was going back home with a new perspective; like I could handle what I wanted to achieve.

Perhaps that’s the epiphany; there isn’t much I haven’t done in my life. I’ve got a lot of people’s support to thank for that however I’ve rarely given up on something – so why should I give up on writing the story I’ve thought of every day for the past five years while driving to and from work, before going to sleep, in the shower, and while cleaning out cat poop.

January’s over, so is comfort.

Review by a peasant: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

  
Bram Stoker, Dracula, London, Harper, 2009 Edition, 464p.

Obviously this book is a classic; therefore I doubt my review means anything. For goodness sake, it’s DRACULA. It’s like me telling Imelda Marcos where she could buy a good pair of heels.

  

Yet in the times where we’re dripping in vampire fever, and vampires have gone from scary as hell to the boy next door, here’s a Millennial discussing a book of where it all came from. If you love vampire novels then probably as a whim of loyalty should you read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You may not like it if you’re attached to the romantic, sexy teenage idea of vampires, but at least you have the opportunity to appreciate the creature from what he was, to his evolution into the 21st Century.

This is horror 1897 style so there’s appropriate gore for a proper Gothic novel, yet it’s the suspense that is gum-lickingly eerie. My mother told me the first time she watched The Excorcist in 1974, she was in a pitch dark drive-in. I can imagine the same terror would have smothered someone sitting in their candlelight creaky bedroom in 1897 reading about a wailing bundle being carried up a castle outer wall to be drained, while its mother screams below to only be violently silenced by wolves. The language is so descriptive that I had my arm hairs quivering.

A light warning that the language is understandably old-fashioned and filled with dialogue that incorporates the manners of the day and ‘good form’ in camaraderie. Therefore at times, I found myself skimming through a fair amount of pages that described the women’s bravery and finesse or ‘how good that fellow, my good friend John is’. But I just let the words roll past me until I got to the juicy bits.

Another warning; Dracula is the bad guy and that’s the end of it. Modern literature has made me question about what Dracula thought, yet we don’t really get that point of view here. This an old horror story about a terrifying one-track-mind monster that the heroes need to thwart. Be flexible.

I daresay it’s that question that made Dracula this big open ceremony to the genre. It was as though Stoker new this was going to be a big hit. I can imagine he published it, sat back and thought ‘go!’ Perhaps he was intending to tell the monster’s side to the tale given the notes that have been used in the Stoker estate approved sequel Dracula: The Undead by Dacre Stoker, which I am yet to read.

Stoker has given us a novel that through the ages has added to the ever-growing acceptance and adoration of escaping into the fictitious world of the occult and left readers and writers thinking ‘what about Dracula?’ This is evident given modern obsessions with the idea; from Lestat de Lioncourt to Damon Salvatore.

Give it a go and see the world where he came from.

Everyone loves the original bad boy.

Master of my Manuscript

Hopeful and fist-pumping news!

I’ve got a place in the Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction Masterclass in April next year!

My first Fiona McIntosh experience was with Tor and Alyssa in the Trinity trilogy which ended very bittersweet and only added to my addiction of stories where love lasts across many feats, failures and far distances. It’s hard to imagine myself amongst writers that can create their own worlds and describe multiple character perspectives like that. However I’m tired of doubting myself so I won’t even bother going down that train of thought.

I have eight months to practice as well as smash out work on my manuscript which sounds fabulous and terrifying all at the same time.

A huge thanks to Fiona for being so communicative given her tour commitments, and also to my parents and dear nanna for supporting me in this venture.

Holy hell, will I live up to the class??!! Eeeeeep 😱


Image sourced from Feathered Throttle.