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’m a stubborn wench). 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 arse 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. And then there’s the kids. The overall experience with them was corking, but those few moments where you’re struggling with 25 different personalities going at each other, you suddenly start wondering how many oranges you can fit into that sock.

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 crap 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 screw 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, ‘because you pissed away all the time before that, now you got 3 months bitch!’ 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, arse 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 ‘oh Christ, 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 practise 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.

Strangers and Perspicacity 

Fine dining with strangers.

I’m one of those people that wants to know the useless information of the world. I may not have a clue as to why I’m voting come election time, yet I enjoy knowing that the inside of a banana peel can be used as shoe polish. I’m particularly good at movie trivia; when I hear a familiar voice in a cartoon, see an actor on the television I can’t quite pin or don’t understand a satirical joke – I need to look it up right then and there to understand and link to any prior knowledge I’ve had.
I similarly don’t feel comfortable with writing a scene where I haven’t truly experienced something that is happening to the character. I like to write a lot of fantasy and some of my current characters have wings, so it’s not easily relatable – that’s why I jumped off a cliff three years ago to gain the feeling of free falling and then soaring outwards at 150kms an hour. 

So in the spirit of hands-on research, I decided to take on another pursuit. My main character, whom spends a lot of time on the run and avoiding human-like relationships, will enter an environment where she is welcomed into a share-home and due to another character’s passion for normality, encourages the home’s occupants to sit down and have dinner together every night. Now we’ve all been in situations where we have to meet people; new jobs, meeting the in-laws, university or school classes and functions, yet actually sitting down to dinner purely in the spirit of bonding – with complete strangers – is something that isn’t heard of often. This is my character’s experience and I wanted to know what it felt like. I’m not a shy person so when I first heard of Stranger Danger Dinners, I thought it was something right up my alley, however I still couldn’t shake the creeping curiosity of the unknown that contrasted wider to nerves when meeting someone for a date or going to a party where you only know one person. Sitting down to a dinner full of unknowns where all we do is talk, is rather personal and enchanting. I feel as though some people revealed things they were originally not planning to say, as one’s personal filter does when you’re meeting people for the first time. Yet the act of sharing a meal and a drink with no agenda made it safe.

It gave me hope for my character and I had a great time too. Stranger Danger Dinners are currently active in the city of Perth, Australia, however their mysterious host tells me of hopes to expand in other cities, so I encourage you to give it a go.

In general I encourage you to take on experiences that will benefit your characters; travel, sports, food, languages – anything that enriches the senses of your characters and scenes. Make your life as rich as possible…and claim it on tax once you can call yourself an author 😜

 

Canyon Swing – Queenstown, New Zealand.


 

Experiencing new cities for an urban and artistic feel.

 

My story is set in the Northern Hemisphere so needed to experience a winter; and oh how cold that day was.

 
  

Poetry at a Glance

 

Alex Biddle performs for OUTspoken at The Sparrow’s Nest.

 
I had no idea Perth had such a passionate poetry scene. Watching some local and national poets express their work in the spoken word reminded me of the welcomed subjectivity that poetry offers.

I wrote a lot of poetry when I was a teenager but perhaps I felt more then. As time goes on, like all writing or other creative pursuits, I began to doubt that what I expressed was worthy. Hearing the Featured Artists showcase and OUTspoken on the Friday night of the 2015 Perth Poetry Festival, made me remember that poetry is so kind and respectfully personal. I heard lines surrounding the Australian landscape, recollections of family based sweet-nothings, abstract alter egos as well as social and political outcries, and confident, cheer-worthy sexuality.

 

Pierre Van Osselaer gives an animated performance at Featured Poets.

 
 

Alexis Lateef speaks fondly of Fremantle at Featured Poets.

 
I still write a poem every now and then, mainly spurred by anger, moments of despondency, or occasional peace, and as I heard the guest poets and open mic participants speak, I was greatly inspired to try and dig up an old piece of work from the buried chests of my mind and share something in return to those who shared their soul so willingly.

But alas, not this year… because for me Friday night was all about listening. I needed that perspective to feel apart of the giant hug that is a community of writers. However it was the night that a friend of mine decided to read some of his work for the first time. Seeing someone get past a fear sat well and warm in my chest, and of course each poem he read was well received. (Much love to you and I hope you keep sharing!).

 

Sufyaan Mohamed with Rose van Son after his first reading. Well done Sufy!

 
I had hoped to attend the first heat of the Poetry Slam on the Saturday night, however I unfortunately didn’t see the time change and missed out. Not to fear as there are more to come on upcoming Saturdays at The Rosemount.

Well done to the participants and thanks to the guest poets that attended. You all made Perth’s creative scene flourish even further.

  
Imaged sourced from WA Poets Inc.

Still Here

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New hair, new mood

Finally! A blog post! Nine. Long. Months. Later.

December 2014 was filled with winter travelling in England, Paris and Ireland, and was a fantastic experience. I’ve travelled many times however this was my first time travelling in a Northern Hemisphere winter.  I have never appreciated shorts and a T-shirt more.

Putting on the layers upon layers of clothing was the equivalent to an average workout and we found ourselves exhausted before we got out the door! Then there’s the icy feeling in your throat mixed with the sweat pooling at the base of your spine where you can’t possibly get to it.

However nothing compared to sitting in a late night coach toward York, resting my head on the window, and realising it’s not rain, it’s snow. My whole body stopped moving for several moments as the event I’d been waiting 26 years for finally happened.

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Sheffield, coach getting a top-up.

I have one request from anyone reading this; go to Ireland! Just go. The amount of green is beautifully unyielding and I have never met a country as kind. More of my travel pictures are on Instagram (@rebeccadonbavand).

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Temple Bar

The rest of the time was occupied by taking on a full-time load of an intense university course. Thankfully, I’m part-time again and will graduate by the end of the year. Working that hard has made me value how my time is precious to focus on the things I want to achieve.

A much needed kick in the pants came from attending several writing seminars at Supanova in June. I was genuinely star-struck meeting one of my favourite authors, Kevin J. Anderson. Hearing the authors talk about their writing processes took my novel off its pedestal. They gave me confidence to get back into it and make it something I need to do now; not in a few days, not when the dishes are done, not when I’ve got some time aside…now.

Supanova Perth 2015; from left, Karen Miller, me, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

Supanova Perth 2015; from left, Karen Miller, me, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

Much love, and here’s to less assignments!