Thursday, July 7, 2016

animal up-date


                                             RIP Leroy
                                       27 November 2015

                                             Happy Days

                                           Welcome Treat!
                                         24 December 2015

Whenever I went outside on Christmas eve last year I kept hearing the meow bird till finally I thought, there's no such thing, and went looked under a bush to find Treat. She's a lucky, very cool cat.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sequel to In-human finished, and other news.

The sequel to In-human is finished!!!! It is called How much a human body contains, and I love this novel very, very much.  It was actually finished quite a while back but I am a bad, bad blogger. It took ten years to write and the last year of writing was extremely full on. At one stage I took to listening to Abba while working, so as to help reduce the intensity of the task. It’s told in the voice of the antagonist of In-human, Coralee. Part of the reason this novel took so long to write was my aversion to her. I did not want to be with her, and then after a few years something changed. I got why she was the way she was.

While I had this initial difficulty of liking Coralee the person,  I loved her voice right off. My writing became less sparse. Semi-colons began appearing, and with them long sentences. I wrote in the past tense, and this gave a strong but soft ending to the verbs. (And yes, the oxford comma has become an addiction!) I totally LOVE the sound of this novel, and the story itself surpasses any expectations I might’ve had, which is really none: I do not even expect to finish. I just do, but at the same time there is a subtle desire for the novel to both sound good and be intriguing in plot.  And to look splendid, of course. I wouldn’t want it to smell bad either…

I have started the third novel (it is a trilogy) but have taken to painting instead. A few illustrations for the new novel are done but I have begun another, quite large project. I will talk about this later on in the blog. Strangely, I have not been able to read any novels since finishing but am reading a hell of a lot of philosophy. I am still looking for a publisher, and really hope I can get this one in print and share with an audience. It does make a difference to the story when it is read by people other than myself.

How much a human body contains was, for me, much more confronting to read than In-human. This has been one of the most common descriptions about In-human – how confronting it is; never something I set out to do, and not something I actually really feel myself. I suppose the themes of body and death, sex and god are in some way still taboo. Maybe this alone will make How much a human body contains hard to get published but also I think my style of writing is a bit unusual. Readers know this from In-human, and this took eight years to get published!

Last week I went to the Marina Abramovic exhibition at Mona. In one of her exhibits she quoted John Cage as saying that if people were attracted to his work he left the project to move on to another. I think unfamiliarity can create aversion. I know with my paintings there are ones I just hate; I put my paintbrush down in disgust. But I’ve worked out to leave them alone, and over the next few days I keep going back for a quick look, which slowly gets longer and more appreciative. They generally become my favourites. A similar response happened with Coralee as narrator: I stuck around and the aversion became attraction. I don’t think readers in publishing houses would take this kind of time to get to know a novel. Sooo….painting it is for a while.

On to other news: two things you might like to purchase: a poetry book and a cd.

The poetry book actually came out in 2013 and I should have posted about it then but as already mentioned, blogging is not something I seem to rush to do. I actually get kinda nervous posting. Anyway, this is a STUNNING book: very beautifully designed, nice thick paper, illustrated in gorgeous colour. There are poems from ten very talented poets. Gee, one of them is me. There are four of my poems and ten of my paintings. It’s called Poems 10 poets 31 poems 3900 words. Here is an image of the cover (it is a collage of some of my abstract paintings shown in the collection):

The project was initiated and brought to fruition by Tom Lester, and the book was designed by Martina Mueller. If you would like a copy you can contact me.

The cd was launched end of July. It’s called Discretions and is by experimental musicians Clinton Green and Barnaby Oliver. I love this cd. I listened to it relentlessly at the start of the year. Every hearing I painted a cover with crayon and often ink. There is a limited edition of thirty cds, each with an individual cover (my painting) and thirty randomly ordered tracks. Another beautiful object that I’ve been blessed to be a part of making. Here is one of the covers:

And this is a link to Clinton’s website This showcases Australian experimental music, and you can buy cd from here.

Clinton is a very close friend. He has worked as an experimental musician for many, many years and what he has achieved critically and as growth as an artist is truly inspirational. One of the projects he is a part of at the moment is Moe Chee, a collaboration between him as sound maker and dancer Chun-liang Liu. I have only seen performances on dvd but if you ever get the chance…

The cd was a long wished for chance to collaborate. I hope another one comes up one day. I really like the mingling of different art forms. It was also an opportunity to develop a skill with crayon, and SO began my next big project: painting a tarot pack. I began painting tarot a few years back but could not see how it would work. I was painting oil on canvas, quite big, and so it was expensive, and thinking how I would store 78 paintings just did my head in. So, crayon on paper! I have done half the Major Arcana as of today. Only 67 paintings to go. Being a novelist I enjoy a large creative job.

I like this medium very, very much and am still learning what I can do with it. It is also forcing me to develop my drawing skills. I plan to write a book to accompany the pack, so it will be a culmination of two things I love doing: painting and writing.

It all goes back to my first memory as a really little kid, maybe two, looking at a book and knowing this is what I would make one day. It was a picture book. Up until I started illustrating In-human, I always thought it was being a writer, and then I realized it was the two together, word and image, that I wanted to do.

Here are some tarot images. Death, The Tower, The High Priestess and The Lovers:

Maybe I will talk more about this project in another post, and I could post some more extracts from the latest novel....

Friday, May 3, 2013

Flame Robin

Flame Robins have just started turning up in the garden, giving me inspiration to post this cartoon I recently finished. Hope it makes you smile!

OOPS!!! His tail end's already gone missing!

Monday, July 23, 2012

the making of a poem


                        the light of the sun
                        going down on the river,
                        in fog


                         and a bird up high -


                        everything leading home.

I want to blog about this poem I wrote, how I made it. Its construction and execution. It took a few years all together, starting with a Japanese ink-painting workshop that went for a week. This was intense and exhausting. We’d start at 9am and go all day. We’d sit for eight hours in virasana, calves back on either side of thighs, sitting on a block at a low table. First off was making the black ink. We’d grind an ink stick into a stone dish for maybe half an hour. It becomes very meditative, just focusing on breathing and the feel, the sound of the ink stick slowly grinding away; the fragrance is sweet like spring is happening.

And then it was all day long doing exercises for brush stroke. To get them perfect you copy the master's picture over and over again, working up to the moment when everything in that character informs you, the body memory of it sunk deep in. How the weight pushes down on the tip of the brush then lets go, then arrives again, on the side of the brush this time, then with all of it involved. Your weight is in your belly. All your energy comes from here. None of it escapes to the mind in thought. You are just doing.

Kind of like how I write. I write a sentence again and again, keep writing it till all that’s present is the sound of the words. There is no thought of meaning, no thought at all, just a beat, a rhythm. It’s music and a picture too, because I’m arranging all these black shapes on the page as well as making sound. And the strange thing is that a meaning arises from all of this. With no intention whatsoever the words start to make sense, not only in the small sense of the sentence or paragraph but for the whole of the novel. All links up. The story is revealed without any conscious attempt to write it or control it. No thinking it. It is found.

I find paintings too. This is how I see creation - finding something that’s already there. I think it has to do with the timelessness that comes into play when you’re creating; time disappears when you’re working, you’re IN THE ZONE, but this is also occurring on a much, much deeper level, one where everything exists. You don’t just lose time as a construct when creating, you tap into the place beyond time where everything is in existence, past present and future together, and so you can pick out an already perfectly made object.  

So we did exercises all week and then in the last fifteen minutes of the final day, all of us spent, the teacher read out three tanka and we were asked to respond to each one; five minutes for each painting, the whole of the five days before present and participating, the group participating, the traffic and its horns, all the yells on Lygon Street taking part, the night lights and the early evening air, the total of them involved in each brush stroke. Everything both within and without contained in the moment that a stroke was taking place. No thought whatsoever. Just pure action. It’s done. Amen.

I have not been able to recreate it since with an ink painting but this is how it goes with all my other work, how my painting goes, my writing. The essential state is mindlessness. Receptivity. From such a place complexity can become contained within simplicity. Like a symbol. Yin and Yang – the whole of our world resides within what takes only one glance to view. But it can’t be made consciously because our conscious mind can’t take the whole of it in. We can’t look at it but only take a glance. It’s a spiritual, mystical state that's being entered. My Art My Church.

The poem happened a couple of years later. I was doing a year long poetry class with Ania Walwicz. There were round fifteen of us in it and we worked on our poems every week. Ania or one of us, or a few of us, would read a published poem out loud, then we talked about it for a while and then she said, how about we try writing one? Always this, let us try. And in five minutes we’d maybe write a poem. I always did, three most classes, and when she’d ask if any of us would like to read out what we’d written I pretty well always volunteered. Some never did. Poets are pretty shy in general, you know, they’re of an introverted nature; eagerness to share over road this for me. It was awe-inspiring. It was magical. Every poem worked.

And we all worked together, connecting in a place that went way beyond the room. Sometimes dreaming similar dreams, or talking outside class about something and then when we came back in it’d turn up in a poem Ania had brought along. Stuff like that. The power of the group helped get those poems written. We all had a dark vision.

I didn’t write the one I’ve got up here today in class but it was created within this amazing year of poetry, so the class was involved. I know it. I had not written poetry for over ten years. It was exciting to create every week these poems. I’d never thought it possible, told myself I couldn’t even write with someone else in the house. What had been very private had become public and the group pushed it along. Similar to a life drawing class. 

When a work is published, even in the small sense of being read out loud, there comes this feeling of a much bigger thing. The involvement of multiple observers, readers, changes the object into something larger. But now we’re back in time and space…

and so one sunny day I was walking round my garden and the poem just hit me in an instant. I had not even been thinking about it, ever, hadn’t even considered writing one for the paintings even though I looked at them every day tacked up above the heater. It’s like I caught it from the air. Perfect as it was. Nothing needed to be done except to write it down on paper. Its execution the moment it was cut out of the chaos that surrounds us and committed to paper. This is when a writer’s life is going swimmingly…  

Sunday, June 10, 2012


‘…perhaps all the wisdom, and all the truth, and all the sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible.’

From a little kid dusk has always been my favourite time of day. I remember telling mum this when I was round seven and she said that a lot of people didn’t like dusk because it made them think of death. It didn’t make me think of death. It didn’t make me think of anything. That’s the thing; it made me feel. Everything becomes quiet; the light softens, things blur and boundaries disappear. There’s a settling down, an anticipation. Listen up, something big is gunna happen.

Dusk is the moment before EVERYTHING changes. It’s a liminal time, one that divides the visible world from the invisible, the known from the unknown. We’re standing in a threshold where we can view everything, both the light and the dark, the before and after; all is intermingled. All is one. Dusk is a doorway both in space and time, an entrance and an exit where the whole mystery of this world we live in can be glimpsed, if we choose to do so.

And this is how I define horror, the making apparent of what is invisible, the viewing of not just what’s obvious and accepted, what’s always been, what is desired, but the attempt to see the whole. To do such a thing can be very uncomfortable. Not just for the reader but for the writer too. When the hidden comes out there are no rules anymore; taboos are broken, fears are exposed, stability is lost, ALL HELL CAN BREAK LOOSE.

We aren’t fully aware for good reason, it could kill us or send us mad, but in this threshold you are presented with a choice – to consciously recognize reality as more than what is obvious. For me there’s a greater sincerity here, wisdom is gained, but does it really bring us closer to the truth? Regardless of having glimpsed the whole we still end up in our own little worlds. Maybe they’ve stretched a bit, maybe we move a bit different, stand taller or curl over, skip or crawl, but the uncovering cannot allow us to leave permanently where we have settled, the illusion remains, unless we become no longer human.

I suppose that’s why I like writing as a werewolf. Truly anything can be. Not even the laws of physics stand in my way. CREATION IS ULTIMATE FREEDOM

The quotation is from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a writer who bravely ventured into the horror of being human.

And this is a poem for someone I spent dusk with recently…

Anybody can die. Everybody does.
The evidence of this exists in
bones and sadness and grief.
Few go happily, many go accidentally,

unexpectantly   BRUTALLY   softly
                  silently noisily messily,
                rarely irradiating joyously-

perhaps there is knowledge
and if lucky love – for your dog
maybe, for people it’s much
more complicated. Guilt and murderous
thoughts lead to the need for oblivion
and painkillers, or just the pain
because then life can be FELT,
and there is no respite –

the Quickest have sweet time
and the unafflicted DO NOT EXIST
regardless of the various worlds
they once lived in.

X marks a kiss and your zenith
is the place you fall from, the depth
of your grave determined by the
height of your fall…

all that exists is a moment,
when you hold on to it it’s gone.

Monday, October 24, 2011

R.I.P. Eddie

My dog Eddie died at the start of April this year. She came lived with me when she was three weeks old. The runt of the pack and given away. I wrote some poems about her year before last and have been wanting to put them here for ages but it’s been hard doing much. I’ve been very sad, got unwell. Now I’m packing up and leaving Melbourne, going back to Tasmania to live. I got some land in the Midlands, a house with a Sugar Loaf behind it. I’ve got another kelpie called Ruthie. She’s a red and tan, Eds was a red cloud.

Here's a painting I did of Eds a long time ago, before she got grey.
born 25 November 1995
died 4 April 2011

I’ve heard that the American Indians always have one or two ghostdogs accompanying them till they die, then after this their dog can pass on too. The pack stays complete regardless of death. So I know Eds is coming with us. She’s gunna like the farm….
born 3 March 2011

These first poems are about Leroy too (he’s the one with the dirty teeth), and me pretending to be a dog.
I am a dog
He took a photo of me
when I was sitting
on the floor, eating a chop.
I showed him my teeth.

If I pull open your mouth
I can see how dirty your
teeth are -
your tongue is pink and
sweet and sometimes
you can walk so close
I lose you.

When I put my teeth into his neck
I started to shake him so all inside
was broken. The only noise
he made was at the start, a quiet
gurgling. There was no blood spilt.
I dropped him to the concrete
and while he huddled up into a ball
I ran off, doing the opposite -
flinging every limb out. Even
my tongue was free.

His jaw opens up with a howl,
so big it can no longer fit in.
A foul, hot breath exits
through sharp teeth that
could cut through any skin.

This one’s about me, Leroy and Eddie. I’m gunna miss walking along Altona back beach with them. You wouldn’t know you were in a city full of millions of people – just me and the dogs and a stack of seabirds, huge smoke stacks pumping out fire every so often. Orange against blue. We’d walk all the way to Williamstown without meeting anyone, often wading because the beach is tidal. One evening it got dark unexpectantly, must’ve been end of daylight savings or just the days suddenly getting short, me losing track of time, and I was waist deep. Eddie kept heading off into the blurr of sea and sky, I’d have to keep yelling her back, and Leroy paddling furiously with his little legs, no place to rest. He was well over his head. I was frightened for us all. But we made it home safe.
Altona back beach
Monstrous seabirds,
huge flocks of them
rising up against smoke
stacks. All three of us run.

This is a photo of Leroy and Eddie down Point Lonsdale. We would sometimes do a day trip there. Eddie loved playing with a stick. Leroy couldn't care less.

The last couple of years before Eddie died she started having fits. These terrified and upset me. Towards the end I got used to them, had worked out how to handle them. I always knew when they would happen, woke the moment before if we were asleep. The pack is inextricably linked. There was one night right at the end where after the fit the whole world became peaceful, inside and out. I'd never felt such a thing. All was ok with the world, all soft and settled. A gentle space had opened up. An enormous, infinite space. There was room for everything. Nothing jostled. I'd been reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and in here it said that this is what Electric Shock treatment's meant to do, replicate the peacefulness experienced after a fit. How I've come to understand it at this moment is that it was surrender - fear'd been let go of and all that was left was love.
But I still start when Ruthie drops to the floor suddenly.

Her hindlegs falter
and she falls to
the ground, my
heart goes with her.

In my dream, my dog’s dead -
she’s running muscular and wet
into the night and I follow.
She opens her jaw,
shows gum and teeth,
then rolls onto her back.
Shit pours out. She’s dead
and I don’t know what to do.

Cat and Dog
Black cat gets onto her blanket,
Starts rolling around and purring.
She likes the stink of it, of dog piss,
and when my old dog – the one
who did the pissing – joins her
she goes and lashes out,
hits old dog across the nose
with her paw, sends her cower-
ing behind my knees, head bent
so low it almost touches the floor.
Once she could’ve sent that cat
to HELL! Now she whimpers and
closes her eyes –
there are some things that are
hard to see, and this is one of them.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tasmanian Trip

Last blog for the year, and a bit of catching up to do. THE TASMANIA TRIP happened in the first week of July which I know is a long time past but you know, what’s time but a crazy human construct reflecting a need to fragment the whole, to move back and forth rather than to stay still in the now. Mmmm, my conflictual relationship with time, maybe I’ll write about this one day. And this trip was an important one for me as a writer because I had a conversation with Paige Turner at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. I was born in Hobart and Fullers was the first bookshop I went into, probably where my first book was bought. And two school friends, Janet and Bron, flew down from Canberra for the occasion. We were best friends in high school. This is a photo of the three of us.

They still haven’t read In-human, which I find intriguing seeing’s we were friends when we were the same age as the main characters. Aren’t they curious about whether they turned up in the story? I think reading a horror novel for someone who doesn’t read horror is a hard thing to do. When I tell people I write horror often the first response is I don’t read horror. The book is dismissed straight away, and this decision’s been made without ever actually having read any horror. Robin, another school friend, asked at the Fullers’ event why I called what I wrote horror. She had read In-human, picking it up as a fifty cent bargain at a garage sale before the book’d even got into bookshops! I read an e-mail from her the day of the launch saying how much she liked it. On the night she suggested that I shouldn’t label it horror.

I think what she was getting at was that I was losing an audience because people would come at it with preconceptions, and this would stop them from even considering reading the book. And it does. Horror is not serious literature. There’s something, well, wrong with it, both writing and reading it. The dark side remains hidden for a reason…It is a good idea, always, I reckon to read a book without assumptions or prejudice, to let the story be told for the first time and, in a way, to learn how to read all over again. Some books demand this, and they make my heart sing when they do. Novel means new and I take this seriously as a writer – the task is always about doing something new. And at the same time being true to the story. The mix is heady.

So the day I flew in I checked out some bookshops and the three I went into each had a stack of In-humans, all facing out. At eye level. As a writer I’d just thought about getting published. I did not think beyond this to reviews and festival invites, shelf placement and stock levels; the path to getting read is ridiculously treacherous. Lots of little decisions being made that can mean few ever even get to be aware of the book’s existence. But there’s something about reading a story set in your own landscape. Here’s a photo of me in front of Fullers Bookshop, and if you look carefully...

I also discovered the best horror collection in any bookshop I’ve been to. Richard Sprent has done an amazing job at Ellison Hawker in Liverpool Street. I spent a fair bit of time and money there. He is passionate about horror. His wife actually wrote a review of In-human for The Mercury. He’s a horror fan and she doesn’t like it, prefers someone like Tim Winton. We shook our heads at this. Her review is one of my favourites even though the dislike came across. It was funny and strange in its style. One of the problems with In-human, according to A Forward, was that it was written in a first person style that was disconcerting, and this whole review was written in third person, as if to make a point. And reading In-human made her feel sick. Woozy.

To physically affect someone with words is something I think horror can really enable. It can push you to a point where you just can’t sit still. Horror movies do the same. Your brain is bypassed; there’s just body and emotion. This has been pretty well my whole experience with writing my current novel. I can’t sit still. I’m up and about continually, and when I am sitting writing the laptop is to my side. I don’t look at it full on; darkness can be hard to face. Imagine watching a horror movie, squirming on the couch, making a cup of tea, yelling out; that’s how I’ve been writing this year. It’s not how I wrote the last book. I’ve been told In-human is confronting, and I kinda get this even though I don't really feel it myself, but what I’m writing now is confronting for me. I’ve been meaning to post some reviews but until this happens you can read Anna Forwards’ and some other ones at Transit Lounge website.

So, the conversation was set to start at 6pm and at 6pm there was just me and Paige and Bron and Janet. We waited fifteen minutes for another friend to arrive and in the meantime maybe twenty turned up. Phew. It went well. Paige asked thoughtful questions and I got to read from my new novel, which I love doing. I love the voice of my current narrator and reading from In-human has actually been difficult to do because of this. A few people in the audience asked questions and then I did some signing. Paige hosts a radio show about books on Edge Radio, Tuesday nights, and also has a book blog. Both are worth checking out.

The next day my friends shouted me to Moorilla Estate for lunch. This was exceptionally nice eating, and the service was good too. A view of the Derwent, Chigwell. Sadly the art collection, which focuses on death and sex, is not opening till January next year. There was some major building construction going on to house it. Another trip. We stayed six hours, drank a lot of Moorilla wine. And I am not a wine drinker. Here’s a photo of me finishing off a glass.

Janet’s brother came picked us up. We got home and then it was such a beautiful night out me and Janet walked up to the milkbar, took some travellers. Ended up buying a packet of tobacco and climbing over the fence to the park opposite. Sat drinking beer and smoking like we were teenagers. Stayed up till three in the morning talking. Like time didn’t exist.

I love Tasmania. We drove down south to the Hartz mountains and then to Hastings Caves, ended up at the thermal baths just on closing time. Who would bring togs on such a cold winter’s day? So the park ranger closed up the gate and let us go skinny dipping. It was the best swim I’ve had since Apollo Bay last year. Here’s a photo of me in the pool.

And then the day before we left we went up the top of the mountain to muck round in the snow. This is a photo of me and Janet’s daughter Ellen having a good time.

Tasmania, land of extremes hey? We both ended up going on a boat later, out on the Derwent because there’d been a whale sighted. A Southern Right Whale, right up near the jetties. Sadly we didn’t get to see it but we did see a lot of other wildlife. A White-breasted Eagle that had to now be called a White-bellied Eagle, which got us talking about how Fairy Penguins had to now be called Little Penguins. It’s true, all the signs are being changed because the use of the word fairy is offensive to some. And so, apparently, is breast. This is what I was told.

And that was my holiday in Tasmania. That was my first author’s tour. Now you know all about it.