Saturday, 30 June 2012

Social Media and the blog

Here's the thing - How many social sites do I need to sign up to, to help my blog?

Is there an actual number? Like is it 3 or 705?

I enjoy writing the bog. It is a place for my poems, for what is happening with my novels, a place to just post what I am thinking or post things I like. But I need an audience - right?  I am not doing this to avoid taking out the bins (actually that's my son's job) or to avoid cooking or mopping the floors.

I may be avoiding those things but I would avoid them without the blog. I think therefore I blog - or more correctly, I have a computer, with internet access, therefore I blog.

I use the blog to force me to write. Hemingway (at least I think it was him but I'm not about to Google search it, so let's just say it was) made the point that a writer should write every day. He (Hemingway, not the writer because that would be he or she) would go into his little room (I am just saying little it might have been a huge expanse, but poetically, little is more elegant) with his writing on a stand (bit like a music stand for sheet music) and a pencil - always a pencil - and writing until he felt he was right in the mix, ideas, words, the whole thing flying... Then he would put the pencil down and take a break - let his thoughts catch up with his writing.  Just on this - everyday! Even on the day he blew his brains out - did he write with his pencil first on that day?

So the blog helps me write every day but I want an audience as well. I want people to read the stuff I write, to share the things I like, perhaps even - (Oh, let it be) make a comment occasionally.  And that desire brings me back to the original question - how many social sites does one blog need?

I have Facebook, Twitter, Linkdin, Stumbleupon, Digg, Google+, You Tube, just to name a few - (and that begs the question - Has anyone written a social media rap yet?)

All of these sites linked to my blog, and posts flying back and forth like the bats that fly across Ivanhoe (now that the Govt. has shifted them out of the city and relocated down by the local river where the trees are dying thanks to their new role as bedsits for bats). Does anyone really see them or is it just the occasional glane up at the night sky and a faint whisper of the black body as it flaps on by.

Are we bloggers, bats of the night?

Blind as bats.

Echo locating bats - repeating certain words over and over again - a code for "Look at me! Look at me!"

Vampire bats sucking at the blood of social media sites, news sites, clip playing sites, any sites that stay sighted long enough for us to pause and slip a fang or two in, drink deep of someone else's thoughts and then off we flap again into the black tapestry of the internet blogscape.

Are bloggers the new Batmen or Batwomen - or worse, are we the Robins of the Batmen and women?

Am I?

And when does the batblogger become a fully humanised blogger in her or his own right?

How many hits maketh the man?

And how many sites does a normal blogger need to make it through the night?

I am going by the old Elma Fudd rule - I'm using the blunderbuss approach... Shhh... Be wery, wery quiet - I'm hunting wabbits.

Thus Spoke…

There is more to this
than the way our tongue moves; the way it
approaches or retreats from teeth, or our lips
shaping themselves first as sly, sunlit maid
and then as aching mother.

 The chords thrum as breath weaves a wand
and turns into sound - the voice in the dark
catches light eyes cannot see
if we but pause and listen
to the tone; never the words,
the words
are the illusion, the packaging.

In the room, or out and about,
we several lay ourselves down or move around
and breathe - imagine the world
as small as our heartbeats, as large
as our minds

and we let loose a conversation…

It travels into a space
none of us expected -

not even the finest of poets -

the way a dance becomes something so much more
than a body moving from place to place.
Great music to write poetry to - Krishna Das

Friday, 29 June 2012

bonus melior optimus

Of the three I had no place -
not even of the least -
sat at the back preparing my hands

for the leather kiss of failure.
I loved the words, could hear the ring
of the metal, the smell of leather and dust.

My feet travelled their world
of mountains, straight streets and wars.
I fought elephants and failed

time and again
to conjugate the correct path.
I placed my hand in the fire,

leap from the bridge,
fought the spartan, found the pass,
entered the cavern

and sought the Delphic Oracle
but never reached the shore
of understanding the language -

then these years later, I confess, failure
hangs like a slash between syllables,
the journey eludes still.

I think the trick is to utter the thought
and accept
I am none the wiser

only that sometimes the Muse whispers
and for a fleeting moment her sound
is understood.

Writers that changed me: (2)

So my first choice was Colin Wilson, a prolific and very well known writer. For my second choice I have chosen  a writer so obscure that I have never met anyone who knew of her. In fact I have only ever read 1 book of hers - yet that book, that single paperpack, is one I have read at least 15 times since I first read it as a 20 year old.

It is not a great piece of Literature. Not a work of outstanding philosophy. In fact, it is a minor work in  the genre of Science Fiction. As a youngster, I filled my mind with E.E. Doc, Smith's The Lensmen series, with Olaf Stapleton and his Starman series and many, many other Sci Fi writers, from Asimov to Zelazny, their works introducing me to a huge range of ideas on humanity, politics and so forth.

This single book though, by this unknown writer, is the one I keep coming back to. It's a grand book spanning millions of years. It touches on evolution, robots, telepathy and dinosaurs and how the universe might end. It is also deeply human, even though its main protagonist is a robot called Tec, as its characters each undertake a search to discover "Who am I?" and as such it touched all the same places inside me as The Outsider.

The novel is The Second Experiment by J.O. Jeppson, the second wife of Isaac Asimov.

So what was it about this book?  It's hard to say. The story revolves around the alien Roiss as they prepare for their magnificent Second Experiment and, more importantly,  their robot servant Tec. It is, I think, the development of Tec's sense of self that grabbed hold of me,  that and of his sense of smallness in such a huge, complex world - yet this insignificant robot manages to first, imperil the whole universe, and then, save it. The colossal time span of this book blew me away. I guess it helped feed a sense of perspective - perhaps that's what all fiction really strives to do. Our conscious minds can be so small, so removed, so self-absorbed in their own thoughts/reactions/etc that it can overwhelm an adolescent striving to develop a sense of who they are, of what their place might be. Literature, in all its forms, offers the developing mind a chance to gain a greater perspective, to enter a consciousness - for isn't that what a book is? - other than their own, and suddenly the reader is not alone anymore. That is what this book gave me, perspective.

I have since found out there is a sequel which I am tempted to track down, but as a friend of mine recently alluded to, perhaps its the books we read in our teens or early twenties that most influence or shape us. Perhaps I should not track down the second book - the story certainly doesn't need any further telling. Perhaps it is best to leave the cherished experiences of our youth alone, not examine them too closely, not sour them by trying to build upon them in deliberate ways, rather, enjoy them and keep journeying on, knowing those books you read all those years ago that gave meaning to your life in the time when you were discovering/searching for that meaning, remain present within, part of the Literature DNA. of who you have become and who you still might be.

I once wrote a story for the Carlton Football Club about an old coat I had, and loved, for many years. I bought the coat in an Opportunity Shop for 3 dollars and one day, while crossing a street in Lygon St. Carlton,  bumped into a footballer I adored in my childhood by the name of John Ragsy Goold. Ragsy commented on my coat and offered to buy it but I refused. I loved that coat and it now superceded by love for the footballing idol of my childhood. That's how life goes. Things replace past things. The danger - take heed consumers of the world - is in rushing towards that change. The rush diminishes the experience - and our existential experience is, ultimately, all we have.

With The Second Experiment, I never did rush. I savored that story, put it aside for a time and then savored it all over again. Perhaps that's how I will leave it. I will not buy another book of J.O. Jeppson's, instead about once every year or so, I'll take out the Second Experiment and let her story take me on a grand tour of the universe and,  of my youth.

The book's cover

Spider in the bath

My son loved this when he was 4

He's now 18!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Mother Africa’s lament:

These trees will turn to sand and your footprints
will lead you many miles away - be still my children
and do not oppose the fingers with your thumbs;
it is a deceit of technology, control moves further away
the more you create. Do not shed your mother’s fur
so that you may hunt, for the running will take you
far, far away and your Mother will lie here, breasts
empty and a hollowness where her womb should be.

I know the lure of flint, see the thirst grow for blood,
how it thickens the neurons and expands the brain
but upright is not the only answer, my daughter or son,
and at the end of all the days the ocean will not sing
for you or your children - will never sing for you.

The ocean dreams other dreams -
ones I left behind in that faraway time
before I rose in my fashion
and started my own journey away from home.

Writers that changed me: (1)


Colin Wilson:

I first came across the author/philosopher Colin Wilson when a friend of mine read a passage out loud for a Drama exercise while we were both studying at Rusden. The book was The Space Vampires and I borrowed it from him later that week. That lead me to other Sci Fi books by Wilson like The Philosopher's Stone and The Mind Parasites. Then I discovered his non fiction work and really began to be influenced by him. Works like An Introduction To The New Existentialism and Origins Of The Sexual Impulse really began to help me think through lots of stuff that I was picking up or reading. Then I found this book in a secondhand bookshop. It was a bit tattered but I had read Camus' The Outsider and the fact they carried the same title - The Outsider - and that it was written by Wilson made me curious. I bought Wilson's book and everything changed. This book was written in 1956 a year before I as born yet when I read it as a young man in his twenties I felt it had been written just for me. It was one of those books, one of those profound moments when the writer captures you and changs you.

I became for many years an outsider. I wrote my poetry, plays and stories and I deliberately lived a life of an Outsider. In a way I was already feeling an outsider anyway. I had come from working class origins, from an uneducated, trade orientated family, and a very Catholic one at that, to a young man full of existentialism and the need to self express through poetry an through theatre. It was hard to merge the two selves and sometimes returning home to see my family left me disjointed and almost like I was watching someone else. Then there were times with my friends, with writers, painters or actors, educated people, often from very wealthy backgrounds, well read, well educated, and I'd feel the same disconnect. The Outsider helped me work through that disconnect. Along with my writing, it gave me focus (as did other novels and other writers I shall mention in other articles to come).

Slowly the two sides merged and by twenty-seven or so, I began to feel much more solid - does everyone go through this? Is this what we mean by growing up? Should we in fact say Merging towards?

To this day, though, if I see even just the word 'outsider', I am stirred by memories and by my powerful emotional responses to Colin Wilson's wonderful The Outsider.

Colin Wilson changed my life - in fact I could even say he helped me stay alive because there were dark nights when the wind was howling and the mind was reeling when I considered...but writing helps us through those times, the things we write and the things we read.

Thank you Colin Wilson and thank you to that friend of mine, Michael, who read a passage out from an obscure Sci Fi book that lead me on an incredible journey - and isn't that the way of things.

The Cover of my version

Colin Wilson - interview

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Under Poetry or Theatre?


To The Reader

It seems to me
I am a collection of pebbles cupped
in this basket-flesh.
Words fall through me, find gaps
between who I am and might be,
illuminate truth and fact;
trickle onto the page
to travel
wherever they may.
You, too, are a collection
of pebbles cupped
by your own basket-flesh.
My words slide
into the spaces between you;
trickle down
until we meet in a dark
and nurturing silent expanse
only some words understand.

Dear Pollies...About the boat people...

Dear Pollies,  about the so called boat people, just find a solution. No more grandstanding, no more labels like queue jumpers, just solve the damn thing.

Just understand people are dying because they are fleeing and are desperate. We cannot do a lot about the fleeing but we can do something about the desperation. We can decide not to leave them in hell-holes where they become so desperate they will board leaky boats and brave the open seas to try and find a place of safety.

Dear Pollies, we know about saftey - does that mean we have to forget about desperation?

Have we no heart? No sense of fairness. Must we label them and ridicule them and pretend what they do is illegal?

They are simply humans trying to find a solution to their lives, to find a way to keep themselves alive, to keep their children alive, to escape fear and persecution.

Dear Pollies, find a solution. Help them to help themselves. Help them to stay alive.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Aviator

Across the road

Light escapes the Venetian mind, words gather
in thin strips of incandescent thought. Edison sold
his voice, mute as a lamppost he stands, listening.

The street inhales Von Gogh’s severed ear; a dash
of yellow should have sufficed but love
needs more than orange petals and a starry night.

The car horn pretends a saxophone’s urgent blast
into the night as nurseries sparkle to music without songs;
blankets babe separated from parental thoughts.

In this street I sit at the desk. Across the river
of tar a family is busy this night packing away
the medals and memories of their father.

Tomorrow they plan to sell the discards
to every passer-by who pauses; an art show of life
between two people and their children.

This is the mug their father sipped when told Mary
was leaving school, this the picture bought when they
holidayed in Spain, that plant grew upon the dog’s bones.

The stars shine down sadder than an empty carousel; music
sifts through their family collectively. I hear their voices
escape into the sky though grief hangs, too heavy for freedom.

I might buy a shirt worn by a man now sixty himself.
A toy for my daughter the girl, now mother, once loved.
A coat for my wife he bought for his wife his lifetime ago.

Tonight I see them come and go, bees frantic
around a busted hive, mending, as if a wound bleeds,
before the sunlight tomorrow exposes them.
Have you ever...

To be or not to Be

Standing at the end of Rye pier

Finally - a new poem - first I've written in a long time.

Standing at the end of Rye pier

like tiny insects flying into my eyes,
filling my lips and nostrils
stinging memory to repeat.

stretched out like a birthing bed,
rolling hips, liquid thighs spread
and I swear I see my head.

filled with a clutch of birds that swirl -
rubbish tossed by unseen hands;
how carless the gods!

Beneath my feet the rotted wood sings,
strummed by an ocean that plucks chords
no human can hear
and not feel the pull to jump.

We are not apes, it was not from trees
that we did leap.
We are merfolk, shining skin -
furless as the wind -
with eyes that wish to grasp
the foam on the end of the wave.

The rhythm is the horizon of sound
where wave and sand meet
and we shout into the future
oh dear god below,
what did we leave behind?”

The Hollow Men - T.S.Elliot
If by Rudyard Kipling


Cat is done!

Funny I think its taken about 10 times the work of The Tree Singer - lets hope its 10 times better!

The book will be sent off to the proofreader, so a proofing and Lee's cover designs and it will be all systems go!

I really hope this is out by Nov. because my word it would make a great Christmas present - no seriously...

no seriously....

Monday, 25 June 2012


So I was doing a book launch reading the other day with some other authors and we are reading passages out from our novels. One author then says I have something new to read out and began to read out  new novel she was working on - a piece of erotica.

Shouldn't be surprised of course because you know as soon as someone makes a big whale of money in a certain genre million trillion little krills will come swimming along trying to make the same killing...Mixed metaphor or what?

So - see this is my idea - should I write an erotic novel about an vampire who goes to a werewolf magic school? Its gotta work surely....

Seriously, I know we follow trends or are already jogging along in an empty lane that then gets filled by bigger, faster runners (another metaphor mix-up) but it irks me somewhat how people try to cling to the coat tails of whoever's rushing past.

Oh and it wasn't erotic. It was just her reading out her fantasy while the rest of  us grew bored.


So Catalina is back from Dragonfall Press and gets a tick from my editor - ta Michael. Now I've just got to sort through his nitpicks and have a last go at polishing it and then its off to the proofreader. It's getting closer now!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Geppetto finds the stone

here is another poem in the P. series

Geppetto finds the stone

Even a lonely man who
has never married, whose
only fragrant memory
ended in Venice,
suffers the need to bury
his loved ones.

After having fallen, unexpectedly,
into the Ionian Sea, Geppetto’s sister
drowned in her lover’s arms,
and while the lover held and wept
in caricature, it was Geppetto
who dug the grave and buried her bones.

While digging his tears slid
down his cheeks and splashed
onto the earth, weakened the soil
allowing the spade to slide in
like a Spanish dancer on his knees
across the polished dance floor. Geppetto
found a stone; a single stone
amidst the earth.

Defying the moment’s gravity; in disregard
of the strange stares
from his sister’s suitably attired
lover and her gathered
enemies and friends, Geppetto
reached out his hand
and lifted free the stone.

He studied the stone while the crowd
murmured and fidgeted; noticed
the dark sheen, the minute dimples
that meant it was not as smooth
as it appeared, its unexpected lightness
and the white vein that encircled it
like a wedding ring. The stone had two fissures
that ran like two rivers along the surface
almost parallel, as if great pressure
once threatened to rend it into pieces.

He plopped the stone
into his white shirt pocket;
felt the weight of it match his heart.

He kept it as company
through evenings and days
as a marker to
his sister’s memory, not knowing
that its proximity to his sadness
instigated change.

The stone began to believe
it was a seed, waited
with the patience of rock
for planting to give it birth.

Meanwhile his heart
found itself, perhaps
in sympathy with the stone,
lighter as the months passed.

Fighting the Age Old Battle

So the two things I have begun this year to combat the encroaching creep of years

- for the body I have taken up Tai Chi and, after about 15 weeks of lessons and lots of practice, believe I am just starting to feel the benefits. Certainly my thighs feel much stronger - which should add to my bike riding to and from work.

A side benefit seems to be the way it has helped my Arthritis. Haven't had a flare up and my hips have not ached with the changing weather  - my job as the family forecaster is over perhaps?

- As for the brain, that's Lumosity's job and this has been fantastic - 40 something days in a  row I have now visited their website and do my 'brain pushups'. I feel more alert, my memory feels stronger and I think I can joins faces and names better than I have ever been able to.

I chose Tai Chi because many many years ago a group of people I knew at Rusden started it and loved it and then one of them - Elena - wrote a play and in that play I had to pretend (act) I knew something about Tai Chi. I've wanted to explore it ever since, but what with partying and then babies and jobs and stuff, well I am there now.

Lumosity came about because of a book I've been reading all about the brain's plasticity (being married to a psychologist helps - they have great libraries, though sadly I tend to loose all the arguments in our house...) and how things thought lost (or diminished with time) can be worked on, exercised and even improved upon.

Tai Chi and Lumosity - food for mind and body... gotta help the writing surely.....

So that's what I'm doing.. what have you chosen to help stay fit and young (for young, read not dribbling from mouth while rocking back and forth on the porch daydreaming about days already yellowing at the edges)?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Pinocchio’s evolution

This is one of the first poems I wrote about P. I now have about 50 of them these poems then led to the writing of The Wood Carver's Son published by Beatrice Benn Books.

Pinocchio’s evolution

It started with the aglet of the lace
painted upon the left black shoe
on the foot of his carved leg.

After an unknown interval
an entire shoelace turned real,
moved  to an intrusive breeze.

The strings were still there
when behind a knot of wood
his heart began to beat.

The right eye moistened first,
saw the crease of flesh
and a single blue vein underneath.

One day the finger nail
of his right thumb
started to grow and curl.

A strand of blue-black hair
at the back of his head stirred; 

a lash of his eye fell free, fluttered,
landed upon his wooden cheek.

The right foot bent, returned.
His left hand made its first fist.

His ears filled with wax
weeks before his bottom and top lips
cracked and split

and a full year, at least,
before the tongue, like a debutant,
shyly poked between.

It was a sunny day
when he first began to think;

rained heavily the afternoon
all his wood was finally skin,

yet the tale is easier told when,
with the wave of a wand,
and a hoarse whisper of a spell,
the puppet can speak.

The New Media

Now many people have a handle on this - me, I am not one of them. So part of the reason for this blog is to try and learn how to use blogs, facebook, linkedin, twitter etc to help connect me to a possible audience.

It's important for new authors - especially those whose publishers are small, independent and just starting out - to find an audience.

We have all heard stories of the power these new media networks can have - erotic stories anyone? - but stories are always full of myths as well as facts. How to separate the two? I think I will just jump in and try to see what happens. I started this blog some time ago - when the Tree Singer was first published - but it has been mainly idle ever since. Not now. I will make this thing part of my daily routine. Thoughts, poems and updates on new novels, stuff like that.

So to anyone stumbling across this blog - Hello, welcome etc. Please excuse my ignorance at how things work but I am slowly teaching myself to set these pages out in a way that appeals to me. I hope it may also appeal to you.

Friday, 22 June 2012

gay marriage

So I don't get it - why the angst? Why the concern? Why shouldn't they be allowed to marry?

I have been married for twenty years - how does what two other people do affect this marriage? It doesn't. Not in the least. It doesn't diminish, demean or dilute my marriage in any way.

So why?

Why must this country say no to two people who wish to declare their love for each the same as many have been doing for centuries?

And no, I have no gay children, no gay relatives and yes a few friends but that is neither here nor there. It's a simple thing really. It is called equality. People, regardless of sexuality, should have the same choices, the very same choices as I have.

That is the point Ms. Gillard didn't seem to understand the other night on Q & A. She kept going on about her choice not to marry - but that's just it - her choice. Imagine how she might feel if the legal system said - sorry Ms. Gillard all West Bulldog supporters are not allowed to marry. You can still have a meaningful relationship - just not the same as everyone else. Would she understand then?

Choice. Everyone wants to have a choice. No one wants to be told what they can or cannot do as two consenting adults. And please, spare me the history lessons. Once upon a time women did not vote, only white people voted, Australia had a white policy and this land (apparently) was uninhabited. History is not the documentation of what is, it is the documentation of change.

Right now we have history staring us in the face and it is time to change, time to spread equality even further, time to forget our fears, prejudices or misunderstandings and agree that two adults, any two adults, should be allowed to choose marriage as an expression of their love for each other.

Dada’s seed

Dada’s seed

Before dada first did me harm
he sat on my bed and stroked
my right leg, the one he would soon ruin.

I watched his Adam's apple heft the axe
and split his thoughts into sounds.
He let loose hardwood splinters.

They slid beneath my love, attached themselves
to my heart, buried themselves deep,
formed black lumps so that in later life,
whenever I was hugged, a splinter shaped
the responses that escaped my mouth.
'My heart,' dada began, 'you see, or soon will
if you do not already, or if, sadly, your mother
has failed to warn you, is as black as the inside
of a coffin with the thick lid nailed shut;
made that way when my da took revenge in the night
for the things done to him, over an apple, long ago.'

A single tear clung to the thick lashes
of his left eye – a mountaineer poised on the cusp
before the advancing avalanche. 'I have to warn you,'
he continued, 'that I am unable to love properly,
I find the touch of your mother's lips intolerable.'

His nails scratched the skin
beneath my shoulder blades raw while dada
continued talking. 'Unlike you, my da
made me sleep in a Hessian sack, would you believe,
and, with nuncle Pat as his side-kick, threatened
to throw me in a river if I forgot myself and fell asleep.
I'll do no such thing to you,' he said, 'but must
release the hellhounds that gnaw my organs
in a fashion that allows me to keep breathing.
So in fairness and in warning, my scion, and to ease
the hammer that thunked the flesh inside my chest,
in three days time, I shall begin to hurt you.'

Dada wept several tears. I watched them
slide down his cheeks and lost them in the stubble
and shadow of his chin and throat.

He said,  'I would like
to be brave but find it easier to send
you down into the darkness
than to make the difficult journey myself.'

Three days I waited.
I felt walls crouch close
and nip at the air before it passed my lips.

Three days I waited.
I forced myself to sleep with an eye open
and my hands placed firmly between my legs.

Three days later he began on my leg.
He manacled my arms to the bed,
pulled back the sheet and took hold of the leg
where it stuck out of my pajama pants.

His left hand held it firm. His right hand
grasped the arch of my foot.
As he sung Goodnight Irene he began to twist 
until first the ankle cracked and then the knee was ruined.

He revisited that leg every night for forty nights.
I fought, sought pity, thrashed - a fish
trapped in a plastic bucket, swimming in pain -
the bones crushed and re-crushed
until marrow escaped, muscle fled and the leg, from
the knee and all below, flopped and puddled
beneath the thigh, the colour and consistency of porridge.

Next he fed me the flesh carved from the back of mother.
He cut the meat into thin strips, sautéed in peanut butter,
skewered and fed to me with bowls of Basmati rice
and gentle green tea. If I vomited
he returned to the kitchen. I heard my mother's screams
and then he brought me a fresh batch of meat.
To hold her meat down I bit the pillowslip.

Mother came to me every morning.
Gingerly, she lifted her shirt
and showed me the flesh missing in patches across her back
beneath the tight horizontal strap of her black brassiere.

My teens were spent in dada's cellar,
fearful of his visits where he would whisper
his love
and pound my spine or pluck single hairs
from my head
or bite the knuckle of my thumb
until it bled.

One night, with pliers, he snipped off
my left hand's little finger.

He told me about a brother I should have had
if dada had let him live. 'That one,' he whispered, his hot breath
forced into my right ear, 'sleeps at the bottom of a river.
I had to, don't you see, rid myself
of the fear of that damn Hessian sack.'

I wet my mattress at night. During the day I dried it
with the heat that emanated from my frail body.
I coughed up the best years
of my adolescence and spent myself time over
on the soiled, spoiled sheets of that prison bed.

At 21 dada released me.
Mother kissed me. She touched my forehead
with her hand and handed me a crutch
to hobble with.

As a final gesture, dada pushed me out the door
and shoved me down the steps. He laughed
as I fell and put a front tooth
through the flesh of my bottom lip.

I found a job sitting beside a beach
polishing hermit shells I stole off the crabs
as they wandered the shoreline
beneath the lapping light of the half- moon.

I sold the shells to children, told them
it was not the ocean they could hear
but the cries of crabs lost upon the ocean's dark floor,
seeking their mothers' familiar claws
or fearful of the snip if they encountered their fathers'.

I found a wife and brought her home
to meet the family. Was shocked
when dada seduced her; he forced
my mother and I to watch
while he coupled her.

She, I forgave,
but blood should not be forged into a weapon.
I plucked out my eyes
and threw them at dada.
He never paused but rushed onwards, faster
than a breached dam.

The dogs barked as he rutted
and when she cried out part of me went missing forever.

I left that place, took my wife,
or let her take me, rather,
but soon lost her and never sought
to discover if she went to that home,
to his bed
where I was first brought into existence.

Eventually, months and years diminished
my revulsion and I was drawn north to south.
I slithered over the back fence
and took up residence in the back shed, fed
by my mother in secret. Blind in the darkness, heartless,
I listened to the dull leather sound as dada 
beat my mother. I offered no solace
when she brought me food in the morning.

Finally I left the shack
and discovered, like others before me,
that the road back is harder still
than the slide into the darkness.

I found a new woman who had three children,
lived with her beside a river,
ate apples every day
and planted their seeds at night. I watered them
with my tears and the gentle stories
I told her children.

My ears heard the laughter
as water scampered across tickling rocks
or the joyful squeals of her children
as she chased them, pretending to be a monster.

I found a large boulder and placed it
upon my own monster. I know
a seed cannot grow without light.

I found, one winter, a son that she gave me
and bit my tongue off while I held him; smelt
the skull that had captured sunshine
and the scent of the deep blue wings of a butterfly.

She stood beside me, her hand
around my shoulder, her lips
painting, with breath, the hairs
of my ears and I thought of my mother

and the apple trees blossomed
and shed their petals
as gently as death
or love
or snow.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Dragonfall Press are about halfway through their look at Catalina (after the edits - thanks Graham Adair) and so far it looks like all is good. Michael thinks the final edits will be minimal. Meanwhile Lee (link above) is reading the novel and will design the cover etc for Catalina. Can't wait to see what she comes up with. Her work is fantastic!

So things are moving along nicely with Catalina - would make a great Christmas present (we should all give books!) if its out in time.

My Cousin Jack ( and the stars on the soles of his feet) is all but done and I'll plonk it in sleep for a while and let my brain forget about it for a few months before I look at it again.

The Forgotten Forest - the minotaur novel - is over 35,000 words in length now and doing well - though its veering off towards a Celtic myth somehow...not sure how that's happening but characters and plots do that to you.

Meanwhile I will get busy putting up poems on this blog for anyone who might be interested. There are all these poems I have sitting around watching the weeds grow so here they can have a home where a little bit of sunshine might sneak in.

Bulpaddock Sonnet

(Trinity College 2005)

I stand in the classroom and through
the large glass windows look out
across the Bulpaddock - the bronze statue
of the famous bull guards
the ‘Keep off the grass’ sign and the ivy-stone
buildings frame students  as they walk to classes.

My eye catches a leaf as it falls while the wind
sends another scurrying along the old worn footpath,
the sunlight slants through the bare trees,
the scene unearths memories of Dad
from years before when he breathed
and I stood holding his hand
amongst the raked leaves and cut garden -
everything smelling as if it would last forever.
New Cover for The Tree Singer

and larger book size.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Chapter Length when reading Out Loud

Posted on Goodreads an opinion I have about Kate DeCamillo's chapter length and it got me thinking. Do writers consider chapter lengths? Does Kate?

Working on Catalina, my second novel, (soon to be published by Dragonfall Press) I tried to consider chapter lengths. I wanted to keep them short so that they could be read out loud by a parent (or an older child) to a young child. Kate's chapters are a perfect length for this. I'd read Tiger Rising or Winn-Dixie to the kids at night and the chapter always stopped at a great point and the children were always ready to turn over and go to sleep. She has it nailed down pat.

Too many books go on and on and the child drops to sleep before the chapter is finished (creating all sorts of bent pages, confusing thoughts and arguments as to what we are up to etc.) but the chapters of Kate's books end at the right moment. Read the Tiger Rising or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane out loud and you will see what I mean.

Catalina's edits mean that I have lost that fight - this time. I had to toss up between short chapters or keeping the flow. I chose the flow, combining chapters and even shifting whole sections around to keep the flow. Over the course of responding to the editors thoughts my chapters lengthened so that I lost that particular aim of short chapters but I would like to manage both length and flow in the next children's book I write.

So when writing for children do other writers think about the story being read out loud? I do. Each chapter I write I then read out loud. Listening to the words certainly helps me with flow and with catching my habit of repeating words. They get stuck in my brain and I keep using them... Pesky little creatures that they are. When reading back over my work I tend to skim across the repeats (and other poor choices) but when I read out loud the mistakes sort of stand up and wave saying 'look at me, look at me...'