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Nouvelle

So, as I’ve declared on other social media, I’m writing a book. Writing A Book. Writing THE book, to be precise.

The idea’s been swirling around in my head since I was a teenager in various forms, and I think I’m at the stage where I can do it justice. It won’t be too unrealistic, cliched, derivative.

This is also a test for me. How can I call myself a writer if I don’t fucking write? Can I actually sit down and write a novel? The only novel-length work I’ve written was when I was 16-17, it took me over a year, and it was complete balls from beginning to end.

This feels like the final test for me. I’ve shared before the struggles in my identity as a writer, and balancing that with a full-time job and mental illness. If I can’t or won’t write this book, what then? I am determined to try. I realised that for all these years I just don’t want to take the risk, that I’m not confident enough in my writing to attempt a proper, full-length, grown-up Book.

Sometimes I’m unhappy with my work. Everyone is. But sometimes I look at an old short story and I realise, hey, that was pretty funny. I can do this. Writing and language has been a part of me for so long, is so core to my being, that I don’t know how to cope without it, like that movie cop who won’t retire.

Who knows, I might publish it myself. People – gasp – may even BUY it. I used to be an indie online bookseller – I know a trick or two. And reading author blogs/books has been incredibly inspiring. I just have to go for it. To try. To get on the wire without a net. Hell, if a man can walk on a wire between the World Trade Center and have a bit of a lie down halfway across, then I can write a measly zombie book.

I’m going to need love, and your encouragement. Are ya with me? You’re not sick of zombies yet? Do you want to stop me whining? You are going to be as integral to the process as an editor, a graphic designer, a beta reader. I won’t be able to do it without you.

Now. It’s time for me to put the smartphone down, close my Benedict Cumberbatch tumblrs, and get my arse in a chair.

Wish me luck.

Short story: Running

My parents tell me that I’ve been running ever since I was born. Not running from anyone or anything – just running for the sake of it. I went straight from crawling to toddling around on my little legs as fast as they could carry me, and never ever stopped.

But every so often, even I needed to stop to catch my breath. Today was one of those times.

This house in the forested mountains was the closest thing we had to a base. A home. We always came here when we needed a break, help, or even just company. They were loving, fearless, open and generous, and I couldn’t do without them. Their home was a sanctuary of love and nature, and electricity for our laptops.

I sat cross-legged on the mattress in the back of the van, feeling the sun’s rays warming me through the open windows. It was rare that I was alone these days, so I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and just listened. The morning birds were awake and starting their daily routine of endless calls, extraordinary in their diversity. I could hear a gentle breeze flowing through the thick bushland, rustling the leaves ever so gently. There were distant sounds of cars and activity in the house in the valley below. I could hear water quietly gurgling away in the fountain in the front garden. These quiet moments were all I needed to recharge. I was ready to run again.

I opened my eyes. Frankie was sitting next to me on the mattress, his deep green eyes regarding me with slightly blank affection. I smiled.

‘What’s up, Frankie? Did you sleep well?’

He said nothing, as per usual. Instead he blinked at me and curled up beside me. I gave the black fuzz on his head a little scratch. He made a peep of contentment and settled in.

I returned to the task at hand. I grabbed my flat brush and stirred the brightly coloured goo in the bowl, careful not to stick my face too close to it. I took the brush and started painting it on my head, working from my part down, staring into the mirror, intent on my task. Distantly, I could hear a voice calling my name. Haley. Haley Dee.

I looked up in the mirror to see Thom striding towards me with a cup in his hands.

‘Blue again?’

‘Why not?’ Blue had always been my favourite colour. It made me feel happy, calm, and alive. It kept my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds.

Thom put the cup down on the little shelf next to the mirror. It was tea. Hot and sweet.

The smell of the dye was pretty noticeable. Thom wrinkled his nose and looked down at Frankie.

‘How can you stand it, bud?’

Frankie didn’t stir. He usually didn’t until someone mentioned food.

I took a sip of my tea and instantly felt human again. I sat in the van and stretched my neck and fingers. My fingers were starting to itch. I was already feeling it. Thom watched me through the mirror.

‘Are you ready to go?’

I smiled. ’Yes.’

The Galaxy Stories 3: Despair

I’m haunted by the death of a man I’ve never met.

He was a bright, young, talented man with the world at his feet. Suddenly he decided that the world was not for him.

What really saddens and frightens me about his story is how easily my own could have ended the same way.  I see those left behind grieving, and know it could have been my own family and friends.

Most mornings I would wake up, disappointed that I had. Everything was meaningless,  hopeless,  and empty. I came close, once. In London. I imagined myself, respledent with shopping bags and my long red coat, flying through the air, tumbling towards my eternal peace. I thought of my love, thousands of miles away. I couldn’t leave him. I scared myself out of it, but the thoughts and desire didn’t go away.

People see suicide as a selfish act. But to a suicidal person, taking your own life is the most selfless thing you can do. You relieve your friends and family of the endless heavy burden that is knowing and carrying you. And it’s the only way to stop the crushing pain of just simply existing.  Breathing in and out is a chore. Sleep is only a temporary escape.

It’s better now. I realised that I needed medical attention and have sought it.  But it can never be eliminated, only controlled.  And some days I can’t control it. But at least I can see the light.

I wish that young man could have, too.

The Galaxy Stories 2: Apology

I’m sorry, Uncle Danny.

I met you as a naive, frightened and lonely 11 year old. I lied to you about my name, my nationality, and made up a very wild and unlikely story about my background.  I lied about everything then.  It was the only way I could attempt to fit in, to get people to like me.

You befriended me, and accepted me, even though you must have known that I was full of shit. You introduced me to your wonderful nephew, and friends. We talked for hours, you dispensing wisdom that I was too young to understand or appreciate. You took me under your wing and were immensely kind, and for that I feel both grateful, and guilty. I don’t lie any more.

Although I’m grown now, with my own family, I still think of you sometimes. You told me you were sick. I hope you’re still around to help kids like me, who needed a friend.

Thanks, Uncle Danny. And I’m sorry.

The Galaxy Stories 1: Walking

I present to you my new series of unconnected short stories – The Galaxy Stories. Although it sounds kinda sci-fi, they are called such because they’ve been written with the aid of my new best friend, my Galaxy smartphone. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

I started walking away from the city. Walking, walking, walking. I never stopped, never looked back. I couldn’t stop.

ZwolleAll I had were the clothes on my back and my boyfriend’s shoes. Mine were bloodstained and ripped. They squelched. His were five sizes bigger than mine, but they were all I had left. Of him. Of me.

The blisters were terrible, but at least they reminded me that I could still feel. That I survived. Still alive, whatever that came to mean.

I kept walking. It was all I could do. I walked the flesh off my bones and the skin off my feet. I walked until my nose bled and the shoes became rags. I walked to eat. I walked to drink. I walked to forget.

I was going anywhere. Going nowhere. No past, no future, no present. Just me and the silence.

I still walked. Someone had to.

For all my fellow writers

At what point do you not get to call yourself a writer anymore?

You know the story: maintaining a household, full time job plus commute, family stuff (I’m going to be an auntie!), plus health issues. I don’t have children, at least two legged ones. it’s not as if I don’t have time, or opportunity. I have both, and I know that I’m privileged to have them.

I haven’t written anything major for months, as you no doubt have noticed. I have tons of excuses. I read writing blogs and feel bad. I read fellow writers and feel bad. I’m in awe of how words just flow from them, even though I know a hell of a lot of work and practice has gone into that. I have a box full of business cards in my study that all say ‘freelance editor and writer’. And I’m not sure I can call myself a writer anymore.

I still love words. Always have, always will. I want to write, more than anything. I still have stories in my head sporadically, but not as often as I used to in my teenage glory days. The daily trudgery has overtaken me, and I spend most of my time playing games on my phone whilst commuting. There’s just no fire in me anymore when it comes to writing; just the despair of a blank page and blinking cursor. I can’t go into the world of my mind as easily or as often as I used to. My imagination and drive just isn’t there.

I still want to be an editor, and love looking at others’ manuscripts. I will volunteer again come NaNoWriMo. But at the same time, I feel a little heartbroken, because that should be me.

There’s no easy way out. The only solution is glue my arse to a chair and slowly, painfully, crank something out. But I have other stuff. Life stuff.

Chris is still working, still creating. He’s struggled, as I have, but he’s got the talent, the drive, the creativity. He’s never stopped. He’s never given up. I really admire the way he can tell a story through simple pencil strokes, the subtlety of light and shade, just little things. Even though we use vastly different techniques of story telling, it’s hard not to compare. He’s so ambitious and determined, both things that I’m not.

Can I still call myself a writer? Is there any way I can get back on the horse? Or should I just accept that this part of me is forever gone? 

New and old

In new news, I now have my very first smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S3 4G, which is super lovely.  Hopedully I will be blogging more on the run. I’m sorry for my neglect. Oh, and I also have pink and blue bangs. They’re awesome.  The DIY queen strikes again.

On the old side, this blog is now two years old. Time flies when you’re not writing anything. I haven’t forgotten you, I promise. I’ll speak to you soon.

Gig reviews!

So, I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy a few music gigs recently, with some big acts. So I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences with you. Ready? Here we go…

Iggy and the Stooges

What do you think when you hear the name Iggy Pop? ‘Oh god, he’s still alive’? ‘Surely he’s not still touring’? ‘I bet his gig would be a trainwreck’?

I wasn’t quite sure what my expectations were for this gig. I was familiar with the Stooges’ music, of course, and Iggy is rightly (in)famous. I mean, the guy is a punk legend in his 60′s, who barely made it out alive.

I’m glad to report that he’s just as lithe, snake-hipped, and maniacal as ever. He still exudes charisma, as well as raw, brutal, sexual, energy. Age shall not weary him, nor the years condemn. Although his days of rolling in glass are long over, he still did whatever the fuck he wanted, much to the chagrin of both his handlers, and venue security. He barely made it through the first song before taking his first stage dive, of which he completed about five or six through the evening. In the third song he implored the audience to come up on stage with him, which they gleefully accepted. A seething mass of about 100 people stormed the stage, helping their friends up out of the pit like they were climbing out of the trenches. People swarming, moshing, sweaty, all wanting to touch him, be with him. It was hilarious and yet oddly powerful. And Iggy just didn’t care. He never missed a beat, he never blinked, he never hesitated. He would occasionally stick his microphone down his pants and strut across the stage, with beautiful blonde hair, owning his domain. I can honestly say it was the craziest gig I’ve ever been to.

Even more remarkable in their longevity were the rest of the Stooges. Completely separate to Iggy, who was in his own topless, leather-trousered world, the rest of the band were respectable-looking older men. They looked like accountants, teachers, grandfathers – people you wouldn’t look twice at. But they could still rock, and rock hard they did. They were happy to let Iggy do all the posturing, the strutting, the screaming, the full punk outfit – they just played, and they loved it. It was sad that we couldn’t experience the late, great, Ron Asheton, but no matter. It was still raw, visceral, and we still screamed.

My favourite part is that the drummer and the bassist were the last to leave. They jammed for about ten minutes after everyone had gone, until, at last, the bass player threw his guitar to a waiting roadie, nearly caving his head in. Then he bowed, waved, picked up his glasses, put them on, and went into the night, looking like an accountant working late, catching the bus home. It was brilliant.

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants hadn’t played in Australia for 12 years, and we were very ready to have them back. My husband is a huge fan and I know a lot of their songs through pure osmosis. This gig was also on the eve of my birthday, and it seemed like a fun way to spend it.

It was an incredibly long, joyous, and fun gig, playing all their greatest songs, including very old favourites and some off their new album. I could list them for you, or…

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Yeah, I managed to get the last set list! But as I said, it was wonderful. I learned a lot. I’ve never seen a bass clarinet in real life before! We also had an appearance from The Avatars of They, with their own song, He’s Loco.

We managed to get a standing spot right up the front, amongst all the action. I had meaningful eye contact with John L. There was piano accordion. It was everything Giants is all about – funny, light, happy, silly, sweary, and smart. Songs were sung, games were played, and fun was had by all. I didn’t get too squashed, and the venue was nice and intimate. It was the happiest gig I’ve ever been at. I knew a lot more songs than I thought, and found myself eagerly anticipating what was being played next.

The energy in the room was reflected on stage. John F was literally leaping all over the stage throughout the whole show. There were lots of jokes (‘What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care’) and audience interaction (‘Hey you, dude at the front recording the whole show? Yeah, we heard backstage that everyone behind you? They all hate you’). You’d think that flying such a long way to tour, and the fact that they’ve been doing this for years, that they wouldn’t be so up and peppy, but they were. The two Johns put on a hell of a show, complete with two encores.

I also have to give a shoutout to the opening act – Australian electronic artist Pluto Jonze. He set the mood perfectly, complete with retro TVs and a theremin. His stuff is happy and whimsical in a Giants-like way, although not quite outright comedic. Look for his stuff on iTunes, highly recommended.

By the end of the night, my feet were completely dead, my voice hoarse from singing, and it was a lovely kick-off to my birthday celebration, dancing with my husband and having a good time. There was another gig the next night and I seriously considered going along to that, but finances prevented it. I had that good a time. It was lots of fun. The only thing that could have made it more fun would be having a bouncy castle. Maybe next time?

Paul Sings

I have enjoyed the vocal stylings of Paul McDermott for many a year – I was obsessed with the Doug Anthony Allstars as a teenager and an avid watcher of Good News Week (the first time). So, when my husband surprised me with tickets to his gig, I was very surprised. As a bonus, I knew that an old school friend of mine, who introduced me to DAAS, would be there so it would be extra awesome.

The format of the show is that Paul would, well, sing with a full backing band, and in between tell stories. This seemed fair enough, but I had no idea what songs he would end up singing. And truth be told, I was slightly disappointed.

Paul explained that the songs he would be singing were ones that came from shows like Good News Week and The Sideshow, 3-minute long ‘filler’ (his word) songs. The songs did showcase his lovely voice well, and the band were very good, but I felt the songs themselves were a little bland. I didn’t engage with them, except maybe one, and I don’t remember it well enough to tell you what it was. Maybe it was because he wanted to sing something else; maybe there were too many copyright hurdles. Who knows.

His little stand-up bits in between were very good, and it was nice to see him carry a comedic show completely on his own, which is rare. He was warm and personable, but hasn’t lost his edge and bite. He berated hecklers and latecomers, and I’m sure that there were some people who felt very privileged to have him scream at them to shut the fuck up. The stories he told were new and unheard, and very funny, although it was frustrating when he spoke about creating and performing famous songs (and public reactions to them) and then he didn’t actually sing them. Most of the songs were nice ballads, so they felt incongruous with the comedic bits, which were more typical of Paul’s past work. It was perfectly enjoyable, but something about it wasn’t quite right.

At the theatre on the night there was another performance scheduled afterwards, so there was no dilly-dallying. After he was done onstage, Paul told us all to come to the lobby if we wanted more. Intrigued, we headed straight there. Paul proceeded to jump into the audience and shoo everyone out of the theatre to the lobby. We arrived in the lobby, where we were urged to sit, and Paul and his band proceeded to perform an acoustic encore. This was definitely the highlight of the night.

I knelt on the floor, sitting on my legs, within centimetres of Paul as he sang. He was singing without any amplification, and it was easy to see how accomplished a stage performer he was – he projected his beautiful voice like a pro, making sure to face different sections of the audience so we could all hear him. It was like watching busking – it was lovely and intimate, and everyone was enjoying the serenade. It was special and unique, and I felt very chuffed to experience it.

All too soon, it was over. Unfortunately my legs had gone numb so I couldn’t stand. Paul was swarmed by an overwhelming majority of middle-aged women wanting autographs, photos, hugs and kisses. I’ve never seen a huge crowd of people focused on one person before, but he handled it like a champ. He never showed any sign of impatience or annoyance, and he was incredibly gracious and accommodating. Me and my friend got our photo taken with him – the culmination of over a decade of singing his songs. The gig was very, very good fun, made all the sweeter by being shared with one of my oldest friends.

Tenacious D

Tenacious D were one of the names on my list of must-see bands, and have been for a very long time. Their music has played a surprisingly influential part of my life – their first album was released as I was finishing high school, and helped me laugh with friends through tough times. Their much-maligned second album/movie The Pick of Destiny is incredibly precious to me – not only is it a fucking hilarious movie (I don’t care what anyone says), but my husband and I saw it on our first date. Aww.

When I heard they were coming, I couldn’t resist. I was a little surprised to see that they’d chosen to play the Sydney Opera House – hardly the first place you’d think of when you thought of the D! This juxtaposition was brought into light by a merch van outside on the forecourt, by the water, under those mighty white sails, which was selling the official Tenacious D cumrags. Classy as fuck.

The gig started late, and I was worried that I would be too sleepy to enjoy it, but enjoy it I did. Jack and Kyle burst onto the stage, full of energy. They started off with a few songs from their third album, Rise of the Fenix, which I’m not as familiar with, but it sounded great on the stage. This tour is acoustic, which means that it’s just them and their guitars, and maybe a couple of extra vocalists (one of which was the amazing opening act Sasquatch – a guy in a Bigfoot suit who played great guitar, had a great voice, and managed to accompany himself on the bass drum at the same time. I’m a yeti for love). It sounds like something that could go wrong easily, especially on such a formidable stage as this – the Opera House, with the huge organ embedded in the ceiling high above us. But the D can still rock, and rock hard.

One of the great pleasures of being a Tenacious D fan is watching both Jack and Kyle evolve as musicians over the years. Their first album was awesome, but you could tell how much better Jack’s voice was on Pick of Destiny (no one does vocal noodling quite like Jack). Jack’s voice was a finely tuned instrument on the night – I was truly surprised by how strong and smooth it was, and he can still hit those high notes. Kyle’s playing is constantly getting better, and it was a real privilege to see him work it up close. They are wonderful to watch on stage – they engage with the crowd, and Jack is surprisingly graceful in his movements, high kicks and all.

The Concert Hall is full, and is actually pretty intimate for something that seats a few hundred people. The perfect acoustics meant that we could all hear each other singing along, and the D heard us as well. The songs were still skilfully crafted and wonderfully obscene and fun as hell to sing along to. They indulged us with a couple of songs from Pick of Destiny, even though they are still tied to the context of the film. As the night wore on, they played more songs from their first album, which went down nicely with the crowd. I’m not afraid to admit that I squealed rather loudly when I heard the opening notes of Double Team. The house was united as one when we heard the opening riff of Tribute and we all screamed along.

I can say that one of the more surreal but happy moments of my life was hearing (and participating in) the crowd crooning the words of Fuck Her Gently to each other, and then shouting, in this revered place of hallowed performance, the perfectly resonating cry of ‘THAT’S FUCKIN’ TEAMWORK!’

I have been waiting for over 10 years to finally see the D, and it was everything I hoped for and more. I laughed, sang, laughed more, screamed and applauded, and felt uplifted all over again. I know that some people are of the opinion that obscenity is neither big nor clever, but when it sounds as good as this, and performed by exceptional musicians, it totally is.

A DIY interlude

One of the very few upsides of being unemployed for long periods of time is that I’ve had the time and inclination to DIY lots of stuff. In the past year I’ve made ridiculous amounts of origami, did all my wedding flowers, started cutting my own hair, redecorated on the cheap, and put together all sorts of things that were not intended by the original manufacturers. It’s really nice, actually, and most of the things I’ve done are simple and easily Google-able. I get a sense of accomplishment when I’ve made something with my own hands – double if it works! I’m not the most traditionally crafty upcycled tool in the shed.

Everyone has one of those rooms in their houses – that small, dark room you can’t do anything with. That room is my study/guest room, and despite my decorating efforts, it still felt cold and uninviting. It has a perfectly comfy futon and I deliberately put some books in there so it would turn into a reading space, but that never happened. Until, on a whim, I thought of the next step…

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That’s right – a reading fort!

I’ve never grown out of my childlike love for forts and hideaways. I’ve always loved being in small, warm, spaces – on the inside looking out. Some might say that it’s a subconscious desire to return to the womb – they may be right, but I’m not sure my Mum would like that very much.

Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I’ve installed a great floor lamp in there as well – just one I had literally sitting around. I have no idea why I hadn’t thought of it before. On the other wall I also have fairy lights, and I’m considering getting more to go in my fort. You can see I have some art on the walls, and just out of shot is a bookcase. I have lots of cushions and a blanket on the futon, and it’s perfect. And all it is is some spare fabric I had lying around, strung up with spare embroidery thread and masking tape. As simple as you can get, and equally precarious. If it is still up by morning, it will be a miracle.

On the other wall is my desk and chair, and lots of postcards. I’m getting a sewing machine in the next couple of weeks, so my base of operations will probably be there. I might see if I can get some awesome stickers to deface my black and white desk as well.

P.S. I might be beginning a wonderful collaboration soon. More details to come!

Casa Rhombus: Makeover Edition

Sometimes, when I feel in a creative rut, what I like to do is redecorate my house. I love interiors and such and I always have great fun doing it. I’ve recently redone some of my house, and am slowly working room by room. So I wanted to show you the fruits of my labour:

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My bedroom. Apologies for the lack of white balance, but the storage drawers (which are awesome) are hot pink and match my rug. Notice our respective Pillow Pets – Thomas for Chris, Caterpillar (Hungry) for me. Yes, we are three years old.

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More storage! I decided to liven up my wardrobe by making panels out of cheap wrapping paper. Didn’t turn out too badly! Notice my awesome dinosaur backpack (which glows in the dark, thank you very much).

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This is a whiteboard I found, that’s just cardboard with laminate. It’s handy for writing notes and silly things. On there, I wrote ‘I love you’ in Elvish. Yes, yes, I know. The paper heart above it is a decoration my sister-in-law made for our engagement party.

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I’ve just redone the bathroom, too. Lovely new shower curtain and storage drawers. Even though you can’t see too clearly, the current colour scheme is hot pink and red. The lovely red orchid on the window is artifical – me keeping a real one alive would never happen!

 

So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past couple of days. I’m hoping to work on my dining room/kitchen next, and I have to clean my study up. Anyone know where to find nice table runners?

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