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Seven lines from p. 7 of Shallow Breath

I’ve just been challenged by Rebecca James via FaceBook to put up 7 lines from p. 7 of my latest book. So here they are from Shallow Breath

She finishes the drink and sets it aside, then crawls back into bed. She flips over her pillow and takes out the red leather-bound book. She is going to have to return this, but she doesn’t want to yet. Most of it is boring – charts and figures, names and dates, but she loves to read her father’s observations, and study his neat, slanting writing. Why had she never been shown this, when Connor had once held this book in his hands and turned the pages, just as she does now. It is the closest she has ever felt to him, as though she can squeeze the interceding years together, reach through them and touch him. 

More soon!

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BOOK LOVE! The books I love to read

I am a glutton when it comes to books. My desires are larger than my reading time – which is why I have two crates full of books sitting in my bedroom right now, all of which I want to read, and yet I keep getting more – because there’s just so much temptation around! Sometimes, during the periods when my writing gets intense, I have to put my reading pleasures aside for a while, and boy do I miss it. I emerge from isolation like a racehorse from a starting gate, and the pile of books at my bed begins a period of rapid turnover (or at least it did before I had a child, I’ve had to slow down a bit). During these times, I try to blog about the books I love. You’ll find these recommendations listed on my facebook page, and full reviews on my website and on goodreads.com. I read a wide variety of genres, but I think you’ll quickly determine that I’m attracted to strong psychological dramas – which probably won’t come as much surprise if you’ve read my books. I hope you enjoy my selections, and wish us all many hours of happy reading!

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Helplessness and people power

Last night, one of the last images I saw before I went to bed was of a terrified Chinese toddler being held at knifepoint in the street by her father. The horror of that situation was not distilled by the frozen photo, the detached computer screen, or the fact I could flick away when I chose. Horrendous fear and suffering were transmitted in an instant.

I hadn’t searched this out. I wasn’t planning to read the news at that point. But it broke its boundaries and affected me. As did the Four Corners story this week, which I found out about thanks to twitter. I’m grateful I didn’t have to watch that footage, because I know it would still be haunting me. The photographs I did see were enough.

No one has taught me how to deal with these moments. I have had to teach myself, because, quite frankly, they have brought me to my knees at times. And the way I have come to terms with this is by becoming a more conscious guardian of my emotions, knowing when I can take action and when there is nothing I can do. From what I could gather (the article wasn’t clear), the little Chinese girl was rescued. Twelve hours later, the news has moved on, and I can’t even find it on the same site. I’m pretty sure I won’t ever know what happened to them.

However, with the push to ban live exports, there were at least petitions to sign. Where once upon a time I would have felt this was a fairly unremarkable gesture, I don’t any more, because of the emergence of a few amazing, energetic sites that have recorded some brilliant, measurable breakthroughs as a result of people power. Sites like Avaaz.org and getup.org.au (who ran a live exports petition), and organisations like the Wilderness Society (who send you the results of their actions) are doing a great job of bringing some critical issues to our attention. And despite the desperate, depressing news they bring to my door, they make me feel that there is something small but very important that I can do. They wouldn’t exist unless we were all choosing to add our names to causes we believe in. This weekend my family will be going to climate change rally in Perth on Sunday (there are also rallies in Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney), thanks to the information and reminders from GetUp. Our voices might be small, but they all count, and I’m buoyed by the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

My bedside table…

Bedside table Aug 10I like to keep my current reading matter on my bedside table, but although I try very hard to maintain a small, neat pile, sooner or later it always deteriorates into a precarious tower of half-read books. I’ve just taken an inventory and thought I’d share it with you.

On the top is A Mercy by Toni Morrison. I wrote part of my Bachelor of Arts dissertation on Beloved, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire Morrison, but I wouldn’t call her stories easy reads. With this one, the haunting lines that close the first chapter will see me through to the end of the book on their own. Underneath A Mercy is The True Story of Butterfish by Nick Earls, which I’ve only just started, but it’s good and I’m keen to keep going. Next comes a children’s book – The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis – which I’m reading because a) it is set in Yorkshire, England, and b) on the cover is a brilliant but terrifying picture of a black barghest (a black dog that is legendary in the area). Both Yorkshire and the barghest also feature in my upcoming novel, Beneath the Shadows, and I want to see what Jarvis has made of them.

Halfway down the pile is Mandela, which is there because I watched Invictus the other day and wanted to find out more about ‘Madiba’.  And below Mandela are two books a friend lent me: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and The Observations by Jane Harris. Pretty much everyone I know has raved about The Book Thief, while I’d never heard of The Observations. When I’ve finished them, I’ll report back on both.

I always have some kind of inspirational reading by my bed too. At the moment there is an old book called the Handbook for the Soul, edited by Richard Carlson & Benjamin Shield, and a recent book called The Shift by Wayne Dyer (who I saw speak in Perth on Saturday, and who was tremendous). I love these kinds of books as they inspire me and challenge me to keep thinking about things differently. Alongside those I’ve got Karma Kids, because I’m keen to instil some Buddhist values in my daughter at some point, perhaps in a few years’ time when I can slow her down for a few seconds! And I’m also gradually making my way through two Lonely Planet books – a guide to Wildlife Travel Photography, and A Year of Watching Wildlife – because in my dreams of an ideal life I’m often in the middle of nowhere, stalking something with a camera.  

And, finally, last night I added my own Come Back to Me to the pile. The smaller paperback edition will be coming out in February along with Beneath the Shadows, so I thought I’d better refamiliarise myself with my old friends!

And that’s it…! It’s messy, I know, but at least it means I can choose just what I feel like reading on any given night. And I’ll get through them all…as long as they can keep close to the top of the pile. Because I was in New Edition bookshop in Fremantle yesterday, and there were thousands of undiscovered worlds wrapped in shiny covers, all calling out to me…

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Cultivating new stories

Peruvian flowersI’ve reached a very exciting point in my fledgling writing career. With the two novels that have dominated my mind for the last six or seven years now completed, I finally get to let loose all those other little seedlings of ideas for what might make a great story. I’ve already whittled them down to a chosen few that I’m germinating both in my mind and on paper. I’m playing around a lot with different concepts and seeing what begins to bed down and grow. I have notebooks full of ideas and short pieces of writing, so I don’t feel stuck. The challenge is to come up with a clear and compelling plan that I can begin to work on in earnest. I had this crazy notion that I might take a short hiatus in between writing, but it seems that a writer without a story is like a sad little droopy plant starved of nourishment. Oh well, nothing for it but to keep scribbling and see what happens!