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Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category

A former client of mine, Chris Shaw, recently sent me one of the short stories from his lately released book, My New Country, a collection of short stories about his experience as a newbie in the wild and woolly country of Australia. He also sent me a great page with photographs of the book’s cover, plus the blurb, a photograph of himself, and information on how and where to buy the book, which is available in both hard copy and e version.

Being digitally disadvantaged as I am, I find I am now unable to insert his material into this post.  I used to be able to do such things, but for some reason, totally unknown to me, when I try now, all I keep getting is a link – which is something, I suppose, and I should be grateful, but it’s not the same as having the cover right there, here and now, in front of you.

But, it’s the best I can do for the moment. I apologise to readers and also to Chris. The link for how to find and buy his book appears at the end of the story.
 

My First Drink in North Queensland

I came to Australia in 1973. Originally, I’m from Felixstowe in gentle East Anglia, but I had spent seven years in the Caribbean, prior to emigrating to this really big island.

I arrived with my Trinidadian wife and three-month-old son in Sydney International Airport, but we had already decided to settle in a northern beach suburb of Cairns, Queensland, mainly because of its similarity to the tropical environment of the West Indies. We flew there after a ten-day stopover in Brisbane.

In Cairns we secured the land, built the house and bought a successful business, thus taking on a twenty-year debt – as you do; or at least, as you did then.

The first drink I had in a pub in the area was in the Trinity Beach Hotel, a large corrugated iron shed, with floor-to-ceiling louvres to the east and the west of the building. It was sixty metres above sea level, on top of a hill overlooking the Coral Sea.

It was around noon, in February 1973. The temperature would have been 33+ degrees Celsius, with humidity hovering around 90 per cent. The sea was flat calm, as blue as an advertisement, and dotted with green islands. Bougainvillea and frangipani blossoms tumbled down the hill below me.

The bloke on the next stool to me swivelled around.

‘G’day, mate’, he said. ‘Haven’t seen you in here before.’ No question mark was needed, but it was a question.

‘Nah, mate. New chum; just arrived,’ I said, desperately hoping he didn’t pick the falseness of my accent. ‘Can I get you a beer?’

‘Yeah, thanks. What do you do?’

‘Me, mate? Pharmacist. What about you?’

‘Surveyor. Been doing some work with my team in Papua New Guinea, up in the Highlands. Of course, there’s not a hell of a lot of law and order in those villages. We came on a situation not so long ago, where a white missionary was fooling around with the young boys and girls in one particular village. The head man of this village was very worried and came to talk to us about it.’

‘What’d you do?’ I asked.

‘We killed the bastard, of course.’

‘Seriously?’ My eyebrows hovered near my hairline, along with my voice.

‘Yup. Only thing to do under the circumstances. Think about it: a long, drawn-out, expensive court case with lawyers and all that flying in from Australia, and the family travelling all the way to Port Moresby? Children giving that sort of evidence? Nah! Would’ve brought huge shame on the families, and they couldn’t have paid for it, anyway. So, we told the head man we’d take care of it.’

I just had to ask him. ‘What did you do with the body?’

‘Dropped it into a septic tank, mate. Ten days, no evidence, see. Can I get you another drink, mate?’

So this was Australia. Bloody hell, this is a rough country! I’d better keep my eyes wide open, but, by God, I loved the sensation of this cutting-edge, pioneering stuff!

A1 sheet for My New Country book

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Janet leigh

For those of you who might be wondering where I’ve been these last ten weeks, I’ve been investigating Indie publishing, particularly the publishing of Print on Demand (POD) books with CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. Those ten weeks have been most illuminating, and I thought I might share my discoveries with you. If you’ve already published a POD book, stop reading now, I won’t have anything new to tell you. If you haven’t, gird your loins, and read on.

For most writers, the journey into indie publishing follows a certain pattern. First, we have:

1.   The Sylvan Glades of Writing the Novel, where the Wellsprings of Hope bubble to cheer the fiction writer on his/her way. The writer thinks the going is tough, but they ain’t seen nothing yet. Emerging from this glade, the writer who chooses to indie publish must traverse:

2.   The Desert of the Last Copy-edit, a fearsome place littered with the bones of writers who didn’t know what they were doing with commas. Crawling out of this desert, writers encounter:

3.   The Fork in the Track, where the writer must decide whether to do only an e book (much cheaper, and easier on the nerves), or to take their courage in hand and rapell into:

4.   The Dizzying POD Chasm. Should the writer choose to do only an e book, Nos 6-10 will still apply, but they will, to some extent, avoid:

5.   The Slough of Despond, where the writer realises that s/he must either format the print book themselves or pay someone else to do it. Even if they decide to pay someone, as I did, they will still have to traverse:

6.   The Forest of Dread, where they must choose two categories for their novel. A great deal is riding on their choice, especially the novel’s findability. Having negotiated this forest, and there is no way around it, the writer comes to:

7.   The Hill of Bewilderment, where s/he must choose seven keywords which Amazon buyers might (the operative word here is might) use to discover the writer’s novel — again, very important for the novel’s findability. After this, they arrive at:

8.   The Lakes of Confusion, where they must set a price for their beloved novel and try to understand Amazon’s royalties system, e.g. a $9.99 price for a 250 page, standard-size paperback will yield the writer US $2.14. What happened to that 70% (or even 35%) we heard so much about? If, after this, the men in white haven’t taken our writer away, s/he must then cross:

9.   The Bridge of Tears, where, if s/he is a non-US resident, s/he must attempt to prevent the US Internal Revenue from taking 30% of his or her earnings. To do this, she must do battle with monsters ITIN, W-7 and W-8 BEN, go on a quest for a Notary (cross his palm with silver) and also find the elusive Apostille, without which the writer will continue to pay the dreaded 30%. Finally, the writer comes to:

10.   The Well of Disappointment, which s/he quaffs while contemplating the novel’s sales figures. If you think I’m being unnecessarily gloomy here, Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords says that, for most writers, the average number of e books sold per title is 100.

What does all this mean? In a nutshell it means that the average indie writer/producer of a POD book will be flat out getting their money back. There are hidden costs to producing a POD book that exist regardless of whether the newbie writer outsources, or designs the cover and interior themselves.

In the meantime, I’m camped on the Hill of Bewilderment, right next to the Lakes of Confusion, having taken over a week to negotiate the Forest of Dread with nothing but a hurricane lamp to guide me.  While camping out and enjoying the sights, it occurred to me that I might be able to do some good by devoting one post to each of the steps I’ve described above, so that newbie writers will at least know what lies in store for them.

Forewarned is forearmed. So they say.

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00991SMHY

I first met Allan Lloyd in Mullumbimby, way back in the 1980s, when I worked as a volunteer with his first wife Diana; we were trying to obtain a government grant for housing for people with a mental illness in Byron Shire.

In 1994, when I returned from a 2-year stint in Sydney, Allan gave me a ms called The Case to look at. I was immediately struck by his edgy take on life and his clean writing. Now he’s produced an ebook entitled Peace & Love and All That Crap, which has even more of the same.

I’ve always been interested in how authors come to write their novels, so I asked Allan to give me a little rundown on the genesis of his book. Here is what he said:

 

Peace & Love & All That Crap came out of a scriptwriting workshop I was invited to attend in the late 1990s, having had my first film script shortlisted for development funding (albeit unsuccessfully) by what is now known as Screen Queensland. For the workshop, I had to write a treatment and the first thirty-or-so minutes of a new script.

Some relevant personal background: I’d spent much of my life as a walking dichotomy – a left-leaning quasi-hippy working as a freelance advertising copywriter. Talk about a conflict of interests.

And a flashback: Years before, I’d seen a TV news segment showing people protesting about the planned demolition of part of their seen-better-days suburb by dressing themselves in cardboard cartons painted as buildings and being knocked over for the camera by one of their number representing the demolition process. At the time, it had occurred to me that if they’d really wanted to be taken seriously by the general public, they should’ve presented as regular citizens rather than weirdos nobody would want to live next door to.

I based my new film script around that one observation. Drawing on my own advertising background, and people I’d known while living in Mullumbimby, I came up with the idea of a bunch of ageing hippies hiring a cynical public relations expert to help them mount a PR campaign to save a pristine nature sanctuary from private development. The twist was that nobody would take the hippies seriously unless they compromised their principles and faked mainstream credibility.

This script was shortlisted for development funding (again, unsuccessfully) by the Australia Film Commission (subsequently Screen Australia), and then ignored by the Australian film industry. So okay, I figured, if I could write a pretty good unproduced screenplay, it oughta be a snack to turn it into a pretty good unpublished novel.

It was harder than I’d expected. Ninety-odd pages of dialogue needed a narrative. And I wanted that narrative to be in the third-person voice and sounding like the hero’s inner voice, yet not mirroring the style or structure of his spoken dialogue. It took me forever to find what I thought worked and allowed me to have that third-person narrative reacting to the opposing attitudes of the hippy characters the hero has to deal with.

On the upside, the ‘novel’ form gave me room to explore what I’ve found to be a certain integrity and idealism intrinsic to the hippy lifestyle, and contrast it against the delusions and hypocrisy so prevalent in contemporary ‘straight’ society. It also allowed me to include encapsulated back stories for many of the characters, which I believe added extra texture to the story and reading experience. Certain plot elements of the film script, including the ending, rewrote themselves along the way.

When it came to getting published, despite a damn good letter and synopsis (I’m an advertising copywriter, remember) I couldn’t interest a single agent in reading the entire manuscript. The ‘first fifty pages’ highlighted my hero’s unsympathetic qualities without the hippies getting a look in, while the ‘any fifty pages’ option meant that the story’s episodic development became difficult to appreciate.

Did it deserve to find a publisher? I’m the last person to ask. Danielle would say I should’ve had it professionally assessed, and she’d be right. As it was, my partner is an astute reader and often confrontational critic, and she provided perceptive feedback whether I liked it or not. But frankly, I’d had a few years of fun writing it, was by then maybe not mad about any potential hard yards of revision, and in retrospect I think that even my attempts at interesting agents were arguably more about ‘that’s what you do next’ rather than any real personal need to actually see a book published.

So Peace & Love & All That Crap sat around for a few years until I recently decided to self-publish it for Kindle. At the token price I’m asking, I’ll never make any real money out of it even if it sells, but that’s not why I’ve put it out there.

I just figure it’s better read than dead.

Allan Lloyd

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I had a funny experience the other day: I’d gone to the pathologist for my annual blood test, which required fasting – always a stressful time for me. I’d been fasting for 14 hours by the time I came out of the pathologist’s. As I was maundering, a bit light headed, through the shopping centre afterwards, I noticed the weighing machine.

The machine and I are friends. We have a date, once a fortnight. It was only five days since our last tryst, but there it stood, and I thought: Wot-the-hell, it won’t hurt to weigh myself again. I tend to put on weight in winter. It was mid-winter now, and I like to keep an eye on things.

I fished out a dollar coin and stood on the machine, which informed me that I was four pounds lighter than I’d been five days ago. Four pounds lighter! For an instant, I was jubilant, but then I began to have doubts: Four pounds in five days — in the middle of winter? Not likely. I wandered away, thinking that, with my low blood sugar, perhaps I’d read the numbers wrongly.

I really was feeling a bit strange. I went into the coffee shop and wolfed down a cappucchino and a large piece of banana bread with butter. That should do it, I thought. Then I read the local paper for a while, to give my body time to catch up; but I couldn’t really concentrate on who had just grown the biggest pumpkin in Goonellabah. I was still brooding about the weighing machine, and how I couldn’t possibly have been four pound lighter.

Out with another coin. I returned to the machine. This time it told me I was five pounds lighter. Five pounds! But I’d been four lighter, twenty minutes ago. Dearie me. I began to do the math. One pound in twenty minutes was three pounds an hour.

I was fading away. At this rate, I’d be lucky to last two days.

The banana bread, plus the sugar I’d put in my coffee, still hadn’t kicked in. I made it to a bench in the shopping centre and sat down. Two days. I’d never get my e-book out in that time; I was only up to page 82 of Mark Coker’s Smashwords Guide, and I hadn’t even opened the How To Kindle book. I’d never get the sequel finished, and I’d never get to see my daughter, who was arriving at the end of August.

Biochemistry’s a wonderful thing. After about ten minutes of this, my blood sugar finally decided to get the message, and kicked in. With this came the realisation that there must be something wrong with the weighing machine. I went into the chemist shop and reported it. Bad machine, to have let me down in my hour of need.

Waiting for the bus that would take me home, I was struck by how beautiful everything looked — the trees, the sky, even the shopping centre’s crappy banners flying in the wind. And I thought: Reminders of mortality are a good thing.

Nothing <i>too</i> big, mind you. Just something small that can be fixed with a cup of coffee and a piece of banana bread.

Danielle de Valera
twitter.com#!/de_valera

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To be honest, I’m pretty damaged; I guess I’ll recover eventually. For 10 days, eight of us, friends from way-back university days toured New Zealand, lurching from meal to meal (we’re old, yn’kow) across the country — watch for my e-book: NZ Picnic Spots I Have Known. After a while, I grew tired and tended to crouch in the back of the minivan, whimpering, when we made yet another stop. But I never complained. Not even when I slipped on the insane tiling of the Hundertwasser Toilets, now a major tourist attraction for Kawakawa in the Bay of Islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nor did I complain about my experience in the Old Rotorua Bath House, now a museum, where I was underground inspecting the pipes that once brought in the healing waters when the information film showing unknown to me in the theatre above my head, reached the point where it depicted the 1896 earthquake, complete with sound effects, floor tremors and rocking furniture. (The patrons’ seats actually rock up and down, side-to-side.) There were no warning signs underground about the film. As my girlfriend and I fled the scene with our hair on end, I couldn’t help wondering how many tourists were lost to heart attacks while down there inspecting the pipes.

Yep, NZ is exciting. We dislodged retinas on the bungee jump and lost two of our number on the 8-Hour Redwood Epic Walk; but the Inflatable Rubber Hamster Wheel pleased all. Rotorua’s Perorming Sheep were, however, a disappointment. The corps de ballet lacked cohesion, the leading ewe kept falling off her points, and the costumes were uninspired. Top marks to the company, though, for enthusiasm, and the combined Southdown-Border Leicester choir was impressive.

Meanwhile, back in South Golden Beach the cats had devised various schemes to torment their conscientious keeper. The old cat was a challenge, as always — her profession, really. Worse was the young cat’s decision not to walk on the bedroom floor while I was away — some kind of cat oblation to the gods? Who knows. I’m told he leapt from shelves to ledges and pieces of furniture, never once touching the carpet, causing my friend to wonder what horror might be concealed somewhere on the floor of the bedroom she was sleeping in. (He’s the cat who brings in the snakes.) All in all, both cats had a good time, but I wonder about my friend, who never once told me later ‘what a lovely time’ she’d had.

Seriously, if you are in the North Island, a must-see is the Princes Gate Hotel in Rotorua — a beautiful, ornate timber 2-storey building built in 1897, which served a fabulous, 2-course Early Bird dinner for NZ$29.95, the Rotorua Museum (but give the underground pipes a miss unless you like to live dangerously), and the Waterfront Fish & Chip Restaurant (BYO) at Mangonui.

I rounded off my adventures with a 3-hour languish in the Gold Coast airport when the shuttle bus I’d booked failed to appear and I had to wait for another with no money left but the price of a cup of coffee. New Agers would say I attracted this experience with my fear of airports. As long as they don’t say it to my face, they’ll survive.

And so it’s back to my reclusive lifestyle. As the song says: ‘It’s very nice to go travelling, But it’s oh so nice to come home.’

If anyone out there reading this is intending to travel – have fun. I did.

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Is there anyone out there who feels the way I do about travel?  Surely I’m not alone in this. There must be a few other people who, no matter how alluring the prospect, find themselves thinking: I’d rather stay at home.

‘Are you excited?’ friends ask me when I tell them I have to go to New Zealand next Saturday for ten days — that’s my phrase: I HAVE to go away, as if I’ve been dragooned into the situation. ‘No,’ I tell them, ‘I’d rather stay at home.’ ‘You’ll enjoy it when you get there,’ they say gamely.

Maybe.

Already the burn back’s begun – what if someone slips a bag of dope into my luggage before I go through customs?  Most worrying of all is the trauma my cats are going to go through. (Note to Cat Lovers—Not: I’ve owned more dogs in my lifetime than cats, but the fence around my current home’s no good, so it’s cats these days.)

I tell myself that travel will be good for me. But I can’t seem to convince me.

The part I hate most is not the plane trip — I don’t mind the idea of dying if it’s quick. It’s the airport. I picture myself wandering lost forever around the endless corridors they always seem to have, like the character in the old Kingston Trio song, ‘But did he ever return? No, he never returned, And his fate is still unlearned …’

The fact that the Gold Coast airport isn’t big, and the cheap, pedal-driven airline I’ve chosen to fly with is little more than a hangar with no corridors doesn’t seem to make any difference. So there weren’t any corridors last time. There could be corridors this time. Well, there could be …

I’ve got a kindly, live-in babysitter for the cats; I couldn’t have gone otherwise. But they’ll still be traumatised because I hardly ever go anywhere, and they’re not used to it. I imagine the old cat living up the paper bark ti tree in the back yard the whole time, drinking dew off the leaves, sneaking in at night to snatch a few mouthfuls of food as death from malnutrition approaches. And I know the young cat will pine — when I went to Brisbane for five days in 2010, my formerly handsome, upstanding cat was a wreck when I returned.

Still, there’s nothing for it but to go. My ticket’s paid, my bags stand ready to be packed. I’m leaving on a jet plane and, like the song says, I hate to go.

Some people love to travel.

Not me.

Is anyone else out there a home body?

Danielle de Valera,  Australian author, editor & manuscript assessor since 1992

http://www.ecademy.com/account.php?userid=danielledevalera

@ de_valera

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This
Christmas
I would
like to put
up a tree in my
heart, and instead
of hanging presents,
I would like to put the
names of all my friends.
Close friends and not so close
friends. The old friends, the new
friends. Those that I see every day
and the ones that I rarely see. The ones
that I always remember and the ones that
I sometimes forget. The ones that are always
there and the ones that seldom are. The friends of
difficult times and the ones of happy times. Friends
who, without meaning to, I have hurt, or without meaning
to have hurt me. Those that I know well and those I only know
by name. Those that owe me little and those that I owe so much.
My humble friends and my important friends. The names of all those
that have passed through my life no matter how fleetingly. A tree with
very deep roots and very long
and strong branches so that

their names may never be
plucked from my heart. So

that new names from all
over may join the existing ones. A tree with a very
pleasant shade so that our friendship may take a
moment of rest from the battles of life. May the
happy moments of Christmas brighten every

                             day of the New Year. My sincere wishes.

 

Love,

Danielle

I wish I knew who wrote and set up this Christmas tree. One of my Byron College Creative Writing students from 2001, Pat Kowal, who lives in the US sent it to me. She didn’t know who had written it, just found it somewhere on the net. I’m afraid it lost something along the way: Her version was every colour of the rainbow, and so pretty. But when I transferred it, the colour disappeared, and I have no idea how to fix that.  Even after 4 months at this, I’m still a Luddite!

Anyway, have a lovely Christmas everyone, and a safe and happy New Year. Let’s hope the Mayans were wrong 🙂

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Ah twitter, what a waste of time. It’s got to epitomise the worst of the social media – frivolous, banal, no use to anyone. Certainly not to a struggling writer like yourself.

Think again.

I’ve only been investigating social media for six weeks and twitter for two. What I’ve discovered might amaze you. While it’s true that twitter and Facebook have a lot of rubbish in them, twitter is also doing something else.

It’s broadcasting. In real time — assuming you have a phone that will take the app. I don’t have one at the moment, but after what I’ve seen in the last two weeks, I can see that, as a serious writer, just as I once had to have a computer rather than an electric typewriter, now I’m going to have to buy a phone that will take a twitter application.

For those of you as innocent as I was of twitter and how it works, the basis is this:

On twitter, you choose to Follow certain people. Other people may choose to Follow you. How did these followers find you? They found you on other social media sites. The tweets from the people you are following come up on your screen. Your tweets only appear on the screens of those who are following you.

I currently have 6 followers. Right. So what use could I possibly get out of twitter?

Twitter acts as a broadcaster. A recent survey, whose figures I can’t exactly remember, so puleese don’t quote me, said that 40% of twitter is banality; 30% is self-promotion and the rest is information — which, if you have chosen Who to Follow carefully is information that might be relevant to you. For example, last week, Pier 9, an Australian publishing house in the Murdoch empire, advertised that they were looking for an editor with 2-3 years experience in the trade.

As far as I know, THEY DIDN’T PUT THE AD IN THE NEWSPAPER, THEY PUT IT ON TWITTER.

Agents, publishers, editors are putting stuff out that might be relevant to you. And you can follow them.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, you can broadcast your own stuff. Wot stuff? Well, recently I had a short story scheduled to be read out on BayFM, the radio station in Byron Bay. It’s not every day I get a story read out on radio, I wanted people to tune in and listen, so I tweeted this to my 6 followers.

You tweeted it to six followers! What possible use could that be to you? I mean to say, 6 people are going to hear about it this way, you’d have been better off texting them. Wrong. Because I was also a member of that powerful social media site Ecademy (the first on the scene in 1998, BTW, compared with Facebook’s 2004) I had been lucky enough to meet Sam Borrett, one of the highflyers there. I became one of his followers, and he graciously become one of mine. When I tweeted to 6 people, he retweeted my message to his followers who number around 5,000. Some of those followers have 20,000 followers.

Are you getting the picture now?

Working on the old six-degrees-of-separation theory, even if you’re not fortunate enough to have a powerful follower at first hand as I had, you can bet your boots that somewhere down the track, one of your followers’ followers has. If you’re thinking of putting out a book in the future, get onto twitter. When your time comes, you’ll have a following, who also have a following, who also have a following, and that’s how something can become viral.

Let’s suppose you don’t use twitter and you have a book coming out. You go for newspapers and a bit of radio if you’re lucky.

How many people do you think will hear about your book?

[More in a fortnight on the social media scene in general, and why, as a writer, you need to be in it.]

Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com#!/de_valera

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This isn’t going to be a blog about the meaning of life, a discourse in which I try to sell you my philosophy, all wrapped up in The Wonder of Me. Rather, it’s an overview of how and why I’m currently upping my profile on the web.

It’s all about book promotion.

As you might (or might not) know, I’ve a little freelance manuscript assessment business, specialising in the novel and the memoir. What I began to notice was that it was becoming so hard to get your first novel published by a large company in Australia that more and more emerging writers were taking to e book self-publishing or going with very small e book publishers who also had Print on Demand (POD) facilities in Australia. Urged on by cries that the internet was the coming thing, what with Kindle, etc. they were excited. Think of the size of the web! they said to me. Millions of people will see my book.

Hmmm, said I to myself. (Perhaps this is the place to admit that I have a streak of cynicism in my makeup. Well hidden, but it’s there.) Back to the point. Most of these writers had little coverage on the net, and the results of their digiPOD publishing ventures were extremely disappointing, to say the least. As the assessor/mentor, the one who had held their hands through all the rewrites, and who had kept in touch with them afterwards to see how this wondrous new digiPOD sally turned out, I was one of the first to hear the cries of disappointment and disillusion.

I felt for them. What to do?

I’m so old I can remember the time in Australia when all you had to do was write out your novel in longhand on a block of foolscap, pay a typist to type it up for you, send it off to a publisher and Bob’s your uncle — you’d be a published author in no time. This doesn’t happen anymore. But the ease and low cost of digiPOD publishing with such sites as the UK Council of the Arts funded Youwrite on, is persuading emerging writers that this is the new, modern book explosion. Just put up your website, and watch the sales roll in.

Ho.

As I was pondering this dilemma, the flyer for Sam Borrett’s social media networking seminar fell into my letterbox. I’m now sallying forth into what feels to me like The Wilderness of Zin. (This phrase, which I’d give my eye teeth to have written, is the name of a paper written by Leonard Woolley and T E Lawrence for the British Museum in 1914 — Lawrence later achieved fame as Lawrence of Arabia, for his part in raising the Arab revolt against the Turks during WWI.) The wails of the disappointed writers have woken me from my happy delusion that all the internet was good for was research and email, and putting up pictures of you with your new hair colour. So here I am, floundering about the wilderness, trying to discover things I can take back home to help those emerging writers.

Will I find anything that can help them? It’s too soon to know. But tell you what: I’m fascinated. There’s definitely something out there.

Wish me luck.

Danielle

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Like the American Indian narrator of that fine book One Flew Over the Cuckoos’ Nest says at the end of the novel, “I’ve been away a long time”.  Things have been happening here.

First, the landlord decided to replace the living room carpet in my little 2-storey broom cupboard 300 metres from the Pacific; the carpet had come with the building thirty-five years ago. Everyth piece of furniture in the room had to be emptied and the furniture carried outside. This was followed by an orgy of washing 12 years of dust off the furniture – writers aren’t renowned for their housekeeping. After the new carpet had been laid I discovered that the LL had chosen a carpet shade so dark it’s like living on a bitumen road. I have to stop myself from looking left and right when I cross the room): Perhaps it was on special.

Then my male cat bought in Snake No. 3 (it’s Spring over here in beautiful, downtown Australia). He likes to take them into the bathroom upstairs, figuring the shower recess is the best place for an interrogation and easy for me to hose down afterwards. BUT this one was larger than the previous two and he lost it halfway up the internal staircase. I couldn’t do the bucket trip I’d applied in the bathroom scenario on the previous two occasions and had to resort to waiting until the snake  reached the living room floor and corralling it with a straw In basket, held down by an antique flat iron; these were the only things to hand at the time. What to do next? That took some thinking. I managed to slide an old Barry Manilow vinyl record cover under the In basket and then transfer the whole lot to a giant garbage bag which I carried down to the canal. The captive looked none the worse for wear when I released him – standing well back and retrieving the various items afterwards. He made for the water and I made my way home with tips for writers the last thing on my mind.

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