A terrific afternoon

Terrific is one of those words which can mean almost opposite things; very good or very frightening. I had a terrific moment by the Torrens River on Thursday, in both senses of the word.

The sun was setting, casting long shadows down the riverside footpath. A bunch of seagulls were huddling together on the grass, preparing for the night, and a young couple walked toward me, their energetic little dog bounding around their feet. A fish jumped from the river, landing with a splash that carried across the still water. It doesn’t sound like the moments preceding a potentially horrific experience does it? It actually sounds quite pleasant, and it was, but the terrible chain of events was already set in motion, and we were all helpless to avoid it.

Wondering what fish could possibly be living in the murky black depths of the Torrens, a river which gives up numerous bodies each time it gets drained (oh, I mean car bodies by the way), I decided to walk over and see if I could spot the piscean acrobat. At that same moment the little dog noticed the gathering of seagulls, and the temptation proved too much as he ran headlong into the gathering. The squadron of at least 60 birds took to the air, their flight path directly over the place where I was standing, trying to spot the fish.

Bird droppings rained down around me, inches in front of my face, my shoulders, my legs. I heard the thick *splats* as they hit the ground, the black and white goo spreading thick and smelly across the path. I couldn’t look up, I daren’t move, I just froze and preyed as the droppings kept coming.

And then they stopped.

I ran my fingers through my hair; nothing. Inspecting my legs, my jacket, my shoes -all were poo free! I couldn’t believe my luck, not a single dropping had made contact! So there you have it, a moment of terror, followed by a terrific feeling of relief.

And for those following my word count, I’ve edited 7 chapters since Wednesday, which is about 11,000 words! Not a bad effort in four days. I’ve also included (below) another nature shot of a mother and baby koala, taken just outside the house. It really is a zoo up here!
Mother and Baby Koala

What’s that on my arm?

Adelaide Hills Wildlife

In Cambodia, when you feel something crawling down your arm it’s usually sweat. In Melbourne, when you feel something crawling down your arm it’s usually dust. In Adelaide, when you feel something crawling down your arm, it’s usually a spider.

Yes, the Adelaide hills are home to all creatures, great and small. Especially small. I can find at least three spiders in any room I enter. Most of whom are harmless, and I ran out of names for them once I got to Barry. Now I’m only naming the deadly ones. No, seriously, most of the deadly spiders actually live in the eastern states, so I’ve left them behind. Except for those who hitched a ride back with me in the car.

But on the up side, we have a family of crows, a family of magpies, a family of lorikeets and countless cockatoos visiting us each morning. The lazy koalas watch us from impossibly high perches that are almost too distressingly precarious to look at. They slowly munch on gum leaves during the day, when they are not sleeping, and grunt like broken machinery at night… late at night. Sometimes really early in the morning too.

So with less than 5 days of WriMoFoFo left, can I hit the 15,000 target? That’s just another 10,000 words by Sunday. As a little red engine once said I think I can –or was that a politician? Anyway, I’m sure I’ve got the quote wrong enough to avoid breach of copyright. But I think I can do it. In such a paradise as the Adelaide Hills is turning out to be, I’m sure the ideas will flow.

I’ll check in on Sunday and let you know how the word count goes. Wish me luck!


Jim Pieces

I had to laugh, one of the removalists made the above spelling error when describing the contents of the box he just packed, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was inspired by the destination. Just in case anyone in Adelaide doesn’t realise it, the rest of Australia thinks that every second person that lives here (yes, here –I got in to Adelaide this morning) is a serial killer. Let me just put that falsity to rest, I’ve encountered at least nine people today, and I’m pretty sure none of them were serial killers. In fact one complete stranger smiled at me. Or is that what serial killers do?

Anyway, the Adelaide hills are looking particularly beautiful at the moment, and the weather is sensational. As I bit into my fresh-picked strawberry flavoured strawberry (as compared to the styrofoam flavoured strawberries I normally encounter) and I cradled the bag of crispy new apples, bought from a stall on the side of the road, I could see that there were going to be some real benefits to this move. Not to mention all the catching up I’m going to be doing with long-neglected Adelaide friends.  

So, now I can get back to editing the novel that I promise will be out in eBook format before Christmas. And as for Jim, well I don’t know any Jim, not anymore. At least not any whole Jims. Pieces of Jim, now that’s another story…


Jim Pieces Label

Last post from Melbourne…

…for a while.

I’d like to say everything is packed, but it’s not. I’d like to say the house is clean, but it’s not. At least the garden is just one sweep away from being finished, but it’s still not finished. Yet as horribly badly as I’m running behind on all my lists, I’m sure I’ll get there in time for the removalists to pick it up and for us to be on our way come Saturday morning. I guess this is what they call faith?

So what wisdom has my move imparted?

  1. Do not save your fancy coffee, drink it when you want, for one day you will find yourself having only a week to finish the lot because it will not survive two days in a hot car.
  2. As much mess as what you think you have, double it. And then when you wrap it up in butcher’s paper, double it again!
  3. Possums are not cats, nor do they like being treated as such.

And what about WriMoFoFo? Well, that might be in need of a little faith too. I think I’m still going to hit the target of 15,000 words in 4 weeks, but let’s just say that well over half of those will need to be written while in Adelaide for me to make it. I’m sure when I am not drowning in boxes, paper and cleaning products that I’ll be able to move my focus back where it belongs; FreeCell. Followed by some of that writing thing.

But from my swirling mess of stress and packing and unreturned phone calls a wonderful little buoy of sanity and comfort has been right here. The blog has meant that even in my craziest of moving moments I have always written at least some words. So thank you for reading, and thank you for your encouraging words of support!

So, until next post (from Adelaide), happy writing!


Why they call it the winter blues

Just for something different I thought I’d talk about my upcoming move. They (the faceless gestalt who tell us what to do but take no responsibility for the results) say moving is one of the more stressful things you can do. While probably not in the top ten (unlike a killer game of Jenga when the tower is nearly three feet high and a successful play is almost a guaranteed win) it would definitely make it to my top 30.

Perhaps this was why on Thursday night after a heated discussion about a box (I kid you not) I decided to go for a walk to calm down and find my serenity. For those of you not living in Melbourne or with no solid memories of the evening to cast back to, Thursday night was quite warm, balmy even. This meant the bugs were out.

I was not even half way around the block and I had already found three webs with my face (no leggy bits of life in them that I could locate, despite my spider dance) and some large, unidentified flying bug whacked into my shoulder with enough force to stop me in my tracks. Having made some very clever, boxy comment before I left the house, I knew it was too soon to return and retain my kudos. So I pushed on and found more webs, more flying bugs, and got the distinct feeling that I was like the man in Raiders of the Lost Ark who is unknowingly carrying a bunch of spiders on his back.

At the point when, in the darkness, I bent down to pat a cat that actually looked at me with a what the hell are you doing expression before hightailing it away to reveal his true self; a brush tail possum, I knew it was time to go home. Warm evenings are no place for the cheerfully-challenged.

So now that the warmer weather is here, take this advice. No matter if you are moving, or losing Jenga, or quitting your job, don’t let it get you down, and don’t snap at your loved ones. It is just too dangerous out there after dark to allow for a proper self-pitying walk. Just stay happy and relaxed instead, wait until winter to give into your blues.


Not a possum

Moving is like publishing a novel

After countless visits, phone calls and online volume calculators, I finally found a removalist who could move what we wanted for the price we were happy to pay. I thought my work was over. I even went back to writing and put a decent number of words in my WriMoFoFo spreadsheet for the first time in two weeks.

Then my boxes arrived.

It is day three of packing, and while I have nearly exhausted my box supply, the house looks just as full of books and trinkets as it was before. I’ve been down to St Vinnies so many times that I suspect next week the shop will be stocked entirely with my stuff. Yet there is still more to go!

This got me thinking; moving is very much like getting a novel published. You think the hard part is finding a publisher who wants your book, but it is only once the book is picked up that you find out about the real work of being a novelist.

Having never published a book, I know some of you are wondering how I would know, this is where the writers group comes in. Recently we watched two of our members get first time novel deals and go through the whole process. However, they are both still going through ‘the process’ despite having had their books on the shelves for months.

For us unpublished writers, the goal is getting that call from a big publishing house saying they want to include our opus in their list. But it is important that you don’t confuse ‘goal’ with ‘destination’, because once you are published you need to ensure that you get published again. To do that you need to make your first publication work and that means you need to work.

As an unknown author you might have to organise a lot of your own press opportunities, book signings, guest blog spots, possibly even your own launch. If you want posters, post cards, bookmarks or book videos, you may need to commission them yourself. All of this while also working on your next novel, because many publishers work on multiple book deals, with deadlines a year (or less) apart.

But if you are a writer, none of this will scare you off. It is a problem we would all love to have, unlike moving house, which is a problem that I can have all to myself. At last I see why buying a home is the great Australian dream; it is not a crazy desire to owe someone lots of money, we just want to avoid moving all our crap. It is so much easier to shove that spare set of Bocce balls in a cupboard just in case you need them again rather than finding them a new home.  


The last Grand Prix

There is an upside to leaving Melbourne (besides all the benefits of going to Adelaide) and that is catching up with so many people in Melbourne who I haven’t seen for ages. Now that my time here is limited, people are grabbing spots in my calendar and making me feel very loved indeed!

This got me thinking… It is kind of like when the last Grand Prix was on in Adelaide and nearly everyone in the city attended. At the time it was the biggest Grand Prix in Big Prix history –all because it was everyone’s last chance to see it before we lost it (or had it stolen some might correct, but let’s not go there, I think the wound is finally healing and I don’t want to rip the scab off so soon before my return).  

So why do we hold off doing stuff until we nearly can’t? And more importantly, can I get this strange human tendency to work for me? This week I’m going to see if I can fool myself into thinking that I can only edit my novel until the end of November and not beyond that. I might even try to commit myself to something for December to make it true.

Sometimes we need a threat to our Grand Prix before we actually do anything about it, but that is a dangerous way to live. If you don’t do something until you almost can’t, you might just find out that you are really good at it, or that you love it, just before you can’t do it anymore. Don’t wait for anything if you don’t have to; catch up with your friends before they move, write your novel before you retire and don’t worry about who got the damn Grand Prix, it’s just a noisy car race anyway!

Happy writing,


From home to home

At dinner in one of our favourite restaurants last night they found out that it was my birthday, so gave me a bottle of wine. Today I went into the city and caught up with different friends for coffee, lunch and more coffee. On the train back home I whipped past the MCG, Rod Laver Arena and several beautiful parks.

I am going to miss Melbourne.

After 16 years here I can honestly say it feels like home. I have a lot of history and a lot of friends here. Adelaide also holds a lot of history and a lot of friends, and I am excited to be able to spend more time with them. It is a strange situation to be in, to have two home towns, but soon it will just be one, and for that I am a little sad.

But before I go, there is one thing I must know. I saw this very soon after I first arrived in Melbourne, and I still have not worked it out.
Can anyone tell me what this means?

Strange sign

Back to writing next week, promise!