Monopoly – the new novel

Green is an ordinary girl with an annoying name.  And a birthmark.  One unexpected night in Budapest opens up a world she didn’t know existed – didn’t want to know existed.  A world of gods, beautiful and dangerous, of signs, secret and curious, of people she’s never met who want to kill her for a reason she can’t understand.  Engaged to a man who loves her, but drawn to a strange being from another dimension, Green is part of a deadly game.  In this first novel of three, she must try to find out exactly what part she plays before she becomes just another piece in the puzzle.

 Long ago, immortals disagreed. The Red and the Gold fought for supremacy over a newborn universe, creating worlds and destroying them in a single day.

There was no right side, no wrong. Neither clan was good, neither evil. In fact the concepts had no meaning to them, in that time, and still do not. But there was love, and frustration, and greed, and joy and ambition and envy and much else.

Eventually a halt was called, and the clans agreed that they would no longer vent their violence and fury on one another. Instead they created one world, and on it, they created life. With this plaything, they played a great Game. All their energies were bent towards this Game, in which living creatures played the parts from which the immortals had agreed to withdraw, on their own account.

As another safeguard from war, the clans agreed to merge, Red with Gold and Gold with Red. Some formed partnerships. Zeus became Ra, and Ra Zeus. Isis joined with Athena, and became one. Others were assigned to each other as mates, and had children in whom Red and Gold were inextricably mixed.

For a long time – longer than humans can imagine – there was peace among the immortals, if not on earth. The price of peace is boredom, and mortals paid it.

Yep, it’s an excerpt from my new novel, Monopoly – the first (I hope) of three.  If you like it (and I’ll post more excerpts just in case you can’t tell from this one) let me know and I’ll let you have a free electronic copy.  Once it’s published, that is.  Right now it’s only in draft and being looked at by the Critics.  If you feel like being one of those, likewise let me know – and of course I can return the favour and rip your new novel to shreds too.

Just kidding.

 

A story of love, betrayal…and fish!

deeper2Deeper – a dark, modern fairytale of love and revenge…

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (you’ve maybe seen the totally unrelated Disney film of the same name), DEEPER is the story of what really happens when a curious mer girl rescues a self-obsessed writer, living alone in his lighthouse by the sea.  What happens when she makes a pact she can’t go back on, for love of a man she barely knows?  If you think you know how it ends, you probably don’t.

Deeper is available as an e-book on Amazon and now as a paperback If you read it, don’t forget to review it – it helps!

Here’s the latest review – with thanks to the reviewer.

Mermaids. A book about mermaids, for grown-ups. Really?
Really. And an extraordinary book, too, a book full of wonder and sadness and violence. A world under the sea and on its shores so beautifully drawn, realised in such detail that you’re ten minutes into the book and you’re there, with Melur and her sisters, her misfit friend, her brutal father, the terrifying “grandmother”, a mer-cast that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading their tale.
There’s everything here, there’s magic, there’s coming-of-age, there’s clash of civilisations and Robinson Crusoe and humans, too, drawn warmly and wittily and economically and mercilessly – drawn the way that other great Australian writer Peter Carey might have drawn them.
And finally, there’s prose so smooth you don’t even notice it passing through you until you’re caught by some detail, some word or phrase so good it sits there like a rock in a stream, rippling, reflecting, making you pause, and smile, and carry on past.

A wonderful book. Read it.

It’s Saturday night and I aint got nobody – yay!

Last night was Saturday night.  I spent it all by myself.  It was almost as good as sex!

These last two weeks I’ve had my two teenage kids around 24/7, which is wonderful (I do love scrubbing Nutella off the sofa and literally wading through snowdrifts of tissues to call my cold-infested son to dinner – wouldn’t anyone?).  My beautiful bearded lover has snuggled into my bed almost every night, which is lovely, of course.  BUT.

I love being alone.  Yesterday, I finished another book I’ve been working on, read the end of Mao’s Last Dancer, ate Japanese crackers for dinner, found a property online (with river frontage – see below) I’d dearly like to buy, booked a hotel in Cairns for my romantic getaway with bearded boy, and scouted out some possible publishing avenues for my trilogy.  Oh and did a small amount of cleaning up, with musical accompaniment from my Ipod.

Rose's Fantasy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, it was great.  Don’t you just love being by yourself sometimes?  But then I realised, what makes it so great is that they’re all coming back (at least I think they are).  My river god may not be here NOW, but he’ll be here sometime.  My darling teenage cherubs may not be clogging up the drains AT THIS VERY MOMENT – but they’ll return.  It’s like, fresh air is a beautiful thing, but not if you’re locked outside.

Here’s the next taster of my novel.  I really don’t know what to do with it.  I could put it on Amazon – but then, maybe that’d put traditional publishers off.  Or I could send it to a few publishers – but it could be months before I get that rejection letter.  What do you think?  Anyway meanwhile, enjoy.

 

For the first time, Green Beatrice Hennessy felt the presence of God.

This was strange, for a number of reasons.

First of all, she was an atheist. Her parents had brought up from childhood to view religion as an aberration that only the uneducated or credulous indulge in. Religion, said her mother, is the opiate of the people, and we’re bringing you up to think for yourself, never forget that. So Green went from boarding school to boarding school annoying the chaplains who tried to explain that freedom of thought didn’t mean freedom of speech, especially for a cheeky ten year old. There were lots of phone calls home.

Secondly, she hadn’t been thinking about spiritual matters, or the meaning of life, or the reason for human suffering, not even her own. She wasn’t in the least unhappy. She was sitting on the wide stone steps of St Stephens’ basilica, Budapest, watching the tourists stop and stare and pull out their cameras. It was that time of night just before the light fades, and the last of the sun turned the church into a pagan temple, glowing cream-grey against the purple Hungarian sky. She still stopped to stare herself, though they’d been posted here for three years now. A woman in cut offs and hiking boots fumbled in her bag, pulling out first what looked like a left-over sandwich, then some shopping, then a water bottle, every few seconds looking anxiously up at the great arched door, as if the glow might disappear before she found her camera – as it might, too, any minute. Green cupped her chin in her hands, day-dreaming.

She was thinking about what she’d wear that night, her first trip to a bar where she didn’t have to stick to tea and milkshakes, now she was all of eighteen and three weeks. She thought skinny jeans perhaps, and a black and silver top with a scooped neckline, which she’d bought last week in a shop on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca. This was the night, this was it – and the look had to be just right. It’s not so easy, she thought, making a fashion statement in Budapest, the Paris of eastern Europe. She’d have stiff competition. She had to stand out, because Llazlo was one of the cool guys, with his long hair and half-grown beard and his bass guitar. He had to see that she was grown up now, tonight.

Thirdly, god did not feel like god ought to feel. He – or she or it – didn’t feel loving, or omnipotent, or stern. He – and it did feel like a he, somehow – felt…exploratory. Alertness came suddenly, and she stiffened, and focused inward. The church reared up behind her, a thousand tons of cold white stone. The air felt alive. All thoughts of Llazlo and skinny jeans left as if they had never been.

She felt as if someone had put on a rubber glove – one of those skin tight gloves used for unpleasant medical procedures involving body cavities – and reached into her brain, and was poking about, moving this and that aside, and peering, and prodding. She did not like it at all.

She sat up straight, stared dazedly at the overweight lady in cut-offs, who was still fiddling with her camera settings while the sky darkened into night, and rubbed her head, hard. She shook as people do when a finger of cold penetrates the spine, sending an unexpected shudder into the back of the neck, the toes, the tips of the fingers. She felt him pause. For a long moment they looked at one another, mind in mind. Then he left, and she felt empty.

 

What won’t you say on your deathbed?

I wish I’d hated more people!  I think it really, you know, helped me – and it sure changed THEIR rotten ways!

I wish I’d spent more time brooding and sulking.  That stuff was REALLY satisfying! Uh huh!

I wish I’d rationed my love a bit more.  I mean, the way I handed out cuddles and compliments and affection and all that, you’d think they were free!

I wish I’d spent more time being miserable.  Of course, in every life a little misery comes along – sometimes a lot – but I could have gone out and LOOKED for it!  If only I’d had more initiative with that kind of thing.

I spent a lot of time whingeing and, you know, it really paid off!  I wouldn’t be where I am today without all those hours selflessly spent listing my woes to my nearest, dearest and that guy on the bus.

Any additions?

Darla at Blatherbabe’s just written a brilliant parody on a hitwoman with a headache – check it out.

And here’s another excerpt from my new novel, Monopoly.  If you’d like to read it when it comes out, feel free to send me your email, and I’ll give you a free electronic copy.

The small girl rolls on the grass, naked. Her mother watches from the shade of an oak tree, marvelling in her pink and white delicacy. Soon they’ll have to go in, before the ultra-violet gets too strong, and spend the hot summer day in front of the air conditioner in the living room. The rented house in Melbourne’s inner suburbs is weatherboard, and the tin roof cracks and rustles in the heat like a small storm.

There’s a dog, a puppy really, like a tiny golden snowball, darting and pouncing around the child. In one moment its teeth are around her wrist, tiny and sharp, but they don’t break the skin. It’s only playing. It growls, shakes its small snout, leaps backward in sudden alarm.  The baby laughs uproariously. The sky darkens.

“Shall I do it now? Let me do it, let me be the one!”

The Game Council cannot agree. Any one of them could have ended the life of this little being, in less than a heartbeat, less than a blink of her dark blue eyes. But instead, they have sat in the long white-stone hall, speaking at length on the matter, as if she were not just a small, insignificant creature, created in a millisecond and gone in the next, but a being of importance.

Set is eager. He is a creature of cunning and violence, his blazing eyes shifting from fire to ice, as changeable as a tornado. He likes to kill. They all know this. But nothing pleases him for long. There must always be more.

“She is very young,” says Frig, with some tenderness.  “What harm can there be in her?”

She remembers her own baby, Baldr, rolling in her garden in just such a way, playing with the shadows that glanced from his white gold hair. But now Baldr stands silent, looking down on the child as she chews on a stem of grass, the dog belly up beside her. He is very beautiful, her Baldr – the most beautiful of all the immortals. The humans, when they catch a glimpse of him through the fog of their inferior consciousness, call him god of the sun, of love, of happiness, but they do not know him. He is not happy. He has his wife, his Assigned, Na’ana, but the god of love does not have love.

“Let be, Set,” says Isis, tall and serene., “This mark has a meaning. If she dies now, it will be a question forever unanswered.”

The child, lying still on her small round belly, looks towards her mother. On her back is a birthmark. It covers her skin from shoulder to hip, as if someone has held a hot iron board to her back, engraved with a strange scarlet script. In the language of the immortals, it spells a single word. It’s a message, says Zeus-Ra – but from whom? Perhaps someone is playing a joke, but who would dare?

Set laughs, a deep, melodious sound, like the ringing of a cold iron bell.

“Forever? What does that mean to us! We are immortal. You forget that these humans are mere fodder and nothing more. I say kill her now and be done with it.”

“And I say,” says Zeus-Ra, wearily, for he has lived longer than any of them, “let her be. Time enough to put an end to her when we know more of what she is. Being human, she will die soon in any case, even if we do nothing.”

Baldr smiles at last, and his blue eyes are alight with warmth.

“Look,” he says, “she sees us.”

The child has turned on her back as if she’s floating in water, arms outflung, palms upward. She is gazing up, towards the sky, through the blue layers, with a curious intensity, as if she knows that she is being watched. A balloon drifts overhead, pink, with a smiley face drawn on.

The elementals have already turned away, bored, but Baldr lingers. Something about her draws him.

 

Sleeping – like living, but better

Is there anything in the world better than being asleep?

Being in bed is pretty good.  Ideally, I’d like to be there for about 20 hours out of every 24.  Everything is more fun when it’s done in bed.  Dancing (horizontal, naturally, and I’m not referring to THAT, you dirty minded person).  Eating – especially when someone else brings it.  Reading – where else can you finish two full size novels in a day?  Sex, obviously (and yes I have tried other locations – nothing compares to a good old mattress).  Conversation – when you turn the lights off and pull the blankets up, you learn things about people you’d never winkle out of them in a month of couch sessions (and then you can blackmail them – earn while you lounge).

In short, why ever get out of it?

Except to sing songs about it.  If you wonder why these songs of mine all have a backdrop of grungy old water bottles and bookshelves, it’s because the only technical equipment I’ve got is a webcam, and I’m damned if I’m going to point that thing at myself.

Oh, and the uncomfortable pause at the start?  That’s me clicking around to find the backing track and stuff.  Happens to everyone.  I’m sure I’ve heard that at the beginning of, um, insert popular song of your choice.

Black guys, love songs, and fuckups

And lazy titles.

A couple nights ago I was watching a program on tv about people who like dating races not their own.  There were African women who liked white guys, white guys who liked THEM, white women who liked Africans and Asians, and the usual suspects – white men who like Asian ladies (why is there something shameful about being a white man who likes Asian women? Dunno, but there is).

Some people said it was the colour contrast.  Other people said it was the cultural values.  ‘She really looks after me’ (not like those newfangled uppity modern white gals!).  ‘He loves the way I look in a black sack – when he turns round to look, that is’ (no, I made that one up. As far as I know, the only queue for unreconstructed Pakistani males is populated by the fathers, not the intended brides).

Anyway, it put me in mind of the time (now past) when I pretty much only dated Africans.  Some of my less diplomatic friends implied that it was because they’re supposed to be well hung.  For the record, they aren’t, particularly.  In reality I had a few reasons, all of them a bit wobbly.  The place I used to go to dance was stacked with Africans.  You pretty much had to brush them out of your clothes as you left the building.  Most were well built and goodlooking.  They liked me.  I liked them.  Half the time I couldn’t understand what they were talking about and that was a mark in their favour – there’s nothing like an accent to make a fairly ordinary intelligence seem alluring and inaccessible.  I’m not saying Africans are dumb. PEOPLE are dumb.  And I have no racial prejudices about who I sleep with, none at all.

Moving on from that, I’ve recently started writing love songs…cause I can!  All you need is a recording thingi in your computer, a borrowed backing track, and you’re away.  Just like Rebecca Black.   Of course right NOW they’re love songs…cause I’m in love.  Later on when my singing career develops they might be political anthems – like Greenday – or comments on the futility of existence – like Coldplay.  It is the most awesome fun!  Here’s one.

And on a final note, if you find yourself in a six hour meeting trapped with a pontificating academic, here are some interesting possibilities to mull over.

  1. The presenter spontaneously combusts. All are amazed. And relieved.
  2. An earthquake traps you all for nine days.  You eat the presenter, who mysteriously (in the dark) tastes like tiramisu.
  3. The presenter’s hair turns into writhing snakes.  She keeps talking.
  4. The presenter’s face falls off and she is revealed as a slobbery alien.  We shoot her and globs go everywhere.
  5. The presenter’s hands get stuck to the whiteboard.  We all leave and never come back.
  6. The presenter turns into a vampire and leaps on the next most boring person in the room.  Hilarity ensues.

 

Does romance kill writing?

I haven’t quite had the energy to blog for a while.  I mean, who cares, really – it’s not like the world is waiting on me, but the fact is, there are only so many things you can fit into your life.  Work, for instance, for a while became all-consuming (to the extent that I got a ‘red-line’ temperature while trying to fit two weeks’ work into two and a half days.  I like that phrase ‘red-line’!  I don’t know what it means but the doctor said it with an impressed expression – and I sure know I didn’t feel well at the time.

And then there’s romance.  It’s a tempestuous thing, sometimes I feel as if I need a team of management psychologists at my elbow as I negotiate the rutted fire trails of true lurve – but I haven’t got one, so, well, I struggle on.  My love is beautiful but fragile, laid back but moody – I don’t have the equipment to handle him (common sense, emotional intelligence, even just some manipulative ability would come in useful) or the heart to leave him be.  Alone together, we relax into effortless happiness.  Apart, we manufacture uncertainties.  As anyone might imagine, all this takes time and energy.

Today I realised that he’s my dad – that’s why I love him so, and that’s why he bugs me so.  Not ACTUALLY my dad, obviously (unless he’s been reborn as a hippie, which would really annoy him).  But so very like my dad – tall, rangy, endearingly affectionate, loyal, trustworthy, passionate, jealous, and, um, a tad emotionally manipulative.  You know the kind of person who goes all quiet, and then waits till you notice and ask why, and then comes out with some totally weird answer like ‘YOU know!’.  And then I think you’re supposed to feel bad, and resolve never to do THAT THING again – that thing you didn’t even realise you did – and then you’re forgiven, until next time.  The point of all this is (I’m guessing) to bind you tight and make sure you pay attention to Number One.  I guess a person plays this game because they’re afraid.

Well, we’re all afraid.  I’m in love, I’m not going to run away, but if I let it, this game will work on me all too well.  The trick – and this is where the team of psychs would come in real handy – is perhaps to ignore the proffered guilt trips, and be lavish with what the person really wants – which is, I guess, demonstrated commitment and affection.  Lavish is moving way out of my comfort zone, but I’ve got a doctoral degree in guilt.  Plus, even my friends would say I can be pretty damn irritating (which is a way of saying, no wonder sometimes he gets a bit crabby).  Ergo, even I can see that work’s required.

Which brings me back to blogging.  It’s important not to lose perspective – I don’t want to be the Sylvia Plath of suburban Australia (mainly because that’s a really stupid name).  So as Cat Stevens said, I’ll try to blog again, and perhaps not be so narcissistic about it this time.  You don’t have to read, or comment, or like – if you do, that’s lovely, and if you don’t, I don’t mind.  Hang on, I’ll just say that in an Aussie cowboy drawl….Ay dooon’ mindd…that’s how my honey says it, think an octave above black soul and a slow smile working its way out through a couple inches of beard…

Jeez I hate colds!

Day 1.  Nasty taste in throat.  It’s nothing. French kiss boyfriend like before – after all whatever it is he’s already had it. In fact, he gave it to me.

Day 2. Singing-in-car voice a little off today.  Boyfriend is left to carry ‘Brown Sugar’ all by self.

Day 3: Romantic snuggles interrupted by sudden jerking motions, no not those ones.  I need to cough.  Is that a piece of lung coming up?

Day 4: Feel like shit.  Don’t care if I die now.  Want to stay in bed for the rest of my short existence.  Look like shit too.  Nevertheless help boyfriend with furniture removal.  Regret it.

Day 5: Work colleagues back away holding up crucifixes.  Am chased home by pitchfork wielding mob.  Don’t care.  Back to bed.

Day 6: Boyfriend away for weekend.  Am glad!  I need sleep, tissues, tea with honey in it, and the whole bed to self.  And sympathetic texts, which I do not get, as boyfriend doesn’t understand the fine art of whingeing.

Day 7: Feel pressing need to clean house.  Things must be looking up!  Glance at body in shower mirror, realise bed not greatest fitness regime, despite what some say.  Go for walk in sunshine.  May even write something – suitably dark, obviously, considering that my last week has been spent practically at death’s door (note that, boyfriend – it may be a common cold to you but to me it’s more like Wolf Creek with snot).

Anyway here’s the story.

Sometimes life is more like a triangle than a circle.

For instance, a triangle has three points.  Clara stares at the map and draws a line between them.

“Four hours drive,” she says, spilling a little of her beer on the national park in her excitement.  “Sydney, Candelo, Canberra.  We could do it.”

Francis stares at her.  She feels his intensity and swallows a little too fast, choking.

“If we go we’ve got to really go,” he says accusingly, putting a heavy hand on the map.  “No coming back to Sydney for jaunts.  No visiting your…sister…in Canberra.  Just us.”

“I guess Amber and Ken can always come down,” she offers, avoiding his eyes. “There’s plenty of room in the house behind the café. “

“They could come down,” he agrees, “but not too often.  We need to get away from things, Clara, not bring them with us.”

She knows the things he refers to, wriggles self-consciously, and leans across to kiss his bearded lips.  His own lips are still.  She can’t get around him that easily.  He has not yet forgiven her, but quarantine should help repair the damage.

A triangle demonstrates convergence.  Like fate, two lines converge on a point.  Of course, there are three points – as we already said – and three lines, so there is some flexibility, in triangles as there is in life.  But not much.

Candelo is expecting them.  The thirty residents of the town have been discussing the move for weeks.   Bob at the garage says he met the man when he came down to look at the property, months ago.

“There’s something funny about him,” he says, as the blokes lean against the derelict verandah, scrutinising the Sold sign.  “Looks like one of our sort, but isn’t.”

“Our sort?” says Paul, his scraggly white dreadlocks tickling hoary cheeks.  “What do you mean?”

“Not your sort, mate,” says Bob equably, shooting Paul a glance of good humoured contempt.  “I mean, he comes in for petrol, starts talking utes and fucking fertiliser like he grew up round the corner  – and the next minute he’s going on about  the fucking universe telling him he’s got to move out of the big smoke or die trying.”

“More my sort then,” Paul sticks in, wondering if the dude plays an instrument, because they could really do with another band member.  Margie who owns the gallery sings alright, but her guitar is hopeless.   “What about her then?”

Bob draws a shape in the air, and even aged Paul grins lewdly.

“She only got out to go to the toot,” he says, “but she’s got nice tits.  Pity about the arse though.  Shouldn’t wear them shorts.”

In a triangle, like a circle, what comes around goes around.  Not with the smooth elegance of a curve, it’s true – more like a trailer being dragged inexpertly around sharp corners.  But still, follow the lines and you arrive back at the same point.

There are high words in the café after hours, and sometimes during, to the embarrassment of diners.  Clara makes pumpkin soup, which the locals pronounce to be shit, but passers-through consume politely.  She hangs local art (Margie lends it to her) and attempts to organise musical evenings.  Paul sings cracked folk songs and Francis plays bass, and gets stoned.  Clara cleans up alone.

“I’m going back,” she announces one night, staring with dislike at the borrowed art, which depicts the surrounding countryside and local flora.  “I miss our friends.  These people, they’re full of shit anyway.  Paul pretends he’s a hippy but really he’s just an old pervert.  Margie thinks she’s better than me just because she did a fucking art degree in Melbourne in 1901.  Those other guys just keep staring at my arse every time I walk down the street.  I’ve had it.”

“Well you could fucking cover it up then,” says Francis, downing another whisky.  “God knows I wish you would, and so do they probably.”

“Fuck you!”  Clara has some vague idea of leaving right there and then – but she’s stoned too and before she reaches the door she decides to collapse on one of the saggy couches in the café instead, and cry.  Francis is beside her in a second.  He likes it when she’s weak.  He wishes he could keep her on a leash sometimes, like a dog.  She is a dog.  A fucking bitch.  He offers her a drink and she takes it, leaning against him hopelessly.

“You’re not leaving,” he says, holding her wrist, hard. “This is it, we said.  The last time.  We’re here for good.”

Clara jumps up, befuddled but suddenly furious.

“I’m going back to Darren,” she announces weeping.  “I talked to him on the phone yesterday, and -“

“You fucking what!”

Frightened, she stumbles for the door.  He sticks out his boot and she falls headlong on the rustic wooden floor, scrabbling to get up again.  He slams his foot into her head, and she is still.

By 2pm the next afternoon, there is a cordon around the café.  The inhabitant of Candelo stand around the striped tape and talk in low voices, as the police carry out the bodies.

“Why’s the street closed off?” asks a tourist, looking for coffee.  There is none to be had.

“Murder suicide, apparently,” explains Margie, wondering if in time she could make a bid for the café herself.  It’s bound to be cheaper now, she thinks.

“That’s awful!” exclaims the tourist, still annoyed by the lack of coffee and the slow traffic through the town.  Couldn’t they have waited till after the weekend, she thinks?

“Oh, they were from Sydney,” says Margie dismissively, settling her blonde plaits over her Mexican poncho.  “They had issues, you know?”

The tourist, who is from Sydney herself, nods wisely.  You can’t escape issues, she thinks – they travel with you, wherever you go.  She gets back into her car and continues on to Canberra, where she is visiting her aunt.

And Francis and Clara, they return to Sydney, side by side, in the back of a long black car.  It was fated.