Fictional blood and fun times

I think I’m a nice person, but show me a TV show where someone gets killed in the first five minutes and I’m hooked.

Alfred Hitchcock photo with bird on cigar

Image: from quoteswave.com

Murder mysteries are an obsession passed down from my mum, who educated me through English TV shows and movies about Miss Marple, Poirot, and – hell yes – Murder She Wrote. (Did you hear there’s a Murder She Wrote game? I hope it has the theme music.) And of course, there was not just Hitchcock’s films but Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Later in Primary School I chowed down battered copies of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. (Which, honestly, is only the tiniest insight to how 50s and 60s my childhood culture upbringing was.)

Then to fossicking for my own crime books through a series called Point Crime, with titles written by various authors but all with horrific – and captivatingly creative – murders. (Someone got suffocated/buried in their own concrete driveway before it had set. Come on!)

Even now, if I’m having a particularly rough week, I’m probably watching my Wire in the Blood box set rather than Monty Python.

And yes, I realize how weird that is.

But it’s not the violence that interests me, it’s the psychology behind it. How someone like me or you can be driven to murder. What are the circumstances that make it a reasonable act? What could drive someone to hate another person so much that they could torture them? And how often the crime is committed by family or someone the victim loves.

So I’ve settled on a new book to write, and if you haven’t already guessed the theme let’s just say that I’m going to have some fictional blood on my hands over the next few months. I might even figure out why a kinda nice person like me becomes so obsessed with reading and watching murder mysteries.

When I have some inspirational pics for you, I’ll post them on the blog.

Wish me luck. As always, with every new story idea, I’m crazy excited about this one!

Christmas and creativity

December is my favourite time of year. It’s all Christmas baking (and yeah, eating), non-stop catch-ups with friends and driving past decorated houses that would make Clark Griswold proud. But what I love just as much is that sense of winding down and hope for a fresh, new year.

I spent most of today looking over old footage and photos of our growing puppy, Henry, as well as photos from our UK/Europe trip and I loved every second of it. I make a point of looking back at what I’ve done through the year (especially what I’ve enjoyed) before the New Year resolution fever grips me. If you’ve never done it, give it a go. Especially if you’re a writer. Jotting down your 2013 highlights and achievements is a great reminder of all the fun stuff that bubbled up from your hard work.

For me, December is about embracing fun and creativity. It’s for ‘filling the well’ before we get too serious and ambitious on 1 January. So get crafty with your Christmas wrapping, go to a Christmas concert, bake something ambitious, catch up with a group of friends and talk absolute nonsense, make a tower out of your to-be-read book pile, or (and I really want to do this again soon) go to the movies and see two films back-to-back. The next few weeks are for living it up and relaxing!

While it may not sound relaxing to everyone, I’m also looking forward to developing two new YA projects this Christmas. They’re both in their infancy – all random, scrappy notes with plot holes and fat question marks – and if this morning is anything to go by, this photo could sum up my Christmas/New Year (complete with snoozing pup).

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So that’s me signing off for 2013. I hope you have a fun and happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Little Sister – A Halloween story

Yes I’m a day late, but happy Halloween to you all. I hope you battled monsters and ate lollies in awesome costumes. (If not, there’s always tonight.)

Here is my Halloween story, Little Sister, which was published by Tiny Owl Workshop on napkins and distributed around cafes this week. There’s lots of other stories to collect as well, so get on to the Tiny Owl Workshop website and find out where you can get a spooky story with your latte. Enjoy!

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New stories! Halloweenies! Puppies! Exclamation marks!

The last two months have been non-stop madness. Mostly because I travelled through the UK and Europe, cramming in more countries than my sanity could handle, before returning straight to my bat cave in Brisbane to finish editing my latest YA manuscript.

And amongst the madness, I received some exciting news to share:

What’s next? Well, I’m searching through old notes and playing with ideas to start a few new stories.

In the meantime, I’m also training our new Border Collie puppy, Henry. (Because sometimes I like to cram so much in to the space of 8 weeks to see exactly where my breaking point is. I have a feeling it could be toilet training this furball.)

Henry the Border Collie

Henry the Border Collie

Looking for a free read?

You can read my children’s short story, Neptune’s Postman, from the Celapene Press website for free.

Launching big story

All of my new projects begin as secrets.

There is something magical about working alone while the ghost of an idea develops into something greater. Writers often talk about their books as their babies, and I suppose I have always felt that way as well. That in the early stages I need to protect my idea, feed it and help it grow without having too many outside opinions confusing me or tearing me away from what I believe it will become.

And so I have to tell you that I have been nurturing a secret project for a few months now. One that has meant that I had to put my writing projects aside and devote all my spare time to it. (Even on my birthday. I kid you not!)

So, I’m very proud to launch my secret project, big story, today.

Big story is an independent story school. Starting from January 2013, I’ll be running after-school drama and creative writing classes for primary and high schoolers on Brisbane’s north side.

I have taught both drama and writing before, so big story has been a long time coming. (If you’d like to know how I got in to acting and writing in the first place, you can see that on my first big story blog post.)

I’m so excited to work with young storytellers again, especially as the teacher and owner of big story.

Big story is about learning the craft like a professional but having a whole lot of fun and helping young artists meet up as well. (Read: no cheesy-cheese pantomimes but also no nasty pressure!)

Do you know a young actor or writer in Brisbane?

Tell them to join the big story facebook page (our online home) and keep in touch.

Big story peeps who are keen for a school holiday project, can also sign up for a free copy of my 50 Story Starters workbook. That’s 50 possible story ideas, people! Enough to keep any storyteller out of trouble until classes start next year.

So my secret’s out and I’m looking forward to my drama and writing classes next year. But in the meantime I have lesson plans to write and a neglected YA manuscript to tend to.

QWC Whispers

I’ve been invited to read my short story, Bibi’s Tree, a couple of times before but I’ve never been able to make the journey. (The first time was in Greenmount, WA and the second time was in Melbourne.) So when I was asked to be part of QWC’s Whispers event I knew what story I had to read.

But it’s not the story that’s got me thinking. It’s the reading out loud part.

I’ve always thought that there was something special about a writer reading their work out loud. I love hearing words that would usually only live in one person’s imagination while they’re curled up on the couch. And I’ve enjoyed watching friends of mine read at their book launches and discovering how the story sounds in their heads.

To discover that in my own work was just as exciting.

I’ve known for a while that tapping away at a computer isn’t enough for the storyteller in me. I need to be actively sharing stories and connecting with people. As a drama student who transferred in to creative writing at uni, I guess this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Except that I had neglected that side of myself for so long – unsure how it could fit in this new writing direction – that I forgot how important it is to me.

It’s thrilling to have an audience in front of you, wanting to hear your story.  To read your own words and listen to the stillness around you. Or to glance above the pages and take in how people are reacting to your creation.

I remember reading the beginning of a manuscript in a writer’s group meet. It was a tense scene that I enjoyed writing and re-writing and as I read it out loud I felt the energy change. There were no squeals of discomfort and no one was wringing their hands together but there was a slight shift in the mood. For me, that feeling had weight. As though the world had stopped still and we were all tumbling down the rabbit hole in slow motion.

That’s why performing or reading out loud is exciting for me. That energy change is the audience saying, ‘Yep. Take me with you’. They don’t have the time to put the bookmark in and get back to it and it’s too personal for them to pretend they like it if they really don’t. (Trust me on that one.)

So as much as I love retreating in to my own imagination and writing new stories, there will always be part of me that needs to tell it to you the old-fashioned way. Face-to-face.

Everyday stories

I volunteered at the CYA conference earlier this month and it was great to catch-up with some old friends and meet new ones.

What I was really keen on was Paul Griffin’s session on writing for Young Adults. In the program the tag line for the workshop was, ‘keeping them sane, alive and encouraging them to open their hearts to the world’. I liked that.

Paul writes ‘street-lit’ or gritty literary fiction for Young Adults. He also works with at-risk youth in the States using his story telling skills to help them get ahead in life. He described to us how he helps these kids reflect and piece their story together – essentially their life, their plans and their dreams.

I guess you could call that goal setting, researching career paths or making achievable goals, but when we talk to people that’s not how it comes out.  It comes out in conversation, as a story. No matter how jumpy or rough the narrative is, these conversations are our stories.

It’s a concept I haven’t been able to get out of my mind either.  I can remember the last few times someone asked me ‘what’s been happening?’ or ‘what’ve you been up to?’

And what’s my answer? Usually a ‘nothing much, just working’.

Wow. Interesting story. No wonder the subject changes so quickly.

But there’s always more to the story, I’m just not telling it well. And for writers that want to make careers out of stories, don’t you think that you should be able to tell this story well?

But Paul’s talk got me thinking about the amount of day-to-day situations that we get to tell our stories and how many times we stumble at those opportunities: catch-ups with friends and relatives, reunions with old school friends, job interviews, first dates, or even making friends in a new workplace.

I think our insecurity with telling these stories well might come from the belief that our lives aren’t interesting enough to talk about. But if people have asked for a story – and even better, your story – then why not tell it?

Stories are how we connect with people and find some common ground. If I find out you like pilates or photos of cats doing olympics, then I’m going to get excited because I like them too. But if you’re throwing back a ‘nothing much’ every time someone asks you for your story then that’s what you’re going to get back.

Image: Olympix cat from icanhascheezburger.com

So next time someone asks you what’s been happening, tell a story. Even if it’s tiny. I like short stories anyway.

Why wait? You can tell me a story in the comments below. What’s your experience of telling your story in everyday life? Can you see any benefits to try it more or are you happy sticking with the written word?