Moving and beautiful piece by Adam Gopnik

I was moved to tears by Adam Gopnik’s lucid, beautiful, passionate and perceptive piece in the BBC’s Point of View blog. So many things have been written about these cruel attacks, but this is outstanding. Read it here.



Je suis Charlie

je suis charlieThe ghastly events in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo have shaken me deeply, and I pay tribute to the memory of the writers, cartoonists, police officers and others who were so viciously murdered in the cruel attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

And I hope and pray for the injured, such as Simon Fieschi, beloved boyfriend of Maisie, daughter of my very good friend and fellow author, Ursula Dubosarsky. Simon was badly hurt after being shot in the attack and the family is still waiting on news of his prognosis after he was put in an induced coma.

We know this area of Paris quite well. My sister lives only a minute or two’s walk away, and she often goes that route to the shops. In fact, as my brother in law told me yesterday, she almost went that way, at that time, on the 7th–it was sheer chance that she decided to go another way that morning.

The irreverence of Charlie Hebdo was not to everyone’s taste. So what? Why should everything be to everyone’s taste, and offend no-one? Mockery is a salutary thing in any culture. The magazine is in a great French tradition of calling everything into question, and not taking anything for granted. And the brave and witty people who worked there were upholding one of the great rights of a truly civilised society.

Those who think to silence free speech can never win if we stand in solidarity against them.




Life imitates art: Russian mystery rings a Trinity bell!

Life imitating art: just caught up with an extraordinary story from the Wall Street Journal by journalist Bradley Hope, about a Russian mystery revolving around a business, and which rang some Trinity bells for me! You can read the full article here, but here’s the beginning:

Blackfield Capital CJSC was one of Moscow’s hottest hedge funds, hosting glitzy parties and embarking on ambitious plans to expand to the U.S.

The firm’s founder in 2013 even rented a Manhattan apartment for a record-setting price, according to a real-estate broker, and instructed his U.S. staff to buy a $300,000 sports car.

Now, the founder is missing, allegedly along with all of the firm’s assets, according to former employees, in an international mystery that has captivated Moscow’s investment community.

The firm’s employees didn’t know anything was amiss until mid-October, when three men charged into Blackfield’s offices in an upscale complex along the Moscow River in central Moscow, said people who were there.

Incidentally, the central mystery around the deaths of the three Trinity founders was inspired by yet another weird Russian enigma, this time set in Australia: the unsolved murder of ex-KGB colonel and shady businessman Gennady Bernovski on the Gold Coast in 2014. Police have recently re-opened this cold case, but without success so far. Read more here.


Using dreams in your writing

DSCN21310001 DSCN27170001The other day, I had one of those amazing story-style vivid dreams that when you wake up, you know is going to feature in a novel or story. And that’s exactly what’s happened: it’s gone into the Trinity sequel, and in doing so has pretty much cracked a particular problem I had with part of the plot. Those kinds of dreams are gifts, and they come rarely; but even smaller, less powerful dreams can help to enrich your writing, and so today I thought I’d reproduce on this blog, a workshop piece about how to best make use of those dreamy opportunities for your fiction! I first wrote it as a blog post some time ago, and it’s also been republished in my non-fiction ebook, By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers.

A short dream workshop

From time immemorial, human beings have dreamed–every night we go into what one of my sons’ friends once referred to as ‘those brilliant eight hours of free entertainment.’ And from time immemorial, writers have used images or scenes from dreams, or entire dreams, to enrich and expand their creative work in waking life. I’m certainly no exception. My night-imagination has always enriched my day-imagination. Several of my short stories have started directly as dreams, for example, ‘Restless’, a chilling ghost story I wrote not long ago, began as a really creepy and unforgettable nightmare. Another disturbing story, ‘The Spanish Wife’, a vampire story set in the 1930’s, started as a dream in which someone said, very clearly, ‘No-one took any notice of him till he brought home a Spanish wife,’ and that turned into the very first sentence of the short story. Images and scenes from dreams have also gone into my novels, and in one case, a very vivid and intriguing dream inspired an entire six-book children’s fantasy series of mine, the Thomas Trew series. It’s not always fantasy or supernatural stories that have sprung out of dream-compost for me, though; everything from family stories to thrillers to historical novels has benefited from it.
Over the years, I’ve learned quite a few techniques on how to best use vivid, scary, tantalising or intriguing dream sequences in my writing, and how to investigate them for best effects. Here’s a short workshop based on some of the techniques I’ve developed over the years:

*Think of a dream you’ve had. Any dream. It doesn’t have to be anything
exciting or unusual. Go back over the dream-scenes, as if you were a police witness being asked to remember an event. Who was in it? What did they look like? What were they wearing?
Were they people you knew or strangers? Were there any animals in it? What sort? What was the setting like? Indoors, outdoors? What could you see? Smell? Touch? Hear? Taste even? What were you in it—a participant, a helpless observer, a godlike figure?

*If you did something supernatural, like flying, what did it feel like, physically? (I’ve often had flying dreams and in them I feel a strong pull in the chest, arms stretching. Once I even woke up with what felt like an actual slight ache in the arm muscles—very spooky indeed!)
*Were there any machines in your dream? If so, what sort?
*Did anyone speak, and if so what did they say? Many dreams in my experience are like silent movies, with thought-subtitles and maybe some music, but a few have dialogue, even if it’s often minimalistic and quite enigmatic.
* Knowledge: Do you know why you were in that particular place, at that time? If you had some supernatural ability, did you know why? If there are interesting objects or gadgets in the setting of your dream, do you know what they can do, and why, and who made or used them? Backstory is very often missing in dreams, but is very important in a story, even if you only spend a few lines on it.
*Now, once you’ve written down as many descriptive details as you can about what was there in the
dream, think about what wasn’t there, and write that down. While you were dreaming, did you
know for instance why you or other people were doing things(even if it was a kind of weird dream-logic?) Did you understand the sequence of events? Was there a sense the dream was moving towards some conclusion, or just randomly jumping about? Motive, continuity and plot—all very important in actual stories—are often missing from dreams.
*Think of your own self in the dream, however you appeared in it: did you
recognise yourself? Did you feel it was fully you or something that was only partly you, or a stranger? Did characters behave randomly? Character development is usually absent in dreams
too though it very much needs to be present in a story.
*What about the setting? Were there things missing: for instance, if you were in a house, were there doors? Windows? Furniture? If you were outside, was anything odd: for instance trees growing upside down, or a wall of water appearing out of nowhere?
*Now put those two things together—the things that were there, the ones that weren’t—and you have the beginnings of a real story framework, where the wild imagination of the night and the more disciplined one of the day cross-fertilise and turn into something amazing and wonderful.

25 years since my first book came out

2015 is a big year for me, for it marks 25 years since my first book, The House in the Rainforest(University of Queensland Press, adult novel) came out, in April 1990; followed just a few months later by my second book, Fire in the Sky(Angus and Robertson, children’s novel) which came out in July 1990. At the time, I was living in Guyra, in the high cold country of New England in northern NSW, with my husband David and three young children–in fact, the youngest, Bevis, born in September 1989, was a very small baby when my first book came out, while Xavier had just turned three and Pippa was eight. It was an amazing, thrilling, hectic, productive, extraordinary time, and today, I want to celebrate that wonderful milestone with a bit of a gallery of pics of significant documents from that time. The first is from The House in the Rainforest; the second from Fire in the Sky. Many of them are from my scrapbooks, so a bit tatty at times!


Fire in the Sky