Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Don't Wear Grey.

Some years ago, when I was still working in dull offices doing dull jobs in order to make a living, as we all must do, I was located in an old grey building which was being replaced with a brand new building right next to it. I watched the new building being constructed from the ground up from the window of my old office. The old building was shabby grey inside and out. Every square inch of it. Even the loos. We were being told that the new building would be state of the art, light, airy and inspiring.
As the new building approached completion, some of us were granted the privilege of a conducted tour through it by the new building manager who was VERY excited by his shiny new toy. I say shiny because there was a lot of glass on the outside. So in we went. Through the huge automatic glass doors into the grand foyer. The building manager spread his arms wide and said lovingly, "Please note the wonderful Mountain Shimmer floor tiles and the imitation Smoky Italian marble columns which so beautifully complement the Morning Mist walls." I looked at the floor, the columns and the walls and said, "They're grey." He ignored me. We stepped into the lift and he continued with, "The carpet in the lifts was specially designed for us. It's called Ocean Dawn." I said, "It's grey." We arrived on the first floor and passed through the stainless steel grey doors of the lift into a corridor. The building manager continued to wax lyrical. "You will see the carpet here, and on every floor, is a softer shade than in the lift and was also designed especially for us. It is called Ocean Spray." I said, "It's grey." He glanced at me briefly, then ushered us into the open workspace area.
Down the centre of the very long building ran a line of managers' offices with glass walls that looked out into the huge open area of cubicles. Hundreds of cubicles with waist high dividing walls. Light did, indeed, flood the area from the windows which made up the outside of the building. Windows that could not be opened and with narrow slat blinds sealed between the two panes of glass and which could not be adjusted.
The building manager encompassed the cubicles with a joyful sweep of his hands and said, "This beautiful state of the art design uses a palette of soft silver and shimmering cloud colours to enhance the mood of the employees and create an ambience of harmony and calm." I said, "It's grey."
His eyes met mine and I felt his annoyance. Which just made me want to see more of it. His annoyance, that is. I said, "Won't it be noisy, with nothing but these low walls between everyone?"
"Not at all," he replied curtly. "Studies have shown ..."
Studies, schmudies. I started walking toward the end of the building. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"I want to do a little study of my own."
I walked to the far end of the floor, turned and said in a very low voice, "Can you hear me?"
Everyone in the group replied, "Yes, we can hear you."
I lowered my voice to a whisper. "Can you hear me?" They all nodded and grinned. They got it. I walked back to the group. The building manager was looking at me with disgust. "This building has been ergonomically designed to ..."
I finished the sentence for him. "... to be grey, depressing and noisy. Just like the old building." Everyone in the group nodded and chuckled. The building manager turned and walked away. We all found our own way back through the grey cubicles to the grey corridor, into the grey lift down to the grey foyer and out through the shiny glass doors to our shabby old grey building.
I worked in that shiny new building for seven years before I could afford to leave and write full time. It was unrelentingly grey, shatteringly noisy, the natural light was glaring in the morning and barely there in the afternoon despite the harsh overhead lights, and the only way you knew which floor you were getting onto when you exited the lift was because someone had the good grace to put big numbers on the wall opposite the lift doors, otherwise hundreds of us would have been wandering around like lost sheep looking for our almost identical cubicles where we sat in front of our grey computers, hunched over our grey keyboards, getting through our mind numbing grey workdays with headaches, eye strain, RSI and antidepressants.
And that is why I don't wear grey!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to tell when you're having a good day of writing.

First of all, you decide you'll do your morning exercises later because you woke up with an inspiration about a scene/character/chapter/event in your story that you simply HAVE TO WRITE before you forget. So you start to write and then you forget to stop. Your tummy rumbles and you remember that you forgot breakfast, so you go into the kitchen and think about all the nutritious breakfast food you have that will help your brain function and therefore make you a better writer. But you settle for a diet shake because it's instant, you can down it in three seconds and get back to your writing. Then you think about a change in another part of your story that needs to be made to fit in with that inspiring bit you just added, so you start to work on that. Your husband (wife, partner, child, phone, doorbell) comes in to the room to tell you something and you scream because you were somewhere else, not here in the real world. He goes away. Back to that other world you love so much. Your feet start to feel cold because you haven't done your morning exercises and therefore haven't moved for three hours or four hours, so you haul out the heated mat that goes under the desk for the duration of the winter months (even though it's only early autumn right now) and turn it up to high heat. Lovely. Writing is progressing at a rate of knots with no effort at all. In fact, I can hardly keep up with my own brilliant thoughts. Then the tummy rumbles again. Damn. Gotta eat. OK, back into the kitchen, husband is watching the golf with a delicious salad sandwich in his hands. I think that's what he came into the room to ask me earlier - would I like one too? I should have said yes instead of screaming. I should make one now. Nah! Too complicated. Slice of cheese between two slices of bread and back to the keyboard. Need to develop a character detail to tie in with the earlier inspiration. Shoulders begin to ache. Ignore that. Slight headache from staring at the screen for too long. Fingers getting stiff for so much typing. Ignore all of that, too. OMG! It's getting dark outside! How did that happen? And there's a funny smell. Oh, I forgot to shower. OK, better get up and do that or my husband won't want to come to bed tonight. And here's how you REALLY know when you've been having a good day of writing. When you get up, you have CORNERS ON YOUR BUM! Anyone know where I can buy a pair of square-bummed trousers?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lyn on a Ladder.

Sometimes, an interaction with a reader can be memorable and even delightful. One such occurrence happened recently whilst visiting my daughter and two small grandchildren interstate. One of my daughter's neighbours, a lovely lady called Lyn, had borrowed my books from my daughter and was in the process of reading them while I was visiting. I saw her a few days after arriving and she waxed lyrical about how much she had enjoyed A PLACE IN TIME, which I thanked her for, but at the same time thought she may have simply been very polite as a good neighbour might do. A few days later, I was in the back garden with Miss 2 and Master 4, enjoying watching them play in the paddling pool while my daughter prepared dinner. We could smell the neighbour's barbecue, which is always a wonderful scent to waft over any fence. Master 4 suddenly started calling out (he has a wonderfully LOUD voice, I'm sure he'd make a good rock singer) to the neighbour that he want to talk to him, and what was he cooking because it smelled YUMMY! The neighbour, a very friendly chap, replied from the other side of the very high fence that he couldn't talk just now as he was eating, but he'd be happy to have a chat later on. Then I saw the top of a ladder being set up in the middle of the neighbour's yard. It rose up until I could see several rungs of it. And then I saw Lyn's blonde head appear. She climbed to the top and started calling out to me over that very high fence, "I've started DAMAGED GOODS and it's so powerful, I can't put it down, it's keeping me from sleeping at night, I can't wait until I get back to it, I want to finish it tonight, you can really write a good story, you are VERY TALENTED!" Well, what could I say to that? I said, "Thank you, Lyn. You're so right. And I'm humble too." She  had a laugh, climbed down off the ladder and went back to her barbecue. Memorable? Delightful. Oh, yes. Thank you, Lyn! 

The "Cup Of Tea Book".

A reader recently emailed me with her personal review of my second novel, DAMAGED GOODS. Whilst it was an excellent review (which I won't quote as it contained some very personal information about her own life) and I thank her for it whole-heartedly, she made a very interesting comment which has been echoed by several readers of this book. She told me that she found the story so powerful, so demanding, that she kept having to put it down and go make herself a cup of tea, catch her breath and then go back to it. But she had to keep reading it, had to know what happened next, had to KNOW what became of the three sisters and their father. She is recommending DAMAGED GOODS to her friends as "The Cup Of Tea Book" and the title seems to have stuck, as I have since received another email referring to it as such. So be it. If you want to read DAMAGED GOODS, it is recommended that you put the kettle on and settle in for a read that will take you on a journey that will sometimes leave you breathless, sometimes horrified, sometimes exhausted, but ultimately exhilarated.
While I don't feel free to quote that particular reader's full review, I can quote the review posted on Amazon as, once it is in the public domain, it is free to put "out there". Thank you "Blaiz".

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book!, December 26, 2010
Blaiz (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: DAMAGED GOODS (Kindle Edition)
Being a survivor of physical abuse myself, I was afraid to read this book based on the description. However, I had enjoyed the author's book A PLACE IN TIME so I decided to at least read a sample. I was hooked. I think the reason I was able to read it is because the incidents of abuse are told by one sister to another, during reminiscences, more than 60 years after the incidents took place. Don't get me wrong, the abuse is still horrible and disturbing, but as seen through a child's eyes, and from that distance, I was able to read about them without inducing any terror based on my own experiences. Yes, this is the story of one man's evil and the damage he wrought on his three daughters and his wife, but it's also, and more importantly, the story of how the love and loyalty among three brave sisters helped them to survive the cruelty to which they were subjected. It's also a story of redemption and forgiveness, and makes it clear that it's never too late for you to be the person you want to be, and to live the life you should have lived, despite the cards you were dealt as a child. It's a very powerful book that is hard and cruel, but also achingly beautiful. I highly recommend it.