Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

Prior to getting rid of my desktop computer this afternoon, I had to transfer a bunch of old files to my laptop. Mostly they were random photos, ancient word documents I wasn’t sure I’d archived anywhere else – and a folder of video diary entries I made throughout my second year as a college student, way back in 2005.

As memory serves, I first started making them as the end result of a thought process that went something like this:

1. What does my head really look like from the side? Whenever I see photos of me from that angle, I always look like a giant nose with a face attached. It’s sort of unflattering. I hope I don’t look like that all the time.

2. Can I see my sidelong profile in the mirror, ever?

*several failed attempts later*

3. No. Because my eyes are on the FRONT of my head. Because I am a PREDATORY MAMMAL, not a PARROT, despite my APPARENTLY GIANT NOSE. Also, I am an IDIOT.

4. But wait! I have a shiny new digital camera! I can take PHOTOS of my sidelong profile by holding the camera at arm’s length from the side of my head while looking in a different direction! Problem solved!

*several failed attempts later*



6. Hey, I know! Why don’t I put the camera on top of my bookshelf and make a video of me moving around?

7. And if I’m going to go to all that effort, why don’t I talk about my life, too?

And thus, the video diary idea was born.

There are 33 entries, all taken between the 24th of April and the 28th of October 2005 – I saved each file according to time and date. The digital camera I used wasn’t particularly good, and I could only talk for about six minutes before the recording cut out, but despite all this, the results are fascinating. To me, anyway. I never posted them anywhere; they were only ever for my own enjoyment. It was a novel thing, being able to watch myself on film. My parents never owned a video camera when I was growing up, and until that point, I’d only ever seen stills of myself; or, if I were very lucky, a three-second cameo in some other family’s tape of a school event. When I rewatched each entry after making it, I remember being more interested in how I looked than what I was actually saying: not just on the level of a nineteen-year-old girl attempting to gauge her attractiveness, but how I moved, the way my eyes flicked sideways or down, how my mouth twisted or my hands moved. Even my voice, which always sounds deeper to me on tape than it ever does while speaking, was a source of interest. Trying to learn all the tricks of my own face – all the things that my friends and family must have known by heart, which in some ways defined me as much as my words or actions, but which were foreign to me – was both strange and compelling.

Now, almost six years later, my reactions to the entries have changed. I look at the girl I was then, and think:

I was so beautiful! What on Earth possessed me to think otherwise? Why did I constantly disparage myself?

I was so young! I look at teenagers now and there’s this freshness to them I sort of assumed was generational, but in those videos, I have it, too! Why do none of us realise it at the time?

I was so earnest! And awkward! But that self-conscious humour and weird, dreamy introspection, it’s all the seed of who I am now – I was still learning to be me. I just didn’t know it yet.

Did I really care about all those things that are so unimportant now, but which were so important then? How much of what’s important to me now will be just as unimportant in another five years? Or is it all important, always?

Did I have any inkling how significant that year would end up being? If I look hard enough, can I see it there? Could I ever have guessed?

This last is the thing that sticks with me most, which moved me to write this post. Because 2005 was, in many respects, the year that turned me into who I am now. I recorded the final entry the night I acquired my then-kitten, Quill, who crawls across my shoulders as I talk. I say that I’ve made the decision to defer my studies for 2006 in favour of finishing my novel, what I now refer to as the Great Unpublished Epic. Several times in earlier entries, I talk about Toby, the man who is now my husband, but who was then a friend and ex-roomate of my college boyfriend, Sean. I only watched a few entries tonight, but what struck me from that random selection was the number of times I mentioned doing something without Sean – usually karate lessons, which he’d started me on, but often seemed to ditch, at least by this subjective record – compared to the number of times I talked about doing things with Toby, like playing music or hanging out. A month later, beyond the scope of the video entries, Sean and I had parted ways.  By Christmas, Toby and I were living together. The next year, we saved our money and moved to Melbourne, where I finished my novel and, eventually, started the story that grew into Solace & Grief. The year after that, we were married.

I made a few more entries much later on, using the camera function on my laptopeleven in 2007, four in 2008 – but they weren’t the same. Lacking regularity or purpose, made in response to boredom and without the camera’s ability to cut me off if I waffled, they devolved into indulgent ramblings about whatever it was I thought interesting and profound at the time – topics which, in retrospect, usually weren’t. Given another few years, there’s every chance I’ll find them as interesting as the original 33, but right now, they’re just that little bit too recent for proper retrospect: the only lesson I can take from them now is that I’m not always as fascinating as I might think.

As I type this, I’m lying on a borrowed bed. The computer clock has just ticked on past 12AM: technically, it’s Wednesday already, which means that tomorrow night – Thursday night – we’ll board the plane for Scotland. Not a new life, because that implies escape, or erasure somehow, as though I were trying to forget Melbourne and what living here has meant to us. But a new start? Definitely. And with everything that entails – with the ghost of my teenage self still flickering in my vision – I think that, like 2005 before it, 2011 will be a year worth documenting, too. It just so happens that I received another new digital camera for Christmas: a belated replacement for the earlier model, which died some time ago. The new video function cuts out after eight minutes, not six. But then, I’m older now. Perhaps I’ll have that little bit more to say.

Something old. Something new. Something borrowed.

Something true.

Attention Melbourne peoples!

This Saturday, 17 July, myself and ten other Ford Street authors and illustrators will be doing a double signing event.

From 11am to 1pm, we will be at Dymocks Southland in Cheltenham, and then, from 3pm to 5pm, you can find us at Angus and Robinson in Victoria Gardens, Richmond. Apart from myself, the cast of attendees includes Paul Collins, Hazel Edwards, Meredith Costain, George Ivanoff, Felicity Marshall, David Miller, Sue Bursztynski, Sean McMullen, Doug MacLeod and John Petropoulos.

Come one, come all! Grab a signed copy of Solace & Grief (or one of the many other fantastic books on offer) or simply drop in for a chat. Either way, it’ll be great to see you there!

A&R details

Dymocks details

‘Scuse me, mate. Do you know where the strip clubs are?’

It’s nearing midnight in the Melbourne CBD. Toby and I are chaining our bikes up outside Hungry Jacks (all the better to eat you with, my dear) and a bloke somewhere between our ages has approached. He’s clearly drunk – not yet in a falling-down-slurring way, but there’s an obvious sway to his posture. His eyes are bloodshot, and his clothes speak of corporate money.

‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘No idea.’

‘Not talking to you,’ he says, swinging his eyes to Toby. ‘Talking to your friend here.’

‘Husband,’ I correct, firmly enough to regain his attention. This earns the pair of us a derisive snort.

‘Husband? Bloody taking a chance there, mate.’

I make a huffing noise, one that an arrogant drunk might mistake for laughter, and realise that, come to think of it, I do know where to send him. The venue has such a ridiculous name on so massive a sign that after four years of regular passing  by, it would be more surprising if I hadn’t remembered.

‘Go up there,’ I tell him, pointing to Flinders Street. ‘Go up there for two blocks, and there should be a strip club on your right. The Spearmint Rhino.’

‘The Rhino.’ He sways a little, starting to slur now. ‘Cool. Hey, can I have a smoke?’

‘Sorry, mate. We don’t smoke.’

‘Don’t smoke?’ He looks hazily outraged. ‘What kinda people are you?’

‘Hey,’ says Toby. ‘We’ve given you directions.’


I give them again. He squints and stares, then nods his comprehension. Or bobs, rather, like a wobble-headed plastic dashboard dog.

‘Thanks, mate. You’re a legend.’

Off he goes.

‘Charming young man,’ I mutter.

‘No,’ says Toby, choosing to ignore my sarcasm. ‘He wasn’t.’

We head into Hungry Jacks. Sitting outside is a dreadlocked girl on a pale green rug. She is young and skinny, bedecked in plastic coloured beads, wearing beaten-up shoes and tights so ripped that they are more air than fabric. Delirium, I think. She looks like Delirium.

We walk to the counter, order our food. This being week’s end, there’s not too many people about, but still the usual nightlife has filtered in – mostly men, without the bottle-blonde, totter-heeled womenchicks in shiny Supre dresses you usually see on Friday or Saturday. As we wait for our meals, Delirium comes to the counter. She asks the server for some water. He hands her a tiny plastic cup, the smallest size they have, in which sundaes, rather than fizzy drink, are served. She points to the big cardboard cups; can she have one of those instead? He shakes his head and tells her no. They only serve water in plastic. It’s a policy. She looks sad, but takes what she’s given without complaint. As she heads back outside, I am struck by a realisation, instinctive and unverifiable. Delirium will wait out there, sipping her water, until enough time has passed that she can legitimately go back in for more without looking desperate or greedy. Until then, she will deal with what she has. Our food arrives then, and I resolve that, if I cannot finish my meal, I will offer her what’s left. It seems a meagre offer. But better than nothing.

We eat and talk. A drunk man yells at a marauding pigeon, running to scare it ouside. This tactic works, and he sits back down with his friends, evidently satisfied. I haven’t eaten a proper dinner; despite my resolution, all that’s left are our two cokes. I tell Toby that I’ll give them to the girl. He nods, and as we walk back outside, I brace for her to refuse them. But as I offer the full cups, explaining that we couldn’t finish their contents, her face lights up; she thanks me profusely and starts to drink. We walk back to the bikes.

‘I wouldn’t have noticed that,’ says Toby. He looks at her over his shoulder. ‘She’s so young.’

The bikes unlock. We put on our helmets, but somehow, neither of us rides away. Instead, we shuffle slowly forwards, eyes on the Delirium-girl, watching as she’s joined by a skinny-tall boy in a black hoodie. They’re clearly together: they swap a drink and talk, laugh. He crouches down, asks a question. I can’t hear what. In answer, she pulls something out of her backpack. He pats it, which seems odd – I don’t remember seeing an animal, but that’s what the gesture suggests. Then he picks up whatever-it-is and slips it into his hood.

I look at Toby. He looks at me.

‘I want to buy them a meal,’ I say.

He looks from them to me, then smiles. ‘OK.’

My helmet goes back in the pannier. I walk over. They glance up at my approach.

‘Hey,’ I say. ‘I know this is random, but do you guys want some food?’

Something sparks in the girl. Her smile is hopeful and genuine. ‘You’re sure?’

‘My treat,’ I say.

They swap a grin like this is the best thing they’ve ever heard. She stands up, and they start to follow me back inside – but then there’s a pause, this shy hesitation. I wait for the explanation.

‘We have a rat,’ she says, a little hurried, a little worried – wanting to be honest, even though she fears it will cost her my offer. ‘Is that OK?’

‘He’s in my hoodie,’ the guy says, sheepishly. ‘He keeps wriggling around,’ and when I look again, I can see he’s right.

It’s so bittersweet an exchange, I can’t keep from grinning. ‘Of course it’s OK! What’s his name? Is he a named rat?’

‘He’s Tushie,’ says the girl. She blushes.

We go inside.

I tell them my name. We all shake hands: the youth is Dan, but somehow, the girl’s name goes straight out of my head. She looks so much like Delirium, I can’t think of her as anything else, despite her cheerfulness and lucidity. Her smile is broad; she tells me that everything is going right today, and as Dan nods, I want so much to ask how they are here, and why. They can’t be much older than sixteen, and not out of home too long, either – not if their braces and her glasses are anything to go by. But I keep my questions to myself.

At the counter, I tell them to order whatever they like. They hesitate, not wanting to ask for too much, but clearly hungry. There’s a pause.

‘Anything,’ I say again. ‘It doesn’t matter what.’

Tentative, waiting for me to correct him, Dan asks for a large Stunner meal. Delirium wants a small version of the same. I ask them what Sundae flavours they want: he has chocolate, and she has caramel, the same as I did. Once again, I’m at the counter waiting for food. They talk to each other, voices soft. Dan has a job interview tomorrow, but worries he can’t afford the tram fare. He doesn’t want to risk another fine, and wishes their shelter paid for such things. Delirium offers to lend him her Myki, but he says no, because it’s not registered to him. I blink in surprise.

‘Myki works now?’

‘No,’ says Delirium, a mixture of sad and mischevious. ‘That’s why we use it.’

Their food comes. I hand it to them, an intermediary, and though part of me wants to stay, ask, learn, the rest of me knows that I’m done. It’s time to go.

‘Have a better night,’ I say.

They grin and nod. Delirium tells me something kind in parting. I wrench a little.

I leave.

Toby is waiting for me outside. He’s seen the exchange. We smile at each other, reclaim our bikes, and start to wheel them through the darkness. As we cross at the intersection, a drunken bloke who I’d swear was the would-be strip-club attendee yells and staggers past us at a loping run – towards what, I don’t know.

We ride home through the night. The wind is cool, and the stars above flicker with time.

Sunday is over.

The official release date for Solace & Grief is Monday, 1 March – a mere five days away. Are you excited? Because I am!

To tide you over in the interim, here is a roundup of recent reviews, interviews and mentions the book has had, all of which make me a very cheery Foz indeed. Thus:

Steph Bowe has written a very happy-making review, in which she says, “This is a vampire novel, and I think it’ll appeal to paranormal romance fans, but also to people who don’t like the whole vampire trend. It’s just different enough to make it refreshing but also appeal to the people who already love books like these.”

– I have been interviewed by the lovely Tynga of Tynga’s Reviews.

– Donna of Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings has not only reviewed the book and interviewed me, but is offering one lucky comentator the chance to win a signed copy. She says: Solace & Grief is a good setup novel for the start of what I see to be an excited and different take on the world of vampires, shifters and the magical… [it] has darker elements than what’s normally seen in YA urban fantasy, that older teens and many adults would enjoy reading.”

– There is now an online version of my original interview with Bookseller + Publisher Magazine, available here.

– The amazing Scott Westerfeld has spruiked the book in advance of the upcoming Sydney launch, which he will be hosting at Kinokuniya on 7 March. Squee!

And, for those of you who are interested, here are some photos from the Melbourne launch, which took place this past Saturday at Carlton Library:

1. My publisher, Paul Collins, kicking things off.

2. The crowd.

3. Me, reading the prologue aloud.

4. Kirstyn McDermott being awesome (but looking away from the camera!)

6. Me, expostulating.

And yes – that is a Beware of the Leopard t-shirt in honour of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, given to me by a cool and froody friend. Thanks, Smott!

UPDATE: I’ve also been interviewed by the wonderful Liv Hambrett of Trespass Magazine, for whom I also write a weekly column. Check it out!

Tomorrow, my husband and I will leave the house we’ve lived in for nearly four years, ever since we first moved to Melbourne. With the exception of the few clothes, books and things we’ll be taking with us to the UK, everything we own is in boxes, ready to go into storage for the next six months. Our bookshelves are bare, the daybed is stacked on its side, and thanks to Toby’s overzealous packing of the kitchen utensils, we’ve been living on tinned soup, frozen pizza and takeaway for the better part of a week. The cats have been in Bowral for nearly a fortnight. I find myself lying awake in bed, staring at the shadow-tinged walls and wondering how we’ll remember the place in a year, two years, five, ten. Physically, it’s a skinny terrace that feels like a train station. The bathroom is the size of a postage stamp with barely enough room to turn around. Leaky pipes have caused the paint on several walls to flake. There’s mould on the ceilings and not enough powerpoints. The ceilings are high enough that changing lightbulbs is a royal pain, even with a stepladder – the bedroom has stayed unlit for over a year, and only half the hall and lounge bulbs work. Even if we had one, there’s no space for a dining room table. The rent has increased 30% since we first moved in. Like hermit crabs in a too-small shell, we’ve gradually outgrown the place, accumulating more books, films and possessions than comfortably fit the interior, so that we’re constantly living amidst our own clutter.

But for nearly four years, it’s been ours. It’s the first house we picked together, the place we lived while engaged and to which we returned after our honeymoon. Toby’s parents and sister all ended up living in Albert Park because we were there, sliding down from Queensland in the space of three years. I’ve lived in other places since starting university, but this is the first house that’s felt like home. And small though it is, cramped as the bedside tables are and as much as the dodgy washing-line makes me grumble, I’ll miss that about it.

Between tomorrow and the 20th, we’ll be staying with my parents-in-law, whose current house is just up the road. Despite all the preparations for our five months in the UK, I didn’t quite believe we were going until earlier today, because I hadn’t really processed that we were leaving our little house forever. Whenever I think about getting on the plane, I feel a rush of exhiliration: we’re nearly there. We’ll be overseas until January 2010 – just two months before Solace & Grief is published. Next year is already significant. But 2009 is the year its all been built on: the year I signed a contract, went to my first convention, (hopefully) finished the sequal, spent my first New Year’s Eve in another country, visisted Scotland, celebrated my second wedding anniversary – and there’s so much still to look forward to.

But until then, I’m taking a moment to remember our funny, thin, impractical house. We’ve loved it, and now we’re leaving. Chances are, it won’t remember us, unless it turns out that walls have memories as well as ears. But we’ll remember it.