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May 2, 2016 / diannegray

Ulysses

After scoring a bronze in the Ruth Rendell short story award I’ve now been commissioned to write another story. I’ve been doing a happy dance since receiving this news yesterday – but it’s probably time to hang up my dancing shoes and get to work!

So I guess you’re wondering why I named this post Ulysses. 

It could be because I once read Ulysses by James Joyce as a bet with a friend who said I’d never get through it. Well, I got through it and at times it was a struggle but I’m really glad I did. Parts of it are completely unreadable, but I think this was due to the author experimenting with different styles of writing and use of language. Other parts of it flow like poetry and leave you with an overwhelming feeling that you’ve just stumbled upon the most beautiful words ever written. The most important lesson I learned from reading this book that there is no right way to write a story – be yourself, think like a child, write from your heart.

The other reason I could have named this post Ulysses is because I stumbled across a beautiful butterfly on my dog walk the other day. The Blue Mountain (or Ulysses) butterfly with its iridescent electric blue wings is unique to this part of the world. It was once a threatened species, but due to dedicated conservationists it’s now more prevalent.

Do you realise how hard it is to get a photo of these beauties? They move so fast! This one stayed still for me – what a star.

It’s just a baby – but still colourful.

Blue mountain butterfly

Then I saw this one – I don’t know the name for it but I see them everywhere here.
It must have been a good day for butterfliesButterfly

xxx Have a wonderful week! xxx

April 11, 2016 / diannegray

The power of insects

I came across a few strong little creatures on my walk last week.

The first ones I noticed were a line of ants carrying loads of white things from one side of the paddock to the other. Maybe they were moving house. I managed to get a clear shot of one of them (hey – ants are small so it wasn’t that easy).

Ant

A few kilometres on I heard a buzzing sound on the ground and saw two insects fighting or mating, (it’s hard to tell the difference in the insect world), or the third thing that could have been happening was the wasp emerging from a host insect (which is a pretty hideous thought!)

Wasps2
Once I had snapped this shot they flew (still joined together) to a branch and sat there for a while doing who-knows-what.

wasps
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want to be at the pointy end of that red wasp’s sting. Many years ago I was stung by something very similar. It managed to sneak beneath my shirt and get me on the stomach. As I was trying to get it off it also stung my fingers. I was very sick (including horrific burning and itching, fevers and nightmares) for about four days. I was also a passenger in a car when it happened and ended up jumping out while we were still moving (slowly – luckily!)

It was a bit scary for me to get this close to the beast, but I felt better once I’d taken the shot and knew I had (almost) overcome my fear of wasps.

Have you ever been so frightened by an insect that you’ve jumped out of a moving vehicle?
I hope not…

xxx Have a great week! xxx

April 4, 2016 / diannegray

Something I never do

I was feeling a little weird yesterday. Nothing was doing it for me. I sat down and tried to write with no luck, I tried to watch some TV with no interest, and took to the garden with no energy. I figured it must have been the three week blues hitting right on time after the death of my mother. The same thing happened when my father died. Three weeks on the dot and then three months on the dot after the tragedy I fell in a deep hole.

To pull myself out of this funk I did something I never do – I went for a walk to the creek without the dogs.

I guess you’re wondering why this is something I never do, so I’ll try to give a brief explanation. The dogs scare away nasties like snakes, razorback pigs and large goannas. Most of these creatures won’t hurt you if they hear you coming because they run off into the bush. And, believe me, my dogs (at around 60 kilos) are noisy as they thud around – you can hear them coming for miles.

So I walked off by myself down to the creek, wondering if I was going to creep up on some creature that would be scared by my sudden appearance and jump out to attack.

It was so different without the dogs. Normally they gallop across the ground, over the fields and then dive into the water without a care in the world. But without their riotous behaviour I saw things I’ve never seen before.

Fish!

Creek1

Okay – so you probably can’t see the fish, but they were occasionally coming to the surface to catch bugs so the ripples on the water are signs of where they’ve been.

Note before I continue: I upgraded my phone a few months back from Samsung to iPhone and I have to say, the iPhone takes absolutely crappy pictures compared to the Samsung (i.e. I hate it). In future I’ll be taking my old Samsung with me to take pics on my walk.

And then something I’ve never seen before – Blue-tailed Damselflies!

Damselflies

If you can’t see them, they are in the top right hand corner and not very clear (did I tell you I hated this iPhone?) There were about 20 of them flitting across the water, but I just couldn’t get the iPhone to focus clearly on them (and I took about 30 shots).

I climbed down into the waterfall and sat there for a while – something I never do with the dogs because they think it’s cuddle time and try to drown me.

waterfall

I came home from my walk feeling renewed and ready to take on the world again!

I was planning on taking photos of the new nest of red finches when they fledged, but the little blighters flew the coop before I could capture a few good shots. So instead, I’ll put a pic here of a guy that followed me around when I was down south with my mother.

This guy kept me company when I was away from the farm…

Cockatoo

…and every time I saw him he would say “HELLO!” which was a little freaky😀

***Have a great week***

March 24, 2016 / diannegray

Ruth Rendell Short Story Award – Top Three

It’s been a bitter/sweet few weeks for this old farm girl!

I found out a week before my mother passed away (last blog post) that I had been shortlisted in the top three of the Ruth Rendell short story award and was invited to the Hampstead Theatre in London for the awards event. The judge was the lovely and talented Lynda La Plante and the award only occurs every two years, but (naturally) my place was by my mother’s side where I stayed until the end. When I told her I had been shortlisted she was over the moon (she was my biggest fan and absolutely loved Baroness Ruth Rendell).

The story I wrote is called Pocketful of Posies and is the first story I’ve written in four years. I had been suffering a chronic bout of writer’s block (or just pure laziness), but when this one came up I just couldn’t resist putting pen to paper. I think we all need a little nudge sometimes – and this was my nudge! As it turns out I came third and am deeply honoured to be part of Ruth Rendell’s wonderful legacy.

Ever since writing this story I have had two more in my head fighting their way to the surface. So I’m hoping to have two novels written by the end of the year (I said hoping).

My forte is short stories. When I start a novel I want to cut to the chase immediately, no superfluous rubbish, loads of movement and action and then – The End. Unfortunately, this mode of writing isn’t the ideal for novels. I feel like the European tourist when they first land in Australia when I start writing a novel. This land is so BIG, there is far too much SPACE to work in and I feel agoraphobic!

When writing a novel I need to describe a character slowly instead of the short, sharp, punch approach. I need to dig deep into their lives, breathe their air, walk in their footsteps and feel their heartbeat for months on end. By the time I’m finished with a character they become part of my extended family and I often feel like talking about them with friends as if we all know them personally.

I’ve been called an unconventional writer because I actually only write when I feel like writing. This goes against everything we ever read about being a real writer. Apparently we’re supposed to force ourselves to write every day. I can’t do this because I don’t feel like writing every day. I write when the moment takes me and not a moment sooner – but I’m very glad I decided to write this story for such a great competition :)

I have another nest of Red Finches ready to take flight so I’m hoping to have some photos for you very soon.

***Have a great week!***

 

March 14, 2016 / diannegray

Just a short note

As some of you may know I’ve been away for over three weeks with my mother who has been in palliative care.  Saddly my mother passed away yesterday. I was at her side at the end and I’m so thankful to all the nurses and doctors who cared for her and for the precious time we shared in her last weeks.

I’m  without my laptop at the moment so writing posts and sharing information on social media isn’t as easy as I thought it would be on my tablet and phone.

I’ve closed comments mainly because I’m finding it difficult to navigate this new fangled machine – but I’ll be back home snuggly settled in a couple of weeks. The ‘like’ button doesn’t mean you like this post, it’s a show of love and support.

February 8, 2016 / diannegray

Writing and working and caring for the elderly

Half way through a Skype meeting for work (two Fridays ago) I heard my mother-in-law yelling out for me. I dropped everything and ran next door to find my father-in-law lying on the kitchen floor. He had slipped over and broken his leg. After the ambulance call, trip to the hospital, organising a walking frame and wheelchair and everything else that goes with an 80 year-old with a broken leg, I finally sat down on Tuesday and got back to my meeting (but everyone else was long gone – gee wiz, I wonder why).

Good organisation is the key to juggling work and writing and caring for the elderly. I try to be organised, but things can go very haywire, very quickly.

A typical day

I get up at 5:30am (this used to be 4:00am, but I’ve been sleeping-in lately). I get all my writing and blogging out of the way by 9:00am. At this time I visit my parents-in-law and chat with them about their day. Now my F-I-L has a broken leg this also means organising doctor’s appointments and food for them now that he can’t drive anywhere. (M-I-L doesn’t drive as she is in the early stages of dementia).

After 10:30 I get into my ‘paid work’ writing articles for government websites and meeting with co-workers online (the best job ever!)

The craziness continues until evening – making sure everyone is fed and I’ve taken the dogs for their hour-long walk to the creek and into the mountains (this is a great mental health break!)

Then I fall into bed exhausted by about 8:00pm. I used to be a night owl – I wonder what happened?

On a lighter note – a frog jumped into my mouth before the broken leg incident. I’m sure it was trying to kiss me, but there was no handsome prince on the other side of those lips. It jumped at my face just as I’d finished taking its picture. I was saying hello to it (I’m lucky I wasn’t yawning at the time).

Kissing frog

The guilty party AKA The Kissing Frog

The Kissing Frog looks big, but he’s actually quite small (about 1/4 the size of Jazzman).

How can you resist those eyes?

Back to the grind for me.

xxxI hope you have a great week!xxx

January 26, 2016 / diannegray

That’s what the doodle-do

When I watched The Big Lebowski many moons ago, I began referring to people as dudes as a bit of a joke. Over the years the word dude snuck its way into my silly vocabulary and stuck there.

Remember that dude, who…? I’ll say to friends, or some dude cut me off in traffic…

I didn’t realise how dude-ified I’d become until last weekend.

The setting: Sitting on the Writer’s Nook having a post-dinner wine with hubby and talking about a person we don’t know very well who was about to invest in something stupid.

Hubby – Should we tell him it’s a stupid investment?

Me – We barely know the dude

Hubby – I guess, but if it was me, I’d like to get advice on the risks

Me – We’re in no position to offer advice – we’re not experts in the field

Hubby – (concerned) But if we can see it’s stupid, why can’t he?

Me – Look, the dude will do what the dude will do. It’s not up to us

Hubby – Did you say doodle-do?

Me – No – I said the dude will do what the dude will do

Hubby – (laughing and pointing at me) You said, the doodle-do what the doodle-do!

Me – (embarrassed) No. I said the dude WILL do!

Hubby – doodle-do, doodle-do, doodle-do. That’s what the doodle-do! (he’s such a tease!)

This conversation was enough to put me off using the word dude for the rest of my life (when I stop laughing about it). In the end the man didn’t go through with the investment because someone else told him how stupid it was.

On a less embarrassing note…

…meet my new friend Jazzman (even he was laughing at me during the conversation about doodle-do). I called him Jazzman because I was listening to a jazzy Van Morrison song when I first saw him.

Frog3

Hello – my name is Jazzman

Frog2

I’d be a great piano player

I took a photo of him using the flash a few nights later and he looked like he belonged in a horror movie. Poor Jazzman!

Jazzman

What the hell have you done to my eyes?

xxx Have a great week! xxx

 

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