Category Archives: writing

Toni Jordan on Character and Dialogue at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre

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Toni Jordan is actually more radiant in person

Once upon a time there was a writer locked in a tower. She did not grow her hair long, she did not dream of a knight so bold to rescue her. Instead she sat and thought about characters and dialogue and how she would like to declare war on adverbs. She didn’t want it to be a short and relatively peaceful war. No, she wanted all adverbs to be captured and interrogated and then inevitably executed. Maybe 2% of them would live, but the rest would die. And so one day, when she had escaped her tower, she came unto the Callan Park Centre of Writerly Deeds, and there she did enlist the help of peasant writers to join her in her war. The writer’s name was Toni Jordan, and this is the story of the day she taught a Character and Dialogue class at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre.

 

Toni Jordan strode through the doors of the Judith Wright room, drew her mighty whiteboard marker and declared, “Today we wage war, who is with me!”

 

A gentlemen opposite me adjusted his glasses and gulped. I dusted the biscuit crumbs off my woolly vest and stood up.

 

‘Ummm, okay…. Will we be back in time for morning tea?’

 

There was a murmur of agreement around the room. Morning tea was important.

 

‘What is food when our minds be starving?’ Toni stabbed her marker higher into the air.

 

‘What about lunch?’ a lady in the far corner managed to pop down a hot cuppa to say. ‘There’ll be lunch right.’

 

‘We’ll definitely need lunch,’ the woman sitting next to me managed to say around a mouthful of sugar snap peas. ‘I get super cranky if I don’t eat.’

 

‘Yeah, same.’ I nod knowingly at the green bean machine to my side. ‘I love a good literary war as much as the next person but could we perhaps declare it after lunch?’

 

Toni Jordan seemed to deflate on the spot, her marker sank to her side.

 

‘Why’s it always so fucking hard here?’ She’s not even looking at us, she’s staring at the ground as if hoping it will answer her. And truth be told it’s probably more sensible than the rest of us. ‘In Melbourne we have literary wars and cocktails more often then I change my underpants.’ An older gentleman at the back of the room begins to snigger a little. ‘WHICH IS A LOT! I change them very often, thank you very much. My underwear aren’t the problem. It’s not me, it’s you. You’re all so bloody interested in biscuits.’

 

‘Would you like one?’ I say.

 

Toni shrugs, I take it to mean yes, and pull out one of the seven packets I have brought. Our great lecturer sits down at her desk and begins to mournfully chew her way through a Belgian chocolate virtuoso.

 

‘Alright, let’s just do a workshop.’

 

And so began one of the best workshops of my life. Okay, part of the above may have been made up, but Toni Jordan did come to the New South Wales Writers’ Centre, she did teach us about character and dialogue, and she does hate adverbs. She really does.

 

I know at this point I am supposed to give you all the hot tips that she gave us, but quite frankly, I don’t want to because I just don’t think I would do the course justice. This was the best dialogue course I have ever done and for you to really get the benefit of it, you really should attend a workshop with Toni Jordan, or get a mentorship with her.

I’ll list a few things, but my mind is still going a mile a minute trying to process everything. It really was an extraordinary course. I think it was because we had the opportunity to do several writing tasks on the same thing, character, but focusing on different strategies each time. I guess that’s why you really had to be there. I’ll slap down a few general pointers for you, but, as I have said eleventy billion times, you really need to do a course with Toni Jordan yourself.

 

Tips

  • Multiple protagonists makes your job harder and don’t often make the story better
  • A weakness in your writing is not an excuse to shove in more protagonists
  • Readers can relate to characters without them having to be the protagonist (Ron, Hermione)
  • Your protagonist should either be skilled, in jeopardy, elicit sympathy, or be likeable
  • Avoid having your character being still and alone where possible
  • Always have subtext
  • Every character matters
  • Inconsistencies in character can help bring them to life
  • Dialogue is to reveal character
  • Dialogue for each character needs to be so distinct that you can pick it without dialogue tags
  • Believability is more important than accuracy
  • BAN ADVERBS! (But #notalladverbs, you can keep some)

 

I’m writing historical fantasy at the moment, what are you working on right now?

Toni Jordan is the only author in Australia known to have a dedicated fan page to her socks on Pinterest.

Toni Jordan’s website can be found here.

Toni Jordan twitter account can be found here.

Toni Jordan Facebook page can be found here.

 

Find the New South Wales Writers’ Centre  here.

Find the New South Wales Writers’ Centre on Facebook here

Find the New South Wales Writers’ Centre on Twitter here.

 

 

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: the musical ( #bePNDaware )

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Quick confession, the title is a tad misleading. My blog posts on postnatal depression, which I always start with Confessions of a Mad Mooer, are not being converted into a musical… but I have used them as a basis for a book! That’s right, a book. I have written a book about my journey through postnatal depression mainly focused on my month long stay in a psychiatric hospital with my twins when they were newborns. My first blog entry on this can be found here. And the good news is, that you will be able to get it in both print and e format.

So in honour of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, which starts today Sunday the 13th of November, I am doing a dramatic cover reveal even though my book is not due to be released until December. TADAH!

Look at her. Isn’t she magnificent? The art and cover design were done by Sally Walsh from Sillier than Sally Designs. I’ve never loved an image containing my own melon so much. I simply showed her the linked blog post, said that the picture in it represented my time in the psychiatric hospital, mentioned that I liked orange and birds, then asked if I gave her monies could she give me a cover. She said yes and managed to create this amazing piece of art.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer will be out in December. Talk about the perfect Cristmas gift for the  hot mammas in your life. 
Keep your eyes on this page for more information coming up about the release of my memoir about postnatal depression and my month long stay in a psychiatric hospital. Excerpts and giveaways are coming your way this week, I promise.

I will be doing a blog post about postnatal depression everyday this week as a nod to Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. Please do check in regularly or all the news.

For more information on Postnatal Depression Awareness Week please go here.

And as always, any women who suffer from any form of depression or anxiety are welcome to join my own FB girl-tribe group which is pro mystical troll but doesn’t allow any nasty trolling.

https://facebook.com/groups/563402577109194

If you or anyone you know is depressed, here are some great links:

PANDA http://www.panda.org.au/

PIRI http://www.piri.org.au/

Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

4 Things You Must Never Do in Blogging

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Today my humble blog turns 4, so I felt I’d celebrate by sharing with you the secrets I have learned through hosting this highly* successful blog.

1. Don’t vary your content too much.

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If you’re a spec fic writer stick to writing about spec fic and the writing process. Whatever you do don’t share short stories, then start doing horoscopes, then start covering writers festivals, then bitch about your codeine allergy, then start blogging about your journey through PND, then start doing TV recaps, then start doing stuff about your love of Australian writers… particularly if that stuff frequently involves references to wine and sticks rather than writers. That kind of jumping about would just confuse your audience. You have to remember that blog readers are vapid creatures that can only focus on one thing at a time. Count them, O N E. So make sure you just do the same shit every single day.

2. Don’t swear.

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You’ll look like a fucking idiot. Only people with a limited imagination swear. Don’t believe me, then fucking google it. Plenty of studies have been done into messy people who swear a lot and their intelligence. Pretty sure they all conclusively say that anal, sterile people, who never feel, and never show emotion are waaaayyyy more totes mega smart than foul mouthed fuckers.

3. Don’t get political.

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Sure, you saw this meme and thought it was the funniest thing ever. Don’t share it. Not even if you can find some tenuous link as to why you’d share it. Just don’t. Sure, you find the idea of men talking about women as if they’re a piece of meet deplorable, but somehow that doesn’t come across in ANYTHING you’ve published and you’ve got a shit load of supporters who love to grab that pussy. I’d suspect that the vast majority of the followers of this blog, written by a woman and a feminist, are lolling all day long about crazee ladeez and them wanting bodily autonomy. Because somehow my incredibly subtle profemale stance has passed them by. So if I posted that meme I’d lose 90% of my followers, so I sure won’t do something like that.

4. Don’t ever put out anything with grammos, typos, spellos, or any kind of os.

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If you , like I do, make mistakes, people will quite rightly assume that you’re a pathetic waste of space and that you don’t deserve to communicate in writing with anyone, ever. Fuck all of us dyslexics. Fuck us in the left temporal lobe. If we want to be taken seriously we should hire a professional editor for every single blog entry. Not just published books, everything. Every tweet, every comment, even emojis. Because every rude, snob, who doesn’t have any sort of visual or translation issue is a better person than us, and what they have to communicate is more important and insightful than any of us have to communicate. It’s just simple science. Heck, it’s probably a “vaccine injury.” We did this shit to ourselves. I strongly recommend that we just don’t even blog at all because we’re such turds on the face of written communication. We should all just go into the woods and eat worms.

5. Don’t break promises to your audience.

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If you said you’d give them 4 secrets to effective blogging then you better deliver. It’s literally the lowest form of humour to do one more or less. Failing your audience not only makes you a failure as a human being, but also untrustworthy. If you’ve lied about unlocking the secrets to successful blogging then what else are you hiding? Mascara, pushup bras, your own private chocolate stash that you share with no one?

6. Most of all, don’t listen to blowhards like me on the Interwebs.

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Be yourself, do things your way. Let your audience appreciate you for who you are. After all, you want your audience, not a bunch of bots.

* The word I’m looking for was probably un.

My Son Pitched a Novel Idea to Three Writers and Not Me

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Today my youngest child, yes the youngest by a minute twin, child number 3, got my phone and tweeted. He went into a twitter conversation that I was not part of, god knows how he ended up there, and decided to join it. He tweeted the following message:

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So yeah, he tweeted award winning author Margo Lanagan, award winning author Deborah Biancotti, and Elijah who I am not familiar with but assume is a spec fic writer. Thanks Bubba, I already do enough “character building” stuff on my own without you adding to it. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out what he was trying to say:

Hey Deborah, Elijah, and Margo,
Here’s my story idea which is so hot you’ll have to invent a new word like “settrfgaaszz” to describe it. You start with a love story. Like seriously in love, double the amount of kissing you’d normally have but then they get angy, and they’re like I can’t take this shit anymore, I’m not just fed up I’m fucking angry. So then this cow shows up, but the cow is like a metaphor for a bird, but the bird is really symbolic of a sheep dressed as a turtle. The turtle is the important bit. Don’t forget the turtle. Look, I’ll put it in twice so that you don’t forget. Trust me, turtles are going to be big! And then they get swallowed by a whale. Yeah it’s been done before, plenty before, but we’re bringing  it back with turtles! Now this whale is allergic to tomatoes. So in the dead of night he accidentally eats a tomato and spews the angry lovers and the turtle off of the planet Earth. It’s like biblical and Pinocchio and Hitch Hikers all at once. So then they get caught by an anchored monolith in space. A sacred monolithic statue in space. But inside there’s like a whole market and town and stuff. There’s even a statue inside the statue. How meta is that. Their main commerce is love so there’s a few love chapels, love factories, love hospitals. And so they go to the love hospital. Will they or won’t they find a cure? Awesome right? We’ll earn heaps of money on this. You’ll earn 6767% more money than you ever dreamed of. Pounds, Euros, you name it, we’ll earn it. Seriously, I cannot express how much money we’ll get. We’ll be bathing in money. Lots of bathing in money. Bathing and showering in money. All because of love hospitals and statutes within statues!!!

Firstly, I’m obviously impressed that he speaks Indonesia. He’s only two and he speaks twin, some English, and apparently Indonesian. Secondly, I’m slightly guilt ridden that I did not realise this before. Where has my head been at that I didn’t pick that up? No wonder he’s off sending tweets to people, I’m clearly not with it. But thirdly, and mostly, I’m hurt. I’m hurt that he didn’t pitch his idea to me first. Clearly we’ve got a lot of work to do on our relationship.

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Be what you wanna be. Do what you wanna do. Read what you wanna read. Yeah!

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You know what I am tired of? The need for articles coming out in defense of Women’s Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Genre Fiction in general. Every day my newsfeed has multiple articles on this phenomenon, and sadly, they are still needed. For some reason people just cannot seem to get the point that we do not live in an English classroom where book titles are dictated by necessity so that knowledge and understanding can be tested in a standardized way that the government requires. In real life people can read and enjoy whatever they want… AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO TELL THEM THAT THEY CANNOT!

Sorry guys, I know I went all caps there. It got scary, I was even a bit scared of my own emotions but this book shaming is really starting to get my goat. And if there is one thing regular followers of this blog know, it’s that I don’t like anyone looking at or touching my goat, let alone taking it. Don’t make me go all Liam Neeson on your arse over my goat. I have a terrible Irish accent and nobody will benefit from this scenario. Now let’s get back to the heavy stuff. You’ve had your levity break!

This morning a picture captioned “A call for respectful discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey – It is okay to and welcome to criticize a book. It is not okay to be a terrible person” was on my newsfeed. Yesterday an insightful article by Marian Keyes entitled, “Please can we stop saying ‘chick-lit'” caught my attention. For the former here’s what I have to say, love it or hate it, you have no right to dictate to someone what they enjoy reading. I love reading James Joyce. People often tell me I am a shameless wanker and that Joyce is likewise a wanker and hence we should just die in wankerhood together. It isn’t going to stop me loving James Joyce. His writing just really sits well with me. As does Julian Barnes. It doesn’t matter what you say, I will continue to love them, and read them and reread them. And although I quite happily debate the merits of Barnes and Joyce with people and am fine with people not loving them, when people resort to name calling and put downs it’s a bit much. Those people are poo poo heads, yes I get the irony. Same thing with Fifty Shades, lovers, if it vibes with them, if they enjoy it, if it gives them a moment’s escape from their lives, go for it. Love it, read it. Get inspired, go read more books, yeah! Go ahead, don’t like Fifty Shades, criticize it, but when you start being nasty to people who like it, well you’ve lost the argument, you’ve lost respect, you’ve lost yourself.

As for Marian Keyes plea – please stop saying Chick Lit, I both agree wholeheartedly yet disagree at the same time. Does Marian Keyes, hate chick lit? No, of course not. Is she saying it sucks? No, of course not. Is she pointing out that the term is used as a put down? Yes. Is it a put down? Yes and no. The term Chick Lit is often used by men and women alike, to put down works that focus on women. Novels in this genre tend to have successful female leads, with professional ambitions and a quirky group of friends, add to this a man often comes along and catches the lead characters eye. Then things of course get complicated, job goes to shit, fall out with friends, love interest goes all skewwhiff, then the strong female leads, pulls herself together, gets her groove back, gets her job back, gets her friends back and then the cherry on the cake, last of all, gets her man. Sounds a lot like real life, professional woman + career goals + crazy friends + a bit of romance. Hardly something that should be put down. I mean people rave about the Bronte sisters. They write about the same stuff. “Oh it is just silly fluff, about love,” you hear people say. Yeah, because love is just so stupid. Having meaningful connections is just ridiculous and would never happen in great literature. Dickens, Shakespeare, Virgil, none of these dudes would ever write about silly love stories. To be honest, typically in Chick Lit the love interest is actually the icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, frosting is important, I like me a big chunk of butter cream. If I have the choice between frosted or unfrosted… well let’s just call me Elsa. But the female lead tends to have to sort out her career and friends first. That is the priority, it’s not that the love interest doesn’t get a lot of the word count dedicated to them, but the priority, the first things first, goes to career and bat shit crazy friends. Where would we be without out friends? How could we pay rent without our job? It’s a bit realistic isn’t it? Sure it gets mashed up with wit and humour but there’s a lot of deep stuff in Chick Lit, but there is a lot of truth and tragedy included. So why put it down? The answer is quite simply, because we live in a society that trivializes women and their experiences, and for women to get ahead they almost have to turn on their own kind. The bagging of the term Chick Lit is simply a manifestation of that. So as far as I can see you can call it whatever you like, Commercial Women’s Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Clit Lit, Vagraphy (okay I made that one up, I just wanted to use vag somewhere for my own amusement), the same issue will arise. People will put it down. People, what a bunch of bastards. Hopefully society progresses, that’s what needs to happen, and we are getting there, but until then, no matter how many terms we throw at stories for and about women, they will get trivialized. They’ll sell, because us bitches be smart and good with the books and the learning and stuff, but it’ll be marginalized.

Whoa. Robin, what just happened? Did you just go all overt feminist on our arses. Yeah, I kind of did. Commercial Women Writers tend to do that. Sorry. We give you plenty of shits and giggles, but we give you a message too. Let’s just take a deep breath and hug it out.

Prepublication: What Happens in Book Club…

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As those of you who have read my ABOUT section will know it states that this blog is – “The works of Robin Riedstra unedited, unchecked, unkempt and totally untamed. Read them if you dare travel through the grammatical jungle.” So I thought I should give you a sneak peek at roughly the first 5,000 words prior to editing. Typos, grammos, and the occasional just plain wrongo, all there. I think you’ll still have plenty of fun reading it. Will post a link when the editing is finalized and the book is live on Amazon.

What happens in Book Club… is unashamedly Commercial Fiction for Women. I am a woman, I write stories that I’d like to read. So if you hated all things Bridget Jones, Pride and Prejudice, Devil Wears, Jane Eyre, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Wuthering Heights, and Sex in the City… For the love of your sanity read no more! What Happens in Book Club… opens at the end of Gwyn’s book club’s meeting about Fifty Shades, it is awkward to say the least and the women decide that they need a year of classics to cleanse their minds. But unfortunately this doesn’t help Gwyn, who now seems to see sex and sexy sexing in every text she reads. Mr Rochester, Mr Clerval and Mr Bingley never looked so good… and so bad. 😦

Warning: Contains a sexy silver fox and my love of my hometown Sydney is very apparent. Think of it as Sex in the SYDNEY. Lol.

What happens in Book Club…

Bookclub cover websiteIt was over. We all stared at each other in awkward silence. The dirty deed had been done, empty wine glasses sat on the dingy bar table between us and we did not quite know how to move forward from this point. There needed to be empty shot glasses lined up as far as the eye could see for the women in the book club to be able to meet each other’s gazes again.

‘I think now that Fifty Shades is done we should cleanse our loins with a classic of some sort,’ Selene finally broke the silence. She was the leader of our little book club. Bright red lipstick, slick black hair, and dark brown eyes. If she would just wear a short black dress instead of business suits, she would fit right in on the set of a Robert Palmer video.

‘I think about a year of strong women is in order,’ Mac agreed vigorously. Her face was almost as red as her hair. She dabbed absentmindedly at a wine stain on the frilly long sleeved blouse she was favouring of late. It must be another pirate phase or failing that Shakespeare?

The rest of us still just stared at our hands too embarrassed to look at one another. Some had flicked through Fifty Shades and only read the sexy bits, desperados; some had flicked past the sexy scenes, prudes; and others had stopped reading because the sentence structure made their brains hurt, snobs. Either way, Fifty Shades had stirred up something inside of us that nobody wanted to name or discuss. Our book club was usually so boisterous that we disturbed other patrons. Thank God we knew how to drink, otherwise we would have been far too much bother. Instead, we were welcomed each month. Well, at least our wallets were. However, that once a month shrill disturbance at the Longie had been practically a whisper this evening. We should have drunk more wine. All that was on the table between us was a few empty glasses and E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey standing erect in the middle of them. It almost seemed to pulsate and call out to people, ‘Look what these naughty girls have been reading.’

‘So, Pride and Prejudice?’ Selene asked.

There was a general murmur of agreement before everyone but Selene, Mac and I fled the scene.

‘Well, that was awkward.’ I finally found words.

‘No shit, Gwyn,’ Mac slumps back in her chair and drains the remains of her seventh wine glass.

‘What was up with you?’ Selene clearly does not have a bad case of loving me this evening. ‘We rely on you to say inappropriate things at poorly positioned moments to lighten the mood.’

‘To be honest after reading about a lot of sex I don’t want to talk about it, I just want to go out and have it. Just a lot less rapey.’ Unfortunately, as a boring schoolteacher, reading about a bunch of erotic sex was about as close as I was going to come to… well… cumming.

‘Perfect. Why didn’t you say that?’ Selene challenges me. ‘It would have opened up a whole lot of conversation.

‘I don’t want to talk about sex with those women!’ I am utterly aghast. ‘They’re old enough to be my mother.’

‘Actually,’ Mac has apparently appointed herself as my fact checker, ‘only seven of our members are old enough to be your mother.’

‘I just wasn’t feeling it today,’ I mumble into my hands.

‘I’m feeling something.’ Mac has managed to un-potato sack herself and is sitting bolt upright, breasts stuck out as if attempting to push their way out of her pirate shirt into her intended target’s hands.

‘You were quiet tonight ladies,’ the barman flashes his perfectly white teeth at us. As he collects our glasses, he pushes a strand of blonde hair away from his eyes. His electric blue eyes run a warm current up my spine. ‘I missed your laugh red.’

Mac dissolves into giggles on the spot.

‘Yours too red.’ He is looking at me. I feel like I am being struck by lightning as he focuses the full force of his charisma on me.

‘First week back at school,’ I purr. Every man has a sexy schoolteacher fantasy. ‘Those kids are running me ragged.’

‘She isn’t really a red-head,’ Mac throws water on our moment and it fizzles out. ‘I am.’ Dear God, are her breasts growing.

His tractor beam shifts from me to Mac and she meets it head on with her laser green eyes. Ugh, of course she will win. Damn those green eyes. All I can shoot back at him is a poor imitation of his own, much more spectacular, blue.

‘I’m sure I’ll find out one day,’ he flirts back, then walks back to the bar leaving Mac with a wink to keep her warm.

‘He’s so hot,’ Mac swoons back into her chair hugging her wink to her chest.

‘He looks like a lost Hemsworth brother,’ I sigh.

‘Forget that!’ Evidently, Selene is still not happy. ‘You better bring your A Grade Ditz routine next month. Your weird humour always makes them open up. And that is what we are here for. Info.’

‘Sorry,’ I frown at my hands. ‘It’s Maureen’s fault.’

‘She wasn’t even here’ Selene rolls her eyes at my seemingly poor excuse.

‘Yeah, but she’s so wild. She would have put a firecracker up this evening’s arse… and… well… I’m just horny,’ I confess.

‘We’re all bloody horny,’ Selene explodes.

A silver fox businessman at the bar looks over at us.

‘Get a bloody vibrator,’ Selene is clearly still unimpressed with my excuses.

Hemsworth from behind the bar stifles a snicker.

This is not my night.

Selene sits for a while fuming until she finally calms down. ‘Sorry. I’m just frustrated. We’re only running this book club so that we can find out what women want so we can write a great book, but tonight we got nothing! How does that help me get published? I’m just so frustrated. I want to write Fantasy, but nobody wants to publish fairy stories, so we try to write something people want but the people aren’t speaking to us. This should have been a slam-dunk. That book was so popular. They should have been gas bagging away like nothing else telling us what worked. But no. It’s just… I mean… I’ve gotta head.’ She kisses Mac and I on the forehead and says, ’emails tomorrow girls,’ and then vanishes.

‘I’d like someone’s head,’ Mac drools. She has somehow managed to get her hands on her eighth glass of wine whilst Selene and I argued. The tip of her delicately upturned nose is already starting to turn a far too merry shade of pink. It is going to be a long night.

*          *          *

‘Did Hemsworth see me throw-up?’ Mac is looking at me with such pleading eyes as I strap her into her taxi that I find it within my heart to lie to her.

‘No.’

‘Did he see me trip over?’

Yes, it was at that point that he called you this cab.

‘No.’

‘Good.’ Mac smiles for a moment and then starts to cry.

I smile sympathetically at the driver before standing up, closing the door, and rapping the taxi on the roof to let him know he is good to go. I stand back, breathe in the fresh night air, and stretch out my neck after the strain of carrying Mac to the cab. I cannot be mad. Half the time it is me.

The North Sydney Street is practically empty at this time of night. Wednesday nights are not known for their wildness in these parts. I am sure Coogee would be off the hook right now but it is nice and peaceful here. I need a taxi of my own but it could be a long while. A miracle, a yellow glowing beacon comes swinging around the corner like a golden gift from the Gods, hooray, I am saved from waiting for hours for cab never to arrive and eventually walking home.

I go to put my arm out to wave the taxi down but I am beaten. The silver fox from the bar has just exited the bar and already has his arm out waving down the taxi.

What an arse hole.

The taxi pulls up and he opens the door then pauses and stares back at me. He has the most amazing blue eyes that I have ever seen. His perfect lips break into a grin and he calls out to me.‘Care to share a cab?’

I do not know where he is going but I do know that this is probably my last chance for a cab and so going a few minutes out of my way to drop him off is probably worth it. Besides, there are worse ways to spend an extended cab ride than gazing at that perfect mouth. Then again, my mother did tell me not to get into cars with strangers.

Well I guess that decides it then.

I nod enthusiastically and charge forward.

*          *          *          *          *

I stare out at a sea of bored faces. Fifteen-year-old boys and girls are sitting slumped in their chairs as if I am their cult leader and have just given them a spiked communion. Me teaching Geography is definitely one of the signs of the apocalypse, so there is probably some truth to this metaphor.

‘I’m bored,’ whines a girl wearing more eyeliner than I actually own.

I want to yell at her, ‘It’s only the first week back, how can you be bored already? There are no boring subjects, just boring people!’ But I do not.

‘Well of course you’re bored,’ I respond with a sniff, ‘this is Geography, I’m not a miracle worker.’

The class giggles in response. Always a good idea to humour the teacher.

‘Seriously Miss, this is so stupid, when am I going to have to know about coastal management?’ Eyeliner questions me with a pout from her highly glossed lips.

Mental note: bring sunglasses to class, gloss is back in, big time.

Mental, mental note: I love gloss, buy more… and put some glitter on that list. And tampons, ugh, my lower back is killing, I’ll be needing them soon.

I try not to let out a sigh. I felt the same level of What the fuck is happening to our society? when I was asked why we had to study The Removalists last year. Apparently, domestic violence just is not an issue anymore. I take a deep breath to calm myself so that I avoid giving an impassioned speech that will only proceed to alienate the student, a feat I did not manage last year. I still remember the parent phone call after I had reduced their seventeen-year-old daughter to tears with current domestic violence incidents in the news. Making kids cry is not cool. I proceed to attempt to meet her needs in a way meaningful to her.

‘Tell you what,’ I bargain, ‘we get through all our work for the week today and we can watch an interesting show instead of working on Friday.’ Ah, the evil genius of the teacher, using media and celebrities to make points that our lame selves cannot. They will get educated quite happily if I tell them they are not learning.

A general murmur of agreement comes from the class and the previously roofied class turns into a class on speed. It is my turn to slide down in my chair in a rohypnoled state. I stare at the clock. I have an important chat date with the girls at 3:05pm. It is important, it is tradition… it is habit. We always have a chat catch-up at 3:05pm. It is the one thing I can rely on. I may spend my rent money on shoes, I might forget my own phone number, I might even forget that I am a non-smoker and have a few cheeky cigarettes on a big night out… okay, a few packs, BUT, I know that every weekday, like clockwork, I will have a flurry of emails from the girls at 3:05pm. Easy for me, it is the end of my school day, but how the girls manage to schedule it in everyday is a miracle to me. A miracle that I am not going to question. I am just thankful that my high flying Executive Assistant pal Selene and my Banker buddy Mac can make time for a cretin like me.

TICK

The minute hand moves from 3:03 to 3:04.

‘Okay guys, time to pack up.’

A flurry of noise and activity erupts that makes me believe that perhaps I have just announced the end of the world. This may explain why the students are constantly bringing stashes of food to class. Always better to be safe than sorry.

‘Remember to put your chairs up on the desks,’ I yell over the thundering storm.

‘Miss,’ a tall boy I always have to remind to take off his baseball hat, complains as he no doubt will every single lesson, ‘No other teachers make us do this. It’s so Primary School.’

Ouch, the ultimate insult. Unfortunately, I happen to like cut and paste, and glitter, so would make a most excellent primary school teacher.

‘Yes, and that is why I have got the cleanest floors out of everyone,’ I dutifully give out my standard response. ‘If you make it easier for the cleaners, they’ll treat you right.’ I finish it off with a wink and the lanky boy blushes a bit. Oh dear, another one. I will have a week of being stalked followed by months of being called a lesbian. Oh what fun. I hope that he is more creative in his toilet graffiti than the last kid. A picture of a stick figure with enormous boobs with my name written next to it is just so last season.

The bell goes and without awaiting any instructions, the students run for the hills.

I open up my laptop. Our group email has already started.

Selene: How’d you end up?

Mac: Drunk, but thankfully managed not to embarrass myself and got home in one piece.

Selene: Sure you did.

Mac: Seriously I did. Ask Gwyn.

Me: I had sex.

Selene: We need to meet now.

Mac: What the fuck?

Mac: Bullshit!

Mac: You lie!

Mac: Yeah we need to meet.

Mac: The Usual?

Mac: Come on guys, you’re killing me. The Usual?

Mac: 5pm?

Mac: Guys!!!!!!!

Selene: Chill out Mac. It’s been like 5 fucking seconds, not everybody types as fast as you do.

Mac: Shut up mole.

Selene: Game on mole.

Me: You’re both moles. See you at 5:30pm.

Mac: Fine. 5:30pm. You better be on time.

Mac: None of this 154 minutes late shit.

Mac: *15 minutes

Mac: Any details to share in advance?

Mac: Who was it?

Mac: Did I speak to him?

Mac: Guys?

Selene: See you at 17:30.

Mac: You girls suck!

*          *          *          *          *

When I arrive at the Usual, Selene and Mac are already sitting at our usual table. Nice and close to the dark timber bar and a high table with high stools so we can semi stand and not have our thighs go all squidgy on the seats. It may be our Usual but we are not animals, we still want to look hot. Just not actually utilise that hotness to its full potential. Mac is tapping at her wristwatch with a frown whilst Mac is staring meaningfully at the ornate, silver watch hanging around her neck. I am only five minutes late but clearly she and Selene got here early in anticipation. How did they get out of work early for this? Why did they get out of work early just for me?

‘Sorry I’m five minutes late,’ I say dumping my over-seized beige, faux-alligator skin handbag on the corner of the table.

‘Seriously, you’re the first one to get off, how can you be the last one here?’ Mac is not happy with even a five minute tardy. Selene comes across as the uptight one but deep down it is Mac. She adjusts her frilly pink blouse and squints those green eyes at me. I swear she knows her eyes are special so she uses them as a weapon as much as possible.

‘Apparently she was the last one to get off,’ Selene smiles into her wine glass. I laugh in return. Sensible Selene is here customary black business suit. How many of those things must she own? At least one hundred and fifty.

‘Oh shut up you two,’ Mac is frustrated. ‘So, details? Who was it? Was it Thor?’

Ahhhh, now it makes sense, she is worried that I have been getting my hand on the God of Thunder’s hammer.

‘Come on, spill.’ Selene as always is simple, direct and to the point.

‘Ladies, chill, at least buy me a drink before violating my privacy.’ Two sets of eyes stare at me. One set green, the other brown, but identically unimpressed. ‘Okay, at least let me buy myself a pint before you start in on me.’

I spin to get up and nearly clash with an unfortunate looking bar tender.

‘Hey Gwyn,’ he is like a puppy, practically panting, ‘a customer ordered a pint and then decided they wanted something else, so I thought I’d bring it over to you. I know it’s your usual.’

I thank him for his generosity but assure him he really should not put himself out on my behalf. He stares at me with big cow eyes, which let me know that it is far too late for that.

I turn back to Mac and Selene.

‘We need to find a new Usual.’

‘No,’ there is no arguing with Selene. ‘You made your bed, now you lie in it.’

‘How is this even my fault?’

‘You shouldn’t have flashed him,’ Selene responds flatly.

‘But I was drunk, it was late, we should have moved onto a new location by then. I clearly remember saying that we should leave. I know that you never stay at your local to disgrace yourself.’ I plead.

‘I’m more interested in hearing how you disgraced yourself last night,’ Mac butts in, ‘and with who.’

‘Do you remember the Silver Fox?’

Two heads shake no at me.

‘There was a hot older business man, really good suit, amazing smile, dimples? He was there with a bunch of other suits, and stood at the bar.’

I am met with shrugs.

‘Well, him.’

‘So, not Thor?’ Mac asks.

‘Not Thor,’ I respond slightly frustrated. ‘Mr Grey.’

‘What?’ Selene is looking at me incredulously.

‘You know, like in the book.’

‘Oh my God!’ Mac is staring at me aghast. ‘You didn’t read the book. He doesn’t have grey hair.’ Not reading the assigned book is Mac’s equivalent of swearing in church. I am a little stunned by the attack.

‘I know,’ I raise my hands trying to placate her rage, ‘I read it.’ She is still glaring at me. Clearly, she does not believe me. ‘I just thought it was a funny play on words. And he was all hot and businessy and we’d just been reading about all hot and businessy so I thought…’

‘Why not fuck an old man?’ Selene interrupts bluntly.

‘He wasn’t old! He was one of those just going silver guys, still young and fit.’ So fit, so hot, strong body, abs that you could carve a mountain with, so fucking hot. Hard body pressed up against me, lips mashing, tongues touching, hands gliding along skin, hot mouth running along my neck, hands clutching at my thighs, buttocks, lips teasing nipples.

‘Are you still with us?’ Mac is waving her hands up and down in front of my face.

‘Sorry, I was just having a flashback.’

‘A flashback?’ Selene is frowning at me with her WTF face. ‘You went to war last night? With the Grey Man?’

I nod slowly and my crotch twinges at the memory.

‘Sexnam,’

‘Sounds intense,’ Mac is leaning forward, eyes bright with anticipation for details.

‘I’m now suffering from PTSD, Post Tremendous Sex Desire.’

‘That’s hot,’ Selene says.

‘That is hot,’ Mac gives a confirmation on that.

‘He really loved my hair,’ I can still feel his hands running through my hair. ‘He said he has a thing for gingers.’

‘You’re not a real ginger,’ Mac’s rebuttals come virtually automatically these days.

‘My hair might be fake but my orgasms certainly weren’t.’

‘Orgasms?’ Selene picks up on the plural.

‘Oh yeah, multiple orgasms.’

‘I need a vibrator,’ Selene always knows just what to say.

An Irish backpacker sitting behind us swivels around with his best attempt at a suave grin pasted onto his sweaty face.

‘Ladies, have you ever heard of an Irish eight-pack…’

‘No!’ Selene’s word is final.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

‘Have you read it?’ Mac is looking at me accusingly over my pint. She seems to be attempting to coordinate her drinks with the colour of her bronze sequined top. A new level of fashion obsession even for Mac. Is she into disco now? I have only just got used to her pirate princess look.

‘Read it?’ I am slightly offended, ‘I’ve taught Pride and Prejudice!’

‘So you’re definitely prepared to speak at tomorrow’s book club meeting?’

‘Of course!’ Our routine, pre-book club, book clubs are not usually so hostile. ‘Why are you getting so sassy? Save your arguments for the Longi. We don’t want to taint our usual hang out.’

‘By flashing our tits at the barman?’

‘It was my bra!’

‘Settle down girls,’ Selene has had enough of our bickering. ‘They should be thankful to see Gwyny’s B cups. But, to be totally honest, you were awfully quiet last month. It kind of stuffed up the whole vibe of the evening.’

‘I’m sorry. I was just embarrassed. I already told you, I just didn’t want to discuss sex with those women. They’re old.’

‘Too embarrassed to talk about it but not too embarrassed to fuck about it,’ Mac spits out.

‘Woah, what is your problem?’ Sure Mac is feisty, and she loves our book club, but this is ridiculous. ‘Have you got your period or something?’

‘Ohhhhhh,’ I can see Selene shrink down as if she wishes to duck for cover. If it is true it will snap Mac right out of it, if it is not, there might just be a catfight in our Usual.

‘That is so insulting,’ Mac sniffs loudly then breaks into a grin, ‘but yes I do.’

I nod understandingly and we touch hands.

‘Let me get you a nice Sav Blanc and we can talk about Pride and Prejudice further.’

‘You going to bang a Darcy this month?’ Mac asks as I am walking away. I shake my head and laugh. She is too cheeky sometimes.

I sidle up to the bar. The middle aged bar manager puts a pint in front of me. I may be just a tad too predictable.

‘I’m grabbing a drink for Mac too.’ He slaps a white wine next to it. Well, at least I am not being predictable on my own. ‘I should get one for Sel whilst I’m here.’ He stares at me, no automatic response for Sel. She seems more strict and proper than Mac and I but deep down she must be the wild one. After all, she even changes her drinks. ‘I think she’s favouring dirty martinis this evening.’ He raises his eyebrows at me and I cannot resist winking at him, ‘That’s right, dirty.’

When I return to the girls the bar manager is still blushing.

‘What did you say to him?’ Mac asks indignant.

‘He does have grey hair,’ Selene says. ‘She probably put the hard word on him.’

I snort loudly as I try to repress a laugh. One fuck a month ago and they are still banging on about it. We need to get laid more often.

‘So?’ I ask, getting us back on track, ‘Do we love it or hate it?’

‘Love the idea of having a good shag with a sexy businessman,’ Selene helpfully answers.

‘But not with the bar manager at our Usual,’ Mac responds.

‘I know, don’t shit where you eat.’ I am resigned to the fact that we are not going to be doing our regular pre-bookclub discussion this evening. I will be needing a lot more pints.

‘Or flash your tits at your food.’ Mac does not miss a beat.

‘Okay. But is it alright if from time to time I flash my bra at a side salad or something?’

‘You do what you need to do to get us free drinks,’ Selene says with a wink. ‘Meanwhile, I’m not feeling Darcy.’

‘Me neither,’ I agree, ‘but you can’t say that. The ladies will flip. Particularly the older ones.’

‘I’d like me a slice of that Wickham,’ Mac is bobbing on her seat as if she is grinding to sex music. ‘He’s a bad boy but you know he’d be good in bed.’

‘What about poor old Bingley?’ I ask, ‘He’s a nice guy.’

‘He’s totally whipped!’ Selene nearly spits out her dirty martini in horror. ‘Seriously if he was alive now he’d be living in his parent’s granny flat with his tragic sisters.’

‘No.’ I shall defend my sweet natured Bing. ‘He’s a good boy, he’s just a bit Cinderellee.’

‘That’s not a word,’ Mac interrupts.

‘Oh, it’s a word!’ It should be a word. ‘He’s all dominated by his wicked stepsisters.’

‘He doesn’t have wicked stepsisters.’

‘I’m using creative license!’

‘Whatevs,’ Selene says flatly, ‘he’d be a fumbler in bed.’

‘I think Mrs Bennet gets a bad rap,’ Mac muses thoughtfully. And with that, we are back on track. No more sex talk, no more teasing over silver foxes with strong arms, pulling me into him, my nails digging into his broad shoulders, spreading my legs as wide as I can eager to have all of him inside of me.

‘Sexnam?’ Selene is staring at me, Mac is nowhere to be seen. ‘Mac was so engrossed in her thought about the novel she failed to notice you’d departed.’

I start guiltily.

‘Has she gone home?’

‘No she’s just gone to the can.’

‘Sorry.’

‘It was that good, huh?’

‘Yep,’ is all I can utter in reply as my vaginal muscles contract as if searching for the Grey Man’s cock.

Selene pats my hand sympathetically.

‘I really do need to get a vibrator,’ Selene says as if thinking aloud.

Mac comes rushing back across the bar looking really excited.

‘Girls, I have had the best idea!’ Her face is flushed with her own brilliance. ‘Instead of hiding the fact we don’t like Darcy, how about one of us admits to it. You know, get the ladies really fired up. Add some spice to our meeting.’

‘Great idea,’ I nod. ‘Last month was so quiet that we could use a good shake up.’