Category Archives: Novel

The destination of a successful man

Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
Fishbone cloud, Rainbow Bay
MJ Edmunds

An early days excerpt from a novel  in progress.


The boys were restless all through class. Maybe it was the rocket launch they’d planned down in Tommy Jones’s back paddock. Maybe it was a combination of raging hormones and the moon being in Jupiter.
Adam felt just like them. He had to keep dragging his mind back to the classroom, away from the thought of seeing Shelly tonight. There were only a couple of hours to go before he’d be driving down to the airport. Shelly’s secondment in Sydney had ended up being much longer than they thought, and for three months Sydney had been replaced by Singapore. But they’d got through. There were on the home run now. We’re going to make it.
There was a lot of fidgeting going on at the desk in the back corner. Perhaps it was time to rearrange the class seating plan. “Dylan, you need to think about this revision I’ve set out. If you can work your way through this it will give most of what you need for the examination.”
“Come on Mr Hammo, it’ll be cool.”
“So Mr Hamilton, are you saying that the answers to the exams are all in this latest revision?” said Melissa Broad with raven hair and chocolate brown eyes, framed with long lashes, and seemingly oblivious of her own burgeoning power to break hearts.
“If you can work your way through that you’ll make it through the exam Melissa,” said Adam.
“Gee thanks Brain-box Broad. That’s all right then sir. I’ll just brush up on that the night before,” said Dylan slamming his book down on the desk.
“I’m serious Dylan, you do need to prepare for the exam in advance.”
“C’mon Sir, you’re just trying to make it easy on yourself so you don’t have to teach us.”
“He’s got other things on his mind,” said Dylan. The boys down the back tittered.
“Mr Hammo’s going to the seaside. He’s going to see his shell-leee.
“He’s going to have sex on the sand. He’s going to have a …
“Stop that now, Dylan Miller. Get out of this classroom now and go and wait by the principal’s office.” Dylan stood up and clomped out to the classroom raising his hand to wave to classmates.
“Ooh,” called a voice from the back. Perhaps it was Craig Brennan or Ryan Sharp. Adam was past caring.
“Look how pink Hammo’s face is,” whispered Narelle Flick to Melissa so loudly almost everyone could hear.
Adam knew she was right. And that now his face was turning brilliant red.

“I am going to miss you lot in the holidays,” said Adam, “particularly your humour.”
“No, you won’t sir. You’ll have your lay…..deeeeee.”
“Craig Brennan, would you like to visit the principal too?”
“No Sir, I’ll skip it today.”
“Now over the vacation, if you want to increase your chances at the exams you should be reading…..
The bell rang. Sweet relief. Lunchtime. Almost through. Adam had arranged an early cut to miss the last lesson. He was to drive to the airport, a journey of two hours, and take the afternoon flight to Brisbane.
But first he had to deal with Dylan Miller. Adam thought he might have bunked off, and to be honest on this day if he had. Adam might have let it go, and saved a stiff reminder for his first day of term. But Dylan was waiting, leaning by the wall outside Bill Cosgrove’s office.
“OK Dylan, I am just going in to see when Mr Cosgrove will be free, so just wait here please?”
“Mr Hammo, I mean Sir, do you have to?” said Dylan.
“Dylan, if it was the first time you’d misbehaved but you know as well as I do that you’ve been out of order a lot.
“Please don’t sir. I don’t want there to be trouble at home.”
“Well you should have thought about that before. Just wait here Dylan.”
Dylan slumped into a chair in the waiting room.
“But sir my mother’s really sick. My gran’ll skin me alive if I get into trouble.”
“What about your parents?”
“Mum’s sick, really sick,” he said.
“I’m living with me Gran,” he said.
“And your Dad?”
“Dead.”
“What’s your Gran like?”
“She’s alright I guess.”
“Don’t give her grief Dylan,” said Adam.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean don’t make life any harder for your Gran than it already is.”
Dylan pulled a face. This was Hammo was in new territory.
“All right I won’t sir.”
The voices coming out of Mr Cosgroves office were clearly in a heated discussion.
“Dylan, go to your next class then go home,” said Adam. “And I’ll see you after holidays. And think about how you are going to behave next term.”
“Ok sir. Thanks sir. Have a good time at the coast sir,” said Dylan making for the door in case Adam changed his mind. Dylan would return home to Acacia Street that afternoon where his mother would be sitting in her shorts and t-shirt on the verandah with a cigarette on the go.
“Don’t tell me it’s the bloody holidays,” she’d say. “Always on bloody holidays, you kids, why don’t you go and get a job?”

If Adam took a cab from the airport, he’d just have time to get to the jewellery store. He liked the sound of the destination as he said it to the cabby. The best jeweller in the city. It sounded like the destination of a successful man.

MJ Edmunds

Happy to write here

On being in the writer tribe

I have been attending the Australian Society of Authors‘ first ever National Writers’ Congress #asa2020 which has meant spending more time in the company of writers than usual. It’s been good to have that shorthand that goes with being among your tribe.

The event started with a literary speed dating event which meant standing in sometimes lengthy lines to spend five minutes with an  agent or publisher. It was a fruitful. My intention was to meet publishers and agents to see about sending them one work and to gauge their interest for another work in progress. Happily achieved plus I discussed a work I hadn’t planned to discuss.

I have brought 18 books to go in the book shop. I noticed the book stand is far from the coffee and rest rooms so I don’t think people had much time to look.  Hoping not to take all 18 books on the plane home. (Went home 4 books lighter.)

There were some stirring speeches. I enjoyed Anna Funder who was scathingly about all of those people who want us to ‘just write’  a 200 or 300 words  for no payment. Michael Fraser AM issued a call to arms on copyright, Susan Johnson @sjreaders whose books I had read years even before meeting in London at a mutual friend’s barbecue,  Antony Loewenstein (who says so many people want to write the same as others which is dull) and Angelo Loukakis with a gift for summing up. Tom Keneally’s video was jolly in his pink Fiji shirt with some magnificent swirly wallpaper behind him.

There was a dinner too. Not some office-Christmas-party-sort-of-debauched-and-shop-talk dinner butHappy to write heresomething that was fun. No business cards, no need to say what you were working on. Just some fun with the tribe. Good to catch up briefly with Anne Summers who was resplendent in  her Julia Gillard interview outfit.

I could probably have done with some more sleep but I am enjoying writing in this little room with a view. I like the glimpse of the harbour near the Anzac Bridge and the ‘Rear Window’  view of the lives in the apartments nearby. The shirtless man smoking on the balcony. The dinner party. I’ve made a note of the room number.  I may be back.

Marian (MJ) Edmunds

P.S Kate Forsyth was the stand out for inspiration. More on that and more soon #asa2020

Plotting a novel escape

I once heard  novel writing described as the writer setting themselves a puzzle or trap from which they must escape. Over the past few months I have been redrafting my novel Sapphire Day, one of several in progress, and am now 30 pages from the end. That makes it sound easy. And yet I only need to buckle down and finish it.

The bad news is that this 30 pages needs a bit of work as  I seem to have switched styles. The first chapter was decided more or less five years ago. The world and me has changed a great deal in that time. For a year or so I had a new redrafted chapter but we are back at Plan A, albeit more sleek.

The good news is that there is still suspense  30 pages from the end. The story could end in a number of ways. It could be open or a neat bow.The lesson for the future is to have sorted the ending out first.

I planned to submit this redraft to a couple of publishers this week. But first I am going to have it proofread, again. I am lucky to have good support in this way.

When reading a novel, part of me wants a happy ending and part of me accepts that life is not like this, that happiness is for only  a moment, and that the key to life is in having a good many good moments.

Do you like your stories tied up in neat bows or do you like to wonder about what might still happen?

Christmas search for meaning and a chopper

Merry Christmas!Christmas Day passed in quiet excesses until I had to search snake-infested rainforest for a missing chopper….

On Christmas Eve I whipped through 45 pages of redrafting my novel, Sapphire Day, and it was going beautifully. Funny how soon you can go from this to thinking it may be best to set this novel aside. I am not being negative. I am looking at this as honestly as I can.

I may be wrong.

It may be close to ready being a perfectly publishable novel that will be enjoyed by a large number of readers. All was well until I hit Chapter 9 and realised it made little sense. Everyone of us who has read this, and edited it had missed a glaring continuity issue.

So I thought about it while I should have been thinking a little bit harder about getting the house ready for Christmas. And I found a solution but in doing so, though of an entirely new direction that could be developed later in the book. It seemed brilliant, then it seemed very complicated, then it seemed almost brilliant and then all the questions arose. If I make this character C play a bigger role what should I do with Character A. Well, I could have him go there.….No, that’s ridiculous.

I ended up housing cleaning and wrapping gifts at 1 am.
Christmas Day slid along in quiet excess. Amazing how on a modest budget, we end up again with so much.

I was at the point of trying to make myself stop reading and dozing, and reading and dozing when word came of a helicopter lost at the bottom of the road. I slipped off new blue beads and  my sweet cherry red and mint sweet cotton frock and pulled on long and very hot trousers and t-shirt and searched out the bushman repellent. I listened as the search party explained they had searched “everywhere” and were certain it was in this area, they said pointing. I immediately went the other way for it seemed too far, too high where they were saying it was,. Soon I was moving branches aside, twigs and leaves crackling beneath me. calling out to the others see if they had seen anything. I was baking hot, the fabric so oppressive, so wintry, I just wanted to peel them off.

The bushman repellent was doing the trick. There was no bushman in sight.  And if the mosquitoes screamed in, they  hit the brakes when they reached the exclusion zone.  The light was fading and we resolved to search just five more minutes and return in the morning.

Then we spotted it, a small light flashing, its yellow bodywork and rotor blades caught high in a tree. We shook the tree. The chopper stirred. We shook again. It came down. Intact. We smiled in quiet satisfaction.

I washed off the dust and sweat off the  jungle with a swim , by lights that flashed green, white, red, blue, pink, purple.

There was nothing on TV, and a movie or TIVO seemed too long, so I opened Chapter 10 of Sapphire Day. There we meet Laurence. He is a wonderful concoction and that is the problem. He is a concoction. And so there I am, a night on after solving the plot hole of Chapter 9 and asking yet more questions. Would he really say that? If I take Laurence out of the equation then I have to change here and here, and here! Do I need to do all that? Can’t I just work on him a bit? I will shake the tree and see what stirs.

Merry Christmas.

Welcome to The Paradigm Shuffle

Welcome to The Paradigm Shuffle. I had a newspaper column of my own when I was 19 years old, some time before blogging and the Internet ever existed (which is a mercy). I didn’t know how lucky I was. I write and edit business and corporate material and work with writers at The Writing Business.  I write for  major newspapers and had a long career with newspapers in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK. I am very glad of it and all that I learned, the places travelled to and within, and most of all the people.  I occasionally write personal pieces in the newspapers that usually attract (positive) mail. I’ve co-authored a self-help book that can help you see that you are all as you are, if only you knew it! It is intended to help you see and enjoy this with very little reading and without a list of impossible rules.

In 2011 I wrote a memoir piece, ‘Blue, Blue Sky’ in the literary travel anthology, city-pick New York. It felt like an honour as my story appeared alongside excerpts from that Great Gatsby man and Jonathan Franzen and so many more. In April 2013, my tale of the Turkish bath ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’ appeared in City-pick Istanbul. It features Orhan Pamuk of course but it’s a great way to discover many of Turkey’s great writers all in one little book.

 What else is there?   I write novels and short stories this blog will explore that path of oh so hard work and my ongoing grappling with that. So this is my column circa the noughties.  Welcome.

Marian Edmunds

The P.S. Thanks to Monica Marcil for helping me to arrive at the title The Paradigm Shuffle.