Author Archives: DV Layton Author
I was in the school library, browsing. I was nine years old. The spine of Edward Eager’s Half Magic slipped into my vision. My early childhood had been filled with Little Golden Books, Dr. Seuss, and an endless string of dusty fairy tales. Half Magic was next level. It was a story that changed my expectations. It was light, it was fun; it had a magic I could almost believe in. It was the catalyst for my never-ending search for stories of a similar ilk.
I was eleven. We were living in Greece at the time on a twelve-month posting. We had flown to London to visit Madame Tussauds, and the Planetarium, and were returning home to Athens. We were on staff tickets, and had eight hours to kill on standby at Heathrow airport. Mum bought me Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. By the time we arrived in Saronida, I had devoured the book. Children’s books written in English were few and far between in Greece at the time. I read it over and over.
Returning to Australia, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis came next, book after book, by day and by night. These were followed by The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Reading was a drug. By the time I was fourteen, I had read Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, amid a plethora of Agatha Christie murder mysteries because these were what my mother was reading at the time. When my brother was given The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien for his birthday, I waited impatiently for him to finish each one so I could read it next. Jeffrey Archer’s Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less was followed by A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. This book still haunts me. It was a traumatic experience.
I was twenty-one when my daughter was born. Back to Dr. Seuss, Little Golden Books, and a score of others, too many to mention – two books a night, every night, for the next five years. During this time, I turned to the classics – Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. In between these, I fed my voracious appetite on a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as Robert Louis Stevenson’s works, including the weird and wonderful The Bottle Imp, a standout among so many of his stories. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had contemplated the brilliance of numerous plays, the most memorable being Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, and The Removalists by Australian playwright David Williamson. Greek tragedies, including The Persians by Aeschylus, and Sophocles’ Antigone, were counterbalanced with more contemporary works as I dived into countless Stephen King and Dean Koontz horror stories.
Fourteen years passed before my first son arrived. When he was two, my mum died. I cried every morning for a whole year. My wake state was a nightmare, sleep my only relief. It would take me ten years to be able to think of her without tearing up. She was so intelligent, so beautiful. I still have bad days.
Eight months later, I welcomed my second son. I was drowning in exhaustion, working full-time; still grieving. Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter stories hit like a dose of morphine. Her books were life-saving, an escape from a depth of unimaginable wretchedness born of utter disbelief and inconsolable loss. I revelled in Rowling’s easy writing style, her brilliant bursts of dry humour, and the feast of originality she offered amid a familiarity of British folklore. Nothing had ever inspired me to such heights. What she gave to me was a gift. A tiny giggle in a song of sadness.
I longed to give the world such a treasure. It was the spark to a pile of tinder I hadn’t known existed in me. I want this, my heart sang. I can do this, my head declared. And away I went.
Over the next few years, I wrote three 10,000 word middle-grade books completely in rhyme. But the stories weren’t what I dreamed of. They went into the bottom drawer, and I turned to prose. It was like taking off a straight-jacket. Writing in rhyme is incredibly restrictive. Prose was a breath of fresh air and, over the following eighteen months, I diddled out the precursor to a story slowly unfolding in my fledgling imagination. It grew and morphed, and within three years I had banged out the skeletal form of a trilogy full of adventure, mystery, and paranormal themes. This is what all the writers whose works I had read had helped create in me. During the next eight years, I added flesh and sinews, veins and arteries, skin, hair, eyelashes – connecting, colouring, filling my creation with life – editing, editing. Endless editing. The learning curve has been steep. And slow.
In between this time I sought refuge in Robin Hobb’s The Fareseer Trilogy, Raymond E. Feist’s The Riftwar Saga, The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney, and The Bartimaeous Trilogy by Jonathon Stroud. Steig Larsson’s Millenium trilogy kept me occupied for a short while, as did Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Jasper Fforde’s ‘Thursday Next’ books, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. A short return to the classics added The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, to the mix. These days it’s the works of more contemporary writers like Patrick Rothfus, Markus Zusak, Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Brandon Sanderson who feed my need for literary diversity.
I have mentioned only those stories that come to mind as I write this; those that jump to the front of the queue for one reason or another. The problem with this is the impression of exclusion. There were countless others – some I remember easily, others need a nudge. The road of my reading history is also littered with novels the titles of which are long forgotten, of authors whose names remain forever on the tip of my tongue, never to be recalled, but whose words at some time created images in my mind so vivid they stained my memory.
My Book One manuscript is print ready. Book Two is falling into place beautifully. I wish there were more hours in the day. I love writing. I love the purity of it, the ideas that come from the unique conglomeration of all the tastes and textures I have consumed. I love knotting out plot snarls. I love the editing process, the endless desire for the perfection of every paragraph to flow so well that the reader falls into the story without realising it.
Today I sent in another submission. I believe it’s the best I’ve written so far. Rejections change you. I’ve grown. I’m no longer intimidated by them. I’ve thrown away the ‘How to write a successful submission’ formula. I’ve written from that place inside me, the place where my stories come from. I would ask you to cross your fingers for me, but I don’t need it. I don’t need hope; I don’t need encouragement. Determination – real determination – eventually settles. It becomes a part of you. It can’t be brushed aside. It’s only a matter of time.
Aeschylus, The Persians (472 BC), Oxford University Press Inc., New York, US, 1991.
Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women (1868), Penguin Random House, New York, US, 2014.
Archer, Jeffrey, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1976), HarperCollins, London, UK, 1993.
Austin, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813), Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2009.
Beckett, Samuel, Waiting for Godot (1952), Faber & Faber, London, UK, 2006.
Brontë, Charlotte, Jane Eyre (1847), Broadview Press Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, 1999.
Brontë, Emily, Wuthering Heights (1847), Penguin Random House, New York, US, 2009.
Burgess, Anthony, A Clockwork Orange (1962), Penguin Books, London, UK, 2011.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden (1911), D.R. Godine, Boston, MA, US, 1987.
Carroll, Lewis, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) & Through the Looking Glass (1871), Puffin Books, Harmondsworth, UK, 1973.
Coelho, Paulo, The Alchemist (1988), HarperCollins, London, UK, 2015.
Delaney, Joseph, The Wardstone Chronicles (2004-2014), HarperCollins, New York, US, 2014.
Doyle, Arthur Conan, The Complete Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes (1891-1927), Jaico Books, New Delhi, India, 2007.
Eager, Edward, Half Magic (1954), Elsevier Australia, Chatswood, Australia, 1999.
Feist, Raymond E., The Riftwar Saga (1982-1986), HarperCollins, New York, US, 2012.
Fforde, Jasper, A Thursday Next Digital Collection (2001-2007), Penguin Random House, New York, US, 2011.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby (1925), Wordsworth Editions, Herts, UK, 1999.
Hobb, Robin, The Farseer Trilogy (1995-1997), HarperCollins, London, UK, 2013.
Larsson, Steig, Millenium (2005-2017), Titan Books Ltd., London, UK, 2018.
Lewis, C.S., The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956), HarperCollins, New York, US, 1994.
Orwell, George, Animal Farm (1945), Longman Publishing Company, Harlow, UK, 1989.
Orwell, George, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), New American Library, New York, US, 1961.
Riggs, Ransom, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2011), Quirk Books, US, 2013.
Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter series (1997-2007), Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK, 2013.
Sophocles, Antigone (c. 441 BC), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2003.
Stevenson, Robert Louis, The Bottle Imp (1891), Waking Lion Press, West Valley City, US, 2008.
Stroud, Jonathon, The Bartimaeous Trilogy (2003-2005), Disney-Hyperion, US, 2006.
Tolkien, J.R.R., The Hobbit (1937), HarperCollins, UK, 2012.
Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, US, 1994.
White, E.B., Charlotte’s Web (1952), HarperCollins, New York, US, 1999.
Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Penguin Books, London, UK, 2012.
Williamson, David, The Removalists (1972), Currency Press Pty. Ltd., Australia, 1972.
© Copyright 2018
A construction worker in an undisclosed location was tearing open a wall in a old house when he found something terrifying: after removing the cover from a heating vent, he revealed the unmistakable markings of a vintage Ouija board. Apparently, a previous tenant had found it necessary to conceal the board where it would not be found.
A very rare look into my private life. My gorgeous little six month old grandbubby ‘reading’ Magic Possum by Mem Fox.
The following story comes from miscellaneous notes extracted from ‘Local Records’ held in the Durham Mining History Museum in England, and from the “Historical Register of Remarkable Events” by John Sykes, published in 1833.
In 1631, two men, Mark Sharp and John Walker were accused of murdering Anne, a young relative of Walker’s, who kept his house and was supposedly with child.
The case for the prosecution rested on the testimony of a miller named Graham (or Graime¹), who claimed to have been haunted by the blood-soaked ghost of a young woman with five open wounds to her head, who told him her name was Anne Walker, that her corpse lay in a coal pit on the moor, and that she had be murdered with a pick axe² by Mark Sharp who had been acting on orders from John Walker, the unnamed father of her unborn child.
According to Graham, Anne’s ghost threatened to haunt him until he relayed the information to a justice of the peace. After the apparition appeared twice more, Graham relented and told the local magistrate. A search was made to verify the story, and the body of Anne Walker was found with five wounds to the head in the exact location the ghost had described, together with a pick and bloody shoes belonging to Sharp. Sharp and Walker were apprehended, found guilty and hanged.
1. Local Records or Historical Register of Remarkable Events by John Sykes, Published in 1833 in two volumes. http://www.dmm.org.uk/localrec/lr-1631.htm
2. Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain p.106.
The custom of Touching the Dead still lingers in many countries today, including some rural areas in the North of Britain.
One explanation for this custom is that touching protects the person involved from being haunted by the ghost of the deceased.
It was also once believed that a murdered victim’s body would bleed at the touch of his or her murderer. Long after this crude form of ordeal had been abandoned by the courts, it was often resorted to in secret. Refusal to participate in the test often left a person under a permanent cloud of suspicion.
Source: “Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain” 2nd Ed. 1977 The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London.
In 19th century Europe and America, the dead were always carried out of the house feet first. This was done to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow.
It was also believed that if the body came out head first, the spirit would be able to remember what the house looked like and could return. However, if the body was carried out feet first, the spirit wouldn’t know which house it came from, and so could not come back.
When Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state in the East Room of the White House, “The heavy gildings of the frames were entirely enshrouded, while the plates of the mirrors were covered with white crape.”¹
The belief that all the mirrors in the house of the recently deceased should be covered stems from the 16th century belief that mirrors reflected one’s soul. It was thought that at the time of death when the soul was free to leave the body, it was vulnerable to being trapped in the mirrored glass and taken by the Devil. During the Victorian Age, it was commonly held that if you saw yourself in a mirror in a room where a person had recently died you, too, would die shortly thereafter.²
(Coggeshall, William Turner. (2013). pp. 110-1. Lincoln Memorial: The Journeys of Abraham Lincoln; From Springfield to Washington, 1861. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1865)
// A construction worker in an undisclosed location was tearing open a wall in a old house when he found something terrifying: after removing the cover from a heating vent, he revealed the unmistakable markings of a vintage ouija board. Apparently, a…
The Shame of Being Human
How petty are the minds of those
Who do not understand,
Who blindly through their egos claim
“The world was made for Man.”
“’Tis his alone to use at will,
By virtue of his soul.”
Excused of murder, free to maim;
An executioner’s role.
He kills the tree and with its body
Carves himself a chair,
And fools himself with thoughts of progress,
Ignorant of care.
He flays the skin from innocents
To wrap himself within,
Parading all his callousness,
Unthinking of his sin.
And shocked are those who hear of Nazi’s,
Cancerous in fame,
Their desk lamps made from Jewish skin.
Yet is this not the same?
“Oh, no!” say those. “They were our kind;
Our race was meant to live.
You can kill others for your pleasure.
They exist to give.”
The feebleminded ignorance of Man
Is long and vile.
How can he be so cruel and cold
While smiling all the while?
©DV LAYTON 1985
Every night for dessert I toss an apple, an orange, a small piece of rockmelon (cantaloupe), and a handful of blueberries in a regular (KMart $25) blender with a cup of filtered water. This way I get many of the nutrients, plus the fibre, my body needs each day, every day. It takes 5 minutes to make, and a minute to rinse the blender cup.
It’s seriously THAT easy.
What you put in can be seasonally adjusted to ensure you’re getting the freshest fruit and vegetables available. I love pineapple, strawberries, and kiwi fruit when I can get them. Sometimes I add watermelon, grapes, spinach, carrot or celery; and you can add a touch of ginger, if you like.
The body doesn’t retain vitamin C – yet, it needs it daily. And NOT from a bottle – it has to be the real deal. I can’t remember the last time I had a cold or flu.
As an invaluable daily health routine, it doesn’t get much easier than this.
When I first began to learn about the power of my own beliefs, my favourite metaphor to explain the shift in understanding was that I was not in the passenger seat – I was in the driver’s seat, and it was time for me to grab hold of the steering wheel and take control.
I have known about the power of creating reality (or the perception thereof) via your own individual dynamic ‘web of beliefs’ for many years now and the crucial importance of selecting those beliefs with the utmost care. Once I understood that the beliefs I accepted about the world around me and my place within it formed the paradigm in which I lived, I realised how crucial it was for me to only choose those beliefs that were the most beneficial and constructive for me.
However, since all the parts make up the whole, our collective ‘web of beliefs’ (enmasse) affect the reality of the greater world – much more than we yet realise. I have been waiting for physics, in particular, to ‘catch up’ with this hypothesis to allow the empiricists to get on board and, as such, I see the (slow) shift into transcendental physics as a blessing.
For me, only one question remains. Is reality:
- The psychological manipulation enmasse of energy consistently creating an independently existing physical environment?
- The psychological manipulation enmasse of energy consistently creating the perception of an independently existing physical environment?
- An independent physical environment from which our perception of it creates our own individual reality, psychologically?
Such are my coffee musings.
When it comes to exercise, many experts agree that walking is one of the best forms. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve blood circulation, and is gentle on the joints. But, with such a broad choice of transportation available these days people are less willing to walk, even over short distances. Yet, this increase in a more sedimentary lifestyle may have more detrimental effects on our health than we imagine.
“The slow death of purposeless walking” by Finlo Rohrer, is a wonderful piece about the creative health benefits of simply walking for the sake of walking.
Rohrer notes that Wordsworth was a walker, as was Dickens and Wolf, and points to environmentalist and writer John Francis as being “…one of the truly epic walkers.” Rohrer believes “It is that “just to walk” category that is so beloved of creative thinkers.”
He cites a recent study from Stanford University that “…showed that even walking on a treadmill improved creative thinking…” (excellent! – since this is my preferred mode of moving the blood around!), and he quotes Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, as saying “Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I’m far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and ‘thinking’.” (I’m quite sure my good friend, and fellow author, Ben Starling, would agree with this!)
So, next time you find yourself battling against the dreaded ‘writer’s block’, take yourself off for a good long walk and clear the pathways to creativity!
Click here to read the full article: ‘The slow death of purposeless walking’ by Finlo Rohrer
A Glasshouse Mountains’ family is mystified by a gum tree in their backyard.
They say a “child’s face” appeared on the trunk yesterday morning. Do you see it? Source: https://www.facebook.com/7newssc/videos/1026078937449540/
The occurrence is reminiscent of the Faces of Bélmez, an alleged paranormal phenomenon in a private house in Spain which started in 1971 when residents claimed images of faces appeared in the concrete floor of the house. These images have continuously formed and disappeared on the floor of the home. The phenomenon is considered by some parapsychologists the best-documented and “without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon in the [20th] century”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9lmez_Faces)
Mortsafes were invented in about 1816, and were designed to protect graves from body-snatchers. Authorities turned a blind eye to the grave-rifling because surgeons and students were working to advance medical knowledge.