NEW STORIES OUT!

Very excited to announce that two of my stories have recently been published in international journals. YAY!!!!

“Something No One Else Can See” is available to read for free HERE

It’s set in the cane fields of far north QLD where I spent a lot of time as a child.

sugar cane

And my story “Against the Roaring of the Fire” has been published by Third Flatiron in its Hidden Histories anthology. This story was inspired by my recent trip to Scotland and its dark history of witch hunts.

witch

YAY! Two stories out in one day!! Won’t mention the pile of rejections that accompanied these two. But it’s all worth it for the ones that make it and get read.

Let me know what you think!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

 

HARRY – a short story

Back by popular request – an oldie but a goodie.

Dear Harry — more truth than fiction in this one, I’m afraid. Still miss the bugger.

Harry story

HARRY

by Edwina Shaw

I keep looking for Harry, expecting to see him loping along some West End street, his long arms swinging, keeping time with his giant strides. He’s always found me before, whenever I’ve returned, a sign of being home. But not this time and I’ve been back for years. The priest told me he’d gone, but I didn’t want to believe him. I was sure he was wrong and that one day I’d be driving along Vulture St. and there he’d be, calling out my name in his deep brown voice; come running and give me a hug.

The first time I met Harry was in the English Student’s common room in the early eighties when we were both studying at the University of Queensland. He was swilling red wine in the middle of the day, and entertaining his cronies with stories of his lustful adventures.

“So there I was at this brothel in the Valley – you know the one – and this prostitute, I’m telling ya mate, she really stunk! I mean it. Like she was rotting on the inside – odour of fermenting uterus. Disgusting! And I just couldn’t do it, you know, the smell was really off-putting. I’d had her before but what can I say, must’ve been a busy day. So I go down to the office to complain and get a better one and what do they do, the bastards? Throw me out! Don’t laugh, I mean it. A couple of the big meatheads they have there come running and chuck me down the stairs. Tell ya, I’m lucky I was so pissed or I might’ve hurt myself.

Anyway I drag myself home, walked all the way to West End, my wallet had disappeared, nothing in it anyway; knocked on my girlfriend’s door and what’d she do but chuck all my stuff at me through the window. So I just rolled up on it and slept right there on her steps. She didn’t let me in, nup, not even the next day when I had the worst killer hangover and could feel the bruises from the bouncers. What a bitch hey?”

And the cronies all laughed and agreed. All women were bitches and couldn’t be trusted.

That was Harry.
I sat with my back to them, my shoulders hunched to my ears in silent fury.
The next weekend he was in my bed.

One drunken lunch hour, over a cask of wine, the force that had so violently repelled me swung a hundred and eighty degrees to attraction. Drowned in alcohol soaked lust, I ended the afternoon by leaping into his arms and wrapping my legs around his waist. We sank into cheap wine and cigarette kisses under the sandstone arches.

I brought him home to my flat. He had the money, the alcohol, and the pot, I had the accommodation. He stayed for weeks, brought his suitcase full of stories and poems and let me read them as we lay together in bed smoking joints. I loved his long lean body next to my soft, small round one. I came up to his breastbone.

Harry’s father had only one limb, an arm. The other three were blown off in the Vietnam war when Harry was only a baby. It must have been hard growing up with a father with only one limb, scarred inside as well no doubt. Generational scars Harry carried with him.

But he had scars of his own, ropey, raw-meat burn scars all up one leg, a firebug’s legacy. He was a convicted arsonist, a sometime inmate of mental institutions, an alcoholic, a prize-winning playwright, and a poet. His words were hard and deep, beautiful in their brutality and bloody imagery. Their power could silence even the drunkest rabble at the Story Bridge Hotel poetry nights. When he read his dark eyes blazed and I imagined he was Dylan Thomas and I was his lover. Not his wife. Never his wife.

One day I came home from university and Harry had made an altar to me in the study. A sculpture of pure white tissues, a red ink stain in one corner, with a photo of a seven year old me in my communion dress in the middle. Even then, when I knew that he had seen inside me, the truth of who I was, I didn’t stop using him.

He loved me, I think, but I wasn’t even sure I liked him. I liked having him around. I liked the comfort of his body and the haze of his pot. I envied and admired his talent. I didn’t ever trust him. I didn’t ever really know him.

All I knew was that his suffering ran too close under his skin and I was afraid that if I didn’t protect myself his pain would rub off onto me. His suffering was raw. Mine was carefully bound up and tucked away. Safe.

I didn’t ever love him, or didn’t think I did. Not until now when I miss him and realise that his presence in my life was no accident, find myself still waiting to find him again.

Harry brought out the worst in people. I was cold and hard with him and drank and smoked even more than usual. His best friend, Phil, a pale, vapid fellow with glasses, did whatever Harry told him to.

One night, Harry dragged Phil along to the house of a girl he’d met in the psych ward and Phil tried to have his way with her on the lino. She called the police and had him up on rape charges. Harry came home and told me all about it as if it was the biggest joke ever. We made a shrine to Phil, the white rabbit, and laughed. Phil went right downhill after that. He talked about lying his legs across the railway tracks in front of a train because he didn’t think they’d put a cripple in jail. Harry thought it was funny.

After my student allowance finally came through after many penniless months, I went to Sydney to celebrate with friends for a couple of weeks. When I returned I discovered that Harry had been sleeping with another girl in my bed. By way of an apology he told me he’d read my diary and knew I didn’t love him so thought it couldn’t hurt me. It didn’t really. I hadn’t expected anything different.

I threw him out. I didn’t need his money anymore, anyway.

Harry kept trying to come back to me. One late night he arrived straight from a brawl at the pub, battered and bruised and incoherent, but with a huge bag of pot. So I let him in. I bathed his wounds and smoked his dope then closed my bedroom door and made him sleep on the carpet in the lounge room. He even wanted to stay there. I said he could. Till the pot ran out.

I didn’t want to let that bleeding soul under my skin. I wasn’t taking that risk, especially not with Harry.

Not long after that I escaped Brisbane for good, or so I thought, escaped to Sydney, joining the mass exodus of the eighties and the Joh years. Away from Brisbane, I never thought of Harry, or only the occasional passing thought as to whether he’d ended up in the gutter yet. That’s the future I’d always predicted for him with a hard laugh.

Five years later I returned, and there he was loping down Vulture Street looking exactly the same.

“Hey Harry!” I called, and he came running. I took him home, drank his wine, smoked his dope, tore off his clothes and used him up. Just as I had always done. But this time in the morning when I looked back at him still lying in bed as I got ready for work he looked sad; like he finally understood what I’d done and for the first time I felt guilty. I turned my back and left him. Without a word.

It was another three years till I saw him again. I was back from living and working overseas, back home in West End, a baby girl in my arms and a wedding ring on my finger. I was at a rally in Musgrave Park campaigning for some cause or other as Harry and I had always done.

He’d been justly infamous for his protest rally antics in the Joh anti-march era. He would don a tie, bluster through the front line ferals and International Socialists, get into the government building without a second look from the police, and wreak havoc with paint bombs.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, that of all the thousands of people at the rally, I found myself standing next to Harry.

He looked worse; grey and jaded, and I could feel the sadness running close to the surface of his cheerful greeting. It felt good to see him and with the glow of my new motherhood I was kind to him; I think. Though I couldn’t resist flashing my wedding ring in his face and flaunting the beautiful baby at my breast.

“Can I have some of that?” he asked.
And I realised that that was all Harry had ever wanted, some soft mother love. And all I’d ever given him was hard, bitchy Mummy; putting him in the corner. I touched his hand to say goodbye and felt the tie that bound us, but I was wary and didn’t offer my number. I didn’t want him turning up on my doorstep late one night. I knew he was using. I didn’t want any of that near me, not anymore. He was wearing his track-marks like a badge of honour.

Then, a year later, I was taking my toddler to the local park, and well known beat, when I ran into a mutual friend, a priest we’d met in our uni days. He told me Harry was dead. That he’d overdosed a few months earlier. That he was gone.

I accepted it at first, but then I wasn’t so sure. Can you believe a priest? Can you believe a priest visiting a beat in broad daylight?

So I hope. Hope that one day I’ll be driving down Vulture Street or Boundary Street and spot those slow loping strides from a distance.

“Harry!” I’ll call. “Harry, come running.”

 

In the Dark of Night

In the Dark of Night by Edwina Shaw

In the Dark of Night by Edwina Shaw

I’m excited to announce the release of my new book for young readers, In the Dark of Night. A chapter book for readers aged 8 and up, it’s part of Raven Books UK new series, Breakouts.

 Here’s the link to a super spooky trailer they’ve made for it 🙂 https://youtu.be/7KeiX17YTiM

” ‘Are you an angel?’

This time the stick swung quickly towards the negative, as far to the right as it could go.

‘Oh no,’ said Sam under his breath. ‘This is … ’

‘Are you a devil?’ Nina asked.

The stick began to quiver, shifting slowly to the left.”

When Nina and Sam hold a séance in their local cemetery, they stir up more than they bargained for  – the ghost of a fourteen-year-old girl and a whole lot of trouble.

Can Nina solve the puzzle of the girl’s death in time to save her, and them all?

In the Dark of Night is part of a nationwide library promotion, Summer Reading Club. You can find out more about it here.

It was great fun to write, I hope it’s as much fun to read 🙂 Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you.

THE WORLD OF DEAR MADMAN

Laidley Corn Day

Laidley Corn Day

This is the world I’ve been living in for the past few years as I’ve been researching and writing my latest project, Dear Madman, a novel based on a tragedy that has haunted my family for generations. Laidley is a town in the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane where the story is predominantly set, one hundred years ago.

I love this photo because it captures just how “edge of nowhere” it was back then. I am especially intrigued by the girl on the pony in the middle on the far right. Pinafore and all. Who is she and where is she going? She could even be one of my great aunts.

For a long while I had this picture pinned up beside my desk to remind me where my characters were living. For them, this was the nearest big town.

I loved living in this quieter time and place where I could hear the thud of horses hooves and my own footfall, not the constant stream of traffic flowing past my home now in busy Brisbane.

I’ve finished the latest draft and have sent it off with fingers crossed and candles lit. But now I’m left, relieved in one way to be free of the madness and violence at the heart of this story, but sad too that I have lost this slower, simpler world.

EGO OR INSPIRATION?

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) Inspiration(1898)

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) Inspiration(1898)

Is it ego that drives me to write every day, the thought of fame and success and a long awaited payday, or is it something else?

Surely if it were purely ego I’d have given up by now, seeing as though I have a family to help support. Is it pride that keeps me from calling it quits and turning my hand to something more profitable? Or is it that writing is a calling, much the same as the urge to be a missionary or a nurse?

Where do my dreams and this overwhelming urge to write come from? Is it ego? Or is it inspiration?

D. H. Lawrence finds in favour of inspiration.

“The creative, spontaneous soul sends forth its promptings of desire and aspiration in us. These promptings are your true fate which is our business to fulfill.”

I’m happy to agree. Our dreams come from somewhere beyond us. Some people dream of having a successful jewellery business, others of winning a gold medal or the lottery.  I dream of writing books that people around the world will read and connect with. According to Lawrence my fate is to follow this dream.

When I first started doing my Masters in Philosophy in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland I used to laugh at us writers being under the banner of philosophy. Now I know it’s exactly where we should be. Writers, more than almost any other profession, spend time alone thinking. We spend an inordinate amount of time in the mysterious realm of the imagination trying to understand what it is to live. We think, and try to create order of the mess we’re all in, to shape something beautiful that others will enjoy. We write so that our readers will see themselves and their experiences reflected in our work in a way that makes them think a little more closely or in a different way.

Surely philosophical issues such as these are best discussed in essays or non-fiction, so why write fiction?

I’ll let Frederic Raphael answer that one. “Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction is truer.”  

It is through stories with plots − beginnings, middles and ends − that most people make sense of their lives. We come home and tell each other stories of our days to find perspective and an audience.  It is in the telling of our stories that we order our lives and create meaning.

Writing fiction takes it one step further. Fiction writing enables us to stand aside and let that inexplicable being, the imagination  – or whatever it is you prefer to call it – generate stories that are outside the realm of our experience, that somehow go deeper, are truer.

I write fiction because I love it. Because when I put the ego aside, and let whatever else it is flow through me, stories ego alone couldn’t produce emerge.

Sometimes even beauty.

GET PUBLISHED in Griffith Review’s fiction special

Griffith Review, the wonderful Queensland based and woman-run literary journal is making its last edition of the year a fiction special. The theme is “food chain”. I’ve been lucky enough to have had three pieces published through them and highly recommend any short story writers out there giving them a go. Just click on the link to go to their page for submission info. GOOD LUCK!