Of Crows and Coffee

A crow followed me today

As I write this, sitting in my favourite local coffee shop, I can see it, scrabbling around in the small tree on the other side of the road. There’s a murder in the Japanese maple behind the house, but it doesn’t seem to be part of that. This one’s watching me. Its eye is blue, like someone punched a hole through a painting to the sky beyond.

A few mornings of the week, I leave early with S. She hops on the bus, and I walk the few miles through some parklands to this cafe to work. I’m not a big fan of where we live. For years I lived on the Southside, with its rich bounty of old shops, leafy streets, rolling hills and much less traffic. We moved through necessity, but I’ve never really settled here. To me, the Northside just feels like residential plots build around trunk roads.

But there are some gems here. I’ve been walking the area, checking out the little coffee shops that are blooming all over Brisbane like Japanese knotweed. Most are just opportunistic ventures. There’s a distinct trend of finding an old parade of shops (that would have been a thrumming little suburban strip in the 60s-70s) then popping a coffee shop into an old disused shop that was once a bakery, or a clothes mender, or a small accountants. Most of these look exactly like a coffee shop put into little disused shop that was once a bakery, or a clothes mender, or a small accountants. A few ‘vintage’ knick-knacks, a chalkboard, some nice cakes, and coffee. Most are souless, and don’t last more than six months (a lease on the shop, perhaps), but some are run with love, and it shows.

I have an internal chart of the best coffees I’ve ever had. Top of the list is Monmouth Street in London. The coffee I have had there deserves its own blog post, and it’s the only place where I’ve ever gotten into an argument with a barista over coffee (he was right, the Mandehling was best black). A very close second is Vilinos in Hobart. The best double ristretto on milk I’ve ever had. The requirements for my internal chart can’t really be written out. It’s not just about the actual coffee (I have many places I love that serve a pretty average brew). It’s about the soul of the place and the people.

Well, where I’m sitting is in the top 10. I’m not yet on casual speaking terms with the people here, despite coming here since the new year (I have a really severe ‘frowny thinking wanker face’, so I’m pretty unnapproachable when I’m working. Some would say always), but their coffee is sublime, and they have a choice of roasts too.
I’d like to run one someday, though I doubt the cafe I have in my mind would ever completely be realised (short of us finding a staggering amount of money and time under a couch cushion. It’s something I’ve talked about for over a decade, and something I think perhaps will eventually happen, just not this year, or next. Them’s the Study Years.

But back to the crow. It accompanied me for at least a mile, from midway through the parklands to the coffee shop, flying from tree to tree, often seeming to wait for me to catch up. A Crow Spirit following me to coffee. I like the idea of that.

Return of the Wayward Fellow

I’ve not been writing that much lately.

Well, that’s not true, I’ve not been writing that much down. I’ve been concerned but not too worried. I’ve always figured that as long as I have several books backlogged up in my head, I’m still there (and at the moment I have six I can think of). But of course it’s all about getting the words down. In reality that’s all it’s about. Last year I finished a story for a new anthology by my editor and dear friend Jack Dann (more info about that as I get it), and this year, well, this year I’m going to attempt two novels.

Possibly three. But I realise how daft that might be.

I’m taking a bit of a step back from the music (as my wonderful partner Sarah is about to take big step forwards) and I’ve been given a substantial gift of time to work. I might go into more detail about that in another blog post.

I’m working on a two-book story with the over-arching title of Lovekin & Fable. It’s unlike anything I’ve written before, and will involve a lot of world-building, inventing, darkness, eccentricity, horror, wonder, noir and coffee.

I started the bones of this novel quite a few years ago, and it has nagged at me ever since. I think if I don’t get it down now I’ll go mad.

And I’m going to try blogging about my journey. I’m pretty active on social media, but this is different. This will be the most personal I’ve gotten with my work. Until now, I’ve been superstitious with it, hiding it away in a dank cave, brewing, until it’s done, and woe betide anyone that tried to break the spell. I’m not going to be posting paragraphs or word counts, but rather writing about the journey of writing. Habits, stumbles, tiny victories, mental collapse…

I’m still playing music, in fact it’s shaping up to be a very important year, but I’m doing this too.

I kind of have to.