Samantha Wood, author
Samantha Wood, author

Down the rabbit hole: stories of love and wine...

It’s this pastime which has saved me. It has given me the chance to escape into another world far from the frustration of writer’s block, which at times has overwhelmed me entirely. Then when I’ve used up far too many bags of clay than necessary, I can return at peace to my rewrite.


I’m loving the editing. It’s that wonderful stage where it’s just you and your characters, getting to know each other all over again, facing the hard stuff together, because, much like hypnosis, whatever happens in a novel can’t hurt you the way real life often does. That’s the beautiful thing about writing – it forces you to look back, to bring forth all the pain and the joy, the laughter and the tears, all those long-forgotten memories. Funnily enough, what was so tough back then – the hard times – now becomes an opportunity for pathos or comedy like, for example, the scene from The Bay of Shadows where Elena’s toast pops up and flies out the kitchen window. It’s not made up – it didn’t need to be – it happened to me. Then, a little while later I see an ad on TV where the same thing happens. The punchline? “Because morning can strike at any time.” And I’m wondering how many other people were left standing in their kitchens, going, “What? No! But they were the last two slices of bread.”


Until next month, I hope you are reading something wonderful.


Much love, Samantha xxx

The thrill of having people drink out of these still makes my heart do a little leap.

And finally, this!

Before eventually – and by ‘eventually’ I mean there’s a really big gap between previously depicted blob and these fancy cups, so much so that if you were counting in months there would have been two season changes involved – I get to this:

Like watching clay dry...

When the reality is something more like this:

I love this photo because I really look like I know what I’m doing here, right?

Actually, this was probably a step too far – further investigation revealed grape vines have a preference for cool, fertile soil and not rocky red earth, so I settled on the fictional town of Milagros, a name meaning ‘miracle’ in Spanish, with a tip of my hat to my literary idol Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his magical Macondo. Needless to say, if you were inclined to visit my fake town you’d probably be best to head in the direction of the Yarra Valley in Victoria. At the very least you can sample gourmet cheese, sparkling cider and award-winning wines while you’re looking for the imaginary Veritas Estate on Google maps.


That story came to me back in 2013, and it has only been recently, after the publication of my current novel, that I have returned to it. Initially, it was a struggle. It was the fear – not of not being good enough, well, that feeling NEVER leaves you, but rather I can’t remember these people, let alone their motivations. Why, Julia, my wonderful artist character, are you secretly running away with that guy when you’ve got this guy at home? Burdened with the moral failings of the characters that I created, I took myself off to do something else. As some of you know I make pottery in my spare time. Mostly cups for sale in local cafes. Mostly, if I’m truly honest, I make a mess.

Mirandaaaaa!

Back to my location search. Not remote enough? What about this?

Meet Nibbles. Utterly adorable, unless you’re a car.

..what about a novel where the main protagonist is a winemaker? This was something I touched upon in a previous post, although not in any great detail. Well, that might be a topic interesting to a handful of readers, that is, winemakers, their mums, and possibly their wives. Fortunately, my imagination is a fecund one so let’s marry him to a very beautiful artist and chuck in a third party like, oh, I don’t know, a mysterious pilot. And no great story would be complete without unrequited love so naturally my pilot will have designs on the lovely wife. Now we’re getting somewhere! Of course, there would have to be a dog, and the setting would be somewhere out in the country, somewhere remote, like this…

For the love of barrels: it became such a thing that it turned into a game of eye-spy, “There’s one!”

As I peered around corners, and down into cool stone cellars with their arched rooves and row upon row of French barriques, camera at the ready, I saw a bigger picture starting to emerge. Imagine living in this world that most of us know so little about? What must it really be like? Beyond the romantic image, that is, of the winemaker walking among the vines, dewy grass underfoot, trailed by a kelpie called Dave, to check on his perfect grapes – a wholly erroneous and fantastical image of a very challenging profession (as I was soon to find out). Back outside, in the bright afternoon sun, and one more snap for the road, it got me thinking…

Look closely and you’ll see the 40km/ph speed limit sign which seems perplexingly slow until you take into account kangaroos, cows and other menaces to road users, such as the delightful chap below.

A cooperage of barrels: never has a collective noun sounded so sweet.

Summer panor-AH-ma…

Many years ago one of my best friends saw me in a university lecture eating a sandwich and told me later that she knew we’d be friends because she too liked sandwiches. She also happened to love wine, cheese, books, art and giant custard doughnuts so I think our paths were destined to cross. Back then, I was working at a court transcript service where the majority of cases weren’t for anything as salacious as crime or misdemeanour, but rather involved transcribing the minutiae of patent hearings. Even one of the sitting magistrates expressed his sympathy for us when he commented, “Pity the people transcribing all of this. They must be going spare.” Meanwhile, my friend spent her days as an apprentice chef making pancakes in the basement of a shopping mall. Clearly we both longed for greater things!


What kept us going, however, was the dream, fuzzy edged and seemingly impossible to attain, of making a living doing something you really loved. In her case, art, and mine, writing. Of course, at the time I felt like I was getting nowhere but, in hindsight, I think I was already laying the groundwork for future novels without even realising it. One year in particular, there were a bunch of road trips to wineries, where we visited cellar doors, restaurants, patted the resident dogs, and took guided tours of the plants, all accompanied by my curious fascination for taking photos of wine barrels…

Wednesday February 1, 2017

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