New songwriting mission

August 14th, 2016 by Ash

dirty recording


It’s my intention to try and write a song per week.  I believe this to the most effective way to try and improve my songwriting skills as well as get a boat load of new pieces happening.  These songs will all be rather raw and of course previously unpublished.  I’m anticipating a lot of misses and hopefully a few hits out of the process!

I will be publishing my songs on my Soundcloud, so check and check them out.


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Week #25 Story #21

November 4th, 2015 by Ash



You said you liked to swim at dusk because of the way the lake smelt and the noises of the birds preparing for nightfall.

I remember you came downstairs and told me you were going for a swim.  There was nothing in the way you said it that was any different than before.  You did pause at the bottom of the stairs with your towel tucked under your arm for a second.  I remember as you passed the kitchen table you fondled the edge of the open newspaper briefly and peered into your coffee cup (even though you never leave any coffee) and then you left.

They say the lake just appeared overnight, that was the rumour and reason it got called “Supposition Lake.”

For many nights after that one, I thought about you swimming on that lake.  I thought about it and I tried to find you out there on the lake, although I did it at night, in the full dark.  After my day was done and I’d called mother and brought in my washing and listened to the travesty the world did to itself on the news, the stillness of house would descend, that’s when I’d go out.  I even opened the newspaper and have an empty coffee cup on the kitchen bench for props.

Sometimes I swim out, into the cold darkness and I don’t save any strength to make it back.  I just swim out there and then float in the blackness.  I look right into it, it looks right back.  The water covers my ears and my limbs are weightless.   I imagine dying.  I think I’m going to cry but I never do.

It’s a funny thing about the body.  It wants to live.  It turns me back and has me swimming for the shore before I know what’s happening.  I come to mid stroke, then I sort of watch on from a distance wondering if I’ll make it.

Thanks for the postcard, it’s nice.  I’m glad you’re finding out who you are.  I thought to send you a postcard in return, one of Lake Supposition, which might make you homesick, but maybe you never really loved any of it.

I don’t like the smell of the Lake so much, but I do love the sound of the birds preparing for nightfall.

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Week # 23 Story # 20

October 21st, 2015 by Ash



This weeks story came from a poem I wrote this afternoon while sitting in our courtyard.  I’ve been reading a lot of Leonard Cohen and I was dipping into his book “The Energy of Slaves” (amazing book) and I took a few phrases and ideas as a sort of imagery to help me get started.

The illustration for this weeks story comes from my very talented brother Gerrard Southam 🙂

I’ve put the short story first, then the poem the story came from.

Chasing the muse

“This is a threat.” He says standing on the kitchen table, “Do you know what a threat is? You will do everything I imagined you’d do, that’s how great a poet I am!”

She walks away from him into the bedroom and kicks off her boots, then turns back and watches him from a doorway insanely trumpeting about “People animals.”
  He is down off the table, seated and writing in his stained leather bound notebook.

“Men and women go about trying to own other men and women, but not me, not us.” He says taking down his own rambling.

“I have ignored nothing about my life and us,” he says looking up from his notebook and into her face, “that is probably my problem, that and the fact that I can’t find the words anymore from my youth, the ones I used to describe the aesthetics I longed for.”

As he speaks she moves past him slowly and pours two glasses of wine and hands one to him, “I think it has something to do with those Parisian street cafes that you love,” She says,  “try thinking of those,” She takes a sip of wine.

“I fucking love you.” He says, “I could be the greatest Rock star ever.”

“Yes.” She says, “Just remember where home is.”

Chasing the muse poem

This is a threat

Do you know what a threat is?

You will do everything I imagined you’d do, that is how great a poet I am.

As our skylines merge and your boots

go under the bed and you watch me insanely trumpeting

about people animals through

the smoke men and women go about trying to own other men and women

I brought black ink to write it all down, but when I came bravely to the page,

I should’ve sung about it.

You have loved the scent of trees

all your life, I ignore nothing about my life and that is my problem.

We were married to the aesthetics very young

now through a few drinks and some incense

it still isn’t easy to see.

I think it has something to do

with a Parisian street side café and learning a language

to grow old in.

My threats are empty

I could be the greatest Rock Star ever.

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Playing around on Beatles tune and new phone

September 23rd, 2015 by Ash

I’ve been thinking about a new project – a covers album with just vocals and piano filmed and recorded at my home studio.  This has mostly come about because my last album had so many instruments and so much original music I thought I might take a bit of detour.

It’s been really fun thinking about the songs that have had a big impact on me and how I might arrange them for piano.

So with that in mind, during some practice, I had a bit of a play around on this Beatles classic and filmed it on my new phone – which is why it’s all narrow…..this is just a practice run but it was fun to do!


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Week #13 Story #11

August 3rd, 2015 by Ash



This story was really fun to write.  What’s nice about writing these short shorts, is I get to experiment a little without worrying about whether I’ve committed to a good idea or not!

The idea for this story is to have each paragraph linked very loosely to the next, as if someone was on the internet and looking at their Facebook and then something else.  I like the idea of writing a story that follows the way in which our mind sometimes connects things at random.  I think a lot of the connections in this story are really obvious but I like the idea and I think I’ll explore it more in my writing, perhaps creating less obvious links.

System one thinking

Gait:  The pattern of movement of the limbs of animals, including humans, during locomotion over a solid substrate.

It was clear.  Abbey was definitely the Alpha of their pack.

Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek Alphabet. The symbol of Omega is used in Eschatology, which is a part of theology concerned with the final events of History, or the ultimate destiny of humanity.

After his car accident, Darren called his mother, but she didn’t answer, she was cooking her traditional meatballs for their monthly family meal and nothing would distract her from her meatballs.

Nagoya, is a modern manufacturing and shipping hub in central Honshu, Japan. The city’s Naka ward is home to museums, pachinko (gambling machine) parlors and the Sakae entertainment district. Toyota is a city located in Aichi Prefecture, east of Nagoya.

At the airport, Darren kissed June goodbye as she left for her pilgrimage to Aokigahara, otherwise known as the Suicide forest.  Sarah, June’s therapist had controversially recommended the trip.

Everyone seems to know about the giant Redwood, measuring 115.6 metres tall, however, Australia’s Eucalypt’s are equally deserving of attention – Eucalyptus Regnans, The Mountain Ash has been recorded at 99.6 metres tall.

On their romantic and slightly isolated camping trip, Sarah and Abbey stared into each other’s faces and saw each other properly for the first time.

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Week #12 Story #9 and #10

July 28th, 2015 by Ash

Getting a little bit behind with my Sunday submissions (it being Tuesday and all) but I shall persevere!!

This first story is very very very short.  I began writing thinking it would be a lot longer, but the instant I wrote the last line I realised it didn’t need any more.  I really like this one, mostly because to write something 51 words long and have it be complete is pretty crazy!

Sometimes you have to know when to put the pen down!

Wild Ones

I was about a three months old when my dad told me I would probably only live about one year – Maybe 14 months if I was lucky.  When I asked him why, he said – Because we’re mice son.  That’s when a lot of things fell into place.

This next piece was much more difficult.  It is based HEAVILY on real life, but my first draft just stank of exposition.  There was very little craft in the original.  So, I applied my craft and invented elements to make the story a work of fiction but also a work of art.  This line between biography and artfully told life is a fascinating one.

Cultural Awareness

I was taking part in some cultural awareness training through the local community health group and we were doing a group participation exercise.  We had to write down three things that mattered most to us in the world on three separate bits of paper.  I wrote, in no particular order: music, my family, my quiet time.  Then, as part of the exercise, the facilitator pretended to be the uncaring government agency in charge of our welfare.  He told us we all had to choose one of the three important things.  After a moment, he said you have to pass your chosen thing along to the third person to your right.

I lost music, which was pretty shitty.  I collected the important thing from the third person to my left and I unwrapped the piece of paper, their important thing, read music.  At first I was happy, because I had gotten music back.  Then I looked closer at the piece of paper.  The hand writing slanted to the left slightly and was much neater than mine.  I counted three people to my left to see a woman in her forties with thick dark hair with her head down looking at her new important thing trying to make sense of it.  What music did she cherish? It appeared in my imagination to sound like traditional Farsi music.  I wanted to tell her I had her music.  She looked up at me and our eyes met.  I could see she was trying to explain in her mind how she could lose her child and I just happened to be there.  She was taking this exercise very hard.  I tried to show her with only my face that it was ok, but it either didn’t translate or it didn’t help.  Then the ‘Government Agency’ swept past us and took another of our important things due to “Cut backs”.  I was left with, my quiet time and this woman’s music.

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Week #10 Story #8

July 12th, 2015 by Ash



This story came from two sources.  The picture/setting came from a drive in the country side when we were returning from an afternoon in Sassafras.  The other source was my local cafe (where I often write).

Anyway, hope you like it and as always, let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading

Operation Cheer up

He used to walk into cafes and restaurants and give everyone smokey eyes, with his mouth just slightly open in a pout.  It was if he believed he was in a movie set and everyone in the café were extra’s and the camera was rolling on his entrance, the hero.  It used to crack me up.  I asked him about it once and he said he had no idea what I was talking about.  I found that amazing about Paul, his ability to carry on with his belief in himself and his place in the world despite any kind of evidence to the contrary, a true optimist in every sense.

It was when he came to stay with me in the Dandenongs that we fell out.  My little cabin was in a very quiet spot, which I liked, but what I loved was the view.  The place sat at the base of large tree covered hill.  I could recline in my living space and look up through the window at its beautiful curved shape sitting beneath the sky.

Paul had brought his dog, paradise without asking.  Every morning, hangover and all, Paul would take Paradise and run up that hill and back.  They’d return, tongues out,  wet with sweat and the morning dew.

It bothered Paul that I couldn’t get out of bed and run up the hill with him.  It mystified him.  It also bothered him that I wouldn’t get over my divorce.  Maybe it bored him more than it bothered him.  His judgment, my pain, too many conversations avoiding those things and too much booze meant by the end of his week at my place, we were hating each other.

I guess he felt he failed his mission at operation cheer me up and he didn’t want to believe he could fail at something.  And to be fair, I wanted to show him that sometimes things fail.

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Week #9 Story # 7

July 5th, 2015 by Ash

Two men in a mirror pool at piestany spa

This weeks story is actually a short play or screen play.  Sometimes I sit down to write a story and I find myself writing only dialogue.  During the process it occurs to me I’m actually writing a play or screen play.  I’m quite comfortable writing screen plays.  As an actor I get given a lot of film scripts to read so I feel very familiar with the way in which screen plays are formatted.  It’s quite different from writing a short story and I enjoy the departure.

I have to give credit to an amazing author Denis Johnson for a simple idea I borrowed from one of his amazing short story collections, Jesus’ Son.



Mick is sitting alone in the leisure centre spa. He is in

his fifties, lean in the face and he looks like he’s seen

some things. A.J arrives and hangs up his towel and puts

his drink bottle next to the spa. A.J is in his early

thirties, he’s a little out of shape but has a youthful







How are you?


Good thanks. And you?




This feels good. I’m not sitting

too close am I?


No. You’re fine.




It’s nice and quiet today


Yeah it’s nice


So what do you do?


I’m a writer


Oh yeah. How’s that working out

for you?


Pretty good. Although I’m having a

bit of trouble at the moment.

That’s why I’ve come here. Bit of



What’s the trouble?


Well. I’ve realised I’m not very

good at dialogue.


I dunno what that means.


Well you know in a story when two

or more characters talk to each





That’s the dialogue.


Right. So what’s the problem?


My dialogue doesn’t sound natural.


What does that mean?


When my characters speak, they just

seem, well what they say to each

other just sounds cliched and



What’s cliched?


(in a melodramatic voice)

I love you. Don’t go!





That’s a cliche. Sorry. Didn’t I

make that clear. Sorry.


You’re fucking weird. I think

that’s your problem.


You’re probably right.

The two guys look around the centre for a moment observing

other patrons.


Why don’t just write down what you

actually say to people. Just write

exactly what people say to each







Yeah well. That’s the problem. I

do do that. I listen carefully to

what people say. The problem is

they always say cliched things like

“I love you. Don’t go.” For



I don’t get it. Writing sounds

hard as fuck.




So are you going to write this?


What? You mean what we’re saying

right now?




I don’t know. Maybe I shall.



After making this conclusion the two guys get slightly

awkward and self conscious.


So is there anything you’d like to

tell the people listening to this?




Tell us a bit about yourself.


I don’t like it.




This shit. This writing shit.


Okay. Sorry. We don’t have

  1. Sorry. Well what about some



Don’t get married.


Right. Why is that?


Because you start out rooting each

other, then you root for each other,

then one day something changes and

all you want, is to see that other

person fail, so you’ll be proved

right about everything.




Right. And then they shoot you.


What? You’ve been shot?


No. She missed.



Both the guys take a big drink out of their respective water



What are you writing about at the



It’s a novel. About a writer.


You’re a writer writing about a





Fuck that sounds confusing.


Yeah it is. I don’t think it’s

very good.


What’s it about?


Well, the writer falls in love with

a beautiful jazz singer.


Oh yeah.

(They stare at each other a

moment. Mick waits for A.J to

continue but he just looks back at


Then what?


That’s it really.


Doesn’t anything happen?


Well they find the affair difficult

because the jazz singers black and

the writers white and so they’re

confronted with a lot of problems

about what society understands

about race and sexuality – oh,

they’re a gay couple.


Yeah right. Can’t choose who you





But what happens though?


Oh. That’s kind of it.


No wonder you’re having trouble

writing the dialogue, nothing

fucking happens.


Could be.


I don’t read many books but I like

movies. I like that Mad Max movie.


Haven’t seen it.


There’s not a lot of talking, but a

lot of stuff happens. I liked




Maybe you’re right.


Maybe. I don’t know anything about

writing though.

A.J takes this in as he looks off into the middle distance. Then he comes back from his thoughts.


What do you think should happen to





The people in my story.


Shit. I dunno.


I don’t think I’m brave enough to

decide their fate.


Just don’t let them get married, if

they get married, trust me, their

fate is sealed, I know that much.



You know what. I think I just got

my ending.




Yeah. Thank you so much.


No worries.


What’s your name?




Mick thank you. My name’s A.J by

the way. Thank you.

A.J gets up out of the spa, grabbing his wattle bottle and

then his towel.


Thank you Mick.


That’s alright mate. Have a good

one. Good luck with characters and

                    dialogue and all that.


Thanks. Bye.


See ya.

A.J exits leaving Mick alone to enjoy the quiet spa. He leans back.



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Week # 8 Story # 6

June 29th, 2015 by Ash


This week I’ve gone with something topical for my story, which is a first.  Emily spell checked this one and she also wanted to know if this really happened……I remain aloof…..being mysterious is sexy….isn’t it?

Here it is, story number # 6

110kg vs Charleston

I was between sets of squats at the gym, trying to look casual in front of lots of mirrors.  While looking about I caught a glimpse of myself at such an unusual angle that I didn’t recognise myself.  I had to move about slightly to check if that person was actually me.  I looked up at the T.V’s to avoid any more surprises.  CNN was on and there was a long story about the Charleston massacre and they were showing footage of the funeral. Or perhaps it was a service I couldn’t tell, the sound was down.

I really like the gym.  I like that I’m surrounded by people I don’t know.  I like that they’re there, but I don’t really want to get to know anyone.  I was going there about two years before anyone spoke to me.  It’s the same feeling I have when I’m writing in a café.

I looked away from the T.V screens, careful not to look into the mirrors. I observed my fellow gym patrons and I saw a ginger haired girl in her mid 20s, slight, with reddened cheeks slumped down against a pulley machine.  Her face was drawn.  Because of her expression, I was worried for her.  I wandered over, “Excuse me, is everything alright? Are you ok?”

She looked up, her face didn’t change at my interruption, I wondered if she was a lonely person.

“It’s so sad,” she said looking up at the T.V’s and then at me.

“Yes it is.”  I said.  We were quite for a moment.  I had being training myself how to sit with uncomfortable silence and this moment was just that.

“It looks like those people were really loved.”  She said

“Yes.  That counts.”

“Yes.”  We sat there a moment, in the Coburg Leisure Centre weights room and we looked at people in South Carolina dealing with death as best they could.  Something about the wide shot of the church reminded me of the Prince William and Kate wedding.

“Do you think anything will change?” She said, her eyes still on the T.V

“No.” I said and looked down at my weight lifting gloves and adjusted them.  “How long have you been coming here?  I don’t think I’ve seen you before.” I said, looking back at her.

“About two years.” She said.

“Yeah cool.  I’m going to keep training.” I said, “I think you should to.”


“Us gingers have to stick together.”

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Week #7 Story #5

June 21st, 2015 by Ash




In this story I’ve tried to show moments from someone’s entire life in only 100 words.  I wanted to show moments that the reader would find somehow stimulating and create the rest of the story in their own head without me writing it.  Anyway, it was really fun to write.

Here’s story number #5 out of what I’m hoping to eventually be 52 in the year!

Susan, actor/writer/director

Her heel broke on the way to her third audition that week.

After meeting her future husband she called her mother at 2am.

She sang quietly to their dog as a way of communicating the divorce.

When she finished writing her third play, she decided to produce “The Birthday”, a play by someone else.

In Portugal, she learnt what true freedom was while staying with a goose farmer.

She later married Alyssa, who rolled her “R’s” and walked with a swagger.

During an interview, she was asked about how she felt about finally making it.  That same night in the cab ride home, she touched her grandmother’s watch and smiled.

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