All The Books I Can Read

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Australian Author Guest Post: Tanya Heaslip

Today I am delighted to welcome Australian author Tanya Heaslip to my blog! Tanya is the author or two novels/memoirs: Alice In Prague and An Alice Girl, the latter of which was released yesterday! In honour of her new release, Tanya agreed to contribute a little something for my blog. Growing up in a remote location in Alice Springs in Australia, Tanya did a lot of her schooling via the school of the air, distance eduction for children living remotely in Australia. Given the climate, and the fact that my kids are currently “remote learning from home” I thought it’d be an interesting topic to hear more on.

‘WERE THE GOOD OL’ DAYS REALLY SO GOOD?’

One of the greatest challenges for families living in isolated outback Australia is the need to educate their children. 

Correspondence School and School of the Air lessons fortunately make primary school study possible, which is all thanks to the vision and hard work of pioneers such as John Flynn, Alf Traeger and Adelaide Miethke OBE. In the 1960s and 70s I did primary school lessons on our station, Bond Springs. I studied the ‘3 R’s’’ through Correspondence School (Adelaide) and School of the Air (Alice Springs) and loved every minute of it. 

But there was no opportunity to learn social skills, or to play sport, or learn art, or music. 

Today, things have improved beyond anything I could have imagined. 

When I shouted through the static of our two-way radio every morning, ‘Sierra Victor Uniform to VJD, good morning Mrs Hodder, over,’ I could never have dreamt of the possibilities available in 2020. 

With state-of-the-art facilities, School of the Air Australia wide now enables bush kids to actually see their classmates and their teachers on a screen. The curriculum has broadened enormously as a result, with art, dance, music and even sport included in lessons. 

This is in large part thanks to the tireless work of ICPA and dedicated teachers. The gap between educating bush children and city children is lessened every day. 

I still think that’s a miracle!

But challenges remain. 

Parents and children are still isolated and nothing can really prepare an isolated bush child for the shock of sitting in a city classroom with other students and a live teacher for the very first time.

Secondary education for bush children remains an even greater challenge. Teenagers do need to engage with the outside world to learn survival skills for life. Hence, I gather boarding school is still considered one of the best options for bush children once they reach their teens. 

That was certainly the view in the 60s and 70s, when the NT government actually paid a subsidy to bush parents to send their children away. The government did this because it couldn’t offer a decent secondary education alternative here. As a result, children were usually around twelve or thirteen when they were dispatched to cities for their first year of secondary education – far, far away from home. They had to stay a whole five years if they were to matriculate, and become self-reliant to survive.

The emotional and mental cost of such a transition was enormous. How could it have been otherwise? Bush children, particularly back when I was growing up, knew only cattle, horses, stockmen, family, and the freedom of the bush. We rarely had experience being separated from our families, especially our mothers, and we knew almost nothing of city life. Boarding schools back in the 60s and 70s, especially for girls, were Victorian in style, and we students ended up being more isolated behind stone walls than we’d ever been in the outback. We saw our families only three times a year, communication was limited to weekly letters and telegrams in emergencies, and the homesickness, fear and sense of alienation that went with such restrictions were rampant and immeasurable.

Of course, it wasn’t just the child, but also the family left behind, who grieved. Their loved one had been taken from their care and sent off into the wide world alone – for a good cause, it was agreed by one and all – but that didn’t lessen the loss.

Fortunately, organisations like ICPA have fought tirelessly over the decades to bring these emotional and mental issues to the attention of boarding schools. ICPA has changed the way boarding schools engage with children from the bush – and that is much for the better. There is now support, a lot of it, and most importantly, parents have a voice. Parents, friends and family can speak to their children through mobile phone calls and texts, see their faces through FaceTime or Skype, and share emails, photos and pretty much everything about home that the child might be missing, except for smells. Nothing can replicate the aromas of bulldust in the cattle yards or the sweetness of a horse!

But those communication tools were not even a dream in the 60s and 70s. Moreover, the parents back then had No Voice.

When I went to my Methodist boarding school in Adelaide, Mum lost all say in my life the day she handed me over to their custody.  In fact, Mum lost all rights to us for the duration of the time we were inside that school. 

The Headmistress, and her (mostly) unsympathetic mistresses, assumed loco parentis control of our lives, and nothing Mum could say or do or write or champion could affect or impact that. Even a personal letter by Mum to the Headmistress, pleading for help and intervention for me in my first year when I was struggling, was resolutely ignored. As were Mum’s phone calls to the Headmistress. 

Mum didn’t even receive the courtesy of a reply saying, ‘no we can’t help’ or even better ‘don’t worry, your daughter is doing fine’ (although I wasn’t).

She received nothing

Radio silence.

But that was a very deliberate approach by the boarding schools of the time. 

Boarding schools took the view that there should be no communication, or at the least very little, with family, as it was the quickest and most effective way of ‘breaking the child into its new life.’ It was the same approach taken by the military, a well-known strategy, and a very successful one. You take a gaggle of individuals from the outside world, herd them together into one space, break them down through isolation, rules, and punishment, until they are just one group speaking with one voice, obedient and structured. The boarding school approach, eerily similar to the military, was to break the child’s link with the life they had come from in order to fully adapt to a new one.

There were obviously pros and cons with that approach. I suspect it works better with volunteers, adults, people who have some life understanding to manage it. For a naïve, twelve-year-old child with no worldly knowledge, it was brutal and confusing. 

Likewise, for the parents.

On the few occasions Mum came to Adelaide, Mum had to write or telegram in advance to seek an appointment to see me, which in turn had to be approved in a special book, and it was subject to my behaviour. If and when it was granted, it was on limited and very strict terms. We received about two or three precious hours for a visit outside the school, and about one hour of a visit inside, where we had to sit in a special waiting room next to the mistresses’ study.

As a result, Mum suffered enormous mental anguish for years, as it wasn’t just me who went to boarding school, but I was followed by M’Lis, Brett and Ben. 

Mum’s rage and fury at the injustice of it all – and powerlessness of parents over their own children – grew.

One day she finally decided to do something about it.

She became one of the founding members of the NT ICPA and its first NT President. She started – and has never stopped – championing the rights of bush children and particularly for children at boarding school. 

She also became the first Chairman of St Philip’s College and pushed hard to grow the school so that bush parents would have a local option if they didn’t want to send their children south, or east, or west. She worked tirelessly to ensure they had secondary education opportunities here equivalent to any school in the cities. 

Mum was involved in designing the boarding school windows of St Philip’s to make sure the panes overlooked the red ranges of Central Australia. She wanted boarders to gaze upon a landscape they knew and loved. She was desperate to ensure they weren’t homesick; or if they were, they could be comforted. Because Mum knew one thing for sure. The grief and homesickness that children sent away to boarding school felt included the wild, outback land itself, which had nourished and sustained them for all the early years of their life. A rapid transition to concrete, asphalt and stone walls was akin to being thrown in prison, with no stars, no sun, and no earth underfoot. She was determined it would be different for children at St Philip’s.

For so many reasons, I have much for which to thank Mum. 

She and Dad slaved and sacrificed everything to send me away so I could have a good education. She suffered herself, but never once said, ‘You have to come home.’ Instead she turned her energies into creating better opportunities for children who came after us.

And I did receive a brilliant education. The school might have been entirely absent kindness and community care, but it excelled in education. 

So I got to use my passion for reading and writing to go on to university and study law. I was the first NT School of the Air student to undertake such a strange venture. I was then the first to graduate in law. Receiving my Bachelor of Laws and Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, and then admission to the bar in Adelaide and Darwin and Perth, and finally the High Court of Australia, was a privilege and an honour that would never have been open to me had I not gone away to boarding school. 

Our outback society has also come a long way. The rights of children and parents in the bush have improved significantly. The balance has shifted. Bush children now have new opportunities during primary years which while not completely reducing the challenges of isolation, certainly go a long way towards overcoming them (even if it’s a ‘satellite down’ these days, rather than wireless static, that stops a lesson in its tracks!) And bush children who have to go away to boarding school now have a wonderful option in Alice Springs – which is not so far, and is still in the outback – or if the children do go interstate, boarding schools are very different beasts today. There, parents do have a voice.

I look in awe at the vibrant, invigorated ICPA of 2020, filled with young hopeful parents, all enthusiastic and committed to better education outcomes for their children. 

And I think, ‘Don’t ever stop. Your work is invaluable. You have no idea how much.’

***

Thank you Tanya, for a fascinating insight to how isolated children from rural Australia must’ve been at those boarding schools. I know myself that I wouldn’t have thrived in that environment as a student or even as a parent who had to send a child there. What an amazing advocate for change your mother has been!

Tomorrow I will have a review of Tanya’s new memoir, An Alice Girl about her childhood growing up on a farm north of Alice Springs, in central Australia, in the 1960s and 1970s. In the meantime you can:

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Author Guest Post – Sally Hepworth

Today I am delighted to welcome Australian author Sally Hepworth to the blog. Sally is the author of The Secrets of Midwives and the recently-released The Things We Keep. Today she’s sharing her thoughts on a topic that’s probably close to the hearts of all authors!

Sally Hepworth

SHOW ME THE MONEY

 

I’m just going to put it out there, because everyone else does. Ever since I got my first book contract a few years ago, the same question has hovered on people’s lips.

How much?

There are different versions of the question, of course. “So, are you able to earn a living?” is pretty standard. “How much money does an author make these days?” is another regular. And of course, for the more direct among us, there is: “How much are you getting paid?”

The question might be whispered, it might be brazen. There are those who’d never dream of asking, but not many whose ears wouldn’t prick up if the topic arose. Money. For some reason it’s simply titillating, irresistible fare.

Authors ourselves are guilty of it. At events, we dance around the topic with each other with questions like “have you got your first royalty cheque?” or “how’s it selling?” Our responses are generally maddeningly vague: It’s selling pretty well;

Yes, got my first check; Yeah, we’re getting by. A generous few might go a little further and mutter something about five or six figures, which narrows it down to somewhere in the range of $10,000 and $999,999.

Ultimately people want numbers. Cold. Hard. Numbers.

And everyone’s asking. A few months ago, my GP asked me outright how much I earned for my last book, during a breast examination. More recently, an acquaintance of my mothers charged across the shop floor of Laura Ashley, exclaiming: “is she making a fortune?” Journalists apologize and preface the question with, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask …”

Part of it, I suspect, is what I call the J.K. Rowling effect.  A lot of writers bandy about the old saying “you don’t get into writing for the money.” But I wonder. Yes, most writers know the statistics going in. We know the deal. But doesn’t everyone believe hope they’ll be that one exception to the rule? The J.K. Rowling. The E.L. James, the Stephenie Meyer. If it was them, why not me? Isn’t that possibility, that tiny incy wincy chance, part of the game? Isn’t that why we buy lottery tickets?

The sad truth is, the vast majority of writers don’t earn much. I don’t know the exact statistic these days, but it’s bound to be woeful. Woe. Ful. Want to hear about that? Me neither. I’d much rather hear about J.K. Rowling.

Look, I get it. I’d love to know how much money other people earn. Heck, if it was socially acceptable, I’d ask everyone I met. The gardener, the train driver, the man at my news agency. I’m nosy like that. The fact that we don’t talk about it, makes it exciting. And for an author, it’s even more exciting. The range is enormous. You might earn pennies. You might earn squillions. It’s the mystery that is the exciting part.

And for this reason I, of course, can’t tell you how much I earn. Still, if you’re a journalist / shopping in Laura Ashley / giving me a breast examination, by all means, ask. But you won’t get something for nothing. You show me yours and I just might show you mine.

***

Thank you Sally! I have to admit, I’m rather guilty of those thoughts myself sometimes. I see a popular book, one that’s pushed significantly or one that seems to be the ‘it’ book of the moment and think to myself hmm, I wonder how much that one ended up making? I think being a novelist is a romanticised career sometimes, especially when you read about the sensations like Rowling.

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You can see my review of The Secrets Of Midwives here

And The Things We Keep here

Visit Sally’s website

Follow her on twitter

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Author Guest Post – J.M. Peace

 

JM Peace (c) Sheree Tomlinson WEB

Today I’m happy to welcome Australian author J.M. Peace to my blog. Her debut novel, A Time To Run has just been released and to celebrate, I’m taking part in the blog tour. You can find the full details of all the stops at the bottom of this post and my review of Time To Run will be up later today, so don’t forget to check back for that too. But for now, it’s over to Jay and the use of a pseudonym.

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I don’t want to shock you, but J.M. Peace is not my real name.  I know, who would have guessed?

I chose to use a pseudonym in an attempt to duck any potential conflicts of interest that arise from the fact that I am still a serving police officer. I may or may not encounter any number of problems along the lines of conflict of interest, improper disclosure of information and secondary employment obligations. When I consulted my union about it, they listed a potential eighteen areas of legislative concern. So I thought my life would be easier if I pretended not to be me.

I intend on continuing to pretend to be J.M. Peace until I make the decision to identify myself. That will hopefully be after I have resigned from my ‘day job’ to pursue writing and other plans.

Having a fake identity is an odd sort of thing. As well as the blog, there’s an email, a personal Facebook page as well as an author page, plus some other social media accounts. But I’m making quite a few mistakes with it all, and only realising what I’ve stuffed up as I go along.

The initials were probably an error. The fullstops are a problem when it comes to searching for the name on social media sites. I didn’t see that one coming.  I’ve also been referred to on a few occasions as ‘Jim’. Clearly an ‘i’ can be added at the reader’s discretion.

Just to add to the confusion, the initials are fake. My actual name does not start with ‘J’. At some point I realised I should probably create a new name. So, trying to keep it simple, I have a fake first name of ‘Jay’. Now I have to remember to answer to it, use it when introducing myself in relation to the book and also when signing off emails from my author email account. I’ve already failed on occasion at every one of these points. On the plus side, my fake signature looks a lot better than my real one though.

I had a phone interview about the book the other day. New problem – how do I answer the phone? If I used my real name, the interviewer would think they had the wrong number. If I used my fake name and it was anyone but the interviewer that would lead to a very interesting conversation too. Especially if it was someone from work. I went with ‘Hello’ and an explanation.

There’s a personal connection for me with the name ‘Peace’, but I partially chose it because I thought it would be a good fake name for a copper/crime writer. Something that was easy to remember and maybe stuck in the reader’s mind.

I did consider that it might be considered twee and unrealistic. But a scroll through our internal police email system reveals real police officer’s surnames that make ‘Peace’ seem unimaginative. There’s a Goody (fortunately no Baddies), Crook, Kill, Strongman and one of my personal favourites, Punchard. And I thought it was such a shame when Senior Constable Makepeace changed her name after marrying.

If you gave characters in a story names like these, everyone would say it was too far-fetched. Truth is stranger than fiction. Maybe ‘J.M. Peace’ wasn’t such a bad choice after all.

ID

 

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Want to know more? Check out the author’s website and follow the other stops on the tour!

Blog Tour – A Time to Run

 

And don’t forget to check back later today for my own review of Time To Run. 

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Guest Post: Australian Author Fiona McArthur

McArthur, Fiona, credit Carolyn Guichard3

Today I am thrilled to welcome Aussie romance author Fiona McArthur back to the blog. Fiona was here last year for a Q&A on all things reading, writing and life and now returns to share a little about her newest novel, The Homestead Girls and the inspiration for including the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in the story.

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Flying Doctors

The Homestead Girls is a story about five women and the background is about medical retrieval in the outback. I’ve dedicated the book, with much sincerity, to the wonderful people who work for and support the Royal Flying Doctor Service, because, like every Australian, I’ve always greatly admired those who meet the needs of those far-flung families who live away from the medical facilities of the city.

One of the women characters is an experienced flight nurse – I do have a friend who is one, one becomes the flying doctor she’s always wanted to be – have met and spoken to several, one used to be a bush nurse and helps raise money for the cause, and one has her closest relative saved by the service – so it’s a story that touches on how the flying doctor service can work.

Real stories of medical retrieval by the flying doctors touch us and a lot of it is the humility and appreciation of those who have been saved. So many times it’s hard working, unpretentious people in extremely remote areas who are used to managing with their own resources, those who never ask for assistance but offer it selflessly, who might need that urgent rescue. RFDS makes it their job to help those people and a whole lot more. It could be a grey nomad and his wife involved in an accident, a mum in an outback community in premature labour or a child with a snake bite. All people who need to travel from a remote outpost to a larger hospital in what could be a matter of life or death.

If you do travel to Longreach, Charleville, Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs, Broken Hill or Dubbo then drop into the RFDS visitor centres because the statistics and stories and history of the service is fascinating and inspiring.

You can read a story, there’s hundreds of them, that will thicken your throat and blur your vision when you look up case a history from the RFDS Stories like ‘Fuzz’s, here. http://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/News.html?NewSite=1&ItemID=891&count=1

Fuzz knew his heart was probably going to stop. Just imagine him telling his mate to strap that AED onto his chest in case they’d have to use it. I’m certainly going to use it in my next book. Not because it’s dramatic and almost unbelievable, but because I admire Fuzz, who has probably saved other people’s lives, for not only thinking of himself, he was worried about his mate and how his mate would feel if he couldn’t keep Fuzz alive until that plane landed. Go Fuzz, and go his mate who did CPR until Fuzz regained consciousness, but unless Fuzz was retrieved to a large hospital by the RFDS for surgery he would have died.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is only partly funded by the government. It runs on donations from individuals, groups and fund-raising activities, and when you run down the list of people, and what they do to raise that $20 million funds every year, it’s humbling.

An example is Operation Pudding that the senior bush ladies from around Broken Hill come together for every year. The way these women gather, some travelling hundreds of kilometres, to cook for a week and how every single one of those Christmas Puddings are snapped up, not just because it’s a secret recipe and the best pudding in the world, but because people are supporting the RFDS.

Money is raised by sponsored car rally’s, circumnavigating cyclists and women walking the Kakoda Trail, though it’s the RFDS tin that sits in every hairdresser, pub and shop in the outback towns that quietly accumulates, too. So if you see a tin, or a fundraiser, smile, share a thought for the people you can help, and be generous and be thankful, Australia, in all her vastness, has the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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I found the RFDS really interesting in The Homestead Girls, there’s so much to consider when staffing and running an organisation that relies on planes to access its patients. I’ll have a review of The Homestead Girls up on the blog later today so make sure you check back for that! Thanks again for stopping by, Fiona.

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Blog Tour: Author Guest Post ~ Helene Young on Songs Into Words

Helene Young Author Photo (QF) Today I am very excited to welcome one of my favourite Australian authors, Helene Young to my blog. I am participating in a blog tour to support the release of Helene’s latest novel, Northern Heat. My review for Northern Heat will be up on the blog later today so make sure you check back for that! You can find out more details about the tour at the end of this post but for now, Helene is sharing a piece she has written on the songs behind the words of Northern Heat. Thank you Helene!

Songs Into Words…

Are you a music lover? Do you have music playing when you’re working, driving or relaxing?

I love music, particularly when I’m driving. I’m one of those nutcases belting out the words sat in a traffic jam… But when I write I usually prefer silence – though of course my characters’ voices in my head can be pretty rowdy!

Up to now Shattered Sky was the only book I’d written that had a song attached to it.  I never did work out why, but I got into the habit of playing Bonnie Tyler’s rousing ‘I Need a Hero’ just before I sat down to write.  I remember running on a treadmill in the Stamford Hotel’s gym after finishing a late session training pilots in the simulator in Sydney. I had headphones on and was singing along at the top of my voice, thinking about the story and certain no one else would be up at that time of the early morning. I was more than a little embarrassed to see the cleaner with a wide smile waving at me as he left just as the song finished…

But then along came Northern Heat. It was different from the start. Several pieces of music attached themselves straight away.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu singing his beautiful song, ‘Wiyathul’, heads the list. For me the song is so very evocative of the land around Cooktown and Black Mountain. His voice has a spiritual sound that transports me with the opening bars.

Next came that plaintive ballad from A Great Big World and Christine Aguilera – ‘Say Something’. To me is speaks so strongly of physical loss as well as emotional loss and this was Conor’s song as he struggled to come to terms with losing his wife and daughter. He didn’t have the chance to say goodbye, to say any of the things that were in his heart and he was still grieving, sure that he didn’t deserve to find love again. I believed he deserved redeeming but he wasn’t sure about that himself.

Pink’s ‘Just Give Me A Reason’ was Kristy’s song. Kristy’s previous marriage had left scars that were always going to be hard to heal. Was the domestic violence real or perceived? Was he controlling or caring? Was he simply older than her and teaching her or was he changing her, ruling her.  The way that marriage ended left her with unanswered questions, left her unsure whether she did have the strength to be her own woman, despite her successful career. She questioned whether she could be a good mother to Abby or whether even there she was failing.  Was her ex-husband right and she was bad mother? Or was she imagining it?

And finally there was ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ by Labrinth. Freya is a secondary character in Northern Heat, but through her actions, and those of her family, she has a huge impact on the story. I know I’ll write her story one day. She’s a beautiful young woman who’s troubled past has taught her that she’s only as good as her looks.  She’s trapped in a marriage that’s spiraling deeper and deeper into violence, but with two children to support she’s terrified of leaving and petrified of staying. The song gave me the optimism to write her story as it was, warts and all, knowing that she would have to face her demons one day.

I hope you enjoy the four songs that provided the backdrop for Northern Heat. Capt G and Zeus are both very glad I’ve finished writing it and there’s different music onboard Roobinesque again!

I suspect the need for music was because Northern Heat, like Burning Lies, is an intimate story.  It’s about a struggling single mum juggling a busy career as a doctor, a man in need of redemption and a teenager hell bent on finding love for her mother again.  At the heart of it is domestic violence, the ripple effect that it can have on the individual, the family and the wider community. Maybe because it is a dark theme I needed music to feed my soul.

If you’re a reader  – do you listen to music when you read? If you’re a writer – do you need music playing when you write?

I’d love to hear what works for you

Helene

To celebrate the release of my sixth book I have six prize packs to give away. Four of them are duos of SAFE HARBOUR and NORTHERN HEAT and one major prize is a complete set of my six books. For international readers there is a duo of e-books to be won. To enter leave a comment here or share the post and/or the trailer on social media site and I’ll double your chances! Hope to see you through May at the following blogs:

5th May: http://bookdout.wordpress.com

7th May: http://auslit.net

10th May: http://deannasworld1.blogspot.com.au

12th May: http://www.jennjmcleod.com

14th May: http://ausromtoday.com

17th May: https://1girl2manybooks.wordpress.com

19th May: http://writenotereviews.com

21st May: https://australianbookshelf.wordpress.com

24th May: https://nevendbookshelf.wordpress.com/category/reviews/

26th May: http://teddyree-theeclecticreader.blogspot.com.au

28th May: http://australianruralromance.com

31st May: http://talkingbooksblog.net

2nd June: Wrap up and announce the winner on my blog-

http://www.heleneyoung.com

 

Northern Heat – Release date 27th May, 2015 In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown’s youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and the opportunity to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark. The local GP is hiding her own secrets and struggling to raise her feisty teenage daughter alone. When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they’ll both lose someone they love.

Author Bio When Helene’s not writing novels she enjoys a busy career as the Queensland Regional Flying Manager with Australia’s largest regional airline. She’s worked in aviation for over 25 years and has 260 pilots reporting into her. She recently appeared in ‘Judith Lucy is All Woman’ in an episode showcasing women in aviation. She has twice won the highly coveted RWA’s Romantic Book of the Year in 2011 and 2012 and was shortlisted for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Crime and Suspense. She has also been nominated in the Ned Kelly and Sisters in Crime Awards. Helene’s last novel, Safe Harbour, was voted Australia’s 2014 Favourite Romantic Suspense Novel. This is the fourth time Helene’s stories have won the award. A motivational speaker and writing mentor, Helene lives aboard a catamaran on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and she plans one day to sail around the world in it.

Pre-order Buy Links http://www.booktopia.com.au http://www.amazon.com.au http://www.bookworld.com.au

Northern Heat Trailer You Tube: HTML version : Flat Cover Northern Heat Med Res

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Blog Tour Author Guest Post: Posie Graeme-Evans

Wild Wood

This post is a part of the Wild Wood blog tour put together by Simon & Schuster AU. For a complete list of the tour spots, see the banner at the bottom of this post and for my review of Wild Wood, check back later today.

Now I’d like to welcome the author of Wild Wood, Posie Graeme-Evans to my blog.

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Writing is not a process I analyze when I’m doing it, it seems more dreamlike than anything else; as hypnosis is described in “Wild Wood” – mind awake, body asleep – that’s what writing feels like to me sometimes.

And though I distrust the word “organic” – because it comes freighted with so many clichés – perhaps it does best describe how I write. I start with something that won’t go away, and gradually a story appears from the mist at the back of my head. Baggy, shaggy, full of false starts and abandoned tank traps, one day, it will have grown enough bones to stand up on its own (mix those metaphors!)

For instance, with “Wild Wood”, Bayard’s first person voice came first and it was so clear that, through him, I had a way into the past of the Scottish Borderlands; I trusted where he led me from the first time I heard him speak*, though I’d never written from a man’s perspective ever before. (*Who was it said, “Writing is a form of Schizophrenia”?)

Similarly, in the “present” – London, 1981, in the lead-up to the wedding of Charles and Diana – Jesse also arrived in a rush. She was so different and, I think, so brave, that I grew very fond of her. But the unlikely link between the two times turned out to be a legend from the isle of sky, one I’d heard at Dunvegan castle twenty years ago. I re-shaped and re-thought that strand and it became a lens through which I could see both times running together.

But it isn’t only the legend that gave me ground to stand on with two such different story drives; it’s common humanity. Jesse and Bayard, in the end, want the same things – as I think we all do. To love and be loved, to know where where you belong (though Bayard’s ahead of Jesse on that score, he’s just not too happy about it) and to rediscover that it’s possible to hope. There’s also the little matter that surface reality isn’t all there is. I find that rich, and intriguing, and a great, great source of story.

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Thank you Posie for providing more insight into your wonderful story.

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Don’t forget to check back later today to read my review of Wild Wood! For now I’ll leave you with the book trailer

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Review & Author Guest Post: Snowy River Man by Lizzy Chandler

Snowy River ManSnowy River Man
Lizzy Chandler
Harlequin Escape Publishing
2015, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

When Katrina Delaney hears news of a missing boy she knows immediately that it’s connected to the dream she had. This has happened to her before and she’s worked with police to find missing children in the past. This situation will be different for Katrina though. This time she knows the missing boy’s father.

Seven years ago Katrina and Jack Fairley had a one night stand before she discovered that he was engaged to be married. She hasn’t seen him since. Even though seeing him now will be difficult she knows that she has to help. She could never stand by passively when she might be able to provide any piece of information, no matter how small, that might help find this missing child.

Jack Fairley is a busy single father, frantic with worry for his missing son Nick. He’s willing to try anything, even the psychic that someone has told him might have information. When the psychic arrives, Jack is stunned. And suspicious. He has reason to doubt that her motives are pure and Katrina’s arrival could put all Jack holds dear in danger. But even though he’s skeptical and disbelieving that she’s here purely to help him, he can’t held but feel that old attraction simmering inside again. And he isn’t the only one. Both Jack and Katrina have unfinished business but they have a lot of faith and trust to gain first before they can try for their second chance.

Snowy River Man is the debut novel of Lizzy Chandler and offers up a multi-layered story of mystery and betrayal to flesh out the romance. Katrina has had special gifts and occasionally experiences dreams which in the past, has connected her with missing children and allowed her to offer up information to enable them to be found. She cannot really explain her gift, but she’s learned not to ignore it and when she dreams of a boy and then hears on the news that a child has gone missing, she knows that she has to help and so she heads out to the location, hoping to be able to better connect and offer some more information. There’s just the slight problem of her now being in close proximity to Jack Fairley, a former lover whom she discovered was actually engaged.

Jack and Katrina do have some amazing chemistry that’s brilliantly complex, for reasons that become clearer to the reader the further they get into the story. From their one night stand, Jack did see Katrina once afterward although it’s not something she has a clear memory of and because of that he develops a misunderstanding about her. He believes that Katrina may be a threat to him and his child but he’s not willing to send her away just in case she really does provide the information that may help them find his son. The more I got into this story the more I was surprised by several of the twists and turns and the ways in which Katrina’s connections to other characters developed. This isn’t a long book but Chandler has made the most of her words and really been able to not only flesh out her characters and their motives but also a lovely and engaging setting in the Snowy Mountains. I found Katrina a very sympathetic character who had not had an easy time of it, especially recently. Her dedication to using her gift for as much good as she can was admirable and she was willing to put herself through uncomfortable and emotionally painful and difficult situations in order to help.

I’m quite honestly a bit of a skeptic when it comes to psychic mediums and the like although I know police in real life have used clairvoyants and psychics to help locate missing children and solve crimes with some success. However despite my tendency towards disbelief in such things I did not find that this at all affected my enjoyment of this story and it was easy to accept that part of the plot because it really did help to enhance the mystery and some of the secrets. It was skilfully done.

Snowy River Man is a very enjoyable story populated with believable characters that possess a real chemistry, even when they’re at loggerheads. I felt as though their evolving relationship throughout the story was perfect as both of them had to overcome some preconceived ideas and share some secrets and also, accept things about the other and how it changed their relationship. My only quibble is that it probably was a bit short – there were aspects that could’ve been developed even further and would definitely have carried the story for longer. But it’s never a bad thing to want more of a story!

8/10

Book #37 of 2015

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Snowy River Man is book #13 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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I’m very happy to welcome the author of Snowy River Man, Lizzy Chandler to my blog with a piece on the inspiration behind the setting of her first novel.

portrait thumbnail LC

 

When I was a born, there was a record heatwave. Mum and Dad packed us kids into a bus and we all headed south to Jindabyne where it was cooler. Along the way, we stopped at Lake Eucumbene on the northern reaches of the Snowy River Shire.

To make way for the lake as part of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, the old town of Adaminaby was flooded. As residents moved to higher ground, they left pubs, churches, shops and houses to the rising tide. My family must have talked about that town for years afterwards. Or maybe I read about it for a school project. I don’t know. But the idea of a ghost town hidden underwater haunted me.

Years later as an adult when I visited the site, and saw the skeletal remains of gum trees reaching out of the water, I had the weirdest sense. It was as if I could see through the depths to the old town – to a time of bullock carts, prospectors and settlers, and before that, to the indigenous tribes who had inhabited the area. I knew I had to use that setting in a story. Eventually, the story became Snowy River Man, which features a child who is fascinated with the lake and what lies beneath

Snowy River Man starts with a country rodeo and grazier Jack Fairley riding a brumby stallion. By the time he finishes his ride and looks around, his six-year-old son Nick has disappeared…

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Thanks so much for your post Lizzy. Congratulations on a wonderful debut and I look forward to your next novel.

 

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Blog Tour: Author Guest Post – Lisa Walker

Today I am happy to welcome Australian author Lisa Walker to the blog.

Lisa Walker

Lisa is the author of Liar Bird and Sex, Lies & Bonsai and her third novel, Arkie’s Pilgrimage To The Next Big Thing has just been released from Random House Australia.

‘Magic In The Everyday’

by Lisa Walker

I come from a scientific background, so I’m basically a pragmatist. But on the other hand, I tend to think that there’s more going on in the world than meets the eye. I think every writer has moments when life imitates art in a way which raises hairs on the back of your neck. Coincidences multiply until you start to feel that the act of writing is almost magical.

I had a couple of funny experiences when writing ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage’. I wrote the scene at the Big Redback where Arkie and Haruko find a garden gnome that looks like one of the Seven Lucky Gods early on, before I’d been to any of the Big Things. Eventually I decided I’d better go to the Big Redback and check it out. And lo and behold when I got there I saw this gnome nestled among the bushes exactly as I had already described it in the story.

Another strange thing happened one day when I was struggling with the story and decided to go down to the beach for a swim. I threw down my towel and noticed an abandoned dog collar next to it. The rusty old tag on the collar read ‘mojo.’ Just like Arkie, I had found my mojo! The mojo dog tag immediately joined my little shrine of lucky objects next to my computer.

I don’t really think that there’s anything magical about these events, but it is so interesting the way that once you tune in to something you start to see it everywhere. I expect that’s because you’re so hyper-alert to your story you start to feel like you’re inside it.

I do enjoy this hyper-alert state that I get when I am writing because it makes every day an adventure. It’s like living inside a novel. At the moment I am writing a novel whose protagonist is totally obsessed with all things Parisian, especially the movie Amelie. The other day I went down to our local market and was delighted to find an accordion player there, playing what sounded like a French tune. I was even more delighted when a girl next to me, who would have been about the same age as my protagonist, exclaimed, ‘Oh, that’s the theme song from Amelie. That makes me so happy.’ Life imitates art! I bought a baguette and went home feeling revitalised for my story.

I suppose one of the things that characterises my writing is the idea that we don’t need to look elsewhere to find what we seek. As Haruku says in my book, ‘Everything you need, you already have.’

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Thank you Lisa for contributing to my blog! My review of Arkie’s Pilgrimage To The Next Big Thing will be up later today so make sure you check back!

Arkie's Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing - cover image

This post is part of the Arkie’s Pilgrimage blog tour, created by Random House Australia. Make sure you visit the other blogs on the tour – yesterday Marcia from Book Muster Down Under had another fabulous guest post and tomorrow Culture Street will have a post on Five Books of Influence. More information and the rest of the tour stops can be found blog tour page at Random House Australia here.

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Author Guest Post: Clare Atkins

Today I am happy to welcome Australian author Clare Atkins to my blog. Clare has been a scriptwriter for several very successful television shows and has released her first novel, Nona & Me this month with Black In Books.

Clare Atkins author photo

The mother who writes, and the writer who mothers.

 

Many authors say that writing a book is like giving birth. In the case of Nona & Me this was more literally the case than usual. The idea for the novel was conceived just months before I conceived my third child, and most of the writing was done while I was pregnant. My due date provided an unmovable deadline for the first draft. I was racing the bump and I won by an extremely slim margin: I finished the draft on a Thursday, printed it out to give to community members for feedback on Friday, and went into labour on Saturday.

I had a girl and we called her Nina, after Nina Simone. Funnily enough we didn’t even think of the similarity to ‘Nona’ until weeks later, when I started getting feedback on my first draft. The story is set in the remote Aboriginal community of Yirrkala, where I was living at the time. I felt it was important to get feedback from people who had lived and grown up there. I also worked with a fantastic Yolngu woman and teacher, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr Stubbs, to ensure the material was culturally correct. I took my newborn baby Nina with me to these feedback meetings, balancing her on my lap or laying her down to sleep on a mattress while we talked. Nina’s days growing inside me may have been filled with the tap of fingers on keyboard, but her early days in the world were very much about human connection.

Those first-draft conversations centred on how to make the friendship between Nona and Rosie, and their two families, stronger. The bones of it were there, but it needed more detail and love to flesh it out. I had talked to many people for research during the writing process, but now I was looking for something specific: I wanted to talk to mothers with children who had grown up in Yirrkala, to learn what that friendship felt like from the inside. I was lucky: friends put me in touch with a Ngapaki lady who raised her children in Yirrkala in the nineties. She was no longer living there, but I spoke with her for hours on the phone. She was generous with her time and open about her experiences: her family’s life had been very much intertwined with that of a Yolngu family. The Yolngu mother had become one of her best friends. They had fished, cooked, laughed and cried together. Their children grew up as siblings, with the community their extended family. It was Rosie and Nona’s mothers’ story in real life. Hearing about this manifestation of the ideal of it ‘taking a village to raise a child’ brought tears to my eyes.

The second draft was a lot stronger. I rewrote while Nina slept: a few hours in the morning, a few in the afternoon. I submitted it to my publisher, Black Inc, and luckily they loved it. The editing process was gentle and supportive, like a mother cooing to her child, wanting only the best for its life. And now, two years after Nona & Me was first conceived, the book is making its way out into the world. And I feel anxious and excited because, even if it isn’t perfect, it is my baby. I can only hope readers love and cherish it as much as I have.

Nona & Me (online)

Thank you so much Clare for your beautiful post! I’ll be back tomorrow with a review of Nona & Me but in the meantime, here’s a little more about it courtesy of Goodreads/the publisher:

Rosie and Nona are sisters. Yapas.

They are also best friends. It doesn’t matter that Rosie is white and Nona is Aboriginal: their family connections tie them together for life.

Born just five days apart in a remote corner of the Northern Territory, the girls are inseperable, until Nona moves away at the age of nine. By the time she returns, they’re in Year 10 and things have changed. Rosie has lost interest in the community, preferring to hang out in the nearby mining town, where she goes to school with the glamorous Selena, and Selena’s gorgeous older brother Nick.

When a political announcement highlights divisions between the Aboriginal community and the mining town, Rosie is put in a difficult position: will she be forced to choose between her first love and her oldest friend?

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Author Guest Post: Cheryl Adnams

Today I’m pleased to welcome Australian author Cheryl Adnams to the blog. Cheryl is the author of two romance novels, Bet On It and Chasing The Flames (you can read my review of Chasing The Flames here). Cheryl is bravely tackling the topic of how authors really feel about reviews!

Cheryl Adnams LR

When my first novel ‘Bet On It’ was released in May this year, I hadn’t given much thought to reviews.  I’d never even heard of Goodreads until I had my own novel published.

So when I received my first glowing review, and 4 stars, wasn’t I excited and oh, so very proud of myself. From that point on I looked religiously, five times a day to see if there were any more reviews sitting there waiting to just boost my spirits and make my day.

Five stars, wahoo! Four stars, nice. And so it went on. I booked the marching band, ordered the French champagne and celebrated being the next big thing.

And then my world came crashing down. A 2.5 star review. I poured over the scathing remarks, the digs at the story, the slicing and dicing of the characters who were now like family to me. Devastation and depression set it. The champagne was no longer celebratory but medicinal.

One bad review and I started to question my writing style, my story and my right to even be a published author. After all, the reviewer must be an expert in the field right? It didn’t matter to me that I had multiple 4 and 5 star reviews. That one bad (and quite frankly nasty in some parts) review was the one that I held onto with my poor wounded heart and soul. I should say that the reviewer gave me the stars for the good writing and editing. So it wasn’t all bad. But I chose to ignore that morsel of good.

So why is it that we only hold on to the bad things people say about us and let them cast a shadow over all the good reviews?

In the last few months, I have met many wonderful romance authors through writers groups such as SARA (South Australian Romance Authors) and at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in August this year. And found there are several different modus operandi authors follow to deal with reviews.

Some will read only the good reviews and ignore the bad. Others choose not to read their reviews at all – and wow that takes a massive amount of self-control. One of the best responses I heard though is:

‘This reviewer is not my fan base’.

It’s a simple as that. As in everything in life, not everyone will like what you write. Not everyone likes who you are. Not everyone likes what you wear. It’s part of life and accepting that was the answer to turning my medicinal champagne back to celebratory champagne.

Just one last note and a word to my fellow authors :

Nasty and hurtful reviews say more about the person writing the review than they do about the author or the book they are reviewing. Shrug it off and choose to celebrate your fan base.

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Thank you Cheryl for your post – interesting thoughts. As a reviewer, I tend to feel very differently about negative reviews but can appreciate how they may be difficult for those that write.  If anyone has any comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Chasing the Flames - cover imageThis author guest post is part of the Chasing The Flames blog tour, organised by Random Romance of Random House Australia. You can check out more information about the tour, including the full schedule here

Previously on the tour: Monique at Write Note Reviews has another guest post from Cheryl which you can see here

Next on the tour: Connect With Chick Lit also has a guest post which will be featured on the 13th October

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