Last month on April 25th was the Anzac Day of national remembrance. It is one of Australia’s most important national occasions as it marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures today. The Gallipoli campaign took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey from February 1915 to January 1916. Nearly eight thousand troops lost their lives with eighteen thousand casualties. For a country of less than five million people at the time, the numbers of dead were staggering.
In Australia it has become a rite of passage for many Aussies to journey to Gallipoli to attend a dawn service at the Anzac Cove site. We have never managed to get to a service on Anzac Day but a few years ago we booked a Mediterranean cruise and decided to do a side trip to Turkey to visit Gallipoli.
We arrived in Istanbul late in the evening and had to be up at 4 a.m. the next morning to join our tour. We did not sleep a wink as our body clocks were on Aussie time. Two bleary eyed Aussie’s fronted up in reception where we met our tour guide. Gallipoli is about four hours drive from Istanbul.
The Anzac Cove terrain was inhospitable. It was characterised by rocky ground with little vegetation, hilly land, and steep ravines. It is not until you walk the area that you understand how things went badly for the Aussie and New Zealand troops. To walk the trenches and see how close the opposing sides were to each other was staggering. Apparently, they talked to each other. Shared a smoke. Many were young men whose lives were cut short—such a waste of life.
Stories abounded but one that I never forgot was a story of a man and a donkey. By now you know of my love of animals. Private John Simpson was a stretcher-bearer in the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance and was killed less than three weeks after arriving. But during his time, he transported wounded men on a donkey from the fighting in Monash Valley to the first-aid station at Anzac Cove. A legend grew up around Simpson, that he saved seriously wounded men. However, it was later disputed that life-threatening head, chest or stomach wounds could not be transported on a donkey. Who knows the truth of it, but it leads to an interesting premise for story.
The wealth of history in Turkey opened a pandora’s box of ideas for story. When we returned to Istanbul, we hired a guide who spent a couple of days showing us the sites. It was not long before I placed him as a future hero in one of my books. He was courteous, gracious, fun, and charming. I love colour and remember one day dressing in multi coloured—lots of orange—trousers and top. I asked our guide if I would be okay dressed this way. He said yes of course, why would you not be? From memory I think my husband was worried I stood out like a sore thumb. I do remember thinking the blue head scarf I wore at the Blue Mosque clashed, but nobody batted an eyelid. Turkey was a surprise. I do not know what I expected but I got much more.
Until next time
In this newsletter I want to touch on how animals can inspire a story. Back in 2007, we lost our beloved Bearded Collie called Gromit (as in the Wallace and Gromit TV series 😊) He was our second Beardie, and from the moment he came into our lives bringing us much joy. He believed his sole purpose was to please us, which made him a joy. We were heartbroken when he crossed the rainbow bridge. Then Paddington Bear came into our lives that same year and life was never the same.
As an eight-week-old bundle of joy he flew into Adelaide airport from a breeder of champion herders in New South Wales (Australia). He caused us a few anxious moments in his first months. The vet treated a joint problem and recommended complete rest. I laughed aloud at that—how would it be possible to keep a young pup still? We were due to travel through the South Australian Outback, so Paddington came with us. He sat on the back seat of the 4x4, harnessed in, and watched the world go by. We were on the road for about three weeks. The joint healed and never caused him another day’s bother. I am sure he is the only Beardie to have travelled deep into the Outback, sleeping in a swag (with me), enjoying his meals around the campfire, and smuggled into hotels. And so, Paddington’s stories were born. We lost Paddington nearly two years ago. When his nephew became available, we could not say no. Rupert Bear arrived three weeks ago. He is nothing like Paddington other than in looks, and I did not expect him to be, but he is already proving to be quite a character.
Back to Paddington, he was a great thinker. His thoughts spoke loudly, as did his expressions. He went through puppy school and advanced courses like all our dogs and excelled in the classroom environment. Unlike Gromit, Paddington proved to be stubborn and strong-willed. He often knew best and was not frightened to let us know. He had an extraordinary mind, and because he projected his thoughts and strong personality on us, I started writing a series about his life. I wrote it from his point of view because I could read him like a book. I do not think I did him a disservice. If he were here, he would have a thing or two to say about why I am not filling this newsletter with all his achievements.
“But Paddington, the whole idea is to show how animals can get the creative writing juices flowing. No, Paddington, it is not time for a biscuit. It is not time for a walk either. I have to work. Are you yawning—”
See what I mean; Paddington is still in my head. The story had quite a following, and I had many requests to continue the series. Although I removed it from my website, I will put it back up for those who might want to take a closer look at a fabulous dog.
One piece of trivia that Paddington would like me to pass on:
A famous Australian sculptor, Silvio Apponyi, asked if he could use Paddington as a model, as he was commissioned to produce a statue of a dog called Bob the Railway Dog. Bob was born in 1883 and travelled the Outback railways from 1884. He became quite an Outback personality. A bronze statue now sits in Peterborough’s (South Australia) main street.
I still miss Paddington; I am not sure there will ever be another dog like him. We love our two girls, Elsa and Kuura, but I am pleased to have another male from Paddington’s line. It will be interesting to see if Rupert inspires me to write his story. He is now twelve weeks old and a star at puppy classes. I have included some pictures. Who cannot resist a puppy? Not me that is for sure.
Until next time
In February we went on a road trip heading through the iconic South Australian Coonawarra wine region. Of course, we visited a cellar door or two for a spot of tasting. It was a lovely start to our holiday, and by the time we were ready to move on, we were relaxed and ready for the next part of our journey along the Victorian Great Ocean Road.
It has been nearly fifty years since I first travelled the Great Ocean Road, and back then, the coastal towns scattered along its length were small with holiday shacks and caravan parks. Now, of course, large homes have replaced the shacks, fancy hotels, B&B’s and no end of accommodation lure Australian and overseas tourists to sample what the rugged coastline has to offer. And trust me, there is a wealth of history to be found along the 240-kilometre (150 mile) stretch of road.
The road was built between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War 1. It is the world’s largest war memorial which winds through rainforest and along the rugged coastline, providing access to several prominent landmarks, including the Twelve Apostles (limestone stack formations), which are now eight due to wave erosion.
I had driven the road many times in my youth but had never stopped to learn its history. So, it was not long before my writing brain was ticking over upon learning of the hundreds of wrecks scattered along its length.
The iron clipper ship, Loch Ard departed Gravesend, England on the 1st of March 1878 bound for Melbourne Australia to become a story of survival surrounding its sinking on 1st June just days out of Melbourne. Becoming probably the best-known of all the shipwrecks along the Victoria coast. The ship ran into a rocky reef at the base of Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell. Only two people survived: an apprentice, Tom Pearce, and Eva Carmichael, passenger. She, unfortunately, lost her family in the tragedy. The two were washed up and eventually rescued at what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge, named after the shipwreck.
When I read about the Loch Ard shipwreck, a few elements jumped out at me:
We have action and drama with the ship sinking, and the elements are in place to build a relationship between the remaining two survivors. I found myself writing that scene in my head as I read about the Loch Ard. Now all I have to do is write the book. So, for a writer, it is never just a road trip or holiday overseas. It is about discovering the next story. The Loch Ard story is just one of many shipwreck stories along that coastline, and now, I have another action-packed adventure series waiting to be written because of that trip.
Until next time
Book eight of my West series is now well underway. Initially, there was not going to be a book eight, but as it happens, a secondary character made his presence known. Hank Johnson is one such person. He pops up through the stories in a minor way until making himself heard in book six, Deliverance. When a character screams at me for his story to be told, I cannot ignore it.
But let us not jump ahead of ourselves. This month it is about publishing book one in the West Series, Destiny.
The West series is a family saga. We meet Dan West and Ellie Clifford, who have raised their families and have been getting on with their lives until a chance meeting at a bear lodge in British Columbia brings them together. Ellie is English and Dan American both love to travel. Ellie has two daughters, and Dan has four sons and two daughters. Dan is a self-made millionaire, and Ellie is a doctor, surgeon, and teacher. Ellie is fiercely independent, and Dan is a man who knows who he is and what he wants. It is a rocky journey to happiness and the West’s experience more situations than most.
Coober Pedy – outback South Australia - features throughout the books. The name is derived from the Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means ‘whitefellas’ hole’. Dan made his fortune mining opal in Coober Pedy as a young man, and his mines still bring in big dollars. Book seven, Tempest, is set entirely in Coober Pedy, because of its importance in the West and Clifford family’s history.
Coober Pedy is situated 850 km (530 miles) north of Adelaide. The town is referred to as the ‘opal capital of the world’ because of the precious opals mined there. It supplies most of the world’s opal. It is hot in the summer and the driest, dustiest place I have ever visited. Most people live below ground and with good reason. Daytime temperatures can reach into the forties—that is Celsius, 105 F. The dwellings are called dugouts. It is the most sensible way to live as they are cool and protect you from the daytime heat.
The desert around the town is dotted with thousands of mounds. At last count there were more than 250,000 mine shafts in the area. Because the mineshafts sit alongside the mounds, it is easy to kill yourself falling into one. Many warning signs are dotted around the landscape, but few people take heed. It is a death trap for the uninitiated, and people disappear, as it is almost impossible to find bodies because of the number of shafts. From a writing perspective, it is a great place to set a story.
The population of Coober Pedy sits at around two thousand five hundred. Of those people, there are around forty-five nationalities represented and amongst those are some of the Outback’s most fascinating personalities. If you need to vanish, it is the perfect place. Nobody asks questions or cares. There is only one thing that keeps them there. Opal!
Many movies have been filmed in the desert around Coober Pedy. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and The adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, are two that come to mind. If you ever get the chance to visit Coober Pedy, stay at one of the underground hotels. You will get to experience underground living in style. Another attraction is an underground church, and in fact, there is a lot to do and see. It is a must place to visit.
I have talked about setting stories in believable places in the past, and from what I know of Coober Pedy, it is almost unbelievable. Living there is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a place that draws me back.
Destiny was released on February 1 2022 on your local Amazon site. Book two, Providence, will be out later in 2022. We follow Joe West and Isabella Rogers as they bite off more than they chew when they become enmeshed in murder and a terrorist plot to blow up Paris tunnels.
Until next time
I recently caught up with Mike Hudson—an Oakbank Racing authority. Mike is planning a museum at the Oakbank racecourse and wanted to include copies of my Racing series (Racing Dream, Racing Time, and Racing Fate). I was thrilled he had reached out.
For me visiting Oakbank is a trip down memory lane. The racecourse is home to the Oakbank Racing Club (ORC), and since 1876 the historic club has conducted a world-renowned Racing Carnival over the Easter weekend. I have fond memories of attending these meetings with friends as a young racehorse enthusiast. When I started writing Racing Dream, Oakbank became the obvious choice of setting. It was easy for me to draw on my memories, capturing Annabel Martin’s dream to become a jockey starts at this iconic country course. I wonder how many jockeys have ridden past the winning post at Oakbank and left the track with stars in their eyes?
I wanted to tell you of my experiences as a young woman at this racecourse. My Easter racing days started with a hearty breakfast and Mimosa or Bucks Fizz. Next, I would pick up a form guide and head to the stables to check out the horses. I would highlight the ones I considered had a chance of winning, followed by a healthy discussion about my choices with my companions. Before each race, I’d check out the horses in the parade ring. They always look different, saddled and prancing on the end of the rein. That’s when I might change my mind-never a good idea, because the rule of thumb is the horse you initially selected will win—then it’s off to the bookmakers to check the odds, place a bet and head into the stands to urge my choice past the winning post. They’d be a break for lunch when everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch and a glass or two of bubbles. The highlight is queueing to collect my meagre winnings. Yes, it happened occasionally.
If you want to get a feel for riding the course, read Annabel Martin’s first experience and the adrenalin rush she experienced when riding at Oakbank. Annabel’s journey continues to the Melbourne Cup. Every jockey has to start somewhere. Annabel got her big break at Oakbank.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2022.
Until next time
Well, here we are at the end of another year, and I hope it has been a good one for you. At the year’s end, I reflect on what has passed and then look to what lies ahead. This year saw lots of local travel, exploring our own Australian backyard, venturing out of South Australia into Queensland for a week by the coast with friends. The weather was warm and humid in contrast to our South Australian cool spring.
Besides travelling, I released two books--El Alto in January and Return to El Alto in November. I talked a bit about the writing process of these two books in the November 2021 newsletter and how travel inspires. When I wrote them, I had never visited Peru, so to rectify this we took off with friends a couple of years ago. It was one of the best holidays I have had. The people were wonderful, the history fascinating, the scenery stunning, and the Amazon jungle just how I pictured it. We would have liked to have visited the town of El Alto (Piura Region) in the north—yes, there is a place with that name, my husband was born there, his parents worked there as geologists—but alas, it was not easy to get to. When you read the books, I hope you will feel the desert and jungle, get a feel for the people and the emotion I tried to capture when telling this story.
Time to talk about my new West series. For years I have wanted to write a family saga. I love reading series because characters generally cross into all books, and once you have grown to love a character, it is nice to see them again. The West series is no different. We start the journey with Book 1, Destiny, which is due for release early 2022. You will meet the patriarch, Daniel West, and the lovely Eleanor Clifford. They meet at a bear lodge in British Columbia. Now there is a place to visit.
It all started with a writers’ conference in Denver. During the planning stages, my writing friend suggested that Canada was not far away and how about we make a side trip. She did not have to do much convincing. I am easy-going and agreed it sounded like a splendid idea. We ended up doing a little more than a side trip! We travelled through the Rockies and cruised into Alaska, but our visit to a bear lodge was the highlight. Yep, we saw lots of bears along with eagles, mink, otters, and seals. While cruising along the estuaries in a small boat, a glimmer of a story developed, and Destiny was born. There is nothing like a pandemic to keep you home writing, so seven books were born in sixteen months. My characters journey to many places, but the home base for the West’s is Colorado, and the home base for the Clifford’s is Newmarket in the UK. You will get to know them intimately as they cross all books. They will be those you love and those you hate. Either way, they will take you on a fantastic journey.
More about Destiny next year.
I will finish by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and will end with this quote by Hunter S Thompson: -
Life should not be a journey to the grave to arrive safely in a well-preserved body, but instead skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, Wow!
Until next time, take care.
As we head towards the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. It’s a gorgeous time of year, birds are busy building nests, plants are budding, and flowers pushing heads. It won‘t be long before the garden is a kaleidoscope of colour.
I’ve talked previously about how vital surroundings and travel is for a writer. It’s what inspires and helps keep the creative juices flowing. If I can’t get away, a walk with my dogs through the garden checking out our resident blue tongue lizard, koalas, kangaroos, and plants in bloom refresh the brain. Writers, as a rule, are solitary creatures. We spend hours at our desks, conjuring up the fate of our characters. So, getting out into the world is crucial.
I’ve given you a glimpse of some of the far-flung places in South Australia I’ve explored this year. This month, I’m off on my first trip out of South Australia in a while, heading north to tropical Queensland.
The sequel to El Alto - Return to El Alto is being released on November 19th, 2021. It is the dramatic conclusion to Claudia and William’s extraordinary adventures through, Peru, Australia and California. Starting when they’re eighteen-year-olds. The two books span nearly twenty years, and we travel with them through their early relationship, when they’re torn apart and come back together. As we all know, life has its up and downs, and William and Claudia have their fair share. Their journey is heart-wrenching, yet they lift themselves above it all and find the courage to continue. If you love reading about true love and adversity, this is for you. All my books are available through your local Amazon site.
Take care and until next time.
Our travels this month took us one thousand kilometres (600+ miles) west of Adelaide, South Australia, to a place called Fowlers Bay. Let me start by saying there is nothing much there. A caravan park, a kiosk, white sand dunes, and a few houses. We were there to see the whales. During May to October, the Southern Right Whales arrive from Antarctica to give birth.
It took us a couple of days to get there. The roads are good, but we opted to break the drive and stay overnight at a small town called Wudinna—pronounced Woodna. Go figure!
Sitting idle has never been our thing, so we soon had our four days planned. Our first outing was to the Head of Bight, where the week before, sixteen females and calves were spotted, but we only saw two pairs on our visit. But it was enough to spark excitement for the pending whale watching boat trip we had organised in a few days as there was talk of lots of whales in Fowlers Bay.
When not searching out whales, we walked the white dunes to the open sea. It was a seven-kilometre (4 mile) walk, so we enjoyed burning energy. Nothing but Antarctica lies south of the beach, and as I watched the waves smashing onto the shore, a Bronze Whaler Shark chased a school of ocean salmon through the waves. Two anglers were pulling in some of those salmon with the help of two German wire-haired pointers. I am a sucker where dogs are concerned, and as I said hello to them, I thought about how my fur kids, Elsa and Kuura, would have loved swimming through the waves. We chatted to the dog’s owners, and they sent us away with a couple of just caught salmon, which we had for dinner that night.
However, the best was yet to come—the boat trip—and it did not disappoint. We got up close personal to nine mums and calves. Mums tend to stick close to the shore until their calves are strong enough to make the journey south. Calves weigh in at about one tonne when born and when adults can weigh eighty tonnes. We had a calf following the boat, and it is hard to think of them as babies. It was a fabulous experience watching the interaction between mums and calves.
Our Fowlers Bay stay ended, and we headed down the coast to Streaky Bay. While in Streaky, we visited a Smoky Bay oyster farm. By the time we headed home, my love of oysters was well satisfied, plus I had a wealth of material for future books.
In previous newsletters, I have talked about how travel gets the creative juices flowing. And this trip was no exception. We met some fascinating people: The whale charter guys, a group of youngsters fishing for squid from the Fowlers Bay jetty. A couple travelling Australia and a grumpy guy whose face would crack if he smiled. The Oyster farm owners, father, and son in Smoky Bay, were relaxed and fun. The father hitched up their boat to a tractor, sat us in the back and drove to the water where he launched it with us sitting, wondering who was going to steer. And the pleasant receptionist who looked after us at the Streaky Bay foreshore. These people are real and give a wealth of inspirations to bring a story to life.
So, while I have not been able to travel overseas, we have found plenty on offer in our backyard, which is a good thing. I hope that wherever you live, you have also been able to enjoy what is on offer.
Until next time.
During these strange times, with no overseas travel, we have been taking advantage by exploring our state of South Australia. We recently took a road trip to Port Lincoln on the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula, 650 km (400 miles) due west of Adelaide. Located on Boston Bay (a bay three and a half times the size of Sydney Harbour!), it has Australia’s largest commercial fishing fleet and many exceptional restaurants of which we can vouch.
While in the area, we booked into the Coffin Bay oyster farm for the oyster experience. Yes, I’m particularly fond of oysters. Imagine our surprise, after donning waders, to be led into the water toward a saltwater pavilion where we sat up to our waist in the 15 C (60 F) degree water. Our two guides explained about oyster farming while showing us how to shuck oysters. We sampled half a dozen washing them down with a crisp white wine.
Did you know that oysters grow large? Fist size and larger and can live a long life. The guides introduced us to one of their large crustaceans called Steve. Lucky for Steve being part of the Coffin Bay experience and not the meal.
One of the things I love about travel, whether local or overseas, is how a different location can get the creative writing juices flowing. So don’t be surprised if a story set at an oyster farm hits the shelves at some stage.
Here in Adelaide, South Australia, we’ve experienced our wettest July since 2016. With thunderstorms, rain and strong winds confirming winters arrival. Elsa and Kuura, our two Bearded Collies, spent a couple of anxious nights curled up at the foot of the bed as thunderstorms raged overhead. Again today, it is blowing a gale, they are lying either side of my desk as I write, staying warm and safe.
El Alto, my latest book, is a story close to my heart. It came about through stories my parents-in-law told me of their adventures living and working on a remote oil field in Northern Peru, run at the time by La Compania Petrolera Lobitos (CPL). The desert camp, El Alto - in the Piura region is situated on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My mother-in-law Patricia won a scholarship during the war years and went to Leeds University (UK), where she met her future husband, Tim. It was bold enough at the time for a woman to study Geology, but to then in 1947, follow Tim to Peru, marry, bring up two kids and work in the male-dominated oil industry was even bolder. Patricia’s stories of their camping expeditions into the Andes with nothing more than a tent and basic food supplies, their life and death situations and El Alto as a story was born.
When setting scenes, I had access to hundreds of images Tim and Patricia had captured during their time in Peru, some of which appear here. Tim was also an avid cameraman (must be where my husband gets his passion). He shot hours of 8mm film of the family.
In the book, set in Peru the Amazon and South Australia, my heroine and hero find themselves at the mercy of the Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path). I wondered how strong a woman needed to be, to survive kidnapping, indoctrination, and never-ending rain in the Amazon jungle. Our heroes and heroines need goals. They need motivation and conflict which keeps us turning the pages.
A few years ago, we travelled through Peru and into the Amazon at Puerto Maldonado. There is no doubt in my mind that seeing a place first-hand helps to bring the words to life on the page.
Contemporary adventure with