This is the first of my quarterly newsletters, and I start it with optimism. I flew to beautiful Sydney, Australia to attend the Romance Writers Association of Australia (RWA) 2023 conference. Over four hundred writers/authors, aspiring, emerging, and established from Australia and beyond, converged for three days of workshops and much more.
The Friday program included the awe-inspiring Steffanie Holmes and Rachel Bailey. Steffanie was one of the keynote speakers and talked about her journey. And what a journey she has had. If anyone attending had doubts about their writing, her story would have reinvigorated them. It certainly did that for me.
The Saturday and Sunday programs were full of exciting workshops and the opportunity to pitch to publishers and editors. I was able to secure five pitches and received five requests to submit a manuscript to them. Then, of course, catching up with old friends, meeting new authors and rubbing shoulders with prominent ones. Saturday night, the awards gala dinner theme was glitter. It was a real buzz being surrounded by four hundred glamorously dressed authors celebrating the achievements of those whose books made it to the various awards finals.
I always come away from these conferences tired but on a high. I was welcomed home by my three Bearded Collies, Elsa, Kuura and Rupert Bear, and my husband Peter — in no particular order —I unpacked and put some washing on. I needed to unwind after the conference—I’m not as young as I used to be, and late nights are a killer. But after a good night’s sleep in my own bed—hotel beds are never quite the same — I was ready to hit my office, clear emails, write this newsletter and start polishing book one of my Adelaide Kendrick series before sending it off.
I discussed the potential for this new series in my July 2022 newsletter. How a place and what you find there can inspire. For me, the trip to Broome in Western Australia last year included visiting a museum, where I read of a diamond mystery from World War 2 and a story was born.
The heroine Adelaide Kendrick is a Detective Sergeant in the Australian Federal Police. The protagonist, Chase Ryder, owns a charter fishing boat fleet. Things don’t start well between them when Adelaide suspects Chase is involved in the death of four backpackers. The genre is contemporary suspense with romantic elements. So, look out for this one in the future.
Talking about book series, Redemption, book three of my West Series was released in August. If you want to enter the world of Thoroughbred Racing, then take a journey to Newmarket in the UK as Oliver West and Faith Clifford work to overcome kidnap, drugs, and treachery.
Book four, Survival, is due for release in late 2023.
So, until next time, stay safe.
I guess everyone has heard the expression that truth is stranger than fiction, and I’ve covered this topic in a previous newsletter but bear with me as I take us into that world again. Like many of you, I’ve encountered situations that stretch the imagination. And yet when writers try to build a plot around these weird and wonderful situations, we often find ourselves in a dilemma because the situation, incident or people in the plot don’t appear authentic.
My reason for discussing this topic again is that in Redemption, book 3 of my West Series, a secondary character who comes across as far-fetched yet is based on someone I met while working in the racing industry as a young girl. I embellished this character’s traits to ramp up the stakes making him bigger than Ben Hur. If I’d set the book in the dark ages when men had ownership over women, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but the story is set in current times, which caused a rethink. Many people would say it’s fiction, so what does it matter? I’ve been one of them, but as writers, we want our stories to be authentic. We want readers to relate to the characters and story, not turn away because they don’t trust the writer knows what they’re doing.
I buried my head in the sand over this character and sent the story to my editor, who came back with concerns. Thank God for editors, and mine, is brilliant. She returned with many suggestions for fixing this person, changing the storyline, which meant additional work hours. If only I’d listened to my gut because I’d had a niggle about this character but chose to ignore it.
The setting for Redemption is Newmarket in the UK. I couldn’t resist bringing the West family to the UK. Britain has many top-notch races worth winning, and the Triple Crown is right up there. During a racing season, a colt or filly must win three races to win the Crown, the Two Thousand Guineas, The Derby, and Saint Leger. Our hero, Faith Clifford, is a jockey at her grandmother’s stable. Grandmother, Vivienne Harrington, trains out of Newmarket. We’re reacquainted with Oliver West, who takes care of the racing side of West Enterprises in the US. He takes two three-year-olds to Vivienne’s stable to train and contest the Crown, and we meet Jack Chenley, who will inherit a Lord’s title when his father dies. The Chenley’s have never won the Crown, and Jack’s greatest ambition is to put that right. Jack has an old-fashioned view of life. It’s those beliefs that caused my issues. But I’ll leave it there because you need to read the book to learn more.
The funny thing about this notable change to Jack is that the changes made him extremely real. You never know when you make an extensive change if you’re fixing it or making things worse. In this case, I was relieved when my editor returned the final edit saying she loved the changes. Editors are a wonder, and I wouldn’t be without mine.
Redemption is planned for release in July 2023.
Because of time restraints this will be my last monthly newsletter, before moving to a quarterly newsletter, with the next one due in September.
So, until next time, stay safe.
Greetings from sunny wintery South Australia. Yes, I made it home after an adventure of a lifetime in Antarctica. Our trip was everything and more, and I now have fond memories to look back on and a story to write.
I don’t know how you all feel after returning from a holiday, but I feel a little flat, so I tend to start planning the next. I think it has something to do with ageing. It’s like time is running out, and we must fit in as much as possible while we have our health and mobility. Our next holiday won’t be as exciting as Antarctica, but it will still be unique. The trouble is the more I see; the more stories present themselves. I’ve started penning a story from Whalers Bay, Antarctica. So, I thought I’d talk about how that process beings.
The period will be interesting. Whalers Bay ceased operation in 1939 (Deception Island – Antarctica - Norwegian Hektor Whaling Station – 62-59-00 S 60-34-00 W). I want to set the story in the mid-1920s. It will put my heroine in her late thirties, a widower, as her husband died during the First World War. Women in the 1920s were gaining more independence. The suffragette’s fierce efforts finally secured women’s voting rights in 1918. With millions of men serving overseas during the war, women found themselves taking on jobs traditionally given to men. Married women still tended not to have their own passports. They travelled with their husbands. But life was starting to change significantly, and if you were a single woman, you travelled on your own passport. So, I have a woman who will have a passport and travel to South America alone. Her family won’t like it, but she’s a strong-minded woman. Already I’m getting a feeling for this person. It wouldn’t have been easy losing a loved one. Her marriage had been happy, so to pick herself up from that loss and go against her family shows a woman with grit. Yep, she must have grit to work at Whalers Bay. No gentlewoman would stand the weather, the stench, the living conditions and standing her ground amongst a bunch of whalers.
As you can see, I’m starting to get a picture of my heroine. My hero is a man caught between worlds. After he returned from the war, life wasn’t the same as when he left. So many menfolk never returned. He lost his father and two brothers. His mother is mourning her loss, as are his sisters-in-laws. He can’t help them, and only time will heal their wounds. Not knowing how to help and suffering survivor guilt, he decides to see the world and starts a journey to South America.
These two unlikely people will be flung together on an adventure they might ordinarily regret if it wasn’t for meeting up.
And so, you see how slowly I’m getting a feel for the period and the people. So, when I’ve finished editing book three of the West Series, Redemption, which should be soon, I will head down the research tunnel and see what the mid-1920s offers. It’s an adventure I love.
Until next time, stay safe.
I’m not sure where to begin this newsletter as my brain has been overloaded with the sights and beauty that is Antarctica. I am currently cruising through the fjords of Patagonia, Chile after the most amazing trip to the southern continent that took us below the Antarctic Circle (66 degrees 30 minutes South) into areas not often assessed due to weather conditions. However, our Captain had a window of opportunity and attempted to take us further south than usual. It meant three days at sea, crossing the notorious Drakes Passage. Yours truly is not a great seafarer and spent a couple of days, in both directions, locked down in the cabin. Mind you the return trip saw waves up to fifteen metres (50 feet) high and strong winds, so I was not alone. If you have ever suffered seasickness, you will know what I mean when I say you just want to be thrown overboard, anything is better than suffering nausea and balance issues. I started believing the ship would roll and sink, yep, Titanic and icebergs were in my thoughts. So, although the creative juices along with my appetite had well and truly dried there was still a little bit of overactive imagination working in my befuddled brain. But once in calm waters everything is forgotten as I breathed in the beauty surrounding me.
There are not enough adjectives to describe this place and the wildlife that calls Antarctica home. We got to see whales up close as they investigated our ship. Out in the Zodiacs we saw them dozing on the surface while fur seals played, and leopard seals hunted penguins. We visited penguin colonies, saw late offspring feeding from their mothers. Whether they grow and moult before winter hits is debatable. It brings home that nature is often cruel. We were surrounded by icebergs, large and small. It was amusing to watch smaller iceberg float past the ship with seals or penguins hitching a ride.
After eight wonderful days we slowly travelled north and came into a place that was bleak and inhospitable. Deception Island in Whalers Bay is a volcanic island that last erupted in 1969. It is one of the only places on the planet where ships can sail directly into the centre of a submerged caldera. I’m guessing by the name you know what occurred there. Apparently, whales were hauled onto the stony beach and cut up for their meat and oil. It closed in 1939, not soon enough for my liking, leaving behind a reminder of those awful times. I doubt there was a person not affected by the history of this sad place.
While walking the volcanic ash a story started pushing at my brain. What would it be like to live and work in such a place for a woman? To live with a bunch of men who apparently stank of whale. The accommodation looked rough and although the houses had seen better days would probably have been comfortable enough. The weather however was harsh. They had to leave before winter set in but even summer was cold and bleak. Could someone find romance in a place like this? It is an interesting thought and one I am pondering. Setting is important when writing a book and Whalers Bay is one hell of a location. It would be historical for those who love their history. So, I have plenty of research to do before I begin this venture. Watch this page for an update.
So now as I finish my trip in Patagonia and look at the beauty of the fjords and mountains I will close off from Antarctica and Chile.
Until then, stay safe.
Most of you would have heard the expression the universe is trying to tell you something. The universe has been tapping me, and my husband on the shoulder these last few weeks and saying slow down, take care. But first, some background info on our trip to Antarctica and our main fears. We booked Antarctica over a year ago, and now our trip is suddenly just around the corner. It has consumed us for many reasons. 1. Outlying a considerable sum of money twelve months in advance. 2. The cruise company going into liquidation. (It’s happened to us twice in the last five years. Insurance doesn’t cover a travel company going into liquidation). 3. Arriving in Chile, coming down with Covid and not being allowed to board the ship. 4. Being in Covid lockdown in a foreign country. 5. Crossing the Drake Passage between Chile and Antarctica, considered one of the most treacherous sea voyages with waves up to 12m (40 ft), we are hoping for a calm crossing 😊
With those issues foremost on our minds, we didn’t consider things going wrong closer to home, such as: prolonged dental work and the ramifications on the body. An accidental dog bite not being treated quickly enough, causing blood poisoning and ongoing treatment. A huge branch fell and nearly killed my husband last week. Hard to find anything more worrying.
When we write a story, we pit characters against characters. Create obstacles. Have them fighting for their lives and loves. We want them to learn something from their journey, whether it be trust, respect, or humility. We create conflict, incorporate tension, and set challenges. It’s what drives readers to finish a book. They need to see how these characters, with whom they’ve invested time, resolve their problems and come out of the journey intact.
Life, as they say, was never meant to be easy, and as we age, obstacles become larger. We’ve had our fair share thrown at us these last weeks, but we’ll slow down, take stock, and look after our health, and with luck, we’ll get on the plane and go to Antarctica and see whales, penguins, seals and the like—the universe has spoken.
My next edition will come to you from Antarctica. Enjoy the images of a previous adventure north of the Arctic Circle in Norway.
Until then, stay safe.
I hope your Christmas and New Year festivities went well. As we head into February, it dawned on me that Christmas seems like months ago. I don’t know what you all think, but time seems to fly as we age. We may count time differently or fill our lives with lots of activities, I don’t know what it is, but December and January went by in a flash. People often ask how do you keep up as you’re always doing something. I don’t think about it, and I would probably think something was wrong if my calendar wasn’t overflowing. I love catching up with friends and family and, of course, travelling. This brings me to our next big adventure and the possibilities for a cosy murder mystery.
We are heading to Antarctica. This has been my husband’s dream and is finally coming to fruition. He’s a fantastic photographer and usually spends his time at the racetrack photographing racing cars. He also has an eye for capturing impossible images, so I know before we even get on the MS Fram expedition ship that he will be in photographer’s paradise as he captures nature through the lens.
Me, well, I love nature also, but my photography skill isn’t great. I’m what they call a happy snapper. I’m more than happy with the snaps I take with my phone, so I’ll leave the great shots for my husband. I’m pretty sure the pristine environment of Antarctica, the wonders of Patagonia and living on a ship with a group of like-minded adventurers for twenty-six days will get the creative juices flowing and keep me busy penning a new story.
While at the gym this morning, slogging away on the rowing machine—writers sit too long, so yours truly likes to work out three or four times a week to help keep the body fit—the big screen in front of me was showing an inspirational film on snowboarders and skiers. How do they perform some of those manoeuvres? Mind-boggling! Anyway, I transgress. We love snow. We live in a hot climate, so snow doesn’t happen here in Adelaide (South Australia) —which isn’t entirely true. On odd occasions, when the temperature plummets, we get a sprinkle at Mt Lofty (710m – 2,330ft), the highest point in Adelaide.
The snow rarely settles, though, but many Adelaideans’ may never see snow, so they travel to Mt Lofty to touch it. We get our snow fix on holiday. We’ve visited ski resorts in the Victorian snow fields where the season is short, and snow is hit or miss. We’ve skied in Austria and Canada. The best trip so far was Scandinavia in the winter. There was so much snow we were indeed in a winter wonderland. So you wonder why I’m waffling about skiing when I started talking about Antarctica? Snow, a glass of mulled wine, a notebook, and a story is born. The winter scenes on the video this morning have already got the creative juices flowing, and I can’t wait to see how our adventure trip tips me into story mode.
Needless to say, I’ll be giving a full report on Antarctica with pictures compliments of Peter Knights, photographer extraordinaire.
Until then, stay safe.
My hubby, Peter, and I were recently invited to a Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) function to hear about some of their life-saving stories and view their operation at the Adelaide airport (South Australia). Having travelled extensively throughout the remote central Australian outback and meeting people whose lives would’ve been lost if not for the RFDS, we understand how vital their service is to remote communities.
Having flown over Australia many times and knowing how long it takes to cross, I was intrigued to find out the land mass, so I did a spot of research. Australia is 7.69 million square kilometres or about 3 million square miles, with a small population of 25 million. Two-thirds of us live around the regional coastlines, while the remaining live across rural and remote areas. These places sometimes have more than an eight-hour drive to the closest township, so access to health is a problem, and that’s where the RFDS steps in. They work to reduce the disparity in health service access by bringing emergency medical and primary health services to those areas that don’t have access. They make it possible for people to live, work and travel across our large country.
A non-profit organisation, they rely solely on fundraising. They’ve become one of our favourite charities because of the life-saving service offered and the dedicated people working under their banner.
If you’ve read my books: including, Destiny, book one in the West Series, Second Chance, in the Racing Series, and the El Alto series, you will get a feel for how isolated Outback Australia is. In the third book of the Racing series, Racing Fate, a plane crash in remote South Australia sees our hero Lachlan McDonald needing emergency help. The RFDS comes to the rescue and flies him to Adelaide, where he receives that help. The pilots have nerves of steel landing and taking off on remote dirt tracks. They’re true heroes who don’t seek accolades as they do a job they love.
Australia has a wealth of history to tap into when writing. I’ve used remote towns and based characters on some of the exciting people I’ve met on my travels. Wherever you live, if you write, search out these resources as they add authenticity to your stories. The RFDS is an organisation I have yet to tap into, but I’ll be doing just that in future books.
Happy New Year to everyone. I hope it brings health and happiness into your lives.
Until next time
December is book release month. Providence, book two of the West Series, is here for Christmas. If you find time over Christmas to put your feet up and get lost in a suspense family saga series, this might be the one for you. Let’s refresh the memory of book one in the series, Destiny.
In Destiny, we meet the matriarch and patriarch of the West family. Dan West and Ellie Clifford. We travel to British Columbia and a bear lodge where they meet. Their journey takes them to the South Australian Outback and Newmarket in the UK. We meet Dan and Ellie’s kids and start to see the dynamics that will play out over the following books.
In Providence, we follow Joe’s story. He is one of Dan’s youngest twin sons. Dan has two sets of twins, and Ellie has one set. Yes, there are a few twins in this series which makes the stories fun. Joe is the rebel. He’s outspoken, and because he’s one of the youngest, he always tries to prove himself to his elder brothers and father. Isabella Rogers is the daughter of Dan West’s arch enemy, Margaret, and Henry Rogers. Right there, we have instant conflict.
After what went down in Destiny, Isabella Rogers has had enough. She flees to Paris and takes a twelve-month contract working as a journalist for an international newspaper. Joe follows her, and when she refuses to return home, he takes a job with an old friend of his father, Walter Kinsley. However, Walter isn’t what he seems. He is out to seal the tunnels beneath Paris streets to stop terrorists from setting up cells and wreaking havoc.
Isabella follows up on a story of homeless people living beneath Paris streets while Joe thinks he’s helping Walter move homeless people to new homes. Neither realises what they’ve gotten involved in until it’s too late to turn back. Homeless people, terrorists and a serial murderer bring this story to a dramatic conclusion.
A review from an ARC Reader:
“Providence by author Suzie Hindmarsh-Knights is a fast-paced and intelligent action adventure.
Engaging and compelling. As the second title in the West series, you will get more of their unique and wonderful story” KS
As the year draws to a close, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. See you all in 2023.
Until next time
I recently chatted with a much younger friend about the books we read as kids and how the process of writing took hold for us. What she and I read was quite eye-opening. The difference had a lot to do with our backgrounds and age. I was born after the second world war when the world was emerging from dark times. We lived in the Midlands, UK, where jobs were scarce and money scarcer. Those with jobs were forever on strike, but my parents ensured we had food in our bellies, a roof over our heads and decent clothes to wear. Books weren’t a necessity.
My friend is ten years younger. Her father was an Admiral, education embraced, and she was encouraged to read. As a family, they travelled, which expanded her education further. Books were scarce in my house. My folks weren’t readers. The soul token in reading matter was a Christmas Rupert Bear annual and later a Diana annual—of which I still have a few—and whatever we read at school. I read those annuals cover to cover so many times that I could recite the contents. We didn’t go on exotic holidays. A seaside resort called Rockly Sands in Dorset was the furthest we travelled. It became apparent we came from different worlds.
What changed for me was a trip to Yorkshire to visit family. I was about eight and sent to the local shop to pick up something. The shop sold books, and I lost time perusing the shelves. I picked up One Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodi Smith (I still have that book, it’s tatty, pages are loose, but I wouldn’t part with it for the world). It was a turning point in my life. From that day on, I saved my pocket money and slowly built my reading collection. I collected the CS Lewis, Narnia series, Lassie Come Home, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series and more. I joined the library when I was old enough, which opened a further world.
My friend, however, was reading authors like Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, and Charles Dickens etc., as well as the books in my collection. So even though I didn’t read classic authors as a child, I still loved stories. The point is that reading opens a world of possibility. It doesn’t matter what it is. You start with one thing and move to the next.
I left home at seventeen to go on an adventure—inspired by Blyton. I moved to Australia to work with Thoroughbred racehorses. I didn’t do much writing during that time (except I did keep a journal), and it wasn’t until moving to Hong Kong that my creative writing juices flowed. I became involved with the Belgian Society, and they asked me to help them with their newsletter. I joined a diving club and worked on their newsletter. I did creative writing courses and started writing short stories. The urge to write for me was always there. I just needed the right circumstances to follow through with it.
When I returned to Australia, my writing was again on the back burner. It took years before I again picked up the pen or, should I say, hit the keyboard. Word processing was going gangbusters by then, which made the process easier. But between times, I never stopped reading. My point is it’s about taking the plunge and picking up that first book. Just because your family aren’t readers doesn’t mean you can’t be. And when you take the plunge, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Until next time
Last month I wrote about injuries and how, as writers, we need to ensure authenticity. How often have you read a scene in a book that left you thinking no way? I’m guilty of this. It’s because of our normal daily routines that we read to escape. Some of my friends would say my life was anything but boring. I go on trips around this beautiful country called Australia, but my days are like everyone else’s when I’m home. A typical day for me is: Up at 6 a.m., feed the dogs, go the gym, pick up groceries if needed, head home for breakfast and hit my office to write. During the day, the dogs draw me from my office. They let me know when it’s time for a run in the garden or a walk through the park. Then it’s preparing dinner and watching TV before settling down with a good book. You get my gist, it’s just a typical day, and most of you can relate to, but you’ll have your own pattern.
Sometimes life throws us a curve ball, pushing everything out of kilter. This happened to us Sunday a week ago. My husband, Peter, and I were getting ready for a trip to Adelaide to drop my books into Dymocks (one of the few book shops in the city). I was sitting in my office clearing emails while waiting for Peter—believe it or not, he takes longer to get ready than I do. Anyway, suddenly I hear this almighty scream. I jumped up, wondering what Rupert Bear had done now. Rupert is an eight-month-old Bearded Collie and lives life to the full. Yep, you got it, a typical young pup.
I headed toward the noise. Peter was hunched over Rupert, who was screaming. They were on the bottom step leading to our bedroom. He held Rupert in a tight embrace to stop him from moving. I didn’t understand what was happening until Peter explained that Rupert had his paw stuck in the wrought iron scroll at the end of the handrail. I tried to look, but if you know the Bearded Collie breed, you understand they have lots of fur.
How he did this will go with him to his grave. We think he heard Peter go to our bedroom. He was downstairs in the living room and did a quick turn to climb the stairs to the bedroom. His left back foot must have kicked out during the turn and went through a gap in the ironwork; it slid into the tiny part of the scroll. Peter remained calm, but I was anything but. Rupert’s screams were something I never wanted to hear again.
Peter’s right arm crossed the dog’s side and held onto the trapped foot. Rupert wanted freedom and kept yanking; every time he yanked, he screamed. We knew one thing: If Peter let go, Rupert would continue to yank and leave his foot behind.
What to do? I wasn’t strong enough to change places with Peter, plus the manoeuvre could end in disaster. My sister and her husband were staying with us, so I went to get David. While I searched the garage for a handsaw, David assessed the situation. He got pliers and prized open the scroll. Rupert was in shock—we were all in shock. Rupert lay down, and that was when I saw the blood.
Blood, that substance I so often write about. But it’s not until you see copious amounts that you realize how easy it would be to understate a scene. Initially, I thought the blood came from Rupert because he was covered in it, but after a thorough examination and finding the dog miraculously unscathed, I realized it came from Peter.
In his panic to free himself, Rupert had bitten Peter’s hand, but the amazing thing was that Peter never once made a sound. Nobody had any idea he was suffering. His concern was for Rupert. What’s that old saying: where there’s no sense, there’s no feeling! Animals will go to extraordinary lengths to free themselves. I hate to think what would have happened had I been home alone, or he’d been alone. While Rupert recovered at home, I took Peter to the local Emergency hospital. He had five bites, but the one to the little finger was the worst. The broken nail bed was a mess, which meant a plastic surgeon needed to check it. We got him into an appointment the next day. Rupert was quiet for a few days but is now back to his usual happy self. Peter had a minor operation under local anaesthetic and is doing well.
You’d probably laugh out loud if you read a situation in a book similar to our situation where the hero didn’t make a sound while having a limb chewed off. I probably would. But it just goes to show you that freak accidents can happen. If you’ve read my books, you’ll realize I love drama and putting my characters into life-threatening situations. So, enjoy stories for the adventure they take you on and remember that: Truth is stranger than fiction.
Until next time
Contemporary adventure with