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
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