Autumn in the Blue Mountains

Autumn leaves from Mt Wilson Rodney May 2016 with copyrightAutumn is a perfect time of year in the Blue Mountains. The sky is blue; it’s warm in the sun and cool in the shade. Perfect for walking through the streets and enjoying the changing leaves.

This year, the colours seem even more spectacular than ever.

I’ve been head down writing lately, only taking time off to exercise in the afternoons. But on Monday I headed off with a friend to the other side of the Grose Valley to Mount Wilson off the Bells Line of Road. What a place!

I try to go there every year to the open gardens and I’m never disappointed. This year, I gathered chestnuts and roasted them in the oven when I came home. Delicious!

 

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Brumbies in the Jamison Valley

Yesterday I dropped a friend out at Tablelands Rd, Wentworth Falls, so he could go walking in the Jamison Valley. A sheer drop, then several kilometres to an old farm and back. It’s a walk I wish I were fit enough to do. Instead, I stayed glued to my computer all day, writing.

Along the way, he saw some wild brumbies.

Brumbies with copyright symbol

This afternoon, after another day’s writing, I did my usual laps around the local oval, three kilometres of flat walking. It’s probably not sufficient to build up my fitness to attempt the Valley walk any time soon, but it’s a start. Maybe by this time next year! It’s such beautiful autumn weather here in the Blue Mountains right now.

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Note: all photos that appear on this blog are used with the photographer’s permission.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine picnicYesterday I went with friends to the Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath. As we were parking the car, a young man, one of a small group, called out to us, “If you come across a picnic near the pond, it’s there for a reason.”

It turns out they had set it up for a friend who intended to take his girlfriend there to propose.

We walked round the gardens and an hour or so later came across the scene – set up and ready. Around the corner we looked across the pond and saw a young couple in a passionate embrace. When we walked on, we heard a squeal of delight.

I’m guessing her answer was, “Yes!”

Happy Valentine’s Day.

And if you haven’t already received a Valentine’s, here’s one specially for you.

china hearts rodney weidland

 

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China heart photo taken by Rodney Weidland and used with permission.

Jack Fairley: romance hero

imageWhen I first saw the cover of Snowy River Man, I was thrilled. That’s my hero: Jack Fairley! Just as I’d imagined him.

The character of Jack was inspired, in part, by my uncles, Jack and Rody. They were wheat-sheep farmers from the Riverina district. Both rode horses. Both were kind, solid men with a strength borne of long years battling drought, floods and fluctuating prices. Both had big families, too, like ours, and a special way with children.

Although I grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches, like a lot of city kids I’d visit my country cousins during school holidays. I loved staying on the farm, especially at Jack and Rita’s. That’s where I discovered the family “library” and snuck away to read ancient books like Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong series. But there was plenty of outdoor activity, too. Rita taught us to ride and we’d help round up mobs of sheep. As we got older, Jack let us drive his ute while he stood on the trailer at the back to distribute feed, or stopped to treat a fly-blown sheep. Back at the farm, we watched, fascinated, as he strung up a wether, cut its throat and slit its belly, letting the farm dogs snap up the bloody entrails. He enjoyed our horrified reaction. “You like eating lamb’s fry, don’t you?” he asked. “Where do you think it comes from? City slickers!”

I can’t remember ever hearing a cross word from Jack. Even that time when I accelerated the ute instead of braking and he fell off the back of the trailer.

Years later I learned that he’d distinguished himself as a soldier before he settled down and had a family. He rarely spoke of it, only opening up when one of my nephews went off to Afghanistan. Jack was a modest man. I like to think my hero Jack Fairley shares some of his good qualities.

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This is the fifth in a series of guest posts I wrote when Snowy River Man was first published. It first appeared on The Neverending Bookshelf.

An Aboriginal psychic heroine?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the psychic element in Snowy River Man. In this post, I discuss the inspiration for the heroine.

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It’s not stated overtly in the novel, but there are hints that the heroine, Katrina, is part-Aboriginal – as well as psychic. So how did this come about?

I’ve written elsewhere that the inspiration for Katrina being psychic comes from my own family, but I haven’t discussed her part Aboriginality – or the weird coincidences that happened after I’d first drafted the story.

I wrote Snowy River Man after staying with my partner in a fishing shack on the shores of Lake Eucumbene. I was fairly confident about the setting – all except for the hero Jack’s house, a nineteenth-century two storey mansion. Was such a place realistic for that area? We decided to scout round Snowy River Shire looking looking for something like it.

We drove and drove, covering hundreds of kilometres without result. Nothing as grand as Jack’s house appeared. Most of the places we saw were single-storey weatherboard homesteads and falling down huts, or modern buildings. After we’d driven in a big loop, we came back towards Adaminaby, and out near the tiny airport saw a two-storey mansion, just as I’d imagined. It was surrounded by tall trees and not far from the river, like in my story. At my partner’s prompting, we drove up the long driveway and knocked on the door. A caretaker and his wife answered and, once they knew I was writing a book, invited us in. To my surprise I discovered Patrick White had stayed there in his youth, and the house was now owned by a Greek tycoon. I was thrilled to learn that, like my story, it had a ballroom.

On a hunch, I asked, “There isn’t another, newer house across the valley, is there?” I was thinking of the home my hero Jack had built for his mother-in-law.

“Oh, you must mean the Farleys,” the caretaker said. “They’re our neighbours.”

I nearly choked. In the early draft of the novel, I called my hero “Jack Farley”. (After this, I changed it to “Fairley”.)

Still stunned by the coincidence, we extended our drive and drove up to the Yarrangobilly Caves. There we came across a plaque commemorating a nineteenth-century indigenous man who could well have been the ancestor for my character Murray Tom. The man’s name? “Murray Jack.”

It seemed, somehow, I had some deep connection to the land and this story.

When I came back from our holiday, I spoke to a friend who was often mistaken for Koori, even though he grew up in a “white” family. He told me he used to have dreams in which a tribal elder appeared and spoke to him. An idea started to form. I’d given Katrina the surname “Delaney” to suggest a Celtic heritage (like mine), one which might help to explain her psychic gift. I looked up the name and found it’s also a surname among indigenous Australians. I wondered whether it might be okay to imply Katrina had indigenous heritage. I talked it over with an Aboriginal friend here in the Blue Mountains – the one who encouraged me to establish the Australian Women Writers challenge. I mentioned my desire to create a subtext for the story, a way of questioning the settlers’ legitimacy in occupying and possessing the land. (An ambitious aim for a category romance!) She thought it was a great idea. She also told me I’d get the story published, and she was right. She’s also a bit psychic.

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This is the fifth in a series of guest blog posts I wrote when Snowy River Man was published. A version of this post first appeared on Write Note Reviews and is reblogged here with permission.

Walk to Govetts Leap – a perfect summer’s day!

Last weekend we had family visiting and we took them up to Blackheath to the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre. From the centre we discovered an easy-grade walk down to Govetts Leap Lookout. It’s a 1.8 km zig-zag bitumen track suitable for old people, wheelchairs and toddlers alike.

Along the way, we were treated to lots of different types of gum trees losing their bark.

stripped red bark of gumshaggy bark

From the lookout we could see all the way across the Grose Valley to Mount Hay. The temperature was mild, the air clear – a perfect summer’s day in the Blue Mountains.

Grose Valley

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(Photos of bark © Rodney Weidland, used with permission.)

Snowy River Man: the road to publication

imageAs most of my regular readers will know, a few years ago I established the Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWW). Back then, I was trying to find a publisher for a suspense novel I’d written. The novel attracted interest from an agent, and subsequently from several editors, but wasn’t accepted for publication. Instead of fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author, I found myself devoting more and more time and energy to convening the AWW reading and reviewing challenge which aims to overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women.

While AWW has been a lot of fun, and I’ve been privileged to work with many fine bookbloggers and writers who joined the AWW team, I didn’t relinquish my dream of becoming a published author.

In late 2013, a psychic writer friend of mine told me that my “guides” had a message for me. They had given me everything I needed to get published, they said; what I needed was a kick up the derriere. Submit, my writer friend told me. Submit one of my old romances that had done well in the Clendon Award competition in New Zealand; send it to Kate Cuthbert at Escape Publishing.

Chastened and obedient, I updated the manuscript and sent it off to Kate. Several months later, Snowy River Man, as it is now called, was accepted for publication. My dream had been fulfilled: finally, I was going to be a published author – in a genre that I’d pretty well abandoned – all because I followed the advice of a psychic!

After finishing the revisions for Snowy River Man, I revised another manuscript from my bottom drawer – a romantic suspense – and sent that off to Kate. I’ve yet to hear whether that will be accepted. Lately I’ve been busy writing articles for AWW, as well as reading and reviewing for pleasure. Soon I’ll have to get back to my own writing. The question is, in what genre? Should I rewrite another romance, pull out the fantasy novel I’ve drafted, work on the thriller I’ve begun, or try once again that literary work I abandoned years ago? My problem is, I like all these genres and have no idea what I should be writing next.

Maybe I need another chat with my friend the psychic?

Snowy River Man will be released on February 22. You can pre-order a copy from AWW’s sponsor Bookworld here or Amazon.