Tag Archive | Australian author

Black Mountain

A few years ago my husband Peter I took an extended caravan holiday. We began by exploring the east coast of Australia, working our way up from the south to the north. When we reached far north Queensland we fell in love with the area, and spent much time there.

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We based ourselves at a little place called Flying Fish Point, a few kilometres east of Innisfail, bounded by the mouth of the Johnstone River on one side and the ocean on the other. A glorious place, where the forest is lush and deep green, the beach is long, and the azure sea and the sky seem almost to merge.

From here we visited the unique Daintree rainforest, beautiful in its wildness, hot and humid, criss-crossed with trails made by the many (usually!) unseen wildlife, and home to many primitive plants found nowhere else.

Daintree 2Q beach

We visited the huge plateau of the Tablelands, went up to Cairns, Port Douglas and as far north as Cooktown.  It was while we were returning from a visit to Cooktown via the Bloomfield track that we stumbled across Black Mountain. We planned to stop at the Lion’s Den, an old Australian pub, for lunch.

Lions den

But before we reached it we were startled by the appearance of a colossal, blackened mountain, strewn around with a jumble of enormous boulders that looked more like something that was dumped there by a giant, rather than a natural formation. Rising up from the wilderness, it was an eerie sight and stands in stark contrast to the green sea of forest around it.

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We left the vehicle and walked gingerly over the smaller boulders that fringe the side of the road.  It is a spooky place, and I felt sinister vibes all around as I stood gazing in awe.

I saw it would be a marvelous setting for a story.

My research has  revealed many tales of people who have ventured into its depths and never been seen again. Even a herd of cattle once strayed into its awesome depths and disappeared!  I knew then it was where Elly and Mitchell would be forced to go in their search for the rare plant they needed for Elly to fulfil her late father’s dream to produce the ‘fountain of youth’, the skin care every woman wants.

As they search together in the tropical heat of the rainforest, an attraction grows between them. But Elly is pining for her missing friend, Jackson – isn’t she? And Mitchell still loves his schooldays  sweetheart – doesn’t he?

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Breast cancer – no death sentence

A week ago I attended a reunion dinner—not for authors, but for women, young and old, from all walks of life. And as I looked around at the sixty or so women in the room, I felt inspired, and I had an upsurge of hope and gratitude, for we were all breast cancer survivors… and all still ALIVE.
We were part of the Encore group, run by the YWCA for those who have breast cancer, where I had participated in their wonderful hydrotherapy program.
I was a ‘newbie’ among the group, only in my first year of survival. The lovely lady alongside me told me she had been diagnosed fifteen years ago and had been back each year for her check, with no recurrence of the disease.

And as I felt the lifting of the dread that affects all of us who are diagnosed with that scourge of womanhood, I thought that if I can give hope to only one woman, then it is worth writing about my experience.

When my GP told me she thought the thickening in my breast was cancer, I found it hard to accept. It couldn’t be! Not me! But a mammogram confirmed the deadly suspicion.

At my first consultation with the specialist he spelt it all out. There was no doubt about the diagnosis, and he explained all the possibilities, and I was left in no doubt that I must have a mastectomy.
Yes, I was going to lose a breast. That takes a bit of coming to terms with.

I went through a range of tests – MRI scan, PET scan, blood tests etc. …you name it, I probably had it.

    I was grateful for the loving support of my husband, who was with me every step of the way.

Then back to the next consultation. The cancer had not spread…yet…but I must have surgery as soon as possible, and we were given the next available date; in two weeks time.
Then a consultation with a breast nurse. These dedicated nurses are there to answer all the questions you have about the process. We discussed breast reconstruction, and prostheses, or breast forms as they are called, and she had examples there for us to see. Amazingly these are so realistic now they even feel like the real thing, and absorb the body temperature when you wear them.

The day of surgery arrived, and I admit I was scared. When I woke up in recovery I remember my first words were, ‘I’m still alive’. I had little pain, then or at any time while in hospital, and, while recovering at home, simple panadol was enough to ease any discomfort.
The next morning my specialist called in early to tell me the surgery had been successful, and the cancer had been all removed. A little later in the morning the whole breast cancer team visited, and we discussed all relevant issues.

After a short stay in hospital, it was home, and then a few months of visits to the hospital for treatment. I was fortunate in not needing Chemo or radiotherapy, and after I returned for my first annual mammogram and visit to the specialist, I was able to dispense with the drug I had been taking, and I was told my prognosis was good.
To celebrate, my husband and I went on a cruise, and returned just in time for Christmas, which we spent with family, including our two young grand-daughters.

So now, after a year and more since diagnosis, I am looking forward to a long and healthy future. Along with all my fellow-survivors at the Encore reunion dinner.

So don’t lose hope—remember…
BREAST CANCER IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.

SUMMERTIME

It is hot. Blisteringly, scorchingly hot, with the mercury hovering just below the forty degree Celsius mark. The sun blazes in a clear, blue sky, and all I can think of is the ocean nearby. That wonderful cool, clear water.

I don my swimsuit, a tee, sandals. Splosh on sunscreen, pick up a hat, sunnies, towel, bottle of water, and toss it all into the beach bag.  Drive five minutes to the beach and find a park close by.

The water beckons enticingly. Aqua blue, calm, with just a gentle ripple. The sand at the edge of the water glistens in the sun as a wavelet surges gently up onto the shore, before receding lazily to recoup its spent energy. I am amazed to see so few people on the beach and in the water. Plenty of room for many more.

I tumble from the car and cross the hot pavement onto the sand. Trudge through the soft sand. The red-hot sand infiltrates my sandals and my feet burn. Now I know what it’s like to walk over hot coals.

Reaching the strip of hard, wet sand above the water line I shed the sandals and the damp sand cools my feet. I drop the bag. Off with the tee, I head into the water and wade in.

The cool water caresses my legs. Little fish swim only feet from the shore, where ridges in the sandy bottom dig into my feet. Ouch!  But they are soon left behind for the smooth, sandy ocean floor.

I’m in waist deep and the water feels cold. There’s only one thing to do. Dive under and swim. After the heat, the cold water is sheer bliss! I come up with a gasp, shake my head and push the hair back from my face.

I look around. There are a few other souls in the water nearby. Teenagers splashing, diving, and horsing around. A few children on paddle boards. A group of three women a little way off, chest deep, hats on, bobbing down deeper now and then as they hold an animated conversation.

A couple of serious swimmers further out are practising their strokes.

I look down. The water is so clear I can see the shape of my toenails, and the occasional pebble on the sandy bottom. A lone strand of seaweed drifts by. But mainly it’s just clear, rejuvenating water. I swim a bit, do a few stretches and kicks, float lazily. The heat is forgotten.

Ah! This is what I missed so much when I lived in other places – South Australia’s long stretches of sheltered, white, sandy beach. Not crowded. Usually calm enough to actually swim in.

What! No surf? you say. No, if you want surf, go further down the coast. For me, I like to swim, float, cool off. Forget the heat.

This is Adelaide in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration comes first

I always enjoy learning the history of places I visit, and while living on the beautiful mid-north coast of New South Wales, I researched the past of Bulahdelah, a picturesque village about 200kms north of Sydney on the Myall River.

 Bulahdelah Mountain  Looking out from Bulahdelah Mountain

 In the early days of colonisation  Bulahdelah was well-known as a timber-cutting area, home to magnificent cedar trees. The local Historical Society is active, and they made their information freely available to me, and I searched records and pored over photos. Then an artist friend loaned me a book of ‘Rachel Henning’s Letters’- letters that had been written by the English wife of a Bulahdelah timber-mill manager in the mid-nineteenth century to her various family members. In them she described her daily life, which she found very agreeable.

 This made me curious about the lifestyle and conditions for all women in the nineteenth century

What my research found was that women then had few rights and were dominated by the men of the time, and not all women led the pleasant life enjoyed by Rachel Henning.

The law in that era stated that when a woman married, all her assets became her husband’s property, and the law gave him the right to force her to obey him in every area of her life.  This meant she was totally dependent on him for everything, both financially and emotionally. If he turned out to be heartless, violent or miserly, she had little or no recourse.

So, under the laws of the day a woman had few rights; prior to her marriage, she must obey her father, and when she married all her property became her husband’s on the day of their marriage. She became virtually his chattel, to treat as he wished. No matter how badly he chose to treat her, she had to bear it.

Women were considered to be physically, emotionally and intellectually inferior to men, and the entrenched and patronising attitudes of the time meant that the judiciary, all male, took the view that whatever the man did was right and a woman was meant to be an obedient homemaker and bedwarmer for her husband, while not expecting sexual pleasure herself!

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Throughout history there have been many influential women

 But on investigation it becomes obvious that they were either rulers, like Elizabeth 1, in England, or Catherine of Russia, or else they were wives, mistresses or concubines of influential men. Many of them had great power.

Strong, powerful women. 1237405994_top-10-hottest-historical-women_flash

But what of the ordinary, everyday women…

Women who had the spirit to rebel against this injustice – women who refused to be browbeaten by the men?  And if they defied custom – could they face the results of going against the conventions of the day?

Happiness – and love – could not have been easy!

It was these findings that incensed me and provoked me into writing the Redwoods  series.

AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN  is the first novel in the series. This book focuses on life in Australia in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and to make the story authentic meant researching many details in Sydney in that era. Which hotels, pubs, churches etc had been built by then? Where would Kitty and her mother have shopped? How far had the suburbs spread by then? What transport was available?  It also looks at the attitudes that caused Kitty much unhappiness in her marriage.

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 After I finished ‘An Independent Woman’ I started to think seriously of my  next book ,which  continues Kitty’s story and begin that of her young daughter Joy. However, I found that writing in a series throws up a whole new set of problems for an author. I have covered this topic in  my blog on writing a series  (Sept 7)

 A Liberated Woman finalBy the time I came to write ‘A LIBERATED WOMAN’ I had already done a lot of research into Sydney in the late 1800’s for ‘An Independent Woman’. However by 1893, the starting date of this book, the political climate had changed. There was hot debate over the looming prospect of Federation.  Some colonies were for Federation, some against, and I needed to research the political figures of the day and their opinions. Also, Australia was in the grip of an economic depression – did this affect my characters?

Then there was a whole new world to portray when Joy went to England, to meet her English family, to be presented to Queen Victoria, and to have a London Season. The relatively free and easy lifestyle of Australia gave way to the strict social codes of Victorian England, where life was highly regulated.

My research for this included learning the protocol of presentation at Court, and what activities happened where and when during the Season – from garden parties and coming-out balls…

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 to a week at Royal Ascot for the thoroughbred racing….

 Ascot,-Royal-Enclosur[1]  Royal enclosure at Ascot, 1800’s

‘A MODERN WOMAN’, the last book in the trilogy, begins with the commencement of the new century, a time of hope and new beginnings, and focuses on Joy’s life now she has becomes a woman – on her relationships, and on her burning ambition to make Redwoods into a successful thoroughbred horse stud, an ambition that was born back in England when she visited Royal Ascot with her grandfather.

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 As I had already done a great deal of research into women’s roles in those early years for the previous two books I had no need to delve further there, but I knew little of horse breeding.  So my research focused on that. I investigated some of the ailments that can afflict horses, watched the birth of a foal on ‘You Tube’ video and ‘picked the brains’ of a horse breeder. All very interesting.

 For the racetrack scenes I drew on my own experiences, having been a lover of thoroughbred racing and a frequent visitor to the races for many years. I have always loved the thrill of watching those magnificent animals stretching towards the winning post, every fibre in their bodies striving to win, and then to see how they relish the cheers of the crowd when they beat the rest of the field!                       

                                           !How they love to race!      371128-race-horses

 Having once been the part-owner of a racehorse I understand the nervous excitement  Joy felt  before and during each race, and the euphoria when her horse came first past the post – a feeling that’s hard to beat! And I understand too the affection and attachment you feel for your horse, win or lose!

As for the relationships and emotions of the characters, in all the books– well, allowing for the difference in the conventions of the time they’re not all that different from those of people today. Times change, but people don’t.

Over the centuries we have all had similar needs and desires – for a good life, security, a loving partner. A wish for romance is strong in many of us. And we all experience similar emotions at times. Love, hate, fear, anger, frustration. We all have different ways of dealing with them, and so it is for the people of Redwoods.

I had a lot fun doing this research, and putting the characters into the situations in these books. I hope you will enjoy reading about them as much as I have enjoyed telling their stories.

‘A MODERN WOMAN’ is due to be released on March 1st, when it will be available on Amazon and can now be pre-ordered on SmashwordsApple iBooks, Barnes &Noble , and Kobo

 

 www.kateloveday.com

Research before Writing

I am re-blogging this from an Eescapades post

When I decided to write my first novel, ‘Inheritance’ I had been up in far north Queensland for several months, and had come to love the area.

We were based at a little place called Flying Fish Point, a few kilometres east of Innisfail, bounded by the mouth of the Johnstone River on one side and the ocean on another. A glorious place, where the forest is lush and deep green, the golden beach is long, and the cerulean sea and sky almost seem to merge.

From here we made trips to the Daintree rainforest, to the huge plateau of the Tablelands, up to Cairns, Port Douglas and as far north as Cooktown. All wonderful places. And wonder of them all, we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

But there was a downside to this paradise, for we were all aware that in the waters of the Johnstone River and the myriad creeks and rivers nearby lived that most fearsome of creatures, the saltwater crocodile.

I knew my book had to be set in this superb place, and that my main character would be a spirited young woman. In such a place the story needed to have elements of adventure, and mystery, and to reveal something of the soul of the place. It should also include some of the lore of the aboriginal people who were the original inhabitants of the land.

I set the story on Yallandoo, a cattle station (ranch). But I was born and bred a city girl, with little knowledge of cattle stations, or rodeos, or aboriginal culture and spiritual beliefs, and their burial rites. Or the habits of crocodiles.

What I do know a lot about is life, people, and human nature. The rest I had to research.

That included how to brand a steer, how points are allotted at a rodeo, the Aboriginal Dreamtime, how immigrants to the Snowy River scheme were housed on arrival, how a fire is fought without piped water, and just how dangerous is the ‘saltie’?, as the local crocs are called, (very dangerous!), to name a few.

Ihad the most wonderful time for weeks and months, delving into all these fascinating subjects – in books and papers, in libraries, and on the internet. I love research, but I am so easily led from my subject into interesting by-ways, which runs away with the time!

I have tried to keep things authentic, and if you pick up any irregularities in the facts of the story, you must blame it on the fact I’m really just a city girl!

Inheritance is now available as an Ebook in all formats on Harlequin’s Ecscape Publishing.

 

 

 

Speaking for Women

After today listening to the speech by the Prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, regarding sexism and misogony in our Parliament, I take the unusual step of re-blogging this post I made on Oct5th.   

For many ordinary Australians, today is a day to feel profound sadness and anger. Today Jill Meagher will be buried, quietly, in a private ceremony. This young married woman was raped and murdered whilst walking home from a night out with friends in Brunswick, a Melbourne suburb. This dreadful crime has caused caused horror throughout Australia and in many parts of the world, especially in Ireland, her home country.

Perhaps it should provoke us  to look at the treatment of women all over the world.

Sometimes I despair that true equality between the sexes will ever be a fact of life. No, I don’t mean I wish men and women were the same – I enjoy the fact that they’re dissimilar, in fact I revel in the separateness between the sexes. I like a man to be manly and a woman who’s not afraid of her femineity. What I mean is the treatment of women by too many members of the opposite sex.

In many parts of the world, violence against women is still tolerated. A recent ‘honour killing’ in Afghanistan was reported, where men stood around cheering while watching a woman being shot. Slavery and forced prostitution still exist, while female genital mutilation is regarded as normal in some countries. In Saudi Arabia a de facto law prevents women from driving. Many issues of the violation of women’s rights are swept under the rug.

Women in the western world are fortunate in that male attitudes towards women have become more enlightened over the past century, although there is still room for improvement, particularly with regards to professional discrimination, which is where gender inequality is alive and well. For instance, we now have a female Prime Minister in Australia, but she is subject to vilification and disparagement that has never been so strident against former Prime Ministers, all male.  The ‘glass ceiling’ is still there for women.  Rape still happens and domestic violence is a problem.

But there is a lot of room for hope.  Jill Meagher’s brutal killing evoked a response from ordinary people, both men and women. It caused a completely unorchestrated walk through Melbourne streets by people who abhorred this act of violence against a member of the physically weaker sex. Totally unplanned, a few friends decided to walk against this aggression. They emailed a few others, who then put it on Facebook. Twitter took it up, and over 30,000 people turned up to walk peaceably through the streets of Melbourne. A walk for peace, for an end to violent acts against women, a walk that asked for our streets to become safe for everyone, day and night.

The treatment of women has come a long way from the nineteenth century, when the research for my historical novels revealed to me that women were regarded as intellectually and emotionally inferior to men, when everything a woman owned became her husband’s property when she married, and the law upheld the rights to male dominance over women. Women were discouraged from using their brains, and a ‘nice’ woman was not expected to enjoy sex. She was expected to be a good home maker and bed warmer for her husband, to produce his children and attend to all his wants, without expectation of enjoyment herself.

Yes, we’ve come a long way in the western world. Let’s hope those countries that still subjugate their women will follow before too much longer.

www.kateloveday.com