Australia Day Blog Hop And Giveaway

AustraliaDaybloghop2014For this Australia Day Blog Hop post I’d like to celebrate the work of Elyne Mitchell – a quintessentially Australian author, and my earliest and best-loved writing inspiration. My second novel Brumby’s Run was influenced by her work, and being shortlisted for the Elyne Mitchell Rural Writing Award was one of my greatest thrills. The Silver Brumby series is ostensibly for children, but many adults like myself still adore them. These stories are filled with drama, magical prose and a deep, abiding love for the glorious upper Murray region where Elyne lived for most of her life.

‘These mountains … are symbols of high adventure, of an ineffable beauty. My feeling for them has grown and grown, until they possess me and have written themselves into my heart.’       Elyne Mitchell

silver brumby kingdomNobody who has read her books could doubt this for a second. There is something utterly compelling about her writing. It draws you into a vast, wild landscape and loses you there. Here is a short excerpt from Silver Brumby’s Daughter. There are shades of Dylan Thomas in its evocative, lilting prose.

‘Kunama could feel the darkness coming as though it were something alive, something she could touch, a voice she could hear. Up the darkness crept, whispering from the gullies, the clefts, the gorges. It seemed to slide up the Valentine hills, seep like a tide round the corner into their valley, lap at the horses’ legs, enfold them, whispering, and at last only the sky held light, and the mountains and ridges were dark against it.’

elyne mitchellElyne herself was the archetypal rural woman and a real hero of mine. Apart from being a gifted writer, Elyne was also a wife, mother, station owner, accomplished horsewoman, stockhorse breeder, naturalist and champion skier. She faced and survived many disasters – including the death of one of her children. Elyne wrote twenty-four novels and nine non-fiction books, many of which foreshadowed the rise of the environmental movement. She was a woman far ahead of her time. No wonder Australians everywhere have taken her tales of the high country straight to their hearts.

For a chance to win a copy of my latest novel, Currawong Creek, just leave a comment telling me an Australian book you enjoyed when you were young. Entries close midnight on January 28th. (Aust and NZ entries only) Winners will be announced on Feb 2nd. Click here to visit other Australia Day Blog Hop participants, and for the chance to win more great prizes.


The Tragedy Of Taiji Cove

Taiji 1My new book has a dolphin character, Mirrhi, a young female who is rescued and nursed back to health after being struck by a boat. Writing Mirrhi and researching dolphin behaviour has made me sadder than ever at the tragedy unfolding right now in Japan’s infamous Taiji Cove. This annual butchery of thousands of migrating dolphins and porpoises was brought to international attention by a documentary film The Cove. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010, but the slaughter continues.

Taiji 2Yesterday five separate pods of dolphins were driven into Taiji Cove – two hundred and fifty dolphins, including a white albino calf. Cove monitors are calling this poor little dolphin “Angel.” So what will happen to Angel?  She has been taken from her mother to the Taiji Whale Museum.  This is particularly foolish as the calf’s likelihood of survival in captivity would be enhanced if the mother was with her. The Museum is owned by the Taiji town government and brokers dolphins all over the world, including providing dolphins for the one hundred or so dolphinariums in Japan. Angel’s mother and hundreds like her will be slaughtered and sold for meat, while Angel sits in a tank on display.

Taiji 3Dolphin hunting in Taiji must be stopped, and the global marine park industry should be in the forefront of these efforts. Instead, dolphinariums subsidise the hunts by paying top dollar for captive dolphins like Angel, while her mother is butchered.  They should be ashamed of themselves. Can this exploitation & brutality really be allowed to happen in the HOST NATION of the 2020 Olympic Games?

What can we do?

Contact the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee via their Twitter or Facebook accounts to let them know that this is not acceptable.
Join the TWEETSTORM, instructions & pre-written tweets are ready for you to click on, to get this story into the mainstream media.
Visit The Dolphin Project or Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians for more information. Many dolphin lives are depending on our help.


Pilyara’s New Horse – Star

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverything has taken a back seat lately due to Pilyara’s latest acquisition – a new horse. I’ve always been a staunch advocate of Australian Stock Horses. Possibly the world’s most versatile horse and descended from the legendary Walers, they are often referred to as ‘the breed for every need’. Bred for Australian conditions, stock horses are fine working and performance animals, renowned for their temperament, endurance, resilience and strength. But I’m also an admirer of warmbloods – middle-weight performance horses originating in Europe. They are somewhere in the middle between heavy draft animals (cold bloods) and light saddle horses such as thoroughbreds, stock horses and Arabians (hot bloods). So when a lovely half-stock horse, half-warmblood mare came on the market, I couldn’t resist!

BFD Riptide

BFD Riptide, Star’s sire

Star’s dam carries the  great stockhorse bloodlines of Gundy Bruce and the world-renowned Souvenir via Victory II. Her sire is a Holsteiner, thought to be the oldest of warmblood breeds, tracing back to the 13th century. Riptide BFD, carries a double cross of the imported champion  Romedio via Mountbatten (Grand Prix dressage & US Olympic Team listed) and Rembrandt (showjumper).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe only reason I could afford such a well-bred mare, is because she didn’t reach the desired height of 16 hh. Anyway, I’m besotted and have been spending all my time with her. (Hope the other horses don’t get jealous!) I even spent New Year’s Eve cleaning horse gear, and getting my father’s beautiful old stock saddle in top shape for her. So I hereby dedicate this post to Star, and now I’m off to the stables again …


A New Year With Pamela Cook

Pamela Cook New Author PicPlease welcome successful author Pamela Cook back to Pilyara. What an auspicious way to begin the new year! In addition to being a novelist, Pamela teaches writing. She’s also a horse lover, which means we have a lot in common. (The name of her blog is Flying Pony) Pamela’s latest release, Essie’s Way, is a touching story about finding yourself and learning from past mistakes. Today she talks to us about the importance of setting and place in her books.

‘Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Jennifer. Setting and a sense of place are very important in my writing. When I began my first novel, Blackwattle Lake, I started with an image of a place, and a character in that place: a woman standing at the gate of a horse property. I had no story, no outline and no idea what was going to happen but the strength of that image and that setting pulled me through. Essie's Way 1The setting for that novel is a mixture of two places: the riding ranch where we agist our horses, at Darkes Forest just south of Sydney … and the area around Milton, about two hours further south. We have a holiday house there at Little Forest and it’s my favourite place in the world. Somehow I manage to while away hours and hours there doing very little.

I’ve been holidaying on the NSW south coast all my life and it’s wonderful to now be able to share it with my daughters. And with my readers. The south coast is more untamed and a little wilder than the north – there are so many places where you can escape and feel completely isolated. Although the water is colder, it’s clear and clean and the beaches are blissfully empty (apart from school holidays of course) which is a huge contrast to the crowds on Sydney beaches in summer.

Essie's Way 2Essie’s Way also began with an image, but this time of an older woman who was playing the violin on the verandah of a shack near the ocean. Although I didn’t have a specific place in mind the stretch of beach I imagined was deserted and surrounded by bush. As the story progressed and the fragments came together, the place in my mind became one with a beach bookended by headlands, a very small town that only comes to life in the tourist season and farmlands close to the ocean. Thanks to trusty Google earth, I found a place that roughly fitted the description, packed my dog Bridie in the car and (just like Miranda, the main character in the book) headed south. While I was familiar with the south coast I hadn’t been to this particular place before but when I arrived at Potato Point I wasn’t disappointed. The “town” if it could be called one, and the beach fitted the image in my head perfectly.

To anyone else the resemblance might not be the same but walking on the windswept beach, wandering across the rock platforms I could just picture Esther standing there, fishing rod in hand, gazing out at the stormy blue ocean. There was no shack on the cliff and there were no horses grazing in paddocks nearby but it didn’t take much to imagine. The sense of alone-ness and freedom I felt standing on the beach were the same feelings I wanted Miranda to have when she visits the beach in search of the grandmother she’d always thought to be dead. Miranda is a city girl, a lawyer with a busy job and lifestyle and not much time to connect with herself. It’s here in Pelican Point (the fictional place in Essie’s Way, that she’s able to find some sense of peace and start to really think about the direction she’s taking in life.

There are a few city locations in Essie’s Way too – Miranda lives in Erskineville and hangs out in Newtown and the book opens with her trying on a wedding gown at a store in the QVB.

But it’s the rural locations that really inspire me. I love writing about the way place impacts on character and I hope to do more of that in my next book. At the moment I’m not sure exactly where it will be set but there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be somewhere down south and there’s an even better chance I’ll be taking off on a road trip to do a little research!’

Essie's Way coverEssie’s Way – A captivating story of family, love and following your heart, from the author of Blackwattle Lake.

Miranda McIntyre thinks she has it all sorted. A successful lawyer, she s planning her wedding and ticking off all the right boxes. When searching for something old to go with her wedding dress she remembers an antique necklace from her childhood, but her mother denies any knowledge of it. Miranda is sure it exists. Trying to find the necklace, she discovers evidence that perhaps the grandmother she thought was dead is still alive.

Ignoring the creeping uncertainty about her impending marriage, and the worry that she is not living the life she really wants, Miranda takes off on a road trip in search of answers to the family mystery but also in search of herself. Ultimately, she will find that looking back can lead you home.

Connect with Pamela:
Twitter: @PamelaCookAU