A Tribute To Missy

Missy cropLast week I introduced our lovely new puppy Rex, just beginning his adventures in this world. Well, life has come full circle with the death of Missy. In this post I’d like to celebrate the life of a very special cat. This is her story. We run a small boarding kennel and cattery here at Pilyara, and one day fifteen years ago, a young couple arrived with a dog and six-month old kitten in tow, Max and Missy. They were going away for the Australia Day long weekend, and had booked their animals in for three nights. The boyfriend turned up on cue at the end of the stay – by himself.

‘I’m only collecting Max,’ he said.
‘Me and my girlfriend broke up. I’m taking the dog and she’s taking the cat.’

The girlfriend didn’t come for Missy that day, or the next, or the next … She didn’t answer phone calls. Weeks passed. I began to feel sorry for the half-grown black-and-white kitten, languishing in the cattery. I brought her inside. Missy was a nondescript little thing – quiet and shy, with a tiny meow. She fell asleep on my bed.

Lofty's first day 006Nobody ever came for Missy. Lucky for us. Her unfailing good-nature soon won everybody over. The ideal cat – loyal, beautifully behaved and gentle as a lamb. Sometimes she would sway slightly when sitting, as if to some rhythm only she could hear. She never scratched the furniture, and always used her carpet post. She never made a mess and always used her litter tray. Unlike the other cats, she never scratched the kids during an over-enthusiastic hug, but patiently put up with their clumsy affection. She wasn’t a hunter.The native wildlife was perfectly safe around her. One day a mouse famously ran across the carpet and into her tail. Missy jumped a mile!

Missy 8I became her favourite. Wherever I went, so did Missy. If I was writing in the office, or dining room or in bed, she was with me. If I spoke to her, she always responded with a considered mew. My youngest son, Tyson, dubbed her my writing cat. If I was stuck in my story he would say, ‘You need your writing cat,‘ and unceremoniously dump her on my lap. Hey presto, the words would flow. I began to believe it myself – that Missy was my muse.

Missy 5She never cost me anything. She suffered no injury or illness, no expensive medications, or operations or special diets. She never caused us a moment’s worry, and gave our family enormous pleasure – a perfect life, well-lived. She even died well. That morning she had some breakfast, played with her toy mouse for a while, and went to sleep on the bed in the spare room. Fat and shiny, calm and happy as ever. Tyson went in to to cuddle her. It was still the first thing he did every morning, although he’s now nineteen. ‘Mum,’ he called, his voice urgent. I hurried in … Missy had passed away, still curled up in the blankets. Tyson’s tears flowed as freely as if he was four again. He wasn’t the only one. There was no sign of distress in her pose. Her expression was peaceful. She died in bed, in her sleep, which is more than most of us can hope for. She spared us that heart-breaking last trip to the vet, the sleepless nights because she was sick, the fears for her. She was simply there one minute, and gone the next – an angel even in death. Thank you Missy! Wonder if I’ll be able to write without you?

We have plenty of other cats and dogs to comfort us, but none like Missy. This post is to celebrate the life of a much-loved, humble little cat who we were proud to call our own. Missykins, you never put a foot wrong, darling! If I can live my life half as well, I shall be happy. Rest in peace. I miss you … Missy's Grave 002 BB14

Our New Dog

Rex 1

Rex at 6 weeks

Rex 003Rex 005We have a new dog, a white German Shepherd puppy named Rex (after the famous Inspector Rex). I’ve had shepherds before, even bred them for a few years, but never a white one. The colour is considered a flaw in the show fraternity and, in the past, white pups have been routinely drowned. A great shame, as this colour has a long and proud history in the evolution of the breed. A white herding dog named Greif was the grandfather of Horand von Grafrath, the dog acknowledged as the foundation of all contemporary German Shepherd bloodlines.

White shepherds are not albinos, and have no particular health concerns, so when a pup became available locally, we decided to welcome him to our family. White dogs are said to have a softer, mellower, more sensitive personality than their traditionally coloured cousins. This is born out with Rex – he’s a very chilled out boy!

He’s nine weeks old now, and his ears are starting to stand erect, just as they should. I couldn’t be happier Rex 006with him and heartily recommend the breed. So if you’re looking for a family dog that –

  • Is strong, athletic, and natural-looking
  • Has a quieter personality than a black and tan German Shepherd
  • Thrives on challenging activities and exercise
  • Rex 009Is exceptionally intelligent, loyal, and versatile — when well-socialised and well-trained, can learn and do almost anything
  • Makes a sensible watchdog and is not inappropriately hostile

– then a White German Shepherd may be right for you.

This last photo is what I hope Rex will look like when he’s all grown up! 🙂

Rex grown upBB14

Celebrating Women In Conservation

Women in conservation breakfast

Bush Heritage Australia and Trust for Nature are pleased to invite supporters to the fourth annual Celebrating Women In Conservation fundraising breakfast 2015.

Held in Melbourne in the week of International Women’s Day, this fourth annual breakfast is an opportunity to discover new perspectives, as well as celebrating the role that women play in conservation. I’m hoping to be there. It’s for a very good cause!

The MC is science journalist and bestselling author Tanya Ha.

Molly Harriss Olsen

Molly Harriss Olsen

Guest speaker Molly Harriss Olson will share her transformative ideas about decision making in conservation. Named as one of the 2014 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence, Molly has convened, chaired and been a member of numerous sustainability initiatives over more than three decades, including The World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders of Tomorrow Sustainability Index Initiative. Molly worked in the White House as the Founding Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, appointed by President Clinton.

Molly is the Founder and Convenor of the National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development and co-founder of EcoFutures and Earthmark. She serves on the Green Building Council of Australia and the AMP Sustainable Investments Alpha Advisory boards, and is CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand.


DATE: Thursday, 5 March 2015
TIME: 7.00am for a 7.15am start
VENUE: RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
COST: $75 per person; $700 for a table of 10

Book here. Please direct all enquiries to Amelia Easdale at Trust for Nature on (03) 8631 5809 or at ameliae@tfn.org.au.


Get Fresh in ’15 – RWA Melbourne Conference


I’m very excited to tell you about this year’s RWA Conference, to be held in my home state. The last time (and first time) that I attended the conference in Melbourne, I pitched Brumby’s Run to Penguin and the rest is history!

The programming team has done an incredible job designing this truly inspiring schedule of engaging, thought-provoking, fresh speakers who are ready to share their knowledge and experience with us all. The program features a sensational selection of both local and international guests. Keynote presentations and a wide range of workshops are designed for writers at every stage of their career and publishing journey.

Are you looking to develop your craft?  Pitch a story to publishers? Build your business as a writer? How about self-publishing? Want to write the hottest sex scene while keeping your characters well rounded and relatable? What’s it like to become an overnight success? Well, you can explore all of this and much, much more at the RWA Get Fresh in ’15 Melbourne Conference. See the incredible conference program here. Early bird registration opens 28 February and closes 1 May 2015.


A spectacular line up of stars will delight delegates. Graeme Simsion, author of the overnight sensation, The Rosie Project will kick off the conference with the Saturday morning keynote address. Sunday opens with much loved, best-selling American author Mary Jo Putney and the inspirational Anita Heiss, prolific author, commentator and all round inspirational woman.


Also participating in the conference, all the way from the US, is Courtney Miller-Callihan from Greenburger Associates agency and Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks. Both will take pitches, attend social events, and sit on panels, as well as presenting their own informative workshops. And as if that glittering list of names isn’t enough, the effervescent and ever popular Jane Porter will join a Superstar Bonus panel on Friday evening and USA Today best-selling author, Patricia McLinn, will deliver what promises to be a rousing closing address.


The RWA 24th annual conference will be held in Melbourne, Victoria, 21 – 23 August 2015 at the 5 star luxury Park Hyatt hotel. It will provide unique networking opportunities for writers, editors, agents and other publishing industry professionals. The program features a wide range of workshops designed for writers at every stage of their career and publishing journeys.

Get Fresh in 15 is the theme for Melbourne, heralding an innovative, relevant, contemporary conference. It will build on Melbourne’s strong literary culture and communities through a partnership with Melbourne Writers Festival and Writers Victoria. The focus of Get Fresh in 15 is on quality: quality venue, innovative content, high calibre speakers and diverse topics targeted to aspiring, emerging and established writers.

The Park Hyatt is offering special rates to delegates so book early. As usual the conference will include exciting social events including the traditional welcome cocktail party and annual Awards Dinner. I look forward to attending the largest professional conference for the publishing industry in Australia and hope to see some of you there.

Enquiries to conference committee: mel15@romanceaustralia.com
Media enquiries: media@romanceaustralia.com

Book BouquetOn a different subject, WIN a Valentine’s Day bouquet that never dies on the Australian Rural Romance website! There are 6 book bouquets to be won, each containing five books, including Billabong Bend. WHAT A PRIZE! And all you have to do is sign up to the blog. Too easy …
VISIT: http://australianruralromance.com/