Release Of ‘Journey’s End’ & Giveaway

The time has come for some shameless self-promotion – the release day for my new novel, Journey’s End. Leave a comment about your favourite wild place to go in the draw for two signed copies (Aust & NZ addresses only) Contest ends Sunday 26th June.

JourneysEnd_coverWhen Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later however, Kim is tragically widowed. Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.

The family decides to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants, and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past – one that could drive a wedge between them that cannot be overcome …

I’m passionate about Australia’s flora and fauna and its magnificent wild places. There’s a world-wide movement afoot to reclaim territory for wilderness – rewilding. We’ve already lost so much. Conservationists are now trying to reverse this harm by restoring habitats to their natural state. I explore this fascinating notion in Journey’s End.            Most people have been aware at times of some primal core within them, which longs to break free of suburbia. Longs to escape deep into the desert, or high into the mountains. My main character Kim Sullivan acts on this instinct and I’m proud of her! Read the prologue to Journey’s End below.

Prologue

The day Kim Sullivan’s world ended was disguised as an ordinary Wednesday. She took the kids to school and did some shopping. She came home, put on the washing machine and went to make her bed. Scout poked his head out from behind the pillows. Kim picked up the old border terrier, and set him down on the carpet.

He whined, stiff legs scrabbling to climb back up. On the third attempt he succeeded and nestled down on Connor’s jumper, the one Kim slept with when he was away. His smell was in the weave. Scout had always been more Connor’s than hers. ‘We won’t have to make do with his jumper for much longer.’ Kim sat down beside the dog. ‘We’ll have the real thing home on Sunday.’

Home on Sunday. After years of deployments in war-torn Afghanistan, Connor would be home – home for good. It was hard to believe, a prospect too sweet to be true.

‘Daddy will be back from the army in four sleeps,’ Abbey had said on their way to school that morning, counting out the days on her fingers. ‘It’s going to be my show and tell. Mummy, do you think it will be good enough?’

‘The best ever.’

Jake had rolled his eyes. ‘What would preps know about the army? And Dad’s job is supposed to be a secret. You shouldn’t go telling everybody, Abbey. The Taliban might hear.’

‘I don’t think the Taliban will be listening to Abbey’s show and tell.’

Jake hadn’t looked convinced. He worried so much about his father.

Well, he didn’t have to worry anymore. In four sleeps Connor would be home and their new life would begin.

Her phone rang from the bedside table. Of course – that’s what she’d come in to find in the first place. ‘Daisy, what’s up?’

‘How about I pick your kids up from school this arvo, bring them back to my place for an early tea? Grace wants to show Abbey her new rabbit, Stuart’s been bugging me about having Jake over, and you’re always so tailspin busy before Connor gets back. What are you doing now? Cleaning behind the fridge?’

Kim laughed. She’d already done that. ‘Thanks. I want everything to be perfect. You know how it is when they come home.’

‘Steve’s lucky if I make the bed,’ said Daisy. ‘What’s the point, when the first thing we do is mess it up again? And I’m too scared to look behind our fridge. I think there’s a dead mouse.’

Kim shifted her feet as a flush of heat passed through her. Daisy was right. Nothing came close to come home sex, or waking up in Connor’s arms for the first time in months, or going to sleep knowing the man she loved was safe beside her. She sank down on the bed, dizzy with wanting.

‘Are you lot still heading off to your bush block?’ Daisy asked.

‘Just as soon as we can get away.’

‘Sounds like heaven,’ said Daisy.

That’s exactly what it would be.

Connor’s grandfather had left him two hundred hectares of land at Tingo, six hours north of Sydney, high on the Great Escarpment. Journey’s End. A property in his family for generations, although nobody had lived there for years. She could see it now. Stunning views across the mountains of Tarringtops National Park. Sharing a beer with Connor on the farmhouse porch, reconnecting. Watching the kids play on the old willow peppermint, its broad low branches just made for climbing. Talking about their future.

They had grand plans to restore the rundown farm to its natural state. It had been a shared dream since their first visit there, though more hers, perhaps, than Connor’s. She was the botanist. He was more interested in the wildlife.

But Kim had quickly fallen pregnant. Connor was promoted and went on the first of many overseas postings. And it had remained just that – a dream. When Jake was two, she started teaching horticulture at Campbelltown College, and then Abbey came along. Their lives were too full, too busy. ‘One day we’ll take off,’ Connor would say. ‘Use our saved leave and just go bush.’ That day was almost upon them.

Kim wouldn’t have heard the knock if Scout hadn’t barked. She glanced in the dressing-table mirror, running her fingers through her blonde hair then smoothing her shirt. Good enough. She opened the front door and blinked in surprise. Captain Blake stood on the step. He looked different somehow: sallow and slump-shouldered. Scout appeared at her heels, yapping in short, angry bursts.

‘Is Connor home early?’ she asked. ‘Should I pick him up from the airport?’

He shook his head. A cold stone formed in her chest and slipped down to her belly. ‘Is he all right?’

‘Let’s talk inside.’ He rubbed his forehead with his fingers, and she knew. The terrible truth showed in his swift breath, his guarded eyes, how he spoke – the fact he was there at all.

Kim put a hand to her heart. Panic claimed her, like she was walking too close to a cliff. Pain too. Her legs gave way, while white noise drowned out the Captain’s voice. Not Connor. Not her brave, handsome, clever Connor. Her best friend, her lover, her soulmate. What about their life together, their future? What about Abbey and Jake? She swayed alarmingly as the ground lurched beneath her. What about her? How would she live?

The Million Paws Walk

Million paws walk

Registrations are now open for the biggest doggy play date of the year! The Million Paws Walk is the RSPCA’s most ambitious fundraising event, and a fun day for all animal lovers. Now in its 21st year, the walk is the premier event on the canine calendar. Thousands of people will walk at 17 different locations across Victoria on Sunday 15 May, 2016. Money raised through entry fees, the sale of merchandise and online fundraising will help to fund critical work in the community, including the care of more than 28,000 animals entering RSPCA shelters each year.

Dr Cam Day

Dr Cam Day

The Million Paws Walk was started in 1994 in Queensland by Dr Cam Day, who believed a special event involving animals walking together would provide a fun day out for pets and their owners. It would also promote responsible pet ownership and raise much-needed funds for the RSPCA. Since then it has expanded with over 70 events held nationally.

Taking part in the Million Paws Walk is a great way to help animals in need. All animal lovers are encouraged to brush off their walking shoes, pull out their pet’s lead and bring along their ‘best friend’ to Australia’s favourite pet event. You can register and find Victorian walk locations here. People can set up their own fundraising page – a great way to make every step count. You don’t even need a dog! As well as joining fellow animal lovers and dogs on the walk, there will be entertainment, displays, stalls, giveaways and a host of other activities. There’s nothing like the sight of thousands of pooches (and various other pets) to gladden the heart of non-dog-owning dog lovers! And there will be plenty of RSPCA staff to talk to if you are interested in adopting a dog or other animal.

Million paws walk 2Don’t worry if it rains. The walk will happen come hail, rain or shine. As an added bonus this year, if you register online and create a fundraising page, you will receive a free RSPCA Frisbee for your dog. Every dollar raised will make a difference, and help raise the target of $500,000 to prevent animal cruelty. See you there!

The Multi-Talented Lyrebird

LyrebirdA lot of fencing has been happening at Pilyara lately. Thanks to a state government grant, we are fencing stock out of the timbered gullies that lead down to our creek. This is designed to protect wildlife and vegetation, as we live in a beautiful, mountainous area of high conservation value. All this hard work is already paying off – for the first time in years we’ve spotted a pair of Superb Lyrebirds in a fenced off gully, quite close to the house. What a thrill!

Lyre_bird 1

John Gould’s early 1800s painting of a superb lyrebird specimen at the British Museum

Lyrebirds are famous for their amazing ability to mimic any bird song. They also mimic human sounds such as mill whistles, cross-cut saws, chainsaws, car engines, alarms, gun shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, babies crying and mobile phones. The male is renowned for the beauty of his long, lyre-shaped tail feathers and hypnotising courtship display. However our resident pair of lyrebirds bring more than beauty and music to Pilyara. They provide a far more practical service – as fire wardens in what is predicted to be a summer of deadly heat.

Recent studies show that lyrebirds reduce the chance of bush-fires in areas where they forage. They rake the forest floor in their search for worms and insects, burying leaf litter, speeding up decomposition, and reducing the amount of fuel available for bush-fires. They also inhibit the growth of ferns, grasses and other plants which would otherwise burn. The Latrobe University research was conducted in burnt and un-burnt sites of Black Saturday‘s two most devastating blazes. It showed lyrebirds reduced forest litter by a massive 1.66 tonnes per hectare over a nine-month period.

Lyrebird 3‘Our modelling suggests the reduction in litter fuel loads brought about by lyrebird foraging has the potential to result in markedly subdued fire behaviour…The loss of lyrebirds from forests could result in higher fuel loads and an increased likelihood of wildfires threatening human life,” said the report, published in the CSIRO’s journal Wildlife Research. ‘They forage like chickens, they’ve got big feet with really long toes so they’ve basically got rakes for feet. They rake through the litter looking for worms and little bugs, stuff to eat. They’re digging through that humus and litter layer looking for little invertebrates and whatever they can find.’

‘Through that process they reduce the litter fuel load by, on average, 25 per cent, or about 1.6 tonnes per hectare. And we put those figures into a fire behaviour model and found that that level of fuel reduction is enough [that] in low fire-danger weather conditions it excludes fire, fire’s not possible under low to moderate conditions. But even in more extreme conditions the fire behaviour will be more moderate, [with] lower rates of spread, lower flame height, so a less intense fire.

Our conclusion is that lyrebirds are reducing the chance of fires occurring in the areas where they forage and the ecological significance of that is that un-burnt patches within large wildfires are really important sites for animals to survive post-fire.’

On Black Saturday in 2009, the wind change that saved us, devastated Marysville and took many lives. Summer is always a tense time here at Pilyara. It’s lovely to know that we have at least two new fire wardens watching over us. 🙂  Play the video below for a taste of lyrebird song. (You have to skip the ad first) The great David Attenborough looks like he’s wandering around one of our gullies, and he misses the Whip Bird call.

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Celebrate Author’s Day!

author's day

The first of November is Author’s Day. This is actually an American tradition, but hey, if we can have Halloween? – we can have this one too. Author’s Day began In 1928, when Nellie McPherson, president of the Illinois Women’s Club had an idea to set aside a day to celebrate authors. McPherson was a teacher and throughout her life, an avid reader.  While she was recuperating in the hospital during World War I, she wrote a fan letter to fiction writer Irving Bacheller, telling him how much she enjoyed reading one of his stories. Upon receiving her letter, Bacheller sent her an autographed copy of another story. McPherson decided to show her appreciation by submitting a proposal for a National Author’s Day.  A resolution was passed in 1949 declaring November 1 as a day to honor writers.

NaNoWriMo 2Australians also need a day (or better yet, a week) set aside to celebrate our favourite books and authors. And if it coincides with the first week of NaNoWriMo (Australia’s National Novel Writing Month), so much the better. Here are some suggestions on how to celebrate authors in style.

1. Buy a book!
What better way to support an author you love, then by buying one of their books and supporting them as writers. Buy a book written by your favorite author that you haven’t read yet or buy a book you know you love and give it as a gift.
2. Say thank you! Contact your favorite author to let them know how much you like their book. Like everyone else, authors like to know their work has meaning and that people enjoy their books.
author's day 23. Do a book review! Make a blog post or youtube video reviewing your favorite book. Create some hubbub around your favorite author and get their name out there for other people who might not have heard of them yet.
4. Join NaNoWriMo and write a book! Become an author yourself. Start the National Novel Writing Month challenge. They have a motivational website to help inspire you to write that novel you’ve been putting off. See details at NaNoWriMo.
To me, Authors Day also means a time to thank YOU for being the best readers in the world! You’re the ones who make our work possible — so thank you!BB14

#Writing 50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson

I’m deeply submerged in writing the last few thousand words of my new novel. So I thought I’d reblog a post from the wonderful Margie Lawson. She presented an all- day workshop at the recent RWA conference. I have since downloaded her Deep Editing lecture series. This method for writing fresh has been incredibly useful for me. Here’s a post she has written on smiles.

World Ranger Day

World Ranger Dayworld ranger day 6With the death of Cecil the lion, my thoughts have turned to the magnificent job park rangers do around the world. On the 1st of July,  Cecil was shot and killed after Walter Palmer, an American recreational big-game hunter wounded him with an arrow. Cecil symbolises the many thousands of endangered wild animals who are brutally and senselessly slaughtered each year, just for fun. Cecil was lured from the comparative safety of a reserve by a corrupt ranger, but there are bad apples in every barrel. This post is in support of the vast majority of park rangers who dedicate their lives to protecting our dwindling natural world.

World ranger day 5Last Friday was World Ranger Day, a day in which we commemorate rangers killed or injured in the line of duty, and celebrate the work they do to protect the world’s wildlife. There are more than 100,000 reserves, parks and protected areas around the world, with the oldest national park being Yellowstone in the US. World Ranger Day is organised by the International Ranger Federation and was first held in 2007.

World ranger day 4Tragically, it’s estimated that over one thousand park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past decade – seventy five percent by commercial poachers and armed militia groups. Park rangers are generally under-equipped, underpaid, and often under-appreciated. It is highly dangerous work. To me, and many others like me, they are modern day heroes. In this post, I honour and thank them.

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REVIEW: TURTLE REEF BY JENNIFER SCOULLAR

I’m reposting this review of Turtle Reef from Write Note Reviews. This is everything a review should be – balanced, honest and thoughtful. It shows an excellent knowledge of the book, is generally positive, but not afraid to point out challenges along the reading way. In my opinion, Monique Mulligan is one of the top book reviewers in Australia. Why not have a roam around her fascinating website while you’re there? And don’t forget entries, for Jenn J McLeod’s three-book giveaway close 31 May. Leave a comment on my blog for your chance to win!