Meet, well … me!

I’ve been on a mission to showcase the marvellous home-grown Australian and New Zealand fiction available to readers worldwide. My series on local authors will continue next month, however today I’m taking time out to announce my own new release – THE MEMORY TREE, out now!

THE MEMORY TREE  is the third book in my Tasmanian Tales series. To celebrate its release, the eBook of the first in the series, FORTUNE’S SON, is FREE for a limited time! Due to copyright reasons, the free edition of Fortune’s Son is unavailable in the local marketplace. But don’t worry, Australian and New Zealand readers may still get it for FREE by clicking on this link – Fortune’s Son for free!  

When I publish titles with Penguin Random House, book launches are grand affairs, followed by celebratory dinners. I do love meeting readers, but as an introvert I find talking in public stressful. I’m happiest at home in the mountains. Pilyara Press understands this, so my launch of THE MEMORY TREE today is wholly online.


Here is a short Q&A with Jennie Jones, a terrific Aussie author who I hope to feature in the future. I have also included an excerpt from THE MEMORY TREE. Thanks for visiting and I hope you buy my book 🙂 !

  1. How long did it take you to write the book?

The Memory Tree took a year to write, but had been brewing for much longer than that. Although it’s  a standalone novel, it’s also the third book in my Tasmanian Tales series, and the story had been swirling around my mind since 2016. These books are inspired by my fascination with Tasmanian flora and fauna ‒ in particular the Tasmanian devil and its extinct cousin, the thylacine.

  1. What was the most difficult or complex aspect of writing your book?

Researching the fascinating but complicated science underpinning the fight to save Tasmanian devils from Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) This cruel cancer is threatening devils with extinction, and the race is on to find a cure.

 

 

  1. What gave you the most pleasure when writing your book?

I loved my research trips to the magnificent Tasmanian wilderness. I also enjoyed crafting the relationship between Matt and Penny, my two main characters. I quite liked torturing them 😊

 

  1. Are you nervous when a new release comes out?

Always! I never know whether people will like a new book. Waiting for the first reviews to roll in is nerve-racking, as is the thought of disappointing my readers.

  1. What’s the best thing a reader could do if they enjoyed your book?

If readers enjoy my book I’d love them to tell somebody. Word of mouth is the best way for other readers to find out about new books. Also, leave a review somewhere online. Amazon, Booktopia, Goodreads, Facebook, iTunes ‒ it really doesn’t matter where. Authors only have a few months to make a splash before the next shiny thing comes along, and reviews are so important. Ask your library to get it in, as well. If the subject matter of The Memory Tree moves you, please consider making a donation to the Devils In Danger Foundation. You can even adopt a Tasmanian devil there!

Excerpt from The Memory Tree

Chapter 2 

Penny watched the black Audi sweep into the car park. That had to be her. Its driver, slim, dark-haired and stylish, walked over and introduced herself with a broad American accent. ‘Dr Sarah Deville, UCLA.’ She smiled and shook Penny’s hand a little too hard. ‘I’ve never seen a live devil. Really looking forward to this.’

Penny began the seminar, standing beneath a banner strung above the whiteboard ‒ Slow Down Between Dusk and Dawn. It was more than a little overwhelming to have the renowned geneticist in the audience. If she pretended Dr Deville wasn’t there it might help. She cast her eye over the crowd. About thirty. A good number. Dr Deville sat at the back. Penny tried to concentrate.

‘Welcome to Binburra Wildlife Park, thirty thousand hectares of World Heritage wilderness high on the rim of Tuggerah Valley. The property originally belonged to a founding member of Tasmania’s environmental movement, Daniel Campbell. His family later bequeathed it to the state, to be gazetted as a national park.’ Penny wet her lips. ‘Binburra pioneered the captive management and breeding of Tasmanian devils. They’re a lonely species ‒ their close relatives already gone ‒ and for the past two decades we’ve been fighting to save the devils themselves from extinction, because a bizarre and mysterious disease is set to wipe them out.’

Penny winced. How stupid she sounded, going through her little spiel when the world expert on the devil genome sat right there in front of her. She tried not to look at Dr Deville and ended up staring slightly to the side, as if there was some sort of fascinating patch on the wall. Two women in the front row were looking sideways now too. For goodness sake, get a grip.

‘A virulent contagious cancer known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease ‒ DFTD for short ‒ causes suppurating tumours in the animals. Those affected die agonising deaths within months, starving as disfiguring growths eat away their jaws and choke their throats.’ Penny cleared her own throat. ‘Binburra provides healthy animals to mainland and overseas zoos. These Project Ark founders are breeding safe from the threat of disease, but our wild devils could soon face extinction.’ She was talking too fast, rushing it. She took a deep, steadying breath. ‘And if we let that happen, nobody will understand, and nobody will forgive us.’

Penny reached into the box at her feet. She pulled out a squat black creature the size of a small bulldog, with round furry ears – cute like a teddy bear. It sniffed the air. She set the animal on the desk in front of her and it shuffled around to face the audience. With a collective gasp, people shrank back. The devil looked as if a hunk of raw, rotting meat had been slapped along the entire side of its head. Its jaw was disfigured by ulcerating growths that forced its lips apart and protruded through its mouth. A fleshy, bleeding tumour mushroomed from one eye.

‘Meet Angel,’ said Penny. ‘A motorist killed her mother three years ago and thankfully stopped to check for pouch young. She found two dead babies and Angel here, barely clinging to life. I nursed her round the clock, took her with me everywhere.’ Penny paused to fondle Angel’s misshapen head. ‘Angel stayed with me  at the sanctuary until she was eighteen months old. I never met a sweeter, cleverer little devil. In winter she dragged logs to the fireplace, hinting for us to light it. She loved curling up by that fire. And she mothered the younger orphans, carrying them in her mouth if she thought they were in danger, putting them back in their baskets. She really is special. Last year I released her into what we hoped was a safe area of the park. We trapped her in the course of our regular monitoring program two weeks ago … like this.’

A question came from the crowd. ‘How did you know it was her?’

‘All our animals are microchipped. But I’d know her anywhere, and she recognised me too, knew I was trying to help.’ Penny kissed Angel’s forehead and stretched out her hind legs, exposing an emaciated abdomen. More gasps from the audience. Three joeys clung to Angel’s belly. ‘Afflicted she-devils are extraordinarily devoted, never abandoning their young. Instead a mother steadfastly feeds and protects her joeys until the very last moments of her life. We’re just waiting for Angel’s babies to be a few weeks older, closer to weaning. Then we’ll euthanise her.’ Penny tucked Angel’s legs back in as comfortably as she could. ‘You won’t suffer anymore then, sweetheart.’ The devil laid her poor, mutilated head in the crook of Penny’s arm.

After the seminar, Penny sold a few souvenirs as people left. Sarah Deville stood by, watching a volunteer carry Angel out in a crate. ‘Can you show me a healthy one?’

‘Of course. Just let me lock up.’

****

Penny entered the shady enclosure where Bonny and her babies snored in a hollow log. She beckoned for Sarah to follow.

Sarah hesitated. ‘Won’t they bite?’

‘Our devils are used to handling,’ said Penny. ‘And Bonny here, in particular, is a complete pushover.’ As promised, sleepy Bonny let Penny pull her from the log to show off her four babies.

‘Is it true they eat anything?’ asked Sarah.

‘Pretty much,’ said Penny. ‘We’ve found all sorts of things in their scat. Boot leather, bottle tops, cigarette butts. Even echidna quills. Their stomach acids have a bone-dissolving enzyme.’ Sarah squealed as one little devil ran up Penny’s arm and sat on her shoulder. Penny tickled the baby’s tummy. ‘These joeys really should be independent by now, but little Zoe here is a persistent late suckler, so they’ll stay with mum a bit longer.’ Penny placed Zoe in Sarah’s arms. ‘Some people call baby devils imps,’ she said. ‘For very good reason.’

My Writing Goals 2019

Journey’s End

2019 is already promising to be a busy and exciting year! I’m writing a sequel to Brumby’s Run, the novel inspired by my love for the wild horses of the Victorian high country. I can’t resist finding out what happens next to Sam, Charlie and the brumbies!

I’m also re-releasing two books to an international audience – Journey’s End, Book 5 in the Wild Australia Stories and Wasp Season, a quirky little eco-thriller that was my first book.

However right now I’m editing The Memory Tree, the third book in my Tasmanian Tales series. Here’s a sneak peek …

Sarah frowned. ‘The fools didn’t know what they had.’ She turned to face the sweeping panorama across the Derwent River. A cold wind whipped off the water. ‘And now Tasmanian tigers are gone forever.’

‘Is anything ever really gone?’ said Penny. ‘They were here just a blink ago. There are traces of them everywhere ‒ in the rivers, in the trees. We’re breathing the same air they did,’ she kicked at a rock, ‘… walking the same ground. Look back in time and they’re just behind us. Look too far ahead, and we’re gone too.’

The Memory Tree

The Memory Tree will be released in  September. This is the blurb:

Playing God is a dangerous  game …

When forest protests engulf a tiny Tasmanian timber town, one family’s century of secrets threatens to destroy a marriage – and bring down a government.

Matt Abbott, head ranger at beautiful Binburra National Park, is a man with something to hide.  He confides his secret to nobody, not even his wife Penny. The deception gnaws away at their marriage.

Matt’s father, timber and mining magnate Fraser Abbott, stands for everything Matt hates. Son disappoints father, father disappoints son – this is their well-worn template. But Fraser seems suddenly determined to repair the rift between them at any cost, and Matt will discover that secrets run in the family. When Sarah, a visiting Californian geneticist, tries to steal Matt’s heart, the scene is set for a deadly betrayal.

The Memory Tree is a haunting story of family relationships, the unbreakable ties we all have to the past and the redemptive power of love.


 

Huge Australian Rural Fiction Book Giveaway – and winners of this month’s draw

 

Hello and welcome to the huge Australian Rural Fiction Christmas Book Giveaway! We at Australian Rural Fiction  are proudly seventy wonderful Aussie authors bringing our big Australian country stories to you across many genres.

Why has this come about?

We wanted to see more of ‘us’ out there. We wanted to have more of us easily accessed in the one place, to discover our country’s big stories – and we have many bestselling and award winning authors bringing those stories to you via our website.​
We’ve given readers one place to find out the news every day, and you can also join our Facebook group.

ENTER OUR HUGE CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!

We have the most fantabulous, awesome and generous Christmas contest that will sort out the summer…and probably winter…reading for six lucky winners.
Four Australian winners and two international winners.

There are FOUR prizes of fourteen signed print books for the Australian readers, and TWO prizes of eight e-books each to two international readers.

Complete the first entry options and the others will magically appear! The more options you take up, the more entries you get! And the best part… invite a new friend to the Facebook group every day for an additional FIVE entries per day! Enter HERE!

And now for the winners of my monthly prize draw.
Congratulations to glynismc@icloud.com and toni.long@outlook.co.nz. I’ll be emailing you shortly to ask what books you’d like. Happy Reading!

 

Building A Launch Team – The Lost Valley

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The Lost Valley

Gone are the days when authors could simply write books and then rely on their publishers for marketing and publicity. To be frank, this has pretty much been my default setting. But it’s now best practice for authors to take control of their publishing journey, and an important first step is to build a launch team – so here goes!

A launch team consists of a select group of fans and supporters, who will help build some buzz around a new title. The main way they can help is by writing reviews, particularly on Amazon. Nothing boosts a book’s chances like having a solid number of online reviews shortly after its release. This can be achieved by letting people read your book early. For many readers, it’s a cool perk to be the first ones in the know. They get to give early feedback. They get to tell their friends, “I’m reading a great book that isn’t yet available to the public.” That’s the plan, anyway.

So in light of this, I’m enlisting interested people to join my marketing team by giving away digital advanced readers’ copies of my upcoming release. The Lost Valley is Book 2 in my Tasmanian Tales trilogy, that began last year with the publication of Fortune’s Son. The trilogy tracks the lives and loves of the Abbott family, from the late 1800’s to present day. The final book, The Memory Tree will be released next year.

Fortune’s Son

Billed as a Tasmanian East Of Eden, The Lost Valley follows the trials and tribulations of Tom and Harry Abbott, grandsons of Isabelle Abbott, whose story is told in Fortune’s Son. The Lost Valley is now available for preorder and will be released on 27th August (eBooks release on the 20th August). However I’ll provide an early digital copy for those of you interested in joining my launch team. Members will review and/or rate The Lost Valley online when it’s officially released. I’d also appreciate early feedback either by email or by joining my Facebook launch group. Simply leave a reply below, and I’ll send you the download link. Included is a free eBook giveaway of Fortune’s Son for those yet to read it. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

 

‘The Lost Valley’

1.1 The Lost Valley E-Book Cover NO LOGO

The Lost Valley 

Here is the beautiful cover for my new novel, The Lost Valley, which came out on August 27th. It follows the lives and loves of the Abbott family, introduced in my last book, Fortune’s Son. The Lost Valley is a sweeping saga of ambition, betrayal and dangerous love.

Tasmania, 1929: Ten-year-old-twins, Tom and Harry Abbott, are orphaned by a tragedy that shocks Hobart society. They find sanctuary with their reclusive grandmother, growing up in the remote and rugged Binburra ranges – a place where kind-hearted Tom discovers a love of the wild, Harry nurses a growing resentment towards his brother and where the mountains hold secrets that will transform both their lives.

The chaos of World War II divides the brothers, and their passion for two very different women fuels a deadly rivalry. Can Tom and Harry survive to heal their rift? And what will happen when Binburra finally reveals its astonishing secrets?

From Tasmania’s highlands to the Battle of Britain, and all the way to the golden age of Hollywood, The Lost Valley is a lush family saga about two brothers whose fates are entwined with the land and the women they love.

Available as an eBook from these online retailers: Amazon, iBooks Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Available as a paperback from all good book stores. Order online from Booktopia, the Book Depository and Amazon.

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?

Easter Sunday With Jenn J McLeod + Book Giveaway

Season Of Shadow And Light Please welcome author, friend and fellow animal nut, Jenn J McLeod, to Pilyara on this Easter Sunday. Her wonderful new novel, Season Of Shadow And Light, is coming out on May 1st. What a luminous cover! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy and can tell you that readers are in for a real treat. Such a multi-layered, thought-provoking story about the best and worst of families, and it also features a horse! Over to you Jenn!

 

I was six the day a horse ate my buttons

‘We share so much more than a great name, Jen. For a start, we both love animals—all animals—and we hate seeing them neglected and mistreated.

If I had to pick a favourite animal it would definitely be dogs. And  I know you love dogs. But I REALLY, really, really love dogs. Every day when I wake up and my old (now blind) rescue baby is at the foot of the bed (staring and telling me to get up) I feel blessed and lucky to have her in my life, even though her vet bills are now slowly siphoning away my retirement savings!

Jenn J McLeod_54A1139 tI love dogs so much I wanted to feature one in a novel. So, the original Season of Shadow and Light plot featured a mangy mutt as the star of the story. That was until I started researching the world of animals as therapy and developed a fascination for the human/horse connection. Around the same time (coincidental or karma) I discovered a very personal horse-related project to test out a few theories—and it was almost next door to where I lived.

Looking at the final cover for Season of Shadow and Light, I hardly have to tell you that the horse theme, and not the mangy mutt, won in the end. My love of horses goes way back to when, as a young child, my Dad (a NSW Police Bandsman) would take me to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. He’d leave me in my special seat (ie in the horse float and hay stores area under the grandstand) to watch the NSW Police Band do a special performance called, The Musical Ride, in which the mounted police and the brass band would do a choreographed marching routine that weaved between the horses. When they finished several routines, the horses would return to the staging area while the band played on. It was all very thrilling—until the unthinkable happened.

One day a horse ate the buttons off my shirt! For some reason that incident traumatised me. I remember the moment as though it was yesterday—and as clearly as I remember the shirt that buttoned up at the back with little pearl buttons. After that incident, I still loved watching my Dad in The Musical Ride performance, and I still loved horses, but I couldn’t get up close to a horse any more. For years I was like a person who loves the beach but can’t be in the sun. In saying that, just as the might of the sea can still spellbind an observer, I remained awestruck by the magnificence of a horse.

I have since reconnected with horses and made a horse friend—all thanks to my research for Season of Jenn J McLeod Simmering seasonShadow and Light. Readers of Simmering Season might recall Maggie visiting an old horse that stood alone in a paddock in all weather—neglected, with no shelter, it’s blanket tatty and torn. There’s a bit of me in those scenes as it was a real horse that inspired that equine character. On my morning walk I would stop and chat to a lonely, neglected, nippy old horse being agisted on a nearby property. (Neighbourhood goss suggested the owner was not a local, nor a rider any more due to declining health.) Initially I called the horse, Ed (yes, the talking horse) and over a time (carrots helped) he let me get closer.

Jenn J Mcleod Horse 1I’d like to think that horse and I helped each other. He certainly helped me. When we sold up to hit the road in our caravan I was so sad to leave Ed behind I decided to write him into Simmering Season. As it turns out, Ed was no ordinary horse either. He was (more neighbourhood goss) once a prize-winning race horse and while his real name was Nevaeh, to me he will always be Ed. (Oh, and by the time I left the area, other locals had taken on the morning, noon and night visits and treats.)

Jenn J Mcleod Horse 2With trust and loyalty as the main theme throughout this novel I think it’s fitting that a horse be featured. Humans can learn a lot about both those qualities from horses (and from dogs). Animals put their trust in humans and I don’t think there’s anything sadder than a neglected animal. I do hope readers of Season of Shadow and Light will excuse my mini soapbox moment when I bang on about some animals being a life-long commitment, and with horses that life can be a very be long time. And look out for my tribute to Nevaeh.

With early reader reviews already in like this one “Jenn J McLeod is an author for all seasons  . . .  and all readers.” Shelleyrae, wwwbookdout.wordpress.com, I am super excited about this story of secrets and love, of family loyalty, and of trust—the kind that takes years to build but only seconds to wash away.

Cheers, Jen. I look forward to seeing you at my place soon for my #WriteRoundOz Author Series.’

Jenn J McLeod bannerI can’t wait Jenn, and thanks for dropping by today! Readers, for your chance to WIN all THREE Jenn J McLeod novels* simply leave a comment below. From now until the end of May, Jenn drops into some of her favourite author blogs to say hello to readers old and new. She’ll then collect the comment names from each author blog post, picking a lucky winner from one major draw and announcing the name at the end May of on her blog

If you’d like to find out more about Jenn and her contemporary women’s fiction about small towns keeping big secrets, head on over to her website or, like me, follow the Facebook and Twitter fun.

Website:   www.jennjmcleod.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Author
Twitter:     @jennjmcleod
*Book Pack: House for all Seasons (#5 Top Selling Debut novel, 2013), Simmering Season, and Season of Shadow and Light. (Australian postal address only)

And now to announce the winners in my Turtle Reef prize draw! So many books to giveaway today :). Congratulations to Karla Oleinikoff and Kim Foster. I’ll email you soon for your postal address. Many thanks to all who left comments.

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‘The Maxwell Sisters’ and a Book Giveaway!

Loretta Hill Photo 2Today please welcome best-selling author Loretta Hill to Pilyara, talking about her latest release The Maxwell Sisters a heartwarming romantic comedy about three extraordinary women on a journey to find love and rediscover family. This is Loretta’s fifth novel, and a departure from her previous mining theme. It is based at a vineyard in the beautiful Margaret River region of Western Australia. Leave a comment to go in the draw for a chance to win this fabulous book. Now it’s over to you Loretta 🙂

Hi Jennifer,

How are you? Happy New Year! It seems like such a long time since I saw you at the RWA conference in Sydney. Hope your writing is thriving. Did you have a nice Christmas?

maxwellsistersfinalI’ve just started, “Chapter One” of my next novel. Seven thousand words on the page. Sigh! There’s a long way to go. The ride starts this way every year. In the meantime however, my Margaret River Wine Region story, The Maxwell Sisters finally hits shelves this month! I’m both nervous and excited to see how it will be received. It’s not the same as my other novels. No construction site. No jetties. No teams of men in hard hats. I decided I needed a change of scenery.

My husband and I take our kids to the Margaret River Wine Region at least three times a year. We have family there so we like to visit but also it’s got to be the absolute perfect place to eat, drink and relax. With so many wineries in the area, it’s also the ideal place to get married.  So setting my novel here was definitely a no brainer.

“The Maxwell Sisters” is about family and the rivalry and secrets between siblings that always comes out in big events like weddings.  I think the relationship particularly between sisters is a very special one. There’s love, competition, envy, protectiveness and pride all at work here. Sisters know about the best of us. They also know the worst.

The three estranged sisters, Phoebe, Natasha and Eve, must return home to the family winery when Phoebe decides to get married there. They need to find a way to put the past behind them and get along in preparation for Phoebe’s big day.

Each of the sister’s has a secret which immediately colours their mood and perspective when they return. Natasha Maxwell, the eldest of the three, has not told anyone she and her husband are separated.  Known for being a Sydney corporate bad arse, she is hiding a lot of pain behind her hard wearing, city slicker façade. Still hurting from the ordeal, the last thing she wants is for her family to wade in with advice, so she decides not to tell them and keep her reputation as the woman who has it all intact. This is her biggest mistake.

When she turns up at Tawny Brooks Estate to help prepare for the wedding, the first person she sees is her husband, Heath. He’s found out about the family gathering and has turned up with his own agenda. She can either blow the whistle on their separation and spoil her sister’s wedding or play happy married couple for the four week lead up to the wedding.

I loved writing about Tash’s dilemma. It was so emotionally intense to be forced to be with someone that you both hate and miss at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever tortured a heroine this much before. I do believe in strong character arcs for my heroines. I think Tash gets to grow a lot in this book because she has such a difficult problem.

I wish I had time to tell you the secrets of Eve and Phoebe but you’ll just have to follow me to Helene Young’s (http://www.heleneyoung.com) blog next week to find out!

Don’t tease us like that Loretta! Many thanks for telling us about your fabulous new book. Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy. You can connect with Loretta at her website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Billabong Bend Q&A

BB High Res coverTwo days to go until the release of my new novel Billabong Bend – an exciting time. It’s also the one time of year that I give my blog over to shameless self-promotion! Here is a Q&A I did with Penguin Books (Aust)

What is your new book about?
Billabong Bend is set in Northern NSW in the heart of our beautiful riverlands. It’s a star-crossed love story which sets Nina, a floodplains grazier, and Ric, a traditional cotton farmer, on a heart-rending collision course.

Nina’s dream is to buy Billabong Bend, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River and protect it forever. But she’s not the only one with designs on the land. When her childhood sweetheart Ric Bonelli returns home, old feelings are rekindled, and Nina hopes they might have a future together on the river. But a tragic death divides loyalties, tears apart their fledgling romance and turns her dream into a nightmare. Will Nina win the battle for Billabong Bend? Or will the man she once loved destroy the wild wetlands she holds so close to her heart?

What or who inspired it?
This novel was inspired by my love for the northern riverlands, and for the Murray Darling basin. I’ve always been fascinated by rivers – by their unique habitats, and by their place in literature. Rivers are revered by some of my favourite writers. Mark Twain had a lifelong love affair with the Mississippi. The great poet TS Eliot wrote in The Four Quartets
‘I do not know much about Gods: but I think the River

Is a strong brown God – sullen, untamed and intractable,’
Nancy Cato in her classic trilogy All The Rivers Run compared the Murray to a ‘ … dark stream of time which bears all living things from birth to death.’ Rivers are mysterious, dangerous, life-giving and achingly beautiful. They are also in trouble and need our protection.

Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?
The idea for the book arose many years ago, during long, languid days spent in the riverlands. Last year I took several trips back up the Murray and saw for myself the changes wrought to habitats and wildlife by drought and low flows. I wanted to write about it.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?
T
he major themes in Billabong Bend are the power of first love, forgiveness and freedom. There is also a strong environmental theme, namely the importance of conserving habitats.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?
Anybody who can remember the fierceness of first love. Anybody who has marvelled at the grace of a waterbird in flight, or has enjoyed a lazy day on a river.

Do you have a special ‘spot’ for writing at home? (If so, describe it)
I have a small office space off the lounge room and I’m adept at revising through the noise of a busy family. There is no window directly in front of my desk, but instead, a full length picture window to the side. I often gaze out across the mountains for inspiration. My favourite writing spot is over at the stables. Horses are good listeners, and don’t mind you reading aloud. In winter I sometimes write in bed!

Tell us a bit about your childhood?
I was a horse-mad child. I also enjoyed a deep passion for the plants, animals and birds of the bush.. My family had a house in Melbourne as well as a property in the mountains. At every chance I escaped the city to be with my horses. When I married I moved to the farm permanently and am still there.

Do you feel more of a sense of “community” amongst like-minded people as yourself since the advent of blogging?
Absolutely! Blogging and social media provide a real sense of camaraderie for writers, and for regional writers in particular. I might be typing away on my remote mountaintop in the southern Victorian ranges, but I’m connected on-line to writers and readers from all around the world. I love it!

What do you like to read? And what are you currently reading?
I have pretty eclectic tastes. I read books within the Australian rural lit genre of course: authors like Cathryn Hein, Nicole Alexander, Fleur Mcdonald and Margareta Osborn. But I love all kinds of fiction. Debut breakout Aussie novels Burial Rites and The Rosie Project were both fantastic reads. So was the charming Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson. I also enjoy natural history writing, and always keep at least one novel and one non-fiction book on the go. Currently I’m reading  The Reef by Professor Iain McCalman (non-fiction) and The Blue Dolphin by Robert Barnes (fiction)

What is your advice to budding authors?
Learn as much about your craft as possible and write every day. Network with other writers. State writer’s centres and Varuna – The Writer’s House are great places to start. When you have a finished manuscript get some expert feedback and revise, revise, revise. Then it’s time to learn as much about the publishing industry as possible. There are some great opportunities to get your work before publishers without an agent in Australia. I’m proof of that, having won a Penguin contract through a conference pitch. Give it a go, grow a thick skin and remember that persistence pays.

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Nearly There …

Gwydir Wetlands

Credit: Daryl Albertson – Gwydir Wetlands

My new book (working title Billabong) is due for submission to Penguin on Monday. I’m putting the final touches on the first draft … and it’s good, if I do say so myself! The story is set on an imaginary river in the Murray-Darling basin, somewhere in north-western NSW near the junction of the Namoi and the Barwon – land of the Kamilaroi nation.

Brolga 2It’s a star-crossed love story between a cotton grower and a floodplains grazier. For riverine farmer Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she’s not the only one wanting the land. When Rocco, her childhood sweetheart, returns to the river, old feelings rekindle and she thinks she has an ally. But a tragic death divides loyalties, tears apart their fledgling romance and turns her dream into a nightmare. Will Nina win the battle for Billabong? Or will the man she once loved destroy the wild wetlands she holds so close to her heart?

Egret 3It’s a story about first love – that original blinding passion that is never forgotten. When you believe that anything is possible. When you first believe in something more than yourself. But it’s also the story of a river, of water use in a thirsty land, and the division and conflict it inevitably causes. And if you love birds like I do, particularly our magnificent wetland birds, you’re in for a real treat!

Rural Romance AuthorsAnyway, I’d better stop talking and go back to polishing that first draft. I’ll finish with a bit of  Aussie rural author-watching, instead of bird-watching. This photo was taken at a recent conference, and is courtesy of Cathryn Hein. How many can you identify?

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