My grandma on her family farm. Horses were Prince and Darky, North Queensland, Australia.
I was looking through old family photos recently, regularly smiling and at times laughing as they brought back memories of the stories that went with them. And it’s not just the photos from my life, but ones from before I was born, that also contain stories I know well.
I recall, as a child, sitting beside grandparents and looking through old albums, turning the pages and stopping to study the images, the scent of old paper lingering in the air. Sometimes we’d sit at the kitchen table, light from the window falling across the pages. At other times, we’d be in the lounge room, me perched on the arm of the armchair while the album rested open on my grandparents’ lap. It also wasn’t any one of my grandparents in particular who looked at photos with me. I’m afraid I pestered all of them. Mostly though, it was Grandma or Nana who spent time looking through old photos with me, some of which I’ve inherited over the years.
My dad and his mother dressed up for the Townsville Show, Queensland, Australia.
As the pages were turned, I’d point to a picture and ask about the people, wanting to know who they were and what they were doing. Those explanations always contained stories. Either about the actual photo or about the people in the photo. Sometimes both. I always found it fascinating, those glimpses into lives that had begun way before mine. And the stories led into other ones. Either about those in the picture or about those related to the ones in the picture, the conversation rambling through memories of times that, although well in the past, were still remembered.
Looking at old family photos reminds me not only of those in them, but of those who shared the stories with me. In some cases telling me stories of people I’d never met, people who were gone long before I’d been born. Yet those people, even the ones I’d never met, are still remembered, stories of their lives entwined with mine and those who also know their stories about who they once were and what they’d once done. Their lives living on in memories and the words of others.
We welcomed a second puppy into our family at the start of February, and Ace has been thrilled to have a new friend. Although he is rather boisterous and we have to supervise very closely to make sure he doesn’t play too rough with her.
Jasmine has quickly become part of the family, following us around like our shadows and liking to climb up on our laps whenever we sit down. She’s so sweet and loving and learns very quickly. Especially important things like giving Mistletoe plenty of space because she’s not the type of cat that tolerates dogs in her personal space. Actually, she’s not the kind of cat that tolerates anyone in her personal space. Human or animal. If she wants attention, she’ll enter your personal space and allow you to give her the attention she deserves.
Like any puppy, Jasmine is curious and loves to learn new things. Such as when you bark at frogs, if you’re really close to them, they’re noisier than a squeaky toy. But most of all, if you look mournfully at a human when they have food, they can’t resist sharing with you. She’s absolutely right. We can’t resist. Not her and not Ace. They both get a share.
We’ve certainly enjoyed having a new member in our family. Well, nearly all of us. Mistletoe gave us a look of disgust and left us to do our own hunting for a week, keeping all the mice she caught just for herself. But we’ve since been forgiven and she’s back to bringing us our regular… er… treats.
The past month we’ve had more than the usual amount of black outs and electrical storms. Being on a rural property, this means that not only do we not have lights and electrical items, but our pump for the water tank also doesn’t work. All this isn’t too big a drama as we have things in place to cope with the situation since it’s a regular occurrence, but it certainly reminds me of how much we rely on electricity and makes me think of all the things I’d miss if we didn’t have it.
Candles and lanterns provide enough light to work by, but they do involve more vigilance since the last thing we want is a fire in the house. So although I miss being able to have light at the flick of a switch, it’s not something I can’t manage without.
Having a pump for the water tank that provides water to the house makes for a good water flow inside, but if the house tank was on the terrace behind the house, gravity would be sufficient. So although it’s more convenient to have the pump, it is something else I could manage without if I made a few changes.
We have a gas cook top so we can always cook things in a pot or pan, but the oven itself is electric. I do miss not being able to use it when there’s a blackout, but after years of campfire cooking I can make anything in a camp oven. Including cakes, biscuits and bread. It just takes more time.
I would miss gaming consoles, but I do have board games and enjoy playing them just as much so if that was the only reason I used them, I could manage without them. But I would miss being able to spend time gaming with friends and family online. With people who live too far from me to visit. I would certainly miss that.
The other things I’d really miss are my PC, sewing machine, washing machine, fridge and freezer. The items that make life more convenient, save me a lot of time and allow me to stay connected with those who live far from me. It’s much quicker to type or dictate using my PC than it is to write by hand. My PC is also one of the ways in which I stay in contact with people online. My sewing machine also saves me time. It’s quicker to use it rather than sew by hand and I do enjoy creating and making my own clothes.
The few times I’ve been without a washing machine, I’ve really missed it with how far we live from a laundromat and having to wash all the clothes and linen by hand. It’s good to have simple, safe and easy food storage methods such as a fridge and freezer. Although there have been periods in my life when I’ve had neither. It just involves more time and effort.
So to me, electricity gives me more time to do the things I enjoy and helps me keep in touch with friends and family who live a long way from me. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to do as much writing, reading, gaming, spending time with my family and keeping in touch with those who don’t live nearby. It creates so much more work for me when it’s not there. I spend time carting water, writing notes down on paper that I struggle to decipher later, washing clothes by hand and so many other chores that normally only take minutes, but without electricity end up taking hours. But most of all, I miss talking to friends and family. Miss being able to message them and have a reply within seconds. Miss being able to keep in touch with those I care about and who are a part of my life. Electricity and the tools it allows me to use makes it possible for me to be close to friends and family even when they are physically far from me.
What are some of the things you’d really miss if you were without electricity and why would you miss them?
I‘m extremely lucky to be a part of the Writers on the Moon project, a rag-tag fleet of stories organised for a lunar time capsule. The project was started bySusan Kaye Quinn, a rocket scientist turned science fiction author, who invited others to join her in sending stories to the moon. It’s such an exciting project and when I heard I’d been accepted, I wanted to share my allotted space with those in my life.
Many people say being an author can be a lonely profession and talk about the solo aspect of writing. Yes, there is much about being an author that involves long stretches of time working on your own, but there are also parts of it that involves others. Whether it’s bouncing ideas off family or friends, asking questions of people who are more knowledgeable about a particular area than me, getting feedback from beta readers, working with editors, designers and cover artists, or once upon a time going to events, I’ve found that being an author isn’t completely a solo profession.
So as well as including some of my books, I decided to include photos of people who are a part of my life. My family and friends, including photos of the four-legged members of my family because they’re important too.
Ace (Storm’s dog) and Tino (Jarrin’s dog)Mistletoe (Head of the household)
Mika (parents’ dog) and Miss Benny (Cat’s horse)
Choosing which books to send was easy. The first four I published immediately came to mind. Demon Hunters 1: Blood Sacrifice, Elf Sight, Through Your Eyes and Dragon Lord. I also decided to include my cookbook since I do love my food. Next on my list was Tell Me A Story, Grandma. It might not have been the first story I wrote, but it certainly was one of the earlier ones and it meant so much to me as a child that my grandma shared stories of her childhood with me so I could write them down and read them over again throughout the years. My next choice was An Endless Dawn. It was chosen because it’s a story about something from space being brought to Earth. It seemed fitting as something from Earth was being sent into space. This was the same reason why I chose Compulsive Directive, a post apocalyptic sci-fi short story.
My final choice was Guardians Of The Round Table 1: Dexterity Fail, a young adult fantasy LitRPG. It was chosen not only because the seventh book in the series was my most recent release, but also because it’s been a series that so many close to me have been involved in. I’ve had an amazing time writing it and have spent so many hours with my sons and co-writers coming up with the next adventure for the characters. Those planning sessions are always filled with laughter and I look forward to many more such sessions. I’ve also enjoyed seeing each new cover Cat Petersen has created for it and I had an amazing time at Supanova 2018 when I took a display there for the series. Much thanks to Corey Crossley from Tokimotive who helped at that event, including being chained up in the dungeon for a photo and spending the rest of the weekend chaining attendees up so they could have their photos taken too. The series is a fantasy set in a world with game mechanics, so a dungeon like those the adventurers frequently found themselves exploring was a great choice for a display.
We’ve also enjoyed sharing the series with our readers, including being able to share them with Brad and Will who are not only friends, but feel like they’re part of the family after how long we’ve known them. They were amongst the first to read Guardians Of The Round Table 1: Dexterity Fail.
I also added a short story by Rhys Petersen, one of my co-writers on Guardians Of The Round Table series and my son. It’s one of his early stories that he wrote on his own, when he was sixteen, using a prompt from a writing group activity.
You might as well say that all the images I’ve included are of family members. Either those born to my family or those who’ve become a part of it over the years, becoming more than friends. From my parents and siblings who had to put up with all my reading and writing as a child and listen to some of the stories I came up with to my children and those who have come into my life over the years. People I’ve been lucky to meet. Who I’m glad to have had the opportunity to welcome into my life and to share this moment with them. This moment of going to the moon. Today it might only be stories and images, but one day, it might be people making that trip, planning what to take with them for their visit to the moon.
Jarrin (brother) and his children
What would you take with you on a trip to the moon? More than likely, just like for any trip I make, my first items I’d pack would be books.
During Treasure Seeker, Mallory and her party encounter the Adventurers Guild. And what long established guild doesn’t have a handbook? My co-writers and I had so much fun creating a handbook for the guild. We discussed the history of the guild, some of the past members, rewards and bounties available to members, how to increase your standing with the guild and where the guild is based. We spent hours creating the handbook, which adds to the lore of both the past and present of Inadon.
There was also the decision of whether Mallory and her party want to join the Adventurers Guild. And what it might mean for them if they do join. Including if it is a guild that would allow them to also be members of the Guardians Of The Round Table. Which is of course important to them.
As well as encountering members of the Adventurers Guild, Mallory and her party had more quests to do, more fights to face and plenty of other decisions to make as they continue their adventures on Inadon.
Guardians Of The Round Table 7: Treasure Seeker is now available.
This month I celebrated seven years since my first four books were released. Dragon Lord, Elf Sight, Demon Hunters 1: Blood Sacrifice and Through Your Eyes. I obviously didn’t stop there. Over the past seven years, I’ve released more than eighty titles. Over a hundred if you also count the lore and myth books that are part of the Guardians Of The Round Table series. I’ve written even more than that, with quite a few manuscripts still to go through the editing process somewhere down the track. So rest assure, there are more books to come.
To celebrate seven years, my first four books are on sale for $.99 throughout December, along with Cooking For Families With Allergies. Because what’s a celebration without food? And to that end, we’ve added a gluten free strawberry cake to the recipe book, extensively testing it to make sure it’s absolutely delicious.
So join me in celebrating. Have a slice of cake, sit back and relax and pick up one of the books that are currently on sale, most of which have never been on sale before. Then spend some time reading and losing yourself in another world and meeting new characters. Fen in Dragon Lord, Allie in Blood Sacrifice, Shadow in Elf Sight and Brenna in Through Your Eyes. Characters who often discover strengths they didn’t know they had when faced with situations they’ve never faced before.
It is both exciting and bittersweet when I come to the end of a series. I’ve spent so many years writing about Rosie and her adventures, looking forward to discovering where they’d take her next. It’s strange to think this is the last book in Rosie’s Rangers and all the loose ends are tied up, or at least mention has been made of what she plans to do about them in the future. I always like to think of where characters might go after I leave them with their current ending. And Rosie certainly has an interesting future ahead of her.
There have been times while writing Rosie’s Rangers that the story has surprised me and went in directions I didn’t expect it would go in. Which although the directions were surprising, the fact that those surprises occurred weren’t. I find it happens with most of my longer series since there are so many words between the first book and the last that there are bound to be at least a few surprises along the way.
Looking back over the series, there are so many moments that stand out for me. So many things about it that will remain with me, like an old friend, as I go onto other series and say my farewells to Rosie’s Rangers. I have no idea if I’ll ever revisit any of the characters from the series and write their stories, of which many storylines have come to me, but for now, Rosie’s story is finished and I hope you enjoy the conclusion of Rosie’s Rangers.
Rosie’s Rangers 6: Corruption is now available if you want to learn how the series ends.
I really enjoy researching things. Not just because I like to have some basis in facts, even for fantasy novels, but because there are so many fascinating and interesting subjects. Recently, while researching medieval architecture, I somehow ended up reading about hunting birds. I’m not sure how I ended up on that topic, but that tends to happen while researching. Not that I’m complaining since the topics I discover always seem to be just as fascinating as the topics I start out researching.
After reading about hunting birds, I thought I’d better return to the task at hand and continue with my original research. It was going very well, at least for a time, and I worked my way through several articles until somehow or other, I once again went off track. Did you know that in 1457 a pig was charged with murder? I’m afraid to say she was found guilty and hung.
Once again, I closed down the articles I wasn’t meant to be reading and returned to the topic at hand. This time, I ended up wandering through articles about archery within minutes of finishing another few articles on architecture. At least this time I knew how I ended up there. It was the windows, the arrowslits. They were to blame.
Anyway, I finally managed to finish my research on medieval architecture, for now, and only went off track about half a dozen times. Well, maybe a few extra times than that. But who’s counting? I’m sure some of that information I stumbled on will be useful in the future.
During these time when we can’t go far afield, why not explore your local region? We often put off visiting some of the places nearby, thinking we’ll have plenty of time to visit them since they’re so close to home, with years going by and those places remaining somewhere we’ll get around to seeing one day. When I travelled in a caravan, many years ago, I would often ask the locals in the places I visited, what were some of the nearby locations they planned to visit and what were some of their favourite spots. I soon noticed how many people had places they kept saying they’d get around to checking out one year. Sometimes they’d been meaning to visit those places for years and even, in some instances, decades.
I love exploring what’s around me, spending time discovering all the interesting spots when I live in an area. Even in an area I’ve lived in for over a decade, I’m still discovering new locations and things to do. Within a couple of hours in each direction of me, there are national parks, beaches, historical buildings, waterholes, lakes, gardens, scenic drives, lookouts, museums, art galleries, waterfalls and so much more. It can be interesting visiting a tourist information website for your local area and discovering things you didn’t know existed nearby. Why not play tourist in your own town or the nearby region? You can rediscover old favourites, find new ones and gain plenty of memories to look back on in years to come.
For those of you who can’t leave your homes, why not explore a map of your region and discover the places you didn’t know existed. That way, when you can get out and about again, you’ll have a list of where you wish to visit and what there is for you to explore in your region.
I’d love to hear some of the hidden gems you’ve found in your region and if at all possible, see photos of them too. I’d also love to hear your stories about those places. What you’ve discovered, what you liked about it and if it’s likely to become one of those places you’ll often return to. I think that’s what I love most about exploring. Not just seeing a new location, but discovering the stories about it, learning of the people who’ve been there and hearing about what has happened there, both the good and the bad. Stories, as always, intrigue me.
In these days of being mostly housebound, my thoughts tend to wander to places I’ve been. That soon has me remembering childhood holidays and the places we often went as a family. Living in North Queensland as a child, a lot of our holidays tended to be at a beach. Bowen was one of the places we often went to and we stayed there in a caravan park. I remember spending a lot of time combing the beaches for the perfect shells, gathering them up and examining them, thrilled when I found one I wanted to keep. There were spirals that reminded me of unicorn horns, long thin flat shells that we’d pretend to wear as fingernails and shells that we called kookaburra shells. When you held them on the side, with the opening facing you, they looked very similar to a kookaburra with a long beak and a rounded body.
Occasionally I’d find the perfect butterfly shells, delicately joined together with colours inside them ranging from purplish blues to soft pinks. These were rare since most times they were broken apart and even if you found two matching ones, it just wasn’t as special as finding them still attached in the middle. We would also collect cuttlefish bones for birds, either ours or other family members, trying to find the largest ones possible.
The beach we went to at Bowen had bright, white sand that as a child, seemed to stretch for miles and miles. I would walk along it, my gaze on the tidemarks as I searched for the perfect shells, the grains of sand warm beneath my bare feet and shifting and moving as I put weight on it. Occasionally I’d walk through the waves as they lapped on the shore, cooling my feet when the sand became too hot. But even then I’d be searching for the perfect shells, sometimes finding the perfect pebble instead.
At the end of our holidays, I always had quite a collection of shells to take home with me. Some I displayed, others I used in craft a few of them that had large enough holes, I’d hang from my earrings. A reminder of my days at the beach. Reminders of sand, sunshine, waves lapping the shore, the tang of salt and a long stretch of white sand.