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 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.
For those who haven’t seen the post on Facebook, we have a new member in our family. Ace. The most adorable puppy who not only has tonnes of character, but is extremely intelligent and friendly too. We’ve been loving every minute of having him in our family and have been enjoying his many antics.
In case you were wondering why we called him Ace, the marking on his forehead reminded us of the ace of spades which reminded us of Cayde-6 from the video game Destiny. After checking out the name of Cayde-6’s son and discovering it was Ace, how could we have chosen any other name?
He’s very curious and when we’re in the workshed, he loves to see what we’re up to. But being so young, he does tire quickly so finds the best of places to sleep so he can be comfortable and have a good view of what’s going on each time he cracks an eye to check what we’re doing. Mostly he sleeps on the ride-on mower seat, but sometimes he sleeps on the footwell, depending on where in the shed we’re working. It is after all about the view.
He also likes to get up close to what we are working on, which currently happens to be a chook tractor. Or to those who don’t know our Aussie slang, a moveable cage for the hens so we can get them to clear the areas we want cleaned up rather than the ones they feel like scratching around in. A great way to not only clean up an overgrown area, but to fertilise it too. Ace walked straight in the open section we’re still working on and checked out the mesh at the other end. Maybe he thought he was the job foreman and needed to inspect our work.
Ace has his favourite in our family and it is my oldest son. He calls out mournfully if he’s away from him too long and my son has now discovered what every parents quickly learns. Bathroom breaks are not allowed because your child will cry pitifully at the door if you take one. On the other hand, Ace loves to play in water although he isn’t keen on baths, but will tolerate them with mournful looks to remind us that there is no fun to be had in having an actual bath.
We have taken a ridiculous amount of photos of Ace, but don’t worry, I’ve only choosen a select few to share rather than spaming you with an endless amount. We certainly won’t have a lack of pictures to look back on when we want to reminisce about his puppy years. And I know we will look back in the years to come as we have done with all our other four legged family members. Many of whom we can’t help thinking about as we enjoy welcoming Ace to our family and into our hearts.
As the weather grows colder here in Australia, I can’t help thinking of warmer months. Memories of summer quickly take me back to the ones of my childhood in north Queensland, when the heat didn’t seem to bother us children as we played outside.
The summer months were filled with swimming at local waterholes, days at the beach and being out on my bicycle riding around the streets with my brother. There were of course flies that seemed to be everywhere and they would try to slip inside with you when you opened the screen door during the day. Of an evening, there were mosquitoes that hounded you when you were outside, their loud, high-pitched whine letting you know they were coming in to attack. On the upside, there were mangoes in the later months of summer. It seemed like every backyard had a mango tree or two and every day I had a few mangoes. Well, maybe more than a few. Quite possibly mangoes at every meal and several in between meals. There were certainly enough of them that everyone could eat as many of them as they wished. There were also barbeques, the smell of steak on the grill hanging heavy in the air, making my mouth water as I waited for the food to be served.
Some things have changed since my childhood summers. Living in south east Queensland means that the heat is drier and it doesn’t feel like the air is filled with a dampness that clings to your skin as you move through it. We also don’t live as close to the beach these days and don’t visit it as frequently. But there are still mangoes and barbeques. Lots of mangoes from the row of trees up behind my house that I raid before the birds get them. And barbeques with family on warm summer evenings, the stars filling the sky, the smells of cooking food filling the air and laughter and conversation accompanying the meal.
So many memories to look back on and so many more memories to looking forward to making in the future.
One of my children is about to have a birthday and I can’t help but think of how different the celebration would normally be. We would have friends or family over. Or both. And there would be cake for everyone to enjoy. Not to mention we’d all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ really badly while the birthday person blew out their candles and cut the cake. There will still be cake and those of us who live he will of course sing ‘Happy Birthday’ terribly, but there won’t be anyone visiting. There will be phone calls and messages and birthday greetings, but those people who would normally visit in person won’t be able to do that. So it will be a day of mixed emotions. The joy of celebrating the day my child arrived in this world mixed in with the sorrow that some family members won’t be here to help celebrate the occasion.
It makes me think back over other birthdays and other events where my family has come together to celebrate something. It can be nice to share milestones and special events with those you care about. But as sad as it makes me that there won’t be extra family members here on the day, I’m also grateful that there have been previous celebrations where family members have come together and there will be more of them in the future. And no matter what else is going on, and how terrible some things might be, we aren’t about to let them overshadow what joys there are in life and we’ll make the most of those joys when they do occur.
It’s amazing how quickly life can change. I’m accustomed to life becoming completely different in the space of a short time, but not on a world level, so this has certainly been strange. Once upon a time, I could go to the grocery shops and buy a week or two worth of groceries, which I often did since I live out of town. Now, it’s a matter of going to four grocery shops, which is all we have in the town closest to where I live, as well as a handful of corner stores, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to buy enough groceries to feed my family for two or three days. Which, considering we’re told to go out as little as possible, makes it difficult to comply. So I spend hours hunting down the food we need, gathering bits from here and there, the task made more difficult because of how many food allergies we all have. At each shop I’m greeted with empty shelves and quiet aisles, the few people also out searching for food looking like they expect to be stabbed if they even glance at another person.
That’s the part I find the most difficult. As someone accustomed to smiling and greeting my fellow shoppers, and occasionally stopping to chat to random strangers or compliment them on something I like such as a stunning piece of jewellery or an amazing hairstyle, the tendency to treat those around you as the enemy is saddening. I get keeping your distance and I know everyone is worried, but we also have to remember that those around us aren’t the enemy, that they aren’t necessarily going to take the last roll of toilet paper or bar of soap. We’re all in the same boat. All facing the uncertainty of going out in public and not knowing what we might encounter when we go hunting for essential items.
Although there are people who take more than their fair share at the shops, it isn’t everyone. Another part of the problem is that those people who until now have shopped every day or two are trying to buy enough items for a week or more. If you’ve never done this before, it can be difficult to judge what you’ll need to cover that period of time. If you’ve always been able to pop down to the shop for whatever you need and never had to worry about what you’ll do when you run out, then this must be like being thrown in the deep end of the pool with no ability to swim.
Unlike some, we’re lucky in that we have our ‘flood supplies’. Since we sometimes get cut off from town by excessive rain, which we haven’t had in a while, we always make sure we have a few weeks of groceries stocked up. But that is slowly dwindling and eventually we’ll be looking at an empty pantry and eyeing the kangaroos that come visit of an afternoon, our mouths watering at the thought of roo stew and wondering what other recipes they’d go well in. Hopefully though, it won’t come to that and the shelves at the grocery stores will again be filled and our place will remain a haven for the local wildlife.