Dolls And Trees

I had a conversation recently with someone about being called a tomboy during childhood. When I was a child, most people thought only boys liked to climb trees, play with cars in the sandpit and ride around for hours at a time on a bicycle. I was only considered a bit of a tomboy though because I also enjoyed playing with dolls.

What many didn’t realise was the dolls were characters in the stories I created, some of my stories lived out through their actions and adventures. I would create elaborate stories and events for them, telling the stories with the help of my dolls and various other props. Mysteries, adventures, horrors and actions. Some were contemporary, others were sci-fi or fantasy, with mythical creatures and strange worlds.

Some of the stories I created with my dolls were written down, many of them weren’t, the tales now lost to the past. But the fun I had and the enjoyment of using them to create stories lives on in my memories. And quite possibly in the memories of those I dragged into my ‘story games’, keeping them entertained too.

So while many thought I was playing dolls, as was expected of little girls when I was growing up, I was actually creating worlds and telling stories with a large cast of ‘actors’ in the form of my dolls. Doing what I enjoyed doing, with the tools I had at hand, regardless of what the expectations were for me.

Car Journeys With Dogs

We recently went on a drive a few hours away and decided to take our dogs with us. Which meant finding space where they could be buckled in when we don’t have the largest of cars. Finding space for Jasmine isn’t that difficult as she isn’t an overly large dog, being a Border Collie cross Blue Heeler. Although she does better in the front seat with the window down a fraction, otherwise she gets carsick.

Ace takes up a lot more space as he’s a Siberian Husky. We found the floor to be more spacious for him and he rested his head on the car seat a few times and every time Jasmine decided he’d make a great pillow. Which he then thought it meant she wanted to play. A firm ‘settle down’ usually worked.

Like children, there were a few times they wouldn’t settle down. Even after regular breaks to stretch their legs. So they had a soft muzzle on for a few minutes, our version of time out, and they settled down again and we took it off.

At one stage, Ace found the air con vent and pressed his face up against it, which caused white hair to float around the car like some kind of crazy snow. Even though he was given a thorough brush before getting in the car, he still managed to fill the car with plenty of white hair.

Each time we stopped, they were fascinated by everything, wanting to explore and discover what was in the area. And when we arrived at our destination, they were so excited. Not because we were getting out of the car, but because they were at another dog’s house and were visiting their little friend they don’t see very often.

We haven’t taken Jasmine and Ace in the car together very often, except for short trips, since any longer and they just want to play together. But it’s nice now they’re older that they can go on longer journeys with us and see some of the place I know they’d love to visit.

Family Stories

As a child, I loved hearing stories about the lives of those around me. Especially family members like grandparents and parents. I always asked millions of questions, and not everyone was willing to answer every one of them. Sometimes the stories about a particular person came from them and sometimes it came from those who knew them. Most of the times, it was a combination.

Often, when I asked my dad about his childhood, he’d ask, “Why do you want to know about that?” My reply was sometimes as simple as ‘because’ and other times a lengthy and rambling mixture of answers. Many of the stories I learned about my dad were told to me by others, such as his parents.

Nana would talk about how she and Da had given up expecting to have a child and they had my dad when they were a lot older. Which meant Dad was raised by parents who were much older than those of his friends. Nana was rather old-fashioned in her views and very strict while Da was easy going and loved a good joke and to spend time with his mates. Both of them told me stories about Dad and I learned that he once loved to draw and that he learned how to play the piano and was in plays. Nana was always so proud of how well he played the piano and the awards he had won. Yet when I was a child, he never played the piano and when I asked him about it, he told me how much he’d hated learning when he would have preferred to be doing other things.

When I asked Dad about the drawings he’d done as a child, he mentioned how much he’d enjoyed drawing, but his mother had told him to set them aside and focus on skills that would earn him an income later in life. To get an apprenticeship rather than waste time with his art. Nana also told me similar things when the subject came up.

Da told me about fishing and camping trips and all night long poker games. He talked about friends and the fun they had together. Nana talked about the outfits she made for Dad and how well dressed he’d been. Nana was a seamstress and Da was a tailor, making wedding outfits, formal wear and other garments for their clients. Dad told me how he hated the clothes he was made to wear, suits that set him apart from his peers. I found it fascinating seeing the two different perspectives of the same events.

Most of the time, the stories I heard from my dad about his childhood were when we were doing things he’d also done. Such as when he took us fishing. Little bits of memories would be mentioned about when he went fishing as a child. Sometimes on his own, down at the Causeway in Townsville where he was raised, and sometimes with his own father or other family members.

I loved those fishing trips. More so when Dad and Da both took me fishing. And it wasn’t because we were fishing. I’m not much into fishing. It always takes so long to catch them and then you have to clean them before you can cook and eat them. I do like eating fresh fish though.

No, the parts I loved the most about fishing trips were the stories. When those around me reminisced about other fishing trips. When they talked about the people they knew, the great catches and the best places to catch fish or throw a cast net to catch prawns. Those stories would lead to other ones. Stories about life in general.

Dad also talked about having his left hand tied behind his back at school so he couldn’t use it to write. And being hit with a ruler when he used his left hand. Till the day he died, Dad remained left-handed, the nuns at his school failing to force him to stop using his left hand.

The one thing that always stood out about my dad was that he often went his own way. He didn’t make a big fuss about it. He quietly headed in the direction he decided on, whether through his own choices or by taking the advice of those around him, such as with his mum telling him to get an apprenticeship. Which he did, becoming an electrician and working as one throughout his life.

I love stories. All types of stories. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir. All stories. To me, they’re fascinating. More so when they’re about the people in my life that I care about. I love learning more about those around me. Little bits of their past that gives me a greater understanding of who they are and what they have experienced during their life.

Those memories I have of my dad, the ones he shared with me and the ones others told me, are precious. They keep him alive in my memories, even though he is no longer with us. They give me something to pass along to my children about their granddad and they help me smile when I think about him. There might be a touch of sorrow in the smile, but there is also a lot of joy from the memories I cherish and the stories I gathered back when I was a child.

Old Manuscripts

Recently I had to move some filing cabinets due to cleaning up from a flood we had this year. Which meant the contents of the filing cabinets needed to be taken out, since each drawer was filled to bursting. I couldn’t resist perusing some of what I took out. They were old manuscripts, some going back decades. Luckily, none of them were damaged, which although I have digital copies, it still would have been heartbreaking to lose the early copies of the older manuscripts.

It took quite a while to empty the filing cabinets. There were towers of paper and I struggled to find space to stack everything. Seeing them out like that was a little overwhelming. It didn’t seem possible there were so many. Sometimes, when you’ve been working at something for such a long time, you don’t always realise exactly how much you’ve done. Logically, I know how many I’ve written, but seeing them all piled up like that, rather than just thinking of them as a single number, gave me a different perspective of exactly how much I’ve written over the decades.

It also had me reminiscing about the moment I realised I wanted to be an author. Since I was too young to attend school, it often feels like there was never a time when I haven’t written. But there was. Many years ago. I’m grateful I figured out so young what I wanted to be. And I’m glad I never run out of ideas to write about.

So, no matter what you’re working on, take a moment every now and again to step back and survey what you’ve accomplished. Like me, you might surprise yourself with exactly how much you’ve done.

Bring On 2022

As I’ve looked back over not only this year, but the past decade, it would be easy to allow myself to become disappointed with all that is happening in the world. With the uncertainty of the future, and the difficulty of being able to spend time with those I care about, this year has certainly had its challenges. Instead, I think about all the little moments I’ve shared with those in my life. It hasn’t been a year of big events, and nor was the previous year, but the year has contained memories I’ll cherish and look back on in the future with a nostalgic smile. And all those moments that mean the most to me, from this year, were spent with those I love. With my family.

Hopefully, you have moments from this year that you cherish too. Moments that mean a lot to you, no matter how big or small they are. Ones that you’ll cherish for years to come.

Duke’s Courier

When I sat down to write the latest book in Assassins Of The Dead, I never expected it to go in the direction it did. I had a vague idea of what would happen and where the story would end up. A short way into the story, most of those ideas were scattered by the wayside and new ones were forming. They fit much better with where I wanted the story to go and created a few more ideas for future books. They also gave me ideas for another series. No wonder I never run out of ideas!

Luckily, the start of the story fit well with where it veered away from the original path and I was able to keep writing with only a minor amount of changes to take things in the new direction. There were a few of the original ideas remaining and they kept the early part relevant, seamlessly weaving their way through the new ideas all the way to the end.

I hope you enjoy Meikah’s latest exploits and enjoy learning more about where her journey will lead her and discovering along with her what it means to have her particular skills.

Assassins Of The Dead 5: Duke’s Courier is now available.

Otters And Meerkats

Recently, I was able to see otters in person. It was different being able to stand in front of them after all the research I’ve done for Guardians Of The Round Table. Although the companion animals in the series have some differences due to becoming a companion animal, my co-authors and I wanted to keep many of the animals’ natural attributes and behaviours as well. So when I say I’ve done a lot of research on otters, it may be a bit of an understatement. I’ve watched countless hours of videos, read numerous books and online posts, watched lots documentaries, examined hundreds of photographs and asked a tonne of questions. Yet I learned even more by viewing two otters in person.

Unlike on documentaries and videos, you can’t turn their volume up or down when you’re watching them in person. It was good to hear the exact volume of their many noises. Being there, being able to experience them with all my senses, was amazing.

They are, of course, just as cute in person as in all the footage and images I’ve seen of them. It is also quite possible that I spent an extremely long time watching them. I might even have been asked a couple of times if I was ready to go. It was extremely hard to tear myself away from them and their antics.

Another animal I also saw was the meerkat. I’ve always thought them cute, but I now have an even greater interest in them. Meerkats are a much smaller animal than I thought, even having seen them in comparison to other objects, people and animals. And the babies are super cute. The way they move around, the sounds they make and how they interact with each other is fascinating. So fascinating, that parts of the next Guardians Of The Round Table series has needed a little early editing to swap out the original animal that a character they encountered has as their companion and replace it with a meerkat. I couldn’t resist.

The information I gained from seeing otters and meerkats in person is why I like to see the objects, animals and places I’m researching. You can gain so much more from doing so. It isn’t always possible, but when it is, I always take the opportunity to do so.

Lore Books

One of the things I’m really enjoying about writing the Guardians Of The Round Table series is creating lore books. While working on the eighth book in the series, we encountered another point where a lore book was needed. It’s always so much fun creating them. The ideas come fast and we discuss and joke about the possibilities, scribbling them all down, even the far-fetched, as you never know where each idea might lead.

Creating the lore book during the story can sometimes add to the story or even change the direction the story is heading. It’s also a way to cement the ideas about that particular piece of lore and give readers something extra if they’re interested in knowing more about the world of Inadon. I love background information and discovering more about the worlds I immerse myself in. Both my worlds and those of others. I know not everyone enjoys that. They just want the story. By putting that extra information into a lore book, it’s available for those interested while those who aren’t can focus instead on reading the series.

I also have very fond memories of discovering lore books in games and reading them. As well as collecting them. Discovering little pieces of information and learning more about different parts of the world fascinates me. But then, I’ve always loved learning more about things. Hence the reason I ask so many questions. I’m sure anyone who knows me in person is nodding their head and strongly agreeing with that comment. Very strongly agreeing!

Woven From Dreams

Life can be stranger than fiction. It can also inspire stories. Woven From Dreams was inspired by my daughter’s habit of losing things in her sleep. From items as simple as a bracelet on her wrist to more expensive things. No matter how hard we looked, we never found any of the items she lost. Not even when we completely emptied her room, looking for them. And she didn’t sleepwalk. None of us could explain what was happening, so we came up with crazy stories as to what was going on. Including me. This story builds on one of my fantastical theories, tying it in with the realms of the Fae.

Unlike Elsie, my daughter never lost a person during her sleep. Thankfully. But we never found out why things mysteriously disappeared while she slept and we’ve had to make do with our fantastical theories and solving the mystery for Elsie instead.

I enjoyed looking at the realms of the Fae from a different angle and building on the world with abilities I hadn’t touched on before. I hope you enjoy Elsie’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Realms Of The Fae 6: Woven From Dreams is now available.

Writing For Relaxation

People often look at me strangely when I say that sometimes, when I take a break from working on a story, my break might also consist of writing. Usually it’s a short piece, such as flash fiction. Something I can create in under an hour. There is something very satisfying about starting and finishing a project in the space of an hour. The following is such a piece.

The Main Ingredient

Dani wrote the last ingredient on the paper she’d torn from a notebook. Had she forgotten any? Staring at the scrawled words, she pressed a hand to her stomach. She had to win this time, or the past four wins didn’t count for anything.

Taking a deep breath, she slid the recipe under the pan on her bench. She hurried through the crowded room to the sign-in table, smiling in greeting at the familiar faces. She even smiled at Erica, who’d tried to sabotage her last time. Erica had looked mad enough at coming second again that she’d thought Erica might fling her dessert to the ground.

This time it was cake. Everyone said cakes were her forte. Which was lucky since she’d been so nervous she’d left her neatly typed recipe behind.

Finished signing in, she returned to her bench, her gaze drawn to the other contestants. A hush settled over the room as the presenter began his spiel, setting a timer and telling them to start.
Dani moved the pan, the world fading when she saw the bench. A frantic glance around didn’t help. The recipe had vanished. Placing the pan down, she forced a smile to her lips when the film crew focused on her.

A deep breath barely helped. She could do this. She had to do this. Reaching for an egg, she cracked it against the edge of a bowl. The familiar action steadied her and she mentally crossed off ingredients as she made her famous chocolate cake. About to tip the batter into the pan, she froze. She had forgotten something when she’d written it out. Cinnamon.

After adding the main ingredient, she put the cake in the oven. Now she had to face the questions. The ones about how she felt she’d done. This was the part she hated.

Her attention was caught by Erica rummaging in her handbag, a piece of paper fluttering to the floor. Erica snatched it up and shoved it in her handbag. But Dani had seen the words. The recognisable words.

She wanted to accuse Erica of cheating. Then she smiled. It would serve Erica right if she had. The recipe didn’t contain the main ingredient. Without it, the cake would be lacking.

The thought buoyed her through the interviews, but the moment of judgement had her clasping her hands tightly. She studied the judges as they tasted the array of cakes in front of them, their quiet discussions not reaching her and the other contestants.

A judge rose, listing all the places, from last to first.

Dani could barely hear her name called out in first place over Erica’s outraged demands they check the results. There must be a mistake. She couldn’t be last.

“What is the secret to the perfect cake?” the presenter asked.

Dani wasn’t about to tell Erica the one ingredient she didn’t know. “It’s all in the way it’s mixed.” She smiled. Let Eria focus on that at her next attempt.