Celebrations

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.

Modern Hunter Gatherer

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.

Dragon Mage 1: Promise

Before I started writing ‘Promise’, I reread all the books of the Dragon Blood series and Dragon Blood Chronicles. It was nice to return to Amber, Kade and Ronan’s world and add more to their story. It was like visiting with old friends and catching up with them and discovering what they’ve been up to since we last saw each other. And since dragons are involved, I knew a lot would have happened.

As always, I had a lot of fun discovering where the story was going and what would happen to Amber. If you haven’t already, I suggest reading Dragon Blood Chronicles 2: Betrayed before beginning Dragon Mage 1: Promise. Events in that book have an impact on ‘Promise’.

The story picks up not long after the end of Dragon Blood 5: Mage with Ronan once more trying to draw Amber into his plans. Ones that he’s wanted to put into place for a very long time.

Dragon Mage 1: Promise, is now available if you want to learn what happens next for Amber, Kade and Ronan.

Cooking For Families With Allergies Update

In the time since Cooking For Families With Allergies first came out, Storm and I have continued to create and test new recipes. There have been some failures, some that took longer than others to create and ones we’re still trying to figure out. But there have been some successes as well and we’ve had plenty of fun discovering them. Not to mention enjoyed all the sampling needed to create and fine tune a recipe.

We have a list of recipes we’d like to recreate as gluten free recipes. Ones we’ve either had in a gluten form or ones we like the sound of. With how many recipes we have that we’d like to try and recreate, it should take us a few years to get through all of them. But in the meantime, we’re also likely to think of other ones we’d also like to try out. So, we have a lot more fun to look forward to in the kitchen with more recipes to test and enjoy. For now though, we’ve update the Cooking For Families With Allergies with the ones we’ve completed while we continue to work on other recipes.

Guardians Of The Round Table 6: Cursed Harp

We always try and research the ideas we come up with to see if they’re feasible. Sometimes, we need to get a little creative in how we go about researching those ideas. One of the scenes in Cursed Harp involved a character leaping from pillar to pillar in a dungeon, trying not to plummet into a pit below. To minimise spoilers, I won’t mention which character and I especially won’t mention whether or not they succeeded.

To create the pillar maze, we placed squares of white paper, cut to the correct size, strategically around our lounge room. Then proceeded to jump from paper to paper as we tried to cross the room. Somehow I managed not to fall to my death, but then I wasn’t under attack, and reached the other side of the room safely. I can’t say I was very graceful in my pillar jumping and there were a few close calls, but I did discover that it was possible to get from one side of the room to the other. And before you ask, no, we did not video my attempts because some things should never be shared and me flailing as I tried not to fall off the ‘pillars’ is certainly one of them.

If you want to discover who had to jump across a pillar maze and if they managed to successfully reach the other side, Guardians Of The Round Table 6: Cursed Harp is now available.

Traditions

When it comes to traditions, they can be good or bad, depending on the person experiencing them, and of course the type of tradition they are. But the good ones, I find, are important as they can create ties between people over generations, throughout the years and into the future. They evoke a sense of permanency, create memories to cherish and can be something to look forward to. Nor do traditions need to have been around forever. They can be something you choose to start and continue with over the years, creating a tradition amongst the people you care about.

One of my favourite traditions is one I started when my children were young. Many people do advent calendars throughout the month of December, but I didn’t like my children having chocolates or lollies to start off each day in the lead up to Christmas such as were in the commercial advent calendars. So I made little cloth bags in which to put small items that were hung on a board numbered with the days of the month. Each morning my children would open one of the cloth bags to discover what was inside.

I always have so much fun choosing items to put into the advent calendar bags, finding little gifts for each of them as we count down the days to Christmas. It’s a tradition I’ve continued over the years and one I look forward to each year. What are some of your favourite traditions that you look forward to each year?

Assassins Of The Dead 4: King’s Request

I had no sooner finished the third book in the Assassins Of The Dead series, when I was making notes for the fourth book. Which seems to be a habit when it comes to this series. When I finally had the time to start writing it, I regularly wrote over three thousand words a day and even as many as five thousand as the story flowed onto the page. At times it felt like King’s Request wrote itself, surprising me with the direction it took. New characters formed, more of past events for old characters made themselves known and I couldn’t wait to discover where Meikah would end up next. And what choices she’d make.

Although the first draft was quick to write, what did take time was naming a bookshop. It took me half an hour. But I wanted to get it right. For now, the shop has barely been mentioned and seems to be of little importance. But who knows where the story will lead and what might or might not become important. I certainly don’t know and I’m discovering everything as I go along, enjoying learning what Meikah will do next.

King’s Request is now available on Amazon. I hope you enjoy discovering where Meikah’s adventures take her this time.

Mazes

I’ve been fascinated by mazes since a child. The first time I discovered what they were was at a botanical garden and I wandered through the maze, unable to see over the hedges as I found my way through it, discovering hidden areas along the way. A section with interesting paving and another with a seat at a dead end. I spent hours exploring it and would have spent hours more if I’d been allowed to. I was able to revisit that particular maze as an adult and was extremely sad to find that the hedges were only tall enough for a child. Luckily, over the years I found other mazes, ones with hedges that were tall enough I could wander through them without seeing over the top.

There have also been the mazes I created. When my children were younger, I let the grass in the front paddock grow so it towered over my kids and was well past my waist. I then planned out a maze and used the ride-on mower to create the paths. After making sure there were no snakes hidden in the long grass, I showed my kids the maze and we spent hours running through it, our laughter ringing out in the late afternoon, shadows from the mountains deepening as we played.

There are some things in life that we remain fascinated by them no matter our age or the amount of years that have passed. I doubt I’ll ever lose my fascination with mazes. They encompass some of my favourite things. Puzzles, exploring and discovering. And it’s very rare I can bring myself to go past one. I always have to enter so I can wander the many paths and see what I can discover.

Plea Of The Damned 6: Forgive Me Dawson

When I finished writing the fifth book of the Plea Of The Damned series, I knew how book six would end. I could see the scene play out in my mind and wrote most of it then, having no idea how the characters would reach that moment.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write the beginning of the story I began to figure out how the characters reached that final scene. I wrote scene after scene, wanting to reach that moment when the two pieces could be joined. There were a few minor changes that needed to be made to the final scene and of course some details I didn’t know since I hadn’t written the proceeding scenes, but the majority of it remained the same. From the conversations to the actions, there was so much that didn’t need to be touched and that my editors also left as it was.

The Plea Of The Damned series has now reached its end and Jack’s story is done or, depending on how you wish to look at it, is just beginning. Plea Of The Damned 6: Forgive Me Dawson can be found at Amazon and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Flood

Occasionally I write short pieces, almost flash fiction in size. Not often though as ideas tend to flow and the story continues to grow. Here’s one of those smaller pieces, a small snapshot in time of a character with more than his fair share of responsibilities.

Dale hurried down the ladder from the loft he shared with his younger brother, drawn by the scent of freshly baked bread. The sound of rain was quieter in the kitchen as he helped himself to a slice of bread.

“You be careful out there.” His mother handed him a thick coat.

Dale shrugged into it, knowing it’d soon be soaked through. “I’ll bring the plough horse up to the house. We should have moved him yesterday, but I thought the rain was over.”

“We all did.”

Finishing the last of his food, Dale buttoned his coat before braving the pouring rain. Visibility was low and it was only that he’d been born and raised on this farm that he could find his way to the back paddock, head low as his eyes squinted through the rain. Stepping through the gate of the wooden fence he whistled, but the wind blew the sound back in his face along with the rain. When he called for the horse his words were also thrown back at him.

Walking forward, his boots sinking into mud, he scanned the paddock for the plough horse. He had to find him. Without him, they couldn’t plant their farm and have crops to sell at the market. Ever since his father had died he’d become the head of the house, trying to support the three of them. He had no idea what to do if he couldn’t find the horse.

A sound drew him onwards. He hurried towards the stream, each step a struggle. He heard it again, the frantic scream of a horse. Then he could see him, tangled in the branches of a tree caught in the swollen stream, which was now wide enough to be a river. The tree dragged at the horse and blood flowed from several gashes on the animal.

Dale plunged into the water. They needed the horse. Without him, they couldn’t survive. He tried to untangle the terrified creature. A log crashed into them, pushing them further into the stream. Dale grabbed at the mane, pulling the horse towards the bank, each step an effort.

Another log swept past, barely missing them and Dale stared at a man clinging to the log that turned and rolled in the churning water. The horse screamed and the man on the log went under.

Time seemed to stretch out, but it was only a few seconds. Dale’s cold fingers let go of the mane and he threw himself forward into the middle of the stream, swimming towards the man as he surfaced for a moment.

Dale reached the log, searching for the man, his fingers tangling in hair. He momentarily thought of the horse’s mane before he focused on rescuing the man. It seemed to take forever, but eventually they were stretched gasping on the bank, the rain still pouring.

“Thank you, how can I ever repay you?” The man held out his hand.

Dale took the offered hand. “Anyone would have done the same.” He paused to catch his breath. “Come back to the farmhouse. We’ll get warm and my mum can make us something hot to eat.”

They struggled to their feet and as they passed the part of the stream where the horse had once struggled, Dale felt his heart sink.

His heart was still sinking a month later as he hoed rows by hand, his brother following him with a basket of seeds. He stopped to run his arm across his forehead as his gaze travelled over the land still untouched. They’d be lucky to get a quarter of the paddock planted, and there’d be none for the market. Replacing the plough horse would be impossible.

Dale turned his head at his name being called. His mother frantically waved him over to the farmhouse. Beside her stood a stranger, a grey-haired man. Dale shared a look and a shrug with his brother before the two of them trudged to the farmhouse.

The man stepped forward, throwing his arms around Dale who froze, sending a questioning look to his beaming mother. “Ahh, sir?” He pulled away.

“Thank you. Thank you.” The man clapped him on the shoulder as his other hand drew out a bulging money pouch. “There’s no price I could put on my son’s life, but let me offer you a small token all the same.”

Dale took the pouch, the weight of it in his hand lightening the weight of his worries. He met the man’s gaze. “Thank you.”