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Showing posts with the label Australia

Rakali Springs — an imaginary Australian country town

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  I made up Rakali Springs. There's no such place, but I imagine it to look very like the pretty little towns in New South Wales' western slopes. Towns like Cootamundra or the town in this picture, Cowra.  The houses have corrugated metal roofs, and the older houses are wooden cottages. Houses are spread out on large blocks, and trees and gardens grow everywhere except in drought years. Most have railways running through, but these days there are only grain trains, no passenger services. The grain gets a royal ride and the people are jolted around on buses. Rakali Springs is the scene of the action in the cozy mystery / rural romance Wipptee. BUY EBOOK NOW

Writing Wipptee — a little mystery, a little romance

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 It's five years since I moved to the country, and I've wanted to write about it since the first day. I've always been a city girl, and I imagined the country as a quiet, somewhat behind the times, place. I was so wrong. There's a boiling cauldron of politics, and while retail is limited, there's no shortage of informaton or internet access. And the idea that people live and die in their native town isn't true either. People move all over the place. There's constant change. Another shock — the country is industrial. Trucks, machinery, warehouses, factories, and now wind and solar production, are everywhere. Some of the great issues of our time converge in the country. Animal rights, farm invasions, the right to protest, the destructive potential of agriculture, people's lifelong dedication to landcare and land repair, and mining rights, create a potent mix of conflicting views. In this book I try to capture some of this, against Maddison Debranz's qu

Wipptee — an Australian rural romance

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A cozy mystery with a feisty enemies-to-lovers romance on the side.   A young woman wants a quiet life in a small country town, but her past crimes as an animal rights activist return to haunt her.  BUY EBOOK  Maddison returns to Australia after five years away, desperate for a happily-ever-after future with her husband. But Daniel is missing and wanted by the police. Maddie follows a lead to Rakali Springs, the town where everything first went wrong for her and Daniel. She receives a hostile reception, but the Brackton family, Grace and her four sons, are willing to give her a place to stay.   It doesn’t take long for Maddie to discover that everyone has an agenda. Grace, the family matriarch, is determined to end destructive land clearing on neighbouring Wipptee farm at any cost. Matthew guards his secrets well, Liam is sleazy and unpredictable, and Travis wants only regular work for his earthmoving business. Worst of all, Constable Theo Brackton never misses a chance to accuse, crit

Reading journal: Rusted Off: Why country Australia is fed up by Gabrielle Chan

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Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: September 2018 Gabrielle Chan is a journalist who lives up the road from me, in Harden, New South Wales. This interesting book pulls apart the social structure of a country town and explores the point of view of people who feel unrepresented in Australia’s political system. It’s true that highly educated city dwellers find it hard to see things from a rural perspective. It’s a two-way street though. And Harden is only an hour away from Canberra. People travel between these towns all the time; in fact, many rural people are highly mobile, following work opportunities more than city people may do, and often have family all over the place. I enjoyed the book but was not totally convinced by the arguments. Governments in recent times have ignored everyone except their mates, and some of those mates were well-heeled country people. The argument is more one of connections, opportunities and funding than location, I think.

Reading journal: Welcome to Country: A travel guide to Indigenous Australia by Marcia Langton

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Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: November 2018 There’s the glitzy Australia of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Gold Coast, and then there’s a much more beautiful and meaningful story that comes from connecting with Australia’s Indigenous people and their cultural connection to the land. This book introduces the cultures, languages and places and teaches non-Indigenous visitors the basics of how to behave respectfully. It’s informative, beautifully illustrated, and explains important matters in an accessible way. Valuable for anyone who wants to see the world from outside their own cultural straitjacket.

Spring downunder in Australia

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about spring. Spring goes from 1 September to 30 November. Technically. Sometimes it only lasts about a week. It's freezing, you blink, and it's suddenly baking hot. Spring in the north of Australia is less exciting, as of course it's the tropics. In fact, the tropics really have entirely different seasons, the wet and the dry. We don't pay as much attention as we should because only small numbers of people live in the tropics compared to the southern cities. What we don't have  Spring break, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. We don't have spring break because spring is the end of the academic year for us. Halloween just doesn't mean anything on a warm spring evening looking forward into summer. Of course a few people do Trick or Treat, especially my Canadian in-laws, but it isn't a national past-time. Thanksgiving is not part

Winter downunder in Australia

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about winter. Cold miserable duck Winter officially goes from 1 June to 30 August. In the north it is warm and dry, which explains why people like going to Queensland for holidays at this time of year. In the south it is cool to cold, and miserable. Most rain in the south falls in winter., except when there is drought, of course. Australian cities are on the coast and rarely go below zero, but you will get light frosts. Snow is pretty much limited to mountain areas. We don't need snow plows in our cities. From a northern hemisphere person's perspective, Australia doesn't really have any winter. It's my least favourite time of year, because the days are shorter and it feels dark and gloomy. July seems to drag on forever. And winter has no public holidays at all, just when we could really use them. It does have school holidays, which is a total

Book review: Running Down: Water in a changing land by Mary E White

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2000 Date read: March 2018 This book explores the evolution of Australia’s river systems and how they have changed since European settlement. The book is packed full of wonderful photographs, maps, diagrams, and anecdotes, and a sobering message. White doesn’t paint a very optimistic picture. Our farming practices have created immense damage that most of us are not even aware of, since what we see now is what we assume was always there. There’s a truly awful story told by an old farmer from the Riverina. He describes how, on the advice of the Department of Agriculture of the time, they kept their land plowed and fallow. One heavy storm later, and most of their topsoil flowed into local rivers and creeks, filling them to the brim with mud and killing all the fish and other wildlife within. None of those rivers or creeks ever recovered to their previous condition, and neither did the farms. A tragedy. Publication of this book was sponsored by a g

Reading journal: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2014 Read: March 2018 This book is subtitled “Black seeds: agriculture or accident?” Pascoe’s short and readable book summarises the output of a range of primary and secondary sources that examined the economy of Indigenous people in Australia before European settlement destroyed that economy forever. Most convincing are the quotes and illustrations from the diaries and reports of early inland explorers, describing flourishing grain production and harvesting, robust houses, fishtraps on rivers, smoking fish and other meats for preservation, yam planting and harvesting, maintenance and protection of wells and the use of fire to maintain the environment in a useful grassy state. All these methods of making a living from Australia’s intermittent rivers and thin infertile soils were gone within a few years of the arrival of European stock animals and crops, and the environmental degradation continues. Pascoe argues that it is the Europeans who w

Autumn (fall) downunder in Australia — Party time!

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about autumn. Autumn goes from 1 March to 31 May. It's the best season in most places. Weather is calmer, temperatures more moderate (your milage may vary, I'm talking about you, 2018!) We have festivals at this time. Mardi Gras in Sydney, Moomba in Melbourne, the alternative arts festival WOMADelaide in Adelaide, the Sydney Easter Show, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, and many others. You get the idea. Party time! We celebrate Easter with public holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday. For many this is an opportunity for a long weekend, the last chance to go away before the nice weather finishes. Of course, the whole message of renewal, new life, Easter bonnets, bunnies and so on, m

Reading journal: Wild Waterfalls of South Eastern Australia by Peter Quinton

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2018 Read: March 2018 A beautiful collection of the author’s own photographs of Australian waterfalls, some acquired at the cost of personal injury, and all showing Quinton’s mastery of photography. The photographs are supported with maps, well-documented historical details, and information about Indigenous names and cultural aspects of the falls. This book was helped along its path by record rains in Australia in 2016, which brought many creeks and waterfalls back to life after many dry years. The author has also used these images to provide inspiration and imagery for a collaboration with the American artist CR Bravo, the illustrated novel Twilight of the Gods . The ebook version is best viewed on a large colour screen, and doesn’t work on a basic Kindle. It’s worth it, though. Lovely work.

Summer downunder in Australia

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about summer. Summer is officially December 1 to February 28. DECEMBER December is the end of the school year and the university (college) year. Think end of year formals (dances) for high school kids. Think crazy pace of shopping for Christmas with all the kids underfoot. Think office Christmas parties and huge numbers of people off on holiday. Christmas Day on 25 December is a public holiday. For some it means church, for most it means family get-togethers and opening presents. Christmas is the main family event in Australia, and people travel long distances to be with family. Food is excessive. Some have traditional roast meat with pudding, others have barbecues, salads and seafood. Boxing Day 26 December is for retail frenzy, the after Christmas sales. I've never been to them. Also, the start of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, which looks excel

Book review: A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

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My favourite read for 2016 was Australian author Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series. Highly recommended. The first book in the wonderful Rowland Sinclair series Rowland Sinclair is an artist living in Sydney, Australia, in the 1930s. He has a straight-laced wealthy grazier family pushing him in one direction and his own inclinations, aided and abetted by an eclectic and unsuitable collection of friends, pushing him the other way, into trouble. 1930s Sydney wasn’t for the fainthearted. From politics (communists, right wing militias, the Riverina separatist movement) to street gangs, criminal opportunists, and social upheaval resulting from the economic Depression, Rowland Sinclair finds a way to get into difficulty no matter which way he turns. Alternate cover for A Few Right Thinking Men. I prefer the other one. The author has woven interesting historical facts into the stories, especially intriguing for those of us with little knowledge of Australian history. Sa

The Spy Racket—Australian action

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The Spy Racket (originally published as The Adila Arrangement) was relaunched in 2021 as Book 5 of the Tender Spies series.

Change the spelling and you're done?

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I’m an Australian author, writing about Australia. I use Australian English, with all its weird slang and strange usages. What should I do to make my writing more accessible to international readers, especially the giant USA market? Tricky. I can change the spelling , of course. Turn “colour” into “colour”, “centre” into “center”, “organise” into “organize”. Fairly easy to do. But spelling isn’t everything. It’s hardly anything at all. There’s usage . I would say “he parked the car behind the shop”. An American might expect to read “he parked the car in back of the shop”. I would write, "that wasn't as big a surprise as he expected", not "that wasn't as big of a surprise as he expected". In fact, that seems rather quaint. There’s vocabulary . A knitted woollen garment is a jumper in Australia and the UK. Not in the USA, where people don’t know what I’m talking about. We say “autumn”, not “fall”. A glossary might help a little bit, but p

Lies So Deep (Book 2 in the Tender Spies series)

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I used to live in Canberra, and sometimes there was time and money enough to enjoy a few days at the beautiful Sapphire Coast. The towns have wonderful musical names like Bermagui, Tilba, Tathra, Merimbula, Pambula and Eden. Lies So Deep is set in the hinterland behind these coastal villages, somewhere in the dairy country. Of course I never met any smugglers there, and there is no Little Buckthorn Creek. My story is entirely fiction. The terrifying Pambula River sandbar, on which Stephen nearly comes to grief, is, however, completely real. Daredevil surfers seem to like it though. Pambula River Bar [photo: P Kelley] About Lies So Deep It’s just another mission for Stephen Zammit and his partner Andrew Corrieva — infiltrate a smuggler family down in the dairy country and find out how they are eluding Customs patrols. The stakes are high; the last investigator didn’t survive to make his report. But for Stephen, the stakes become personal. He falls for Honey,

Book review: Taken at Night by Christa Ludlow

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A historical mystery set in Australia, can’t get enough of them. This great story, set in pre-Federation Sydney, Australia, in 1900, features a female photographer, Beatrix Spencer, and a detective, Fergus Blair, trying to get to the bottom of mysterious disappearances and nasty deaths. The author cleverly weaves in historical elements that are still part of the fabric of Sydney today. Beatrix and Fergus fight against police and political corruption, the criminal element that inhabited The Rocks area (now a tourist precinct), the fear of plague, the banishing of foreigners to an island quarantine station, and healthy doses of racism and misogyny. I liked this book for a whole host of reasons. It included the multicultural threads that have always been here, Indigenous Australians, Chinese, and Pacific Islanders. I liked Beatrix (a popular name back then, my grandmother was called Beatrice), she was persistent and clever without being pretentious or precocious. I loved

Book review: Warriors by Graham Storrs

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Warriors is Book 3 of the Canta Libre trilogy, a first contact space opera by Australian science fiction author Graham Storrs. Warriors was quite fun. I enjoyed the encounters with assorted aliens, and was depressed by the depictions of the aftermath of a human civil war across the solar system. Perhaps the strongest elements of the book were descriptions of space battles. I thought these were well done although the dependence on the mysterious Akiro to get the Canta Libre crew out of trouble time and time again struck me as risky. I didn't much like or identify with the major characters, which made the book a little more difficult to read, hence the 3 star rating. The exceptions were the prototype robot BS and the ship's artificial intelligence — I liked them very much. To my eternal disappointment the annoying and pestiferous teenage girl, Kitty, does NOT meet a well-deserved sticky end, perhaps incarceration in a purgatory for self-centred whiners. I ha

Sheep shearing museum, Hay, New South Wales

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I visited Shear Outback, a museum about sheep shearing in Australia. There's a lot of historical and technical stuff, different kinds of shearing combs and techniques, and plenty of cultural and social context as well. I liked the display showing the amount and kind of food typically eaten (up to 6000 kilocalories per day, 25,000 kilojoules), as well as a sports science type analysis of the effects of shearing work on the body. No wonder people's backs packed it in after a couple of decades. Shearing shed Across from the museum is the Murray Downs shearing shed where shearing displays are done every day. Sheep pen floor Shearing area Sheep move from the pens to the shearing area and then back out through the chutes after they are shorn. The wool is cleaned up a bit, classed, and baled, then shipped off to buyers. Chutes Apparently people are now experimenting with chemical injections that cause the fleece to basically shuck itself off the sheep. Sca

Book review: The Apricot Colonel by Marion Halligan

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I loved this book, kindly recommended to me by  Kristin Milton . Marion Halligan is a great story teller, and this mystery, set in Canberra and Tilba, is a lot of fun. The heroine is Cassandra, a freelance editor who finds herself on the edge of a tangle of murders and with too many men seeking her attention. She is drawn to the most secretive of them, Al Marriott, and repelled by another, name unknown but who she thinks of as "Hotbaby" (named after his car vanity registration plate), while being unsure about the charming Irishman Dermot. There are many mysteries to be solved: who killed two women in Cassandra's own suburb and why? Who is the alluring woman hovering just out of sight? Who sabotaged the tyres on her mother's car? Who is "Hotbaby" and is he really stalking her? Why is Al Marriott known as the "Apricot Colonel"? And the biggie, will Cassandra find love and with whom? All of these are efficiently tied up at the end with a neat