A Third Journey of Discovery

I am on my third trip to discover the real Australia, one that has given me so much to think about. Here in beautiful Beechworth, the home of Ned Kelly and before that what was known as the Ovens goldfields, there is a sublime mix of England and Australia. It has got me thinking about the early settlers, especially the monied ones. They journeyed twelve thousand miles to make their fortunes, but what did they do when they had the chance? They tried to recreate what they had come from. I imagine the ladies moaning to their husbands that they mourned the loss of the flora and fauna they knew. It was not enough to be growing great flocks of Angus cows and Merino sheep on green pastures, where twenty years before only thick bushland thrived. They were not satisfied with the many varieties of gum trees, the cabbage tree palms, the wild flowers identified and admired by Joseph Banks. They wanted elms, oaks and cypress, they demanded roses, lilac, clematis and wisteria.

Why be satisfied with the warbling of Australian magpies, with the shriek of cockatoos, the boom of bitterns, the laugh of kookaburras when you can import blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons and starlings? 

Beechworth is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new country. Granite buildings by Scottish stonemasons provided offices for the control of the thousands of miners who descended on the area in the 1850s, and these lie adjacent to simple, wooden bungalows with tin roofs.

The town is full of wooden clad shops with large signs above, proclaiming, bakery, clothing emporium, hotel, just as they would have done 150 years ago. It is all very ordered and pristine, but this was a pretty lawless place at the time, despite the efforts to control. The police were as lawless as the bush rangers they sought to imprison. The rich squatters, mostly Protestant, were determined to get rid of the heavily mortgaged selectors,often Catholics, who tried to eke a living on the margins – Ned  Kelly, more sinned against than sinning, the inevitable folk hero result.

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Australia – journeys of discovery 2

Australia is vast but the centres of population are gathered around the coast for good reason. I remember flying from Perth to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) over the Nullarbor Desert. The never-endinOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAg sea of red earth, occasional straight tracks of an unsealed road, with only the clouds above shading the landscape. Alighting from the plane we were hit with a wall of heat and dust, forty degrees and windy. The heat sucks the breath and energy from you.

We did a dawn tour of Uluru which meant setting off at 4 a.m to watch the sunrise and eat freshly cooked damper (bread) on very modern equipment. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have had to draw on my memories of seven years ago for my new book because some of it is set on a sheep station in the outback.

On the ground, I was surprised by the amount of greenery. The desert is alive with grasses, bushes, even trees. But this was a year when there had bOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeen rain. At the moment, vast tracts of New South Wales are experiencing a dreadful drought. Farmers are crying out for help. Animals have no feed and are having to be moved or slaughtered. This is an unforgiving land.

Imagine no rain, rivers running dry, no feed for the horses or bullocks, no railroads or aeroplanes. No roads only tracks through the red sand, but the sand is constantly shifting and the landscape changing daily. This is the difference between 1919 and 2018. A hundred years ago another drought devastated New South Wales. The only help came by camel train, not by truck or rail. The rivers ran dry, the water in the tanks ran dry, things are so desperate that the farmers abandon their land. Can things get any worse? Yes, they can. Find out how in Sadie’s Wars.

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Australia – journeys of discovery 1

We are about to set off on a third trip to Australia. The first in 2011 was a retirement trip. We knew that Grandpa was born in Australia and I had done some research about the family, so I based our itinerary around that. We arrived in Perth and headed straight for a living museum near the airport. What was so delightful was to find a school class of primary age children leOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAarning about what it was like to be a pioneer’s child in West Australia. We’d gone there because I knew that a railway engine bought by Great Grandpa was on display. But I remember the children in their schoolroom with slates, sitting in rows facing the stern teacher at the front. All that was different from a similar scene at a British living museum was the heat, the vivid blue sky,  the red soil – and that railway engine.

Railways were even more vital in Australia where distances are so great. Great Grandpa, one of the main characters in Sadie’s Wars, was a railway contractor. He built 3000 miles of track all over Australia. All my previous books lead to his story, the story of a self-made man, the grandson of convicts and a towering figure in early twentieth century Australia. He was a man of myth, and like so many myths, has faded into obscurity. It has been my work to rescue him, along with his mother and grandparents.

On that same trip, we visited Tasmania and the Port Arthur Convict site and in contrast, we visited the farm owned by Great Grandpa in Victoria to visualise him at the height of his fortune.

Experiencing the Sovereign Hill Museum, another lOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAiving museum with its Son et Lumiere display about the Eureka Rebellion was at the time, a wonderful day out. But I had no idea that I would end up writing the story of the miners and their fight for justice against the redcoats who tormented them with their licence hunts.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few months after our return and finding the original convict records were online, I had a snapshot of life in the 1820s and knew how the story should begin.

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Blog Tours

Last time I did a launch (which was only in April 2017), I had hardly heard of Blog Tours. My two co-conspirators in the launch and I, thought we were at the height of cutting edge marketing by hosting a Facebook Launch Party – which was great fun, but it didn’t get us much coverage. A blog tour, on the other hand, spreads the word far and wide and if the bloggers blog tourlike your book (a big if), you get to keep that review for future use. I am hoping to get between 5 and 21 bloggers reading and reviewing Sadie’s Wars for the first week in December alone. And now I hear there are  only 7 places left. Does that mean 14 readers have already taken up the offer? The nerves are already churning in my stomach.

In the same week, which is just after our official launch on Dec 1st in St Paul’s Centre, Worthing, I am Author of the Week with CHINDI. This means I get to do a different kind of blog tour with fellow authors. I may get interviewed by them or write my own posts on various subjects. Here are some of my proposed topics:

a) chatting about historical fiction research
b) choosing my family history to write about;
c) interviewing a character from my book;
d) how you overcome the trials of writing a story based in a far-away land;
e) using senses to describe a completely different environment;
f) discovering the fauna and flora of Australia.
I need two or three more ideas so I can get cracking. Any ideas?

Some excellent news – I have had my best ever month of sales and there’s still 5 days to go.

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Finishing Touches

I am waiting for the (and here I keep my fingers crossed) for the final edit to the paperback cover for Sadie’s Wars. It has been a bit of a marathon trying to get it right. I used a lovely lady I found on Fiverr for the cover. Unfortunately Ingram Spark first didn’t like the colour format she was using and then the trim size. It’s like a yoyo, back and forwards, a few pounds extra each time, so it may not turn out to be such a bargain as I had hoped. Heyho! You live and learn. It also doesn’t help that I can’t pick up the phone to her. Coming Soon

At least it has given me a few more days for final edits, but I will not be unhappy to say a final farewell to Sadie. Let her go, let her fly.

This weekend I have taken the plunge to book a blog tour – between 5 and 21 reviewers will get my book and then blog & tweet their reviews. Gulp! I hope they like it. That’s going to take place in December – just after the official launch at St Paul’s in Worthing on Dec 1st. Yes, I know the book is coming out on September 29th, but two other author friends are launching with me on the same day. We can make a splash before Christmas.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some exciting news is that I have booked to attend the next Female Convicts Research Group Seminar in Hobart. Beautiful Hobart. This time it is not in Sandy Bay but at the Orphan School. I am sure theArundelre will be so much atmosphere in its 1820s austere buildings. Will I find a story there? There must be so many tales of woe within its walls.

It’s Arundel Festival time so I’ll be helping to man the CHINDI stall on two mornings. Let’s hope we sell lots of books to raise funds for Cancer Research. Last year we made several hundred and we have more authors’ books there this time.

I was talking to a friend last week who is writing a book and hoping to publish it. She was asking for advice. Now she is a very bright lady but she was astounded at the new skills she would have to learn, not only to finish her book and then to market it. Before you embark on it, I told her, realise it is a full-time occupation. It’s lucky I enjoy it; I wonder if she will.

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July Update

I have been quiet for a while, but July was hectic. For the first time I took part in the Chichester Festival with Chindi Authors. Of the several activities organised by Chindi, I took part in ’20 Websites for Authors’ – it was great fun and received good feedback. Then we had a day selling books at the Graylingwell Fair. This took place on the day of England’s match with Sweden. Last year they had 4000 visitors but that was down considerably this year. That must be so disappointing for the organisers. However, I met some lovely people and sold several books. One of our authors, and my editor for Sadie’s Wars, J L Dean, is pictured here with the Mayor of Chichester.Graylingwell

Then came the Littlehampton Festival of Arts (LOCA) for which I organised four events. Two were workshops on publishing, one a quiz at a local pub where we raised £200 for a local foodbank. The fourth was a ghost tour of Littlehampton. What a great time we had. All successful events, thanks to my team of fellow authors and the landlady of the Dolphin Hotel, who was an absolute star. It’s been so successful that we sold out of our ghost book and we are rerunning the tour on August 14th. Ghost tour 3

If all that weren’t enough, I was trying to beat a deadline. Ingram Spark had an offer to upload a new book free before July 31st, so I needed my cover for Sadie’s Wars and to get the book paperback ready. My grandchildren arrived in the middle of this. When you are an indie author, you try to keep costs down, so saving $49 is a big deal. It involved getting up at 4.00 in the morning on July 30th but I did it. The book is still being proofed and I have time to do that now. But publication date for Sadie’s Wars is September 29th, two days before we set off for Australia. I’m going to take it with me. Maybe I will sell a few.

Tomorrow, another hot day, Chindi authors are at the Maze Garden in Siddlesham. The Maze Garden is open only one day a year for charity. We have a stall and are each offering a free book for the prize draw. Wish me luck, I hope to sell a few books.Maze


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Next on the to do list

The blurb for Sadie’s Wars is done, so now on to the cover. A local guy had offered, but he hasn’t got back in touch with me after chasing, so I began to look at fiverr – I’m amazed to see so many talented people offering their services. There are 3000 to chose from, and several with good feedback.

I had an image of a young woman in mind for the cover, and I blogged about her a couple of weeks ago. However, I have had to reject that idea. I did a reverse google search on her and found that she was a famous Edwardian actress called Lily Elsie. She was the most photographed beauty of the day and several of her portraits are in the National Portrait Gallery. I enquired about the cost of using one on my book cover and found it was £249 – way too much for me.

All this put me in a time-wasting spin. I was recommended depositphotos    – there was bound to be a photo there that would suit. What a dispiriting afternoon I spent yesterday, searching 1920s women, flappers, vulnerable women, women in furs. It seems women are either cartoons or vamps. Please note, you cannot stick a vaguely era appropriate dress on a woman and ask her to pose provocatively, and expect to get anything remotely authentic.

I had a brainwave – or maybe I should come clean and say it was a simultaneous idea for both my husband and I. We own a photograph of the right era with a woman in fur. She looks too haJane Timms1ppy, but it could work, if I could find the right background. Yet more hours trawling through images of Australia and trying to imagine how they would work together.

At the same time as this I am trying to consider what this image says about the book and after another day of musing, I have come to the conclusion, not much.

My new idea is to through all this out of the window and try to combine references to war, women and Australia. I see a curtain of feathery, yellow wattle blossom, a small table containing an RAF hat, an Australian slouch hat with a string of pearls in between.

What do you think? Any ideas gratefully considered.


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