Writing in Oxford

In just under a week I’ll be heading to Europe for a three month holiday with my lovely sister, Kate. Unlike me, she’s not a writer but she’s happy to travel to Oxford on the 7th September, along with Paula, my writerly Facebook friend, for a ‘Writing Retreat and Literary Tour’ which is being run by the Australian Writers’ Centre in association with Bookshop Travel.

The retreat takes place at the famous 16th century, Lygon Arms. It’s a traditional inn, rich in history and charm.

Paula and I will be joining best-selling author Kate Forsyth for a week in the beautiful English village of Broadway in the Cotswolds, and each morning she will teach us the art and craft of writing novels that draw upon all the magic and mystery of the past.

Our afternoons will be spent exploring Oxford, the “city of dreaming spires” and Stratford-upon-Avon. We’ll get to visit the Bodleian Library which featured in the famous Harry Potter films, and we’ll wander through some of England’s most beautiful gardens and have a drink in the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien first shared their enchanted worlds. No doubt we’ll be inspired by the romantic setting of castles and yew mazes, mysterious circles of standing stones, and haunted manor halls.

It will truly be a unique experience. We’re looking forward to being inspired and motivated, and I personally can’t wait to discover a whole new world of writing and finding the magic that’s missing in my current novel.

Do keep posted for more updates.

Meanwhile, happy writing . . .


Fleur McDonald

Last Monday I caught up with this lovely, talented author at the Gosnells Knowledge Centre in Perth. I have followed Fleur’s writing career since 2009, where she’s gone from a humble ‘Friday Pitch’ to a best-selling Rural Romance author. Having escaped from her busy farm life, her meeting with readers was well received. Fleur’s drive and determination shone through the inspiring talk she gave about her love of writing, farming life and what it’s like to chase dreams.

Following the success of Red Dust, Blue Skies, Purple Roads and Silver Clouds, Fleur has just released Crimson Dawn.


Crimson Dawn

About Crimson Dawn:

This inspirational novel celebrates strength in the face of adversity as well as the enriching power of love.

Laura Murphy will need to call on all her grit and determination to retain her beloved farm… But will her fierce self reliance close her off to the possibility of love?

Since inheriting Nambina, the property that’s been in her family for generations, Laura Murphy has worked wonders. Rather than just focus on farming she has set up a successful school teaching women the basics of managing a property – from fencing and mustering to handling the financial side of the business.

But the notoriously self-reliant Laura is lonely and still scarred by a tragedy from her past. She’s also grappling with the hostility of her nearest neighbour and former best friend, Meghan Hunter. The fact that Laura’s ex-boyfriend Josh is Meghan’s brother only makes things worse.

When a solicitor contacts Laura saying his clients may have a claim over Nambina, her entire world is turned upside down, and she has to call on all her determination to hold on to the property she’s worked so hard to build. In the process she realises she must reach out to friends and loved ones or risk losing everything.


Books by this Author:

Red Dust

Red Dust – Published: May 2009

After the tragic death of her husband in a light-plane accident, Gemma Sinclair is left with the daunting task of managing the vast outback station he’s bequeathed her. But she remains haunted by Adam’s dying words, not to mention persistent whispers that Adam’s death was not an accident.


Blue Skies

Blue Skies – Published: April 2010

An inspirational story of a young woman battling to save the family farm no matter what it takes.



Purple Roads

Purple Roads – Published: April 2012

When Anna and Matt finally buy their dream farm, their struggles aren’t quite over. First it’s patchy rain and poor crops, then Matt has an accident … and even when the heavens finally open all might yet be lost.



Silver Clouds

Silver Clouds – Published: April 2013

An enthralling rural saga about a young woman who must come to term with past mistakes and a major tragedy in order to find peace, happiness and love.




Fleur McDonald lives on a farm near Esperance in Western Australia, where she’s closely involved in the daily management of the 8000-acre station.


Special thanks to Fleur for a relaxed, inspired afternoon and another fabulous read.

What’s not to love about going to book talks and meeting your favourite authors?

Even being in a room with like-minded writers and readers, gives off a whole load of inspiration to help me complete my elusive first draft that’s been buzzing around in my head…since…like…forever.

My heart skipped a beat when I found out a multi-award winning author was coming to talk at the Kalamunda Library in Western Australia. None other than the lovely, Australian Romantic Suspense author, Helene Young.

Helene’s world is beyond amazing. She began her talk with a beautiful story about her heritage and idyllic childhood, and continued into a life that would make most people very envious of her achievements.


Here’s Helene in the cockpit of a Dash 8 aircraft. Her job as senior Check and Training Pilot with Qantaslink has her flying throughout regional Australia, which she describes as the tiniest office with the best view of the world.


Helene’s love of sailing has her living with her retired hubby and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Zeus, on Roo Bin Esque – a Lagoon 400 catamaran, moored near the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea.

Helene’s new book ‘Half Moon Bay’ has been chosen as the June Book of the Month by the Get Reading program.


Cover Blurb: 

Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home. As an international photojournalist, she’s used to violence in war zones, but she’s shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.

Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie’s sister, Nina, was shot and killed. Ellie’s been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn’t remember him…

As a storm rages and flood waters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson, the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who’s never let her down?

Myself, Helene, Author Rachael Johns & Friend

Myself, Helene, Author Rachael Johns & Friend

About Writing:

  • Helene’s a pantser. She draws from her experiences and gets the story down from start to finish.
  • Her advice to aspiring authors is to not only write what you know, but write what you’re passionate about.
  • Helene recommended the book ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynne Truss, as her trusty ‘rules of punctuation’ companion.

If you’re looking for more books by this talented author, check out Helene’s Border Watch series: Wings of Fear (formerly, Border Watch) Shattered Sky and Burning Lies.


Special thanks to Helene for a most memorable evening, and another great read.

On a recent trip to Augusta, I was delighted to combine my love of travel with my love of books – especially those written by fellow Australians.


Here at the most Southern westerly tip of Australia, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, stands a solitary sentinel known as the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. It is one of the many lighthouses, author M.L. Stedman, based her research for her debut novel The Light Between Oceans. In this beautiful, wild and windswept place, I found her novel in one of the surrounding old buildings, which boasts a somewhat small but bustling ticket and souvenir shop.


This really is a mesmerizing novel of love, loss and unbearable choices, which has been sold in 31 territories and the film rights have been snapped up by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studio.

In 2012, this book was voted ‘Best Historical Novel’ by 1.5 million voters on the Goodreads website. Stedman has also been long listed for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction – The Light Between Oceans won the Indie Book of the Year in the Debut Fiction category at the Australian Independent Bookseller’s Indie Awards.


1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world. One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads. Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they make that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds…

This is a must-read book that will touch your soul. Its well crafted prose is a credit to Stedman’s ability to weave a fine story.

Australia Day

Today is a day for celebrating everything that’s great about being Australian, and even though I’m a naturalised Australian, I’m as proud as any ‘true blue‘ Aussie. I’ve lived in this ‘lucky’ country for just over fifty years, and I’m proud to call it home.

How do I celebrate in my home state of Perth? There are many celebrations and activities on offer, however, I’d rather share the day with my family. We favour a more relaxed day, by throwing a sausage on the backyard barbie and having a few beers, whilst listening to some great Aussie music. In the evening, we’ll eat popcorn, drink Coke, and watch the movie ‘Australia’ in lieu of the fireworks. Though we know for a fact, the Annual Skyworks display along the foreshore of the Swan River will be absolutely delightful. However, for thirty minutes of entertainment, we prefer to forego the traffic jams and view the delayed telecast on the telly.


Our flag bears the stars that blaze at night
In our southern sky of blue
And that little old flag in the corner
That’s part of our heritage too,
It’s for the English, the Scots and the Irish
Who were sent to the end of the earth
The rogues and the schemers and dreamers
Who gave our Australia its birth.

And you who are shouting to change it
You don’t seem to understand
It’s the flag of our laws and language
Not the flag of a far away land
There are plenty of people who’ll tell you
How when Europe was plunged into night
The little old flag in the corner
Was their symbol of freedom and light.

It don’t mean we owe our allegiance
To a forgotten imperial dream
We’ve the stars to show where we’re going
And the old flag to show where we’ve been
It’s only an old piece of bunting
It’s only an old coloured rag
But there are thousands who died for its honour
And fell in defence of our flag.

This poem was written by an anonymous Australian about the Australian flag debate, where Advocates of change in Australia, believe that another design would be more effective in representing Australia.

Goal Setting for 2013

At the end of each year, I like to recap and set new goals for the coming year.

Now, let’s check my 2012 list and see what I’ve achieved. 

#1 – Write every day! 50/50 – I had trouble committing to any one particular novel/story idea, but I did write a copious amount of notes.         

#2 – Read a craft book and a book by a new author each month. 50/50 – I read ‘The Plot Whisperer’ by Martha Alderson and ‘Help for Writers’ by Roy Peter Clark. I finished reading three out of twelve books by a new author, ‘The House of Memories’ by Monica McInerney, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L. James and ’29’ by Adena Halpern. I began reading many more, but like writing, I flitted between books as more new releases became available.

#3 – Read more books in the ‘outback’ romance genre. PASS – I read ‘The Road Home’ by Fiona Palmer and ‘Jacaranda’ by Mandy Magro (check these out by clicking on my Book Reviews Tab)

#4 – Finish the first draft for my romance novel ‘Once Around’ by 30th June. FAIL 

#5 – Complete my ‘Year of the Novel’ course. 50/50 – I replayed the audio posts, and then did the exercises. Sadly, I didn’t get the tutor’s feedback, but I did learn a lot from this fabulous course, and I would highly recommend it.

#6 Seek out and join an active critique group. FAIL

#7 – Focus on my well-being. Eat healthier and start walking. FAIL

#8 – Think more positively in all aspects of my life, and STOP procrastinating. FAIL

#9 – Start a 2012 ‘Christmas’ Fund, ‘Holiday’ Fund and a new ‘Car’ Fund. FAIL

All in all, 2012 was not a particularly good year for my writing, business or personal life. So, after having the patience to wait for the right moment to act, I’m ready for some big changes to make 2013 shine.


My Writing & Personal GOALS for 2013

#1 – Write every day! Pick one project and work on it until completion (unless it’s not working, then file it and start another)

#2 – Find a writing buddy and/or critique group.

#3 – Complete the first draft of a short story or novella.

#4 – Alternate between reading the books I began last year, and new releases.

#5 – Send regular eLetters to my World Vision sponsored child.

#6 – Start using the online Art/Drawing class I signed up for last October.

#7 – Think more positively in all aspects of my life, and worry LESS!

#8 – Focus on my well-being. Enjoy life more. Eat healthier and walk more.

#9 – Make long awaited decisions and take action.

#10 – Place more value on time. Procrastinate less and be more productive.

#11 – Spend more time with family and friends.

#12 – Be more frugal with money and begin a *Savings* fund.

#13 – Be more grateful and practice random acts of kindness.

#14 – Get happy. Laugh more.

Now, let’s see if I can do better at achieving my goals this year.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and successful year ahead.

Merry Christmas

~ From My Home to Yours ~

~ From My Home to Yours ~

May this Christmas end the present year on a cheerful note and make way for a fresh and bright New Year.

Wishing everyone lots of love, joy and peace.

Carol x


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