Where does time go? Just the other day I was getting ready for Christmas, and now it’s February. Eeek! Needless to say, I’m running behind. I have a backlog of blogs to write and share with you, so I had best find my muse and get cracking. Usually I start the year evaluating last year’s progress, but I’m not going to hold myself accountable anymore. I haven’t even made any resolutions for this year, because I never stick to them. I have decided however, to just go with the flow and take away the pressures I place on myself.

So, my festive season was guilt free. I spent quality time with family and friends, went to the beach, read some books from my never ending to-be-read list, bought a few art books and supplies (something I’ve always wanted to try my hand at) pottered around my veggie garden, and I’ve had the best fun raising my new chickens – I have to say, there’s something wonderful about watching things grow. It makes my heart happy. I’ll leave these topics for a future blog post.

While I haven’t done a whole lot of writing, I’ve spent time thinking, planning and researching my new apocalyptic ‘new adult’ story. But before I start penning ‘I, Mother Earth’ I must write parts two to four of my History, Mystery and Magic writing retreat. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading part one.



After having spent the mornings with Kate Forsyth and the group, discovering the art and craft of writing novels that draw upon all the magic and mystery of the past, our afternoons were at leisure to relax, eat, drink, write or read . . . or on alternative afternoons, there were four optional literary tours with a duration of approximately four hours each, where we had our own personal tour guide to explore some of Britain’s beautiful and literary landscapes.

OXFORD – Our first tour began in Southern England, in the county town of Oxfordshire. It’s the 52nd largest city in the UK. Here in the famous ‘city of dreaming spires’ we followed the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, and Lewis Carroll; with links to The Golden Compass, Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia.

CHRIST CHURCH was our first stop. This amazing landmark is one of the largest, and the most famous colleges in the University of Oxford. It is also the only church in the world to be both a cathedral and a college chapel, and it maintains a long association with children’s literature.


We walked through the Memorial Garden Gate and along the Broad Walk to the Meadow Gate main entrance; then into the Venetian style, Meadow Building, and the Cloisters, before reaching the famous Staircase.

The Cloister

The Cloisters

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The 16th century staircase which led up to the Great Hall was inspiration for the moving staircase in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It was also where Professor McGonagall welcomed Harry and his classmates to Hogwarts for the first time (Yes, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan)

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The Great Hall was magnificent, and very crowded with tourists on the day. This is the centre of college life; the academic community dines here each day, and on special occasions banquets and tea parties are held here. Its ‘hammerbeam’ ceiling inspired the appearance of Hogwart’s Hall and was recreated in a studio for filming.  

One of many Stained Glass Windows

One of many vibrant ‘Stained Glass’ windows

Tom Tower

Tom Tower

Tom Quad

Tom Quad


Here we are looking through the Cathedral Garden door that leads to the Dean’s Garden. Did you see the *white rabbit* disappear through that little door? (that’s the ‘rabbit hole’ portal to Wonderland) Oh, what inspiration for Lewis Carroll.

Inside Church Cathedral

Inside Christ Church Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

The Chancel Vault – Christ Church Cathedral

. . . And then we walked around Oxford and viewed some amazing landmarks.

Looking back at Christ Church Cathedral

Looking back at Christ Church Cathedral

And the time is?

What is Oxford time?

Lamp Post was inspiration for Narnia

The Lamp Post was inspiration for Narnia

The Bodleian Library/Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera – The Bodleian Library was used for The Golden Compass and three of the Harry Potter films.

New Oxford Lane

New Oxford Lane

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

Divinity School

The Divinity School was used for Hogwart’s Infirmary

Sheldonian Theatre

Sheldonian Theatre

Museum of the History of Science

Museum of the History of Science

Alice's Shop

Alice’s Shop which appears in Alice through the Looking Glass

Oxford is indeed a treasure trove of literary excitement. It is rich in history, and is architecturally stunning. If you plan to visit, do allow yourself as much time as you possibly can to absorb this truly fascinating place.


Do stay tuned for Part 2: The Literary Tour – Stratford upon Avon.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 930 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Festive Greetings

Well folks, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and it’s a special day for me because I get to celebrate my birthday. You must forgive me though, for I did have good intentions of finishing Part 2 of my Oxford Literary Tour before Christmas, but time has slipped away from me . . . as it does. Therefore, I shall attempt to blog more regularly in the New Year.

So for now, thank you for sharing my journey. Here’s wishing everyone a happy festive season, and all the very best for the New Year.

Carol. xx

Life has kept me busy since returning home from Europe in October, hence my brief hiatus. However, It feels good to be writing again, and I’m delighted to be reconnecting with my readers to reveal one of the many highlights of my fabulous trip ~ the absolutely amazing ‘History, Mystery and Magic’ writing retreat.

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Back in early September, I had the pleasure of joining eleven other writers in the beautiful village of Broadway in the Cotswolds, England, where we were tucked away in this historic 16th Century ‘Lygon Arms’ hotel for three hours every morning for a whole week, learning the craft of writing: Discovering our stories, our voice, the importance of research, a place for story, narrative building blocks, dangerous writing, the writer’s life, plus a whole lot more.


During that week, we had a visit from three local authors who talked at length about their books and writing journeys. Also, we had a literary dinner at the gorgeous 13th Century Buckland Manor with Perth author, Juliet Marillier, who shared her invaluable writing  experience and knowledge with the group.

This was the most expensive retreat I’ve undertaken to date. Truthfully though, it was the most enlightening in terms of understanding everything I needed to know to develop my novel. This one was like a light bulb moment – when everything came together. I have the lovely Kate Forsyth to thank for her fabulous teachings. She’s very passionate about the writing craft, and kindly takes everybody under her wing. She inspired me to find my story, and to be brave enough to tell it.


Here’s our lovely group (minus two) at our final farewell dinner. It was fabulous to have made so many new friends who share the same passion, but sad to have had to say goodbye. We will however, continue to keep in touch via our Facebook group.

Do stay tuned for Part 1: The Literary Tour – Oxford. 

In just under a week I’ll be heading to Europe for a two 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.

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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.” We’ll visit Christ Church, and pass many iconic landmarks. We’ll also visit Stratford upon Avon, Warwick, and the Cotswolds. 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.


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