Quick Update

Hey everybody… I paid an impromptu visit to Cocktail Hour and had a chat with my good bud Peyton Andy Andrews. Have a listen and find out what I’ve been up to. Cocktail Hour ProductionsIn the Stillness of Dawn cover

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Survival & Determination

The following is a huge series of photos depicting the incredible instinct of survival and determination by an Osprey.

The story begins one morning while I was whale watching from a lookout in Ballina. There were quite a few people watching the stream of Humpbacks as they made their way north to the calving grounds. I was the only one who saw the Osprey hover above the water around the rocks below.Osprey (1 of 1)-5

 

 

 

Suddenly the bird plunged into the water. And this is where the real story begins. Osprey & Drummer (1 of 67)

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It was at this point I realized he was holding onto a drummer fish by one talon.

Osprey & Drummer (30 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (31 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (32 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (33 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (38 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (37 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (36 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (35 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (34 of 67)Fighting the surf and the weight of the fish, he finally managed to land it.

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Osprey & Drummer (61 of 67)It wasn’t long before he had something else to fight… ravens.

Osprey & Drummer (62 of 67)First one, then two. With a heave, it took to the air with the ravens hot on its tail.

Osprey & Drummer (63 of 67)Osprey & Drummer (64 of 67)With a bit of effort, he finally cleared the water.

Osprey & Drummer (65 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (66 of 67) Osprey & Drummer (67 of 67)Unfortunately, I was unable to get the rest of the story in photos. Between the weight of the fish and the raven’s harassment, the Osprey dropped the fish back into the water. But he did get some satisfaction. For the next ten minutes, the Osprey chased the ravens mercilessly. He definitely had a (fish) bone to pick with them.

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Amid the Trees and Beyond

Do you ever have times when there is too much going on in your head? Where there’s too much noise or it’s crammed with thoughts, characters talking (or not, and I’m wondering what they’re waiting for)… things like that? Yeah, me too. It normally happens when the daylight is short during winter. I can be writing, watching tv or reading when it hits: the need to be outside. And not just outside my door. I need to get out-out. That’s when I increase my daily walks from the one in the morning (along the river) to another in late afternoon (on the property behind me) and sometimes one more in between. Of course Leika and Kalie don’t complain about that at all.
2015-06-11 09.02.24 But sometimes I need to go way out. Yesterday was one of those days. We took a drive on one of my most favorite routes… the one to Brooms Head, NSW. It’s about a 40 minute drive south from here, and along the way pass cane fields, a huge bat camp, thousands of acres of grazing paddocks, national rain forest, and national parks. Cattle and kangaroos are nearly everywhere, and so are the wide open spaces. Breathing room.Paddock Rainbow1

The last brumby in this area lives in the bush around Brooms Head. He’s a beautiful pinto and unfortunately, alone. The rest of the herd perished in a bush fire several years back and now he wanders the vastness by himself… although there is rumor he has sired a foal by sneaking into a nearby pasture and visiting a mare. (wink, wink)Brumby (1 of 1)-2

I hadn’t seen “Wildfire,” (the local’s name for him) for a few months. Knowing he’s getting up there in age (20 yrs or so) and the inherent dangers of living in the bush, namely poisonous snakes, I was worried. But yesterday as we drove in, I saw a flash of white. Yep, it was him, calmly sunning himself about  a quarter mile off the road. As you can imagine, I was quite relieved.Brumby (1 of 1)-3

We continued on up to the Brooms Head lookout to eat lunch and watch the ocean. White milky waves moved in against the rocks and a few gannets flew back and forth searching the water for a meal. Gannet (1 of 1)

The sun warmed, the breeze cooled and the water soothed. A perfect combination. Brooms Head-8233

Humpback whales migrate past here on their way to their northern calving grounds. I knew it was getting close to when we’d start seeing them but it’s a case of being at the right place at the right time. Much to my delight, far off on the horizon three white blows signalled the presence of a trio of whales. For several minutes we were treated to watching as they breached, slapped their tails and pectoral fins against the water, sending it high into the air before diving out out of sight. Humpback Whale  - Ballina-5731

The next stop was into the bush along the Bosche Water Hole road where the soil is a reddish brown and pocked with water puddles from recent rains, some rather large, but fortunately shallow. About two miles in, just before entering the forest, there’s a road that heads west into the short bush. This is where I got out, tightened the laces on my boots, and settled my akubra on my head. Carrying my camera I spent the next two hours traipsing that road. Huge white barked gum trees lined the forest on my right. In front of me and to my left was a huge expanse of short heath with a few wildflowers having pushed up from the hard ground.Bottlebrush (1 of 1)

As I walked, I watched to either side of the road, looking for movement and signs of wildlife. The birdlife was abundant. There were tawny-crowned honeyeaters everywhere and a pair of red-backed fairy wrens. Red-backed Fairy Wren (1 of 1)

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater (1 of 1)

When the breeze paused I was able to hear a high-pitched tinny reel… like a “tseep.” I stopped and waited, hoping the bird would show. What hopped up onto a bottlebrush shrub delighted me. It was an Emu-wren. Of course when I got home I had to find out why the name. It has to do with their tail which has only six feathers which are loose and coarse in structure, rather like the feathers of an emu.Southern Emu-wren (1 of 1)-2

The absence of kangaroos was notable and disappointing. Not a one. I love roos. I never get tired of seeing them. In one instance, while on this road, I raised my camera to take a photo of one, and when I lowered it, I discovered I was surrounded by no less than twenty grey kangaroos. But not today. Only tracks. Kangaroo track (1 of 1)

When I arrived back at the car, I had several photos, tired feet and most importantly, a clear and quiet mind. My therapy for the day was successfully completed. Cheers.

Rainbow Lorikeet (1 of 1)

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New Release!!

I’m very happy to announce that the long anticipated sequel to A Kiss Before Dawn was released today. It is now available as an ebook on Amazon and will be available on Barnes & Noble and Kobo by tomorrow. The paperback will be out in a couple of weeks.

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Meet Another of My Aussie Mates

I met Selena Silcox not long after I arrived in Australia. She friended me on FB and since then we’ve become pretty good mates. She’s definitely an Aussie you should meet.

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1. Tell us a little about yourself – Can I change this to what five words/terms would you use to describe yourself? (much easier to answer!) Cricket nut, author, opinionated, reformed accountant, goalkeeper ☺
2. What area of Australia do you live in and what’s it like there? Currently I live out in Western Queensland smack bang in the middle of mining and agriculture country, about a half-day’s drive from good coffee. It’s been dry out here since we moved (about 2 years ago now), but we’ve just recently had a heap of rain in a short period of time so the grass is looking deceptively green. It’s been keeping my wife busy with mowing, and therefore out of my hair.
3. Tell us a bit about your book… how much of it is from real life experience? The book that’s coming out in May takes quite a fair bit from my childhood. I can’t say too much yet obviously because it’s not completely finalized (it’s going through final edits and waiting for its cover to be done), but it’s set in a small town based roughly on the town my family is from, and thought I’ve changed quite a few things, the main setting is based on my grandparent’s farm where I spent a lot of my school holidays. I’ll be happy to come back closer to the release date if you’ll have me to reveal the cover and more about the book and reveal some of the secrets I’m holding back ;)

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4. Tell us a bit about your main characters… what makes them interesting or unique? When I started writing the book, my main goal was to write about young lesbian teenagers whose sexuality wasn’t the main focus. Remember those teen romances from the 1980s that were short and sweet? I wanted to use those as a basis and ‘lesbian’ them up. The two main characters in my story are polar opposites – one is a small-town girl who tells things as she sees it, and the other is a city girl with big ambition that finds herself in a small town for respite. (Again, I can’t say too much just yet! Sorry for being so cryptic).
5. What is your favorite part of the writing process? Working on the initial idea and chapter summaries – it’s the most exciting part for me. At that point, there are still enough unknowns to make the actual writing process interesting. On the flip-side, I hate the preparation for editing, especially the first and second passes. Teasing out the full story from the initial draft can sometimes be like pulling wool through the eye of a sewing needle.
6. What made you decide to write and what are your ambitions for your writing career? I started writing when I was at uni as a way to escape from the drudgery of accounting and business law. It was mostly wish-fulfillment type stuff and I never really understood structure back then. I started taking it seriously about ten years ago, and left my accounting job two years ago to pursue writing full-time. I love writing YA, and currently I’m concentrating on sweet romance YA with lesbian main characters. I want to write about teen lesbian characters whose main problems don’t centre on their sexuality. While I think it’s important that we have literature that deals with coming out and bullying and discrimination, I think it’s also important to have stories where the lesbian characters are just accepted for who they are. And the girl gets the girl in the end – my wife loves happy endings so I don’t think she’d forgive me if I didn’t write happy endings.
7. How much research did you have to do for your book? Outside of my own experience as a kid, not much except make sure my timing was right for the end of the cane crushing season and the end of school.
8. Anything in the works you can tell us about? Nothing substantial yet, but I’m working my way through two YA ideas that are wrestling for my attention. I’ll work on whichever one wins out. I’ve also started on a humorous urban fantasy novella series for adults under a pen name that I’m hoping to have completed by mid-year depending on how my next few months schedule turns out.
9. Is there anything I have not asked that you wish I had? What fuels my writing – skinny lattes and custard tarts from the local bakery/café. I go to the gym a couple times a week just so I can have those custard tarts.
10. Do you have any questions for me? What made you decide to come to our little island? Any plans to travel and see more of Australia? Australia has fascinated me since childhood. I went through a major life change and decided I’d take a chance and follow a dream. I plan on doing some extensive traveling later this year.
11. Can I come visit? ☺ Haha, always up for visitors, but all the interesting stuff ‘near’ us is hours away so I hope you like to travel.

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Gave It My Best Shot…

Hey all… one of my photos is now a finalist in the 2014 BirdSpotter Photo Contest held by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The voting is open to the public! I sure would appreciate your vote.

Here’s the link: http://feederwatch.org/birdspotter2014/#26280 that will take you directly to my photo.

Pole Dance

Pole Dance

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Bottling Her Blood’s Worth

As you know my camera is normally pointed in the direction of wildlife and landscapes. (If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see many of my photos.) Australia has been and is a photographic goldmine for me.

Little Eagle

Little Eagle

I love learning about my new environment and enjoy sharing that knowledge. However, to this date I’ve not really said anything about some of the wonderful people who I’ve met along the way. Therefore in the coming months, I’d like to introduce you to a few so you can get to know them as I have. And what better way than a guest blog. So without further ado, I’m rapt to introduce you to Mardi Alexander.

 

 

 

I met Mardi shortly after I arrived in Australia. Since then we’ve become good mates. Her debut novel, Twice Lucky, will be released by Bold Strokes Books the beginning of March.

Mardi

Mardi

Tell us a little about yourself, Mardi.

I’m the middle child of four kids, eldest girl, growing up in a single parent, super conservative environment on the coast. It took me a long time to put two and two together!

I was lucky enough to go to Uni on a scholarship, later giving up a career to help support my family, working where I could. A thousand years later, I moved to a dilapidated old farm house in a tiny highland country town, fell in love with the lifestyle and now can’t see myself anywhere else. Living on a farm is not always easy, but it has taught me some of life’s greatest lessons and provided the perfect outlet for my love of animals.

Being isolated, I also realized that if the farm were to be impacted by fire, I had no idea what to do, which terrified me, so it was then that I joined the fire brigade. After many years of training and on the job experience, fire still terrifies me, but I now know what to do if my house catches on fire – RUN!

With the drought conditions, are you worried about bush fires?

At the moment, because we have had some rain, conditions aren’t too bad, but at the beginning of every season, or when conditions are extreme, my partner will tell you, I get a tad toey, as does everyone in the country, and everyone’s vigilance goes up a notch.

I met my partner on line and we became mates. When the penny finally dropped to both of us that we had something more than friendship growing, the city girl moved states to come and live in a crappy old farm house. Now, I think she secretly loves it as much as I do, except for the leaking roof, oh yeah, and no shower, and a cooking stove from the 1930’s, and the water pump that keeps crapping out, and…

Your isolation must make it hard to have a repairman a phone call away. I reckon you ‘ve had to learn how to fix things by yourself.

It can be tricky with tradies sometimes charging the earth in ‘travelling’ costs, even though we aren’t that far out of town, but I have certainly learnt to become relatively handy and adept at fixing things.

Do you have solar power? How do you get internet service?

No, we don’t have solar power, sadly, but perhaps down the track we might look at getting it. Internet is via a USB dongle and reception is pretty good now as we have a number of towers around the zone greatly improving reception.

You clearly live in the bush… describe where and what that’s like. 

I live on a sheep farm in the New England, one thousand feet above sea level on the Great Dividing range in New South Wales. On a map, if you were to put one finger on Brisbane and the other on Sydney, then I am about half way in between. True to our New England reference, we have four very definite spectacular seasons in the year.

The air is so fresh and crisp it’s almost cutting. Clear nights reveal the full skyscrape of stars – the Milky Way stretching on forever as satellites track across the vastness and shooting stars race to a fiery end. But the best part are the storms, watching them roll in across the fields and light up the night sky up, making the landscape look like the Flanders Fields, exploding in flashes and noise.

If that sounds too dull and boring, I also live smack bang in the middle of Thunderbolt country, the local bushranger.

That sounds like heaven to me. Please explain Thunderbolt.

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt) (1835–25 May 1870) was an Australian bushranger renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island, and also for his reputation as the “gentleman bushranger” and his lengthy survival, being the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history.

He spent a lot of his years in and around the New England area. He was reported to be a bit like a modern day Robin Hood, often taking from the well to do and helping out the less fortunate members in the community such as widows and families doing it tough.

Describe your farm.

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Home Sweet Home

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It 350 acres of (at the minute!) green! Every day I marvel at the loud green colours shining out at me – less than a month ago our dams were drying up and we had fields of dirt.

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Ripley the lab, looking for Thunderbolt’s treasures

There’s a wonderful little creek running through it and a spectacular granite rock covered hilltop with small cave-like fissures running through it – kids of all ages love to climb over and through the rocks, looking for bushranger’s hidden treasure.

 

Kids young and old I suspect. Have you panned for gold in your creek?Can’t say that we have, but we are in the middle of what used to be a big gold field area, so you never know. ;-)

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New season lambs

 

800 sheep? Any other livestock?

The farm is a primarily a working sheep farm. There has been the odd cow or two over the years, but for the most part I am surrounded by large groups of natural blondes. Despite the drought this year and downsizing, we still managed to pop out 550 lambs this last season.

Sheep Yards

Sheep Yards

How many hands does it take to sheer that many sheep? Do you use dogs to herd?

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Shearing Shed

Two dogs and a ute round them up nicely. In full swing we have a three stand shed, so there are three shearers, a rouseabout, a table of wool classers and a baler, so all up about ten people will get through about fifteen hundred or so head in about 4 days if the weather is kind.

What’s a typical day like?

Ahh, that’s a tricky question. I’m not sure I have a “typical” day. The “ideal” day is very simple, get up, breakfast with my partner and the animals, some quick chores, before heading out the door and off to work and pretty much the same in reverse at home time, followed by dinner, family time and a dash of writing to round the day off.

“Ideal” days however can necessitate a large cup full of “flexibility” added to the mix depending on work, weather, my fire pager going off, or calls to rescue, collect or care for an injured animal.

So I guess in reflection, I’m not so sure that I have a “typical” day…but I can honestly say there is never a dull moment.

What a great life though!

It’s certainly a busy one, but one I enjoy. 10885216_1529465037309063_5922861974125830641_n 10378151_1509338052655095_1531308940025376034_n

 

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Tell us a bit about your book… how much of it is from real life experience?

My partner and I love our animals and are strong supporters of our local RSPCA. I have trained and worked in hospitals and of course I am a volunteer firefighter and firefighting instructor. So while I have employed small bits and pieces of creative licence in ‘Twice Lucky’, I have been fortunate enough to have had a wealth of real-life material with which to drawn on for my first book.

I’m really looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

Well the good news is, you won’t have to wait long as March is just around the corner.

Tell us a bit about your main characters… what makes them interesting or unique?

Mackenzie ‘Mac’ James is a firefighter at the local station who has been reassigned, away from the front line, to present community education and safety inspection programs. Her nickname is ‘Mouse’ – she’s confident at her job, but a quiet, shy individual.

Sarah is a doctor and in charge of the local Emergency Department. She knows where her life is at and is completely immersed in her work. She’s never had a long term girlfriend, she’s not looking for a relationship and falling in love has never been on her agenda.

Both are well established in their ways of life. So it seems only fitting that fate steps in and turns that all on it’s head.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I think I can cheerfully say, all of it. But if I had to narrow it down, I would think that it’s that small point in time, when the research and the story concept circle each other, gathering in intensity, as the plot begins to solidify and grow in my mind, and when the moment is right, it spills over and with great excitement and energy, I begin to put the words to paper, and let the magic begin. That for me is a real buzz.

You sound more like a seasoned rather than a debut author.

LOL. I can assure you, ‘Twice Lucky’ is my first ever piece of writing, so while I am excited about it, I am a bit nervous too, but having a hoot learning all sorts of stuff along the way.

What made you decide to write and what are your ambitions for your writing career?

Impending surgery was my motivator – I knew I was looking at a period of time where I needed to sit quietly while I recovered. Not being terribly good at the sitting still part, I set about looking for some hobbies I could do to keep my head busy. Of course, there was the catching up on a much neglected pile of reading, I bought a mandolin and was going to teach myself to play and I decided to have a go at writing – to see if I could sit still long enough to finish something. Even though I had never written anything before, I sent the script off to Bold Strokes Books on a dare and promptly forgot all about it, assuming it would be rejected. I got the shock of my life when they accepted the manuscript and now here we are on debut eve. Needless to say, I didn’t get much reading done and I still haven’t learnt how to play the mandolin.

My ambitions? Ideally I would love to retire and enjoy the time doing things I love, i.e. writing, reading, animals, firey stuff…but in reality, my greatest ambition is simply to keep enjoying doing it.

How much research did you have to do for your book?

Twice Lucky’ is set in Australia, Queensland – a different state to where I live and am most familiar with, so a lot of my research centred around trying to make sure that I got the references right or realistic and relevant to the states practices in both firefighting and in the health service.

Small things, things like uniforms, town and street references, and radio codes needed to be checked and qualified. There was also a slight blurring of duty roles as I had Mac the firefighter undertaking both a volunteer and a paid firefighting role.

Anything in the works you can tell us about?

I am currently working on a second book, ‘Spirit of the Dance’, which will have a heavy rural Australian flavor to it. It involves a returned soldier, a local saddler and horse trainer and a small conservative country town where life is simple, predictable, and safe. By necessity, it is also full of secrets.

Hurry up and write that one too, will ya? Sounds fascinating.

All I can say is, watch this space in 2016.

Do you have any questions for me?

Probably lots, most revolving around the best fishing spots down your way, but I’ll save them up for when we get together sometime for that illusive beer.

Rock, river or beach fishing… we have them all down here. I’ll shout you the first beer.

Consider it a deal.

One last thing…Can I come visit? :)

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Getting Monstered

Absolutely and bring the pups! If you’re lucky, I might even be able to introduce you to a very special koala who loves to cuddle, and I am guessing you would hate that…not!

… Packing!!

 

Contact details:

Mardi can be contacted at: mardialexanderO@gmail.com
Website:  http://mardialexander.wordpress.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mardi.alexander.1

 

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