Monday, 6 November 2017


I guess my love of history and detail is to blame, but when it comes to researching for a new book, I tend to get carried away. I make copious notes - many of which I never use - and bore DH with all the fascinating facts that I learn about a new place or time in history. When it came time to research my latest book, I discovered an interesting fact: it's quite different researching and imaging a scene in a place in which you have never lived and know pretty much zilch about than it is about a town or area that you know well.

My Distant Land series was set in an area I knew intimately. Intimately for a twentieth century story. Except my books were set over one hundred and fifty years earlier. So I had to do research. What I discovered when I started to delve into the history was that I had more knowledge than I realised. I had already learnt much about that earlier time period just from growing up in the area, absorbing facts and figures about the early settlers, their way of life, etc.

Family stories from grandparents and others also contributed to the bigger picture if they lived in the area. And if you have a grandparent or two particularly proud of their relationship to the earliest of settlers and their impact on the area, well, your research is more about verifying facts than searching them out.

But when deciding to write about a place you have never lived in, you quickly learn that you don't know what you don't know. Knowledge that is common to every child who attended school in that place - in fact in that country - is new to you. You struggle to acquire the common knowledge, not realising that what you think is "delving deeper" is still just scratching the surface.

When I began my research into early Wellington, I would share facts with DH and he'd look at me as if I had two heads.

"Did you know that land around Wellington was reclaimed from the harbour?"

"Yes," followed by that look that says, "Everyone knows that," and then evidence that he knew far more than me: an indication I needed to do even more research.

"Did you know ... ?"

"Of course."

But there were some things he didn't know.

"Did you know that Basin Reserve was once going to be the wharf?"

He looked at me as if I was insane.

"It's true. Before the 1855 earthquake it was part of the harbour."

I still didn't convince him. Not at the time. But I think I have now. And all because of a visit.

DH and I spent this past weekend in Wellington. Now, there are obvious challenges to researching mid-nineteenth century Wellington when one lives in the early twenty-first century. Wellington is not a sleepy little town that has hardly changed. Early buildings have disappeared - destroyed by fire or earthquake (common occurrences in the early days of settlement) or removed to make way for bigger and better buildings or wider roads and motorways. Some of the earlier streets have disappeared or have become narrow access ways that are difficult to find. Wellington now, sprawling around the harbour, reaching up into the hills, is a far cry from the capital city that was birthed in the eighteen hundreds.

But there was still some evidence to be found.

We walked around Basin Reserve, established in 1868, and I was able to picture what it may have looked like one hundred and fifty years ago.

We went around Oriental Bay and even though the nursery and tea room has long disappeared, I could easily imagine the view patrons were once privileged to enjoy.

We went up to Mount Victoria lookout and for the first time, could see how Basin Reserve could have once been connected to the harbour.

We tried to imagine where the harbour used to be before reclamation but it wasn't until we walked around Lambton Quay and saw the remains of Plummer's Ark underneath the BNZ building and stood outside historic Government House and learnt that prior to reclamation, the spot where we were standing would have been three to four metres underwater that we fully appreciated the hectares that were added to the city.


We visited Wellington Museum and experienced what Queen's Wharf would have been like when it was first built (and where DH first realised my cold was making me feel extremely unwell as what should have taken me three hours to explore - and would have required much patience on his part - took me less than thirty minutes.)

And we stood inside St Paul's church, feeling the tangible awe, joy and wonder of over a century of worship within its timbered walls.

I pictured my characters living and breathing in these places as they once were. I gained enough of the sense of early Wellington to feel as if I could have once lived here.


Not nowadays. While I've idly thought at times that it could be a city I could live in and enjoy the arts and history it has to offer, I soon changed my mind.

Wellington is traffic and noise and people all the time. All the time.

And don't even get me started on the wind. Wellingtonians are a hardy bunch ... but I don't intend to join their ranks except as a character in one of my books.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

More Books

This past fortnight I had reason to order another fifty copies of my first book from the publisher. At the time, I still had one left. It's now gone.

I remember when I purchased the first one hundred: I was afraid I was going to have them left on my hands for ever. Since then, I've had to place several orders, yet each time I wonder if I'll be able to sell them all.

After my second book launch, my second granddaughter, then aged about three or so, asked me one day, "Do you remember when you had all those books you were trying to get rid of?" I explained that I'd written the books and that on that particular day I was signing them for people who wanted to buy them. She was unimpressed, as are all my granddaughters when I mention that I've written books.

It's very humbling.

Several months ago I finished another book but rather than get straight into editing - which is what I've done in the past - I put it aside and begun another book. In all honesty, I don't know what I'll do with the manuscript once it's edited. Perhaps that's why I didn't jump straight into editing this time.

Do I really want to publish again? All that editing and proof reading and deciding on a cover. And then there's the marketing and accounts. If I could just write and let someone else handle the other ... I think that's the dream of every modern day writer who struggles to get their work recognised.  

But if I don't publish, why do I write?

The answer is simple: I write because I can't help myself. There is satisfaction in the act of writing. Through my writing I seek to serve God and others. Writing is an act of worship ... with my writing I seek to glorify the One that created me and Who deserves all praise and glory.

So even if not another single manuscript sees the light of day, I'll still keep writing.

It's what I was created to do.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Worth A Mention

A year or so ago I had a discussion (debate?) over the phone with someone from the National Library as to whether to classify me as an Australian author or a New Zealand author. The problem arose because:

1. While Australian born I have lived here for twenty years (and I've been married to a Kiwi for thirty two years);

2. My stories include both Australian and New Zealand settings;

3. My books have been published by two publishing houses - that's right, an Australian publisher and a New Zealand publisher.

With so many things to consider it was no wonder he was stumped. In the end we decided to go with Australian.

Ellie Whyte the owner of Soul Inspirationz, had no difficulty classifying me as an Australian author, residing in New Zealand (perhaps I should have had her talk to the lovely person at the National Library?). Her recent post re New Zealand authors did, however, made a kind mention of yours truly. Even more graciously she stated that my books were "well worth mentioning". Please check out her post here.

Friday, 8 January 2016


This week my husband and I celebrated thirty two years of marriage (and survive to tell the tale), and as always at this time of year, I take some time to reflect on marriage and why I value it so highly.

Before I go any further, let's get this out of the way first. There have been times I could have cheerfully throttled my husband and made off with all his money (what little he had) but I loved my kids too much to force them to live under visiting rights. (By the way, the closest I ever came to such an act was throwing water over him when he had the audacity to sleep after one of the first arguments in our marriage. No, I'm not proud of the fact but I doubt I've learnt to handle arguments any better since then either.)

Ours has not been a happily-ever-after story. There have been ups and downs. There have been struggles. There have been years when there was never enough money to pay the bills and times when we relied solely on God to put food on the table. There have been health issues. And now there is 'the change' (the time when every husband deserves a medal). There have been babies, and children, and schooling, and graduations. And more recently the next generation of marriages and babies. There are elderly parents where we have to play a balancing act between maintaining their freedom and independence and doing what is best for their own health and/or safety. There have been times when we felt madly in love - and times when it was the vows that we made that kept us hanging on by a thread. There have been tears. And laughter. And shared memories.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

All this begs the question, why then write a book about domestic abuse? The answer is less complex than the issue. Firstly, I wanted to explore a Christian response to domestic abuse. If it sounds easy, I'm here to assure you that it's not. I was horrified (and don't mind admitting it) to learn that there were some Christian leaders who believed and actively taught that a wife must stay with a husband who was physically abusive, and furthermore, must not discuss her situation with anyone because by doing so she would be engaging in gossip.

Let me see if I understand this correctly: a woman - and most likely her children as well - were to continue to be placed in physical harm at the knowledge of her pastor and nothing would be done about it? The woman was the one in 'the wrong' for seeking help and talking about it and not the man who was the perpetrator of the abuse?

Despite what was claimed, I don't believe this was a biblical response. The Bible places a higher value on human life than that. An eye for an eye, a life for a life ... would the abuse of a woman and child really go unnoticed? And while I'm sure that abuse happened in Bible times just as it does now, we must remember that sin was just as prevalent then as it is now. Jesus spoke about the hardness of His hearers' hearts that they allowed divorce - and contrary to the Law of Moses. I find it difficult to believe that He would turn a blind eye to a wife and children suffering abuse at the hands of the one who had been given the duty to love and cherish them.

Secondly, I wanted to explore my own (rather complex) views on divorce and remarriage. I identify with Madi's struggles in this area. While being sympathetic to Madi's plight, I found I needed to remain true to my own values and beliefs - all which created tension. I handled this in a way that satisfied me, but whether it will satisfy my readers is another issue altogether!

I will admit that this was not an easy story to write. While I enjoy writing - and, yes, enjoyed writing this most of the time - I would often find myself feeling rather 'blue' afterwards (actually, that's putting it mildly). It wasn't until I was going through the final editing drafts that I made the connection and put strategies in place to protect my mental, emotional and spiritual states. I hope and pray that this story doesn't have the same effect on my readers. (So far I have not had anyone complain that they have experienced the same effects.)

While I have not personally experienced domestic abuse in my marriage, I believe that almost all of us have some painful experience in our lives that has shaped us one way or another. I wrote out of that pain when I wrote The Scent of Rain. Perhaps this is why I included so many personal details in the story - details that only family members would recognise such as Marcus not eating garlic - to keep it light-hearted.

My plan was never to write a story of darkness or despair but one of hope and redemption. I hope in some small way I succeeded.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


I love real Christmas trees. The colour, the shape, the smell. In the early years of our marriage they were not readily available (I'm still not sure that real Christmas trees can be easily gotten in Australia) so when DH found one and brought it home, my joy was complete. A false sense of humility prevents me from sharing the photo here.

Fast forward several years and a trans-Tasman move, and I was able to delight in the reality of real Christmas trees. Every year. Trees too big to fit in our room with its three metre (ten foot) ceilings. Trees that had to be positioned just so to show their 'best' side. Trees that needed watering and shed pine needles all over the carpet.

I loved them.

But my hay fever did not. And each year it seemed to get worse.

So we tried living trees. And we killed them. Or branches broke. Or the tree became root bound.

But I couldn't go back to an artificial tree. I just couldn't.

So this year DH and I (well, DH mainly but it was my idea) made a driftwood tree. We collected the driftwood during what seemed like a massive sand storm (well, DH did, I gave up after two or three trips down the beach with the sand blasting every square inch of exposed skin and the wind making my ears ache) and brought it home where we sorted it into lengths (well, I did help).

Twenty four hours later, and many frustrations, we had a tree. A bare tree.

Another twenty four hours and it was a decorated tree. By this time my role had been reduced to onlooker although I did manage to squeeze on a few baubles when DH wasn't paying attention.

I like it.

I think we should paint the wall behind it blue or green in keeping with the nautical theme and so it doesn't blend into the blah wallpaper, but I like it.

I like its bare simplicity.

Its clean lines.

The starkness of the wood.

The way each pair of branches forms a cross.

I like that in all of these things, it reminds me something other than a tree. It reminds me of a basic wooden cross, no adornment apart from the Son of God, a crown of thorns upon His head. It reminds me that at Christmas we shouldn't just remember the Babe in the manger, but the fulfilment of why He came.

And when we do, that bare, stark driftwood tree becomes a symbol not just of Christmas but of something more. And we begin to grasp the truth that Christmas is about celebrating the Saviour's birth.

And as I bake, and clean, and wrap presents, and put off writing Christmas cards, it challenges me to keep the true meaning of Christmas forever at the forefront of why we celebrate. Why we remember. Why it is such a joyous occasion.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).

Saturday, 21 November 2015


While I hate spam as much as the next person (I'm talking about the email variety not the canned ham variety that I remember from my childhood and would rather not remember at all) I was beginning to wonder why my email box was suddenly no longer flooded with spam trying to sell me products I do not desire or need (and of which weight loss pills was the most inoffensive).

Having experienced multiple daily spam that all seemed very similar, it should not have taken me as long as it did to start wondering. (Okay, my family will testify that sometimes I'm slow off the mark.)

However, that daily and often offensive email does have its advantages: it lets me know that at least the 'contact' tab on my website is working.

Not being a frequent visitor to my own website (I mean, why would I?) I was shocked to discover it was no longer up and running and the domain was up for sale.

My domain.

A few clicks and I was led to a page requesting payment - payment that I had already made. An email to the host and everything was sorted in quick time - so quick that I wondered if I'd imagined it all.

So now on my 'to do' list, is to regularly check that my website is still live. And to think I used to believe that the life of a writer was all about, well, writing. Seems I spend more time marketing, researching, checking websites, blogging, emailing, than I do actually writing!

Monday, 26 October 2015


Who could not be inspired to write when surrounded by all this?

Certainly not me!