A Real Life Hero


I know a hero when I see one. I write heroes. It’s not often one gets a real life hero placed before your eyes.

Friday night, it’s a sudden death final of the Rugby League in the Allianz Football Stadium in Sydney. The Roosters take on the Cowboys. That’s Eastern Suburbs up against the North Queensland team.

Eastern Suburbs are red white and blue. They’re kind of blonde and don’t get dirty. They also won the Premiership last year.

North Queensland – and no one ever calls them that – I honestly have never worked out what their colours are, a bit of white a bit of blue and some yellow. Their captain is Jonathon Thurston. Jonathon won the Dally M medal in 2005 and 2007 and I believe is standing strong in his points for this year. The Dalley M medal is awarded to the best and fairest player for the year. This is based on the accumulation of points given to the best three players after each game awarded by sports commentators through the year.

Dalley M stands for Dalley Messenger, one of our first Rugby Union players to be signed to the fledgling Rugby League team in 1907 which pretty well saw the establishment of the Rugby League. The Union were so upset that his quite remarkable records were struck off for 100 years before being reset.

Back to Friday night. The Roosters run on and in a convincingly efficient and stellar manner run up 30 points. The cowboys looked disorganised and ineffective. But before half time Cowboys are in with their first try. Fast forward to the last ten minutes. The cowboys have equalled the score to 30 all. By this time the game is a gladiator battle, the two sides throwing everything they have at each other. Flesh slamming against flesh. I haven’t seen anything like it since the NSW won their first match against Queensland in the first State of Origin match this year which resulted in a NSW win – after eight years. They are all exhausted and showing the strain but neither are giving up. Thurston is brilliant, getting the ball out in all directions. In the next five minutes the ball goes up and down the field. Finally Roosters kick the ball over the posts for a single point – all that is needed for a win. Then in the last minute of the game the ball is passed down the Cowboys line – it skips over a player and bounces in front of Jonathon Thurston who picks it up and hares for the line to score an incredible try. Roosters can only watch in dismay. Thirty seconds to go.

But the try is disallowed. A knock on is ruled before it reached Thurston.

And this has happened before to the Cowboys. Last year in a final and the year before that in a final.

The cowboys are gutted. The game and their hopes for this year dashed. Jonathon Thurston, totally physically and emotionally wrung out, is interviewed and resolutely refuses to blame anyone or attack the referee. Later, both he and the coach say only that the Cowboys failed when they let the Roosters get 30 points ahead in the first place.

Dalley Messinger, well known for his sportsmanship, introduced money into the game of football. Over a hundred years later, although money is huge in the game, brilliance on the field and sportsmanship are still a big part of the game we love and know as Rugby League.

To all those guys out there who wish to be the kind of footballer Jonathon Thurston is, will end up a legend. To those of you who wish to be the kind of man Jonathon Thurston is – will be a winner.

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‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’


I am having so much fun with these interviews. There’s nothing like getting a writer to answer questions – in writing.

Today I welcome Christine Stinson, author of Getting Even With Fran and It Takes A Village to my website to talk writing and gardening with me. Getting Even With Fran is about a reunion of school friends and I had to keep pinching myself and looking over my shoulder to reassure myself it wasn’t anyone I knew. But ‘It Takes a Village’ stole my heart. A little girl growing up in the fifties. We need more of this period recorded. Already it is slipping away.

DSC_0140                                                        VILLAGE_front1


Hi Christine,

1 What do you like, starting with a seed, a seedling or an advanced mature tree?

I like all three when it comes to gardening. With writing, each book has started with a seed, although I generally think a lot and jot down copious notes about that little seed before I start writing. So I suppose it’s leaning towards a sapling by then!

2. When you create a path is it a mystery tour, or a definite plan to get from A to B?

It’s always a definite plan. I need to know how the book will end: it gives me something to aim for from the opening chapter. Although the ending has a habit of changing on me while I’m writing, or at least moving around a little bit/

3. When it’s time to prune do you get out the secateurs or the chain saw?

I’ve been known to break out both! I’m lucky enough to belong to a critique group (we meet once a month to workshop the scenes we think aren’t working) and it’s a great way to pinpoint what needs a re-shaping with secateurs or would benefit from more drastic treatment. We were all readers first and it’s amazing what eight sets of fresh eyes can pick up, things you as the writer are too close to see.

4. How easy is it for you to let people loose in your garden to weed and plant – even to dig holes where you tell them?

I trust the girls in my critique group so it’s not hard to ‘let them loose’ on my work. That doesn’t mean I always agree with them, or even that they agree with each other! But the ‘lively discussions’ (nice euphemism for disagreements!) are the ones where I usually learn the most. Working with publishing editors is different again, but in a way, it’s easier – editors are there to help polish your book and make it shine, so what’s not to like?!

5. Can you layer?

I can. It’s the part I like most, because it means the story’s already down and the pressure is off.

6 Would you rather put a plant in a pot, or in the garden, or out in the paddock?

I don’t think I have a preference, just wherever the particular plant looks best. I suppose the trick is knowing where that is, and being prepared to change things if and when you’re wrong. To break out the shovels rather than secateurs or chain saws!

7. What stage would you say your newest work is at – in gardening terms?

‘Nothing like Mozart’, the story of a world famous conductor who comes home to face a different kind of music, is ready to be layered.

8. Do you have a favourite, flower, leaf or tree?

Any flower with a scent. I love stocks, hyacinths, freesias, roses, gardenias. Obviously I don’t suffer from hayfever…

Thank you so much Christine for joining us today.

Thank you for having me, Jane, I’ve enjoyed it!

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WhatGoesOnTourCover                                              HeadShot


From Little Things Big Things Grow’

I have just had the best time at the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. You meet authors and publishers and wonderful people who talk about how to write. This year our guest was Cherry Adair who entertained us greatly over the weekend. I am going to invite some friends of mine to join me on my website to answer a few questions about gardening.

Today I welcome Claire Boston , author of What Goes on Tour, to my website to talk writing and gardening with me. I read ‘What Goes on Tour’ all the way home in the train.  It’s a great read.


Hi Claire,

1 What do you like starting with a seed, a seedling or an advanced mature tree?

I like to have at least a seedling before I start to write. If it’s only a seed, then I’ll sit down and nurture it until I know more about my characters and I’m sure the seed is strong enough to make it to the mature tree stage.

2 When you create a path is it a mystery tour, or a definite plan to get from A to B?

I’m a big fan of mystery tours! Usually I’ll have an idea of what happens in the first couple of chapters and start writing until I get stuck. Then I’ll stop, brainstorm some more until I know what happens next and keep writing.

Occasionally, when I’m really lucky, the story just flows and I have trouble making sure my fingers can keep up with my thoughts.

3 When it’s time to prune do you get out the secateurs or the chain saw?

LOL. It depends on how bad the problem is! I’m not afraid of whipping out the chain saw and cutting chapters, although the more experience I have writing, the less likely it is I have to do this. Usually it’s a light prune, sometimes a heavy one, depending on how easy the story was to write.

In the garden I can be dangerous with a pair of secateurs! When I was a child, my mum asked me to prune a daisy bush a little. By the time I was finished it was no more than a bunch of sticks poking out of the ground – but it looked fabulous the next season!

4 How easy is it for you to let people loose in your garden to weed and plant – even to dig holes where you tell them?

I have a wonderful critique group and I have no problem letting them loose – that’s what they’re there for. They are so supportive, but they’ll tell me if something isn’t working right and that’s what I need.

When the manuscript is finished, it’s a lot harder. I usually get my husband to read the whole thing first and then I send it out. I find the moment I hit the send button is when the doubt hits me. Maybe it wasn’t quite right, maybe I should have developed that section further, maybe there’s not enough emotion etc. I’ve recently submitted the sequel to What Goes on Tour to my publisher, Momentum, and then attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference. There were certain craft ideas that I learned there, or were reinforced, and now I’m thinking, maybe the manuscript needs a bit more work.

I think doubt will always be part of a writer’s life, but the positive reviews are always a balm to that doubt.

5 Can you layer?

I always try to but I think the reader is probably the better judge of whether I do it well. In writing it’s not as easy as in the garden. I live quite close to the ocean and the soil is basically sand. Each year I add mulch or manure or compost to the garden to layer in the good nutrients and to build up the soil quality. It can be hard work, but relatively easy.

When writing it can be a little bit harder. Sometimes, when I’m really lucky, I realise my sub-conscious has done the layering for me and some offhand remark in chapter two becomes really significant in chapter ten. Other times I’ll edit the manuscript with an eye for layering.

I went to a great workshop by Rachel Bailey at the conference which talked about layering, and I’m keen to try some of her suggestions in my next manuscript. I think that’s the thing with writing – you’re constantly learning.

6 Would you rather put a plant in a pot, or in the garden, or out in the paddock?

It depends on the plant. There are certain stories that will appeal to a smaller market and I would concentrate on that market. However my aim is to become a full-time writer and to do that I need to have a global reach. I’m not sure whether that makes me a garden or paddock person! My experience of paddocks is, they are full of the same thing; wheat, barley, sheep etc. I much prefer gardens with their diversity of colour, texture, plant and animal life.

7 What stage would you say your newest work is at – in gardening terms?

The seed is planted but the green tip hasn’t quite broken the surface yet. I got really excited and wrote the first chapter because I knew what happened, but now I’ve taken a step back and I’m going to flesh out the characters some more, try to do a little bit more plotting. I learned some new techniques at the Romance Writers of Australia conference and I’d like to have a play and see if they work for me. My writing technique isn’t locked down yet so I’m willing to experiment with alternative ideas.

8 Do you have a favourite, flower, leaf or tree?

In the garden, my favourite flower is the gerbera. I love the bright, cheerful, colourful petals. In the writing world, my favourite author is Nora Roberts, but my most recent favourite book is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson.

Thank you so much Claire, for joining us today.

Thank you so much for having me.

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From Little Things Big Things Grow



I went for a wander today and realised the dead of winter is not dead at all. There is flowering yellow jasmine along the drive, camellias, brave jonquils sticking their heads up and my beautiful japonica that you pick when in bud and will last for weeks in a vase,  getting more spectacular every day.

Gardening has been a huge part of my life. And I can assure you I began with a zero knowledge.

Gardening, in the country, is both rewarding and challenging on so many different levels. There is the green finger sorcery that gets the plant up and running. I must say, I fall a little short in this department. There are so many pitfalls, tail-wagging dogs enthusiastically digging up your newly planted petunias, voracious snails on their nightly forays, kids and their footballs, cockatoos and their random destruction. My worst nightmare was the plague of grasshoppers that arrived and didn’t leave until they had demolished every leaf in the garden. Every blade of grass – they even had a go at the green curtains.

Not to mention rain, too much rain, not enough rain, wind, snow – now that really does leave behind a swathe of destruction.


Rural gardens depend on water from dams. So you need a pump that works. Or you have a tank – that has a tendency to run out of water when you need it most. Fertiliser comes from under the shearing shed with a whole heap of back breaking work. Shade and protection are simply not there in a young garden. Then there’s every plant disease and insect known to man and then some – I’m sure I’ve discovered some newbies. Now you wonder why we do it?


Before making your way through all that, though, there is the landscaping vision of what to put where. Try to imagine a stick in the ground reaching twenty metres up into the sky and twenty metres around. Actually that is impossible. Making beds and putting in steps and making rooms and paths and walls – now that I really do love.

Edna Walling is an early twentieth century gardener and a bit like a patron saint for gardeners. ‘Describing one of her gardens – there are glorious formal expanses with a distinctive poetic style, wild and undulating areas with interesting pathways, tempting gateways and dark mysterious pools.’

I think she’s like Emily Bronte. She created so much passion in the sprawling wonder of her gardens much like Bronte’s melding of Catherine and Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights. Don’t be afraid of opposites attracting. She was quite extraordinary. She built cottages. She advocated layering, structure, pruning and shifting. Giving the garden it’s head. Letting things fall onto paths and sweep round corners. So many of these words apply to writing. Did you know that layering is recognised as an important feature of writing?

Writing is so like gardening for me. I let things fall and take root, I feed and water my ideas, my characters, I try to layer my story. Sometimes I have to transplant and I definitely have to prune heavily. But to watch blossom unfolding and a tree, or my story, growing strong , taking root, is simply wonderful.


Lilac buds getting ready for spring

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Interviews and reviews

A few interviews and reviews have been popping up. If you’re interested

Triplets one week old

The triplets one week old today.

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We’re Lambing




Clever girl!


Just a helping hand to get them started.

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It’s Out

A Dream of Something More is released today.  Jodi MacAlister quotes Catherine Roach. Romance is essentially summed up with the word ‘love’ as a verb. I can’t get this out of my head.  It is screaming at me  -this is what it’s all about. Love as a noun is passive (I don’t mean that grammatically this is not anything to do with grammar). ‘Love’ as a verb is everything that is important in life. Its the finding, the losing, the anguish, the passion, the dying and the rebirth. Its the adventure and the courtship and making mistakes, and persevering.
And that’s my aim.

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One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received since I began writing was ‘ get the worst possible thing you can do to your heroine and throw it at her.’

For Robbie it was Nick. Without a doubt. What are you going to do with him? I said to her. Go on, try to keep to your rule book now. Your plans for the future that you’ve set in concrete. What are you going to trade for a year with Nick – Happiness for the rest of your life? She did try – but he refused to fit in the mould she’d set for him. He encouraged her to grow. Try new things. He was there for her, like the proverbial rock.

It was up to him to crumble her defences. One by one. And you have to realise he wasn’t there in Sydney, looking for a lifelong mate. He had plans too.

In Romance they say you have to create the alpha male hero. I first heard the term when I went to a romance writing course run by Lillian Darcy. That was a mind blowing, world changing day. You can’t deny there is structure in romance writing but it’s fun to challenge your characters. If you think about it, most really good heroes push the boundaries in some way. Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, really is a stuck up prude, isn’t he? Although I’m having difficulty separating him from Colin these days.

The hero had to be strong and big and powerful and rich.

So there was Nick, god’s gift to women, created to cause havoc in Robbie’s life.

I had no idea then, how a character grows and develops as you go along. Yes, Nick of the golden curls and blue, blue eyes was unbelievably good looking, but he didn’t know it. It had caused him some problems in the misspent days of his youth, and honestly, he could do without it. It meant nothing to him.

He was a rower, so yes he was strong, but that was his passion, and staying fit and strong was a job that he worked very hard at. And his aim – to get into the NSW eight got him out of bed at five every morning.

Rich. Yes he was well off, but he was enjoying his time in Sydney, where no one knew who he was. You’d have to say Newcastle was a fair bit bigger than Farrow but he was well known there all the same.  And, just between you and me, Nick rather enjoyed the fact that Robbie didn’t know anything about him or his family.

That leaves me with powerful. Nick’s power came from understanding himself and being happy in his own skin.

So, much to my surprise, I ended up with Nick, who everyone adores. Guys want to be him, girls love him.

– You lucky thing, Robbie.

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The Reveal


                                                        0214 HCSecrets_Final (1)

For those of you who have fantasized about what Robbie looked like from the front. Here she is.  I love the new cover.

A Dream of Something More is soon to be an e book.I was thrilled when Momentum wanted to re release it.  Robbie was my first hero.  I love her to death but boy, how does she get everything so wrong. An affair – why not, but she thinks if she writes out a rule book and everyone  sticks to it  – they will both walk away at the end of the year and no one’s going to get hurt. I did try to tell her.

And who could predict Nick coming to live upstairs.

I think everyone has to take something for themselves, a little time, an opportunity that suddenly presents itself, a

piece of a dream.  Robbie does, eventually, but it has consequences, as does everything you decide to do.

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Why Romance




I love reading romance. I believe in the strength of the romance genre. But I’m going to start with the word genre. Genre is a promise to deliver, to you the reader, a type of literature, so we know simply by the label what we are going to get. So what are we going to get in the romance genre? An interesting heroine, a fantastic hero, a story that has you turning the pages and a happy ending.

Now here’s the mystery? Why is the biggest selling genre in the publishing industry  totally ignored by the Sydney Writers Festival? If anyone else tells me that Fifty Shades is so badly written….I ask them how can a book where people continue to turn the pages – and there are a lot of pages – be badly written?

A lot of people read romance and I put it all down to pleasure. We recognise a chocolate when we see it. The shape, the colour, may change from chocolate to chocolate but boy do we know the taste. No chocolates disappoint, some are just better than others.

I came on to reading Mills and Boon late in life. My fortieth birthday I was given my first Mills and Boon. I’d finished it before I slept that night and I was hooked. I went to my second hand bookshop and started with the old, old Mills and Boon – they were the cheapest – and made my way, through the ages, to the modern day books. I read and devoured them.

Now that was fascinating. It was like documenting the establishment of the feminine movement. The characters reflected the women of their day and how they changed to modern times!

I’m not the only one. In 1991, Jennifer Cruisie, an American writer, was teaching literature when she decided to challenge herself and research the difference between how women write and men write. Her plan – to read one hundred romance novels and one hundred adventure books written by men. She never got on to the men’s novels, she fell in love with the romance genre then and there and started writing her first book before she’d even finished the first hundred romance. She’s gone on to write over fifteen novels. Apart from loving her books I really love that story.

So I believe a Romance novel is a promise to you of the chocolate satisfaction, an intense pleasure. One that you want repeated. They don’t disappoint, some are just better than others. They deliver.


I couldn’t resist putting in this picture of Frisco, our ram lamb, who won his class. And guess who got Supreme Corriedale? Elsworth and Abbey was Champion Woolly Ewe.  We were very pleased with our sheep.

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