Category Archives: This Writing Life

This Writing Life: Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

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Fictionally Yours Melbourne attending author graphicWowsers, what a show Fictionally Yours, Melbourne turned out to be!

This was my first Fictionally Yours event and I had an absolute ball. It was huge in so many ways. The venue at Crown Exhibition Hall couldn’t have been better, the attendees were just gorgeous – so much enthusiasm for reading! – and the organisation was super smooth. Enormous thanks and kudos to Tina and Penny and all the Fictionally Yours volunteers. You were brilliant. And I mustn’t forget my excellent assistant, fellow author DB Tait.

It was so busy that I could only take photos during the quiet times, before the doors opened or at the end of the day when the crowds were thinner and I could leave my table for a speedy nose about, so none of the photos I’m about to share do justice to how full-on the event was. There were fans wheeling suitcases and trolleys filled with books, readers who’d made their own souvenirs and autograph books for authors to sign, wonderful swag to pick up and play with, and happy, excited people everywhere.

And to top it all off, the weather was kind, I discovered a whole bunch of fab new authors and got to spend time with old buddies.

The. Best. Fun.

Here are a few snaps from my travels. Enjoy!

Me, ready to go at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne

Me, all ready to go at Fictionally Yours on Sunday.

Author Alli Sinclair at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne.

Author Alli Sinclair (left).

Fiona Archer at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne

Fiona Archer busily signing.

Fiona McArthur at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Fiona McArthur. Watch out for her Teaser Tuesday visit next week, where she’ll be showing off her new release The Desert Midwife. There might be a giveaway!

JA Collard ar Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

JA Collard.

Jennifer Ryder at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Jennifer Ryder and her assistant. Jennifer’s table was opposite mine and it was lovely to meet her. She has a gorgeous looking rural romance out called Sing It, Sam. Check it out at her website jenniferryder.com

KE Osborn at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

A smiley KE Osborn (right).

A reader's amazing book lamp at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

A reader was carrying around this amazing book lamp and getting authors to sign the pages. So cool!

Keri Arthur at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Urban fantasy author and Romance Writers of Australia Ruby finalist Keri Arthur (left). Luuurve her banner.

The raffle draw at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

With lots of great prizes, the raffle draw was understandably popular.

Kristin Mayer at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Kristin Mayer

RC Boldt at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

US author RC Boldt.

Tamara McWilliam at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Tamara McWilliam. Lovely lady!

Me and gorgeous Tess Woods at Fictionally Yours, Melbourne 2019

Me and gorgeous Tess Woods. Tess’s new release Love and Other Battles is on my want-to-read list. You should put it on yours too!

And now for a few miscellaneous piccies

Collage of photos from Star Hotel, Rutherglen

Collage of images from Star Hotel, Rutherglen, Victoria, where we stayed on the way down to Melbourne.

The Yarra River, Melbourne at night.

The Yarra River at night. Melbourne couldn’t have been more wonderful weather wise. So lucky!

Ballerina sculpture outside the Arts Centre, Melbourne.

Ballerina sculpture outside the Arts Centre. Isn’t it beautiful?

Lifts inside the stunning art deco Manchester Unity building.

Now these are what I call lifts. Inside the stunning art deco Manchester Unity building.

Melbourne coffee humour.

Melbourne coffee humour.

I hope you enjoyed this trip to Fictionally Yours, Melbourne. Make sure you stay tuned for next week’s Teaser Tuesday where there’ll be a fab guest and maybe even a giveaway!

.

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This Writing Life: Vivid Sydney 2019

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Vivid is an annual light, music and ideas festival that brightens Sydney for around three weeks each winter. Jim and I first went in 2017 and though we didn’t get to see all of it, what we did see was spectacular and left us vowing to return for the full experience. So last weekend we hopped on the Newcastle-Sydney train and did just that.

Here are some photos from the evening we spent wandering the displays. They don’t do Vivid justice, but they’ll give you an idea of how lovely these light shows can be. A lot were interactive this year, which makes things fun. Watching families dance so they can make a sculpture move or flash light was a hoot, and you only had to look at the little ones’ faces when they played with a sculpture to see how wondrous they found it.

I won’t name all the photos and sculptures because that would take forever, and I know you’d much prefer if I was working on Eddie and the Show Queen!

Vivid runs until June 15th so if you can, get to Sydney and be awed.

.

The 6 metre high Marri Dyin puppet at Barangaroo.
The 6 metre high Marri Dyin puppet at Barangaroo. It was followed around by a shoal of puppet fish. Wonderfully done.
Vivid Sydney 2019
Museum of Contemporary Art.
Museum of Contemporary Art. The ‘Let Me Down’ light show was absolutely gorgeous.
Turtles promoting Vivid at Taronga Zoo.
These turtles were amazing. We’ll have to go to Vivid at Taronga Zoo next time.
Customs House.
The Customs House ‘Under the Harbour’ light film (not sure what else to call it) was wonderful.
Customs House
More Customs House
Circular Quay
Circular Quay
Circular Quay artwork
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Opera House
Opera House forecourt artwork
Botanic Garden artwork
Botanic Garden artwork
This was the sculpture that made party lights when you danced in front of it.
Botanic Garden artwork
Loved this one. It was kind of spooky.
Botanic Garden artwork
And this.
Ferry ride on the harbour
Catching a ferry is a cheap and fun way to take in more of the displays.
Vivid 2019 - Barangaroo
Barangaroo looked so pretty. There were fish hidden in the trees.
Robot SPACELand music and light show
Robot SPACELand music and light show at Darling Harbour was a blast.
 More Robot SPACELand
More Robot SPACELand
Bright mushrooms at Cockle Bay.
This Darling Harbour display was wonderfully bright and happy-looking.

Hope you enjoyed this peek at Vivid!

See you for Teaser Tuesday next week, when we’ll have an extra special debut guest sharing a snippet from her debut rural romance. Mark your diary because it’s going to be fab!

 

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This Writing Life: ARR 19

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Last weekend I attended A Romantic Rendezvous in Sydney at the Bankstown Sports Club, where a lovely time was had by all.

There are four events in the A Romantic Rendezvous series, with Brisbane and Sydney held last weekend and Melbourne and Perth scheduled for this coming weekend (30th and 31st March). They were (and are) chockers full of authors representing every romance genre, and feature special guests like Aussie urban fantasy star Keri Arthur (who generously filled in at the last minute when Sherrilyn Kenyon had to pull out) and American historical author Celeste Bradley.

It’s always a thrill to catch up with readers, new and old. I love a good natter and what better topic to natter about than books?

I had planned to take lots of photos but got distracted, as tends to happen at these events. But here are a few piccies of the event for you to enjoy.

If you haven’t booked for this weekend in Melbourne or Perth, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ll be able to buy a ticket at the door. Visit the Australian Romance Readers Association for attending authors, venue details and times.

Me all set up and ready to go at ARR19, Sydney.
Me all set up and ready to go!
Authors Maddison Micheals, Amanda Knight and (standing) Bronwyn Parry at ARR19, Sydney.
Authors Maddison Micheals, Amanda Knight and (standing) Bronwyn Parry.
Jodi Perry, whose gorgeous book cover tablecloth I'm seriously jealous of, at ARR19, Sydney.
Jodi Perry, whose gorgeous book cover tablecloth I’m seriously jealous of!
Fellow Outback Brides author Kelly Hunter with Avril Tremayne at ARR19, Sydney.
Fellow Outback Brides author Kelly Hunter with Avril Tremayne.
Kandy Shepherd and special guest Keri Arthur at ARR19, Sydney.
Kandy Shepherd and special guest Keri Arthur.
Ann B Harrison with her gorgeous cowboys.
Ann B Harrison with her gorgeous cowboys (photo courtesy of Ann).
Penelope Janu, Amanda Knight and me at ARR 19, Sydney.
Penelope Janu, Amanda Knight and me (photo courtesy of Amanda).
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This Writing Life: Scone Literary Festival

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The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is one of my favourite places (and the setting for one of my most popular rural romances, Heart of the Valley), so I was thrilled to bits to when Scone Literary Festival invited me to appear on a panel.

Books in the heart of wine and horse country? How could I possibly say no?

The festival was held on the weekend of the 10th -12th November and the weather couldn’t have been more gorgeous. Not only the weather, but also the venue – Scone’s pretty Arts and Crafts Hall which has a lovely outside area and was the perfect place for al fresco lunching and the festival’s “Soiree in the gardens” on Saturday night.

Scone Arts and Crafts Hall

Scone Arts and Crafts Hall

The line-up of speakers was even more impressive, with broadcaster and columnist Phillip Adams, journalist and hugely popular non-fiction author Peter FitzSimons, acclaimed author Don Watson, Gold Walkley award-winning journalist Joanne McCarthy, and The Dressmaker author Rosalie Ham and the film’s producer Sue Maslin, along with many other excellent writers.

I was delighted to be on a panel with fellow author Kim Kelly, who read aloud the most beautiful piece of writing from her book Wild Chicory, and artist, photographer and author David Darcy. Check out David’s website for a look at his work. It’s amazing. Paula Stevenson did a stellar job facilitating our session, during which we discussed rural and regional stories from around Australia and how we develop our characters and settings. It was terrific fun.

The entire program was filled thought-provoking, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes funny talks and panels, and the Festival’s atmosphere hugely amiable. Bookseller Ian from Hunt A Book (how cool is that bookshop name!) was a joy, and the catering excellent (country cooking… my mouth waters just thinking those words).

If you love ideas and stories and talking books, a bucolic setting and country hospitality, then this festival is for you.

Keep an eye on the website, or the Festival’s Facebook or Twitter feed for updates about next year’s event.

Thanks to Jan Sinclair and her team for a truly memorable weekend.

Here are a few piccies for you to enjoy!

Scone’s gorgeous mare and foal statue

Scone’s gorgeous mare and foal statue. Naturally I had to pat it.

Peter FitzSimons was hugely entertaining, and his chat with Phillip Adams covered everything from his new release Burke and Wills to republicanism, to the way Australia celebrates its failures, along with many other topics in between.

Peter FitzSimons and Phillip Adams

Peter FitzSimons and Phillip Adams

As a fun interlude between sessions, the festival featured “pop-up poets” who charmed us by reading their own or other’s works.

Pop up Poet Richard (Rick) Wright.

Pop up Poet Richard (Rick) Wright.

Above is Rick Wright whose aunt was the distinguished Australian poet Judith Wright, and who is a talented poet and author himself. I was honoured and delighted when Rick gave me two of his books: Poemotion, which is filled with terrific bush-style poetry, and the beautiful hardcover Hold Fast: History, heritage and the challenges of life for a primary producer heading into the 21st Century.

Poemation and Hold Fast by Richard Wright

Poemotion and Hold Fast by Richard Wright

Hold Fast is fascinating!

I’ve had the notion to set a book in the New England area for quite some time (20+ years, in fact, from when I used the travel the area in my pasture seed selling days). Hold Fast makes me want to do it even more. It’s also a must-read for anyone interested in the agricultural history of this rich and stunning region, and with the trials and joys of rural life.

Hold Fast and Rick’s poetry books can be purchased direct from Rick via his Hold Fast website.

Don Watson and Phillip Adams

Don Watson and Phillip Adams

Don Watson in conversation with Phillip Adams was another excellent session. It was interesting to hear about his relationship with former Prime Minister Paul Keating, for whom he was speech writer, and also about growing up in Gippsland. I really need to read his book The Bush, although the book I’m most curious about is Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language.

Tom Thompson telling us about the photos in ‘To Beersheba 1917’

Tom Thompson telling us about the photos in ‘To Beersheba 1917’

October 31st marked the 100th anniversary of the Australian Light Horse Charge of Beersheba, during World War I. With perfect timing, Tom Thompson launched his new book To Beersheba 1917 at the festival. To Beersheba 1917 contains 100 previously unpublished photographs from the Haydon Family archive at ‘Bloomfield’, Blandford. Check out their website for more about this historic property and some excellent photos. It’s well worth a visit.

Guy Haydon famously rode his horse Midnight in the charge, during which poor Midnight was killed (a story in itself, and which you can discover more about on the website). The photos Tom showed were incredible. Although many were heartbreaking too.

Horsing around on the Hunt A Book bookstall.

Horsing around on the Hunt A Book bookstall. If you’re ever in Scone, drop in and say hi to Ian.

The “Soiree in the gardens” on Saturday evening was a sublime event, with music, local wine and nibbles, and Jan entertaining us with a song.

Soiree in the gardens

Soiree in the gardens

Soiree in the gardens, Scone Literary Festival 2017

Committee president Jan Sinclair singing for us.

The Dark Art of Writing Domestic Drama panel featured (L-R) Paul Mitchell (We. Are. Family.), Melissa Lucashenko (Mullumbimby – longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award) and Mel Jacob, and was facilitated by Joanne McCarthy.

The Dark Art of Writing Domestic Drama panel

The Dark Art of Writing Domestic Drama panel

I was lucky enough to enjoy a good chat with Mel whose book In Sickness, In Health and Jail:  What Happened When My Husband Unexpectedly Went to Prison for Two Years sounds a great read.

Scone's lovely The Thoroughbred hotel.

Scone’s lovely The Thoroughbred hotel.

That’s me done for the year with writing events. Which is just as well, because I’m veeeery behind with my writing and we have a big few months coming up with a relocation and a few other changes.

And, of course, the release of The Country Girl on December 18th. Can’t forget that!!

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This Writing Life: 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering

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It’s been a while since I’ve managed a This Writing Life post. The last one was back in July (yikes!) when I shared piccies from Taronga Zoo.

It’s not that I haven’t been doing things. I’ve been out and about quite a bit this year. It’s more a matter of squeezing in the time to do up the posts. My number one priority is writing books and that sometimes means that the blog must miss out.

But not this week!

In a better-late-than-never post, today I’m sharing photos from the 2017 New South Wales Rural Women’s Gathering held in Narrandera, Friday October 27th to 29th.

What a brilliant weekend.

I have fellow rural romance author Jane Carter (new release: Prodigal Daughter) to thank for my attendance at this event. Jane is a Narrandera local and suggested at the 2016 Romance Writers of Australia conference that we could present a writing workshop at the Gathering, and I jumped at the chance. I am so, so glad I did because I had a BALL.

Me and Jane Carter at our trade stall.

Me and Jane Carter at our trade stall.

The women I met and heard talk were amazing. There was Jane, of course, but also Narrandera’s newly elected local NSW Member of Parliament Steph Cooke, who gave a very funny opening speech (and gave me an excellent idea for a character). Plus Kate O’Callaghan, general manager of Southern Cotton, Dame Marie Bashir, former Narrandera local and second longest serving Governor of NSW (among other achievements).

Betina Walker of Whispering Pines Organics related her incredible and inspirational story at the gala dinner, and who you can learn more about in a video here. We were also entertained with talks from Rosalie Ham, author of The Dressmaker, and Sue Maslin, the producer of its hit film.

There was also Fran McLaughlin from Big River Herbs at Narrandera, Jane Sibley from Hilltops Honey at Young, and winemaker Belinda Morandin from Morandin Family Wines at Griffith, Jane’s friend Tracey Boschetti, and that’s just to name a few of the rural women at the event who demonstrated the success that can be achieved with a bit of grit and self-belief. Wonderful, wonderful.

Besides the keynote speeches and trade stalls, there were also plenty of workshops covering everything from getting friendly with your chainsaw, to estate planning, how to be fire wise, secrets to community engagement, flamenco, making mead, rural mental health and much, much more. The full program can be found here.

Next year’s gathering is at Merimbula, on NSW’s beautiful, southern Sapphire Coast, on 19th – 21st October. I’m marking my diary. For more info, check out the 2018 Gathering website.

Now here’s a few happy snaps from the weekend. Enjoy!

Nothing like a road trip, especially when there’s sweet things involved, and Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory hit the spot. But it was the truck artwork outside Gasworks Garage opposite that really put a smile on my face.

Gasworks Garage's cute truck and animal sculpure, Junee

Opening night of the Gathering was at the Fisheries Travelling Stock Reserve where we shared a variety of “bush food” prepared by local Wiradjuri Elder Michael Lyons, including kangaroo curry and witchetty grubs, along with lovely local wine.

Dame Marie Bashir at the 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering,

Dame Marie Bashir. Couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous evening for the opening.

Me, Jane Carter and Tracey Boschetti enjoyed some local wine.

Me, Jane Carter and Tracey Boschetti enjoyed some local wine.

Once darkness fell, we were treated to the Cad Factory’s open-air video, sound, light and textile artwork, Shadow Places. Sadly, the photos don’t do it justice, but it was certainly intriguing and a lovely way to end the evening.

One of the Shadowlands art installation.

This was an ever changing video projected on to large square haybales. Visually stunning.

A Shadowlands art installation.

This one was very Blair Witch Project. Remember the scary film from the late 90s?

Shadowlands art installation

This one was pretty but also a little alien. I kept thinking something was about to hatch from it.

Gathering 'ear tag' lanyard

Loved our Gathering lanyards made of cattle ear tags. And having the program attached proved a veeeeery handy thing!

2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Celebratory cake cutting on the Saturday of 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

gala dinner 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Gala dinner yumminess!

Rosalie Ham at the 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Rosalie Ham entertaining us with how she came to write The Dressmaker.

Table decoration, 2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

The tables at the gala dinner were cleverly decorated with a dressmaker theme. We were even given cute little pin cushions to take home.

2017 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering, Narrandera.

Raffle draw and thank yous at the dinner. Followed by dancing. Such fun!

I hope you enjoyed this small insight into the terrific event that is the NSW Rural Women’s Gathering. If you get the chance, come along to the next one in Merimbula. I promise you’ll leave it feeling truly inspired.

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This Writing Life: Taronga Zoo

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Welcome to the latest instalment in my This Writing Life adventures. I seem to be having a few this year, and looking at my calendar there are more to come with the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Brisbane next month, along with the New South Wales Rural Women’s Gathering in Narranderra at the end of October and Scone Literary Festival in November.

A few weeks ago, Jim and I booked ourselves in for a weekend in Sydney and a trip to Taronga Zoo, and what a wonderful time we had!

It had been 23 years since we first visited the zoo. We were living in Newcastle back then, and drove down especially. No driving this time. It was buses and trains and a ferry – a far more sensible and less stressful way to get around, and ferry rides are a great way to enjoy the harbour and public transport is excellent for people watching.

Ferry ride to the zoo

Catching the ferry to the zoo.

The zoo has changed quite a bit in the intervening years. There’s now a cable car to take you from the bottom to the top and give you an aerial view of some of the enclosures. There are also new habitats that must be so much better for the animals, but are brilliant for us humans too. My absolute favourite was the squirrel monkey enclosure where you can get up close and personal with the animals. Small groups are led through the enclosure by guides while the monkeys do their monkey thing, darting around feet, gobbling fruit, and climbing all over the place. It was magical!

We were also lucky enough to see a platypus swimming around its pond, which was very cool because they’re notoriously shy and hard to spot. All it took was a bit of patience, something a lot of people didn’t have. We lost count of the number of people who walked through that enclosure, took one glance, declared it empty and moved on. If they’d stayed for a few minutes and watched carefully, they’d have seen the platypus snorkelling around too. Sadly, none of our platypus photos turned out. It was a speedy little thing and the truth is we were too enchanted watching it to bother with much happy-snapping.

We did take lots of other photos. Here’s a few for you to enjoy.

Asian elephant

Male Asian elephant. His keeper was doing log rolling and other exercises with him to keep him entertained.

Giraffe

The giraffes at Taronga have a great view

Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon. Creepy things!

Snake - I think an inland taipan

I think this is an inland taipan or fierce snake, which is also the most venomous in the world. Also scarily big and not something I’d like to tread on.

Lizard resting

Snake

I wouldn’t like to tread on this one either.

Meerkats

Meerkats are cool.

Squirrel monkey

Squirrel monkey. They were adorable.

Lemurs

The lemurs were all huddled under their heat lamps, keeping warm and bonding.

Pretty duck

The mandarin ducks were stunningly coloured.

Electus parrots

Eclectus parrots. Loved how close you could get to some of the animals. This little girl could nearly touch them.

Seal talk

The seal talk was great fun.

Jumping seal

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil. We caught the last of the keeper talk and it was wonderful to learn that they’re making progress on conserving these animals after being so badly hit by Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

Royal Spoonbill

Royal Spoonbill

Sydney view

As you can see from the view, it was a cracking winter’s day for visiting the zoo.

For more information about Taronga Zoo, check out the website. Or better still, go visit!

Hmm. This makes me think we should trip out Dubbo way and visit Western Plains Zoo again. We’ve been a few times before and it’s brilliant. Maybe on the way back from Narranderra. Ooh, now there’s a plan…

 

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This Writing Life: The Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft 2017

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At long last, the much-awaited Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft photo essay is here!

This is up there with one of the best book research trips I’ve done. There’s nothing quite like heading out into the country, getting coated in dust and people watching. All excellent food for the writerly soul. I went a bit trigger-happy with the camera, taking well over 500 shots, which is why they took me a while to work through. That and the fact I’m currently madly editing CHRISSY AND THE BURROUGHS BOY. My guess is you’d much rather have a new book than a few photos, no matter how fun they are.

The Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft started over 130 years ago, and is held next to the Bowen River Hotel on (obviously) the Bowen River, north Queensland, 110 kilometres south-west of Bowen and 35 kilometres west of Collinsville. The event attracts people from all over Australia, most of whom camp at the grounds. The campdrafting competitions run over all three days with the rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, and junior bush sports on Sunday.

There’s also live entertainment and a bar operating into the night, bush poetry, stalls selling clothing, rural paraphernalia and other goodies, and plenty of country fare to keep visitors sustained. It’s dusty, sprawling, packed with drama overlaid with country music, and set in a fantastic historic location. Definitely one for your bucket lists.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m doing research at a rodeo in north Queensland in the first place? It’s for a book I’m in the throes of plotting out, the climax of which occurs at an event similar to the Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft. But the story doesn’t involve rodeo riding. It’s about something else which you’ll find aaaaall about in the future. I’ll leave you to speculate!

Except for a few photos where I felt a caption was needed to give context, I’ve left the rest to speak for themselves, otherwise it’d be endless quips like “man takes nose-dive off bull” or “drool-worthy man in hat ‘n chaps on horsey, looking sexy”, of which there seem to be many. Funny that.

Now enjoy!

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bush poetry

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Excited to be here!

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and CampdraftRiver Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Miss Rodeo Australia

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Hard to find a park at the campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Mini campdrafting for under 8 years. Too cute!

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

With a bar, food and entertainment running into the nights, pretty much everyone camped.

Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft

Sorry, Mum and Dad-in-law, we dirtied your car again.

If you’d like to find out more about the Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft and put it on your bucket list (which you should do), check out their website or Facebook Page where you’ll find plenty of info and photos.

Back to editing I go!

 

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This Writing Life: Vivid Sydney 2017

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I know you’re eagerly anticipating a This Writing Life photo essay about my trip to the Bowen River Rodeo but I went a bit click-happy while I was there, resulting in a bazillion images go through. I figure you’d much prefer me to be working on another rural romance instead of poring over photos, even if they are juicy ones of Aussie cowboys being all sexy and manly as they wrestle steers and ride bulls and gallop about and tip their hats and offer up laconic winks and make me want to… *clears throat* Sorry, got a bit drooly for a moment.

The post is coming though, I promise!

In the meantime, please enjoy these snaps from Vivid Sydney, the annual light, music and ideas festival that brightens the city for around 3 weeks each winter, which Jim and I managed to sneak a look at the night we flew back from Townsville.

We would have loved to have seen the whole thing but were too knackered from travelling to visit all the sites, and there are a LOT of them, along with night markets and other festivities. With the festival closing in a few days there was no chance of a return visit either, so we made the most of the time and energy we had and took a harbour cruise. Cold, but oh so wonderful.

I should probably have taken more photos but we’d parked ourselves on the prow and I was terrified of dropping my phone in the water, and quite honestly I couldn’t be stuffed. I wanted to experience the beauty of Vivid without whipping out my phone every two minutes.

I hope this small selection brightens you up. Vivid certainly brought Sydney harbour to life.

Vivid Sydney Circular Quay

Circular Quay and the Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Looking back at the Opera House and Bridge

Sydney Opera House

The colours on the Opera House were glorious, like the colours of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sydney Opera House

So pretty. Almost makes you wish the Opera House looked like this all the time.

Botanic Gardens Vivid 2017

The Botanic Gardens had a display of sunflowers that followed the light. So cute.

Barangaroo - Vivid Sydney 2017

Barangaroo was like opening your eyes underwater. Just beautiful.

If you’re ever in Sydney in May-June then make sure you take in Vivid. These pictures don’t do it a shred of justice – between not understanding the new settings on my phone and the wobbly boat it was hard to take decent shots. We only scratched the surface of the festival, but what we did experience was STUNNING!

 

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This Writing Life: An Outback Queensland Adventure

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Welcome to this delayed edition of This Writing Life: A. Outback Queensland Adventure. I’ve been trying to organise this post for a while but the first round of edits for THE COUNTRY GIRL landed while I was away and that meant it was straight down to business on my arrival home, with no time to spare for travelogues. Or house cleaning for that matter, but any excuse to get out of that.

Anyway, better late than never!

For those of you who missed my adventures on social media, in mid March Jim and I had to fly up to Townsville for some appointments. Because Murphy’s Law dictated that nothing matched up (actually, it was probably more our disorganisation that caused this but Murphy is so much easier to blame), we ended up with a few days to spare. This also coincided with my globe-trotting parents-in-law leaving their four-wheel-drive parked in Townsville.

Four-wheel-drive…

Queensland outback practically on the doorstep…

At a loose end…

Never look a gift horse and all that I say. So we pinched the car and hit the road.

If you ever get the chance to go driving around outback Queensland, I highly recommend you take it. As you’ll see from the following photos, we had a BALL!

To put things in perspective, this map shows where we headed to: Townsville, through Charters Towers and then out to WInton and surrounds.

Outback Queensland Map

From Townsville we headed out past Charters Towers and then down to Winton, approximately 600kms.

The drive out was fun. The humour in outback Australia can be as dry as the landscape, as demonstrated by this laugh outside of Charters Towers.

Grounded! The writing on the boat reads: Lake Wanted, Boat Grumpy. Cracks me up.

Grounded! The writing on the boat reads: Lake Wanted, Boat Grumpy. I’ve seen this a few times now and it never fails to crack me up.

There’s a tiny little town called Corfield, population 10, on the Winton to Hughenden road, which has nothing much more than a pub come shop, a couple of other buildings, and a bit of a camping ground. But each year they hold the “real” Corfield Cup, a play on Melbourne’s famous Caulfield Cup horse race, and the population swells to more than 1000.

Sounds right up my alley. One for the bucket list!

Corfield, Queensland. Home of the "real" Corfield Cup. I'd love to go to this event. One for the bucket list.

Corfield, Queensland. Home of the “real” Corfield Cup.

There’s a lot of flat country out there…

Heading to Winton. It's flat and a bit empty.

The seemingly endless mitchell grass downs that dominate the road to Winton.

Another tiny town was Prairie, population 50, and once a main horse change for Cobb and Co. coaches. The pub is a blast and a must-stop.

The Prairie Hotel, complete with horse on the roof.

The Prairie Hotel, complete with horse on the roof, saddlery draping the front rails and very friendly locals.

Inside the Prairie Hotel. A treasure trove!

Inside the Prairie Hotel. A treasure trove! There was even an old barber’s chair.

Deciding to make Winton our base and travel outwards from there, we booked a room at the North Gregory Hotel. First opening it doors in 1879, the hotel has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. This is the 4th North Gregory Hotel which opened in 1955 (and was owned by the local council!) and it’s a fantastic building.

There’s so much history in this hotel alone. It was the location of the first public performance of iconic song Waltzing Matilda in 1895. Lyndon Johnson, who would go on to become the 36th President of the United States, stayed here as a Navy Lt Commander after his plane crash landed at Carisbrooke Station in 1942. It was also where locals held secret meetings as they formed the airline Qantas.

North Gregory Hotel

Such a great looking hotel, and a gorgeous morning for adventuring.

This made me smile each time I passed. Near the location of the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda.

This made me smile each time I passed. Near the location of the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda.

Artist Daphne Mayo (1895-1982) created these etched glass panels for the dining room at the North Gregory Hotel. These are a tribute to Waltzing Matilda. Another set was to Qantas.

Artist Daphne Mayo (1895-1982) created these etched glass panels for the dining room at the North Gregory Hotel. These are a tribute to Waltzing Matilda. Another set was to Qantas.

This cute little fellow was in the beer garden of the North Gregory Hotel.

This cute little fellow was in the beer garden of the North Gregory Hotel.

We were up the next morning early for a stroll around town. First stop was Arno’s Wall, a work of art and architecture by local identity and opal miner Arno Grotjahn. It has all sorts of things embedded in it, including a kitchen sink.

Sunrise hitting some motorbikes embedded in Arno's Wall.

Sunrise hitting some motorbikes embedded in Arno’s Wall.

It was so quiet in Winton that morning, there were brolgas wandering the street.

Brolgas in Winton

Brolgas in Winton

Winton town centre features lovely whimsical artwork, wonderful sculptures and commemorative statues. They even have cool dinosaur themed bin covers. Such a nice place to wander around, full of humour and history.

Cute sculpture in Winton main street.

One of the cute pieces of art in Winton’s main street.

dinosaur foot wheelie bin covers.

Love these dinosaur foot wheelie bin covers.

Banjo Paterson sculpture

Banjo Parterson and Waltzing Matilda commemorative statue.

Winton Wagon

This horse drawn wagon carried the last load of wool to the Winton rail head in 1936. The wagon could carry a load of 9 tonnes when yoked with 19 horses.

Corfield and Fitzmaurice building

The historic Corfield and Fitzmaurice building in Winton’s main street. There’s a museum inside and a shop selling local hand-made crafts. I bought a gorgeous bracelet from there.

Swagman statue

This lovely statue is a tribute to Banjo Paterson and to the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves throughout the country.

There’s nothing so dry as outback Aussie humour and the Tattersalls Hotel outdid itself with these quotes they’d hung on the outside walls.

Tattersalls Hotel

Tattersalls Hotel

From Winton we took a drive 110kms south to Lark Quarry and the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument, which was seriously cool. There’s something about seeing 95 million-year-old dinosaur tracks that brings out the excited kid in me.

I love how science has determined that, all that time ago, hundreds of small dinosaurs were wandering near the edge of a lake when a large, meat-eating theropod attacked. Blocked by the lake, the little dinosaurs had nowhere to go, and in a mad panic were forced to run like crazy past the predator to safety. Even more exciting, the event was preserved in the mud and then turned to stone for us to see today.

Though occasionally rough, the drive to Lark Quarry was enjoyable too. Fantastic landscape and just look at that sky!

Emergency airstrip

This section of road in the middle of nowhere is designated no stopping so emergency aircraft like the Flying Doctor can land.

Arriving at Lark Quarry

Arriving at Lark Quarry

The scenery around Lark Quarry was stunning.

The scenery around Lark Quarry was stunning. The colours are incredible. So vivid they almost look created instead of natural.

Below you can see some of the footprints, preserved under cover (a necessity, not just to protect them from the elements but from people who have damaged and/or tried to nick them over the years). The largest of the theropod prints is 64cm, which extrapolates into a predator approximately 2.5 metres tall at the hips. The other dinosaurs ranged from chicken sized to half the size of an emu. Just enough for a nice snack.

inosaur footprints

Dinosaur footprints! And the only known preserved dinosaur stampede in the world. Fantastic.

From Lark Quarry I made Jim take a detour to Old Cork Station. The road deteriorated so badly we thought we’d taken a wrong turn, it wasn’t on the GPS and don’t even think about internet access. Earlier there’d been another track heading off in a different direction, so we u-turned back to try that, only for it to dead end at a gypsum quarry. So around we went again… with much swearing and muttering from the driver about people who get excited and soppy about things that are nothing but lines in a forgotten song. But we found it in the end and I ticked Old Cork Station off my bucket list. Jim, however, was completely underwhelmed and still hasn’t let me forget it.

For those of you who have never heard of Old Cork Station, take a listen to Australian folk band Redgum’s “Diamantina Drover“.

I defy you not to feel romantic about it!

Old Cork Station

The sandstone ruins of Old Cork Station near the Diamantina River, one of the shire’s original properties. Old Cork was first settled in the 1860s and the homestead built in 1880-85.

After Old Cork (yes, there’s still a Cork Station, if you’re wondering – we drove past the ‘new’ homestead on the way) we journeyed back to Winton, where Jim got chatting to a local who’d called into the tourist office for a natter. Apparently the local had been up to Combo Waterhole the day before and it was running, something he’d never seen before.

Naturally, being his father’s son, Jim decided to take a drive cos, you know, we clearly hadn’t done enough already that day. *rolls eyes*

Combo Waterhole is iconic in Australian bush culture. It lies 132km north-west of Winton off the Landsborough Highway and is believed to be the setting of, or at least the inspiration for, AB (Banjo) Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda which he wrote while visiting Dagworth Station (which Combo Waterhole was once a part of) in 1895.

You know how it goes…

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Combo is, so the story goes, the billabong in question. It’s also of importance to Jim’s family because across the other side of the waterhole is a Cobb and Co staging post where Jim’s great grandfather worked and where his great-uncle Les was born.

Sign indicating the turn-off to Combo Waterhole

Sign indicating the turn-off to Combo Waterhole. The waterhole is on the horizon somewhere.

Combo Waterhole

Standing at Combo Waterhole, which is actually a series of waterholes. As you can see it was flowing quite quickly so we didn’t try to cross to visit the Cobb and Co post.

The local also told us that if we could catch sunset at the 4-mile windmill (four miles from Winton, funnily enough) it’d make for some spectacular photos. We did and they were!

Windmill sunset

The peace of watching this sunset was quite incredible.

The following day we headed 24 kms out of Winton to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, which was also excellent. The museum holds the world’s largest collection of unique Australian dinosaur fossils.

Age of dinosaurs - Banjo statue

Perfectly normal thing to do, stick your head in a dinsosaur’s mouth. This is “Banjo”.

Age of dinosaurs lab.

Volunteers working to clean a dinosaur bone in the lab.

Age of dinosaurs

Love what’s written on the outside of this preserved pack of bones: “One BIG Dinosaur!!!”

Close to Winton is the Bladensburg National Park, which was once Bladensburg Station but was designated a National Park in 1994. There’s a half day drive you can do around it called the Route of the River Gum. We had a four-wheel-drive so we did it, and had a great time.

Bladensburg National Park - kangaroos

Kangaroos sheltering from the heat in one of the claypans at Bladensburg. The claypans allow water to run off so freely that it only takes half an inch of rain to fill the waterholes. Drovers used to follow the storms, knowing that even a small one would produce enough runoff to provide water for themselves and their livestock.

Richard Cragg's lonely grave in Bladensburg

Richard Cragg’s lonely grave in Bladensburg. Cragg was a mail contractor who died in December 1888 aged 46, apparently from “poison.”

The 1894 shearer's strike memorial

The 1894 shearer’s strike memorial. It was here that 500 shearers camped during the strike of 1891 and 1894, when Winton was under martial law. It’s also of historical political significance as these events played a role in the founding of the Australian Labour Party.

Engine Hole, a waterhole in the park.

Engine Hole, a waterhole in the park. Even a simple ham, cheese and tomato sandwich tastes like gourmet food when you eat it somewhere like this.

Bladensburg Homestead and shearing shed is open for visitors. This shed was built in the 1960s after the original shearing burnt down, and has only 6 stands, reflecting stocking rates of the time. Sheep numbers on Bladnesburg ranged from 30,000 in 1915, to 600,000 (!!) in the 1920s, declining to 14,000 in the 1950s.

The change in numbers is amazing. In 1965 in Queensland’s Flinders Shire alone there were nearly 1.3 million sheep. By 2006 there were only 156,000. Cattle are now the primary stock that’s run.

Bladenburg's old shearing shed.

Bladenburg’s old shearing shed.

Before we left Winton, I had to play on its musical fence. It made me laugh, even if Jim thought I was a twit.

musical fence

Can’t say my efforts on the musical fence were very tuneful.

Musical Fence - drums

I did feel, however, that I played the drums quite marvellously.

We called into Hughenden on the trip back and had a terrific time visiting the museum and checking out the sculptures.

Mutt the Muttaburrasaurus

Mutt the Muttaburrasaurus, a fibreglass replica. These dinosaurs grew up to 7 metres in length and were 2.2 metres at the hip. Behind, the gorgeous old Grand Hotel, sadly closed.

Windmill sculpture, Hughenden

This windmill sculpture/rotunda in Hughenden’s main street was erected in 2001 to celebrate the centenary of Federation and features two 20 foot blade windmills. It’s practical as well as interesting and, thanks to interpretive panels inside, educational. Danny from Santa and the Saddler would have loved it!

dinosaur metalwork sculpture

One of the dinosaur metalwork sculptures that dot the centre of town.

dinosaur metalwork sculpture

Another metalwork sculpture in Hughenden. Clever!

Hughie, the 7 metre tall muttaburrasaurus

Hughie, the 7 metre tall muttaburrasaurus in the Flinders Discovery Centre.

Danny, windmill engineer and hero of my rural romance Santa and the Saddler, would have gone nuts over this gigantic Comet windmill in Hughenden.

The Comet windmill Hughenden

The Wirilla Station windmill, now in Hughenden, stands on the banks of the Flinders River and is one of only fifteen 35 foot mills ever manufactured. This one is number 11 and it could pump a million litres of water a day with an average wind. Danny would have wet his pants!

From there we drove back to Charters Towers, a famed gold rush town, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch at Centenary Park and this commemorative sculpture.

Gold Discovery Monument

The Gold Discovery Monument by Queensland artist Hugh Anderson

I was sad to leave the area. We’d had such a great adventure, experiencing outback Queensland and visiting locations so iconic and significant in Australia’s history.

Next time we’re up in Townsville with time to spare, I’m hoping to take a (longish) drive north-west to the Undara Volcanic National Park to check out the lava tubes. My parents-in-law tell me they’re spectacular.

Hope you enjoyed this post from This Writing Life. Don’t expect too many other adventures for a while. No time for fun in the Hein house, it’s book writing time and I have an idea for a beeeoooooty!

 

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This Writing Life: The Australian Romance Readers Convention 2017

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Ooh, I do love a good get-together and the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention in Melbourne didn’t disappoint. It was a weekend packed with panels, gala events, keynote speakers and socialising. Everyone had a ball, from authors to readers to industry.

Hanging with your tribe… honestly, there’s nothing quite so affirming and though I came home absolutely stuffed I’m still on a high. ARRA events are loaded with positivity and warmth, but that should come as no surprise. We’re romance fans!

I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the organising committee: Debbie Phillips, Heather Kopp, Diane Robson, Pamela Diaz and Juliette Arthur. You created an amazing event that I hope you’re very proud of.

The ARRC 2017 organising committee.

My heartfelt thanks to the ARRC organising committee. Three cheers, huge applause and a big champagne toast to you all.

My sincere thanks also to the ARRA committee and to all the volunteers involved in the running of ARRC 2017.

I have so many highlights I don’t know where to start but I enjoyed the screening of the Love Between the Covers documentary about the billion dollar romance fiction industry hugely. I think I’m going to have to buy a copy so I can watch it again.

Keynote speakers Courtney Milan, Kylie Scott and Kristen Callihan were also wonderful to listen to. I love hearing about other writers’ lives and journeys, and how they approach their books. It’s endlessly fascinating.

Hot Choc Mark IIThe booksigning was a hoot, as always, and it was great to chat to so many readers, some of whom were new to me and some who now feel like old friends. Everyone laughed at the new, improved Hot Chocolate and he didn’t break down once. I think we might be on a winner with this little-but-loud horsey mascot.

The Australian Romance Reader Awards dinner was a wonderful night, and I was so thrilled for Anne Gracie who pretty much swept the pool. The Summer Bride and the Chance Sisters series were truly gorgeous and her wins were well deserved. You can find a full list of the finalists here and all the winners here.

I was even more thrilled when Wayward Heart won favourite cover. That was so cool! I love that cover to bits and it was such a rush to find others love it too. Thanks to everyone who voted for it. Enormous thanks also to editor Rachael Donovan for going with the idea and the Harlequin designers for their outstanding layout. If you missed the blog post where Wayward Heart’s cover model Kate Swan reveals all about the shoot and her sexy partner Jack, you’ll find it here. It’s great fun.

I was a bit slack on the photo taking front this time – too busy talking! But I managed to snap a few on my phone. Not the best of quality (sorry) but one thing all the photos show is what a brilliant event this was and the terrific time everyone had.

Enjoy!

Melbourne put on a lovely sunny welcome for us!

Melbourne put on a lovely sunny welcome for us!

Keynote Speakers

Courtney Milan's keynote address at ARRC was excellent.

Courtney Milan’s keynote address at ARRC was excellent. I particularly enjoyed her comments about issues such as cultural appropriation and diversity in romance.

Keynote speaker at ARRC17 Kylie Scott

Kylie Scott knows what kind of images turn romance readers on!

Keynote speaker Kristen Callihan entertained us all on the final afternoon.

Keynote speaker Kristen Callihan entertained us all on the final afternoon.

Booksigning

Amy Andrews and Keri Arthur at ARRC 17

Amy Andrews and Keri Arthur

Ebony McKenna and Bec McMaster at ARRC17

Ebony McKenna and Bec McMaster

Emily Madden at ARRC17

Emily Madden

Fiona Lowe at ARRC17

Fiona Lowe

Kandy Shepherd and Alli Sinclair at ARRC17

Kandy Shepherd and Alli Sinclair

Kylie Scott at ARRC17

Kylie Scott

Lisa Ireland at ARRC17

Lisa Ireland

Sandy Curtis, Anne Gracie and Donna Maree Hanson at ARRC17

Sandy Curtis, Anne Gracie and Donna Maree Hanson

Sarah Barrie and Amy Rose Bennet at ARRC17

Sarah Barrie and Amy Rose Bennet

Tea Cooper and Sandy Curtis at ARRC17

Tea Cooper and Sandy Curtis

TM Clark at ARRC17

TM Clark

Victoria Purman and MJ Scott/Melanie Scott at ARRC17

Victoria Purman and MJ Scott/Melanie Scott

Harlequin Author Drinks

Me, Rachael Johns and Alison Stuart at the Harlequin author welcome drinks.

Me, Rachael Johns and Alison Stuart at the Harlequin author welcome drinks.

Australian Romance Reader Awards Dinner

The ARR Awards dinner crowd.

The ARR Awards dinner crowd.

Rachael Johns did an excellent job as MC for the night.

Rachael Johns did an excellent job as MC for the night.

Anne Gracie collecting one of her many awards. ARRC17

Anne Gracie collecting one of her many awards. Love those cowboy boots!

Meeting reader Deb Bray at the ARR Awards dinner.

I was delighted to meet fan Deb Bray at the ARR Awards dinner. That was a great moment.

Wayward Heart's Favourite Cover Award.

Wayward Heart’s Favourite Cover Award. Wheee!

Panels and Other Miscellany

The Rise of Rural Romance panel featuring Pamela Cook, Charlotte Nash, Sarah Barrie and Nicole Hurley-Moore, with Victoria Purman moderating.

The Rise of Rural Romance panel featuring Pamela Cook, Charlotte Nash, Sarah Barrie and Nicole Hurley-Moore, with Victoria Purman moderating. I enjoyed this a lot. Everyone had insightful comments and I was fascinated by Pamela’s mention of the controversy around her Hendra virus themed book Close To Home. I was also lucky enough to win a copy of Charlotte’s The Horseman. Rah!

Amy Andrews, Christine Wells and me in the bar. Surprise, surprise!

Amy Andrews, Christine Wells and me in the bar. Surprise, surprise!

Loved this sculpture in the nearby Southern Cross Tower.

Loved this sculpture in the nearby Southern Cross Tower by husband and wife team Gillie and Marc. They also created the pit pony at Collinsville, some of the sculptures at Finger Wharf that I also featured on the blog, and the wonderful buried rhino at last year’s Sculpture by the Sea.

Lunch at Thai food guru David Thompson's new restaurant Long Chim at Crown.

The leftovers of lunch at Thai food guru David Thompson’s new restaurant Long Chim at Crown. Amaaaaazing. The Sydney version in Angel Place is now in my sights cos as we all know, a girl can never indulge in enough lunches!

I hope you enjoyed this look at the weekend. If you’d like to join the Australian Romance Readers Association and have opportunities like this to hang with friendly, like-minded people then please check out the ARRA website.

 

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