Tag Archives: Outback Australia

This Writing Life: The Bowen River Rodeo and Campdraft 2017

6 Replies

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!

 

Newsletter subscription banner

This Writing Life: An Outback Queensland Adventure

8 Replies

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!

 

Newsletter subscription banner

FRIDAY FEAST with Joan Kilby

22 Replies

Hello, food and book lovers, and welcome to another super-tasty edition of Friday Feast. This week, a sexy outback romance, a delicious cake, and an even more delicious book giveaway!

But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. This week marked the first round of my golf club’s premier ladies competition, the Goblet. It also coincided with me coming down with a filthy cold but, being the dedicated golfing fool that I am, I dragged myself out to play. Probably should have stayed in bed because while my front nine was quite good, by the time I hit the turn my cold ‘n flu tabs had worn off and I was knackered. The only positive is that I’m not coming last but maaaaan, am I close!

Author Joan KilbyEnough of that. It’s time for something uplifting, sweet and maybe just a bit sexy too, all of which we’ll find with my guest today, contemporary romance author Joan Kilby. Originally from Vancouver but now a staunch Melbournian, Joan has published over 30 novels. In an exciting move, Joan has joined with fellow authors Sarah Mayberry and Karina Bliss to release The Outback Bachelor Ball series, with Joan’s book Win Me as the lead title.

This series looks fabulous, not to mention hot! Take a look.

WIN ME

Cover of Win Me by Joan KilbyShe’ll do anything to get him to see her as a woman…

Feisty, fearless Ellie McFarlane has tried forever to get cattle station manager, Rick Drummond, to notice she’s not another cowhand. So when her gal pals talk her into glamming up for an Outback Bachelor and Spinster ball she’s eager to prove she’s all woman, all the time, and leave her boneheaded cowboy eating dust.

Sexy wrangler Rick is crazy about Ellie just as she is but her father – his boss – told him long ago that his daughter was off limits. Even though she’s all grown up now, Rick still feels it’s his job is to protect her, not seduce her. Plus, he’s finally got an opportunity to buy back his family farm which means moving far away.

Ellie’s transformation from Cinder-Ellie to belle of the ball has Rick’s jaw dropping – and all the other cowboys falling at her feet. Ellie tries to revel in her new-found sex-pot status but without Rick it’s a hollow victory. Has Rick left it too late to claim the only woman he’ll ever truly love…?

Doesn’t that sound fun? What a hoot! And you can be assured you’re in expert story-telling hands with Joan. Win Me releases October 20th but you can pre-order it right now from Amazon.com, Amazon.auAmazon.uk, Amazon.ca, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Want to read a sample? Joan has a very tasty excerpt on her website. You’ll love it, and while you’re there check out the other two titles in the series, Karina Bliss’s Woo Me and Sarah Mayberry’s Wait For Me.

All set? Excellent. Now please give a warm welcome to Joan because she has something veeeeery nice for you!

Girlfriends and Cake – Best Friends Forever

Thanks, Cathryn, for having me on Friday Feast.

Cooking and baking are among my favourite hobbies, right up there with eating. Probably like a lot of people, I learned to cook by helping and watching my mother. Mum was an awesome baker. Mouth-watering smells of homemade bread, cookies, cakes, pies formed a sensory backdrop to my childhood. Mum even made cookies or brownies on weekday mornings so we would have something yummy in our school lunches.

The recipe for coffee cake I’m sharing today was Mum’s. Australia has tea cake but the Canadian equivalent – a delicious, quick and easy cake that’s best served warm – is coffee cake. It’s quite a bit richer than a tea cake so anyone who’s avoiding sugar and butter, look away now.

My mum and a group of her friends formed a diet club and called themselves the “Fat Ladies.” Mum would always make this cake when it was her turn as hostess. She and her friends never lost any weight – and were unabashed and unconcerned by the fact – but they had a lot of fun. I remember the gales of laughter coming from the kitchen during their get-togethers. And now, when I have friends over, I make Mum’s coffee cake.

The Outback Bachelor Ball seriesThis idea of women friends having fun together has special significance with my latest release. In Win Me, my heroine, Ellie, and her two best girlfriends have a reunion at a Bachelor and Spinster Ball. Not that Ellie has much time to cook – she’s got a hot cowboy to wrangle. In a case of life imitating art, writing friends Sarah Mayberry, Karina Bliss and I had a wonderful time collaborating on The Outback Bachelor ball series. I only wish we could have sat around a kitchen table and eaten coffee cake while we discussed our stories instead of relying on email and Skype.

I’m not sure where Mum got this coffee cake recipe from but I’ve copied it down from her hand-written recipe card complete with vanilla stains, butter spots and a smear of cinnamon. These are the original amounts but Mum (and I) always doubled the recipe because, well, nuts and cinnamon and buttery deliciousness! And because I love the topping so much I always increase those amounts by another third. Any leftover topping can, of course, be eaten straight from the bowl. I also add extra cinnamon because you can never have too much cinnamon. The batter doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough but somehow it rises and fluffs up around the topping. And it’s all about the topping!

I’m giving away a copy of Win Me (Book 1, The Outback Bachelor Ball series), any e-format, anywhere in the world.

What’s your favourite recipe that you got from your mother or grandmother?

Nut Coffee Cake

Joan Kilby's Nut Coffee Cake

Topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

3 tbsp butter

Batter:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp butter

2 tsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Prepare topping: Melt butter and combine with brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon

Joan Kilby's Nut Coffee Cake in panPrepare batter: Combine flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat till light. Gradually stir in dry ingredients alternately with milk. Spread half the batter into a greased 8 X 8 inch pan (20 X 20 cm). Sprinkle on half the topping. Spread the rest of the batter on and sprinkle on the remaining topping.

Bake at 180 C for about 30 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Eat while it’s warm.

*

That sounds unreal, Joan! I am so giving this one a try. I love easy recipes that are disproportionately tasty to the amount of time they take to make. They’re real keepers.

Now, my Feasty lovelies, you heard Joan, we have a…

GIVEAWAY!

For your chance to win an ebook copy of Win Me, book 1 in The Outback Bachelor Ball series, simply share the favourite recipe that you snaffled from your mother or grandmother. An aunt, godparent or family friend will also do.

I have so many I don’t know where to start! There’s my mum’s pavlova, my grandmother’s buttery scones, my godmother’s cream puffs… I’m a bowerbird when it comes to recipes and the list is huge. What about you? Share and we’ll pop you into the draw.

Please note: Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 20th October 2015. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Joan and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter using @JoanKilby and Goodreads.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

25 Replies

Greeting Feasty people, and welcome to what will be a truly fabulous edition of Friday Feast. This week, a rural romance to warm your heart, a travelogue from one of Australia’s most adored writers, cheese scones and a giveaway!

But first, the slow fade into sporting oblivion that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. So the Ricky Fowler Puma duds failed to channel any talent, and both my new golf shoes and oversized putter grip also let me down. Not one to be put off, this time round I’m seeing if a shiny new Fiona McArthur Authorgolf bag won’t help. I had to buy one because now the fat grip of my putter won’t fit into my old bag. Honestly, it’s like a tumbleweed this drama, it just  keeps on collecting!

To the good stuff! Please give a big tasty welcome to Fiona McArthur, one of my favourite guests. Fiona is a midwife, author and all-round gorgeous lady. She began her writing career penning medical romances for Mills & Boon, earning multiple award nominations, and now has over 30 novels in print in 12 languages. Fortunately for rural romance readers, Fiona turned her talents to our genre, releasing first Red Sand Sunrise and following up with The Homestead Girls, out this month.

Check it out.

THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS

The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthurMoving to the outback to join the Flying Doctors will change Billie’s life forever.

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she  jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and has opened her homestead to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

A heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback from internationally bestselling author Fiona McArthur.

You will LOVE this one, so get that clicking finger ready because here come all the buy links. Purchase The Homestead Girls from Booktopia, Angus & Robertson or Bookworld. You can also buy from Amazon.au, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi, QBD the Bookshop, Abbey’s Bookshop, Fishpond, your favourite independent bookshop or chain store.

All clicked out? Excellent. Now kick back for a lovely journey with Fiona.

A Smile Around Every Corner

Thanks for asking me back, Cathryn, I can’t believe it’s a year since we shared picnic ideas together. But it must be, because my new Ruro Medical is out and about and I have another quick recipe.

Launched last week, THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS, is set in western NSW and around the iconic Broken Hill. Broken Hill. Now there’s a place with the unexpected smile around every corner.

The drive itself was a marathon, two days of eight hours for us, but it’s such a pleasure driving through the changing landscape and I can see why people hitch up caravans and head off to follow the sun.

The big research need this year was to soak in the landscape, research the flying doctor base, and savour a sojourn at a sheep station. See my fictitious Blue Hills Station. I called it Blue Hills because the barren looking hills are actually not barren, and one of the most common of those plants is Blue Bush, a species of Salt Bush. Kym made me chew some. I haven’t included the recipe here. Think salty string.

The main reference for my western NSW knowledge was Kym and John Cramps, the two person dynamos that run the station we stayed on. About half an hour out of Broken Hill lies Mt Gipps which used to be almost a million acres, well the original ‘broken-hill’ silver discovery was by a boundary rider on Mt Gipps Station, but the station covers around 85,000 acres now.

IMG_9647

They have accommodation, Shearer’s Quarters, Overseers Cottage and a Jillaroo’s Cottage (where we stayed which was a no-frills two bedroom house with everything you need) and all are down the hill from the sheep yards and shearing sheds. They were trucking out sheep the next morning so the timing was good to watch the action at the yards and Kym drove us around to see the breath-taking (bone dry) creek beds, gorgeously ghostly gums, and studded ridges. I can imagine budding geologists must have to fan themselves with excitement – even to me the glint of mica and multi-coloured rocks and formations were fascinating.

Kym offers Sunset Drinkies up on the ridge where you can see all the way to the machinery poking from the huge mine at Broken Hill, 40 kms away. The station is part of the Barrier Ranges, and in every direction the view is fabulous with a rustic utility shell to use as a backdrop for photos. To make it even better the company is a hoot and it turned out my husband did his ambulance training with Kym more than 30 years ago. How typical of travelling is that!

We took photos, drank bubbles and munched on nibblies as the sun went down. I was definitely going to have a scene here. From THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS out now!

“They were climbing up the last part of the track and she could see it wouldn’t be much further to the flat spot on top of the range.

Someone had dragged a rusted 1940’s utility as a car burial ground feature against the sparse scenery. It added a surreal quality with the wheel-less chassis resting on the ground and a tumble of larger granite rocks piled around it.

The golden ball of the sun was almost to the distant skyline, and the undulating ranges behind them were dusted red-gold with the reflection. Long shadows stretched from rocks and stunted trees and side of the rusted vehicle cabin and she leant against it to watch the shadows lengthen.

Morgan opened the creaking door and gestured her in. ‘Where would you like to go.’

She declined. ‘I like a few springs on my seat when I travel.’

He laughed. ‘There’s no pleasing some women.’ Then he shut the door on the empty cab so she could lean against it and they both turned to the view.

‘This is really beautiful.’

Morgan shifted up next to her and leant his hip against hers. ‘Scenery’s good too.’

She turned her face towards him and he leant forward and took her hand. Stroked her fingers. Waited for a reaction.

She stared down at their fingers entwined. How long since a man had done this simple caress? Since she’d let one?  The gentleness was so beautiful she just allowed herself the luxury of receiving without comment or movement.

Not a good enough response for Morgan apparently. ‘Dead fish,’ he said, and shook her wrist and she laughed though she felt like a shy schoolgirl on her first date.

‘I was waiting to see your moves,’ she quipped. It was his turn to laugh.

‘Oh. I’ve got moves.’

A sunset scene 🙂

But to food. You all know how I just LOVE to cook. Not! But I do have these sudden urges to make something I can slather butter on – and eat at sunset. Hence my cheese scones. It was actually Cathryn’s fault because she did cheese bread and it made me hungry. You reckon THAT bread was made in a hurry. Ha! I’m known as Mrs Quick!

Fi’s Mrs Quick Cheese Scones

(half recipe because there was only two us of that day)

Buttered cheese scones

1 ½ cups wholemeal self-raising flour

small pinch salt and a decent shake of parmesan from the container with holes.

half cup milk

60 gram butter (I melt it and put it in the milk)

Chuck all that in a bowl, stir with a knife, should all stick together. Then turn it out onto baking paper (means you don’t have to flick flour everywhere as it didn’t stick) and form by pressing with your hands it into a small, 2 cm high, flat ball.

FullSizeRender-2

Really important – sip a small glass of Caramel Tequila, then use the glass to cut the scones.

FullSizeRender-4

 

Lean them up against each other, melt another 80gms of butter and paint the tops of them, sprinkle with liberal grated cheese, and re-arranging them on the same baking paper ( I gingerly lift that onto a tray)  to cook for 10-15 mins in a very hot oven. I have a ‘smart’ oven that turns itself off so I don’t burn things.

FullSizeRender-3

 

Break apart, slather with butter (otherwise they are incredibly dry – but they were quick!) and afterwards throw away the baking paper and you don’t even have to wash the tray.  I know, I’m a cooking heathen, but I LOVE writing books.

What’s your favourite food to nibble on? Do you have something you whip out at unexpected sunset parties. The quicker the better. I really would love to know and there’s a signed copy of THE HOMESTEAD GIRLS for the favourite recipe.

Cheers xxFi

Did you hear that, lovelies? We have a…

GIVEAWAY!

For your chance to win a signed copy of Fiona’s brand spanking new rural romance, The Homestead Girls, simply reveal your favourite quick food to munch on or a rapid and sure-fire recipe for surprise moments and you’ll go into the draw.

I’m going to say my easy-peasy cheesy bread from my recent Friday Feast, as mentioned by Fiona above. Fast and delicious! What about you?

Please note: Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 7th July 2015. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Fiona and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter using @FiCatchesBabies.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

132 Replies

Hello, lovely readers! I’m very excited about today’s Friday Feast. Always the way when we go a-rural romancing.

But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. I’ve been on a little holiday to SA and Victoria, and managed to sneak in games at a couple of top 100 rated courses, both of which defeated me. Sigh. I blame the cold. Playing in sideways sleeting rain and single digit temperatures doesn’t do much for one’s temper. However, my darling Sydney Swans have been a light, continuing their winning streak with a victory against the GWS Giants. If this keeps up, I’ll really start developing Premiership hopes!

Now to today’s guest, multi-published author Fiona McArthur. Fiona has published 30 novels, been nominated for some of romance writing’s most prestigious awards and sold over two million copies world-wide. She’s also a highly experienced midwife, the author of two ‘Don’t Panic’ guides on birth and writes for Mother and Baby magazine. Impressed? I am! But what I’m really excited by is that she’s now turned her formidable talent to rural romance. The result is a book that’s been garnering amazing reviews and one I very much look forward to reading, Red Sand Sunrise.

Take a look…

RED SAND SUNRISE

CoverCan three sisters save the outback town they’ve grown to love?

When the father she barely knew dies suddenly, midwife Eve Wilson decides she owes it to him to go to the funeral and meet her stepfamily in Red Sand. She doesn’t expect to be so completely charmed by the beautiful remote township in far west Queensland – or by local station owner, Lex McKay. After disappointment and heartbreak in Sydney, Dr Callie Wilson doesn’t hesitate to move home and spend some time with her grieving mother.

When she is approached to oversee the establishment of the area’s first medical clinic, it seems the perfect opportunity. And Callie is keen to involve Eve, the sister she’s just getting to know. Melbourne-based obstetrician Sienna Wilson can’t understand why anyone would want to bury themselves in the outback, but when her hospital sends her north to research the medical mystery affecting women in Red Sand, it seems fate is intent on bringing the three sisters together. And when disaster strikes, they must each decide if being true to themselves means being there for each other…

Red Sand Sunrise is a heartfelt story from an internationally bestselling author. It celebrates the strength of family ties, the renewing power of love, and the passion of ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.

Doesn’t that sound fab? Red Sand Sunrise is on my reading pile and it could be on yours too. Simply zoom down to your favourite bookseller or chain store. Or stay right where you are and purchase with a few clicks. Try Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop, Fishpond, Boomerang Books. For the ebook, visit Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and JB Hi-Fi.

Picnic in Red Sand Sunrise

Thanks for asking me Cathryn. To think there was a whole book to be written a year ago and here it is. Very exciting stuff to come out in Trade paperback, last week. Thought I’d share a little more about the background of the research trip for those interested.

The last time I blogged on Cathryn’s page I talked about the experience of our overnight adventure on the Spirit Of The Outback – back from Longreach to Brisbane.

This time I thought I’d share the stop out past Windorah, (that would be the last place with a pub out towards Birdsville), and the glorious red sand hills out of town.

The gateway to the outback town of WindorahIt was the impact of climbing and soaking in these windblown pyramids of sand that played such a major part of the background of the book. Those sand hills are part of an amazing landscape that truly grabs you. If you get a chance it’s well worth the trip, especially at sunrise and sunset.

The red sand hills near WindorahI rave about them a bit in the book so here’s an excerpt from RED SAND SUNRISE and the sand hills.

Eve heard the swish of the sand for the first few steps as he began the descent and then there was silence again with just the wind gently blowing and the birds cawing overhead.

She sat down with her knees under her chin. Dug her hands into the sand again and twisted them so that the warm particles massaged her fingers as she let the peace envelop her. Out in the distance a windmill was turning. She could imagine the creaking noise she’d come to recognise of the shaft moving as the blades turned but she couldn’t hear it.

Up above the flat world on her little red castle she could feel the magic soak into her like chalk soaking up red ink. She’d missed her quiet times and vowed to make the time to renew each day before she was caught up in the slower but relentless pace of Red Sand township.

Peace. Strangely, unexpectedly, she didn’t want to leave this spot, didn’t want to walk back down the hill, wanted to stay in the embrace of the red sandhills she’d fallen in tune with today.

But she was thirsty and hungry and Lex waited. All good reasons to come down off the hill.

Windorah also has a fab rustic pub, The Western Star, where we stayed overnight and enjoyed scrumptious pub food. There’s a genuine country hospitality and atmosphere with the roaring fire outside in a big ex-farm drum under the stars.  There are some quirky fun characters and amusing signs on the walls, plus important information if you don’t want to miss the next yabbie races. Will try and coincide my next visit with the yabbies and love that some of the proceeds go to the RFDS.

Funny notice about the rural recession at the Windorah PubSign about the annual International Yabbie Races at WindorahThough it has a big heart, Windorah is not a big town, so I walked over to meet the current very accommodating local nurse and check out the ambulance she has to drive if required. It wasn’t hard to see her passion for being there to help people in need,  ‘anytime’, knowing she was it. I loved the ‘I can do the best for people I can and the RFDS help is a phone call away if I’m out of my depth’. I’m used to a little more back up so was very impressed with the generosity and diversity of skills. I guess she’d need them because you’d never know who was going to pull up at the health centre in crisis and if it was closed, the sign says ring on her phone at home. That’s a true hero as far as I’m concerned.

Ambulance at WindorahSo here was fabulous research material and the pleasure of meeting amazing people. Then you could throw in a bit of midwifery, some gorgeous station owners and I guess you’re beginning to see where some of the ideas gelled for the book.

To food. Seeing as this Cathryn’s FRDAY FEAST blog I thought I’d share a cooking scene from the book. Well, not really a cooking scene, more of a picnic, I do love picnics, and have favourite picnic food that makes my mouth water. What’s your favourite thing to add to a picnic basket?

For me it’s different types of quiche and thick bacon and egg pie with lots of crispy pastry and a big dish of green salad – though must have mayonnaise and salt and pepper in the basket. A big thermos of hot water and tea and coffee is a must and especially the fresh date scones with real butter to sit back with afterwards.

Here’s a scene from Eve and Lex’s picnic at the sand hills.

Lex had set up the food under the shade of the lone spotted gum about fifty metres away from the helicopter. Some time in the past someone had rolled a couple of logs under the branches to sit on and the scene was peaceful as well as promising to settle the embarrassing rumbling from Eve’s stomach.

She eased down on the log and sighed as she glanced around. Bare paddocks, galahs in the distance, a few white Brahman cattle grazing.

Lex put a tin mug in front of her and poured a tea from the thermos. He passed across a huge slice of thick-crusted spinach quiche on a metal plate and one of two small bowls of salad and some cutlery.

Eve fell on it with passion. ‘This is very good.’ She spied a tea towel semi-unwrapped exposing date scones and a small round plastic tub of butter.

He laughed as she unwrapped it and put one at the side of her plate.

‘You love your food. I like that in a woman.’

‘Lucky.’ She rolled her eyes and groaned as the last of the quiche went down.

GIVEAWAY!

So would anyone like to share a favourite surprise they like to add to their picnic basket? Everyone who posts a comment goes into the draw and Cathryn will draw a name out of the Akubra next week. I’ll send you a copy of Red Sand Sunrise as soon as I have your postal address.

Have fun at your next picnic. Xx Fi McArthur

A pile of Red Sand Sunrise booksDid you read that, folks? We have a giveaway! As Fiona said above, all you have to do is share your favourite surprise to add to a picnic basket and you’ll go into the draw.

Perhaps you like to sneak in some toffees? Maybe a pre-mixed summery cocktail is more your go, or marinated chicken legs roasted to sticky goodness? I like a bit of terrine or pate and some nice crusty bread. Although I could get equally excited by a bowl of plump, glossy cherries. LOVE those babies!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 8th July 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Fiona and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter using @ficatchesbabies

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Delores who has won a copy of Red Sand Sunrise. Lots of reading pleasure ahead! Thanks to everyone who played along. You were all great sports with some wonderful picnic suggestions. Hope to see you again soon.