Friday, January 30, 2009

Under the Heat

It's inevitable that we're bound to get a few of these. I'm talking about summer heatwaves. It's definitely not my favourite season but there's nothing we can do but grin and bear it. Most people around are bearing it without grinning because it's just far too hot. Here's a picture of what I mean.

I go out to hang washing after darkness has fallen because it's too blistering hot during the day. First thing in the morning, it's bound to be bone dry enough to bring in.
We all have to stay up late because it's too hot and sticky to fall asleep quickly. Blake usually nods off in the loungeroom by the fan and we carry him to lie on top of his bed with no shirt. I try to sleep covered by cool, wet towels or I'd have no chance of getting any sleep at all. A few nights ago we had the hottest Adelaide night on record: the mercury sank no lower than 33dgC. And during the day it hovers around 45 (which we worked out to be about 113F)
We're drinking gallons of water and sucking ice cubes all the time. And nothing beats watermelon straight from the fridge for dessert.
We duck in for 20 second showers just to get cool. Andrew even leaves his T-shirt on, so he can wear it sopping wet around the place as he works. But we've all got used to perspiring again pretty quickly. Logan says the coldness of winter is easier to deal with than the heat of summer and I think he's right.
My new Wii Fit balance board, which was obviously manufactured in the Northern Hemisphere, tells me not to eat too much in this cooler season and he gets worried about his gaskets freezing. I've just got to laugh and tell him he knows nothing about Adelaide in late January through February.
I'm over it, but the weather people tell us that there's no sign of a cool change for as far as they can see. Still, I have to say if we didn't get our annual dose of this sort of savage heat, I probably wouldn't appreciate the mildness of autumn as much as I do when it arrives.

On Australia Day last Monday, before this heatwave really kicked in, we went to my sister's place for a BBQ with some cousins. We had sausages, steaks and meat patties with lamingtons on the table with the other sweets. That's probably a good, patriotic way to celebrate the public holiday. It's a sunburnt country as the song says, but I guess we gotta love it. There's a song, The Great Southland, written by Hillsong which we used to sing just about every Sunday in church a few years back, so I'll finish off with it in honour of the occasion. The lyrics are pretty good.

This is our nation, this is our land
This is our future, this is our hope
A land of reaping, a land of harvest
This is our land, this is our home.

This is the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit
A land of red dust plains and summer rains
To this sunburnt land we will see a flood
And to this Great Southland, His Spirit comes.

This is our nation, this is our land
This land of plenty, this land of hope
The richest harvest is in her peoples
We see revival, His Spirit comes.

This is our nation, this is our land
This lucky country of dreams gone dry
And to these people, we see a harvest
And to this land, revival comes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stay Devoted to Your Dream (Part 2)

Well as I was saying, I read about an experiment that made me see how important the writers and creators of stories really are.

I've lost the actual article so I'll just tell it as I remember it. A certain number of volunteer subjects were taken into a Uni lecture theatre and their blood was taken to measure for a variety of different chemicals and hormones. Then they were split off into three different groups.
Group 1 was taken to a room where they listened to a depressing lecture about the suicide rates of a drug taking subculture in a big city. Group 2 watched a documentary about Mother Teresa and her work in Calcutta. Group 3 were treated to a range of stories and legends told by some of the Christian saints throughout history. Then they all returned to the lecture theatre to have their blood measured again. And the findings were very interesting.

They found that harmful & stressful hormones and chemicals, such as cortisone, that adversely affect heart and blood pressure were elevated in the group who had listened to the drug statistics. The were pleasanter substances for the Mother Teresa group, but only one group tested consistently higher for the light-hearted, pleasant, happiness inducing chemicals. This was the group who had listened to the legends and stories from the saints.

I thought, Aha, there's proof that a good, uplifting story can have a physical impact on people. We who tell stories are not merely amusing people but helping enhance their health, along with those other helping professions. I've heard it said that if we can touch people's emotions to make them happy, that's as good as taking an aspirin (or maybe even a course of depression medication). I've always enjoyed snuggling down with a good book at the end of a long day. I've found that I can remember stories and the points they were making far better than I can recall a word of the text book knowledge I've tried to stuff into my brain over the years. Perhaps the human brain has been made to run on stories as easily as cars can run on petrol. When I heard this, I began to take my liking to write fiction more as a good thing. It's great to think that a good story can have a therapeutic effect on others.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stay Devoted to your Dream (Part 1)

I had a book launch for "The Risky Way Home" at our local library on Wednesday evening. We sold quite a few books which made me very happy. We've also launched our new website, which you'll find in my blog toolbar as usual, but its address is now The info in it is basically the same but it is now hopefully much more user friendly and we'll get some new traffic. I'd like to thank Chris Weir of Weir Marketing for his thoroughly professional and top notch job.

I thought I'd spend a few posts blogging some of things I discussed at my launch. When I was much younger, I really enjoyed writing and reading fiction but never thought of it as a future occupation or calling. I thought of it more as self-indulgence. I even felt guilty for not spending my time doing other things that I thought were more important.

Even though I loved it, I went through a phase of wondering whether fiction was very important. Although feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, I took a few negative comments to heart. "People are starving and dying all over the world, so the people who devote their lives to the helping ministries and occupations are doing a better job than people who just want to sit around writing fantasies." A few people even insinuated that I'm playing around with people's minds, making them discontent with their own lives because they get caught up in the world of pretend people. We've all heard people say, "I don't want to be a loser who just sits around reading novels all day." To me, that was casting aspersions on the writers of novels too.

So I tried to think of a more "acceptable" way to use a writing skill that might strike people as more "useful" or "helpful." Some included a newsletter of uplifting thoughts that I'd post on a bi-monthly basis, non-fiction, writing people's biographies for them, teaching creative writing. I began each of these with enthusiasm (and maybe they weren't bad) but always petered out. One day I'd spent a few hours working on an uplifting newsletter, then got tired of it and treated myself to work on a bit of fiction as relief. As soon as I picked up my train of thought on "The Risky Way Home," I found myself declaring aloud, "I LOVE THIS"

Well, they say we all have epiphanies throughout our lives. Those lucid moments when something becomes clear. That was one for me. When I said that, I sensed God's voice saying as clear as could be, "I KNOW!"

So I first decided not to get caught up in guilt trips, letting myself be sidetracked into doing things that I was told were better or nobler than what I really wanted to be doing. I love thinking of stories and playing around with words to give readers the illusion that they're really there. And I love giving my characters challenges to see how they'll act. Whatever we do, we need to work with an attitude that we're adding something of value to the world that wouldn't have been there if we hadn't provided it. Although millions of fictions have been written, nobody else could have written "The Risky Way Home" or "Picking up the Pieces" or the "Quenarden" series but me.

Then I found an excellent interview that a certain author had with Mother Teresa. During their talk, he told her, "Sometimes when I consider all that you do here, I feel guilty for just frittering away my time writing." And Mother Teresa rebuked him. She said, "Don't ever talk that way again. In God's eyes your writing is every bit as important as what I do. They're different ways of blessing the world but equally valid. You have the potential to do so much good through your writing. Remember, whenever you pick up your pen you're a blessing."

Next time I blog, my Part 2 will describe how I found out that telling stories really is a special ministry in itself.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Gold Fields

We went hiking at an old gold mine area not far from home. Back in the mid 1800s, gold was discovered in the Adelaide Hills and miners came from near & far to see what they could do for themselves. Old historical areas are interesting to explore. Most of those pits are surrounded by wire fences, but there are a few little ones which are still open and this big tunnel has been opened to the public. There's me coming up out of it, just before I smacked my head really hard on the rock. Ouch! I'm glad we got a "before" photo and not an "after" one.
Here's the inside with Andrew & Blake. We were intrigued to see what the flash of the camera shows up. Inside this tunnel is so intensely pitch black that you can see absolutely nothing without the light of a torch. I've hardly ever seen darkness so thick, and that was what those nineteenth century miners were working in almost 24/7. So only when we got home did we really see these rock walls ourselves. It was quite a hot Aussie bush day but that underground air seemed refrigerated. Probably a good place for a summer visit.

Here they are on the way out. Alas, if there is still any gold around, it'd probably wouldn't be enough to cover the costs of setting up a modern expedition. We were all on our own when we explored the area (I'm glad nobody was around to hear me yell when I belted my head). It was quiet and a little eerie, as historic sites sometimes are, but the old photos posted on info boards around the place showed what a busy, bustling, teeming place it was in the 1860s and 70s.
The photos that follow are what the world looks like up above those tunnels and mines.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greatness in the small details

I've finished my latest M/S, "A Design of Gold" which is a sequel to a couple of my other books. This time, I thought I'd honor some great thinkers by including a small quote as a header for each chapter in my book. I've never done that before and I thought it'd give this new book something special to separate it from the others. I got as far as sitting there with pen and paper and copying a quote for each of the 24 chapters. As "A Design of Gold" is about finding significance in small details, that was the theme of most of the quotes. But my husband came home and reminded me that if we were to do this, we'd have to obey copyright laws by chasing up the original sources of the quotes and very probably paying for permission to use them. So I'm afraid that was the end of that. We're pretty financially pressed each time we publish a new book as it is, without this extra cost. It was still fun to do, so instead of wasting all these quotes, I thought I'd put them on my blog. So keep an eye on my quotes section in the toolbar.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


A few nights ago, Andrew & I treated ourselves to a night out at the movies. We decided on "Australia" I thought I'd get myself in a patriotic mood before Australia Day later this month. And although the movie was close on three hours long, the time didn't drag and I thought it very well done. Some of the scenery up there in the Northern Territory where it was filmed is breath-taking. The cast was great. Both Nicole Kidman & Hugh Jackman did a wonderful job, but the gorgeous little boy almost stole the show. I forget the name of the boy who acted him. I had tears streaming down my cheeks, as I often do in emotional movies. The reunions at the end, when the family re-discovered each other after thinking their loved ones had died, ahhh!

The movie handled the subject of the Stolen Generations with sensitivity. Although the little boy, Nullah, escaped from this fate, the threat was always there throughout the story. For those who aren't familiar with Australian history, the Stolen Generations is the term used for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children who were removed from their parents by the state & church authorities, who believed it was in the children's own best interest. This mostly took place between the years 1869 and 1969, causing an untold number of families unimaginable pain and heartache.

Early last year, our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to the victims of the Stolen Generations, which was televised across Australia. It was quite moving to hear him say, "I'm sorry" several times. I know that some fellow Australians have criticised his decision. Our former Prime Ministers had always refused to take the step, probably buying into the general opinion, "It wasn't our fault! It was an unfortunate state of affairs, but we personally weren't responsible for removing these children so why should we apologise? It won't undo the damage anyway." However, I'm among those who believe that things such as inherited culpability and generational curses shouldn't be scoffed at. They are Biblically based and no less true because of their low-key, spiritual nature, and unpopularity in the opinions of secular statesmen.

I for one was excited by the action Mr Rudd took. I believe that acknowledging the culpability of our white settler ancestors may help to cleanse our beautiful country from any shame which may have been holding back our prosperity in any way. I'm looking forward to seeing the future of our nation in the light of this.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bloggers are Great People

I'll take this opportunity at the start of the year to encourage us all. We're all making a wonderful difference, whether we know it or not. It's the 21st century and the World Wide Web is a fantastic tool to influence as many as we can so we might as well make use of it. Since I've been blogging, I've read a countless number of uplifting posts from a variety of people spread across the world.

My husband and kids still grin and giggle if we're at extended family gatherings and someone remarks that the word BLOG stands for "Boring Load of Garbage." Yet I know they find my blogging quite interesting. I have to smile myself whenever I hear my dh refer to "friends of ours in America" during conversations. Both he and I agree that the only thing that would top blogging would be to actually travel over & visit all our friends in person. But alas, we don't know when that will ever be. Especially since we'd want to make a concerted effort to cover as much of North America as we possibly can. We'd start on the West Coast and visit Call Me Kate, The Leingangs and Coffee Mom. Then we'd want to catch up with Comfy Denim in the centre. And no way would we miss Juggling Paynes and Vicki on the East Coast. That's just to mention a few. So the whole thing would mean juggling of time, finance and organisation but oh boy, how great it would be!

I'm also thankful for bloggers closer to home. Last week I followed up a comment from a lady named Kylie Willison, who lives quite close to me. It turns out that I met her at a homeschooling conference in Adelaide where I was trying to sell my books. Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile might recall a post I wrote last May about what a write-off I thought it was from a business point of view. I'd managed to sell only one book all day and had a bit of a whine about how it probably cost me financially, when I considered petrol on the way down and table hire once I got there. And some of you commented that we have to do these things and you never know the outcome. Well, Kylie turned out to be one of those special encouragers God holds back for awhile to surprise us with when we're not expecting it. Not only did she end up ordering my Quenarden series through my website after that contact, but she's also encouraging other people to visit my site & blog and read my books. (Turns out she keeps a very interesting blog as a bonus).

I think one of the appealing things about blogging is that you can't help forming well-balanced friendships. We all get a chance to stand on our soapboxes and yabber on about whatever strikes our fancy, yet we are also happy to spend the time reading what others have to say and discussing what's on their minds with them too. Nobody gets to take over and monopolise the conversation. And nobody needs to feel as if they're retiring and not being heard either.

Just to round off the whole experience, we can heat up our kettles and enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee with each other too.