About Duckie

Author, Coach, Celebrant, Life Transition Adviser.

Women in Aviation

Women were just making inroads into aviation in the 1980s. Some were already working in the industry – Christine Davy was a senior pilot with Connair  – but it was still challenging for women wanting to pursue a career as a pilot. Deborah Lawrie had to take her quest to be accepted by an airline company to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board.

This was due to a combination of misogyny and sexist beliefs that suggested women were not strong enough for the job, or else would be restricted by hormones and PMT. They could even fall pregnant, heaven forbid. A lesser factor was the cost of training and the fact that women earn less than men as well, making financing training a more arduous process.

Kathy took up her new job in Alice Springs in this environment. She was conscious of all the biased attitudes she was likely to encounter and knew she would have to prove herself, whether to her colleagues or to the local community. She was apprehensive about how she would cope. It was the unknown rather than lack of confidence in her flying skills that caused her anxiety. By nature, she was reserved and controlled, and her outward demeanour hid her inner turmoil.

I asked Kathy what attracted her to flying as a career:

Women in Aviation

Kathy Sullivan

Kathy: Learning to fly was something I dreamed about for years, but never really thought it was possible. They I met some private pilots in a social setting, and realised if they could do it, so could I. I booked my first trial flight and after that, I was hooked. I had no definite career objectives until then, but suddenly a new option opened before me.

So you knew you wanted to become a professional pilot?

Kathy: Not immediately. My first focus was going solo and then getting my restricted pilot’s licence. Just getting that far took a bucket load of money but by that stage, I was really focussed. I was working in retail, but took a part-time job in hospitality as well so I could save up enough to do the rest of my training in one hit. My unrestricted license followed and then I worked towards my commercial license.

Did you have much support?

Kathy: My family were surprised at my choice but didn’t raise any objections. I also joined the Australian Women Pilots Association, and that is where I really felt supported. Whenever I felt discouraged or that I was chasing an impossible dream, other members reminded me of what was possible.

What made you decide to take the job in Alice Springs?

Kathy: Getting experience is so important, and the type of work that was available with StationAir would not be offered to me in a major city. It was a fantastic opportunity to both gain experience and to prove myself. At times I wondered what I was taking on, but I kept looking around at other people who were doing similar work and knew that I was just as qualified as they were.

You seem to have made some good friends in Alice Springs.

Kathy: Absolutely. That made such a difference to starting a new job, in a new town and with unfamiliar requirements. Sarah was an absolute darling, going out of her way to make me feel at home. Brian showed me the ropes as well, and I am really grateful to both of them and the welcome they gave me when I first arrived in town.

What advice would you give to another young woman looking to aviation for a career?

Kathy: Don’t believe anyone who says it’s not a job for a woman. There are challenges – I don’t deny that,   but if you’re determined and are prepared to go where the work is, the opportunities are there. I’d suggest joining AWPA and getting to know other women in the industry.

There was a suggestion that you only took the job in the Northern Territory in order to find a husband.

Kathy: Spurious suggestions like that shouldn’t even be given air. I know I met Alex in Alice Springs, and yes, we’re now married, but that was a surprise to me as much as anyone. The last thing I was looking for was a relationship. Is that all? I’m running late for the north

east mail run.

Don’t let me keep you – you’ve been most helpful. Thank you.

Emily Hussey.

 

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In Full Flight

As publication gets closer, I am finally able to reveal the new cover for The Red Heart. I’m thrilled with it, and the cover certainly has that Australian flavour, which was important to me. Looking at it, you can see that aviation features in some way as well.

The official launch date for the book will be 30 May 2018. It will be available from your favourite online book retailers at a cost of $3.99.  Print books will be available at $15.00 (Still in production).

Details about the book are available on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/Emily_Hussey. For those on my mailing list, advance copies are available at books2read.com/u/bOAroQ.  Copies won’t be available via Amazon until the 30th May.

Reviews are the lifeblood of any author, particularly a new author like myself. If you are able to leave a review on any of the platforms, that would be wonderful.

Autumn Reflections

I love Autumn. It’s a time when the weather is tolerable, and the days conducive to getting out for walks or exploring. Best of all, the long dark nights haven’t begun.

This weekend, I took a break from writing and took a train trip to Clunes in NW Victoria. Each year, the village stages a book fair, complete with guest authors and various writing events. The main street is closed, and marquees down the centre accommodate books on every topic imaginable.

The town businesses support the event, with many of them adopting book-related activities for the weekend. That’s astute, because there are thousands of visitors to this normally quiet town. Strolling to the outskirts of the village, I walked along the creek that runs through the town. Here you can see the local shades of autumn.

Clunes Autumn Creed

Autumn reflections

Much as I enjoyed browsing the books, I really enjoyed the train journey there and back. I eschewed the car, opting instead to ride the rails. It was great. I could relax, read, think, and watch the passing scenery. A change in trains was required at Ballarat station, with enough time to appreciate the historic station and partake of refreshments at the station cafeteria.  Sitting over a cup of tea, I felt as though I was in an English novel; the building had that sort of feel to it.

Autumn didn’t exist in my time living in Alice Springs. Sure, the length of days changed and the weather became milder, but there wasn’t the change in colour that I’ve enjoyed on recent excursions. It was a vista of strong colours; strong blue skies, and the reds and browns of the earth. The vegetation was in more muted shades, but none of it in autumn tones.

This was what Kathy Sullivan discovered when she moved to Alice Springs for work. It was a challenging environment for a young city woman, but introduced to it through the eyes of others, she grew to love it as well. Think Albert Namatjira, for this was his country.

With formatting and print preparation in train, I expect The Red Heart to be released very shortly, but by the end of this week, I will be revealing the cover. Then you can see the colours for yourself.

Evolution of The Red Heart

In the years I lived in Alice Springs, it never occurred to me to write a book based in that location.  I lived there seven years, started a couple of businesses, built a house and learnt to fly. None of The Red Heart is autobiographical, but my experiences whilst in the Northern Territory certainly influenced the book.

Learning to fly was something that I’d always wanted to do, but it seemed an impossible dream. It wasn’t until I went to Alice that I met other people who flew, and realised it was feasible. I could do it too and so I did.  It wasn’t that hard after all.

Getting my Wings

Being awarded with my ‘Wings’ on achieving Restricted Pilot status.

I have always wanted to write, and produced the occasional poem or short story, but didn’t know other people who wrote. Back living in South Australia, I joined the SA Writers’ Centre and after attending a romance writing workshop held by that organisation, the prospect of writing a novel seemed more achievable. Just as learning to fly was a case of taking the first step, so was developing my writing skills.

I wrote the first draft in 1988. The eagle-eyed will notice that Kathy and Sarah listen to music cassettes in the car, and those who know detail about aviation will be aware that some scenes pre-date changes in processes have followed satellite and internet technologies. The interaction between Kathy and Alex that occurred in the briefing office wouldn’t happen today.

I picked the story up again in 2013, and made the decision to leave the plot in the 1980s. That meant I didn’t have to do major re-writes, which would have significantly altered some of the plot scenes.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the story. Part of that relates to getting to know the characters, and part relates to exploring some of the situations and environments that were very familiar. A common edict directed to new writers is to ‘write about what you know’ and this is what I did in this situation. It removed the requirement to research the background, while I learnt about the craft of writing.

What I didn’t expect was that the book would turn into a series. Initially, I thought it would be a stand-alone category romance for a publisher such as Harlequin, but it is too long to fit their requirements, and probably doesn’t fit neatly into any of their outlined categories. I had to explore other publishing options. As I got to know the minor characters, I realised that their stories were waiting to be told as well. Hence, the second book follows Sarah, and the third explores the challenging character of Melissa.

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day hasn’t featured in any of my novels, but there’s always a possibility that it might one day. The significance of the date has morphed a long way from the original Feast of St Valentine, though he has been associated with romance since the 14th century.

Valentine's Day Roses

Over the years, it has been customary for lovers, or would-be lovers to exchange tokens on this day. The simple gifts and hand-written cards have given way to masses of flowers (okay – red roses), chocolate, jewellery, engagements and for some a wedding.

It has never featured strongly in my life. Not on a personal level anyway. As a celebrant it certainly did. I recall one year when 14 February fell on a Saturday and I had three weddings scheduled – two of them on the beach on a day that hit 40 degrees. I was able to convince one bride, after reviewing the weather forecast, that standing barefoot on the sand in the glaring mid-afternoon sun was not a good idea. She wasn’t really convinced until I assured her that none of her guests would budge out of the shade or the air-conditioned bar of the nearest hotel.

She still managed to be nearly an hour late though, which didn’t win her many brownie points with those who were waiting in what was a really unpleasant weather and nearly made me late for my last wedding of the day. Fortunately, that last ceremony was early evening and in the foothills, where the heat of the day was starting to dissipate.

The person I was sorriest for on that day was the piper who played the pipes at the first wedding. He was wearing the full Scottish costumes, including woollen kilt, jacket and beret. Hot as I felt, it was probably nowhere near what he was feeling. I was impressed he still had enough puff to play the pipes.


Once you peel away the marketing hype, what is the significance of the day? Different for everyone, but for those in a committed relationship, it’s a reminder of what brought them together and has kept them there. Does it have to be a major event? Not really. All the red roses in the florist shop won’t cement a relationship that’s starting to crack. A simple reminder of all that is good between you is all that is needed. Of course, it can be an excuse for a wonderful day as well.

For the would-be swain, it’s a day that might make it easier to declare your interest or intentions. A simple red rose can speak volumes.

One lesson I have learnt – don’t try to buy any roses on that day. I needed a single rose when I was doing the photo shoot to launch my first novel The Red Heart and was stunned when a single stem was $10. I needed the rose and there were none in bloom in my garden, so I bought it.


Red rose for Valentine's Day

A single red rose

If you have any special Valentine’s Day stories, I would love to hear them.

A Gem of a Story

Don’t you feel great when your creative output has been steady? It’s a fabulous feeling when you reach another milestone.

I have just put the final full stop on this year’s entry in the RWA Little Gems competition. Each year, a different gemstone is selected as the theme around which the story is composed. I can’t give you any detail about my story, in case one of the judges happens to view this post. All entries are assessed anonymously.

Two years ago, my sunstone entry in the Little Gems competition, In the Cards was shortlisted and subsequently printed in that year’s anthology. It was a pleasant surprise as it was the first time I had entered a competition. The judges’ comments are really valuable to an emerging writer.

The following year, the required stone was onyx. That required a bit of creative contemplation, but the story “Capture the Moment” was polished and submitted. Sadly, it didn’t score highly enough, but I took on board the judges’ comments and re-worked a couple of areas. I’m happy with the end result.

This year the stone is Jade. It presented many options and I so enjoyed working on the evolving sApple Green Jade Gemtory. With my research, I learnt more about the stone as well. You will be familiar with the green colour in varying shades, but did you know it also found in lavender, red, orange, yellow, brown, white, black and grey? Of those, an apple green is the most traditional and expensive stone.

It is used extensively ornamentally, but there are also talismans and items of jewellery. It is also known to attract love and bring good luck. Perhaps I should have worn some jade instead of writing about it.

The thing I like about writing is it gets steadily better. My daily word count improves, my writing becomes tighter and more concise, and I’m better at self-editing. What I haven’t overcome is my gut-wrenching nervousness when I know someone is reading my work. It’s that old imposter syndrome that surfaces sometimes.

Aside from that, I really hope that you do read some of it. All reviews and feedback welcome. If you would like to receive a free copy of “Capture the Moment”, fill in the contact form below and I’ll email you the story. It’s only 3000 words so it won’t clog up your inbox.

Capture the Moment CoverWhen Ellie took the house-sitting contract including caring for Princess Leila, she had no idea it would lead to an assault in the middle of the night – nor that she would be the perpetrator. Would Luke Jefferson press charges?

How do I write?

Good question. I would like to say that I write every day, no matter how little it ends up being. Even producing 100 words can be an achievement. There are days when I don’t meet my goal, or else perhaps I am in editing or review mode, which of course is all part of the writing process.

Writing on a paddle boat on the Murray at Echuca.

The location is important to me. The bulk of my writing takes place at my desktop computer because it is there and it is convenient, but there are a lot of distractions around as well. The fridge might call to me or perhaps the plants need watering, or even a load of washing needs to be put in the machine. Often I chase rabbits down lots of social media holes. None of this is good for productivity.

Other days, I’ll find somewhere else to write, either with my laptop or just a notebook. I’ll find a café or a quiet corner of a library or even recently the forecourt of a local cinema, where there are lots of tables. I choose my cafés carefully, as I don’t want to incur the owner’s wrath by nursing my coffee for a couple of hours at one of their tables during peak hour. Knowing that I have to make the most of this time, I usually knuckle down and produce some solid work.

Another advantage of working in a new environment is that it’s more productive for brainstorming. I’m a loose plotter rather than a pantser, so often I’ll start a story without knowing the exact ending, or what twists might happen on the way there. A different location stirs up the creative juices and potential paths present themselves to my pen.

If I’m staring at a blank screen with no idea what to write next, I’ll usually swap to pen and paper and move away from the computer. Even if I just start by jotting down dot points, or snippets of ideas, I soon find that words are starting to organise themselves into paragraphs and appear on my page in some sort of coherent form. Writing in a notebook is often more practical in a café or similar external location anyway. For that reason, I usually tuck a notebook into my bag when out for a walk. I never know where I might be when the muse strikes.

Recently, I was walking down the main street in Echuca when a sudden rainstorm hit. I dived for the shelter of a large umbrella in front of an ice cream shop, and there I sat on the picnic bench for the next half hour. With the steady rain keeping me anchored to that spot, I produced another 500 words. Just as well I had my notebook with me.

Writing with other people is a good incentive to focussing and actually producing work. I’ll often participate in writing sessions, whereby we all just sit in writerly companionship and write. Occasionally there will be a bit of discussion or diversionary activity but predominantly we write and knowing that this is the purpose of the day, it’s what I do.  It’s a great incentive.

I currently have a day job, and so cannot dedicate my day to my writing. I will often produce a few hundred words early in the morning or a few in my lunch hour. I still have that daydream time through the day, when a snippet of dialogue or a new twist suddenly comes to me. The current work in progress is never far from my mind.

How do you write?  What stirs your muse?