Trust Your Heart

Not long ago, I launched The Red Heart. Initially, I intended this to be a stand-alone book, featuring Kathy Sullivan and pastoralist Alex Woodleigh. The book also described the secondary characters – Kathy’s friend Sarah, the chopper pilots Chris and Mark, and  Melissa Gilbert who featured strongly in the aircraft disaster.

In writing that book, I got to know some of those secondary characters to the point where I wanted to know more of their story. It was only natural to focus on Sarah to explore her life. What was she doing in Alice Springs? What happened with her and Dave Bishop, and how was she coping in the grieving process? She is lucky to have Chris and Mark to help her through some of the dark days.

Sarah’s social circles largely revolve around the aviation sector, but not exclusively as we discover in the final hours of the wedding celebration for Kathy and Alex. Sarah meets Joel Pemberton under circumstances she would rather hadn’t happened, and from there her horizons expand. Sarah is a forthright and bubbly character, but that is the persona that is visible to others. Underneath, she experiences the insecurities, doubts and loneliness of someone who feels that commitment is not to be trusted, and that happiness is passing her by.

The story follows her development as she makes the transition from grieving to accepting she does have a future. Here is a small extract from the book.

Here is a small extract from the book.

“Sarah!”

She looked around. Who was that? Where had the voice come from?

A figure was leaning against a tree, partially obscured by the shadows. Her eyes strained against the darkness. “Hello?”

Tomás kept hold of her hand, looking also in the direction of the voice.

“Senorita, you are okay? You want me to stay wiz you?”

The figure detached itself from the tree and moved into the light. Joel. In the dim light, he looked brooding and menacing, momentarily startling her. This was not the Joel she knew. What was he doing here?

“It’s okay Tomás—I know who it is. I’ll be fine—thank you.”

He raised her hand and brushed it with his lips, before relinquishing it. “Stay safe, senorita. See you next week.”

Sarah smiled at him before turning and walking towards Joel, who waited a few metres away, arms folded. “Joel—what are you doing here? How did you know where to find me?”

“That was a touching scene with Romeo. Am I interrupting anything?”

She experienced a surge of irritation. He’d tracked her down to ask her that? “Don’t be silly. Tomás is my tutor. You haven’t answered my question.”

He didn’t respond straight away but looked at her appraisingly. “Mark told me earlier today you were taking flamenco classes. I thought I’d surprise you. Nice skirt.”

There was no faulting the grapevine. Chris would have told Mark, and Mark in turn had told Joel. Now they were under the lamplight, the initial perception of moody and ominous disappeared. The man in front of her looked tired perhaps, but still with the charisma that had first drawn her attention. He also looked pleased to see her. That was encouraging.

“You’ve certainly done that. I heard you were back. Did you have a successful trip?”

He looked away momentarily before looking at her again. “It was eventful,” he said at last. “There was no fixed agenda but a few things that needed sorting on the family front.”

Those secrets again. Was he hiding something, or did he not trust her?

“Hey, that’s fine—I wasn’t meaning to pry into your personal affairs.” She half expected someone to jump out from behind the door crying “Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!” Of course she was curious. Good manners dictated she shouldn’t stick her nose in.

“You’re not prying, Sarah. It’s not something I can talk about.” Abruptly, he changed topic.

He gave her a slow mile, the sort that started at one corner of his mouth, and crept upwards towards his eyes, emitting a tide of warmth with it. “I thought of you while I was away. I missed you. I kept thinking of those stars you can see in the Territory, and the stories they tell. I remembered one particular story that’s waiting for a happy ending.”

“Like I said,” she whispered with a catch in her throat, “they’re the same stars you see in the big city.”

“Except you don’t see them, do you? At least, not with the same intensity. There’s not the same magic.” He tilted his head to one side with a look that was wistful. “I wanted to see you again while I had a moment.”

“Only a moment? You could have rung me for that.”

“I could have,” he agreed, “but that’s not the same as seeing you. I don’t have much time tonight, but thought I could briefly catch you after your class. That’s why I’m here.”

As she looked up at him, he grasped her by the shoulders, and dropped a light kiss on her mouth. “I couldn’t do that over the phone.”

A zillion thoughts chased each other through her mind. She’d mentally decided that theirs was a relationship that was going nowhere. He had no right to stir things up, just when she thought her life was getting back on track.

He was close enough that she could smell the scent she now identified as his. That, and the proximity of his body evoked a reaction she hadn’t been expecting. The tingling in her breasts spoke of her own arousal. He looked at her with intensity, a hunger even. It mirrored a need in herself. Wrapping her arms around him, she lifted her face to his.

“Kiss me again,” she whispered. “Before you disappear, kiss me again.”

 

Trust Your Heart can be ordered from your preferred online retailer:

Amazon Aus https://www.amazon.com.au/Trust-Your-Heart-Centre-Book-ebook/dp/B07JZBHFJS/

Amazon US  https://www.amazon.com/Trust-Your-Heart-Centre-Book-ebook/dp/B07JZBHFJS/

Kobo, Nook, Apple https://www.books2read.com/u/3L0MKD

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Life on Mulga Downs

Alex Woodleigh, partner to Kathy Sullivan, has grown up on Mulga Downs. This a cattle station to the north-east of Alice Springs. As the crow flies, it’s around 125 kms from Alice, but a much longer distance by road. What Americans would term a ranch, the station is around 7,000 square km.  or about 1,750,000 acres. It’s a pastoral company, growing beef for local and export markets.

He studied at Roseworthy Agricultural College in SA, but otherwise has spent his life in the Northern Territory. He is in some ways an enigmatic character, but I managed to catch up with him briefly for a chat on one of his visits to town.

Mulga Downs is a huge property, Alex. Did you always see yourself running the station?

Alex,-reducedAlex: I was the only child in the family and it was always assumed that I would run the family business. I’m the fourth generation to run cattle here. I took over management earlier than expected, because of the death of my father when I was in my early twenties. I had to grow up fast. Fortunately, there were some other experienced station hands working on  Mulga Downs, so I wasn’t without help or advice.

How did your friendship with Dave Bishop evolve?

Alex: Dave Bishop was a childhood friend. We didn’t know each other in the early years, but grew close when we both attended boarding school down south. Dave’s parents lived in town, but we managed to catch up regularly. Once he got the job with StationAir, he often dropped past doing the mail runs.

Is there much social life on the station?

Alex: It varies on the time of year and what’s happening. There’s a transient population to help with mustering or other aspects of station management and maintenance, and we might get together of an evening for a bit of a yarn. Otherwise, there are times when we meet up with others on adjoining stations, or at the local races or events like that. Having the plane is helpful. I can take Mum into town whenever she needs a break.

What appealed to you about Kathy when you first met her? I thought you would have married a woman who was used to station life.

Alex: It was a gradual thing. I noticed her at the railway station first, but that was just in passing. She looked a bit lost.  She irritated me initially. I didn’t think an inexperienced pilot fresh from the city was the best person for the job she was taking on. I particularly wasn’t impressed that she was taking over the job held by Dave Bishop. She kept turning up wherever I was though and she had a way of making her presence known. I admired her determination, even though I didn’t let on about that.  It was a gradual thing, but she got under my skin. As far as marriage went, that wasn’t on my agenda, whether to Kathy or anyone else. I had no preconceptions about the woman I might marry though.

When did you decide that Kathy was the woman for you?

Alex: I’m not sure really. My mother liked her, but of course, my mother has a very generous spirit and likes many people. It was important to me nevertheless. I think when we went for the morning walk on Jinka Station, things really fell into place. I was attracted well before that though, as you might have noticed when we were doing the fire-spotting.

She was mostly antagonistic towards me around that time, so I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Then I thought she was interested in that city bloke, which would be only natural for a woman from the city, so I backed right off. I was waiting to see if Kathy would last the distance with the job, and also to see what might be the best approach in developing the relationship. As things turned out, she sort of fell into my lap, though not in the way you might imagine and no, I don’t think she is a heifer. I wanted to set the record straight about that.

Thanks, Alex. We look forward to learning more about life in and around Alice.

Emily Hussey

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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 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 northeast 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 $16.00 and can also be ordered from this site.

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.