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

Any comments or questions are welcome. Use the form below.

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.

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?