Category Archives: Barcoola

When is a killer not a killer (a lesson for writers!)

There are faster, easier, more caravan-friendly roads to drive between Coffs Harbour and Victoria. We chose the more scenic coastal route—The Princes Highway, which is less highway and more a bitumen goat track (a drunk goat, in parts).

Our reason?

My family holidayed on the south coast when I was very young (Ulladulla, Kiama, Batemans’ Bay) but we never went as far south as Eden.

We knew the road would be challenging with 25 feet of Myrtle The Turtle in tow, but the town of Eden was a bit of a bucket list town for me. I’m not sure why, although I am certain it was not for any biblical reference: no gardens, naked men, or apples tempted me. The only temptation was the stunning Two Fold Bay and had the temperature not been single digit and the wind gale-force, I might have had a quick dunk, despite tales of killer whales.

Eden did teach this roving writer something about the power of a single word in storytelling and how reader interpretation can change the story—and that’s not a bad lesson for any author.

My lesson.

What I learned is how our words can incorrectly influence our readers and my teacher was those so-called ‘killer whales’.

You see, the Killer Whale did not get their rather unfortunate name from hunting down and snacking on humans, as I’d always assumed. They were, in a way, man’s friend, even when whale oil was a much sought after commodity in the 1800s. Twofold Bay legend of that time tells of the Killer Whale being the first known sea creature to work in ‘partnership’ with people. I recommend you read this more detailed (and short) version by Australian Geographic about the cleverness of these giants of the sea, and how they protected their species from whalers in search of whale oil, by herding the unsuspecting humpbacks (and other species) in to be killed instead. Extract: from the Australian Geographic article:

“Whaling in Eden took off in 1828, but it wasn’t until 1844 that stories of the peculiar behaviour started to emerge. Eyewitnesses talked of orcas prowling the entrance of Twofold Bay for migrating humpback, blue, southern right and minke whales. Using the unique geography of the bay, the waiting orcas would ambush whales that were vastly bigger than themselves – ripping at fins, diving over their blowholes, and forcing them into shallower waters for the whalers to finish off. Once a whale was dead, they’d feast on the lips and tongue, leaving the rest of the carcass for the whalers.”

So, when a killer is not necessarily a killer.

That’s how the killer whale got such a demonised name and reputation. Not by eating people! Over the years, legend and misunderstanding has seen the single word ‘killer’ interpreted in different ways and this is the lesson for writers.

We need to choose and use our words carefully. We need to look at words in context and understand that a single word can have different meanings or be misconstrued.

We need to be as careful with our word choices as we do our commas and apostrophes. Or else when someone says, “Let’s eat Grandma” we are not perceived to be killer grandkids when what we really mean is: “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Discover more about at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

Life as Jenn #rovingwriter

So there I am writing a big story at my tiny desk, when I hear the squeak of excited voices outside the caravan door. I pop my head out and see two women in a huddle. They’re pointing.
‘Hi,’ I say, slipping into my shoes. ‘I’m Jenn. Nice day!’
What transpires makes my day very nice indeed.

The women have seen my lawn sign shoved in the ground and guess what?They love my books. So there I am, in my uncoordinated Crocs, socks, shorts and T-shirt and feeling absolutely fabulously famous. We talk, they buy a book (they didn’t know my fourth one was out) and I sign it. Word spreads and soon I’m selling more books. (Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than taking an afternoon walk around the van park and hearing multiple new readers call out, “Just up to where blah does blah.”) There are definite positives to being Jenn, #rovingwriter. (There are also negatives. I’ll get to that).

The important message is, the only reason those ladies knew who was inside the caravan is because I told them. I have my name EVERYWHERE—and it works. (All I need now is the T-shirt!)

I’ve probably worked harder on marketing since hitting the road. And it’s the nicest kind of promo because I’m away from the computer and face-to-face with people. My response is also less awkward when someone asks what I do for a living. (It’s only taken four books!)

Since hitting the road I’m learning to be brave and make a noise (because squeaky wheels get attention. Facebook will tell you that!)

  • Every van park office, every small town coffee shop waiter gets a signed bookmark that says ‘thank you’.
  • Once set up on site, my first stop is the laundry. Travellers leave books they’ve finished in the laundry and those books need bookmarks!
  • Most caravan parks will display my Camp Kitchen Book Chat flyer, inviting fiction lovers to BYO wine for a bookish happy hour.
  • When I know where I’ll be well in advance I contact local bookshops and libraries. In Coonabarabran (this year I did a NSW mid-west tour, en route to a Mudgee Readers Festival gig) I visited the library. As I was only in town a couple of nights I hadn’t arranged a formal event, but I asked if they had a book club, and could I leave them some bookmarks? Guess what? The book club was meeting the next day and I was invited to gatecrash.

Apart from the Mudgee event itself, Tamworth was a tour highlight. Not only did my library event garner lots of attention, I scored the promotional trifecta: print, radio and a spot on the local TV news with a film crew visiting the caravan. (And I got to catch up with Len Klump—friend/reader extraordinaire.) See the media my NSW tour achieved HERE or View the TV News footage.

Why to I do all this?

So I can keep my name out there 365 days a year. (The norm in traditional publishing is a six-week (from release) publicity campaign.) While the publisher supports me with posters on my self-designed tours, I arrange the events and secure media exposure. (Cursor over for captions)

As you can see, so far I’ve knocked over the north-west of NSW (catching up with author friends along the way) and as I write this I’m making my way around Victoria in much the same way: bookshop signings, library talks, catch-ups with writing friends. (Friend me on Facebook to know where I’ll be next.)

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

So, is the #rovingwriter life all positive?

No. There are just as many frustrations, especially when Telstra makes you pay in blood for pathetically slow and mostly intermittent mobile data ($110 / mth for 20 GB!); or running out of laptop battery when the words are flowing and the solar panels don’t have enough charge. (We just bought a generator, because if you think 24 feet of caravan is small, try sharing the space with a cranky writer with a flat battery!) Although, I confess, de-stressing is not too difficult.

While I dreamed of hitting the road, my four-book contract gave me the nudge I needed and it’s fitting that I call myself Jenn, #rovingwriter. I love the roving life and Gypsy is the character from my debut novel, House for all Season, and she once dreamed of running away with the circus.

I appreciate not everyone can sell, or give up, everything to live in a caravan. But that shouldn’t keep you chained to your desk. Get out and find ways to make a noise in your community. If you have caravan parks, drop bookmarks into the laundry regularly. My car signage works a treat, too, with people tooting and waving madly. (I assume they’re adoring fans and not giving me the finger because I’ve inadvertently cut them off in traffic.)

So if you do see Jenn the #rovingwriter in your travels, please wave.

 

(Republished from RWA Hearst Talk Feb 2017) And if you are a writer and not yet a member of Romance Writers of Australia, I highly recommend you think about joining.

OMG! Huge news. Massive. Something I’ve never done before.

I’m driving over the border into Victoria!

It’s a first. I’ve never even been to Victoria — unless you count flying into a conference in a Melbourne hotel and flying out again.

To get this far south from Coffs Harbour, the  J and I have been traversing some pretty serious hills. We don’t like hills. We particularly dislike hills that include skinny roads and narrow bridges. (Narooma, for example. We did not like that bridge much, but the town was very pretty.) I’ve discovered that the Princes Highway (did you know all these years I’ve thought it was the Princess Highway?) presents more twists and turns than a Jenn J McLeod plot?

We were ‘tempted’ to stop in Eden (NSW’s most southern coastal town) so we did. We were very weary (and extremely wary of snakes and apples in Eden). But we needed to regroup and prepare for the BIG crossing. We also had to eat all the prohibited fresh fruit and veggies because apparently, we take them over the border. (Of course, we washed them down with wine, as grapes are also on the prohibited list.)

So, it is a first. Wish us well for the last leg as we prepare to tackle a border crossing into unknown territory and take up our first Victorian property sitting job as of Saturday.

Some things we found en route:

Speaking of weather…

Can someone tell the south coast… It’s December, for Pete’s sake!

Why do I have the car heater on today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and sound advice.

NSW we love you and we will be back, but first there are places to see and people to meet, libraries to conquer and small towns to visit.

 

 

 

 

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

Yes, the lion was sleeping. Wish I had been. Instead we were up at 5.30am and dressing in so many layers I looked like the Michelin Man.

“It’s fun”, they said.

“A not-to-be-missed experience,” the brochure claimed.

Not only was it only 3 degrees, it was a foggy day in Dubbo today. We thought the fog might have ruined the up close encounters. Instead it added a serenity until about 10am when it finally lifted.

We walked about 10 km and we’re totally exhausted, but what an experience. Not hard to tell my favourites. We are going back for more tomorrow.

Giraffes in the mist

Giraffes in the mist

Spider monkey island

Spider monkey island

 

Out and about in Barcoola

 

It’s been five months since selling up and moving into Barcoola and we have experienced a few ‘events’ Barcoola style.

After our windy weeks in Corindi (we were staying close to home for Dad) turned into a few months, we finally hit the road on December 15 and headed for Casino, NSW. Both stays have been filled with fabulous characters and fun.

 

Melbourne Cup Day Corindi Van Park style!

Here I am with Hans and Denise and their merry band of Tallowwood Travellers. We were invited to stay on for dinner but didn’t want to leave little Daiquiri on her own any longer. She had lost her mate of 12 years the day before and the crowd knew we were all grieving.

Next thing we hear is Denise knocking on the annex door. There she was with two generous serves of her fabulous paella, with garlic bread! Exactly want we needed to cheer us up.

What wonderful people we’re meeting. You can look out for a Hans and Denise mention in book 4, April 2016! I have a feeling there will be paella!!

 

 Christmas Casino Style

The beef capital is a great town. I am, however concerned. I don’t think the locals are used to seeing little white fluffy dogs. We all went for ‘walkies’ down the main street and people everywhere stopped on the spot and stared with comments like . . . “Oh, a little white fluffy dog!” Maybe they are not used to a dog in a backpack. Or the Blue Heeler and Kelpie are the dog of choice? (Clearly, no one has seen how a cagey, one-dyed white, fluffy dog can fool a mob of sheep!) I did like this Casino local and his mate.

 

 

Our hosts for Christmas was The Big 4 Resort, Casino

The Big 4 Resort at Casino is two things:

  1. a caravan park ideal for the Biiiiig Riiiiig (you are supposed to draw out the words Biiiiig Riiiiig with a really deep, echoing voice)
  2. an entire community of houses especially built for people who own and need to park a Biiiiig Riiiiig.

This place is everything we hoped for. Did I mention there’s a swap library? And guess whose book I found on the shelves?

Our first Christmas was very Casino. That means HOT! But the Christmas lights were pretty cool. The permanent resident cottages are just delightful, with small, manageable gardens (unlike our unruly, triffid-type garden on our property. We have NOT missed the gardening part—yet!) I reckon one of these will be a nice little retirement plan. With room for Barcoola (which will double as guest quarters!) when winter comes . . . .off we go, while the house stays secure in a fenced estate.

Casino Library Author Chat

I’ve done a few library chats but Casino… you have set the bar pretty high. Wow! It was a great turnout. Here I am with a few hangers oners. I was sent home with a platter of yummy, homemade  country-style treats (which I was assured were not fattening!)

 

Australia DayCasino Bonalbo loop

I met a Bonalbo bloke at my library chat. Lance (pictured) drove into Casino to attend my chat, so I drove out to Bonalbo for their Australia Day celebrations. They clearly knew I was there because the band played a song from my up-coming release – Season of Shadow and Light!photo

 

We’ve had a great time exploring Casino. Time to head back to Corindi for a while. I have a book to launch in May. 🙂

Play this video. Celebrate Australia and Season of Shadow and Light with me.

Grass will NOT grow under my feet!

grass under feetYou know the old saying about not letting the grass grow under your feet?

That is NOT happening here in Corindi Caravan Park. No, no, no!

This week was all work, work, work.

But busy is good, right?

As for that grass growing through the annexe floor  — a floor pegged down on all sides and unable to be pulled up without dismantling the annexe?

That is not so good!

Today I fixed that problem. First I cut the grass in the puppy courtyard. (see exhibit A!)cutting grass

Then I found a way to rid the flooring of that pesky grass without out too much effort at all, which meant our chores were all done by morning coffee time!

I hope you are not letting the grass grow under you feet.

HEALTH WARNING: do NOT run with scissors and do NOT try this lawn cutting technique at home on large lawns!)

Oh, and then there’s the small thing about sending another round of edits for Season of Shadow and Light back to Simon & Schuster. This is the final ‘uh-oh’ version that the printer will be binding into what’s called an advance reader — or proof — copy and S&S will send out to reviewers and book buyers. That means this edit had to be pretty spot on. I get one more go to dot those t’s and cross those i’s (only joking!)  before the final books are printed.

ABC radio Coffs studio

So, book three is getting closer to those shelves. I can’t wait. I totally love this story and the messages woven through it.

While it was all chores, chores, chores, the week started out with a bit of fun. The lovely Janine (who, by the way, has her own fantastic, entertaining, and often thought-provoking blog (Shambolic Living) invited me to chat on air with Fiona Wyllie. We were supposed to be talking about downsizing from a house into a caravan, but we talk a lot about books and laughed a lot.

You can CLICK to listen.

If you would like to experience a little Shambolic Living, pop over to Janine’s blog. Prepare to laugh, to cry, to feel, but, most importantly, to love life.

ABC local radio

 

 

The things you see…

corindi-name-in-sand
Loving it here in Corindi Beach Caravan Park. We may never leave!

The second week of the NSW school holidays was entertaining, to say the least, and reaffirmed why I’m not a mother. (Mothers have the patience of a saint!) Some of the makeshift campsites did make me wonder where the ‘fun’ starts for poor Mum, who seems to do all the same things she would be doing at home – cooking, washing, cleaning – all without the comforts and conveniences of home, while Dad, on the other hand, has gone fishing!

 

What I saw this week…

Friends on Facebook got a giggle when I posted about funny caravan park goings on this week. (Something about the old-er (than me) lady in the leopard spot onesie in the amenities block. No. No. Just NO!) I did not take a photo; I would not do that to you all. I am still trying to wipe the image from my memory bank!!!

IMG_2128A wedding is a much nicer image!

Here comes the bride – all beautiful and windblown, but with the expected glow of a wedding party, despite the HUGE wind that day. And cold! Good grief it was cold. But as brides do, she braved the elements. Here they are wandering by our camp site. I followed them to the small ceremony overlooking the beach. (No, I did not gate crash. I simply stood to one side and cried…with the groom! No, I was not standing WITH the groom, just crying – as he was. True! Shame about the wind (but it is called windy Corindi!!).

 

 

Busy birds!

We discovered the very beautiful Bee Eater bird. This photo does not do the colours justice. Gorgeous and busy, busy, busy little birds. I was exhausted just watching them flit and fly and swoop on insects (and I suppose bees) in the long grasses.

 

Speaking of exhausting…

Our old dogs, who we thought were on their last legs, who had to be dragged around the block for their daily walk back home, have found new energy (or more likely lots of new smells). I can’t keep up. Of course for the rest of the day they sleep at my feet while I write.

Speaking of writing…

The good news is….

One more stage of the publishing process for book three was completed this week. I took this pic on an early morning walk to celebrate Season of Shadow and Light being one step closer to hitting those shelves next year. I am loving this story and cannot wait.

 

That’s it from me for now. What was your week like?