Category Archives: Travel & Research

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Crying in Cawarral

Dark glasses were needed!

Yes, there were tears, both happy and sad when we hugged our house-sitting host goodbye last month. We spent six fabulous weeks in Cawarral, which is somewhere in the middle of Rockhampton and Yeppoon on the Queensland Capricornia Coast. (You might recall I set a story in the same region after staying on a cattle property last year.)

Yes, we are officially house-sitters and care-taking our way around the country by looking after vacant houses, maintaining properties and gardens, and feeding and loving animals while their humans head off on holidays. We did up a website, printed some business cards, and the requests started coming in and if our first sit in Cawarral is anything to go by, this roving life just got better.

Check out the pictures: the view from our van was stunning, the company cute, and the experiences were the type you tick off the bucket list — the highlight for sure was being midwives to Lacey the Appaloosa mare (check out the video below).

Of course the birth had to happen just after midnight, with Michelle banging on the caravan door: “Come on, girls, we’re having a baby.” So we chucked on long pants and shirts and fought off mozzies that were bigger than a Black Hawk helicopter, while keeping nosy stable mates at bay and taking really bad video recordings. We soon realised the birth was not going to plan, but Michelle took charge and there was a happy ending. His name is Barney, and if you would like to work your way through some very dark and badly done recording (it does get better when we needed it to) you too can witness the miracle of birth.

Best of all, we have made friends for life in Michelle and John (and Paddy – the award-winning Palomino, Clancy – who thinks he’s a dog, and Wilbur with the wonderful eyes. Coco, who is actually a dog, was also the perfect puppy therapy). Missing you all in Cawarral, but there are new communities to get to know. Next stop — Bairnsdale, Victoria. We hope to back in Cawarral for Christmas next year. Barney will probably be with a new family by then, but we got word recently another bub is on the way, so he or she will be a few months old by then. Can’t wait.

Thank you Michelle and John for your friendship.

Jenn’s #WriteRoundOz Book Tour – NSW

The long way to Mudgee Readers Festival – a big literary event in a small town.

Mudgee 2016 opening drinks

Opening night: with organiser Portia Lindsay

And what fun! From opening night drinks and mingling with *warning: name-dropping ahead*: Kate Forsyth, Charlotte Wood, Jane Caro, David Dyer, and more) books and bookish types took over the pretty streets of Mudgee, where every second shop is a cafe and every second person a book (or wine) lover.

Officially, I was there as a presenter and I talked ‘Books With Heart’ with Amy Andrews, Alissa Callen and Charlotte Nash (about how the heart finds its way into all sorts of books: fiction, memoir, medical, sporting stories, even . . . cook books!! A robust cab sav is required in such instances! That’s ‘offal’ I know! ) We stuck mostly to fictional hearts: hearts that flutter, bang, burst, pound, race, tear, rip, break, swell, jump, thump, beat, bleed and skip and love, hate, ache, sigh, melt, palpitate, sink, shatter, somersault, radiate, glow, embrace, adore and feel. We discussed how hearts talk to us and betray us; become our weakness and our strength; and make us spontaneous and (according to the character in my next book) sometimes makes us wait.

Laughing about serial killers in the outback!

Laughing about serial killers in the outback!

Then, for something a little different, I had a few laughs with Candice Fox about outback serial killers and psychopaths. In fact I asked Candice for her thoughts on the most effective means of warding of potential psychopaths from my caravan door while free camping. I offered her a list of strategies:

  1. Leave out a pair of size 11 work boots and an empty box of bullets?
  2. Set up a chunky dog chain and a big, empty dog bowl—the words STILL HUNGRY visible on the bottom?
  3. Or a sign that tells the truth: “Beware – two angry, menopausal women on board?”

(Yes, she thought #3 might work, too.)

While the welcome was warm (the atmosphere too) the temps were a tad chilly. (Minus 2 over night.)

Despite it being winter, Mudgee was a great destination. But …

Of course my book tour of NSW started well before Mudgee. We took the long road, starting with the launch of book four – The Other Side of the Season – at my home base – The Coffs Coast and after that a whole lot of small towns.

Nambucca was niceCoffs Advocate_2 TOSOTS

May 19, 2016
Author talk: Nambucca Library
Lots of lovely local media.

Coffs Harbour was commemorative The Book Warehouse 2016

May 25, 2016
Library Event/Official Launch
Book number 4 of my Season Collection with more
 great PRINT MEDIA and a book signing at The Book Warehouse.

MOREE was magnificent

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

July 9, 2016
Library Event and a catch up with Nicole and Greg

DIGITAL MEDIA Moree Champion

and Local businesses got on board.

Big Sky Libraries online newsletter

Moree Plains Shire Council (online)

 Moree Champion (print and online)

COONABARABRAN was a little crazy

July 19, 2016
Only because I gatecrashed the local book club discussion! What fun!

TAMWORTH was terrific

Tamworth crowd

Tamworth crowd

July 23, 2016
Library Event – huge turnout. They made me feel like a star, even without a guitar!
RADIO CHAT ON 88.9 FM (Pulse)
TV News coverage – NBN: NSW Western District CLICK to Play
Articles: PRINT and DIGITAL MEDIA: Northern Daily Leader article and Northern Daily Leader f/u story

DUBBO was adorable (I’m talking meerkats at the zoo!)

August 6, 2016
Book Store/Book Signing: The Book Connection: SOLD OUT of stock!Dubbo phot news 2

PRINT MEDIA (two pages): Dubbo PhotoNews Magazine Dubbo photo news 1

Advertorial mention by The Book Connection

August 7, 2016
Special Author Event: Jenn J McLeod – In conversation @ Red Earth Vineyard (yes, there was wine). (Dubbo retweets)

Meerkat on log

Meerkat with no idea I was a famous author

Dubbo Tweets

Dubbo Tweets

MUDGEE READERS FESTIVAL was amazingMudgee mention

August 13 and 14, 2016
PRINT/DIGITAL MEDIA: : Guardian Festival features Jane Caro and Jenn J McLeod
And pre-event PRINT MEDIA: Discover Magazine
Massive social media coverage by MRF

NEWCASTLE was noteworthy
(I mean, seriously, look at the size of the poster!)

THAT's not a poster...

Now THAT’s a poster…

August 20, 2016
Book signing: Big W, Charlestown (biggest shopping centre EVA!)

 

Back to NAMBUCCA

Elizabeth's Turning Pages on 2NVR Radio

Elizabeth’s Turning Pages on 2NVR Radio

August 25, 2016
RADIO interview: 2NVR Radio – Elizabeth’s Turning Pages.

So, there you have it.

 

 

 

And home in time to remember Mum on her birthday and share Father’s Day with Dad.

Oh, and by the way… If you are into stats, we did around 3,200 kms and fed the beast about $650.00 in diesel. While it was a great experience and fun, I do hope my tour helped to get my name out there and I found some more lovely readers. Word of mouth is the best compliment. (Have you told someone today about the last great book you read?)

A sad and angry sea – and we grieve

A sad end to a shocking few days. I had no idea when I took this photo of the seaweed this morning what the ocean had washed onto the shore. Normally J and I enjoy our morning beach walks. We usually pick up rubbish or find treasures, like this little heart pebble (we found a day after the little dude dog when to heaven), the shells, and the Port Jackson shark egg.

But for the last few days our walks have been difficult.

A young man, a regular at Corindi van park and a passionate rock fisherman, went missing the other day. He didn’t return from his late night fishing excursion. There have been helicopters circling and family members walking up and down the beach, some just staring out to sea.

Last night J and I had to cut our beachcombing short after finding a t-shirt washed up in the seaweed (another lady found black track pants on the beach). We tried walking again this morning, and as much as I told myself it was okay, I had a very strange feeling wash over me. I told J I didn’t want to walk any further because I wasn’t enjoying the walk. All we were doing was scanning the sand for I don’t know what. So we turned off the beach rather than walking to our usual turn around spot – at the rocky point.

We were both shocked and saddened when, at lunchtime, the 26 year old’s brother discovered a body in the weed — at the rocky point — and I think it’s right that it was family.

Corindi beach is such a small, tight-knit community, and having stayed here for many months in our caravan, we feel very much apart of the place. It’s so hard to believe that something as beautiful as the beach and all the treasures it washes up can be so deadly.

The the beach will continue to give and take, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to walk it the same way again.

Michael leaves behind a distraught fiancée and family and our thoughts are with them.

When the dust devil dances

Barcoola Sunset HPK 2015 smWhen I was young we called them a willy-willy. Growing up in the Sydney suburbs, they were these small whorls—a vortex of wind that ran along the gutters, picking up spirals of street litter. These days the Aussie Bureau of Meteorology is referring to the will-willy as a Dust Devil* and I kind of like that.

I am also liking the unexpected joys of this roving lifestyle. That includes spending lots of time outdoors. Where once I would be inside the house, at a desk or on the lounge with my laptop—for no reason but because that’s what I did—I am now sitting outside and it is opening my eyes to so much more. (When I talk about ‘sweat trickling down her spine’, I am generally feeling sweat trickling down the spine!)

Nature and the seasons always play a role in my stories. As writers we are taught to utilize all five senses so our characters touch, see, hear, smell and taste (except if you are Paige out of Season of Shadow and Light who lost her sense of smell and taste after a stroke. She was a challenge to write!)

While caravan parks have come with their share of experiences (not to mention characters) nothing has blown my mind more than two months parked in a paddock on in this amazing cattle property in Queensland’s Capricornia region.

Night and day, and every colourful moment in between, is inspiring my 2017 release. Just now one of those willy-willy winds I mentioned above whipped through—and I mean THROUGH—our van site. First as an escalating howl in distant trees. Then I watched in awe as the spiral of dust and leafy debris—at some three metres in height and just as wide—danced across the paddock towards us. I wish there’d been time to capture it with my camera because the way it gathered speed and spectacle it was truly mesmerizing display of mother nature doing her thing.

Okay, so I am easily amused. But when nature puts on a show I am at least outside to be a witness these days.

Loving this life.

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* What is a dust devil?

A dust devil is a localised dust filled vortex similar in shape to a tornado but of much less strength. They differ from dust storms in that they are a more localised and short-lived event. They form due to intense heating at the surface causing a rapid upward movement of parcel of air. This displacement of the surface air causes an inward movement of surrounding air, creating the common spiral shape of the dust devil. Dust devils are generally small in size compared with tornadoes, being about 3-100m in diameter and up to 300m high. Wind speeds inside the vortex reach a maximum of 100km/hr.

BOM: NSW Regional Office, May 2006

Would you like a prairie oyster to go with that?

Allow me to introduce you to ‘the prairie oyster’.

HPK Dont Even Ask

The dogs seem to enjoy them. Only not my dog. I think little Daiquiri’s tastes are a tad more discerning than Diva the farm dog’s. Poor little Dac simply needed a way to say…

“No thank you. No bull’s balls for me today. I’ll stick to my Greenies.”

Greenies

Yes, the realities of farm life kind of hit me over the head today (or was that Diva tossing her prairie oyster around? Note to self: Wash hair tonight.)

No doubt about it. Kellie gets all the fun jobs! Prairie oyster prep. Someone pass their plate.

HPK Kelly on the job

 

As if being castrated isn’t enough!

While Kellie has the cattle in the crush it’s a good time to brand them.
HPK Kel and Ryan in the crushes

This, folks, is what it really looks like when you have a lot of irons in the fire.

HPK branding irons in fire

So, there you have it. And while Kellie gets all the fun jobs, I am left with the difficult task of writing the prairie oyster into a scene in my current work. I figured the least I could do, even though this book is a long way off, is whet your appetite with this teaser of words–as I’m sure I didn’t do it with the prairie oysters.

 

Here you go: The excerpt.

‘G’day!’

‘Hello.’ Gina alighted from the car, her once shiny leather boots covered in dust.

‘Where you’ve parked under the tree is fine. Good shade for a couple of hours.’ He spoke as quickly as he walked, barely glancing her way. ‘ We’ll be done by three.’

‘We will?’

‘If we get started without any delays. This way.’

‘Excuse me but . . . You are J.B. Tate?’

He paused to look back. ‘I am. Why do you ask?’

‘You’re not what I expected.’

‘Well, that makes two of us. You’re not the usual run of the mill worker I’m used to either. Not sure why they sent someone so . . . ’ His gazed travelled the length of her body—up and down. ‘Are you sure you can handle it?’

‘I’m quite capable, Mr Tate.’

Whatever the hell it was. Gina was going to do it—and do it well.

************

‘So, you wanna tell me what you had in mind when you fronted up today for the job?’ He was laughing, which was more than Gina was capable of right now. She’d thrown up as the first testicle hit the ground and the kelpie snatched it up.

‘Prairie oysters,’ he’d told. ‘Dogs love ‘em.’

Thank goodness the actual farmhand had shown up in the nick of time.

‘I thought you were your father.’

He chuckled. ‘Ahh, another journalist looking for a new angle, eh? All credit to you for the dedication. Do you always go to such lengths to get your story?’

‘No, no, I’m not a journalist,’ she said, frustration mounting. ‘I know I should’ve said straight up except . . . Well, whenever a man questions my ability—’

‘You’ve gotta prove otherwise. I get it. I do.’

‘I feel like an idiot. I assumed that whatever the job was it would involve the hospitality part of the business. I assure you I can do most things food and event related without throwing up or passing out.’

********

I hope you enjoyed that little tidbit (the excerpt, not the prairie oyster), although I am told some people consider the cow off-cuts a delicacy.

Please let me know if you are one of those people, or if you’ve partaken in one of these meaty morsels, and I will be sure to think twice before accepting an invitation to dinner!

Jokes aside, I know this stuff has to happen. I just wish that they wouldn’t look at me like that.
cow eyes sm

I keep wanting to say, “It wasn’t me! No bull!”

3 cows

If you don’t mind a good cow story, you might enjoy Season of Shadow and Light. It has cows and a fun cloven hooves scene – my favourite!

 

Seaosn of Shadow and Light-194x300