Jugiong Writers’ Festival last weekend.

I’ve been wanting to write something about the Jugiong Writers’ Festival all week, but I have no idea how to say it!

Jugiong Writers Festival 2017 Sonya Heaney Stan Grant Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Margareta Osborn.

Now, some of the images I’m going to use belong to other people, so if you’re not okay with that, tell me, and I’ll remove them.

Sonya Heaney margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey

This is Sulari Gentill’s photo, taken just before our panel began on Saturday afternoon.

Firstly, I’ll direct you to this article from The Guardian about the first ever Jugiong festival in 2015:

From little towns, big writers’ festivals grow.

Then, I’ll direct you to the authors on the panel I moderated – in alphabetical order:

Sulari Gentill

Di Morrissey

Margareta Osborn

Three very well-liked, well-known authors. And I’m supposed to link them all together for a fifty-minute panel, when the only two things that link their works are that they are WOMEN from AUSTRALIA??

The good thing is, they all know what they’re talking about, and (I think!) it all worked out well.

I have been to big book conventions before, and I’ve hated every minute of them. At a convention a few years ago I spent too much of every day downstairs, hiding in the bar, because every attempt I made at starting a conversation ended in funny looks and turned shoulders.

I agree with the article above, that these smaller, more rural book events are much friendlier and more inclusive than the big book conferences I’ve attended before.

Sonya Heaney Margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Jugiong Writers Festival 18th March 2017

Vivien Thomson’s photo.

Our panel was titled “Connection to People and Place”, which was vaguely advertised as having a rural focus. However, with authors writing everything from modern-day rural fiction, to 1930s Sydney, to 1904 Italy, this was a bit tricky! The good thing is that they all have such a sense of “place” that there was more time for conversation than there was time for the panel to run for.

Sonya Heaney margareta Osborn Sulari Gentill Di Morrissey Jugiong Writers Festival 18th March 2017

Sulari Gentill’s photo.

Stan Grant opens 2017 Jugiong Writers Festival @thelandnews #Jugiong #HilltopsRegion Over 250 visitors

Newspaper photo from… I have no idea!

I know I come from Australia’s capital city, but as often as not we’re lumped in with rural, rather than urban Australia (half the ads we have on TV are for tractors etc.), and as we see more kangaroos in Canberra than almost anyone else in the nation, I definitely don’t feel out of place in the country.

Kangaroos Lawn Cemetery Queanbeyan Australia 11th July 2015 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Winter

E.g. – my grandparents’ graves!

My day actually began with running (okay, driving at the speed limit) to the Canberra Centre to pick up two huge boxes of books they needed in Jugiong that afternoon. So my arrival was later than the others involved in the event.

I think the issues we discussed on the stage were relevant to all fiction written by women. I’ve been (more than) mildly obsessed with Regency and Victorian fiction in the past couple of years, but I think that any of those authors could have got up there last weekend and had similar things to say.

Women want to tell stories, and women authors often face the same obstacles no matter what. They write PLACE, and they write characters, and no matter what they do, they get lumped into the same group as “lady authors”, no matter is it’s romance, crime, or… well, or anything.

Free Champagne at the end of the day Sonya Oksana Heaney Jugiong Writers' Festival 18th March 2017

Free sparkling wine at the book launch at the end of the afternoon.

The discussion definitely did NOT go where I thought it would, but it seemed the audience enjoyed themselves, so… I only wish the people watching had more time for questions, but when you have three beloved authors in one panel – it’s not easy!

The other thing about Jugiong that was great was that JUGIONG was great! I have travelled through neighbouring – famous – Gundagai many times in the past few decades, but have never been to Jugiong. It’s a tiny place, but has a gorgeous – and recently renovated – old pub that I have plans to visit again soon.

Also, thank you to Freda and the rest of the team involved in the organisation of the weekend.

On top of that, the drive in and out from Canberra? Just look at it!

Jugiong NSW to Canberra ACT 18th March 2017 On the Road Sonya Oksana Heaney 2017

Jugiong NSW to Canberra ACT 18th March 2017 On the Road Sonya Oksana Heaney 2017 Dusk

 

The Week: 6th – 12th March

Bright Blue Sky Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Autumn 6th March 2017

First day back home. Blue sky, sunshine, summer temperatures – and half a new deck!

We went to Canberra’s Enlighten festival last night. The national buildings (National Library – above, National Science and Technology Centre, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Old Parliament House etc.) are lit up. There are also bars and food stalls and opera performances and a whole lot of things.

I will find some better pictures tomorrow.

This possum has moved in (not our first one, but the smallest so far), right outside my bedroom window. The night-time fights with other animals kept me awake all night a few nights ago!

It has been absolutely gorgeous in Canberra this week. Temperatures up around thirty degrees, bright blue skies, sunshine. It feels more like summer than autumn most of the time.

Chris Miller 11th March 2017 Russia invaded Ukraine

A timely reminder from a very respected journalist in Europe.

A Ukrainian woman is behind bars in the United Arab Emirates at the moment because doctors found out she is pregnant to her fiancé. They are “testing” her to find out how long she has been sexually active, which sounds like an appalling abuse of a woman’s basic rights.

You’re not allowed to have premarital sex in the UAE, and women are imprisoned for reporting rapes. Please be aware that just because Dubai and Abu Dhabi look shiny and tourists love them doesn’t mean it isn’t an Islamic country with some terribly restrictive laws – especially for women.

I have to travel through there are few more times this year, and I really wish I wasn’t. Qantas sends their flights through there a lot now, and codeshares with Emirates, which is one of the worst airlines I have ever experienced.

Also on my list of “things that annoyed me this week”, this article:

Pope may allow married Catholic men as priests

The reason it annoys me? Ukrainian Catholic men – married, soon to be married, planning to be married – have ALWAYS been able to become priests. For centuries. Most of the priests I’ve ever known have been married – with children.

This is allegedly such a groundbreaking idea, but once again people totally ignore the fact this is already, and always has been, a thing.

Nobody knows anything about Ukraine, but you’d think a journalist or two might mention this extremely relevant fact!

And then there’s:

Muhammad Ali’s son detained at US airport for second time

He’s a flipping US citizen! What is wrong with Trump’s version of America??!

My review of Outback Cowboy (Hot Aussie Heroes Book 1) by Margareta Osborn

My review of Devil in Spring (Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas

My review of A Temporary Family by Sherri Shackelford

Patricia Briggs’ New Book

Excuse me, cover designers…

Outback Cowboy (Hot Aussie Heroes Book 1) by Margareta Osborn

outback-cowboy-hot-aussie-heroes-book-1-by-margareta-osborn

Carina Chapman wants a vacation. Somewhere hot. Somewhere decadent. Somewhere far, far away from her complicated life in New York. Somewhere in Australia appears to be the answer, until Carina discovers her PA has booked her into the wrong resort.

Cowboy Jake Richardson can cook a mean camp-oven roast, track wild horses, breed cattle and knows Australia’s rugged High Country like no other, but he needs to diversify if he wants to keep his land. Tourism seems like the answer, but his housekeeper just quit, the rooms aren’t ready and he doesn’t know a short black from a cappuccino.

Then his first guest arrives.

City slick Carina is smart, classy and disgruntled that her dreamy five-star retreat has been replaced by a rustic homestead beside the Barcoo Creek. Jake has seven days to convince Carina he can deliver all the items on her vacation checklist – including the five-step method to an everlasting relationship…

With him.

Outback Cowboy (Hot Aussie Heroes Book 1) by Margareta Osborn

Margareta Osborn has a lot to achieve in a short space of time in Outback Cowboy.

We have an American heroine (from NYC, no less) who turns up in rural Australia with no idea what to expect, no idea what the local vernacular is, and no mental preparation whatsoever for an entirely different landscape and culture. And in this shorter story we have to believe she can transform into someone who could be in a permanent relationship with an Australian man from the land.

The title itself is a play on the language differences between the US and Australia (we tend to not call our men working the land cowboys).

This is a popular theme for rural romances the world over, and it can go one of two ways. Often authors fall into the trap of painting the “city girl” heroine as vain and stupid, and they make it all about her adjusting while he stays the same – this is when this theme doesn’t work for me.

When it does is when the hero learns a few things about himself, too, and doesn’t condemn the heroine for being from a different world.

I think Margareta Osborn achieved this. This is a hero who is out of his depth in trying to turn his property into a resort, and the heroine has a thing or ten to teach him about that. Sure, she is used to pampering and city life, but she’s definitely not stupid.

However, she is not particularly likeable at the beginning of the story. I have recently enjoyed a few books where an unlikable heroine transforms as we get to know her better. It’s sort of a taboo theme for the romance genre, as readers are always much faster to hate a prickly heroine than they are a bastard of a hero.

So I really appreciate when an author takes some risks with their female characters. Women are allowed to make mistakes and still be liked.

The language differences were done well; I hate it when the culture clash is turned into a joke, but it was done more subtly here. The only thing I noted was that our American leading lady was immediately thinking of eucalypts as “gum trees”. When I worked at an American school in Asia and we hit the Australian studies unit, nobody knew what a gum tree was.

Oh, and the fact she immediately understood temperatures in degrees Celsius!

This is a smaller publisher, and I do think they need to give some more attention to their editing, as there were missing commas and extra apostrophes, and little distractions that occasionally drew me out of the story.

However, this was a solid, quick contemporary romance read that would work for people on either side of the Pacific Ocean.

Christmas Reads: A Bush Christmas by Margareta Osborn

A Bush Christmas by Margareta Osborn

Reviewed Here

A Bush Christmas by Margareta Osborn

From the author of Bella’s Run, a gloriously rural and hopelessly romantic Christmas novella.

Jaime Hanrahan does not want anything to do with Christmas this year.

She’s just been retrenched, and if that wasn’t bad enough, this is her first Christmas without her beloved father Jack, who died last Boxing Day.

Determined not to spend it with her mother, who has already remarried, and her friends, who still have six-figure jobs, she jumps at the chance to house-sit a mansion in rural Burdekin’s Gap.

Two problems.

Number one, the property comes with a handsome station manager, Stirling McEvoy, who doesn’t take kindly to a city chick destroying his peace. Especially when she needs rescuing from stampeding cattle, falling Christmas trees and town ladies wielding catering lists and tablecloths.

And two, in Burdekin’s Gap there’s no chance of escaping the festive season. For the town has its own unique way of celebrating Christmas – big time, BUSH style!

The Week: 26th May – 1st June

Ukrainians Crimeans and Russian protest against Russia in Canberra Australia 25th May 2014

Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and Russians all protesting against Russia in Canberra last weekend.

I’m going through a phase. Nothing much is exciting me, and I keep DNFing things. I did read a good crime/mystery/romance by Janice Kay Johnson that will be released in July, but then she’s always good.

It might just be me. There’s been a lot going on! I really want to sit myself down and read all the way through series by some favourite authors (like Cindy Gerard and Patricia Briggs). I should just do it instead of putting it off!

RIP USSR Vladimir Putin Russian Agrression Ukraine

So, Europe, where are those sanctions? Russia isn’t even pretending they haven’t invaded Ukraine now. They’re bussing in legions of Chechen mercenaries, and major Russian military types are openly in charge of the invasion.

Even the Berkut – the Ukrainian military police who attacked demonstrators a few months ago – have joined forces with the Ukrainian people to fight the Russians.

When world leaders see evidence the Russians are not only killing Ukrainians, but mutilating their bodies, and when footage comes out of them shooting at a children’s hospital, do they not stop and think something should be done?!

I’m disgusted with Russia, but I’m also disgusted with Europe in general. You won’t be so unfeeling or blasé when Putin starts pushing further west, and by then it will be too late to stop the bastard.

My review of Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

My review of Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

My review of The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

My review of Back to Buckhorn by Lori Foster

Back to Buckhorn by Lori Foster

My review of Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

Abducted by a Prince by Olivia Drake

Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

From bestselling author Margareta Osborn comes another scintillating rural romance with a devastating love triangle twist. After years of struggling as a single mother, Jodie Ashton has given up on love and passion. What she craves now is security for herself and her beloved daughter Milly. And marriage to widower Alex McGregor, the owner of the prosperous Glenevelyn cattle station in East Gippsland, will certainly offer that. If only he wasn’t so much older and so controlling. Needing space to decide her future, Jodie reluctantly agrees to a girls-only weekend at the Riverton rodeo . Meanwhile, cowboy Nate McGregor vows off women, after his latest one-night stand costs him his job in the Northern Territory. Perhaps it’s time to head back to his family home, Glenevelyn, to check out for himself the ‘gold-digger’ his father seems determined to marry. But first, on his way through Riverton, he plans to stop off at a rodeo. Two lives are about to collide in one passionate moment – with devastating results…

Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn

Some days it seems the only books you can buy in Australia are about twenty and thirty-something farmer women. Walk into a bookshop and they’re everywhere, with near identical covers: young model staring out into a field, with an Akubra plonked on her head.

You have to have something special about your writing if you’re going to stand out in the rural fiction genre, and I think Margareta Osborn is one of the better ones. She knows how to craft a lively story, and – most importantly – knows how to get all the rural talk and lifestyle across without going overboard with the details.

Because, no matter how you put it, most readers aren’t all that interested in sheep and cows!

We meet quite a few characters in the beginning of the book (perhaps a few too many in the first couple of chapters), but the overpopulation situation irons itself out pretty quickly. The best thing was that Osborn made them all individuals with distinctive personalities.

The other work I’ve read by this author had a similar, accessible feel. Sometimes in rural fiction I feel like I’m drowning in lectures about sheep shearing and the evils of city folk, but Osborn doesn’t go there. She creates interesting situations for her characters and uses themes that appeal in any genre.

Definitely one of the better rural books I’ve come across in ages.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 25th February to 3rd March

Summer is over. It’s autumn. I’m going to Europe for half of winter. Things aren’t looking so bad!

In less than two weeks I’ll be in Melbourne for the start of the Formula One season, and then with a couple of other interstate trips, including a beach holiday in Queensland in the second half of the year, I’m starting to think I’m doing too much travel in 2013!

Tactical Strike by Kaylea Cross

I read Tactical Strike by Kaylea Cross. It’s just fantastic. Realistic – the author does more research than anyone in the world! – it is military romance at its best. I will review it closer to the release date (which is less than a fortnight from now).

Hope's Road by Margareta Osborn

I also read my second Australian rural story of the year: Hope’s Road by Margareta Osborn (which I keep accidentally calling ‘Hope’s Run’!). Thank goodness the review copy of this one was properly formatted and edited (unlike the last one), making it a lot easier to read! I reviewed it HERE.

I’ve fallen behind on reading my review books, so I’m trying to finish a couple this weekend.

On a non-book note, I received the most bizarre Facebook message from a US Army soldier from Arizona. He sent me a PM – on Facebook – telling me he also posts to a group board I do on Pinterest.

He told me he didn’t like pictures I post there because they’re of ‘pretty girls’ (they aren’t) and he doesn’t want to look at them, because the board is supposed to be about the beach. (Which would be why I post pictures of the beach on there.)

Um… is it just me, or is this Arizonian a freaky stalker? Why in the world would he think it was acceptable – or sane – to track me down on Facebook to send me such stupid stuff?! I’m certainly no fan of the gun and religious propaganda floating around all over Pinterest (especially as I’m not even American!), but I’ve never sent anyone PMs about it, for Heaven’s sake!

I don’t feel the need to stay completely anonymous on the internet, but I have to wonder why people like this man don’t understand the concept of boundaries!

Hope’s Road by Margareta Osborn

Hope's Road by Margareta Osborn

From the author of the bestselling Bella’s Run comes another captivating rural romance set in the the rugged, beautiful high country of East Gippsland. Hope’s Road connects three very different properties, and three very different lives … Sixty years ago, heartbroken and betrayed, old Joe McCauley turned his back on his family and their fifth-generation farm, Montmorency Downs. He now spends his days as a recluse, spying upon the land – and the granddaughter – that should by rights have been his. For Tammy McCauley, Montmorency Downs is the last remaining tie to her family. But land can make or break you – and, with her husband’s latest treachery, how long can she hold on to it? Wild-dog trapper, Travis Hunter, is struggling as a single dad, unable to give his son, Billy, the thing he craves most. A complete family. Then, out of the blue, a terrible event forces the three neighbours to confront each other – and the mistakes of their past.

Hope’s Road by Margareta Osborn

My second Australian rural lit read of the year was an engaging one, rolling over weeks of messy family conflict on the land. Author Margareta Osborn has a nice writing style that sets her apart from others in the genre, and even though some of the farm-speak was as familiar to me as Estonian (a beautiful but impossibly difficult language!), the characters kept me hanging around for more.

If I’m being honest, the star of this book for me was not one of the three adult lead characters (though I didn’t dislike them!) but Travis’ ten-year-old son Billy. Children in fiction tend to either be supremely irritating or very endearing, and Billy was one I liked. He has some issues when it comes to paying attention – a problem dealt with in the story – but he’s also devoted and enthusiastic, and he brightened up scenes.

However that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the others. Poor old Joe, with a life full of disappointments, Tammy with an abusive husband, and completely lost Trevor; there were three people in this one who’d found out life didn’t turn out at all like you expected.

People are people, no matter who they are or where they’re from, and this author ‘got’ that. The city versus country crap (er, garbage) I often have to overlook in rural fiction was nowhere to be seen here, which led to better fleshed-out characters and more interesting conflicts.

There’re a few suspenseful moments in Hope’s Road, followed by one gigantic coincidence towards the end. In my opinion, any book is made better by a bit of excitement, and I thought the final few chapters in particular were good.

I doubt I’ll ever find a piece of rural fiction that would convert me to a life of dealing with livestock (especially some of what Tammy has to go through in this one – my God, I’m too squeamish for that!), but Hope’s Road was entertaining, and makes it into my collection of better Australian rural fiction titles. Recommended for fans of women’s fiction and anyone who dreams of escaping to the bush.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Upcoming Australian Rural Fiction

I returned from Sydney to find I had sixteen new review books, so there’s a lot of reading in my near future!

A number of those books are upcoming “Rural Lit” Australian books.

I think this new, uniquely Australian genre is now coming into its own. Authors are discovering they don’t *only* have to write about sheep shearing and misogynistic fathers, and that there’re endless possibilities for stories.

Here are a few I’ll be reading this month:

Hope's Road by Margareta Osborn

Hope’s Road by Margareta Osborn

From the author of the bestselling Bella’s Run comes another captivating rural romance set in the the rugged, beautiful high country of East Gippsland.

Hope’s Road connects three very different properties, and three very different lives …

Sixty years ago, heartbroken and betrayed, old Joe McCauley turned his back on his family and their fifth-generation farm, Montmorency Downs. He now spends his days as a recluse, spying upon the land – and the granddaughter – that should by rights have been his.

For Tammy McCauley, Montmorency Downs is the last remaining tie to her family. But land can make or break you – and, with her husband’s latest treachery, how long can she hold on to it?

Wild-dog trapper, Travis Hunter, is struggling as a single dad, unable to give his son, Billy, the thing he craves most. A complete family.

Then, out of the blue, a terrible event forces the three neighbours to confront each other – and the mistakes of their past…

The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

Jonelle Baxter is a young woman in a man’s world – a tough, hardworking motor mechanic from an idyllic country family. But lately things in her perfect life have been changing, and her workshop isn’t the only local business that’s struggling.

Daniel Tyler is new in town, posted from the city to manage the community bank. As he tries to rein in the spiralling debts of Bundara, he uncovers all sorts of personal dramas and challenges. The last thing Jonny and Dan need is an unwanted attraction to each other.

It’s going to take more than a good drop of rain to break the drought and to keep this small but very colourful community thriving.

From the bestselling author of The Road Home comes a moving and heartwarming story about love, change and courage – and the beauty that’s found in the bush, even in the harshest of times.

Song of the Bellbirds by Anne McCullagh Rennie

Song of the Bellbirds by Anne McCullagh Rennie

All young Lizzy wants to do is sing, ride the boundaries of her family’s Queensland property and dream of one day performing on stage. But when a freak storm hits the area, wreaking havoc and bringing tragedy, she swears never to sing another note.

Lizzy, however, has a voice as uplifting as the pure beauty of the song of the bellbirds, and others are not quite so willing to let her remarkable talent go to waste. There is the loving but ambitious Sister Angelica, a natural teacher; the vibrant and dangerously attractive Maestro Leonard Rominski, whose charms Lizzy finds irresistible; and the irrepressible Gran, whose love sustains Lizzy through thrilling highs and crushing lows.

But it is Lizzy alone who will ultimately decide if the price she must pay to sing is too high…