Tag Archives: Elise McCune

Tasmanian Times review Castle of Dreams

Rainforest Revelations
Paula Xiberras
14.07.17 6:38 am

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Elise McCune tells me she has been to Tasmania at least five times and loves the feel of the old buildings and of course MONA.

Earlier this year I spoke to Elise about her first novel ‘Castle of Dreams’ and how its idea originated in the discovery of a real castle in the Queensland rain forests by Elise’s actor daughter, Lisa McCune, when she was filming at Mission Beach.

The castle was built by Jose Paronella from Catalonia. For a time he worked in the Queensland rainforests and the castle covered in tropical rainforest helped heal his homesickness reminding him of his childhood home. Nowadays the castle is open to the public and a venue for events like weddings.

When the novel starts, the castle is a ruin that is visited by the granddaughter of Rose, one of the sisters who were the original inhabitants of the castle. The other sister was Vivian. The sisters were very close but grew apart after they both fell in love with the same man, a Second World War American soldier.

One of the wonderful features of the book is its subtle clues to the solving of a great mystery involving the sisters as well as seemingly ordinary events that carry great import. An example is an early scene when the sisters enter the bell tower and one of girls falls sustaining non-threatening injuries. This event long forgotten when reading the book details an event that has long reaching repercussions.

There are also beautiful descriptions that in hindsight can be seen as metaphorical such as the anecdote of the egg that is ‘clean and empty’. This again could be easily read over, yet is one of the subtle clues that demonstrates lives fractured like fragile egg shells

With the castle setting and family secrets the novel fits into the gothic genre, but ironically sans the cold and dark of the customary gothic, swapping it instead for tropical rain forest setting. Elise has given us a novel of rare beauty that matches that of the exquisite forest setting.

‘Castle of Dreams’ is  published by Allen and Unwin

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St Pancras Old Church London

I write time-split novels where the past impacts on the present and in my new novel  One Bright Day I have a scene set in St Pancras Old Church London. I lived in London many years ago and visited this lovely old church and adjoining cemetery. There is nothing more I enjoy than discovering churches new to me and wandering around old cemeteries. When I lived on a farm north of Perth  we’d always stop when we drove past an old country cemetery. There is something captivating about them, especially for a writer, imagining stories for those long ago people and the lives they may have lived.

St Pancras Old Church

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One of my characters walks through this gate to attend a London wedding.

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The Hardy Tree

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In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.

When the church grounds were being cleared tomake space for the railway line, Hardy was a London architect’s assistant. He had the grim task of exhuming hundreds of bodies and removing their graves.

During the work Hardy ordered headstones to be placed under this ash tree. His reasons are unknown but Hardy was a keen naturalist and may have done it to prevent the tree being removed. Alternatively, he saved the stones to respect the people whose final resting place had been disturbed.

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Have a wonderful weekend, writing, dreaming, reading!

Elise 

Ref: Wiki

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Daphne du Maurier-Gothic Literature

I am busy finishing my work-in-progress but I enjoy writing my blog so I thought I’d indulge myself and write a post about my favourite genre this morning with a cup of tea at my elbow. I notice that other writers, often older writers (of which I am one), steer clear of social media but I have made friends all over the world as well as in Australia through my blog. I cherish these friendships and learn much from my fellow writers and my readers. Social media is now part everday life for most people and I like to connect with my readers. Writing is my passion and it doesn’t take more than a half-hour to write a post. I write them for myself as well as for my readers so my blog is rather like a journal. When I finish my WIP I am going to become more active on Instagram which I love!

Here is a short excerpt from my WIP, a dual narrative story set in the southwest of Western Australia and the beautiful Tumut Valley which is at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, with a few chapters set in London. I set my stories against a backdrop of war and in my WIP, which has the working title of One Bright Day, I write about World War One and its aftermath.

Excerpt: One Bright Day

Mrs Barker had a small, narrow upstairs bedroom reached by a private staircase at the back of the house and when Daniel and Harry were youngsters they’d sneak up there before she retired for the night. A row of tall glass jars filled with sugary treats was set atop the chest of drawers and they could choose modestly from the assortment: a couple of sugar-coated jubes, one of the squares of fresh fudge wrapped in waxed paper, a jagged piece of chocolate, or a long black twist of licorice.

She gave me a sharp look. ‘Did you sleep well, Ellen?’

When I didn’t answer she wiped her hands on her apron, still looking at me. Mrs Barker had a knack of knowing what went on in the household.

My novel is not a Gothic novel but it does have elements of magic with an abandoned garden and lots of family secrets. If I have a motif in my WIP it is definitely gardens with  an artist in the past who paints flowers and a botanist in the present day.

Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic

I first read Daphne du Maurier when I found old hardback copies of her books with their beautiful wrap around covers on my mother’s bookshelf.  I was about ten years old and these books were the start of my obsession with all things Gothic. Having an interest in Australian Gothic it’s on my ‘to be read’ list to read more of our 19th century Australian writers who wrote in the Gothic genre.

I wrote a post on 29 th October, 2016 called ‘Gothic Literature’ in which I spoke about Australian Gothic Literature and listed some of my favourite books in the Gothic genre.

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Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) used traditional Gothic motifs. Her motifs are: dark romances, a fascination with the past, the supernatural, and the magical intermingled with the realistic. And contain psychological insight through characterisation and representation of fear and the sinister and macabre .

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Her short stories, such as ‘The Birds, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Apple Tree’, take Gothic themes and add new twists. ‘The Apple Tree’can be read as the story of a woman haunting her husband from beyond the grave but it can also be viewed as a chilling meditation upon mental disintegration.

Daphne du Maurier was foremost a storyteller and that’s what I love about her novels and short stories. They draw you in and you can’t let go of the characters, ever!

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Rebecca herself  is dead when the novel starts and is the perfect example of a character and not a ghost, who makes not a single living appearance, but haunts the imaginations of the living protagonists. Favourite characters all.

I read all Daphne du Maurier’s novels and short stories, often found preloved in second hand bookshops, before I left school, The mystery and magic of her story telling and the haunting darkness and complexity of her work makes me return to them often.

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Other favourite characters are Phillip and Rachel in My Cousin Rachel and Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn.

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In the same way as Thomas Hardy is forever associated with Wessex, and Charles Dickens with London, so Daphne du Maurier is forever associated with Cornwall. Cornwall gave du Maurier the freedom to write free from the distractions of London life. I have several books about Cornwell on my bookshelf including Vanishing Cornwell by Daphne du Maurier.

Daphne and her two sisters

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Have a wonderful week and include magic and storytelling and writing and reading.

Elise

Thanks to Greg Buzwell, Curator for Printed Literary Sources, 1801 – 1914 at the British Library. His research focuses primarily on the Gothic literature of the Victorian fin de siècle. He is also editing a collection of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ghost stories, The Face in the Glass and Other Gothic Tales, for publication. The text in Greg’s article is available under the Creative Commons License.

 

 

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The Rose

A gift from my daughter this year was ‘The Rose’  The history of the World’s favourite flower with classic texts and beautiful rare prints. Written by Brent Elliott, Historian, Royal Horticultural Society the society shares the best in gardening.

The Rose

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Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and beauty, had a rose named after her. The rose named after Audrey is a soft apple-blossom pink hybrid tea rose. The blossoms are a deep pink in bud, but when they open they become a softer pink and then almost white. She grew them in her garden and in a bouquet you have different hues of colour.

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To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow . . .

The Audrey Hepburn Rose

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My mother was a gardener and my daughter has inherited the gardening gene and also my son.  I enjoy writing about gardens! In my novel Castle of Dreams I wrote about the rainforest plants and trees and in my WIP I am writing about all things botanical. My protagonist in the modern day is a botanist and my protagonist in the past collects wildflowers and paints botanical pictures. I have written about a medieval garden, a herb garden, an orchard and a vegetable garden. And of course a rose garden. There are dark family secrets and the past impacts on the present. But are some secrets better never to be discovered?

Gardens are a recurring motif in my novels.

Monet’s Garden at Giverny

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Audrey Hepburn:

If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairytales and I like them best of all. 

Have a wonderful day, writing, reading, dreaming . . .

Elise

 

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Alison Stuart-Australian Author

Alison Stuart will be a speaker at the HNSA Conference Swinburne University Hawthorn, Melbourne, September 8-10 Visit our website to purchase tickets:http://hnsa.org.au/conference/buy-tickets/

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Born in Africa in the dying days of the British Empire, at the age of ten award winning Australian author Alison Stuart moved to Australia. After a long and varied career as a lawyer, including stints with the military and fire services, Alison turned to her first passion, history.  Most of her stories have an English Civil War setting and several of them have  been shortlisted for international awards. She is loved by her readers for her ability to breathe life into the dry bones of history, particularly a lesser known period of history such as the civil war.

Alison learned her passion from history from her father. She has been writing stories since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that her first full length novel was published. A past president of the Romance Writers of Australia, Alison has now published seven full length historical romances and a collection of her short stories. Many of her stories have been shortlisted for international awards and BY THE SWORD won the 2008 EPIC Award for Best Historical Romance.   Her inclination for writing about soldier heroes may come from her varied career as a lawyer in the military and fire services. These days when she is not writing she is travelling and routinely drags her long suffering husband around battlefields and castles.

Ref: http://www.alisonstuart.com

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When grieving widow, Australian, Helen Morrow and her six year old daughter, Alice arrive at her husband’s previous home, Holdston in rural England, she is welcomed by his mother Evelyn. But the meeting with wounded and reclusive Major Paul Morrow,  her husband’s cousin, does not go so well. He wants nothing to do with them.  A coded diary, written by Paul’s great-grandmother, is found and Helen and Paul haunted by ghosts from another time and another conflict they search for answers. While they search for answers to the past mystery there is also a mystery surrounding the death of Helen’s husband at Passchandaele. I love reading stories with a past and present thread and the two stories entwine brilliantly.  The novel is character driven, which all the best novels are, and the scenes in early 1900’s England are a delight.

Gather the Bones by Alison Stuart is a fabulous read. This is the first book by this talented storyteller I have read and I look forward to reading more.

(This writer is NOT the Alison Stuart who also writes as Kate Tremayne and authored Fateful Shadows, Sin No More, Barefoot Angel, Innocence Betrayed or Loyalty Defiled.)

The HNSA Melbourne Conference will be a fabulous event with authors such as Alison Stuart presenting.

Elise

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Jackie Ballantyne-Writer

Jackie Ballantyne will be a speaker at the HNSA Conference Swinburne University Hawthorn, Melbourne, September 8-10 Visit our website to take advantage of our early bird discounts. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/buy-tickets/

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email: jgb2@xtra.co.nz

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twitter: SollyMcKeen@Solly McKeen

journal (blog)

Jackie Ballantyne began writing fiction while she was working in advertising in Melbourne. Since then she has won awards and commendations for her short stories. Her first novel, ‘How to Stop a Heart from Beating’ (Random House New Zealand, 2007), was met with acclaim. This was followed by ‘The Silver Gaucho’ (The Doby Press, 2014), subsequently shortlisted for The Rubery Award, UK, in 2015. Jackie has recently returned to live and write in Melbourne after twelve years in Dunedin, New Zealand.

 Jackie Ballantyne (in her own words). 

It’s always been words. As a child I liked to read dictionaries. I sat on the floor of my aunt and uncle’s living room and read the Chambers Dictionary that they used as a doorstop. I dipped into the Greater Oxford English Dictionary that my grandfather revered and kept away from the light (?) under the escritoire. I loved our family Webster’s with its intricate line drawings. In time I built my own dictionary collection. I added exotics: a Dictionary of Culinary Terms, a Pictorial Dictionary of Roses, various medical dictionaries, language dictionaries, a Dictionary of Animal Husbandry and the Dictionary of Derivations of the English Language. At some stage I acquired a copy of The Universal Home Doctor Illustrated (Circa 1937) which was to become an essential resource when I was writing How to Stop a Heart From Beating. In the bookcase beside me are four shelves of dictionaries. I buy them pre-loved, often annotated by a previous owner. I once found a poem about a butterfly tucked inside a Dictionary of Biblical Quotations. I began experimenting with fiction while I was working in advertising in Australia.  Starting out as a copywriter, I pursued my passion with words and ways of putting them together. I spent years inventing advertising captions and jingles and one of the hardest lessons in my writing apprenticeship was to compose sentences of more than five words. Even now I am prone to one word sentences. I might no longer agonise over full stops and exclamation marks, but I’m still finicky about punctuation.

The HNSA Melbourne Conference will be a fabulous event with authors such as Jackie Ballantyne presenting.

Elise

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Elisabeth Storrs-Historical Novelist

Elisabeth Storrs will be a speaker at the HNSA Conference Swinburne University Hawthorn, Melbourne, September 8-10 Visit our website to take advantage of our early bird discounts. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/buy-tickets/

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WELCOME ADDRESS: Welcome addresses by Elisabeth Storrs (HNSA Co-founder) and Sophie Masson (HNSA 2017 Conference Patron)

ELISABETH STORRS HAS LONG HAD A PASSION FOR THE HISTORY, MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD.  She is an Australian author and graduated from University of Sydney in Arts Law, having studied Classics. Her curiosity piqued by an Etruscan sarcophagus depicting a couple embracing for eternity, she discovered the little known story of the struggle between Etruscan Veii and Republican Rome and the inspiration to write the Tales of Ancient Rome Saga. Elisabeth lives with her husband and two sons in Sydney and over the years has worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer and corporate governance consultant. She is the former Deputy Chair of the NSW Writers’ Centre and one of the founders of the Historical Novel Society Australasia. Elisabeth considers herself a ‘hybrid’ author who was traditionally published in Australia, then gained a readership in the global historical fiction community through self-publishing her Tales of Ancient Rome Saga. This led her to securing an international publishing contract with Lake Union publishers.

http://www.elisabethstorrs.com

What fate awaits a Roman treaty bride married to an Etruscan nobleman from a decadent world?

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As war wreaks havoc, three bold women must fight for their futures with wit and wiles.

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During a siege between age old enemies, can love and loyalty withstand the betrayal of mortals and gods?

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The HNSA Melbourne Conference will be a fabulous event with authors such as Elisabeth Storrs presenting.

Elise

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Slottet i Regnskogen

The Castle in the Rainforest (Hardcover)

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This is the lovely cover for the translated Norwegian hardcover edition of The Castle in the Rainforest. The title of the Australian edition is Castle of Dreams.

Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. Oslo, the capital, is a city of green spaces and museums. Preserved 9th-century Viking ships are displayed at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. Bergen, with colorful wooden houses, is the starting point for cruises to the dramatic Sognefjord. Norway is also known for fishing, hiking and skiing, notably at Lillehammer’s Olympic resort.

My publisher Cappelen Damm is a Norwegian publisher based in Oslo.

I appreciate Norwegian style which is characterised by simplicity although like in Australia I guess some people love their clutter!

Norway is truly beautiful. I’d love to visit one day!

Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Today

The working title for my work-in-progress is One Bright Day and my story does seem shiny and bright (except for when I come to a great stumbling block in the plot). Now I have made a deadline to finish the novel I find that the words are flowing more easily. Still, I do have some way to go yet until I finish.

It’s April, 1921 and the war that impacted so many people has been over for three years. I’m spending time with Ellen, who at this moment is walking along taking in the sights of historical London. It’s Ellen’s first overseas journey and she left her home in southwestern Australia with some trepidation. It’s the English spring, and there’s nothing like a fine, spring day in England and Ellen and a friend are going on a picnic in Regent’s Park. Ellen is an artist and takes her sketchbook wherever she goes I wonder what she sketched today.

Regent’s Park, London

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Ellen, for a very special reason, goes to St Pancras Old Church in London so I’ve researched part of its history. (I love research and finding some little gem to include in my story.) I found this!

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, an ash tree is circled by gravestones.

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Thomas Hardy (before turning to writing full time) studied architecture in London under Mr. Arlhur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railwayline was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protegé Thomas Hardy in. c.l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St. Pancras Churchyard overseeing the careful removal of bodies and tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around this ash tree would have been placed here about that time. The tree has since grown in amongst the stones.

It’s fun writing a story!

I particularly enjoy setting my stories in Australia but sometimes my characters travel overseas. In this story it is to England and I have glimpses of the Middle East in WW1.

This the gate Ellen walks through to visit an abandoned house.

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I’m looking forward to being a speaker at the HNSA Conference in Melbourne in September (details below).

This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing our theme, inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/programme/ Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott, Arnold Zable, Gary Crew, Melissa Ashley, Kate Mildenhall, Juliet Marillier, Anne Gracie, Pamela Hart, Kelly Gardiner and Libby Hathorn. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/speakers/

Let’s celebrate historical fiction!

Elise

Ref. The Hardy Tree:   jinx-in-the-sky.blogspot.com

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Spirit of Place-Tumut Valley

Another month or two and I will be finished writing my new book. It has a working title of One Bright Day. 

The inspiration for this story came from a visit by my daughter to Elizabeth’s Second Hand Bookshop in Perth, WA. As she was browsing its dusty shelves she picked up a book with pressed flowers between its pages and thought it might be a good way to start a story.

The early narrative thread (it is a time split novel) is set in the southwest of WA where I lived for several years on a vineyard so I know the area well, with detours to other parts of the world and finally, and most importantly, for this is where the heart of the story is, in the Tumut Valley where the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people lived for thousands of years prior to European settlement.

My story is about abandoned gardens and love and romance, betrayal, and of course big family secrets and what more beautiful place to write about than the lovely Valley that sits on the north-west foothills of the Snowy Mountains.

I enjoy writing stories set in the Australia and although I grew up beside the Pacific Ocean when I moved to a  five thousand acre farm two hundred and fifty kilometres north of Perth it was there I found the sense of place I’d been searching for.

A favourite author of mine, Miles Franklin used to live in the Brindabella Ranges and she was committed to the development of a uniquely Australian form of literature. While she does not feature in my story through her I felt a connection to the area. Another link was Elyne Mitchell’s stories set in the high country that I’d read as a child and remembered  fondly.

Miles Franklin

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I was lately in the Valley and it was here I found not just a sense of place but a spirit of place. I travelled with two friends and we stayed in an old house with lots of history (but beautifully updated)  in Wynyard Street in Tumut. I’d already written about this street in my story so to be able to walk where my characters walk was perfect for my research.

The best part of the trip was meeting people from the area, wonderful, friendly and engaging people who took us into their hearts and their community.

Sulari Gentill, the writer of the Roland Sinclair Mysteries series, lives in Batlow, a twenty minute drive from Tumut, and we met up with her and Sarah, her good friend, who’d invited me to speak at the View Club’s luncheon (in support of the Smith Family) for International Women’s Day. We shared coffee and cake in Coffee and More in the main street (no parking restrictions) and we parked right outside the shop.

Sulari, a generous person with both her time and sharing of knowledge of the area, took us to the Sugarpine Walk in Batlow where we strolled amongst the dense stand of enormous sugar pines, the largest and tallest of pines, planted in 1928. Someone in the past had had the great idea to take out a row of pines. It’s like walking up the nave of a cathedral and is a place where marriages are blessed.

Sugarpine Walk in Winter

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I had read about the bogong moths that provided a rich food source for Aborigines in the area. The moths would be hunted by the male members of the tribe as the moth lay at rest in the mountains and many bogong moth feasts occured. I will weave this through my story.

Bogong Moth

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I met Sue Bulger, a Wiradjuri Elder who grew up on the Brungle Mission, and felt a sense of connection to her when I sat next to her at the luncheon.  Welcome to Country recognises the unique position of Aboriginal people in Australian culture and history as the original Custodians of the Land and Sue conveyed the meaning of this in her welcome to all the women at the event. I asked Sue if she’d launch my book in Tumut should I be lucky enough to have it published and she said yes.

We were also fortunate to meet Marcia from the Historical Society who kindly opened their museum to us and we spent an hour or so happily looking around. There is so much history about Miles Franklin in the museum and seeing one of her typed manuscripts and many items owned by or relating to this wonderful writer was inspirational.

I spent time with Pat who lives next door to our house in Wynyard Street. We sat together on her verandah and she told me about people from the past for she is a lady in her eighties, and we looked at clippings from old newspapers and one of the three published genealogy  books on her large family. My friends and I were invited to a country property for afternoon tea at Marlene’s beautiful family home built of local stone  and she showed us her art work made from old metal. I loved the bridal dress she’d welded from an old pressed tin ceiling and the added gauze veil with scattered pearls.

Tumut River

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Outside of  Tumut is a pioneer cemetery which of course we had to visit. A Chinese Funerary burner, which serves as a safe place for the ritualized burning of spiritual tributes, stood near old Chinese graves. In the photo below you can see the funerary burner to the right.

Tumut Pioneer Cemetery

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And while I didn’t find Pat’s great-grandparents (the Bridals) graves (next visit) I did see, on another grave surrounded by rusted railings, a beautiful shed snakeskin. A superior being, the Rainbow Serpent in Aboriginal mythology created the people and the universe. The shedding of their skin made the snakes a symbol of rebirth and renewal. I have written about the Rainbow Serpent in my story so seeing the pale delicate beauty of the shed snakeskin seemed a powerful omen of good fortune.

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We have been invited to return to Tumut, when no matter how beautiful we thought it to be, we have been assured that in other seasons the Valley is even more glorious.

And I forget to tell you that as Sulari pulled up at the  Sugar Pine Plantation my friends and I  saw our first brumby, a lovely young animal, who paused for a second to look at us before it disappeared into the shadowed pine forest.

Brumbies

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All Saints Anglican Church, Tumut

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On our last morning in the Valley my friends and I walked at first light with the mist hanging low over the river and in early evening we went around the corner to River Street and stood at the gates of historical All Saints Anglican Church to watch the last rays of evening light touch the top of the tall spire.

Friends found, a spirit of place found, and friends to share with.

We walked back slowly to our house and  when we left the next day something of the magic we’d found in the Valley came with us.

Elise

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