ARRA-Finalist-Badge
Best-New-Author-AusRom
Aussie-Month-badge
Archives

Archive for the ‘A Writer’s Blog’ Category

Me and Kerrie Patterson - both gritty writers

Me and Kerrie Patterson – both gritty writers

Just recently, I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I write, why I write, where I get inspiration from, and how it is I can keep going when the obvious rewards (publishing, money) are so minimal and rejection is so rife. All good questions and I’m not going to answer all of them here as I’d go on for pages and pages trying to cover it all.

However, I will answer the how I keep going part despite the negatives, because I think that’s an important subject for all writers – for anyone actually who is wanting to do anything and stick at it.

It all comes down to grit.

Aint Love GrandI always associate strongly with music, and there have been a few songs which have spoken to me a lot about the drive to keep going despite all the odds and the push backs and the rejections. I actually sang these last year at the Romance Writers of Australia, Ain’t Love Grand! conference last year. The weekend’s theme was a cabaret one, so it seemed to fit, especially with my background in performance, primarily in cabaret and theatre restaurants. I sang ‘Maybe this time’ from Cabaret, a song the editors at Harlequin Australia had asked me to sing at the cocktail party they sponsored after they found out about my performance background.  I was very happy to sing this song, as I play it to myself (and sing it to myself) a lot when I’m struggling a bit to find the oomph to keep going. It speaks to me about never giving up, always looking to what you want, even when you keep getting knocked to the ground over and over. I finished with ‘They just keep moving the line,’ from the TV musical, Smash, another favourite song to listen and sing to. It once again is about putting your head down and just keep marching forward, keep reaching for the goal, even when that goal is moved over and over again. It was an amazing pleasure to share these with my writing friends and compatriots at the conference and I know that those songs spoke to them as well.

Singing about grit

Singing about grit

But to go with these songs, I had to write a speech to go with them, to explain why there are important to me, what they give me, and why I think the meaning behind them can speak to others as well who are in this crazy writing journey as well. I closed the conference with this speech, and it went over well, but I didn’t really think much about it afterwards. However, given the conversations I’ve had lately with a number of people about how I do this, how I keep on keeping on, it seemed to me that the best thing to do is to share the speech I gave to RWA members last August and hope it speaks to others now as it did then.

GRIT – A WRITER’S BEST FRIEND

With this being our 25th year, and with the Olympics having just been on, it has made me think about what it is that drives people and organisations like ours to success. What made Lynne Wilding and her fellow romance authors think they could succeed in this industry all those years ago when they were stuck here in Australia, so far from the home of romance publishing OS and what made them think that they could start RWA and wish to succour and help other authors like them? What kept them going through the hard times? And for that matter, what makes any of us want to excel at something, to turn it from a hobby to something more, to exceed expectations, to overcome difficulties, stress, personal and physical struggles, to enhance our own abilities to the point of success and then do it all again?

Are we touched with madness? Are we delusional? Were the ladies who started RWA either of those things?IMG_1008

I don’t think so. I think it is something else that drives us – and them – to what others perceive of as madness.

Many people say, ‘Oh, I wish I could become a writer,’ or ‘I wish I had time to write,’ or ‘I know I could be a brilliant writer, if only…’ but it takes a certain kind of person to rise above those procrastinating sentences and to actually put the hard yards in to make the time, to learn to be brilliant, to take a wish and make it real. Lynne Wilding and her fellow authors who started RWA were that certain kind of people. And I think that none of you would be here today if you also weren’t that certain kind of person. But what is it in us that makes the difference between the ‘I wish’ and the ‘I do’? (and yes, that is the world’s worst pun for us and the HEAs we write!)

The one essence that rises above talent, or natural proclivity or drive, is GRIT. Yes, grit. Psychological research states that grit is as important in a person’s ability to succeed as talent or drive. What is grit, I hear you ask and why do I think you might like to hear about it? The reason I think you need to hear about it is that everyone here is dusted over with varying layers of grit – and you thought that was the tiredness of the long weekend you’ve just got through! No, you’re not tired and covered in dust – you’re just gritty.

Grit is the ability to keep driving through, no matter the obstacles, to pick yourself up and dust yourself down after knockbacks, to get on with the myriad, boring little activities and repetitive tasks that ensure expertise in something; the knuckling down when it seems hopeless and finding some way, any way, forward.

Eddie the Eagle movie poster

Eddie the Eagle movie poster

Have any of you seen or heard of Eddie The Eagle? He was a British man of no particular talent who decided that he wanted to go to the Olympics. However, he was only the 9th fastest skier in Britain at the time. And he’d tried many other sports before he’d hit on that one. When everything seemed to be ranged against him, he looked up, pressed on, and found a sport that nobody in Britain had pursued in a competitive way since 1929 – ski jumping. Despite having no sponsorship and many other obstacles in his way (including people telling him that he was demented), Eddie the Eagle found his way to the Winter Olympics in 1988 and won the heart of the spectators, media – and the world. He did it because he never gave up. He wasn’t good – just good enough to qualify. His jump was less than half that of the person who actually won. And he came roundly last. But that didn’t matter. He wanted to do it and he found a way. He didn’t give up. He had grit. And he succeeded in his dreams of participating in the Olympics.

I think RWA has had grit – despite hard times of almost bankruptcy – where a few, wonderful women knuckled down and wouldn’t give up because they didn’t want to lose what was so precious to them and others (see, grit). Despite the knocks our genre regularly gets from the media and literary types, our organisation has persevered, we’ve grown, we’ve got better, we hold onto what’s important and look to the sky, like Eddie the Eagle, wanting to fly. RWA has grit.

Lana and Daniel - more gritty writers

Me, Lana and Daniel – writers with grit

And as individuals, each and every person in this room has grit. You have to hold onto that grit no matter what, because this industry is ever changing. It can feel like you’re flying one moment only to hit the snow pack hard and feel bruised and broken because you’ve got a bad review, or not done well at a comp, or your critique partner doesn’t like what you’ve written, or your book didn’t sell and your publisher won’t publish the next book, or your self-published or traditionally published book is just floundering in a sea of other books. Feel sad – have that pity party for one, I’m not saying don’t. But then dig deep. Use that grit I know you have and raise your head back to the sky and forge on. Read, watch TV or the movies, go out with family or friends, play sport, go to the gym, sink into another hobby that brings you joy, do whatever you need to do to fill that well and make yourself feel better and then get stuck back in. Because nothing is truly worthwhile in this world when it’s too easy, when it’s handed to you on a silver platter. When you’re in the depths of despair, it can feel like that would be nice – I’d rather like someone to just float on by and tell me how brilliant I am out of the blue and give me everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But is that likely to happen? Nope. What is more likely is that the grit that’s inside me, the thing that makes me want this and hold onto that dream for grim death and never give in, will rise up with a little bit of coaxing from me and carry me forward.

RWA logoSo, going forward, I wish you all grit. I hope you have enough to cover yourself in it, to breathe in its gritty-grittiness, to feel the coarse-edginess of it on your skin, toughening you a little bit more, making you harder to knock down. And for this next year, while I am still president, I promise you that RWA will continue to have grit too, will continue to help you, work alongside you, be there for the good times and the bad, give you a helping hand to get back up, yell at you a bit when you stay in your pity party a bit too long (but nicely), and help give you the strength to make that grit truly mean something in the end.

 

Me and Alex Adsett - super agent

Me and Alex Adsett – super agent

I haven’t posted for a long time, and one of the reasons is after advice from my brilliant agent, Alex Adsett, I became a bit of a writing hermit (when I wasn’t doing family stuff, working or doing presidential things for Romance Writers of Australia!) and was concentrating on finishing the Witch-Were Chronicles so we could go out with them and try to get a publisher as interested in these stories as we are.

And guess what? After a year and a half of hard work, writing my writerly fingers to the bone and wearing out a computer (and frustrating my family when I wouldn’t answer them as I was too caught up in my characters and their problems 😉 ), the wonderful Kate Cuthbert at Harlequin Escape, proved to be just as interested as Alex and I are in this world of Were, Witches, Shifters, powers gone wrong, curses and a prophecy that could destroy them all.

I now have a 4 book contract with Harlequin Escape for the Witch-Were Chronicles – so, really, hard work and being a writing hermit truly does pay off!

You can see Alex’s post announcing this exciting news here:

The Witch-Were Chronicles sells to Harlequin Escape

Or simply read what she said about the sale here:

AAPS is excited to announce that the amazing Leisl Leighton has signed with Harlequin Escape to publish The Witch-Were Chronicles. This four-book series is paranormal romance at its best – brilliant world building, strong heroines, and sexy heroes, with ancient curses haunting the werewolf packs of modern Australia.

Leisl is the much-loved president of the Romance Writers of Australia, and has previously published two titles with Penguin Destiny.

Escape will publish all four books of The Witch-Were Chronicles later this year as a digital box set. This means that Leisl’s fans and new followers can binge-read the whole series in one go – no waiting.

Harlequin Escape is the digital-first imprint of Harlequin Australia, and this represents AAPS’ first official sale to the Escape imprint.

 

I am really excited that these books, tentatively titled, Witch, Healer, Blood and Ghost, will finally go out to readers later this year and hope that everyone will fall in love with my Witches, Weres and Shifters as much as Alex, Kate and I have.

Happy reading everyone and stay tuned for more news on the Witch-Were Chronicles – I will share publication dates, covers etc as they come to light.

20150312_124815We woke up on our third day to mist over the Howqua and the air clearer than it had been for days. It hadn’t been as cold during the night as it was up near Craig’s Hut and we’d actually managed to get a reasonable night’s sleep. The back burning smoke had blown over to the other side of the mountains and there was a light blue sky above. We were in for another lovely day.

After another hearty breakfast with hot water poured out of billy cans set over the fire for tea or instant coffee, we packed up our tent, fed and brushed the horses, saddled them and after walking them around to warm up their backs, we set off.

P1020758The riding over the last few days had been hard with lots of steep hills, but today we were promised mostly flats – so we thought that we were in for an easy day of it. How wrong we were. We were riding on an old cattle trail looking down at the Howqua. It was narrow and the ground rose on our left too steep to ride up, and fell away on our right down to the river. It wasn’t quite a cliff, but steep enough that if you and your horse went down, you wouldn’t be stopped by anything but the trees and bracken growing out of the rocky side of the mountain. It was beautiful country, but I found I really had to keep my wits about me and really had to work as a team with my horse, Chelsea.

Some of the path had been softened a lot by recent rain, and our trail leader, Shelley, was rather annoyed at how damaged portions of it were. They’d been assured, after having had an accident along that trail where one of their helpers had slipped off the trail with her horse and slid down the hillside a few months before (nobody was hurt, luckily), that the Parks had been through the trail and done work on it to make it safe for riders. There were sections that were decidedly not safe and we stopped a few times so she could take photos of various sections. Unfortunately, we couldn’t turn around, because the path was too narrow, so we just had to keep going forward.

20150314_153250

Our reaction to the trail

Our reaction to the trail

All of us rode carefully and with very little talking as the concentration levels were high. All you could hear was the sound of hooves on the dusty trail, the sound of the Howqua burbling away below us and the sound of birds in the trees, occasionally cut off by the distant sound of an electric saw in the distance as the back burning continued and the call that went down the line as we warned each other of dangerous sections of track.

About half an hour from the stockman’s hut we were heading toward for our first break of the day, we passed a very sandy section of track where the edge had broken away. We all went high on the track to try to avoid breaking away any more of the track, calling back to tell everyone to do the same. Then just as we all thought we were safely through that section, Uncle Richard’s call went from the usual volume to a loud shout as we heard the sound of scrabbling hooves and a desperate cry and then a kind of rumbling, snapping sound.

“Man down. Man down,” Uncle Richard cried out.

We stopped, hearts in our mouths, and heard more snapping, rumbling sounds and then “Oh fuck! Why me?” come from the back of the line.

It was so shocking, it was funny, and we all laughed, relieved that if Karen (who was the ‘man’ who’d gone down the side of the hill with her horse) was able to swear and say something in such a disgruntled, pissed off tone, it meant she was reasonably okay. P1020760

Shelley was amazing. She kept absolutely cool, slipped off her horse, got my sister to hold the reins and then scrambled back along the path to the back of the line. Uncle Richard said later when telling the story of what happened, that Karen’s horse – a newer, young acquisition that didn’t have enough trail sense not to try to prance along the dangerous track – had slipped on the soft, broken away bit of trail, it’s back legs going down. He’d heard Karen try to urge the horse forward and up, but the edge was too soft and they both went down. Thankfully, the bracken was so thick, it caught them and didn’t let them slip too far down. By the time Uncle Richard had managed to hop down and get behind his horse, it was to see Karen’s horse come back up over the edge, a little scratched and shaken, but incredibly nothing more. Uncle Richard managed to grab its reins and keep it calm and then Shelley arrived to see what had happened.

Safe on open ground at another stockman's hut

Safe on open ground at another stockman’s hut

In trying to get off the horse, Karen had gone a little further down. Shelley edged her way down to her and together, they managed, using the trees and plants, to pull themselves back over the side. Karen was a little scratched and bruised, swearing a blue streak and laughing that it was her again – she’d been the one who’d gone down on that other ride too, both times because she was the last in the line and the ground had been softened too much by the horses that had gone through before her. She was okay. IMG_0346

She didn’t want to get back on her horse though and not because she was ‘gun shy’. They couldn’t check out the horse properly and didn’t know if there was a more serious injury until we got on more stable ground, so she led her horse over the last section.

My admiration for her rose even higher at this point. The ground was rough and there were steep rises that were tough on the horses, but even tougher on a person on 2 legs. But she just kept going, her concern for her horse apparent.

Then we entered a clearing and all of us breathed a sigh of relief as we saw the stockman’s shack. We hopped off our horses, checked that Karen was truly okay, with her and Uncle Richard enjoying the retelling of the story while Shelley and Karen made sure her horse was okay. We rested for about twenty minutes, had a much needed snack (apples and snakes) and then headed off.

20150314_153338The next section of riding was much easier. We were now right on the Howqua and were riding a curling path that led us over it and back a dozen times. We were able to canter for small sections and got a little wet in others – which given the warm day, was quite welcome. We had lunch at a lovely spot and stopped for an afternoon break at another stockman’s hut – they are scattered throughout the mountains and all cut along similar lines, usually in a lovely clearing near water of some kind. Some of them are privately owned, some are kept up by Parks Victoria and all of them are still used in one way or another. And the isolation of every single one of them made me marvel at how tough and stubborn those early settlers and stockman must have been to ride the mountains and high plains like they did and building these huts in the middle of nowhere.

We had some fun in late afternoon cantering through a section of the river, true Man from Snowy River style and then cantered along the final section of flats to our camp – a quiet section of the river where someone has built a simple house overlooking the river just near Sheep Yard Flats. The man whose house it was came down to greet us as we set up camp, happy for the company. He had a gorgeous sheepdog, called Melbourne, who had speaking eyes and loved the attention he got from all of us. P1020764

IMG_0349When the horses were washed down, fed and settled in for the night, my sister and I set up our tent, I had another shower – glorious to get rid of the day’s trail dust – and we settled in for the night around the campfire, telling stories (well, we mostly listened to Uncle Richard tell his stories – he’s got lots and is really entertaining and had us all laughing), shared the story of Karen’s fall with the others who weren’t on the trail with us, laughed over her ‘Oh Fuck! Why me?’ comment and had another wonderful, home cooked meal from Kay.

Uncle Richard managed to talk me into singing for everyone and so I agreed to one song which ended up turning into half a dozen when they kept asking me for another – I was tired and struggling to remember the words of songs I normally know off by heart. Then we all turned in for the night, having had a very exciting, hard day of riding and feeling a little sad that the next day was going to be the last of this wonderful adventure.

Starting the day at Craig's Hut

Starting the day at Craig’s Hut

So, I left off at the end of day 1 last time, so I’ll pick up from there… On with the story…

We stayed the first night just below Craig’s Hut. It was really cold – the first true cold we’d experienced all year. I’d taken my son’s new sleeping bag, but hadn’t realised how narrow it was and underneath the swag’s canvas, with thermals on under my flannelette pyjamas, I found I could barely turn over, but it was better than freezing! (I did vow to get a larger sleeping bag for myself though the next time I had to go somewhere I needed a sleeping bag).

The horses, despite their exertions of the day, were a bit argumentative during the night and we heard them thumping around their enclosure, having a bit of horsey fisty-cuffs with each other. But even with this disturbing our sleep, my sister and I didn’t mind and woke up the next morning feeling surprisingly good. I was certain I wasn’t going to be able to move – I mean, it had been so long since I’d been on a horse and even longer since I’d been on a horse for that long, and it had been hard riding, not to mention that I’ve had a back problem for a few years now that I was worried might play up, especially as I’d had to see the physio before I went away and get some dry needling done (OUCH!) because I’d had spasms in the muscle, but the movement of the horse was quite soothing on the back muscles and my back felt better than it had for some time. As for my other muscles, they were sore, but nothing that would stop me from enjoying a day in the saddle. My sister was the same.

Breakfast's Up!

Breakfast’s Up!

We got dressed in the frosty air in our tent and opened the flap to find that the smoke from the back-burning had cleared a little, and our camp bosses were up and about getting breakfast ready and feeding the horses. One of the horses – Ned, who was a sweat boy who didn’t trust many people but for some reason decided I was all right and came to me for pats and to be bridled – had received a nasty kick where his saddle would go, so our trail leader had to ride another horse, which wasn’t a problem seeing we’d taken along a spare horse. The loose horses were amazing – once past a certain point, they pretty much just follow the rest, and could be let off the leads. We just had to be careful at certain points where there was a split in the trail to make sure they didn’t take the shorter option and head home – they really knew where they were.

Morning Cuppa

Morning Cuppa

We had eggs and bacon and toast for breakfast and I’ve really not tasted anything better sitting around the campfire in the clear, cold mountain air, the smell of gum trees and horses and burn off smoke tinging the air. It was so peaceful and wonderful and I felt relaxed and exhillarated in a way I don’t feel except for when we go skiing every year. Also, my sinuses were pretty clear and I didn’t have to take any medication for the terrible hayfever which has become a bane of my existence over the last few years – which was fantastic!

We helped feed and saddle our horses and then headed up to Craig’s Hut to see if we could see any more of the view. While the smoke had cleared a little from where we were, it was still thick enough across the mountains that we couldn’t see any more of the view than we had the day before, but it was nice to see the hut again and say goodbye to the Stirling side of the mountains, because we were about to ride down the other side from which we’d come up the day before and down into the Howqua Valley.

Steep Hills

Steep Hills

I thought riding up had been tough, but riding down was just as tough – possibly even tougher on the horses. We were riding down rocky roads that had been carved up by heavy rains and four wheel drive vehicles and it was slow going. My Uncle Richard took photos of us in front of him trying to get the perspective of just how steep it was, but the photos don’t do it justice. It was Man From Snowy River country and we were riding down the kinds of hills he rode down – except we were doing it slowly and allowing our horses to take the path they thought best for them, so nowhere near as dangerous or awe-inspiring, but still pretty difficult for us.

Just when I thought my bum knee (old skiing accident) was going to snap in half from the stress of pushing down into my stirrups to keep my weight off the saddle – which was the only thing I could do to help my brilliant horse, Chelsea, on the steep terrain – we came out onto a wide road where our 4WDs were waiting for us. Along with a gleaming firetruck.

20150313_114856We thought the firetruck might be there for the back-burning, but it wasn’t simply gleaming red in the sun just because they’d washed it, but because it was brand new and they’d brought it out for a photoshoot. We had a much needed break and walk around, chatted with the fireys and then headed off. We kept riding downhill for the rest of the morning and up until lunch, although most of it was along fairly gentle sloping winding roads. In comparison to the riding we’d been doing, it was pretty staid, but it gave us a different view of the mountains again and was the only way to get to where we were going – Pikes Flat on the banks of the Howqua river.

Steep Hills

More steep hills

We stopped off to look at some lovely falls (for the life of me, I can’t remember what they were called, but they were very pretty) and had a late lunch at a camping spot that many four wheel drive enthusiasts camp at, but was empty of anyone that day. The day had heated up and it was really pleasant sitting in the sun eating sandwiches and drinking cold drinks with the horses in the background and the river tinkling away beside us. We were only about an hour or so from our camp site, which we were all relieved to hear, but discovered that the hard riding of the day before was about to be repeated, because we had to ride up a small mountain and back down the other side to get down to Pikes Flat. It was worth it though, because we went through some really lovely bush that you wouldn’t see any other way. It was with relief though when we sited the flats and headed down to our camp site.

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Pikes Flat was lovely and we soon had the horses unsaddled, washed and fed, our tent up, swags made up and – most amazing of all – were able to have a shower. Paul had a pump and hose that pulled water up from the river and had a gas water heater he’d built onto one of the trailers. He put up tarps and a shower head and voila! A hot shower in the middle of the Snowy Mountains. It was amazing having a shower and looking up at the trees and sky above and to feel clean after a sweaty, dusty day of hard riding was a real treat.

A well-earned drink

A well-earned drink

We were treated to a delicious meal again, cooked by Kay, our camp cook, and sat around the camp fire as we had the night before as Uncle Richard held court telling stories of his adventures and making everyone laugh. You really need an Uncle Richard type personality around a camp fire – we were all thoroughly entertained. Even my sister and I, who had heard a lot of his stories before, were laughing with everyone else and adding our own bits.

IMG_0337Sunset is amazing in the mountains – the soft pinks and purple of twilight seeming to last forever, and then suddenly it’s pitch black, with only the light of the moon and stars and the campfire to light the surrounds. It was all so peaceful as well, because there is no signal up there and so nobody was able to be on their phones and while we could charge our phones to take photos the next day, nobody was listening to music or anything. It was just the sounds of the mountains, the horses and us.

Sunset over Pikes Flat

Sunset over Pikes Flat

We would have thought we were all alone there, except for the fact we knew there was another group camping at the other end of Pikes Flat, so far away, we couldn’t see them or hear them. The only reason we knew they were there was because every now and then one of them would troop over to use the pit toilet that was near us rather than dig their own. We were kind of bemused by this, because it was a long way for them to troop just to use a pit toilet, but then one of our group was over there when one of them came across and we found out why they were making the trek. Kay had put a scented candle in there and wet wipes and it was really quite pleasant, even with the spiders. So pleasant that the other campers decided that it wasn’t too far to tramp over there to go to the loo! The simple things really do make a difference. 😉

That brings me to the end of the second day. I will about the excitement of our third day on the trail next time.

RichardKizandMeLast year, my sister came to me with an idea to do something a bit different and challenging every year together. Part of the reason for this was because we practically used to live in each other’s pockets (terrible sibling rivalry when we were growing up was transformed into a true friendship when she came to work with me in the theatre restaurant I owned and ran back in my twenties), but life and obligations to children, spouses and work means we don’t see each other as often we used to (although, we still see each other every week – some would say that’s enough, but we really are good friends!) Red sunThe other reason is because there are things she wants to do that she can’t do with her hubby, partly because he has an injury which stops him from doing a lot of things, but also because he’s not inclined to do things to get your blood rushing in that way. She also wanted to show our children that you can do whatever you want when you put your mind to it.

I thought it was a great idea, so, last year, we went on our first special outing together – a face first abseil down a 6 story building. We did it 3 times that day, each time just as scary but better than the last. Without meaning to sound like I’m tooting our horn, the man who ran it said we were the best at doing it he’d seen for a while. Not bad for 2 forty-year old mums!

So, what to do next?

P1020719When I was 14 I went on a 5 day horse riding trek with my Uncle Richard (who is a horse enthusiast too – the only one in my family at the time) starting from Omeo and riding through the Bogong High Plains, camping out near old stockmans’ cottages every night. We rode up and down mountains, through the plains near the top of Fall’s Creak and down through the riverlands. It was an amazing experience we still talk about today.

At the time, my younger sister wasn’t really interested in horse riding and showed no interest in coming with us. Cut to 30 years later, six years of holiday horse riding camps down near Anglesea when we were at school and a few other rides besides, a damaged knee (me), a dislocated shoulder (her), marriage and children (both of us) and bodies showing the wear and tear of age and an active and sometimes reckless approach to our sports, and she suddenly decided a trek like I went on when I was 14 was just the thing, complete with Uncle Richard – who had given up city life years ago to live in the country and still horserides. So we approached him with the idea. Of course he was really keen to do it.

And we were off.

The Buckle Up Crew - Kay, Geoff, Karen, Paul and Shelley

The Buckle Up Crew – Kay, Geoff, Karen, Paul and Shelley

My sister found a place called Buckle Up Bushrides near Merijig who were able to do a 4 day ride at a time that suited us all. We booked in, bought new riding boots and jodhpurs and were off. We met Uncle Richard in Merijig the night before the ride and had a great country meal at the Merijig Inn and were sleeping in bunk rooms that reminded me of staying up at the snow. The next day we got up to a red sun and the smell of smoke – they were back burning up in the mountains – and headed to the Buckle Up Bushrides farm.

It has been 18 years since I rode a horse and since I’ve truly been around horses like that, but the moment I got out of the car, I felt like I was home. The scent of horses and paddocks, the dust and smoke in the air, the sound of whickers and hooves pounding the earth in the distance, were all sounds and scents I’d experienced many times before and made me feel instantly relaxed.

Me and ChelseaWe had met the trail bosses the night before at the pub – Paul and Shelley, a really lovely couple – and then met the rest of the crew, Paul’s mum, Kay who was the camp cook, and Geoff who was Paul’s hand and camp supervisor. We met one of the others riders – the other wasn’t arriving until lunch and would be brought in by Paul in the 4WD), packed our gear into their trucks and then set off up the mountains in the 4WDs.

The horses had been trucked part way up Mt Stirling which was our start off point and where we met the other trail supervisor, Karen. We met our horses, and because all of us had a lot of previous experience riding, mounted up and headed off. I can’t tell you how fantastic it felt to be on a horse again. My sister and I were quite worried about sore muscles, and even though we did have them, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we thought it was going to be. It was like the old riding a bike cliche. I remembered everything right away and my horse, Chelsea, was lovely, and after testing me to start off with, caught on that I was experienced and wasn’t going to let her get away with the kind of stuff she might try on a less experienced writer, and we settled down into a partnership right away.

DSCN0870That’s what this kind of horse riding is all about – a partnership between rider and horse. If you don’t respect each other, the ride is not nearly as enjoyable. Chelsea was doing a lot of the hard work – that first day was a lot of riding up steep hills – but it was my job to get up off the saddle on the steep parts and trust her ability to take the best path for her and me, looking after her so she could look after me, and it was her job to take my instruction when necessary. The first few hours were spent figuring each other out and after that, it was pretty smooth riding. She was a really good horse.

Me and my sis on Mt Stirling

Me and my sis on Mt Stirling

We rode through really rugged country up to the top of Mt Stirling on that first day. Very unfortunately, the backburning meant that there was smoke obscurring the view that would normally be fabulous, but we had a lot of laughs as we peered through it, trying to make out the village on Mt Buller (only just) and the other mountains surrounding there. I had never been up Mt Stirling before, but had viewed it many times skiing on Mt Buller – so it was kind of cool to see the view (what we could see) from the other highest point in the area.

Riding uphill is a lot of hard work on rider and horse and riding downhill is the same. By the time we got to just below

Cantering outside Craig's Hut

Cantering outside Craig’s Hut

Craig’s Hut late that afternoon, everyone was tired and happy to see our camp crew had set up the basics of the camp – although, before we settled down, we rode up to Craig’s Hut, had a canter in front of it like The Man From Snowy River did in the movie, and had a look around

Craig's Hut

Craig’s Hut

Craig’s Hut which was built there for the movie – although, the one that’s there now is just a replica as the original was burnt down a number of years ago in bushfires.

We all got back to camp, looked after the horses first as any good horseperson will do, and then my sister and I set up a tent for ourselves, rolled out our swags – first time I’ve ever slept in a swag – and settled down around the camp fire, swapping stories, having a good meal and just taking in the relaxing atmosphere that I only ever really find in the mountains. I think I must be a mountain girl at heart.

Our tent

Our tent

Given I’ve got so much to say on this amazing adventure, I’m going to split this blog into 2 parts. So, this is enough for now. Next week I’ll cover the rest of the trip – but I will say this now. If you are thinking of going on a horseriding trek in the mountains, the crew at Buckle Up Bushrides are fantastic. They love their horses and what they do and are incredibly friendly and helpful. DSCN0901They are a relatively new company up there, but they have been working with some of the biggest trail rides up there (Kay is a Lovick – one of the big cattle families in the region and the family made famous for their work on The Man from Snowy River) and really know the mountains. I want to do this again with my family some time in the future and I will most definitely be doing it with them.

Enough said for now – next week I’ll be talking about the challenging trails we did on day 2 and 3 and the excitement when one of the trail bosses had a spill off a very narrow, high track above the Howqua river.

 

 

I love series, whether in book form or on TV or at the movies. I love when there are characters to follow and a story arc that encompasses episodes or books that requires me to remember events and references from former episodes/books to help give depth and greater understanding of what’s going on. I love the cleverness of the writing when something is references in the VERY FIRST EPISODE and then the payoff for that is in the last episode/book. It blows my mind and makes me go back to watch/read the series over and over again to enjoy it all over again, and if it’s really good, get even more out of it on each read/viewing.

It’s nice to know others think that series are pretty hot shit too. Check out what Kristen Lamb has to say about why she thinks series are amazing, are coming back into popularity (although for some of us, they were never ‘out’ in the first place) and why we need them. Love this.

Series and psychopaths: the author sadist and why authors love the pain.

Romance Writers of Australia