Thursday, April 25, 2013
Among the food dishes named in honour of a battle is the Anzac biscuit. It originated in the biscuits sent to overseas troops during the Great War; biscuits that needed to be fairly tough and long-keeping, but which would have been hugely welcome both as a reminder of home and as a variation in diet. After Gallipoli, these crisp oaty biscuits were renamed Anzac biscuits.
The recipe for this biscuit comes in many variations, but this one makes a tasty, chewy snack. I made a batch this week in honour of the day:
They didn't last long, which is usually a good sign.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
As well as the steamship Earnslaw (which I wrote about here), the Lake Wakatipu region is also fortunate enough to have a fine old steam train, the Kingston Flyer. Last week I was fortunate enough to take a ride on the Flyer.
Getting up a head of steam ready to depart:
We decided to make the most of our outing, so travelled first class, which meant an elegant compartment all to the two of us, along with a delicious lunch.
Bounty of the region, with a scenic backdrop:
The author enjoying herself immensely:
And a small hint for what's to come: as with the Earnslaw, I fully expect the Kingston Flyer to make an appearance in a future book (although not the current work in progress). I hope my characters will enjoy the journey just as much as I did.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Apple's iBookstore has just launched a new feature, Breakout Books, to showcase selected authors. I was pleasantly surprised (not to mention delighted!) to find myself on this list with Daisy's War.
Daisy is in fine company, and this is a wonderful opportunity to meet some new readers.
More about this feature can be found at the Smashwords blog.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
History of the Earnslaw
October 1912 was the centennial of the steamship TSS Earnslaw's service on Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand's South Island. To mark the occasion a weekend of celebrations took place, and we were fortunate enough to be there for part of it.
This is a lovely part of the country, and it's always a treat to see the Remarkables, especially with a dusting of snow:
Before the road along the Queenstown side of the lake was completed, the Earnslaw provided a vital link between Queenstown and Glenorchy, as well as the farms along the lakeshore. These days the Earnslaw mainly serves visitors wishing to experience the area from the water, but for this special weekend a renactment of those earlier voyages was made, all the way to Glenorchy and stopping at Walter Peak and Mount Nicholas stations on the way.
The trip took the whole day, and was quite an occasion. A good number of passengers (including us) dressed up for the occasion, and a band played on the upper deck. Many of those on the voyage had used this service years ago when they lived in the area. We met a lady who had been the cook at Mount Nicholas station a fair few decades ago, and was making her first return visit in quite some years.
What looked like the entire population of Glenorchy, along with several hundred visitors, turned out to greet the Earnslaw on her first visit in years. The locals went on a short cruise while we wandered around on shore. Here's the Earnslaw on her way back into Glenorchy:
It was a privilege to be part of this wonderful day.
I rather expect the Earnslaw to make an appearance in a future book. It's a fine way to travel, and has been so for a century now.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
In early September we spent a week in our capital city, Wellington. Wellington's a great city to visit: compact, set against a stunning harbour, and well-endowed with good cafés. But the main reason for our visit was that it's the home of National Archives.
Archives New Zealand provides excellent facilities for researchers, and the staff are helpful and knowledgeable. Most of the records are stored underground, and fetched to the reading room when ordered by a researcher; anything from the thin, old pages of a handwritten will through to huge volumes that must be nestled on bean bag-type cushions to protect the fragile bindings. But one entire room is devoted to land title records, with all the volumes on open shelves. Here's a small part of the collection:
The land records have a complex indexing system that leads from one hand-written volume to another, then another, and sometimes even further. Having a well-muscled and patient research assistant was a definite asset!
Archives require careful tending, and the atmosphere in the reading rooms was so dry that I'm sure the hours spent there contributed to the bronchitis I came down with soon after our return home. But poring through the records was a fascinating experience, especially when I encountered the signatures (or perhaps a shaky "X") of some of the people I'm researching.
Which leads to a confession: I'm currently writing two books at once. My main project is the sequel to Daisy's War, but at the same time I'm working on a non-fiction book that's unrelated to my novels, other than taking place in New Zealand at a similar period. I've found myself caught up in this real-life story, and in the desire to do it justice.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
During August I'm leading a book club discussion of Sentence of Marriage on the ClubNook discussion boards. This is a small and friendly group, founded by people who use Barnes & Noble's Nook eReaders but very welcoming to all, with or without Nooks. Please feel free to drop in, either just to lurk or to sign up and join in the discussions. Sentence of Marriage discussion thread.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
It's sometimes disconcerting just how clearly characters can make their feelings known (as the mere author, I'm frequently not in charge), and Amy has made it very clear that she would much prefer a quieter life from now on, content to have a role in the lives of her grandchildren. While she is still an important presence in Daisy's War, the main focus has shifted from her, and I've had the pleasure of getting to know Daisy and Eddie much better.
Writing Daisy's War has held a new experience for me in how much this book's plot is shaped by a single historical event: the Great War of 1914-1918. In the earlier books events such as the Tarawera eruption, the baby-farming scandal and the struggle for women's suffrage affected my characters in varying degrees, but in this book their lives become increasingly intertwined with the War, as it grows from a shadowy threat to a very real one.
More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in the Great War, and over 18,000 died; this in a country with a population of barely one million. The War must have had an effect on every household in New Zealand; it certainly touches everyone in my little valley.
Daisy's War is available now on Amazon.com and Amazon UK. It should appear at Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other retailers within the next few weeks.