My Year in Review – 2017

As Christmas is almost upon us and the year slips away, we all begin to reflect on our battles and achievements, our losses and our gains, and of course what’s over the horizon.

2017, for me, has been a year of struggle and management – but mostly enlightenment.

Grief played a huge part this year, with the loss of my relationship with my mum, the loss of our handsome cat, the passing of my dad and the passing of two uncles. But, in the shadows of grief, I found family I thought I’d never see again, strength I thought I didn’t have and enlightenment about my childhood, my family and my Self.

I learned a great deal this year. I discovered strong bonds of friendship will last through anything. I learned about mental health, homelessness, self-love and using my voice.

And as I reflect on some wonderful, and not so wonderfull moments in my year, I thank every single person who made the journey with me.

Our eldest daughter went to America with her boyfriend and whilst we watched her adventure from home, we were so very proud of them both for this wonderful achievement. It was a huge few weeks for them and was definitely the trip of a lifetime!

Our gentle giant Monte – RIP

Losing my dad, but finding my family.

Celebrating old and new friendships in our island paradise, Bali.

We welcomed two beautiful little treasures into our lives – our granddaughter Ariana and our poodle Moët.

We stepped up our fitness and community involvement – and boy, was it fun!

My beautiful sister got hitched to the man of her dreams!

I celebrated being an author of three books with a fundraiser during Mental Health week and raised funds and awareness for BeyondBlue, Pink Ribbon and Perth Children’s Hospital. (And I faced my fear of public speaking and won!) – I found my voice and realised I have so many gorgeous people around me.

Our youngest rugrat got her ‘P’ plate license and I suddenly realised I’m getting old!

And so the Christmas antics begin…

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Easy Beef Curry & Sweet Potato Dahl

I love to cook on a Sunday afternoon, when the chores are done and I’ve spent time writing. Being married to a Burmese guy, I’ve learned to cook simple, healthy curries the whole family can enjoy (yes, even those fussy eaters and the “I don’t eat hot” kind of people).

For over 20 years I’ve been perfecting my curries, with minor adjustments to how and how often I create a curry.

The most important thing about cooking a good curry is not what goes in, but the length of time it cooks for – three hours on a Sunday afternoon is perfect!

Also, you need to cook with ingredients that are easy to find or already in your pantry. Every Burmese curry I’ve ever cooked has five main ingredients ( always in my kitchen).

1. Onion

2. Coriander

3. Ginger

4. Garlic

And lots of love ❤️

Here’s my most cooked curry; Beef and Chick Pea.

1 onion (chopped)

5 or 6 curry leaf (don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on these)

3-4 coriander bunches (wash, cut off roots and chop stalks – keep the leaves for later)

1 teaspoon chilli powder or 2 chopped fresh/dried chillies (optional)

2 cloves garlic (crushed)

2 teaspoons chopped ginger

1 teaspoon of paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1kg beef (diced) – buy the cheapest cut, like casserole or chuck

2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce or soy sauce (fish sauce has a smell that isn’t for everyone)

1/2 tin of diced tomatoes

1 heaped tablespoon of a good curry paste. I make my own, which can be stored in the fridge for days, but a jar from your local Asian grocery would work too

Method<<<<<<<<<<<<<
on, garlic, ginger, coriander, curry leaf, paprika, turmeric, cumin seeds and chilli in a teaspoon of coconut oil.

<<<<<<<<<<<<
ow the ingredients to mingle, turn down the heat to medium, add half a tin of diced tomatoes – let the juice reduce and add a teaspoon salt. You don't want the ingredients spitting at you , but it needs to fry for a minute.

<<<<<<<<<<<
the beef, stir and coat the cubes with the gorgeous paste.

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At this stage, add the fish sauce and stir. The chick peas are next, drained before going in.

<<<<<<<<<<<
n the heat up a little, add your curry paste and mix the ingredients well. You should be wrapped up in the aromas of Asia right now!

<

There should be plenty of juices for this curry to simmer in for the next two to three hours, but if you like you can add 1 cup of water ( I’ve used coconut water before and it’s a lovely add to the Asian aroma).

Turn the heat right down to a gentle simmer and relax.

Or make a sweet potato Dahl to go with your delicious curry?

You’ll need;

1 teaspoon oil

1 small onion (diced)

1 clove garlic (crushed)

1 stem coriander ( keep leaves for later)

1 small sweet potato

2-3 curry leaves

1 teaspoon crushed ginger

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

Add these into a medium saucepan and fry gently.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
n the ingredients are soft and blended, add about 170 grams of red lentils ( about half of a 375 gram bag).

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Add water to cover about an inch over the top. You can always add water as the lentils soak it up, but it’s harder to dry it down. (Vegetable stock works well too)

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Add the sweet potato, carefully – turmeric stains!

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Bring to the boil – don’t look away, it might bubble over! Then, turn the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

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Taste for salt and add small handful of coriander leaves to garnish.

<

Have I made you hungry?

Infinite Completion – a little heated snippet

A whirlwind romance neither one was prepared for 📚

As the music changes to a slower beat, the guy moves closer to me. Before I can even move back from him, Phil has moved in between us and I feel Valentine’s hand in mine. I’m pulled away from the group so fast that my head spins, and it takes a moment to focus.

Valentine’s face is ashen. I haven’t seen this look before. ‘Come on, we’re leaving,’ he shouts over the music, pulling me behind him without looking back at me.

‘What? Why?’ I shout at him. He doesn’t answer me.

‘Sam, I’ll call you tomorrow and you can bring me to get the bike?’

‘Yeah, man –for sure! Be good, sis,’ he shouts out over the music with a grin.

I can feel my temper rising. The cold early-morning air makes my head spin, as we step out onto the street.

Valentine leads me to a taxi, opens the door and guides me in. ‘Watch your head,’ he says as he slides in next to me and leans over to put on my seat belt.

‘I can manage my own seatbelt,’ I say, starting to feel really annoyed. He’s dragged me from my friends –and my brother –for what?

‘I want to make sure it’s on properly,’ he says flatly. He’s really annoyed too, but why? He doesn’t sound like Valentine.

‘Where are you going?’ says the taxi driver, looking at Valentine through his rear vision mirror.

‘22 Copper Ave, Lathlain,’ he answers, not taking his eyes from me, doing up my seat belt.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ I say, trying my best to sound compliant. I really don’t like to see him upset. And I hate conflict.

‘That guy was hitting on you,’ he says calmly, as the taxi pulls out onto the road.

The driver flicks on the heater and turns the radio up a little –probably so he doesn’t appear to be listening to our argument.

‘So we leave, because a drunk guy was dancing nearby?’ I keep my own voice low. It’s an honest question.

‘He was dancing very close to you and his eyes were all over you,’ Valentine explains, as though he is explaining why we use an umbrella when it rains.

‘Phil came close to me so the guy would back off. I didn’t need you to pull me away like I’d done something wrong.’

‘You did nothing wrong, Abbie,’ he says.

Now I know I’m in trouble –Abbie –what happened to Princess? He takes a long breath and takes hold of my hand. ‘I’m sorry –I just don’t like it,’ he adds, as though this clarifies everything. ‘It was all under control.’

‘No it wasn’t –what if he’d hurt you?’ ‘He wasn’t even very close –and Phil was there!’ ‘Where I come from, we settle things differently,’ he snaps.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

He sighs and speaks lower. ‘In my neighbourhood, if a man mistreated a girl, he’d be dealt with before the police even had a chance to arrest him. I’ve been boxing since I was ten and I’ve been fighting for survival since I could walk. I’m sorry, but instinct sometimes gets the better of me and I try to avoid situations where I may be forced to kill a man—’

‘You’d kill a man, because he dances near me?’ ‘I’d kill a bull for you,’ he says flatly.

I can’t believe he’s being so serious. ‘He was just dancing near me! You can’t go around beating people up for dancing too close to your girlfriend!’ I’m so angry that my voice is getting louder.

‘I’m sorry, Princess,’ he whispers and squeezes my hand. ‘I will not share you, even with another man’s eyes or thoughts.’

Whoa! Now here’s a revelation. Does he want to hide me in a tower somewhere? This doesn’t sound like my Valentine at all. ‘You can’t wrap me up in cotton wool,’ I shout at him, a little too loudly. He flicks his eyes to the front of the car briefly to see if the taxi driver heard but then looks back down at my fingers entwined through his. ‘And I left my rose behind,’ I add, realising I left my rose on the bar with my drink.

‘I can get you another rose—’

‘I don’t want another damn rose, I want you to not behave like a teenager,’ I snap.

‘I want to be the beginning and end of your world –with no exceptions. And I don’t want other men looking at you—’

‘I can’t stop people from looking at me… even though they aren’t anyway –you’re not flattering me with this behaviour,’ I say.

There’s silence for a few minutes; except for the song playing on the radio. Radiohead’s Creep. I love this song. Valentine is my creep, and I love him.

‘I know I can’t stop them from looking –I was being silly. I just don’t know how I’m going to cope with you being so damn beautiful and me feeling this way. This is all very new to me –forgive me, Princess?’ he smiles.

I manage to smile at him, but I’m still mad.

‘Good, now let’s go home and make up,’ he grins at me wolfishly. How can I stay mad?

❤ Infinite Completion ~ Amazon link:

http://ow.ly/1FQM309BW3W

My Top 5 Reads for 2017


I’ve read around 25 books this year, but these are my favourite (mostly because they’re some of my favourite authors). 

Anyone who knows me would tell you I have a small obsession with dragons, and whilst none of these feature dragons, they do transport the reader into adventure and beautiful places; and I do love to travel.

Without further ado, here are my picks for 2017.

1. Origin – Dan Brown 


 

Dan Brown is one of my favourite authors, so it’s only fitting his latest release would top my reading list for 2017. Dan Brown brings us Robert Langdon again in this science fiction mystery thriller and I couldn’t put it down.

When Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim, Museum Bilbao, to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”, his life is spun out of control in a desperate bid to save his life and the lives of others. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced to flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret, along with the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal.

The heart racing quest with Robert Langdon (I always picture Tom Hanks) through Barcelona was nothing short of fantastic and if you feel like a holiday to Greece, I’d definitely read this one!

Here’s the Kindle link;

 

2. The Break – Marian Keyes


This is the latest release for one of my favourite authors and I wasn’t disappointed. Marian Keyes is a wise, witty, Irish writer who seems to be able to mingle humour and heartbreak like they belong together in a delicious chocolate cake. Really! Take my word, she does it so effortlessly.

In The Break, Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He says he still loves her, but he needs a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! It caught my attention so dramatically; I couldn’t put this book down. Hugh wanted six months to lose himself in South East Asia (which did sound great), and there was nothing Amy could say or do about it.

Gosh, now that’s some mid-life crisis! 

Hugh’s mid-life crisis is enough to send Amy and her extended family of gossips and eccentric friends into damage control – bringing tears of laughter and heartbreak (so have plenty of tissues!).

Here’s the Kindle link;

 

3. The Stationmaster’s Cottage – Phillipa Nefri Clarke


I love a good romance novel; one with mystery, beautiful settings and hunky love interests – oh and a dog is always a winner! When this book was released, I couldn’t wait to buy my Kindle copy, settling on the couch with a wine and some tissues.

The book opens with Christie Ryan’s carefully constructed life being turned upside-down with the inheritance of an abandoned cottage in an Australian seaside village. A damaged painting, a hunky guy (with dog) and the discovery of old love letters draws her into the heart wrenching world of Thomas and Martha and their fifty year old mystery. Christie is a gorgeous character who I immediately connected with and found myself cheering her on as she unravelled the mystery she’d been plunged into.

If you love a good romance; one with mystery, beautiful settings and a hunky love interest (with a dog), then get your copy here;

 

4. The Art of Keeping Secrets – Rachael Johns


I recently attended a Rachael Johns book tour for The Greatest Gift at the gorgeous Katherine Susannah Prichard library in Perth, Western Australia. I won’t lie, I was a tad excited to be meeting Rachael, after speaking with her over social media and us becoming Facebook friends. So, as I had my books signed and I settled down in my chair to listen to her speak about her latest release – with the burnt orange sun setting behind the surrounding gumtrees (we have the best sunsets!) – I was already planning how and when I’d read my first Rachael Johns book, The Art of Keeping Secrets.  

I was holding a signed copy of The Greatest Gift and The Art of Keeping Secrets, feeling like I’d won the lotto. The blurb on The Art of Keeping Secrets had really caught my eye!

 They started out as the “misfit moms”–the trio of less-than-conventional parents at their sons’ tiny private school. They’ve shared everything. Or so they thought. Now, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New York City, they’ll sightsee, they’ll shop, they’ll catch a few Broadway shows. They’ll tell all…

After seventeen years as a single parent, Neve will reveal a past sin that could destroy her relationship with her son. Emma will uncover the roots of her exhaustion and divulge the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And Flick–who knows a little about crafting a flawless exterior–will share the shocking truth that lies beneath the veneer of her perfect marriage…
So, of course when I arrived home, after saying hello to the hubby and the poodle, Moet, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled onto the couch with The Art of Keeping Secrets – I’m so glad it was a Friday! 

Here’s the Kindle link;


5. Stars of Fortune (Book I of the Guardian Trilogy) – Nora Roberts


I’ve read almost all of Nora’s books – yes, I’m slightly addicted. And when my daughters bought this gorgeous book for me at Christmas, it wasn’t long before I’d sunk my teeth in (well not literally, but, you get the gist?).
This story has everything (except dragons). In true Nora style, it has steamy romance, mystery and adventure, but it also has a fantasy element and supernatural theme. 

I was immediately drawn to the main character, Sasha Riggs, a reclusive artist, haunted by vivid dreams that she turns into extraordinary paintings. As she becomes more and more desperate to understand her visions, she finds herself drawn to the Greek island of Corfu, and I was there with her. Isn’t is fantastic when you can read a book and travel to beautiful places?  

Sasha arrives in Corfu (and this is on my “to visit” list) and encounters Bran Killian, an Irish magician with a warm charisma and secrets dancing in his eyes. She’s never met Bran before, but she knows him only too well – because this is the man from her dreams. Bran is the man she seems fated to be with… if she can find the courage to accept who she really is.
Together they meet up with others who have come to Corfu to find answers and a dangerous, yet, wonderful adventure begins.

Here’s the Kindle link;

 

 

Writing Grief – Michelle Dennis 

I’ve heard it said, quite often, it takes a tragedy or a dark period in life to truly get to know your Self. I guess this makes perfect sense that a writer would write far deeper when submerged in grief or emotional turmoil, because they’re thinkers. I’ve also heard of writers not knowing they’re writers until tragedy or illness strikes.

For me, this is true. I wrote a medieval adventure for middle-grade kids (and adults who love a good fairytale) – when I injured myself and had nothing better to do while the kids were at school. I was house-bound for months and when reading, housework and midday television wasn’t enough, I started to write down story plots and characters – jotting down things that crept into my imagination. I found it quite liberating; like writing in diary of sorts. I finished two manuscripts by the time my injury had repaired, I discovered there was more to come. I had started writing a romance novel – just for my own eyes and used it to re-discover my young Self. Between school drop-off, studying to be a Library Technician, school pick-up, mum duties and wifey stuff, I wrote a story of love, depression, cancer, bereavement and family. I wasn’t experiencing any tragic periods in my life, but I drew on some of my past and delved into the character of a twenty year old girl on the brink of finding the love and lesson of her life. Infinite Completion was born.


 

Almost two years later my world tipped upside down, with the death of my brother. And whilst I had just started the sequel to my romance novel, it brought out some very dark writing moments, for sure. My heart was shattered, and with this came grief, anger, and a lot of questions.

I wrote a lot. I wrote to complete my sequel, but I also wrote my feelings and muses during the weeks of my brothers passing – like I had to get to out of my head and onto paper – literally written on paper, in scrap books and note books, and any piece of paper I could find. Writing made sense. It helped me see in the dark. I started to take notice of the flaws in people, in our society and of course, my characters. Valentine, my brooding, handsome, singer of a local pub band opened up and boy was it messy. His story was Absolution – something neither of us were ready for.

I’d stumbled into writing kids adventures, with friendly dragons and grumpy knights – and as my newly awakened passion emerged, I found more of my Self as I worte about romance and real life stuff. Then, in my darkest hour, I uncovered a strength to pull apart my thoughts. To take each piece and develop Valentine’s character even further. I wanted to adress social issues and make the reader think. Really think. To say this was hard is an understatement. Writing Absolution drew out my pain and displayed it in someone else’s voice. It was pushing my boundaries and making me work harder. Then, as I had the finish line in sight, my husband had a severe stroke, miles away from home. My world, my children’s world and his world spun on its axis. With months of therapy; for us all, I really felt I’d never write again. I could feel it calling me, but I just didn’t have time. My every waking hour was about my husband, our kids and my Self.

Nonetheless, as time went on, I found time to sit. And think. And write. I was drawn back to Valentine and his world – where I submerged in his grief. I could have drowned myself in alcohol or drugs – at times I felt like it. But, I was a mum and wife. I wasn’t going to give in. I could, however, write without causing any harm to myself or anyone else.

I eventually finished Absolution and on October 10 2016 it went live on Amazon.com.

I am working on another couple of manuscripts, and wouldn’t wish dark times on anyone, but I know writing is my answer to grief and its many layers.

Is this something you do as an artist? I’d love to have some feedback from other writers or artists about what drives their best work.

HELP OUR KIDS WITH BOOKS

🦋IT’S MENTAL HEALTH WEEK🦋
I conducted my first public fundraiser recently, to raise money and awareness for mental health, cancer and children’s charities. I was saddened and shocked to be told that kids as young as FOUR suffer with anxiety and almost every teenager will go through some level of depression – as parents, teachers, guardians, we can only support and provide them with tools to make life easier.

I find writing children’s fantasy/magical adventures helps my anxiety and I share my crazy imagination in the hope of making kids happy.

If your kids are into reading on their kindle, Wolfbaene is only $4!

It’s a story of bravery, friendship and achievement💕


ALL PROCEEDS FOR OCTOBER GO TO PERTH CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL FOUNDATION 




What’s Your Favourite Part?

I’m always up for a challenge, and when Fate plays her hand, I graciously accept. 

Taking on the challenge of writing my first book was probably the craziest thing I’ve done, and to delve into the world of magic and children’s literature, has been a life-changing journey. I grew up in a time of Pete’s Dragon and Peter Pan, with a wild imagination and a passion for books. I was fortunate to have a mother who encouraged me to read and learn. But, reading your favourite Golden Books classic and writing a children’s noteworthy adventure are as different as Paddington Bear and Cinderella. 

However, as a woman heading into her 40’s, I took up my pen and paper, opened my dusty imagination and met some wonderful characters. 

I met Miles Tissle, the elf who’d be unwillingly challenged to save his village, with the help of a stubborn and courageous faery, Audrey Appleby. I uncovered adventure after adventure, writing it all down. Until I finally stumbled across William and Thomas, who showed me a world of medieval fantasy, dragons, werewolves and castles; and here my heart exploded. 


Wolfbaene became my first published book.  Two boys, two dragons, a werewolf and a magic book – promising an epic adventure. It brought me out of my comfort zone and gave me new experiences as I visited primary schools and attended festivals, reading and sharing my children’s book with others. 

Now, I’ve been invited to read part of Wolfbaene at an upcoming medieval festival in November, and I need your help. 

I’m running a COMPETITION for one of my readers to win a $50 Dymocks voucher (Australian residents only). And this is perfect for the kids!

To enter 

1. Share this competition on your Facebook, & twitter (tag me @wolfbaene)

2. Send your favourite part of Wolfbaene to wolfbaene12@gmail.com

Entries close on November 10, so if you haven’t read Wolfbaene yet, here’s the kindle link;

Happy reading!