The Things I Wish They’d Told Me Earlier – Jenn J McLeod

Thanks to Jenn J McLeod for stopping by my blog and sharing with us her thoughts about writing, life on the road and the release of her new book, The Other Side of the Season.

Jenn J McLeod

“The things I wish they’d told me earlier:

 

Picture this—life on the road:

No deadlines.

No pressures.

No problems.

Just wake up in the morning after a great night’s sleep, have a stretch and a yawn, and mull over a moreish brekkie of camp-fire cooked bacon, eggs and damper about which way to point the caravan today.

 

Sounds perfect, yeah?

Perfect fiction, maybe!

 

Almost two years of being gypsies, my partner and I are still trying to fit into the rhythm of life on the road and still meet publishing deadlines. We have no regrets, we haven’t killed each other—yet, nor have I missed a deadline—yet, and there’s been no Thelma and Louise moments either (*touch wood*), but there are things I wish we’d known before setting out, like how hard it would be to sleep when you can hear everything from boxing kangaroos fighting over territory to cows chewing their cuds. And let me tell you, the pitter-patter of rain on a tin roof might be lovely in a house. Sheeting rain, gale-force winds, thunder and lightning is the only time I miss the safety of bricks and mortar. Then there are things like:

 

  1. Mobile data is going to send me broke: And fast! Plus, it’s so unreliable and I hate it when I can’t connect with readers online. I mean Facebooking is important—right? You know how serious I am about data costs when I get excited enough about a Telstra free data day that I get up at midnight to take full advantage.

 

  1. Breakdowns: No, not mine (although I came close to one with this book and all it’s characters doing things I didn’t want them to do). I’m referring to the caravan and its various fittings and appliances. I should have expected that everything in the van would rattle and shake around on country roads, the same as we do, or that they’d misbehave (like my characters). They just don’t make things to last these days. The problem is exacerbated by the service people who casually suggest: “No worries, love, bring the van into the workshop and leave it with us for a few days.”

“Umm,” I reply, “Only if you have room in that workshop for two people (including one a crazy writer) and a one-eyed dude-dog called Daiquiri who thinks she’s a Great Dane.”

 

  1. Plotting and planning: No, not of the ‘writerly’ kind, but of the ‘which way to go’ kind. You’d think picking a direction would be the easy part. But we are still so new to life on the road that we worry about low bridges and high mountains and everything in between. Roads that twist and weave up and over mountain ranges freak me out. (Give me a plot twist and I’m fine, like one of those you’ll find in my latest release.)

 

The final thing I wish someone had told me earlier was to get out there and give it a go. What an incredibly positive influence the camping/caravanning life is having on my writing. Not only am I seeing and hearing and sensing things I’m sure I never noticed in the city, everything is clearer, crisper, and more colourful. My senses are in overload and they are inspiring lots of new stories.

 

So, yeah, the gypsy life has its charms and its qualms and life is now full of compromises—something my characters have to come to terms with in The Other Side of the Season.

Other Side of the Season

  •  Sid, for example, agrees to go to Melbourne with her partner, upsetting her mother in the process who dislikes Damien. (I can’t wait to hear what readers think of him!!)
  • David also has to come to terms with his situation and be content to make do and settle for a life he never asked for.
  • Matthew is prepared to make a deal, if only the family can come to an understanding.

 

 

Come to think of it, just about everyone in this book is having to compromise in some way in order to learn and grow.

 

So, yes, compromises are a fact of life (and, it seems, of fiction).

 

 

 

Book information and BUY links – www.jennjmcleod.com/book-room

Connect with Jenn on Facebook www.facebook.com/jennjmcleod.books and Twitter @jennjmcleod or join in the discussion at Readers of Jenn J McLeod Facebook group (no cat memes allowed!)

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Other Side of the Season – Jenn J McLeod

Other Side of the Season

The Other Side of the Season

Jenn J McLeod

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781925030310

 

Description:

Everything has a reflection…And there’s another side to every story

 

When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountain’s winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small seaside town of Watercolour Cove.

 

Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place. Two brothers are working the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but the budding artist spends too much time daydreaming about becoming the next Pro Hart and skiving off with the teasing and tantalisingly pretty Tilly from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father.

 

Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation. One stays – trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams. That is, until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and …

there’s another side to every story.

 

My View:

Jenn J McLeod’s writing is just going from strength to strength.  Her latest book is complex with sensitively written contemporary issues regarding identity, family, truth and abuse of children in care gently woven into the multi layered narrative. Jenn’s gentle approach lets readers enjoy the narrative and mysteries absorbing the issues without schoolmarmish lessons being given.

 

The settings are exquisitely Australian, I love the area around Coffs Harbour/Sapphire beach with its majestic coastline, sub-tropical climate, banana plantations and forest.

 

Jenn’s characters are interesting and individual- some you will love, some you will need time to warm to.

 

The ending…at first I was a little disappointed with one aspect of the ending but upon reflection realised it was because I was invested in this particular characters life and wanted a “happy every after” (which I was denied). At some point I realised the ending needed to be this way – or risk putting a saccharine spin on the overall narrative – which would have just spoilt this engaging contemporary story.

 

This is another great read from Jenn J Mcleod!

 

View to Coffs Harbour

View to Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour Forest Sky Pier

Coffs Harbour – Forest Sky Pier

 

 

 

Post Script: The Blood On My Hands – Shannon O’Leary

The Blood On My Hands

The Blood On My Hands

Shannon O’Leary

Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN: 9781519695871

 

Description:

Set in 1960s and ’70s Australia, “The Blood on My Hands” is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.

 

The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.

 

“The Blood on My Hands” is a heartbreaking-yet riveting-narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.

 

My View:

A particularly horrific and grim story of ongoing domestic violence and psychosis that is not addressed in the perpetrator’s lifetime – this is a uncomfortable book to read  –  imagine what it must have been like to endure? And endure Shannon O’Leary and her family did – the depravity here is unbelievable – if the author hadn’t qualified the read with “autobiography” you would think this was macabre crime fiction.

To enjoy or not to enjoy? No I can’t say I enjoyed this read – the wounds, physical and psychological were open, raw and bleed onto the pages – I could not enjoy. Compelling – yes. An incredible story of courage and survival – yes.  Can we learn from the mistakes made here? I think this should be read by all in the agencies working in the field of domestic violence and community health; more education and resources are needed in these areas.

 

Shannon O’Leary – you must be one amazingly strong woman.  Whenever I think life is tough for me, I will recall what you have endured.

 

 

Post Script: The Missing Hours -Emma Kavanagh

The Missing Hours

The Missing Hours

Emma Kavanagh

Cornerstone Digital

ISBN: 9781473535596

 

Description:

 

A woman disappears

 

One moment, Selena Cole is in the playground with her children and the next, she has vanished without a trace.

 

A woman returns

 

Twenty hours later, Selena is found safe and well, but with no memory of where she has been.

 

What took place in those missing hours, and are they linked to the discovery of a nearby murder?

 

‘Is it a forgetting or a deception?’

 

 

My View:

Unique. Compelling. Surprising.

 

This book has just so much going for it! A wonderfully engaging character driven narrative, multiple points of views adding depth and perspectives to the narrative and to the main characters. What great characters there were! Everyone had something to offer or something they were holding back, some little piece of themselves and the mystery they didn’t want to let go of or share that when revealed kept changing the direction of the plot or the way you thought it was all going to work out. Each reveal just added more complexity to the mystery. Who was telling the truth? So many lies, half-truths or omissions.

 

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and mesmerising read. Unique – in so many ways; brother and sister police officers working two cases in the same precinct, the company the missing woman works for again is unusual – I haven’t come across this in crime fiction before though know of its existence in the work place (but I bet there will be more of this type of scenario in future reads), no spoilers here.   And the twists – relationships that will surprise, nothing is as it seems on the surface; family pictures on the mantle shelf displaying a version of the truth, a moment in time… a display….real or not? You work it out.

Post Script: Precious Things – Kelly Doust

Precious Things

Kelly Doust

Precious Things

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460750971

 

Description:

In the tradition of gloriously absorbing, lush and moving women’s fiction by authors such as Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley and Joanne Harris comes PRECIOUS THINGS.

 

Normandy, France, 1891: a young woman painstakingly sews an intricate beaded collar to her wedding dress, the night before her marriage to someone she barely knows. Yet Aimee longs for so much more …

 

Shanghai, 1926: dancing sensation and wild child Zephyr spies what looks like a beaded headpiece lying carelessly discarded on a ballroom floor. She takes it with her to Malaya where she sets her sights on a prize so out of reach that, in striving for it, she will jeopardise everything she holds dear …

 

PRECIOUS THINGS tells the story of a collar – a wonderful, glittering beaded piece – and its journey through the decades. It’s also the story of Maggie, an auctioneer living in modern-day London, who comes across the crumpled, neglected collar in a box of old junk, and sets out on an unexpected mission to discover more about its secret and elusive past.

 

Maggie has a journey of her own too. Juggling a demanding job, a clingy young child and a rebellious stepdaughter, and with her once-solid marriage foundering under the pressure of a busy life, Maggie has to find out the hard way that you can’t always get what you want… but sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get precisely what you need.

 

This is a wonderful, absorbing and moving novel about desire, marriage and family, telling the story about how we so often reach out for the sparkly, shiny things (and people) we desire, only to realise – in the nick of time – that the most precious things are the ones we’ve had with us all along.

 

My View:

This is a rather remarkable read.  It is subtle; the individual sub stories/chapters are personal and intimate and slowly draw you into to the overarching story – of Maggie’s life and her daily struggles juggling paid work, motherhood and relationships. I found Kelly Doust’s writing to be intelligent and her observations of relationships and family to be insightful and honest. The more I read of this novel the more invested I was in Maggie’s life, the more I found myself agreeing with her observations.

 

This was not the story I thought I would be reading – I admit to assuming that this would be a light and unassuming read – it was the opposite; intelligent, engaging, and brilliantly observational of women’s lives and rights at various points in history; all individual stories connected by their relationship to one piece of extraordinary cloth – very well plotted and visually stunning, intelligently written, 5 stars from me!