A wild Adventure Down Under.

The Sword of DemelzaWarrior Echidnas, threatening Thylacines and curious Kowaries are just the beginning of this amazing tale of fantasy and adventure in a unique wilderness that spreads across the deserts and forests of the top end of Australia. The Sword of Demelza by J.E. Rogers has taken many of our endangered animals and magnificently brought them to life with human like caricatures. Many of the smaller creatures live in homes inside trees with little dining settings where they serve tea with berries and cream. Quite a quaint idea that could have almost been idyllic were it not for the trouble about to unfold as the evil fox that ruled over the countryside set his terrible dragon lizards to destroy the peaceful villages.

A quest for two little kowaries becomes much bigger than they ever anticipated as they meet and make friends along the way. Do they stick to their goal or should they be lead down a longer more dangerous path to help new friends and young troublesome echidna babes?

Jeanne has wonderfully created a fantasy world not only using Australia's unique animals but also some of its most outstanding and different landscapes. As I read her description of the Pinnacles Desert The PinnaclesI could see it as clearly as the day I was there. Quite a masterful piece of writing for someone who had not been there herself. Jeanne has obviously done her research well to ensure her story teaches children around the world a little more about this beautiful place we are so lucky to call home. Even some of the colloquial slang is used amongst the dialogue but not overly so as to be a hindrance to the flow and ebb of the excitement.

J.E. RogersAlthough Jeanne hails from the east coast of the United States she clearly has a love for all things Australian, the environment and endangered animals worldwide.You can read her fantastic blog where she writes frequently on all kinds of unique species at Australian Fantasy Adventures with an aptly named blogspot that I adore!

The Sword of Demelza is written for a Middle Grade audience however I believe it is one to be read and treasured by young and old.


They Call This Winter?

Sunset 1I find myself here in Darwin in the so called "dry season!" It is winter everywhere else in Australia. While my family pile on more jumpers, watch the fog roll in as they rise, light the fire each evening and prepare for the usual neighbourhood bonfire this coming long weekend, my husband and I have landed in the Top End, a place where winter doesn't really exist. Everyone here tells me that we are lucky to have arrived now while it is "cool" so that we have time to acclimatise before the "wet season" hits but my clothes are already sticking to me every time I leave the air conditioning. I find it somewhat reminiscent of our two years in Thailand some twenty odd years ago. Tropical climate, humidity, palm tree lined streets, tiled floors, even to the extent that the stairs in our rented house are awkwardly unexpected heights. I keep finding things in the house that don't work or kitchen utensils not supplied. It is amazing how inventive with the cooking you can be when you don't have transport to just pop down to the shops to pick up a missing item. I feel like I an an expats wife all over again but someone forgot that Darwin is still in Australia! The only difference is that this time I don't have three babies desperately hanging off me for love and support. Sunset 2

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. My husband is gone by 5:00am and doesn't return til 6:00pm 6 days a week so I have plenty of time to myself to contemplate my writing. That is when I can get into the swing of things. We have only been here a week and so far I have been busy setting up the house and admiring the amazing view over the ocean. I admit I can waste a bit of time staring out across the bay watching the yachts sail past. I thought the kangaroos on my property back home could be a distraction but I'm finding the sea quite a draw card. The sunsets have been stunning! Each evening they have provided something new and spectacular, the ash cloud wafting across from the Indonesian Island of Bali has certainly added to the intensity of the colours.20140528_182701

So, I need to make a plan. Walk first thing in the morning, early, really early! Before the heat and humidity get to me. I am older than what I was twenty years ago after all! Swim a few laps in the pool to cool down, you can't swim in the ocean, too many crocodiles, sharks and jellyfish! (I do want to live). Then I'll still have a few good hours at my computer to check emails, facebook and finally WRITE!

One of my projects I'm considering writing (as well as my children's books) is  "Snippets from Thailand, an expat wife's memories." Would it make interesting reading? What do you think?

Interview with Children's Book Author Sandra Bennett

This week I had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed by Children's Author David Chuka on his blog. Below are my responses to his questions. Read on and learn a little more about my life, my writing and my love of literacy. Interview with Children's Book Author Sandra Bennett.

Origins of Halloween

Halloween was not a holiday I grew up practising, nor did my own kids. Although during their childhood it was starting to appear around the neighbourhood. It is only in recent years that it has become more popular here in Australia to the extent where the shops are becoming full of merchandise, media is all over it and kids everywhere have begun to dress-up and prepare to spend their eveings trick or treating. Adult parties have even become the norm as a great excuse to dress-up and have some fun. A few years ago while I was teaching Kindergarten, one of the children's mum's orgainised a Halloween party at their house and invited the entire class, including myself. It was a huge success. The kids had a fantastic evening, everyone dressed-up and joined into the full spirit of the event. We even took them trick or treating through the neighbourhood. I must admit even I had a lot of fun giving the kids quite a scare in my witches costume as it took them quite sometime to realise that the dark haired witch was in fact their beloved gentle blonde spectacled teacher. witch

Over and over again I hear people say that Halloween is an American custom and question whether we in Australia should follow their traditions and celebrate it ? So I decided to look into this festival of sorts and draw my own conclusions.

I have always known that Halloween is short for All Hallows Eve, but what I was rather delighted to have confirmed was that All Hallows Eve is a Scottish term for the evening before All Hallows Day. A day to honour all saints, which occurs on November 1 and is followed by All Souls Day on November 2. There is much that can be read on these topics suffice to say, these days celebrate the souls of both the good and the bad that have since passed on,  in the hope that with prayer and blessings they may rise to heaven and live out their days in peace. All Hallows Eve became the night to begin the feast in celebration of the dearly departed. This also happens to tie in with the ancient Celtic or Gaelic harvest festival that occured in Ireland on the same date, 31st October, to mark the end of one season and the beginning of the next, that is, winter, the shortest and darkest time of the year.  This is referred to as Samhain (pronounced sah-win) where the Celts also believed it was the time of year where the spirits or fairies worlds and ours overlapped causing havoc or possible damage to crops and even ill health to the people of the village. Being the beginning of the winter season it was critical to ensure the crops survival through the long harsh season. Thus a bonfire was prepared and the festival began. Villagers would wear masks and dress-up to disguise themselves in the hope of tricking the spirits so that they could not be recognised.  Although souls of "kin" were encouraged to return to rejoice in the festival, food and drink were left aside to help include them. As the villagers rejoiced they would also sing and chant as they visited one neighbour to the next (in thier disguises known as guising)) in return for food,.

Considering my Irish and Scottish anscetry, I tend to rather like this historical take on Halloween and now have a rather favourable outlook on it. I realise there are more suggestions of Halloween's origins from other cultures but as my origins are also Celtic, I felt this was where my heart preferref to stay.

Halloween is only once a year afterall and as long as children understand that it is not just a celebration of all things evil or a way of gathering an abundance of treats, I don't see the harm in having a bit of fun. I understand that some may say we are sending mixed messages by allowing treats like this in this way when we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid them, but everything needs to be in moderation and children need to be allowed to have a childhood. Dress-up with them, get some exercise and walk with them, you might have some fun too! :)

If you don't like handing out too many sweat treats, you can always try this great recipe for "Soul Cakes" originally made for All Souls Day.

Soul Cake Recipe

Makes 14 large ‘cakes’

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 340g plain flour (sifted)
  • 170g sugar
  • 170g butter (softened & diced)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 tsp of white wine vinegar

Traditionally Soul Cakes simply have a cross imprint on them as a decororation however they would be easy to add icing, sprinkles etc to. For the full recipe photographs and further information on their history please go the the link above.

How do you define an Alien?

The other week as I glanced in awe out of my window at the gorgeous scene before me I couldn't help but ponder on the question of how to define what it takes to call something an alien? It was another cold. wet and misty winter  morning  just like the other days of the week had been. The difference being that this morning we had a unique visitor grazing amongst the usual mob of kangaroo. All week there had been sightings from various neighbours of this graceful creature that was virtually unheard of in our little rural part of the world,, but so far it had managed to escape capture on film.  I had seen it briefly once before, my eyes hardly beleiving what they saw as it ran into the trees, up the hill and disappeared. This morning it stood there, serene and splendid amogst the thick fog. I couldn't get a clear picture, the rain was too heavy, but a neighbour had caught a shot the day before of not one but two graceful deer happliy grazing alongside the kangaroos.

Deer in RoyallaNow to most people in the Northern hemisphere a deer sighting might not seem that unusal, but firstly they are not native to Australia, are not usually found roaming wild and free amongst our native animals or wandering into our front paddocks and certainly the most unique and special of all was that one of the deer was white.

As I quietly observed her feed in sheer amazement and glory I couldn't help but ponder on how weird it actually was to experience such a beautiful sight. The deer looked so out of place and yet so at home. She was an alien creature in an alien land and yet she was fitting right in. Then I had the thought that perhaps to others viewing this scene, the kangaroo might appear to be the alien creatures with their tiny front paws, strong hind legs and massive thumping tails.

Webster's New World Dictionary defines an alien as :-

"(adjective)  belonging to another country or people; foreign; strange.

(noun)  1, foreigner    2. a person living in a country of which he is not a citizen."

So I guess that makes the deer an alien to me, but a freindly one that I welcome with open arms and would invite to return to my property on any given day

Putting the dictionary definition aside, how do you define an alien?

Is he an ET type character that we all came to know and love from Steven Spielberg's  1982 classic movie?

Maybe they are the scarier version outlined in the 1986 science fiction movie ALIENS directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver.

The Universe is a very large place to explore, making it possible for aliiens to come in all shapes and sizes depending on our imagination. We can choose to make them friendly, cute and cuddly, curious or even mischievous. The three Bradberrie brothers find out quickly what sort of mayhem a mischief an alien can cause in my upcoming children's alien advetnure sereis for early and reluctant readers.

In Gingerbread Aliens they mix up a whole lot of fun when disater abounds in the kitchen causing a sequence of events that madly tumbles so out of control that not even even the quick minded reader will see what iscoming next. Gingerbread Aliens is available for purchase from the side link.

Book 2, Alien Shenanigans will be released soon. The boys find themselves unwittingly in a whole lot more trouble as they discover the truth behind the alien and try to keep the secret. For more on Alien Shenanigans click on the above page link. Updates on an expected release will be posted there as well as my facebook page. Books 3 through 5 are still in the writing process.

What or who is your favourite Alien?