So this happened, Happy Ever After was a finalist in this year’s Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year (RUBY) Awards.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook, this is old news, and I’ve been super slack in posting here, but the truth is I’ve been getting on with finishing my new novel Escape To Curlew Cottage. It’s now with my fabulous editor, so I can catch up on all the other parts of writing – such as blogging and telling you about this.
Happy Ever After came second, and I couldn’t be prouder. I was so super excited to walk up on that stage and get my certificate that I think I might have even done a little fist pump.
My Kiwi bestie was at the awards ceremony with me – fitting given that she got a massive shout-out in Happy Ever After.
Because I came second I didn’t need to make a speech, but if I had to have I would have thanked the same people I thanked in the acknowledgements for this novel: Nicola, my amazing editor for “getting” my voice and helping me publish the best book possible; my family for the taste testing; my dog for being such a fabulous muse; and everyone who has read the book at every stage of the process – from first draft to finished product.
If you haven’t yet read Happy Ever After, you can get it from the following places:
P.S. I’ll be launching my newsletter over the next few weeks, so if you haven’t signed up, now is your chance to do so. If you’ve previously signed up, I’m changing mail chimp accounts so it’s probably best if you sign up again just to be sure. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. There’ll be one post a month with publishing news, perhaps some bits and pieces for writers, maybe a recipe…who knows?
I love Queenstown. Absolutely adore it. It’s why Happy Ever After is the 2nd of my books to feature it as a location – Wish You Were Here was the first.
Anyways, these are some of the locations in Queenstown and surrounds that I’ve used…so far…
Of course. Framed by The Remarkables Lake Wakatipu is so amazingly beautiful. In fact, it’s so beautiful that it takes me by surprise. Every time I see the lake and mountains it’s as if I’ve never seen them before.
The Sun rolls it’s way through, lighting different parts of the peaks- almost in time with the breath of the breeze. That in itself is an interesting concept in that the lake rises and falls by up to 20cm every half hour or so, yet it isn’t tidal. It’s as if the lake is breathing.
And that’s all part of the Maori legend of the lake.
Apparently, a local ogre named Matau (they had local ogres in those days) was burned to death for taking advantage of the daughter of an important chief. The resultant fire melted the snow and ice of the surrounding mountains and it all ran into the deep hole where Matau fell- creating Lake Wakatipu. Yet the ogre was so strong that his pulse survives in the daily rise and fall.
I love stories like this.
Vudu Cafe & Larder
My absolute favourite place for brekky. They have another cafe now – Bespoke Kitchen, but the original is still the place to be in my humble opinion.
Down on the lake, I reinvented this place as Jess’s Beach Road Cafe in Wish You Were Here and it has a role in Happy Ever After as well.
The absolute best street food Asian in Queenstown – and possibly the best I’ve had in NZ – and you know I love my Asian street food…#bigcall
The Road to Glenorchy
Check that view. Is that inspiring, or is that inspiring?
There’s a pub here, a general store and trading post, a photogenic wharf and it’s also the jumping off place for the Dart River adventures (absolutely recommended) and a few tramping tracks.
Just down the road is Paradise – the scene of many ads, movies and TV shows…plus a rather spicy love scene in Wish You Were Here…
A charming gold-rush town at its absolute picturesque best in the autumn.
A great place for a Sunday session, the Cardrona is on the Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka – another road with spectacular scenery.
An old gold mining area now famous for amazing wines. I loved it for the fields of wild thyme and other wild flowers in late spring.
As opposed to Cromwell town which is the new Cromwell.
“Upon the completion of the Clyde Dam in 1992, the valley behind the dam was flooded to create Lake Dunstan. To preserve the town’s gold mining and pioneering past, dedicated volunteers painstakingly moved the buildings from Cromwell’s original town centre to higher ground.” (From the official tourism site…)
In case you missed it…
From next week all my personal, travel, wrap-up and linky posts will be over at And Anyways. I explained why here. I’d love to see you there.
This site will be devoted to books and writing – and the business of writing… I’m hoping that it’s the right way to be going…
Next week marks 2 years since I hiked the Milford Track in New Zealand. It is then, perhaps fitting that Happy Ever After will also be published next week. Why fitting? Because the Milford Track and Queenstown feature quite heavily in this story.
Over 100 years ago the Spectator magazine declared Milford “the finest walk in the world” – and although I have limited experience of these things, they weren’t wrong. It is way more than fine.
My Milford experience wasn’t an entirely happy one even though the track itself was as wildly beautiful as everyone says that it would be.
This tramp – 54km or 33.5 miles (all the distance markers are in miles) – over glacier-fed rivers, through luxurious beech forest and up and over the alpine crossing that is the MacKinnon Pass – is a truly beautiful one. Yet while I finished the Routeburn Track only a couple of years earlier feeling as though I could do anything I set my mind to, there were a lot of moments on this one – particularly on day 3 with the Mackinnon Pass crossing – where I felt as though it had broken me.
It wasn’t just the rain – although it did rain steadily for the first 3 days. I’d gone with the guided walk option so even though we were soaked through by the end of each day, drying rooms and hot showers soon had us toasty and warm. Besides, rain is part of the landscape down here – and its beauty is even more dramatic in the rain.
No, my experience was marred by a lack of adequate training. This is rated a moderate walk and doable for most people with average fitness. I, however, had not prepared as well as I could have and should have.
2016 was a horror of a year with nasty unexpected surprise on top of nasty unexpected surprise. One after the other. Friends, jobs, finances, losses. We don’t need to get into the unpleasant detail. Between a daily 3 hour commute and all the other stuff that was happening, getting into a regular training pattern was difficult and my head was not where it needed to be.
As a result, I’d trained for the distances and the flat, but not for the uneven ground and certainly not for Mackinnon Pass. After the year that I’d had it felt as though the Pass had broken me into bits. I’m glad now that it did feel that way as I was able to use the experience when I was writing Kate’s story in Happy Ever After.
Day 1 involved mostly getting to the start of the track. After waking to news of an overnight earthquake in Wellington, we left Queenstown on a bus for Te Anau Downs (with a stop at Te Anau for lunch) and then a boat ride to Glade Wharf and the official start of the track.
Day 2 was an easy tramp – 16kms (10 miles) over relatively flat ground in the pouring rain. The amount of rain meant that the waterfalls sprang from absolutely everywhere.
I tramped most of the day alone and it was immensely gorgeous and peaceful and all of those words I was hoping it would be.
That afternoon back at the lodge the keas – large and extremely cheeky alpine parrots – kept us amused with their comical antics – and an active demonstration of why you shouldn’t leave hiking boots outside your room to dry!
Day 3 was different. Although the distance was slightly shorter than the previous day, it was a steep uphill climb to Mackinnon Pass and an even steeper descent.
Going up was physically tough and my lack of preparation showed. I was slow and sore. Once we got above the beech forest, the views though, were magnificent.
At the memorial at the top, the clouds miraculously cleared and we could see the valley below – and just how far we’d come.
After stopping for some lunch and to use the toilet with the best view in the entire world, we made our way down – slowly, with my toes banging into the front of my boots and what felt like knives driving into my knees. Going up was hard, but I spent the entire 4 hours going down being scared of every step I took in case I fell and hurt myself.
The longest of the walking days – 21 kms or 13.5 miles – the terrain was a little rocky, and there were a number of suspension bridges to cross, but otherwise nothing too challenging. It was, in fact, a glorious day to be tramping.
At (aptly named) Sandfly Point we boarded a boat to take us across to our accommodation for the night at Mitre Lodge and a final night dinner with a real party atmosphere.
Day 5 – Milford Sound
On day 5 we woke to a magnificent blue day and a cruise boat in at Milford Sound.
Before heading back to Queenstown we did a cruise of Milford Sound. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on Milford Sound a few times – twice on a short cruise like this one and once on an overnight cruise that I’ll never forget.
Anyways, these are views that would never get old. And the rain during the week just made the waterfalls even more impressive.
Would I do it again?
I’m not sure. Even though I said that I’d never ever ever do another long distance walk with a mountain in the middle again, it feels a little like unfinished business. Having said that, I’m planning another long distance challenge for early 2020 – if I can ever get this flipping ankle right.
Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely. This truly is a magnificent walk with magnificent views – even in the rain…or maybe especially because of the rain.
I struggled – as did a few of the others – because I hadn’t prepared as well as I should have. Everyone else appeared to manage it very easily. I remain in awe of the group of Victorian hikers – all of whom were well into their 60s – who bounded up and down that mountain with relative ease.
As for my character, Kate Spence, will she do it again? She doesn’t need to – she got exactly what she needed to get from the experience.
With Happy Ever After ready to go back to my editor I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at the story and its setting.
Kate and Neil Spence met at Circular Quay after the Hiroshima Day march in August 1985. Kate was marching, Neil was not. It was love almost at first sight.
And they all lived happily ever after…or did they?
Over thirty years have passed, their children have grown and Kate and Neil have gone from being happily married to being happily separated. That is until Neil asks for a divorce – and another wedding brings up feelings that both had thought were long gone.
What’s it about?
Happy Ever After is a love story, but more than that it’s a story about love. It’s a story about how love changes, grows and is challenged over the years. It’s about the curve balls life throws us just when we’re ready to begin realising our dreams. It’s about living the better or for worse and richer and poorer thing and it’s about coming out the other side. It’s about family, friends, second, third and even fourth chances for a happy ever after. Mostly though, it’s about love.
Happy Ever After is set mostly on Sydney’s north shore. We also visit Queenstown and the Milford Track – in the rain when the mountains look like they’re crying silvery streams of tears.
A starring role goes to my favourite tree in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens. It’s the Moreton Bay Fig that sits above the Opera House. From here you can see across to Fort Denison. I’ve eaten many a sandwich under the shade of that tree.
Where did the idea come from?
I was listening to some of my old protest style music from the mid 80’s while I was cooking one Saturday afternoon– songs by Goanna and Shane Howard, Redgum and Midnight Oil. The music took me back to my first year at uni. Although I wasn’t involved in student politics, there was a rumour going around that Midnight Oil might be playing at the end of the annual Hiroshima Day march. So I marched…well, sort of. To be honest, it started off as a lark but got a tad boring and I bailed out about halfway down George Street.
Not that it mattered – Midnight Oil weren’t there. They were touring the US at the time. I got to see them later that year at a Wilderness Society concert for the Daintree Rainforest.
Of course, these days rumours like that couldn’t get properly started, but back then we didn’t have social media, the internet or mobile phones. Back then it was harder to stay in touch if you fell out of it. I had fun having Kate find coins and a pay phone to call and let her parents know she’d be home late.
Anyways, it started with the music and, just a week later Happy Ever After became my 2017 NanoWrimo project.