Legless and blind heroes … and we don’t mean drunk

What happens when the romance novel hero is legless or blind? Amy Andrews and Jane Tara both think that’s just fine… in fact, their latest heroes are more than “fine”… They are hawt and handsome and everything else a hero should be.

 Amy Andrews and her legless leading man

9780373207404-1

I’ve always wanted to write a bodyguard book. I love that delicious tension where he wants her bad but can’t do anything about it because he’s supposed to be protecting her. Honestly, I freaking love that hands off shit! It just calls to my ever-lovin’ romance soul.

So imagine my delight when my muse threw me one, finally! She’s really been very recalcitrant in that quarter. But, of course, she never just gives generously – she makes me work for it. She’s kinda bitchy like that because suddenly my “bodyguard” was an above knee amputee.

WTF??

I can’t have a hero who has to protect my super-model heroine from the bad guy be hampered by a prosthetic leg. I mean who ever heard of a one-legged bodyguard? I could, of course, have made him an ex kick-arse para-Olympic running champion but Oscar kinda put the kybosh on that!

So there I was, with my muse insisting and me wondering how the hell I was going to pull it off. But then things started to take shape in my head and before long I knew Blake was ex-military, I knew he’d had his leg blown off in Iraq and I knew after a harrowing couple of years he was in a reasonably good place.

And I think that was the most important thing to me. I didn’t want the book to be about an amputee hero.  The book is about an average Joe who falls for a woman waaaay out of his league. It’s a romance through and through. He just happens to have one leg.

It was also important that I made him physically strong and able. He may have a slight limp, he may not be able to run like the wind but he’s fit and work-honed.  He crafts wood and his pride and joy is the canal boat he spent a year of his life stripping down to the hull and renovating. Nothing like noisy power tools to help get your head back on straight.

And of course, all this is just code for good with his hands. Because Blake may only have one leg but he is very, very good with his hands!

Amy Andrews is an award-winning, best-selling Aussie author who has written thirty + contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets. She writes for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled, Harper Collins and Momentum.

To date she’s sold over a million books and been translated into thirteen different languages including manga.

She loves her kids, her husband, her dogs, cowboys, men in tool belts, cowboys in tool belts and happily ever afters. Please, DO NOT mess with the HEA! Also good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together.

She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.

Jane Tara’s blind hero

My favourite vamp and her real life boyfriend inspired me when writing this story.
My favourite vamp and her real life boyfriend inspired me when writing this story.

When starting a new novel I usually have a clear idea of what I’m going to write. I’m not one of those let’s just wing it and see where we end up type authors. My characters are too pushy. If I let them have their own way one of them could go off the rails, party too hard and wake up married in a Vegas jail. My characters are like teenagers… Yes, they have certain freedoms, but they also need a lot of structure…

But the occasional character will stroll in, pretend to be all nice and easy-going… but then actually take the book in a direction that even I didn’t anticipate. I don’t get much of a say.

My latest book, The Happy Ending Book Club, contains one such character. The book has seven intertwined stories. In one of them (my favourite… there I’ve said it!) we meet Patrick. He’s tall, sexy… He’s a musician, he’s funny and smart… he has muscles… Sigh. Oh, and he’s blind.

No, not blind as in Friday nights at the pub blind… he’s really blind. Visually impaired.

He has a disability.

Romance heroes are notoriously “perfect.” Oh yes, they can have emotional wounds, but being anything less than physically flawless is unusual. I spent a lot of time trying to rewrite Patrick… but he was immovable… He made it clear: “Like it or not, this is who I am. I’m blind. Now do your job and write me!”

And so I did. More than that, I developed a massive crush on him. I saw him more clearly than any of my other leading men. His blindness didn’t make him less attractive. It didn’t make him needy. It also didn’t make him “extra special.” His blindness didn’t define him at all. Tilda the heroine recognised that being with him would present certain challenges, but her own issues far outweighed his.

In my mind, Patrick is everything a romance hero should be. For those of you who read my book, let me know how you see him.

Jane Tara has SchizoPENia. She finds it impossible to stick to one genre when writing. While most writers have a ‘voice’ … she has a few … her pen name should be Sybil.

She’s the author of over twenty children’s picture books, a number of plays, and three novels. By day, she runs Itchee Feet, a children’s travel publishing company with her partner Dominique. At night another voice is unleashed and she writes magical romantic comedies. Forecast, Trouble Brewing, and her latest novel, The Happy Endings Book Club are published by Momentum.

After years living in Tokyo, Vienna, London and New York, Jane is happy to call Bondi Beach home. She lives with her partner Dom and their four sons. Wine helps with that.

TheHappyEndingsBookClub_Jane_Tara

 

I was told I’m going blind…and now I can see

Eye

I’m very excited about the release of my new novel, The Happy Endings Book Club. I have a long list of ideas waiting to be turned into books. Some have been waiting for years. This wasn’t one of them. The Happy Endings Book Club sprang from events that happened earlier this year. It was a cathartic reaction to a challenging few months. In many ways, it has been my own happy ending.

In March this year I went to Specsavers to have my eyes tested and to get some new glasses. I normally go to an optometrist in the town where my mother lives. He uses experience over schmancy machines to test my eyes. But Specsavers had a two for one deal and my glasses were on their last legs, so off I went.

The optometrist hooked me up to one of the state of the art machines, and took photos of my retina. She asked a bunch of questions.

“Do you have problems seeing at night?”

“Yes… my night blindness is a running joke with my close friends.”

“How about glare?”

“I can’t leave the house without sunglasses.”

More questions followed, and then she took more photos. She took me to a small room where I had more tests. Finally she left me alone for a while. A long while. When she returned it was with that look on her face. You know that look. If you are lucky enough to have never seen it in real life then you’ve certainly seen it on Grey’s Anatomy.

It’s the “I have bad news” look.

“You have Retinitis Pigmentosa,” she said.

“Exqueeze me?”

“You’re going blind.”

I laughed. Seriously. Stop joking around.

“The Royal Society for the Blind is wonderful. They can come over to your house and help with things.”

“What like? The cooking and cleaning?” I’d like that.

“They can teach you to move around your home. They can put in hand rails.”

She showed me the scans of my eyes and the pigmentation patterns I have right through my retina.

“You need to have more tests at the Centre for Eye Health. The guide dog association funds it. They’ll be able to tell you how far the condition has progressed.

The last thing I did before leaving was ask her to write the condition down so I could Google it.

Retinisis Pigmentosa.

The next week wasn’t pretty. It started with a lot of Googling. Then I returned to Specsavers and asked the optometrist for the scans. She took more (wider shots of the retina) and then put them all on a memory stick for me.

I made an appointment with the Centre for Eye Health, but was going to have to wait at least two months.

In the meantime, I did my own detective work. The pigmentation in my retina certainly looked like the ones with Retinitis Pigmentosa I saw online. But I didn’t want to be one of those people who self diagnosed via the Internet. The problem was… I couldn’t find any other reason for why my retina would have this pigmentation. It clearly indicated an eye disease. Also, there was no denying my aversion to glare and my night blindness, two main symptoms.

It didn’t look good. No treatment. No cure. But worst of all … and this was the terrifying bit, hereditary. Despite no history of it in my family, it can occur. And there would be a 50% chance of me passing it on to my sons.

And this is where I went from feeling like Nancy Drew solving a mystery, to absolute crap.

My sons.

My body filled with fear that even now as I write this, there is a memory of it in my limbs. I was filled with ice. I sat naked in bed, drinking beer, crying and searching online for a way for my sons to dodge this bullet. And I knew I would do anything, anything, for them to be okay. I would go blind. Let me take the bullet. I was okay with that. But please not my babies.

At this point, let’s rewind nearly twenty years.

I was fifteen and having a medical examination for my scuba diving license. The doctor looked into my eyes with one of those old school thingamajigs.

“You have aboriginal blood?”

I have pale white skin and freckles. “Can’t you tell?” I laughed.

“Let me rephrase that so it’s not a question. You have aboriginal blood.” It was a statement now.

“There has always been a family rumour,” I admitted.

“It’s not a rumour. It’s a fact.” He got down an old book for a high shelf. He opened to a page that showed the patterns in the eye of different races and pointed to one. “That’s you.”

To be honest, I can’t remember the images he showed me, or even much of the conversation that followed. It happened so long ago. I do remember how excited he was. He even called in his secretary to show her. I didn’t take it in. I went home, called my grandmother to tell her, and that was that. It was something that, if true … I was pleased about. Aboriginal heritage.

But now, it was the thing that both my partner and best friend focussed on.

“You’re not going blind. You have Aboriginal eyes.” They both insisted.

So we all researched that. My partner Dominique is an academic. He trawled university sites for any papers on ethnicity and retina pigmentation. We found two small mentions in research papers and a few mentions of a similar thing in Native Americans but not much about Aboriginal Australians so nothing to really hang my hopes on. I had to wait and see.

Wait and see?

See?

I realized how our language is full of sight analogies. I’ll see you later. Look here. Nice to see you. Focus on this. See what I mean?

I began to notice every single reference to sight in our language. And it got me thinking… what does it really mean to see?

If I was going to lose my sight … how would I see things?

How would I see myself?

How does one see, without sight?

For just over two months I obsessively researched sight. I read all about visual potential optometrists, natural eye care and the Bates method. The eye body connection and integrated healing via the Grunwald method. I read the works of about a dozen specialists who were taking ophthalmology into new realms including the amazing Jacob Liberman. Consciousness and vision. Our third eye. I read about blind people who had been taught to see through their chest. Was our vision simply a reflection of our reality? Can light heal the eye? How is the spirit connected? Where is the mind’s eye? Do we even see with our eyes?

I spent two months staring into the faces of my children. And my own face in the mirror. Would I not get to see myself age? Like many women in their forties, I’d been feeling invisible. But now I could see myself clearly. I loved every line, every wrinkle. I saw more clearly than I had in years. I stopped to view the world around me a lot more… to stare at the sun.

I reprioritized my life. If I was losing my sight, the last thing I wanted was for the Royal Society for the Blind to come around and teach me how to manage around the house. I wanted to pack a bag and take my kids travelling. Long term. James Holman, the blind traveller from the Victorian era became my inspiration. Coincidentally, years earlier we’d used a quote from his travel diaries for our children’s publishing company, Itchee Feet.

I see the world with my feet.

How did I see the world?

I took a long hard look at my life. Although I’d spent years studying various metaphysical and spiritual paths, I gained greater clarity in these two months than the previous two decades.

It became clear to me that seeing is subjective. And perhaps I’d been blind for years. One thing I knew, whether or not I lost my sight, this was an opportunity to gain greater insight.

I arrived at the Centre For Eye Health at the University of NSW, nervous but accepting. I was a little thrown by the guide dogs motifs on the window, but overall quite positive. What would be would be. I still had that dreadful icy fear in my limbs each time I thought of how this could impact my sons, but I accepted my own fate. I was still hopeful there had been a dreadful mistake, but if not … then I’d write a book about it. I’d write, right?

Dom came into the clinic for the tests with me. It was state of the art visual testing. I’d been wondering if there was any way I could cheat on the tests. I hadn’t even been able to study for them. How would I ever pass?

One specialist handed me over to another. The fancy machines gave way to a darkened room and a blindfold. I made a weak joke that it had been a while since I’d been blindfolded in a room with two men.

Then wearing night vision goggles, the technician placed gold electrodes into my eye and performed more tests I couldn’t cheat on.

I knew the results of these tests wouldn’t be shared with me for a week, and only once they’d been returned to the optometrist. So imagine my utter surprise when the specialist said:

“Your eyes are fine.”

“Exqueeze me?”

“You don’t have retinitis pigmentosa.”

“I don’t?”

“Look, places like Specsavers have all the latest equipment and no idea how to use it. The pigmentation presents like Retinitis Pigmentosa in the images, but we knew from the moment we viewed it that it wasn’t that.”

“What is it then?”

“No idea. It’s an unusual pigment.”

Here’s where my partner interjected and told him about the doctor who’d informed me that I had aboriginal heritage. “Could it be that?” he asked.

“Yes. I’ve seen a similar thing in islander boys. And those old-school doctors usually know a thing or two.”

I needed to make sure. “What about the other symptoms. I can’t stand glare.”

“You’re very fair.”

“And I’m night blind.”

“Can you see this?” He waved to me across the still darkened room.

“Yes.”

“You’re not night blind. Your tests are fine. I think what you experience as night blindness is simply that your pupil takes longer to adjust to the dark.”

“I’m not going blind?”

“No, you’re not.”

I made it to the car park before I started howling.

The next few days passed in a haze of relief and joy. I realised just how stressful the past few months had been. The possibility of going blind had coloured every waking moment. It took weeks for the fear in my limbs to subside, although the memory of it returns when I talk about that time. It took months to wake and start the day with thoughts other than that.

I turned my Nancy Drew skills to my family tree and uncovered some very interesting things (but that’s another story). I waited for the Specsavers’ optometrist to call with the official results, but she didn’t. I finally called her and she apologized: yes indeed, the results had been back for over a week, but she’d been busy. She had no idea that the specialist at the Centre for Eye Health had already given me the all clear. She just didn’t think that letting me know she’d misdiagnosed me was important.

(Specsavers, if you’d like to contact me about this matter, go ahead. An apology would be appreciated. I seriously considered taking this matter further, but ultimately I can’t stand drama and I’d had more than my fair share for months, thanks to the incompetency of your staff.)

I was pleased the whole episode was over. Focussing on the positive, I would write a book.

And from that, sprang The Happy Endings Book Club.

It’s not the book I thought I’d write. Or expected to write. But I needed to write it. Through the female characters I explored the idea of sight, and what it means to really see.

Each character has lost sight of something important. Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn’t see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex husband. Tilda literally can’t see herself. Michi can’t bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what’s right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places.

Through each of these very different characters I had the opportunity to explore some of the questions I’d been asking for months.

See why this book is important to me?

Like all happy endings, it’s never really an ending. It’s usually a beginning, and this is mine, as I gain deeper insight into the art of seeing.

I hope my new novel The Happy Endings Book Club entertains you. But more than that … I hope you come away from it asking yourself, how do I see myself? How do I see the world? How do I see? This Christmas, these questions are my gift to you.

In 1989, Dr. Jacob Liberman commissioned Arion Ocean to create this painting because it captured the connection Liberman observed between light, vision and consciousness. I spent a lot of time staring at this image and find it to be extremely powerful and healing.
In 1989, Dr. Jacob Liberman commissioned Arion Ocean to create this painting because it captured the connection Liberman observed between light, vision and consciousness. I spent a lot of time staring at this image and find it to be extremely powerful and healing.

 Copyright for the Eyelight image above

http://www.jacobliberman.org/light/eyelight/

http://sacredarchitecture.com.au

 

Travelling…

shutterstock_152637182

I love nothing more (apart from my kids, chocolate etc) than setting out on a journey. This time it was India… with a few days in Kuala Lumpur too. This was a work trip, for my children’s publishing company, Itchee Feet. But I travel with my business partner … who happens to be my life partner and my travel soulmate … so business is always pleasure, and travelling is always fun.

The problem with it being so much fun is I’m truly in the moment while I’m travelling. I find it difficult to stop and blog about what I’m seeing. I’d rather continue seeing it.

I did pause to do some writing in a lovely town in Rajasthan called Bundi. I came up with a whole new series of books there. I can’t wait to get started on them. But the rest of the time, I just experienced the place. I’m still processing Delhi. Not sure I liked it much, although I loved the small part of Rajasthan I saw.

I’ll share some of my experiences with you soon. In the meantime, I’m concentrating on the release of my next novel, The Happy Endings Book Club, out December 1st.

Can’t wait to share it with you.

I’m in Kuala Lumpur

shutterstock_47139037

I’m in Kuala Lumpur at the moment, staying at this delightful boutique hotel called the Anggun. When I travel with my guy, I search for places with character. And this always makes him laugh… but places with a rooftop bar. I love nothing more than kicking back with my guy and a beer, looking over a new destination from some quirky rooftop bar or restaurant. It’s my idea of bliss.

The Anggun is a wonderful hotel. Spotlessly clean, gorgeous  details, frriendly staaff, and in a great area. The room we’re in (below) is small but lovely and surprisingly quiet. Now that I’ve found it, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else in KL. Scored here.

IMG_8654-pg

4964769_12_b

Time to write that book

untitled

This blog was first posted on A Bibliophile’s Scroll. Check it out.

It is said that everyone has a book in them. Certainly in my experience this appears to be true. When people ask what I do for a living, and I tell them I’m a writer, most will inform me that they’ve always wanted to write a book. Some even tell me what the book is about. Most will admit that they really want to write the book … but simply don’t have time.

It’s at this point that I roll my eyes. I don’t mean to. (I apologise if I’ve done it to you.) But am I one of those blessed people who was born under a 24 hour clock while others got ripped off with only 15 hours a day? How can I find time to write when others can’t? Or is it possible that everyone has enough time to write a book?

I understand that everyone is busy. I am too. I run a business. I’m raising four boys. I also have a massive problem where I love a clean house but don’t have a cleaner … I’m thinking about making all my sons live in one room only, which will cut down on housework.

Life is a constant juggle, but I jam as much writing as possible into any spare minute I can. I write when my sons are asleep. Or when I’m waiting for my kids to finish jujitsu/swimming/drums. While other mothers chat, I sit in the corner and edit pages. I regularly stare into space as I ponder how to move forward with my plot (no doubt many people think I’ve lost the plot).

There is always time for that book if you really want it.

Do you watch TV? Turn it off. There, you have time. Spend hours on the Internet? You could be writing. Do you commute to work? I have a friend who writes all his novels on the Tokyo subway.

Naturally there are certain things I’ll never find time for, despite knowing I should. I’ll never find time to volunteer for canteen shifts at my son’s school. I’ll never find time to clean up my iPhoto, or make proper albums for my kids, or write in my diary, or read A Course in Miracles, or clean out the front shoe cupboard. But anything I’m truly passionate about, and anything I really want to achieve … well there’s always plenty of time for that!

It’s all Japanese to me!!!!

http://www.itcheefeet.com/blog/around-the-world/its-all-japanese-to-me

I once told an eighty-year-old Japanese woman that I had a full vagina. I was a guest in her home, which was tucked away in a tiny village on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. She offered me a third helping of Okonomiyaki, and I waved my hand in front of my face and said, “Oh no, thank you, my vagina is full.”

I meant stomach.

I more than stumble and struggle through foreign languages. I destroy them. Seriously. My mouth is a linguistic flame-thrower. But I at least try. I truly believe that when in Rome, you should speak… er… Japanese.

At lease that’s what I speak.

You see Japanese was the first foreign language I butchered… I mean learnt. But before long I discovered that wherever I was in the world, no matter how I tried to learn the local language, I’d open my mouth and out came Japanese.

It didn’t go down well in Hong Kong, let me tell you.

Or Taiwan.

Although the French seemed to at least appreciate that I spoke something other than English.

I actually went to language school while I was living in Vienna. I passed numerous German exams, and on paper did exceptionally well. But whenever I tried to converse at a party…

Japanese.

Not even good Japanese.

I once went to a dentist in Tokyo. I was a bit nervous, and tried to express my nerves (utter fear).

“I think dentists are scary” was the sentence I managed to piece together.

The dentist looked thrilled and his nurse giggled into her hand. Perhaps they didn’t hear me… so again.

“I think dentists are scary.”

The dentist puffed out his chest and strutted around the room, while the nurse giggled even more. It was only later when I recounted the story to a friend that she pointed out that “scary” and “cute” are similar in Japanese, and I’d been saying the latter. “I think dentists are cute.”

Although I’ve got to say it was the most painless filling I’d ever had.

I wish I spoke more than one language. However, I have always managed to meet, converse with, and connect with people around the world. As Thoreau said, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”

I always mean well… I just didn’t mean vagina!

 

5 great places to search for Fairies

faeriehouse-300x142

I’m up to my eyeballs in Fey folk at the moment, as I write my new book. I do love all things magical, and Fairies are right at the top of that list. I’ve travelled the world and seen some very strange things … Here are 5 great places to search for Fairies.

  1. Lake Bled, Slovenia: Bled’s tiny island, the only island in Slovenia, is steeped in magic. One legend says the lake was originally a meadow until the fairies called up the forces of nature and flooded the whole region, leaving only the hill where they danced jutting out of the water. Drifting across the lake towards it, it’s easy to believe that the island is still home to all sorts of mythical creatures.
  2. St Andra, Austria: This tiny town in eastern Carinthia is a favourite of mine. The woods that surround it are filled all sorts of magic, from Witch burning circles, to stone circles and fairy houses—mostly found if you step off the walking tracks. Locals told me that the “Mother Goddess” is still revered, and you’ll find evidence of this all over the fields and forests.
  3. Monhegan Island, USA: This small, rustic island 10-miles from the coast of Maine has always been a haven for artists… and fairies. Scatted throughout the forest and underdeveloped hiking trails are fairy houses. This is an absolute jewel of a place, and a must-visit for any fairy-loving family.
  4. Japan: Japan’s forests and mountains are filled with all sorts of nature spirits. I love their mythical creatures, especially the tanuki, which isn’t a fairy, but certainly magical. Elementals and fey folk are hidden in every rock, every tree in Japan… but you can also see some incredible fairy creatures on the streets of Tokyo. “Fairy Kei” fashion has been popular for years. The Japanese have an amazing street fashion culture, the Fairy Kei style being just one of the many “tribes” found in Harajuku.
  5. Cornwall, UK: No Fairy World Tour would be complete without a trip to Cornwall. There are countless places to search for little people here—the whole county is steeped in magic. My favorite is St Nectan’s Glen near Tintagel. You won’t see fairy houses, but you might just see orbs of light, so have your camera ready!

Want to read more about St Nectan’s Glen and Cornwall? Read my novel Trouble Brewing, which is set in many fabulous places, Cornwall included.

A psychic predicted my books

Letters

A powerful psychic predicted my novel, Forecast, a decade before I wrote it. She also predicted that I’d use her name in it, although 
I didn’t know that until years later, in a letter that came to me after she died.

I grew up in a small town on the NSW north coast. My mother was a nurse at the local hospital and most afternoons after school, I would head there and wait for her to finish her shift.

Rowie, a clairvoyant, was a regular patient. All the nurses would pop by and ask her questions.

“Yes you’ll have a baby.”

“I know he’s a worry but he’s a teenager. There’s a girl he’ll meet. She’ll straighten him out.”

“I’m sorry dear but he’s two-timing you.”

Now and then Rowie would buzz for a nurse and announce that the Angel of Death had arrived. “It’s for old Mrs Smith in 205.”

She was never wrong.

My mother and Rowie were particularly close. Psychic phenomena never unnerved us like it does some people. In fact, we live with it ourselves. We often have dead relatives and friends drop by, and seeing someone’s aura is as normal to me as seeing their arms and legs. Rowie took us under her ample wing.

Later, when I moved overseas, I often phoned her to say hi and she’d end the conversation with something like, “When you apply for that new visa, don’t line up for the woman. There will be a man… line up there or you won’t get that visa.”

The last time I saw Rowena I was 23 and on a trip home to Australia. I now believe she knew we’d never cross paths again—not on this plane anyway—because she used the meeting to change the course of my life.

I’d always been interested in the occult, yet I’d never truly considered “Spirit.” I was unimpressed by organized religion. My religion teacher at school told me that ghosts didn’t exist, yet I saw them regularly. Was I crazy or was she wrong? I felt I had to choose between my ghosts and her God, so early on in life I chose what I knew.

I was completely floored when Rowie told me she had a deep faith in God. Here was a woman who could remember her past lives, who left her body each morning to communicate with her dead husband on the astral planes, who made a living from psychic readings telling me about her religious beliefs.

“You might not understand me now, but you will,” she said. “You’re going on a journey … you will discover Spirit and magic and God and how they are all one … and then, when it all comes together for you, you’ll write about it.”

“Write?”

“Stories … books.”

“About God? I’d rather pass kidney stones.”

“Not “God”, but your characters will be in close contact with Spirit. Like me.”

“It wasn’t that long ago that God botherers (yes, I actually said that) burnt people like you.”

“Only because we were closer to God than they were, my dear.”

“I’ll never be Christian.”

“Witch, Christian… called yourself a Marshmallow. It doesn’t matter.”

“It all sounds awfully serious, Row.”

“Oh no dear, make it funny,” she chuckled. “That’s the point.”

“Funny books about God?”

“Don’t use the word God if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m just telling you it’s all the same thing.”

“And when will I do this?”

Rowie shrugged. One day. You need to travel, study … and find your voice.”

I wasn’t convinced. “I don’t think you’re right about this one.”

“I’m always right.” She handed 
me an envelope. “Open this later.”

“Later today?”

“No … later. You’ll know when.”

Though curious, I tucked the envelope away in my mother’s house and returned overseas.

Rowie’s talk about God and magic being connected confused me. Could the two go hand in hand? It was a question that began to haunt me and set me on a lifelong path of spiritual investigation. It’s one I still walk today.

Rowie died while I was living in Vienna. My mother was with her and later told me how normal her passing was. I was surprised. Rowie had such a powerful connection to the other side that I’d expected it to really throw out the banners to welcome her home. I should’ve known better. She’d once teased me, “Stop expecting mystical marching bands. Spirit is subtle.”

By this time, I’d forgotten about the envelope. But I was writing. My spiritual search led me all around the world, to many teachers, and finally to a place where I trusted myself. Throughout it all, I wrote and wrote. My stories were about witches, mystics and psychics—eccentrics to some, but to me they were everyday people with strong spiritual beliefs and practices. It was coming together now.

I was living in New York when I wrote Forecast. I named my protagonist after my friend. My fictional Rowie is tiny with red hair. The real Rowie was much older, much larger, with long silver hair. But they share the same heart, and I feel it’s a small way of honoring the woman who had such a profound impact on my spiritual life.

When I eventually returned to live in Australia I unpacked some boxes at my mother’s and I found Rowena’s letter. It was 10 years after her death, and just after Forecast was first published. It took me a moment to realize what it was. And then nerves set in—what on earth was in there? Was it some profound prediction? A forecast of things to come? More spiritual lessons?

It was time to open it. Slowly I read Rowie’s letter…

I was right wasn’t I?

How’s the book? Did I get a mention?

God bless, dear.

Always.

R x

I turned it over… and over again. That was it? I laughed until I cried. Right? She was always right.

A difficult farewell–getting a new passport

A difficult farewell–getting a new passport

image from http://pinterest.com/pin/305752262171812090/

This article was published in The Sydney Morning Herald about 7 years ago. I am now roaring towards another passport expiry date, and all the heartache attached to that. :-)  

After ten years together, it’s time for me to move on. Memories good and bad come flooding back. A decade long journey together has come to an end. My passport is about to expire, and it’s a difficult farewell.

This is not my first passport. I’ve had a few. My first expired naturally, while my second was stolen in New York (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Then came a temporary passport, which travelled with me until I next returned to Australia. That’s where this one came into my life, on a hot January day in Brisbane.

There was no immediate connection between the little blue book and me. It was simply a document that helped me fulfil my passion for travelling. But now, ten years later, as I prepare to welcome a new passport and it’s fresh, stamp-free pages into my life, I realize that I’m extremely attached to my passport and what it represents. I don’t quite know how to move on. I’ve walked away from long-term boyfriends more easily.

My expiring passport is a symbol of freedom. It is packed with many stamps and countless memories. Ten of the thirteen years that I lived overseas are in that passport. It’s proof that I do know Tokyo like the back of my hand. It reminds me of that night in Taipei with the guy whose name I forget, but who had a motorbike, which we rode through a typhoon. It reminds me that I even went to Guam.

I got married and had my kids during this time. The proof is in the passport. But I was still wandering. There’s London, where we married, and there’s New York, where we lived with our oldest son. I scramble through the pages to Austria, and the trip where son No. 2 was conceived. A few months later, after I’d been beaten down by constant nausea, I got my re-entry stamp into Australia. Next to it lays one last stab at freedom: a stamp for Vanuatu. But that just brings back memories of morning sickness and exhaustion.

That was the last entry.

I stare at my old photo and compare it with the new one. There is no comparison and I’m compelled to run out and have a new headshot taken. I want to look like I did back in 1998: younger, carefree, edgy, full of life…thinner. I want some of that energy to imbibe the new document. My photo now reveals countless sleepless nights, stubborn baby weight that refuses to budge, the fact that I never have time for my hair. It screams marriage and motherhood, school runs and dirty nappies, annual package deals at a resort with a kids-club. It’s not me, and I’m scared to declare to any immigration officer that it is.

I remember what it was like to travel back in ‘98, and I grieve. Travel was so much easier then. I had no fear of terrorists. Bali meant beaches, not bombs. When I thought of the World Trade Center, I thought of Century 21 and great shopping. Now I think of the countless cards and poems that papered the area in the months after the towers collapsed. Wandering the world was once a stress-free existence for me, and I feel ripped off because that has changed. I yearn for those days. I do worry when I travel now, but I refuse to stop.

I’m having problems making decisions. I wage an internal battle: should I apply for an ordinary passport, or live in hope and tick the frequent traveller box? Is it still acceptable to put my mother down as my emergency contact?

And then there’s the new photo. I could use it and be haunted by that exhausted, puffy stare for the next decade, or I could hit the gym, diet and fast, find a decent hairdresser, actually use make-up and take another photo next week when I look fabulous again.

I curse the 1998 me. Didn’t I realize that my passport would expire right in the middle of my childbearing years? The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should provide a fifth option when asking what type of passport is required.

  “Yes, hello, I’d like to extend my current passport for the two year new-mother-period…Yes, that’s right, I haven’t slept in ages… yes, that’s right, I’m still a bit of a porker, but I intend to give up breastfeeding soon.”

I stand in line at the post office and face the inevitable. I need to reapply now as I have plans to travel next soon. In fact, I have grand plans for my new passport. The line moves slowly, giving me time to dream. New Zealand, Japan, and then back to Europe. I picture my sons with me in Thailand, Hawaii… Estonia. There are so many places I want to take them, so many people I want them to meet, so little time before they go off on their own.

I make my way to the counter and hand the application to a smiling woman.

“Going somewhere?”

I feel the chains of routine slacken slightly. “Always.”

I leave the post office feeling excited. The new photo isn’t so bad after all. In ten years, when I’m applying for my next passport, I will look at it fondly and see the rounded softness of motherhood, and how a few extra kilos really does smooth out wrinkles. I will trawl through the ink-filled pages and remember the thrill of showing my children the world. And I will no doubt ponder the importance of living every moment fully, as I take possession of a passport that will eventually be filled with solo journeys again, as my sons come of age and embark on their own.

This current me, and all the excess baggage, is the one I will travel with for the next ten years, and that’s okay. Although, if it really does become too much to deal with, it can always go missing in New York… just like last time.