Some of you may find this surprising, but I'm very proud and pleased to announce I've written a rural romantic suspense, and it's out this month (print release date: 20th August 2018)!
My novel, Hope Echoes (digital release date: 24th September, pre-order now available), is part of a four-book series, and for those who love a suspense, this will deliver - in spades (and seriously, this isn't meant as a brag, I've seen the books). Four novels, each with its own suspense story, and all books together with an overarching mystery. All four novels are set in a fictional rural town, Echo Springs (based on a real place, though!).
It was so amazing working with these three authors: Leisl Leighton, Daniel de Lorne and TJ Hamilton as we plotted our own stories, as well as the linking suspense thread throughout all four books - which can be a migraine-inducing experience, but these folks made the challenge fun!
Despite the fun, these stories touch on some of the more serious issues of living and working in the Outback. Some of the stories focus on youth in the area, but there are some issues that are spread across all demographics in the area.
I was fortunate to be able to draw on personal experience to write this book. I have lots of family who live in the bush, on farms, sheep stations, etc., and have had the beautiful experience of spending childhood holidays in the country. This lead to my own family having, for a brief time, our own country property - a place for us to live/work/play on weekends and holidays.
We were lucky, though. We didn't run livestock. We didn't grow crops - although we had plans! We were still in the process of trying to clear the land from bushfire fuel when we sold it, but the experience taught us a lot. With barely any rain, we had one tank (dam) that had just enough water to hold the yabbies, and that was it. We had tanks to collect as much rainwater as possible, but for a family of five, water could run out quickly. We had to buy and bring in drinking water, and boil anything else. If we had purchased livestock, we would not have had a sustainable property. If we'd grown anything other than the gum trees the cockatoos loved so much and the bush grass, we wouldn't have had a sustainable property.
We had friends in the area who were doing it tough. Those nearest us had to supplement their income by taking on other work, because not only were their properties not providing the income they needed to survive, but they needed to find alternative funds to finance the needs of the property.
Each story in the Echo Springs collection looks at certain issues in rural communities. In my particular story, Hope Echoes, my heroine, Jacinta Buchanan is facing bankruptcy, and the very real threat of losing a sheep station the family has owned for several generations. Her father has been injured, and is suffering depression from his physical issues, as well as the state of their finances. While this is just a story, sprung from my imagination, the issue is real, and so many of our farmers currently face this.
Currently, 99% of New South Wales is currently drought-stricken. 99%. Queensland is also in drought, as well as some other areas around Australia.
Not only is there not enough water for the animals, there's not enough water to grow anything to feed the animals. It's a very costly exercise to truck in feed to the animals. Farmers are in that awful position of destroying their livestock, and that takes a huge emotional toll on them. The drought situation has been largely unreported, which is sad in itself, but just this morning Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has announced emergency funding for the farmers - including mental health support. When you're having to kill animals, when you're losing your family's livelihood, and when you can't afford anything, can't pay your bills, can't pay your loans ... this takes a huge toll on the emotional welfare and wellbeing of our farmers.
So why do we need to worry, or even care, about the plight of our farmers?
Well, apart from just being empathetic to another in financial and mental/emotional stress, this does affect us, also - and by us, I refer to those of us living in homes, communities, cities, etc. that aren't reliant on a farming income. But we do shop. We do eat. This is our food bowl that is at risk. If the food dries up, we are in EXACTLY the same position as our farmers, in having to bring in food from elsewhere. That's a higher cost to the end consumer - you and me. It's imported fruits and vegies, beef, lamb, etc. It's paying more at the checkout, and having less to spend on other things... it's juggling the household budget to make sure a primary need is taken care of ... that our family is fed. And that's what farmers are trying to do right now.
If you want to help the farmers, there are a couple of initiatives on the go. You can buy a bale of hay for a farmer, donate towards travel costs, purchase water, etc... you get to contribute as much or as little as you like. BuyaBale is a reputable provider for these farmers.
There is also the Parma for a Farmer initiative. The concept: buy a parmagiana at a participating venue, and a $1 from each meal will be donated to BuyaBale to go towards providing feed and water to drought-stricken farmers. To find out which venues are participating, check out the BuyaBale site, or the Facebook page.
Echo Springs, in August, and an ebook of my novel, Hope Springs, in September (Kindle) - both are currently available for pre-order.
To enter, just leave a shout out of encouragement to our farmers in the comments section. Winner will be drawn randomly from those comments.