My Search For An Elusive Queen

At the beginning of my second Chalk Hill novel, The Cafe By The Bridge, I wrote this dedication:

Searching for, or ‘hunting’ for (as we call it) West Australian Native Orchids is one of my great joys in life. It’s something that I have to thank my Dad for, as it is one of my earliest memories (and one of my only early memories) of him: walking in our native bush and looking for orchids.

Fast forward on some forty years, and on a return to this south west area in 2013, I was able to rekindle my love with the native bush, and its beautiful flora, particularly its orchids.

Some of the most intriguing are incredibly small. Flying duck orchids and warty hammers, and ‘king in his carriage’. And they are very hard to photograph for a non-photographer like me. I must look hilarious—lying on my tummy across a sandy track, trying to get my phone to focus on a delicate flower.

One orchid I always knew about, but had never found, was the Queen of Sheba orchid. She is like the ‘holy grail’ of orchid land here in the West. Indeed, I actually thought the orchid was extinct, until my friend Belinda (in the acknowledgements for Cafe), told me she’d found the orchid in the great southern region of WA, and that indeed while the Queen was extinct in our far south west corner, she could still be found in a few select parts of the state.

Well! Excitement much? Long live the Queen! And of course then I had to write the Queen of Sheba into Chalk Hill country, and into The Cafe By The Bridge.

This year, I had the great (ahem) honour, of turning 50. (That, by the way, is a whole other blog topic for another day. Suffice to say – anybody out there who isn’t a fan of the whole ‘turning 50’ thing… I hear you!)

My birthday present to myself, and my family’s present to me, was that we would spend a weekend at Albany in August and we’d go ‘hunting’ for the Queen of Sheba and we wouldn’t rest until we found her!

The first stop we made was near a signboard on the road to Mount Martin National Park. We leapt out of the car and I went wandering up a sandy track, and then down a cut-out off the track (like a drainage escape). And lo, about fifteen metres along this cut out, I saw this:

Not quite out yet!

Although I knew the Queen of Sheba was called a ‘sun orchid’ I didn’t actually realise that she opens and closes with the sun. It’s not much use looking for her on a cloudy day. And this gorgeous little girl wasn’t yet open at 10am. What I didn’t know was whether it would take this orchid a week to open properly? Or an hour or two? I wasn’t even certain it was a Queen, but it was the closest thing I’d seen to a Queen… definitely promising! But we left her to look elsewhere.

After about two more hours searching several different locations and climbing in the beautiful Mount Martin National Park, where we saw some absolutely beautiful scenery and some stunning plants…

…but nothing close to resembling a Queen of Sheba. And so we decided to go back to our first sighting ‘just in case’ she was now out.

My son leapt out of the car and ran up the track, wanting to be first to see ‘her’. Ten seconds or so later, he called out: ‘it’s open. It’s open!’ And we all hurried to that first spot. There she was:

The Queen of Sheba in all her glory! And we’d found her on our very first day! And technically, on our very first stop! (Even if we didn’t quite know it).

We found more during the weekend. My eldest son found one all on his own. Even my hubby (he is a useless spotter), he found one. It was magic.

It made turning 50 turn out okay in the end. And it meant I can now claim to have seen the holy grail of orchids, and live out my own motto in my own book’s dedication: never give up!

xx Lily

New directions for 2022

It’s been a quiet two years on the writing front since the release of my third Chalk Hill book, Last Bridge Before Home in December 2020, but while I haven’t had a new book out in 2021, I’ve been busy and there is good stuff happening.

I’ve just finished the second series of edits on my 2022 release with Harlequin MIRA (Harper Collins). This is a revisit to Chalk Hill in a whole new stand-alone story called The Vet’s Country Holiday.

The heroine is Isabella Passmore, a Perth city vet. Izzy makes a very brief cameo at the beginning of The Cafe By The Bridge. She’s Taylor’s friend and in The Vet’s Country Holiday, Izzy comes to stay at Taylor’s house to look after Taylor’s dog Bruno while Taylor and Abe are travelling. 

This is a snippet of what my editor, Rachael Donovan, said when she read the submission draft: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and think readers – old and new to Chalk Hill – are going to love it! I never thought I’d find myself chuckling over a chicken, but such is the power of your storytelling! Poor little thing.’

It’s always great to get that sort of feedback, and that was before all the spit and polishing that goes into the editing process. 🙂  Not long to go now and I’ll have a new cover to show you.

My second big piece of news is: I’ve joined independent publishing group, Pilyara Press.

Established in 2018 by former lawyer, Jennifer Scoullar (herself a best-selling author with Penguin Random House), Pilyara Press is described as ‘a trail-blazing group of professional writers who have left behind the Goliath world of publishing to form a small independent press. We offer a diverse and distinctive range of books, created on our own terms. We’re a bunch of professionals, and each of us brings a very specific talent to the group.’ 

I joined Pilyara Press for two main reasons. First: I appreciate the quality of authors already involved (they include Jenn J McLeod, Monique Mulligan, Kate Belle (I’m an absolute fan-girl of Kate), Kath Ledson and Jen Scoullar herself.) Second: I believe Pilyara will be a good fit for some books I want to publish moving forward.

While I’ve been very lucky to have The Chalk Hill Series and other paperbacks and e-books published by Harper Collins, which has opened enormous opportunities for me in Australia, I’ve had trouble getting other genres and styles accepted by the big publishers here.

There is debate about the ‘Lily Malone brand’… established in rural romance and romance settings, and whether my readers are ready for different genre writing from me. While I want to continue writing rural romance, I am keen to branch into other areas.

My new book, and the first that I’ll publish with Pilyara in 2022 is called The Waterhole. It’s a contemporary story of complicated family dynamics with a crime/mystery element that kicks off when excavations along a small-town creekline discover decades-old human bones.

While the timeline is a little fluent in order to fit around the release of The Vet’s Country Holiday, I am hopeful The Waterhole will be ready for release in January 2022. If I really pull my finger out, I might even have it available in December in time for Christmas.

Two books in the next six months! Now that’s exciting!

xx Lily

Looking for Lockdown Reading?

I really hope you’re not! I hope you’re not in lockdown at all. But if you are and you are looking for some light reading to keep you away from yet another bored foray to the fridge (well that’s what I did in lockdown, I ate!), I have a special book for you.

For a very limited time, I have a special additional gift with each copy of THE VINEYARD IN THE HILLS – a lovely sliver of handmade soap from Moonhaven in my hometown in Western Australia (near Margaret River where this story begins).

I have scooped the last print copies of The Vineyard In The Hills from my publisher… once these are gone, that’s all folks. UPDATED 1 September 2021. Sorry – these are all gonski!

But if you still want to read The Vineyard In The Hills – it is available in e-book from all your regular retailers. Amazon for Kindle. Kobo. Apple store etc.

Mother’s Day Present 2020

I got the Lego bug during Covid-19 when my family, like everyone to varying degrees around the world, was in lockdown. It started from my publisher’s challenge to its authors to have a go at #RecreateABookCover

Well, just to make things next-level, for Mother’s Day this year hubby and the boys made me a frame for my Lego cover creations, and now it’s finished (belatedly, but that’s okay) and I can hang it in my writing room for inspiration!

Lego in Iso

Not that long ago, given all the book events that have had to be cancelled due to Covid-19, Harlequin Australia gave its authors the challenge to create their own book cover just to keep us all out of trouble. #RecreateABookCover

All sorts of covers came out in the wash, and it really doesn’t surprise me. Authors are a creative lot! You can check out lots more at romance.com.au or click here.

Last weekend, my boys and I decided to recreate the cover of my latest release, LAST BRIDGE BEFORE HOME in LEGO. We had a heap of fun!
You should try it for one of your favourites. Knit the cover. Crochet it. Bake it (ice it). Felt it. Paint it. Take a photo of your effort and send it to the author – I think he or she would get a real kick out of it.

Happy self-isolation to all.

xx Lily

The Butterfly House Series – now available for Kindle

You know that feeling you get when you finally do something you’ve been putting off for, like, years?

I got that feeling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I made my two self-published stories, Who Killed The Bride? and Who Killed The Movie Star? available as ebooks in the Amazon Kindle store, and through Kindle Unlimited.

It only took me since July 2016 to get my arse into gear!

The two stories involve the mad-cap adventures of Cally and Sienna in beautiful Butterfly House, as they try to establish their new tourism business hosting murder mysteries in the town of Cowaramup (incidentally – my home town) in South West Australia.

You can read more about the series here.

The books have always been available in print, and if you’d still like your copy in print please email me at lilymalone@mail.com and I will sort that out. Each book costs $18.95 each including postage anywhere in Australia.

Links to the ebooks on Amazon.com.au are below:
Who Killed The Bride? Book 1
Who Killed The Movie Star? Book 2

Last Bridge Before Home : Chalk Hill Book 3

Last Bridge CoverThe final story in the Chalk Hill series, Last Bridge Before Home will be out on December 16 in print and ebook, just in time for Christmas.

This is Jaydah and Brix’s story and it’s a cracker. It’s quite a bit darker than the earlier books because Jaydah comes from a very different place to either Ella (Book 1) or Taylor (Book 2). The one shining light in Jaydah’s life has been Brix (Braxton) the middle of the Honeychurch boys. Yes, this is a couple with history. This isn’t a book in which they fight each other (enemies to lovers), it’s a book in which they fight for a common goal. Safety.

About the book:

For Jaydah Tully, the country town of Chalk Hill has never felt like home. Home is a place to feel loved. Home is a place to feel safe. Jaydah’s home life is dark in ways the close-knit community could never imagine.

Jaydah knows that the man she loves has never understood her need for secrets. Brix is a Honeychurch, she’s a Tully – her family are Chalk Hill’s black sheep. It’s better for everyone if Brix stays away.

But Brix is a one-woman man, and when he returns to his home town to help his brother, the first person he sees is Jaydah. Independent. Private. Proud. When things are good between them they are really really good but all too soon they’re back in the old patterns, caught in the same argument: Her father. Her family. Her life that doesn’t include him.

Underneath her tough exterior, Jaydah is drowning. She has one chance to change everything. Is she brave enough to take the risk and let Brix in? Or will her father keep them apart forever?

All popular print and ebook pre-order links are here: http://bit.ly/2No8zXf 

If you know what you’re looking for and you want to go direct see below:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NsjoYt

Apple Books: https://apple.co/306N6n9

Booktopia: http://bit.ly/2YsQk41

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2YnjuSa

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Lxtu7V

Tacos, Herring, Tea, and … not bait

One of my very favourite people in this writing world wrote a great post about Keeping Mother’s Day Real… and so, inspired by Kylie Kaden I present you the story of my Mother’s Day …

My hubby is visiting his mum interstate for mother’s day this year, and that left my two boys to their own devices, and so… despite my instructions about a cup of tea in bed (to be honest, I’d rather the sleep-in), the cup of tea didn’t arrive and eventually I got up and made it myself. In their defence, I DID get that sleep-in…

20190512_190206_resizedThen, Mr 11 told me that the gift he’d been making at school was a #fail … but not to fear, he made me a card instead 🙂 (Check it out – West Coast Eagles! Yay!)

And Mr 9 told me that unfortunately he hadn’t finished his gift at school… and he also hadn’t remembered to bring any part of the unfinished gift, or the card, home. #fail 

Not to be deterred, I made my own breakfast and it rocked. Bacon and egg sandwich!

Then I announced that what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day was go fishing 🎣🎣🎣 … there were grumbles (we don’t often catch anything), but eventually I got the rods rigged up, including replacing a broken reel (💪), and off we trooped to Gracetown to catch a herring 🐟 (or, you know, lots of herring). 🐟🐟🐟

Mission accomplished! After about 3 hours, we returned home with 3 fish.

20190512_182319_resized

Mr 9 also found a packet of bait that someone must have decided to hang off a fence post on the off chance an intrepid fisherwoman and her two boys might have such a fantastic day on the line, they needed extra bait.

When we got home I discovered it was in actual fact, a bag of dog poo. #baitfail

In the bin it went!

The boys went for a shower and made their own lunch, and I scaled and gutted the fish… and ate baked potatoes with sardines…

The afternoon included football, a go on screens (for the boys), and the promise of me having a glass of wine while the boys cooked dinner… Mr 9s famous tacos!

Mr 9 was in charge of mince. Mr 11 was in charge of everything else (guacamole, grating)… all I had to do was slice the onion.

AND the tacos were awesome! #NoFail

Yes, I cleaned up the mess. Small price to pay for a night out of the kitchen – plus I got all the fun of watching the carnage, and the craft!

Tonight I think we will watch an Avengers movie together…

All in all – pretty awesome Mum’s Day for me!

Hope yours rocked too 🙂

xx Lily

When A Dog Just Won’t Do, Get A Dragon

We have a new addition to the household and I (along with the entire family) am in love!

Meet Mango the Bearded Dragon… I now count myself officially amongst those who can use #MotherOfDragons 🙂

P1010815

We’ve had Mango about a month, after much debate about what type of pet we might get. All the usual suspects were way too tricky for us. There could be a dog, of course, but we aren’t fenced for a pooch nor could we decide what type of dog we want. My youngest son wanted a Pug, the eldest wanted something like a labrador or retriever. Hubby was thinking ‘Boxer’ and I was keen on a Beagle. We also wanted a rescue dog preferably, rather than a puppy…

That brought us to getting a cat… I’ve never wanted a cat until I moved into our new house about 5 years ago in a part of town where we are close to the bushland and there is a rule that you cannot have cats. Well, the minute we moved in the house, guess who wished she had a cat??

We thought about turtles, or fish… but that seemed a little bland. I’m not sure you get much back from a fish and you can’t pick it up or cuddle it.

My youngest son (Mr 9) then decided he’d really like a gecko. So we looked into it. You need a licence for reptiles in WA, and the people we spoke to said: “Do you really want a gecko? You won’t get much out of a gecko? All he’ll ever want to do is run away from you. What about a bearded dragon?”

A bearded dragon!!?? Well, that sounded far more adventurous and awesome than a gecko (no offence geckos). So we started looking at ‘beardies’ and we found Mango. Mango is a WA native – a Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor minima). I think if you have both minor and minima amongst your scientific name, well, you wouldn’t want to have small-dragon-syndrome if you get what I mean!

He’s about 13 or so centimetres in his body with a much longer tail… and he tolerates us most adorably! We can hold him and while he’s not much of one for returning a cuddle, we still think he is very cute!

As a #MotherOfDragons at my ripe old age I’m discovering that I need to get involved in the feeding of Mango, and our little mate likes live crawly things… like crickets, grasshoppers, moths, and all manner of flying things that don’t sting… and cockroaches. Cockroaches!!

The other day, I went out into our garden looking for some grasshoppers for Mango and yes, I was THAT crazy woman, terribly undignified, doing a kind of jump-squat-grab motion out on the verge, chasing grasshoppers. It’s worse than fishing. I never caught a thing…

But luckily, we can buy Mango’s food in a plastic container… then my job is to keep the food alive. I’ve discovered I can pick up crickets in my bare hands. I even today touched a cockroach! They’re called ‘woodies’ so they’re not those yucky big cockroaches I routinely do my best to eradicate in the house. If a cockroach can be cute, I guess these guys are kind of cute.

They are however, still food for dragons.

So as always, it’s fun and games at our place… I’m not sure my mates will visit for a while now I’ve put crickets, cockroaches and ‘bare hands’ into a sentence. For now when there is cockroach wrangling to be done, I take my plastic cockroach container outside in case there is a mass exodus of cockroaches IN THE HOUSE. At which point, I think it will be me giving the place over to the dragon and the pests… and I’ll go find a nice dry spot somewhere out of the way till all the beetles are gone!

xx Lily