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

Cover Reveal! The Cafe By The Bridge

Ta-da! Without further ado, I give you Book 2 in the Chalk Hill series, and more specifically the heroine: Taylor Woods 🙂

Taylor is about to rock Abel Honeychurch’s world… I almost feel sorry for him because the youngest Honeychurch brother really doesn’t know what’s about to hit him…

The Cafe by the Bridge_FC

Child psychologist Taylor Woods needs a man. Flashy restaurateur Abel Honeychurch to be specific. Abe can help her get justice for her brother, Will. Taylor knows Abe, too, was scammed by the same woman who broke her brother’s heart and stole everything in his pockets.

But bringing a lying, cheating scammer to justice isn’t easy when all Abe wants to do is forget the whole sorry saga. He’s returned to his home town of Chalk Hill to lick his wounds and repay his debts, renovating his nanna’s house and opening the Chalk ‘n’ Cheese cafe.

He’s miserable. And it would be easier to stay miserable if everyone else around him wasn’t so darn cheerful. It’s wildflower season in Chalk Hill with a cafe full of upbeat bushwalkers, and it’s all Abe can do to remember to put sugar, not salt, in his customers’ cappuccinos. He definitely has no time for the mysterious red–headed guest who admires his cheesecake and adores his flat white.

Taylor’s mission to help her brother seems doomed – how will she gain the trust of a man whose every instinct tells him never to trust a woman again?

Coming December 2018!

Amazon AUS
itunes
Kobo
Booktopia (print & online)

If a Book was a Ship…

27750280_1276377222506164_1535408654311169734_n…I could smash a bottle of champagne across its pages to mark its birth into the world. But, alas, much as I’d love to swing a bottle of bubbles at this new baby of mine, all I’d end up with is a mess of soggy pages.

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE came into the world on February 19. On March 1 we held its official launch at the Margaret River Bookshop with a crowd of my friends and family and readers.

It was my great pleasure to talk about the book at the launch in an informal chat with my good friend, Jill Turton of Stocker Preston Real Estate. Jill was the perfect choice to share in the book launch because the story begins with the main character, Ella, leaving Perth on a tree-change, to the small country town of Chalk Hill, where she is about to start a new life as the rookie sales representative for Begg & Robertson Real Estate of Chalk Hill.

Just such a fabulous evening with wonderful wines sponsored by Fermoy Estate Wines, and in the company of marvellous readers, my hubby (who I dedicated this book to) and many friends and family.

I’ve had so many messages of support about WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE; reviews, shelfies, photos, mentions of people buying or reading my story – it’s those little notes that keep an author writing, and I can’t thank you enough on this page, and in person, for your enormous and fantastic support!

Here’s a snapshot of what people are saying about the book on Goodreads:

I love all of Lily’s books, but I think this is my favourite so far. She has written a really enjoyable story set in a small town of Chalk Hill in WA that I could totally envision. Claire.

I heart this book! I cannot rave enough about the story, its characters and their triumphs, and tribulations. Talking Books Blog.

Water Under the Bridge shows Lily is one of the best Aussie authors (I have read) when it comes to really nailing characterisation. Jenn J McLeod.

I found this to be an enjoyable, gentle book about moving on and finding your place in life and a community. Marlin.

I loved the setting what a town and the characters come to life on the pages, I felt very comfortable in Chalk Hill and look forward to more in this series. Helen.

A wonderfully complex novel, Water Under the Bridge was an excellent read which I highly recommend. Brenda.

You will be able to find a copy of WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE wherever you buy your books all over Australia, or at your favourite e-tailer.

If you live locally to the South West of West Australia, I know Margaret River Bookshop and Dymocks Busselton have lots of copies of the book. There are SIGNED copies at Margaret River Bookshop, and I will be coming to Dymocks Busselton on March 22 for an author chat, and would be thrilled to sign your copy there.

28058961_1410684142371542_4733707321236608800_n
That’s a lot of books at Dymocks Busselton

The release of a new book is such an incredible time for an author, I doubt it would get old even for the Wilbur Smith and James Patterson and Stephen Kings’ of the world who’ve done it hundreds of times, but for me it’s still a new journey and so very exciting.

This ship is just setting sail…

 

xx Lily

Ella & Jake: Book 1 in Chalk Hill is almost here!

They’re so close…

Rachael Donovan at Harlequin MIRA sent me this very exciting photograph last week. It’s a picture of the finished print copy of my new story, WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE. 

IMG_0449

I’m expecting to see my own print author copies any day now…

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE is on pre-order everywhere, available February 19, ebook, and print.

Please check this list for your reading choice:

Amazon Australia http://amzn.to/2yhS99f
Amazon.com Kindle: http://amzn.to/2xzS7Gs
iBooks: https://goo.gl/dUAYZq
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2hCDD2y
Booktopia: http://bit.ly/2xzPq7Q
Bookworld: http://bit.ly/2yG1xFb
Dymocks: http://bit.ly/2g1qM9M
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2hD2B1B
Harlequin: http://bit.ly/2yhnWan

Edits. Edits. (Oh, and a photo of hair)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks working on final edits for Water Under The Bridge. I’m very lucky to be working with Julie Wicks and Laurie Ormond of Harlequin. Laurie has been with me for a while, working on both Fairway To Heaven and The Vineyard In The Hills.

It is amazing the input that a solid edit gives to a story. A good editor asks the hard questions – even if sometimes as the writer you don’t want to hear them.

I generally work to the rule that the editor is always right, just like a beta reader is always right. If something pulls them out of the story they need to say so, not ignore it.

Thanks to Julie and Laurie, my lovely heroine, Ella, is a much more rounded character. Boy, digging into some of Ella’s history made for very draining, emotional times. She’s had a lot of crap to get through, and by the end of the edits writing her put me through that same emotional wringer!

What I like to do when I’m almost finished my edits is send the story to my Kindle, and read the book like a reader would. That way I have a better sense of how the story flows. I can see when things get slow and the action needs a kick-start, and see when I need to add more detail.

I came across this line from Water Under The Bridge which I’d love to share with you.

Ella

Pre-orders are now live on all ebook sites. Check here for a link to your fave.
Print copies coming late February 2018.

New Cover, New Book!

I’m so excited to reveal here on the blog first: the new cover for my latest book with Harlequin MIRA, Water Under The Bridge.

This is a story about almost-Olympic swimmer,

WUTB cover

Ella, and dyed-in-the-wool sheep farmer, Jake. Water Under The Bridge is Book 1 of 3 new stories set in my fictional town of Chalk Hill, in the great southern region of Western Australia.

The background is the stunning scenery of the Porongurups and Stirling Ranges, wildflowers everywhere, whales at Albany, and the magnificent tall trees of Walpole, Denmark and Nornalup not far away…

So here she is, my Ella… Ta-dah! All she needs is her favourite disco tunes to start playing if you click the picture! (Anyone know the technology to do that?? 🙂 )

All the pre-order links are live, or will be live very soon, so you can order from your favourite e-retailer below. Water Under The Bridge will be out in print too, in all the normal places from March 1, 2018.

About the book:

Ella Davenport hasn’t been in a swimming pool since a bad decision ruined her chance of Olympic gold. So when Ella decides on a new career selling property, she chooses Chalk Hill. The country town is a long way from the water, with no pool in sight. Perfect!

Jake Honeychurch doesn’t want to sell his Nanna’s house, but circumstances force his hand. Listing the property with the rookie real estate agent in town, and asking a hefty price means it shouldn’t find a buyer. Perfect!

But determination and persistence are traits Jake admires, and Ella has them in spades. After all, no one ever made an Olympic team by being a quitter.

When news breaks of a proposed waterski park, a local developer starts sniffing around Honeychurch House. Ella’s first sale is so close she can taste it, until a sharp-eyed local recognises her.

Between sale negotiations with Jake that keep getting sidetracked, and a swimming pool committee hellbent on making a splash, Ella has more to contend with than kisses and chlorine.

Can she throw off the failures of the past and take the chance of a new start? Or will her dreams of a new life be washed away again?

Harlequin: http://bit.ly/2yhnWan
Amazon Australia http://amzn.to/2yhS99f
Amazon.com Kindle: http://amzn.to/2xzS7Gs
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2hCDD2y
Booktopia: http://bit.ly/2xzPq7Q
Bookworld: http://bit.ly/2yG1xFb
Dymocks: http://bit.ly/2g1qM9M  (coming soon)
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2hD2B1B  (coming soon)
iBooks: coming soon

I can’t wait for Ella and Jake’s story to be alive in the wild… so exciting to think that March isn’t that far away. Roll on 2018 🙂