To celebrate Australia day I’m taking part in the Australia Day Blog Hop sponsored by Book’d Out and Confessions From Romaholics. In total 55 Aussie Bloggers are taking part so it’s a great opportunity to discover some new blogs and wonderful writers. Just click on the following link to go to the Book’d Out site and follow the links to the various bloggers.

http://bookdout.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/australia-day-book-giveaway-blog-hop/

And as a special giveaway for those who leave a comment on my blog post you will go in a draw to win a copy of my debut novel Blackwattle Lake. The winner will be selected at random and must reside in Australia. Entries close at midnight on January 28th and the winner will be announced within 7 days

Thanks to Shelleyrae at Book’d Out for coordinating the hop. Enjoy!

AustraliaDaybloghop

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I’ve spent the last month chilling out on my farm on the south coast of NSW, or should I say heating up. It’s been a hot summer, hotter than last year, when we all cursed the dismal weather and lack of sunshine. But this year it was the heat we were cursing, at least on a couple of occasions. With bushfires burning about 30k’s to the north and a timber house surrounded by bush that was dry and ready to roast we spent a nervous few days as the air around us lay heavy with heat and our normally gorgeous view was obscured by smoke.

On the first scorcher I was wary of leaving home in case the fires spread and the roads were blocked and we were unable to get back. But empty stomachs groaned so I headed into town for supplies. I’d done the same thing in the fires of 2006 and that time the roads had been shut before I could return home. We were forced to set up camp for the night at the local showground and as fortune would have it I was driving my kombi camper so it wasn’t too much of a drama. As it turned out we were allowed to drive home later that night. Crisis averted. But I still remember the glow of the fires over the ridges when I woke in the middle of the night, how close they seemed (even though they were further away than they looked) and the fear that crept through my body as I pondered the possibility of being trapped with my three daughters.

 

It was this earlier experience which inspired me to include a bushfire in Blackwattle Lake. I won’t go into details of what happens in the novel other than to say it was definitely a case of art imitating life in those chapters, although I’m happy to say not to the same extent.

But last week I felt like life was imitating art. In 2006 we’d had no horses to worry about and although this time around the fire was further away and we didn’t get caught in a roadblock there was real concern about how we would get all the humans, a dog, cat, bird and six horses including a foal out if the fire hit. I thought about Eve, my protagonist in the novel, and marvelled at her courage as if she were a real person. I knew the anxiety she felt about leaving her horses stranded. Luckily the fires didn’t get any closer and we didn’t have to evacuate but my heart went out to all those in recent weeks and in the past who had been caught in the fires, who lost property, livestock, possessions and in a few tragic cases their lives.

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Thankfully I didn’t experience their suffering. But just the threat of having to make those decisions – stay or go, what to save, when to leave – was strong enough to help me empathise with what the bushfire victims must have gone through. I could only imagine the fear, the adrenalin, the courage you would have to muster to stay and face the flames not to mention the physical sensations of the searing heat, the suffocating smoke and the raging wind.

Burnt Bush

While the advice “write what you know” is often one sometimes just using your imagination and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be inspiration enough. It’s certainly as close as I ever want to have to come to experiencing this situation and I pay tribute to all those Australians who have had to endure the trauma of bushfire and to those brave men and women who have fought the flames.

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Australia Day.

Cheers!