Renee Conoulty – the Military Wife

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Welcome, Renee! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

The military wife – the heroine in her own love story.

I’m a military wife. I quit my job, packed up our family and moved across the country for my husband’s job. Then I did it all over again four years later. And I’ll do it again, and again, and again.  Because I love him.

I took care of the house and our kids while he was away for training for five months, and while he was away for more training, and away for short exercises, and away for long exercises. And I’ll do it again for the next training, and the next exercise and the next deployment. I cope because I have to.

I struggle to find work because employers know military wives won’t stay forever. I have to step out of my comfort zone to make new friends every time I move, then make more new friends when they move. I learnt a new language full of acronyms and military slang so I could understand what my husband was talking about when he came home from work. I changed hobbies according to what was available where we lived. I adapted. I grew.

I am strong but that’s not why I’m the heroine. I’m not any better than any of the other characters in this story world. I’m the heroine because this is my story and my happily ever after.

Wife, Mother, Woman Aussie army airforce navy milspouse milso stories

Wife, Mother, Woman by Renee Conoulty

The everyday life of a military wife. 

This flash fiction collection takes you inside the lives of ten military affiliated women. Whether they serve the military or support those who do, they all face relatable problems. Making new friends, finding new jobs, solo parenting. Being wives, being mothers, being women.

Available now from  Amazon

Renee Conoulty is an Australian Air Force wife and mother of two. She writes stories of dance, romance and military life including Don’t Mean a Thing, Catching Onix, Wife, Mother, Woman, and Best Friends for Now.

When she’s not devouring books, reviewing and blogging on HeySaidRenee, or writing her own stories, Renee can be found swing dancing. Or possibly napping. She tweets about reading and reviewing @HeySaidRenee and about writing, military life and dancing @ReneeConoulty, but hasn’t created a handle for nap talk yet.

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A Writing Weekend at Kanomi

On Friday May 22 at 7:30am I boarded the ferry to North Keppel Island (Kanomi) along with a group of other writers, our tutors, island staff and our cook for the three days. Our accommodation was to be the North Keppel Island Environmental Education Centre. Our tutors were Dr Lynda Hawryluk and Professor Donna Lee Brien.

The morning sea was relatively flat which made for a pleasant trip to the island. Warnings that our trip home on Sunday afternoon would be very different, were concerning as I’m a terrible sailor. Fortunately I’d packed the travel sickness pills.

Our cabin, which I shared with my two friends Liz and Jenny and one other lady, was comfortable in a basic fashion. Two rooms each had two sets of bunk beds and another small  room had a single bed. The bathroom with shower and washbasin was very adequate, but the separate self-composting toilet occasionally made the nostrils twitch. We discovered, as long as the louvres were kept open, the air blowing through kept odours to a minimum. The beach was only a short walk behind the cabin and Jenny braved the water for a swim, but with a cold wind blowing for most of the time I decided to pass on that pleasure. IMG_1786 IMG_1784  IMG_1787

The theme of the workshops was Resilience for writers in regional areas and we participated in a number of interactive sessions that explored this theme. One session on Saturday afternoon was facilitated by local singer/songwriter Nicole Leah. We brainstormed ideas on three different themes which Nicole took away and wrote into a song. She performed the song for us at dinner that night, and the result was amazingly good. She is certainly a very talented lady.

On the Saturday morning a few of us skipped a workshop and spent a pleasant hour or two walking on the island. The Keppel Bay lookout was well worth the visit, along with pristine beaches and unspoiled forests. We returned to discover we’d missed seeing the island museum and the accompanying brief – to write a story from the perspective of the island’s original inhabitants, before the arrival of Europeans. Fortunately we were able to view the fascinating little museum at our leisure and found plenty of inspiration there for our stories.

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Over the entire three days we enjoyed good, hearty meals cooked fresh by our resident chef. With morning and afternoon teas included, we came away feeling as if we needn’t eat again for a while. Curlews wandered around the outdoor tables at meal times in search of scraps. It is of concern that they have forsaken their usual nocturnal habits because of our presence on the island.

On our return journey, the sea was as rough as predicted. With the help of my pills, I was a bit nauseous and glad to reach land, but nothing worse. Without them, I’m sure I would have been miserably ill!

I can thoroughly recommend this very affordable workshop, in a beautiful relaxing setting, to any interested writers. The workshops are a yearly event and have been occurring for over a decade.

A Child of the Sixties

Back in the 60s when I was a child, it was a different world in the bush. Sometimes I think that era had more in common with my parents’ time, than it has with the present day.

It was an age of thirty-two-volt lighting plants, kerosene refrigerators, a diet of salt beef, home-grown vegetables, homemade butter and few luxuries. It took an hour and a half to drive forty-four miles to Capella, on a rough dirt road with a dozen gates to open. These trips to Capella or Clermont only happened about once every six weeks. We children did our schooling by correspondence, with our lessons arriving on the mail run. Sometimes in the wet the mailman didn’t get through for weeks, but unfortunately, from our point of view, we seldom ran out of lessons. Usually a pile was sent at the beginning of the year, just in case. We even had library books, which our teachers would choose for us, posted from the Allen Lending Library. They must have done a wonderful job of picking suitable titles, as I remember being fascinated by a selection of authors including Enid Blyton, whose Famous Five series was a favourite.

Some of my memories of those days include hot summer nights without a breath of air, sweltering beneath a dusty mosquito net. The first fan we owned ran on thirty-two volts, and was saved for times of dire need. Power was used in a frugal fashion, as the generator was normally only run to charge the batteries, which then powered a few dim lights – and a light was never left on when a person left the room! The exception was on washing day when I’d wake to the throb of the generator, as Mum needed it to run her old wringer washing machine. I used to love lying in bed, listening to the generator – but never for long. Sleeping in was another indulgence we weren’t allowed.

We were all as thin as rakes which isn’t surprising when I consider how plain our food was. There was no such thing as takeaway food, except for fish and chips when we were on holiday at the beach. A big treat when we went to town was an icecream, although Mum made our own at home. We always had desserts, mostly milk puddings as Dad milked two or three cows. Bread came from Clermont on the weekly mail run, and if we ran out, Mum made it herself.

Of course we loved helping with the mustering and chafed at being kept inside for lessons when Dad was doing something interesting. I remember one morning he planned to ride the bottom boundary fence, a distance of twenty-five to thirty miles. I was determined to go with him even though I was only five or six. Eventually Dad relented but Mum drove down the road to meet us that afternoon and collected me. By that time, I was very happy to see her.

We lived for the weekends, when my sister, two brothers and I would saddle our ponies and spend most of the time on horseback, playing cowboys and Indians and other adventurous games. On weekdays, before and after school, we’d play on our push bikes or with stick horses. My sister and I used to have our own pretend cattle stations marked out. When we rode our bikes, the sandy tracks made it a challenge and punctures were a frequent hazard.

Our games were inspired by our own imaginations and I do feel that is something modern children have lost, in an era when entertainment is laid on.

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Feeding a poddy calf and branding calves at Booroondarra, circa 1969.

Interview with Jane Carter

New rural romance author Jane Carter was going to participate in a recent blog hop, then realised she wasn’t ready. I said I would post something of hers once her book was released. So here it is:

Q1 – What am I working on?

1. High Country Secrets is set in the Monaro. Strong, grazing country, bald smooth hills and in the distance, the craggy outlines of the Snowy Mountain Range. There must be something in the air of the Monaro.  The animals have constitution and the people are tough and resilient.

Jessie is from an old grazing family.  Michael d’Larghi  is an entrepreneur- into farming and transport and various family businesses. His grandfather came out from Italy in the fifties to work on the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Jessie returns home to introduce her new fiancé, Alan, to the family. But the first person she meets is Michael, who she remembers from primary school days…..

There is an open feel to the high country – like you’re standing on top of the world. Jessie and Michael just have to reach out and grab what they want. But secrets from the past are crowding in. Everyone these days has baggage – but how much can you take?

Q2 – How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I live in regional New South Wales, in the south.  That is quite different from Queensland or the outback. Goulburn is as different to Roma as the west of Scotland is to Bath.

No matter where they come from, country people share an understated calm and strength, a trust in each other, a practical outlook. Whether this comes from handling animals or the effect of the peaceful landscape on you, I don’t know. I do know I enjoy the feeling of space and not the crush of people around you. I felt a need to write about the country and the people I have come to love and know. So part of the difference is the area I write about.  The other difference is experience – forty years  in trucking and farming.  This experience means my perspective is different than others writing in the same genre.

q3 –  Why do I write what I write

I don’t know why I write what I write. It just pours out and I have very little say in it really. I am continually surprised by what I write. Sometimes my characters just take off and I go along for the ride. I find that is the secret. Once your characters are up and running they dictate what happens next.

 Q4 – How does my writing process work?

A writing process is not exactly the phrase I would use to describe how I write.  Noise. I like the television blaring. I can write with telephone conversations going on around me and mayhem.  Possibly my editor would say that explains a lot.  But I’ve always been a multi-tasker.

Writing also takes you to places you’ve never been to before.  So you just have to trust in the magic carpet and go along for the ride. I’m a pantser, so my ride is more rocky than most.


How can you be in love with one man and violently attracted to another?

When Jessie Cranfield and Michael D’Larghi take the stage to sing together at a local fundraiser in their hometown, the last thing Jessie expects is the electricity between them. Not only has she not seen Michael for years but her fiance is sitting in the audience.

Michael is used to overcoming any obstacle in his path to achieve his goals. Now his goal is Jessie, the former girl-next-door from rural Cooma. 
But not even Michael can foresee that their attraction might uncover family secrets that could tear both their lives apart forever.

A Montague-Capulet war has nothing on the Cranfields and D’Larghis. Can Jessie and Michael risk falling in love, or is it too much for their families to bear?

Buy it now, for only $4.99.

Jane Carter lives in Goulburn, NSW with her husband Richard. Raising five children, farming and helping to run a livestock transport business kept her busy until a few years ago when the last of the children left home and she started writing. Daughter of journalist, author and film maker Lionel Hudson this is perhaps not quite so surprising. She worked in films and television, before she was married. Forty years in the country has made her passionate about rural Australia and the people who make it unique. She enjoys her garden, particularly after rain, adores her grandchildren and anything at all to do with boats.



Another round of mustering done!

Recently we finished a round of mustering here on our two properties, branding calves, weaning, drafting strays, treating some of the cattle for ticks sand sending a load of bullocks to the meatworks. This year I wasn’t organised enough to have the camera on the job, but here are some photos I took this time last year.

We hired my nephew with his helicopter to muster bullocks and heifers for sale. This was the first time we had used the chopper for mustering as we’ve don’t have a large acreage by Queensland standards. But we’d had a very wet season, making the creek country full of long grass and unsafe to muster by horseback or motorbike. The last photo is our truck with double-decker stock crate, ready to load.



In these photos is the yarding of weaners (calves old enough to be taken from their mothers – these were bigger than normal as circumstances had prevented us mustering at the optimal time) and my husband loading the feeder with hay.



The last photo is my husband with his quad bike and the friend who helped us, riding my mare, Whiskey. Since then we have purchased two more quad bikes and this year we did all the mustering with quad bikes. I used to love mustering on a horse but circumstances have changed!


Writing the Dual Timeline

I have always been attracted to idea of someone unearthing secrets from the past. This premise was one of the original inspirations behind Breakaway Creek.  When I first began writing it, which was some time ago, I had read only a few books written on a dual time-line. Some had brief sections harking back to an earlier period and one I can recall was written predominately in the historical era.

Since publishing Breakaway Creek, I’ve read several books by Kimberley Freeman which are excellent examples of the dual timeline. I love reading historicals, both romance and mainstream, but the more serious novels in this genre can be heavy and/or confronting. Intertwining the edgier historical setting with a familiar modern one, takes us back to our comfort zone and gives us space to draw breath.

Recently there have been a few releases of this type in the rural romance genre, so it must be growing more popular.

I have always loved writing historical stories with my earlier books, The Cornstalk and A Hidden Legacy, set in the 1870s and 1890s. Breakaway Creek devotes almost equal time to both the present and the historical sections of the story. For me, it is a way of combining my fascination with Australia’s pioneering days with a contemporary story which deals with present-day issues and which is more accessible to many readers. Although I am too fond of modern comforts to want to live in Victorian times, the horse and buggy era lends itself to adventure and to social dilemmas that don’t exist today. In Breakaway Creek the heroine from the 1890s, Emma, falls in love with someone of mixed race. What happens next would be most unlikely to occur today in Australian cultures.

My ancestors on both sides of my family were pioneers in Central Queensland and listening to my parents’ stories about them and ‘the good old days’ sparked my interest in history. Combine that with my love of romance and my childhood on a 47,000 acre cattle station and it is no wonder horses, cattle and rural life in general play a large part in my stories.

Having found a format that works for me, I am writing my next novel in two timelines. Like Breakaway Creek, it will combine romance with adventure, a touch of suspense and family secrets.

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Blurb for Breakaway Creek:

Two city women, a century apart, find love and adventure in the Queensland outback.

Betrayed by her boyfriend, Shelley Blake escapes the city on a quest to unravel a century-old family mystery.  Her search takes her to a remote cattle station run by Luke Sherman.

Shelley and Luke try to resist their mutual attraction as he fights to reclaim his children from a broken marriage, and Shelley uncovers the truth about her ancestors, Alex and Emma.

Emma’s story of racial bigotry and a love that transcends all obstacles unfolds in the pioneering days of the 1890s.

Shelley and Emma are separated by time but they’re bound by a dark secret to a place called Breakaway Creek.

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Australia Day Award


I felt very honoured to be nominated for two Australia Day awards in my local area, the Citizen of the Year and the Cultural Award. Another very deserving lady received the Citizen of the Year but I was thrilled to be presented with the Cultural Award.

This was awarded for my involvment in my local writers’ group, my assistance in compiling a local history and a non-fiction anthology, and of course, for writing and publishing my own novels.

I also received this award in 2004 so I feel it is a particular honour to be presented with it twice.