The lead up time to Christmas each year seems to get busier and busier the older I get. Work gets crazy as everyone tries to wrap up the year in a couple of weeks, families start chirping about what they want to do, Christmas party dates are scribbled hurriedly onto calendars, crossed off, swapped over, squeezed in, shuffled around, and shopping – ugh! – don’t talk to me about shopping this year because I am way behind schedule. Still, all is not lost. The one thing amid all the chaos that is most certain is that summer has well and truly arrived.
Uh-huh, you read right – summer – long, hot days and nights. See, while all you northern hemisphere folk don jumpers (I think you call them sweaters?), heavy coats and sturdy snow boots, we here in Australia are as far from your chilled winter weather as you can possibly get as we swelter in the summer heat, stripped down to shorts and t-shirts, and making sure that of all the parties we attend, that at least one of them has a pool, or at the very least, a very large beer fridge.
Christmas time always makes me smile here in Australia, because we are surrounded by Festive Season images of snow falling, sleighs and the big jolly man in a heavy duty red suit, warm as toast, surrounded by reindeer, open fires and stockings hanging from mantle pieces.
Now close your eyes and try and picture Santa wearing an ice vest under his red suit coat, replace egg nog with a cold frosty beer, swap roasts and baked vegies for a BBQ and salad, and don’t even think about an open fire or central heating – throw open all your windows and doors and go desperately looking for a cool breeze. Fields of snow are the stuff of far distant fairy tales, replaced by hot beach sand that burns the tender soles of feet, or the crunch of dry dead grass under foot.
At this time of year when Aussies look to the sky they aren’t looking for snow clouds, they’re looking for a cool change in the weather, smoke from a bushfire, or clouds building for a storm or a tropical cyclone.
Those of you who pick up my new December release ‘Spirit of the Dance’ will notice a passing comment early in the book where one of the main characters, recently returned home to her family’s farm in Australia says, “I’d forgotten how hot it can get here in February.” I remember smiling when I wrote that line as I imagined some of you from the northern hemisphere would read that statement with raised eyebrows, trying to picture February as hot.
‘Spirit of the Dance’ sees Major Sorla Reardon, wounded in Iraq, return home to the family farm in Australia to heal both her body and her soul. She pushes herself to rebuild her family’s legacy while battling the PTSD that threatens to overwhelm her.
Local saddler and horse trainer, Riley Johnson, knows that to get along in a small town, one simply has to make the best of what life hands out. Riley’s philosophy is to keep life as uncomplicated as possible. And falling in love with Sorla is as complicated as it gets.
As Sorla’s dream is realized, Riley’s predictable, safe world begins to unravel. Secrets are revealed as prejudice and ignorance run wild. Having only ever walked through life alone, Riley must now learn to trust another, as danger dances ever closer.
‘Spirit of the Dance’ is a small snap shot of rural Australia, complete with flies, heat, dust and a diverse array of interesting characters. So if you’re in need of a little warming up, or thinking to escape to somewhere where it’s warm and dry, then make yourself a hot cuppa, and curl up in your favourite comfy chair and let Sorla and Riley take you on a dramatic ride and ultimately put a little romantic sparkle in your Christmas. Who knows, you might even get a hint of a scent of a lemon scented gum tree wafting in on a warm breeze as you lose yourself Down Under for a wee while.
‘Spirit of the Dance’ is available from Dec 1st, direct from Bold Strokes Books in ebook and print formats and all good outlets from December 14 onwards.