“This is true love… you think this happens everyday?”

Ten points if you can guess where that quote comes from… if you can’t, I will reveal at the end of the blog…

So, here we are, another year. Happy New Year! I really hope that whatever plans you’ve made (even not making any), come to fruition and that you have many adventures, love and laughter in 2013. And good health. We cannot forget that!

I was going to do a reflective blog about the year we’ve just had and then project forward with my plans for the next twelve months, when I had a change of heart. You see, tomorrow, January 9th, is my 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years! Instead of writing about a year, I want to celebrate and share with you my twenty years (briefly, I promise) with the most amazing man on this earth – my true love, Stephen Ronald Brooks.

Not many people can say they met and married their true love – I can’t say with any conviction I even knew he was the day we were married in our Midsummer’s Night Marriage Ceremony on Big Hill golf course in Bendigo.

Oh, I knew I loved him – very much. I knew that fairly early on in our relationship. We met making a film, Ranko. Stephen was the leading man and I was the leading lady. The shout line was something like, “He’s going to fall in love, get married and clean up the streets” and the movie was touted as Neighbours Meets Mad Max. We had a ball making it, even if it was, as Stephen says, “highly unsuccessful”, I am so very grateful I agreed to be cast.

And, let’s face it, you have to love a man who, in order to get to know you better while dating, asks what your favourite books are so he can read them too. There were so many I could have chosen, but I told him Lord of the Rings. He read it and The Hobbit.

Proposing to me on my 30th birthday, Stephen only told one of his best friends of his intentions. This best friend (I’m looking at you, Grant), told him not to be stupid. You see, I was what’s known as “a package deal” – that is, a single mother with two kids. I was also older than Stephen. It didn’t seem the wisest of decisions for a young man to make.

Fortunately, Stephen didn’t listen to his mate (who was just looking out for him), and went down on bended knee in front of all our friends and, after giving me a pewter cup that was shaped like Galadriel’s face (from Lord of the Rings), produced a lovely little ring from his pocket (Galadriel is also the bearer of the second ring – and this was to be my second marriage – clever, hey?).

The wedding was a hoot – a dress up affair in which the kids and friends and family partook. I had a theatre background and all my wonderful theatre friends, Andrew Balnaves, Angela Rashleigh (White) and many others, helped. One of my best friends, Frances Thiele was a bridesmaid. The men wore shirts and stockings, Stephen carried a sword, and we all feasted and danced and made merry under the beautifully decorated hall, festooned with ivy and fairy lights and outside the moon glowed. Magical.

The next twenty years seem to have passed so swiftly, now I can peer back with hindsight, but what fabulous years they have been – and all because of who I’ve had the privilege to share them with. They’ve been a combination of hardship (struggling financially while I did my PhD, Stephen working to support us, the kids becoming used to a step-father, both Stephen and I to each other and married life in a new place – we shifted to Wollongong from Bendigo two weeks after we married and away from family and friends), and utterly fantastic moments. But none of them would have meant anything to me, or Adam and Caragh, if hadn’t been for one man… Stephen.

 

Some of the highlights of those last twenty years are:

  • 1993. The scary move to Wollongong where with great difficulty we left behind (it was more like tearing ourselves apart) beloved friends and family. We lived in a place called Fairy Meadow in a street called Cabbage Tree Lane – great address J – which partly compensated and had the best neighbours in the world, Trevor and Maureen, with whom we drank ourselves silly the first day we met and every other week from then on…
  • Meeting Kerry Doyle and Peter Goddard in Wollongong and having them enter and still be a part of our lives.
  • Grant (yes, the one who advised Stephen not to marry me!) moving in with us for twelve months while he and Stephen (who was also working full-time) did postgrad studies.
  • Stephen and Grant coaching the local winning football team.
  • Delayed honeymoon to Thailand – was fantastic.
  • Stephen’s 30th surprise party – a funeral. Yes, I gave him a “death to his youth” party as he was always giving me a very hard time about being older than him – Grant too, so with Grant’s girlfriend (now wife), Fiona’s help, we gave him a party he’d remember. LOL!
  • 1996. Moving to the Sunshine Coast for my first uni position and again, being embraced by the community and meeting some terrific people (many of whom we still count among our best friends).
  • Buying our first house in Mountain Creek – it had a pool!
  • 1997. Stephen and I graduating from Wollongong uni (Grad Cert and PhD)
  • Going on our first family holiday – a cruise in 1998
  • Hosting two gorgeous Japanese teens, Keizo and Ayako
  • Our beautiful pets, Cupid and Psyche having kittens
  • My first book coming out in 2001
  • Adam being given his first pet snake, Morphea
  • Caragh illustrating her first book and being paid! She was still in primary school.
  • Great parties and fun Friday nights with friends
  • 2002. My 40th and second book launch
  • Adam “coming out” – he and his dad just held each other. *sniff*
  • Trips to Bali, New York, Las Vegas, Vietnam, Thailand, NSW, and VIC
  • Driving the car through the garage wall and into the house and ruining two rooms – one my study.
  • Caragh photographing me all distressed and laughing with Lesley who was staying with us. Our friend, Chris, the psychiatrist, running down the hill when I frantically called him (Stephen was at work) and asking me if I was “having a blonde moment?”
  • Adam accidently burning down the kitchen while I was in the USA and Stephen and the kids going to mum and dad’s up north for a few days while the house was repaired and cleaned.
  • Moving to Buderim and fully renovating our first house
  • 2004. Stephen’s 40th and first tattoo – back to the 80s night.
  • Too many Melbourne Cup and Grand Final parties to count.
  • Trips to China, New York, Las Vegas, Europe, England, teaching and living in Maastricht, The Netherlands – twice.
  • 2005. Caragh’s 18th and Adam’s 21st – Caragh’s a dress up, of course!
  • Both kids shifting out of home and becoming fabulous, independent people
  • Adam moving to Sydney and joining the Oaks group.
  • More books released
  • Invited to be part of the ABC show, The Einstein Factor (for four years)
  • Working with Lisa on Consuming Innocence and studying Italian with the lovely Lauren.
  • Another trip to Las Vegas, this time to say goodbye, along with my sister, Jenny, to my dying mother.
  • My beloved grandmother passing away as a consequence of a house fire.
  • 2008. Apply for job at Southern Cross University (promotion) and we move to Brooklet, NSW (three weeks after returning from three months in Europe) and Stephen starts renovating again.
  • Caragh graduates. I’m made an Honorary Senior Fellow of Sunshine Coast University
  • Caragh moves to Melbourne
  • Wonderful visits from friends
  • Caragh’s 21st 
  • Caragh goes to the USA and a short time later is married, making world headlines.
  • We are given a rescue dog, the gorgeous “Tallow”
  • My great friend, Jim McKay becomes my boss.
  • 2009. Receive cancer diagnosis.
  • Tallow is released to great success
  • Have big series of ops in Sydney for cancer – overwhelmed by support
  • Two years off work to heal. More ops. Keep writing my weekly column for Courier Mail and fiction books.
  • 2010. Travel around South-East Asia on a cruise
  • While we’re away, dad dies. Unable to go to his funeral, but do write the eulogy.
  • Our darling Dante Primo dies from a tick
  • Psyche, our 15 year old cat dies of cancer
  • Dante Piccolo comes into our life
  • Adam lands a fantastic job in Sydney with a terrific company.
  • 2010. Sell house in Brooklet
  • Visit Sara in Tasmania – she’s very, very sick.
  • Make decision to join her and care for her
  • 2011. Shift to Tasmania and rent seven minutes away from Sara by car.
  • Stephen cares for me and Sara (his two wives) while Sara and I write our books – her, The Devil’s Diadem, me, Illumination.
  • Loving friends visit – us and Sara.
  • Stephen works with the refugees at Pontville.
  • Stephen buys a Harley Davidson – a Heritage Soft-tail.
  • Meet fabulous people, have wonderful and very sad times.
  • Caragh comes back from the USA – single and very happy.
  • Sara dies and we grieve. For a long time.
  • After initially saying “no” (three times), agree to take part in TV show Location, Location, Location Australia to buy a house in Tasmania as Sara has left us her five cats.
  • Take a family holiday (cruise) to New Zealand.
  • Caragh begins a tattoo apprenticeship in Brisbane
  • Move to Braeside, Feb 2012.
  • Stephen begins to renovate
  • We travel to Gold Coast for the marvellous Somerset Celebration of Literature and catch up with darling cousins and friends as well.
  • I have a huge and horrid operation that makes me very ill for weeks.
  • Stephen is so caring and wonderful, as always.
  • Illumination comes out, I turn 50. 50!
  • Stephen begins plans to start a business
  • Make some fantastic friends here in Hobart.
  • Go on amazing trip to Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and Dubai.
  • Stephen becomes a tour guide at Cascade Brewery – he is brilliant!
  • Christmas comes and goes as does New Year and the Taste of Tasmania. Share all this with family and friends – wonderful times.
  • 2013 is here. This is the year of a new book, a new business and the celebration of twenty wonderful years.

 

I know I have left stuff out… I’ll have fun recalling these times later. I know Adam and Caragh and Stephen will remember things too. But, just listing some of the highlights and lows of the last twenty years, what’s not evident but should be, is that every single moment was made all that more luminous and wonderful or bearable, because I shared it with my true love.

I cannot begin to describe or explain how utterly amazing he was and still is in his loving care, not only of me and the children over two decades, but our darling Sara as well. How he rarely loses patience with me (well, OK, sometimes!), but is always so compassionate, passionate, loving and caring. I am so very, very blessed and, as our anniversary unfurls, I remember this and every other moment I have spent with this beautiful man and wonder what it was that I did so right to deserve him. I thank his gorgeous mother every day that she raised such a magnificent man.

People often ask me what I wish for my children: the answer is simple. My wish for Adam and Caragh is that they too will find a love like this, like Stephen and I have. I don’t think it happens very often, nor does it occur everyday, but when it does, appreciate what you have because it’s more than rare, it’s magical.

Thank you Stephen Ronald Brooks for twenty perfectly imperfect years. Here’s to the next decades and beyond – per eternita.

 

 

PS. The quote above comes from our favourite film, The Princess Bride.

 

 

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Illumination news

I’ve decided I’m not very good at putting up info about my books. I must get better at it. I also have to update my website – and I will. After Illumination comes out. See, that’s my problem. At the moment, my year is divided into two halves: BI and AI – Before Illumination and Artificial Intelligence… not really 🙂 I do mean, After Illumination. The idea being that once the final book in the Curse of the Bond Riders series is out there, I can fix/reinvent/update my website. And I will… I’ve said it twice now, three times and it’s a charm I cannot break 🙂

In the meantime, I do have some news and the cover to share with you.

So, here’s the cover. Tallow’s face is finally revealed and Serenissima is there wreathed in mist and unctuous moonlight. I really love the cover. From the jade greens of Tallow, to the golds of Votive to the sapphire hues and silvers of Illumination. It’s the series captured in jewels and metals.

News wise, I’ve just signed the contract with Bolinda to have Illumination turned into an audio book. That means that all of the series will now be made made into audio books which is really very thrilling and I can’t wait to listen to them – the idea that someone will read the books, bring them to life aurally, is just lovely. It’s like the first time you see your book’s cover and what an artist and graphic designer have done to your tale, how they’ve visually translated your ideas into a different medium. It’s very dazzling and exciting. I can’t wait to hear how Bolinda translate the series either.

The print version of the book is due for release JULY 1st. I put that in capitals because I am getting asked a great deal about this (thank you) and I wanted it to stand out. It should be in all good book stores from that day forward, and it  it’s not, it doesn’t mean your bookstore is bad (necessarily, but… bad bookstore!:)), but that you have to ask them to order it in! Please do that if it’s not.

My last bit of news for this post is to put a link to an interview I did with the lovely Kathryn Linge as part of the spec-fic “snapshots” that they do with well-known authors every two years. I was chuffed to be asked and Kathryn’s questions were fabulous. So if you want some info from behind the scenes, so to speak, about the writing of my books and what research I do, and more, then follow this link!

Other than that, I have no other news for now. I am writing a new book and in time, I will blog about that too! Take care,

Love,
Karen 🙂

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Somerset Celebration of Literature: A Wrap Up

Last week, I spent three glorious days, immersed in books, reading, writing, readers and authors at the fabulous Somerset Celebration of Literature on the Gold Coast. I was star-struck, awed by accomplishments and performances, relished long and often very funny conversations in the Green Room, loved meeting authors I knew and loved and many whom I didn’t  – know that is, but came to love as well. I was able to work with and speak to readers who knew my work and many who didn’t but who were so warm, welcoming and excited about texts and reading. I came away utterly inspired and on a high. I’d love to share with you some of these experiences – but I have to say, my only regret was that I didn’t have more time!

So, in this photo, you see some of the terrific authors I was privileged to be counted among: Jacqueline Harvey, author of the Alice Miranda books who’s growing success as she storms up the best-seller charts here and overseas is testimony to her fantastic tales and the magic that her characters weave – never mind the beauty that Jacquie projects herself – a truly lovely soul. The lines in front of Jacqueline at the festival as kids queued to buy her books and have them signed were snake-like and the excitement on the faces of the students as they met their favourite author a delight to behold. Next to Jacquie, is award-winning author, James Roy. I love Jim’s books and I adore his presentations. Watching him perform to a packed room is joyous as he captivates the kids with stories, teasing, and a reading from his works such as Hunting Elephants or Town or the many, many other books he’s written. It’s hard to keep three hundred kids focussed but, like me, they didn’t want him to stop! Then there’s Leigh Hobbs – the marvellous and very droll illustrator who is so hard-working and yet patient and talented. With drawing pads tucked beneath his arm, he would stride off to his sessions with a smile on his face, ready to enchant the next group. Then there’s Jane Caro. Perhaps best known for her role as a panellist on The Gruen Transfer, Jane is also an author (among other things) and has written a beautiful book, About a Girl, which tells the story of a young Queen Elizabeth the FIrst. She’s also written The F Word which is about feminism and why it’s become a dirty word. I spoke to a few girls who went to Jane’s session and they were driven. Next to Jane is Michael Wagner, author of the Maxx Rumble action books among many others and such a lovely man! He’s also very funny and I encountered a group of chuckling boys leaving his session, repeating gags and simply raving about him. Next to Michael is me 🙂 and I am standing next to the beautiful Susanne Gervay – one of the most prolific and lovely writers whose novels are so heart-warming, real and daring. Susanne is one of those souls who you delight to meet, feel so lucky she’s a friend and whose presence and books are life-changing. I regularly buy her books for my nieces and nephews and they count her among their favourite authors. Sitting in front of us in that vibrant red dress is Ursula Dubasarsky. I hadn’t had the privilege of meeting her before – but wow, what a lady and what an exquisite writer. I went to one of the sessions in which Ursula spoke and I loved the way she described the writing process, how she found her ‘voice’ and her almost fey yet grounded way of evoking her craft. Really funny as well, I rushed out to buy her haunting book, The Red Shoes, and when I saw the effort she put into signing it, the care and love, I was awestruck. Next to Ursula is the gorgeous Georgina from Somerset – Georgina was the media/PR person and such a delight to work with. I am only sorry that the half of the photo that some of us are in is shaded so badly – sorry. But you see what I mean about meeting these amazing people? And not just the writers, but the staff, students and volunteers as well…

OK… to continue my love-fest, 🙂 I have to share that I also went to one of Deborah Abela’s sessions. Deborah has written many books, among them, the fabulous Max Remy super spy books, Grimsdon (which I cannot wait to read) and the Ghost Club series. Her session was magic! I felt like one of the many transfixed kids who couldn’t wait to interact with her energy and passion. Deborah has a new fan 🙂 I also saw the wonderful and witty Oliver Phommavanh – stand up comedian and just a great guy and writer. The kids adored him. I was in a session with the articulate and simply great Lili Wilkinson and Tristan Bancks as well – both extraordinary people who enchanted those fortunate enough to be in their sessions. I also saw Scott Westerfield, author of the Leviathan series in action. Oh. My. Clever, imaginative, with flair, erudition and drive. Terrific man and writer.

While I couldn’t get to every session, I did get to hang out in the Green Room with some utterly delightful writers such as Wendy Orr (Nim’s Island), Felice Arena, Nadia Sunde and Angela Sunde, Frances Watts, Belinda Jeffreys, Rosanne Hawke (love her work), the exuberant John Heffernan (who was disguised as Charlie Carter for this festival :)), and Cath Crowley. If I have missed anyone out, it’s not deliberate, it’s just I was literally overwhelmed by how many amazing personalities and talent were in one room.

The way we were looked after at Somerset is incredible too. From the dashing Michael Brouier, to Karen Mackie, Andrea Lewis, Georgina and the entire team of staff and volunteers, nothing is too much trouble and the care and consideration you are given is just phenomenal. Even Craig, the school principal, was running around helping out! They all work so hard and why? Because they believe in what we writers, illustrators, songwriters, film-makers and creative artists do and they love the stories we tell, the way culture is enriched through tales. Thank you all of you – you were just wonderful.

Among many stand out moments, however, there were two that really stuck with me (apart from the two high school sessions I did with years 10-12 which were incredible. The students and adults who attended were wonderful). These were the literary lunch at which I spoke and where I have to say I was overwhelmed by the warmth, sincerity and generosity of those who attended  – from the paying guests to the staff – teachers, waiting, kitchen and bookshop). I felt like I’d been enveloped in a giant hug and I was on a high for days after still am. I also have to mention the elegant table settings which featured candles and a circlet of Venetian masks – it’s proof of how emotional I was that I forgot to take a photo (did that a lot!).

And then there was the Friday night dinner. That commenced with drinks and conversation as it usually does.But what happened after was magic. First, we were entertained by students from Somerset College who performed two magnificent numbers, bringing tears to more than a few eyes with their songs and dance. It was quite simply lovely. The other was the gust speaker and one author I haven’t yet mentioned, Sandy or A.J MAcKinnon – author of Jack de Crow and other books. From the moment he stood, after main course, to speak to us, he had the entire ballroom in the palm of his hand. Regaling us with his adventures from the northern UK to Romania as he travelled in an 11 foot Maradinghy (?), and described his encounters with the English, French, German, Belgians and so on, he had us captivated and laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Naturally a gifted speaker, he performed with an appreciation for his audience, a respect for the occasion and delivered what I think was one of the best dinner speeches I have ever heard. I was sat at his table, so was very glad to be able to tell him how much i enjoyed his efforts. Slightly eccentric, he really is an amazing man – reminiscent of the adventurers of early last century or before, with his bonhomie and positivity and pith helmet. He ended with an important message though: that while we talk about stranger danger and fear the incurions of ‘others’ and what they might do in our lives, the harm they may inflict, the truth is, most people are lovely and helpful, I guess, friends in waiting, if we would just give them the chance. It’s a message I have long preached as well and it was refreshing to hear it delivered by someone so experienced and erudite.

So, that was my festival expereince. I also was able to have dinner with one of my dearest friends, Katherine Howell and her beautiful partner Benette and catch up with my gorgeous cousins, Tyrone and Shannon and their partners. That I hadn’t seen Tyrone in almost forty years, didn’t matter. We were all as comfortable together as a old shoes. Now what was magic!

How lucky am I then? Can you understand why I’m so inspired? But oh, I haven’t told you everything… I forgot to mention the very thorough body search I was given at Gold Coast airport, witnessed by my husband and Jacquie Harvey (who said my eyes nearly popped) and where I had my breasts squeezed and my inner thigh stroked  – all in public and by a woman security officer. After the initial shock, I thought, “maybe there are some advantages to having a pacemaker!” LOL!

 

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A Christmas Poem

The Day Before Christmas

by Karen Brooks

Twas the day before Xmas, and all through the shops,
Were the strains of Bing Crosby, no rock or hip-hop.
Last-minute presents were marked down, dollars sliced,
While cards and decorations were less than half price.
I recalled the whole Grand my true Rudd gave to me,
How I’d blown it all on a day-long spending spree.
X-boxes for the kids, Andre Rieu for Gran,
Red shoes for me and DVDs for my man.
I tried not to think about what I had spent,
Or what my last credit statement really meant.
How I’d be paying for this Christmas for ages,
How a small bit of plastic soaks up my wages
Instead, I thought on what tomorrow would bring,
A slew of boring reles and tons of tacky things.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a sale bin full of bras and lots other gear.
I reached into grab a lacey number quick,
Wearing it I was gonna’ love myself sick!

More rapid than me, the other shoppers came,
Tugging, screaming, and calling each other names.
‘Now let go!’ ‘That’s mine!’ ‘Get off!’ ‘ I saw it first!
‘On your bike!’ ‘On your horse!’ ‘You cow,’ they all cursed.
Shocked by their anger, I moved back to the wall,
Like ants at a picnic, they dashed away all.
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
I found my courage and to one shopper, I flew,
Grabbed back my bra (and the matching knickers too)!
I bolted to the till and put down my card,
Gave the man all my items, and bravely stood my guard.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the aisle St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his toes,
His clothes were tarnished with child snot and God knows.
He gave a big sigh and placed a hand on his back,
Reached in his pocket and pulled out his ciggie pack.
His eyes how they were blood-shot! His teeth how stained.
His cheeks were like a moonscape, his nose all veined.
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a sneer,
His breath smelled like he’d indulged in Christmas cheer.
The stubble of his chin wobbled as he spoke,
‘God, I hate Christmas. It’s become one big joke.
Ratty kids demandin’, sittin’ on me belly,
Tellin’ me they’re good and smart and that I’m real smelly.
What are they turnin’ into, this web generation?
No respect for their elders. No more veneration.’
I watched him shake his head, scratch his bum and belch.
Obese, a smoker, drinker – a right jolly old elf.
I spoke not a word, but glanced at my day’s work,
Sales items from snatching: I felt like a jerk.
What was Xmas about, if not love and caring?
Setting an example by kindness and sharing.
I paid and wondered; ‘what’s happened to my Christmas spirit?’
Turned and gave my new lingerie to the woman nearest.
But I heard her exclaim as I walked out of sight.
‘They were mine anyway; I know me’ consumer rights!’

Before I take my leave, I have one last thing I want to say,
May you have a magical Eve and a loving Christmas Day!

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