Tag Archives: researching;

The Month that was … July 2022

There was a lot of in-the-field research done this month with a visit to Far North Queensland for my new novel, The Palace Hotel.

My trip started in Cairns and then from there we drove through the Atherton Tablelands, then back down to the coast to Mission Beach, through Townsville and onto Airlie Beach and the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.

I explored cane fields, tropical rainforests and small historic towns, all the while imagining what it might have been like in 1948, for my protagonist, Ellen when she arrived in the fictitious cane field town of Sugar Creek looking for her cane-cutter, fiancé. I also wondered about my other character, young GP, Dr Dana Janssen and how she settled into this same town, fifty-two years later only to discover that nothing is as it seems. Surely, their paths cross?

Yes, it’s another dual time-line, dual character novel in the making.

A truly glorious trip of more than 700 kilometres with the added bonus of catching up with some friends at the end.It can’t be all work and no play and like the patrons of The Palace Hotel, one must enjoy a gin and tonic at the end of a long day. Scroll through the pics below for a little peak and watch out for more on the progress of my WIP, The Palace Hotel.


I thought I might have done a little more reading but travelling left me time for only one book and that was Still Life. Watch out for my review in August.

Until next month…

Writing is Hard!

Writers know what I mean. Writing is hard! It’s about finding the story and getting it down in a coherent way. It’s about editing, rewriting, deleting, and thinking and mulling and… I could go on. Wait! I already have.

But it’s also about finding the sweet spot of the story, the joy of a beautiful sentence, of falling in love with the characters, nurturing and cajoling them along and the sadness of leaving them when it comes to the end. It’s all consuming, night and day in your head until it’s time to let it go. Out into the world for others to see, to judge, to like or not.

I’ve been writing my next book for the last eighteen months, pushing it along slowly and methodically at times, researching and looking for the story. The draft is done and there are two stories not one. Parts of it have been rewritten at least three times so far.

Rewriting is not new to me. My first novel was rewritten at least twenty times, my second perhaps ten or more times. I enjoy the editing and rewriting process as I mould the book from rough diamond to something polished and a joy to read (I hope).

Someone said to me yesterday. “Surely it’s easier by now.”  I raised my eyebrows. It’s not easier. Should it be? For me it’s not.  And neither will the next one and the next one after that. There’s no easy shortcut. It doesn’t get done by any other way than sitting/standing in front of a keyboard or notebook or Dictaphone and just writing.

Writing is just plain, hard work!

The Quest to Find a Murder File.

So what was the next step to investigating the murders? Another friend Katrina, told me about the State Archives and that they are the source for many historical pieces of information.

After countless emails and internet searches I found  the file was at the State Archives of QLD.

“Yes,” the email said, ” We have that murder file. However, you will need to fill out the attached forms to seek permission for access from the QLD police.”

That should be simple, I thought – until I looked at the forms.There were complicated, but  I managed to fill them out,  get my identity verified by my local police station and send them off. This shouldn’t take long.


The file could not be accessed for 100 years. It had only been 65 years – oh dear!

More forms to fill out, until finally the permission came through five months later.

I could view the file at the State Archive of QLD in Brisbane – I had twelve months to do it.

Can’t someone copy it for me? No – the permission meant that I had to fly there and sit in the archives and read over what I needed. I could not copy. I could not  use a dictaphone. But I could take notes.

So I convinced my friend Valerie to come with me. We landed in Brisbane and while she shopped and took in the sights, I locked myself away and read the police investigation of the murders – all under the watchful eye of the archivist.

It took me seven hours. There was a newspaper article about the lead detective in the file – could I copy that? No  – I would need to go the State Library and get a copy from them. My head started to ache – dive into my handbag for pain relief.

The next day, Valerie and I traipsed along to the State Library. We found a room where newspapers were stored on microfiche – how do we find the article?

I said to Valerie, “Let’s leave it. I don’t really need the article.”

But Valerie was persistent and persuasive.

A librarian must have noticed how clueless we looked and asked if she could help. We almost hugged her. She found the article and switched on a massive machine.  Did we have a USB as they don’t provide paper copies?

I was aghast. What would I be doing with a USB? Valerie, in the meantime, dived deep into her handbag and pulled one out. What a life saver! The librarian inserted it into the machine and copied the article for us. It was two minutes to closing time as we scurried our way out of the labyrinth with our prize.

I never did ask Valerie why she happened to have a USB in her handbag.

When someone knows someone, who knows someone, who can help.


At dinner one night, I was telling my good friends James and Sue about my project and how it had morphed into a book of sorts. James worked for a large fertiliser company and knew someone who had worked on Ocean Island.
“Would you like me to get him to contact you?” he said.
“Could you?”I said excitedly. I could hardly wait.

A few days later, a man named Sam emailed me some information about Ocean Island – its history, its people and the mining.  He told me that he’d mostly worked on Nauru but gave me a name and phone number of someone else who had worked on the island for fifteen years, almost until the mine was closed in 1979.

I was excited and anxious. Now I could find out first hand, rather than rely on books and articles for my information. What would I say to this person? That I was writing a book? That I wanted to know what it was like to live on Ocean Island. That I wondered if he knew about the murders?

I knew if I thought about it too much, that I’d lose confidence and resolve, so the next day, after writing down my questions, I rang.

What a wealth of information I received from this generous man. He spoke to me for over an hour and told me about a group of people who had lived/or worked on all the phosphate islands – Ocean Island, Nauru and Christmas Island. They called themselves ‘The Phosphateers’ and  got together once a year to reconnect and reminisce. Soon, I was the subject of an email trail to everyone who was a phosphateer. Before long, I received responses and names of more people who had lived on Ocean Island during the late 40’s and early 50’s.

I contacted and interviewed a number of them. They’d been children in 1948 and remembered what life was like – fun and carefree. When they reached high school age, they were shipped back to Australia to continue their education at boarding school.

Everyone was only too happy to fondly share their memories and pass on the names of others who might have been able to help.I was lucky to be invited to their annual reunion held in the suburb next to mine – what luck! There, I talked to as many as I could – each generously sharing their experiences and memories – painting a picture for my imagination and my story.

But no- one could remember much about the double murders – it was too long ago. No- one knew my father either.

And even now, when I tell people where my story is set, I still find that someone knows someone who had worked or lived there and they pass on their name.