A walk down Ghost Mushroom Lane

Maybe it’s because I was a city kid, or most likely, it’s because I’m a fantasy writer – but the word ‘forest’ is usually enough to conjure story ideas in my mind. Add the words ‘glowing mushrooms’ and I’ve entered a whole new dimension. So once I learned about Ghost Mushrooms (special mushrooms that grow in forests near Mount Gambier, and glow in the darkness), I had to see them for myself.  I had  gone to Mount Gambier once before (January 2019) for a research trip to see forests, sinkholes, dormant volcanoes, caves, the Blue Lake and The Tantanoola Tiger. And I loved the region so much, I was eager to return.  So finding out about the ghost mushrooms was just the excuse I needed.

Luckily for me, my children and husband were just as eager to see them too:-)

Okay, so what exactly are these ‘special mushrooms’?

They’re a bio-luminescent fungus that grows on rotting tree trunks and stumps. If you head to Mount Gambier, you’ll find them at Ghost Mushroom Lane in the OneFortyOne Pine Forest Plantation in Glencoe (16km out of Mount Gambier).  By the way, their scientific name is Omphalotus nidiformis but if that’s a mouthful, just stick with Ghost Mushrooms:-). According to the Forestry SA website, this species is native to Australia. The glow (bioluminescence) comes from a chemical reaction between oxygen and an enzyme in the mushroom, and you can see this glow, once the sun sets and it’s dark.

The mushrooms only glow from May to June each year (so it’s a pretty narrow window of opportunity to see them). Unfortunately Ghost Mushroom Lane is closed this year (2020), due to Covid 19, but according to the Forestry SA website, it will be up and running again next year (2021).

We took a lot of photos during our visit and I thought I’d share some of our observations and tips for anyone interested in going to check them out in the future.

About the mushroom trails

The first thing you need to know is that there are four main trails off Ghost Mushroom Lane (the main road through the plantation). These include: Fairy Tale Hollow, Fungi Hunter Ally, Ghostly Gully and The Neon Forest. Some of these trails are shorter than the others, but I’d recommend going during the daylight hours so you can see the layout of the area, get familiar with the trails, and also, so you can put some markers down (flags) to help you find the mushrooms in the darkness.

What to take with you

It gets pretty cold down in Mount Gambier. The night we went it was about 7 degrees Celsius. For people who live in areas where it snows, this might be a balmy night for you – but if you’re from somewhere it doesn’t, or you’re someone who feels the cold, then trust me, you’ll want warm clothes (including a beanie, scarf, thermals, thick socks, and gloves), an umbrella, a torch and rain boots. May to June is a damp time of year, and the ground can be slippery, so make sure you’ve got sturdy footwear. You’ll definitely need a torch (and don’t just rely on your phone). Although each of the trails were marked, it’s  easy to get lost and disoriented in the dark (especially if you’re not used to walking in the forest).

Know what you’re looking for in advance

The weekend we went, it was a full moon, and the mushroom glow was hard to see. So I’d recommend getting familiar with how the mushrooms look in the daylight first, so it’s easier to find them at night (especially if you go when it’s a full moon and the glow is more subtle).

As you can see (pictures above) the Ghost Mushrooms are white in colour, and personally, I think they look more like a flower than a mushroom (they make me think of a hibiscus:-).  Some of the Ghost Mushrooms had a brown centre (more about that in a moment). Also, they’re quite big. In fact, the largest we saw were about the size of my husband’s hand. Below is a picture of my son’s hand beside one of the big mushrooms.

Many of the mushrooms we saw were developing these dark brown centres (see the picture above). Some of the mushrooms had very little white left, and others were almost completely black. We found the most luminescent mushrooms were the whitest mushrooms with the least amount of brown, while the mushrooms with a large brown centre (or the mushrooms that were mostly brown) didn’t glow well at all and the mushrooms with black, barely glowed (most likely because they were decomposing by this stage).

Other cool things to see

While the ghost mushrooms are fascinating, there are so many other beautiful things to see in the forest if you walk slowly, and look closely. I took so many photos, but these are some of my favourites:

 

If you do a search  for Ghost Mushrooms on google or instagram, you’ll see thousands of beautiful images . The vast majority of images taken by professional photographers will be spectacular (especially of the green glow). In our experience, the mushrooms we saw didn’t glow anywhere near as much or look as green as in those images, however, we went very late in the season, and during a full moon, two factors which probably impacted what we saw.

We didn’t take our DSLR during our trip, and so this photo was taken with my phone and enhanced a little with brightness/ contrast and a tiny bit of torch light in the background (and it doesn’t really do it justice). I’d absolutely love to go again (when it isn’t a full moon!) and I’d like to take the DSLR and a tripod too:-)

As we drove out of Ghost Mushroom Lane each night, mist settled over the road, kangaroos stood by the side of the road and the full moon shone brightly.

All in all, it was a pretty magical weekend. I came away with so many ideas (and of course, the night forest, and glowing mushrooms feature in Wolf Mother ;-).


Wolf Mother
The Moonstruck Mother Series (Book 1).

A mother, a full moon, and menopause. What could go wrong?
A quirky, feel-good, women’s fiction meets urban fantasy tale.

 

It takes a village: The Complementary Kitchen Publisher Logo Design

I’ve chatted about the Wolf Mother cover design and editing and today, in the last post in this little ‘It takes a village’ mini-series, I’d like to thank Kathryn McIntyre of @KatCreativeStudio  for designing the original image for the Complementary Kitchen (publisher) logo that you see on the title page of the book and on the print version, you’ll see it on the spine of all my books to come.

The brief was: quirky, magical, mysterious and I think its fair to say she nailed it.

Due to a variety of factors beyond my control, I didn’t get to do the book launch I had planned for Wolf Mother but one thing I wanted was a creative cover reveal (after all, I’d been calling it ‘the werewolf book’ online for a couple of years, because I figured, the moment I called it ‘wolf mother’ it would be obvious what it was about! So when it finally came time to reveal the cover, I asked Kathryn if she could make some creative over-lays with cover elements, to give a peek of the cover and a quirky hint of what the book was about.

And I absolutely love the result!

If you’d like to find out more about Kathryn’s design services, or to contact Kathryn, you can find her at @KatCreativeStudio on instagram.

It takes a village: Editing the Wolf Mother book

As I said previously, writing (and publishing) a book, is a bit like raising kids; it takes a village.

Last post, I chatted about the cover design, and in this post, I want to thank Lara Colrain from Feather and Ink Editing Services for her work, editing Wolf Mother for the manuscript assessments, line edits, copy edits and to her colleague Nicole who is currently working on the proof read for the print version of the book. Lara has literally spent hours and hours and has taught me so much!

Interesting editing Wolf Mother behind-the-scenes editing fact:

In my first manuscript assessment (January 2019), Lara suggested I make a change to the story relating to Gillian’s husband Jake. Now, as far as authors and creatives go, I don’t think I’m really that much of a ‘diva’. Generally, I can see the merit in the suggestion and implement it. But I did have a mini meltdown over that one particular suggestion Lara made. Ugh! Making that change required a pretty big change to the book (the ending and basic story didn’t change, but weaving the suggested change in, wasn’t as simple as changing a few action tags here and there).

And truth be told, I was worried that by changing that particular part of the story, I was going to turn my little quirky book into one of the ‘same same’ books I was rebelling against. But, I was watching the TV show Younger a few weeks later, when something I’d been looking forward to in the show was dealt with differently than I’d expected, and it hit me: Lara was right (of course she was!). So, we chatted about how I could incorporate her suggestion without losing the essence of the book, and the result is the story that’s published. The solution involved cutting out about 20,000 words, and writing a new 20,000.  And you know what? I love the version with Lara’s suggestion, better.

If you want to find out more about Lara or editing, you can check out her website at Feather and Ink Editing Services.

It takes a village: The Wolf Mother Cover Design

Just like raising children, publishing a book takes a village.
I wrote the Wolf Mother book, but a couple of other incredibly talented women (my pack of Lone Wolves) helped make the finish product look like the idea I had in my mind.
So the next few posts are to say thank you to the women behind the Wolf Mother finished product.
Today I’m thanking Angela Stevens,  of The Cats Pyjamas for designing the (very cool) cover for Wolf Mother.
When I first told Angela my quirky story and cover idea, she laughed, then showed me a design that perfectly captured the vibe.
At first we had a different Gillian, but she wasn’t quite right. So we kept searching, and  then we found this on (who I loved instantly). This Gillian was the perfect blend of sweet, quirky, motherhood frustration and determination.
A couple of interesting behind-the-scenes facts:
I just looked on my phone and the first draft of the book cover with this Gillian on it was May 2018.  So I’ve had to keep this cover to my self for 2 years! Omg do you know how hard that’s been???
Another quirky fact. We’d designed the book cover before I started writing the book. (I started writing Wolf Mother during the July school holidays in 2018). After we settled on the design, I printed out the cover image and kept it beside me while I was writing the first draft.
Even now, after all this time, every time I look at it, it still makes me smile.
To check out Angela’s other cover designs and services, go to  The Cat’s Pyjamas.
To check out Wolf Mother the book, click here.

My cat swallowed a sewing needle (and other odd things that happened while I was writing a book)

Some writers write fast, while others might take longer.

My novel, Wolf Mother (The Moonstruck Mother Series, Book 1) took me 23 months to write. While it’s not the longest time an author has taken to write a book, the stories behind this one, are almost as quirky as the happenings in the book itself.

Here are 5 odd things that happened while I was writing Wolf Mother:

1. While on holiday with my family in the USA in late 2018, we were driving along a free-way when my husband pointed out a truck beside us. He was telling my kids that it was a snow plough. We’d all never seen a real snow plough before (only ever on TV shows or movies), and so it was a bit of a novelty (especially given that it was Fall, and the weather in the USA was still pretty beautiful). Anyway, we’re driving along, and I think to myself, ‘Gee, that looks a bit rattly. It’d be dangerous if it fell off.’ The next minute, the loose bit on the back of the truck does fall off, and it bounces across lanes of traffic, and lands in our windscreen. Luckily my husband managed to get us all to the side of the road safely (no mean feat considering it was twilight and raining, and the windscreen wipers got jammed).

2. A small dose of whiplash, slowed my writing in 2019 when a few days before my 42nd birthday we had a car accident, that rendered my much loved 18.5 year old car (that I had no intention of replacing), a write-off.

3. Bushfires in Cudlee Creek, and all over Australia in the summer of 2019 /2020 made for difficult writing times. Partly because it was generally a horrific event. The loss of homes, lives, and wildlife was just heartbreaking. But it was also worrying because the fires went through my sister’s property. My sister was lucky, in that their home was saved, but they lost sheds, tractors, motorbikes, and a lot of personal items stored in their sheds. During the fire danger days afterward, my little fur niece and nephew (Tux and Roxy) came to stay at our place. But Tux had a bladder infection, and so we needed to keep the cats separated. Tux stayed in my son’s room, Roxy stayed in my daughter’s room, and our cat, Oliver stayed in our room. Meanwhile, the kids thought it was great, because they had a camping sleep-over in our lounge room for the week.

4. Speaking of our cat, Oliver, he swallowed a sewing needle in early 2019. How? you might ask. Well, Oliver likes to eat rubber bands and hair ties (when he can find them). And if you leave a piece of string laying around, he sees that as a challenge too. So, one day, I was sewing the elastics on my daughter’s ballet shoes, and the kids said, ‘Mum, can we do some craft?’ I was having one of those magnanimous mum moments and said, ‘Sure, why not?’ In my mind, were idyllic images of us all sitting cosily around the table sewing (like something out of a Jane Austen novel). In reality, thirty seconds later, my son screams out, ‘Mum! Ollie swallowed my needle!’ I laughed, and said, ‘No way. He’s not that silly.’ (I’d actually had a chat with my husband the day before, expressing concern over the cat eating one of the kids lego toys, and my husband laughed and said, ‘Lisa, cat’s aren’t stupid.’) Anyway, I watched Oliver for a couple of minutes, and decided we needed to take him to the vet to make sure.

Well, an x-ray confirmed that he did swallow the needle, and the money we’d put aside to get Wolf Mother edited and proof read, went toward Oliver’s needle removal surgery instead.

5. There was a global pandemic and I homeschooled my kids for two months. The general shock, and worry during the pandemic would have been enough to upset my writing routine anyway, but we’d began some bathroom renovations (repairing a mouldy, water-damaged ceiling) just before things got serious. And as part of the repair, we made our bedroom off limits so we didn’t need to traipse the waste and dust through the house. Consequently, my husband and I ended up camping in the lounge room for six weeks (where I usually write). Add to that, homeschooling too, and I found I was lucky to get thirty minutes a day to think about my book at all.

Anyway, while I’m sure there are writers who would have still mananged to write a book a month during these wild times, but I haven’t been one of them. I am however, happy to have finally finished, and published Wolf Mother (The Moonstruck Mother Series, Book 1)(check it out here)

The distractions over the last 23 months haven’t all been bad though. As we did manage to do two ‘research’ holidays during this time. One in January 2019 to visit Mount Gambier, Portland and Port Fairy, and to see the Tantanoola Tiger, and another trip to Mount Gambier in June 2019 to see the Ghost mushrooms. (And I’ll write about those trips in another post!).

The tale of two tigers

There have been quite a few weird coincidences while I was writing Wolf Mother (The Moonstruck Mother Series, Book 1). The freakiest of them all was learning (after I’d already plotted out the rough concept of the book which featured some cryptozoology sightings, unexpected animals in unexpected places, and werewolves in the south east of South Australia, was discovering that there actually was a story about those things already here, and it’s the story of the Tantanoola Tiger.

I discovered the existence of the Tantanoola Tiger during a research chat with my son’s teacher, who grew up in Mount Gambier. At the time, my son’s teacher wasn’t too clear on the details, but gave me the name, and my curiosity was piqued enough to research it further.

So, what is the story? Well, when I first went looking, there wasn’t much information out there online. And what I learned, I learned from a research trip to Tantanoola, and a visit to the Tantanoola Tiger Hotel. Julie, the publican, kindly shared the copies of the newspaper articles, she had on display, and some of the others that weren’t, and of course, I got to see the ‘tiger’ for myself. Now if you want to hear a more detailed story, this is an excellent podcast about it.

But, if you want a short version… here’s an excerpt from Wolf Mother:

‘According to the story in the papers, back in the late 1800s, a Bengal tiger went missing from a circus that was visiting Adelaide. There were several sightings of a large striped beast, and farmers complained about missing livestock. But when someone shot the “beast”, it turned out to be a wolf. It’s now stuffed and on display at the Tantanoola Pub,’ Estelle explained.

So how did they confuse a tiger with a wolf? Especially one that’s not orange, or striped? Well, the answer might lie with the existence of Tasmanian tigers, or thylacines. Thylacines were carnivorous marsupials with a ‘dog-shaped’ head, a long smooth tail, and stripes across their backs.

Sounds good so far, but there’s a slight problem. Thylacines are extinct. Although the last living thylacine (in captivity, in a zoo in Tasmania) died in 1936, thylacines on the mainland of Australia, were believed to have become extinct 2000 years ago.

So if you’re wondering how a wolf could be mistaken for a tiger (especially after seeing the  Tantanoola Tiger yourself) you’re not alone.

Okay, so lets ask another question. How did tigers and a wolf get to South Australia anyway? Because neither animal is native to Australia. Well, the  current theory is that the tiger might have escaped from a circus (as explained above) and the wolf might have been one of the animals brought to Australia during the goldrush. Although some US servicemen during World War II brought exotic animals to Australia, the story of the Tantanoola Tiger occurred before that time.

As an fantasy author, I of course have created another theory 😉

If you want to read a quirky story that blends women’s fiction with urban fantasy check out my book Wolf Mother here.

From the bookshelf: January 2018 books I have read

Because I only pressed “publish” on the 18th Jan for the final book in my non-fiction cookbook series, I started out the year a little slow…. although I still set myself a goodreads reading challenge for 100 books this year (we will see how it goes – but I’m optimistic…. if I could manage 39 books last year, then I’ve got a good feeling about this goal this year:-).

Anyway, let’s get on with it… So in this 100 book reading challenge I’ve set myself some extra mini goals:

  • Update my reading in my favourite genres and the genres I write in
  • Continue to read widely, and to read genres I don’t usually read
  • Read some of the classics I’ve had on my shelf for years (not sure how many of these I’ll get through, e.g. Rebecca)
  • Read more indie authors and support my fellow indies.

Ok, so lets get onto the January reading…

Romance

Lemon Drops and Love by Angela Stevens.

I really enjoyed this book, and am half way through the next book in the series. If you’ve read a lot of series and single title romances in the past from the major romance publishers, you’ll like these books. The characters are believable. This particular story deals with the confronting issue of rape, but it’s ultimately a story of hope with a happy ending. I found the book compelling.

Very very steamy romance (e.g. erotica)

Big Gun by Dani Stowe

So this book fits in the “pushing myself outside of my usual comfort zone of reading” category, and after really enjoying Lover’s Catch by Dani Stowe (see below), I thought I’d give this book a go. The book has explicit sex scenes so if that’s your thing, you’ll love it. If you prefer sweet romances, and books that leave a lot to the imagination, this author isn’t for you. This book is fast-paced and easy to read. The characters were strong, and so were their motivations. I enjoyed the way the author wrote about the themes of family, age-differences and power. I also enjoyed the different insight into the military lifestyle. I prefer books which have love scenes which don’t walk the line with pleasure and pain so closely (I’m not a fan of pain -especially in sex scenes), but putting my personal bias aside, the book is well written, fast paced, emotionally intense and the sub plot with Carrot Top was sweet and made me cry.

Contemporary Fantasy with steamy romance

Lovers Catch by Dani Stowe

I really loved the concept of this book, it’s a reverse take on the little mermaid and it’s really cool (although, if you don’t like steamy sex scenes, then it might not be for you). The characters are interesting, the world building is really well done too. I’ve never read a merman book before and I liked the way the mythology and the physiology was dealt with too. A good read! I’m definitely intrigued about book 2 in the series.

 

 

A standing ovation for my new writing set-up.

There was a lot of talk a few years ago about standing desks and how they were so much better for you, and that “sitting was the new smoking.” But, I always thought “no way, that’s not for me.” I like to sit, with my chai (at home or a cafe) when I write (and I just couldn’t picture it feeling comfy). So when I heard an author talk about writing at his walking desk for most of the day  (in an interview on The Creative Penn) I was kind of fascinated (in a “I’m totally  never doing that” kind of way). But at the end of last year, as the cookbooks were finally drawing to an end and I began contemplating my goals for 2018 (of which “get healthy again” was in the top 3), I began seriously considering a standing desk, mostly because I was having some hip problems that made sitting and walking uncomfortable. (To be clear, I still had no intention of a walking desk…I mean, how does that even work??).

Anyway, fast forward a couple of months and my hubby and I were discussing the desk situation again. He suggested placing a board on the handles of our treadmill to see if I could get used to the concept of a standing desk (also, because we don’t have a lot of space in our house – last year I found a sweet, inexpensive little desk which I loved sitting at – until my hips hurt and forced me to the cafe almost each day – I am serious, it was the only place I could work sitting all day without pain).

I still wasn’t sold on the standing desk idea and we left it at that. But last week when the kids went back to school and I decided it was time to get serious about getting healthier. I looked at the treadmill again and said, “ok, let’s give it a go.” We found a spare shelf from the cupboard I use for my herbal dispensary and guess what? It fit perfectly across the treadmill. Guess what else? It’s a good height too! As I was standing and my hips started to feel a little achy, I decided (just to prove it was a crazy idea) to put the treadmill on slowly…. (and I mean really slowly – e.g. 1-2 km/ hour) and guess what? I LOVED it! I started walking and listening to music and writing and I didn’t realise I’d been walking for an hour!

So my hubby (B) and I are going to make some adjustments to the shelf so that it’s more stable etc, but this is pretty much my new writing set up 🙂 I don’t always walk while I write (like now, while I am writing this), but I’m making an effort to stand and walk each day, so that when I come to reading in the evening (or watching TV) I can do so without pain.

The best thing of all, is that I used to walk and listen to music when I was trying to figure out parts of my stories, and a lot of good solutions came from the combination of music and movement – so now I get to write down those ideas while I’m getting them. Pretty cool hey?  🙂

 

Is it what the market wants? Or is it what they accept because it’s all that is available to buy and read?

I have mentioned before that I’m not really a fan of the “write to market” concept – in the context of pumping out numerous “same same” books that apparently feed a “hungry” genre.

So why does it annoy me so much?

Mostly it’s because there seems to be an assumption that once something “takes off” that’s the only thing that people want from that moment on.

The two main problems I’ve found as a reader after a blockbuster bursts interest into a genre are:

  1. any sales of similar books (like the blockbuster) for a short time afterward seem to “prove” that the market is “hungry” for that kind of book (thereby perpetuating the belief that it’s all the market wants, and so people write even more books like that), and
  2. there’s almost no diversity on offer in that genre afterward.

I’m not a marketing expert or a bestselling author, but I am a reader, and part of the reason  that I was able to have such a long break from reading was because I was coming across a lot of “same same” books (urban fantasy was swamped with twilight wannabe stories with 18 year olds in high school and I’d turned 35).

People are hungry for escapism. Yes. So people will buy the
“same same” books. But sometimes people are only buying the “same same” books because they’re all that is available not because they actively want more of it.

To me the lack of variety is a bit like a kid saying “Gee mum, I love when you make pumpkin soup.” And then the mum makes pumpkin soup. Every. Single. Day. After a while the kid is no longer a fan of pumpkin soup.

Since I’m being so honest, I might as well share my feeling about tropes too. By the way, I get the concept of tropes, I do. But I’d challenge that certain genre tropes are essential. (I’m not fighting the Happily Ever After in a romance novel by the way – it’s as essential as a murder or theft in a crime novel or a chase or race of some kind for a thriller). The trope I find optional rather than essential is the snarky heroine. (Is it just me?). I like urban fantasy  in spite of the snarky heroine and not because of it. I personally think urban fantasy is a dish better served without that ingredient.

As I write this, I’m thinking back on the books I’ve read last year and I’m wondering if one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed the indie books is because there’s a lot more diversity in story lines?

So, I’ll finish this post by saying this: if you’re a writer, I’d urge you to stop writing “same same” pumpkin soup-like books, and if you’re a reader, let your favourite authors and bookshops or libraries know what you want to read more of (if they’re not supplying it).

Anyway,  I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to working on some of those stories I have in mind….