Amanda Deed’s ‘Black Forest Redemption’.

blackforestredemptionsmallHave you ever read an historic novel where you were so engrossed in the story line you didn’t even realise you were learning something about historical events and places? When I had finished ‘Black Forest Redemption’ by Amanda Deed, I thought back over the story and marveled at the way she had incorporated so much of our Australian history into the novel. This is a fast paced read – which I loved. Action, adventure, romance, and the added bonus of a dramatic insight into this colourful era of Australian history. 

A man resigned to a life without fulfillment or purpose. A woman desperate for adventure. Set against the tumultuous times of the Eureka uprising in Ballaarat, 1854, the two find themselves victims of an abduction. To escape could mean death. To hope for rescue is not an option. Together they must find a way to survive in an untamed land where bushrangers, dense forest and wild animals are only some of the dangers they must face. Can he find the courage to succeed? Can she realise her dreams of freedom? Will the ordeal forge a bond of love between them, or drive them apart? And above all, will they find their way home?

Amanda was good enough to answer some questions about ‘Black Forest Redemption’ for me.

1. I think that Australia’s gold rush era tends to be romanticised in our modern culture, but it could be a very dangerous time to live in. Did your research unearth any interesting stories, and how did the lawless aspects of this era influence your story line in Black Forest Redemption?

I actually stumbled across a conspiracy theory from a descendant of a family who was very involved in the lead-up to the Eurkea Stockade. He suggested, and he had some compelling evidence (none of which I’ve verified) that perhaps the sly grog industry was involved. The Eureka Hotel was doing good business, so the sly grog people tried to put him out of business, setting him up for murder. The murder outside the Eureka Hotel was one of the factors that started the flame of revolt leading to the Stockade. I hinted at this controversy in Black Forest Redemption. With men around who were either greedy or desperate for gold, it was dangerous indeed.

2. One thing that struck me when I read Black Forest Redemption was the drastic difference between what was appropriate for pioneering woman, and what was appropriate for women today. How hard was it to write a strong, independent female character, and still work within the constraints of the era?

One of the reasons I used a head-strong female character was to show what women were not permitted to do in that time period, and the scandal they caused if they did. Things that seem insignificant to us today, such as wearing or not wearing gloves, the length of hems, the way one sat on a horse. The 1800s was still a very ‘women belong in the home/kitchen’ time period. I had a lot of fun with my character though, who wanted to break out of those confines, but did learn a few lessons along the way, that some of those confines are useful.

3. The Australian bush plays a major role in this story. It feels like a main character, the way it influences and sways each villain and hero in the book. As the author, how important was it that the stetting of this story stand out?

When I first read about the Black Forest, that it was a favoured haunt of bush rangers, and that travellers feared to pass there – at least not to camp there for the night – I thought it would be a great setting for a story. What better place to hide a couple of abductees? And what a great adventure to try and escape from there. I drove up to Mount Macedon to explore the area, so the view described from the top of the mountain is from my actual experience. So is the discovery of the waterfall. That waterfall actually exists. Nothing much remains of the Black Forest today, however, as most of it was logged by the late 1800s. But there is a road called Black Forest Drive which leads into the Macedon area.

Amanda2You can visit Amanda at:

Picking up the Pieces, by Paula Vince.


How do you know a book is good? For me it is when you go through wave after wave of emotions when reading it. ‘Picking up the Pieces’ did this for me. It was so well put together, I could hardly believe it when ‘villains’ won me over, and I wanted to throttle the heroine.  I started out thinking that the subject matter was a bit heavy, but the characters are depicted in such a relatable way that I found myself sympathizing with each complex situation.  Paula Vince does an amazing job of drawing you into each heartbreaking predicament, as well as portraying the power of love and forgiveness.

About the Book:

“One terrible decision leads to another and the Parker and Quinlan families find out what it means to be in total despair.
In a moment of recklessness, Blake Quinlan does something he never should. The bitter consequences of his impulse will reverberate through the rest of his life unless he learns to deal with his past.
Without warning, Claire Parker’s life shatters. One horrific event leads to a choice that she can never forget. She must find a source of strength and forgiveness to help her recover or she will never again be the happy person she once was.
Moving forward, there is still a ray of hope. A triumphant story about forgiveness, new beginnings and the power of love.”

paula promotional photoAbout the Author

Award winning Australian author, PAULA VINCE, loves to evoke tears and laughter through writing fiction. She has a passion to provide inspiring stories that highlight her own beautiful country.

Australia’s Biggest Outpouring of Support

Our Biggest Morning Tea Cake.
Our Biggest Morning Tea Cake.

Have you ever considered that there is a lack of generosity in our modern society?

Well, I can report that the spirit of giving  is alive and well here in my town of Mackay, North Queensland, Australia.

Below is a list of local businesses who generously donated to our recent Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea event. When my friend, Caroline Brown and I decided to just do something to help raise money for cancer research we were astounded and delighted by the way our community rallied around us.

It was quite phenomenal – an outpouring of giving unlike we had ever seen or experienced before. With the help of these businesses, and every person who came, we were able to raise $2050.00 – quite a significant total for an event like this.

Thank you to all these businesses. May you be blessed in abundance, as you have blessed us and all those who’s lives have been touched by this disease.

Thank you to our local member George Christensen for taking the time out to come and cut our cake:

Cakeaholics Choice: Thank you Shayne for our awesome cake

Blacks Beach Tavern: For hosting our day, and providing all our tea and coffee’s (espressos no less!). What a great job you do looking after our community

Mackay Harbour Engineering $200 Cash donation

Bank of Queensland Mackay Branch $100 cash donation

Northern Beaches Vet Hospital – (for 2 gift vouchers)

Affordable Hair

Kidz Life Playcentre – (for many, many vouchers letting a lot of little people come and play for free)

Fresco’s Meats

Void Hair

Healthpoint Chemist Northern Beaches

Ultra Essence

Outback Jack’s –(special thank you for the vouchers and pack you put together for us)



Jivoli – (for 2 vouchers, giving 2 winners a chance to eat at your restaurant)

Porters – (special thanks to Porter’s social club for the $100 voucher AND esky)

Burp Restaurant

Harrup Park Country Club


Hairjamm Mackay:

Mackay Screen Repairs: (for a $129 voucher – thank you.

Femnasium Mackay – (special thanks for the gift basket worth over $500 – providing us with a highly sought after door prize)

Long Island Resort – (special thanks for providing our main raffle)

And an extra special thanks to our friend Matilda Wills, who does not have a business anymore, but still donated the majority of goods for our charity auction – thank you Mel, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful without your generosity. xo

My co-host, Caroline Brown prepares for the guests.
My co-host, Caroline Brown prepares for the guests.


Here are some links to check out. Our Vision Radio Mother’s Day Competition Winners.

The winning Poems: These are so good. Well done Amanda and Ellie. I love your poems.

And The Journey’s Matt and Karen’s call to Amanda. I think she was both surprised and delighted.

Would you like to know more about the great Australian Fiction Titles that were gifted as part of the Kindle first prize? Have a listen here:

Thanks again to Vision for hosting this Competition. What a fun time was had by all.

The ‘Spirit’ of Mateship.

My son, Tully and his mate Max.
My son, Tully and his mate Max.

In this age of individualism I can still see the Anzac tradition of mateship.

Just when I think that the younger generation has been spoiled by instant gratification and an inflated sense of themselves, I see the willingness of our country’s youth to contribute to the community.

Our local Anzac day march today was well attended. School students made up the majority of the marching public, along with the older generations of returned soldiers and their families. It was a pleasure to see this sense of togetherness.

What is it about Anzac day that inspires all generations of Australians to come together?

John 15:13 says:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

This extract has long been associated with our Anzacs, and I can’t help thinking that it is this great  ‘spirit’ of love and sacrifice that attracts us each year to the marches and memorials. We want to pay respect to the spirit of the Anzacs. We want to give back. But what about the rest of the year? What can we do to carry on this spirit of giving?

Very few of us will ever have to make the decision to lay down our lives for another, but we can love one another each day. Sometimes it’s just a smile and a hello. Sometimes it is a good deed done without thought of repayment. Sometimes it’s a small gift, sometimes it’s a great one. We can show this selfless spirit in so many ways.

So when tomorrow comes, think about what this spirit of love means to you, and how you can foster it in your community each and every day.

‘Web of Lies’.

9781922074584I found ‘Web of Lies’ by Laura O’Connell very different from her debut novel, ‘African Hearts’. This story held a lot more intrigue, and there were times I was lost in the intricate weaving of these character’s lives. This story possesses a little bit of everything – subtle romance elements, dramatic scenes, a practical faith message, and a human dilemma that will keep you thinking long after the end of the book. I enjoyed this novel. 

About the Book:

High school sweethearts, Stephanie and Lachlan are torn apart by circumstance, bad decisions and a web of lies, leaving an unknown future for their son, Ryan.

Eight years later they reconnect, but the time apart has changed them. The family had made decisions based on lies and deceit and now must find a way to either reveal the truth or find another option. On the surface their arrangements seemed flawless, but dig deeper, and the people they thought they knew, aren’t as they appear.

Lachlan and Stephanie are forced to confront the consequences of their actions and the entire family is compelled to reveal the truth, find forgiveness, and renew loving one another. But the hardest decision is still to come…where does Ryan live?

423380_516248608389063_62804759_nAbout the Author

Laura enjoys writing stories about second chances in love and life. She calls the Gold Coast home, however, her curious nature leads her on adventures to locations that surprise and delight her. Laura has a passion for telling a good story set in places where she has lived and travelled. Laura is the author of African Hearts and Web of Lies. Her debut novel, African Hearts, was shortlisted in the 2011 Caleb Prize. To find out more about Laura visit her website:

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‘While we were all sinners, Christ died for us’. (Romans 5:8)

Our Easter Craft.
Our Easter Craft.

I have had a challenging month. In the past weeks I have lashed out in anger after having been hurt; unintentionally said the wrong thing; unintentionally done the wrong thing; and had many instances where I have just felt like a failure to my faith.

Last week I was worried that I didn’t make a very good Christian because, even though I admitted each one of these failings in prayer, and asked for forgiveness, I still kept doing stupid wrong things. This thought made me anxious, depressed, and my hope took a nosedive.

Then something amazing happened – I went to school. Tully’s school to be exact. I was there to head up a reading group, and it was during this group that I made wonderful discovery about my failings, and my faith.

Here is the background story:

One of the children in the group had torn small rips on the side of a page in one of the books. The crime was pointed out to me by a boy who vigorously pointed the finger at another boy as the culprit. I knew that the finger pointing was justified, and despite denying the vandalism, I knew the boy had done the deed. I tried to coax the perpetrator into admitting it was him. This was extremely hard because I was constantly interjected by the finger pointer at every turn, so harshly did he judge the wrongdoing.

After a discussion on respecting books, I spoke about the deed itself and how I thought that it had been an unconscious action, not a deliberate naughtiness. I could see that it was a case of restless fingers.

Then I spoke about how not one of us is perfect, we all do wrong, even me as an adult, and it takes courage and character to admit our mistakes. Something I must have said had an effect on the boy, because when I asked again he put up his hand and admitted it was him.

I was elated, I was proud, I was happy, I wanted to cry. It was a turn around that delighted my heart. I told him that I still had to tell the teacher about the damaged book, but that I was proud of the way he had owned up, I acknowledged his bravery, and I told him that I would help him.

On my walk home I realised that I was exactly the same as the little boy who had done wrong. No matter how hard I tried, I could not be ‘good’. But when I go to God and admit my wrongdoing, He is elated because I have not tried to hide what He already knows.

I know that I have His forgiveness, and He will show me how to change if I ask for His help. It is never easy because by nature I have struggles, but He knows them all, and loves me anyway. He has brought me a long way, and I have a long way to go, but as long as I continue to seek Him, His forgiveness, and His help, He will be with me. In spite of my inability to be ‘good’, I am a delight to Him.

YOU are a delight to Him too. This Easter know that Jesus came so YOU can go to HIM. He is elated when you seek Him.

1 John 1:9 ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’

Luke 15:7 – ‘I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’

Matthew 7:1-2 – ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

John 3:16 – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’

Tangled Secrets by Carol Preston.


I read ‘Tangled Secrets’ by Carol Preston late last year, and enjoyed it very much. These characters were believable in both the historical context and setting of the story line. There was a good flow to this story, and I loved that the romance was unexpected, just like it happens in ‘real life’. I recommend ‘Tangled Secrets’ for a great historical read. 

In tragic circumstances Beth and her brothers are left in England to grow up without their parents. When Beth’s childhood dream to be reunited with her father in Australia finally eventuates she finds that dreams do not always come true.The reality she faces is a tangled web of disappointment, deceit and mistakes. Further abandonment follows. Will she ever find true love? And will she discover she doesn’t have to be alone before it is too late?Set in the early colonial days of New South Wales and based on real characters in the mid 1800s. Revisit Charlotte and Thomas from Charlotte’s Angel and Mary’s Guardian, and meet new characters in this new novel by Carol Preston. Mary’s Guardian was a finalist in the fiction section of CALEB 2011.

carol-photoCarol lives in Wollongong, NSW with her husband, Neil. As well as writing novels based on her family history, Carol has a private counselling practice and enjoys reading, gardening, spending time with her four grandchildren and bushwalking. She has pursued with great admiration the lives of her ancestors in Australia and has greatly enjoyed writing novels based on their stories and the inspiring history of the Australian people. For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website:

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In Loving Memory.

Today is the second anniversary of the passing of my Dad. It is a strange day. I say strange because I have so many mixed emotions. There is great sadness, because I miss him; happiness, because he is now in heaven; thankfulness, because I had him for so long; and joyful anticipation, because I will see him again one day. In my family, my Dad was my champion. I always knew that he loved me. He was the one that ‘got me’; that desired the best for me; would forgive me in a heartbeat; and valued his relationship with me so much that he never hesitated to ask my forgiveness. He was interested in everything I did. He never failed to inquire about my family. If he didn’t agree with me, he would say so, but love me anyway. He never had to beat me down with coldness, hash words, or pride. He never put a condition upon his loving me. He was free to love, and I felt that freedom and knew that I had it too.  When my Dad died we were not as close as we had been. There had been family squabbles and a very distinct failure to love on many sides. It pained me to be away from my Dad, but I knew that it was what was needed in my life. This time apart from him opened the door to my exploring another parent/child relationship – that of my faith in God.

As sad as I was to lose my father, when he passed I made a vital discovery – I was not fatherless. I had a heavenly father. And the best part was that He could not only replace the love I lost, but He provided far in excess of what I needed. He always had, and He always would.

I know that my Dad – a praying man whose greatest desire was that all of his children have their own relationship with God – would have had a hard time staying quiet throughout this time apart from me. Now when I look back, I acknowledge that time apart as another selfless way he loved me. He stepped aside, so a heavenly father could step in. 

If you have missed out on having a father figure, and yearn for love, please take a moment to think about what having a heavenly father could bring to your life. Trust me – you’re missing out on the perfect parent. A great place to start learning about God as a heavenly father:

Read about my character, Ani’s search for a father in my latest release A New Resolution:

In Memory of my Dad:
Thomas John Venables
06.05.1930 to 28.02.2011

(Click Box below for photograph)


Listen to the 2nd Vision Radio Promo for the ‘Resolution’ Series.

If you listen to Vision Radio, you may have heard this promo for my ‘Resolution’ series. If you don’t listen to Vision – then trust me – YOU SHOULD.

UCB Promo ‘Resolution’ Series.

Go to the Vision website at:

to discover the frequency in your area, or listen online.