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March 2017: Cooks, Books and Chooks

Okay, where to begin … (she takes a deep breath):

One book written since the last newsletter — Matilda Book 7: A Land of Love and Flame, aanother sent to the printer after last-minute revisions, then absolute last-minute revisions and then we-are-sending-it-to-the-printer-in-two-hours revisions — Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies (Book 1), for all who love the Matildas, and lastly Millie Loves Ants, the most gorgeous picture book with Sue deGennaro that had its beginning when Sue and her daughters visited us here and I explained how I’d once had a job as an echidna-milker (will tell you that story in April when the book comes out).

Real Milie having a drink

Add a visit from family with much playing of ‘chase the wolf about the bush’; the loss of our darling Peg; an injury to my shoulder caused by my refusing three offers to carry my luggage (N.B. never refuse an offer to carry your luggage especially when in the afternoon tea of life) resulting in an inability to type for a while (now healing well). Result: The blog is late. Also I’ve just begun writing Miss Lily 2 (the Prinzessin is currently under siege in the Bavarian Socialist Republic), and a contribution for two panels on the Productivity Commission’s attempt to change Australian copyright law to a vague ‘fair use’ plan that the USA has already admitted is a failure. An author’s place is behind the keyboard, not trying frantically to represent themselves in court over every copyright infraction … I am also dancing every now and then at the thought of Diary of a Wombat which is in rehearsal with Monkey Baa Theatre, opening on 18 March at the Darling Quarter Theatre AND I CAN’T WAIT!!!!

Also the Wombat conference is on at Penrith on the same weekend, for lovers of all things wombat. Have almost finished writing the keynote address.

Also there are two million ripe tomatoes; many pots of apples to stew and freeze for winter crumbles; a pile of fascinating 1920s and ‘30s facsimiles of source material for the Miss Lily series; plus a new lot of white chocolate fudge to make for Bryan, as well as his biscuits and various other joys of life …

In other words – apologies for being late. Will try not to be late again. But I probably will.


Cyclone with the brilliant Bruce Whatley, has just been made a Notable in the latest CBCA Awards. Thank you!


Horace the Baker’s Horse won the 2016 ACT Children’s Book of the Year – many, many thanks to the judges and to the brilliant illustrator Peter Gray and the team at the National Museum.

A Waltz for Matilda also won the 2016 KROC Kid’s Choice Award. Thank you to the wonderful NT librarians who organise the KROC awards and all the young people who vote.

Books out now!

Age range: 12+

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle

The sixth book in the Matilda series, written for young adults 12 and upwards. This is Australia from 1972-1975, with the Whitlam government sweeping away twenty-three years of Coalition tradition as seen through the eyes of a country town. It was a time of intense idealism throughout the nation – even if many of those ideals differed deeply. In Gibbers Creek, Jed must choose between her old love, Nicholas, who is the new Labor Party MP, and Sam from the Half Way to Eternity commune; Scarlett dreams of becoming a doctor, despite her wheelchair; Ra Zachariah waits for the end of the world and the coming of a new one – and is prepared to be ruthless to make sure it arrives. And Matilda Thompson will see her father’s political dream from the 1890s made real; she will see mistakes, conspiracies, anguish and elation; and finally be proud that, even as the nation is torn apart in the Dismissal, no blood stained the wattle.

Age range: 8+

The Secret of the Black Bushranger

The third in the Secret History series. Barney has finally been given his farm, making him the youngest landowner in the colony. But is the escaped convict he helped a laughing villain or a freed slave who cannot endure chains again? Who was John ‘Black’ Caesar? The result of years of research into this previously unknown corner of our history, this book combines adventure with insight into the early years of our first colony.​

Age range: Everyone!

Our grand-kids are always perfect. Even if you are a wombat. Especially if you are a wombat … and your grandson is as stroppy as you are.

Also look for:

Wombat Goes to School … perfect for kids about to start school or who need some extra enthusiasm for the years to come.

Ages: 12+

The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman

Could the world’s most famous author stop writing when he retired? Part love story, part historical detective work, this is the story of the young Shakespeare told by the old one, and the book where I discovered evidence that possibly, even probably, Shakespeare faked his own death. Read the book to find out why.​

Books coming soon

A tale of love, espionage and passionate heroism. Inspired by true stories, this is a take on how the ‘lovely ladies’ won a war, the first in a new series that shows the changing concepts of what it means to be a woman – and a fulfilled one – beginning in 1913.

Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies

Millie Loves Ants With the glorious Sue deGennaro, this is a story we dreamed up three years ago watching her daughters explore the valley.

Millie Loves Ants

Goodbye, Mr Hitler

The sequel to both Hitler’s Daughter and Pennies for Hitler and the hardest book I have ever written and, possibly, the best. And to the thousands who have written asking questions about both the earlier books: this book will answer them and I hope give far more. Third Witch This is the fourth in the Shakespeare series. It is about ‘the Scottish play’, with absolutely no witchcraft and enough love to balance the evil and a woman’s voice to lessen the misogyny. And, if you think you know the play, you may not expect this ending, which has everything Shakespeare put in it – and more


This doesn’t include many other non-public events, it’s just meant as a guide to where I may be if there's anything else possible while I’m nearby. For bookings, check the terms on the website and/or contact Booked Out.

10 March: Adelaide Writer’s Week. I’ll be on a panel chaired by David Marr on the proposed new copyright debacle 15 March: Another panel at the Playford Hotel in Adelaide on the new copyright proposals and their potentially devastating impact on writers and Australian creativity 18–19 March: Keynote at the Wombat Protection Society Conference, Penrith, NSW 18 March: First public performance of Diary of a Wombat. Yay! April: Release of Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies (Book 1), and Millie Loves Ants with Sue deGennaro 20 April: PR for Diary of a Wombat. What and where I do not know … 7–9 April: Newcastle Writers Festival and performance of Josephine Wants to Dance with the Newcastle Youth Orchestra 20 April: Melbourne: contact Booked Out 21 April: Wheeler Centre, Melbourne. Conversation about Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies. 26–28 May: Townsville Literary Festival. June: Release of Goodbye, Mr Hitler. 3 June: Keynote at Australian Childcare Alliance Conference, Gold Coast, QLD 8–9 June: Adelaide SEATA. 8–9 June: Sydney, launch of Goodbye, Mr Hitler and talks at the Sydney Jewish Museum July: Release of Third Witch August: Release of Wombat Wins paperback September: If Blood Should Stain the Wattle paperback released October: Koala Bare released December: A Land of Love and Flame released (Matilda Book 7)

The March Garden

March is the harvest month: the time to gather in what you have grown and keep safe for winter. It’s a gentle month. The sun isn’t as fierce and there’s a touch of lushness in the growth – the autumn flush before the winter.

The weather is cooling now. With a few exceptions like spinach, broad beans, and cabbages the main vegetable planting time is over.

Plant spinach in warm areas; early onions; lots of cabbages of different sizes: early, small ones may mature by winter, others will mature in spring. Early broad beans put in now may get aphids: just pinch off the aphid infested tops, wash them, steam them, and eat them.

Harvest tomatoes will be glutting now. Melons and okra will be ripening. Test melons for ripeness by sniffing them, (a fruity smell indicates ripeness) and by tapping them to see if they sound hollow.

As well as most summer vegetables, early cabbages and other winter vegetables may be starting to mature. This is a good time for peas, and for digging sweet potato roots. Don’t pick pumpkins till the stems turn dry near the base of the pumpkin, then let them ‘cure’ or harden for a week or two on a hot roof or on dry cement. This will help stop them rotting in late winter. Pumpkins that aren’t quite ripe will still be sweet – but they won’t store well.

March fruit:

Olives, oranges, lemons, kumquats, figs, late peaches, late nectarines, apples, passionfruit, pepino, babaco, pawpaw (or mountain pawpaw in warm areas), sapote mulberries, hazelnuts, almonds, orange, lemon, tamarillo, strawberries, raspberries, brambleberries, early quinces, early persimmons, pears, melons, pecans, bunya nuts, late grapes, and banana passionfruit.

Other jobs:

Plant more peas or broad beans for ‘green manure’: slash them in late winter or early spring just as they start to flower, to provide mulch and fertiliser for a no-dig garden.

Start to prepare for frost now: work out which trees are vulnerable, like avocados, citrus, and tamarillos, and start building shelters for them.


Keep up fruit fly lures till there have been none caught for three weeks. Most pests will vanish as the weather cools down.

Autumn Harvest Recipes

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