It’s 5 am, pitch black out here in the wilderness. Stars splash across the sky, and the river whispers in the dark. The scent of lilies floods the bungalow; it’s out of place, but I can’t bring myself to discard the flowers. I can’t even look at them.
I’m sitting at my desk. Usually at this hour I write in my notebook, but today I’m at the laptop. A blank page stares back at me. Ideas are simmering, the plot’s got bones – but there’s no spark. I hammer out a paragraph, then press delete. I try not to freak, but the page seems determined to remain blank.
Just what I need … a bloody bushfire.
While checking the fences, I smell smoke. No visuals, but it seems to be drifting from the east. I rush back to the bungalow, pack the car and collar the dogs, ready to evacuate. Then I connect the Internet. A fire is raging on my neighbour’s property three miles away. Flames have cut across the track, blocking my escape.
I hunch at my desk and try to breathe. The smell of lilies engulfs me. I wish I could cry, but the tears are stuck. I wish Dad was here. He’d know what to do. The world isn’t the same without him.
‘Stay alert, love,’ I hear him say. ‘When the fire front comes, there’s always the river.’
And an aftertaste of smoke.
Back inside, I stand before the lilies, forcing myself to look. Forcing myself to inhale their scent. That day flashes back: the cold room, and the stillness of my father’s body; the desolate cry my sister gave when she saw him. And the ache in my soul as I clung to his hand for the last time.
I stand there forever, breathing the lilies.
Then a sound distracts me. It’s faint at first, baby-fingers tapping the tin roof. It grows louder … and suddenly it’s drumming. I run outside and gaze at the sky. Rain.
Soon it’s streaming down my face like tears.
The dogs are restless but I can’t leave the laptop. I’ve set myself an easy goal this morning, 500 words. I’ve been sitting here for hours, but the page is still blank. Panic grips me. I stare at the screen, willing the words to appear. Weaving stories brings me to life; it’s a glorious feeling when I nail it … but when I bomb, the disappointment feels fatal.
The air’s clear today. A solitary heart-shaped cloud drifts over the bungalow. It feels like a sign. Taking advantage of my momentary optimism, I empty the lilies into the compost. Then I open all the windows and let in the sunshine.
A piping hot bath jump-starts my brain. Water always has that effect. One minute I’m towelling dry and climbing into soft pyjamas – the next, ideas are flowing. There’s a funeral, maybe two sisters. The scent of lilies. And heartache that finds resolution one rainy day by the river.
My pulse picks up. Suddenly I’m consumed by a magical rapture, as if the strands of my heart are finally unravelling. I hurry back to my desk. Smiling to myself, I boot the laptop, open the blank page…
And fall head over heels into my story.
by Anna Romer
From the bestselling author of Thornwood House
When all that you know comes crashing down, do you run? Or face the truth?
Ruby Cardel has the semblance of a normal life – a loving boyfriend, a fulfilling career – but in one terrible moment, her life unravels. The discovery that the death of her sister, Jamie, was not an accident makes her question all she’s known about herself and her past.
Travelling back home to Lyrebird Hill, Ruby begins to remember the year that has been forever blocked in her memory . . . Snatches of her childhood with beautiful Jamie, and Ruby’s only friendship with the boy from the next property, a troubled foster kid.
Then Ruby uncovers a cache of ancient letters from a long-lost relative, Brenna Magavin, written from her cell in a Tasmanian gaol where she is imprisoned for murder. As she reads, Ruby discovers that her family line is littered with tragedy and violence.
Slowly, the gaps in Ruby’s memory come to her. And as she pieces together the shards of truth, what she finally discovers will shock her to the core – about what happened to Jamie that fateful day, and how she died.
A thrilling tale about family secrets and trusting yourself
About the Author
Anna Romer spent her wayward youth travelling the globe, working as a graphic artist while she soaked up local histories and folklore from the Australian outback, then Asia, Europe, and America. On returning home to Australia, she began weaving stories of her own and was quickly hooked. A visit to her sister in north Queensland inspired her first novel, Thornwood House, a story that reflects her fascination with old diaries and letters, dark family secrets, rambling old houses, the persistence of the past, and our unique Australian landscape.