Monday, November 2, 2015



Here in Australia celebrating Halloween is not as popular as it is in the US. In fact, for people of my generation, we virtually didn’t celebrate it at all. The present generation are starting to get into it though, and I have noticed Halloween masks and costumes in many of the shops.

I write historical romance, no ghosts in my stories, but there are some strange, unexplained things that do happen in my novel, Lauren’s Dilemma. The really weird thing is that these occurrences or ones very similar did happen, according to my grandmother. I can remember as a child her telling my sister and I about some of the strange happenings to members of her extended family.

One of her stories dealt with a young cousin who was terrified of water and could not swim.  She was a sleepwalker and one night she disappeared from her bed. The parents went in search of her and found her swimming around in a water hole on their farm. The father jumped into the water to get her, the mother screamed out, and the young girl woke up and drowned before her father could rescue her. When she was awake the girl was afraid of water and couldn't swim, but when sleep walking she could swim quite well.

 My grandmother used to say, it was bad luck to bring peacock feathers into your house.  Another of her superstitions was regarding the wattle bush. It was said to bring bad luck and death if you brought it inside. The wattle bush, which is covered in small, bright yellow fluffy balls, flowers in early spring. It is very bad for you if you suffer allergies like hay-fever or asthma. Grandma used to call wattle the death flower because if you brought it inside your house, someone would die.  Needless to say we never picked it.

 Thinking about this as an adult, I worked out that it was a superstition based on fact, even if my grandmother didn’t know it. If you were an asthma sufferer in the 1890’s with no proper medication, if someone did bring in a bunch of wattle and put it in a vase on the sideboard, it could, and probably did trigger an asthma attack.

 Now back to Lauren’s Dilemma. This story is set during the 1st World War. Lauren’s childhood sweetheart, Danny, is killed at Gallipoli (in Turkey) in 1915. She mourns him but eventually marries another wounded soldier, Blair Sinclair, and they go to live on an isolated cattle property.

 On a couple of occasions, when Lauren (Laurie) has been in danger, she thinks she hears Danny calling out to her, and on these occasions she can always smell the herb thyme. Thyme grows wild on Gallipoli.

“One afternoon in November of 1918, Laurie was in the homestead alone. Her father and Blair had gone into town for supplies, and baby Daniel was taking a nap. The windows stood wide open in the sitting room to let in the early summer breeze. As she sat in an armchair she drifted between sleep and wakefulness.

“Laurie, Laurie.” She opened her eyes and Danny stood near the fireplace. He was in uniform. His head was bare, his brown curls just as windblown and unruly as she remembered.

“The war is over.” He gave a boyish smile. “You can be happy now.”

“Laurie, great news.” Blair dashed into the room and pulled her to her feet. “I heard it in town. They've signed an Armistice at last. The war is over.”

“I know.” She did a little jig.

“What! How could you?”

“Danny told me. He was here a minute ago.”

“Laurie!” Blair was shocked as he stared into her over-bright eyes. “There's only us in the room.”

“He stood over there, by the fire. I know it sounds crazy, but I saw him.”

She smiled. Her face suddenly took on such a serene beauty the breath caught in his throat. She blew him a kiss. Laughing, he reached out and pretended to catch it.

After Laurie left for the nursery to attend little Daniel, Blair suddenly became aware of the bittersweet smell of herbs wafting around the room. Some instinct drew him toward the fireplace. There on the hearth lay a sprig of thyme.”