Online course reviews

Writing courses can be a great way to learn new techniques, think more deeply about your writing, and motivate you to keep putting ink on the page. Here I review a couple I have completed recently.

Kill Your Darlings: Mastering Emotional Honesty with Lee Kofman

One of the main pieces of feedback I’ve had from editors has been ‘put more emotions and/or drama into your work’. I took this online course to focus a bit of energy on that feedback.

Dr Lee Kofman, who delivers the online course, is a Russian-born Israeli-Australian author of five books and editor of two anthologies. Kofman unpacks the complex and hard task of writing with emotional honesty and helps you discover the rewards of making your writing more prolific and productive.

In the introduction to this course, Kofman suggests a writer should be ‘like a firefighter whose job it is, while everyone else is fleeing the flames, to run straight into them.’ Intellectually safe writing is easier to do, but does not engage readers as effectively – if you want to touch their hearts you have to take risks.

The exercises in this course challenge you to tap into personally emotive events to develop and challenge your writing. It covers concepts such as moral outrage, internal contradictions, sentimentality, nostalgia, emotional complexity and creating emotionally rich complex characters.

Example texts identified in the course include fiction works like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Hanif Kureishi’s Something to Tell You; and memoir including Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty and Alice Pung’s Her Father’s Daughter.

KYD courses are good value, well structured short courses with a mix of audio/audiovisual, text, and exercises. Once you purchase a course it is available to you in perpetuity. The learning platform is easy to navigate, so if you are a bit of a luddite you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Australian Writers Centre: Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder with Candice Fox

I’m a big Candice Fox fan and she’s written about fourteen crime fiction novels so she knows a bit about the genre. I love her bold characters and unpredictable, and sometimes outrageous, but still believable plots.

There is a lot of content in this course. The course has eight modules estimated to take eight hours of study time. However, if you go through all the available resources provided you can go a lot deeper and further than the estimated time to complete.

Candice’s great character writing comes to the fore in the course as she explores the psychology of crime, what makes people kill and what happens after they do. Topics covered include premeditation; types of murder crimes; writing crime scenes; looking for suspects and the killer; making the arrest; trials and prison life.

AWC produces quality content using a mix of audio, audio-visual, and practical exercises. Each course is accessible for 12 months from the date of purchase and AWC has regular specials that make them more affordable.

For other online course reviews see here and here and here.



Ode to a red headed man

I was twenty-four when I first met Mo. He was a gawky red head with a kind eye and a spunky attitude. Despite the fact that he threw me to the ground during our first meeting, I fell for him immediately. He was to be a part of my life for the next 30 years.

Of course Mo was a horse, not a man – in case you were wondering. This post is a tribute to that horse who passed away last week at the grand old age of thirty-two, and who I knew for longer than many of by closest human friends.

Mo was short for Mauclair, named after Camille Mauclair, the French poet, novelist, biographer, travel writer, and art critic. I purchased him a while after returning to Australia from Portugal where I had been a working student for a couple of years under the tutelage of Maestro Nuno Oliveira. Oliveira, one of the last great masters of classical dressage, was taught the art by Joaquim Goncalves de Miranda who trained horses for the last king of Portugal.

We had our challenges, the greatest being that at the tender age of two Mo was a failed racehorse. This meant he had been poorly broken in, trained only to go very fast in one direction, and was whip shy. He bore a scar on one flank that I suspect was the result of being beaten in an effort to make him run faster than he was capable of. I purchased him to teach him classical dressage, the polar opposite of what he knew. To begin with he was like riding a broomstick – rigid and inflexible. I worked very hard to help him unlearn his difficult first years, and we achieved a lot, but his early trauma always remained a shadow beneath the surface.

Over a number of years of doing gymnastic exercises Mo transformed from a weedy upside down nag into a muscular athlete capable of all the basic classical exercises as well as flying changes, piaffer and a little passage. There is a sense of both great lightness and great power when riding a classically trained horse in harmony. That you can direct the movement of a half tonne of beast with the slight shifting of weight, the brush of a heel, or the turn of a head and shoulder, feels like magic because the animal is willing and confident in responding to your requests.

When Mo was twelve, there was a fracture in our relationship. I was riding him on top of a hill in a large paddock when he took fright at something. The incident took me completely by surprise so when he suddenly spun to the left and launched himself toward a tree, I lost my balance and landed heavily on my side on ground baked hard by a hot summer. The excruciating pain that seared through my body made it clear something was wrong. I was about a kilometre away from help.

Whilst I lay gulping air, Mo regained his composure and returned to stand by me, dipping his head as if to ask if I was ok, or enquire as to why I was on the ground rather than on his back.

I gingerly got to my knees and then my feet, using his body to steady myself. Holding onto the horse to keep upright and mustering all my resolve I hobbled delicately to the nearby house, Mo treading slowly beside me supporting my weight. Luckily the homeowner was there and helped me into the house where I lay on the floor just inside the front door feeling like I was going to pass out. I stayed there gasping for air until an ambulance arrived. The morphine the ambos administered was a godsend. After a night in emergency I spent six weeks flat on my back whilst my fractured spine healed.

Eventually I was well enough to ride again. I only got one or two in before Mo injured himself terribly in the paddock, tearing his knee open. I spent many weeks dressing the wound, cutting away the proud flesh and changing bandages. The injury healed, but despite my best efforts the scarring interfered with his joints and he could no longer be ridden.

I took him down to a friends farm near Warnambool where he was well cared for in his very long retirement and became a familiar fixture – known for cantering everywhere he went, his affection towards visitors and sticking his nose in to see what was going on. He was active right up until his last day.

His passing marks the end of a significant chapter in my life. I shall go and visit his grave soon and plant a tree in his honour.

Stuck in the middle

I’m up to the middle

It takes a long time to write a novel. There’s the heady wild rush at the start when the excitement and intrigue of a new idea compels us along. There’s the relief and satisfaction when the end is in sight and we are tying things up with neat bows. Then there’s the middle…

Middle’s are hard. In the middle our protagonist is in the thick of things. It’s their darkest hour. They are not sure whether they will prevail, or if all will be lost.

It is the point where we need to keep the reader reading. We don’t want them flicking through the pages to see how many are left, or worse, dozing off. We’ve all experienced that moment in the middle of a book – the yawn. When we may make a choice between reading on, or putting a story down and starting something new. So how do we avoid ‘the saggy middle’?

In the hero’s journey the protagonist is dogged by emotional despair and psychological darkness as they face apparent defeat at the midpoint. They feel all is lost and must let go of their old self in the face of failure.

Saggy middle

Then they have a revelation and take a leap of faith.

During the midpoint the protagonist makes a decisive choice to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, to do what is right or what is necessary regardless of the consequences in order to attain their goal. The midpoint needs to raise the stakes and force our hero toward making a moral choice. They represent the Warrior archetype taking a stand for what they believe in. They may have a revelation or an epiphany that makes them decide to fight to attain their goal.

The midpoint is where your story reveals itself – everything builds up to it and then unravels from it. At the midpoint in the movie Casablanca, Rick is so harsh to Ilsa that she runs off. He is left alone in the bar, head in hands, pondering what a terrible man he has become. It is his dark night of the soul. He makes a choice and is then propelled into redeeming himself in the second half of the movie.

Can’t wait to find out!

The midpoint shakes up the plot and often reveals new information about the hero. The protagonists inner journey takes place before the final showdown when they pass the point of no return and come out all guns blazing. The midpoint needs to accelerate the plot for the reader, not put them to sleep.

You know that feeling when you stay up too late reading because you can’t put a book down because you must find out what happens next? That’s what we’re looking for. Now I must get back to my own…

Main picture: Sketch by Peter Rode

Locked in

Melbourne’s been back in lockdown, so a post on locked-room mysteries seems appropriate.

Locked-room mysteries are a sub-genera of crime fiction in which a seemingly ‘impossible crime’ is committed. The circumstances surrounding the crime make it implausible that the perpetrator committed the offence at all, or if they did, it seems unlikely they could evade detection. The crime scene is sealed from the inside with no way out (unless they were Houdini).

These stories usually involve a closed circle of people with a limited number of suspects and a whimsical detective to keep us guessing as they investigate. The solution is always right there, if only we could lay our eyes on the sleight of hand that plays on our curiosity. They are great mysteries for lovers of puzzles and a world away from gritty police procedurals or thrillers about psychopaths and the more brutal side of humanity. They are more cosy-supernatural-gothic.

Think a group of acquaintances getting locked up together on a remote property. They are caught out when the weather turns bad, making leaving impossible and bringing communications down. Keith, who had been driving everyone mad, is found dead in the garden shed. The garden shed has no windows and is locked securely from the inside. When the group break the door down they find Kieth lying on the floor with a bullet wound to his head. Strangely there’s no gun in the shed…Lucky one of the group is also a brilliant detective.

Locked-room mysteries were hot in the Golden Age of detective fiction between the two world wars. Agatha Christie perfected the genera, but Edgar Allan Poe is credited with invention of its long form in 1841 with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, although some say John Dickson Carr pre-dated him with The Hollow Man in 1935.

Casting even further back, the style was evident in short stories. In Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op story Mike or Alec or Rufus that appeared in the January 1925 issue of Black Mask, the action takes place in an apartment building and the private investigator tries to solve the crime through interviewing suspects; Wilkie Collons’ The Moonstone (1854) is also credited as contributing to development of the sub-genre. Elements can even be found in the Old Testament story of Bel and the Dragon in which an idol who eats food offerings from a sealed room is worshiped. The stories hero Daniel, exposes the secret entrance used by the priests who are taking the food for themselves.

In a Guardian article from 2014, Adrian McKinty nominated his top ten impossible murder novels, ranging from The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868) to La Septième Hypothèse by Paul Halter (1991). Interestingly there are a lot of locked room mysteries with a French origin.

Contemporary novels in this sub-genre are dominated by women writers and include Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood (2016), The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall, The Last by Hanna Jameson, Nine Perfect Strangers by Laine Moriarty, The Last Resort by Susi Holliday, and One by One by Ruth Ware who must like four walls, a ceiling and a floor.

Locked room mysteries are concerned with psychology and relationships between people in high pressure environments. They study what can happen when we are forced to spend more time with other’s than we would choose to. When we see one another more clearly that we ever have before and it becomes claustrophobic and uncomfortable because we are cut off from the outside world. Under these conditions our masks and defenses fall away and our true selves are revealed, warts and all. The evaporation of the veneer of civility creates a perfect environment for a mysterious crime. And of course there must be a brilliant detective to keep everyone contained until they solve the case.

I hope your lockdown was less dramatic, but if you can’t get your fill of a locked-rooms in lockdown try one of these:

  • The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-room Mysteries by Otto Penzier – collection of 68 of the all time best
  • Miraculous Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards – anthology
  • Locked Room Murders by Robert Adey – a bibliography of the problem and solution to 1,280 locked room crime novels and short stories

The perils and possibilities of zoomies and zines

My writing companion suffered a workplace injury a couple of weeks ago, so I have had to lay low whilst she recovered. As a hound, her primary interests are sleeping, playing, receiving pats and eating – more or less in that order. Whilst cavorting by the river with a deerhound, she sustained a small puncture wound in her side. I wasn’t too concerned initially as the injury was only about the size of the end of my finger, so simply I washed it out.

The next day I took her to the vet as I was concerned the wound might become infected. Fourty-eight hours later she had a large bald patch, eight stitches, and what a friend refers as the ‘cone of shame’. I was given instructions to ‘keep her quiet’ for two weeks till the stitches came out.

Harper is by nature a lazy beast, but she is also young and athletic and weighs 46kg. As time ticked by and she started to feel better keeping her ‘quiet’ required some supervision on my part which kept us home-bound. On a positive note it created ideal circumstances for writing and cooking.

I dusted off and edited a couple of short stories which I sent off to competitions. I also submitted my manuscript for consideration to another publisher after another round of editing.

In exciting news, a short piece I wrote on the theme of ‘Trash and Treasure,’ was accepted for a zine due out in February in time for Festival of the Photocopier (FOTP). Festival of the Photocopier is a zine fair coordinated by the Sticky Institute. Zine is pronounced ‘zeen’, as in the shortening of magazine. A zine is an independent publications made on the cheap. FOTP is normally a two day fair hosting hundreds of zine’s but will be online this February due to COVID restrictions.

Summer is a busy time in the garden and being close to home has meant plenty of time for green thumbs. My peach tree produced a great crop this year, but it’s a short season and one person can only eat so many peaches… The fruit is great for drying however, and makes little sweet fibre filled wrinkled gems that are like healthy lollies. Drying is a simple task – you just cut the fruit in half, remove the stone, dip the cut side in lemon juice to hold the colour and wack them in a dehydrator for about sixteen hours. Meanwhile the apple tree is lining up it’s bounty.

Out with the old, in with the new

Happy New Year amigos! And thank you for journeying with me through 2020.

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

– Stephen King
are we there yet?

Fruit bats sailed across the dusky sky and the shrill buzz of cicadas echoed through the cooling air. Two dogs rested on the sofa after a gambol around the park befriending picnickers and searching for scraps. The table was laid with a delicious spicy meal of fish, tahini potatoes, and an eggplant, braodbean and soba noodle salad. Roast rhubarb and the first peaches plucked from my tree in the afternoon lay in wait on the kitchen bench for desert.

2020 was prickly. It was a strange year, with the main beneficiaries being household pets who got to have their humans around more. Humanity had developed a COVID weariness, a yearning for a return to ‘normality’, and a tentative hopefulness as the year drew to a close.

Reflecting on 2020, I am most grateful for friends and family, a little disappointed that I did not get more writing done, and genuinely curious about what 2021 will bring.

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.

– Anne Frank
waiting for action

I sent my completed first manuscript out into the world of querying early in 2020. One publisher contacted me and provided valuable feedback that resulted in some rework. I shelved the idea of sending it further afield as COVID-19 took hold, and the industry entered a state of uncertainty, though I did submit to a few unpublished manuscript awards. No success so far, but I will re-enter the world of querying in 2021.

There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.

– Beatrix Potter

The first draft of my second manuscript is half way through. This year I hope to reinvigorate my work on it after a few months of distraction. Most of my recent writing, other than this blog has been short stories and journaling about day to day life. I have written less than I hoped through the year, but I did read more. Curiously my to-be-read pile didn’t diminish however. A selection of reading highlights, in no particular order, included an eclectic mix:

happy place

New years eve was a companionable night with friends, but I didn’t quite make it to midnight. I drove into the new year. Fireworks erupted from a paddock as I cruised past, lighting up the night sky in psychedelics that startled me and caused the laconic hound to sit up and search for the source of the explosions.

Never one for new years resolutions, I did not make any, but I have promised myself to be open to possibilities, embrace opportunities, and of course to write more.

May 2021 live up to the promises you have made it, and write you a beautiful story.

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.

– Louis L’Amour

main image: Mainstreet and full moon

Navigation

My writing mojo is a little flat this week, so I’m going abstract, partly inspired by one of my favourite poets, James Walton

She became certain that the world was not flat when she flew off its edge. The instigating event was packaged in a few short sentences that spelled ‘the end’. A surprise finish to a story she thought only half way through. Some writers like to conclude with a twist.

Afraid of falling as she spun through space. Perpetually at the apex of a roller coaster – dizzy; stomach lurching toward mouth; sense of time and space confused. Astronauts know it only too well. But she held her own and panic subsided. A euphoric calm settled in. Awe at the infinite possibilities of all-that-space. She is a speck of dust, both insignificant and gloriously extraordinary. Weightless.

Wonder at the celestial balls burning bright, lighting up the night sky with constellations of starlore. Her grandmother told her that her anger set fire to the barn. The flames reached into the night sky and their embers created the stars. The old crone could throw back whisky like a Kentucky pioneer and she knew a thing or two about navigation.

Fourth Hill. Part 6

and still the river flows ever onward
washing away the forests tears
and it’s struggle to make us love it
so it can love us in return

From its source in the Yarra Ranges, the Yarra River flows for 242 kilometres, snaking its way to Melbourne where it empties into Hobsons Bay at Port Phillip. At Warrandyte, thirty-five kilometres from the city, the river is fed by local creeks such as Andersons Creek and meanders through steeply undulating hills and under the Warrandyte bridge as it makes its way through the Warrandyte Gorge.

Early settlers experienced a number of massive floods in 1844, 1849, and one in 1863 that wiped out the bridge. Water would inundate the township’s main street and halt sluicing activity, forcing the miners to wait for waters to recede to resume their work.

The new bridge, contracted in 1875, was submerged by floods again in 1934. The Argus newspaper reported that a house, a haystack, a dead horse attached to a buggy, and a shed swept over the bridge in the turbulent flow. The flood prevented anyone without a boat from crossing the river until the waters subsided. It was not until the Upper Yarra Dam was built between 1947 and 1957 to create a water supply and reduce the rivers flow that massive floods like this ceased.

Warrandyte sits within Melbourne’s green wedge where the confluence of nature and society exist at the urban fringe.

Warrandyte State Park was established in 1975. The park is the result of conservation and recreational groups banding together in opposition to a proposal to develop Black Flat crown land into a country club with golf course, bowling green and swimming pool on the banks of the river.

The 680 hectares that make up the state park form an important habitat corridor that protects about 485 flora species, 202 fauna species and historical cultural values, the signs of which can be seen in scars that remain on the landscape. Over the years additional tracts of land have been added to the parks to safeguard them from development, including Scotchman’s Hill, the parcel of land over my back fence that was converted to state park in 1997.

Outer urban bushland is a contested space that radiates both beauty and fear as only an Australian bush landscape can. Issues of sustainability, and the tensions that exist between environmental, economic and social demands have competed for power, influence and control for almost two hundred years.

Some residents create safe places for wildlife and proudly display Land for Wildlife signs on their gates, whilst others strip their properties of trees out of fear of bushfires or because they wish to build large dwellings. Local councils and State Parks try to balance the desire to preserve environmental values of the area with the demands of residents to protect them in the hottest months.

Only about 30% of Victoria’s indigenous vegetation remains. Warrandyte holds an important part of the state’s remnant vegetation and is part of the green wedge that makes up the city’s lungs. Still, the State Government intermittently turns it’s eyes toward us to consider opportunities for development and roads. For now Warrandyte’s bushland is protected by the limitations on development and the ever-present vigilance of strong local action groups with a mandate to preserve the natural values and heritage of the area.

At only a stone’s throw from the city, the strength and health of the land reflects the strength and health of Melbourne itself. Despite being protected from human structural development, the signs of decline are evident in the forests. The introduction of weeds by careless gardeners, the loss of fragile fauna and flora species from introduced pests such as deer and domestic cats are evident, and the effects of a changing climate on biodiversity creep into the landscape. The changes occurs at such a slow pace that you might not notice if you weren’t paying close attention.

Unless we embrace a greater respect for the environment as a source for our livelihood, health and sustenance, and understand that we belong to it more than it belongs to us, we will rob future generations of places that can nourish and sustain them. That would be a great tragedy.

The spirit of Bunjil lives in the trees, the rocks, the streams, and the wildlife that hold reminders of our histories and the power of nature to recover from our failings. I am confident that nature will prevail in the long run. We need to decide whether it will be with or without us.

Fourth Hill. Part 5

Clara, Boyd and Tucker
painted wattles gold

When mining started to decline in Warrandyte, farming and fruit orchards took over much of the land that was viable and the bushland on unfarmed surrounds started to recover. Transport to the town improved and artists began moving into the area attracted by the picturesque village on the river. It is in part their legacy, along with the absence of a railway, that has thrown a protective veil over Warrandyte and saved it from over development.

In 1905 the landscape painter Clara Southern (1860-1949) married Warrandyte miner John Flinn and settled in her cottage named Blythe Bank on a hill above the river. Clara captured Warrandyte’s natural beauty and spirit in her impressionist landscape works such as The Road to Warrandyte (c 1905-10) Bush Camp (1914), Evensong (c. 1900-1914) and A Cool Corner (1928).

Warrandyte was swept by two converging fire fronts in 1939. More than two hundred residents fled to the safety of the river with nothing but the clothes on their backs as clouds of flame tinged smoke billowed overhead.

Clara’s house was spared, but much of her artwork that had been purchased by local residents was lost in the hundreds of houses that perished in the fires. Blyth Bank eventually succumbed to a later bushfire after her death.

Clara encouraged other painters to visit the area and it is believed her enticements were responsible for initiating the local artistic community. Over time Clara was joined in Warrandtye by Jo Sweatman (1872-1956), Frank Crozier (1883-1948) and Penleigh Boyd (1890-1923). Many others including Albert Tucker (1914-1999), a member of the Heidi circle, and Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) visited and painted Warrandyte.

Architects and potters were also drawn by the scenic tranquillity and drew inspiration from the town on the river. Alexa Goyder (1892-1976) developed novel design practices using local stone and recycled materials that stimulated the work of later architects such as Alastair Knox in the 1970’s.

Painter Penleigh Boyd was inspired by the wattles that bloom after the coldest months of winter. He became known for his paintings of the Warrandyte wattle with works such as Bridge and Wattle at Warrandyte (1914), Wattle Gatherers (1918), The Breath of Spring (1919) and Golden Fires of Spring (1919).

The same wattles had a calling to the Wurundjerri who believed the beautiful acacia was bad luck in the home and should never be bought inside.

Fourth Hill. Part 4

growing through history to create a wedge of green
a contested space, the cities lungs
the forest breathes life and fire
glowing with the bright and blinding light of an Australian summer

Warrandyte’s landscape changes markedly from season to season. On windless days in autumn there is an eerie silence in the parched bushland after a long summer. The baked clay floor is covered in discarded leaves as the days become shorter and the nights become cooler and the land awaits the first signs of rain.

Spider webs strung across the tracks glisten with early morning dew above empty cicada shells and sun-bleached butterfly wings scattered on the ground. When the rain arrives the perfume of eucalyptus permeates the forest and there is a flurry of growth as the plants sigh relief that they survived the summer.

After the rains in late autumn and winter when maidenhair, mosses and lichens cling to damp shady areas under tall gums, a colorful display of fungi and toadstools appear scattered through the damp undergrowth. The fungi emerge on verges and cling to rotting logs and tree trunks. On cold winter mornings when the valleys are cloaked in a swirling mist I sometimes go foraging for the edible species.

The rains that swell the river and fill the dams attract an army frogs. My favorite is the pobblebonk (Limnodynastes dumerrilii) who’s call sounds like a banjo string being plucked. Flame robins and scarlet robins flit around whilst kangaroos graze in open paddocks or laze in the grass taking advantage of sunny days.

When the days start to lengthen, the bushland areas turn golden with the wattles bursting into bloom. Green hood orchids appear from amongst the native grasses, and purple and mauve colored flowers auger the coming of spring.

Spring erupts with early morning bird choruses and the frenzied activity of nesting, mating and raising young fledglings. Reptiles like blue-tongues and snakes start to emerge from their sleepy winter abodes.

Butterflies, bees and other insects take advantage of the bountiful nectar-rich flowers. Sugar gliders hunt the abundant insects while ringtails feast on the new growth of eucalyptus trees. The forest comes alive under the watchful gaze and rhythmic groans of the tawny frogmouth, and the double note of the boobook owl calling.

At this time of year tiny floral beauties burst forth to brighten up the landscapes harsh façade. The bush is ablaze with orange-yellow and red blooms of bush peas, prolific showy white petals of prickly tea-tree, sprays of pink bells and blue pincushions, and the chocolate and vanilla perfume of the chocolate lily. It becomes evident why Warrandyte has, and continues to be such an inspiration to artists.

When summer arrives the brilliance of spring fades and the bush becomes tinder dry. Plants start to set seed, their feathery plumes dispersed by the wind or carried away by insects and birds. The predominantly white Christmas bush and Burgan that flower during summer court butterflies to a background orchestra of cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets.

On warm days skinks and blue-tongues sun themselves on rocks. People flock to the river seeking a quiet corner to cool off, until the gusty north winds send them scurrying from the bush like ants in search of cooler, safer places, away from the threat of bushfire.

Fire has been an integral part of the landscape since the Wurundjeri used it as part of their hunting techniques. Since European settlement numerous fires have swept through the area including one on Black Thursday in 1851 that would have cleared much of the bush in which gold miners were searching for gold, leaving it black and scorched. Parts of Warrandyte were also devastated by fires in 1939, 1962, 1969 and 1991. On most of these occasions the river provided refuge from the smoke and flames for residents who fled there to escape the advancing fronts.

I watched the red orb over Kinglake from my balcony when the Kilmore fires burnt on the evening of 7 February 2009. The heat had been oppressive that day. The wind roared like a high-speed train driving heat from the depths of hell before it. The fire sucked oxygen from the air and ripped tree trunks from the earth. It melted paint from doors and flesh from bones without mercy or discrimination. Many perished that day, but Warrandyte was spared by a wind change that came through earlier than predicted.