Home in the Highlands: The Flying Carpet  July 2018


Home in the Highlands: A Tale of Two Chandeliers  April 2018


Home in the Highlands: The Secret Garden  April 2018



Home in the Highlands: Finding the Dream Home  March 2018


Book Review: 'Lake Hill' by Margareta Osborn   June 2017


Film Review: 'Their Finest'  April 2017


Film Review: 'Alone in Berlin   March 2017



My Top Six Tips for Writing Historical Fiction   Feb 2017



'The Princess Diarist', Carrie Fisher Carrie Fisher small


'The Rarest Thing' Playlist   Nov 2016Grey possum


Book Review: 'Daintree' by Annie Seaton   Nov 2016Annie Seaton 500


 Interview with Annie Seaton   Nov 2016Annie Seaton 500


Crafting Characters   Oct 2016Grey possum


Welcome to 'The Rarest Thing' Blog Tour    Oct 2016Web Cover3 July11 420


TV Review: Reality Big Guns  Aug 2016Australian Survivor season 3 logo


Five Things I Love about Writing Fiction  Aug 2016Kinokinuya cropped


Deborah's Yummy Chocolate Mousse   July 2016Chocolate mousse 4

A Gallipoli Story: Finding Uncle Arthur   April 2016Graphic map of the Dardanelles

A World Without Downton: The 'Downton Abbey' Finale  April 16Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231


What is 'The Rarest Thing'?   April 2016
Possum sketch cropped


Film Review: 'Brooklyn'   Feb 2016Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

Molly Grows Up   Feb 2016Border collie puppy cropped


Film Review: 'The Revenant'   Jan 2016Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231


Book Review: 'Kakadu Sunset' by Annie Seaton Jan 16Annie Seaton 500


Q&A with Annie Seaton   Jan 2016Annie Seaton 500

Meet Mrs Christmas   Dec 2015Christmas ornaments

Film Review: 'The Dressmaker'   Dec 2015Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

'The Trivia Man' Trivia Quiz  Nov 2015Make a date with the Trivia Man


 The Nerd as Hero: Reclaiming the Label   July 2015Meet The Trivia Man 420
(Guest Blog for Dark Matter Zine at their website)


Writing and Art   July 2015Concept sketch MCE DOBrien
Guest Blog for Australian Rural Romance



Another Bookish Trivia Quiz   July 2015Make date TTM


A Bookish Trivia Quiz   June 2015Kirsty People 420



The Trivia Man Blog Tour   June 2015Kirsty People 420


Launching 'The Trivia Man'  June 2015Kirsty People 420



A Gallipoli Story: The Lost Shearer   April 2015JNorris Scrapbook 33

'The Trivia Man' Competition Winners   April 2015Kirsty People 420



Meet the Cast of 'The Trivia Man'   April 2015Kirsty People 420


What Makes a Good Tagline?   March 2015TTM People

Quiz Kid?    Feb 2015Dictionary


Film Review: 'Birdman'  Jan 2015Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231


Film Review: 'The Water Diviner'   Jan 2015Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231


The Trivia Man Is Coming  Dec 2014TTM People


My Christmas Dec 2014Christmas Heart


Zucchini and Herb Frittata  Nov 2014Frittata baked

Trivia Isn't Trivial  Nov 2014Trivia Girl cropped


Lost and Found    Oct 2014Twins

Winners of the Spring Giveaway  Oct 2014deb castle

Spring Giveaway   Sept 2014deb castle


Film Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight'  Sept 2014Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

The Cutting Room Floor  Sept 2014DOB SS 31

Film Review: 'The 100-Foot Journey'  Aug 2014Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231


Rose Scott Women Writers' Festival  Aug 2014DOB Styled 2


Film Review: 'Jersey Boys'   July 2014Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

Winners of Winter Giveaway   July 2014Trilogy books

Emporium Trilogy Quiz  (with answers)   June 2014Slide12

Film Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars'   June 2014Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231



An Aspiring Author's Guide to Book Jargon   June 2014DOB Styled 2

The Beatles and Me   June 2014Beatles 1


Book Giveaway Winners   May 2014APOHO and vase 450


Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

Film Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'  May 2014


Launching 'A Place of Her Own'  May 2014600 Cropped cover knees


Free Bookmarks to Download   March 2014DSCF1598 cropped


Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

Film Review: 'The Monuments Men'  March 2014


Film Review: 'Twelve Years a Slave'  Feb 2014Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231


My Top Ten Romantic Comedies   Feb 2014



Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

Film Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks'    Feb 2014

Four Stories about Platonic Love   Feb 2014JNorris Scrapbook 21



Five Books about Unrequited Love  Jan 2014DOB Alice 05



First Impressions  Jan 2014PG Spring13 10



Christmas at My Place  Dec 2013Christmas flowers



About a Dog   November 2013Angel20131119 2



What's Next? 'A Place of Her Own'  Nov 2013PG Spring13 10


The Amazing Mr Carroll  November 2013DOB Alice 05


Film Review: 'About Time'  October 2013Admit one movie ticket isolated on white Stock Photo - 9269231

The Jade Widow@Mr Chen's Emporium  Oct 2013MCE Model 5


Ode to Spring   September 2013PG Spring13 02

When a Platypus's Fancy Turns to Love   Sept 2013PG Spring13 01

How Big Is Your Book?   September 2013DOB Styled 1


Fairytale Turrets and Other Fantasies  August 2013 

A Winter's Tale  August 2013

'He Who Would Valiant Be'  August 2013

Country Dog  July 2013

Spot the Anachronism!  July 2013

Puppy Proof?  July 2013 

A World Without Books: 'Fahrenheit 451'  June 2013

A Bonzer Aussie Dog  June 2013

Review: Hope's Road  June 2013

Puppy Love  May 2013

Attack of the Anachronisms  May 2013

When Winter Comes Early  May 2013

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking  April 2013

In Search of the Emporium  April 2013

Elegant Architecture  April 2013

A Country Sunday  March 2013

Adverbs and Chocolate  Feb 2013

Introducing THE JADE WIDOW  Jan 2013

The Colour Lilac  Jan 2013


Christmas  Dec 2012

Alpacas versus Llamas  Dec 2012

The Jade Widow  Nov 2012

Angie's Westerns  Nov 2012

Recreational Sewing in Cesarine  Oct 2012 

Inspirations for 'Mr Chen's Emporium'  Sept 2012 

An Aladdin's Cave   Sept 2012 

Anatomy of a Gold Rush Town  Sept 2012  

Amy Duncan and her Books  Sept 2012

Old-fashioned Heroes  Sept 2012

Happy Endings?  Sept 2012

Why Is a Book Like a TARDIS?  Sept 2012

An Emporium by Any Other Name  Aug 2012 

Never Write When You're Hungry  July 2012

The Case of the Missing Monotremes  June 2012

The World of the Book  May, 2012

Frosty Tales  April 2012

Tales of the Emporium  March 2012

Country Ways  Feb 2012

Life with a Platypus  Feb 2012





fbook icon 60Tales of the Emporium

Items  from Emporium

When I was a little girl, suburban shopping malls were a new and rare phenomenon, and the city was still the heart of the retail world. During the school holidays my grandmother used to take me to visit the big department stores like Anthony Hordern’s, Mark Foy’s, Grace Bros at Broadway, Farmers and David Jones. She was an inveterate shopper. So are my mother and I – it’s in the blood.

I must have been about eight when I first heard the word ‘emporium’.

‘Let’s go to the Palace Emporium,’ my grandmother announced as we emerged from the dark railway tunnel at Museum into the dappled sunlight of Elizabeth Street. It turned out that the Palace Emporium was the old name for the magnificent six-storeyed Anthony Horderns’ building, which occupied much of the block bounded by Pitt, George and Goulburn Streets.

Built in 1905, the Emporium was four years younger than my grandmother, aDOB Arcades 09 girl born and raised in the Central West of New South Wales. At the age of twenty-one, with her mother dead from the pneumonic flu and her father a distant memory (having deserted his wife and three daughters many years earlier), she took the decision to move to the city. She had left her formal education behind at age thirteen, but made up for it by reading everything she could get her hands on. She was also a talented seamstress, able to put together a stylish outfit in no time.

I can just picture my grandmother in her cloche hat and fox-fur stole, alighting from the train at Central, her suitcase in one hand and Gladstone bag in the other. If she had walked up George Street or even caught a cab, she couldn't have missed the Palace Emporium looming into view on the right. Even a country girl would have recognised the famous building, familiar to everyone from the picture on the cover of the Anthony Horderns’ mail-order catalogue.

DOB Arcades 12Decades later, I too found myself gazing at the same edifice, a little girl gripping her grandmother’s hand. True to its name, the exterior looked like a palace, complete with a castellated tower and parapets topped by a series of Grecian urns, like jewels on a crown. Being a child, I had no idea that the business was in decline, nor that the term ‘white elephant’ had been used to describe the premises. (And even if I had heard those words, I wouldn’t have understood the significance of the metaphor.) All I saw was a fairytale castle. Sadly there would be no happy-ever-after for the Anthony Horderns' building, but nobody knew that then.DOB Arcades 13

Once inside the store, I discovered embossed metal ceilings, heavy columns, vast spaces and an array of goods meticulously laid out on tables. I might be confusing it with somewhere else, but in my mind’s eye I can still see an old-fashioned docketing system using a pulley and wires, which seemed to spirit away the money and promptly deliver a receipt, as if by magic. Back then, department stores had lifts with operators who would recite the names of the goods on every floor. I could have ridden up and down in those lifts for hours, just listening to the fascinating inventory.

Ever since those days, I’ve loved the word ‘emporium’, though as a small child, I never imagined I would write a novel with an emporium as its centrepiece … or a novel of any kind, for that matter. My own emporium isn’t grand like Anthony Horderns’. It’s just a single-storeyed building of modest size on the main street of a fictional country town.

However, inside its blood-red front doors, the heroine Amy Duncan finds a different world, ‘a storehouse of possibilities’, as she calls it. For someone who loves to shop, it’s filled with covetable items – silks, furniture, porcelain and jade. For a young woman intrigued by its owner, there is far more to Mr Chen’s Emporium than the merchandise. Above all, it is a place where a love story, prohibited by the prejudices of nineteenth-century society, can blossom unchallenged, until …

Read more about MR CHEN'S EMPORIUM here.


The magnificently restored arcades in the photographs above are in Melbourne, not Sydney. Apart from the wonderful Queen Victoria Building and the Strand Arcade, it is a tragedy that Sydney retains very little of its 19th century shopping history. 

Deborah O’Brien

March, 2012



fbook icon 60Country Ways


What’s so great about living in the country, people ask me? The nineteenth-century poet, William Cowper said it all in his famous line: “God made the country, and man made the town”.

Here are some of the things that make country life special for me:

  • Sheep bleating at night (in the city it’s police sirens)
  • Frogs mumbling to each other in the creek
  • Flocks of black cockatoos before a rain shower (you can’t get angry at them, even when they’ve littered your lawn with pine-cones and branches)
  • A lone bustard (Australian stork) patiently watching for prey among the reeds
  • A wallaby doing an elegant jump over a barbed-wire fence
  • Newborn lambs and calves at the end of winter
  • Tiny frogs as small as leaves
  • A baby wombat on the door step late at night
  • Church bells on a Sunday morning
  • A front-page story in the local newspaper about a lost teddy bear, complete with photo.
  • A mayoral election where the councillors’ votes have resulted in a tie, so they draw a name out of a hat
  • And people who smile and say hello when they pass you in the street, whether they know you or not

Deborah O’Brien




fbook icon 60 Life with a Platypus


After years of fantasising about a weekender in the country, my husband and I finally bought a little cottage overlooking a creek on the outskirts of an historic town. It's a long drive from the Big Smoke, but we didn’t let a practicality like that stop us. After all, we had fallen in love with the town and its old buildings, its green hillsides and most particularly, the platypus that lived in the creek. As if by special request of the real estate agent, the creature had even made an appearance on the very day we inspected the house, providing the ‘wow factor’ which clinched the deal.

Some years later, the platypus is still with us, though I’m not certain whether it’s our original one or not. I’d like to think so. There’s been a baby too, otherwise known as a puggle. A tiny version of its parent, yet full of bravado, floating on the surface and enjoying the sun. Then again, a fully grown platypus isn’t very big – about 40 to 60cm, the experts say.

When we arrive at our cottage on a Friday afternoon, the platypus is usually waiting for us. Tired after the long car trip, we are instantly heartened by his presence, foreshadowed by neatly concentric ripples on the surface of the creek. Then we spot the curve of his back as he duck-dives for food. Sometimes he will move on quickly, but often he lingers and we watch him from behind a stand of reeds.

A couple of years ago, our slow-moving creek turned into a raging torrent after a heavy rainfall upstream. Willow trees cracked under the force of the water. Debris came hurtling past at a frightening speed. Creek banks were reconfigured by the tempest. As I stood in the rain, watching the creek rise, all I could think about was the platypus. What would happen to his burrows scattered at intervals along the banks? Would the little guy be washed away altogether? Panic struck as I recalled a story I’d read in a newspaper about a puggle found in the breakers of a South Coast beach. He had been washed all the way to the ocean by floodwaters.

So what became of our platypus?

By the next day, the water level had dropped and the creek was moving slowly again. Rubbish and tree branches had piled up against the stand of willows in front of our cottage. New pools had appeared and the course of the creek had altered. Oh dear, I thought. If the banks are gone, so are the burrows. I went and made myself a cup of tea and by the time I returned to the window, there he was, cavorting as if there had never been a flood.

Including a platypus in my book MR CHEN’S EMPORIUM seemed like a natural thing to do. In the novel, as in real life, he’s like a magician’s assistant, appearing from nowhere and vanishing just as quickly. All that’s missing is the puff of smoke.

Deborah O’Brien

February, 2012