My Blog fbook icon 60Cropped Media DOB

 

 

 

 


 

View all the articles by date from the most recent here.

View all the articles by theme here including my film reviews and Home in the Highlands articles.

 


 

LATEST BLOG ARTICLES

My Top Three Tips for Aspiring Authors   March 2020DOB Styled 2

Getting started on your writing journey.

 

 

 

Writing and Art   March 2020Florals in urn 420

I've never known whether I was an artist or a writer but both have come together in my books.

 

 

 

The Five Books That Have Influenced Me Most      March 2020Image result for alice's adventures in wonderland

Here are five books that I read before I was twenty but have stayed with me all my life.

 

 

 

My Top Five Films about Politics    Feb 2020The Ides of March Poster.jpg

Why politics makes the perfect subject matter for thrillers and comedies alike.

 

 

 

Film Review: '1917'     Jan 20201917poster.jpg

An immersive film about the horrors of trench warfare

fbook icon 60 BLOG ARTICLES BY DATE

 

My Top Three Tips for Aspiring Authors   March 2020

Writing and Art  March 2020

The Five Books That Have Influenced Me Most   March 2020

My Top Five Films about Politics   Feb 2020

Film Review: '1917'   Jan 2020

Home in the Highlands: Autumn  May 2018

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   Dec 2016

'The Rarest Thing' Playlist   Nov 2016

 Book Review: 'Daintree' by Annie Seaton   Nov 2016

 Interview with Annie Seaton   Nov 2016

 Crafting Characters   Oct 2016

 Welcome to 'The Rarest Thing' Blog Tour    Oct 2016

TV Review: Reality Big Guns  Aug 2016

Five Things I Love about Writing Fiction  Aug 2016

Deborah's Yummy Chocolate Mousse   July 2016

A Gallipoli Story: Finding Uncle Arthur   April 2016

A World Without Downton: The 'Downton Abbey' Finale  April 16

What is 'The Rarest Thing'?   April 2016

Film Review: 'Brooklyn'   Feb 2016

Molly Grows Up   Feb 2016

Film Review: 'The Revenant'   Jan 2016

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

Q&A with Annie Seaton   Jan 2016

 

2015

 

Meet Mrs Christmas   Dec 2015

Film Review: 'The Dressmaker'   Dec 2015

'The Trivia Man' Trivia Quiz  Nov 2015

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

Another Bookish Trivia Quiz   July 2015

A Bookish Trivia Quiz   June 2015

The Trivia Man Blog Tour   June 2015

Launching 'The Trivia Man'  June 2015

A Gallipoli Story: The Lost Shearer   April 2015

Meet the Cast of 'The Trivia Man'   April 2015

What Makes a Good Tagline?   March 2015

Quiz Kid?    Feb 2015

Film Review: 'Birdman'  Jan 2015

Film Review: 'The Water Diviner'   Jan 2015

 

2014

 

The Trivia Man Is Coming  Dec 2014

My Christmas Dec 2014

Zucchini and Herb Frittata  Nov 2014

Trivia Isn't Trivial  Nov 2014

Lost and Found    Oct 2014

Film Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight'  Sept 2014

The Cutting Room Floor  Sept 2014

Film Review: 'The 100-Foot Journey'  Aug 2014

Rose Scott Women Writers' Festival  Aug 2014

Film Review: 'Jersey Boys'   July 2014

Emporium Trilogy Quiz (with answers)   June 2014

Film Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars'   June 2014

An Aspiring Author's Guide to Book Jargon   June 2014

The Beatles and Me   June 2014

Book Giveaway Winners   May 2014

Film Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'  May 2014

Launching 'A Place of Her Own'  May 2014

Free Bookmarks to Download   March 2014

Film Review: 'The Monuments Men'  March 2014

Film Review: 'Twelve Years a Slave'  Feb 2014

My Top Ten Romantic Comedies   Feb 2014

Film Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks'    Feb 2014

Four Stories about Platonic Love   Feb 2014

Five Books about Unrequited Love  Jan 2014

First Impressions  Jan 2014 

 

2013

 

Christmas at My Place  Dec 2013

About a Dog  November 2013

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

The Amazing Mr Carroll  November 2013

Film Review: 'About Time'  October 2013

The Jade Widow@Mr Chen's Emporium  Oct 2013

Ode to Spring   September 2013

When a Platypus's Fancy Turns to Love   Sept 2013

How Big Is Your Book?   September 2013

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

 

2012

 

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.

DOB MCE 10

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

DOB MCE 19

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

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DOB MCE 15




 


fbook icon 60 Life with a Platypus

DOB MCE 14

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

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