An Ode to my Aunt

Aunty Joan caption

I  am not long finished Michelle D Argyle’s heartfelt coming of age, country music romance, Out of Tune, when I find myself about to journey to Australia’s country music capital. Sadly, this trip to Tamworth is not for the Australian Country Music Awards, but for the funeral of my father’s much-loved, much-older sister, Joan.

My aunty was born in the heart of winter in June 1924 when her mother, my Grandma Jessie, was just 20, and her father, my Grandpa Bill, was just shy of 21.

They lived in the gold-town of Gympie where my Grandpa at the time worked for the local shire council as a navvy – a manual labourer who worked on major civil engineering projects. His job was to dig road banks by hand using a crowbar, mallet and other tools – it was hard physical labour,  more so because he would work on the steeper slopes so he could earn extra money for his new family.

At the time of Joan’s birth he was working on The Bruce Highway and camping at Gunalda, 20 miles north of Gympie. In what would seem preposterous today, he walked 20 miles in to town to the hospital to see his young wife and new-born daughter then walked 20 miles back to work the next day.

At age fourteen my aunty left school to look after her mother who was heavily pregnant with her third child, my father. In this we are kindred spirits for we both had the joy and privilege of having a much younger brother to bless our lives, my own brother Jesse being 16 years my junior.

In early 1942, during WWII, Joan met and fell in love with a soldier from Urana who came through Gympie with the Light Horse Brigade. Shortly after, Pat was posted to Labuan Island in the Sumatra Straits near Borneo, in the Pacific (now part of Kinabalu), where he worked a signalman from July 1942 until he was discharged in June 1946. Despite V-day in the Pacific being declared in September 1945, much to his disappointment, Pat was ordered to remain on active duty patrolling the Pacific for another nine months. When I think of Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice, I think of Uncle Pat. He was your archetypal Aussie battler and larrikan, a swarthy smoker and joker.

In August 1946, upon his eager return to Gympie, he and Aunty Joan married. They moved to Sydney and later Tamworth where they raised five sons who were talented musicians, electricians, bankers and card players.

Yesterday when my father rang to tell me his sister had passed away, he said to me: “She never said a harsh word to me. Her whole life she was nothing more than a loving sister.” Everything I knew of her confirmed that. Her voice was light and catchy. Her laugh cheery and close to the surface. Her eyes were brown and warm. Her hands were forever full of love. She would always bring a little bit of my grandparents with her and draw out a side of my father reserved solely for her.

Last night I watched the movie, Pay it Forward. As the end credits rolled and the candles flickered, as Jane Sibery & KD Lang sang Calling All Angels, I thought of my Aunty Joan being serenaded by angels.

With thanks to my father for his input into this article.

Seldom Come By a read like this

SCB on the Shelf


Dec 12, 2013: Brisbane author, Sherryl Caulfield’s debut novel –  Seldom Come By – released today  – is a confronting coming of age story set in Newfoundland and the Western Front during the First World War.

On the eve of the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War 1, Seldom Come By takes readers to a remote Newfoundland island where, two years after the sinking of the Titanic, young Rebecca’s Crowe’s fascination with icebergs leads her to save shipwreck survivor, Samuel Dalton, the youngest son of a Toronto medical family. Raised in a deeply superstitious and religious family, Rebecca’s life is challenged irrevocably through her growing attachment to Samuel and their unforgettable, iceberg-inspired summer.

The 165 000 word tome, Book 1 of the Iceberg Trilogy, is now available through major ebook retailers in time for Christmas and holiday reading, promises readers an epic novel of immense visual splendour and palpable human emotions.

At a time when commercial fiction is full of paranormal fantasies, upper-class Regency and Victorian liaisons or voyeuristic erotic romances, Seldom Come By is anchored in realism in a period when life was less pretentious though paradoxically, harder and simpler, said Ms Caulfield. “It is an epic adventurous love story in the classical sense, which will appeal to serial readers of The Bronze Horseman, Into the Wilderness and Outlander novels due to its storyline of young love, longing and sacrifice.

‘Rebecca’s story is universal and timeless. She could be any woman who feels trapped in her surroundings and longs to experience more of the world and through the choices she makes has to live with the devastating consequences of her actions. This novel is not just about love. It’s about the great themes of life, about shocking crimes that are possibly the hardest to forgive – ones committed by family members against other family members.

Ms Caulfield has travelled extensively in Canada and was inspired to set her novel in Newfoundland because of its isolation and promixity to Iceberg Alley. “Icebergs are a strong symbolic element in the novel, representing something magical, a sign of lightness in darkness, a sign of hope and endless possibilities,” she said.

Through the eyes of two young Canadian medical officers, Seldom Come By also brings to light many of the chilling aspects of World War 1: the decimation of the Newfoundland regiment, who previously were active with the ANZACs at Gallipolli; the major Canadian battles of WWI; and the bombing in May 1918 of Hospital City by the Germans in the desperate last months of the war, killing and maiming doctors, nurses and patients. It also features John McCrae, revered Canadian surgeon, university professor and author of the iconic poem, In Flanders Fields.

“I wanted to set my story against the backdrop of this harrowing time and in part the connection to World War 1 is because of a Great Uncle who died at Ypres in 1917,” said Ms Caulfield. “War heightens everything. People have far less time for pretenses – life, love and death are so elemental and this is what drives the narrative pulse of the book. Plus, with the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One fast approaching, I thought there would be strong interest in books set in this period featuring characters that are modern and adventurous in their own way for that time. And while male cameraderie and loyalty are hallmarks of war, Seldom Come By takes this code of honour to another level through the bond of two brothers working side by side.”

Julie Fison, author of teenage romances in the Hardie Grant  ‘Smitten’ series, said she found the setting of Seldom Come By enthralling. ‘Seldom Come By is a haunting love story set against the windswept coast of Newfoundland. The story draws you in from the opening lines and takes you on a compelling journey across time and continents, through love, loss, heartache and healing. It is a beautiful and memorable story — a great accomplishment and a wonderful read.

The book is available as an ebook from major ebook retailers including Smashwords and a print version will be available through CreateSpace and Amazon. Details on

~ ENDS ~

Issued by Action Communications on behalf of Sherryl Caulfield

For Review copies, a synopsis and additional media information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Anita Beasley, Action Communications. Email:

Two sisters, one stranger

Newfoundland Sset 2

Imagine you are a teenage girl living in a very remote place and you only have one sibling, a sister, who is also your best friend. And then into your banal life comes a stranger with a smile like no other, with tales of adventures you can’t get enough of, and  a way about him that is just breathtaking. You and your older sister are both captivated. What do you do?

This is the beginning of Seldom Come By. My first draft was pushing 230,000 words – way too many – and so to improve pacing I cut the point of view of different characters and in lots of places reduced two pages into one paragraph. One such section explored Rachel and Rebecca’s growing feelings for Samuel.  You can read it below. (Also thanks to Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism for the above photograph.)

The summer of her fifteenth year was a summer of many firsts for Rebecca. And for Rachel and Samuel too. In what was undoubtedly the busiest time of the year, the presence of Samuel buoyed and energised Rachel and Rebecca like nothing else. Neither girl had ever spent such time in the presence of a man so clearly different from the one they knew so well. Without even trying, Samuel was warm, friendly and helpful. He was easy to be with – never solemn or withdrawn or grumpy. He was just himself. And at times himself was extremely playful.

Throughout these long summer days, Morna’s ‘keep them busy, keep them apart’ stance had mellowed into a ‘keep them together; there’s safety in numbers’ approach. After all, two’s company, three’s a crowd. But even she in the end was swayed by her growing ease with Samuel, her faith and her belief that his gratefulness towards them would prevent him from doing anything to upset them.

Besides who had time for mischief? That year Newfoundland was a summer wonderland and it did not disappoint with its ample abundance. The earth, the sea and the sky were laden with nature’s bounty And to add to their haul, care packages had started to arrive for Samuel from his mother and brother after he had written advising of his intention to bide out the summer with the Crowes.

Her father had spent a Saturday showing Samuel how to work some of his seldom-used lobster pots so Samuel could bait and check them every day or two in his absence. Rachel had taught him the fine art of jigging for squid in between cooking meals and preparing the smokehouse. Smoked fish made a pleasant change to the salted variety they got from the Deception Coop as part of Silas’s haul. Meanwhile Rebecca and her mother had single-handedly prepared a hay field so they could harvest at the end of the season to feed their stock over winter.

In the midst of their growing friendship with Samuel, neither girl would give voice to the fluttering of her own heart. For Rachel delighted in Samuel’s company. She became more relaxed and flowing and for the first time in her life felt like a woman, ready to be a wSunset walk copyoman. She would lie in bed at night thinking of his bare shoulders and wanting to run her hands across them, wanting to know how that would feel and what changes might happen inside her, inside Samuel if she could do that, if she had permission to do that and to look inside his eyes for meaning there. She would toss and turn trying to settle her imaginings. It seemed to her that Samuel also delighted in drawing her out, in watching her rediscover her own playfulness. Yet Rachel still wore the mantle of maturity and protocol, bound by religious rights and wrongs, hoping and waiting and praying for the day when Samuel would drop the playfulness and share with her the yearnings of his own heart – the yearnings for her heart? For in Samuel she had found a companion and confidant, one she would like to claim for her own, yet it wasn’t her place to do so. She was neither brave nor sure. She was only hopeful and amazed that she could spend so much of her waking day thinking of him and concealing these thoughts from everyone. What had occupied her mind before him, she wondered?

Rebecca’s world was in a spin. She’d oscillate between wanting to gaze upon Samuel’s face, but not wanting to catch his eye, as then the hollow, sickening feeling would start up again in her stomach and she’d barely be able to breathe. To steady herself, she plotted a raft of questions to ask him as his strong sonorous voice would calm her and his replies would always entrance her. How long do you think icebergs last for? Where would you like to travel to next? How many ships does your Uncle have in his fleet? And whenever her interest was piqued she was never afraid to gaze into his animated face, to ask every question, to tap every last ounce of information and experience his body had to offer and his soul too, though she did not know that at the time. She had no notion of possession. And she was no copycat either. She was someone who wanted to live her life fully, as fully as possible. And she saw in Samuel her best opportunity to do that. He was her closest ally in mind and spirit.

But every so often in their conversations, Samuel would pause and stare at Rebecca, almost as if he was wanting to ask her a question, something entirely different to the topic at hand. Unknowingly she would hold her breath, and before long she would part her mouth and breathe through it, then Samuel would swallow before continuing. At times like this she couldn’t handle looking into his eyes. Instead, she would lower her gaze and stare into his mouth, at his teeth and his tongue and watch the words as they came out, listening to the rich deep timbre of his voice. And that was something else about him that stirred her; how someone who was only nineteen could possess the most masculine soothing voice she had ever heard.

No one noticed the subtle changes in Rebecca’s behaviour. Everyone was so preoccupied with their own business and their own version of Samuel that none noticed her ingrained eagerness giving way to teenage tremoring and the wonder of her own awakening.

As time marched on, the girls formed an unspoken pact where neither would talk about Samuel or the time they spent alone with him. Each was stockpiling their own treasured memories, not wanting to know or invade or upset the motives and dreams of the other.

Seldom Come By is CLOSE!!

Seldom Come By Facebook 2

Next week I’ll update the purchase and availability details of Seldom Come By as other ebook and paperback distributors come online, but meanwhile…

To coincide with the launch of Seldom Come By, I am offering directly for a limited time PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPIES primarily for those in AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND and HONG KONG keen to get a PAPERBACK copy for Christmas…maybe New Year for those in Aotearoa and HK 🙂

Cost will be AUD$25.00 inc GST plus packaging and postage (P&P). All books can be autographed and inscribed to yourself or the recipient.

If you would like to reserve a copy or copies please email me at: with the following information:

  • Your name, postcode and country, plus how many copies you want
  • You will receive an invoice for the book and postage
  • (Please note this most likely will happen after 10th December)
  • If you live in Brisbane you are welcome to collect and save yourself the P&P cost
  • Payment is to be via direct credit, Paypal or cash (if in person)
  • Once you email me notification of your transfer the book/s will be dispatched
  • Earliest shipment date possible is Monday 16th December

For interested readers beyond Australia and New Zealand, you are welcome to order a paperback from me, however the book will soon be available in America through CreateSpace, a division of Amazon, which may be more convenient for you.

Don’t forget the ebook of Seldom Come By will be available for US$4.99 from 12 December for all types of eReaders from Smashwords and other popular ebook retailers as they come online.

Any queries, please drop me a note via the contact page on my website or the above email address. Please note: the colours in the above photograph are not exactly correct – there’s something not working with the colour calibration on my iPhone.

Win a Manuscript Critique



Michelle D. Argyle whose lastest book, Out of Tune, is out today, is giving away a FREE in-depth manuscript critique. This is a fantastic opportunity and a major saving for anyone wanting a manuscript assessment.

Michelle lives in Utah, surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains. She is an award-winning short story writer, has eight titles published, including five novels and a degree in Creative Writing. On top of that, she has been wonderfully generous in helping me navigate the print publishing options available in the US to indie publishers. Details on how to enter her competition can be found at the end of this post.

But mainly I wanted to tell you about her book. It’s about country music. And before you say, ‘I’m not in to country music,’ I ask you: ‘Are you not in to Keith Urban?’

Twenty-year-old Maggie Roads’ parents are legendary in the country music world. She wants nothing more than to follow in their footsteps, but the limelight isn’t reserved for singers who can’t carry a tune, let alone keep a rhythm.

Already Maggie has a special place in my heart, because I know what it’s like not to be able to carry a tune. My Dad is a piano accordian player, who used to play at country dancers and can sing Moon River with the best of them. But me…I once got the lead in our high school play, apparently I can act okay…however this play happened to be a musical – and to my horror I discovered I am one of those people you would describe as tonally deaf – fortunately the lovely Melanie Meers (Ricketts) came to my rescue, dubbing my voice for the singing parts. So imagine the pressure of being a child of music legends, wanting to sing, and not being able to. That’s Maggie.

When her parents tell her they’re getting divorced, Maggie decides it’s time to leave home and take her future into her own hands. Moving in with Cole, her best friend and sometimes boyfriend, might not be the best of ideas, but she’s got to start somewhere. Their off-and-on romance gets even more complicated when Maggie crushes on her new voice teacher, Nathan, who unlocks her stunning potential. A sensational music career of her own is finally within reach, but Maggie might need more than perfect pitch to find what she’s really looking for.

Reading this book, might put you in the mood for a little bit of country. If you have not seen it, take a look at Country Strong, an underrated movie with some lovely tracks that came out in 2010. And while you’re there, watch Duets. Gwynneth Paltrow charms in that movie too, but Paul Giametti and Andre Braugher steal the show with their unforgettable rendition of Try A Little Tenderness.

You can find more info on Out of Tune here, including where to order.

And here are the details of Michelle’s Manuscript Critique Competition

  • Competition closes 20 December 2013
  • Offer is good to 31 December 2014
  • Submit a one line sentence on your story to hook her in
  • To enter, go to:

So tell me, what’s your favourite country music song?