I spent last weekend in a special little corner of Australia where the bush meets the ocean. There were lots of leaf-curling spiders’ webs around, but this one caught my attention because of the haphazard looking extension ‘downstairs’.
The homeowner, which would be a member of the orb-weaving spider family, was carefully tucked away inside its leaf. Can you spot it? It’s the brown curl in the middle of the big round web at the top.
Lightning Ridge, in north-western New South Wales, Australia, is famed for its opal mining, and in particular, for being the largest source of precious black opals in the world.
During Lightning Ridge’s searing outback summers, the temperature underground is around 20C, making it a comfortable place to search for Australia’s national gemstone: the opal.
The protagonist in my current fantasy manuscript is from a fictional continent similar to outback Australia. His mother scratches out a living in the local mines, so I was particularly interested to learn about the history of opal mining. Opal Mine Adventure offer the fascinating experience of visiting an old opal mine, which gave me an insight into the motivation and practicalities of digging for these brilliant gemstones.
In years gone by, miners sank shafts using a pick and shovel, then chipped away at the sandstone deep underground armed with a pick and candle, looking for a valuable find.
Waste dirt was traditionally raised in buckets by hand windlass, often into a truck such as the one below. The dirt then underwent ‘puddling’ to remove the dirt from the sandstone and harder materials. If colour is found in the stone, it is buffed to determine the quality of opal that lies within.
Please exit the mine in an orderly fashion
A good pair of boots and reliable candle were the miner’s best friend
I’m currently working on a short story to submit to a speculative fiction anthology. My protagonist finds herself returning to her homeland, where the big skies fill her lungs and flows in her veins, and she is forced to face dark secrets she’d hoped to leave buried in the red dirt.
While looking for an outback photo to illustrate the image of my fantasy world, I came across this one I took of Horse by Jumber Jikiya, which sits in the sculpture symposium in the Living Desert at Broken Hill, New South Wales. Horse was apparently created as a tribute to rare Georgian horses slaughtered during Stalin’s rule. I realised this sobering history draws some parallels to aspects of my story.
The symposium consists of twelve sandstone sculptures, which change with the sun’s rise and fall in this amazing landscape. I’m always awestruck by the beauty and harshness of our natural world, and how it becomes its own character in my worldbuilding and writing.
Please leave a comment to let me know what you’re writing now – what inspires your writing and settings?
Hormosira banksii, a seaweed native to New Zealand and Australia, growing in a New South Wales south coast rockpool. This seaweed is also known as also known as Neptune’s necklace, Neptune’s pearls and – my favourite name for it – bubbleweed.
The sea snails are Black Nerite Nerita atramentosa, commonly known as black periwinkles.
I took this photo on a remote cattle station in the pastoral country between Broken Hill and Wilcannia, far west New South Wales. The bright little flowers are such a stark contrast to the red dirt in this semi-arid part of Australia. It’s one of the reasons I’m so fascinated with Australia and using it as inspiration for my writing. It opens up so many possibilities for worldbuilding and unique settings in fantasy fiction – I feel so lucky that I’m in a position to explore it.
So, please share with me, what inspires you? If you write, where do you get ideas for your stories and settings?