Amanda Giorgis

News from Applecross – October 2022

The latest update from Amanda Giorgis, best-selling author of the Applecross Saga.
Coming soon
Book 6 of the Applecross Saga
An explanation …..

The 6th book of the Applecross Saga is due for publication early in 2023. It has the title of COCKSFOOT AND CLOVER.

Why? I hear you ask. Well, the 6th book is set against a background of big changes in agriculture. Wool from New Zealand was widely used around the world and had made our farmers rich, but changes in the way wool was woven, and the over-grazing of much of our land, meant that things had to change. In the mid 1870s, we started growing wheat, and we moved over to farming sheep for their meat as well as their wool. It meant breeding a different kind of sheep because merino meat can be tough and fatty, and that created a need for good pasture. Tussock lands were ploughed up and re-seeded with a mix of plants that improved the soil for crops and fed the sheep. Seeds from England were used mainly, and the most common mixture was Cocksfoot and Clover, Timothy and Rye.

In fact, it is a mixture still used to this day. Only a few years ago our own little field was re-seeded in that way, and the 6 sheep who graze there at the moment are looking mighty fine on it too!
A little taste of Book 6

In the sheep country of Canterbury and Otago the native tussock lands had reached the end of their useful life by the 1870s and were sown with European grasses – mainly ryegrass, timothy, cocksfoot and clover.

Rural New Zealand in 1876. A time of prosperity for Applecross sheep station. However, dark clouds are gathering over the settlers of Mackenzie’s Basin.James Mackenzie is good at his job. Quality wool from his flock is valued around the world. But his son, John James, sees the future differently, embracing new ideas and opening up new markets. Will father and son reach a compromise that will allow Applecross to survive through the threat of pestilence and fire? Will Captain Shepherd’s legacy offer the opportunity for his beloved family to spread their wings?

Join James, Sophia and all the folk of Applecross as, once more, they celebrate triumph and success while joining together to face adversity and tragedy against a backdrop of an ever-changing world.
Bird of the month year!
It’s that time of year again. The couple of weeks where we all choose our favourite New Zealand birds. Last year (in something of a travesty) a bat won! That’s not going to happen again this time.

The theme for this year is ‘Underbirds are Go!’ – showcasing the many critically endangered birds who don’t get as much attention as our rockstars – kiwi, kakapo and takahe.

Did you know there are only 40 Fairy Terns on our shores? They deserve a vote, as do our other ‘in serious trouble’ underbirds – Southern NZ dotterel, Wrybill, Grey duck, Australian crested grebe, Black fronted tern, Shore plover, Black stilt, Reef heron, Red knot and (the current leader), the teeny, tiny Rock wren.

Oh, how I wish I could vote for them all. It took a long time to whittle all 72 birds down to my favourite 5 (see below).

It’s not too late to cast your vote –
Another chance to win!

If yours is among the first 10 emails I receive with a subject line of ‘Audiobook’, I’ll send you a voucher to download the audiobook version of The Wideawake Hat, read by Su Melville, for FREE!Email
Subject Line ‘Audiobook’

(Please note – the voucher can only be redeemed via the link you receive in the email and can only be played on the Authors Direct IOS or Android app. The app is available in UK, EU, Australia, Canada and USA. 
Author’s decision is final.)
An Applecross Companion

Here you will find a list of Applecross folk and their dogs, updated with the new characters for Book 5, plus a map of Mackenzie’s Basin.Dive on in there and take a look.

Go to – use the password ‘Applecross’ to get access.

Buy the Applecross Saga

Accidental characters

Every now and then I introduce a character to my stories who plays a small role in another character’s thread, and then takes on a whole storyline of their own. I call them my accidental characters.

First there was Guy Pender – only introduced in Book 2, Shepherd’s Delight as the photographer who took the only known photo of Friday the collie. He became such a favourite that he ended up having his own complete book – Book 3, Guy Pender, and is now very much part of the Applecross community along with his lovely wife, Amelie and their growing family (and Rex the scruffy dog, of course).

Then there was Jakob (pronounced Yakob due to his Dutch ancestry), introduced in Book 4, Three Cedar Trees. Just a farmer’s son who swapped places with Freddie so that both boys could learn about other ways of farming. Somehow he accidentally grew into a firm favourite with his own stories to tell. He, and his faithful collie, Leda, have now made a home in the Basin. All we need now is for Jakob to find a wife! I am busy working on that one, although you may have to wait a few more months to see how that develops in Book 6, Cocksfoot and Clover, due for release in early 2023.

The Cedar Trees

In the meantime, while doing some research for Book 6 (more about that next time), we recently visited Elephant Rocks near Oamaru in New Zealand’s South Island. It reminded me that this was where Jakob sheltered for the night after falling in the river as he escaped from the terrible incident with a flock of sheep. Battered and bruised, he and Leda slept in the contours of a rock worn into shape by millions of years of erosion. It is an atmospheric place. I recommend you add it to your list of places to visit when touring the South Island of New Zealand. Hopefully, as there are lots of places to stay nearby, you won’t have to sleep under a rock!

Here is an extract from Three Cedar Trees :-

He had not accounted for the mist. The wet weather was on the change and warmer temperatures over damp ground were causing a ground mist to form, rolling gently towards Jakob and Leda as they walked on towards the setting sun. Very soon, they were surrounded, unable to see more than a few feet in any direction. Jakob could tell only that they were surrounded by rocks, some of which seemed to be like giant animals looming out of the mist at them. He moved from one to another, trying to find a crevice big enough to squeeze into, but they all seemed to have flat, weathered surfaces. Thinking that he had no choice but to hunker down against one such rock, he made one last attempt to find better shelter. He put a hand out to the next rock he saw, feeling along its surface, working his way around it in the gloom. He was rewarded by finding an almost circular crevice where water had eroded away at the base of the rock. The remaining cave like space was enough for a boy and a dog to squeeze in under cover, wrapped round on both sides by rocks too. It was the perfect sleeping place for a tired boy and his exhausted dog.

What greeted Jakob the following morning was a sight like nothing he had seen before. He found himself in a flat field beyond which were steep cliffs on two sides, almost as if the ground on which he stood had dropped down, leaving a jagged edge. Punctuating this green area were a variety of incongruously shaped grey rocks rearing up through the grass as if they were fossilised giants. Blown smooth by erosion, forming weird and wonderful shapes, Jakob could not help himself from running between them, reaching out to touch the smooth surfaces, dancing round them as if they would dance with him. To Jakob it was a magical, enchanted place. It was as if the rocks themselves were giving him hope, telling him to go forward, wishing him good fortune.

Eyes or Ears?

I have to admit to being a cynic when it comes to audiobooks. And yet…..

A few years ago I would say, “Give me a proper book anytime,” when people suggested ebooks were here to stay. I can use a proper bookmark to keep my place (or, woe betide, turn the corner of the page down). I can flick back to remind myself who is who and what is what. I can read the end before the middle, if I so desire. And, when I’ve shut the finished book with a reassuring slap, I can place my book on a shelf and admire it, or pass it on to others to enjoy.

Then I embraced ebooks with a passion. How else could I travel around the globe with a ‘library’ in my hand luggage? How else could I whip out a story to read on my phone in the doctor’s waiting room. Reading at night became a real pleasure, without the need to turn on a light and disturb a grumpy husband. With the click of a button, small sums of money 1-clicked out of my account while words streamed down onto multiple devices for consumption as and when required. I could start reading on my laptop, switch to the phone when out and about and carry on on the iPad as my bedtime reading.

Bookmarks became just a click away, highlights and searches allowed for explanation and reassurance of storyline. No need to search through shelves in the bookshop as recommendations came my way by email every day, based on ‘your recent viewing’, of course.

Despite the ease of reading ebooks, the pleasure of real books remains. Proper books, with a shiny cover and the back page giving hints of what lies inside, eased carefully off the bookshop shelf to be chosen for their looks and feel as much as for their content. In recent times, it has felt good to support a local independent book shop, comforting to talk to the proprietor about loyal customers’ support and reasonable sales. I will admit to buying real books in support rather more than in necessity of late.

And there’s the point. Real books and ebooks are both OK. I can do either, or sometimes both at once. Like cinema and streaming, live sport and recorded highlights, there’s a place for both.

With that thought in mind, I recently made the decision to admit a third medium into my life and stepped hesitantly into the world of audiobooks.

“Oh, I can’t do audiobooks,” I hear you say. “They just make me fall asleep!”

And yes, they do. Indeed they do. If you sit down with a book or an ebook, you may well fall asleep too, may even get a black eye if you happen to be reading ‘War and Peace’ at the time. But the difference is that the book stops at the point where you fall asleep. Of course, you may have to flick through a few pages to find your place in a physical book, but your faithful ebook will sit tight until you swipe or click when you eventually wake up.

An audiobook, however, will just plough on, the narrator blissfully unaware that the listener is no longer listening. And, believe me, it is hard to remember the exact moment at which you fell asleep, so there is always a certain amount of rewinding and fast forwarding required. And then there’s those stupidly annoying headphone cable things that always get wound round each other and tether you to your phone or computer as if they won’t let go until you reach the last page. There were so many reasons to resist.

Until, that is, my husband bought me some wireless earbuds for Christmas. He likes watching the occasional action movie on TV. I do not. So I think it was his intention that I could lose myself in music while he watched all the blood and guts. It worked. Instead of leaving the room, I could stay by his side, listening to my kind of music, blissfully unaware of gunfire and explosion, not to mention expletives!

One tires of music after a while, so I considered trying an audiobook. My first one was borrowed from the library, downloaded on a whim one evening while Matt Damon fought to save the world against evil. I could easily write more about the joys of a local library, but that is for another occasion. For now, let’s just say I have fallen in love with Bolinda!

I popped in the earbuds, pressed play and concentrated on chapter 1. It was rather pleasant. Reminiscent of listening to the radio as a child, the lilting voice drove me gently along the storyline. I woke up to hear the narrator introducing chapter 5. I wound myself back, listening to chapter 1 again. Now, do I remember this bit? No, perhaps not, so rewind some more.

In the middle of chapter 2, the film finished. “I’ll make you a coffee,” I mouthed, being a dutiful wife. I hit pause, took out the earbuds and went to put the kettle on.

“Why did you stop?” said husband. “I think Bluetooth will make it as far as the kitchen.”

I pondered his words as I poured the coffee and fetched the bicuit tin. “Silly man,” I thought to myself. “What does he know?”

Dunking my second bicuit, a moment of revelation came upon me. I could have merely got up, walked to the kitchen, made the coffee, gone to the toilet and, very possibly, put the cat outside too (if we had a cat, that is). All the while, narrator lady would have carried on at the same volume, regardless of boiling kettles, flushing toilets and miaowing cats. At that moment, my world took a step sideways.

This was confirmed a few days later when I had some fairly urgent baking to do. Cakes needed making and cooling in time to go to a neighbour’s place for tea. But I had gone past chapter 5 now, and things were getting interesting. Did I have time to listen to the next chapter before I put the oven on?

“Stupid girl. You can do both at once,” my new audiobook brain said. It was a turning point. I creamed, beat, mixed and folded my way through the next three chapters, arriving next door with cakes made and cooled to the perfect temperature. What can sometimes be a chore passed by with the pleasure of a good story in my ears.

And so began my new life. Ironing, dusting, sewing, knitting, doing a jigsaw, baking a cake, getting the dinner, or even lounging in the bath. Walking the dogs, weeding the garden. All these things, and many more, can be accompanied by narrator lady (or man) reading you a story. I have not yet tried driving while listening (no earphones, of course), but I understand it works well. I think you may have to be prepared to pull over and reach for the tissues if things get a bit emotional though — you know, the bits in a book where the dog dies, or unrequited love blossoms, or whatever.

So, now I can’t consume audiobooks fast enough. Just like the real thing, I can buy an audiobook, but they are quite expensive. I can also subscribe to a provider for a monthly fee and download as many as I want (usually the first month is free too). Or I can use my local library to borrow audiobooks for nothing.

These days, when browsing the library online, my finger hovers over the ‘ebook’ button, but invariably errs towards the ‘audibook’ version. I am a convert, but I am not a zealot. There is still room in my life for real paper books and ebooks, for the times when all I want to do is read.

There’s only one thing I can’t seem to do while listening to an audiobook — and that’s NOTHING!

Book 1 of the Applecross Saga, ‘The Wideawake Hat’, narrated by Su Melville, is available from all the usual providers.

Books 2-5 are also available exclusively on Google Play, with computer-generated narration by Anya. Not a patch on the real thing, but better than you might expect!

News from Applecross

March 2022.

The latest update from Amanda Giorgis, best-selling author of the Applecross Saga.
All the news this month is about the release of Book 5, ‘Mixed Blessings’ on 1st April. Here’s the synopsis :-

The girls are growing up. Not for them the daily grind of family life, not yet anyway. After all, it is 1873. Women have more opportunities than ever before, especially in New Zealand in an era of great prosperity and progress.

Five years have passed since we last visited the Mackenzies. Applecross sheep station is thriving, more people than ever have made it their home. There are changes everywhere, big and small, but James and Sophia remain the solid, dependable mainstay of life in the rural community. Until a dramatic incident rocks the very foundations of Mackenzie’s Basin.

We join Heather, Caroline and Adey Rose, daughters of the Basin, as they blossom into young ladies, find their feet in the burgeoning city of Christchurch and take their first hesitant steps into the world of romance.

However, the draw of Applecross is strong……..

I am really looking forward to hearing what you think of Book 5. Please do email me at with your feedback (good or bad), or post a review online. 
While listening to the audiobook version of Book 1, The Wideawake Hat, (available from all the usual audiobook suppliers), it occurred to me that the Applecross Saga would transfer to stage or screen very nicely. You know the kind of Sunday night serialised TV drama you can watch while relaxing in front of the fire with a nice glass of wine! Think Poldark perhaps? One day I will start the task of writing the script….

In the meantime, to give you a taste of who has arrived at Applecross since the end of Book 4, this is my idea of a cast list, to be printed in the programme of a West End theatre performance (a girl can dream, after all…..) :-
I know it is not polite to laugh at one’s own jokes, but I am secretly giggling about the description of George Latham as an ordinary man. I can’t wait for you all to meet him, and the old and new characters who have made Applecross their own little corner of Paradise.
Mixed Blessings is already available as a pre-order ebook on Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Apple Books, and as a paperback from Amazon. It will be available everywhere else on 1st April – not long to wait now!

A Taste of ‘Mixed Blessings’

I always enjoy finding a section of the latest book which will give you a taste of things without too many spoilers. Here, Heather is thinking back over the last few years as she prepares for her 18th birthday celebrations :-

‘Mixed Blessings’ is available now to pre-order from Amazon, Kobo and Apple Books. It will be everywhere else on 1st April.

Anyway, back to that fateful day. It had not had a promising start. The three of them were in the kitchen at Applecross. Unusually, Caroline was there too, although she spent most of her time at Hither House once Uncle Samuel married Lizzy. But, on this particular day, Caroline had been there too. They would have been, perhaps, fourteen. The death of Mrs Nicol had, to some extent, been the end of their formal school days. Mrs Pender taught them foreign words in her front room while tending to baby Bea. Reverend Nicol had taken their studies outdoors, to sit under a tree listening to him reading out loud. Now, that had been a pleasure, though she lacked the concentration to take in all the words. There were so many distractions outside. The birds, an occasional butterfly, small crawling insects, not to mention the buzzing of bees.

Her own mother had assumed the role of teacher of all things domestic. How to place fresh sheets on a bed, how to clean a room, how to plan a menu. On this particular day they were making sponge cakes for tea. It was not going well. They took it in turns to measure butter and flour and precious sugar on the scales, using the eggs as balancing weights, a skill apparently passed on by the grandmother she had never known. Inevitably, Heather lagged behind while she considered what her grandmother would have been like, who on earth had first thought to crack an egg to make a cake and how sugar was formed into the powdery cake that was stored in an airtight container in the pantry. Nevertheless, all three cakes entered the oven looking more or less identical. 

However, they certainly didn’t come out the same way! Two perfect yellow sponges emerged, to be placed on the rack to cool. Heather’s effort had not risen at all. It was more biscuit than sponge. 

“Oh, Heather,” said her mother, “Why can’t you ever listen to instructions?”

“Feed it to the pigs, mother,” Heather had replied before dumping her apron on the table and stalking out of the room, slamming the door behind her. There was one place the Mackenzies sought out if they were in need of a moment to themselves, and that was where James Shepherd found his granddaughter a while later. Sitting on the flat stone next to Friday’s grave, sobbing her heart out.

James Shepherd had the sense not to say anything at first, just shuffling his granddaughter along to allow room for him to sit too. The silence was not uncomfortable and slowly the sobs began to ease.

“It’s just not fair, Grandpapa,” moaned Heather.

“I know, my dear, I know,” he replied, patting her knee gently.

There was a pause while Heather formed a question in her head. “Why can’t I concentrate on things?” she asked eventually.

Instead of answering the question, James Shepherd asked one of his own. “Tell me, Heather, what is your favourite word?”

Heather thought about that for a while. Beginning at the beginning, she ran the idea round her brain. Armadillo, Bombastic, Conquistador. Lovely words, but not her favourite. Desdemona, Elephant, Fumigation, no none of those. James didn’t rush her. He knew she would be considering all options. Gelatine, Hispaniola, Influenza…..

At last, putting a single finger to her cheek, she said, “I think I know what it is, Gamps.” She used her own special term of endearment for her grandfather. “I think it may be the word ‘Why?’”

James smiled, as if he had known the answer beforehand. He probably did. “Ah, now, I rather thought that’s where you would end up,” he said. “That’s the sign of an inquisitive mind.”

“I do like to know about things,” she replied. “I want to know where they come from, why they are what they are, and how we have come to see them like that.”

“Bravo, I couldn’t have put it better myself, dearest girl,” said James, clapping her on the back so hard she almost fell off the slippery stone. “The problem is, there are side effects of a mind like yours. It is a blessing, but a mixed one, especially in a woman.”