Sand Dollars

In The Sand Dollar, Jenny finds a childhood memento – a sand dollar – which precipitates her trip to Oregon. Several people have asked me what a sand dollar is. Hopefully this will help answer that question.

Sand dollars are the skeletons from animals. They are part of the family which includes starfish, sea cucumbers, crinoids, and sea urchins.

Sand dollars are the skeletons from animals. They are part of the family which includes starfish, sea cucumbers, crinoids, and sea urchins.

sd1A sand dollar shell looks like a round white coin, which is where it gets its name. When you see one washed up on the beach, it appears to be a round, white circular disk, typically 2.5 cm to 10cm in diameter. These are the internal skeletons of the sea creature. When they’re alive, I understand they’re actually a dark colour, almost purple and are covered with short dark spines that look like fur. These spines can move, and the creature uses them to move around on sea bottom and to push small pieces of food to its mouth. Most sand dollars have a pattern of five sets of pores on them. Those are used to move sea water into the sand dollar’s body, which is then pumped to where it’s needed to aid in movement or other internal functions. Sand dollars like smooth sandy or muddy ocean bottoms. They mainly live in shallow water, near land. Sand dollars will burrow into the soft bottom of the ocean’s shallow water. They will also swallow sand grains to build up their weight so they don’t get washed away!

Those we find on the seashore have lost all of the surface material and have been bleached white by sunlight.

There’s an interesting myth about the Sand Dollar stated in this poem by an unknown author

The legend of the Sand dollar
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus Christ
Found in this lowly shell.
If you will examine closely,
You’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one Made by a Roman’s spear.
On one side the Easter Lily,
It’s center is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
And led them from afar.
The Christmas Poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday,
Our joyous Christmas tide.
Now break the center open
And here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread good will and peace.
This simple little symbol,
Christ left for you and me.
To help to spread His Message
Through all eternity.

Café Cala welcomes Iris Blobel


Hi Iris, welcome back to Café Cala,

Iris blobel

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala again with your new series. What a fabulous cover! I’ve been making some raspberry and apple muffins this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Oh yum, that sounds delicious! May I have some Earl Grey with that, please?

1 Where did you get the idea for Love Will Find You?

We went to Merimbula a few years back, and I knew straight away that I wanted to write something set in a small place like this. It was round about the time of the AFL Grand Final – put one and one together and the idea for LWFY was born.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

Feedback from the readers – my daughter actually has recently read one of my books and loved it. That gave me a bit of a thrill, too J

3 How did you start writing?

Coincidence basically – I was bored, nothing on telly, kids in bed… I put a few words together. A friend had a read through it and gave me some hints. This is how “Sweet Dreams, Miss England” was born. Initially only for family and friends, it took off… now I’m really happy to have found my creative outlet.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

I’m learning from book to book. I’ve been lucky to have worked with some really good and nice editors. Compromising on issues and accepting change – initially hard for me, but I’m getting much better.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished book #2 in the Australian Sports Stars series “Let Me Love You”, and I’m about to get started on book #3.

Having said that, we’ve just returned from our holiday in Tumby Bay, which screams to be in one of my books as well. Yes, the first few pages have been written, and I love the characters already.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Never, ever give up, and if someone doesn’t like your story – so what, it’s ONE opinion. Your time to shine will come.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Still enjoying Lee Child and Jill Shalvis. I recently read a book by Robyn Carr from the Thunder Point series… I really enjoyed it!

Love will find you


Tyson held the Brownlow Medal in his hand, but celebrating was the last thing on his mind. His fake smile was as much a lie as the last message he’d sent to Katie the day before. As a result, it was his mother who sat in the crowd amongst his teammates, his friends, the footy world, reporters, and whoever else was important—and not Katie. His gaze wandered around the ballroom, with all the round tables neatly positioned in nice rows. Each table was beautifully set with dinnerware, menus, and a floral arrangement. The TV screens on either side of him showed a close-up of the stage, and as he tried to protect his eyes against the bright lights, he watched them all, making toasts, their glasses filled with the best champagne, applauding his achievement.

The crowd settled and awaited a speech. His speech. Nervousness crept up in him as he stared into the audience. His throat burned as the acid in his stomach churned.

The Brownlow Medal was awarded to the best and fairest football player of the season, yet he didn’t think there was anything fair about the way he’d treated his girl.

Tyson Gaspaldi took a deep breath, unfolded his little note, and cleared his throat. The first word he focused on was her name, Katie. He blinked to refocus and thanked his mother as well as his family. It came effortlessly once he was past the initial hurdle and in only a few minutes he finished, held up his medal, and walked behind the stage.

Why had he said the things he had? Why didn’t he just answer her question?

A short time later, Tyson joined his friends and his mother at the table again.

“Congratulations, darling.” His mother took his face into her hands and gave Ty a kiss on his cheek. Only a few years ago, he would have been embarrassed by such open emotions in front of a crowd, but since his father’s death earlier in the year, he welcomed every sign of affection by his mother.

“Thanks, Mum.”

“Dad would be so proud of you.” Caroline Gaspaldi took a step back and gazed at him. Pride radiated from her eyes. “Look at you. You should wear a suit more often.”

His friends around the table gave him a quick clap on the shoulder and congratulated him before sitting down to proceed with the evening. Ty noticed his phone buzzing and with a flick of his finger, he scrolled down his messages. He stopped at Katie’s message from earlier in the day.

I don’t believe u!

With a heavy sigh, he switched off the screen, ignoring all the other new messages and the phone into his pocket. He took the beer in front of him and tried to concentrate on what the guy on stage was saying. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a woman at the other table. She looked incredible in her shimmering silver evening gown. The décolleté of her dress revealed tanned skin upon which a delicate necklace hung. Her curly brown hair was pinned up in a ponytail which made her look very sexy. When she smiled at him, he winked at her in return.

“What are you doing, Ty?” his mother whispered into his ear.

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Twitter: @_iris_b



Café Cala welcomes Rachel Amphlett

Hi Rachel, welcome to Café Cala

Rachel Amphlett

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I’ve been making some strawberry and white chocolate muffins this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

I usually try to be good and drink green tea during the day but if we’re having muffins, then to heck with it – pass the coffee please!

1 Where did you get the idea for Before Nightfall?

I started off with a very vivid image in my head of a woman with a sack cloth over her head. I knew she was in trouble – I could even sense the material clinging to her face as she breathed – but I had no idea how she got there.
We were on holiday at the time, visiting family and friends in the UK, then having a week in Malta before coming home to Australia, and that scene kept going round and round in my mind. It plagued me for a few days until we went out on a yacht one morning to cruise up the coast of Malta for the day, and while we were relaxing there, I ended up scribbling the whole plot out into my notebook – it was a really fast process.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

Meeting such interesting people and helping other writers is the first thing that comes to mind.
I also love the fact that the research I have to do for my books teaches me so many different things. I did an online course with the University of Stirling this year in forensic science and spent six weeks learning about fingerprints, gun residue and blood-spatter patterns!

3 How did you start writing?

My mum taught my brother and I to read before we even started school, so I think my love of storytelling came from that. By the time I was about seven years old, I was writing stories and getting my mum to type them up so I could get the teacher to read them out to the class (my handwriting was terrible at the time!).

4 What would you say has helped you most?

I have an incredible writing tribe – that’s the family and friends who don’t write, but are always there for me and make me laugh, the readers who post reviews and email or post encouraging words on social media, and the writing buddies who totally understand when I’m frustrated, stuck for advice or just need someone to ask ‘is it like this for you?!’ – I couldn’t do it without them.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve got a political thriller parked at the moment while I’m working on a romantic suspense. I tend to bounce between the two, which sounds like madness but actually works really well because if I can’t make the words flow on one, I go and work on the other.
The idea is to release them both in 2015 so I can then get my head down to research and write the third in the Dan Taylor series of thrillers.
On top of that, I’m targeting the two weeks over Christmas to develop my first screenplay.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Don’t give up!

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Ah, there’s so many! For crime and thrillers, I always read Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Robert Crais, and Daniel Silva. There’s almost a fight in our house every time one of their books is released as to who gets to read it first!
For romantic suspense, I really enjoy books by Helene Young, Linda Howard, and Sandra Brown.
Then there are the authors that I can’t put into specific genres such as Ken Follett and Robert Harris. I’ve also been making an effort to read more by Australian authors this year and that’s opened up a whole plethora of novels! We now use the spare room for the ‘To Be Read’ pile…

Before Nightfall

Kate Foster’s breath escaped her lips in short, shallow bursts.
The sack, which had been placed over her head when she had first been attacked, clung to her mouth and nose with each inhaled gasp.
Condensation prickled against her face, the lack of air suffocating. Her heart beat rapidly, hammering against her ribcage, while a trickle of sweat worked its way between her breasts.
The hard wooden chair pierced the denim fabric of her jeans, and she wriggled backwards, trying to ease the pressure on her pelvic bone.
‘Stay still,’ said a voice to her right.
Her head twitched, and she held her breath, sensing the man as he drew closer. She caught a faint trace of his scent through the musty fabric of the sackcloth – sweat, a hint of hours-old aftershave.
Her heart skipped a beat, and her stomach clenched. The smell grew stronger, and she turned her head from side to side, trying to gauge the man’s exact location. A faint echo of his shower gel lingered in the air between them, a mixture of musk and jasmine.
‘No-one’s coming to get you,’ he murmured in her ear.
Kate jumped in her seat, not realising his proximity had been so close. Her heart raced harder, and she exhaled, trying to keep calm, the rushing sound in her ears now deafening.
A low chuckle vibrated next to her skin. She twisted, trying to gain some distance between them.
She’d lost all sense of time. This morning, she’d been talking to three colleagues outside, taking advantage of the rare sunshine that had bathed the courtyard.
The attack had been swift, well-coordinated, with no warning.
Her jewellery and watch had been removed from her, and then she’d been shoved into a small room with her colleagues, and told to stay silent.
Maybe an hour had passed, during which time her colleagues had been taken one by one from the room, leaving the remaining captives to their own thoughts.
Then, the hostage takers had returned for her, dragging her from the sitting position she’d been forced to adopt, the sack over her head damp with condensation from her breath.
She’d felt a hard surface under her feet, and then a door had slammed shut behind her. She’d been forced into a chair, before her wrists were pushed through plastic cuffs and secured.
Now, her breathing increased as she tried to remember what she’d been told, what to do to keep her captor calm. She worked her wrists, trying to loosen the cuffs and keep the circulation flowing through her fingers.
‘They’ll pay you,’ she whispered, then coughed and cleared her throat before repeating herself. ‘They’ll pay you. To let me go. To keep me safe.’
An exasperated sigh escaped the man’s lips.
Kate held her breath, and then jumped as the sackcloth was ripped off her head. She blinked in the rays of light shining through the grubby farmhouse window.
The voice drew her attention back to the man who was now standing in front of her, hands on hips, glaring.
‘Don’t ever try to bargain with them,’ he said, then turned and strode across the room to a table. He threw the sackcloth onto it and slumped into another chair, facing her, his foot tapping an unknown beat on the floor. ‘You do that, they’re going to feed on your desperation.’
Kate shifted in her seat and watched his heel bounce up and down, and then caught him staring at her. She blushed and lowered her gaze.
The hostage course was so damn hard – only three days to remember everything the instructors were trying to teach her, on top of a bad case of jetlag after her flight from the US two days ago. The difficulty rating went through the ceiling when the taller of the two, now berating her, looked so bloody good in the tight black t-shirt he was wearing with his jeans.
She raised her head and watched the man who was running his hand through his unkempt brown hair, frustration etched across his face.
He appeared to ignore her discomfort. ‘Small steps. Build up a rapport – don’t discuss politics, religion or your own situation. Keep it simple. Ask for small favours.’ His voice rose. ‘And under no circumstances talk about paying a ransom. Ever.’
He rose from the chair and stalked towards her. ‘That’s the hostage negotiator’s job, and you could ruin everything he’s trying to do to save you. Remember the basics we discussed in the classroom yesterday?’
Kate swallowed. She found her concentration wavering as she stared into his green eyes, sure she could see gold flecks around the edge of his irises, and then cursed inwardly as her bottom lip quivered. Although it was a simulated kidnapping, it had been frighteningly real.
Her eyes stung, and she blinked, inhaled deeply and tried to ignore the heat in her face. ‘Can you at least untie me?’
He waited for a heartbeat, and then turned, shaking his head. ‘You sort her out,’ he said over his shoulder and pushed his way through a door which led to the yard outside.
Kate’s mouth dropped open in indignation, before her attention was drawn to another, older man approaching her.
He reached into the back pocket of his jeans, pulled out a knife and bent down. He flicked the blade open. As he raised the blade, he glanced up, his grey eyes twinkling with humour.
‘Ignore Finn,’ he said. ‘He’s having a bad day.’
A faint smile stole across Kate’s face, and she sniffed. ‘Really, Steve? What’s he like on a good day?’