My books



At the end of the nineteenth century the rainforests of Tamborine Mountain were still a mystery explored only by the timber-getters and indigenous people, until one small woman with a large camera captured the mountain’s birdlife and flora and made them accessible to the world.

Hilda Geissmann was born one of seven children to a family of Swiss-German descent which relocated from Brisbane, Queensland, to the cool, green heights of the ranges south of the city. Here, Hilda’s pioneering parents built the first guesthouse, followed by a school (where her mother was the teacher) and a general store and transport business. The Geissmann children had many daily chores and some of these took them into the rainforests and eucalyptus woodlands that covered the sides of the plateau where they roamed free amid ravines and steep cliffs, mossy boulders and creeks that became torrents in the wet season, gushing over waterfalls to feed the rivers below.

The shy rainforest creatures – the lyrebirds, ground thrushes, quolls and pademelons – were the young Hilda’s constant companions and she studied their ways with keen interest, developing observational skills that made her such a fine writer and photographer. In her 20s she acquired her first camera, a cumbersome Thornton-Pickard with glass plates (Pictured below) , which she lugged along the rainforest paths that she knew better than anyone else outside her stalwart brothers. By her own admission she became a “pest” to her family, using the bathroom in the guesthouse to develop her film. When she became engaged, to a local farmer who had been severely wounded in World War 1, she asked for a darkroom instead of an engagement ring! They married, and her husband, Herbert Curtis, continued to quietly support his wife’s interest in the natural world.


Dendrobium kingianumCalanthe (2)

Hilda began submitting articles and photographs to newspapers and was soon in demand as a regular contributor, writing mostly about birds and plants. This, and the fame of her ability as a rainforest guide, brought her into contact with many leading naturalists of the era, both in Australia and overseas. Though her tertiary education had been limited to a fine arts diploma she was able to write with charm and style about the plants and bush creatures that she loved, treating them as sentient beings in a manner all her own, that charmed readers and editors alike. Here are two samples:

In an article about Logrunners she writes: The mother bird does the entire brooding, and the feeding of the young when they arrive.  The male scratches and works all day, but hands over all his ‘squirms’ to the mother, who carries them to the nest.  It is sweet to watch the happy, busy family.  Mother-bird stands on the doorstep for a moment after feeding the babes, then hops off, gives a little run, then flies down the gully, calling “Quick, quick!”  The male bird answers, and she goes to him.  Then he offers her his collection of livestock, and after a few moments she returns to the nest.  She flies up to the mossy log, runs along it like a mouse, then comes in quick little hops and runs towards the next, all the time uttering a faint sound.  In front of the nest she pauses for a second, then lands on the doorstep with a surprising bound.  It is laughable, and looks as if a spring were touched, so sudden and complete is the jump.(The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.  1866-1939), Saturday 24 February 1923, page 9).

Hilda’s picture of a Logrunner chick, below.  

  Bird on branch 1

And then, on her garden: With August come the daffodils – dear trumpety golden things! – in great variety of form and fragrance.  Then hyacinths and the lovely Liliums carry us into the spring, and there are many others all strung together, their fragrant names are sweet as Frangipani to the bulb lover.  He knows what store of beauty, perfume, and soft sounds lie wrapped in the little brown blankets of the bulbs that sleep during summer.  In this lies the charm of a Winter Garden. (The Queenslander (Brisbane,Qld. 1866-1939), Saturday 1 September 1923, page 40).

Hilda supplied bird skins to the Queensland museum and was soon in demand as a supplier or endemic plants to collectors around Australia and further afield – to the United States. She developed her own collection of native orchids and won the respect of other “orchidy people”, learning all the time from those with better education and formal scientific qualifications who, as their correspondence shows, never condescended to “the little woman with the big camera” as one writer called her.

For more than two decades Hilda Geissmann-Curtis played an important role in increasing public awareness of the rainforest birds and plants native to south-east Queensland. Though she never travelled far from her mountain home, her friendships with well-known natural scientists, writers, state governors and other early twentieth century notables opened the wider world to her through correspondence and the specialist publications to which she contributed her articles and photographs.

Dr. Kerry Heckenberg, in a 2008 paper in which she discusses Hilda’s work comments that her: scientific interests take precedence over her artistic aspirations” and after examining Hilda’s photographs in the April 8, 1922 edition of The Queenslander entitled ‘Beauties of Tamborine Mountain,’ says she is fully in accord with the decorative aesthetic in her photographs of scenic places, two waterfalls, a palm islet on a creek and imposing gum trees. But at the same her scientific purpose can be seen in her naming of specific tree types.  She is aiming for a combination of the accurate and the aesthetically pleasing in her contributions to this publication, whose natural history was aimed at a general audience. Heckenberg goes on to say:

Two of Geissmann’s more detailed images of flowers show other aspects of her approach.  Both depict the Ravine Orchid, Sarchochilus fitzgeraldii, but utilise very different pictorial conventions.  One is a translation of a pictorial schema into a photograph: a basket, seen in profile and piled high with sprays of orchid flowers, is set on a wooden table against a plain, dark background.  Evident artifice is combined with naturalism in this picture, which derives from the Dutch flower painting tradition… the other photograph shows the plant growing in its natural habitat and looks forward to something newer, more distinctly connected with photography and its capabilities.(See end of Chapter 5).  Although Geissmann has chosen a viewpoint which exploits the naturally decorative arrangement of the plant cascading over moss-covered rocks along with lighting that helps to emphasise the form of the flowers, she has also to accept some random elements in the final picture. (Kelly Heckenberg.  Vulgar art: issues of genre and modernity in the reception of the flower paintings of Ellis Rowan, in Impact of the Modern Vernacular Modernities in Australia 1870s-1960s, pp 83-85)

Cottage in bush

Above: Hilda’s charming study of an abandoned cottage on Tamborine Mountain, taken sometime in the 1920s

Very few people, on Tamborine Mountain or elsewhere today, remember that little woman with the big camera and, if they do, recall her only in old age, with little knowledge of the vital role she once played in making the mountain into a place where people still come, in increasing numbers, to commune with the rainforest. Even the Witches Falls national park, the first to be declared in Queensland, bears the name given to the area by Hilda and her siblings.

The great mystery of Hilda’s life is that she appears to have suddenly stopped producing articles and photographs, and apart from an occasional talk to natural history groups, faded from public view. Several theories have been put forward for this but in the author’s opinion the reason is prosaic: the busy life of a farmer’s wife, the mothering of a son, ill health and the operation of a labour-intensive cutflower business just didn’t give her the time. Her freedom to roam the rainforest with her camera…or perhaps a more modern device rather than the ancient, heavy Thornton-Pickard with its tricky photo-development requirements…had been severely curtailed. Such was the fate of many women back then. Hilda lived to a good old age, accepted her losses with grace and died in her late nineties after a stroke which put her in a nursing home for several years, far from the mountain she loved.


I first “fell in love” with Hilda Geissmann when a friend told me about her story and showed me some of her photographs and letters. Then her son, the late Sydney Curtis, came to Tamborine Mountain to deliver a lecture on lyrebirds, mentioning how his mother was one of the few people ever to be able to regularly locate the nests of this elusive bird, and photograph them. Balancing on precarious rock ledges to do so. I began to research my heroine and though her role in Australia’s natural history was slight and brief, it was nonetheless important. And I wanted passionately for that role not to be forgotten, not only on Tamborine Mountain but further afield among people with an interest in natural history. Especially bird watchers, of which I am one, and orchidists. I have a great deal in common with Hilda; apart from birds and plants and the rainforest in general we also share a love of gardening, music and good literature. So writing about her was a joy. She was an ordinary woman who, for a brief period, was extraordinary and I hope others will enjoy reading about her, and the mountain she called home.

For information about this book please contact Lake Media Services at or +61 404 915 559


Odin the Wanderer

Do you love Wagner’s famous Ring Cycle – four operas that tell the story of the The Ring of the Nibelung.  Then you’ll really love this book, which explains many things that puzzle you in the libretto.

Or do you absolutely HATE Wagner’s music, especially The Ring?  Then you’ll still love this book because it takes a satirical look at what is – let’s face it – a very silly story.

Or is it?

Maybe there’s more truth to The Ring than most of us have been led to think.

Either way, this is a hilarious romp through Norse legend that has plenty of relevance for today’s frenetic society.  If you enjoy the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett you’ll like Ringtones.

Here you’ll find Wotan, Brunnhilde, Siegfried and all the gang from The Ring struggling to avert the Final Catastrophe and on the way encountering love, tragedy, lust, greed, romance and self-sacrifice.  And a dragon or two.

Not interested in mythical beings like Gods and Giants and Dwarves?  Just think of them as human and you’ll find they all have just the same traits and behave just as badly.  Or, in a few cases, nobly.  To buy this book (it’s only $4.95!) or read the first couple of chapters in preview, go to:

…And look for blog articles on this site which explore Ringtones in its various aspects.

Great gardening reads – at a really low price!

I write gardening books to help those who are time-poor but would like to know how to create and maintain a garden that’s the envy of the neighbourhood.  Or at least the kind of garden they can be proud of and enjoy in their rare but precious leisure time.  That’s why I created the GardenEzi Five Step Program.  Each book I write is based on that program so they are zappy, easy to follow, fun (I hope!) to read – and cheap!   To put it succinctly, if rather vulgarly, GardenEzi takes the bullshit out of gardening!  You DON’T have to be a devoted gardener, out there weeding and feeding for the love of it seven days a week.  All you have to do is follow the Five Step Program based on the Five Principles (Ps) of Planning, Preparation, Planting, Practice and Protection.

The GardenEzi books are available as e-books, downloaded from Amazon.  To read them, you have to have an Amazon Kindle e-reader, or else they can be downloaded to your PC or laptop and either read on-line or printed out.  You only have to print out the bits you want that day, and you can cart the information out into the garden with you.  Publishing them as ebooks makes it possible for me to sell them cheaply…printed books are just so much more expensive to produce and really, for gardening information, you don’t need it to be exquisitely packaged.  You just need it to be up-to-date and simple to understand and follow.  All these books sell for $4.95.

To download these Kindle ebooks to a PC or laptop computer, you can install free software from Amazon (which will also allow you to download thousands of other Amazon ebooks). To download this software copy and paste:

The available ebooks in the GardenEzi series are:

New!  Ten Best Indoor Plants

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This book is both a revolution and a revelation! Truly! Not only does it give you the Top Ten best plants for indoor growing, it also gives you a revolutionary new way of growing them. This is because most potting mixes sold for indoor growing just don’t do the job! What you need is a growing medium that is not too dense yet holds water in a way that can be released as required to plant roots, that is not so heavy it makes repotting a nightmare, and is clean and safe for your home. How to create such a medium is described in the book, along with all the usual tips about watering, feeding, general care and choosing pots. You’ll also learn how air conditioning and central heating affect indoor plants and how to manage these conditions. As for all that stuff about correct light levels that baffles so many householders – don’t worry about it! In this book you’ll learn how simple it really is. Following the usual GardenEzi Five Step Program, Ten Best Indoor Plants really does take all the mystique out of successfully growing indoor plants.

Great Garden – No Sweat

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Great Garden cover website

Do you hate gardening?

Or do you just have too many other things to do?

If you want a beautiful garden but don’t have much time to spend in it, this book will show you what to do.  For just two hours work a week you can have the best garden in the neighbourhood if you follow the simple GardenEzi principles of Planning, Preparation, Planting, Practice and Protection.  The book tells you what to plant (and just as importantly, what NOT to plant), where to plant it and how to care for it without trouble. Most importantly, it tells you how to budget your gardening time the way you budget your money (perhaps better!) so you have plenty of time to enjoy your garden – and all the other things you like to do with your leisure time.  BECAUSE THIS IS A BIG SUBJECT, AND BECAUSE IT’S DIFFICULT WITH AN E-BOOK TO LAY OUT PHOTOS TO BEST EFFECT, I’M DEVOTING A SPECIAL PAGE TO THIS BOOK AND TO THE PRINCIPLES OF ‘NO SWEAT’ GARDENING – JUST CLICK ON THE ‘NO SWEAT’ TAG ON THE HOME PAGE)

Growing Great Azaleas

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(Please note: this book is unavailable right now – it will be available, in a revised edition, by next spring)

Azalea cover

Azaleas are among the world’s most popular plants and they are found across a range of climate zones in the USA and elsewhere.  Learn how to grow them easily and well with this simple GardenEzi Five Step guide.

Tropical Foliage Garden

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Tropical cover

If you live in a warm climate and want to have color in your garden all year round, this book will tell you how to do it and which plants to grow.  The Thirty Best Plants lists in three size categories will make choosing the right plants easy and there is plenty of quick, easy, zappy information on how to plant and care for them.  A perfect book for those living in the tropics and sub- tropics but also includes special lists of plants for creating foliage gardens in Mediterannean, warm temperate and arid zone gardens.

Improving Your Soil – The Natural Way

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Not every gardener is blessed with good soil.  Too often, soil is solid clay, too sandy or full of rocks.  This book will show you an easy, economic way to turn the worst garden soil into a wonderful growing medium, following the simple GardenEzi Five Step program.  Only $4.95 from 

Grow Herbs – Make Money

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Growing herbs is fun.  Growing herbs for profit is even more fun.  If you want to turn your healthy hobby into a modest business venture that will enhance your income without too much investment or trouble, read this book.  The GardenEzi Five Step program shows you how to plan, prepare and grow a selection of suitable herbs for sale and – most importantly – how to market them. Available at  

A Garden in Africa

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A sometimes tragic but always uplifting book about one woman’s struggle to create a garden on her fam in Kenya during the colonial days

Africa is a an exciting country and this is an exciting book about a woman who went to Kenya at the end of World War I and overcame danger, betrayal, tragedy and loss to create a great garden that attracted visitors from all over the world.  The story is based on real people and events and covers the period from early colonisation to Independence and beyond, including World War II and the Mau Mau emergency.  

Camping Guide Australia

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or go to Camping Guide Australia website:  or blog direct:

Bob and Julie Lake have spent most of their lives camping on these three continents, and elsewhere.  Being under canvas is still a big thrill for them and they decided to share some of their experiences  – good and bad – in this book. Camping Guide Australia tells you all you need to know about camping in a country that offers the world’s safest and least spoiled wilderness.  Includes information on what to buy, how to plan a trip, safety precautions and weather conditions – as well as special advice for women, families and novice campers.  Aimed at both Australians and overseas visitors.  

Slim with soup!

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Slim with Soup is the ultimate slimming guide for those who want to lose weight fast without suffering the miseries of a fad diet – in fact you could call it the “no gain, no pain” method of weightbusting!

However this is not just a useful book for slimmers, it’s also written for older people with health and digestive problems, invalids, parents of small children with finicky appetites, and people on a tight budget.

Soup has something to offer everyone – it’s easy to make, nutritious, easily digestible, easily eliminated, great for all ages and conditions, and cheap. And of course, it’s delicious – whether as a comfort food for the ailing and out of sorts or the elegant start to a dinner party.

The book, too, is in an easy-to-digest format. There are special sections for each of the five special interest groups – weight watchers, older people, invalids, tots and toddlers and those wanting to save money. These are followed by a guide to the ingredients and equipment needed for making good soup. The final part of the book contains recipes for different types of soups including thick ‘n chunky soups, clear soups, broths, cream soups, fish soups and even soups made from fresh fruit. Here the author includes her own special recipe for fool-proof dumplings.

“This is not specifically a recipe book”, author Julie Lake says. “I’ve included two or three recipes for each type of soup so people who have never made soup in their lives have some idea of how it’s done. These recipes will give readers the general principles of making different types of soups – after that it’s up to them! Making soup is not rocket science – and it’s not haute cuisine! Anyone can take a chunk of cheap meat and a bunch of vegetables and turn them into an utterly delicious meal that won’t make you fat but WILL satisfy both the stomach and the soul!”.

“The main purpose of this book is to teach people just why soup is such an excellent food, especially for certain special interest groups such as slimmers”.

Slim with Soup is not a glossy coffee-table book full of appetizing photographs. It’s an e-book, packed full of useful information, with a handful of illustrations, that’s short and to the point. Cheap as chips, too, at US$3.99, but not as fattening!

The book is available as a Kindle download from Amazon at

It can also be downloaded direct to your PC using software available free from Amazon, and either read on line or printed out. OR, you can borrow it from the Amazon library.


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  1. Pingback: That’s What Writers Do – They Write | jbwye

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