Once the euphoria of winning the "Write to Win" contest died, I settled down to dividing my time between other competition entries (honing my ability to write across genres and styles) and finishing "Mitchell's Run". I didn't try to follow the synopsis, just wrote, researching as I went.
The Mountain Cattleman's Association was the first cab off the rank and a phone call from an oil rig in the middle of the Timor Sea worked wonders in opening doors and their annual race meeting was during my next spell ashore.
We went and had a ball.
Armed with new information and insights, the story moved onwards until more questions arose, this time about flying a Cessna into a mountain airfield. A colleague on the rig had an extensive computer setup, which included Microsoft Flight Simulator and I flew the appropriate aircraft into an airfield that closely approximate the one I'd imagined until I could replicate the hero's flying skill (in the computer at least).
The next question was a little more bizarre.
The story begins with the heroine being rescued from a blizzard by Andrew Mitchell and they shelter in a mine until the storm blows itself out. Returning to civilization, the heroine discovers that Andrew Mitchell went missing in the same area a century earlier and she is left with a mystery, which, as a modern young woman, she doesn't believe.
Logically, the body must be found, but I had no idea what a century-old skeleton would look like.
Another phone call from offshore, this time to the Victorian State Mortuary Services (the Coroner's Office) and I found myself talking to a very engaging woman who listened and made suggestions, describing the appearance of the skeleton, the official procedures in such a case, and anything else I cared to ask.
When I came on leave, I armed myself with a box of chocolates and went in search for her, only to find I'd been talking to the top lady in her field of Forensic Pathology.
I've tapped that source of information more than once since and bought her a dinner as well.
"Mitchell's Run" was finished in time for another competition, this time for a five book contract with an emerging Australian publisher, and I won it because the judges thought it felt authentic.
My writing career had begun.