Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Nesting Instinct

Earlier this year, my darling organised the removal of two large trees from our backyard. On the day he came home to find them gone, he was ecstatic.

The birds were less impressed. Although they’ve now got more ground to poke their beaks in and around in search of a feed, there’s only the clothesline left for them to perch and have a gossip about their day.

Fast forward to spring, and there are far fewer prime real estate locations on our property for birds to pitch their nests in an attempt to attract a mate and raise another crop of little flying dinosaurs. So, it makes sense that one day we opened our letter box to find a half-constructed nest inside.

Feeling confident we could cope with this problem, we pulled the foundations out and threw them away, then swept the inside of the box with a short-handled broom until all traces of the building site were gone. Problem solved.

The next time we checked the letterbox, we discovered that far from solving the problem, we’d made the area into some sort of “highly desirable” neighbourhood with exclusivity appeal. Another nest thrown into the compost and another sweep out of the letterbox.

Now, my darling is a fastidious checker of the letterbox at the best of times. Whenever he’s at home, junk mail can count its lifespan in minutes if not seconds.

But there’s something soul-eroding about opening a door every half-hour and throwing something’s house away. Each time he lifted the flap thinking, “Surely, they got the message last time?” Nope, they didn’t.

Reading online for the best way to deal with the problem, we encountered a mix of quitters and sadists. The quitters urged us to purchase a second letterbox so the birds would be left undisturbed to raise their offspring alongside our post. The sadists suggested we find the lead bird and kill him in the most horrific way possible before mounting his severed head on the top of the letterbox as a warning to others.

Hmm. Tempting. But no.

Instead, we pulled the letterbox out of the ground and placed it face-down next to the garage. Since NZ post reduced its service to only three days a week, we felt comfortable that we could leave it there for the majority of the week, only replacing it when the post was actually due.

As a bonus, this cut down on the number of junk mail trips my darling made down the driveway every afternoon.

And then came the saddest sight we’ve ever seen.

A sparrow, mouth stuffed full of nest-building twigs and dry grass, flapped up to where the letterbox opening used to be and tried to build a nest in midair.

Not just once. This bird had spirit. This bird had vigour. This bird had used up its entire brain with other matters and couldn’t fit in the ability to learn one more new fact.

Sure, it looked like the box it was constructing its nest inside had disappeared, but no way would it give up that easy!

After a half-dozen attempts to insert new nesting materials into a nest that no longer existed, we saw its little shoulders slump in defeat before it flew away. Off to tell the wife they were now officially homeless.

Monday, 26 September 2016

The missed pick-up

When I was a child, my parents paid for me to have a piano lesson every week. This wasn’t because of my breathtaking musical ability, or because I foresaw a future in which I’d be using those lessons every day. Much like algebra, as soon as I stopped learning piano I never really used it again.

I paid the piano teacher the grand total of 50c per lesson for four years until she unjustly jacked up the price to $1 per lesson, and I paid that instead. When I say paid, I do actually mean Mum or Dad would give me a 50c piece or a dollar note and I would hand it over at the end of the lesson.

My brain did occasionally wander to thoughts about what would happen if I didn’t hand over the money. After all, what could she do? Take back the lesson? On the other hand, it was nice to have somewhere special to go on Wednesday nights. A feeling that stayed on board long after any genuine interest in playing piano had gone.

At the end of each lesson, having parted with the equivalent of a week’s worth of pocket money, I’d walk out to the front of the house and down to the corner, then wait for Dad to stop by and pick me up on his way home.

Although having a young child waiting alone at night seems strange now, it felt perfectly normal at the time. So what if my lesson ended at 5.30pm and the sun sets in winter at 4.45pm? Waiting alone by the side of a busy street on a dark night never hurt any… oh wait. Never mind.

So this particular night I was waiting there, a bit cold and a bit bored, and I saw Dad’s car driving along the road. I stepped right up to the edge of the street to make it easier for him to see me, and watched him drive straight past.

Now, as an adult I understand that grownups have other things on their minds. Almost constantly on their minds, sometimes even to the exclusion of really good TV.

Back then though, I just made the natural assumption that my family no longer wanted me and I was going to die out on the street in the dark. Maybe, if I was fortunate, my piano teacher would let me into her warm house for another piano lesson, but that was a minimum of a week away.

There was a police station across the road where my introverted self definitely didn’t want to bother anybody, and my house was only a half-hours walk away if I’d known enough about routes and directions to work out where to go. (Warning: I still hold up my hands to work out left from right and still think of this as a giant step forward in my navigation skills)

Of course, it all worked out okay. When my mother called out for me to set the table it soon became apparent I wasn’t there, and a simple chain of logic led my father back into the car to pick me up from outside my piano lesson.

Mum later complained that if SHE’D forgotten to collect me she wouldn’t have heard the end of it, whereas Dad just received a cautious hug when he eventually arrived. What I didn’t say was that I was on my best behavior in case my first instinct was correct and the whole family wanted shot of me (except for table-setting duties, obviously).

My father died on Thursday and I don’t know why, but this memory has been stuck in my brain ever since. I lived in the same house with Dad for twenty-one years, worked beside him day-in and day-out for another twelve, yet the only anecdote I have rattling around in my brain is this one.

Maybe it’s because Dad has once again gone whizzing off into the night and this time I'll be missing him for a lot longer than the hour it’ll take until tea is served.

Goodbye, Dad. I love you.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Meet Kelly Miller - SPLINTERED

Today on my blog, I’d like to introduce you to Kelly Miller, author of Splintered and the Detective Kate Springer mystery series.

Kelly’s book is featured in our Kindle Press Swap Meet (September only) where you can find books on sale, read any titles for FREE through Kindle Unlimited, and enter our Giveaway to win $100.

Kelly grew up shivering in Illinois but now enjoys the year-round sunshine in Tampa, FL. Her debut novel, Dead Like Me, won second place in the best mystery category of the 2011 FWA Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. It was also named a semi-finalist in the mystery category of The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Books Awards competition. The Detective Kate Springer series continues with the second book, Deadly Fantasies.

In Kelly’s newest book Splintered, a 2015 Kindle Scout winner, she introduces her readers to a whole new cast of characters. Visit to get a glimpse into the inner workings of her writing life.

When did you first discover your passion for writing?

Writing has always been in my blood. Since the age of thirteen when I coauthored a cheesy romance novel in a blue, spiral bound notebook, I knew I wanted to pursue writing as a career. But somewhere along the way, I lost my voice. As is often happens, life simply got in the way. I got married, had three children, and adopted a black Labrador. As a stay-at-home mom, I was lucky to get an hour a day to myself. And when I found those few precious minutes, they were spent reading a good book. But it was time well spent because I feel like I’ve been researching the mystery and suspense genres for more than two decades. It was in my search for my own identity after staying at home with the kids for so many years that ultimately lead me back to my love of writing. I started my journey towards publication in August 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

Do you have a favorite author?

By far my favorite author is Lisa Gardner. She writes in the same genre as I do and I adore her main character Detective D.D. Warren. Lisa has had quite an influence on my writing and I’m always first in line at the bookstore to pick up her newest paperback.

What is the best part about being a writer?

Getting to create characters. The people in my novels are completely real to me, like friends you don’t get to see often but that still hold a special place in your heart. To create something out of nothing is truly magical.

Life turns from barely tolerable to complete hell when Maddy Eastin’s impulsive plan to win back the attention of her absentee father backfires. Word of her scheme spreads through her high school, but when mockery escalates to cyberbullying, Maddy and her failed stunt become headline news. But the worst is yet to come…

A disturbed man is fighting the overwhelming urge to surrender to his true nature—a moral code molded by a sadistic father who taught him that a girl needs proper training to become the perfect subservient woman. As he watches Maddy on the evening news, his already fractured psyche completely splinters. She’s the girl he’s been waiting for.

When Maddy disappears, she’s labeled a runaway even though her mother believes it was foul play. Will the two detectives investigating Maddy’s disappearance find her before it’s too late? Or has she already fallen prey to the vicious stranger hunting her?

This mystery/psychological thriller unfolds through the viewpoints of five deeply flawed characters. Each is on their own emotionally charged journey that ultimately intersects in a collision course of devastating consequences.

What is the worst part about being a writer?

The constant need to market myself as an author. Like most writers, I just want to write. But that’s not reality if you want to make a living in this industry. There are so many books available in the marketplace that sometimes it seems I’m screaming into the wind trying to get readers to notice my work. It can be frustrating at times.

What draws you to this genre?

Have you heard the saying, “I didn’t pick the genre, it picked me.” For me, this is true. Before I started my writing career, I was a voracious reader. I still love to read but now my schedule is so full it’s difficult to find time to read a book unless it’s in the school car line or on the elliptical. At the bookstore, I’ll pick up a variety of genres but my favorites are mysteries, suspense, and psychological thrillers—probably because that’s what I write. The way my voice comes through in a book perfectly matches the crime fiction genre. So for now, I’m sticking with what works.

Which character or characters do you identify with in your book? Why?

In a small way I can identify with Lily Eastin, the mother in my novel. You see her daughter, fifteen-year-old protagonist Maddy Eastin, was born with a cardiac disease called Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). In layman’s terms, it’s an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the heart to beat too fast. I decided to use my own personal experience as a mom who went through this with her baby. You see, my daughter was diagnosed with SVT when she was only seventeen days old. The trauma of her near-death radically changed me. I found myself emotionally distancing myself, fearing that I would lose her at any minute. I was eventually able to overcome my insecurities, but I decided to model part of the character of Maddy’s mom, Lily Eastin, after the person I could’ve seen myself becoming had I not overcome my fear.




The grumble of a heavy diesel engine alerted Maddy that only two minutes separated her from either a ride to school or another lecture from her mom about missing the bus. She slammed the front door and stepped into the sticky heat of a dark September morning. The moisture in the Florida air enveloped her, its thickness slowing her down. Or maybe the lethargic pace simply matched her outlook toward this dreary school day.

The geometry book jutting out of the small hole in the bottom of her backpack cut into her ribs with every step. She yanked down the sleeves riding up her arms to hide the fresh marks. From behind her, a metallic grinding of brakes cut through the darkness. She reached the bus stop expecting to see the yellow beast that would drag her off to school. Instead, a fat guy hopped off the back of a garbage truck and lifted a recycling bin off the ground.

Dammit. I forgot to put the trash out. Something else for Mom to complain about.

The bus was late again. Maddy wondered where Sabrina was—her friend usually beat her to the bus stop, but this morning she was a no-show. Maybe Sabrina’s cough had turned into something more serious.

Lucky. Now she will have an extra day to study for our geometry exam.

Maddy had thought about playing the sick card this morning, but she knew there was no way her mom would have believed the act. And the only thing Maddy dreaded more than geometric theorems was cleaning the toilet. Bending down on one knee, Maddy swung her backpack to the ground. She squinted through the murky haze of the nearest streetlight and fumbled with its zipper.

Why we moved us to this dump of a neighborhood is beyond me.

Half the streetlights were burned out, including the one directly over Maddy’s head.

The sun wouldn’t rise for another hour, but she still found herself wiping away moisture collecting near her hairline.

A soft squealing noise jerked her attention away from the task of rearranging the books in her bag. A van had pulled up to the corner—a real piece of junk from the sound of the roughly idling engine. The feeling of being watched caused a crop of goose bumps to pop up on her arms.

Really? Now a van has you spooked?

Maddy blamed the paranoia on those stupid stranger-danger videos her mom had forced her to watch as a kid. She could still hear the nasally narrator’s voice in her head, warning her not to get into a car with someone she didn’t know, and never to accept candy from a stranger.


Maddy zipped her backpack closed and stood, still staring at the van. It’s not like work vehicles in this neighborhood were an unusual occurrence. Most days it was like playing Mario Kart, having to dodge all the trucks on the street. It seemed half the neighbors cut grass for a living and parked their trailers full of lawn equipment on the road every night after work.

The smell of burning rubber drifted toward her. The voice in Maddy’s head morphed into her dad’s and informed the idiot in the van that he should change the belts. Of course, the source of the smell could’ve been coming from an oil leak in the engine. Maddy couldn’t decide the exact cause. She’d always hated it when her dad forced her into the garage to help him tinker with the car. Even so, she’d give anything to have him back now, to complain one more time about the grease stuck under her fingernails or how impossible it was to remove oil stains from her jeans.

A muted flash appeared behind the tinted glass of the van’s passenger window. Someone still sat inside.

Probably getting his rocks off staring at my bare legs.

The window slid down a crack. A new scent skirted the air, a sweeter smell that caused a craving to wash over Maddy. She strained her eyes, looking for writing on the side panel of the van. Nothing visible. She wondered if a workman had arrived early to a job site. The sound of a garage door opening down the street tore Maddy’s attention away. She turned, hoping to see Sabrina rushing toward the bus stop. The low light of the streetlamp illuminated a dark figure pushing a garbage can to the curb.

Another rumble drew near. Maddy breathed a sigh of relief when she caught a glimpse of yellow passing between the houses and trees on the other side of the neighborhood. Her stop would be next.

She cocked her head to the side, realizing the smell of smoke was closer. Just as she turned her head, an iron hand clamped around her wrist.

Anything else you’d like to add?

You can download my novelette, My Blue Nightmare, for free on my website ( It’s the first in the My Nightmare Series which will feature a new terrifying psychopath in each story.

Thanks very much for joining me on the blog today, Kelly. Splintered looks like a great read if, like me, your idea of a great read comes complete with thrilling and a whopping side-dish of mystery.

If you’d like to see more books from Kindle Press authors, then please visit our Swap Meet to see all Kindle Press books on sale for September and enter for your chance to win our $100 Giveaway. And you can always read any of our books for FREE through a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

If you haven’t joined up yet, then click on THIS LINK (some country exclusions apply) to sign-up for a free trial to read anything on our swap meet page FREE for thirty days!

If you’d like to know more about Kelly Miller, then please follow the links below to connect with her on Social Media, or follow her on Amazon so you never miss a new release.

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