Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year's Eve Celebrations

Well I have to admit I've started already. I've begun watching movies on the telly. To be fair I do have to start early because I'm planning on finishing early as well. It's been many a long year since I've been able to stay awake until midnight.

If I was really serious about the whole tradition I could always do a Mr Bean and wind the clock forward a few hours, but that seems too much effort just so I can count back from ten alone (my darling would never join in) and then yell happy new year, and go to bed.

Easier to just play it out in my head now and not risk putting all the clocks in the house out of sync.

In a celebration of a faded memory I did have jelly and cream for dessert tonight. Followed an hour later by my latest crop of ripe cherries (five, two of them untouched by birdlife.)

We are also trying to get some sort of New Year's Day family celebration thingee going. Cafes in Christchurch haven't been very compliant so far, so at the moment the plan is to have a picnic somewhere.

The botanic gardens has been suggested as a suitable spot, maybe the Port Hills if it doesn't get too windy, or the front yard of someone's house. All equally fine suggestions as long as the house isn't ours. It would be nice to venture slightly further afield however, maybe even Nunweek Park if we're lucky.

In honour of the traditional picnic basket spreads from my childhood I've baked a bacon and egg pie. I've eschewed the various fancy recipes on offer throughout the internet, in lieu of the traditional one that I keep in my head.

It stays in my head largely through simplicity. There's pastry (or else it wouldn't be a pie) and bacon and egg. I occasionally go all out and sprinkle on some pepper and salt, depending on the salinity of the bacon chosen (on special of course!)

The main problem with this sudden display of domesticity is that the smell of a beautifully cooked bacon and egg pie has permeated the entire house. The entire house where I'm currently not eating many carbs, and my darling is not eating much fat.

I say it smells beautiful, but it's more like torment.

Never mind, it's nearly nine o'clock so I'll be heading off to bed shortly and wake up tomorrow with the smell dissipated and the New Year here.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Back

Yesterday I woke up with an incredible pain in my back. This is not unusual, I find it difficult to fall asleep but once I'm there boy I don't wake up for nobody.

If it's just a sleep related injury though, it usually dissipates in an hour or so. The worst part is trying to get out of bed when you have to move the back you know is locked in position out of position. Sometimes I fall asleep again trying to work up the physical courage.

This turned out not to be a usual sleep-related injury though. After a couple of hours with no relief, I tried taking some painkillers. After a couple of hours with no relief from those either, I tried complaining a lot.

And then to my horror I woke up with the same pain this morning.

It genuinely feels like someone has twisted both of my arms behind me, and then kicked repeatedly at my upper back.

I've been keeping a careful eye on my darling. He's denying all knowledge of it, but there's no one else in the house now is there?

Complaints recommenced this morning and have been continuing pretty much unabated for the rest of the day. The only bright point so far is that I've groaned my way out of some exercise this morning and this evening, and will continue to do so until I'm fully well (and then a further week or so just to ensure I don't have a relapse.)

Luckily, I've had lots of editing to keep me occupied, and lots of television to partially watch. I've also been running a Kindle Countdown sale so my main focus of attention has been hitting the refresh button on my screen to see if I've clocked up any new sales. Such fun.

I'll give it another couple of days, and if it's still not healed up I may have to think about sometime making an appointment to see a doctor maybe.

I'm back to work on Monday so that would probably be the most appropriate day.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Categories

For the last few days I've been playing with Amazon KDP. I have a new book coming out on January 25th 2015 (do you like the way I shoved a subtle plug in there, eh?) and I'm trying to get it into a couple of categories which are genre applicable.

I don't mean broad categories either, I mean nice and specific and in which I may have a chance of my book actually being found by someone casually browsing their favourite niche book categories.

First I started off well enough with the BISAC codes where I can just select what I want, but everything after that has gone straight downhill.

My book is applicable for the New Adult category. Amazon has not yet put this out there as an option, so I'm trying to get it into the Teen & Young Adult category (whilst restricting the age to 18+) and also into the normal Adult categories.

As well as this I would like the categories that I select under Book to also be the categories that Amazon put the title into under Kindle eBook.

You may think this makes sense, and would be somewhat automatic. You would be wrong.

Young Adult - Social Issues. I can directly select this category under the BISAC codes and it shows up perfectly well under books, but Kindle just isn't going to go there.

Fine. I've been around this block before, I can just try to hack it then using Keywords. Keywords like Teen & Young Adult, Social Issues. Great. And it only uses two of my seven keywords, so I can try to maneouver it into a few extra places, like Mysteries & Thrillers for old people.

Well I got ahead of myself there, didn't I?

On the bright side it ended up in Thriller>Conspiracy which I hadn't foreseen at all. Probably because I hadn't nudged it in that direction. On the other hand, that could maybe apply?

I stripped the whole caboodle back. I determined that the reason it hadn't been successful was due to overwhelming the system with options. So the next time I went in I tried taking out all reference to adulthood and mystery and just trying to get some teen social issue action going.

Nope. Now it was Kindle eBook Teen Literature, but nothing social about it.

So I tried to directly hack all of the keywords by typing in every subcategory exactly as they appeared on Amazon, down to beginning with Kindle eBook.

Nope.

I should probably point out about now that each attempt takes a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 48 hours to perform. Each time I submit new keywords or new categories I have to wait for Amazon to check all of the content again and make sure that it still meets their guidelines. My deepest fear now is that at some point they get cheesed off and say NOPE. Reject. And it won't end up anywhere at all.

I thought that perhaps I should try for an easier category. I'm from New Zealand, there's a section for Australian & Oceanian that I could possibly squeeze into. I'll take a break from haranguing the Teen & Young Adult market and I'll just try to shove it in there instead.

Prove to myself that my magic wasn't completely gone.

My magic is completely gone. It ended up in the category Fiction>Literature. That's the category that EVERY SINGLE BOOK ON AMAZON THAT'S FICTION GOES INTO. It's not a category at all, unless you need to tell it apart from television sets or car radios.

If I exhaust all possibilities I could always try to contact Amazon Support and ask them for help. But that seems to work in direct opposition to everything that attracts me about self-publishing. ie I never want to have to communicate with anyone at all because I'll be doing everything myself.

Still, it may come to that.

So make a note to look out for Skeletal by Katherine Hayton on January 25th. With any luck it'll be listed in Non Fiction>Lifestyle>Garden Gnomes by then.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Use by Dates

My favourite part of supermarket shopping is getting a bargain on an item I was going to buy anyway. If I can knock 50%, or even 25%, off the meat bill I feel like I've won something.

There's a bit of skill involved in this though. Not just seeing and grabbing the items on special, but also co-ordinating the storage later so that all items are consumed or frozen by their best-before or use-by dates.

I did pretty well yesterday - three meat bargains, at a fraction of their original cost. Two of these were chicken which not only started off on special, but were then further discounted for quick consumption. Yeah baby - that's the good stuff.

The chicken had to be cooked up by the end of today, and the other meat special - scotch fillet steak - has to be consumed by the end of tomorrow.

All was going well. I planned out cooking up the first packet of chicken for lunch yesterday, the first half of steak for tea, the next packet of chicken for tea tonight, and the last steak tomorrow. There would be some pieces of cold chicken surviving the original cook which could be consumed at my leisure for snacking.

But yesterday was very hot, and I didn't feel like cooking my lunch at all. Not. At. All.

Not to worry, I just pushed back the cooking of the first packet of chicken until lunch today. And then the second for tea. I went ahead with the steak on schedule because hunger and cravings won out over laziness and hotness. That's the correct use of the word hotness, right?

Then at lunch today, again I couldn't be bothered. I didn't actually wake up until almost ten o'clock because someone has decided their snoring device is for work-nights only, and apparently doesn't know the way to the couch.

My tiredness finally overwhelmed my noise control issues at two-thirty this morning so it took longer than usual to get the required amount of sleep. You'd think with all that extra time awake at night I would've found something useful to do, but I was surprisingly unproductive lying in bed with every muscle tensed with annoyance.

To be fair, I could've cooked up ALL the chicken tonight and still met my deadlines, but I vastly preferred freshly cooked chicken over cold cooked chicken any day.

So the wooshing sound tonight as I lie trying to sleep won't be from my beloved's unholy tongue positioning, but instead from the use-by date on my chicken rushing by.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Editing

Although that's not entirely true. Someone has kindly done my editing for me, and I'm now just going through and accepting changes, rejecting changes or making up new paragraphs to avoid decision-making about changes.

The good, even great, news is that I have the editing suggestions sitting in front of me, and I now have a very good chance of meeting all my targets for publication. The drawback is that I now have the very good chance of meeting all my targets for publication as long as I do some work.

I've been trying to do that for a couple of days. All those times my darling has walked into the room and interrupted by blank stare at the television that isn't allowed to be turned on during the day anymore, that's when I'm working at editing.

The times when I walk into the garden for a break, and then forget to come back inside, I'm working at editing.

When I wander into the front room to choose a new outfit to combat the intrusively hot weather which really should come equipped with a swimming pool, and then try on all my clothing to see which pieces no longer fit, I'm editing.

If you were my editor I'd say it's going really well. If you're a potential consumer for my book I'd be worried.

It's not that I mind making corrections, or decisions, or decisions about corrections, but I hate being wrong.

When I'm at real-paying-job-work I smile and laugh about my errors to display to everyone that it's okay to be wrong sometimes. Inside, I'm growing a lump of self-hatred at the thought that I mucked something up, and a matching lump of outward-hatred towards whoever picked the error up. That gets really complicated when I pick up my own errors.

Part of this is being an introvert and under the pre-programmed expectation that everyone is going to laugh at me. This is why I don't talk to strangers at the airport, or friends at parties. To my introverted eyes everyone is poised to find anything I say, do, think or feel is hilariously out of step with societal norms.

Some may say I'm sensitive. Some may say I'm touched. I won't say anything, because I might be wrong and then you'll laugh at me and exclude me from the herd.

And do you know why I've spent so long telling you about my personal insecurities on the blog tonight?

Yip, you guessed it!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Waiting

Airport lounges are wonderful inventions which fit in nicely with most hotels propensity to kick you out hours before any flights are scheduled.

Only being on a domestic journey this time, it was even more amusing to have a view straight down into the international departures area where passengers nerves were already being frayed before they could even so much as step onto the plane.

There was the man and his wife who were paged by the boarding gate. I couldn't quite make out why. He arrived slightly disheveled and looking and acting very much like Woody Allen. Pre-scandal.

He busily explained with copious hand movements exactly why the check-in procedures didn't apply to him and his very much younger wife. The airline representative then explained exactly why they did and exactly how they would be penalised for thinking they did not.

This went a couple of rounds - gradually the passengers' faces grew disillusioned, and then resigned. They sat down. There was a brief flurry of activity when the man reignited things at the desk after remembering the key piece of information that was going to change everything, but this ended with slumped shoulders and him sinking back into his seat.

It was at this point that the guy with the violin started up.

Tweet: I'm not sure why anyone'd think an airport departure lounge was an appropriate place to practice a musical instrument, but practice he did.

It would have made some sort of sense if he'd opened the case in front of him to accept donations, but there was none of that. Instead the passengers with the misfortune to be sitting closest to him plugged their ears with an assortment of devices, while the man opposite gave up and went to sleep.

After a half hour of torture practice, the man packed away his violin and there was a relieved wave of activity as earphones were removed and people went back to what they'd been doing previously.

The violin is part of his hand luggage of course, which is why he has it at the departure gate. Those passengers could be in for a long flight.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Trapped

Once upon a time, many years ago now, my darling and I went out at night in Sydney. We were there on holiday, and chose to go tourist-as-all-get-out by having our evening meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Centrepoint tower.

If you haven't been to Sydney, this is a very thin and very high tower in the middle of the Sydney CBD. The bottom floors are taken up with a mall with exits to major streets in Sydney, and then there is an elevator that takes you up, up, up to the very top to the restaurant.

At the time we went it would perform a complete revolution every hour. There were large windows all around the side of the restaurant, and you would have an uninterrupted view of the Sydney CBD as dusk fell on the city. I heard later that the revolving part had stopped, so to see the full view you actually had to walk around and stuff, but I'm sure the experience would still be wonderful.

The meal was a smorgasbord, and you would step from the revolving floor portion where the tables were located, to the fixed portion in the middle of the restaurant to fetch each course, and for the facilities and exit elevator.

Anyhow, on this night we'd enjoyed a great meal - with far too much dessert, the hallmark of any truly good smorgasbord - and made our way down in the elevator.

My darling and I are early diners, and fast eaters, and although we'd travelled up in the elevator with a group of people, we made the journey back down to the ground floor levels alone.

We exited the elevator and tried to walk out of the Centrepoint Mall through our usual exit. It was bolted shut. The retail trading day had come to a halt and no new entrants were being allowed, so we turned around and tried to find another exit that was still operational.

Malls are neither of our favourite thing. There's too many shops, and too many people. Although this one was only occupied by ourselves at the time, it still felt as though it was crowded with people - the dead-eyed stare of many a shop mannequin upon us at every turn.

All up, it probably took us fifteen minutes to find a way out of the maze we'd found ourselves in. Not much of an adventure it's true, 'the day I was trapped for a short amount of time in Australia's most famous city' doesn't have the ring of a great thriller about it, but it still left an imprint.

Over the intervening years, there's certainly been more than one night in which I woke from a nightmare of endless corridors all leading to bolted exits.

Today was (or still is for a little while) Christmas Day in New Zealand. We've celebrated with family for much of the day, and after returning to our hotel room this evening we decided we felt a little bit peckish and headed out for a light evening meal.

We found a certain theme developing as we walked through the streets of Queenstown - many shops and restaurants are closed for the holiday, but there were still plenty left to choose from. A Vietnamese restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a Korean restaurant. There's a trend in the cultures that do and do not observe Christmas day closing.

At one point we went down a down escalator to a food court - the escalator had actually stopped working at some point so we had to physically move ourselves down the steps. For some reason this involves more effort than walking down a similar size staircase would.

The portions of the food court that were open were McDonalds and a Turkish Kebab shop. After a quick perusal of their menu we decided that we would prefer to sit down in a proper restaurant setting, rather than the plastic seating area in the basement of a mall, and headed up to exit back onto the main streets of Queenstown (once again on an escalator that forced us to use our own steam.)

At the top we found a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of the electronic doors we'd so recently entered through. On closer inspection the newly placed sign seemed to refer to the gigantic padlock that was now holding these doors firmly shut.

Unphased, we turned around and saw another exit downstairs. Probably the one we should've used in the first place.

Grumbling only a little bit, I headed back down the frozen down escalator, and we walked through the basement exit.

Or at least, we walked through it until we reached a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of electronic doors which had a gigantic padlock holding them firmly shut.

Trapped in a mall. The nightmare came full-circle.

My breath came a little faster and my forehead glistened with sweat.

This may have had something to do with the fact that I'd just been clambouring up and down stalled escalators, and it was 28 degrees outside, and slightly hotter inside (for Fahrenheit and non-tropics based people, that's very hot.)

Or it may have been something to do with the past reliving itself in the present.

Luckily we joined forces with a group of fellow desperate-escapees and managed to exit by climbing up the internal stairs to the McCafe and pushing aside a white plastic security gate.

We emerged, gasping for air, onto the street. Some of us were clutching beige, red and yellow bags of food. My darling and I were not.

A Thai restaurant that had a wide-open front door, and outdoor seating drew our attention shortly after, and we had a lovely chicken stir-fried rice (him) and chicken stir-fried egg noodles (me) before stopping for an ice-cream to eat in the heat of the park. That was our little treat to make up for the terror of being trapped.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Hills

My darling and I touched down in Queenstown today, all ready to celebrate The Lord's birth in some style. The day has been absolutely beautiful; hot sun and brilliant blue sky. The fact that we left exactly the same in Christchurch doesn't detract from it one bit.

In fact, here is a gorgeous view out of our hotel room window which didn't take very much standing on of chairs or zooming in of lenses to get at all:

There are the usual drawbacks you face when you're away from home:

- my wardrobe didn't travel with me so when I felt like slipping on a pair of comfy pants my choices were underwear or purchasing some brand new Queenstown-priced sweatpants

- we don't have a toaster, but that's not so bad because

- we don't have bread either. Or butter. Or a knife.

We do inexplicably have access to a lot of wine and beer which is exorbitantly expensive, but only teeny tiny pottles of milk which isn't.

Oh, and the hotel is very kindly putting on a special menu tomorrow for Christmas Day, which they informed us of in the same sentence as they informed us that this wouldn't effect us because it was already fully booked. That's either customer service or callous disregard - I can't quite decide which.

Everything would be trucking along just lovely except, Queenstown is different from Canterbury. I don't mean the boatloads of tourists all speaking different languages, or the way the prices all have a 10% location top-up, or even that there are ducks bobbing about on the beach because it's freshwater and not saltwater.

No. Those things are strange, but that's most of the reason you travel to another city, isn't it?

The difference I'm talking about involves more effort than those things. Serious effort. Effort that starts off in my calf muscles, rises quickly to my thighs, and ends up in blinding white-hot pain in my lungs.

Yes, you guessed it. Queenstown has hills.

Christchurch does have some of these ridiculous things also, but you really have to set your mind to it to get to one. And climbing them would just be bizarre unless you happen to own a property at the top. And that property hasn't tumbled down to the bottom in an earthquake.

So, beautiful views out of the hotel window, or the peace and quiet of knowing that you can make it back to your room without breaking into a sweat?

So hard to choose.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Not Food

'Tis the season to eat too much food... (fa la la la lah la la la lah)

Knowing that Christmas Day is likely to consist of a wall of non-stop food, and a breakfast sliding into brunch into lunch into afternoon tea into tea into supper into unconsciousness kind of meal plan, I thought it best to exercise some restraint today to offset it.

That's exercise some restraint, not "exercise" - I haven't changed my opinions on that one.

Since not eating wasn't really in the spirit of being at home alone on holiday, I instead tried another tactic. Eating something I like to refer to as 'not food.'

Not food consists of diet soft drink - Coke Zero and don't look at me like that, it's okay as long as I'm not in the office. Yes I did just make up that rule, someone's got to.

It also consists of a substance that someone in a marketing department somewhere decided as a laugh to call diet pasta when what they really meant was tasteless plastic consistency not-food that smells unpleasantly of fish. Or Konjac as others would call it. Another name for the plant from whence it came is devil's tongue. That is most appropriate.

But in any case, woman cannot live on insoluable root fibre alone. She needs ice-cream.

In the quest for the perfect diet food of course, I couldn't actually indulge in the dreaded full-fat full-sugar nicety that is ice-cream. I considered eating some Zilch low-fat no-added-sugar ice-cream, but decided that even that was not an appropriate substitute. Mainly because I'd already eaten the container that I'd purchased in the weekend for emergencies only.

You'd be surprised how many emergencies there are in suburban Christchuch. It's full on.

Luckily I had laid my hands on a machine that promised to deliver a product akin to soft serve ice-cream through the simple provision of a couple of frozen bananas.

Much to my darling's disgust I do still believe in the infomercial fairies and their product boxes. The last time I had a gift card in my possession I almost purchased a chocolate fountain. Luckily common sense prevailed, and after returning the doughnut maker to the shelf as well, I picked up a great invention called a Yonana.

Having only briefly scanned the product information before the consumer that lives in my soul screamed BUY IT! I had a vague idea that I was going to end up with something that turned frozen bananas and yoghurt into ice-cream-like stuff.

Turns out the Yo from the title was more in the fashion of a Yo Mama! type of expression, and no dairy goodness was required at all. Just the bananas.

Does anybody out there in internet-land want to hazard a guess as to what frozen bananas taste like? I'll give you a tiny clue. It's not soft-serve ice-cream.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Negative Reviews

Okay. So, we're all grown-ups here. I knew this was going to happen sometime. It's one of those inevitable things like the fat content in ice-cream adhering to your hips via your eye-sockets, or drug mules producing evidence after being fed laxatives (we watched 'The Mule' the other day - some images stick.)

It happened on ******** a site I will not name. There I was, just casually checking out my own book - as you do - and I saw that my review number had increased.

I then saw that my overall rating had decreased. And the ulcer in my stomach chose that moment to sink its long fangs into my soft flesh.

On ******** the site that will not be named, there is a warning message to authors that comes up after bad reviews. It repeatedly gives the very good advice that you should not leave comments on negative reviews. It's a bad idea. Suck it up and get on with your life. People appreciate bad reviews because it legitimises the good reviews that have been left.

It's all great advice.

They even appreciate the fact that at the moment you're reading this message your brain is interpreting it as BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH so they add in one final time we really don't think it's a good idea to leave a comment.

So that's cool. I don't want to be THAT author (and we all know what the Catfish I'm talking about, don't we?)

I also don't want to get on ******** site's bad side since they were nice enough to let my work colleagues post reviews when Amazon thought we were involved in some sort of vast review conspiracy theory (instead of them obviously being the only people I'd managed to sell copies to) and kept obliterating them.

But look. Look here. Look what I've found.

It's a BLOG!!!

And because it belongs to me I can talk about anything I like on it (subject to Blogger terms and conditions of conduct.)

And what I want to talk about tonight is a negative review. I'm going to dissect it line by line by line to my sweet little heart's content. I'm going to pick it apart and find out what useful information it has for me.

Maybe there's a measure of truth to be teased out of this situation, maybe there's an actual problem aside from personal preferences to be addressed. And if not, at the very least maybe there's some kind of message that will helpfully let kindred spirits of the reviewer know of their similarity and therefore give them the opportunity not to waste their money purchasing my book when it's just not going to be their cup of tea.

Line by line sounds a bit too intense. Instead, I'll dissect it word by word.

First word - AWFUL.

Full of awe. For some reason this version of the word has become sodden with negative energy, whereas the flip-side "awesome" has a sprightly core which positive vibes ring cleanly through.

Onto the second word.

Oh no, wait. That was it.

I don't know about you, but after having written this vitriolic wee rant leading up to it, I now feel a tiny bit let down.

The reviewer in question downloaded a copy of my book from NetGalley. It's a website that allows reviewers to download books for free in return for an honest review. It costs about $400 for a self-published author to list a book for six months, and in return we're promised an interested and opinionated readership who don't mind letting everyone know their thoughts. This is the second review generated from NetGalley, so at the moment is $200 worth of opinion. That's US dollars, not our feeble NZ ones.

A review usually encompasses some or all of the following: a quick outline of the story, a summary of the writing style, a note on how reading the book made you feel and, if the reviewer is feeling generous, a quote from the actual text to illustrate some points or a brilliant tag-line of their own invention to sum up the reading experience.

Unless your education and upbringing was radically different from mine, you've probably been forced to write at least a few of these throughout your years of schooling. On a book you didn't choose, and didn't necessarily want to start, let alone finish. I'm betting that if you did your work may have reached the expanse of a sentence. Maybe a full paragraph. Maybe more.

I have a one word review of my own.

LAZY.

Monday, Monday

Plans for a Monday would usually go something along the lines of, wake up appallingly early and be grumpy all day.

Tomorrow, however, is the most magical of things: a Monday when I'm on holiday. To celebrate I have made plans for the following:

1) Sit on the couch for a while. I've picked out a nice comfy spot. I've even worn down the sheepskin rug on top of the sofa in the shape of my posterior to make it more comfortable. I've managed this feat through long hours spent sitting in it already. Perfect.

2) Stand, sometimes on one leg for an unknown reason, aimlessly staring at various spots inside and outside of the room before sitting back down (I never used to plan for this, but since I end up doing it for serious amounts on time when I'm on holiday I've decided to allow serious amounts of time for it in my day plan)

3) Cooking, perhaps some food, perhaps something that I intend to be food but which holds it's own ideas about what it will be and will end up making the trip straight from the kitchen to the rubbish bin in the garage without crossing anyone's lips (not implying that if it did pass someone's lips it would end up in the rubbish bin in the garage - it would end up somewhere else entirely)

4) Eating, said food or something in a package that I resort to when the food plan Bs me

5) Advancing from A Wolf Amongst Us episode 2 to A Wolf Amongst Us episode 3 or perhaps 4 (5 at a long-shot.) Deconstruct some more fables for me you Big Bad Wolf you

6) Doing the one last thing that I needed to do before I left work on Friday, but completely forgot about and was going to do on Saturday, or Sunday, but didn't because I didn't want to (or I may put that off for another day)

7) Reading the book I'm currently reading, and maybe buying a few more to top up the never-ending reading list on my Kindle, and then thinking about doing something in order to get my own work-in-progress to the stage that it could go on someone else's Kindle, and then not

Around this time I expect that my darling will return from work where he is going and my plans will be finished for the day, but I will not be forlorn because I can repeat it all on Tuesday, or just the bits I still feel like doing.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Haul of fruity goodness

I have been waiting with glee for the weekend. Apart from being on holiday for two weeks, my berry plants have been ripening up ready for me to harvest their bounty.

There's something truly wonderful about picking fruit direct from the plant, warmed gently by the summer sun, and popping it straight into your mouth.

For a start, it's free. Everyone knows that free food holds no calories whatsoever.

For seconds, it's fresh. Truly fresh. It hasn't been picked way too early, then ripened in a temperature controlled environment, before being dumped into a plastic shield and displayed in a store under fluorescent lighting in a two-for-one special with a sign containing tiny regulation print to point out the country of origin that for-sure ain't yours.

I'm not really into food-miles and all that jazz - I like food when I like it as much as the next person - but there is a difference. Imagine yourself taking a airplane journey half-way around the world, and then immediately driving from the airport to the supermarket. You wouldn't be fresh either.

But back to my garden of deliciousness.

I would prefer fruit that would pick itself. A nice crop of strawberries that would jump into a punnet; cherries that not only pick themselves at the stem, but also protect themselves from the mass of hungry birdies that seem to think I grow fruit for their sole benefit.

Alas, it's proved impossible to locate so far, so this afternoon I ventured forth into the garden armed only with a container and eight fingernails. I returned with scratches on my knuckles and hands from gooseberry spikes, scratches on my knuckles and hands from blackberry thorns, and scratches on my knuckles and hands from the spikes and thorns located next to the blackcurrant bushes through someone's awful landscaping abilities.

Oh, and nothing at all from the three miraculous cherries that have so far survived into ripeness.

I now have some rather ambitious plans to make a jar of gooseberry jam. The blackberries and blackcurrants are to eat whilst making this treasure. Unfortunately, it's far too hot today to even think of making jam.

If it's hot again tomorrow I may just have to eat all my fresh fruit before it deteriorates, and put my plans on hold until the next lot ripens.

I'm also wondering if I should perhaps invest in a pair of gloves. I do have some nice evening ones that I rather fancy would protect me very well from the gooseberry bush attacks. All the way to my elbow.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Bazookas

Weight gain has some beneficial side effects. I don't know if you've heard about them, but along with the jiggle in your posterior, is a matching bounce in your anterior.

Yes - you guessed it. My cups floweth over.

I've had to invest some of my hard-earned money going up a bra-size, in two ways. An extra size to stretch around my extra back. And up a size to encompass the bounty around the front.

I think it's my childless equivalent to being in the first flush of pregnancy. Whilst also somewhat encompassing some of the features of the later stages of this disease condition.

When I was a growing lass I often heard of the merits of being that most mythical of creatures, a double-d cup. This comes from having two brothers, who had a lot of similarly-gendered friends around.

I'm happy to announce that I'm well on the way. One more D to add and I'm there. Not sure that I'll end up utilising my puppies in quite the same way as the women that my brothers were so entranced with, or at all.

In fact I think the only thing that they'll be genuinely useful for is providing yet another reason not to go jogging. Can't ever have too many reasons not to go out and exercise.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The best holiday

Much as I love my darling (a loaded sentence beginning if ever I heard one) I still can't get around the fact that the best type of holiday is the one that you take by yourself.

Maybe that's my selfishness shining through, but there's something truly lovely about waking up in the morning and having no one to please but yourself.

The reason may be that I moved straight from my parent's house to my darling's, or it could just be that everyone who lives full-time with someone needs a break sometimes. It's not that I kick him out or anything, just spend the day at home while he goes to work.

I do love holidaying together as well. Our trip last September was probably the best vacation we've had in years, and I did enjoy every darling-filled moment. The thing is, even when you're relaxing together you've still got to consider someone else's feelings every time you make a decision.

I want some ice cream. I'll have some ice cream. Why is he staring at me like that? Do you think he may also want some ice cream? Am I meant to offer him some of my ice cream? Why doesn't he just get his own ice cream?

The stress can get to you.

And, to be fair, I thought this was an understanding we shared. There have certainly been numerous occasions where I have struggled to work while my darling has lazed at home. Calling me during the day to remind me of how wonderful the noon-day sun is when you're outside on the lounger. The b*****d.

But apparently he doesn't feel the same way.

I have been looking forward to Monday and Tuesday next week. I have been looking forward to them for a long time. I have a full two weeks worth of holiday, but I have been particularly looking forward to the first Monday and Tuesday of it.

Can you guess why?

Full marks to the lady in the corner - I was indeed planning on spending those two days alone at home while my darling was being a banker somewhere.

I was going to wake up, in the morning maybe, and then I was going to... followed by a bit of... but nothing holding me to that because I might also need a bit of...

And then I walked through the door this evening to the surprise announcement that 'If we don't have enough work next week I've offered to take a couple of day's holiday on Monday and Tuesday.'

Who are you, and what have you done with my soul-mate?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas posted

Only one week to go and I'm all sorted. Today I braved the elements and went outside in a howling gale to inch my way to the post-shop. Carrying a 45cm square box in a howling gale is not the easiest of tasks - my arm went flying straight out to my side more than once. I hope it was as amusing to anybody watching as it felt like to me.

But I managed. If I didn't get the package in the mail today, then the laughingly described 2-3 day postal service wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas. And then I would be a BAD AUNTY. I hope now it gets there in time and therefore I'll be a GREAT AUNTY.

I'm so good that this year I didn't even play with it unbox the present to make sure all the component parts were in there. I have sent a virgin drone to my nephew.

It will admittedly be incredibly embarrassing now if the present is opened on Christmas Day and it doesn't work.

However, I will be at the other end of the country at the time so it possibly won't affect me much at all.

We do have one more Christmas present to organise. This one involves posting ourselves down to Queenstown for some festivities, sans luggage for some insane penny-pinching reason. Half-way through the walk to the post office this actually seemed like an easier feat - but with the package safely dispatched it's starting to weigh on my mind again.

I'm hoping it's a cold day and I can wear two to three layers of clothing so I have some options down there. If you catch me at the airport looking extremely rotund that's almost certainly the reason.

Almost certainly.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Personality

We have been doing a lot of personality testing in the office lately. That perhaps is a misleading statement to start off with, actually we've only been doing one personality test, but it's per person so once you multiply that by 70-odd (very odd) people it does seem like a lot of testing is going on.

We're not doing it through some fancy organisation or anything right and proper. We sourced a couple of free links, and sent it out to our teams to let them complete it at their leisure. Leisure sometimes interrupted by a pointed reminder. At one stage there was a vision of a large board or poster with everyone shown on it, but restriction on printing prevailed and much smaller, and much more fun, things have been done instead.

A lovely website has posted everyone's Myers Briggs results as a type of shoe. This has the rather dubious attraction of being instantly categorisable, rather memorable, and also presents the opportunity for a shoe-themed dress up day if anyone could get the motivation to get something like this organised.

I want to be absolutely clear on this point - I'm not volunteering. If you're from my office and you've stumbled across this blog that I've brilliantly disguised by using by real name then you can put it right out of your head.

My personality type may enjoy an organised desk, but it does not get on well with the minutiae of everyday life. Unless I happen to be really incredibly into something at the time, in which case I can happily pour hours of my life into finding out every last detail of something that no one will ever want to include in polite conversation.

The relative temperature of decomposing bodies for instance, and the rises therein caused by insect activity at the height (it ain't lofty) of the Christchurch summer. How this varies according to different insect species, and how insect species vary according to locale. For some reason these things just never seem to slot into the conversation after 'lovely weather we're having,' though it always seems possible to me that it could.

But I ramble.

I've discovered that my personality type according to Myers Briggs is INTJ. I actually discovered this many years ago, and each time I take a personality test it comes through stronger. That's lucky, because it would be embarrassing to tell everybody about how great your personality type is, explain exactly how to interact with me, and then have it change.

Interestingly, it appears that the main characters in my stories are also INTJ personality types. Totally unexpected that. Suppose the words 'made-up' don't hold as much weight as it may sometimes appear.

Again though, this is okay because INTJ is the greatest personality type in the world. Everyone else in my team has this weird thing in their stressors list - it goes something like 'dismissing how I feel' and 'not being appreciated for the daily help I give.'

What are we? Hippies?

Mine says 'dismissing my logical decisions,' which is just practical advice because everybody knows that the INTJs in the office are the ones who have the best and most practical solutions. If it isn't going to work, it doesn't appear in our heads.

There's also something in there about 'challenging my competence.' Yeah. Don't do it. If you question me about my capability I'm likely to do something like - oh, I don't know - dismiss how you feel as I point out how inferior you are in every single way and why you're not the person to be sitting in judgement of me because you just don't have the required ability and your opinion is not appreciated.

Sometimes even I think I'm harsh in these situations, and I don't do feelings.

I presume that everybody is like me in the sense that they think their personality type is best. It would be a sad thing indeed if you were, say, an ESTJ but desperately wanted to be an ISTP.

And if you're wondering what type of shoe I am, it's a goth boot. Self-contained, clever, and just a little scary.

How about you?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Never tailor your writing to what will sell...

Done, and done. No chance of writing things that people would want to buy. Good golly no. Who would want that?

When I saw this today on a passing tweet I thought, Yeah. That's me. Not a sellout.

My next thought was, I wish I knew what would sell so I could write it.

Subsequent thoughts centered on all the things that I would buy if I could sell millions and zillions of books.

But then I thought sadly of all the unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things that wouldn't have a voice if I didn't lend it to them.

Money - unlikeable characters. Money - unlikeable characters.

Look, it's not as though I'd actually be putting them to death or anything. I'm not a murderer. It's just that I wouldn't be breathing life into them. More like the morning-after pill than an infanticide.

I do like money as well. Or, at least, I like the things that I'd buy with it. The lots and lots and lots of things. But I don't want to be greedy. Even just a house would be nice. Just a little itty-bitty holiday house on a beachfront somewhere with lots of sun. I'm easy to please, really.

Hmmmmmmm?

No. Still bamboozled by the not-knowing what will sell.

Another mini-argument that ends up going nowhere.

Tell you what. I'll write about my unlikeable characters, doing unlikeable things, and maybe next year that'll be the thing that's selling.

Win-win.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Synopsis Woes

What to leave out? What to put in? Why can't I find someone else in my household willing to write this for me? I'd pay them. Not well, but I would pay them.

It's not really fair, is it? You expect me to write down 80,000+ words on a subject, and then just when I think I'm finished I have to boil that down into a 360 word summary as well. I thought that by being self-published I might escape this horror altogether, but alas it has wormed its way into all nooks and crannies of publishing.

I was going fine at first. I summarised each scene in each chapter, and then printed it out. My two to three word summaries still managed to somehow fill up four pages, but at least it was a start.

Then I wasted some hours minutes looking on the internet for how to write a synopsis. This is one of the finer things that the internet can be used for. Finding someone who's done something prior to you and basically copying them.

I found a nice synopsis for Star Wars. It looked like it had been done before it was renamed into Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope which I absolutely refuse to say because I'm nothing if not a purist (and I haven't seen any of the new ones so don't understand how any of this franchise fits together any more.)

Great. I understand the storyline synopsised thus, and should therefore be able to put my own novel into the same format.

Set the scene. Done.

Introduce the protaganist. Done.

What do they want? I dunno. What's standing in their way? Stuff. What's the major turning point? The what-now.

What's the bit that in the synopsis I'm reading is the equivalent of finding a death star and smashing it to smithereens? Mmmmmmm. No.

I quit to watch Star Wars again. It was a rollicking good story. Easy to break down into independent parts that basically beg to be summarised in a short synopsis.

I'm going to re-read a few passages and then get back to work. Maybe a few passages from my own story, maybe from the latest Sophie Hannah. Yeah, okay. Definitely the latest Sophie Hannah. If I finish that today I could summarise it into a synopsis to get a bit of practice in before going back to mine.

If any non-writerly people are reading this and wondering what a synopsis is, I'll explain. A synopsis is a method by which the world makes sure that writers are punished for daring to pour their souls into the written word and bring to life events, characters, and scenery so that something wonderful and entertaining and enlightening exists where once there was nothing.

Or, to "synopsis" that down for you, Satan personified.

What books are like yours?

You'd be amazed at how often I get asked this question. Not least because I only have one fiction book out, and one in edit, so there's not that many people running around being all interested and stuff.

First of all, if there was another book like mine, why do you think I would've bothered? Eh? I'm only gonna write down the stories that coalesce inside my head if they don't already exist somewhere. If they already existed, I would just read them.

Second of all, why on earth would I be reading a book I would write? Please refer to Groucho Marx on this one. I have my favourite authors in my favourite genres for a reason, and it's not so I can read what I'm writing.

Third of all, how much time do you think I have? My reading list still has books on it that I consider must-read from 2009. I am not a miracle worker. I have to fit in work, writing, playing video games, staring into space, staring at the floor, trying to avoid chores, and all that is before I sit down to watch countless hours of television.

There's only 24 hours in a day, you know, and a girl's gotta sleep sometime.

Fourth - oh yeah, I've got more, this is a proper rant - I don't know what my book is like to read by someone who hasn't been struggling for the last year to pull together some random plot points, work out the characters required to move things along, write out a couple thousand lines of dialogue that I would never say aloud in a million years myself, and painstakingly write out at least fifty thousand words that I'm promptly going to send to the great recycle bin in the sky. Or "the cloud" as it's become known.

I can't read my own books as though I was a reader. There's far more wincing and sniggering involved than that.

And how dare you ask what books are coming out this year which would be in competition with mine?

?????????????

That was me being speechless in rage and frustration at your inability to work out that I have an inability to see into the future. I'm not travelling around the country with the local freak-show people - I work in insurance. Insurance. The whole industry is built on not being able to predict the future. If I could see what was coming I would at the very least be playing around on the stock market and making me some money.

Sheesh!

Rant over and I hope everyone has a lovely Sunday tomorrow. If you feel in the mood for a spot of light reading perhaps you might consider putting in a pre-order for a book that's like the Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold without the mention of heaven (me being an atheist and all), crossed with Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, but more contemporary-like on account of its coming out in 2015.

2015. There you go - I just predicted the future.

Friday, 12 December 2014

End of the road

Tonight is the last time I'll be writing to let you know about the blog tour stops you can avail yourselves of.

It's been a lot of fun, but every good thing has to stop sometime, hopefully before it wears out its welcome.

Haven't we had fun though. From the rollicking good time shown to us by Sexy Adventures - Passionate Tales, to the nasty scare I gave an unsuspecting Liza O'Connor.

This was closely followed by some swearing on Maggie Thom's site, and a revealing biography on Megan's Blog.

I was read by Jane Reads, my deal was shared on the Deal Sharing Aunt, and my zeal for fiction was displayed on Fiction Zeal.

Tina Donahue presented me, Owltastic promoted me, I shared my Hope. Dreams. Life... Love in a Writer Wonderland, and was neither reviewed nor interviewed on Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews.

Ho condiviso qualche tempo su Libri Amori Miei, shared some views on Nickie's Views and Interviews, and then joined in to Book 'em North Carolina style.

I've filled some Rooms with Books, Woke up my Wild Side with Gale Stanley, and was a non-paranormal feature on Laurie's thoughts and reviews.

After stopping by Long and Short Reviews, I discovered It's Raining Books, then got all Unabridged with Andra.

I was reviewed by a Jersey Girl, found that I was Beyond Romance when I guest blogged about writing, and then went Straight Browsing from the Library.

There was plentiful Coffee, Books & Art, before I was interviewed by Two Ends of the Pen. And I was Welcomed to My World of Dreams, before going Undercover for Book Reviews.

So it's with warm appreciation that I bring up this picture for the last time...

And announce that my grand send-off is being set-up as we speak with the tangled web of My Tangled Skeins Book Review and the beautiful rabbits holed up at Bunny's Book Reviews.

A big thank-you also to the wonderful goddesses at Goddess Fish Book Promotions, who handled all the annoying little detailey bits so that I could sleep soundly at night.

You put together a wonderfully diverse blog tour for me, with enthusiastic and charming hosts - something I would never have the patience and fortitude to do by myself. I wish you all the best, and I expect to be back in touch with you for the next book.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Something old, something new

My darling and I have never been much in the habit of buying gifts for each other. Not at Christmas at any rate. And for birthdays it's more like 'I'd quite like this...' and 'I could get you that...' and we're sorted.

So this year, as I have for the other 19 Christmases I've survived enjoyed with my partner I have splashed out and bought exactly what I wanted for Christmas. And paid for it.

Last Christmas I was very much into food. I'd just claimed a place on the work calendar with a recipe, and received an invite to a delightful degustation event in Auckland as a reward. Oh, yeah. It was all happening.

For many years I'd been looking at a wonderful flavouring package from Sosa which featured almost every flavour known to man (or to me, anyway.)

Truffles, black and white. Strawberry, green and red. Bread flavouring. Biscotti flavouring. Green apple, red apple, cooked apple. All in a beautiful cedar case, with an instruction and information guide so you could locate the number of the flavour sought without having to paw over two shelves of little bottles.

It was quite a moment when it arrived. I pulled out random bottles, opened them, and sniffed them in a gastronomic heaven. I was going to use them for so many things. Testing out new flavour pairings, flavouring chocolate, ??? Okay, mainly just flavouring chocolate.

A year later my box of flavours is still fairly much pristine. I grew sick of making bon bons, and the only time I tried to test a flavour pairing before embarking on a new meal I made the mistake of sticking out my tongue and tasting the flavour pairing too. Not recommended. Flavours are quite different on a cardboard testing strip than they are diluted with white chocolate or a cream sauce.

I still pull the shelves out sometimes and select a tiny wee bottle or two for a nice sniff, but the usefulness I envisaged prior to purchase never eventuated after.

So this year I've gone in for something that will be of no use whatsoever, unless you consider the decoration of ears useful.

Eeuw no - don't be sick! I'm talking about earrings for goodness sake!

I now have in my possession (early but it's hard to judge with international parcels at Christmas time) a pair of Georgian earrings. They are beautiful. Garnet and gold, with a small lead repair on the top of one of the fittings. The hooks themselves are a later addition, thinner than my Victorian earrings so presumably more modern also.

There's an absurd pleasure in wearing an item of jewellery that someone else originally wore two hundred years ago.

But Christmas is a long holiday, so there's another gift winging its way to me. This time brand spanking new. A ring with cute little bear ears, one of which has a punk earring in it. It sounds more complicated than it is. I've ordered it in rose gold to match the old georgian rose gold of my earrings.

Now I just need to borrow something blue and I could drag my darling to the registry office!

Leading up to the final night of bloggering there's another toofer on offer for your blog-reading pleasure. First up are the lovely folks at Undercover Book Reviews, and following close on their heels is the salt of the earth peep at Welcome to My World of Dreams.

Neither of the blogs is up and operational at the moment because we like to keep you all in suspense, but check them out later and we should be up and running.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Buses

When I can't be bothered walking home, which these days is almost every day of the working week, I catch a bright green bus which drops me very close to my front door.

It's a wonderful service, and one which I'm extremely grateful for considering that my other choices would be paying for a taxi or walking. I no longer even have the option of cycling having neglected to ride on one for over twenty years and not having one.

However, even with my grateful wee non-driving heart, and my grateful wee non-walking feet, I do sometimes have to admit that the bus and I are not the best of friends.

Hot days and unwashed flesh; cold days and doors that stick open; overly inebriated riders thinking that everyone on the bus is their best mate, or their worst enemy, or in one slightly more awkward encounter their cheating spouse.

You'd think that by wearing in-ear headphones I would be ably pointing out to my fellow commuters that I have enough to occupy my time, I don't need to be chatted to, or at, or up. Alas, this code is indecipherable to many.

I was on a communication course once which said if you fake interest in what another person is saying, you often become interested despite yourself. Apparently I'm not so shallow. The best I can manage is not to yawn widely in their faces.

And I've learnt over the years not to try to get a word in edgewise. When the social workers are trying to acclimate people into performing conversational techniques I think they're glossing over the "and then you let them respond" part of it.

You can tell that the buses themselves are nervous about the people that they carry inside them each day. Otherwise why would they cling to each other's backsides in little tag teams. When the schedule says the buses arrive an average of ten minutes apart they mean when you divide the three buses that arrive at once by the forty minutes until the next one, two, or three.

Still the metro service does occasionally try to spread the little blighters apart. Usually by forcing me off a bus on which I have a seat, onto a more crowded one where I don't. On one memorable occasion doing this twice before I arrived home. 'How many buses do you have to take Katherine?' 'Oh, between one and three.'

On the other hand I'm home now so I'll forgive and forget for the moment, there are more important matters at hand.

There's another toofer on tonight, with my first showing at Two Ends of the Pen, and my late show at Coffee, Books & Art. The tours going to come to a sad close at the end of the week, so if you want to make sure that you're heartily sick of me AND in the draw for a $50 gift card, head on over!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Pizza

Today I had an appointment at my doctor's office, during which I was weighed and blood pressured. It's a month until I have to go through the same thing again, so guess what that means...?

PIZZA!

We used to eat pizza whenever we felt like it. Maybe once a month. We'd put through an order on the website and then watch the clock - seriously just listen to the radio and watch the clock - and then make comments every few minutes about how well we thought the driver was doing.

When I was a little girl I obviously dreamed that this would be what my life was made of.

If the driver was running late, we'd talk about the time that after forty minutes we'd received a phone-call from the company saying their driver was in a car accident and they were giving us free chips due to the delay. Not as good as it sounds as they were already free due to the ordering the pizza online when they were still trying to entice people to do that by giving them free stuff. Ah, the good old days.

BTW we also checked to see that the driver was okay before accepting their apologies. We're not monsters.

If the driver ran early we'd pull faces and wonder if this was going to be like the time that the chips were so undercooked that they had crunchy wee centres, and the oil congealed on the surface. Not in the good way.

And then one day the dream ended. Why is it only when the good times stop that you realise how happy you've been?

We tried to order pizza online and thought there must have been a malfunction or a kitchen fire (three times that's happened over the years, three) as the delivery time was two hours away.

We grumbled and resorted to the telephone; our least favourite method of communication. Or my darling did. Sometimes he just has to suck it in and man up.

Same answer.

We assumed it was a one-off and ordered inferior pizza from another company. They didn't deliver all of the desserts I paid for. After a long standoff on the phone we received a late night home invasion from a driver insisting on paying us back. With change. At nine-thirty. Thanks.

The next time we needed to order we struck the same problem. Darling manned up again and questioned the friendly new owners. They were never going to have deliveries before 7.30pm at night but luckily we could come by and pick it up.

No we couldn't. Someone doesn't drive and someone else has Friday night drinks whether anybody else is invited or not.

We ordered from a different pizza company instead. They didn't deliver all of my desserts. It gets hard not to take it personally.

I was dragged to a phone call where I was told that if I came into the physical pizza company at some point in the future they would give me a free dessert! I pointed out it wouldn't be free because I'd already paid for it. Two free desserts! That would still just be the one free and the one I paid for. We reached an agreement; he would put a free credit (that I'd paid for) against my account, and I would never set foot in their physical shop to redeem it. Sorted.

We were miserable for a few months. We ate pizza from yet another pizza company in grim silence, trying not to complain to each other about how it wasn't like the real thing, but thinking it nevertheless.

And then we discovered that we pass fairly close by the pizza company we like on a couple of different occasions. One of these is when my darling is returning home from his dentist, and the other is when we're returning home from my doctor.

And the rest has become habit. I get out of my doctors office, whip out my phone and place an order, and we pick it up twelve minutes later. The pizza we like. The break from it has drawn out attention to just how bloody good it is.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Monday Blues

Another roadshow today. Oh yeah. I'm blessed. The roadshow a mere two weeks ago (how times flies when you're drooling on the floor in boredom) was presented by our local company. The roadshow today (on a Monday. A Monday!) was presented by our holding company - otherwise known as the mothership.

Please don't beam me aboard.

During the first roadshow there was a lot of informal talking and humour. There was some attempt to relate to us minions, and introduce the personality of the presenters. Today was a blank corporate front.

There were a lot of smiling faces, but they belonged to the actors hired to pretend they were undergoing a catastrophic event which we were helping them with. There was a lot of rousing music, but in the same way that your bank will have rousing music on its ad. Its ad with lots of smiling-faced actors.

It didn't help that the sound quality was sub-par, and the volume was CRANKED UP!

Note to self: when trying to disguise the inadequacy of a sound system don't turn it up to full. Opposite of disguise happens. Opposite. End of note.

On the bright side there were biscuits after. Chewy, oaty, honeyed biscuits and crisp, snappy, chocolatey biscuits. One needed some fridge time to be more snappy, and the other needed some microwave time to be more gooey. But for an empty stomach that otherwise would be fed only coffee they tasted like heaven.

I also thought later that given the number of biscuits and the number of attendees, I was probably only meant to help myself to one (and considering the decreasing size of my clothing maybe not even that) but it was too late. I should be more observant I guess, but then I'd go through life hungry and who needs that.

Upon my return to the office I discovered that the functions on my computer that had been working eratically but useably in the early morning, were now not working at all. I called the tech-team, which used to be called the help-desk but had a name change due to experiences not equal to inherent promises, and received an incident number in return. There was some blah-blah-blah which would blah-blah and they would blah-de-blah-blah and then the call ended abruptly. I may have hung up. You can't prove it.

I failed to do anything useful with MY BARE HANDS AND A CALCULATOR and then went to my optometrist appointment. The 'two pairs of glasses for $299.00' promise on the poster was translated into a 'two pairs of glasses for $1,429.00' reality on my credit card, and then I had a rather unpleasant surprise.

You know those tiresome tests where they blow on your eye, take a photo of your retina, and then shine a bright light in your face while asking you to look in directions that you usually have to stare at your hands to work out? Apparently they're not just cool methods of torture to put myopic consumers in their place.

No. They're real tests that provide real information.

Information such as the retina that I've had an operation to place a band around to hold it close to the back of my eye followed by laser surgery to burn said retina into place because the band didn't quite cut it, now looks like it has a blister in it. A blister that may be a blister requiring further laser surgery to burn it into stability and make sure it doesn't leak and disrupt the rest of my tattered retina; or it may be the start of another detached retina meaning that another tear has to be fixed by another surgery that runs the risk of creating further scar tissue that may lead to further tears and detachment and will probably hasten the development of cataracts that increases the possibility of retinal detachment.

Whatever.

I'm still upset about my credit card. I'll leave the rest of it to unpack tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow...

First up on the blog tour this week I have Jersey Girl Book Reviews who is bucking the trend by including the word Review in her blog title and actually providing one! Way to go Jersey Girl. Head over there now for that and a rambling blog post on 'How to Handle Negative Criticism.'

As if!

Next up we have Beyond Romance. The post isn't up as I'm typing, but until it is you can amuse yourself by perusing their Sunday Snog. Filthy, filthy, filthy. I'm going back to read it again.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The power of Katherines

Today I was poking about on Twitter when I saw that I had a new follower, who just happened to share the same first name as me. It occurred to me that this had happened the day before as well. I checked back through my followers and sure enough, there was another one. A trio of Katherines. Awesome.

An idea sprung into life in my tired little Sunday brain.

What if I located and followed every Katherine that there is on Twitter? Wouldn't that be uber-awesome?

Well I thought it would. And there was no one else around to ask for a second opinion.

I immediately put my plan into action until Twitter announced that there's some sort of upper limit for following people and I'd just reached it. I unfollowed a few companies that I'm pretty sure I only followed to get discount coupons three years ago, and upped my number a little bit. This was going to be such fun!

There was even a Katherine Mansfield on there. And here I was thinking she was long dead. Alive and tweeting! I then found another Katherine Mansfield.

In the immortal words of Dire Straits, Two women say they're Mansfield, one of 'ems gotta be wrong.

But which one? I followed them both to be sure.

I even found another Katherine Hayton with a much better profile photo than me. How wonderful is that?

Now I'm just sitting on Twitter waiting for someone to follow me so I can stalk follow yet another Katherine.

You just wait. We're going to take over the Internet one Katherine at a time. (Also accepting Katies, Kates, Kats and Katharines but not Kathryns, Kathrines or Catherines. Gotta have some membership rules.)

Free promotional blogging

I received an offer through my email yesterday saying that I could receive free promotion around Christmas if I wrote a high-quality blog about my book. This is a great opportunity for someone still in the red on her hobby serious book-selling career.

There were a few conditions of course - you can't be promoting people's blogs willy-nilly you know. People have a tendency to find weak spots in any plan and exploit them, or are just so inappropriate by birth and upbringing that they can't help but do the opposite of what you intended.

So here was the first condition. It must be about your book. This was implied in the first part of the offer which was to give free promotional tweets each week to members who create blog posts about their book, but you can't be too careful because - refer above.

Fine. I shall insert book reference immediately - Found, Near Water is a great book and you should definitely buy it here; and if you can't afford it you should download load it for free in return for a review here (and hurry - only four days left!)

Reference to book - tick.

Include pictures. This wasn't specific about what the focus of the pictures should be, but I'm going to make a great bit fat assumption that it's either meant to be of me...
Or my book...

(That's my favourite action shot there. I especially like the flame.)

Pictures - tick.

And then we move onto the requirement for it to be written with short paragraphs (automatic tick - the more I insert a new paragraph and white space the less I actually have to think of and write down) and a readable font (18 point or above).

...?

18pt. This text is 18pt. Readable - Yes. Something I'm actually going to do on my blog site - No.

I presume that they meant 18px. Attention to detail people.

The last sentence mentioned that they aimed to encourage high-quality blogging. They didn't elucidate how that was meant to be achieved through the reference to books, the inclusion of photos, the shortness of paragraphs, and the good-god-are-you-people-blind errors in font sizes. So I gave up.

It's time to go to bed anyhow, I'll look into more free promotional opportunities tomorrow.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Buzz buzz buzz

Complicated social arrangements were happening all around me today. Bargains to get rides home from sober partners, and early starts for people who most definitely don't care about getting any worms ever, but were prepared to sacrifice their sleep-ins for the chance to relax with a few bottles glasses of wine.

I am the most useless of all things in these situations. I don't drink - which would be a great boon to all the drinkers in the team except that - I don't drive.

I get threatened with driving lessons more often these days than in days of yore. The frequency of mentions multiplied by the number of drinks the government has just reduced the limit by.

Well, that ain't happening any time soon peeps so 'bout time y'all moved on.

There was also some social manoeuvering between me and my darling. I had my work do at number twelve and he had his at number two and so it seemed stupid not to co-ordinate the trek homewards.

My work do started at two o'clock and his started at... five o'clock?

Well that was okay as long as he didn't want to hang around more than a few minutes at his one. It seemed fair. He thought it seemed fairer, since he was the one driving, if he determined what time he would leave and I could stay on until then or bus.

Fair point.

In order to give and receive messages we were both taking our mobile phones. This mayn't seem like such a big thing to you, but to my darling it took a lot of effort and organisation and testing of whether his phone was still working and whether he'd be able to feel it vibrate when it did ring.

I stuck mine in my bra. There's a sad shortage of pockets on most women's blouses.

Over the past few weeks you may or may not have noticed that I have a blog tour underway. This means that there are usually tweets going out about me from the blog tour organiser, a few PR retweeters, the blog hosts themselves sometimes, my own account, and anybody who feels the need to retweet when they stumble across any of these messages. On average there are about six tweets going out each hour with my username attached in some way.

I didn't realise it until today, but when my phone is on and someone tweets something with my username in it, my phone vibrates. It's a big phone - if you've seen the Samsung Galaxy 5 you know what I mean - and there isn't a lot of room inside a bra. It was sitting snugly against the side of my breast. And part of the front.

So I was sitting at a table with my peers and my manager and her manager, and people started to tweet about me.

You know, there's a high level of satisfaction and happiness when you see your own name being thrown haphazardly around the twitterverse. It brings a lot of pleasure.

But not as much pleasure as a large phone vibrating inside your bra.

And the last spot of the week goes to the lovely blog of Unabridged Andra. It's up there right now so just click on the link - go on, click on it - and you can be reading it instead of THE END.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas party tomorrow

and you're not invited unless you already work with me in which case you know all about it already so may as well stop reading.

I have a new outfit (of course) and a good attitude (which may last) and a hearty appetite (as always) and nowhere else to be. I also have a ride home at seven-ish maybe so I can stay on late and par-tee.

I may even splash out a little and redeem my free drink voucher on, ooh I don't know, a Coke Zero maybe? Or I'll stay on the wagon on top of the wagon and have a tonic water which is my fancy I'm-at-a-bar-and-I-can't-drink drink.

But first I have to commit a sacrifice. A blood sacrifice.

En route to the office tomorrow I have to stop off in a seedy part of town and walk into an office I've never been to before, roll up my sleeve, proffer my arm, and have at least two tubes of blood drained out.

Not quite as dramatic as when I wander down the road to the blood drive and they take almost a pint, but close enough.

I'm not that bothered by needles and blood (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned blood drive in the above sentence) but there are still the occasional thoughts rattling around about how I possibly shouldn't let too much of it go. Even for the bonus weight-loss.

The good thing about dropping by the blood-test lab rather than my doctor's office is that they're professionals at doing this. They know how to aim and how to hold their hands steady. They can whip out the little plasters while pulling out the needle, securing the rubber caps on the test tubes, wiping the stick site and teaching you how to apply pressure with a cotton wool ball.

My doctor's hands aren't that shaky, but she does sometimes forget there's a patient in the room. Once, she was talking aloud while trying to work out how many vials of blood she needed her medical assistant to draw, and exclaimed 'Gosh, we're going to have to use the biggest needle.'

Nice.

My eldest brother would always faint at the sight of blood (his own, not others) so although I don't share the same traits I am aware of what they can elicit in others. Enough to laugh in astonishment.

Still, that's not as bad as the time I was complaining of stomach pains and mentioned that my mother died of stomach cancer. 'It would be awful to have cancer at your age,' she exclaimed while trying to print out a referral on her computer.

And this is why we have alternative medicine. Or not-medicine as it's more accurately known.

While I'm having my veins pierced with large hollow needles, you can relax and have a lovely read through...It's Raining Books and Long and Short Reviews. They're not up there yet, but they will be shortly so check back in later and have a nice catch up.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Job Interviews

I have one looming tomorrow. The only bright spot is I only found out today so at least I haven't been brooding about it for weeks on end. Just hours. Hours and hours and hours and hours of brooding. My darling is truly impressed.

I've read through some trial questions and come to the conclusion that I shouldn't be trying out for new roles. 'Think about a successful business and why you think it's successful.'

I can't think of a successful business. I can't think of a business. WHAT'S A BUSINESS? Does the business I work for count? Is it successful? If it is successful and it does count as a business why is that so? Does the answer 'because it sells stuff' work as an answer?

There'll be no sleep tonight, I can tell you.

The last time I went for an interview the feedback I received later was that I'd talked more than the interviewees had expected. I had kind of guessed that myself as when I was a third of the way through my 'behavioural' answer both of them had stopped taking notes, and halfway through one of them put her pad down on the table.

I might try for the opposite approach this time. One-word answers. Sweet.

There's a single, glorious spot tonight at the wonderful Laurie's Thoughts & Reviews. As is now traditional with any blog with reference to a review - there won't be one. Carry on.

Expensive Coke Habit

I've knocked back a few addictions in my time. Alcohol - done. Cigarettes - done. Dieting - done.

But a new addiction has crept up upon me. It's sweet. It's sparkling. It's sugar-free. It's Coke Zero.

A few years ago I thought it might help with my afternoon tendency to fall upon the sweet wagon and inhale if I had a sweet drink. Low-calorie and sugar-free of course. Otherwise it would just be replacing one bad habit with another.

I tried lemonade. I tried ginger ale. But I needed something stronger. Something with a little kick to it. Something with the buzz of caffeine to get me through those long afternoon hours until I could stumble through the front door fall upon the sofa kick up my feet and nosh down on some actual food.

And then our supermarket had a special on 8 cans of Coke Zero and I was sold.

Eight cans was a bit of an awkward number. I only needed one in the afternoon, and it's only during the weekdays, so I bought two lots of eight expecting it to last for three weeks.

And it did. On the last day I couldn't be arsed leaving one can on my desk (I like it room temperature) so I upped my intake to two. Magic.

On the following trip to the supermarket I came across the eighteen pack special. They were less than a dollar each. Bargain. That should easily last me for...

A week. That's how long it lasted. A week. Shameful. But buzzy as well. Very, very buzzy.

I continued on in this fashion, three cans a day Monday-Tuesday, then end-of-the-week celebrations with four cans a day Wednesday- Thursday-Friday.

Then one trip to the supermarket left me perplexed as the eighteens cans were full price. Full price is quite a lot more than on special. Quite a lot more. So much that I felt guilty about paying that much money (or making my darling pay that much money) for something that was only going to last me a week.

Looking further afield I did notice that the thirty can pack was remarkably cheap though. Sorted.

My not-yet-addiction faded back to three cans a day because this made the carton last for a fortnight and I like precision. Fairly awesome.

That was two years ago. Last week I started the week off with a carton of thirty cans, and ended up going to the vending machine for the last one I needed on Friday.

Gosh.

That's a bit out of control, isn't it? That's a bit in-your-face about time you got this sorted out, isn't it? That's a bit give up your last pleasure and surrender to the grim realities of oncoming death, isn't it.

Yeah, well when I haven't had my allocation of Coke Zero for the day I tend to get a bit overly dramatic!

If the years of giving things up have taught me anything, and they'd better have otherwise what was the point? they've taught me that when you give up you go COLD TURKEY.

None of this nonsense I'll-just-cut-down-and-then-when-I-stop-altogether-it'll-be-easy bollocks. If you're gonna stop riding the needle you don't cut it back to every once in a while, do you? No. You sign up to the methadone program and you take your three doses all at once in the morning like a grown-up.

Monday's are a popular day for going cold turkey, but they don't work so well when you've got change in your pocket and a vending machine in the cafe downstairs. Day one - failure.

But I had a secret weapon in my arsenal. Laziness. The floor below ours is being remodelled at the moment, and from today if I want access to a vending machine I have to walk across an airbridge to another building, walk downstairs, walk back across to our building through the outside courtyard and enter the cafe. Work the vending machine. Walk back to the opposite building. Walk upstairs and back across the airbridge and sit down at my desk (with cans of not at all room-temperature Coke Zero clutched in my chubby arms) and then have to take a break from work until I catch my breath.

You can see why I thought I was safe.

I caved by nine-thirty. Four cans. I even had to buy a packet of chips to break down the tenner I had on me because the Coke machine only takes coins or credit cards and I hate a row of $1.50 debits coming out of my credit card which is why I also avoid buying things in Farm Heroes.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to fool myself. I plan on taking a two-litre bottle of Sprite Zero into work and making myself drink it while appreciating the damn taste and who cares that it's not sickly sweet? Who cares that it's not all buzzy? Who cares that it reflects the light of my soul instead of the deep darkness of my psyche?

Coke Zero would care.

Blog tour. Get yourself some Blog tour here.

Tonight the tour is upping the ante once more to TWO stops. First port of call is Wake up your wild side. Mmmmmmm - saucy. Then we're calling in at Room with books. Mmmmmmm - booky.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Fleas

This morning I was working away, in a good mood - well, good for a Monday that is - when a fellow workmate came along to complain to our unit manager that there seemed to be fleas or ants or something infesty in the building.

She knew this because despite living with dogs she had not had any itches at home, but as soon as she arrived at work she had started to itch and to scratch and she couldn't stop so it definitely must be an office only infestation.

There was a grunt of acknowledgement and instruction to call through to our receptionist who also doubles as an office handyman appointment arranger when our lights need replacing, our floor tiles need sticking down, and apparently when our carpets harbour real or imaginary fleas.

I know nothing more about the infestation. Nothing at all. I do know that as soon as the incident was reported I could feel at least a dozen sites on my body that required some urgent scratching. Not flea related. I knew that. In my brain. For some reason however, my brain proved reluctant to communicate this message to the rest of my body.

Especially the front of my calf where I could feel something - not a flea, no not that, but something - burrowing deep into my skin.

All of these phantom insects were not helped out at all by my skin being dry and flaky. At any given moment I have a dozen different nerves reporting a dozen different pieces of misinformation about things that my skin isn't going through but my nerves keep insisting they is.

It lasted about half an hour all up. Then I went off and got a coffee and completely forgot the entire conversation. Along with the conversation I'd started up afterwards about scabies, mites, tics and all manner of human skin dwellers. Do not bring it upon myself.

Monday again, and you can all guess what that means.... BLOG TOUR!

Tonight the sole glory goes to Book 'em North Carolina. "Buy a Book and Stop a Crook!"

Pop on over (the posts already up) and read my biography, an excerpt, and find out all my opinions (and Lord knows I love to express an opinion) on balancing life and writing. Like a full-on serious writer chick.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Statistics

As well as legally requiring you to fill out a census form every four years (when not interrupted rudely by earthquakes in Christchurch) Statistics New Zealand also embark on little side-projects such as keeping an eye on the levels of unemployment, the average salary and wages, and some other thing no doubt that I'm not familiar with but which I have to mention because my sentence structure follows the rule of three.

Last year we were picked on selected to participate in the earnings information portion, and we will have to provide answers to intrusive questionnaires about out income from all forms of employment and investment for two years - reporting quarterly. We've done two so far. That means we have another six to go. We're not even close to halfway through.

The first interview was in-depth and conducted in the dubious hospitality of our dining room. Not by choice.

The second (as will be all subsequent ones) was conducted by phone. There were a lot fewer questions, and a lot less teeth-gritting. It's still all a bit invasive. And no I don't want to see the examples of articles based on your research, I just want to be left alone. Bah-humbug.

First one early June 2014. Second one early September 2014. The visits and phonecalls have been on the weekends so far, since we're hard to catch hold of during the working week.

We get a lot of cold calls at our house. Lots of people asking am I Mrs so-and-so and me genuinely replying no I'm not due to the benefit of my darling and I living out of wedlock. Speaking of whom, when my darling answers the phone to a cold caller he lets them get a sentence out and then says 'I'm not interested, thanks for calling though,' and hangs up the phone.

The only variation to this is when he can hear the call connecting through the automated dialing machine in the call centre. The pause is usually long enough that he says 'Hello,' waits a moment, and then puts his finger down on the disconnect button before they even begin to speak.

So he went through the palaver of option A this afternoon, and then went back to cooking his tea. A moment later he came back out of the kitchen with a puzzled look on his face.

'What's the matter?' I asked.

'The phone-call,' he replied. 'The woman said she was from Statistics New Zealand.'

Neither of us has had the courage to answer the phone again. They might send up to jail.

Irish Blood

No, not spilled over the driveway. I have some. In me. Still. Of course with genealogy if you go far enough back you can find relatives anywhere. Apparently my haplogroup is H3 which makes me predominantly Basque. Yip - some of those separatists running around terrorising France and Spain are my rellies.

That got off-topic quick, didn't it?

I mention the Irish blood in me only because of my deep love for potatoes. I've given up on much of the gardening I took up with wholehearted enthusiasm about 6-7 years ago - most of my garden survives only because it thrives on neglect - but I still love planting out potatoes each year.

For the past three years I've been particularly obsessed with Pink Fir Apple potatoes. Don't know where the Fir and the Apple came into it, but I can verify that they are definitely pink. They're also the best waxy potato in the world IMHO. Sometimes I can even be tempted into eating them as a potato salad, and I'm a salad averse woman.

On the whole though, I tend to scrub them down, boil them up, and slather them with butter. Does adding butter to things make it a recipe? If so, I have a lot of recipes. Maybe enough to write a cookbook. Katherine's guide to cooking with chocolate and butter. Guaranteed bestseller.

Today was my second mounding of the little darlings. One more and then I can leave them alone to flourish. Truth be told they're not the type of potato that does flourish. Not like the urinika potatoes that I planted once six years ago and have decided they'll live here until I die. They'll probably live on after that, but at least I don't have to see them.

I still love the bright purple colour of those potatoes, but my palate is never going to get down with a fluffy potato when there are waxy potatoes lying around, or being forced encouraged to grow.

And now onto the blog tour.

HA-HA. That was a trick. It's the weekend so there ain't one. Feel free to peruse the blog links out to the side to catch up on old stops, or see the ones I'll be appearing in shortly.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thank God that's over

There are some weeks that speed by, some weeks that drag, some that pull you into a dark pit of despair. And then there was this week.

This is about work only - my home life is sweetly predictable. Apart from the wireless on my laptop suddenly deciding to disconnect itself for a couple of hours there was nothing out of character. And that was really quite well timed because I needed to swear a lot and it's nice to have an excuse.

The only blessing out of the sorry mess is that I actually like the break of the roadshow despite all my earlier protestations. It got a little slow in places, but turned out to be quite interesting. I learned a lot about some people; the best ones were the things that I don't think they would want me to learn.

I now feel like a bus has run me over, then picked me up, sat me at the bus-stop again, and made me wait another two hours for the next bus.

Or I think that's how I feel. I'm not willing to try out the experiment to test it all scientific like - but if you're game let me know how you feel after and I'll compare it legitimately. Where legitimately means to continue to hyperbolate the hell out of it.

Well that's my moan over. It's now the end of the day on Friday - yes I know it's not yet eight-thirty but some of us haven't slept this week because our little brains have been turning little conundrums over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and hello it's five-thirty - and I'm winding down to go to bed for a change instead of winding myself up.

Tomorrow at the supermarket I might buy a few little bits and pieces of things that I probably would live longer not eating but would live unhappier not eating and mix them up into a pre-Christmas treat. That's the sort that you mix up at the beginning of December to test out and make sure it'll be okay for Christmas day but then you end up testing it so many times that you get sick of it and end up bringing something else.

And what wondrous recipe am I going to whip up tomorrow? Vanilla Ice-Cream, Lemon Curd and baby Meringues. Lazy woman's summer lemon meringue pie. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

On that note it's time to catch up with Ye Good Olde Blog Tour.

First up we pay a visit to Nickies Views and Interviews which is ironically not doing a review or an interview, before heading onto the foreign shores of Italy with Libri Amori Miei who is.

Visit them and I'll catch you up again in the beautiful release of the weekend. Saturday, here I come.