Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Meet Mike Miracle

Today on the blog, I’d like to introduce you to Mike Miracle. Lucky husband, fortunate father of two great kids and the caretaker of many different monsters.

Originally from the east coast, Mike and his family now reside on a farm in the Midwest. Mike was able to use his programming skills to start his own small business from home, where every day is casual Friday. Mike has always searched for ways to express creativity and imagination. Through music, art and now the printed word. Mike’s childhood love of science fiction has never been stronger. There are plenty of crime dramas in the office library, but science fiction still dominates.

Mike wanted to create a plausible dimension outside of anything anyone has read before. To grab the reader by the hand and walk them through the bright light and show them what happens in the realm known as The Next.

So, first up. I guess Mike Miracle is a pen name?

I get asked that all the time. Is that a stage name? But Mike Miracle is my real name.

When did you first discover your passion for writing?

I think everyone has a story to tell. I used to do mine back in the day through music. Several garage bands, I’d write original songs that were just mini stories. Mostly about painful stuff. I think most music came from something bad that happened. But writing this book was not like that at all. It was exciting and difficult and stressful all at the same time. It was like letting a creative monster loose on the world.

What genre are your books?

It’s Sci Fi in the middle with drama/thriller wrapped around it like a chalupa. Maybe a little Sci Fi comes out in the end? That’s a strange analogy, but entirely accurate.

What draws you to this genre?

The ability to create. There also have to be some checks and balances of what you write. But it’s also good to leave somethings up to the imagination of the reader.

Have you ever considered writing stories for other genres?

Yes. Young adult. My 13 year old son is a voracious reader, and I’ve tried to encourage him to write a little bit. So we’ve collaborated a little bit on a story featuring a former US President as a stand-up comedian. It might go nowhere, but I enjoy him laughing at the nonsense I come up with.

What is the best part about being a writer?

The ability to be creative. To come up with an idea and let it run.

And what is the worst?

Keeping your day job. I’d rather just write, but the lights must be kept on. Writing usually gets put on hold until after work, late in the evening after everyone else is in bed.

Do you have a favorite author?

That’s tough. If you forced me I’d have to say my favorite is Michael Connelly. I also look forward to Jim Butcher and Lisa Gardner. There are probably 10 authors I could put into a hat and the one I drew out would be just fine as my favorite.

Tell us about the book you’re currently working on?

One character lies in wait to seek revenge for his wife’s accidental death. I have a book trailer at the top of my twitter feed @_mikemiracle or you can see it via youtube - https://youtu.be/AvYfuGuHIyA

The Sci Fi part is an alternate version of the afterlife called The Next. Where the newly arrived clients find out that they have a choice of what happens to them. They can move on, go back to their previous life or let chance decide.

I’m working on getting my first book out of the hands of the publisher so it can get into the hands of readers. But I’m also writing the second book in the series The Next. I don’t really know how many books there will be, I guess until the story plays itself out like so many others.

Do you dislike any of your character(s)?

Out of the six or so earthly characters, I’d say there’s only one that’s a decent person. The others all have their issues that would make me not like them.

And last of all, where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram!

Thanks very much for joining us today, Mike. I hope you pop back when your book is available and we’ll keep our eyes peeled 🙂

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 www.kellymillerauthor.com 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.

Excerpt

(1)

MADDY EASTIN

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.

Duh.

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 (www.kellymillerauthor.com). 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.

Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, Pinterest, Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Arrival in Mission Beach

So, I’ve arrived in Mission Beach for my annual holiday complete with sun, sand, and dollops of ice-cream. After a short fourteen-hour travel day (thank you airports of the world for your super-long check-in requirements and weird bag-handling rituals) we nosed the car into the turn-off from El Arish and journeyed into the magic that is our favourite holiday destination of all time.

The sun has yet to make an appearance—apparently we’ve failed to appease the weather gods on some matter—but the sand is in full-force. All over our rental house, in the bed, in my hair, in too many crevices to comfortably name in a public post.

And the ice-cream. Oh, the ice-cream. I’ve dieted all year long for this (ha-ha, whatever) and as I popped the first stick of ice-cream goodness into my mouth all I could think was . . .

Ouch!

When the hell did my teeth get so sensitive?

If only I’d had a few practice ice-creams at home I could have prepared myself. I could have used Sensodyne toothpaste or whatever the off-brand label equivalent is. My teeth could have been coated in (mumbly scientific-dental stuff magic) and all the nerve endings retreated into their nerve caves.

Instead, I’m facing a holiday choice that fills me with terror.

Ice-cream and tooth pain, or

No ice-cream.

And when I say no ice-cream I don’t just mean ice-cream. That word now encapsulates ice-blocks, ice-lollies, callipos, Memphis Meltdowns, and Magnums.

(And yes I’m aware that most of those are just sub-varieties of ice-blocks or ice-cream but I was trying to make the problem appear as large as it feels inside.)

To think that a few days ago I was complaining about how the free wifi turned out to be free because it didn’t exist and to make any internet connection at all I have to prop my mobile phone on top of a stack of crockery in the side of the kitchen window and hold my breath for two minutes, then chant an incantation.

(Please note that if you’re receiving this blog post after the 19th of September the incantation failed . . . Big time.)

It just shows, it takes a real trial to put the little things into perspective.

I’m off to check out the label for Ibuprofen to see if it still irritates stomach ulcers and to contemplate the odds of the Losec offsetting that enough to make a third choice possible, but I’m not holding out much hope. The Panadol’s already failed me.

Monday, 15 August 2016

First 5,000

After more than a month of researching, reading, planning, and outlining, I finally started writing the first book in my new series today. At first, time slowed to a crawl and every word seemed like an effort. After an hour with almost nothing to show for it, I started to panic.

I’d forgotten how to write!

Now, having put in my hours and produced over five thousand words, I feel a little bit more comfortable. They may not be the right words but at least they’re on the page.

By the end of the day it was even starting to become fun. No matter how much I outline, no matter what backstory elements I fill in for my characters, no matter how well I know their history – better than the closest friends I’ve ever had – it’s not until I start to write that they actually fill out.

When my little chalk lines get into a room with the other chalk lines and start to have a conversation, that’s when they grow flesh and turn into people. Stiff at first, awkward. But at the end of the day I can see how well they’re fitting into their new skins. I start to know them so well I can see what they’re thinking.

They’ll have a few surprises in store, and I’m sure at some point my carefully structured outline will be grossly and unexpectedly departed from, but for the time being they’re well behaved characters doing pretty much what they should. Long may it last.

Here’s to tomorrow and the next five thousand.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Busy month accomplishing nothing

For the past month I’ve been busy getting a few things sorted.

Number One: leaving paid employment. Something that caused me to sit bolt upright every weeknight for a fortnight with “What have I done?” running through my brain at full volume.

The alternating attitude was to spend all of my remaining work days smiling with glee that everything I was doing was going to be over soon and would never have to be done again. By me, at least. I presume the jobs that I had to perform still need to be performed by someone who resents doing them as much as I did.

Number Two: getting my second Ngaire Blakes Mystery published.

Still not sure if this is happening or not. I did submit directly to Kindle Press (who were kind enough to publish the previous one) but after not hearing anything in response for a month, I succumbed to their process and put it on the Kindle Scout website for a thirty day campaign. Boy, had I forgotten how long thirty days is. The first few days were quite exciting in a familiar “I’ve been here before” kind of way. But the first few days only used up the first few days and the latter twenty-eight have stretched in front of me like a widening gulf.

To be honest, I haven’t actually ticked this one off the list because the campaign has another five days to run. Something that Kindle Scout insist on calling four days, because the last day of the campaign is called the last day rather than one day to go. IDK. At least this time around I won’t be caught out. If I make it to the last day. That point is still in question.

If you’ve missed the opportunity to nominate me (or chore, depending on your mindset) then you can do so on the following link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/CB9NSW95GX1U

Click the link, sign-in to Amazon using your usual Amazon sign-in details, then click on a blue nominate button. This will ensure that if I’m embarrassingly passed over for publication this time around, you’ll be the first to hear about it. And if I’m not, then you’ll get a free Kindle copy. What a deal!

Number Three: preparing for a new series that I’ll be launching next year.

This has been the most time-consuming activity of the lot, in mind power if not in physical hours spent. I’m following a new apprenticeship program that is taking me through a different (for me, anyway) system of book writing. It involves a lot of preproduction and planning (oddly similar to the work that I gleefully departed from) and will hopefully allow me to write a lot more quickly and a lot more easily when it gets to that bit.

In the meantime, I’ve taken a leap of faith and organised all the standard trimmings that go along with book publishing in advance. I have editing booked in for manuscripts that haven’t yet been written and I’ve set up a brilliant book cover designer to design six covers for books that don’t yet have insides for the cover to cover.

Another reason I’m jolting wide-awake at night thinking “What have I done?”

Still, having taken the leap of faith that the six books I’ve commissioned covers for and arranged editing of will manifest themselves in time, the process has become very exciting. This time, in the good way. I’ve even gone so far as to create a separate page on my website to highlight that this series is coming. Definitely. I’ve committed to a date! If, February 2017 can be called a date.

So yes, I’ve been busy.

Unemployed, unpublished, unwritten.

Busy, busy, busy.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Bugs

Atlas Obscura has been having bug week this past week.

I don’t know if that’s a recognised phenomenon, like shark week, or if it’s just something they decided to do because they had a whole lot of random copy about bugs, but it’s been quite interesting.

They’ve covered everything from the pain scale of insect stings through to the hidden bugs sending messages when you retweet that meme. NOTE: it is always perfectly safe to retweet any pictures from MY twitter handle. I know as much about coding secret messages into images as I do about wedding planning and I’m officially an old-age spinster (if you live in a time before woman had occupations to note on their official documentation).

I found it especially comforting to read through these articles when I was struck with my own bug on Wednesday. It made for some nice breaks in between familiarising myself with the toilet bowl from both ends.

One thing I appreciated was the tiny little bugs that were crawling all over the screen while I was reading the articles. I was only fooled twice into thinking they were real and attempting to crush them mercilessly against my laptop screen.

I HAD TO HAVE THEM.

And for once the laborious effort I put into transitioning my website from the delightfully easy Squarespace to the frustratingly multi-optioned WordPress paid off.

Bug! There is a wordpress plugin called bug.

It puts a bug on your screen. Not only that, the bug wanders about a bit.

A miracle of engineering. Now in full view on my website (which you may already know if you’re reading my blog on there, but if you’re not you should immediately visit by clicking this link – http://katherinehayton.com).

They say it’s the little things in life that make you happy and whoever “they” is in this case “they” would be right.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Zara Altair - The Used Virgin

Please tell us a bit about yourself

Zara Altair combines mystery with a bit of adventure in the Argolicus mysteries. The Used Virgin is the first in a series of mysteries based in southern Italy at the time of the Ostrogoth rule of Italy under Theoderic the Great. Italians (Romans) and Goths live under one king while the Roman Empire is ruled from Constantinople. At times the cultures clash, but Argolicus uses his wit, sometimes with help from his tutor Nikolaos, to provide justice in a province far from the King’s court.

Zara Altair lives in Beaverton, Oregon. She is a fiction author writing in the historical fiction genre. Her approach to writing is to present the puzzle and let Argolicus and Nikolaos find the solution encountering a bit of adventure and some humor in their search. Her stories are rich in historical detail based on years of research. Zara is working on a historical novel Felix Ravenna: A Mosaic set in the same time period with Argolicus as the main character. To get on the reader list for Argolicus fans go here http://goo.gl/m5aL3E (copy and paste to your browser).

Zara loves reader feedback. Be sure to leave a review. Write comments here on the Author Page. Zara replies to all comments.

Author Q&A

What genre are your books?

Historical mystery. In Italy, giallo storico.

What draws you to this genre?

I’ve been reading in this genre since Nancy Drew for mystery and a gift subscription to monthly history books for kids.

Have you ever considered writing stories for other genres?

Yes. I’ve ghostwritten a number of steamy romance books and sometimes I write science fiction.

When did you first discover your passion for writing?

I’ve been telling stories since I was two when I sat on the back porch and told stories to Yoohoody, the owl who perched in the tree. I’ve been writing stories since I was seven.

What inspired your latest novel?

A phone conversation with my daughter. We were talking about how much we love the Italian day and she said, “Mommy, you should go to Ravenna.” Then she told me about Theoderic leading his people across the frozen Danube and eventually arriving in Ravenna. I thought, “I wonder what it was like then?”

I started researching and discovered a time of divided loyalties, intense theological differences, and a “barbarian” who lived like an emperor.

Do you have a teaser for The Used Virgin?

After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths. A young magistrate of mixed ancestry retires to find people are just as corrupt and venal in the provinces.

A corrupt Governor. A young girl. And old man.

A ruined reputation is worse than murder in Italy. Argolicus and his lifelong tutor, Nikolaos, discover evil, greed, and extreme extortion.

Argolicus unravels the threads.

What is your least favorite word?

Nice.

Do you ever read your stories out loud?

Always. And in my writing group we read each other’s work. You can instantly hear the clunks or the stumbles over awkward phrasing.

What’s the first book you remember making an indelible impression on you?

Anna Karenina. I couldn’t stop. I read all night and finished just after dawn.

Do you have a favorite author?

In historical fiction, Robert Harris. My favorite is Pompeii. I love how his “Roman” is an engineer. And, the reader knows from the beginning that Vesuvius is going to erupt. From that moment on, it is a cliffhanger. Plus, for world builders, his alternative history, Fatherland, is a prime example of a character caught in the surrounding culture.

What are you currently working on?

Along with the next short story, The Peach Widow, I’m always at work on the novel Felix Ravenna: A Mosaic which takes place two years after the mystery series. Oh, and there’s that other contemporary mystery series that is percolating in my head with retired detective, Jake “Cozy” Cozzens.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you cast?

When I started, it was Tom Hardy as Argolicus for the smoldering undercurrent, but Argolicus is 32 at the time of the mysteries, so I needed a new actor. Argolicus Clive Standen. Nikolaos Dragos Bucur.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write. Study story. Read in your genre. Start your author platform. It takes time. Have everything—author bio, book description, website, email autoresponder (emails written and sequenced), email opt-in—set up before you publish. Write. Edit. Keep writing. Connect with other writers. Plan you next book. Keep writing.

That’s all practical. Most importantly, believe in your story.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Katherine, thank you so much for the interview. Although writing is a solitary activity, sharing our individual stories is part of building a community.

Thank you, Zara. How can readers keep in touch?

Author Website, Author Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page, THE USED VIRGIN

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Waiting Game

I remember my first love. I’d sit by the phone waiting for him to return a call. Desperate to hear his voice but unable to phone him because if I did that I’d call down the wrath of Murphy’s Law and my call would be placed through to his line at exactly the same time as he rang and then we’d both be thinking we were talking to other people.

As you do.

Perhaps this has something to do with my lifelong resentment of phonecalls?

More likely, it’s my awkward timing when I can’t scan a face for visual cues that it’s my time to talk but there’s still food for thought right there.

This week, I’ve been reminded of those emotions. The frustration. The longing.

Yes, I’ve been running the gamut while waiting for a publisher to get in touch and let me know if my book is on their go or whoa list.

Given the attachment I have to my current manuscript, there’s even touches of love mixed up in there.

Waiting is so hard. Admittedly, waiting to hear back from a publisher isn’t as bad as some waits I’ve had. Anything connected with a hospital or me sitting alone on a couch at night is usually a lot more worrying, but it’s still got it’s hat in the ring.

Oh. I typed ring and looked at the phone. Now, that’s just sad.

Anyway, got to end this blog post here. Otherwise, I might be typing and posting when they’re trying to get through to my computer via email and our electronic messages could bump and reflect off each other as non-deliverable packages in the night.

Or something like that.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Jessica Knauss – Awash in Talent

Meet Jessica Knauss – Author of Awash in Talent

Please tell us about yourself

I’ve wandered all over the United States, England, and Spain, mostly with my husband. We’re currently settled in the beautiful American Southwest, but don’t know where the wind may take us next.

My highly praised novella, Tree/House, is available in ebook, softcover, and audiobook formats, and my genre-defying short stories have been collected in Unpredictable Worlds. My love of Spain has led to a medieval epic novel, Seven Noble Knights, which will debut December 15 from Bagwyn Books. Contemporary paranormal Awash in Talent is my first novel to be published. It’s available now from Kindle Press.

Find all the latest at my website and blog at jessicaknauss.com

Author Q&A

When did you first discover your passion for writing?

I didn’t so much decide to be a writer as I was born one. I was writing, illustrating, and stapling together children’s books before I knew alternative careers existed. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was baffled: I was already a writer. They asked if I was going to be a children’s book author, but I knew writing was an apprenticeship and responded that I was going to write at whatever level I was reading at, ending up with novels for adults, of course.

Awash in Talent is being marketed as YA/New Adult, and it was just as challenging as my historical novel, in different ways. Over the years I’ve found that categories of writing aren’t hierarchical. Writing for adults and for young people have different criteria, but neither is a higher level than another.

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

Beth is a younger sister and is lavished with praise because of her Talent. That happened to me as a youngster, so I can understand that dynamic and why she becomes self-important, though I studiously avoid that fate.

I sympathize with Kelly, and I think my readers will, too. She’s a firestarter who doesn’t understand her own Talent and feels like an outsider. Oddly, that’s one of the most common feelings in the world.

Though I’m not a psychic like Patricia, I did go from California to New England for college and fell madly in love with the region, the way she does.

Do you dislike any of them?

My most notorious character is Emily, the self-centered, envious sister of multi-Talented Beth and a thoroughly unreliable narrator. While I wouldn’t say I dislike her, I sympathize with her in reverse. I think about how I would react to the situation she’s in, and I either take it to extreme levels or have her do the opposite. My true love is in a wheelchair outside my door and his wife is nowhere to be seen? I might, if feeling gutsy, wave at him from the window. Emily grabs the wheelchair handles and takes off down the street! In that way, she’s my most fun character.

It’s a great challenge to try to have the reader sympathize with someone so extreme.

Do you ever read your stories out loud?

It’s essential to read your stories aloud. At some point in the process, my husband has to listen to every one of my works. He helps me find awkward sentences and inconsistencies, and the process helps me find typos. It’s the best way to fine-tune dialog. If it’s hard to read out loud, then it’s not likely anyone would say it that way.

Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love scenes? Why or why not? I feel so self-conscious, in fact, that I don’t write them unless they’re totally unavoidable to the plot. I do perversely enjoy writing scenes in which lovemaking is interrupted or frustrated. I have a theory that my love life is so satisfying, I don’t have any drive to write love scenes. I remember enjoying making up love scenes ages ago, when I was with a boyfriend who withheld affection.

What is the story of your first kiss?

This was the withholding boyfriend. We dated for six months before I was able to cajole him into a closed-mouthed lip bump. It’s likely that my teenage years of enforced chastity contribute to Kelly’s shyness and confusion when Brian is so attractive to her. (See excerpt below.)

Excerpt from Waterfire: Awash in Talent, Part II

Kelly, the narrator, lives at a school for firestarters with her friends Jill, Raúl, and Brian. She has a major, and she thinks unrequited, crush on Brian.

Last night, we had another fire drill. Or so I thought. It was earlier than the alarms usually go off, about ten thirty. Jill and I had just gotten under the covers when the blaring started. We’re practiced at this now, so we had our flip-flops, sweatpants, and sweatshirts (it’s definitely fall now) ready to grab by the door. I checked Jill’s pocket for my safety sack and she checked for hers and we were out the door.

Since I got a buddy, fire drills have been kind of fun. I don’t have to fake-smile anymore. I just go with Jill and find our little group and stand around in good company, listening to Raúl’s latest stupid comments. This time, we went down to the designated area on the docks and quickly found Brian and his buddy in the crowd, but there was no hanging around.

“Hi,” I said casually, but both Brian and Raúl were panting, and Brian had this intense look on his face.

“There’s an actual fire,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before we can go back inside. Jill, can you cover for Kelly?”

She grinned like an accomplice. “I got this. And so does Raúl.” I watched her punch Raúl on the shoulder, but still had no clue what was going on until Brian grabbed my wrist and started moving away from the group. My heart was leaping out of my chest—Brian was kidnapping me. The boy I liked was taking me away in the dead of night. Didn’t he like Jill? What was he planning? What did any of this mean?

Pretty soon, we were holding hands and running, and finally the questions cleared out of my head because we were headed in the direction of Waterplace Park and, was that—? Yes, through the buildings, I could see masses of people gathered along the water’s edge, and flickering, shimmering air, and tendrils of smoke. We were going to WaterFire! In sweats and flip-flops over pajamas, but still. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.

Before we even arrived at the waterfront, I could hear the snap-crackle of the burning wood. We gazed at the spot at the opening to the harbor where the first pyre juts out of the water. Each pyre rests a good foot or two above the water on a pole, both buoyed and anchored in place by three large black underwater spheres. Both the first pyre and the next one, headed inland at the mouth of the river, were burning low embers.

“Go ahead, Kelly. Refresh the flames,” Brian said, almost like a dare.

I started to protest, but then realized Jill had my safety sack and my patch was off for the night. The feeling of freedom almost knocked the wind out of me. I looked to make sure no one was watching—it was only farther down along the river that the real crowds started. I felt a whirlwind of crackling happiness around me and poof! The first pyre was healthily ablaze again.

“That’s so cool how you do that. You could become an arsonist and no one would ever suspect you.”

What is the best part about being a writer?

There are loads of advantages to being a writer. One is that I’m never bored because there’s always something to work on. Another is that inspiration can come from anywhere. You never know when that incident at the grocery store might come in handy. The most important is probably that you can make up entire worlds and decide what matters and what doesn’t.

What is the worst part about being a writer?

Working all the time without pay. Not a lot of people seem to know this, but it’s a fact.

Please buy books at new-book stores and check them out at libraries. A book is an author’s love, joy, and whole life for months or years. $2.99 or $4.99 is far from a rip-off, especially since you might spend hours enjoying it.

What are you currently working on?

The sequel to my historical epic, Seven Noble Knights, is my priority, but Awash in Talent is going to have a sequel, too, and I sneak in a chapter here and there. I hope they’ll see the light soon!

Get Social

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Author Website, Author Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, Pinterest, Amazon Author Page, AWASH IN TALENT

Friday, 3 June 2016

Celery

I’ve just finished a very nice two-day break from work.

And by “break from work” I mean break from my day job and full-on with my writing job.

The joy of sending my work out to a line editor and a beta reader came to an abrupt halt two weeks ago when they unceremoniously sent it back.

Obviously, that’s part of the process and I knew it was but still. . . couldn’t they have done all the other stuff that needed to be done? The little rewrites and the corrections and the perhaps changing everything that happens in the end?

Except I think that would be a ghost writer and I don’t earn enough to pay myself to write let alone anyone else.

So, getting back to the point in hand, I decided to take a short break from insurance in order to focus on editing. I’d also agreed at some point to participate in a writer’s panel in the library and I thought two days seemed about right to recover and be able to interact normally with people again.

In fact, I was so worked up about the panel on Wednesday night that on Wednesday morning, instead of eating my celery for my mid-morning snack like a good girl, I ransacked the vending machine and ate a bag of Doritos and a bag of green onion chips.

Corn and potatoes. Stuff of champions.

I wouldn’t normally mention it, I eat out of vending machines so often there’d be room for nothing else, but the thing was I forgot about the celery altogether.

If I take something to work and don’t eat it as scheduled, I pop it in the fridge for the following day. If it’s a Friday, then I pop it in the organic bin because weekends and celery do not mix.

But as I said, I was stressed and feeling a bit anxious and once I’d overloaded on carbs and fake cheese flavouring, I completely forgot about the celery languishing in my bag.

Because I’m so organised, it was already cut, and I’d put it into a little Glad baggie with a sandwich seal to keep in the flavour.

I’m not sure the flavour of three day old room temperature celery is something that should be kept inside a baggie. On the other hand, when I broke open the seal and the aroma escaped, I discovered the flavour isn’t something you want exiting willy-nilly either.

So, celery is out of the question for the rest of the year. I’m hoping I can stomach carrots when the work-week rolls around again.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Sleep deprivation

A fellow staff member was complaining at work today that she only had five hour’s sleep the night before.

Five hours! Sheer luxury.

For me, that’s the sort of sleep I sometimes crave to get. The kind of sleep I ache for. The kind of blissful, lengthy slumber that actual dreams can be made of.

Unless I’m taking a sedative to force the issue, that’s the kind of night’s sleep that can keep me going during the day’s when I’ve not been quite so lucky.

Eight hours I’ve long assumed is a myth propagated by an evil genius who wants to downplay the achievement of receiving any sleep in consecutive hours at all.

If it weren’t for viewing my darling achieve this same thing effortlessly, night after night, I would think it an imaginary proposition much like giving up sugar or eating a low-fat diet.

Damn my a-type personality that tries really hard to achieve things. Trying to achieve sleep is one of the things destined to make it stay far away.

Much like trying to knock it into my own head.

Doesn’t work.

Leaves bruises.

Leads to hopeless sobbing.

Until. . .

Finally. . .

Another successful night down. Only forty more years of this to go!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Introversion and appointments

You know the old phrase, “Your mouth’s writing a cheque that your body can’t cash?”

OK. Perhaps it’s not that old and perhaps you don’t know it, but I’m sure you can figure it out if you take a minute.

As an introvert I have a constant war raging inside of me. My brain is often thinking up sarcastic and witty retorts that have a way of flowing straight out of my mouth before I can stop them.

The downside is that as soon as the aforementioned retort is out of my mouth, people have a habit of turning and staring.

My brain likes being the centre of attention. Right up until the moment that it is, whereupon it remembers that it hates being the centre of attention and would like to crawl back into the dark hole it came from.

This is exacerbated by writing.

I like sitting alone at home typing out a whole lot of words. It’s fun. Even when it’s hard work that I complain bitterly about.

The great thing about a page full of type is that it doesn’t turn and look at you when you’re feeling vulnerable. A page of typing never dropped by when I was in a non-peopley mood and sat down on my couch to chat.

The sad thing about a page full of type is that nobody knows it’s there by accident.

If I want somebody to actually read the pages, I have to announce it to the world at large. Quite frequently. Far more frequently than my non-peopley soul would find comfortable.

Some of that “promotion” is okay with me. A lot of it is online, where I can happily pretend that all the other people are just more pages of type written by another introverted soul (and a lot of the time I’d be right).

Sometimes, though, I just have to bite the bullet and actually appear in public places and do things in front of other human beings.

Things like talk. About writing and stuff. And how there are books out there that you can buy for money that I can then redeem for food and electricity and wifi.

Usually when I agree to do these things the actual events are months away and I’m fine with the prospect of appearing in front of a crowd.

(I should note here that a crowd is what I call more than one person. More than two people if one of them is my darling because he doesn’t count-in the most wonderful way.)

So, I’ve agreed to things like appearing on TV or talking in front of rooms of people because my imagination likes to pretend that those sorts of things are just fine.

As the time for the actual event draws closer however, my brain reasserts a thing called reality and has to reluctantly agree that although it imagines itself an extrovert it would like to be that while living under a rock.

One such event is fast approaching. I am graciously being hosted, along with two other Christchurch crime writers, by the Christchurch South library at an event called “Murder in the Library.”

It’s next Wednesday at 6.30pm and that is now less than a week away. It’s becoming dangerously close to being soon and that will inevitably lead to it being tomorrow and then this evening.

My mouth has chosen yet again to write a cheque that my jittery nerves aren’t sure they can cash.

The good news is that, at the moment, there are three acceptances on the facebook events page. This nicely coincides with the number of authors who will be on the panel. I’m half-hoping that isn’t a coincidence.

I’m also hoping that “Murder in the Library” won’t turn out to be “Nausea and Stammering in the Library” but only time will tell at this point.

If you’d like to join me, and change the number of acceptances to four, then feel free to register for free tickets on the following events page Murder in the Libary – June 1st.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Rescind my admin rights, immediately

Sometimes, it feels like I’m doing something that should be good but turns out to be bad.

For instance, on Friday I was poking around my hosting site and saw they had a special on premium DNS.

For a tiny, upfront annual fee, I could hook my websites up to a premium service that guaranteed my websites would be impervious to all kinds of internet nasties and would NEVER go offline.

Even if anonymous decided that my tiny website advertising me and my books to the world was worthy of their wrath and they launched a full-scale denial of service attack on little ole me, my website would stand up to the onslaught and retain its cyber presence.

I know that seems unlikely, but never say never.

So I signed up to the service and followed the email instructions to connect my websites up to their new, super-dooper, always-on, premium big-pants DNS.

Gosh, I felt like a grown-up.

After hooking it up I entered my website address into my browser to see if I could notice any difference.

I certainly could.

The whole thing was gone.

I then checked out my website that I haven’t quite got around to launching yet, so should have been showing a handy message from wordpress saying www.kathay1973.com is under construction.

Nope.

Nothing.

Apparently, when I hooked up to the new premium DNS, this took my existing DNS service down and I had to wait for between 48-72 hours for my new premium DNS to take effect.

So, in attempting to stop a theoretical outage sometime in the future, I caused an actual outage. Now.

This would possibly have been strikingly obvious to somebody who actually knew what they were doing, but my approach to website building and maintenance is haphazard at best.

I basically do stuff to stuff until it looks kind of like it did in my head, or I give up. Whichever comes first.

To be honest, this sort of approach usually ends in tears, with occasional bursts of joyous exclamation along the way.

But, it’s no way to run a business. The CEO should revoke my privileges and take my keys off me. Now.

The only thing I have going for me, is that my labour is free.

(That’s free for me only, everyone else has to pay for my services)

Weighing up chaos against cheapness, cheapness has won out every time.

So, until I start earning enough to fire the volunteer worker who doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing and hire someone who needs to be paid, with actual money, I’m just going to have to put up with it.

Job security is nice, no matter how it arrives.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Z stands for New Zealander

I don’t know why it happens, but if a New Zealander sees the letter Z in a page of text their eyes flick down to it immediately to see if it’s mentioning our country.

The word “new” causes little interest, it’s too common to draw attention, but the letter Z is just odd enough to be arresting.

This is usually a slight nuisance rather than a problem, but today I was reading a paragraph about a girl named Zoe at the same time as someone on the radio said “New Zealand,” so spent the next fifteen minutes reading and rereading the text trying to find the name of my home country.

I was absolutely sure it was there but did have to concede eventually that my brain had confabulated it.

Fifteen minutes. I could have… ehm… I don’t know? Maybe played five lives worth of Scrubby Dubby, or something else enjoyable.

But my stupid national identity made me search fruitlessly for some words instead.

It’s not as though I get something out of it. Reading “New Zealand” in a page of type isn’t nearly as satisfying as I may have led you to believe.

For a start, the word New is misleading. I’m fairly certain that our country is approximately the same age as the rest of the planet.

And Zealand? I’m sure it’s a lovely place to live. Apparently 45% of Denmark’s population think so and who am I to disabuse them of that notion?

Of course, we’re not even named after Zealand. Don’t be stupid. We’re named after Zeeland. Obviously. Our second wave of founding fathers couldn’t spell.

Zeeland, whose claim to fame is the highest death toll in the North Sea flood of 1953.

I wonder if people in Zeeland have the same compulsion with the last letter of our alphabet. Or folks who hale from Zimbabwe.

Q is another odd letter. Do people from Qatar find themselves needlessly scanning rows of text in homage to their home country? Or does it happen to people from normal capital letter countries too?

So many questions. There’s another fifteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Airplane Mode

So, I don’t know if you’ve seen this or not, but a pilot went on Quora the other day to answer an innocent question about why we have to put our phones on airplane mode when we fly.

Over the years there have been vague rumours of it mucking up the controls, or other rumours of it interfering in the plane’s ability to stay up in the sky, but the pilot had a different point of view.

They’re annoying.

No, really.

If mobile phones aren’t switched to flight mode then they cause interference in the cockpit. Rather like phoning in to your favourite radio talk back channel at 3am while you mistakenly leave your radio on in the background, tuned to the same station.

What?

No, I’m not in an old-person’s home. Why do you ask?

If there’s just one or two then it’s not such a problem. Multiply it by however many passengers you can fit on your local airliner-in cattle class at least-and you can see their point.

I’ve never actually questioned this request before because if I’m told to do something, I do it. Mein fuhrer.

That’s mostly a lie. If I’m told to do something and I’m in a tin can full of people that a person on a salary so low they qualify for a government rebate is attempting to propel into the air and keep there by magic or “physics” for at least a couple of hours, I do it. Without question.

And if the only reason I’m doing it is so that impoverished pilot who thought he was getting into a glamorous career (ha-ha) doesn’t end up with a headache, so be it.

I was only following orders.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Lazy meals

Friday, I came home to a lovely meal of sirloin beef crusted with peppercorns and cooked medium (just like I like it). It was served with a side of wholegrain rice, a colourful medley of vegetables, and a serving of Portuguese sauce.

This evening I dined on a thin-sliced roast of venison on quinoa with a selection of green vegetables and topped with a light gravy.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. Eating food that I didn’t need to prepare.

All this comes courtesy of a new food service operating in town. They call it fitfood. I call it lazy food. In exchange for hard-earned money they send me complete meals ready to heat in the microwave for much longer than they indicate on their website.

They even go so far as to issue handy instructions on how to shake the bags halfway through. Thanks, fitfood. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known to grip the corners and jiggle the bag back and forth.

Of course, the supermarket also gives me food in return for my cash but they usually insist on me spending a lot longer doing stuff to it, before I can sit down to eat.

Not fitfood. They’re not into all that wasted energy. No, just heat and eat.

I really do think they should consider changing their name. I’m sure lazy food would attract more like-minded people to their website than the title they bestowed upon themselves.

Appealing to the health conscious crowd just alienates my sort. It was only by a happy accident that I discovered they actually sent you nice tasting food. Left to my own devices I would never have investigated them that in-depth.

So here’s a shameless plug for lazy food. Order it today and the prices should go down, then I can afford to be even more lazy.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Verbal Pictures

Last week when my darling and I made our weekly pilgrimage to the Supermarket, I noticed there was a sign on the ground next to the underground parking entrance.

It was in the branded colours of the main Supermarket signs but had been taken down and tossed to one side because it was broken in half.

A sign above the entrance to the underground carpark was gleaming white with a new sign look. The dust buildup that would soon mar its surface like it does every other sign in the mall parking lot lay in its future. For now, it was the closest to pristine that a sign in an outdoor area could ever be.

The new sign proudly proclaimed that “vehicles over the height of 2.1m won’t fit into the underground parking garage.” It is hung off chains that I presume allow it to rest at a height of 2.1m as a physical warning.

I thought to myself, ha! Someone with a vehicle over the height of 2.1m tried to get into the underground parking building and wrecked the sign.

I further thought, they’re just lucky that the sign was there to begin with and that was all they wrecked.

I took another step and saw the writing on the first sign stated “vehicles over the height of 2.2m . . .”

As my woodwork teacher always told me, “measure twice, cut once.”

Or, in this case, “measure once, accidentally cause someone to wreck their vehicle by not putting the correct height on the sign and pay a higher excess on your insurance for the next year.”

Of course, I could’ve taken a picture of this scene and let you discover the delicious revelations for yourselves, but I forgot to take my phone out and snap the scene.

It did occur to me later and I reminded my darling to remind me to snap a photo on our way in this week, but I was too late. The old sign has been cleared away.

Just a reminder that it’s always better to take a photo and delete it later, than try to explain to someone in a thousand words what you could’ve just shown them. Dangnammit.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Trials

The joys of running a new trial at work are quickly becoming lost to me.

For a start, I’m not running the new trial. Somebody else is. Somebody who is doing everything in a way which I wouldn’t choose to do it. Or “wrong” as I prefer to call it.

Secondly, I’m currently on the 4.0 version of the training notes for the new process and guess what task I like least of all tasks involved in implementing a new process.

Go on.

Guess.

Thirdly, our current problem solving practice is similar to pressing down on bubbles in wallpaper. You think you’ve solved it but if you just move your eyes slightly to the left…

Fourthly, writing this was meant to be therapeutic but instead I’m just getting riled up. That’s not what writing is meant to do. It’s meant to be a release.

The trial has broken my release!

Okay, possibly I can’t blame the trial for that. I should perhaps blame my overactive, anxiety-ridden brain.

But why is my brain anxiety-ridden to begin with?

Well, yeah, genetics. I blame the parents. If I weren’t riled up about this, I’d be obsessing about the spider in the corner of the bathroom that I only ever see after I step out of the shower, which means I’m practically naked and not in a position to take a fighting stance.

Dang. And now I’ve just revealed that I shower naked. Like a pervert, or something.

I’m going before I get myself in any more trouble. After all, I’m already naked on the Internet.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Autumn leaves

Well, it would be nice if it did. Leave, I mean. It would then be nice if winter left as well. But no, I have another four months of this sort of joyous weather to get down and dirty with before there’s any chance of a crack in the grey sky to let through a beam of sunlight.

This is the worst part of the autumn weather. In winter there’s the promise of icy mornings and clear crisp air. There’s the first signs that the whole shebang is coming to an end when the daffodils poke their green sprouts up through the frozen earth and announce that it’s time to move on, buddy. A new season is in town.

Still, there’s some beauty to be had along with the constant shivering.

Today, I watched a flock of leaves fly across the sky, swooping and diving and circling in unison. Our patchy lawn has disappeared beneath a colourful display of yellow, brown, and brilliant red. Dead leaves are now sheltering all that weeding I never got around to, from sight.

Holy s**t. An earthquake. No, literally. Right now. Hold on for a minute and I’ll get you a Richter scale reading…

4.7 and it was only 7km deep so it has a Mercalli scale of 6.

Phew. Well, that got the heart going right before bedtime and now my darling has to listen to the news every half hour until he receives confirmation that earthquakes in Christchurch still make it onto the national news framework.

Yay. A long, sleepless night ahead.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Karma takes its time

Reading the newspaper today, which is what I call looking at a news site on my laptop, a story caught my eye. A sixty-seven year old man pleaded guilty to the sexual assault and murder of a seventeen year old girl.

Luckily, this was in the UK so I didn’t need to triple check my door. And the lock on it couldn’t keep out a determined child, let alone a full grown adult.

I double checked the pictures again. Yes, he was a fully grown adult.

Reading on further, I discovered this crime occurred in 1984. When I was in standard four. Which is now year 6, or something equally confusing (why can’t things just stay as they are forever?)

Apparently, there was a teenager brutally murdered 32 years ago and no culprit was ever found. No leads, no evidence. Samples were taken from the body and kept on file and when DNA started to be routinely tested, her presumed assailants DNA was typed and entered into the database. No match. Still no leads.

Then a forty-four year old woman had an argument with her boyfriend and broke his necklace.

You did read that correctly.

She was hauled into the police cells (because you can’t have dangerous necklace-breakers just wandering the streets) and so her DNA was routinely checked against the database, and it found a familial match.

When her father was tracked down and tested, bingo. There was the murderer. He pleaded guilty and will serve at least twenty-two years, which for the US among you is a very long time indeed in a Commonwealth country.

I often think that every citizen of every country with access to DNA testing should be routinely DNA tested at birth. Horrible invasions of privacy aside, I think this would go a long way towards making sure that criminals have a much harder time staying uncaught. And if everyone had to do it, then it shouldn’t grate too much against the national or international conscience, should it?

If we started with the people already incarcerated for crimes they possible didn’t commit and worked our way backwards, the system may even start to pay for itself.

Then I think, how would a murderer get away with their crime? How would they evade capture? Would a crime writer even be a thing any longer?

So, ignore my theory above. Terrible invasion of privacy that we shouldn’t, as a society, allow.

Monday, 9 May 2016

The big tick

Today was one of those days that are few and far between. The type of day where I got to tick more items off my big list of things to do, than I added to it.

Yep. A net loss. Or gain. It depends on whether you’re my free time or my workload.

I can’t reveal what those items were, of course. They’re heavily guarded secrets that my workplace would kill to protect.

Hah! Good one.

Truth is, I can’t reveal them because you’re probably already half asleep and you might hurt yourself or your laptop if I push you over the edge.

Today was the kind of day that I prepare to-do lists for. Most of the time I’m disappointed, and often I’m left wondering if I should just let demands pile up haphazardly while I get on with whatever-the-hell-I-like, but this makes it all worthwhile.

I got stuff done.

And if anyone questions my statement, I can point to the writing on the list that shows where the stuff used to be and where it now isn’t by virtue of a horizontal (-ish) line.

Who am I kidding? No one’s going to question me. Sigh.

Back to the still-to-do part of my to-do list.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

What a headache

Ever since Easter arrived and departed this year, in all its hot cross glory, I’ve had a headache.

I’m fairly used to headaches. Being a highly strung individual brings with it a number of benefits. Knowing how to keep on trucking with a tight band of tension wound across my forehead and teeth clenched together to keep them from gnashing are some of them.

But this wasn’t like that. For a start, it was in the wrong location.

Tension headaches are easily ignored bands across the front of my head. I can work through them, which is yet another reason they’re pointless. (I wish my body would learn these things.) They’re also nicely balanced across both sides of my head, as pain should be.

But this new headache was located in the back of my head and only on my right hand side. That’s on my right hand side if you’re standing behind me and looking forward, not my right hand side if you’re looking at me. If you’re not in the room at all, you’ll just have to guess the side I’m referring to. In the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter.

There’s another downside to this new ache of my head as well. I can’t work through it.

When I’m at home and it starts, I weep gently on the couch. When I’m at work, I put my head down and try not to move until the painkillers kick in.

I would weep but that wouldn’t look great in the workplace. Imagine if they drag a group of hopeful employees about the floor trying to sell them on a career in insurance and they see me weeping at my desk. Believe me, insurance is a hard sell as a career in the first place.

My only consolation in the first few weeks was that it was a headache. It couldn’t last forever. Two doctor visits and three prescriptions later, my only consolation is that when I die at least my head will stop hurting.

And if you’ll excuse me now I’ll attempt to perform some neck exercises that are failing to stem the tide of pain each day in exactly the same way the headache preventer doesn’t prevent them, and the anti-inflammatory fails to anti-inflame anything.

(whine of the week over and out)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Blog Neglect

When I first started up my blog I was going to write an entry every single day. I know, I can hear you laughing from here.

It may surprise you to know that I did exactly that for much (not all) of the first year of my blog. I was a good little blogger, regularly blogging about the things that filled my little blogging mind. Some of them were even of interest to other people.

Then I started to resent the thirty minutes of time I spent writing my blog in the evening. Why, I could use that time to do actual writing for books that I could sell!

So I gradually tapered my blogs down to every other day instead. It may surprise you to learn that I did not use the freed up time to write. I used that time to watch more telly and Face more book.

Then I discovered that every other day comes around almost as often as every day. It’s like, every day with only one day in-between. So I thought about investing even less time in my blog (because, after all, I could use that time to write real books yada-yada-yada).

During my sabbatical I made the final call to seriously decrease, and after tapering off to once every three days or so, I abruptly moved to once a week.

Once a week is fine, I told myself. It’s often enough to keep me in the habit, but not so often that it feels intrusive. Why, I bet that after a week of not blogging I’ll look forward to writing my blog!

I know. I can hear you laughing from here.

So, I reduced it down to once a week. I also started up a newsletter that I sent out to my newsletter subscribers once a week. That’s two things a week I was writing.

After a month I felt justified dropping it back to once a fortnight just to even things out.

Then, the other day at work, someone was looking at my blog. They were looking for something specific and complaining that they couldn’t find it because whoever designed my website had neglected to install a search button on my blog. I countered that I couldn’t be bothered installing one and building a website from the ground up is a much bigger project than they realise, thank you very much.

I also tried to remember the last time I’d written a blog entry. Like my old blog entries. Not one of my, “I have a book to promote,” blog entries.

It was hard to recall and I didn’t want to embarrass myself by looking it up, but I thought that I should probably get right on that.

So, here I am. Getting right on that. After a pause of a day or two to collect myself.

In the brilliance of late night decisions that I’ll no doubt regret in the morning, I’ve decided to go back to blogging every day. I doubt this will curtail my writing, although it scares me that it may claw seriously into my gazing blankly at Facebook time.

If you don’t want to receive an entry every single day, you may want to get out now. I mean to keep this up!

Yeah, I know.

I can hear you laughing from here.

Friday, 8 April 2016

The Book Fairy leaves a deposit

Yesterday, the book fairy paid a visit to my house.

Admittedly, I was at work at the time and due to a series of instructions – none of them issued by me – the book fairy declined to leave the carton of books at my address, choosing instead to drag them far, far away to a depot out the back of the airport.

I tried to woo the fairy back to my house, with promises of being available on Saturday morning, and a general willingness to sign strange little hand-held computing devices, but – alas – it was not to be.

Luckily, someone else in the household was just as eager to get hold of these little beauties as I was (nag, nag, nag, nag, nag) so drove me all the way out to the wop-wops and back home.

The only thing worse than having to drive out to the back of the airport to collect the books you paid over a hundred dollars to have delivered to your door, is when you drive past the shop you ordered said goods from, on the way to and from the airport.

In this case, at least, I was spared that indignity by way of the actual printing house being located in an entirely different country. Phew. Otherwise, I would’ve railed on at fate for another good hour before letting it all go.

Anyway, I’m pleased to say that I’m now the proud owner of a box of my own books. Yippee. I live in hope that in a couple of weeks I will no longer be the proud owner but may have a slightly higher bank balance.

This is also the first time that I’ve arranged for a hardcover version of one of my novels. God bless Ingram Spark.

This is what the hardcovers look like in the box:

http://amzn.to/1RJRz7H

You’ll have to imagine what they’d look like when they’re in your hands, being read.

And here is what the paperbacks look like:

I went with a brighter cover for these ones; obvious where the hardcover is subtle. The good point being that the cross on the cover has become more apparent because – in the words of my darling – “I didn’t even realise there was a cross on the cover.” Sigh.

Subtlety. Being lost on Kiwi men since 1964.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Where do ideas come from?

Back in October I was walking a forest trail with my partner when I started thinking about people dying of cancer. As you do.

We’d been watching a series from Britain where cancer patients had made the decision to donate their bodies to science. The documentary charted the time after diagnosis until death with them and their families, then followed on with the medical students and researchers who used their generous donations.

It was a hard but rewarding watch. Having observed my own mother’s struggle with cancer, there were many situations shown that mirrored both her and my experiences.

So, I was thinking about this show and about how if I received a diagnosis of cancer I’d need to start “putting my house in order.” I thought about where my life insurance and medical insurance certificates were, whether my will was up to date, and then I wondered what would happen if someone had something really big to get off their chest before they died?

What if they needed to confess to a murder?

A short time later we arrived back at the car and while I was buckling myself in I thought,

“And what if someone else didn’t want them to confess?”

Two ideas, 92358 words, three drafts, a thirty-day Kindle scout campaign, two edits, and one creeped-out cover later…

The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton


On Sale Now $3.49

Thanks to Amazon Kindle Press :)

Monday, 21 March 2016

Exciting Times

Well, the past week has been very exciting indeed. Starting with a nice-gosh I'm excited-type of excitement, progressing to a-good Lord what's going on-excitement, and culminating in a-I've never felt so stressed in my life-excitement.

It got my pulse going.

On Tuesday (that's my time, not your time [unless that's the same thing]) my latest novel went up for pre-order on Amazon. Gosh, I was excited. I received the email letting me know this was happening shortly after receiving my free copy courtesy of Kindle Press due to my nomination of my own book through the Kindle Scout program. (Yeah, that's where one of my votes came from.)

This publisher lark is certainly a new experience. Usually I know before my readers what's happening with my titles.

Reading through my book page on Amazon I noticed that my blurb had been completely rewritten. Oh well, whatever. Thanks for the heads up people.

On second read through I noticed that the newly written blurb had a number of instances where the text departed from what happened in the book. One quite significantly departed from a major theme in the book. On third read through I noticed that the newly written blurb had two instances where something at the start of the blurb contradicted something that appeared later in the blurb. And all this in three compact paragraphs. Good Lord, I thought, what's going on?

After dispatching an email noting the five errors present in the new blurb I reached out for help from Facebook (where else) and was pointed in the direction of the Author Central page where I could happily override the details that Kindle Press had loaded up for the book.

Feeling rather like I was going behind Mummy and Daddy's back, I updated the blurb to the one I'd already released on my website and sent out a Twitter and Email blast to let my followers know my book was now available.

My job done for the moment I sat back to let the reviews roll in. The first one noted there were a number of typos that could be picked up by spell check in word.

Two editors and a proofreader and there had better not be!

Luckily, the reader provided a number of examples through to me. Excellent. And they were quite right. There were a lot of errors that could have been picked up spell check in word. In fact, if they'd been present in the manuscript I submitted I would've been ashamed.

However, they weren't. So I was horrified instead.

Two editors and a proofreader (not to mention me going over the manuscript at least a dozen times just looking for errors) and the final version went out to every reader who nominated me through the Kindle Scout program with errors introduced during the conversion process to turn a word document into an Amazon .azw ebook file.

I've never felt so stressed in my life**

All those lovely free copies are sent out to readers in the hopes of generating reviews for the book while it's on preorder so when it's released for sale potential readers can peruse the multitude of reviews in order to inform their reading choice.

A multitude of reviews that will say things like: it was fine apart from all the typos.

Now, three days after alerting Kindle Press to the problem, I'm sitting and waiting for a message to let me know that the file has been fixed and all those readers have been sent a bump letting them know they can download the alternative, error-free version. Also, to let me know that the version sent out to paying customers once the preorder period is up won't still contain them.

I'm also waiting for an error free copy to send to bloggers who may be interested in reviewing and hosting on their blogs.

Yep. This publisher lark is certainly a new experience.

(and if you'd like to preorder a probably-error-free copy CLICK HERE)

**obviously a lie

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Facebook Activity

Today Facebook contacted me to announce that there'd been suspicious activity noticed in my account so it had been closed and locked down until I verified my account details.  

Coming so soon on the heels of my credit card details being stolen, I could be fooled into thinking that I'm being targeted by some shadowy online mafia.  

If anyone starts receiving odd blog posts that don't seem to be related to anything in particular, you could be witnessing yet another cyber attack. Or, you know, it could just be my normal blog. It's hard to tell.  

At first, I thought it was just a matter of resetting my password and deleting the post about clothing written in another language.  

Simple and straightforward.  

There was also a notice on my ad account saying that it wouldn't authorise any further transactions on the account until I re-verified my details there too.  

I figured that would just stop me leaping into another bout of advertising frenzy when a strange idea took my fancy, so I didn't bother.  

Later, when I was accessing my author page, my account asked me if I wanted to use my Facebook business to manage my Facebook page or continue using my personal profile.  

What's my Facebook business?  

I clicked on yes, as you do, and discovered that one of my Facebook friends was now the name of my Facebook business account, while another Facebook friend was the name of my advertising account.  

The little rat-b*****ds. What were my friends doing setting up an account under my Facebook page?  

Well, of course they weren't. And kudos on Facebook for realising that I wouldn't suddenly open up a business account and try to spend actual money on advertising.  

That was the cyber thieves downfall, right there.  

I've taken out ads on Facebook before, but with such a teeny, tiny threshold that when someone tried to use actual money to run an ad they knew something was going on.  

Setting up an ad with a budget of $5.00 and then stopping it after it clocked up $2.47? That's me.  

Setting up an ad with a budget of $1000.00? Thieves.  

Please note that if you follow me on Facebook and see any posts in your account that look out of the ordinary I could just be in a strange mood. Then again, I could be hacked.    

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Last week...

The coming week is going to be a hard one for me. It's the last week of my career break and if I thought I had sad feelings when my holidays were coming to an end, it's nothing compared to my sad feelings now.

So many things I didn't get time to do. So many regrets. So many lie-ins which I'm going to sorely miss.

Come Monday 29th February I'm going to have to get out of the bed when the alarm goes and get into the shower, rather than just turning over and falling back to sleep.

Damn.

Didn't see this one coming.

On the other hand it'll be nice to go and work somewhere where I can call someone if things go wrong. If the printer breaks, for example, or the computer starts working at a speed reminiscent of snails. If I type in the address for a website and it tries to download code instead of just showing me my book page.

Self-employment means the buck stops with me and sometimes that is no fun at all.

And, of course, the main thing that I'm looking forward to is a paycheque. Give it to me baby! Actual money. That I can spend at shops.

For six months I haven't bought a single thing which I didn't absolutely need. Included in that were two overseas holidays but I think they met the criteria. New holiday clothes though, not a stitch.

I haven't bought a new leather jacket in a slightly different shade of red for six months. I haven't bought a single piece of jewellery. When I haven't felt like eating the lunch I purchased at the supermarket on the weekend I have gone without lunch.

(just kidding - I eat the one I'm not feeling like, just with a grumpy expression)

For a brief moment of time I was thinking that since I have a contract with a publisher that isn't me I might be able to postpone the inevitable. Then I divided $1500 less withholding tax by six months and came up with not a lot of money. And no guarantee that in another six months I'd have the same windfall coming.

So, back to work. Back to working with people. Made of humans. Back to looking forward to lunch and then to 3.30pm so I can leave for the day. Back to fitting the job that somehow expanded out to fill entire days into the three hours between eating tea and going to bed.

Back to fiddling with problems that cease to interest me the moment I'm out the door and wrestling with decisions that only tangentially affect me.

When I left I was an expert in many things which left my brain about the same time I woke up and didn't have to go to work for the first time. I imagine I'm spending a lot of the first couple of weeks learning a lot of things I wasn't there for, and re-learning the things I was but only have vague memories of.

Sounds like fun.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Adventures in the Air

During the last six months, I've enjoyed the luxury of spending time at home without the needless bother of a day job. It's been a wonderful break (over all-too-soon) and my chief position in the house has been resident sofa warmer.

Such a nice change to sit cross-legged on my overstuffed, worn leather couch instead of straight-backed in an office chair. Sure, I miss the wheels when I want to cover short distances, but if I didn't stand up to walk those short distances, my legs might drop off altogether.

When I first started sitting on the couch every day I thought that I might need to abandon it at some point to relieve a multitude of back or hip problems. During the six months before I took a break from work I'd suffered through bursitis, starting in my right hip and soon joined by my left, and worried that my casual posture may cause further damage.

Not at all.

The blessed couch had made me pain-free. Even my stiff knee starts to warm up after an hour of practice at bending. My spine is in alignment, my shoulder and neck haven't had their usual painful days off every few months. My hips have forgotten what it's like to be swollen and sore.

Then I sat on a plane.

Due to scheduling conflicts between the airline and our accommodation, our trip over to Australia had an added domestic leg. It was either that or fly into Brisbane with a two-hour drive to look forward to on landing. I was keen, but my darling didn't seem quite so taken with the idea for some strange reason.

So, there was a short hop up to Auckland. My first time on a hard-backed chair (albeit with ample cushioning) for half a year.

By the time we arrived in the City of Sails, my tailbone was pleading with me to stand. Walk around a bit, it called out. Stop crushing me, it whimpered.

The pain was as intense as the time I'd fallen backwards while foolishly attempting to ice-skate without any ability to balance at all.

"Ice is harder than concrete," the DJ from the upstairs booth cheerfully informed me. As if I hadn't worked that out for myself by then.

During the wait at the airport, I acted like a teenage boy and perched in an overly relaxed sprawl designed to keep my tailbone from actually making contact with the chair. I balanced my body somewhere around my shoulders and my thighs.

By the time we landed in Coolangatta, I was in agony. My right hip remembered that swelling and warm pain were something it was good at generating and took to it with abandon. My tailbone wouldn't even display the courtesy of going numb and continued to complain loudly that I appeared to be SITTING on it, with MY FULL WEIGHT.

There've been some things that I haven't been keen on getting back into. Paying attention to alarms, talking respectfully to real human people instead of yelling at their likeness on a TV screen, concentrating.

Now a new fear has been added to the growing list.

Chairs.