Sunday, 15 October 2017

Fading memories

I remember the first time that one of my parents wasn’t equipped to handle modern technology. The good old copy/paste was something that eluded poor old Dad and stayed forever out in that exorable wilderness that consisted of everything he would never know.

It didn’t matter about writing down the instructions. For some reason, the part of his brain that would once have interpreted it and memorized the process within seconds was full up. No doubt the bulging wisdom contained therein had a lot of facts not useful after the fifties, sixties, or seventies. But brains are odd constructions and just because you’re not using something at the moment (or the past few decades) doesn’t mean you won’t need it again.

I accept that this is a part of aging. Annoying as it was to explain the same process over and over, it was also filled with a bittersweet realization that I’d spent many years on the other side of that equation as I grew up and learned to deal with things in the world for the first time.

It’s just something that happens as you grow older. Nothing to worry about.

This morning, I turned on the oven that we’ve owned for well past ten years but not quite twenty. It’s a solid, dependable oven, just the thing you want when food needs heating up. I went to check on said food twenty minutes later and discovered that the oven wasn’t actually turned on. I’d selected a temperature, sure, 180 degrees Celsius, which is a bit of a favorite. However, the oven doesn’t operate without being told what mode to perform in, and I’d forgotten to turn that dial to the requirement Thermowave setting.

This is an easy thing to fix. I should know because I’ve been fixing precisely the same problem for the last at least ten but not quite twenty years. The part of my brain that is required to remember that the oven has TWO dials is obviously full up already with vital pieces of information like the name of the lead singer of A-ha or how to code the DOS string to produce an airline ticket on a dot-matrix printer issued by Air New Zealand.

Before this oven, you see, I’d been used to operating one that had a temperature dial and if you wanted Thermowave you pressed in a button. Or maybe it was flicked a switch. Either way, if you forgot to do that, the result was still cooked food just not cooked quite as evenly or as quickly. Without a strict penalty in place for a blunder, my brain decided that it didn’t need to learn. And now I've left it so late that it can't.

Not to worry. It’s just old age setting in. Just another sign that I’ll grow increasingly inept at coping with the fast-changing world we live in, and then die. Excuse me while I go off to hyperventilate (and perhaps check on the oven again!)

Monday, 2 October 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Where do ideas come from?

Back in March 2017, I was sitting on a plane feeling my ankles swell up like itchy inner tubes and watching a repeat of The Leftovers on the tiny wee personal screen. Although I loved the opening credits and music to series one of the Leftovers, this was series two with the starred outlines of people who have disappeared shown in poses with the people left behind.

While waiting impatiently for Justin Theroux to push Patty into a well, I started thinking about an outline for a short story I'd committed to writing for an anthology.

Wouldn't it be great, I thought, if when people died the shadows of who they were stayed on earth, the same way the outlines of people showed in the opening credits. It wouldn't take long before you were bumping into ghost people everywhere!

Yes, I did think that sounded like a cool idea. My ankles were VERY swollen.

I kept tossing it over in my mind, wondering if when you walked through these shadows would you get a sense of the person that they once were, or would it just be like a cold patch in the corner of the room that everybody avoided?

By the time I landed, I'd decided that the remnants wouldn't be visible, it would just be a packet of memories that would suddenly flood through a person's mind. Although most people would be distressed and avoid these "imprints" like the plague, others could make a living by channeling the memories. They could sort through them for details of wills or expose a killer for the police. Perhaps they could even be used to show a woman married to a man for four decades what he really thought of her.

THE DARK IMPRINT series made it's debut in the CLOSE TO THE BONES anthology. For an earlier peek at Bretta Ariel (the imprint channeler) you can also read my short story entry in the anthology SUMMER OF MAGIC (and find out just what that woman's husband thought!).

Best of all, the upcoming MURDER AND MAYHEM boxed set--along with 19 other mystery or thriller novels--features Bretta Ariel's first full-length novel debut in the chilling read SHATTERED IMPRINTS.

For the time being this boxset can be yours for the special preorder price of only 99c. It releases on the 7th November, so can be packing your favorite ereader full of thrilling murdery goodness for the upcoming holiday season ahead.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Making a friend

Back in the old days when I smoked, I used to tear off the end of the cigarettes in order to get my full-scale nicotine hit faster. It was no use dragging in a breath when they were full-length – the smoke would dissipate to almost nothing by the time it reached my lips.

Although I laboriously pointed out the perfectly acceptable explanation for me doing so every time I was asked, people around me (usually also smoking) still used to give me funny looks. Of course, I could have fallen into step and smoked the damn things whole, but I’m stubborn and I would also miss out on the enormous dizzy relaxation of the first puff after long hours of abstention. Mm. Those are the memories that almost get me lighting up again.

One year, I decided to give up smoking and unlike every other time I’d made that decision, something tipped the balance. I’d noticed on hot days that breathing didn’t come as easily as it used to. Sometimes I’d draw in a deep breath and feel the same as I did when I exhaled.

At the time, the government had just introduced foul pictures onto every packet of cigarettes and every sachet of rolling tobacco. You probably know the ones: diseased lungs, lumpen hearts, mouths teeming with cancer where teeth used to grow.

It was all rather disgusting to look at but it didn’t scare me at all. As for dying of lung cancer, well. You gotta die of something, right?

What finally tipped the balance for me was the realisation that I mightn’t die of those things at all. Instead, I might have to live alongside them, fostering a disease that sapped away the last of my pleasure but offered no respite in return.

Dying of lung disease didn’t cut it. Spending my life living in and out of the respiratory ward of the hospital did.

Anyhow, a few years after I quit cold turkey and tried not to look back, I stumbled into a colleague who snapped the ends of her cigarettes off before she smoked them. Every single time. When she saw me looking at them, stunned, she began to enlighten me as to the reason. A reason I recited along with her, almost word for word.

Years too late for it to matter, I’d found a friend who understood one of my bizarre habits and had independently adopted it as their own. If I’d discovered her companionship earlier, I might have held out through a few more seasons of struggling breathing before finally giving in and giving up.

I was reminded of this the other day, after my darling had ordered his dessert at a restaurant. I haven’t noticed it for years, but whenever he orders pudding he always stresses (sometimes more emphatically than might strictly be required) that his slice of chocolate brownie (or mousse, or ice-cream, or creme brulee) is to arrive in front of him HAVING NEVER TOUCHED ANY FRUIT, EVER!!! The menu might be foolish enough to wave the words berry and compote under his nose, but he’s not to be swayed by such depravity. My darling orders dessert for the cream and sugar rush, not for “nature’s candy.”

As I said, I barely notice these exchanges anymore. Certainly, they don’t stand out as much as the ones where he orders a bottled beer and then waits until the hapless server is standing beside the table before mentioning that he’d like it in a glass.

The habit, though, is one that has solely belonged to him and no one else. I might gather up my courage occasionally to say, “don’t worry about the salad.” More often, I’ll just poke it with a fork to make it look like I tried to eat the foliage that some madman tipped onto my plate. Other than that, I order what is on the menu and don’t quibble about the presentation or the contents. Some people have even been known to roll their eyes when my darling begins his anti-fruit tirade.

But the other night, close to his birthday which makes it all seem more fitting, he ordered his usual dessert sans compote. A few minutes later, dessert delivered and mostly eaten, the woman sitting at the table beside us ordered her pudding exactly the same.

Nothing red on my plate, you hear me. Nothing!

If I hadn’t been sitting there, and her husband hadn’t been holding her hand, then it’s possibly my darling and this strange woman may have ridden off into the sunset. At least, until he ordered a bottle of beer.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A plea to my body to do something fun.

Today my left elbow started to send shooting pains up toward my wrist, followed shortly afterward by numbness and tingling. I shook it back to life, got back to work, then half an hour later it did the same thing again.

This got me to thinking, partly because I've got a word count to reach today, so obviously I follow up any possible excuse for procrastination, but also because it seems there was a tipping point back in my early thirties when my body turned on me.

I'm not saying that up until that point, everything was plain sailing. There were headaches, hangovers, shortsightedness, along with a myriad of colds.

But they were insults to my general health that were short-lived. Wait a few days or a week and I'd be back to normal (well, apart from my eyesight). Nowadays, every time I get even the smallest twinge, it's an indicator of chronic pain.

There's nothing overtly bad or wrong, and I'm well aware there are screeds of people with horrible things going on who would be envious of my situation, but all these little aches and pains do wear away at my ease of living. And, when all's said and done, that's my prime objective in life. Ease. Comfort. Maybe a brilliantly angry outburst followed by a peaceful spell of happiness. A nice ray of sunshine that I can bask in for a minute before I close the curtain because it's shining right on my computer screen.

My body, which used to do all sorts of marvelous things, has become an impediment rather than an asset. I don't intend to relinquish it any time soon, trust me on that, but wouldn't it be nice to wake up one morning and actually have something feel better?

I seem to recall a time in Intermediate School where my body spent an entire year growing breasts.

THAT WAS AWESOME.

So, I don't think it's too much to ask. Body, would you please do something fun again, like that?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Treadmill of Death

For the last few months, I’ve been writing like a demon as part of the Phoenix Prime group to put together a body of work to pummel PhD students into submission with. In many ways this is working, in sheer volume if not in sales volume, but it’s meant that for a very long time my arse has been in contact with my couch.

Back when I had a day job (oh, regular paycheque, I miss you so) I may not have been the fittest member of the office but I did have to walk farther to my work than five metres down the hall. During the day, the copious volume of things I printed didn’t collect themselves off the printer. No. Sometimes I had to yell at a colleague to go and fetch them and other times I’d get up off my chair and walk.

Lunch was a flight of stairs away, as were any Coke refills. Coffee was kept in the kitchenette and on occasion I’d even sacrifice my comfort to the exercise gods and walk all the way home.

During a standard day, I could expect to take anywhere between 3000 to 13000 steps. Leaning toward the former but I’m sure if I dug deep into my Samsung Gear Fit 2’s memory there’d be a few days of excess here and there.

Now, having a shower is the most exercise I get, apart from Thursday, when I wheel bins down to the gate, and Fridays, when I wheel them back again. Even hanging the washing out doesn’t take long and the extra ten metres out to the washing line probably isn’t going to strip any creamy yellow fat off the layers gathering around my heart.

Last night, as I was falling asleep in bed, I suddenly made a resolution. No more! I was going to get fit. I was going to *gasp* USE THE TREADMILL.

Before you start worrying that I’ve lost my mind, I’d like to reassure you that in no way did I intend to become a gym bunny. Not even a home gym bunny. I was, however, going to science myself into a slightly better state of wellbeing than I’ve so far enjoyed this year.

My memory ruthlessly cuts anything that it considers extraneous information these days. Things like current events, the times of my next meeting, or the names of friends and relatives. Snip. Gone.

It does still have a vested instinct for self-preservation, though, so it helpfully retained a vague outline of an exercise plan put forth by Michael Mosley in which a person only needs to exercise for three minutes or so a week to improve their health profile.

I have three minutes. I am the perfect subject.

I dusted off my treadmill, after also removing the various books, items of clothing, and aluminium bars (???) that had found their way on top of it. Once revealed, it looked in pretty good nick. Possibly because I take good care of my things. More probably because I’ve hardly ever turned it on.

Although it gave a little bit of a groan to start with, it soon got back into the routine. The routine consists of me standing on it, frowning at the instructions and pushing randomly at buttons until something starts to move.

Now, this three minutes of exercise per week isn’t just a random, freestyle, do it until it hurts type of deal. It’s science, people. I had to time things. And set things up. After a warmup of just a minute, I had to put my treadmill on the steepest incline and crank it up to the highest speed.

In theory, 20 seconds x 3 sessions = 1 minute. Perform that activity three times a week and you’re golden for only three minutes of lost time. In practice there’s more to it. The fine print, if you will. I had to warm up for 60 seconds, wait for another 5 for my treadmill to actually incline and speed up and then…

Well.

The first 20 second session was all a bit of a blur. For a start, time ceases to mean anything when you’re exercising. Like the TARDIS, it’s longer on the inside. I guess I made it through and out the other side, though. Certainly, the room came back into focus and I remembered how to breathe.

In the second session, I had no trouble remembering to breathe. Gasping for breath actually seemed to occupy me even more than the moving of my legs. I possibly should have called a halt to the whole endeavour then, but I’m not a quitter.

Or, I’m not a quitter ANYMORE, I should say.

Last time for the ramp up and I struggled through the next twenty seconds like I’d struggled through the last six months of high school. Desperate, unhappy, and grateful that it wouldn’t need to be repeated.

It’s hard to explain the satisfaction that comes after a good, thorough, one minute exercise session. It’s especially hard when you’re choking for breath in between coughing bouts and swallowing tall glasses of cold water to quench the fire burning in your lungs.

The good news is that, twelve hours later, I’ve mostly stopped coughing. The bad news? My second run through the torture chamber is only 36 hours away.

If nobody hears from me, please tell my darling to check for my corpse in the front room.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Literary Flits: Skeletal by Lee (Katherine) Hayton

Literary Flits: Skeletal by Lee (Katherine) Hayton: Skeletal by Lee (Katherine) Hayton Self published in January 2015. Where to buy this book: Buy from independent booksell...

Monday, 3 April 2017

T S Paul: Even More Phoenix Prime!

T S Paul: Even More Phoenix Prime!: Great response for the Authors of Phoenix Prime. Here are even more of their work. Some romance, mystery, and Science Fiction all mixed...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

T S Paul: Just what is Phoenix Prime?

T S Paul: Just what is Phoenix Prime?:  Phoenix Prime started out as a spin off class from the 20books to 50k Facebook group. It was a way for some authors to learn to write bet...

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Send help... maybe

A year or two ago, I set up a personal safety alert on my phone that I could activate when I was in trouble. It would send a picture from my front and rear cameras, my location coordinates and a recording link where the phone would record for a few minutes after I pressed the help key combination. All of this would be parceled up and sent to my darling’s phone.

I’m aware that since he never checks his text messages, or even knows how, that the plaintive cry for help would go unanswered. Whatever fate was befalling me would continue to do so without intervention. But still. When the police pulled my dismembered and horrifically abused body from whichever water course it had been weighted down in, THEY would get around to checking my incoming and outgoing phone messages and wah-lah! My killer may or may not be caught.

All of this magic was also dependent on me remembering the “special combination” required to trigger the emergency warnings in the first place. A remote hope indeed for someone who gets distracted walking into the kitchen for… well… whatever reason I walked into the kitchen for.

To tell the truth, I’d forgotten that this special system had even been set up on my phone. There’s still a faint hope that in the grip of a madman, I’d fumble my phone out of my pocket, remember this was set up AND remember the combination to activate it, but that hope is spinning-head and vertigo faint.

Tonight, I activated it.

Before you express any concern (and to prompt you that this would be the place to do that if you’re having trouble getting in touch with your emotions) I’m fine. I’m still confused as to what the key combination is, but nothing happened to warrant the call out for help at all.

I did, however, discover a fatal flaw in my plan.

When setting up said message, the phone asked me for an emergency contact to call. Of course, my darling topped the list, but highly sensitive to his special needs in relation to txt and pxt messaging, I helpfully set the call up to go straight to our home phone. Yes, that’s right. The landline. Just about the only thing in our house that plugs into a wall but ISN’T capable of receiving a message.

It goes without saying, I’ve now disabled the whole thing. The criminal element has triumphed yet again.

If you’d like to read a free short story that leads into a longer novel where the criminal underbelly may or may not triumph, then please click on the cover below to download my new short-short, Dead as a Dodo.

This is the first outing in my new Birdman Series and is short, sharp, and succinct, just like a drive-by shooting.

The first novel will follow along shortly, so in the meantime here’s a pretty cover:

(and if you’re still having trouble getting in touch with your emotions, here’s the bit where you go oooh and aaaah!)

Monday, 20 February 2017

You don’t know me…

This afternoon I was sitting at my laptop, writing my little heart out, when Amazon sent me an email. Pleased of the distraction, I eagerly opened to find that they thought I would be interested in the latest releases in Sports and Outdoors.

Yes, you read that right. Sports and Outdoors.

Now, I’m not judging if that’s the kind of thing you like (oh, yes I am, I am so judging, can’t you feel me judging from here) but I didn’t even know there was such a section on Amazon. Let alone that it contained such esteemed titles as the Baseball Prospectus 2017 that I’m now obviously dying to read. I didn’t know this because I’VE NEVER CLICKED ON SPORTS IN… MY… LIFE…!!!

Amazon is meant to know what I like based on past purchases. Using this data, it should then send me emails making recommendations of things I might like to try. Secret algorithms and computer database magic govern the process, or so I’ve been led to believe.

What they’re not meant to do, is send me recommendations for Spanish-language novels when the only books I’ve ever purchased are in English (and, let’s face it, I sometimes struggle with that). They’re not meant to send me recommendations for Book IV in a series when I’ve never so much as dreamed of thinking of clicking on Book I. And they’re definitely, positively, not meant to send me recommendations for titles listed under the Sports and Outdoors section.

I’m fairly certain that where I live, there isn’t even an outdoors to begin with. If it’s on the other side of the window, it’s make-believe.

So Amazon, it hurts me to say this after we’ve spent so much time together, but it appears we’ve grown apart.

As an aside, in another real way, Amazon doesn’t know me any longer. This is because I’ve changed the name I publish under from Katherine Hayton to Lee Hayton. This was meant to be a name change to define books I was publishing in another genre, but I’ve discovered the joys of having a shorter name on a book cover so I’m not going back. If you want to stay abreast of any new releases, feel free to follow me on Amazon under the new pen name:

https://www.amazon.com/author/leehayton

You’ll find the below joys** already waiting for you there 🙂

**Joy not guaranteed

Saturday, 14 January 2017

At a new angle

The clothesline broke last week. I was mid hanging-out-all-the-washing and turned it past a spoke, then hung up my brown skirt. The whole thing lurched to one side. I’m quite sure it wasn’t the weight of my skirt. Even with the unnecessary detail of beads on the end of the draw-string, because Ezibuy want you to know I’m a GIRL (in case the skirt wasn’t enough), the whole thing probably still weighs about the same as a hand-towel.

When I say broken, it’s not unusable. As long as I don’t mind the hideous angle of the clothes, and hang up only short garments, it’s perfectly fine. Sure, I’m scared to hang out the bath towels, but when has that not been an issue?

So, just about usable. For some things. Completely beyond repair, though.

The lovely invention of Hill may contain many benefits, but anchoring a metal structure into a concrete one at the end of your back yard path doesn’t offer many opportunities to fix things up with number eight wire. Usually, we’d just go out and buy a replacement, but in this case we’d also have to dig up a wedge of concrete and then pour some replacement concrete. Somehow. While holding the clothesline upright, in place.

Yeah, we’re not that handy.

I pointed out that since we can hang lightweight garments on it, we could continue indefinitely with the agreement that we don’t wash the towels or the sheets. Hey, it’s probably time we bought new ones. Each week, if need be. That’s easier all round, isn’t it? Who likes the slap of a wet towel in the face on a windy day when they’re hanging out washing?

Yeah, okay. In summer it’s quite refreshing. Guess we’ll just leave it be.

[Edit: I spoke too soon. New clothesline required.]