Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Sunday round-up

No, not the weed spray, the odd bits from the news.

Second life becomes near-miss.

An internet lover spurned becomes less virtual and more reality.

Virtual girlfriend becomes real-life nightmare.

Smile, you're on candid camera:

If this is the worst the police have to worry about, let's all move there!

Shanghai police to shame j-walkers on TV

Crimes against grammanity?

And they thought reputation would be a draw-card? Makes me want to send the kids there - not!

Grammar gremlin strikes university ad.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


This is the cover of the German translation of Overkill, Ein Harmloser Mord, published by Blanvalet, which will come out in October.

I think I need to go and buy myself some red shoes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More criminal thoughts...

...of the blogging kind.

A few more crime related blogs I've discovered via other people's blogs, (ie. I've been internet surfing when I should be writing)

Mysteries in Paradise. In this instance, paradise happens to be in Australia, you know, that little island across the ditch.

AustCrime. Australia has a large and vibrant crime writing community (it would be sooooo easy to make a joke here). This site is a great portal to crime writer websites, and they have a page devoted to New Zealand too.

Detectives Beyond Borders is a favourite I've mentioned before, as is Euro Crime.

This last one has nothing to do with crime, but is fun for map-a-holics (cartographoholics?) Strange Maps which has maps of everything from soda vs pop in the USA, to fictional countries, to the cannibal map of the world. Food for thought.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Between the Covers

Last night it was the time for my regular slot on Channel 9 television's Dunedin Diary programme, hosted by the charming Dougal Stevenson - naturally I grew a big zit on my chin for the occasion.

Here are my notes for the two books I reviewed for the Between the Covers segment, ie the things I intended to say before nerves, memory blanks, questions and conversation interrupted my train of thought in my allotted three minutes.

Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame

I have a confession to make. This is the first Janet Frame book I have ever read, so I was a little unsure of what to expect, and so pleasantly surprised – I loved this book.

Grace Cleave is an ex-pat New Zealander, suffering writers block, living in London, who accepts an invitation for a weekend away up north with a journalist and his family. Not a lot happens in the way of action, but so much happens within Grace. She is paralysed by anxiety and socially inept, in fact, I ached for her and her often hopeless attempts to fit in with this family. The novel is semi-autobiographical. Janet Frame did spend a weekend with a journalist and his family, but you can see the author is having fun with it. The language and description is rich and amazing. Grace is at times anxious, jealous, self-depreciating and often very funny.

I thought this was a wonderful read, and am glad the Janet Frame Literary Trust moved to have it published. I’ll certainly be reading more of Janet’s work in the future.

Facing the Music: Charles Baeyertz and The Triad by Joanna Woods.

This biography brings back to our attention one of the great characters of Dunedin’s past, who seems to have been lost from our collective memory.

Charles Baeyertz was Australian born, but moved to Dunedin in the late 1800’s and here he set about creating The Triad, a journal devoted to arts, science and music. From the outset he wanted this to be an Australasian magazine which also highlighted the Arts in Europe and America as well.

Charles was a formidable and outspoken man who had no qualms of speaking his mind when reviewing. He famously called Dame Nellie Melba a “mechanical nightingale” and had numerous very public spats with people from Civis in the Otago Daily Times, to American poet Ezra Pound. This was, of course, a huge drawcard for The Triad, which people would buy to see what Baeyertz would say next. He always wanted it to be commercial and aimed it at the masses. Charles was equally lavish with his praise and hugely supportive of the arts in small town New Zealand.

I really enjoyed this biography. Charles Baeyertz was a fascinating man with prodigious energy. It is a very entertaining book and gives a glimpse into an almost forgotten period in our history.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Game on

It's not just movies, sports stars and over-endowed female tomb raiders who get the computer game treatment. Sherlock Holmes is strutting his stuff in the gaming world too. Thanks to the Eurocrime Blog where I spotted this tidbit this morning.

Sherlock Holmes is alive and well in Victorian London and this is his next adventure in PC world, (I didn't know he'd had his first, let alone several,) this time matching wits with Arsene Lupin. Check out the Official Website, the graphics look amazing.

I've never been a great fan of computer or Play Station etc. games. That says more about my attention span and skill level than the actual games, although this has me tempted to try...

Sherlock Holmes versus Arsene Lupin.

After coming face-to-face with the mythical Cthulhu in his previous adventure on PC (“The Awakened”), Sherlock Holmes confronts Arsène Lupin, the gentleman-burglar made famous by the literature series penned by French writer Maurice Leblanc. Arsène Lupin, whose exploits are enjoyed by millions of readers throughout the world, provides the perfect foil for Holmes as he attempts to pull of the ultimate heist.

This battle of wits between the most famous detective of all time and the world's greatest thief takes us to late 19th century London. Arsène Lupin is a young French burglar at the beginning of a glittering career, who comes to town with one goal - defy Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes. He states that he will steal five objects of immense value in five days from prestigious sites such as the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tower of London and even Buckingham Palace! Sherlock Holmes must use all his daring and ingenuity to avoid a terrible humiliation for England.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I was having lunch with a writer friend yesterday, and we got chatting about sex, as you do. (Message to our respective Hubbys - no, relax, we weren't talking about you.)

We got talking about the place of sex in literature, and as writers, our approach towards it.

There are plenty of examples in writing where you can think of well done sex scenes, and there are abundant examples of really bad ones. In fact, don't they have an annual award for the worst?

One of my early influences in mystery writing was Elizabeth Peters and the wonderful Amelia Peabody. Amelia is a fabulous character; intrepid, courageous, stubborn, impulsive, incorrigibly nosy and rather fond of sex. This is where Elizabeth Peters excelled. The reader knew emphatically that Amelia and Hubby Emerson enjoyed a good romp, and indulged frequently, BUT we were never made to cringe with the details. We saw up to the tent-flap, and perhaps after the tent-exertions, but never the goings on under the canvas. That was up to the imagination.

I'm with Elizabeth when it comes to writing about sex, and I don't think it's being prudish. Sam Shephard enjoys a good bonk, probably doesn't get enough, and has a tendency to let her emotions get the better of her judgment. And that is what is important. The sex is included because it tells us about the character, their needs, their fragility and their emotional state. So we don't need to know whether they can contort and stretch with Karma Sutric precision, and we certainly don't need a blow by blow account.

To me, graphic sex scenes, particularly in crime fiction detract from the story. They're fine in a novel where I'm expecting it, because of the subject matter, but if I wanted to be titillated, I'd go buy a book of erotic stories or a Mills & Boon. When I encounter graphic sex scenes in crime fiction, the first thing I usually think is, oh great, token gratuitous shag scene, urgh, cheap shot. And as for a horror graphic sex-crime and violence scene - just don't.

Characters in crime fiction have to be believable, and have lives outside of the job. They have carnal impulses, just like everyone else. So sure, let them bonk, shag, have a good time, just spare me the details.

Monday, August 25, 2008

See this big grin...

...plastered all over my face? Okay, imagine the big grin plastered all over my face. It is there because I am alone, yes, alone. You may be wondering, so what? Well, after weeks of kids home sick with sinus infections and tummy bugs - everyone is at school, Hubby is at work, the Olympics and my obsessive need to watch it is over, and it's just me and the snoring cat.


I have also realised how much I missed my office. Winter has meant, to avoid freezing to death, I shifted camp to the dining room table. That proved to be too distracting a place to get much work done. Too close to the pantry, to many windows to stare out, too much neglected housework to look at. I've been back in the office for a couple of days, and it is so much better, from a writing perspective. Admittedly, with it being six degrees outside, I have the heater blaring, the knee rug on and am soon going to succumb to the turquoise-blue fingerless gloves, but still I can concentrate better.

Perhaps I need a kak butter yellow wall to stare at. Or perhaps it's as simple as because everyone in the house is well, and where they should be, and I don't have to focus on being the all-purpose caregiver, my mind is free to concentrate on writing. Whatever it is, I am thankful, and grinning and finally getting some work done.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The weekend odd bits

The little treats from this week's news...

A Pinch and a Punch:

A serial bottom pincher got more than he bargained for here.

PNG Women bash bottom pincher.

Chef's special?

Makes you want to go all vegetarian.

Human skulls found in Indian restaurant.

And the Get over yourself Award goes to:

Auckland City Council noise control officers who moved in on a Kindy Disco between 5pm- and 7pm. Apparently Bob the Builder and the Chicken dance were just all too much for them.

Yes we can, say kindy disco busters.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A victory (of not quite Olympic proportions)

It's a sunny 14 degrees.

My office temperature has broken above the hypothermia barrier.

I've abandoned the dining room table and shifted everything back in.

Ever the optimist...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Death Message

Mark Billingham is a British crime writer known for his London-based novels about DI Tom Thorne. He has also written stand alone crime novels and co-authored a series of crime thrillers for older children.

Death Message is the latest in his DI Tom Thorne series. The DI has been sent grizzly photos of murder victims on his cell phone. They soon figure out who is sending the messages and the hunt is on to find the killer before he strikes again. It is clear the killer is following an agenda, but there is someone else behind it, someone from DI Thorne's past.

This is a solid police procedural novel that starts out slowly, but builds up tension and pace as the novel plays out. It is multi layered and you can't help but feel some sympathy for the killer.

Tom Thorne is a character I found hard to gauge. I'd like to go back and read the earlier novels in the series to see a bit more why he is like he is and the events in his past which colour his actions here.

Mark has an interesting section on his website about the character DI Tom Thorne, and one of the things he says about him is "I was determined that he should be a character who would never be set in stone, but rather one who would develop, book on book, who would change and grow as we all do, and who, crucially, would be unpredictable."

I'm with Mark on the fact that characters need to grow and change with each novel, as we're all altered by the events that happen to us. No one can stay static and be believable.

I'm looking forward to being on the Killing Time panel with Mark and Paul Cleave at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival next month.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

And speaking of letters...

I brought a copy of the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, with a view to giving it to my Mum for her birthday, but after a quick glance through - sorry Mum, it's kind of been adopted into my library.

The GLPPPS is a story that unfolds in the form of letters. Set in post-war Britain, it tells of the correspondence that develops between Juliet Ashton, of Chelsea, and members of the Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

I loved 84 Charing Cross Rd, by Helen Hanff, another story told in letters, which also told of life in war-time and did so in a way that a straight narrative could never achieve.

So once again, the value of letters comes to the fore. I'm sure there are other books that use this technique. Am I right in thinking We need to talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver is in the form of letters? Perhaps you can name some others.

So another book on my bedside table, and now I've got to think of a new present for Mum.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Long live the letter

There is nothing as pleasurable than opening your letterbox and finding hidden amongst the junk mail and the bills, an envelope with a pretty stamp, containing a hand written note from a friend.

But how often has that happened to you lately?

The advent of email and instant contact seems to have made the hand written letter a thing of the past, which to me is a great shame. For what can beat the elegance and warmth of a written note? The feeling that someone has gone to the trouble of picking up a pen, choosing a card or some paper and jotted down their thoughts?

I am a huge fan of the humble letter. I am also a huge fan of elegant stationery and pretty postage stamps, so this morning's little rant was triggered by the Paradoxical Cat's posting on New Zealand Post's latest stamp releases, the A to Z. (I brought an entire sheet, and will buy more!)

I write letters, I enjoy writing letters and I especially enjoy receiving them. That doesn't happen often, but lights up my day when it does. It's amazing how when you write someone a letter, they email you back! (Little hint people - paper & stamp, paper & stamp.)

This little rant is going somewhere, promise.

How many great relationships in history have been brought to our attention through correspondence? Letters have given us a glimpse past the public personas and into the inner thoughts of many historical and literary figures. George Bernard Shaw, Ronald Reagan, Toss Woollaston to name a few. There are letters to the editor, business correspondence, letters of friendship, political letters, love letters.

Biographers have found far more insights into people from their private letters than they could ever through public record.

Once upon a time the art of penmanship and personal expression through letter writing was highly valued. Now, it is a fading art.

Correspondence has changed with the electronic age. Undoubtedly it has increased contact, which is a great thing. We text. We'll fling off a short email without thought, and even long and carefully constructed letters via email. But how much do we value it? Does it actually exist? All is virtual. How many of you back-up your email? How many people have off-site storage of email correspondence? Sure, your server will store it for a certain amount of time, but what if disaster strikes and your beloved computer dies?

I worry for the plight of historians and biographers of the future. What will they have to construct a picture of a person. Facebook? That is a public persona, and again, virtual. Blog pages? Again public, a taste of an individual, but is it really the real deal? Will it be permanently stored for posterity? I know this is a question the folk at the Alexander Turnbull Library and such institutions all over the world are asking.

Are we risking losing this vital part of who we are?

So, there you go. Why not every now and again, pull out a pen, a fabulous card or piece of stationery, and write a real letter, a tangible, hold it in your hand, arrived in your letterbox letter, and make someone's day.

As a lovely card sent by a friend said - hearing from you is like sunshine with a stamp.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Line-up

Only a few weeks to go until The Press Christchurch Writers Festival.

I can't wait.

Apart from the gratuitous self-promotion and shameless hob-knobbing with the literati, it means I get to flick off my Wonder-mum suit, don the Vanda-woman suit for an hour, and then slouch into my plain ole Vanda-suit for the rest of the time. Excellent!

Panelists on the Killing Time session are Mark Billingham and Paul Cleave. Both have excellent websites to check out. I particularly like the little chalk men on Paul's.

I'm reading Mark Billingham's Death Message, a novel in his DI Tom Thorne series, and am towards the finish and can feel it building up to something big.

Then it will be on to Paul Cleave's Cemetery Lake.

So many books, so little time, oh, and that's right, I'm supposed to be writing my own novel sometime in there too. Might have more luck on that front when I'm not being nurse to the sick kiddies.

The Olympics aren't helping either.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Recent acquisitions

I recently read this interesting article about Kate Summerscale and her book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. This book has won the 2008 Samuel Johnston Prize for non-fiction.

The book looks into the Road Hill Murder, in 1860 Wiltshire, which caused national hysteria at the time. Jack Whicher, of Scotland Yard, was the most celebrated detective of his day and his example inspired writers such as Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and the creation of his Sherlock Holmes.

Naturally, I wanted this book the moment I read about it, so I was over the moon when, I was gifted a copy. (Thanks Bill!)

My only lament is that the must-read-now-because-of-commitments pile on my bedside table is a bit alarming, and I will have to wait before I get to rip into it. Patience was never one of my strengths.

Other crime writers have had their curiosity piqued too, so Here is Ian Rankin's review of the book.

You'll have to wait a bit longer for mine...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The weekend wacky bits

The hard case bits from the news this week:

Piddler on the Roof:

Napier police are searching for a man with a good aim, a healthy prostate and a fondness for one particular parking meter. This chap was depositing more than coins.

Police search for pay-and-display piddler.

Cleaning up the Act:

The City of Sydney graffiti police suffer an art attack.

Oops! Graffiti squad swabs Sydney art show

Can't buy me love:

A woman scorned has a new weapon in her arsenal of revenge, but will it reach reserve?

Wife gets online revenge on cheating hubby.

PS. All those Olympic medals yesterday- damn proud to be a Kiwi.
PPS. And we won the rugby.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reviews - The good and the bad

My bubble has burst. I got my first bad review - trashed by Warwick Roger in North & South magazine.

I'm not one of those writers who can shrug their shoulders and say, whatever to a bad review, so I have to admit to my confidence being rather shaken. I know its only one man's opinion and that's the whole point of reviews - to offer an opinion, but it still hurts when the baby you have invested so much of your life and time into gets decimated in a few sentences in a national publication.

At least I had a boost by the end of the day, with a review of The Ringmaster in The Star, which is our midweek community paper. Their reviewer loved the local girl's work - you can read it here.

So reviews, they're an emotional roller coaster. The good ones make you smile, the bad ones, ah well, I guess it all adds to the process of growing a thick hide.

In the meantime - pass the tissues, the toffee pops and the Pinot.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Museums - old and crusty? No way!

I've had a life long love affair with museums. It began with trips to Auckland and the Auckland Museum where I was in awe of the stuffed elephant, and completely freaked out by the mummy - I loved all things Egyptian, but that was the first time I'd gotten to look at a real live dead person. That fueled years worth of nightmares!

I love the Otago Museum and the Otago Settlers Museum, and one of the reasons for this is the amazing programmes they run for school children. I've been fortunate to be parent help on a number of visits to these fun places (including a sleepover at the museum - every big kids fantasy.)

On this stunning Dunedin morning I got to walk down to the Otago Settlers Museum with 24 eight and nine-year olds and enjoy a brilliant educational programme on the Chinese immigrants to the area. The museum has a number of displays timed to coincide with the opening of the neighbouring Chinese garden.

The kids got to draw Chinese characters from the displays, we cut them out and then screen printed them onto fabric - they looked amazing and you can imagine how excited and chuffed the kids were to see their work reproduced in brilliant red ink on fabric.

After lunch we had a guided tour of the Chinese Garden, which are stunning, and as trees and plants grow are only going to get better.

So a fun and entertaining day, but man, after all the noise and energy that many kids can produce - I'm knackered!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anywhere but here

I mentioned in a recent post that Otago writers seem to be very productive at the moment, and last night I got to throw on my glad rags and head off to enjoy another book launch.

This time it was the turn of Ella West, and we celebrated the launch of her second young adult novel Anywhere but here. This is the sequel to Thieves, which I loved, and which was a finalist in the NZ Post Book Awards.

The event was hosted by Dunedin's Longacre Press, which is continuing its tradition of publishing strong fiction for children and young adults, and the Mosgiel Public Library.

The book was launched by Rhiana MacKay-Stewart, who is a pupil at Taieri College, and I thought it was a special touch for Ella to invite one of her fans to launch the book. Rhiana was clearly excited and honoured to do the job. Ella's popularity was well evidenced with lots of her target audience enjoying the evening. It had a lovely community feel, with plenty of Mosgielites and Dunedinites out to support and celebrate the success of the local girl.

I can't wait to read Anywhere but here and more of the challenges for Nicky, who has the ability to travel using mind power, and her extraordinarily gifted friends. I know teen fiction is supposed to be for teens, but I'll let you in on a little secret - it's great for adults too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Write On Radio

It's radio show today with Write On broadcast on Dunedin's Hills AM 1575kHz radio from noon til 1.00pm.

Today's guests are Geoff Walker, publishing director of Penguin New Zealand, and me. No I don't conduct a monologue interviewing myself - I invited writer Tania Roxborogh to do the honours.

I talk with Geoff about the challenges for a writer in getting published, the publishing industry today, and the challenges presented by the digital age.

I get to talk about The Ringmaster, Sam Shephard and the fun of writing a crime series.

Hills AM are having their biennial Air Awards and have a listeners choice award. You can vote for Write On online here. We're entered in the Community Groups category.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A peach of a show.

There's only one thing better than hearing a kid enjoying a good belly laugh, and that's hearing two kids. In fact, I got to hear lots of them last night during the performance of James and the Giant Peach at Dunedin's Fortune Theatre.

There was song, there was dance, there was more ham than a Christmas dinner. There were even Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge, ahem, dragging down the tone. Aunt Sponge was magnificently, well, spongy, and Aunt Spiker had a pair of shanks that you could rub together and light a fire with.

James was so cute you wanted to pop up on the stage and squeeze his rosy cheeks. The cast of insects was magnificent in their giant insectness.

When I asked Mr Eight-year old what was his favourite bit, he loved the shark, when I asked Mr Six-year old, he loved everything.

It was a great night out full of laughs and surprises for children of all ages, young or antique.

Into the Wider World

T'is the season of book launches, or it feels like it in Dunedin. Perhaps it's the southern air that is making writers down this end of the country so productive.

Last night it was a warm, bustly and convivial celebration of Brian Turner's latest Into the Wider World: A Back Country Miscellany. The Fortune Theatre played host so even the act of entering their gorgeous premises felt special.

There were plenty of well known faces, and a good number of people who looked like they'd just popped in after a spot of fishing. Certainly an eclectic gathering, but one with a universal affection and respect for Brian.

As well as spinning a great yarn on the page, Brian enjoys telling a good story once he gets going and we enjoyed several anecdotes from him and his friends, and readings from Into the Wider World.

I thought it lovely that Brian's mum was there, and he commented about her often.

There were reproductions of essays from Into the Wider World in the weekend's Otago Daily Times and The Sunday Star-Times, which whet my appetite, and I couldn't wait to purchase my copy and line up to get it autographed by the man himself (so groupie, I know). I hadn't met Brian before so was delighted when I asked for him to write "to Vanda" he said, oh, you're the crime writer that was standing by my Leith last weekend.

Into the Wider World contains Brian's thoughts on everything from fly-fishing to environmental issues to wasting time. Of course, it has a scattering of poems too. The book itself is a stunning production, beautifully designed. It is full of photographs by Grahame Sydney and Gilbert van Reenen which capture the beauty of the back country as well as plenty of pics from fishing expeditions.

So Brian's little book about fishing has expanded into something so much more and I can't wait for the opportunity to sit down somewhere cosy and while away some time reading it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blood, guts and violence

A comment from Radio Dunedin man Owen Rooney during an interview made me a very happy girl. And, no, it wasn't "I thought your book was brilliant," or anything fawning like that.

Owen made the comment that he liked the fact my books didn't dwell on violence and rely on graphic descriptions of pain and suffering, and compared them in that respect to Ian Rankin's Rebus novels. Naturally, any sentence that teams me up favourably with Ian Rankin is going to make me very pleased.

But it was the reference to violence and graphic imagery that thrilled the most. That yes, someone had noticed.

As a reader, I am put off by what I consider to be gratuitous descriptions of violence and suffering. I have read books with scenes that have left me feeling repulsed, mentally and physically with the nett result that it has tainted the entire book.

As a writer, I decided I wasn't going to go down that track. So in the Sam Shephard books, I have described a violent or nasty scene with enough detail for the reader to get the idea, but not so much as to detract from the story. The way I see it, given a few cues, the readers imagination will come up with far worse, or more graphic than I could describe - so why not let the reader do the work?

This is one of the reasons I enjoy Ian Rankin's work. He uses the same philosophy. Actually, Ian got himself into a bit of a media spat a while back with Val McDermid, because he suggested the worst offenders when it came to gratuitous violence in novels were women.

Gratuitous blood, guts and violence may work in splatter movies, but it won't find a place in my fiction. Call me timid, even call me squeamish (which I'm not, by the way) but I prefer to treat my readers as intelligent people who have a vivid imagination of their own.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dying for a salad

Here's the weird and deadly bits from the news this week.

This one's for all the guys suspicious of rabbit food:

Antony Worrall Thompson, British TV chef extraordinaire inadvertantly found a new way to take care of the in-laws, next time you invite them around for dinner.

Dying for a salad - try a dash of this...

Top Bras

German police women are keeping abreast of crime. It brings to mind images of Wonder Woman.

German Police women get bullet-proof bras

Ice cold beer? Sheer ex-stasi

A couple of Berliners have come up with a themed pub that's not to everyone's tastes.

Beer and spies: "Stasi pub" divides Berliners.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Killing Time

This is the apt title given to the panel of crime writers at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival, in September. I get to supply the estrogen in a panel with British writer Mark Billingham, and Christchurch writer Paul Cleave.

I'm busy reading up on Mark and Paul's work before the festival so I can at least appear to be well informed. Our session is on Friday the 5th of September, from 12.00pm - 1.00pm. It should be a lively session, as I see that Mark Billingham, as well as International Crime writer, also lists Stand-up Comedian on his resume! It just goes to show, not all crime writers are deep, dark, damaged individuals.

The festival line up looks terrific and the International Authors list includes two of my favourites, Kate Atkinson and Kate Mosse (and no, being named Kate isn't a prerequisite for making my favourites list.)

There's a large bevy of Dunedin and Otago writers going up to participate - Maxine Alterio, Brian Turner, Lloyd Spencer Davis, Neville Peat, Alison Ballance, Penelope Todd, and probably more I've missed.

I hear the tickets for Robert Fisk are selling fast, so get yourselves organised and booked in. Take a trip to Christchurch, it will be fun.

Oops, snowing again. I love my heat pump.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


When inspiration is being elusive, and the sheer level of mess in the house threatens to overwhelm, I up-books and head down to Nova Cafe, to give said inspiration a caffeine fueled kick in the pants.

Invariably it works, and after this morning's session I've come back home armed with a blue print of where to now for Containment, and the ability to regard the mess with detached disdain. No one ever died of a messy house, did they?

Nova is one of the cafe's Sam Shephard frequents in The Ringmaster. I decided that seeing as she's a real person (well, she seems that way to me) she needed to drink coffee and eat like a real person, so she and her cronies enjoy a number of Dunedin eateries. Of course that necessitated a number of research trips, but I can assure you, that when Sam and Maggie go to Modaks for a cinnamon pinwheel, that yes, they are that good. Ditto the raspberry and coconut cake at The Good Oil (I recommend with cream, not yoghurt though, none of that low-fat rubbish.)

As an author it is my sworn duty not to disappoint my readers, so I shall apply myself, diligently, to the task of finding more good places for Ms Shephard et al to dine.

The sacrifices we make.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Curse of the Crime Writer

Pathological suspicion, it's a curse.

Recently Rachael King on her blog The Sound of Butterflies blogged about Word Clouds. These are cool things where you plug in some text and, hey presto, it produces a pretty graphic, which you can tweak with colours etc.

Rachael, and then Mary McCallum plugged their entire novels into Word Cloud and marveled at which words its algorithm decided to emphasise and place next to others. It looks like so much fun.


I am pathologically suspicious, so my thought patterns go something like this:

I could plug in Overkill, or The Ringmaster and get the pretty picture, but some clever person might write a reverse algorithm , and then somehow magically be able to reproduce an entire file of my book, which they could then flog off on the internet and people would be able to pirate my books and download them for free, and I'd never get any royalties ever again and I will never be able to afford my new computer when Mme Mac here finally kicks the bucket.

Sigh, it's a curse being a crime writer.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lullabies for Little Criminals

The Auckland Writer's and Readers Festival introduced me to a wealth of writers including Canadian writer Heather O'Neill. I had no intention of buying Lullabies for Little Criminals, but after listening to Heather speak and hearing her read from the book I was one of a small stampede heading for the book stall and lining up in the groupie autograph queue. (Later, I was standing in the groupie autograph queue for Booker Prize winner Anne Enright, and Heather was five behind)

Lullabies for Little Criminals tells the story of Baby, a twelve-year old girl growing up in the red-light district of Montreal. She is supposed to be looked after by her father, but Jules is only fifteen years older than his daughter, an addict and failing her in every way.

Now before you think, oh god, another dark, drug-crazed, maudlin tale of a life descending into hell - don't.

Baby is an extraordinary voice, and you can't help but fall for her from the outset. She tells the story with a child's innocence, though she is streetwise, and in the end far from what we'd consider innocent. Despite having a desperate existence and every adult she encounters failing her, she finds happiness and delight in the small things.

This book is full of magical imagery, and although the subject is deeply disturbing and challenging, I found it uplifting and a statement about the resilience of the human spirit.

I am so glad I succumbed and brought this book. It's a treasure.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Over the airwaves

The hoohah was in full swing over the weekend, with reviews in the papers and radio interviews.

Lynn Freeman interviewed me on Radio new Zealand's Arts on Sunday programme.
I'm not technically capable enough to put one of those audio thingamagees onto the blogpage, so here's a direct link to the pod cast

The Christchurch Press had a fabulous review of The Ringmaster on Saturday, which I'm going to inflict upon you all, simply because it makes me smile and fuels my ego.

"How refreshing to find a murder mystery, written in New Zealand, set in New Zealand, and thoroughly good entertainment. This is the second appearance of Sam Shephard, once sole constable in Mataura and now a struggling detective trainee in Dunedin. Sam has problems – her mother, her boss, and her would-be lovers. But she is a thoroughly determined and energetic young woman and the unpleasant murder of a female student in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens gives her a chance to show her skills. The moods, the weather, the views, and the people of Dunedin all come alive. Staff at Otago University are not always happy to be interviewed. One of Sam’s colleagues concludes: “The university is just a more articulate version of a primary-school playground.”
The circus is in town and provides a huge reservoir of possible suspects. The big top has made slow progress south from Christchurch and so far there have been four unsolved deaths in other places as the circus has passed through. The circus folk do not like the police, especially when animal-rights demonstrators get into the act. Sam’s only friend at the circus turns out to be Cassie the elephant. Sam tells the story herself with an engaging honesty and directness. Vanda Symon wavers a little in her final explanation of the mystery, but The Ringmaster is still good enough to send the reader back to her first book (Overkill), and look forward to her next."

Naylor Hillary.

I do have to say I'm relieved at having good reviews so far, because I'm not ashamed to admit I'm the kind of girl who cries at bad reviews! No reaching for the tissues yet.

Our household seems to be reaching for the bowls though - two kiddies home sick from school today - hoorah!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weekend weird stuff

Curious and odd bits from the news this week:

Cheque please.

This case is something straight out of fiction. A missing man at a restaurant, the only leftovers his hat, a few photos and a notebook - where's Hercule Poirot when you need him?

The curious case of the disappearing diner.

Shark and taties, anyone?

Nows here's a theft that could come back and bite you.
Thieves steal shark from UK aquarium.

It's a gas:

Bad jokes have been around a long, long, time...

World's oldest joke traced back to 1900BC

Saturday, August 2, 2008

And now, the reviews.

This morning's Otago Daily Times had two items on your's truly and The Ringmaster. I was in such a nervous rush to read the article about moi, that I didn't realise there was a separate review as well until Hubby pointed it out.

Sleep deprivation probably had something to do with it. We have nine in the house at the moment, and two of them are chundering! Please, no more, please, please.

Anyway, the article was good and the review favourable, except for a bit of a spoiler.

Here are the links:

Murder mystery close to home.

Sleuth at home in Dunedin.

I shall go deal with the, ahem, interesting laundry...