Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Okay, so I had one of those days, you know the ones that throw you the kind of curve ball that not only catches you out, but leaves you on the bench, dazed and confused.

It was too early for wine, so I indulged in the next best thing...retail the University Book Shop...oh dear.

I thought I was quite self controlled and exited with only:

A cool set of twelve note cards to fuel the stationery addiction.

A greeting card to stick on my office wall because it was apt and looked cool.

Two pens that write so smoothly - has anyone else become frustrated with scratchy ball point pens that sulk in winter?

That cool set of Penguin pencils I had so successfully resisted...until now.

And last but not least - a book - surprise! But what self-respecting crime writer could resist a book called Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Written by Mary Roach who also brought you the book about, well, you can guess from the title - Bonk.

The back cover blurb of Stiff begins:

"Whether buried, burnt, snatched, donated or decomposed, some people have been more useful dead than alive..."

As you may guess from that snippet, the book takes a look at the use of cadavers in the advancement of medical and, er, other knowledge. It makes for fascinating reading.

To give you another indication of the tone, which is entertaining and informative, here is a little excerpt from chapter 4: Dead Man Driving.

Human crash test dummies and the ghastly, necessary science of impact tolerance. By and large, the dead aren't very talented. They can't play water polo, or lace up their boots, or maximise market share. They can't tell a joke, and they can't dance for beans. There is one thing dead people excel at. They're very good at handling pain.

It was just perfect for a girl needing a spot of slightly dark entertainment.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I'm in the process of proof-reading the galleys of Containment. It's the first proof, so I've picked up a few boo-boos, as you'd expect. I like the fact I get to proof read it twice, because as a reader, I know there is nothing more jarring than coming across a spelling mistake or obvious error. It rips you out of the fantasy world you've been inhabiting into the here and now in a most irritating way. In fact, it can taint the whole book experience. The perfectionist in me likes proof reading.

I also find the proof reading very useful for my writing. At this stage in my year I'm well into writing the next novel, Bound, so having to take the time to proof read Containment is a handy reminder of character's voices. Its a refresher course in their idiosyncrasies, the little mannerisms that help to make them unique, and memorable. I've even found myself jotting notes - remember to make Sam say this, or don't forget such and such really gets up her nose, and don't forget her mother is a real cow.

The other lovely thing about this stage in the process is the manuscript I'm checking is typeset, it's starting to look and feel like a real novel. I can look at the cover picture and look at the text and think my god, yes, it's another one! It's getting pretty real.

At this stage I also start to get paranoid. It's due out in four months - in that time will some other author miraculously come out with the exact same plot line I have? Will some well known Dunedin landmark I have used in the story suddenly be destroyed? - Don't laugh, it happened in The Ringmaster! Or will life imitate art. (The Ringmaster again.)

So I'll hold my breath, and hope none of the above happens, and finally be able to relax at the launch party. But then the next wave of paranoia will strike - waiting for the reviews...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cover up too

And for those in Germany - Der ungeschminkte Tod (The Ringmaster), coming in January 2010.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cover up

Coming to a bookstore near you at the end of November...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mothers Raising Sons

By Nigel Latta.

Nigel Latta talks a lot of common sense, he also talks a lot of rubbish, which is definitely one of his charms, but he talks a lot of rubbish with plenty of common sense.

This is a parenting book written by someone who is funny, irreverent, non-politically correct, hugely well qualified and who happens, in my mind, to be right.

This book is an antidote to the slew of contradictory information that parents are barraged with everyday by well meaning experts and sensationalist media which reports our boys are in crisis, and it cuts through to the chase of the matter which is parenting seems to have become too hard, too complicated and too guilt and fear inducing and we need to step back and simplify it.

I found this to be a reassuring and entertaining read, although dear Nigel can waffle on a bit. But I was pleased to see that according to Nigel, Hubby and I are doing pretty OK in the way we're bringing up our little folk, and we haven't fallen for all the hype, well, not most of it anyway.

We're pretty chuffed with the results.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand

That book title got your attention! It got mine too. Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI is by real life CSI Dana Kollmann. When I say real life, I mean she didn't go to work in 6 inch stilettos, plunging neckline, chunky jewelery and big night out ready full make-up and hair like they do on telly. (Does that really annoy you too?)

Kollmann worked with the crime lab with the Arlington County and Baltimore County police departments and in this book relates some of the more curious things she came across in her grizzly line of work. The are plenty of urgh moments and there's lots of humour and so far I'm loving this book. It's a great slice of life in the real world of CSI from someone who is a natural storyteller. She manages to sneak in quite a bit of technical detail without it sounding like a forensics 101 lecture.

It's given me a few ideas about what to do with bodies...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Crime writing - a quick kill?

I was reading through the Christchurch Press this morning (one can never have too many newspapers in the weekend) and came across an article about Canadian crime writer Linwood Barclay. He was talking about his latest book Fear The Worst but the bit that got me was when he was talking about the time frames involved in his novel writing. The article by Margie Thomson says:

"His first draft will take around seven weeks, then another six weeks or so of editing."

That fair blew my socks off.

Admittedly, the man was a journalist in a former life and I think journalists are at an advantage in the world of writing to deadlines as there is nothing more pressing than the next days edition and they will have honed those skills of getting the job done over many years of pressure.

But still, seven weeks!

Then I got to thinking. What would I have to do to get a draft written in seven weeks. What sort of support mechanisms would I need.

Then it all came clear.

I would need a wife.

That's what I would need, a wife.

Someone else to look after the family, attend to school runs and kids activities and Mount Laundry and getting the dinner on the table and actually functioning as a normal human being and being the glue that held the family together.

So there it is.

I need me a wife.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shaken, not stirred

Last night while we were watching a recorded episode of From the Earth to the Moon the earth moved. Naturally I made some daft comment about the special effects on this show being pretty good before we realised, actually, this was a doozie of an earthquake and the lights were swinging and the doors were swinging and things banging around and it went on and on and on.

I then thought, oh, if it's this bad here, it must be really bad elsewhere. I was right, and luckily for NZ elsewhere happened to be in the remotest, least populated part of the country, so the 7.8 on the Richter Scale quake which hit at Dusky Sound has done very little damage. We're a lucky country.

Here's what it looked like from GeoNet at the closest drum to Dunedin.

I can do without that kind of Rock n Roll, thanks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Winter wonderland and Cinema Paradiso

Why would you want to be anywhere else when you can look out the front window and see this...

Erin took the photo - my little point and shoot couldn't do it justice.

Anyway, hello from Wanaka. Haven't been doing much other than going for walks, drinking coffee and drinking wine. The latter two usually to warm up as a result of the walk. It was at a guess -4 degrees when we walked back from the lake last night, but oh so picturesque.

Best things about Wanaka:

The company (I had to put that in because our hostess is two feet from me watching this.)

Snowy mountains and crystal clear air. Chocolate box lid stuff.

Cinema Paradiso!
We took the little folk to see Ice Age 3 yesterday at Wanaka's very boutique cinema. Think low tech seating - sofas (that would do a student flat proud) a few rows of old theatre seating, old aeroplane seating and even a couple of chairs from a Newman's bus. There is also the always popular VW Beetle in the corner that you have to stampede for if you want to get the best seats in the house.
This movie theatre has an intermission - do you remember what they are?! And at this intermission you can buy hot cookies, yes, hot, with melty chocolate bits, or you can order your pizza for half time and bring it in with you, along with your wine or beer. Awesome.
So today we are off to play in the snow. Literally. We aren't ski-bunnies so it will be the low tech approach. We'll be wearing gumboots, and lots of layers of standard clothes and gloves and we'll last an hour if that, then come back cold, and wet, but happy, and drink more coffee and hot chocolate, and may be even, for the adults, wine.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Holiday Reading

We're heading off for a few days, invading the home of friends in Wanaka. As well as the requisite House & Garden/ Architecture/ Dream of a flash new house magazines I'll be taking a few new additions with me to enjoy:

Mothers Raising Boys by Nigel Latta.

This book is subtitled What every mother needs to know to save her sanity. Oops, too late there. The back cover blurb starts with "Why are boys so noisy? Why do they break things? Why are they so fascinated with things that can burn, blind or cripple them? Why do they lose the gift of speech and get so smelly at adolescence?"

Speaking of noise. When we get to Wanaka, between their two and our two there will be four little fellas running around together. Just as well the adults have wine.

Just This. Poems. by Brian Turner.

It seems most appropriate to take Brian's latest collection of poetry to a trip to Central Otago.

Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins.

I brought this novel a few months ago and haven't had opportunity to read it, so I look forward to finally getting the chance. Novel about my Wife has received great reviews and everyone tells me I should read it so I shall be obedient and oblige. Sigh.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hand craft

You know it's a quiet day at the office and you're not in a writing kind of a mood when you start making stuff...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Write On Radio Day

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is Write On Radio Show day, which is the show I produce and host for the Otago Southland Branch of the NZSA on Toroa Radio.

It airs live at noon on Toroa Radio 1575 kHz AM if you happen to be in Dunedin, or it is live streamed from the Toroa Radio Website if you are unfortunate enough to live elsewhere.

Here's my bits on my guests:

Michael Harlow is a poet and the 2009 University of Otago Robert Burns Fellow. He has recently released his sixth collection of poetry The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap. We'll talk about his new collection, what it means to him to be the Burns fellow, and also be resident in Castleberg House.

Graham Bishop is a geologist, writer and poet and has published seven books. His latest is a biography of New Zealand geologist and telephoto lens pioneer Alexander McKay. We talk about the man behind the book, The Real McKay.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ten good reasons to tidy your desk

1. The cheque for $50.00 that was buried under a pile of stuff.
2. $6.40 in assorted loose change.
3. The $40.00 worth of petrol vouchers that were buried under the piles of stuff (see a pattern here?)
4. The newspaper clippings re-discovered that had been inspiration for novel number 4
5. The satisfaction of putting all the doings - drafts, scribbled notes, research notes and newspaper clippings for novel number 3 into a dox-box and away - damn good feeling.
6. A long lost USB pen drive.
7. Rediscovering a brilliant Peanuts comic strip I'd clipped.
8. Finding a 3 free DVD rental voucher for the Dunedin Public Library.
9. Re-reading a lovely letter from my Mum.
10. Discovering my desk actually has a wooden surface!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Career in Crime

Edited by Helen Windrath

I've been quietly reading my way through what is essentially a book of essays on aspects of crime writing by leading women crime writers. Included is Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice...Character Creation and Development by Val McDermid, and Writing the Villain in Crime Fiction by Stella Duffy, and Aiding and Abetting: Decisions about Style by Sarah Dreher.

It has been great to get interesting perspectives and advice on things like plot, and pace and creating suspense from people who are proven in their fields, and who can entertain as well as teach.

This has been a little gem of a book, a second hand book shop find given to me by fellow Dunedin writer Louise Moulin, author of Saltskin. Thanks Louise!

It will be one of those books I dip into often.

Friday, July 3, 2009

In the words of Ngaio Marsh

I came across this quote from Ngaio Marsh when reading Margret Lewis's biography of her Ngaio Marsh: A Life.

I thought this quote about the lot of professional writers most apt, especially at tax time:

"We worry and fumble and rehash. At two o'clock in the morning we get marvelous ideas and at eight o'clock the following evening we recognise those ideas for the nonsense they are. We have awful sessions when nothing goes right, and brief but blissful sessions when everything seems to go well. We worry ourselves sick about income tax. We have responsibilities. We do not work in a light-hearted, carefree fashion, all for fun. We do not wait for inspiration. We work because we've jolly well got to. But when all is said and done, we toil at this particular job because it's
turned out to be our particular job, and in a wierd sort of way I suppose we may be said to like it."

Broadcast talk on NZ Radio, 1 Jan 1957

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I have frequently admitted to my addiction of all things paper, and in particular elegant stationery. This is a girl who has a chest of drawers devoted to her stationery collection, and it doesn't all fit in.

The addiction is not a static thing, I don't indulge in pretty cards and note-paper as a trophy collection, no, I actually use it, with those two other outmoded items, the pen and the postage stamp, so I'm constantly having to refresh my collection. This is helped immensely by having a friend who goes on annual trips to the USA which involves an annual pilgrimage to Paper Source, and any other boutique stationers she can get to, and who is not adverse to going shopping on my behalf. And oh, what a shame, Erin got back two days ago from one of her little missions. Damn.

The there's the internet, and suddenly you can order personalised stationery from Crane, amongst other heavenly suppliers. I've just run out of one of my favourite personalised sets, so I think a new little something is in order, with perhaps with a little dagger. Yes.

Anyway, what is the point in all this, besides me prattling on again about one of my obsessions. Oh yes, I remember now. I always assumed Hubby just rolled his eyes at my little paper thing, just like he does at the little book thing (made of paper, by the way) but then he sent me this link to an article in The New York Times, The Lettered Set, which surely means he endorses my habit, well that's how I choose to interpret it.

The article makes me feel better about my stationery drawers when there are people out there, bless them, who have stationery wardrobes! Something to aspire to, perhaps?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dunedin Diary

It was Dunedin Diary book review time on Channel 9 Television this evening. So here are my notes on what I intended to say about the two books I selected. Of course what actually came out of my mouth was a bit different, but that's what you get with a good case of the nerves, a startled looking Dougal and the producer making wild gestures about running out of time!

Mother’s Day by Laurence Fearnley.

This novel is about Maggie, for whom life as a working solo mum in Invercargill is tough. Her son is heading off the rails and been in trouble with the police; she’s looking after her grandson, Storm, while her flighty daughter is dealing with twins and a difficult relationship in Auckland. She struggles being employed by her sister who is well off and rubs it in while she juggles life on the poverty line. Things start to come to a crisis point when she meets Tim, a new client who is wheel-chair bound, but it is also this challenging relationship that offers her some hope and a welcome escape into music. And that is the thing with this novel, although the writer paints a very bleak picture of Maggie’s life, she lets her tenacity, strength and determination shine through.
I loved this book, the writing and description is evocative and Laurence captures painfully well the daily struggle of the poor working class, but she gives hope, which is what makes this a wonderful novel. I highly recommend it.

Sting by Raymond Huber.

This is a children’s novel that all kids will enjoy, but which is particularly appealing to that often neglected group of reader – boys. My two loved it, and have re-read and re-read it.
The story is about Ziggy the bee who begins to realise he’s a bit different from the other bees in the hive, and is even ostracised by some, called Odd-Bee. He does have allies in the hive, including the Queen Bee, who sends him off on missions, where he begins to discover why he is different, and have to deal with humans.
What I really loved about this book was the fact the author didn’t Hollywoodise the story. None of the bees drive cars, they behave as bees would. Yet, there’s action and drama, wars with wasps, humans conducting secret and deadly experiments and a hunt for killer bees.
So I highly recommend this book, and so do my boys. It’s a great adventure story for them, and they’ll also learn a lot about the life of bees along the way.