Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Wisdom of Peanuts

Another couple of gems from the newspaper clippings pile.

They seem kind of apt at this time with settlement deadlines looming...


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Buried under an avalanche of... paper clippings.

I am slightly obsessive about newspapers, and sieve through them for clippings of anything that could provide inspiration, or texture, or information, or just because it's plain amusing.

After a few, ahem, years of this, the piles of clippings are getting a little out of hand.

Let's face it, the damn things are awkward, especially if you save whole pages. I've invested in a heap of those huge manila art envelopes and am going to attempt a tidy up tonight. And probably tomorrow night, and the night after that...

Wish me well.

I'll leave you with a little Dilbert I found in the paper mountain.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dunedin Library Heritage Collection

Last Thursday a number of our local Otago Southland NZSA Branch were treated to a tour of the Dunedin Libraries Heritage Collections. Tour guide was Rare Books Librarian Anthony Tedeschi who was both entertaining and knowledgeable, in fact his enthusiasm for his work was infectious.

What treats are lurking in the walls of the Dunedin Public Library? Courtesy of the generous donations of collections by a number of notable New Zealanders there is a veritable treasure trove of glorious old books and documents. Benefactors have been AH Reed, Robert McNab, Esmond de Beer, Eleanor Farjeon, Hector Bolitho and William Trimble.

So what sort of treasures did we see, you may ask. Ah, there were so many, but ones that stood out for me were...

A first edition King James Bible.

A page from the Gutenberg Bible.

A couple of incredibly ornate Books of Hours.

A hand written draft of one of Charles Dicken's stories. (His hand writing was minute, and messy)

Seeing the original serialised version of Charles Dicken's Bleak House, complete with advertising.

William Bligh's own copy of the narrative of the Mutiny on the Bounty, including his hand written notes in the margins.

The application form of Janet Frame for a library card.

One of AH Reed's hand written, or I should say, hand calligraphic journals, containing hand written letters from all sorts of noteables, like Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, to name a couple.

In fact I found it hard not to overwhelmed by the enormity of looking at some of the medieval manuscripts and thinking about the time and effort involved in creating them. Some of them looked so fresh, you would have thought they were only made last week. I am not ashamed to admit I got a little bit teary about it all, although, naturally, I was careful not to cry over the books!

Sigh, a wonderful morning.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You know it's heading towards spring when...

... you stop ignoring the flourishing weed life in the front garden and do something about it.

...You haul the ladder out and finally do all those jobs that require a little more altitude than the chair can provide.

...While you are up the ladder fixing the curtain rails, you actually wash the window ledges. (I know, I know)

...You clear the vege gardens of all the winter rubbish.

...You head down to the garden centre, only to discover they are a little more realistic about the Dunedin climate and don't have a heck of a lot in the way of seedlings yet.

...Hubby hauls the lawnmower out!

...You, in a fit of foolish optimism, try on a summer skirt only to discover, oh dear.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Creative New Zealand and the up-side to rejection

It's that time again, where writers go hat in hand and apply for Creative New Zealand funding. Next Friday is the cut off date for the next round, and as usual I sit and stare at the application form and wonder why I bother. Why do I put myself through it all for the inevitable rejection? But then, hey, what have I got to lose?

There is a small upside to the constant rejection (besides it stopping Hubby asking when I'm going to make some real money until the next 'sorry' letter comes. Hope can be a good fend-off.)

The upside is this:

I have to get my act together.

I write a novel a year, so each time the Creative New Zealand closing date approaches I have to think up another new novel, because with the normal passage of time I am already writing the last project I submitted, regardless. I can't resubmit the same one, because it's already half written. This means I have to plan ahead, to write a synopsis and some sample chapters. It gets the next ball rolling so when I finish writing the current manuscript I've been toiling over, I don't have to then face a blank computer screen, and desperately think up ideas for the next one. It is already there, waiting for me.

So, although I sometimes think putting myself through the agony of applying and being rejected is madness, and pointless, it does have its uses.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Between the Covers

Tonight was my live spot on Dunedin Channel 9 television's Dunedin Diary programme, doing my bit reviewing local books and chatting to the lovely Dougal Stevenson.

It was very handy that one of the other guests happened to be Chris Brickell, who just won the Montana Best First Non-fiction Book award for his Mates and Lovers: A History of Gay New Zealand. I'd been wanting to hit him up to be a guest on the Write On Radio Show, so I had him trapped and cornered in a television studio, and of course he said yes.

Channel 9 has recently become internet savvy and has segments of Dunedin Diary on line. Last week they had Brian Turner on the show talking about his latest poetry collection Just This. Click here for the link.

I was going to put my notes for the show here, reviewing Nigel Latta's Mothers Raising Sons, and Graham Bishops's The Real McKay, but Blogger is being finnickity and if I try again and fail for the umpteenth millionth time, I may be forced to throw my computer through the window.

Instead I shall go and get ice cream.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How to Write Crime

I've been having a look through How to Write Crime, edited by Marlene Day, which is a self explanatory, but has a point of difference in that it has a number of great crime writers as contributors, including a high number of Australians.

I thought I'd quote from the chapter written by Kerry Greenwood, of Phryne Fisher fame and her chapter Fact into Fiction.

Where do ideas come from?

'Where do you get your ideas from?' you cry. And I answer, 'I haven't the faintest idea.' 'I just take my bucket to the well of stories and see what sort of fish swim to the surface.' 'I dream them.'
I am Lying.
Only because the explanation takes so long. Ideas come from everywhere. Everything that has ever happened to you, gentle reader, everything you have ever heard, read, seen, watched or suffered is material. When you write, you are mining your own mind, dipping your quill in your own heart and writing with your blood. Writers are vultures, eavesdroppers, exploiters of other people's pains and pleasures. We steal our characters and situations from life as brazenly and automatically as a crow picks out a lambs eyes. And we use ourselves just as shamelessly.

This is why it is a risk being a writer's friend, and truly dangerous being their relative!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sounds good

My books have never made it onto the best seller lists. They seem to do pretty well, but I've never made a top 5.

So I was over the moon when my Mum texted to say Overkill had been listed as the third most requested talking book for the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind! And that list included the international titles.

I'm quietly chuffed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dunedin Writers

This year to mark the Dunedin Heritage Festival, the Southern Heritage Trust decided to make an audio compilation of eleven Dunedin writers, called Hear Our Writers.

This isn't a project that received a lot of attention, unfortunately, and I only acquired the CD of it this week. In fact, I am ashamed to admit until this week I knew nothing about it.

The writers who you hear, or hear about in the recordings are:

John Barr
Charles Thatcher
Thomas Bracken
AH Reed
Charles Brasch
Ruth Dallas
Hone Tuwhare
Janet Frame
James K Baxter
Roger Hall
Cilla McQueen.

The cool thing is you don't have to buy a CD to hear this as the audio files are all on line on the Southern Heritage Trust website.

Have a listen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Elements of Murder

I've been thinking about poisons a lot lately... relax, Hubby and the kids are quite safe.

Being a pharmacist in a former life, I have quite a fondness of poisons. I was fossicking around for some information on a nice little component of belladonna when I rediscovered this handy book. The Elements of Murder by British scientist John Emsley.

It is a fascinating glimpse into history and the ingenious ways people found to knock others off using the elemental poisons, in this instance, mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead and thallium. Emsley delves into famous cases in history, as well as the wider uses of the elements. With chapter headings like Mad cats and mad hatters: accidental mercury poisoning, and Requiem for antimony, the tone is very readable and informative.

I had the pleasure of seeing John Emsley in action when he toured here a few years ago promoting the book. A lecture theatre full of scientists eager to hear about using poisons to kill people... it was a worry... I felt quite at home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Write On Radio Day

Tomorrow is Write On Radio Show time, which airs live on Toroa Radio 1575 kHz from noon til 1.00pm. For you unfortunate folk who don't live in Dunedin, it streams live from the Toroa Radio website.

Longacre Press is a Dunedin publishing house whose titles have been making big waves in the book world. I’ll be talking with Annette Riley about the world of literature from the publishers perspective.

Brian Turner is one of New Zealand’s best loved poets and essayists, and a Central Otago legend. We’ll chat about his writing, and his latest books, Into the Wider World: A Back Country Miscellany and Just This: Poems.

A big thank you to Java Hair Studio who sponsor the show!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crime Watch

Welcome to the new kid on the block, Craig Sisterson with his blog on New Zealand and International Crime writing, called Crime Watch.

Craig is a big time crime fiction fan, and has been a great promoter of New Zealand crime writers in particular - he's been our cheer-leading squad!

Welcome to the blogosphere, Craig - I look forward to following your musings.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

George's Secret Key to the Universe

By Lucy and Stephen Hawking

We've just finished George's Secret Key to the Universe as the boys' bed-time story book, and it was terrific. It had everything a kid (small or large) could want - cool characters, action and adventure, black holes, the cleverest computer in the world, great illustrations and lots of photos and space facts. In fact I'd barely finished reading aloud the last chapter when Mr Seven-year-old snatched it out of my hands to start reading it over himself.

This is a great book for boys. I say this because the bookshelves seem to be loaded with great books for girls, but I sometimes feel fabulous boys fiction is under-represented, particularly in the younger age groups. So I always welcome your suggestions for cool boy's books. I'm thinking Tolkein's The Hobbit for our next read.

So come on, some of you, ahem, older guys out there. Give me some hints; what books captured your imagination when you were younger?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Towards Another Summer

By Janet Frame.

Here is the link to a review I wrote of Towards Another Summer for Gently Read Literature in the USA.

I'm very fond of this book.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mark Billingham wins...

British Writer Mark Billingham has won this year's Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year with Death Message.

The Guardian article about it is here and the Harrogate Festival news here.

I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with Mark Billingham and Paul Cleave at the Christchurch Writer's Festival last year. I enjoyed reading Death Message, and this is what I said about it at the time.

One of the special things about this award is it is voted for by readers, not reviewers or an award panel. Your happy crime fiction addict gets to have their say, and with the great line up of books and authors there, it would have been a difficult call. So congratulations Mark - your public adores you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Can't get enough of forensics?...

... then this is the site for you.

The good thing about the internet is that you can find information about anything and everything.

The bad thing about the internet is that you can find information about anything and everything.

It is a black hole of time, and for the easily distracted, like me, there's the endless opportunity to disappear off on fascinating tangents. So when I followed the link on the comment left on yesterday's post from Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise I found myself in an indirect kind of a way at this web page...

Top 50 Forensic Scientist Blogs.

Oh dear.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Crime's low status

Beattie's Book Blog pointed out this article the other day, and a couple of pals emailed too, so for those of you that missed it, here is a link to an interesting article in The Guardian Online about the place of crime fiction in the big wide world of literature.

Why does crime still have such unpardonably low literary status?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Killer writing

When you get in a writer's zone, the word fades out, you forget little things like, life, other people, blogs, children - okay, I didn't really forget the children. But when you mind is full on into your story, it won't relent - not when you should be cooking dinner (sausages taste better burnt, don't you think?) or when normal people are in bed (who needs sleep anyway?)

So I've been busy writing, it's what I do.

It's taken over.