Monday, August 23, 2010

Val McDermid hits Dunedin

On Friday I got to drag myself out of my study induced incarceration to make the most of crime writer extraordinaire Val McDermid's visit to Dunedin.

Thanks to fellow Dunedin crime writer Liam McIlvanney twisting her arm while at the Harrogate Festival, Val's NZ tour was extened to include the Edinburgh of the South. To us down here it seemed altogether logical that the Scottish writer should come here first!

A very appreciative crowd turned out on Friday evening to hear her talk at the Otago Settlers Museum, and she kept us thoroughly entertained with her stories about writing, her new novel Trick of the Dark, and some of her writerly processes, including testing characters by talking out loud with them while walking her dog along her neighbourhood beach. Luckily the locals have got used to it!

After the event I had the privilege of going out to dinner with Val, Liam McIlvanney and a few others to Dunedin's best Scottish bistro and Whisky Bar, Scotia. Scotia has over 300 whiskies to choose from if you fancy a dram. It was a very entertaining evening, and the meal was fantastic.

One of the highlights for me was the discussions about crime fiction and crime writers. Val McDermid is incredibly knowledgeable about writers, as is Liam, who is the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, and one of the other guests who also lectures in crime fiction. I learned an awful lot and as a result will have to add a mountain of writers to my must read list. So a brilliant evening all around.

I also pre-recorded a radio interview with Val which will be broadcast on the Write On Radio Show on September the 8th - but I shall remind folk about that closer to the date.

It was one of those evenings that left me feeling invigorated and rearing to get stuck into writing the next novel...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

There's always another deadline...

I apologise if I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front. I mean to, and I want to, but after a day hard out writing, I look at the screen and contemplate posting something witty and erudite, or informative and realise, oops, I seem to have used up my daily allocation of witty, erudite and informative and the well is dry.

Writing you ask? Is it the next novel? A short story for the Sunday Star Times competition? Nah, sorry, it's something quite different - I'm in the final throes of a thesis. Muggins here decided she needed to do some post-graduate study, that life wasn't busy enough with being a mum and writing novels and all the other associated stuff, nope, I thought I'd become a student again.

Oh you silly cow, you say, and you'd be right - the extra pressure has been hard, BUT it has been a lot of fun and a journey of discovery.

So what does a Crime Writer/ academic wannabe study then? For those out there that like official titles, I'm doing a Post Graduate Certificate in Pharmacy Research. But here is the fun bit - I'm researching a crime writer, and not just any crime writer, I'm researching Ngaio Marsh. What the hell does Ngaio Marsh have to do with Pharmacy research you ask? Well, she used the occasional poison, didn't she? Et voila, we have a connection.

So there is some method to my madness - I get to tick lots of boxes in one go. I get to look into the workings of a writer I hugely admire, I get to satisfy my inner geek and I get to look closely into the world of crime writing. It's all good.

But it does make me a bad blogger, just for a while.

Friday, August 13, 2010


The finalists have been announced for the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for the best crime novel... and Containment is one of them!

I'm utterly stoked. It feels such an honour to make the top three along with Cut & Run by Alix Bosco and Burial by Neil Cross.

The winner will be announced at The Press Christchurch Writer's Festival on Friday the 10th of September.

For this Ngaio Marsh fan to make it into the final of the Ngaio Marsh Award is just too exciting for words.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Write Tools

Today I have the pleasure of being the guest blogger over at Damon Young's blog Darkly Wise, Rudely Great. Damon has been running a Monday series of guest blogs called the Write Tools, and I am number 25. Fellow NZ writer Rachael King has also been a past guest, among Australian and international bloggers.

So how do I know Damon? I don't. But Damon has taunted me in the past by leaving comments on my blog fueling my slight obsession with fountain pens and now beautiful inks. He teases me relentlessly with links like this. Cruel, cruel man, and expensive, because I have no impulse control when it comes to stationery and writing supplies!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Death at the Bar

by Ngaio Marsh

Ottercombe seems like an idyllic getaway spot for three friends. Small, quaint and with a favourite watering hole, the Plume of Feathers, fondly remembered from their first visit a year ago. Things suddenly don't seem so friendly when one of the trio dies suddenly after a stunt with the pub dart board goes wrong. When Luke Watchman holds his hand up against the dart board, and Robert Legge plays miss the fingers, then doesn't, every one thinks the turn Watchman has is an attack of the vapours at the sight of his own blood, until he ends up very dead.

Naturally everyone's suspicions turn to Legge, who was on the business end of the darts, but then, all is not as it seems in Ottercombe, and a number of people present have reason to see the back of Watchman. Throw in the recent purchase of some cyanide to deal with a rat problem and it becomes apparent Watchman was somehow poisoned. Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn and his trusty side-kick Fox have to sort out the lies and deceptions, and at some personal risk.

I really enjoyed Death at the Bar. It was a compelling story with twists and turns, and this novel in particular demonstrates in a very touching way the depth of the relationship between Alleyn and Fox. Ngaio Marsh doesn't shy away from politics in her novels, and in this one we have a number of the characters card carrying members of the Coombe Left Movement, which adds colour and passions political. Throw in a beautiful woman, a famous actor and plenty of yokels and it makes for a good read.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Talking Books

On Monday night our local branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors had its regular get together for a cuppa, chockie biscuits and chin wag. We had Julie Macfie from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind come along to speak about their talking books programme.

New Zealand authors have a clause in their contracts which states their books can be turned into talking books for no royalty return, so it was great to hear about the whole process and how hugely people benefit from it. Julie read excerpts from letters of appreciation from listeners about how the service opens up their world, allowing a time to escape and to experience good literature. The service is free to members of the foundation, including the cost of the machines that play the books. Even the delivery service is free.

Some facts for you...

There are 11500 RNZFB members in New Zealand

Approx 19000 books and 11000 magazines are issued from the RNZFB library each month

They narrate around 130 new books and printed materials each year.

It costs around $1500.00 to produce each book.

They also purchase books from overseas, so add around 450 books to the library each year.

The book player machines cost $540.00 each.

The Foundation funds this by finding sponsorship for everything.

This is a free and vital service for the blind!

If you or a business you know could sponsor a book or a machine please contact Julie at

It was a very informative and interesting evening. It made me even more delighted my books have been made into talking books.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Covered, Thrice...

...or why I can't be trusted on Trade Me.

Why have one cover, when you can have more...



1980's (Year unspecified)

Which do you like best? I favour the 1965 version, it's more dramatic. I'm still looking for the psychedelic 1960's version.

Yes, of course I need another!