Thursday, October 28, 2010

A new muse...

I have mentioned on this blog before the importance of my dear cat, Smooch, in my writing life, and how the sound track to my novels had been the not so gentle tones of her snoring. We were all bereft when Smooch succumbed to old age a few months ago, and I have to say my writing has suffered. Part of that was due to where I was at in Bound - the editing stage, and more recently proof reading (sent off the last proofs yesterday). But mostly, it was because I missed Smooch, I missed her company, and just knowing there was another being in the house with me.

We all decided we were ready to introduce a new furry companion into our lives, so let me introduce you to the newest member of the Symon household - Louie. He is sitting behind me as I type, and is shaping up very nicely into a writer's cat. He doesn't sit on the keyboard - always a bonus - or me, but just likes to be close, seeing what I'm up to, making sure he's not missing out on anything. So far he hasn't stopped being nosey and curious enough to settle down for a nap, so I am yet to see if he snores...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 20/10 2010

Last night, at just before 8.10pm we did a little countdown because for one special minute the time was 2010 on the twentieth day of the tenth month, 2010. We're a bit nerdy like that (-;

Other trivialities:

I can't be trusted in any book shop. Went to Marbeck's and came home with this: Victorian Murders, by Major Arthur Griffiths, which was first published in 1898. How could I possibly resist? The other lure about Marbeck's, is they have a coffee shop instore, and if you buy books, they put stamps on your coffee card, so a few books later you get a free cup of coffee! That's a marriage made in heaven. If only I could convince them to extend that to wine...

Other books I'm currently reading:

Fiction: Surrender, by Donna Malane

Non-fiction: Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock

Car Book: A Surfeit of Lampreys, by Ngaio Marsh

Kid's bedtime story: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Number of items I have checked out from the Dunedin Public Library - 25!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010



I confess to having had a glorious week of doing nothing. Well, that's not entirely accurate, I had two speaking engagements, one at the University of Otago with fellow Dunedin crime writer Liam MacIlvanney, and another in Wellington. Oh, and my radio show. I also had the usual running around after the kids and daily life, but other than that I have been reading books, and gardening.

Our garden is amazing at this time of year, the rhododendrons are in full bloom, there are still all sorts of spring flowers poking through, the cherry trees are a mass of white and pink blossom, the clematis is flowering, as are the kowhai trees, which are full of a myriad of bird life gorging on the nectar. Alas, the weeds are going nuts too, so I've had my work cut out. So instead of writing, I've been doing other more relaxing things...

But when you're surrounded by these colours, it's hard not to head out to the garden...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie

By Michael C. Gerald

This is a fun little book I stumbled across when doing some research on Ngaio Marsh and her use of poison as a murder weapon. No doubt about it, Agatha Christie was the Queen of Skulduggery and murder by poison. To quote from the book, 'in over half of her sixty-six novels, at least one or more of the corpses are the victims of overdoses of poisons, drugs and other chemicals.'

Agatha Christie had a head start in using poison in her fiction, with a decent knowledge of medicines due to her working as a dispenser during World War I at the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. If she didn't know of the poison, she knew where to look to find out about it. Christie used almost anything imaginable, from common poisons, such as arsenic and strychnine, to the more unusual, hyoscine (my favourite), to the outright rare, thallium.

I should probably state that in a former life I was a pharmacist, so have a natural fascination with the use of poisons, and that I've just completed a post grad thesis called 'Poisonous Fiction: Murder, hyoscine and Ngaio Marsh.' So I took great delight in ooohing and aaahing over the various nefarious uses of medications, narcotics, elements and otherwise. The author is a Professor of Pharmacology at Ohio State University, so his approach tends to the academic - he loves statistics, and I have to say, in this context, stats are fun. And it's not just about the poisons used to kill, any medication or agent used correctly or incorrectly gets a mention. So for someone like me, it's a great resource.

Naturally, a book of this nature is one great big spoiler, so if you haven't read much Christie, and don't want to know whodunnit, and how, then best avoid it. But if you have a knowledge and a fondness for things chemical, then it's a fascinating read.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Radio show day

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is radio show day once again - my, where does a month go? I looked at how many posts I have done this month and realised I've been rather slack. Oops.

Write On is broadcast on Toroa Radio 1575kHz AM in Dunedin or live streamed from their website.
The show is at noon.

Tania Roxborogh has recently released Bloodlines, the second book in her Banquo's Son Trilogy, the first of which recently won the Young Adult Fiction category in the LIANZA Book Awards. We'll talk about Bloodlines, and the pressures and joys of having to deliver a trilogy of books to an eager audience.

British born, Canadian living crime writer Peter Robinson was in New Zealand recently promoting his new Detective Chief Inspector Banks novel, Bad Boy. I had the opportunity to talk with him about the book, music and his novels getting to television.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


By TK Roxborogh.

Bloodlines is the second book in the Banquo's Son Trilogy, in which the first, Banquo's Son, has recently won the Young Adult Fiction category in the LIANZA Book Awards. Although Bloodlines is aimed at the young adult market, it is a cross over book that is a great read for adults too.

Tania Roxborogh has taken the events in Shakespeare's Macbeth and followed the story of Fleance, the young son of the murdered Banquo. In Bloodlines Fleance is now the king of Scotland, a young and inexperienced king who finds himself to some extent at sea with the politics of such a position and having to deal with rebel uprisings, lead by Magness, the man who raised him to adulthood and who he loves like a father. His betrothed, Rachel, is kidnapped by Callum, the king of Norway and Fleance has to make hard decisions as what he personally must confront first. As you can imagine, as in any kingdom, he has his detractors and his loyal followers, and you're never sure quite who is in which camp.

This is based on part of Macbeth, and as is fitting there is ever the work of the three witches in the background spreading their visions and poisoning minds, leaving a sense of foreboding and mysticism. We get to see the world from Rachel's eyes too, abducted and maltreated. We see how she copes with the very real prospect of her own mortality and her strengths shining through.

I really enjoyed meeting the historical figures in this novel, and you can see the writer has done her homework in creating a vision of life in the mid-eleventh century. This is written as a stand alone novel, but I felt I benefited from having read the first in the series and in having full knowledge of the character's background and how far they had come since their carefree days of youth, before the burden of being King. But even without that knowledge Bloodlines stands on its own as a gripping and enjoyable story of love, honour, betrayal and duty. Can't wait for Birthright.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Of pens and paper...

I knew it couldn't last, that I wouldn't be able to down pen and just let things be for a week or two. No, the writing urge just wont let up and yesterday I relented and popped down to the University Book Shop to buy my traditional new notebook for the new novel. It couldn't wait another day...

So let me introduce you to my new friend, a novel called The Faceless, a notebook - a Paper Blanks Cartella Collection Lussuria, and my New Banker fountain pen. No I don't hand write my novels, but I do like to jot things in a good notebook, it's a symbolic and ritualistic thing.

I have always had a thing for paper - you should see my stationery drawers, and have always been a fan of handwritten letters - I help keep New Zealand Post in business. And I have more beautiful notebooks than I can possibly justify. But it is only recently I have discovered the joy of fountain pens. I've always used good pens, but now I have realised there is a whole new world out there of fountain pens, and ink. And don't get me started on mechanical pencils. There may even be a couple of new, er, acquisitions arriving this week, ahem. There are a few people, well aware of my total lack of self-control, who send links to temptation my way. (You know who you are!)

My tempters sent me this link, to Andy's Pens, and the Conway Sterwart Detection Collection - yes, Conway Stewart are releasing a series of limited edition fountain pens inspired by crime writers. The first release is Michael Jenks. I wonder who else will be immortalised with a stylish writing implement?

Has any fictional character been murdered with a fountain pen? I wonder...

Saturday, October 2, 2010


The thesis is submitted, the novel is finished (except for the proof reading) and finally, I get to relax - well as much as you can with the kids at home for the holidays. But then, we can still be in our Pyjamas at lunch time if we want, and the books scattered everywhere and the sea of Lego across the lounge floor attests to the fact the kids are well occupied.

I'm now turning serious attention to my garden...

Here's a few pics of the wonderful things popping up in it in spring...