Saturday, February 28, 2009

Like something from a Stephen King novel...

I try to keep away from anything too personal in this blog, I'm the kind of girl who keeps things close to my chest, but, the events of the last week have had me thinking maybe I could write a novel a la Stephen King, or Dean Koontz about the strange repetitious nature of the universe.

Let me explain.

I am organising the kids' school fair, one of my major character flaws is an inability to say no. I think from now on I shall say no way, Jose, to school fair organising as it seems to have an unfortunate, and I'm sure totally coincidental toll on my family.

My recent absence from the blogosphere was due to one of those awful dashes you have to do up the country when a dear one falls ill. This time it was my Mum providing the unwanted excitement for our family. I am thrilled to say Mum is making good progress, thank god, because I can not imagine life without her, and it was truly awful to have to even entertain the possibility.
A couple of her best friends summed it up nicely in their card saying "What the hell do you think you are doing!"

You are wondering what this has to do with school fairs. It is two weeks until the school fair.

Two weeks before the school fair a few years ago involved another dash, this time down the country, unfortunately for the funeral of my dear brother, Barry, to whom I dedicated Overkill. Barry had battled a brain tumour for some time and finally succumbed.

So you see, why I am developing an aversion to school fairs. It's like something out of the twilight zone, cue the do do do do, do do do do music.

SO if any one out there is even remotely considering asking me to organise anything that resembles a fair, or fete or even a garage sale, DON'T!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Off on an unexpected trip

Having to dash away for a few days, so all will be quiet on the blog-front for a bit.

Am taking The Girl with the dragon Tattoo, which I've almost finished and am loving, and am deciding on other books to take.

Back soon.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I am a bad, bad girl...

...and I can't be trusted at a book sale.

This weekend is the annual, much anticipated Dunedin Public Library Book Sale. I'm a Friend of the Library, and one of the perks of being a Friend is you get to go to the sale preview before the general public gets let lose on the books.

I thought to myself, there are a couple of books I'm trying to track down, maybe I'll find them there. I'll just pop in for ten minutes, buy a couple of books, a book each for the kids, pop straight out.


Bad Vanda.

Confession time:

For Me:


Janet Evanovich, High Five, Twelve Sharp and Lean, Mean Thirteen.
Tess Gerritsen, The Bone Garden.
Ian Rankin, The Naming of the Dead.
Jeffery Deaver, The Sleeping Doll.
Michael Collins, Death of a Writer,
John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1964 with a cool cover)
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
2001 the Best American Mystery Stories
Stevan Eldred-Grigg Blue Blood (One of the characters in this novel is Ngaio Marsh!)


A Shopping list for Murder, Robyn Beveridge
Catching Serial Killers, Earl James
He'll be OK: Growing gorgeous boys into good men, Celia Lashlie.

For the kids:

4 Asterix books,
1 Roald Dahl
2 Harry Potter
1 Geronimo Stilton,
Philip Pullman Northern Lights
Quidditch through the ages.
Everything you need to know about the world by Simon Eliot.
Collins Pocket English Dictionary.

What can I say.

I can't help myself.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A little something...

... I sent off to my publisher today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Exercise is a deadly weapon

In a great example of truth being stranger than fiction, this article came to my attention (via Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, thanks Sarah)

For millenia women have found intriguing ways to knock off a no longer desired spouse, and this lady found a swimmingly good way of doing it.

Ohio Woman pleads guilty in over-exercising death.

I would never have come up with that idea, and its my job to dream up novel ways to knock people off. I can't be as evil as I think I am!

It also goes to show exercise can kill you, so I'm not going to risk it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A dilemma

Bedtime storytime is one of those lovely things I share with the boys where I get to make a myriad of goofy voices and also get to reread lots of my childhood favourites and dust off my old books. The boys get a real buzz when I tell them these were the very books I was reading at their age. My inability to cull my personal library has proven once again to be indispensable.

We have finished Joy Cowley's The Silent One, the story of twelve year-old Jonasi, an outcast boy, when he finds a magical white turtle. It tells of superstition, and ghosts and spirits and how fear will drive people to do stupid things. The boys loved it.

Choosing the next book has been a little more problematic. We have read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S.Lewis, and the boys want to read the next in the series, and there in lies the dilemma, as the Chronicles of Narnia have an order of publication, but there is also a reading order.

The order of publication is:

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.
Prince Caspian.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The Silver Chair.
The Horse and His Boy.
The Magicians Nephew.
The Last Battle.

The reading order is:

The Magicians Nephew.
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.
The Horse and his Boy.
Prince Caspian.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The Silver Chair.
The Last Battle.

It is interesting to note the reading order was decided by Harper Collins when they took over publication on the advice of Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham. It follows the chronological series of events in Narnia.

My childhood books have half of them with the reading order numbers printed on them (Fontana Lions), and the rest without (Puffin)

We were already wrongfooted on the reading order as we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first. Anyway, I always like to read a series in order of publication, and Hollywood has chosen the publication order. (We got a buzz out of watching TLTWATW on DVD, as part of it was filmed at Elephant rocks, one of our favourite haunts out the back of Duntroon)

So the decision is finally made, and we will go with the order of publication; bring on Prince Caspian.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines vixens

So it's Valentines day.




Not likely.

Do I expect them?

No way!

Don't get me wrong, I'm a hopeless romantic, but when it comes to Valentines day, my idea of a perfect evening involves the kids in bed, hubby & I relaxed on the sofa with an ice-cream in a cone watching something exciting on telly, like Grand Designs.

My thoughts on a Valentines day post involved a couple of things: a book, and a book title.

The book title gets my vote as the best title for a love story:

You Suck: A love story by Christopher Moore.

As you can guess from the title, it's a Vampire story, and no, I haven't read it as Vampire fiction isn't my thing (although my friends assure me it's great) But as a title, brilliant.

The other is a book of short crime stories given to me by my publisher, with the wonderful title Tart Noir. The back blurb states "Twenty shocking stories starring twenty edgy outrageous and badly behaved heroines."

And they were! Some were truly shocking.

These were the kind of women who if someone gave them chocolates for Valentines Day, they'd hunt them down and turn them into a Flake.

So there's my warped idea of romantic reading.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brain fade

It's been a day.

The Bloddy cat woke me up at 5.30am this morning, and I couldn't get back to sleep, so that was not good. (She is to be banished to the kitchen tonight)

Today was radio show day. The advantage of the cat waking me up at such an unsociable hour was I got to write out my interview questions and get it all sorted before breakfast.

Deadline day is next Friday, which in reality means Thursday, so the manuscript is with the publisher on Friday so I've been in panic, I mean polish mode for a few weeks now. I've been aiming on editing ten chapters a day (I know) and have been meeting that target, until today, because it was a busy day with other things and I am TIRED. Today I did three chapters, and a radio show, and a heck of a lot of Mummy/ domestic things and had guests for dinner (the fabulous variety that come for dinner, but bring dinner, oh yes.) And the host-guest (who cooks) brought me the gift of a book (darn) because she raved about it and thought I'd like it. come again anytime, Laura.

So it's been a full, writery, and social day, and I am replete on good food and wine, and have the pleasure of adding David Eggers' What is the What to my bedside reading table.


Good night all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Write On Radio Show day

Tomorrow is Write On Radio show day, the show I produce and host for our Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors on Toroa Radio 1575 kHz AM.

For our February show I’ll be talking with David Howard of The Otago University Press, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. Well talk about the humble beginnings of the press and how it has built into a notable publishing house which publishes around twenty books each year. We’ll talk about the kinds of books they publish and also about life in the publishing industry, particularly in these uncertain economic times, and with the effects of the digital age.

The second guest will be Kath Beattie, a Dunedin writer who has recently had her book published by Scholastic, titled My Story: Poor Man’s Gold: The diary of Reuben Radcliffe, Northland, 1899-1900. Kath was a guest on Write On Last year when we talked about a book she had self-published, titled Walking backwards into the future: coping with grief through continuing bonds. We’ll be talking about her new book which is about a boy working on the Kauri Gum swamps of Northland, and also we’ll talk about how the process of self publishing went for her, whether she thought it was worthwhile doing it and what advice she would offer to other people considering self-publishing their books.

For those not in Dunedin who are interested you can listen to the live stream broadcast from your computer via the Toroa Radio Website

Monday, February 9, 2009


I love having writer friends.

Ring, ring, goes my cell phone. This so seldom happens it took me a moment to realise it was mine. My bag is a cavernous affair full of junk, so it took a while to find it.

"Hi, Vanda. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I've got a quick question for you."

"That's OK, I'm in the supermarket with the kids."

"Cool. You're a fencer. What do you call it when you swing your sword down at someone when you're fighting them, is there a proper name?"

"Well, that depends." I am putting capsicum and carrots on the checkout conveyor. "If you are attacking, you could be lunging, which is an aggressive forwards movement to stab your opponent, or are we talking about broad swords here, and you're going at them with an edge, not a point." The check out guy is giving me a very strange look. I put the mince meat on the conveyor.

You can imagine the rest of the conversation.

The friend in question is Tania Roxborogh, aka TK Roxborogh who is in the final throes of writing a sequel to MacBeth called Banquo's Son. Check out her blog here where Tania lays down the trials and tribulations of frantically writing a novel in a very short period of time. Her work rate has been astonishing! It sounds like there's a bit of blood and guts and a few battle scenes for good measure. Excellent.

Usually these kinds of conversations take place in more appropriate places, like around the dinner table, so it was quite a novelty to be discussing the cut and thrust of sword play at the check out. It certainly spiced up the grocery shopping.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A poultry crime

I've heard of some strange tools used in the execution of a crime before but this one took the cake, or the chook, as it turned out.

Check out the story here, and let it be a warning to all, don't count your frozen chickens before they smash.

Chicken chucker charged over bizarre crime.

He must have been desperate for a coffee.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Got it Covered

I love old book covers, in fact one of the big pleasures of my Ngaio Marsh Challenge has been tracking down the titles in second hand book stores and checking out the cover art. Some are twee, some are average and some fantastic. The worst ones are the BBC TV tie in covers with boring photographs of equally boring looking actors...yawn.

When I was looking through the Carnival of the Criminal Minds archives the other day I found a reference to this blog called Judge a Book by its Cover, and in particular the Carnival host, The Rap Sheet pointed us to this post on Robert Kyle's Kill Now, Pay Later. It's a pearler, and you have to read the back cover blurb. Talk about audacious!

I know Donald Kerr at the Otago University Library Special Collections purchased a large collection of pulp fiction a few years back. I must go visit and have a giggle at the titles and the covers. I believe the Design School students have a great time with them.

Here's a few covers of the Ngaio Marsh titles I've recently acquired:

Artists in Crime (1967 ed) The Fontana covers were edgy and colourful.

Death in Ecstasy
(1968 ed) Another edgy Fontana. (They haven't acknowledged the artist though)

Vintage Murder
(1977 ed) This later Fontana cover by Justin Todd is more conservative, but still intriguing.

And yes, I do have two copies of some of her books because I liked the different cover versions. Sometimes a girl just can't be forced to choose.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Carnival of the Criminal Minds #31

Each month the Carnival of the Criminal Minds is hosted by a crime fiction related blog. This week it's over the ditch by Helen at It's Criminal. She has taken the beach carnival theme, so we get to look at some pictures of, as she puts it, buff Aussie males. (Has anyone else noticed that buff Aussie males are great until they open their mouths?!)

Helen takes us on a tour of her favourite blogs and also plugs us towards which has podcasts of authors reaing from their short stories to download.

Bloggers who host the carnival get to point others in the direction of websites, blogs and wee gems they've found out there in cyberspace that have intrigued, tickled, or made them laugh. The brainchild of Barbara Fister you can visit her Carnival of the Criminal Minds page to look at archives of former Carnivals. They're great fun and travel the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The rise and rise of Scandinavian Crime Writers

I discovered the talents of Scandinavian crime writers some years ago, and have felt very grateful these authors have been translated into English for our consumption and pleasure. It started with Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - I will confess now to seeking out the book because I enjoyed the movie, then finding I enjoyed the book even more than the movie.

A quick look through my bookshelf shows other Scandinavian crime writers I've grown attached to including Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Arnaldur Indridason, and the most recent addition, which I've only just started on, Steig Larrson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

John Crace at has written a very good article on the Scandinavians, you can read here.

While on the topic of translated fiction, I'll also toss in another favourite author, French this time, Fred Vargas. She was one of the first I discovered with Have Mercy on us All.

Peter, over at Detectives Beyond Borders has had a flurry of posts recently on the topic of translators, who seem to be turning into literary stars in their own right. See Andrea Camilleri's translator speaks and Another translator speaks.

Having had Overkill translated into German, we are at the mercy of our translators to do a good job and not lose the idiosyncracies of idiom and vernacular. Heaven knows Overkill is full of Kiwi-isms! So to Andrea and Gabriele - thanks, and good on ya, mate.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dumb and dumber

Normally I wait till the weekend before popping the bizarre or stupid crimes onto the blog, but this morning's news efforts and a 'you must look at this video' from a friend proved too good to wait that long.

Caught Short:

One dumb French thief's aim was a bit off.

Lost thief holes up in french Lavatory.

Not the brightest

These guys managed to escape from custody, but did something any kid who has ever been in a three legged race knows not to do!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Random thoughts

Thought number 1:

The kids go back to school tomorrow - imagine big grin on this mother's face.

Thought number 2:

It's February. Can someone please tell me what happened to January?

Thought number 3:

Rachael King over at The Sound of Butterflies has a lovely post on whether writers are putter-inners or taker-outers. Do you write screeds and screeds in your first draft then brutally prune, or do you get down the nuts and bolts, and then fill in the detail, description and bits you glossed over?

I'm definitely in the putter-inner category. I liken it to creating a human being from the skeleton out - I start with the bones, then add the vital organs and muscle to give it strength and life, then add a bit of padding, because no one likes their stories too skinny, but no one likes them overblown either, then polish it all up with a nice tan, not fake though. There's usually some last minute depilation necessary to get it all looking seemly, then voila, something hopefully fit to be seen in public.

Thought number 4:

I love Naseby.

Thought number 5:

If the kids are back at school tomorrow, that means they'll bring home their stationery list tomorrow, which will mean a trip into town to the stationery supply shops. Oh dear, how sad...