Thursday, April 30, 2009

For the hard boiled fans...

One of the great things about the internet, and the blogosphere in particular is that the discovery of useful blogs and websites via other punters musings. So this little gem, for those of you out there who love Hard Boiled Crime Fiction came via Peter Rozovsky over at Detectives Beyond Borders and his recent Raymond Chandler fest.

This site is called and is run by William Marling, a Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio in the US. It has got everything you ever wanted to know about Hard Boiled Crime Fiction, from a general history, to a line up of the usual suspects.

It's fabulous, check it out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Monday was a day of starts:

The start of term - the kids were back at school. The holidays were delicious, so it was kind of sad for them to end, but great to get the time back to myself.

The start of a new book to read - I'm reading First Touch of Light by Ruth Pettis, which is magical so far.

The start of writing a new novel - Yes, on Monday I cracked into the fourth book of the Sam Shephard series, Bound. And I am pleased to say the words are flowing and it feels fantastic to be at the start of a new project!

Monday, April 27, 2009


I always get a buzz when I see local businesses doing well on the world stage, patriotic little thing that I am, so I was particularly pleased to see this article in the Otago Daily Times about the success of Dunedin gaming and digital entertainment company Areo with their crime solving game Casebook. They have won an international award at the United Nations' World Summit Awards in the "e-Entertainment and Games"category.

Casebook combines film and gaming to create an accurate environment for you to do the forensic investigation into the crime. There are two episodes out, Kidnapped and The Watcher, neither of which I've played, but I am downloading their free episode The Missing Urn as I type.

The player helps Detective Burton solve the crimes, and the Detective is quite cute. The crime scenes were made up as proper sets and filmed to make them as realistic as possible. I'll get to see if I'm as crash hot at solving mysteries as I think I am.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Girl Who Played With Fire

By Stieg Larsson

This is the second book in the Millenium Trilogy. I loved the first, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and would have to say I enjoyed this one even more.

Two journalists are found dead in their Stockholm apartment, and a Lawyer is also found dead in his home. The deaths are linked by the same murder weapon, and the fingerprints found on the weapon - those of Lisbeth Salander. While a nation-wide man hunt searches for the young women, those who have worked with her and been close to her question her involvement.

Again, this novel has fantastic characterisation, and a complex and satisfying story line. I enjoyed its sense of place and Swedishness, which added another element of interest, not that it needed any more. It makes me even more impatient to read the third in the trilogy, due out later in the year. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The right Scarpetta?

I was very surprised to read a little snippet in the newspaper that announced Angelina Jolie would play Kay Scarpetta in a series of movies based on the Patricia Cornwell novels. See the Variety article here.

I know a lot of thought goes into the choice of actors or actresses to play lead roles in adaptations of books. The British in particular seem to have a knack for finding the right person, Hermione Norris as DI Carol Jordan, Jill Scott as Mme Ramotswe as a scant few examples. (And yes, I'm aware Scott is American.)

For the life of me I can't imagine Jolie as Scarpetta. I am not a fan of hers, although I have enjoyed her performances in a couple of movies, including as a policewoman in The Bone Collector, but that performance was a long time ago, and I find her personal life baggage rather distracting. Yes, call me shallow, and incapable of escaping wholeheartedly into the fantasy world of the big screen. But I have my doubts.

Is this a case of the studio wanting a big name bankable super-star at the expense of character integrity?

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Sting in the Tale

We finished reading Sting by Raymond Huber as the bed time story book with the boys tonight. It was a great story and I especially enjoyed the fact Ziggy, the star of the book kept true to beeishness. He and all the characters behaved like the little critters actually would, (unlike some of the ones we see at the kids movies) so as well as really enjoying the story, and laughing at the jokes, the boys learned a lot about the world of bees.

The best endorsement was the fact Mr Seven-year-old grabbed the book the moment I finished reading the story to them and proceeded to start reading it again for himself.

An especially good book for boys.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A blog lunch

I love the camaraderie the blogosphere creates, that sense of community. It is pretty much essential now for my well being to be part of it, to fend off the curse of writer's isolation, even if it is virtual.

Every now and again though, we get to play in the real world, so I got to enjoy a real lunch today, with real food and real chat and real laughter with The Sound of Butterflies, Schroedinger's Tabby and Banquo's Son.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recent Acquisitions

It's school holidays, which means the boys like to go to the museum, which means we happen to be in very close proximity to the University Book Shop.

Oh dear.

Downstairs I finally brought one of those titles that has been on my I must get that list for a long time, and which finally just jumped into my hand - Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins. It has received much accolade and every one tells me I must read it, so who am I to argue?

I love the upstairs section of The University Book Shop as they have what they call a continuous book sale and it is chokka with obscure and fascinating books. It is often where I find curious little research books, and they're dirt cheap.

I'm fascinated by Graffiti Art. Not the mindless tagging that makes me so angry I want to bang the little sod's heads together heads, no, I like the witty, the beautiful and the artistic. I've been eyeing up a book on the British street artist Banksy that I will no doubt succumb to soon. I have a growing collection of photographs of the graffiti art around Dunedin, so I snapped up this book when I spotted it - InForm: New Zealand Graffiti Artists Discuss their Work, by Elliot O'Donnell. This book is more about those that do large scale work, but I am interested mostly in their stories, why they do it.

I seem to have a habit of acquiring more books than I read. I'm sure I'm not the only one, in fact Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise recently did a reader poll on how many books people had in their TBR pile (To be read, for the uninitiated) The results left me feeling not so bad about my pile as the majority of respondents had over 250 books in their TBR piles, yes folks, over 250! I'm not quite there yet.

It has made me think, perhaps I should go on a book buying fast - you know - no more books until I've read what I've got. Could I manage that? Do I have the discipline to read everyone's blogs and reviews on books that tweak my interest, or get me salivating and then say no, I can not buy that book until I've read what I've got?

I didn't think so either.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Fortunate night

Hubby and I got to enjoy one of those rare events, an evening out without the kids. Even better, it was an evening out at the theatre, The Fortune Theatre, to enjoy the gala opening of their performance of Jane Austin's Emma. Actually it was a play of a play of Emma, where five young folk in 1820 decide to entertain themselves in the attic by performing the book Emma. The adaptation was written by Michael Fry, and directed by Lisa Warrington.

As there are only five of them, three ladies and two gentlemen, and there are a whole lot more characters in the book, they get to multi-task, with hilarious results. The show was very clever and a fun adaptation. It was a most enjyable outing, although I have to say the first half was a little too long, but the Brandy-snap icecream at intermission made up for that.

I am always in awe of actors in the theatre - for somone like me with the memory span of a gnat I find it amazing that actors are able to remember everything they are supposed to say and do, perform it, hold an audience enthralled for a few hours, and have fun in the process. They looked like they were having a ball. All of the actors were fabulous, and captivating and I highly recommend getting your glad-rags on and getting out to see it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Off again.

Manuscripts are like adult children. You think you've managed to get them out of the home, and then they move back!

This morning I took great pleasure in pushing my manuscript back out the door, after a few revisions. So now it is off to the editor, and then it will be back, again. Then it will be proofs, then it will be proofs again, and then...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Killing on contact

One of the fun little reference books I have acquired is Forensics and Fiction by D.P.Lyle. I like to open the pages randomly and see what strange question some crime writer has posed.

Today I flicked open to this one - posed by Maggie King of Richmond Virginia.

"Could my character use cyanide added to a contact lens solution to kill anther character?"

And the short answer was...yes. Although the poisoner would have to be very careful they wouldn't knock themselves off in the process of contaminating the solution.

My reservation with this method is, seeing as it is a very quick way to die, that the victim would most likely be found in the bathroom, with the bathroom stuff and contact lens solution around them, and probably only one lens in their eye, so the first thing the SOCOs would look at was...

So there you go. Grizzly way to knock some one off du jour.

Aren't you glad you don't live under the same roof as me?!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How bad should your baddies be?

I've been thinking about baddies - an occupational hazard when you're a crime writer, and how bad they should be.

I did an impromptu survey on the baddies in books I had read in recent years and was surprised by the number of them that were serial killers or multi-murderers or had been quietly wrecking havoc for decades. Is bigger and badder necessary better? I don't think so.

While I think we all get a thrill out of the thought of an arch-villain, a Moriaty, or a criminal mastermind, in reality murder is far more often an act of passion, or momentary stupidity. Of course, you will say, the whole point in reading fiction is to escape reality, and the often base motivations behind crimes. Real crime is seldom well thought out, with complex diversions and red-herrings and darstardly schemes. But, God, we love that in a novel!

But here are a few questions for you to consider, while sitting in your safe, comfortable home this evening, when it's dark outside, and you are by yourself, or surrounded by your loved ones.

What is more menacing?

The underground drug and gang scene that you never see, only read about in the paper and is only evident in suburbs far away and of a lower socioeconomic group than yours...?


The guy next door who always seems to be watching you.

Is it the serial killer who seems to be preying on real-estate agents...?


The neighbour whose family you haven't seen for a while, but he's been doing a great job of their new concrete driveway?

Should the face of crime be evil? Or ordinary?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thanks for the Meme-ory

One of the curiosities of the blogosphere is memes, which is kind of like an adult version of tag. One of the memes I watched with interest is along the lines of list 25 interesting things about me. This doesn't call for the usual hum drum stuff like I've got blonde hair and blue eyes (which I don't, by the way) but curious little tidbits like my whistle was recorded on National Radio for a school choir song (which is true.)(The song was The cat came back)

Anyway this got me to thinking what a fun exercise it would be to do this for my book character - 25 curious things about Sam Shephard you didn't know. I thought it would be an interesting and quirky way to background a character - so that is going to be one of my school holiday activities, along with filing my mountains of newspaper clippings.

Another lovely thing about the blogosphere is the circulation of awards, which let you know that hey, someone out there is really enjoying your blog, so I was delighted to recieve a Sisterhood Award from Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise.

As with these awards there are a few simple rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nomina
te up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.
I'm going to pass on this Sisterhood Award to one very worthy recipient, because she has slogged her guts out and managed to produce a novel manuscript in a very short intense time, while still working full time, being Mum and Queen of her household and has almost stayed sane in the process, so this one is winging its way to Tania Roxborogh over at Banquo's Son

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The criminally weird bits from the news...

Truth is stranger than fiction - all you need to do is look at the news...

A lot of hot air:

This is beyond childishness!

Fart Fight Gets Nasty

Making a clean get-away?

And my question is what would you do with it all?

Thief nabbed with 68 tubes of toothpaste

Caught Short:

Respect of the dead clearly fell short of their business mission statement

Corpse was apparently cut to fit coffin:

Thursday, April 9, 2009


After having had a quote of the week that hadn't changed in four months, I decided it was time to give it the flick. It was annoying me.

Seeing as I was messing around with the side thingies (I'm such a technical girl) I've added a section with writers I know who have websites as well as blogs. And if there are any of my writer friends out there who are feeling slighted and are ready to strike me viciously off their Christmas card lists because I've left them off, just email me and I'll add it. It's the last day of term, a long and busy term and my brain is fried, so I'm bound to have missed someone!

Some of the websites are amazing and I'd especially recommend you visit Claire Beynon's website, as it is gorgeous.

The school holidays are upon us - thank heavens, and we have friends arriving to stay for Easter (I have to find the spare bedroom under all the piles of cra....gear)

The boy's have given me their wish list of things to do in the holidays which include the usual suspects - visit the museum and art gallery, Chinese garden, go to the beach. (Yes, I know it's winter, doesn't seem to stop em) They have also put on it to make pasta, make hot cross buns, do some paintings on canvas and make the model aeroplanes they got for Christmas.

School holidays...busy happy days, lazy starts, kids around to play, lots of baking.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What a day!

My day got off to a (cue the twilight zone theme music) life imitating art moment when I opened up my Otago Daily Times newspaper and saw on the front page a great big photo of an elephant attached this article: Pub helps solve Jumbo problem.

There are too many similarities to The Ringmaster for my comfort, especially as Sam avoids looking at a front cover picture of an elephant in the novel after certain events. I am not going to be able to relax until that flaming circus leaves town!

Today was also a media day, with Write On, my radio show at noon, and then Dunedin Diary television book reviews this evening, so it was busy, busy, busy.

On Write On I interviewed poet and short story writer Sue Wootton. We talked about her experiences as Burns Fellow and how it benefited her, and also about teaching poetry to children - Sue did a workshop at a local school and the children did such a fabulous job of their poems we recorded some for the show. They were a treat.

I also interviewed writer Philip Temple and we chatted about his recent memoir Chance is a Fine Thing, and his being in New Zealand for fifty years. It was fascinating to talk about what forms identity, with Philip's life defined by his being a New Zealander, rather than an immigrant from England. The time passed far to quickly and we could have happily chatted for a full hour.

This evening I reviewed two books on Dunedin Diary. The first was a beautifully practical book - The Star Garden Book, by Gillian Vine, which is a week by week guide to gardening in Dunedin and Southern climate conditions - very handy considering today we have had hail and sleet and the temperature is four degrees!

I also reviewed O. E. Middleton's collection of short stories Beyond the Breakwater, from fifty years of his work. I have to say I've really enjoyed dipping into his stories, and his wonderful descriptions which are made more remarkable by the knowledge he is blind.

So it's been a busy old day, and tomorrow I might actually get some work done!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fine tuning

I'm about to get all metaphorical on you, for you see, the piano tuner came today and as I sat in my office, visibly wincing at the discordant sounds as he started the process of tuning I couldn't help but think of the process of editing.

My piano is an old dunger, rescued from an orchard shed somewhere in Hawkes Bay and it has done me years of loyal service and been dragged halfway around the countryside with our various shifts. It's sound is robust, loud even and most definitley out of tune, but not too badly out of tune with itself. It has big cracks in the panelling, and corners are chipped of the piano keys courtesy of someone's children over the years (not my own) but it's my piano, and I love it and I can't imagine life without one.

The tuner came today because I came to the realisation that no, Hubby wasn't going to buy me a new piano for my mumbleth birthday, that all subtle and unsubtle hints had gone unheeded, and I was going to have to enjoy the company of the clanger for a few years to come.

So where's the metaphorical stuff you ask?

I was listening to the discordant notes, which started from the first tap of a key and turn of his tuning device and thought about how when you finish the first draft of your manuscript, it seems to all fit together, to be in tune with itself, be a melodious whole. But then you look closer, and make an adjustment here, which then makes the next note seem a little sharp or flat, a little grating, so that too needs a tweak, so you do that, and the two sound great together, but they don't sit right with the next passage, so you set to reworking that, and you look ahead at the vastness of the entire manuscript and think, bl**dy-hell I've got a hell of a lot of adjustment to do here.

But as with any process, it takes time and patience to work your way along the keyboard, making sure the words sound right, so that passages together make harmonious chords, and link together to form the melody, that the tempo ebbs and flows, the intensity moves with the story you want to tell, carries you, propels you forward.

And it all begins from tuning, one key at a time, listening carefully and trusting that when you get to the end, it will be a sweet, harmonious whole.

Monday, April 6, 2009

And yes, I tidied it.

After seeing the pictures on Writers' rooms I felt inspired to post a picture of where I work from. After seeing a few of the authors' offices I didn't feel so bad about the mess in mine, in fact, mine looked positively minimalistic compared to some.

The pictures of boats in various states of distress are research for Containment. I'm particularly fond of the Prince of Tokyo pictures on the left hand side as they are a bit of an up-yours to a Port of Otago person who told me they never had any shipping accidents at Otago and never lost containers - yeah, right.

I like dragonflies, and have the coolest dragonfly personalised stationery. I also like postcards, and on the wall on the right you can't see are several more, including the lovely new Katherine Mansfield Society postcard sent to me by Aspiring Writer. There are also old style botanical pictures and pictures of bugs - I love bugs.

My nick-nack tray is full of bits sent by friends over the years, including a personal apprentice robot and a stress buster. There is also a cool Penguin Books miniature cup with Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham that I picked up at the kids' school fair. I wonder if they ever did a Ngaio Marsh one?

You'll notice I write facing the wall and have no windows to look out. That's by choice. Hubby has the desk near the window. If I had one, I'd spend the day staring out of it. Also it would be too glarey. In saying that, I fantasise about having an office looking out over the sea, or with a view to or opening out into bush. But I will have to sell a hell of a lot more books before we can afford to indulge that fantasy...Better get back to work then, hadn't I.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Writing is on the Wall

Sage advice from some graffiti on the wall by Roslyn Fresh Choice Supermarket...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hard Boiled Magnetism

This is why I shouldn't be allowed near book shops. Naively I think sure, I can pop in, smell the book filled air, feel revitalised and exit the building without opening my wallet.


Had a meeting at Uni this morning, and my car just happened to be parked near The University Book Shop, so I just happened to pop in - it would be rude not to, considering my proximity.

Some things a girl just has to buy, especially a crime writing girl, so when I saw this it just screamed out take me home, have fun, you neeeeeeeeeed me.

How could I not?

I call it research.

I also call these two purchases research:

I'm a bad, bad girl.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

When life imitates art

Sometimes being a writer has its freaky moments.

You are busy writing a dramatic passage, and you're thinking this could never happen in real life, it's too far out. But then, down the track, little things start to occur, fall into place and you're left feeling a bit nervy.

Elephants. They're big, mysterious and get people quite riled up. There has been a bit of a stir happening locally with respect to an elephant. In fact the said elephant has just been banned from Dunedin (ODT article). I had a blog comment from In Real Time asking if The Ringmaster was the reason for this.

The Ringmaster, as those who have read it know, involves quite a scene with a circus elephant.

In The Ringmaster there is a circus in town with an elephant.

In the news, there is a circus visiting Dunedin this Easter with an elephant.

In The Ringmaster the circus is set up at The Oval.

At Easter the circus will be at The Oval

In The Ringmaster the animal rights activists get a bit feral.

In the news the animal righs activists have been lobbying local government to have the elephant banned and are planning protests.

In The Ringmaster it all goes a bit pear-shaped.

Please let this be where the similarities end!