Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Farewell to Narnia

It is with, I confess, some relief that we have finished the childrens' bedtime story reading marathon that was the chronicles of Narnia. As much as I enjoyed that little trot down memory lane, I found it a little tedious done in end on end fashion. Also, as I recall I didn't particularly enjoy The Last Battle the first time around, and didn't this time either. There's just something about Shift. Ugh.

But the important thing was the kids loved it, and insisted on me reading through each book. When I suggested a little change before this one, there was a unanimous 'no way!'

I shall secretly take delight in putting my old Narnia books back on the bookshelf for the next generation...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Fence me in

After a break of, oh, about, ahem, twenty years I have finally got back into fencing, and have joined the Salle Angelo in Dunedin, a group of fencers who's aim is classic style and enjoyment rather than blood thirsty competition (although, it's pretty damn competitive). For this group a vital part of the ritual of fencing involves retiring to Rhubarb Cafe afterward for lunch. Well, I say I have joined, but I have to undergo an admission initiation as it were - a duel in public. Just as well we wear masks.

It's been a long time between bouts, and there are advantages and disadvantages to going back to a sport after a lengthy spell.


Today I ache in places I had forgotten were capable of aching.
The moves I used to think I was crash hot at, are no longer quite so flash.
Did I mention the ache?


Sport is so much more fun when you're not all young, stupid and intense.
The fact I ache means I actually moved.
The boost to the ole self esteem to discover my old fencing gear still fits.
The ear to ear grin because damn that was fun!


Friday, June 26, 2009

A Michael Moment

I had to make a note of the untimely death of Michael Jackson. I can not profess to being a fan, but (here's where I date myself) I come from a generation hugely affected by his music, when to me he was in his prime with Thriller breaking all kinds of new ground. As teenagers we couldn't get enough of him and his music, my friends had his posters on their walls (I wasn't allowed) and way back then, before he got overly fond of the surgeon's knife he was soooo cute. Billy Jean was my favourite Michael song.

So I feel saddened today, it is the passing of an era, and the world will seem a blander place without his flamboyance and eccentricities.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paul gets some press

It was great to see New Zealand crime fiction writer Paul Cleave get some decent coverage in this month's North & South Magazine. I'd put a web link to the article, but North & South don't have a web site! (Why is that?)(When are they going to rectify it?)

Paul is a Christchurch boy, and has had modest sales of his books in New Zealand, but HUGE sales of his novels in Germany and abroad. His first novel, The Cleaner shot to number 2 on Amazon Germany and has sold over 300 000 copies! But how many New Zealanders are even aware of his existence? He's flying the flag for New Zealand crime fiction overseas, but barely gets a mention here.

So I was delighted to see a six-page article written about him, and it's worth getting the magazine just to see the cool yellow T-shirt he was wearing.

Here's a link to my review of his third novel Cemetery Lake.

Paul's fourth novel, Blood Men is due out next year.

Good on ya, Paul.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dangerous Women

I had to post a parcel at the post office today, you know, the one next door to the University Book Shop, and it won't take much imagination on your part to work out what happened next.

I know, I know, I can't say no to anyone, let alone myself, consequently the moment I clapped eyes on a book named Dangerous Women, it was a fait accompli. Especially when the back cover blub tempted with a line like "Prepare to meet the most seductively female and most shockingly fatal of femmes fatales..."

After a tempter like that I had to buy it, it would have been rude not to...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Skullking Around

Of all the interesting requests I've had, this one was the strangest, and most amusing. Take one plastic skull (make believe it's real) for an outing to the beach and get a cover shot for the novel.


1. Temperature. Two days after the big snow, surrounding hills still white, about 4 degrees out of the wind.

2. The kind people who lent me the skull didn't want it immersed in sand or water. They were quite emphatic about that.

3. The people requesting the photo wanted it as realistic as possible with the skull poking out of the sand or water.

4. Did I mention Yorick wasn't supposed to get sandy or wet?

5. Did I mention the temperature.

Let's face it, it was never going to work, and you can guess by the fact I'm blogging these pics Yorick is not going to be making a guest appearance on my cover. But I have to say, despite getting very strange looks from people, barked at by dogs and bl**dy cold lying on the sand, it was really quite fun!

I think the pics are kind of amusing and endearing in a strange kind of a way.

Not the sort of thing you do every day.

So in no particular order...

I was strolling at the beach one day...

Fido the Staffy told me quite loudly that he wasn't sure about all this. His owner gave me a veeeeery wide berth.

Yorick acquires new hair do...

Liked the reflections in this one, got a bit caught up in the moment...

Please note, both Yorick and photographer are wet now. Bugger.

But Yorick is still smiling...

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Chalk Circle Man

By Fred Vargas.

I have enjoyed Fred Vargas' novels for quite some time, so was delighted to find her first Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg Novel was finally out in New Zealand. Vargas is a French novelist, and I have no idea why her other novels had been translated into English and available before this one, but that is the strange world of translation and foreign rights.

Anyway, I digress. The Chalk Circle Man as the title suggests starts with the appearance of mysterious blue chalk circles drawn on the streets of Paris and the odd objects that lie in the center of them, which everyone pretty much ignores until the object in the center of one turns out to be a very dead person. Adamsberg had a bad feeling about the circles before the body showed up, but then Adamsberg is a perculiar sort of policeman in that he accepts his gut feelings and hunches and runs with them, or I should say, dawdles with them.

This is one of the things I really enjoy about these novels, they are crime fiction, but they lack the frenetic pace of a lot of the genre and that is perfectly okay. I enjoy that we get to amble around inside Adamsberg's head, and that of his intellectual colleague Danglard, in fact I love that there is so much interior monologue and musing. The end result for me is fascinating, and entertaining and makes for a damn good read. There in lies Vargas' skill. It is quite an art to make a rambling kind of a novel a satisfying crime fiction read, but she achieves this with great success.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My word.

Mr Nine-Year-Old's teacher is into giving homework, and she is most definitely into drumming in grammar - hallelujah!

There are benefits for all in this, and not just to Mr Nine-Year-Old as his poor Mummy has to try and keep up. So when he asks her to explain prepositions, she has to have a good hard think and come up with the goods (or at least know where to sneak a peek at a grammar book without being seen). It's damn good practice for a writer. And I always maintained the only reason I got a university education was so I could at least try and seem clever to my kids. So tonight my memory has been jogged on the adjective, preposition and adverb front, but now I'm feeling a little weary and need a cup of tea and a chockie bikkie to get over it...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You give me the chills

The Met Service got it right!!!!!

Snow Day...

School's closed.

Roads are closed.

Airport is closed, so Mum's here for another day.

Work is closed.

Play ground is open!


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Big Sleep

I've been enjoying reading so much about Raymond Chandler and his writing recently that when I saw this title in The University Book Shop for the miserly sum of $12.99 I simply couldn't resist. Especially when the first thing written on the back cover is the quote...

"Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead."

Then when I was googling to find the right cover image I came across this article which talks about an Los Angeles Raymond Chandler tour.

I wonder if they'll ever have a Vanda Symon Dunedin tour, for all the interesting places I've dumped bodies and had, er, slightly dramatic events? Time will tell.

The met service have issued a heavy snow warning for Dunedin overnight. Lets see if they get it right this time!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just in case

It is amazing what you find in the desperate hunt for something else.

In this instance I was searching out my old fencing jacket and pants. I had found all the other gear, foils, mask, glove, plastron, tin tits, but the clothing articles eluded me. They still do.

While I was hunting through some old suitcases, as well as finding articles of clothing I wore when I was pregnant (must learn to get rid of stuff) I found, used as lining in the bottom of the case, an old copy of the Otago Daily Times, dated Thursday November 15 1990.

The headline reads "Hours of terror end." Then "Gunman shot after killing 11 at Aramoana."

Wow, what an amazing find, and fascinating to read about it as reported at the time with photos, maps and diagrams. It also made me feel very sad. My main memory of that day, as I was living in Dunedin at the time was the thrumming sound of helicopters back and forth. I also remember thinking, god, I hope I don't know anyone out there, as although Dunedin is a large city, it's a small town.

In international news, Howe condemned Thatcher, The US planned to test-fire missiles in the Pacific and were meeting opposition, and Ronnie Woods, guitarist for The Rolling Stones had broken both legs after being hit by a car.

What treasures we find when we delve into the depths of the cupboards. I might go and see what else I can find, although the risk to life and limb from potential avalanche of junk is great . If no one hears from me for a few days, assume the worst and send out a search party...

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Horse and His Boy

By C.S. Lewis.

The boys and I have just finished for our bed-time story book one of my favourite Narnia tales.

Who could resist a run away from home story like this? Especially if you're a boy. Just look at it. Not only does our hero Shasta discover he's got a talking horse, he gets to team up with a pretty and feisty girl (my boys are at the we still like girls stage, not ew, girl-germs stage) and find out not only that he has a twin brother, but that he's a prince for heaven's sake! His long-lost Daddy is the king. What more could a boy want?!!!

Lovely stuff.

On to The Last Battle...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

I made the mistake of finishing this book at bedtime. Sleep was not forthcoming. My mind kept mulling over the people in this book, what happened to them, their courage, their spirit. I ended up having to get out of bed and go get a cup of tea. I was up most of the night. Consequently I feel like a dead duck in a thunder storm.

It's all your fault Markus. It's all your fault for crafting such a remarkable novel. It's all your fault for making me care so much about these people, about Liesel, and Rudy, and Max, and Mama and Papa. It's all your fault for making me think about the plight of the ordinary German trying to survive in war-time Germany. It's all your fault for making me care about Death.

Damn you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Write On Radio Show day

It's radio show time again - a month swings around very quickly! The show is broadcast live at noon on Toroa Radio 1575 kHz AM in Dunedin, or live streamed from their website.

Here's the bits on my guests today:

Raymond Huber’s children’s novel Sting buzzed out into the world earlier this year. Raymond had previously written science books for school children, and this is his first work of fiction.We’ll talk about Sting and bees and the pleasures of combining art and science.

Joanna Orwin is the 2009 Otago University College of Education Children’s Writer in Residence. She is an award winning writer of many children’s fiction and non-fiction books. We’ll talk about her writing and the residency, and also about her more recent works including My Story, Kauri In My Blood. The Diary of Laura Ann Findlay. The Coromandel, 1921-24.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Murder Most Poetic

Hubby did a little Amazon indulging, and chucked in a couple of titles for me...

Murder Most Poetic: The Mystery Novels of Ngaio Marsh.
By Mary S Weinkauf

Can't resist anything Ngaio.

The Devil's Dozen: How Cutting -Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial Killers, by Katherine Ramsland

A useful book for a gal in my profession.

Hubby's indulgences involved books on Frank Lloyd Wright, and Sarah Susanka's The Not So Big House.

It never hurts to dream now, does it...

Sunday, June 7, 2009


A while ago I posted this Hone Tuwhare poem from the pavements of Queen Street in Auckland and asked if any one knew the context of it. Aspiring Writer posted this lovely piece about it, with the original Hone Tuwhare Haiku. (pictured below)

I wonder why the Queen Street version has replaced 'creek-bed' with the Maori word 'Horotiu', which makes it 18 syllables, and therefore no longer a Haiku?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Message du jour

Wisdom from the fridge...


Friday, June 5, 2009

And here's the Theakston's Short List...

I should have put this on my post yesterday, but it was too cold in my office and I was experiencing symptoms of mild hypothermia. Speaking of which, it is supposed to snow tomorrow - let's hope they get it right this time, as I'm still looking forward to that snow ball fight!

The short list for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year is:

- Death Message - Mark Billingham
- The Accident Man - Tom Cain
- Bad Luck And Trouble - Lee Child
- Gone To Ground - John Harvey
- Ritual - Mo Hayder
- Garden Of Evil - David Hewson
- A Cure For All Diseases - Reginald Hill
- The Colour Of Blood - Declan Hughes
- Dead Man’s Footsteps - Peter James
- Broken Skin - Stuart MacBride
- Beneath The Bleeding - Val McDermid
- Exit Music - Ian Rankin
- Friend Of The Devil - Peter Robinson
- Savage Moon - Chris Simms

Visit here to vote...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Theakston's Old Peculier

It's voting time again for the Theakston's Old Peculier (no, not peculiar, and I know your brain read it that way!) Crime Novel of the Year Award. This award is in conjunction with the Harrogate Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Britain, and the point of difference is...ta dah...it is decided by you, yes you can vote for the book you think deserves to be named the best crime novel of the year.

There is a short list you can choose from, so no, you can't vote for me, and I know you all would have, but you can go here to vote.

I've read three from the list, Death Message by Mark Billingham, Ritual by Mo Hayder and Exit Music by Ian Rankin.

If I was forced to vote on those three I'd be ticking Mo's box.

(Thanks Kiwicraig for the heads-up)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I swear...

...well, at least Sam Shephard does occasionally in my novels, and this oddly enough is about the only thing I get complaints about in reader feedback and email. I think this is hilarious, because no one seems to have an issue with the fact some one has been brutally murdered, and that bad guys are running around the place and people are being assaulted and dreadful things are happening. Noooo. I get pulled up because every now-and-again, when extremely provoked, Sam Shephard will let fly with an f-word.

I had one lady come up to me before a talk and ask very earnestly why I had to use language like that. And I explained, very gently that Sam Shephard comes off a farm, and had spent a lot of time around the shearing shed and her brothers, and when someone is busy trying to kill her or at least do her serious bodily harm she is most unlikely to come out with an "oh bother." So I think the f-word is quite well justified.

But it does make me chuckle that a rare swear word is offensive, but killing people is OK.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A bonus day and a movie

Today the kids' school (and most of them around the country) had a "Teacher Only Day." This phrase always has me imagining them tearing around the school, playing with the paints, playing on the playground , all under the influence of too much sauvignon blanc and partying it up - this is the teachers I'm thinking about, not the kids, in case you were wondering!

End result for us was a four day weekend - excellent, even if the weather left a lot to be desired. Today I got to do something I haven't done for well over a year - go to a movie. We trooped off to see A Night at the Museum 2. Like all movies with repetitive titles that end with the numeral 2 or 3 or 5 or 18 or whatever, it wasn't as good as the first one, but was still mighty good entertainment. It also got me thinking I must get to the movies more often, there's something about that big screen.

Museums would be splendid places to knock someone off, or dump a body, if you could get around the CCTV and those pesky kids. But it could be a good venue for a cosy thriller. Lots of interesting dioramas you could add touch of authenticity to, basements full of weird things in jars where you could pickle a little extra someone else, add a very fresh taxidermy display, that crocodile on the third floor could finally claim a victim, and why does the mummy look slightly taller this week? Hmmmm.