Saturday, March 11, 2017

Three lessons learnt from the week just past

Three things I have learnt from the past week. All terribly important.

1) Always check your texts prior to heading out to the airport to catch a flight. Do not assume that the new 3am text is just confirming your on-line check in for your 11am flight. It may in fact be a text informing you that your flight has been cancelled.
This is especially annoying when you eschew taxis and shuttles for a much cheaper bus trip, and have just got on the last half hour leg of the bus trip to the airport. Even worse, you have no data or free wifi to check the website suggested in the FLIGHT CANCELLED text to sort out a new flight,  and you can't even turn around and go back home, but have to just sit there, on the bus, and watch, on approach to the airport, all the planes taking off.**

2) When you are buying lunch for someone, and they tell you what they can't eat because they have legit food issues, and at the cafe, you read the title of something, like, say, the Spinach, Pumpkin and Aubergine Filo, and that particular suspect food item (say, mushrooms) is not on the list, and you think it is safe, because surely they would have mentioned mushroom if mushroom was in there (it's a pretty significant ingredient, don't you think?) .... you will be WRONG.  
Extremely nice pancakes with cherries, from above cafe but on a different day.

3)  Do not assume that just because you have a very bad thing (see post) and the doctor said that sometimes it lasts a while and gets worse.... do not assume that, in fact, you will of course not be one of the poor souls for whom it lasts a long time and gets worse. It is going to last a long time.

**PS: In fact, got put on a flight two hours later to a different destination, with several refreshment vouchers in the interim for refreshment at airport cafes, and upon arrival at the alternative destination (Wellington airport), was bussed to original destination. Quite convoluted, but was not inconvenienced terribly by this turn of events, and indeed t'was reasonably pleasant, as watching beautiful New Zealand from bus is quite a nice anti-dote to the at-times depressing writing career and the bloody annoying ailment from point number three.

Somewhere in the lower North Island.

Monday, February 27, 2017

February reading list

Some great books this month, including some re-reads.
Not a massive list, as one spent a fair bit of
one's time not feeling all that great, and so listening to middle of the night talkback radio with the insomniacs, shift workers and the crazies (of which clearly I was in the last group) was entertainment enough.
Touching Midnight by Fiona Brand
The Earl's Mistaken Bride by Abby Gaines
Rake to Riches by Nicola Davidson
No One Knows by JT Ellison
Countdown to Zero Hour by Nico Rossi
Searching for Mine by Jennifer Probst

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Very Bad Habit that will be the death of me - or will it?

I have known for some time that the Very Bad Habit of sitting in bed, with a laptop, writing stuff, would one day be the death of me. Well, the death of a pain-free existence. I have thought this every time I have slumped in bed against dodgy pillows, admired the cat sleeping, a cup of coffee to one side, breathed a sigh of pleasure at just how good it all is, the luxury of it, got down to the business of writing, and known that one day, I would bugger up some bit of me because of indulging in this joyfulness.
And it has happened.
Just last week I was in bed-laptop heaven. Why go and sit on a chair at a desk? How boring, thought I, as I typed and backspaced and deleted whole paragraphs, cos I was touch typing and my fingers had been on the wrong keys.
This is the life, I mused, as I checked Twitter, email, then got back in to the writing.
The Culprit(s)
Not that I stayed on the bed the whole day. I did get up to make coffee (that would be instant) and get the mail (that would be, go down to the letterbox and walk back empty-handed), and maybe I did go further afield to buy a watermelon.
But for quite a bit of the time I was in a very bad postural position, and that night, I suffered.
Oh, sweet heaven, did I suffer.
I could not believe how bad it was. As in take-paracetemol-and-barely-sleep and take-more-four-hours-later kind of bad.
My colleague saw me taking them at work the next day, and said, "Have you got a headache?"
I wished I had a headache. It's less embarrassing than "I wrecked my own back acting like a moron."
Even worse, the following morning, at around 3am, when I took a couple more tablets to deal to it, they didn't kick in. That wonderful feeling of dissipating pain did not happen. Not enough to make it bearable.
I considered taking an extra capsule. I read the packet and it said not to exceed the dosage, and I did the maths and knew I had taken my lot already, but pain was not my friend and I decided, screw it. If I overdose and die, I will deal with that when it happens, but I can't stand this. So I took one extra, just the one, and praise be, half an hour later, it helped.
I was telling a friend about this the next day.
She was all, "You can't do that."
"I know I can't do it," I told her. "It says so on the packet. But I did it. I mean, people take heroin all the time and don't die. It's not as bad as that."
"No, seriously," she says. (Her partner is a doctor.)  "You can't do that with those things. It's dangerous. If you can't sleep, you should take a sleeping pill."
I don't own any sleeping pills, and it turns out that of course, she was dead right about my new little over-the-counter best friends, because apparently, even in small extra doses, they can damage your liver.
Another colleague gave me some anti-inflammatory pills from when she, too, had a bad back (I am a hundred years old just writing that) and then I went and bought some of my own cos I figured this annoying problem might still be around for another day or two, and whatever it was, it clearly needed treatment, and it was cheaper than going to the doctor, and I'd eliminated the usual suspects like appendicitis. Besides. I knew what I'd done.
Oh, yes, I knew what I'd done Miss Idiot-spend-the-day-in-bed-with-laptop.
But another couple of days passed and  now I was getting really annoyed. It wasn't getting any better and I was still going through these painkillers at the same rate. So I thought, right. I better go to the doc and start getting some physio or osteo, or whatever it is they do for morons who damage their own backs.
So I go to the doc and admit the truth.
I have been foolish, I told  her. I have been writing on my laptop whilst in bed, with no decent support, and now I am paying the price for this stupidity.
Let's have a look, she says, so I whip off my top and she looks at the area where I said I'd wrecked my back, and she says to me, You know you've got a rash?
What? No. A rash?
Yes, she says. And it's spread a bit. I think you've got shingles.
Shingles? I shriek.
You mean I haven't done in my back? I have a legit condition that is nothing to do with sitting in bed with a laptop writing with no decent back support?
I swear, that is what I was thinking. I was not dwelling on the horror stories of people suffering weeks and weeks of nerve pain and itching agony with spreading rashes, and hospitalisation and all that stuff. No. It was relief, sheer relief, that I had not indeed brought this misery upon myself. I have not caused this painful back condition.
So I have medications and tons more suitable painkillers, and time off work and instructions to rest and yes I am irritable and temporarily addicted to said little capsules, and I imagine I am itching on every part of my person now, and the doc did say it could get worse, the pain could sharpen, before it gets better, that is a fact.
But I am young and fit.
But I am alive.
And I am so happy I have not buggered my back by working in bed with the coffee, the cat and the lack of decently firm cushions.
I am so happy.
I am most likely the happiest Shingle sufferer ever.
Not that I will indulge in the laptop/bed/coffee/cat thing much more. I will sit at my desk with my chair and be good about that, and try and sit straight as I have had a close call. Even more, I shall not roll my eyes any more when idiots people go on about their backs and their precious "core" and other parts of their bodies like that. Maybe, albeit, discreetly, I will become a bit like them. But in private. No one needs to know anything else about what's going on with this body.
PS: I no longer think that itching is imaginary. Actually seems to be pretty legit.
PPS I have made the mistake of going on line and have seen images of people with shingles.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


 A few opportunities to grab tons of great reading over Valentines Day - in fact up until February 20th. Twenty five free books, naturally they're romances from sweet to paranormal to historical.... definitely worth checking out... a perfect gift to yourself!! Go to the pretty page below and have a look...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Free books for Valentines Day

A terrific free book promotion AND a Kindle Fire Giveaway
Marrying Melinda is included, free for a few days so please check it out and load up on books. So much fun reading.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Joanne song and the name Joanne

With Lady Gaga's Joanne song, album, and upcoming tour,  I'm sure there are a few people with the name Joanne who are not unhappy it's getting a bit of a lift.
My father claimed (and I choose to believe him) that I was named after Joanne Woodward, so am quite happy about that. I mean, to say.... Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman!  I accept and approve of that story about my name.

However. When I was about fifteen I decided Joanne was a dull-as name and I needed a new one. I toyed with Desiree (naturally taken from a book - Desiree by AnneMarie Selinko set in Napoleonic France) but for some reason I came up with the name Helena. It was (apparently) the most marvelous name ever, so much so, that when I got my driver's licence, I added it in.
That is correct - I just added it in.  I wrote my real names on the form, added in Helena as a third name and it got through and ... hello, Helena.
Cut to many years later when we got new photo drivers licences here in New Zealand for the first time. Ah, the novelty. Dad and I were comparing licences (which was actually looking at the photos and seeing how we'd fared) and he stares at mine and suddenly he blurts out "What the hell is Helena?"
For a moment I had no idea what he was on about, since I'd had it on my licence for the past twenty I mean twenty five  hundred years and was quite used to it.
"Oh that, dear Papa. Well, you see, it's quite funny really but there was a time, when I was fifteen...."
There may have been shaking of the head as in "Jo, Jo, Jo, whatever will become of you..."
So a few years later I had to get a replacement licence and I suggested they could get rid of the Helena.
Actually, they, the driver licencing people, suggested it, because there was no other record of this mysterious middle name Helena on any other documentation anywhere, and it would require something legal to say I was Helena, which of course I wasn't. In fact, they asked how Helena even got on there.
I wrote it down and added it in and they put it on the licence, I said.
They looked at me as if I was making it up.
Fortunately, I no longer liked the name Helena for myself, but of course, it is quite lovely for other people.
Possibly this desire for another more exotic sounding name was because the most famous Joanne song I knew was Michael Nesmith's "Her name was Joanne and she lived in a meadow by a pond." I think it must actually be a most brilliant song, because once you hear it, you find yourself singing it, even though you don't even like it.
You have been warned.
Joanne Helena

Friday, February 3, 2017

Is filling the well to be creative fact or fiction?

There is this whole thing about 'filling the creative' well. I first happened upon it reading Julia Cameron's The Artist Way, a fabulous book that was aimed at creative folk who were blocked from their art, or didn't feel they could be artistic (whether as a career or just for the fun of it.) It's an amazing workbook, recommended for anyone who wants to paint, write, be musical (or whatever it is you want to do), but feels they can't or shouldn't.
One of the things she talked about was doing things to 'fill the well' like take time out to go to a museum or a beach or a walk, or a movie, or a shop that makes you happy, that kind of thing.
What I learnt from that is that we are all different and what works for some doesn't work for others Now, I was not blocked or having problems over whether I should write (although she did address some things I was feeling like the guilt factor - whole other blog post there) but pretty much that book was pivotal in me sticking to writing, whether it became a career or not. I had worked as a freelance journalist for a while and written for some top New Zealand magazines over years, selling the odd article here and there. But writing fiction (or painting, or learning to play an instrument, or taking up pottery or anything else) was different.
©  | Dreamstime
Then a few years back I heard a talk by Stephanie Bond, a top romance writer, who said this simple statement: writing begets writing.
Writing begets writing.
And ever since then, I've realized she is absolutely right. Writing does beget writing. The more you write, the more you want to write You don't want to leave the story and go to your paying job, or have to go to that appointment. You want to stay at the keyboard
But,.. when you do stop writing, whether it be days or weeks or even months,  writing, in my experience, becomes the last thing you want to do And for me, personally, heading off to see a movie, or doing something like that, doesn't fill the will ... unless. it's with writer friends, like in the good old days of Borders where we'd meet up for coffee and hit the shelves and talk about our plans and dreams and our current books. They were such good times. That fills (if one wants to use the expression)  the creative well - for me - more than doing something else supposedly to get in tune with creation.
But we are all different - boy, are we different, thank goodness - so what works for one may not work for another. but I do think for most of us, that Stephanie Bond's words hold true whatever we do.
The more we do it, the more we want to do it. And if we need a break, its probably more to just have a break - that's what holidays are for - or to be really Biblical, that's what the idea of a one day a week break is (on the Sabbath). Even putting aside the religious aspect of it, its pretty simple, and ordained from thousands of years ago. Take a day when you don't work. Ease up. In today's context, take some time out, get away from the stuff that is wearing you down (most likely politics, the media, social media et al) and just have a day of doing whatever you want.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading round-up for January

Here's a list of some of the books I read this month, in no particular order, other than the order I remember them. Not a huge list, granted, as I read several non-fiction titles in January, and ended up re-reading several of my own novels to get some facts straight for future books in the series. It sounds crazy, but you do forget what you wrote, and need a series "bible" to remember the details
Here's the list, all great reads.
You And Me Always, Jill Mansell
Would like to Meet, Polly James
All of Me, Leanna Morgan
The Obession, Nora Roberts
Snow Kissed, Lisa Swallow
The Twelve Days of Christmas, Debbie Macomber

Will see what progress I make on the TBR pile in Feb. Given I've just bought more books for the Kindle this month, and have had some library holds come in, it's anyone's guess!!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The enormous appeal of romance novels - why we love them

I'm giving a talk in a library in a few months on the appeal of romance novels so have been thinking a bit about it.
Everyone no doubt has a different reason for why they like a good romance. Just as those who read thrillers like the anticipation and the ride of the journey, those who read romance novels are effectively, I think, reading a story that ends in a better world than the one it started out with: the reader promise or reader expectation, as they say. It has to have a happy-ever-after but within that, there are a number of elements that make a romance such a great read, and that actually tie in
Cover photo of upcoming story "Belinda's Valentine"
with real life.
For a start, experiences change us. Whoever we meet, whatever we do, we're often influenced, and that's just the way it is, and is generally a good thing. Generally,  a good thing.
Relationships, whatever they are, are the essence, if you like, of being human. Helping, loving, serving, mentoring, parenting, caring... and in a romance, there's more to it than just the two people. More elements to life that come into the story whether it be the single mum getting through life with her children (one of my favourite themes) or the CEO facing corporate problems with widespread effects, or those military themes - there can be a ton at stake in the wider world, there. There are always other relationships going on, and as people, as humans, that interests us.
Some years back I heard a talk from a bookstore owner on the appeal of the genre and she said that they were 'empowering' books. Now, that sounds like a very 70s term (or 60s, or 80s?), but it made so much sense to me. I thought about reading in my early teens, reading stories of young women starting off in life, moving out of home, going flatting, getting jobs, being independent, managing their own money, making their own important decisions, and those books had huge appeal for me. Generally there was some sort of love-interest going on, as happens in life, but they were stories that made you think of all the possibilities out there, how life could be, how challenging it could be, and how you would deal with those problems when they came up, but also how exciting it all was, getting to be a grown-up. Romance novels, while they are about the romance, are also about the individual on the cusp of a new life - a new adventure in life. It's more than coming of age, too, because the older you get, the more you realise... we are constantly, coming of age. At what age, are we meant to have magically arrived? Oh gosh, that's a whole other blog post right there.
I think it was Nora Roberts who once called her books "relationship" books. They're all about the people. Often it's the relationships surrounding the couple that are hugely important - the single mum with children and a dodgy ex, for example - where it lends itself to all the different themes - getting over past hurts, forgiveness, redemption, all that heavy stuff.
And it's all great stuff.
I'm pretty sure I'll be thinking a lot more about all this over the next few months!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nook, Kobo and iBooks

Just a heads-up that I am putting several of my books back on iBooks, Nook and Kobo.
So far Dating Daisy and Falling for Jack are there, and this time next week I hope that Charlotte's Wish and Finding Farrell, all going to plan will be available across the wider platforms as well. There are advantages as an author to having them exclusive to Amazon, but wider readership is always what we're after, and so it will be great to have them available through iBooks, Barnes & Noble etc.
The current cover
The old cover for Falling for Jack