Saturday, June 17, 2017

A door closes, and another one opens

At the end of last year I decided I would most likely leave my job.
I'd been there five and a half years, which is long enough. I'd never ever been in one place that long, ever. I was ready for a change.
What precipitated this bold move was the opportunity for redundancy due to a work restructure; I'd basically lost my job and would be expected to apply for something new anyway, and voluntary redundancy was an option.
In fact, it was a golden opportunity. I could get stuck into my writing as I ecked out the redundancy payments, and when that ran out and I needed an income, assuming the writing 
wasn't paying off which is always the risk, I'd just get a job doing something else. Anything else. The opportunity was too good to let pass by, and the timing was brilliant. In fact, the whole plan was utterly brilliant and surely, surely, it was meant to be.
So I got stuck in, in joyful anticipation of my new life.  I made plans. There were spreadsheets and financial plans and time-management plans and deadlines for all this amazing work I was going to produce, and there was even, golly gosh, a huge overhaul of my inept Inbox and disorganised mess of folders and documents on the laptop.  I even postponed doing a couple of papers for my theology degree because I needed to spend the time getting the writing-ship in order. 
Friends - it  was such a good plan.
So when I got a phone call one night to say that I hadn't got redundancy, I could not believe what I was hearing.
Stunned silence was the phrase, as I thanked the bearer of this bad news, hung up the phone (old fashioned phone with a curly cord, people) and thought... what the hell just happened?
This was freaking unbelievable.
I had a plan.
When my colleagues found out, some suggested that they, the powers who had turned down my redundancy application, must value me and want to keep me on.
Screw valueing me and wanting to keep me on.
I was not flattered by that at all.
Because I had a bloody good plan. 
I had a new life as full-time writer waiting for me.
This was just so freaking unbelievable.
So I had to re-think all this. I had to start thinking about jobs to apply for in the new restructure since my one wouldn't exist, and there was no redundancy payment forthcoming.
One day, my boss told me of one of the brand new jobs I really should apply for.
It was a higher grade which meant a higher salary. It was also full-time.
Full time? Who did they think they were talking to? The reason I live with people who pay rent is so I don't have to work full time. 
I had no desire to be a slave to 8.30 to 5.00, five days a week. 
I decided to apply for a job, but not that one. I would get a part-time position, and focus on the writing a bit, and make the best of a hugely gutting situation.
But one weekend, away down in my beloved rural New Zealand, I pondered this some  more.
Maybe my superiors at work really did want me to consider applying for this job.  Maybe they did think I had something to offer. Maybe, I thought, I should at least not dismiss it without ponderation (legit word by the way, just looked it up) and, let's face it, there's nothing like actually earning a decent income which writing had not provided. Besides which, the job was good.
By the time I arrived back home, I had a change of heart.
I would apply for that job and I would make no more plans. I would delete the spreadsheets and the deadlines, and take serious heed of James in the Bible:  Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to such and such a town, stay there a year, and open up a profitable business.”  How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow?
James, brother, I hear you, for clearly I did not know what was going to happen tomorrow. So I applied for the job. 
I got offered the job
And I accepted the job. 
What it means is that my writing may go on hold as I adjust to this new opportunity.
Life surprises at times; doors really do open after one door closes and apparently, in most surprising ways.
To that end, please keep an eye on my Facebook or Twitter for details of some free book promotions coming up over the next week and with a bit of luck as time goes on,  words may be written or edited-- if I am still psychologically and physically sound at actually being a grown up and working a proper week like the rest of the world.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Secret Garden

I have been quite inspired to go and read some of the classics, following an article in one of the local papers about a father reading books with heroic girl characters, with his own daughters.  It so happened that I was away for a few days this past week and in the collection of books in the house, I found an old 1956 (from memory) copy of The Secret Garden.

So I decided to read it.
Now, two things struck me,
One was that I don't recall ever having read the story at all before.
And the second was that... I absolutely loved it. From beginning to end and in the middle, I loved it. I did skip over some of the garden description because, you know, short attention span and all that, quite unlike (I am sure) my grandmother who probably read this book when she was a girl and did no such thing as skip pages of botannical description.
It was actually a perfect few days to read something like this.  The weather was grand in that cold, early-winter way where the days are lovely, and there's not a lot of rain.
One afternoon I took a break from the Garden and went in search of some real gardens. As in giant ones, like farms, as I was, in fact, staying in the country - again.
One risks one's life walking down the rural roads because it's quite near to town, and people cut through quiet roads at a bloody great rate of knots so I'm forced to walk practically in the drain so I don't meet my demise.  What I do meet is the totally disgusting litter that people chuck out on the road. It's about time we launched an anti-litter campaign like they did in the seventies. Anti-litter art contests, telling adults off for littering, non-political songs that are just about common human decency to not pollute the planet with your crap. That kind of thing.
But there is also loveliness. 

Having left the road for a bit, I traipsed along the path by the stream and debated the sense of leaving home for an hour without an umbrella as the sky looked dodgy for a spell,  Then it cleared and it would have been a nice spot to have taken a snack, a thermos of coffee, like in the olden days, and the book, and plonked down on the grass (on a tartan rug, if I owned one) and read for a bit.

But then, there is the joy of finally arriving back home, quite knackered, actually, to a nice warm house with the fire going and the rest of the book waiting. Plus a date with the TV and the Lions v Crusaders in the evening.
The Secret Garden would have been a good one to read to the children, like we did the Narnia books, but not to worry - I read it to myself, though not out loud, and I thoroughly loved it.

Monday, June 5, 2017

How to Teach Your Kid to Drive

It's the Queen's Birthday holiday (Many happy returns, Your Royal Highness).
And here's a neat video. Absolutely not related to this public holiday (unless HRH had to teach her kids to drive?)
There's a whole series of "How To Dad" vids but thus one especially cracks me up.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Prideful Self Praising

I have taken it upon myself to invent recipes, mainly because, let's face it, half the recipes you read are just dumb. As in, who has these ingredients in the house?
Plus one gets a bit bored, no matter how much one just adores lasagne.
So the other night I was thinking what to have, and I sat there with my cook books (note that most of them were thanks to the library book sale, ridiculously great books at absurdly low prices - bliss!) and nothing jumped out as such, but I did have a brainwave.
Here is what I did;
I marinated sliced schnitzel in garlic, soy and a bit of peanut oil.
I chopped up pumpkin, carrots, an onion or two, discovered I had a lone choko, so added that in and roasted this with paprika, some sugar, (yes, a dash of sugar, oh the sin), some oil and I think that was it. Half way through I had another brain wave, and chucked in a can of brown lentils. To be fair, lentils could be one of those naff ingredients you don't have, but am a bit of a fan of them, so in they went.
And when it was all done, I just shoved it all in a dish with peas on the side.
Sweet food heaven.
It was so yummy, I had to restrain myself from prideful self-praising, because I would have got one of those "it's not that great" comments.
But it was that great.
It truly was.
PS: There is no picture of this stupendously magnificent dish, because to be honest, it doesn't look that great. It actually looks a bit of a disaster. You wouldn't want to bother, if I included a picture.
PPS: But here's a picture of those withdrawn library cookbooks.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

You Read That Trash?

Last week I gave a library talk on the romance genre titled "You Read That Trash?" as part of a heritage talk series. Romance novels of course are loaded with fabulous heritage aspects, from the amazing covers themselves, to the social history of women through the century.

One fascinating aspect was the popularity of medical romances and how, according to one commentator, it was because many of the writers were nurses, and as the National Health Service came into being in the 1950s, these women were keen to promote it amidst the changing landscape of health.

On the cover art front, several of the covers were designed by artist Jack B. Faulks who produced a lot of pop-culture covers. He often had the man standing just behind the heroine, as in the Nora Sanderson cover and the Essie Summers.

It was also an opportunity to look into the Mills and Boon company and see how they came to be publishers of romance novels; originally they were general fiction and non fiction publishers. They were the English publisher for Jack London, for example, and in one of the books I read there was mention of a letter Jack sent to Messrs Mills and Boon saying how happy he was with them marketing his books in England.

It was by the 1950s that Mills and Boon became a predominantly romance publisher. As Alan Boon apparently once said - we publish a very specialised list. Even Shakespeare would have trouble getting on it!

It was an absolutely fun talk, some good questions were asked, and I think I got behind all the crap about romance and the appeal of it, to present it as a genre that in no way should ever suffer the disdain (or as the kids would say - hate!) that it still suffers from today.
As one of the women said afterwards in the Q & A - I might have to give romance a try, after believing all the propaganda for years!


Friday, April 7, 2017

What a tragic number of books read in March

This past month (that would be March) was pretty pathetic in the reading stakes

I was pleased to see one of the books I judged for the Romance Writers of America RITA awards that I gave high scores to had finalled. Always nice to know that what I think is a really great romance novel is backed up by a finals placing.

I did read Shopaholic to the Stars but have to say that I am kind of over the series. The first few Shopaholic books I just raved about but now, am not so sure.  I do, however, just love Sophie Kinsella's single title novels to bits (The Undomestic Goddess, Can You Keep A Secret? and Remember Me), so will stick with those in future. While Becky always manages to redeem herself, she is, let's face it, an unbelievably annoying character.

I read an old David Baldacci, perfect for my recent flight down country - Stone Cold, part of the Camel Club series. A fast paced thriller sure has its place on the reading pile.

I currently have a stack of good old fashioned romances (thank you library) so as the weather turns cold, it sounds about perfect to get stuck in to those and hopefully have more good books to report about in May,

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...