Katherine Hayton | 2014 December
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December 2014

Well I have to admit I’ve started already. I’ve begun watching movies on the telly. To be fair I do have to start early because I’m planning on finishing early as well. It’s been many a long year since I’ve been able to stay awake until midnight.

If I was really serious about the whole tradition I could always do a Mr Bean and wind the clock forward a few hours, but that seems too much effort just so I can count back from ten alone (my darling would never join in) and then yell happy new year, and go to bed.

Easier to just play it out in my head now and not risk putting all the clocks in the house out of sync.

In a celebration of a faded memory I did have jelly and cream for dessert tonight. Followed an hour later by my latest crop of ripe cherries (five, two of them untouched by birdlife.)

We are also trying to get some sort of New Year’s Day family celebration thingee going. Cafes in Christchurch haven’t been very compliant so far, so at the moment the plan is to have a picnic somewhere.

The botanic gardens has been suggested as a suitable spot, maybe the Port Hills if it doesn’t get too windy, or the front yard of someone’s house. All equally fine suggestions as long as the house isn’t ours. It would be nice to venture slightly further afield however, maybe even Nunweek Park if we’re lucky.

In honour of the traditional picnic basket spreads from my childhood I’ve baked a bacon and egg pie. I’ve eschewed the various fancy recipes on offer throughout the internet, in lieu of the traditional one that I keep in my head.

It stays in my head largely through simplicity. There’s pastry (or else it wouldn’t be a pie) and bacon and egg. I occasionally go all out and sprinkle on some pepper and salt, depending on the salinity of the bacon chosen (on special of course!)

The main problem with this sudden display of domesticity is that the smell of a beautifully cooked bacon and egg pie has permeated the entire house. The entire house where I’m currently not eating many carbs, and my darling is not eating much fat.

I say it smells beautiful, but it’s more like torment.

Never mind, it’s nearly nine o’clock so I’ll be heading off to bed shortly and wake up tomorrow with the smell dissipated and the New Year here.

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30 Dec / Back

Yesterday I woke up with an incredible pain in my back. This is not unusual, I find it difficult to fall asleep but once I’m there boy I don’t wake up for nobody.

If it’s just a sleep related injury though, it usually dissipates in an hour or so. The worst part is trying to get out of bed when you have to move the back you know is locked in position out of position. Sometimes I fall asleep again trying to work up the physical courage.

This turned out not to be a usual sleep-related injury though. After a couple of hours with no relief, I tried taking some painkillers. After a couple of hours with no relief from those either, I tried complaining a lot.

And then to my horror I woke up with the same pain this morning.

It genuinely feels like someone has twisted both of my arms behind me, and then kicked repeatedly at my upper back.

I’ve been keeping a careful eye on my darling. He’s denying all knowledge of it, but there’s no one else in the house now is there?

Complaints recommenced this morning and have been continuing pretty much unabated for the rest of the day. The only bright point so far is that I’ve groaned my way out of some exercise this morning and this evening, and will continue to do so until I’m fully well (and then a further week or so just to ensure I don’t have a relapse.)

Luckily, I’ve had lots of editing to keep me occupied, and lots of television to partially watch. I’ve also been running a Kindle Countdown sale so my main focus of attention has been hitting the refresh button on my screen to see if I’ve clocked up any new sales. Such fun.

I’ll give it another couple of days, and if it’s still not healed up I may have to think about sometime making an appointment to see a doctor maybe.

I’m back to work on Monday so that would probably be the most appropriate day.

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29 Dec / Categories

For the last few days I’ve been playing with Amazon KDP. I have a new book coming out on January 25th 2015 (do you like the way I shoved a subtle plug in there, eh?) and I’m trying to get it into a couple of categories which are genre applicable.

I don’t mean broad categories either, I mean nice and specific and in which I may have a chance of my book actually being found by someone casually browsing their favourite niche book categories.

First I started off well enough with the BISAC codes where I can just select what I want, but everything after that has gone straight downhill.

My book is applicable for the New Adult category. Amazon has not yet put this out there as an option, so I’m trying to get it into the Teen & Young Adult category (whilst restricting the age to 18+) and also into the normal Adult categories.

As well as this I would like the categories that I select under Book to also be the categories that Amazon put the title into under Kindle eBook.

You may think this makes sense, and would be somewhat automatic. You would be wrong.

Young Adult – Social Issues. I can directly select this category under the BISAC codes and it shows up perfectly well under books, but Kindle just isn’t going to go there.

Fine. I’ve been around this block before, I can just try to hack it then using Keywords. Keywords like Teen & Young Adult, Social Issues. Great. And it only uses two of my seven keywords, so I can try to maneouver it into a few extra places, like Mysteries & Thrillers for old people.

Well I got ahead of myself there, didn’t I?

On the bright side it ended up in Thriller>Conspiracy which I hadn’t foreseen at all. Probably because I hadn’t nudged it in that direction. On the other hand, that could maybe apply?

I stripped the whole caboodle back. I determined that the reason it hadn’t been successful was due to overwhelming the system with options. So the next time I went in I tried taking out all reference to adulthood and mystery and just trying to get some teen social issue action going.

Nope. Now it was Kindle eBook Teen Literature, but nothing social about it.

So I tried to directly hack all of the keywords by typing in every subcategory exactly as they appeared on Amazon, down to beginning with Kindle eBook.

Nope.

I should probably point out about now that each attempt takes a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 48 hours to perform. Each time I submit new keywords or new categories I have to wait for Amazon to check all of the content again and make sure that it still meets their guidelines. My deepest fear now is that at some point they get cheesed off and say NOPE. Reject. And it won’t end up anywhere at all.

I thought that perhaps I should try for an easier category. I’m from New Zealand, there’s a section for Australian & Oceanian that I could possibly squeeze into. I’ll take a break from haranguing the Teen & Young Adult market and I’ll just try to shove it in there instead.

Prove to myself that my magic wasn’t completely gone.

My magic is completely gone. It ended up in the category Fiction>Literature. That’s the category that EVERY SINGLE BOOK ON AMAZON THAT’S FICTION GOES INTO. It’s not a category at all, unless you need to tell it apart from television sets or car radios.

If I exhaust all possibilities I could always try to contact Amazon Support and ask them for help. But that seems to work in direct opposition to everything that attracts me about self-publishing. ie I never want to have to communicate with anyone at all because I’ll be doing everything myself.

Still, it may come to that.

So make a note to look out for Skeletal by Katherine Hayton on January 25th. With any luck it’ll be listed in Non Fiction>Lifestyle>Garden Gnomes by then.

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28 Dec / Use by Dates

My favourite part of supermarket shopping is getting a bargain on an item I was going to buy anyway. If I can knock 50%, or even 25%, off the meat bill I feel like I’ve won something.

There’s a bit of skill involved in this though. Not just seeing and grabbing the items on special, but also co-ordinating the storage later so that all items are consumed or frozen by their best-before or use-by dates.

I did pretty well yesterday – three meat bargains, at a fraction of their original cost. Two of these were chicken which not only started off on special, but were then further discounted for quick consumption. Yeah baby – that’s the good stuff.

The chicken had to be cooked up by the end of today, and the other meat special – scotch fillet steak – has to be consumed by the end of tomorrow.

All was going well. I planned out cooking up the first packet of chicken for lunch yesterday, the first half of steak for tea, the next packet of chicken for tea tonight, and the last steak tomorrow. There would be some pieces of cold chicken surviving the original cook which could be consumed at my leisure for snacking.

But yesterday was very hot, and I didn’t feel like cooking my lunch at all. Not. At. All.

Not to worry, I just pushed back the cooking of the first packet of chicken until lunch today. And then the second for tea. I went ahead with the steak on schedule because hunger and cravings won out over laziness and hotness. That’s the correct use of the word hotness, right?

Then at lunch today, again I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t actually wake up until almost ten o’clock because someone has decided their snoring device is for work-nights only, and apparently doesn’t know the way to the couch.

My tiredness finally overwhelmed my noise control issues at two-thirty this morning so it took longer than usual to get the required amount of sleep. You’d think with all that extra time awake at night I would’ve found something useful to do, but I was surprisingly unproductive lying in bed with every muscle tensed with annoyance.

To be fair, I could’ve cooked up ALL the chicken tonight and still met my deadlines, but I vastly preferred freshly cooked chicken over cold cooked chicken any day.

So the wooshing sound tonight as I lie trying to sleep won’t be from my beloved’s unholy tongue positioning, but instead from the use-by date on my chicken rushing by.

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27 Dec / Editing

Although that’s not entirely true. Someone has kindly done my editing for me, and I’m now just going through and accepting changes, rejecting changes or making up new paragraphs to avoid decision-making about changes.

The good, even great, news is that I have the editing suggestions sitting in front of me, and I now have a very good chance of meeting all my targets for publication. The drawback is that I now have the very good chance of meeting all my targets for publication as long as I do some work.

I’ve been trying to do that for a couple of days. All those times my darling has walked into the room and interrupted by blank stare at the television that isn’t allowed to be turned on during the day anymore, that’s when I’m working at editing.

The times when I walk into the garden for a break, and then forget to come back inside, I’m working at editing.

When I wander into the front room to choose a new outfit to combat the intrusively hot weather which really should come equipped with a swimming pool, and then try on all my clothing to see which pieces no longer fit, I’m editing.

If you were my editor I’d say it’s going really well. If you’re a potential consumer for my book I’d be worried.

It’s not that I mind making corrections, or decisions, or decisions about corrections, but I hate being wrong.

When I’m at real-paying-job-work I smile and laugh about my errors to display to everyone that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. Inside, I’m growing a lump of self-hatred at the thought that I mucked something up, and a matching lump of outward-hatred towards whoever picked the error up. That gets really complicated when I pick up my own errors.

Part of this is being an introvert and under the pre-programmed expectation that everyone is going to laugh at me. This is why I don’t talk to strangers at the airport, or friends at parties. To my introverted eyes everyone is poised to find anything I say, do, think or feel is hilariously out of step with societal norms.

Some may say I’m sensitive. Some may say I’m touched. I won’t say anything, because I might be wrong and then you’ll laugh at me and exclude me from the herd.

And do you know why I’ve spent so long telling you about my personal insecurities on the blog tonight?

Yip, you guessed it!

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26 Dec / Waiting

Airport lounges are wonderful inventions which fit in nicely with most hotels propensity to kick you out hours before any flights are scheduled.

Only being on a domestic journey this time, it was even more amusing to have a view straight down into the international departures area where passengers nerves were already being frayed before they could even so much as step onto the plane.

There was the man and his wife who were paged by the boarding gate. I couldn’t quite make out why. He arrived slightly disheveled and looking and acting very much like Woody Allen. Pre-scandal.

He busily explained with copious hand movements exactly why the check-in procedures didn’t apply to him and his very much younger wife. The airline representative then explained exactly why they did and exactly how they would be penalised for thinking they did not.

This went a couple of rounds – gradually the passengers’ faces grew disillusioned, and then resigned. They sat down. There was a brief flurry of activity when the man reignited things at the desk after remembering the key piece of information that was going to change everything, but this ended with slumped shoulders and him sinking back into his seat.

It was at this point that the guy with the violin started up.

Tweet: I’m not sure why anyone’d think an airport departure lounge was an appropriate place to practice a musical instrument, but practice he did.

It would have made some sort of sense if he’d opened the case in front of him to accept donations, but there was none of that. Instead the passengers with the misfortune to be sitting closest to him plugged their ears with an assortment of devices, while the man opposite gave up and went to sleep.

After a half hour of torture practice, the man packed away his violin and there was a relieved wave of activity as earphones were removed and people went back to what they’d been doing previously.

The violin is part of his hand luggage of course, which is why he has it at the departure gate. Those passengers could be in for a long flight.

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25 Dec / Trapped

Once upon a time, many years ago now, my darling and I went out at night in Sydney. We were there on holiday, and chose to go tourist-as-all-get-out by having our evening meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Centrepoint tower.

If you haven’t been to Sydney, this is a very thin and very high tower in the middle of the Sydney CBD. The bottom floors are taken up with a mall with exits to major streets in Sydney, and then there is an elevator that takes you up, up, up to the very top to the restaurant.

At the time we went it would perform a complete revolution every hour. There were large windows all around the side of the restaurant, and you would have an uninterrupted view of the Sydney CBD as dusk fell on the city. I heard later that the revolving part had stopped, so to see the full view you actually had to walk around and stuff, but I’m sure the experience would still be wonderful.

The meal was a smorgasbord, and you would step from the revolving floor portion where the tables were located, to the fixed portion in the middle of the restaurant to fetch each course, and for the facilities and exit elevator.

Anyhow, on this night we’d enjoyed a great meal – with far too much dessert, the hallmark of any truly good smorgasbord – and made our way down in the elevator.

My darling and I are early diners, and fast eaters, and although we’d travelled up in the elevator with a group of people, we made the journey back down to the ground floor levels alone.

We exited the elevator and tried to walk out of the Centrepoint Mall through our usual exit. It was bolted shut. The retail trading day had come to a halt and no new entrants were being allowed, so we turned around and tried to find another exit that was still operational.

Malls are neither of our favourite thing. There’s too many shops, and too many people. Although this one was only occupied by ourselves at the time, it still felt as though it was crowded with people – the dead-eyed stare of many a shop mannequin upon us at every turn.

All up, it probably took us fifteen minutes to find a way out of the maze we’d found ourselves in. Not much of an adventure it’s true, ‘the day I was trapped for a short amount of time in Australia’s most famous city’ doesn’t have the ring of a great thriller about it, but it still left an imprint.

Over the intervening years, there’s certainly been more than one night in which I woke from a nightmare of endless corridors all leading to bolted exits.

Today was (or still is for a little while) Christmas Day in New Zealand. We’ve celebrated with family for much of the day, and after returning to our hotel room this evening we decided we felt a little bit peckish and headed out for a light evening meal.

We found a certain theme developing as we walked through the streets of Queenstown – many shops and restaurants are closed for the holiday, but there were still plenty left to choose from. A Vietnamese restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a Korean restaurant. There’s a trend in the cultures that do and do not observe Christmas day closing.

At one point we went down a down escalator to a food court – the escalator had actually stopped working at some point so we had to physically move ourselves down the steps. For some reason this involves more effort than walking down a similar size staircase would.

The portions of the food court that were open were McDonalds and a Turkish Kebab shop. After a quick perusal of their menu we decided that we would prefer to sit down in a proper restaurant setting, rather than the plastic seating area in the basement of a mall, and headed up to exit back onto the main streets of Queenstown (once again on an escalator that forced us to use our own steam.)

At the top we found a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of the electronic doors we’d so recently entered through. On closer inspection the newly placed sign seemed to refer to the gigantic padlock that was now holding these doors firmly shut.

Unphased, we turned around and saw another exit downstairs. Probably the one we should’ve used in the first place.

Grumbling only a little bit, I headed back down the frozen down escalator, and we walked through the basement exit.

Or at least, we walked through it until we reached a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of electronic doors which had a gigantic padlock holding them firmly shut.

Trapped in a mall. The nightmare came full-circle.

My breath came a little faster and my forehead glistened with sweat.

This may have had something to do with the fact that I’d just been clambouring up and down stalled escalators, and it was 28 degrees outside, and slightly hotter inside (for Fahrenheit and non-tropics based people, that’s very hot.)

Or it may have been something to do with the past reliving itself in the present.

Luckily we joined forces with a group of fellow desperate-escapees and managed to exit by climbing up the internal stairs to the McCafe and pushing aside a white plastic security gate.

We emerged, gasping for air, onto the street. Some of us were clutching beige, red and yellow bags of food. My darling and I were not.

A Thai restaurant that had a wide-open front door, and outdoor seating drew our attention shortly after, and we had a lovely chicken stir-fried rice (him) and chicken stir-fried egg noodles (me) before stopping for an ice-cream to eat in the heat of the park. That was our little treat to make up for the terror of being trapped.

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24 Dec / Hills

My darling and I touched down in Queenstown today, all ready to celebrate The Lord’s birth in some style. The day has been absolutely beautiful; hot sun and brilliant blue sky. The fact that we left exactly the same in Christchurch doesn’t detract from it one bit.

In fact, here is a gorgeous view out of our hotel room window which didn’t take very much standing on of chairs or zooming in of lenses to get at all:

There are the usual drawbacks you face when you’re away from home:

– my wardrobe didn’t travel with me so when I felt like slipping on a pair of comfy pants my choices were underwear or purchasing some brand new Queenstown-priced sweatpants

– we don’t have a toaster, but that’s not so bad because

– we don’t have bread either. Or butter. Or a knife.

We do inexplicably have access to a lot of wine and beer which is exorbitantly expensive, but only teeny tiny pottles of milk which isn’t.

Oh, and the hotel is very kindly putting on a special menu tomorrow for Christmas Day, which they informed us of in the same sentence as they informed us that this wouldn’t effect us because it was already fully booked. That’s either customer service or callous disregard – I can’t quite decide which.

Everything would be trucking along just lovely except, Queenstown is different from Canterbury. I don’t mean the boatloads of tourists all speaking different languages, or the way the prices all have a 10% location top-up, or even that there are ducks bobbing about on the beach because it’s freshwater and not saltwater.

No. Those things are strange, but that’s most of the reason you travel to another city, isn’t it?

The difference I’m talking about involves more effort than those things. Serious effort. Effort that starts off in my calf muscles, rises quickly to my thighs, and ends up in blinding white-hot pain in my lungs.

Yes, you guessed it. Queenstown has hills.

Christchurch does have some of these ridiculous things also, but you really have to set your mind to it to get to one. And climbing them would just be bizarre unless you happen to own a property at the top. And that property hasn’t tumbled down to the bottom in an earthquake.

So, beautiful views out of the hotel window, or the peace and quiet of knowing that you can make it back to your room without breaking into a sweat?

So hard to choose.

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23 Dec / Not Food

‘Tis the season to eat too much food… (fa la la la lah la la la lah)

Knowing that Christmas Day is likely to consist of a wall of non-stop food, and a breakfast sliding into brunch into lunch into afternoon tea into tea into supper into unconsciousness kind of meal plan, I thought it best to exercise some restraint today to offset it.

That’s exercise some restraint, not “exercise” – I haven’t changed my opinions on that one.

Since not eating wasn’t really in the spirit of being at home alone on holiday, I instead tried another tactic. Eating something I like to refer to as ‘not food.’

Not food consists of diet soft drink – Coke Zero and don’t look at me like that, it’s okay as long as I’m not in the office. Yes I did just make up that rule, someone’s got to.

It also consists of a substance that someone in a marketing department somewhere decided as a laugh to call diet pasta when what they really meant was tasteless plastic consistency not-food that smells unpleasantly of fish. Or Konjac as others would call it. Another name for the plant from whence it came is devil’s tongue. That is most appropriate.

But in any case, woman cannot live on insoluable root fibre alone. She needs ice-cream.

In the quest for the perfect diet food of course, I couldn’t actually indulge in the dreaded full-fat full-sugar nicety that is ice-cream. I considered eating some Zilch low-fat no-added-sugar ice-cream, but decided that even that was not an appropriate substitute. Mainly because I’d already eaten the container that I’d purchased in the weekend for emergencies only.

You’d be surprised how many emergencies there are in suburban Christchuch. It’s full on.

Luckily I had laid my hands on a machine that promised to deliver a product akin to soft serve ice-cream through the simple provision of a couple of frozen bananas.

Much to my darling’s disgust I do still believe in the infomercial fairies and their product boxes. The last time I had a gift card in my possession I almost purchased a chocolate fountain. Luckily common sense prevailed, and after returning the doughnut maker to the shelf as well, I picked up a great invention called a Yonana.

Having only briefly scanned the product information before the consumer that lives in my soul screamed BUY IT! I had a vague idea that I was going to end up with something that turned frozen bananas and yoghurt into ice-cream-like stuff.

Turns out the Yo from the title was more in the fashion of a Yo Mama! type of expression, and no dairy goodness was required at all. Just the bananas.

Does anybody out there in internet-land want to hazard a guess as to what frozen bananas taste like? I’ll give you a tiny clue. It’s not soft-serve ice-cream.

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