Katherine Hayton | 2014 December

December 2014

22 Dec / Negative Reviews

Okay. So, we’re all grown-ups here. I knew this was going to happen sometime. It’s one of those inevitable things like the fat content in ice-cream adhering to your hips via your eye-sockets, or drug mules producing evidence after being fed laxatives (we watched ‘The Mule’ the other day – some images stick.)

It happened on ******** a site I will not name. There I was, just casually checking out my own book – as you do – and I saw that my review number had increased.

I then saw that my overall rating had decreased. And the ulcer in my stomach chose that moment to sink its long fangs into my soft flesh.

On ******** the site that will not be named, there is a warning message to authors that comes up after bad reviews. It repeatedly gives the very good advice that you should not leave comments on negative reviews. It’s a bad idea. Suck it up and get on with your life. People appreciate bad reviews because it legitimises the good reviews that have been left.

It’s all great advice.

They even appreciate the fact that at the moment you’re reading this message your brain is interpreting it as BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH so they add in one final time we really don’t think it’s a good idea to leave a comment.

So that’s cool. I don’t want to be THAT author (and we all know what the Catfish I’m talking about, don’t we?)

I also don’t want to get on ******** site’s bad side since they were nice enough to let my work colleagues post reviews when Amazon thought we were involved in some sort of vast review conspiracy theory (instead of them obviously being the only people I’d managed to sell copies to) and kept obliterating them.

But look. Look here. Look what I’ve found.

It’s a BLOG!!!

And because it belongs to me I can talk about anything I like on it (subject to Blogger terms and conditions of conduct.)

And what I want to talk about tonight is a negative review. I’m going to dissect it line by line by line to my sweet little heart’s content. I’m going to pick it apart and find out what useful information it has for me.

Maybe there’s a measure of truth to be teased out of this situation, maybe there’s an actual problem aside from personal preferences to be addressed. And if not, at the very least maybe there’s some kind of message that will helpfully let kindred spirits of the reviewer know of their similarity and therefore give them the opportunity not to waste their money purchasing my book when it’s just not going to be their cup of tea.

Line by line sounds a bit too intense. Instead, I’ll dissect it word by word.

First word – AWFUL.

Full of awe. For some reason this version of the word has become sodden with negative energy, whereas the flip-side “awesome” has a sprightly core which positive vibes ring cleanly through.

Onto the second word.

Oh no, wait. That was it.

I don’t know about you, but after having written this vitriolic wee rant leading up to it, I now feel a tiny bit let down.

The reviewer in question downloaded a copy of my book from NetGalley. It’s a website that allows reviewers to download books for free in return for an honest review. It costs about $400 for a self-published author to list a book for six months, and in return we’re promised an interested and opinionated readership who don’t mind letting everyone know their thoughts. This is the second review generated from NetGalley, so at the moment is $200 worth of opinion. That’s US dollars, not our feeble NZ ones.

A review usually encompasses some or all of the following: a quick outline of the story, a summary of the writing style, a note on how reading the book made you feel and, if the reviewer is feeling generous, a quote from the actual text to illustrate some points or a brilliant tag-line of their own invention to sum up the reading experience.

Unless your education and upbringing was radically different from mine, you’ve probably been forced to write at least a few of these throughout your years of schooling. On a book you didn’t choose, and didn’t necessarily want to start, let alone finish. I’m betting that if you did your work may have reached the expanse of a sentence. Maybe a full paragraph. Maybe more.

I have a one word review of my own.


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21 Dec / Monday, Monday

Plans for a Monday would usually go something along the lines of, wake up appallingly early and be grumpy all day.

Tomorrow, however, is the most magical of things: a Monday when I’m on holiday. To celebrate I have made plans for the following:

1) Sit on the couch for a while. I’ve picked out a nice comfy spot. I’ve even worn down the sheepskin rug on top of the sofa in the shape of my posterior to make it more comfortable. I’ve managed this feat through long hours spent sitting in it already. Perfect.

2) Stand, sometimes on one leg for an unknown reason, aimlessly staring at various spots inside and outside of the room before sitting back down (I never used to plan for this, but since I end up doing it for serious amounts on time when I’m on holiday I’ve decided to allow serious amounts of time for it in my day plan)

3) Cooking, perhaps some food, perhaps something that I intend to be food but which holds it’s own ideas about what it will be and will end up making the trip straight from the kitchen to the rubbish bin in the garage without crossing anyone’s lips (not implying that if it did pass someone’s lips it would end up in the rubbish bin in the garage – it would end up somewhere else entirely)

4) Eating, said food or something in a package that I resort to when the food plan Bs me

5) Advancing from A Wolf Amongst Us episode 2 to A Wolf Amongst Us episode 3 or perhaps 4 (5 at a long-shot.) Deconstruct some more fables for me you Big Bad Wolf you

6) Doing the one last thing that I needed to do before I left work on Friday, but completely forgot about and was going to do on Saturday, or Sunday, but didn’t because I didn’t want to (or I may put that off for another day)

7) Reading the book I’m currently reading, and maybe buying a few more to top up the never-ending reading list on my Kindle, and then thinking about doing something in order to get my own work-in-progress to the stage that it could go on someone else’s Kindle, and then not

Around this time I expect that my darling will return from work where he is going and my plans will be finished for the day, but I will not be forlorn because I can repeat it all on Tuesday, or just the bits I still feel like doing.

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I have been waiting with glee for the weekend. Apart from being on holiday for two weeks, my berry plants have been ripening up ready for me to harvest their bounty.

There’s something truly wonderful about picking fruit direct from the plant, warmed gently by the summer sun, and popping it straight into your mouth.

For a start, it’s free. Everyone knows that free food holds no calories whatsoever.

For seconds, it’s fresh. Truly fresh. It hasn’t been picked way too early, then ripened in a temperature controlled environment, before being dumped into a plastic shield and displayed in a store under fluorescent lighting in a two-for-one special with a sign containing tiny regulation print to point out the country of origin that for-sure ain’t yours.

I’m not really into food-miles and all that jazz – I like food when I like it as much as the next person – but there is a difference. Imagine yourself taking a airplane journey half-way around the world, and then immediately driving from the airport to the supermarket. You wouldn’t be fresh either.

But back to my garden of deliciousness.

I would prefer fruit that would pick itself. A nice crop of strawberries that would jump into a punnet; cherries that not only pick themselves at the stem, but also protect themselves from the mass of hungry birdies that seem to think I grow fruit for their sole benefit.

Alas, it’s proved impossible to locate so far, so this afternoon I ventured forth into the garden armed only with a container and eight fingernails. I returned with scratches on my knuckles and hands from gooseberry spikes, scratches on my knuckles and hands from blackberry thorns, and scratches on my knuckles and hands from the spikes and thorns located next to the blackcurrant bushes through someone’s awful landscaping abilities.

Oh, and nothing at all from the three miraculous cherries that have so far survived into ripeness.

I now have some rather ambitious plans to make a jar of gooseberry jam. The blackberries and blackcurrants are to eat whilst making this treasure. Unfortunately, it’s far too hot today to even think of making jam.

If it’s hot again tomorrow I may just have to eat all my fresh fruit before it deteriorates, and put my plans on hold until the next lot ripens.

I’m also wondering if I should perhaps invest in a pair of gloves. I do have some nice evening ones that I rather fancy would protect me very well from the gooseberry bush attacks. All the way to my elbow.

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19 Dec / Bazookas

Weight gain has some beneficial side effects. I don’t know if you’ve heard about them, but along with the jiggle in your posterior, is a matching bounce in your anterior.

Yes – you guessed it. My cups floweth over.

I’ve had to invest some of my hard-earned money going up a bra-size, in two ways. An extra size to stretch around my extra back. And up a size to encompass the bounty around the front.

I think it’s my childless equivalent to being in the first flush of pregnancy. Whilst also somewhat encompassing some of the features of the later stages of this disease condition.

When I was a growing lass I often heard of the merits of being that most mythical of creatures, a double-d cup. This comes from having two brothers, who had a lot of similarly-gendered friends around.

I’m happy to announce that I’m well on the way. One more D to add and I’m there. Not sure that I’ll end up utilising my puppies in quite the same way as the women that my brothers were so entranced with, or at all.

In fact I think the only thing that they’ll be genuinely useful for is providing yet another reason not to go jogging. Can’t ever have too many reasons not to go out and exercise.

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18 Dec / The best holiday

Much as I love my darling (a loaded sentence beginning if ever I heard one) I still can’t get around the fact that the best type of holiday is the one that you take by yourself.

Maybe that’s my selfishness shining through, but there’s something truly lovely about waking up in the morning and having no one to please but yourself.

The reason may be that I moved straight from my parent’s house to my darling’s, or it could just be that everyone who lives full-time with someone needs a break sometimes. It’s not that I kick him out or anything, just spend the day at home while he goes to work.

I do love holidaying together as well. Our trip last September was probably the best vacation we’ve had in years, and I did enjoy every darling-filled moment. The thing is, even when you’re relaxing together you’ve still got to consider someone else’s feelings every time you make a decision.

I want some ice cream. I’ll have some ice cream. Why is he staring at me like that? Do you think he may also want some ice cream? Am I meant to offer him some of my ice cream? Why doesn’t he just get his own ice cream?

The stress can get to you.

And, to be fair, I thought this was an understanding we shared. There have certainly been numerous occasions where I have struggled to work while my darling has lazed at home. Calling me during the day to remind me of how wonderful the noon-day sun is when you’re outside on the lounger. The b*****d.

But apparently he doesn’t feel the same way.

I have been looking forward to Monday and Tuesday next week. I have been looking forward to them for a long time. I have a full two weeks worth of holiday, but I have been particularly looking forward to the first Monday and Tuesday of it.

Can you guess why?

Full marks to the lady in the corner – I was indeed planning on spending those two days alone at home while my darling was being a banker somewhere.

I was going to wake up, in the morning maybe, and then I was going to… followed by a bit of… but nothing holding me to that because I might also need a bit of…

And then I walked through the door this evening to the surprise announcement that ‘If we don’t have enough work next week I’ve offered to take a couple of day’s holiday on Monday and Tuesday.’

Who are you, and what have you done with my soul-mate?

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17 Dec / Christmas posted

Only one week to go and I’m all sorted. Today I braved the elements and went outside in a howling gale to inch my way to the post-shop. Carrying a 45cm square box in a howling gale is not the easiest of tasks – my arm went flying straight out to my side more than once. I hope it was as amusing to anybody watching as it felt like to me.

But I managed. If I didn’t get the package in the mail today, then the laughingly described 2-3 day postal service wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas. And then I would be a BAD AUNTY. I hope now it gets there in time and therefore I’ll be a GREAT AUNTY.

I’m so good that this year I didn’t even play with it unbox the present to make sure all the component parts were in there. I have sent a virgin drone to my nephew.

It will admittedly be incredibly embarrassing now if the present is opened on Christmas Day and it doesn’t work.

However, I will be at the other end of the country at the time so it possibly won’t affect me much at all.

We do have one more Christmas present to organise. This one involves posting ourselves down to Queenstown for some festivities, sans luggage for some insane penny-pinching reason. Half-way through the walk to the post office this actually seemed like an easier feat – but with the package safely dispatched it’s starting to weigh on my mind again.

I’m hoping it’s a cold day and I can wear two to three layers of clothing so I have some options down there. If you catch me at the airport looking extremely rotund that’s almost certainly the reason.

Almost certainly.

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16 Dec / Personality

We have been doing a lot of personality testing in the office lately. That perhaps is a misleading statement to start off with, actually we’ve only been doing one personality test, but it’s per person so once you multiply that by 70-odd (very odd) people it does seem like a lot of testing is going on.

We’re not doing it through some fancy organisation or anything right and proper. We sourced a couple of free links, and sent it out to our teams to let them complete it at their leisure. Leisure sometimes interrupted by a pointed reminder. At one stage there was a vision of a large board or poster with everyone shown on it, but restriction on printing prevailed and much smaller, and much more fun, things have been done instead.

A lovely website has posted everyone’s Myers Briggs results as a type of shoe. This has the rather dubious attraction of being instantly categorisable, rather memorable, and also presents the opportunity for a shoe-themed dress up day if anyone could get the motivation to get something like this organised.

I want to be absolutely clear on this point – I’m not volunteering. If you’re from my office and you’ve stumbled across this blog that I’ve brilliantly disguised by using by real name then you can put it right out of your head.

My personality type may enjoy an organised desk, but it does not get on well with the minutiae of everyday life. Unless I happen to be really incredibly into something at the time, in which case I can happily pour hours of my life into finding out every last detail of something that no one will ever want to include in polite conversation.

The relative temperature of decomposing bodies for instance, and the rises therein caused by insect activity at the height (it ain’t lofty) of the Christchurch summer. How this varies according to different insect species, and how insect species vary according to locale. For some reason these things just never seem to slot into the conversation after ‘lovely weather we’re having,’ though it always seems possible to me that it could.

But I ramble.

I’ve discovered that my personality type according to Myers Briggs is INTJ. I actually discovered this many years ago, and each time I take a personality test it comes through stronger. That’s lucky, because it would be embarrassing to tell everybody about how great your personality type is, explain exactly how to interact with me, and then have it change.

Interestingly, it appears that the main characters in my stories are also INTJ personality types. Totally unexpected that. Suppose the words ‘made-up’ don’t hold as much weight as it may sometimes appear.

Again though, this is okay because INTJ is the greatest personality type in the world. Everyone else in my team has this weird thing in their stressors list – it goes something like ‘dismissing how I feel’ and ‘not being appreciated for the daily help I give.’

What are we? Hippies?

Mine says ‘dismissing my logical decisions,’ which is just practical advice because everybody knows that the INTJs in the office are the ones who have the best and most practical solutions. If it isn’t going to work, it doesn’t appear in our heads.

There’s also something in there about ‘challenging my competence.’ Yeah. Don’t do it. If you question me about my capability I’m likely to do something like – oh, I don’t know – dismiss how you feel as I point out how inferior you are in every single way and why you’re not the person to be sitting in judgement of me because you just don’t have the required ability and your opinion is not appreciated.

Sometimes even I think I’m harsh in these situations, and I don’t do feelings.

I presume that everybody is like me in the sense that they think their personality type is best. It would be a sad thing indeed if you were, say, an ESTJ but desperately wanted to be an ISTP.

And if you’re wondering what type of shoe I am, it’s a goth boot. Self-contained, clever, and just a little scary.

How about you?

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Done, and done. No chance of writing things that people would want to buy. Good golly no. Who would want that?

When I saw this today on a passing tweet I thought, Yeah. That’s me. Not a sellout.

My next thought was, I wish I knew what would sell so I could write it.

Subsequent thoughts centered on all the things that I would buy if I could sell millions and zillions of books.

But then I thought sadly of all the unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things that wouldn’t have a voice if I didn’t lend it to them.

Money – unlikeable characters. Money – unlikeable characters.

Look, it’s not as though I’d actually be putting them to death or anything. I’m not a murderer. It’s just that I wouldn’t be breathing life into them. More like the morning-after pill than an infanticide.

I do like money as well. Or, at least, I like the things that I’d buy with it. The lots and lots and lots of things. But I don’t want to be greedy. Even just a house would be nice. Just a little itty-bitty holiday house on a beachfront somewhere with lots of sun. I’m easy to please, really.


No. Still bamboozled by the not-knowing what will sell.

Another mini-argument that ends up going nowhere.

Tell you what. I’ll write about my unlikeable characters, doing unlikeable things, and maybe next year that’ll be the thing that’s selling.


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14 Dec / Synopsis Woes

What to leave out? What to put in? Why can’t I find someone else in my household willing to write this for me? I’d pay them. Not well, but I would pay them.

It’s not really fair, is it? You expect me to write down 80,000+ words on a subject, and then just when I think I’m finished I have to boil that down into a 360 word summary as well. I thought that by being self-published I might escape this horror altogether, but alas it has wormed its way into all nooks and crannies of publishing.

I was going fine at first. I summarised each scene in each chapter, and then printed it out. My two to three word summaries still managed to somehow fill up four pages, but at least it was a start.

Then I wasted some hours minutes looking on the internet for how to write a synopsis. This is one of the finer things that the internet can be used for. Finding someone who’s done something prior to you and basically copying them.

I found a nice synopsis for Star Wars. It looked like it had been done before it was renamed into Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope which I absolutely refuse to say because I’m nothing if not a purist (and I haven’t seen any of the new ones so don’t understand how any of this franchise fits together any more.)

Great. I understand the storyline synopsised thus, and should therefore be able to put my own novel into the same format.

Set the scene. Done.

Introduce the protaganist. Done.

What do they want? I dunno. What’s standing in their way? Stuff. What’s the major turning point? The what-now.

What’s the bit that in the synopsis I’m reading is the equivalent of finding a death star and smashing it to smithereens? Mmmmmmm. No.

I quit to watch Star Wars again. It was a rollicking good story. Easy to break down into independent parts that basically beg to be summarised in a short synopsis.

I’m going to re-read a few passages and then get back to work. Maybe a few passages from my own story, maybe from the latest Sophie Hannah. Yeah, okay. Definitely the latest Sophie Hannah. If I finish that today I could summarise it into a synopsis to get a bit of practice in before going back to mine.

If any non-writerly people are reading this and wondering what a synopsis is, I’ll explain. A synopsis is a method by which the world makes sure that writers are punished for daring to pour their souls into the written word and bring to life events, characters, and scenery so that something wonderful and entertaining and enlightening exists where once there was nothing.

Or, to “synopsis” that down for you, Satan personified.

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