Katherine Hayton | Katherine Hayton’s Blog
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Katherine Hayton’s Blog

24 May / Making a friend

Back in the old days when I smoked, I used to tear off the end of the cigarettes in order to get my full-scale nicotine hit faster. It was no use dragging in a breath when they were full-length – the smoke would dissipate to almost nothing by the time it reached my lips.
 
Although, every time I was asked, I laboriously pointed out the perfectly acceptable explanation for me doing so, people around me (usually also smoking) still used to give me funny looks. Of course, I could have fallen into step and smoked the damn things whole, but I’m stubborn and I would also miss out on the enormous dizzy relaxation of the first puff after long hours of abstention. Mm. Those are the memories that almost get me lighting up again.
 
One year, I decided to give up smoking and unlike every other time I’d made that decision, something tipped the balance. I’d noticed on hot days that breathing didn’t come as easily as it used to. Sometimes I’d draw in a deep breath and feel the same as I did when I exhaled.
 
At the time, the government had just introduced foul pictures onto every packet of cigarettes and every sachet of rolling tobacco. You probably know the ones: diseased lungs, lumpen hearts, mouths teeming with cancer where teeth used to grow.
 
It was all rather disgusting to look at but it didn’t scare me at all. As for dying of lung cancer, well. You gotta die of something, right?
 
What finally tipped the balance for me was the realisation that I mightn’t die of those things at all. Instead, I might have to live alongside them, fostering a disease that sapped away the last of my pleasure but offered no respite in return.
 
Dying of lung disease didn’t cut it. Spending my life living in and out of the respiratory ward of the hospital did.
 
Anyhow, a few years after I quit cold turkey and tried not to look back, I stumbled into a colleague who snapped the ends of her cigarettes off before she smoked them. Every single time. When she saw me looking at them, stunned, she began to enlighten me as to the reason. A reason I recited along with her, almost word for word.
 
Years too late for it to matter, I’d found a friend who understood one of my bizarre habits and had independently adopted it as their own. If I’d discovered her companionship earlier, I might have held out through a few more seasons of struggling breathing before finally giving in and giving up.
 
I was reminded of this the other day, after my darling had ordered his dessert at a restaurant. I haven’t noticed it for years, but whenever he orders pudding he always stresses (sometimes more emphatically than might strictly be required) that his slice of chocolate brownie (or mousse, or ice-cream, or creme brulee) is to arrive in front of him HAVING NEVER TOUCHED ANY FRUIT, EVER!!! The menu might be foolish enough to wave the words berry and compote under his nose, but he’s not to be swayed by such depravity. My darling orders dessert for the cream and sugar rush, not for “nature’s candy.”
 
As I said, I barely notice these exchanges anymore. Certainly, they don’t stand out as much as the ones where he orders a bottled beer and then waits until the hapless server is standing beside the table before mentioning that he’d like it in a glass.
 
The habit, though, is one that has solely belonged to him and no one else. I might gather up my courage occasionally to say, “don’t worry about the salad.” More often, I’ll just poke it with a fork to make it look like I tried to eat the foliage that some madman tipped onto my plate. Other than that, I order what is on the menu and don’t quibble about the presentation or the contents. Some people have even been known to roll their eyes when my darling begins his anti-fruit tirade.
 
But the other night, close to his birthday which makes it all seem more fitting, he ordered his usual dessert sans compote. A few minutes later, dessert delivered and mostly eaten, the woman sitting at the table beside us ordered her pudding exactly the same.
 
Nothing red on my plate, you hear me. Nothing!
 
If I hadn’t been sitting there, and her husband hadn’t been holding her hand, then it’s possibly my darling and this strange woman may have ridden off into the sunset. At least, until he ordered a bottle of beer.

Posted by kathay@orcon.net.nz in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

Today my left elbow started to send shooting pains up toward my wrist, followed shortly afterward by numbness and tingling. I shook it back to life, got back to work, then half an hour later it did the same thing again.
 
This got me to thinking, partly because I’ve got a word count to reach today, so obviously I follow up any possible excuse for procrastination, but also because it seems there was a tipping point back in my early thirties when my body turned on me.
 
I’m not saying that up until that point, everything was plain sailing. There were headaches, hangovers, shortsightedness, along with a myriad of colds.
 
But they were insults to my general health that were short-lived. Wait a few days or a week and I’d be back to normal (well, apart from my eyesight). Nowadays, every time I get even the smallest twinge it’s an indicator to chronic pain.
 
There’s nothing overtly bad or wrong, and I’m well aware there are screeds of people with horrible things going on who would be envious of my situation, but all these little aches and pains do wear away at my ease of living. And, when all’s said and done, that’s my prime objective in life. Ease. Comfort. Maybe a brilliantly angry outburst followed by a peaceful spell of happiness. A nice ray of sunshine that I can bask in for a minute before I close the curtain because it’s shining right on my computer screen.
 
My body, which used to do all sorts of marvelous things, has become an impediment rather than an asset. I don’t intend to relinquish it any time soon, trust me on that, but wouldn’t it be nice to wake up one morning and actually have something feel better?
 
I seem to recall a time in Intermediate School where my body spent an entire year growing breasts.
 
THAT WAS AWESOME.
 
So, I don’t think it’s too much to ask. Body, would you please do something fun again, like that?

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For the last few months, I’ve been writing like a demon as part of the Phoenix Prime group to put together a body of work to pummel PhD students into submission with. In many ways this is working, in sheer volume if not in sales volume, but it’s meant that for a very long time my arse has been in contact with my couch.
 
Back when I had a day job (oh, regular paycheque, I miss you so) I may not have been the fittest member of the office but I did have to walk farther to my work than five metres down the hall. During the day, the copious volume of things I printed didn’t collect themselves off the printer. No. Sometimes I had to yell at a colleague to go and fetch them and other times I’d get up off my chair and walk.
 
Lunch was a flight of stairs away, as were any Coke refills. Coffee was kept in the kitchenette and on occasion I’d even sacrifice my comfort to the exercise gods and walk all the way home.
 
During a standard day, I could expect to take anywhere between 3000 to 13000 steps. Leaning toward the former but I’m sure if I dug deep into my Samsung Gear Fit 2’s memory there’d be a few days of excess here and there.
 
Now, having a shower is the most exercise I get, apart from Thursday, when I wheel bins down to the gate, and Fridays, when I wheel them back again. Even hanging the washing out doesn’t take long and the extra ten metres out to the washing line probably isn’t going to strip any creamy yellow fat off the layers gathering around my heart.
 
Last night, as I was falling asleep in bed, I suddenly made a resolution. No more! I was going to get fit. I was going to *gasp* USE THE TREADMILL.
 
Before you start worrying that I’ve lost my mind, I’d like to reassure you that in no way did I intend to become a gym bunny. Not even a home gym bunny. I was, however, going to science myself into a slightly better state of wellbeing than I’ve so far enjoyed this year.
 
My memory ruthlessly cuts anything that it considers extraneous information these days. Things like current events, the times of my next meeting, or the names of friends and relatives. Snip. Gone.
 
It does still have a vested instinct for self-preservation, though, so it helpfully retained a vague outline of an exercise plan put forth by Michael Mosley in which a person only needs to exercise for three minutes or so a week to improve their health profile.
 
I have three minutes. I am the perfect subject.
 
I dusted off my treadmill, after also removing the various books, items of clothing, and aluminium bars (???) that had found their way on top of it. Once revealed, it looked in pretty good nick. Possibly because I take good care of my things. More probably because I’ve hardly ever turned it on.
 
Although it gave a little bit of a groan to start with, it soon got back into the routine. The routine consists of me standing on it, frowning at the instructions and pushing randomly at buttons until something starts to move.
 
Now, this three minutes of exercise per week isn’t just a random, freestyle, do it until it hurts type of deal. It’s science, people. I had to time things. And set things up. After a warmup of just a minute, I had to put my treadmill on the steepest incline and crank it up to the highest speed.
 
In theory, 20 seconds x 3 sessions = 1 minute. Perform that activity three times a week and you’re golden for only three minutes of lost time. In practice there’s more to it. The fine print, if you will. I had to warm up for 60 seconds, wait for another 5 for my treadmill to actually incline and speed up and then…
 
Well.
 
The first 20 second session was all a bit of a blur. For a start, time ceases to mean anything when you’re exercising. Like the TARDIS, it’s longer on the inside. I guess I made it through and out the other side, though. Certainly, the room came back into focus and I remembered how to breathe.
 
In the second session, I had no trouble remembering to breathe. Gasping for breath actually seemed to occupy me even more than the moving of my legs. I possibly should have called a halt to the whole endeavour then, but I’m not a quitter.
 
Well, I’m not a quitter ANYMORE, I should say.
 
Last time for the ramp up and I struggled through the next twenty seconds like I’d struggled through the last six months of high school. Desperate, unhappy, and grateful that it wouldn’t need to be repeated.
 
It’s hard to explain the satisfaction that comes after a good, thorough, one minute exercise session. It’s especially hard when you’re choking for breath in between coughing bouts and swallowing tall glasses of cold water to quench the fire burning in your lungs.
 
The good news is that, twelve hours later, I’ve mostly stopped coughing. The bad news? My second run through the torture chamber is only 36 hours away.
 
If nobody hears from me, please tell my darling to check for my corpse in the front room.

Posted by kathay@orcon.net.nz in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

A year or two ago, I set up a personal safety alert on my phone that I could activate when I was in trouble. It would send a picture from my front and rear cameras, my location coordinates and a recording link where the phone would record for a few minutes after I pressed the help key combination. All of this would be parceled up and sent to my darling’s phone.
 
I’m aware that since he never checks his text messages, or even knows how, that the plaintive cry for help would go unanswered. Whatever fate was befalling me would continue to do so without intervention. But still. When the police pulled my dismembered and horrifically abused body from whichever water course it had been weighted down in, THEY would get around to checking my incoming and outgoing phone messages and wah-lah! My killer may or may not be caught.
 
All of this magic was also dependent on me remembering the “special combination” required to trigger the emergency warnings in the first place. A remote hope indeed for someone who gets distracted walking into the kitchen for… well… whatever reason I walked into the kitchen for.
 
To tell the truth, I’d forgotten that this special system had even been set up on my phone. There’s still a faint hope that in the grip of a madman, I’d fumble my phone out of my pocket, remember this was set up AND remember the combination to activate it, but that hope is spinning-head and vertigo faint.
 
Tonight, I activated it.
 
Before you express any concern (and to prompt you that this would be the place to do that if you’re having trouble getting in touch with your emotions) I’m fine. I’m still confused as to what the key combination is, but nothing happened to warrant the call out for help at all.
 
I did, however, discover a fatal flaw in my plan.
 
When setting up said message, the phone asked me for an emergency contact to call. Of course, my darling topped the list, but highly sensitive to his special needs in relation to txt and pxt messaging, I helpfully set the call up to go straight to our home phone. Yes, that’s right. The landline. Just about the only thing in our house that plugs into a wall but ISN’T capable of receiving a message.
 
It goes without saying, I’ve now disabled the whole thing. The criminal element has triumphed yet again.
 
If you’d like to read a free short story that leads into a longer novel where the criminal underbelly may or may not triumph, then please click on the cover below to download my new short-short, Dead as a Dodo.
 

 
This is the first outing in my new Birdman Series and is short, sharp, and succinct, just like a drive-by shooting.
 
The first novel will follow along shortly, so in the meantime here’s a pretty cover:
 

 
(and if you’re still having trouble getting in touch with your emotions, here’s the bit where you go oooh and aaaah!)
 
 
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Posted by kathay@orcon.net.nz in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

This afternoon I was sitting at my laptop, writing my little heart out, when Amazon sent me an email. Pleased of the distraction, I eagerly opened to find that they thought I would be interested in the latest releases in Sports and Outdoors.
 
Yes, you read that right. Sports and Outdoors.
 
Now, I’m not judging if that’s the kind of thing you like (oh, yes I am, I am so judging, can’t you feel me judging from here) but I didn’t even know there was such a section on Amazon. Let alone that it contained such esteemed titles as the Baseball Prospectus 2017 that I’m now obviously dying to read. I didn’t know this because I’VE NEVER CLICKED ON SPORTS IN… MY… LIFE…!!!
 
Amazon is meant to know what I like based on past purchases. Using this data, it should then send me emails making recommendations of things I might like to try. Secret algorithms and computer database magic govern the process, or so I’ve been led to believe.
 
What they’re not meant to do, is send me recommendations for Spanish-language novels when the only books I’ve ever purchased are in English (and, let’s face it, I sometimes struggle with that). They’re not meant to send me recommendations for Book IV in a series when I’ve never so much as dreamed of thinking of clicking on Book I. And they’re definitely, positively, not meant to send me recommendations for titles listed under the Sports and Outdoors section.
 
I’m fairly certain that where I live, there isn’t even an outdoors to begin with. If it’s on the other side of the window, it’s make-believe.
 
So Amazon, it hurts me to say this after we’ve spent so much time together, but it appears we’ve grown apart.
 

 

As an aside, in another real way, Amazon doesn’t know me any longer. This is because I’ve changed the name I publish under from Katherine Hayton to Lee Hayton. This was meant to be a name change to define books I was publishing in another genre, but I’ve discovered the joys of having a shorter name on a book cover so I’m not going back. If you want to stay abreast of any new releases, feel free to follow me on Amazon under the new pen name:

https://www.amazon.com/author/leehayton

 
You’ll find the below joys** already waiting for you there 🙂
 

 
 
**Joy not guaranteed

Posted by kathay@orcon.net.nz in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

15 Jan / At a new angle

The clothesline broke last week. I was mid hanging-out-all-the-washing and turned it past a spoke, then hung up my brown skirt. The whole thing lurched to one side. I’m quite sure it wasn’t the weight of my skirt. Even with the unnecessary detail of beads on the end of the draw-string, because Ezibuy want you to know I’m a GIRL (in case the skirt wasn’t enough), the whole thing probably still weighs about the same as a hand-towel.
 
When I say broken, it’s not unusable. As long as I don’t mind the hideous angle of the clothes, and hang up only short garments, it’s perfectly fine. Sure, I’m scared to hang out the bath towels, but when has that not been an issue?
 

 
So, just about usable. For some things. Completely beyond repair, though.
 
The lovely invention of Hill may contain many benefits, but anchoring a metal structure into a concrete one at the end of your back yard path doesn’t offer many opportunities to fix things up with number eight wire. Usually, we’d just go out and buy a replacement, but in this case we’d also have to dig up a wedge of concrete and then pour some replacement concrete. Somehow. While holding the clothesline upright, in place.
 
Yeah, we’re not that handy.
 
I pointed out that since we can hang lightweight garments on it, we could continue indefinitely with the agreement that we don’t wash the towels or the sheets. Hey, it’s probably time we bought new ones. Each week, if need be. That’s easier all round, isn’t it? Who likes the slap of a wet towel in the face on a windy day when they’re hanging out washing?
 
Yeah, okay. In summer it’s quite refreshing. Guess we’ll just leave it be.
 
[Edit: I spoke too soon. New clothesline required.]

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Today on the blog, I’d like to introduce you to Mike Miracle. Lucky husband, fortunate father of two great kids and the caretaker of many different monsters.
 
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Originally from the east coast, Mike and his family now reside on a farm in the Midwest. Mike was able to use his programming skills to start his own small business from home, where every day is casual Friday. Mike has always searched for ways to express creativity and imagination. Through music, art and now the printed word. Mike’s childhood love of science fiction has never been stronger. There are plenty of crime dramas in the office library, but science fiction still dominates.
 
Mike wanted to create a plausible dimension outside of anything anyone has read before. To grab the reader by the hand and walk them through the bright light and show them what happens in the realm known as The Next.
 

So, first up. I guess Mike Miracle is a pen name?

 
I get asked that all the time. Is that a stage name? But Mike Miracle is my real name.
 

When did you first discover your passion for writing?


 
I think everyone has a story to tell. I used to do mine back in the day through music. Several garage bands, I’d write original songs that were just mini stories. Mostly about painful stuff. I think most music came from something bad that happened. But writing this book was not like that at all. It was exciting and difficult and stressful all at the same time. It was like letting a creative monster loose on the world.
 

What genre are your books?


 
It’s Sci Fi in the middle with drama/thriller wrapped around it like a chalupa. Maybe a little Sci Fi comes out in the end? That’s a strange analogy, but entirely accurate.
 

What draws you to this genre?


 
The ability to create. There also have to be some checks and balances of what you write. But it’s also good to leave somethings up to the imagination of the reader.
 

Have you ever considered writing stories for other genres?


 
Yes. Young adult. My 13 year old son is a voracious reader, and I’ve tried to encourage him to write a little bit. So we’ve collaborated a little bit on a story featuring a former US President as a stand-up comedian. It might go nowhere, but I enjoy him laughing at the nonsense I come up with.
 

What is the best part about being a writer?


 
The ability to be creative. To come up with an idea and let it run.
 

And what is the worst?


 
Keeping your day job. I’d rather just write, but the lights must be kept on. Writing usually gets put on hold until after work, late in the evening after everyone else is in bed.
 

Do you have a favorite author?


 
That’s tough. If you forced me I’d have to say my favorite is Michael Connelly. I also look forward to Jim Butcher and Lisa Gardner. There are probably 10 authors I could put into a hat and the one I drew out would be just fine as my favorite.
 

Tell us about the book you’re currently working on?


 
One character lies in wait to seek revenge for his wife’s accidental death. I have a book trailer below:

The Sci Fi part is an alternate version of the afterlife called The Next. Where the newly arrived clients find out that they have a choice of what happens to them. They can move on, go back to their previous life or let chance decide.
 
I’m working on getting my first book out of the hands of the publisher so it can get into the hands of readers. But I’m also writing the second book in the series The Next. I don’t really know how many books there will be, I guess until the story plays itself out like so many others.
 

Do you dislike any of your character(s)?


 
Out of the six or so earthly characters, I’d say there’s only one that’s a decent person. The others all have their issues that would make me not like them.
 

And last of all, where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?


 
Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram!
 
Thanks very much for joining us today, Mike. I hope you pop back when your book is available and we’ll keep our eyes peeled 🙂
 
 
 
 
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Posted by kathay@orcon.net.nz in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

13 Oct / Nesting Instinct

Earlier this year, my darling organised the removal of two large trees from our backyard. On the day he came home to find them gone, he was ecstatic.
 
The birds were less impressed. Although they’ve now got more ground to poke their beaks in and around in search of a feed, there’s only the clothesline left for them to perch and have a gossip about their day.
 
Fast forward to spring, and there are far fewer prime real estate locations on our property for birds to pitch their nests in an attempt to attract a mate and raise another crop of little flying dinosaurs. So, it makes sense that one day we opened our letter box to find a half-constructed nest inside.
 
Feeling confident we could cope with this problem, we pulled the foundations out and threw them away, then swept the inside of the box with a short-handled broom until all traces of the building site were gone. Problem solved.
 
The next time we checked the letterbox, we discovered that far from solving the problem, we’d made the area into some sort of “highly desirable” neighbourhood with exclusivity appeal. Another nest thrown into the compost and another sweep out of the letterbox.
 
Now, my darling is a fastidious checker of the letterbox at the best of times. Whenever he’s at home, junk mail can count its lifespan in minutes if not seconds.
 
But there’s something soul-eroding about opening a door every half-hour and throwing something’s house away. Each time he lifted the flap thinking, “Surely, they got the message last time?” Nope, they didn’t.
nesting
 
Reading online for the best way to deal with the problem, we encountered a mix of quitters and sadists. The quitters urged us to purchase a second letterbox so the birds would be left undisturbed to raise their offspring alongside our post. The sadists suggested we find the lead bird and kill him in the most horrific way possible before mounting his severed head on the top of the letterbox as a warning to others.
 
Hmm. Tempting. But no.
 
Instead, we pulled the letterbox out of the ground and placed it face-down next to the garage. Since NZ post reduced its service to only three days a week, we felt comfortable that we could leave it there for the majority of the week, only replacing it when the post was actually due.
 
As a bonus, this cut down on the number of junk mail trips my darling made down the driveway every afternoon.
 
And then came the saddest sight we’ve ever seen.
 
A sparrow, mouth stuffed full of nest-building twigs and dry grass, flapped up to where the letterbox opening used to be and tried to build a nest in midair.
 
Not just once. This bird had spirit. This bird had vigour. This bird had used up its entire brain with other matters and couldn’t fit in the ability to learn one more new fact.
 
Sure, it looked like the box it was constructing its nest inside had disappeared, but no way would it give up that easy!
 
After a half-dozen attempts to insert new nesting materials into a nest that no longer existed, we saw its little shoulders slump in defeat before it flew away. Off to tell the wife they were now officially homeless.
 
 
 
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Posted by kathay@orcon.net.nz in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

When I was a child, my parents paid for me to have a piano lesson every week. This wasn’t because of my breathtaking musical ability, or because I foresaw a future in which I’d be using those lessons every day. Much like algebra, as soon as I stopped learning piano I never really used it again.
 
I paid the piano teacher the grand total of 50c per lesson for four years until she unjustly jacked up the price to $1 per lesson, and I paid that instead. When I say paid, I do actually mean Mum or Dad would give me a 50c piece or a dollar note and I would hand it over at the end of the lesson.
 
My brain did occasionally wander to thoughts about what would happen if I didn’t hand over the money. After all, what could she do? Take back the lesson? On the other hand, it was nice to have somewhere special to go on Wednesday nights. A feeling that stayed on board long after any genuine interest in playing piano had gone.
 
At the end of each lesson, having parted with the equivalent of a week’s worth of pocket money, I’d walk out to the front of the house and down to the corner, then wait for Dad to stop by and pick me up on his way home.
 
Although having a young child waiting alone at night seems strange now, it felt perfectly normal at the time. So what if my lesson ended at 5.30pm and the sun sets in winter at 4.45pm? Waiting alone by the side of a busy street on a dark night never hurt any… oh wait. Never mind.
 
So this particular night I was waiting there, a bit cold and a bit bored, and I saw Dad’s car driving along the road. I stepped right up to the edge of the street to make it easier for him to see me, and watched him drive straight past.
 
Now, as an adult I understand that grownups have other things on their minds. Almost constantly on their minds, sometimes even to the exclusion of really good TV.
 
Back then though, I just made the natural assumption that my family no longer wanted me and I was going to die out on the street in the dark. Maybe, if I was fortunate, my piano teacher would let me into her warm house for another piano lesson, but that was a minimum of a week away.
 
There was a police station across the road where my introverted self definitely didn’t want to bother anybody, and my house was only a half-hours walk away if I’d known enough about routes and directions to work out where to go. (Warning: I still hold up my hands to work out left from right and still think of this as a giant step forward in my navigation skills)
 
Of course, it all worked out okay. When my mother called out for me to set the table it soon became apparent I wasn’t there, and a simple chain of logic led my father back into the car to pick me up from outside my piano lesson.
 
Mum later complained that if SHE’D forgotten to collect me she wouldn’t have heard the end of it, whereas Dad just received a cautious hug when he eventually arrived. What I didn’t say was that I was on my best behavior in case my first instinct was correct and the whole family wanted shot of me (except for table-setting duties, obviously).
 
My father died on Thursday and I don’t know why, but this memory has been stuck in my brain ever since. I lived in the same house with Dad for twenty-one years, worked beside him day-in and day-out for another twelve, yet the only anecdote I have rattling around in my brain is this one.
 
Maybe it’s because Dad has once again gone whizzing off into the night and this time I’ll be missing him for a lot longer than the hour it’ll take until tea is served.
 
Goodbye, Dad. I love you.

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