Katherine Hayton | BLOG
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So, I’ve arrived in Mission Beach for my annual holiday complete with sun, sand, and dollops of ice-cream. After a short fourteen-hour travel day (thank you airports of the world for your super-long check-in requirements and weird bag-handling rituals) we nosed the car into the turn-off from El Arish and journeyed into the magic that is our favourite holiday destination of all time.
 
The sun has yet to make an appearance—apparently we’ve failed to appease the weather gods on some matter—but the sand is in full-force. All over our rental house, in the bed, in my hair, in too many crevices to comfortably name in a public post.
 
And the ice-cream. Oh, the ice-cream. I’ve dieted all year long for this (ha-ha, whatever) and as I popped the first stick of luscious ice-cream goodness into my mouth all I could think was . . .
 
Ouch!
 
When the hell did my teeth get so sensitive?
 
If only I’d had a few practice ice-creams at home I could have prepared myself. I could have used Sensodyne toothpaste or whatever the off-brand label equivalent is. My teeth could have been coated in (mumbly scientific-dental stuff magic) and all the nerve endings retreated into their nerve caves.
 
Instead, I’m facing a holiday choice that fills me with terror.
 
Ice-cream and tooth pain, or
 
No ice-cream.
 
And when I say no ice-cream I don’t just mean ice-cream. That word now encapsulates ice-blocks, ice-lollies, callipos, Memphis Meltdowns, and Magnums.
 
(And yes I’m aware that most of those are just sub-varieties of ice-blocks or ice-cream but I was trying to make the problem appear as large as it feels inside.)
 
To think that a few days ago I was complaining about how the free wifi turned out to be free because it didn’t exist and to make any internet connection at all I have to prop my mobile phone on top of a stack of crockery in the side of the kitchen window and hold my breath for two minutes, then chant an incantation.
 
(Please note that if you’re receiving this blog post after the 19th of September the incantation failed . . . Big time.)
 
It just shows, it takes a real trial to put the little things into perspective.
 
I’m off to check out the label for Ibuprofen to see if it still irritates stomach ulcers and to contemplate the odds of the Losec offsetting that enough to make a third choice possible, but I’m not holding out much hope. The Panadol’s already failed me.
 
 
 
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15 Aug / First 5,000

After more than a month of researching, reading, planning, and outlining, I finally started writing the first book in my new series today. At first, time slowed to a crawl and every word seemed like an effort. After an hour with almost nothing to show for it, I started to panic.
 
I’d forgotten how to write!
 
Now, having put in my hours and produced over five thousand words, I feel a little bit more comfortable. They may not be the right words but at least they’re on the page.
 
By the end of the day it was even starting to become fun. No matter how much I outline, no matter what backstory elements I fill in for my characters, no matter how well I know their history – better than the closest friends I’ve ever had – it’s not until I start to write that they actually fill out.
 
When my little chalk lines get into a room with the other chalk lines and start to have a conversation, that’s when they grow flesh and turn into people. Stiff at first, awkward. But at the end of the day I can see how well they’re fitting into their new skins. I start to know them so well I can see what they’re thinking.
 
They’ll have a few surprises in store, and I’m sure at some point my carefully structured outline will be grossly and unexpectedly departed from, but for the time being they’re well behaved characters doing pretty much what they should. Long may it last.
 
Here’s to tomorrow and the next five thousand.
 
 
 
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For the past month I’ve been busy getting a few things sorted.
 
Number One: leaving paid employment. Something that caused me to sit bolt upright every weeknight for a fortnight with “What have I done?” running through my brain at full volume.
 
The alternating attitude was to spend all of my remaining work days smiling with glee that everything I was doing was going to be over soon and would never have to be done again. By me, at least. I presume the jobs that I had to perform still need to be performed by someone who resents doing them as much as I did.
 
Number Two: getting my second Ngaire Blakes Mystery published.
 
Still not sure if this is happening or not. I did submit directly to Kindle Press (who were kind enough to publish the previous one) but after not hearing anything in response for a month, I succumbed to their process and put it on the Kindle Scout website for a thirty day campaign. Boy, had I forgotten how long thirty days is. The first few days were quite exciting in a familiar “I’ve been here before” kind of way. But the first few days only used up the first few days and the latter twenty-eight have stretched in front of me like a widening gulf.
 
To be honest, I haven’t actually ticked this one off the list because the campaign has another five days to run. Something that Kindle Scout insist on calling four days, because the last day of the campaign is called the last day rather than one day to go. IDK. At least this time around I won’t be caught out. If I make it to the last day. That point is still in question.
 
If you’ve missed the opportunity to nominate me (or chore, depending on your mindset) then you can do so on the following link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/CB9NSW95GX1U
 
Click the link, sign-in to Amazon using your usual Amazon sign-in details, then click on a blue nominate button. This will ensure that if I’m embarrassingly passed over for publication this time around, you’ll be the first to hear about it. And if I’m not, then you’ll get a free Kindle copy. What a deal!
 
Number Three: preparing for a new series that I’ll be launching next year.
 
This has been the most time-consuming activity of the lot, in mind power if not in physical hours spent. I’m following a new apprenticeship program that is taking me through a different (for me, anyway) system of book writing. It involves a lot of preproduction and planning (oddly similar to the work that I gleefully departed from) and will hopefully allow me to write a lot more quickly and a lot more easily when it gets to that bit.
 
In the meantime, I’ve taken a leap of faith and organised all the standard trimmings that go along with book publishing in advance. I have editing booked in for manuscripts that haven’t yet been written and I’ve set up a brilliant book cover designer to design six covers for books that don’t yet have insides for the cover to cover.
 
Another reason I’m jolting wide-awake at night thinking “What have I done?”
 
Still, having taken the leap of faith that the six books I’ve commissioned covers for and arranged editing of will manifest themselves in time, the process has become very exciting. This time, in the good way. I’ve even gone so far as to create a separate page on my website to highlight that this series is coming. Definitely. I’ve committed to a date! If, February 2017 can be called a date.
 
So yes, I’ve been busy.
 
Unemployed, unpublished, unwritten.
 
Busy, busy, busy.
 
 
 
 
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26 Jun / Bugs

Atlas Obscura has been having bug week this past week.
 
I don’t know if that’s a recognised phenomenon, like shark week, or if it’s just something they decided to do because they had a whole lot of random copy about bugs, but it’s been quite interesting.
 
They’ve covered everything from the pain scale of insect stings through to the hidden bugs sending messages when you retweet that meme. NOTE: it is always perfectly safe to retweet any pictures from MY twitter handle. I know as much about coding secret messages into images as I do about wedding planning and I’m officially an old-age spinster (if you live in a time before woman had occupations to note on their official documentation).
 
I found it especially comforting to read through these articles when I was struck with my own bug on Wednesday. It made for some nice breaks in between familiarising myself with the toilet bowl from both ends.
 
One thing I appreciated was the tiny little bugs that were crawling all over the screen while I was reading the articles. I was only fooled twice into thinking they were real and attempting to crush them mercilessly against my laptop screen.
 
I HAD TO HAVE THEM.
 
And for once the laborious effort I put into transitioning my website from the delightfully easy Squarespace to the frustratingly multi-optioned WordPress paid off.
 
Bug! There is a wordpress plugin called bug.
 
It puts a bug on your screen. Not only that, the bug wanders about a bit.
 
A miracle of engineering. Now in full view on my website (which you may already know if you’re reading my blog on there, but if you’re not you should immediately visit by clicking this link – http://katherinehayton.com).
 
They say it’s the little things in life that make you happy and whoever “they” is in this case “they” would be right.
 
 
 
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Zara on 27-03-16 at 15.49

Please tell us a bit about yourself

 
Zara Altair combines mystery with a bit of adventure in the Argolicus mysteries. The Used Virgin is the first in a series of mysteries based in southern Italy at the time of the Ostrogoth rule of Italy under Theoderic the Great. Italians (Romans) and Goths live under one king while the Roman Empire is ruled from Constantinople. At times the cultures clash, but Argolicus uses his wit, sometimes with help from his tutor Nikolaos, to provide justice in a province far from the King’s court.
 
Zara Altair lives in Beaverton, Oregon. She is a fiction author writing in the historical fiction genre. Her approach to writing is to present the puzzle and let Argolicus and Nikolaos find the solution encountering a bit of adventure and some humor in their search. Her stories are rich in historical detail based on years of research. Zara is working on a historical novel Felix Ravenna: A Mosaic set in the same time period with Argolicus as the main character. To get on the reader list for Argolicus fans go here http://goo.gl/m5aL3E (copy and paste to your browser).
 
Zara loves reader feedback. Be sure to leave a review. Write comments here on the Author Page. Zara replies to all comments.
 

Author Q&A

 

What genre are your books?

 
Historical mystery. In Italy, giallo storico.
 

What draws you to this genre?

 
I’ve been reading in this genre since Nancy Drew for mystery and a gift subscription to monthly history books for kids.
 

Have you ever considered writing stories for other genres?

 
Yes. I’ve ghostwritten a number of steamy romance books and sometimes I write science fiction.
 

When did you first discover your passion for writing?

 
I’ve been telling stories since I was two when I sat on the back porch and told stories to Yoohoody, the owl who perched in the tree. I’ve been writing stories since I was seven.
 

What inspired your latest novel?

 
A phone conversation with my daughter. We were talking about how much we love the Italian day and she said, “Mommy, you should go to Ravenna.” Then she told me about Theoderic leading his people across the frozen Danube and eventually arriving in Ravenna. I thought, “I wonder what it was like then?”
 
I started researching and discovered a time of divided loyalties, intense theological differences, and a “barbarian” who lived like an emperor.
 

Do you have a bit of a teaser?

 
After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths. A young magistrate of mixed ancestry retires to find people are just as corrupt and venal in the provinces.
 
A corrupt Governor. A young girl. And old man.
 
A ruined reputation is worse than murder in Italy. Argolicus and his lifelong tutor, Nikolaos, discover evil, greed, and extreme extortion.
 
Argolicus unravels the threads.
 
Used Virgin Cover
 

What is your least favorite word?

 
Nice.
 

Do you ever read your stories out loud?

 
Always. And in my writing group we read each other’s work. You can instantly hear the clunks or the stumbles over awkward phrasing.
 

What’s the first book you remember making an indelible impression on you?

 
Anna Karenina. I couldn’t stop. I read all night and finished just after dawn.
 

Do you have a favorite author?

 
In historical fiction, Robert Harris. My favorite is Pompeii. I love how his “Roman” is an engineer. And, the reader knows from the beginning that Vesuvius is going to erupt. From that moment on, it is a cliffhanger. Plus, for world builders, his alternative history, Fatherland, is a prime example of a character caught in the surrounding culture.
 

What are you currently working on?

 
Along with the next short story, The Peach Widow, I’m always at work on the novel Felix Ravenna: A Mosaic which takes place two years after the mystery series. Oh, and there’s that other contemporary mystery series that is percolating in my head with retired detective, Jake “Cozy” Cozzens.
 

If your book were made into a movie, who would you cast?

 When I started, it was Tom Hardy as Argolicus for the smoldering undercurrent, but Argolicus is 32 at the time of the mysteries, so I needed a new actor. Argolicus Clive Standen. Nikolaos Dragos Bucur
 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

 
Write. Study story. Read in your genre. Start your author platform. It takes time. Have everything—author bio, book description, website, email autoresponder (emails written and sequenced), email opt-in—set up before you publish. Write. Edit. Keep writing. Connect with other writers. Plan you next book. Keep writing.
 
That’s all practical. Most importantly, believe in your story.
 

Is there anything you would like to add?

Katherine, thank you so much for the interview. Although writing is a solitary activity, sharing our individual stories is part of building a community.
 

Thank you, Zara. How can readers keep in touch?

Author Website, Author Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads,
Amazon Author Page, THE USED VIRGIN
 
 
 
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12 Jun / The Waiting Game

I remember my first love. I’d sit by the phone waiting for him to return a call. Desperate to hear his voice but unable to phone him because if I did that I’d call down the wrath of Murphy’s Law and my call would be placed through to his line at exactly the same time as he rang and then we’d both be thinking we were talking to other people.
 
As you do.
 
Perhaps this has something to do with my lifelong resentment of phonecalls?
 
More likely, it’s my awkward timing when I can’t scan a face for visual cues that it’s my time to talk but there’s still food for thought right there.
 
This week, I’ve been reminded of those emotions. The frustration. The longing.
 
Yes, I’ve been running the gamut while waiting for a publisher to get in touch and let me know if my book is on their go or whoa list.
 
Given the attachment I have to my current manuscript, there’s even touches of love mixed up in there.
 
Waiting is so hard. Admittedly, waiting to hear back from a publisher isn’t as bad as some waits I’ve had. Anything connected with a hospital or me sitting alone on a couch at night is usually a lot more worrying, but it’s still got it’s hat in the ring.
 
Oh. I typed ring and looked at the phone. Now, that’s just sad.
 
Anyway, got to end this blog post here. Otherwise, I might be typing and posting when they’re trying to get through to my computer via email and our electronic messages could bump and reflect off each other as non-deliverable packages in the night.
 
Or something like that.
 
 
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Meet Jessica Knauss – Author of Awash in Talent

Jessica Knauss Author Photo
 
Please tell us about yourself
 
I’ve wandered all over the United States, England, and Spain, mostly with my husband. We’re currently settled in the beautiful American Southwest, but don’t know where the wind may take us next.
 
My highly praised novella, Tree/House, is available in ebook, softcover, and audiobook formats, and my genre-defying short stories have been collected in Unpredictable Worlds. My love of Spain has led to a medieval epic novel, Seven Noble Knights, which will debut December 15 from Bagwyn Books. Contemporary paranormal Awash in Talent is my first novel to be published. It’s available now from Kindle Press.
 
Find all the latest at my website and blog at jessicaknauss.com
 

Author Q&A

 
When did you first discover your passion for writing?
 
I didn’t so much decide to be a writer as I was born one. I was writing, illustrating, and stapling together children’s books before I knew alternative careers existed. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was baffled: I was already a writer. They asked if I was going to be a children’s book author, but I knew writing was an apprenticeship and responded that I was going to write at whatever level I was reading at, ending up with novels for adults, of course.
 
Awash in Talent is being marketed as YA/New Adult, and it was just as challenging as my historical novel, in different ways. Over the years I’ve found that categories of writing aren’t hierarchical. Writing for adults and for young people have different criteria, but neither is a higher level than another.
 
Knauss Awash in Talent
 
Which character or characters do you identify with in your book? Why?
 
Beth is a younger sister and is lavished with praise because of her Talent. That happened to me as a youngster, so I can understand that dynamic and why she becomes self-important, though I studiously avoid that fate.
 
I sympathize with Kelly, and I think my readers will, too. She’s a firestarter who doesn’t understand her own Talent and feels like an outsider. Oddly, that’s one of the most common feelings in the world.
 
Though I’m not a psychic like Patricia, I did go from California to New England for college and fell madly in love with the region, the way she does.
 
Do you dislike any of them?
 
My most notorious character is Emily, the self-centered, envious sister of multi-Talented Beth and a thoroughly unreliable narrator. While I wouldn’t say I dislike her, I sympathize with her in reverse. I think about how I would react to the situation she’s in, and I either take it to extreme levels or have her do the opposite. My true love is in a wheelchair outside my door and his wife is nowhere to be seen? I might, if feeling gutsy, wave at him from the window. Emily grabs the wheelchair handles and takes off down the street! In that way, she’s my most fun character.
It’s a great challenge to try to have the reader sympathize with someone so extreme.
 
Do you ever read your stories out loud?
 
It’s essential to read your stories aloud. At some point in the process, my husband has to listen to every one of my works. He helps me find awkward sentences and inconsistencies, and the process helps me find typos. It’s the best way to fine-tune dialog. If it’s hard to read out loud, then it’s not likely anyone would say it that way.
 
Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love scenes? Why or why not?
I feel so self-conscious, in fact, that I don’t write them unless they’re totally unavoidable to the plot. I do perversely enjoy writing scenes in which lovemaking is interrupted or frustrated. I have a theory that my love life is so satisfying, I don’t have any drive to write love scenes. I remember enjoying making up love scenes ages ago, when I was with a boyfriend who withheld affection.
 
What is the story of your first kiss?
 
This was the withholding boyfriend. We dated for six months before I was able to cajole him into a closed-mouthed lip bump. It’s likely that my teenage years of enforced chastity contribute to Kelly’s shyness and confusion when Brian is so attractive to her. (See excerpt below.)
 
Awash 3D-paperback

Excerpt from Waterfire: Awash in Talent, Part II

 
Kelly, the narrator, lives at a school for firestarters with her friends Jill, Raúl, and Brian. She has a major, and she thinks unrequited, crush on Brian.
 
Last night, we had another fire drill. Or so I thought. It was earlier than the alarms usually go off, about ten thirty. Jill and I had just gotten under the covers when the blaring started. We’re practiced at this now, so we had our flip-flops, sweatpants, and sweatshirts (it’s definitely fall now) ready to grab by the door. I checked Jill’s pocket for my safety sack and she checked for hers and we were out the door.
 
Since I got a buddy, fire drills have been kind of fun. I don’t have to fake-smile anymore. I just go with Jill and find our little group and stand around in good company, listening to Raúl’s latest stupid comments. This time, we went down to the designated area on the docks and quickly found Brian and his buddy in the crowd, but there was no hanging around.
 
“Hi,” I said casually, but both Brian and Raúl were panting, and Brian had this intense look on his face.
 
“There’s an actual fire,” he said. “It’s going to be a while before we can go back inside. Jill, can you cover for Kelly?”
 
She grinned like an accomplice. “I got this. And so does Raúl.” I watched her punch Raúl on the shoulder, but still had no clue what was going on until Brian grabbed my wrist and started moving away from the group. My heart was leaping out of my chest—Brian was kidnapping me. The boy I liked was taking me away in the dead of night. Didn’t he like Jill? What was he planning? What did any of this mean?
 
Pretty soon, we were holding hands and running, and finally the questions cleared out of my head because we were headed in the direction of Waterplace Park and, was that—? Yes, through the buildings, I could see masses of people gathered along the water’s edge, and flickering, shimmering air, and tendrils of smoke. We were going to WaterFire! In sweats and flip-flops over pajamas, but still. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
 
Before we even arrived at the waterfront, I could hear the snap-crackle of the burning wood. We gazed at the spot at the opening to the harbor where the first pyre juts out of the water. Each pyre rests a good foot or two above the water on a pole, both buoyed and anchored in place by three large black underwater spheres. Both the first pyre and the next one, headed inland at the mouth of the river, were burning low embers.
 
“Go ahead, Kelly. Refresh the flames,” Brian said, almost like a dare.
 
I started to protest, but then realized Jill had my safety sack and my patch was off for the night. The feeling of freedom almost knocked the wind out of me. I looked to make sure no one was watching—it was only farther down along the river that the real crowds started. I felt a whirlwind of crackling happiness around me and poof! The first pyre was healthily ablaze again.
 
“That’s so cool how you do that. You could become an arsonist and no one would ever suspect you.”
Awash in Talent Blog Banner
 
What is the best part about being a writer?
 
There are loads of advantages to being a writer. One is that I’m never bored because there’s always something to work on. Another is that inspiration can come from anywhere. You never know when that incident at the grocery store might come in handy. The most important is probably that you can make up entire worlds and decide what matters and what doesn’t.
 
What is the worst part about being a writer?
 
Working all the time without pay. Not a lot of people seem to know this, but it’s a fact.
 
Please buy books at new-book stores and check them out at libraries. A book is an author’s love, joy, and whole life for months or years. $2.99 or $4.99 is far from a rip-off, especially since you might spend hours enjoying it.
 
What are you currently working on?
 
The sequel to my historical epic, Seven Noble Knights, is my priority, but Awash in Talent is going to have a sequel, too, and I sneak in a chapter here and there. I hope they’ll see the light soon!
 

Get Social

 

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?
 
Author Website, Author Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, Pinterest, Amazon Author Page, AWASH IN TALENT
 
 
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03 Jun / Celery

I’ve just finished a very nice two-day break from work.
 
And by “break from work” I mean break from my day job and full-on with my writing job.
 
The joy of sending my work out to a line editor and a beta reader came to an abrupt halt two weeks ago when they unceremoniously sent it back.
 
Obviously, that’s part of the process and I knew it was but still. . . couldn’t they have done all the other stuff that needed to be done? The little rewrites and the corrections and the perhaps changing everything that happens in the end?
 
Except I think that would be a ghost writer and I don’t earn enough to pay myself to write let alone anyone else.
 
So, getting back to the point in hand, I decided to take a short break from insurance in order to focus on editing. I’d also agreed at some point to participate in a writer’s panel in the library and I thought two days seemed about right to recover and be able to interact normally with people again.
 
In fact, I was so worked up about the panel on Wednesday night that on Wednesday morning, instead of eating my celery for my mid-morning snack like a good girl, I ransacked the vending machine and ate a bag of Doritos and a bag of green onion chips.
 
Corn and potatoes. Stuff of champions.
 
I wouldn’t normally mention it, I eat out of vending machines so often there’d be room for nothing else, but the thing was I forgot about the celery altogether.
 
If I take something to work and don’t eat it as scheduled, I pop it in the fridge for the following day. If it’s a Friday, then I pop it in the organic bin because weekends and celery do not mix.
 
But as I said, I was stressed and feeling a bit anxious and once I’d overloaded on carbs and fake cheese flavouring, I completely forgot about the celery languishing in my bag.
 
Because I’m so organised, it was already cut, and I’d put it into a little Glad baggie with a sandwich seal to keep in the flavour.
 
I’m not sure the flavour of three day old room temperature celery is something that should be kept inside a baggie. On the other hand, when I broke open the seal and the aroma escaped, I discovered the flavour isn’t something you want exiting willy-nilly either.
 
So, celery is out of the question for the rest of the year. I’m hoping I can stomach carrots when the work-week rolls around again.
 
 
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A fellow staff member was complaining at work today that she only had five hours’ sleep the night before.
 
Five hours! Sheer luxury.
 
For me, that’s the sort of sleep I sometimes crave to get. The kind of sleep I ache for. The kind of blissful, lengthy slumber that actual dreams can be made of.
 
Unless I’m taking a sedative to force the issue, that’s the kind of night’s sleep that can keep me going during the day’s when I’ve not been quite so lucky.
 
Eight hours I’ve long assumed is a myth propagated by an evil genius who wants to downplay the achievement of receiving any sleep in consecutive hours at all.
 
If it weren’t for viewing my darling achieve this same thing effortlessly, night after night, I would think it an imaginary proposition much like giving up sugar or eating a low-fat diet.
 
Damn my a-type personality that tries really hard to achieve things. Trying to achieve sleep is one of the things destined to make it stay far away.
 
Much like trying to knock it into my own head.
 
Doesn’t work.
 
Leaves bruises.
 
Leads to hopeless sobbing.
 
Until. . .
 
Finally. . .
 
Another successful night down. Only forty more years of this to go!
 
 
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