Katherine Hayton | BLOG

21 Feb / Saturdays

I don’t know why, but when you’re on holiday and it gets to Saturday it all seems like such an imposition.

We went out for our morning walk on the Port Hills this morning, and there were a whole lot of other people who hadn’t been there during the week.

We went out during the day, and the roads were full of cars.

At our neighbours’ houses there are children laughing and playing. Before 3.00pm!

Honestly, I usually love Saturdays as much as the next person, but they’re like the world’s holiday. When you get used to having just your own little holiday going on, it’s just too crowded.

Not to mention that it also means there’s only one more full day and then some people are probably expecting me to turn up to work. In the morning. In a fit state!

Hmmmmm. I bet next Saturday feels a whole lot better. This one just seems like a bit of a waste.

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20 Feb / Grass is greener

At the moment I’m trying to force myself to type 80,000 words, more or even more (I can’t use the word less there otherwise I might start to take it too seriously and I’ll end up with another trunk novella), at which time I can survey it for the nub of some kind of story and write another 60,000 words making that work.

Despite the fun that this sounds, I miss editing. Having all the words written down has the great advantage of HAVING ALL THE WORDS.

Simple, really.

On the other hand, I seem to strongly remember a feeling I had the last time I was editing which was something along the lines of, God I wish that I was writing words down at random right now trying to shape a story and capture characters instead of checking to see whether ass or arse is the accepted New Zealand spelling of arse (it turns out).

Maybe the bit that I really miss is where an idea comes up in my brain (ideas do appear there often, too often) and doesn’t get immediately shot down.

That’s really fun. It appears out of nowhere in particular (like all the best ideas should) and keeps me occupied for hours while I test it to see if it’s got legs.

The only drawback is that the nowhere in particular it appears out of always tends to arrive just as I’m about to fall asleep, and therefore the hours of occupation usually take me through until well after midnight. Waking up at 5.30am to go to work is never a joy, but there are some things that inevitably make it worse.

So then there’s definitely the bit where I just put a new book on sale and wait to see how the first sales and first reviews come in. No, not that. That there’s the stuff of nightmares. And waking at 5.30am after a sleepless night full of terrors is another in the inevitably worse category.

So now I’m pretty much back where I started. Could it really be that this bit that I’m not enjoying at the moment is actually the bit that I enjoy.

Hmmmmm. My day job is looking pretty good right now.

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Curly Bear looked the little baby bear up and down, then shook his head. He was so confused.

‘Why is he here?’

Fluffy Bear looked taken aback. ‘You didn’t expect me to leave him at home alone, did you?’ He inquired. ‘My baby boy is only a few hours old.’

Curly Bear shook his head again. He just couldn’t take it all in.

‘I didn’t realise that you were, hmmmm, expecting?’

Fluffy frowned. ‘Then what were all those cracks you were making about me being extra fluffy lately?’

Curly Bear felt even more confused. None of this made any sense, and everything he said just seemed to make it a little bit worse.

He looked behind Fluffy to where Skeletal was taking pride of place in the bookshelf. He should be out flogging a few copies so that people could discover its genius. That was his job, after all. He understood that perfectly.

He’d take one last crack at understanding why there was suddenly a little brown bear in their midst, and then he was going out to sell. ‘How is your partner feeling about all this?’

It was obvious from the fury on Fluffy Bear’s face that he’d put his paw into it again. Curly’s head drooped as he waited for the onslaught.

‘You know I don’t have a partner,’ Fluffy said curtly. ‘It’s hard enough being a single mum these days, without you rubbing it in.’

Curly sighed, then balanced a stack of books in his paws and went out the door. Signed paperback copies of Skeletal were only $20.00, and an unbelievable $3.99 on Kindle.

It was much better to just concentrate on his job and put everything else out of his mind. He shook his head one last time though. He could’ve sworn that Fluffy was a male bear.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Skeletal by Katherine Hayton


by Katherine Hayton

Giveaway ends February 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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I’ve signed up in the past for a couple of giveaways on Goodreads. Great fun, and lots of people who possibly will never get around to reading a book written by me add it to their “To Read” shelves so it makes it look tres popular.

As a result of opening these competitions up worldwide I’ve had the pleasure of sending my books to the far corners of the globe. Portugal, Lebanon, Montenegro, USA, Canada, and the UK at the last count.

It’s rather exciting to send books out to the far corners of the globe and wait to see whether or not people enjoy them. However, the one thing I’ve had little luck in finding out is how people in my own country feel about these things.

Therefore I’m happy to announce that I’ve now created a new Giveaway on Goodreads which is restricted to the good (and bad, I don’t want to be too restrictive) people of New Zealand.

The only drawback to this is that there are five books to giveaway. At the moment I have ZERO entries. Granted, it’s only been ten minutes since the giveaway launched, and chances are the peeps of middle earth have already tucked their little selves into bed with an existing book, but it does give me a bit of cause for concern.

So I send this heartfelt entreaty to the people of my land, please enter my giveaway. Please tweet or face or link or pin or plus or (insert any social media outlets that you use but I haven’t mentioned here) or otherwise share to your social networks and make sure that I don’t end up with pavlova in my face.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Skeletal by Katherine Hayton


by Katherine Hayton

Giveaway ends February 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Posted by Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog Read More

After attending the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular on Sunday I came away with wondrous memories of horrible horrible monsters, and a bit of tool envy.

Every time a Dalek attempted to exterminate the assembled human hordes little kids whipped out their sonic screwdrivers and forced them back.

And what did I do? I sat there and watched them.


Therefore when the twenty minute interval came about I took out my phone and searched for a price on a sonic screwdriver. I was definitely just interested in a price range. Yip.

Did you know it takes less than five minutes to sign up as a new customer, fill out a profile and make up a password, and then order a sonic screwdriver modeled on the twelfth doctor’s version?

Well you do now, and so do I.

It arrived this morning and I have such plans for this little beauty. Pretending to wave it in front of locked doors while surreptitiously swiping my access card. Pretending to scan people who come to my desk just to freak them out a little. Using it to control the order of speakers inside a Team Leaders’ meeting when I’m the facilitator.

Such fun.

And if a Dalek just happens to swing by at any particular point in time, I’m ready for it. Whom shall exterminate whom?

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16 Feb / #Jeffwecan

Ten years ago I smoked the last of my tobacco, ran all my smoking appliances under water before throwing them away, and never smoked again.

I did actually mean to give up smoking before I turned thirty, but my will wasn’t behind it, and I kept putting it off for just a few more months, and just a few more months, and then almost two years.

What finally tipped the balance, apart from having wanted to quit for at least five years, was the fact that on hot days I couldn’t catch my breath anymore.

Breathing is such an elementary thing that you don’t notice at all while it’s working – apart from when it heats up as you trudge up a hill – but the minute it starts to go wrong it takes over your life.

It reminded me of an article I’d read when it said that you should ignore the lung cancer statistics, the real cost of smoking can be found in the hospital wards in the guise of emphysema, COPD and chronic bronchitis. Dying of lung cancer is certainly no picnic, but it’s also still quite rare. Loss of lung function leading to complications from flu or cold viruses, or a chronic breathing problem that leaves you tethered to a machine without the ability to move freely through your life, were the far more common result of a nation’s smoking habit.

I didn’t want to end up tethered to an oxygen tank, or so tired I couldn’t even perform the rudimentary athletics of office work, so I quit. Cold turkey.

My breathing problems worsened into asthma; my skin flamed into a dozen patches of eczema; my weight ballooned into obesity and beyond, but I never regretted it for a moment.

Apparently smoking does protect you from some things. I discovered that the minor cases of eczema and difficulty breathing when there was pollen around that I’d experienced as a child and a teenager were actually full-blown anti-immune disorders that smoking ten or twelve times a day successfully sublimated. I also may or may not have lost the protection that smoking offers or doesn’t offer (I love medical science, it’s always so decisive) against Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, after getting past the first year of asthma I’ve never experienced another moment of breathing difficulty except when exercise related (the hills again!) And my skin turned down a few notches into irritation and annoyance which easily resolves with a few week’s holiday in the sun.

I’ve never felt angry at tobacco companies for my smoking addiction. I’ve never felt angry at alcohol manufacturer’s for my alcoholism.

And then I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and started to feel angry. I know why I took up smoking – I liked the way it made my head spin and I liked the fact that I could buy them even though I wasn’t meant to – but although I can assign a certain rationale to my own fourteen year old self, I can’t do the same with a two year old Indonesian.

Watching the Australian court battles with Tobacco Company Giants just reminds me all too well that my own country is about to be launched into the same battlefield with the same perpetrators when, or if, we implement it.

Why our public health policies are up for debate with foreign companies is a tad confusing. Much like the websites that sprung up in opposition to the bill for plain packaging when it was opened up for public debate. Some websites strenuously asserted that plain packaging shouldn’t go ahead, it would cost us money to fight court battles, there was no proof that it worked to reduce the numbers of people smoking. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that many of these “public” websites were funded by overseas tobacco companies who ‘were just making sure that every viewpoint of the New Zealand public was given a fair hearing.’

And of course there’s always the threat that we won’t be able to negotiate free trade agreements with countries who contain these companies.

So thank you very much John Oliver for putting a nice little campaign within easy reach of the general populace of New Zealand.

So I would like to lend my smoke-free voice to say #JeffWeCan

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I’m tied up with the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular at the moment, partaking not performing, so here is a blog post I prepared earlier.

At my real job we have a system for new staff where every piece of work they put onto our computer system is checked until they achieve a level of 90% accuracy (as worked out by our system – it’s more like 99.5% across all possible fields on a risk.) Once they attain that exulted level we then put them onto ‘Buddy Signing’ and this is where we sometimes strike problems.

When you’re new at a job, especially one that involves attention to detail and memorising great swathes of information, you expect someone with more experience to tell you when you’re doing things wrong. Nobody likes it, but you deal with it because – duh – it’s your job.

You also take criticism from direct customers. You got something wrong on their policy, you handle the phone-call to explain why and what you’re going to do about it. Again this is perfectly fair and exactly what everyone in any type of customer service role expects.

The problem with ‘Buddy Signing’ is that you’re being judged by someone who doesn’t have more experience. Nor do your errors have a direct impact on their policy.

The problem with a buddy, is that they’re exactly like you.

And that means that when someone in the same boat as you pours criticism, even well-deserved, even well-meaning, even expected, on your work you feel belittled. Because they’re no better than you. By their very nature they are your true peers, with no more and no less experience than you have, so where do they get off telling you what to do?

What does that do to a nice working relationship? It causes havoc. We have buddy signers whose work we have to go back to having an experienced processor check because their error rates sky-rocket. Is this because they suddenly become useless? No – it’s because they pick on every little thing as a tit-for-tat measure against their buddy.

We also have buddy signers whose rates of output freefalls dangerously close to absolute zero. Why? Is it because they suddenly have the task of signing someone’s work in addition to their usual duties? Not often. It’s usually because they’re spending every minute of the day compulsively checking their work in case they’ve made an error, because so-and-so marked them down for one the other day and it’s knocked their confidence level to nil.

Or we have buddy signers who start processing so much work that no one can keep up with their output. This is okay because their errors decrease along with the increase in output until they are fully proficient members of staff. They also become self-signing. This is actually the thing we’re trying to achieve whilst often managing instead to drive the behaviours above.

It’s this third one that everyone joining a critique group thinks they’re going to get. Well, you’re not. As soon as you realise that everyone in your critique group is in the same position that you’re in they’re going to pick on option one or two and you’re all going to drive each other crazy. Yes, you’ll feel great when somebody compliments your work, but often in groups there’s a rule (even if unspoken) that you don’t hand someone criticism unless you also hand them encouragement.

When I was a team leader this was the way we were originally taught to give feedback to staff on their job performance. It’s called sandwiching, and it’s meant to ensure that you don’t pump up a staff member so much they’re not aware they’re making errors, but also not dragging them down so low that they feel they’re not getting anywhere and start to think about jumping ship and trying something new.

It doesn’t work.

The best practice we now teach is that you hand staff members ONE piece of feedback. If it’s good it’s the only good thing. If it’s bad it’s the only bad thing.


Because people who are overly complimentary about their own standards of behaviour will never hear bad feedback when it’s sandwiched with good feedback. And people with low confidence will never hear good feedback when it comes parcelled with bad. So you tell people, as soon as the feedback incident occurs, what your opinion is. Good or bad, but not both. So they actually hear what you’re saying.

If you’re in a critique group try to keep that in mind. Remember that if you’ve got one piece good, one piece bad, it doesn’t convey meaning. Not without knowing if they had to spend three hours trying to find something good to say about your work. Not without knowing if they thought the whole thing was fantastic but felt they had to criticise something because, well because that’s the point of a critique group, isn’t it?

So I don’t think critique groups give you accurate feedback without slanting for retribution, lowering your output, or leaving you confused as to which way you’re heading. But I would still recommend you join one.

The one thing they’re really good for is exposing you to other people’s opinions, and helping you to grow a thick skin. You’ll be getting a lot of one, and needing a lot of the other, if you’re releasing anything into the wild.  

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‘How do you get a job as a booksale bear?’ Scruffy Bear asked. ‘That looks like right proper fun.’

‘It’s not all fun and games,’ Curly Bear warned. ‘You have to work long hours, and make sure you’re always looking good and smart. You need the proper T-shirt too.’

Scruffy looked downcast for a moment, and Curly felt a bit mean. He knew Scruffy only had a plaid tie to his name. He’d been unemployed for a while now, and it was hard to get by when you didn’t have the money for upkeep.

‘Why don’t you lend him yours?’ Fluffy asked. ‘He could try it out, and you could teach him a few ropes.’

Curly tried to say the word no, but Scuffy looked at him with such enthusiasm shining from his normally beady eyes, that he couldn’t.

‘Here,’ he said instead, pulling his T-shirt over his head and handing it across. ‘It should be about your size.’

Curly tried not to wince as Scruffy pulled the shirt down. It fitted perfectly. Better than it fitted him.

‘Now what?’

‘Now you’ve got to take a posture,’ Curly said. ‘Try putting your paw out here, and make the book look like it’s nice to touch.’

‘Oh, that’s good,’ Scruffy said as he tried it out. His head was pulling a little bit higher; his chest puffing out a little bit further. ‘This feels real natural.’

He did look good. Curly felt a tug of fear at the thought. Was his job really that easy?

‘You’re a natural,’ Fluffy said with a short nod of approval. ‘I think you’ll do well.’

‘You’ve had a try,’ Curly said. ‘But now I need to go back to work.’

Fluffy and Scruffy stared at him.

‘You can’t work here,’ Scruffy said. ‘You’re naked.’

Curly work with a start, his breath coming in short, hard pants. It was the same nightmare again. As he turned over in bed and tried to get back to sleep he wondered where it came from. A fear of unemployment, or a fear of nudity?

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‘No one even sees us anymore.’

‘What’s that?’

Fluffy bear cleared his throat. He hadn’t been meaning to speak aloud, but now that he’d broken the silence with his innermost thoughts he may as well continue. ‘No one even sees us anymore. Remember the first day we were up here?’

‘Last Monday?’

‘No, the Monday before. It was the 26th here, but in the States it was the 25th, remember?’

Curly Bear nodded his head yes. He remembered.

‘People kept coming by and giving us a pat on the head. They’d stop to have a look at the books, pick them up and read the back.’

‘Yeah, yeah. There was that one woman picked me up and gave me a squeeze!’

Fluffy Bear laughed. ‘That’s right. I thought I was never going to see you again.’

‘I don’t think she even bought a copy.’

‘No,’ Fluffy Bear said. ‘I don’t think she did.’ He thought for a second, then laughed. ‘She certainly wanted to buy you, but.’

‘I’m not for sale,’ Curly Bear stated, sticking out his chest.

‘And now they just walk on by. It’s like we don’t even exist.’

Curly Bear nodded his head. Fluffy Bear definitely had a point. He remembered the tight grip of the woman. The warmth of her arms, and the sweetness of her perfume. She’d put her nose down into his head and sniffed him deeply. Snuggled him under her chin.

‘Maybe we should hold a sale? Maybe if we dropped the price they’d come back?’

‘Maybe we could give them away for free?’ Fluffy Bear mocked, and then held out a paw when he saw how Curly Bear’s face dropped. ‘Sorry. They’re already a bargain. Signed too. We can’t devalue her work that way.’

Curly Bear nodded his head. No way did he want to ever devalue her. She was the light of his life; worth a thousand sweetly scented cuddles.

‘What’ll we do then?’

Fluffy Bear shrugged his shoulders. ‘Dunno. Maybe we should pack it up for a week or two. Maybe they’ll notice when we’ve moved on.’

‘We could always come back though, right?’ Curly Bear’s voice rose a few notes on the last word. He stared at Fluffy. ‘It’s nice here, isn’t it?’

Fluffy Bear nodded at him. Maybe it wasn’t a lie. ‘Sure we will,’ he said, his voice cracking on the last word. He cleared his throat and tried again, ‘Sure we will.’

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