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17 Jan / Easter

The neighbours over the road still have their Christmas decorations up in their window. This isn’t too much of a shock, it isn’t even the end of January. We’ve only taken down all of the Christmas decorations in the office because we’re moving to a different floor in a week’s time, and we’ve been packing up everything that isn’t a carbon-based life form.

So it was a bit of a surprise at the supermarket this morning to see that they’ve moved on. Our next public holiday is Waitangi Day, but apparently that’s too difficult to celebrate with foodstuffs. They’ve gone directly to Easter and they haven’t passed GO.

Hershey’s chocolate Easter buns were taking up pride of place in the bakery, and there was a shopping trolley full of Cadbury Creme Eggs right next to the ‘Everything inside for $1.00’ trolley full of tinsel. Sad, sad tinsel.

Last week I swore blind that I was going to walk home every night. I couldn’t on Monday because I had a meeting that ran late, and I told myself it would worry my darling too much if I didn’t turn up home on time, so I caught the bus.

I came home to find my proofs had arrived, so rather than walk home for the next couple of nights I also took the bus so that I had extra time with my correction pen.

The bus driver on Tuesday night was new. He was so new that I had to look twice to make sure that a pre-teen hadn’t climbed into the driver’s seat as a bit of a prank.

The seasons are rushing by fast. The workers I encounter on a day-to-day basis seem to be getting younger and younger.

I think I’ve reached that certain age.

Either that, or supermarkets are profit Nazis that think the religious holidays are just a money-spinning exercise, and the bus service has finally convinced it’s pensioners to retire and make way for the younger generations.

Either, or.

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16 Jan / Procrastination

At the beginning of the week I was a busy beaver. I read through my physical proofs and discovered dozens of mistakes that some dick of a writer had not managed to pick up yet.

To be fair my editor, who professionally proofread it, also missed these errors. That may have had something to do with the hundreds of other errors that she did find. She discovered the forest, I found the trees. We’re all happy.

I then uploaded the content into Createspace and had another fight with it. The last time took me nearly two days, this time it was only a couple of hours. I hate books, I hate books, I hate books.

Anyway, paperbacks ordered and online catalogued up, the sole task remaining to me on Wednesday night was to amend the Kindle version as well.

Unlike Createspace what you see on the Kindle version before you upload, is what you get. There’s no mysterious adjustments mid upload, or pieces of data going missing in the cloud. There’s also not a bunch of blank pages forcing their way into slots 10-12 just to annoy a much-put-upon writer who already has a day job to get her to the end of her tether. She doesn’t need help from her hobby thank you very much.

So, maybe 10-15 minutes tops. I just needed to do that, and then I could sit back and relax and worry about the advertising, and marketing, and selling, and weather.

10-15 minutes that I was going to do as soon as I got home from work on Thursday. And then later that night. I was definitely going to fit it in before I started work. And in my lunch break. I could squeeze it into my afternoon tea break. But for sure I was going to get it up and loaded as soon as I got home tonight. Or before I had to sit down and work on my blog.

I’m now going to tackle it tomorrow morning. Being a Saturday the whole day is clear so I’ll do it nice and early and get it out of the way. Pretty early. After the shopping maybe. And then the dishes. And then the vacuuming. And the washing. And the television watching. And another episode of the wolf among us.

And if not Saturday, then Sunday. Next week maybe.

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15 Jan / Peaches

I have three peach trees in total in my garden. I also have a nectarine. I bought these and planted them and fed them and watered them and sprayed them because I love fresh fruit, and apart from berries, peaches and nectarines are my favourite fruits.

So it’s a constant disappointment to me that these trees don’t produce much in the way of fruit. Apart from the Blackboy peach side of the twin-grafted Blackboy and Golden Queen peach tree. Or trees. What is the correct manner to refer to a double-grafted tree? If anyone knows please feel free to drop me a comment. Or, if you don’t know but you’re highly opinionated, likewise.

I wonder if you’d be able to guess my least favourite type of peach?

I actually purchased the double graft because then I could genuinely explain to anybody else in the household who questioned me that I had bought a different variety. I did just want the Golden Queen because the tree I had didn’t produce much fruit at all.

The Golden Queen side of the tree looked sick the first year and didn’t even produce a blossom. The next year it developed some lovely leaves, which then contracted leaf curl (from my chronically infected Nectarine) and started the process of dieing back. This year it grimly produced three leaves which fell off before the leaf curl could even get a look in.

I’m not expecting big things next year, and the qualifying whether it should be referred to in a singular or plural form may not be of long-serving use.

Meanwhile my lovely large original Golden Queen continues to produce almost no fruit at all. When it does it tends to hide the peaches from view, and I only know they’re there when they fall onto the ground; rotten.

Last year when I was loudly bemoaning the situation in the office a co-worked suggested that I give it a scare. Pare its branches back almost to the trunk and it may turn its mind towards reproduction and voila! Peaches.

My now much smaller tree started off well. Until the problem with the nectarine.

As mentioned before my nectarine has chronic leaf-curl. I can usually keep this in check and still have it produce a bounty of fresh nectarines (at least bountiful for its small stature, not for my hunger) if I spray it with copper at the beginning and end of the season.

I forgot to spray it at the beginning of the season, and when I remembered it was too late as the leaves were already out.

So this year the poor nectarine looks like a scabby cousin of its former self. It was already the runt of the peach-family, at only half the size of the tree purchased at the same time, and now the top half appears to have lost all ability to live. My only consolation is that when I cut off the deadwood it may look like one of those intricately manicured trees with thick trunks and wide low branches. I don’t know if it helps you to visualise, but they always remind me of a man trying desperately to do a comb-over.

The leaf curl spread quickly to the main Golden Queen tree, and all of the burgeoning little peaches swelling from the blossom promptly fell off.

Even in its reduced state the nectarine usually manages at least a dozen nectarines, but this year it’s holding on so grimly to the little life it has left that it’s also abandoned its budding fruits to the cold earth.

I’m starting to feel that I should save the money I’ve been spending on fruit trees, and perhaps invest it at the supermarket instead.

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I’m desperately trying to finish editing my proofs tonight (so my paperbacks can be shipped and stocked in time for my book launch – oh the random excuses a writer can come up with!) so here is a blog I prepared earlier.

The first idea for my book Found, Near Water came from reading about the Wests in the UK. When the police dug up their back yard trying to find the body of Rose West’s oldest daughter – which in family rumours was buried in the backyard – they started to unearth bones. There was a point, when they uncovered three thigh bones, that the realisation dawned not only was the daughter’s body in the backyard, but other women as well.

I also wanted to have a moment like that – to have someone searching for something specific, not even sure that they’d find it – and then to discover not only what they were searching for but to have that ‘three thigh-bones’ moment when the fact hits them that they’ve discovered more than they went searching for.

The second idea was to do with the woman who later became Christine. It was from the Boxing Day tsunami footage where so many people had died all at the same time. I watched a colleague from work – on an anniversary, not at the time – and they were talking about the clean-ups in the villages, the bodies and how they were handled.

It sparked an idea about how I could take something that usually caused so much grief – the loss of a child – but embed it in a tragedy that was so large that the individual grief wasn’t recognised. When there’s a quarter of a million people dying the fact that your daughter was one of them doesn’t earn you the same recognition as when they’re the only one dying that day.

That sounds really awful when I type it out, but that was the genesis of Christine. Someone coping with an overwhelming individual grief lost and meaningless in the scope of an over-arching tragedy.

My next idea was around the protagonist of the story – Rena – and the abduction of her daughter. I was watching a few minutes out of a soap on television before the news came on – I’d guess that it was Home and Away just because of the timing but I wouldn’t put much money on it – and the scene ended with a woman sitting upright in bed asking ‘Where’s my daughter?’

I don’t know what the storyline for her was, but I instantly filled in the starting characteristics of Rena’s story. There was the attraction of something bad happening – something that would usually be widely advertised and appealed – and instead, nothing.

The crime scene that would usually be scoured for clues hadn’t even been cordoned off, the witness identification and records that would help the initial parts of the investigation hadn’t been sought out let alone recorded. And then I wondered how far I could push it out. What would happen if she told people, and they didn’t even believe her? How would you start an investigation when every starting point was already wiped clean?

So that’s where I got the main three ideas that formed the base of the storyline and characters from Found, Near Water. A devastating tragedy that occurred a decade ago; a half-watched glimpse from a soap opera on television maybe eight years ago; and a paragraph description from a book on true crime that I read six years ago. All stuck in the back of my head turning over and over until they started to coalesce into one storyline.

Makes you wonder what’s brewing back there now!  

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There’s been a murder.

A shocking statement to hit you with just out of the blue. But true nonetheless.

It happened on the front lawn. I’m guessing some time in the last four hours. Give or take four hours.

There’s no body, at least that I’ve managed to find thus far, but there is a ton of circumstantial evidence. Or a gram. Depends on whether you’re expecting me to speak literally or figuratively. Or literally in its new use as a stand-in for figuratively since so many people have misused it for so long. Whatever, I could care less.

I feel quite shocked at the moment. When I came inside from the crime scene I had to have a bit of a sit down. I’ll have to lie down shortly, but that’s because I’m going to bed so I possibly shouldn’t be telling you that. Now you’re all going to picture me in bed, aren’t you? I feel violated. Like a celebrity who had her phone hacked and naked pictures spread across the Internet but without all the money and glamour and hot guys and stuff. Except for my darling – he’s my hot guy.

You can tell I’m stressed. That went completely off-track, and that’s so unlike me.

When I walked outside, I didn’t know that anything was wrong. I went out through the back door. Across the back lawn. The only concern I had was that the prickles on the lawn didn’t embed themselves in my feet.

Such innocent times. I can hardly stand to think of myself as I was then. It’s like looking back at myself in a warped mirror.

I cornered the house – that means I turned the corner, not that I intimidated it until it retreated into a corner – and walked up the driveway.

The sky has been cloudy today. There’s been a cool, calm breeze lightly offsetting the heat that’s been present for the last week or so. Summer is acting like summer for a change, instead of a combination of spring and winter. As I progressed along the drive the sky overhead was started to reflect the lowering sun off the bottom of the clouds. A bright line of silver, then refracted into a kaleidoscope of wondrous colour.

I turned the corner. Oh god, I turned the corner.

At first I saw only the grass lawn spread out in front of me. The heat has forced the green of the grass to recede and shade into light brown. It looks like a spark could flame and swallow the entire expanse in the time it takes to draw a breath.

Then I noticed that part of the lawn looked… fluffy. Soft grey and fluffy. It wasn’t right.

I ventured further forward; since the dog not-quite-attack I’m more cautious, but this didn’t look like it would hurt me. I moved closer still.

It wasn’t until I was almost on top of the scene that I recognised what had happened to the lawn. The soft grey colour matched the soft grey feel.

It was feathers. Piles and piles of feathers. A tiny, fluffy multitude of feathers.

So many feathers that I realised quickly that there was no bird that could survive being that naked.

A crime had been committed.

A murder.

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12 Jan / Pondering

I have been pondering nonsense for the past few minutes. Nonsense such as:

When you gaze into the television, does the television also gaze into you?

Why does the supermarket charge me 5c for a plastic bag due to “climate change”, but then give me a 10c fuel discount?

When I think of the food I’ll have later I feel hungry now, but does that necessarily mean that if I have the food now I’ll be hungry later?

Yeah, I’m pondering.

You?

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Remember a few weeks ago when I talked jokingly about the big sook of a dog that lived next door. He’s not so much of a laughing matter anymore.

For the last few days we’ve been finding rather large unpleasant surprises plonked down about the property. One steaming pile of foulness gave my darling a nasty start when he went out to take the washing down off the line, and another gave me a shock when I wandered around to the cherry trees to see whether I’d completely hauled their bounty.

That was bad, but at the time of discovery we didn’t know what dog was responsible. The dog next door is large, and so were the piles, but that’s not proof of guilt now, is it?

We used a shovel (our old shovel) and dug it deep into the garden. If you come around for a visit and I offer you a blackboy peach beware; who knows what it’s sucked those nutrients out of!

Then last night, we caught him in the act. Sneaking around to the back garden. If a dog 30 inches high and weighing 90 pounds can sneak.

My darling gave a shout which made him run back up the drive, and I barreled out the front door to see him off the property altogether.

All of this was pretty instinctive. When something violates your boundaries, even unthinkingly, you want to make sure they’re fully expelled.

It was when he stopped running away, and turned to face me, that I realised how big he was.

Big, and growling.

The only advice I’ve ever taken on board about dogs is don’t show fear and stick your finger up their bottom if they bite you and won’t let go.

I’ve not seen the dog’s bottom, but I’ve seen what comes out of it, and that is not an appealing idea.

So I tried to stare him down. I raised my hand and flicked my finger in the direction of his house, and told him in my lowest angry voice, “Go home.”

I think the dog misunderstood. That’s the best way to describe it. He listened to me, he saw my stance, he knew I meant business, and he tried to go into my home. Through me.

The minute he charged I turned and also tried to go home. We have a flyscreen over the front door so we can leave it open during long summer days and nights. It’s an old flyscreen, and the latch on it sometimes locks into position even when you haven’t snicked the catch to actually lock it.

When it was clear that the door wasn’t going to budge I tried my best to stay dignified and calm, and let out a scream of wordless fear. At any moment I expected the dog to sink his teeth into my tender, fatty, succulent flesh.

My darling has failed to account at all for the three hours (in my estimation) it took him to come to my aid.

The dog didn’t bite me in the end. Somewhere between the running and the panic and the curdled scream, he’d given me up as a joke and wandered off to find another lawn to target.

So tonight my darling and I are left with an enduring fear which has us closing both doors fully whenever we hear a strange noise that may or may not be dog related.

It’s like an ankle bracelet, but without the fun of committing a crime beforehand.

And I don’t want to spoil anything, but in my third novel you can expect to find a mastiff coming to a very, very sticky end.

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After long months of thinking, writing, re-thinking, re-writing, editing, proofing and formatting, my book is finally ready (apart from the final paperback proofs – would be nice if you could drop those off soon DHL) and has been submitted out to a few sites for editorial reviews.

I’m pleased to announce that the winner for the promptest reviews goes to (drum roll please)…

K.C.Finn for Readers’ Favorite (oh it hurts my little NZ heart to spell that all American-like. What does your nation have against the letter U?)

And now, in lieu of me doing any real work, I’m instead going to reproduce the first official review of my not-long awaited second novel Skeletal (due out on 25th January 2015)

Review Rating: 5 stars!

Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

Skeletal is a paranormal crime drama by Katherine Hayton, narrated by the long-dead Daina Harrow, whose death is being investigated after her body was discovered in the foundations of a building some ten years later. The narrative shifts between the coroner’s hearing in the modern day and the months leading up to Daina’s death back in 2004 when she was a high school student. A host of unpleasant ordeals twist and turn as they lead readers towards the end of her life. Daina guides readers through the varied cast of characters who made her final months of life a living hell, through bullying, sexual predators and a childhood secret that Daina is just unlucky enough to rediscover.

I’m not usually a fan of contemporary crime drama, but the thing that inspired me to genuinely enjoy Skeletal was Katherine Hayton’s witty narrator in the form of the dead Daina. Where I would usually have found topics such as bullying and assault difficult to read, the dry humour with which Daina looks back on her past seems to alleviate a lot of that hardship, making Skeletal a blackly comedic read. There are many dark moments in the plot too, but Daina’s post-mortem urge to see justice done really rubs off on the reader, and her unrelenting descriptions of her former nearest and dearest are vivid and truly real. Skeletal is an intriguing read that doesn’t play out in the way readers would expect, with an engaging style of storytelling and a conclusion that leaves you reeling in wonder. Bravo.

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On a more serious note than usual, tonight I’m writing about censorship while it’s far too early to make any jokes about it. When France raised its collective arms in horror I stopped calling them cheese-eating surrender monkeys and raised my arms in solidarity with them.

I think most people around the world will have been protected or enraged by censorship at some time during their life. Whether it’s the watershed hour on television protecting the innocence of many nation’s youth, or the slapdash coverups that restrict our pleasure while touting they’re for our collective benefit.

Personally I believe that once you’re an adult nothing needs to be censored. We know where the off switch is. We know how to not buy something. We can turn to a different page all by ourselves.

If people are offended by images or words or noises it is usually well within their capability to avoid the offense and regain equalibrium.

Even if someone gets in your face you can turn the other cheek and walk away. Just because you want to smash someone’s nose in, and I’m sure many of us feel the urge at times, doesn’t mean you have to. This is what imaginations are for.

This is how most of the seven billion people in existence get along together while living on the surface of a tiny planet in a corner of an unimpressive galaxy collectively hurtling through space.

(I actually looked up into the sky after writing that to check that there wasn’t another planet on a collision course with us – damn you Lars von Trier.)

I myself have greatly suffered at the hands of censorship. There isn’t a lot of room left in this blog before everybody loses interest because the commercial break’s over and heads away, so I’ll list the top three:

1) My parent’s – bless their hearts – used to send me to bed early so I wasn’t shocked out of my skull by mid- to late-night television. I vividly remember one night when my siblings were baby-sitting me (the joys of being the youngest) and they either didn’t notice or didn’t care that I got back out of bed at some point and watched the Sunday Horror with them. It was the Incredible Melting Man. It was hard to watch. He kept melting all over the place. I can still see the ear he left behind in one scene.

Perhaps I remember it so well because it turned up in my nightmares for the next seven years.

Gigantic censorship fail. Children do not understand consequences, and do not understand that they should go to bed when they’re told. Even me, and I’m practically a genius. Practically.

2) Southland – series two. When TNT bought the rights to the second partially completed season of Southland, I rejoiced. I loved the first half-season that NBC had broadcast, and although I understand it didn’t exactly fit its family friendly model it would’ve been a shame to waste it.

We don’t have a lot of cable television down here, our only option is Sky TV, so I wasn’t completely certain how cable channels operate in the States, but I was fairly certain that they only have to impose their own censorship. After all, you subscribe to their service – you don’t have to if you don’t want to watch – right?

An episode proved my assumptions were wrong. Coming into a crime scene that nice blond man, who used to be on the OC and is now on Gotham, stared in horror at the bed. The bed which was covered with the fuzzy squares of censorship.

Through having to pay attention to the dialogue I gather that there was a raped mother and two daughters, and they were not meant to be as boxy as they appeared. Really? You’re screening a television show about policemen and you can’t show a crime scene.

Censorship fail. I just imagined it instead. Pretty sure the version that was shot for TV wasn’t as depraved as the one my head provided.

3) Although New Zealand’s censorship office didn’t require South Park: The Stick of Truth computer game to be censored, our stores imported the European version because it was nearer or cheaper or the only version they could get hold of or something. I was treated to censorship sticker cartoons over the controversial (to Europe) cut-scenes while a narrator cheerfully told me exactly what it was the sticker was hiding.

Censorship fail. That was hilarious. There is no way that even the genius of Matt Stone and Trey Parker could have come up with something that funny on their own. I thank the censors of Europe for their idiocy, and hope that a range of spoofs are in creation already.

So there’s only one last act that I need to mention.

4) Two days ago three gunman opened fire at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve. The following day the remaining staff decided to continue with publication, but increasing the print run to one million copies, up from the usual sixty thousand.

Censorship fail.

Je Suis Charlie

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