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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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08 Jan / Serial

I listened to the final episode of Serial today.

This has made me fairly happy and fairly sad. Happy because I’ve been waiting to find out what happens, and sad because they’re just saying it will be back in 2015 and that could be anytime in the next twelve months.

My family motto is “We solve problems by patience.” I don’t solve a lot of problems. I may be adopted.

I really don’t understand why people haven’t already made all of the tv programs and all of the books and all of the movies and all of the radio podcasts that I’d ever want to listen to and enjoy reading and love watching so that I had it readily available to do it all now. Or later, if I feel like it.

And why do I only ever want new things? There’s probably a ton of old movies and old programs and old computer games that would perfectly satisfy my craving to never be the slightest bit bored. But I don’t watch it.

And why does this only ever strike me when something good ends? I’m not left bereft and frustrated at the end of Project Runway or Hell’s Kitchen or The Amazing Race or Survivor. Even when the wrong people win.

Sigh.

Another thing to add to my list of stuff that isn’t coming soon enough for my liking. Along with the second seasons of True Detective and Happy Valley, and the first season of Utopia (the Dennis Kelly one, not the Aussie comedy. Or the US Reality Show. Do you people not check IMDB before you name stuff?)

Not to mention the sixth season of Breaking Bad and The Wire. I bet those’ll be a doozy.

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07 Jan / Brain Fade

I do believe that although my body has returned from holiday my brain may have overslept its alarm and is still safely on leave.

I do often stare out of the window; when I’m thinking, when I’m trying to remember something, when I would rather risk being fired for staring out of windows than face the computer screen with the spreadsheet on it one moment longer.

But at least on those occasions there’s some thought going on somewhere. For the last couple of days I’ve been staring out the window because my entire mind is wiped clean and my body is blankly responding to the light.

I tried to do something today. I told myself in my sternest internal voice to stop dithering and look up the information I needed before my concentration went on a merry-go-round and forgot to get off when it stopped. Did it listen?

Sadly it did but with little result. I stared in furious concentration at the computer screen looking at a folder listing without the slightest idea of which folder would be the correct one to double click on to do the thing connected with the other thing that I…

When I came back to myself I was staring out of the window.

I’m not helped in this situation by having no companions at work at the moment which has meant I’m doing the tasks for 1.7 people plus .5 of a person in my new role for a grand total of 2.2 people’s work. (Luckily I can still add!)

But I’m currently performing at only .337 of a person.

You can do the subtraction to work out the net failing of the demand yourself while I go back to staring out of the window.

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I have been hunting down widows and orphans for at least 20 hours over the last couple of days.

In case you’re worried that I’m armed and out on the streets (I wish!) the widows I’m talking about are the one-word sentences at the bottom of pages that you should never see, and the orphans are parentless children the one-word sentences at the top of a new page.

It’s possible you’ve never seen these, because it’s the job of the typesetter to ruthlessly hunt these down and eliminate them. In the absence of a professional typesetter I’ve found instead that I can rely on… me?

Ohhhhh. Make it stop. I’m going blind.

Possibly because I have my eyes screwed up in frustration at the moment, shutting the world out. Possibly not.

The saddest thing about the whole experience was that for the first two hours (Saturday, I remember you well) I thought this was going so much smoother than the first time I’d had to do it. I felt all experienced and knowledgeable. Right up until the moment that blank pages started to appear in the uploaded file where there were no blank pages in the original.

Who knew that going to page 127 and entering an extra line after a triple *** was going to render the upload conversion service unable to tell the difference between a line and a line break on pages 10-11. Or 10-15 as the upload would have me believe.

Just to prove I wasn’t going crazy I copied the entire book into a blank word document and uploaded it. The empty pages all disappeared. Yah! All of the headers turned into even page headers, rather than alternating even and odd. Boo!

Considering how much I hate the sight of books at the moment I find it rather hard to justify a career as a writer. Usually it’s the lack of ability to generate a profit that does that to me, but apparently this can too.

My darling just says to pay the nice company their $199 and let them worry about the formatting. He doesn’t understand that even if I pay them and they do it I would still have to check every single character because you can’t trust no one these days. No one. No siree.

And then I’d also have to suffer the indignity of knowing that I needed to sell another ████████-ish books in order to earn that money back. Before I moved on to selling the books to earn back the editing fee, and then the proofreading fee. And then the… we’ll just bring all that moaning to a halt shall we?

I would like to say that it’s all finally done, but I need to wait for 24 hours for the good machines at CreateSpace to verify all my cover art and then give me a big tick (you hear that machines? A tick, no declinatures allowed.)

I do have to admit defeat, however. The system finally wore me down. There’s an error on the last page. I couldn’t get it out. I’m hoping that nobody notices.

Of course, reading this you’ll have a heads up if you did want to grab a copy of the book and search for it. Or, better still, BUY a copy of the book and search for it.

It sounds like fun to me, but what would I know? I’m a writer who can’t stand to look at a book.

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05 Jan / Trees

I have been subsumed by work today, so coming home I wanted to think about my garden and the lovely weather we’ve been having, rather than the little cubicles in which I spend a lot of my waking life.

To that end here is a lovely picture of a tree:

It’s a Eucalyptus tree, which you’ll be able to tell from this photo which points up where the leaves are:

And just in case you need a point of reference for its size:

They grow ’em big down South.

BTW this is not one of those pictures that always seem to surface in the police search of the bedroom of the aggreived partner where the head of the dearly departed is scratched out. No! This is just a measure to protect the innocent.

This tree is not native to New Zealand, but does seem to pop up all over the place. If you want to see it flourishing in its Native Land I’ve helpfully attached a photo below:

Ha-ha. I laugh at your puny Eucalyptus and your giant, cuddly rodents.

Now that my trans-Tasman rivalry has been sated I can show you a picture of a gigantic rose:

A pleasant memory from wandering around the Queenstown Botanic Gardens on Boxing Day, back when I was on holiday. Sigh.

And yes you’re quite right to point out it’s not actually a giant rose, it’s a standard size old-fashioned full-olfactory rose in close up. That’s as zoomy as my phone gets.

Well, wasn’t that a nice walk through the garden? I almost feel relaxed enough to think about going back to work tomorrow.

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04 Jan / Ugh Monday

Back to work. End of holiday. Grumpy. Go away.

And now I’ve got that off my chest, I’ve had a rather pleasant day today.

First off, I woke up reasonably early. Early enough that I wouldn’t have needed an alarm, although the actual getting out of bed added another twenty minutes onto that.

Throughout my holiday I have managed to sleep between ten and eleven hours every night, despite the fact that the previous night I will also have slept ten or eleven hours so couldn’t possibly need it again.

For the first few nights it seemed fine, but after two weeks it seems rather odd.

The likeliest explanation is that I put on a whole lot of weight, and now I’m sleeping all the time, because my body has decided to go into hibernation. In Summer. Yes, the likeliest explanation.

Next, we went food shopping and I bought fruit and vegetables. I know, right? They’re like plants but which you eat rather than kill slowly in pots. I even restricted my meat purchases to full-price venison on account of its low-fat content.

Then, and you’ll never believe this, I went for a walk. A full walk. Up and down hills. Down and up hills. The full trek that me and my darling used to go on, and which I haven’t quite managed to do for quite a while now.

Phew.

I must have been calling on the good luck genies because then I got home and checked my Kindle Sales reports to see that I was having my best-ever book sales day.

All of this must somehow be related to the fact that I must don my uniform and make my way into the office tomorrow.

What is the coded message? What could it be?

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