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21 Feb / Last week…

The coming week is going to be a hard one for me. It’s the last week of my career break and if I thought I had sad feelings when my holidays were coming to an end, it’s nothing compared to my sad feelings now.

So many things I didn’t get time to do. So many regrets. So many lie-ins which I’m going to sorely miss.

Come Monday 29th February I’m going to have to get out of the bed when the alarm goes and get into the shower, rather than just turning over and falling back to sleep.

Damn.

Didn’t see this one coming.

On the other hand it’ll be nice to go and work somewhere where I can call someone if things go wrong. If the printer breaks, for example, or the computer starts working at a speed reminiscent of snails. If I type in the address for a website and it tries to download code instead of just showing me my book page.

Self-employment means the buck stops with me and sometimes that is no fun at all.

And, of course, the main thing that I’m looking forward to is a paycheque. Give it to me baby! Actual money. That I can spend at shops.

For six months I haven’t bought a single thing which I didn’t absolutely need. Included in that were two overseas holidays but I think they met the criteria. New holiday clothes though, not a stitch.

I haven’t bought a new leather jacket in a slightly different shade of red for six months. I haven’t bought a single piece of jewellery. When I haven’t felt like eating the lunch I purchased at the supermarket on the weekend I have gone without lunch.

(just kidding – I eat the one I’m not feeling like, just with a grumpy expression)

For a brief moment of time I was thinking that since I have a contract with a publisher that isn’t me I might be able to postpone the inevitable. Then I divided $1500 less withholding tax by six months and came up with not a lot of money. And no guarantee that in another six months I’d have the same windfall coming.

So, back to work. Back to working with people. Made of humans. Back to looking forward to lunch and then to 3.30pm so I can leave for the day. Back to fitting the job that somehow expanded out to fill entire days into the three hours between eating tea and going to bed.

Back to fiddling with problems that cease to interest me the moment I’m out the door and wrestling with decisions that only tangentially affect me.

When I left I was an expert in many things which left my brain about the same time I woke up and didn’t have to go to work for the first time. I imagine I’m spending a lot of the first couple of weeks learning a lot of things I wasn’t there for, and re-learning the things I was but only have vague memories of.

Sounds like fun.

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

During the last six months, I’ve enjoyed the luxury of spending time at home without the needless bother of a day job. It’s been a wonderful break (over all-too-soon) and my chief position in the house has been resident sofa warmer.

Such a nice change to sit cross-legged on my overstuffed, worn leather couch instead of straight-backed in an office chair. Sure, I miss the wheels when I want to cover short distances, but if I didn’t stand up to walk those short distances, my legs might drop off altogether.

When I first started sitting on the couch every day I thought that I might need to abandon it at some point to relieve a multitude of back or hip problems. During the six months before I took a break from work I’d suffered through bursitis, starting in my right hip and soon joined by my left, and worried that my casual posture may cause further damage.

Not at all.

The blessed couch had made me pain-free. Even my stiff knee starts to warm up after an hour of practice at bending. My spine is in alignment, my shoulder and neck haven’t had their usual painful days off every few months. My hips have forgotten what it’s like to be swollen and sore.

Then I sat on a plane.

Due to scheduling conflicts between the airline and our accommodation, our trip over to Australia had an added domestic leg. It was either that or fly into Brisbane with a two-hour drive to look forward to on landing. I was keen, but my darling didn’t seem quite so taken with the idea for some strange reason.

So, there was a short hop up to Auckland. My first time on a hard-backed chair (albeit with ample cushioning) for half a year.

By the time we arrived in the City of Sails, my tailbone was pleading with me to stand. Walk around a bit, it called out. Stop crushing me, it whimpered.

The pain was as intense as the time I’d fallen backwards while foolishly attempting to ice-skate without any ability to balance at all.

“Ice is harder than concrete,” the DJ from the upstairs booth cheerfully informed me. As if I hadn’t worked that out for myself by then.

During the wait at the airport, I acted like a teenage boy and perched in an overly relaxed sprawl designed to keep my tailbone from actually making contact with the chair. I balanced my body somewhere around my shoulders and my thighs.

By the time we landed in Coolangatta, I was in agony. My right hip remembered that swelling and warm pain were something it was good at generating and took to it with abandon. My tailbone wouldn’t even display the courtesy of going numb and continued to complain loudly that I appeared to be SITTING on it, with MY FULL WEIGHT.

There’ve been some things that I haven’t been keen on getting back into. Paying attention to alarms, talking respectfully to real human people instead of yelling at their likeness on a TV screen, concentrating.

Now a new fear has been added to the growing list.

Chairs.

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

31 Jan / Jeers and Cheers

Until midday on Saturday, I was all ready to go on holiday and looked forward to it greatly. It’s amazing how easily these things change. I received an email from the property owners for the house where we’re staying, which said they’d not yet received the payment for the accommodation, but they were quite happy for us to give them the money directly in cash on arrival if we wanted.

Scam!

I’d deposited the full payment due into their account twelve days before, deliberately arranging it a week early so that I had time to deal with any problems if they arose. After making the deposit, I then contacted the owners to let them know it would be in their bank account within 1-3 working days and to let me know if it didn’t arrive within this time frame.

So it was a surprise to hear from them after 12 days had passed. On a weekend. And the handy solution that we pay the same amount of money again in cash didn’t sit well. Not with me and not with my bank account.

Now I’m normally a calm woman… wait.

Okay, I’m normally a highly strung woman, so this news sent me immediately into a tailspin, whirling around the lounge and asking no one in particular, ‘What do we do now?’

My partner suggested we call the bank anyway. Typical suggestion from a banker. He got all the details from me and then placed the call.

That lasted right up until the moment he said, ‘It’s my partner’s account,’ whereupon I had to take over and clear their exhaustive privacy check.

The call to the bank didn’t work. The international desk only works Monday to Friday. How dare they? How dare they only work the same days as I do?

So we sat and waited for the property owners to come back in response to my hasty email saying had they checked back to the day that I’d deposited the money as per the email I’d sent them which they’d replied to at the time but now seemed to have forgotten (helpfully attached).

Four hours passed, which we filled in by looking up alternative accommodation that we’d be able to afford to pay IN ADDITION to the amount we’d already paid for accommodation that now might not pan out.

When the email popped up in my inbox, I hesitated before clicking on it, fearful that our holiday would now turn from something I looked forward to into something I dreaded.

They found the money.

Presumably they found it in the bank account they hadn’t bothered to look at before they emailed us demanding cash on arrival.

I think I swore more after the relief of receiving that email than I had when there was still the uncertainty.

Some people just shouldn’t be able to buy million dollar properties to let out to complete strangers. I can only hope they remember to meet us at the property with the keys.

Phew. Holiday back on.

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

31 Jan / Hot and Trending

Even though I’m meant to be on holiday at the moment, sunning myself and eating as much ice-cream as my budget and my waistline will allow, I’ve fallen into the trap of keeping tabs on the book I have listed on Kindle Scout.

Every hour, at fifteen minutes past the hour, I lean forward and refresh the website to see if my book is still on the Hot and Trending list. At night, I force myself to stay awake until the NZ equivalent of 11.25pm to check the statistics of the day just gone.

It’s funny, but no matter how many times I see books that haven’t spent much time on the Hot and Trending list get picked up for publication, while books that have stuck at the top for their entire month get passed over, it’s still a list I want to be on.

Human nature isn’t it? If a scoreboard exists, I want to appear at the top. Being at the head of the pack may mean nothing in the end, but it’s comforting right now.

At least, it’s comforting when I’m on there. There’ve been a few slipups as my campaign has progressed, I’ve endured a few tense hours, but I’ve clawed my way back on there thanks to the lovely people nominating my book or saving for later.

Well, I’ve decided tonight that this has to stop. Hot and Trending be damned, I want to focus on Hot and Sunbathing. Hot and Swimming. Hot and Ice-creaming.

After all, there’re only another six days to go. How disastrous could things possibly get?**

(**rhetorical question only, please do not answer me)

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

17 Jan / Daylight Robbery

On Friday, I took a great trip into town to visit my doctor. Nothing too terrible. A test that was long overdue, a refill for my prescriptions, and a test to see if the ache in my knee is arthritis or something I’m sure she made up on the spot called patella didn’t-catch-the-next-two-words-but-not-arthritis.

When I went to pay for the visit, I had my credit card at the ready. The amount entered, I picked up the card machine and looked at my credit card to see which end I should insert. When I looked back at the machine it said ‘Card Inserted’ then ‘Card Accepted’ then the transaction ended and a receipt printed out.

Accidental Pay Wave.

I don’t often use my physical credit card for purchases because if buying what I need doesn’t necessitate awkward small talk (and believe me, my small talk is always awkward). Although I realise the pay wave capability is there, I also thought it was something I’d have to do something different to activate. Like, wave it at a particular part of the machine, or at a different machine, or after specifically asking the receptionist.

To have it go off accidentally made me realise my practice of having my card at the ready while standing in line was perhaps a dangerous move. Without knowing which particular thing was receiving the card information, I now can’t be sure it won’t activate to pay for the purchase of the person in front of me, instead of my own.

Never mind. Live and learn. I’ll just wait until I’m at the front of the queue before fumbling in my wallet for my card – as though being asked to pay is a surprise – like everyone else.

On the bus on the way home I received a message from the bank asking me to phone them regarding my last purchase. It had set off alarm bells at their end and they’d blocked the card until it was sorted out.

Stifling a grumble – pay wave is their system after all – I made a mental note to call them once I arrived home. I spent a lot of my formative years living in the seventies and eighties where phoning someone on the bus meant you were a mental case and even though the technology is there I feel more comfortable waiting for my living room.

My mental note was completely erased by the journey home as we were experiencing a wind storm, which was fine while I was on the bus but would cease to be fine the minute I stepped off.

The bank is obviously used to this situation and had followed up the instant message with an email saying I needed to call them and they’d declined my last transaction. It took me an hour and a quarter to walk to the doctor’s office and another thirty-five minutes of busing to get home. I didn’t want to go through the same experience just to make a credit card payment.

So I dutifully called the bank and gave them all my personal details in sequence before they’d tell me why I was calling them.

It turned out four minutes after my transaction at my doctor’s office “somebody” ordered up over $800 of travel online. I wish it had been me. The bank politely declined the purchase and put a block on my credit card until I could get in touch. I know it’s a coincidence, nothing more, but the fact that an unexpected experience in my doctor’s office preceded my credit card details being filched and used for fraudulent purposes seems connected. I’m awaiting a call from the bank’s fraud team who will probe the issue further and I’ll be sure to ask them some incoherent questions masked as light accusation about their pay wave system and the security therein.

Until then I’m combing through my bank statement trying to work out which of my regular debits is paid via credit card and working out which system they use to update (phoning being a last resort due to ugh phones).

If I didn’t have a sunny holiday on Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast rapidly approaching I might even be upset.

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

For the past week, I’ve been involved in the rather nerve-wracking business of submitting my latest manuscript through to the Amazon Kindle Scout website.

If you haven’t heard of this site before, it’s a place where Amazon displays unpublished manuscripts with covers, blurbs, and the first 5,000 words of the manuscript available for your perusal. If a book takes your fancy, you can choose to nominate it.

A nomination enables Amazon to know which books are appealing to their readers, and the reward to “Scouts” is a free copy of the book if Kindle Press (an Amazon imprint) selects the title for publication.

From start to finish the selection process seems to be designed to inflict the maximum amount of nervous worry onto the waiting author.

Although the original submission is assessed and approved or declined within 48 hours (going live on the site at midnight the day following approval) the book stays available for nominations for thirty days on Kindle Scout. I’ve recently realised thirty days is a heck of a long time.

Bad enough if they were just feeding the statistics through each day, but being Amazon, there’s also a Hot & Trending list that displays the most successful books comparative to all other books available on the website.

To date, there’s no reliable pattern tying the hours spent in Hot & Trending with successful publication, but it’s only natural to want to be in any leaderboard showing and to be fearful if you’re not.

After thirty days of torture, the books come down from the site, and Amazon deliberates on which submissions it wants to offer a publishing contract.

When the Kindle Scout program began and was restricted to US submissions only, the process for notification took approximately two days. With the books that came down from the site in the latest round, ending 1st January, the notification process took eight days.

That’s one hundred and ninety-two hours. I know this because I just took out my mobile phone to check.

I experienced a few internal struggles while waiting the sixteen hours to have my submission approved. One hundred and ninety-two hours seems akin to a lifetime. And not a good life full of joy but one full of hardship and poverty and scrabbling to put food on the table.

But I have all of that to look forward too. At the moment, I’m just refreshing my screen every hour to see where my book ends up in the listing (they’re updated every hour – why, Amazon, why?) and pestering everyone I know into logging onto Amazon Kindle Scout and nominating.

Speaking of which, you can find my book The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton on the following link. To log-in to the site just use your Amazon username and password.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/14OQDFXYPOZZI

I also have a couple of social media campaigns that will broadcast later this month. If you have an active (or even slightly active) Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Linked In account, then please consider lending some social support.

My Thunderclap campaign can be found HERE

Or you can find my Headtalker campaign (with a chance to win US$25.00) HERE

Thanks in advance, and now I’ve got to go and refresh my website just in case I’ve slipped off Hot & Trending 🙂

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

03 Jan / Lacking Resolve

Well, three days in and I’ve only broken one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve helped this out immensely by only making one.

Although I won’t go into detail but there was no food involved in one scenario, and the resolution just seemed impractical when it got around to breakfast time.

I should’ve resolved to sleep more in the New Year because that’s one resolution I could’ve kept. After not having slept well for a long time I’m now sleeping far too much and finding out it isn’t a bundle of fun either. Complaints all around.

I don’t know who started this resolution trend off, but I’m sure it’s long overdue for ending. The same tired resolutions being made each year by one-year-older people to the same end.

New Year’s resolutions appear to exist only to be broken. Given that scenario, I should try harder next year to think of something spectacular to break. Therefore, I resolve next year to travel to Kalamazoo and Timbuktu. Or the moon. I resolve to become a world-renowned scientist. Or a six-foot-tall model.

What about you? What horrendous or horrendously exciting resolutions are you intent on breaking this year?

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

27 Dec / Leaking Pavlovas

This year for Christmas my darling and I decided not to exchange presents. We also didn’t have any decorations around the house (except for a handmade Xmas tree ornament made by my darling’s nephew which has been hanging from the nose of our Happy Bunny™ since we received it as a present last year which doesn’t count because it’s always there.)

There was a vague idea going around early on that we might wander down the street when it was dark and have a look at the Christmas lights in the one house in our neighbourhood that bothers. This was shot down through a combination of lack of interest and needing to stay up after our bedtime for it to get dark.

So my big Christmas moment was making the Pavlovas for our Christmas Eve dessert.

I read up on the Internet and saw legions of people complaining about how their Pavlovas leaked or fell or otherwise didn’t make the grade. I scoffed at these people, safe in my “I haven’t tried yet so I don’t know how hard it’ll be” state of innocence. I whipped up some eggs and gradually added sugar. I kept at those peaks until they were smooth and glossy and I couldn’t feel any grains of sugar when I smooshed a bit between my fingers.

I added cornflour and vanilla and white vinegar (???) even though it didn’t seem like an ingredient that should be added. I stirred in some JUST BOILED WATER which must have been integral because it was called attention to in capitals.

I separated my one pavlova into two pavlovas so that there weren’t any fights later on, then put them into the 100 C oven to cook for an hour and a half while I tidied the kitchen.

Half an hour later I peered into the oven to see a disaster forming.

A small puddle was leaking from one side of one pavlova. I refused to look for the remaining time in case it was my special vision powers that made the disaster happen. It wasn’t. Or, if it was, I inflicted the same powers again when I took the tray out of the oven.

Never mind. I’ve baked before. I know the score. I bought double ingredients at the supermarket because I know these things happen.

I double checked all the reasons this disaster could’ve happened. They were many and varied.

Beating the egg whites too much. Not beating them enough. Adding too much sugar. Adding damp sugar. Not integrating the sugar into the mixture effectively. Humidity. The oven was too hot. The oven was not too hot.

Having narrowed it down a bit, I tried an entirely different recipe that nevertheless used the same ingredients. Except for the water. The second one not only didn’t think the water should be just boiled but didn’t see the necessity for water at all. They looked remarkably similar when I put them into the oven. Unfortunately, they looked remarkably similar when I pulled them from the oven also.

Oh well. I’m used to disasters in the kitchen and you know what I always say? There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with lashings of whipped cream and chocolate chips.

I can also reliably report that meringue tastes like meringue whether it leaks in the oven or not.

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

20 Dec / Insomnia

I may not make a lot of sense today (just today you say?) because I’ve been struggling with insomnia for the past three weeks.

And when I say struggling, I mean it’s pounded me into the ground and is calling me its b****.

When it first started, it wasn’t too bad. I had early waking insomnia which is the best kind. I woke up early most mornings and I could get work done that I’d only dreamed of in the past. I’d crash around lunchtime but who needs a coherent answer after midday?

Now it’s switched to the worse kind. I lie in bed at night staring at the inside of my eyelids and getting worked up over a variety of incidents which I’m confident never happened.

Utterly useless wakefulness. Too tired to get up and do some work; too sleepless to… well, to sleep. In the morning when I drag myself into semi-consciousness I’m also too tired to get up and do some work.

I’m sure by now you can spot the problem there.

This isn’t helped by the fact I’m line editing at the moment which means both that I need to have my brain fully engaged in trying to think of the best ways to phrase things while also being bored senseless by looking at the same sentences over and over and over.

I’d complain bitterly and at length (oh really, that wasn’t at length?) but I’m terrified to do so because in the shadows lurks a meaner beast. I speak (or rather I don’t because I’ve seen Candyman and I know how saying words aloud works out for female characters) of the third and worst type of insomnia.

The I-can’t-fall-asleep-or-stay-asleep-and-I-also-wake-up-early insomnia. Also known as brain death.

One night many years ago when I couldn’t sleep (a familiar scenario apparently) I looked up insomnia on Wikipedia to see if you could die from it because it sure felt as though I could.

The ever-delightful Internet provided the answer that I could if I suffered from Fatal Familial Insomnia. I’d have found it an easier read if I’d picked up the first time around that this was a rare genetic disease.

FFI has insomnia down cold. By the time you die from this horrendous disease, you may have gone six or more months with NO SLEEP WHATSOEVER. The patients go completely mental. With reason.

In an attempt to treat it, a hospital once tried to make a patient sleep by using drugs to put him into an induced coma. The induced coma drugs failed to induce sleep. Can you imagine?

Unfortunately, when I looked this stuff up on the Internet at night after days of insufficient sleep, I could imagine.

In brighter news, my contest to brutally murder a member of your family in celebration of Christmas is running into its last hours. If you haven’t entered yet, then follow the link HERE to avail yourself of this one and only chance.

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