Katherine Hayton | BLOG
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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.

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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 🙂

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Christmas is once again upon us, and so the season of overeating has begun. In some parts of the world, this coincides with Winter which means you can cover up your excesses with layers of woolly jumpers.

Even when the button on your jeans mysteriously changes place so it can no longer be done up without extending it with the magical application of a safety pin, the damage can be covered up by a long top.

Down here in the southern hemisphere, however, things aren’t so easy. It’s summer. Not only that, it looks like we’re in for a hot summer. Already, Canterbury is in the middle of a drought. There’ve been entire weeks now where my weekday apparel consists of a cardigan only in the morning. In the afternoons, even my cold-blood runs warm and fluid.

My clothing layers now consist of a sleeveless top with a wrap. This apparel doesn’t hide much. Certainly not with the culinary sins I’m about to inflict.

One idea I’ve had is the idea of putting an Atkins spin on the whole holiday season. Ham, beautiful. Just fail to follow up with the Pavlova** and I should be okay.

A great idea which fails to take into account that summer is also the season where all of my berries ripen to perfection and are dropping from the vines, stalks and tendrils. The poor wee things can’t help it that they’re laden with carbohydrates. All they know is that they’re useless for the best part of a year, but right now is their time to shine.

Oh, well. Time to put thought into another method for getting past Christmas without gaining a spare tire. I’ve still got a week or two before the full onslaught hits.

**Pavlova, for those of you who haven’t come across it, is a meringue-type dessert invented by New Zealanders and named in honour of the ballerina. If an Australian tells you they invented it, they’re lying or deluded and either should lead you to avoid their company. And as for Wikipedia? You get what you pay for.

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Filled with dynamic energy earlier this week, I decided to film a video of myself to pop onto my website. I don’t have any camera equipment, but everyone else seems perfectly fine using their webcam so I was certain I could too.

After a fight with VLC media player which I still don’t entirely understand, I managed to put together a short clip begging asking for potential beta readers for my books in return for early copies and finished copies.

So far, so good.

I had tried at one stage to directly upload into YouTube by pressing record on the site, but for a strange reason it converted my ninety-second video into a sixteen minute punishment. I mean, I know that New Zealanders speak quickly, but that was too much counteraction for my taste.

I uploaded my video, checking three times that I’d switched from Public to Private, and waited for it to process onto the site. All so I could download it again and embed it onto my website.

While waiting, I investigated the site to see if I could remember off the top of my head which of the buttons I was meant to press to obtain the upload link.

I couldn’t, but I did find a previously unknown to me source of entertainment known as a transcript.

Poor YouTube has embedded this functionality presumably in an attempt to ensure hearing defective consumers could obtain as much use from their site as anyone else.

I’m not sure they hit their intended target. Witness below what YouTube has decided in its wisdom is a transcript for my short video:

“my and that inflation and I wanted to hear about a way you can receive all of my upcoming box before a the offer is to become a better rate of my books based off this means that you’ll receive an advance copy of my book to raid before anybody else had the chance to your loss I get a chance to take anything you don’t like about my book so then I can have the opportunity to fix it up before it goes on style examples if a bank might be phrases you don’t like character interactions that take too long or go too fast a character whose name you can pronounce all the point at which she threw the book across the room because she just couldn’t take anymore but provided feedback form when I find out each book and be stable at you do provide feedback both enjoy a completed copy of the book paperback or ebook your choice so that you can see how your feedback directly interacts with the final product owners you discovered no figures you can always unsubscribe at any time than good get started today by clicking on the subscribe link below.”

It did manage to hit the key point of “clicking on the subscribe link below” but what the hell does “my and that inflation” mean?

Even I couldn’t work it out and I’d recorded the words just minutes earlier.

Now, I know that not many people in the world have my particular accent and it can be hard to decipher the meaning of some words due to our pronunciation of most vowels as “eh” but still…

“Hi, my name’s Katherine Hayton” in no way resembles “My and that inflation.”

If you want to observe this video in action yourself then please click the link HERE.

On seconds thoughts please don’t. It appears I have some work to do. I might try to record it again and sound more like… what’s the word? Those funny things that live in houses. Oh, yeah. Humans. I’ll try to sound more human.

Hope you all have a good book to raid…

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In further ‘rise of the machines’ news, I’ve had a spot of bother with my printer this week. My laptop is now fine again, thanks for asking, but the printer *shakes head*

My first chore on Friday morning was to print out a postage label and a bookshop order reference, then package up a copy of Breathe and Release to send off to a library.

This is not mind-boggling as far as chores go. The half hour walk to and from the Mall to post the package (that’s half hour total, not two lots of half hour which would be close to actual exercise and therefore discouraged) I judged to be the hardest part.

Needless to say, I was wrong. Or, at least, I think I was wrong. If I’d ever gotten to the bit where I walked to the Mall chances are that I could’ve found it a terrible ordeal and ended up injured in some horrible, unimaginable way, but I didn’t so I don’t know.

I didn’t get to that part because of Magenta.

Magenta is fondly remembered from my childhood of attempting to program a basic computer colour palette into producing basic coloured graphics and as a character in the much-loved ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’

These are now over-shadowed by a blinking red light and hours of ‘But Why?’ shouted in a loud voice before a flow of copious tears made speech impossible.

The printer was fine the last time my darling used it. Or so he says now. When I pressed the button to turn it on I wasn’t even looking at the printer lights. I was down on my hands and knees telling my laptop what I wanted to be printed out. I have to kneel when dealing with the printer because, despite wifi capability being listed on the box, there’s no sign of that being a practical application of the machine itself.

At one point, I dedicated many hours to finding out how to program the printer onto a permanent IP address. That way our network would always know where to find it (or something, even that is hazy now) but it fell apart with the introduction of our new super-fast fibre connection and I couldn’t be bothered working it all out again.

Therefore, we had to plug the USB into the side of the laptop whenever we wanted to print, and that meant getting down on hands and knees.

Technology is incredible.

When it was obvious there was no corresponding paper being printed in response to my explicit instructions to my laptop, I stood up to see if the printer needed more paper or a jiggling of the document tray.

Apparently, there was something else awry. Something to do with an LED light which looked gray but must have faded in the sun because after investigating on the internet I discovered it was meant to be coloured Magenta.

Foul, foul, Magenta.

When have I ever wanted to print out anything coloured purple?

I tried to explain patiently to the printer that actually I just wanted it to print in black and white (or greyscale as it insists on calling it). The answer was two blinking red lights.

I pulled out the magenta cartridge, getting some magenta ink on my person because the toner cartridge is almost brand new and full of ink powder, and shook it in front of the printer so it could see that there was a magenta toner cartridge available, then shoved it back in. The response was two blinking red lights.

Eventually, I gave up and bought a new printer.

That’s not because of my frivolous capitalist nature, either. That’s because to purchase a magenta cartridge to test out whether it was something wrong with the cartridge rather than the printer, cost twice as much as it would to buy a new printer. Given it was a 50/50 of there being something wrong with the cartridge that was a lot of good money potentially thrown after bad.

I don’t understand it. I did economics in High School, but the world has moved on since then.

In better and brighter news, I’ve been designing book covers for my latest work-in-progress over the last couple of weeks. I have narrowed it down to the cover which I prefer and the cover which my darling prefers.

Naturally, I listen to my readers and my darling is a reader (comes with proximity) so I have to take his opinions into consideration.

To try to slip my preferences through, however, I have attached two pictures to this blog post. One is my favourite, the other is my darling’s. Please feel free to comment and express your opinions freely so that I can listen to readers other than my darling.

About votes: the top cover is called 1 and the bottom cover is called 2. I have my fingers crossed.

Also, if you’d like to read the first three chapters in the coming weeks, please sign up to my newsletter here. Yes, I do call subscribers My Groupies. No, it isn’t offensive. Is too, a term of endearment.

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22 Nov / The latest fad

Eight years ago when I experienced my first bout of Vertigo there were very few people around me with whom I could compare symptoms. I had the weird fortune of having a disease which nobody else seemed to have had.

This meant a few things. First, I could make stuff up about how awful it was because who was there to contradict me? Second, I could offer up my own recuperation period for exactly the same reason.

I greatly enjoyed the week I had at home to recover. Especially the three days after all my symptoms disappeared.

Also, because this happened in the distant past, people weren’t in the habit of looking everything up on the Internet in the same way they do now. Doctor Google and his cancerous tumour answer for everything was still a thing of the future.

Nowadays, I’d be hard pressed to get away with the same level of deception.

Which is a pity because I’ve had the unluck to fall ill with vertigo twice in the past year. Each bout worse than the last. It does make it easy on my doctor to prescribe medication because it’s already sitting on her computer screen. My disease recurred with such haste it didn’t even drop to the second page.

Last week my darling’s mother became poorly. Well, she became poorly twice earlier, but they were things which could be addressed at the doctor’s office at her inconvenience the way treatment should be administered.

In fact, just hours before calling for an ambulance, she’d been sitting in the after-hours clinic having a hair pulled out of her eye. If she’d just stayed put for a few hours there wouldn’t have been half the drama.

But that’s in crystal clear hindsight.

After becoming dizzy for a while during the day, she laid down to have a rest which made her feel far worse rather than far better. You know you’re ill when lying in bed doesn’t cure you.

After the ambulance was called and the patient sent to hospital they discovered her blood pressure was out of control and my darling settled in for a long wait.

The cause of this illness? Vertigo.

Been there, done that. Without the blood pressure bigness. Unless it got really high and I just didn’t notice because I didn’t ever think to take a reading.

In the days that followed it turned out that most of her village had experienced vertigo. Many of them within the past few months as well (if their memories can be trusted).

After that, a woman on the radio started blathering on about how she’d been feeling sick for the past week or so and what did she have? Yes, that’s right. Give the man a cigar.

Common illnesses aren’t any fun at all. You can’t exaggerate a symptom that everyone else is experiencing. The recovery time can’t be stretched out into a nice comfortable allowance.

It’s like getting a cold in the middle of winter. Right when everybody else in the office has one. You sneeze and cough and feel as bad as anyone has ever felt – even yourself when experiencing colds in the past because no way have they ever been this bad, right? – but nobody cares because they’re all wrapped up in their own disease and every time you complain of something they have exactly the same thing. Even when you exaggerate for sympathetic effect they have it. And they’re NOT lying.

So, no more vertigo for me for the time being. Until it goes back to being a disease of comforting rarity I will expect my immune system to get on board and go find something a bit more exotic. Go fetch!

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