Thursday, 3 December 2009

Cookies: Ugly But Good

Apparently this recipe comes from Italy and is known as Brutti Ma Buoni - ugly but good. And they really sounded good in the recipe, as well as being gluten free which was just what I needed today. I don't think they're that ugly - but they sure are good! Here's the recipe:

6 egg whites (mine were small, so I used 7)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups nuts (I used peanuts)
250g chocolate, melted and partly cooled

Beat egg white till stiff. Add sugar. Beat more till stiffer. Add vanilla, then nuts. Add liquid chocolate, leaving streaks. Use two dessertspoons to drop lumps onto the baking tray with one inch between (about 15 per tray is good). Bake at 170°C/330°F until puffed up and crisp. Makes about 40 cookies.

I baked them on aluminium foil without grease, and they peeled off quite satisfactorily once they were done. Basically they are a Chocolate Peanut Meringue, very light, crunchy/chewy and chocolatey. What more could anyone want?

But I don't get to keep them, as these are headed out as part of the NZ Cookie Swap! I wonder what I'll get in return... :)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A new story begins

Monday morning, and the move is over, such as it is. The weather's dim, but hot and muggy - like a tropical springtime. I'm sitting on my work chair with the machine in my lap, in Mum's living room, which is packed full with my desk, travelbags and several boxes of personal belongings. The rest of my stuff is stacked on the bed in the spare room, which is why I'm sleeping on my mattress laid out right here at my feet. Now I just have to remember what it was that I was doing before life got disrupted. There's certainly a lot of work to do - the freelance translations piled up a bit over the weekend - and also for Splashdown Books. I have to send out a bunch of free books, edit the next one to come out, and chase up those elusive marketing connections as well as prospective authors. All while living here without any personal space at all, and helping to renovate this old place - a HUGE job in fact, but we'll just have to take it one room at a time.

And what about the writing? Writing, you say? Hmm. Well, it hasn't been happening much lately except for a sentence or two hurriedly tapped out on my phone here and there. But you'll be glad to hear that I've just come up with yet another idea for a novel that could become more - for a total of five storyworlds I move in. This one's a superhero jaunt, and like all my best ideas, it's grown from a thought I've wondered about for years. Enough said - it's still brewing in the back of my mind.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about adding a new aspect to my blog posts here, and I'd love your feedback. You'll agree that my blogging is more random and rare than anything else. Some folks blog several times a week without breaking a sweat - not me! Others say blogging is good practice for writing novels. Maybe so. But if I have half an hour to write, I'd much rather spend it on advancing a novel than writing a blog which will end up forgotten in the mists of cyberspace. Practice schmacktice.

Anyway, since I've got three and a half novels completed, of which one is published, I thought I might start posting chunks of them here for you to read. A couple of weeks back I posted the opening of Legendary Space Pilgrims and it seemed to go over well. Since my publisher - ahem - is not concerned with first rights or copyright issues on unpublished material, there would be no problem in posting more of the same. Or bits of Cyberdublin...or even Godspeed. You can then even assist in improving the rough-draft versions of these excerpts, if you're so inclined, or just come along for the ride.

So tell me what you think. Would you be interested in reading scenes from my unpublished novels? And do you think I should do it here or over at Splashdown Books, aiming to include work by my other authors as well? Your comments are greatly appreciated...

Monday, 16 November 2009

Legendary Space Pilgrims - the first pages

Time for a taste-test of my upcoming release. I hope to have it out by the end of January, edits and private life permitting! Have a read, if you care to, and tell me if you'd pick up this book if you saw it on a bookstore shelf...


The clang of the work-bells forced its way into Mario’s consciousness. A sliver of light pushed through his eyelids, and he pried them all the way open.

Morning again. Monday morning. But on Planet Monday, every day was the same. No joke. He threw back the thick rough-woven blanket and heaved himself upright.

His limbs were slow to respond as he lurched into the plastic wet-cell that towered beside his bed. What had he been up to last night? It sure didn’t feel like he’d slept the full nineteen hours. He slid the pane across the opening and flinched at the shock of the cold water. After thirty seconds the water switched off and he stood still as the airdryers around the cell’s base kicked in. The air wasn’t much warmer than the water, but it felt good.

Stepping out of the cell into the two-by-four-foot floor space of his living quarters, he opened the long drawer built under the bed and pulled out a sky-grey tracksuit, standard issue. Some things never changed. He chased the thought across his consciousness and peered out the tiny window above the bed. Square grey buildings met his gaze. Above hung the eternal grey clouds. Nothing ever changed on Monday. Unless…

Unless he’d been mindwiped.

He groaned and let himself sink onto the brown bedcover. Looking up at the emergency transport tube access in the ceiling just above head height, he examined its round rim. No dust. That meant the tube had been used in the last few hours. Dust coated everything on Monday within just a few hours.

He blinked and shivered as he stared unseeing at the vid-wall’s moving feed of Ocean region. Last night, they’d sucked him up that tube. Wiped his emotional memory. Extreme feelings were erased from the workers—a technique no one ever remembered going through. But everyone knew it happened, since afterwards only the simplest facts remained. Had he really been emoting so badly?

Mario scratched his head, put on his boots, then the second bell sounded. He rose, seized his blade-gloves by the cuffs, and moved to the door as it swished open simultaneously with all the other doors up and down the hallway.

The two hundred inhabitants of the third floor stepped out of their quarters as one. To be precise, the third floor of Wing B, Building 17, Sector X9, Foodstuffs Region, Planet Monday. The doors swished closed again and the workers turned to march towards 17’s central hub.

Mario strode over the hallway’s threshhold to the third-floor lobby and accepted a breakfast pack from the dispenser in the doorway. He bit off the cap and squeezed the warm coffee-flavoured sludge into his gullet on his way to the mass transport tube. He joined the line in front of Wing B’s accessway and guzzled the rest of his breakfast while he waited. Smiles greeted him, but he’d lost all memory of their owners.

Monday-morning-itis. The clown who named this planet deserved to be recrewed to Sewage Region. Just because they discovered it on a Monday…since when do you have Mondays in space, anyhow?

He chucked the empty plastic foodsack in a waste unit to the left of the accessway, slipped on the bladed work-gloves, and stepped into the pod that opened before him.

The thin plastic shell closed. A jolt accompanied the sudden blackness as the pod began its journey. The familiar whoosh of the surrounding air calmed him, which was a bonus for the emo-reader implanted in his neck. If it didn’t detect strong emotions, he wouldn’t get sent to be mindwiped. But it was too late for that. Again.

The chip in his neck beeped, warning him to prepare for landing. An open accessway lit up the pod from below just before its bottom opened, dropping him out of the tube. His knees bent to take the impact. He shot out of the darkness feet-first to land at the edge of a vast field of oats.

Mario flexed his elbows and knees, noting new bruises on his wrist, shoulder and lower leg as well as the usual ankle stress from landing. As far as he knew, the transport tubes had never killed anyone, although they sure doled out a beating-up to those who used them. But he’d come off lightly today.

To his left and right, other morning-dazed freshly-podspit bladers slowly righted themselves and faced the day’s task. X9 was Monday’s oat capital. Their harvest became the breakfast porridge served by dispensers in every part of the planet.

Nineteen hours, and counting down. Days were long here, but then, so were the nights. The line of workers moved forward, cutting the oat-stalks with the blades sewn into the thumbs and index fingers of their gloves, then releasing them to be sucked into the transport tubes that filled the grey sky with their spidery network. No longer set to carry human-occupied pods, the tubes now gently removed the harvest for processing in X9’s huge barns some miles away to the east. To the west, the first of the dormitories was barely visible on the horizon. Ahead, to the north, grew oats and oats and oats, fading into the skyline where they met the cold whiteness of the clouds.

Mario paused and pulled off his gloves to raise his jacket’s hood and tighten its edge around his face. Monday had no weather to speak of—at least not like on Old Earth as he’d seen in the vid-hall movies. Only night and day. But it sure was cold, except where the sunlampsglowed from the undersides of tubes. For the crop, of course, not the workers. He shrugged and threw himself into the rhythm of the work, just as he’d done on more than two thousand other days since coming to X9.

What happened yesterday? What had he done to deserve this mindwipe? As he struggled to remember, he caught sight of dark-blond dreadlocks peeking out under the hood of the worker to his right. A sudden shock of delight rippled through his chest. His chip gave a single low beep. 10% of critical emo-level has been reached. Adrenaline pumped though him.

Ten percent wasn’t really dangerous, but it could get that way. He worked a little faster so as to get ahead of his neighbour, then cast a quick glance back. The lumpy dreadlocks framed a pale and petite face, with brown eyes that gazed steadily back into his own.

His heart began to hammer. Two beeps sounded. Twenty percent.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove

I have been hearing about this book from multiple directions and gained more than a passing suspicion that it involved supernatural elements. I have to tell you right here that the title is the most supernatural thing about it, but as titles go, surely this one's got to be a strong provocation for readers of the supernatural genre.

Kate's husband Kevin is dead. But he still talks to her. She's having trouble remembering what happened in the last weeks and months of his life, but his disembodied voice comes to her when she least expects it. Kate sets about to try and find the reason and the source, but her lack of success, combined with the odd facts that keep surfacing from the past, drive her to the edge of sanity.

Almost by accident she becomes involved in a city youth centre and is intrigued by the advice of the pastor there. Yet she is thrown off by a nasty encounter with a different reverend. Gradually she realises that a part of her memory has gone missing, and begins to dig for the whole truth.

This is a deeply realistic portrait of the human response to tragedies. Kate finds no quick fixes, but she does find a way to go on. This story faces up to life's toughest questions and answers them in the end with gritty hope. So it's not strictly supernatural, though it touches on many aspects of spirituality. What it is: a stunning psychological drama that can help you face your own issues. Mine seem small in light of Kate's, and she got through it. And so can I.

Other participants in this CFRB tour:

Rae - Caffeine and Romance
Renee - Black and Gold Girl's Book Spot
Julie - One Rainy Afternoon
Cathi - Cathi's Chatter
Lori - of My Favorite Books
Christy - Sassy Things
David – Christian Mystery Writers
Laura - Author Laura Davis

Friday, 6 November 2009

Books, Planes, and Airports

So. Here I am, globetrotting almost done with, sitting in an airport with a couple of hours to spare. What am I going to do? Blog, of course!

Things have been exciting lately, as well as incredibly busy, culminating in the upcoming launch of the first new book from my publishing house, Splashdown Books. This new release is The Muse by Fred Warren, a story I loved from the first time I encountered it. In it you'll meet Stan and his friends, wannabe writers who suddenly find themselves facing a source of inspiration like they never imagined - but more dangerous than they can believe. You can check out the trailers, blurbs and reviews at and the Amazon page at

If you're able, I would love for you to take part in the online launch party for The Muse by spreading the word on your social networks and blogs. I'm going to see if we can get a chat room on November 15 to celebrate the occasion. I'll keep you posted. As to what you can do, watch this space. I'll make a standard blurb-type post that will include a brief summary and the video trailer. Even if you haven't read the book, posting general information about it would be very helpful indeed!

Let me know if you'd like an electronic review copy, too. Everyone who posts a review will get a free print copy. By the way, I have re-released my first novel Faith Awakened under Splashdown Books and removed the old version from sales. There's a new ISBN too. And I'm well into writing the sequel - Godspeed, the journeys of Naomi Wallace.

Publishing plans for the new year include Legendary Space Pilgrims - though out of the blue, this manuscript has been invited to take part in the Marcher Lord Select program, which is something like American Idol for novels. My book is pitted against 35 other stories, and if you sign up to the Anomaly forum, you can cast your votes for as many of the entrants as you like (minimum 3). The winning manuscript will be published by Marcher Lord Press in April. Now it's not like I need that, because I have Splashdown Books ready and waiting (and the cover already designed!) to publish it about the same time. So feel free to vote for the others. Really. Go over and support the awesome idea of letting readers pick what they want.

I get home on Saturday - and boy, it's about time! You can see some of my travels on my blog and youtube, and I'll try to get some more stuff up after I get home. Thanks everyone for your support when my dad died. I miss him a lot; in some ways it's a hole in my life that will never go away. But if ever there was a true believer, it was him, and there is hope beyond this life. He was my first fan; he wrote my first review on Amazon; and even at his graduation from Bible college he was giving away copies of my book.

That's it for today - a lot of things to cover, but it's been a long time since I blogged! My heart remains partly in County Dublin, and in the south of France, and in a small town in Bavaria; but I'm a Kiwi through and through, and these many weeks now I've longed to hear the wind in the manuka trees and the call of the tui bird, and to see the sun sparkling on the water, and to smell the rain on the earth. So be it. Not far to go now.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Tour de France: Dijon area

The Hotel Dieu (God's Hotel), a convent hospital for the poor... on TwitpicConvent hospital interior with inbuilt chapel. Check out thos... on TwitpicTraditional glazed ceramic rooftile pattern, Dijon area on TwitpicNougat cakes, shop window, Dijon on Twitpic
We drove for about three hours to Beaune, and visited the Hotel Dieu (God's Hotel), a convent hospital for the poor, dating from the 17th century. Then we arrived in Dijon, where it was time to stay put for a while!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Tour de France: Marseilles, Avignon, Orange

The Chateau D'If, which we visited - location of both The Cou... on TwitpicIle d'If, Marseilles harbour - you can see the city in the di... on Twitpic
Pics: Île d'If, and the view from its top tower which includes Marseilles town
On Saturday we visited the Arles market and bought a few things. At noon we headed for Marseilles where we took a ferry to the Chateau d'If, famous for its role in The Count of Monte Cristo and the Man in the Iron Mask. Back in Arles we went to a different restaurant where a man with a guitar serenaded the guests. I ate lamb followed by a crème caramel.

Sunday: packed up and drove to Nimes, where we briefly viewed the amphitheatre (same as the one in Arles) and the Roman temple dating from the year 2-4 AD. Then at the Pont du Gard, a 2000 year old aqueduct standing high above a river gorge to carry water to Nimes. I climbed partway up the hill on the other side, after which my feet were screeching at me to quit playing tourist already - not from blisters, but pressure fatigue all over the soles, like walking on bruises.

The popes' palace in Avignon, like something out of a fairytale! on TwitpicCycle racing day in Avignon - pipsqueak class!  on Twitpic
Pics: The pope's palace and a pipsqueak cycle race, Avignon

On to Avignon, where we checked into a rather quaint hotel and set off to search out the famous bridge. We ate sandwiches and ice cream and rode a tourist train to the garden on top of the rock, far above the riverside road and the encircling medieval wall - completely intact around the old town area. In the evening the whole group went down the street to a restaurant where we ate soup, chicken with beans, and Ile Flottante. The hotel rooms being air conditioned, I slept very well for over nine hours.

Breakfast was a bit rushed on Monday morning, but we got away at eight and soon visited Orange, with its huge Roman theatre.

Roman theatre in Orange. That thing is BIG! on Twitpic

Friday, 25 September 2009

Tour de France: Carcassonne/Arles

We drove through to Carcassonne just in time for yet another three course dinner, including a delicious lasagne. In the morning I set to work on the translations for Germany, which left just enough time to grab a bite and meet the bus. In the old town I encountered a small green lizard in a narrow street, and a couple of comfy cats in courtyards. We went down into the main town and took a boat trip on the canal. Then I stayed in town to seek out an internet café in the form of an Irish pub. Mum came too, but the rest of the group were keen to get back and do their washing.

That night the hostel put on a dinner of local specialties for us - a salad with jezier, which is duck guts. The main course was cassoulet - duck with beans and pork sausages - and another apple tart.

The next morning after breakfast I went for a walk and enjoyed the relative quietness of the streets, which was a surprise after seeing it so busy all the rest of the time. Then I went into the castle with eight of the girls and spent some time wandering around alone after they all raced through. From the courtyard a window showed a basement below, with a cat sleeping on a cardboard box.

For lunch we went just around the corner - well, everything's round the corner here - and ordered the gizzard salad again and lasagne followed by chocolate mousse. The remainder of the day was spent walking around and around the Cité inside and out and on the ramparts. In one of the little shops in a narrow winding street I had the unusual experience of discovering a red chair exactly like the ones I owned in Germany. Sitting on it for a moment was quite singular. That evening we ate omelettes in the square.

The morning after that we left at eight to head for Arles, where we arrived around noon. First we ate salads at the Place du Forum near Van Gogh's Le Café La Nuit, then visited the amphitheatre, the church and cloister, and the underground crypt with most of a Roman forum intact under several streets. That night we went with the ladies to a restaurant recommended by the hotelier, and ate the most artistic meal I have ever seen - three petite but filling courses of delicately designed platters. I ate ratatouille with egg followed by salmon and veges, then a creation of gingerbread and ice cream.

Salad in Arles

Arles: the Roman amphitheathre

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Tour de France: Mont St Michel, Tours, Châteaux de la Loire, Rocamadour

Bright and early we packed up on Sunday morning and left after another lovely breakfast put on by our hosts. We drove on tiny back roads through to Mont St Michel, which loomed up out of the mist as we approached through cornfields and hamlets.

How do you describe the experience of a place like that? Built sheer from its base on a rock in the sea, it is a functional town, even if overpopulated with tourists. Soaring halls stacked atop one another culminate in a high church with an angel on its tall spire - Michael, for whom the place is named. We ate Galette Normande (crepe with ham and potato) for lunch in a glassed restaurant overlooking the tidal flats and returned to the bus via the ramparts. A bit more time could have been spent here as there were museums and gardens to see.

Pics: Cloister garden high atop the Mont, with tidal flats and salt plains beyond; and me on the ramparts

< View from the ballroom of Château Chenonceau, which spans the river Cher

We then commenced the four hour trip to Tours, again mostly on back roads which made some of the girls feel sick, but we did see a lot of pretty little villages, each with their church in the middle. Once in Tours we took a brief walk at the riverbank before eating at a little restaurant around the corner, in the heart of the old part of town. Feta quiche, steak with stuffed baked potato, and apple and rhubarb tart. Back at the hostel everyone was complaining about the sanitary facilities and overnight the locale did prove to be quite noisy.

In the morning a very tired bunch drizzled in to breakfast and we set off afterwards for Azay le Rideau, the first of our castles for today. It is a country manor set in a lake, complete with fairytale turrets and loggias. The second castle was Chambord, which we only looked at from outside - the best view apparently. We didn't get to see very much as we only stopped for a few minutes and everyone was hungry and keen to get to the next stop where we were to eat - Clos Luce, where Maestro Leonardo lived. This proved to be one of the best visits of the day, as the house and gardens gave many insights into the character of Leonardo. All around the rooms were framed quotes from him in French, and the girls went around dechiphering them with great gusto. Prior to the visit we ate on the terrace overlooking the city and chateau of Amboise: mushroom omelettes and then I ate my first French crepe of this trip: with almonds and chocolate.

Amboise and Blois both looked like pleasant towns worth a visit on another day, but we could only pass through this time. Along the road we passed a tractor with a deep trailer full of ripe grapes, losing red grapejuice through the cracks at a rate of litres per second. The sun grew hot as we drove on to Chenonceau, the palace that spans the river Cher with its ballroom. As we prepared to leave, a hot air balloon with a huge basket took off from behind one of the buildings belonging to the castle. The drive back to Tours included a short stop at a supermarket so everyone could buy munchies for the long bus trip tomorrow. In the countryside we spied several different carloads of people enjoying a roadside picnic, complete with tablecloths and wine.

Next day from the bus we viewed hazy horizons as they became first rolling hills, then sharp inclines and valleys and cliffs. Here and there, tantalising glimpses: a thatched shed tucked into a tree-line, baby goats in a field, a stone wall covered in moss, and high viaducts over forested valleys. Interestingly, these valleys mostly have flat grass at the bottom rather than streams as I would expect.

On the approach to Rocamadour we had to take a narrow road in the side of the cliff because it seemed the only way in. Part of it was even a tunnel, hewn in rock and only just big enough for the bus to get through.

In Rocamadour we went up as far as the churches and grabbed a sandwich and ice cream, but not in that order. Peering straight up or straight down for such heights is pretty amazing, especially from the church terrace where the cliff hangs over above you and the birds are always circling.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Tour de France: Rouen and Bayeux

We landed in Paris at around 7 in the morning and waited a rather long time for the baggage, normal I suppose for a huge plane like that. I photographed the terminal's interior escalators until finally everything was gathered and we were able to head for our bus. It was much bigger than we had been told, so that we could spread out as we wanted.

The drive to Rouen began with excitement as we caught glimpses of La Grande Arche while leaving Paris. In Rouen, after some initial disorientation, we wandered through typical tiny streets and huge cathedrals. We ate fresh bread with lettuce and cheese, then had to head back to the bus.

Pics: Café in Rouen; Rouen cathedral; old houses in Rouen

Two hours later a very tired group disembarked in Bayeux to view the famed medieval tapestry. Despite its great age, the vivid colours and huge length are worth a close look. Then we checked into our gorgeous little hotel on the Place du Marché and visited the establishment next door for a three course meal - the first of many culinary challenges for our new travellers. We ate paté, grilled turkey with chips, and apple tart. And early to bed in lovely timbered rooms.

On Saturday morning we awoke early from jetlag and observed the vendors setting up their stalls for market day. A visit to the bakery provided an early snack, followed by a cup of tea in the café and finally breakfast in the hotel at nine.

We spent a good deal of time in the market, buying local cheese and fruit for lunch as well as some very French clothes. Time then for a wander through old Bayeux, with its coloured shop-fronts and yet another cathedral that seemed to glow yellow in the noonday sun. We lunched in a tree-shaded park and rejoined the group for a trip to the coast.

Haunting relics litter the cliffs far above those fateful beaches - mangled concrete bunkers and huge potholes, pocked with twisted rods and rolls of rusty barbed wire. Farther along at the military cemetary, we looked on as all the Americans present froze on the spot to sing their anthem. Along the road I noticed many houses bore metal decorations, some shaped like an S. Back at the local restaurant we ate crudités salad, roast ham, potato gratin, and pear custard tart.

Pics: café in Bayeux, hotel room ceiling, dogs viewed from hotel window, at the cemetary

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Review: The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry

A highway accident, a man with amnesia, a supportive wife wanting to save an ailing marriage. Ingredients for a good story in the first place. But there's far more to it than that. The "new" Craig, who remembers nothing of his prior life, is suddenly more loving than the man Denise thought she knew - and more committed to the family than she would have believed just days ago.

So what is going on here? Clues begin to appear, solid evidence that Craig had been a man with two lives before losing his memory. Denise battles to forgive him, this familiar stranger with no recall of the betrayals he orchestrated himself.

As more and more of the truth is discovered, there are more and more surprises waiting for Denise and the boys, and for young Samantha, a leukemia patient they met in the hospital. I tell you, just when you think you've figured it out - wham! Another astonishing layer is uncovered, culminating in one of fiction's most cunning plot twists to date. Nothing is as it seems, yet when all is revealed my reaction is "of course!" So a canny reader might figure it out earlier with some effort!

The tale is told in a sympathetic back-and-forth banter between His and Hers chapters. It resonates within me for a couple of reasons. First, I had the opportunity to meet the author last year, and I can say that her personality shines from every page. What a wonderful story she has constructed from disparate slices of real life. Secondly, I recently spent a lot of time visiting a critical care ward, and this book describes its atmosphere perfectly. And I suppose thirdly, because when I got to the end and discovered the truth of the matter, I realised this story has more in common with my own life than I ever imagined. But I can't say any more in that regard or I'll spoil it for you.

In brief? This is an author to watch out for in future. Get ahold of this book and let it wrap you up in its reality, clear as a knife-edge and never retreating in the face of truth.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan

Zero to 100 is one way to describe the pace of this novel. It starts out harmlessly enough with the discovery of a stash of old scrolls in a New York mission. Then odd and frightening things begin to happen to those involved in reading one scroll in particular. Near misses and almost-fatal accidents point the men to the significance of the find. Much time is spent on filling in the background history - of which there is plenty - mostly by way of dialogue and questions batted back and forth. Finally our scholars, amateur and otherwise, crack the near-impossible code in the scroll and realise what they have on their hands.

An expedition is mounted to Jerusalem to attempt the daunting task of proving or disproving the scroll's hidden message. At this point the story becomes a big boys' lark as our city slickers prepare to become archaeologists. This element of wide-eyed discovery and good plain fun in the face of danger continues to be a large part of the story's appeal.

The action and adventure mounts in leaps and bounds as our intrepid and largely clueless explorers determine to reach their goal in the face of overwhelming odds. But not only that: the magnitude of the matter at hand soon looms larger than any personal struggles as astonishment and wonder take the place of grit and fear. A couple of amazing saves out of left field are required to get our boys out of the massive international unrest they've gotten themselves into the middle of.

Recommended for guys in particular, and also anyone who likes breath-snatching action and plenty of supernatural intervention at just the right moments.

Monday, 24 August 2009

two poems

party animal

I walk these streets by day when I have to hug the shade to stay cool
I walk these streets in the evening when the little owls call in the valley.
I am walking to another party tonight
barely recovered from last night's insanity
someone is turning twenty, yes I feel old
I pass three other parties between Archers Road and Chivalry. Someone calls hi to me from a yard crackling with barbecued sausages and I greet them back. It's Saturday after all.
But at these parties you'll find me not amidst the noisy crowd
I'm the one outside with my boots in the soft earth and wet grass
trying to capture the moon in my camera

no stuff thanks

I don't believe in birthday cards
nor Christmas gifts and such.
Don't be perplexed, don't be dismayed
I've always thought as much.
I do not mean you disrespect,
nor do I mean you harm
The customs that I thus reject
Don't keep a friendship warm.
Who wants rooms full of well-thought things
And stacks of trinket love?
I only wish they could sprout wings
and disappear above.
The odd thing to expect from me
In spite of what I've said
Is that I might give a random gift
At other times instead.
Why wait until a special day?
Please let's not have a row.
For if I have a thought for you
The time to give is now.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


...AT ALL! Har-har, you thought I was going to say by bread alone, didn't you?

For some time I had been getting bored with my food. I was like, why bother? Sure, we have to eat and nourish ourselves, but so much of the everyday fare was driving me nuts with its sameness.

Then I spoke to a member of the extended family, who shall remain unnamed, who had recently given up eating carbohydrates. Aside from a quite significant weight loss, the food she described sounded far more interesting than the norm.

So I decided to give it a go. That's right, folks - no bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, and all that stuff.

"But wait a minute," I hear you cry,"How can you ever get full without those things? You must be starving!"

Not so. Not at all. My question to you: Why do we eat bread and potatoes and rice and pasta? I propose that it's mostly just to get full.

Fact: You can get very nicely full without them.

Lunch has become the main meal of my day, consisting of a base of green salad and diverse other items, such as bacon, eggs, mushrooms, avocado, capsicum, fish, and cheeses. Not all at once of course. Just enough to provide variety and of course to get full on. And usually at least three kinds of sauce, such as balsamico on tomatoes and soft cheeses, tomato or basil pesto on hard cheeses, mayo on the greens, and the mustard that comes in the sardine can. I'll put some photos in so you can see what I mean.

There! Now you can't say those are small meals. I have never experienced hunger after finishing off a plate like that.

Eggs are magic. I eat two of them most days for lunch, unless I'm having sardines. And they are incredibly satisfying. No need for bread.

In fact, I have not once noticed a lack of carbohydrates. No sleepiness or weakness, no hunger, no craving for a spud. And don't forget who you're dealing with here: the one-time pasta queen who used to demolish at least four servings of fettucine at one sitting in the all-you-can-eat Spaghetteria chapel bar in Regensburg.

Kiwifruit are also magic. I eat two of them most days for breakfast - the yellow ones mind you, but that's a matter of taste. I eat them with yoghurt and a sprinkling of muesli to give it some crunch. Now strictly speaking, muesli is carbs. But I couldn't give it up entirely, as its lack made breakfast into a very insipid affair.

I also haven't entirely given up porridge oats. The reason for this is simple: eating like this without carbs, when you run out of food, you REALLY run out of food. No bread and jam for a hurried meal. No instant noodles or potato flakes to fill you up. So my emergency ration is now a hot cup of instant soup with a few spoonfuls of oats left to soak for a minute. I don't do that often but it's good to have something on hand for those days when the fridge is looking sadly raided. And no, I still don't go hungry.

Dinner is interesting. Because I eat such large lunches, it doesn't have to be a major thing. Minute steaks are great, as are mushrooms and eggplants and any veggie that takes my fancy. Other times I make a batch of kumara and leek soup. Now the kumara is indeed a potato - a sweet one - but its carb levels are a lot lower than the ordinary humble spud. Fine, I say, fine indeed. I love kumara! And even a small bowl of this soup is very satisfying. You can also add bacon of course. Put it away in little freezer tubs and voilà - my version of a TV dinner.

If you're into sports or you have a relevant medical condition, it is not recommended to quit carbs. Just thought I'd mention that. However, I am still well able to take my brisk half-hour walk each day with no ill effects.

I must admit that I'm fond of a piece of carrot cake now and then. Now that is true luxury. And I have supplies of chocolate on hand for when dour moods must be fought off. But I propose to you that my little piece of cake still has less carbs than all your sandwich bread.

As for the chocolate...well, there's got to be something to live for, right?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Muse

Hey! This is the day I've been waiting for...the unveiling of the trailer movie for The Muse, a fantasy by Fred Warren - a new author to be published by my imprint, Splashdown Books.

You can find out more about The Muse and Splashdown Books at and keep up with the news at We are also taking pre-press reviewers right now, so get in touch with me if you're keen to read and help us promote it!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Excess Exhilaration

I want...
to write the six books in my head.
to make movies for all of them. Several for each, in fact.
to start and finish my Travel Photography project and the several books and movies emerging from that.
to walk in forests and on mountains and drive the length of the country and gallop on a horse through ocean spray.
to dance my heart out at open air concerts and sing prayers with thousands by my side.
to share my life with people who are good at both talking and listening.
to be at peace with the way I am.
to play loud music and pump exuberance into every place I go.
to learn the piano, or rather, to practice it, since Dad already taught me everything.
to put my guitars in hands that will play them better than I am able to do.
to host a tribe of contented cats who like me.
to travel the world yet again and capture it on camera so anyone can see it.
to look into space whenever possible and gaze at planets and systems and galaxies.
to know the secret treasures of my hometown and homeland, and other towns and lands.
to stand alone on a mountaintop yelling at the storm.
to cook delectable feasts for crowds and watch them enjoy.
to feed carrot cake to many visitors.
to explain the meaning of my life in other languages.
to exude all of these things day after day.

However, the things I must do are different. I must...
work for money
critique a lot of writers
organise blog tours
talk on the radio
typeset and design
liaise with distributors
use dilapidated machinery
empty the dishwasher
tidy my room
learn to drive
edit videos
deal with difficult people
accept the consequences of mistakes
be content without companions
be at ease in crowds

The two groups do overlap and it is there I must find the way to go on...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Stone of Destiny

Movie Review

One of the more eccentric true stories to appear on the big screen, this is a documentary about the courage of an oppressed people. That a division on this scale existed so recently within Britain is nothing less than astounding.

So the Scottish coronation stone was carried off to London hundreds of years ago. In the 1950's, university student Ian Hamilton is a passionate supporter of the Covenanters, a political lobby group campaigning for Scotland to have its own parliament. After yet another petition is ignored, Ian casts about for a symbolic act to force London to pay attention, and arrives at the plan to uplift the Stone from Westminster Abbey and bring it home to Scotland.

The film follows him through the search for accomplices and preparation for the heist, and of course an extended period of edge-of-your-seat action on Christmas Eve. Panicked sprints through London alleys, epic foul-ups and disheartening mishaps conspire against our motley but relentless crew of Scots.

Fighting for ownership of a lump of rock results in one of the year's most preposterous storylines. In this case, truth is definitely odder than fiction. There are many delightful scenes, such as the encounter with the night watchman, the conversation with the gypsy, and the poignant final standoff in an ancient ruin.

An incredible story indeed - loaded with symbolism, patriotism and determination against astounding odds. It's about the heart of the Scots, and that heart is big and wild and brave.

Rated M, for language considered mild in Britain if nowhere else. No violence. Kid-safe if you don't mind a bit of heartfelt 1950's swearing.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Where I'm From

With thanks to Cathi who showed this to me; and here is the template for you to try it yourself. A writing exercise well worth a go.

I am from concrete footpaths, from double chocolate Magnum ice cream, and winter beaches.

I am from the yellow house by the park, the long muddy driveway and Dad's homemade letterbox, the silence of soft rain.

I am from the eucalyptus and pohutukawa and mandarin trees, the passionfruit, and the jasmine that gives you a whiff as you pass below.

I am from sailing and carpentry and pioneers, from May and Doreen and their husbands both Toms, four grandparents from four nations.

I am from the stubborn sense of justice and the constant battle against personal clutter.

From snoring birds - what Tom called the crickets' evensong - and being smaller than my little brother.

I am from holy rollers and God chasers, in a score of churches whose walls have witnessed miracles.

I'm from a city sandwiched by oceans, from Irish and Scottish and English and German, long draughts of cold milk, and carrot cake with walnuts and cream cheese on top.

From the great-grandmother who left Ireland for Scotland and work, and found love; the miner in the Coromandel gold rush; the 1978 Renault.

I am from farm holidays, beach camps, church foyers, and sun-drenched verandas.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

southern hemisphere winter

bright wet skies
roads of shimmering silver
dripping trees turned to glittering emerald
twin tracks in concrete speak of plastic toys
that passed this way a quarter century ago at least.

strong winter sun reflects from every surface
the cold south wind turns the evergreens to thrashing thunder above the humble street
seagulls squealing, wheeling, dazzling white
against dark angry clouds
the world, aglow between the rainstorms
mandarins weigh down laden branches
they have no seasons here.
wooden windows rattle in merry gusts
breaths of smoke snatched from chimneys tell of cozy afternoons within.
mud fills the alley behind my house
I wish good health to the couple who scratched their names in wet concrete at the corner, back in the dark mists of suburban history
the cat I met on the beach reminds me of another I once knew better than myself.

Monday, 27 July 2009


Luxury is...

a smooth-polished wooden coathanger
a second hot water bottle
a comfy work chair in the sun

five days without rain
scrunchy sand on a winter beach
dry paths in the forest

sardines in mustard
ripe avocado
double camembert

a good day's work
a good night's sleep
a letter from a friend

the smell of lilies
leftover cake
strong tea

a father who loved me
a peace at his passing
a hope for the future

Monday, 13 July 2009

From My Windows

from my dilapidated hilltop windows
I can see
birds and flowers
the sky and everything in it
an old airforce plane homewards to the sunset

hundreds of houses
thousands of trees
handfuls of skyscrapers
half a city.

three churches
one school
a supermarket
a factory outlet
a park
a road

a dozen islands
a mountain range
four volcanos
a lighthouse
the ocean
boats, often
sometimes the moon

Thursday, 9 July 2009

How Old Am I?

I've recently been confronted several times with evidence that I don't look like an adult. While it is nice to know I can impersonate a teenager anytime I want, it does make me wonder if this face I present to the world is indeed abnormally childlike. Consider the following:

- A nurse at the hospital asked me what school I go to.
- A friend of a friend told me, "You can't learn to drive until you're twenty." (In fact you can do it at 15 or 16 so I'm not sure what the story is here)
- I have problem skin and somewhat irregular teeth.
- I reached my current height at the age of 12 and have been this tall ever since.
- I sleep in a bunkbed. The top one.
- And yes, I am currently learning to drive.

For now, just ignore the fact that I'm writing my fourth novel, I hold a postgraduate degree, and have been a career woman for at least eight years!

All that aside, how old do I look?

The Light Across the River, by Stephanie Reed

Following on from book one, Across The Wide River, this sequel continues the story of one family's involvement in the Underground Railroad. This time it's told by Johnny Rankin, a young man growing up with an enormous secret: his whole family regularly offers aid to escaping slaves.

Johnny finds it more than just plain difficult not to tell anyone about the amazing adventures of his father and older brothers - and later on, his own. Yet he's not short on bravery, often facing up to the town bullies and slave hunters who threaten to obliterate the illicit activities. Certainly not illicit in the eyes of God, says Johnny's father by his actions, again and again.

But it's not just Johnny's story - far from it. We also get a deep view into the lives of slaves who long to be free, and what it was like to be on the run, in danger for their lives. Eliza, herself a grandmother, escapes with her own babe in arms across the treacherously unstable spring-melted ice of the Ohio river, towards the light set up in the Rankin house on the hill. She goes on to become Johnny's friend and he becomes more involved in the rescue of the family she was forced to leave behind.

We see Johnny changing from boy to man, and Eliza from slave to free. Johnny eventually tells an author of Eliza's river crossing, later made famous in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' All of these connections are based in actual history - the Rankin family, Eliza's tale, and the author who wrote it down - all are true historical figures, brought to life here by wonderful immersive settings.

Gripping from start to end, suitable for young readers, this book plunges you into the reality that was the Underground Railroad in Ohio of the 1800's.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Across The Wide River, by Stephanie Reed

This is a tale of the Underground Railroad from the viewpoint of a young white boy growing up in a family dedicated to helping their African brothers to freedom. His father is a preacher, often mocked for his public anti-slavery stance, but his opponents do not know the half of it. As Lowry becomes a man, an increasing proportion of his nights are spent in trafficking the refugees farther north from his home on the Ohio River - the very border of the abolitionist movement. He battles school bullies and greedy slave-hunters while pondering what call his career should take - not realising that the decision is already made, though not in the direction he thought. We hear only snatches of the travellers' stories as they pass through by night, quickly moved on towards their next destination. What we do see is Lowry's growing recognition of the great blessing his clandestine activities are in his life. He moves around, trying this, that and the other - but he never ceases to assist the ex-slaves who come across his path.
This is an interesting story with plenty of fascinating historical facts and tidbits from that time period. It is also very suitable for younger readers from about age 8. Lowry's faith is a matter-of-fact thing, and it gives him strength for the night rides in the name of freedom.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.