Thursday, 31 August 2017

Oh no. Nanny is attempting a World Record

There can't be any purer form of storytelling than relating one's own adventures to the grandchildren. As a grandmother, or Nanny as I'm called by my grandchildren, I love sharing a tale with them, embellishing a little on the details, and giving them something to remember about me, long after I'm gone. When a story is completely real, it's even better, and right now, I'm involved in one of the best adventures of my life. 

It all began when I read an article about some guy in South Africa who wanted to attempt an official writing record for the Guinness Book of Records. It made interesting reading, and so I posted it to my Facebook page A Literary Liaison. A few days later, I attended my writing group and a fellow author Mouse Diver-Dudfield said that she had entered her story after seeing my post. She thought it would be a great idea for New Zealand to be represented.

I had to agree, and went home to browse the several short stories I had written for writing exercises. The requirements for these World Record stories was to be between 3000 and 8000 words and in any genre. I still wonder if they would have accepted one of my erotic short stories, but I also recognised my chance to write in one of my all time favourite genres, crime fiction.

Our wonderful writing group has often challenged me to extend myself and one of the exercises we had done during the year was to write a film noir type story, much like Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe or the film The Maltese Falcon. I really enjoyed writing the basic story I had contributed, and so I opened it up again and decided to do a full re-edit and build it into something bigger and better. Once I was happy with it, I sent it off to the organiser of this world record attempt, Shaun Jooste of Celenic Earth Publications.

It was only a few days later that I saw my name on the list of authors whose stories had been accepted. That really got the excitement going, especially as Mouse had already had her story accepted and we were the only authors from New Zealand. Later the great Kiwi poet and storyteller John Irvine would also join our ranks.

Over the last month, I've watched more authors take interest in this amazing project and as of today we are at 100 authors, in record breaking territory and in for a real shot at this record. You can read more about it here but even better, you can support us by pre-ordering the book. To achieve the record, we need to print and sell 1000 copies. 

While it will be amazing to achieve this record, the greatest part of this whole adventure has been seeing authors supporting authors, coming together from all around the world to help one another get this thing done. Friendships have been forged, and Shaun Jooste has worked incredibly hard to give us this opportunity and I'd love to see his dream come true. To Shaun and all of the authors involved, thanks for the fun and for an incredible adventure to tell my grandkids, of that time Nanny attempted a World Record. #storytelling #amwriting 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Menopause, Anxiety, Sleep Apnoea, a Writing Career and a bloody amazing husband.

For as along as I've been married, nearly 33 years, I've snored. While others have heard it, from time to time, it is my husband who has silently suffered mostly through the sawmill in our bedroom. He's only complaint, he says, is having to get up to drag the inhaled curtains from my throat. He's a funny man.

Approaching fifty years of age, I happened upon that delightful time in a woman's life called menopause. If the snoring wasn't bad enough, my husband then had to endure the endless tossing of bedclothes as I continuously went from hot to cold and hot again with night sweats. The universe finally took pity on him and gave me a good dose of insomnia. Suddenly I could only sleep two to three hours a night. Everyone had a remedy and I tried them all and still found myself lying wide awake with the stars.

I've always tried to approach a problem creatively, and decided to get up and put these silent, wakeful hours to good use. Never had I had a better opportunity to write a book, and that's just what I did. In fact, my first book, a 95,000 word novel, only took me two and a half months to write. You can read my other posts to find out how all that went, but in short, I was now a self published author and my book was going off like hotcakes. Within a few months I had published my second and six months later, my third. I was making a nice income from sales.

Menopause finally had a silver lining. Between August 2012 and November 2015, I published five books, the last one being a hefty tome of 249,000 words, taking nineteen months of writing, editing and research. It was no wonder that I felt I needed a break from writing after that one, and told myself I would be back at it within a few months. A year later, I still couldn't find the energy to undertake another novel. On top of that, my anxiety disorder of some 25 years had taken a new turn. I became agoraphobic, unable to venture out of my house alone, even down to the washing line. Once again, my uncomplaining husband took the reins and took care of me. My four adult children also stepped in and between the lot of us, life went on, except for a deep sense of being redundant. Yes, I sought medical help, but the mental health system of New Zealand seems to want to frame us all in one box and use strong anti-depressants as a cure. My time on antidepressants is another story I won't go into, and I'm not against them and see the right ones can be life saving. I'm just against a one size fits all philosophy.

Mostly everyone was supportive, though I feel I lost a few friends who couldn't understand that I felt unable to attend social functions or return a visit. I foolishly took on a radio project, only to find myself stressing constantly about it, until I finally had to give it up. One other saving grace were the beautiful people in my writing group  who I could rely upon to keep me enthusiastic about writing. With their encouragement, I was able to write a few short stories and finally get back some sense of achievement, but as each day passed, I felt an exhaustion I had never known before. Again, my husband took up the slack and took over housework and cooking, as well as working every day.

Just after Christmas 2016, I started experiencing vivid, wild dreams. My husband informed me that his nightly concerto had taken on a whole new symphony. I was ranting and raving in my slumber and sleepwalking, not getting out of bed, but actually walking in the bed. Every morning I got up exhausted, as if I'd run a marathon during the night. During the day, I had moments where I just had to lie down, only to pass out and lose an hour and still wake up exhausted. It was at this time I really listened to something he'd been telling me for years. "You stop breathing," he said. "That's the only thing that wakes me up. I lie there and wait for that gasp before I am able to sleep again." He was frightened by it. The last straw for me was when I attacked him one night in my sleep and put four bleeding claw marks down his back. It woke me up and I was devastated by what I had done. He never said a word, except to roll over so he could cuddle me.

I made a visit to my GP who requested an urgent appointment with the diagnostics department at the hospital. The first appointment was to gauge my sleep and measure these breathless moments. I was sent home with a machine with a nose mask and finger clip, and told I had to breathe entirely through my nose. Do you know how difficult that is? The next time I returned the machine and was told it would probably be a few weeks before the next appointment. Those few weeks became three days when I received a letter with an urgent appointment for me.

My obstructive sleep apnoea was among the worst they had ever seen. The results told them that I stopped breathing on an average of 99 times per hour for an average of 22 seconds. The specialist informed me it was as if I had been living at the top of Mt. Cook and probably only getting ten minutes sleep per night. No wonder I was exhausted.

So now I have a machine of my very own, but putting that nose mask on every night does little for my self esteem. I asked my husband if there was anyway we could turn it into a sexual fetish, perhaps ask for one with leather straps and a ball gag. The thing is, through it all, neither of us have lost our sense of humour and I've spent more time counting my blessings.

The machine works. In the last three weeks I've had more energy than in the last several years. And I'm writing again, working on my next novel. I've even entered the local short story comp with a piece I'm really proud of. My husband is finally getting the good sleep he's always deserved, though he whinges that the nights are too quiet now.

I can see the light at the end of the long tunnel of menopause and I've found myself venturing out a little more each day. Who knows, maybe I'll get another book out this year. So what's this post all about? I couldn't make up my mind what I wanted write about, so hence the really long title. Maybe I should have entitled it Ode to my husband and kids, who have stood by me through it all, but it's also a celebration of writing again, pouring words onto the page, bringing characters to life, plotting evil conflicts to keep them busy and providing a little entertainment to my readers. I'm doing what I love again and my world is just that little bit brighter.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

What do you call a group of authors? A look at collective nouns

It’s usually at a pub quiz that we find ourselves delving deep into our minds for the various strange terms used for a group of something. Many we may recall quickly, such as a murder of crows or an unkindness of ravens, but I imagine most people would be unaware of the many unusual, descriptive and humorous words associated with these gatherings of animals. Even less would have any idea of their origins.

It was in the 15th century that gentlemen were in the pursuit of leisurely pleasures, namely hunting and fishing. The book to turn to at the time was the Book of St. Albans printed in 1486, with its sections on hawking, hunting and heraldry. It is believed that the book was written by a nun, Dame Juliana Berners, who was also referred to as the First Lady of fly fishing. The book was popular and the colourful collective nouns she assigned to animals are still in use today, such as a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese. Others such as a shrewdness of apes has not enjoyed the same popularity. In all, 164 collective nouns were listed in the book under “The Compaynys of Beestys and Fowlys” which also included people: A gaggle of women, an abominable sight of monks.

With popularity being the key to a collective noun’s survival, there have been many attempts to create them for our modern world. In 1991 James Lipton wrote “An exaltation of larks,” a compendium of these nouns that had long been established in our language, even for inanimate objects. (A flight of stairs, A quiver of arrows)

Last year, I posed a question on Twitter asking what the collective noun for authors was. The response was amazing with many brilliant suggestions, and where I was introduced to the hashtag #moderncollectivenouns. Well worth a look, but in the meantime here are my favourite picks for authors:

A publication of authors
A block of authors
A ream of authors
An epigram of authors.

And my own contribution: A solitude of authors. Please feel free to list your own suggestions. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Taking time to talk Twitter.

As an Indie author, much of what I've learned has come by trial and error, by following advice and experience, and by giving it a go. Five years later, I'm still learning, but I feel confident enough to share bits and pieces of what has worked for me. One of the topics that come up frequently on social media is in how to use Twitter for marketing books.

This is one of those areas in which I've found a method that works for me. No, I don't have thousands of followers, just under 4000, but the ones I have are greatly appreciated and I do my best to give them some entertaining and informative posts. According to my Twitter stats, I average about 9000 impressions a week and heavy engagement with my posts. In other words, people are looking at what I post and that's leading to sales of my books.  

I don't use any programs to attract followers I prefer quality over quantity.

I don't use Twitter validation programs.  Everyone hates them.

I rarely respond to DM's or send them. I'm quite happy for you to use my Twitter handle and let me know something in my feed.

Speaking of Twitter usernames: I give credit where credit is due. I don't pinch other people's posts as my own without crediting it to them with their @whoever. Often, if I come across a good news story about an author or writer, etc, I will add their @whoever name to the article. They might like to read something nice being said about them. I've had some well known authors like and retweet my posts, for that very reason. 

I don't always follow back. Those I do follow back are usually other authors, indie filmmakers, writers, writing bloggers or anyone who has a Twitter feed that interests me. I always take time to check out anyone who follows me and I will decide then if I want to follow. That decision is based on how much they do for others rather than themselves. I'm highly unlikely to follow anyone who only posts their own stuff. If I do follow back, I try to greet with a retweet.  

I will retweet for mostly anyone who retweets my posts, whether I follow them or not. There are several wonderful authors who don't follow me but, from time to time, still tweet my books. When they do, I retweet their books or blog post or pinned tweet. That is my thank you for their kindness. If you tweet my posts, you have a 95% chance of me tweeting for you. Can't stand a twitter feed where the only posts are authors advertising their own work and no-one else's. 

I always support New Zealand authors and writers in all genres. Not many of them follow me back but I don't have a problem with that. I know I post erotica and other things that might not be their cup of tea. As a Kiwi, I want to support the craft I love so much and expose the talent we have in this country, especially indie authors. I want the world to read books about New Zealand and stories by Kiwi authors. 

I don't expect everyone to follow me back or tweet my books. As mentioned before, I often tweet erotic, sexual and other topics and images that may not be everyone's cup of tea. I certainly don't expect a children's author to tweet my books, but maybe I've posted an article about a classic author or a writing tip. There's always something G-rated on my Twitter feed and I'm happy for a retweet of that, but it's not a requirement. 

I will advertise my books. I endeavour to keep my posts interesting while supporting my fellow tweeter, but I'm here for business as well as pleasure and I love showing off my books. 

I mostly avoid politics, religion and any other topic that seeks an opinion. Occasionally there will be a cause near and dear to my heart, and I will have my say, but I'm not on Twitter to engage in arguments or unkindness to any individual or add my opinion to whatever gripe is trending. 

I use a lot of Hashtags. Forget everything you've ever heard about hashtags. The bottom line is hashtags get your posts noticed and like I said, I'm in this for the business as well. The main ones I use employ the following words: author, books, amwriting, amreading, writerslife, BookBoost IARTG (indie author retweet group) Retweet groups have their own tags and thousands of reciprocating followers. Just make sure you reciprocate. Do a little research and Google trending hashtags for anything to do with topics related to your books. Also, if you like procrastinating like I do, try playing hashtag games on Twitter. I've gained followers from a few witty posts I've made. 

Always have a pinned retweet of your own promo which you want to go out far and wide. Change it up every couple of weeks. This makes it easier for followers to retweet your stuff without having to go through your feed to find something. If this is changed regularly, this is all the self-promo you'll ever need. 

Always make sure your links and URLS work before you post a tweet.

So often I see an interesting post on Twitter, go to the link provided to read further, only to end up on a blank page or 'this page doesn't exist.' Check your links to make sure they're working.

If you never retweet for others and only tweet your own stuff, why would you expect anyone to engage with you, unless you're a celebrity whose fans hang on every word? I tweet more about others than I do my own promos. If you're using Twitter well, everyone else will be tweeting your books and you won't need to. 

My Twitter profile has a link to my Amazon author page, not my website. Cut out the middleman and take them straight to your books. If you've got your author page set up well, that will lead them to your website. 

Not all my posts are about books and authors. I like to share things I'm interested in or something that has wowed me. I love films and TV and inspirational things. I love beautiful images and scenery. I want my Twitter feed to look pretty. I like to share someone's happy news, blogs or helpful advice. If you've got a great idea to sell more books, a fantastic recipe, a beautiful snapshot of your holiday, I want to know about it so tell me in your posts. 

Speaking of images: Tweets with images will attract more attention than those without, but lacklustre pictures don't interest me at all. If you have no understanding of graphic design, spend a bit of money and get someone to make you a few professional promos, and that goes for book covers as well. Brilliant covers and images will get my retweets far more than poorly made ones.    

When it comes to marketing books, Twitter has proven to be the most successful in all my social media platforms. Support me and I will support you. #selfpub #indieauthor #bookmarketing 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Researching: Writing what you don't know

I've been writing stories since I was a child, when my knowledge of the world was minimal, and so I had to draw on the writer's greatest tool, imagination. I didn't let boring elements, such as facts and reality, get in my way and my stories were exciting. It wasn't until I was much older that I learned that there were supposedly 'rules' around writing that 'good' authors followed to be successful. Many of them I had been using without knowing their significance, such as structure and showing not telling, but one rule really bothered me: Write what you know.
What a boring rule. Now at the age of 50 plus, I do know a great deal about the world, but that knowledge is still limited, too limited for what I want to write. If my stories were to be tethered by what I knew, then what was the good of having imagination? That rule was quickly crossed out for me. I have a good brain and I intended to use it to learn about the things I didn't know.

When I wrote MASTER I had already determined that my main character was from Ukraine, a country I had little knowledge of. In fact the whole story would be set there and in the year 1995. My research began with the firm resolution to be as factual as possible, as if I had lived there. Writing my story began with months of reading everything about Ukraine, from history to culture. I went on forums and chatted with Ukrainians who were only too happy to set me straight about anything I wasn't certain about. This research also helped enormously in plot development, being able to incorporate historical facts into my story and give it a whole new level of reality. Because of the time frame my story was set in, I had to match facts up with how those elements would have worked in 1995 Ukraine. It wasn't easy, and I was exhausted by the time Master was published. The readers loved it and recognised the work that had gone into it, but they wanted more. They wanted a sequel. It didn't help that I had made my protagonist a super genius computer hacker.
It took 19 months to release SINS OF THE MASTER after an exhaustive study of hacking, computers, politics and many other elements.
To date, no-one has challenged me on anything in these books, but I will admit to a few areas where I took poetic licence and used my imagination, but never at the expense of undoing my plot by blatant ignorance. My advice to aspiring authors is to respect what you write and respect the intelligence of your readers. Do your research, but don't ever be afraid of venturing out into the unknown. It's a big exciting world and our stories shouldn't be bound by what we've experienced, but rather by what we are willing to learn.

Monday, 10 October 2016


Having lived with anxiety disorder for over twenty years, writing has been a great friend. It allows me something to turn to during the dark hours and helps me explore the emotions and confusion I often feel. While I essentially write books, I have found poetry to be something that allows me to focus. This is one I want to share for #WorldMentalHealthDay

Once I was a warrior, equipped to be on the front lines of life.
Now I step up naked on the battlefield, walled in by doubt.
My only defense is your mercy, my only weapon is silence.
When the demons are pulling upon the strings in my mind
I can only wait until they tire of their cruelty,
And abandon me like a cat with a sparrow,
Coldly watching my efforts to take flight again.
But my allies rally and I draw from their strength
Believing my victory is certain
And with this belief I advance on the front,
The laurels of achievement awaiting me.
But the battle is short lived, and uncertainty like a crane-swing returns.
My war cry becomes a suppliant blubber
And my jaw droops for want of breath.
As my heart hammers upon an anvil of fear.
My wounds are deep and I gaze at the sword in my hand
Beckoning my fall upon it,
But what sort of soldier would I be then
And at what cost to those around me?
For now, I must contend to stay broken on the field,
And blurt out the words I loathe to utter.

“Help me.”   

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Graham Norton's couch

A tribute to the best Talk Show host ever. Thanks for the laughs. 

Graham Norton’s couch

How does an artist measure success?
What would you call fame?
Is it awards or trophies or just being the best?
Is it the face, the works or name?
For me, there is just one accolade,
The gauge upon which I will vouch,
I’ve finally made it, I’ve made the grade,
When I sit on Graham’s couch.

You can keep your fancy Booker Prize,
Be gone, you Academy Award,
Pulitzer, Nobel and other highs,
Tend to make me rather bored.
But lead me to this prestigious throne
No longer to grumble and grouch,
From that time on, it will always be known,
That I sat on Graham’s couch.

And of course I would have to be among
The other guests that night.
But my placing on that red chaise longue
Will not be taken without a fight.
The closest one to Mr. Norton
Is by no means any slouch,
So pause and put this in proportion,
I’m first on Graham’s couch.

The closest to this worldly host
The object of his attention,
Not just as some celebrity roast,
But an artist in ascension.
A tribute worthy of remembrance,
Not some Oscar in my pouch,
What an achievement of transcendence
When I sat on Graham’s couch.