Yesterday was a day out of the box. A strange combination of circumstances that created one of those experiences you don’t forget.

Firstly I drove for about an hour to another rural town with the enchanting name of Otorohanga. They have a kiwi house. I was addressing the monthly meeting of the Otorohanga Lyceum Club. A room full of lovely ladies who had all brought a plate for lunch. Yum! The coronation chicken was a highlight, so was the scalloped corn and quiche about six different ways. After lunch and tea/coffee/biscuits I spoke for around 45 minutes and took some questions. For most of the speech you could have heard a pin drop, either they were listening hard or asleep. It seemed to go well and everyone seemed keen to come to the next book launch.

I was listening to my latest audio book in the car, a Kathy Reichs book. Tempy Brennan is quite different from the ‘Bones’ version but my goodness, she writes well! Very clever.

Got home about 3pm and went to the computer to check email and Facebook. And that’s where I learned that Jonah Lomu had died. Oh how sad! Far, far, far too young. My heart bleeds for his wife and young boys. It is hard enough to lose the one you adore without having to share your grief with the wider world, and in Jonah’s case, it truly is the wider world. Hopefully in days to come the outpouring of kind words and love will bring them comfort.

Then the phone rang. One of my fellow parishioners was looking for the Vicar. No, she wasn’t with me. Her little dog, a Sydney Silkie called Brodie, was out and running around Putaruru. I shall spare Mr Brodie’s blushes and not go into great detail. Save to say there was much calling and driving and searching. I found him way out on the Arapuni Road because I had asked some school kids if they’d seen him and when they did, later, one gave chase and followed him out of town. Brodie was distressed and tired, so I took him home and we had cuddles and tummy rubs (him, not me).

The day finished with home group, singing, prayer, Bible study and sponge cake. Brodie lay quietly at Jan’s feet while we all discussed his adventure.

This morning a press conference has told me that Captain Richie McAwesome is retiring from professional rugby and is going to get his commercial helicopter licence in Christchurch. Good on him. Time for one passion to end and for him to devote himself to a new one.

So what does it all mean? Life can change in the blink of an eye. Some people  have it all organised and planned and seem to be masters of their own fate, but there is always that ‘spanner’ that can turn everything upside down. It is good to have a day, once in a while, that reminds you of that fact.





Waiheke Weekend

I feel as if I’ve had a month’s holiday! On Friday I drove up from my little rural paradise to the big smoke of Auckland. I had a very enjoyable lunch with my publisher, promotions and sales managers (HarperCollins) and a delightful gentleman from PaperPlus. *Caution: this blog will have a lot of food in it* We dined at Prego in Ponsonby and I had delicious Saltimbocca chicken and a glass of Pol Roger Rose. In addition, I found a copy of  ‘The Keeper of Secrets’ in a classy second-hand bookshop on Ponsonby Road and had to buy it and I bought some handmade dog treats for my favourite canine, Broddie.

At 5pm I caught a very busy ferry to Waiheke Island and was met by my delightful host for the weekend Claire Lawford. We went to the Gala launch of the Festival, lots of nibbles and wine and a discussion with Roger Horrocks on his book about the late Len Lye.

Claire cooked me dinner that night, fresh fish, baby potatoes and asparagus and a bottle of Rose from Obsidian Winery. We discovered lots of things in common and it was a lovely evening.

To work the next day! After a breakfast of almond croissant and hot chocolate, I went to a couple of other writer’s sessions and had a wander down the main street of Oneroa. The sun sparkled on the sea and everyone looked so happy! Lunch at ‘Wai’ restaurant was a sumptuous plate of scrambled egg, avocado, hot smoked salmon on sourdough toast and a maple, cinnamon and banana smoothie. Yum!

My session was 2.15pm and it was fun. Lots of people and they asked really interesting questions. My second book was partially set on Waiheke Island and this fascinated them. I did a short reading from the beginning of ‘Rachel’s Legacy’ and signed some books. Loved the open air poetry readings going on in the quadrant and it was an opportunity to sit in the sun and soak up the atmosphere.

Saturday night Claire took me to a dinner party. I’d forgotten about these, I used to host them many moons ago but I haven’t been to one for ages. It was at a truly stunning house, a good friend of hers who was hosting the wonderful Stephanie Johnson and her husband. I won’t go on about sitting out in the evening air and eating prawns cooked on the BBQ and broad bean puree dip, while we sipped Sangria and set the world to rights. Or how we came inside to chicken cooked with mandarins followed by homemade ice-cream and talked till after midnight.

Sunday morning Stephanie, Anna Smaile and I read from our books to a very appreciative audience. I chose a part of “Blood, Wine and Chocolate” where Vinnie and Norman Lane clash at the Waiheke winery, guns are fired and someone drowns in a vat of wine. More signing and then off to the ferry across the sea to home.

It is an idyllic place and it mesmerises you. It makes you believe that one day you would like a little writer’s retreat beside a beach, on an island, where the food is pure and the wine flows. Once you wrestle yourself away and drive back to your rural paradise with trees, cows, a very affectionate cat and lots of rain…you realise that this is home. This is where you belong. With weetbix or toast instead of almond croissant or cinnamon brioche scroll and diet lemonade instead of banana smoothie. But it was a wonderful break and it does one no harm to be enchanted by Waiheke Island every now and again.

Well Here We ARE!

Hello. Yes it is me. I am back. Yes, I know it has been months and it wasn’t you, it was me. Firstly I had a book to launch, that went well. Then I had a trip to make to Europe, that went well. And then I had a book to write, that went REALLY well….never mind, here I am.

My exciting news today is that I have a website. All of my own. I made it. It isn’t extra flash but it does tell you about the books I’ve written and the things I’ve done.

I launched Blood, Wine and Chocolate in March and that was excellent. It has sold well. Even debuted at number one on the Neilson Best Seller List for New Zealand Fiction and stayed on the list for 16 weeks.

Then in April I went to London, Berlin and Munich. It was a research trip for “Rachel’s Legacy” and it was fun and sad and moving and inspiring. I came home and sat down and wrote the book in eight weeks. It has had some editing since then, but nothing major. It has been typeset and I have the reader’s edition in my hot little hand. I ADORE the cover. I think it is haunting and interesting and very classy. The book, itself, will be launched March 9th 2016. It is the sequel to “The Keeper of Secrets” and the next book, “Levi’s War”, will be the third, and last, in the Horowitz Chronicles. If you want to know what “Rachel’s Legacy” is about you will have to visit the website!! I will put a widget thingie on this site, but in the meantime it is


I have much to share with you, but I am also cooking and the kitchen is calling, so I shall be back!

Er, nice to see you, by the way….

Of paintings, lawns, blood, wine and chocolate

I was mowing this morning, pacing, meditating and cutting grass. I sometimes wonder what aliens would think if they looked down and saw me pushing the mower and muttering to myself as I work out where to take my characters next.

I’ve had an interesting week in the writing side of my life. A few days ago I had one of ‘those’ moments, when I realised what my main character wants, what he is about. For months I’d laboured on with the original idea and then I read what I’d written. When I woke up I came to the conclusion that my problem was the gender of my lead character. I was writing about a 70-year-old woman and she just wasn’t that interesting. Plus, I don’t write women nearly as convincingly as I write men. The motivations of women don’t interest me as much.

So I created her son and gave him the catalyst, a diary written during WW2 by a grandmother he didn’t know he had. It opens up a great many layers of discussion and emotion. And he can have a genuine desire for something that his new-found relations have, something to which he has a claim. Conflict. It gives Rafael Gomez another moral dilemma.

Since these important discoveries the book has been writing itself, in long streams and the characters talk to me when I’m doing other things. If possible I drop what I’m doing and race to the computer. Hard to do if you’re in the supermarket or about to take communion in church. And if you keep repeating sentences to yourself they tend to want to lock you up.

“Blood, Wine and Chocolate” is launched on March 9th at 5.30pm at PaperPlus Cambridge. I know some of you don’t live here and it is a little far to ask you to come. But consider yourselves invited anyway. It will be a grand night.

I have little wedding favour boxes with scorched almonds in them and some have numbers inside the lid. If you are lucky enough to get a numbered one you will be invited to peruse the prize table and find the corresponding number. Whatever is sitting on that number now belongs to you! It might be a bottle of Waiheke wine or a vase or a box of chocolates that holds 100 pieces of praline. There are over 40 prizes.

There will be a chocolate fountain and plates of chilli chocolate for the brave hearted. We will also do something delicious with a full sized chocolate stiletto before the launch date too.

I like launching books, it’s the fun part. I have a few speaking engagements coming up over the next few weeks too, Te Kuiti, Hamilton and Auckland. So, enjoy the last of summer, or the last of winter, depending on where you are and GO THE BLACK CAPS!!! (Cricket World Cup starts this week)

Of Miranda and Monks

As I was pacing my lawn and mediating this morning, two interesting thoughts came to me. As I pace I push the lawn mower and its steady noise makes a reassuring backdrop to my thoughts.

The other night I watched the last ever episode of Miranda, staring Miranda Hart. It was a most satisfactory conclusion to her story but it did remind me of all the times Mum and I laughed ourselves to tears watching her. She was reminiscent of the old-fashioned physical comedy that is beyond most so-called comedians nowadays. It occurred to me this morning that I can now remember things I shared with Mum and it makes me happy, not tearful. I am at that stage where memories cause me joy.

The second thought was concerning monks. I was given the complete set of Cadfael DVDs for Christmas. There are 13 episodes over four series and I have three left to see. I have enjoyed them immensely. Derek Jacobi was so brilliant in his hey day, and yet he is still brilliant now, and there are many other actors who had bit roles at the start of their careers in the mid 1990s. People like Hugh Bonneville and Hermione Norris etc. They are based on the novels by Ellis Peters and set at Shrewsbury Abbey in the 11th century.

Cadfael is a medieval monk, a herbalist and healer, who is also an amateur detective and solves murders. One of the interesting things I have learned from the extras on the DVDs is the incredible skill of these monks. They knew what the plant world was capable of, they treated gangrene successfully, made a potion of poppy to cure pain and treated knife and arrow wounds so that men hurt in battle would heal. Of course they didn’t have to deal with gunshot wounds in the 11th century. They had tremendous gardens full of life-giving plants and recipes that were hundreds of years old.

The scribes had copied the Gospels, they didn’t write down the recipes of the ointments and pulses and tonics that their herbalists used. Then in the 16th century the Reformation happened and the Abbeys were “Dissolved”. Most of the monks were killed or driven away and the ancient gardens were destroyed. The knowledge that was lost set man’s ability to heal himself back for two hundred years, maybe more. He resorted to ‘bleeding’ bodies to rid them of bad humours and isolating lepers instead of healing them. Science has had to rediscover these cures all over again and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t found them all yet. Isn’t that fascinating?

It makes me wonder what the world would be like if the Reformation hadn’t happened and the Church was still the powerful force, people were God-fearing because they knew nothing else. Would we be backward, with no electricity and the majority of people being illiterate, no contraception, no airplanes, no computers….or would science and faith have found a way to co-exist in harmony? Would the discoveries still have happened? Would man have learned compassion or would he still be as cruel as ever to his own race?

I don’t come up with any answers and I am bathed from head to toe in sweat, but at least I have short lawns.

Endless Mowing

You see, I had this idea. I was going to move to sleepy rural Putaruru and spend my days writing at my desk (with its glorious view of the hills and the trees and the cows) and sitting on my deck (with its glorious view of the hills and the trees and the cows) and swinging on my swing seat (with its…you get the idea.) Instead, I have been so busy! January is flying by in a flash and I am doing a million different things.

I have become involved in the children’s ministry run by my new parish, St Paul’s, and that is very fulfilling. We have been giving the kids cooking lessons over the Christmas holidays and I’ve helped make pizza and coleslaw and made chocolate cakes and then the next week I made jumbo cup cakes (with a yummy caramel surprise inside) and took them down for the kids to decorate. We had chocolate, red and green icing and lots of different things to sprinkle and arrange. They devoured sausages in bread, cookies and cupcakes.

My darling niece had a clean out of clothes and books and toys and puzzles etc. and donated them to the families we minister to. You should have seen the faces, sundresses and jackets and shoes. Some went into the church supplies for Sunday school and some have been put away for 2015 Christmas presents by the wonderful lady who runs the ministry.

What else have I been doing? Mowing. How fast do lawns grow? I have 1000 square metres of lawn and it grows like Topsy. I do it in three stages and as soon as I’ve finished the bottom stage, the top one (up beside the house) has weeds and daisies and grass taunting me. I have a very cool (battery) electric lawn mower and I enjoy the process, it just seems to be never-ending.

And hot! My goodness it has been hot. When the radio predicts 29 degrees C and then the TV tells me it was 25/26 I just yell at the TV, or at least I would if it didn’t take so much energy. Thank the Lord for the cold heat pump thingie.

“Blood Wine and Chocolate” is launched here and in Australia March 1st. My second book, I can officially say I am not a one-book-wonder. I hope people like it, I like it, I think it’s quite funny. It is VERY different from Secrets but that’s no bad thing. The sequel to Secrets will be like Secrets, this one has death but no mass genocide. In many ways it has far more violence than Secrets because it is one on one kind of violence, but it is self-defence and I don’t think it is gratuitous. If you don’t like dark thrillers, don’t read it.

So, swimming, mowing, writing, cooking, mowing, reading, sleeping, mowing…the summer of 2015. Happy Days.

A Christmas Blog

It’s nearly Christmas and my mind is awhirl with so many different emotions.

I moved from Cambridge to Putaruru about a month ago. Due to a high level of organisation and an award-winning number of lists, the move went very well. Nothing was broken and between the house, a garage and three sheds, everything fitted into somewhere.

This is a sleepy little town about 30 minutes south of Cambridge. People are very friendly, kids grin and say “Kia Ora” to you as they pass you in the street. The local radio station has a great copywriting team, they tell you what to do if your tractor falls down a tomo or a cow makes a banana of your gate and I love the travel agent who voices his own ads and says, “Unfortunately Richard Branson has cornered the market on space travel, but I can book you on a train to Auckland.”

I adore the house I bought and I still can’t quite believe I live here. I have a glorious view of tall trees and paddocks and (sometimes) cows. My neighbour has chickens. The birdsong is constant and fascinating. I love the inside of the house, with all its art deco touches and big windows and light, open spaces. Chloe, my cat, is in seventh heaven. She takes a running leap and climbs tall trees. She disappears into overgrown garden and reappears with a mouse in her jaws. She sits on the rails of the decking and watches the birds for hours, telling me regularly that she could catch that bird if she could be bothered going down into the garden.

There are other cats around and she is slowly educating them to the fact that this is now her patch. Not without some strife. I had to call the on-call vet out on Sunday morning to give her antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory injection because of an impressive bite in her rear thigh. But she has assured me that the other “bloke” came off far worse.

I’ve joined my local church, the parish of St Paul’s. It is alive and dynamic and has a great ministry with local kids. Vicar Jan is wonderful and funny and the congregation are very welcoming. Last Saturday we had lots of local kids and adults for “Messy Christmas.” We did craft for an hour, then dressed the kids up for a very spontaneous Nativity play and then sat down to a ham/lamb/potatoes/peas/coleslaw/Pavlova/ice-cream/jelly feast, crowned by a chocolate fountain and lots of dipping things. I was head to toe in glitter then covered by a layer of melted chocolate.

Last night I went to a singing rehearsal and at the midnight mass on Christmas Eve I am singing with four others. We are singing three songs (none of which I had ever heard before) during Communion and all the congregational carols. This is new for me. I haven’t sung in public/church for a very long time and my voice is still a bit suspect when it gets tired. But I’ll give it a go, because that’s the kind of church St Paul’s is, everyone gives everything a go.

I’ve had family visiting to see me in my new house. Sunday my niece and two great-nieces came and yesterday another niece and two great-nephews came. It was lovely to see them and to share my house, my garden, my food and my joy with them.

Next Thursday, Christmas Day, I am off to Lake Tarawera to spend the day with my brother and all his family. I’ve never spent Christmas at this house and it will be wonderful. I am taking the chocolate fountain and all the dipping things and my great-nephews have offered their services as ‘tasters’ to make sure everything is just so.

For Christmas Day is an anniversary. Last year Mum died on Christmas Day. I am not entirely sure what the day will be like, but I will wake up in a new house and go to church with people who never knew her and then go to the Lake where I never spent Christmas with her. My mind tells me it will be fine, I talk to her every day and I feel her with me every day, so why should this day be any different? Does the passing of a year alter anything? No more ‘firsts’ without her. Next March I will launch my next book and I strongly suspect that that will be harder to do than Christmas Day. I know how much she would have loved this place, but if she were here, I would not be living here. That’s what moving on is all about. The walls of this house are covered in new art, there are new ornaments on the mantle piece and it is all mine, all my taste.

I go out on my deck every morning and I listen to the birds and (sometimes) the cows and the chickens and I breathe in the clear country air and I wonder what my characters will do today when they emerge from their pages. I feel content. I feel very blessed. I feel complete. I live here. Happy, happy days.

Merry Christmas one and all, may you have a safe and lovely holiday, and all the very best for 2015, may your dreams come true and may they be as wonderful as you knew they would be.

Love from

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