Happy New Year

Well here we are, 2016. For six whole days now. As usual at this time of year we’ve had a bit of rain, some wind, some lovely fine days, some more rain and then another fine day. Not too hot yet and windy enough to dry the washing. When I was young the weather settled down into summer when we went back to school at the end of January. February can be humid, especially in Auckland, not so much in Putaruru and March is stunning.

I was awake at midnight on December 31st, not having a drink or singing with anyone, but awake and I said “Happy New Year” to Chloe and she gave me a special 2016 kind of meow.

We’ve had our ups and downs lately, she has a shredded pad on her paw and a distinct limp so she has come-a-cropper. But she is healing now and still as fond of her food as ever. Staying inside more and sleeping in her chair, the lazy-boy I once sat in, briefly.

It’s a funny time of the year because I often think of Mum. It still seems weird that she’s not here when I’m dealing with medical issues. I inject myself in the stomach every evening with insulin. It doesn’t hurt and I’m not unhappy about doing it. But I was needle phobic for years and had to be persuaded to go to the doctor in case there was an injection involved. I guess I had so many needles when I was a kid and then suddenly I decided I didn’t want any more. I grew out of it, thank goodness. But I can still remember her holding my head so I looked at her and telling me a story.

And in 10 days I go up to Auckland for an MRI scan on my heart. At some point before the end of the month I will have a balloon valvotomy on my pulmonary valve or, if necessary, a valve replacement. It won’t hurt either and it will give me a better quality of life and more oxygenated blood…but still, someone will be meddling with my heart and Mum’s not here, for the first time. That is when you know you are all grown up and you need to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

I’m also deep in the planning for the launch of ‘Rachel’s Legacy’ March 7th at PaperPlus in Cambridge. For reasons that will become clear on the night I have to compile a list of 170 real people and their fates in WW2, plus my characters, some of whom are real and some of whom are not. And make lists of food. And plan a competition. Lily, a genius who works at HarperCollins in Auckland, will create invitations and posters and things like that for me. Every book has to have a magic launch, it’s part of the whole sparkly bit of being an author. (Did I really write that?)

I saw President Obama talking about gun control today and he impressed me. At least he’s trying to do something about the insane situation with guns in America. I also watched him with Jerry Seinfield in a car and drinking coffee and that was great. Seinfield started to ask, “what language..” and Obama just said, “English…mainly.” It was dry and funny and he seemed a very regular guy.

If you like books about cops and slightly futuristic stuff, have you ever read the “Death” series by J.D. Robb? It’s Nora Roberts under another name and it is set in 2060 in New York. I am on my third audio book in the series and only have around 35 books to go to listen to them all. The links between them in characterization and situational references are really interesting, the kind of thing readers like when they read a series. It shows me how much I have to finish off and explain in “Levi’s War.”

Hope you have had a good New Year and hope 2016 brings you all you hope for. As some well known sports brand would say, Just Do It.

Of books and children

I have lived in Putaruru for a whole year. Sometimes it seems like 15 minutes and sometimes it seems as if I’ve always lived here. It takes a year to ‘grow’ into a new house, you need to find out what the garden does in all four seasons, where the prevailing wind comes from, whether you are happy with your décor and how to cope with the heating and cooling.

This is a gorgeous house in summer. The trees are all in leaf and they sway in the wind and the sun streams down onto the big decks around the house. I have a swing seat and I can sit in it and drink in my view.

It has been a life-changing year in many ways. On the ‘work front’ I have graduated to an author whom people take seriously. I travelled to Europe for research, I wrote a whole book, I went through a long and detailed editing process with it and I am extremely proud of the result. The cover is evocative and haunting. It is called Rachel’s Legacy and it will be released March 1st 2016 with a major launch party planned for March 7th. And PaperPlus, a big bookstore chain here, are taking me on a nationwide signing tour. Even Harpers Australia have committed to get right behind this book. So we shall see what happens…

And of course “Blood, Wine and Chocolate” came out in March and went straight to number one on the Neilson New Zealand Adult Fiction best seller list. It sold very well, it stayed on the list for 16 consecutive weeks. And I took it to a couple of wonderful and hilarious literary festivals. LOVE speaking at festivals and there are some more planned for next year.

I signed a contract for my fourth book, Levi’s War, which will be the third, and last, in the Horowitz Chronicles. It will be a new challenge, a novel in the first person. The story is full of promise and emotion and passion and I look forward to some serious writing in the next six months.

I have launched myself on a health kick. I am on insulin, injected every night and it is levelling out my blood sugars and giving me energy I didn’t know was possible. Early next year I shall have an MRI scan and then a balloon valvotomy to open up my pulmonary valve. I shall be on the path to more years of fulfilling life than I ever expected to have. Which tends to change your outlook on life.

The other part of me that has blossomed this year has been my faith, my church life and what I know now is my ministry. I love St Paul’s in Putaruru. It’s an Anglican/Methodist co-operating parish and it hums with life and the Holy Spirit. The people are delightful and welcoming and I feel at home there. I go to a wonderful weekly Bible study and I do the newsletter for the Sunday services, I sometimes read one of the readings during the service and we have spectacular morning teas (not that I eat anything I shouldn’t).

But the greatest part of St Paul’s is the children. Through the ministry of a wonderful woman called Mary we have been allowed to help so many families. Some people in this town are doing it tough, as they are all over the country, all over the world, and often the children can suffer. They come to us every Sunday and do craft work and laugh and sing and eat! Last Saturday evening was a glorious example. It was our nativity “Messy Church.” My craft table made “Jesus rocks” nativity scenes out of painted rocks – cold glue gunning at it’s best. I was the narrator for the most wonderful, almost impromptu play. Where else would the donkey hold the star over the stable and Joseph have his face painted? Then we all feasted on ham and potatoes and peas and coleslaw, followed by mountains of Pavlova, jelly and ice-cream and huge strawberries.

This morning I helped to wrap and label shoeboxes full of gifts for our children. We will deliver them on Christmas Eve. The parish and the wider community have combined to double the number of shoeboxes we have this year, not to mention the bags overflowing with goodies.

It’s not a hand-out, it’s not charity. It is a parish caring for its own. These families, adults and children, are, as we are, part of the body of Christ.  Some of our farming families have had it tough this year and the parish is there for them too, quiet help and lots of prayer. That’s one of the wonderful things about believing in God. It brings you peace and joy like nothing else, but it also brings you a supportive church family who will be right beside you no matter what.

On Friday it is Christmas Day and two years to the day since my darling Mum passed away. I will celebrate the day with family and then, later, with good friends, and there will, no doubt, be a glass raised to her. I still miss her and I wish she could be part of all that has happened in the last 24 months, but if she was, it wouldn’t have happened. She’s there, she can see and she is happy.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and all the very best for 2016, if I don’t come back here before New Year’s Eve. I never know when the urge to blog will come upon me! It is a time of children, books, cows in the paddocks, a cat asleep on the deck rail, ham and pineapple sandwiches with cranberry sauce and love. Merry Christmas!




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.

Previous Older Entries