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.

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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)

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.

The Cupcake dilemma

I make lists of the things I need to make, buy, cook for the launch party on June 24th. I wake up and say to myself, “Today is a cooking day,” and yet life always intervenes.

I was going to make cupcakes and brownies and put them in the deep freeze, but I’ve decided that the brownies can wait. I’ll make them fresh, drizzle chocolate over them and cut them into small cubes and add a drained, tinned strawberry on top of each one. Tinned strawberries are a revelation, they have a very intense strawberry flavour and a lovely, slightly mushy texture.

As for the cupcakes, so many recipes, which one to try? Butter or oil, or both? Vanilla or chocolate, or both? To cream or not to cream? To beat the batter in my food processor? The other day I set out to make banana and chocolate chip ones and as I was spooning the batter into the cupcake papers, I realised I’d made muffins instead. Not just that, I’d googled the recipe and printed it off and made the batter and at no time had I realised I was making muffins instead of cupcakes.

I’ve painted lots of violins and attached the string to them, they are ready to hang from the ceiling of the bookshop. Not real ones you understand, paper ones, but they are a very cool metallic copper colour. And I’ve found some gorgeous fabric to drape the shop and found some images to print off and hang on the fabric. They were going to be the instruments in Simon’s music room, but I’ve found more relevant and interesting ones. The huge shop window will be decorated with the book and images and violins and a music stand, I think a photo is a must!

But for now, the focus is on food. Little nibbles bursting with flavour…and making the cupcakes.

I have several interviews coming up, telephone ones with radio and newspapers, live ones at radio stations, pre-recorded ones with TV and some speaking engagements. I answered 20 questions the other day, things people don’t know about me, things I hardly knew about myself.

And all the time in the background, the book continues to sell. Amazon have 13 copies left of the paperback after two weeks and 19 lovely reviews. It is released in the UK and Australia tomorrow….Mum continues to look at me as if she wonders where her daughter has gone and who is this person?

It is time, I am away to the kitchen. I SHALL make cupcakes.

It’s gonna be a Party!

Well, things are going well so far. The Amazon reviews are great and the book blog tour seems to be going well. There was a beautiful review this morning. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when people say such nice things.

http://etjrmbach.blogspot.co.nz/

At the moment I am deep in ‘event planning’ mode, for my book launch party. It’s June 24th, three weeks last night. And the venue is a local bookstore, on the main road through Cambridge. It’s a lovely bookstore, family owned, with a real history in Cambridge. The staff have all read the book and have been ‘plugging’ it, with a copy on the counter, for ages. They’re almost as excited as I am.

We are going to decorate the long rectangular room as Simon’s music room from the book. Large pictures of the instruments, painted paper violins hanging from the ceiling, gold and black fabric and bunting. A talented young violinist from Waikato University will play a selection of pieces mentioned in the book.

The nibbles will be yummy, baby bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese, dark German rye bread topped with bratwurst sausage and homemade chutney, smoked trout on crackers, blinis with salmon and caviar, truffles and of course…..dark chocolate filled cupcakes with a very special topping (watch this space!) And lovely New Zealand wine.

I have loads of spot prizes and have painted the characters’ names on a large plastic sheet. People will receive a number as they arrive and after my welcoming speech, we will draw numbers. If I draw your number you come up and pick a little violin from a bowl. Every violin contains a characters’ name, and whatever is resting on that name on the sheet, that’s your prize. This gives me an opportunity to explain to the crowd who the character is and what role they play.

I’ve made lovely bookmarks for everyone who buys a book and gets it signed and will give one to everyone who interviews me over the next few weeks.

There will be photos and (hopefully) video as well. All in all I’m hoping it will be a memorable night, so if you’re anywhere close by to Cambridge on the night of June 24th…consider yourself invited! If not, you’ll be there in spirit. It’s gonna be a PARTY!!

Sunday Sunny Sunday

Hello again! It is 2pm on Sunday afternoon and I have yet to do the breakfast dishes. I have, however, had breakfast, had a shower, got changed, gone to a lovely church service, gone to see Mum and changed her into warmer clothing, filled her hot water bottle, cut up her roast chicken lunch, played word games on her whiteboard and she got every sentence right!, come home, had lunch and updated my blog page. The next thing will be to do the breakfast dishes….and then I shall paint some violins for the bunting to hang in the bookshop for my book launch (3 weeks tomorrow night).

Do you play candy crush saga? I’m trying not to, but sometimes it just calls to me. I’m on about level 34 I think and those little candy things flash before my eyes and egg me on. At times one more move would see me remove all the ‘jelly’ and hear those words, “Sugar crush”, but I don’t have one more move left. If you’ve never played it you won’t know what on earth I’m talking about. It plays on my desire to complete things, my Virgo need for completeness.

I was talking to my Aunt this morning and telling her that every time I go up for communion in our family church I imagine my parents standing before the altar and Mum telling me that as Dad rocked back on his heels he came into view, disappeared, reappeared, then disappeared again. My Aunt (Mum’s twin) told me that she was also married there in wartime and they couldn’t get a proper veil so they had to use heavy mosquito net. She couldn’t see where she was going and her husband stood at the altar and saw this tall, slim woman approaching who could have been anyone. The potential for a comic skit is endless.

Ah well, the breakfast dishes are calling, just after I sneak in a quick game of Candy Crush.