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.

What A Wonderful Fortnight

Well where to start? The last two weeks have been fascinating, surreal, intimidating and delightful, all at the same time.

The week before NZ launch day I went up to Auckland and left Mum for two days. That was hard and she was VERY pleased to see me when I got back, but the publicity stuff was fun. I did a pre-record TV interview and a pre-record radio interview and filmed a book trailer (which was glorious) and then on the way home, a print interview in a pub.

One of the central features was also an MRI scan. Because they were scanning my heart I was not right in the middle, I could put my head back and see daylight at the other end of the machine. They strapped a foam thing with a camera in it across my chest and I had to lie very still. The headphones helped, although my Michael Ball concert was interrupted by a voice telling me to “Breathe in, breathe out, stop breathing…..breathe normally.” There were some pretty long pauses between the ‘stop’ and the ‘normally’ in the middle of the session and I was counting to 25 at times. At the end of it I was a bit dizzy from all the breath holding and couldn’t believe I’d been lying there for an hour!

Friday June 21st was New Zealand launch day and I got to see my book in a shop window display and on the shelves, that was a moment! I took Mum down to have a look and there were lots of “oh” and “yes” floating around.

I talked to Kim Hill on the Saturday morning on National Radio, she was in a studio in Wellington and I was in a studio in Hamilton. She played some of my favourite music and we chatted. It seemed to go well.

Then Monday was LAUNCH NIGHT! I’d put a lot of work into this and it went very well. Lots of people turned up and that was heart warming, people I’m related to, people I’ve met in the last two years, other writers. I signed, I spoke, I called out numbers for the spot prizes, I signed again. There seemed to be a great deal of food, but most of it was eaten so I was right, people are hungry at 5.30 at night. The cupcakes with the cover of the book on them were a great hit and people were delighted to take one…and they loved the book marks too. Hamish, the wonderful owner of the bookshop, tells me that he sold over a hundred books, a record for his shop on the launch of a book written by a NZ author. And best of all, Mum came. She sat there like a queen and everyone came and chatted to her and she ate. I thanked her last of all in my speech and ended with the fact that she says “Famous…” and right on cue she said “Daughter!” so everyone could hear and they all clapped. It was a GOOD night.

Since then I’ve done radio interviews and print interviews and next month I have a live TV interview on TVNZ. Today I have a radio interview on the leading radio station, newstalkzb. Yesterday I went round some shops in Te Awamutu and Hamilton and signed what stock they have. There was an article in the lift out magazine of the New Zealand Herald yesterday morning and one poor retailer had had four people in and had no stock left to sell them.

So my life should settle down a little now and I can concentrate on writing “The War Brides Club.” I am a published author. My book is out there on the shelves, selling. People have come up to me in the street and told me they’re reading it, or how much they loved it. I got a Facebook message last night from another paediatric cardiac patient who is my age and had his operation when he was six, two years after mine. His parents were told there was one younger who had survived, a girl. Wow.

This is a remarkable journey and one I feel blessed to be on. I have achieved something and that is good, but it is only the beginning. Now I have to ‘step up to the plate’ and keep writing. Make my wonderful fortnight the beginning of many. Happy Days.

Launch Week Post one

It is launch week and I’m feeling a little like an astronaut on final countdown. Cue ‘Europe’…..

Today I have an interview with Dr Alvin Augustus Jones at Paradise Radio out of Maryland, USA. I have no idea what kind of questions he will ask me but the website lists some of his interviewees and it includes people like Ted Danson, Barbara Streisand and Madelaine Albright so he must know what he’s doing…says she hopefully.

Tomorrow I have lots of bits and bobs to do, my part of the window display to drop off to Wrights bookstore and some shopping. Confirmations of details for later in the week as well and more emailing.

Wednesday I’m off to Auckland, first stop is an interview with a TV channel called Face TV. So I’m guessing I won’t be allowed to wear a paper bag on my head.  Then it will be coffee catchup.

Thursday starts with the filming of the book trailer at the war memorial museum, the Holocaust Hall and the rare violin room. That will be seriously cool. Then on to Radio Live, before an MRI scan on my heart and an interview in Hamilton with the Waikato times before home.

Friday is shopping and prepping.

Saturday is a live radio hour with Kim Hill on National Radio and the Canvas magazine article will be released.

Monday night is LAUNCH night.

Australia has run out of stock, all the stock has been sold as prelaunch so they need to get some more in. This is a good thing, a very good thing, I’m told.

Meanwhile I’m waiting for the housework fairy to wave her wand and do my vacuuming, ironing and cleaning of bathrooms etc. She is a bit slow at the moment, perhaps the incentives are not incentivizing her enough.Never mind, this is not a week you experience every day. I shall worry about more mundane things next week. Final countdown.