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.


A catch up List

Forgive me father for it has been nearly two months since my last blog post. I could say I’ve been busy, and I have, but the truth lies somewhere between busy and distracted and lazy. Life has changed so much since May when Mum had her stroke and the household became one instead of two. I’m still finding my own rhythm and my own discipline, some days I get so much done and some days I get nothing done.

What have I to report?:

(1) I’ve had some renovations done, in fact I’m still having renovations done as the handyman is still here as I write. I put calico curtains up in the conservatory so they can be drawn at night to keep the room dark. I had a new shower put into one bathroom and wallpaper to cover where the old shower had been and left a gap..and I am having new tiles put on the bathroom floor. I’ve worked out a plan to do bits of the house at a time and eventually have it just the way I want it.

(2) I hired a skip (or two) and blitzed the garden and the garden shed. The shed is very tidy and looks at me with a critical eye every time I go near it. It also has a new inhabitant, ‘hedgerow’ the hedgehog. He sleeps in there during the day and comes out at night and likes raw eggs. So far the cat has let him be.

(3) I have about 20 stumps in the garden and will get them removed and topsoil added and then flowering plants will be planted. The vege garden is full, and I mean FULL, of potato plants and they are growing like topsy. I have too many plants for the space of the garden and the result will be either a million potatoes or none at all.

(4) I have done a copy-edit of the novel. It has changed title to ‘The Keeper of Secrets’ because a prominent Australian author, Kate Morton, published a novel called ‘The Secret Keeper.’ And it has the most gorgeous cover. I wasn’t sure at first glance but I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with the cover and apparently the HarperCollins sales team love it too. I got the galley proof the other day by courier and have checked that off too. So production is nearly here…

(5) I’ve done a 15 page treatment for the next novel and will get feedback from my editors in about a week or so. Fascinating subject, emotional and funny and poignant.

(6) Mum is doing well. She is sleeping more than she was and that means the brain is healing so her language is coming along. She doesn’t yet really want to talk of her own volition and so I prompt her and she really doesn’t like talking for anyone else but me. That will come as the brain heals further. She’s very mobile and steady on her feet and enjoys going for a walk and sitting in the sunshine. She has a much clearer idea of what’s happened now but seems to be OK with it most of the time. Stroke recovery is a very long-term thing and the steps forward are measured in inches.

(7) Yesterday was US election day. I sat and watched it on TV and then went in and watched some of it with Mum in the resthome and then came home to watch the President’s speech. He has one hell of a speech writer and he is a great orator. He understands timing and the power of response. The last couple of minutes were some of the best speech writing I’ve ever heard and exactly what the American people needed to hear. It won’t be an easy thing, bringing together all those deeply divided people.

(8) Several of my friends and acquaintances are battling cancer at present and I watch their progress from afar and marvel at their courage. I do understand that there is no other choice, you just get on with it, but to remain positive and strong takes courage and I send my love to you all.

(9) By the way, there is a new addition to my ‘family’. I have a four-year old (Tear Fund) sponsored child in Haiti. His name is Lunel and he lives in northern Haiti on a beach called Petite-Anse. It looks a really lovely place on the internet. His father is a church worker and his mother is a teacher and he’s gorgeous. God Bless you little one, may you learn and grow and prosper. He follows in the footsteps of World Vision children in Honduras and Nicaragua who have done very well over the years and I have been a very proud sponsor. Lunel is already doing ‘above average’ in pre-school and I’m sure he will thrive.

Well that’s about it for now. I will not leave it so long again, I promise.



A Bit of a B Week

It’s Friday. Friday is the day when someone else comes in to see Mum in the morning and I have time to do housework, washing, writing, thinking, reading and watching TV. I do find that by about midday I’m missing her and wanting to go in and see her and it can be hard to wait until 5pm, when I go in for the evening shift.

It’s been a busy week. Wednesday was my birthday and I turned 53. I’d done some serious baking the day before so I could take food into the rest home staff, brownies, cupcakes, butterfly cakes, queen cakes, eclairs, shortbread robots (don’t ask) and banana bread. All in all, it went very well and was most appreciated. I picked Mum up that day and took her home and we watched some US Open tennis on SKY and some opera off DVD and listened to some music in the conservatory. I got cash and book tokens for my birthday so I was happy, nothing better for me than book tokens. Cooked myself a dozen scallops for tea and they were exceedingly yummy!

Yesterday I took myself off to the craft show in Hamilton, feeling it was time to take up something crafty – if you know what I mean. I got a rug to hook and have done two rows. It’s quite a complex pattern so I need to concentrate and it’s hard to watch TV at the same time. I got a canvas and some paints so will get round to that. Also bought myself some nice glass jewelery and got a few little presents for birthdays coming up.

I’m also planning the next book in my head. My editors at Harper Collins have explained (very patiently) to me that I need to maintain a similar tone and texture and provide the readers who loved The Secret Keeper with something that will satisfy them and not be a complete surprise. After several false starts I think I have a great idea brewing away.

So what else is happening in the world? Some great speeches at the Democratic Convention in North Carolina. I’ve heard snippets of President Clinton’s nomination speech and have the whole thing ready and waiting on You Tube for later in the day and I will watch President Obama live this afternoon. Love a bit of great oratory!! It makes me think of Toby Zigler and Sam Seabourne and all the work that goes in behind the scenes to create the words.

Oh and I have been coping with a bulging  disc which was pinching my sciatic nerve, didn’t mention it earlier because the doctor gave me some lovely painkillers and when I take them I don’t know my back is sore. When I don’t take them it is a little stiff and twinges a bit but it’s healing quickly and, as long as I stay out of the garden (yeah), should be 100% soon.

I had some ingredients left over from the baking and half a loaf of fig and walnut bread that was going stale quickly. So, not wanting to waste good stuff, yesterday I made a bread and butter pudding, with sultanas and lemon rind and eggs and milk/cream and it is just delicious! I have carved it up into chunks and put it in the deep freeze.

So that was my week, back, baking, birthday, birthing a book and being there for Mum.