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.






Knighthoods and writing tips

There was breaking news on newstalkzb at about 6.45 this morning. Richie McCaw has…turned down a knighthood. Well of course he has. Can you imagine the talk at the bottom of the ruck? “Will you please remove your knee from there Sir Richie?”

It’s an idea whose time has not yet come. Let him finish playing rugby and become a captain of industry or a world-famous rugby commentator and then remember that he once won us a world cup, he and 14 other people. Apparently the coach, Graham Henry is now a ‘shoo-in’ for a knighthood. Fair enough…by the way, Mr Key, John me old mate, if you’re looking for someone to give Richie’s knighthood to this year, how about Bob Parker, Mayor of Christchurch? I know the council in Christchurch is not everyone’s favourite, but when disaster strikes and people are afraid and grieving, you need a calming voice and a face to follow and no-one has done that better for the people of Christchurch than Bob Parker.

A funny thing happened last night. I opened a spreadsheet on my Dashboard at Smashwords and discovered 529 sales/downloads I knew nothing about, Sony and Barnes & Nobel. Well I never! So the books are selling in the affiliate channels as well.

Today is the last day of school for the year for Lucas. He has been at school for around nine and a half months. If I ask him how it was he’ll say “good.” It reminds me of the child of a friend of mine who started school and on the Monday of her second week she said, in amazement, “you mean I have to go back?” One week down and about 12 years to go. Lucas  likes school, he likes ‘belonging’ and doing interesting things. He’s learned the haka and made a string poi and made Santa puppets and played in the sandpit and learned to read and count and write along the way. Today, as a special treat, we’re going to a Christmas Festival and a pet shop and an ice-cream parlour after school.

Writing tips today come from Hilary Mantel. She won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 for, “Wolf Hall’, her huge book about Thomas Cromwell.

 1. Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant.

2. Read ‘Becoming a Writer’, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.

3. Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.

4. If you have a good story idea, don’t assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.

5. Be aware that anything that appears before “Chapter One” may be skipped. Don’t put your vital clue there.

6. First paragraphs can often be struck out. Are you performing a haka, or just shuffling your feet?

7. Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.

8. Description must work for its place. It can’t be simply ornamental. It usually works best if it has a human element; it is more effective if it comes from an implied viewpoint, rather than from the eye of God. If description is coloured by the viewpoint of the character who is doing the noticing, it becomes, in effect, part of character definition and part of the action.

9. If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

10. Be ready for anything. Each new story has different demands and may throw up reasons to break these and all other rules. Except number one: you can’t give your soul to literature if you’re thinking about income tax.

P.S. rules #7 and #8 are excellent advice and can lead to great writing. That’s me, not her, saying that. 😉