Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013!

To quote Abba:

Happy new year

Happy new year

May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbour is a friend

Happy new year

Happy new year

May we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don't we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Hobbit - 3D High Frame - My Precious?

I'm glad I've seen The Hobbit. And I'm glad I've seen it in the much-talked-about 3D high frame rate (Mr Google assures me it's 48 frames). Visually, it's a feast of intricate images, colours and super-realistic special effects. The scene in which Bilbo and Gollum hold their riddle duel is worth suffering all the rolling heads that surround it.


Plotwise, however, I felt the run time of almost three hours could have, should have, been cut to about one-and-three-quarters. No, I'm not a Tolkien purist. I don't care about the extra material from other notes, I don't care about diversions from the way the book's written. I do care about being entertained, though, and lengthy battle scenes can only hold my interest for, oh, about thirty seconds.

World-creating-wise, I loved the Shire. Although nothing really happened there, and it took a long time for the nothing really to happen, I could have watched it over and over again. In fact, I could have happily watched three hours of The Hobbit - An Alternative To The Journey, in which Bilbo stays and home and bakes cookies.

Still, it's a must-see. To quote another reviewer: "You'll leave with a smile, even if you spent a good portion of the past three hours yawning."

And, speaking as a visitor to the lovely Welligton, correction, The Middle Of Middle Earth, I loved how the city dressed up to celebrate the premiere.


Conveyer belt at Wellington's airport


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Latest Bond Movie

The latest Bond movie... what was it called... Google to the rescue... oh, yes, of course. Skyfall. Not a very memorable title, not truly descriptive of the contents, but I guess it was ok. A lot of things about the movie were ok. Ok in a good way. Just not overwhelmingly wow.

Not as suave and glitzy as Cassino Royale, but much, much better than Quantum of Solace.

PS I liked the new Q.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Novel About My Wife



So, what do I say about a book that had me spellbound all the way through, made me read late into the night, until I reached the last pages, realised there's no more, then flung the book across the lounge in disappointment? No, not because the book was finished - because the book was finished without resolution.

I understand the author's intent all right: the reader is in the head of the narrator, a guy who's trying to get to know his now dead wife. He's left it too late, should have paid her more attention when she was alive, now he's going to learn nothing, nah-nah-nah-NAH-nah!

I get that. Punish the character all you like. But don't punish the reader. What have I done to deserve it?

compelling characters + beautiful writing - satisfying ending = a book I cannot recommend

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Informationist



The Informationist by Taylor Stevens is a good thriller, full of quirky characters and exciting plot turns. The heroine has been described as a cross between Lisbeth Salander and Jason Bourne, and I really can't do better than that, except to add that she's less vulnerable and more lovable than Lisbeth.

For me, what made the book was the setting. There's just something about Africa that won't let go of my heart.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

GenreCon Sydney 2012 - Part 4 - Smart Bitches

So, roll on Sunday 4 November 2012 (you see I'm doing a bit of time travelling here using my trusted time machine). The place is still Sydney, GenreCon 2012. Honestly, the place is like a black home, sucking you in every time you think about it....

So. Smart Bitches Trashy Books. For those who don't know, it's one of the funniest, smartest blogs devoted to romance fiction. We were fortunate enough to have SB Sarah Wendell as one of the international guests in Sydney. Despite her Smart Bitch title, there is nothing bitchy about Sarah. In fact, she epitomises the girl everybody would want as their BFF. Sarah rocks!

Sarah gave a super-useful talk about what Internet presence means for authors. She was also kind enough to analyse my website and give me a few pointers, which, I swear, I'm going to get around implementing one of these days. Soon.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

GenreCon Sydney 2012 - Part 3 - Villains, Monsters and Cads

Pretend it's still Saturday 3rd November 2012, at the GenreCon in Sydney. The after-lunch sessions I attended featured:
  • three experts telling us what TV programs get wrong when it comes to the crime scene and the hospital,
  • three different kinds of bad boys in fiction.
What I learnt:
  • even very experienced doctors would hesitate to perform tracheostomy with a ball point pen, and the procedure thus depicted on TV is usually laparoscopy, not tracheostomy, anyway;
  • members of the press are not nearly as obnoxious as TV writers create them to be - in real life, they wait politely in line to receive the press statement and they ask what they can do to help catch the perp;
  • police departments don't fight over jurisdiction: they are so overworked, that if an FBI agent arrives on the scene to say "this is my case", the police will grin and hand the paperwork right over, before he changes his mind;
  • Vikings were a trading nation, not a warring nation, and their helmets didn't have horns.


Monday, November 12, 2012

GenreCon Sydney 2012 - Part 2 - Fight Scenes

Picture this: GenreCon Sydney 2012, Saturday 3 November. The session is Writing Effective Fight Scenes. The speaker, Simon Higgins. His favourite weapon: the katana. Let me quote the GenreCon website: "A former police officer and homicide investigator, Simon came fifth in Iaido’s World Titles in Japan in 2008."

That in itself would have been good enough for me. But Simon's also a writer and a highly entertaining speaker. What I got out of the session would take pages and pages to report (I took pages and pages of notes, and actually wish I'd recorded the session, copyright laws be damned). So, here are a few memorable pointers:
  • When you're in a fight, time slows down.
  • Mention the above fact in your writing, but don't go overboard reporting every excruciating detail in slow motion.
  • Like in a sex scene, Tag A Into Slot B gets boring pretty fast, unless you include emotions, senses, stakes. So:
  • When writing, less is more.
  • Do your research.
  • Mr Spock was so wrong about the pressure point. Human Nature Interesting Fact 1: everybody in the audience wanted to know where the correct pressure point was. When I got back to my hotel, the 8-year old and the 44-year old both wanted to know where the correct pressure point was. Human Nature Interesting Fact 2: The 10-year old's female, and all she wanted to know was what Simon's fighting clothes looked like. :-)
Have a look at Simon's books and at the photos from the session (yes, I volunteered for the pressure point demonstration):





Simon Higgins and Yvonne Walus - this is one of the pressure points

Simon Higgins and Yvonne Walus - this is _not_ one of the pressure points ;-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

GenreCon Sydney 2012 - Part 1 - Adult Themes

GenreCon Sydney 2012 - where do I start? Chronologically, or with the highlights?

My writer's soul tells me to go with the highlights, the trouble is, everything was a highlight. From meeting new people and seeing new places, to learning about Windsor "Win" Horne Lockwood The Third's fighting secrets and having my website reviewed by a Smart Bitch (thank you, Sarah).

And so, chronologically it will have to be.

Picture this, Sydney, Australia. The day is Friday, 2 November 2012. Actually, it's night already. We've all had a few glasses of bubbly at the GenreCon cocktail party. The scene has been set for the inaugural panel of the conference: Adult Themes. Participants: Yvonne Walus aka Eve Summers, Martin Livings and Denise Rossetti. Expertly chaired by the gorgeous Rosie Courtney of Fangtastic Fiction, who reminded us to set our phones to vibrate, the panel tackled questions ranging from what's acceptable in modern fiction as a theme and what words are too offensive to put in print.

We touched on the responsibility of the author towards our readers. We drew fine lines between titillation and shock. We side-tracked onto a certain female-flavoured four-letter word that starts with a C.

Best of all, we laughed.


From your left: Denise Rossetti, Rosie Courtney, Yvonne Walus, Martin Livings.  

And afterwards I went home to this view:

View from my room at the Shangri-La hotel in Sydney. Magnificent!

 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jetstar? No, thanks!

I'm getting everything ready for the GenreCon 2012 in Sydney this weekend...

... but ...

... what a disappointing experience with the Jetstar luggage upgrade! At the time of booking my tickets online, back in May, I didn't get the option of choosing how many bags to check in: it was either 1 bag per passenger, or none. Because I only wanted to check in 1 bag for 4 people, I thought I'd speak to Jetstar in person and arrange that. You know, being environmentally responsible for the number of kilograms we fly across the Tasman Pond, and all.
Well, with my flight only 3 days away, I finally did it. Downside? It's cost me more than 4 times what I would have paid at the time of booking. So I may as well have gone with the 1 bag per person option in the first place.

Guess who will not be using Jetstar _ever_ again? Yes, well done, Air New Zealand and Qantas, you have got yourselves 4 new customers... and you didn't have to do a thing!  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keeping The House by Ellen Baker

KEEPING THE HOUSE came to me recommended by one of my very favourite authors, Joshilyn Jackson. It's a sprawling saga (elegantly sprawling, beautifully sprawling, sprawling with a purpose, you could say) of the family who lived in the beautiful big house on the hill in a little town. Legend has it there's a curse on the house and all who live in it, but even without that extra bait, it's an extraordinary novel.

Here are a few random things I love about the book:
  • The beautiful yet readable language.
  • The 1950s setting - oh, how I long to be a housewife with nothing better to do than record the yearly dinner menu (and read books, and write books, and mess around on Facebook, of course)!
  • The plot that twists and turns in a way I couldn't predict.
Interesting enough, it wasn't about the characters. Normally, characters make or break fiction for me. In KEEPING THE HOUSE, I didn't really have a favourite character, one I liked above all others, one whose fortune I'd be happy to put ahead of another. There wasn't a single character I found totally heroic, totally admirable, totally lovable. And yet, I wished them all good luck as I raced through he book, turning and turning those pages.

A must read.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When Cultures Collide

Having lived on three continents, I pride myself on knowing plenty about the clash of different cultures. Which is probably why the book "Almost French" has struck such a chord with me. It's a first-person true-life account of an Australian girl who moved to Paris to be with her boyfriend.

This is not a love story. Apart from an initial statement that there was a spark between them, you don't get a spectator's view into her heart or her bedroom. What you do get is an account of how painful, frustrating, and ultimately wonderful it is to assimilate into a new culture. You get to tut-tut with her over the crazy Parisienne folk, cry with her when she longs for the open spaces of the Southern Hemisphere, and almost taste the black truffle shavings in her salad.

Don't be misguided by the old-fashioned cover: this book is fresh and fun!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

History of the Housewife

I'm reading a fascinating book: INSIDE STORIES by Frances Walsh. It's a non-fiction account of the housewife's role in New Zealand from 1895 till 1975. (In 1975, it became fashionable not to be a housewife, or at least not to admit to being one.)

What struck me was how different women's magazines were back then: real articles about real issues (including World War 2), loads of advice from how to clean a water stain off a table to dating tips, and almost no celebrities! (When they did interview celebrities, they asked for household tips. Now that's putting Ms Jolie in her place!)

The book made me think about the lives our grandmothers led. The things they thought about before they closed their eyes at night. Their daily chores.

What modern invention reduced the workload of the housewife? I posed this question on my Facebook page, and the answers varied from plumbing to the pill.

For me personally, it's probably the supermarket. I struggle to find time to make bread at home - imagine having to kill and pluck your own chicken!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

“Incendiary” - What if your past comes back to haunt you?


What if your past came back to haunt you?
Chris Redding answers the question in her latest book, "Incendiary", published by Imajin Books in September 2012. Previously, this book was published with another publisher. It’s set in New Jersey, in a fictional town. The heroine is an EMT while the hero is a firefighter.

Excerpt:
The electricity of an impending storm raised the hair on Chelsea James's arms. Barefoot, she stood on the wide front porch and watched the trees blow almost in half.

Her dead sister's voice played in her mind.

"It's like nature has to violently clean up," Morgan would say as they stood in this very spot.

They both loved storms. The power of nature impressed Chelsea. Morgan concentrated on the aftermath. Odd that she never thought of the aftermath of her own actions.

"How so?" Chelsea would ask her older-by-a-few-minutes sister.

Morgan's eyes would be wide. "Because a storm gives the trees a haircut, gets rid of the ones that are weak. And on top of that, the rain helps the ones that do survive."

Chelsea would nod.

But this storm didn't bring with it the same renewal. Somewhere deep inside her, Chelsea knew this storm was different. This storm could bring destruction— or worse—this storm might not bring the wanted rain for those trees that survived.

She sighed. Right now she missed her sister more than anything.

Chelsea's firehouse pager went off. "Unit 37, you have a fully involved structure fire on Briar Lane."

As Captain of Biggin Hill First Aid Squad, she had certain duties. But she was also a firefighter and sometimes that took precedence. The shakiness of the dispatcher's voice told her this fire could be big.

So tonight she'd be a firefighter.


URL to book: http://tinyurl.com/8davpke







Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tess Gerritsen - Short Story!

If you're into Isles and Rizzoli, here is a short read for you: John Doe by Tess Gerritsen.

BLURB:

It should have been a night to remember, but Maura Isles can’t recall a thing.


Maura is longing to ditch a ritzy cocktail party, along with her four-inch heels, when a handsome, charming stranger appears. But somewhere between sipping a fresh glass of champagne and waking up the next day on her sofa lies a black hole of forgotten time. As Boston’s medical examiner, Maura regularly teams up with police detective Jane Rizzoli on homicide investigations, and Jane’s latest case makes Maura’s blood run cold. A brutally murdered man has been found in a city park with Maura’s address tucked in his pocket. Maura IDs the victim as the charmer she met at the party. Her alarm turns to terror when she learns the murdered man was a predator with victims of his own. Fearing she may be guilty of a lethal crime she can’t recall, Maura races to recover the missing hours that hold the truth—and that hide a shocking secret.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

YES! A new Tess Gerritsen!

LAST TO DIE is Tess Gerritsen's latest novel, the tenth in her Isles-Rizzoli series (note that to me they are Isles-Rizzoli, not Rizzoli-Isles, a no-brainer who my favourite character is). Read why Tess wrote LAST TO DIE, and I'll review the book as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Hmmm... a paper book order from Amazon (and then the wait while the book flies to New Zealand)?
A trip to the local book store (trying and failing to park the car within two kilometre radius) hoping they have it?
A Kindle download? (Means I can't read it on the run if I let the charge run out.)

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I Would Finish My Book On Time If…

I Would Finish My Book On Time If… is such an awesome post by my favourite author, Joshilyn Jackson, that I am going to repost it here. If you like it, please read one of her books. Any one. They are all unique. They are all the purest shade of awesome.

So, here it is:

I Would Finish My Book On Time If… ALL MY ONE THOUSAND CHILDREN will stop having stomach flu, going camping and befriending several thousand lice that have to be poisoned and then hand combed out 4 hours a day for 3 days, and then falling on treadmills and banging their ADULT PERMANENT front teeth out. Actually that is all the one child. The other is being PERFECTLY UNOBTRUSIVE so I expect his leg to come off at track today.


What happened with the tooth was...
more  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reality Benders

I've just read a fantastic analysis of reality-bending movies (such as Inception and Jacob's Ladder). A summary wouldn't to it justice, so here is the whole reality bender movie article.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Randy Ingermanson... oh, the Snowflake Guy!

This weekend, it's going to be my pleasure and privilege to introduce Randy Ingermanson at the Romance Writers of New Zealand Annual Conference. Randy, better known as the Snowflake Guy (because of his Snowflake writing technique), is actually a PhD in Theoretical Physics turned novelist. As a PhD in Mathematics turned novelist, I'm really going to enjoy a whole Friday in Randy's workshop.

I wonder whether he's ever met Richard Feynman.... That's not what Friday's workshop is about, but you know me, I'll be sure to ask anyway.

Anyway, Randy sounds really funny. Have a look at his website here. And it's not too late to register for Friday's workshop at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland. We'll be talking about fiction architecture, snowflakes and the Hunger Games.

May the odds of your attending the conference be ever in your favour!

The Snowflake Guy

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Introducing Stephen Brayton

Today I'd like to introduce you to another fellow author from Echelon Press: Stephen Brayton. Stephen owns and operates Brayton's Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He's a Fifth Degree Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association. He's also a writer.

Blurb for Night Shadows

Des Moines Homicide detective Harry Reznik and F.B.I. agent, Lori Campisi, have their hands more than a little full when they team up to investigate a series of gruesome murders. With life throwing them one obstacle after another, the unlikely pair has no choice but to put their personal issues aside as they battle malevolent creatures from another dimension. With everything to lose, they have no one but each other to count on in a wicked game of survival.



Night Shadow Buy Links





Friday, August 10, 2012

In mood for poetry...

Tonight, I crave poetry. The music of words. The cloud of double meanings. The blanket of emotions.

At first, I turn to Dorothy Parker, who never fails to amuse me. Tonight, though, her wry observations and cynical tongue fall flat. I seek solace in Wislawa Szymborska, and find layers of pain. Pablo Neruda gives me love and lust, which are usually always welcome into the innermost corners of my soul, but right now I've no taste for his carnal apples.

And so, I'm left with the Sunlight On The Garden.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Lengths Writers Go To For Their Art

If you could see into my house half an hour ago, you would have observed one very frustrated writer digging in the trash can among yesterday's tissues and three days ago's raw chicken thigh polystyrene trays (eeeeew). But I found it. The plastic wrapper my Writing Magazine came in. Printed on it, was my subscription number, which I needed to enter their Love Story Competition. (After all that effort, I'd better win!)

This set me thinking. How far do writers go for their art? Personally, I can list:
  • Digging in reeking rubbish.
  • Staying up till 3.30AM knowing I have to be up less than four hours later.
  • Forgoing a better paid job.
  • Saying, "It's ok, guys, you go see Spiderman without me".
  • Agreeing to wear a ridiculous hat to an author signing.
  • Did I mention digging in reeking rubbish? It deserves it.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Showcasing Echelon Press Authors - Chris Redding

A View to a Kilt

When a wise-cracking interior decorator wants to put her past behind her, the dead body of the mayor’s son makes her realize that won’t happen too easily. A conservative former computer geek for the FBI is holding on too tightly to his past. His wife died under suspicious circumstances and he believes the decorator has the information to solve the case.


Omnilit: http://tinyurl.com/cr-vtak-omni


Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/cr-vtak-Smash


Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/44sbydm


Nook Store: http://tinyurl.com/3tlk2nh
 
 
About The Author


Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. She teaches workshops on writing online and offline. When she isn’t writing, she works part time for her local hospital.





Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Yvonne Walus is on Crime Watch

Here, on Crime Watch, is what charming Craig kindly wrote about my radio interview and our Murder In The Library evening.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

THE RELUCTANT MATCHMAKER

Below you will find an excellent excerpt from THE RELUCTANT MATCHMAKER by Shobhan Bantwal (whom we already had the pleasure of hosting on this blog). Happy reading!





I was hauled against him in one quick move, taking the breath right out of my lungs.

God, this was good—better than anything I’d ever felt in my whole life.

Although his hold on me felt like a vice grip, I liked it, basked in it. His next kiss was harder, more demanding, that of a hungry male rather than a tender admirer. And all the while my mind sang: He wants me. He wants me.

I couldn’t hold back any longer. My hands rested on his shoulders, savoring the tautness of the muscle and the soft feel of his shirt for a moment, and then my arms slid around his neck, clamping his mouth to mine. I never wanted to let go. This was a minor miracle. I’d come here to help him locate a woman who’d make him a suitable wife, and instead I was clasped in his arms, his mouth making scalding, passionate love to mine.

Even in my wildest dreams I hadn’t thought it would be this wonderful. His cologne was rousing, his hair ticklish on my fingers, and his chest was hard as a rock against my pliant breasts. This felt so damn right.

Just when I thought this was heaven on earth, he abruptly loosened his hold on me, a puzzled look coming over his face once more. But this time the bafflement was not mixed with wonder and awe. It was more like an unpleasant shock.

I had done it—exactly what I didn’t want to do—I’d repulsed him. Why the heck hadn’t I behaved like a nice Hindu girl and held myself in check?

He took me by the shoulders and set me away from him. “I’m so sorry. I—I don’t know what came over me.”



(Excerpt from The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal)



For more information: about The Reluctant Matchmaker and Shobhan Bantwal’s other books, visit http://www.shobhanbantwal.com or http://www.amazon.com/The-Reluctant-Matchmaker-Shobhan-Bantwal/dp/0758258852. The full virtual tour schedule is available at: http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/06/03/reluctant-matchmaker-tour

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Siren of Paris

The Siren of Paris - the title alone is intriguing enough to make me want to read the book. And the story behind the book is no less compelling....

David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War Two.

Read the excerpt below:








On the side of the ship, Marc could see a group of lifeboats that had made it free. Around the ship, he saw bobbing heads of men, and sometimes women, in the sea. “Who would lash a life vest on a dead man?” Marc pondered. In the distance, Marc saw the cruiser that earlier had been ferrying troops as it approached the now-overturned Lancastria. But, just then, another plane dived down upon the swimmers and fired into the sea. The plane dropped some kind of bomb on the struggling soldiers. Marc looked down the plates of the hull, toward a large crack. Through the gaping hole, oil spilled from the ship. He scanned how far the oil slick extended over the sea, and then saw that some of this oil had caught on fire. Marc watched as one man swam through the oil, trying to get out of it, as his hair caught fire. He screamed before disappearing into the black sea.



“Hand … hand…” he heard to his right. Marc looked and no one was there. “Down here,” he heard. He looked and there was a man in porthole calling for his hand. He helped him up and out.


Another man was behind the first. “Hurry!” he said. “Hurry!” The man he’d just helped from the porthole yelled down inside the ship, as he tried to help his buddy escape. Marc saw the water now rising up from the ship’s submerged bow. He started to walk backwards along the side of the plates and then turned toward the aft. The propellers jetted out of the sea. Marc could see men climbing over the railings near the aft section, and up on the now-jutting propeller shaft.


“Do you want to live?” a British officer asked Marc. He snapped out of what felt like a heavy state of sleep.


“Yes,” Marc pulled the words out of himself.


“Then strip out of those clothes. They are just going to pull you down,” the officer barked to him, and pointed to others just behind Marc. Marc felt like the words had passed through him, as he struggled to focus amidst the panic. All along the side of the ship, men busted through portholes and called help to climb out. When the water reached the open portholes, Marc heard the shouts and screams of men inside the ship. Marc took off his boots, shirt and trousers. The officer in front of him now stood fully naked. Others were stripping down, some naked, and some just no trousers on. Other men appeared like they expected to walk off the ship and across the ocean on some magical bridge. They were in full dress, and with heavy kitbags on their backs. Somehow they seemed unable to save their own lives; the idea of letting go of equipment was grounds for court martial. The ocean continued to climb the side of the ship. The cruiser had moved away a bit from the scene to avoid the planes diving from above. Marc slipped out of his underwear and got done folding his clothing. He stacked it neatly on the side of the ship, as if he were just going for a swim and was going to come back later to dress for dinner. “Are you ready?” the officer called over the yelling to Marc.


“For what?” Marc thought the words first and then had to force himself to say them.


“To jump into the sea. We need to get away from the ship so it does not pull us down,” the officer yelled. Just then, across the sea of broken bodies, lifeboats, and shouting men, coming from within busted-out portholes came a chorus of rowdy British men singing out “Roll out the Barrel.” They perched themselves along the protruding starboard side propeller shaft. The voices seemed to be disconnected from the scene. Marc looked out upon a dark sea of oil mixed with swimmers, bodies, smoke, and broken lifeboats.


You can purchase The Siren of Paris in Kindle e-book format from Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0088CA098 and learn more about this author and novel at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/.


For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit  http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/








Friday, June 22, 2012

Murder In The Library

We came, we spoke, we drew chalk body outlines on the library floor....


The body in the library. Crime scene examined by novelists Yvonne Walus, Zirk van den Berg, Bev Robitai

Craig Sisterson (chair), and the three panelists: Bev Robitai, Zirk van den Berg, Yvonne Walus

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

22/11/63 or 11/22/63?

I keep getting the title wrong. I know what it stands for (the day JFK was assassinated) and my non-USA-formatted mind keeps referring to it as 22/11/63, not 11/22/63. Either way, you know the book I mean. Stephen King's time travel epic. About JFK. The very thick one, the one that makes you wish you'd bought it on Kindle so that your wrists don't get sore from holding it up. Yeah, that one.

It took me a few days to get into 22/11/63... er... 11/22/63. As a JFK conspiracy theory nut, I loved the premise: oh, to go back in time and see what's what! As a scientist, though, I was cautious: would preventing the assassination be ultimately better for the world? As a reader, I wanted to be swept by the pace of the novel, only to be left drifting to admire the world in 1958, with its cigarette smoke haze and its root beer that tasted food-additive free.

Don't get me wrong: it was a great journey. Today's world is too rushed, too global, too connected, too commercial, so I revelled in the slower pace of half a century ago. It's just that the pace was more literary-novel than thriller. I can live with that.

The book introduces several intriguing ideas, so if you're a time travel fan, read it. If you're a history fan, read it. If you're not a horror book reader, read it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Mind For Murder

On May 13th this year, I had the privilege of attending A MIND FOR MURDER, a morning filled with talk about crime fiction. Read more here.



Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Hunger Games - the books and the movie

Not sure whether I can say anything that's not been said before. But I want to say it anyway. Unstructured ramblings to follow. (Warning: Spoilers.)

Overall, I loved the books as much as I hated the premise. Never had I imagined I'd be reading and enjoying books in which children kill one another. Fortunately, Suzanne Collins writes beautiful prose, and she writes with heart. It still amazes me that I could admire a heroine as prickly and self-centered as Katniss.

What message did other readers get from the trilogy? For me, it clearly says war is wrong, war is a pointless waste of life, war kills children on both sides of the barricade. It clearly says all politicians are evil. And it clearly says don't drop roses onto a battle zone (this is a dig from me: story goes that during the Warsaw Uprising in WW2, British aeroplanes dropped flowers onto the city... the city wanted food).

Anyway, Book 1 was my favourite and it's joining my list up there with ROOM and THE HELP. I thought the movie did it justice, even if we couldn't hear her thoughts during the Games. Of Book 2, ironically, I enjoyed the Games the most. And Book 3 made me cry.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Interview with Vanda Symon

My interview with Vanda Symon will appear in this Saturday's Dominion Post (12 May 2012). Buy the paper and turn to p34-35 of YOUR WEEKEND!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Vanda Symon's THE FACELESS

New Zealand crime fiction author, Vanda Symon, has just had a new release, THE FACELESS. Vanda is one of my favourite people, and I'm doubly thrilled the book was launched by Penguin's commissioning editor Katie Haworth. I had the privilege of meeting Katie at the 2011 RWNZ Annual Conference, and I'll never forget the image she put in my head... of herself and her assistant reading through piles of submissions that reach metres into the air.

THE FACELESS is Vanda's first stand-alone thriller. I love that it's set in Auckland. I love that it deals with the delicate issue of sex workers, a topic I myself write about. I love that it makes the reader think of all the lonely, faceless people lost in the sea of human beings.

To win a signed copy of Vanda's book, please click here.



Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Moon She Rocks You

Today in our virtual studio we have Gurutej Khalsa, a founding practitioner of Kundalini and one of a handful of Kundalini Yoga Masters in the world. She has taught people for over 40 years to connect to their higher consciousness through healing, meditation, yoga, and chanting. Her book, The Moon She Rocks You, shares interesting and potentially life changing information.




Q: Welcome, Gurutej. Your book's got an attention-grabbing title. What does it mean?

A: Have you noticed that some days you feel strong and powerful and can take on the entire universe and other days you want to find a bathroom to hide in and cry? Why is that? This book will give you many tools, techniques and tips to restore your balance so you can easily access the gifts of each Moon Center. This is not a shield to hide behind, but information to make you more aware, informed, and complete with support tools that will make you more powerful as a woman.

Women are ruled by the moon. Like the moon, women are a mystery. We have a dark unseen side and another that’s fully lit. We change cycles every 2.5 days. We have tides like the ocean, and we call our menstrual cycle, our moon cycle. The Moon Centers show us various points in our body that correspond to certain feelings and moods we may experience during the 28-day lunar cycle.

The cycle of the moon plays with these points of your body. What I would like to accomplish in this book is to explain these points; show where they reside in a woman’s body and reveal what the locations mean for each of these Moon Centers. But this book is about knowing what and where the Moon Centers are in your body and revealing how their cycles can be used to your advantage. This book will give you a preview of some tools and tips you can utilize to help balance these Centers and to activate them.


With The Moon She Rocks You, you can use a chart of the body and check it each day to see where you think you are in this cycle. You will also get in-depth information on the negative, positive, and neutral aspects of each Moon Center and how these play out with ways for balancing each of them. With practice you can make great use of the Moon Centers in your life. (http://gurutej.net/store/11-moon-centers)



Q: So what message or advice do you hope to convey?
A: The message is to give women and men tips of how to take the drama and trauma out of their lives. Using these 11 moon centers, I give tips on food, breathing methods, meditations, love tips, and so much more about how each woman can live in a more balanced state and accept the gifts that each Center offers. I want all women to take advantage of the gifts and not be buried by addictive emotions.



Q: I can embrace that! What research did you do to write the book?
A: It’s been 40 years since I originally heard my teacher speak of the phenomena and now I’ve laid it out in this book. I used this information personally and share this teaching all over the world. I have worked with hundreds, no thousands, of men and women on how to use this system to make their lives have less drama and more ease. It is a brilliant and effective system.



Q: Sounds both awesome and hard to top. What's next in line for you?
A: Next I will release a book and a program called The 13th month - Getting 30 Extra Days Each Year. This program and book are geared at two groups. Mothers and people who spend way too much time at their desks or working and want to figure out better ways to live a delicious balanced life having more time to do the things they want. It is a system that works with everything from how you go to sleep and wake up, to little things you do all day long to make more effective choices in everything from food to simple exercise you can do right by or at your desk or in the car for Mom’s.


If you are a woman, knowing about The Moon Centers gives you power over your negative emotions. If you are a man, it gives you the key to understand women of all ages. You learn to listen to the voice of their emotions. Women – we can have control over those crazy emotional times in our lives. For more information, visit - http://gurutej.com/store/11-moon-centers/






Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Review for "Dead Red Heart"

Here's a fantastic review of DEAD RED HEART from the latest BLACK STATIC magazine. The editor of the anthology, Russell B Farr: "Their awesome reviewer hase gone through all 33 stories and had something to say about each and every one."

This is what they said about mine:
"‘Just a Matter of Economics’ by Yvonne Eve Walus has an intriguing idea, with vampire hunters calling a ceasefire in the hope that the bloodsuckers will develop a cure for AIDS, the story told from the perspective of a human infiltrating a vampire conference on the disease and becoming besotted with one of the undead."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Game Of Thrones

"Game Of Thrones", what a superb title. Pity I didn't like the first episode of the TV series, nor the first two pages of the book....

Friday, April 06, 2012

Easter Traditions

I did not grow up with chocolate eggs. Easter in communist Poland was a mixture of Christian traditions (to defy the government) and springtime celebrations (including spring cleaning).


Often, the Easter symbols had two meanings: religious and seasonal. A lamb figurine made of sugar, for example, signified Christ as well as new life at springtime.


As always, food was the soul and the centre of Easter.





What are your Easter traditions?


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Having Sex With Mark Billingham

(For those of you who remember a similar topic, I invite you to re-read my post "Mark Billingham: Crime fiction is better than sex".)

I've been on a Mark Billingham binge, catching up on the books I once considered too dark, like LIFELESS and FROM THE DEAD. Alas, that was before Dexter and Tess Gerritsen desensitised me enough to look past the violence straight into the brilliant writing beneath.

'Cause Mark's writing is brilliant. Truly. His sense of timing always impeccable, his dialogue super-smart, the cadence of the language so beautiful on the ear it makes you want to get to know the author up close and personal (ok, for some women, big biceps do it, but I'm more of a words girl).

So no mystery, really, as to why I've been reading Mark's books while wondering what it would be like to have sex with him. Purely academically, you understand. If Mark, like most authors out there, puts a lot of himself into him main character, then the question really becomes, what would it be like to have sex with Tom Thorne.

Thorne is a miserable guy. Forever torn by grief and guilt, bottling his emotions, heaps more interested in the current crime investigation than a porn flick. He's certainly a challenge, a tiger begging to be tamed, a project. Does he have Mark's sense of humour, though? I could overlook the beer breath and the curry sweat, in exchange for that perfect throw-away phrase delivered with that perfect Mark timing....

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Surgeon and The Apprentice

By now you all know I'm a great fan of Tess Gerritsen's medical thrillers. What you probably don't realise is that this month was the first time I read the earliest two books in the Rizzoli/Isles series, The Surgeon and The Apprentice.

Yes, I was chicken. Yes, I was put off by the Jack-The-Ripper comparisons and the idea of surgery performed on awake victims. But you know what? The greatest fear is the fear itself. Once I've read the books, they weren't quite as awful as I'd imagined, which only goes to show that there's no horror house as bad as the inside of your own over-active mind.

Having read the later books first, I have the foresight of knowing how Jane's character develops into a more confident cop and woman. It's a treat to read the series in this order.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vanda Symon - The Crime Queen of Otago

If I hadn't gone to the Writers' Festival in Wellington last Sunday, I still wouldn't have known about Vanda Symon and her books. How is that possible, I ask you? I read crime, particularly who-dun-its written by female authors (not a sexist choice on my part, it's just that I tend to prefer Christie to Chandler). I stay abreast of the new voices in murder mysteries. I live in New Zealand. So why? Why, why, why?


Howcome I know about Lee Child and Harlan Coben, who don't live anywhere near? Or Mark Billingham, or Minette Walters? Why does my local PaperPlus stock Scandinavian crime writers and not New Zealand ones? Why do I open the paper to see Jo NesbΓΈ and not Vanda Symon? (Ok, at least the 25 February issue of NZ Listener carried an article on Paul Thomas, but you get my drift.)


I'm hoping to interview Vanda on this blog very shortly, so for now here's a short review of her debut novel, OVERKILL (she's written several since).


OVERKILL is set in a small New Zealand community, of the type where "a river runs through it". It's a perfect little who-dun-it, with a lovable, kick-ass heroine and an only-in-New-Zealand kind of plot. I'm a sucker for those! And because of the setting alone, I know OVERKILL will be popular in Europe when it finally hits the shelves. Poland, Russia and Germany in particular have a fascination with the Southern Hemisphere, so here's to many translations for Vanda and to many more New Zealand sales.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Harlan Coben's Shelter

I confess I wasn't sure I wanted to read a Coben aimed at Young Adults. Not yet, at any rate. Not while my own small adults are too young to read it. Alas, having experienced Harlan Coben withdrawal symptoms, I succumbed and read Shelter. I don't regret it. It's essentially a normal Coben minus all the violence.

Loved it!



Thursday, March 01, 2012

ACCIDENTALLY OVERWEIGHT

Dr. Libby Weaver's written a fascinating book about all the biological factors governing the female body and its ability (or inability) to lose weight. ACCIDENTALLY OVERWEIGHT busts many of the current myths about fat storage, such as counting calories (not all calories are created equal and not all people process them equally) and exercise (sometimes exercise can be a bad thing - really).

Says the author: "Whether consciously or subconsciously, many people are frustrated by how they feel about their body, or its appearance, and this frustration can take up their headspace and influence their moods. By exploring the physical mechanisms of your biochemistry and the emotional forces driving your life, you will begin to understand what has governed the growing and shrinking of your body up until now."

You can read the book in one sitting, but you'll probably end up skimming through all the important medical stuff. I took it a chapter at a time, each chapter dealing with one piece of the weight battle puzzle. Written for women, most of the wisdom in this book (apart from the sex hormone chapter) can be applied to men.

The advice is simple:
  • slow down
  • cut caffeine
  • sleep more
  • breathe deeply
  • chew
  • figure out what supplement your body lacks (iodine, hormones)
  • be kind to yourself.
My kind of book. I need it on my shelf just to remind me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Grown-Up Kind Of Pretty

What can I say? I love Joshilyn Jackson's work. I fell in love with "gods in Alabama" and have loved every book since. If this makes me sound like a stalker, wait, there's more! Joshilyn once kindly agreed to be interviewed on this blog, and I sent her a list of questions that, had she replied, would have kept her busy for a decade.

So now, A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY, which has it all:
  • lovable characters (how the author made me identify with a teen, a 30-year old ex junkie and a motherly grandmother all at the same time is anybody's guess)
  • Joshilyn's unique addictive voice
  • a plot that keeps you guessing
  • a theme that can break your heart, but lifts it instead.
My only criticism is that it's finished. I wouldn't mind reading it for months and months still.

Thank you, Joshilyn. You're an inspiration.

OK, I'll stop gushing now. Don't want the Stalker Police on my doorstep.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crime Writers' Conferences 2012

Here's a fantastic link with many writers' conferences. Some are crime fiction, some general fiction. Have a look.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Crime Fiction - Literary Acclaim?

I found this quote in a South African newspaper: "The critics appointed to adjudge each year’s best published work for the country's major prizes also still mainly pinch their noses when they encounter crime fiction."


And yet, many crime novels are beautifully written, complete with poetic language, themes, symbolism, foreshadowing and everything else D.H. Lawrence held dear. They make you think about current sociological issues (read any Harlan Coben thriller) and our morality (Dexter springs to mind, and yes, I know it's not a novel). They often take us to exotic places (H.F. Keating, YE Walus, Colin Cotterill).


So what gives? Is "Hamlet" not crime fiction, subgenre suspense? Did Dickens not use elements of crime fiction in "Bleak House"?


In Europe (Germany, Poland), crime fiction novels share the same bookshelf space as Tolstoy and Guenter Grass. Why is the English-speaking world so hung up on genre fiction being lesser?


Readers and critics, please feel free to respond.