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31 October 2015

My story SISTERS has just been accepted by the anthology STRANGE CHANGES coming from Whortleberry Press. This is another of my Luisa Garcia tales, and I had fun transposing a veteran LA cop to the wilds of the Uk, right into Iceni territory.

I admit it, I’m a cat lover. I have had dogs now and again, but if I had to chose, it’d be cats. On the other hand while explaining about cats to a friend recently, I coined this one – It took humans a thousand years to tame dogs. It took cats a LOT less time to tame humans.
Anyone that knows cats want to argue?

yes, we had another earthquake, this one a bit more vigorous than usual at 5.7 confirmed. I was parked on the bed at 9pm, book before me, cat over my ankles, when, in the silence broken only by Thurder’s small feline snores, there occurred that old familiar noise. Earthsound! I set the book to one side and waited to see if it was worth moving. Ah yes, my world began to sway…and swing… and… right, I moved smartly into my doorway – passed by Thunder heading for his outside cat park. Sometimes that long swaying may be the preliminary and what you get after that is the WHAM! section of things. No wham however. I went back to my book, Thunder came in shortly thereafter and went back to my ankles. No harm, no foul. Not even any local damage. Now if you have to have an earthquake, that’s the earthquake to have. Although some people hate that type, the swaying makes them feel as if they’re about to faint, for others it indices a feeling of seasickness. I’d still rather either of those than the house coming apart or even everything falling off the shelves. The aftermath is less time-consuming, costly or dangerous. The only problem is that Thunder blames me for it. Somehow, someway, I should have prevented that!

19 October 2015

you may have bought the new three volume anthology of all new Sherlock Holmes stories out from MX Books in London. It’s available now to the public, they had the official launch the other week. AND I am now (happy happy joy joy) one of the authors from that anthology who has had my story submitted to the first readers for the Edgar Award Short Mystery Story section. I can’t imagine they’ll pass it on to a nomination, they probaby read scores if not hundreds of tales. But it’s the first time ever that one of my mystery tales had gone to the Edgars and I’m thrilled. I love it when things like that happen, and I don’t care about being all sophisticated and blase. I’n happy and that’s it!

We were the lucky generation. I grew up in the 50s and early 60s and when I started work in 1961 at fifteen there were a host of employment possibilities. Several years later I had a two year period when I lived in Wellington, our capital. I would take a job for just as long as it interested me or until I learned how to do it well and it then became boring.I’d quit on Friday, and as soon as I got my pay, I would hurry up Willis Street to the newspaper office, buy a paper, and with a pocket full of pennies trot across the road to the phone box where I would phone half a dozen of the jobs advertised. I’d set up interviews for Monday, select which offer I’d accept (usually all 6) and start the new job Tuesday.In that 2 years I had 39 jobs. I leaned how to serve or be a stock clerk in a number of shop chains, how to make electric blankets, how to teach horse-riding, how to be an usher in a movie theatre (and a cashier there too,) How to make a wide variety of sweets, and how to work in a bank.
In the 1970s I worked for a temp agency where I’d be sent to a clerical job for any time from several days to 2-3 months. usually because a regular clerk was out on sick/maternity/long service leave. I neeeded to learn that job in the first couple of hours and be able to do it correctly after that. For one job I worked on the accounts ledgers for the BP/Europa chain’s amalgamation. Five days a week on twelve hour days cross-balancing huge handwritten ledgers page by page. Any discovered errors had to be carried forward to each page thereafter. There was a deadline, and for four hours overtime I got double-pay, so in each week I earned two weeks pay – for almost three months.Yes, I made deadline, and yes they were grateful and commended me to my agency employers.
And while I was doing all that, friends went to University – free. No costs. You could get a degree in three years and not be in debt. In those days too you could get a certificate as a ‘community nurse’ in 18 months. You could then do a number of 6 month specialty courses, A friend of that time did her community nurse certificate, did three of the 6 month courses, and then went to America qualified in General Nursing, orthopedics, maternity and geriatrics. She became a private nurse, living in, with some terrific perks, and on top of that, a wage twice what she’d have received here in NZ (in American dollars then worth twice ours.) She worked for ten years there, saved around two thirds of her wage and came home, quite literally, as a rich lady.
Yes, we were the lucky generation and I know it. Not that I haven’t been lucky in the middle of these current times, when in 1989 I decided I wanted to to be a writer – with little effective education after I was nine. With an inability to spell or punctuate, without any idea of how one went about it, and only the knowledge that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It’s now been an interesting and passionately involving journey for more than 25 years, during which time I’ve had almost 300 stories published, and heading up towards 40 books – across 9 countries, in 4 languages. (Yes, really – Polish, Russian, English, and Catalan Spanish.) I’ve made good friends, met great editors and publishers, and had a whale of a time. Oh, yeah, one of the lucky generation and I remember that every time I sell another book or story…

small problem the other week. Sister Two (a goose) decided the woodshed would be an excellent spot to start a nest. It was just then, because I’d used almost all the wood. She dug a shallow nest, lined it with breast feathers and settled in. Friend arrived a day later to split the wood that’d been seassoning nicely under the trees, and firmly removed the shed resident. She returned before he got started. So he waited until he had some wood split, removed her further, shut the gate between them, and over the next 9 hours, 3 cord of wood got thrown into the shed. Eventually Sister Two managed to circumnavigate obstacles and return – to find that her nest had vanished, and there was no space to climb into the shed anyhow. I’m currently unpopular, sigh.

6 October 2015

Looking at today’s ‘OSH’ and ‘vaccinate for everything’ society, I can only marvel I lived through childhood. I caught whooping cough, measles (both types) mumps, and chickenpox between 4 and 8 and survived them all. At seven I and 2-3 friends regularly vanished into a huge local park for the whole of any Saturday that wasn’t pouring and freezing. It was vast, empty and open, with pine plantations, rough land, a herd of young boisterous steers, and with several hundred sheep. We disappeared into that after breakfast and returned around 5pm for dinner, starved, grubby, and tired out, while our families propably had a pleasant child-free day.
I often took our huge old tin (dish-) draining tray and we used that in turn to slide down the long steep grassy wall of the crater at the park’s centre. On one occasion one of our number took his bike with him and tried to ride it down the crater. He came unstuck halfway down, tumbled the rest of the way and broke his ankle at the bottom when he landed. An exchange of looks decreed that as the fastest I’d go for help while the other two stayed with him. I ran. It must have been a good mile or more but I landed gasping on our doorstep, explained, mum ran across the road to his parent’s home and they (as just about the only people in the street with a phone) called the ambulance while I sat recovering my breath. Once the ambulance was there I guided them to the scene, and they were not at all happy about having to place our friend on a stretcher and haul him uphill for a hundred yards or more, and for a long distance to the ambulance (no roads in that area of the park.)
His ankle healed, he and his cast were the centre of attention for weeks. And as soon as the cast was off, we were all back in the park each Saturday. Did any of this bother our parents? Not much. Their attitude was that, okay, someone had suffered injury, but no one had panicked, we’d all done the intelligent thing, and as sensible children we could be allowed to continue. Somehow I strongly doubt that that’d happen today. And yet, it made us self-reliant. I see that medical science now thinks that the rising rates of allergies and asthma may be due to children’s over-sterile environments. Ours certainly weren’t, and maybe that explains why I can’t recall any of the kids I knew then having allergies or asthma. We were freer, and our imaginations were well developed by our own games. You can never go back, but I’m glad I grew-up with the friends I had, and with the freedom I enjoyed. In many ways I had it better than today’s kids, and I’m grateful for that. At least it left me disinclined to panic in an emergency – something that’s been useful over subsequent years.

A DAY OUT SHOPPING has been requested for an SF Trails reprint anthology tentatively entitled Heat of the Midday Sun. I originally wrote it for – and sold it to – an earlier one of their anthologies, so was happy to see it wanted a second time around. And as this publisher has been doing nice work for more than a decade, I look forward to seeing the outcome when it appears.

Out in the cat park yesterday afternoon and noticed that the next spring event is well underway too. Yes, the raspberry canes are leafing out strongly. That will in due course, mean an excellent crop. It was meagre last year so I didn’t bother with jam, but if they do well this year, there may be jam aplenty,