Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meeting Mark Coker

Mark is the founder and CEO of Smashwords. He's just completed a speaking tour that included Australia and New Zealand. I wasn't in town to attend the New Zealand session (which was sold out—it's great to see such interest in new publishing directions), but on Thursday Roger and I joined Mark and Lesleyann for dinner at one of Auckland's waterfront restaurants. It was a really enjoyable evening, with much swapping of stories and generally enjoying one another's company. Interacting over the 'net is great, but it's wonderful to have the opportunity of meeting in person.

Smashwords have just issued their quarterly payments. Record amounts, and things just seem to keep getting busier and better—including for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A New Toy

No, not another set of toy soldiers, but something rather more modern.

Much as I love my laptop, I've found from hard experience that it's just too heavy and bulky to haul about. So when I go to the library to spend some time in the research section, I'm reduced to taking notes with pen and paper, which I then have to transcribe when I get home.

Not any more. Yesterday this arrived:

I've wanted one for a while, but decided to wait until a six-cell battery (and hence much longer usable time away from mains power) was standard.

This isn't only useful for the library, of course. I'll also be able to use it when lurking in my favourite cafés. I see rather more café time in my future.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Today is the anniversary of what was, in terms of lives lost in a single day, the greatest disaster in New Zealand history. On the 12th of October 1917, during the Battle of Passchendale, 2,700 New Zealanders were killed or wounded. More on the battle can be found here.

Last year I went to an exhibition commemorating Passchendaele, sent to New Zealand by the Passchendaele Memorial Museum in Belgium. It was held at Fort Takapuna, from where some of the departing soldiers were deployed. On the grounds of the fort over 5,000 white crosses had been set up, one for every New Zealander killed in Flanders.

My work-in-progress has some of my characters being caught up in this battle. It's not really a spoiler to say that at least one will die there, because I could not claim to be at all realistic without reflecting something of the tragedy surrounding Passchendaele. Oddly enough, I have no sense that I'm "killing off" a character here; the death feels as inevitable as the events that drag these boys to Belgium. Foolish as it may sound, I do sometimes cry over characters who die; all the more so when it's one I've "known" since he was a child.

Friday, October 8, 2010


There are so many lovely sights on and around our property at this time of year. (Click for larger pictures.)

The kowhai is one of New Zealand's few deciduous native trees. It keeps its leaves till just before flowering, so that the mass of yellow flowers first appear on bare branches. This tree is only a few years old; mature ones can reach 12 metres in height. Kowhai is "yellow" in Maori.

A plum tree covered with blossom. I never realised that plum blossom is scented until our own trees began bearing so heavily. By Christmas this tree will be laden with fruit, a variety that's delicious fresh but not worth preserving. The sheep make a fine job of clearing the windfalls.

A new neighbour. This calf is only a day or two old, with a furry coat as soft as a cat's, not the rougher weatherproof coat it'll have later. It's being hand-fed, and rushes up to the fence as soon as it sees us, ready to suck at fingers or clothing, gazing from soft brown eyes under inch-long lashes.

And a sound of spring: the pipiwharauroa, or shining cuckoo. It spends its winters in warmer places like Vanuatu and New Caledonia. When that distinctive call is heard, I know spring is here.