A-Z challenge, ANZAC, New Zealand

V is for View

Yesterday was the 100th ANZAC day commemorating all Australian and New Zealand troops who have served overseas. I do my best to get to a service, whether it’s dawn or a little later as I’ve known many men and women who’ve served overseas, but primarily because it’s the day of the year I most associate with my Grandfather, who died 14 years ago. He served in the second world war before coming home and starting his family. They played taps at his funeral, and I can remember all the servicemen standing, and crying so hard it hurt. I can’t hear taps without welling up, so I am always a bit of a mess at ANZAC services.

Anyway, this year we were away camping with our homeschool group, out in the middle of nowhere. My brothers family and I tossed around the idea of driving back into civilization for the service, but then we decided to have our own. Commemorate in a way I know Grandad would have respected.

There is a massive hill at this camp ground, and in the pre-dawn chill, my brother, sister-in-law, nephews and two of my daughters** tramped up to the top with a lantern to shed a little light on the way. We stood at the peak of the hill and watched light bathe the hills and valleys, we watched the mist rising, we listened as that moment came when there was enough sun to spark life into the land and the birds began to chirp and the sheep to baa. It was majestic.

Often the service ends with planes passing over the memorial. Well, we had a flock of birds pass by, creating a natural end to our commemoration.

And so today I give you my view on ANZAC morning. The photos don’t do it justice, but I have the memory firmly in mind.

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*the third would have come but she’d spent the night in another families tent and I didn’t want to wake anyone up.

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authors, books, Guest post, January, New Zealand, writing

Introducing: KD Forsman

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As some of you will know, I love it when I have the opportunity to give a shout out to a fellow NZ author, so today, here is a little bit about KD Forsman.

KD Forsman released her debut novel Fraud & Fabrication in early 2015. It is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook format. Fraud & Fabrication is the first of the Leighton Park series, about the wealthy and eccentric Leighton family, their successful horse racing empire and their closely guarded family secrets.

Blogging and freelance copywriting has provided a creative outlet for KD since 2008. When asked why she decided to write a book, she replied…:

“I knew I had to get serious about my writing when I realised the characters in my head were not going to leave me in peace. They’re a bunch of crazies, but they’re my crazies.

A couple of story ideas had been percolating in my imagination for a number of years. In the end I thought it would be interesting to mush them all together and see what I could cook up. The result is Fraud & Fabrication. Seeing this book through to fruition was amazing and even I was surprised at how the ending turned out.

There’s definitely room for a sequel – the problem I have now is deciding which character to focus on, as they are all jostling for the lead! I’d be very interested in hearing from my readers about which character should star in the next instalment.”

KD Forsman was born in the UK and immigrated to middle earth (New Zealand) when she was four, where she still lives today. She has lived in rural locations for most of her life and describes herself as a recovering horse addict, having ridden horses competitively and for recreation for many years. These days, she has swapped her four legged antics for the two legged variety, after completing her first ever half marathon in 2014 with plans to repeat the experience again this year.

KD Forsman had the privilege of being mentored by other published authors and hopes to entertain her readers through the stories she shares.

Fraud & Fabrication:

kdforsman-72dpi-1500x2000Genre; Contemporary drama with a bit of passion & crime thrown in for good measure!

Cassandra has finally landed on her feet when she escapes to a new job after a relationship gone wrong. Leighton Park Stud, located in remote rural Canterbury New Zealand, seems a lifetime away from the hustle and bustle of city living, and that’s exactly what Cass needs to make a new start.

Despite the sometimes confronting experiences of life at the top thoroughbred horse stud and training facility, it’s a job Cass loves and she quickly settles into her new role as Secretary of the Stud.

When the mysterious Geoffrey Leighton, absentee eldest son of her boss John, comes to the rescue of a badly injured filly, Cass realises she’s found her soul mate. It’s not long before she’s engaged to be married into racing’s elite; and she’s happy to overlook some of the wackier sides of life with the wealthy family.

Her loyalty to the Leighton family are put to the test when nasty rumours circulate around the sale of a horse and the investigation that ensues. Add into the mix a closely guarded family scandal, an alcoholic step mum, a terribly accident prone husband and soon Cass is left wondering what normal even looks like anymore.

Cass tries to ignore the warning signs that all is not well in paradise. But heavily pregnant with their first child, her house of cards is starting to crumble. Suddenly she is confronted with a very real and dangerous situation.

Cass has the most difficult decision of her life to make. Will she stay and deal with it? Or walk away and blow the whole ugly truth wide open?

Guest post, New Zealand, self publishing, writing

Writing a Book set in New Zealand

As a proud kiwi author, I love having the opportunity to share the space on my blog with other local writers. Today, Catherine Mede is stopping by to talk a bit about writing a book set in New Zealand. Her debut novel, Cursed Love, is releasing on the 30th of November, so we’re almost release day buddies! I’ve known Catherine for years now, and it’s really exciting that we’re getting to this point in our writing lives at the same time. Not only that, but we’re both releasing work set in our beautiful Aotearoa.

So without further ado… I’ll hand pass you over into Catherine’s capable hands.

Writing a Book set in New Zealand.

Writing a book based in New Zealand is considered by most to be a suicide mission.  Comments like ‘nobody will read a book set in NZ,’ have often been said to me, however I have watched from the side lines, with interest, a New Zealand author who has had some success with a series of romances set in Wellington.

It has often been reported that if you want a book to be popular, you must set it in the United States, because that is where the majority of the readers are and they only read books set in the US.

I beg to differ.

Readers come from all over the world, not just the United States.  What about England, Europe, Asia?  Surely they have readers too.

Recent articles have reported that the majority of readers, especially of romance, are looking for books that are set in exotic locations, and to some, New Zealand is exotic.  How can it not be, with all the natural native bush, the clear blue lakes, the active volcano’s and the tropical weather (well, maybe in the winterless North.)  More and more readers are picking up books set in New Zealand, Australia and even the islands as a means to escape reality, and enjoy a moment in a bright clean atmosphere.

When I first started writing Cursed Love, I wanted to set it in Nelson, because that is where I worked as an insurance assessor.  The setting of the office is pretty much where I worked, although the name has been changed, along with the brokerage – authors are allowed some poetic licence.  Nelson is a place that is close to my heart, having lived there for many years.  I know the places that my characters visit, or attend.  The view overlooking Nelson harbour, although the office set on the port is ficitious, because you are no longer allowed on the wharf unless you work for the Port Authorities, but my father used to work in a watchtower that had a great view over the chip tower and Roll-on Roll-off ferry berth.  The office block and the ferry berth no longer exist, both being removed some years ago.

Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park are also favourite places I go and I have ideas for books that are yet to be written, to be set in these beautiful places.

Nelson as the setting for a romance seems a little out there, but romance happens everywhere, not just in Wellington or Auckland.  Small towns have opportunities to have love too, and with having the Maori aspect to my story, adds to the reading experience, while educating the reader a little bit about the vast and rich history of New Zealand.  We might be a small country, but our history is still relatively new.  We only have two hundred plus years, while cities in the US have three to four hundred years of history, compared to thousands of years in the UK, Europe and Asia.

I think New Zealand has a lot to offer as a setting for stories.  There are the All Blacks, the setting for a book written by an American author (Just this Once by Rosalind James), Wellington and its vistas over the harbour (Wicked in Wellington series by Kris Pearson), the rich history of the early settlers (The Runaway Settlers and A Canoe in the Mist by Elsie Locke), marble mountain caves (Maurice Gee’s The Halfmen of O series).

Maori culture has a lot to offer the story world too.  It has a beautiful language, and a unique perspective on the world, where they don’t actually own the land, but protect it for the future generations.  The more I read and understand the Maori culture, the more I understand their opposition to a lot of the local bylaws and laws that the Government have made and still continue to make.

But this isn’t a political rant.

I love New Zealand, I love what it has to offer, and I can think of no better way of showcasing its beauty and naturalness than by using it as a background for my stories.

Who is Catherine Mede?

Catherine Mede lives in a rural village in the South Island of New Zealand with her husband, son and two cats.  She works when she can, doing whatever is available – within reason!  When not writing, Catherine likes to read, draw and work in her garden.

Having developed a love for writing when she was at High School, it wasn’t until she was in her thirties she decided to really get down and dirty with the words in her head.

Romance and Speculative Fiction are what Catherine likes to write about because she understands the need to get lost in a love that sometimes seems mythical.  And adding Fantasy elements just fulfills her needs to be creative fanciful worlds.

When she was younger, she wrote to escape reality, now she writes it to allow others to enter a world where love has a happily ever after.

Catherine has a short story published in a Masters of Horror Anthology and attends writing seminars and groups in her area.

When she is rich and famous, Catherine intends to have a large library which will double as her writing space and own an Aston Martin Vanquish.  (Dreams are Free)

You can contact Catherine Mede through her website www.catherinemede.com and facebooktwitter and pinterest  or email her catherine@catherinemede.com – she loves to have contact with her fans.

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Iron Sands

WP_000514We went to the beach today and it provided me with the perfect inspiration for this blog post.

The iron sand of the west coast of New Zealand is something I love and often admire. I know lots of people find it ‘dark’ and ‘dull’, and it’s true, you can totally burn your feet on it in the middle of summer.

Some people from countries where there is no black sand think it’s ugly – and sure, on a cloudy day it can seem all a bit bleak, but to me that is part of it’s beauty. It’s wild and windy down there sometimes, but there is nothing like a brisk walk by the sea to whip away the negative emotions, strip back the unimportant things and make you feel alive.

WP_000518WP_000521To the right is a photo of the sky, taken on wet sand – you can see the clouds, the sun peeking through a gap in those clouds. I love the way that this sand relfects things, you can get really true colours, mirror-like representations. I just wish I had a decent camera so I could display it better for you. That said, I’m not sure a photo could ever capture the essence of a west coast beach.

I snapped this one on the left too, because these rocks make me think of Jupiter, and that’s pretty awesome 🙂

What kind of sand do you have? I’ve been to yellow sand beaches, but I just haven’t fallen for them in the same way as other people. I’ll always have a fondness for black sand.

life, writing

Gods of the living world

Growing up in New Zealand it’s impossible not to be exposed to some Maori culture. It’s taught in the schools, and the growing belief in celebrating all the cultures represented by the people of our nation has meant that there has been somewhat of a resurgence in interest in Maori culture and mythology.

Long overdue, I say.

I admit, by the time I got to my mid teens I was sick to death of learning about it – but that was mostly because other people said it was uncool. My mother was going through something of a ‘born again Maori’ phase, and it irked me. What can I say, I was a bit of an angsty teen 😉 It took me growing up a little more to really appreciate my roots, my heritage, and even longer to dare to write stories that captured aspects of that culture.

One of the things I love most is the mythology surrounding the Maori gods – they are a part of the living world, the landscape. Papatuanuku is the goddess beneath our feet, and her husband, Ranginui is the sky father that spreads above our heads. Their children embody aspects of the world – the sea, the forests, the weather and so on. Their family tree is heavily dominated by gods, but there are a few goddeses in the mix.

I’ve always felt a deep connection to the land, especially to the land around where I live, where Mount Taranaki keeps watch over us, and the sea can be seen in almost every direction, and the wind can be so punishing, that it’s impossible not to believe their are entities inhabiting the sky. New Zealand is a magical place, and I’m blessed to live here.

 

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SpecFicNZ Best Blogger 2012

I got a lovely email last night from the folks over at SpecFicNZ to officially notify me that I’d been awarded the ‘best blog post’ title for 2012.

I believe there is a lovely prize being sent out, along with this spiffy badge. I’m pretty chuffed about it 🙂 The winning entry was ‘The Perks of Writing in NZ’.

 

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NZ Book Month

New Zealand Book Month is a non-profit initiative promoting books and reading – and as a result, literacy – in New Zealand.

One month each year we celebrate books and encourage all Kiwis to get involved. The next New Zealand Book Month will be in March 2012.

The clear goal of New Zealand Book Month is to form a North to South community of readers. Kiwis passionate about books, determined to share them with each other and spread the word. Telling and retelling stories, and recommending new books to read.  From friend to neighbour, school bus to sporting field, workplace to playground.

New Zealand Book Month works alongside a wide range of organisations fundamental to books and reading in New Zealand. Publishers, booksellers, libraries, schools and activists provide the necessary support to make New Zealand Book Month a success.

This month I will be purchasing a book by NZ author Helen Lowe – it’s long overdue that I begin her The Wall of Night series, with Heir Of Night.

Isn’t that a gorgeous cover?? I’ve read the sample from Amazon and can tell it’s going to be a fantastic book! I’m looking forward to diving into it this month.

There are a huge range of fantastic books by kiwi authors, so I encourage you to get out there and take a look around.

At the NZ Book Month website you can find a list of all the events taking place throughout New Zealand – why not check out if there is anything happening where you are, and go along?

And for those in Christchurch, SpecFicNZ has organized an event called Flights of Fancy on the 18th of March. It looks like it’s going to be a fabulous event (Wish I could make it!).

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A paper book!

I got mail a few days ago, lovely, wonderful, paper book mail. It’s been over a year since I read a paper book (I am not calling it a ‘real’ book because I think of a book as whats on the pages, not what those pages are made of), and nothing has really tempted me to break that dry spell.

However, this book is different for several important reasons. Firstly, it’s the debut release from Steam Press, NZ’s own publisher of speculative fiction. Secondly, there is a Tim Jones comment on the back that says “If the Dalai Lama and Terry Pratchett collaborated on a novel, it might read something like this.” (Come on, tell me you don’t want to read it after that??) Thirdly, it’s set in Dunedin, NZ – yay local genre fiction! And fourthly, well it’s just GORGEOUS!!!

Here, see for yourself:

I love the drawings, and there are other cool things inside as well – but you’ll have to get your own copy to really enjoy them. As I said on twitter the day I received it, I would totally buy more paper books if they looked like this. I LOVE flicking through and looking at all the bits.

Anyways, I read the first chapter earlier and am looking forward to reading more tonight. This book is available as of March 14th!!

From the back cover:

What happens when we die?

This has been the third question on mankind’s FAQ list since the dawn of time (numbers one and two being: Is this edible? and Excuse me, would you care to breed?).

I know what happens. Believe me, I’d rather not. But I do.

There is a lighthouse, and it guides our souls along the narrow path to being reborn as humans. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as my undead grandad and the Tibetan special-mission monk in my kitchen have kindly told me, there’s a problem with the lighthouse. And if the world is to be saved, someone needs to fix it. 

Which is where I come in: George Larson, eighteen years old. Who could possibly be better suited to save the world?

Well, almost anyone. Especially as being a teenage guy is nothing at all about question three but all about questions one and two. 

And really, that’s complicated enough as it is.

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Musings

It’s the end of New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week, and I missed yesterdays post – I’d been going to tell you about some stuff and then today I was going to post the final version of the short story I started two years ago during the very first Blogging Week.

Yeah, not gonna happen – sorry about that. My touch pad and buttons on the laptop started failing a couple of days ago, and doing anything on the computer has been incredibly frustrating. So I avoided it. As much as possible. Which means that the house is looking very tidy (hooray for those spring cleaning vibes!), but I haven’t managed a lot of anything writing related for the last wee while and the short story is very much not in a ‘final’ state.

That’s life sometimes, isn’t it.

So while I have not been writing, I have been thinking, mostly about how one goes about bringing a Kiwi voice to their writing. I’m thinking about this because my current work in progress, Saving Tomorrow, is set in a future Wellington. I’m thinking about it because I’m still breaking down the walls I have when it comes to using New Zealand as a setting.

It’s what I know, it’s what I love, but there is very much a barrier there. I think, because most of the fiction I grew up on was from elsewhere. The TV shows, the movies, the cartoons. So much of everything we had access to growing up was from other shores, and it makes me ponder – which parts of my writers voice are New Zealand?

In some respects, I think this is a redundant question. Part of being a NZer is that we are a cross between a colony and a native race. We’ve got this blend of what was already here and what was introduced – that’s still very true for today, as it was for years gone by. So naturally, we draw from a whole range of things and our language, our way of communicating with the world is influenced by everything we are exposed to.

The thing I need to remind myself is that NZ is rich with possibilities and that if I have no particular setting in mind, then it’s a positive and not a negative to make the most of my country of origin. I frequently um and ah about where to set something, and I just need to plug ‘New Zealand’ in as my default. My writing will be stronger for it – and hell, there are less of us, so in some ways its more original than your typical medieval fantasy, or other overdone settings 😉

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks, and checked out some of the other posts written for it.

Tomorrow I’ll be raving about how getting a dishwasher has revolutionized my life…

And, I’ll leave you with another pic from the beach. Isn’t the blue of the sky amazing?

seagulls in flight, after eating our sandwich crusts

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Mary Victoria, an interview

As I mentioned yesterday, I first got to know Mary through Tales for Canterbury. A little known fact is that she actually wrote TWO stories! After submitting the first, she started working on a second – ultimately that one was a better fit for the anthology, and was the one that appeared (Daughter of the Khan).

From an editor’s point of view, I was impressed with Mary. She worked hard at getting her stories in, and then went on to tweak it until it was just right. She’s the kind of person who works until she is sure it’s the best she can possibly get it, and I really admire that quality in writers.

From a personal point of view, I discovered not only a dedicated author, but also a lovely person. She always responded to emails quickly, she was super friendly and just so great to work with.

For me, the only thing more exciting than finding a new author whose work you love, is finding an author who you also admire as a person. I definitely found that in Mary. She kindly answered a few questions for me this week, so I’ll shut up now and get on with that 😉

The world in Tymon’s Flight is quite amazing. So completely different from anything I’ve ever read before. Where did you get the idea for an entire world based on a gigantic tree?

As the story goes, my husband woke up one morning saying he’d dreamed of floating cities in the sky. I said, ‘Well, that’s an interesting basis for a fantasy world.’ But the more I thought about those floating cities, the more I saw roots and branches growing between them, connecting them. And eventually I realised the whole thing was set in one big tree – so big that it resembled a continent or mountain range, rather than a single plant.

I’m going to be reading the second novel in the series shortly. I’m curious, did you know it would result in a series when you first had the idea? Or is that something that occurred to you while writing Tymon’s Flight?

The books were always going to be a series, a trilogy. Really this is a single story spread over three books. Each volume has an arc and a natural stopping point, but you have to read all three to get the full picture. What starts off as a fairly straightforward adventure/coming of age story turns into something quite different by the end! So yes – I always had that overall theory. I just didn’t know how exactly I was going to get there, which is part of the joy of writing in the first place – discovering the story the characters wish to tell.

The third book, Oracle’s Fire, is coming out in the near future. What’s next for you? Will we see more novels set in this world, or are you working on something else?

I’m already working on a new project. Yes, it’s set in a different universe entirely. And nothing will induce me to tell you more at this point! 🙂

As this week is all about New Zealand, and Spec-Fic – what would you say are of the positives and negatives of being a writer in New Zealand?

Positives include a rich local culture and landscape on which to draw for inspiration, and a pretty darned fabulous community of fellow writers. Seriously: I have had nothing but support and real practical help from other NZ authors (maybe we’re nice to each other because everyone knows where the other guy lives, heh heh.)

Negatives are simply to do with being far away from other English-speaking countries: it’s hard to launch a book tour outside NZ. 😉

What is one piece of advice for newer writers in NZ that you would offer up?

Don’t give up. People will tell you nonsense like: ‘the book is dead’, ‘you can’t make a living as an author unless you write urban fantasy/self help books/celebrity memoirs’, and so on. Stick to your guns. Write what you love. Write what you love even if you’re eating Spam and crackers and working two day jobs. Find an agent if you can. Publish, then write some more. Don’t stop. It’s worth it.

Fantastic advice! Thank you so much for sharing with us, Mary. I’ll look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy, and whatever else you put out in the future 🙂