Friday, October 12, 2018

Latest news

Just an announcement that the second book in the Frazier Bay series, the The Heart of Matthew McLeod is still a wee way off being released.
It was originally July when I scheduled it, then August then September then October... and, holy cow, it is now half way through October, and still no book.
The story is actually finished but is in the editing/refining stage, so still a bit of a way off although I am aiming for mid-November.
If I was smart (!), I'd chuck in a few Christmas references and make it a Christmas book but no, it will stay where it is.
A Frazier Bay Christmas novel is another story altogether!!

~ Joanne

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The last minute thing that people liked the most

I had the opportunity to present a talk as part of a celebration honouring 125 years since Kiwi women won the right to vote. There have been heaps of events, and our talk was months in the thinking about preparing. It was a terrific talk, tons of research with my workmate, but the funny thing about it was the minute or so of acting I did with another colleague, Mark, towards the end, that people commented on the most.
The talk was focused on the many ways women over the years have used creativity in protests, whether it was anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, equality, dress reform at the turn of the century, that kind of thing. So we covered things like making posters, poetry, cartoons and art, music, zines and even had a dance group of seniors perform a dance on breaking the glass ceiling at the end. All this was well planned, but at the last minute, ie the day before, we decided we should mention a well-known feminist playwright, Renee.
So I found several of her plays and thought, why don't we do a reading from a scene? I found a really good bit which was a male and female part, with lots of gritty dialogue, and asked my colleague Mark who was recording the talk and taking care of the techie stuff if he'd read out the male part. He was up for it, and we did a run through.
But then it changed.
We thought we should make it a bit more atmospheric. It was set in the depression of the 1930s, so a few basic props would be good. It took place in a kitchen, so we decided as I was introducing it to the audience and giving a bit of back story to the scene, that we should drag in a table, and a chair for Mark to lounge in. He suggested I wear an apron (couldn't find one suitable tbh) but I got a teatowel and a few cups to look domestic.
And that was it.
So at the appropriate point of the talk, we did this little reading, that was only a minute long at the most. Short and simple.
Of all the things in the talk, it was the thing that was commented on the most, days, even the week after.  People said how much they liked the play and including the scene from Renee's play, and the acting. (To be fair, it was Mark's acting they raved about, he was great.)
As we were talking about it later, it truly amazed us how it was that a simple thing, decided on the day before, when the talk had been months in the thinking about, how that was the thing that was most memorable and appreciated.
Not surprisingly, it has been mooted there should be more acting in future presentations. Not sure how that can work, but if you ever get the chance to read a play like Wednesday to Come, it's a gritty work on a terrible time globally, and how it affected folk who were, as one of the lines in the play suggested, worried they were going to starve to death.
~ Joanne

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Hendon Fungus, a kids' read from yore

In Standard Four at primary school, I had the worst teacher ever She was just horrible, in the way that some teachers are when you're a kid. I may have actually hated her.
I remember several things about Mrs Matthews. She was old. (Probably my age now, tbh)
She smoked. I have a recollection of packets of Benson and Hedges, something gold, on her desk, in the larger packs. She had a smoker's voice so the smokes didn't kill her off early. She lived well beyond retirement age. She taught us our times tables. I really doubt anyone left that class at the end of the year not knowing at least up to the ten times. I know adults to this day who couldn't tell you off the top of their heads 9 x 8 or whatever.
And she read the class, The Hendon Fungus.
I have just re-read the book. I've read it a few other time since I left primary school and I love it. It is funny, it has great characters, it is science-fictiony.
It is probably my most favourite kids book ever, and I remember Mrs Matthews reading it to the class and being so gripped by it, that I am sure I took it out of the school library, and read it again.
It involves some heroic kids whose father is a scientist who brings a strange fungus back to England and they plant it, as he instructs them. Except this fungus grows and multiplies and basically... I will say no more.
I doubt there are many copies of this book in too many libraries now (it was written in 1970) but if you feel like a fun read, I say, give it a try.  It is fiction and there are some things that don't ring true. But it is fiction, and there is a lot of humour in it, given its a very dire apocalyptic topic.
Six out of five stars.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Talks, suffrage, and a little romance

I have had a massively busy time lately with work, writing talks, articles, all that kind of good stuff.
I am working on a suffrage talk with a colleague, on protest and art, because here in NZ this month we celebrate 125 years since women won the right to vote.
The research has been great fun, delving into the writings of the early feminists, although suffrage isn't the only topic. It covers anti-apartheid tours, anti-nuclear, gender equality, and even dress reform from the early 1900s. Check out this link from Heritage Images, of a fabulous photo of a dress reform wedding, and you'll see what I mean.

On to the romance... I have been struggling a bit with The Heart of Matthew McLeod, but am hoping - hope is such an odd thing, I've concluded - to have it out next month. I'm pretty pleased with it and even more so, to be back in Frazier Bay. Here's an excerpt. It is still a work in progress and may change but for now... Enjoy.


The fire alarm sounded as Alexandra Fuller was a whisker away from making a fool of herself in front of pre-schoolers and their parents.
She was equally wary of both.
She took off the gold princess crown, shrugged out of the white fairy wings and stood up from the pink beanbag. The children were still waiting for storytime to begin. In spite of the volume of the alarm, the adults were only just beginning to look up from their phones.
Where’s the fire?” one asked.
Alex set the books on the beanbag. “I can’t say.” It was probably a drill. “But we may need to leave the building. There’ll be a message on the loud speaker if we do. It would pay to get ready to leave, now.”
No!” A scream came from one of the children as she ran up and wrapped her arms around Alex’s leg. “I want a story from the fairy princess.”
I – um.” She stared down at the girl’s ginger hair. Should she untangle the child? Would the mother come and rescue them both? The mother, Alex noted, was settling an even younger child into a pushchair.
The real princess,” Alex began stiltedly, “I mean the other princess, will be back next week. She’s got sick today, so she couldn’t be here and I’m just the temporary storytime princess. I mean, the storytime fairy.” What she actually was, she hadn’t been sure. Apparently the role was fluid. She patted the little girl’s head in short, uncomfortable movements. “You can come back next week when the real – the other – princess fairy is here.”
The tone of the alarm changed as the pre-recorded message announced it was time to evacuate the building, and Alex’s shoulders slumped with relief. Finally.
The mother reached for her daughter’s hand. “Come on, Ava, say goodbye to the fairy princess, we’ll come back another time.” Between protests and sobs, she was dis-entangled from Alex’s leg and ushered down towards the main entrance where staff were shepherding the crowd out.
For a small town like Kingston Falls, it had been a crazy, busy morning in the library.
For a small town librarian, whose job title said nothing about being a storytime princess, Alex had to wonder what on earth she’d been thinking? She made a quick scan of the area, gestured for a student at the table to leave immediately. What had she, of all people, been thinking, volunteering to do that?
You’re a walk-over, that’s why. She shepherded more people out, noted there was a backlog at the main entrance where two pushchairs had collided and books had gone flying. She could deny it all she liked, but this, right here, was a prime example of someone who should learn to say no occasionally.
A hand touched her shoulder. “Excuse me?”
Sorry but you need to leave the building.” She gestured vaguely to the ceiling where the message sounded above the siren, and turned to the man. “We have to--”
Her voice stopped as she stared into the eyes, brown black eyes, of a man she’d met before. It took just a couple of seconds before she put a name to the face.
Matthew McLeod.
I’m not leaving." Desperation shimmered in his voice. "I’m missing a child.”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Bobbie and Billie

Finally, there are names for the new cats.
It has not been without some pressure, given our previous cats were called Boy Kitty and Girl Kitty, and that our next cat was called New Kitty.
It was thus, as you can imagine, with great trepidation that we adopted the two new cats. 
Not for us the worries about cat flu and whether they'd bring half-dead birds or, heaven forbid, a weta into the house, (see here for a picture of the Weta, at your peril), no, not at all.
The pressure was - what are they going to be named? What if we can't even think of a name? Are they doomed to be Newer Kitty and Newist Kitty?
Billie or Bobbie
The horrendous stress, my friends, cannot be underestimated.
At work a colleague asked 'Have you named them, yet?' 
It had only been a week. Try asking me that in a year.
One of the boys said if he had cats, they'd be called Tim Whatley and Bob Sacamano, characters in Seinfeld. I was telling a friend this and she said, 'You could always name one of the cats Bobbie'.
Bobbie... That sounded like a real possibility. Bobbie for a girl cat. I'm partial to the unisex (can we still say unisex?) names. I have been Jo all my life and, after all, I could spell it Joe if I wanted. I'm not fussed. People can spell it like that if they wish, they can add add the extra 'e', I don't care.
Then she, my friend, remarked that someone she knew was called Billie Jo, but she went by the name of just Billie.
Bobbie and Billie!
Straight away, I liked, nay, I loved those names.
Billie and Bobbie.
This is massive, I told her. No cat in the last 20 years of the history of the Joanne Jo/e family has ever had a, shall we say, a 'proper' name.
Indeed, it is so massive, it thusly deserved to be announced to the world, hence you are reading about it. This is huge.
I texted my daughter, who approved.
I told my son, who asked, which one is which?
Decisions were made, and now Billie and Bobbie are the newest additions to the family.
It would just be good if the chicken, who has been with us now for two years, had a name as well but I think  'Chicken' will have to do, and to be honest, I doubt Chicken minds that at all.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Kitty Cats

It was recently the birthday and I was so lucky to have my carnivore sister and vegan daughter here for a few days. Normally it passes in a bit of a "just another day" but this was quite neat. Not even a significant birthday either.
We went out for dinner to a yummy South American place, and the next day after we dropped the sister off at the airport, the daughter and I went to a plant-based restaurant close to town and it was quite yummy as well. Massively yummy. On the way back, we dropped in at a plant based bakery and bought donuts and they, too, were extremely yummy. Kilos were gained, my friends. Kilos.
Then the next day we went and adopted cats.
Two tabby girls, around five years old, from the SPCA.
Our darling New Kitty, a demented calico cat, who once spent a week living on the garage roof under the peach tree, had died earlier this year and I had thought, as you do, that I would never get another feline, not for a long time. But over the past few weeks I'd been thinking that maybe I would consider it. With some strange work hours going on in this house, sometimes you get home and the silence is deafening. After years of listening to Metallica and Pantera and whoever else happens to be playing in the boys' rooms, when you get home from work at night and there is no one home, no Satan heavy-metal music playing, it is kind of creepy to have that silence and I've been taking a pass on playing music of late, nothing appeals. So I'd been thinking that maybe a security nice cat might be the go. 
So after we dropped the sister off at the airport, we went to the SPCA to have a look at who was up for adoption. I rather fancied a ginger cat, and there were some lovely gingers there. Years ago we briefly had a ginger cat, a lovely fellow, and the ginger cats I've met seem to be fabulous kitty cats.
But there were also these two tabby girls, and they were bonded (most likely sisters) and had to go together.
So we pondered it, and when we went back the next day to make the choice, the two girls were still there so I thought, what the heck, chances are they'll be harder to home, so we adopted them.
They are quite lovely and I suspect, might be a bit mischievous. They have settled in well and spend a fair bit of time on the window-sill gazing intently at the pigeons and assorted bird life that congregate on the neighbour's roof.  It will be at least another week, perhaps longer, before they can venture outside, but in the meantime they have their own room  for night time, and for when no one is home, and seem quite happy, cheerful cats. Although they are probably not happy and cheerful at all because, after all, they are cats. And who knows what cats ever think?
Interesting times ahead.
~ Joanne 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A laugh for when I'm long gone

I've been thinking of late about the value of keeping a diary. Not a "woe is me" diary of embarrassing angst (that you will watch burn into ashes one day when the angst is just a humiliating event of your past and no one must ever know a la the teen years) but a diary of day-to-day events.
My father used to keep one. It was just a hardcover exercise book, and every day he'd write down interesting things related to life, like calling the vet out to the farm, going to the sale yards to buy heifers, a mate popping around, Jo arriving with the kids to stay a week for the holidays....!
At times, I've done this, though not religiously.
I have one entry in a book (90% empty, fyi) where it says I'm in bed writing, and the three cats, Boy Kitty, Girl Kitty and Mirrie are there.  Mirrie was a stray, considered an imposter by the "Kitties" I'm sure. They never got on, so this image is clearly a (rare) blissful moment.  When I first found the diary years later, I remembered it. Boy Kitty, Girl Kitty and Mirrie, all three of them lying on the bed (note with significant distance between them) while I'm writing away on the laptop.
Cats are the best.
RIP you three.
I am thinking about this now because I met a woman recently, having a huge property dispute with an ex partner. He denied they had ever lived together, because she was claiming her legal share of property.
She remembered an article being written about him years earlier,  that it was published in a local paper, and there was a photograph of them in their house. It was proof, she hoped, that they had lived together because all these years on, there was little proof at all. It was quite a crazy story, but she needed this photograph - whenever it was. Yet none of the possible newspapers it could have been in are digitised. There's no way of finding out which issue it was in, beyond a vague memory of a year and a newspaper. The only way to find the pic, will be to go through issue after issue of newspapers she think it might be in, and it will take hours and hours and hours. It''ll be worth it in the end if she gets her share of the property, but boy, talk about time consuming. Not to mention how it is a dispute gets to the stage where she has to have real proof she lived there, when it happened over ten years ago.
If only she'd kept some kind of day to day diary, I was thinking, because a reporter coming around and interviewing you would surely be something you would put in there, amidst the mundane.
If only, and then she'd have a day or even a month to work with. If only...
Maybe my dad's idea, an exercise book in the kitchen where you can just take a few minutes to write down things every day, is the easiest. Just the random stuff of life, the stuff that doesn't seem important. That isn't too personal it ends up in a fiery heap one day.
My sister's here for a few days,  Mum rang and Aunty Bonnie is in hospital, the car failed its warrant of fitness, and the cat has found a new place, sleeping on the floor.
At the least, it might be good for a laugh for the fam, when I'm long gone!

Latest news

Just an announcement that the second book in the Frazier Bay series, the The Heart of Matthew McLeod is still a wee way off being released. ...