Thursday, December 12, 2019

Christmas bears

There has to be a photo of the Santa Bears, doesn't there?
You can see Bobbie lounging on the chair next to them, unimpressed, as cats are.

On to a different bear... below is a gorgeous photo of a young girl in the early 1900s with a Teddy Bear.  The Teddy Bear came into being in 1902 and a few years later they were being imported into New Zealand and were hugely popular. The 1911 picture below is of a Missie Gifford with a Teddy Bear.

This young chap looks quite happy to be posing with his bear, don't you think?  References for the images at the end of this post, but are all from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.

But I think this is my favourite. You wonder who these young children were... and at the back of your mind, if those bears were in mint condition, they'd be worth a fortune!!

Photographer: Herman John Schmidt, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections
31-66748 Missie Gifford with Teddy..
31-66511 Boy with Teddy, 1911
31-74352 Young boy with Teddy. 1913

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


The decorations are up, and then were re-arranged slightly, but they are so lovely.

I like the look of a shop with decorations, hence the photo above with some cute figurines.
Being as we have soft toys, lots of soft toys, I liked the reindeer on the mantle-piece as well. I think they may have come with someone's boxer shorts one Christmas, many years ago.

When I was untangling sorting out the tree lights, I stuck on A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott version from 1984. Perfect viewing, I thought, once I finally figured out how to play a DVD on the Play Station (or maybe it was an XBox, something like that.) After some time, I realised the controller wasn't plugged in. Duh.
Anyhow, if you've never seen the film, check it out if you can. There's also a Patrick Stewart version from 1999, where Richard E. Grant plays Bob Cratchett which is really good, too, but I do like the older George C. Scott version and you know, I will no doubt be watching it again before too long.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Welcome lovely December

Ah, December. One of my most favourite months.
Christmas is in the air, and in the weekend I'll be putting up the tree and sorting through the decorations.
I've inherited boxes and boxes of new ones, from sorting out my mum's house a few months back, so she's coming over to assist with the dilemma. Shall I put them all up and go overboard, or sort through? and be discerning?  We'll see.
Plus there are the Santa Bears which take up quite a bit of the couch, so for a month we have to share couch-space with fluffy toys. Perfect.
Then there's planning the feast over Christmas and Boxing Day, so much time is currently spent browsing cook books, cos I just love print cook books. Naturally, I'll make the same thing (pavlova and mince pies) but will maybe try something new as well. There is only so much one can eat.
I also have a stash of new Christmas CDs to play. Actually, they're not new, they were withdrawn from the library and given away, so I grabbed a couple all the ones that were there, since no on else wanted them  I got to them first.
So it's all on.
In the meantime, I am working on finishing and publishing BEFORE CHRISTMAS "Bringing Back Emily."
Happy December everyone.

Friday, November 29, 2019

It's the Weekend

It's the weekend. What's happening in my neck of the woods?
Well, visitors from Australia for a few days, which is always fun.
Success in resisting the temptation to see who won Australian Masterchef before it aired, and making it to the end, months delayed. (See previous blog rant on this!) One of the Aussies did know, ha. Praise be, I have to say, that it's over. Sixty episodes. I managed not to watch them all, though.
Masses of Black Friday sales everywhere. Everywhere. This is a relatively new thing in NZ.  We're I'm simple folk, so have no needs, there. Resistance not needed.
I discovered a nice new series of gentle novels, the Pudding Pantry series. English-set, about a cook in the country who starts up a pudding business. The only thing is, they should all be obese and diabetic the amount of desserts they try, but they seem to have self control, (It is fiction, Jo, fiction....) However, one of them had a recipe for a Sticky Date Toffee pudding I really liked the look of. I have never made one of those before. Possibly never actually ever eaten one.
And finally a picture, which is a "you had to be there" one.
I had a meeting during the week right in the heart of Auckland's CBD on the 24th floor. The views were just amazing, out to the Waitemata Harbour, Rangitoto Island, blue sky and white clouds. The pic doesn't do it justice at all, but here it is. It is looking across to the North Shore, and you can see the Harbour Bridge amidst the reflections on the windows. The grey tower to the right is the Sky Tower. Apparently, it can be be pretty freaky when you're in there and look out to see someone falling off as they take a dive from the top at the Sky Jump! This is the SkyJump here.
~ Joanne

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Not so Guilty Pleasures

The end of the year approacheth and along with it, the addiction to Australian Masterchef, which has been going on for months. I could, of course, have looked up months ago to see who won, and yes, I was mightily tempted at times. Mainly because of the way it dragged on and on and on and on and on.... But I did not give in.  Unlike reading a thriller where I often look at the end, and ruin the book. Nice to know I have some self control.
Now, we are "supposedly" in finals week but... guess what? One week has passed, and there is still another week to go!  Finals fortnight, more like. That may be the fault of the TV programmers on the network here, I don't know, but the whole thing is mighty suspect, if you ask me. 
Yet still I watch, frequently confused as to what the heck they are doing and what those ingredients even are, and in theory, there should be only one week to go which means, it will free up a bit of time.
Having said that, a few weeks ago, the Great Kiwi Bake Off began. This is more like it. 
At least, there,  I have a fairly good idea what flour and sugar are. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A grand old theatre

I recently had the opportunity to take a look at a theatre which is, hopefully, about to undergo restoration. It was part of a heritage-themed talk where the presenter took us into the old, deserted, falling-apart, you-name-it, theatre, and we got to go right to the bottom, below current road level, to where excavation has taken place. There's a photo of the rubble at the end of the post. It is dark and gloomy and dusty but amazing. The photograph to the right is looking up from the rubble at the royal box. Even its current state, it is something special.
The theatre is circa 1920s, so not ancient, but hasn't been used for decades. There were movie theatres attached to the complex over the years, which have been demolished, but the actual theatre itself, with its balcony seats and projection room (and projector) are still there, as are many of the fittings. From down below you get a sense of what it could be again.
Interesting when they excavated they discovered cobblestones which they believe were part of the original butchers premises, before the site was used for the grand theatre. They hope, if it does indeed get the go-ahead (meaning the mega million dollars of finance) to be restored, that these stones will be polished up and will be a feature, able to be seen beneath the new flooring.
As with writers, it has given me an idea for a background to a story, involving big money and heritage restoration. I'll see if I can put a new twist on an old story-line!
The rubble at the bottom of the theatre.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Excerpt for Bringing Back Emily

My writing is sporadic and slow, and I blame working full-time, aka earning a living.
I have nearly finished “Bringing back Emily,” which will be the title of the new book, unless I can think of something else. I’m open to inspiration.
It is the third in the City of Sails series, the the story of Emily Randell, the friend of Jack from “Falling for Jack” and his best mate Ethan, from “All About Sage. Emily was married to their friend, Brad, a former All Black, who left Emily, when she was pregnant. Now, she’s had the baby, Bella, and she’s just getting her life on track when it, life, gets in the way again.  Naturally, there's a bloke in there, the romantic interest, by the name of Patrick.
I am planning to have the book released before Christmas, cross fingers. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:

Emily Randell’s eyes were closed as she stood silently in her bathroom. Her baby daughter, Bella, was sleeping in the bedroom across the hall, and there was no one else here. No one else within half a kilometre, unless you counted the cattle grazing in the paddock next door.
Emily counted from one to ten, then opened her eyes.
The line on the tube looked as if it were blue.
She closed her eyes, counted to ten again, then opened them.
Her heart slammed in her chest.
It was blue.
Clearly, undoubtedly blue.
She pressed her lips together, and nodded.
Of course it was blue.
Blue, blue, blue.
She looked up at the ceiling. It was cleaner than it had ever been because she’d spent the last week putting off this moment, and had thrown herself into something that most of the time she avoided.
She gave a weary sigh, the kind that if someone had been with her, they’d have turned to her and asked, “Are you all right, Em? Are you doing okay?”
Well, actually, no. She was not at all okay. Her life, a life she had only just got managed to get back on track, had disintegrated, yet again, so, no. She was not ‘alright.’
But she would be. It was all going to be okay.
She let the tube fall in to the sink with a clatter, and as she gripped the edge of the basin, she shuddered.
On whose planet was everything going to be all right?
What a joke.
What a freaking joke.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror.
There was a zit on her chin. She could squeeze it until it hurt, and for that second, she’d have a different kind of pain to the one she had right now. But the distraction would only be seconds long, and it wasn’t worth looking crap as well as feeling it. Not that anyone was around to notice.
“Un-be-freaking-lievable, Emily.” She let her voice rise. “Your life is falling apart and you are unbelievable.”
A bit of an exaggeration. Her life wasn’t going to ‘fall apart’ because it couldn’t. She’d had the ‘falling apart’ bit already. She’d survived her marriage dissolving in spectacular fashion, and weathered the public’s obsession with it. She’d prevailed. So, no. Her life was not going to fall apart like that again.
All she knew was that she was pregnant, and that she was going to have this baby. A life had begun growing inside her, and for the past two months without her even knowing, her body had nurtured that life, so there was no other option.
Besides. It wasn’t the baby’s fault it had an idiot for a mother and an arsehold for a father.
She took the tube out of the basin and dropped it in the waste bin. She soaped her hands, washed them under warm water and dried them before she looked at herself in the mirror.
“You idiot. How the hell did you let this happen? How the hell did you let yourself get knocked up like this?”
She stared at the zit. She knew painfully well how she’d done it. And damn it, she was too old for zits. She squeezed it brutally, washed and dried her hands again
Her chin throbbed and it was going to be there for a day or two, but it was the least of her worries.
Bella began to cry, and Emily took one last look at herself in the mirror.
A red spot on her chin was the least of her worries.
The very, very least.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Currently reading "Wanderers" by Chuck Wendig

I am currently reading this gripping novel, Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. I am saying "currently reading" because it might be a while before I finish it. The reason being it is a massive book, it is heavy, and I can't be lugging it back and forth on the bus from work every day or I'll do myself an injury, so I'm only reading it in my breaks at work. So clearly, I will be buying my own copy and not relying on the library one. It's due back in a few weeks anyway, and there's a hold list for it.  
I came across Wendig from a writerly-type blog he writes, Terrible Minds. I don't tend to read much science fiction or horror, which are two of the categories it's under,  although a local book chain calls it "The biggest thriller of the year."  Regardless of the genre, the premise looked compelling, I thought I'd give it a go, and damn straight, I'm hooked from the first page. 
I'm always in awe of authors who can write such stories and keep the characters and the plot all together, and this book is huge. But I am loving it, and being as I'm about to take a few days off from work next week, I think it behooves me to buy a copy and, over those days on leave, see where this story goes. (Although, I'm going out of town  and with only carry-on luggage, ie limited weight for the flight, I will have to hope that where I'm going has a book store that actually stocks it. Or can I get away with just carrying it in my hand? Well, not in my hand cos I'll break my fingers, but under my arm or something, and avoid the weight issue? Oh the dilemmas for the cheap frugal traveller, the dilemmas...) 
I've got a feeling it will be one of those books that, when you get to the end, you have to go right back and read it all over again, and marvel at the skill of the author in writing such a marvellous beast.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A bit of library trivia

I've had some fun recently doing a bit of research on how the romance genre came to be which was, in a phrase, Mills and Boon.
I didn't realise, for example, that the company cemented themselves as a romance publisher in the 1930s and that it was due in a huge part to the private or circulating libraries that abounded, especially during the war years. We had the private libraries here in New Zealand. I have a vague memory of going with my grandfather, when I would have been only about five (he was killed just before I turned six)  to one in his local town. I remember the beige-coloured covers the books all had, but that's about all.
In the UK, however, it was the Boots and WH Smith private libraries that were huge.
You paid a subscription and could get a book out at a time, or pay as you went. Romances were the most popular genre.
By the 1960s the popularity of the libraries was waning due in part to government legislation to encourage the building of public libraries for all, along with the cheapness of paperbacks.
The cover to the right is the Harlequin, not Mills and Boon, cover from the early 1960s.  The Mills and Boon version was called Jan Marlow, Hospital Librarian. Author Margaret Malcolm published over  a hundred novels between 1940 and 1980.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Buying an actual print book

I must confess I don’t often buy print books, as they are pretty expensive.
Buying a trade paperback novel is the equivalent in New Zealand of buying half a dozen flat-whites. But one day, inspired by a blog post I'd read which said you really should support bookstores and buy actual print books, I decided to stop off at one and not to leave that store until I had treated myself to a print fiction book from a new author. Plus I’d given up buying coffee, so, justified.
I walked out with Deborah Moggach’s The Carer.
It’s interesting to analyse why I chose that book when I’d never read anything of hers before, hadn’t read a review, in fact, hadn’t even heard of the book. I guess the cover grabbed me. Homely looking, with its shades of blue. I read the back cover, it appealed, I read the first page. I thought, yep, it looked pretty good.  I put it down and spent another five or ten minutes browsing (I found a cook book based on the food in the Enid Blyton stories, and I am so getting that one day) and then I went back to The Carer and decided, blow it. Don't dither, Jo. Buy the thing.
Did I like it? Yes. Very much. It was wonderfully written, and was a really good story. Had an element of intrigue, and the plot was about caring for an elderly parent, and the lives of the adult children of that parent, and most people my age have an elderly parent.
The only issue I had with the story was near the end when "something" happened that did put a damper on it, but I really liked the book and was glad I’d bought it, and no doubt will buy the next novel Deborah Moggach writes, and go back and read some of her earlier books.  Actually, there was so much in the book that was good, it was a 10/10 in spite of the "bit" I didn’t like, which if you’ve read it, had to do with the letter near the end. I thought it spoiled it.
This past week there was a booksellers' conference, and I followed some of the comments on Twitter. Fiction sales are flat in NZ. Non-fiction sells more. I posit fiction is flat because it costs a fortune to buy a book you might only read once. You can’t justify it on a tight budget but that’s what birthday and Christmas presents are for, right? I love my e-books from my fellow indie romance authors because they’re cheap to buy and there are so many good stories, and I quite like reading books on my phone now, especially on the commute to and from work (when I'm not catching Pokemon.) Spending one cup of coffee on a book you don’t like isn’t the end of the world. Six cups of coffee is a bit of a disaster. 
Anyhoo, that's a recommendation from me. And another trip to the store due real soon.
~ Joanne

Christmas bears

There has to be a photo of the Santa Bears, doesn't there? You can see Bobbie lounging on the chair next to them, unimpressed, as cat...