writing

A New TELESA Novel.

“You know this isn’t healthy right?” Jake asked the question without recrimination. Simply stating an indisputable fact. “The anonymous financial support of her education, the long-distance stalking of her career – these are not signs of a balanced individual, a man who’s made incredible progress in therapy. You’ve come so far. But this? Is the last chain holding you back.”

” She’s not the only one that my Fire Foundation supports. So what, it’s a crime now to do charity work?” argued Keahi.

“It is when it’s accompanied by 24 hour surveillance. When are you going to let her go? What are you afraid of?”

Keahi’s only response to that was to start attacking the kick bag. Jake raised his voice over the jarring sound of blows.

“How do you feel when you think about letting her go? Stopping all the security?”

Keahi halted his assault, battling for control of his raging emotions as Jake’s question got him thinking – against his will – of letting her go.

No more cameras. No more bodyguards. No more weekly reports. No more knowing where she was, what she was doing, if she were alright…

He swore. Loudly. Turned and kicked a chair, sent it hurtling across the room. Jake sipped at his green tea and adjusted his glasses. And waited. He was used to this.

“You didnt see the footage,” Keahi argued. “If my guy hadn’t been there she would have been mugged that first year of art school. And then that apartment she was in? A pit. A health hazard. The landlord was in violation of twelve different building codes. She couldnt stay there in those conditions. All the stuff I do?  Im just looking out for an old friend.”

Jake raised a questioning eyebrow. “Is that what you call it? Buying the whole building so you could get her apartment renovated? Oh, and installing a gym and planting a martial arts instructor in the apartment block in the hopes she would take up classes? All that comes under ‘looking out for an old friend’?!

“You make it sound like I’m a psycho.” Keahi’s shoulders slumped. “I’m not hurting her. I would never hurt her.”

“She’s not the one I’m worried about,” replied Jake. “This obsession hurts you. Your fixation prevents you from moving forward. She’s not your sister. Nothing you do can bring Mailani back or make up for what happened twenty years ago. You need to let go of the guilt or you’ll never find peace.”

“Peace is overrated,” snapped Keahi. He resumed his attack on the bag.

Sometimes Jake – with all his degrees and experience – could get it wrong. Because Keahi knew without a shadow of a doubt that Teuila was not Mailani. And nothing about her made him think of a sister.

“She’s not a chain holding me back Jake,” he said quietly. “She’s the reason I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere. Or still picking fights in seedy clubs.” He motioned with outspread arms to the opulence around them, the stunning penthouse view of the cityscape. “She’s the reason I sorted myself out and  fought for all this.” A sly grin. “She’s why I got a therapist in the first place. You owe her your exorbitant fee.”

“Touche,” laughed Jake.

*****************

Keahi thought about that last session with Jake as he wandered through Teuila’s latest exhibition, coming to a halt in front of a piece fashioned of black river rock – a woman with her arms crossed around her legs, drawing them up close to her torso. Her face looked up to the heavens in supplication. Reverence. Flowing curves and contours, supple and liquid like midnight water. It was entitled;

For thou art fearfully and wonderfully made.

Critics the world over were alternately baffled and awed by Teuila’s style. She delighted in taking the toughest, most immovable of materials and fashioning sculptural and design pieces that spoke of fragility and lightness. Many had an ethereal quality about them but one that rested firmly on a foundation of strength and endurance.

One reviewer wrote: ‘In her hands, rock becomes silk, poumuli wood is butter and ore is water. One cannot detect even the hint of a chisel or the cut of a blade in them. The strength required to hew such materials, particularly in the mammoth-sized works, boggles the mind. How does she do it?

Because he had experienced Teuila’s unique gift for himself – with electrifying results – Keahi knew the answer to that question.

Teuila came up beside him and he turned to her with a cautious smile.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Psalms 139, verse 14.”

Her face lit up. “You know it! That’s my favorite scripture and the inspiration for my key piece…”

Keahi interrupted, “In your Ragged Soul exhibition at the end of your final year at the Academy. I know.”

Confusion. “But how?”

“I went to see it on one of my trips to New York.” He shrugged at her look of incredulity. “I was there doing media stuff and I stopped by.” He could see she still didnt believe him. “Fine. I have a friend who’s an art freak, goes to all the latest shows. He knew about my connection to Samoa so he told me about this brilliant new artist from a tiny island in the South Pacific that everybody was raving about.”

It was the truth, just not the whole truth. He left out the part about Jake recognizing Teuila’s name because he’d already heard about her in his sessions with Keahi.

“You didnt want to say hi?” asked Teuila.

“I didnt want to get in the way. You had all that press around you and a bunch of stuck-up art crowd, so no, I just hung back and watched you do your thing.” A grin. “You handled that asshole critic really well, the one who was talking smack about your work while trying to look down your dress at the same time. Pretentious prick.”

She gaped. “You were there that day?!”

“Yeah. I looked at all your pieces and gotta admit I didnt understand it all.” A sheepish laugh. “But the bits I did get? Blew me away.”

She was suddenly shy. “Really?”

“Some of it scares me.”

“Why?”

“It’s so honest. That takes courage I dont have.” He wanted to tell her that he’d bought ten of her pieces. They were everywhere in his office and in his house. He wanted to say that he’d read every critic’s review of her work, every write-up about her in every magazine. He’d watched every interview she’d given over the last two years and even taken an online Art Appreciation class because he wanted to understand her work that continued to intrigue and challenge people everywhere.

But he didnt. He couldnt.

Because how could he explain the power she had over him – when he couldnt explain it to himself?

**************

Its been ten years since the concluding events of The Bone Bearer. New paths have been forged, gifts unleashed in unexpected ways, everyone has made new lives for themselves. But some things are stronger than time and distance.  Keahi’s tie to Teuila is one forged by shared childhood pain but is it an addiction that can be transformed into an enduring love? Or will it destroy them both? Especially when an ancient force is awakened- the Heart of Vaea – and they must subdue it before it consumes them all.

The next book in the TELESA Series is a stand-alone contemporary novel written for a mature audience. Coming July 2014.

 

How to Become a Writer.

As a writer who writes too many different things all the time – I am often asked: “Where do you find the time and the drive to write? How do you overcome writer’s ‘block’?” Such questions are a puzzle to me and so my answer is 105km and 14 hrs long…

A few years ago, I had a crazy idea. I wanted to put together a women’s team and run in a 105km relay that went around the main island of Samoa. It was crazy because at the time I couldn’t even run around the parking lot without stopping to gasp for breath. But I was determined. I convinced some other moms to be crazy with me and we started training.

For 5 days a week over three months, we would meet at the crack of dawn to go for a 5k run. I use the term ‘run’ very loosely since, at first, we did more of a shuffle, which then accelerated to become a waddle, which then after a few weeks, became a jiggly, joggly sort of jog. Did I enjoy it? Hell no. I hated every minute of it. Many times, I only went because it was my turn to drive and pick the team up. Other times, I only went because the rest of the team was honking their car horn outside, waiting to pick me up.

But after 6 weeks, something strange happened. (No, I didn’t transform into a stunning athletic muscle machine. I wish.) I found myself waking up early on Saturday mornings…wanting to go for a run, itching and edgy for a run. Huh? By Wk 9, I was going for a run TWICE A DAY. And when I got the flu and couldn’t train for a week? I was raving mad. As if someone had bought all the Diet Coke on the island, leaving me with nothing but coconuts to drink. By the time the Perimeter Relay came around, I was running twice a day, sometimes 6 days a week. But more significantly, the running had become as essential to me as eating. Sleeping. Brushing my teeth. I wouldn’t dream of going a work-day without it. It took our team 14 hours to complete the relay, running from 2am to 5pm the next afternoon. Many times during that relay, I wanted to puke and die. But many times, I was also running on an exhilarating high as I gloried in feeling like – I could run forever and never stop.

Writing is just like that. If you want to BE a writer, you don’t ‘find time’ in your busy schedule to write. You make time. You start with a goal. A crazy dream. ‘I want to write a romance. A best-selling thriller. A children’s book. A memoir about my grandmother…’ You set aside a time and a place every day that you are going to write. You start off small. Shuffling, waddling baby steps to get you building the consistent writing habit. You write anything and everything. Start a journal. A family newsletter. Write down those bedtime stories you tell your kids. Record your family history. Write long, chatty letters to friends. Start a blog AND THEN STICK TO IT. The best thing I ever did for my writing career was to start a blog – it forced me to assert and accept responsibility for my writing. Your blog readers can be like that relay team of runners who force you to stick to your crazy dream by bugging you every day for your latest piece of writing. At first, it will be hard. You will probably hate it. Complain. Whinge and whine looking for excuses NOT to write. But if you keep at it, doggedly, persistently – you will hit that point where you can’t imagine a day, a moment, without writing. When you’re not writing, you will be thinking about it. If you have an unruly mob of children like me, you will dread the weekends because it means less writing time. ( And don’t even get me started on the horror of school holidays…aaargh!) You will write because you feel like you will die if you don’t. You will write because you are a writer. And that’s what writers do.

My 105km relay showed me that crazy, impossible dreams are possible.

A Very Sad Footnote to this Writing Story: Since the relay, my first book of narrative non-fiction, funded by the Australian government, ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ was launched in 2010. I published four books in my Young Adult series, Telesa.  My collection of short fiction won the USP Press Fiction Prize. My story ‘The Beast that Came from the Sea’ was professionally recorded for radio by the Commonwealth Foundation and broadcast in 54 countries. I have written numerous children’s stories that are published in the NZ School Reading Curriculum. All while being the slave mother to five fabulous children. However, I have not been running anywhere. Not even in the parking lot. And it shows…

 

Hot Chiselled Bodies vs Babies that pop out like Blackheads

The thing about releasing a book is then people want to know – ‘when’s your next book coming out?’ Never mind that you just gained twenty pounds sitting on your butt (eating and) writing this book and your children have forgotten what you look like…more importantly, they have forgotten the high standards you have for things like general hygiene and they can’t understand why you have emerged from the hermit cryogenic chamber really irritated with the mess and general sloppiness of their lives, bedrooms and appearance. ‘But mum, we’ve been living like this for months now and we’re fine…we like it…we’re happy!’ So then they tell you nicely, ‘Why don’t you go write another book?’ (And leave us alone…)

Anyway, I digress…So here I am, with four books done in the Telesa Series and waiting for the printer to churn out a few thousand copies of ‘The Bone Bearer’ so I can start my book tour where I get to meet with fabulous readers in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Brisbane, Samoa and Hawaii. There are visits to schools and book launch events planned that also celebrate Pasifika dance, music and art. The launch events always make me feel vaguely ill because of the speeches involved but I like doing the school visits – talking to teenagers about writing and career dreams and working hard to make aforementioned dreams happen is always fun. Usually because these teenagers actually pretend to listen to me and be interested in what I have to say. (Unlike the two teenagers that live in my house…) Which brings me to the first point of this blogpost – if you’re interested in having a Telesa author visit your school then please do email me about it and we’ll see if we can make it happen. I would like to go to American Samoa on this book tour because I have such awesome memories of how beautiful it is there, but haven’t figured out how to make it happen yet. (So if you have some ideas, let me know.)

Now to answer that question of: What book are you writing next? I’ve got three books in the works at the moment. First one is a TELESA novella that tells the story of one (or two) of the key characters from the series. If you want to find out WHO and read a piece of this novella, then please sign up for my newsletter because once we get 500 subscribers, I’ll be sending that out to them. Use this link to sign up –

Telesa Series  Updates

I’ll be choosing 3 winners from the subscribers to gift print copies of The Bone Bearer to with the next newsletter. I’ve got lots of short stories, deleted scenes, unreleased excerpts from the Telesa world which I will be including in the newsletters as well and I don’t want to drive blog readers nuts by posting them on here. So IF you’re a Telesa fan then sign up. If my universe doesn’t get too crazy this Telesa novella will be out in November.

The second book in the works is my romantic comedy novel. Chick-lit is my favourite genre to read and I’ve always wanted to write one, Pasifika style. I’m having heaps of fun with it and the main character may or may not have nicknamed the male lead with the nickname hashtag #Wolfman. As in, he reminds her a teensie little bit of…

joe-manganiello-for-muscle-and-fitness-21

 

Third book coming out soon is one I’ve been playing around with for awhile. Inspired by my blogging and tentatively titled:

*The Demented Domestic Goddess: A Survival Guide

Here’s a piece of it for your reading pleasure. Let me know your thoughts on it…does it sound like a book you’re going to want to read? Yes, no, maybe so? So there you have it folks, now you know the answers to: What are you writing next?

An Excerpt from: The Demented Domestic Goddess

There are women who pop out babies like blackheads. Just a little squeeze and there it is. Messy, bloody, and raw but a quick clean with an antiseptic wipe and it’s all good. Such women can then dab on a bit of makeup, slip on that little black dress and they are all ready to face the world like  supermodel Elle Mcpherson. Looking like they never ever had a zit before. See that perfectly co-ordinated, perky child that just skipped past us? That’s their little zit. Always clean. Sparkling. Polite. Never screams. Never poops in public. Never eats their own goobies or gives other children black eyes.

I am not one of those women. And I don’t have mess-free zits that appear and then magically go away. (I have gigantic rupturing abcesses that fester and ooze.)  So if YOU are one of those women, then you shouldn’t be reading my book. I hate you.

This book is for women who don’t ‘glow’ when they’re eight months pregnant. Who don’t post half naked pictures of their ‘BUMP’  on Facebook because you can’t tell their ‘bump’ from the rest of their bumpy, blobby self. This book is for women who know what God was talking about when He said, “In pain thy shalt bring forth children…” And totally agree with Shakespeare when he said, “Woman thy name is misery.”

This book is for women who have too many children. Either because they were wildly irresponsible or crazy. (Or both.) Or because they had a hugely generous heart and adopted lots of random offspring from other crazy, irresponsible people and now they are surrounded by buckets of little people and wondering, ‘How the hell did I end up here?’

This book is for women who love their kids but also fantasize about ways to get rid of them so they can breathe air without anyone else’s name on it. Women who hide in the bathroom for a quiet moment and yet still those determined demons hunt her down, bang on the door, whine, squabble and argue for her weary attention.

This book is also for women who are contemplating motherhood in one form or another. Consider it my gift to you – a reality check of what to expect so you don’t actually have to try it. Unless you’re feeling a little dangerous and foolish…

If you can tick any of these things on the checklist, then you should read this book.  And give it to all your friends and family who have no clue what kind of hell you endure on a daily basis. So they can laugh and feel better about their own crappy lives…

This book begins with a disclaimer : I never planned on being a mother. Especially not to five children.  I’m not sure I ever even planned on being a wife. A girlfriend/lustful object of affection/goddess of adoration – yes. But a wife? No. Never planned on that either. But twenty years ago, someone asked me to marry him. And since I couldn’t think of any other way to be with him forever, (or how to have sex with him without feeling evil) – I said yes. Since then, five other complete people have entered my life, my personal space, my home, my hermit cave. My heart. Some grew in my uterus like little aliens. Another grew in somebody else’s uterus and then alien invaded my life anyway. Each of them has wriggled into spaces that didn’t exist before. Making room for themselves. Like parasitic leeches that just won’t let go, no matter how hard you try to shake them off.

No, I never planned on having a family. But now, here I am – the creator of a clan, the maker of a mob, the lead player of a posse.  A family. With a father, a mother, children, grandparents and buckets of cousins. Some days, I’m not quite sure how I got here. I look at all these people who want things from me, who hug me and tell me they love me – and I am bemused. Who are you people? How did we all end up here stuck in the same house?  Some days, I’m not quite sure that I want to stay.  I don’t want to be somebody’s wife. Somebody’s mother. Some days there isn’t enough air left for me to breathe after all this lot have had their fill and I am smothered. Suffocated by them all and I wish they would all disappear.

But then other days, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Being with anyone else.  Because I am not the same ME. Because each of them has changed me, marked me, challenged me in a myriad of different ways.

This, this is a story about me, the Fabulous Five and how they taught me everything I know about fear and faith. And continue to teach me – because I am a very slow learner. This is a story about how the Hot Man and I contributed to the population of the planet at great financial expense, mental distress and extreme physical suffering. And survived. And still survive. And we are still together. And the Fabulous Five have all turned out to be rather amazing and continue to amaze us. And how we try to love them all ( most of the time) and manage not give in to the desire to run away. By default, this is also a story about the people who gave me life and then refined me in a furnace of familial fury and fun – MY mother. My father. My five siblings. It is highly possible that none of them will want to talk to me after this book is done…

I am a Coconut.

So Amazon opened a Japanese division a while back, selling ebooks and stuff. I was looking through my (sad) sales reports and saw, “Hey! I sold a book in Japan!” Sooooo cool. Then I noticed they bought it for $339.00. Double-take. Say what? Do they love me that much in Japan? I get a little excited. Okay, a lot excited. Wow, maybe my book is super expensive there because it’s in such demand or something! I have wild visions of heated auctions for my book where crazed fans are battling for a copy of Telesa. It’s madness. It’s amazing. It’s so incredibly awesome.  I love you too Japan! Big hugs and kisses Japan! With chocolate chip cookies and donuts on top!

Then I connect the dots. That’s not 339 dollars. You idiot. It’s 339 Japanese yen. Which is about four dollars.

I am such a coconut.

Back to life, back to reality.

So yeah, I’m excited my book has attained this wonderful milestone. Thanks to Amazon, my little Samoan book written on a little island in the South Pacific and uploaded as an e-book, has been purchased by some very nice person alllllllll the way in Japan for the very first time. Yay for digital technology and yay for taking Samoan stories to the world!

But I’m still such a coconut.

 

 

Things you should know before you date (or heaven forbid, marry) a writer

1. We go to extreme lengths to delay writing. We want you to leave us alone so we can write but then you will find us: color coding the linen cupboard, cleaning out the fridge, baking three different kinds of cookies (For the children dammit!) Emailing that longlost friend from high school that we havent spoken to in 20 years and probably will never think about again for another 20. Ironing sheets… All of this stuff is essential FOR writing to happen because not until we have taken care of every single loose end and tied every loose thread in the jumbled mess that is our lives…only then can we sit down and actually write something. So, dont ever make the mistake of asking, ‘But I thought you were supposed to be writing today?’ Or ‘Since you’re not writing, why don’t we have a fun outing to the hardware store together?’ No. Just don’t. Or we might shank you. Because even though it doesnt LOOK like it – we are WRITING.

2. You need to accept that if you date a writer, she is going to write about you. Somehow, somewhere, sometime. She may not do a Taylor Swift and compose an entire novel dedicated to telling her crappy ex-boyfriend that ‘We are NEVER EVER getting Back Together’ (and I’m happy and gorgeous and rich and successful and you suck, so there!) No, we’re writers. We’re more subtle. We have more class. And most of us are not psycho rich and successful like Ms Swift and we don’t want you to sue us for defamation. Instead, we will put all the nicest pieces of you into our glorious romance leads. And those super sweet things you say or do for us? Will probably end up in a book somewhere. We may give you a pseudonym to protect your innocence/hotness identity ( like “Hot Man”…) and blog about you. Which will be alright when only three people read our blogs but then it could become a little tricky for you when readership bounces up a few thousand. ( or sixty.) And then you might end up on airplanes where random women giggle and ooh and aah and ask you, ‘Are you the Hot Man on so-and-so’s blog?!’ You will then grit your teeth, grin and bear it while wishing you had included a ‘Thou Shalt Not Write About Me’ clause in your marriage contract.  I’m here to tell you though that while you may not like to see pieces of yourself in a writer’s book/blog – you should be worried if you DON’T. We write about what matters to us. If we write fiction, we take creative license with the people and situations and experiences that have an impact on us. The people we love (or hate) can inspire us the most. Can spark the most powerful writing from us. So take it from me, if you’re dating a writer and she DOESN’T write about you somewhere, somehow, sometime? Then it’s not looking good for you. Oh, and it’s very true – if you are really mean to a writer she can (and will most probably) write you into a book – and kill you. (Humming a Taylor Swift song while she does it is optional.)

3. Having said that though, be aware that a lot of what a writer writes is NOT ABOUT YOU.  When she writes a short story about a psychotic, wife-beating, stalker husband, she is NOT trying to send you a message. When she writes a character who bears a suspicious resemblance to Hugh Jackman, she is not wishing you would grow a Wolverine beard and undergo adamantium implants. Because lots of stuff a writer writes is complete fiction and there are no subterranean hidden meanings in there anywhere. When she says the curtains are blue in her character’s bedroom – she really does just mean the curtains are blue. Not that they represent her inner yearning for the freedom of the wide open ocean because she secretly hates being with you and wants to escape your clutches. Trust me folks, not everything is about YOU. This counsel goes for family members and friends of writers as well. I have a relative who is often suspicious that every mean girl I describe in my books is really HER in disguise because I’m trying to get back at her for a lifetime of familial squabbles. It’s not about her. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about a cool story idea that a writer gets and is driven to put on paper. Nothing more. Nothing less. So get over yourselves.

4. Writers are obsessive possessive about their books. Writing a book is like giving birth to a child. You’re pregnant with that story in your head for at least nine months ( or 9 years) and it’s always there no matter what you do. Sometimes your story plunges you in the depths of despair and you wallow in misery, puking your guts out. Other times, it’s on fire and you’re happy and glowing and the world is a wonderful place with lots of yummy food to eat.  If you’re not careful, EVERYTHING in a writer’s life becomes about that blasted baby book. You take a writer to dinner and she will be casing the joint, wondering if the restaurant would make for a good scene in her novel. Go to a movie with her and she will either complain about how unoriginal films are these days and why the hell cant somebody make a movie about her stinkin book already? Or she will be swept away by the onscreen romance, be filled with excitement – and tell you to ‘hurry up and take me home so we can get it on… NOT! HAHA so I can get to my laptop and write.’ Its not over when that book is released. Once that writer ‘gives birth’ to that kid, she worries and frets about it as it goes out into the big bad world. She stalks reviews and is sad when people are mean to her baby. She goes over that book again and again and hates herself when she finds mistakes that she missed. If the book is successful, she is proud of her child’s achivements and everything in your house is blissful. If it sucks? Yeah, well – dont go home…. Date a writer and you will have to share her with her characters. With her story. With her villains and heroes. You will need to set boundaries with that writer. Draw the line somewhere. Tell her, ‘I hate to break it to you, but NOT EVERYTHING IN LIFE is about your stupid beautiful book.‘ Hopefully you will be able to negotiate some compromises, but it wont be easy. Let’s be honest, there’s a reason why so many writers end up alone, miserable, starving losers writing in gutters and garrets and possibly sticking their heads in an oven.

5. Many writers have shockingly abysmal social skills. And are disgustingly private people. Which doesnt match their blabbermouth writing selves at all. Your writer may be painfully shy in person and prefer to order takeaway, talk to herself, go to movies alone, and only dance when nobody else is looking. YET, this is the same writer who will conversate with total strangers on Twitter, be best friends with bloggers she has never met, and have the funniest, wittiest things to say on Facebook. You will need to accept that many writers have a carefully constructed public persona that is very different from their private real self. She may blog the most hilarious things but when you come home she is the grouchiest, meanest and most depressing woman you’ve ever had the misfortune to occupy the same airspace with. Do not freak out. It is not a sign that she hates you. It is a reminder that writers are SCREWED UP PEOPLE. Lots of us are kinda crazy. We hear voices, we have conversations with them…and then we write those voices down and turn them into books that (strangely enough) people actually want to read. We are also really really good at making shit up. We are proffesional pretenders. We invent, exaggerate and lie – its called writing. And we’re really good at it. If we really  love you, we let you see the true parts of ourselves – and then we desperately hope you don’t freak out, we hope you love us enough to stick around.

I hope this advice can be helpful for any and all considering the possiblity of a relationship with a writer. Get out NOW while you still can!  I am grateful there is someone who loves ME enough to stick around. I’m also grateful I had some children because they don’t really have a choice – they’re stuck with a mother who writes – so I’m (hopefully) never going to end up alone and miserable in a gutter. Or garret. Sticking my head in an oven.

However, it is my fervent hope and desperate wish that none of my kids ever end up becoming a writer. Or marrying one.

The Cable Guy Got Me All Excited!

We needed something done to our cable connection. I called the SKY office and they sent round a very nice young man to do it. He was  friendly, helpful and efficient – and quickly worked his magic on the cable connection. He was also white (think blonde n blue-eyed) and did I mention that he was male? In other words – nothing like the (stereotypical) demographic audience for my TELESA books (think female and most usually brown.)

He was all packed up and ready to go – then paused,  ‘One more thing please.’ I said, ‘yes?’ He said, ‘When is the next Telesa book coming out?

It’s safe to say my jaw dropped. “Excuse me?” Is this a trick question? Is this a joke? Did my kids set you up to say this because they’re dying to make fun of me? Because they’re always scoffing that nobody ever reads my books?

But no, the Cable Guy wasn’t kidding! He really wanted to know when my slack self was going to stop watching so much cable be done with the next book.  But not for him, he rushed to assure me. For the women back in his office.

Wow. Flabbergast me. But my children were even more shocked. “A random person wants to know when our mother’s books is going to be ready? The Sky TV man? A palagi Sky TV man?! Get outta here, no way!” They looked at me with new eyes. Maybe, just maybe their mother wasn’t just their annoying mother. Maybe, just maybe she was actually a REAL bona-fide author with books that REAL bona-fide people in the REAL world had heard of.

It’s a wonderful thing when your children are amazed by you. And a very rare thing the older they get. Big Son for example, used to think I was an all-knowing, all-seeing oracle of wisdom and wonderfulness. Whereas now, I am more often a source of irritation and amusement/mockery…

So, to the nice cable guy and the FANTABULOUS team at Sky TV NZ – thank you for lighting up my life just a little bit. Because of you, the Fab5 are giving me the teensiest bit more respect.

A Week in Samoa

I’m in Samoa – staying with my parents but otherwise completely alone. No Hot Man. No Fabulous Five. I was invited to attend the 2012 SPACLAL Pacific Literature Conference held at the National University of Samoa and I had to give a presentation thingamajig about electronic books and self-publishing and social media etc. It was a great opportunity to meet some amazing Pacific writers…like the Tongan poet Konai Helu Thaman, Samoan poet Rev. Ruperake Petaia, Cook Island poet Audrey Brown Pereira, Fijian poet Darren Kamali and his partner in life and poetry – Grace Taylor. And to re-connect with others who have mentored and inspired me…poet and academic Selina Tusitala Marsh and writer Emma Kruse-Vaai. I just wanted to absorb their creative wonderfulness by being in the same Samoan fale/house with them…but I even got to chat with them…have dinner with them…talk writing with them…fan the same flies away from our lunch…

This was my second SPACLAL conference. Dr Sina Vaai invited me to be on a Writer’s Panel at the SPACLAL conference in 2004. I was terrified because I hadnt written any books then and the short stories I HAD written – I was submitting to journals everywhere using different made-up names so nobody would know I’d written such rubbbish. In 2004, I felt like a big fat liar sitting next to REAL writers who were brave enough to write their REAL names on their writing. Fast forward to now. I didnt feel like such a big fat liar. And I even had some books with my REAL name on them. But – it didnt really help. Because I was still terrified. And freaked out about presenting. It didnt help that I wore a stunning puletasi which was so stunning it was a heat trap. And I was sweating in a puddle of humidity. And when I stood up to present, I was soooooo hot that my glasses fogged up. And I couldnt see anybody. And so I had to take them off. And then I REALLY couldnt see anybody. (which was maybe a good thing.) But talking about electronic books and self-publishing was kinda like setting off a bomb in that gathering because lots of the writers present hadnt heard of such stuff and had never considered there might be another way to get their stories out to the world. I left the conference with lots of requests from people wanting to  learn more about this publishing avenue.

Some of the highlights of the week for me?

*Meeting Konai Helu Thaman who knocked down many walls for Pacific women writers. Listening to  her explain the background inspiration for her poem, ‘You the Choice of my Parents’ – which tore at my 14yr old heart and fervent imagination when we studied it in English class.

*Hanging out with Selina Tusitala Marsh, the rockstar NZ/Samoan poet who is the coolest, funnest woman in literature. EVER. ( I mean, heck, the woman does kickboxing. And runs half-marathons. And can apppreciate fun, fantasy ‘trash’ fiction. Can’t get much cooler than that!) We bonded over Nalini Singh novels at the last Writers Festival we went to and I had to laugh at her presentation on ‘Afakasi Women in Pacific Lit’…because while she included an analysis of my TELESA book, she also livened up everyone’s day with lots of cover-pics from Singh’s romance/erotica books. Woohoo! (and you thought my book had a hot cover.)

*Listening to Tunumafono Apelu Aiavao, (a silver-haired, very distinguished gentleman) talk poetry. And tell us about ‘that night…back in 1970’s…when we were having a few drinks together with Konai Helu Thaman…and she danced for us…and I couldnt sleep that night thinking about her beauty…so I wrote a poem about her body and its sensual swaying in the night…’  And then reading that poem for us and others. The discussion that followed was a welcome reminder for me that I shouldn’t be as freaked out as I have been, about writing about sensuality as a Pacific woman. All these other groundbreaking Pacific writers have been doing it for ages. I don’t know if the rules are different for Pacific WOMEN…but be prepared for a lot more ‘freedom of expression’ in my next books.

*Performing a reading of my blog at the Poetry Evening. I’m a rule breaker who doesnt write poetry so instead I go to a poetry recital and read blog extracts instead. And tell everyone about Skanky Ho’s in West Auckland and the sad fact that no, they are not serving Diet coke and Doritos at the gym. It was my first time to do a reading from my blog and it was a blast. I had so much fun with it and the audience seemed to enjoy it as well. Although Rev. Ruperake Petaia was on next after me and he had to say, “I feel like the severe grandfather figure who must tell you all to stop laughing and screaming hysterically and attempt to inject some sombreness and gravity to the occasion” Performing did give me an idea though – I’m going to video more of my blog pieces and get them up on YouTube. (that should really embarass the Fab5. Which of course is always my goal in life.)

*The food. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I’m superficial like that. But you know me well enough by now to know that everything is about food. The conference was catered by Taro King and they make the bestest refreshments. They even put lolisaiga powder on their fresh pineapple. (Which makes them worthy of celestial honors in my estimation.) My week in Samoa would not have been complete without oka and fried breadfruit from Paddles Restaurant. Sashimi and pok’e from Amanaki Restaurant. Octopus in coconut cream (faiai fe’e) from Netties MiniMart. Cream puffs from PlantationHouse High Tea. Lychee, mangoes and papaya from the trees outside. Bananas in coconut cream (fa’alifu fa’i) from Siaosi’s shop. Hunks of hot bread and slabs of melting butter. And keke pua’a. And pineapple pie.  Everything tastes better in Samoa. I’m not sure why…

*The creative battery recharge. I savored sunsets on the Apia Harbor seawall. Delighted in sand and sun and the lilting sounds of the ocean. Mused on all the colors of a tropical garden – fiery fuschia, pert pinks, raging reds, solemn greens, velvet purples… Chickens nestled in a cozy cluster on the doorstep. Even the busy heat, dust and dirt of a crowded day in Apia. All of it refreshed and rejuvenated my writing fire. I’m so ready to write write write now…

Skinny (NaNoWriMo) is for Fools

So Im doing this NaNoWriMo thing where hundreds of thousands of people the world over sign up to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It’s so massively huge that probably even Martians are doing NaNo. It’s my first time doing it. In theory, its a fabulous concept. You commit to sitting down and just WRITING every day to meet a set word count. You commit to NOT editing along the way. NOT judging the quality of your words. NOT allowing yourself to get bogged down by the lust for perfection that usually slows your words down. No, you are just going to write until you have an entire first draft of a fascinating novel by the end of November. I’m thirteen days into NaNo and I have come to the conclusion that doing NaNo is JUST LIKE going on a diet.

1. You tell everyone you’re doing it so that you can be held accountable. You tell your kids. Your partner. Your dog. Your sister. Your mother. Your dentist. Your next door neighbor. Everybody on Facebook and Twitter. “Im going to write my next book in only 30 days. How amazing is that!” And it IS amazing. And you’re amazing. And everything in the world is aglow with amazingness.

2. Then you make lists. Schedules. Plans. Of everything you’re going to eat  – I mean everything you’re going to do to make writing happen.

3. For a diet, you get a scale. You weigh yourself. You measure your blubbery bits. Shock, horror at how blubbery they really are with the lights on. You note it all down, ‘This is where I started!’ Heck, maybe you even take a photo. Holding a newspaper with the day’s date so you can be like those skinny gym freaks with their BEFORE and AFTER photos. (dont you just hate those people? Get away from me.) Same thing with NaNo. You have to measure your progress. Count your words everyday . There are charts and stat measurements so you can track how wonderful you are compared to everyone else who’s doing NaNo. Or how suck you are compared to everyone else who’s doing NaNo.

4. And just like a brand new diet, everything feels great the first few days. Maybe even the first week. You’re eating those salads and lean cuts of chicken, delighting in those steamed vegetables and turning your nose up at those disgusting cinnamon rolls dripping with cream cheese icing. You’re even repulsed by the sight of OTHER people eating THEIR fried chicken and fries. ‘Ewww. So gross. Don’t they know how many fat grams are in that?’ You are on a stairmaster straight to skinnified heaven baby and there aint nuthin gonna get in your way. That’s how I was feeling about my NaNo journey. Churning out those words like they were on an assembly line of awesomeness. Ideas just exploding everywhere with creative sweetness like a mouthful of MnM’s. Paragraphs that went on forever with effortless ease, in delicious loops and swirls of creamy goodness. I was the Kick-Ass Writer of a Kick-Ass novel. Sing it loud. Sing it proud.

5. And then, that diet skids, crashes and burns. You are so sick of being on it that you want to rent out Burger King and have a foodfest party. All by yourself. Just you and burgers and fries and unlimited Coke refills and donuts and pie. You are so sick of your exercise goals that you dont even want to walk to the mailbox. You just want to sit on that sofa and chuck cabbages at it. You dont care how fat you are. You dont care how skinny you wanted to be. Skinny is for fools who have nuthin better to do with their time than count calories. Trim and toned is for losers who cannot comprehend the inexpicable joys to be found in doing NOTHING. And eating EVERYTHING….

Yeah, well thats exactly how Im feeling about my NaNo comittment right now.

Because I’ve written 26,000 words to date. Just past the halfway point. And I’m sick to death of being a writer. I dont want to be a writer anymore. I changed my mind. I hate it. I hate storytelling. I hate Daniel and Leila and Simone and all the rest of those horrible young adults in my book. What do they really know about love and life anyway?  

And just like a diet, you get mad at people who care about you and are trying to help encourage you to stay committed to your goals. The Hot Man used to gently remind me, ‘are you supposed to be having cereal?’ Yes, it’s healthy, isnt it? I snarl. He perseveres, “Yes but not when you’re having three bowls of it at ten o’clock at night. With heaps of sugar.”  And then of course I hate him for saying it. And am convinced its because he thinks I’m fat and hideous. Because I conveniently forget that it was my idea to start a diet-exercise program in the first place.

I wish I never told anybody I was doing NaNo. Because I walk into my house after a day in my office and those children that I gave life to harass me, “So how many words did you write today?” And when I tell them, they shake their heads in disapproval, “But didnt you write more yesterday?” Yeah, so. “So what happened? Why didnt you write twice a many words today? What are you doing in your office all day mum?” And then I hate them all for asking. And of course its all their fault I’m doing this stupid NaNo thing anyway…

And then you’re so depressed about your journey and your stupid goals that you simply must drown your sorrows in chocolate lamingtons. With cream. Or in the case of NaNoWriMo – you simply must go to your blog and write a thousand words.

About how much you hate writing.

How’s everybody else’s NaNo Journey going? Shall we meet up and exchange word counts over Donuts?

106 Minutes of Sexual Intimacy

I always suspected I was a bad mother/wife/woman. And now I just had it confirmed. Some scientists  ( with nothing better to do with their time than find ways to make me feel bad), did a study on “What a Woman’s Perfect Day Would Consist Of.” And the results? Went a little something like this –
106 minutes of sexual intimacy
82 minutes of socializing with family and friends
78 minutes of relaxation with friends and family
75 minutes of eating with family and friends probably
73 minutes of prayer and/or meditation
68 minutes of exercise with friends
57 minutes of phone time talking to friends
56 minutes of shopping
55 minutes of watching TV …..and so on.

I read this and I’m like…are you out of your freakin mind? Is that really what you women out there in the world of scientific studies want, dream of, lust for and long for? You’re REALLY coveting 106 minutes of sex/intimacy? Please tell me you just said that because your Significant Other was looking over your shoulder when you filled out the nosey-poker form? And are you HONESTLY wishing for socializing with your kids, your family, your friends a close second? Or did you just write that because it would earn you points in heaven?

Because if this list looks like what YOU would write – then I’m a very bad woman. And very very alone in my bad-ness.

Because MY idea of a perfect day would go something like this…

1. Wake up to a completely empty house. Redolent with quietness. Because everyone has fed themselves, dressed themselves and taken themselves to other very important places , very far away. Like school.  Or the planet Mars. And they didn’t leave a mess either. They all made their beds, washed their own clothes, vacuumed the house and scrubbed the shower. Because they’re super-wonderful like that.
2. Go to a cafe and eat breakfast. An omelette with mushrooms, ham and tomatoes. Lots of maple syrup.  The Hot Man can come to breakfast too. (But he cant have any of my omelette. He would order waffles with ice cream. So then I can eat some.)

Then in no particular order, I would do any/all the following…visit a spa and have a massage, manicure, pedicure. Read a book, by myself. Write 5,000 words on my latest project. By myself. Bake cookies, by myself.  MAYBE go to lunch with a friend or two. Drink Diet Coke, by myself. Listen to Eminem, U2, Phillip Phillips, Norah Jones and stuff like that, by myself. Go water walking at the pool, by myself.  Go to a movie. Eat a chocolate lamington.

And yeah, I guess I would also engage in “Sexual Intimacy” – BUT NOT FOR 106 MINUTES – because I don’t care how amazing sex is, that’s just way too long to be naked and sweaty and acrobatic. I mean, get real, a zumba class is only 50 minutes of cardio. And I find it difficult to be smiley and look alluring and remember to breathe for that long, all while contorting one’s body to music. Without falling over. (And that’s WITH clothes on.)  So, sex can be on the list but it wouldnt be number one on there.

My ideal day would also include my children. In there somewhere. Like maybe a few blessed minutes before they go to sleep. Like when they’re already fed, dressed and have done all the dishes and their homework, then we would read stories together. One hug, One kiss. And then ‘Good Night!’ The Fabulous Five are most fabulous when they’re going to sleep.  My ‘perfect day’ doesnt look much like the scientific study.

No. Because I’m a freak who likes her personal space. To herself. Which means, I dont want to spend the bulk of my ideal day WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Not even people I love desperately. An ideal day would have lots of good food, good books, good music.

And most of all, SPACE. Lots and lots of space. Just for ME. To wallow in. Dance in. Delight in. Get drunk on.

Like I said. I’m a bad wife. Bad mother. Bad woman.

Clearly, I’m going straight to hell. I hope they have isolation cells for people like me.

So whats high on YOUR list for YOUR perfect day?

Why Writers Need a Cave

Where books are getting written & too many Doritos are getting consumed.
The other day a massive truck delivered a (rather hideous) orange and green box to my yard. My very own, brand new, writing office. A portable rental unit. “Surprise!” said the Hot Man. I can neither confirm nor deny whether I jumped up and down, screamed, did a celebratory dance of excitement on the front lawn with lots of uncool, unrehearsed moves. But the day got even better. We then went to Warehouse, made the most of their office equipment sale and returned with my very own, brand new desk, shelving, filing cabinets and other assorted super-cool writer gear. I then spent the next few hours setting up my office with the enthusiastic assistance of the Fab5.  Bella kept bringing me stuff she thought would add to the writing ambience…a broken necklace to hang on my shelf, her teddy bear, a Dora coloring book ‘for when you get bored’, a bag of half-eaten chips ‘for when you get hungry’… She also kept making emphatic suggestions, “Dada, you need to get a fountain that sticks in the wall and Mama can turn it on and Diet Coke comes out!” ( This child knows me well.) And, “Dada, where is the toilet? Make Mama a toilet so she dont have to walk up the stairs inside the house to go pee. Cos the toilet is so far away she might have a accident.” (Umm, thank you for that helpful thought…I’m sure I can make it to the bathroom just fine…) Indeed the child’s helpfulness was generally driving me nuts and I was just begging for her to please GO AWAY and leave me in my nice new office by MYSELF!
 
This new (ugly orange box) cave marks a very significant milestone in my writing journey. I am now a bona fide, full-time, professional writer. Writing is not a hobby. Or a guilty pleasure. It is a real job that helps earn money to support my family. I am no longer stealing minutes and hours here and there from housework, childcare and scoping out random pics of SBW. I am not sleepless, writing words in a sleeping house on the quiet side of midnight because now – I go inside my office at 9am and finish work at 5pm. And then I shut the office door and leave my writing behind. The evenings and the weekends now belong with the Fab5 and the Hot Man.
In the past twelve months, I have published three books, gone to book launches in three different countries, signed hundreds of books for awesome readers at fabulous book signing events, been a guest speaker at conferences, workshops, schools and libraries all over the place, stumbled through lots of media interviews, and generally felt like a madwoman trying not to fall off a treadmill that’s going at Usain Bolt speed. It’s been a breathless, frantic twelve months with many highs – most of them because of YOU the fabulous readers and enthusiastic supporters.
 
But it has also been a breathless, frantic twelve months with many lows. Because my marriage and my children have borne the brunt of most of the crazy schedule that I keep. And they have paid the price for most of the exhausting days and sleepless nights. The Hot Man and I came very, very close to calling it quits on this wild ride called marriage. Some things had to change. My writing cave is more than just a box with beautiful office furniture. It represents a move in my life towards better balance, organization and structure. It makes a clear separation between work and family. It was the bestest surprise present the Hot Man could have given me because, as he asked for more time and attention to be given to family – he at the same time – said, Your writing, your work is important to me, to us. I believe in your dreams and I support them. 
 
I love my work. Writing is my passion. And I have so many stories waiting to be written, so many characters that are waiting to find their place in a book. And now, I can live in my writing world for eight hours, five days a week. Write the next book in the Telesa Trilogy. And know that my family are okay with it.
 
Now, if I could just get one of those automatic Child-Freeze ray zap guns so Bella would stop knocking on the door every five minutes….