Author on vacation

Author on vacation

Even when an author is on vacation, they’re rarely actually on vacation. They may be physically at the beach, but mentally most of them will still be happily playing with their latest book.

However, a semi-reliable antidote is to go somewhere, like Iceland, where the scenery is so amazing it’s very difficult to concentrate on anything else.

…actually, I’m going to Iceland. Again. Because, well, wow.

Last time I went was in 2016, and I explored in and around Reykjavik, which was spectacular and I bombarded everyone with photos of waterfalls, geysers, and sulphuric mud.

This time, there’ll be a few days based out of Reykjavik, with a couple of day-trips to Jökulsárlón Lagoon and Reynisfjara beach, as well as spending a day exploring one of the biggest lava caves in the world near Langjökull glacier. There’s rumours of a whale-watching trip, too, and no visit to Reykjavik is complete without a trip to Café Loki. (No, I’m not feeling masochistic enough to try hakerl…I have a personal philosophy to never try ‘local delicacies’ that all the actual locals apologise for.)

After that, it’ll be time to head West into the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and spend four days there exploring on horseback (because Icelandic horses are ridiculously cute, and a lot of fun). I’m pretty sure by the morning of day 2 I’ll be regretting my life choices and walking funny, but hey, that’s what Advil’s for, right?

After that, I’ll be taking a 4X4 (SUV for my North American friends) North into the Westfjords, which should be a spectacular drive along the West coast, and spending a couple of days there hiking and making ‘oooh’ noises at the views. It’ll be too late for a trip into Hornstrandir, but there’s always next time.

After that, the plan is to drive along the North coast of Iceland to Akureyri, and base there for a few days while exploring; currently, Askja, Myvatn, and Dettifoss (biggest waterfall in Europe) are up on the docket.

I’m looking forwards to it. Also, in the spirit of fair warning, there will be a lot of photos going up on Facebook and Instagram.

Ancestry of an author

Ancestry of an author

Ancestry – I’m curious

Somewhere in either my nature or nurture, there’s an unhealthy dose of curiosity. I’m inclined to blame both, myself; I know for a fact that there are more baby photos of me and our family cat (the cat looked bigger than me for quite some time) than of me and my parents, so quite possibly curiosity rubbed off.

I tend to try new things, as long as they don’t involve too much peopling. I have a tattoo largely because so many people told me not to get one that I got curious. …well, I’ve heard worse reasons for getting one, including ‘What tattoo? I don’t remember getting a…oh.’

Now I’m curious about my ancestry.

I’ve been intermittently researching it for about six years (if I’m honest, researching it actively for about two years, paying fees and doing absolutely bugger-all with the information for the last four). While I sincerely doubt I’m going to turn up any (more) unknown relations, I am interested to see if an Ancestry DNA test will finally confirm or debunk a running family discussion as to whether or not my paternal grandfather’s wife was actually Peruvian, or an American / other colonial import.

Why now? The legislation around DNA test and protection from any negative consequences of having one is still patchwork, even in Canada, etc., etc. I could have held off.

Well, I’m doing it now partly because I got 40% off. There’s the Scots ancestry at play; I love finding a deal on something I wanted to get anyway. Also because given family examples, I doubt there are going to be any really nasty recessive surprises in there that would prevent me ever getting health insurance ever again.

And because I was standing in line in the supermarket last week, and an older gentleman came up behind me, and completely out of the blue, asked me if I spoke Spanish. I told him no, which is, I’m sorry to say, only partly true; I do speak it, I’m just really rusty and didn’t feel like making an ass of myself in the grocery line. He explained that he’d asked because I looked as if I might be South American, and as he did have a lovely Spanish accent, I suspect he was either South American or Spanish.

Joys of being an intuitive personality type; sometimes I do impulse-buy. Usually, once I have the shiny in my grabby paws, I figure out that my subconscious has actually been playing with the idea of said shiny for some time, and it was in fact either something I *really* wanted, or something thatI hadn’t figured out I needed, but which makes my life much easier or nicer once I have it. Often I’ve even done market research on it under the guise of boredom browsing.

This time the shiny is an Ancestry DNA test. I know about the English and the Scots; I’m a little curious to see what else there may be.

True Lies: Fact and fiction

True Lies: Fact and fiction

True Lies

It’s something I like to play with in my books. Most of my characters are telepathic, generally able to pick up on a flat-out lie. However, someone misleading with complete truth…now that’s much harder to spot. Also fun for me, the writer, because my sense of humour could best be described as ‘malign’.

It also plays nicely into the Cortiian ethos, because Cortiian mercenaries aren’t what our maiden aunts would term nice people, and keeping secrets and making people work for their information is pretty much reflexive.

What do I mean by misleading with the truth? Let’s look at a case study. I’m going to tell you two absolutely true stories. They’re probably going to give you two absolutely different impressions.


Story 1: I went through five schools in seven years as a kid; my Dad was a captain in the Army, and we moved around a lot. I didn’t make a lot of friends, but there was always another move coming up. I applied to the Navy right out of school – best idea I ever had.

…that one’s cut and dried; probably a Forces brat, devoted son followed in Dad’s footsteps, maybe career Forces by now, probably quite young.

Story 2: My grandfather won a St. George Cross in World War I. My uncle Peter died on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and my father never would tell me more about his time in the Army in India aside from how his unit trained to get across barbed wire fences in a hurry. Those men I never knew gave me my interest in family history.

…well, there we have someone much older, might be male but probably a woman, most likely a retiree with folders overflowing with sepia photos and newspaper clippings.

Aren’t assumptions fun?

Those two people are both me. Those stories are from my past – but if you read them without the grand reveal, about the only obvious thing they have in common is a father who was in the Forces.

My protagonist, Khyria Ilan, is a past master at the sport, which is probably just as well given how many people are trying to kill her at any given moment. Lying to heavily-armed people who may be able to tell immediately that they’re being lied to isn’t healthy, and is too obvious anyway. Khyria can tell someone something absolutely true and absolutely guaranteed to send them barking up the wrong tree, and while they’re profitably occupied molesting the foliage, she can act with a lot less scrutiny on her doings.

It’s also a lot of fun if the reader happens to know the actual backstory while reading Khyria’s version of it; the differences can be pretty marked, and at least for me, edits go much easier with some evil chortling to be going on with.

The question I always try to dodge: Where do you come from?

The question I always try to dodge: Where do you come from?

I almost missed the only possible theme tune for this post: Cotton Eyed Joe, by Rednex – aka ‘Where do you come from, where do you go?’

I had an innocuous conversation with a colleague a little while ago, and the way it often does in an office where there are multiple languages and ethnic origins, he asked me where I come from. Fair question; I don’t sound North American, even after thirteen years in Canada. It’s pretty obvious I’m not local.

When it comes to nationality, most North Americans are sure I’m Australian. A few have even asked me where exactly in Australia Gibraltar is (there is actually a Gibraltar Rock in Australia, as it turns out, so I should probably try harder not to laugh…). Some have gone with South African. A lot of the Irish have been known to ask me which town I’m from, which is nice because I like the Irish accent – although generally if I sound Irish, I tend to be half-drunk. Get me completely drunk, about two shots from passing out on the table, and I revert to the English I spoke in my childhood, or as a friend once called it ‘1940’s BBC presenter‘.

The problem with that little question, so common in a multi-national, multi-lingual town like Vancouver, is that I don’t really know. I was born in Gibraltar, which is an awesome place and you should visit – but five days after I was born, I was taken aboard a yacht, and six months after I was born, I was in the Virgin Islands. I was thirteen before I had a fixed mailing address of any kind. So can I really say I ‘come from’ Gibraltar? I haven’t lived there. No one there knows me from Adam, which is saying a lot for a country 6 kilometres square with a population of around thirty thousand. I spent a couple of terms in school there in my ‘tweens, but that’s basically it.

Can I say ‘come from’  England? My parents were both English – but I never spent more than a few weeks at a time there until I was thirteen. At thirteen I ended up in an English boarding school, which went down rather like a reverse hairball, so you could say England made a bad first impression and never recovered. If backed into a corner I’ll cough up the truth and say I’m a British citizen, but my reaction to being called English is about as good as that of the Welsh, the Scots, or some of the Irish.

It occurred to me, after this latest conversation, that I always feel a bit guilty answering ‘where do you come from’, because the truth is I don’t really know the answer. Gibraltar, yes, but  it doesn’t really answer the question, and so I feel like a liar even though it’s the best answer I’ve got. Possibly I have commitment issues.

A Book Geek

A Book Geek

Just what exactly would a book geek do, if one won the lottery?

Honestly, I might well start a bookstore. Except it would be an awesome bookstore. There would be a new section, a used book section, and there would be classes somewhere in book-binding, old-style press printing, and even manuscript illumination if I could find someone able to teach it. Papyrus-making. The works.

The bookstore part would look like a Hogwarts set, and there’d be tourist attractions like ‘Print your own “WANTED” poster!’ going on to lure people in and get them to buy books, read books, and play with books. There would be absolutely effing zero kitschy cushion displays and God-awful scented candles that smell of the wide-open chemical vats.

…I realised at this point in my daydream that I was probably a book geek. Possibly even a book junkie. Don’t judge me.

I got hooked very young. I remember reading those truly terrible ‘Learn to read’ books from Ladybird – ‘Peter and Jane saw a BUTTERFLY!!’ is permanently scarred into my long-term memory from those – before my third birthday. I’d graduated to Barbar the Elephant and Wind in the Willows before age four, and George MacDonald Fraser and J.R.R. Tolkien by seven (explains a lot, if you think about it…).

Not completely illogically, one of my few fond memories of boarding school was the library. First, it was generally avoided and abhorred by the cool kids, and as a bonus, it was full of books. It was also in the oldest part of the school, and had been put together sometime in the 1800s. Some of the books dated from then as well. Before anyone asks, if there were ghosts I never saw them.

To keep the books that weren’t actually antique, but were falling apart, in shape, a book binder would come in every so often, and open up a room which was normally locked. In there was all the paraphernalia needed to stitch and bind books, and if you showed a capacity to sit still and not break things, he would teach you book binding. Beyond the lure of being something to do with books that I hadn’t known existed, book-binding also wasn’t one of the school-approved ‘hobbies’ we had to spend 90 minutes doing on Saturday afternoons, like silk-painting, or photography. While it didn’t get me out of those, it did interest me much more.

Shortly after I met the book binder (dayum, there should be a horror story in that line), I started surreptitiously writing. Very surreptitiously, in the back of classrooms as the balled-up bits of paper and flying elastic bands of an orderly academic environment ricocheted around me, and under my covers by torchlight after lights-out.

These days, I publish my books electronically, and most of my readers buy them electronically, but I’ve never quite lost that fascination with seeing a heap of pages turn into orderly sheaves, get stitched together, and gradually get turned into a book.

Father’s Day memory: Daddy will eat the ones that wriggle

Father’s Day memory: Daddy will eat the ones that wriggle

Well, it seems to be Father’s Day.

I thought I’d share a memory that still makes me grin, because poor Dad always got the shitty end of the stick when it came to dealing with things that wriggled; whether those were edible things, things found in the shower, or things no one else wanted to scrape off the bottom of the boat.

I was a couple of days short of my second birthday, and we’d just completed the second Atlantic crossing of my short life aboard the Gub-Gub. We’d had, by all accounts, a particularly evil crossing,with lousy weather and headwinds, and I’m therefore quite happy that I don’t remember it.

My memories start the morning after we’d limped into harbour at Flores, in the Azores. Because of the aforementioned lousy weather across the Atlantic, we were very short on supplies, and a fishing boat took pity on us and dropped off a bucket of their catch with us.

Despite being only two, I wasn’t a particularly fussy eater. I was willing to try most things once, so when I was told to grab a shellfish and get stuck in, I did.

It grabbed back, or at least wiggled slimy appendages at me. I dropped it back in the bucket. I probably shed a few tears for the look of the thing, I can’t remember.

What I do remember is Mum saying that I shouldn’t worry, everything was fine – Dad would eat the ones that wriggled.

Those fishermen had just come in from a very successful trip. Those shellfish were fresher than Febreze, and each and every one of them wriggled.

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