Sunday, January 31, 2010

What a week?

I can't believe it's already Sunday!  Where has the week gone?  Maybe because my week has been so disjointed, it seems to have flown by so much faster.  Tuesday my class and I went through to Arusha for pre-camp planning and bonding.  The camp is this coming week at West Kilimanjaro.  The kids and staff will be staying in tents using the tent toilet which will just be a hole in the ground surrounded by a tent.  I was asked by the other teacher organising this whole trip, if I'd prefer to stay in the two bedroomed guest house with bathroom ensuite.  Hell yeah!  I didn't even think about it!  A nice comfortable bed, proper flush toilet and power so i can watch movies on my laptop at night while everybody else is trying to get comfortable sleeping on the hard ground?  hell yeah, i'll take the guesthouse!
Friday my kids performed some of Roald dahl's Revolting Rhymes in assembly and then wrote their ISA pre-tests.  then break and visual arts.  Easy peasy.  This week Monday and Tuesday they write their proper ISA exams, then Wednesday through to friday we are camping.  Hell, I just love outdoor education.
Saturday, the outdoor pursuits man at school slaughtered his pig and delivered 20kg of meat and fat to me so I can make sausages.  Took me a couple of hours, but chopped it all up, and have to sausage like mad this afternoon.  I put half of it in my freezer for next weekend.  It's so hot at the moment and sausage making is such hot sweaty work.  I'm not really in the mood.
I've revamped and redone my website.  Hopefully, it'll look good when I'm finally done tweaking and adding things to it.  Enjoyable but hard work, and when you're doing that, the time just flies as well.
But the big news is, just to let you all know, The case of Billy B is now out and available as a paperback on Amazon. Celebrated by myself last night, daughter was at a disco when I discovered it was on Amazon. So, raise your glasses and have a drink to The Case of Billy B!
And, have written the first chapter of my next book, provisionally entitled Not Telling.  Lordy, lordy, lordy, this writing thing is addictive!
Have a great week ahead!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Please critique my pitch!

Blasted thing has to be not more than 300 words and you have to say soooooo much. Oh well, here's my first go at a pitch for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Please give me your thoughts and advice etc etc.   The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award has a first prize of $15 000.  So, this pitch has to hook the judges and grab their attention.  Basically, it has to be extra-special.  Ta muchly!

"Tethered to the cave wall like a dog chained to a tree, I am becoming fearful. Scared of being swallowed up by the dark, scared of being restrained, scared of never leaving my solitary confinement. But most of all, scared that when I leave the dark and enter the light, I won't be loved."

Born with a cleft lip to a mother who didn't want him and abandoned him when he was six months old, it seems that the odds were against Billy from the start. His father, Chris, a soldier in the US Army is forced to quit the army and take care of the small baby. From the beginning, Chris and his son Billy, lack the support of family and State Departments. Forced to go it alone, Chris struggles to balance single parenthood with his social life. He makes some wrong choices and poor decisions which impact on the young Billy's life.

Chris develops a relationship with Billy's caregiver, Stella, who turns out to be mentally unstable. He catches her abusing Billy and moves out of her home. Stella starts to stalk Chris and harass him at both work and home. Things go from bad to worse for Chris and Billy. Chris begins to fear that their lives might be in danger. With nobody in authority to turn to, Chris is forced to come up with a plan for Billy and him to escape Stella for good.

In THE CASE OF BILLY B, each chapter is written from a different point of view, and falls into the same genre as the novels of Jodi Picoult and Anita Sheve. THE CASE OF BILLY B looks at our need for love and acceptance. The author escaped from an abusive situation and survived to write a self-help book on abuse.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Working makes me grey

I do love my job, honest I do.  But if I was absolutely honest, I'd rather write.  My dream life, would be to stay in one place for 3 months and write, write, write and read all day long.  Take a few days off to explore and have a couple more adventures, read a bit, write some more.  Wallow around in the ocean somewhere warm like a hippo that moved from its mud puddle.  Sigh, doesn't that sound like the ideal life?  Unfortunately, a life like that costs money, and as there is no rich millionaire on the horizon, that kind of a life is a fantasy.  Oh well, guess I just have to stick to teaching and keep my writing as a hobby somewhere.
School started this week and it is actually great being back.  I love the school, the kids, and the school grounds are one of the most beautiful I've ever worked out.  The verdant greenery because of all the unseasonal rain inspires creativity.  One feels relaxed, at peace and highly creative and what more does a writer really need?  Seriously.  Okay, money would be good.
It seems like I'm now getting my books Kindle-ized.  Previously, this was an impossibility because I am not from the USA, I don't have a USA bank account or tax number.  Now, they seem to be prepared to post you a cheque.  My last royalty cheque went missing in the post, and when I queried it, it had already been cashed by whomever had intercepted my post.  Bastards!  So cheques are a little dicey.  I might still get that non-resident tax number thingie, because without it I pay 30% witholding tax on my royalties.  Yet again, bastards!  Bastards, must be my word of the day!
Tony returns to South Africa next Friday and we'll miss him.  He goes straight into a 10 week prac block at The President Hotel.  Hopefully, he'll earn lots of tips as this time he'll be waiting and working behind the bar.  No tips when he was in the kitchen!  He's started driving my car.  Not yet in traffic!  One of the parents at school was a driving instructor for the South African Army and she's been taking him for lessons.  A couple of hedges and a ditch later, but luckily he seems to have got the hang of it.  I'm still going to let him have proper lessons anyway when he gets back to Cape Town.  Riding down dirt roads with hardly any traffic and going slowly to avoid cows is a bit different to driving in a bustling city!
Siobhan is happy to be back at her school with her friends and is busy practising songs for the Variety Show in March.  She's been writing her own song as well, so we'll see. 
We finally managed to get a copy of Singh is King, the Bollywood movie that we acted in as extras when we were in Mumbai a few years ago.  Of course, they had edited me completely out of the movie, but Siobhan and Tony were very visible during their scene and both appeared numerous times.  Siobhan was so excited the first time she saw herself in the movie, that she jumped up screaming with excitement and ran straight into the door, nearly taking her eye out.  The screams of excitement quickly turned to screams of pain as Siobhan has never been one to handle pain.  We just ignored her and continued with what we were doing, as there was no blood so she wasn't dying, even though it did sound like she was.  She now sports an awesome bruise below her eyebrow which you can see in this photo. 

Friday I saw a solar eclipse for the first time.  I know that they happen, but this is the first time I've actually seen it.  It was quite amazing and spooky at the same time.  We had these special glasses that you use to look at the sun, and could clearly see the moon in front of the sun!
Well, am busy researching my new book, while I wait for the proof copy of The Case of Billy B to arrive.  My preliminary title for the new book is Not Telling, but I am not sure whether or not that will be the final title.  I'll have to see where the story takes me.  I think once The Case of Billy B is out and published, I'll do a book launch, probably in Arusha at The Blue Heron.  I might visit them and discuss the details when I take Tony through for his testing on Tuesday.  I'm just hoping that my proof copy arrives soon.  I hate waiting!  Okay, note to self, be more patient.
Had a major hassle last week as my website was down.  I eventually found out that the person who was hosting it, ran into some difficulties, so I spent the whole week figuring out how to get my old website up in the meantime.  That made me grey!  Anyway, I had to change the nameserver and IP address and then it worked.  Thank God!  But it took me close on a week to find out that that was what I had to do.  So the old website is pretty basic, but I'll start working on a more up to date one now and within a month or so will have that one up instead.  Hey, if you type in Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet on Youtube, you'll find my little podcast video thingamebob I made.
Have a super duper weekend!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ngorongoro Crater and beyond!

Woo Hoo holidays are ending!  Why am I excited?  Lord alone knows.  It could be because the fact that the holiday is over means that I can look forward to the next holiday, and that brings me even closer to my extra-long summer holiday in June.  mind you, it'll be winter in South Africa then.  But, it could also be because when the holiday is over then I get myself all focused and in the zone to start working on my next book!  Exciting stuff eh?
On the 30th December, Arden, Andrei and their twin boys, Siobhan and Tony all piled in my car and we headed to the Ngorongoro Crater which is supposed to be a World Heritage site.  It's not too far down the drag from Arusha - all in all about a 3-4 hour drive from Moshi.  It just depends on how brave you are to overtake slow-moving trucks on blind bends.  It was amazing all seven of us fitted into my car.  I have a Pajero with a little Toyota engine in it.  That means, when you go up steep hills you have to think of the little engine, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!"  Well, my car did.  It made all the steep hills.  I sort of had to lean forward though, and whisper encouragement to the engine.
Just before Ngorongoro Crater, you see Lake Manyara.  Apparently the game viewing is awesome there, but we left that for another day.  they do charge an arm and a leg for you to enter the parks in Tanzania.  We finally arrived at Ngorongoro and the got all shirty with us and wouldn't let us in.  They wanted us to hire a driver guide.  "Where on earth would he fit into my overly stuffed vehicle?" I asked with tears in my eyes.  Or it could have been dust, after 4 hours of singing kids I wasn't sure.  I lied.  Okay, just a little one.  I told the guard at the gate that we knew the crater, I'd been there two months before.  I didn't even know what the crater looked like, let alone been there before.  The guard asked how I'd managed the ascent before.  "Ascent?  No problem," I said, wondering what the hell the guard was talking about.  Andrei wanted to do some 4 x 4 driving and took over the crater trip.  At the next gate, they stopped us again and told us we needed a guide.  Tony piped up, "I'm a qualified South African game ranger."  He did write an exam and get a level one game ranger certificate after a 12 day course two years ago.  As the queue of 4 x 4 vehicles behind us was getting longer, the guard suggested Tony accompany him inside and complete some forms basically saying that if we left the vehicle at any time, Tony would go to jail.  Fair enough, I thought.
The descent was quite steep but not too bad, and we passed heaps of little Maasai villages and Maasai warriors on the rim of the crater.  In the crater itself, driving was no problem.  We saw many different types of game, an elephant crossed our path - I wonder if that gives bad luck like a black cat crossing your path?  While wondering along a dirt track to check out some hyenas cunninly spotted by Tony, my game ranger son, Arden announced that she had to pee.  Badly.  Unfortunately, the only toilet in the crater was closed, the road to it had been closed off.  We drove around taking some more taking photos, exclaiming at the animals, while all the while Arden's face was developing this pinched look and I swear I saw her eyeballs start to float.  Eventually, while we were admiring a zebra grazing next to the vehicle, Arden's strangled voice came from the back of the car.  "I have to go - NOW!"  As no vehicles were visible, Arden opened the back door and dropped her knickers and swung her bum out of the back of the car.  What sounded like the Victoria falls echoed through the car.  Just then, we saw a vehicle heading towards us.  "Car 100m away!" we shouted.  Arden replied that she was peeing as fast as she could.  Tony started to imagine what it would be like when he got arrested for letting a woman hang her naked bum out of the car to pee in the crater.  "Hurry!" we shouted, "Car approaching rapidly!" 

Just as the car drew level, Arden shook off the last drops and slammed the door shut.  "I had to stop three quarters of the way through," she muttered, "But I feel so much better now!"
The ascent was something else.  No wonder they said we needed a guide.  You have to drive up a virtually vertical face of the crater.  But, Andrei managed with aplomb.  He was great!  I don't think I would have been able to do it!  the crater is spectacular, you are guaranteed of seeing animals there.  We even saw lion and rhino!  Basically, we saw the big 5 bar the leopard.  Damn pussy cats hid away.  Check out my photos on Facebook of our Pangani holiday and Ngorongoro trip.
The next day we relaxed at home, went curio shopping and celebrated New year's eve by going to the Moshi club to check out amazing acrobats, dancing troupe, but by 11.30pm we were too exhausted to stay until new year and left to go home, all collapsing in bed asleep at quarter to midnight.  How sad was that!
Arden and Andrei and kids left on the 1st and we miss them.  Tony leaves on the 22nd.  We'll miss him as well.  Then it'll just be Siobhan and myself!  Ready to start our weight loss action program.
I bought a new laptop yesterday, so am ready for the year!  Hee Hah!  Have written a couple of new hubs to test it out and also Check them out.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 New Years Resolutions

January the 1st, traditionally a day for making plans, resolutions that you have no intention of ever keeping.  This year, I intend to keep them.  So, that is my resolution number one.  To keep all my new year resolutions.  For a list of my resolutions, check out my hub and see which ones you agree with and which ones you think I should discard.
Hopefully, you've had a lot of fun making your list of New Year Resolutions.  I must admit, I did have some fun making mine.  I thought I'd limit it to 10.  Too many and I might not stick to them.  Mind you, resolution number 11 should be to be able to buy myself a new laptop to replace the one that was stolen!
Have a great weekend!