Saturday, 29 March 2014

Hamilton - A tiki-tour of the Waikato, New Zealand where K T Bowes sets her novels.

Marker located outside the Council Offices next to Hamilton's statue
Hamilton or Kirikiriroa, which is its Maori name, is 150 years old in 2015. Surprisingly, despite its massive size, it does not predate the smaller Maori stronghold of Ngaruawahia, but developed as a result of the Waikato Wars and the terrible English ravaging of this part of the country. The town began on the banks of the mighty Waikato, named after Captain Hamilton as a garrison settlement where the soldiers were allocated an area of 2 acres each on which to make a home at the end of the war, kept in New Zealand as a peace keeping force. The land was largely swamp and of poor quality and records show that the population dropped at one point, to as low as 300, as farmers left their unworkable land in desperation and disgust.

150 years later and Hamilton, or Tron as it is mockingly called by residents, is a sprawling metropolis containing over 150,000 people and is still growing. Most houses now are fortunate if they can claim more than 600m2 as a property size and the rash of high density housing has spread like an infection. It is the 4th largest city in the country.

Captain Hamilton's statue
When we first arrived at Auckland Airport, armed with a suitcase each and a one way ticket, we travelled around the North Island and noticed that Aucklanders in particular were scathing about Hamilton. We were told on many occasions not to bother going there, but to take State Highway 1B and avoid it at all cost. So we did. After an unhappy trip to Wellington, which was where we thought we were headed but on arrival decided that it wasn’t for us, we arrived in the Waikato, almost by accident. Needing petrol for the camper van we ventured into the city and were not disappointed. We actually loved it on sight and it was the strangest feeling. We were exiles, thousands of miles from where we had begun and yet it felt like coming home. We stayed and haven’t regretted it.

Hamilton Central Library, Garden Place
For most of the year, the Waikato is beautifully green, boasting every hue and shade that nature can provide. Droughts in recent summers have made it dash back to the colour wheel to borrow ochre and brown, but even then, it is still a stunning area of the country. Hamilton was originally a farming community, dominated by the dairy industry and it largely still is, although nowadays it also boasts a world class university and polytechnic. Where once, poor Tron was sneered at by the dominant Aucklanders, now the northern suburbs of the town have become the home of Auckland commuters seeking a greener lifestyle, cheaper housing and different choices in schooling than those offered by the metropolis. There is rumour of a decent commuter train within the next few...decades perhaps?When we first decided to settle in Hamilton, my husband and I paid a visit to the local transport office, seeking a bus or train that he could use to commute to Auckland each day, which would increase his options for employment. We were told by the ticketing staff, with completely straight faces, that there was a bus to Auckland from Hamilton every day at 5pm and the Overlander Scenic Train (steam driven on special occasions) passed through once, around lunchtime. We walked away stunned and shell shocked, after a life in which my husband had commuted regularly to London from the Midlands for work on an Intercity 125. We felt like aliens in a strange land.

Fountains in Garden Place
The suburb of Flagstaff was our home for 5 years and it is the setting for many of my novels. Our house on Achilles Rise lent itself easily for so many different scenarios, providing the location for Hana Johal’s home in About Hana and also that of Sophia Armitage in Free From The Tracks and Sophia’s Dilemma. It was a beautiful, sprawling house which was also used in the movie, Havoc. The film producers animated blowing the house to smithereens, which was quite disturbing to watch. They promised that they had faked turning on the gas and wedging a piece of cardboard into my toaster before setting it going, but I would like it on record that the toaster never worked again and had to be replaced! The filming process also began with ‘Please may we use your garden?’ which quickly escalated into, ‘Will you be going out soon as we would like to film indoors?’

Host of eateries outside Centre Place
The all-boys’ school that Hana works at is based in Fairview Downs, an eastern suburb of the city, but is modelled on Church College, the secondary school owned and run by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. The college closed down shortly after we came to Hamilton but I was always fascinated by the dynamic of it and loved the openness of the buildings and the beautiful location. When writing the novels in which Hana is an administrative assistant in the Student Services Centre of the school, Temple View was too rural a location for the kinds of things that the boys and staff got up to and so I exercised my artistic licence and moved it more into town.
Casabella Lane

Hamilton town centre is a bustling hive of activity, boasting wide, open streets and covered sidewalks. Much of the Waikato is surrounded by imposing mountain ranges which protect Hamilton from earthquakes, hidden as it is in a river basin. It is probably one of the most geologically sound places in New Zealand and many businesses have their contingency units and back-up offices housed in the city. We could potentially survive a good shake here, but would be undoubtedly cut off from the rest of the country.

For five years Hamilton hosted the V8 Supercar races, which ran through the city streets for a whole weekend. The central city roads were turned into a racetrack in the weeks leading up to the event, and there are very few people in the town who don’t smirk wistfully at the memory of lining up at the traffic lights on Mill Street, neatly parked behind a freshly painted, white starter line, revving for all they were worth. I did it once, in my old Toyota Estima, laden down with four bewildered children, revving loudly just like everyone else, including a policeman in the lane next to me. The lights turned to green and with a gallant salute, the cop sped off leaving me stalled in the inside lane, having ruined everyone’s turn at a speed start.

The city is dominated by the Waikato River which cuts right through the centre of it. It can make getting from one place to another particularly interesting, especially in rush hour as you have to make sure that you have factored in bridge crossing to your journey.

Bridge to Bridge race on the Waikato River
An hour and a half to the east will get you to the sea and 45 minutes to the west will have the same effect, only Raglan and the west coast has unusual black sand because of the high iron deposits in it. Our first visit to Raglan left us speechless initially, as a small child came up from the beach completely covered in wet black sand. It looked like he had been rescued from someone’s chimney and it is quite hard to get used to at first. The great thing about it, is that you can see the sand to vacuum up out of the car, instead of just having to feel for it but the downside is that it gets incredibly hot in the sunshine as my mother-in-law discovered, when she actually burnt her feet!

Anglican Cathedral on Grey Street
A little over an hour away north is Auckland and to the south is Rotorua, Taupo and the whole of the King Country to play in. It’s really central and has the reputation of being an ‘events’ town, hosting Field Days, Equidays, Parachute Music Festival and many other myriad concerts and spectacles. The Bridge to Bridge water-skiing competitions are great to watch and when there is nothing else booked, the Saturday market held in the underground car park on Bryce Street is guaranteed to be buzzing or alternatively, the various Farmers’ Markets around the city.

Hamilton is an incredible place to bend into novels, which is why I love it so much. There are always streets to describe and car chases to conjure up. Local readers have told me how much they love reading about places they know and have visited, which is partly why I keep the street names as they really are and describe actual buildings that I know well.

My novels, particularly my Hana series are completely and utterly pure New Zealand. They couldn’t be set anywhere else. They are a taste of the complicated culture that I live, breathe and work in and it’s my feeling that, if I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, why on earth wouldn’t I invite my readers in - and show them around?


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

An Insider's Tour of New Zealand - The Hakarimata Ranges

I love living in New Zealand. Having said that, I loved living in England. You know what they say - you can take the girl out of England, but not England out of the girl. Apparently I still sound English and I’m told occasionally that I look English (whatever English looks like) but I am very at home here. It’s incredible to look around you and see a natural feast for your eyes in every direction, whether it’s looking across at Mount Ruapehu, especially when it’s blowing its stack, or across the black sand at Raglan beach towards the green tinges of the Tasman Sea.
Tourists always look at me wistfully when, faced with their 24 hour plane ride home, I smugly inform them that I live here. There is something wonderful about having the front door key to paradise.
I thought seeing as I am fortunate enough to be here, I would run a blog series about my specific area of New Zealand, namely the Waikato. People are always asking, “What is it like there?” so I will do my very best to show you - if you’re interested.
When I look out of my back windows, I can see the mighty Waikato River running past. It is the largest river in the North Island and was used by the English during the Waikato Wars in the 1800’s, to sail their gunships along and blast the snot out of the poor Maori strongholds along its banks. It seems to be a forgotten fact nowadays that the Maori were only trying to hold onto land which had been theirs for generations.
From the front windows, I can see the Hakarimata Ranges, 1850 hectares of native bush covered mountain ridge, which many tourists drive past and notice, but sadly not many climb. I guess it’s not as popular as a volcano crater, or a waterfall, or a large plastic ball rolling down a steep hill with people inside it. It’s off the beaten track really, accessed from the wrong side of the river to State Highway 1 and to be honest, you have to really want to go there. Its highest point is the summit of Mount Pirongia and it also incorporates Taupiri Mountain, where the Maori royal family is buried.
My Hana Mystery Series is based here. Hana’s house was incorporated into the mountain range and she regularly visited the little town of Ngaruawahia, which nestles at the foot of the range, at the point where the twin rivers of the Waipa and the Waikato merge and swell to massive proportions. She visited the pharmacy there in the second book, 'Hana Du Rose' and was almost caught by her pursuers in the main street near the video shop.

The Northern Lookout of the range is accessed by a series of gruelling wooden steps, which account for most of the climb. It’s not a steady stroll uphill, but more of an intimidating step workout and not for the faint hearted. Don't be fooled. It’s likely that whilst climbing it, you can be forgiven for thinking every step is your last and that you would cheerfully brain the sprightly chap who just overtook you, running at a steady smack with his headphones on loud and a bright, happy wave at your overheating, sweaty face. But there comes a point at which you aren’t quite sure which is nearer, the bottom or the top and that is truly the worst part, because quitting is humiliating, especially when that guy laps you on the way down as well and knows that you didn’t make it. (For the record, that guy is usually my soccer referee husband who uses it like a time trial. I’ve told him that people hate it when he smiles at their pulsing, agonised faces, but he won’t listen. He just argues that to give him a slap, they’ll have to catch him first.)
The climb is well worth it. The Waikato River opens out in front of you like a ribbon, trailing north through Huntly to its union with the sea at Port Waikato. It’s simple beauty at its very best. Its the experience of nature enfolding you. I've been up there when it's been sheet rain elsewhere and gusting winds of horrific proportions, but inside you become cocooned within the canopy and would hardly know that it's blowing a gale outside. There is a Kauri Loop Walk, but it’s probably best to do that on the way down as you can look at the native specimens without hallucinating and read the descriptive boards without your pulse thudding in your head. There are some awesome trees tucked away in there, which are well worth a visit. Kauri’s are unique in that they grow straight up towards the light, shedding lower branches as they grow. A plank of kauri should not have a single knot in it, which is why Maori used them to make their canoes or waka. A good waka will be unadulterated by any other product, created completely from kauri wood and lacquer made from kauri gum.

The Hakarimatas can be walked from end to end, along a Department of Conservation track. It’s meant to take about 7 hours, but my Youth Search and Rescue daughter did it in 5 with a group of friends, just because they could. Having said that, I’ve been up there with her before and because she understands what’s hazardous and what isn’t, she eats from the bottom to the top, grubs, leaves, shoots. I just can’t bring myself to do more than just nibble a pepper tree leaf. I will stick to my museli bar, thanks very much!

It is well worth a visit, even just for the views. There is nothing flash about the gravel car park or the typical New Zealand long drop toilet, but if you want authenticity in this beautiful land, you will definitely get it here.  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

An Ingenious Creation for sure

The Gullwing Odyssey by Antonio Simon Jr is very different to anything else that I have read in a very long time.


It is quirky, gripping, twists and turns back on itself cleverly and is hilariously funny in a very dry witted kind of way. I absolutely loved it. I read it in hospital, waiting for my daughter to have emergency surgery and it should definitely have been harder for the author to engross me in anything - yet he managed it.

I loved the character of Marco Gullwing. He is adorable in a very clutzy, accidental kind of way; the very unlikeliest of heroes and yet he entertained me from start to finish. A lot of what he thinks or says is so tongue-in-cheek, that it is hilarious and it caused me to keep laughing out loud in a room full of acutely sick people. I’ve read lots of novels where people are ‘marked’ in some way and given some kind of magical gift, but this was wholly original and the gift is plain bizarre. I think I cried with laughter throughout the scene where Marco and Alexis compare their ‘marks’. Ward 17 at the Waikato Hospital now hate me!

There is such a strange eclectic mix of personalities that the whole thing moves on elegantly, carrying the reader with it. The character of Barclay has a very strange and warped view of life, which is almost Christian but not quite and his peculiar rules and regulations reminded me of some people I’ve met on occasion, which is possibly what made it even funnier. I loved that there were dragons, but that they were portrayed completely differently to the usual and I admire the dynamic of the whole thing. I could never have guessed the ending, but really appreciate how it was wrapped up. When I picked this novel up, I mistakenly thought I was getting some kind of Sinbad the Sailor story retold, but it was much, much more than that. I certainly didn’t expect ingenious and I wouldn’t have banked on hilarious or deeply thought provoking, but that was exactly what I got. This novel is like a parody of all the annoying, deeply irritating, strange, ineffectual and incredibly likeable people you have ever met.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Meet Liquorice, he's really worth knowing and he doesn't talk back...

I got myself a bit hemmed in lately. I didn’t think it was ‘writer’s block’ - I’m actually not really sure what it was. I was very grateful to March McCarron for her blog about suddenly and inexplicably being unable to write; because that helped to clarify some things for me as I grappled with the slippery slope of a similar phase.

I know it’s psychological, I wouldn’t have needed anyone to point that out. One minute I was frantically reading for review, churning out encouragement (hopefully it came across as that) doing random book swaps on Amazon and tapping away on my keyboard as though it was as necessary as oxygen and the next minute, I had ground to a dreadful halt on all fronts.

I did the garden instead. I dealt with a lorry load of weeds in our 1.3 acre block and created a flower bed out of thin air in the front garden. I stocked it, edged it and mulched it with apparent mania, in between work and living - somehow - but I didn’t write a single word.

I left work with enthusiasm each day, knowing that I had a few hours in which to pour out some thoughts and then watched TV instead, baked weird and wonderful casseroles and walked around picking up bits of fluff off the carpet. I moved the standards and tape so that my daughter’s horse could have more grass, even though he rather liked licking the back of my husband’s shed and I stroked him for hours. But I didn’t write.

‘Demons on her shoulder’ was practically finished. I had done the hardest part, pounding out the plot, the characters and the speech, first editing it and adding description as though my life depended on it. All it needed was roughly finishing and then sending off to my trusted beta reader, who I knew would also loosely give it its first proof as well. I mean, with Word documents nowadays, I wouldn’t even have had to find the place I was previously up to, because a little box would appear in the right hand corner, stating where I had left off and asking me if I wanted to go back there. Usually it would be a time in hours, at the most, days, but I knew this time, it would remind me that it had been a few weeks.

I’m still not completely sure what happened. I know that some neighbourhood problems had sparked a spirit of fear in me, coupled with the slowness of the cops to deal with it. Some help with the cover of ‘Artifact’ and some good advice from author, Abby Vandiver, had shot it to the top of its category as a bestseller. Hot on the heels of the initial ‘wow’ feeling came some other emotions; do I deserve that? Is it good enough? What if I can’t write like that again? Should I stop doing this before the criticism starts?

Then came some awesome 5* reviews for ‘Artifact’ which brought pleasure and again, fear. Suddenly with the ‘bestseller’ tag, my social media following grew and even random tweets were instantly retweeted, favourited and highlighted. It was exciting and then frightening; I’m not that interesting. I don’t say anything clever. What do people want from me? What if I can’t deliver?

Writing ‘Demons’ was exhausting. It didn’t begin that way. It was just a simple, ‘who killed the mean vicar’ mystery but maybe God had other plans and it quickly took me to places I really didn’t want to go; will readers, reviewers judge me for this? Will they think it’s accurate or that I just talked to some folks and made notes? How do I possibly write a blurb for this kind of novel, when it’s not what I started out to write? What if everyone hates it? What if nobody else understands what it’s like to run away from who you are? Is my work me, or am I, it?

Some things had to change and I wasn’t sure what, but suffice to say that I realised Fear was my biggest enemy. I came home from work one afternoon this week, picked up my laptop, braved the date on the little box at the side of my work, which pointed out I hadn’t touched it since some day in February and began editing. I wrote, I tidied up the loose ends and squirted it across the ether to my beta-reader on the other side of the planet. Within a few hours she had replied.

“I just picked it up before I went to the gym and I’m already on chapter 3,” and then again, a few hours later, “chapter 8 and I can’t put it down...”

‘Demons’ had gone, safely in someone else’s hands for the time being. I messed around with my covers, encouraged by the only other person in the world up at the same time as me (thank you author, Demelza Carlton in Australia) and fiddled around with my categories and other bits of work. I ignored social media, finished two read-for-reviews and booked a third, treading water until ‘Demons’ came back to me, with edits, suggestions and changes.

Then I woke up this morning, having completely dreamed my next novel, which is a teen one. How random is that? Again it will deal with the kind of things that I am not keen to revisit, but maybe there is a higher purpose for my writing than I can see through my short-sighted, mortal eyes.

The only common denominator that I can see through all of my trigger moments is fear. It caused me to roll to a stop because the things in front of me were far more terrifying than the ability to deal with them at that moment. I wish I could say that I picked at them one by one, sorted them neatly in my compulsive way into size and date order and vanquished them with bravery and aplomb. But I didn’t. I dug a flowerbed, stroked a beautifully slobbery black horse by the name of Liquorice and waited for it to pass. I think if I had reached the panic stage, I would still be stuck there, in no-man’s land. I wish, like March, that I had laid crumbs or pebbles for the writers that followed me through the darkest of tunnels, but I didn’t. She did, but I would never have seen them, because I had no idea that I was in the same place that she had written about. If I had had my wits about me, spoken up sooner, or had the presence of mind to take tools, I would have made a sign post saying, ‘Exit this way, not far now’ but I didn’t even do that for you and I am truly sorry.

All I can tell you, is that if you are there right now, hold on because help is coming. I’ll come back for you if I have to, just say the word. But I’m telling you now, the first thing I will want to know is this; WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? Because I have learned a valuable lesson - that fear is the root of all inactivity, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of disappointing and worst of all, fear of fear.

Once you answer that, we’ll take it from there.

What the heck does golf have to do with writing?

My husband’s golf buddy blew him out today because he was sick, so I kindly offered to accompany him for the 18 hole round that he had booked. Now that might sound like a blessing, but anyone familiar with me would be instantly doubtful. I have a very chequered history with ‘caddying’ to say the least. My compulsive nature seems to turn the whole exercise into a ball finding mission and I am not satisfied until I have scaled every steep cliff, sifted every bunker and done a fingertip search of every square centimetre of rough. It is not pretty. Once I disappeared down the steep banks of a gully to retrieve that last ball that I couldn’t pass by without at least attempting to reach. I appeared sometime later, victoriously clutching six rogue balls in my upturned sweatshirt, only to have my husband and his buddy rifle through them and throw about four of them back as ‘rubbish’ ones. I wouldn’t have minded so much, had I not fallen into the water during my mission and been absolutely soaking wet and covered in all manner of horrible things which can be found at the bottom of a New Zealand gully, including several native specimens, who continued to wiggle around in my clothing for the next thirteen holes.

I have no particular interest in golf, or its strict etiquette. My only reason for being there is to accompany my long suffering husband. Some things I have learned over the years include,  

1. It is not appropriate to cheer and whoop when a stray ball hits another golfer.

2. Not all unaccompanied balls on the fairway are ‘free.’

3. A golf trolley is not a ‘pram’ and nor should it be referred to as such, loudly.

4. Golf clubs must not be referred to as ‘bats’, ‘sticks’ or ‘thingies.’

5. When someone shouts ‘4!’ they do not require you to finish it up to 10.

6. There is no requirement to wave to total strangers.

7. If you are not a real caddy, your advice may be ignored without reprisals.

8. Sitting in a golf buggy does not make it yours.

9. Bunkers are not ‘sand pits.’ Writing rude words with the rake is not acceptable.

10. Golf is actually a real sport.

As you can see, years of walking the course with my husband has taught me a number of painful rules, usually by default and error rather than by actually reading them.

But today my interest was captured whilst in the toilet between the ninth and tenth tee. A sign on the back of the door offered a number of helpful hints for keeping the course moving during busy periods but the last point, was the one that kept me pondering for the next two long hours and completely distracted me from my ball recovery mission.

The point was this:

Remember, your place in the field is behind the group in front NOT in front of the group behind.

As I pondered on what that sentence could possibly mean, it was like uncovering a riddle with myriad answers. My initial thought was that it was intended to breed consideration between golfers. Maybe they had a problem with people in front of other groups, dawdling along as they chopped around the course and causing frustration. In which case, wouldn’t it be sensible to urge golfers to think of those poor souls stuck behind a bunch of amateurs who believed that a ten metre slice was pretty awesome?

I am a writer. Which by default means that things like this intrigue me. I am happy to report that for the remainder of the round I was blissfully well behaved. I only looked for balls that I was asked to and kept my oddities very much to myself. I did not even try to annoy my husband by deliberately stepping on the pristine green in my trainers, just to see if he was looking at me. I was so good, that he even bought me lunch afterwards. But my mind was working overtime. I had mentally left the golf course and the random statement had taken me into other areas of life altogether. It seemed to be releasing me, taking the pressure off somehow. To follow the group in front is to allow them to trail blaze, to do the hard work and allow you to trot happily behind, like following the pace setter in a cycle race or the safety car in motor racing.

My husband did his entire round of eighteen holes, looking continually over his shoulder. Any hint of another group of golfers way back in the distance, perhaps leaning on their clubs or impatiently tapping their feet would be enough to force him to take a shot much more quickly than he wanted to. Is this perhaps what it meant? That the emphasis was on those following, to do so with patience and consideration, not forcing another to move more quickly than they wished to?

It occurred to me that with the newness of 2014, it might be an interesting principle to put into practice. Maybe this year, instead of trying to run out in front and get noticed, I should devote more time to encouraging and blessing those who are ahead of me, bringing up the rear with more enthusiasm and panache than previously. Especially as an indie writer, I would do better to stop reinventing the wheel and listen to those who have trodden the miry clay ahead of me, take their advice and thank them for it.

There will be golfers reading this with their head in their hands, knowing that it doesn’t mean that at all. It will relate to some finer point of etiquette, only communicated by a funny handshake and a nod of the head, which lesser mortals such as I will never have access to (especially not if I keep playing in the sand pit/bunker on the fifteenth.) But for those of you out there who think about absolutely everything and search for meaning it in all, just have a think about what 2014 could look like for you. I realise that it’s contrary to everything else that you will hear this year, the ‘grab your opportunities, lead the field, beg, steal and lie to get what you want philosophy. Just for a while, take the pressure off yourself, hop in behind someone else’s jet stream and remember, your place in the field is behind the group in front NOT in front of the group behind.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

When things go wrong - a blog I wrote before I was a bestseller

I’ve just had two weeks off work. I will go back on Monday and everyone will say, ‘Oh did you have a good holiday? Was it relaxing?” They will look fresh and tanned from their break and I will look haggard and unwell, crawling into my office to deal with emails and phone messages and shutting the door behind me. I wanted to do gardening and paint the shelves that have been sitting in the living room glaring at me all holiday, but what I actually did was very different. I re-read four of my novels, currently out on Amazon, editing until I was bug eyed, just to make sure that what the reader gets at the end of the day, is a slick, well-presented piece of work, which can rival any traditionally published novel.

Why would I do that? Why spend two weeks of my life polishing something that is already selling just fine in the world arena?

The answer is, that although indie writers are currently getting a slating out in the e-book industry, there are those of us who really care what we are producing.

I uploaded my fourth novel late one night and enjoyed that familiar feeling of satisfaction and ‘job done’ only to get an email from a friend the next day, who had downloaded it on the other side of the world. Now there is a perception that indie writers sling up any old rubbish with a cover, just to make money, but the reality is very different. Something had happened in the upload process that made the font go really big in one chapter and nowhere else. The original word document however, looked absolutely fine.

It is truly the most sickening feeling, to have uploaded your faulty brain child for all the world to laugh at and criticise – as if author sensitivity isn’t bad enough already. I had to go to work, knowing that it was ‘out there’ disgracing me all day and there was nothing I could do about it. My poor husband walked through the door that night, greeted by my pleading face and my laptop – even before he had got his coat off. Thank goodness he is in IT and an incredible trouble shooter, because I never would have worked it out. My teenage daughter came up at one point, nervously eyeing my blithering self, watching anxiously over his shoulder as he did surgery - and made a comment that, ‘Oh yeah, loads of them do that, it’s annoying.’ I didn’t care that it was obviously a fairly common thing, it wasn’t going to happen to my wonderful piece of blood, sweat, tears and tantrums!

There are people out there writing trash for money; that is sadly true. And worse still, they are joining these five star review scams to push themselves up the food chain. Often it is pornographic rubbish that some of us would reject just on the cover alone. Speech marks aren’t required for the grunts and groans and semi-colons are not part of the apparatus. But they will be found out and the discerning readers, who don’t want the equivalent of a badly written top shelf magazine, will help them to cascade down to the annals of the 900,000’s in the ranks. Eventually. Hopefully.

For the rest of us, it’s probably not about money. I conducted a survey recently only to find that most writers in the groups I am part of, have full time jobs. Writing is their passion, not their income generator. Our novels and musings are not just our intellectual property, they are our legacy. If we have done a great job, our characters are not just made-up-people, they are our friends and we feel deeply for them.

Next time you pick up an indie novel by accident, just think about what you are holding on to. It is, as the Maori say, a taonga – a treasure. It is likely that someone during its creation, shed real tears and hoped that you would love it.