Yellow Pill – Ink Stains Volume 2

Howdy folks. This rather gruesome (**non-vegan!**) image is the cover of the newest anthology that my writing is a part of. Published by Dark Alley Press, the anthology contains seven gritty, dark fictions.

My story Yellow Pill is a suspenseful tale about Lata, who begins to become increasingly suspicious about the pills her boyfriend Joseph takes for his asthma. He seems to take them an awful lot. He’s cagey about where he gets them from. The local pharmacy is even hounding her, after they ran some tests and didn’t even recognise what the hell they were. Things get much worse when Lara decides to take one of the pills herself.


Ink Stains Volume 2 can be purchased here at Amazon – either as an ebook, or print. Happy reading….

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This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy (movie review)

Every time I go to write down the movie’s name I end up missing at least one word. In fact, when I asked for a ticket at the cinema, I got half way through the name and then both the teller and I went “and blah blah yadda yadda” to finish it off. It’s certainly a mouthful, but it’s also quite clever. Because before you even watch the film the name instantly gives you a sense of what you’re going to see. I figured it would be funny, self-referential, and very cheaply made. I imagined an amateur indie film, in which the props are made by the director’s flatmate’s girlfriend, and the soundtrack is recorded on an early-90s Casio keyboard with built-in drum beats.

This was pretty close to the truth, though the music was marginally better than that.


The story begins with the three main blokes – Tom, Gavin and Jeffrey – watching an old B-grade sci-fi film ‘Space Warriors in Space’. Part way through, they are mysteriously sucked into the movie, and come under attack from the evil Lord Froth. With the help of some friends they meet along the way, not to mention the scantily dressed warrior women (obligatory for any sci-fi adventure film), they must find their way back to Earth, and back to reality.

This film is done on a budget – seriously. But they’ve cleverly gotten away with it by setting the story inside a very low-budget film. It reminded me of the early seasons of Red Dwarf, when they used a computer joystick to steer the ship, and pretty much everything else was built from cardboard boxes glued together and painted grey. In TGPMBIARH the lids of pump bottles are buttons on the ship’s console; an electric egg beater is a cargo ship flying through space; lampshades (or possibly suspended baking bowls?) serve as those visor things you wear when you want to aim your ship’s cannons at another ship (you know what I mean…). And no animals were harmed in the film, because they were mostly soft toys (quite cute ones, too). But the cheapness is essential for the plot, it’s part of the point. The characters, for the most part, realise they are stuck inside a budget film, and are generally stumped by the fact that a recognisable kitchen utensil actually fires a laser out its end. Which is why it’s also surprising that the “giant papier mache boulder is actually really (fucking) heavy”.


I had quite a few laughs. They got the theatrical nature of an old sci-fi film right. When someone is punched in the face they don’t just drop to the ground, they fly through the air. If someone rolls down a bank then they bloody well fall off a waterfall too. That’s just common sense. However, if I’m going to pick a hole (and I will), it’s that I felt the film could do with a brutal edit. Some scenes went on too long, and some were superfluous altogether. I know that when you’ve worked closely on something for a long time you get precious, but really it could have done with a good snip snip snip.

TGPMBIARH is running for another week at the Rialto in Newmarket, and also the Dunedin Rialto and the cinema in Devonport. Go out and support a NZ independent film.

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National Poetry Day and Broken Egg

Today is New Zealand’s National Poetry Day. There have been heaps of cool events this past week, and still a few more still to come. You can check them out here.

In celebration of the day, I thought I’d share one of my poems, titled Broken Egg. I wrote it in 2013, and it was published in the February 2014 edition of Writing Tomorrow. I hope that you like it.



Broken Egg


They come bounding at me bow-legged,

expecting beaks like upside down spoons and brass eyes unblinking.

Oi, get off, I skip backwards, I gave you the wheat!

Don’t you remember pecking my hand and hearing me squeak?


I check for eggs inside the roosting shed, poke my head in,

perceive a hen-like shape and beak swiveling my way.

Oops, sorry – I say, retreat, retreat.

A rock in your place, a sleeping cat, even,

so stuffed with shadows, I’d think it a hen.


Sometimes I hear you wailing all the way from the front fence.

With misshapen eggs, I wonder why you lay.

Maybe because, secretly, you enjoy the quiet, dark,

the rustle of your feathers in the straw,

the curve, the release.



My mother owns sixty-one eggcups

though seldom eats her own eggs.

They sit in a brown cabinet

beside the lamp whose height hides a layer of dust.

The rest of her house is spotless, of course.

She’s a short woman, it’s not her fault.


She tried to have more kids but was stuck with just the one,

then my dad won big with the bonus bonds and moved away

with the lady who cut all our hair.

Two of the eggcups were wedding presents.

They sit front, centre, polished brightly.

Mum doesn’t receive many gifts.


In the early eve she’s sleeve-deep in the garden

speaking to her hens, upturning rocks.

Beetles and millipedes have no safe nooks.

I’ll never understand the pleasure she gets, digging potatoes,

wrenching sticky weeds from the mischievous earth.


She lays her carrots with care,

side by side on the lilac rug we used to take to the beach.

It’s covered in holes, I don’t know why she doesn’t biff it.

I sit with her till dusk while she shovels compost, full of broken shells.

She told me once that when hens eat a broken egg they get a taste.



Dad could catch a wave with his body, like a rocket,

arms stretched straight in front, strong legs kicking.

Mum and I skulked beneath the parasol, watching him.

I hear he has three kids now – probably brown, and fit, like him.


As a teenager I hated this farm.

I’d climb the overgrown rhododendrons,

perch like a pissed-off gargoyle, listing unfairnesses.

There’s nothing fun about being a kid.

When the doctor told me I couldn’t have any I was glad.


Dad sent me a postcard once, from France,

wrote it like he wrote them every week.

I didn’t recognise the handwriting

till Mum pointed out his name at the bottom.

I remember she cried.

She told me once she would’ve liked grandchildren.


Sometimes I see you running wide-armed at me,

scabby knees and bright eyes unflinching.

I’ve seen plasters with pictures on them, at the supermarket, just for kids.

Oi, get off, I tut, holding you at arm’s length

and poking your tummy till you squeak.


For a downloadable copy, click here.


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Poi E: The Story of our Song (movie review)

Tonight I went to the movies to watch Poi E: The Story of our Song, written and directed by Tearepa Kahi. I guess the fact that it’s freezing outside, and that it’s a Monday night, accounts for the fact that my friend and I had the whole theatre to ourselves… and usually I’d have been stoked to not have to crane my neck around the tall dude sitting in front of me or to have to mentally fade out the mandatory movie cougher (and because I got to lie back with my feet on the seat in front). But tonight it just seemed wrong.

Poi E poster


I’ve always loved Poi E, the song. I wonder if there’s a New Zealander who doesn’t. It’s part of our culture, as well as part of our pop music history – along with Six Months in a Leaky Boat and Slice of Heaven. Yet, weirdly, I had no idea when it was filmed, no idea about the woman who wrote it, the club who performed it, or the man who brought the whole thing together – Dalvanius Prime. Maybe I’m just too young (I was born the year before it was released). When I sat down to watch the movie, therefore, I wondered how anyone could possibly create a whole documentary about a single song.  Woah – I had a few things to learn.

This documentary takes you on a journey from the small town of Patea all the way to England and back. You get to witness a community’s love for their songs, for their culture, and for one fat Maori dude who knew how to make music. There are moments when you have to have a wee giggle about just how ‘kiwi’ some people are – in fact, if I’d watched it while overseas I’d probably have been overcome with homesickness and flown right home (except, if you know me, then you know I’m not so much into glorifying the freezing works). But most importantly, the film addresses the stifling of Te Reo Maori that occurred, well, up until recently really, as well as the pigeon-holing of the whole Maori culture that took place (when there were only certain contexts when it was acceptable for people to speak Maori or to act in any way not white).

And so because, like most people, I’ve always just sung along to the “Poi e” part of the lyrics, sort of mumbling or humming over the rest, I decided to go home tonight and learn the full song. And then I sang it several times to myself, strumming on my guitar, not quite ever mastering all those syllables, but getting close enough!

Go see the film. No arguing. We need to support NZ film makers and become more culturally enlightened wherever possible. And here, of course, is the song itself!


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In March I attended a writers festival in Ohakune – a little town at the foot of the majestic Mt Ruapehu. On the final night I stood up nervously in front of a room full of respected NZ writers and read Middlemarch, a poem told in the perspective of a woman who is unhappy with her marriage. It was the first time I’d read one of my poems to pretty much anyone other than my six old son, who is nearly always nice about it (though actually, everyone at the festival was nice about it too). I then returned to my cold and tiny backpackers room to find an email from Landfall, informing me that the very poem I had read was to be published in their next edition. I was absolutely thrilled!


This fruit is called a Cape Gooseberry, or a Ground Berry. I think they’re awesome.

It’s taken me a shamefully long time to announce this properly. In fact, it’s winter now, and this was an autumn edition. I think this is because the poem was written about my own failing marriage – now recently failed – but hey, really that’s no reason not celebrate a publication. I’ve begun reading the other poems and stories contained within, and am proud that Middlemarch is tucked in among them. The full list of contributors can be found here.



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An Interview with Phil Dadson

Phil Dadson is one of those legendary New Zealand composers /musicians / artists, respected by anyone who knows him or knows his works. He’s also an extremely warm and cheerful chap, and a pleasure to be around. I was lucky enough to talk to him about Five Rhythm Works, his upcoming re-release of five of his earliest From Scratch pieces. The interview can be found here at Pantograph Punch.

Photo by Phabu Makan 1978

Photo by Phabu Makan, 1978.

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Shortlisted, and a trip to Ohakune

I figured I could combine two posts into one – some would call this efficient, others rambly. Whatever. My first item of news is that my story Pocket Wife (published by Paper Road Press) has been shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best Novella 2015. That’s pretty exciting. The full list and voting info can be found here.


Last Thursday my friend Allan and I took a train down to the little town of Ohakune, to attend the first Ruapehu Writers Festival. I didn’t want to admit to any of the locals that I hadn’t actually heard of Ohakune before I booked my ticket to the event… but I hadn’t. It’s a quiet town that apparently explodes during the ski season (most of the shops and restaurants were closed, displaying signs that claimed they’d be “back in winter”). I’ve never skied, so I suppose that’s why Ohakune had never entered my radar.



The festival was held at the Powderhorn Chateau, although I stayed in a somewhat cheaper (okay, a lot cheaper) backpackers down the road. My box-like room was crammed between the communal kitchen and bathroom. Sleep wasn’t really on the cards.

But my having to rough it was worthwhile, as from 9am till 9pm each day I was able to sit and absorb some of New Zealand’s best poetry and prose. I participated in a workshop with Sue Orr, listened to writers’ and publishers’ opinions on their works and the industry, and even read my poem Middlemarch at the Poetry Slam night.



One of the highlights was the walk to Waitonga Falls, Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall. It’s a beautiful (and reasonably easy) walk, so if you are heading to that area you can find out about it here.





The speakers kept referring to the festival as the “first annual Ruapehu Writers Festival”, so I can only presume there will be another one. Ohakune is conveniently in the middle of the North Island, easy enough for those in Wellington and Auckland to catch a train or drive (sorry South Islanders). Here’s a shot of Mt Ruapehu, taken from the train on the return journey.



Filed under Prose, Writing info