coffee with Katja 
Burning money hurts
20 September 2012

Flick a switch and the heating goes on, right? Not in our household. Heating used to be like brushing my teeth, I never actually thought about it, but living in the Pyrenees changed that forever.


When we first moved into our home, we stared in dismay at the massive wood-fired stove. We didn’t know our oak from our beech wood, never mind how to keep a fire stoked in the magnificent tiled contraption before us.


We went through piles of logs those first few weeks and “burning money” took on a whole new meaning. We also discovered the hard way that two people can’t be responsible for wood-fired heating at the same time because invariably the one thinks the other is keeping an eye on it! When it was my week, and my precious sleep was threatened by having to get up to tend the fire, I learnt fast how to feed the stove with just the right-sized logs to keep it burning through the night.


Modern on-off heating where you don’t think twice about what you’re doing is a thing of the past. Now I’m aware. I love the primitiveness of carrying inside the logs we need, and love the subconscious alarm that buzzes me out of my writing cocoon when “feeding time” is here.


Today the first wood delivery arrived. There’s nothing quite like the quiet rumble of logs tumbling off the truck. I must be ready for winter.
Eye of the storm...
13 September 2012


I may live in the sunniest corner of France, but it’s also the windiest. There are days when the old folk don’t dare leave their homes for fear of their buckled bodies being tossed aside like autumn leaves.


The Tramontane wind is this region’s Jackson Pollock, the way it strikes the earth with chaotic, violent lashings of air . Trees bend to snapping point, eerily sleek clouds hover like watchful spacecraft, animals and humans head for shelter. Only the birds stay out.


As I headed home, two vultures - lusty wings stretched wide - soared and plummeted as they challenged the Tramontane’s sovereignty.


When the wind blows, turn the rudder, advises an old Chinese proverb. What better metaphor for the publishing challenge facing indie writers right now?


My rudder is already turning as I adapt to the winds ripping apart the publishing world’s rule book. 

5 September 2012
The writer, the sockpuppet and the poisonous pen
The writer, the sockpuppet and their poisonous pen
The writer, the sockpuppet and their poisonous pen
The writer, the sockpuppet and their poisonous pe
The writer, the sockpuppet and their poisonous pen

What do Tiger Woods, Rupert Murdoch and R.J. Ellory have in common? They’re high achievers with god-complexes who cheated and thought they could get away with it.


R.J. Ellory is a damn successful crime writer - over a million books sold – but he used false identities on Amazon to laud his own books, and worse, to slate his competitors. Ouch.


How on earth did he think no-one would find out in this world of expose-and-tell? Because the first I-didn't-get-caught cheat creates confidence, the second, third, fourth time breeds arrogance, then after that, well, entitlement kicks in, doesn't it? Just ask Woods and Murdoch. 


Woods never recovered his game. Murdoch lost a chunk of his business. I doubt the same will happen to our cheating writer though. If anything, his new infamy may boost book sales.


I’m always on the hunt for a good read, and I'd never heard of Ellory. For a brief moment, I was tempted to buy one of his books. But I couldn’t bring myself to click download. Nah. He can rot in writers’ hell as far as I’m concerned.

1 Sept 2012In love!

Meet my new crush: Goodreads. You heard about it, right? No...? Well, it’s Facebook for bookophiles. And it's been around for six years, six whole years. Where have I been?

I’m blaming my writing cave for not discovering it sooner. You know how it is: I write... life fades into black. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here's how it works: sign up, get your bookophile buddies to join, create an online library of books you love, hate, want to read, then sit back and let the Goodreads robo recommend books you might like!

Have you ever stopped to think how many books you've read? In your life?

I started by counting the books at home: roughly a thousand. But that's only a snapshot of now. I have to factor in books “lost” over ten moves across a number of cites, two countries, two continents.The worst was my move from Cape Town to France. My Parisian apartment was so damn small, not even a dozen shelves... I must have at least halved my books. Oh the trauma.

But once in Paris, I bulked up in no time. Surplus books were huffed and puffed to the cellar. The books grew back to pre-move levels. Home was home again.

A few years later, another move. I went through the cellared books to decide their fate. The thrill of holding forgotten favourites: Pillars of the Earth, Midnight’s Children, Possession. They stayed, the lesser favourites went. Let's say another 20% headed to the Great Book Sale in the sky.

Last move, 2011, and it happened again. This time the page-turning thrillers disappeared: the Bourne Identity series, an the Le Carré spy books. Big thick yellowed tomes that  had once catapulted me into a time warp of lost days. (How rarely that happens now!) Another 10% downsized.

Are you following the maths? Because I'm not. How many I've read doesn't really matter, does it? But I figure it's a couple of thousand. A lot, yes, but not enough.

Enter Goodreads. It's like a big boisterous school reunion. With as many surprises. I'm shocked how many memoirs I own. Surprised how many spy stories I've somehow kept. Loved the gems I stumbled onto: Mister God This is Anna, The Little Prince, Brokeback Mountain.

So thanks, Goodreads. Time to get some balance between writing and reading!

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