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Friday, 18 April 2014

My new inspiration: Meet Zane Conroy

Zane Conroy

Life changes for all of us, sometimes slower than we'd like it to. But the big changes, the seriously major impacts usually happen very fast. Sometimes that change is precipitated by a split second decision, like diving into water and breaking your neck on a sandbar.

X-ray showing the damage from the impact to the spine.

Meet Zane Conroy, a young South African who did just that. The accident left him a paraplegic, with day-to-day living costs that are truly horrific. Most people would be depressed, bitter and angry at being dealt this hand. (Hell, I still sulk when my leg acts up.) Zane still acts as inspiration and touch-stone for his friends and family, and they are raising funds for him by doing a 4000km bike ride across Australia. Now THAT's love, people - and when I did this interview with him, I understood why.

Zane and Glendon, before the accident

1.  Let’s start with the easy stuff – coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Chocolate or meat? Horror or comedy?
Comedy - Do the above answers give it away? :)

2.   Give us your top three phobias?

I've never been asked that before. Ha, but if I had to answer I'd say:
1. Drowning (which I nearly did on the night of the accident - luckily faced that fear).
2. Bad driving.
3. When someone moves something in my bedroom/home without me knowing...then going to use it and it's not there. I'm a bit OCD like that haha. But I believe - "A place for everything and everything in it's place".

3.  And the good stuff – top three dreams?

Yay! I like this interview.
1. Walk again!
2. Walk again!
3. Walk again!


But if I had to give another dream, it would be to live long enough to have a gathering of every single person I ever met all at one place :)
Zane and Eddie

Amaal and Zane

4.       Your mates are raising funds for you, you suffered devastating injuries in a freak accident a few years ago. What can you tell us about yourself and what happened to you?

I'm a very easy going guy, adventurous and usually up for anything. I really enjoy to laugh and smile - it sounds cheesy but it's truly natures best medicine. I'm enjoying regular doses of it to this day. I'm loyal I'd say, woof :D No seriously, my friends may or may not know, but I actually adopt them as family. Being an only child I think has a lot to do with that, but what I know in my heart, is that these friends/family members love me very much, and knowing that is truly an invisible feeling more valuable than any currency that exists or that will ever exist - I mean just look at what they're doing!? Its two syllables - Awe-Some!!
My injury has been physically devastating. Not only can't I walk, but I don't have the use of my hands either, they're also paralyzed. Not being able to grasp an object, walk around or even do the simplest of tasks like shower, eat or get into bed can take a toll on one’s mind. But, that's the very thing I'd like to be completely grateful and joyful for - I still have my mind. Not sure if you've seen the movie "Ray"? About Ray Charles' life? Well, he learned when he lost his sight, that his hearing improved dramatically as well as his sense of awareness. The same applies with me. Upon losing my physical ability to walk etc., I've found my mind has amplified a whole lot more! It sounds corny but I truly do observe so much more and wait for it, the finer things in life :)

Gathering of friends - Good Times!

5.       What is it like experiencing such an injury? During the accident, during recovery, and now in every day life?

What if I told you that, the injury itself as it happened, allowed me to experience "relativity"? That's rhetorical don't worry :)
You know Einstein's theory, sit on a hot plate it feels like hours. Go on a date with a hot guy/girl, feels like milliseconds by the end of it. The same happened to me. As I broke my neck I knew I was paralyzed. I then realized while I was face down in the water, busy drowning, I couldn't flip myself over and was going to die unless someone flipped me over. My Brother (friend), Amaal, did in fact flip me over and saved my life. All of which happened in the space of about 30 seconds - this, felt like an eternity! The most profound thing was, that I was ready to go. I had no regrets and was actually smiling at the notion of going right there and then. My entire life was analysed and scrutinized by my brain, mind and thoughts - it was as I said, relativity. Pretty cool huh. Well, I thought it was. Look I'll level with you, by no means am I ok with being so badly hurt or being disabled for the rest of my life, but it has taught me how strong a person can be and what true determination is. What insane levels of love and friendship that exist in this world - & by insane I mean amazing, awesome, genuine, moving and uninventable (yes I just made that up).
Recovery is extremely slow and limited. It can be disheartening to get a twitch in your toe after two years and see that as progress! But, it gives me reason to train hard (physiotherapy), dream big and open my mind to the unimaginable.
Everyday life is, to be honest, fun. I've discovered a new passion of mine which is to be outside in the garden, growing plants and veggies. So I get ready, exercise, work outside, research/read, eat, listen to music and best of all laugh with friends and family :)

6.   The team is riding across a large part of Australia by bike to raise funds for you. Are we talking bicycle bike here? What does this mean to you?

Indeed we are! I say to people my friend Alex is CYCLING or riding his BICYCLE from Perth to Sydney! The expressions are priceless! It's 4000km over a month or so. He has to average around 130km per day - it's seeerious going.
But, if I know Alex, it's that he has an incredibly strong and focused mind. I've enjoyed many a chats with him about the "unimaginable realm". We spoke of this ride over two years ago, and it was at that moment, that Alex gave me inspiration beyond his own understanding. Good thing I was sitting in a wheelchair else I would have fallen over! It was an incredible moment that I had shared with him and if Alex ever gets to read or hear this interview, he will very well know that his courage to achieve the unimaginable has etched INSPIRATION into my soul for all eternity... I will be forever grateful and am still completely amazed he has taken on this mammoth task to also raise funds for me and my wellbeing. I'm truly honoured to know him.

4000 kms ON A BICYCLE. OUCH!

Zane - never stops smiling.

7.   What do you think the challenges will be on the ride, and how will the guys cope?

Challenges will be the heat, no doubt. The sitting in the saddle will become very uncomfortable. Hydration and correct food intake will be tricky too. But after having spoken with Alex about it, I know in my heart he has the ability to push past the physical realm and achieve whatever his mind and heart desires. Of course, I feel I can sleep extremely well at night knowing that our Awesome Sickpunk friend Eddie (that was a term of endearment hehe), is trailing behind him in a motor home with supplies and probably beer - knowing Eddie, I know Alex is in very safe hands.

8.       Where can people follow the team during the ride? (twitter, Facebook etc.)

There is a blog that will be updated during the ride. It's actually on the website itself:

Glendon can provide invites to "Like" the Facebook page I'm sure.

9.   How can people help? (links, donations, supplies)

Help would be hugely appreciated by donating on the website at:

Other ways can be to spread the word of what the incredible power of friendship has :) 
If I may, just end off by saying a massive thank you to the other awesome people involved in this amazing story of friendship, family and down right, love of/for people. Glendon Evarts, Simone Daniel-Watkiss, Jonny Morris, Eddie Silver and of course Alex Watkiss, what an incredible bunch of people. Thank You! & check them out at:

As for you, Janet, thanks for your time and effort to ask me the questions and take an interest in the story, cheers!

Then, a BIG thank you again to Chris Niarchos, your support has overwhelmed me, my friends and all my family back home in South Africa, cheers!

As for everyone who knows me, who has donated or who has been involved in this in any way... Thank you!

lol (lots of laughs) :)


It's not often I post an interview with a lump in my throat, but this one has done it. Zane, you inspire me. May all your dreams come true.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

That thing you do… my writing process

My writing buddy and up-coming Master of Horror, Jamie Schultz, tagged me up for the writing process blog. It's interesting because it's not one of those things I've ever sat down and analysed, so I learnt a few new things about the way my mind works in writing gear.

1. What am I working on?

At the moment I'm skipping past the half-way point on Fur Thing, which is part of the Blue Moon Detective series. What that stalls, I work on the next Crescent story, which is turning out a lot darker than I ever intended. And I'm playing with ideas for a couple of good old-fashioned ghost stories; real old-school balls to the wall horror (I hope.)

I tend to let those ideas ferment for a long time, waiting for them to either turn into something useable, or fade away if I can't make them work. Then I have the opposite situation, where the ideas come through and bounce up and down screaming at me until I have to write them NOW to get a bit of peace.

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

I try and give things a bit of a twist that you hopefully don't find too often. The Crescent books fall under traditional/sword & sorcery - but the hawks are a new species, and people and interactions are complicated, and there isn't always a happy ending. The Blue Moon books feature a shifter that was born as a cat, a medicated house-cat, a vamp with serious Odin issues, a ghost that was traumatised both before and after death,  and a gay medium who adopts these people as his surrogate family when his own cut him off. And while they solve cases and help people, they all have good and bad points. I also have a fairly warped sense of humour that comes through in all of these; love and blood and oh-gods-the-world-is-ending needs a good punchline.

And of course, there's the pure slapstick, like House of F.A.R.T.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Well, according to my mother, it's all Stephen King's fault. I've always been drawn to horror and fantasy. But all fiction is a fantasy, and a lot of fact is horror. I think what really drew me in was that most of the stuff I grew up reading was unique, and pushed the boundaries. Romance never made me casually sidle into the lounge to finish reading a story, where there was light and other people to choose from if anything nasty decided to visit. Westerns never made me break out in a cold sweat as my mind stuttered over sentences. I LOVED that. I wanted the ability to do that to other people, to make someone check under their bed before they turn the light out.

That doesn't mean I won't explore other genres, eventually. The mind is a playground, and I haven't finished playing in this particular sand-pit yet - and there are a lot of other places to play - and combine with each other. That's the best part about writing. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.

4. How does my writing process work?

I have a rough idea of future books, and I do a lot of research both for what I'm working on and future story lines - I took an on-line course in archeology in 2012 for one of the Blue Moon books I'm planning. I'd say 80-90% of the research doesn't show up overtly in the books. It's background, and it's how I paint the world and drive the characters, but it's more important that I have the knowledge ticking away in the back of my mind.  (Although researching weaponry and symbolism probably put me on a number of watch-lists, and the non-fiction part of my library would make the average profiler wet themselves.)

The actual writing part is trickier; and it's pretty much time-defined. My handwriting is terrible - drunken spider attempting the hokey-pokey kind of illegible - so I type everything. I used to handwrite all my stories as a kid, until my mom gave me her old typewriter. Doing shorthand in college did not do my handwriting any favours.

I'm a pantser - I know what the plan is, but I've tried writing outlines in the past and my characters tend to ignore them. Then again, I've never had a story go exactly to plan - once the characters start talking and moving, all pre-conceived notions are as much use as a pair of chocolate panties.
It's more a case of "Tell me what happened next." Which is cool, because if the story starts to bore me I figure it out immediately, and I can step in and change direction.

I have a roughly hour-long commute on London transport to work and back. With train changes and the ability to get a seat, this translates to roughly 45 minutes of writing time each way. I stick my writing playlist on and write on my phone. 30 minutes writing for lunch. Weekends are writing,  re-writing and fixing issues and typos.

Usually around the 25K mark I re-read and think that this is frigging horrible. At that point, I know I have to leave it alone and work on the other book or another story for a bit. If I go back and it still reeks, the decision is either fix or delete. 95% of the time it's fixable, and just needs a clean-up. The other 5% gets run past Stace for a yay or nay. If she wants more story, I'll give it a shot. If it's dubious or a no, I hit the delete button. (It's impossible to make that decision alone; I don't know a single writer that cruises through every book and is happy with it. Most of us get to the point where we re-read and want to curl up in a ball and suck our thumbs for a while; and you can't make a final decision at that point because you can't be objective.) On the rare occasion I've had to delete, I've taken the view that it's a positive. The next story will be stronger for the mistakes I made, and I hopefully know what not to do going forwards. Every time you write you learn and you grow, and hopefully I'll still be learning new tricks when I hit 90.

Once the story is done it heads for beta land, and I try to forget it. When I get it back, I go through it with the beta notes and fix what needs to be fixed. Then the editing process starts, and by the time you get done with that, part of you wants to set the bloody book on fire and dance around it screaming.

Then it gets ignored for a bit until the final re-read. Guaranteed this is when I find typos and issues that everybody missed, and 99% at least one still slips in when the publishing thing happens. It's annoying, but it happens.

While the story is in the final marinading stage, I work on the cover. I either paint from scratch, using CorelPainter, or I use one of my photo's and manipulate it. I have tons of pictures on my iphone and you can do amazing things with manipulating colours and light now, and it's a relaxing thing for me.

Then I have to figure out the synopsis/publishing blurb, which goes back to wanting to set the bloody thing on fire all over again.

Then I fight with tech and upload the thing. Amazon is pretty easy. Smashwords gave me a minor nervous breakdown, to the point I haven't gone near it in a while.

So there you have it - a brief view of my writing process.