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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

From the chapter 'Alcandor's Secret'

      For that brief moment as Alcandor looked into the eyes of his beloved wife, it was the two of them alone in their own private world. He treasured those moments when they came. He wanted to stay locked in the security of that gaze. His wife’s glance steadied him. If only she would maintain it, but she suddenly turned away to watch the dancing. Alcandor was anxious. He was troubled and unsettled but didn’t know why.
    As he thought of his family and observed them as Caterina was doing, he tried to feel glad and thankful, but instead he was tense and ill at ease. He felt as if something was lying in wait, a monster crouching and waiting to devour him.
    He had been trying to work it out for some time—was it days, weeks, months, or years? He wasn’t sure anymore. Occasionally, he thought the monster was materialising, and his mind struggled to capture it, but it always slipped from his grasp, eluding any effort to pin it down and scrutinise it.
    He wanted to live within the moment when he and Caterina had looked at each other, but he was alone with his thoughts again, without that beloved face to anchor him against the tumult of the thoughts which buffeted his mind like the billows of a stormy sea.

What is the secret of the olive-wood box? Extract from Chapter 7 of Mine to Avenge

    Of all the children, it was Stepan who loved the olive-wood box the most, more for the workmanship which went into its making, than for the family papers and photos it contained. He had run his fingers over every carved stem and vine leaf many times, and over the lettering of the family surname on the base. He could accurately depict the design on paper without referring to the box to remind him.
    Caterina became sombre as the olive wood box came to mind. She remembered the time, not long after their arrival in Australia, when she asked Alcandor for the box, and how he had reacted. There was another incident with the box shortly after that.
    Stepan had been unwell and was in bed. As Caterina sat with her son, feeding him chicken broth to soothe his raging sore throat, he smiled up at her. ‘Please, Mama, can we look at the wooden box?’ he asked. ‘I haven’t seen it since we came to Australia.’
Caterina didn’t answer immediately, with the earlier incident still troubling her. The children hadn’t asked for the box since arriving in Australia, and the memory of the earlier incident was still fresh and raw.
    She had to make up her mind what to do. She knew that the box was on top of Alcandor’s wardrobe. It belonged to the whole family. Stepan had the right to see it and hold it.
‘Of course, Stepan, I’ll get it for you. You can hold it, but I don’t know where your father keeps the key so we can’t look inside. Is that understood?’
    ‘Yes, Mama,’ he replied. ‘I prefer holding the box to looking at the photos.’
    Thinking back on this, Caterina remembered how badly she felt as she went to fetch the box for Stepan. She had lied to him. She knew where the key was. After the earlier episode with the box, Alcandor carried it on his personal key ring so that he alone could access the contents. She didn’t want the children to know that even she was now denied access.
    Caterina returned to Stepan’s bedside with the box. She sat next to him at the pillow end of the bed, so that he could sit up and lean his feverish body against hers. She placed the box in his hands and watched his pale fingers lovingly caress the carvings, while she softly spoke to him about some of the things inside.
    They were like this for only a minute or two, when Stepan suddenly spoke. ‘Hello, Papa.’
Caterina looked up to see Alcandor standing in the bedroom doorway, his face set with the same strange fear she had seen the first time. She felt the blood run hot to her cheeks. She didn’t know how long he had been standing there.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A chapter sample from Mine to Avenge

    On a hot Saturday morning in February, Dymas and Spyridon caught the bus to the Clare Valley. They were glad that it wasn’t too far away, as the interior of the bus was like a furnace. They were also relieved that there weren’t too many people on board, because it meant that there were several vacant seats at the back, giving them opportunity to swap places a few times in an effort to avoid the sun’s burning rays as the vehicle twisted its way northwards.
    As fast as they wiped the sweat from their sticky foreheads it was back again, trickling into their eyes, over their flushed cheeks and down the back of their necks. Their wet shirts stuck to the crimson leather seats. All the windows were open, and the hot north wind roared through, enervating everyone on board.
    The bus dropped them right at the front of Spyridon’s father’s vineyard. They were glad to step out into the open, and feel the movement of the air against their backs. Spyridon led Dymas down the long, dusty red driveway, alongside green vines laden with fruit. Dymas could smell a heady sweetness in the shimmering late summer air, as the sun warmed the maturing grapes.
The house they came to at the end of the driveway was surrounded by a broad verandah. Dymas remembered many warm nights sitting with his father on a more modest verandah.
    Spyridon took Dymas into the house. They were unable to see immediately, as their eyes adjusted from the glare of the sun to the dim interior. Spyridon called to his father but the house was silent.
    ‘He must be outside in the vines somewhere,’ Spyridon explained. ‘We’ll go and look for him, but let’s have a drink first.’
    As they drank a long, cool, lime cordial, Dymas took note of the interior of the house. It was large, and tastefully furnished, but was obviously a male abode. There were no feminine touches anywhere, and Dymas remembered that Spyridon’s mother died before the family came to Australia.
    Spyridon led Dymas outside and took him around to the back of the property, where more vines were growing. He saw a group of people in the distance and shaded his eyes. ‘Dad’s here. I can see him with some of the hired hands.’
    The two walked between the vines, the sun beating down upon them, in the direction of the group of men. As the men saw Dymas and Spyridon approaching, they dispersed among the vines, all except one who slowly walked towards them, removing a broad-brimmed hat in order to wipe his sweaty brow. The man underneath the hat was unmistakably Greek. His olive skin was very dark, after years in the sun among the vines.
    Spyridon introduced his friend and potential business colleague to his father. ‘Dad, this is my friend, Dymas Galanos—the one I’ve been telling you about. Dymas, this is my father.’
    Dymas extended his hand to the short, dark man. He was about fifty, Dymas thought—bald but for some remaining traces of dark hair, now peppered with grey, circling the back of his head and finishing above his ears. He had a full grey moustache, sheltering the top lip of what appeared to be a stern mouth. However, it was the man’s eyes that dominated his face—not in size, but in their deep, black-granite intensity.

Friday, 23 November 2012

How did the book stall go?

Today proved to be a success in terms of local exposure for Mine to Avenge. During the week I had an interview with the local newspaper, The Border Watch (article below) and also an interview with the local radio station to promote my book-stall at one of the local markets this morning.
All in all, it was a successful enterprise. I had only a few sales, but, most importantly, was the exposure and the conversations I had with people about Mine to Avenge.
In terms of my stall location, it couldn’t have been better. I was given the very first stall by the door, so that I was the first stall seen on the way in and the last one seen on the way out, virtually guaranteeing that every person in and out of the market saw the stall, whereas others situated further inside could easily be overlooked.
I had a few giveaways as well - giving away a signed copy of the book to the first person who said they’d seen the newspaper article. Unfortunately I was a bit slow off the mark and forgot to do the same for the first person who said they heard the radio interview. I also had a giveaway for the person who made the closest guess as to the word count of Mine to Avenge (she guessed within 200 words).
I enjoyed this market experience so much that I have made a booking to do it again in a fortnight - and they’ve given me the same position by the door. Being closer to Christmas then, I plan to set up the stall with an emphasis on buying the book as a Christmas gift and will offer to giftwrap it as well. I will also prepare a promotional brochure for people to take with them, with a bit more information about the book than a business card can hold. I might also organize a raffle with one or two books as part of the prize.
If you haven’t tried promoting your book at a small local market before, I’d encourage you to give it a go, and if anyone has any other suggestions as to how to make such a stall a winner, I would love to hear them. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Content post from chapter 5 of Mine to Avenge

    Alcandor and Caterina settled in a rented home in the Riverland of South Australia, and Alcandor immediately found a factory job, supporting the bountiful fruit industries of the region.
    At first Caterina stayed home to look after Dymas but, once he was at school, she joined Alcandor working in the factory. They wanted to work hard for their children to provide for them in a way they were unable to do in their homeland.
    When Caterina went to enroll the children at the local primary school, a Greek interpreter was provided for her. The headmaster asked her to provide evidence of the children’s birthdates, so she arranged to return the next day with their birth records.
    That evening, while washing the dishes, Caterina remembered she needed the olive wood box for the children’s birth certificates. Alcandor had produced it on their arrival in Australia to present the necessary documents to prove their identities, but she couldn’t remember seeing it since then. She turned to Alcandor who was sitting at the kitchen table reading a Greek newspaper.
    ‘Darling, I need the children’s birth records from the olive wood box. Where have you put it?’
    Caterina was unprepared for his response. Her husband’s body stiffened and his knuckles whitened as he gripped the pages of the newspaper. He didn’t raise his eyes, and hesitated before answering her with an uncharacteristic abruptness. ‘What do you want it for?’
    ‘I need to take the children’s papers to the school so they can be enrolled.’
    Caterina stood motionless, her hands dripping sudsy water onto the floor as she faced her husband. Without looking at her, Alcandor stood up and roughly pushed his chair aside. ‘I’ll get them for you. Don’t trouble yourself.’
    Caterina turned back to the sink as Alcandor left the room, her face flushed with shock. He had never spoken to her like this before nor denied her access to the wooden box. The box belonged equally to both of them. It was a family treasure. Why was there a problem now? And why did he speak to her so harshly?

Monday, 19 November 2012

A little local exposure

I have had some success this week in trying to gain some local exposure and promotional opportunities for Mine to Avenge. I had an idea during the week that maybe I could try selling my book at one of the regular local markets that operate here in town on the weekends.
I did some research online to see whether other authors had tried this and whether they recommended it as a worthwhile approach, but found that there was very little information and advice out there. But the few articles I did find suggested that in their opinion, it was worth giving it a go. The closest market to me is only two minutes away by car, and I have booked an undercover trestle to set up a few books this coming Saturday morning and will offer Mine to Avenge for sale at a special market price.
I thought that even if the worse happens and I sell no copies at all, I will still have a nice relaxing morning, sitting behind a trestle talking to people, enjoying a coffee now and again, in a lovely community atmosphere. It will still generate exposure. I also approached the local radio station here and the local newspaper, and both have agreed to do an interview with some advance promotion of my presence at the market, so it has been a successful week in generating publicity. And I also start a new job tomorrow, so it will be quite an exciting week all round.
I will feed back on the weekend after the market and let readers know how it all goes.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Extract from Chapter 4 of Mine to Avenge

   Caterina ran outside and looked along the lane after her husband. As she watched, Alcandor caught up with the man, grabbed him roughly by the front of his shirt and shook him vigorously. Voices were raised, but Caterina couldn’t hear what was said because they were too far away. The man was shrugging his shoulders, waving his arms and emphatically shaking his head.
   Alcandor suddenly released him, and stood watching as the man turned his back, and hurried along the lane, brushing down his hair and straightening his shirt and braces as he went. Caterina hesitated, not sure whether to go to meet her husband or to wait for him where she was. She decided to wait, and saw him read the piece of paper again. He then folded it and thrust it deep in the pocket of his shabby trousers. Her thoughts were racing as she wondered how to broach this with him.
   His face was white and he appeared to be in shock, not noticing her at first as he came by. She slipped her arm through his as he passed, and felt his body trembling.
   ‘Is everything alright?’ she asked, lifting her face to his.
   He hesitated a moment, then turned to face her, releasing his arm from hers and taking her by both hands. He held them tightly, looked deeply into her eyes and was about to say something, but suddenly changed his mind. He let go of her hands and walked ahead of her back into the house.
   ‘We need to leave as soon as we are ready,’ he said. ‘We cannot wait until tomorrow.’
   They left within an hour of him receiving the note, and turned the cart to the south in the direction of Athens, as a dusky twilight fell over the village. Alcandor stopped the cart for comfort stops as the children needed, but didn’t stop to sleep until it was nearly midnight.
   Alcandor was alternately pale, then flushed, and occasionally he muttered to himself. Many times he looked back over his shoulder and asked the children if anyone was following the cart. The children spoke only to Caterina, if they needed to speak at all, for their father’s strange behaviour frightened them, along with the notion that someone might be following them.
   All the way to Athens, Alcandor was nervous and jumpy. Caterina wondered if the threat of the children being evacuated was greater than she realised, and she began to feel nervous too. She remained vigilant, particularly at night, and fought against sleep, not wanting to close her eyes, because then she wouldn’t be able to watch over her children.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Extract from Chapter 3 of Mine to Avenge

Alcandor remembered the procession, but nothing of the service at the church. The next thing he remembered was the procession at the graveside, where each mourner was given a small white flower to place on the casket before the burial. He was to remember every second of this part of the funeral for the rest of his life.
Alcandor wanted to avoid the procession, but was caught in the middle of a tight bunch of villagers and couldn’t escape unnoticed. The bunch thinned out to a line, and Alcandor was in the queue holding his daughter’s hand, while Caterina was immediately in front of him with Stepan.
The queue moved slowly, but for Alcandor it was moving too fast. He hadn’t seen Constantine yet, but he knew that the moment was coming and his heart began to pound.
He wanted to slip out of the queue and move to the end of the line again. His mouth was dry and his body shook with apprehension. Damaris looked up at her father, sensing his disquiet. He smiled at her to try to reassure her. He wanted to do anything to escape the moment that was fast approaching—the moment when he knew that, even if he didn’t see Constantine, his friend would see him. He knew that Constantine, having placed the first flower on the casket, was standing by the graveside next to the priest, watching the rest of the mourners file by.
As the gaping hole of the grave loomed ahead of him, he thought that the earth was going to suck him in and devour him. He hoped it would, if it meant avoiding the next few moments.
Caterina and Stepan dropped their flowers and moved to Alcandor’s left. With her little fist inside her father’s right hand, Damaris stepped forward, drawing her father to the front of the queue.
For a fraction of a second he saw Constantine and the priest over Caterina’s shoulder, directly ahead, standing on the opposite side of the grave. He felt as if his pounding heart were about to burst through his chest.
He leaned forward on shaking legs to release his white flower. At the bottom of the hole he saw a welcoming, sweet-scented, white floral cushion, beckoning him inwards for refreshing, uninterrupted rest. But
then he glimpsed the casket between the petals, and remembered what lay buried beneath. He was overcome by a wave of nausea and he felt as if some invisible hand was slowly knotting his gut.
Suddenly, Alcandor felt warmth, comfort and strength flowing from his daughter’s tiny hand, clasped within his own. He remembered the experience afterwards as if her tiny hand was clasping his, keeping him from falling into the open grave. Damaris was only a little girl, but he was glad for the strength of her hand.
However, the reassuring warmth suddenly became a consuming heat. The blood rose like a boiling tide from his churning stomach, washing up over his neck and into his head. He thought he was about to suffocate. The sudden rush of heat speared like a javelin into a focal point in his skull, and he knew then that Constantine’s eyes were upon him.
The sudden awareness of Constantine watching him caused him to release his grip on the anaemic white flower in his left hand. He watched it twirl and spin on invisible currents of air, until it settled softly atop the flowers that had gone before. He thought of the eternal rest awaiting it, and envied it intensely.
He stood upright and his eyes met Constantine’s. The blood that had rushed to his head a moment ago, drained rapidly away to the soles of his feet, and he shivered. The gaze lingered no longer than a second. Neither of them spoke.
As Alcandor turned away with Damaris, he knew that as long as he lived, he would remember that look in Constantine’s eyes, just as well as he remembered that blood-curdling cry the week before.
What was it about Constantine’s eyes that he would remember? He realised quickly what it was. The deep black eyes were vacant pools of nothingness. It was as if Constantine had never seen Alcandor in his life before.
But Alcandor knew that the experience of searing heat in his skull a moment ago meant the exact opposite. It was an unmistakable response of recognition. Constantine did see Alcandor, and recognised him, as he looked into the grave. It was Constantine who set the fire to the point of the javelin and aimed it at Alcandor’s head.
Alcandor knew that, if Constantine had recognised him when he was looking into the grave, then he must have chosen not to acknowledge him when he raised his head. The lack of response was a deliberate, calculated choice to ignore him.
The moment of looking into the grave, placing a flower and raising his head took only a matter of seconds, but Alcandor had lived a lifetime in that moment, and he was exhausted.
He made his excuses to Caterina and said that he didn’t want to return to Constantine’s house for the after-burial dinner. Caterina said that she was feeling tired too, and would come home with him. She didn’t want to be away from him for long. She feared for his state of mind.


Please let me know if you have been having any technical glitches with this blog. I have had some feedback about occasional glitches where people have only been able to read a title, but not the entire post, and I have also had a report of posts with the wrong title. However from my end, I’m not seeing these problems. It would be helpful to know how widespread the issues are. Thanks.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The perils and pitfalls of mutual peer reviews Part 2

Continuing with part 2 of yesterday’s post -

The first issue I had was ending up with a genre I didn’t like, but she knew what she was getting from me, having based her offer to help on my request which gave her all the details. This was only a minor issue.
However, the second issue was a vital stumbling block for me. I was stunned to find that I was reading a manuscript that that appeared not to have been edited at all. It was full of grammatical errors, typos, apostrophe abuse, spelling errors, etc. Sometimes there were more than five errors per page. But I was led to believe that I was reading a published version of her book. I had just taken ten months to edit my book, with two professional edits, and went through the manuscript seven more times after than in a quest to produce a clean manuscript. I don’t claim that Mine to Avenge is totally error free, but I can say I did my best and took my time to make it that way, and prepare a quality product that I would be happy for others to read and review.
A third issue was the difference in length between both books. Her book was a shorter 50,000-word novel whereas mine was approximately 165,000 words. In that instance I didn’t think it was fair to her.
Now that I had landed myself in this mess, I had to try to work out how to deal with it and get out of it diplomatically. I realized that if I wrote a bad review for her work, drawing attention to sloppy presentation, it would upset her, and maybe she might just respond with a ‘tit for tat review’. And yet if I wrote a good review, it would impact on my credibility, if someone bought the book based on what I had written.
How did I get out of this? Rather than assume that I was reading the final copy of this woman’s work, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, with her impressive list of writing credentials, so I emailed her, asking if the copy she had sent me was an earlier pre-edited version.
She replied saying that what I had was the final version that was out there for sale, but she guessed by the very nature of my question that I was having problems with it, so she emailed me suggesting we call the whole deal off. Fortunately this spared me from having to make the first move.
It was very interesting too, that she also suddenly decided she didn’t like the genre of my story anyway and didn’t wish to read anymore, whereas she was the one who initially responded to my request in which I had made the genre very clear.
As I mentioned a moment ago, even doing some preliminary research to find out who I was dealing with wasn’t failsafe. I had no way of knowing how accurate her writing credentials were without actually ringing all the places she listed on her website - presuming they were all genuine.
So when seeking reviews for your work, by all means, approach peers, bloggers, magazines, media and so on, but my advice is, don’t ever submit to the mutual swap for a review. You will most likely just be building a relationship that will sour before it really goes anywhere.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The perils and pitfalls of mutual peer reviews Part 1

This post ended up longer than planned, so I have split it into two parts - second part to be posted tomorrow.

Part 1

I was asked at the launch of Mine to Avenge last weekend if there was anything in particular that I had learned on the journey to get the story published. There were quite a few lessons I learned along the way, but one jumped to mind immediately, probably because I got my fingers badly burnt. I probably put myself through it needlessly because I had enough misgivings before embarking on the venture, to make me realize that it most likely wouldn’t work out well.
Why then did I embark on it, you might ask? Quite frankly, that has been the question that has puzzled me ever since and will probably remain one of the great unanswered questions of history - at least for me personally, but I don’t think anyone else will lose sleep over it, and sunrise and sunset will keep on happening regardless.
What is this awful thing I did? How did I get my fingers burnt when the flames were clearly visible and I knew that it might hurt if I put my hand in the fire? I agreed to a mutual peer review, as the post title says - a ‘you read my story, and I’ll read yours’ trade, and we'll each say nice things about the other one's work. After the experience, my recommendation is, in a simple phrase - DON’T do it.
I realize that the prior misgivings I had were probably not unique, and that more experienced writers might have been better aware of the potential disaster that can result from this kind of swap. But maybe other first time authors like myself might ignore these misgivings, as I did, in their eagerness to get their work out there. It’s easy to be tempted to throw all caution to the wind with some things and take a risk, if we think it will get our new ‘baby’ launched as soon as possible. If I can save someone else from going along this path, then I think my post will be well worth it.
This experience began with all good intent. A writing peer responded to my online request seeking peers to review Mine to Avenge. She approached me with not only the offer to review but asked if I could review a book of hers as a fair trade.
Warning bells rang immediately, and they were saying, what if both your stories and styles are markedly different? What if you don’t like reading the other writer’s genre? I had advertised my genre in the quest to seek reviews, but in a swap, what would I get? Could I guarantee it would be something I liked, or would be willing to read?
I thought I would prepare as best as I could before accepting her offer, so I did some research into her background online and found that she wrote for a living and had been doing so for a number of years with a long list of credentials. On the basis of that, I decided to take the risk and accept her kind offer. Big mistake!
Read part two tomorrow with the issues I had and how I got out of an awkward situation.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Excerpt from Chapter 13 of Mine to Avenge

Nina was standing by the school gate, waiting for her daughter to come out to meet her for the drive home. As she waited, she noticed another young mother standing nearby—rather shy and reticent, Nina remembered.
The young woman was clutching the hand of a small, tearful boy. The woman looked shyly at Nina and asked, ‘Are you waiting for your child, too?’
Nina had thought the question sounded unnatural—almost rehearsed. She smiled at the woman, thinking that she looked like a timid rabbit ready to bolt if Nina actually answered her question. She took a risk and replied. ‘Yes, I’m waiting for my daughter.’
The woman smiled weakly in return. She shuffled her feet and gripped the small boy’s hand tightly, ruffling his brown hair in an awkward manner. He looked shyly up at Nina from sad brown eyes.
‘We’re waiting for my husband. This is my son, Linus. It’s his first week too, but he doesn’t seem to be enjoying it much. He says he misses me during the day, but he doesn’t much like coming home either.’
She suddenly stopped speaking and looked away. She strained her eyes towards the cars pulling in at the pick-up bay. Nina thought that the woman might have said more than she intended.
At that moment Alethea appeared, with a flushed and happy face. Unlike Linus, she loved school, but still looked forward to going home.
‘Can I play on the swings before we go, please, Mum?’ she begged.
‘Of course,’ Nina answered.
Alethea then glanced at the boy holding tightly to his mother’s hand as they stood alongside Nina at the gate. She saw his tear-stained face and, without hesitating, reached out and grabbed his free hand.
‘What's your name?’ she asked him excitedly. ‘Do you want to come and play with me?’
The boy looked up enquiringly at his mother, who bent down to Alethea.
‘His name is Linus, and I think he would love to play with you—but just until his daddy comes,’ she added, looking nervously over her shoulder.
Alethea grabbed the boy’s hand, and dragged him along behind her to the swings a short distance away.
Nina smiled again at the woman, who smiled shyly in return, but didn’t engage in any further conversation. For that very brief moment as the woman had bent to speak to Alethea, she had appeared natural and relaxed, but only until she mentioned the boy’s father.
When the man arrived to pick up his wife and son, he didn’t come out of the car to meet them. At the first sight of her husband’s car, the woman nervously hurried over to the swings to fetch Linus. She looked briefly at Nina as she passed and, with a strained smile, whispered a hurried goodbye.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Mine to Avenge Book Trailer preview

I wrote a post a few weeks ago on the subject of book trailers, and said that I was a little worried about the idea, although I had already committed to having a trailer done to promote Mine to Avenge.
My concern about book trailers is the difficulty of extracting and portraying ideas from another person’s imagination. I have difficulty doing this myself as an artist/calligrapher (another cap I wear occasionally) and for this very reason commissions aren’t my favourite thing to do. I am rarely happy with the completed work because it lacks any personal inspiration on my part, and often the person who commissions the work is unhappy as well, because I have failed to see what they see in their mind’s eye. 
However, the trailer for Mine to Avenge was ready for my approval when I arrived back home after the book launch on the weekend, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Overall I was very happy with it and there were only a few minor adjustments to be made. I was very happy with the soundtrack choice and all of the visual clips except one - a visual of a person carrying what appeared to be a hatchet. There are several deaths in Mine to Avenge, but none with a hatchet, so we easily replaced this clip. And overall I was very happy with the wording, with only a few grammatical changes needing to be made.
I am planning to promote the trailer tomorrow on my Facebook page, but if you’d like a sneak preview ahead of time, you can find it at
Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The book launch that nearly wasn't!

I am home again after a successful launch of Mine to Avenge in Adelaide yesterday. However, the launch almost didn’t happen, due to a monumental blunder by the council responsible for hiring out the venue. I made my booking back in September, and at the time, the council rep said that she would return a call to confirm that the hall was available.
A few days later, the council confirmed availability, charging me a very minimal AU$60 to hire the hall between 9am and 1pm (incorporating set up and pack up time) and also charging a refundable $500 deposit.
When I arrived at the hall a little before 9am yesterday morning, alarm bells rang immediately when I noticed another car in the car park, with a logo on the door, advertising a local fitness organisation, specialising in Zumba classes. This was not someone I had invited, and I immediately guessed that the hall had been double booked.
I got out of the car and the woman in the other car got out of hers, and we compared notes - and yes, we were both booked for the same time. She has a regular, permanent booking on Saturday mornings between 9.30am and 10.30am. She was furious when I explained that my booking overlapped hers as I had booked and paid (and had a receipt) for 9.00am - 1.00pm. Apparently she had also been double booked earlier in the week as well, so I could understand her anger.
This woman insisted she wasn’t moving and intended conducting her class as usual. However, my helpers and caterers were beginning to arrive, and some people were travelling from up to three hours away. I was also firmly standing my ground. I had flown a good distance for my book launch and I was determined that it was going to go ahead, but time was passing and I was losing essential set up time.
So a friend got on the phone immediately, to try to contact the council, but being a Saturday morning, that was impossible. She then began trying to contact other halls in the vicinity to see if we could find another venue for either one of us, but to no avail. I began to get desperate, and felt myself weakening, ready to give in to the other woman, thinking that I might have to set everything up outside on the grass. Fortunately the weather was fine.
Then a thought came to me - a perfect compromise I thought, if the other woman would agree to it. She had said that her class finished at 10.30, which was when my guests were expected to start arriving, but I needed to be in the hall setting up during the 9.30 - 10.30 timeframe of her class. I asked her how many people she had in her group. She said there were about 10 at the most. I then asked if her class used the entire hall or just part of it. She replied that there was plenty of space near the kitchen and around the perimeter. I asked her if she would be willing to let us set up our tables of books and food around her while her class was in progress in the middle, and whether she would be willing to finish 5 minutes earlier to give me time to put the tables in their proper position before my guests arrived.
She readily agreed and all I needed to do was to post a sentry to keep my early guests outside, while the Zumba class was in process.
So my helpers and caterers set everything up to the beat and rhythm of Zumba in the middle of the room. Everyone was smiling and bopping along in time to the music as we set up, and a good time was had by all. However, I wouldn’t want to be the person on the council reception desk tomorrow morning when weekday business resumes as there are going to be two phone calls from two very irate hall hirers!