HBTV’s Simon Nixon (left) interviews Brown Girls author John Wesley Ireland during the taping of an episode of Chatroom. (Photo: Warren Buckland/Napier Courier)

The last time I wore makeup was when two small children decided to dress me up as a woman. I only held still because I was trying to impress their mother. Considering their mother and I have now been together for 20 years, it would appear enduring the assault on my manliness worked a charm.

My most recent brush with cosmetics came when the lovely Vania applied powder to my face in an effort to make it appear less full-moonish. Needless to say, the procedure used up an alarmingly large amount of her supply.

The reason Vania was doing her utmost to make me look presentable was my first TV appearance since I hosted a news magazine programme for Cook Islands TV. This time, however, I would be answering questions instead of asking them.

The occasion was the taping of an episode of Chatroom for Television Hawke’s Bay. Going into the studio, I still wasn’t sure why anyone would be remotely interested in anything I had to say. But, apparently, station director Judith Sawyer is a fan of this column and thought her viewing audience might be entertained by a veteran journalist with a novel to promote.

While I awaited my turn on the brown couch, I watched host Simon Nixon on the monitor as he interviewed a lady about her anti-fracking stance. She was well-spoken, well-informed and well-dressed. That’s when the nerves kicked in and, for a brief, terrifying moment, I was positive I’d start sweating through my makeup to the point where it would look as if my face was melting.

“Please buy my book before my forehead sloughs into my lap” is probably not the ideal marketing campaign.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Simon and I hit it off right away and were soon nattering away like two old friends meeting in a cafe. If cafes came equipped with really bright lights and three large cameras and a microphone cord shoved down your shirt.

I told him about my journalism career and how I came to write my novel, Brown Girls, and why I’ve decided to market and sell it as an ebook through my own website.

The interview was divided into three segments, each consisting of eight minutes (commercials will fill out the rest of the 30-minute time slot), and my original fear of not being able to fill even one segment was quickly replaced by a fear of not having time to say everything I wanted to.

In the end, we never did talk about the Cook Islands photography book I hope to publish in an effort to raise money for the Red Cross.

Neither did I have the opportunity to mention the “A-ha!” moment.

This, of course, is not to be confused with the “Eureka!” moment or the “Woo-hoo!” moment. “A-ha!” is the noise I make when, while reading about a wildly-successful person, I come across the exact moment when they caught their big break. The hungry fashion photographer who drops into a fast-food outlet, only to stumble across the beautiful girl working behind the counter. Chris Klein charging around a corner in his high school and bowling over a talent scout looking to fill out the cast of American Pie.

We’ve all experienced such moments, the times where, for no good reason we can explain, we turned left when we had every intention of going right, and so met a future partner or the person who hired us for our dream job or somehow changed our lives.

Serendipity? Dumb luck? Good timing? Karma gods smiling? Best not to attempt to label it. Best to just sit back, hold on tight and enjoy the rocket ride to fame/success/riches/wild women.

I didn’t get to talk to Simon Nixon about “A-ha!” moments. Maybe because I’m meant to talk to him about that during our next interview. The one where, after this column is published, Brown Girls goes on to sell a million copies.

Someone should warn Vania she’s going to need a fresh supply of powder.

* The Chatroom interview featuring John Ireland will air Friday, May 11, 7.30pm on TVHB, UHF 51, and be re-broadcast the next day at 7.30am and 12.30pm. It will also be available for viewing at http://www.tvhb.co.nz

* For more information on Brown Girls, visit http://www.johnireland.co.nz


Reality checks come in many guises. This week, for instance, it was the kid manning the cash register at the nearby Caltex petrol station.

I’d stopped in to buy a newspaper and, noticing a photo of reigning Miss South Pacific Joyana Meyer on the front page – clad in a coconut bra and grass skirt as she attended the Pasifika Festival in Auckland – I blurted out that I knew her.

(Full disclosure: I actually consider Joyana a friend. I took her photo on several occasions when I worked for the Cook Islands Herald. I also shot her for the 2011 Miss Cook Islands calendar, only to have her father insist he had the better shot. Yes, his sunset was more colourful than mine. But I couldn’t help but notice that Joyana is wearing more clothes in Daddy’s photo.)

The kid was impressed. He asked me how I knew her.

I told him I’m a journalist, that I’d just spent a year working on Rarotonga.

“A journalist,” he said, his eyes lighting up at the sheer glamour of it all. “How do you become a journalist?”

I very nearly told him the truth: being in the right place at the right time, lucky breaks, knowing people. Instead, I put on my Mature Adult Hat and said, “I went to school.”

That was not a lie. I did attend Kwantlen University College for a year. Even scored a Certificate in Communications. Says so right there, on my CV. Not sure I remember anything I learned in class. Not sure anything I learned in class ever helped me get a newspaper job. But, hey, like I said, it does look impressive on a CV.

“I’d like to do something like that,” said the kid. “I’m 23 years old, working in a petrol station, and I don’t know what to do with my life.”

Oh. Really?

I very nearly told him another truth: That faint light I see at the end of the tunnel? It’s a birthday cake with 60 candles on it. I very nearly told him that, even with 23 well and truly in the rearview mirror, I, too, have no idea what the hell to do with my life.

The kid was impressed that I was a journalist. I didn’t spoil the moment by saying I was an unemployed journalist. That I’d just spent the previous week sending off job applications to newspaper editors I am reasonably confidant will never bother contacting me. That I have e-mailed all my media mates in town and none of them has even bothered to expend the energy it takes to hit Reply and type “Go away.”

That, right after I bought the paper, I was heading to a seniors’ residence where I would spend the day in the laundry room, praying to the Baby Jesus that I would not have a close encounter of the fecal kind.

Twenty-three and no direction? Ah, my friends, those were the days.

My initial encounter with an iPad came poolside at The Bellagio in Las Vegas. My son, who works for Apple and is, I’m fairly certain, contractually bound to play with every new gadget, brought his model along to show off like a new father emerging from the delivery room.

And so we perched on the edge of our chaises longues, two grown men ignoring several metres of delightful female flesh clad in mere millimetres of clingy material, while we peered, mesmerized, at a glowing tablet of plastic and glass.

I’m a man. We’re hardwired to fulfil certain functions. Perpetuating the human race, for instance. Collecting Toys for Boys, for another. Which is why I had no choice but to purchase an iPad for myself.

I took it back to Rarotonga where, I’m willing to bet, it was the only one of its kind on the island. Unfortunately, for all its lovely beaches and lively nightspots and exotic dancers, Rarotonga does not have free WiFi. Nowhere. Not one place.

And so what I ended up with was a rather expensive ebook reader. But, considering the actual hard-copy weight of the 24 books I had stored on the machine, the iPad was already proving itself to be a wise investment.

Now that I’ve returned to New Zealand, where WiFi is as common as running water, I am starting to take advantage of another great feature of the iPad: I can surf the Internet while in the bathroom. What was once dubbed “the library” is now called “the office.” And they say men can’t multi-task.

As an iPad owner in New Zealand, however, I’m still in the minority. They are expensive ($800 NZ) and largely unavailable in electronics stores, which seldom carry anything Mac anyway. Even the Apple dealer in town had to order his machine from the company’s website because he wasn’t going to be stocking any in his store.

Viking Woman wasn’t exactly thrilled at not being consulted on the purchase but that was before I found her reading one of the ebooks. And, just like that, “my” iPad suddenly became “our” iPad.

On those now-rare occasions when I can spirit my baby away for some “us” time, I have accessed the iBooks Store section to see which novels from my favourite authors are now available in the ebook format, as technology changes the publishing world forever.

Stephen King. Check. James Lee Burke. Check. Stuart MacBride. Check. Joe Hill, Elmore Leonard. Check and check.

Just on a whim, I did a search for my own book, Brown Girls. And there it was, available for $5.99 from Smashwords. Staring back at me from the screen of my iPad, as bright and bold and beautiful as the offerings of King or Burke or the others. As readily available to the whole wide world as those uber-talented best-selling bazillonaires. You can even download a free sample. How cool is that?

At one time, you had to go directly to the Smashwords website itself to buy Brown Girls as an ebook. The last time I checked, I’d sold two whole copies, including one to a faithful reader of this blog.

But now that the purchase of my book is a mere tap away from those 15 million people who bought the first version of the iPad, surely my words would be selling like the proverbial hotcakes. Right?

And . . . no. Available for some three years now as an ebook and, after much jumping through hoops, finally given Premium Status in April last year, Brown Girls has yet to make me rich.

This is all a bit disheartening but all I can do, really, is get on with writing another . . . wait. What?

Apple is releasing iPad 2?

Dear Son: Meet me in Vegas. It’s urgent. Oh, and don’t tell Viking Woman.

“You should leave Brown Girls alone for awhile,” Viking Woman advised me the other day, “and work on your other novels instead. See if you can’t get those ones published.”

Yeah, good one, honey. Because, after 20 years as journalist, being reduced to washing soiled knickers in a seniors’ residence isn’t humiliating enough. Now you want me to return to banging my head against the front gate of the Ivory Tower of Publishing? I’ve done that for a dozen years now — I have so much disappointment stored up, I could bottle and sell the stuff.

I have a confession to make: I only write for money. That’s why I made such a good reporter — if someone paid me the big bucks, I’d put my blood and soul on the page for them. I’ve worked the equivalent of several months’ worth of unpaid overtime to polish those words into precious nuggets of stories. Pay me every two weeks and I’ll die for you. Or, at the very least, type very fast.

In basic terms, money = words. No money = I’ll be over here in front of the TV.

Except that isn’t how it works when it comes to publishing a book, is it? In that business, you put your blood and soul on the page and all you get in return is a stain on that page where the literary agent spilled his coffee when his secretary used a bit too much teeth while administering her boss’s morning blow job.

Simply put, I’m a mercenary. I don’t possess a burning desire to write. I don’t have words bulging out of my brain demanding to be committed to paper. I’m not awakened in the middle of the night scrambling for a pen because a fully-formed plot arc burst forth from a dream like one of those Alien chest-bursting things.

Writing is hard slogging and I like to be rewarded for my efforts. I once had a student job where I was paid at the end of each workday and loved it. It’s all about instant gratification, baby. I want it all and I want it now is, I believe, how Freddy Mercury once put it.

Even this blog was started with the idea of scoring cash via Google ads. Except, according to my sources, only one blogger in the entire world — Heather B. Armstrong — actually makes any serious money from ads on a blog site. That’s because she’s not afraid to — figuratively speaking, of course — put her vulva on display for her fawning mommy fans. And, one suspects, because her husband spends his time using random computers to log in 50,000 times a day. Lucky bitch.

So the only reason I bother writing this blog at all is to embarrass my children and leave a legacy for their offspring. Good ole Gampy Bitemymoko, they’ll all reminisce one day, he sure was a miserable old fart. But cuddly in a lumpy sort of way.

Having the tenacity and the ambition to stick to a writing routine no matter what the future of the project is why I admire my UK friend at newtowritinggirl.wordpress.com. This English rose is participating in the annual NaNoWriMo competition. I’m not quite sure how that abbreviation rates on my Lame Scale, but it stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal, according to nanowrimo.org, is to complete a 175-page (50,000 words) novel between 12:01 a.m. Nov. 1 and midnight Nov. 30.

NeToWriGir (as I like to call my UK friend) is keeping track of her daily output in her November blog postings and, to date, appears to be doing her best to bang off the 1,667 words she’ll need to average each day to reach her goal. I have no idea what her novel is about but maybe, if I send e-chocolates, she’ll let me read it when it’s finished.

While I wasn’t involved in a competition at the time, that’s pretty much how I wrote the first draft of Brown Girls. My goal was to average 1,000 words a day and thus be finished in 120 days. I maintained that average for several long stretches at a time, amazing myself in the process because I don’t nornally tend to be very disciplined, especially when it comes to coffee and O’Ryans sour-cream-and-onion chips.

In the end, it took me some 270 days to finish the book, but that included a number of drafts and several weeks of editing and snipping and polishing.

Was it worth nine months of my time? My bank account would issue a resounding no. But I (and several others, including the Langley library) now own a book with my name on it. When it comes to having your ego stroked, nothing feels better (and you won’t spill your coffee in the process).

Should I turn my attention to the Brown Girls sequel and the other five or six novels I have stored on my computer in various stages of completion? I’m going to say yes.

And I’m going to start tonight — right after I check what’s on TV.


You can buy Brown Girls at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1937.