All posts by kowhaico

About kowhaico

A writer from teenage years, I have spent many years writing for others: journalist, website writer, creator of adult education both online and off,. Now I'm writer fiction for myself again and my passion is flowing. I give thanks for the generous authors and writers who feedback their experiences and support others,like me, to improve and grow.

Review: Scarlet and Magenta

Scarlet and Magenta is a recently released historical novel by New Zealander Lindsey Dawson writing about Victorian times in the country’s (then) remote township of Tauranga.

ScarletMagenta (2)

Reading an historical novel as a woman entrenched in feminist beliefs is a challenge. You want the hero(ine)s to succeed against the entrenched patriarchal beliefs even though you know that likelihood is zilch. I imagine writing such a novel is equally frustrating because of the limitations of historical accuracy.

Colonial wives and lives curbed

Dawson, however, empathetically strides alongside her two colonial wives as they grapple with the understanding that their gender renders them silent in the decisions about  life. Even in the sphere of domestic and cultural pursuits, their production is monitored and curbed by husbands and society’s beliefs.

Violet’s past haunts her while her ambitious husband bullies her almost into submission. Anna has a more magnanimous husband and her rebellion is less dramatic than Violet’s.

My reservations

The character of Rupert is developed through the eyes of the two women and Anna’s husband. I felt this hampered a full rounding out of a charming man bent on self-destruction. 

I loved the book, but I felt that Dawson hurried the conclusion. Although the plot  ends are tied up nicely, by using a jump forward in time, I believe that a little more unfolding of the story could well  keep the reader enthralled.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Review: The Ninth Hour

by Alice McDermott

If you’ve watched the TV series “Call the Midwife”, then you’ll feel right at home reading “The Ninth Hour” by Alice McDermott. In fact I had to remind myself that this story of selfless nuns was taking place in Brooklyn, New York, not the south end of London after the war. McDermott’s novel portrays many universal themes of women’s oppression around that era, and the consequences of being poor and sick.

A rather bleak story, the novel offers insights into the lives of these religious women and illustrates the self-motivation required to give your life to God. With their focus on finding workable solutions for the unfortunate people they work for, occasionally they have to bend the rules. For Annie, an Irish immigrant who came to America and was widowed early, life was extremely bleak until the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor stepped in to give pregnant Annie a job in the convent’s laundry.

Annie and her daughter Sally live a cloistered life, eventually leading teenage Sally to believe that her calling is to join their religious order. The outcome of this decision demonstrates the internal struggles of boundless love for one’s fellow humans, and how challenging this can be for women in religious orders.

McDermott shows rather than tells her story, challenging the reader to read between the lines and understand the true meaning of sacrifice for these women as they struggle to improve the lives of those they serve in their community.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

Review: His Father’s Will

By Suzanne Clark

You know you’ve read a good book when you start slowing down because you don’t want the book to end. That is how His Father’s Will by Suzanne Clark gripped me.

Mainly based on Sue’s own grandfather’s life story, the book is written as a novel, yet it brings home so clearly the contrasts of pioneer life in New Zealand and the life risks faced by so many children in the early 1900s at an age when today’s youngsters are joyfully anticipating a transition from pre-school to primary school. Nowadays the rules of Health and Safety may be seen as restrictive, but the comparison offered by the life journey of Will and his five siblings will fill you with awe.

Family Skeletons

The novel is filled with iconic New Zealand scenery, history, pioneer trappings and tools which add to the flavour of the tale. There are good and bad or ‘trapped’ characters as well as the helpful and kind – each helping to flesh out the story of Will son of William Tyrell.

Sue’s writing is easy to read and the storyline holds your attention, which is probably a challenge when based so closely on the real life actions of a real life family. Family skeletons are unmasked, as are the institutions that were supposed to care for deprived children. Considering their tough upbringing most of the children lived beyond their three score years and 10.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

How Do Authors Become Known?


This morning I continued my research into how authors manage to promote their writing. First destination was Goodreads, which I registered for as a reader several years ago and rarely visit.

How do authors use Goodreads?

I got there after looking up about Auckland author Tina Clough, after seeing her comments about her favourite books in the Press (Saturday, August 5, 2017, p17). She is featured on Goodreads after the publication of her newest book: The Chinese Proverb.

This is Tina’s third novel posted on Goodreads. She has been a member since August 2013 about the time she published her first novel: The Girl Who Lived Twice. Her novels have been reviewed/commented on by 9 reviewers, but I was unable to read the reviews (there must be a way, but this technically challenged author (me) couldn’t find the right link).

What I discovered about Goodreads, thanks to Tina, was that authors have a number of ways to promote themselves on Goodreads:

  • You can blog
  • You can publicise your website
  • You can list your own book (books) as ones you are reading so it appear on lists
  • And you can add events (book launches/interviews/podcasts etc)

5000-strong support group

I was sure there were other ways to advance yourself as an author. So I went looking at other authors who wanted to ‘connect’ with me (I told you it was a long time since I’d visited).

I found out that Goodreads has a ‘group’ that is a Showcase for Readers and Writers. Within this community authors can bring a little hype about who they are and what they have recently published. It may be talking amongst yourselves, but who knows who might be reading!

Goodreads also sponsor a Support For Indie Authors website:

This is already in the 5000 plus membership range, but for $US12 per year shares a mass of information.

New Zealand support

In New Zealand author support comes in bucket-loads from the New Zealand Society of Authors (linked to the international organisation PEN). This organisation will publish a a supplied review of your work and share it with members on the month it is selected. The lists are accessed here:

Writers who belong to NZSA can be searched and I found a long time friend and children’s author, Helen McKinley, whose ‘Grandma’ series has been delighting children for a decade.

The NZSA now supports authors who are self-published and /or are eBook authors. In doing a search for my own name I discovered that I have not entered any information and I’m missing a huge opportunity. That will be rectified promptly.


Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

A Little Tea Goes a Long Way

I have been drinking Turmeric Tea recently. I started because of the hype around its potential to kill cancer cells. I continued because it tastes like the perfect thing to chase away winter ills.


Not that I’ve had any winter ills – merely a snuffle shared with us courtesy of a grandchild.

Turmeric tea is quite unusual compared to other teas in that it contains a lot of herbal material  in the typical turmeric colour – orange yellow. When water is added it looks like a bit of a vegie stew. The teapot needs a few minutes steeping until you achieve a strong tasting infusion that warms the back of the throat.


The hot and peppery taste takes some getting used to, but if it does as it is claimed: benefits your health and protects you from all those nasties, then get used to it, I say.

Turmeric comes from the rhizome (rootstock) of the Curcuma longa plant. The rhizome looks similar to ginger. To manufacture it, the roots of the plant are boiled, dried and then ground into a powder. Traditionally used in Chinese and Indian folk medicine and, of course, curries.

According to Dr Axe, “the powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities of turmeric have made it a precious commodity for ages! Referred to as “Indian saffron” in medieval England, turmeric wasn’t understood or valued for a long time. People used it as natural food dye instead of as the unbelievable healing agent it really is.”

Turmeric benefits

Claims for turmeric benefits include killing lung and bladder cancer cells and lowering blood cholesterol. Considering how prevalent these dis-eases are, turmeric should be prescribed in general medicine.

Known as Curcumin in scientific studies, turmeric tablets have been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth. Yet it has been found to be totally safe. One study that explored its potential to cause harm found it to be “harmless” in doses up to at least 8000 mg/day.

Harmless but powerful

”/HUMAN EXPOSURE STUDIES/ Twenty-five patients with conditions indicating a high risk of malignancy were given diferuloylmethane (purity, 99.3%) for 3 months. The starting dose was 500 mg/day, which was increased stepwise to 1000, 2000, 4000, 8000 and finally 12 000 mg/day. The patients received regular follow-up, including physical examination, weekly hemogram, and measurement of blood electrolytes and biochemistry parameters every 2 weeks. No adverse effects were reported at doses of up to 8000 mg/day.
[WHO ; WHO Food Additives Series 52 Curcumin (addendum); Available from, as of November 6, 2013:

Turmeric/curcumin up with the best

Another study compared the efficacy of “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” (e.g. asprin, ibuprofen, plus others) in their ability to suppress tumour cells. Curcumin (alias turmeric) was included in the study. The scientists’ conclusion was that: “Overall these results indicate that aspirin and ibuprofen are least potent, while resveratrol, curcumin, celecoxib, and tamoxifen are the most potent anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative agents of those we studied.”

Dosage is a challenge I often ponder. How can I be sure i’m consuming enough? This webpage has some useful information about a number of supplements. Well worth putting in your favourites.

Other helpful herbal teas

The next most popular studied herbs include garlic, cinnamon, ginseng, and ginger, all of which are reasonably accessible plants that can be added to the diet. Cinnamon is a great choice on top of the cream for a cappuccino, though I do wonder if the amount you’d consume in any one day would be sufficient to make a significant impact on your health.

Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author