Trampoline-building former paperboys build odd jobs marketplace app Ezy Peazy

Ezy Peazy is a digital marketplace for small tradie jobs, gaining many happy users in Auckland and beyond.

Success is snowballing for an Auckland odd jobs marketplace app created by a man who delivered the NZ Herald to homes for months while bootstrapping his software startup, Ezy Peazy.co.nz.

In 2019, New Windsor man Sumit Sharma began noticing inefficiencies in digital marketplaces which were trying to help Kiwis find a local handyman for odd jobs.   

Sharma had been made redundant from two jobs in the Auckland IT sector and by December 2019 began getting up for a 4am start delivering papers each morning then putting in long hours taking care of his daughter, aged 15 months at the time.

Sharma initially bootstrapped the business with income from those early morning NZ Herald deliveries.

Having previously worked in computing and cybersecurity, Sharma recruited a team to set up EzyPeazy.co.nz which matches people who post tasks which need completed (‘Posters’) with handymen and women to take care of the task (‘Taskers’) – all completed through an app which facilitates payment and resolves disputes.

Sharma discovered a co-founder, UI designer and “right hand man” in Amandeep Singh, who lives in Mt Roskill and has also worked as a Herald delivery person to support the startup. 

From Day One, the founders had a policy of being unafraid to step in and do jobs back when the app didn’t have enough tradies to guarantee that each posted job would find a matching Tasker.

“If a job comes up and it’s not being filled, we should fill in the gap, that became our ethos,” Sharma says.

“We are not afraid of doing any of the jobs listed on Ezy Peazy ourselves, so long as they don’t require professional certification and licensing. We have done a lot of landscaping jobs, weeding, digging gardens the whole day till our muscles and bones hurt for three days afterwards. We’ve taken care of plenty of moving jobs too. We even moved a whole three-bedroom flat all the way down to Hamilton.”

One of the most memorable jobs an Ezy Peazy tasker helped with cost many times more to drive to than it did to service, but gave the team a great customer success story and helped build Ezy Peazy’s kaupapa of fulfilling promises to customers.

“An old lady needed a three-seater couch at her house to be lifted and straightened. It was only a one minute job!” Sharma laughs, “But she had no assistance from neighbours or whānau, so we were happy to get that done for her.”

An interesting niche industry which came up on the Ezy Peazy.co.nz platform was trampoline assembly, which pays well and is so obscure that it is in high demand.

In fact, on Christmas Eve 2021, Sharma found himself hurriedly zipping around Auckland to assemble a total of three tramps, which each took over 90 minutes to assemble.

“We have become specialist pros at trampoline assembly and we can do it without looking at the manual now!” Sharma says.

Building trampolines, hanging drapes, installing a lock, moving house, trimming hedges and tiling a splashback are typical jobs listed on Ezy Peazy on any given day. Rather than taking business away from professionals in the phone book, Ezy Peazy is intended to fill in gaps and provide more work for professionals who may have experienced a downturn during Covid.

The next step for Ezy Peazy may be expanding into the construction industry later in 2022.

“We have a plan to facilitate more services from taskers – soon, every kind of job should be on Ezy Peazy.”

After proving itself in Auckland, Sharma expects Ezy Peazy to be available in other major centres.

Sharma also has a profit-sharing plan underway, as revenue begins to flow more strongly.

“10% of all profits have been going to the development team so far, and for the last quarter 10% of profit has been going to Taskers as bonuses. We also have a plan for 10% of profit to go to charity and if you’d like to become our charitable partner, please contact us from www.EzyPeazy.co.nz.”

Writers Up North achieves 300 members!! Yee-haw!

Michael Botur here, founder, caretaker, bankroller and janitor of WriteUpNorth.co.nz and its Facebook community, Writers Up North.

Just a quick note to announce I am VERY proud to see 300 people are now members of Writers Up North. And it’s not bullshit membership either, with people who live in the US and Nigeria and Sri Lanka trying to participate. These are real Northlanders and I like to think I’ve kept out anyone who isn’t a genuine Tai Tokerau-connected author to try and keep the community ‘pure.’

Anyway, before this post gets too Nazi-sounding, let me briefly go over what we are achieving and leave you to keep writing.

What we’ve achieved so far on Writeupnorth.co.nz/Writers Up North – the Northland Writers Network:

  • Since founding this digital community in 2015 because there was no other discussion board for Northland writers – and because the Northland branch of the NZ Society of Authors wasn’t publishing local writers or facilitating them to interact online – we’ve grown from zero members to 300
  • People are meeting and forming creative writing groups, book clubs, flash fiction groups and more
  • People are promoting their personal work and the work of Northland Authors, Whangarei Libraries, National Flash Fiction Day, Dirty Word Poetry, Poets @ OneOneSix and many other brands
  • We have massively raised awareness of who in Northland makes creative writing, who promotes it and who the experts and beginners are
  • We have developed a microscopic literary economy, which is cool, with money going to and from professionals based on book sales, marketing, printing, short story competition money and more.
  • Writers Up North has become a go-to noticeboard for a lot of the country’s main literary organisations to promote their events, workshops, competitions and announcements. Basically, they realise there’s a lot of literary talent up here to talk to.

What I hope we’ll see next:

  • More creative writing submissions
  • A volunteer to step up and take care of the digital admin now that Mike has done his seven years.

Don’t forget:

WriteUpNorth.co.nz has always been and will always be a publication platform for your creative writing. It’s designed to be one of the first places on which you can publish work which doesn’t have another digital home – and you’re assured that, with nearly 20,000 page hits and an active social media community, far more people will read your work on WUN than any other platform.

Thanks again everyone. Keep writing.

Mike Botur

Whangarei

Why you should enter the 2022 Sargeson short story prize – 16-18 year olds + adults’ Open Division

This year the prize has an Open Division with a $10000 prize and Secondary Schools Division for those aged 16 to 18.

With a $500 first prize and a week-long writing residency at the University of Waikato, it is a fantastic opportunity for young creatives to see where their work could take them.

https://www.waikato.ac.nz/fass/about/school-of-arts/english/sargeson-prize

Ryan Holiday on finding the strongest reason to write your book


So You Want To Write A Book? “Want” Is Not Nearly Enough

This blog post comes from https://ryanholiday.net/so-you-want-to-write-a-book-want-is-not-nearly-enough/

Botur recommends Holiday’s book ‘Perennial Seller’ which explores how and why authors can create books that last.

Painters like painting, the saying goes, writers like having written.

Are there exceptions to both sides of this rule? Of course. But anyone who has run the gauntlet and written a full-length book can tell you, it’s a grueling process.

You wake up for weeks, months or years on end, and at the end of each working day you are essentially no closer to finishing than you were when you started. It’s particularly discouraging work because progress feels so elusive. Not to mention that the pages you find yourself looking at rarely match what was in your head.

It’s for this reason that “wanting” to write a book is not enough. It’s not therapy. It’s not an “experience.” It’s hard fucking work.

People who get it into their heads that they “may” have a book idea in them are not the ones who finish books. No, you write the book you HAVE to write or you will likely not write it at all. “Have” can take many forms, not just an idea you feel driven to get out. You know, Steig Larsson wrote the Dragon Tattoo series to pay for his and his wife’s retirement.

If you honestly think you might be fine if you nixed the project and went on with your life as though the idea never occurred to you–then For The Love Of God, save yourself the anguish and do that. If, on the other hand, this idea keeps you up at night, it dominates your conversations and reading habits, if it feels like you’ll explode if you don’t get it all down, if your back is to the wall–then congratulations, it sounds like you’ve got a book in you.

Some tips:
-Writing a book is not sitting down in a flash of inspiration and letting genius flow out of you. Most of the hard work is done before you write–it’s the research and the outline and the idea that you’ve spent months refining and articulating in your head. You don’t get to skip this step.

-One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was to–before I started the process–articulate the idea in one sentence, one paragraph and one page. This crystallizes the idea for you and guides you on your way.

-Taleb wrote in Antifragile that every sentence in the book was a “derivation, an application or an interpretation of the short maxim” he opened with. THAT is why you want to get your thesis down and perfect. It makes the whole book easier.

-Read The War of Art and Turning Pro.

–James Altucher wrote a very good post on “Publishing 3.0” over the weekend. Read that.

-Don’t think marketing is someone else’s job. It’s yours.

-Envision who you are writing this for. Like really picture them. Don’t go off in a cave and do this solely for yourself.

-Do you know how a laptop feels when you think you’ve closed it but come back and find out that it’s actually never shut down? That’s how your brain feels writing a book. You’re never properly shut down and you overheat.

-Expect your friends to let you down. They all say they are going to give notes but few actually will (and a lot of those notes will suck).

-Work with professionals. If you’re self-publishing, that means hiring them out of your own pocket.

-When you hit “writer’s block” start talking the ideas through to someone you trust. As Seth Godin observed, “no one ever gets talker’s block.”

-Plan all the way to the end, as Robert Greene put it. I am talking about what the table of contents and the bibliography are going to look like and what font you’re going to go with. Figure out what the final end product must look like–those are your decisions to make. Or someone else will and they’ll make the wrong choice.

-Good news: You used to have to worry that no one would ever see this thing you put your whole soul into. (It’s such a scary thought that John Kennedy Toole killed himself over it.) Well, you don’t have to worry about publishers rejecting you anymore. Obviously, it’d be better to have a major house backing you, but remember, you can always self-publish. So fuck ‘em if they reject you.

-Have a physical activity you can do. That will be the therapy. Trust me, you’ll want the ability to put the book down and go exert yourself. Plus the activity will keep you in the moment and many of your best ideas will pop into your head there. (Personally, running and swimming work for me.)

-Have a model in mind, even if you’re doing something totally new (read The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry if you’re interested in this psychologically). Thucydides had Herodotus, Gibbon had Thucydides. Shelby Foote had Gibbon. Everyone has a master to learn from.

-Plan for it to take longer than expected. Way longer.

-As Fitzgerald wrote in The Crack Up, avoid the temptation of “going to somewhere to write.” You can write anywhere–the idea that you need to travel or go away to put words down is often just a lie or a procrastination. (That being said, for my first two books, I moved thousands of miles away to places I didn’t know anyway. This can work.)

-You’ll “lose your temper as a refuge from despair.”

-Don’t talk about the book (as much as you can help it). Nothing is more seductive (and destructive) than going around telling people that you’re “writing a book.” Because most non-writers (that is, the people in your life) will give you credit for having finished already right then and there. And you’ll lose a powerful motivation to finish. Why keep going if you’ve already given yourself the sense of accomplishment and achievement? That’s the question the Resistance will ask you at your weakest moment and you might lose it all because of it.

-“Don’t ever write anything you don’t like yourself and if you do like it, don’t take anyone’s advice about changing it. They just don’t know.” – Raymond Chandler

Everyone has their own tricks and rules and they’re going to be a little different than mine. I’m not saying every single one of the tips above will work.

But the idea around which they are based is not a controversial one. Books are hard. As in one of the hardest things you will likely ever do. If you’re only marginally attached to your idea or the notion of writing a book, you will not survive the process. “Wanting” is not enough. Write the book you HAVE to write, and if you’re not at that point yet, wait, because the imperative will come eventually.

The good news is that everyone who has been there understands. They remember and empathize with Thomas Mann’s line, “A writer is someone to whom writing does not come easily.” You can ask them for advice. They will be, in my experience, incredibly understanding and approachable.

Good luck. And don’t let this kick your ass.

This Is Your Fault

by Michael Botur

We’re ordered out of the beer garden so sudden we feel the wind against our faces, steered down the path away from the bar and the barbecue ribs and the shrieking girls JJ has just tossed his drink over.
Three seconds ago me and JJ had heat lamps cooking our shoulders, we were loving the night, deep and welcome. Now we’re exiled in the barrens outside PubGrub, wobbling over the gutter, trying to remain on the edge between the kerb and the black car park, as if we might catch our balance and march back into the light.
Nah, bro. Can’t walk back into the pub. It’s hard to stand our ground. The right thing to do is say sorry for the ruckus and leave. We fall a couple inches onto the hard tarmac. Scrapes and bruises and dropped ciggies. JJ’s ranting at the bouncer that he’s gonna fucking sue the shit out of her, not that she’s even a bouncer, she’s Kat, the pierced-like-a-voodoo-doll bar manager with the purple hair who’s told us to leave. Kat, legs planted like road cones, is blocking our return into PubGrub, searching in a potted plant for the vape that JJ elbowed out of her mouth. She picks it up and all three of us can see the vape’s cracked.
‘Villeeeee.’
She’s hollered for rock-solid Fijian chef Vili to come help her finalise the kicking-out of JJ and me. Mostly it’s JJ who’s being booted out since he was the one ranting at the staff that if they trespassed him he’d come back and Burn this fookin place to the ground, mate.
JJ was exiled from Scotland for partying too hard. He’s brought a way-too-big partying spirit to our way-too-small town and we can’t handle him. As his wingman, I can barely keep up. I clean up his messes every night we go out drinking. I do his sorries and pay for the windows he breaks. Tonight’s just typical.
We disappear through an alley of dumpsters and kegs and a recycling bin spewing cardboard, storming away all indignant, JJ trying to press his foggy, dust-spattered specs back on his eyes, complaining about “Me fookin twisted ankle” in that exotic, aloof accent of his, and I fall into the space behind him, panting, trying to keep up, Hold up, hold up, ohmygod, bro, that was sick, hold up.
We come around a corner and collapse against a statue in the cobblestoned mall, chests puffing, wiping the laughs out of our eyes in the orange and black lights of Cameron Street, two boys owning downtown.
God, dude. My life was vanilla as fuck before I got paired up with Jay. These adventures, man. Like a drug.
JJ pulls a tile off the statue, smashes it on the ground, kicks the rubble, wincing as his ankle reacts. I look sideways for security guards or cops. We’re blessed with an eerie amount of grace right now, lucky no one’s got their arse kicked. I’m lucky my wife said at couples’ counselling a year ago she would permit me to go out and find new friends. Live a little. Buddy up with a crazy person, do an apprenticeship, reconnect with your sixteen year old self, she told me. Go to gigs and strip clubs then come home and be a better husband. Loosen up.
Totes, honey, totally. Tonight’s been like Disneyland on acid. Wild and hot and lucky. It’s definitely time to head home.
‘That’s our luck, man, all used up,’ I tell JJ. Our chests have gone cold now. We light fresh cigarettes. Final smokes of the night. ‘Better go home, catch the missus before she goes to sleep and wakes up all pissy.’
‘Get tae fook,’ the raving Scotsman tells me. ‘Ah’ve got half a pint in there.’
‘Dude– ’
‘You need us to liven your night up for you. Is that not what ye use us for? I’m goin back in.’
‘Jay!’
He’s away, ten metres in a blink, then twenty, limping as fast as he can, shoelaces trailing behind his gimpy sprained foot. I try to dawdle on my statue, try to text my wife telling her I’ve had a wild night and it’s time to come home but that costs me two minutes and by the time I look up the mall is empty and I’m sprinting after JJ’s ghost towards the pub noise at the end of the alleyway where a beer jug is shattering and a girl is screaming and male lungs are bellowing and there’s a white XXL chef suit with a huge body in it throwing off a woman trying to restrain him so he can batter the man that lies flattened with an upturned table on his head.
My friend has been smashed into the cobblestones, lights out. Cold and flat as a corpse. Four girls in white dresses are spattered with barbecue sauce from a plate of ribs JJ seems to have thrown around. Vili, a tree-of-a-man with a neck thick as my thigh, is twisting and shrugging people off him, walking away back towards the kitchen, finished with this time-wasting shit, then he’s spinning back to stoop down and waggle his knuckles in front of JJ’s nose like smelling salts as JJ groans and wakes. Kat, soaked with beer, is trying to press her head against big Vili’s chest and nudge him back up the slopy path, indoors, and Vili accepts this at first, ‘It’s cool, it’s cool, sorry ladies,’ he’s saying to the sauce-spattered girls, pulling a flannel from his pocket.
I’m thinking it’s been a typical Tuesday night with JJ, he’s recovered from a hundred of these booze-melted blowouts, I can haul him up off the cold stones, let him wake up, arm around my neck, nurse the bro home, duct tape his broken glasses, give him a shower, soak up his hurt feelings, roll my eyes at his pledge to never spend another cent at PubGrub, and I’ll post a status update about our wild night and how we’re invincible together when my stupid mouth says in terribly-timed quiet spot ‘Get up, bro, fuck that pussy-arse nigger, he’s nothin,’ and big Vili turns back, throwing off his restraints, walks up towards JJ, who’s in a push-up position, aims for JJ’s head, kicks him back to sleep.

*
The rehab people in the outpatients department have put JJ in a big draughty wooden mansion with old oak trees like brown dinosaurs dripping leaves on rusted cars. Creaky steps, groaning deck with rotten timber. This rehab place, it’s never locked. Nothing worth stealing. People in and out. Broken, taped-up, recycled. It’s a flophouse for people with traumatic brain injuries. The house is exhausted, sagging stairs and fading lino and water-stained ceiling, like it’s been shaken up in a washing machine. Nowhere near as nice as the drugaholic-workaholic party-apartment he used to romp around in with the air hostess he was fucking whatever week. He’s had a brain bleed from being walloped in the skull with a size 13 work boot. Had a mild stroke which hurt his face muscles only a little but the real damage was his personality, which is rage-ier now. Resentful, bitter. Can’t work. Can’t afford an apartment. The government pays his rent now.
I find my friend sitting in a leather armchair in front of a silenced TV game show, smoking and glowering, tapping his ash on the carpet.
‘Good to see you, Jay. Brought you a house plant. It’s like a wisteria or something.’
‘That’s your apology, I take it? Wifey tell ye to give us that?’
It’s true.
My throat is empty.
‘First she tees up our little friendship cause our girls is at school thegither. She says jump, you say how hi. Eh? Chuck’er over there, ya softcock. Only plant this lad needs is Jamaican, ken wha ah’m sayin?’ JJ pulls a bong from beside the arms of his chair and takes a heavy suck. Bubbles under his chin. He offers me a toke. I decline, mumbling something about drug testing at work. JJ calls me a gaylord.
I push aside pizza boxes and stick the plant somewhere out of sight. It’ll probably die.
For six long minutes, we watch a woman on the telly in a tight dress change some tiles with letters on them.
‘Have a seat, anyway,’ JJ finally goes, gnashing and snarling til his glasses sit right on his nose. He’s texting someone frantically. His ex, Ananya, I guess. She’s told me he’s been hassling her for the past six months. Criticising every inch of her life. Sending her barbs and spears. Catching her off guard whenever she thinks she’s free.
JJ’s trapped in a broken world. He kicks and claws. Furious, inside and out. All the bad shit in JJ’s life is the fault of whoever’s in front of him.
‘Beers’re in the fridge.’
‘Can’t drink, man. It’s 3.30. I took the afternoon off work and everything.’
BLERRRRRRB. JJ belches for four long seconds, filling the house with gas. I cringe.
‘Be a bumboy, then, suit yesel.’
After JJ had his overnight stay in hospital to check his brain bleed was contained, he got moved on and his money got all fucked up. He’d had a pretty-alright income delivering canned drinks, giving free Monster Energys to the birds at dairies and service stations, giving them a taste of an alien party animal, getting phone numbers, racking up Tinder bangs. 118 girls, at last count. He can’t work now, though. The vibrations from the delivery truck would likely rattle the clot loose in his brain and it’d give him another stroke, the Outpatient nurses told us. Dude’s not allowed to drive, be around fireworks, smoke ciggies, eat salt or operate heavy machinery.
He can’t do customer service either, cause of all the fury and eruptions and swearing. I’m starting to think maybe I’m here to absorb all that shit.
JJ presses pills out of a blister pack into his mouth and washes them down with a long, thirsty glug of beer. Anticoagulants, I assume. This week my wife stayed up late with me, pillows between our backs and the wall, researching what to expect for someone with his condition. What kind of punishment the next ten years might hold for us both, cause I know that’s how long I’m stuck with him. Chained to my friend.
‘Here Malky,’ JJ says at last. He creases and uncreases a small leaflet. ‘Readthus.’
‘Uh – Mark, man. I’m Mark.’
‘All the same to me,’ he snorts. JJ’s still fixated on the TV. His face hardly moves. Some of the muscles are paralysed cause his motor cortex got all bruised from his stroke. Squished his brain like a lemon. His eyes peer out from the black shadow under a permafrown. Tired lines. Hot pink face. His cheeks are dirty, unshaven.
‘Go on, read, if you wannae know,’ he says when the adverts come on.
He holds out the creased paper like it’s dirty. Finally I take it.
Life After A Stroke, it’s called.
In the pamphlet is a checklist of symptoms. Increased risk of becoming depressed, erratic, unpredictable, irritable, withdrawn, violent. Poor impulse control. Your friends may not understand sentences you think you’re explaining coherently.
‘Absolute horse shite,’ JJ says, sealing a spliff with his tongue, spilling tobacco crumbs on the hospital quilt on his knees. He changes the channel two, three, four times, then snarls as he scrolls through thirty channels before settling on NASCAR. ‘Do ah seem annae different to you, Mark?’
‘You still got that Elvis Costello look!’ I lie, ‘It’s all about the glasses, bro. Smooth-as.’
Truth be told, JJ has a mishmash of duct-taped black frames and lenses perched across the bridge of his nose. He looks like a homeless Clark Kent.
JJ takes a deep toke on his joint and blows a spear of smoke at me.
‘So you going to pay for me new specs?’
‘Um – like, I guess I could. If you want me to.’
‘Want, pal? WANT?!’ He shifts his armchair 25 degrees, adjusts the blankets on his lap. Points the remote control at the TV and mutes it. ‘Need, more like. You fookin owe us. Cause it was your fault. You know that, don’tcha pal. I’s gonna get up and batter the cunt, and there was you. Provocating.’
‘Um, do you mean provoking?’
‘FOOKING SMAHT AHSE.’ A hand snakes out of his dressing gown sleeve and waggles its finger at me. ‘We coulda walked away. But here’s you. Running that fookin mouth ay yours.’
‘Dude, I was – I was trying to help, I – I –
‘You enraged the brute with that racist shite. Did ye not?’
‘I RAN BACK TO HELP YOU, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.’
I stride to the door, snatching my phone and keys off the counter.
‘HOLD YOUR HORSES JUST ONE MINUTE, KIDDO. Walk out all ye like. But this is on you.’
I turn my sheepish shoulders round to face him. JJ winces as he hauls himself out of the chair. He lumbers across the room as if he’s in a full body cast, with crutches.
JJ slaps my cheek affectionately, pushes a coffee mug into my hand, pulls a half litre bottle of bourbon from his pocket and pours hard liquor into the mug.
‘I got a payout this week, I did. Compensation. Ten fookin grand, mate.’
He winks. My friend is back. ‘Ye need tae celebrate with us. Get your keys.’

*
We bore through the sunset until night makes everything look less risky. It’s my work van, and I’m not insured. Almost always a no-no. But this may be the last time I break the rules with my mate.
JJ cranks AC/DC on the stereo as loud as it can go, hollers the lyrics, air drums on the dashboard, steering with his elbows, glugging bourbon from a McDonald’s milkshake cup between his thighs. Don’t say this to anyone, mate, he told me one time when we were on acid, But I’m destined to be a Rockstar. Ah ken feel it.
He drives at 120 kays most of the way, incoming wind shaking his hair like a dog, lips flapping, howling every time we hoon past a speed camera. He hits 140 kilometres an hour on some of the straight flat stretches, even 151 at one point, overtaking eight cars and a truck. I hold the handle on the ceiling and shiver. Cold in here, with the windows down. Bared to the elements.
It’s supposed to be a two and half hour drive but we hit Auckland in 98 minutes, the glittering buildings growing large before us.
I pick the sleep crystals out of my eyes. I’d been hoping for a blissed-out sleep tonight. Watch a movie with my wife, kiss her belly-folds, eat pasta, drink wine. As I was talking to JJ, I was saving up critical nuggets in my mind. I was going to tell my wife about how fucked-up JJ is these days and how it’s good to be past all that and how blessed we are.
Guess I’ll tell her if I get back. When I get back, I mean. We won’t die, tonight, will we? Surely not.
We push over the hump of the Harbour Bridge. Sky City Casino blots out the clouds. A concrete ramp opens up, closes its mouth, swallows. We slide down its charcoal throat into the underground car park. Back when my life was boring and beige and I gamed every night til eleven, I would’ve dreamed of a road trip like this.
We corkscrew down a concrete ramp, pull up the handbrake and with a jerk, and the opportunity to escape ends. Not that I accept it, at first.
‘I think I’m gonna go home, man. Catch a bus or something. I can’t see you pouring your money down a toilet, yo. I have to head back.’
‘Get tae fuck. You been riding my success for years, mate. Can’t quit now.’
A bottle rolls off his seat and shatters behind him. He’s locked the car already. The keys are in his pocket. No way I’m getting home.
The elevator doors part and he struts inside. When the brushed steel halves open, we walk onto carpet thick and patterned with spades and diamonds which expands like an endless ocean under a black hot sky. Zombified people everywhere shuffling across the carpet, black hair and purple hair and silver and blonde, t-shirts and suits and cleavage. Floor-to-ceiling fruit machines, all ding-ding and CHING! and cherry and Egyptian themes, Isis and Osiris and dollar signs and chrome handles and pink buttons and sparkling ceiling and flinch and grimace and deep breath, bro. You’ll be outta here soon.
I back my boy up as he roams the black canyon with golden pillars and yellow caves. He needs two dollar coins, so I break a hundred dollar note and get him a pottle. Needs cigarettes, so I put thirty bucks into the Marlboro machine. He fails on the Top Dollar, picks up his stool and bashes the screen. He loses the Pharaoh’s Chamber and rages at it, too. ‘Third time looky, third time looky,’ JJ says then sits down at a computer game of baccarat on a towering computery thingy and wins four twenties, then five, then eight.
‘Dinner’s on me, ya cunt.’
JJ leads us to the buffet, suit jacket flapping over his black disco shirt with an old brown blood stain on it. He fills his plate with bacon and lobster and shrimp and blue cheese. He can’t stop staring at a Singaporean-looking woman with tattooed tits wearing a throbbing tiara at a table of hen party princesses and midway through his $40 dinner he walks over, dusting his hands, wiping his mouth, sits down and busts out some lines. Makes her laugh. Leads her first to the golden bar, then the darker wall, then into the disabled toilet. Minutes later, she stumbles as she comes out. Falls on her face. Her friends flock to pick her up. Drunk or high or roofie’d, JJ intoxicates people.
While I’m still agape, my friend, buckling his belt, drags me to a table of blackjack where an unimpressed Sikh dude wearing a dostar dishes up cards. My blackjack’s unlucky, I go over 21 three times, win one, then hit a patch of six sequential losses, urgh, seven. JJ meanwhile is tossing insults into the table. We lose to the Filipino guy who’s played five rounds, then the pair of English backpacker redheads. JJ loses ten rounds in a row, his chips and cards raked away, and stands up.
‘Me and you,’ JJ says to the dealer, a pious studenty-looking cunt whose brown eyes widen as my friend threatens him. ‘Oi: parking lot. Square go. One on one. Cause you’re fookin crooked, you are.’
‘C’mon Jay, we gotta –
JJ rushes at the dealer. I catch my friend around the waist, crush his wings. The Sikh dude steps a metre back, presses a red panic button, brushes off his uniform.
‘GET OFF US, YA BAD LUCK BASTARD!’ my best friend growls. ‘This is your fault! All of it! Get us a fookin room. Ah need a break.’
Hotel room it is. The Albert Suite. They pre-charge my credit card $480. My thighs freeze and tingle. But it’s okay, Mark, I remind myself. Because this is an exit payment. Cause this is the last time, and there is no way I’ll let a so-called mate treat me like this in future.
The receptionist girl slides a tablet across the counter. Malaysian. Exotic. A woman to consume and brag about, if one were JJ, of course.
But I can’t do that again. Cause I don’t work for JJ anymore. Not after tonight.
I type my details and wince at the bill – plus tax, plus tip, plus breakfast, plus parking – and scrawl a signature with my fingertip.
‘What’s aw this?’
‘You’ve gotta read it and sign it, Jay.’
‘It’s all in fookin Asian.’
‘Literally, man, it’s English, bro. Here – I can read it out to you.’
‘Fook that.’ JJ drains his cocktail and dumps his spiralling glass on the counter. He walks over to wait for the elevator, whistling.
I stagger after him, sobered from the shock of the bill. Four figures, now. A whole week’s wages wasted.
JJ waits in front of the elevator clutching his chest, exhausted and red-faced, his glasses steamed-up. When we finally get a ride up and make it down the hallways and keycard open the door, he falls onto the bed.
We’re in our hotel room now, which is good, okay, whew. Good place to cork the night, except just as I’m boiling the kettle and putting two teabags in mugs, JJ continues rolling – oh Christ, he’s doing a Mission Impossible, rolling towards the window – and my friend hits the wall, wobbles til he’s upright, somersaults off the bed, crab-walks across the carpet, opens the minibar and begins emptying bottles of chardonnay and Dutch beer and – dude, you’re not – opening the gin, for crying out loud, and sucking flame through his pipe, stinking up the room, some awful bleach-stinking shit that he exhales out window into the black honking city.
It must be thirty minutes before he realises I’m in the room with him. I’ve been listening to his heavy, agitated breath. His skin is crimson. Fresh creases around his eyes. Glasses all foggy and limp.
‘Bitcoin, mate. That’s the future. We’re investing. Tonight. Every day we leave it is another day we miss out. We’re gaunae need, Christ… about eight thousand for a decent buy-in. Whip your mobby out. Good lad. Mount Gox – go there and buy us a stake, mate.’
JJ picks up the remote control and begins scrolling channels. I pinch the bridge of my nose.
‘Dude, you already won a couple bucks downstairs –
‘ARE YOU FOOKIN LISTENING? I’m securing your financial future, y’ungrateful bastard. This is aw because of you, y’know.’
‘Whatever, okay, fine. I’ll lend you.’
‘And ah’ll need about a grand, mate, for the tables. T’raise the, ehrm, the start-up, y’know. Seed capital.’
I sit against a wall, down on the carpet where the Sky TV magazine lives. ‘Dude. It’s, like – it’s two o’clock in the morning. You need to hold onto your money.’
‘Aye. My money’s mine. And I’m calling in what you owe us.’
‘I don’t owe–
‘THIS IS YOUR DAEIN. ALL A THIS. So dinnae say another fookin word. Kappish?’

We ride the elevator in silence. We know we’re on the casino floor when two men and three women with black tuxedos and white smiles spotlight us. JJ splats down $300 on roulette, walks away with $410, snorting. I’m a dick for ever doubting him.
Over to the baccarat table. JJ loses $500, then I stand behind my friend as he sits in on a game of poker, two dialled-in players from Dubai, three humans and a dealer, failing on a hand of Texas Hold’em, then JJ demands the game change to five stud and they send him to another table but not until JJ has demanded the dealer’s full name and address and told him Your days are numbered, pal.
I’m still in JJ’s shadow as he hauls his fuming frame over to the bank window and flirts with the tired girl on duty behind the bulletproof plastic, playing with her braids.
‘MARKO, YA TIGHTWAD, GIT OVER HERE’N GIZ SOME DOSH.’
I’m doing the maths in my head. Add up the money lost from the time off work, the petrol to drive down here, the four hundred for the suite, a hundred bucks of booze from the minibar, the thousand he’s going to spend in the casino then of course food downstairs, plus car parking, and adjust for inflation, with a koha on top and surely we can part ways now that I’ve paid the guy five thousand, maybe six. This, this last thing: this can be it. Exit fee. Payment for parting ways. Cheers for the years.
I swipe my American Express and drum my fingers. The girl – African; fuckable; worth 82 out of 100 points on the scale me and JJ created – continues to stroke her braids, unfazed, like she gets losers with their cards declining every night.
I try my work Mastercard and after half a minute of ticking screen it’s declined.
The only other credit card is this Gem Visa that IKEA issued to me when I got that lounge suite on hire purchase. JJ yanks it out of my fingers, sticks it in the electronic device, demands my PIN.
He’s thumping the counter while the device talks to the server.
A thick, wide bouncer comes and stands beside JJ and my bro says something sharp and the bouncer tries to pinch the smile off his lips. I’m distracted by the India-Pakistan match on a row of TV screens and when I look back over at the bank counter, the receipt is saying Declined.
I’m behind on the action, though. The bouncer is doing some kind of Heimlich manoeuvre, ass-fucking JJ, wrestling my red-faced friend away and out into the lobby. Arm around my friend’s bulging red face as he’s humped toward the escalator like a sheep that doesn’t want to be sheared.
I’m still behind the row of bouncers, twenty metres away when JJ throws two fingers up, yells ‘FOOK THIS’N ALL, ONE STAR ON TRIPADVISOR YA CUNTS,’ turns to march away, misses the top step of the escalator and plummets.
*

Rickety, this place. Painted ironic yellow, a happy colour for sad lives. Fragile; held together by wooden walls. As if that means everyone inside is delicate.
Used to be a Koha Care respite home I drove past every day, til it turned out this was going to be the place my best bro would live in for the second half of his life.
I enter through the sliding door, directly into the lounge. Roiling in here. Sticky summer.
I find my friend in front of a dock between a pair of speakers that plays music directly from his phone. His left arm scrolls through the tunes.
‘The Killers, you heard this yin? Glastonbury, 2012. Golden Days, mate. D’ye know ah took three tabs that day? Biggest fookin acid trip ae me life. Ah’s the life of the party, mate.’
‘Definitely, bro. Woulda been awesome.’
His blue eyes jab out from dark purple pits and spear me. ‘Ah would’ve been a rockstar. Right now. Ah’d’ve made it, definitely. But ah cannae get on stage like this, can I. Cause of what happened.’
‘Cause of what happened,’ I repeat in a watered-down voice. I roll a cigarette with a few hairs of sticky tobacco-moss, shove it in his lips and light it for him.
‘Ye’r gonnae load us up, aren’t ye, Marko.’
I blink, shake my head a little. ‘Where are we going?’
‘I didn’t say tae ask oos a bunch ay questions,’ says the talking head with the unmoving body beneath. ‘I says tae load us into the fookin van.’
Selling my car has cost three or four hundred in admin and auction listing fees and time off work to get it ship-shape to be sold – at a loss. I bought a people mover for JJ to roll his wheelchair into. It cost $9000. Modifying it to include a hydraulic ramp was $3500. Then separating from my wife. Cause she says I don’t see her when I look at her. All I think about is someone else. That’s what she says – said? – says.
Separating cost half of everything.
Not much cash, these days. Lotta sixty hour weeks to keep up. Five credit cards to pay off. Overdraft, too. And the payday loan.
I load JJ into his cradle in the vehicle, strap him in. I lean close and the rotten swamp-stench of his breath burns my eyes. I can feel JJ glaring at the world, eyes boring into my back as I drive.
I ease onto the road and begin cruising at a slow, safe, steady 45 kays an hour. We pass the kids’ school, its bright red slide swarming with joyful midgets in blue shirts. We pass PubGrub, the good-looking lunchtime cats sipping frosty glasses. Hit the industrial part of town, a thousand warehouse roofs. Smokestacks. Garbage dump, mountains of washing machines.
Apart from telling me to turn right or left or keep going, JJ won’t say where he’s taking us.
In the car – the van; the pitymobile – JJ tells me about busting a nut in his pants. Tells me about sucking her tits.
‘Ah’ve shagged 130 women now, young Magnus,’ he says, tapping his skull. ‘Memory’s not as dull and rusty as the boffins wannae convince us, eh?’
Next stop turns out to be Raumanga, with tired trees dripping tired leaves on fences.
‘Slow down, y’impatient knobhead,’ he tells me. He motions for me to steer into Second Avenue. We ease to a stop outside number 25.
It’s an exhausted property, half-screened away by bamboo, and inside is a frightened woman who doesn’t want to see us.
Ananya creeps onto the deck, looking around for help. JJ –at the bottom of two steps, hands on his wheels – begins accusing her of conspiring with the health board to cut back his prescription for morphine pills. Shouting, JJ pukes his rage out. I sit in the driver seat, drumming with my fingers. Wishing my life were better.
It ends after four minutes, though it feels like half an hour. The old white biddy next door is shrieking over the fence at JJ, filming him on her mobile. Jay picks shoes off of Ananya’s steps and throws them at her.
‘Hurry,’ I tell JJ, shoving hard to overcome the brakes on his wheelchair. ‘We have to be miles away from here, man. Cops are coming.’
‘PubGrub. Step on it.’
‘What?’
‘Ah’m late, ah’m late, for a very important date.’
‘You’re not… you’re not serious.’
JJ scowls through his glasses. I’m already driving. Pretty obvious he means business.
I’m wincing as I wheel JJ up the cobblestone slope and into the beer garden of the very same god damn pub that got JJ his head injury in the first place. I haven’t set foot in PubGrub since that night back in summer, back when life was open and promising. The ground is damp and black, now, moss growing in the cracks. I park my difficult mate at a table where a girl is fiddling with her phone – a girl in a stylish coat, painted fingernails, perfectly-balanced fringe above caramel eyes, way too sophisticated for my prick-of-a-friend. She’s brown-skinned with square, spiky black hair, two interesting piercings and a jaw that’s just firm enough to stand up to bullshitters. When she sees the wheelchair roll up to her table, she goes from looking bored to looking suspicious and bemused. God knows what lies JJ has been saying to her to persuade her to accept a date.
I brace for Kat to shout at me and fetch Vili to boot us out.
Kat’s too busy putting out menus to give us more than raised eyebrows. We’re not banned, it seems. She doesn’t care about us.
Bored, unwelcome, uninvited, without even being needed as a minder/nurse, I saunter into the indoor bar.
‘Want anything?’ Vili goes, wiping his hands on his chef jacket.
‘Bro – broooo. I’m so sorry.’
He blinks.
‘For us fucking up the place that night? Right?’
He shrugs like a shark that’s decided not to take a bite. ‘Let us know if you want something to eat. Just holler.’
While JJ works on his date, I play with a salt shaker, sip a caffe latte, dump three sugars in it to make my day a little happier. The place is mostly deserted except for the staff, plus JJ and his love interest. It’s like somehow all of us are working for JJ. Devoting the whole place to his pleasure.
‘It’s, like, 2 o’clock,’ I remark next time Kat comes past with rags and a bucket. ‘Look at JJ getting fucked-up. That’s cracked, eh. You reckon?’
‘Paying customer,’ Kat mutters.
2pm becomes 3. I watch JJ bombard the woman with words, sip beer, light cigarettes, dip French fries in aioli. I see the girl’s elbows, hard as the walls of a fortress, ease apart. She laughs, over and over, and gazes deeply into JJ’s stupid eyes.
God damn it. He’s going to bang her.
‘Kat.’ She comes, hovers, notepad out. I buy another coffee for an excuse to talk to her. I point at the gorgeous caramel model who’s now sitting on JJ’s lap laughing, their fingers scrolling something on JJ’s phone together. ‘That’s bullshit, right? Look at them, living it up.’
She shrugs. ‘But that’s what a minder does, innit.’
‘I’m not his minder, I’m his friend. He’s taking the piss, right?’
She shrugs again. ‘Can’t always pay with money, can ya. Speaking of which.’ Kat sets down the bill. Two hundred fuckin dollars already, and counting.
Vili, lugging a keg on a trolley, pauses behind her.
‘He’s unwell, isn’t he. Dude can’t help it. What’s your excuse?’
‘But it’s like being fucking punished, for fuck’s sake.’ I open my palms. Open my lips wide with exasperation. ‘Why’s this all happening to me?’
Vili and Kat look at each other and share a shrug.
‘Cause you’re his mate?’
*

Book promotion by Henry Roi PR – an affordable and effective service for Northland authors

Henry Roi PR is a public relations service for authors of most genres. Our Twitter service focuses on blog and Amazon reviews.

We get our clients an average of 20 book reviewers and 1,000 Twitter followers, every month, for just $60 USD.

Finding reviewers for your book is time consuming, and paid services are expensive and don’t always deliver.
We invite you to take a look at our work and compare our prices to other services.
Our current list of clients includes four publishing houses – Crime Wave Press, Close to the Bone, Odyssey Books and Hellbound Books – and several award-winning authors.
Please have a look at the Reviews section of our service Page to see what former and current clients think about our service:

20 book reviewers, 1000 real Twitter followers, every month, for just USD$60.

Please check out their website, Twitter or email for more information.
https://henryroipr.com/
henryroi.pr@gmail.com
@HenryRoiPR

How can we help you?
General book promotion
Reviews:
We specialize in recruiting reviewers who review on Amazon, Goodreads, Instagram or their blog. For $60 we will find authors an average of 20 reviewers in a month. (See here for other pricing options)
Social Media presence: Our review package above includes building up your twitter following by an average of 1,000 followers.
Using online resources: We can also provide advice and help on all aspects of online presence, including, using facebook to promote your book or your brand, and Amazon advertizing and promotions

Media presence:

We can work with you to secure online interviews, podcasts, radio and TV


Your book release
We can work with you to develop an effective strategy for your book launch (or relaunch), including cover design, cover reveals, publicity materials, advertising.

Blog tours
We have three subsidiaries that arrange 4 or 7 day blog tours ($100/$175).

Blackberry Book Tours:

Tours of books for children from birth to young adult.


Blackthorn Book Tours:

Dedicated to dark fiction, hosting tours in crime, thriller and Noir, the entire spectrum of horror, and dark fantasy.


Black Coffee Book Tours:

Dedicated to general fiction, including historical, contemporary and international; we don’t do romance, erotica or chick lit, but outside of that we are open to suggestions across a broad canvas.
For books that fall between genres, we will always work with authors to agree the most appropriate tour group to host the promotion.

All of our tours create a burst of media publicity for your book, with three reviews a day appearing in blogs, on Goodreads, Amazon and other sites, and intensive publicity throughout the period on Twitter and Instagram.

Editorial services
In some cases we can arrange proofreading and copy editing in house, to ensure that your book is perfectly ready for publication.

For authors who need more support in preparing their book, we work with a partner organsation, Sand Scribes, who can provide anything from mentoring as you work on your book, through to a full ghost-writing service.

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Commissioning our services
Our prices
For Book Tours, see the dedicated Blackthorn and Blackberry pages.

For general book promotion, our prices vary depending on the service(s) that you want. Most of our clients work with us on one month renewable contracts ranging from $60 to $150. More elaborate packages are available through our partner Sand Scribes.

We are happy to discuss your needs with no obligation. If you decide to go ahead, we will build a package that meets your needs and your budget. To discuss how we can work with your, reach out using the contact form below. Tell us about your book and where you are in your publishing journey, and we’ll try to help you get where you want to go.

Northland-focused story collection wins 2021 Adam Foundation Prize

A novel-in-stories set in contemporary rural Northland, which examiners describe as “shades of Elizabeth Strout in the effortless interplay of stories” has been awarded the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) 2021 Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing.

Sharron Came works as a regulatory strategist for renewable energy company, Mercury.

She wrote the winning manuscript, Peninsula, as part of her 2021 Master of Arts (MA) at the IIML, at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

Sharron says,“I’m stoked. This year has been a precious opportunity and a team effort. I’m super grateful for the camaraderie and regular booster shots of encouragement, inspiration and insight delivered by my talented and wise classmates. To our coaches, thank you for furnishing us with guidance uncluttered by prescriptions.”

Supported by Wellingtonians Verna Adam and the late Denis Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3,000 Adam Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the MA in Creative Writing programme.

The examiners, which included novelist Chloe Lane, praised Peninsula for its “restrained lyricism; exciting and unflinching voice; vivid and unexpected characters; a whole world seen in stories.”

“Sharron tells expansive histories within small stories,” says lecturer Kate Duignan, co-convenor of the MA programme. “Peninsula is a compassionate exploration of the inner and outer lives of people in a rural farming community over decades of change. It’s full of stoic, fierce people who brim with feeling, in rich and complex relationships with the land, and with one another.”

Sharron’s supervisor and Director of the IIML, Damien Wilkins says, “Sharron’s remarkable stories are full of energy and warmth. They can take in lives in just a few sentences. They’re also funny and surprising. Look out world!”

Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include authors Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall, Rebecca K Reilly, Eleanor Catton, Ashleigh Young, Hera Lindsay Bird and Tayi Tibble.

Flash fiction club’s anthology looks back on ten years

Whangarei Library 3.30 Flash writers are launching their first anthology of flash fiction celebrating ten years of meeting together and sharing their short, short stories.

The genre is known as ‘flash fiction’ – because ‘flash’ stories can be read extremely quickly. It has a growing following in New Zealand, with a National Flash Fiction Day, several publications specialising in flash and a range of competitions.

Michelle Elvy, Jac Jenkins, Martin Porter and Michael Botur are among New Zealand’s award-winning literary luminaries who specialise in flash, and are or have been local to the Whangarei district.

Kamala Jackson, Deb Jowitt and Sue Barker teamed up in mid-2021 as a steering committee to publish the anthology, with one goal in mind.

“These stories need capturing and celebrating or they will be lost and that would be a great pity. Over the past decade, our members have ranged from secondary students to gold card holders. Some are new writers who see flash as a way to start writing, others have had a long association with the arts. The group embraces all-comers and has shown remarkable stability over time,” Jowitt said.

“Members usually write 300 words for our meetings although stories of up to 1,000 words are acceptable. The resulting writings contain all the great themes of literature in these short, pithy and frequently poignant works,” Barker said. “Read in three minutes, these stories are often reflected on for days afterwards.”

Seventeen writers, as diverse as their stories, have contributed more than sixty works contained in the publication. Contributors well-known in New Zealand creative writing circles include Vivian Thonger, Jac Jenkins, Martin Porter and Michael Botur.

Kamala Jackson summed up the collection as

“Edgy and raw, quiet and insightful, sophisticated and polished, these stories by Northland authors will surprise readers with their variety.”

You Might Want to Read This will be launched at the Whangarei Central Library, May Bain room on Wednesday October 27th at 4.30pm, Covid 19 restrictions permitting. Several contributors will read their work on the launch night. Publication of the anthology has been supported by the Whangarei Council Creative Communities Scheme.

Image of editors from left to right: Deb Jowitt, Sue Barker, Kamala Jackson

October news from Northland writers

Heaps of news this month! Long may it last.

PLEASE SAVE THE DATE OF NOVEMBER 26 > we are trying to get lots of writers together at The Butter Factory in late November for some much-needed in-person bonding, book exchange, and readings from people’s latest books.

·  A flash fiction anthology is being launched on Weds Oct 27 at 4.30pm at Whangarei Central Library. It’s called You May Want to Read This and includes 17 writers’ work, edited by Lesley Marshall, with a beautiful cover by Rachel Rowlands.  Books for cash sale on the night. Friends and family welcome. Contributors will read from the book. The organiser for this project is Sue Barker (pictured up top).

·  Lauren Roche has achieved her Masters in Creative Writing with first class honours. Her novel The Anatomists’ Handbook is coming out soon. Details on her website and Facebook.

·  Annual end of year dinner and drinks for writers this year will be at The Butter Factory, Whangarei, Friday November 26 at 6pm. Mike Botur will post details on Writers Up North.

·  Whangarei’s Fringe Festival has been unfortunately cancelled due to Covid, so there won’t be a couple of literary events which were promised.

·  Michael Botur is launching a children’s book, My Animal Family, in November at Whangarei Central Library. The book introduces children to their place in the natural world and is packed with fun facts. It will be an interactive illustration class plus reading from the book plus books for sale. Illustration activities by local graphic novelists Shane Evans and Rico Searle.

·         Whangarei author Ataria Sharman’s latest Pantograph Punch interview Justice Hetaraka, a local Northland activist and student.

·  Linda Garner is a lifelong graphic designer who spent 16 years teaching at NorthTec. She would love to meet authors to discuss graphic design projects on books. Please get a discussion going with Linda on 02102227772 / lindagarner100@gmail.com

·  Tina Shaw’s Storyliners Northland book tour begins November 15 and brings authors to the Kaipara, Whangarei and Far North regions of Northland. All details here – please register.

·  Andy Bryenton is promoting his book Gad’s Army and has had his previous novel promoted in an Amazon promotion which resulted in success in September. Click through to read all about Gad’s Army’s Dargaville launch. https://www.kaipara.govt.nz/news/post/192-Author-evening-draws-good-audience

· Publisher New Holland is about to release Every Home Should Have One by Terry Moyle of Kaiwaka. The book celebrates the history of NZ appliances, with exquisite, original illustrations by Terry Moyle.  https://nz.newhollandpublishers.com/authors/terry-moyle.html

ps –

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