So here’s the story: I finish my latest book and shoot it off to the publisher and decide to check out what’s been happening on my website recently. A handy little piece of free software called STATCOUNTER lets me see who has been visiting and for how long and from whence they came.
I’ve been getting hits from all sorts of amazing places which might have to do with the fact that the audio book of my first novel has been hijacked and can be downloaded for free from multiple sites. The print tile is FAT, FIFTY & F***ED! but these web pirates are asterisk averse and I pop up if people google that particular word.
But suddenly folks in Arlington and Washington DC and environs are looking in. Plus people from US Navy's Naval Command Control & Ocean Surveillance Center and from SPAWAR (Space And Naval Warfare Systems Command). Mmmmm. My most recently published book had a plot involving a US Navy cruiser visiting Sydney and a couple of loaner nukes hijacked in Sydney harbour by members of the ships choir. Did I step on someone’s toes? Now I’m pretty sure when NSA and even more mysterious people look in on someone’s website they either don’t show up or appear as Ma & Pa Kettles Poodle Clipping Service and ISP from Broken Spoke, Wyoming. Or maybe this was just a couple of bored sailors from Pennsylvania wondering why someone would name a fictional American warship the USS Altoona.
But there is also the matter of the missing Vegemite.
Vegemite is the iconic Australian bread spread. A concentrated yeast extract, as in, ‘it’s 1930 and after we make all this great beer we have this revolting yeasty residue left over. Mmmmm, I wonder if it could be made into a thick, black, nourishing, salty spread that only an Aussie could love.’
I’ve been chatting recently with an American crime writing blogger who couldn’t find any of my books in the US at a reasonable price so I offered to send him one. I figured why not send him both the spy thrillers and with a little bit of space left in the end of the envelope and since we’d been discussing Vegemite I stuck in a tube. Traditionally Vegemite comes in glass jars but shipping these to homesick Australian overseas was fraught with problems so now we have a plastic tube option. Bastard, I hear you cry, trying to buy favourable comment with a gift of Vegemite. Believe me, any time you want to get on the good side of a non-Oz book reviewer try money because you sure as hell won’t do it with a gift of Vegemite.
I’m known for going off on strange tangents when I teach and here’s one;
Vegemite was available for a long time in a kosher version. Kraft discontinued it a few years back to the consternation and disappointment of the Australian Jewish community. Then it was re-introduced and on a couple of white supremacist websites (yes, we have those, too) this was misconstrued as the Jews having forced Kraft to make ALL vegemite kosher. The outraged posters who swore off Vegemite forever were heavily outnumbered by those who decided that their principles would only stretch so far when it came to what to spread on their breakfast toast. Ya gotta love Australia.
Back to the story. In an unusual moment of truthfulness for someone who writes fiction I listed the contents of the package as ‘Gifts - 2 books plus Vegemite.’ Now, I don't usually subscribe to conspiracy theories but there are some things you can't ignore: the parcel with an airmail sticker attached leaves Oz via Australia Post and eight week later is still undelivered. My website is visited by the US Navy and people in DC and Virginia. I buy a ticket in the most recent 30 million dollar Powerball lottery and do not win. Then I get the flu. Coincidence?
Or perhaps there’s just some bored postal inspector somewhere with his feet up reading SENSITIVE NEW AGE SPY while eating Vegemite on a toasted, buttered bagel. Be warned -- I'll be watching my statcounter for hits from USPS.