Tag Archives: New Zealand

Excerpt from “Black Swan Hunting”

Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash

Content Warning: this story alludes to spousal abuse and the assumed death/suicide of a distraught woman.

I’ve been working on a writing project idea for a murder mystery with lots of twists and turns. Just what everyone needs, right? I love murder mysteries that involve birds – I’ve been writing them since I was 8… though that one was terrible. It involved a frontier family being murdered and the daughter being brought back to life as a falcon who hunts down their murderer for revenge! He stole their family’s gold! Peck out your eyes because it’s a falcon with a gun! It got silly. I hope I’m better at writing murder mysteries now.

I fell in love with black swans while we were in New Zealand from December 2018 – January 2019. They behave differently than our North American sassy sociopaths that have a penchant for mauling small children along lakesides. Instead they are the more chill goth cousins that happen to be open about their homosexuality. That said, I would not put it past them to maul a child or two just for funsies on occasion.

How do black swans connect to this story? Well, that will be revealed in time. Let me know what you think of this brief preview in the comments.


The rain-soaked through Harriet’s trench coat as the mud swallowed her boots, belching with each step toward the fiery wreckage. Her umbrella braced against the torrential spring storm while the sergeant shouted over the pummeling drops. “Just spoke with the husband. Seems there’d been an argument and she’d taken off with the car a few hours ago. Someone in town says they saw her buying a bottle of vodka.” He paused and gazed at the flames spewing from the driver’s side window against the efforts of rescue workers. “A body is still inside, but it will be a few days before the official medical examiner’s report.”

Harriet’s heart sank. Another death on another stormy night. “How’s the husband?” She asked, shielding her eyes against a stinging attack of wind and infernal heat.

“Seems real broken up over it, but it sounds like a mate’s supporting him. Not much you can do here – you might as well go see him.” He ripped and folded a piece of paper, pressing it into her palm. “That’s the address.”

With a final glance at the war waging between emergency services as they continued to attack the blaze with billowing flame retardants, she slogged back to her car.

When Harriet arrived, the townhome glowed with two men visible through the front window. With her muddy boots in the back seat, she rummaged through her passenger seat finding only her gym bag for a pair of non-muddy sneakers to pull on over her damp wool socks. Taking a deep breath, she thanked God she was not tasked with delivering the bad news. Opening the car door, she scurried to the storm door, opening it and knocking as one of the silhouettes moved to greet her.

A familiar tall, slender man with grey temples answered. “Hello?”

“Sorry to disturb you so late, I’m Detective Dunn. Is John Morrisey available?” As she spoke, the recognition connected in her brain and her face reddened. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Rogers. No one informed me you were involved in this case.”

He opened the door with his face cast down, “The Morriseys are dear friends. Please come in, Detective.” Removing her wet sneakers in the foyer, she followed the man into the front room where a broken John Morrisey folded himself into the corner of the bay window. “John, there’s a detective here to see you.”

John lifted a head of dirty blond hair from his knees to reveal swollen grey-green eyes. “Is my wife really dead?”

Harriet swallowed. “I’m afraid the car appeared to have someone inside, yes.” Turning to look at the other man she motioned to a plush armchair and sat when he nodded. “It’s important that we ask questions as soon as possible to reduce lost information. Do you think you can help?”

John closed his eyes and nodded. “I can try.”

Harried pulled a notepad and pencil from her bag. “Mr. Rogers, were you also present?”

“Please, call me Dustin. I think it will help John feel easier.” Dustin sat next to John on the window seat, putting an arm around his shoulder. “I came over shortly after Libby and John fought.”

“What did you fight about?” Harriet jotted the date and time at the top of the page.

“I filed for divorce.” A tear escaped John’s eyes.

“And she did not agree?” Harriet pressed, a small point of graphite forming on the page where the pencil rested.

“Correct.” John nodded. “Our relationship had degraded since the birth of our daughter, Kedra.”

“How so?” Harriet scanned the two men as Dustin’s expression changed.

“There are police reports,” Dustin added. “Libby’s behavior had always been wild. But she started hurting both John and Kedra.” John nodded, his face red and breathing irregular.

“She’s just a baby! I had to protect her!” John sobbed. “When I told Libby we were moving out – that I was taking Kedra – she lost it. Fucking lost it. At first, she started hitting me until I said I was calling the police. Said I’d be sorry. Said I’d regret it.” John crumpled. “Then she drove off with our car and I called Dustin.” John wailed as an infant awoke somewhere in the house. “I never wanted her to die! She’s my wife! I loved her!”

Harriet watched John slide to the floor from the window seat, her hands gripping her notepad and pencil. “Do you know where she went after she left?”

John shook his head while Dustin’s shoulders slacked. “I called some of her friends, but no one had seen her.” Dustin stood up and walked from the room, returning moments later holding a crying child around a year old against his shoulder.

“About what time did she leave with the car?” Harriet frowned as John lifted his head and mumbled. “I’m so sorry, could you repeat that?”

“Five-thirty this evening.” John choked out through a sob.

Harriet wrote the time and stared at it. The accident report came in shortly after eleven leaving five and a half hours unaccounted for. She returned her gaze to John and softened her face, putting away her notebook and pencil. “John, I’m so sorry for you and your daughter’s loss.” Reaching into her wallet, she fished out two cards, passing one to each of the men. “If either of you thinks of anything or need anything, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’m going to go ahead and get out of your hair for the night.”

Departing the house she called her partner from the car – he’d know what to do. “Hey – have you started the case file on the Morrisey death?”

“You know I have.” Her favorite partner’s melodic voice responded. “More details?”

“The wife left the house with the family car around five-thirty in the evening.” She read off her notes. “Be sure to pull up all domestics filed on Libby Morrisey. It sounds like she had a record from the past year. The husband filed for divorce. He told her this shortly before she left the house.”

“I’ll have it all pulled by the time you’re here, dog.” Her partner grinned through the phone. “Drive safe – bad weather out there.”

“I will.” Harriet fastened herself into the vehicle and looked back at the house where two silhouettes faded into the background of a backlit bay window with pulled curtains just before turning out the lights.


Thank you for taking the time to read this draft excerpt today! If you would like to follow this project or see updates, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which stories and projects interest my readers the most.

Twitter Is A Strange Place For Global News Insights

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ as of 28 July 2020 at 3:10 PM U.S. Mountain Time (US MT)

At any given time the major cities around the globe are lit up on the Twitter activity heat map. They don’t sleep, but you’ll see after 5 PM things start to get busier for countries that run on a Monday through Friday work schedule.

For those of you losing your minds over that last statement, there are, in fact, countries that don’t run on the stereotypical Western work week. While I would love to get into how this is a detail I have yet to see a single author include while writing about these cultures, for now I will link the Wikipedia article here.

One of the great things about Twitter is that we can use it as an analytical tool to see what people are talking about across the globe and where they are having these thoughts exploding out of their brains and into a space limited to 260 characters.

So let’s go on an exploration of where the world is having deep thoughts reduced to hashtags/keywords using the free analytics tool One Million Tweet Map. I do recommend everyone to have fun and repeat this with hashtags and keywords you’ve selected. Please pick more positive/silly words than I did. I’m still questioning why I went the serious route. If you do repeat this, please tell me about it in the comments!

As a few notes before we begin, I took these map samples at a few different times to try and get the most interesting maps I could to then research what the related current events in the countries lighting up could be.

A Quick Survey

1. #covid19

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:52 PM US MT with search inclusive of all tweets using #coronavirus #covid19 #pandemic #covid #virus #socialdistancing #stayhome #corona #quarantine #lockdown

The coronavirus global pandemic is in full swing with the second wave commencing.

Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – well this one makes sense. The pandemic hasn’t calmed down much here. Our case growth rate has increased to 2% (at the time of writing) from when we had it down to just under 1% for that brief glimmer of hope amount of time… before everyone who doesn’t understand how disease transmission and eradication decided it was time to “go back to normal” without sufficient social structures and a Health Belief Model in place to protect everyone – specifically the most vulnerable members of our population.
  2. India – Currently holding at a 2.3% mortality rate, India has 1.5 million cases compared to 4.5 million in the United States. To put this in perspective, the population of India is 1.35 billion and the population of the United States is 327 million. It’s coming up in the news because, much like other disease outbreaks in India, the populations most impacted are directly linked to socioeconomic stratification. This is drawing media attention.
  3. United KingdomThe UK has the highest number of coronavirus related deaths in Europe. That seems like a very legitimate reason for it to be at the forefront of people’s minds.
  4. Mexico – Mexico, like the United States and the United Kingdom, is one of the most impacted countries. Partially due to the wealthy foreigners fleeing to tourism destinations at the beginning of the global pandemic. This has lead to the closures of over 150,000 businesses as Mexico struggles with to tackle providing economic support while stopping the spread. All of this during a time when Mexico reaches near record daily death tolls.
  5. Spain – Citizens of Spain fear that it is entering its second wave as talks of a second lock down loom. At the same time, Spain is attempting to save its tourism industry – a major source of strife during this global pandemic.

2. Keyword: economy

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:30 PM US MT with search term “economy”

The Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – The United States economy isn’t doing so hot. The Federal Reserve is leaving interest rates at close to zero. Some are arguing that the last financial quarter is the worst in United States history. Even Fox News is saying that the economy is only going to get worse with a second downfall expected.
  2. United Kingdom – Brexit is at the top of many minds it seems. The London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that businesses that escaped the fallout of COVID-19 will instead be destroyed by Brexit. The World Economic Forum predicts a slow recovery in early 2021 if the country can get coronavirus contained and controlled by the end of 2020. At this time it seems most of the concerns are tied to the economic impacts of the global pandemic combined with Brexit.
  3. India – It seems that economists are pessimistic about India’s recovery. The Reserve Bank of India continues to cut interest rates and India considers itself the 3rd worst economically impacted country – the first being the United States and second being Brazil. The ongoing border dispute between China and India contributes to this economic crisis. Other blame India’s economic reopening plans. Either way, for a third economic quarter, India’s GDP suffers.
  4. Australia – Economic news out of Australia tells a different story compared to the rest of the world. Expecting contraction and deflation, Australia expects only a 5% decrease in GDP. But that isn’t the whole story. Large numbers of Australians are unemployed and underemployed and others predict that Australia is approaching a fiscal cliff.
  5. South AfricaThe International Monetary Fund has provided $4.3 Billion in emergency support to South Africa. Retail sales collapsed to less than 50% of what they were a year prior in April, suggesting insufficient economic support during stringent lockdown procedures. With massive business closures in multiple industries and significant declines in spending, tax revenues have decreased. Restaurants in Johannesburg are protesting government actions while Business For South Africa (B4SA) predicts that the country is looking at a minimum of two years before any economic recovery begins.

3. Keyword: Black Lives Matter

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:35 PM US MT with search term “Black Lives Matter”

Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States – There is so much news. There is so much information available. I am not going to even try to provide a summary with links.
  2. Canada – The majority of news here is in discussion of what is happening within the borders of their southern neighbor or local news stories regarding racial injustices occurring within Canada – such as whether or not police should be responding to mental health crises instead of emergency medical workers. In Toronto, Black Lives Matter protestors issued a list of requests, including the removal of racist statues and restructuring of the Toronto police department, including the defunding of many of its units and resources. In the same city, over 2,000 artists signed a letter in solidarity with the movement.
  3. United Kingdom – Between Elle announcing that Women are the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK, the announcement of a Black Lives Matter TV series, the cancelling of London Pride’s joint event with Black Lives Matter, and active youth participation across the country, the UK is not an inactive leaf in the stream of history. Statues have become a major topic, leading one man to be jailed, police departments at risk for litigation, and one museum digging in its heels over the display of a statue of a slave ship owner. These events are inspiring intense art exhibitions, with some of the art inspired by this global movement going on to be displayed in Westminster.
  4. India – The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked necessary and pre-existing controversy over the cultural relationship between social status and skin color. Skin lightener brands, such as Fair and Lovely, is one of many targets currently being called out as an example of this frustrating example of colorism found throughout the country. The problem is that discrimination based on the color of skin is more complicated in India than I, or any American, can understand. At this point, requests are for concrete and basic anti-discrimination laws – a very different concept of need compared to what the United States and United Kingdom are seeing as protesters seek to bring social injustices to light. Even the Catholic Church is getting involved.
  5. Nigeria – Between calling for museums to return stolen looted goods, pride in Opal Tometi’s role in the American Black Lives Matter movement, the Nigerian Museum confronting Christie’s over the auction of stolen, sacred ancient artifacts, and the recognition that Nigeria is becoming a fashion capital of the world, there’s no shortage on news as to why Black Lives Matter is trending there.

4. Keyword: New Zealand

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 3:39 PM US MT with search term “New Zealand”

The Top 5 countries tweeting about this are:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. Nigeria

I’m going out on a limb here and saying people are talking about New Zealand for reasons that have not that much actually having to do with events going on in New Zealand… Just a hunch… After looking at articles and deciding they were too depressing to list here.

5. Keyword: Food Shortage

Source: https://onemilliontweetmap.com/ at 4:10 PM US MT with search term “Food Shortage”

Okay, seriously, why did I think these depressing searches were a good idea?

Top 5 countries tweeting about this:

  1. United States – Conflicting information arises as I do my investigations. Despite the USDA continuing to say there are no food shortages, supply chain issues are resulting in empty grocery store shelves across America. Food manufacturers are cutting corners and changing their recipes, and with the USDA and FDA’s permissions, food allergy labeling and ingredient labeling standards are less stringent, resulting in Americans with food allergies no longer being able to trust food labeling (as an aside, I am among them and recently had a peanut allergen labeling issue in violation of FALCPA with Tillamook – read more on the FDA website here). The reasoning for these changes in labeling standards? That food shortage that the USDA claimed isn’t happening, but now the FDA is saying food manufacturers are reporting. The blame is placed on a shortage of farm workers, with those working trapped in the United States on H-2A Visas where labor violations and back-wages owed are at an all time high. At the same time, these migrant populations live in conditions putting them at the highest risk for COVID-19 transmission. With online retailers other than Walmart and Amazon not allowed to accept federal assistance programs in 33 states, the most vulnerable populations are suffering the consequences.
  2. United Kingdom – It appears that there is a national food strategy for combatting shortages. This is stirring up some conversation about the resilience of supply chains and commerce. Some are worried that Brexit will make matters worse as record numbers of individuals in the UK can no longer afford food.
  3. Nigeria – It looks like Nigeria is taking the active intervention approach after the United Nations call it and 24 other countries likely to face devastating famine as a result of COVID-19. Some experts are urging the government to do more, as it appears only 3% of current interventions are coming from the government.
  4. India – India, while producing so much food exported to the rest of the world, was ranked 102/117 on the Global Hunger Index before COVID-19 hit. Now, the problem is getting worse. The impacts extend far beyond the human population, with tiger poaching hitting all time record highs as a result of subsistence hunting. Even rhinoceroses are suffering from a food shortage. Times are so hard, India is considering passing anti-famine amendments that have not been seen in over a century.
  5. Canada – For Canadians, many are concerned about the food shortages negative impacts on the long term survival of the polar bear. Others seem to believe a silver lining to the supply chain disruption is how it is saving community supporting, local agriculture. Agri-Canada is using this opportunity to create youth focused jobs to reduce the supply chain disruption.

Why Care?

It’s helpful to think about the world beyond our own individual experiences. We cannot live in a society where we think about everything with ourselves at the center of our personal universes. It is important to instead consider the experiences of those elsewhere – places we have never seen and may never see in our lifetimes. We are all interconnected and nothing we do exists in a bubble. Nothing.

Go forth and search for more positive things. I will try to do the same.

Thank you so much for reading my post today. If you enjoyed it, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which posts my readers prefer and can help me cater future content.