Friday, 21 December 2012

Turkey Gravy - Trinidad Style Seasonings

All you need :-

- Juices from roasted turkey, made with "Turkey Seasoning Trinidad Style".
- Water from boiled vegetables (or vegetable stock, or plain water)
- plain flour

Method - 10 mins cooking time
- After you lift out turkey from roasting tin, keep the juices in the tin.
- Put the tin on a ring on the hob, and heat tin with turkey juices in it.
- Lower the heat, and add one table spoon of flour at a time, stirring to prevent it sticking to the tin. Stir in more flour if needed until all liquid is absorbed, and mixture is not runny.
- Continue to stir for about a minute, so that flour mixture cooks a little, but not let it get too firm.
- Add half a cup of water and stir quickly so that mixture becomes smooth. If lumpy, use a whisk to break up lumps.
-  Add more water and keep stirring.
- Repeat this process until the consistency is thick and runny, but not too thick.
- Pour into a warm gravy boat, and serve with roast turkey and vegetables.


Have a very Happy Christmas.  

Friday, 14 December 2012

Cooking Instructions for Turkey - Trinidad Style Seasonings

You can do this preparation the night before, or on Christmas morning. But I do it the night before, so that all is ready to pop it into the pre-heated oven in the morning.

This method give you a juicy, succulent and tasty turkey.
{Check Turkey Seasoning - Trinidad Style, by clicking it on the right}

These cooking instructions are for a turkey that is only stuffed in the neck cavity. Stuffing the body cavity increases the cooking time, as well as the chance that the turkey will not be thoroughly cooked. Besides, extra cooking time also means that the extremities like legs and wings become over cooked, dry and fall off.

Use extra strong, wide tin foil (turkey foil)
A very large metal roasting tin - (make sure it will fit in your oven)

Cut a large piece of tin foil, measuring about one and a half times more than needed to wrap the turkey.
Cut another piece, a bit larger than the first.

Note - Always make sure that the shiny side of tin foil what is close to the food. 

- Place the larger piece along the length of the roasting tin, (shiny side up), and mould loosely into the shape of the tin.
- Place the smaller of the two pieces of foil, across the width of the tin over the first piece. (shiny side up)
- Pour some oil generously and rub with hands to grease the tin foil making sure that all exposed foil is greased. This prevents it from sticking on to the skin of the bird.
- Remove turkey from marinading bowl or bucket, and place in the roasting tin.
- Collect all lumpy bits of marinade and spread over the turkey, leg crevices, breast, pockets, and inside. (Don't throw it away)

Make a tent with the tin foil around the turkey
- Take the piece of tin foil closest to the turkey and bring together across, but not touching the turkey. Fold edges over leaving a space around the turkey inside the tent.
- Bring the bottom tin foil around the top and fold over tightly, forming an airtight tent over the turkey.

Pre-heat oven to 220C, or 425F, or gas mark 7

These are the roasting times for a 12-14lb turkey. It will take about 5 hours in all. Calculate the time you want to have lunch, and work 5 hours backwards to calculate what time to put it in the oven. So if you want lunch at around 2pm, add half hour for standing time. So, you want it cooked by 1.30pm. That means it should go into the preheated oven at 8.30am.

- Place prepared turkey in the centre of the preheated oven for 40 mins.
- Lower the oven to 170C, or 325 F, or gas mark 3, [for the next three and a half hours].
- During this time, remove tin from oven after one hour. Open tin foil gently keeping your hands away from the steam. Baste thoroughly with the juices in the tin after one and a half hours, and close back tightly. Replace in oven.
- Repeat the same process in another hour.
- Repeat basting process after another hour.
- After 4 hrs 10 min in the oven (i.e. in the last 50min), open the tin foil and fold back to expose the turkey. Then, replace it in oven.
- Turn up oven temperature to 200C, or 400F, or gas mark 6. Baste at least two times during the last 50mins.
- To test if cooked, pierce the thickest part with a metal skewer or a thin long sharp pointed knife - in the centre of breast, and through the side of the leg joint to make sure the juices run clear or not at all.
- When finished, remove from oven and leave turkey to stand in pan with juices for 20-30 mins.
- Lift turkey out with two large forks and help if you have it, and on to a carving dish. Be careful as it will be very heavy.



If you have any questions, please ask!

Have fun!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Here is a recipe for seasoning and marinading whole turkey ready for roasting. It makes the turkey delicious and succulent. It is what my mother used to do, and the aromas are still very powerful for me at Christmas. This is a most important routine for me, and makes my kitchen smell Christmassy.

Prepare the evening before. 

This amount of ingredients will do for anything up to a 12 lb turkey, but you can use a bit more. For me, you can't have too much thyme. 

For a 12 -15 lb turkey, add another half the amount of ingredients.  E.G. one and a half handful of fresh thyme, etc.

- Large handful of fresh thyme sprigs
- Large handful of fresh parsley
- 2x5" sprigs rosemary (optional)
- 2 large fresh tomatoes
- 1 table spoon fine sea salt (or 2 table spoons flake salt)
- half teaspoon ground black pepper
-  large onion chopped fine
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

- Preferably, use a mortar and pestle. (A liquidizer will mince it all up too much)
- Chopper or large knife.
- Chopping board
- Large roasting dish. Preferably stainless steel.
- Turkey tin foil (strong and wide)


Wash herbs and tomatoes.

- Pull off all small leaves from sprigs of thyme by pulling downwards against the stem, and put leaves on the chopping board. Throw away stalks.
- Trim stalks from parsley, and add leaves to heap of herbs
- Pull leaves off rosemary stalks, and add to herbs.
- Use chopper or large knife, and chop all herbs finely.
- Cut up tomatoes into small pieces
- Place all ingredients above into a mortar and pestle, or a strong Pyrex type bowl.
- Add chopped onions.
-  Using pestle, pound and grind ingredients by hand until mushy and runny, but not totally ground. It should remain lumpy and crushed, but not liquidized.
- Add salt and pepper, and continue pounding for a minute.

- You should be able to smell the delicious aroma of all the herbs, tomatoes and onions.

- Wash turkey and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Loosen the skin around the top of the breast area making a few long spaces between skin and flesh.
- Using hands, take the seasoning mixture and rub all over turkey, inside and outside. Pushing in seasoning mixture inside pockets you've made in breast area. Season inside turkey body also.

- Cut a very large piece of tin foil and place inside tray. Rub with oil, apart from edges.
-  Place turkey on foil.
- Wrap foil very loosely around turkey, Seal by folding an inch of foil around turkey. Leaving enough space inside of top (about 2 inches), so that the hot air can circulate while cooking.
- Put it in a cold room or fridge overnight until ready to cook the following morning. (Make sure it is well away from domestic animals or rats and mice. You could put it in a large plastic storage box)

- Follow whatever cooking instructions you have, allowing enough time for turkey to stand for about half hour before lunch. 

While cooking, open and baste thoroughly at least twice during cooking time.

Would you like my cooking instructions, or How to make gravy from the delicious herby juices? Leave me a comment. 

Hope this goes well for you.

{I have now posted the Turkey Cooking Instructions. Just click on it on the right.}

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What I have Observed about Stereotyping Characters

Creating characters can be fun. But believable characters are essential to the reader in any type of fiction. In the absence of  photographs, pictures or other types of visuals, believable characters are created by words - so, how we describe our characters, and what we tell about them, what they say, how they say it, and their actions, are important.

Unless we want the reader to imagine it all, our characters must have physical appearance, a voice, thoughts, and feelings. Of those, physical appearance is easy for the reader to imagine, but voice, thoughts and feelings, are not. What they look like, what they wear, how they speak, what they think, and how they feel, individual quirks, are all important factors when creating three-dimensional characters. When the character is introduced to the plot, s/he should take over and come alive. By allowing the character to speak and act, the author gives them birth and existence. When they have life, they have personality and motivation. When we achieve this, the character will often take over, and do and say things the writer never thought to write. When this happens,it is pure magic!


How we depict our characters is important to how our readers grasp who they are. Using stereotypes enables the reader to quickly grasp the personality type. But some readers do not agree with or appreciate the use of some stereotypes, because many are negative, unhelpful, destructive, and create a barrier, in real life. EG - Fat women are greedy; or, Homosexuals are promiscuous., or, Lawyers tell lies.

Stereotyping is an exaggeration of some small observation of some individuals in a sector in society. So should we use it in our writing at all? Some readers find any stereotyping unacceptable. Even positive ones, because they are too much of a generalisation, and can be misused or cause misinterpretation. This is true. But is it ok to use stereotypes sparingly?

Many well known authors are guilty of stereotyping to some extent - small or large. And I believe this is why. They do it in order to create a quick characterization. To depict in a flash to the reader, what kind of man, woman, or child the character might be. This enables the reader to predict the behaviour of that character, for good or bad, and go along with what the writer has initially set up as the personality-type. The reader might even expect to predict an outcome for a given scene or even the whole novel - now they know the personality type.

But not all readers want this, nor do they want to predict the end, or the end of every scene, or the outcome of a behaviour of a certain character. So authors must know their readership, their genre, and therefore the expectations of the readers. Readers who do not like stereotyping, will not pick up a genre to read because of this, or an author who regularly stereotypes the characters in his/her novels. And authors who want to sail close to the wind on this, should realise this. Especially cross genre authors who want to attract a wider readership than their own regular market.

In modern novels, stereotyping seems less offensive in genre and commercial fiction. But even then, stereotyping should be done with care and sensitivity to the reader, who may take it personally, or broadly disagree. So it depends on how heavy the author relies on it for characterisation.

Readers of Literary fiction are more critical of stereotyping. The slower pace of literary novels together with the general nature of the Literary readership means that they are more accepting of characters who are not of a particular personality-type, or have set and predictable traits and behaviours, because, these readers invest more time in reading that slow-paced novel. In other words, the reader prefers characters who are more realistic rather than superheroes, who nearly always behave perfectly, and always get the girl in the end. Literary readers are more willing to go along with personalities that are closer to real people, less predictable, maybe appearing erratic at times, whilst serious and completely sober at other times. The character whose flaws seem too great to overcome. The varying behaviours depending on circumstance ... or maybe not. But it on the whole, it must make some sort of realistic sense.

Deeper understanding is crucial in literary characters - e.g. a person's past might be relevant to volatile behaviour and will affect their actions in the present and future. Circumstance and underlying issues are as essential as is change in character behaviour, as the plot continues. Literary readers want to see some change occurring during the course of the plot, because they too want to justify any deviation from reasonable behaviour at the end. It's only human. But none of this is absolute. It is one of the differences between Commercial fiction characters, and Literary characters. In the end, Literary readers are more willing to put up with more uncertainty, and less predictability, while Commercial readers are just the opposite. In general.

This is why stereotyping works for more Commercial fiction than Literary. It is an easier way to slot in characters so that our readers discover quickly who they are, and what to expect, and then move straight through a fast plot. But even then, the author must be careful. Readers are not stupid, and have their own individual views. And many Commercial readers as well will not tolerate deep over-stereotyping. But Literary readers go even further, and are more discerning and far less tolerant. And as they plough through a novel painstakingly, they do not expect to have to predict for themselves, but expect more from the author's ability to stretch them on many levels of understanding, even though the plot might be light.

Personally, as a reader, I want the author to work hard at gaining my approval. And to be perfectly honest, why ever not? I will have invested time and money in that novel.  (Though not as much time as the author has!) But readers rarely realise this as they seek satisfaction from the novel they've just read.

Monday, 19 November 2012

How I am trying to fix and edit the first chapters of my novel

First of all, I have changed the title again. Now, The Last Year of Childhood. 

I am also rewriting the early chapters of the novel. Maybe the first 6 or 8 chapters. So far, I have got to Chapter 3. I think on balance it is much improved.

First chapters in a first draft, prove difficult to me. Often it is where a lot of stuff get dumped together, and cause it to be lacking in a proper structure...although at the time of writing, it seemed good. The first chapters are where I try to introduce the important characters, and where the minor ones creep in and take over where they shouldn't. Also, it is where I try to give them personality, intention, and a position in the plot. It is where I am also setting up the plot ...maybe somewhat haphazardly, and where, more often than not, the background always seems an important aspect to include in order to help the reader understand where I'm coming from, and the world of the characters. Setting too, takes some space in these chapters, and therefore some description...maybe too much description. As character-voice helps make each character individual and unique, dialogue is important very early on.

But none of it is good enough in the first draft, so hence the rewrite. 

I have been restructuring, and making sure that my Main Character is not overshadowed by minor ones. That the Point of View is mainly from her perspective so as not to confuse the reader with head hopping. This is considerably easier, as in this rewrite, I am not introducing too much pertaining to the other secondary characters who are also important in the plot. They will have their turn and be introduced gradually. Also, I am leaving the backstory until well after the first 3 chapters, so as not to clog up the flow of the MC's story with flashbacks or backstory.

I have decided to post a paragraph that appears in my new Chapter 3. The novel is set between 1917-18, in a village in Trinidad.

Freedom to go to school again was probably going to be the most significant memory in her life, and the one she would speak of with nostalgia. Latchmin realised that day, that opportunities like that didn't come more than once in a lifetime. If she didn't grasp it fully, it would slip away like water over a rock, impossible to return after it was gone. How could it be possible to return to school once you've left school to work or to marry? It didn't need much more thinking. To her the answer was now easy. Though for many others, they never stopped to think about it long enough, but drift towards the next part of life like a stream  flowing into the hollows of a well worn riverbed. 

That first morning back at school, Mr Clifford acknowledged her with a verbal welcome, a nod as she went past, and a smile. Latchmin followed her line into her class and sat down. When the teacher began, she savoured every moment of classwork, like the first real meal she had ravenously devoured after recovering from typhoid. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Easy Tasty Herby Roast Potatoes


4 large or 6 medium potatoes - wash and peel
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 large onion - slice lengthways in half, then slice downwards in long slithers
half tsp onion salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

- Heat oven to 200C
- Cut potatoes across and lengthways, and keep in large chunks (about 1 inch x 1 and a half inches)
- Put potatoes in baking tray
- Add olive oil
- Chop rosemary finely, but unevenly, leaving some pieces quite large
- Add chopped rosemary to potatoes
- Add onion slithers
- Add rest of ingredients
- Mix thoroughly with hands
- Put in oven and cook for about half hour, turning potatoes after 15 mins to even the browning.
- Stick in a sharp knife to make sure they are cooked.

** Please Note, these are very morish. Do a few more potatoes than you would normally do. They're also lovely when eaten at room temperature or cold.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Marilyn's Very Tasty Quick Paprika Chicken Wedges

Serves 4

3 large chicken breasts (boneless)
1 tablespoon oil (vegetable or olive)
half teaspoon onion salt
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce

- Switch on oven to 180 C.
- Wash and cut chicken into wedges no thicker than half inch at the thickest point.
- Put it into a heavy baking tray
- Add all the other ingredients
- Using hands, mix thoroughly till all pieces are coated
- Leave to stand for 20 minutes, if you have time
- When oven is heated, cook in the middle shelf of oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked but pieces are still soft.

(To check if cooked - Stick a sharp knife into the thickest part of a few of the pieces. If you have no resistance, and no liquid runs out, it is cooked.)

Friday, 5 October 2012


Having reread the whole novel straight through, some of the errors shout out at me.

One of those errors, is having the secondary character competing with the main character, with the threat of taking over the plot.

Latchmin, the Main Character is 11, and too obedient. She is coming across as good, but not interesting. The secondary character, Sumati, 14, is stronger, wild, and wilful, and inevitably, her plot line is more interesting.

I have decided to change the plots slightly, and now put the two girls, Latchmin and Sumati parallel to each other. Basically, they both have the same problem, but they each deal with it differently. I am bringing them closer in age too, to even things up- maybe 12 and 14.

Here are some of their differences:-
Latchmin comes from a wealthy home. Sumati comes from a poorer home.
Latchmin has educational goals. Sumati has matters of the heart forefront in her mind.
Latchmin does as she is told. Sumati does what she wants to do, disregarding what she should do.
Lathcmin appears weak. Sumati is strong without a doubt.
Latchmin is reactive. Sumati is proactive.

I have a problem... Latchmin is in danger of being overshadowed by Sumati in the book. That must not happen.

Therefore, I am rewriting Latchmin so that the reader sees more of her Point of View, so as to identify more with her - her fears, her thoughts and her weaknesses. She is afraid that her parents will force her into early marriage. Her main weakness, is that she is too obedient, but that also means that she does the right thing. She also has a strong view of right and wrong.

In the end, Latchmin's strengths must be greater than her weaknesses.

But in the beginning, Latchmin must draw in the reader with her plight - she has a grave illness - a killer.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Cheap, Healthy, Chicken Soup

How to Make Cheap, Tasty, Chicken Soup for 2/3 people

The cheapest way to use chicken is to buy a whole one, dissect it into legs, thighs, wings, breasts and use in another dish. What you are left with is the carcass - the back and breast bones, which still has a lot of meat on it. Don't throw it away. This is not only good for making chicken stock, but for making Chicken Soup.

. 1 Chicken Carcass
. 3 litres water, approx
. 1 medium onion, chopped very finely
. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
. 2 medium potatoes, chopped in small cubes
. 1 stock cube - chicken or vegetable
. large handful coriander or parsley
. 1 handful red lentils
. 1tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
. (sprinkling of tumeric - optional)

1. Place chicken carcass in a large pan three quarter filled with water, and bring to the boil. Cover and lower heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours until the meat is falling off the bones.

2. Remove chicken pieces and place on a plate or board to cool.

3. When half cooled, use a knife and fork, or fingers, to remove the meat carefully from the bones. Make sure you remove ALL bones, especially very small bones. Place the meat in a separate bowl.

4. Strain the chicken water into another large saucepan or bowl,  using a very fine strainer, or muslin.

5. Wash the original saucepan ready to reuse.

6. Heat saucepan, with one table spoon olive oil

7. Add onions and potatoes, and cook till soft but not brown.

8. Add the strained chicken water.

9. Add garlic, stock cube, and half the coriander, and boil on medium heat and bring to boil.

10. Add the red lentils, and boil for about half hour, until the potatoes are very soft.

11. Remove from heat and using a potato masher, mash if required

12. Replace on heat, and add rest of herbs, (salt and pepper if liked, but it is not necessary). Add more water if needed, and boil for another few minutes.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Update on my Self Editing - THE DON'T TOUCH METHOD


It is easy to get started on the Editing. Reading through, I was bound to find errors of all sorts - punctuation, grammar, spelling, typos, sentence construction, and other ....plot inconsistencies, etc. This bogged me down, and the process was becoming such a headache, that it became slow to the point where I really didn't want to continue with it.


It is not easy to keep reading and trying to overlook these errors as they meet the eye. It feels like sand blowing into my face and me still walking in a sand storm with my eyes open wide, as each spelling mistake or missing word hits me.

BUT!!! I have taken the advice of a clever author, Nell Dixon, who gave a talk at the Romantic Novelists's Conference this July. This was her advice.


1. Don't rush. Leave it for as long as possible. Distance gives clarity.

2. Read through but don't touch.* Very Important!!

     a. Make a note of bits you want to change.

      b. Change the font when editing. It helps to make you see it differently.

       c. Transfer to Kindle

3. Take out. Add in the next read.

4. Polish - another read

5. Work backwards for final edit. Yes, read your work backwards to comb through for errors. 

6. Pay attention to the Last Chapter. First chapters are usually polished to death, but not enough attention is paid to the last chapter. That sells it to the publisher. 

Well, I am currently doing No. 2 - reading through The Jeweller's Daughter, making notes in a separate note book on each chapter on changes to be made. I'm using different colours - black or blue to indicate the highlights of the chapter, green for a really good bit, red for what needs changing.

It is working, because I am getting an overall view of the whole plot as the reader would read it. The temptation is there to make small edits, but I am fairly strict with myself. 

I am surprised and pleased though, how well some chapters are reading already - pacey, emotional and full of tension. 

However, I do have a biggie to fix! I believe that my Main Character, Latchmin is not as likeable and strong as her friend, Sumati, the wild one, who seems to be taking over with her subplot. Sumati is getting a lot of action! This needs sorting. Could be a big change, or increase Latchmin's involvement in the action. 

Reading without editing, means that I am reading it faster, so inconsistencies in the plot are more noticeable. 

I am really pleased I took this advice. Thanks Nell Dixon, I think it is working for me, so far.

Editing is a long, slow, and confusing process, and this makes the need for areas for structural changes much clearer. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Quick Chinese Herby Egg Noodles

Chinese noodles is a treat when it is flavoursome. Just a few little additions are needed to the regular boiled noodles to make it quite yummy. For this recipe, I suggest you buy the egg noodles that are already in dried portion sizes.

Quick Chinese Herby Egg Noodles - for 2 people

2 portions dried egg noodles in portion packs
a large handful of herbs - Coriander, Parsley, chives (any of these or all) -chopped finely
half teaspoon sea salt flakes
1tablespoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce

- Boil a large pot (3 litre size) of water and add one portion per person.
- Let it boil according to packet, or 3 minutes.
- Stir often with a spaghetti stirrer to separate the strands of noodles.
- When cooked, drain in a colander.
- Replace noodles in pan, and add sesame seed oil, salt, and soy sauce.
- Close pan with lid, and shake vigorously, but carefully, and put aside.
- Using a clean, dry, small saucepan over low heat, place some sesame seeds and toast, stirring continuously till it smells toasted, but not burnt. Be careful to switch off heat immediately, and place in a cool, dry bowl.
- Serve noodles, and add sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

You can have this with any other meat, chicken or vegetable Chinese dish, or on its own if you wish.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Quick Chinese Chicken and Vegetables

Good Chinese food is fresh and does not contain a lot of preservatives and mono sodium glutamate which you find in cheap take-way restaurants. Here is a quick dish that is tasty and extremely healthy. The main thing about this dish, is that it is quick frying in minimum oil, while not letting anything go brown. Everything should retain natural colour, except the chicken which should be white and opaque, NOT translucent or brown.

Quick Tasty Chinese Chicken and Vegetables - for 2

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into half inch cubes
1 large onion - chopped
3 large cloves garlic - chopped
2 sticks celery - chopped
1 handful dwarf green beans (or any kind of string beans) - in 2 or 3 inch pieces
one third of a head of broccoli - cut carefully in small florets
2 medium tomatoes - quartered (optional)
2 spring onions chopped in 1 inch pieces (optional)
Half a large green sweet pepper, cut lenthways
1 large carrot (optional) - cut in 2 inch sticks (not shown above)
half tsp sea salt
2 table spoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
half table spoon vegetable oil


-  Season chicken with salt and leave for a few minutes
- heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or a wok on a medium to high heat
- pour in the vegetable oil and heat till almost smoking but not burning
- add onions and soften till slightly brownish
- add chicken cubes, stir and fry till it turns opaque but not brown (about 5 minutes) Lower heat if necessary.
- add garlic, stir and fry for 1 minute
- add carrots, stir for 2 minutes.
- add celery,broccoli and spring onions and cook for 2 minutes
- add rest of vegetables and stir.
- Add soy sauce and sesame oil, and stir for the next 4 or 5 minutes
OR, cover pan, and lower heat if you have doubled or tripled ingredients.
- switch off heat when chicken is cooked but vegetables are not limp.

Serve with noodles or rice.

Later this week I will give you a lovely quick recipe for Herby Chinese Noodles.

Let me know how you get on!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Quick, Tasty Trinidad Chicken

Every writer has to eat. I love cooking, but good Trinidad cooking often requires time to season with herbs and spices, and then marinade for hours. I have little time, so here is a quick tasty recipe to try.

Trinidad Style Chicken Thighs for 2 persons 
(you can use any part of the chicken if you wish so long as you use the right proportions of meat for the seasoning below)

4 chicken thighs (or 4 drumsticks, or 2 breast portions)
4 large cloves garlic or 6 small ones - chopped finely
half teaspoon sea salt
about quarter teaspoon ground black pepper
large bunch fresh thyme (a good handful) - chopped finely
1 large red onion - chopped finely
2 large ripe tomatoes (or 3 medium ones) - cut up finely
half tablespoon vegetable oil for cooking
half cup of water

1. Wash chicken and remove the skin and place in a large bowl.
2. Add garlic, salt, black pepper, thyme, and tomato.
3. Mix thoroughly with your hands, making sure all the seasoning gets into all parts of the chicken.
4. Cover and leave for 15-30 minutes.
5. Using a non stick frying pan (with a lid), heat pan on a medium heat, and add oil.
6. When oil is hot, add onions and fry till light brown.
7. Add chicken pieces carefully making sure each piece is in contact with the hot pan.
8. When one side is light brown, turn chicken pieces.
9. When both sides are brown, add in the rest of the seasoning left in the bowl.
10. Stir, turn chicken again, and cover the pan.
11. Turn down heat to minimum.
12. Leave for about 30 - 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn.
13. Add water and stir again to make a little sauce.
14. Make sure chicken is thoroughly cooked and just separating from the bone.

Serve with boiled rice, and any lightly cooked green vegetables, or salad.

Fallen from a Great Height - Rise or Die.

Well what would you expect when life turns round and bites?
You bite back of course! Why not? The first infantile reaction,
the instinct to retaliate, the pain of watching her win
and take what is rightfully yours! Yes, mine, you say.
In your childish way. All is mine. And that is what the split will do.

But all around you see examples of those who fought
and lost. Fought fair, fought weak, fought foolish.
Then those who fought with all their might to win
whatever the cost to lives, and hearts, and minds.
Instinct takes over when the brain fails to put its best foot forward.
Money buys a very small mind. But you had that anyway to start.

Get the lawyers! She says. I'm the lawyer! You say.
I will litigate! I will castigate! Hell, I will fumigate
until you weep, you say. Until she weeps. Until he weeps.
Until they all weep and get no sleep, because with my little feet,  
I will creep into all the crevices of their breaths of all I can hurt,
You scream and scream in your dungeon of darkness.

At night you cry yourself to sleep. You wake with itch and scratch
resolute to make them squirm like the worm you feel in your pain.
You rub your arms to feel the skin, the life remained, and
scratch the spot the mosquito got. Your blood! My blood!
You rise again. Swear to get her, get theirs. Anyone in reach.
But your pain still worsens with all the effort of adversary.

And there you go! You continue in tracks of failure.
You fall from the great height you placed yourself and find
the ground is hard. But rising to your feet even harder
in all the mess you managed to create. The mire slips 
and from there you reach for internet - the need to communicate.
For people. But how? With a brain as big as mine, you say. I know,
I will lie, you say. That's sure to reach and breach and teach them.
And you do. I will destroy whomever I can, you think.

Advise yourself. A fools paradise is where you sit.
In slime and lies and crime. So deep the muck
you cannot smell your own breath that pervades your own space
and that of others. Wasting time with destructive devices will
will never succeed in superseding the efforts of constructive creations.
Waste your effort at your peril my friend. If you must.

Advise yourself! Less you remain the worthless piece
you created in yourself. Rise up and think. Job did not lose his mind
with all his life destroyed about him. Yourself is not the worst
you have lost, but the possession of hearts of those you love.
Blind is not a fault of the mind. But you make it so
with your impaired mental vision. Severely so, with your split.
Rise up or die.Wash yourself. Your mind. Make amends.
Scratch you head and think.
Take pride in your persona.
Else you might never
regain respect.
Divorce is but a snap in time.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

No Brother, No Time

A child, but old
enough to know
That he was wrong
and she was sane.
When cake was in
the mix of pain.
When all she needed
was exchange of words
to fetch her educational
attire. But what instead
you passed was stone and
fire. The bigger the brain
the smaller the mind, when
all that mattered was knowledge
and gain, of words not yours,
of thoughts not worth the
breath inhaled. Mother exhaled,
but you? You leapt to anger
from behind spiked trees
like dogs and gods of
mightless power.

You win the battle, 'tween you and me, 
but lost the war in all you glory.
For I will never again regard
a father who cannot himself respect.
Who loses his baby in all the
bathwater of fight and fume
in petition and perdition.
In litigation I hear you proclaim in
fit and rage that I am no
child of yours. Well here
I am to tell you that what you represent
in all your counter and petition
is nothing but superstition
and violation of all those
you care not to call
my family. My mother and me.
My brother and auntie.
My cousin and grandparents.
You failed mon pere, to see, that my
schooling lowly in comparison
to all your college Latin
and meals at Inns, were useless as
a sick severed brain
sitting in a sweltering stinking box.
The family is all I have, mon pere.
What else? Mon pere? What else?

by Marilyn Rodwell

Fabulous Holiday!!! New Thoughts for Characters of another Culture.

I have just returned from a fabulous holiday in North Africa full of the joys of character, culture and plots overflowing from my head. I'd love to write a romantic novel with a hero from this new land and culture, where I found the young men absolutely charming and good natured, despite the fact that it was Ramadan, and they had been starved of food, water all day in the heat of the Tunisian sun, and sex in a married relationship.

Cultures are fascinating and educational. And I am curious as to what makes peoples of various parts of the world tick. Of course every culture has good and bad. But to find such politeness and charm all in one place from almost ... no....everyone, is quite something. They weren't all happy, of course, but still polite, and certainly appeared a genuine people. Yes, they wanted you to buy their goods in the medinas, and yes, they did their best to encourage you to part with some cash, but all was negotiable. Mostly, you could barter, they expected it and encouraged you to. They tried to entice you to at least look at their beautifully made leather goods, clothes, ornaments. But they were friendly with it, even when visitors ignored them and walked away. "Smile", they would say. "Looking is free". "Asda price" !!! Yes, that was surprising.

I had read on various internet sites that it was difficult for Western visitors in an Arab country when it is the time of Ramadan, and that worried me a bit. But it was a good time to go. I learnt a lot.

Something I learnt about Ramadan, is that not everyone has to do it. People exempt are children, the elderly people, the sick, anyone with a long standing medical problem like diabetics, pregnant women, and people doing a job where it is very difficult to fast from 3.30 am to sunset - around 8pm. So it is not unreasonable. But those strong and healthy and past puberty, are encouraged to fast mainly for their own wellbeing. They pray 5 times a day during Ramadhan, and still work and live a normal life. They must also think of others, and do good for other people.  Those people who are exempt from fasting are encouraged to do extra in the way of helping others. 

I wonder if this caused the extra good aura I felt amongst the Tunisians last week. To be amongst people who are calm, friendly, and trying to do good, for religious reason as well as their own, is quite an experience. Of course there was something for them to look forward to after a full day of fasting. After dark, there was much joy and merriment everywhere too. Feasting, singing and dancing, drums and music everywhere. Little sleep was had, if you tried to sleep through it.

Tunisia was a French colony, and therefore Tunisians speak fluent French as well as Arabic. The populations is also 99% Muslim, so that Arab/French mixture is sure to make a wonderful hero whether it is Ramadan or not. What with the heat of the days, the wonderful sunsets, the sultry evenings, and the beautiful haunting sounds of their music, it is certainly worth me taking this idea further.

I'd surely return to Tunisia another time. The food is also quite something, and the smells of fresh ground spices in the market places allure me, just thinking about it.

Monday, 16 July 2012


I spent this weekend in the company of around 200 writers, mostly romantic novelists, new and published, and some who are people who I should have been in great awe of, but are so humble themselves, it was difficult not to enjoy their company. In other words I had a fantastic weekend.

Anne Ashurst is the Chairman of the RNA (Romantic Novelist's Association) and I met her for the first time at this year's RNA Writer's Conference in Penrith. in the beautiful Lake District. Anne officially belongs to the Birmingham Chapter of which I am the Chapter Liaison. She has a very busy schedule as you can imagine, but I believe she will be visiting us in Birmingham soon.

She writes as Sara Craven, and since starting writing in 1975 for Harlequin Mills and Boon, she has produced almost 90 novels.

She gave a talk this weekend at the 2012 RNA Conference, which was both lively and interesting, as well as most useful to new writers, as well as published ones.

The topic of her talk was - moving TOWARDS ZERO - the point when everything changes in the story. The point when there is no turning round .... when a SECRET IS REVEALED.

Here are some highlights of that talk:

If a secret is included at the beginning of the novel, the writer can slowly fill in the pieces, drip by drip. Until Zero is reached. Zero, being the point where everything changes. The secret is discovered.

By this time the reader has found out a great deal about a character, how they operate, what has caused them to behave in a certain way, and why.

The Past is crucial, in order to understand the Present. 

Therefore, knowing the character's past is important.

For this reason, BACK STORY is very important. And there are various ways of including back story and still make the writing flow well. However, it depends on the nature of the story itself as to which you should use.

 - Drip Feed, to slowly reveal the facts, when all the information is not needed at once.

 - Flashbacks may be used where appropriate to reveal the past as if it is the present - in big chunks, to make it clear that it is a flashback.

 - Allow other characters to say what is going on to reveal what you want them to let the reader know.

 - Prologue is another technique of revealing the past, and giving some back story before the actual beginning of the first scene. 

- Epilogues can also be used. 

Anne uses all these techniques according to the nature of her story. Her talk was most inspiring, with lots of tips on how to improve you own writing, to make it work.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Higgs Boson Explaned - a Link

The Higgs Boson Explained.

I thought I'd keep a record of this somewhere ... Click link. It is quite a good explanation.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Creating Extreme Characters that look Real

Many readers want to identify with the characters they read about in fiction. They want them to be real enough to their own world. But it sometimes happens in fiction, that what is truly real, seems too fictitious to be fiction. For fiction to seem real, most of the time it needs to not be so real....for some readers, and some genres.

Sometimes the writer wants to take the reader to a dimension beyond what is real in a normal, average world, yet within the realms of reality. i.e. not science fiction or fantasy fiction.

The writer will create characters with extreme behaviours which will seem unbelievable to some. Maybe the character is mentally ill, but not yet diagnosed, and the writer makes no mention of a diagnosis, because it is not part of the plot. Remember, this is also true to life. There are many mentally ill that walk amongst the normal people in the world. Because of this the reader should be prepared to be taken on a journey beyond their own experience, in order to experience the thrill of another person's mind - the writer's mind, and the character's mind. But first the writer must prepare the reader in the first chapters.

Often writers will take such characters from real life, examine their characteristics, their motives, and  behaviours, and imagine them at work in the real world, then transport them into their work of fiction. 

I feel that to make these characters real, they must be transported as a whole person, ready made, into the  fictitious world we've created. But first we must examine their motivations and how they would react given each situation in this world. To the reader, it must all seem viable. So the world around them must be real, and one identifiable by the reader. That way, the reader is grounded in the real world while the unstable eccentric character plays his part. The reader then sees him clearly for what he is, psychotic or extreme, mentally ill, or clown. He plays his part against the backdrop of a world that is real enough for the reader to identify with. 

Creating real but extreme characters is not easy. And requires close scrutiny into the mind of the type. The more complex, the more difficult to make it real. So some aspect of the situation has to be normal and easily identifiable with. That, I suggest, has to be the world he is in.

Saturday, 9 June 2012


Yesterday, David Cameron announced that Forced Marriages in Britain would become a criminal offence.

This is due to the large number of forced marriages by some parents in the UK who still regard the custom of arranging a marriage for their children, as part of their parental responsibility. And they will do whatever they can to fulfil that duty. It often results in horrific situations of forced marriages that have devastating endings to very young girls as young as 5 years old. If a girl resists, it is likely that she will could come to physical harm and death in some cases.

My novel The Jeweller's Daughter, set in 1918 Trinidad, has Arranged Marriage as one of its themes. Arranged marriages can turn into forced ones, and my Main Character, ten year old Latchmin, has to deal with a similar situation. Without prior discussion, she has been informed by her parents that they have arranged a marriage for her with a boy whom she has never met. This is the first she is hearing of the arrangement, and she is devastated. Especially as her mother previously encouraged her education. Unlike many other girls her age at that time, Latchmin wants to continue school for the foreseeable future. She has been told by the Headmaster that she is bright enough to go into the Teaching profession. So she has her heart set on that. Now she must find a way out of the marriage. But at 10, she is too young to fight on her own.

What a different situation it would have been if the British Government had made that rule at that time for the Empire! That Forced Marriages were a criminal offence. How times change! How social expectations and lobbying forces manage to make change! Instead, Hindu marriages in Trinidad at that time, simply were not recognised. So children born from a Hindu marriage were deemed "illegitimate" on their birth certificate.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


So much of the Western World is certain that there is no God. Their evidence? That God is no where to be seen. But that is just the same as their belief that God cannot be seen. That too is invisible....there is no evidence that there is no God.

But those who believe that a higher, stronger being is present, do it through faith and evidence that cannot be seen by those unable to see.

We all need to recharge our batteries, strengthen our spirits, and connect with THAT being who none of us can see. I will call that being God. Others might call it/him something else.

Over the Jubilee weekend, my family and I spent it amongst over three hundred people who all have some belief that there is a God. That experience is strengthening. It provided food for the spirit. It is the fuel that drives and keeps us able to cope on a daily basis. But more importantly, it gives us the strength and ability to cope with negativity around us and in the world. It gives us the edge. Or more of a wide ledge where we are safe from the precipice where others slip and fall. Where our adversaries tumble.

Spiritual food helps us to approach our creator, and ask for guidance and wisdom to deal with those who persecute us. Spiritual food translates into both physical and emotional strength.

Spiritual food gives us hope.

Hope is how we survive.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Birthday Thoughts on Time

Well is today my birthday, and another day for celebrating a big birthday - NOT one ending in zero, but big enough. Because any birthday past 40 is big enough to have an informed opinion ;) It isn't that long ago I remembered having over 100 people at my house to celebrate my 40th birthday. And that was nearly 2 decades ago. Though it seems like yesterday.

Time supposedly does a lot of things.... It flies; it doesn't stand still; it's a great healer; stands for no man; is money; is of the essence ....etc etc.

I have had a lot of time to think about Time. And whilst much of the above sayings and proverbs might be  true, it cannot be true in its entirety.

We cannot rely on time to fix things, heal us by itself, decide for us. Time does not do miracles. Nor does it have hands to do, feet to go, or a brain to think. To achieve anything, big or small, we have to play an active part in the process.

Take the saying - Time is a great healer....

Nothing happens in the healing process of its own accord. We must take the steps ourselves. We must use the time we have to actively reach the goal where healing can happen.

Time does not heal. It only facilitates.

When we do not use the time wisely, or make the right efforts to reach the goal of healing, we will not reap the benefits. When time has lapsed, it may be too late.

Sometimes, just reaching out to others at the right time is all that is needed. We will find that others are not so bad at reaching out to us half way too. It makes connection with others easier and more satisfactory. And we would have played our part in the process, which is vital to our own growth and maturity in wisdom.

Because time flies, we will look back inevitably, and wonder, what have we achieved? How have we used our time? We may have done a lot, or not enough. And maybe, we will be full of regrets. Too late, if we've  misused or wiled the time away. Or not actively sought what we should do with our time.

So often we forget that we are not in  control of what length of time we actually have on this earth.
That is a fact. Like it or not. We are only here for as long as we are allowed to be on the earth.

That is why we should make the most of our time, and not waste the most precious resource we have available to us.

It is never too late to start. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Zipping it, and Listening - working out Character traits

Using Listening Skills in order to Write in Unique Characters

Some people talk a lot. Others listen a lot. Most people are mainly one or the other. Both traits have their attraction. Usually opposites attract - as always, but as always - not for long. They can get bored of each other, and quickly go their separate ways.

But if you are looking for a way to learn about real life characters. Read on.

In communication, we need both in more-or-less, equal measures. Some say you have one mouth and two ears, and therefore we should use them in the correct proportions. There is some value in that advice, though hard for the natural talker. Because that would require more listening than talking ...which is near impossible.

I'm a talker on balance. But one of the benefits of age combined with intelligence, is that we learn as we mature. And I have learnt the value of listening more than talking. Although it is no easy feat, as talking comes naturally for me. Listening is hard work ....and could become a tad boring.

But for some years now, I have had some breakthrough, allbeit gradual. And I am pleased to have made any  improvement in any area of life.

However, I have another motive for listening.  

It has to do with writing.

Looking for character traits, in order to write in unique characters.

When you talk without listening, you don't usually learn anything new. I like to learn new things. Learning from books, other written material, films are all ways. But they are secondary ways. Not first hand.

Listening in conversation is not just another way of learning, it is primary and first hand. 

Learning directly from conversation is most valuable. It is holistic. And organic, in that we sift and add naturally while processing the information. In conversation, we are learning directly from another person, who is not a tutor. Not an academic. Not a professional.

The information in conversation is fresh. It is new. It is first hand. It is naturally monitored by our own brain processing the information. That makes it full of our own natural input, because we may knowingly or unknowingly, sift out what we don't like.

Ok, it has bias. And that can be a flaw in this method of gaining information.

But wait! There is purpose to this.

What is the difference between our own bias and that of some academic? There will always be some bias in information we get...from whoever. The thing is, in crafting a novel, we are the creator of that work, and the creator of our characters.

Therefore our own bias is allowed. Why should we have the bias and prejudice of any other? 

To this end, bias in conversation can be positive and beneficial.

If we give good feedback to the person we are listening to, and positive body language, we gain so much from the talker. Just by our listening in this way, the talker talks. They tell you more. And you form a rounded view of this character.

I am not saying that we should make a habit of treating everyone we meet in this way. Not at all. But how else can writers create interesting characters if not based on a combination of characters we come across in life?

We want our characters to be rounded. Three dimensional and human. Mind, body and spirit. Even paranormal, supernormal characters are based on very human characteristics, although exaggerated.

Which is why, listening is so important. We pick up not just information and chatter, but character traits, which help us to form our rounded, three dimensional characters. And they are not that easy to form in a whole novel. Beware - half formed characters can be most annoying to the reader. I run a reading group, and I know the annoyance.

For this end, when we listen, we should listen actively. The talker needs it in order to progress a  conversation of value. We need to respond actively and positively. Both are important.

Any form of body language - legs crossed towards the talker, smiles, nods, eye contact,
as well as small verbal interjections and hums of agreement - are all positive and active.

When we do this, we get the best from the talker, the informer, the person from whom we are learning about character. If we don't, we thwart our own learning process about unique characters. Because there is nothing more soul destroying to an intelligent talker, than a passive listener. Bored listeners are a no-go anyhow! The conversation withers.

The talker wants some response from them to know that their streams of words are not falling on dumb, or deaf ears.

If you have read this post, let me know what you think! Leave me a comment. 

Are you a talker or a listener? 

Are you one of the flexible few who are able to do both as the situation arises?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

PAINS OF EDITING - Fixing the Story

Tightening the Structure 

My Distraction -
So far, I am not doing that well with the editing of The Jeweller's Daughter! I'm getting distracted with personal matters, family matters, domestic chores, and other "important" things...

My lovely son just got married - still on honeymoon, and I'm just about returning to a normal state of a balanced mind and body. It was a fantastic day though!

So! To date, I have done pretty poorly - got up to pg 48 out of 396.

But I must have edited the first few pages a dozen times ...Can't seem to leave it alone.

My Resolve and Focus for Draft 2 -
I have decided that in this draft, I will concentrate on the STORY. 

Fixing the story is crucial, before doing anything else, like sorting out character development, improving dialogue, working on language, even imagery, and historical content.

Here is my focus for the duration of this draft :-

1. Fill in the Plot Holes. 

As I already have subplots, I will not be looking to write in any more of them. Besides, I am already too close to the maximum words (now 114,758), so I don't want to add many more.

What I will be concentrating on, is reading and looking out for anything that seems incoherent, unbelievable, unexplainable, too good to be true, impossible, too bad to have happened, sudden goings on that need prior introduction - and fixing those.

Because The Jeweller's Daughter is set before memory of most alive today, 1918 Trinidad, a country and culture that most of my readership will not be familiar with, I will focus on enlightening them without teaching them. I will check that I am drip feeding information and facts, or showing it through one of my characters in their thoughts or dialogue. But I will not ignore the narrator's voice. My narrator will be doing some telling too, to provide some relief from continuous dialogue. After all, my narrator is the oracle - she has the last word where necessary. I have decided on that. And my personal preference as a reader, is a good narrator, one that fills in the blanks, fleshes out the backdrop, and puts things in context.

2. Pruning.

This has to be the hardest for me. I am a hoarder by nature. I don't give away my creations that easily, and I certainly don't like to discard it might be useful one day!

But, I will be strict with myself, and be on a permanent lookout for any piece of script that diverts the attention from what is important, what is useful, meaningful, and what is getting carried away or just going off on a tangent.... We are not playing psychological word association!

So there will be much cutting and pruning, and maybe burning of dead wood. (I might keep a few bits that seem genuinely useful for later in the plot).

My main focus here is to make sure that the plot deepens.

3. Lengthening and Shortening.

This is paradoxical, as I have already said that I will not be looking to lengthen the script. But some bits inevitably will have to be expanded on, whilst I prune away the weeds ...(and non flowering, non productive plants).

So as I edit, I will be on the lookout for any extra twists that are needed, and improving those that are not working well enough. I will also be looking at any description of scenes, background, and characters, that would develop, deepen, and sharpen the story.

I will let you know how I'm doing!

Thanks for stopping by.

Please leave me a comment. Would love to know what you think as a writer, or a reader.

Question to readers - What annoys you most when you read? 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

My Editing, and Goals of the Opening Chapter

After 3 weeks of finishing the first draft of The Jeweller's Daughter, I started the first edit. It is amazing how each time I read the same paragraph I was able to change something. Something didn't seem right.

The next day, if I re-read the same paragraph, I could change it again. And again. And I did. This is not what I wanted.

So, I got fed up of it, and left it for another week, while I got on with some other writing, short stories, and two other novels I made a start on...different genres.

After a week, I returned to editing The Jeweller's Daughter, and the same thing happened! However, I persevered and got to pg 30 out of 361, before I stopped and started to look again at the beginning again. I don't know why I do that sometimes, but I fiddled and tweaked at it, as if I only had one chance at editing it.  I suppose it felt like scratching an itch.

Sometimes, you just have a feeling that something isn't reading right. And if you have that feeling, you worry. I felt that if I felt something was wrong with it, the chances are, that someone else might see it. And there could be some huge blaring mistakes and awkwardness in my writing.

In the end, I decided to search the internet for advice on editing. There is so much free advice and information thanks to Google, that it wasn't hard to come by.

Fortunately, I found some advice. It seems like good advice. And I have a gut feeling that it is good. Here it the gist of it ...

Goals of the Opening Chapter -

1. Grab your reader's attention in - 3 - 4 SECONDS.

2. Ground the reader in the setting - IMMEDIATELY.

3. Intrigue the reader with a character ...IN THE FIRST 5 PAGES.

4. Give the reader a puzzle to solve - ON PAGE ONE

5. Start with a SCENE, unless the novel is definitely about a character.

6. NO BACKSTORY in first scene, or first chapter.

So I decided to test my work to see if it passed this test, and read 5 pages of my work. It did not fulfill the above criteria,and included much backstory in Chapter One.

Conclusion - I am re-writing the first three chapters, incorporating this advice.

I will let you know how I got on!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Yesterday, after another 3,300 words, I got to the end of The Jeweller's Daughter!! Hurray! Couldn't believe it. But it was not exactly as I had planed either. The characters took over and and took it to where it should stop. In fact two of them changed the ending slightly. And I think it is probably right.

Of course this is not really the end. I know that. This is just the end of the first draft. But it is where I take a breather. Where I can do something else. Make bread. Do some gardening. Help out with my favourite charity. Write a short story...something I don't do much of, but should. Or, start on the next book...

Good News!! ...Recently I entered a short story competition and a few days ago I got short listed! That is a first. Will not know for another month how that goes. So that has given me some incentive to do some more short story comps.

The next stage after I put it away for a couple of weeks, will be to start the editing. I am trying to look forward to this part. I need to layer my writing with historical happenings to make sure it looks and sound authentic to its time - 1918-1919 Trinidad.

Must go! Thanks for reading my post. Drop me a comment!

Bye for now
Marilyn x

Monday, 12 March 2012

A Thought about Endings


For the last few weeks I thought that I was close to writing the last scene of The Jeweller's Daughter. Today, I still haven't finished it. And it is not for laziness. I have been writing between 1,500 to 3,000 words a day for 5-6 days a week. What happened, was that I seriously underestimated writing the end.

Some time ago I realised that the last few chapters were probably the most important, and would be the part of the novel that would leave the reader with the biggest impact. I came to this conclusion after reading so many reader reviews on Amazon, and getting the impression that their star ratings were often dependent on what the reader was left with at the end - the feeling, the thoughts, the satisfaction, the turmoil, the disappointment, the joy. When the reader was disappointed at the end, they seemed to give low star ratings.

Whilst beginnings are important for the purchase decision of a book, and the middle is important to keep the reader sustained in anticipation of better things to come, the end is the pinnacle of expectation.

As a reader, I feel that a poor ending, a poor last few chapters causes many poor reviews. Readers don't like writers to rush the end, or to leave it too predictable without enough twists and turns to what is a predictable end. They want the writer to be the writer, and not leave it up to the reader to have to anticipate too much of what is to come. i.e. doing the writer's work for them.

Oddly enough, I think that a slow and disappointing beginning can be changed with a good, and substantial ending. Even a drawn out one where the twists exceed the reader's expectations. And clever. The reader is impressed by the clever writer who writes something they would have never anticipated.

So I have come to the conclusion that when I thought I had come close to the end - another two or three scenes to go, that I was wrong. But learning is lovely! It has taken me weeks of extra writing to come to the point again where I think I have another 2 or 3 scenes. I hope I'm not wrong this time! I thought my novel would end at 70,000 words. But today it is at 105,156 words, and still not finished.

The characters speak. This can be a problem too. Although I like to give them a voice and the freedom of expression, they can take privileges. But in my view, the privilege is theirs. However, when they behave in an unpredictable manner, and I am unable to stop them, all I can do is follow them, which makes the story and the twists even longer.

I hope that my characters have enough life and personality by the end of the book to go the way that will take the reader to places unexpected, as they do to me. And in the last few weeks this has happened many times. I'm hoping it will soon come to an end and the novel will also come to its natural ending. If not, I will have to take a firm hand and put a stop to it.

Now I must get back to work.

Was lovely of you to drop by!

Don't forget to leave me a comment! x

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


I feel I have discovered something. That the more I write, the easier it becomes. And the easier it becomes, the faster I write. And the faster I write, the more I write. And the more I write, the more I enjoy writing.

That is a bit of a circle, but it isn't a vicious one. It is positive.

It may sound very simple, and I'm sure that any good writing textbook will say this somewhere and in some form. But it is like a lightbulb moment when it actually happens and you see it in motion.

So far this year, I have written 51,000 words - since the 4th January...
Which is double what I achieved in the previous 7 months, last year.
That means that I actually wrote in 2 months what I wrote in the previous 7 months.
That means that last year, I wrote an average of 7,300 wds per month,
Whereas this year, I have been writing 25,500 words a month.

That means that I have more than tripled my output in January and February. 
3.5 times to be exact.
Or 349% more.

How did I do that?

I think the factors are these :
1. I had a target per month.
2. I had a goal to finish.
3. I had actually figured out the plot.

That must mean that planning works better, and wastes less time. All you do is write. 

So now I plan to plan as much as is possible, before beginning to write. But I will not let planning to get in the way of writing either. If the planning isn't complete, I will start writing. 

That is my plan for the next book.  TO PLAN. 

Friday, 2 March 2012


Sometimes it is useful to have targets. 

Mostly it is good to always have targets .... 

but sometimes it is more effective. 

How else it is possible to almost double my word count of 7 months, in 2 months?

Here it is -

May - December 2011 = 51,777 wds
January 2012 - February = 95,236 wds total

Here is how I did it - Easy 

Objective - to finish the book. I wanted it to be approx 70,000wds complete. 

1. Target for January - 20,000 wds 
2. That is a break down of approx 5,000 wds a week.
3. I write mainly during the weekdays, so that is a definite 1,000wds per day.
4. Going over the daily target makes up for the days I am not able to achieve the 1,000wd target. 
5.  By the end of January, it was not finished. Characters were taking over...
6. February - I estimated 2 weeks to finish. That meant another 10,000 wds.
7. End of two weeks into Feb - still needed another 10,000 wds in my estimation (wd count = 79,000)
7. Repeat - another two weeks  to end. End of February wordcount = 95,236 wds.

Today, 2nd March 2012 - I am writing the last chapter of The Jeweller's Daughter,
another 3,000 - 4,000 wds.

Targets work. 

Deadlines work. 

The adrenaline to achieve makes it work. 

Competing with oneself works.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Lee Harper


Published in 1960, set in 1930's

The central theme is  - Prejudice - firstly race prejudice, and then class prejudice.

I've just finished reading this novel for our Book Group. As a writer, I usually look to published novels to see what made it a success. To Kill a Mocking Bird was certainly a successful book and now a modern classic.

What strikes me about it, is that the author used one character as a beacon of perfection - Atticus was the perfect father as well as the perfect lawyer, defending the underdog. As a father, he taught his children the evils of racial prejudice, and did so in a practical way, thereby forcing them to foster good attitudes to all, even those who are racist. He demonstrated to them, that people are three dimensional, and not one sided. Therefore, even if someone holds racist attitudes, they themselves should not sink to that level, but uphold their own high values.

As a professional man, a lawyer acting for a black man on a rape charge of a white girl, he did the same. Despite all the negativity and animosity he had from the townsfolk, he remained strong, professional and undeterred. The highlight being, his day in court. The children saw their father in action, defending an innocent man, who had been accused falsely, and who was a victim of racism. Difficult to prove the man's innocence, Atticus did his job well, and not only were his children proud of him, but they had a model of good to take with them through life.

In this novel, Harper Lee manages to demonstrate how racism could be dealt with from the home. How fostering good attitudes in children sows the seeds of upright, upstanding human beings for the next generations to come. She demonstrates how racial prejudice can cause twisted irrational behaviour, poor judgement, and destruction of lives, unless someone is brave enough stands up against it. Whether she needed to do with with an almost perfect hero in Atticus remains a question, but in no way detracts from the powerful message brought home in this book.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Getting the Writing done.

Sometimes it isn't all that easy to keep going at a long writing project. When it is a full novel, it is easy to become defocussed, not write for a day or two, leading to three and four..... soon loss of interest sets in, mainly because it is hard to pick up the threads of where we left off.

The easy answer is the hardest to do!


Don't stop.

This is what I try to do:

1. I write every single day.

2. Set a minimum target.

3. If I can, I go beyond that target so that if I do fall short on one day, I am not behind.

4. I write it on Facebook. Twitter it. "Managed 1200 wds yesterday. etc." It will give me a boost when others comment or like my status. It might spur others on too.

5. I keep a written record. At the end of each day, I write down date, page no, and word count. I can look back and see how I've done each day.

6. When I leave the computer, I space down, and make notes to remind myself what the next thing is. I make other notes too, about what threads I need to pick up on, when and perhaps where.

7. When I go to bed and switch off the light, I spend a few minutes thinking about where I am with my writing.   I snuggle up with my characters in my head. If I have a problem about where to go next with the plot, I think about it, and that is the last thought in my head when I go to sleep.

8. I mostly wake up the next morning with those thoughts in my head, which is good, because I might be close to solving the problem. Or it will be solved.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Voicing an opinion ....on Racism

Racism will show its ugly face, which grows monstrously until it towers like a giant triffid....IF WE LET IT....

Sometimes it is difficult and daunting to voice an opinion. Waiting for the right time is the key. There is nothing worse that a person who has a passionate belief, but takes the first opportunity to bombard others with it, even though it might be completely misguided, out of context, out of topic, and to the wrong people.

The fear of losing what is "rightfully ours", can lead to an overwhelming insecurity, that can overflow into any conversation at any time. Especially if we are overly passionate and are of the type of personality that must get things off our chest.

The topic of racism is one to watch... and so, I think that we should be watchful.  What is at the tip of the tongue will inevitably fall out of an open mouth, if a person doesn't apply safeguards, thorough thought and carefully chosen words when entering a discussion where race and nationality is concerned. The defence - "but I'm not racist, because I have a black friend" is just that. A defence meaning that we have adopted that one black person into our group. Use it as part of our defence, but let it not be everything. We should love all. Love thy neighbour as thyself. At least let our minds believe that we were all made equal.

Some say that racism is in all of us. I think not. I also think that it could be bred out of us and our offspring, by example. Rehearse before spouting. Think carefully. Racism is about the superiority of one race over another. But race is something we were born to. We did not earn it ourselves. How can we feel we can rightfully own, claim, or possess any other person, place or thing that rightfully belongs to the universe?

We born.

We die.

We take nothing out.

When racism is directed at a person, it can be shocking and hit to the core of one's identity and being.

Recently I have experienced such an outburst on a writer's forum, from someone who believes that Britain belongs to the indigenous population since the Ice Age. Words fail me. To discuss the matter with such a person is futile. To take defence fuels the fire. There is no winning.

....The ignorant spouts what is rightfully hers, what is theirs, and soon all her cards are exposed. It is clear she is racist, and was waiting in the wings to pounce upon a conversation concerning the care which writers should take not to upset the reader by using loose racial slurs, even in historical fiction. When my opponent on the forum exposes her true thoughts, the evidence is there, written in black and white.

But *black and white* in race is what causes the division.

Aren't we all maybe just shades of grey?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year's Day 2012

I have spent today cooking up some fishy treats for my family, and thinking about this auspicious day of the year. Working out how to arrange my thoughts, what I should focus on, and decide on how I should spend my time this year, is no small matter. How to deal with the things that niggle me? How to use my time more effectively, and just focus on things in a positive way, and achieve outcomes, is really what occupies my mind.

I hate wasting time.

I cannot stand indulging in the negative. Or be amongst people who are.

Mostly, here are the things I will focus on this year:

1. Finishing writing The Jeweller's Daughter - 1/3 to go! About 30,000 words - 100pgs

2. Editing it - about 4 times, and finding an Agent.

3. Start writing Short Stories to send out to competitions.

4. Devoting some time to Red Balloon Charity, but making sure it doesn't overtake my main objective of getting the book finished and published.

5. Make sure I devote time to each member of the family, according to what they need from me. That includes those of my family unit who do not live with me.

6. Try to deal with every person fairly, calmly, and with respect, in the hope that they will reciprocate.

7. Continue running the Book Group even though sometimes it seems like we choose books that waste my time. The people don't. They are valuable to me as friends.

8. Nurture all good friendships.

9. Think carefully about nurturing those who depend on me, and are not yet independent.

10. Concentrate on my spiritual beliefs, and never fear to voice what I think is right, at the right time,