Friday, 25 September 2015


At last! The LAST YEAR OF CHILDHOOD is finally complete at 111,688 words, redrafted, and edited 5 times, and about 20 smaller edits.

It has been an epic journey for me as a writer as it is the 3rd novel completed, so the learning curve was steep. I learnt from them all, but this one the most. I feel confident that I am doing something right, because this January, the novel was long listed for the Exeter Novel Prize - for unpublished novels.

But it is my characters who have made it come to life. It is they who told me what they thought, felt, did, and wanted to do. It is their voices who were written. I had little planned, though notebooks full, A3 sheets with plotting maps and timelines around the study, and notes pinned up to my walls and shelves over my desk. Authors say if you're not plotting you're Pantsing. But with all my efforts to plot, and even when I had the end truly pinned down hard to the board, it changed by the final edit. Why? Because the characters shouted out to me.

I had never envisaged that it is the characters who would be writing this book. The end was up to them. And I wrote it according to their wishes. Ok, there were times I had to stop them in their tracks and say, hold on a second, that is a tangent I cannot handle. So we worked together. So much so, that I took them to bed with me in turn. Truly I did. I only mentioned this once to my husband. My 12 year old Latchmin was a joy to snuggle with in bed, and she told me her heart - her fears and her joys. The handsome 17 year old Rajnath, whose temper could get the better of him had to be told at times, to think before he reacted. And the 14 year old Sumati, ran sometimes too fast for me to catch up with her wild and wilful ways. But she has a heart of pure passion, which was often mistaken for badness - a worry for her poor mother.

The novel is set in a difficult and restricted Colonial world, in 1917 Trinidad, when labourers had been brought from India, China, Syria, and Portugal, to work in the plantations, after African labourers would no longer slave for free, or even cheaply.

To my readers, I believe much of the plight of the characters, the emotion, and human need to see justice done, will resonate with you all. This novel is not just about a historical time and culture. It's global. It's about what makes us who we are today and what we expect from the country we live in, our needs, our wants, our desires, our dearest hopes, and for our children to  achieve and fulfil their dreams. It is about those who have money vs those who don't. And those who have education, and what happens to those who skip school or don't have the opportunity. It is about realising that both money and education have purchasing power, and have advantages over those who don't, in different ways. It is about striving and struggling for a better future.

The novel is about ...

Latchmin aged 12, Sumati, 14, and Rajnath 17, are all involved in each other's lives in their fight for the freedom to choose.  

The girls struggle in different ways against arranged marriage - an Indian tradition. Latchmin is well off, but desperately wants an education in order to pursue her dream to become a teacher. Sumati, a poor girl, disappears from the village, causing upheaval and repercussions beyond control. Rajnath, a plantation labourer, feels guilty and partly to blame, so seeks to make things right. But in doing so, he risks his life to confront the corruption of the prostitution business, jeopardising his own livelihood and freedom. It is only because of the conflict and consequences they suffer, do they all learn where freedom begins. It is not about what is available to take, but about what you are actually willing to sacrifice.  

If you think you would like to see this novel published, or find it interesting, please leave me a comment.  


Love you loads!

Marilyn x

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Trout fillet - baked and healthy

Baked Trout, with mixed vegetables, and Crispy Baked Potatoes

The full plate above is a very healthy fish recipe that is also low in fat, calories, and with no more than 8 pro points. I'll let you know how I did the fish below. It is quick and easy, and cooks in a
180C fan oven for about 30mins

Ingredients for One portion of the Trout recipe 

You can multiply the ingredients depending on how many you are cooking for. Please note, I have used large fillets. If you use smaller 120 gram ones, that cuts your WW pro points immensely, and your calories. You can therefore have 2 fillets each!

1 large fillet trout approx. 200 grams
1 slice of tomatoe, and 1 slice chopped up
sea salt flakes
1 large stuffed olive, cut horizontally in half
a small shake of onion salt
two or three leaves fresh parsley, chopped up
half clove of garlic, chopped up
black pepper (from a pepper grinder)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 oz water


1. Use a metal or oven proof dish large enough to take the amount of fish you are cooking, and put on oven at 180 C to heat.

2. Prepare fish by scraping off the scales from the skin with a knife. Use a pair of tweezers and pull out every bone if possible, so that your meal is not one where you spit out every other mouthful. This is not that hard and it is so worth the time. And trim off any pieces of bony, fatty edges.
Rinse fish in cold water.

3. Place fish in tin, skin side down.

4. On the top of the fish, rub on sea salt, onion salt, parsley, garlic, pepper,

5. Place slice of tomato in the middle of fish

6. Place halves of olives on either side of tomato slice

7. Sprinkle on the chopped tomato around the rest of fish

8. Drizzle on the lemon juice and pat it in

9. sprinkle on another few flakes of sea salt on to tomato topping.

10. pour in water carefully around side of pan so as not to disturb fish

11. Cover the pan completely with tin foil and tuck around sides so as to keep in the moisture.

12. Place in the heated oven and cook for around 25-30 mins

13. Remove foil, and baste on some of the water on to the fish carefully

14. Leave open and replace in oven for 5 mins.

Serve with any vegetables, potatoes or couscous

Hope you enjoy this. If you do, please leave me a comment. If you have any questions, please leave me a question. 

Enjoy! And Thank you, Saffron, Linda, and others from Warwick Weight Watchers, for asking me for this recipe! I hope it meets your expectation!

It has got me back to paying some attention to my blog!

Watch out for more recipes. I've also been asked for the Crispy Baked Potatoes.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015





Exotic settings are easy to escape into! Whatever the genre. They are warm, interesting, exciting, and usually informative. I am thinking of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Both one and two, were brilliant. The setting made it extra special. No doubt about it. And the cinemas are heaving with people going to see them. And what about Pirates of the Caribbean? All box office sell outs.

My novel THE LAST YEAR OF CHILDHOOD, is set in the exotic countryside of 1917 Trinidad, where much of the land was still rainforest.


1. The setting is in a village deep in the countryside where much of the land is still rainforest, cool and warm at the same time.

2. The climate is tropical, which means that it is always sleeveless weather even at night.

3. Fruits are juicy and abundant. Birds are colourful. Blossom and flowers are bold. 

4. Tropical landscape are full of clearly defined greens, reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, blues

5. The food is multiculturally tantalizing - Indian curries, Spanish flavours, Creole pepper pot, Chinese fried rice.

6. People are always welcome. Food and drink are always offered. It is good manners to accept something, or offence could be taken. 

7. Language and dialect add to the exotic experience.

8. The pastime is full of merrymaking, and music from Indian drums and African songs, combine. 

9. Everyone is invited to ceremonies and celebrations - Weddings, Hindu prayers, funerals.

10. All celebrations are a elaborate affair. Generosity by the host is always evident.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


We can all have an off day. That's normal life. But if as a writer, it carries on for longer, we can easily fall into a dark hole that can be called Writer's Block. The key is to keep writing, but how to do that with a blank in our head?

Generating ideas is not all that difficult. Most experienced writers are never really short of ideas, they just get a little bogged down in other things of life, or a state of mind, and forget what to do. A new writer generally has to learn what to do.

Continuing to laze in Writer's Block land can be detrimental to our writing life. So it is good to remember that ideas exist in everything around us every single day, whether we are sitting at home watching the TV, reading a book, looking out of the window, out at work, or shopping in the supermarket. 

Here are a few things to look out for that can turn into ideas for your plot -

- Something strikes you as odd. What is it?

- how we feel about someone lying about us

- how much gossip is enjoyable and where does it become detrimental

- Someone strikes you as unreasonable

- You overhear a phone conversation

- one person exerting control on another

- You hear the expression of a voice

- A parent shouting at a screaming child

- The body language of someone on the train in their own world

- An argument

- a boss who goes back on his word

- a joke

- a happy occasion

- An upsetting meeting

- A family gathering

- A wedding

- How we feel about our will power after eating a cream cake

- a debate or discussion. Does it become personal, or remain objective

- Hearing about an accident

- Seeing a parent on TV make a plea for kidnappers to return their child

- Someone misinterprets what you or someone else says

- a person who cannot be wrong

- A personality that is detrimental to another

- A person who has a way with words that calms a storm

- A difficult or demanding teenager

- A parent who has a particularly trying time

- An illness which takes its toll on the sufferer and the family

These are just a few examples to look out for in our daily lives. When we decide on using an idea, we just need to be careful how we use those when they involve actual people or incidents, because we wouldn't want to be sued. It's easily overcome by changing the setting, the time, the names, gender, and the relationships.

If any of the ideas come from our own experience, we can write with confidence about "what we know". Except, sometimes it can be too emotional. But it helps to write from the heart and which brings an authentic flavour to the writing.

So in order to undo Writer's Block, check out ideas from any part of our day and or any part of our life.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Dear Readers,

I'm back to my blog, from a double dose of winter flu that started before Christmas.

Thank you for being patient.

This morning, while listening to Breakfast Television, a well known author, (I will refer to him as Author X), was being interviewed on the sofa about his success in writing. He said something that struck me with a very large ? as to whether he was right or wrong, or if he was just wrong to say such a thing... Because it is the sort of thing that is not at all inspirational particularly to young or new writers. Even published, hard working writers might take offence at such a suggestion...

He said that being able to write is one thing, but writing a page-turner is a God-given gift.

This implies that you've either got it, or you haven't. And if you don't have that gift, you're not likely to be able to write a page-turner.

This further implies that if you're that good an author, you can't take the praise for effort yourself.

It is a well know fact that all manner of books get published, for all sorts of reasons, whether they end up selling well or not. Good books, Bad books, and Ugly books... Quality books as well as trashy ones. Reasons for this include - Luck - being in the right place at the right time. Knowing the right people. Or, a popular genre. Then there is the suddenly fashionable - books that are fast flying off the shelves because there has been a high marketing spend, or the author has hit a note and word has gone viral.

An book buying epidemic is what the publishers are looking for more. But they never really know what it is. Even if they think they do, the market saturates and disappoints them. And they are in search of some "fresh, new voice" again. But they will only know what they want when they see it.

So often we search the book shop shelves, and wonder... Why??? Who wants to read ... that trash?
But someone does. Many do in fact, which is why books we see as trashy or formulaic get chosen to be published in favour of others which might be - more sensible, better written, more informative, etc. We often forget that Publishers are businesses. And business exists to make a profit. Also, they cannot exist unless they are making profit. So it is about money. They must ask, can they justify the cost of publishing a particular book?

To return to Author X on the TV this morning - He was saying that writing is hard, but even if you can write well, it is another matter being able to write a page-turner. He said that writing a page turner, was a gift from God.

This is what has bothered me all day.

Because most things that are done well, and close to perfection, is hard.

Success in any field rarely comes without 80% perspiration.

Besides, life itself is a gift from God. We do not owe our very existence to ourselves, because we created none of it, not even a grain of hair on our heads.

I have to conclude that Author X is quite right, but only if you see all of success as hard work. We are all different, and some things come easier to one person whilst another thing comes easier to another person. Baking brownies, for example, comes easier to some, whilst others can never achieve a gooey centre with crispy edges and a crackly top. Could it be that they might need some help, or a different recipe, or time to practice?

Same with writing. Some need more time to practice, and to learn how to do it better.

Could it be that writing is one of those things that people think should come naturally? Taken for granted? Like so many other things we have all around us - food we eat, cakes we bake, clothes we wear, books available free in libraries? Could it be that we take these things for granted, along with anything else creative?

Could it be that we have become accustomed to not giving credit to people who create the standard things we see every day? Why is it that so often creativity is overlooked - passed over as simple, even simplistic? Could it be that we are ignorant of what it takes to create a piece of work such as a whole novel? The time, and labour? The hundreds of hours?

I wonder why do we acknowledge that a haute couture dress-designer's time is valuable? That their clothes will cost a fortune. Hundreds and thousands of pounds or dollars for one dress. If that same dress were made by our clever Mom or next door neighbour, we might think of it as having emotional value but we wouldn't value it as highly in terms of cash, as the one with a designer label! Why?

I wonder if the general public of readers really believe that writing a page-turner is just a God-given gift, and therefore a writer should not profit from it?

That is so wrong.

The author would have spent hundreds of hours producing a novel that is acceptable to the publisher, and marketable to the reader, only achieving pence per book. 

It takes a lot of time, much effort, and costs money to write one novel. 

I am reading one at the moment that is a page turner that took 11 years to write. It won the Pulitzer Prize 2014, but that was never a certainty when it was published. 

If the author was relying on just a natural gift to write a page turner, why did it take 11 years to write?