Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This land turtle is a little shy

This week I have visited several blogs belonging to British ex-pats, many of whom bemoan the fact that you can’t get a decent curry in the US for love nor money. That’s because most Americans seem to have an aversion to spicy food. Their idea of spicy food is having chipotle sauce on their cardboard burgers.

In California, where I used to live, we had a great Indian restaurant, their food was excellent, but if you wanted a spicy curry you had to ask for it, and they would happily oblige. (Even their vindaloo was tame).

Now I live out in the back of beyond, I have about as much chance of finding an Indian restaurant as I have of winning the lottery, and I don’t do the lottery. So, the only way to get a decent curry is to make one, now this one is pretty good if I do say so myself. For the recipe visit my cooking blog at:

Also all this talk of curries got me thinking about balti. Baltis were becoming very popular around the time I left England, and I loved them. So this weekend, provided it’s not 90°F outside, I’ll make one, and some naan bread. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

First Drafts

Meet Alvin, who ought to have been named Arnie, because he is one lean, mean, killing machine.

This week:

I’ve actually started putting together a book proposal for my non-fiction book. Done some research for my next article for Oklahoma Living Magazine.
And submitted two short stories to two different short story contests.

The weather here has been all over the place this week, too. We’ve had more storms, and some sun with temperatures in the high 70’s F, which is great growing weather, so everything is looking really green again. Today, though, it’s back in the 50’s and will get close to freezing tonight, (more of the same forecast for tomorrow), which is not good news for our vegetable plots. We had hoped to get our tomatoes planted this weekend, but that has had to be put on hold for a little while longer. For more information on our garden visit Mick’s blog

Mick and I have also splashed out and bought a new digital camera, after humming and arring about it for weeks, (did I mention Mick’s from Yorkshire, so what else can you expect?) Our old camera was a museum piece, and the picture quality left a lot to be desired. Seeing all the beautiful photographs on this blog finally clinched the matter. Whether I'll ever figure out how to use it is another matter, the instruction manual is bigger than the camera!

And now more writerly advice for my granddaughter, and anyone else who’s interested..

When you set out to write a book or a story, don’t even think about getting it published, just get the story down on paper/computer. And don’t worry too much about spelling, grammar or punctuation, you can go back and fix these when you do your second (3rd, 4th etc.) draft. The important thing is to get the story told. Stephen King, in his excellent book, On Writing calls this process, "writing with the door shut."

The revising, re-writing, and polishing of the prose all come later. All writers will tell you that they never write anything worth publishing the first time around, and it often takes several drafts before they have a novel or story they are reasonably happy with. Though I don’t think any writer is ever completely satisfied with what they do, they always feel there’s room for improvement, but there comes a point when you just have to stop tinkering and tweaking and send it out into the world.

I also have a confession to make. I haven’t been sticking to my own advice. I’ve been critiquing my granddaughter’s work, and she has been going back and revising it. But, that said, her book is still progressing, despite the revisions, she’s up to over 30,000 words now, and I think that’s bloody admirable for a fifteen year old who has all her school work to do as well.

Thought for the Week

"If you start to revise before you've reached the end, you're likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing." ― Pearl S. Buck

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Writer's Groups

A few of the Grand Lake Wordsmiths after a
presentation at Grove Public Library

Here’s some more writerly (Is that a word? My spoolchucker doesn’t think so. If not, it is now) advice I gave my granddaughter.

Join a writer’s group. If you’re not sure if there is one in your area, try asking at the library, they will probably know if there is one. I joined a writer’s group when I first moved to Oklahoma and I believe my writing has improved as a result. I know without the support and encouragement of my writer’s group, I would never have tried to get anything published.

At first it’s very difficult having your stories critiqued, after all, we none of us like criticism of our work. But as well as helping to improve your writing, it helps you develop a thick skin, and believe me you’ll need it if you want to be a writer. I could paper my office walls with all my rejections. Writing is also a very isolated business and it’s good to be able to talk about it with like-minded people.

Also the diverse writing styles of the group caused me to look outside my comfort zone and try different types of writing. When I first joined them I wrote short stories and nothing else. Now, I write non-fiction articles and essays about all manner of things. Who knows, one of these days I might really branch out and write some poetry. The last time I tried to write poetry it was as an outlet for my teenage angst, and that was a long time ago.

Writer’s groups are also a great way to make new friends. The group I belong to is called Grand Lake Wordsmiths Unlimited, and we meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month, between 4pm and 6pm, at Grove Community Center. New members are always welcome, so if you live in the Grand Lake area, drop by and see us some time. We also have a critique group meeting in the middle of the month, the dates and times of these are arranged at our monthly meetings.

Thought for the Week

“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork”. ― Peter De Vries

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Take Baby Steps

Some Spring Color After the Rain

Last year my granddaughter told me she was trying to write a book and asked me for some tips to help her with her writing, I came up with a list of about ten things she could do. Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my suggestions here.

I’ve read quite a few books on the subject of writing and all of them stress the same thing, if you are serious about being a writer you must write every day whether you want to or not.

This can be very difficult to do as we all have so many other demands on our time, jobs, kids, and in my granddaughter’s case, school work, after-school projects, and homework. And with so little spare time a novel seems a daunting task, so it’s easier not to begin.

But most first-time novelists have the same time constraints as the rest of us, so how did they managed to finish their books? They learn to write in small doses, by getting up an hour earlier, by writing on the train going to work, or in their lunch break. And instead of collapsing in front of the TV after a busy day, they collapsed in front of their computers and wrote some more.

What you need to do is look at your schedule, and decide to commit a certain amount of time to writing. Even if you find that you only have 15 minutes to spare, you can write a couple of paragraphs in that time, and in two days you’ll have a page. Keep it up for a year and you’ll have 183 pages. It doesn’t seem quite so daunting if you look at it like that.

And when you’re standing in line at the cashier’s desk in the supermarket, instead of browsing the magazines, think about what you’re going to write next. (The same applies when doing any menial tasks, housework, driving, or mowing the lawn). That way you’ll know what you want to write before you sit down to write.

This week’s thought for the week:

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~ Richard Bach

Sunday, April 6, 2008

This Writing Lark, er Life

Pensacola Dam on the Grand River, Oklahoma

When I started this blog I intended it to be mainly about writing, with a few rambles and rants thrown in for good measure. Now it seems that it’s about anything but writing, so I need to get back on track. I’ve moved the cooking stuff to another blog, if you’re interested you can find it at:

It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have. A children’s history magazine, that I have written for before, e-mailed me wanting submissions for an issue they were doing on Nazi Germany. I wrote a piece about the life of women in Nazi Germany and e-mailed it to them back at the end of February. But, it seems it’s just disappeared into the ether. It was a good article, too, it certainly generated quite a bit of discussion at my writer’s group – Grand Lake Wordsmiths Unlimited – when I read it to them.

Then I sent a few e-mail queries out about another story and got a bite straight away. I wrote the article, sent it in and haven’t heard another thing from them. Oh, the writing life, and people think I have an easy job just because I can work in my pyjamas most of the time.

I’m also working on a non-fiction book, it requires a lot of research, but I am almost at the point where I can start putting together a book proposal, almost! And I have a new assignment for Oklahoma Living Magazine that I need to start work on soon. I’ve made a tentative start on a new short story, and I have an idea for a novel burning a hole in my brain, but never actually making it onto paper. One day!

Well, I'll get back to twidling my thumbs and gazing out of the window.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

That was the week that was

Room for a small one in there?
That was the week that was:
Speaking of too many thirteen’s in my life. Last week, our home phone went on the blink, and it took five days before someone came to repair it. Then Mick’s car broke down; he had to get it towed to the repair shop, and only got it back yesterday. So that meant I was car less for several days. Then, we had just got all the flotsam and jetsam from last week’s flood cleared out of our yard, when we had another deluge on Monday. (I had to take refuge in the closet due to a tornado warning). Another six inches of rain fell in a couple of hours and the lake was back. Oh hum.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Earth Hour

Earth Hour

Earth Hour organizers estimate 100 million people took part this year’s event. Mick and I did our bit on Saturday, we switched off all electrical appliances (except the fridge), and resorted to candle power for pretty much the rest of the evening really. Our neighbors probably thought we hadn’t paid our electric bill as lights continued to blaze in their homes. I wonder, did anyone else in Oklahoma take part?

Skeptics out there will say, what use is turning off the power for one hour? A lot of use, because it shows the extent of people’s concern about global warming. This is a global issue, and it will take a worldwide effort to resolve the problem. Global warming is not going to go away just because we continue to ignore it. Unless something is done soon we are in danger of destroying our planet, and the last time I looked it’s the only one we’ve got. There ain’t nowhere to go from here.

And the problem is not just in the hands of governments, it’s in all our hands. We all need to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint. If we all do a little it adds up to a great deal.

While we sat there in semi darkness Mick and I talked about what we missed the most about the power being off, and we both agreed it was light. If you have light you can read a book, have a game of scrabble, or write. There’s not much you can do without light.

Whenever there’s been a power outage in your neighborhood, what have you missed the most?

Ta ta for now.