Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Day Off

I've been having a lot of pain in my neck and shoulders for the past few days, I think it's the result of all the time I've been spending on the computer. I wrote the draft for this post the good old-fashioned way using pen and paper, just to give myself a break from the infernal machine.

I do like to write with a pen though, particularly when I'm writing fiction, (not that this is). There's something about the physical action of the pen gliding across the page that seems to free up my mind.

Unfortunately, just lately, I've had to concentrate on getting my non-fiction book written, and as all my research stuff is on the computer, I have no choice but to use it. But, this afternoon, I'm giving myself a break.

When I've written this, I'm going to have some lunch, and by the time I've eaten our porch should be in the shade, so I plan to sit out there and have a read. Reading is something I've been neglecting of late. The book I'm going to start is James Michener's Alaska. I've never read anything of his before, but Mick highly recommended it.

It's also a lovely day for sitting outdoors. One of those rare days here in NE Oklahoma, where the temperature is not too hot, 83F, with blessedly low humidity, for once. Unlike Saturday, when we had more severe storms and torrential rain for most of the day.

Anyway, back to books. This morning on Britgal in the USA's blog, Sarah posted a list of 100 books decreed by Entertainment Weekly to be modern day classics. There were a few books on the list that, in my opinion, didn't deserve to be. Even though I had read and enjoyed them, I wouldn't have thought them "classic" material. There were also many I couldn't comment about, not having read them.

One book that I thought ought to have made the list but didn't, is Vikram Seth's, A Suitable Boy. This is a huge tome of a novel, 1474 pages in paperback, and this is taken from the blurb on the back:

"Set in the early 1950's, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis. A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsive tale of of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux. It is the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence."

It's an excellent book, I've read it twice, and one that thoroughly deserves to be called a modern classic. There are many others more deserving than, Harry Potter, Bridget Jones, Into Thin Air, and the Da Vinci Code, even though I don't dispute that the aforementioned are good reads.

Are there any books you would like to see added to the list?

Anyway, time to stop writing and have a read.

Thought for the week:

"The drudgery of being a professional writer comes in trying to make good days out of bad days, and in squeezing out the words when they won't just flow." ~ Benjamin Cavell

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Book Proposal. The deed, it is done

For the third week running we’ve had severe thunderstorms on Sunday night and Monday. This one was especially scary as the storm radio was naming our town, not just the county, as being under a tornado warning, and telling us to take cover immediately. So it was back to hiding in the closet until the danger passed. Fortunately, the tornado didn’t happen, but we did get a load more torrential rain. And, would you believe it? The forecast is for more of the same tonight and tomorrow, (and that’s not counting the storms we had mid-week, oh hum). Anyway enough of the weather.

I finally plucked up my courage this week and sent my child out into the world with its dinner money wrapped in its snotty hanky. Yes, I actually did it. I sent my book proposal to six publishers this week. (Yikes!) Hopefully, it will send some money back to its dear old mum and then she can carry on writing it. Truth is, I’m writing it anyway, quite frantically really, just in case.

It’s exciting, but also quite scary. Everyone in my writer’s group believes that it’s a done deal, and the judge in the recent writing contest that I won confirmed their view. I am trying to be positive about it, but am realistic enough to know that there are no guarantees in this game. I’d ask you to keep your fingers crossed for me, but it could be months before I hear anything, and you’d all end up crippled for life. Anyway, here’s hoping.

Cats and pills

Tommy, as a kitten, helping in the office

As talked about on my cooking blog here is how to give a cat a pill. I’m sure all you cat owners out there will really relate to this. If memory serves, I think I snaffled this from the BBC but I no longer have the link, so my apologies to the originator.

How to give a cat a pill...

1. Pick cat up and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom and throw soggy pill away.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for count of ten.

5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.

7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from the hearth and set to one side to repair later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink 1 beer to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10. Retrieve cat from neighbour's shed. Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard and close door onto neck to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus jab. Apply whisky compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw T-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Ring fire brigade to retrieve the cat from tree across the road. Apologise to neighbour who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13. Tie the cat's front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of fillet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14. Consume remainder of scotch. Get spouse to drive you to casualty, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnant from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

15. Arrange for RSPCA to collect mutant cat from hell and ring local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Doing It...around the world with Santa's Old Broads

Sippin' and Signin' with Santa's Old Broads

On Thursday afternoon I went to a Sippin’ and Signin’ hosted by Santa’s Old Broads. Okay, it’s only June, and who wants to think about Christmas at this time of year? But Santa’s Old Broads, have to think about it all year round, as every year they work tirelessly to raise money to help disadvantaged children have a great Christmas.

The Sippin’ and Signin’ was to celebrate the launch of their new cookbook entitled, Doing It...around the world. The book is jam packed with recipes from around the globe, and lots of laughs. All the recipes have saucy titles, as do the chapter headings, such as: Foreplay (Appetizers), Raucous Romping (Soups & Salads), and Climactic Endings (Desserts etc).

There are also food related jokes and poems in the book, I particularly like the section called "Who Says Blondes Can’t Cook," that looks at a week in the life of a blonde cook.

"Monday: It’s fun to cook for Tom. Today I made angel food cake. The recipe said beat 12 eggs separately. The neighbors were nice enough to loan me some extra bowls."

There are also lots of fun food related quotations dotted throughout the book, like this one from Erma Bombeck, "Think of all the women on the Titanic who said, ‘No, thank you,’ to dessert that night. And what for?"

In the Old Broads own words their cookbooks are, "Like us, just a little risqué and funny. These books require a sense of humor. If you find you are getting offended by the works of a bunch of ladies in their 50’s to 80’s, you might be a little square to begin with. It’s all about having fun and helping to make a brighter Christmas for the children."

The Old Broads also have three other cookbooks, Doing the kitchen volumes one and two, and the kitchen.

At the Sippin and Signin’ there were lots of goodies to eat all made from recipes in the cookbooks, as well as wine and sangria for sippin’, and all the Old Broads were on hand to sign copies of their books. Everyone had a fun afternoon. What’s more, every penny of the proceeds from their book sales and other fund raising events goes to help children in need in at Christmas.

To date, the Old Broads have sold cookbooks in every state in America, and they have even shipped some overseas to England, Australia, and France. These sales have enabled them to help nearly 700 children have a better Christmas than they ever could have imagined. I know, I helped to wrap all these gifts last year, and would have loved to have seen those kids’ faces when they opened their presents.

Every child they help is outfitted from top to toe in quality, name brand clothing, and each receives toys or gifts from their own wish list. Moreover, the kids never know where the gifts came from because Santa’s Old Broads work in complete anonymity.

I would like to say a great big thank you to everyone who has supported Santa’s Old Broads by buying their cookbooks. If you haven’t already bought one, do so today – in fact buy all four, they make great gifts ― and know you have helped to bring a smile to a child’s face this Christmas.

For more information and to buy books check out the Old Broad’s web site at:

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting a few recipes from these cookbooks on my cooking blog at: so y’all come by, and check ‘em out.

P.S. You’ll even find a few of my British recipes in the new book.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tag #2

Sarah, also tagged me. Ditto what I said to Pam.

What was I doing 10 years ago?

I was working as an Education Programs Coordinator at a museum in Northern California. Rather a grand title, but basically I was teaching kids about archaeology and local history. God knows how I swung that one, as I knew nothing about archaeology and very little local history, but I’m a quick learner, Mrs. Munro.

Five Snacks I enjoy:

I’m not really a snack eater, probably because most of the snacks I enjoy are English, but in no particular order

1. Lancashire cheese and branston pickle butties, (sandwiches if you want to be posh).

2. Caramel Wafers (chocolate or plain).

3. Jacobs Cream Crackers, with any sort of English cheese.

4. Walkers Crisps (plain, cheese & onion, or smokey bacon).

5. Vanilla Slices.

In fact, all the snacks I enjoy are English.

Five Things On My To-Do List Today:

1. Housework.

2. Make a start on an article for the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Magazine.

3. Send a short story into a writing contest.

4. E-mail a few friends in England, I am always very lax about correspondence.

5. Answer this bloody tag.

Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire:

I would stimulate our flagging economy by doing my damndest to spend it all.

Five Jobs I Have Had:

1. Checkout Supervisor at an Asda supermarket.

2. Executive Officer in the Civil Service.

3. Education Programs Coordinator.

4. Administrative Assistant and Production Coordinator at an engineering company.

5. Freelance Writer.

Five of My Bad Habits:

1. Smoking cigarettes.

2. Drinking wine.

3. Procrastinating.

4. I’m a perfectionist, which makes me critical of myself and others.

5. Impatience.

Five Places I've Lived:

1. Colne, Lancashire.

2. Chatsworth, in the San Fernando Valley, Southern Cal.

3. Benicia, Northern Cal.4.

4. Oxnard, Southern Cal.

5. Oklahoma.

6 People I Want To Get To Know Better:

As I said I’ll skip the tagging. It’s not that there aren’t people I would like to know better, just not this way.

Five Random Things:

1. I often work in my pajamas, this has caused me some embarrassing moments, particularly if someone arrives at the house unexpectedly.

2. I hate cruelty to animals.

3. Even though my cats are allowed to roam freely, they do like to come for walks with me. Alvin even likes to chase sticks, but I’ve never managed to get him to bring them back.

4. I love playing Scrabble.

5. My love of mystery/who-done-it novels began when I read all of Agatha Christie’s detective books in my teens.

Tag #1

Okay, Pam at tagged me (just be careful where you stick the pins), so I’ll play along and tell you 6 random things about myself. But the buck stops here. I don’t have 6 readers on this blog that I can tag, and I wouldn’t want to if I had. I don’t like these meme things, as far as I’m concerned they are the blog equivalent of chain letters.

  1. Many people think that because I’m a British broad over here that I must be married
    to an American. Not so. Mick is from Yorkshire, and I am from Lancashire, so the War of the Roses continues to rage in our house. Well, occasionally. ;-)
  2. I made a decision at age 13 that I would never have kids, and I never have. I also have no regrets on that score.
  3. Ah, but what about the granddaughter you ask? I have a step-daughter whom I love dearly, and five wonderful grandchildren, one girl and four boys.
  4. At age 13, I also said I would never marry, but I’m glad I didn’t stick with that decision. Although I did manage to make it through to 38 before I succumbed.
  5. When we first moved to the States it was our intention to remain here for one year. Thirteen years later, we’re still here.
  6. Other than family and friends, the thing I miss most about England is the accessibility of the rest of Europe, and all those wonderful cheap package holidays.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It's been one of those weeks!

Alvin in better days.

It’s just been one of those weeks, this week. Memorial Day was a total wash-out, with storm after storm raging through our area all day, and a couple of tornado warnings thrown in for good measure.

We did finally get hold of the vet on Monday evening, and he agreed to take a look at Alvin’s leg. Luckily, there was nothing broken, except my purse, which ended up $98 lighter. But, judging by the entrails left on my porch yesterday morning, he has now made a complete recovery.

Tuesday evening, I had to go to a meeting of my writer’s group, and the bloody garage door mechanism had been knocked out in all the storms, so I couldn’t get my car out. Mick had forgotten about my meeting, or he would have left it open when he went to work. I finally got there 40 minutes late, and I hate being late. Plus, with all the carry-on over the garage door, I forgot to take the critiquing I had done for the group.

Wednesday, I was in a sweat, because I needed some photographs for my latest article for Oklahoma Living, many of my own had turned out too dark to use. The photographer had been supposed to e-mail them to me on Saturday, but it being a holiday, I thought I would leave off pestering him until Tuesday. Anyway, he did get them to me later that day, so I managed to make my deadline. I hate being late.

Thursday, I was finishing up my book proposal, and inadvertently deleted a chunk of it, and had to redo it. But I did finally get the bloody thing done.

Friday, I had to catch up with some household chores, and getting my hand down the toilet (I did have a brush, I hasten to add), was the perfect end to my week. Oh well, it’s the weekend, things can only get better from here on in, can’t they?

Here’s some more writerly advice for my granddaughter. All writers will tell you that a story or a novel needs a "good hook," at the very beginning. A good hook is what compels the reader to keep reading, and is usually a problem or conflict, that your main protagonist has to sort out, or try to sort out (not all stories end happily), during the course of the story.

In a short story the hook should be in the very first paragraph. In a novel, it should be in the first chapter, preferably in the first couple of pages.

A common mistake for beginning writers is to start the story/novel by giving the back story to the events that are going to follow, or by telling all about the main character. This is one sure fire way to bore your readers to death. It’s not that these things aren’t important, but they should be revealed as the story unfolds. Likewise with characters, meeting a character is like meeting a person for the first time, you don’t know everything there is to know about them after one encounter. We should learn more about a character as the story develops, and we learn as much, if not more, about them through their actions and reactions to events and situations, as by being given a full history of their lives to date.

At the beginning of a story readers don’t care how upset Aunt Mabel’s was when her ginger tom died mysteriously. At this stage they have no investment in Aunt Mabel or her cat. But if the death of Aunt Mabel’s ginger tom was a catalyst (no pun intended), to a neighbor’s vendetta against Aunt Mabel, then we want to know what that vendetta is all about. Sorry that’s a bit of a pathetic example, but I think you get my drift.

This is the opening from one of my stories, hopefully it makes you want to know more about what happened to this character.

I feel as though I have to tell my story in order to make some sense of it, for my own sake if for no one else’s. The events I am going to relate have unsettled me for some time. No, more than unsettled me, they actually caused me to fear for my sanity. But if I can work through the bizarre occurrences of past few months with pen and paper, perhaps I can consider myself cured. This recent madness, only a temporary glitch in an otherwise sane existence.

This type of opening is known as a grabber. Another type of opening is known as a teaser, it draws the reader into the story more gradually. Teasers only work in novels, as short stories need to be off and running from the outset. I do have an example of a teaser, but I’m not going to post it as the novel is still a work in progress.

Thought for the week:
Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the art of composition, I resolved to write a book. – Edward Bulwer-Lytton