Monday, 10 March 2014
Thursday, 27 February 2014
Monday, 17 February 2014
I was invited to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour by Kathy Sharp, who wrote her post last week.
The blog tour consists of answering four questions about my writing process:
What am I working on?
I have several unfinished projects on the go at the moment. That’s the story of my life, really. If anything gets finished it’s little short of a minor miracle.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not afraid of mixing genres or challenging existing ideas. For example, my debut novel The Ghostly Father, which was officially released last week, offered what I hope is a plausible alternative telling of the old Romeo & Juliet story. Interestingly, Waterstones have it listed on their website under Science Fiction! I’m still trying to figure that one out…
Why do I write what I do?
The Ghostly Father was my response to the challenge “Write the book you want to read.” The book I’ve always wanted to read is the version of Romeo & Juliet where things don’t go horribly wrong for them. Judging by the amazing response to its release, it appears that I’m not by any means the only one! Thank you, everyone who has bought it and made it such an overwhelming success!
How does my writing process work?
It starts with an idea, which gets mulled over for a while. Then I start making notes. Originally, these notes were usually scribbled on the backs of envelopes, or in the margin of whatever newspaper happened to be lying around at the time. Now, they’re made using the Notes feature on my phone, or in a Moleskine notebook which was a gift from another writer friend. Either way, I have a curious collection of snippets and eavesdroppings which are waiting for the right moment to be used.
I’d say my writing process has changed quite significantly in recent years. When I first started, I felt as though every word was carved in stone, and once it was down on the page it could never be changed. Now, looking back at some of my earlier scribblings, I visibly cringe. Did I really think the first version was also good enough to be the final version? Taking writing courses, belonging to writing groups, and working as an editor, have all shown me that whatever I’m writing, there’s always room for improvement. This blog post has already been through the editorial mangle several times…
Now, once I start writing I just keep going. It’s more important to get the words down, then go back and revise them later. As another writer friend once told me: “You can’t edit a blank page.” If I get stuck, I get up and do something else for a little while; more often than not the answer comes to me when I’m doing something which doesn’t call for too much brain-power. I’ve had some of my best ideas when I’ve been mowing the lawn!
Which reminds me – I need to replace the lawn-mower…
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Today I’m the guest of the lovely Jane Bwye. If you want to find out a bit more about how The Ghostly Father came into being, hop over there and take a look!
Thursday, 6 February 2014
Friday, 31 January 2014
King Charles Marmalade
Making marmalade is one of the few things I can do with any degree of success (or even reliability). For some reason, long since lost in the mists of antiquity, I always seem to make it on January 30th - the feast day of Charles, King and Martyr. Hence, it has become known (to me, at any rate) as King Charles Marmalade.
My dear departed Belle-Mère used to make her own marmalade which was, quite simply, the best I've ever tasted. Some years ago she gave me the recipe, which I've since adapted for use with a microwave. I've been using this tried and tested method for several years, and would love to share it with anyone who might find it useful. It yields 3-4lb of sharp, zesty marmalade – with no long hours of standing, stirring, watching or burning – and no messy pan to wash afterwards!!!
You will need:
- 6 Seville Oranges (NOT dessert oranges – which are much too sweet, and don’t have enough natural pectin). The season for Seville Oranges is quite short; usually January/February (Northern Hemisphere) or July/August (Southern Hemisphere)
- 1kg Jam Sugar NB: ordinary sugar won’t do. Unless, that is, you want to have to boil your marmalade to within an inch of its life, and end up with something much more suited to repairing holes in roads. Jam sugar has extra pectin, which makes the whole process much simpler and quicker!
- Water as required
- Whisky to taste (optional)
You will also need:
- One large microwave-safe bowl (the marmalade expands considerably whilst boiling, so the bowl must not be more than half-full when cold)
- One medium-sized microwave-safe bowl
- One wooden spoon
- One kettle
- Two 500-ml measuring jugs
- One nylon sieve
- One citrus zester (you can use a fine grater, but I find a zester is quicker and neater)
- One electric blender (the hand-held sort is best, as you can use it in the cooking bowl. Otherwise a liquidiser will do, or a food-processor - or even an old-fashioned potato-masher, if you’ve got plenty of time and the muscles of an all-in wrestler)
- A supply of clean jamjars, plus lids
- One pair of hands
- One bowl of warm soapy water
- One glass of wine (of your choice)
- One copy of The Times crossword (if The Times is not available, The Guardian or The Daily Telegraph will do – or any other quality broadsheet)
- One pen
- These instructions
- Oh yes – one microwave oven (these instructions are based on 700W, and all settings are HIGH throughout)
- One dishwasher (not essential, but preferable)
Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Remove the rind from the fruit using the zester (this shreds it finely and you don’t get any of the pith). Put the rind into one of the measuring jugs, and fill the jug to the 500-ml mark with boiling water. Leave to cool (uncovered) for about an hour – during this time a little of the water will evaporate.
Meanwhile, peel the oranges and discard the pith. Put the fruit into the large bowl and crush roughly with your hands, discarding any of the tough membranes. Extract the pips and put them into the medium-sized bowl. (Be warned – Seville oranges are extremely pippy! This part of the job is rather messy, I’m afraid. The bowl of warm soapy water is for washing your sticky paws afterwards.) Add 250-ml of boiling water to the pips, put the bowl in the microwave, set the timer for 10 minutes, then sit down with the glass of wine, the crossword and the pen.
After microwaving the pips, stir the mixture well and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, then strain it through the sieve and add the liquid (it will look like a thin clear runny jelly) to the fruit in the large bowl. Try to extract as much of this as possible – it is the natural pectin which will help the marmalade to set. Discard the pips.
Now strain the contents of the other jug into the bowl and liquidise the fruit mixture using the blender. If you want shredless marmalade you can discard the zest – otherwise stir it into the mixture now. Add approximately one-third of the sugar and stir well. Microwave the mixture for 10 minutes whilst you resume your attempt at the crossword.
Add the remaining sugar, stir the mixture well and microwave for a further 10 minutes. Stir well, then microwave again for another 10 minutes. Stir well, then leave the mixture to stand for 10 minutes before pouring into sterilised jars. The marmalade will still look quite runny at this stage, but don’t worry; it will set as it cools. If you like, stir a dash of whisky into the jar before putting the lid on.
Put all the dishes and utensils into the dishwasher.
If you haven’t finished the glass of wine and the crossword, do so now. If you have, you can reward yourself with another glass of wine.
Please note - no kings were harmed in the making of this condiment.