Don’t Panic! There’s still time!

 Have YOU done your Christmas shopping?

                      I mean Have You? HAVE YOU? ….  I haven’t!

                                 Indeed – What type of Christmas shopper are you?

DSCF0088Are you a very organised person? Do you buy throughout the year as ideas come to you?

Sad to say – I’m not one of those.

Maybe you are a blitzer – make a list and blitz the shops notching up scores until the whole lot is got?

No, I’m not one of those either.

Maybe you like to sit at the computer in late November or early December and order everything on-line?

Now, I have to admit I’d like to do this. However, if I am stuck for ideas this doesn’t work very well for me – real browsing would be better at triggering ideas.

I have a confession – I do not like shopping.

There, I’ve said it. I know, I know, we women are supposed to like shopping.
But I mean – who says?? No-one asked me!

I do not even like shopping for things, clothes, treats or gifts for MYSELF – let alone any other type of shopping!

A trip to the shops usually has me returning with either something, which I later decide is not the right thing after all, or nothing – except a headache – which I always come back with. (which is why the internet shopping is attractive – don’t usually get a headache doing that)

More than anything – I do not want to go to Plymouth, our nearest metropolis, and trail around the shops there – it is not just Plymouth – I just do not want to trail around shops in any town or city – it is not my thing.

You get the picture – Christmas shopping is not a joyous time for me – though I love to give gifts that I know the other person will actually want and like!

 For the main presents ‘want’ and ‘like’ are the key words to me – however I am now resigned to the fact that I cannot buy what my loved ones will really want and like and make it a surprise. Oh, yes – I forgot to mention that. I really would like presents to be a surprise. A surprise that also happens to really and truly be ‘Just What they Wanted’ … Yeah, right, in my dreams.

And so … no surprises any more for the big stuff – now the esoteric gifts (climbing gear – for instance) is ordered via a link to the precise item, or a description given that cannot be mistaken in any way, for the more usual things.

However, for ‘secondary’ or ‘stocking’ presents I like unique, interesting, different gifts if I can find them to suit the right people – and so, as I said in an earlier blog, I do frequent local quality Craft Fairs – like the one coming up at Upton Cross next weekend. (4th– 6th) where lovely things and beautiful paintings are to be found (as well as my novels) and these have to satisfy my longing to ‘surprise!’

What kind of Christmas Shopper are You?

Are you a woman and like shopping? (or not?)

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.upton cross

 

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Here’s a question – all about style

I’m busy formatting a book.

It’s not something most people think about unless they are a writer or a publisher – and here’s the thing – STYLES CHANGE!  WP_20150922_11_25_22_Pro

I read only yesterday that the guide to use when formatting a book should be the Chicago Manual of Style (which is a paid-for online service) self designated as ‘recommendations on editorial style and publishing practices for the digital age’.

‘Recommendations’ … a style guru for the digital age of publishing that seems to be trying to be the go-to and one and only way to set-up a book.

Today I went to my book shelves and picked up a couple of books, one published in 1998 and one in 2012. What did I find?

The style of speech-marks – 1998 — all doubles “…”   –  the 2012  — all singles ‘…’ .  I did wonder if it was just the ‘House’ style – as the old book was Penguin and the new was Orion.

Not at all, I found a new Penguin on my shelf and that also had single speech-marks. WP_20150922_11_21_56_ProWP_20150922_11_18_51_Pro

 

 

(click on any picture to enlarge)
Then there is the ‘one gap after a full-stop (period) or two?’  This has just about reached the final stage – two seems to have been dropped – though you will still find people citing that it should be used in manuscripts. (Often difficult to tell – as the full-justification of pages evens out all the spaces making it look like two sometimes)

So publishing style is mutable and does mutate over time – and I, for one, am wondering why the idea that all speech should be indented still hangs on. I think, as a reader, that I am perfectly capable of reading the speech-marks and that, alone, telling me that someone is speaking.  I even find some novels with a lot of speech – all indented – annoying to read / look at. Especially the convention that has a line beginning indented but not with speech-marks … because a piece of speech is coming up. NOW that just looks like it is a new paragraph to begin with – and can actually be confusing when the speakers are in a full-flow conversation!

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from Some Kind of Synchrony

To Indent or not to Indent – that is the question
so … I’m doing something different – I’m missing these speech-indents out on my formatting. What do you think – does this make my books weird or just ahead of the game?

What are your thoughts on this?

Looking forward to your feedback.

Do share – you know I love to hear from you …

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Standing room only!

They ran out of chairs! Yes – when we held the official book-launch of Some Kind of Synchrony at Waterstones in New George Street Plymouth we started with the 45 chairs from the Costa end of the upstairs set out nicely for the author-interview at the book-shop end. set up

Lee, manager of this Waterstones, had created a lovely display of my books and set two leather chairs in front of this, nicely angled as per a chat-show with the audience seats in a neat block in front of us.

The bubbly and nibbles we set up on a table off to the side and then we waited.

The audience began to arrive. To begin with I knew most of them; I had invited lots of friends and acquaintances to help me celebrate the launch of the novel. It was so exciting to greet people as they arrived. Soon it was obvious that Lee would need to put out the reserve folding chairs… but the audience continued to grow, with people I did not know swelling the numbers. Eventually all the heavy armchairs were manhandled over from the Costa end as well so that most people could have a seat. … even so, some had to remain standing.waterstonesNow the audience was not confined to a block in front of the set up arrangement, but ranged around the top of the stairwell (and therefore behind a large pillar) so, to make sure that the most people could then at least see and hear me while I talked I abandoned the seated ‘chat-show’ format and took to standing at the far end of our space. I find I like standing to talk – probably from years of teaching!

I ought to be able to remember everything I said… after all I had primed Simon, who was conducting the interview as well as there to add his own insight into the venue, with suitable questions, but I can’t! Everything is a bit of a blur … did I say ‘this or that’ then… or when I was talking to the journalist at the Tavistock Times earlier that same day?

One point I know was made … Some Kind of Synchrony is largely based in a Newspaper office and so is the story within the novel, and I had done my research for this at the Western Morning News. This particular Waterstones is housed in what was the original Western Morning News building – making it the perfect place for the launch of this novel!chat 1

So at an opportune moment Simon Parker, who is an editor with the Western Morning News and an author in his own right, painted a verbal picture of what that very building we were sitting in was like when it was the Western Morning News building and he was a young journalist. You could almost smell the smoke, hear the clatter and recreate the surrounding as he described them.

The time seemed to fly – I know that I really enjoyed myself  (once we got going – bag of nerves before)  and feedback seems to indicate that my lovely audience did too.

A very short reading to finish up and we were breaking open the bubbly – or rather others were as I had the honour of signing and dedicating books! I even had a queue at one time! queue

If you came along – thank you – an author is nothing without readers and neither is a book launch without friends and readers to share it with.

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Rack emptied of Some Kind of Synchrony

Eventually I worked out where and who the people I did not know came from, mostly friends and acquaintances of friends, and asked for my thanks to be passed along to them for coming … all except a young man with a long-ponytail who had his copy of Some Kind of Synchrony dedicated to Daniel (his name I presume) and who, at the time, I assumed was a friend of my nephew. Seems not, so whoever you are Daniel – thank you too for coming along!

Finally I have learnt three things from this event – and you all know how much I love to learn – a day where I have learnt something is a day well spent. One, from a question put to me about setting aside time to write… that I have been looking at this all wrong. I managed to write my first (never to be seen again) novel in short half hour blocks. Even if I can not manage my ideal of two hours uninterrupted I should ‘go for it’ in any half hours I have – these exist where the two hours slots are elusive. Two, I always knew I used my hands a LOT when I talk (it has been commented upon on numerous occasion) and isn’t about to change, but flicking through the photographs taken by Krissi on the evening I had not realised how many funny faces I pull as I talk. Now, having not realised it I probably can’t do much about it – but trying to find ‘nice’ pictures to post was tricky! And three – I am blessed with lovely friends who are willing to support me when the call goes out – and that is a blessing indeed.

Did you come along? What were your impressions?

Did you have a question you wished you had asked? I can answer now….

Do You want to know about the next book launch when it comes up – just let me know by email and I’ll send you an invite 🙂

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Pavlova time! My ‘fool-proof’ recipe

Lovely sun, luscious strawberries … it’s the perfect time for pavlova!

Sweet, dessert, pudding, whatever you like to call it, is the topping-off of a good meal. Carefully chosen to balance the type of meal preceding it, it can be a delight … and so very, very tempting, because one thing they nearly all have in common is a high carbohydrate content.  Still, don’t you find that  no matter how filling the main meal was, there still seems to be room for the sweet treat? (in our pudding stomach ) 🙂 And my favourite – the Pavlova – is no exception so I offer it to you again.phpG50cumAM.jpg 2

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Kiwi Blossom on our plants

This one, made last week, was loaded-up with double cream, local strawberries and the very last of our own Kiwi fruit! Yes! Our own Cornwall-grown Kiwi fruit ... kept in an outdoor vermin-proof shed – 500 odd of them lined up in egg-trays – but these were the very last. There was one tray left – but the heat of the last couple of weeks had pushed most of them over the edge (too ripe). Not bad really, considering that the blossom is just opening on the kiwi plants!

It is believed that the dessert we know as the Pavlova was created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Ann Pavlova when on a tour of New Zealand in the 1920s (though Australia hotly contests this, claiming to be the nation that hosted this culinary naming)

It is one of my favourite desserts and a long time ago I found a virtually fool-proof method of making them which has become much appreciated in the family as when I make them I usually make 3 bases at a time (well, if you have the oven on you may as well fill it up, and they do keep quite well in a sealed cake tub) and this means more than one meal-time gets this treat.  These Pavlovas are also brilliant for when you have a horde of people round – each one cutting into 8 generous servings. Best when the fruit is in season – so choose in-season brightly coloured soft or softish fruit when you can (hard fruit, like sliced apple, just doesn’t sit as well with this dessert)

Ann’s Pavlova ( or Vacherin  – not the cheese!)  

This  looks like meringue but it is really an adaptation I have made of a Vacherin – which is a type of meringue made with icing sugar (usually whisked once, but over hot water – my method seems to work just as well and be less of a bother)

Makes a 9 inch Pavlova base or 40 half mini meringues

2 egg whites
4 oz of sieved icing sugar.

Method

1, Whisk the egg whites until in stiff peaks.
2, Sieve the icing sugar and add to the whipped whites.
3, Whisk again until the mixture returns to stiff peaks
4, Either scoop into a piping bag and pipe small meringues onto a  greased baking sheet  (makes about 40 halves)
Or line the base of a 9” sandwich tin and grease the sides (or line a baking tray , draw a 9” diameter  circle, grease the sheet, spread or pipe the mixture over the area of the circle – adding a little more towards the rim).

Bake at 160 C or 140 C fan oven or Gas mk 3 (until palest fawn)

15- 20 mins for the small
1 ½  – 2 hours for Pavlova

Allow to cool gradually – I usually turn the oven off and allow it to cool before removing the pavlova bases.

To decorate use either 4 – 8 oz Cornish Clotted Cream or whip at least a quarter pint of Double Cream (taking care not to make too thick – nor runny) and spread evenly and thickly over the top.  Decorate with slices of soft / softish, fruits.

For mini-meringues. Whisk 1/4 pint double cream, place in piping tube with rosette nozzle. Pipe on one half – squeeze lightly as you stick the other half on.

Hope you find this recipe works well for you too!

Food is such an important part of our lives, it brings back memories, it can brighten our day or it can be a drudge and a scourge. How people eat and what they eat can help set scenes in novels too, can tell y0u a lot about the character without spelling it out. Take this excerpt from my novel Some Kind of Synchrony

The unexpected aroma of pizza, unmistakable in its amalgam of cooked cheese and oregano, stopped her for a moment, standing in her own hall, a rabbit poised for flight.  Then Andy appeared, filling the kitchen doorway.           

       ‘Thought I heard the door,’ he said and turned back into the kitchen.  Faith grabbed up the shopping bag and her handbag, pushed the door shut with the vigour it required, and followed him.  Two large size Pizzas stood on the table, one with the lid flopped back and a ragged wedge missing.  Andy held the remains of this piece in his fingers as he lounged against the worktop.  ‘Thought we’d have a pizza tonight – got the kids a video out too,’ he smiled, shoved the thick crust into his mouth and chewed contentedly, wiping his fingers on his jeans then folding his arms. 

I hope it’s painted a picture of Andy for you – to read the first three chapters of this book, and my others, free in PDF  just click here

What is your favourite dessert?

Are you enjoying the heat summer?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you and, fingers crossed, the glitches on the comments should be sorted out now – so i will know when you have written  🙂

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The JOY of LISTS

I love a list, me.

If I have a lot to do —- or am organising something … or need to take a multifarious number of items with me somewhere …. or ….yes, even for shopping….. I make a list. And, not so long ago, when I was under a lot of pressure I found that making lists was the only way for me to get things done that I had committed to, to make sure I didn’t let other people down. I hate letting people down and beat myself up big time if I ever do.

What was worse was forgetting to do things and, with my mother suffering from dementia, I can tell you that forgetting to do things starts to feel worrying! Lists were my way of achieving the myriad of small but important things that had to be done over and above running what had become a tiring and complicated life.

However, through this I have discovered the Joy of Lists!  I had discovered that lists are life-affirming. Lists can give you a sense of achievement, they can boost your self-esteem, they can make sure you get things done!

I start the day by writing a quick list of things I know I want to do in the day – say, while drinking my morning tea. I then glance down the list and number the items in order that I think they need to be achieved. Sometimes this is self evident as some things must be done before others… sometime it is a game to play against yourself. Which one do I least want to do? Perhaps make that the second (rather than the last) on the list. Do not make it the first … you may never get going at all. Second or third means you have got yourself going.. you have CROSSED OFF one (or two) items on the list … you are on a roll … you can tackle and defeat the things you didn’t want to do more easily that way.

If you are anything like me you will add to the list as the day goes on .. or even turn the page over and add something to the next days list. Writing ‘make a list’ as number one.. and crossing it off as soon as you get to the end of the list is perhaps going a bit far … 🙂

Currently everyday my list contains ‘Correct 1 ch of SKOS min’ – which actually means ‘Correct one chapter of Some Kind of Synchrony, at least, for the paperback version’ which is undergoing a final scrutiny – line by line – before being prepared to be the next Ann Foweraker novel to be published in paperback!

I find a day guided by a list is often the most productive day. There is also a sense of achievement in having worked through all the tasks on the list, reinforced every time you cross one off! That is The Joy of Lists 🙂

Are you a list maker?

Do you find it helps in more ways than one?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.

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