Monday 23 December 2013

Marley's Marvellous Mincepies

Yes, I can I cook! Are you surprised? My family don't much care for Christmas pudding or Christmas cake, but they do like mince pies! Now, most people either buy mince pies or, if they do make their own, at least buy the mincemeat. I do it the other way around! So here's my recipe for mincemeat. It makes 3lb (1.5kg) of mincemeat and takes about half an hour in total to cook.
** If you don't intend to use the mincemeat right away, you'll need to freeze it as there is not enough sugar in the recipe to preserve it! **

1lb (450g) cooking apples
4 tbs dry sherry
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground allspice
14oz (350g) mixed dried fruit (to include raisins, sultanas, currants and dried chopped peel)
2oz (50g) soft brown sugar

Peel, core and dice apples. Put them in a large casserole dish with the sherry, 5tbs of water, cinnamon and allspice. Stir, cover with lid and cook in a microwave for 5 minutes on high power (800w microwave).
Stir, add the dried fruit and sugar, and cook on high power for another 4 minutes. Stir again and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes. The apples should be cooked and the fruit should have soaked up most of the liquid without being too soggy. Allow to cool before using.


Thursday 28 November 2013

Why I Love My Kindle

I can buy a book any time, any place, anywhere

Provided I have an Internet connection.

No arguments about how many books I'm allowed to take on holiday

Now we argue about how many chargers to take instead.

I can buy an author's entire backlist

Without having to resort to tracking down second-hand copies online, which arrive smelling of cigarette smoke, and with 'interesting' stains that I sincerely hope is only coffee.

I can pre-order a book and forget about it

And it feels like Christmas when it pops up on my Kindle on the day of publication.

I'm never without a book

An entire library of them, in fact

They're virtually hands-free

I can eat something sticky and very bad for me and read at the same time. Responding to voice commands would make it utterly perfect. 'Turn page' would be useful, 'skip boring bit' even more so.

Which brings me to

Things I Don't Love

Going on a long journey means I don't just shove my Kindle in my bag, I have to remember to shove my charger in there too.

Nodding off with a paperback doesn't hurt quite so much as nodding off with a Kindle - and dropping it on my nose.

I can no longer get my book signed by my favourite author. Yes, I know I can have it done electronically, but it's not the same.

Despite this, I still love my Kindle and I wouldn't be without it, especially when stuck in a doctor's waiting room or on a long car journey. I read about two books a week and have discovered lots of new authors. Now I rarely read anything other than ebooks - despite the risk to my nose.

So, how about you? Ebooks or 'proper' books, which do you prefer?

Related Posts:

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Things That Go Bump ...

In the tradition of All Hallows' Eve, let me tell you a spooky story - or two. And yes, everything I tell you is completely true.
Part 1
I grew up in a house which, although supposedly Victorian, had parts that seemed much older. It was a wreck when my parents bought it and, because our family never do anything by halves, we had great fun buying up fixtures and fittings from other old houses in the area which were being demolished. There were the 300-year-old oak beams from the retired Admiral’s house, as well as a Tudor fireplace and an iron-studded door, which looked as though it had already withstood several sieges.
It was during these renovations that strange things began to happen. The house would creak and groan in the middle of the night, almost as though it were alive. We’d hear footsteps upstairs, when no one was there, doors would open by themselves and light bulbs would pop out of their sockets. Strangest of all, was hearing the piano playing when no one was in the room - although it would stop as soon as anyone approached the door.
Of course, all these things can be easily explained. The light bulbs were the ‘bayonet’ type, which could easily spring out if not pushed in correctly. All old houses make strange noises at night. Floorboards slope, walls and doorways are not always straight - meaning a door can quite easily swing open by itself. Curiously it was always the same door that opened - a door that did have a latch - the same door which led to the room with the piano.
Whatever the cause, as soon as the builders finished, the strange occurrences stopped too.
(Not my actual house!)
Part 2
Several years later, when my husband and I moved into our first home, I woke in the night to see a fairly solid-looking figure in a hooded robe materialise through one wall, walk right across the bedroom and disappear through another wall. My husband was not at all pleased when I woke him up to tell him this. He pointed out that it was extremely unlikely the ghost of a monk would choose to haunt a 1960s bungalow.
It was only later we discovered the ruined castle down the road was actually an abbey, and that the estate we now lived on had been built in what had once been the grounds.
But I still don’t believe in ghosts!
Happy Halloween!

Related Post:

Five Books Which Chilled Me - My recommended reads for Halloween

Thursday 17 October 2013

Ten (Slightly Random) Ways to Choose a Book

Since I bought my Kindle the amount of books I’ve read has shot up. I’ve enjoyed books from authors I’d previously never heard of - and genres I’d never heard of either!
It has led to some interesting choices and a few mistakes. Last week I downloaded what I thought was going to be a sweet Christmas story about a girl and her dog - it turned out to be something much steamier involving shape shifters! Note to self: read blurbs!
So how do I choose a book?
1. It has a pretty cover.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. The Night Before Christmas (Scarlett Bailey) has a beautiful cover and a great title. I’ve since bought all her other books.
Then there was the had-better-remain-nameless book about the woman hunting down a long lost artefact, that had so many descriptions about her clothes I started thinking things like, ‘She so wouldn’t wear that outfit to go down a mine shaft’.
2. It’s seasonal.
I want to read summer stories during summer (especially if it’s raining), ghost stories at Halloween and Christmas stories at - yes, I think you’ve worked it out.
I Love Capri (Belinda Jones)
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
Skipping Christmas (John Grisham)
3. I've enjoyed the author's other books.
Authors writing in different genres used to have pennames - not anymore, which is how I ended up reading my first and last steampunk novel. The hero was half-robot and I kept getting an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger in my head at crucial moments - and not in a good way.
4. The author has the same name as me.
I thought my name was unusual but apparently not. Fortunately only one of the dozen or so other Louise Marleys writes books.
Mozart’s Blood by Louise Marley (not me!)
5. The author has written a book with the same title as one of mine.
I really need to try harder with my titles because there are several books with the same as mine. I enjoyed Breathless by Anne Stuart (part of her House of Rohan series) but I really love her contemporary romantic suspense novels.
6. I loved the movie.
Seeing the words ‘based on the bestselling novel by … ’ is a positive incitement for me. It also explains how I ended up reading (and enjoying!) Three-Ten to Yuma (The Complete Western Stories by Elmore Leonard) even though I hate westerns.
7. It was free.
The trick to downloading free books is to Not Go Mad. Pace yourself! I know it’s tempting, but only download books you know you’re actually going to read. I’ve discovered several great new authors this way, including Danelle Harmon.
The Wild One by Danelle Harmon.
8. My friend loved it.
My friend and I have a lot in common (otherwise we’d never be friends) but we do occasionally disagree on books. She turned up on my doorstep waving Bridget Jones's Diary (Helen Fielding) at me and saying, “You’ve got to read this, it’s brilliant, it’s like she knows me!”
(I did enjoy the movie though.)
9. Everyone is talking about it.
This is possibly the worst reason to choose a book. Your expectations go sky high and if those expectations aren’t met you’ll feel cheated.
10. It’s a classic.
I loved Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) but have yet to get beyond chapter three of Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), and when I meet the person who put Lord of the Flies (William Golding) on my GCSE reading list, I shall tell them it nearly put me off reading for life.
So there you have it, ten random (but mostly successful) ways to choose a book.
Which method do you use?
Related Posts:


Monday 7 October 2013

Some Like it Hot

Autumn hit my little bit of Wales with a vengeance this weekend, with gales and heavy rain. Cue me needing to write a short story about a summer holiday!
Last year I contributed to the anthology Sunlounger. My story was a romantic comedy called An Indecent Proposal. It involved a naked rock star and was set in the Italian city of Sorrento. I originally wrote it during a snowstorm!

Sunlounger was a huge success and reached #13 in the Amazon top 100.
So we’re doing it all again!
Which is why I’m spending today shivering in my cardie and Uggs - and planning a summer holiday for some lucky, as yet unnamed heroine.
I do wish I was going wherever she’s going!

Sunday 6 October 2013

Creating Characters: What's in a Name?

I’ve just read a book (a romance) where the hero was called Trevor. He was described as a tall, dark and very hot twenty-something - but I still kept waiting for him to light a pipe.
In the book I’d read before that, the hero’s name was Virgil - and all I could think about was Thunderbirds.

So does it really matter what name an author gives their hero?
Why Do Fools Fall in Love
was turned down by the first publisher it was sent to. The most random reason was that the editor didn’t like the names of the heroes - Ross and Luke. “No one is called Ross,” she told me firmly.
Obviously not a Friends fan.

When Disney’s Little Mermaid first came out, I remember feeling very let down that the Prince was called Eric. Whoever heard of a hero called Eric? Ah … Well, if you’ve ever watched True Blood, or read the Charlaine Harris books the TV series is based on, you’ll be familiar with a vampire called Eric Northman. His name suits him fine - mainly because he’s also a 1,000 year old Viking.

In Breathless, Joseph Halfpenny’s daughters have been given the old-fashioned names of Phyllis, Selma and Constance. The Halfpennys are big on both family and history so I had the idea that Joseph named them after his mother and aunts.
So the moral of this story is that authors should have the freedom to call their characters whatever they like, even ‘Trevor’.
But they’d better have a very good reason.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Writers Write (Part 1)

Writers write.
Well, when we're not faffing about on Facebook, making endless cups of coffee and staring out of the window in search of inspiration, divine or otherwise, we write.
Because writers write, the assumption is we can write any old thing: novels, short stories, other people's CVs, letters to the council...and blogs.
This is my third attempt at setting up my own blog, although I've written guest posts and I contribute to Novelistas' Ink. At this point I should probably be telling you what I plan to blog about but, to be honest, I have no idea!
So there may be long periods of silence, either due to a deadline or because I can't think of anything to say. If you can't find me here, try Facebook or Twitter.

I might not have got the hang of blogging, but I'm pretty good at procrastination.