Monday, May 1, 2017

Prideful Self Praising

I have taken it upon myself to invent recipes, mainly because, let's face it, half the recipes you read are just dumb. As in, who has these ingredients in the house?
Plus one gets a bit bored, no matter how much one just adores lasagne.
So the other night I was thinking what to have, and I sat there with my cook books (note that most of them were thanks to the library book sale, ridiculously great books at absurdly low prices - bliss!) and nothing jumped out as such, but I did have a brainwave.
Here is what I did;
I marinated sliced schnitzel in garlic, soy and a bit of peanut oil.
I chopped up pumpkin, carrots, an onion or two, discovered I had a lone choko, so added that in and roasted this with paprika, some sugar, (yes, a dash of sugar, oh the sin), some oil and I think that was it. Half way through I had another brain wave, and chucked in a can of brown lentils. To be fair, lentils could be one of those naff ingredients you don't have, but am a bit of a fan of them, so in they went.
And when it was all done, I just shoved it all in a dish with peas on the side.
Sweet food heaven.
It was so yummy, I had to restrain myself from prideful self-praising, because I would have got one of those "it's not that great" comments.
But it was that great.
It truly was.
PS: There is no picture of this stupendously magnificent dish, because to be honest, it doesn't look that great. It actually looks a bit of a disaster. You wouldn't want to bother, if I included a picture.
PPS: But here's a picture of those withdrawn library cookbooks.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

You Read That Trash?

Last week I gave a library talk on the romance genre titled "You Read That Trash?" as part of a heritage talk series. Romance novels of course are loaded with fabulous heritage aspects, from the amazing covers themselves, to the social history of women through the century.

One fascinating aspect was the popularity of medical romances and how, according to one commentator, it was because many of the writers were nurses, and as the National Health Service came into being in the 1950s, these women were keen to promote it amidst the changing landscape of health.

On the cover art front, several of the covers were designed by artist Jack B. Faulks who produced a lot of pop-culture covers. He often had the man standing just behind the heroine, as in the Nora Sanderson cover and the Essie Summers.

It was also an opportunity to look into the Mills and Boon company and see how they came to be publishers of romance novels; originally they were general fiction and non fiction publishers. They were the English publisher for Jack London, for example, and in one of the books I read there was mention of a letter Jack sent to Messrs Mills and Boon saying how happy he was with them marketing his books in England.

It was by the 1950s that Mills and Boon became a predominantly romance publisher. As Alan Boon apparently once said - we publish a very specialised list. Even Shakespeare would have trouble getting on it!

It was an absolutely fun talk, some good questions were asked, and I think I got behind all the crap about romance and the appeal of it, to present it as a genre that in no way should ever suffer the disdain (or as the kids would say - hate!) that it still suffers from today.
As one of the women said afterwards in the Q & A - I might have to give romance a try, after believing all the propaganda for years!


Friday, April 7, 2017

What a tragic number of books read in March

This past month (that would be March) was pretty pathetic in the reading stakes

I was pleased to see one of the books I judged for the Romance Writers of America RITA awards that I gave high scores to had finalled. Always nice to know that what I think is a really great romance novel is backed up by a finals placing.

I did read Shopaholic to the Stars but have to say that I am kind of over the series. The first few Shopaholic books I just raved about but now, am not so sure.  I do, however, just love Sophie Kinsella's single title novels to bits (The Undomestic Goddess, Can You Keep A Secret? and Remember Me), so will stick with those in future. While Becky always manages to redeem herself, she is, let's face it, an unbelievably annoying character.

I read an old David Baldacci, perfect for my recent flight down country - Stone Cold, part of the Camel Club series. A fast paced thriller sure has its place on the reading pile.

I currently have a stack of good old fashioned romances (thank you library) so as the weather turns cold, it sounds about perfect to get stuck in to those and hopefully have more good books to report about in May,

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Three lessons learnt from the week just past

Three things I have learnt from the past week. All terribly important.

1) Always check your texts prior to heading out to the airport to catch a flight. Do not assume that the new 3am text is just confirming your on-line check in for your 11am flight. It may in fact be a text informing you that your flight has been cancelled.
This is especially annoying when you eschew taxis and shuttles for a much cheaper bus trip, and have just got on the last half hour leg of the bus trip to the airport. Even worse, you have no data or free wifi to check the website suggested in the FLIGHT CANCELLED text to sort out a new flight,  and you can't even turn around and go back home, but have to just sit there, on the bus, and watch, on approach to the airport, all the planes taking off.**

2) When you are buying lunch for someone, and they tell you what they can't eat because they have legit food issues, and at the cafe, you read the title of something, like, say, the Spinach, Pumpkin and Aubergine Filo, and that particular suspect food item (say, mushrooms) is not on the list, and you think it is safe, because surely they would have mentioned mushroom if mushroom was in there (it's a pretty significant ingredient, don't you think?) .... you will be WRONG.  
Extremely nice pancakes with cherries, from above cafe but on a different day.

3)  Do not assume that just because you have a very bad thing (see post) and the doctor said that sometimes it lasts a while and gets worse.... do not assume that, in fact, you will of course not be one of the poor souls for whom it lasts a long time and gets worse. It is going to last a long time.

**PS: In fact, got put on a flight two hours later to a different destination, with several refreshment vouchers in the interim for refreshment at airport cafes, and upon arrival at the alternative destination (Wellington airport), was bussed to original destination. Quite convoluted, but was not inconvenienced terribly by this turn of events, and indeed t'was reasonably pleasant, as watching beautiful New Zealand from bus is quite a nice anti-dote to the at-times depressing writing career and the bloody annoying ailment from point number three.

Somewhere in the lower North Island.

Monday, February 27, 2017

February reading list

Some great books this month, including some re-reads.
Not a massive list, as one spent a fair bit of
one's time not feeling all that great, and so listening to middle of the night talkback radio with the insomniacs, shift workers and the crazies (of which clearly I was in the last group) was entertainment enough.
Touching Midnight by Fiona Brand
The Earl's Mistaken Bride by Abby Gaines
Rake to Riches by Nicola Davidson
No One Knows by JT Ellison
Countdown to Zero Hour by Nico Rossi
Searching for Mine by Jennifer Probst

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Very Bad Habit that will be the death of me - or will it?

I have known for some time that the Very Bad Habit of sitting in bed, with a laptop, writing stuff, would one day be the death of me. Well, the death of a pain-free existence. I have thought this every time I have slumped in bed against dodgy pillows, admired the cat sleeping, a cup of coffee to one side, breathed a sigh of pleasure at just how good it all is, the luxury of it, got down to the business of writing, and known that one day, I would bugger up some bit of me because of indulging in this joyfulness.
And it has happened.
Just last week I was in bed-laptop heaven. Why go and sit on a chair at a desk? How boring, thought I, as I typed and backspaced and deleted whole paragraphs, cos I was touch typing and my fingers had been on the wrong keys.
This is the life, I mused, as I checked Twitter, email, then got back in to the writing.
The Culprit(s)
Not that I stayed on the bed the whole day. I did get up to make coffee (that would be instant) and get the mail (that would be, go down to the letterbox and walk back empty-handed), and maybe I did go further afield to buy a watermelon.
But for quite a bit of the time I was in a very bad postural position, and that night, I suffered.
Oh, sweet heaven, did I suffer.
I could not believe how bad it was. As in take-paracetemol-and-barely-sleep and take-more-four-hours-later kind of bad.
My colleague saw me taking them at work the next day, and said, "Have you got a headache?"
I wished I had a headache. It's less embarrassing than "I wrecked my own back acting like a moron."
Even worse, the following morning, at around 3am, when I took a couple more tablets to deal to it, they didn't kick in. That wonderful feeling of dissipating pain did not happen. Not enough to make it bearable.
I considered taking an extra capsule. I read the packet and it said not to exceed the dosage, and I did the maths and knew I had taken my lot already, but pain was not my friend and I decided, screw it. If I overdose and die, I will deal with that when it happens, but I can't stand this. So I took one extra, just the one, and praise be, half an hour later, it helped.
I was telling a friend about this the next day.
She was all, "You can't do that."
"I know I can't do it," I told her. "It says so on the packet. But I did it. I mean, people take heroin all the time and don't die. It's not as bad as that."
"No, seriously," she says. (Her partner is a doctor.)  "You can't do that with those things. It's dangerous. If you can't sleep, you should take a sleeping pill."
I don't own any sleeping pills, and it turns out that of course, she was dead right about my new little over-the-counter best friends, because apparently, even in small extra doses, they can damage your liver.
Another colleague gave me some anti-inflammatory pills from when she, too, had a bad back (I am a hundred years old just writing that) and then I went and bought some of my own cos I figured this annoying problem might still be around for another day or two, and whatever it was, it clearly needed treatment, and it was cheaper than going to the doctor, and I'd eliminated the usual suspects like appendicitis. Besides. I knew what I'd done.
Oh, yes, I knew what I'd done Miss Idiot-spend-the-day-in-bed-with-laptop.
But another couple of days passed and  now I was getting really annoyed. It wasn't getting any better and I was still going through these painkillers at the same rate. So I thought, right. I better go to the doc and start getting some physio or osteo, or whatever it is they do for morons who damage their own backs.
So I go to the doc and admit the truth.
I have been foolish, I told  her. I have been writing on my laptop whilst in bed, with no decent support, and now I am paying the price for this stupidity.
Let's have a look, she says, so I whip off my top and she looks at the area where I said I'd wrecked my back, and she says to me, You know you've got a rash?
What? No. A rash?
Yes, she says. And it's spread a bit. I think you've got shingles.
Shingles? I shriek.
You mean I haven't done in my back? I have a legit condition that is nothing to do with sitting in bed with a laptop writing with no decent back support?
I swear, that is what I was thinking. I was not dwelling on the horror stories of people suffering weeks and weeks of nerve pain and itching agony with spreading rashes, and hospitalisation and all that stuff. No. It was relief, sheer relief, that I had not indeed brought this misery upon myself. I have not caused this painful back condition.
So I have medications and tons more suitable painkillers, and time off work and instructions to rest and yes I am irritable and temporarily addicted to said little capsules, and I imagine I am itching on every part of my person now, and the doc did say it could get worse, the pain could sharpen, before it gets better, that is a fact.
But I am young and fit.
But I am alive.
And I am so happy I have not buggered my back by working in bed with the coffee, the cat and the lack of decently firm cushions.
I am so happy.
I am most likely the happiest Shingle sufferer ever.
Not that I will indulge in the laptop/bed/coffee/cat thing much more. I will sit at my desk with my chair and be good about that, and try and sit straight as I have had a close call. Even more, I shall not roll my eyes any more when idiots people go on about their backs and their precious "core" and other parts of their bodies like that. Maybe, albeit, discreetly, I will become a bit like them. But in private. No one needs to know anything else about what's going on with this body.
PS: I no longer think that itching is imaginary. Actually seems to be pretty legit.
PPS I have made the mistake of going on line and have seen images of people with shingles.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


 A few opportunities to grab tons of great reading over Valentines Day - in fact up until February 20th. Twenty five free books, naturally they're romances from sweet to paranormal to historical.... definitely worth checking out... a perfect gift to yourself!! Go to the pretty page below and have a look...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Free books for Valentines Day

A terrific free book promotion AND a Kindle Fire Giveaway
Marrying Melinda is included, free for a few days so please check it out and load up on books. So much fun reading.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Joanne song and the name Joanne

With Lady Gaga's Joanne song, album, and upcoming tour,  I'm sure there are a few people with the name Joanne who are not unhappy it's getting a bit of a lift.
My father claimed (and I choose to believe him) that I was named after Joanne Woodward, so am quite happy about that. I mean, to say.... Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman!  I accept and approve of that story about my name.

However. When I was about fifteen I decided Joanne was a dull-as name and I needed a new one. I toyed with Desiree (naturally taken from a book - Desiree by AnneMarie Selinko set in Napoleonic France) but for some reason I came up with the name Helena. It was (apparently) the most marvelous name ever, so much so, that when I got my driver's licence, I added it in.
That is correct - I just added it in.  I wrote my real names on the form, added in Helena as a third name and it got through and ... hello, Helena.
Cut to many years later when we got new photo drivers licences here in New Zealand for the first time. Ah, the novelty. Dad and I were comparing licences (which was actually looking at the photos and seeing how we'd fared) and he stares at mine and suddenly he blurts out "What the hell is Helena?"
For a moment I had no idea what he was on about, since I'd had it on my licence for the past twenty I mean twenty five  hundred years and was quite used to it.
"Oh that, dear Papa. Well, you see, it's quite funny really but there was a time, when I was fifteen...."
There may have been shaking of the head as in "Jo, Jo, Jo, whatever will become of you..."
So a few years later I had to get a replacement licence and I suggested they could get rid of the Helena.
Actually, they, the driver licencing people, suggested it, because there was no other record of this mysterious middle name Helena on any other documentation anywhere, and it would require something legal to say I was Helena, which of course I wasn't. In fact, they asked how Helena even got on there.
I wrote it down and added it in and they put it on the licence, I said.
They looked at me as if I was making it up.
Fortunately, I no longer liked the name Helena for myself, but of course, it is quite lovely for other people.
Possibly this desire for another more exotic sounding name was because the most famous Joanne song I knew was Michael Nesmith's "Her name was Joanne and she lived in a meadow by a pond." I think it must actually be a most brilliant song, because once you hear it, you find yourself singing it, even though you don't even like it.
You have been warned.
Joanne Helena

Friday, February 3, 2017

Is filling the well to be creative fact or fiction?

There is this whole thing about 'filling the creative' well. I first happened upon it reading Julia Cameron's The Artist Way, a fabulous book that was aimed at creative folk who were blocked from their art, or didn't feel they could be artistic (whether as a career or just for the fun of it.) It's an amazing workbook, recommended for anyone who wants to paint, write, be musical (or whatever it is you want to do), but feels they can't or shouldn't.
One of the things she talked about was doing things to 'fill the well' like take time out to go to a museum or a beach or a walk, or a movie, or a shop that makes you happy, that kind of thing.
What I learnt from that is that we are all different and what works for some doesn't work for others Now, I was not blocked or having problems over whether I should write (although she did address some things I was feeling like the guilt factor - whole other blog post there) but pretty much that book was pivotal in me sticking to writing, whether it became a career or not. I had worked as a freelance journalist for a while and written for some top New Zealand magazines over years, selling the odd article here and there. But writing fiction (or painting, or learning to play an instrument, or taking up pottery or anything else) was different.
©  | Dreamstime
Then a few years back I heard a talk by Stephanie Bond, a top romance writer, who said this simple statement: writing begets writing.
Writing begets writing.
And ever since then, I've realized she is absolutely right. Writing does beget writing. The more you write, the more you want to write You don't want to leave the story and go to your paying job, or have to go to that appointment. You want to stay at the keyboard
But,.. when you do stop writing, whether it be days or weeks or even months,  writing, in my experience, becomes the last thing you want to do And for me, personally, heading off to see a movie, or doing something like that, doesn't fill the will ... unless. it's with writer friends, like in the good old days of Borders where we'd meet up for coffee and hit the shelves and talk about our plans and dreams and our current books. They were such good times. That fills (if one wants to use the expression)  the creative well - for me - more than doing something else supposedly to get in tune with creation.
But we are all different - boy, are we different, thank goodness - so what works for one may not work for another. but I do think for most of us, that Stephanie Bond's words hold true whatever we do.
The more we do it, the more we want to do it. And if we need a break, its probably more to just have a break - that's what holidays are for - or to be really Biblical, that's what the idea of a one day a week break is (on the Sabbath). Even putting aside the religious aspect of it, its pretty simple, and ordained from thousands of years ago. Take a day when you don't work. Ease up. In today's context, take some time out, get away from the stuff that is wearing you down (most likely politics, the media, social media et al) and just have a day of doing whatever you want.