Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Chicken Curry... A recipe

... for an easy to make chicken curry. I told a friend I was making this dish a few weeks ago and she asked for the recipe. Figured I'd share it with all of you readers of crazy Zee's blog!

Okay, so there's nothing exactly spectacular about my chicken curry, except maybe if you're not used to eating chilli, 'coz mine would probably liquefy your oesophagus, stomach, intestines and guts. Yup, we're heavy on chilli here! But on the whole, this dish is easy to make, speedy, and keeps very well for 2 days in the fridge (make sure the dish is cooled before putting it in the fridge) and can even be frozen and eaten at a later date.

Here goes:

Easy Chicken Curry (a la Zee!)

Ingredients

- 1 whole chicken, approx. 2.5 pounds, cut into pieces (or you can use whatever chicken pieces you prefer)

- Onions, finely chopped - the more, the thicker your curry. I use about 3-4 closed-fist sized onions.

- Potatoes, diced. Use however much you want, I don't keep tabs on how many I add to this dish.

- Curry powder, about 2-3 Tablespoons - any good grocery store carry these. I know Shaan brand is available in the US - just be very careful with this brand coz it's loaded with chilli. Try going for a mild or chilli-free version if you're not used to Indian food.

- Gram flour - 2-3 Tablespoons again - this is what will thicken your curry. It's available in all good Indian stores, under the name of Besan. If you don't get this, you can use chickpea flour.

- Salt - check to see if your curry powder is already salted.

- Pepper - preferably fresh ground

- Crushed tomatoes or tomato paste/puree - about 2 Tablespoons.

- Oil for cooking - a good vegetable oil such as soya or sunflower. Olive oil is not indicated for this recipe.

- Fresh coriander (cilantro, as I think it is called in the US) - chopped, for garnish.

Method:

- Heat oil in a deep, thick metal pan. Add chopped onions, fry until onions start turning brown.

- Mix curry powder, gram flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add a little water to make into a paste. Add paste to fried onions pan.

- Cook, stirring all the time (or else the flour will make it stick, and keep flame on medium), until the oil separates from the paste. Add a few drops of water if the paste is sticking to the base of the pan.

- Add chicken pieces, stir to coat with massala (which is what the paste is called!). Add water, usually just enough to cover chicken pieces, and stir.

- Add diced potatoes (add more water to cover potatoes and chicken if necessary. This will ensure that the food doesn't dry out so the massala doesn't stick to the pan and get burnt). Close pan with lid, bring to a boil, lower heat slightly. Let cook for 15-20 minutes.

- Remove lid, stir to check if potatoes are cooked (smash one cube against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. If it smashes easily, it is done).

- Add tomato paste/puree (this softens the massala). Stir, let cook uncovered for 5-10 minutes.

- Turn off heat. Garnish with chopped coriander.

- Serve hot with rice, naan (Indian yeast bread), or chappatis (Indian flat bread cooked on a hot griddle).

I hope you'll enjoy this recipe. It's a staple of my kitchen, and I don't get away from this deal without making chappatis!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, August 30, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Super Chicks in Flicks...

... is happening over at the Pop Culture Divas' blog!

I'm a regular contributor/Diva on the blog, and it so happens that today is my day to post. Come check it out - I'm talking of all those kick ass heroines we get to see in movies and on TV nowadays.

Here's the link:
http://www.popculturedivas.com/2010/08/super-chicks-in-flicks.html

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 27, 2010

Progress Friday

No writing progress this week - check the pic here to know why. Yup, assignment week. I did however clock in some 5K on this academic paper. Completely messed up my brain but hopefully, I'll be able to pick up some semblance of normal again in the weekend and get back into the groove in September.

Indeed - insane! Next week is September 2010! Where on earth is this year rolling to??

Wish me luck - I still need to deal with the influence of the sociopolitical culture on media ethics and media policy. I know - I asked that it be spelt in Greek, latin, and Aramaic too just to be sure I understood. :)

Have a great weekend!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Link Thursday: What He's Judging You On...

Hi everyone

Coming up from my assignment cave to get a breather and some semblance of sanity from the blog. Wait a sec, you might say - she means there's sanity here? On her blog??? *grin* Welcome to my world, peeps!

So what is this article about? Basically the vibes you could be giving off without realising. It doesn't go in depth about non-verbal cues, but amazingly, it tells about 'little' things around us or that we do that spell a lot to guys.

Maybe your heroine is guilty of these. Maybe your hero needs to think like this and observe.

To me, it is such articles that allow for on-the-dot characterization and proper coming-across of people.

The article appeared on one of my fave haunts - MSN Love and Relationships webpage, and I caught it around the end of May, 2010. Unfortunately, no author name is provided to allow for credit.

*****

What He's Judging You On

Right or wrong, guys form immediate opinions of you based on some rather unexpected criteria. Here are four seemingly small things that can tell him volumes about you.

When a guy first meets you, he knows you are on your best behavior and will be for a while, so he's looking at certain characteristics that give him quick insight into what you'd be like with your guard down. Here, four things that tell him more than you think.

1. Your Friends
You can work your butt off to come across well — hot outfit, big smile, witty conversation — but you can't do the same for your friends. Dudes know this, so if you're out with pals, men look at them as representatives of all your personality traits — including the not-so-good ones. "I met a girl who seemed sweet at a bar. We chatted, and she invited me to hang with her friends," says Stan, 26. "Within 10 minutes, I realized they were all gossipy drama queens, and I bolted." If your buds aren't on the same win-him-over page as you are, head to your own corner of the bar.

2. Your Laugh
Guys pride themselves on being funny, so they look for girls who can appreciate their sense of humor. However, there's such a thing as laughing too much. "I went out for drinks with one girl who cracked up at everything I said, even if it wasn't funny," says Adam, 27. "It got on my nerves so much that I made an excuse to leave early."

3. Your Drink of Choice
It doesn't matter whether you choose wine, beer, or a cocktail. What matters is that you have a compelling reason for choosing the type of drink ... and wanting to get totally wasted doesn't count. "One night, I met a girl who really appreciated beer," says Joey, 27. "When she explained why she prefers an IPA over a pilsner, I fell in love." Being able to defend your choice shows that you're smart enough to know what you like.

4. Cell-Phone Usage
You're having a great convo with a guy when you get a text. What you do next — ignore it or write a response before putting the phone on the table so it's easier to get to next time — tells him how you'd treat him in the future. "I met a girl at a coffee shop, and within 15 minutes, her phone rang," says Seth, 33. "She just let it go to voice mail, which made me feel like, at that moment, I was her first priority."

******

Pretty eye-opening, innit?

Use this up when you're creating your next hero!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Writing Wednesday: From Princess to Real-life Heroine - How a woman of today's romances makes sense

Last week I spoke about how to make your heroine a swanky Miss. Normal. This week, I follow upon the same 'keeping her real' logic, but this time it's applied to someone we all know - the princess!

As women, the first heroines we are introduced to are the princesses of the fairy tales. Who hasn't sighed in bliss and contentment when the kiss of the prince wakes Snow White, or when the glass slipper fit Cinderella's foot perfectly?
We got our first notion of Happily Ever After in such occasions, as well as a glimpse at what a hero should be like - a prince (do you realise they're all called Prince Charming, as if there's one single bloke for all those girls?) or a knight in shining armor who comes riding on a big white horse and sweeps the damsel in his arms and takes her to Far, Far Away where they live happily and have many children.

The damsel - that's what I am trying to get to (you should know me by now - I ramble. Big time!)
Heroines were built off the template of the fairytales damsels and the princesses.

But, is she applicable in our times? Just think back to the movie Enchanted - the princess, Gisele, is pushed by the wicked stepmother into the reality of today's New York, where for the first time she meets a flesh and blood man who isn't a gentleman, and who even curses, and where she calls upon all the animals in the city to come help her clean his apartment, by singing from the terrace! She also sings at every given opportunity.
The realm of fairytales, right? Exactly! A fairytale princess cannot exist in the world as we know it. She cannot simply meet the prince and accept his wedding proposal 2.5 seconds later, get married the next morning and live happily ever after while giving birth to many children throughout the scope of her reproductive life. Where's the realism here?
Nonexistent. And that's a big mistake where penning heroines is concerned - the lack of realism. And of logic.

Now, if you are writing a fairytale, this princess would work for you, but we have to face the fact that most of us write about real women who are facing real situations albeit in a fictitious setting. But fiction has to be as close as possible to reality. Even in a realm such as fantasy, where your world is wholly fabricated, there needs to be a semblance of logic that grounds your characters.

This logic is what you need when you pen a heroine. Why is it more important for the heroine? Because she is very much the strongest pillar you need in the foundation and construction of your romance story. There is no romance without a heroine, and most romance, while featuring a good deal of the hero, is based on the love story that touches the life of the woman.

Take a glimpse at strong heroines who have stayed in your mind, and look very hard at the thread of logic in your heroine's behavior. This is ultimately what will help you create a superb character that leaps off the page and who will stay in the minds of your readers for a long time to come.

As always, your comments are more than welcome!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: On Location...


I recently brought my heroine to Mauritius in the current WIP. To one area in particular - coastal village and Northern Cote d'Azur of the island, Grand Baie.
It is in Grand Baie that the hotel she stays at is located, and it is in a swanky little shopping village called Sunset Boulevard that she meets the hero. Incidentally, it is in the same complex that the hero lives. This area is located right at the heart of the village, on the beach, and right upon one of the main entrances from the motorway.

In toiling about what to talk about today, I thought I'd take you on location to the 'set' of the story. :)
I could tell you a lot of things about the place, but images speak louder than words in this case.

Check out the pics - they should give a pretty good idea of how gorgeous this part of Mauritius looks like!

The bay of Grand Baie (broad daylight in the above pic, sunset here)




Step onto the beach... (steps going down from Sunset Boulevard Marina)



Staring at the far-away window of a flat on Sunset Boulevard's marina...



Take a stroll into Sunset Boulevard shopping & restaurant village...





Your house opens on this...



See what my characters are seeing right now! Pretty, innit?

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, August 23, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Useless facts...

I started this morning all bubbly but then I went outside (to drop kiddo to school) and the blasting rain literally rained down on my parade. Imagine near-zero visibility because of the fog, dense clouds, fogged-up windows (even when you're blasting the defrosters on full), lashing rain that even wipers on third-rapid speed cannot swipe fast enough, foglights on, headlights on - that was my morning driving kiddo to school, at 8 AM!

So no, it wasn't the good start to a morning, let alone a full week. By the time I got home, my head was killing and when I pulled up the sheet for the blog, all I could think of was useless things about me that no one wants to know...

But sadly, since I'm striking a blank on anything else, here go the useless facts:

1. I'm addicted to short hair. For most of my life, my hair touched my calves. Yeah, no kidding! My mom thought the long hair was gorgeous - it was her pride and glory. Me, did I mention I had no say in this? Come then the rebellion teen days, and my mom and I no longer officially saw eye to eye on anything! Needless to tell you - I saved up my pocket money and unbeknownst to her, I went to a salon one day after school and had it all chopped off. True, it was shoulder-length - that was the compromise I made for her not to end up with a heart attack.
Incidentally, every couple of weeks after that episode, I needed a 'trim'. So much so that after a little while, my hair was Halle Berry short. Loved it. Grew it out. Cut it again. Lost all the hair. Grew it. Grew it shoulder-length again. And finally cut it to a chin-length bob. Right now it's back to tickling my shoulders so I think an app at the hairdresser is warranted.

2. I'm crazy about sleep. Not the way you think - I need really tight-fitted sheets on my bed or I cannot sleep. If the linen has a fold or something under my leg, no can do. I also need a heavy quilt on me (winter or sweltering summer!) or I cannot fall asleep. Good thing in a way coz I don't just fall asleep everywhere despite how tired I might be.

3. I'm a reading addict. I read everything, everywhere, anytime. In the past I got addicted to really big handbags/tote bags because I could always carry a book with me this way. I still heart the bags, but now I get my fix through my phone (supports pdf ebooks). Whenever I get a minute off, you can find me reading. I tried to curb that tendency by attempting some craft in my spare time (that I don't seem to have, btw) but, no, it didn't work.

4. I craft - actually, I crochet. My specialty - making tote bags from scratch and thread/wool. I started a bag at the start of this year. The plan was to finish it by December, and I'm banned from buying a new handbag until I finish this. No such luck though - it's still in early stages. Hmm, maybe I'll start a progress meter for the crochet bag... I promise, when I finish it, the pic's gonna come up here!

What else other useless stuff could I tell you about me? You know what, I'm drawing a blank (or is it you I'm hearing screaming away...?)

If you have any useless fact about yourself like the ones I just posted, do share!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 20, 2010

Progress Friday

I think I deserve meself some of this delectable treat! I got off me butt this week and seems like the mojo is back! I clocked none less than 9,800 words in the past 7 days! And I worked successfully on 2 different WIPs!

Okay, I'll stop with the ! marks, but I'm really happy today. 2.7K of that total was on the new story I'm doing as part of a challenge, the rest was on the current WIP with its meter here. I'm not adding a meter for the challenge story because I don't know how long it will be. I'm not pantsing it but I have no set and structured outline for it. It's a romantic suspense, and as per the previous rom-suspense I wrote, I'm letting the action guide me and set its own count down.

So I'm pretty much officially at the 1/4 mark on this story! Whoo-hoo!

I've found a new rhythm to getting things done. I'm still clocking some words down in the evenings but not reserving evenings for writing now. Usually my mornings are spent with the blog, email, FB, etc. Afternoons are for household stuff and urghh, cooking. I'm making it so that I don't have to cook on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This way, I write in the morning, with a fresh mind and in complete silence, and attend to the networking/email stuff in the afternoons. It's worked this week - I hope I can replicate that in the coming days.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend! I know I'll be enjoying mine, even if it's to bask in the high of that chocolate cake!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Link Thursday: What Makes Men Fall In Love

When I saw the title for this article, I immediately clicked to see what big revelation this could bring. Okay, yeah, I was already happily married and all that, but it doesn't hurt to know what tips a bloke into falling in love with you, and sometimes all over again in love with you (yes, marriage takes work!).

As I was browsing this, it surprised me that some of these things we romance authors already know. Like let the guy be the Alpha, take control, feel he's protecting his girl, etc. Isn't that what our big, bad, alpha heroes with healing hearts are all about?
The Desire for Comfort bit - how many times do we write a scene with the hero watching the heroine do something mundane as brushing her hair and he realizes he loves her?

Still, there are some nice glimpses as to what not to do (personally), and what to make/not to make your heroine do to keep/lose a man.

Read on for some insight!

The article (no apparent author) appeared on the MSN Love & Relationships page (by now you know that's a fave haunt of mine!) around March 30, 2010.

******

What Makes Men Fall in Love

There's into you, and then there's head-over-heels gaga. These are some of the little things that tip a man over that edge.

It's a baffling question: Is there some specific moment or event that makes a guy suddenly decide "Yes, I think I love her"? Well, the answer isn't clear-cut, but there are some general principles. "Men have certain innate needs that must be met before they truly feel connected to you," says Paul Dobransky, M.D., author of The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love. "When a guy realizes, consciously or not, that you're ideal on all these levels, that's when he'll commit."

Boiled down, guys have four primal relationship desires that are sometimes sated by the tiniest of moves by you. Here, experts explain with examples so you can put these insights to use when your guy is at the brink.

1. The Desire to Protect
Believe it or not, the so-called stoic sex is hardwired to nurture. Sheltering you from harm makes him feel studly, which makes him feel good. "Not that you should act helpless, but letting him see your vulnerable side will bring him closer because it unlocks his instincts to take care of you," says David Givens, Ph.D., author of Love Signals. So give him chances to take charge, and thank him after he does. When a guy associates you with feeling like Superman, of course he'll want to couple up. These little things can draw out his hero side.

Give him a job. Ask him to fix or build you something. Performing concrete tasks is a way of bonding that enhances his sense of success.

Ask his opinion. Whether it's about your 401(k) options or the best travel sites, it telegraphs that you value his brain as much as you do his brawn.

Wear soft materials. Delicate textures like rayon, silk, and fur trigger an intense response in men. These fabrics accentuate your softer, feminine nature, which heightens his amorous instincts.

Don his clothes. It shows that you've chosen him over other guys — sexy.

2. The Desire for Freedom
Even emotionally healthy men want assurance that their identities will stay put after they've become half a happy couple. "By making it clear that you don't expect your guy to change, he'll feel like you truly understand him but don't threaten his sense of self," says Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., author of Secrets You Keep from Yourself. "That leaves him feeling on sturdy enough ground to commit." The following moves let him know you're no ball and chain.

Blow him off. Men hate the idea of being tied down socially, so turn down occasional plans. He'll not only feel easier — and open up more — around you, but he'll also start to wonder what you're doing and pursue you more.

Share your own fears. Guys often hold back because they think most chicks are baby-hungry ring-hunters. So if you feel nervous about committing, let him know. He'll be reassured that you're navigating new waters too, not trying to trap him.

Reinvent yourself. Little changes in your appearance now and then — say, hair up in a ponytail one day, down the next, etc. — remind him that you've got zillions of facets to your personality too. Read: no rut risks.

Respect his privacy. A physical space that's totally his is a huge symbol of independence to a man. Signal that you respect that by, say, staying out of desk drawers and not peeking at his caller ID when his phone rings.

3. The Desire to Shine
Maybe he's cocky, but he's still insecure. Trust us, guys need to know that they're respected and appreciated. "When being around you increases a guy's esteem, both internally and in the eyes of others, he'll naturally want to be attached to you," says Dr. Dobransky. Here, things that show your high value and nudge him toward love.

Make him happier. Laugh when one of you loses balance in the bedroom. Go to stupid movies. Drag him out when he's crabby. If you can keep things light, even during stressful times, you'll become indispensable.

Be a social butterfly. Guys are good at left-brain stuff, like sales and sports, but can get awkward when it comes to social graces. Take the lead and charm the people you meet and he'll be extra grateful to have you. But he may take credit for making those new friends ... whatever.

Play mind games. Activities that require mental prowess — like Scrabble, puzzles, and chess — can prod his passion. It sounds nuts, but proof of your problem-solving abilities subconsciously shows him you're a desirable choice for carrying on his genes.

Act like the grand prize. Seeing you through other people's eyes reminds him how special you are. Invite him to an event where you'll excel (whether it's karaoke or a fun run), or have him stand between you and another man you think is getting too close at a bar.

4. The Desire for Comfort
"Falling in love is a process of developing attachment, which happens when oxytocin floods the brain," says Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. You can unleash those love hormones by making him feel like you two just "fit." When he's so comfortable with you that he stops thinking about your relationship and simply enjoys it, he'll find himself nudged into love territory. Take these tips.

Let him see you primp. Grooming in front of him enhances intimacy because it's something other guys don't get to witness. Just keep it goddesslike (applying lipstick or powder), not gross (bleaching your moustache).

Cook together. Being around food spikes oxytocin levels in males. The more often you prep dinner à deux, the more he'll associate you with the good feelings he gets from eating it.

Stock your pad. When buying groceries you don't have a preference on, get a brand he uses. He'll subconsciously feel at home at your place. Sleep with him. Catnap near him or let yourself doze off in his arms so he sees you in your most trusting, completely relaxed state.

What Yanks Him Back from the Brink
Some factors can derail a guy who's about to fall.

1. They Get a New Opportunity
A promotion often means spending more hours at work or taking a schedule-chewing class. Instead of balancing that with their love lives, guys tend to prioritize their careers and believe that a solid relationship will endure the delay. So if something big is brewing, he may hold himself back.

2. You Never Fight
Sure, guys hate arguing, but it's worse if you don't react negatively at all when he's screwed up. A guy will worry that (a) you're going to lash out later, (b) you're a doormat, or (c) you're not into him enough to care. Any of these will make him rethink your budding relationship.

3. Pure Panic
Many men worry that if they commit, they'll have to give something up — friends, dart night, something. So when a guy realizes he's fallen for you, he may freak out and pull away for a while. If you can weather his big-baby behavior without reacting in a way that confirms those fears, he should snap out of it.

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Keeping Her Real - How to make your heroine a swanky Miss. Normal

This week's post follows upon the characterization topics started in weeks past. Lol, I can talk for ages about characterization, it's one of my favourite parts of writing - coming up with new, believable people (as if you hadn't noticed that yet, eh? *grin*). That being said, I wasn't always good at it.

One rule I always tried to follow was: to keep my heroines real. Characters in general, but since I write mostly women's fiction, it's the heroine who's my focus. In fact, at some points of my writing, I have tried to come up with a heroine that fits the mould but who, at the same time, was different. I thought I had it right, but I was wrong. Why? Because I polarized her too much. It happened on Storms in A Shot Glass (my third published novel, but the first under the then-pen name of Nolwynn Ardennes). The quiet, self-effacing PA I wanted to create turned into a wallflower who even melted in the brocade wallpaper so much she was, well, effacing.

So what did I do afterwards, other than let the story sit for a few months until I could understand where I went wrong and how I could make it right?

During one of my endless streaks of inspiration that come when I'm either doing the dishes or ironing (oh yeah, I'm a domestic goddess. Not!!), I had my answer. My heroine wasn't real!

Duh, you'll go, you already knew that. But it did come as a lightbulb moment. In trying to create a 'different' heroine from what is usually done in the realm of the quiet secretary/PA, I had gone to an extreme, and my heroine was no longer human. She also whined too much and made no move to get a grip on her life. Very pathetic.

That got me thinking - why isn't she real? If this gal, Jane, were a real gal I met in the streets of London, what would she be like? I knew she had to be quiet, self-effacing, giving the impression that she was meek and docile. And that's where the key lay - it was naught but an impression, a facade she presented to the world. In the confines of her flat, she is a different woman. She doesn't particularly like living alone or being alone, but it doesn't bother her much more than this. You are after all what you make yourself out to be. Jane tries to fill her life up with her job, and that isn't hard to do when you know her boss is really an immature man behind the facade of the successful CEO. Consequently, Jane doesn't have much time to eat, so she wolfs down microwave-able frozen food when she remembers. That's for the day to day life - this shows her as a 'normal' human. Now as to what made her this way - foray into her backstory. What shaped her into this self-effacing creature? I got another layer as to how to make her real and how to project the person she has become.

In short, it was GMC + Backstory = start of a human being

I could tell you that I got to know her. You could do this too for your heroine. Think of yourself as a woman (if you're a man, think of the women you know). Read Cosmo and get tips as to what makes a woman tick. Get the overall impression you want her to convey and build this into a logical explanation. Then go into her past and make this logical explanation even more logical by shaping this woman through her past.

You then end up with a believable starting point for your heroine.

Another good strategy would be to invent yourself a best friend who has the characteristics you want your heroine to have. Now, nobody's perfect, and tone her down to someone who could actually exist, someone you could bump into at the Pilates class, at the grocery store, at the corner deli.

In far-reaching cases, say you are writing about a heroine who had a bout with anorexia. Yet you know next-to-nothing about the condition so would you be able to project the existence of a former anorexic truthfully without knowing what it's like? Do your research. Find women who are at this stage in their life and talk/interview them. These little tidbits they'll provide you will be the real deal, and will make your heroine all the more realistic.

And then also, there's your biggest asset - you! What doesn't cut it with you as a reader? When you're creating a heroine, think like a reader. Would this woman get a chance if you picked up her story? Think also like a real person. Would such a character really exist? And if no, what makes her unrealistic? Use this then to make her believable.

I'd love to hear about how you go about creating a believable heroine! feel free to comment!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: A book recommendation

I'm doing a quick one here today because I completely missed my cue this morning. Reason - I was writing! And I ended up getting lost in the story, coming onto the Net with only an hour to spare before I had to dash out to go get the kids. Now I'm here in between parking him in front of cartoons and me needing to go in for kitchen duty.

Speaking of which, I just came upon this lifesaving book! Dinner For Busy Moms by Jeanne Muchnick (Plain White Press, 2010).

Ever felt your sanity is running on desperately low at dinner time? For me it's worse because I actually start hyperventilating the minute I go into the kitchen and start to imagine, what's for dinner? Doesn't help that the minute my kids get in at 3, the first thing I hear as we're going up the stairs is, (you guessed it!) What's for dinner?

The book's main focus is about getting the whole family to the table. I didn't have much of that issue since my husband and I decided early on that we both wanted the no-TV, no-distraction type of meals in our house. We both grew up in houses where food was eaten on the go, and we wanted this as a routine.

However, there are tons, and I really mean, tons of tips about how to organize and streamline the cooking and dinner-serving process. The book also gives awesome strategies for dealing with picky kids and trying to satisfy the maximum number of people at your table.

Peppered through with tips and hints from 'real moms' out there, added upon by the easy flowing conversational tone the author adopts in the book, this is one book to help with keeping sanity levels up.

I tried some of these tips. Instead of fixing everything for everyone, I made tortillas, shredded grilled meat, and chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and a coleslaw-style cabbage dish and placed them all on the table, along with an array of sauces (mayonnaise, ketchup, rave, peri-peri). For once there was peace at dinner, because everyone fixed their food as they wanted it. Kids even ate vegetables, can you believe it?
I did the same thing again when some roast chicken was left over. Again, peace!

Do try out this book - I promise you won't be disappointed! From this insane undomestic mom to you, this one is a true lifesaver!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, August 16, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Bright, sunshiney day

Quiet weekend. I know, that's usually a oxymoron around my place. But this time around it did happen. So for once I don't have tons of stuff to sort through as to what to put on the blog today. Sheesh...
Kids are behaving themselves, I'm actually getting work done, time is not running out like a yarn spinning out.

Is my life really so normal this week? What chaos is awaiting?



Oh wait - arsignments' week again. I'm gonna have to try to do an essay without any idea what I'm talking about. Easy you could say - I ramble enough for two, or three, apparently. But this time, I do have a problem. I don't have textbooks yet for this module, and without the book, what can you hope to learn really? Now don't let me get started on a roll about bookstores, lack of stock, over-inflated textbook prices, kill-me-right-now courier charges for a parcel! Did anyone know courier costs so much? I asked a quote for 2 books, and the courier amount is twice the books' prices total! Yeah, exactly - I'll end up paying 4,000 rupees for courier when my 2 books cost a total of 2,000 rupees! That's 6K out of my budget, and I really cannot afford 6K right now. But wait - the books are out of stock! *shakes head*
Whenever will POD come to the textbook world?
And right too - I'll already be done with uni then. Sheesh...



Culinary world tour is continuing this week. Today I'm gonna make chicken paella, using my pressure cooker. Now I dunno if that's exactly how it is done in Spain, but the recipe came with the cooker, and it's basically gonna be a one-pot dish that's pretty much a life-saver for a busy mom. I'll let you know if the blokes will end up eating burnt rice or something that resembles paella. :)



As for me, wish me luck in writing. On top of the WIP, I joined up for a story-writing challenge on GoodReads. So I'll be tackling 2 stories at once. Yikes...

But hey, I'm Superwoman, innit? (I so wish...)



From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, August 13, 2010

Progress Friday

And I'm back to writing!! The meter's up to a smallish 19% but it is up anyhow, and that's what matters. Lordy, what a week this was! In between getting kiddo back into school, readjusting to quiet in the house, myself going back to school as the uni assignment week was on me. I wonder how I'm sane today.

But I'm writing, and this is what matters. I also discovered something this week - that I can write pretty well and pretty fast too on the phone. It's a Nokia E63, qwerty keyboard and MS Word-supporting device. I used to read crit works and other review/bought PDF files on it, but had never tried to write (other than the basic text messages). So yesterday I was 'stranded' somewhere and was waiting for hubby to come pick me up, had like 45 minutes to kill. I take out the phone but my mind's not into reading. Th plan for yesterday was to write. So there I go, what could it cost to try to write on here? I create a new doc, and would you believe it  - my thumbs are flying on the keyboard and I've clocked 700+ words down in 30 minutes!

This buoyed me and when I came home, Bluetoothed the file to my laptop and started to build upon this writing. By late yesterday afternoon, I was 1900 new words into the story!

Wasn't helped by the fact that every night I'm having a screaming migraine that could put a banshee out of a job, but hopefully today I'll be able to pursue upon that same line and keep on writing.

Peeps, let me tell you - it's good to be back!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Link Thursday: 23 Ways To Keep Your Romance Alive

Routine. Hum-drum. Falling out - Ouch! That's not what love and romance is supposed to be, innit? Yet, life is tedious, and between the super career, the demanding kids, the clock that runs waaaay too fast, where's the romance gone?

That's for real life. Now what about writing? You got your couple together in your romance, now how to keep it alive, keep it fresh, keep it away from cliche?

I stumbled upon this little jewel a few weeks back, and managed to find it again today. Take a look at those suggestions. Most are do-able, and most are easy to accommodate in an ms. Nos. 17 makes for a sensual interlude, and Nos 12, 16, and 18 could even be romance premises in themselves!
The article is available at the following link http://lifestyle.msn.com/relationships/article.aspx?cp-documentid=8319584&page=0

******

23 Ways to Keep Your Romance Alive
Ban the quick kiss, share a sexy secret code ... and other itty-bitty ways to make him lovesick for you every day of the week.

In a perfect world, each moment of a relationship would be like that weak-kneed romantic scene in The Notebook when Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams finally get together, kissing in the rain.

So what keeps us from living that swoony, loopy-in-love life? Nothing more than getting stuck in the same day-in, day-out patterns and letting gushiness shift to the back burner. Okay, maybe that and the lack of a beautiful African desert background. Let Cosmo play mushy-moments director and push you to pack as much lovey-doveyness as possible into your daily routine. That means seizing every opportunity to sweeten up even the most seemingly unsentimental times together.

Here, easy but so-worth-it ways to jump-start both of your hearts.

1. Share a Secret Code
Pick a word that's likely to come up occasionally in conversation (heat, midnight, bedroom, whipped cream...) and agree that every time someone uses it, you have to touch — anything from a kiss to a lingering thigh stroke under the table.

2. Transform Dinner into Dining
That midweek post-grind meal you devour together? Make it register off the mush-o-meter with some tiny adjustments to the atmosphere. "Pull out your nicest dishes and light a couple of candles, even if you're just having a mushroom pizza," suggests Gregory Godek, author of 1001 Ways to Be Romantic (Casablanca Press, 2000). "It's the mood, not the food, that sets a romantic scene. So stick a bouquet of daisies from the corner store in the center of the table, lower the lights, and turn up Enrique Iglesias or Bessie Smith. You could even conveniently forget the utensils so you have an excuse to feed each other."

3. Get Swept Off Your Feet
Make up your own tango moves and groove with your guy for 15 minutes while you wait for dinner. Pop in the Marc Anthony CD, then press your pelvises together, entwine your legs, and twist and twirl around the living room. "Slow dancing is so intimate," says Godek. "The way you stand hip-to-hip, block out the world, and sway to each other's rhythms ... now you're really cookin'."

4. Outlaw Grunge-Wear
You and your guy are having a Blockbuster night. But wait, think twice before you change into your lounging-on-the-couch clothes ... you know, oversize T-shirt, shabby sweater. That gear isn't exactly a recipe for a night of making googly eyes. Instead, slip into something a little more comfortable but a lot more cuddle-enticing. "A fitted T-shirt or a semisheer tank top, especially when worn without a bra, is a lot sexier than some too-big shirt you're swimming in," says fashion designer and Cosmo contributing editor Shoshanna Lonstein. "Pair it with your favorite perfectly worn-out blue jeans or khaki cutoffs for a casual but irresistible look."

5. Dish with Him
Flash back to the '50s and get passionate over pots and pans. "Okay, it's totally old-fashioned and cornball, but I find doing dishes together incredibly romantic," says Janet, a 28-year-old chiropractor. "My dishwasher went on the blink one night, and my boyfriend offered to help clean up. We both rolled up our sleeves and got sudsy in the warm water. We talked about the places we'd love to travel to, the crazy things we'd like to try just once in our lives, and our hands kept touching — we just got completely lost in each other as we did this mindless activity. It was so sweet and oddly intimate that I haven't bothered to get the dishwasher fixed."

6. Touch Tenderly in Front of the TV
When you're both chilling out in front of the tube, heat things up with some hands-on action. "Give each other mini foot massages while watching the evening news," suggests Laura Corn, author of 101 Nights of Grrreat Romance (Park Avenue Publishers, 1995). "Or lay your head in his lap and let him stroke your hair." For the ultimate drive-in date experience, invest in an extralong extension cord and watch TV outside on the deck or on lawn chairs on the front stoop underneath the stars.

7. Flash Him
When no one's looking, give your guy a sneak peek in public. Granted, it's not exactly violins-in-the-background romantic, but it's certainly guaranteed to send his heart (and pulse) soaring.

8. Send Him a Sweet Afternoon Treat
If you know your guy's facing a particularly grueling, sucky afternoon at the office, call up a local restaurant that delivers and send him an I'm-thinking-about-you lunch, suggests Ilene Rosenzweig, coauthor of Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life (Warner Books, 1999). Let him know dessert's waiting at your place later.

9. Play the Dating Game
Get out of the same old Saturday-night film-and-food groove. For your next date, come up with three out-of-the-ordinary evening ideas — perhaps a starlit ferry ride, a game of mini golf, dinner at a restaurant with a kind of food you've never tried, or even seen, before — and write them down on index cards, suggests David D. Coleman, coauthor of Date Smart! How to Stop Revolving and Start Evolving in Relationships (Prima Publishing, 1999). "Then, have your guy blindly choose one of the cards and embark on a mysterious, exotic adventure."

10. Keep Him in the Dark
For the ultimate lights-out love nudge, fake a power outage. "Unplug the phone, computer, and TV, then turn off all the lights," instructs Godek. "With nothing else to distract you, you have no choice but to break out the candles and cling to each other as you tell scary ghost stories ... or just plain cling to each other."

11. Ban the Peck
Replace that chaste, no-effort lip graze with a 10-second smooch — and make every single kiss a bit of bliss.

12. Map Out the Hot Spots in Your Neighborhood
Make it your mission to fool around in every prime passion nook of your neighborhood — behind trees, on nearby park benches, under a lamppost. Every time you walk out your front door with your dream guy, hit one of these desire-designated areas until you have the whole area PDA'd.

13. Write Him a Sexy Check
While you're taking care of the bills, take care of your guy with a personal payment for head-to-toe kisses, suggests Godek. "Tell him he can cash in anytime."

14. Make Out Every Time You're Alone in an Elevator
Use this love-lifter as a cue to sneak in a secret smooch session.

15. Read Seductive Stories to Each Other
Pick up a steamy best-seller like Vox, by Nicholson Baker (it certainly got Monica boiling for Bill), and take turns reading it aloud. "My boyfriend and I love sharing juicy novels," says Liz, a 30-year-old producer. "We'll get in bed or curl up on the couch and take turns being the narrator. At first I was a bit nervous and rigid — I sounded like Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone — but eventually I found my natural rhythm and got really turned on by it. It's so utterly romantic because we're in this sort of fantastical fictional world together rather than sticking our noses in our respective books. And listening to my boyfriend's voice is unbelievably sexy."

16. Go Postal
Create some surprising postal passion by mailing I-want-you notes to your man. Start by telling him exactly what you love about every part of his body.

17. Play Barber Babe
Show your man some passionate pampering by giving him a sensual shave. After his morning shower, lather up his face with a great-smelling shaving cream and slide the razor in the direction the hair grows. "It's a way to steal a very intimate moment when you're both usually so rushed to get out the door," says Kelly, a 26-year-old massage therapist who loves to groom her guy. "Not to mention the perfect excuse to straddle him."


18. Tempt Him with a Slew of Where-to-Find-You Clues
Make your usual rendezvous a million times racier by keeping them mysterious for your man. "I have a standing Friday-evening drink date with my boyfriend," says Sue, a 27-year-old tax attorney. "To keep it exciting, I have this trick for spicing things up: I send him on a treasure hunt ... to find me. I pick an obscure, out-of-the-way bar, one we'd never normally go to in a million years. Then every hour on the hour during the workday, I send my boyfriend an e-mail feeding him clues about where I want him to meet me that night — little riddles that hint at the name, landmarks that will lead him to the location. When he puts all the pieces together, he finds me waiting in the most private booth I can find. Now he's scheming up the next mystery meeting."

19. Hold the Sports Section Hostage
Steal the paper before your guy gets a chance to check out the scores. Place a ransom note on his pillow and insist that your demands for a.m. sex, smooching, and snuggling be met before you'll consider giving him access to the stats.

20. Outlaw Work Talk
Make office gripes and groans a taboo topic when having dinner with your doll. "My boyfriend and I make meals our time," says Anne, a 29-year-old furniture maker. "We talk about upcoming vacations, friends, movies — anything that lets us share ideas instead of bombarding each other with tales of work woes. After eight hours of focusing on other people on the job, it's such a luxurious treat to indulge in some time that's all about us." If professional topics accidentally pop up, quash them by saying, "Get your mind out of the grind and back onto me."

21. Give Him an All-Day "Scentual" Reminder
"The next time your guy sleeps over, spritz a small item of clothing — scarf, underwear, camisole — with your signature fragrance, and slyly slip it into his briefcase or backpack," suggests author Corn. "With your sexy scent wafting out every time he reaches into his bag, he won't be able to take his mind off of you." When the clock strikes 5, he'll follow his nose all the way to your front door.

22. Get a Sound Track
Create your relationship repertoire by picking a few favorite songs (a sentimental score, a sultry in-the-mood croon, a sassy "Feel the Earth Move"-type number) that really capture the essence of your couplehood and make them yours by playing them on romantic, sexy occasions.

23. Compliment Each Other in Public
"My girlfriend tells everyone that I'm the most talented person she's ever met," says Andrew, 28, a teacher. "She'll tell a cashier, 'We'll take a chocolate brownie because my guy so deserves it.' When she introduces me, she says, 'This is my hilariously funny boyfriend' or 'Meet my handsome boyfriend. He puts George Clooney to shame.' My heart jumps every time. I swear it makes going to the deli sexy."

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Show Me Your Character - In Her Shoes!

No, I'm not talking of the book by Jennifer Weiner (that I read and loved, btw), nor of the movie that was adapted from said book.

I am literally talking of, walking in the shoes of your heroine.

Last week's post on show v/s tell in movies and books got me thinking, especially about thoughts in a story. Anyone who's ever read my work can and will probably tell you my stories can be compared to the psychoanalysis of the characters in the foil of their respective story and the plot. Meaning - I'm big on thoughts.

I reckon that not everyone has to agree with me. I know great writers who bind you in their plot yet don't write a deep thought in over 200 pages. I know of great writers who have next to nothing in way of plot but the thought process of the characters take you through a journey that has you panting and turning page after page for every 300+ sheet in the book. And yet the majority of writers, mostly the aspiring, beginning writers peopling the crit world, listen to only one rule - action forward and cut out unnecessary thoughts!

While I agree that the reader needs not be privy to each and every thought that goes on in a character's head (we know that could get terribly boring and tedious!), there is an inherent element to the thoughts-inclusion in a story - it's what binds you to the plot. It's also why people are reading you and not watching a movie!

There's a big difference between reading a book and watching a movie, even if both are dealing with the same story. Take this example:

At the start of the movie version of Bridget Jones' Diary, you hear the song All By Myself playing, and Bridget, played by a chubby Renee Zellweger, is alone in her flat, wrapped in a quilt, a bottle of whatever alcoholic beverage in her hand. Then she stands up, with the bottle still in hand, and she starts to move around the flat while singing along to the lyrics.

What does this tell you? Bridget is single, since she's at home on an evening (helped by the audio cue of the soundtrack through the lyrics of All By Myself) and she's drowning her sorrow in that bottle.

Now, we get this, allright. But what is Bridget's sorrow, other than she is by herself and drinking?

Go to the book, and read the first few chapters. First quote: 'Resolution number one: obviously, will lose twenty pounds. Number two: will find nice sensible boyfriend and not continue to form romantic attachments to alcoholics, workaholics, peeping-toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts.'
The Bridget of the movie, while still being the character penned by Helen Fielding, is a 'generic' version of the close-to-30-London-singleton. Whereas the Bridget of the book is Bridget, the fully formed and realized Bridget Jones, not just a general idea of a woman in her shoes. And how is this possible? Through the thoughts of the character!

Something is lost in translation between the book and the screen, and the first thing to get the cut is thought processes. It's true that you cannot 'show' thoughts so easily in visual form, but still, taking out the thought processes takes you from a unique character to a generic character, that any writer could've penned given a few hints at psychology.

Take a further example, Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Imagine Becky, the heroine, getting the urge at the shop to buy something when she knows she shouldn't. Her heart races, the need starts to pound in her head. Her throat goes dry and she simply needs, needs, needs, to buy whatever it is that has caught her fancy. When you read the book, you are privy to the battle and the struggle going on inside her, making you a part of Becky's world, making you urge her to not do this, to get out of there asap. But in the movie, what you'll get is Becky at the store. You see her gaze land on something, you see her pause, maybe bite her lip, and then her hand reaches for her purse, and she pulls the credit card out. Inherently, you know what's happening, but here you do not know what's going on in her head.

We have to face it - many people read because they want this thought process. They want to be involved in the story, in the developments, in the character's journey. If your heroine has never worn Manolo Blahniks and she does buy a pair, your reader wants to know what it will be like for her to break those shoes in, what it feels like to wear them. Similarly, how does it make you feel to be in Jimmy Choo stilettos, or the red-soled sky-high Christian Louboutins (pictured above)? And, when your former diva a la Gabrielle Solis trades her strappy sandals for comfy Mommy shoes, what's going on in her head at that moment?
(And in case you're wondering, yes, I am a shoe-holic!)

In short, what does it feel like, what is it all about, to be in her shoes? Isn't this mainly what the heroine's (ultimately character's) journey is about? How do you get there without putting your reader in her head, in her thoughts, while you're in her shoes?

I'm eager to hear your thoughts on this! Any comments are more than welcome!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: Me, Myself, and Zee

Lol, what a title, eh? I was gonna use the whole movie title but then I realized that Zee is another facet of this person I am.

Okay, lost you there, innit? :) No worries. I just want to say today that I have been interviewed by Tabitha Blake of Nocturnal Nights and my interview is up since last night, and will be until next Monday.

In it, I talk about what I write, and how and why I got inspired to do what I do.

I hope you'll drop by and leave me a comment. :) Here's the link:

http://www.tabithablakesnocturnalnights.com/interviews_3.html

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, August 09, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: When madness dies down

Kiddo is back into school! Whoo-hoo! Can you see me jumping around my very empty house in joy? Lol. Yeah, I don't think I'm a bad mom, but being cooped up 15 hours a day for the past 19 days, with a kid who can talk the hind leg off a donkey after barely 60 seconds - yes, I welcome the sanity and the fact that he's out of the house (safely, in school!).
He didn't see it that way though - grumbled and sulked this morning when I woke him up, dragged his little self around as if it held the weight of the world on its wide-for-7-years shoulders. Kids, eh - our sunshine and our damnation at the same time! :)



It's unbelievable how much you can accomplish when you aren't interrupted by 'Mommy this' or Mommy that' every 25 seconds. Peeps, I'm writing again! I've clocked down 500 words so far this morning in between FB visits and checking email. Talk of multitasking! I even found a way to integrate an issue in a manner that so fits the ms, it seems untrue! All thanks to some quiet. Peeps - never underestimate the power of silence! As Enigma says - silence must be heard!



Channelled my non-existent Nigella Lawson over the weekend and starting a world tour of cooking. Thought of my Southern gal pals yesterday, Chicki Brown & Angela Guillaume, when I made chicken-fried steak and gravy ladled on mashed potatoes. Food turned out delicious, and cannot believe how cooking the meat this way makes it so tender and easy to eat. Kiddo, in true modern kid manner, actually made a 'burger' with his steak and bread, and would you believe it, asked if we had lettuce at home! I about fell out of my seat with the surprise, because he is absolutely self-allergic to anything vegetable!



The family madness continues. I barely had time to sit my bum down at home yesterday. Ever since Friday, the only thing I'm doing at home is sleeping. Today's not any better, since we have yet another dinner at yet another auntie's place. Oh well, at least it save me from having to cook (and by now you know cooking and me makes three - a total crowd!)



At my BIL's place on Saturday, got a chance to watch the DVD of Brooklyn's Finest. Really good movie, the realistic cop and crimeworld kind. Brilliant acting by the whole cast, though special mention to Richard Gere who portrays this alcoholic and disillusioned but honest to his deepest bone cop who refuses to take any sh*t, even from his bosses, 7 days before he is about to retire, ready to forego his pension and all his benefits just because he is honest! Other special mention to Don Cheadle, who plays an undercover cop but who finds himself with his loyalty actually veering toward the crime lord (played by Wesley Snipes) he has to bring under, because Snipes actually saved his life.
Really good movie - see it if you get the chance.



I pen off before I write my novel on here, :)

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Progress Friday--strikethat Saturday!

See the pic on the left here? That's my week! As a writer, I completely bumbled it. No new writing done, and I didn't even have a chnace to update the blog yesterday.

Yes, I know, I'm human too. My hubby's family (the one who's intent on gathering and celebrating at the drop of  hat) have concocted a weekend from la-la-land kind, full of lunch, dinner, gatherings and what else. Of yesterday, I recall only putting my laptop to sleep just before lunch, intent on getting back, but I never got the chance!

At the same time, that's not much of an excuse. But I'll tell you something. I'm dealing with life, and trying to be a better mother this year. In the past, so much working and writing and just running after a proverbial carrot dangled before me from a stick, I nearly lost two of the most precious things in my life - my husband and my child. I had no time for them, was just a physical fixture in their life. Writing for me had become emotionally unhealthy, because you may be the biggest writer ever, and unless you're single and without kids, parents, siblings and friends, you are not an island and do not exist in a vacuum. I had been led to believe this, that as long as I wrote I would find my happiness. But that was misleading, because I wasn't just a writer. I was a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend.

So this week, I failed at being a writer. I was instead a wife who snuggled with her man in the evenings under the same afghan throw to watch movies together. I was a mom who sat down for hours on a baby quilt in front of the shell of a plastic push car and who got taken at first on a supersonic flight around the earth, then in a limo to the beach, and finally on a spaceship to the Star Wars galaxy. I was a daughter who sat down twice this week to have tea and chat with her aging parents, who watched the smile on their faces just because I was there (as if my presence made the whole world brighter!). I was a friend who rekindled with a long lost school chum who is getting married in a few days, and I was also the best friend for whom 3 years of ocean-wide separation meant nothing when she met her best friend and just started to talk like it was yesterday we last saw each other. Uh, the sibling thing is kinda lacking... I left my brother an FB note when he in fact lives just 15 minutes from my place... But what can you do? That's today's technology, innit? :)

So fellow visitors, I may have been remiss as a writer this week, but I am happy that I got to be everything else. I am who I am, and all these facets make me this specific person. So yes, I choose to be everything. Maybe when I die people won't remember me for the long list of books I've left behind, but people might remember me for a touch of sunshine in their existence.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Link Thursday: Guys on Romance - What's Overrated v/s What's Underrated

Link Thursday comes up with me still in a lovey-dovey mindset. Guess that's the effect of Valentine's Day. Strangely, this got me thinking that in 8 years, my husband and I have celebrated February 14 just once. Yes, it was the 'very first year' we were together. Also it was back when I was still very young and thought you needed to celebrate the day to show that you're in love.

Today, I stand corrected. Love is not in the gift/flowers/chocolate/fancy dinner that comes on that day (though I'd never say no to any, anytime!). Love is in the little things of everyday, in a glance, in the way your eyes meet and connect for a few seconds across a crowded room. I didn't believe my husband back then when he told me how Valentine's Day was just a mercantile tradition. I was like, you're jaded.

But from what this article says, I was wrong. He isn't jaded, because many men think the same way!

True eye-opener, this one! Who knew shampoo was such a powerful weapon in our arsenal? Also, gotta love the one about make-up sex!

Writers - this is what a 'real' hero might be thinking!

The article is by Ky Anderson, and this is the link http://lifestyle.msn.com/relationships/article.aspx?cp-documentid=23293950

******

Guys on Romance: What's Overrated vs. What's Underrated

It's not that guys don't enjoy the couple-y or romantic aspects of a relationship. It's just that they enjoy some more than others — and you may be surprised by the aspects they actually prefer.

By Ky Henderson
Overrated: Love letters
Underrated: Romantic texts
If a guy sits down to write you an actual love letter, he's doing it to impress you. If he sends you a text out of nowhere telling you he's thinking about you, he's doing it because he can't help himself.

Overrated: Picnics
Underrated: Cookouts
Eating outside is great. But when given a choice between obtaining their food from an adorable basket or from a flaming grill, guys will always pick the grill.

Overrated: The smell of your perfume
Underrated: The smell of your hair
There's nothing wrong with the subtle application of the right perfume, but catching a whiff of that clean-yet-flowery girl-hair smell beats any fragrance.

Overrated: Humoring him by watching the game
Underrated: Doing your own thing while he watches the game
If you truly enjoy drinking beer while watching sports, that's great. But if you're doing it solely for his sake, there's no need to bother — he knows that you're a girl. And he likes that.

Overrated: Ballroom-dancing lessons
Underrated: Surfing lessons
Most any guy would love being active and learning new things with you. But if he has to worry about his footwork and balance, he'd rather not have to be wearing shimmery shirts while doing it.

Overrated: Bed and breakfasts
Underrated: Any other means of lodging
Breakfast is served from 6:30am to 6:45am, and we get to sit at a communal table with chatty 70-year-olds? How romantic!

Overrated: Valentine's Day roses
Underrated: Flowers on a random day
V-Day roses require less than no imagination. But surprising you with flowers on a meaningless Tuesday is a sign that he doesn't need greeting-card companies to tell him when to show you how much he cares.

Overrated: Make-up sex
Underrated: Not fighting in the first place
He hates arguing with you almost as much as he loves having sex with you. So make-up sex isn't even close to being worth the excruciating pain of the fight that precedes it.

Overrated: Discussing your future house
Underrated: Discussing your future vacation
Contrary to popular belief, men aren't afraid to discuss or envision a future together. It's just that they prefer to focus on certain aspects (drinking on a beach) rather than others (grouting bathroom tile).

Overrated: Double dates
Underrated: Going to parties together
Double dates are often a little awkward. Seeing an entire party's worth of guys look jealous when he walks in with you is always totally awesome.

******

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Lost in translation - show v/s tell in movies and books

Over the past few days I've watched a few movies. When your brain is mush from hearing too many screams and game-related fights, you want something to take your focus off everything. You actually want to turn into that vegetable lying on the couch and with flickering images reflecting off the glasses she wears.

So I saw Valentine's Day and Love and Other Disasters. Good flicks, but for the second one, I just couldn't get into it. Why? Because that story is about an American intern at British Vogue and her posse of friends, especially her gay roommate. A lot happens, you see it all, but the movie did not cut it for me because it seemed like a story better suited for the book medium rather than the screen. I wanted to 'be' those characters, be in the their POV and heads. Not just see them doing things.

Is there a difference between screen and book? Basically, both are stories, right? To tell a story you relate what you see - like you're watching a movie and it's a blow-by-blow visual of what's happening on the screen. That's your story, innit? You as the writer would be able to convey everyhting, right?

Wrong! You're supposed to write, not relate!

That's where it seems a lot of writers go wrong - they write a story with the same viewspan and attention span as watching TV or a movie. It's like they're saying, you watch a movie, get it? Start, middle, end, you show what's taking place in the story. There you go - story written!

Sure you go. You've written a story with start, middle, end and it even holds the line! But wait a second too - you're giving me the movie version, not the book one!

I'll take an example. Twilight movie v/s Twilight book. Each has start, middle, end, the same story, same people, same setting, same plot, same whatever. Where's the difference then?

This is what's different - I watch the movie while I read the book. Not making sense? Okay - the book gives you an addtional layer to the movie version, because you are not seeing the characters but you are the characters!

That's why you cannot 'watch' a book, you need to read it. Reading means you open a total different world for the reader, one where it's almost a virtual reality simulation without the gadgets because the reader uses his brain as the simulator and your words as the connection.

Still not making much sense? Okay, let's try another approach. How many times have we as writers heard this line - show, don't tell! It's almost become a mantra that switches on automatically when we get to the keyboard. But how much are you really showing?

Bear in mind the virtual reality simulation again. You need to show something to your writer. Say, for example, your heroine is angry after a tiff with her lover. So, in show and don't tell mode, you go - Megan fumed inside, and as she went out, banged the door behind her.

Made your point, innit? She's so angry she bangs the door. You showed! Actually, no. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you didn't show me this. You gave me a visual, which is basically what one would watch in a movie. But in the movie, you'd see the expression on the actress playing Megan's face. You'd see her bunch her fists maybe, bite her lip extra hard, stomp her heel. Where have you shown this in the above line?

Also, is this door-banging in character with her? What makes her bang the door? Exasperation that her man is taking her for granted/has brushed her off again? Is it completely unrelated, as in this tiff with him not understanding that he needs to pick his socks off the floor, is it simply the drop that made the vase overflow? Is she maybe feeling irritated by everything and nothing because it's a hormonal time for her?

All of this you would give your reader to connect with if you showed not just her movements but what's in her head too.

And this is the difference between watching movies and reading books. You watch a character on the screen, whereas you relate from the character's POV in the book. You become her, you experience what she is feeling, it's a virtual reality simulation for you!

You can call this Deep POV; you can call this being in her shoes; you can call this TMI, but this showing part is definitely lacking in books nowadays. If we wanted to watch a movie, we'd watch a movie. Where's the thrill in reading, in being taken to that other world with all your senses involved (not just eyes and ears), that reading is supposed to give a reader?

Remember that this connection lies in your hand, you the writer. It has to flow from your pen, to be able to whisk your reader away. Otherwise, why bother to read your work when he/she can watch a movie?

I'd love to hear your take on this question. Feel free to discuss!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday: A touch of sweetness...

My life is currently going on 'insane' right now. Try as much as I want, I cannot undo the dial from this position. So 'insane' I'm stuck on. Not to mention that there's always something to do. You grab the list, cross something off, and when you get back to your reduced-number list to tackle the next item, you find that 2-3 tasks have magically appeared at the bottom of the page. If you're lucky, the list is still 1-page long. But who counts on luck, eh?

Similarly, who counts on men being darlings?

That's when the man in your life will totally surprise you. You know, he goes out to work every morning, spends the whole day there with not a minute to spare, and when he's back home in the early evening, he has to rush out again on kids'-related errands (ju-jitsu lessons, private tuition, etc). By the time he gets back by my side it's already dinner time, and by then I am beat (echo the replicating to-do list somewhere in there). Not to say he doesn't help, and after all, it's thanks to his efforts at slugging into the corporate world that I'm able to be at home, pursue further studies, write. Not many in his shoes would've told their wife when her stint in corporate ended in disillusionment to 'do what you want to do with your life, 'coz that's the only way you'll be happy'.

I know, he's my own real-life hero. Yes, he leaves his clothes/wet towel almost everywhere. He's careless at the sink and I end up with a bombed-out warzone when he's in the kitchen. Yes, he snores sometimes (a good elbow poke in the ribs and he'll turn over). But he's my man, and he makes everyday of my life Valentine's Day.

Hmm, I knew you were wondering why the movie's poster was up there! Well, my darling knows I'm dealing with kids 24/7. He knows I'm home but not able to get much done. He knows I'm not really writing 'coz of the tiredness lately and that without my writing fix, I'm a basket case. So what does he do? When out to get something I forgot on the grocery list of Saturday shopping, he stops by the DVD shop and gets me not just 1, but 2 movies. One is Valentine's Day, the other is The Ghost Writer.

Valentine's Day was for the sweet, cuddly love feeling (better than chocolate at times!). The Ghost Writer because, a) Pierce Brosnan stars in it (and I'm a goner for the man!) b) it's about writers c) I recently got 'into' mysteries and thrillers and this one fits the bill.

What more can a girl want/ask for, eh?

Side note - just saw Valentine's Day (cuddled up with the man. Yes, he even watched it with me!!). Totally sweet and cute movie, and loved how all the characters were connected in a big web of relationships. Made me think of Love Actually and He's Just Not That Into You, but VD had a little something special to it. It was just sweet. And the parting line from the narrator, "these 3 words we all want to hear:..." Priceless!
Check it out if you're looking for a nice, cute, romantic flick. It doesn't disappoint!

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Monday, August 02, 2010

Random Thoughts' Monday: Work load and other considerations

And we're already in August. Half the year has already gone by, and it looks like 2010 was just on the threshold of the doorway just yesterday. I know I love saying that time flies (it's like a broken record, really, I know!) but it is so damn true!! What on earth has happened in all this time?  What writing do I have to show for it?

I look at my WIP progress meter and go: Nothing to be proud of yourself, girl. But then I think back, upon those past 7 months, and I realise I have a 100K novel I wrote in the first trimester, and have a 16K revision I added to a 52K novel (that I wrote last year during this same June vacation period). All that might've been work from a previous lifetime, because the person I was at the start of this year is not the one you're seeing today. But deep down inside, it's my mind that wrapped these stories together, my imagination that brought these characters in their respective love stories, my fingers that typed their story onto the screen.

All this equals to - writing done by me!!

Is it time to cyber-dust these mss and plunge back in their world? H/h of the current WIP screaming to be heard, but the H/h of those other mss are shouting none less loudly. Who will win?


 
Another thing starts today - university semester. I'm on my next-to-last semester before completing my BA Communications Science degree. Misleading title actually, since the major might be comms science but the array of subjects studied vary from interpersonal and intrapersonal communication, industrial psychology, English and business/media writing, business management, media management, comms law, HR management, and marketing management. There's a total of 30 modules spread over 3 levels necessary to complete the degree. I've completed 27 of them. Got 2 this semester, and 1 left for 2011.

So what else is special about this semester? One of the modules is Distribution Management, especially in the retail industry. One glance through the study guide and I have notions of fashion houses and big department stores. I'll let you know further on if my initial impression lived up or not. :)

I also have to order my textbooks this week, and expecting my leather wallet to be totally skinned by the time I'm done with this purchase. Still, it's for the good cause (repeat like a mantra when you end up in front of the Mango shop and cannot afford to even go in to even look at price tags...)



Last week of kids' break. Think I can hold on for 7 more days? Gotta say the hubby is helping, being a real darling. He's taking afternoons off to be at home with us - just having him physically there even if he's doing nothing is great support. Kids less tempted to talk back and just ignore me. Sweetheart that he is, he even got me the DVD of Valentines' Day from the shop yesterday and sat down and watched it with me.
What more can a girl want, eh?



Writing perspective for the week - get another darn chapter down!



From Mauritius with love,

Zee
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