About Me

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I am an aspiring writer living and working in Hull. I working on a novel, as well as writing short stories to keep my writing skills fresh. I decided to start a writing blog to connect with other writers. So please, take a look around and leave some comments - I'd love to read some of your writing blogs too. Nari X

Monday, 27 August 2012

Hitting The Books

Many apologies for my two week absence. I have had a stressful week, but I' here now. 

As a writer, research is one of our most valuable tools. Our research informs what we write and provides essential materials for building the world of our stories. 
Unfortunately, I am terrible at it. 
I find that I'm much more likely to dive straight into a story, getting to know my characters a weaving yarn, which is lovely. Which is fine.
But I've reached a point now where I realise, particularly whilst writing a fantasy novel, the importance of research. It is what makes the world and its people believable. 
So I feel it is time to hit the local library and draw on its variety of resources. I have also been reading up on the books I own myself, stepping back and looking at story structure, world building and the shape of the plot.

The trouble is I'm struggling to know where to start. I want to read history books and look at customs and culture of different time periods, different countries, but I can't carry an entire shelf of books home with me. But, I keep telling myself, I need to be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day, and nor is a good novel. 

I have recently finished reading Patrick Rothfuss's 'The Wise Man's Fear', and I have now got half way through George R.R. Martin's 'A game of Thrones.' 
You can imagine how intimidated I am feeling. These books and series are epic - The Wise Man's Fear quite literally. The book weighs a tonne. 
I can't begin to imagine how much research and time went into those books. And it paid off. 

So. Stop whining, Nari, and get on with it. That, I believe, is what Patrick Rothfuss would say. 

Many people have recommended Stephen King's 'On Writing', So I might track it down to hep me out. Are there any other good books or research advice anyone can suggest? 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Foody Fridays: Grandma's Garlic Potatoes

I have attempted to recreate my Grandma’s famous potato side-dish, since I was unable to find a recipe in amongst all her cookbooks. It is really simple, and a good alternative to roast potatoes.

Garlic Potatoes

3 or 4 medium sized potatoes, peeled
300ml of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
½ teaspoon rosemary or sage
Pepper to season


1.  Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/220°C.
2. Thinly slice the potatoes so they are roughly half a centimetre thick, then lay them out in a casserole/oven-proof dish. They should be slightly overlapping each other.
3. Make up the stock and pour it over the potatoes, making sure they are not swimming.
4. To make the garlic butter, mix together the margarine, garlic and rosemary, then drop several spoonfuls over the potatoes, so that it will cover them all when it melts.
5. Season with pepper to taste, then place high up in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until  most of the liquid is gone and the potatoes are starting to crisp on top.

 Please let me know what you think. Also, any feedback on the format or phrasing of the recipe would be appreciated. Thanks, and enjoy!

 Next Week: Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Modern Mystery...

Before I say a single word, I would like you to watch this trailer for the York Mystery Plays 2012. It says a lot and gives you a glimpse at just how powerful and breathtaking the experience is:

At the weekend, my parents visited us in Hull to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary. A big congratulations to them both - let's all raise our proverbial glasses. I've learned so much about marriage from my parents and I owe them a lot.
To celebrate, they booked the four of us tickets to see the York Mystery Plays, which are particularly special this year because it is York's 800th Anniversary.
If I'm honest, when I'd first heard of it, I didn't really know what it was. So let me fill you in:

A Rich History

The Mystery Plays are part of a Medieval tradition in York. They began as 50 separate short plays, each telling a story from the Bible. They were performed annually in the open air by local craft guilds, each responsible for a different play. This tradition is recorded for two hundred years until the English Reformation suppressed the plays. 

But the plays live on with the tradition, and 50 plays have been made into one by writer Mike Kenney.

York Mystery Plays 2012, St Mary's Abbey--3
(c) Allan Harris

This year's production was a collaboration of the York Theatre Royal, The Riding Lights Theatre Company and the York Museums Trust. All involved can be very proud of what was achieved. 

The Setting

This year, the plays were brought into the Museum Gardens, and the stage was built in St Mary's Abbey, which provided a wonderful backdrop to the performance. On the main website, you can find a video of the stage being built, which is definitely worth a look. 
The stage was Open Air, which I think is one of the best ways to do theatre, and particulary this play, as it called for a natural setting.  My Drama-Graduate husband informs me that the stage was 'thrust', which means that there were audience on three sides of the stage. There were entrances all around the audience, as well as coming up from beneath the stage - very useful and powerful for the representation of Hell.

The Play
Saturday 4th August, Matinee

Before I get too technical, I want to say that this performance absolutely took my breath away. In spite of the weather, the cast carried the story with such passion and such skill. There was not a single moment, not even when the heavens opened and the director shuffled the cast backstage to procure some very trendy waterproof ponchos, when I was the least bit disappointed, disconnected or any less than 100% involved in the story being told. I could not stop thinking about it. There were so many theological points raised, simply by who was where at a certain moment, even by the simplest action of placing a hand on a shoulder. 

York Mystery Plays 2012 - Dress Rehearsal 01.08.2012  -10
(c) Allan Harris
As we were all fidgeting and getting comfortable, commenting on how sunny this side of the stage was and that we weren't sure if our faces could take 3 hours of direct and unrelenting sun, a man in a tan trenchcoat casually walked onto the stage and began writing excitedly in chalk. 
My first thought was a scientist on the verge of cracking a theory, a mathemetician working out the missing calculations, or an artist planning out some great design. 

It was, of course, a timeless God with an epic idea, working it out with as much excitement as all of the above. This portrayal of God made me smile right from the first second because it was just so fitting. 
Ferdinand Kingsley played the role of God and later, Jesus, and in that, they had cast incredibly well. He had the air of excitement, interest, love and humour, but also of deep hurt and anger, caused first by the rebellion of Satan and the angels, then by humanity, whom he had also created. 
He had the audience with him every step, and during the heavy rain, he had this smile on his face which made us all smile with him and laugh freely at the liberation in the image of him stood in the rain speaking of new life and being washed clean through his resurrection.

York Mystery Plays 2012 - Dress Rehearsal 01.08.2012  -16
(c) Allan Harris
Satan, also, was cast fantastically well. He was played by Graeme Hawley, most famously known for his role as John Stape in Coronation Street. He played the opportunist, silently watching and waiting. In almost every scene, he was lurking, just watching, or whispering in somebody's ear. 

There was an eerie presence to the character, and he would show up in places you weren't looking or expecting to find him. At the Fall of Man, he did not appear as a snake, or some other beastly representation of evil, but as a friendly looking gardener. 

He appeared constantly, handing out stones to the crowds before Jesus tells them it is not for them to judge, whispering into the ear of Herod's wife, placing a hand on the shoulder of Judas. All these subtle things carried huge theological weight, and there are so many debates I could get into. 
Whatever was the main focus of the play at any given point, I was always scouting for Satan, just to see what he was doing.

York Mystery Plays 2012 - Technical rehearsal -4
(c) Allan Harris

The angels gave an interesting modern take, not clad in white lace and silk with halos and wings, but wearing very brightly coloured outfits with wide skirts that span as they danced. They also formed the rainbow after the flood as Noah and his family sailed to safety. 

As I mentioned before, the weather was it's own character in this play as well. Open Air Theatre always runs the risk of rain, snow or thunderstorms, but I felt that the cast rode with the weather so beautifully. In the first half, our side of the audience got sunburnt, and then in the second half, a cloud rescued us. The cloud grew darker and darker with the story, and was a heavy, ominous grey as Jesus died on the cross. During the Harrowing of Hell, the heavens opened and it absolutely bucketed down. It was so appropriate; Jesus stood tall, arms outstretched saying 'Let my people go!' with the rain hammering down poignantly. I had shivers running down my spine when all the cages of hell fell to the floor and Satan retreated into the depths of Hell from the power of Jesus' command. 
The cast soldiered on through the rain, not even blinking or skipping a beat in their lines, but it was at the point where nobody could hear or see, so the director had to apologise and shuffle everyone off to dry off. The performance commenced after 5 minutes, by which time the rain had stopped. And not for a second was anything about the play ruined, if anything, the rain made it more powerful. 

The Writing

The language used in the script was very archaic, and worked almost in Rhyming couplets. In this sense, the whole thing felt like an epic poem, with cast and characters to get behind the words and bring them to life. It had an almost Shakespearean feel to it, which was appropriate given the history and tradition of the plays. 
I liked that Mike Kenny had stuck with this type of language, keeping the plays closer to the original texts. The delivery of the cast was so good that the writing sounded beautiful and natural, and wove the story together like a powerful thread. 

 I Recommend.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this play. At first, I was not sure what to expect, and I was so impressed by the experience I was given. The York Mystery Plays are running until the27th August 2012 - pay a visit to the Website and book your tickets now. You will love it.

I would like to say a big thank you to Allan Harris for letting me use his spectacular photos in this post. You can find more of his work at All images posted here belong to Allan Harris and are used with permission from him. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Foody Friday: Broccoli Bake

As well as writing, I love to cook and invent things in the kitchen. Being a vegetarian, experimentation and an awareness of what is in my food is essential, and I have come to enjoy researching good sources of nutrition. If you know what you need, and what you like, creating tasty combinations can be really fun. I'm not saying it's effortless, but it really isn't that difficult to cook healthy, well-balanced and nutritional meals.
So I have decided that I will dedicate my Friday blogs to telling you all about my latest discoveries in the kitchen, including my own recipes and reports on other peoples'.

Today I have a recipe which I put together last week;
- This recipe has quite  high fat content, but is balanced with plenty of vitamins and nutrients.
- Broccoli contains not only plenty of iron, but vitamin C as well, which helps the body absorb iron.
- The walnuts provide omega 3, which is most commonly found in oily fish. It's good to know that there are other sources for us veggies!
- The cheese provides calcium and B12. B12 is very important for vegetarians, as it can only be found naturally in animal products, including milk, cheese and eggs.

Broccoli Bake

1 whole broccoli
1 whole camembert (250g)
35g walnuts, roughly chopped
25g frozen peas

1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190°C.
2. Chop the broccoli into reasonably sized florets. Chop off the end of the stalk and discard, then slice the stalk into ½ cm thick slices.
3. Boil the stalk and peas and steam the florets over the same pan for about 5-10 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer, bung it all in one, but the florets won’t need as long to boil.)
4. Chop 150g camembert into chunks, removing but keeping the rind.
5. Drain the vegetables and place them back into the pan. Over a low heat, stir in the chunks of camembert so that it melts and mixes in with the veg.
6. Stir in the chopped walnuts, keeping some aside for the top.
7. Season with salt and pepper if you wish, although I found the flavour of the cheese was strong enough to hold its own.
8. Transfer into an ovenproof dish. Chop up the leftover rind and sprinkle on top.
9. Slice the rest of the camembert, keeping the rind on, and place evenly over the top of the dish. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the top
10. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes and serve immediately.
Best served with potatoes, roast or boiled. I served it with Garlic Potatoes (aka Grandma’s potatoes), coming next week.

Try it out and let me know what you think. I'm always open to ideas and variations. Enjoy!