Memories of Christmas

We’ve all got some lovely (I hope) childhood memories of Christmas, and I think Mark Twain’s family had some of the loveliest. Here’s a letter of his, one I took from Letters of Note, a bank of lovely letters that you won’t want to stop reading once you start.

During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn’t sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbours, the inimitable Mark Twain could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain’s 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find the following charming letter on her bed. Continue reading


It’s your fault, America.


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Note to all: This piece is written in humour, take it as such.

Dear Americans,

This is what happens when you spread your culture.

This poor fella in the video below is trying so hard to sound like the American ‘icons’ he’s watched. At over 7 million hits, I’m not sure i he feels he’s a success or even knows that so many are pitying him. Fortunately, some of us have been able to find comic relief in what could very well be a copy-cat disaster. It’s painful, pathetic and hilarious all at once. If you’re American, you might be moved to comment as one American commenter did, ‘… . My God, what have we done!’ Continue reading

Mills & Boon, Boda-boda, and Emlanjeni; with love from Africa.


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I spent most of my day today doing a whole lot of big cleaning. That’s what we called it back in primary boarding school, when our 10-year old selves were given big brushes and told to scrub all the dormitories and classrooms until they glowed. I had been putting off this very necessary big cleaning chez Kat for a while and it left me panting but was, as always, very rewarding. I love it when every corner of the house that catches my eye is spick and span.

In the evening I visited a friend with a 3-week old baby. The poor chap was colicky, so I went over to see if he’s any better, and to check on his mom, of course. Also, we’ve got a novel-swap thing going, kinda like a 2-person book club, so I was dropping off a few of my recent reads.

The last novel she loaned me was a Jackie Collins that she promised didn’t have the usual excess of sex scenes. Ha! I should have known better than to believe her. The last time I had read a Jackie Collins was back in secondary school, around Form 3, which was also my Mills & Boon phase. I had found Jackie Collins to be, well, a little over the top for me, then. So when Dee said she had a Jackie Collins I ought to read, I was hesitant. I’d sooner jump up for a detective or some other thriller. It’s more my cup of tea. When I told her when I had last read JC, we concluded that perhaps I had found it a bit much since we were a lot younger then.

Having read the JC, I reported back to Dee with a complaint. ‘You promised it wasn’t too sexual!’ Come on, she’s the queen of that genre what had I been expecting! Out of curiosity, does she write anything else? Anyway, Dee replied that she didn’t consider that too much sex. Ha, well. Different folks, different strokes, right?

Speaking of Mills & Boon, back in boarding school, there was an Inorganic Chemistry textbook we used in A’ level that had Mills & Boon written at the back in a relatively large red font, I guess they were the publisher. Unusual, huh? Well, I thought so too. It so happened that we had to share these particular textbooks as the school lib only had a limited number.

Preparing for a chemistry exam one morning, I happened to yell out across our Form 6’s only hostel that comprised both arts and science students, ‘Could someone please lend me her Mills & Boon?’

‘Listen to this crazy girl,’ responded one of the other girls. ‘Instead of studying for your exam you’re looking for a romance novel! You must be mad’

Ha-ha. She was obviously a non-chemistry student. She was also very amused to learn that there was a little chemistry textbook we referred to as Mills & Boon.

Now here’s a special something from my homeland, famously called the Pearl of Africa. It’s filmed by Ikena Azuike at WhatsUpAfrica, I’ve got no claims on it at all, simply very happy to share. Have a look. Unfortunately, the embed function is disabled on this one, so I hope you’ll find it.

Boda-boda special.

Next is a lovely one from South Africa, Emlanjeni.

Over to you great author


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Dear Friends in NaNo,

As NaNo draws to a close, I’d like to simply say this. I will not be a NaNo winner. How does it feel to say those words out loud? It feels okay, actually.

My first novel writing experience went this way.

  • I mapped out my novel, outlined the plot, described my characters, et cetera, et cetera. An iPad app called ‘A Novel Idea’ came in really handy. It’s the best tool I saw out there that could help a newbie like myself.
  • I did my research. I loved this part. I was just short of taking a trip to where my novel is set. I get a rush just thinking about it.
  • I even narrated the novel to a very willing and seemingly entertained listener, from start to close to end. I was that psyched about it all.
  • Then I wrote. Ideas, scenes, more ideas more scenes. Fed them all into my A Novel Idea app, while updating my word count in another app called typepad. I was writing, finally. Yay!

A Novel Idea – great app.

But then I seemed to have a bit of an issue. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Openers


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Yes, yes, I know you’ve heard – NaNo is upon us and all that – but you may not have seen or heard about this, trending right up there with Mitt, Barack, and the Prime Minister’s office: NaNoWriMo Openers.

What would the first line of your draft epic novel sound like? How would/does it go?

Take a look at these, from Twitter. Be inspired/amused, and share your own, if you will. Among those is one of my own. No, not my actual opener, but something along the lines of what I’m working on.

Continue reading

NaNo is upon us


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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, if you’re a blogger you’ve heard that November is National Novel Writing Month, that time of the year many bloggers/writers make a mad dash to pen a 50,000 word novel in a space of 30 days. The idea is that you just write, put simply. No looking, no intensive editing, no excuses.

This may sound crazy to many but published novels have actually come out of NaNo. Of course at the end of November what you’ve got is simply a rough draft, but at least you put in the time; and a brilliant idea may come out of it. Some also choose to devote the time to a work in progress that promises a good book.

To get ready for NaNo, I’ve been looking around for useful resources, seeking to hone my craft. Writer’s Digest has been useful, and it led me a number of other very helpful sites. Flogging the Quill turned out to be one if my favourites. Ray invites readers to submit their first chapter for a critique, and he posts a first page critique, giving his opinion as to whether he would turn the first page or not (& why) , depending on the writer’s work. Other readers/writers are invited to critique, comment, and vote on whether or not they’d turn the first page.

Turning the first page, here, is synonymous with an engaging read. Ray lists the following 6 vital storytelling ingredients from his book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells, advising that ‘While it’s not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.’

Continue reading

Twister Candy


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I wrote this story for Ermilia’s Piture It & Write prompt. Click the picture for the blog link and image cred.

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I walked with a firm step towards the door, but stopped just short of it. Should I leave or should I not? Silently staring at the washed out paint on the door, back at the figure on the bed, then back at the door, I pondered this question. I’d give it a little more thought. I stood against the wall, facing away from him. Lifting my hands up, I started bending backwards and slowly slid down to the floor until my right shoulder touched the floor and my left arm supported my body. Sighing, I felt a wave of what felt like relief course through my twisted body from tip to toe. I felt lighter.

I had learnt to contort my body into these shapes back in Physical Ed classes in boarding school. At first, I could only twist into these shapes if one of the other girls held me around the waist while I leant backwards. Gradually I had taught myself to do it without help and tried out all sorts of shapes all the time. The other girls called me Twister Candy, and asked me to put on shows for them. Their favourite twister was one in which I sat on the bed, passed my right arm behind my head and reached out for my left foot. It always had them go up in shrieks of awe and delight, smothered with pillows, lest the dormitory mistress should find us. I was happy to oblige; Twister Candy had a therapeutic effect on me too.

Now on my bedroom floor, in that position, I adjusted my head and stared at the man on my bed for what seemed to me to be an eternity. It had been long since I resorted to Twister Candy to make me feel better; years, to be exact. Twister Candy was like my body’s autopilot, only it engaged in moments of distress and mental anguish. I had asked him to keep away from me, to stop bothering me, but he hadn’t listened. And now here we both were.

Jim was my boss, and he had been a major pain in my back side from day one. My first day at the office he had a problem with my boots, the next day the calendar feature of bikini-clad top models on my desk. Then he started turning up at my desk hourly, and when he started to complain about the length of my bathroom break, I knew I had another one of those all-over-you-like-a-rash bosses on my hands and it was my duty to rid all future new recruits of this ache.

They would be thankful to me when they came along, they just wouldn’t know it. Not that it mattered. All I needed was a little peace in the work place. If a grown man had to resort to elementary school antics to show a girl he was interested, he needed an understanding girl to sort him out, and I was just the girl for the job.

‘What am I doing here?’

‘Oh, good, you’re wake. I had feared I’d have to taser you back to consciousness.’

He tried to wriggle free of the ropes that tightly held his arms behind his back, and wound up on the floor with a thud and a yelp.

‘What? Untie me right now Candy or …’

‘Or what, you’ll fire me?’

My continued posture and calm gaze seemed to unnerve him. His eyes glittered with anger, then hope.

Continue reading

My neighbour’s 6-legged, long-antannaed, tag-alongs.


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When my new neighbours across moved in, I got a little more than just new neighbours. I got some visitors too, the unwanted type. Short ugly creatures, you know. The kind that would survive a nuclear holocaust. Who knows, maybe even a zombie apocalypse. Should we be invaded by zombies, these creatures would probably move in with them. They have a lot in common, all that ugly to start with.

Wait for it, drum rolls please…

There have been roach sightings in my flat ever since my lovely new neighbours came around. Roaches, in my house! I’m pretty certain there were none prior. And then, voila – new neighbours, roach sightings.

Drum rolls off please, you may now boo and eew.

And I’ll sing along with you. I absolutely abhor the creatures. Because of them, I’m a compulsive insecticide-sprayer. Every room in my flat has a can of Mortein Doom Fast Kill. Sounds effective, huh? It promises to ‘kill cockroaches and the eggs they carry.’ It doesn’t get much better than that in roach termination.

A girl’s bestfriend against Arthropods

Nightmares sometimes come true too, you know. I had never thought about it until I decided to take a trip to New Delhi over a year ago. I was working in Ahmedabad and thought I should tour a bit of the rest of India. A lovely friend at work got me in touch with a friend of hers in New Delhi, who agreed to book me a room in a student hostel so that I would find my accomodation waiting for me. At this point you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with my neighbours and their roaches. Just hang in there for a bit longer, the end is nigh.

So I get to New Delhi, and eventually to the hostel, unfortunately at night. Un-huh. This room was like an anthill full of ants only this time they were bigger. Yes, roaches. Hoards and hoards of them. They were everywhere. What’s more, the roaches in Delhi did not scurry when they saw you coming. They just went about minding their own business, and you had to get out of their way. The shower, the toilet, the bed, they were everywhere, and I had no where else to spend the night. It was a nightmare.

Suffice it to say, I managed to stand on one foot in the shower and take what should be known as the shortest shower ever, in history. Let’s not even discuss how I managed to pee. Continue reading

I know a good story when I read one…


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…but I sometimes find myself unable to churn out one.

I make a mean juicy chicken breast, though.

In conversation, friends find me engaging and, not infrequently, find themselves in stitches. “You tell a good story,” they’ll say.

In high school, English language teachers always scored my language composition exam high, and pinned up my stories on the classroom notice boards so other students would borrow a leaf, figuratively speaking of course. The teachers felt my compositions were a good guide on how to write a good story, and hence pass your exam. I felt really good about that, no doubt.

When I first started blogging, I got some compliments, mostly about my very first posts. “I hope to start seeing some articles from you in one of these newspapers,” said a long time Facebook acquaintance. “You write well.”

And I hoped so, too. That had been the plan to start with: to start writing for one of the dailies. That someone I hadn’t shared it with should think as I did felt like validation.

This would do well on the back of a paperback, right? Uum, if I said I write best by the bedside.

Before my very first blog post I had had an inactive blog for some very long time, then I read some published articles that made me feel, ‘really, even I can do better. A lot better.’ Newspaper articles in the lifestyle section, especially, read under cooked. And that was the final jolt. I would stop playing around, I told myself. I know I can write. I would write. With some practice, I’d get better and better.

So I started blogging. At first with focus, regularity and discipline, then later with not as much focus, and more for leisure and with less purpose. That must have been how I lost it, or started to lose it, whatever creative art I may have had. What I wrote did not sound as good as I wanted. I used to be able to produce a good fictional story out of thin air, under the pressure and time span of an exam room. If high-school me could do that, and impress her examiners, surely now-me should be able do to much much better.

Maybe I got performance anxiety. I mean there are some really good writers here at WordPress. Reading them might make an under-developed writer feel her inadequacies.

Image Credit: Google

Continue reading

The Beauty of a Woman

I just read this at August McLaughlin’s blog, and I thought I’d share. It speaks to the heart and is true.

The Beauty of a Woman
by Sam Levinson, performed by Audrey Hepburn on Christmas Eve 1992

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed,
revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
you’ll find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears,
the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole
but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.
It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows.
The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.