Friday 25 January 2013

First, catch your Haggis!

It’s Burns Night here in Scotland, when we sing and dance and address the white chieftain o’ the pudding race itself – the delicious Haggis. But first we have to catch the wee beastie!

The official Great Scottish Haggis Hunt website is fabulous fun. You can read up on old haggis myths, get some top haggis hunting tips, look up facts and find out about the zoology of the wee beastie. There is a haggisclopedia of common jargon and haggis spotting cams pointing to lots of beautiful and wild looking places all over Scotland. If you are lucky enough to spot the rare Golden Haggis, there are even prizes to be won!

On Burns Night in the Horton household we will be partaking of a wee dram and baking our haggis. The Haggis Bake below is my own (now famous!) recipe and if you want to try it, I can guarantee it’s absolute deliciousness!
Haggis Bake.
You will need:
One large haggis (I’m using a traditional
Macsween of Edinburgh haggis).
1kg lean Scottish steak mince.
One large onion.
Two tbsp plain flour.
Tin of chopped tomatoes.
One and a half pints of beef stock ( I used OXO cubes x 3)
Potatoes (peel as many as you think you will need to cover a large shallow oven dish) then slice lengthways into medium thick slices and part boil.

Brown the minced beef in a large pan with the chopped onion. Add the flour. Stir and cook until the flour is absorbed. Add the tinned chopped tomatoes and the beef stock. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cover.
Cook the haggis by following the instructions on the wrapper. For this recipe I used the microwave method. Chop up the cooked haggis and add to the minced beef and gravy. Stir and add boiling water if more liquid is required. The oats in the haggis will absorb a lot of the liquid and you should allow for this. You probably won’t want to season the mixture as the haggis is well seasoned.
In a separate pan, parboil the sliced potatoes for about 5 minutes. You want them half-cooked and still firm. Drain in a colander. Transfer the beef mince and haggis mixture to a large shallow oven dish and arrange the slices of potato on top.
Brush with melted butter and pop into a moderately hot oven. This would be the middle shelf of the roasting oven for an range cooker or 190 degrees/ gas mark 5 for a conventional oven. Bake until bubbling and golden brown for approx 30-40 minutes. Serves 6-8  generously. Enjoy with seasonal vegetables like ‘neeps’ and carrots.
 Happy Burns Night everyone!

Friday 18 January 2013

This Week’s Progress..!

This week I’ve been busily working away on ‘Voodoo Wedding’ the magically romantic sequel to my novella ‘How Do You Voodoo?’ and I’m trying hard to follow last week’s sound advice against procrastination from productivity ninja, Grace Marshall. This week, Grace has featured the topic (and my plea) on her own expert blog and she says it has resonated with many writers!


I was tagged this week by several lovely Facebook friends to take part in the 777 Challenge, which means you take page 7, line 7, from your Work In Progress and quote from it before challenging 7 other writers to do the same. You can check who I nominated on my Author Facebook Page HERE and here is an extract from page 7 of ‘Voodoo Wedding’ which I hope to launch on Amazon for Kindle on 1st March:

‘I know we wanted a small wedding at first,’ she explained, ‘but then my mother reminded me how I have lots of aunties and uncles and cousins in Glasgow. I want them to be there and I can’t invite some and not others, can I? That would be rude.’ She flicked a finger across her iPad again. ‘Now, how many relatives do you have?’
‘I don’t.’

My tag line for ‘Voodoo Wedding’ is: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something voodoo…!

If you haven’t yet read ‘How Do You Voodoo’ which is part one of my Voodoo Romance Trilogy – it’s available on Amazon for Kindle right now and included on Love Reading Love Books blog- Five Star Reads of 2012!

Thanks to my lovely friend and fellow author Gill Stewart, who blogs at Novel Points of View and lives not too far away from me in Dumfries and Galloway, for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!


It seems I need to provide seven random facts about myself before passing it on. An excellent excuse for a little bit of self-indulgence!
So here we go – and random it is!
1. I have two white West Highland terriers called Polly and Ruby.
2. I keep four rescue hens - all named after female pop stars.
3. I lived in Scotland half my life but I was born in Widnes England.
4. I’m the eldest of five children. I have two brothers and two sisters.
5. I do not have a middle name but I’d really like one.
6. My favourite food is Scottish smoked salmon.
7. Mr JH and I will be celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary this year.
Until next week then – when it’s Burns Night - and we’ll be celebrating by taking part in the official Haggis Hunt. Not to be missed!!
Haste Ye Back!

Friday 11 January 2013

Top Time Saving Tips!

Thank you for the fantastic response to my ‘Planning Ahead’ post last Friday – in which we discussed our personal goals for 2013. It seems to me, that while most of us enjoy planning ahead and setting targets – we all worry about finding the time in our busy lives to actually achieve those goals.

I’m certainly guilty of letting time slip away from me by procrastinating and giving priority to other things when I really should be sitting at my desk writing. So I did a shout out on Facebook  and Twitter for all your ‘Time Saving Tips’ for today’s blog post – and I received some incredibly valuable practical tips and workable strategies to help better manage time. I’ve listed them below.

I also approached Grace Marshall – Head coach, chief encourager, author and productivity ninja - who is passionate about helping busy people make the most of their time and their talents. Grace says she's not a naturally organized person. She doesn't believe there is such a thing as ‘perfect work/life balance’ or in trying to ‘find more time.’ Instead, she's learned how to get stuff done in a way that works with her personality, lifestyle, and commitments.

I asked Grace to help me with my procrastination and this is what she advised:

Grace Marshall - Productivity Ninja!

1. Decide when you’re going to start writing and commit to it.

Give yourself 15 minutes before to get your space in order, and decide what absolutely needs to be in place during that time, (e.g. pen, paper, laptop, cup of tea) and what can wait until later (e.g. laundry, tax form, phoning the bank). Use a timer if you need to.

2. Keep a tangent log

Sometimes our biggest distractions do not come from our external environment, but from inside our heads, when our brains come alive with ideas, thoughts, and reminders that have nothing to do with the task at hand.

Keep a separate notebook next to you for anything that comes to mind unrelated to your writing. Every time you go off on a tangent write it down - every thought, reminder and idea. This way, you don’t have to keep remembering and you know you can come back to it later. Capture the thought, get it out of your head and can keep it free to write.

This is taken from my book, 21 Ways to Manage the Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time, a little book that is packed with simple, practical tips and techniques you can put to use straight away, to help you manage the stuff that sucks up your time, and have more time for what really matters.


You can Follow Grace on Twitter @GraceMarshall

I did a shout out on Facebook  and Twitter for your ‘Top Time Saving Tips’ and here are some great suggestions:

@helen_kara - Helen is an independent business researcher who has also written a book on time saving tips. She advocates: “Back up everything you produce on a computer every day – is it worth saving one minute of your day when you risk losing days or weeks or months of work?”

@Jean_bull – Jean says:  “To save time, my idea is to glance at emails on my iPhone, deal with the urgent ones and then crack on with the writing.”

@fishsoupwriting  - Michelle says: “I do all my novel and short story writing on a laptop with no internet connection. I don't have FB or Twitter to distract me.”

@Harrietgrace65 - Harriet suggests: “Set dead-lines to achieve a certain amount of writing by a certain date – seems to work for me!”

Sue Johnson at The Writer’s Tool Kit I write a monthly 'wish list' of 20 things I want to achieve with my writing in that time (it helps to maintain focus) carry a notebook everywhere and have pen and paper in every room in the house. I always plan my next writing session before I finish for the day.”
Kristal Baird writes romance novels for Xcite Romance and also has a full time day job: Kristal says: “Having a big dog who can't see the point of anything less than a couple of hours romp over the fields or in the woods - I came up with the solution of "writing" into a digital recorder as I walk. Best done in a relatively quiet spot, unless you really don't give a hoot. And you have to allow for the heavy breathing (quite atmospheric really)!”
JB Johnson at Brook Cottage Book Blog says Have folders for everything on your computer rather than having to spend ages searching for stuff. And LISTS!!! I cannot survive without lists! I cross of jobs so that I don't end up repeating the same jobs.”

KitDomino – Kit, writer and editor says: My tip: Strict discipline as to time spend on Twitter and Facebook - both big time suckers.”

@WellsNicky – Nicky, rock star writer: says “Here's my three big ones. 1) lists and priorities. 2) if you're meant to write, write. Don't go on social media. 3) 'the one touch' rule: if you've opened an email/tweet/FB message and read it, ACT on it. Don't leave it until later and duplicate your effort.”

My own tip – and this is something that fits in nicely with Grace’s tip of using a timer. Apparently, you can only work effectively and totally concentrate one task in blocks of 40 minutes. This is why, at schools, the classes are based on periods of 40 minutes. I downloaded Pomodairo a desktop timer that can help with productivity. So I’ve set it to 40 mins (if interrupted, I can pause the timer button) and an alarm will sound when my session is up. The idea is to take a 15 minute break before beginning another session.

I’ll let you know how I get on and would love you to do the same!

Do leave a comment here on the blog or on my author Facebook page or tweet me at @JaniceHorton. Good luck!


Monday 7 January 2013

How To Brighten Up A Dull Week!

This is an impromptu Monday blog post to celebrate the launch of my blogger friend and fellow author Jean Bull’s collection of stories ‘Postcards and Suntan Cream’ which would certainly brighten up a dull wet week in Scotland!


Jean says: “Each day I will be blogging about one of my favourite holiday destinations which form a backdrop to my stories. All you have to do to join in is: Leave a comment on my blog.  Write about a favourite holiday destination on your blog.  Give link back to my blog. Then on Sunday, January 13th, 2013, at 6pm GMT, I will put all the Holiday Party Bloggers' names in my sun hat, and the first out will receive a signed copy of Postcards and Suntan Cream!”

So here is a photo from one of my favourite holiday destinations: Florida.

As a family, we have been lucky to have some fabulous holidays and when our boys were younger; we went over to Florida to do the theme parks and what a time we had! This picture, a caricature of my husband, our three boys and me, was drawn at Universal Studios theme park and it makes me smile every time I look at it!
So do pop over to Jean's Blog and join in all the blogging fun!

But before you go - do pop back here again on Friday when, after last Friday’s ‘Planning Ahead’ post and in response to comments here on the blog and on Twitter, I’ll be looking at clever and innovative ways to save time in your day so that you can have some time over to focus on achieving your personal and writing goals. Top Tips will be shared by fellow authors and a professional Productivity Ninja. Yes really! It's not to be missed!
Love, Janice xx

Friday 4 January 2013

Planning Ahead…?


I’m not so keen on New Year resolutions but I do like to set myself goals for the year ahead. I also like to think big. After all, with hard work and luck, anything is possible and who knows what opportunities will present themselves along the way?

So this year, I’m planning to be better at time management and to use the time I reclaim to be more focussed on my writing. I still plan to be just as active here on the blog and on all social media - and be open to any opportunities that come my way to connect with readers and writers - but I really need to manage my time better so that I can ‘do it all’ and finish the three books I plan to write and publish this year.

Do you find that time runs away from you? What are your plans and is there one goal you’d like to focus on in 2013?

Of course, it can't be all work and it’s nice to have other things to look forward to. This year, I’d quite like to do a few more speaking engagements at reader/writer events - should the opportunity arise - having now got a couple of talks successfully under my belt during 2012. I also plan to attend as many writer events and conferences as I can in 2013; certainly The Romantic Novelist’s Association conference in July and the Festival of Romance in November and hopefully lots of others in between.

So what about you? Are your goals big or small? What would you like to make happen in 2013…?

Please do feel free to leave a comment below!

Incidentally, do you ever plan to visit Scotland? Because apparently the US broadcasting network CNN has just named Scotland as its Top Travel Destination for 2013 saying “anyone who has seen (the Bond film) Skyfall, part of which was filmed in Glencoe (see the pic at the top) would have left the cinema wishing they could race through Scotland’s dramatic countryside”. You can read the full article HERE.

Well now you CAN visit Scotland AND without leaving the comfort of your own home.

All you have to do is pop back here to my Scotland based and tartan clad blog every Friday. Yay!!

Haste ye Back – as we like to say in Scotland!