Friday, December 24, 2010

Resolutions for Superheroes

Here is my last column for 2010 (quite a fabulous year, acutally) from The Voice.

I love a new year, just like I love a new day, and a blank piece of paper. Each is 100% potential. Every possible thing could happen. Hesitations and back tracking have yet to make an appearance. No does not exist. Perhaps I’m an eternal optimist but a new year always puts me in the right frame of mind- my superhero frame of mind- I can do absolutely anything and everything.

The world is wide open waiting only for me. Any experiences in the previous year that might be evidence used against my super hero-ness are rubbed clean. They are not allowed to cross that magical line we all step over at 11:59 pm on the 31st of December. Anti-superhero evidence, in its entirety, we drop at the threshold as we walk though the door into 2011.

So this year when you cross the door, in your imaginary blue tights and red cape, where will you be heading? It’s all fine and good to be equipped with x-ray vision and the ability to fly but if your talents are not used positively things can go decidedly pear shaped quite quickly. Even superheroes need goals and it’s best to make them when your mind is still untainted by the faltering steps and cracked pavement waiting to catch you out beyond the magic door. When the slate is clean, you can decide what will go where. Once you let Life get involved, it will start filling up all of the good spots, leaving you only leftovers- and no one likes leftovers.

As writers, despite rumours to the contrary, we design our course. Do I want to write a book about ghosts? How about win a short story contest? Do I want to get an agent? Will I self publish? All of these questions help us to define the path we take. Other jobs you have a boss handing out the goals and even laying down the bricks on your path. Not as a writer. It’s all up to you.

So make some new year’s resolutions- serious, specific ones. Make them now before it gets too late. You’re the boss, lay down those bricks.

From my point of view, as writers we have some main areas where specific goals should be made. We must write. We must learn. We must read. We must be published. We must publicise.

We Must Write
You call yourself a writer- but do you write? Make a resolution. Come the end of December 2011 what writing do you want finished? Do you want to end 2011 with an 80,000 word novel in your hands or five solid poems? How will you accomplish that? Will you write only on weekends? After work? Everyday? How many words must you write at each writing session to accomplish your goal? Commit to that word count. Give yourself quantifiable goals.

We Must Learn
Writing is an endless journey of learning. Tomorrow’s writing will be better than today’s if we make sure we progress in learning our craft. Attend workshops. Read writing books. Go to author talks. Learn online. But don’t only learn the craft, make sure you learn the business too. Know how the publishing business works. Pay attention to up and coming technologies. What learning resolutions do you have for 2011? Write them down; commit to them.

We Must Read
I know you’re getting tired of me singing this song BUT we must read to be good writers. Again make a new year’s resolution. How many books will you read each month?

We Must Be Published
Are you going to start a blog for your writing? How often will you post? Do you want to get your poetry or short stories published? Which literary magazines will you submit to? Do you have a novel that needs a publisher? Which agents or publishers do you intend to send it to in 2011? Write your goals down. On the 31st of December 2011, how many poems will you have published? Where will your novel be?

We Must Publicise
Though most writers would like to stay hidden in their writing room, the game decides that is no longer viable. In 2011 how are you going to get your work out there? Will you set up a website? Will you read at public events? Will you attend book fairs? Make a personal marketing plan for your superhero self.

Writing is a tough, tough business. By the 3rd of January 2011 evil forces will be tugging at your cape, your blue tights will start to fade under their hot gaze, but if you’ve marked out your path with stakes made of steel, at least you’ll know where you’re heading. They’ll bash you around with their rejections and losses. They’ll tell you your characters are flat, your plot predictable and your poem riddled with tired clichés- but it won’t matter. You are a writer with a plan and you expect next New Year’s Eve to be a time of celebration. So, get to work now, my Superheroes- your new day is just about to arrive.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Income Generating Activities for Underpaid Authors

I am a big fan of David Sedaris thanks to my friend Mark Pocan who arrived at my house in Botswana (travelling all the way from Madison Wisconsin, USA) bearing gifts among them books written by Mr Sedaris. I think he is Fabulous (yes with a capital F) and I think this idea is one of his best. Put a tip jar at your book signing table. Wow!! I could do with an extra $4000 I don't know about you.

Writers are notoriously underpaid and I think it might be time to climb out of the box as Mr Sedaris has and come up with some ways to expand that income base. (I wouldn't advocate the selling of drugs as one commenter on the Guardian article suggested)

So what ideas do you have? I'm keen to hear- and of course promptly steal.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Menage a Trois- Part 2

A few months ago I was involved in a three-way email discussion/interview with two writers I admire Tania Hershman (author of the short story collection The White Road and Other Stories) and Sue Guiney (whose most recent book is A Clash of Innocents). Today we are posting the interview on our respective blogs in three parts.

Read Menage a Trois- Part 1 at Tania's blog here.

Menage a Trois- Part 2

This is fun! And very interesting. Is there anything you'd like to ask each other while I am formulating my thoughts?

Ooh yes. Lauri, my dear: you once mentioned on a blog comment that agents aren’t used or needed in the Botswana publishing industry. I’m ashamed to say I know almost nothing about how the business works where you are and I assume you might know something about the UK or US industry. Are there any other differences that you’ve noticed, and if so, do you find some differences better than others?

Thanks both...

Hello Girlies!
I thought what Sue said in this bit below about plays being visual and short stories and novels appearing more in a certain time frame to be very interesting. Maybe you can speak a bit more about this. Being a child of TV, almost everything I write is in scenes- especially genre stuff. I almost even break for commercials. I find it interesting that you compartmentalise in such a way.

What I meant about writing for money is that many people believe it compromises the work. I’d lie if I said it does not stop me from writing certain things- it does. If I can’t see the market, I don’t write it I just don’t have time for that and in that sense I suppose it does compromise the art of my writing a bit. But then too, I feel like I’m a bit more of a technician than an artisan.

Sue, you asked a bit about the difference between writing here and the writing climate in UK. Since most of my stuff is published here and in South Africa I can write about both of these places as they are similar, though Botswana on a much smaller scale. Publishers in Botswana (exclusively) and in SA (mostly) publish books for the school market. That is where they make their money and that is where writers will make their money if they intend to. There is a microscopic trade market in Botswana that is filled to the brim with international titles. Botswana titles do not stand a chance. I have two detective novellas, one published in 2005 which has earned P290 (USD 48) and one published in 2008 which has earned P799 (USD 133) from sales in bookstores. The publishers know nothing about marketing such books. That first book (2005) has now been taken as a prescribed book for junior secondary schools here. In April I will get a cheque for P130,000 (USD 21,600) and I will get about half to a third of that each year for the next five years. You can see the difference. In SA the trades are a bit better and occasionally you get a break out novel from SA- for example the Spud books, which exploded selling maybe 80,000 and now are going overseas and there will be movies etc.. A bestseller in SA is normally 2000-4000 books sold in bookstores, they have a population of about 47 million. We have 1.8 million. It is tough to make a living from those kinds of figures.
Of course there are writers here and in SA that don’t use local publishers and have agents etc and publish overseas. They of course do better in the trades.

I don’t really know about this one but I hear writers in USA and UK talking about editors and the big role they play in their success. Here we deal directly with publishers, even in SA, at least in my experience, except recently with the editor I was dealing with for my short story collection,. But we deal with publishers. They get editors, usually on a freelance basis, and then give you a report. I’ve never really known my editors or communicated with them and they are very ephemeral so I don’t think they’d play a very big role in my career. Then too, I’m not loyal to a single publisher. Currently for my published books I have five publishers, only my local Botswana one am I slightly loyal to.

This is very interesting stuff, really enlightening about the book market in Botswana/SA. Sue, can you shed any light on any differences between UK and US from what you've heard from US writer friends?

This may be a ten-part series, this interview - with commercial breaks!

Hi kids,
Monday morning after a somewhat sleepless night where I couldn’t turn off my brain. Of all the crazy, counterproductive stuff I was thinking about, this conversation of ours is one of the few things that isn’t driving me crazy right now, so I’m thrilled to start the week off with some responses to this latest instalment.

When I was a kid, I assumed that the way my world conducted itself in my little corner of suburbia was the way everything worked the world round, ie that we all had the same electricity, the same tv shows, the same brands of cereal. But then I met my first box of Weetabix. I feel the same now as I learn about the way the publishing industry runs around the world. What you have described, Lauri, is as different from what I have experienced in the UK and US as could be. Where I write and attempt to be published, writers are completely compartmentalized. Writing for schools is a very separate, specialized segment of the market. They have their own divisions of publishing houses, their own requirements and procedures. All that has nothing to do with the writing world I function in. My writing world is also very compartmentalized, but by genre with the most successful ones (financially) being in whichever genre is deemed to be the most popular at the time. Right now it seems to be memoir and celebrity bios, with some high profile detective/suspense novels thrown in. Agents are the gatekeepers to the large houses, and that means to the big distributors. You can’t break in without them. This is especially true in the US. Holding an academic position is also helpful — especially in the States, or so it seems to me. This has caused me to think quite seriously about trying to get a teaching position in a Uni somewhere, although to teach because I want to write instead of because I want to teach seems churlish to me, but that may change. I now find myself wondering if I would be approaching what and how I write very differently if I lived in a country whose markets and industries were run as yours are. It’s fascinating to me how our work is affected by such things. You say you are “a bit more of a technician than an artisan “. A very interesting and telling statement. Shouldn’t we need to be both? How do the vagaries of our individual markets force us into feeling one way more than another. I do want to say, though, that I think new technologies are forcing changes in the industry as it is run up here. I know you’ve heard me say this before and I don’t believe it’s only wishful thinking. The fact that books can be printed on demand or downloaded may well be the saviour of the small press. If small presses which are not only willing but eager to publish things like poetry, literary fiction, short stories can remain viable, then the reading public will have a greater choice of what to read and writers will have more freedom to write what they wish.

But if I can go back to my midnight brain override, one of the things I was worrying/wondering about does affect our discussion, namely how do we decide what we write. It has always been my experience, as I’ve said, that the genre dictates itself depending on the concept, image or character. I’ve also found that this often is directly related to the time frame the piece will develop in. But I now find that I am in a complete muddle about something I’m writing, and Tania, you know where I’m going with this. I have a character who’s been living in my head for years. I know everything there is to know about this man and I’ve tried to write his story in short story form twice. But I now am wondering if his story really would work better as a novel (God help me) and if so, why? But even more to the point, why do I want to insist on this being a short story? Because I haven’t written one in a while? Because I want to have something to enter into a competition? If I had an agent and a publisher presenting me with a 2-book deal, would I even be considering writing this as a story? Technician or artisan?

Ready for Menage a Trois Part 3?
Pop over to Sue Guiney's blog-Writing Life!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Botswana Music Camp

I've been gone for a week to Botswana Music Camp. I play trumpet, not so well, but each year I attend the camp I jump three or four steps ahead and this year was no different. The camp lasts for a week. You sign up for a major group; mine was instrumental band. For that group only you must be able to play your instrument before you come because once you are there it's all about getting the people who have shown up to learn songs as quickly as possible and to play together. There is no time to teach the instruments. For other groups you learn the instrument at the camp. Normally for band we have a lot of guitar players and keyboard players but nothing of anything else. This year I was lucky to be with quite a good saxophone player, a music teacher at Ledumang Senior Secondary School in Gaborone. Our leader for the band is Tshilo Baitsile, a very accomplished saxophone player. He appeared in the Mma Ramotswe movie playing his sax. He's an excellent teacher.

The sekgaba group performing at the Saturday final concert at Maitisong

There are many other groups for campers to choose from including: marimba, setinkane, sekgaba, African drums, pop singing, classical singing and dance.

African drums group performing at the Saturday concert

From the minute the camp starts on Sunday you are immersed in music. Each day starts with camp choir which everyone must be in. Then you have your main class for most of the day except for about an hour when you go to one of the other classes for appreciation, to learn what they do there. Each night we had entertainment, always something musical. One night we had a fantastic traditional dance group from Old Naledi in Gaborone. Friday night we attended the President's Concert at Maitisong which was also pretty fabulous. On Saturday we had our end of camp concert.

The Old Naledi traditional dance group that came for evening entertainment

It really is a fantastic thing. This year was the 25th anniversary of the camp. It was started by Batswana and exiled South Africans including Hugh Masekela in 1985. We pay only P900 per person and that includes accommodation and food (both basic but we're not there for that in any case). The real cost for each participant is just over P2000 but the fee is subsidised by donors like Standard Chartered Bank.

Many accomplished musicians in Botswana got their start at Botswana Music Camp since currently we do not have a school of music in the country.

This year, there was a big group of campers from Walter Sizulu University in South Africa. There was a talented young guitarist from Germany and a beautiful young singer from Finland- all participants in the camp. I thought when I was there what a fantastic thing Music Camp would be for a visiting tourist. They would have to pay the full price P2000 ( about 350 US dollars) for a whole week of instruction, accommodation and food. They could learn about the beautiful traditional instruments we have such as setinkane and sekgaba and go home with something so much bigger than photos of giraffes and lions.

I always leave Music Camp a better player but also a better person, with a new list of friends. It really is a wonderful experience. Now I must wait another year to go back.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Acacia Flowers

Acacia trees can be so stubborn and stingy with their tiny leaves and wicked thorns but I'm always amazed come spring when they are so extravagant with their flowers. It's so unlike most trees with their brown, green non-showy flowers. Acacia trees in full flower look like a tree decorated for Christmas. I took a couple photos so you can get the idea.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writers Reviewing Books

This morning I read a very insightful article written by author Fiona Snyckers about reviewing books as a writer. I often get asked to review books, publishers even send them to me nowadays and there are many issues that come to the fore. If I know the writer how do I approach the review? If it's a good book- no problem, but what if it's not. What then? I've often taken the cowardly approach and wrote nothing.

Though Fiona speaks about the small South African publishing world, with internet the publishing world all over has become very small. Getting a black mark against your name for bashing some one's book is not a good career move and may come back to get you. And too, is it even correct for writers to judge other books? Isn't it a bit like the bosses at Ford critiquing the new Toyota Hilux?

Here on this blog I don't consider my posts reviews. They're my opinion just like my opinion on my performance in the recent bird count (BTW- the woman called me and was full of praise for my work. I told her the truth about what went on but she would not be subdued). As writers we read, and there are books we love and books we don't. On this blog I speak only about the books I love. Perhaps I'm rationalising it and trying to get away from the label 'book review' but somehow I feel it's different.

What do you think? Is it right for writers to review books? Do you? And how to approach these ethical issues?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Difficult to Explain- a Poetry Guidebook

Difficult to Explain, edited by South African poet Finuala Dowling, is a great way to enter the murky water of poetry gently and without fear. The book is published by Hands-on Books an imprint of Modjaji Books. (It can be bought HERE)

The book starts with Ms Dowling explaining her initial reluctance to teach poetry. She finally decides to prolong a summer writing course by holding sessions in her home that teeters on a hill with a window looking out to the ocean where passing whales often mean breaktime for the students and their teacher.

The book starts with Ms Dowling explaining how the classes are run and her approach to teaching poetry. The remainder of the book is poems written by her students. At the beginning of a section she explains what the assignment was and then gives examples of how her students interpreted the assignment.

I don't write poetry though I have an interest in doing so, not for publication, more for exercises to get my creative juices flowing when I'm feeling stale. This book is lovely for me as I intend to try and do some of the assignment too. So the book is an introduction to poetry and poetry writing, with exercises that are safe to do at home without supervision and yet it is also full of fabulous, funny, touching poems. How can you NOT love an assignment that asks you to write a poem with a title that is significantly longer than the poem itself?

I can't deny I'm dead jealous of each and every one of Ms Dowling's students. I would love to sit in that room at the end of Africa looking at whales while writing poetry, but I'm very happy the group put this book together. They've laid out some sturdy step-stones to start me out on my poetic way. Thank you- you lucky devils!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Counting Birds

On a particularly optimistic morning I was reading the paper and came across an article about how Birdlife Botswana was doing a national bird count and needed volunteers. I thought - "Hey I have a field guide, I have binoculars. I could do that". So I called them.

The woman on the phone was very enthusiastic and I immediately regretted my decision to call. I thought if she's this excited about the call she must not get a lot of volunteers. Then I thought if she's not getting a lot of volunteers there may be a reason and that reason is likely to not be very pleasant. But I listened and everything seemed okay. You count along a 2 km distance, stopping every 200 metres and then you count all of the birds you see for 5 minutes. I like quantitative exercises and it seemed the perfect little outing for me and Mr K so I agreed.

I thought the difficult part was all of the measurements so being the anal Capricorn that I am, I decided the best thing to do was to go out into the bush the evening before and mark off all of our stops on the chosen path so early the next morning we would be ready and prepared. We tied bits of blue cloth at each stop and went home to a nice Saturday evening.

Now I'm no expert on birds in Botswana. I like them. I take out my field guide when I'm in the bush and look up the pretty ones. I know the regular ones that come to my bird bath. I know birds like the lilac breasted roller, the blue wax bill, hornbills, starlings, doves, red eyed bulbuls, pied crows, hoopoes, masked weavers- so I thought I was pretty knowledgeable and the actual counting would be a breeze.

Sunday 5:30 am we are up and ready to go. But what I didn't realise is that on Sunday all of the normal birds are off. Maybe they go to bird church. Maybe they visit their birdy relatives and have a big Sunday meal of worms and seeds. Maybe they're chilling at the Bird Hotel with their Chinas. I don't know where they go- but they go- and they leave behind two groups of birds to man the shop: the brown, nondescript little birds and the fast-as-lightning-no-one-can-see-them birds.

One would really be astonished to know that there are many brown, nondescript birds, perhaps thousands. Do what you will with your field guide, but you will never be able to identify those birds with any confidence. I did my best but I fear major scientific decisions may be based on the faulty data I've collected. One can only imagine the havoc that could ensue. And the worst part about the whole thing is that apparently once you sign up for this bird count, you must do the same area every November and February for eternity. It's a life sentence.

In any case, I've learned my lesson. Next time I'll do it on a Monday when all of the full time birds are back on the job.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Excitement Excitement!

I've had a spate of fantastic news lately. I'm still glowing from the Golden Baobab win. Yesterday there was an article about it in our only private national daily paper, Mmegi, and another article in our national Sunday paper.

I've also been invited to run a writing workshop in London in February. I don't want to give out too many details now because I'm waiting to see if our Department of Arts and Culture will be able to find money to fund the trip. When all is clear I'll let you know everything.

The other very exciting thing is that all of the Sapphire Press' titles, including my romance novellas Kwaito Love and Can he be the one? have been optioned to be made into television movies. The production company is allowed two years to decide which books they want to go with and to see if they can secure funding. I've worked in television before writing scripts but I've never had a book of mine made into a movie. I'm crossing fingers something wonderful happens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Publishing a book is like bringing a bucket of water to the ocean"

The title of this post comes from this fantastic article based on an excerpt from Betsy Lerner's book, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice for Writers. The article is about the importance of an author marketing their own book.

When we get into this business we think the job roles are: writer writes, publisher publishes and sells- and if things go well writes the writer big cheques. But once our book is out we realise that this model is a work of fiction. If we as writers sit back and wait for things to happen nothing will. Especially when you're new to the game.Publishers have a limited budget and they will focus it on the big names that bring in the big money.

It's not all gloom and doom though, as the article points out. We live in the time of blogging, Facebook and Twitter. There is no better time to market a book. And you can pinpoint your marketing with a blog book tour. You know your book best. Hit blogs with readers that look like the potential readers of your book.

You can wax lyrical about the wonderful writing and your in-depth characterisation but if your book doesn't sell then it was a waste of every one's time. Build your connections now, before you get published. Pay attention to how other authors do it. Copy them. Arrive at your potential publisher armed with your own marketing plan. Proactive marketing is the new name of the game.

What ideas do you have for marketing your book?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Problem with Local Publishers in Botswana

I was recently at a workshop and had breakfast one morning with one of Botswana’s musicians. He said that when he tours Botswana, his producer pays for it. He’s promoting himself so more CDs are sold which is good for both the producer and the musician. I sat there thinking how far the situation is between local writers and their publishers and local musicians and their producers.

Book publishers in Botswana work like this:
They wait for the Ministry of Education to put out a tender for the books they need. The publishers then run around trying to get writers to write those books. They submit the books to the government. The government chooses a tiny, minuscule, fraction of them and then the local publishers print up the books, take them to the schools and get a cheque. That’s how it’s done and always has been. This is what they know. They’re educational publishers and the government pays their bills.

This does absolutely nothing to improve the situation of literature in this country. It does little to promote writing and writers. It does nothing to develop writers. It does nothing to improve the status of reading in the country. Local publishers do not care about any of that. It’s not their concern. This applies to both the international big guys who have set up a storefront and the local publishers who claim they are here for the long term. If tomorrow the government stops buying books, I can assure you there will be no more publishers in Botswana. None. They know nothing else but selling books to government and they have no interest in learning something new. Perhaps I’m being harsh; for sure I am firmly biting the hand that feeds me, but it’s time we look at this situation face on and stop pretending it is something that it is not.

Let’s imagine a world where a publisher wants to sell books to the people- how does that work?

First- they call for submissions. Then writers write books- all sorts of books. Books for little children, books for adults. Stories from our past and our present, stories from the future. Immediately the possibilities for writers and what they can do expands and the books available to readers expands too.

Now the publishers look at the submissions from the writers and choose the best, the ones they think they can sell. They would set up a marketing plan for the books. How could they sell the books? Which media would they choose to publicise their authors? Where in Botswana could the authors go to talk and read from their books, to sell their books like the musicians sell their CDs?

And what about the internet? They would organise the books be sold online. They would have the book selling as an ebook on the company’s website and the author’s blog or website so they can easily sell internationally. Botswana publishers would make books one of Botswana’s export commodities. And soon writing would be a career people with talent could choose. Botswana might start to be known as a place of writers just like Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

But that won’t happen. Publishers have little interest and zero incentive. It would require teaching an old dog a new trick and that old dog likes its old tricks very, very much.

So if you’ve written a book that has very little chance of being chosen as a schoolbook, you’d be cutting your throat by handing it over to a local publisher. No matter what they tell you, there will be no marketing. They will have made you sign a contract that gives them world rights when they fail to even sell it in our tiny country, so you will not be able to give it to another publisher. For all intents and purposes that book is dead. All your work, all your creative energy -gone. So if you’re serious about making money from your books outside of the school market, give the local publishers a miss.
This was my November 5th column in our newspaper The Voice. After the column came out I had numerous conversations with other writers about it. What we need badly in Botswana if our literature is to grow at all is a trade publishers run by someone who reads and loves literature. It would be the best thing for writers in this country.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Golden Baobab Happy Dance!!

Yesterday I found out that my story "The Mechanic's Son" won first prize in the Golden Baobab Prize for the senior category and my story "Lightning and the Thunderers" was highly commended in the junior category. I was also very pleased to see another Motswana writer, Gothataone Moeng being highly commended as well as our honorary Motswana, Jenny Robson, who still holds a South African passport but has lived most of her life in Botswana.

Last year "Lorato and her Wire Car" won the same prize in the junior category and "Birthday Wishes" was highly commended in the senior category. Both are now published with Vivlia Publishers in South Africa.

Congratulations to all of the winners and thanks to the Golden Baobab Prize organisers and judges. They're really doing a lot for African writers of children literature.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Bed Book to Be Launched in London!!

YES!! The Bed Book of Short Stories which I helped compile and I have a story inside of is to be launched in London. A wonderful sort of culture has developed around this book. The writers organise launches wherever they are. There have been launches so far in Windhoek Namibia, Gaborone, Johannesburg, Franschoek, and now there will be one in London.

If you're around London please stop in. The writers who will be reading are South Africans Margot Saffer, Melissa Gardner and Zambian Ellen Banda-Aaku who is just fresh from winning the continent wide Penguin Prize for African Writing for her novel, Patchwork.

For a recent review of the book stop by Helen Ginger's blog.

The London Launch
Date: Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
Venue: OXFAM BOOKS, 91 Marylebone High St
London W1U 4RB
RSVP: Melissa Gardiner,
If you get to the launch stop by and let me know all about it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Invasion of the Flying Termites

After the first good rains, in the night, maybe the next night or the night after that, the flying termites emerge. Last night was our flying termite night and it was crazy!

They fly for about an hour, hour and half at most. They fly straight to the light. If you forget to close your window, as we did last night, you will be swamped with them. They all fly to the light and then they lose their wings and are back to being pedestrians. But since they've all congregated at the light already it makes it easy to find a date, which is the whole point of this exercise.

In the morning after the invasion of the flying termites, you will find big piles of wings:

...and other big piles of mostly dead termites. I don't know this but I assume they must have mated and laid eggs somewhere before their demise or else the whole thing seems a very dramatic waste of energy and I know nature doesn't do that.

I understand that some people around Africa fry these termites and eat them. I've never seen it but it does seem a waste, all of these piles and piles of perfectly good morsels of protein. Buster the African Sausage Dog ate a good share of termites this morning and he barely made a dent in the piles.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pula e a na!!!

It has been raining in Mahalapye for the last few days off and on and this morning I got a lovely surprise- a mophane moth outside my bedroom door!

These lovely creatures lay eggs which hatch to form the fellows below:

This caterpillar is voracious. I remember one year when we lived in Lecheng we had had fantastic rains and the mophane trees (from which these guys get their name) were in full leaf. We went away for a week or so and when we returned I remember being out on my daily walk with the dogs and thinking everything seemed so dry somehow. Then I realised suddenly that the trees were completely de-leafed! These guys were long gone but they'd stripped the trees nearly bare. I have stood quietly under a mophane tree when these fellows are around and you can hear the crunching- that's how mad they are about their food.

These worms are a source of income and food for many Batswana. They are a serious job to collect and process as they have hard, thorny bodies, but they are collected and gutted and dried. People cook them in various ways and eat them with maize porridge. People who like them like them a lot. My children and my husband will eat them one after another like a snack. In a year of good rains there are often two crops of mophane worms.

I cannot comment on their taste I'm afraid. Though quite adventurous with my eating, I've yet to dive into the world of the mophane worm.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sue Guiney's Blog Book Tour Stop

Though born and raised in New York, Sue Guiney has lived in London for twenty years where she writes and teaches fiction, poetry and plays. Her work has appeared in important literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her first book, published by Bluechrome Publishing in 2006, is the text of her poetry play, Dreams of May. Her first novel, Tangled Roots, was published in May ‘08, also by Bluechrome. Her second novel, A Clash of Innocents, was chosen to be the first publication of the new imprint Ward Wood Publishing and was published in September, 2010. Sue is also Artistic Director of the theatre arts charity which she founded in 2005 called CurvingRoad.

Sue Guiney has stopped by Thoughts from Botswana today as part of her blog book tour promoting her new novel A Clash of Innocents.
Welcome Sue!!
Let's get into some questions.

All of the "expats" in your books seem to be running away from something. As an expat of sorts yourself, do you think we're all doing that in one way or another?

The expat community is a very funny one, I’ve found. There are some who are dragged kicking and screaming into the experience and spend their entire times waiting to go ‘home’. There are others who stay abroad happily for years and years but always seem to be looking over their shoulders wondering what’s happening ‘back there.’ If anything, those sorts of expats don’t start their running until after they’ve moved. But then there are others who leave without the intention of going back to wherever, with the full determination of making their new country their ‘home.’ And of those people, some are running away and others are running to. I think I am one of those running to. But I agree, my characters are usually running away and that is a predicament that fascinates me.

Why did you decide to use first person with Deborah as your narrator? How did that limit you?

This is an interesting and important question for me, because it goes to the heart of something I still haven’t gotten my head around as a writer. After writing my 1st novel. Tangled Roots, in the 1st person I was determined to write my next book in the third. I didn’t want to have to limit myself to the knowledge or understanding of only one person which a 1st person narration necessitates – ie, unless you are the one having the sex, or you are there peeping through the keyhole, you can’t really know or describe what is actually going on. But I seem to need to know who my narrator is. In order to write in a voice of any kind, even an omniscient 3rd person voice, I need to know about the person from whom that voice is coming. In other words, the narrator becomes another character to me and from there it’s a slippery slope into 1st person. I don’t have this problem when I read. I can readily accept other writers’ 3rd person narrators. I just can’t seem to do it myself. But I’m determined to keep trying. But having said this, I didn’t conceive of this book as Deborah’s story. It was always supposed to be Amanda’s story only with somebody else telling it. But Deborah is a pretty strong and pushy broad. Once she got started talking, the story became more and more about her as well.

It felt to me when I finished the book that perhaps this story might not
be finished. Will there be a sequel? If so, I sort of hoped Deborah would get together with the doctor. Any chance you could work that in?

Wow! I’m so glad you got that inkling of a relationship between them. I thought maybe I had been too subtle! Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I am thinking long and hard about setting my next novel in Cambodia as well. There is still a lot there I’d like to explore. And I love having characters weave their way from one book to another. Careful readers of Tangled Roots might recognize that the character of Amanda in A Clash of Innocents is the same young woman whose wedding opens up that first book. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Deborah and the others end up in a new novel, though I would be surprised if it was a sequel. I’d prefer the novels to be able to stand alone. Though there is something delicious about realizing you already know a part of the life of a character you are now meeting.

Where is Cambodia now? Is there hope?

Cambodia is much better off than it was, but it is far from being sound. It is still a country with some of the worst poverty anywhere in the world, with terrible problems of human trafficking, a very corrupt government. It is a country at a crossroads. But yes, there is hope. There is always I hope, I believe.

What is your next project?

For now I am concentrating on getting as many people to know about A Clash of Innocents as possible and I am planning a trip to SE Asia where I will do a series of charity workshops and events – my way of bringing the fruit of my inspiration back to the people who inspired it. But I am starting to plan my next novel and, unofficially, there’s a good chance that interested people will be able to read a lot more of my poetry soon.

Fantastic! Thanks for stopping by Sue. Best of luck with the book.
If you want to buy Sue's book A Clash of Innocents click HERE.

Friday, October 29, 2010

This and That on Books and Reading

For a nice Friday change I thought I'd share some booky and writerly things I've been reading around the web.

Well Christmas is around the corner they tell me and what would be better than giving Cousin Abbey a copy of Jane Eyre where she plays the role of Jane?! Yes- I said it! You can now get your own personalised copy of this classic novel with you as the star- how great is that? (Not, very I'm afraid.).

But here is something seriously cool- an automated library. You order your book online and pitch up at this book ATM and out pops what you ordered. I wish someone would put one in Mahalapye. Can I get that for Christmas Santa?

I had a bad experience with online writing groups but this one claims it is something special. Now people are wondering - will online writing groups replace in person ones and writing programmes at universities? What do you think?

Lastly a letter written to Woolworth's by South Africa's very funny Ben Trovato about the magazine selection at the grocery chain. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5 Things I loved About A Clash of Innocents by Sue Guiney

A Clash of Innocents is set in Phom Penh Cambodia. It is about a home for orphaned and abandoned children run by a 60 year old American expat named Deborah. A stranger with secrets appears one day and from then on Deborah struggles to keep things going on kilter. The stranger, another American named Amanda, carries secrets that Deborah thinks, once revealed, could harm all of them, but still they let her into their lives and their hearts.

The author of this novel, Sue Guiney, will be stopping by Thoughts from Botswana next Monday as part of her blog book tour to talk about this fascinating novel- don't miss it!
5 Things I loved Abouth A Clash of Innocents

1. It's told in first person. Against the current grain of thought, (as is usually the case with me) I love books in first person. This is told through the jaded, often tired, occasionally lonely eyes of Deborah.

2. I knew nothing about Cambodia before I read this book. Sue does a great job putting us there. We feel the weather and the celebrations, the sadness.

3. I love the character Samnang, Deborah's adopted daughter. I wanted more of her. She is loving and responsible and so fearful to follow her own dreams afraid of letting her family down. But when she finally does think of herself for once, I was her biggest cheerleader. A fantastic character with too small of a role perhaps. Maybe she needs her own book...

4. In the middle of the drama of trying to raise 40 children, which alone might have made a pretty good book, there is this puzzle of Amanda running through which keeps you wanting to turn the page.

5. This bit of the story from page 223:
"Airplanes do more than take you from one part of the globe to another. If you let them, if you need them to, they can also provide transitions, real, physical transitions through space and time. Suspended over earth in a large metal tube for hours and hours, a person can do more than just get from one place to another. You can move from one need to another, one purpose, one dream, one reality to another."
How true is that?!

Pop by next Monday for a stop on Sue's blog book tour and ask her a question if you'd like!

Note the book is available HERE.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Groovy's Groovy Questions

These questions come from my pal Groovy Old Lady's blog. She's not that old but she is pretty groovy.

1. What do you think are three top qualities to look for in a politician?
Honesty, integrity and selflessness.

2. Which do you read more of, fiction or non-fiction? And please give us one awesome book recommendation while you're here...
Fiction by far. I just started The Lacuna and I think it will join my list of fantastic books. I also recently loved Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True. And I really like both of Sarah Lotz's detective books- Exhibit A and Tooth and Nailed. She's a South African writer but I think she's just about to break-out so you guys out there should watch for her.
Okay I also have a bit of trouble counting.

3. What is your go-to outfit for dressy occasions? Describe it for us!
Sorry, I try my best to avoid dressy occasions. If forced it will be my black "swingy" skirt and my purple shirt, which is a little bit low-cut (cause if you have 'em you should flaunt 'em).

4. What song(s) do you want sung at your funeral? Why?
I'm not planning to die, when it happens I'll be completely taken by surprise.

5. What is your favorite way to unwind?
Reading and swimming and walks in the bush.

6. Do you think you could live contentedly in a 2 room home (plus a bathroom, of course)? Why or why not?
Yes, have done it before actually in one-room and loved it.

7. What is your all-time favorite breakfast? (Come on now, make us drool!)
Pancakes with real maple syrup and real butter with nice juicy pork sausages.

8. And lastly, are you gonna join me in participating in NaNoWriMo this November? (I hope so!)
No, but I could since I am writing a novella right now that I am attempting to finish in 15 days. So far it is going better than expected.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Can Art Do? by Lemn Sissay

A few years ago I was speaking with a lecturer from the University of Botswana English Department and I asked him why there was no degree course for creative writing. He told me when they approached the former vice chancellor about that very issue he said,"What's the use of writing in Botswana?" Wish he was still alive to watch the fabulous Lemn Sissay in this video.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Birthday Wishes and Other Stories

Last week I received some copies of Birthday Wishes and Other Stories a collection of three short stories for children published by Vivlia Publishers (South Africa). The stories in the collection inclde the title story which was highly commended in the senior category of last year's Baobab Prize ( which now has a new name - Golden Baobab Prize- and a new beautiful web site). The story is about two girls in South Africa, one a Zimbabwean, and how they deal with the xenophobia sweeping through their neighbourhood.

The second story is called The Only One With Any Sense to It about a boy who has to make a difficult decision between his family obligations and his dream to play on Botswana's national football team the Zebras. The final story is one that has been published in many places The Rich People's School and was first published in Mslexia.

I love the cover of the book and I really like this little collection. They're all stories about kids with problems who make a plan to solve them. This is important to me, empowering kids to sort their own problems out, sometimes a skill we fail to teach our children for fear they might make mistakes but we forget the mistakes are sometimes just as important as the successes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Botswana's Spring

(Photo above: The jacaranda trees in our garden)

It's currently spring in Botswana. In my village of Mahalapye that means the jacaranda and syringa trees are in blossom and the village looks and smells fantastic.

Another not so nice thing about spring in Botswana is bush fires. We've had some terrible ones this year. In one a brother and sister died when they were out collecting wild fruits. On my way back form Gaborone this weekend I took the photo below. The entire eastern side of the Francistown Road from Dibete to the Tropic of Capricorn going back deep into the Tuli Block was burnt.

(Photo above: The burnt bush along the F-town Road/ A1 highway)

I have an odd thing happening in my yard right now that perhaps one of my readers can help me with. We have two morula trees; a male and a female. The female is completely leafed out but the male tree is completely leafless. Is this normal? I'm afraid our male tree might have a disease. Any help regarding this would be appreciated.

(Photo above: Male morula tree)

(Photo above: Female morula tree)

Otherwise spring in Botswana is hot and windy and everyone and everything is in wait mode, waiting for the first rains. As of October 17th, we're still waiting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


People who read this blog might remember last year when we had the most amazing hail storm in my village of Mahalapye. Windows were broken and roofs blew away and many indigenous trees fell down.

This morning I was driving from town and I saw this. The colour is not so nice but the tree was bright green, all leafed out, even though the storm nearly pulled it completely out of the ground. I little hail storm is not going to put this acacia tree out of business. No way.

So what about you? Can you stand up to this tree? In writing, in life- it's all about resilience.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I'm Up To or How Tomatoes Can Ruin a Good Day

The tomato situation is out of hand. Even as I write this I should be in the garden collecting yet another bucket of tomatoes. Yes, bucket, bowls will no longer do. I have many packages of frozen tomatoes. I've given tomatoes to everyone who steps into my house including the friend to Giant Teenager No.2 who looked at me as if I was asking him to please take a package of nuclear waste home.

But tomatoes notwithstanding, I've actually had a fairly productive week. I finished my rough draft of The Vanishings. It is currently very plotty as my books tend to be at rough draft stage. It has all sorts of curves because we like curves. Now it will sit for at least a month probably two to cook.

I have set aside the end of the year for four fiction projects and thanks to my good royalties this year, I have the time to do that. The first was to finish this rough draft. Number two is a romance novella that has been banging at my head and I fear will almost be vomited into the computer as fast as my fingers can type it. Then I need to go back to the book I worked on in Egypt, Revelations. I'm quite excited about this as it's been in the cooking phase and I have some solid ideas about where I want it to go. Lastly I want to work on a young adult book for next year's Sanlam Prize. The theme is hope. I'm hopeful I can come up with something that does not scream maudlin as much as theme suggests it might.

In the meanwhile, today I was going through proofs for two of my books with Vivlia Publishers in South Africa: Curse of the Gold Coins and Anything for Money, the third book in the Kate Gomolemo series. It was nice to read them after such a long time. I also got alerted to a write-up in The Mail and Guardian (a South African newspaper) about the Sapphire books and both of my books were mentioned, Kwaito Love and Can He Be The One? Though they spelled my name wrong, I was still pretty pleased.

So that's what I've been busy with. And of course tomatoes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Sea Monkey Scam Gets Worse

People who know me know I blame sea monkeys for a lot of things. I sort of see my life as the innocence before the sea monkeys and the jaded post-sea monkeys child I became.

We all saw these beautiful sea monkey adverts in our Richy Rich comic books. Look at that family! The jolly little baby, the fashionable mother. And as the advert clearly says they are "so eager to please, can even be trained". Yeah. Right.

We all bought them. They arrived as a powder. A powder. Nothing coming from a powder smiles. But still I had hope, it WAS pre-jaded child time so I was willing to give them a chance, so I mixed it all together, loosely following the instructions. And nothing happened. No little crowned family appeared. There was no smiling. There would be no tricks. Later I learned they were brine shrimp. Mine never even became brine shrimp. They were a stinky bowl of water with a layer of brownish scum on top which ended up flushed down the toilet.

And now I hear that the guy who "invented" sea monkeys, Harold von Braunhut was a white supremacist and the money we all forked out to buy the brine shrimp that ruined our childhoods was used to buy guns for the KKK. He was also a proud anti-Semite though he was apparently Jewish. Gave bucks to the Aryan Nation too. Great. Really great. As if this whole sea monkey incident was not traumatic enough.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gaborone Bed Book Launch!!!

Thursday 23rd of September, we launched The Bed Book of Short Stories at Mmabolao,The House of Beds, in Gaborone.

Our MC for the evening was Botswana's most celebrated poet- TJ Dema.

That's me (above) selling books, which we did quite a bit of that night. (yeah!)

Aamina Khan (right front) manager of Mmabolao and Deborah Morgan (right back) director of Mmabolao, listening attentively. They were both great!

Zimbabwean writer Novuyo Rosa Tshuma came all the way from Johannesburg where she is studying, to read us an excerpt from her story "In Bed with Ikeji". This is her third bed launch attendance. Five stars for the lovely Novuyo!!

Below is Malawian Luso Mnthali (right) with a friend. She lives in Cape Town and we were lucky to have her in Gaborone. She read from her story "A Requiem for Daniel".

Dr. Leloba Molema from the University of Botswana (below) was our guest speaker and she did a fantastic job!

Our very own uber-talented Gothataone Moeng read from her story"Lie Still Heart: Scenes from a Girlhood Devoured".

Some of the guests among the beds.

We had a FANTASTIC time!
Thanks everyone!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My New Love

I came to writing because of my love of books, I wanted to be more a part of them. My love of books leads to my other affliction- my love of owning books. I want to have all of them. I am greedy beyond measure. Because of this, bookshelves are always a problem. Thankfully I found a new carpenter and he has made me the best new bookshelves. I'm so enamoured with these shelves I can barely look away from them. The best part about them is that they have so much space! Space for more books- yeah!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lazy Writing

This is actually my column from The Voice two weeks ago but for some reason it didn't go up online so I thought I'd put it here.

I was recently at a poetry reading. People who know me know I love good performance poetry. I cry at good performance poetry. I’m moved, I babble on about it for days. It sits in my mind, bits of it taking up permanent residence. At bad poetry performances I look engaged but am, in fact, either ticking off things I need to do the next day or preparing a mental grocery list. My tolerance level seems to have lowered as of late, though, and on this night in question I didn’t even pretend to be engaged. I was bored -but more than that I was furious.

I’m sick to death of lazy writers or all sorts, poets are just more on my mind as I write this but prose writers should consider themselves warned. For poets, if you have “African queen” or African princess” in your poem I’m talking to you. Yesterday I watched a little girl on My African Dream reciting a poem about how she was “an African child” and I thought shame on you lazy adult poets teaching this young girl that stating the obvious accounts as poetry nowadays. That lazy, clichéd writing is okay- it is not.

The words in a poem should be fresh- and please note, this does not mean pulling out your Roget’s and finding as many rhyming, seven letter words as you can and then stringing them in a line and spitting them out in an angry voice while standing in front of the audience very proud of yourself, the audience clapping only because they’re being polite. No one understands anything because what the poet just recited was unintelligible, to the poet as well as anyone forced to be the recipient of it. That’s not poetry- no matter what pretty clothes you put on it.

I will admit I’m not a poet, but I am a word user. I know that writers must respect words if they are to be any good. If you want to stand before us and tell us your mother is an Africa queen, please don’t call yourself a poet. Don’t disrespect poets so blatantly by doing that. A poet struggles and fights with words to find the exact image she wants to create. She will not use old, saggy, overused phrases just to get to the end. She will not use flashy words that leave everyone lost. She wants to carry the listener or the reader to a place that she has created and then she says “Look”.

Good poetry is fresh. The words crackle in the air and hush all thoughts that try to invade its stage. When silence comes and the words are finished the images and their echoes reverberate through the ether tickling at the audience members’ minds forcing them to think. Nobody thinks when the African queen takes centre stage, believe me.

Please folks, I beg of you, if we are to make any progress, let’s respect the words. Let’s work at our art. Laziness has no place in writing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Bed Launch for Botswana!!

I have been absent from my blog because my blog is not behaving. I can only write. I can't do anything that needs a pop up window, like add the invite for this launch. When I press the button I get a blank page. If anyone knows how to sort this out I'd be thankful for any help. I have a feeling it is a problem in my computer and will see the compute guy on the weekend.

In the meanwhile I want to invite you to another launch for The Bed Book of Short Stories that I helped compile. What has been so lovely about this book is that the contributors have taken it on to launch the book wherever they are. First there was the main launch at the Franschoek Literary Festival in South Africa. Then our contributor from Namibia organised a launch in Windhoek. Then there was the Joburg launch which I was blessed to be able to attend. There was a launch in Cape Town a few weeks ago where everyone wore pajamas. Tonight there is a launch in Centurion organised by the vivacious Rita Britz. And then next Thursday is ours in Gaborone.

The contributors present will include Gothataone Moeng, Luso Mnthali and myself. The MC for the evening is our TJ Dema and the guest speaker is Dr. Leloba Molema from the University of Botswana English Department. Please if you're in Gabs we would love for you to pop by!

When? Thursday 23 September
Where? Mmabolao, Westgate Mall Gaborone
Time? 5:30 - 8 pm

Books will be on sale!!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

An odd coincidence occurred. I finished In a Strange Room in the early hours of yesterday staying up far too late reading because I could not put it down and then yesterday that very book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. My hope is it will go on to win it in October.

I love Damon Galgut's writing but In a Strange Room is something quite special. It is about travelling. It's divided into three sections: The Follower, The Lover and The Guardian. I listened to Galgut speak about the book at the Cape Town Book Fair this year. He was interviewed by Ben Williams of SA Books. Ben asked him if the book was fiction or memoir since the traveller in the book is called Damon. Galgut admitted that he took these trips and he had these experiences but still it is classified as a novel. It is up to the reader to see what to make of it.

In the same interview, he spoke about the reasons behind sometimes writing in first person, sometimes third, even drifting into second. It happens seamlessly in the book, it seems correct and right. He explained that it is how we think when we think about memories. Sometimes we are there, we are in first person. Sometimes we watch the characters play out the scene, third person. He wanted to be true to the memories. I find this fascinating.

Galgut's writing is simple and his unflinching pursuit of the truth in each sentence laser accurate. He writes with no fluff. He is not here to impress anyone. He knows his purpose and I feel it is an internal push driven by an intellect that will not rest on platitudes. He wants to know what it means, what this all means, the core truth in this living in the relationships between people.

The Damon in the book feels compelled to travel, but it is not a jolly, holiday by the sea kind of travelling. It is something else for him. Of late I have wanted to travel alone. I think as a married woman with a family I've become very insulated from the world, always safe in my group. And so I travel alone, though I don't particularly like it, I do it because it forces me to feel things with no cushion around me. I like to force myself into awkward scary situations where I will feel lost so as to feel vulnerable. I think in that place things are often clearer since the fear magnifies the senses. When I read the passage below I was gobsmacked by its resonance. There are many of these in the book.

The truth is he is not a traveller by nature, it is a state that has been forced on him by circumstances. he spends most of his time on the move in acute anxiety, which makes everything heightened and vivid. Life becomes a series of tiny threatening details, he feels no connection with anything around him, he's constantly afraid of dying. As a result he is hardly ever happy in the place where he is, something in him is already moving forward to the next place, and yet he is also never going towards something, but always away, away. This is a defect in his nature that travel has turned into a condition.

I read a lot of books. Some stick ,some fly away, and others change me. This one changed me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Distraction of Fresh Tomatoes

My blog is being sadly neglected and I apologise. As part of my apology I am giving you this lovely photo of the tomatoes I just now hunted from our garden. It is like hunting a bit, and one of my favourite things about gardening. Searching in the spicy green leaves to find the little red jewels. Then picking and assessing what you got.

So why have I been so thoroughly neglectful of my lovely little blog?

1. It is the beginning of summer.

This needs no explanation.

2. I am stuck in up to my elbows with my latest work in progress.
I have four months to wallow in my fiction. The first project for that time is a new novel which is a prequel to a novel I've been fighting with for about four years. I gave it to an editor friend of mine who gave me some sterling ideas about how to get it in shape. It was a thriller but my friend thought my cop and his friend seemed destined for a series and suggested I re-work the book into a detective novel. I've done a detective series before, my Kate Gomolemo series that includes The Fatal Payout and Murder for Profit, so this was something I was familiar with and decided to give it a go. BUT then something happened. I read a book, recently published, that is very similar to this book I'd been struggling with for four years and if I changed it to a detective novel it would be even more similar. So I decided to have my cop and his friend meet in a book before that one- which is the book I'm currently working on- and then after I finish this one I will go back to the first one which is now really the second one. Understand?

3. I've been reading lots of fabulous books.
These I intend to blog about soon.

4. I signed two contracts for two new books and I sent one of my wallflower novels out to a few agents.
One contract is for the third book in my Detective Kate Gomolemo series which will be published by Vivlia Publishers in South Africa. The second book is also to be published by Vivlia and is a children's historical mystery (is there such a genre? ). I also sent out queries to some agents in America for my novel Claudia Lanchaster's Adventures in Love, a young adult romance. I have had one response so far and they asked to see the entire novel, so cross fingers!

So those are really the main reasons I'm neglecting my blog. But I will try to be better. In the meantime enjoy the tomatoes because I'm intending to eat a fair share of them for lunch and they will soon be finished.