Checking Your Work

There’s that point in a maths exam when you’ve finished and you’ve still got time when you’re supposed to double-check all your workings instead of just handing it in. Just to be sure.

It’s the same with writing, when you redraft something. Which is fine. Except for when you can’t see the mistakes, or improvements to be made.

I try not to rush exams, and I take my time with choosing my words. I like to make the first draft the best I can. Which makes it a bit tricky when it comes to redrafting, since I think the first is pretty damn good. Sure a word or two can be changed, or a sentence added or removed, but generally? I’m happy with it.

Obviously, though, it can be improved. So the second draft of my story, I’ve started again from scratch. I know where it’s going this time, instead of just making it up as I go, and some passages from the first draft I feel I can use as is, but, by and large, the first draft is just being my plan. What I should have had when I was writing it.

I’m not used to stories longer than a few thousand words, so this is, er, a novel experience. Normally I’d be pouring over a hard-copy, red pen in hand. No doubt, when this is done, I shall do just that with this, but right now, I’m focused on trying to keep details consistent as I go.

Anyway, as with checking my maths-working, I can’t necessarily see where I’ve gone wrong. I did it. I can follow my working and it all makes perfect sense to me.

On Singing a Song

I’ve written before about the troubles of choosing music for a wedding. Last time I moaned about the vast numbers of beautiful, suitable pieces for the processional and recessional pieces. So much to choose from! But fortunately, those two have now, finally, been chosen.

But Mark and I have had greater troubles with the choosing of hymns.

You see, being different denominations of Christian, we both know different hymns. Now, having attended a primary school of Mark’s denomination, I do know some of the hymns that he does. There is a small amount of overlap in our knowledge.

The problem, though, is that because these hymns are ones we both know from primary school, the numbers suitable for a wedding are even more limited. Especially since we’d rather it didn’t end up sounding like a school assembly. It’s not even like we need lots of hymns. Just two.

I so think we should have eloped. That would have saved so much (non) stress. Because, yup, this is probably the one issue that’s giving me/us the greatest stress of the whole organising. And even that isn’t much. Even with two months to go. (Scary how time flies! I still think of us having about six months left. I expect that’s why I’m so relaxed about it…)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A fun play, with fairies and spells and bewitchments causing mayhem and confusion.

What I want to know, though, is why Hermia and Helena don’t just slap Lysander and Demetrius and go off to become nuns together? At the very least, those two men could be made to do a better job of professing their love and trying to make amends. I mean, seriously? They change their minds at the drop of a hat/dab of a potion, and Hermia and Helena are supposed to believe they’re sincere? And Titania seems very forgiving to Oberon…

The other thing I’ll say about this is that they all seem very coherent and eloquent as soon as they wake up. I’m very impressed. They don’t even need any tea or coffee!

I know there needs to be some suspension of rational thought, logic, and general belief in reality when reading or watching things, but sometimes it’s a bit tricky. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but as soon as Lysander is un-bewitched, she immediately believes that Demetrius loves her? Unlikely.

As the Crow Flies

Who knew Burnham-on-Sea was such a hotbed of crime?

I read someone’s blog the other day (I’m sorry: I can’t remember who or where!) wherein he or she wrote one- or two-line reviews for a whole list of books he-or-she had read.

Since I’m not normally very good at reviewing things beyond “Good” or “Bad”, I thought I’d give this a go for the Monday book.

I don't know if they're crows, but they're the best I've got...

The chosen title this week is As the Crow Flies, by Damien Boyd.

But to begin, a quick blurb. This week’s book is another murder-mystery (actually, it calls itself a “fast-paced thriller”), but this time it’s a police detective in the lead. A man falls to his death in Cheddar Gorge and a local, ex-London detective (who also happens to be an old friend of the dead man) isn’t convinced it was an accident. It is the author’s debut.

Apparently, Nick Dixon, our friendly policeman, is “forced to break every rule in the book” to close this case. I’ll admit I don’t know every rule in the book, but I didn’t notice all that much rule-breaking until the end.

Anyway, my thoughts.

More Midsomer Murder or Agatha Christie than James Patterson, but to be honest? I prefer them to Patterson. I like Dixon, I like that I’m vaguely familiar to the scene (being a Westcountry-maid), I like that something REALLY EXCITING doesn’t happen on every page/in every chapter. It feels real.

A good job, Boyd. I look forward to more.

White Chocolate, Pineapple and Papaya Cupcakes.

Do you write best at your laptop or with a pen and paper? Or at a type-writer?

I was talking about this the other day with my boss Helen. Apparently our branch of Clinton’s attracts writers. Anyway, we were discussing distractions and where best to write. See, I can write more quickly and words flow more easily when I’m sat at my laptop, Hilda (yup, I name my laptop), but I probably get more written when I’m sat with pen, paper, and ClassicFM.

But I have the best breakthroughs, and write what I think is my best work, when I’m walking and I have no pen and/or paper.

Like the other day. I finally worked out the ending of my story – something I’ve been puzzling over for months – while I was walking home from work. It was a sunny evening and my mind wandered. It wandered right to my world, and wrote for me a wonderful scene. Only I couldn’t remember it exactly when I came to write it down. Just the gist. Which’ll have to do until I’ve rewritten everything that happens before then.

Oh well.

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This week’s recipe comes, again, from a Hummingbird recipe book. The number of times I use those books is probably the best review I can give them.

It was a White Chocolate and Cranberry Cupcake. But I couldn’t be bothered to find cranberries, so I used papaya and pineapple instead. And I decorated them with marshmallows, because they were in the cupboard.

So, you need to mix 70g butter, 210g plain flour, 200g sugar and 1 tbsp baking powder in one bowl and 2 large eggs and 210ml milk in a jug. The dry ingredients should be a sandy consistency before you add the wet. Oh, and a tsp vanilla extract.

Spoon into cake-cases and pop in the oven at 170C for 20-25 minutes.

I reduced the amount of sugar – the recipe actually calls for 250g – but apparently I didn’t have that much. So I used 200g, and it doesn’t seem to have harmed the cakes.

You should get anywhere between one and two dozen cakes out of this mixture.

To ice the cakes, you’ll need butter, icing sugar, a splash of milk, and 100g melted chocolate. Beat together the butter and sugar before adding the milk and then the melted chocolate. Mix it all up and dollop on the cakes. Decorate as desired.

Twelfth Night

I actually managed to read all of it this week. Probably this is due to the train-journeys to and from the Eurovision party. I had the time to just sit and read. So I did.

Twelfth Night always confuses me. I understand the whole premise of mistaking twins. But would male and female twins really be that similar? Even with the female dressing up as her brother? And why don’t they cotton on to the fact that the twin they thought was dead might not be a bit sooner? Surely they would still be hoping against hope? They just seem a little slow to connect the dots…

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As I was reading this, it came to me that this is one that I’ve seen. Last summer, the Globe broadcast their all-male performance to cinemas. The cast included Stephen Fry as Mavolio, Trigger from Only Fools and Horses as Sir Andrew, and Posner from The History Boys as Sebastian. (The other actors are just as worthy of notice, but these are the ones which I really remember.) And Olivia looked like she was on wheels, zooming about the stage. Actually, with that production, I can understand them mixing up the twins. I had trouble sometimes telling them apart.

But anyway. I’m not really going to comment on the writing – the fact that we still read and perform Shakespeare’s works is testament to that. Even with people suggesting we should cease to study them in schools, which, by the way, I think is a bad idea. I see absolutely no reason why schools should be dumbed down any further.

Hooked on Murder

I like a nice charity shop. I like the random collection of books. I like it even more when the books aren’t in alphabetical order. You can find all sorts of interesting stories in charity shops.

You know that adage about not judging books by covers? I tend to judge books by how soon after publication, and in what condition, a book ends up in a charity shop.

But anyway. Last week, I found this book – Hooked on Murder by one Betty Hechtman – in my local British Heart Foundation. I’ve liked mysteries since I first read Sherlock Holmes. Then came the murder mysteries with Poirot, Marple and Wimsey.

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Hooked on Murder, published in 2008, calls itself a “crochet mystery”, probably because it revolves around ladies who crochet. Not knit. That is important.

The leader of a crochet group is found dead in her home by our narrator, one Molly Pink. For various reasons, she becomes the prime suspect. Except, it wasn’t her. So she tries to find out who it was.

Set in California, with a sprinkling of celebs, it’s a nice, light sort of murder mystery. It hasn’t the black humour of M.C.Beaton, nor is Molly really the sort of person likely to become an heir to any of the above detective greats, but it is still a good read. Molly is a believable character, as are most of the rest. I’m a bit dubious about Molly’s theory that the police-officer is trying to pin it on her because the police-officer is interested in Molly’s sort-of boyfriend, another police-officer. Who rather unchivalrously (but according to protocol) refuses to discuss the case with Molly.

I don’t normally try to work out who-did-it, but I’ll guess as I go. And my guess changes as I read. Unless it’s just too obvious. But this one might surprise you. And the writing isn’t awful, either, which always helps.