Rabbits, Blankets and Camping

Well, that was a longer break than anticipated! In the meantime, I’ve also scrapped an awful lot of what I had planned…which isn’t all that helpful, when you think about it.

However. I have managed to return to both cross stitch and crochet, though to none of my current or other planned projects.

Instead, I have started small, ish, and simple. A rabbit kit from a magazine, and a granny square baby blanket. Both just right for helping my brain make sense of the mess it has made in planning a 5-book series…

Bunny and blanket.jpg

Camp NaNo Catch-Up: Gardeners and Architects

Apparently, there is a George RR Martin quotation out there about how writers are gardeners or architects.

Some writers have an idea and run with it; others have an idea and plan the story. Of course, as with all things, most people are not really one or the other, but a mix of both. Normally, I get about half way through the planning stage and then start writing and see where it takes me. I’ve never been very good at endings, though. I might be seeing things, but I suspect there’s a link between that and where I cease to plan…

It’s been an interesting time for me, this month, with my focus being on planning; every now and again I get the urge to just start writing, I have enough notes and plans, and anyway that part of the story won’t happen for ages, and by the time I get to that bit I’m stuck on, an answer should have presented itself. Right?

I’ve written before, with just an idea. It was a struggle. Especially when I got stuck, and all I had for inspiration was how the entire story was supposed to end. Not knowing how to get there – not really a good way to write, I found. Led to a lot of writer’s block. I don’t, yet, know if writing from a comprehensive plan is going to be any different – no doubt I shall meet with other problems causing the same effect – but I’m not going to know until I try. And the hope is that I’m going to be addressing the most major plot-holes in the planning stages, and not half way through the writing. Starting over is never fun.

CampNaNo

I find, with the planning, that I enjoy it more. It’s easier to see progress and to feel optimistic about the story. I’ve found a couple of things which help me. They might be simple; they’re the sort of things you already know, but kind of ignore.

The first is good old pen and paper. I carry my notebook around, and write on any old scrap of paper to hand. Ideas, plot-points, problems, they’re all ticking away at the back of my brain, figuring themselves out. My brain is always half away with the fairies.

The second is my desk. Or, if I decide to work on the sofa, my table-top ironing board, which makes an excellent substitute. And means that it finally has a purpose, since I think life’s generally too short for ironing.

How do you write? Are you a gardener or an architect?

Camping and Carrot Cake

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling good about the fact that I’ve actually managed to plan, write, and schedule the week’s posts in advance. Productive, on top of things, organised, all sorts of other good and virtuous words I don’t normally apply to myself.

And then something went wrong this week. I mean, I still managed to plan, write, and schedule them, but...

But, my Friday post, about Marshmallows and chocolate tasting somehow, I still don’t know how, managed to be scheduled for last Friday. For two days before I wrote it. My writing day is Sunday, you see. I’m still surprised I didn’t get a pop-up box going “Really? You want to schedule this for THE PAST?! Have you a time-machine or something?”

However, such happened, and I managed to be so silly, and so, instead, I’m going on my camping trip with carrot cake, because I’ve already eaten the marshmallows. A carrot and mango cake, derived from the wonderful Delia’s Cake book.

CarrotCake.jpg

Camp NaNo, July 107

I made a decision a few weeks ago that the only way I am going to get to do what I want in life, as opposed to a series of pay-the-bills jobs, is by creating the job I want to do. To take control, in effect.

This might sound simple, and a bit of a Duh! thing to say, but taking control is not something I do. I am not a leader; I can only just decide what I want to eat from a menu, usually when the waiter appears to take the order because everyone else at the table has already decided. At that point I just pick something.

You may have noticed some small changes around my Cocoary. This is a part of my Taking Control.

I have found, though, since making this decision, that I am generally happier in the life and job (which I dislike) which I am currently living and doing. I have also found that something has clicked and I have more energy and enthusiasm to pursue my dreams. This is the most important change, I think. Never underestimate the power of having energy and a clear head. The job I dislike no longer gets me down like it did. My brain, which previously wasted a lot of energy thinking and dreaming of ways out, is free, now, to concentrate on the Way Out.

And so, to Camp NaNo July 2017.

I believe I have an account, but you won’t find me in the campsite. I’m not a people-person, sorry. Bit too busy for me.

Anyway, my plans for the camp which begins in the next few days are reasonably simple.

I have two story ideas currently competing for attention; they have been for the last few years. One is the story which I wrote for the first NaNoWriMo I completed in 2013, and still haven’t rewritten or polished to *er-hum* someone’s exacting standards, and the other is one which has been expanding, slowly, since the first scene wrote itself in my head on the way home from work while it was supposed to be working on the first story. Ideas are like that. However, both are at the point where they could, conceivably, be written (or rewritten in the case of the former) probably without too much difficulty.

In the spirit of taking control, though, and with the experience of writing without a plan something of a painful memory, my Camp NaNo goal is thus:

To write a plan, a synopsis, a detailed description, of both stories.

Agnes’ Berry Crumble Cake

I’ve been trying to pick which of my many story-ideas is going to be my next project this weekend. Trying to work out which of the beginnings has the most mileage for becoming a novel. Or at least a novella. It’s been a bit disappointing. So many starts, and different characters, and not much clue for where any of them are going!

So today, in between my literary endeavours, I’ve also been baking. I was given this recipe by my colleague Agnes. I have no idea where she found it, but it’s wonderfully delicious (even if I think perhaps I took it out a little early, or maybe it was slightly too small a tin). It isn’t the simplest recipe, but oh, so worth it!

Berry Crumble Cake

Step One

You’ll need:

400g plain flour

250g butter

 2tsp baking powder

3 tbsp icing sugar

5 egg yolks (save the whites: you’ll need them later)

Make ‘breadcrumbs’ with the butter and dry ingredients, then add the egg yolks. If it seems bit dry (it did to me) add a splash or two of water.

Divide into two portions, roughly 60:40, and freeze it for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I left it for a morning.

Prepare your baking tray, and grate the larger portion into it, pushing it down to make it even, and bake for about 15 minutes at 190C. Leave to cool while you do step 2.

Step Two

You’ll need:

  5 egg whites you saved from earlier

170g sugar, adjusted if using sweetened custard powder

1 tbsp vanilla essence

80g custard powder

125ml sunflower oil

Berries of your choice, small or chopped up

Icing sugar to decorate, optional

Whisk the egg whites, then slowly add in the sugar and vanilla essence. Add in the custards powder while mixing, and then whisk in the oil. Pour evenly over the baked cake base and dot the berries on top – if using raspberries, my instructions were to poke them in point down. Over the top grate the other frozen cake-mix.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 190C. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar.

After The Storm

I didn’t realise quite how much time writing my novel actually took. Didn’t feel like much time – it’s taken me over three years from first getting the idea and beginning to sort-of plot and begin writing to now (ten if you include the characters I requisitioned from a previous, incomplete world). I finished the latest draft this week. I’m hoping none of the readers I’ve sent it to will find anything horrendously inconsistent or fall into deep plot-holes. I’d rather not have to do a major rewrite. Again.

But having finished it, and sent it off to the readers, I find myself with free weekends. This weekend, anyway. I’m confident enough to start considering the next one: research and planning, but not just yet. Such a weird feeling – nothing to do. Well, obviously that’s not true – just nothing pressing, except make a Grasshopper Pie as requested by my husband for his birthday (recipe will come later).

Waking earlier than is really necessary on an almost completely free day, especially since I have no children, I, amazingly, found myself with sufficient energy to write a quite long To-Do list:

To-Do

Okay, some of the tasks aren’t exactly chores – I like going to the library – but that’s more than I’ve done over an entire weekend for quite a while. And I’ve nearly crossed everything off. In one day. (I’m not looking for plaudits or anything, I hasten to add – I’m just quite pleased with how much I can get done now I’m not writing all day.)

I feel virtuous enough to at least ignore cleaning the bedroom. I’ll take the rubbish out as I go for a walk in the sunny evening…I feel quite virtuous.

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend too! 🙂

Type-Stitching

Typewriter1

I’ve spending more time than I ordinarily would with my stitching. Normally I try to spend the day typing at my computer, and the evening stitching, but I’ve had a week off.

Well, I say a week off – it’s not like I have a busy social or professional calendar at the moment – but away from my computer. I’ve been busy binge-watching The Good Wife on Netflix. It’s the mark of a good story, I think, if it can get you so sucked into it that your normal life has to be suspended, whether on paper or on screen, until you get to the end.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of The Good Wife before I started watching. And then I watched it, mostly out of curiosity, and I was hooked. So the stitching got a boost. It probably helped that I’m at a sticky spot in my writing anyway, and I’m still working my way out, so I was in the right sort of mood to be distracted.