Pre-Plotting

I generally approach writing a story with: some characters, a basic concept, a start, and a finish in mind. The middle bit takes care of itself as I write. I’ll brainstorm ahead and maybe make a few notes on where I want the action to go over the next few thousand words, then I’ll write & when I start to run out of notes I’ll brainstorm some more. It works well for me.

I also tried improvising a story completely once for Scriptfrenzy. I just started describing the first scene that came into my head and the characters appeared on the page as they appeared in my mind. I did make a couple of notes in the middle of writing it, but that was because I wasn’t near my computer at the time. All I had on me was an old envelope, which was covered in scribbled notes on both sides by the time I got home. That also worked surprisingly well. (Though it probably helps that I’ve got a background in narrative improvisation, so I’m used to making up stories on the spot and holding the plot together.)

What I’ve never yet done – and intend to try for the August session of Camp NaNoWriMo – is to pre-plan out a story scene by scene and then sit down to write it. I’m finding it really tricky, because my instincts are screaming at me to do it the way I usually do. Now that I have plot ideas for the first ten thousand words or so, they want me to start writing it – and then plot the next bit, then write, etc.

Still, it’s an interesting challenge. I’m determined to get through any inner resistance and plot the whole thing before the start of August. I’m wondering if it will increase the amount I’m able to write each day, or have any other beneficial results. Time-wise it wouldn’t help speed up my writing in general, as this seems to take longer than the way I’m used to doing it. However, it might help for situations like NaNoWriMo, where I have to write a set amount of words in a set amount of time.

I think it’s good to shake up your writing habits occasionally – to try a different style/genre, or a different way of working. I’m hoping that I’ll learn something from the experience (other than that I’m mad to be contemplating a NaNoWriMo month when I’ve still got three stories to get through edits!)

My First Story Has Now Been Published

After pretty much a lifetime of thinking of myself as a writer – I have finally published something!  ‘Dimension Jumpers: Wanted’ went live on Smashwords, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and the other European Amazons earlier this week.  It’s been approved by Smashwords for onward distribution, and is now live on Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Still awaiting distribution to Kobo, and various other e-book retailers.

A print version is available via CreateSpace, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and other european Amazons.

Book Cover for Dimension Jumpers - Wanted by Zelah Meyer

At roughly 9,500 words, it’s a long short story/short novella, or a ‘novelette’ if you use that term. 🙂

Here’s the description: “All Amy wants is to blend in, hide her abilities, and stay alive. She’s just met the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, he’s one of the top police agents in the capital, and she’s the top suspect for the recent killing of the king. Even more unfortunately, she doesn’t know whether she’s guilty or not.”

I’m so pleased to finally see it out there after much back and forth with various beta/proof readers and my editor.

Now, on to the next title!

Ice Cream Dessert

A month or so ago I was trying to find a dessert that would satisfy my nostalgic cravings for a Brown Derby (can’t link to it directly, but it’s in the clickable list of desserts on that page) without the stodge of the doughnut part of it.  I love it but it’s pretty much a meal in itself for me!

Anyway, I looked at the ingredients I had to hand and I came up with this:

ice cream 1

It’s Carte D’Or Chocolate Inspiration ice cream, with broken ginger snaps and chopped & roasted hazelnuts.  The results is a dessert that is surprisingly light yet satisfying.

Before you think I’ve been too carried away there – that’s a fairly small bowl!  The ginger snaps are only around 2 1/2 inches diameter and I used four or five of them.  I also don’t use much more than a single scoop of ice cream.  It’s just that the ice cream is scooped in thinner curls rather than one solid ball.  OK, so it’s still not exactly low calorie – but it’s better for me than the doughnut version!  I also use less ice cream than I do with a doughnut.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this particular combination of products with you in case it appealed to anyone else!  If it does – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

ice cream 2

Herman Bread

My adventures with Herman continue…

Having made two cakes and feeling guilty at the thought of potentially cooking a third, I decided to look around for other Herman recipes.  I found this one on the All Recipes website.

Herman Bread 1

I paid attention to the comments & used 2 tsp of salt instead of the 1 tbsp suggested.  I also needed to add more flour as they suggest.

Our flat was cold, so it took forever for the dough to rise!  I thought the finished loaf was going to be much denser than it actually was.  It rose more in the oven than bread usually does for me.  I use a silicone bread pan and it even bowed out slightly at the sides.

It took less time to cook than suggested, so best keep an eye on it if you give it a go!

The finished results were very tasty.  Slightly sweet with a definite sour dough flavour.  In fact, it was so tasty that I started to want another loaf of it!  Thankfully, I’d experimented with freezing the two left-over Herman portions I had from the last time.

Herman came back to life without any problems.  I took him out of the freezer yesterday and followed the advice I’d seen & fed him today as if it were day 4 of the process.  I might treat him now more like an ongoing sour dough mix & just feed him every now and again – and scoop out a cup or so the following day to use for a loaf or something else.

Herman Bread 2

It struck me that the Herman bread recipe looked very much like a regular bread recipe with added Herman, flour and salt.  With that in mind, my urge to experiment is prodding me to try making Herman cinnamon rolls…  Not just yet though – I should probably leave it a bit longer after all that cake!

 

 

Herman the (Second) German Friendship Cake

I made my second Herman last night.

I wanted to try a different recipe and my husband voted for a ginger Herman over a chocolate one.  There’s a recipe for a ginger Herman on the Herman website but it didn’t sound quite like the type of cake I was looking for.

So, being me, I decided to play with the ingredients!  I took the ginger flavouring mix from the All Recipes Big Soft Ginger Cookies recipe and decided to add rhubarb as the fruit.

The resulting cake batter was more liquid than the last one I made, possibly because of the molasses/treacle, possibly because I ran out of oil and had to guesstimate how much soft margarine to use to top up the oil I had.  I added about a third of a cup more flour to help but the batter still took quite a while to cook, hence this Herman being a bit darker in colour than the last.  I definitely needed the foil again!

rhubarb & ginger herman

It turned out well.  The ginger flavouring is very subtle, so if you like a stronger ginger flavour, then you might want to up the spices, or add some decent crystalized ginger to the mix.  I wanted to add crystalized ginger this time, but could only find a brand that I already know to be extremely wussy when it comes to flavour.

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 1 portion of Herman
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of plain flour (plus a little extra that may not be needed if you use oil rather than estimated quantites of margerine!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 60ml (approx two tablespoons) of treacle/molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup cooking oil
  • 4 medium sticks of rhubarb, washed & cut into small chunks

Plus of course, the yummy (yet calorie laden) topping of 1/4 cup of brown sugar & 1/4 cup melted butter.

As before, I lined my tin with greaseproof paper & baked Herman on a low shelf in a 170-180 degrees celsius oven.  After the initial 45 minutes I covered him with foil and kept baking until a skewer inserted into the middle came out clean.

I think he turned out very well.  I like both the Hermans I’ve made so far.  My preference is probably for the apple version, but my husband prefers this one.  🙂

Spiced Quinoa With Onion, Garlic & Ginger

We’re all suffering from a lingering cough at the moment, so I fancied cooking something that at least felt healthy.

It’s really hot here too, so I decided to go for something fairly light as well & quinoa seemed the perfect candidate.  Quinoa, garlic, and onion.

Usually I would cook the quinoa first on its own and then add it to a frying pan with the onion & garlic in it.  This time I decided to do things the other way around and cook the quinoa with the already softened onion & garlic.

I started out by rinsing the quinoa to get rid of the bitter taste & left it in the sieve to drain.  I then chopped up the onion and put that in the saute pan (with some olive oil) on the same medium-high heat that I usually use for quinoa.

While the onion was softening I chopped up the cloves from half a bulb of garlic (what?  I really like garlic – and I’m ill – and garlic is good for you!)  I also got two heaped tablespoons of easy-cook ginger (finely sliced ginger in vinegar – but you could use fresh if you liked) and gave that a bit of a chop too to make the pieces smaller.

Once the onions started to go transparent, I added the garlic & ginger and cooked them until the vinegar had evaporated from the ginger.  At that point I added the spices and seasoning and stirred them in.  If I made this again then I might leave out the spices, or play with a different blend.

I added the rinsed quinoa and let it toast with the spices for ten minutes.  Normally I let it toast until it starts to pop, but with the moisture from the other ingredients it wasn’t popping, so I stopped when the onion started to go brown.

Spiced Quinoa 1

At this point I added the water and put the lid on the pan, leaving it to cook for ten minutes.  N.B. – It’s important to cover the quinoa, because otherwise you’ll lose too much water to evaporation before the quinoa has the chance to absorb it.

Spiced Quinoa 2

After ten minutes I took the lid off the pan and added some chopped cashew nuts, letting them toast lightly as I stirred the quinoa and let the excess moisture evaporate.  If you like your quinoa porridgey, then add more water & leave the lid on for more of the cooking time.  I prefer mine with a bit more substance!

Spiced Quinoa 3

Quinoa cooked, I then added a drizzle of chilli infused olive oil & some petit pois.

The (in)exact measurements I used were:

  • Quinoa up to the 10fl oz line on a measuring jug
  • 19fl oz of water (more if you like your quinoa mushy)
  • One medium onion
  • Half a bulb of garlic, finely chopped
  • Two heaped tablespoons of chopped ginger
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Spices:  I used 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric, a tiny dash of cloves and a sprinkling of nutmeg.  You could leave out the spices if you prefer.  I’d also suggest doing what I did – sniff all your spices and decide what you fancy & what will work well together!  I mix my spices & seasonings up in a small pot before adding them.  This helps prevent steam from the pan entering the spice container & causing it to clump together.

So there you go. 🙂

Spiced Quinoa 4

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my new and (hopefully) improved website!

I’ll be taking down my old free WordPress blog at the end of the month.

This new blog will feature posts on a variety of topics.  Mostly cooking, arts & crafts, and writing.  Plus, anything else that I feel tempted to blog about!

In the meantime, if anyone is curious, here is what the full version of my header pic looks like:

Glitter castle pic jpeg