Welcome to the culinary world of Holly Sinclair. I'm not a qualified chef but I've done a few courses in between running the Satin Bowerbird Inn with my grandmother and her best friend Mrs Kitchener, and getting married to totally the wrong people.
When I was sixteen and came to live with Nanny, she suggested I write down any recipes I use. I started writing very neatly in small A5 books, then in large spiral bound books. Now I write on any scrap of paper that comes to hand and shove it in a binder box I keep in the hutch in the kitchen. It's not at all organised, which sometimes drives Mrs Kitchener to distraction. She's one of those lovely tidy, everything-in-its-place kind of people. I'm like that with my ingredients and utensils, everything in my kitchen actually, but not much else.
Today I made lamingtons. I've made lamingtons before, they're not unique at all, but I've always used the traditional recipes with cocoa and hot water in them. Today, I went to the pantry only to find out I'd run out of cocoa. I had the cake there, already cut for lamingtons. What was I to do?
Make up a new recipe of course!
This is my Decadent Lamington recipe:
225g dark chocolate melts
200g butter (the real stuff, not margarine)
200ml coconut cream (or ordinary pouring cream)
200g icing sugar (icing mixture is fine)
Put chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. I put boiling water in the bottom pot and didn't need to turn on the stove at all. Stir occasionally until butter and chocolate are melted and mixed. Add icing sugar and coconut cream. Add more or less coconut cream until you have the desired consistency for lamingtons.
The photo shows the lamingtons waiting for the coconut to be put on. I used the last in an orange coconut cake I gave my best friend, Morgan, to take to school and share with the other staff. I'll duck down to the shops and grab some now. Mrs Owens always has plenty in stock.
NOTE: I use a madeira cake instead of a sponge cake for my lamingtons. I find the madeira holds up better when transporting and gives the lamingtons a lovely buttery taste that you don't get with a sponge.
Don't forget: If you want to know my story, look for Tangled up in Blue. My story is told in the last book, The Satin Bowerbird by E E Montgomery.
I cooked chicken tenderloins for dinner last night. I don't like handling meat of any kind but chicken is particularly slippery and slimy to me. I wash my hands multiple times just to get through the prep time. As I laid the tenderloins in the pan, it struck me they looked like mutated slugs.
Yep, I was going hungry if I continued down that slippery path.
Instead, I stopped thinking, cooked and ate, then went on line to find something more pleasant to think about than mutant slugs sliming everything.
I found this website: https://www.boredpanda.com/snail-macro-photography-vyacheslav-mishchenko/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic
That led me to this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/snails.space/
And his shop site: http://vmishchenko.com/store/index.html
Mishchenko is a Ukrainian photography who takes amazing pictures of small things. His visual stories of snails are amazing. They look like such interesting and interested little creatures. I particularly like the one with the dew-laden umbrella.
I'm just sorry I can't share some of the photos because of copyright. They're well worth the visit to the sights, though.
My writing plan for 2020 worked really well until about mid-March when Covid-19 became the only topic of conversation with everyone I know. That's when I discovered - or rediscovered - that I don't work very well at home.
Instead of being able to go out and sit in a library or a cafe and work uninterrupted for several hours, I'm at home with all the things I've been avoiding for the last several months. I'm still avoiding all those things. It's just that being at home puts those things in the front of my head. I can't avoid looking at my desk which has several piles of papers and books more than a foot deep. I can't avoid noticing the storages boxes of painting equipment I've left open on my office floor because I might need them for the next project.
Just the thought of having to sort through every single piece of paper is enough to do my head in.
It means I've run away into my head, but not in a productive way. I'm reading. Mostly I'm reading romance, and most of that is MM romance. I've also just begun a biography on a Deputy US Marshall from the 1890s. A fascinating life and a very tough man.
All this means my writing projects are going nowhere quickly.
Morrison & Mackenzie (1930s historical romance): I've created a scene map to check the structure as it isn't working the way it should. That's it. All I need to do is put all the scenes up on my plotting wall and work out where the dips are so I can plan what needs to go there but it hasn't happened yet.
Tangled up in Blue anthology: This is moving forward slowly, mainly because the other authors are relying on me. One of the authors has just completed a continuity check and now we all have lists of things to fix. I'll get that done over the next week. We've also been talking about the cover and working out what we want.
The murder mystery: haven't looked at it. Instead I've been working (intermittently) on another fantasy story, one I started years ago but put aside because it wasn't working. When I picked it up again it was obvious why it wasn't working. I had too many POV characters and I was switching between adult POV and child POV. I've decided to write it as a YA fantasy and remove the adult POV completely. Already it's working better and I've identified missing scenes at the beginning that are needed for the child's POV but were irrelevant from the adult's.
Now Easter is over and my back is beginning to settle, I'm hoping to do more work on these projects. For right now, sending a couple of emails and doing this blog has used up my sitting time for the morning.
My personal life has changed significantly in recent years, specifically with an increase in family responsibilities. This has meant I've had to try to fit my writing in around a lot of things that have felt more demanding.
I have struggled to find balance and finally admitted to myself that I simply didn't have time to do all the things I needed to and wanted to. Not without falling into a screaming heap. Something had to give.
I've made a commitment to reduce my work load. That was the only thing that had any flexibility in it. I'm not going to skimp on the attention my family needs. They always come first.
This year, as a trial, I'll be working four days a week. I'm planning my day off to be focused solely on writing, and I'll factor in another half to one day over the weekend.
My writing goals for 2020 reflect that optimistic plan. I have a LOT to do this year.
My weekly plan looks something like this:
It's taken me a long time but I've finally managed to get Dragon God converted, with images, and ready for release.
I had a lot of trouble getting the images to convert. I finally managed to get the map into the book, but the music still wouldn't show. In the end, I cut my losses. I've taken the music out of the book and will offer that separately on my website, as a publication celebration on 5 February, when the book is released.
I'm really excited about getting Dragon God out there. It begins with the crossing of the two moons at the end of Warrior Pledge, but most of the story takes place a few months after. We get to spend time with some of the people in Warrior Pledge (Fisher is the main character). You might not notice it, we also meet the main character for the next book in the series.
Dragon God is a fantasy story of taking responsibility for your life and making right the mistakes of your past.
Fisher has lived a life of hardship and horror and made many decisions that harmed others. He now has an opportunity for a new life, a new beginning, where he can live in harmony with the world and the people in it. When he discovers an elixir he helped create is killing innocent people, he knows his only way to freedom is to destroy the sources of the elixir. He must confront the circumstances of his childhood and his banishment from the city of his birth in order to prevent more deaths. Unfortunately, the destruction of his past lingers and everywhere Fisher goes fire and death follow. It takes an encounter with the Dragon King, who reveals Fisher’s true nature, and the love of a dragon god for Fisher to embrace who he truly is and begin to move forward.
As soon as I have a link for preorder, I'll add it here, and on other social media sites.
As part of my personal push to get back into writing, I decided to attend GenreCon. It's a fascinating experience, seeing so many authors in one place, all excited about their genre.
The sessions so far have been really interesting. Kate Forsyth was presented a fascinating keynote. I love her outlook on both life and writing.
The panel on Social Media was fascinating. Hearing how different people manage their social media activity got me thinking about how my social activity has died over the last couple of years, while other things had been more important. The speakers Aiki Flinthart, Kate Forsyth, and Kevin Klehr presented a lot of practical ways to maintain a social media presence without it being overwhelming.
As part of the package, I also signed up for lunch. I haven't had a lunchbox lunch for quite a while. The image is AbFab's Ploughman's Lunch: light, refreshing and satisfying.
It's amazing how time gets away when you're distracted. Just after my last post (15/9/18) a member of my family was in a serious accident. We're very lucky in that he's breathing and walking--two things that were at risk at the time--but it meant my writing and everything associated with it was put on hold. It's taken me this long to come back.
So, where am I up to now?
Dragon God: the sequel to Warrior Pledge is edited and ready to roll and I'm just starting the process toward self-publishing that title. It was finished last year but put on hold, along with everything else. I'll advertise a release date once I work out how the whole self-pub thing works.
In Another Life: the contract with Escape Publishing ran its course and I have my rights back for this title. I've been preparing it for self-publishing as well. I just need to find the perfect cover for it. I know exactly what I want, it's just a matter of deciding if it's viable or if I need to find something else.
I've decided to take up painting and am going to design a cover for The Satin Bowerbird anthology, Tangled up in Blue. We'll see if it's successful.
I took the picture at the Carnival of Flowers in Toowoomba, QLD last weekend. It's a festival that's held every spring and we try to get up there for it if we can. I'm thinking I'd like to paint this one.
There are two answers to the question: a short answer and a long one.
The short answer:
Kill them. If the writer can’t relate to them, they won’t portray that character as a three-dimensional being and the reader won’t relate to them either.
The long answer:
If the character is your main character, you have a greater problem. You need to work out why your character isn’t working, and fix it. I use a gateaux approach to this problem: layers, upon layers.
Once a month, I host a write-in. This month, a fellow writer suggested I write a series of blogs addressing writerly problems. Today’s topic is knowing your characters.
Most writers know all about creating character profiles and writing GMC (Goal, motivation, conflict). They know that characters need believable backgrounds and both internal and external conflict. Yet I still read books where the writer has mixed up the characters’ names because they can’t remember who’s talking or whose head they’re in.
They don’t know their characters.
As a reader, that’s really irritating. It makes me think the author doesn’t care enough about their characters to know them properly and doesn’t care enough about their book to double check all those things and make sure it’s right. The fact that the book has generally gone through several rounds of editing and no one has picked it up tells me that the characters being confused are too similar to each other.
So how do you know when you know your character well enough that you won’t get them mixed up or forget who they are?
Many years ago, my writer friend attended a workshop run by Gary Crew who said he knew the character when he could hear his voice. Other authors might say they know their characters when they can see their walk or the way their eyes crinkle at the corners when they smile. That last description has been overused in the last three books I’ve read (one series by one author) to describe one of the major characters – a different one in each book.
For me, I rarely know my characters thoroughly enough to finish writing a book until I’ve written at least three chapters. It doesn’t matter if the chapters are from their point of view, or another character’s. What matters is that I learn how my character walks, talks, responds to other people and situations, and how they do those things differently to everyone else in the book.
By the end of three chapters, I’ve begun to think about my characters as real people. Their personalities have settled and their reactions to things that happen in the book match that. By the end of three chapters, I’ve worked out where the holes are in the character profile and how I need to change the character background or plot to account for the way the character responds to situations.
Of course, most of those three chapters end up on the bin, but at least I know who my character is.
One example of this process is Heath in Warrior Pledge. The book opens with Checa sitting on the mountainside watching the sunrise, waiting for Heath to arrive. Heath’s arrival is much anticipated and heralded by nature with as much fanfare as the new day. He bursts onto the scene in a bubble of joy which swings mercurially through hurt to anger. The scene shows Heath’s personality perfectly and lets the reader know exactly who he is and how he might respond to things that happen during the book.
That scene was one of the last scenes I wrote in the first draft.
I needed to write myself into Heath before I could portray him so accurately.
A challenge for you:
With the next book you read, make a note of when you thought you saw the true personality of the main character. Did you see it straight away? Was it revealed in a series of carefully or brilliantly scheduled actions? Were you told what the character was like, but he never lived up to the promise, always feeling two dimensional?
Which of those books did you like best?
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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