Archive for April, 2015


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Everybody, I suspect, who reads my blog (yes, all two of you) will have at some point come into contact with red velvet cake. Anyone who knows anyone who has read a cookbook or weekend newspaper* recently will have heard about it, seen the gorgeous photos of it, tasted it and possibly even made it themselves.

For the uninitiated, you can refer to the pic to the top-left for the visual. Beautiful isn’t it? I mean truly – red velvet cake looks amazing.

What a pity cake isn’t exclusively a visual medium.

If you’d like to know what it tastes like, I suggest you go out, find a large cardboard box, cut it into a series of same-sized circles, glue them together with Perkins Paste, paint them a rather rich, dark red, then microwave them for one minute and thirty seconds. What comes out won’t look as good as red velvet cake, but it will probably taste a little better.

Now perhaps I’m being a little cruel given that red velvet cake is unlikely to make you instantly vomit**, but I have tasted this cake several times, cooked by a number of different people – some of them superb actual chefs who make delightful other cakes, desserts and meals, I’ve tasted red velvet cake with different icings, presented in different ways, with and without syrupy stuff and the taste has been uniformly awful. And it’s not like each of these red velvet cakes had some different issue, no, it’s simply that the actual cake bit – the dark red stuff – tastes like crap. I’ve tasted $2 plain butter cakes from the supermarket with more flavour.

Like a gorgeous, well-dressed person who is a total arsehole, the red velvet cake will disappoint you every time.

AND YET THE BLOODY STUFF IS EVERYWHERE!! Every second dessert recipe I see is “Red Velvet Mufffins” or “Red Velvet Cupcakes” or “Red Velvet Cake with [insert icing with actual flavour in here]”. I do not understand why people persist with printing recipes for it.

What it is about red velvet cake which makes it taste so bad I cannot know, for I am about as talented with baking as I am with spinal surgery (and probably slightly more likely to kill you with it), but I will put forward a theory: great-tasting food doesn’t often look all that flash. I mean just look at a kebab – some brown stuff and red and green stuff mashed into a wrap with goop dripping off it. Attractive? No, but ooooh so delicious.

And perhaps that’s the secret – I mean it is a beautiful looking cake, so any print artistic director would love to see this cake in their pages. Magazines and newspapers are certainly a visual medium and who cares if the people reading your publication go out and bake the cake and it tastes hideous? They already bought the damn thing!

Well there you have it people, problem solved: do not allow newspaper or magazine artistic directors anywhere near your dessert menu. And enjoy your red velvet cake with your eyes only. ;o)

— IEK

* Which are basically gossip mags mixed with recipe books anyway

** No, that would take probably two slices

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So my Twitter diet lasted 7 days (almost exactly). In the end I think I returned to Twitter because I had learned a couple of things:

1) Twitter allows you to connect with and be contacted by like-minded (and oppositionally-minded) people. This is its great strength.

2) I like to have a day on a lot of things & Twitter is the one place I can do it in the moment before I forget all about it. This is Twitter’s blessing as well as its curse.

If I can control the urge to tweet when I really shouldn’t (been doing it for 7 days now), Twitter could stop being so much of a curse.

I’ve been slightly less angry lately which is good. Let’s see how the next week goes. Hopefully Twitter is not a factor, but if it is, then there will have to be significant changes.

In the end, the wonderful Leigh Sales & Anabelle Crabbe and their podcast Chat 10 Looks 3 were my Achilles heel. They were talking about TV show intro music and then they mentioned the West Wing which is a show Co-Consul & I loved (twice) and a show with intro music which still gives me chills. It it also intro music which soothed 7yo when he was a newborn, so it has multiple layers of brilliance for us.

Righto…back to Twitter.  Ah…I mean writing – yes, writing, not Twitter. Haha! Aaaaah shit.

— IEK

wait_whatNo, this post has nothing to do with food, veganism, paleo, juicing, organic produce or any other gastronomic fuckwittery. Oh no, like all of these celebrities I seemed to find on Google when typing in “quitting twitter”, we’re talking zeroth-world problems here – I’m taking a break from Twitter.

Yep, hold onto your collective hats.

So…unlike these celebrities, I’ve received pretty lightweight mean tweets and I have only a few hundred followers and the question you would really like to ask (I’m sure…right?) because you totally give a shit what I’m doing with Twitter…you’ll bite, right? Go on – ask me why!!!

Please?

OK…SO glad you asked!always_angry

You see recently I’ve noticed (as have those around me) that I’m quite angry. Like all the time (Bruce Banner-style). Unlike Bruce, there is precious little in the way of upside to my anger. I’m trying a LOT of things to control it – anger management techniques, relaxation thingies (not drugs…yet) and I figured – hey I’ve been spending an awful lot of time on Twitter, why not give that a break for a couple of weeks too? Just in case those arseholes* I’ve actually been attracting tweets from lately have actually been affecting me.

So it’s day 4.

…and I’m writing a blog post about it already. What addiction?

Anyway…not sure how my anger is responding because it’s only been 4 days.

What I’m really noticing is the times when I would automatically open Twitter, read a few posts and respond to them. Instead I’m going to click on Twitter, resist, then open Facebook instead, get depressed at how much clickbait shit there is and close it again.

I’ve also still been reading Twitter infrequently. Yes, shut up, I’m reading Twitter. SO DESPERATELY want to reply, retweet, quote and get involved, but my unwritten rules specifically state that I’m not going to do that. So here I sit. Writing about not tweeting instead of tweeting.

Yeah, shut up, it’s been 4 days.

FOUR DAYS.

 

— IEK

 

 

 

*Some may call them “Trolls”, I like to call them what they really are.

 

wordleRecently I began to follow a new tweep because of their name. Now I’m not likely to get a follow back because I told them I was following because I love their name & that’s just a little creepy, but it got me thinking about character names and place names in fiction and how we, as authors, decide on those names.

Characters in novels have a few things they need: contextual consistency (their name needs to make sense in relation to their backstory), cultural consistency (as above, but to do with the backstory of their parent culture), timbre & rhythm (whether it’s deliberately cool or deliberately jarring, they should be at least readable if not easily pronounceable).

Names for my characters usually come to me as a flash of a good name while I’m trying to think of one or randomly, whilst driving (I hate that). Names which I struggle for are the peripheral characters or secondary characters (who do, occasionally get promoted to main characters because they are cool). For the names I struggle to make up, I have a spreadsheet of first names and last names which I’m always adding to and from which I draw many of my peripheral character’s names. I have, however, been known to Google up a baby names site for the right sounding name (I’m a big believer in that timbre thing).

One particularly wonderful group of names I stored away for later was from when I was a part-time swimming coach. In one school group I ended up with 6 girls each of whom had a wonderful name (and in typical fashion I told them all this at the time). In this group of six girls there was: Hannah, Madeline, Victoria, Leana, Fallon & Jancis. Every one of those names made it into the names spreadsheet and, though I have only used one as a major character (thank you, Fallon), I think every one deserves to be used at some time in my career. They were also nice girls and swam really well.

Place names I operate somewhat differently. With place names I try my best to follow a logical geographical consistency, though often I’ll look out the window or just around where I’m currently sitting and make up an anagram based on a word I see, then give it a regionally consistent monika like “steppe” or “plains”. Either that or I think of a groovy show I watched one time and throw in a little reference to that (intertextuality! HUZZAH!).

The City names of Bifrost are peculiar in that I invented them a very long time ago when I was very fond of a particular teen-powers TV show and chose to draw inspiration from the names of the cast. Having used the same names for so long and for so many hundreds of thousands of words, they have become like family. I’m not really concerned with regional consistency for those – they ARE the regional consistency.

One thing I do find myself avoiding is using names of people I know. I try (as much as is possible) to avoid using names of people in our lives just in case, should anyone ever read my books, they find themselves feeling like they have been written about. I tend to use certain features of people rather than their entire personality when I write a character and the rest of their horrible personality comes directly from the demons in my skull rather than any violent nutjobs I know personally.

Names are funny things in that you can use them, as Dickens did, to convey personality (though please don’t be as obvious about it as he was – this is the 21st Century) and you can use them to hint at cultural & familial connections, help describe the scene to the reader and also to help round out the world of the character or the setting, but whichever way you do it, remember that the best way to get your names to own their space is to have your characters own those names. Nothing is less engaging than when a terrifying, dark place is referenced by the characters in a book and none of them seem to get that sick feeling they should when talking about something horrible.

Righto, better get on & invent some new names. I only have 50-odd named characters in Bifrost so far…

 

— IEK

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