Words, Words and Superfluous U’s

Greetings friends. I wish you Friday felicitations from afar this week. As you read this, I am sunning myself and sipping on a Cava or two in Costa Teguisa, Lanzarote.

I have, as you may have guessed, scheduled this post well in advance. How organised of moi! As I write this, my intent is to take Katie and the Deelans (working title) with me and proof-read it, edit it and re-write the ending as per a friend’s excellent suggestions. Have lap top, will travel and will WRITE.

You are allowed, mes amis, to have a little bet to yourself. “Friend,” you may well be thinking, “you do kid yourself if you think an iota of work will be done when there is sunshine abounding and drinks a-pouring. C’mon, know yourself dear girl and know that little if anything will be done to that book.”

10 to one I do anything? Or would 100 to one be more accurate?

Anyway, in the mean time here is a teeny piece of fiction for you to enjoy…

Words, Words, Words

  • What’s with the z’s instead of s’s friend? I’m not a fan.
  • Hey, it makes sense. When you hear the word, the sound is closer to an ‘ess’ or a zed. Say it out loud for yourself.
  • I maintain the s’s rock. I’m not keen on all your missing u’s either. Neighbor, flavor etc. Urgh. And as for your missing o’s. Really, estrogen and celiac are vulgar.
  • Haven’t you heard about the world’s letter shortage? Our economic policies re letters will ensure that words never run out. Did you hear me? You’ve gone awfully quiet.

 

It’s Friday – And That Means a Short Story

Is there anything more appealing than a freshly-made scone?

Is there anything more appealing than a freshly-made scone spread thickly with jam and cream*?

Blimey – why I didn’t think up a regular blog slot beforehand, I do not know. It’s much easier to write (and schedule ahead) when you know exactly what you are going to be writing on a particular day…

Once again then, friends, we find ourselves at Flash Fiction Friday. There are quite a few other flash fiction blogs out there and words counts vary – anything from 20 words (or the Twitter 140 characters) up to 1,000. In my book, 1,000 words counts as a short story, but I have also noted that Prima looks for 800-word stories every month for its magazine. And you can win £100. Worth trying, hmm?

Anyway, here’s this Friday’s flash fiction effort…

Baked to Perfection

I’ve been making cakes,” announced Jed, “baking’s really therapeutic isn’t it?”

Anita looked at what he’d done. Covering the kitchen table were beautifully decorated cupcakes, slices of malt loaf, treacle scones and an elaborately iced, three-tier fruit cake. Her mouth watered.

Where to start? Should she try scones, fresh from the oven and thickly buttered? Or should she slice into fruit cake and cram her mouth with dried fruit, marzipan and sugar paste?

I’ll get a plate,” she murmured, the doctor’s prescription still in her handbag. Blood test results back that morning: type 2 diabetes and coeliac disease…

 

*Photo taken from the BBC Good Food website. The recipe for this scone is here.

Baking and Fund-raising – Natural Partners

Pic of home-made millionaire's shortbread

Ah the joys of baking sweet stuff; and baking for a good cause too.

My sisters, mother and I love baking so we’re in the process of getting ready for a coffee morning on 2 November.

It’s a fund-raising event for Motor Neurone Disease, as last year my aunt was diagnosed with this awful illness. MND is name for a group of illnesses which cause damage to the nerves called the motor neurones, the nerves that carry messages to the muscles. It can result in difficulties with walking, lifting your arms, chewing or swallowing. It’s also a progressive condition which means the damage gets worse in time and there is no cure at present.

The money we raise will go towards important research. There is awful lot of important medical research which is funded through charity and people’s donations to a cause; choosing between so many valid causes can be difficult, but obviously this is a personal one for my family and I. If anyone reading this does feel moved to contribute, there’s a link to my sister’s Just Giving Page here. (And thank you ever so much in advance.)

Anyway, for our baking morning I’m planning to make one of Nigella Lawson’s chocolate cakes. It’s gluten-free and dairy-free, which makes it sound terribly earnest and “a good for you kind of thing”, but it is absolutely delicious because it’s so chocolate-y and moist. I’ve adapted it slightly according to my own baking experiments.

I’m also planning some millionaire’s shortbread with a marbled chocolate topping as most folks love the combination of buttery shortbread, super sweet caramel and the crisp chocolate topping. I was toying with the idea of coconut ice too – retro but pretty, hmm?

 

Nigella Lawson’s Dairy and Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

  • 50g good quality cocoa powder (Green & Black’s make a nice one)
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 3 large, free-range eggs
  • 150ml olive oil (the mild stuff, not the extra virgin kind)
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 2tsp vanilla extract or paste

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and line a loose-bottomed square 20cm cake tin.

Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Leave to cool.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla extract for three or four minutes until you have a smooth, pale-yellow coloured mix.

Add the eggs and whisk in one by one. Add the cocoa and water and the ground almonds and mix thoroughly (using a wooden spoon to keep the volume the eggs have added). Add the baking powder and mix in.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. If you stick in a skewer or a knife it should come out with a few crumbs sticking to it. Turn out, leave to cool and cut into squares. You can serve as a cake  dusted with icing sugar just before serving, or serve warmed with a spoonful of sweetened cream or ice-cream.

 

 

 

Another Friday Flash Fiction Challenge…

Better late than never on the regular (ahem!) flash fiction feature, eh?

I certainly needed a 100-word brain break this week as readers I have worked like a SLAVE. I’ve written one cook book, edited a diet book, written 12 blogs (14 if you include my own too), applied for various jobs and indulged in a little light banter on various social media networks.

I have sweet Fanny Adams left in me and plan to spend my weekend doing nothing more stimulating than reading celebrity gossip mags (I’m desperately behind on updates to the progress of Kim’s post-baby diet, and as for Kerry Katona pregnancy news, the lord only knows what has happened in the last two days…) and watching famous folks try to dance. A soupcon of Cava or five may accompany these reading/watching efforts and I may well do all three in bed.

Anyway, without further ado here is Friday’s flash fiction challenge…

All Bagged Up

“Mercy me!” cried the old lady, “please don’t take my bag. It’s got all my belongings and savings in it.”

The thief paused. Conscience wasn’t usually a consideration, but today his own granny had gone into a home and he was feeling more merciful than usual. On the other hand, that care was going to be expensive. He pulled out a handful of notes, thrust them at the old lady and ran off with the bag.

Sadly for him, he’d just had his first (and last) encounter with a witch. The bag twitched ominously. An enchantment had been triggered…

Plan B – TV, Blackberries and Coconut

Young girls, chocolate and lots of, what else is going to happen?

Young girls, chocolate and lots of, what else is going to happen?

Always have a Plan B, eh? That’s what the wise believe, so my plan B career options currently involve tactics such as:

  • walking past occasional filming crews in my home city; this walk subconsciously translating to the crew (and indeed myself) my latent acting talent and this resulting in a moderately successful TV acting career
  • bramble domination – using the wild blackberries that grow in abundance around me to start a moderately successful cottage industry producing bramble jelly and a blackberry liquer which sells in vast amounts in deli’s, top-notch department stores and high-end hotels
  • winning the Lottery.

As option C is unlikely and not one to base the hopes of your life on, as blackberry supplies can’t be depended on and as my life experience so far has revealed no latent acting talents, an intelligent guess would negate all three options as money-making options. Time to think up something else instead in case the freelance writing gig doesn’t work…

[Incidentally, if any of you are being targeted by affiliate marketers – the folks who post up all the pics of themselves surfing, or drinking a beer whilst dressed in a tee shirt because they only have to work four hours a week blah blah – here is a quick explanation:

[Affiliate marketing for the uninitiated is where you place an ad on an affiliate’s website (someone you sorta know through internet acquaintance). If nothing happens, nobody loses out, in theory. If, as a result, hunners of folks head to your website from your affiliate ad, then bingo… But then you do have to share that exposure with your affiliate if you are an honourable individual. And if you have taken up an affiliate ad, but not checked out your source properly and they are a devious kind of cad who doesn’t pay you their due then, bummer…]

No, my plan B is rather more stellar. The other week I babysat. I opted for active babysitting, which involved the nieces and their assorted friends, and we all embarked on a little chocolate moulding and sweet creation. We came up with some Bounty Balls. Post my babysitting/choccie efforts, I learned that the family of one child so liked the Bounty Balls they would be willing to pay for them. Plan B is looking more achievable don’t you reckon folks?

BOUNTY BALLS

Recipe: makes a lot…

  • 1 x 397g tin condensed milk (it is just me or is that a really weird serving size?)
  • 350g desiccated coconut
  • 400g milk chocolate (you will have extra left over, but better to start with more)

Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of grease-proof paper. Empty the condensed milk into a large bowl and add the desiccated coconut and mix well. Roll into small bowls (about the size of a large marble) but bear in mind that you will probably need to wash your hands after every two or three rollings. Place the balls on a large plate or tray and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Melt the milk chocolate either over a pan of boiling water or in the microwave (see here for proper chocolate melting techniques) and, using a cocktail stick speared into each coconut ball, dip in the chocolate fully to coat and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave to set (they won’t take long because of the freezing) and enjoy…

Take a Brain Break – the Friday Flash Fiction Challenge

Greetings friends, I thought I’d introduce a spot of regularity to my blogs. It’s what experts recommend after all…

Usually, my blog modus operandi is to wait for the muse to strike me. Honestly, that lady hits hard when she eventually gets here, but she is a fickle creature; I leave the door open for her and she only deigns to appear on rare occasions. T’uh! So I remembered the lessons of my newsletter writing years where regular columns, features and photo caption competitions were the stuff we editors and writers relied on to fill our pages.

Participation – from you, you and YOU

Hence, lovely audience, I am hoping for a little participation from you, yes you, in the Friday flash fiction challenge. I stumbled upon this idea one Friday. Having spent several hours writing about products for a client, I felt my brain needed a break. It needed to shift from research, facts and key word placement (subtly done, I promise) to fictional creativity. But only a little.

I opened a new document and typed out a 100-word story. I rather love flash fiction (and there’s a great guy out there who posts a 300-word flash fiction story every day) and its neat exposition, rising action and climax, otherwise known as beginning, middle and end. I then posted the story on the LinkedIn writers and editors group and asked for contributions, so thought I’d try the same idea here in lovely, lovely blog world.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

There are writers amongst my esteemed and valued audience, but then aren’t we all to a certain extent? Someone replied to my Friday flash fiction challenge with Veni, vidi, vici – which of course counts as it falls within the 100-word limit.

Anyway, here’s my own effort and a promise to post one a week every Friday. I’d love it if you could contribute – post your efforts below. Thank you!

The Case of the Disappearing Cat

Alice loved her cat. He was everything to her – friend, companion, substitute child and hot water bottle, so when he went missing she howled.

She paced the streets seeking him out and sticking posters on lamp-posts, but it was no good. He had disappeared.

She was, however, approached by a private detective agency. They had noted her patience, tracking skills and determination to leave no stone unturned. Would she like a job with them?

Would she ever! Alice signed up with joy. A day later, her cat returned. The agency was glad to see the back of him.