Crete, Cats and #NaNoWriMo

This week I’m…

Drinking olive oil

olive oil picture taken by Emma Baird author of the diabetes dietWe’re back from a week in Crete, where it’s obligatory for any tour to talk about extra virgin olive oil and its many health benefits. The Cretans splish-splosh it on everything, so it’s not surprising they are the world’s biggest consumers of the stuff getting through an average 36 litres a year.

Because we’d opted for the hand-luggage only flight, we could only bring back a measly 100ml of the stuff but I promise my meals from now on will contain liberal amounts. As gastronomic destinations go in general, Crete is tremendous. I ate one of the best lamb dishes I’ve ever had—lamb kleftiko, a paper packet of tender meat oozing luscious thick gravy, and juices-soaked carrots and potatoes added in.

Recovering from mozzie bites

Seriously, did those little gits love me because I’ve got sweeter than usual blood? By the end of the week I’d counted 26 bites and my husband kept wrestling me, strait-jacket style, to stop me scratching them. If you ever want to experience the perfect definition of instant gratification—and why it isn’t worth it—get yourself a dozen or so mosquito bites and claw at them with long nails as soon as they begin to itch.

Result? Two seconds of relief and then bites that get infected.

A resident told us this year the island has suffered more than usual. The Cretans themselves were experiencing problems too. Chania’s newspaper says the problem has been caused by cutbacks in Government spraying programmes and in the past few years, the population has gone wild.

Contemplating cats

Emma Baird with catEvery bar and restaurant we went to had its own resident cat, who could spot a sucker miles away. Here is the picture for proof. Up they came, positioning themselves beside your chair and yowling furiously until you gave them a bit of whatever you were eating.

My theory is that Cretan cats and cats in hotter countries are further along the evolutionary chain than those in the UK. They’ve lived alongside humans for far longer, and most of the ones we came across aren’t at all skittish around people. They are very noisy too. The cat’s miaow was developed to communicate with humans, but you don’t meet that many ‘talkative’ cats over here.

Unfortunately, part of the greater progress along the evolutionary chain is because they breed in vast quantities. We saw lots of kittens and young cats, and all kinds of amazing, unusual patterns. Again, in hot counties this is harder to control. Greece has suffered financially in recent years. There won’t be much money around for trap, neuter, release programmes.

Doing NaNoWriMo

For those of you outside the writing world, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual initiative encouraging writers to write the first draft of a novel or 50,000 words in one month. It sounds like a tall order, but if you break it down into 2,000 words a day every day, you’re in ‘eat that elephant one bite at a time’ territory.

My incentive is partly financial. I’m about to ditch Microsoft Word as I’m fed up of spending so much money on it every year when there are just as good freebies out there. Libre Office for example. And Scrivener is software specially created for writers, which you pay a one-off fee for. I’ve resisted it until now because I’m not keen on something that comes with a 45-minute tutorial. Manana never comes soon enough for me, so listening to that tutorial is a tall order. But Word isn’t great for working with long documents such as novels and I fancy Scrivener’s corkboard feature to help me plot.

How does this fit with NaNoWriMo? The folks that make Scrivener offer it at half-price if you complete NaNoWriMo. While on holiday, I outlined a plot using a one-page template I found online so in theory writing 2,000 words every day will be easier because I have an idea of what happens in each chapter instead of pantsing it.

Highland Fling book cover by Emma BairdI’m going to try my hand at a sweet romance, which will be a challenge for me. I’m filthy-mouthed (blame working in journalism and PR for that) so my novels tend to contain plenty of couthy language, the odd bit of sex and other adult themes. Sweet romance ‘rules’ mean no swearing, definitely no sex and the ‘climax’ is the kiss. Once that’s done, it’s game over. Sweet romance is HUGE in the indie publishing world and its top writers earn hundreds of thousands. As one writer put it, fans of ‘spicy’ romance, i.e. the sex stuff, will read sweet romance, whereas the opposite doesn’t usually apply.

Here are the first few paras:

“I didn’t mean to smash his heart into smithereens—and they were his words not mine—but if you want to make an omelette you have to crack a few eggs, don’t you?”

“Stop right there!” My best friend excels at bossiness. She gets up from the sofa and holds a hand out, traffic cop style.

“Do NOT mix up metaphors like that,” she begs. “Please. You’re hurting my ears.”

She’s a copywriter and very fussy about what people say in front of her. If you ever dare utter, do you know what I mean? at the end of a sentence, she jumps down your throat. No, I don’t know. That’s why you’re telling me. I cut that habit out after about the hundredth time she said it.

“Kelly!” I too am on the sofa in my about to be vacated home. I love this sofa too. It took me five visits to the SofasRUs (and all on the days when there were sofa sales so I wasted a lot of bank holidays) to find my perfect one. This is it. Dark red velvet, super squishy and big enough to fit four people, five if you know each other really well.

And tomorrow I say goodbye to this sofa. Just like I wave farewell to the coffee table I rescued from a junk yard, sanded down and varnished myself, the book shelves I built from flat packs accompanied by a lot of cursing, the laminated floorboards I laid one hot and sweaty weekend, the curtains…

Charlotte Amelia Richardson! My mother’s voice. This moping will not do. Kelly backs her up. Not in real life, but in my head; the two of them competing to see who can order me around the most.

Kelly rummages through her handbag and emerges with a large bar of chocolate that she waves triumphantly in front of me.

“Okay,” she says, “if you promise not to mix up any more metaphors and refrain from terrible clichés, I will break this bar in two and give you half.” She inspects the bar, checking the label. It’s the Oreo cookie one, tiny bits of biscuit crumb encased in thick slabs of chocolate.

“The much smaller half.”

I am not having that. I lurch forward and grab the bar from her hands, dancing away from her as she shrieks and tries to get it back. My fingers move fast, ripping through purple foil while Kelly howls, “No, no, no!” I jam it into my mouth, bite off a quarter and hand it back to her, tooth marks and all.

All’s fair in love and war, or love and chocolate, right?

You can read the rest of this chapter on Wattpad here.

Wish me luck…


13 thoughts on “Crete, Cats and #NaNoWriMo

  1. 1) Scrivener is wonderful value. I never bother with tutorials – I was brought up to believe that if a piece of IT wasn’t intuitive enough to be used without initial training, it’s not worth using at all. But can I offer your readers a tip? The trick is to ignore the template (bin it!) and to create each new chapter of your MS as a ‘scene’. Then everything becomes really simple. I think all the seasoned users will tell you that.

    Eventually I found myself using the character sketches and research folders a bit to keep the details consistent, and also to remember “good bits” that popped into my head – a good bit of dialogue, or a plot outline or whatever.

    2) Good luck with NaNoWriMo.

    PS – is it cheating to produce a manuscript from nowhere that no one has seen yet???

    • Thanks for the tip. I’m looking forward to using the cork board. And I’m forever forgetting what eye/hair colour I’ve given people. Or even what they look like, tbh, so that will work for me. If you revised that manuscript from top to bottom I guess that would count. For Scrivener, to qualify for the NaNoWriMo discount, I’m guessing they tally up the word count you create on there every day through November and that’s what earns we newbies the discount.

  2. I like the idea of travelling with just carry on bags. It’s how I do work trips if I can. It makes life so much easier with less stress at the airport.

    • Apart from Ryanair who still make you check your 10kg bags in just before you get on the plane (though they waive the one piece of hand luggage rule only, so we ladies (and gents if they so wish) can take on a handbag. That said, I still took more clothes than I needed forgetting the oft-quoted rule of travel – take less than half the clothes you think you need and twice the amount of money.

  3. You bet, Gaz. We never do anything else nowadays – and your cases last longer, too. TK Max and Sainsburys each do nice lines in cheap cases “guaranteed to be accepted” by RyanAir, EasyJet and – most sneaky of all – Jet2.

  4. Dear all:
    Scrivener – ho-hum, still more frustration than elation
    Mozzie bites – absolutely got those in Majorca too plus cats… 🙂 We even contributed to the hotel’s charity box to feed them during the off-season.
    Packing for hols – I am going to create a spreadsheet to avoid the issues we had this year re insufficient t-shirt choices and no emergency rain poncho
    Still feel Ryanair’s fanfare upon landing has a slightly Oh Thank God edge to it.
    Gordon, please ask Katherine to forward her notes.
    Oh yes, this was about olive oil – love it.
    NaNoWriMo – a bit of a two-edged sword – oh the thrill of meeting the deadline, and the agony of the last week or so when you think you’re in danger of missing it.

    • With you on the insufficient tee shirt choices and yes 36 litres per person which works out at more than a bottle (500ml size) a week. They must drink the stuff…

    • The essence of the lecture turned out to be: (1) pack lots of very thin layers – you can always double them up; (2) roll things (e.g. socks & knickers) up and stuff them into shoes, etc.; (3) wear whatever you can on the plane – she gave the example of wearing a beachrobe sarong as a scarf!; and (4) be small. The woman worked for that firm Golfino that makes clothes for drainpipes. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who always has to apologise to anyone unfortunate to sit beside me for taking up so much space.

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