Don’t Knock It Til You’ve Tried It…..Going Vegan!

A friend of mine recently took the plunge and tried a vegan burger at a restaurant for burgers, pizzas, American style food and doesn’t have Thursday in its name…

I applaud anyone for trying new things, and am a big fan of the old adage as named in the title of this blog post.

Sadly, said burger experience did not work out to be the taste sensation she was hoping for and the poor thing ended up feeling unwell as a result.

I just want to say – don’t despair, one bad vegan burger isn’t the benchmark for all of them. There are lots of different brands out there so it’s worth trying a few if you are willing to introduce new things into your diet.

Christmas 2014 was the last time I ate meat, followed in 2017 by phasing out dairy. More than four years later, I’m a committed vegan and I absolutely love it.

I’m in my mid-40’s so I was a meat eater much longer than I wasn’t but there’s no way I’d ever go back to it. This is a lifetime commitment.

For anyone who says going vegetarian or vegan is hard my answer is – it’s really not. I found it really easy. It just takes a bit of time, trying new things, seeing what works, what doesn’t, what you like, don’t like etc.

I have my likes and dislikes with vegan food. I can’t stand lentils, pulses and beans for instance. Without them though, I’d miss important nutrients for my diet so I find ways of including them within recipes I cook. I always try new things; if I don’t like something, it’s down to personal taste. As it would be for anyone following any kind of diet.

For example, I love Spag Bol. It’s a warming hearty dish, easy to cook and tastes even better the next day. As a vegetarian, I swapped the beef for Quorn. Easy peasy. As a vegan, it’s been more challenging as there are lots of different brands and I’ve made this dish with:

No Bull

Vivera

Meatless Farm Co.

No Bull wins, nice and meaty, keeps its texture and consistency well and looks like meat. Meatless Farm Co came in bottom, the consistency was too soft.

For burgers, I love the Linda McCartney Pulled Pork burger, my boyfriend really doesn’t (more for me!) he likes the Beyond Meat Burger (as used in the aforementioned restaurant) but I don’t.

Personal taste.

I could go on as the same principals apply to dairy alternatives for milk and cheese. It’s trial and error. I can’t use nut milk for instance as my tummy really doesn’t like it and after going through soya, hemp, coconut and cashew milk, I settled on oat milk. Nice and mild but there are lots of different brands to choose from. I eventually settled on Oatly Barista, perfect for hot drinks and on cereals.

I haven’t perfected veganism, I’m still learning about it and there will always be new recipes or places to eat.

I do recommend Veganuary as an excellent resource for anyone wanting to try it.

Also, you can’t go wrong with a decent cookbook and to that end I recommend Bosh. The guys behind Bosh make going vegan a piece of cake (pun intended).

For Italian cooking, the fab Chloe Coscarelli has an awesome take on veganising popular meat dishes.

For adventurous chefs Wicked Healthy will challenge your perceptions.

Yes, I have all these cookbooks and I use them 😀

Don’t forget, you’re changing a mindset that has had decades of conditioning and propaganda thrown at it. Even if you only do this once a week, it’s a good thing.

Propaganda (and how we tackle it) example below….

Revision, Revision, Revision – Please Let This Be The End!

I must admit, I’ve been dipping in and out of Horizon Skies for the last few weeks and realising that, despite all the editing, the book I presented to agents is still not completely finished.

The notes from my editor are incredibly helpful but have raised more questions about my work.

World building and my magic system are two areas that still need expansion. I honestly thought I had built my world quite nicely. Apparently, it reads as rather generic with no unique markers to differentiate the various locations. Weird how, what is in my head has not necessarily translated that well onto paper.

Luckily, she has been complimentary overall about the book, the story and my writing style so at least that’s an affirmation of my ability to write.

After spending a few hours on Horizon Skies yesterday, I achieved very little. I’m focusing on the minor revisions such as, what people look like and adding in a bit of detail here and there. When I get to an area that needs a major overhaul, I’m terrified! In my head, I’m thinking, “I spent YEARS writing this, I can’t face it again!”

So, giving it some thought this morning and I think I’ve come up with a battle plan:

  1. Work through the minor revisions first
  2. Print the chapters off requiring more of an overhaul
  3. Get the old notebooks out again and revise by hand (I prefer writing this way)
  4. Expand upon the magic system

I think the magic system will be quite hard. The basics are already there but I have to consider the following:

  1. Type of magic i.e. elemental, chemical etc.?
  2. Are magic wielders born with it or is it taught?
  3. Are there levels of magic?
  4. Does everyone have an ability or just a select few?

Elemental magic is a very common trope in Fantasy, mainly because it is an incredibly easy system to write. People with the ability to manipulate fire, earth, air and water are seen quite often in the books we read from this genre.

I’d love to be able to have the ability to create different magic systems the way Brandon Sanderson does. He manages to create something different in all his novels, they are all unique to the planets within the Cosmere (his universe for the uninitiated). From swallowing different metals (Mistborn) to Lashing (The Way of Kings) Sanderson cleverly demonstrates that we don’t have to rely on tried and tested tropes.

I lean towards elemental, it’s in a lot of books I read plus, as a bit of gamer, I’ve seen it’s very common in RPG’s. The earlier Final Fantasy games had characters specifically gifted with one of the elements.

There are some very handy charts and diagrams all over the internet explaining magic systems, some of these are very intricate but I don’t want to borrow from anyone else. Let’s face it, a lot of fantasy stories have very common themes, especially in Young Adult so it’s important that, as writers, we do create something unique. Something that will make the story stand out just that little bit more to an agent.

Here I go again…

Motivation Station!

For the last few weeks, I have been counting down the days to a well earned, truly deserved week off from the old day job.

Work continues to be a cause of high stress levels for me and it’s one of my motivators to purse a career as a writer. I want to dictate my days and hours of work, not have them dictated to me by poor staffing levels, low morale and a workload that keeps getting bigger.

As today is my first day of annual leave (hurrah!) I have started my week as I intend to continue it: writing!

Ok, aside from the usual distractions of Twitter (who knew a thread about tea vs coffee could go viral?) I have picked up my notebooks for a story I started whilst I was writing Horizon Skies.

I usually refer to said story as my 2nd WIP but realised that a working title is needed. For the time being, it is called The Puzzle Box. Previous titles were The Castle and 30 Days and 30 Nights but I felt they were a bit, “meh” and have been scrapped. The working title I have chosen does nothing to conjure up any kind of imagery of what the story is about but, it’ll have to do for now.

The Puzzle Box reached an impasse some months ago and I put it to one side to concentrate on Horizon Skies. Looking at it with fresh eyes was like reading something written by a different person. I read the last couple of chapters I’d written, and realised that they’re actually pretty damn good!

I finished writing chapter 9 yesterday and today is about typing up into New Novelist, the programme I use for writing. (I tried Scrivener but felt like I needed a degree in rocket science to figure it out).

New Novelist is great for just getting the story down in place where I can then copy into Word and fine tune using ProWritingAid for editing. This might seem convoluted but we all have ways of working that suit us and this is mine.

Once all that’s done, I’ll be rewriting the remaining story arc as I feel this book will come in at a shorter length than Horizon Skies; which is clocking on towards 100,000 words with the revisions.

Feeling motivated, feeling excited and looking forward to getting so much more done this week!