Reflecting on July & August (2017)… Creating Gods and Monsters…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_opt

I recently finished a first draft of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (18): The Disaster Man’. In it, Darkwood encounters the Watchers, beings with God-like powers who seek to preserve the ‘natural order’ of the world–as they see it.

As I explained in my last post from behind the writing desk, I found myself with a race who should have an ‘in world’ persistent presence–more than they have and will have–and would have the power to break the world I have created and undo the actual ethos of my series revolving around mysteries investigated and undone by my very mortal characters, Darkwood and Hobbs. I thought I would do a follow-up post on how I got around this. Mild spoilers for the next run of Darkwood ahead…

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The Uncanny Valley of Fake Food…

DVDOMPSsmallIn switching from carnist to vegan, the easiest option to us seemed to just swap out the animal ingredient with a fake food equivalent. An easy way to transition, right? Eh. Not so much for us. Skimming through forums and blogs, we found plenty of vegans enthusing about certain alternative foods. I don’t know how long they were vegan, but it must have been quite a while for them to think that some of these foods are replacements for meat and dairy. Milk was fine, but meat and cheese would seem to be a greater challenge. It’s only when we tried something that claimed to be like a certain food, we appreciated how much goes into the identity of food–look, texture, smell, taste–and that just any one of these being amiss makes for an uneasy experience. It’s the food equivalent of the dead eyes of one of those robots made to look as close to a human as possible–and not quite succeeding.

Image result for creepy looking android

Here are some of our experiences, starting with the bad, the ugly, but thankfully ending on the few examples we’ve tried of the good stuff. Now, these are just our opinions, and you might LOVE some or all of these, so it’s always worth trying them yourselves. A lot of these are recommended and successful brands, so they’re certainly doing something right for their customers. We’re just sharing our experience of them because we found this process a little disheartening, and wanted to show that while it can be a trial, we found some things we liked for us, and it helped us to some conclusions around what type of vegan food we want to be eating…

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Why it’s ‘Doctor Who’, not ‘Nurse What’… Defending Doctor Who…

Doctor Who 8Doctor Who is getting another face. Which means that there are plans for at least another three years of Doctor Who. Two things to celebrate as a Doctor Who fan. Doctor Who is going to be played by a woman for the first time in over 50 years.

The scale of reaction to this last detail has ranged from celebratory, indifference, a reason to recycle jokes about women (that should be as dead as Adric on a spaceship), and the end of the f***ing world. It’s these last two disappointing reactions that have disappointed me so much I want to address them in this post.

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Reflecting on June (2017)… The Tangled Web of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optBack at the laptop writing feels good! Jumping into a work in progress was a helpful way to get a feel for writing again, but it’s also been a testing experience. It’s been over a year since I last worked on ‘The Disaster Man’ for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ and what I want to do with this tale has changed since. It’s actually the second ever Darkwood mystery I wrote after ‘The Thief of Faces’, and was a complete and finished tale. I wrote it as a submission for the Horror Addicts podcast’s anthology book ‘Horrible Disasters’, which was rejected over my other story submission, ‘London Peculiar: The Secret of the Fog’, so it was very short and streamlined. I always felt it to be a little rushed, and having it for myself gives me the luxury of letting the events within it breathe and to expand on the story.

Being a tale about a man cursed with disaster which puts London–his latest destination–at risk, the scale of the danger is pretty epic for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, and deserves to be a longer story than it once was. It also lends itself nicely to being a finale for the next run of stories. I’ve planted some seeds in the next set of tales which will develop the characters of Darkwood and Hobbs and their world. I’m conscious that while I love having a couple of heroes to play with, I want a sense of realism thrown in there too.

Darkwood is clever, and Hobbs both tend to sweep in and solve the mystery and move on, with similar beats throughout–Darkwood is clever and usually one step ahead, Hobbs is loyal and a little submissive, Darkwood studying to be a doctor, having support and backup in her investigations through Scotland Yard, Darkwood is rich and has her station which gives her some sway, always with Darkwood leading and Hobbs following. I didn’t want this series to become predictable and stale, so while the tales will always be about fighting supernatural and criminal evils, and generally being victorious, I really wanted there to be consequences to this life. I introduced an element of that with  ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (8): The Spindly-Snatcher’, with some details of the future of Darkwood and Hobbs very much a short cut to that end, but with my new stories I wanted a few tales where they get a wake-up call around what they are doing.

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Why You Do What You Do… (and are unhappy with the outcome)

WYDWYDEvery day we make choices around what we will and won’t do from situation to situation. Within our personal issues and the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) self-help approach, these behaviours are our actions or inactions influenced by what we think and feel in response to the situations we find ourselves in.

Behaviours can be self-expression, sulks, shoves, comfort eating, facing our fears, shrugs, self-harm, shouting, using alcohol or recreational drugs, crying, sabotaging relationships, swearing, facial expressions, withdrawing, sex, taking ourselves out of difficult situations–or, as most of us do–avoid the situations and experiences we find difficult.

As you will have learned from my posts introducing CBT and normalising what we feel, we experience personal issues in part, or in full, through the way we think. In this post we will be looking at why we do what we do and how these behaviours often lead to our difficult experiences in situations, support our unhelpful thinking, and keep us stuck within our cycles of unhelpful thoughts by preventing us discovering different perspectives and learning different problem solving and coping techniques. A good place to start in understanding why we do what we do is to identify our behaviours in the first place.

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Making The Biscuit Barrel Great Again!

DVDOMPSsmallAh, 2017. A year that will be long remembered in our home, for it was the year of the great and terrible vegan biscuit purge. Gone were the chocolate digestives, the all butter cookies, even the plain digestives which were just there to make us feel a little better about our choices. All gone. Well, eaten. And for the last time.

With loss comes emptiness–and an empty biscuit barrel and tummies with room reserved for biscuits. We thought the biscuit barrel would be filled with uncanny valley vegan fake biscuits–biscuits that look like a biscuit favourite, smell like them, even feel like them–and then turn to tasteless dust in the mouth. Maybe a funky aftertaste if they used fake chocolate. But, there was a new hope… One biscuit remained after the great vegan biscuit purge. The humble gratuitous double-stuffed Oreo biscuit.

Yes, a mainstream biscuit that we could eat! And eat them we have. In fact, most Oreos (check the ingredients) are accidentally vegan! Woohoo, unintentionally ethical biscuits! Awesome.

We hit the biscuit aisle and read lots and lots of labels. And then read them again. And then found ingredients the other had missed (whey–I didn’t really know what that was, but it’s not vegan, and honey–not in bold because it seems no one is actually allergic to honey). We have now begun the great biscuit restoration. Yes, some biscuits are irreplaceable, and the biscuit barrel is different to what it once was, but we have guilt-free treats that hit the mark! Well, when I say ‘guilt free’ I mean no animal suffered was required for the biscuit. I’ll start our list of our picks with the star of the show…

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