Finishing what you started, getting lost in new worlds, being haunted by story ghosts - chocolate soda bread sounds right, don't you think?
These have been a few eventful weeks, personally. After working on the Blood Trilogy - third and final novella will be published early September, so if you're a fan of the previous two, keep your eyes peeled, the wait is almost over! - I have found it so hard to get back to my Arthurian tales. Not that I'm no longer in love with the story and the characters, I am, and I so want to write (one of) my version(s) of that tale. I want to get right into it and have it run as smoothly as the first two novels on that trilogy came into being. But this third and final book on the series is proving a real hard to crack nut, and I haven't been swept back into that world, those characters, since I stopped working on it to pen down SCARS and MARIANNE - after having promised myself BLOOD was going to be a stand alone!
I don't know why this happens, it's not the first time either. When I was writing "Commoner", the final book on The Preternaturals Series, I was afflicted by this very same ailment. I simply could not write it with the ease and flair I had been immersed in the previous instalments. Is this something that happens when I come to the end of a series? Is this normal? Maybe I don't want to finish my stories? I have been accused of it, because I tend to write open endings all the time, which seems to be a faux pas this days, and readers do get VERY upset with that. I also don't do happy endings, or happy ever after endings, at least. Good lord, I am so wrong for today's reading market! But this isn't the largest worry in my mind, right now. The fact I've been having such a hard time moving on with my WIP is. I have the whole story in my head, the whole plot, I know everything that is to happen and how it must happen, and yet...
I seem to be having difficulty putting all those plot lines into actual writing. Why? The same happened before, like I mentioned, but eventually, one day, a mental breakthrough happened and "Commoner" was written. It's the one book I wrote I have read the least times, so I'm not even sure if it's actually any good. It's not because I don't like it, on the contrary, there are some plots there which are my fave in the whole series (Ash and Val, anyone?) but it's just so final. Maybe that's it, then, I can't deal with being done with my own stories? Only that didn't happen with MARIANNE. I swear this was the fastest I wrote a book. Marianne took all of eleven days to pen down. It took far longer to edit and re-write certain bits and pieces, also had to move chapters around in a way it blends in with the previous two books, but the actual writing of it, the first draft? It was a breeze. "Commoner" wasn't. My current WIP isn't. A struggle, both of them.
But there's one thing in common about these two novels that did not happen with MARIANNE. Besides them all being the last books in their own series, when I was writing "Commoner" I already had the first tendrils of my Arthurian saga flowing round my head. I already had two main characters, an entire opening scene written in my head, a plot of sorts. I also had my Arthur, my Morgan le Fay, my Mordred (does it show he's kind of my favourite character in arthurian lore? Have always wanted to tackle Mordred.) I had all this, but there was still the end of The Preternaturals to wrap. My head was torn two ways. And I did have a hard time removing myself away from the new story budding in my brain and force myself back to the old one. Eventually, it happened, and I know the same will happen now again, but took its time and I found myself writing the skelletons of a story with hardly any emotion at all, a very rough rough draft, like a summary of what was to be the story.
I'm not torn two ways, now. I'm actually torn three ways. While I know I need to push myself back into the Camelot frame of mind, I find myself still mildly attached to the settings of the Blood Trilogy, and it doesn't help that so many of its characters interlope with this Arthurian saga too! And as if that was not enough, my head has been brimming with ideas for a... you guessed it, new story. This one a departure from my usual meanderings, as it does not deal with paranormal fiction nor urban fantasy, this one is high fantasy alone. Sure, there's magic, and a quest, and witches - sort of - but there's no vampires, and no Maledectum, no mention of the world of preternaturals I created for that first series and have kept up throughout the rest of my work, after those first four books. This story does not pertain to that world. This one comes from a world my head started playing with thirty years ago to the date. How weird is that?
Yes, thirty years ago I came across two albums by what were my favourite bands back when I was fifteen, sixteen, and those two albums planted the seed for something I never thought I'd one day come to write. There were many stories in my head, infused by those two albums, back then, I even remember starting to write its very first version, I had the characters all line out. I've searched for the notebook where I jotted it all down, just out of curiosity, but it no longer exists. I do remember the main character was called Michael, and one of his side kicks was inspired by Japanese Samurais. I only remembered this detail recently, as I was writing down the set of characters my mind kept vomiting for this new version of the story that has been taking root in my mind for the past thirty years. I remembered because I was creating a character inspired by samurais again. How quaint these things always sound to me, that I go back to the same basis for my stories, again and again. They have lived so long in my head, The Preternaturals Series for instance, was there from my early twenties, and that one saw numerous versions of it written down, until I came to that final story. It happened with my need to pen down a rather fantasised version of the arthurian lore, and it's now happening again, with what may come to be a tribute to the band I've loved the most throughout my life. I hope it does. But in the meantime, I need to finish what I'm working on.
Whenever I find myself feeling depleted and lacking the will to keep working, whenever I'm a bit disillusioned with myself and the world at large, I tend to turn to bits and pieces of chocolate. And soda bread, that has a small measure of chocolate inside it is like a slice of heave being handed down in the morning, good enough to set me straight for the rest of the day. So here you go, a soda bread with dark, aromatic chocolate in it.
- 50 gr rye flour
- 100 gr strong bread flour
- 50 gr spelt flour
- 100 finely ground oatmeal
- 50 gr mixed oats and grains with seeds and dried fruits
- 1 tsp soda bicarbonate
- 1 level tsp salt
- 50 gr roughly chopped dark chocolate
- 1 egg
- 2 plain yogurts
- 50 ml of milk with a dash of cider vinegar
Pre-heat the oven at 190º.Place the different flours on a bowl, add the salt and soda bicarbonate and the chocolate. Mix well, so all the dry ingredients combine. On a separate bowl whisk the egg into the buttermilk, and then stir the liquid mix into the dry mix with the help of a fork. Once it starts to bind, pour onto a floured surface. Using your lightly floured hands, pat the dough and bring together without kneading, forming a rounded ball, and move to a baking tray covered in a sheet of baking parchement that has been floured. Use your hands to flatten the dough into a disk and with a knife score the top into whatever design you prefer. Bake in the oven for about 40 to 45 minutes, and allow to cool on a rack before serving. But do indulge on a slice when it's only just warm, so the chocolate is oozy and yummy.