Plagiarism, formulas, and the fear of difference - a soda bread that became something else

This week, in the wonderful world of overall publishing, has been marked by the scandal of plagiarism. It started with one author discovering one of her books had been copied and plagiarised by another author, and calling this other one out, demanded she took her book down. Said author appologised, proceeded to comment it wasn't her fault because she'd hired a ghost writer to write that book, and said ghost writer did the copying and plagiarising, she had no idea of it, she was an innocent, a victim, a poor little girl lost. The plagiarised author came to discover this lady had been ripping off other authors in other books, so I don't think the lady with the ghost writers was that innocent, after all...

If plagiarising wasn't bad enough, there's the ghost writer angle, making everything even murkier. For me, personally, this is shocking. This is fucking appaling. You want to see your name in print, on the cover of a book? You want to be known for having written and published a book? Then bloody write it! How can anyone dish about having written a book and sold so and so copies, when all they did was pay another person to write it and put their own name in the cover? This isn't writing. This is scamming, ripping, lying, tricking the reader. This isn't something you should be proud of, this is something that should steep you in shame. You did not write a book. Someone else did it for you.

A couple of years ago, when I started joining FB groups for writers and authors, I was taken aback by an exchange I witnessed in one of those groups - which I've since left. One fellow author was complaining about low sales, about not knowing what to do to increase her sales, and someone else told her to keep writing and publishing, the more books she had out there, the more she would sell. The woman mentioned she was juggling two jobs and with kids of her own to raise, being a single mum, she hardly had enough time to sit down and write. Enter another member of the group, who introduced himself as a ghost writer and offered to ghost write her books, for a moderate fee. He even mentioned he'd been ghost writing for another author who was fast becoming a best seller in Amazon, and as he was about to let go of her, for he had schooled her already on the formula in which she must write to get those results and she was now ready to do it for herself, he was looking for a new client.

The formula. That says it all. There's a formula out there for a book to become best selling. If you manage to write by that formula, with all the elements required, then your book is good to go, people will read and love and want more. Point is, you're writing the same crap day in, day out, you only change the settings and the characters names. I know this, because I have been reading quite a few novels under this formula - they tend to go free on Amazon, and seeing I can't afford to buy books at the moment, I do go for free reads if only in the hopes I discover some gems. Which I have. But mostly, I've been served crap that reads the same. This is what readers want, we authors are constantly told. You must give the audience what they want, in order to succeed, every other writing blog shouts at us. But what readers don't seem to understand is that they're not being challenged, if all they read is the same book time and again, they're minds are not being challenged, their world is not being rocked, their innards are not being shaken, their hearts are not being moved.

What they are is being formatted. Their brains are being formatted into wanting only that, into being able to enjoy and comprehend only that, and anything that deviates from the formula, well, they can't handle it and in fact they tend to loathe it with a passion. Like witch hunting in fact. All you need to do is go read some reviews on books that deviate from said formula so you can see the level of passive agressive violence used in those comments. But I ramble. The issue here was plagiarism. And the ugly thing about it is there's a lot of it going round. A well known, best selling writer came forward to stand up against this, and she's making use of her voice - which reaches far and loud - to make this known. As someone who sells perhaps one or two copies a year, I couldn't be more grateful she's doing this, as I haven't the power. Heck, I have no idea if there's any plagiarism out there on any of my books, I doubt it, they're really small fish and carry no weight. But there are others who've been victims of this. And maybe they don't carry enough weight to stand up. So it's really uplifting to see there is someone who is big in the business ready to stand for those who have no real voice.

Anyway, all this to say that having a formula for things is good sometimes. There's a recipe for soda bread, and sure, I follow it. But then I start throwing in stuff, and changing stuff, and adding or mixing ingredients that weren't supposed to be there, and all of a sudden, I've completely deviated from the formula and came up with something utterly different from what I started out with. Something different, but equally nourishing, equally delicious. It's just different, and doesn't go by the recipe, nor by the formula, so it's mine, I created it, I made it. Not a ghost baker. Same goes for my books, and so many other writers work. They made it, they created it. Is it different? Yes. Does it go by the formula? Does it obbey the rules? Or falls away from the status quo? Why are people generally so scared by difference, so afraid to take the plunge and embrace something that falls out of their comfort zone? Because that is what makes you grow. I wish more writers threw the formula into the wind and started writing something that's theirs, that's new and different and fresh. Maybe minds could grow, all over the world, and tolerance too, and acceptance. Maybe we could all gain from it.

So, this started as a soda bread, a regular one, of course. But somewhere along the way, this became a dark bread, full of yummy stuff, rich and dense and flavourful, nourishing and filling. It doesn't even taste of soda bread, but it doesn't mean it's not good. It's a different bread, and one that I'm sure will make your tastebuds sing and leave you comfortably ready for the day ahead, if you do have it for breakfast. It'll provide the right amount of energy, the nutrients and the flavour. It will make your mornings better, and if you do partake of it for one of those laid back, indulgent dinners of wine and cheese, it is the perfect addition to some stilton and some cheddar. It goes well with those because it stands up to the strong tang, but it's also mellow enough to not overpower the cheese and allow it to shine. I won't even tell you how good this bread is with orange marmalade or thick, syrupy jams. I'll let you go ahead and try for yourself...

Here's what you'll need:
  • 100 gr spelt flour
  • 100 gr rye flour
  • 100 gr oatmeal
  • 50 gr bran
  • 50 gr mixed oats and grains with seeds and dried fruits
  • 2 heaped tablespoons ground roast barley
  • 1 tsp soda bicarbonate
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 plain yogurts
  • 50 ml of milk with a dash of cider vinegar
Mix the milk, vinegar and plain yogurts and allow them to rest for at least fifteen minutes. Turn on your oven at 190ยบ. On a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients with the salt and the bicarbonate. Beat the egg lightly and add it to the buttermilk, mixing the lot thoroughly. With the help of a fork, whisk the wet mix into the dry ingredients and stir everything together. Once it starts to combine, lightly flour your hands and a cold working surface, pour the batter onto it. Pat together until you form a rough ball, but do not knead it. Transfer the dough onto a bread tin lined with parchment paper and flour, sprinkle some more flour onto the top of the bread and sprinkle a few seeds over it, patting them into the dough. Take it to the oven and bake for about 40 to forty five minutes. Let it cool on a rack before cutting, enjoy it anyway you prefer. It's a treat while still lukewarm!


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