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NaNoWriMo Countdown: One Week. Fiendish Fancies.

With only seven days to go (yes, you read that correctly), it’s time to make sure you are all set for the month of novelling ahead of you. In my three week countdown blog I talked about making sure you were fully prepared for November. One particular mention was that of snacks and drinks and easy food. With Halloween just around the corner (and a stolen title from Mr. Kipling’s Halloween themed French Fancies), I thought I would cover some of my favourite quick foods for this November.

1) Chocolate Mug Cake

Ingredients:Chocolate Mug Cake 1

– 4 tablespoons of self raising flour
– 4 tablespoons of hot chocolate powder
– 1 large egg
– 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
– 3 tablespoons of milk

Chocolate Mug Cake 2Equipment:

– Large mug
– Fork/whisk

Add all ingredients to a large mug and stir thoroughly. You’re looking for a smooth, thick mixture. One mixed, place mug in microwave for 2 ½ – 3 minutes (time depends on power of microwave). To test if cooked through, slide a clean knife half way into the cake and remove. If it’s clean, it’s cooked! If it comes out with batter stuck to it, pop the mug back into the microwave for another 30 seconds.

2) Pizza cupcakes

Ingredients:Pizza Cupcakes

– Pizza base mix
– Pasta tomato sauce
– Grated cheese
– Cupcake tray

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Add water to the pizza base mix to create a ball of dough. Add water carefully, kneading the dough as you do. If you add too much, have some plain flour handy to mix in. Once you have your dough ball, roll it out on a flat surface. Cut out circles of dough and place in the cupcake tray. (If you have cookie cutters handy, these would be ideal. We used the lid of a blender to mark out the circles.) Make sure you have enough dough for both the base of the cupcake, and the lid. Don’t be afraid to re-ball up the dough, then roll it out again for ease.

Pizza Cupcakes 2Add 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce to each cupcake. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on top of the sauce. Place the dough lids on each cupcake, pressing slightly along the edges to seal (use a dab of water around the edge of the cupcake to help seal the lid). Please cupcake tray in oven for 12 – 15 minutes.

Note: pizza cupcakes are HOT when they come out of the oven. Leave to cool for a few minutes before consuming.

3) Cereal

Ingredients:Coco Pops

– Your favourite cereal
– Milk


– Bowl
– Spoon

This is one of the most obvious but under-rated quick meals. A large bowl of cereal is perfect for when you’ve come in from work, have 1,667 words to write, and you realise that yet again you forgot to go shopping. I half lived off cereal last November. Stock up on a variety and don’t be afraid to heat up the milk first for that glorious warm feeling inside.

And as it’s NaNo, you’re allowed your favourite every time. Coco Pops is my choice.

So there you have it! Some say November is not the month to be experimenting with new things in the kitchen. I say – take a break from one creativity for another. Your brain needs food, too!


NaNoWriMo Countdown: Two Weeks. The Zombie Apocolypse.


The countdown continues! We only have 14 days to go until NaNoWriMo 2013 kicks off! SCARY! But then NaNo is all about a little bit scary. It’s all about being out of your comfort zone and plunging into the dark zombie infested alley with little idea of what lies on the other side but crossing your fingers there will be asylum – also known as November 30th.

Weird analogy? Last night I was doing exactly that.

2.8 Hours is a game (for lack of a better word) that takes places in the real world. It involves being in a group, having a map, and walking around parts of London which are infested with zombies and trying to find asylum without being infected. Sounds mad? It was. But it was also amazing fun.

On November 1st, you walk into NaNo feeling confident and eager. This is a challenge but you’ll enjoy it. You’re going to learn about yourself and reach goals you may not have reached before. You bounce off into your new world surrounded by like minded individuals and feel giddy and excited.

Last night, our group felt the same way. We left the base and headed to our first grid reference on the map. We went to several places and were told at each place the importance of having city passes to get through the safe zone. Finally one character said he had a contact in a car park who would give us fake passes. Arriving on level 7 of the carpark, we found his contact who explained she needed us to get medical supplies from level 8. Suddenly our confidence dwindled, our nerves began to show, and we no longer bounced along but began creeping wearily.

NaNo veterans will recognise this feeling as Week Two. For us last night, it was our first meeting with zombies.

And zombies, actors or otherwise, are freaking scary things. We crept onto level 8, saw several slow moving zombies around and began to look for medical supplies. Before we knew what was happening, said zombies were suddenly screaming and sprinting towards us. We screamed and sprinted too – but the other direction! Note: zombies are QUICK.

We survived our first encounter. Barely.

Our second encounter came a little later. We met a protester on the street (2.8 hours set up their protester to stand on a busy street with a sign reading “Honk if you hate the coalition!” All the cars honked, it was a brilliant touch, although I’m sure the neighbours in the nearby flats didn’t agree.) who sent us “down to the next set of traffic lights and go left”. As we neared our point of turning, I commented to my teammate that it seemed very dark up ahead. Little did we know how accurate that observation was.

By the time you reach week three of NaNo, unless you’ve planned very well, there’s a good chance you’ll be deep into the unknown territory of your novel. You won’t be entirely sure of what to expect, you haven’t got a torch to explore the dark shadows around you, and although you know there is an end to this madness, you’re no longer sure how long it will take you to get there.

When we stepped into the darkness of an abandoned path, it gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘beware the unknown’.

Almost straight away we saw two zombies lumbering around the path. We crept nearer, eyeing them carefully as they moaned and scrapped their feet on the gravel. In front of us, although our minds were filling in the gaps, they were nothing more than dark shapes blocking our way to freedom.

When they started to run, so did we.

I knew it was a game, I knew it wasn’t real, but that all goes out of the window when you have zombies running full pelt at you in the dark. There is no instinct to do anything but flee as fast you can and don’t stop. When we got past the first line of zombies, with one of our teammates getting ‘bitten’ in the process, we paused for breath and slowed to a walk. Digging out a flashlight we picked out the path immediately ahead. The light picked out someone lying on an abandoned sofa, prompting a comment of “Ah it’s just a hobo.”

Said hobo suddenly jumped up and ran at us.

By the time we reached the end of the path, we had dodged several more zombies (I fell over at one point and stared one down until it went away) and were delighted to see the flashlights of non-zombie life forms.

After a short bus ride, we were dropped off in the last stage of our adventure through the night. It was here I got infected.

As with any adventure or challenge, whether it’s NaNoWriMo or a Zombie Run, there will be moments when everything stops and comes crashing down, when the challenge to survive suddenly seems impossible. When I got caught, I saw her coming. I tried to escape but out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. When she grabbed me, I screamed. I was marked as an infected, with a zombie screaming in my ear. For that one moment, I was frozen.

As soon as she let go, I bolted for the gate.

By the time we reached the last batch of zombies of the night, I was knackered. But as Rudyward Kipling rhymed “…hold on when there is nothing in you, except the Will which says ‘hold on!’”

Come the last few days of NaNoWriMo, you will be feeling the same way. But the end is in sight, you’re almost there, you can almost taste the long sleep you’ve earnt. Just keep going.

We finally reached asylum. As an Infected, I was made up to look like a zombie, along with Boyfriend and two other teammates. We got to the bar, got well needed drinks, and high-fived our success at the night.

If that had been NaNoWriMo, we had reached November 30th mostly in one piece.

The moral of the story – don’t go into the dark without a torch, don’t assume the hobo is nothing more, and no matter if you successfully dodge the zombies or not, you’ll still be allowed into the survivor’s disco.

NaNoWriMo Countdown: Three Weeks. Preparation.

ImageRight now, there is only three weeks to go until day one of NaNoWriMo 2013. That’s 21 days. Or, if you prefer 504 hours. If we were 21 days into November, you’d have 35,007 words under your belt.

It’s getting close.

On the plus side, a lot can be done in three weeks. You can write ¾ of a novel. But in this pre-NaNoWriMo state, it’s always good taking some time to take stock of what is approaching, of the challenge you’ve taken on. Take some time to prepare.

So how do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? That depends on what exactly you want to prepare. For many, this preparation may involve extensive planning. For others, stocking up on tea and biscuits.

It helps to know your planning style. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Plotters tend to plan their novel in advance – working out character profiles, storylines, the beginning, middle AND end, and generally have an idea of what will be happening in November. Pantsers are the opposite. The extreme pantsers will plunge into NaNo head first with no clue what lies beneath them. (And that, my friends, never ceases to be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time.) If you’re not sure what your planning style is, go for the middle ground. Jot down a few notes to get you going. Come up with a location, a plot idea, and a couple of characters. Get hold of a map of the area you’re setting your story in – or if you’re making up a new town/city/world, draw it out! Even better, invest in a whiteboard so you can easily add and take away from the map as you work it out.

And it’s not only yourself you need to prepare. You should probably warn your friends, family, and co-workers that you’re suddenly going to be sleep deprived, be living more in the world of your novel than the real one, and your social life may take a  dive.  Last night  I sat down to edit my current work in progress. Our desk is in the bedroom and I hook up my netbook to the larger computer screen so I can see the text easier and research on Google with a split screen. Boyfriend came to bed at midnight and I was still working. He asked if I was coming to bed a couple of times, and I was like “not yet”, then I got frustrated because I couldn’t read my own notes and stared at the paper in front of me for five minutes. When he asked if I was okay, I was all “No! I can’t read my own handwriting! This is terrible!” whilst he looked on bemused. (I did eventually translate what I had written.) When I eventually stopped about 12:45am he asked if this was what November was going to be like.

It is.

After 11 years, those nearest and dearest to me are fully aware of what my November is like. They’d be more surprised if I said I wasn’t doing it. But if you’re new to NaNo, it may come as a surprise to them if you’re suddenly locked away (more than usual –  let’s admit, a lot of us writers are proudly hermit-ish in nature) every day. Be aware though, by telling people, you will be hit with “Can I read it?”, “What’s it about?” “What do you win?” and “When will it be published?” questions. Prepare your answers. It will help. Maybe invest in a big sign on your door answering them to ward off intruders.

Finally you come to non-NaNo essentials for November. The week before it’s wise to clear out your laundry basket, stock up on your drink of choice, invest in your preferred snacks and easy microwave meals for the days you haven’t got the time/energy/significant other to cook. Tidy your writing area and have notepads, pens, mascots in the immediate vicinity.

To sum up, come November 1st, you want to be as ready as you need to be.

Bring on NaNoWriMo 2014!

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