I’ve Been Published

August 21, 2011 at 12:57 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

You heard me. ME. PUBLISHED. BOO YEAH.

Okay, so I’ve only sort of been published. While updating my resume (that’s right, I’m North American now) I decided to check and see if any of the books I copy-edited during an internship back home in Edinburgh had been published yet. Well, they have! There is one I was only a little involved one, one I did around half of, and World History of Highland Games, which was all me. So if you’re into highland games and decide to pick up a copy, you know who to blame should there be any spelling or grammatical errors.

So there are squillions of editors out there for whom this is no big deal, but since I’m new to this I think I’m allowed to be pretty excited. It’s really cool to see books I worked on make it to publication and is a nice credit for my work experience.

ETA: I like how the book is unavailable on Amazon at the time of posting. It’s also unavailable on the publisher website. I guess that definitely means it’s SOLD OUT, possibly because the copy-editing in it is so good everybody had to buy it?

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Adventures of the Would-Be Editor

June 13, 2011 at 08:24 (books, Travel, Work, Writing) (, , , , , )

What is it with me and wanting to get into careers that are super duper hard to break into? I want to be an astronaut, I want to be a secret agent, I want to be a pilot, I want to be a writer, I want to be a musician… I suppose that’s just what it’s like when you want to have a fun career and, y’know, enjoy your life. Because goodness knows not many people are allowed to do that. A year an a half ago, I got into doing some editing. This was just bits and bobs for a Toronto-based company, nothing big and not very often. However, the stuff I got to do was way fun. I got to read stories and say what I thought was wrong with them. A lot of the time I even got to go into the text and change what I thought was wrong with them. Occasionally I even mentioned what was right with them – “this sentence is FANTASTIC!” “excellent!” “:)” “lol!” – because I believe that everybody needs encouragement to go along with their constructive criticism. I certainly do.

Last year I was gifted with the opportunity to edit a full length novel by an eminent engineering writer and was fascinated by the different processes I went through in editing that book. Step one; read, and make basic notes. Step two; read again, and make suggestions for substantive changes – that is, changes to the story and structure. It’s significant work, but some of the best kind. Step three; following changes by the author, line editing. Line editing is my favourite. I often refer to it as “making it pretty”. You go through the novel and read every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter carefully. Then you say “maybe this sentence would sound a little better if you said…” or “could you expand on this part? It has potential to be really powerful” or “maybe a wee rewrite for clarity here” and things like that, occasionally putting in your own word for word suggestions of what the change could be, changing whole sentences sometimes. Along this journey, I will also be copyediting, or proofreading as it tends to be called in the UK. That’s your standard spelling and punctuation stuff, which isn’t the most exciting but still it’s a necessary evil that at least has its own weird shorthand style language (British version (yes, even British and N. American proofing symbols are slightly different, grr!)).

Anyway, once all of that’s been done, changes are made and the whole thing is returned to you for one last check over. Generally, anyway. This can happen a few times til you’re done and the text is complete. In any case, the entire process rocks and I am really glad I replied to that random ad on Craigslist in January last year, a few days after I’d arrived in big bad Canada. My goals now are to stop freelancing and start working full time in the industry, but like the careers mentioned above, it sure ain’t easy. Okay, so it may not be quite as difficult, but it certainly has myriad problems of its own. Many places want experienced candidates applying for their jobs. But how can you get experience without… you know…

And that’s why I’ve been volunteering my time at an Edinburgh publisher. It’s a win-win situation – I get my valuable experience, they get someone to proofread manuscripts for free. What’s more, I get yet another reference. So while I feel like life is at a bit of a standstill at the moment – I am stuck back in Edinburgh waiting for my new Canadian visa so I can return to North America, unable to get a proper job here because I will be leaving soon and am therefore anxious to leave and ‘start’ my career (the one that doesn’t involve writing at least) – at least I can try to console myself in the knowledge that I am doing what I can to give myself the leg up I will DEFINITELY need once I do go back. Because as many publishing houses as there are in Toronto, there are also many, many publishing students – so I’m going to need every ounce of advantage I can get.

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Down Alternative: Vegan Substitutes for the Stuff You Love

April 2, 2011 at 13:47 (Food, Vegan) (, , , , , , , , , )

I don’t talk about being vegan very often. In fact, I try to avoid it at all costs. But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to share some good news every once in a while. Something many people who’ve ever considered the vegan life reckon they “couldn’t do it” because they’d miss… well, insert animal product here. Usually, it’s cheese. And I understand that – I loved cheese too. I mean, really loved it. But I manage without it. Just fine, actually – but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it every now and then (though the thing I miss with the most intensity (every now and then) is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate – forget cheese, I miss sweet and smooth chocolate!).

Still. I’m not writing to talk about dairy and how awesome it is. To tell the truth, I don’t really miss dairy in the slightest. For someone who guzzled about a litre of milk every day while growing up and could eat a whole block of edam or brie in a single sitting, it’s surprising how little I think about dairy products. What I think about instead are the fantastic replacements I’ve found that allow me to enable the same sort of pleasure in eating that I used to get with dairy. Including vegan cheese products (and if you’ve ever tried vegan cheese, you’ll understand that me claiming there is some good stuff out there is a big deal).

So I wanted to share the excellent dairy alternatives I’ve found over the years in the hopes that maybe somebody will try them, or at the very least that the company will find this post and offer me free samples to review in more detail. Because that would be awesome.

Let’s get started.

The three main types of dairy goodness are milk, cheese and yoghurt. Wait, I forgot about butter. I’m going to talk about all of these and share what I’ve found so you too can believe there are some decent vegan substitutes for your favourite dairy products. Please note that these are my personal preferences and go with my taste buds only, but I really do believe they’re the best I’ve found so far. It’s just a shame that most of them are so far only available in North America and not the UK – yet, at least. Maybe this blog post will convince some of the greats to expand!

Milk

There’s a single hands down winner for me for when it comes to milk. There are a squillion different types of vegan milk out there but the best I’ve ever tried – to the point that I will down a glass of it and relish the taste – is Silk Soy Milk. Silk is like the mecca at the end of the milgrimage (sorry) and I can truly say it is the best soy milk in the world ever. It’s smooth, er, silky, and there is absolutely NO beany aftertaste. For a soy milk, that is a truly considerable feat. Silk, I love you.

 

Silk Soy Milk, I love you

Honourable Mention

Best EVER hangover drink

Alpro Soya’s chocolate milk is the single, best chocolate milk I’ve possibly ever had, including dairy offerings. Thick and incredibly chocolatey, this stuff is like… seriously, you just have to try it.

Butter

I don’t think vegan or dairy free products will ever be able to recreate the thickness and flat out butteryness of real butter, but for all other purposes turn to Earth Balance, Earth Balance, Earth Balance. This stuff spread onto freshly baked bread – like Mari and I are about to enjoy as soon as my bread comes out of the oven – is like a brief journey into heaven.

Honourable Mention

Thanks Pure Dairy Free for getting your decent vegan margarines stocked in many UK supermarkets.

Yoghurt

Up until recently my main experiences of vegan yoghurts were Alpro’s nice but hugely beany-aftertasting soy yoghurts which were pretty good once you got used to them. But now I’ve found Whole Soy & Co‘s amazingly thick and creamy yoghurts. The texture of these is incredible. Rich, creamy, thick… all of the words you want used when describing yoghurt. My only criticism is that the flavour isn’t hugely intense, but I guess I’m more used to sugary yoghurts. Generally speaking, these are fantastic.

YES

Honourable Mention

Silk’s Soy Yoghurt doesn’t have the incredible texture of the Whole Soy & Co yoghurt but it is really good.

Cheese

They said it couldn’t be done… and they were sort of right. Vegan cheese is generally pretty bad overall… but that doesn’t mean a few wee products haven’t sneaked into the realm of being not only bearable but actually pretty good – providing you eat them the right way. I think the main mistake people make with vegan cheese is trying to eat it on its own. On its own, most vegan cheese will taste either horrible or, at best, like a shitty dairy cheese. However, I have found a few products that can be amazing when used in the right way.

Firstly, Daiya products are fantastic for cooking with. Actually, I’ve even stuffed this into a sandwich and it’s been fantastic. Straight out of the bag, it’s not exactly a block of edam or triangle of brie, but I’ve put this stuff on pizza and mac and cheese and both were REALLY REALLY GOOD. So if you’re looking for a dairy free cheese to cook with, Daiya is the cheese to go for.

Honourable Mention

Sheese Board!

One of my favourite things about Bute Island’s Sheese is that it’s from my homeland, Scotland! Isn’t it nice of Scotland to make a vegan cheese when it’s not busy scoffing down sheep stomachs packed with sheep guts? Sheese was actually a really great discovery for me, and while it’s not for people who are used to dairy cheese and expect it to be the same, it’s decent for vegans. To the point that when I came to stay with my partner in New York I was thrilled that it was stocked in the local Whole Foods, and not even at a rip off price. I’ve only tried a few Sheeses – strong cheddar, smoked cheddar and blue, out of which strong was the best and blue smelt and tasted like butts. Still, strong and smoked were good enough to buy again. And again. Good for crackers and sandwiches. I’d love to try the edam style and the mozzarella style but haven’t been able to find them yet.

Bonus: Cream Cheese

Fairway’s own brand of tofuish cream cheese spread is AWESOME. It comes in a variety of flavours. I’ve only tried a couple so far but the chive one is absolutely excellent. Fantastic on bagels. I never really bothered with vegan cream cheese because I never really ate it much anyway, but this stuff is so good I might have to start – if Fairway comes to Canada, at least.

Honourable Mention

Tofutti has a “better than cream cheese” product which has all of the texture of cream cheese but not much flavour. Then again, does cream cheese usually have much flavour? Another great bagel filler, or spread on nice bread too. Mmm mmm mmm.

Bonus: Ice Cream

Snickerdoodle? OKAY!

Duh, how could I forget this? The cutely named Turtle Mountain has a line of vegan ice creams called Purely Decadent which is named so for a reason. This ice cream is INCREDIBLE. It comes in about 18 jillion flavours and they’re all amazing. I haven’t even tried all of them and I can tell you straight out they’re amazing. Thank you Turtle Mountain for still allowing me to buy a tub of ice cream and eat it all in two days.

Honourable Mention

Booja Booja makes incredible dairy free chocolate truffles. They also make a wonderful vegan ice cream that has something like four ingredients, which is nice. It’s good to see vegan products that aren’t made with eight thousand weird ingredients. This ice cream is expensive but worth it, especially if you like your sweet treats a little less sweet.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done. I didn’t talk about chocolate but if you do want to try some amazing dairy free chocolate, the Booja Booja stuff mentioned above is seriously delectable. Sorry for the huge post but I guess there was a lot to talk about. And if you’re wondering what the title of this post is all about, ‘down alternative’ is a type of feather-free duvet. I just like the phrase 😛

PS: Vegenaise tastes EXACTLY the same as mayo. A friend tasted both at the same time and, yup, they taste the same. Probably because mayonnaise isn’t really an egg-based condiment, it just happens to have them in it. Unnecessarily, it seems!

Thanks for reading. Maybe you came across something you’d like to try or maybe I just put you even more off trying dairy free eats. But for lactose intolerant folk, this might be helpful too. And once again, I am very happy to receive samples of products (both above and those not mentioned)… so… companies… do get in touch… 😀

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Squirrels: They’re Great

March 15, 2011 at 10:11 (Animals) (, )

Squirrels. I mean, really. If a pug I know called Sadie wasn’t proof that a) God exists and b) God is really funny (or a bit mental) then squirrels would be. They’re so great. Have you ever heard the sound a squirrel makes? It’s a totally unexpected sound. They sound like birds. Is this part of their design? Do flying squirrels have identity issues? Are they birds or are they squirrels? I mean, it’s crazy!

I recently went to a zoo and took a lot of photos of squirrels. For some reason, the squirrels weren’t enclosed as exhibits, but since there were peacocks roaming around the zoo I suppose the squirrels, like them, were a free exhibit due to their harmless, won’t-run-away nature. The wolves, tigers, bear and domestic cat, however, were all behind bars.

When it comes to drawing squirrels, nobody quite has the talent like Lynsey May. When I worked with her, she cheered me up sometimes by drawing me a picture of a squirrel, once with a detective hat on that was very cool. Where does she get her ideas? More proof of God’s existence? Perhaps. I stapled all of her drawings together into a large squirrel collage, which is currently under my bed at home.

As for me? I’m in New York where the squirrels are mostly black. It’s a crazy world. I thought a saw a brown one once but it turned out it was just grey.

I started writing a new book and the protagonist eats a squirrel in it. Poor little squig. It surely didn’t know what’s coming.

Squirrels. Aren’t they great?

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Speaking of Writing…

November 22, 2010 at 23:48 (books) (, , , )

Shannen Doherty’s book is out now. It’s called Badass: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude. Here’s a picture of it for easy recognition next time you’re in a book shop.

YES PLEASE

Shannen Doherty is the greatest

It’s clear that everybody should buy this book. Not because it’s great (which I’m sure it IS (I haven’t managed to read it yet)!!), but because it’s Shannen Doherty’s, and she’s the greatest person alive. I haven’t even read this book yet but I’m telling you, it is da bomb. I’ve already bought one copy for a pal (they make great birthday gifts!) and am going to buy more. As many as I can more. It is my parents’ wedding anniversary tomorrow. I think this would make the perfect gift.

My roommate did purchase and read the book a couple of days ago and said it is “class”. She said Shando’s got the right attitude and her message is good, even if the book is a tad on the fluffy side. Well, of course it is. Shando isn’t a psychologist (yet?) but I’m sure she’s still going to be a great read. I leafed through the book while feeling pretty blessed to have such an object in my hand and the presentation is lovely. I will read it very soon and let youse know what you have to look forward to.

If only I’d been in New York when she did her signing! If only! I can only hope she does one in Toronto in the next three weeks before I go home. Or does one in Edinburgh. Hey Shannen, if you read this and you fancy doing a signing in Scotland, you can stay at my house 🙂

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This new story is really doing well!

November 21, 2010 at 18:54 (Procrastination) (, , )

This post is for Oliver.

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I’ve Been Busy OKAY

November 19, 2010 at 22:28 (books, Procrastination, Writing) (, , , , , )

I definitely didn’t forget about this blog. And it certainly wasn’t because of a woman. WHAT? Leave me alone. It’s not like I had anything to write about for the last two months anyway.

So I decided not to bother with NaNoWriMo because I was too busy this month. Already a pal has stayed with us for two weeks and another is coming, er, tomorrow. For another week. So it’s not really been “hide in your room and write a novel” style weather over here.

I have been reading a lot, though, and I often find that reading inspires writing. The only problem is when reading inspires writing that sounds a lot like what you just read… like that time I read Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood and ended up starting about five short stories myself that were bemusingly clipped and cutting. It’s fair enough to find inspiration in the stuff you read but flat out copying it… bad times. It does remind me of how I used to cope with uni stress (lol, stress in an English degree?) by writing parodies of the type of literature we were studying… I remember penning a poem in the style of those hideous commissioned “odes to your manor house” from the Romantic period. They were dire, but writing my own version not only showed me I understood what I was reading but knew it well enough to mimic. Now if only I could find a way to do that and make it original. Or better yet, be both original and wonderful all by myself!

The current books on my bedside shelf thingy are pretty much all Stephen King, so we’ll see where this goes…

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Nanowri- no!!

August 23, 2010 at 12:19 (Writing) (, , , )

So I was staring absently at the clock on my computer and realised that it’s almost November, which, as heaps of writer types and generally just people who have been on the internet before know, is the month of NaNoWriMo. And by almost, I mean it’s quarter of a year away, so not almost at all. Well, I lie. It’s actually just two months and a week, but you get the idea. Shut up.

Now I’m wondering if I’ll give it a crack. I did it last year with a pretty okay result, in that I made the 50,000 word target and I did have quite a lot of fun doing it, even if it did mean I’d stay in my seat at work an extra hour and a half to rush out another three thousand words. There was nothing like that sense of accomplishment, though, when I hit a particularly high count one certain days. And it’s undeniable that the story came together, and fast.

Then again, I haven’t looked at that story again since last year, and that’s not such a great thing. I do think it’s something that has potential because it is very different and wacky and fun but also with some great themes that will make it a worthwhile kids’ book. However, it also friggin’ stinks. And has a completely random subplot that just came in for no reason and I only wrote cos it went that way, not cos I wanted to. And while it can be good when tangents happen, this one is truly crap and must be removed. Sadly, it was a long tangent. Urgh, just thinking about it…

I’m currently “working” (ho ho!) on something like four big projects, of which two are novels, one is a series and one is a trilogy. Do I really want to add to that crap? Not to mention the novella that I’m really excited about (yet haven’t touched in ages) and a collection of short stories I want to put together too. I don’t think it’s a good idea to enlarge the pile, but it’s possible I can still use National Novel Writing Month to my advantage: simply force myself to work on one of my current projects. That way, I get a really great boost and a challenge to spur myself on better – without giving myself more work. Maybe I can use the month to get my butt in gear and re-write Qi.

Or take a month long course in how to stop being lazy.

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Has it been this long already?

August 22, 2010 at 18:10 (Procrastination, Travel, Work) (, , , )

Wow, I haven’t updated this for a long time. I suppose I’ve just been so busy that it’s been hard to think about the ol’ bloggity-do-da, but I really shouldn’t neglect it. Neglecting things is for losers, and I am anything if not a loser. Wait…

So I’ve been “partying” since May, which is when my parents came to Toronto. Following that, my roommate’s parents came. Then I went to Texas. Then I went to New York. Then I came home and two friends came. Then another friend came and they left. Then my roommate’s boyfriend came. So, yeah, it’s been busy. My friend left to head back to sunny Edinburgh yesterday and soon the boyfriend will go too, putting an official end to our mad summer. While I’m sad that all the fun and games and way too much drinking (so much I got very sick thanks to a shitty immune system), it’ll be good to get back to normal life and start eating and exercising normally.

Speaking of exercise, the last time I did any, I went out for a run with my friend and after about 2 seconds of ‘racing him’ at the beginning, fell over onto the gravel and shredded my knee. Which was very cool of me. Sadly, I wasn’t aware and sharp enough to make sounds of pain like my hero the grape lady but I managed to stay cool. Until, after deciding to keep going, I looked down to see blood oozing down my leg. Time to go back. Suffice to say, I had done myself a nice bit of damage and even had a massive skin flap to show off. It sucked. Coupled with a massive graze down my leg, I wasn’t looking too pretty. And I couldn’t walk properly for a few days. So that was my adventures running. Clever kit.

About a week late I was smote with goodness knows what but I was pretty much confined to bed for three full days and unable to eat. Or drink. Which was the real calamity? I’ll leave it to you to find out. It put a bit of a damper on things as I couldn’t really hang out with my friend but he did a good job of entertaneing (sic) himself. After a while I got better and, paying heed to my “stop partying so hard because your immune system sucks and you are catching things you never normally catch”, started on the beer immediately. Nice.

As for work and writing, I’ve barely done any of late. I opened up my novel yesterday only to discover I’d actually rather do work. Work work. Writing about gas and electricity work. So that is an amusing down side, but hey.

The editing is going well; after submitting my substantive edit of the novel, I got commissioned to line edit the entire thing, for which I’ll be getting paid pretty well. It’s awesome getting paid to do something you really enjoy. I really hope this book does well, it’d make me so happy if it made it to publication. It’d be good to have my, er, ‘skills’ confirmed like that – even though it being published doesn’t necessarily mean I had anything to do with it, but I like to think my sub edit changed things significantly for the better.

Life is pretty great right now.

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Today’s Top Search

July 30, 2010 at 11:20 (Internet) (, , )

Further to my recent post about searching, today somebody found my blog by putting this phrase into an internet search engine, presumably Google:

zombing bottom lynsey is the best

Well, congratulations you, whoever you are. That is some sharp searchin’ skills. I hope you found what you are looking for.

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