A pie that reveals lost stuff: a pre Greek Easter story of lost and found

In the five months of this blog’s life, it has sort of branded itself as an all (genre) inclusive, writer-friendly place, and I never felt that random musings or personal experiences would make a good fit. Therefore, this post is an exception.

This week (the week leading to the Greek Orthodox Easter) is the most spiritually and traditionally rich time of the year. My parents have always been big on upholding tradition. The problem was that they weren’t exactly democratic as to the extent my sister and I were supposed to be involved; it had to be all the way, no questions asked, or else they’d meticulously work on our guilt complex. Of course, growing into my own skin, I soon revolted, and ever since, I retain my respect but keep my distances from traditions. One instance when I’ll consciously bring them forward is when I feel that my octagenarian parents need some soothing. And that’s what made me bake the Saint Phanourios’ pie last week.

Saint Phanourios pie

Saint Phanourios’ name means “the one who reveals” (the same etymology as “phenomenon”) and, according to the tradition, if you’ve lost something valuable and you’re in despair, all you have to do is bake his pie (which is more a cake than a pie) pray for his mother’s soul to find rest (there is no relevant evidence, but apparently she was sinful) and whatever you seek for will be revealed to you. In many occasions this has worked, but I was always skeptical, thinking that, of course, if you’ve exhausted all possible locations where you might have misplaced an item, you bake a pie, and resume searching, then the chances for the item to turn up afterwards are definitely better. Last week, though, I was forced to reconsider.

My dad is a prostate cancer patient and he has to have a very expensive shot twice a year. In spite of the recession, the state still provides for this particular shot. Last week, as he was going to visit his doctor for the shot, riding his antique motorbike (a wonderful conversation piece wherever he goes) the paper bag where he kept his insurance papers, the shot prescription with dozens of state stamps of approval, his cell phone and various documents, apparently slipped from the handle and he lost everything. No paperwork meant no shot. Reproducing it could take weeks. When I saw the state he was in, I thought he wouldn’t make it. To an eighty-six-year-old man, every little thing he owns is as valuable as a life line, not least the documentation that guaranteed his on-going treatment. Losing it equaled a small death. My sister and brother in law went out in a vain search, but I couldn’t do much as my little one was ill, plus I don’t own a car. Seeing my father white as a sheet, the only thing I thought of offering was the reassurance that I’d bake a Saint Phanourios pie, which I managed to put together in no time at all, hoping to assuage his fear.

And then, things started happening: a teenage girl called my mother, claiming to have found my dad’s cell phone. She’d gone through his contacts and located his home number. She hadn’t found anything else. My dad met up with her, got his phone back, and then together with my sister scanned the entire area, as the paperwork scattering near where the phone fell would make sense. They found nothing. When they returned empty-handed and desperate, my mom had another phone call. This time it was a man who had stopped at a red light and saw paper strewn on the street. He got off his motorcycle, thinking that someone was in need of those papers (because that’s how everybody thinks and acts, right?) picked everything up, went home, read through them, located a random phone number, called and got my dad’s home number from them. Every single item was retrieved.

Coincidence? You could say so. But check this out: the girl’s name was Io and the guy’s name was Ionas (both names are very rare in Greece)!! Well, I give up. The pie worked big time, and now I’m a convert.

The pie/cake is ridiculously simple to put together, delicious and also 100% vegan, so if I piqued your interest here is the recipe and the ritual:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup virgin olive oil
  • 750 grams (1.65 pounds) self-raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons cognac (brandy)
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup blonde raisins (sultanas) – roll them in flour first
  • 1 tablespoon mixed cinnamon and clove (ground)
  • icing sugar on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Mix sugar and oil well until sugar melts. Then add all ingredients apart from raisins and mix well. Add floured raisins and give batter a toss. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted at cake’s center comes out clean. Leave to cool. Sprinkle icing sugar on top if desired. Distribute to family members and pray that Saint Phanourios’ mother’s soul finds rest.

Sit back and wait. No, actually don’t. As with everything in life, divine intervention works best when you give a helping hand.

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

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Ira Nayman – WIP interview

In this week’s interview, I’m honored to feature Ira Nayman, author of humourous science fiction and satire. Ira was the winner of the 2010 Jonathan Swift Satire Writing contest and the author of the *NEW* novel You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head) the [INSERT GUSHING PRAISE HERE] sequel to Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) both available from Elsewhen Press (http://elsewhen.co.uk/) He has also penned the short story collections Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To BeWhat Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys, Luna for the Lunies!, The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Mutant Technologies and The Alternate Reality News Service’s Guide to Love, Sex and Robots (available online through Amazon, Indigo/Chapters and others).

Don’t miss out! Read a hilarious excerpt from You Can’t Kill The Multiverse (But You Can Mess With Its Head) on MM Jaye’s friends write!

Ira, I’m really excited to have you here. Apart from your published work, what else should we know about you?

Okay. I have a brain that unfolds in twenty-seven dimensions into the shape of an elephant at the centre of a rose.

I devoted my life to writing humour when I was eight years old; I did it intermittently when I was young and have been doing it steadily since 1984. My main project is Les Pages aux Folles; the Web page by that name, which features weekly satirical writing and absurdist cartoons, has been going since September, 2002 (in fact, it just hit its 600th consecutive week). Although humour is my main genre, I have combined it with a hefty dose of speculative fiction over the last six or seven years. One result of this, an offshoot of Les Pages aux Folles, is the Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS). As you might guess from the name, ARNS sends reporters into other dimensions and has them write news articles about what they find there. ARNS has been described by a couple of readers as “a science fiction version of The Onion.” Five collections of news, reviews, interviews and advice columns in the series are currently available as ebooks and/or in print.

I have written two novels that have been published By Elsewhen Press: Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience), and; You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head). They chronicle the adventures of investigators for the Transdimensional Authority (TA), which monitors and polices traffic between dimensions. My current work in progress is my fourth novel, the latest TA adventure called Random Dingoes; depending upon the whims of my muse (not to mention the interest of my publisher), it will either be the final novel in a trilogy, or the latest novel in a series.

Oh, and I, uhh, may have been exaggerating about my brain. It only unfolds in eleven dimensions, and it’s a wildebeest, not an elephant.

I’d really like to have a visual of what a wildebeest looks like. Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.

Transdimensional Authority investigators Noomi Rapier and Crash Chumley are sent to another dimension to track down the kingpin of a cartel that sells a drug called Transdimensional Joy Joy. The drug is said to give users the ability to experience multiple realities at the same time…but at a cost. The investigators work their way up the chain of command and are about to arrest the man behind the drug ring when they are thrown out of the universe; they find themselves back at the point where they entered it for the first time. WTF?! The rest of the novel deals with Noomi and Crash as they try to figure out what happened and deal with it.

I’m definitely joining them in their quest! Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?

This is my fourth novel, and the experience of writing each has been different. My first, Welcome to the Multiverse was a fever-dream experience; it was written in a stupid short amount of time. The second novel, You Can’t Kill the Multiverse, is made up of six chapters, five of which are interlocking novelettes. I wrote the first two, paused for a few months and wrote the others piecemeal over the next several months. My third novel, a stand-alone called Both Sides. NOW!, is made up of 40 sections of roughly 2,000 words each. For the most part, I wrote each section in a single day over a period of about nine months.

So, sure, while I would like to write 2,000 words a day until a first draft of the novel is completed, that has only happened to me once, and I think that experience was atypical of how I write longer works. I expect this novel will be written in fits and starts over the better part of a year. That having been said, I wrote the first 17,000 words of Random Dingoes straight through, and have since taken a break to consider where to take the story from where I left off.

Plotter, pantser or both?

I never start writing a story without knowing how it will end and having at least some idea of the major plot points that will get me there. For Random Dingoes, for example, I knew why Noomi and Crash were thrown out of the first universe they went to, and how their investigation of that would unfold in subsequent chapters. In this sense, I am a plotter. However, because my stories tend to be rich in detail, there are a lot of elements that I do not plan out in advance, elements that I explore in the process of writing the work. So, while I know that there will be an investigation of a drug cartel, how Noomi and Crash actually get to the point where they are about to arrest the kingpin is something I am working out in the writing. I believe that the fun I have in discovering the unfolding of the plot in this way is conveyed to the reader. In this sense, I am a pantser.

Have you experienced “writer’s block” and how do you overcome it?

I am fortunate to have an easy-going relationship with Elsewhen Press; I send them manuscripts as I finish novels. Since we don’t really contract for books until after they are written, the only deadlines I have are those that are self-imposed (and, then, the only one I really have is to write one novel a year). Thus, while I have periods where I am not inspired to work on a novel, I don’t feel any pressure to keep writing it regardless, and I don’t consider these periods “writer’s block,” with all of the negative connotations that the term implies.

One strategy I employ to keep the creativity flowing is to always have several writing projects on the go. In the past year, for instance, in addition to the Web site and novel, I have written short stories and the pilot for a television series based on my first novel, and have developed ideas for an original comic book. When I find myself unable to move forward with one project, I simply work on another one. In this way, I write something almost every day of the year (unlike many novelists, who write for part of the year and research for the balance).

I think of my Web site as “the insatiable maw” which must constantly be fed. Writing humour to a weekly deadline, which I have been doing for over 11 years, requires tremendous discipline, and has helped train my subconscious to find solutions to creative problems quickly. However, when this does not work there are ways of priming that pump. One is to do more research on the subject I’m writing about (often, learning more will spark creative ideas). Another is to think about the problem before going to sleep (since the unconscious mind works best without having to compete with the conscious mind). I have also heard that writing the opposite of what you intended, or just something unexpected or ridiculous, while it isn’t likely to make it into the final draft, can often free up the creative juices, although I haven’t used this technique myself. (Usually, when I come up with something ridiculous, I highlight it in my final draft!)

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

This may sound strange, but too many ideas. I sometimes find myself bouncing too quickly between projects, without making any significant headway in any of them. When this happens, I usually take a nap, because my mind is clearly telling me that it cannot concentrate on anything in a productive way.

As answers to this question go, “too many ideas” is a first! Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring?

So, this is my workspace. Sure, it looks chaotic, but, then, isn’t the role of the writer to bring order out of chaos? Yeah, I’m not buying that one, either.

In fact, it’s not nearly so chaotic as it looks. The piles of newspaper clippings on top of the box of tissues (mustn’t use the word Kleenex as it’s a brand name!) are potential sources of Alternate Reality News Articles. The small pile next to the monitor are obituaries (which I sometimes feature on my Web site). The small pile next to the printer (which does not print, although I still use it sometimes to scan things) are subjects that should be dealt with immediately while the pile of clippings actually on the printer are potential sources of inspiration. The pile next to the keyboard are clippings that I have already used that are waiting to be thrown out. When any pile threatens to collapse, burying me under the rubble, I toss the bottom two thirds or so and start again.

You see? I do have a system!

Unique! Now your photo is “pinned” on my Featured Writers’ Workspace Board on Pinterest. How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” of your draft?

By starting to write something completely different.

Is humourous science fiction the genre you will brand yourself with or do you see yourself branching out in the future?

Humour is my main project, and that is the genre I hope to be associated with. I am having a lot of fun writing speculative fiction, so I will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, under certain circumstances, this might not be the case. For example: I went through a decade when I was writing nothing but scripts, mostly for original TV series, but also for feature length films. These include scripts for, among other things, romantic comedies, political satire, a sitcom, a humourous anthology series about vampires and some scripts that could be described as surreal. If I was ever in a position to get any of this material produced, the fact that it is not science fiction would not be a concern for me. Not that that’s ever likely to happen, but, when your brain unfolds in eleven dimensions, you have a lot of space in which to dream!

You put a new spin on the term “prolific”. Would you like to share with us links where we can find you and your work?

WEB SITE: Les Pages aux Folles
URL: http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/ira.nayman
FACEBOOK WRITER’S/FAN/WHATEVER PAGE: Ira Nayman’s Thrishty Friednishes
URL: http://www.facebook.com/ThrishtyFriednishes
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/#!/ARNSProprietor

BOOKS: Alternate Reality News Service collections (Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be, What Were Once Miracles Are Now Children’s Toys and Luna for the Lunies!) and the novelsWelcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) and You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head) can be purchased on Amazon.com
URL: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books&ie=UTF8&field-author=Ira%20Nayman

ARNS BOOK TRAILER: “A Book Trailer Called ‘Book Trailer’”
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2FshjzaWY

NOVEL TRAILERS
First Novel: http://bit.ly/WelcomeMultiverse_Trailer
Second Novel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7MYosQPkfc

ELSEWHEN PRESS WEB SITE: http://elsewhen.co.uk/

It was pleasure talking to you, Ira. Thank you and best of luck with all your projects!

 

Reflections upon a recent accomplishment

I feel that supporting and spreading the success of a friend is more important than sharing anything else, so it is with great pleasure that I share with you Effrosyni Moschoudi’s exciting accomplishment. Having read and reviewed (5 stars) her amazing debut fantasy, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, I’m even more thrilled with the readers’ positive reception. Read more on Effrosyni’s blog: