About Willow H. Wood

A writer with many personalities all trying to be one person.

Make a Private Wikia for Your Novel!

Many writers have a large notebook or digital file affectionately called their “Writing Bible”. It contains everything they need to remember—details about their characters, plotting, locations, fictional races, ancient history, research—you get the idea.

I’ve always been one of those writers who puts it down by hand in an A4 notebook with a rainbow of tabs. Eye colour, height, hair colour, background, beliefs—all on paper, because I hate trying to wade through a digital word-dump even if it does have “ctrl+F”—I’m fussing about presentation and organisation.

On numerous occasions, I have been SUPER TEMPTED to start Wikia pages for my novels, to insert links to other relevant pages, to set out section dividers, pictures and collected information sections.

AND NOW THE PERFECT TOOL HAS ARISEN!

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Elves of Colour

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When writing stories I can’t help being conscious of the people represented even in my fantasy and futuristic landscapes. It’s hard to find female protagonists in popular media, harder to find ones who past the Bechdel Test, and even harder still to find women of colour.

I like to find artwork that, to me, represents the kind of mood or look of my characters. I’m bored of white European fantasies/sci-fis, and so for NaNoWriMo I’m challenging myself to go beyond what I’m familiar with. I want to see more stories about characters from a variety of non-white cultures, and I believe it’s lazy to say ‘I shouldn’t write such characters because I’m white’. Culturally diverse representation is starting to grow in multimedia, like in the new “Star Trek Discovery” series or the “Walking Dead” video game, but so very slowly.

When I try to search for elves, wizards or knights who are not white—let alone non-sexualised women—it takes me HOURS. For every seventy images of a pretty white elf, there might be one elf of colour. Fantasy seems to be a terribly white-washed genre. In part, it’s cultural assimulation—it’s what we’ve grown up to imagine and believe is beautiful/best/most magical.

I want to stretch my own imagination and stretch the imagination of others. Part of writing is to research, and I’ve discovered so many fascinating facts about medieval Bulgaria, Turkey and Arabia. My favourite fact to whip out at parties at the moment (no joke) is this: did you know that in roughly the 7th Century, Volga Bulgarian noble women could not marry until they had proven themselves in war? I mean, it’s bad that Bulgaria was at war frequently enough for it to be a prerequisite to marriage, but still. It’s time to change the erasure of warrior women throughout history by bringing their stories back at least through fiction. It’s a big ol’ world and there’s so much more to imagine other than differing versions of fantasy Europe.

Have you found fantasy PoC images of elves, wizards, and knights? Do any artists spark your imagination? Who are they?

Feature image by Eleonor Piteira

Following my NaNo mood-board on Pinterest!

We Need More Lesbian Knights

In the wake of being made redundant, hopefully scoring a new job with greater prospects, and forever waiting to hear back from my agent (I’ve bought Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2018 because I’m beginning to worry he doesn’t have time to take me on – I also need to brush up on knowledge of publishing contracts), I am desperate to feel the all-encompassing joy and frustration of writing a new novel.

So as life throws its curve-balls and persistent hurdles, one challenge above them all is drawing near: NaNoWriMo.  NOT ANOTHER POST ABOUT NANOWRIMO!

If the title didn’t give it away, well, surprise! I’m writing about lesbian knights, and the setting is Fantasy-Middle-East and Fantasy-Scandinavia. I love romance, I love magic, I adore knights, and I want to read more f/f stories that focus on a plot instead of totally on the protagonist’s sexuality.

I was inspired by author Bridget Essex who writes f/f novels that cater to everything I ever wanted. Lesbian knights in exciting plots resulting in a wholesome, healthy, sustainable relationships where the drama doesn’t come from people trying to specifically sabotage the main love affair. But the focus of A Knight to Remember is very heavily on “getting the girl”, rather than about the beast that’s come to destroy Boston. I was blown away by how well it tied the threads together, but I wanted more…

After reading both A Knight to Remember and Date KnightI felt: I love this kind of story but want 10x more world building and double the layer of subplots. Basically, I wanted an epic fantasy that was about the epic fantasy, featuring knights who are also, btw, gay and transgender.

I’m looking forward to reading The Second Mango next by Shira Glassman, which seems to be exactly the kind of angle I’m craving.

Do you love knights, too? What would you want to see done differently with the classic, wrongly dishonoured knight story?

And are you doing NaNo? Let’s be buddies! And you’ve gotta tell me your elevator pitch in the comments! What’s your story about? Do you plan for NaNo? I’m planning the house down. What or who has inspired you to write your NaNo novel?

Here’s my synopsis: 

When an honourable knight is accused of murdering a foreign princess and sentenced to death, a witch swoops in to rescue her, on one condition: Nazirah must give the witch her first born child.

But Nazirah is a lesbian and likes the odds of never having to make that sacrifice, or so she thought. With the deal struck, she has one year to fall pregnant, or she will still die.

In a terrible world of demons, warring royals, and the unsolved murder of Princess Galiana, Nazirah is running out of time to either fall pregnant to save herself, to uncover the lies of a court she once loved, or to hunt the monster that could break her curse.

Getting Published: part…six?

Don’t agree to everything your agent says.

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Soooooo… Last time I updated, my agent Suresh and I were talking about THE ENDING of my novel. And we talked for nearly two months about the bloody ending. For the first time, I just couldn’t accept the changes he wanted me to make, full stop.

Originally, I’d written a happy book about a woman who creates dreams and adopts an unloved child. Now looking at it: it’s got a diamond heist, nightmares and no happy family. But it’s so much more exciting! Diamonds! Nightmares! A bitter-sweet, good-feeling ending.

Except Suresh said it tied up ‘too neatly and too nicely’. Everything gets solved. “What if the protagonist was wrong about everything and there is no diamond?” Well, at first that sounded like a great plot twist, except if there’s no diamond then everything throughout the novel was a red herring and there’s no alternative crime.

Suresh suggested the crime should be tax-evasion. BORIIIIIING. No. *stamps foot* No. No. No. We’ve been through magical worlds of magic, we’ve been promised apprehending diamond thieves, and to turn around and say: time for tax evasion and a miserable ending would feel like, I think, slapping the reader.

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I really tried to take on board his ideas and advice, which is why it took two months of agonising talks, but I just thought the suggested changes were…absolutely wrong. I colluded with Amanda Meuwissen, the lovely lady who agreed to edit my last draft, and she agreed with me that a diamond heist was way better.

Anyway, in the end, I wrote out a long proposal on everything that I felt could improve the ending but also why there should absolutely be a diamond heist. How it would be a let-down-ending to make the crime so mundane compared to the rest of the novel. I compared it to published books in magical realism that have taken the craziest scenario and been successful. I talked about audiences craving for superheros and high-octane dramas, just look at the box office.

Luckily my very, very long email was a success.

So now I’m beating my head against the desk as I research the Crown Court and how justice works if you’re prosecuting someone for diamond theft and your lead witness discovered it all in a dream.

Brb with a novel.

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A World Where Our Family Must Die

The purpose of the Thai commercial embedded below is for a communication technology that is hoped to improve living conditions across Thailand.

However, when I watched it, as a UK citizen who only has to pay about £11 tax for unlimited health care, this ad made me appreciate the NHS even more. Watch the commercial below, because this is why we shouldn’t privatise the NHS or, as written in the Conservative manifesto, make immigrants pay higher tax for health care or have none at all.

Imagine having to let your father die because you could not pay the medical bills. Imagine having to sell your home as the only possible solution. Imagine being an immigrant who works and lives in the UK, like any other born citizen, and not being allowed the same rights.

Imagine what kindness and compassion could do for each other if sectors of the world started acting like healthcare is something that everyone deserves and is, in fact, possible without making families bankrupt or reducing human life to ££/$$ signs. 

Remember the EU Referendum and What it Means for the General Election

For many young people and immigrants in particular they were heartbroken when the UK voted to leave the EU. 49% of the population who bothered  to vote  chose to remain. What’s more, many were shocked the leave vote actually won.

Don’t trust the polls.

There was an air of complacency. “We’ll never vote to leave, besides, all the polls are in favour of us remaining.” So a large percentage of people didn’t bother to vote, since they hadn’t participated in the statistics claiming we’d never leave – clearly other people were doing it for us.

We’re leaving the EU, and that’s that. I’m not here to complain about it.

I’m saying we’ve got to learn from the event. If all those people who wanted to remain but didn’t vote had done so, the result might have been different.

Polls are starting to show that Labour are gaining rapid popularity and beating the conservatives.

Don’t believe them. Do you know who mostly uses the polls? Young people who know how to use the internet but aren’t registered to vote.

The highest turn-out group of voters in the last UK general election were age 65+, the majority of whom voted Conservative. They also did not contribute to polls, which made the data unreliable.

Don’t believe the polls. Keep talking to people. Register to vote and ACTUALLY VOTE. You don’t even have to leave your house. You only have a couple of days left to register.

Let’s talk about Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Of all the things to motivate me to post about something other than food…

I  want to have a genuine discussion with you, dear reader. This isn’t an angry post. I run away from angry conversations faster than a cat from a bucket of water. I just want to talk about Labour in the upcoming UK general election. In particular, I want to focus on the recent jibes so many politicians are making about “increasing taxes won’t fund Labour policies.” Why does Theresa May and her party keep telling us that Labour’s payment plans won’t work? Why does JK Rowling deplore Jeremy Corbyn?

I think it’s important that we talk about this calmly, that we try to really rationale things. If we want anyone to consider our point of view, we have to talk respectfully, right? But we have to, at the very least, talk to each other. I shy away from political talk so often due to the, uh, passion it can evoke in people that I often feel like I’m being shouted at with no room to actually articulate myself – no room for an actual discussion. But discussion is what creates change. Let’s get started.

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The Week in Recipes: oh hiya

I’m back from Turkey by about a week and, wow, food wise, last week was a shambles. To be fair, we were mostly too tired and immediately too busy to even care about shopping for the week.

Two days back from Turkey, I went for an appointment with an adorable nutritionist. As someone with fibromyalgia that has gotten a lot worse over the last year, I’m desperate to try everything that might help. Adorable Nutritionist has advised me to try cutting out dairy, refined carbohydrates, and refined sugar. The dairy and sugar part are easy to understand, but the carbohydrates I’ve been struggling over. Mostly I know: no more white rice (SOBBING), white flour, or bread. I’ve also been advised to try and eat oily fish three times a week.

I didn’t start straight away, partly because we had dairy products (like yoghurt) and chocolate from duty free. I hate waste and I couldn’t let Aaron eat all that chocolate by himself. ALSO, we had a wedding to go to, whoo! Bit late to say: could you make my dinner very specific, thanks.

But, on a trip to the shops for some semblance of dinner, I found a HELL OF A LOT OF FISH in the reduced section of Tesco. I came home with five pieces of Vietnamese cobbler, six tuna steaks (they are small), and one whole salmon. “Hi, honey, I’m home!” I cried, lugging a small whale over the doorstep and shoal of fish. Luckily, fisherman Grandad came over and helped me skin, de-bone, and chop up the salmon into fillets. There is a lot of frozen fish in our freezer right now.

Without further ado…

Wednesday

salmon dinner

A plate full of STUFF

Baked salmon, crispy seaweed, poached eggs & asparagus

Funnily enough, a perfect Food Lover magazine (issue 47) was delivered to my workplace with loads of perfect vegetarian recipes, so lots of supplements for refined carbs and meat because vegetarians need to find healthy ways of getting their protein, which comes from things like legumes, nuts, wholegrains, quinoa, etc. The meal in the picture above? Yeah, pretty lush. A lot of howevers, however. First of all: I lined my baking tray the Dad Taught Me How Way. Examples A and B:

  • Line your tray with foil and arrange food. Fold the excess foil over to make a mostly air-tight tent over the food – this keeps the moisture in your fish and veg, rather than it evaporating and leaving you with leather for dinner. Try not to wrap it too tight that you’ll struggle to unwrap it when it’s piping hot, mind you.
  • Next however with this recipe is: way too much oil involved. Kinda spoiled it for me – I like to TASTE my luscious fish. Squeeze lemon juice over your fish and asparagus instead, it will keep your ingredients just as moist, especially if you’re doing the magic foil tent.
  • Next however: I never boil eggs, I’ll be honest, but the photo you CAN’T see is that “make a whirlpool and crack your eggs into it” is egg suicide. Mine looked like a fucking hairnet for the school lunch-lady, so my next egg I just gently plopped into the NOT SWIRLING VORTEX OF WATER like a sane person.
  • Final howevers: we replaced millet with bulgarwheat because I couldn’t find millet for the life of me, and the nori seasweed was dry as tissue paper – not sure I enjoyed it as an addition. Overall: yeah, I’d make it again. Bon appetite.

Thursday

Wedding day!

My other cousin got married to his high-school sweetheart on May the 4th (get it?). A lovely day, with lovely food. That I took no pictures of, whoops. Who cares? My cousin got married and that’s awesome *tears up some more*.

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The Week in Recipes: no money

We’re heading to Turkey today, but while I’ve got five minutes spare I thought I’d whap up the food post I didn’t do yesterday, I know you’re dying to see what this week’s millennial diet consisted of.

Also, don’t worry about the cat, she’s going to be loved and looked after by my siblings, yaay!

Tuesday

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I don’t remember eating this.

Mushroom and Rice One-Pot

SO good, and so damn easy we had to start our week with this one. Packed full of things good for body and soul, while tasted like things your parents should have cooked for you as a child.

Wednesday

Ummm

Looks pretty sad. Actually, pretty tasty.

Frozen Cauliflower Things

I mentioned last week that we’re cat-watching for Aaron’s parents. Well…we kind of pinched something from their freezer. Morrisons “Cauliflower Cheese Grills“. They tasted lush, actually. Add some fried edamame beans in salt and chilli, some scrambled egg…a very cheap dinner.

Thursday

soup

It’s a good thing I’m not phased by presentation.

Random Soup Thing

I just found whatever veg was in the fridge and stuck it in my soup maker.

  • 4 new potatoes
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Probably something else
  • Chicken stock

I cooked them on ‘chunky’ setting. When it finished, I added strips of cooked chicken and whizzed it all together into a nice mush. Genuinely tasty.

Friday

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If pasta wasn’t so filling I’d have eaten everyone’s serving.

Aaron and I once made this because it was literally all we had to eat, but it turned out so good we plan to make it now. We had a couple of friends over by chance, which made this meal all the better because it’s so simple to make. Chop and fry some onion. Garlic too, if you want? Add chopped bacon. Cook your tagliatelle. Mix altogether with tomato pesto. Sprinkle with cheese. Lovely.

Saturday

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We went and had pizza with Aaron’s parents cat and watched Mad Max: Fury Road for the first time. An amazing film.

Sunday

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Again. Presentation = nil but don’t be FOOLED.

Okonomiyaki

Do not be fooled. It was delicious. Also, I felt like I was actually eating something really good for me. We used pre-cooked chicken instead of bacon though.

Monday

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Gyoza

I make these at work so often I feel pretty nifty to be able to make them at home like *clicks fingers*. Filled with finely chopped cabbage, tomato, carrot, mushroom, spring onion, garlic and ginger, mixed with soy sauce. Dipping sauces are sriracha and soy. Dough is made of flour, water and sesame oil. Dumpling steamed for 7 minutes and then fried until the bottom is golden brown. If you want a more instructive peek into making gyoza, you can find cooking methods on YouTube.

I don’t know how much the shopping cost. I’ve lost the receipt and I’m currently wedged in back of a car, between my mother and step-father, on the way to the airport. I hope hitting “publish” won’t bugger up the formatting of this post (I laid it out on my laptop previously, tra-la-la), but if it all looks wonky. I’m sorry!

I think this came to £25 though. EAT CHEAP WHOO.

The Week in Recipes: so cheap, much eat

We ate so cheap, and yet we discovered two new favourites. I barely contained myself from eating all the leftovers that usually become next day’s lunch. We also kind of cheated on Monday, since Aaron’s parents have gone away for an extended period of time and told us to take anything perishable in the fridge. Well. If the will leave so much…

I was eating fine again until I sent another email to my agent saying, “hahaha here’s what I want for the ending of my novel thaaaaanks” and have not heard back yet… I mean it’s been two days, I’m fine. Totally.

Tuesday

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Picture by RitaE

Grandad, stop buying so much cheese. Tuesday was another cheese and…assorted bits night at Grandmama and Grandad’s. I finally remembered that posh Babybel is called Port Salut and made sure to contribute. Also, I tasted Wensleydale for the first time and the polls are in favour.

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The Week in Recipes: I need to accept this food theme, don’t I?

You know you’re blog is spiralling beyond control when a customer comes into work and says, “I didn’t know you had a food blog!” Aha. Yup. For now.

Today I was so stressed about my agent’s fluctuating feedback on the ending of my novel, I ate nothing but chocolate and pancakes as I awaited his phone call, knowing that all I could tell him was: I have found no answers since you called me last week. Luckily, I started my day with Grace & Frankie, which is quickly becoming my new Netflix addiction.

I think we unintentionally ate vegetarian almost every day last week. We just love our veggies.

Tuesday

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I was tired almost every moment this week. Soz for the shaky picture.

Pasta with Tomato & “Hidden Veg” Sauce

This took a lot longer to make than I was anticipating, for some reason. Stewing the vegetables took a long time. Not normally my style, because that means paying attention to some degree. Somehow this tasted creamy, despite being 100% so vegetable I’m surprised it didn’t grow roots in the bowl. Tasty. But I won’t be doing this again soon because it took soooo loooong.

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The Week in Recipes: I swear this isn’t a food blog

I am in fact working on a blog along the lines of: ‘what would a matriarchal society actually look like’ based on my frustration with the game franchise Mass Effect and their lazy alien race the asari. But Life has been busy, full of late night trips on the motorway with ballet tickets won in a raffle, loooooong chats with my agent about my novel, internal crying over my bank account, and trying to do things that are Fun so cracks don’t appear. (The ballet was fun, driving the motorway for the first time ever in the dark on a very windy night was not.)

And basically the easiest thing to talk about is food, because sadly I have to eat to survive and so do you. This week, we themed it with mostly Japanese cuisine, as we have a lot of sauces in the cupboard, making the shop relatively cheap. Here’s some lush dinners:

Tuesday

tuna

Every mouthful had us saying ‘mmmmmmm!’

Soy Tuna and Wasabi Mash

This was a luxury dinner for us, as two tuna steaks cost £13 ($16). But, sweet stars above, it was worth it. I even made the mashed potato from scratch, which I never do, I buy Aunt Bessie’s frozen mash because, sue me, it tastes great. But actually, it was easier than I thought and I added a bit of butter to the mash and maaaybe just a little bit more milk. Nothing is worst than lumpy, dry mashed potato. *shiver* When I cooked the edame pods, I also added salt and mild chilly, which really boosted their flavor. Not a spicy meal, despite the involvement of typically burning ingredients.

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The Week in Recipes: gosh I eat out of bowls a lot

Welcome back to cooking with two lazy cheapskates, where cooking can be easy as sneezing, tasty as gourmet, and within budget of a sinking economy. We still haven’t quite grasped a “theme” week, where we taste culinary delights from mostly one part of the world, but we used up everything in the fridge again and had no waste, which is our aim. Not only does waste suck for the environment but also your wallet, both things I want to protect.

SO, let’s get on with it!

Tuesday

Nana’s “Magic” Soup

My soup did not turn out as smooth and creamy as the picture promised, but I think I know why. I make all my soup in a soup maker – the best kitchen appliance I have ever bought – and for the first time I didn’t boil my stock cube before setting it off, which I think definitely makes the vegetables mushy (easy to blend into smoothness) and makes the soup properly piping hot at the end. I also think I’ll use normal coconut milk next time and not ‘light’ coconut milk as instructed, because there will be a next time! Despite not turning out as expected, I still really enjoyed this. A mouthful of tasty flavours that really compliment each other.

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