Recently, and not for the first time in the last year of streaming, I began to feel a period of burnout coming on. It was a slow creep at first, and last weekend it hit me suddenly like a wave. When this happens, the natural instinct kicks in and you either fight it or try to get out of its way, but it is too late. The water surges in and you feel yourself getting pulled around in all directions. To further milk this poetic tidal analogy, there is only so much water you can fight through before you fall in and get rolled around. And the only thing left to do is to scramble back to the beach with a mouth full of sea water and some seaweed clinging to your head
Geralt of Rivia. Mercenary. Witcher. Made and trained to kill monsters in the defence of humankind as a sword for hire, he wanders from town to village to smallholdings in the countryside seeking notices nailed to bulletin boards and fence posts. Or maybe the sound of screams from somewhere deep inside the forest nearby, heralding potential work for his kind that they might fill their coin pouch. Drowners, manticores, vampires, kikkimoras, anything the local alderman might pay a bounty for. His downtime is spent playing dice or cards, or brewing potions for his work and tending to his injuries while enjoying the company of a beautiful woman.
Geralt’s adventures were first published in book form by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski, as a series of short stories depicting the Witcher’s various jobs ranging from slaying a beast preying on local merchants along the road to lifting curses from a princess at the personal behest of the King. Through all of this, he endures the adulation of those he saved in equal measure to the animosity from those who scorn his kind. Witchers are not quite human, you see. They are usually taken as children to a Witcher fortress that acts as their school, taught to fight with swords, practice herblore for potion brewing, given training in tracking animals, anything that their work would require. Once they come of age, and only if they survive, they are put through the Trial of grasses where their young bodies are subjected to powerful mutagen potions, one after the other, and infected with various sicknesses to develop immunity that will last a lifetime to all sickness. Spells are cast to inject a little magic into them, though just a little.
I live in a little slice of built up urban hell in South Yorkshire. OK maybe I am overstating this a tad, it is not quite a hell as such. It is, as I have described to friends who live in countries with wider open spaces between towns, quite built up none the less. There is not a direction I can drive here where it would not be one village and town blending into the next with barely a few moments of open countryside to admire from the window. And yet, as I drive around I do see countryside none the less. It sits out there between one housing estate after the other and sometimes I have thought to myself how my opening statement here is perhaps a little hyperbolic. Still, knowing that picturesque scenery is just a stones throw away and actually availing myself of it up close are not one and the same thing.
Before I begin, there is a little story to the birth of this dish. If you wish to read, continue on. Otherwise, feel free to skip down to the actual recipe below.
Very recently, I have taken a whole new career direction into my hands. With this came a few realizations regarding health as well as ensuring I take the time to eat properly. This was helped along, as you may imagine, by my love of cooking in general and this is not a hobby I was prepared to quit for the sake of playing video games. Gaming regularly had never been something that stopped me cooking my own meals before, but streaming them to an online audience changes things somewhat. It would be like a news anchor continually stepping away from the broadcast to make themselves a sandwich. Of course this never happens as they rotate with others at different times of day. I don’t have that specific work dynamic so I opted for a schedule that would leave me a chunk of free time to prepare my own food, eat it, let it digest, and clean up after myself before I go back online for a few hours more.
It’s been way too quiet here lately and I should blog a lot more so here is a little update on what I have been up to outside of the writing front. I have another half-finished blog about writing from a month ago I owe some time to, and will get round to finishing it. Meanwhile, I have been a little preoccupied with a new activity: streaming video games on Twitch.
Streaming games has been something on my mind for the last two years. I have been watching lets-plays on YouTube for around a decade, ever since I got bit by the Minecraft bug and played it non-stop when I was not at work. In the last three years, I have added watching live streams to my list of chosen entertainment and have found a batch of streamers who play games that I enjoy watching on a regular basis.
Over the many years I have been writing short stories, back before I even began writing fan fiction for EVE Online – though that was a starting point for more regular writing activity itself – I found I would always stick to a specific method of planning and fleshing out my works. I was not aware at the time, though I had a strange kind of determination to make the system work even when I should have seen it was clearly not. Well OK, to tell the truth, I suppose it was not all that bad. I do remember, a long way back, being able to rattle off large sections of a story at a time before the weight of the system pushed my productivity way down. Maybe having an eager mind full to bursting with ideas had much to do with breaking through the wall. But I am getting ahead of myself and should talk more about the system I stuck to for so long. The system that eventually burned me out for several years.
Sometime last year I began working on the setting for my Ferum Republic story and quickly saw a lot of potential for an expansive setting. As a result, my mind turned more to the subject of world building theory than it has done before for any writing project. When I wrote character stories for EVE Online I was working within someone else’s setting. It was pre-built and ready to use. All I needed to do was to shape a character to fit into it, and come up with a story that uses those pre-existing elements in the world. I am not going to say this was an easy thing to do, because it presents it own challenges none the less. But there is nothing quite like building your own world from scratch. I find something deeply satisfying to come up with a basic idea and then start fleshing it out. You find yourself collecting little ideas as you work on the bigger ones, putting them to one side thinking they will go nowhere, only to have an idea at night while lying in bed that blows that small scrap of an idea up into something large and awesome.
Over Christmas and the New Year I visited a good friend in Canada. I came away with a cookbook as a Christmas gift. Once I got home I began marking down some recipes I wish to try out. I have tried two of them already this year, and the porchetta marks the third on my list. A porchetta is an Italian style rolled pork roast with crackling and is popular in various regions of North America. It is made with a liberal amount of herbs such as rosemary and sage, as well as having garlic included in the rub. There may be regional variations too, though I decided to stick with a classic basic to get the technique down.
Ranford Castle – Dourans Province
A few specks of light rain peppered his cheeks as the clouds above him groaned with the sound of building thunder. General Belethor Vorn pressed onward, keeping low as the occasional bullet hissed overhead as it strayed close. Either side, his men followed suit and pushed onward up the slope, seeking the advantage of a better line of sight as they advanced towards the source of the gunfire. The shelter of the tree line, and their forward siege bastion, lay behind them as they pressed on through the initial rocky and uneven land. The terrain beyond was mostly flat, save for the occasional shallow rise here and there between them and their target. Outcrops of rock bordered what had become a no-man’s-land, with the intimidating presence of the castle ahead. A soldier just ahead to his left slipped as a bullet impact struck the rocks close to him. Vorn altered direction slightly as he pushed onward, his breath now sounding heavy in his chest as grabbed hold of the soldier’s elbow and hauled the man back to his feet.
“Keep moving, soldier,” said Vorn. “Get to the top.” The soldier gave a short nod of thanks or acknowledgement. He was not sure which. Vorn followed the rest of the team up the hill.
Some years ago I was given a copy of a cookbook by my one of my favourite chef pairings, The Hairy Bikers. The cookbook is called Mums Know Best, and I highly recommended it. This is my version of one of the recipes in that book, which they called Texas Cornbread. However, having done a little wider reading of more recipes I soon realized that what everywhere else calls Texas Cornbread is not the same as the book’s version. The book’s version of Texas Cornbread has minced beef sandwiched between two layers of cornbread batter and baked, while the recipes online seem to be simply cornbread with chillis chopped into it, and sometimes cheese. So, for want of not stepping on any cultural toes, I will call mine Stuffed Texas Cornbread.
Ongoing ProjectsFerum Republic: Chapter 1.2
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