Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Abandoned Places: Bodiam Castle (and IWSG)

Bodiam Castle was built during the middle of the Hundred Years' War by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge (say that three times fast; actually, just say that one time) to, theoretically, keep out the French. However, the castle didn't see any "action" until the War of the Roses, that is if you can call being surrendered to avoid a seige "action." By that time, the castle had passed to the Lewknors, who owned the castle through the 1500s but, by the time of the English Civil War in 1641, it was owned by John Tufton. Tufton was forced to sell the castle to pay fines against him for, basically, being on the wrong side of the war. Bodiam was dismantled and left in ruins for 200 years. Restoration began on Bodiam during the 1800s, and it is now considered one of the most "romantic" castles in England.

Cooking for Your Audience (an IWSG post)

I am the cook in my house. Not the baker, the cook. I get up every morning and cook breakfast for my wife and, usually, my oldest son, sometimes my daughter, and rarely my younger son. I also cook dinner every night. That one's for everyone (except for my oldest son who is rarely home because of his ultra busy schedule). I'm just gonna say it: I am a good cook.

Of course, my mom is a cook, but it's not like she ever taught me to cook anything. My earliest forays into cooking were because I was home alone (or, maybe, with my brother) and needed to eat. I started with mac 'n' cheese and tuna fish. Not that you need to cook tuna fish. Well, unless it's in the mac 'n' cheese. Oh, and deviled eggs. That was actually the first thing I ever made on my own. I think they showed how to make them on an episode of The Electric Company (or something), and I decided I wanted to do it. That was my thing for a while. I was probably around seven but certainly not more than eight, because my brother was still a toddler. He loved the deviled eggs and would shove them whole into his mouth getting egg goo all over his face.

The fact that I am good cook does not, however, mean anything to my kids, especially my daughter. She likes a more processed type of food, and we just don't do that in our house. It can make meal times challenging, to say the least. It is a rare occurrence when all three kids like the same meal and on regular nights they will sub in various vegetables so as not to have to eat whatever I cooked. For my daughter, that's generally carrots; I keep a large bag of them in the fridge for her, basically, at all times. My younger son has taken a liking to yams, which I often cook for my wife and me. And you can never tell with the oldest one. Sometimes, he'll eat whatever we stick in front of him as if he's never seen food before; others, it's "I'm not hungry," which translates into "I don't want to that crap."

For a long time, a couple or three years, probably, after we dropped all the processed stuff from our diets (something like six years ago, now?), I took it, well, kind of personally when my kids didn't like what I cooked. It was distressing to me. In my head, I knew it wasn't about me, but that's not how it felt. Eventually, possibly because of having to deal with it so much, I did come to a place where it quit being an insult to me when the kids didn't like something I cooked. It was about the food, not me. They still loved me no matter what I cooked. We could go from "I don't care if you like it! Just eat the food!" to cuddling on the couch and watching a movie within moments.

And, after years, I have managed to find a few things that they all like and would rather have me make than go out for, like hamburgers. Thought that one's still kind of iffy, because my daughter loves to go to Super Burger, but that's more because of the shakes (they have something like two dozen flavors) than the hamburgers. That's why I am King of Hamburgers!

Writing is rather the same way, which is why it's important to remember that when someone doesn't like something you've written, it has nothing to do with you or whether that person likes you or not. So you didn't write something that person liked or, maybe, even most people, but it still doesn't have anything to do with you.

The sad thing is that I have seen negative reviews of books cause rifts in friendships or, even, destroy friendships.

Here's the thing, if you cook something and you like what you cooked -- you taste it and say, "I like this!" -- it doesn't matter if anyone else likes it or not. If you do like it (and aren't just telling yourself that because you're the one that made it), chances are there are other people that will like it, too. You just have to find those people. People who don't like it can find something else to eat. But it's really not fair to hold it against someone (especially a friend or loved one) if they don't like what you cooked. That would be like me getting upset with my younger son for night liking the fish dinner I cooked (when I know he doesn't like fish).

There's a decision you have to make as a cook (or a writer): do I think this food is good enough to let other people taste? If you think "yes," then you have to decide to not take it as a personal insult if other people don't like the food. If you really want to share your food with other people, that means you go back to your recipe, figure out what people didn't like about it, and try again. Writing is really that same way. Getting upset about it would  be like me getting upset that so many people eat at McDonald's when my hamburgers are so much better.

So, remember, it's about the food, not about you. Or, um, it's about the book. And it's really unfair for you to expect people to grin and say "I love it!" while they're spitting it out behind their napkins. Or, maybe, they will love it, but it needs to be up to them to decide apart from any expectations on your part.

Special Bonus!
FREE! today: Indie Writers Monthly: Vol. I, Issue 2! Go pick up your copy NOW!

I talk about "Jack" (not the Jack that is my cat).
Make sure to check out Issue One while you're there. It's only $0.99!


  1. Loved that castle! And loved your food/writing analogy. True. I still take both not liking my cooking and not liking my writing personally. I'm getting better at separating me from it, but that is just my personality flaw. It's good to have something to work on. I have lots.

  2. This was a very good post I have to say. I loved analogy to food. :) It's true that we won't be able to please everyone with what we write. It's like forcing someone to read romance when they love science fiction! Have a great one! Lily - Eva

  3. I love the castle! I will show it to my students!

  4. That castle is gorgeous. Something is telling me your A-Z is going to be filling up my Bucket List pretty quickly, haha. Great post, Andrew!

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan. "B is for Books" is my current post.

  5. That is some dark romance I can get into. And I can since it involves a castle. Cool that you are the cook in our household. My mother and little sister are the master cooks at home. I can cook but nothing like those two. My poor brother can barely boil eggs but he tries...then calls on the ladies of the house to finish, poor lazy guy. You're right though someone liking or disliking your cooking or writing has nothing to do with you. Everyone has different taste and the best you can whether you like or hate something is not be a dick or ass about it.

  6. Smart way to look at it. Not everything we create is for everyone to like. That will never happen anyway.
    Cool castle. I didn't get to see it on any of my trips or when I lived there.

  7. Imagine having to clean that castle? It'd take a year!

    Seriously, it's stunning.

    Such a great way to look at our writing. I think if I apply that line of thinking when I eventually publish my book, I won't be so hurt by negative comments. Maybe.

    AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

  8. The inside of that castle tower is great. I've always wanted a tower in my house. Now I know I want one with a hollow interior, too, so thanks for making my next home even more superexpensive than it was. (Currently, our list of "wants" would put the price on that home at about $50,000,000,000, since one "want" is "Must be on private island in Hawaii."

    The cooking post: You're right, of course, but negative reviews are hard to shake. Even mildly negative ones can bug you for years. And if you're really proud of it, the negativity can hurt worse.

    I think the biggest thing is to try to determine if it really IS personal, which it almost never is. When you've worked really hard on something and someone says "I didn't like it," it's HARD to say "Well, I wrote something that someone didn't like, too bad," because that implies some sort of flaw in the WORK, or the WRITER. It's easy to say "Oh, that guy just doesn't like me," because that's a flaw in the REVIEWER. It's like when a guy asks out a girl and she says no and he decides she must be into girls. SO MANY girls in my high school were that way!

    Liked the post.

  9. The castle looks romantic but I'm thinking damp. Great comparison with the cooking and the writing. It is difficult to not take it personally but live and learn as mom and writer.

  10. Very cool castle. From the water it really looks wonderful.

    Luckily I don't have kids to deal with when cooking and if I have guests I check if there are things they don't like first. However, regarding writing, I would be very hesitant to criticise the book of a friend because of losing the friendship. Most people aren't able to separate the two things.

    Hamburgers are not my Thing, but I would try yours.

  11. That's a gorgeous castle. Can't imagine abandoning it.

  12. I love the castle pictures--my imagination is already running wild about story ideas from looking at them.

    I like your comparison of writing to cooking. As an adult, I now appreciate some of what my dad cooked for me, like homemade mac and cheese, when back then I was just fine with Kraft. :)

  13. It's a shame those castles have to be abandoned. No-one can afford the upkeep.
    Not everyone will like something that's written. Likes and dislikes are relative, and it's better not to become upset if you don't get the right review. It's getting the right reviewer for the genre, too.
    Even finding a reviewer is a problem.

  14. Hello, Andrew

    The Castle is a delight. I go and visit ruins whenever I can. There's something about their essence which intrigues me.

    Your explanation on why to not take things personally is better than best. I've had family members tell me that they could never read the stuff I write and that's alright. I wouldn't read the stuff they read. :)

  15. That castle is Epic. I bet they made awesome cheese. =)

    I hear you. Here's to writing what your heart dictates and not fretting over readers who aren't your audience. This world is too big to stress. =)

  16. That castle is Epic. I bet they made awesome cheese. =)

    I hear you. Here's to writing what your heart dictates and not fretting over readers who aren't your audience. This world is too big to stress. =)

  17. English speaking peoples in the Middle Ages couldn't even get names right. C'mon, Middle Ages, be cooler than that.

    And I really like your cooking comparison. As a fan of cooking shows, I do see how often chefs blame the people eating for their complaints too. I prefer to believe anyone disappointed in my work just couldn't appreciate the nuanced brilliance - the typos and misplaced commas are all there for a reason, people.

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  19. I ADORE this castle! I never knew there was nothing inside it. I try to cook for my audience. I'm even dabbling in suspense now instead of horror, but who knows what will work... Your cat's a cutie!

  20. We've got the cooking in common. I too fix my wife breakfast before she leaves for work and have supper when she gets home. She has rarely cooked anything and really doesn't like to cook.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  21. That castle does probably look romantic at sunrise or sunset. Kind of a bummer they built that big fortress and then never really had a proper battle, though I suppose that helped it avoid being destroyed.

  22. Donna: My kids don't like me often enough that I have to dismiss how they feel about anything I cook. heh

    Lilica: Oh, yeah. I read a romance book once. Once. And not by choice.

    Sue: You'll have to let me know what they thought of it.

    Alex H: Yeah, I wish I could visit even one or two of the places I'll be showing.

    Sheena: My brother can't even boil water. My mom banished him from the kitchen years and years ago for destroying sauce pans by boiling all the water out of them and leaving them for who knows how long.

    Alex C: You lived in England, too? You suck.

    Elsie: Yeah, I don't want to imagine that. That's why they had so many servants.

  23. Briane: Me, too! Since I was a kid. I think all houses need to have towers. Can we make that a thing? I don't want to live in Hawaii, though, much to the chagrin of my wife.

    Susan: Yeah, I've been wondering what happens when it rains.

    Jo: Hopefully, you wouldn't be disappointed. They are a bit messy, though. Of course, I think if a hamburger isn't a bit messy, it isn't good.

    S.L.: It's always the money.

    Stephsco: We don't really do pasta in our house, so, when the kids do get mac-n-cheese, it's just for them, and it's Kraft.

    Fanny: Yeah, castles are expensive; I wouldn't want to have to pay to heat one of those things.

    Fe: Family members have it tough. They get stuck with an expectation to read which can cause some real internal conflicts.

    Crystal: Well, we all know what happens when the world stresses, right?

    Rusty: Well, you know, sometimes that's true, but that's part of knowing who you're cooking for.

    Lexa: Dabbling in suspense... is that like dabbling with sauces?

    Lee: I hope that's not like a bowl of cereal or something like that.

    Kidding! I was kidding!

    Pat: I think most castles never saw any real combat.

  24. I've never heard of this castle but, holy cow! It's absolutely breathtaking. Thanks much for sharing this, Andrew. I'm gobsmacked!

  25. I can see why it's called romantic. It's just so regal. Those pictures of it over the water are just beautiful.

  26. Beautiful castle, and I love your Angkor Wat post, too. Great theme! I will be back to see what else this blog brings back to life :D marci (www.fuzzyundertones.com)

  27. randi: It kind of looks like it's just rising right up out of the water.

    Jeanne: They are. And the water makes it cat-repellent.

  28. Marci: Thank you! And I'll be glad to see you back. :)

  29. I see a lot of self-published writers on Amazon getting upset when people leave negative reviews on their books (or their friends get upset on their behalf). Writing is something very personal, so I guess I can understand their reaction, because we put a lot of heart into it. But like you said, we can't expect everyone to like everything we write.

    Maybe my journalism training has helped me to disassociate between my writing and myself. We always knew our work could get chopped up at any time, because it depended on how much space the editor had on the page and what other news he needed to fit in. Occasionally I'd look at what had been printed the next day and think it didn't sound much like the original article I'd written!

  30. I love abandoned places, and I nearly squealed when I saw that was your theme for the month!

    Those were some gorgeous pictures you found for A, and I loved the randomness of how many hands Bodiam Castle had passed through.

    I will definitely be following you, don't want to miss any of these!

    ~Rebekah Loper
    Fantastical Ponderings - The A-Zs of Worldbuilding
    The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

  31. Sunflower: I can imagine that being in the journalism field would help with those feelings.
    One of the worst cases of bad feelings over bad reviews I've had to deal with was a friend of the person that wrote the book. She was offended that I didn't like her friend's book. Seriously, I have no response to that.

    Rebekah: There will be some good ones. I hope. Thanks for stopping in.

  32. You're right about the food - but I think a big difference is in the amount of time invested in writing and publishing a book, compared to the time needed to cook dinner - even a gourmet, fancy-pants dinner. But yeah, you're right. It is the food/book, not you.

    Am enjoying your abandoned places - once upon a time I spent a vacation touring ghost towns in northern Ontario. Abandoned places really turn my crank.

  33. Cathy: I have never been to a ghost town. It's so sad.

  34. Great theme for A to Z, and fabulous commentary on cooking -- I mean writing. :)

  35. If I could, I would visit every abandoned castle in the world and create a beautiful series of photos. Especially the castles in England and Ireland. :)