Category Archives: Writing

Food, Glorious Food

I’m trying to think of a topic but all I can think about right now is how hungry I am…

Food, I find, is important. Not just to stop me being hungry (so hungry…) but in books. My lead character is an excellent cook. I’m not. I’ve had to take inspiration from Victorian cookery books and my best friend, who is an excellent cook. But the food Mrs Hudson makes is important. How many sugars Mr Holmes has in his tea is significant (three. Only a splash of milk). She bakes when she has to think.

And food, in books, can evoke so much. Think of the March sisters, taking their carefully cooked Christmas dinner to the poor. Think of Mr Woodhouse, insisting that everyone eat the thin gruel that will disturb no-one as opposed to the rich meals prepared for them – reflecting his own joyless, cautionary approach to life rather than fully experiencing it, and wanting to stop others experiencing it. Think of the poisoned marmalade in Pocketful of Rye – too bitter for the rest of the family, perfect for the sharp, nasty head of it.

Food can reflect social standing, and feeling and character in a very subtle way that we don’t recognise is actually happening, and it is incredibly evocative. I always feel more kindly to a character who scoffs a whole box of chocolates in one go, just like I do, rather than a character who parcels them out, one by one, day after day.

I’m going to eat now. (Chicken sandwich). But when you write a meal, don’t just write ‘they ate.’ Describe it. It’s such a wonderful key to your characters.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad


Seasonal Reads Anyone? by Christine Duncan

We’re at that time of year again when all I really want to do is sit in a cozy spot in my own living room and read. I want a seasonal book that will help me feel like doing the Thanksgiving prep I should be doing. Or one that will make me feel like Christmas is really coming.
If you are the author of a seasonal book, please comment with the title and your name. I want to read!

Clearing Away The Rubbish.

I’ve spent the week having a massive sort out of the flat. I needed to get rid of a lot of things – love letters, photos, books I didn’t actually like, why am I keeping those?

Among the things I got rid of was a huge pile of old notebooks. I’d resisted for ages as each one was supposed to be the start of a book. But honestly, most were just three lines, a vague idea and an occasional character name.

My reasoning was, if I’d wanted to write it, I’d’ve kept at it. I didn’t, so it can go. Now all I’m left with is the notebooks with ideas I’m actually interested it. If the few lines are any good, they’ll stay in my head and get recycled into something else (this has actually happened)

It’s very freeing. Not only do I now have a lot more space, but I am no longer bowed under the weight of all these stories I did not write, and feel I must.

Now if I keep a story going, I keep it. But if I give up after a page and never go back to it, it goes. I concentrate only on what I must.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Another Shooting by Christine Duncan

I don’t usually comment on these things, because, really what can I add that hasn’t already been said? And yet, as I think about this latest shooting–families in church, little ones shot, and the reactions I’ve seen, I can’t stay silent any more. Last week, here in Colorado, someone walked into a Walmart and started shooting. That one didn’t even make the national news. Apparently he didn’t kill enough people.
I’m seeing people on social media claiming that there is a cover up of the Las Vegas shooting.
And now I am seeing Christian friends on Facebook, promising to bring guns to church, so they can shoot anyone who threatens to shoot. I want to say words fail, but unfortunately, they don’t. But what I want to say will certainly not calm the waters.
And yet, maybe now more that ever we all should be writing about it. Maybe we need a national outpouring to get it across. This is not acceptable. We need change. And that change should not include getting a gun and shooting back at the shooter.

It’s NaNoWriMo again!

Friday? Already? Where did that week go?

I am not doing NaNoWriMo, because as usual, my timing is very out, and I just finished a draft of my latest book as November started, and I’m knackered.

But I have huge respect for those of you that are! Huge shiny respect! It’s a brilliant concept. Not only does it get people writing – and some people need a challenge or a deadline to get writing started – but it gets people thinking about writing. Even those not participating will be reading about it and thinking ‘Hmm, maybe I’ll write something…’

Ignore the naysayers that say no-one ever wrote a book in a month. First of all, they are actually completely and utterly wrong. Second, it’s not supposed to be the finished article. It’s supposed to be a first draft that gets worked on.

I love jumping onto Twitter this time of year and see all these writers frantically working, and supporting each other, and encouraging and helping and coaching each other. Everyone comes together to push each other on.

So happy NaNoWriMo, whether as participant or slightly bemused onlooker. You’re all wonderful.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Happy Halloween by Christine Duncan

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to a pumpkin patch, driven miles to view the fall leaves and helped carve a pumpkin. I’ve been to Halloween festival, a Halloween maze and a costume party. And I still have yet to greet those trick or treaters.
But I’m trying to remember it all, write it all down. It will be fantastic description in some book someday, when I remember the sweet smell of pumpkin as we carve into it, the gelatinous feel of the pumpkin goop plus seed as we take them out of the pumpkin. The sheer volume of sound of all the excited kids congregating at the festival, all excited about not only their own costumes, (I am a creeper!) but also in awe of the costumes they are seeing. (I saw Mario! I want to be Mario. Did you see Luigi?)
I am having a wonderful fall, and trying to record it all, not just in pictures but in words, so I can share it in some book or story. Wishing you all the same and an awesome Halloween!

You Need Your Library

Use your libraries!

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, she’s banging on about this again. Well, I will keep on banging on while there are still libraries left in the world because they are precious.

Someone this week said all the libraries should close because no-one uses them any more. He was deluged with replies informing him he was wrong, and he has now changed his opinion, but this is something too many people in power in think. They can buy any book they like, they have Internet access at home, and somewhere warm and safe to sit, and they don’t really believe in stories any way.

Libraries are books. And through those books we learn to live different lives. They open our minds up to people different from us, but also people like us, someone who is different from the world around them.

There’s all those reference books. Not everything can be found on the net. The net is good for short sharp facts, but for deep, indepth telling of history and science and all kinds of facts, you need a good long book.

The librarians are kind and clever and recognise a kindred spirit, someone who needs a book, but are not sure which one. Once they were a kid too, leafing through the books, trying to find their story.

It’s perfect to write. How can you not be inspired with all those words around you.

Free computers to get you online, and as they are library computers they have access to all kinds of research material you can’t find normally.

They support authors. My local library promotes local authors – I’m doing a talk for them soon – and readers can come and meet authors.

There’s this whole movement in politics to run libraries down as elitist and out of touch. They are not. They bring knowledge and experience and advice and help to millions of people who would be lost and alone otherwise. Use your library.

You’ll miss them if they are gone.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad