7 Things I’d Like To Do

7 Things I'd Like To do

This is not a ‘Should Do’ list, it’s not a ‘Need To Do’ list, it’s not even a ‘To Do’ list. It’s an ‘I’d Like To Do’ list. There is a difference. A huge difference, I’m sure you’ll agree.

As I write, and as you read my list, I invite you to start one of your own. There are probably lots of things you’d like to find time to do too. Maybe mine will prompt you to think about them and do what I intend to do, which is, having listed them, I’m hoping to prioritise them – not making the top priority the thing that should be done, but making it the thing I want most to do. For me, that means the thing that will be most fun.  For you, that may mean the thing that will be most productive, most cost effective, most efficient, most useful. You decide your priority. Mine is always fun-related in this sphere.

The method I plan to use to decide priority will be to ask myself questions. Please feel free to adapt those questions to similar ones that will be useful to you.

I’m writing things in the order they come to mind, so my list is bound to change in priority as I write. Yours probably will too.

As a writer, my list is about writing-related activities. Yours might be about something else. Your gardening activities, artistic endeavours, cooking projects, craft projects, whatever. What I invite you to do is to think about projects related to your work or hobby that you haven’t been getting around to doing but you’ve been thinking you’d like to try sometime.

So here goes:

Number One: The project that triggered this whole chain of thought.

I downloaded Scrivener ages ago, but have never taken the time to learn how to use it. For those of you unfamiliar with Scrivener, it is designed to make a writer’s work easier, to keep research, notes, ideas, notions, and drafts of work all in one place and easily accessible – once you know how to use it. By all accounts, it is not particularly simple to learn.

So, am I willing to take time out from other projects to become familiar with the program? Will the time spent doing that be offset by the time saved later? Since the way I write now is comfortable, how much discomfort am I willing to endure to reap any presumed benefits from the program?

The answers lead me to think, ‘No.’ At the moment, although at the top, Scrivener is going to the bottom of my list. It could be rescued by your comments and observations on the subject, should you choose to share your experiences with the program.

Number Two: There is a menu bar that runs along the top of this blog, with different categories for my writing, crafting and other exploits. It has been far too long since I updated any of the categories there. Far too long, and I’d love to take the time to do that updating.

Why have I not kept it updated as I needed to? Too late to worry about the answer to that question now. I try not to think in terms of ‘should haves’. It will now be time-consuming to do the updating. Am I willing to take that time out from other projects?

Yes, I do believe I am, but not as a high priority. I think I’ll slip it just above Scrivener.

Number Three: I wrote a series of invitation blogposts a few years ago. It was about Food in Fiction. I also wrote a series about Music in Fiction. I would like to develop them into a series of ebooks to share on Amazon Kindle.

Am I willing to give them research time to enrich and complete them? Am I willing to take time out from my other projects?

Again, the answer is, ‘Yes.’ Higher priority than the menu project.

Number Four: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is fast approaching. I love participating: love the discipline of pushing myself to write 50,000 words in the month of November, the first draft of a brand new novel. That means taking time in October to decide on a project, do any necessary research, plot and plan the novel and be prepared to write like a steam train through November.

Am I willing to set aside that time for the next two months? Can I be at a stage with my present WIP where I will not mind putting it aside for November? Will I be willing to put the other projects on this list aside for that time too?

The answer is, ‘Yes.’ And because of it’s time-sensitivity, NaNoWriMo has to move into first place – for the moment.

Number Five: I’d like to write another in my Reluctant Detective Series. I love writing about Mirabelle and her friends and family. I already have a few half written Mirabelle stories that spring from the series so it would be a good idea to get to work on them and finish them – one at a time, of course 🙂

The completing of the unfinished stories will slot in nicely to number three, behind NaNo, the ‘in Fiction’ series, but ahead of ‘menu update’ – with the proviso that I might bump a new Mirabelle story up as joint Number One if I decide to write one for my NaNo novel.

Number Six: My present WIP, working title Makeshift Memories. I’ve almost completed the third, or is it the fourth draft of this novel. It’s been a challenging but a fun one. This is the first time I’ve written anything with a historical strand running through it. It has required heaps of research and a lot of editing, but I do believe I’m on the home straight.

Am I happy to put all other projects aside in order to get this draft completed before NaNoWriMo – without rushing the process and thereby not doing it justice?

The answer is not a difficult one. It’s a resounding, ‘YES!’  If I can stick in with it for a few more weeks, it will be ready to send off for a second round of beta reads, then I can give it a final edit during December and hopefully publish it in the new year. 🙂 So that one has to go top of the list, at least until November, when the time-sensitivity issue arises for NaNoWriMo. Interestingly, Makeshift Memories  was my NaNoWriMo novel for November 2017.

Gold Plated, my latest release, was my NaNo novel in 2016 and is now available both as paperback and ebook here. It hasn’t been out terribly long, yet already it’s garnering some lovely reviews and comments. Makes my heart sing when I know I’ve written something that brings other people pleasure.

And Number Seven: Blogposts, FaceBook posts and other Social Media posts. These not only play a necessary part in promoting and marketing my novels, they are also FUN! And, as I said at the outset, my criteria for prioritising is FUN.

I enjoy writing blogposts here, love posting in my Facebook group here, my Instagram account here, and following others on Social Media.

How much time am I happy to spend doing these things? Can I cut the time I browse just for entertainment? Can I ignore the distractions and maximise the use of my time on Social Media in order to make good progress with all my other projects?

This is a more difficult answer, a more difficult one to prioritise. It’s a ‘Yes,’ and a ‘No.’ It has to be high on my list because it’s fun, and it doesn’t require as much time and energy as the other projects on my list. But can I stop being distracted by interesting and fun posts while I’m on Social Media? No. And why would I want to be? It’s fun. I could cut down on distraction and browsing time, I suppose, but realistically, knowing who I’m talking about here – me – time will be happily spent there, not always productively, but hey! why do I do any of these projects if not for pleasure?

So my decision is to take this one off the list altogether and run it alongside all the others on a day to day basis.

So how does my list look now? Well, for starters, it’s now a list of six, instead of seven 🙂

1. WIP, Makeshift Memories, first until November when

2. NaNoWriMo will take over pole position.

3. The ‘in Fiction’ books

4. New Mirabelle books – with the proviso if I start a new one, it goes to 1. in November

5. Menu bar

6. Scrivener

How does your list look? Has the order of yours changed from how they came into your head? How happy are you with the prioritising of your list?

In fact, what I’m going to aim to do is a little of this and a little of that, working in order of priority in that I’ll make sure the ones high on my list receive most of my writing time. Believe it or not, I do have other fun things I take time for 🙂

I’d love to hear what your list is about, how you feel about it now you’ve examined it with a view to prioritising the items, and how you plan to implement it. If you need any help with the exercise, do let me know and I’d be happy to be your sounding board.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable read, all my books are available in paperback and ebook format here.

3D CC Promo Visual

Oh, and please don’t be put off by Amazon telling you the paperback is out of stock. Of course it’s out of stock – it’s Print on Demand. Amazon never keep a stock of any POD books. Click to buy it and they order a print copy. That’s the process they always use.

Don’t forget to have fun with your list.

I wonder how many Things You Would Like To Do.

~~~

 

Taking a Book for a Walk

In case you were wondering, I do intend to round up my Food in Fiction series, and I set out to do that, but I got sidetracked.

Here’s what I wrote before I wandered off topic:

‘Having looked at how others have used it, and the reasons why it might work for us, let’s think about the mechanics of how to do it: how to put Food in your Fiction.

I suppose we could just mention what a character had for their dinner, as in, “So-and-so sat down to steak pie and chips.” But would that really add anything to our narrative?

Better to give us a taste of the steak pie and chips, figuratively speaking, of course.’

… and that’s where I got sidetracked.

Thinking about a figurative taste of Food in Fiction reminded me of the fun book my friend Jane gave me when we were on our writers’ retreat week, and I decided to tell you that story instead, because you’ll enjoy it. I know you will.

Jane brought us lots of goodies for our week away, and one of them was the rather unusual and marvellous book Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.

Have you seen it?

Its product description on Amazon tells us,

“Think of Wreck This Journal as the anarchist’s Artist’s Way — the book for those who’ve always wanted to draw outside the lines but were afraid to do it. … With Keri Smith’s unique sensibility, readers are introduced to a new way of art and journal making, discovering novel ways to escape the fear of the blank page and fully engage in the creative process.”

 Jane had given Sharon and I each one of these journals, but she didn’t know how we would react, if we could really do it. Deface these brand new books? Books we had been gifted? It seemed like sacrilege to true book lovers such as we three. We had gone to our retreat to write novels, not destroy books.

Hadn’t we?

But could it do what it says on the label? Could it help us ‘fully engage in the creative process?’

Our first reactions to the books involved a lot of laughter and, “Yeah, that’ll be right!” as we read some of the instructions. But it seemed like such a fun idea.

I knew I could ‘add my own page numbers.’ That was fun. Random numbers in the bottom corners of every page. Hang on, that’s not truly entering into the spirit of the thing. Random numbers all over the pages. Better.

‘Make a sudden, destructive, unpredictable movement with the journal.’ Easy! I threw it across the room to smash against the wall.

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Then we were asked to, ‘Crack the Spine.’ A tricky one for some, but I was okay with that. I’m a crack the spine kind of girl.

 ‘Stand here. Wipe your feet up and down,’ ON THE PAGE! well I wasn’t quite so sure, but after some deep breathing and gritted teeth, I had a go.

‘Poke holes in this page using a pencil.’ Building up steam now. Woo-hoo! ‘Scribble wildly, violently, with reckless abandon,’

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On a roll.

Now, you may wonder what on earth such a journal has to do with Food in Fiction. I shall tell you. There is a page in the journal that invites the reader to ‘Document your dinner.’ with instructions to ‘rub, smear, splatter your food.’ and the suggestion to ‘use this page as a napkin.’

Crazy, yes?

Now we were getting to the hard core stuff. No way I could ever deliberately smear food on a book. No way! Never! Wasn’t going to happen.

Then we had Champagne.

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After Sharon popped the cork, aiming at the target on this page of my book, I was up for the challenge. Well, technically, not just after she’d hit the target with the cork, but after the Champagne hit the target…

Chilli Nachos feature on the pages of my journal.

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It is revolting, truly revolting. It looks bad enough here, but, believe me, it is so much worse in three dimensional, glorious technicolor.

But incredibly liberating.

Incredibly liberating! I had crossed the line. I was working outside the lines. Writing flowed after that. Some of it to be discarded on the cutting room floor when I got home, but some of it the best, most flowing writing I had done in a long time, to be retained and included in my next novel.

Unlike the Chilli Nachos.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book, Wreck This Journal. It provided so much fun throughout our week. We ripped pages, wiped them on dirty cars, made a page into a paper boat and sailed it in a dirty puddle, and glued pages together. SO much fun. I wouldn’t have believed it. We were given permission to be naughty children and the only consequences were lots of laughter and a very bedraggled journal.

I even took the book for a walk on the end of a string, as instructed.

click the link if you want to see how that went!

A sidetrack, yes.

But almost relevant to the topic of Food in Fiction.

Next time, I’ll write the post I set out to write. We’ll talk about how you can use Food in your Fiction. There’ll be tips and treats and writing prompts.

But, meanwhile, why don’t you see if you can meet the challenges set you in  Wreck This Journal

All in the name of setting your creativity free.

#6 — Food in Fiction

To Cook or not to Cook

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Some people love to cook, others have no interest in the workings of the kitchen, and there can be many reasons for this. For instance, the overbearing mother who never allows her child near the stove or the mixing bowl for fear they might make a mess, and knowing she can do it better herself, is unlikely to rear a happy chef. By contrast, the mum who bakes fairy cakes with her three year old, with flour clouding around her elbows and pink icing in her hair, may well produce the next Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and from time to time there will be someone determined to strive against discouragement to become a master at the craft.

Another reason many people don’t cook is lack of time. There are many frustrated gourmet chefs sitting in stuffy offices dreaming of steamy kitchens, planning the dinner party they would throw if they only had the time or funds.

Some learn their craft at their mother’s side, others in a school of Haute Cuisine.

The popular film, Julie & Julia, contrasts the life of chef Julia Child in the early years of her culinary career with the life of Julie Powell, a young woman in New York who sets out to cook her way through the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook. She aims to do it in one year. That’s 365 days for 524 recipes. She describes her efforts on her regular blog.
The screenplay, by Nora Ephron, is adapted from two books, an autobiography by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, called My Life in France, and a memoir by Julie Powell, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen documenting her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In Julia Child’s book, My Life in France, she describes how she signs up for cooking classes at the École du Cordon Bleu where she learns the art of French cooking.

While the books and the film, Julie and Julia, are not completely fictional, I think the film, in particular, made a very interesting drama and could be used as inspiration for writing food into your fiction.

If you don’t know what to write about, here is a suggestion for you:

Perhaps you could write a short story about attending a cookery class. It could be a class in the local village hall or in a College kitchen. Ask yourself, why does this character want to learn to cook? Perhaps they can already cook, but want to improve. Perhaps it’s to pass a rainy Thursday night in good company.

Or a story about someone’s first attempts at following a recipe.
There’s a lot of potential for humour: mishaps and disasters are common in a kitchen setting, particularly with inexperienced cooks, and can sometimes be very amusing.

I hope you find this next excerpt, from an as-yet-unpublished novel I have written, falls into that category. I always think it’s dangerous to claim you’ve written something funny. Humour is such an individual thing. But I hope it at least makes you smile.

~~~

Sauce for the Goose
by
Christine Campbell

By the time she turned into the communal stair of the flats, Sandra had built up a fair head of steam in her boiler, fuelled by the indignity she suffered at work set against the memory of Hugh lying warm and sleepy in their bed when she left him this morning and sitting with his feet on the coffee table all day watching day-time trash on the unlicensed box, as she imagined he had most of her long, torturous day. ‘Sauce for the goose…’ Colleen’s remark flared in her memory. ‘Equal opportunity…’ She was ready to blow.
A blanket of fresh, enticing, foodie smells doused her anger as she opened the door.
“Don’t…em, don’t come in the kitchen!” Hugh yelled. “Surprise! It’s… it’s a surprise.”
Sandra still had her key in the lock, the door still standing open, the sudden cooling of her anger leaving her frozen in disbelief.
“You’re cooking!”
“Guessed it must be about my turn,” Hugh planted a kiss on her cheek as he busied past her with candles for the table.
“But you never cook. You hate cooking.”
“I didn’t say that, or not exactly. It’s just that…” he ran his hands through his floppy hair, pushing his swimming goggles onto his forehead. “It’s just that you do it so much better. Onions,” he added in answer to her unspoken enquiry about the goggles.
“Yes, I see. But the candles, wine?” She closed the door and followed him through to the living room.
“A sudden pang of conscience. You out there every day working for us. Me in here watching tele.”
A weary snort of recognition escaped from Sandra.
“One of these interminable talk shows. ‘Is your man a loser?’ Suddenly saw that, yes, your man, me, was… am… a bit of a loser Wouldn’t be watching that dreadful program otherwise. Decided to do something about it.”
“A job would be nice.”
“Yes. Yes, I suppose that would be nice. The ideal really, I imagine.” Hugh stood with his hands on his hips, his hips girded with a tea towel, nodding his agreement.
“Yes.”
“I did… I er… did go… to the job centre again.”
Sandra looked up expectantly.
Hugh spread his hands. “Nothing.”
“Nothing?”
“Suitable, I mean. Nothing suitable.”
“If it pays money, it’s suitable,” Sandra muttered.
“Mustn’t lose sight of the big picture, as it were. You know, the right job, best career move.”
Sandra sat down wearily. “Oh, Hugh. What are we going to do? I know you want a career, but, right now, it’s a job you need, just a job. One that pays money. One that pays off the overdraft.”
“Mmm, know what you mean.”
“Do you, Hugh? ‘Cos I wonder sometimes. You’ve had this great Public School Education. The Stiff Upper Lip, English Gentleman, Posh University kind of stuff, but, really, has it prepared you for living in the real world? Has it taught you how to put meat on the table? Has it dickie-bird!”
“Meat on the table, yes, see what you mean.” He sniffed the air, “Sorry, back in a mo. The meat. Need to do some stirring.” And disappeared into the kitchen.
“Smells nice.” She sat up, alarmed by sudden realisation. “How? where did you get the money for meat? We can’t afford…”
“Sold the picture.” Hugh shouted.
Her eyes flew to the empty place on the wall.
“My grandmother’s painting! You sold my grandmother’s painting.” She was on her feet, her anger reignited.
“Don’t come in,” he yelled as she started to push open the kitchen door.
“You sold my grandmother’s painting!” She shouted, her forehead against the door, her fist banging it in frustration. “You had no right.”
“Hunger!” he shouted back. “Hunger gave me the right.”
“It was mine.”
“It was ugly,” he asserted as he squeezed through the door, barring her entry to the kitchen.
“It was mine.”
He looked helplessly at her. “We needed food.”
“I was bringing food.” She held up the carrier bag. “Bread, cheese, pasta.”
“Macaroni cheese?”
She nodded.
“Yes. Yes, I see. The thing is, actually… well, I’m… well, I’m sort of fed up with macaroni cheese, as it happens.”
“But…”
Hugh took off the goggles and ran his fingers through his untidy hair again, reinforcing his air of perpetual bewilderment. “And I was… I was sort of… I was fed up with that hideous picture staring down at me all day.” He tossed a petulant glance in the direction of the offending, now absent, painting.
“It could only stare down at you all day, if you were here all day.”
“Yes, of course. Yes. Well. It seemed the ideal solution, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Instead of Capercaillie on the wall, we’ve er… we’ve sort of… sort of got chicken in the… in the er, wok, so to speak.” his voice trailed off the way it often did, though he smiled shyly at his own wit. “You’ve got to admit it was a particularly ugly painting,” he added bravely.
“It was my painting.”
“Chicken stir-fry. Lots of peppers and mushrooms. Garlic,” he cajoled, waving a hand in the general direction of the smell of cooking.
“Painted for me by my grandmother.”
“Spring onions, ginger. Oh, hell! Something’s burning!” He dashed out to the kitchen again. “Don’t be cross about it, darling,” he called back through. “Think of it as, well, as sensible use of resources, so to speak.”
“Why couldn’t you have sensibly used some of your own resources? Oh good grief, what on earth is all this for?”
“I told you not to come through.”
“How many are you expecting for dinner?”
“Just…eh… just us.”
“But there’s so much. All these peppers.”
“I thought it seemed a lot,” he frowned. “But that’s what the recipe said.”
“Which recipe? Let me see.”
He lifted the book to show her.
“Feeds six,” she read out.
“Oops!”
“Oops, indeed. But, even for six, it’s an awful lot.”
He took the recipe back and pointed to the ingredients list. “Look, six chicken breasts, fourteen oz of potatoes. Oz, I knew that was ounces,” he informed her with some pride. “And I knew sixteen ounces equals one pound, so I weighed out nearly a pound, then half as much of peppers, same of mushrooms.”
“But I don’t have ounces on my scales.”
“Yes, you do. ‘Course you do.” He drew them over. “See?”
“Grams and Kilos,” she showed him. “It measures in grams and kilos. You’ve cooked a kilo of potatoes, four chicken breasts and there are several kilos of vegetables chopped up here.” The sweep of her hand indicated the heaps of vegetables covering every available work surface in their little kitchen. “For two of us.”
He scratched his head. “I wondered how it was all going to fit in the wok.”
“Well, it’s not, is it?” she said, weariness giving an edge to her voice.
“No, I suppose it’s not. Sorry.” He shrugged his apology like a child caught in some minor misdemeanour. “What… er… what do you… er… should I…”
Sandra sighed. “Let me get my coat off.”
“Sorry,” he said again, his large brown eyes begging her forgiveness.
How could she be angry with this gentle, schoolboy of a man? “Oh Hugh,” she said, drawing him into her arms. “What are we going to do?”
“I thought, perhaps, eating might be a good idea?”

And, in the end, the meal was delicious. That evening, the next evening and, in various forms, the next three evenings after that: stir-fried; curried; roasted; the vegetables liquidised as soup, and finally as sauce.

~~~

So how about you having a go at writing a story in which food plays a leading role. It might be fun. Let me know how you get on.

~~~

#5 — Food in Fiction

We’ve been looking at how Food is used in Fiction. The places where your characters eat and drink can also be helpful in telling your story.

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Photo taken in the Vintage Tearoom of The Caledonian Bicycle Company

In my second novel, Making It Home, two of the main characters meet regularly in a coffee shop. A coffee shop or tearoom is a neutral location. No-one has to act as hostess. No-one has to assume responsibility for the business of getting fed and watered. So it is a useful setting for a writer to use. It allows dialogue to flow as easily as tea or coffee from the pot, or with as many splutters and stutters as a malfunctioning coffee machine. That’s up to the writer and what he or she wishes to accomplish in the scene.


THE book cover

In Making It Home, Kate and Phyllis meet for afternoon tea, and in this short excerpt I haven’t woven in many references to the food and drink, more using the setting to allow space for the characters to get to know one another and the reader to listen in and get to know them too. The reference to the strawberry tarts, is used to show how Phyllis diverts attention from herself, afraid perhaps of revealing too much about her unusual lifestyle.

~~~

“So tell me about yourself,” Phyllis demanded after they’d bought their coffee and cakes and were settled at a small round table in Harrison’s Coffee Shop.
The surroundings suited Phyllis. Kate had never really paid much attention to the place before. It was just somewhere to have a break and refreshment. Now, she noticed that it was quite elegantly furnished: dark wooden tables, comfortably padded chairs. It all had an air of old-fashioned elegance: the perfect setting for such a delightfully old-fashioned lady.
“You’re married.” Phyllis nodded in the direction of Kate’s wedding ring. “Any children?”
“Two. A girl and a boy.”
“Ages?”
“Vicky’s thirty-four. Paul, thirty-two.”
“You must have been a very young mum.”
“I was.” Kate blushed. “Sweet sixteen… and wish I’d only been kissed!”
“Pregnant when you married then?”
Kate was a little taken aback by the older woman’s directness. Often that generation were a little bashful about such topics. Her own mum certainly was. In fact, she never quite recovered from the shame of Kate’s disgrace. She had made a great point of telling everybody that Vicky was a honeymoon baby. ‘Six weeks premature,’ she’d said. Pretty hard to be convincing though, when Vicky was a bouncing seven-and-a-half pounder!
“’Fraid so,” she admitted.
“And no help for it in those days?”
“Absolutely not. We ‘Had To Get Married’. No other choice. My dad made that very clear. Anyway,” Kate laughed a little wryly. “I wanted to get married. Thought it was really romantic. Getting married, having babies. It’s what I’d always wanted. Or at least, I thought it was.”
“The romance wore off then?”
“Quickly. Once I had two toddlers and a husband who didn’t have a clue what to do with kids. I’m afraid Dan didn’t have much time for them until they could watch the football. Although, to his credit, he was a good provider. Worked hard. ‘Department of Trade and Industry’. He’s quite high up in it now and very well respected, as far as I can tell. Not that he talks about his work. Just that my neighbour’s husband works in the same department. Under Dan, actually. He seems to think the world of him. Says he’s a great manager.” She shrugged. “He’s beginning to get tired though. I think they’ve worn him down. He’d love to get out.”
“Any chance?”
“Oh heavens! I hope not. I couldn’t be doing with him underfoot all the time.”
“He’d surely get something else though?”
“Perhaps.” Kate shuddered.“Anyway, what about you?”
“Oh you don’t want to hear about me.” Phyllis held out the delicate china plate of cakes. “Here! Why don’t you try one of these strawberry tarts? They really are delicious.”

~~~

And in this next excerpt, the tea and the tea tray help to show a scene of family domesticity. No longer a neutral location, Kate is in her own kitchen with her son, a more intimate setting, allowing us to see another, more intimate, side to her character. There are things you may not mind talking about to an acquaintance in a coffee shop, and there are other, more personal things you would only feel comfortable sharing with family or close friends in the safe environment of your own kitchen.

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~~~

“You mean you’ve been slipping out of the house, every Saturday for weeks, without telling him where you’re going?”
Kate nodded. “Well, only one so far.”
“Do you think that’s wise, Mum? I mean… what if he thinks you’ve got a fancy man or something?”
She laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Paul. Why on earth would he think that?”
“Well, isn’t that what happened to his Dad when he was a wee boy? Did his Mum not run off with someone or something?”
“Yes, but his Mum was a floosie.”
“A what?” Paul hooted.
“Shh! He’ll come through to see what’s keeping his cup of tea.”
“Well, really Mum! A ‘floosie’! Where on earth did you come up with that?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. I don’t know what the current slang is for a loose woman.”
Paul hooted again.
“She fell in love with all things American during the war, particularly, all ‘things’ in uniform. His father wasn’t even sure that Dan was his kid. Then she upped and left him to bring him up on his own. I don’t think they had much of a homelife.”
“Probably why he’s such a miserable sod now.”
“Paul!”
“Well he is. And I do know what the current slang is for that. But, in deference to your feelings…”
“Thank you.”
“So, where does he think you go every Saturday?”
“Shopping, I suppose. He doesn’t ask, so I don’t tell him.”
Paul picked up the tea-tray and started towards the kitchen door. “Fair enough. If he’s not interested enough to ask. It would serve him right if you did have a fancy man. Hey!” He spun round to look carefully at her. “You don’t, do you?”
“Of course I don’t! And watch that tea, you’re going to spill it!”

~~~

You can find Making It Home, internationally, on Amazon

FREE for three days, from Tuesday, November 4th till Thursday, November 6th

~~~

#4 — Food in Fiction

It’s been fun looking at how Food is used in Fiction, examining how others have used it. How about how you can use it in your book?

Have you thought about that?

Just as in life, food can be a great ice-breaker. How many weddings have you been at where you sit round a table with six or seven strangers, all wondering what to talk about, until the food arrives. “Mmm, this soup’s delicious!” “That pate looks nice.” And you’re off, you’ve broken the ice, uttered the first syllables and you’re okay now right through to the syllabub.

Your characters can do the same. They can comment on the food. A grumpy character can grumble, a cheery character can prattle, a moody character can head down and eat without saying a word. And your reader will get the message.

The language the characters use might hint at their social standing, education or how well travelled they are. Their response to certain foods might tell about their background. The manner in which they eat might do the same job.

There are other things the use of food and drink references can accomplish. They can help to set a scene, create an atmosphere, or let the reader see how characters interplay.

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In her book The Early Bird Cafe, author Carrie Aulenbacher weaves a tale of sweet romance bound to have you reaching for another cup of coffee as you read. I haven’t read the whole book, so I can’t necessarily recommend it, but it does look as though food is used effectively in this piece of fiction. See what you think yourself.

Her main characters, Jim and Eve, share breakfast every morning at the Early Bird Cafe.

This short excerpt lets us, the readers, see the part food plays in their routine.

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He ordered coffee for him and French toast for me before I could even protest.
“Don’t go putting the cart before the horse, now,” I said as Cassie took the order back to the kitchen.

He waved off my reprimand.

“Don’t worry, I’ve been thinking for a while that I should treat you to French toast at least once a month.” He sipped slowly at his coffee.

It was easy to see that the café blend was no match for my prepackaged attempts at home. I checked the paper while we waited. Our orders were on the table in a flash.
“You’re celebrating early,” I said when the food came. The French toast was undeniably delicious compared to my usual toast.
“I’m just thanking you for being you,” he said.
“If you still want me to go . . .” I said, punctuating the thought with a forkful of French toast.

He shook his head.
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I told you this will all be fixed soon.” He put down his cup.
“I was thinking I’d go to Mom’s house on Sunday,” I slowly suggested.
He waved off another cup as he listened to me.

“Maybe you’d want to show her your new car?”
“Will there be cookies for dessert?” he quipped. Jim knew my mother always had dessert waiting after a home-cooked meal.
“Maybe even pie,” I said.
He smiled. “Sure, why not?” he said.

~~~

As you can see, the references to food are woven in to the scene, giving it a setting and some action while the dialogue takes place, killing two (early?) birds with one muffin, so to speak.

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It is the author’s task to help the reader see the scene and get to know the characters and using food and drink is just one of the ways that can be achieved. Why not give it a go, and let me know if you do. I’d love to read some of the ways you use Food in Fiction.

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#3 — Food in Fiction

In Part One, we gave some thought to some scenes in novels we’ve read where food played an important role, and we talked a little about how their attitude to food can reveal things about your character’s character.

In Part Two, we looked at a couple of examples of that, and also talked about how important food is in our lives and, by extension, the lives of our characters.

In Part Three, I thought it would be interesting to think about food as a central character. For instance, in Chocolat by Joanne Harris, chocolate plays the most important role. Without it, there would be no story.

When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. As passions flare and the conflict escalates, the whole community takes sides. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the sinful pleasure of a chocolate truffle?

What I love best about the story is that Vianne finds the chocolate that matches the person’s personality best, demonstrating that, just as the foods we have our characters choose can tell a lot about them, so the character’s personality and the role they play can determine the food we might choose to have them eat in our story. I mean, would you really have your romantic hero eat tripe and onions? Or give his lady-love a box of frozen peas bound with a ribbon?

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The chocolates in this photo are my husband’s chocolate gingers. Anyone tell me what kind of personality Vianne would match those to? Then I’ll tell you if its a good match.

Writer Teagan Kearney, http://writingmynovelnoworkingtitleyet.blogspot.co.uk says, “I think my all time favourite novel featuring food was ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris, especially the passages describing the preparation – as a chocolate lover they had me drooling!”

As one Amazon review puts it, “Chocolat is an utterly delicious novel, coated in the gentlest of magics, which proves–indisputably and without preaching–that soft centres are best.” –Lisa Gee

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Similarly, in The Sweetness of Forgetting, by Kristen Harmel, there would be no story without the delicious sweets and pastries, inspired by Rose’s youth in Paris, and passed on to her daughter and granddaughter, and, again, the main character, Hope, matches pastries to people, offering them those she thinks will please them.

This is a tale of baking, love, hope and faith across generations.

The North Star Bakery has been in Hope’s family for generations, the secret recipes passed down from mother to daughter. When the bakery runs into financial trouble and Rose takes a turn for the worse, Hope’s delicate balancing act is in danger of crumbling entirely.

Then Rose reveals a shocking truth about her past and everything Hope thought she knew about her family and the bakery is turned upside down. At her grandmother’s request, Hope travels to Paris, armed only with a mysterious list of names. What she uncovers there could be the key to saving the bakery and the fulfilment of a star-crossed romance, seventy years in the making.

The Sweetness of Forgetting now comes with added book club discussion topics and inspirational food ideas created by the author.

Now, this is a book I can heartily recommend to you. I read it a while ago and can actually still remember much about it, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and the recipes are delicious.

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And, now, as a special treat for you, here is a short story written by my good friend Sharon Scordecchia, in response to my request in Part One of this series for observations on the part food plays in the books we have read.

The book she remembers is Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, and the part played by luscious, red strawberries, ripe for the picking.

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Dear Tess,
I read your story years ago, when I was seventeen. I hated that Alec d’Urberville. I hated you being in the greenhouse with him. I was fearful when he insisted on feeding you those strawberries. I wanted to shout out to you, “Don’t eat it, Tess! Don’t let him put it to your mouth.”
I read your story for my English lesson. Mr S was our teacher, S for Strawberry or Seduction or Sleaze? S for Squirm. Mr S sat, his never-ending legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles, talking about your ‘luscious lips’, hissing the ‘s’ of each word, the sounds snaking their way around the classroom. He licked his huge lips making them shiny and wet and he laughed, his large straight teeth exposed in a leer as he held your story aloft in his great hands, while he educated us. We sat in a semi-circle around him, behind our desks, not knowing where to look. When it got too much, all his talk of strawberries being forced to luscious lips, I stabbed my pen into the grain of my desk, gouging inky disgust into the wood, defacing Alec and Mr S.
My class had a weapon though, Tess, something we used frequently to combat all that talk of strawberries and luscious lips. Each lesson, before Mr S arrived we would nominate the class’ best actress to sit in Mr S’ seat. She became Mr S. She licked her lips and leered at us and lolled back in Mr S’ chair stretching herself across the floor, holding the invisible piece of fruit, “luscious lips” slithering from her mimicry.
We sat behind our desks, our heads thrown back in bursts of raucous laughter, holding onto our sides, laughing till we cried.
If only you’d resisted the fruit, Tess. The outcome may have been different, better. But then, I was only seventeen, what did I know? I was still learning that truth is stranger than fiction.

Sharon Scordecchia

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Please, do keep them coming, observations, reviews, poems, short stories, whatever — all about Food in Fiction. Your prize? I may well share it here on my blog in #FoodinFiction

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#2 — Food in Fiction

In Part One of this Food in Fiction Series, we talked about the books we remember where food plays a role, either strategically or casually. Some of you were kind enough to mention books I had not thought of.

Lisa Page remembers the book The Food Taster, about a man whose job it was to taste the king’s food. Interestingly, she remembers it was “about the man whose job it was to make sure the king’s food wasn’t poisoned.” But she goes on to say, “Don’t remember much about the book, but do remember thinking it was a clever angle!” This shows that the food in the fiction made an impression, more of an impression than the rest of the book.

In some ways, this shouldn’t surprise us, because food plays such an important role in our lives. Let’s face it, most of us in the developed world eat three meals a day, sometimes four if you count your bedtime supper as a meal, plus snacks and treats. How much time does that take? Add the time we spend thinking about what we are going to eat, buying the ingredients, preparing and serving the food, if that’s our role. If it was possible to count it all up, I reckon it’s a huge proportion of our waking time — for most of us — I know not everyone thinks about food as much as I do —  especially when I’m trying to cut down.

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The fact that Lisa remembers the title and the clever angle shows the effectiveness of said title and angle. I found a novel by that name, written by Peter Elbling, the blurb of which says, “Ugo DiFonte is the duke’s food taster: the duke loves Ugo’s daughter, the daughter loves the cook, and Ugo alone can save them all, though any bite could be his last.”

I don’t know if this was the book Lisa referred to, but it certainly is a clever angle. One reviewer said,”The bulk of the detail is reserved for descriptions of the outlandish dishes the food taster must sample in his role as poison detector.” You may or may not enjoy the book, and I haven’t read it myself so offer no recommendation or otherwise, but I’m sure you’ll agree it seems to illustrate well one role of Food in Fiction.

Wendy Janes (http://wendyproof.co.uk/)  remembers, “the amazing picnics that the Famous Five had in the Enid Blyton books that I read as a child.” She goes on to say, “Bringing things bang up to date, Susan Buchanan’s books Sign of the Times and The Dating Game feature food and drink that forms the backdrop to some great scenes between her characters.”

Susan Buchanan (http://www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk) herself comments that Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love has to be her all-time favourite. That one is described as “A delicious tale of Cyrano de Bergerac-style culinary seduction, but with sensual recipes instead of love poems.” Hmmm … interesting … this one gets you on two sensory levels! Good ploy!

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As you can see, the topic Food in Fiction, brings quite a variety of books to mind.

The fact that eating is something we all, without exception, must engage in, gives it an importance in real life that can be reflected in fiction. In Part One, we chatted about how much we can tell about a person by their attitude to food, and how we can use that understanding to get to know our characters, and, subsequently, help our readers get to know them too.

I gave some thought to the main character in my novel, Family Matters, and the kind of food she would probably cook. As a single, working parent, bringing up two children on her own and with a small income, I reckon she’d be frugal, cooking well-balanced, nutritious meals. Her concern would be with producing good food at minimum cost and with minimum expenditure of time. Winter soups and warming casseroles in the winter, I would imagine. Simple, tasty salads like this tuna and boiled egg salad in the summer:

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or this smoked salmon, prawn and feta cheese one if she felt a bit flush after payday:

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I think Sarah would care about the presentation, She would want it to be colourful and appetising as she placed it in front of her children, and what that would show about her character is that while being a hard working, busy Mum, she still makes time for the niceties, the aesthetic, artistic pleasures in life, she is meticulous in things, is affectionate, and takes pride in what she does.

Why not read Family Matters and see if you agree.

You can download it FREE on the 15th and 16th October.

http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00BR9JUV8

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Please keep your thoughts coming. It’s great to share them and I already have some more friends’ memories to share with you in Part Three of #FoodinFiction 

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#1 – Food in Fiction

When writing a novel, it is important for us, as authors, to know our characters well. We need to know much more about them than we directly reveal to our readers. With that background knowledge of them, their makeup, their likes and dislikes, we hope that our readers will deduce a lot about them from how we make them behave in the story we weave.

One of the questions an author might ask about their characters is what kind of food they like to eat or to cook. Perhaps they are a ‘Foodie,’ cooking up great culinary delights to please their family or guests who dine at their table. Perhaps they are too busy to cook but love to eat good food and dine out regularly, or perhaps they throw together some weird concoctions just to satisfy their hunger pangs, with no sense of pleasure in preparing or eating their sustenance. At one end of the spectrum, we might be writing about a poor damaged soul, with no happy memories of delightful family mealtimes, at the other, a well-adjusted, happy individual who spends much time, energy and money on producing and delighting in delicious food.

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Photo courtesy of Gillian Wightman, Edinburgh

From anorexia to obesity, the relationship your character has with food can reveal a lot about them and their history. You may not choose to discuss it much in your novel or short story, but knowing what that relationship is can go a long way in helping you and your reader get to know your character.

Food plays such an important part in everyone’s life, whether happily or unhappily, that it is fundamental to knowing a person well.

With that in mind, I got to thinking more about the part that food has played in fiction over the years.

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According to The Good Food Guide:

“Children’s literature makes for rich pickings when it comes to culinary descriptions: there’s moment after juicy moment in Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or James and The Giant Peach. The description of Amy’s ‘pickled limes’ in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – ‘plump and juicy’ in their ‘moist, brown-paper parcel’ with their ‘delicious perfume’ – pops out from the pages. Other mouth-watering moments can be found in John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, or Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, and the fabulous tea party in Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. C.S.Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe couldn’t fail to prompt a fascination with Turkish delight, and the great feast which magically renews in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is another enduring image.”

The Good Food Guide rounds off with: “one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, from the book of the same name by Douglas Adams. The restaurant ‘is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe. In it, guests take their places at table and eat sumptuous meals whilst watching the whole of creation explode around them.’ Now that alone would merit a place in The Good Food Guide’s Top 50.”

You can probably think of many, many more books where food features in fiction: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Dickens, A Christmas Carol; Chocolat by Joanne Harris; Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen; Proust’s Remembrance of Things PastTo The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and an endless list where food is mentioned in passing or dwelt on enough to make your mouth water.

Please do get in touch through the comments, telling me about your favourite Food in Fiction. Perhaps it’s a passage in one of the ones I mention here. Perhaps something else altogether. Please, do share. Share the part of the book you have in mind and what it told you about the characters. I might even include your thoughts here in

#2 — Food in Fiction

Coming soon.

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By the way, the 2015 Good Food Guide is now available. Wonder if I’ll find more literary foodie treasures there in the coming year.

http://www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk

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