Recently I heard about the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð which means Christmas Book Flood. In a nutshell, in Iceland, there is a tradition of searching for the perfect book to give at Christmas. When Christmas Eve arrives, the books are opened and enjoyed with a warm drink, typically hot chocolate.
Books are published in the months leading up to Christmas so that they make the new books for that year’s list. Then begins the search for the perfect book to give as a gift. There is something rather delicious and heartwarming about looking for the ideal book for someone to enjoy and to then pass on to someone else to enjoy.
When I think about books that I have been gifted, I am touched that someone would think enough of me to treat me to something so personal. I have been so moved by this tradition that I have decided that when I am thinking of someone, I will select a book and send it to them.
Books and stories have the power to change the world. Every book I read, whether I dip in or devour to the end has a message for me. What I also learn from books is not only how to be a better human but how to be a better writer.
So just what do chocolate and books have to do with being a better writer?
Chocolate and becoming a better writer
If you cannot eat chocolate or don’t like it, substitute chocolate with something else that makes you feel good. And that’s it in its simplicity chocolate helps to make you feel good. This has to do with the natural chemicals in it which fire off a series of neurotransmitters (signals) responsible for boosting your feel-good factor. Of course, it has to be good chocolate.
These days I rarely eat chocolate confectionary, if I do its good quality dark chocolate and even then I am conscious of how many ‘unhealthy’ ingredients are in it. I could make raw chocolates, but the truth is I love gluten-free chocolate cake, and that would be my chocolate of choice when reading or writing.
Cake also helps me with writer’s block as it is a distraction because I have to stop what I am doing and go and make it. It’s a very therapeutic activity. While my mind is elsewhere, some of the thorny issues that have been niggling me suddenly clear. Waiting for it to bake is fun, at least it is for me as I sit and salivate with anticipation, usually joined by three equally salivating dogs. Then it’s a few minutes of bliss and reflection until I head back to my writing. Try it; I promise it works…
Reading books to become a better writer
Now that you have the chocolate cake sorted and understand how vital it is to becoming a better writer, there will be no stopping you. However, there are more ways to become a better writer. This does also include chocolate and cake.
Finding inspiration in others writing
Often what we want when we can’t write is for some divine inspiration to appear magically. Reading other peoples words provides oodles of inspiration. Your mind will be distracted from what you are trying to write. If for example, you are writing a ‘serious’ non-fiction book, try reading something in a different genre such a novel that allows your mind to go on an adventure. All kinds of books from chick lit to psychological thrillers teach me something. I’m either working out the plot, revelling in some wordplay or I’m lost in in the flow. This ‘distraction’ helps me to focus.
Everything you read as a writer will help your writing. Keep a notebook by the side of wherever you read and make notes. I often highlight something on my Kindle and email it to myself. Consider how another writer opens and closes chapters. Or notice how they describe things, the kind of words they use, how they put them together, the flow and pace of the book. What about the backstory, the characters, tension, plot, epiphany and what aha’s you get. It is all fascinating.
Currently mum and I have a girl crush on John Marrs. I discovered his books quite by accident. My mum loves psychological thrillers and as she is a self-declared technophobe I buy her books for her Kindle. Most times I’ll look through you bought this, and this is what we recommend lists and other times I will go off on a tangent and see what the Universe has in store for us. Discovering John’s books has opened my eyes to storytelling which in turn has inspired me to go beyond my imagination as I plan out my first novel.
While I was putting this blog together, I asked John what he would recommend to his readers to enjoy with his books.
Welcome To Wherever You Are – I’d read that while eating a Tunnock’s tea cake. While the story is set in LA, it’s also based in a backpacking hostel where everyone is on a budget and thus can’t afford expensive treats. £1.99 will buy you a box of six Tunnocks.
The Good Samaritan – I’d eat this with a Lemon Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache. Both the lemon and the dark chocolate would leave a slightly bitter taste in my mouth like the actions of Laura, the star of the book.
When You Disappeared would come with just the cake box and nothing else. The cake inside would have vanished like the main character of the book.
When reading The One, I had my chocolate cake with hot chocolate by my side. Like the chapters, I cut it up into small chunks and savoured it a bit at a time.
What about other books to read with chocolate?
Below is a fabulous selection from fellow readers and friends.
Sarah Arrow – There’s usually a Bernard Cornwell that comes out around Christmas. It will feature a half experienced warrior with pagan beliefs trying to fit in with a growingly Christian world. It’s predictable, it’s anti-brunette and will be continued in another book released in precisely 12 months time. For this formulaic read, I’d have a box of heroes. Mini chocolate bars of high street chocolate. It tastes as predictable as it reads
Helen Brown – I am a chick-lit lover…. so for me, it would be Mandy Baggot’s “One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill” – perfect to curl up with after a hectic run-up to Christmas for me (I’m a florist!) – and to accompany it in terms of chocolate… I think I’d like some of those choc blobs on sticks that you dip into hot milk….with a hint of Baileys!
Angela Caine – This is my book; it is called from Fear to fabulous. While I was writing it, I loved eating Lindt 99% dark chocolate. You put the small squares on your tongue and let them melt, absolutely delicious. Goes perfectly while reading about your hidden patterns and self-sabotage. Fear to Fabulous: Discover the seven hidden patterns that are ruining your life…
Lou Seabrook – Mine would have to be a Le Carre – probably Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – it’s timeless and to go with a Milk chocolate bar with whole Hazelnuts – and a glass of wine of course.
Emma Jones – I’d swap Grisham, for Peter James and Terry’s Chocolate Orange…
Dan Knowlson – The chocolate is easy… Elements for Life – Raw Chocolate Making. I’m really into using my local library these days so don’t keep books. I’m currently reading the last Iain M Banks sci-fi book before he passed. Am inspired to go back to the start and read them again.
Readers of this blog can get 20% off Elements for Life chocolate to make their cake by visiting the site and using coupon code MARLEYMOO20 at the checkout. You can also get 20% off WRITE your non-fiction book at the Soul Writers Academy.
James Daniel – Chocolate Orange is best enjoyed with “The Pickle-Smith Trunk-Warmer”. A comic masterpiece about a boy inventor and his quest to test his new invention on a real elephant. Classic.
Lianne Wright – For me, it would be Giovanna Fletcher – happy mum happy baby, with the biggest possible bar of Galaxy!
Deb Mcandrew – My book, recovery, Russell brand….erm box of Thornton s (very large)
Andrea Lowe – Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims and a Chocolate Orange, please……
Jenni Louise Rock – I’d like to go back to my (very happy) childhood and have to complete works of Roald Dahls Children’s books with a box of Maltesers…… (if I have to choose chocolate) reminds me of Christmas as a kid….and makes me smile.
Sally Scamell – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. One from my childhood and read with a bar of Galaxy although I used to love Caramac in those days.
Paula Knowlson – I’m a bit strange. I like reading things like grain brain about preventing Alzheimer’s. Which is just as well as chocolate without the sugar is a good fat Perfect for my brain.
Victoria Player – For me, I’d like to be reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle with a handmade raw chocolate delight on the side, made by someone else of course!
Caroline Cain – A cookbook! I can’t remember the name of it right now. And some Om bar coconut milk chocolate.
Allison Marlowe – Sensation: Adventures in Sex, Love & Laughter by Isabel Losada and one of these – Cote D’or Bouchees Milk Belgian Chocolates.
Elizabeth Carney – Has to be – Chocolat – the book not the film with proper hot chocolate – not made from powder and Homemade choc chip cookies. The cookies are made every Christmas.
Jacqui Stone – One of the many books on my current wish list is – Wild & Wise: Sacred Feminine Meditations for Women’s Circles & Personal Awakening by Amy Bammel Wilding this will help with my journey of connecting to the divine and sharing with other women… I am also going through a Ritter phase, so this selection box would go down very nicely!
Joanne Reeves-Baker – What a great tradition. I love the Montezumas chocolate buttons. The book would be an interesting – autobiographies like David Jason’s or Marco Pierre White.
And what book and chocolate would you like for Christmas?