Nancy: Comfort Story

comfort zone phrase handwritten on blackboard with heart symbol instead of OOver these past several weeks, I’ve been immersed in stress. As often happens in times of long-term stress, I’ve found myself craving the worst kinds of foods, the ones full of fat and sugar, sometimes foods that don’t even particularly appeal to me under normal circumstances.

The reason for my cravings isn’t a mystery. It’s a stress response that’s as old as time, or at least as old as our prehistoric ancestors. And it’s not all bad. Loading up on high-energy foods gave our forebears the energy and endurance they needed for fight or flight in life or death situations. Unfortunately for us, even when our stress is over deadlines and office work, the rudimentary part of our brain turns to its same old, very old tricks to prepare us for battle.

But even if we don’t need the high caloric intake to survive a run-in with a sabre-tooth tiger, intake of those high-energy foods still has its purpose. Our brain sends out an SOS disguised as a craving; we eat the kinds of foods it wants; our bodies send back a signal that we’re prepared; our stressed brain is comforted. Hence, we have comfort food. It’s not an illusion, not our imagination. Comfort food actually mentally comforts us.

So what in the hell does all this have to do with writing, as this is, after all, a writing blog? Well, it has me thinking about other forms of comfort, specifically, comfort reading and watching. Continue reading

Jilly: Treats from the Peak

North Lees Hall, the original Thornfield Hall (David Lally via Wikimedia Commons)

North Lees Hall, the original Thornfield Hall (David Lally via Wikimedia Commons)

Are you tempted by our Christmas Week Short Story Challenge? Everyone’s invited, and it’s only a measly five hundred words.

The challenge evolved in the comments to my post Man-Caves & Brainwaves, about the rich and varied history of my home county of Derbyshire and its story potential. The rules (guidelines, really, it’s Christmas and we’re flexible) are simple – write a 500-word short story including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following: Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, Volcano, Ghost. Extra kudos for using more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

I’ll be starting off the challenge next Sunday (21 December). Several of the other Ladies are planning to play, and Michaeline will close the week in style the following Saturday, 27 December.

If you have a little reading time, here are Continue reading

Jilly: On The Scent Of A Good Story

On the scent of a good storyDo you make good use of all five senses when writing description and setting for your story?

Last month, I entered the opening scenes from my WIP into the Virginia Romance Writers’ Fool For Love contest. I won’t get feedback until later this month, but I already got great value from my contest entry fee, because I used the judges’ score sheet to revise my entry before I submitted it. ‘Does the author use the five senses?’ was the first question under ‘Description and Setting.’ I discovered that I had four out of the five covered, with varying degrees of success, but I’d missed a trick when it came to using smells to enrich my story.

I did a little research and discovered Continue reading

Nancy: Getting Away with Murder Mysteries

sherlock holmes silhouette

When I was in the second grade, I fell in love. The object of my affection? The Mystery of the Silver Spider in the Three Investigators mystery series by Robert Arthur. In the months and years to follow, I read not only every book in that series, but in the Hardy Boys  (Franklin W. Dixon) and Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene) as well. Years before I read my first romance or women’s fiction novel or even knew the fantasy genre existed, I discovered mystery novels, and I was hooked. Continue reading