Open any book and chances are you’ll find a dedication. I dedicated Winter’s Shadow to my wife, Greta, and Winter’s Light to my Dad. The third Winter book will be dedicated to my Mum (if not, she’ll kill me). These dedications are more than gestures. They’re gifts. A way of immortalising a sentiment. Authors don’t dole them out willy nilly. Which is why it might come as a surprise to readers when they open my next story, Claudette in the Shadows, and see a dedication to Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Chocolate.
Let me explain: I hate getting up in the morning. Absolutely loathe it. If I had my way, I’d stay in bed till noon. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that…well…no, I’m just lazy. Unfortunately, the morning is the only time I can write. The day job occupies 9 to 6.30, and most nights I’m busy eating, having a relationship with my wife and sleeping. So basically I have from 6am to 8am to get anything done. Those precious two hours (more like an hour and half when you subtract showering, coffee making, and dressing) is guaranteed to be ‘my time’ so long as I can get to my desk and utilise it.
Which is where I hit a snag. I can set my alarm for 6am but that doesn’t mean I’m going to acknowledge it. Or even hear it. In the past, I’ve slept right through only to be woken by a well placed elbow courtesy of Greta. Even then, I’m more likely to go back to sleep. Some people spring from bed full of energy ready to tackle the day. I hate these people. It’s always a struggle for me. The Sandman is a wily jailer.
In the past, a publisher deadline has been enough of a motivator to get me out of bed. Something about knowing there are people expecting your work by a due date – have actually already paid you for it – can really light a fire under your arse. Laziness or not, with a deadline I generally get things done. Without one…there’s a reason the third Winter Book won’t be coming out this year. I watched 2012 slide by with an increasing sense of guilt and frustration as stories went unwritten. Yes, I had a wedding to plan for which ate into a lot of my free time and sucked my mental energy like a greedy vampire, but I wrote Winter’s Light under similar stressful circumstances (changing jobs, living with in-laws, buying a house).
The simple truth is, I didn’t write last year because I muster the discipline to drag my lazy arse out of bed, and plop it down in front of the laptop. Over the Christmas break I had a good long think about how to remedy this situation. Here I was, afforded this amazing opportunity to write books and have them actually be published and I was squandering it due to bad discipline. Something needed to change. I needed to change. And so we come to Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut chocolate.
I don’t like candy. I never have. You can keep your boiled sweets, milk bottles, and jelly snakes. Chocolate, on the other hand, is my vice. I love the stuff. A good book/movie, a block of chocolate and a hot drink is a perfect night in. Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut is my brand of choice. It’s a little fancier than your standard Milk, Dark or White chocolate but not as outrageous as your Top Decks, Rocky Roads, or Bubbly Blocks. Just like bread, milk and butter there is generally a block of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut in our fridge. It’s a standard item in our grocery inventory.
During my long dark tea time of the soul during Christmas, I tried to create various incentives for me to get up in the morning. Coffee was fine, but didn’t work on its own. Neither did peanut butter on toast. Watching a half of hour of TV wasn’t any good because that half hour inevitably became two hours. Whatever I tried, I was still left feeling groggy and tired and miserable. And then during one attempt, while I was getting the milk to make my morning coffee I spied the block of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut. Lacking serious impulse control, I broke off a row and took it with the coffee to my writing desk. As I munched on the delicious fruit and nut filled chocolate squares reviewing the feeble hundred or so words I’d typed of Claudette in the Shadows, something amazing started happen. I felt happy, energised – the combination of sugar, flavour and caffeine was kickstarting my brain.
I began to write.
The next day, when my alarm went off I felt the familiar reluctance of having to climb out of bed, except this time I had the happy memory of the previous day’s writing session to bolster my resolve. I stumbled downstairs, made myself a coffee and broke off another row of chocolate. Again, serotonin levels soaring thanks to Cadbury’s cocoa I experienced a productive and satisfying writing experience. Claudette in the Shadows was starting to take shape. Even better than that, I was actually enjoying writing it. The process wasn’t the grind it usually was. The words were coming more easily.
A month and a half later, I’ve finished two drafts of Claudette, an outline for a children’s fantasy novel, and the first third of a horror movie screenplay. I’ve accomplished more in this short period than all of 2012. Every morning I wake up, have my chocolate and coffee and sit down to write. I no longer feel frustrated and unfulfilled. Perhaps, Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut chocolate is a Dumbo’s feather. Maybe I had the capacity to be this kind of writer all along. I don’t know? What I do know is every block of Cadbury’s chocolate contains a glass and a half of full cream dairy milk. Milk has calcium in it which is good for your bones and stuff. So eating Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut is healthy. If it also helps with your writing, then that ain’t bad.