Friday, November 14, 2008

Chocolate and Other Indulgences – Annie West

I thought long and hard about an appropriate theme for my blog today. I was going to make it writerly, I decided, some deep insight into the process of creating fiction. Characterisation? Dramatic turning points? Conflict? Themes? Well, maybe one day. In the meantime, let me spare a word or two for a great writer’s aid....chocolate.

Now, I know not everyone is a chocolate fan, but bear with me. There are other similar writer’s aids. I try to avoid them but I’ve been known to indulge from time to time.

As a woman who leads a fairly sedentary life I decided long ago not to stock chocolate in my pantry. It was just asking for trouble and, though generally I prefer savoury to sweet, a really good quality chocolate is hard to resist.

I did well I thought until the day Ms V sent me a little thank you parcel. Sweet of her, I thought! I was working on my 4th book for Harlequin Presents and was almost half way through writing FOR THE SHEIKH’S PLEASURE. Then, out of the blue came the largest block of dark Lindt chocolate I’d ever seen in my life. Honestly, it was huuuuge. My solution was to promise myself I’d only eat a couple of pieces if I was writing new pages of my story (not fiddling with what I already had) and then to make it tough, only after I had a certain number of pages down. I was terrified I’d get addicted to the stuff and not be able to stop.

And the outcome? I finished the rest of that book in record time and the words just seemed to flow. Whatever I was doing right on that book really worked. I hesitate to say it but maybe it was chocolate inspiration. Since then I’ve steered clear of temptation as far as possible but the trouble is I have generous friends who appreciate a nice choccie as much as I do. I recently came home from Sydney with a box of choc truffles and a packet of Tim Tams (Aussie choc on choc cookies that are simply scrumptious) from friends. Now I’m back to rationing, aiming to help me through this current book.

I know a lot of other writers who allow themselves treats when they’ve achieved something. One author lines up M&Ms near her computer and lets herself eat one after a certain amount of work. Others describe allowing themselves to skive off and read a chapter of a good book as a reward for finishing a chapter, or going out to have coffee with friends. Another, indulgence I’ve heard of is treating yourself to a new release movie at the end of a week if you’ve made your word or chapter count.

Writing is our bread and butter as well as our joy so you’d think we’d all be able to sit down and just write. But the truth is that sometimes it can be a hard slog and the promise of something nice can give that extra bit of enthusiasm on a day when we’d much rather be washing the dog or changing the oil in the car than working out why our hero and heroine aren’t cooperating.

Do you have favourite treats? Indulgences you allow yourself only once in a while – maybe as an incentive or just because you can? I’d love to hear about them!

Annie is currently working on her 10th book for Harlequin Presents. In the meantime, she has concurrent releases in Australia and New Zealand. THE THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE is out now and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BOUGHT MISTRESS is a December release. You can read excerpts and reviews on her website or buy the books from Harlequin Australia or Amazon UK.


Anne Gracie said...

Gorgeous post, Annie.

Chocolate is a weakness of mine, so I try not to have it in the house ;)

I reward myself with movies, books, walks, and occasionally a wee dram of scotch at the end of the day.

Annie West said...

Anne, another chocolate fan? I feel in such good company.

I love the idea of rewarding yourself with books, walks and movies - all non fattening and, I think, great ways to get your creative juices flowing. I've found walking by the lake a great way to nut out story ideas.


Helen said...


I hope the Tim Tams helped with your writing I love your work so if I can help I am very willing to.
I really love chocolate and more often than not there is chocolate in my house either in biscuits or blocks of cadbury chocolate I find that I go thru stages were I want heaps of it or I can go for months without having any.
As for how I treat myself if I have accomplished something that I need to I sit and read and yes often with chocolate or another favourite of mine a packet of chips

Have Fun

Annie West said...

Hi Helen,

Yes, thank you! The Tim Tams are a great incentive. That was a lovely surprise. I thought I was just going to give a talk at a library and I came away with lovely things, including Tim Tams! Pure inspiration.

Interesting that you mention chips (what are they called in north America? Potato crisps?). Anyway, they're another terrific indulgence. Can't eat them and write though - my fingers would slip off the keyboard!


Fiona Lowe said...

I remember fondly the days when I could eat chocolate and it never stayed around. Now it does and like Anne I find it easier NOT to have it in the house. That said, the house is empty right now and I know there is one bit of Lindt in the cupboard so ....BYE!

Authorness said...

Did someone say 'chocolate'?! I once tried the M&M trick. First I'd have one at a time, then two, then a whole handful.

Chocolate is usually my reward of choice, but sometimes I use the ever-growing TBR pile as an incentive. I'll sit down an write one chapter, then read one chapter of, say, a Harlequin Presents.

Fun post, Annie! Good luck with book #10.

~ Vanessa

Anna Campbell said...

Annie, what a great post. Hmm, why am I suddenly hungry??!!! Actually I really like chocolate and I do go through stages where I'm crazy about it, but it's something I can manage some control with. Well, most of the time anyway. Sadly, I can't manage control when it comes to potato chips. Any Smiths crisps that enter this house are on borrowed time! Well, apart from the bit where they stay on my hips forever!

Good luck with the Desert King! It's a fantastic book and I'm sure you've got another hit on your hands!

Gina said...

chocolate, there is nothing better.

Avi J said...

Chocolate, cheesecake and brownies are my indulgences. I cant wait for your book to be released in the US

PJ said...

Yummy post, Annie! I do love chocolate and to make matters worse, I love making chocolates. Of course, I have to "test" the chocolates I make because I wouldn't want to give someone sub-standard chocolates, right? Right? (grin) I can usually resist store-bought chocolate with the exception of Peanut M&Ms. An unopened bag can sit in the pantry for months and never tempt me but open that bag and it's toast. I just can't say no.

Anna C, have you ever tried chocolate-covered potato chips? Verrrrry yummy!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Chocolate is my weekness as well. Dark chocolate especially or chocolate cake with ice cold milk. Can't get any better than that can it?

I'm going to have to try to find your Tim Tams somewhere, maybe at the English Pantry on the eastside of Seattle?

Great post Annie! Happy writing.

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Oops, loved the way I spelled weakness! But this gives me an excuse. I'm offering Annie's latest sheikh book on my "sheikh blog" Romancing the Desert - Sheikh Books. Stop over and post about the latest sheikh book you're reading or one you plan to read in the future.

Anna Campbell said...

PJ, that's just NAUGHTY!!! I do not NEED to know about chocolate covered potato chips. The two do quite as much damage as individual operators without me having to cope with a double attack! ;-)

Marilyn, definitely hunt down some Tim Tams. They're so good, they're wicked!

Margaret Cloud said...

You are not alone in liking chocolate, how can you leave it alone. If it has helped you along with your writing so be it. My husband is a great fan of chocolate, his is M & M's.

Annie West said...

Fiona, sorry to tempt you by mentioning Lindt. I hope you don't hold it against me!


Annie West said...

Vanessa, thanks for the good wishes on no 10!

Love your idea of reading a chapter after you've done some of your writing. I do think there's something to be said for a reward system.


Annie West said...

Hi Anna,

That's the only problem with chocs and chips isn't it? The effect on your hips. Maybe the trick is to tkae a leave out of Anne's book and use walks as a treat too. With her energetic dog always wanting a walk she probably gets an added incentive. Unfortunately my 12 yo pooch is more interested in sleeping most of the time.

Thanks for the good wishes for THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE, and the lovely praise! The reader feedback I've had so far has been great so I have my fingers crossed others will enjoy it too.


Annie West said...

Gina, you're right. I think a good chocolate, when you're inthe mood for something sweet, is perfect.


Annie West said...

Avi, I love brownies too. My son makes luscious ones. Fortunately (?) my oven is currently out of action and he's not able to make any so I've been trying to concentrate on fresh pineapple, strawberries and melons instead.

There'll be a little delay before THE DESERT KING'S PREGNANT BRIDE comes to north America, but April's not really that far away...


Annie West said...

PJ, can I come to visit? I'd love to see chocolates being made. And I could make myself useful testing for sub standard ones! It must be so tempting to eat while you're making. I have a Canadian friend who makes the most wonderful choc chip cookies but she always makes 2 batches because so much of theh mix gets eaten before the cookies are finished (she has 4 sons).

Are you kidding about choc coated chips? Tell me you're joking!


Annie West said...

Hi Marilyn,

Nice to see you here. Yes, dark chocolate is fantastic, isn't it? Not sure if you'll get Tim Tams at the English pantry as these are an Australian invention. But they might have Terry's orange chocolate. If they do, make sure to snaffle one. It's a ball of chocolate about the size of an orange. When you unwrap it you'll see it's made of thin segments of choclate, like an orange. Give the bottom a sharp tap on the table and the segmest loosen up so you can get to them - dark, orange flavoured chocolate. Yum!


Annie West said...

Marilyn, that's lovely. I didn't realise you were giving away a copy of Maggie and Khalid's story on your Romancing the Desert site. How cool is that?


Annie West said...

Hi Margaret,

Your husband obviously has good taste! M&Ms are terrific. Though I have to say I still have a soft spot for Smarties - the UK/Aus version I grew up with.


Michelle Douglas said...

Oh, Annie, what a wicked post!

I'm trying to stop bribing myself with daily chocolate - I'm currently replacing it with a lovely cup of freshly brewed tea (which is a nice indulgence too I might add and much kinder to my waistline).

I do indulge when I finish a book, though. I love champagne... so any excuse. Or a nice glass of red, a creamy camembert and some crackers (hard to beat).

Is it lunchtime yet?

Annie West said...


Champagne when you finish a story sounds fantastic! I've been known to do the same when I have a book accepted. Hm, red wine and crusty bread and a nice cheese. Yes, it's DEFINITELY lunch time here! Just about to go and see what's in the pantry.


Anne McAllister said...

Chocolate is definitely an inspiration, Annie. I was even drooling over the pics on your blog!

Annie West said...

Hi Anne,

Aren't they lovely pictures? I had to find something truly luscious to get the right effect for the blog. Glad you liked them!


Pat Cochran said...

Chocolates, potato chips, every
thing that shouldn't be ingested
by me IS! And does it ever take
up residence upon my hips? Oh, yes,
undoubtly it does! And do I ever
make myself keep away from the chips
and chocolates? Oh, no, not a
chance of that happening! Not in
this lifetime!

Pat Cochran

Annie West said...

Hi Pat, how lovely to see you here. And how nice to find a kindred spirit. I can resist those temptations some of the time, but oooh, they are tempting!

(whose head is still reeling at the idea of chocolate and potato chips together!)

PJ said...

Annie, you can come visit me anytime!

Yes, they really do make chocolate covered potato chips and they are sinfully good. I also make darn good chocolate chip cookies - soft and chewy - so be sure to bring your chocolate appetite with you. :)

In a couple weeks I'll be gearing up for my annual Christmas baking and candy making. My house will be filled with all sort of delicious chocolate confections. One of my favs is Elegant Chocolate Cherries which are made by wrapping a circle of chocolate dough around a maraschino cherry (with stem) then dipping that in white chocolate then drizzling that with dark chocolate. Very elegant and very good!

Michele L. said...

Oooo...chocolate...yum! Great post Annie! My husband and I absolutely love chocolate.

Oh, the best are chocolate's from Hawaii! I won a contest from Mia King and she sent me a basket filled with chocolates from Hawaii that contained chocolate covered nuts, cookies, fudge, and assortment boxes. It was a chocolate lover's dream! Sinfully creamy and rich!

How can I forget See's chocolate from California! My husband's sister always sends us boxes of See's candy around the holidays. Heaven!

#1 Chocolate fan!