A Christmas Carol

title page of A Christmas CarolPat Rice here:

A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Charles Dickens’ books. I know it’s been made into dozens of movies and has a million editions. I did not know that he was so fussy about how the first edition was printed that he barely made any money on it, even though it was published December 19 and sold out by Christmas. I cannot possibly give you all the fascinating historical information about this beloved tale. Some interesting tidbits here: https://www.arts.gov/stories/blog/2020/ten-things-know-about-charles-dickens-christmas-carol

Hope you had a lovely Christmas and Scrooge turns nice in the new year for you!

What a Quiz!

Quiz winnerNicola here. This weekend we took part in our local village charity quiz, fifteen teams trying to answer questions on everything from the names of Disney princesses to Olympic swimming champions. Amazingly, we won – as a team we knew a lot of obscure, random general knowledge! – plus we raised some money and enjoyed an evening out with friends and neighbours. It was all very good humoured, unlike some of the quizzes I've been involved with where professional teams got very irate if they didn't win!

I’ve always liked the word “quiz.” It's got a fun feel to it, and, being a writer, I've often wondered where the word originated from. I remember it featuring in Georgette Heyer, but as a description of a person rather than an activity. So I set out to find out more.

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From Page to Screen

659px-Chris_Hemsworth_by_Gage_Skidmore_2_(cropped)

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Christina here. Authors are often asked if we’d like our books made into film or a TV series. (Anne discussed this in one of her posts here). Silly question – of course we would! We can spend hours imagining exactly which actor we’d like to play our heroes (Chris Hemsworth usually for me, in case you were wondering) or actresses for the leading lady role. But personally, I’d rather see some of my favourite books by other authors being turned into movies. There are so many that would make absolutely wonderful viewing!

It's rare though that when it happens, it is done right. And by right, I mean that the film actually turns out to be as amazing as the story it’s based on. I am always very reluctant to watch adaptations because I’m invariably disappointed. The producer and/or screen writer often leave out details I consider crucial, or they invent some new sub-plot – or even major plot point – that wasn’t in the book to begin with. I find that infuriating because it’s not what I want to see!

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Happy Boxing Day!

Dickens 3Nicola here! I hope everyone has enjoyed a happy and peaceful Christmas Day. In the UK it's Boxing Day, an odd title that has nothing to do with the sport of boxing but lots to do with boxes. (I'm told that Boxing Day isn't celebrated in the US although it is in some other countries. I'm hoping people around the globe can let me know whether it is or not.) The first written mention of "boxing day" comes from Samuel Pepys diaries in 1663: "Thence by coach to my shoemaker's… and gave something to the boys' box against Christmas." The tradition was for patrons to give tradesmen and servants Christmas boxes, usually made of pottery and containing cash or gifts. I Dickens 2 rather like the idea of a pottery box – it's a cut above cardboard, although there are some beautiful cardboard Christmas boxes around.  Five years later, Pepys mentioned boxes again, although he wasn't in quite such a jolly Christmas mood, recording in his diary: "Called up by drums and trumpets; these things and boxes having cost me much money this Christmas."

Christmas boxTo my pleasure I did receive a gift "box" at Christmas; it contains shortbread biscuits and has a picture of a guide dog puppy on the front! What about you – did you receive any Christmas boxes this year? Whether you have been woken by drums or trumpets, or received a lovely china box for Christmas, we wish you a happy boxing day and here are some pictures from Charles Dickens' house to celebrate the festive season!

Serial stories—a what a novel idea!

Drood_serial_coverCara/Andrea here, We’ve recently been talking here about our writing processes, and how time, ambiance, computer vs pen and paper affect how we create our stories. And deadlines—those were mentioned a lot too! In thinking about the subject, it seems to me that some things have been universal angts to writers across the ages. Inspiration. Struggle. How the words flow. And yes, the dreaded deadline! It’s never easy. But on reading a recent article on Charles Dickens and his The Mystery of Edwin Drood, it reminded me that during the 19th century, a phenomena developed—one that proved hugely popular with the public—that put even more pressure on authors.

DickensDickens, who was forced to leave home and find work in a factory after his father was put in debtor’s prison, helped pioneer the “serial” novel, which involved publishing the book in either weekly or monthly installments within the pages of a high-circulation popular magazine of the times. Pickwick Papers, his first book to be serialized, was showcased to the public in 1836, and launched the author on his way to literary fame.

PressSerialization was an interesting confluence of tech and creativity. The Industrial Revolution had spread to the publishing world, and the new high-powered steam presses were making possible the mass production of inexpensive magazines and newspapers. It’s said that Dickens would gauge reader reaction to the story and in response would actually noodle with his original plot to meet. For example, word is he altered Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield, to be shown in a better light.

The_StrandNow, back to "Drood." His works were so popular that The Mystery of Edwin Drood created a huge crisis for his readers. Designed to be released in 12 parts, the book, which had a very complicated plot revolving around opium dens, a romance complete with evil characters, and the sudden disappearance of the hero—had just released part 6 when Dickens inconveniently passed away without having completed the story! There have been many attempts by others to finish the book since then—including one in 1873 by a printer in Vermont who claimed to have the words dictated to him by the spirit of Dickens. Um, talk about giving new meaning to the term “ghostwriter.”

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