Thought for January

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Thought for January

I love stationery shops! While others may spend the New Year pounding round the Sales buying killer heels and designer handbags, I am ecstatic just standing in the aisle at Staples gazing at sky-high piles of notebooks or in Smiths lusting after boxes of pretty paperclips.  Even the notepad corner of the local supermarket does it for me. Can I leave any shop without buying an extra scribbling  pad or two just in case? Or a pen. Or a box of pencils. No of course I can’t.

Pencils seem an old fashioned choice these days, but I love writing with pencils  (2B for preference). Apart from the fact that they can write upside down when in bed without pretending to run dry, they are so untemperamental. They do need accessories,  though, but then that too  is exciting. For instance, one needs what we  in Britain, have  now learned  to call an eraser!  Or a sharpener. Or even more exotic, and probably forbidden, a penknife! We all used to have  penknives in our pencil cases at school; I dare say nowadays sadly, one would be expelled for owning one.  I have certainly lost one or two little ones into the great bin at Stansted

Pens are not so straightforward. I learned to mistrust fountain pens at school because they never seemed to work for me.  It was only after a while that I found out that as a left hander I had to get a left handed pen – which when it turned up always seemed to have a massively broad italic nib which was hard to use and produced an ugly script which didn’t suit my handwriting at all. We weren’t allowed to use biros.  Only when the heady independence of university arrived, when one could use whatever one wanted to write, and was expected anyway to type essays, did I begin to enjoy real fluency in writing at speed. And what speed!   So pens at last gained favour.  Cheap ball points, though, lack character and don’t last long. More expensive pens, with refills, are good, but tricky, in that I find that can never remember which refill  I need when I get to the shop. I think I will remember till I see a whole line of them and my mind goes blank. Too much choice. I love being given pens but so many of them are too exotic to be easily replaced, or by the time I have run out of ink and need a refill they have stopped  being made, which is tragic. So it is back to the humble pencil.

One massive problem though.  It doesn’t matter how many pens or pencils one has, they vanish. One day there are six on the kitchen table. By the time the phone rings and one needs one to write down something important there are none there. Not one.  And search for a piece of paper to write on – with all those notepads in the house - and it turns  out there is nothing within reach.  No notepads, no newspapers with handy margins, no unopened  junk mail en route to the recycling bag. Nothing. Zilch. I have to put the phone down. Go and hunt. Turn piles of books and papers upside down. And when I find one, or two or three


Of course, rationally, I know it must be me. I walk around with pen and/or pencil in my hand all the time and presumably put down the said item when I get to where I am going. So, why isn’t there another pile there, next time I return to said destination point?  It should in theory be buried in pencils, but somehow it won’t be! Like odd socks this is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

So all I can do next time I go out, is restock with these  essentials  and fill my basket with packets and boxes in the sure and certain knowledge that I need these items badly,   and therefore I can, without a twinge of conscience at excessive  over buying,  carry them home in triumph!


Fiona Johnston on 11/10/11

Yes, I love stationery shops too but then I think I ought to be sensible and save money. I tend to use paper my father left behind when he died although I do purchase some printing paper and my favourite pens are those fine nibbed jobs

rtyecript on 25/08/11

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

anne daykin on 11/07/10

I, too, have the passion for stationery. I work as a dyslexia therapist so have the excuse that the children need to be amused as they struggle so hard to learn to read and write. I enjoy your books enormously and will be ordering the new one to be sent out to Kenya where I live.

Joanne on 07/06/10

Hi Barbara!
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world! I have read every one of your books, and some of them several times. The imagery you create within your novels, and your ability to allow the reader to time travel and dream with you is an amazing gift. Personally, you give me something to aspire to. Thank you!

Laura Sharp on 06/06/10

Hello Barbara,
I have been reading your books since my Mum gave me Hiding from the Light to read. I have read and awaited every new release with the same anticipation as children looked forward to the Harry Potter series. I can honestly say I don't think anyone writes like you. I always feel such affinity and empathy with the characters, those in the past and present day. I love all of your books and many I have read in one sitting ( I should really learn to savor them), my favorite if I have one I think is probably The Child of the Phoenix. I am slowly converting as many people that will listen to me to your books, I hope you continue writing for a long long time and I can't wait to read the new work.
Thank you for your wonderful work


cathy bennett on 26/05/10

I loved all your books, I just finished the Warriors daughter. That's all of
them so far, will look forward to your next one.

Celia Peek on 18/04/10

I started reading your books several years ago and cannot put one down once started. I just love them. I find it amazing that you can create such wonderful stories. I like all of your fans am waiting expectantly for the newest novel. I have now found your twitter page and the facebook group and and just very sad that I found out about your talk for the Essex Book Festival after the event.
I am hooked for life. Looking forward to meeting you one of these days.
Warmest regards, one of your sincerest fans.

Peta Stephensen on 07/03/10

Hail to Barbara, You are magic, clever & very gifted. Oh how rich to have the abilitys you have, to write such wonderful books. Living down under in Aussie land, with a crazy craving to see the UK, to smell the earth, to walk in hidden memories, from past lives long gone. I believe in fairy mounds, sacred springs where Gods/goddess lay in wait for our offerings. I just finished reading Daughters of Fire and would love to travel back in time to the days of the druids, they new how to live in balance with this beautiful Earth of ours. I have loved all of your books & u are one of the best Authors of our time. Keep up this magical work, so we may all learn to walk a foot in the physical & a foot in the spiritual.

Sharon Reeves on 23/02/10

Hello Barbara,
I have read all of your books, and am always waiting for the next one to be published! You are the only author I can say this about. You combine all the things that interest me in fantastic great books.

Thanks and please don't ever stop writing!

Sharon Reeves on 23/02/10

Hello Barbara,
I have read all of your books, and am always waiting for the next one to be published! You are the only author I can say this about. You combine all the things that interest me in fantastic great books.

Thanks and please don't ever stop writing!

Jacqueline Little on 22/02/10

Hiding from the light and House of echo's are my favourite books. I live in Suffolk,and have passed through Mistley and manningtree, so imagine the scenes from the stories. Im looking forwards to your new novel, and thank you for the many enjoyable hours spent reading your books.

Jo on 22/02/10

Just discovered this blog, so I thought I would send a message. I really enjoy reading your books they are so "unputdownable". I`m looking forward to your next novel. As I have read your novels, they have sparked interset into the varoius historical aspects you weave your stories around, which has been a bonus.
keep on writning.

Gina on 18/02/10

i love your writing.
i have read all your books except 'Child of the Pheonix' for some reason i just cannot get into it, don't know why, and have attempted it twice! however, i have read 'Lady of Hay ' twice to make up for it! Am off on a long haul flight at the end of March and was hoping to find a new one by you for the plane, but alas, i have to wait until June! oh well...anything good is worth waiting for so they say! please write quicker so that we can have more frequent books!! ps i love stationery too, all those yummy colours of pencils and note books and paperclips.....! thanks for making my quality time more interesting. gina

Mike Hewitt on 17/02/10

Having heard a lady discussing some of your books and plot lines with the librarian, I was intrigued. I have just finished the Warrior Princess (last night) - I couldn't put it down, it was brilliant!! I am just starting with my second foray with Whispers in the Sand - you have me hooked and definitely gained another fan. One who loves to write himself, although not tried for publication, as yet.
Keep up the good work, Mike.

Deena on 07/02/10

First read Lady of Hay in Grand Canary whilst on holiday in 1994 can't remember how I came across it but from then on I became hooked and have read them all over and over! I can't find that first copy of Lady of Hay therefore I am going to order it from, I am so looking forward to your latest novel and am elated to hear that it will be out in June!! Keep up the good work Barbara and I love stationery stores too!!


Michelle on 05/02/10

Hi Barbara,

Thank you for writing such incredible books. Although I have never physically left North America, I feel I have travelled to exotic places and witnessed the journeys of your historical characters firsthand. I once wrote to you, well over a decade ago, to inquire when a new release of yours would be available in Canada. You took the time to send me a personal note on a postcard, and I’ve saved it to this day. I am currently working on my first novel, a romantic suspense. I have been getting spectacular feedback from my writing group and book club, and I owe you many thanks for the inspiration you have provided me, so great in fact, I have mentioned you in my biography. I wanted to share, and once again, many thanks. Michelle

“Michelle lives in Ontario with her husband and three daughters.
Passionate about books and writing since childhood, Michelle has written several short stories and poems, and an SNL worthy commercial screenplay. She is excited to be working on her first romantic suspense novel, “Willow Lake Manor.”
Michelle plans to share her work professionally for the first time, and dreams of captivating and entertaining readers worldwide; the way the talented works of Phyllis A. Whitney and Barbara Erskine have always captivated her. Michelle is continuing her education at Conestoga College to complete a certificate program in Creative Writing; and is a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective. She also runs a book club with fifteen noteworthy and inspiring women.”

Trish Hall on 25/01/10

Hi Barbara
I have just finished The Warrier Princess and saw your web site mentioned, so took a peak. A brilliant read again. I have read every book you have written and I am always waiting for the next one.
When I read your thoughts for January I was so amazed. Apart from the university bit I could have written that blog word for word, and I thought it was only me this happened to, even the Staples and Smiths bit and as for walking pencils well...!! Thank goodness I am not "as sad "as I thought!! I am in good company.

Keep up the fantastic work it is much appreciated.


Kathy on 25/01/10

Hello there Barbara,

My daughter was both shocked and pleased when I said that I had just finished reading a Barbara Erskine novel (The Warriors Princess). Shocked, as she did not believe it was a book that I would even consider picking up to read, never mind thoroughly enjoy - just goes to show how well our children know us! Pleased, as she had a further 3 books she could pass onto me - 2 down - 1 to go! Wonderful reading time over Christmas and the snow has been a perfect excuse to curl up in front of the woodburner and continue reading. Thank you for sharing your depth/breadth of knowledge and vision with those of us who so obviously enjoy your books. Keep them coming!!

Harriet on 25/01/10

Hi Barbara,
I've nearly finished Hiding From the Light which I began reading just before Christmas. I am absolutely hooked and love the way you write, it really makes the story come alive for me. I've just ordered a copy of House of Echoes to start on next and hope to continue reading the rest of your novels! I really want to be a writer and hope to start a journalism course next year, but funnily enough I'm a History student so the historical factor in your books intrigues me too. I love how you combine literature and history together in Hiding from the Light, so clever! :)
It makes me more confident to pursue my future in writing even with a History degree!

Please keep writing more novels I want to read them all!! Lol


BARBARA BUTLER on 23/01/10


Gill on 21/01/10

Hi Barbara,
I have never "blogged" before but having been a huge fan of all your books i felt i would get with it and give it ago! My first foray into your world was when I was given a free copy of House Of Echos on the cover of a magazine, i was completly hooked and have been ever since, it still remains my favourite of all your books although I love them all. I have read them all many times and consider them my friends. i am very much looking forward to the new offering. Thank you for all your hard work.

judith on 19/01/10

Hello Barbara!

I've read all your books and am re- reading "On the Edge of Darkness". Please write a follow-up to this amazing story. Did Adam relive his life? Did the same thing happen all over again? There are so many variations you could touch upon.

If you hadn't considered revisiting this story, please think about it. I'm sure other fans of your books feel the same.


Elaine on 18/01/10

It was, without doubt, a memorable day when I chose Lady of Hay from the local library. Since then I have constantly enjoyed, been intrigued by, your novels and short stories. The painstaking historical research, coupled with your ability to make every character (from whatever period of history) come alive is spellbinding.

I am currently reading The Warrior's Princess - albeit slightly wrestle with the size of the book in bed! Yesterday afternoon I found myself doing something my friends and family wouldn't expect. Not due to the fact that I don't read but because I tend to be very active during the day. I pulled up a chair practically inside the big log fire in the hall and sat and read for hours. Not only bliss but it reminded me of being allowed to do the same in my childhood - what escapism.

Melanie Whitson on 17/01/10

hi barbara, i just wanted to say how much i enjoyed the warriors princess, i read it flat in 1 and a half days, much the same as all your other books. I also recently lent my friend on the edge of darkness and she is hooked already, i cant wait for the next novel. As for pencils, i also have loads, just not where i can find them, but then i can never find anything in my house!!


Lynne on 16/01/10

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for your wonderful books! My favourite and much loved is Lady of Hay, read several times and still as thrilling! To have them made into movies would be fantastic. Thank you Thank you xx

malynda lacombe on 15/01/10

Thank you Barbara for all of the wonderful books you have written. You are by far my favorite author of all time. I have read every book you have written twice over. I get so excited every time a new book comes out and try to read it slowly so it can last which never happens and I end up reading it in a couple of days. I can't wait for the next book.

Jenny Chapman on 12/01/10

Hope you aren't snowed in without a pen, or pencils!

Barbara Jordan on 11/01/10

Dear Barbara I have just read my first book by you and I have been spellbound by it, Whispers in the sand. I usually stick to the same 6 favourite novelist like Stephen Kink, Wilbur Smith and Bernard Cormwell. But you have gone to the top of my list of favourits. Thank you so much. xx
Barbara J

AnnieKemp on 11/01/10

I forgot to tell you how much I love your books especially Lady of Hay and Child of the Phoenix they are very hard to find in New Zealand. I wish I knew how to get hold of our Peter Jackson and Fran - wouldnt those two make wonderful movies of your books especially my two favs and Alan Rickman would have to be a villan as he does so well and oh! the castle that could feature!!!! wish I had wishes Annie

catherine bennett on 08/01/10

I just want to say I love your books, I read them all. I look forward to many

Ruhina on 07/01/10

Hullo Barbara :)
Hmmm.. all those colourful things in such shops do have a pull.. but what I wanted to say was, I read Lady of Hay back in, oh I dont remember, 1999, maybe.. and I am still in love with it. Cant find it anymore, no one seems to have it..
Love your style.. love your book :)

Gerald Hornsby on 06/01/10

Hi Barbara
Yes, I too can spend ages looking at all the brightly-coloured 'things' in stationer's. I think I must have been a magpie in a previous life, so attracted am I to these trinkets.

When we moved to our current abode, we gathered together all of our little cahes of pens and pencils, and dumped them in a painted tin container. Gradually, we're working our way through them as we throw non-working implements away, and we suffer (as do you) the inevitable shrinkage as they disappear *somewhere*


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