Taking Tea in the Kasbah

Dear Benedict,

You’ve done an excellent job holding your own in the kasbah this past month. Well done, friend. Can’t thank you enough for keeping tabs on the joint while I was sequestered in the writing cave during NaNoWriMo. I’m not even going to ask about the “Do Not Enter” sign scrawled in your handwriting and tacked to a boarded up area of the kasbah. Or about the sawdust on the floor or the tool belt hidden beneath the cushions. It’s all good. I owe you one. And no, that won’t be in the form of sending you directions to the writing cave.

I do have exciting news to share, though.

I can hardly believe it myself.

You’re the first to hear of it. Lucky you.

I *won* NaNoWriMo.

"Winner" sounds weird to me. I think I'll go with "Awesomesauce Finisher".

“Winner” sounds weird to me. I think I’ll go with “Awesomesauce Finisher”.

Over the last month, I spewed forth 50,000+ words into my manuscript and crossed the NaNo finish line with a day to spare. Sure, about 25,000 of those word combinations are some of the most craptastic ever written and will be tossed out upon revision, but the point is I DID IT. Yeah, I’m surprised, too. Must have been all of that chocolate bourbon pudding you made for me.

I also learned a thing or two about myself along the mighty NaNo way, like I can be a lightning fast word slinger if I have an outline of the story already there for the taking. I had always considered myself more of a pantser (no, not that kind) and not so much of a regimented outliner. But as soon as I embraced the idea it could be constructive rather than constrictive, well, that made all the difference. Now, I see it as a map of the Story Writing Road Trip. And you know how I love maps and road trips.

toes on the dashboard, road trip

Toes on the dashboard, ready for an adventure…

All of this word slinging has consumed most of my time and as such I’ve been in the dark on what’s happening in your life. In retrospect, I’m glad I wasn’t in the know because it might have derailed my writing momentum. You see, I can multitask with the best of them, but when I read about all the goings-on in your busy life and then take a peek at mine, I feel a little… slackerish.

I know I’m only working full-time, parenting, and writing a little blog and a novel while doing my best to indulge in luxuries like eating, sleeping, and breathing once in a while. But you? You’re working on multiple films and signing on to several more, making recordings for radio and CD compilations (click here for a listen to one of them), doing theatre performances and charity bike rides, all the while flying back and forth across the pond. And that’s just in the last couple of months. Next you’ll tell me you can eat and breathe at the same time, too.

Show off.

Not that I need to justify how I spend my time, but aside from accomplishing the 50K word count, I have also been working on my British accent over this past month. How did I find time to get in all that practice? Audio books, my friend. The last three audio books I’ve downloaded were narrated by men with British accents. It was like having a tutor in my car with me as I drove to and from work. They’ve given me hours of solid practice and instruction. Neil Gaiman, in particular, was especially helpful and, unbeknownst to him, instrumental in determining my second Favorite English Word Spoken in a British Accent: fingers.

No, it’s not in jeopardy of dethroning aluminium, the reigning champ of Favorite English Words Spoken in a British Accent (as previously mentioned here). But just like aluminium, it makes me smile and giggle whenever I hear it.

And yes, that IS weird that Mr. Gaiman helped me discover my second favorite word just weeks before I heard news of you recording a radio play of one of his books, Neverwhere. Coincidence? Maybe, though it seems more like you’re trying to hitch your immensely successful wagon to my much smaller, lesser known, trendsetting one. No problem. I’ve been working out so I can handle the weight of your celebrity status tagging along.

Additionally, I have been getting extra practice on my accent each night when I read The Hobbit to the 12-year-old. There are a lot of opportunities to practice a variety of dialects in that book, let me tell you. Between the audio books and my theatrical performances of The Hobbit, I’m pretty much at the head of my imaginary class on Americans Trying to Sound British. It’s o.k. to be impressed. I can handle it.


Thanks for asking readers to vote on the writing cave theme song. Presently, there is a tie between Gold on the Ceiling by The Black Keys and Feeling Good by Nina Simone, both excellent options. I simply can’t decide between the two, so I’m going to leave the voting open one more week to see if the tie can be broken. (To cast your vote, click here.)

Since I’m considering doing “NaNo Lite” during December to power through to the end of this novel, I may call upon your assistance again. Plus, things are a bit chaotic in the writing cave these days with my resident genius all whacked out on a new novel idea and making numerous attempts to corral the furry plot bunnies running amok. Unfortunately, he’s had no luck with that so far. At least he stopped wearing my Cat Woman suit since I mentioned it was giving the plot bunnies a fright. I hope it’s not too stretched out. I do have some errands to run.

Appreciatively yours,



*Editor’s note: The views, ideas, and opinions expressed in the Letters from Benedict series are works of fiction and obviously did not come from the actor himself. This series is just my way of expressing adoration for Mr. Cumberbatch and his work and is not intended to be seen or read as a true collaborative writing endeavor with him.

23 thoughts on “Dear Benedict: On Finishing, Fingers, and Furry Plot Bunnies

  1. YAY!!! Congraaaats on completing Nano!!!! 😀 And I agree, the importance of having an outline of some sort can’t be stressed enough for doing a fast draft. And now you have editing to look forward to. 😀 What will you do when you’re done–self-publishing, small press/digital imprint or traditional?

    • Thanks, Adriana! The outline was so key in being able to just jump right into the story each night and roll with it. I am really thankful I had it in place before starting NaNo. There’s no way I would’ve made it to 50K words without it.

      I’m not sure what I’ll do with the story once it’s done and put through the ringers and rigors of editing. My first impulse is to try for traditional or indie publishing, but I’m also totally open to self-publishing it if that’s a better fit for it/me.

  2. I’m with you, Tami. Winner of NaNo sounds like you typed the most words of anybody–unless you consider NaNo a competition with yourself and the demons that entice you with the couch when you should be at the keyboard.

    Either way, You are an AWESOME FINISHER! WOOT!

    • Thanks, Sherry! I agree, ‘winner’ sounds like I won over everyone else. Doesn’t quite fit the accomplishment or the camaraderie of NaNo.

  3. WTG, Tami! And phew!, right?

    I began my own mini NaNo when that Sherry Isaac woman (you may know her) talked me into taking a journey with her using The Artist’s Way as a guide. Man-oh-man, I am so glad I did. So. Anyhoo. [In my imaginary world, “anyhoo” does not have a red squiggly beneath it.]

    Yes, I’m writing a lot of words each day. But, I give myself no pats on the back because I am not ALSO holding down a full time job, keeping up with my blog, chasing the young ‘uns around, and all of those other exhausting things you mention. You are a Champion!

    Should you need more British accent study time, might I recommend Mr. Christmas from Home Depot. It’s so COOL! You attach his $40 little self (with his song playbook) to your tree, plug him in, and you say “Hello, Mr. Christmas.” And, then he talks to you in a British accent! How cool is that? You can say “lights on, play a carol (and name one from his list), and goodnight.” Your tree lights flick on-and-off in rhythm to whatever tune you’ve selected. Go play with one at Home Depot for an hour. I did. You’ll buy one. I’m sure of it.

    Oh! And, shame on you for not giving us a clue on how to pronounce “finger” with a British accent. My mouth is making it sound like fingeaaahhrr. How close was I?

    • Many thanks, Gloria! I’m very interested in hearing more about your journey with that Sherry Isaac woman (I’ve heard her name once or twice ’round these parts). And writing a lot of words each day deserves a pat on the back as well as a high five and a WOOT! no matter the circumstances. Consider yourself patted, high fived, and WOOTed. Wait a minute — that didn’t come out right at all. Anywho

      This Mr. Christmas of which you speak sounds very cool. My Christmas tree is about to become oh-so-posh. I wonder if I can program him to say aluminium and fingers?

      Speaking of fingers, I am now on a quest to find you a sample of that luscious word being spoken with a British accent. *sigh* It will probably take hours of research culling through Benedict’s (and other classy British actor’s) interviews on youtube, but I’ll enjoy every minute suffer through it for you. Stay tuned…

  4. Woot, excellent job, Tami! Very impressed with your wordslinging… Hopefully most of them stick. Can’t believe you’re not contemplating a month off though… But good luck if you decide to keep going.

    • Thanks and congrats to you, too, Ellen! As for this next month, I know already I won’t be able to keep up the NaNo pace, but I want to keep the momentum going to get the rough draft to completion. For me, it’s kind of like when I started upping my workouts – if I allowed myself to skip a few days here and there, pretty soon I was back to only going once in a while. I’m worried that if I go back to squeezing in my writing mostly on the weekends, then my progress will obviously slow down by quite a bit. We’ll see what happens now that I’m not directly accountable to a word counter.

  5. on ,
    livrancourt said:

    Okay, the thought that there might be a recording of Neverwhere read by Benedict C. has me somewhere between a sweat and a seizure. It’s simply too much goodness in one place to be tolerated.
    Congrats on your HUGE NaNo victory…or, um, Awesomesauce Ascendancy. You totally rock, and I’m impressed that you’re going to hang on for another few weeks to get ‘er done.

    • I’m with you, Liv – BC reading NG is practically at the top of the Goodness Mountain. I read somewhere that the radio play will air during the months of Jan – April 2013 and can be streamed through iPlayer via the BBC. I haven’t figured out how to do this yet. Perhaps your adoring 14 y.o. could be of some assistance.;)

      Thanks for the congrats. And I LOVE “Awesomesauce Ascendancy”. NaNoWriMo higher ups should take note. That could be their new “winner” motto.

  6. Congrats! on your NaNo accomplishment. No small task that. Even with chocolate bourbon pudding to fuel the word slinging fire. 😉

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! I hope to keep the fire burning a bit longer through December. I think I’m going to need a lot more pudding, though… 😉

  7. I think you’re a winner AND an awesome finisher. Congrats to you! I hope you take some time to be pleased with yourself and then get back to work.

    • Thanks, Sara! I was pleased with myself for about ten minutes. Then, I reminded myself I’d be even MORE pleased if I finished the dang novel. And then I went back to work.

  8. Awesome, Tami! Congratulations. I couldn’t do that in a million years. And Americans saying aluminum is my favorite American word.I’ve stopped trying to correct them 😉

    • Thank you, Catherine! In the words of Sherry Isaac: Ka-SNORT. I’m sure there are lots of things we Americans sound funny saying and on which we need correcting. 😉

        • As long as someone with a British accents says those words to me throughout the day and he doesn’t mock me for my goofy grin when he does, I’m o.k. with being “wrong”. 😉

          • It’s funny how dashing Brits are abroad. I’ll never forget two Brits in Paris with white ironed shirts on amongst all the french blokes in scarves and how dashing they seemed. And yet back in UK it’s the french who seem exciting.

    • Aw, thanks, Marcia! You’re a rock star wordslinger as well when it comes to responding to certain emails. 😉

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