Just saying … the first crocus is blooming and the Swiss Chard is growing in the greenhouse. Ya – Northern Vancouver Island.
And here I am writing away at my new desk in the dormer. All is right with my world.
Well, WordPress followers … if you’re still out there … I’ve gone silent since September 18th, 2018 with my Lady Ashburn Mustard Pickles post. What a post to go out on. By the way, those pickles are so delicious! Okay, all kidding aside, months can fly by when one is filling non-writing time with food preservation, road trips, holidays and sock knitting.
There are about a hundred good posts in the above activities, but this blog is supposed to be all about writing. If I come to a dry spell again, I might start an all about non-writing blog. Then again, not writing really meant not writing. I have been hard pressed to put something as short and simple as an email together.
Let’s talk writing blocks. Every author has them. Getting my last book (No Compass to Right) out in 2017 was a huge effort – faster than usual writing timeline for all stages, a rush to publication to meet certain promotion opportunities then blissful nothingness. Stepping back from the whirlwind was much needed.
My well-earned rest flowed right into summer at the lake, visitors and a bountiful garden to enjoy. Along comes fall and there is the imperative of fresh produce begging for preservation. Then immersion as a sideline cheerleader on our jar and freezer room project (check it out in the first pic on this post). More than satisfying to see that space completed! And suddenly it is time for a road trip. We get home, catch our breath and we are in the Christmas rush. Busy, busy, busy.
I’m not fooling any of the writers out there with my busyness excuses. When we need to write, nothing gets in the way and everything else still gets done – for the most part. Writers are efficient with their time.
Coming back is hard. I can’t deny it. The longer I stayed away from daily writing, the more of a brick wall went up. Deconstructing the wall takes time. My endurance for sustained writing is low. In the first fifteen minutes I fight down a constant stream of demanding thoughts. I need to get up for a snack, perhaps another cup of coffee, maybe I should check my email and on it goes. Then, without any fanfare, I fall into the zone and the next forty-five minutes whiz by.
In a rush of energy at the end of writing No Compass to Right, I created extensive notes for the next book. Last week, I started back to those notes and simply hanging out with the characters. Asking questions. What is on their minds, where do they want to go, what do they want to be doing in book five? And do those characters ever clamour for attention. They speak, oh man do they speak – some go so far as to yell and scream. The ideas come in front of the keyboard as I write and while I do my daily walk. I snapped this photo through the glass of our greenhouse the other day. Datura in full bloom with evergreen reflection.
Once I am back to writing, the desire to send my thoughts out into the blogosphere returns. This has been my longest WordPress silence since I started blogging in 2012. Here’s to going silent and here’s to coming back. If anyone is still listening … here’s a couple of pics of me and Bruce at Emerald Lake in YoHo National Park.
If you are a writer with a garden and you aren’t writing, I’ll sure understand why! For weeks now, I have been harvesting, freezing and canning various jams, jellies, veggies and pickles. Loads of work but oh the rewards knowing we grew everything from seed in our own greenhouse and garden.
Today, I thought I’d share the latest offering for our almost finished canning room.
Lady Ashburn Mustard Pickles. I recently listened to a podcast on CBC radio about a pickling workshop where the instructor was making these pickles. Sort of a combo pickle-relish. This recipe is a New Brunswick specialty and she was surprised that it hadn’t travelled too far from its home. This post is my contribution to spreading the word. I am hoping to make this a regular staple on our shelves.
Lady Ashburn Mustard Pickles
6 large cucumbers – peeled with seeds removed
4 cups onions thinly chopped
¼ cup salt
Place sliced cucumbers and chopped onion into a glass dish and sprinkle with salt. Place a heavy plate on top and let sit overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse.
Combine in a large pot:
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. celery seeds
2.5 cups of vinegar
Add cucumber and onion mixture to the pot and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring often.
Bottle in hot jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield – 6 pints
This is going to be a banner year for zucchini around here! You see the latest culprit creeping out from under one of the many plants scattered around our garden. Every possible use for this magical summer squash is going to be required.
I tried a zucchini soup recipe the other day that was superb and too good not to share far and wide. My daughter-in-law, Maggie, shared the recipe with me from Skinnytaste. At only sixty calories a cup, the skinny part is right on. If you find yourself in possession of a few medium zucchini, I suggest you make this soup.
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
3 medium zucchini cut into chunks
1 carton chicken broth
2 tbsp. of plain yogurt.
Combine onion, garlic, zucchini and broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender – approx. 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with one of those nifty hand-held blender things. I don’t have one of those, so used my food processor. Add yogurt and puree some more. Salt and pepper to taste. Presto – delicious. Serve with a smattering of fresh parmesan cheese.
Naturally, I strayed from the recipe slightly by adding ½ a small jalapeno pepper at the cooking stage and a handful of fresh basil leaves at the puree stage.
The picture – taken on my phone so I could share with jealous friends immediately – does not do the soup justice. It was so tasty and so delightfully green.
Oh man, do you see that zucchini in the far planter on the right? Looks like we’ll be making more soup really soon.
There’s an old adage about gardening that I fully subscribe to – grow what you like to eat! For us, that means lots of fresh beans.
Here are two of my new-time favourites.
Dragon Tongue Bush Beans – a beautiful Dutch heirloom variety that is perfect to eat fresh or preserved, or even as dried beans. When the beans turn from lime green to yellow with their bright purple stripes, they are ready to go.
Purple Peacock Pole Beans – Twining stems, light purple flowers and dark purple pods. A striking plant that provides a wonderful garden screen. This variety handles cool conditions well. The pods keep their flavour and tenderness even when very long. Don’t get too attached to the colour though – they turn green when you cook them.
Scarlett Runners are the old timers in our garden. We’ve been collecting our own seeds and growing a tepee trellis full of these beans for years now. The flowers are pretty and the vines are vigorous but for an optimal taste experience, get those beans before they get too big!
We also grow Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans – this type of bean has been grown by gardeners since 1864. Popular due to its vigour and fine heirloom flavour. I’ve gathered the brown-seeds and dried them for planting the following year with great success. You can see them growing in the picture below on the tepee trellis at the back of our under-the-clothes-line section of the garden. Just coming into flower now, we won’t be eating these until a bit later in the season.
For the gardening enthusiasts, we grow in zone 8 to 9 here on Northern Vancouver Island and the varieties of beans I’ve mentioned will produce from early August through late September.
Back to the garden for me. These days I am hosting grandkids, friends and family and enjoying the beauty of the summer days here at the lake. Not writing yet but all experiences nurture the storylines brewing away in my mind. Stay tuned for more on all of the above and adventures from that Crater Lake gang.
In Haida legend hummingbirds bring joy and healing. We commonly encounter the Rufus Hummingbird in our area of Northern Vancouver Island. In early spring these little energy-powerhouses leave their wintering grounds in Mexico and find their way north following the early sea level blooms of red flowering current and salmonberry.
The males, distinguished by their bright red neck markings, arrive first. They stake out their feeding territory and defend it with gusto. I’ve seen this phenomenon first hand. The little guy below maintains an ongoing post perched on the edge of our butterfly chimes right next door to the feeder. He is relentless in driving off the other hummingbirds that come around. Though every now and then, a group of five to six females will work together to take over the feeder for a few hours.
Quick note – Disappearing in Plain Sight, 1st book in the Crater Lake Series, is FREE through midnight June 8th. It is trending right now at #1 in literary fiction sagas in the Amazon free store. Here’s you chance to get a jump on some highly-rated summer reading.
Freelance editor, Sarah Stewart, describes the novel in the following way:
I read upwards of ten books a month in my work as an editor and it’s quite rare for me to encounter a story that stays with me for months afterward. This book did just that rare thing for me … I crave getting enveloped in a story, one that is entertaining and well-paced, but intelligent too. I love it when novels deal in equal measure with interpersonal relationships/ romances and more systemic issues such as bullying, trauma, and oppression. As such, I devoured this story, felt attached to the characters, and was sorry when it was over. Not to mention that her beautiful prose me yearn for the rugged west coast that I’d moved from not long before I read it. These are all marks of a wonderful book for me. Disappearing in Plain Sight is well worth reading.
Here’s hoping you enjoy this free offer and all the joy and healing magic that hummingbirds bring.
No two persons ever read the same book. Edmund Wilson – critic – May 8th, 1895-1972.
Any author who has received reviews of their work will tell you the truth of Wilson’s quote. Writers write and readers interpret.
As Anna sings in the hit Disney classic, Frozen – Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.
As a writer, I fling my words out into the world and I let the readers do their job. Each person who opens one of my novels will bring to the book a unique set of life experiences, attitudes, values and expectations. Each will read a different book out of the very words available to all. And so it should be!
Home from my travels in the frigid lands of Southern Alberta. All I can say is that not everyone can live in the paradise that is the West Coast with wind, rain and stunning bursts of sun – all within the space of one rambling walk! Such is the diversity of Canadian weather. My first week of being home usually entails a process of orientation. I am not the best at moving seamlessly from one environment to another. It takes time for me to settle. I’m like an old dog that must circle and circle her bed before she can lay down.
Back to solitary walks watching for bears. It is that time of year. Back to stationary bike rides while the rain pounds down beyond the covered deck. Back to thinking about where to go with my next book. I made a choice in January not to plunge into the writing of book five in the Crater Lake series. I have scads of starting notes and a gripping story board. I was perched on the edge when planning becomes doing. But I stepped back.
Naturally, I now question that decision. Such is life. There is an alchemy to the process of writing that is slippery to explain. I’ve always known when the moment is right, and it wasn’t. As lame as that sounds even to my own ears, I know it to be true.
But I’m missing the Crater Lake setting, the characters and their conversations. I need a way back into that world. I read a great post the other day on Writers Helping Writers that suggested authors of books in sequence would be wise to have a series bible to help them avoid making errors. No one wants a reader noticing glaring inconsistencies. Like character A having a peanut butter allergy in book two and then gladly chowing down on a PB and J sandwich in book three. Things that simple and things more complex. Character sketches, important dates, timelines and storylines, setting details – they all need to be consistent across books.
So – here is my plan. I’ll create such a bible for the Crater Lake series. Most of this stuff is already written. I will pull all the stands together into a single document that I can reference and add to as I move forward.
My second way back to Crater Lake is my intention to move all the softcover books from CreateSpace to the Kindle Direct platform. When I first contemplated this shift, it seemed like a wise move. The process of transfer looked easy and the benefit of having all sale information in one place appealed to me. Real life is seldom as smooth as one hopes.
I ran into a snag with Disappearing in Plain Sight. Kindle Direct rejected the book saying my author name disappears into the black on the front cover. Ironic – right? My name disappearing on the cover of Disappearing in Plain Sight. Oh well. In 2015 when I took the book back from Friesen Press, they provided me with the cover jpeg. When I reissued the book under my own imprint of Huckleberry Haven Publishing, I made use of the original cover with a major tweak – removing the Friesen Press logo and inserting my own. But it seems Kindle Direct has different standards than CreateSpace.
While my husband Bruce works out the glitches with the cover, I have decided – with the cooperation of my wonderful editor – to do a fresh grammatical edit on Disappearing in Plain Sight. The manuscript has gone through a number of revisions since our original editing work and now seems like a good time to shake it out like a crumbled quilt. Soon I must replenish my bulk supply of the softcover and it will be great to have pristine, updated copies to put on display. I’m also hoping for a BookBub feature sometime in the coming months and I want my flagship ebook to shine.
So, there you have it – at Crater Lake but not quite onto new material. A few quick questions: Series authors – do you keep a series bible? How did you go about creating this resource? Waste of time (get writing!) or good idea? Is anyone else moving softcover books from CreateSpace to Kindle Direct? Have you run into any glitches with the process?
I am indebted to a Facebook friend who captured, in a three-letter mnemonic, exactly what I am setting out to accomplish in 2018. CCM – my first thought was a memory of how, as a teenager, having a CCM ten-speed bike was all I could think of.
Anyway – my CCM of 2018 translates to Clear, Create and Move.
After a suitable recovery time from our wonderful twelve days of Christmas, I set out on my journey. And I’ve been lucky enough to discover a few tools to tuck into my bag. I signed up for a couple of online courses on simplifying and clearing space in my life. Wow! Daily meditation and reflection pieces are widening my horizons when it comes to the word clearing. I’m addressing clutter, but it turns out clutter is much more than the mess in my cutlery drawer. Clutter has shown up in my thoughts, in the ways I view objects and past situations. Well, to be honest, it’s everywhere. A year to figure things out is a nice thought. This is the drip, drip, drip method of change.
When it comes to creating, I feel like I’ve been on the right path. Five books written and self-published in five years. I will continue to write and improve my craft. It’s what I love doing. And don’t be surprised if one of the Crater Lake characters needs to clear some clutter in his or her life. It’s all fodder for the writing mill.
I couldn’t resist adding this picture of my lovely daughter, Kristen, on a Bayou tour in Louisiana. Over the month of January so many people I know have been out and about and on the move. From all-inclusive Mexican resorts to New Orleans.
So, onto the idea of moving. A few years ago, I had an awful episode with my knee. Strained beyond the beyond. The doctor suggested a recumbent, stationary bicycle to strengthen my quad muscles and hopefully keep that knee pain free. I got the bike and began my imaginary ride across Canada. Suffice to say, I’ve made my share of lengthy stops. But I am currently almost 2000 kilometers along the way, travelling between Strathmore and Drumheller, Alberta. And I walk daily – 2.5 kilometers around the trails near my home. My doctor upped the movement ante at my last visit by suggesting some gentle weight training to increase metabolic rate. To the frown on my face, she answered, “Soup cans.” I resisted the urge to burst out laughing. But hey, why not soup cans? No one is out here to collapse in a fit of hysterics as they watch me heft my tins of clam chowder. My goal is to get a couple of those bottles of Motts Clamato juice in my hands. Resistant weight training by day and yummy Caesars by night. Lake living is nothing if not innovative.
So … CCM … 2018 is going to be a great year!
Taking a dive back into the 5th book of the Crater Lake series has me reeling with how rusty I become when away from this work for a few months. My current notes show no measure of finesse. Everything is overwrought and jagged. Trying to sort out all the threads of this upcoming novel is akin to plunging into a knitting basket of yarn after a group of rambunctious kittens have had a romp.
I’m thankful that I’m not starting from scratch. The file folder for the upcoming novel already holds several documents – detailed sketches of all my new characters, research notes on bullying programs and Afghanistan vets, list of storylines, a master table of characters and a table for this book. I have some notes on dogs that baffle me. This information must have been something I thought would be useful. I’ve created a rudimentary storyboard – sparse with post-it-notes, a few tentative lines and connections. Much work remains to be done on this valuable visual aid.
The story is a mess in my head. At this point, there is a tendency to overreact to this chaos. I have tagged one new character for possible elimination from book five. Her story may be of more use in book six. But I’ll keep her in the notes for now. We’ll see. No need to be too hasty.
Simply begin. It’s the only way I know to proceed with the task of creating a novel. My method is to write my way into the story. The more words I throw on the page, the more organized and clear the ultimate story becomes. I’ve been here before. When I begin to glimpse the contours of the whole thing through the mist, that will be the point when I know I am close to tipping from note taking to actual writing.
The promise of that moment keeps me going through the difficulty of these early days. It allows me to bear my stuttering first attempts to unravel this mess of knotted yarn before me. Damn those kittens!
Where do you begin on the journey of creating a novel? How do you manoeuvre the first faltering stages? And what if your ideas are not even at the knotted yarn stage? I came across a post on Writers Helping Writers the other day that listed some great ways to generate ideas – Ten Ways to Goose the Muse. Check it out!
I’ll leave you today with a photo of my latest garden statue acquisition. We purchased ‘Edgar’ at the Millerville Christmas Market on our recent trip to High River, Alberta. He’s a mischievous gargoyle who looks as though he just dropped in for a bit of fun. Edgar may or may not be up to no good. I suspect he may show up in my upcoming book as a new addition to Izzy’s garden. She might see him from her kitchen window and experience the same delight I feel every time I see him. Edgar was created by Castaway – an artist out of Okotoks. I am sorry to say, I gave the business card away to someone who admired Edgar and now I can’t find a link to their work. All I can say is that they create lovely stuff at a reasonable price and if you’re ever in Okotoks, Alberta looking for a statue, look them up!