Christmas countdown, sort of


December 11, 2017  •  No Comments

Christmas poinsettiaChristmas Eve is two weeks away and the list of things I have left to do is long indeed. Why am I so behind? I blame this weekend’s sunshine, which made indoor activities all but impossible. It was cool, crisp and bright and I had to be out walking. Plus, I had accomplices who enticed me to craft fairs and restaurants. Who doesn’t like wandering among the rows of jams and mittens when there are so many delightful things to look at? And gossip? And tea to be drunk and sinful treats consumed?

I don’t feel too guilty. Christmas is meant to be a time of connection, not check lists, and it will come whether I’ve baked and wrapped and mailed everything or not. What really matters is whether I’ve spent time with those who matter, because it’s far too easy to forget those precious moments of peace and joy.


Royal Enchantment Giveaway!


December 10, 2017  •  1 Comment

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Royal Enchantment by Sharon Ashwood

Royal Enchantment

by Sharon Ashwood

Giveaway ends December 15, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Gifted: The Dark Forgotten


November 28, 2017  •  1 Comment

I took up the Black Friday challenge at Literary Escapism and wrote a short piece featuring my characters enduring a Yuletide shopping experience.  The result is HERE.  I used Perry Baker and Errata Jones because they are one of my favorite couples from the Dark Forgotten series. I wanted to write more about them, and I finally got my wish.  I guess you could say that’s a bit of a Christmas present to myself.

 


The gift of seeds


November 27, 2017  •  No Comments

Winter is typically the time for huddling indoors and thinking about roast beast and woolly sweaters. However, back in the days of snail mail, it was also the season for seed catalogues. I typically spend small fortunes (mostly mentally, occasionally literally) on all sorts of gardening toys, bulbs, books, seeds, and root stock. At the time, I even ordered rose bushes to plant in my glorious lot and a half garden with its greenhouse, asparagus bed, small orchard of trees (3 apple, 2 cherry, and a pear), grape vines, berry canes and a horseradish plant that was doing its best to take over the world. I miss that place, which has since been paved over, but I have to believe the seeds of all those plant friends are waiting under the earth for the right time to shrug off the concrete and start again. Nature is far more persistent than people who apparently hate gardens.

The cycle of the year is also persistent. Here we are again, in the quiet season when it is right to think about seeds and what we would like to plant. Sure, it’s hectic with celebrations and shopping and visiting, but in every wrap-up of the year is the germination of the next. What do we want to grow more of? What would we like to weed out? What roots need more water and what requires pruning? In the midst of all the chaos, this is our opportunity to step back and take our garden’s measure.

Sometimes we discover a volunteer plant along the way. I found the tiny seedling of my next Corsair’s Cove story almost by accident this week. It’s still tiny, but I recognized it at once. Creativity is a bit like that—a random word or image takes root and grows into something robust and unexpected. Call it a Yuletide stocking stuffer from the Muse.

 

 


A special early snowflake

Sharon Ashwood
November 6, 2017  •  No Comments

Kiss at the AltarThe first snows of winter passed through town this week. The shift in temperature seems sudden, as if the weather gods checked the calendar and turned the dial to “November.” As if that wasn’t enough, posters for holiday craft fairs are multiplying on lampposts and shop windows. Shops are putting up decorations. Even the grocery store seems crammed with extra party food. Christmas is lurking on the horizon.

I am, of course, barely procrastinating about procrastinating when it comes to holiday preparations. I like the season, but I don’t go full Rudolph until much closer to the actual date. I like to ease up on it. Mind you, I got an early start this year courtesy of a writing project.

Did you notice Kiss at the Altar is actually a Christmas story? A Christmas wedding story? Yup. If you’re looking for a first step along the frosty white road to the seasonal spirit, this is as merry as it gets! Here’s a link to find out more about it!

 

 


Happy Hallowe’en


October 30, 2017  •  No Comments

Hallowe’en is almost upon us and I thought, “Oh, this post should be easy.” After all, the events of Kiss in the Dark revolve around an October 31 ball, complete with curses, ticking clocks, and doomed spirits. Plenty of material there. And, in truth, many of my books reference Samhain or Hallowe’en, and most of them have some supernatural goings-on. Plus, I live down the street from a graveyard in a very haunted town.  I am spoiled for choice of spooky material.

So, I’ll restrict myself to two favorite images I’ve taken in the cemetery. Both were taken with an older camera and aren’t the best resolution, but to me they show the fantasy world peeping through to our own. The crow on the obelisk should definitely be quoting Poe. As for the angel–could the sky be any more perfect for a heavenly backdrop?

Sure, on Hallowe’en the veil between the worlds is thinnest. That doesn’t mean the other 364 days are completely free of magic sprinkles. We just have to stay alert.


‘Tis the season of pumpkin spice


October 22, 2017  •  No Comments
cat and pumpkin

The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness inspects alien intruder

I love, love, love working with fresh local produce and fall means pumpkins, squash, and apples. One of the local farms produces the heritage rouge vif d’etampes variety of pumpkins, which are excellent cooking specimens but no good for carving unless you like humungous, asymmetrical jack o’lanterns. Once a year I bake and freeze a pumpkin or two, and these monsters are big enough to keep me supplied until the next October rolls around. It’s not all that much work and the result is far more economical than buying canned pumpkin. This is a very good thing, since I am a serious addict.

 

My latest discovery is Pumpkin & Apple Spice Muffins. These are fat-free, with the fruit providing a moist texture. This recipe makes 2 dozen. I tend to cook in bulk and freeze, but these are also excellent for bake sale/thank you/bribery purposes.

 

Sift together:

3 cups of flour (plus a bit if the fruit is watery–see below

2 tsp of cinnamon

1 tsp of ginger

3/4 tsp of nutmeg

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp of salt

1 cup of dried cranberries

1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds

In a large bowl, mix:

6 eggs

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 cups unsweetened applesauce

2.5 cups pumpkin (puree in a blender if you’ve baked this from a whole pumpkin to ensure a smooth texture)

 

Fold in the dry ingredients until all is blended.  If you have a very watery batch of pumpkin/apple, add a handful or two of flour. It’s a moist batter but it shouldn’t be runny. Divide into well-greased muffin pans and

bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes. The muffins are done when the tops are firm or a cake tester comes out clean. These are delicious with a sharp cheddar cheese.

 

3 pumpkins

Three pumpkin varieties left to right: rouge vif, jack o’ lantern, and sugar pie.


On a bright, lovely Thanksgiving Day in Canada


October 9, 2017  •  No Comments

It’s traditional at this time of year to think about what we’re grateful for (besides pumpkin pie) and, really, I could go on for pages about how lucky I am in so many ways—from the fact that I’m fed and warm to little things like the perfect daily planner to keep me organized. So, to keep this post regulation length, I’m restricting my list to three things:

Today I finished an online history course and visited the university library for some research materials. I can definitely say that one of the things I’m grateful for is the opportunity to keep learning and indulging my curiosity.

I’m grateful for the people in my life—family, friends, coworkers, and writing partners. It would be impossible to get through my days without them. Period.

And I’m grateful to live where I do, in freedom and safety and in the midst of so much beauty. Plus, it’s grand to be a writer in a city liberally sprinkled with eccentrics and where people-watching is enabled by good weather. Need a character? Go for a stroll around the block and take your pick. Or, if you like, go down the street to the cemetery for some seasonal amusement. There was a Buffy-inspired photo shoot not long ago, not to mention a herd of urban deer rather perplexed by the whole thing.


Peach Cobbler


September 25, 2017  •  No Comments

I made this peach cobbler to get a last taste of Okanagan fruit for the year. I found a few at the farmer’s market and they still smelled like sunshine and summer. I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship with gardens and all the things that come from them, and of course food is high on that list. Decadent comfort food, in this case!

 

Preheat oven to 350F

Batter:

Melt ½ cup butter and pour into a 9 x 12 pan.

Sift 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt

Add 2/3 cup milk and 1 egg

Spread batter over butter. Tilt pan to coat batter with excess butter.

 

Peaches:

Peel and section 6 peaches. Frozen peaches can also be used (thaw first). Toss with ½ cup sugar, ½ tsp of nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon. Carefully spread fruit mixture over batter.

Bake for 45 minutes. Batter will puff up between the peach slices and turn golden.

 

Note: In order to remove peach skins, place peaches in a bowl and cover with just-boiled water for one or two minutes. The skins will slip right off.

 


Ghost Ships

Sharon Ashwood
  •  No Comments

So, Kiss in the Dark is about a ghostly pirate, but what about ghostly ships? There are plenty of legends, but here is a story about a real ship that inspired any number of supernatural theories.

Mary CelesteA merchant brigantine called the Amazon was built in Nova Scotia in 1861. She took timber to London, sailed the West Indies, and eventually ran aground in Glace Bay in 1867. She was then salvaged, fixed up, and sold to American owners in 1868. They renamed her the Mary Celeste. On November 7, 1872, the ship sailed for Genoa with a cargo of denatured (and undrinkable) alcohol. All indications were that the captain, crew, and the ship itself were in perfect condition. Captain Briggs was accompanied by his wife and baby daughter.

On December 4 a Canadian vessel named the Dei Gratia encountered the Mary Celeste far from land between the Azores and the coast of Portugal. The ship was abandoned, with a single lifeboat missing. There was some slight damage to the ship, but the cargo and ship’s provisions were intact. There was no evidence of damage by foul weather or collision with another vessel.

Theories of what happened to the ship abound—from a giant squid to aliens—but no decisive answer has ever been found.

 


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