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.

 


Guest spot – Sigils and Spells


September 24, 2017  •  No Comments

Carmen Fox, a fellow author, got in touch and asked if I could help spread the word about the Sigils and Spells box set. When she explained that the theme of the collection was diversity, I agreed at once. It’s a topic that rightly inspires a great deal of discussion, and there can be no argument that the book world will always be richer with more voices and greater representation than without. So, here’s my plug for this fantasy collection!

A dangerously beautiful vision of unique worlds that’s sure to leave its mark.

Cross through the looking glass into Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and Dystopian realms where you’ll meet valiant heroes, kick-ass heroines, and dangerous creatures waiting to unveil the hidden corners of the universe.

SIGILS & SPELLS includes more than twenty exclusive novels that roam the sands of Egypt, slip into the shadows of 1940s Los Angeles, voyage to the mystical land of Mabi, and dare to traverse the stars.

From the deserts of Africa to the streets of San Antonio, mythological adventurers strike out to discover brand new worlds and unravel the mysteries of Earth in a limited edition boxed set offering the diversity and originality you haven’t been able to find before now.

Dare to enter forbidden realms of unexpected beauty and peril? Secure your copy of SIGILS & SPELLS today – before it disappears forever!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | BN | iTunes | Kobo

 


And suddenly fall


September 20, 2017  •  No Comments

In our corner of the world, fall arrives without preamble. One day it’s all sandals and ice cream, and the next woolly sweaters.  Sure, there are subtle signs, like the kajillion spiders turning the yard into a hazard course. There is mist on the windows, a hankering for soup, and a need to locate missing socks. Most of all, there is an air of nostalgia, a kind of gold-hazed memory of new scribblers and fresh beginnings. September to me has always been the real New Year.

There are down sides, too, like the stubborn debate of whether or not to turn on the heat (I finally gave in last night) and the need to leave the house with sunglasses AND an umbrella just in case. But the chilly evenings provide a nice excuse for hot chocolate and the premiere of Outlander, or my personal fave, Poldark. It’s time to cocoon and surrender to the charms of a great story. Oh, and lest one forget, there’s some books about a chocolate shop to binge read . . .


Work in Progress Wednesday – September 6

Sharon Ashwood
September 5, 2017  •  No Comments

I do these (almost) weekly updates to let readers know where all my various works in progress are at and how soon they will be available. I also do them to make myself accountable because it’s far too easy to get scattered.

This week’s progress:

Enchanter Redeemed (Camelot Reborn book 4): Did two rounds of edits in very short order, which was exhausting but the book is in the can now. Release date Feb 2018

Fragile Magic: Is up for sale! My first solo indie release!

Kiss in the Dark: Is also locked and loaded and on preorder. Release date is September 30.

Kiss at the Altar: My contribution in progress, with about 2,000 words to go.

The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness scoffs at stress

The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness scoffs at stress

New projects were bumped by Enchanter Redeemed’s editing process.

Since my long weekend was all about copyedits, I took today off to get other things done. This included a wrangle with Audible and Amazon Author Central, since I had to sort out some longstanding issues with my account. And then there was updating Goodreads, my website, copyright forms, cleaning out the inbox, blah blah. I mention this because it’s the reality of the working author just as much as the writing part. The good news is clearing all that away reduces stress. We can’t all be like the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness, who mocks the stressed-out human slaves.

 

 


Fashion Advice for the GQ Pirate


August 21, 2017  •  No Comments

The hero of my story KISS IN THE DARK, is Daniel Blackthorne aka the Wolf of the West. He’s a ghost, a pirate, and of course he’s lovely to look at. However, coming up with details about his wardrobe took a little bit of historical sleuthing. What does the GQ pirate wear?  The last time he went shopping for clothes was about 1850, so how is he dressed while he sweeps my heroine off her feet?

Now, while the current go-to image of a pirate is Captain Jack Sparrow, that wasn’t quite the look for Daniel. For one thing, Daniel is sober most of the time. He’s also good enough at his–ahem–work that he has cash to spend on a tailor. He moves in polite society and is just as comfortable on a ballroom floor as he is brawling in a tavern. No dreadlocks or eyeliner, although there are definite hints of the bad boy in his dark curly hair and bright blue eyes. But what about the clothes?

Men’s clothing in the mid-Victorian period began to look very much like modern formal dress. The overall cut had moved on from Mr. Darcy-style breeches and starched collars to long trousers and more relaxed neckwear. Although cravats were still seen, the first neckties put in an appearance around this period.

Daniel would have worn a fitted coat for any but the most casual wear. Most were single-breasted and the image with a back view shows the accentuated waist and double buttons at the back of a typical frock coat from 1845. Formal daytime wear typically had the front panels of the coat cut away to show the garments beneath. While men’s clothing stuck to the sober hues of the Regency period, waistcoats were the exception. Bright colors, embroidery, and luxurious fabrics were a must for the well-dressed young man. The example below is from 1855. Note the collar has no lapels to speak of and the bottom sits at the natural waist.  These details change from decade to decade and make it relatively easy to date waistcoats.

The illustrated fashion plate of three men dates from 1856. The man on the left is showing off his trim figure and fancy waistcoat. Obviously he’s the young and wealthy man about town, while the others show what a sober statesman or a rising professional man might wear.

Daniel Blackthorne is tall, so he wears his frock coat well. However, I’m fairly certain after wearing the same garments for around 170 years, he’s ready for a change. I wonder what he’ll make of Paris Fashion Week?


Botanical Tales


August 18, 2017  •  No Comments

Those who follow me on Instagram (RowanAshArt) will know that I have a great interest in plants and flowers. It’s not just because the botanical world is photogenic enough to overcome my poor photography skills. Somewhere in the distant mists of childhood I decided I wanted to become a herbologist. Why? Maybe it was all the herbal healers that showed up in the fantasy books I read. Anyhow, herbology got laughed right out of the career counsellor’s office and I took an English degree instead because, y’know, we have to be practical.

Fast forward to the present. I’m still interested and have done some learning along the way. I’m in a pitched battle with Things That Munch in the garden, but have had a few victories, including a very healthy bay tree and a rosemary that will eventually take over Vancouver Island. With luck, I may even have tomatoes this year. It’s all about figuring out what plants go in what location and how many plants it takes to yield enough material to be useful once the deer, bugs, and rabbits help themselves.

But beyond all that, I’ve grown interested in the history and literary applications of gardening. There’s the whole murder mystery connection, with Brother Cadfael and his herbarium. There’s also the metaphor of gardening and the mind. I’m in the very early stages of developing a character with an exceptional garden, but it’s as much an expression of her past and her aspirations as of her green thumb. It’s a historical setting, so the extravagant Victorian glass houses and hand-drawn etchings of botanical specimens are part of her world. That Victorian mix of science, superstition, and adventure—not to mention their mania for collecting and codifying everything—are intoxicating to me. It’s great fun to have something in common with a character because we can both enjoy ourselves during the research process.


State of the Workbench

Emma Jane HollowaySharon Ashwood
August 17, 2017  •  No Comments

It’s almost September and I’m evaluating my monthly progress. There are plenty of projects on the workbench, so here is the state of the lineup:

Coming Soon:

Enchanter Redeemed (Camelot Reborn book 4). This is the last of the series and the last book I will do for Nocturne since the line is closing. This is currently with the copyeditor and will be released in February of 2018. It’s up for preorder HERE.

Kiss in the Dark (Corsair’s Cove Chocolate Shop book 4). My first indie book and a novella. Is also with the copyeditor and will be released September 30. If you want a glimpse of this universe, check out the web site HERE.  If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free prequel short story I just finished, The Brotherhood of the Rose.

Fragile Magic re-release (short story from the Dark Forgotten universe). I hope to get this up and available for sale in August. The cover is done. This is a personal favorite of mine.

Looking ahead:

Sharon’s projects have been coming thick and fast, in part because I’ve been participating in a project that will educate me about indie publishing. So far, so good. I want to be a hybrid author, so that’s one of this year’s goals achieved! In addition, there are plans for a new trad series on the drawing board. More to come on that.

Emma Jane’s projects have been ongoing, but there have been delays due to other deadlines, industry hiccups, and time spent learning how to navigate the DIY universe of indie pub. Also, anything historical takes more fact-checking. However, I feel pretty bouncy about what’s lined up here and this is my priority for new material right now.


Sunday Tea and Turtles


August 14, 2017  •  No Comments

This past week was my Mom’s birthday and so celebrations were in order. We went to the Abkhazi Gardens, which dates from 1946 when the Prince and Princess Abkhazi moved there. Facts about the garden and its history can be found HERE.

We began our tour with elevenses. For those who didn’t grow up with a British father or have hobbits for their BFFs, this is kind of like a light tea or not-quite-lunch. In this case, it consisted of a sandwich and dessert spread that occupied one plate instead of the three-tiered affairs reserved for those having the actual tea. I think those portions might have been enough to feed an army of orcs or at least gardeners. Believe me, the elevenses was delicious and quite enough food.

From there, we ambled through the garden. While the property is not huge, the views are spectacular and the variety of plants fascinating. We were too late for the display of rhododendrons, but there were lilies as tall as me and pools replete with lily pads and turtles. There is a turtle in my pond picture, but he’s hard to see.  Here’s the detail:

 

There was also a specimen called Miss Wilmott’s Ghost. I actually know this plant as sea holly, but it does have personality. I gather it became Miss Wilmott’s ghost because she scattered seeds when she went visiting and they’d come up the next spring wherever she’d been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s just one of the huge lilies:


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