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:
July 31, 2017 • No Comments
One thing I adore about where I live is how close I am to farm country. Half an hour will get me to fruit and vegetables fresh from the fields, not to mention fresh eggs, honey, wine, and organic meat for the carnivores.
Of course, all things we adore go into our fictional town of Corsair’s Cove. I’ve mentioned the Cove as the setting for an updated group project–keep your eyes peeled for the first release within the next few weeks!
It’s a tourist stop, but that’s certainly not the only industry. Agriculture has always been a foundation of the town’s economy and some of the residents have a keen interest in the farm to table movement. Mack even has his own distillery.
There is a fishmonger’s by the wharf and a market green at the edge of town where farmers bring their wares to sell. They are busy places all the year round, but summer means crowds. Some customers will be the townsfolk doing their regular shopping, but there are others from the marina or camping nearby. Then there are the professional foodies—the chef from upscale Blackthorne Manor as well as cooks from the more modest Zephyr’s Rest Inn and the local café and bakery. Who wouldn’t want to cook with berries still warm from the sun or seafood fresh from the ocean?
The sensory experience of shopping at a farmer’s market is amazing, both as a regular shopper and as a writer. There is a saying that setting is character, and I do believe that Corsair’s Cove has emerged as a character on its own. The businesses that make the town run are its heartbeat, and the everyday flow of humanity through places like the market green shows its regular rhythm. Judging by the quality of the produce, I’d say the Cove is very healthy indeed. Stop by for dinner sometime—I recommend the curry at the Zephyr’s Rest.
July 24, 2017 • No Comments
Last weekend I treated myself to a few days away. I’d just survived a book deadline and was looking forward to baking in the sun at a local music festival. This meant a few hours’ drive up Vancouver Island on a beautiful sunny Friday. Getting there is half the fun, right?
One of the real treats with taking a road trip is the opportunity to stop in interesting places along the way. The very first tea farm in Canada, Westholme Tea Company (www.Westholmetea.com) is just north of the city of Duncan. After a drive down a winding country road, my friend and I stopped in a completely charming oasis that housed not only the farm, but also a charming garden patio, an intriguing shop filled with single origin and blended organic teas, and a pottery gallery.
The tea plants were smaller than I expected and grew in shaggy terraced rows along the hillside. Inside the shop we were offered samples of the tea du jour in tiny cups made from the very funky local pottery. The building was open and airy and filled with wonderful scents and lots of treasures to investigate. The staff was great, too, filled with suggestions and information.
I learned a lot about the differences in taste between first and second flush teas. This refers to whether the tea is gathered from the first growth in the spring or from a later crop of leaves. The first flush has a more astringent taste and the second is mellower. Preference is a matter of taste, although many prize the first flush and often that’s more expensive. Yes, I bought a few things, including a nice second flush Darjeeling.
I don’t follow a hundred mile diet, but investigating locally produced foods is a great excuse to seek out fascinating people doing cool things. Hopefully I’m shrinking my carbon footprint and expanding my horizons at the same time!
July 1, 2017 • 1 Comment
Giving a bit of air time to my chapter mates. They’ve done a box set in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday!
Genre: Women’s Fiction/ Romance
Dreams and Promises includes six short stories and novellas written by authors who live in beautiful British Columbia.
Amazon ✯ Books2Read ✯ Goodreads
Amazon ✯ Books2Read ✯ Goodreads
June 28, 2017 • No Comments
Here is a lesson on deadlines and writing survival 101 aka human behaviour in action.
The challenge: between being an adult, working a 9 to 5, launching 2 different books, social media, learning how to manage independent publishing, and maintaining minimal human contact, I got really behind on the book I was supposed to be writing. To remain on track, I need to finish draft one (75 – 80K words) by the weekend of July 1, 2017. Last Tuesday (June 20) I was at around 37.5K. I am not a fast writer. On a weeknight I’m lucky to do 800 to 1,000 words.
I’m often asked for writing advice, so I’m offering up this real life example of the one true and simple principle of writing. Writers write. They are also people and need to do other stuff, but at some point during the day they must shove everything else aside and apply fingers to the keyboard. It’s the one job that can’t be skipped. The same applies to anyone in a creative industry. Call it product creation, taking care of your main business, or cuddling your muse—all the auxiliary activities from Twitter to keeping the books don’t mean a thing without Actual Work.
If it sounds like I’m shaking my finger and scolding, it’s because I’m doing that to myself. I got distracted, fell behind, and ended up in a pickle. There is always a good reason for distractions. Often it’s practical, like getting groceries or posting a blog. That’s still not putting the story on the page and, sooner or later, a deadline looms and there are not enough words.
So then what? I had to pay the piper and burn vacation days. That meant sitting down at the computer at my usual day-job start time and working through to 10:00 pm with two meal breaks of about an hour (exception – one night I went to my regular critique group meeting). Five days and 24K words later, I’m almost caught up. I have about 13,000 words and a week to go. I’ve done these marathons a few times before and they always follow the same pattern: day 1 is awesome, day 2 I’m missing variety, the sunshine, and friends, and by day 5 I’m dragging every word out with tongs and hate my characters’ guts. But I did it.
And, of course, I swear I’ll fall behind like this again. Ever. Well, not for a while. Seriously.
We’ll see how long my resolutions last.
June 24, 2017 • No Comments
June 22, 2017 • No Comments
Cover reveal! Corsair’s Cove alert! I’ll have Kiss in the Dark up on the site soon, but for now here’s a peek at the cover!
KISS IN THE DARK
The last thing he wants is to rest in peace.
Captain Daniel Blackthorne, the swashbuckling pirate they called the Wolf of the West, was cursed to death by a jealous witch. Since that day long ago, he’s haunted the attic rooms of Red Gem’s Chocolates in sleepy Corsair’s Cove. The rules of the curse are clear: He has until Hallowe’en night to help the women of Blackthorne blood find true love, or his soul is doomed forever.
When Eloise Wilson moves in above the chocolate shop, she’s unprepared for a spectral roommate. Sadly for Blackthorne, she’s terrified of ghosts—and with good reason. Gifted with the Sight since childhood, she’s seen hauntings end in gruesome tragedy. Worse, family and friends think she’s just a pretty young college grad with an overactive imagination. When she finds out her new home is haunted, the last thing she expects is a ghostly captain who rewrote the book on seduction.
But Eloise can’t save his soul until he heals her heart, and Hallowe’en is only days away. Blackthorne is the darkness she fears, even if his touch is as sweet as anything from the shop below. He’s delicious, but he’s dangerous, and Eloise knows better than to taste what she can’t have.
And yet lovers are like chocolate—for some, only the dark will do.
Book 4 of the Corsair’s Cove series is up at iTunes on an exclusive preorder: http://corsairscove.com/?page_id=76
June 21, 2017 • No Comments
Here’s my work-in-progress Wednesday update:
A while back, my friend Lee McKenzie invited me and Rachel Goldsworthy to a restaurant and one hot afternoon over glasses of wine. As we kicked around writing ideas, we came up with the group project eventually named Corsair’s Cove. The incomparable Shelley Adina joined us, and we were away. Each of us was to contribute a novella around a small town setting, but this wasn’t your average romance collection. We wanted pirates and ghosts and curses and a chocolate shop and family drama. And a parrot. Why not?
And so we did it. We ordered the stories from the least to most paranormal content. It’s no surprise that Kiss in the Dark, my story, is the last and the longest and features a supernatural hero. These are sweet romances, which is a little different from the Nocturnes I’ve been writing, but I honestly don’t think the story needs the bedroom door open. Some heroes don’t need to read the recipe aloud in order to serve dessert.
This project is wonderfully fun because the group itself is solid. The voices of these books are all unique and yet the place, the characters, and the spirit of it all is consistent throughout. Not only are my co-writers professionals, but they’re excellent human beings. I want to return to the Cove again and again just to hang out.
The other key piece for me is that these novellas are self-published. I’ve never done indie publishing before, but I’m learning alongside friends, celebrating each step, and seeing possibilities for the future. I can’t think of a better way to go through the learning process and get the first whiff of empowerment independence offers. Oh yes, and the enormous amount of work and responsibility. To do a good job means taking on a lot of diverse roles. At least I have some business skills to bring to the table!
Talk about new beginnings all around! Best of all, now I have some fresh tools to work with. Who knows what plans and ideas might hatch?
June 19, 2017 • No Comments
The local farmer’s markets are in full swing again, and it’s about time because my stock of frozen produce is dwindling—including the many containers of pumpkin puree I baked and bagged in October. I make a lot of pumpkin soup, but I also use it in baking because it produces moist, melty treats without adding a lot of fat. Because I’ve already prepped and measured it out, it’s basically thaw and go. Of course, canned works just as well for most things but it’s nice to have the option.
Here’s a recipe for pumpkin cookies that really do taste like what my grandma used to make. She taught me to bake while she babysat me, and I’ll always remember standing on a stool in her kitchen while she let me get my hands into the sticky, floury, sweet-scented bowls of dough. This isn’t her recipe, but it’s the type of thing she’d make—practical, plentiful, and tasting like home. These aren’t super-sweet, but you can adjust the sugar to taste.
- ½ cup butter
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1.5 cups of pumpkin puree
- 2.5 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
- 1 cup seedless raisins (I use Thompson)
Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla and beat until light. Then add the pumpkin puree.
Sift dry ingredients together and fold into the wet until just mixed and no dry flour shows. Then stir in nuts and raisins.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Moisture can vary when using fresh or frozen pumpkin, so take note of the consistency of the batter. It will be quite sticky but should hold its shape when spooned onto the cookie sheet. Add a little flour if it wants to spread or run.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. The cookies should be golden brown on the bottom when they’re done. Makes about 4-5 dozen. These cookies freeze well (if they last that long!).
May 18, 2017 • No Comments
What happened this week? I was minding my own business and I got an email telling me that my publishing line closed. Harlequin Nocturne, alone with 4 other series lines, is ceasing operations at the end of December 2018.
Good news: I will probably get the last of the Camelot Reborn books published. I am heartened by the fact that ENCHANTER REDEEMED stars Merlin. If anyone can beat the odds, it would be him. Bad news: I will have to exert effort (boo!). The nice thing about Nocturne was that they liked my stuff and getting new contracts was, for the current publishing climate, relatively straightforward.
I won’t dwell on the suckage of all this because it’s obvious. Good people lose their jobs when this sort of thing happens. Books and authors lose their publishing home. Readers don’t get the books they love. It’s also weird finding out about something so personally impactful via a broadcast email, but that is apparently how modern life rolls.
So what is my response to all this? I have Merlin’s book to write by deadline. I can’t allow circumstances to slow me down, mostly because I’m behind to begin with. This is publishing. And when this book is done, I have other projects on the boil. This is exactly why I have many things in play at the same time. I’ve learned my lessons.
Disasters? Bah, I eat them on little crackers for breakfast.