Tick tock


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.

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Goodreads Giveaway for Royal Enchantment!


June 24, 2017  •  No Comments

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Royal Enchantment by Sharon Ashwood

Royal Enchantment

by Sharon Ashwood

Giveaway ends July 01, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Cover reveal! KISS IN THE DARK

Sharon Ashwood
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


New beginnings in Corsair’s Cove


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?


Pumpkin Cookies


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.

Pumpkin cookies

  • 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!).


Just another day at the word farm


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.


The Arthurverse


May 3, 2017  •  No Comments

 

As sometimes happens, I was over in my corner writing Royal Enchantment while, without warning, other Arthur-related works are popping up all over the place. One instance: Guy Ritchie has King Arthur: Legend of the Sword coming soon to a theater near you. I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview and, while this film has almost nothing to do with any Arthurian legend I’ve ever encountered, I rather liked it. Lots of action, plenty of eye-pleasing effects, some good one-liners, and a competent cast. I applaud the inclusion of a female mage rather than Merlin, and the knights they included were not the usual crew, so it really did feel fresh. One quibble: Maybe it was me, but I think there were a few visuals that seemed to replicate scenes from Lord of the Rings.

This Arthur is a man of the people who grew up with no advantages and yet still holds the spark of greatness. An interesting choice of narrative, but maybe one that will resonate with us right now. A zillion years ago, I went to a weekend conference put on by the local university’s medieval studies folks. It was about all things King Arthur and covered everything from the Mabinogian to Chretien de Troyes to archeologists to Roman studies experts and on and on. I went away having spent far too much money on books and not really knowing anything more about who the real king was. I also realized it really didn’t matter. The Arthur we hold onto is a vessel, and he reflects the king we need at the time.


Footprints and shadows


April 26, 2017  •  No Comments

It’s spring, and the process of renewal happens. Sometimes it’s all bunnies and pansies, but other times I’m reminded the universe isn’t sentimental. In the past two days, I heard one of my long-time supervisors (now retired) passed away in her sleep, I wrote a farewell message in the going-away book of the boss who just left, and I see the posting for his replacement is out.  All this reminds me that none of us is irreplaceable and that all we have control over is the memory we leave behind. That will fade, too, but for as long as it lasts, I want my shadow to be a pleasant one.

Since I’m a supervisor, too, I understand my role isn’t all about popularity. Some of it is about expectations, boundaries, and performance, but for the most part I have fabulous staff and discipline is not an issue. I have the privilege of concentrating on teaching, support, and seeing my folks reach their goals. If they compete for a better position and successfully move on, I’m sad but proud.

I try hard because I know how badly things can suck. At various times I’ve had very good and very difficult individuals in control of my work life. All of them taught me something, even if it was not to be like that. Understanding why someone behaves as they do may lead to sympathy, but it doesn’t prevent a sense of relief when the misery is over.  On the other hand, there have been people I truly miss a lot. I think of them every time I need to check my own messaging. Am I being fair? Am I helping? Am I putting responsibility where it belongs?

Someday, I will be replaced. Today reminded me of that. How other people respond to that moment is entirely up to me.

 

 


Author Activity Roundup Spring 2017


March 30, 2017  •  No Comments

What do authors actually do with their time? Some of it involves staring at the ceiling and some playing fetch with the cat (I do most of the fetching) but there are occasions when words actually get written. I’m trying to get into the habit of giving readers a regular project roundup, so here goes:

  1. Award news—for anyone who missed my squeals of delight, ENCHANTED WARRIOR (Camelot, Book 1) received a RITA nomination for paranormal romance. The RITA contest has thousands of entries and is like the Oscars for romance fiction, so I am VERY pleased, especially since this is the second year in a row for one of my Nocturnes. Maybe this time I’ll win a friend for my golden lady!
  2. ROYAL ENCHANTMENT (Camelot, Book 3) starring Arthur and Guinevere will be available this July.
  3. ENCHANTER REDEEMED (Camelot, Book 4) is under construction. This is Merlin’s adventure.
  4. KISS IN THE DARK (Corsair’s Cove series) is part of a continuity series of indie novellas. I’m in the first round editing phase. The cover is scrumptious. Pub date October.
  5. Self-pubbing project – have covers, waiting for time to perform final edit pass. Targeting autumn.
  6. Sekrit Projects – these are Holloway products. One with agent, one awaiting revisions. These are FUN FUN FUN so I am anxious for these to move up the to-do list.

So . . . yes, I do have a few things on the go. Though it seems like a lot, this is actually fairly normal because in the writing cycle there are always four stages:

  • Ideas/research/proposal,
  • writing,
  • editing, and
  • release and publicity.

If you’re a working writer, chances are you’ll have something at each stage. I’m finding that, as I work toward being a hybrid author and have more than one author name anyway, I have multiple sets of works on the go. Scheduling has always been my friend, and now it’s my BFF!


A celebratory dinner


March 27, 2017  •  No Comments

I’m writing this just to prove that, yes, I can on occasion be retrained. As a child I hated relatively few foods, but turnip-type items were high on the list, just below Brussels sprouts and Lima beans. Blech! And yet, while the jury is still out on those last two, I had a food adventure this weekend that made me less reluctant to allow rutabaga past my lips. Yes, rutabaga, that unlovely cross between a cabbage and a turnip.

How did this miracle happen? I went out for a combo celebration at one of my favorite restaurants. For my part of the combo, I had a few things to feel good about. Last August I made a pretty long list of things I wanted to do for my writing business and checked most of them off. I’ve also been nominated for a RITA award for my novel ENCHANTED WARRIOR in the paranormal romance category. As this is the second year in a row, I’m very pleased. It was high time for a treat.

So back to the root vegetables. I went to a whole foods restaurant called Nourish in the Harbour (nourishkitchen.ca) and had a dish containing blanched rutabaga noodles, charred broccoli, roasted carrots, cultured cashew cream, pickled shallots, sunchoke chips, and cured egg yolk. In other words, my meal was free of meat, gluten, dairy, small puppies, and all other politically incorrect food groups. (Yes, I remember when being vegetarian was considered weird. Now it’s for beginners.) Not sure what to expect, I ordered it as the only meatless entrée on offer and hoped for the best.

Astonishingly, it was completely, fabulously delicious. The blanched noodles (essentially long strips of vegetable, no pasta in sight) were tender and completely satisfying with a hint of the well-seasoned cashew cream. The other ingredients were beautifully colourful. By the end of the second bite, I was converted.

Sometimes it pays to give old vegetables a second chance. I’m eager to break out my spiralizer and start experimenting. If I come up with something even half as good as that dish, I’ll share the results!

But of course, one cannot live on rutabaga alone, so we moved on to desserts.


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