January 21, 2018 • No Comments
Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Since the next set of adventures in Corsair’s Cove feature an orchard and cidery, the universe considerately put the Sea Cider Wassail Celebrations in our path. This past weekend, Rachel Goldsworthy and I braved capricious weather to visit. Happily we missed most of the wind & rain and even found a good parking space. Suffice to say the ocean view from the orchard was moody and Gothic.
We missed the last tour, so self-toured our way through the food and drink, a stroll though the orchard itself, and the inevitable shopping experience. There was singing and Morris Dancing as well as a mummer’s play, all nods to the old English tradition.
The really interesting part for me was the Orchard Blessing, which involved soaking dried bread in cider and hanging it on the branches of the apple trees while the Green Man* invited favor for the coming harvest. It’s an old wassail tradition traditionally done in January. Cursory research tells me that the date is associated with Twelfth Night and/or January 17 because we’re somewhere between pruning and the sap rising. Whatever the origins of the ceremony, with all that boozy bread I imagine there will be some crows with significant hangovers in the morning.
The ciders come with names our piratical ghosts would love, such as “Rumrunner,” “Flagship,” and “Kings and Spies.” The titles capture the spirit of the event—filled with tradition but also a healthy sense of fun. It was an afternoon well spent.
* The Green Man was played by an actor, the true pagan deity of the vegetable kingdom being otherwise engaged.
January 8, 2018 • No Comments
Monday is back to work for me after a nice long vacation. I realized how much I needed the break based on how much sleeping I did. Now that I’ve caught up on some R&R, I notice myself doing two important things: dreaming and having ideas. Apparently whatever passes for my subconscious mind is showing movies again.
To stave off the post-holiday blues, I’m reviewing the things I accomplished over my break. I’m focusing on the boxes checked, because there were definitely some nice wins. And yes, of course I need a plan to finish up the almost-done stuff. What’s that they say about 10% of the work takes 90% of the time?
I also need a plan to cover everything I want to do in 2018, and there’s a lot on that list. Some of that’s just my A-type personality, and some is a reflection of my well-rested enthusiasm. I have a shiny new planner, and I’m not afraid to use it. I’m on the alert for opportunities.
Sure, there will be obstacles, but if there’s a wall, there’s a door. If there’s a door, there’s a way through it. That sounds a bit like a motivational poster, but this is the point in the year when optimism is key to jump-start all my plans. The impossible is always subject to redefinition. It just hasn’t met me yet.
January 1, 2018 • No Comments
Here’s another Royal Enchantment giveaway.
December 11, 2017 • No Comments
Christmas 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.
December 10, 2017 • 1 Comment
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.
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.
November 6, 2017 • No Comments
The 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!
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.
October 22, 2017 • No Comments
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.
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:
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.