October 28, 2015 • No Comments
Gorgeous gourds from a local market. I had to lean into the bin to get this shot. This definitely gets me in the autumn mood.
October 27, 2015 • No Comments
October 26, 2015 • No Comments
As a countdown to Halloween, I thought a week of pumpkins would be fitting! So I got out my camera and went stalking gourds. We’ll start gently with a composition imbued with a general harvest theme . . .
October 6, 2015 • No Comments
Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold (Tor, 2014)
When the Empire fell, the location of the planet Artemis was lost, although legends remained to tantalize historians. When ambitious archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints as to the location of the lost planet, he sets out alone to confirm his find. When Dane reaches Artemis, his shuttle crashes – perhaps not by accident. Stranded, with no discernible way to get home, he forms an uneasy alliance with the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Together they set out to find a way to get Griffin home, along the way uncovering some of the secrets that lie beneath the planet’s wilderness exterior, secrets that may lead to the recovery of weird powers far beyond what humanity now dares to dream.
I’m much more of a fantasy reader than a sci-fi fan and will always opt for history over a tale about the future. The nice thing about Artemis Awakening is that I don’t have to pick. This book is about a primitive society engineered by an advanced civilization. It has space ships and telepathic animals, too, and while the “magic” might actually be science, the end result works just the same.
The writing here is technically good, as one would expect from such an experienced author. There’s plenty of conflict and character, adventure and humour. While this book is clearly the first in a longer tale, this volume has a complete story arc. There is a suggestion of romance, but it’s very much in the background and fits naturally with the personalities involved. The pacing is quiet at times but these pauses give the reader an opportunity to digest the larger questions the story poses. The book shifts to a darker tone as the plot develops which may not be to everyone’s tastes.
I haven’t read a book like this for a long time and I enjoyed it. It’s always great when something reminds me of a genre I enjoy but have neglected for a while. I will be looking for the next in the series.
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I recently had a chance to visit the Ross Bay Villa in Victoria. It’s a historic house I’ve driven by a thousand times and finally made time to visit. Both the garden and building are being restored and tours are available. The best part of visiting was the tour guides, who were tolerant of all my questions and willing to go off on a tangent if asked!
Here are a few details about it, mostly borrowed from its excellent website here, where there is also a fundraising campaign to preserve the site:
- Ross Bay Villa was the home of Francis James Roscoe, his wife Anna Letitia, and their five children from 1865 to 1879.
- Roscoe was a Member of Parliament for Victoria from 1874 to 1878.
- A “Villa” in Victorian architectural terms was the country dwelling of a gentleman. This one is built in the gothic revival style.
- It is believed the house was designed by Write and Sanders, Victoria’s first professional architects.
I can’t imagine seven people plus servants living in this small residence, especially as they must have entertained given Roscoe’s political aspirations.
The wallpaper in the photos was replicated from examples found buried beneath other paints and papers. They believe it is the original or close to it. Notice how the pictures are hung from trim placed right under the ceiling during this period.
September 19, 2015 • 1 Comment
Leave a comment below and you’ll be eligible for a book draw. The prize is an autographed hard copy of Possessed by a Warrior.
Already have that one? Don’t worry, you can pick your prize from my backlist (cat not included!).
I’ll pick the winner September 26, 2015
September 18, 2015 • No Comments
I wrote this post in 2009 for Sidhe Vicious Reviews shortly after I released RAVENOUS. The original post is here. It remains one of my favourites, so for a Friday Flashback, I’m running it one more time! It’s still a good answer to one of the perennial questions authors get from readers:
Where do authors get their characters from?
Always a good question. When I needed to choose my hero for RAVENOUS, I perused the Author Supplies Emporium catalogue very carefully. What should he be like? I flipped through the Romantic Tycoons, the Sexy Cops, and the Hard Hat Hunks. I wanted just the right guy for my book: definitely an alpha hero, but not one of the overly pushy types. He’d have to be heavy-duty enough to like smushing villains, because I had a lot of action planned. There was no getting away with the affordable but flimsy Comic Lite products.
Picking the right model took time. My favourite heroes may be a little twisted as well as dark, but there’s always some line they won’t cross, and it’s that restraint that divides these edgier heroes from the villains. Still, a little envelope-pushing keeps things interesting. For me, the best kind of dark hero has to earn his way into the light, and the price he pays for his happy ever after is high. This kind of hero doesn’t stumble into love and flop down on the couch. He has to earn it, and it takes a strong heroine to stand up to him.
When I found the model I wanted, I placed my order, being careful to select the “sense of humour,” “fully operational brain,” and “redeemable soul” options.
I was so happy when my order arrived! Unlike most true life heroes, mine came with instructions:
Hello, and welcome to your new Dark Hero, Vampire Edition 3.2! Warranty provisions require that you follow these instructions for safety and for optimal customer satisfaction:
1. This unit may be damaged if left for long periods in direct sunlight.
2. This Hero unit may be cleaned using products designed for dark wash. Do not bleach. Dry flat. Cool iron only.
3. Your Dark Hero, Vampire Edition is intended for nighttime use only. Recharge daily.
4. Use of the unit during the “brood” cycle is not recommended.
5. If unit begins to watch Underworld repeatedly, remind him that he wears leather way better than Kate Beckinsale. This should reset unit to “arrogant” mode.
6. It is not recommended that unit operate heavy equipment during full moon.
7. This unit is not designed for domestic use. For daily household tasks, we recommend the Dark Hero, Djinn Slave 4.0
5. If you wish to disassemble unit, use stake provided.
By way of product review, the Dark Hero, V.E. 3.2 worked a treat. I have to admit, though, I’m curious about the 3.3 upgraded “green” model. The solar rechargeable batteries might present some issues.
September 17, 2015 • No Comments
It’s become one of those irritating truths that if I don’t make an appointment with myself to move, I won’t. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate exercise. I’ve never been into sports per se, but I like walking, low impact aerobics, and even mild weightlifting is quite fine by me. Sweat is good. I walk a half hour to and from work. I belong to a gym.
Getting to the gym is another matter (it’s not fair, because really owning a membership alone should magically keep me in shape). Like so many people, I sit in front of a computer at my day job and then in the evenings, too. Everything seems to be connected to a screen these days, and that means sitting, sitting, sitting. Unfortunately, writing requires more of the same. Current medical wisdom claims sitting is as bad for one’s health as smoking, and I’m inclined to believe it. It’s not just about burning calories; I don’t sleep if I don’t get at least some physical activity during the day. I need exercise to burn off stress.
It’s the new fall season, so I’m making a new commitment to being healthy. I got new gym shoes to replace the pair that I’d worn through (nothing but plastic left in the heels!) and I have my gym clothes ready and waiting for the early morning treadmill. Wish me luck!
I wrote this post because making a commitment out loud is supposed to make us accountable. There, I’ve done it!
September 16, 2015 • No Comments
I have a terrible obsession with containers. I deeply believe that if I owned the right organizers and boxes, my life would run smoothly. There is some truth to that: if stuff has a home, it’s less likely to be toppling off tabletops and making mountains on the floor.
But mostly I think I like pretty colourful toys. The trend toward brightly coloured lunch kits pleases me enormously. I love these GoStak containers for holding nuts, dressings, and other spillable items. The bottom of one jar forms the top of the next and the top one has a handle.
I pack a lunch for work pretty much every day (I hardly ever escape my desk for a restaurant meal). The other consideration for good containers is therefore how light they are. I managed to tear the muscles in my shoulder from carrying too much in my tote bag day after day, which has taken months to heal. So, lightweight is good. These are made of a tough but light (and toxin-free) plastic. The other find I made lately is from Sistema – they make a range of containers that have the cutlery built in and clipped inside, so if you forget a fork there are no worries. They also have sections that segregate wet and dry ingredients, so the granola for your yogurt doesn’t turn to rubber before you eat it. A small consideration, but texture is part of what makes food enjoyable!
I bought a few of these containers when I found them to replace old ones that were past their prime. They aren’t the cheapest on the market, but I know I’ll get the value out of them since 5 lunches a week x 52 weeks a year means plenty of mileage. By packing my meals, I’m eating better, spending less, and keeping waste out of the landfill.
On the whole, though, I think I was drawn by the bright colours and the fact that there were lots of clippy-snappy bits to play with. Maybe what I really want is an edible Lego set?
September 15, 2015 • No Comments
So earlier this summer (it seems ages ago) I went with two dear friends to the west coast of Vancouver Island. We rented a cabin in Ucluelet, which is about as close to the wide open Pacific as you can get without actually falling in. It is truly wild and beautiful out there, with a few touristy spots but far more unspoiled beauty. There are lots of hiking trails that range from “suitable for couch potato” to the kind that requires helicopters and alpha heroes. You can guess which one I was on!
Yes, I took my writing but didn’t spend all the time at the keyboard because a) I wanted to spend time with my friends and b) look at that view! We walked a lot, ate a lot, and in the evenings . . . well, we had cable and a mutual obsession with cooking shows in general and Masterchef in particular.
Yes, we went to the ends of the earth to sit in a cabin and watch Gordon Ramsey turn red in the face and yell about the proper sear on steaks. And we loved each other because we could enjoy this guilty pleasure without having to apologize for it. That’s what old friends are for. And the best part? Since the cabin had a fully equipped kitchen, there was plenty of opportunity to make some terrific meals ourselves. I’m not a big fan of barbecued food, but I’m slowly being converted by the excellent meals I’ve been served lately.
So why the fascination with Masterchef and its mystery boxes, challenges, and personalities? I think for me it’s the opportunity to reclaim the rituals of sharing food. I love cooking, but the pace of life makes it too easy to cut corners. Learning the language of cuisine, what makes something good, and a little bit about how to elevate one’s own meals is a kind of mindfulness exercise. Now I pause–at least sometimes–to think about presentation, the balance of flavours, and how to assemble ingredients in an interesting way. And when I’m with similarly-minded friends, we talk about cooking far more than we did in the past. I appreciate having something new to enjoy with them, even in a remote holiday cabin.