The gift of seeds


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.

 

 


A special early snowflake

Sharon Ashwood
November 6, 2017  •  No Comments

Kiss at the AltarThe 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!

 

 


Happy Hallowe’en


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.


‘Tis the season of pumpkin spice


October 22, 2017  •  No Comments
cat and pumpkin

The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness inspects alien intruder

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.

 

Sift together:

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:

6 eggs

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.

 

3 pumpkins

Three pumpkin varieties left to right: rouge vif, jack o’ lantern, and sugar pie.


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.