July 3, 2016 • 40 Comments
To celebrate the fact that POSSESSED BY A WOLF is a RITA finalist, I’m giving away 5 autographed paperback copies! And this contest is especially for the blog readers and newsletter folks–no social media expertise required to enter this one.
All you need to do is leave a comment to this post. However, if you want an extra chance to win, name your favorite Sharon Ashwood character. Feel free to check out the book pages or Monsterpedia to jog your memory–your choice can be from any book and doesn’t need to be a main character. Contest closes July 22 at midnight PST.
And by the way, thank you to all you fabulous readers who’ve made by book dreams come true!
June 27, 2016 • No Comments
June 19, 2016 • No Comments
Father’s Day is an odd thing for me. I’ve grown used to the endless advertisements celebrating Dads. I certainly don’t begrudge the holiday, but it does highlight the fact that my own father passed away some time ago and each reminder gives me a twinge. But, I’m happy to say I remember the good times we shared more strongly than any sadness I might feel. I adored my father. Yes, I saw his flaws and the chaos he sometimes caused but I was still a Daddy’s girl. He taught me a lot, including how to cling to my round-peg self in a world full of square holes.
He would have been an inveterate steampunk given the chance. He loved Monty Python, waistcoats, the Pre-Raphaelites, marmalade, British mysteries, tea, sausage rolls, and books. And books. And books.
Happy Father’s Day. Surely the afterlife is a library with easy chairs and a tea trolley.
June 15, 2016 • No Comments
I lay no great claim to poetic talent, but some days I need to amuse myself:
A book proposal
Dance seven coy veils for the
• No Comments
Our local museum has a special exhibit this summer, “Mammoths! Giants of the Ice Age.” It’s done in partnership with The Field Museum in Chicago. Among the things to see is Lyuba, a 40,000 year-old baby woolly mammoth discovered frozen in Siberia. Apparently she drowned and through an accident of ice and bacteria, the poor thing stayed pretty much intact until discovered in 2007 by some reindeer herders.
Lyuba was remarkable but sad. The exhibit as a whole was fascinating. There were bones and artist’s recreations of heads of mastodons and mammoths (who knew there was a difference?) and lots of other elephantine relations. It’s a wonderful exhibit for kids because there are lots of interactive activities. Even as a non-kid, I enjoyed the straightforward presentation of the material. It reminded me of how much I loved biology in school–and how much of this stuff could be applied to a fantasy novel, because these critters were BIIIIGGG! There were some life-sized statues I took photos of. The short-faced bear made a grizzly look small and I couldn’t get the whole mastodon into the frame.
June 12, 2016 • No Comments
Sometimes people ask me what my favourite fairy tale was growing up. There is a lot to choose from–I read all of the fairy tale, ghost stories and myths I could get my hands on. Andrew Lang’s fairy books loomed large (The Red, Blue, Yellow etc Fairy Books) as well as the usual Grimm and other European trad stories. Then there were all the Marvel and DC comics about superheroes. I didn’t differentiate much between the old stories and the new. The very best of course, was what happened when you combined fairy tales and comic books! And so my love affair with a ragged copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tinder Box was born.
I don’t know why the story isn’t better known. It has all the great elements: a kidnapped princess, a clever but poor young man who saves her, and talking animals! The plot is simple–young man sets out to rescue the princess and ends up saving the day, but only through the help of three magical dogs summoned by the tinder box. The only reason he gets his hands on the box is because of his generous and helping spirit. Yes, he does his fair share of manly-man swashbuckling, but it’s the fact that he’s a good guy that wins the day. He’s somebody we feel sure will look after his princess.
There are a number of versions of this story throughout the fairy tale universe–one is a very old Welsh tale that has the hero saving ants from a fire and they later play a part in helping him along. The message of the story is clear: no matter how humble someone is, they have something to offer the world and should not be left to perish. I think that’s a tale for everyone, young and old.
June 11, 2016 • No Comments
I watched the latest episode of Houdini & Doyle last night. I like the show. It’s fun and colourful with likeable characters and good acting and I can get my history geek on. Sure, I want to rush in and fix plot points for them, but that’s another issue. What I wanted to mention was there was a moment in this episode in which Houdini talks about being born in Eastern Europe and emigrating to the New World. In particular, he tells a story about how an American shopkeeper refused to sell his father food because they were foreigners.
This struck a chord with me, because I’ve heard that story before about members of my own family. A farmer refused to sell my ancestors potatoes despite the fact they were dirt poor and with many children to feed–just because they were first-generation immigrants who spoke oddly and probably went to a different Church or maybe just because they had the bad taste to be penniless. Who knows. But refusing to let people buy food for their children? Seriously?
I don’t understand how people can think that way, but obviously they did and some still do. It was a passing mention, but on behalf of my forebears, thanks to the show for speaking up for those who were in such a hateful situation.
Now, if only the writers would dig into the Society for Psychical Research and their doings. It would be a shame if they passed over the actual paranormal investigations going on at the time.
June 10, 2016 • 2 Comments
I may as well resort to crinolines and corsets, because at least dressmakers paid attention to fit. Seriously, I’m done with the notion creeping into retail establishments that one size will fit any woman—small, large, tall, or petite. Trust me, that would be a NO.
This rant is brought to you by my recent agonies looking for decent summer garments. I’m not a fashionista per se, but I do have strong opinions about quality. I sew. Therefore, I expect a garment to be put together with actual seams and stuff. I won’t go crazy and expect darts and gussets, but enough stitching to hold the thing together in the wash would be nice. And while I appreciate flirtation, not everything should look as if it belongs in a night club. At least a few items must be office wear. Nor should garments be made from shiny, scratchy artificial materials that look like they came off the 99 cent reject rolls at the back of the local fabric store. In point of fact, not absolutely everything on the planet needs to contain Spandex. Just saying.
I should counter all this grumpiness by saying that I did eventually find enough fun, rather bohemian outfits to carry me through the warmer months (hot weather is always a relative thing in the Pacific Northwest) but it took a great deal of looking and walking and rolling of the eyes.
Sad to say I may have to break open the warehouse of yard goods I’ve had carefully aging to perfect ripeness. (Why, yes, of course every seamstress knows freshly cut fabric is too green to use and must be stored for several years. One simply cannot use FRESH cloth!)
June 4, 2016 • No Comments
So, like everyone these days, I could use more exercise. Unless I build activity into my routine, it doesn’t happen and then sometimes it gets sidelined because of the constant stream of choices–work priorities, writing deadlines, grocery shopping–I know anyone reading this will understand. Our well-being tends to come last.
The argument for standing desks is, of course, all about how (without really changing how we spend our time) we can be healthier simply by standing up to work instead of sitting down. As long as the ergonomics are in place, what’s the down side? In my case, price and space. I don’t have room for a proper standing desk at home, and my workplace is not in the habit of supplying new furniture just because I ask. Then I heard about the Oristand, which can be bought very reasonably (about $25 USD). So I got one. My desk came promptly, and is made of a sturdy cardboard that flattens down like a banker’s box. The pictures here are linked from their website, where you can see the desk in action: Oristand There is a video worth watching.
I tried the desk at home, but I’m too short for it when it stood on my kitchen table. I’m 5’7″, and the Oristand is clearly made for someone to use it on a standard height desk. So I took it to work, where I could use it on the intended surface. There, the height is perfect. Laptop goes on the top, keyboard on the “step”. For those with a larger monitor, it can go on top or in my case I made a tower of filing boxes next to the Oristand. Not stylish, but it works.
So does standing make a difference? Absolutely. I didn’t get as tired as I feared because I have to sit down in meetings anyway, so my days are broken up between sitting and standing. It seems to be helping my posture and general energy levels. I’m more clear-headed in the evenings and able to write for longer periods. I think it’s all about circulation. I wear a fitbit and seem to get more steps in during the day – maybe I move around more because I’m already out of my chair. For whatever reason, standing does improve my level of productivity. The one other thing I had to do was invest in a rubber mat to stand on, but there are plenty out there at a range of price points. Overall, this has been a positive and easy change for very little investment.
Now, though, I don’t like sitting for long periods because I notice how stiff I get. It’s funny how what we think of as “normal” is just a habit. Change things up for a while, and you notice that normal isn’t necessarily the best option. If you work at a desk all day, try standing for a couple of days–even just for a few hours–and see what your body tells you. It might be surprising.
PS I have only tried this one brand of product. I don’t have any affiliation with the company. If you know of others who make a similar desk, please leave the info in a comment.
May 3, 2016 • No Comments
Here are a few truths I’ve learned the hard way:
- Books will complicate themselves. They don’t need help.
- The stronger a characters’ motivations are, the less artfully constructed patches are needed to save the plot. (I was only fooling myself!)
- If an action doesn’t make emotional sense in the real world, it doesn’t make emotional sense in the book world.
- Ask myself if real people talk like that.
- Being mysterious doesn’t equal good storytelling. One can’t advance a plot just by withholding information from the reader.
- The better the actual story, the less special effects (dragons, sex scenes, gruesome murders, dancing hamsters, etcetera) are needed to keep it moving.
- If I have to stop the action and explain what’s going on, I need to check my work.