Two Weeks of Winter

Well, yes, on the East Coast of Canada, we certainly get more than two weeks of winter. Winter meanders in sometime mid-November, hunkers down, and usually has to be forcibly evicted sometime in May. Occasionally it will pack its bags in April, if we’re really lucky.

But the past two weeks have been…worse than usual. Last week my high-school-aged son had three snow days…this week he’s had four. He’s not complaining, and I’ll admit it–I’ve enjoyed being able to sleep later than usual. But–wow. I’m not sure what the two-week accumulation has been, but in one day we had 70+ cm (that’s around 28 inches for my non-metric friends), so you can imagine that the two-week total is considerable. My office window sits at ground level, and it’s a good thing I have an OTT Light on my desk, because sunshine’s been in short supply.

My office window on Valentine’s Day. Not much light creeping through that snow drift!

We had more last night, although a mere few centimetres. And the forecast for the next few days…only flurries!

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Recipe: Nearspace “Solanto” Cookies

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This is Cerevare, but you knew that, right?

If you’ve read Dark Beneath the Moon, you might have noticed references to solanto cookies made by the Lobor historian, Cerevare Brindlepaw, when she’s on the Tane Ikai. They’re described as “…crunchy…brown-sugar-sweet…filled with roga-nut spice from Renata and drizzled with a sweet glaze.”

Sound delectable? Yes, I thought so, too, when I dreamed them up.

(Funny story as an aside: I was invited to attend a book club meeting one time, when they discussed the first Nearspace book, One’s Aspect to the Sun. The only real complaint they had with the book was that there wasn’t enough food in it, because their custom is to make food from whatever book they’re discussing and bring it to that meeting. Ever since, I make sure there’s food in my books. You have to listen to your readers.)

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So back to the cookies. The idea of figuring out the recipe has been simmering (pun intended) in the back of my mind for a while, but recently I felt ready to try it out. Now, unfortunately, I don’t have access to roga-nut spice from the planet Renata, and I suspect you don’t, either. However, the recipe below uses a reasonable facsimile, and these are just about how I imagined Cerevare’s cookies.

(They also appear in the draft of the newest Nearspace book, still under construction. Apparently Cerevare taught Rei how to make them, when I wasn’t looking.)

If you’re feeling like a literary treat today, give them a try! The recipe makes about 18 cookies and should double up just fine if you want a bigger batch.

Cerevare’s Solanto Cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 c. margarine (I like an olive oil type, but any will do.)
1 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/4 c. chopped pecans (you could also use walnuts, or leave out the nuts altogether)
Optional glaze: A few tbsp. icing sugar and a bit of milk

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Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream margarine and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla–don’t over-beat, just combine it all. In a smaller bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to sugar mixture all at once and mix just until everything is incorporated. Dough will be on the soft, wet side. Stir in the nuts.

Shape into balls and place on a cookie sheet. I used a 1-1/2 tbsp. ejecting scoop for this and it made them the perfect size. The cookies will spread out and flatten as they bake so leave lots of room between them on the cookie sheet.

These actually turned out to be a little close. If you don't want them to spread together, space them more than this!

These actually turned out to be a little close. If you don’t want them to spread together, space them more than this!

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges have started to look a bit crisp and wrinkly, but center is still soft. They should be a nice golden brown with darker edges. Take them out of the oven and leave them on the cookie sheet for a minute or so, then remove carefully (they’ll still be somewhat soft) to a cooling rack.

They’re delicious with or without the glaze, but Cerevare does glaze them in the book. So if you’re inclined, mix up your icing sugar and milk (a slightly thicker glaze stays on the cookies better) and drizzle it on once the cookies have cooled a bit. (See above picture).

Serve them up with your favorite caff, chai, tea, or other hot drink, whether it be earthly or interstellar.

IMG_5022Let me know if you try them, and how they turn out!

I was thinking / Over thinking / Cause there’s just too many scenarios…*

NaNoMusingsSometimes it doesn’t matter how much time you spend thinking about a story or a story problem, the answers only come when you sit in your writing space, put your fingers on the keyboard and start to write. So “I need to think this through” can become an excuse instead of a productive exercise.

Of course it helps to mainline coffee and chocolate, too.

*Relient K, “Over Thinking”

Friday Desk Report – Oct. 16/15

old deskWhat? How can it be Friday again already?

Well, let’s see what I have for the desk report this week. I cooked and ate a lot of food over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hung out with my family.

I did quite a bit more work on my Nearspace bible in preparation to begin the new novel, and I wrote almost two thousand words of new story notes. While doing some research reading I had a HUGE epiphany about how a lot of things fall into place in this novel, and honestly, when that happens, that’s enough of an accomplishment to make you feel good about the whole week! My brain is now telling me I’m ready to start writing, but I know that’s not true yet. It’s just that my brain gets overexcited about these things sometimes. Calm down. Not long now.

I got a short story rejection and sent out a new submission for that story the same day. Which reminded me of one of my favorite essays from back in the day when Speculations was still a print publication. It was “How Many Times Do You Have To Be Told No?” by James Van Pelt and it made a big impression on me as a new-ish writer (I still have a copy of that issue, so I went and re-read it for fun. It’s just as relevant today as it ever was). The tagline for the article was The sun sets on no rejected manuscript in my house and I have tried hard over the years to make that my creed for submitting stories.

I tweaked my NaNoWriMo guest blog post for Liana Brooks and saw it go live here on Thursday. And I read the page proofs for my story in the upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide from Dreaming Robot Press. I’m really excited to read all of the stories in this anthology.

And I discovered two new very nice reviews for One’s Aspect to the Sun over on amazon.

Today I’m talking to some elementary school kids about “being a writer” for a career day project, so I did some prep work for that as well. I’m hoping they’ll have some questions to ask me, too!

Some things I looked up on the Internet this week (not necessarily to do with writing):

I’d call that a good week.

Friday Desk Report – Oct. 9/15

my-tools-1239864-639x426So I had this idea to write a sort of weekly roundup/review post, and call it the Friday Desk Report. I envision it as sort of a brief review of the week’s projects, word metrics, links, and anything else notable that happened during the week. As much for myself as for anyone else, I suppose, but it could turn out to be interesting.

Will I be able to keep it up? Only the future will tell. Traditionally, I’m not so good with consistency, but it’s possible I’m improving with age. Come on, it’s possible.

So, what do I have to report? This week I did the most sustained new writing I’ve done since my mom passed away at the end of August. Still not a lot of new words, but it felt good to work like that again. I worked on a short story I’m writing about giant monsters who have laid waste to much of the continent and now threaten my protagonist’s small Nova Scotia farm.

I also worked on a book trailer for The Seventh Crow, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m waiting on a couple of images I need to replace some placeholders, and then I’ll be uploading it to share. Should be available sometime next week.

I wrote a book review I’d promised, and drafted a guest blog post I have to turn in by the 15th, so I’m well ahead on that. I also put together a new outline template for Scrivener and began using it to work on The Chaos Assassin, and this morning I sent out a short story submission.

I read far too much on Facebook about the upcoming federal election and decided I need to stop worrying about it and being disappointed in people. It’s far too negative. All I can do now is cast my own vote and encourage others to do so, and hope, hope, hope for better things to come.

NearspaceBibleToday I’m working on my Nearspace series bible, in preparation for NaNoWriMo and the novel I’m planning to work on in November. I already had such a thing but it was NOT well-organized or complete. I found this video from Kami Garcia to be quite inspiring in this regard and look how well it’s coming along!

In other Nearspace news, I also put up another free Nearspace story on this site today, which you can find here. It’s a peek into Nearspace and the first contact story between humans and Lobors, before wormhole travel was possible.

Some cool things from the internet this week:

Okay, I’m impressed. That’s a pretty good report! So back to today’s project…

 

Mapping for Writers

I love maps. As a writer and a gamer, I’ve created maps of worlds, dungeons, cities, space stations, villages, wormholes in space…anywhere a story might happen. I’ve also used real-world maps for stories set in–you guessed it–the “real world.” I find that maps help ground the story and help me visualize what’s happening.

Here’s my map of the fantasy world in The Seventh Crow (which is coming out soon! Like, this month soon!):

Ysterad map 2015 print

Okay, yes, I’m pretty happy with this one. It’s done in Photoshop, and I took a lot of time to get it just the way I wanted it. But it didn’t start out this way. It began as a pencil outline on graph paper, and it was pretty rough. It’s been through several incarnations on the way to this, including a hand-colored one I used in a D&D campaign for a while. But the act of creating the world–no matter how rudimentary it is, is the important part. By creating the environment, you are also thinking about everything and everyone in that environment.

This video by Peter Deligdisch explains this much better than I can:

As the artist explains, one thought about the world can lead to the next, to the next, to the next, when creating your map (and you do not need to be as talented as he is–it can work for anyone). Graph paper or hex paper is your friend (and you can download and print of either of these here).

If you really think you can’t tackle creating a map on your own, you can use a map generator (yes, just Google “map generator”) to do some of the work for you. You don’t have completely free creative rein with this method, but if you feel drawing-impaired it can be the next best thing.

If you’re just looking for inspiration, and not material to completely call your own, there are so many maps and plans already in existence online for role-playing games, that you need never lack for a visual representation of your story environs. This sort of resource is invaluable if you really need something visual to work out story logistics in your head, but you don’t need any sort of publishable plan or blueprint. I mean, look what searching for spaceship blueprints generator gets you.

Or again, you can make your own, as I did for the main character’s ship in One’s Aspect to the Sun (these, too, started out as sketches on graph paper. I transferred them to tracing paper at one point so I could line up the inter-deck hatchways):

DeckPlans-T-I

Maps can also make a lovely background for a book or ebook cover. Here’s one I created for a friend’s story:

20130914102723-Eyes-JulieThe map we started with was a barely-there representation, but with a little work it blossomed into a lovely backdrop for this cover.

Do you draw maps, plans, or blueprints for your stories? Do you spend a lot of time on them, or are you happy with a quick sketch? Share your thoughts in the comments!

A Bird in the Hand

So, at the same time the Kickstarter for my book with a bird in the title (The Seventh Crow) is running, I had the opportunity to help out a little bird in trouble.

littlebirdAround 8 o’clock this morning, my daughter and I heard a thump on the front of the house. It took only a moment to spot a couple of downy feathers stuck to the glass and I knew what had happened–a bird had flown against the window over our front door. This is a fairly rare occurrence as the door and window are inset from the front of the house.

I checked the front step right away and saw the little creature in pile of leaves. My first impression was bad–its head seemed twisted and it was breathing heavily. I fetched some garden gloves and went out to have a closer look. When I gently picked it up, it looked left and right and although it was content to sit in my hands, it seemed overall okay, probably just stunned from the impact.

Well, I didn’t want to leave the little guy prey to the occasional cat who strolls through the neighborhood, so we quickly improvised a little shelter in an empty clementine box and set it in an elevated spot near the back door. I figured if it recovered quickly, it would slip out from underneath the mesh easily.IMG_3880 IMG_3879

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forty-five minutes later it hadn’t moved much, although it still opened its eyes if I gently drew the mesh back. At this point I wasn’t too confident of its recovery, since that seemed a long time to still be stunned. However, I decided that whether it could recover or not, it was safe and comfortable and not being attacked by any predators. I continued to check on it periodically through the morning and would find it sleeping, but alert if I pulled back the mesh.

IMG_3881It would be in just this position, but open its eyes when I moved the mesh covering. It wasn’t at all visibly distressed by my presence. Maybe it knew I was trying to help!

 

 

 

 

 

And then when I checked at noon, I found this. Looking much perkier!
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And then this…
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…and then a minute later he hopped out of the box, took a couple of hops, and flew away, across the yard to land in a tree. I guess he just needed a good nap in a safe spot!

Now, my question is, what kind of bird was he? My mother’s bird guide offered a couple of suggestions but none of them looked quite right. If you know or think you know, leave me a comment!

The Garden Today (5-28-2015)

Spring has finally sprung here in Cape Breton, and my garden has been roused to life. Some days I like to take a quick stroll around and take some phone pics of whatever’s in bloom. (Although it’s warm here today, it’s also windy, so some blurriness may be detected!)

Is there anything as cheery as forget-me-nots?

IMG_3847Forget-me-nots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course, no spring garden is complete without some daffodils. I adore these ones with the peach-coloured centers.
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I have quite a lot of tulips, but they’re not all at their best today. I love the creamy white Triumphators with their distinctive shape. The yellow/white/hint of pink are new this year, “Peach Melba.”

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Candystripe phlox starting to come on board, and a pink rhododendron that always surprises me by bursting into colour seemingly overnight. A nice fat bee was visiting it today.

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And finally, some Candytuft and a shot of colour from blue muscari.IMG_3850IMG_3861

5 Quick and Dirty Tips for Increasing your NaNoWriMo Word Count

160px-Noalleynight

Pssst! Hey, buddy, you want some NaNoWriMo tips?

Disclaimer: These are not tips for good writing. However, it’s the middle of November, and if your word count needs a boost, you may find these ideas helpful. Just don’t forget to fix it all in revision. ;)

Names: give all your character double or even triple names — Betty Lou or Nanny Lola or Master Sergeant Bob. Every time you type a name, it’s at least a two-fer.

Chapter Titles: Name every chapter descriptively, like so:  Chapter Seven: In which Nancy tells Sue Ellen a Secret, Heather Loses a Toenail, and Officer Joe discovers something Terrible in the Bathtub.

In-line Annotations: Don’t waste perfectly good plot and character notes by placing them in the margins, comments, or a separate document. Stick those things right into your text. You typed them, didn’t you? They count! And when you go to rewrite, BAM!, there they are, exactly where you need to be reminded of them.

Description: If your characters don’t want to talk to each other and nothing much seems to be happening, describe the surroundings while you wait for the muse to come back from her coffee break. It’s not a full description until you’ve included at least one sensory detail for sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Throw in the weather for good measure. Soon your characters will be chatting and moving just to break the monotony. Bonus: You don’t need to remove all of these in revision. Having at least some of them is actually good for your story!

As-you-know-Bob: Although instances of this info-dumping-disguised-as-dialogue must be excised in your later drafts, having characters tell each other things they should already know is a great way to bump up a sagging word count. Bonus: Sometimes having your characters discuss these things will actually make the resolution to a plot problem come clear for you, the writer. And then you can get on with more exciting words for your next writing session.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and write…

Photo Credit: Dand8282

Murder Prophet release date

MP-cover-FINAL-webIt’s a date! The Murder Prophet will release in ebook formats on September 15th, and the print version shouldn’t be too far behind. The ebook is already available for pre-order at Amazon and Amazon.ca. I’m excited!

In the meantime, you can get a head start by reading the first chapter for free right here.

As if that’s not enough news, I’m also participating in the Masquerade Crew’s September Cover Wars (Part 2 post). If you have 30 seconds to spare, please click over and cast your vote (you can do it daily, and it really helps me spread the word about the book).