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Last Tuesday I looked into my fridge and saw the quart of homemade applesauce I’d brought up last time we’d eaten pork chops. I had canned the apples from one of our trees and since I didn’t have enough pint jars (there are only two of us in our house now) I had to use quarts. What usually happens is that we use it once and the leftovers go bad. Not morally. It just grows white fuzz accompanied by pretty blues and greens on the top. Once the thick purple settles in, it gets disgusting.

I had a sudden impulse to save the sauce, so I googled recipes for applesauce. Oh, and I also had lemons on the counter, and zucchini in the garden. (Anyone want some? No? Okay.) I picked a nice sized zucchini, and peeled (it was larger and the peel was too tough to leave on) and grated it. I also squeezed several lemons and set the juice aside.

First recipe: Lemon Zucchini Loaf. I got sidetracked by the zucchini and lemon juice and forgot about the applesauce, but the loaf was excellent. The glaze was even better. Hubby loved it.

But there sat the applesauce. Google…Applesauce Oat Muffins. They turned out very well, and I added a cup of grated zucchini because that would make them even more moist. Moister?


Still some zucchini left. Google…Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. This was a good choice as the recipe also called for a banana, and I had three overripe bananas on the counter. Yummy.

The muffins didn’t take as long as I’d thought, and I still had bananas and zucchini left. I found a recipe for Chocolate Banana Applesauce Cake which sounded amazing (I think it tastes excellent, but Hubby prefers the lemon loaf). One problem: I had used up all the applesauce in the muffins. So, I went downstairs to get another quart.

Final results: a counter full of yummy treats,  fewer lemons, no rotten bananas, and no more grated zucchini…but now I have another partially used jar of applesauce sitting in my fridge.

This story has a moral. When I told a friend about the applesauce saga, she said her late husband’s wise words were: “Your first loss is usually your best loss.” I think we’ll have pork chops again tonight.

P.S. Are you hungry yet? I was no longer hungry by the time I finished baking! Do you have any baking stories to share?

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My walk this morning reminded me of the indie publishing journey I’ve been on for the past few years, as I saw tansy and thistle growing along the fence line.

After much research and many trials, I created Tansy & Thistle Press…faith, fiction, forum. I already had a website, but I wanted to use create my own logo, describing the content of the site and the blog.

The creation of the independent business was a steep learning curve for sure, but I expected the choice of a name to be fairly simple, to think of something that portrayed what I write, and to polish it.

It turned out to be an exercise in frustration, as every name I tried was already used by at least one of the millions of people who have websites. I like the thistle idea, because we have thistles here, but it needed something more. It must have been my husband who suggested tansy, another type of invasive weed that grows heartily in our area. The tansy is yellow, the thistle purple, and I liked the sound of them together: Tansy & Thistle Press.

For the subtitle, I wanted to include fiction, because that is mostly what I write, and my faith always seems to come out in it, whether I plan it or not, which is also what I want to offer. But I also have a blog, and how does that fit in? Again, it was my brilliant husband who suggested the word forum, as a place to discuss faith and fiction and other topics.

I registered the business name and logo January 6, 2016, using the image above that a business on Fiverr created, and have enjoyed using it since. I continue to write, working on the third book in my In Search of Freedom series, and hope to have it available either for Christmas or shortly afterward. If life would stop interrupting, it would be easier, but I am enjoying this summer with family and friends, so at times, the writing is pushed back. But I will pursue it in order to tie up this series with Far Side of the Sea, as soon as possible.

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I love music, always have. As a kid, I imagined I would someday sing beautiful flowery song endings that went on for bars, in a high range. As it turned out, I’m an alto, and a very moderate one at that. And flowery endings have mostly fallen out of fashion, except for opera. Of which I’m not a fan.

I don’t have details or data about the influence of music on the brain, but I can speak from experience. There are pieces of music that create such nostalgia that I can still visualize the event where they were played or sung, the place in the story I was writing. I often have music playing in the background while I write, and even though I, personally, must choose instrumental music that doesn’t steal my concentration, when I hear a particular piece, I still fall into the part of the story where that music was played.

Music not only relaxes or stimulates, depending on style, it also affects the body physically— blood pressure, anxious responses; emotionally—remember the song that played when you met your spouse; mentally—concentration and focus; spiritually—again depending on the genre and style, but consider worship songs that draw you closer to God; psychologically—causing feelings of distress or relief, and everything in between. Music has been used for millennia to stir up feelings of motivation and devotion.

I enjoy instrumental piano music, especially with a contemporary beat. I am also a fan of soft rock (“Call me a relic, call me what you will, say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill…”), and some of the more trendy trained voices (think Andrea Bocelli or Josh Groban), sometimes blended with rock. I despise country & western, to my husband’s chagrin, and can’t figure out where that aversion began, because I don’t mind the old western songs my dad used to listen to on the record player (Sons of the Pioneers, Wilf Carter). In moderation.

What is your preferred genre of music, and do you listen to it while writing / reading? How does it affect you and what reaction are you looking for? I’d be interested in your feedback. And remember, this is totally personal, no rights or wrongs.

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Many years ago, about 1994, in fact, I read Linda Hall’s first novel, The Josiah Files. I loved it, but although I’ve forgotten the story by now, I will never forget the strange and unlikely—so I thought then—technology of characters carrying small handheld devices on which they could communicate and read. I wished with all my heart that I could have a device that carried books and could be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Well, what do you know? Last night I was unable to sleep, so I grabbed my iPhone, and with a few clicks, accessed a novel I couldn’t wait to finish. How the world, even my little world, has changed over the past twenty-four years.

 

 

There are varied responses to these innovations in our world:

  1. Some people conceive the ideas that become new technology
  2. Some people embrace these changes
  3. Some people struggle to keep up with the latest tools/programs
  4. Some people choose to ignore the changes
  5. And some refuse to accept or be involved in using technology

I’m definitely not the first type, nor the second. Nor the fifth. You’ll catch me on #4 and then grudgingly moving up to #3 most of the time. Because I really don’t want to be left behind.

In my writing life, I’ve had to accept some changes. One publisher I worked for expected his authors to learn and use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Scribble, Scrabble, Bing Bong, etc. (Please don’t look up those last three.) Whatever was available, we were expected to go with it. I did my best, eventually settling on Facebook and Twitter, with LinkedIn as a more silent partner. I have to say it was good for me. Stretching is a good thing, and although I have always disliked the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone,” it was a necessary and beneficial exercise.

A couple of years ago, I decided to embrace the independent publishing scenario. It took a lot of research, observation, questioning and faith, but I jumped in and still have my head above water. I think. Just this week, I heard more about a company I’d been interested in but didn’t understand: Ingram Spark. After emailing with friends, I decided to give it a whirl for the sake of one of my oft-neglected goals: book distribution. I now have an account and we’ll see where that leads.

There will always be technological obstacles in our lives, personal and professional, and it’s our choice how we respond. But maybe, just maybe, we will be able to benefit from some new technologies or programs. My personal line: “If technology is a car, I’m hanging onto the back bumper by my fingernails. I can’t let go, because I’ll never catch up again.”

Whatever the next obstacle, I’ll deal with it…or ask for help to understand. Because times will continue to change. I hope you will also keep on learning and experimenting.

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As you already know if you follow my blog, I had a different year in 2017. My mom lived with us for seven months before she passed, and after that I couldn’t seem to engage in my writing. I’ve kept up with my blogs, but my novel plans have languished. I needed to grieve and to heal.

Then two things happened:

  1. My husband and I read a devotional writing this morning (mid-March) that revolved around Ecclesiastes chapter three:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verses 1 and 4b, NIV).

My mind went to seasons and times, and I realized that I had spent enough time in this season of mourning. Yes, it’s important to mourn, and I will never forget my dear mom, but I think it is time to move ahead.

  1. That same morning, I received a phone call from a dear friend. “My neighbor called me,” she said, “and told me she can’t find your third book in this latest series.”

    from pixabay.com

Hmm. That’s because it’s still in my head and on my heart. It has not yet fully migrated to paper and certainly hasn’t come near publication. I confessed this to my friend and she said, “I thought so. You had told me about your mom, and I told my neighbor. We understand.”

But her words were the kick-in-the-pants I needed to confirm the nudge from Ecclesiastes.

This missive is to inform you, my faithful blog-followers, that I have re-engaged in my novel activities. I have been writing, with paper and pen at the moment, a manuscript that will become the third book in my In Search of Freedom series. I plan to use a somewhat different format, so it’s a challenge, and that’s another reason I’ve been procrastinating. It’s scary to try something new.

If you are a praying person, I could use your prayers. I’ll let you know how it’s going, and please feel free to contact me and ask, or to offer another gentle kick-in-the-pants to keep me motivated.

Thanks for listening, and I wish you a day that matters.

 

 

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ARE WRITERS INTROVERTS?

Not necessarily. But, I would guess that a large percentage of writers are introverts. At conferences I’ve attended, the emcee will often comment about the buzz of talk among all the introverts, but that is, of course, because of our common interests, and the fact that we are respectful of one another’s reserved nature.

When I was young, I read a Peanuts® cartoon that stuck with me. Charlie Brown said to Linus, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” I concurred, not knowing anything about the basic differences between people who love to foster new relationships, and those reluctant to do so.

However, there have been times—I call them magic moments—when I’ve met another introvert and we’ve become instant and lasting friends.

MOVING PAST INTROVERSION

I attended my first Write! Canada conference in Guelph, Ontario at the invitation of the planners, to facilitate a fiction workshop. (I felt anything but qualified, but that’s another story.) One of the responsibilities that accompanied the gig was that I agreed to be available at mealtimes to speak with people. I wanted to crawl inside my shell, to put my back to the wall and observe. But I couldn’t. I had to step out of my area of familiarity and pretend I was comfortable speaking with strangers.

At one meal, two women approached me, one being the spokesperson, because the other was too shy to come forward on her own. Barbara (not her real name) and I sat down together and found instant camaraderie that amazed both of us, as well as Barbara’s friend, who shook her head in wonder. The two of us chatted away about writing and life and stories until lunchtime was over, and we hadn’t thought to eat. That’s also rare for me. Although I’ve lost touch with Barbara, our instant relationship will always remain in my memory as a true heart-connection.

REWARDS FOR STEPPING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE

Recently, we visited our daughter and family in Alberta. Since their son’s teacher knows I write, she asked if I’d come read to them and speak a bit about writing on Read Aloud Day. I was thrilled…until a few days before the event, when I had second thoughts. Silly fears jumped into my mind, questions like, why on earth did I agree to this? But I followed through and the event was lovely. The students were enthralled by the reading (excerpts from the beginning chapters of The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton), they participated in the discussion session, and they helped create a simple “Story Quilt.” The pièce de résistance was the gift of a story written just for me— Goldie Goes to the Vet—by Daniel, one of the grade three students.

As much as I love my quiet times alone, these magic moments are rare gems to store away in my memory, to remind me that I can do things that are uncomfortable, that introversion should not be allowed to control my life, and that opening up to people can be rewarding, no matter what my life work is.

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In the month of January, several of my friends and acquaintances sent out lists of their favourite reads of 2017. Although I read fewer books this year than usual, I still found some excellent titles I’d like to share with you.

I read mostly for entertainment and inspiration, so my categories aren’t that diverse. I love mystery and suspense, but not blood and gore, so I tend toward cozy mysteries. But every once in a while, a totally different genre of book catches my fancy. I will also note that a good touch of humour goes a long way to my enjoyment of a book.

I keep a running list of the books I read on Goodreads, so that’s where I picked out these favourites. (Some of the categories are negotiable.)

Suspense  (these were my top picks of the year, and I await book 3 in Spring):

Mystery:

Romantic Suspense:

Cozy Mystery:

Faith Non-fiction:

How-to Writing:

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