Saturday, December 31, 2022

Kicking off the year with a new short story

It's been a while for me - a lot of knitting patterns between my first round of published short stories and this new one - but I feel like I'm back in the game and it's very exciting!

ENTERTAINMENT TO DIE FOR, available from Amazon, is the latest anthology from the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime, which promotes the work of women in the field of crime and mystery writing. 

It's such a great organization and, for me, it's only gotten better since the pandemic - with so many meetings shifting online, I've been able to join more chapters across the States and connect with more writers. But since my longtime writing buddy Wrona is in the LA chapter, I put the most energy there. We're now running the Speaker's Bureau together and already it's been a great learning experience. Plus, we're getting to know some super nice people.

Many of whom contributed to this anthology! If you enjoy crime writing, I hope you'll check it out.

My story is "He's No Gary Cooper", a noir adventure set in the 1930s, in which a new arrival to a Hollywood studio typing pool is caught between her favourite movie star and her self-appointed chaperone. 

And if you click the 'Look Inside' tab, you can read Diana Gould's opening story and the first half of mine.


In other news, I've been knitting a hat - you read that right, not socks, though I knit a pair of those for a friend's Christmas present, as well - and I should have pictures to show you next time. They may not be of it complete and keeping my head warm, but it's in hand-dyed yarn from Viola so let's face it, even if it's still on the needles it'll be gorgeous. Emily works magic with yarn dye like nobody else I know.

I expect to be back a LOT more regularly for Hugs in 2023 but let me just leave you, on this last day of 2022, with all my good wishes for a wonderful year to come! And I look forward to seeing you here again soon.

Friday, December 9, 2022

December tea is better than any other

Time to break out the winter mugs!

holiday mugs with a blue-grey-green snowy day print
Houses and trees: two of my favourite things

I picked these two because I loved the theme and artwork, but when the second arrived I was amazed by how similar they are, right down to the colours. I really have a type, don't I. I bought the one with the cheery Joy to the World message from Anthropologie last year, and the attachment is real. The glaze, which is glossy and smooth, covers clay with little indentations pressed all over it - no matter how you hold it, your fingers fit into a perfect spot, and it just feels so, so nice. I was able to get another from Anthropologie later, in a summery floral, with a similar texture. The one in the rear is from Rifle Paper Co. It holds more liquid, and the handle is big enough for my whole hand! I can warm my palm and fingers and feel that reassuring embrace from the handle as I drink.

Mugs are the sort of thing that multiply in a cupboard, aren't they. You have to be selective about which ones you're willing to provide with real estate. Still, ugly or cute, it's tough to pass up the ones that nestle into your grip or are the exact right size for your steaming beverage of choice. Treating myself to seasonal mugs makes every tea or coffee break feel that little bit more special. 

I will keep drinking from both of these clear through to March, because why limit trees and snow to the holidays? That said, they will be getting a very serious workout right now, as I take a break for tea and knitting after all the hard work I put in this year. And when I say hard work, I'm obviously not talking about Hugs because my goodness when I popped in here today it was tumbleweeds. The pattern files are busy all the time, even in the off-season for knitting, but I have seriously neglected this little corner.

You should be grateful really. This year I focused on writing like it was a 10-hour a day job, so my quietness has spared you my struggles with plots and character arc, heh. And I have almost enough to show for it all not to regret the sorry state the house got into while I ignored it. 

To whit: a complete revision to one novel, and a second novel written and polished. Five short stories, one of which was accepted for publication (it'll be out in spring 2023). Finalist slots for one of the novels in two different writing competitions. So many writing courses I can't remember them all, and loads of new friends and acquaintances in the writing community, some of them in my new critique group no less. The other writers there are absolutely lovely and it is such a pleasure to meet with them every month - I'm hugely grateful for my good fortune. I'm even on the Board to run the Speaker's Bureau with Wrona, who enticed me to join the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime, an organization promoting women in crime writing. My little taste of warmth and sunshine from my cosy house in Canada!

Now I'm taking a breather from everything, to frantically knit a pair of Christmas gift socks.

handknit sock with embroidered knitting bag in front of vintage mystery novels

I've had a collection of these bags,
embroidered by Melissa Wastney, for years now
and they still make me smile

I should have the socks done and blocked by Sunday night, in time to start the gift baking, if I can find a few more movies to keep me stationary long enough. I have enough audiobooks to take me clear through to New Year's but sometimes it's nice to have the visual, isn't it.

If you're looking for some quick knit gifts to pull together yourself, a tiny storage pouch or a cosy unisex cowl might be just the thing. Take a browse through the pattern page and see if anything suits - and bear in mind, the specific yarn I used might be discontinued, but yarn weight and gauge are forever.


Either way, I hope you have a wonderful December, and that you'll check back again soon. My goal for next year is to weave regular Hugs back in amongst the other writing projects. I'd love to have you with me!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Make do and mend - terrible photography edition

I've been sparing you any number of things since my last post, and one of them is the slow, sad decline of my cell phone battery, which has severely hampered my efforts at photography. So let's open with some throwback photos of socks I've practically worn out the last few weeks, from their playful infancy:

I love sock knitting so very much.

But I also love a new-to-me art project, and this one features universally applicable positivity:

Recently I watched a planner-setup video from Quoth the Crow which ends with the use of tracing paper for letter stamps. Spoiler: the video is MUCH more inspiring than my washed-out cell phone phone might make you think. I saw it and thought, I can do that - I just spotted all those items in my last stationery cupboard overhaul! (one of the things I've spared you - it took TWO DAYS). Admittedly, the ink pads in the stationery cupboard have seen better days, the last of which was probably five years ago, but it still mostly worked. I liked that the messages can be compiled or viewed individually and still make sense, assuming a person can make out the words.


Another fun item I've been sparing you: my Filofax obsession. Oh how my family longs to be among your number. Here is a small assortment of my small-size planners, which I am using as reference books for story ideas, characters, research, submissions, and so on. 


There are more. One of them is actually in service as a planner, and I'm finding it incredibly helpful in keeping me on top of real life while my brain is mostly writing. This is a third thing I've been sparing you: my winter of writing, which turned into three months of incredible productivity. I've been using a larger Filofax to keep track of it all and Wow! So many short stories and submissions and progress on longer projects.

The larger-format Filofaxes are also accumulating, though I really only need two at most, one for work and one for the house. One of the extras isn't officially out in circulation yet... I think I justified its purchase as an Easter present, in lieu of chocolate, which I am trying to avoid. I should probably be avoiding Filofax shopping. Thing is, it's just so darned fun to create my own books, without going to the trouble of learning book binding. And creating a reference volume is not as time-consuming as knitting socks. In fact, I've bought most of these planners for less than the cost of a skein of good sock yarn. 

Huh. That hadn't occurred to me, and now I feel like I have license to buy more planners. 

I think I'd better slowly back away from this section about Filofax now.


One day in the winter, after a series of heavy snowfalls, I spotted my chance to fulfill a years-long dream. So I went outside with a shovel and built a snow fort sofa. 

Clearly, I didn't finish it before the sun dipped below the roof of the house, but the sun patch almost hit my teacup, so I still call this a win.

The sofa turned out to be surprisingly uncomfortable to sit on, so we never used it as a venue for hot chocolate consumption - that was the hoped-for outcome of my snowfort dream. But after the next snowfall covered up the grey and icy bits, it looked very attractive from the living room window. Yay!

And now it's all melted away and that's another Yay because it means hammock season is on its way. Hammocks are VERY comfortable.

Okay I am wrapping up here - just wanted to let you know I'm still in one piece despite the long silence. Hope you are too! I'm going to close with another throwback photo, then go make a note in one of the Filofaxes to sort out my cell phone soon. 


Happy spring, and take care till I see you again!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Happy Creative New Year

... and I hope it is a happy and productive one for us all!

I have been swept up in so many projects the last few months, thankfully none of them in any way related to being sick. There has been some rearranging of mantelpiece decor, as above (see the sock blockers in the corner there? compliments of Trish, who spotted them years ago at a rummage sale I had just left, and missed seeing - they have walked around to different display areas here ever since.)

Lots of watercolour planning and painting, none of it very impressive but always enjoyable. Though, for the record, this snowman looks much more polished in his actual size of Tiny.

SO MUCH FICTION WRITING. In 2021 I wrote and edited a novel, revised another, started a new one, and wrote a short story and started two others, despite all the other pressing crises including my beloved older relative's broken hip and subsequent move, which Pete and I coordinated. (She is doing great!)

A little knitting, not as much as I would like... Omigosh though, I was late to the party discovering that Emily Foden (Viola yarns) has written a knitting book. Naturally, I hesitated zero seconds before purchasing a copy. It arrived in a mailer with one of her quirky/adorable drawings on the back, and inside that was a brown paper wrapper with another drawing by her which I am not throwing out ever, 

and inside THAT was the book. Which is amazing. Emily is one of the most creatively talented people I have ever met and I highly recommend Knits About Winter for the patterns, the photography, the words, and the general feeling of potential while holding it in your hands.


(also, this vest.)

Actually a lot of what I'm doing now is about getting at a feeling of calm and possibility, go figure. But Januaries are always like that, aren't they? Even when we're not in a plague year. 

Some of that is coming from shopping, which I'm trying to resist or at least restrict to work-related purchases like pens. Have I mentioned Wonder Pens here? Their website is so welcoming and their photographs so alluring, it's a real delight to spend time with. I usually take my time thinking about what I would most enjoy having and sometimes that means missing out on something very cool. Not always though, heh.

For Christmas I received a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen and it is rarely leaving my hand. 


I've already had to order new ink cartridges... plus a second pen with a fine point because I like both fine and medium points, and take notes upstairs and down, so two pens is perfectly logical. Even practical. Ahem.

The Kakuno is a starter fountain pen intended for children (which I still basically am) and has a smiley face on the nib, but adults like it because it is inexpensive and safe to throw into the bottom of a bag and maybe even lose, unlike a $1200 fountain pen because apparently that is a thing that exists. I, however, would cry if I lost mine. It is ergonomically ideal and glides across the paper I'm writing on. 


The paper is another Yay... I was reading a review of 'best annual planners' and was reminded of Filofax, a mini version of which I carried for quite a long time pre-cell phones and stumbled across again recently while tidying a bookshelf. Being a diehard shopper I went to their Canadian website and looked at what they're doing these days, then immediately bought myself an A5 size notebook


The paper is like glass, it's so smooth. But also not like glass because even my beloved new fountain pen doesn't really show through on the other side. And the pages are repositionable, which is perfect for planning a novel and making notes generally. I bought the hole punch too, thinking I would mix and match papers, but I really only want to write on Filofax paper now.


My cousin sent me a very enjoyable mystery to read on Boxing Day, aka Mary's Annual Holiday, and I enjoyed it very much alongside my tiny snowman bookmark and tea in a mug I bought myself. Anthropologie has the funnest monogram mugs! But I especially love anything with illustrations by Nathalie Lété. (please note: no watercolour painting took place on my day off, though a Q-tip and my brush cleaner did manage to stay in view at my painting perch.)

 The book, The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders, was perfect for a lush day off... very well-written and perfectly paced to keep the pages turning. It's always a treat to come across someone delightful you hadn't read before, isn't it. I followed that up between Christmas and New Year's with The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves, and enjoyed that enormously too. An excellent reading vacation all around.

Now I am back to cooking every day, which means weekly pizza using a recipe I adapted from this one on the BBC's food site, because the bags of double 0 flour I can buy divide neatly into 500g portions and it calls for 650g. I supplement with 150g of semolina flour and all is well. Also I cheat and use a sheet pan and nobody here cares they're not getting a slice from a circle, but the last time I made it I was struck by the texture on the parchment paper I use for ease of removal and thought I'd share. it's like one of those high school geography class elevation maps, don't you think?

Or maybe I just imagined that. 


Here's something more useful to you, perhaps: a project I did for some small Christmas presents and didn't get to share in time. It would work equally well for Valentine's Day or Easter or any other day you wanted to tie a bookmark onto a bar of organic chocolate. Especially if you have an excessive amount of art supplies.

First, I scribbled with a Derwent Inktense pencilcrayon onto a gritty board (you can use a plastic cutting board but I have the Caran D'ache Palette) and wet the marks to get a nice smooth inky paint, then brushed it over a big sheet of watercolour colour. Inktense doesn't reactivate once it's been wet and dried, so this gave me a nice streaky background colour to work with. 

Gosh, even after parking the dried sheet under some very heavy books overnight, the paper still curled a bit... but never mind, it all works out in the end.


Then I painted a lot of circles over the sheet, in a very limited watercolour palette of red, turquoise, and a deep shiny purple from Daniel Smith. I outlined some of them, and I left others plain. To liven things up I did a few circles in sparkly white from the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Starry Set. The great thing about those paints: they glisten, but don't rub off as sparkles all over everything you touch.

When all that was dry, I sliced up the sheet with my cheapie Fiskars paper trimmer and voila! 

Pretty bookmarks to slip under the ribbons I used to tie tags onto the chocolate bars. With a gift card or an actual volume, it's an instant book-reading vacation.

There, that bookmark thing alone was supposed to be a whole post of its own back in November. I need to be less busy, I guess.

As it stands, though, that's quite enough from me for today. I will try - I always do try - to check back in more regularly but if you don't hear from me, rest assured I'm still writing away at something you might see at some point. And I will hope all is well with you, too. As a sendoff, let's revisit some more snowmen I did after watching an excellent tutorial from Harriet de Winton on Youtube:

See you soon, hopefully before these two melt away into springtime :^)