Saturday, May 27, 2023

SNOWED won an award

My mystery novel won the Crime Writers of Canada award for best unpublished manuscript this week!

Okay: winning an award feels great, but hearing all the nice things the judges had to say about my manuscript? That was INCREDIBLE. If you want to hear it too, my category is around about the 8:45 minute mark in the announcement video.

Alternatively, you can read this screenshot of the details from Crime Writers of Canada's winners page (or just visit the link and scroll to the bottom, wishing all the published winners well as you go along):

I am *totally* printing this out to look at if I so much as start to get discouraged. 

But that wasn't the only great news I had this week.

two socks, two contests!

The novel I'm working on now, ORIOLE, was selected as a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for unpublished mainstream mysteries! 

I am so, so grateful to the judges for all these contests I've entered - for volunteering for the job, and especially for finding so much to like about my writing.

As you can imagine, there's been a lot of happy skippy dancing around here the last few days.


This makes knitting a challenge, but I did get my socks-in-progress all the way to the heel flap. Maybe next week I'll have Chompy Socks to show you. I always did love photographing Chompy Socks.

I don't know whether the acknowledgement from Crime Writers of Canada and The Crime Writers' Association will bring SNOWED any closer to getting published, but if it does ever hit print, you might enjoy reading it. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, one member of the sleuth trio, Steph, has a passion for social history (I wonder why), textiles (ditto), and for making a lot of her own clothes, sometimes from vintage or historical patterns... including a warm wool greatcoat I personally would love to own :^) 

Okay that's me for this week - have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you next Saturday!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

We are getting a tiny home

sort of! We aren't moving into it, which is kind of the point of a tiny home, but it's still very exciting and it's a big part of why I haven't had a lot of knitting to show you lately. 

not our tiny home

This is the only building currently standing on the legacy property we're responsible for until the next generation takes over. It houses tractors and a work bench. That door on the right side accesses a walled-off section in the back serves as a lounge with a kitchenette and a three-piece bathroom. Unfortunately, being attached via an interior door also, the bathroom and lounge space smell very strongly of everything that's stored with the tractors. It's not very pleasant there for hanging out, or even getting tidied up after a long day's work. This problem has only gotten worse over the years.

So.... when we agreed to sell our cottage to our neighbours, and realized we didn't have anywhere to store all the things we wanted to keep from it, we decided to build something else at this property, under a separate roof. Not very far separate though, because the area is mostly hill and the shed is on the only near-level section. 

Okay, this hill, pictured before the snow melted this spring, might have been another part of what motivated me to coordinate another building project. Having this for a back yard, available for as much walking and climbing and watercolour painting as you like? yes please.

The property is just over an hour from our house, so we don't need a dedicated place to sleep, or laundry facilities. We don't even need a range - a hot plate and a microwave or toaster oven are plenty. Since the magic of a tiny home comes from fitting all those functions into a very abbreviated space for resident/s who live there full-time, we are kinda cheating, as well as missing out on a lot of the really amazing stuff our builder can do. So, maybe it's not a tiny home so much as a tiny *cabin*. 

Or as I think of it, a clubhouse.

Another thing we don't need is a trailer with wheels, because we're staying put. Trailers are custom-built over a period of weeks for each tiny home. About as many weeks as it takes to build a house, which means we don't have to wait long for our tiny home: our builder was able to fit us into the gap formed by trailer lead time and we'll have it by midsummer this year. Yay!

One thing we *did* need was space. We're blending our family histories by housing furniture and knickknacks from our generations at the cottage. I see a lot of tiny homes that run just 24' long, and pack a serious punch. Ours will be almost 400 square feet and have some open space. Less open than this, once the framing is finished, but still, it'll be airy.

check out those beams!
they will be visible in the finished home, too.

One last plus-side item: no drywall. Drywall doesn't travel well, and when the house is finished, it will be driven to our site to be connected to the foundation we've set up for it. So instead of dusty drywall, we're getting tongue-in-groove pine and plywood. If you've ever renovated a house, you will totally get what a big deal this is for me, ha! 

I was hoping for something entirely off-grid, but the up-front costs for solar power are steep. Weirdly, there was little enthusiasm for a composting toilet when I proposed it to the folks who will be doing all the hard work maintaining the property, so the solar budget had to go to funding a septic bed. We are future-proofing, though. There is space for batteries and other solar necessities in a storage loft we've planned for over the bathroom, and an empty conduit will make it easy to connect solar panels later, as we can afford to do it.

Water has posed a similar challenge. Turns out there is a shortage of well-drillers in Ontario, and the ones who returned our calls are booked through to next year, so we are hoping the old well can be salvaged. A new well is massively expensive; refurbishing an old one is only painfully so, if you don't count the cost of the space-hogging pump you need to store inside your building because it's nowhere near your building site.

I made lemonade out of that one though. Turns out you can stash a well pump under a banquette, and once you have a banquette it doesn't cost much more to make it a pullout bed, and if you have a window over the back of it too, you're inches from a windowseat.

the finished banquette area will be a different kind of cute,
but this should give you the general idea.

Who is going to want to sleep on a bed over a pump that kicks in every time somebody flushes the toilet, you ask? Possibly nobody. It's going to be great for naps though, or for stretching out on to write, and if those two things don't have my name on them, what does?

We couldn't stretch to a lot of custom finishing here, as one would with a true full-time tiny home. We are getting bookshelves and an entry area with a bench with hooks over it though, for storing boots and coveralls. One of the bookshelves will have a door over an area just big enough for a broom and vacuum; the other will be in the kitchen, just big enough to keep the dust off our dishes. And we're getting a custom bunk bed / loft arrangement at one end, in case anybody does ever need or want to sleep over. Or, you know, stretch out for a nap without disrupting the kitchen table setup. Ahem. At the other end, we'll plant an IKEA daybed that also pulls out to sleep two. Trying to plan ahead.

I could go on and on, and probably will in the weeks to come, but the bottom line is - We are getting a tiny home!

Hope something wonderful is happening for you too, but just in case, I will leave you with this lush image of our lilacs after a long rain. 


See you next Saturday!


Saturday, May 13, 2023

Springtime with mittens

I got thinking today about my old-time twined mitten obsession and decided to take a glamour shot of one pair, out on our sundrenched, springtime deck.

The yarn I used for these was hand spun, by me, from a wool/mohair blend hand dyed by my friend Sylvia. And they were my second pair, so there is no excuse for my having spun the yarn in the traditional way instead of in the reverse, so that the twining would have gone easier.

(When twining, you twist two strands of yarn around each other and knit with one, then the next, then stop and untwist the tangle your two yarns have gotten into because you didn't twine with yarn spun in the reverse direction. It makes mitten production very, very slow.)

The beauty of twined mittens is that they are super warm. And why not: you have two strands of yarn throughout, twisted at every stitch so there are no holes for wind to breeze through. The problem they pose is the same. I mostly wear mittens out on walks, but because I am a brisk walker my palms are damp after ten minutes, and halfway through my loop I have to take off the mittens altogether.

In the background: the first step in Pete's plan
to thicken up the small patch of grass in our back yard

My mystery novel SNOWED did not make the shortlist for the Debut Dagger Awards this year, but it's still a winner with me because one of the three main characters is a textile fanatic (hello), who makes most of her own clothes to suit her preferences (Um, no, I am not that committed.) There's a murder in this story, naturally, and this character goes off to the victim's outdoor memorial service wearing mitts I imagined to be like these ones. This is another satisfying element to writing fiction: you get to add in bits of things that you yourself enjoy.

Earlier this week I was sent flowers as a thank-you for something I did a while back, and they were stunning, but around the time the Debut Dagger shortlist was announced without my name on it, two of the flowers decided to shed their petals. I swear, one of them made an almost-audible sound as I passed, a kind of a Poof! just before ten petals collapsed to the mantel. Might have been a sign?

The fallen petals: INCREDIBLY SOFT.

It's just as well though, because not being shortlisted frees me to get back to work on the current novel in progress. In this one, which skews closer to Suspense, I'm humouring my love of fabric with a main character who lives out of a capsule wardrobe, the better to cut costs and stay mobile. She has a sweater she wears with everything (the story is set in an especially creepy October) and every time I reference it I picture a giant basketweave pullover my older sister knit in the 70s on oversized plastic needles she never used again. Actually this is not how I describe the sweater - the colour in the story is more mustard than orange the texture more Aran than Basket - but I picture my sister's all the same. 

Some of the writing for this *might* happen on our back deck, but not right away because it's blossom time and I don't concentrate well when surrounded by bees. 

That's a pretty good canopy there, don't you think? We trained our lilac through a custom gap in the fence to make this happen. Unfortunately we forgot we'd also be making a lot of fallen leaves and bark happen, without the ability to raise a sun umbrella without cutting precious light from the lilac. Eating at the table beneath is always an adventure.

Sitting is good though. So good I'm going to head out there right now with a cup of tea and a book, before I make a start on supper.

Hope your weekend's been absolutely lovely so far and gets better as it goes on, and I'll see you next week!

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Sock it to me

Ugh, such a terrible pun - but after a few days of polishing my second Debut Dagger submission, it was relaxing to get back to these new socks and make some progress.

I am very grateful I entered this writing competition with a completed manuscript! You can do it with just the first few pages of a novel, plus a detailed summary of everything that's going to happen, but if you make the longlist you then need to produce another ten pages from later in the story and send them in on about a week's notice. I mean, I am an unusually fast writer, so in theory I would have been okay. But it's wise to revise those pages as well and that takes time and distance, thought and objectivity. 

Those pens pictured with my socks got a SERIOUS workout this week, let me tell you. But: I've sent in my pages now. That has freed me to take a break to help a friend with her manuscript, and make progress on this small gift for Autumn-Edition Mary, who will doubtless appreciate my having made these beauties in spring. 

One of them is almost ready for the heel flap! Always an exciting moment.

I noticed something different about this yarn, which is maybe that it's a slightly lighter weight than my old Vesper sock yarn. It's definitely dyed a little differently. It's almost rustic, the way the colour changes are slightly staggered and include some white spots at the transition.

A nice feature to go with these colours, I feel.

Another nice feature: glamour shot potential. I always like to have a look at a sock lying flat like this, so you can see the real substance of the fabric. So squishy and nice. Probably nicer still once it's finished and had a bath, so the stitches can all settle into neat and tidy loops.

This sort of angle appeals to me too, what about you? Like a tiny sock hug.


Well, that's it for me this week. Hope you have a wonderful weekend - see you again next Saturday!