Here’s to Autumn!

During this autumn, I wish for you, and the world, a calm and cozy peace to enjoy crisp air while warmed by a soft sweater and hot cup of cider. Take the time to enjoy the beauty of the falling leaves (or, if you are really lucky, the start of ski season).

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Stopping to Smell the Pastries

I haven’t blogged in a while because…well 2020, right? Like everyone else, I’ve been home and only venturing out for exercise or groceries. Channeling the baker protagonist in my most recent novel, Christmas at Maplemont Manor, I’ve also been baking up a storm.

The fresh-baked smell of cardamom rolls, cinnamon rolls, banana walnut bread, pumpkin spice cupcakes, lemon blueberry bread, and honey wheat sandwich bread wafted frequently in my house every few days. Fortunately, I’ve also learned to freeze such beautiful creations to be able to balance out the exercise to carb ratio. (FYI – you can freeze most bread for up to a month – wrap it up in aluminium foil to freeze and then pop it in the oven at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes to reheat – You’re welcome.).

Mostly the recipes have turned out pretty good, however, my attempt at a simple pound cake with my substitutions resulted in disaster and required me to clean the oven. I also attempted some shortbread cookies that turned out like concrete, making me worry I would chip a tooth.

What I’ve learned is that I can pretty much bake any type of bread, but once any recipe gets too close to “cake” or “cookie” territory, then it’s a disaster. It’s an odd superpower to discover somewhat late in life, the bread-making ability, but life often surprises us.

I’ve also started learning Swedish which has been pretty entertaining and providing me with some sense of structure and progress. Perhaps the most fun phrase I can say in Swedish now is: “It’s raining men.” Ha ha!

What I haven’t been doing is…writing. And, that’s OK. I’ve written myself my own permission slip for that. It’s in the form of a cinnamon roll. 🙂

However you are getting through this time as an artist and human is awesome. If you’re able to turn this time into something more creative than carbohydrates, then I’m absolutely cheering you on. If you’re just happy to have checked the mail, I’m also absolutely cheering you on as well!

As for me, I’ve managed a blog article today which is very exciting. However this reaches you, please know that I’m sending you light and comfort – that feeling we all get when consuming the most perfect of cardamom rolls or blueberry lemon bread.

Please take care of yourselves and others. There’s no “right” way to get through this. In case you need to hear it – you’re doing a great job. Hang in there. And remember, you can freeze the bread, cupcakes, and rolls – they’ll all keep. 🙂

Finding Joy in 2020

While it hardly feels like 2019 ‘is so last year’ yet, we have indeed embarked on a new decade and a new year. Usually the new year brings along ideas of resolutions or simply goals for what things should fall into the ‘out with the old,’ and what we should add ‘in with the new.’ Maybe it’s more gym time or finally taking that trip, or learning a new language. Whatever you’ve settled on, I wish you godspeed in 2020.

Last year, my resolution was to publish a new novel – and, I’m happy to report that I did so and it was great fun to share Christmas at Maplemont Manor with the world! For those who have read it, I do hope that you enjoyed the holiday splendor and joy of the season that I had aimed to share. Writing it (especially the pun-filled chapter titles) brought me such joy – it really was terrific fun. As a self-published author, I write for the simple joy of it!

This year, my focus is 100% on spending more time on things that bring me joy. For me, that list includes downhill skiing, cooking awesome food, spending time with friends, reading interesting books, and traveling someplace new.

Since it’s still (happily) winter, my favorite of the seasons, I’ve started with the goal of downhill skiing every week while the snow lasts! I basically grew up on skis, in a little mountain town where we lived minutes from a ski hill. I started skiing about the same time that I learned to walk. That said, I’m not an Olympian skier, however, there’s something about skiing that brings me joy.

It’s that same spark of joy that I experience from opening the oven to smell fresh cardamom rolls that I’ve made from scratch, which is now something I do most weeks. I think our jobs as humans is to find these experiences that bring us joy and then incorporate them into our lives as much as possible.

Sometimes we tend to go overboard with the idea of ‘joy’ – like it should be something big that others notice, that it must be pursued in some dramatic fashion, or that it’s fleeting. I think that joy is around all the time, but we do need to take a breath to notice it and enjoy the moments. Today, for example, one of my moments of joy was making the perfect cup of coffee in my new french press.

My hope for all of us in 2020 is that we find and celebrate those moments and we embrace the things and people that bring us joy. Life short – find your joy! It’s most likely right in front of you!

Holiday Ebook Giveaway!

If you enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies, you’ll be delighted by this holiday kindle book giveaway! To spread some holiday cheer, I’m offering a holiday Kindle ebook giveaway via Goodreads to give readers a chance to win 1 of 100 free copies of Christmas at Maplemont Manor – a sweet holiday romance sure to warm your heart!

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Enjoying the Magic

Recently I embarked on an Icelandic adventure to primarily see the northern lights. For the sake of transparency, the above gorgeous image from the free library is not the amazing photo that I took.

My photo turned out like this:

I took this photo using an app on my phone. For any borealis enthusiasts out there, when people tell you to bring a tripod for your camera and test out the photo application before you go out, the above is why. 🙂

I took two arguably sad, yet magical photos, and then put my camera away so that I could solely enjoy the moment and not worry about documenting it further. To paint the full picture, the lights appeared about two hours after my tour bus arrived at a remote location in the middle of Iceland and it was about eleven o’clock at night.

We’d been standing out in 15 degrees (fahrenheit) / -9 (celsius) for long enough that my “clever” idea of essentially wearing every item of clothing that I had packed in my carry-on for warmth seemed foolhardy. It was freezing cold and pretty boring just standing there in a field, looking up at the sky with a bunch of strangers. To add insult to injury, it was my second night of freezing in a field with strangers since the previous night I had gone out and not seen the lights at all.

As I started questioning my life choices and returned to the bus for some warmth, someone said that magical words: “The lights are here!” Everyone rushed toward the best spot to view them and we sort of mobbed into the same spot.

Looking up at the northern lights dancing in the night sky made me catch my breath with a child-like wonder and I no longer noticed the cold or the tourists crowding around me posing with their phones. Simply put, it was magical and epic – basically indescribable (even for a novelist like myself)!

Whatever you get up to during this holiday season, I hope you find a similarly well-earned moment of magic. Maybe it will be five minutes at the holiday dinner table when everyone is sharing a laugh, seeing twinkly lights draped across a downtown street, or venturing out to see the northern lights for yourself.

As Eden Philpotts said, “The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”

In my latest novel, Christmas at Maplemont Manor, there are several lovely holiday scenes that have a sense of magic to them – but there is one scene with reindeer that to me is the most magical of the novel. I won’t spoil it for readers, but let’s just say if you were hoping to find a little child-like wonder this holiday season from the comfort of your sofa, then there is a charming and warm holiday novel waiting for you!

Whatever this December brings to you, I do hope you stop to enjoy and dwell in the moments – because magical things are waiting for you to notice them. 🙂 Happy holidays!

Back to the Editing Board

Like most writers, I’ve read my books a million times. Maybe not literally one million, but it certainly feels like it. They are both terrifically fun novels to read, by the way, just ask me. 🙂 No matter how many times I review them or how many editors I have, there is always a sneaky little typo hiding like a ghost in a corner. They jump out at me and I catch my breath.

Where was it hiding and how did it manage to evade my notice for months? I don’t have any answers on that outside of the obvious ones like writers ‘know’ what’s going to happen next so our brains just skip the typos. My typos usually fall into two categories: The missing word and the right word, wrong spelling. I can tell you from experience that ‘spell check’ is generally rendered useless by those circumstances. Grammar check likewise, and grammar check also toys with my inability to correctly use a semi-colon.

When I first started sharing my writing with people not related to me, I would nearly hyperventilate if anyone told me about a typo or missed word.

Writing is hard and sharing one’s writing with strangers is probably up there on the chart of scary things like jumping out of airplanes, online dating, joining the circus, or cooking lobsters.

My biggest fear of someone finding that my writing wasn’t perfect has been realized a few times and I survived to write another day. I’ve grown a sort of writer’s leathery thick skin that means I can survive a bad review or a grammarian’s scolding. That said, even today when I find a typo or bad form in one of my novels or works in progress, I still feel that sense of dread and shame.

And then I get over it.

I fix it and try to do better next time. I hope that gentle readers out there find a way to forgive and are still able to enjoy the story and the worlds created for them.

Hope is more powerful than fear. It’s what keeps me from giving up. My novels may be rather unknown with a few readers, but as I continue along this journey, there are more and more readers who have never heard of me, seen me at Christmas in my home town, or been exposed to my high school yearbook photo – yet they still find my books and enjoy the read.

Thanks to the gentle readers who can see the story through the glitches and thanks also to the critical readers who point the way toward improvement. I’m very grateful that you read my novels and took a chance on some writer you never heard of.

I’ve just re-published my latest novel, Christmas at Maplemont Manor, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve neutralized any outstanding gremlin typos. Each of us gets better every day and that only happens by not giving up. Keep writing and editing. Onward!

A Holiday Romance

Readers know all too well that there are romance novels that take place during a holiday season and then there are holiday romance novels. ‘Christmas at Maplemont Manor’ is a holiday romance that embraces the holiday as almost an essential character.

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Big News! Announcing a New Novel!

I am happy to announce the release of my latest novel, Christmas at Maplemont Manor! Also, a special treat – for a limited time – the novel is available in NetGalley for book reviewers!

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