So long, September! It’s been an absolute pleasure. I baked, like a lot, which is strange for me. But I really enjoyed it. From biscotti to a plum almond cake to peach streusel muffins. Everything turned out as it should and was delicious. This is not always the case when I bake so maybe it’s a sign I should continue. Maybe it’s all those episodes of The Great British Baking Show that I watched.
One of the things I don’t talk a lot about is fashion. Not because I’m not interested in clothes. I’ve spent the last years creating a sustainable, ethical wardrobe that meets my budget and is functional. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s come a long way from the days I had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. These days I love the things in my closet. Some of them are new, some of them are old (and mended), and some of them are thrifted.
A lot of it comes from Canadian, female owned, small businesses. The dress in the upper lefthand corner is from Buttercream, one of my favourites. Buttercream fits my need for casual apparel and is budget friendly. I wore this dress to a baby shower for my son and daughter-in-law. That’s right, I’m going to be a grandmother for the second time. Very excited!
However, once in a while I splurge. Because sustainable and ethical fashion usually means expensive. The sweater in the upper righthand corner is new and from an American company called Able. I don’t usually order clothes from the US, because of the exchange rates, the shipping costs and the duty and taxes. But this sweater filled a hole in my closet and I couldn’t resist. Hello sweatha weatha!
Meanwhile, it still looks like summer in my yard and in our favourite park. There are rumours going around that this winer is going to be harsh. As in COLD. Like colder than our regular cold, which is plenty cold enough. Looking forward to enjoying the short fall prairie season with it’s crisp mornings, cozy evenings and pretty leaves.
Until next time…
What does fall look like in your neck of the woods?
What’s summer without book recommendations? And I love recommending books. And I have no hesitation whatsoever about recommending Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Because I loved it!
Have you ever watched a Hallmark romance movie and wondered what happened to the cold-hearted, ambitious girlfriend ditched by her billionaire boyfriend after he fell in love the small town baker? Well, wonder no longer. Meet Nora Stephens. Her best heroine yet.
Books Lovers is full of Henry’s dry wit and way with dialogue. Oh my gosh, the witty repartee is so engaging. And funny. But so well done it doesn’t overtake or detract from the messy and complicated issues at the heart of a story that will tug at your heartstrings. There might not be a Christmas tree farmer in sight but there’s a book store in need of rescuing. And a hero you’ll fall in love with, just like the heroine.
Until next time…
Have you read any of Emily Henry’s other books? Do you have a book recommendation? Are you one of those who’s watching the Christmas in July movies on the Hallmark channel?
The sun is setting earlier and rising later. Kind of like me. I love Octobers, especially if they are as beautiful and warm as this month has been. October also gives me an excuse to use one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
We’re thinking of cancelling of our cable television package and are experimenting with streaming our favourite shows, which are few and far between these days. Like, good grief, another NCIS show? How do we feel about the return of CSI: Las Vegas? How is Survivor still on the air? Anyone else feeling like there’s nothing to watch on TV? Or am I in a funk? A deep, deep funk. Admittedly, that due to this never ending pandemic. But still…
There are a few bright spots, of course. I’m liking La Brea. Still enjoying The Rookie and The Equalizer. And Bob Hearts Abishola is always a delight. There’s also some great Canadian programming out there right now. And it doesn’t get enough attention.
Family Law is my new favourite television program this fall. Family dysfunction at its best. And who doesn’t love Victor Garber. The series is part legal procedural, part family dramedy, created by Susin Nielsen. It’s family dysfunction at its best and the chemistry between the characters is fabulous. I was fortunate enough to meet Susin Nielsen at The Saskatchewan Festival of Words in 2019. The talent that comes to this festival is off the charts. I highly recommend attending. And I definitely recommend Nielsen’s books!
For when you need a laugh. Jann Arden is not scared to poke fun at herself. On the show, she plays an unapologetic, self-centred, aging singer songwriter who’s career is on the cusp of obscurity. It’s so funny. And poignant. And she’s surrounded by a super talented cast.
What I’m reading:
Print: Gutter Child by Jael Richardson. A dystopian story about a girl who must overcome the dictates of a harsh regime and find a life and freedom.
Audio: A Treacherous Curse: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, Book 3, written by Deanna Raybourn and narrated by Angele Masters. Still loving this series! Both the story and the narrator. Also, waiting for these two to finally sleep together is killing me.
Until next time…
What’s everyone watching these days? Any new shows you would recommend? Any favourite old shows you rewatch? I need suggestions!
When it comes to creating a character’s personal style it’s not only fun but necessary to use imagery to emphasize personality. Style is a very visual representation of a character’s personality. Just as a character’s style can change to enhance the advancement of their character arc. Like us humans out in the real world, characters have their good days and their bad ones, often in extremes. How they dress or put themselves together can help reflect their state of mind.
Besides the obvious fact of characters having to wear clothes and having those clothes be appropriate to the story and setting, there is something to be learned from costume designers who provide that imagery in movies and on television. There are incredible examples of costuming in television right now and I have a couple of absolute favourites.
Did anyone else binge watch Bridgerton on Netflix as soon as possible? It’s so lavish and decadent and the costuming is an incredible example of what it takes to build a swoon-worthy period drama for television. Lord have mercy, this show!
Bridgerton features approximately 7,500 costume pieces!
The Netflix series Bridgerton costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, explained to Vogue that “each family and character tells a story through their clothes. Given the sheer number of people on camera, the Bridgerton costume department had to create elaborate outfits complete with headpieces and gloves. Quickly numbering in the thousands, the show had an entire warehouse dedicated to wardrobe and 238 people in the costume department.”
She also explained why we didn’t see bonnets and the linen dresses authentic to the time period and why the costumes are a contemporary nod to the regency era. I love the fresh approach, the diversity, and the entertaining and witty nod to women in positions of power in an era that worked hard to restrict the advancement of women.
My second favourite is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. When is the next season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel coming? We need you Midge!
It’s funny, it’s profane, the clothes in this show. Are. The. Best. And how can we not love Midge as she pursues her passion in spite of overwhelming odds.
“Why do women have to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why do we have to pretend to be stupid when we’re not stupid? Why do we have to pretend to be helpless when we’re not helpless? Why do we have to pretend to be sorry when we have nothing to be sorry about? Why do we have to pretend we’re not hungry when we’re hungry?” – Midge Maisel
Donna Zakowska, costumer designer for The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel who’s stunning way with colour says, “These sort of elements really assert the character’s personality. In a way, Midge is a character that never gives in, even if something terrible is going on. It’s always about putting your best foot forward and an optimism that runs in the character.”
I love Midge’s undaunted spirit and her need to speak her mind, to be heard, and stubborn when confronted with a world that means to keep her inside the box it designated for her. And her clothes tell that story. The colour she wears as she goes about her daily life and the black dresses and pearls she wears on stage when she performs her stream of consciousness comedy act. It is, indeed, marvelous.
“I take my cues from the characters and their surroundings as written in the play, as well as from the stylistic choices of the production. In the same way that an actor builds upon the framework of traits and actions of his or her character in the story, I read what the character does and says for clues about what they might wear. I also need to think about how best to reflect a character’s evolution through the development of the story. Sometimes the character is best served by creating contrast between how a character behaves and what he or she looks like.” Judith Bowden, Canadian Designer
It’s something to think about when creating characters and that it can be much more than adding in interesting bits and quirks. We need to think about style in terms of character development. We all know Eliza Doolittle undergoes a transformation in My Fair Lady. Usually a character’s evolution is not that obvious in terms of wardrobe. Nor is usually as lavish as in Bridgerton or as bold as in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But using subtle changes can make an impact, too.
Do you love a certain TV character’s style? Have a favorite costume from a movie? Use wardrobe changes as a tool in your own writing?
It doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. It can just be pleasurable.
There should be no guilt attached to the things we choose to enjoy. I don’t know about you, but I need things like books and cupcakes and new shoes to balance groceries, laundry, work, and worrying about my kids. We’ve had more extreme cold warnings this winter then I can remember and the coldest temperatures in 80 years. Our daughter-in-law brought over cinnamon buns last weekend. I ate two. I’m not sorry. I enjoyed every delicious bite.
Also, books! Reading is a pleasure for me, as it is for a lot of people. We should be allowed to read anything we wish. We shouldn’t have to apologize for our reading choices. We shouldn’t be made to feel like we have to publicly reject the books we enjoy in private. The literary police can take a hike.
Books should be accessible, and in most instances they are. They are found in libraries, schools, bookstores, online, and a variety of other places. We can read paper books or ebooks. We can listen to audiobooks. We can stick to one type of book or enjoy a variety of stories. We can read memoirs or cookbooks, or DIY manuals. Newspapers. Periodicals. Magazines. But what we want to read must be available to us. The offerings must be there so we can pick and choose. No one has the right to restrict the access of books to others.
My Top Five Guilt-Free Pleasures!
Colouring my hair. Because I love my blonde hair.
My 80s playlist. Including but not limited to REO Speedwagon, Quiet Riot, Chicago, Laura Branigan, and .38 Special.
Watching Forged in Fire. Because modern-day blacksmiths making knives and swords is awesome.
Shoes. Do I really need to explain this one…
Keenau Reeves. Because Speed is the best movie ever made.
Not only is November Peanut Butter Lovers month, it’s also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Where writers far and wide pledge to write 50,000 words in November. My romantic suspense, EXPOSED, got its start during NaNoWriMo.
Having done it once, I might try it again some far off November with a well-planned out idea, but I’m not sure that kind of intense push to create only new material without going back and making sure I’m on the right track (in other words, edit as I go) works for me. Not that I don’t do that when I’m in the zone, but that window of time doesn’t generally last for thirty days in a row. Kudos to those for whom the process works, as other writers have been very successful with their efforts and many novels have been birthed in November.
Three Books I’ve Read (And One I Want To Read) That Were NaNoWriMo Success Stories!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My Quote Of The Month. I’m channelling it as I write a proposal for a new book.
Until next time…
By the way the one book I mentioned that I haven’t read is Fangirl, but I’ve read Eleanor and Park and loved it. Anyone else read any of the books I mentioned?
Monday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day and I’ll let you in on a not so little secret, Beauty And The Beast is my favourite fairy tale. Or, more accurately, the more modern Disneyfied version of La Belle et La Bete written in the 18th century by French novelist Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is my favourite fairy tale.
La Belle et La Bete VS Beauty and the Beast
One would assume the older version of the fairy tale would be the more gruesome and deadly. Surprisingly, it’s not. While the theme of learning to love, irregardless of appearances, is at the center of both tales, in the original the Beast is not being punished for a wrongdoing, he is the victim of an injustice. He refuses to marry his governess, an old and wrinkled evil fairy. so she curses him. A good fairy intervenes and promises a reversal of the evil spell if he can find someone to love his beastly self. She also camouflages the castle in a fog and puts everyone to sleep. Or turns them to stone, I can’t remember.
Also, there is no deadline in the original fairy tale. No fading rose. But a rose does cause problems in the original, as Belle’s father picks one for her from the Beast’s garden, to which the Beast takes great exception.
There is no Gaston, no Le Fou, no singing servants in the 18th century version. But there are costumed monkeys and birds. And, of course, both versions of the fairy tale include a courtship (with notable differences), and Belle does leave to visit her family in both versions. The Beast’s curse is broken in each and the handsome prince once again has his looks. But where the Disney version ends, the original has more to it. Mainly, a nasty mother-in-law who’s not impressed with her new daughter’s-in-law less than noble standing and a plot twist worthy of The Sixth Sense.
Tropes are popular. Movies have them, television shows have them. Books have them. Look no further than the romance genre that’s never met a trope it didn’t like. Some of which we love and some we love to hate. That’s what makes taglines and covers so important. It’s the first indication of what you can expect to find inside the pages of a book.
My Top Five Favourite Romance Tropes:
Reunion/Second Chance Stories (Hands down my go to favourite trope! Bonus points if they take place in a small town! Sigh…)
Badass Bookworm (Intelligence is a major turn-on for me.)
Fish Out Of Water (Nothing makes me happier than a heroine or hero who finds themselves in a situation they never imagined without the appropriate skills to navigate it.)
Nerd Hero (Heroes with brains? Glasses? A aptitude for math? Don’t talk to me until I’m done the book.)
Beauty and the Beast (Always.)
My Top Least Favourite Romance Tropes:
Enemies to Lovers (This scenario does not work for me! Not sure why!)
Marriage of Convenience (I always think I’ll these ones and then I never, ever do. I think because they often have an unequal power dynamic.)
Famous Hero/Normal Heroine (These leave me cold, for lack of a better term. That includes billionaire heroes, rock star heroes, sports heroes. I know, I’m weird.)
Little Sister/Older Brother’s Best Friend. (The conflict often results from breaking a dated bro code and that doesn’t work for me.)
Boss/Secretary (Just..yuck! Again, I never enjoy the power dynamic of these type of workplace romances.)
I guess you could say I definitely have preferences. I LOVE to root for the underdog. Intelligent characters are a must for most readers, but high IQs, geniuses, characters who are passionate or experts in their fields draw me right in. On the other hand, hardworking, salt of the earth, self-sacrificing characters who are just looking to keep their heads down and get the job done are also a favourite of mine.
But any book with the word ‘bastard’ in the title – no, thanks. That goes for books with the word ‘submissive’ anywhere on the cover too. As you might have guessed from my least favourite list, any book where the representation of power is immediately perceived to be unequal is of little interest to me.
As for my own writing, BACKLASH definitely has a second chance at love feel to it. EXPOSED has a smidgen of a May/December trope. OFF THE GRID has both a badass bookworm (or smart, passionate doctor) and nerd hero vibe. And if you enjoy the family dysfunction trope, you’ll love the book I’m working on right now.
However, despite my lists, I’m always open to great writing and well-developed characters. And if a favoured author pens a book that looks like it might fall into the ‘nope’ category, I’ll definitely check it out. After all, we learn as much from books we don’t like as from the ones we do.
How about you? What are your favourite types of stories? Least favourite?
Kate Logan needs a safe haven, a place to start over after her modeling career disintegrates in scandal. But her hometown of Aspen Lake isn’t the sanctuary she hoped. Her vow of a low-key life is disrupted by a break-in and other strange happenings at her boutique. As the chair of Aspen Lake’s Gothic Revival Festival, she’s also drawn the ire of a religious fanatic. Kate is up to her stilettos in drama and intrigue including one sexy carpenter who’s determined to get in her way.
New to town, Seth Stone is seeking inspiration and solitude to concentrate on his art. Short on funds, he agrees to take on a second job restoring the damage to Kate’s Closet. Trouble erupts along with the desire to get to know Kate better. When he’s used as a pawn in a smear campaign against his gorgeous boss Seth fights back. But now the whole town is watching. Including the man determined to further his own agenda. Time is running out with nowhere to hide.
It’s also flown by way to fast. August basically passed in a blur! Doesn’t it always.
Top Three Images!
This happened!! Our son and future daughter-in-law!! That was the giant news of the summer! Huge! And we are SO excited!
We swam and camped and golfed and generally had fun.
Our Second Annual Hundred Mile Dinner which included everything local with a couple of exceptions. So much fun and such good eats. Thanks mainly to my talented mother and my sister, who along with the Adorables stayed for two whole weeks!
Top Book I Read This Summer
The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney
Technically, I’m not sure it was one of my favourite books. But I sure had fun discussing it for our Holiday Family Book Club and this crew! Also, it’s one of the picks for my Sanity Seekers Book Club so now I’m ahead of the game!
Three Things About My Life This Summer
I put my writing on hold for a couple of months while I made over my office. I needed to clean and declutter my space which I hope will get me back on track again. I can already feel my writing mojo coming back. See my post at the Killer Chicks if you’re interested in pictures!
I upped my golfing game by taking a lesson. Much work needed in this area but I saw improvement which was exciting. Even if it was preceded by a whole bunch of why-did-I-think-this-was-a-good-idea.
We went camping this summer. In a tent. Twice. The first time I also got lost on a trip back from the bathroom because it was pitch dark. The second time the first night got down to 4 degrees Celsius. I think that translates to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Whatever. It was darn cold. Both experiences will some day find themselves in a book!
What I’m Looking Forward To Next
Getting back into the writing groove!
Autumn. I love fall. Especially the clothes colours.
The start of another season of Globe Theatre productions. This is our local theatre company and they put on amazing performances.
What are you looking forward to the most in September?
Like all readers I have favourite story settings. Some real, some fictional, most are a combination of both. One of my favourite story settings is found in this incredible novel, now motion picture, ROOM by Emma Donoghue. The importance of place is paramount. One room is five-year-old Jack’s world. Another is the farm Green Gables found in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. The inspiration of which is found in Cavandish, Prince Edward Island. I was lucky enough to visit Green Gables Heritage site.
I fell in love with the Chesapeake Bay area because of Nora Roberts book Sea Swept. Was fascinated with Tara Janzen’s Steele Street series and her chop-shop turned special ops heroes based in Denver.
My own fictional setting of Aspen Lake is based on a resort area I spent a lot of time at when I was a young child. I also worked there for a couple of summers while I pursued my post-secondary education. I met my husband while working at Moose Mountain Provincial Park. I have very fond memories of this area. And although I’m a city girl at heart I love reading and writing about small towns.
Modelling Aspen Lake after this region seemed a natural thing to do. Especially considering I was a novice at writing. There was a very clear picture on the environment and the social construct of the place in my head and the missing details were easy to find.
But now that I’m writing the final book in this series, I’m starting to think about the next series. For this series, I’m heading Into The Woods…
And into northern Canada. Which provides endless options as that encompasses a vast space.
“Northern” Canada encompasses all land above the country’s 60th parallel, which is divided into three territories (from west to east): Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Upwards of 90 per cent of the land in all three is strictly uninhabitable, a barren wasteland of rock, ice and snow, meaning most populated areas are located either in the southern region or close to the coast of some lake, river or ocean. Even then, “habitable” is very much in the eye of the beholder. Even in the cities, it’s not at all uncommon for winter temperatures to dip below -40˚(C). J.J. McCullough J.J.’s Complete Guide To Canada
But how far into the north of 60 to venture, and how far west to explore? What topics do I want to explore with this series. One thing I’ve learned? Creating a setting for your story is more than local fauna and flora, or brick and mortar buildings, although it’s important to get those right too.
The stakes are high. The bad guy is actually a worthy adversary. And the actors are pretty. When they’re not screaming in terror. Because, hello, demons.
In an interesting article by Malinda Lo on world building. In it she repeats Holly Black’s, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, six questions to use when establishing your world’s rules about magic or science. Also, her thoughts on power, rituals, food, etc. My setting will be a contemporary real-life place. There might not be magic. But I can’t help but apply her questions about rules and power when thinking of developing a potential setting. Because, Power? That’s a theme, big or small, we all explore in one way or another.
Who has it?
Who abuses it?
Who wants it?
Who rejects it?
What does it mean to each of them?
How far will they go to use it, get it, gain it, or deny it?
What does it cost them?
What does it mean for the people around them?
How does their attitude to power break them off into groups?
That’s where I’m at. What are some of your favourite story settings?