Winter is in full swing. There is still a lot of snow on the ground in these parts. Lots. But the sun is shining and the days are getting longer. And in my work-in-progress it’s May and spring. Writing about spring is giving me a break from winter.
My heroine, Charlotte Darcy, has inherited Darcy House, her historic family home, from her grandmother and she has plans to turn it into a bed and breakfast. First she needs to tend to the neglected and overgrown grounds. She’s hired Ridge Bennett, a local landscaper, to manage the project. Ridge has grand plans for the grounds.
Here’s my rudimentary sketch of Ridge’s vision.
I’m in a bit of a reading slump right now. I started a couple of books that I didn’t end up finishing. So, it’s been too much television and not enough reading. I need my daily break from reality and to be utterly immersed in a book. Things are looking up though, I was approved of two ARCs (advance reader copies) that I’m very excited about: VenCo by Cherie Dimaline and Homecoming by Kate Morton.
Until next time…
Who else is feeling the February blahs? And what are you doing to get through February?
One of my reading goals for 2023, actually my only reading goal, is to read more Canadian authors who’ve written stories set in Canada. Particularly when it comes to the romance genre, which is my favourite for obvious reasons. But I’m also looking for that criteria in general fiction too. Which led me to Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel.
Categories: Historical Fiction / Fiction / Canadian History / Canadian Setting /
1657. Marie, a gifted healer of the Deer Clan, does not want to marry the green-eyed soldier from France who has asked for her hand. But her people are threatened by disease and starvation and need help against the Iroquois and their English allies if they are to survive. When her chief begs her to accept the white man’s proposal, she cannot refuse him, and sheds her deerskin tunic for a borrowed blue wedding dress to become Pierre’s bride.
1675. Jeanne, Marie’s oldest child, is seventeen, neither white nor Algonquin, caught between worlds. Caught by her own desires, too. Her heart belongs to a girl named Josephine, but soon her father will have to find her a husband or be forced to pay a hefty fine to the French crown. Among her mother’s people, Jeanne would have been considered blessed, her two-spirited nature a sign of special wisdom. To the settlers of New France, and even to her own father, Jeanne is unnatural, sinful—a woman to be shunned, beaten, and much worse.
With the poignant, unforgettable story of Marie and Jeanne, Danielle Daniel reaches back through the centuries to touch the very origin of the long history of violence against Indigenous women and the deliberate, equally violent disruption of First Nations cultures.
Set in the 1600s, Daughters of the Deer is a very moving and heart wrenching story of how Indigenous women were stripped of their humanity and culture under colonization. Daniel writes of Marie, an Algonkin woman, who is forced to marry a French settler, whose religious ethics clash with Marie’s Algonquin beliefs. She details Marie’s life and gives us a thought provoking look into an Indigenous woman’s experiences with early settlers that few people have heard or been taught. Daniel’s ability to intertwine those harsh realities with the details of everyday life for Marie and the community make for a very compelling and thought provoking read. This book is going to stay with me for a long time. Definitely recommend.
It’s -39 C with the windchill today. Enough said. But also, why is February both the shortest and longest month of the year? In a world focused on productivity and hustle, it’s challenging to make space dedicated to rest and recovery and wintering. So, I made a fun little list of things to do. Take that, February.
My Three Favourite Podcasts of the Moment:
Maintenance Phase with Aubrey Jordan and Michael Hobbes. Wellness and weight loss, debunked and decoded.
I Love It But I Hate It with Kat Angus and Jocelyn Geddie. Hateful optimists and loving pessimists Kat Angus and Jocelyn Geddie break down movies and TV shows that they totally despise… but also really adore at the same time.
Fated Mates with Sarah MacLean and Jen from Jen Reads Romance. Weekly episodes include romance novel read-alongs and discussions of the work of the genre, highlighting the romance novel as a powerful tool in fighting patriarchy…with absolutely no kink shaming.
If you’re are curious, have a listen. They’re all so good. And I promise you will laugh and who doesn’t need a laugh in February.
Does it make sense to say the days were long but the month flew by? I’ve been in hibernation mode, or wintering, for most of this month. I baked a couple of things, I read a couple of books and I revised a couple of scenes.
I will say that this January had to have been very pretty, a real winter wonderland. We have had lots of fog here, which is a departure from the norm, which resulted in rime frost.
Book Round Up:
I finished Eden Robinson‘s Trickster trilogy. I loved this book and this trilogy. Eden Robinson’s way of weaving carnage and humour makes for an epic read. The final instalment, Return of the Trickster, was a page turner full of magical realism, complicated intergenerational family dynamics and rich storytelling. So much happening. So many characters. Yet, manageable, if that make sense. And Jared. I kept rooting for him. Kept hoping he’d remain tender-hearted while he figured out how to survive all the time supported by a fabulous cast of fierce female characters.
I also read a book by a dear writer friend, Donna Gartshore. Finding Her Voice is a lovely, tenderhearted story of what it looks like to move forward from trauma. They’re both looking for a fresh start while keeping up the walls that have protected them after life dealt bitter hurts. They both have plans for the clinic where Bridget work and both are at cross purposes. But when Sawyer’s grief stricken daughter bonds with Bridget’s shy dog, they have to look deep to take the next step. Sweet, charming, and set in the lovely town of Green Valley, Finding Her Voice will tug at your heartstrings and have you rooting for Bridget and Sawyer.
And my book recommendation for January is Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn, who is one of my favourite authors and you can read my review here.
Baking Round Up:
I made my favourite muffin recipe, Blueberry Turmeric Muffins from Renee Kohlman’s lovely cookbook, All The Sweet Things. You can find her blog, Sweet Sugar Bean here. If you love cookbooks, Renee Kohlman’s two cookbooks are beautiful and include personal stories and I highly recommend buying either of the them. Bonus she’s from Saskatchewan!
I ran out of clean underwear. That’s probably TMI. But the thing about having a minimalist wardrobe is having to do laundry on the regular otherwise you run out of things to wear. But it’s also January so I’ve switched to low-battery mode to save on power. Thus, I’m behind on laundry.
In other weather news, rime frost, a type of frost that only occurs under warm, foggy conditions, is creating a winter wonderland look around here. Very pretty. But it also means we haven’t seen the sun in days and I’m feeling it. Today it’s supposed to be partly sunny, so yay!
This reading year is starting off strong. My first read of this new year is by Kate Clayborn, who is one of my very favourite authors, and this book just made me love her writing even more. I’m delighted to recommend it.
Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.
But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.
Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.
This delicious and sweet book has it all. Characters so real you can’t help but love them. Kate Clayborn carries us along on an intimate journey of self discovery grounded by great writing, great dialogue and great depth. It was a multi-sensory delight from beginning to end, from milkshakes and green beans in pasta to dock boards underfoot and a dog named Hank. It’s charming, it’s rich, and it will tug at all your heartstrings.
It also just so happens that I saw a great clip between Kate Bowler and Elizabeth Gilbert talking about ‘purpose anxiety‘ and it reminded me of this book. One of the things Elizabeth Gilbert talks about is our obsession with finding our higher purpose, in narrowing that down to an absolute and then putting a significant amount of energy into nurturing and honouring that higher purpose. That’s aside from living our life, which is a pretty big deal. And I think that’s what this book is about at its core: making a good life for yourself, focussing on the moment, and not having to make everything about a higher purpose.
I’m in my Christmas pajamas and drinking tea. I’m also researching face oils because advertising has struck a win and now I’m wondering if I need to add face oil to a skincare routine that already works for me. That is simple. That is affordable. That is ethical and sustainable. And that needs no additions. What is it about the first week in January on social media that is extra determined to make women feel bad about their bodies?
Also, why am I not thinking about writing instead? Obviously, that’s rhetorical. But if you have an answer, let me know.
Audiobook: Murder in the East End (A Below Stairs Mystery) by Jennifer Ashley
All three of them are SO GOOD!
And Watching Too Many TV Shows:
Three Pines – Amazon Prime (Great)
Jack Ryan – Amazon Prime (Beginning very complicated and convoluted)
The Recruit – Netflix (Good)
Castle – Disney + (Because surviving the Christmas season means binging on comfortable reruns and now I can’t stop watching)
Although, I did go for coffee with friends on Tuesday and out for dinner last night so not a complete hermit. Also, I revised two whole paragraphs on Charlotte and Ridge’s story. I’m thinking looking at the list of TV shows I’ve been watching the writing list should be longer and the TV list should be shorter.
This time of year can be…intense. Expectations, from others and from within, can really mess with my mental state during the holidays. Before I know it my brain is going in a hundred different directions, besides than the hundred paths it’s already trying to follow. My way through is usually to have lists for all the things because I’m an organized person. But this year I’m not even close to anything resembling order. Who else is exhausted? Or is it just me?
The picture below is the mediation labyrinth at what was once a conference centre where we went for writing retreats a couple of times a year. You follow the same path in and out, which makes it different from a maze which usually has more than one exit and entry point. The idea being that walking in a circle blocks your sense of direction and the outside world, quieting your mind.
Being outside even viewing scenes of nature is great for our mental health. It reduces feelings of anger and fear. It positively affects your physical wellbeing by reducing blood pressure and slowing your heart rate. Our daughter has an intellectual disability and suffers from anxiety. One of her favourite way to reduce stress is a drive in the car around the large urban park in our city. Often we park and watch the birds. She’s a huge bird nerd. No radio. No distractions. Just what’s happening outside her window.
Winter Stress Relievers That Don’t Cost a Thing:
Laugh. A big belly laugh. Small chuckles. Even fake laughs have health benefits. It can ease pain and reduce your body’s stress response.
Hugs. I first read about hugging as a stress reliever in the book: Burnout. I always knew hugs were great, but I didn’t realize they had physiological benefits. Of course, you need another person for this. But giving and receiving a long hug really works. After about10 seconds you can feel your shoulders drop and your body relax.
None of these things are a replacement for medical treatment or proper care. Speak to your doctor if you are struggling. Book an appointment to see a therapist. I know from personal experience that it helps. We’ve all heard of the tragic death by suicide of Stephen tWitch Boss. If you, or a loved one, are struggling with suicidal thoughts and live in Canada, call 1.833.456.4566. Or call: 911. Or text: 4566. Or please check out the Talk Suicide website.