Tag Archives: garden

Shadow of Stone now available on B&N etc., and a snippet for my #WIPpet

First a confession: the weather in Central Europe is much too good right now for blogging. We’ve been spending all our spare time at the piece of property we have among the vineyards not far from our house. S.O. has been pruning trees, and I have been digging up weeds and replacing them with flower bulbs, mostly lilies. But now the crocuses are blooming, and some are even on the way out.

Spring in Central Europe

For me, keeping up with the translation and the revisions in hard copy of A Wasted Land take precedence over writing blog posts. Which is why I haven’t shown up here in my home in Cyberspace for a while. Despite the gardening, I do continue to move forward with the most important stuff. And as I mentioned last week, with some prodding from a Goodreads reader, I finally uploaded Shadow of Stone to other venues besides Amazon. I am happy to announce that it is now available:

On Barnes and Noble

On Kobo

On the iTunes store.

With that out of the way, I can get on to the real business of the day — or rather yesterday, since I’m a day late: WIPpet Wednesday (Thursday)! My math today for 3/13 goes like this: 3 + 1 + 3 = 7 paragraphs from A Wasted Land:

Kustennin nodded. “I should lead the scouting party.” He glanced briefly at his mother, almost embarrassed at what he was about to say. Normally, Kustennin was reluctant to use the powers he had inherited from Yseult of Eriu, but at the same time, he was well aware that they could be a powerful ally. He knew his hesitation was far from logical. In the end, it came down to one thing: his image of himself as a warrior, not a magician.
“I have some of my mother’s powers of changing,” Kustennin added “I could cloak a small party in illusion, if necessary.”
Taliesin looked up from the plate of cheese and bread he had been devoting himself to. “And I have the ability to help you. We could travel to Venta as a group of traveling minstrels.”
“Wouldn’t that be dangerous?” Celemon asked. “What if one of you were recognized?”
The bard shrugged. “It would be less dangerous for a troupe of players in Cerdic’s territories than for a band of enemy warriors, I’d wager.”
“Who said anything about going to Venta as minstrels?” Kustennin tried to repress the frown he could feel lurking in the muscles of his forehead, but he wasn’t sure if he was successful.
Taliesin clapped him on the back. “Why I did, my liege!”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂

Excuses department: getting rid of tomatoes

I continue to be behind on just about everything, and this time the big excuse was the final harvest in the garden. On the weekend, we finally pulled out the tomato plants and brought whatever fruit was still on them home with us. And it was way more than I would have thought possible:

The last tomatoes

The last tomatoes

And this, mind you, in the middle of November in Germany! The temperatures have dropped quite a bit since, so it’s a good thing we pulled them when we did.

That means, however, that I have been spending more time cooking and canning than writing. Perhaps I should throw my hands in the air and the tomatoes in the garbage, but there’s something in me that finds that very hard to do. So instead, I made two batches of BBQ sauce from scratch, mild and hot, tomato chutney from both read and green tomatoes, dried tomatoes in olive oil, and pickled green tomatoes. Here’s the finished product(s):

Getting rid of tomatoes

As a result, I missed WIPpet Wednesday, but to make up, I’ll give you an excerpt on Thursday instead. (Ha! You’re not going to get out of it!) This snippet for 11/14 is 14 sentences from the 11th section (as now organized in Scrivener). Kustennin has gone looking for Celemon and found her in the headquarters building, where she is contemplating the Pendragon standards:

“Look at it,” Celemon said. “What is it really, other than a wide expanse of purple cloth?”
Kustennin joined her in front of the alcove, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “It’s a symbol — of Britain, of solidarity, of the things that make it worth it for us to stand together, even now, when Rome as our grandfathers knew it is no more.”
“But is it really worth all the death we have suffered?”
“This piece of cloth is not what caused all the death. It was the enemies who attacked our homes, killed our friends and relatives, and threatened to destroy our way of life.”
“Sometimes I wonder if death is not too high a price to pay for a way of life — or a piece of cloth. What good is a way of life if you are not there to live it?”
Kustennin could hardly believe he was hearing these words from Celemon, daughter of Cai, the man next to Bedwyr who had been Arthur’s most faithful companion, who had fought all his life for the idea Celemon was now calling into question.
The idea Cai had died for.
“You cannot mean that.”
She faced him. “Why not, Kustennin? Why not? How much is an idea really worth?”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂

A day off — and other things that cut into writing time

Yesterday, we had over 20 C weather in southern Germany, that’s about 70 F. I have translating and writing to do, formatting and editing, and I really need to finish a novel I’m beta reading for a fellow writer. So what did I do?

Had a spontaneous barbeque party in the garden!

The garden in October

The garden in October

We harvested tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins, and I cut back the tomato plants that were starting to develop blight. But there are still an amazing number that are continuing to produce, even if they don’t taste quite as much like summer as they used to.

The garden in October

The garden in October

The garden in October

The girls chased the cat and rolled down the hill, and a wonderful time was had by all. I think it’s referred to as “filling the well.”

The garden in October

The garden in October

The garden in October

Here’s something else that eats into writing time, but I can’t give it up: *g*

Yummy time sinks

I did get a fair amount of translating done this week, less writing, unfortunately. Although I did do another editing pass on Island of Glass and got it off to another beta reader.

I continue to experiment with Pomodoro and a couple of other productivity techniques. Seems to be helping with my tendency to “fritter” but even so, it still feels like there are never enough hours in a day!

For the rest of the month, I will concentrate on the translation so that I can concentrate more on writing during Nano. If anyone wants to be my buddy, my handle there is Specficrider.

So what did you guys do to fill the well this week? 🙂

On the joys of brainstorming and traveling

In the last few weeks, I’ve made very little progress on my fiction. As those of you who have been keeping up with my blog know, I was in Iceland for almost a week, and in the US traveling and visiting family for over two weeks. When I left, I’d been thinking I might be able to find time in the evenings to write, but that didn’t happen often. During our trip, I got a whopping 1100 new words written on A Wasted Land. Most of what I was writing consisted of travel reports about our Iceland trip. (If you haven’t read those those yet and are curious, the first one is here.)

I don’t feel too guilty, though. Other people take vacations; I figure writers can too. Besides, I was filling the well. I’m sure I will write something set in Iceland someday. I love to travel, and I have often used the cool places I’ve been as settings in my short stories and novels. (Egypt, Ireland, Venice, France, Cambodia, Taiwan, to name just a few …)

Since we got back, I’ve only gotten another 500 words written of Kustennin’s story, but I’ve also been brainstorming the next book in the Glassmakers Trilogy. The reason for switching projects was my niece. She was my first reader for Island of Glass, and she loved it. We were talking about it off and on while I was visiting, so those characters and that storyline were more present in my creative brain when I returned to Germany. For the most part, I’m a fairly disciplined writer, and I usually finish what I start. At the same time, however, I do believe in following where the muse leads, as long as she isn’t dragging me down completely useless and uncharted paths. And since brainstorming the rest of the novellas for the Glassmakers Series is on my shortlist of things to do, I gave her leave, sat down with plain old paper notebook and pen, and got started.

And my, has it been fun!

To be perfectly honest, I usually love the brainstorming phase of writing. At that point, when ideas are flowing and the actual writing of the thing hasn’t yet forced me to face my own limitations, the story feels like it can be anything. Pieces start falling into place, and I have one epiphany after the next. Oh, yes, that will be perfect! Of course, that’s how I have to do it! Because at this point, before I start trying to write the scenes, descending from the big picture to the nitty-gritty, I haven’t yet discovered the gaping plot holes my runaway imagination has left out; I haven’t had to find yet another interesting way of decorating a setting to keep the damn thing from suffering from white room syndrome; I haven’t yet discovered that my characters are going to be a bit stubborn about the brilliant plot I have in mind for them; and it hasn’t even occurred to me yet how many others have already come up with the same ideas I had.

The story is still a big, shiny ball of Potential.

What got this particular ball rolling so nicely was one of the things my niece suggested. Island of Glass uses several of the motifs of Cinderella: for example, Chiara, a glassmaker of Murano, makes a pair of glass slippers to give to a Prince of Venice. My niece suggested that with the other books, rather than sticking with the Cinderella theme, I use different fairy tales for each installment. So I started listing a bunch of fairy tales on one page and what I was thinking should happen in the next novella on the other. Pretty soon, I had fixed on Snow White as the underlying fairy tale for Facets of Glass, which started giving me all kinds of details I had not yet come up with. When I realized that the climax would have to be the destruction of the magic looking glass, then I also had the title for the third book in the series, Shards of Glass. And so on and so on …

On a more mundane note, I have also been harvesting. When we left, we had a grand total of ONE tomato from our garden, that’s how bad the weather was in May and June. This is what our tomatoes looked like when we got back:

The garden greets us

And this is what we harvested:


I still need to make a big pot of tomato sauce to freeze, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

To end on a writing note, what phase of writing do you like best?

Progress on various books and an interview with me

The weather was finally nice again for a change yesterday, so I took the day off and spent it in the garden. Everything’s a bit late this year, since winter went on forever, but right now, the tulips are blooming like crazy.

First tulips

I don’t think I’ve been doing enough “replenishing” lately — need to spend more time in the garden, appreciate all the work I’ve put into it over the years.

On the writing work front, I’m moving forward with the science fiction collection with Jay Lake and sent him a copy of the ebook today. Here’s the latest version of the cover, btw:

What do you guys think, any better?

My hubby has gone through the PDF of Yseult for Createspace, but I haven’t had a chance to address his comments yet. I will be very glad to get this stuff out of the house and spend some more time on writing again!

Finally, Lorna Suzuki did a nice interview with me on her blog. Check it out if you’re so inclined!

Wishing everyone a great week with lots of words and no frustration. 🙂

By popular demand: How to create the essence of tomato (tomato consomme)

This is not going to be a precise recipe, since I don’t have one. A friend told me how to do this, and his instructions were vague. I googled, but nothing I found gave me a recipe the way I wanted it, neither in English nor German. So I just gave it a shot.

First off, you need a personal tomato plantation.


Barring that, you need a lot of tomatoes. Very ripe, sweet, juicy tomatoes. I doubt if store-bought would work, but maybe farmers market.


Ok, maybe not that many tomatoes.


These are the leftover tomatoes from the first batch I made, so not that many either. But you get the idea.

Next step, wash half a sinkful of tomatoes, enough to fill the biggest pot you have. Cut them in half and throw them in the big pot with perhaps an inch of water and some salt. If the tomatoes are ripe enough, they will create their own juice — and that’s the point! Turn the heat on low and allow them to come to a boil. When the tomatoes are soft and the skins can easily be removed, turn the heat off and let the tomatoes cool.

In my experience, at this point I need a second pot, because the tomatoes are so soupy by now I will never be able to siphon off the clear liquid. Transfer the solids (including whatever liquid comes along) to the second pot and stack them up to one side. Leave these stewed tomatoes to sit for a couple of hours.

Stewed tomatoes

(The liquid left in the first pot could theoretically also be siphoned off with cheesecloth, but that’s too much waste for me. I prefer to run it through a sieve and boil it down to a thick tomato sauce.)

Anyway, back to the solids. When you check these out again, you will see that on the empty side of the pot, a clear liquid that looks almost like water has risen to the surface. Carefully skim this liquid off and transfer it to another pot, sending it through a strainer first. This is where the patience become necessary. The longer you let them sit, the more of this nearly clear liquid the tomatoes will secrete. I tend to keep going back to this during the course of a day or two. The “tomato water” that I end up with still isn’t perfect though, so I then strain that through a paper towel. I’m sure cheesecloth would work just as well, if not better, but that’s not readily available in any of the stores I frequent.

Getting rid of the red stuff

Once the liquid has gone through the paper towel or the cheesecloth (I usually have to do it several times because the filter clogs up), you will have something that looks only a shade darker than water.

Tomato consomme

This I now boil down to perhaps a fourth of the original amount. When it’s done, it will be an amazing golden color, and will taste like the most intense tomato experience you’ve ever had. I don’t add anything other than salt. I boiled it with a garlic clove once, and it tasted wonderful, but if you want garlic, you can always add that later.

Tomato consomme

I freeze this as a basis for winter soups, a wonderful reminder of summer. My family really likes the tomato consomme with dumplings made of cream cheese and fresh basil. I also freeze the stewed tomatoes and the tomato sauce, and for years now, it’s been enough to tide us through the winter. I can’t remember the last time I bought canned tomatoes, but I do remember that when I did, they tasted wrong to me.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the taste of that liquid essence of tomato is amazing. 🙂

Of revisions, translations, gardening, and this elusive summer

Oh, dear, I’ve been horribly lax about my blog lately. But that has a couple of reasons:

1) Big translation project

2) The weather has finally turned better here in Central Europe

At the moment, #2 is probably the most important. We have a “garden” about a 25 minute walk away from our apartment, a plot of land in the vineyards between Bad Cannstatt, Fellbach, and UntertĂĽrkheim with seventeen apple trees, as well as pear, cherry, quince and plums. (A recent storm did a lot of damage, but that’s a subject for another post, and besides, I don’t have the pictures up on Flickr yet.) It’s our little piece of paradise in the middle of the city.

The Garden

It’s also a lot of work. But with the recent ongoing rain, we haven’t had a chance to do any normal maintenance. So the other day we were finally out again, admiring all the weeds that sprouted up while it was raining for weeks on end. And the roses are getting spots and the tomatoes are developing blight. It’s enough to make a gal throw up her hands in defeat and get back to writing.

Well, I did a little of both, gardening and writing. The last couple of days in the garden, I’ve had my eeePC with me, and I’m now once through Beyond the Waters of the World, the next novella in the world of Looking Through Lace. Not completely done: I’m still missing two scenes I noted during the rewrite that I want to add in. I’d intended to be done by this past weekend, but revisions were a lot more substantial than I thought they’d be. (Duh.)

And then there was translating and Summer! Finally! (When summer is so rare, I think it’s a perfectly good excuse to temporarily fall behind in writing goals. We all need our vitamin D, after all.)