Growing up in San Jose, California, I ate a bumper haul of fruits and veggies. Most came from my own backyard, that third of an acre I miss SO much. (Fig trees, apricots, peaches, plums, zucchini, tomatoes, yellow squash, Swiss chard, green and lima beans and . . . artichokes!)
But what’s an artichoke? A thistle actually. A weed. But the ancients knew the good of it.
“The artichoke is mentioned as a garden plant in the 8th century BC by Homer and Hesiod,” according to Wiki. The prickly thistle quickly morphed into a cultivated must have. “The naturally occurring variant of the artichoke, the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), which is native to the Mediterranean area, also has records of use as a food among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Pliny the Elder mentioned growing of ‘carduus’ in Carthage and Cordoba.”
But that’s not all.
“”Artichoke tea” is produced as a commercial product in the Da Lat region of Vietnam.”
What? I. MUST. TRY. THIS. Why not? Artichoke tea could supplant my cultivated preference for mint—another wild thing if planted directly in the ground. Maybe it would be good for whatever seems to sap the iron right out of my bones. Forget blood.
Marylyn Monroe gave artichokes a plug when she accepted the newly minted title, Artichoke Queen back in 1948. The blonde icon was not the first pick of Castroville farmers. (Much like artichokes may not be your first pick.) But Marilyn, aged 22, was available and eager to be known. Getting the word out does wonders for a career, and the dinner table. You can’t eat what you don’t know exists. But now Castroville touts itself as the artichoke capital of the world. And Marilyn Monroe is far from forgotten.
(I could make some writing metaphor here, but won’t. If you’re reading this, you’re able to make the connection between trying new things and the writing/reading life.)
Perspective goes a long way in determining the value ofsomething. Two of my three kiddos loathe artichokes so I channel my mom and offer to eat theirs—isn’t that big of me?? Forget that I’m steaming veg I know they’ll prefer to pass off. I’m only making up for past neglect. I missed out as a kid.
Maybe it was the drab gray-green color that made artichoke hearts unappealing. Maybe it was having to work past the prickles guarding it. (Metaphors, people ;^) But I revolted at eating the “best part” as a kid. The heart. What a dummy.
My mother knew. She tried to tell me, but experience is often the better teacher.
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Pitches are open until 8:00 PM EST. And if you miss today, no worries. Get on that manuscript and get prepped for the next session.
No, my husband is not Jim Carrey. He doesn’t have a shaggy, lime-green Grinch suit, but his insistence on taking away my Christmas comforts—all year comfort—has me cranky. Grinchy. In the mood to grouse, gripe, suspect everything, inspect and find shortcomings where none exist.
The man STOLE my mattress. You know when anyone says they just want to go home, they’re really talking about their bed. That’s their bed. Not some foreign thing that feels different, smells different, sleeps different—you get the idea.
But now, my pillow topped lovely bought at a Monkey Ward’s super sale—if you remember Montgomery Ward’s brick-and-mortar stores we should talk—is tossed out. Donated. (To whom I have no idea. Who would take a 27 year old mattress?)
The springy wonder where I bounced my babies and found countless hours of blessed end-of-the-day comfort is gone. Gone with the dust mites that likely called it home, too, but I’m a sharing person. No more pulling up the covers on old faithful and shinnying down to shut the world out for any of us.
Enter the Boll & Branch mattress. Hand-made. Organic cotton? There’s something like that in there. Endless layers of unknown substances—I don’t want to know—will now serve where my pillow top did just fine. Although their idea of California King doesn’t quite match the California Kings of old. Could be there are new sheets in the offing. It’s a conspiracy!!
My husband is buzzing with excitement. I should be too, right? You have to buy new sometime. And after nearly three decades of use, it was time. So why do I feel so bad? Resentful? Frustrated that my bed’s gone?
It’s not like I don’t have a place to sleep. I do. And it’s supposed to be fantastic. (It probably will be after the separation anxiety wears off. And here I thought I was a low maintenance person. LoL.)
First world problems are the worst. Reason being you feel like an idiot on top of having whatever issue you’re letting ruin your day—typically a non-issue. Sometimes you’re upset about something that should—and will—make you very happy.
That’s what I’m doing. Making something out of nothing. It’s just a mattress. It’s. A. NEW. Mattress. Time to own my inner Grinch and then let him go. I’ll sleep better.
Do the holidays have you concerned about potential genre judgment–reading or writing–at upcoming family gatherings? No worries. Prep yourself with the wise words of talented Traci Kenworth, guest blogger on The Story Reading Ape.
I write contemporary inspy romantic suspense, but I LOVE history. My first writing attempts—discounting my eight year old horror retelling of The Blob—were historical. Medieval, Puritan, Colonial American. You name it. I’ve tried it.
And I still dig those eras and will absolutely use the source material crammed in my front room library to produce fun stuff.
I’m reeling from the discovery—the identification—of Pontius Pilate’s ring. That’s right. Pontius Pilate, the infamous biblical era handwasher who asks what truth is while staring Truth in the face, lost his ring. Maybe not during his lifetime, but we don’t take material goods with us when wedepart this phase of existence.
So that means plenty of fun stuff to discover for the rest of us who are still earthbound. (Who wants to go on a dig in Israel? Egypt? A search for dino remains in Montana does it for me, too.)
But history takes time. In the case of Pontius Pilate’s ring, it took an additional 50 years to identify the bronze piece originally unearthed following the Six-Day War, “at the site of Herodion near the West Bank’s Bethlehem.”
Gideon Forster, a professor from theHebrew University of Jerusalem, located the relic.
“The famous name on it (the ring) was discerned after a thorough cleansing, when it was photographed with the use of a special camera at the Israel Antiquities Authority labs,” according to Haaretz. “The inscription on what was apparently a stamping ring included a picture of a wine vessel surrounded by Greek writing translated as saying “Pilatus.’”
Let your minds wrap around that one for a while. I’m already zinging with story leads. But the takeaway ? Watch where you put your rings the next time you wash your hands.
It may be drizzly outside. Snowing. You may be reeling from Black Friday blow back or tucking into Thanksgiving leftovers. But a sit-down with today’s guest, multi-published Fire Star Press romance author and dear friend Diana Tobin, is exactly what your weekend needs if forging ahead with a smile and success is what you’re into.
“Quiltmaker Claire Stone and her young daughter, Grace, are newcomers to the small town of Webster, Maine. Erasing the past is something Claire is determined to do, for divorcing her cruel ex-husband was the only solution to save herself and her daughter—and she’s never regretted it. But when she meets handsome Marc Baxter, the attraction is instant, and she begins to realize what she’s missed in life—someone to care for her…someone to care for.”
Who couldn’t relate to Claire’s dilemma? Small town dramas are anything but small and often the most moving as they strike close to home . . . and heart.
Di knows all about hearts. That’s what comes from meeting challenges and never surrendering. And while reading up is great, its Di’s penchant for passionate living that lends itself to the complex characters, compelling tension, and meaningful characters that keep readers turning pages.
Her quest for continued improvement has resulted in some fine quilts, too. And critical takeaways on what strong women—when faced with life’s lovelies—should do to create a better sense of self. Inside and outside the world of fiction.
So who is Diana Tobin?
I’m a grandmother, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, writer, and crafter. Yes, they’re listed in order of importance. Family is everything to me, whether it’s through blood or friendship. Career-wise I’ve been a banker, teacher’s aide, cake decorator, secretary, and published author. It’s that last one I’m most proud of. (I love that about Di.)
You write romance, but what is “your” message?
My message is this; with love, being honest with yourself and those you care about, you can accomplish most anything. Love can bring about miracles. It doesn’t cure everything and sometimes isn’t enough, especially if you’re the only one feeling it. But we all need that hope, that feeling, that someone, that knowledge that some being loves us.
This means you need to love yourself. Know you are worthy of what others give to you.
I write romance because I like happy endings. I thought I’d grow old with the love of my life in a place my children and future generations would want to come home to. That didn’t happen for me, mostly because the “love of my life” turned out to be something entirely different. I give my characters their happy ever after. Fortunately, for me, I have a wonderful daughter, son-in-law, and amazing grandchildren. And, with each book, I have a hero I can dream of. (And so do we, Di. Thank you. Lending hope and the example of happily ever after is an effective love that often supplies where others fail.)
How does family play a role in your work?
Family means a lot to me, which I’ve pretty much stated. We don’t always like who we’re related to, maybe we don’t even love them, but family is the foundation. We can choose to accept our foundation as our due, or punishment, depending. Or we can use it to learn from, appreciate what we have, and improve upon things.
I’ve used many family names in my series. My characters don’t reflect their namesakes as much as paying homage to those who came before me. Starting with my first published book KISSING COUSINS. The heroine is named Augusta, the name my mother grew up with.
Give us a quick rundown of your body of work.
My work is about ordinary people who are extremely lucky to find THE ONE for them. Sometimes I have to hit them over the head before they realize it, but they end up with that one that makes everything else worthwhile. I’ve seen relationships like the ones I write about, so I know they aren’t all fiction. That being said, I do incorporate things that have happened to me, or others, and expand on them. Many around me say or do something then look at me and ask, “Is that going to end up in a book?” My answer is always a smile (or is that smirk?) and reply, “It’s possible.”
Take us through your writing day, your process.
I consider myself an undisciplined writer, although I’m always thinking, and wondering, questioning even when my fingers aren’t on a keyboard. When I’m doing the actual writing, I have an idea where things will go, but often my characters don’t pay attention. Since it’s their story, I usually go where they lead. There are times I write until my body protests. At other times, I’m beating my head against the proverbial wall, hoping my fingers will make words magically appear.
In all fairness, these past 18 months have been more about absorbing the setting of my series. The scent of the air, how it really feels to be trapped in a blizzard, the joy of driving down a twisting road with trees hanging over it, seeing deer scamper through the woods. A squirrel peering through the window, begging for a treat. The sound of a snow plow going down the road in the dark.
What has Di’s Maine Men taught you about yourself?
I’ve learned I know more about the state of my birth than I thought, but I now have a greater appreciation for Maine. Mainers are a hardy breed; they have to be to endure winters that last toolong and a spring that zips into summer. Mainers are steeped in tradition; some good, some not so much. Westerners are also hardy. Think of those pioneers traveling across rivers, dry desert land, and over mountains. But I think westerners are more open to new ideas, or maybe we’re just crazy enough to try first and think about it later.
My daughter summed it up best. She said Oregon will always be my home (I’ve lived there the majority of my life), but Maine is my spirit animal.
What would you like other women to know/learn?
Women, especially my generation, were taught to take care of others before themselves. We need to move ourselves up the line. No Prima Donnas, no need to be self-centered, but we must realize we matter. What we think is important. I believe our daughters and granddaughters have a better handle on that. Let’s make sure they don’t lose their self-worth.
What’s next on your horizon? Include crafting adventures, daytrips, we want to know it all!
I assumed, incorrectly, quilting was only about the blankets to keep us warm. It’s that and more: table runners, bags, purses, wall hangings, whatever you can imagine. I’ve discovered I like to do hand applique.
I’ll continue sewing. Let me just add that quilters are among the most welcoming of people. Willing to share ideas, tips, even fabric.
(Di just learned how to make fresh wreaths today!)
My trips around the state will continue, as weather allows. I’ll never see enough, but will do my best until I return to my family in Oregon.
What would you recommend to new writers/established writers?
I’m going to recommend to writers what my hero, Nora Roberts,told me years ago: join Romance Writers of America. This group is an excellent source of learning and networking. Read, read, read, and then read some more. Read the genre you want to write for. Read other genres tokeep your brain stimulated. Write the story in you. Not what your friend saysto write, or your mother, or the man on the street. Be open to ideas, suggestions, but remember that you have to write what’s inside you. Listen to those voices in your head.
Where can reader’s best connect with you? Social media, etc.
So, hey, I just finished my NaNoWriMo challenge. Yeah! It’s done. The raw words are there. But the process of writing a book–an engaging, entertaining, cohesive body of work–has only begun. Snowbound Christmas Stalking is far from done, but that’s not my problem now.
Distancing myself from the word spew is the order of this day.
Getting my head into a happier space is what I have to do. And generally transitioning back into human form. This takes longer than a month.
A dear friend’s wise young daughter–a subject matter expert thanks to her nanny status and early exposure to her writer mom and me–has endured a month’s worth of throwing chocolate at the problem. Specifically, NaNoWriMo adherents who have, for nearly 30 days, run the gamut of psychosis in this attempt to produce a book in a month.
We NaNoWriMo-ers are a twitchy breed, tending toward moodiness if not outright drama. (No doubt that’s why my younger daughter Gwendolyn, best buddies with Nanny-Know, offered chocolate libations to the Beast on Black Friday. Sunday saw more of the same. Yum. FYI: I’m known as Beast to my kiddos in case anyone was wondering ;^)
But I’m into celebrating steps. Even crashes to the floor. That’s what can happen after NaNo is over. What to do? What to write? All that excitement, pressure, all that support, all the hormones–poof–gone.
It’s post partum at its finest. And when you pull back that receiving blanket, the sight isn’t always squee worthy.
But that’s okay. Let yourself go. And if you fall, take heart. There’s nothing like a good face plant to give rise to rising from the ashes. And those around you will be glad to help if only to lure you back from dark places.