the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

Five Things I Love Right Now

Please, don’t tell me that it’s the end of summer. It’s 80+ degrees Fahrenheit outside; there are still plenty of tomatoes on the bushes; and I don’t WANT it to be Fall just yet. I haven’t even driven to the lake this year.

So, no matter that the nice people at Starbucks have already loosed the gates of Fall with their Pumpkin Spiced Latte (PSL to you SB aficionados, you know who you are, Alyson!), I am not going for it until I’m good and ready. (And, YES, that’s me you hear humming LA-LA-LA loudly with my fingers in my ears. I just don’t want to hear it.)

1. Tomatoes

A juicy tomato in situ

The thing I love most about this time of year is the tomato TREES growing on my neighbor’s deck. My mother and I bartered with said neighbor to park our tomato planters on her deck next to her handy water spigot. (She named each plant because, hey, they are on her deck.)

Now they are tall and producing more tomatoes than any one family can eat, so my mother goes up and down our street to share them with neighbors.

Luckily, my sister just shared this great Lebanese recipe for tomato, onion and mint salad.

Here’s her recipe in her own words:


Tomato Mint Salad from Shauna St Clair

I usually cut the tomatoes into wedges or chunks depending in the size of the tomatoes.

I cut the onion in half and then slice it very thin, so it makes half-moon shaped slivers. Red or yellow onion, it doesn’t matter. I slice the mint into very fine ribbons.

I drizzle EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) over the salad and salt well, so the onion and mint flavor the oil.

The proportion is more tomatoes than anything else.

Let the salad sit for a few minutes at room temperature and then DIG IN. If you have any left, you can store it in the refrigerator and eat it the next day, too.

2. Stephen West’s Penguono (think penguin wearing a kimono)

I love this picture and Stephen West (the guy in the middle) because he’s outrageous with color and is a genius with design. I firmly believe that he has no FEAR. I wish I was as fearless myself, but I’ll keep this picture up on the bulletin board above my desk to DARE me to be more like this guy.

Here’s a better look at the kimono shape of the garment, and the pattern is written so that you can use a bunch of your knitting stash (that extra yarn that we knitters buy just because it’s pretty—or on sale.)

Here’s a link to his designer page on Ravelry where all us fiber types hang out.

I always think that if I wasn’t a writer, I would like to be a knitwear designer. They inspire me so much.

3. Ring Row Counter from Knitters Pride

When the original ring came out in black, I bought one because I thought it was such a cool idea. I liked how easy it was to move the bands backward and forward when I was keeping track of rows.

But when THIS rainbow version came out, I wanted it because of the BLING! It’s pretty, so I just wear it on my thumb as if it belongs there even when I’m not knitting.

I got mine at Jimmy Beans Wool.

4. Ugly Sweater Ornaments II Kit

I don’t have any actual ugly sweaters that I can wear during the holidays, but I am getting the biggest kick out of these tiny sweater ornaments. I bought the kit with pattern and yarn and handy see-through case at the Herschnerr’s because I thought they might make fun decorations for the tree.

What I found out is that they are ADDICTIVE! Originally, I thought that I would send them out to family and friends for their tree décor, only now I’m lusting after them myself. I think they would make a great garland all hung up in a row on my mantel.

So, win-win. They are fun to knit and embroider. (It’s a simple duplicate stitch on the front, so no serious Fair Isle knitting is involved.) Herschnerr’s also has some ugly stockings ornaments, but I haven’t started working on those yet.

And can I say, PLEASE Herschnerr’s bring back the Ugly Sweater Ornaments Kit I. I NEED MORE ORNAMENTS to knit!

If they haven’t sold out, you can get your kit here.

5. Lion Brand Rewind Yarn

In keeping with my theme of knitting stuff, I am in LOVE with Rewind yarn from Lion Brand. It’s a tape yarn (just what it sounds like—flat like a ribbon) that’s made out of polyester, so it’s perfect for purses and bags. It doesn’t stretch and it’s sturdy.

I especially love the patterns dreamed up by Two of Wands. Designer Alexandra Tavel has a knack for coming up with bags that I know my girlfriends will adore. And the best thing about being a crafter is that I can provide my non-crafter friends with one-of-a-kind knit and crochet bags.

I live for those moments when my girlfriends tell me that their co-workers were asking WHERE they could get a bag like that. I giggle because they can’t. Unless they want to crochet it themselves. Here’s an example of a Two of Wands bag that I crocheted for a friend last year.

The Last Word

I do have one writing tip this week. Start some “self-editing for repetition” as my editor, Chris Roerden, calls it. Make an ongoing list of all the words you use over and over again in your writing. No, I do not mean prepositions or “is.”

What I’m taking aim at are all the words that have become your favorites and tend to be writing crutches. Chris marked 12 of them for me in my original manuscript for Death and the Motherlode including the following (the number indicates how many times I used the word or phrase in my 81,000-word first draft):

• In fact (22)

• While (30 times to start a sentence)

• After (51 times to start a sentence)

• Of course (51 times)

• And then (61 times)

• Turn-ed,-ing (144 times)

• Just (337 times)

• Look-ed (356)

• Could (367)

• Had (656

• It (862—214 to start a sentence)

• Was ___-ing (more than 1,800)

Make your own list because your writing will be so much better WITHOUT them. Trust Chris. She knows what she’s talking about.

Oh, and buy her Book for yourself and one for all your writing friends. (The HOLIDAYS are coming.)

Chris has TWO books, but they have the same content. One is geared specifically toward mystery writers like me. But, both books explain writing issues that I have never read about before and stuff they didn’t teach me in my Master’s degree program in English.

You can also order them from an indy bookstore: Women and Children First

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