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Bronwen Chisholm

The Holidays Are a Week Ahead of Me

I don’t know when it started really. Perhaps it was Mom, but I don’t remember it being setting in stone. No, it was probably me. At some point in time, I looked at my holiday calendar, pointed a finger at Black Friday and the Saturday following Thanksgiving, and said “There, that is when we will decorate for Christmas and bake Lead Cake.” (I realize now it wasn’t Mom, because my sister’s birthday is December 12 and, if I remember correctly, decorating for Christmas was part of her celebration process.)

Now that that is clear, you are probably saying to yourself, “What is Lead Cake?” or “Why do I care?”

Well, I will address the cake in a minute, but it suddenly hit me that I am behind schedule. Thanksgiving was a week ago, but there is no tree in my living room or lights outside my house; and I’m strangely okay with that. My daughter and I walked around the neighborhood the other night, and I discovered I am not alone. Even the crazy house around the corner that goes all out each year is only half decorated. They haven’t even put the countdown clock in the yard yet.

In what should add to my strangely non-existent stress, I keep thinking it is next week. Next week begins the crazed race for January. That is the only way I can describe it. In the last few weeks leading up to the New Year, I will attempt to attend multiple holiday parties, Jane Austen’s birthday celebration in DC, a dance recital, and at least two theatre productions, while picking my son up from the airport and trying to figure out how to get to Pennsylvania and maybe Maryland for a day or two. Oh, and returning my son to the airport on New Year’s Day at 8:30 in the morning.

So, why am I unstressed? For the last few months, I have felt like I was running on a hamster wheel. My husband has a non-profit organization which holds a teen summit the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year. This all started a few years ago when I pointed out that our son was going to college and he (my husband) needed a hobby to replace the time he normally spent with Nick. He prayed on it, and found himself presented with a mentoring plan for teens. No one in our family was surprised by this, and we are all busting with pride over what he has accomplished in such a short time; but if you remember, this was to be a hobby for him. Well, I am his administrative assistant.

The week after the summit was one of rest, for the most part. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family (at their house), and drove our son halfway back to college (he had a ride for the remainder of the trip). And then The Conversation began. The Conversation is one that is repeated in our house many times throughout the year. It begins like this, “You do too much.” The difference is, this time my husband declared that he was taking away some of my responsibilities. I will be honest, I felt hurt and insulted when he said this. I wanted to say, “But you can’t do them the way I do them.” I know he was trying to free up my time, take away my excuses, so I could focus on my writing and (the part I hate) marketing. And, I’ll be completely honest here, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I support him in his dream, but it is just that, his dream.

I was still a little sore the next morning when our pastor threw the knock down punch. During his sermon, he took everything my husband had been saying and put a different spin on it. It still meant the same thing, but it drove the message home in a way poor Rob never would have been able to do. I had become distracted from my dreams and the plans that God had laid before me. I had gotten so buried in the details, that I had forgotten the bigger picture.

So, tomorrow is December and my house is partially clean and undecorated. Okay. This weekend I am pleased to say that I have one show to see and that is all. Saturday my home will be filled with Christmas carols, or the sound of Hallmark Christmas movies, and the smell of Lead Cake. Yes, the Lead Cake.

Lead Cake is a Chisholm family tradition. It probably doesn’t sound appetizing; it is right up there with Grandma Chisholm’s Rock Cookies. Lead Cake is also called Poor Man’s Fruit Cake. It has walnuts (I mix black and English) and raisins and it weighs a ton, but it is a perfect breakfast bread. Our kids can tell you, Santa gives better gifts if you leave Lead Cake instead of cookies. The recipe calls for over four cups of flour (yes, over four), which explains the weight. The reason we make it Thanksgiving weekend is because it has to sit for a couple weeks for the moisture from the raisins to permeate through the whole cake. One batch makes three large loaf pans or four smaller pans.

A few years ago, I started giving them out to friends; so I make several batches. It takes about the same amount of time as decorating and I normally try to do it at the same time. When I struggle to stir the batter, because it is thick and gets thicker as it cools, I just remember that Chisholm women have been doing this for generations. It is a time of communion with my ancestors, reconnecting with my roots, and remembering my dreams. This year, I am looking forward to that time more than I have in the past.

So, why am I unstressed? I am remembering that the reason I decorate and bake and run around like a crazy person is not to meet deadlines or check another item off my list. It is to celebrate all the gifts God has given us and get lost in the wonderment of this beautiful season. So, I hope to get my decorating done this weekend, but if not, so be it. I plan to bake enough Lead Cake for my family and, if I have enough time and feel like doing it, I will make some for gifts. If not, there are other days to do it, and this would not be the first Christmas without Lead Cake. (That’s how the kids know about Santa’s preference.) I have spent the last few months letting my distractions run my life, but their reign has ended. I am taking back my life and finishing this year the way I want it to end. How are you ending the year?

Recipe for Lead Cake in the comments, if anyone is curious.

(So, as you noticed, this was posted a day or two late. Blame technical difficulties. I am happy to report the tree is up with lights, but no decorations yet. The ingredients for the Lead Cake are on the counter, but I need to get some sugar. And my husband made an appointment to get the dog groomed at about the same time he has to leave for work. Nothing ever goes as planned, but that’s okay. If I don’t post before then, I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday-of-your-choice.)

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To Blog Or Not To Blog, That Is the Question! (AKA Becoming an Author)

I have been writing for over ten years, the last six years with a goal to publish; and self-publishing the last three years. Since I first began attending writing conventions, shows, and master classes, I have heard that I need to blog, but I fought against it. “What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear?” “I write fiction, not non-fiction. I’m not a fount of knowledge that people would be interested in reading.” “There are plenty of other Regency era or JAFF writers doing blogs about that era who are far more knowledgeable than me.”

Cut to the past week or two. I have been sick. Not life threatening, put your life in order, sick; just migraines and a sinus infection. Just enough to make me stop moving long enough to have long discussions with my husband about our plans for the next five, ten, fifteen years. You see, there is an age gap between my husband and me of eight years, putting him close enough to retirement age that he is ready to start getting detailed about it. When you are younger, you think about the amount of money you are going to need or where you will live. The closer you get, you start thinking about the trips you want to take or the things you want to do.

Right now, you are probably asking what does this have to do with blogging. Well, though I have been more successful with my books than I thought I would be, Rob (my husband) has always known it could go much further than my limited vision. And one way to get it there is blogging. I have come to a better understanding of blogging over the last month. It is not about what I can share that will provide something new that a reader might not have known. It is about making a connection. It is about showing my readers that I am a person they can relate to and, by the way, I write and you might enjoy my stories.

So, what’s the plan? Well, it has been pointed out to me (in a highly sarcastic and smack-yourself-in-the-head manner) that there are things I experience or have experienced that might connect with people. That said, I do not see myself as a great proficient (such as Lady Catherine de Burgh) in any subject to sustain a weekly blog. I have decided to start small and build. As the holidays are approaching, you should expect a blog a month, but after the new year, it might increase to every two weeks. Who knows, I might surprise myself and end up doing this weekly, but I’m not making any promises just yet.

As I said when I started, I have been writing for over ten years. I’ve finally decided to begin my journey of becoming an author. I hope you will come along for the ride.

(And, after writing this more than weeks ago, I finally got my blog page set. Because of that, I will actually be posting twice today.)

Now Available for Pre-Sale!!

The Kindle version can now be ordered on Pre-Sale, to be delivered on Friday, September 15! Just in time for the weekend!

Coming soon …

A Beneficial, If Unwilling, Compromise

Many of you are already aware that I am working on another Pride and Prejudice variation. It appears this will be a novella, but that might change. At this point, you can read the first eight chapters on either beyondausten.com or austenunderground.com. I should be ready to publish by the beginning of August. Watch for more details here or on my Facebook page. I am currently posting two chapters per week on Tuesdays. I hope you enjoy it and I love getting feedback. Here is the blurb:

When Mrs. Bennet discovers all her worse nightmares are about to come true, she does not react the way her family expects. Instead the normally silly woman takes matters into her own hands and gives marching orders to her daughters. Will they follow them to the letter? Will any of them find their happy ending? Just remember, the secret to a long lasting relationship is compromise.

Austenesque Review

Hey everyone, I’m sorry I didn’t post this sooner, but I had a computer glitch. Georgiana Darcy was reviewed on Austenesque Reviews. Here is the link. There was a giveaway and we had two winners, Vesper and Daniela. Congratulations to you both!

Frustrations from an absent-minded writer

For years I have been recording ideas with the intention of writing them down and possibly expanding upon them. I finally began doing this last month as my phone, where some of the recordings were housed, showed signs of dying. Less than a week after deleting the last recording, it died. I praised God for setting a fire under my butt (a.k.a. procrastinating from working on other writing projects).

A short time later, I was at a meeting where we discussed publishing an anthology. I have never participated in an anthology because I find it difficult to limit myself to 7500 words/15 pages. However, this group is small and it will take every member’s participation to create a reasonable size collection. A suggestion was made that it be holiday themed and an idea came to mind. One of the stories I had just taken off the recordings would work as a Halloween story. Perfect! Now I just had to keep myself from getting too wordy.

Here’s where the frustration enters. I went searching for the story. First, I checked the stories I had typed up. If I was lucky, it was among the ones already on the computer and I would have a head start. Not there. Darn. Okay, well then it must be in a notebook. Now, here comes the problem. I have a tendency to write in whatever notebook is handy. There was a time I was really good and put specific ideas in specific notebooks. Those days faded away a while ago. So I grab the most resent notebook and begin looking. Not there. Well then, it must be in the one that I sometimes have with me. Nope.

At this point, I have no other notebooks with me, but really want to begin working on this project. I know where the story that I had already written began and decide that it needs some back story. So I spend the afternoon writing and get to the point where I now need to find my notes. No sense rewriting what you’ve already written unless you’re editing it, right?

Now I’m beginning to feel a bit panicked. I gather every notebook I can find, including one that has been full for several months, and carry them with me to work. Nothing in the first one. Pulse rate increases. Go back to look at the ones I had already checked. Nope, still not there. Begin to tap fingers. Opened notebook that is completely full, knowing deep in my heart that it isn’t there, and find that I was right.

What to do now? Write it again obviously. Or procrastinate. Since I feel compelled to pick up the same four or five notebooks over and over, I begin transferring some of the stories to the computer. Now I want to continue those ideas. Focus! Still can’t find it. (Of course that was obvious since I haven’t really looked anywhere new as I have no idea where else it could be.)

Finally, I sit down, suck it up, and just write it all over again. Ended at 7471 words, 16 pages. Pretty pleased with the outcome. Well, I hit one of the goals. Now, I’m counting the days until I find the original.

 

P.S. Waking this morning with a clear mind, I began to realize that much of what I had written in the original may not have worked as well. Had I simply cut and paste the original, it may not have flowed as it should. It’s His finger in the small things that amazes me. Thank you again, God, for keeping me from falling over myself.

Book Signing Tomorrow

One more day until the book signing at Wilderness Library. I hope anyone in the area will take a few minutes to stop by and say Hi. I will be there with several other members of Virginia Lake Authors and Riverside Writers.

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We have something for everyone: mystery, history, poetry, sci fi, Christian fiction, women’s fiction. Come do your Christmas shopping and pick up something for yourself.

Book Signing Dates

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I must apologize–life has been a bit hectic this fall and I have not been updating. I have begun a series of book signings, the first was on Saturday, October 29, for the Culpeper Library Local Authors Extravaganza. It was such a treat to be part of this wonderful, eclectic group.

The next event is coming up on Friday, November 18 at Wilderness Friends of the Library Local Author Event located at 6421 Flat Run Road, Locust Grove, VA, from 1:00 to 4:00. I will have copies of all four books with me at a reduced price from online sales.

That is all that is scheduled for this year at this time, but after the holidays I will be starting again. So far I have scheduled 5 more signings from 1:00 to 3:00 at the Rappahannock Regional Library:

Salem Church Branch on January 28, 2017

Headquarters Branch on February 4, 2017

England Run Branch on March 4, 2017

Porter Branch on April 8, 2017

Snow Branch on April 22

 

I can’t wait to meet any of you who are in the area. See you there!

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