Welcome to Suzanne’s blog, Tuesday Café

Suzanne StenglAuthor Suzanne Stengl writes whimsical, heartwarming romance and cozy mysteries. When she needs a break from her keyboard, she swims lengths at the Y, skis at Sunshine Village and hikes in the Rockies. She’s also a pretty good line dancer . . . and a very poor euchre player.

Fourth Blogiversary

cupcake and four candles for the fourth blogiversaryI’ve been blogging weekly since March 5, 2011 and this is my 210th post. That’s four years of Tuesday Café blog posts.

My very first post was on a Saturday, but the second one was on a Tuesday. That’s why I started calling my blog Tuesday Café. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but I wanted a name—something other than “Suzanne’s Blog”—and there you have it.

Now I’ve decided I’m not going to be as structured. I’ll probably still blog weekly, but it doesn’t have to be on a Tuesday. And I’m renaming the blog, The Chimes Café—a name I got from a café in one of my Story Worlds.

Four years ago, I was only beginning this writing journey. I’ve learned a bit since then and I want to share some of that with you now.

Ten Things I’ve Learned Along The Way

1. Be committedjust type
It’s not gonna happen magically. There are no elves that sit down at my keyboard and do it while I sleep. I need to show up. Ninety percent of anything is showing up. We’ve all heard the “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration” rule. So set some kind of schedule and stick to it.

2. Be realistic
I can’t commit to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s hard to commit to 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. Some weeks it’s just not going to happen. But that’s no reason to throw in the towel. I will keep coming back, until the current book is done. And then I will start the next one.

3. Be prepared
I know for sure that writing “The End” is only the beginning. Then there’s the editing, the proofing, the formatting, the cover choices, the quest for reviews. All of it takes longer than you thought it would.

4. Stay hydrateddrink lots of water
Having water bottles in the middle of the hall reminds me to take sips all day long.

stay flexible5. Stay flexible
Do a cobra stretch every hour to avoid Hunched-Over-Keyboard Syndrome.

6. Treat yourself
Have a cupcake. Have a cupcake with a candle on it. Celebrate something. Every one thousand words needs a cupcake.delicious treats

7. Have a writing buddy
Report your word count daily. This does not have to be elaborate. Keep it simple. Something like this:

Subject line: report
Body of email: 129 words

long walks needed8. Go for long walks, alone
Give the muse a break.
Breathe in the fresh air.
If it’s raining, carry an umbrella.
If the sidewalks are icy where you live, go skiing.

9. Have funtry sky diving
Sure, writing is a business, but it needs to be fun if you’re going to stay in it for the long haul. If you don’t enjoy those long, lonely hours at the keyboard, do something else. Take up knitting, or learn French, or try skydiving.

Begin!10. Begin
It takes a long time to learn the Craft, and you’ll always be learning it. Part of the learning is the apprenticeship. You learn by doing.

Many writers think they need to read one more craft book, need to take one more course. But reading craft books does not equal writing. You’re already good enough. Start writing. Practice. It’s not set in stone. It can always be edited later.

Do you have any writing tips you’d like to pass along?
What do you think of The Chimes Café for a blog name?
Do you like cupcakes? With candles?
Do you let your candles burn all the way down to the icing?

Cupcake from iStockphoto.com #000012620129
keyboard from iStockphoto.com #000007155263
water bottle from iStockphoto.com #000007155263
yoga cobra from bigstockphoto.com #7947064
lots of cupcakes from photos.com #114302447
long walk from photos.com #137398544
skydiving from iStockphoto.com #000016403632
pen from iStockphoto.com #000014549265

Cuenca to Vilcabamba

For my blog post this week, I want to return to Ecuador. Last time, I told you about The Eleven Hour Bus Trip. Now it is time to leave Cuenca and go to Vilcabamba.

For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.

poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba

poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba

The bus ride from Cuenca to Vilcabamba was a little better because I got the front seat, right by the door to the driver’s cabin. There was a blue curtain across the door, but I kept pulling it back whenever people got on or off.
Besides the driver, there was one other ‘helper’ up there, and sometimes there were two helpers. Keeping my eyes on the horizon was good—I was not as nauseated. The helper seemed a little nervous about me being able to see him. I figured out that half the reason the bus wound so much was because the driver was avoiding potholes, like Hans Solo avoiding asteroids. At one point, one of the helpers moved the curtain over a bit more to block my view, but Rolf could still see the driver, who was eating fried chicken—with both hands—while one of the helpers was reaching across and steering.
This trip was only five hours long. There were no bathroom breaks and my bladder had lost all tone by the time we arrived in Loja. We had a bit of food at the bus station and waited for the connecting bus to Vilcabamba. This last leg of the journey only took an hour and a half.

breakfast in Vilcabamba

Suzanne and Rolf in Vilcabamba

Our hotel is owned and run by a French couple. Everything works and is ultra clean. We look out on a garden and there is a hammock on our porch. Breakfast is served on the table outside our door—juice, tea/coffee, egg, fruit salad and homemade multigrain bread.
 breakfast in VilcabambaI think I’m going to like it here . . .

A New Book, A New Mug

my new mugEvery time I write a new book, I get myself a new mug.

Each book will involve numerous cups of coffee or tea and it’s important to have the right mug to humour the Muse.

This is the current mug. I got it while I was visiting Ontario last October at a pottery place called Pinecroft.

The Muse also enjoys teatime at Pinecroft.
time for teaAnd walking around the grounds.
the grounds at PinecroftAdmiring the leaves is also very useful for inspiration.
autumn leavesKissing the frog has been known to help the Muse.
kissing the frogBut the surest way to inspire the Muse is tea with friends.
tea with friendsWith this new mug and all the inspiration attached to it, the new book should be out by October. Wish me luck!




Valentine’s Day Memories

Valentine's Day MemoriesI grew up in rural southwestern Ontario. Until the end of Grade 5, I went to school at Puddleford, otherwise known as S.S. #14 Howard—a one-room elementary school which taught all eight grades.

In early February, the Valentine’s Box sat on the teacher’s desk. The teacher covered a large cardboard box with red construction paper and decorated it with paper doily “lace” hearts. There was a slot on top to drop in the Valentines.

Tradition dictated that you give everyone a Valentine so no one was left out. Since the enrollment was only ever about 20 students, it did not mean a lot of Valentines were needed.

pink scissorsEvery February my mother bought a “book” of Valentines and my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time cutting out the little cards. The book came with pages of envelopes that also needed to be cut out along the dotted lines, folded, and glued with mucilage. mucilage glue bottle

We signed the cards, put them in the sometimes unevenly made envelopes, addressed them and brought them to school. Everyone stuffed their Valentines in the box. A couple of the older children sorted and distributed the cards.

That afternoon we brought home the Valentines we’d received and counted how many were the same. There were a lot of duplicates, since most of the Valentine books had been bought at the one general store in the nearby town.

Did you remember Valentine books in grade school? Were you able to make envelopes with nice square corners? Do you know what mucilage is?

Heart from bigstockphoto.com #39232588
Scissors from bigstockphoto.com #47364538
Mucilage from old craft box

Groundhogs and Chinooks

Hoary Marmot

hoary marmot

Yesterday was Groundhog Day. On February 2, the little guy wakes from his hibernation and ventures out of his burrow to check out the world. Legend tells us that if he sees his shadow, he is frightened and rushes back into his burrow to sleep for another six weeks. And it means we will have six more weeks of winter.

Yesterday, however, was cloudy and snowing and minus 15 Celsius, so there was no shadow for the groundhog to see.

Actually, in Calgary, we call them marmots. The groundhog is one of 14 species of marmots, the largest members of the squirrel family. While the groundhog is a lowland creature, the hoary marmot  lives in mountainous areas. In Calgary we tend to rely on the hoary marmot for the weather prediction.

Also yesterday, on Groundhog Day, my son and his wife were waiting out a blizzard at the airport in Kamloops, BC. One plane had circled the airport for a time, and then had to go back to Vancouver. Their flight was two hours late but they made it home to Calgary. Except for needing to be back at work, it might have been nice to have all that fresh snow and another ski day.

I don’t know what to think of the groundhog’s prediction. Or the marmot’s. Six more weeks of winter is what we get anyway. In Calgary, it sometimes snows in June. We’ve had heaps of hail in July. And September often has an early snowfall. In fact, you could say, we have 9 months of winter and 3 months of poor skiing.

The other thing Calgary has is the Chinook.

The Chinook is caused by the wet winds coming from the Pacific, cooling as they rise over the Rockies (dumping snow where we ski) and then dipping down the eastern side of the mountains as a warm, dry wind. The temperature can fluctuate from minus 15 to plus 15 in an hour.

So while we thank the little groundhog for his announcement of an early spring, it doesn’t make too much difference to Calgary. Right now it’s minus 16 and snowing lightly. Tomorrow it’s clear and above zero. And all that snow is dumping in the mountains to the west of us.  Notice how this forecast bounces around.
weather forecastDo you live in the Chinook belt? Do you appreciate the spring-like temperatures in February? Or would you prefer a more even winter without all the melting and muck brought on by the warm winds?

hoary marmot from bigstockphoto.com #78326726