Saturday, 24 April 2010

Nettle Experiments (1)

The garden is full of nettles, all shapes and sizes. One consolation is that they signify a fertile soil. The other is that nettles are good for you.

My first nettle experiment was making nettle tea. Instructions are easy to find all over the web from You Tube to environmental blogs.

Best time for picking is in early spring April to June at the very latest because then the shoots toughen up.

I learned:
  • to wear gloves
  • to avoid the leaf edges because they're the bits that sting
  • to choose new top shoots only.
  • to wash my nettle tips in a basin of water as soon as I got them home. That stops them stinging
  • not to collect too many at a time. (Partners are surprisingly fractious when they come home to a fridge full of nettles when they're looking for a simple snack)
  • to fill a family teapot with washed nettle tips and fill the pot with boiling water.
  • the longer the brew stands, the stronger it is.
My first attempts were slightly weak but better if you don't like the stronger vegetably taste.
Any spare nettle tea, I strain into a jar with a lid. I can then supply myself with tea all day long by filling a mug and heating it for a minute in the microwave.

So what has this to do with writing?

Obviously it is another string for a character's bow. Environmental characters will be in vogue for some time to come. Even if you hate the tea, you will be able to give a convincing description of the pain a stinging nettle can inflict or the taste that drives another character to use his tea to water his great-aunt's aspidistra.

And that, of course, will, in the end, endear him to the old lady who leaves him her fortune because it is an excellent fertiliser which grows an aspidistra as flourishing as Jack's beanstalk.

The other benefit could be to give more zip to you and your writing. The nettle is full of health-giving properties. Drinking three cups of nettle tea a day for the past five days has certainly boosted my energy and enthusiasm for life.

Try it and let me know.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon by Krista D Ball is out in October, 2010 and available from Muse It Up Publishing. The cover design by DK Renders is, for me, as magical as the story.

My love of native American culture started as a child reading about Hiawatha, Pocahontas and John Smith, and continued through Tony Hillerman's wonderful detective series.

Jim Thunder, who inspired Krista to write this, was himself renowned for his story telling. He made headlines twenty-one years ago when, as the result of a dream, he ran 4400 kilometres through ice and snow to New York in a bid to retrieve the Cree tribe's sacred bundle.

Krista's novella is based on traditions of the Canadian First Nations.

It's not yet time for the Harvest Moon but I have been doing a bit of spring harvesting of my own.

At this time of year, my garden is frantically growing nettles so I decided to try my hand at making nettle tea and graduated into experimenting with nettle soup.

I like to think that in this way I am, like the original members of the Canadian First Nations, returning to the land the respect which it is due.

On her blog, learn more about  Jim Thunder and read Krista's moving tribute to the man to whom this book is dedicated.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Content Editor -- The Ideal Job for a Writer?

Language learners need to listen before they can talk well. Writers need to read. My new job as content editor for Muse It Up Publishing--and I can hardly believe my luck in being chosen for it -- means not only can I read for days on end, I can even call it work :-)

As a subeditor on various British newspapers, I am an experienced copy editor, checking for punctuation, spelling and grammar mistakes. It's a bit like teaching -- if I see too many repetitive mistakes, I start to doubt my own accuracy. And if you're thinking of editing, remember that nowadays we have to move confidently between US English, Canadian English and the standard UK spelling and grammar.

For more information on the various forms of editing, try Hadley Raydeen's excellent article on the editing jobs in publishing,

A content editor wields a broader brush.