Friday, 9 April 2021

GROUND CONTROL launches April 23rd!

Image credit: Lights Out Ink

So, my career as a writer has officially reached a new milestone. I'm excited (and more than a little terrified) to announce that my debut novel, Ground Control, will be released later this month, from publishing house Lights Out Ink.

Ground Control follows Sarah Harper as she tags along behind her husband's career yet again, this time, to the new colony on Mars. More Women's Fiction than SciFi, the story focuses on the complex emotional fabric of Sarah's life as she struggles to prepare for the journey, leave her past behind, and find her place in this new reality.

Advanced copy reviewers have been so very kind! (Check them out on GoodReads.) There are still some ARCs available at BookSirens, so if you'd like to leave an early review, download your copy today!

You can also pre-order your ebook or paperback now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo and other retailers — just search up Ground Control KA Hough — it's there, I promise.

Squeeeeee....




Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Let Me Entertain Me...

It's a lovely lamp, and came with such a nice note! (Image: author's own)


If nobody else finds me funny, well, at least I do.


Fun is where you find it. Since I've been doing all of my shopping from home for, oh, a year now, I’ve started choosing “This item is a gift” when I order anything online, no matter what it is, then writing myself (or Chris) a nice little note to go with it.


(Please start worrying when I start paying extra for giftwrap). 


These are the notes that came with our two most recent purchases, a new frypan (ooooo…) and a lamp.



It's a non-stick pan, so... never mind. (Image credit: author's own)

  

Friday, 5 March 2021

Carpe Diem

A sculpture of two turtles, nose to nose.
When you pull them apart, they vibrate back together again. I think it's a metaphor.
(Image credit: author's own)


Seize the day

Little things make a difference. You know how you sometimes have something lying around that's missing one of its parts? Like a dress that came with a belt, and now you have one or the other, but not both, and it's still good, and you'd totally wear it if you could find the right belt or dress to go with it, so it just... stays there?

I have belts for dresses and jackets that I no longer own. I have dresses and sweaters that have belt loops but are missing their belts. And, over fifteen years ago, I got three little packets of candles.

Chris (way back before he was Fis) has always travelled frequently and extensively. Every second weekend, and at least a week out of every month, he was gone. It was fine: I had my hobbies and activities, he had... ok, he had work, but still. 


Use those soaps; burn those candles

Right, about those candles. On one trip, he brought home some trinkety-type things from Germany. Two turtles on a drawstring that kiss. Some beautiful candles — many, many beautiful candles, in fact. Floating candles, decorative tapers, multi-coloured tea lights... you know, the kind of candles that are all just too pretty to burn. Also, in that landslide of gifts (this was obviously before we were married), were the three little packets of tiny, brightly-coloured candles, a little more than a centimetre in diameter, and a little, heart-shaped holder.


Five multicoloured candles on a wooden surface.
See? Too pretty to burn! (Image credit: author's own)


I think I finally burned one of them about two years later. And then, somehow, I lost the holder.

Those gorgeous decorative candles — all of them except that one — have travelled to Medicine Hat, to Ottawa, and now to London, and I've just recently started burning them. Why not? They're beautiful. I've recently started to think about how we have 'saved' so many really nice consumables because they were too special to use... and then they were wasted. They went bad, or the moving company wouldn't take them, or, in the case of that fabulous truffle oil, it was used only once, then left in a fridge by mistake when we moved. Either way, I've started burning my candles.

Except these little ones, I just couldn't; they don't fit in any of my holders.


Treat yourself

I pondered this out loud. "They're so pretty, but I don't have any way to use them," I said, within Fis' earshot. 

He looked at me, and didn't reply.

"This is a serious problem," I said. "May I solve it?"

He nodded. "You may."

Fun fact: the only candle holder on the entire internet that fits these candles was £12.50. Not bad. But then, it was almost £6 for shipping, so, with a sensible ROI mindset, I added two more little packets of the hithertofore unburnable candles. 

Problem solved.


A candle burns in its holder, a glass jar full of multicoloured candles
Cute and functional. It also houses (most of) my mini-candles.
(Image credit: author's own)

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Home

A wooden door is ajar. Before it, a cuir doormat sits on a red carpet.
Home Sweet Home (for now).
(Image credit: author's own.)

What does it mean to you?

Home is a concept that most people understand, but it's not the same for any two of us. Whether it's where you hang your hat, where your favourite people are, or the house that you've lived in forever, such a familiar term has a different meaning to everyone.

As an expat that will be returning to the motherland this year (fingers crossed!), to a house and a street that I barely got to know before we left, but to a city where friends and family are close by, my own concept of home will be shifting again soon. 

Until I turned 15, I moved every two to three years, so home was wherever my family lived at that time. When people ask me where I'm from, it's easier to just say I'm nomadic, a navy brat: I was born on one coast, spent six years on the other (in two, three-year intervals), and have bounced around in the middle the rest of the time. But where am I really from? Where's home? I settled in my adopted hometown when I was 15, and my parents are still there, though they left for a while when I was in university. I lived there for 15 years in a row, but left it again as an adult with a family of my own, twice now. I hope to return there this summer. Forever? I'm not sure.

A wooden cabinet with glass doors. Inside, a tarnished silver vase and ribbons, and a stained glass sculpture.
Precious memories have travelled with me and hold a place of honour in each of my homes.
(Image credit: author's own)


I've had so much time to consider home over the last two years of writing and editing Ground Control. My protagonist, Sarah, is trying to come to terms with leaving. Earth -- the largest concept of home possible right now -- but also her house (that she'd only lived in for two years), and her parents, who still live in the house she grew up in, in another city, a home that she really left fifteen years before. 

She thinks about herself, but mostly about her kids, and how she wants them to have a home. She looks back to her own childhood and the joy she remembers of riding her bike and feeling the wind in her hair, playing outside on summer nights till the lights came on, climbing trees, and spinning round and round until you fall down on the grass and the whole huge sky whirls around your head. These are things her children will never know on Mars. She struggles with which mementos to bring along, collections of photos, trinkets, tastes or memories that recall the places she's left behind.

A guitar stands beside a desk holding a lit candle and a laptop
My guitar, my candle, my lip balm always make my office more mine.
(Image credit: author's own)


Her journey, and mine, when I think of it, follows the change that happens when you get ready to leave a home: from loss and regret, to the thought of adventure and a new life, to acceptance that wherever you end up, in whatever becomes your community, eventually becomes home again. 

These themes also come to play in my next novel, which is underway, where the elements of Cate's home -- family, friends and community -- are far different than they first seem (but stay tuned).

...and a recipe for 70s-style chicken casserole


Right then. For me, home needs to involve the concept of a somewhat 70s-style childhood, and fond memories of 70s food. I present my mom's chicken casserole. It doesn't sound like much, but it tastes like home. My kids love it. Hey, even Fis likes it.*


Mom's "That 70s" Chicken Casserole

2 cups boiled chicken, diced (off to a promising start! Of course, you can use grilled or roasted)
1 cup chopped celery (the "vegetable" element of this balanced meal)
1 cup almonds, sliced or slivered
2 cups cooked rice (it was the 70s, so white rice is de rigeur, but you can enhealthen it by using brown)
1 cup mayonnaise (please use light -- or lite. And yes, Miracle Whip works too)
2 tbs. onion, finely chopped (I tend to use a 1/2 onion, for, you know, flavour)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 tbs. lemon juice 
2 chicken OXO cubes dissolved in 1/2 cup water
Pepper to taste (my recipe calls for salt too, but it does NOT need any added salt)
... Potato chips, crushed, to cover (this is what you came here for)

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C. Mix everything except the potato chips in a casserole dish. Crumble the chips over top, and bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

It's even better the next day.




*high praise
**Is this whole recipe just a vehicle for potato chips? Well, what of it?
***Vaughn slid by as I was writing this and was all, "Wait. Are you making that chicken casserole tonight?" He was disappointed when I said no. Looks like I'll have to make it tomorrow!




Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Working hard/Hardly blogging

As usual, this blog goes dark when too much is going on. 

So, here's what's been going on over here at Huff House East: Too much.

We've been celebrating quietly 

Toonamint turned eight


Tamsin's whole life has been gearing up towards her First Sleepover Party, which, in our house, is allowed when you turn eight. She's been so excited. She watched Ailsa's June birthday get pushed back to September, though, so wasn't completely unprepared when, at the end of November, we weren't allowed to invite friends into our home, even for cake. But, cake we had, and we've promised that the very instant we're allowed to open our doors, we'll invite her two besties over for a night of sugar and giggles (and probably no sleep). 

She is still delightfully silly, despite being a mature young lady of eight. We like her a lot.

Party Llama cake


Huff Holiday Season

Snacky dinners:
when the cheese plate gets taken a bit too far.
Christmas was quiet, too. 

Just us, which has been the norm for the past three years, but this year, we were going to host all of Chris' family. That didn't happen, and neither did any of our planned outings, because everything's closed. However, again, should things reopen, we have a voucher to use at Legoland. Don't tell the kids (we didn't). 

But, Santa came, we were spoiled even rottener than usual, we feasted, we sang... it was still a good Christmas.


Family selfie in front of Fortnum and Mason
on our annual Christmas Lights Walk.


Tween turns twelve


Vaughn turned twelve without enough excitement, but with plenty of presents and food. Again, give us the word, UK government, and we'll have some of his friends over to eat pizza, play video games, and... well, that's all that 12-year-old boys like to do, really, as evidenced by our new 12-year-old boy. 

He's even more awesome (and stubborn) than when we brought him home from the hospital when he was three days old. Snif. 

Cake: good. 


Pirate cake inspired by his new Sea of Thieves video game.


Back to school homeschool 

Everything is totally normal.

We moved to "Tier 5" of Covid-19 restrictions* just after Christmas, and since then have spent all day, every day together. I've been sitting at the table with the kids, trying to keep up with my own contracts and projects (and usually putting in hours after they go to bed, because there's just no way to do both), while Chris has been manning the printer. He is reprising his classic role of Sandwich Maker, and doing swimmingly, as well as taking on the title of Snackmaster.



Where were you when you got the news?


Everything else

There is nothing else. Well, that's not quite true. The kids walk Ziggy before school, and have various exercise stations around the flat, including Vaughn's new punching bag. The older two were proud to have passed their Grade 1 piano exams in the fall, and all three are keeping up with piano lessons via Zoom. And, once a week, I get a full hour** to myself*** to teach my ZoomCamp, an intra-living-room workout class for my bootcamp participants. 

We have no plans for travel, as we're not allowed to sleep overnight away from our own residence, but...no, that's it. No plans.

Finally, this blog may end up getting transported/commuted/rolled into my writing site (http://karenhoughwrites.com/), so stay tuned and I'll send an update when that's a go.




* Tier 6 is rumoured to involve being confined to underground burrows 24 hours/day and having to grow one's own mushrooms for sustenance

** it's never a full hour before someone walks in

*** see above (sigh)

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