Tuesday Tea – Summer Daze Teatail

April was a busy month as I prepared for my book launch celebration for my novel, Realm. With that being said, I didn’t have the opportunity to write a post for Tuesday Tea. I’m hoping that today’s will more than make up for that.

Oolong is one of my favorite teas, and Tie Guan Yin oolong presents the perfect base for Ohio Tea Co.’s Cucumber Lime Oolong. If you’re not familiar with Tie Guan Yin (also written as Ti Kuan or Ti Kwan), apparently, it is the most famous, tastiest, and rarest of Chinese teas. The name translates to Iron Goddess of Mercy, which makes me like it even more. These days it’s only lightly oxidized making it closer to green tea than black tea. It can be roasted or unroasted.

Tie Guan Yin paired with freeze dried cucumber and natural flavor produced a scent combination that inspired me to go straight to icing this beauty. The mention of limes and cucumbers, two items I’ve only ever eaten cold, made me think of all things cool and refreshing.

I didn’t want to stop at simply icing it, however, and I quickly worked it into what I call a teatail, i.e., a cocktail made with tea. Follow the directions below, and you, too, can remain cool, calm, and relaxed for the hot summer days just around the corner.

Summer Daze Teatail

6 c fresh water

6 t Cucumber Lime Oolong

1 ½ c raw sugar

1 c fresh water

Hendrick’s Gin

Bring the water to 180° F in a stainless-steel pot on the stove. While the water heats, measure out the oolong into a large, mesh tea ball. When the water reaches the appropriate temperature, place the tea ball in it and cover the pot with a lid. Remember to turn off the heat below the pot (gas stove) or remove it from the burner (electric stove).

Allow the tea to brew for six hours, during which time it will also come down to room temperature. You may swirl it gently, otherwise do not remove the lid from the pot. The long, undisturbed brewing time ensures the tea is strong enough to stand up to the liquor you will add later without being bitter.

While the tea is brewing, add the raw sugar to one cup of water in a stainless-steel pot and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium-high heat, stirring gently, until a rich syrup has formed. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. The syrup can be stored for up to a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

When the tea has brewed, you may swirl the tea ball once to ensure evenness of color. Remove the tea ball and discard the expended tea. Do not press out the leaves into the brewed tea. Pour the tea into a glass pitcher and place in the refrigerator until the tea is completely chilled.

To prepare:

You can perform a dry shake with a cocktail shaker if you choose. I recommend Viski products as they are quality and a great place to start building your personal bar. You can, however, achieve the same results, which is to thoroughly combine the Hendrick’s and chilled syrup, using a glass and a fork.

Measure 1 oz. Hendrick’s gin into a cocktail shaker or short glass. Add ½ oz. of the rich syrup. Shake or stir until the liquor and syrup are completely combined. Set aside.

Choose a glass tumbler that is at least 12 oz. in size. Add four to six ice cubes depending on the size of your glass. Pour the chilled Cucumber Lime Oolong tea into your glass to within one inch of the rim. Top with the Hendricks/sugar mixture. Stir gently and sip yourself to contentment.


Book Signing – Thirty-two 8 Inspired


I am excited to announce the first book signing since my book launch celebration for Realm. Join us this Friday, May 26, 2023, from 11 A until 2 PM at Thirty-two Eight Inspired & Co., located at 328 South Prospect Avenue, Hartville, Ohio for a fun-filled day of book signing and local shopping.

I’ll be presenting coupons for Thirty-two 8 Inspired & Co. with the purchase of Realm in softcover and gifts with the purchase of Realm in hardcover.

Mix Tape from the Realm

I must preface this post with the statement that none of the artists, their music, or any of their affiliates are in any way connected with the Realm project for the purpose of promotion or endorsement thereof. ~HL Gibson

What inspires you to write? For me, it’s overwhelmingly music. I can create and relive entire scenes while listening to music. What I’m listening to is often reflected in the mood of a particular scenario or traits of a character. While I’m writing, the music must be without words, but when driving or working around my home, lyrics play into my visions which are then translated onto the page.

For the reason stated at the beginning of this post, I’m unable to share links directly to the music that most profoundly influenced Realm. I’m hoping you’ll do yourself the favor of taking a few moments to seek the music so you can retrace the steps of my journey as I wrote Realm.

I must admit, this post is a written version of a mix tape, and while we all know mix tapes are cringey, we all secretly enjoy them because of the memories attached to the songs.

Almost eight years ago, I wrote a blog post about E.S. Posthumus called Sound Travels for Your Mind. I was surprised to realize that’s how long my novel had been in the various stages of production, and I know this because the album, Cartographer, supplied the background music for my writing.

There was a point, however, during the lengthy process of editing my manuscript, having it beta read, being further edited by me, and then handing it off for professional editing that I allowed myself to slip away from the music that inspired the story and characters. I didn’t notice at first, but a few days prior to my book launch, I sensed something was missing. I always turn to music to soothe whatever bothers me, but I couldn’t decide what genre of music would do the trick. That’s when Cartographer came to mind.

It had been so long since I listened to the album, but with the first notes of “Nolitus” I was suddenly transported back to the Realm. For me, the songs provided scene description and character sketches. Specifically, “Isunova,” a beautiful, haunting melody that builds in intensity and perfectly depicts Bialig’s internal and external struggles.

Then there was “Selisona,” which I played during any scene wherein the Realmers journeyed with Rogue; “Marunae,” a song that captures Nish’s elegance, beauty, and strength, and which I came to think of as her theme song; “Ashielf Pi,” the opening credits of Realm on the big screen; and “Nasivern,” which I imagined playing during the end credits of Realm, the movie. (Yes, I admit I imagined Realm as a movie many times.)

Then I replayed a song by Adrian Von Ziegler, a Swiss composer from Zürich, who was recommended to me by a friend. For Realm, the piece called “Between Worlds” became my theme for Misko, a troubled young man whose divided heart, mind, and loyalties were a detriment to himself and everyone around him.

“Between Worlds” is incredibly beautiful, but it also sounds cold and lonely, mysterious with a layer of uncertainty, and heavy with the air of expectation. It ends the same way it began, as if one is holding his or her breath in cautious anticipation.

The last song I’d like to mention is Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue.” My husband, William, arriving home in the early hours of the morning, couldn’t wait to have me listen to the song he knew captured the battle both Rogue and Raine were fighting, believing they could save each other and never imagining that their rescue would come from a source greater than them both.

We stood in the darkened kitchen, hovering over Will’s cell with one earbud apiece, eyes locked in agreement that Ms. Daigle’s lyrics were essentially the theme of the relationship between Rogue, Raine, and their Rescuer.

I’ll never tire of listening to the music that helped shape Realm. Even as I build playlists for my other WIPs, the songs I enjoyed while writing Realm, my first published novel, will always be special.

Let me know in the comments how music plays into your chosen art form, even if it’s music!


Realm Central – Braced for Impact

If you’re a writer, perhaps your initial reaction is to cringe at the thought of someone, possibly a total stranger, writing a review of your book. This individual probably has no idea who you are as a person or a writer, isn’t familiar with your artistic or personal struggles, and may not possess the qualifications to review what you’ve created.

Or maybe you’ll chill out about the thought of someone writing a review of your work because, after all, your mom gave you a five-star review, and who’s stupid enough to argue with your mom, right?

Or maybe reviews roll off your back because you’re truly confident that your work not only satisfies you and your goals but is really darn good, and you’re rightfully proud of it. You don’t live in fear of reviews and reading them doesn’t faze you.

What if the review is good? What if it’s bad? What if it’s mediocre, and you’d have appreciated a stronger loved it or loathed it reaction?

It wasn’t until I realized that readers could leave a review on BookBaby or Goodreads for my novel, Realm, that I began to think about reviews. Reviews are coming, and that’s great because it means people are reading Realm. Do I want readers to love my novel? Of course, I do. That’s why I wrote it. I’m hoping people will get the same experience when reading Realm that I had while writing it.

But do I want to use this post to influence reader reviews? Absolutely not. The critiques have already occurred, so I’m using the easy ones to soften the blow of the harder ones that may come. And I’m not living in fear of reviews.

In my experience of reading reviews for books, I have found that they fell heavily in the five-star or one-star ratings with a sprinkling of two-, three-, and four-star reviews in between. People who left five stars quite often made the mistake of writing a lengthy synopsis and one line stating they loved the book. One-star reviewers simply said they hated it.

Despite reviews, I always make up my own mind whether or not I’ll read a book, but I’m still curious what other people thought about it. Truer reviews seem to be found in the two-, three-, and four-star comments. These people explain the why behind their statements, and that’s where I find a connection with other readers because, quite frankly, I’d like to connect with someone else over a book even if we disagree!

This is also where people will explain things such as why they awarded the number of stars they did as well as admit that what they didn’t care for did not ruin the entire book for them. That’s honest reviewing.

Some reviewers apply their own stars in their comments, which I find extremely helpful. They rate characters and their arcs separately from dialog, prose, description, and overall storytelling. It takes a bit of time, but one can tell these readers really care about what they’ve read and what they provided in return. I find these reviews to be most sincere.

Often, I must scroll through a lot of bad reviews to find the ones written by people who understand the value of a well-written critique. Most importantly, I try very hard to be the type of person who writes the kind of reviews I enjoy reading.

So again, am I trying to influence your comments? No, I promise I’m not. Rather, let’s see if we can generate something akin to a real conversation within reviews for Realm.

The Artist’s Corner – Forging Ahead with Madeline Bailey

Enjoy this post featuring another talented artist who helped make the Realm book launch celebration memorable. I discovered Madeline at the Hartville Flea Market, where I picked up her card because I was impressed with a young woman working the forge. After perusing her website, I knew she could make a pendant that would be a perfect depiction of something a character in my novel would create and wear.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Madeline. I am a 19-year-old female artist. I enjoy creating things, whether it be digital art or traditional art, crochet, and writing. My passions are blacksmithing and knifemaking.

What has your experience been?

I’ve been a blacksmith/bladesmith for almost seven years now. I’ve apprenticed under Lockhart Ironworks and Maple Wood Forge. I’ve won awards in Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil’s Quadstate Gallery and am constantly learning from other makers.

Do you put yourself into your forging?

I try to do my best with everything I make. A lot of experience, trial and error, and problem-solving goes into just knowing how to do a simple scroll or taper, even more so how to do it well or quickly. I don’t always succeed how I’d like on the first try, but how I deal with that is also a culmination of patience and a willingness to try again. 

Did your work experience lead to the pursuit of metalworking?

Blacksmithing is the first job I’ve ever really had. I’ve always liked to create things, and the opportunity to learn how to be a blacksmith has been incredible. Something to note is how blacksmithing is the core of so many other fields, and it creates a base knowledge for many other crafts, like welding, farrier work, copper or silver work, jewelry, knifemaking, and many more. I get to explore outward with each new project I try.

How did you develop your passion for metalworking?

I’ve always loved art and helping others, and I never really felt intimidated by the fact that not many young women are blacksmiths. When I was around age twelve, my school had an assignment encouraging us to find someone we could shadow for a day in a job that we liked. I chose blacksmithing. My parents were incredibly supportive even through the difficulty of finding one. I was welcomed into one of Doug Lockhart’s beginner classes and started an apprenticeship soon afterward. I continue to learn and grow in gratitude for my craft each time I pick up the hammer.

What or who is your inspiration?

My family and friends have always been my biggest support. They’ve allowed my interest in this to thrive into a business and continue to be there for me throughout everything. My mentors and the blacksmithing community, their history, and their dedication to the craft are wonderful inspirations as well. In the past year, my unofficial fiancé has been a great motivator especially since he shares my craft, albeit more on the bladesmithing side of things. His own dreams, aspirations, and his unending support are wonderful, and I hope we can continue to help each other far into the future.

What do you enjoy creating?

I love figuring out new things. A good portion of what I sell is of my own design and took many tries to get right. Complex projects always push me forward and give reasons as to why I love blacksmithing. Some of these projects are trivets, scissors, bourbon glass holders, and folding knives.

Where can someone find you online?

You can find me on Instagram.  This account features a number of projects and reals depicting the steps of my processes and showcases my finished works.

Do you have a website?

Everflame Forge is my current website, although I’m developing a new one.

Have you competed in contests?  What awards have you won?

I’ve been in the Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil’s Quadstate gallery for six years now and have won awards most of those years. My first knife, a wine glass holder, and a folding knife won first place, along with other projects getting second and third. Although now that I’m no longer in the youth category, I’m ready for a bigger challenge. 

Have you been featured in a magazine or other publication?

Not yet! Primarily, I sell items through commissioned orders and from my table when I demonstrate blacksmithing at The Hartville Marketplace’s Moonlight Markets. Also, my new website will have online ordering available.

Do you create metal items for people?  How does a client contact you?

Yes, I’ll do my best to talk with anyone who wishes to buy or commission my work, hoping to find a way to make something they like at a fair price. Currently, the best place to contact me is Instagram, although my email works just as well albeit slower.

What is your process for creating an item?

First, I have to figure out the steps it takes to make it and if I have all of the materials. Using the forge, I can heat metal to over 1,800° F. I can control the temperature by how much and how long the metal is exposed to the flame to get an optimal forging color where the metal is soft enough to shape. Other temperatures are needed for different parts of the forging process, such as quenching and tempering. Using a hammer, I can draw the metal out, flatten, round, taper, bend, and texture it. Sometimes, I’ll use pliers or a jig to achieve a particular bend and a butcher’s block brush to remove scale. Depending on the work, I’ll use a belt grinder, angle grinder, drill press, sandpaper, and other tools. I usually finish by quenching in a particular oil to protect against rust and preserve my work for generations to come.

How is what you create for yourself different from what you create for other people?

What I create for myself is usually prototypes. I test and grow my ability by trying to make new things and that often leads to experimentation. If I like an idea enough to make it again, it ends up as one of the things I try to make regularly to sell. 

Has your work ever been used for commercial purposes?

Most of my work is for the personal use of my clients. 

What’s your favorite metal piece that you’ve created?

I’d have to say that so far, the favorite of my works is a lockback pocketknife, one of the first blades I’ve made. It really pushed my experience and took a couple of tries but is a testament to how far I can go. It’s far from perfect, but it always makes me excited to keep trying.

What’s your dream piece to create?

So far, I’ve been able to make a lot of what I’ve put my mind to, but I hope to get into more Damascus steel soon. I’m very excited to be able to work together with my fiancé on Damascus knives in the future.

What’s your biggest complaint about blacksmithing?

I wouldn’t complain about blacksmithing so much as the trouble I have with motivation on occasion. My energy is stretched between a lot of different things. Often, I spend time in my head. I am learning to control this and prioritize myself and my work.

Would you like to work full-time as a blacksmith?  If so, how do you see your business growing?

I would love to work full-time as a blacksmith. I’ll do my best with where I am now, but I definitely hope to partner up with my fiancé and build our businesses together doing what we love.

Do you work alone or with a partner?

While I love working with other people, I work by myself currently. It leaves room for the unfortunate side effects of demotivation and distraction. Although, every once in a while, I’m able to spend time with one of my mentors or friends making something. As I’ve said, hopefully that will soon change, and I’ll be able to work with my life partner.

REALM – Book Launch Celebration

It is my very great pleasure to share the following slideshows from my book launch for my novel, Realm. This was only possible because of the overwhelming support I have received from everyone involved with the Realm project and my fans, formally known as Realmers! With much gratitude, HL Gibson

Your journey begins here . . .

The guests arrive!

Autographing my novel, Realm, for guests.

Realmers enjoying themselves!

A toast & speech

So much love & encouragement

We Interrupt This Broadcast

Happy Wednesday, Realmers! This post is coming to you a little later in the week because Realm Central needed a couple days to catch our breath after a most amazing book launch this past Sunday. More info on that coming soon!

Realm Central is pleased and proud to announce that BookBaby contacted us for permission to use the cover of Realm in their advertising campaigns. So, don’t be surprised if you see that increasingly familiar picture of an open portal popping up on social media and, quite possibly, in your e-mail inbox.

Realm is available across the globe. It’s true! I had fun with a quick search of “where to buy Realm by HL Gibson” and found my novel popped up in online stores in England and Australia. Don’t be surprised if you hear fellow Realmers say, “G’day, mate,” or that they’re “chuffed to bits” about Realm.

And lastly, a tidbit of—what shall we call this?—maintenance. Don’t be dismayed if, when you attempt to purchase Realm at a big online retailer, you’re told that it’s out of stock, on backorder, or only a few copies are left. This is nothing less than a numbers game that big online retailers like to play to manipulate buyers and artists. It’s also the reason why I published through BookBaby.

Go ahead and place your order at your favorite point of purchase. It will arrive . . . eventually . . .

Or you could head over to BookBaby where Realm is always in stock and ready to ship to you in a timely fashion. Hardback, softcover, and eBook are all available at BookBaby whether you order as soon as you finish reading this post or in the year 3039.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Communication from Realm Central

Hello, Realmers! It’s time for another update from Realm Central. This past week was Passover, so there isn’t as much to report.

All is going well here, and the reception of my novel, Realm, has been great. Sales are steady, and the trend has been to either post a picture of yourself receiving Realm or send me a photo of you receiving Realm for me to share on social media. Such fun!

April 7, 2023, marked the official launch of Realm with major booksellers such as Barnes & Noble, BAM, Walmart, and Amazon. So, you have even more online options for where to purchase your copy of Realm. Of course, it’s always been available on BookBaby and will always be available there.

As for the new trailer, it’s still in the works. A little more shooting was required, but the initial edit that I had the opportunity to view just so cool. I’m excited to share it with you. Another round of editing is required as well as recording the voiceover and applying the background music.

That is all. Realm Central out.

Not Alone in the Realm

Writing often seems like a lonely endeavor. I’ve spent a lot of time tapping away at the laptop or scribbling in a notebook. I’ve stared out the window visualizing a scene, softly speaking it aloud to hear how it sounds. I’ve walked the valley of burnout and scaled the mountain of inspiration. The writing comes fast and furiously, or the writing doesn’t come at all.

I presented myself faithfully to my writing (almost every day) even as I wanted to join friends and family in other activities. I declined invitations and didn’t issue any of my own.

I’ve been in the house alone (except for five demanding cats), but if anyone was present, I politely requested quiet, which meant I was alone in my thoughts and in the world I was creating.

As I reflect, though, I have come to realize that I was never alone at all.

There was much about writing/the writing process with which I struggled. I’m not going to detail everything here because it’s deeply personal, but the short version is that I turned everything about writing over to God. I made it my goal that all my writing and my talents would glorify God, and when I did, that’s when I understood that all the guidance I’d been praying for had occurred as I’d hoped, just not in the ways I expected. I wasn’t alone.

Then, a savvy friend, who pointed out that better critiques could be given if the beta reader was familiar with the entire work, committed to being part of my project. We traded novels from beginning to end, and what we came away with was better writing. I was not alone.

Factor in four additional beta readers, all reading the entire manuscript and all providing a different perspective. What each found polished Realm even more. Again, not alone.

Then there was my editor, whose enthusiasm for my project and sharp eye for detail, put the final polish on my novel. We met several times, e-mailed, and texted throughout the process. Amazing critiques and suggestions were offered and applied, we worked through some points to clarify what I wanted to say, and I even got to keep some things I liked without changing them. A working relationship was born, but the friendship that came from it trumped everything. Still, not alone.

Writers’ groups, friends, family, and the occasional stranger all offered encouragement and advice in person and on social media. Slowly but surely, the perceived vacuum of the writing life transformed into a community of support. And this support only intensified once Realm was published. Absolutely not alone.

And then there was everyone at BookBaby from the publishing specialist to the design team to the support staff who walked this first-time author through the process and calmed all her worries, concerns, and not a few fears. So totally not alone.

I mention all of this because if you’re considering taking the first step toward writing, please know that writing is hard. The writing life is full of highs and lows, but one thing it never need be is lonely. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be surrounded by people even when it’s just you tapping away at the laptop or scribbling in a notebook.

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