Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things to do instead of writing - #4

Play with the new webcam feature on Ravelry's forums, turning boredom into a narrative.

Browse recipes for bear lasagna.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wait for it...

I haven't seen Avatar, and I don't really intend to (at least not unless someone tells me something about the story or characters that piques my interest, which hasn't happened yet). But I'm finding the early critiques of it fascinating, so I've been browsing Avatar-related articles all afternoon. I've seen lots of arguments about the movie being an environmental allegory, a replay of the "white guilt" narrative, a metaphor for the Bush Administration (whut), and scads of other things.

And in a New York Times article that rounded up several of the arguments, I read this question:

Why do you think science-fiction and fantasy films like “Avatar” — not to mention “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “The Matrix” and many more — lend themselves to so many interpretations?

So I've been sitting here - a student of fiction, specifically genre fiction - flailing my arms and gnashing my teeth at the monitor, going, "Do you really not get it? This is how genre fiction works!"

Genre fiction lives in Ambiguous Metaphor Land. Genre fiction and metaphor are like YouTube and cat videos. Like Wisconsin and cheese products. Like Like Barney Stinson and "It's gonna be legen--wait for it--"

Metaphor is what genre fiction does best.

(Quick note: I use the phrase"genre fiction" to mean genre books, films, and anything that's both genre and fictional, because across mediums, the function is the same. Also, it's way quicker to write and I'm lazy.)

This is my big peeve as a genre writer. While a certain type of books get held up as capital-L Literary and a certain type of movies get the Oscar nod for their deep themes, by and large people tend to shrug off all genre fiction as "just a fantasy novel" or "just a space movie" and treat them like they have no deeper meaning.

When really, writing these kinds of stories is trickier than writing the typical Literary stuff, because you know what? It's all meaning. All of it. To write good genre fiction, your wizards or zombies or whateverthefuck have to stand in for bigger real-world things. You need the symbolism - if it's not there, you have to figure out a way to tweak your wizards or zombies or whateverthefuck so that someone will see them shambling through a mall and say, "Ah, I get it. Consumerism." And to write good and successful genre fiction, your wizards or zombies or whateverthefuck should be open-ended enough as symbols to stand in for more than one real-world thing.

This is the point at which I'd like you to think of a few of your favorite scifi or fantasy books, and consider how much research and world building went into those. On top of all this. This is why I think genre is trickier to write than literary fiction. Of course this doesn't hold true for every single novel - there are literary novels that take epic amounts of research and genre novels that don't - but by and large, if you're going to write a novel, you'll probably spend less time bowing to the gods of Google and sweet talking your local librarians if you choose to set your novel in Nebraska instead of a moon colony. And your Nebraska novel is less likely to be called "mindless escapism" if it doesn't pull double-duty as a metaphor for issues of colonization.

Maybe this is the English major in me speaking, but the best stories are the ones that you can read on multiple levels: I can enjoy Lord of the Rings, for example, on the level of Damn Good Story, but I can also enjoy picking it apart as a critique of industrialism, a lesson on friendship, a sexual metaphor (it's in there!), and so many other things. Don't get me wrong, I love me some mindless escapism - especially during a hard semester - but the stories that stick with me? They're all layered like this.

Good genre fiction sticks around not just because of memorable worlds and characters but because it means something. Many somethings. It starts conversations. It makes you see an issue in a new light. It opens a box full of questions about real life, dumps them out on the table in front of you, and says, "Take what you need." The best genre fiction does this without its audience noticing until they've finished the story.

Because we need to ask questions. And sometimes the real world is too dense and angry and politically charged a place to ask them, so we do it through aliens. Or wizards. Or whateverthefuck. That's what genre fiction exists for.

That, and mindless escapism. Sometimes.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mostly ravioli, it turned out.

A while back, after not having bought groceries for a few months, I made the mistake of going grocery shopping without a list. I didn't have any recipes I made on a regular basis at the time, so I didn't have a starting point from which to toss things into the cart. The idea of gathering everything I needed to feed myself seemed like a staggeringly huge task, and after so long without having shopped for my own food, I just couldn't remember what I usually bought. I wound up roaming the frozen food aisle wide-eyed, wringing my hands and going, "What do I EAT?"

My former roommates remember this. I clung to their sleeves and cried, "You should know this! What do I EAT?" and they said, ""

This is about how I feel right after finishing a big revision.

Tonight I finished the second draft of Or Your Money Back. It's now 81,835 words long (over 11,000 words longer than before), more fleshed out in a lot of ways, and well on its way to being a finished book. I saved the finished draft, went out celebrating, sat down to write again...and stopped.

What do I WRITE?

You guys! You should know this! What do I WRITE?

I have a list somewhere, I think. Maybe I should go dig that up.

And hey, if all else fails, I can just throw some things in the cart and see what sticks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The arthritic dog sweater solution


It's a quick, simple design, it's warm, and most importantly, it's pain-free to get him into. You can't see it well from the picture, but there's a button right behind his leg. The sweater is worked top-down seamlessly and knit in the round until the shoulders, where it splits into a cape-like top piece and a narrower belly piece.

To illustrate, here's what the cape part looked like pre-buttons:

Getting it on him goes like this:

Step 1: Pull sweater over dog's head.

Step 2: (Optional) Watch dog frolic about like an idiot doing his "I has a sweater!" dance.

Step 3: Button the corners of the flaps to each other, closing the body of the sweater.

No fuss, warm dog. It's a really easy design to modify and add to, so I'm planning on doing a few versions of it for Hobbes for this winter - including at least one with sleeves.

I'll whip up a pattern when I get the time.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The arthritic dog sweater conundrum

I'm pretty sure dog ownership causes temporary insanity.

Over the holiday break, my dog has breathed toxic fumes into my face, woken me up to his barfing noises (one of his favorite hobbies) multiple times, whined incessantly for turkey scraps, and pulled gastrointestinal pyrotechnics so unholy they earned him the nickname The Golgothan and made me late for work.

And yet, after giving him a haircut this afternoon...all I want to do is knit the foul beast a sweater.

Hobbes is the sort of dog who actually needs sweaters in the winter. He's fourteen years old and has arthritis that flares up when he gets cold. Add to that the fact that we live in Minnesota, and the ridiculous baby blue dog parka I got for him a few years back is his favorite thing in the world four months out of the year.

But there's a problem with most dog sweaters (and parkas). They're not designed for dogs with shoulder joint problems. Even the cardigan-style ones have to be pulled over the dog's head with his legs pulled out straight, because the opening on them is along the chest and belly, like cardigans for humans. Hobbes's shoulders won't move like that anymore, so this is as far as I can get store-bought sweaters onto him:

He seems to think a badly fitted cowl is better than nothing, though, because he's been happily wearing his old fisherman sweater around the apartment like this.

This got me thinking about dog cowls. Which got me reaching for the baby alpaca/acrylic blend in the bottom of my stash that I got from a friend's destash and never found a use for. Which got me thinking again about the construction of dog sweaters. I've tried knitting back-closure dog sweaters before, and they're still tricky to get an arthritic old dog into, because there's leg-lifting and sensitive paws to worry about. But what about a sweater with a neck and shoulders knit in the round that splits at the legs and gets buttoned up in lines behind them?

It may be the temporary dog insanity talking, but I'm going to try this. If it works, I'll report back with some kind of arthritic dog sweater formula. If it doesn't, I'll rip it out and knit him a nice lace dog cowl for the hell of it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

From the Obsessive Writer school of home decorating

Like I said last post, I've been working on my revision of OYMB. After much swearing and a lot of caffeine, I realized I needed to see the book laid out visually, so I got out my stack of 3x5" notecards, filled one out for every scene in the book, and strung them up over my workspace so I could move them around at will.

It's kind of a neat decorating effect. This is my workspace right now:

I think there's some cosmic rule that prevents me from having enough desk space no matter how many desks I have pushed together. This is two desks and a TV tray, and I still can't fit everything. It's a comfortable setup, at least, and since it's in the middle of my apartment, I'm actually using it. So's the dog - you can see his red blanket right where my feet are supposed to go. He curls up there while I'm writing, which is cute, if counter-productive.

I'm loving the notecards system. I did it for one previous revision, but that was a much less streamlined process, so it didn't last. This? Useful. Here's a typical card:

Upper left corner: the current chapter in which this scene exists (four, in this case). The blue text is a quick description of the scene (my protagonist being dragged out to a bar by a new ally). Green text below it is stuff I want to add or subtract from the scene (fiddle with the dramatic volume of the scene, include a theme of agency I've been wanting do do more with by having Seb bring it up, and make Sky a sneakier bastard). Entirely new scenes I want to add are all green and have no chapter numbers.

Not all the notecards are as easy to understand as that one. Some of them are so shorthand I'm the only person who knows what they mean.

And some of them are bad inside jokes that make Kiah think I'm a dork.

You can identify the point at which I started getting bored with re-reading and marking up the first draft, because the notecards start getting more shorthand and weird. Like so:

Badly drawn Mr. T. approves of most things I do. He's kind of a yes-man.

My revised plan for revision goes like this:
Stage 1: Notecards
Stage 2: Edits and rewrites of scenes
Stage 3: Cleanup and polishing

I just started Stage 2 and am on chapter 2/12.

This blog is now about Misha Collins.

Once again: not dead. I've just been buried in revision and...erm...things.

Oh, hell. No use trying to skirt the issue.

I've been doing Supernatural fandom crap. Fic writing, fan art, collecting animated gifs like they were precious metals - y'know, the usual crazy fan-person stuff. It's sort of eating my free time right now, and I'm sort of happy to let it.

In my defense, Misha Collins made me do it. He busted into the series last season as a dude named Castiel who quickly became one of my favorite characters in the series (possibly of all the characters I'm watching on TV right now). He basically dragged me into writing fan fiction for the first time since high school, totally against my will. I didn't mean to write it. I just stared too deeply into his eyes on the screen, and when I came to I was covered in Cheetos dust and I had a pseudonymous LiveJournal account* with like five fics posted on it.

So you can see how it's not my fault. Things just happen when you stare at Misha Collins for too long.

Things like this:

I haven't had the motivation to finish a digital painting - even a speed painting like this - in ages. Not, apparently, until Misha Collins spent a whole scene illuminated by firelight.

So, let this be a lesson to you: DON'T STARE DIRECTLY AT THE MAN. Just don't do it. For your own self-preservation.

(I think maybe you can stare at him if you use a hand mirror, but I haven't tested this theory, so don't blame me if you try it and find yourself making LOLMisha macros at 4am.)

*All my fandom crap is under a pseudonym because I'm not sure I want the name I'm trying to get published under to come up with a bunch of crack!fic when agents Google it. But one of these days I'll have to write an essay on why fan fiction is an incredibly useful practice.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A list of ten things from a long ten days

1. Since I last posted here, my computer has died. It's well past the expiration of its AppleCare plan, it's not really worth attempting to salvage, and getting it fixed would cost as much as another computer, so it's currently sitting in its messenger bag on the floor. Poor old Sophie. She had her hard drive die and half her insides replaced in March, then she was forced to take notes on subcommittee meetings and surf fanfiction all summer, and now it looks like her logic board's gone bad. It's been a rough year for the old girl.

2. I'm currently using my 2004 G4 desktop as my primary computer. It's running OS X 10.5 and is hooked up to a 22" monitor and a 500GB external hard drive, so it's kind of like Number 5 trying to hang out with Cylons, but y'know, it works.

If anyone got that reference, please let me know so we can arrange a high-five later.

3. Partly because of the computer issues, I haven't made much progress in anything except knitting lately. And thanks to daylight savings, which ensures it's already dark out when I get home from work, I don't have any pictures of my recent knitting.

4. One piece of writing advice that's always stuck with me is something Neil Gaiman blogged about: "You never learn how to write a novel," Gene Wolfe once said to him. "You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing." This is absolutely true. I struggled with the first draft of Or Your Money back because all the longer stories I'd written before were installments of the Series What Ate My Life. I knew how to write those novels, to let epic fantasy plotlines sprawl across the page - what I didn't know how to write was a quiet coming of age romance with no explosions or psychic eviscerations. By the end of the first draft, I sort of figured it out, and I was so proud of myself for that.

I got cocky. Now I'm learning that you can't learn how to revise a novel, just how to revise the novel you're revising. The novel revisions I've done before have focused on hacking down massive forests of text - upwards of 50,000 words - but this revision requires small bits of pruning and a lot of new additions. My chainsaw of revision is useless here. I need shears and potting soil.

5. To further earburn Neil Gaiman, I'm already at the point in the revison where his NaNoWriMo pep talk feels appropriate to re-read. Substitute the "writes" with "revises" and you've got my mindset exactly. I get the "This is the worst thing I've ever written, maybe I should quit writing and become a lawyer/florist/sherpa" thing during every first draft and every major revision.

6. What did the hot dog say when he won the contest?

(Answer: I'm the wiener!)

7. I have a whole drawer full of candy leftover from Halloween. Most of it is Laffy Taffy.

8. My Christmas knitting is starting to move along. I'm sure I won't get it all done in time for Christmas - especially taking breaks to knit stuff for myself - but I'm pretty sure I can finish what I need to finish for the people who actually care about it being on time.

9. I've finally figured out an age/maturity level test for whether a person is old enough for me to date. If I say "DuckTales" and they respond with "WOO-OOH," it's cool. If they stare at me blankly, they're too young. Or they're not that into TV, in which case I'd probably drive them nuts, anyway.

10. I'll take and post pictures of WIPs when I can.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pinky swears are for grown-ups

There comes a point in every major creative project where I have to stop, assess just how deep I've gotten myself into this thing, and make some promises to myself to keep it from getting out of hand. Right now, I'm at that point with the Max hoodie. I originally intended it to be done around the time Where the Wild Things Are came out, but I only finished the sweater math today. It still needs formatting, test knitting, yardage math, quadruple number checking, and probably some sort of virgin sacrifice in order to work. The bones are done, but there's much fleshing out left to do.

So. Pinky swear time.

Promise the first: Max will be a free pattern. When I first started out, I told myself I would offer this pattern for free, and I'm going to stick to that. What I'm not going to stick to is my original reason for not charging - that I couldn't possible charge someone for a pattern I made. That's bullshit; I've been working hard at this and the result is going to be pretty cool. New reasoning: I'm doing this for the fun of it and to see if I actually can.

Promise the second: If I write another pattern, I will put more value in my own work. If I feel I've done the work to charge for it, I will. (I'll also make sure it's worth charging for, of course.)

Promise the third: I will only write patterns if it continues to be fun for me to write patterns. I'm having a blast right now! But if it ever reaches the point where pressure from someone else becomes the driving force of this hobby, screw it. Also, this will remain just that: a hobby. I'm not aiming to be a professional designer - I've already got enough financially insupportable aspirations, thankyouverymuch!

Promise the fourth: If I can work writing and pattern designing in together, I will. I've got an idea I'm really excited about, but I won't tell you about it yet, because it'll be awhile before I can do anything with it.

Them's the swears. Hopefully I'll have something more to show on this pattern soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

She's half right.

I went out with Abby and Kiah last night, to do stuff that former roommates who are now neighbors do, and Kiah was wearing the hat I knit for her the other day. I didn't blog about that hat, did I?

This hat was an accident. I had sweater scraps leftover, a dull afternoon at work, and a Ysolda Teague pattern promising a quick hat. It ended up being a color and pattern combination that I wouldn't really wear, but it matched the hat that Kiah'd been living in during the cold snap this fall. Also, it was meant to look like frosting, which is Kiah's favorite food group. Clearly, it was meant for her.

Abby wanted a hat like Kiah's to go with a Halloween costume she's planning, and I offered to make her one.

Abby: "Really? You think you could do that by Halloween?"

Me: "It only takes a few hours."

Abby: "But don't you have other stuff you're working on? Aren't you, like...knitting socks or something?"

Me: "I'm hardly ever knitting socks."

Kiah: "She's always knitting socks. She's always knitting seven pairs of socks at one time."

Abby: "Really?"

Me: "Nuh-uh!"

Kiah: "She's always knitting seven of everything at one time."

I protested this statistic mightly. But today at work, I realized I had four hats in progress in my bag. So I started gathering up my projects for a headcount.

Four hats.

Four pairs of socks, most of which have been hibernating for months.

And four sweaters.

Everything else is in ones.


In my defense, I'm still not knitting seven of everything.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Steeking: the final frontier

This post is rated MA for yarn carnage.

I cut my first steek last night. Here, let me show you.

Knitters: "Oh god! The horror!" (fainting)

Non-knitters and advanced, steek-happy knitters: "Uh-huh. And?"

I had no idea whether this would work. The yarn I'm using is superwash, so the fibers don't cling to one another like ideal steeking yarn does, and the edge certainly won't felt. At first, looking at all the little frayed edges, I imagined horrible unravelings and the ghost of the sweater haunting me in my dreams. But no - once I started picking up stitches and knitting the button band, the steeked edge very politely folded itself over and let me work. No unraveling!

The right side of the button bands looks just fine, aside from a slight mistake with the button row that I don't really mind.

This is the current state of the sweater:

I'm going to sew a thick line of ribbon over the steeked edge on the inside of the cardigan once all the ends are woven in and whatnot. I'll miss being able to flash those gory edges at people.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I have no plans to eat anybody.

I went to a midnight showing of Where the Wild Things Are last night and couldn't go to bed when I got home because I was still processing it. I'd known going into it that I'd enjoy the movie - based on the previews, it looked laser-targeted to my generation. I just didn't know how hard this movie would hit me. It wrapped its furry, clawed digits around my heart and squeezed.

Without spoiling too much, I'll tell you this: the driving force of Where the Wild Things Are is Max. The movie operated less on suspense than on Max-level want. Major events include things like the wild rumpus in the book - seemingly low-stakes events - and yet they came across as important, because they were important to Max. His POV is so, so strong. I understand why a lot of critics aren’t liking the movie - you have to buy into the kid’s logic. You have to remember what it’s like to feel that way. If you don’t, it’s a big, weird, pretty movie about forts and monsters, wherein nothing really happens.

I remember. I've been that kid. I've shared a room with that kid, too. For me, Max read as a perfect combination of my childhood and my brother's, and because of that, I bought into his POV completely. His story is simple on the surface. The critics are right, sort of - nothing much happens, at least not from a grown-up perspective. But if you let yourself get sucked into Max's head, the emotional undertow will pull you right in.

Anyway, since it's the opening day for Wild Things, I may as well post this. I was hoping to have a pattern available today, but I've been so sleep deprived lately that doing sweater math seems akin to designing a skyscraper. So, in lieu of that, here are pictures of the finished Max hoodie.

I wore it to the movie last night, because I'm a giant dork. Also because it's quickly becoming one of my favorite things in my wardrobe. The ears have a mind of their own, but I sort of love that about them.

The weather here has been jumping back and forth between freezing and rainy and freezing and snowy, so layering this thick wool hoodie with my favorite leather coat is making walks to and form work much more bearable. I don't want to break out the winter gear just yet, and this lets me put that off a little longer.

Plus, if anyone declares a wild rumpus at the intersection, I'm already dressed for it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This happens too much between major projects.

Dear Muse, Powers That Be, or Creativity-Inducing Whoever,

I hate to be ungrateful for the sudden-onset rush of creative mojo, but I'm at work right now. If you could maybe send me some creative mojo while I'm not at work, that would be fantastic.

And also, if you could send it for a project that's not fan fiction, I'd appreciate it.

Oh, and not for a project that I don't currently have on my to-do list, either. That means both those currently in some stage of existence and those that haven't yet been put to text. Like, say, the Fantasy Trilogy What Ate My Life? That's in hibernation. None of that. And don't go poking me about sequels to Or Your Money Back, because unless a publisher picks that up and asks for more, I'm not doing them.

So, to recap, bad things to send me include:
  • fanfic
  • sequels for things
  • ideas for hibernating projects
  • strong urges to ditch everything and write between the hours of 8-5, Monday through Friday
  • everything you have been giving me, basically
Good things to send me include:
  • short story writing mojo
  • OYMB revision ideas/motivation
  • better time management skills
  • chocolates
Are we clear? Good. Thanks for your time.

Love (potentially),
a writer

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Test knitter is on it, and I'm working on sweater math.

Project logic is not like our earth logic.

This is my thought process when it comes to projects:

1. Do I have enough projects?
>No/No? (If No, proceed to 2.)

2. Do I have time for another project?
>Yes/No? (If Yes, proceed to 4. If No, proceed to 3.)

3. Hey, isn't there that time of day when I'm usually sleeping/eating/running errands/doing laundry? Couldn't I just cut back on that?
>What a brilliant idea!/Do it do it do it! (If What a brilliant idea!, proceed to 4. If Do it do it do it!, proceed to 4.)

4. Do this project. Am I dead yet?
>Yes/No? (If Yes, inform parents. If no, return to 1.)

So it shouldn't be any surprise that my project list for the next three months looks like this:
  • Revise Or Your Money Back
  • Research market for OYMB, including coming up with a list of literary agents to send it to
  • Draft query letter, synopses, and anything else needed for said literary agents
  • Various write-ups for OYMB independent study
  • Finish Sylvi coat (currently 1/3 done)
  • Finish Snapdragon Tam for me
  • Finish writing and sizing Max hoodie pattern
  • Design and knit a zip-up cardigan for my dad for Christmas
  • Finish a painting
  • Write a short story (or five)
  • Knit landlord a hat for Christmas
  • Knit landlady socks for Christmas
  • Knit my brother a weird hat for Christmas
  • Finish a Swallowtail shawl for my grandma for Christmas
  • Woodburn something for my grandpa for Christmas
  • Knit my mom a Scotty's Hat for Christmas
  • Semi-secret spinning project for my stepmom for Christmas
  • Super-secret collaborative Christmas gifting project
  • Work on Sum? (Probably not.)
Oh, and laundry, because I keep letting it pile up.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wet sweaters and things

When I first started knitting, Bex (she who passed on the dreadful condition) helped me work up a list of supplies I needed to begin collecting: needles, notions, and yarn, mainly. As much as that list evolved over time, there's one incredibly useful item that never appeared on it: a spin dryer.

I'm in love with my spin dryer. I bought it for laundry purposes, but it's turned out to be one of the biggest sanity-saving devices in my craft arsenal. See, I'm also in love with sweaters. And wet-blocking a sweater on the very limited counter space in my studio apartment? Pain. In. The. Ass. Cooking becomes a nerve-wracking experience when you're worried about spilling chopped onions on the sweater you spent the last month knitting.

My spin dryer makes it a non-issue. Last night I decided to block a certain sweater I've been working on, which is over 1000 yards of bulky wool (read: holds water with camel-like, physics defying capacity). After two minutes in the spin dryer, it was almost wearably dry. I laid it out on the counter to block, and this morning there was just one slight damp spot left, where the fabric had been layered on itself.

The spin dryer is also wonderful for finishing handspun. Toss in a wet skein, and out comes a slightly damp skein that only needs to be placed somewhere safe to finish drying, not hung dripping in the shower. Since there's no agitation involved,the dryer can't felt anything, and it's so gentle on fabric I've tossed lace projects in there without worry. Definitely one of the coolest tools I own for knitting and spinning, and I didn't even mean it to be!

In semi-related news, I'm wearing my first sweater today. It's a year old as of last week and still holding up beautifully. Happy belated birthday, sweater!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let the wild scheduled for a little bit later!

I've been busy working on something that's destined to be a pattern soon. I'm really, really pleased with it. Here's a preview:

Needs final touches and number crunching. I've never done sizing for a sweater before, so we'll see how long that takes!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Also adds +2 Charisma and protects against lightning-based attacks

I finished some things!

Introducing my +5 Scarf of Awesome:

Look at this thing, will you? It's gorgeous. It's Bex's merino/seacell handspun in Kirsten Kapur's Rickenbacker Scarf pattern, which was evidently a perfect storm of pattern and yarn. I mean, look at it.

"I think it may have some neat striping," Bex said when she handed me the skein. Yeah, uh, less with the striping and more with the gorgeous frakking color transitions. Even aside from the amazing colors, this was some of the nicest yarn I've ever worked with. It's lofty, silky, and so nice to the touch that I've been wearing this scarf around in 70-degree weather just so I can grope it when nobody's watching.

I did make one slight error on this scarf. The pattern suggested it be 52" long. I misread that as 72". And then I said, "Eh, fuck it, I'll just keep going until I'm not entertained by the pattern anymore."

Here's how far it falls when I don't have it wrapped around my neck twice:

And to answer the questions I'm sure are on your mind, thank you, they were $4 at the Girls' Clearance section at Target, and yes, I do have astoundingly tiny feet.

I also knit up Ysolda's Ripley as an instant gratification project but haven't had a chance to wear it anywhere yet.

You can't tell from looking at it, but that hat was mostly knit during a Supernatural drinking game. Turns out I can drink and knit lace (which is funny because I always mess lace up when I'm sober). I think it's a superpower.

So, now that I've got the world's most awesome fall scarf and a cute new hat, what next? Christmas knitting!

Here's my Christmas knitting yarn stash. It's missing a hat or two worth of yarn, I think.

And then, there's something for me.

That's going to grow up to be a Snapdragon Tam, if I can stop staring at it long enough to cast-on.

Progress has been made on my Where the Wild Things Are hoodie, but that really deserves its own post. For now, I'll leave you with this. Go watch the featurette and have a smile.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Yeaaaahhhh, about that...

Remember how yesterday I said had just started this Where the Wild Things Are-inspired hoodie?


I honestly don't know what happened here, but that's two and a half days of knitting, and now I've got some sleeves with half-fingers on them to design.

Oh boy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Drive-by graping

This weekend I started my Where the Wild Things Are-inspired hoodie, which I hope to have done by the movie's premier date. Considering I have 8" of the body done already, two days in, I think that's a reasonable goal. (Basic construction + big needles and Eco Wool = the illusion of productivity!)

But what I really came to post was this.

Grapes. Look at these fucking grapes. LOOK AT THEM.

These are growing in my yard. Scads of them. Epic amounts of dusky purple, astonishingly delicious Concord grapes.

Let's see some more grape pictures!



I...may be a little too excited about grapes. But you haven't tasted them. They're the best grapes in existence.

I have about half a gallon of these in my freezer right now, thanks to a trick Bex taught me last weekend. Toss a bag of grapes in the freezer, and you've got a bag of slushy grape treats!

Grapes, man. GRAPES. So excited.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not dead!

The last week at work has been insane. Box-on-head, coworker-in-a-toga, can't-sleep-sticky-notes-will-eat-me insane. It's the beginning of the school year, and while this time of year normally belongs to the chaos demons (Have you ever met a chaos demon? They're all antlers and slime!), this year is the worst I've seen by a long shot.

The other thing that's been eating my life is fan fiction. I figured out this week that fan fiction is the perfect palate cleanser between novels - it's low-investment, the characters come prefabricated, and instead of waiting weeks for beta reader feedback, you toss a first draft up online and get comments with tiny cheering emoticons back almost immediately. \o/ I have a tendency to drift toward depression when I finish a lengthy writing project, so writing fic has turned out to be a bit of a sanity-saver. I will definitely be relying on it in the future.

In conclusion, I'm at the level of braining where this seems like the best thing ever created, so you should probably be grateful I'm not blogging regularly right now.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recommended reading: two totally badass essays on marginalization in SF/fantasy

As you might have guessed from my post on writing the damsel in distress, I'm not really comfortable writing about big issues - when it comes to sexism, racism, religion, or anything that raises people's hackles, really, I get flustered. I write about these things best through fiction, and when asked to address them directly, my answer usually tumbles out as something on the level of "Sexism bad, tree pretty." So I have a deep admiration for people who can write beautifully about these subjects.

One of those people is LJ user rawles, whose post "Now that we've got that clear, and you know that I'm not here..." addresses the Uhura/Spock relationship in the new Star Trek movie - the fan backlash, the presumption that putting a strong female character in a romantic relationship lessens her power, and the continued dearth of strong black female characters on the screen. To quote: "OMG. A black girl is fucking Spock."

That essay reminded me of Catherynne M. Valente's "Let me tell you a story" post, which in addressing the RaceFail debate attempted to explain why it's so important that characters of marginalized race/gender/sexuality/class/etc. are positively portrayed in genre fiction. "Stories," she writes, "teach us how to win through, how to perservere, how to live. [...] This is what stories do. They say: you are worthy of the world, no less than these heroes." And if there are no heroes like you in the stories you take in?

I think these two essays are saying the same thing in two very different ways: that seeing that reflection of ourselves in the fiction we take in is vital - perhaps especially in genre fiction, which deals in stunning heroics and symbolism. I'm familiar with Cat's search for heroes like myself in stories and with rawles's "OMG A [BI/LESBIAN] GIRL" gut reaction when I actually find one (Hi, entire female cast of Torchwood). They both put it into words a helluva lot better than I could.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One last question

Or Your Money Back has been a test run for me in a lot of ways - Can I write a novel that takes less than 100,000 words? Can I write a stand-alone? Can I write something with a romance plot at the heart of it? The answer to all of these so far seems to be "Yes," but there's one more important question that I'm just getting to the bottom of, a week after putting down the first draft: Can I finish a book?

It's not the same as "Can I finish a first draft?" That I know I can do. I've done that three times now. The thing I wanted to know most, going into this project, was what happened when I put a story down for good. I've never done that before - not with an involving, novel-length thing. Prior to OYMB, what I'd written were installments of a fantasy trilogy (AKA The Beast That Ate My Adolescence) that I'd been working on for upwards of a decade. Because there was always another novel coming next in that series, I never had to really say goodbye to the characters. So I'm doing that now, for the first time.

I've lived every day with Seb & Co. for the last three months. They were welcome, quiet roommates, and now that I don't have them to focus on, I feel very slightly lost. You know that moment after you wake up from a really nice dream, when you're reaching to catch onto it but it's already gone, and you're a little disappointed? It's like that. Which is fitting, for this particular dreamy little book.

Apparently the answer to "Can I finish a book" is: yes, I can. I'm waking up from this book, stretching, scratching, yawning out morning breath.

So, new day. What's next?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mmm, fresh manuscript.

Fresh beta reader first draft copies are sitting on my desk.

They're currently pristine, neatly bound packages with a lovely heft and a crisp paper smell.

In a few weeks, they'll come back to me marked up, dog-eared, and probably - knowing one of my beta readers - stained, with pieces of the binding missing.

I can't wait.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where it's at

I'm hanging out on my deck right now, reading this novel I just finished for the first time. The swinging bench from the yard got hauled up here last night, so with just a blanket and an extension cord, I have a totally swank little outdoor lounge going on.

I brought the dog's favorite pillow outside for him to lay on, but he had other ideas.

Back to reading.

Spinning megapost

This is what I've spun in the last few weeks. It's pretty far from my usual color palate, which is a trend I've been noticing with my spinning. With knitting, I always choose yarns that fall into my normal palate; with spinning, I'll take whatever's in front of me, color be damned, so long as the tactile experience is nice.

All of these are experimental yarns, in one way or another.

This is my first non-wool/wool-blend yarn:

It's that Coppermoose "Cherry" ingeo, leftover from Kate's stash. It came out to be a 2-ply fingeringish weight, and although the yarn is very stiff, I think it'll make a nice drapey fabric - though not a whole lot, as it's only 196 yards. I was watching a lot of Scrubs while spinning it, and the color almost exactly matches one of Carla's scrubs sets, so I'm calling it "Don't worry, Bambi, Carla will take care of you."

This is my first attempt at a super-fine yarn, which ended up being my first really consistent fine yarn:

I was going for laceweight with the remains of my BFL from Detta's, but when I Navajo-plied it it came out to about 188 yards of a light fingering weight. It's the squishiest, softest, most silky and lovely thing I've ever spun, and I love it so much I think I lose brain cells every time I look at it. The name is "Platonic Cuddles" after a scene on Alias.

This was going to be my first soft single, but uh...

It came out not soft. Kind of crispy, actually. I don't know if I'll use it for anything, but it's at least 50 yards of sportish weight merino. The fiber was also from Detta's, in the "Bittersweet Chocolate" colorway. Now it's just "Well, crap."

And this is my first art yarn:

The contents: "Sunny Peach" merino from Coppermoose, black and cream antique lace, a friendship bracelet, and a handful of dangly heart and teardrop shaped beads. It's about 42 yards of superbulky/thick and thin 2-ply with really uneven plying, and it's so ridiculous I kind of adore it. It required an equally ridiculous name: "Honeybee Wedding."

Eventually I want to be able to do things like this. I had no desire to ever knit with art yarn until I started spinning, and now all I want to do is grab random decorative baubles out of Goodwill bins, toss them into yarn, and make weird scarves.

So that's what I've been doing with my TV time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I kind of like this book.

This has been the view at my kitchen table for the past two days:

The first draft of Or Your Money Back is done, with the following statistics:

69,536 words
12 chapters
191 pages, double spaced with 1" margins

Lots to celebrate tonight. And I'm celebrating with bargain pinot noir, chocolate stout, Alias, and cracky Supernatural fan fiction. Y'know - like a grown up! Courtesy those things and Kiah's camera, here is my new dust jacket-esque photo:


(Oh, and happy 100 posts to this blog! Thanks for reading.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

General update

Eyeballs-deep in work and novel WIP right now, so I might not have a proper entry here for a bit. Here's the gist of my current projects:

Writing: OYMB first draft is coming along nicely. This weekend I smacked a character in the head with a baseball bat and got my protagonist into a car on the way to Climactic Plot Events. Current status: 52,481 words, 9/13 chapters. I've got a couple days' worth of pay saved up, so I'm going to take two days off in the next week, lock myself in my apartment, and plow through the end of this book Misery-style. (But with an elderly terrier instead of Kathy Bates.)

Knitting: OH DEAR GOD. I can't work on any one project for more than a few minutes without getting fidgety like mad. It's infuriating. I've gotten a few inches done on the back of my Sylvi coat, a few rows on my Garter Yoke Cardi, a little bit of a scarf, a little bit of a sock, a little bit of another sock - and the list goes on. I've never been terribly project monogamous, but rotating a small army of knitting projects every five minutes is just ridiculous. Maybe it's because I've been so project monogamous in my writing lately, and my brain is staging a creative coup.

Spinning: Getting better. I've got a handful of little finished projects that I don't have pictures of. Here's one back when it was on the bobbin:

Also, I think I managed to infect my friend Lisa with the spinning bug, and I've got a pound and a half of bulk fiber en route to my apartment right now. Some of it has tencel in it. I'm excited.

Art: What? I've been doing art? Holy crap!

False alarm, I'm just dicking around with my oil paints.

Domesticity: I've been doing a ton of stuff in this realm lately, so I figured I'll count it as a project thing. In the last couple of months, I've been learning to cook and bake, and I've been decorating a little (the Supernatural motel room themed bathroom is on hold until I find the proper shower curtain, if you're wondering).

This weekend, my former roommates moved in downstairs, so I finally got my kitchen table back and completed my kitchen! Am unreasonably pleased with my doofy 50's-tastic table and its classy DIY decoration. (The flower is fake, the vase was a hand-me-down from a former roommate's mom, and the table runner is a modified obi from a costume I wore to an anime con a couple years bac.)

I've learned to make a couple of tasty recipes. The tastiest by a wide margin being Blueberry Boy Bait, which I made for a second time yesterday. Here's Kiah demonstrating how awesome Blueberry Boy Bait is.

And the finished Bait.

And that is what's up with me.