Friday, July 31, 2009

The "I'm technically off work but here's a quick blog post before I go anyway" post

Knitting status update: Working on this scarf in Bex's gorgeous handspun:

And I finally finished the first of the pair of socks I started the week I moved out of my old place.

Lots of other fiber projects floating around. Enough that last night I sat down and took inventory of all my WIPs, stash yarn dedicated to particular upcoming projects, and undedicated stash yarn. I decided to knit strictly from my stash for the rest of the year (except for gift knits) after buying my wheel, and now I don't feel like that will be even a little bit of a challenge.

OYMB status update: Wrote 8500 words in the last three days, including finishing two chapters. Today I start a new chapter that involves alcohol, vandalism, and a monologue I've been looking forward to since before I started writing this draft. The character who gets the monologue has just informed me that he wants to do it while plastered, and that is just peachy by me.

And I'm off.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

State of the Manuscript

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but I always remember when I'm at home, and as I think I've previously said, I am currently an internetless hermit type. Anyway. About that novel.

Or Your Money Back currently stands at 27,136 words and 5 complete chapters. I'm expecting it to hit somewhere in the 70,000-80,000 words range, and after plotting, re-plotting, and ruining my aunt's 1994 nature calendar with a set of markers, I finally have a solid working outline that spans a total of 13 chapters.

This means the first draft is about 38% done as it stands. It needs to be all done by September, when I start an independent study course to revise it. I'm a little nervous about having less than half the draft done this late in the summer, but I've set myself some firm rules that will make sure I reach my goal. They're actually taken from an old set of rules I set for myself (and followed for six months successfully) in my first year of grad school.

The Rules:

1. Write 2,000 words a day, minimum. Keep a log of wordcounts in the back of current writing notebook. Only words in Scrivener count, but words written in a notebook and typed up will count the day they're typed.

2. Taking a day off is okay, but aim for no more than one a week. Two, if the week's wordcount has been extremely productive.

3. Days when less than 2,000 words are written count as a zero, but the words written can be counted toward the next day's 2,000.

There are lots of little footnotes to these rules, most of them involving caffeine and chocolate intake, but that's the gist. It works pretty well for me, especially on days when I hit the 2,000 early - then I start getting competitive with myself, pushing for a new record on daily wordcount. I think my personal best still stands at 5,500, from February 2008 when I spent a day plowing through the climactic chapters of Core powered by a one-liter of Dr. Pepper.

At any rate, I wrote 3,300 words last night and another 1,100 when I got up this morning, and I'm ridiculously happy with this draft so far. I just hit the point in the novel where it launches itself out of setup (which I don't much like) and into PLOT, so now every scene I get to write is something I've been looking forward to. I'm surprised cartoon hearts haven't been following me around all day.

Since I got my spinning wheel my brain has been defaulting to "Is it time to spin yet?" whenever it has idle time. As of this morning, the switch has flipped to "Is it time to write Seb yet?"

And yes, actually, it is!

Mal Malcifer Malcolm Mally Wally

My hobby: making up excruciatingly dumb nicknames for fictional characters and/or inanimate objects.

Oh, and also this:

That's roughly 4 oz of Corriedale, two different colorways from Knitty and Color ("Kermit" and "Mariner's Revenge") plied together into a mostly worsted and bulky weight. This was my very first wheel spun yarn, done on Kate's Ashford Traditional and plied rather sloppily on my Minstrel. I was experimenting with smaller whorls, and it didn't go so well.

This, on the other hand, went surprisingly well!

It's the "Mariner's Revenge" Corriedale, maybe 2 oz, in lace weight. I was spinning it on Mal just to see how thin I could get it and have some yarn I didn't care much about to use to try my first Navajo/chain ply. It ended up being the most even thing I've spun so far, though (that one chunky part in the photo is the tail end), and I kind of want to skein it up as singles and use it in a lace project instead.

And this is what I'm tormenting Mal with as of last night:

The roving is "Sweet Jasmine" from Copperpot on Etsy. I believe it's a bamboo/merino/colonial mix, and is it not the most 80's color palate you have ever seen in your life? I mean, really. Put this roving in a blazer with giant shoulder pads and you could take it to your high school's Back to the 80's Dance.

Captain Tightpants feels his wheely masculinity is threatened by this much sparkly girly colors. He's just lucky I'm spinning my sparkly "Belly Dancer" batt on a drop spindle.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Good for misbehavin'

Internet, meet Mal.

Mal is a Kromski Minstrel with a walnut stain. I bought him at Detta's Spindle this Saturday.

He got the name because he's sturdy, smooth, good at what he does, and of course, so very pretty.

Plus if he gets in trouble I can call him "Sergeant" to annoy him.

Aside from the wheel, I also bought a ton of fiber to spin. From left to right: 8 oz superwash mill end wool, 1 lb superwash mill end wool, 10 oz merino in "Bitter Chocolate," and 8 oz BFL.

I've spent the last two nights spinning while watching Scrubs DVDs. The first night, I spun up and plied about 66 yards of BFL of fluffy thick and thin (mostly superbulky) yarn. It will make a fine hat.

Told you I was screwed. (Or would a better word be "humped"?)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Or Your Money Back: The Soundtrack

There's one central part of my writing process that I've never seen suggested in a book on fiction writing. I know it's not uncommon - at least two other writers I know do this. It's a fun exercise that helps me keep a story percolating between writing sessions: I make soundtracks.

The list of playlists I've made in iTunes betrays my epic nerditude for story soundtracks. I have a few playlists that a normal person might've made, like "Songs to sing along to" and "Songs for road trips," but the vast majority of my playlists are story soundtracks. I make one for every novel I write. And every short story I work on for more than a week. And occasionally just for single key scenes I need to write ("Tiern/Rowyn FIGHT" is a romping good mix, IMHO). Making soundtracks helps me sort out what I want a story or scene to feel like, and sometimes what direction I want it to take. And it plays into my obsessive nature, which is a bonus.

I've been listening to my Or Your Money Back soundtrack a lot lately. The two songs that got me started building the mix are Queen's "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" and Incubus's "Drive," which represent pretty damn accurately where I wanted Seb to be as a character at the beginning and end of the book.

The soundtrack:

Queen - Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
Fresh out of the box lover boy idealism, confident and upbeat. This is so Seb it hurts.

Vertical Horizon - Everything You Want
"I'm everything you want/I'm everything you need[...]/But I mean nothing to you and I don't know why." Seb's relationship with his dreamer, in a nutshell.

Kristin Chenoweth - Hopelessly Devoted to You (from the Pushing Daisies soundtrack)
Like Olive, Seb is the sort of character who might have a lovesick musical number while closing up at a pie shop. If he worked at a pie shop.

The Coral - Dreaming of You
"In my lonely room/while I'm dreaming of you/oh what can I do/I still need you but/I don't want you now"

Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me

Tender. Tactile. Stalkery. That's my boy.

Wreckless Eric - Whole Wide World
Here for tone/message more than literal lyrics. Seb is fixated on there being one person for him.

The Killers - Mr. Brightside
This song is in two of my story soundtracks at the moment. I don't know what's up with my protagonists wanting people who are taken.

Jimmy Eat World - Sweetness
A budding sense of jadedness, set to cheery music.

Kansas - Carry on Wayward Son
This ends up in every damn soundtrack I make lately. I blame Supernatural. (It does have an appropriate theme, though.)

Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly
"Fly along with me/I can't quite make it alone/Try to make this life my own."

Snow Patrol - Chocolate
"This could be the very minute/I'm aware I'm alive/All these places feel like home." Another self-discovery song - and probably my favorite music video of this bunch.

Asia - Heat of the Moment
I have no shame. I just love this. It's the sort of song Seb would sing along to at full volume while driving.

Snow Patrol - Crack the Shutters
Very tactile first-person protagonist. Fleshy times with love interest. Lack of shame will probably serve me well.

Incubus - Drive
Seb's second character song - independence, subverting authority, taking responsibility for himself. The lyric "When I drive myself/my light is found" plays heavily into a monologue one of his supporting characters has. Like "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy," pretty much perfect for the character at this point in the story.

Coldplay - Don't Panic
Seb's biggest strength is probably his ability to see the beauty in things. Even months after his creation, he looks at the world with a sense of awe. He probably drives the people around him nuts.

Foo Fighters - M.I.A.
The tone I'm aiming at for the ending.

Heartache, love, and self-discovery, set to cheery tunes. This is what I associate with Seb. Listening to it while I'm walking home lets me crawl inside his head a little. It's pretty good writing music, too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More virulent than the flu virus, but produces prettier results

Until recently, I had only one purple shirt in my closet and owned no purple yarn. Then the Purple Epidemic hit.

We'll call this Patient Zero:

Infected June 2009. Transmitted the purple virus to my apartment.

Masks were given out and hand washing instructions posted in all restrooms, but at the end of the month, another fiber project contracted the virus.

In mid-July, it jumped to spinning fiber, worming its way into a color transition experiment. Note how the purple creeps up through the blacks and reds - its progression seems slower in this carrier.

If infection continues at this rate, my apartment may need to be quarantined. I've separated the purple-infected projects from my green vacation Clapotis, but I'm certain that will be purple soon, too.

Send non-perishable foodstuffs and yellow yarn.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feels like survival

I've spent most of the last week with my dad, aunt, uncle, and second-cousins (or cousins once removed, or cousins squared? I can never keep up with those labels). Sunday and Monday, my dad and I slept in a tent outside my aunt and uncle's house, which is currently in a process of major renovation. Tuesday through Thursday, the lot of us packed up and went camping at Little Girl's Point, a spot on the Upper Michigan end of Lake Superior.

I finished this the first day of the trip:

It's another Verity beret, this time done in my own handspun (my first project in it!), for my aunt Suzy. I had promised her one of these hats ages ago, started one and frogged it, and then woke up a few days before my trip and realized that the skein of handspun hanging from my bedpost was the colors of Suzy's favorite costume from when she was a belly dancer in Alaska in the 70's. It's even a little shiny because of the bamboo content - it's not sequins, but close enough!

I love the way the colors came out when knitted up.

So that was my first finished thing of the vacation, wrapped up in my aunt's cozy living room. The next thing was finished here:

That's my dad's spare tent. The one he and my mom honeymooned in, oh, thirty years ago? And no, that big pale canvas flap isn't original to the tent. It's glued and pinned in place as a makeshift front door because that little bit of zipper action you see in the photo is about as zipped up as the original front flaps get without prayers and human sacrifices.

Also, it has a worm hole in the bottom. And it leaks from the seams. And it's constantly trying to pull away from the ground. It was like sleeping in a really flat-bottomed moon bounce. But it beat sharing the new tent with my dad, who goes to sleep hours before I do, snores, and emits gasses unfit for discussion in this delicate internet. So he got a tent to himself, and I shared with my sixteen-year-old whatever-cousin Abi, who has a sleeping schedule similar to my own.

And HA to my dad. We got the view.

That's a drop-off overlooking Lake Superior, five feet from the front of the tent. At right: anti-wendigo device. (And yes, the mesh is actually zipped in that shot. Sacrifices were made. But whatever-cousin Jacob was ten and loud, so nobody will miss him that much.)

The first night at the campsite, it thundered and poured. Abi and I were up most of the night, laughing nervously about how the leaky, bouncing tent was going to either flip and crush us or drown us in our sleep. The weather gave us one short window to make a midnight run to the restrooms down the road, then rained diagonally in our faces so hard on the trip back that we almost couldn't find the campsite.

I think it's worth noting at this point that I had not been camping since childhood, when camping was one of my most loathed activities. Having survived tenting in my dad's ghettofabulous tent a thunderstorm, I say again: HA.

Speaking of survival, I had an enlightening conversation with whatever-cousin Jacob over the campfire one night. We were cooking hotdogs, and when his was done, he held it up and announced, "I like cooking my own food. It feels like survival."

"Really?" I asked. "You're a great survivalist?"

He nodded. When I pointed out that his hot dog had been bought by his grandfather and stored in an RV freezer, Jacob just said, "Well, I could hunt a wiener pig all by myself if I wanted."

"A wiener pig?"

"Where hot dogs come from."

Oh. Well. I did not know that.

So, there you have it: the true origin of hot dogs. Wiener pigs. By the way Jacob describes them, it sounds like they're running rampant in the wilds of Upper Michigan. Be careful hiking around Little Girl's Point, or the wiener pigs might get you.

Lake Superior is a pretty good place to get some writing done, improbable wildlife aside. I finished chapter three of Or Your Money Back while sitting on the rocky beach, looking out over the waves. Even though I'd just slid down a small cliff on my butt to get to the shore, it was very peaceful.

I'm not sure I like camping. The lake was freezing, it ate my flip-flops, and it tried to bowl me over with big groping waves when I tried to wash my hair, but it was so very pretty. And sleeping in the tent--well. My first night back I had a nightmare about the tent flooding and flung myself out the tent door, only to wake up as I fell out of my loft bed. Bruises everywhere.

It seems like my regular life is a tad more dangerous than camping. But at least in my apartment, I don't have to hunt wiener pigs for food.

(By the by, if any of you knitters are ever in Superior, check out Fabric Works on Tower Avenue. We stopped there on the way home, and even though I was in gross post-camping garb, the ladies there were nothing but friendly.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Kate brought over her spinning wheel yesterday to teach me to spin on it. I figured I'd spend most of the evening figuring out how to get it to go the right speed, and maybe spin a couple dozen yards as a test.


I'm so screwed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A thing! I made a thing!

Finished this last night while watching Firefly episodes and The Little Mermaid. It's at least 196 yards of 60% superwash merino/30% bamboo/10% nylon in a sport to bulky weight.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What I'm doing and where I've been

The problem with not having internet in my apartment is I've been neglecting this blog. The upside is that you, reader, have not been inundated with the posts I've been typing up in my head and then forgetting. Posts like "Eating an olive sandwich is oddly liberating" and "OH CHRIST A CENTIPEDE" and "Muppet-dog is judging me again." You will never have to read those posts. You're better for it.

As an apology for not having any content here for almost two weeks, here are some snapshots of what I've been up to.

First off, the yard.

I've never had a yard I loved this much. It's a little bigger than an average St. Paul back yard, entirely fenced in, with fruit trees, a huge lilac bush, and a border that only touches one other neighbor's yard. I've been spending a lot of time out there, just sort of basking.

The pear tree is laden with fruit already, all its branches bowing under the weight. There are hundreds of pears, slightly bigger than ping-pong balls.

The concord grape vines along the back of the fence:

The two apple trees have dropped a lot of their fruit already, but some of them are still growing. They're about this big now:

The muppet-dog in the yard, looking uncharacteristically heroic:
He spends most of his time out there snuffling around for apples to chew on and barking at the neighbors across the alley.

Next, knitting.

Owls sweater, knit up to the armpits:

Garter Yoke Cardi, about five inches from the body being done:

Sylvi jacket so far:
I've also been doing a lot of spinning lately.

Playing around with spinning Corriedale wool in lace weight - the most consistent thing I've spun so far:

And my favorite thing I've spun:

That's a full 4 oz of 60% superwash merino/30% bamboo/10% nylon, spun into lace to fingering weight. It's currently sitting on my ballwinder, waiting for me to get home and ply it. As soon as I get done with this shift at work, it is on.

Lastly, writing.

It's a little hard to take pictures of writing. So here are some things on my writing desk.

This is Harold. I bought him at a garage sale last week, and so far he's been an excellent supervisor.

Stone trinkets, feathers, a candle that smells like Christmas cookies, and my outline for the chapter of Or Your Money Back I just completed:
OYMB is currently in its third chapter. It took me a while to get into the groove of the story, but now it's cruising along nicely. And I seem to be bonding pretty well with the narrator. I have an odd history of my life imitating parts of my POV characters' lives. There have been instances with my long-time fantasy series narrator, Tiern, where I've written something in his life and then had a similar thing happen to me in the next week, unexpectantly - things like small injuries, particular bits of news from friends, mood shifts, even getting rejected. The more involved I got in Tiern's story, the more this happened. (Thankfully, the deadly psychic powers, major character deaths, and epic war plots have stayed firmly in the realm of fiction.)

Anyway, to the point. Over the weekend I wrote Seb getting blisters from his too-tight loafers. Yesterday I wore some sandals that usually don't hurt much...and got big whopping blisters on my feet, in the exact number and locations of my narrator's. Cue the spooky music.

I'm not going to show you a picture of my blistered toes, though. (You're welcome.)