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.