Monday, March 22, 2010

Three outta four ain't bad.

I've been in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin for almost a week now, staying at my usual retreat: my favorite aunt and uncle's house. This trip had been planned and thwarted twice in the last six months by events out of my control, and finally getting to go has been such a relief.

My aunt and uncle's house is outside a small town on a few acres of wooded land with pockets of rusted horse-drawn farm equipment and 50's era car husks. The biggest excitement of the week is driving down to the recycling center. The coffee pot starts brewing at 6:15am every morning, and I wander out of the spare bedroom and curl up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a blanket until the wood stove warms the house. I'm never happy about being awake before 9am except when I'm here. At home, being awake before 9am means I've got a workday ahead of me or a massive to-do list looming. Here, being awake before 9am means drinking a hot cup of coffee, having breakfast cooked up for me with a side of sarcasm by Uncle Larry, and getting a good view of the day ahead, which is always laid back even when I have a to-do list.

Aunt Suzy's cat Kolipoki demonstrates how I feel most days that I'm here:


On top of the laid back lifestyle up here, this house is just about humming with creative energy. Suzy is a jack of all arts and crafts. She's painted, drawn, woodburned, thrown pottery, carved, and probably some other things I'm forgetting. The house is covered with her handiwork - my room is the one least touched by Suzy's art, and it still has a lamp she woodburned, two framed paintings, and a large underwater mural on drywall screwed onto one wall. Being surrounded by things she's created makes me want to surround myself with things I've created. She's been working on a new carving while I've been here, but it's large scale and won't be done before I leave.

Larry is an inventor. He spends most of the day up in his shop, welding together weight lifting machines of his own design. Three days a week, he's also the personal trainer for the household and his and Suzy's friends. He invents things other than weight lifting machines, but they're not for sale. He makes up songs to sing as he walks around the house, episodes of CSI that ought to get shot, ways to tease me, and over J-term of 2008, "Bidet in a Box" - which, combining his singing and inventing talents, had its own theme song at one point. Every morning for three days when I woke up, Larry would pass me at the coffee pot and say, "I made probably a million dollars this morning working on my Bidet in a Box idea. What did you do this morning?"

It pains me that Bidet in a Box will never be an actual product, not because Larry won't get his millions but because I would love to see a commercial with a cartoon box of toilet wipes singing, "Bidet in a Box, Bidet in a box! Buy it and you'll feel smart as a fox!"

(To answer your questions about this picture: No, he only wears a coat when it's below 0 degrees F; about 65 years old; and yes, he could bench press you.)

Anyway, so: Peace? Check. Quiet? Check. Crazy creative people? Double check. Perfect creative sabbatical.

My to-do list for this trip was:
  • Finish a chapter from Sum (AKA book 3 of The Fantasy Series What Ate My Life)
  • Finish knitting my Sylvi coat
  • Write the first chapter of an upcoming novel, which I plan on submitting to the WisCon writers workshop at the end of the month
  • Work on the multi-chapter fanfic I've had in my head since the fall
On Thursday night, I finished a chapter of Sum that I had started in 2008.

On Sunday night, I posted the first chapter of the fic.

And today, with the exception of buttons and a good soak and blocking, I finished this:

This coat was the knitting project mirror to Or Your Money Back, a project I took up thinking I could sit down and knit on it when I was stuck on the story. It turned out that the story itself had few places to get stuck, and the coat turned into more of a symbol of my confidence regarding the project. For a long while it was on hiatus, then it came creeping back into my current WIPs once I was submitting queries, and this week, watching my aunt read (and cry over) OYMB, I finally worked up the guts to finish it.

Like the book, the coat turned out whimsical, twisty, and just a tad shorter than I expected. It also took a mad dash of what seemed like for-fucking-ever to get the finishing done.

I did wind up making some progress on that first chapter I need to get done, but not as much as I had hoped. Normally, not hitting an intended deadline drives me a little nuts. Today, though? Too much else has gone right, and I am far too relaxed to care.

Big dumb grins all around.

I go home tomorrow.

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