On To Africa

October 17, 2018

The expedition in my sewing room took another turn. I finished a simple pieced quilt, and now must start pulling random blocks, most with African-themed embroidery, into a coherent piece. This is the finished quilt:

These are the blocks that need organizing:

I appliqued the tree block and made most of the embroidered blocks, although a few were done by someone else. I don’t remember how I managed to acquire the patterns, thread, and partially completed blocks. Perhaps I bought them at a silent auction, perhaps they were given to me by someone who knows I like to embroider, perhaps they were left on the doorstep in the dead of night (no, I would probably remember that).

In any event, this is my next project, and On to Africa is the working title.

Luck and wisdom!

Our Story-Saturated World

October 15, 2018

We see stories every day. Movies, television, sometimes even advertising informs our potential readers. When there are so many stories floating in the air, how can we make our work stand out?

The short answer is write your best; the long answer is more complicated. Perhaps we start by losing our fear of the story that’s been told before. I’ve critiqued dozens of short stories and several novels. All of them had been told before. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the story in front of me.

When Ann Anastasio and I started on our first novel, Death By Chenille, we knew we would be following a familiar plot – unsuspecting heroines save the world from space aliens because they are the only ones who know about the invasion. Rather than worry about it, we reveled in it. We both love a good monster movie, and 1950s sci fi movies, so why not use the formula?

The essence of a good story is that it grabs the reader and propels her into another reality. She may recognize the thwarted love story, the unfair accusation plot point, even the journey of the villain-as-wounded-everyman. If the story is compelling (or even a little goofy), the reader will continue turning pages.

Luck and wisdom!

Coast to Coast with Confidence

October 10, 2018

In one of those moments when the universe says, “Just get on with it,” the quilt I absolutely, positively had to finish was the one with the heron. I’ve called the quilt Coast to Coast, and it was just the confidence boost I needed.

Quilted, bound, and labeled

My foot still doesn’t like to be down for any length of time, but I had to change threads often for this quilt. What under ordinary circumstances would have been discouraging turned out to be practical – thirty minutes with my foot down, ice and rest, repeat. Even with all the thread changes, the quilting went much faster than I expected.

The dreaded heron and the many quilting threads

I also made a feature out of a bug by using yellow thread around the center of the flowers. My original intent was merely to hide the little boo-boo when the yellow meandered over the black, but I like it better this way.

The pattern called for one tree and a house, but I made three trees representing the palm trees, deciduous trees, and pine trees that can be found together on every street in my town.

This quilt was years in the making, since I was afraid to make the appliqued heron, nervous about changing the pattern, and concerned that I really couldn’t put all three Row By Row kits together to make a coherent piece. Furthermore, I was truly terrified that my injury wouldn’t let me get back in the sewing room at all, much less in time to finish the quilt for the guild Unfinished Quilt Challenge. Because of my fears, once I got started Coast to Coast became a huge confidence builder.

Luck and wisdom!

The Time of Gratitude

October 8, 2018

It’s week 3 of The Great Ankle Recovery. I’m still hobbling, still not driving, and holiday season is approaching. While Thanksgiving starts the holiday season for most people, many writers I know consider November 1 to be the kick-off date. That is the beginning of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen friends though the Time of Gratitude – and if you’ve completed NaNoWriMo you know what I mean. No matter how grudgingly, your friends and family had to give you the gift of time to write or you never would have achieved your goal. The same will be true in December, the King Kong of holiday months. If you get a chance to write, be grateful.

Were I a good motivational consultant, I would set out my list of “Seven simple things you can do to make time to write” or “Five sure-fire ways to get your family off your back” or even “Three words to ditch all your responsibilities so you can sit at the computer.” Good luck with that. There are no simple ways to create writing time, no sure-fire ways to get people to leave you alone, and no magic words to ditch responsibilities without massive consequences. If you can manage to edit a chapter between gift-buying and eggnog-slurping, be grateful.

My extended holiday wish for you, no matter what you celebrate, is confidence in your craft. Yes, your schedule will be disrupted this month. Yes, you may forget a few details about your plot or characters. Yes, those deadlines will be staring you in the face sooner than you would like. You are a writer. You will persevere. You will get back to work as soon and as often as you can. And when you do, be grateful.

Luck and wisdom!

Halloween – My Second Favorite Holiday

October 3, 2018

It’s week 2 of recovery for my ankle, and I still haven’t been able to do anything in the sewing room. Luckily, it is also October and time for Halloween. I love Halloween for the kitsch, the candy, and the costumes. I also like Halloween accessories, like this keychain.

I think this one might breathe fire with the “Boo!”

The keychain will go nicely with my Halloween handbag. I made it from one of my many collections of Halloween fabric.

I still spend a good part of my day with my foot elevated, but at least now I have monster movies to enjoy.

Luck and wisdom!

The Nature of Language

October 1, 2018

I talk with my hands. Okay, as I’ve never mastered American Sign Language and don’t use my personal, private hand signals with any consistency it is more accurate to say I flail with my hands. No amount of magical thinking will ever give meaning to my movements.

These are not words

That begs the question of the nature of language, and how I can use it to add more depth to my characters. If I create a multi-lingual character, will he combine languages when he is stressed? If I create an extraterrestrial who speaks with colored light, will she spell words in the air when she learns English? My aliens in The Chenille Ultimatum use poetry for their prophetic messages – what would a species that speaks with dance use for prophecy, or stand-up comedy? Although my finger waves and wrist curls only make sense to me, in my writing they can speak with grace and eloquence.

Luck and wisdom!

Pour Art

September 26, 2018

I haven’t been able to do anything in the sewing room, what with a gimpy foot and all. Even handwork is out of the question since I have to keep the puffy little thing elevated (at the moment it looks like a watermelon), which keeps me at an odd angle on the couch, which means more beads fall on the floor than get captured by my needle. The only thing I have to look at is older work, such as this small canvas.

My art critique group held a play date where we all made two pieces by pouring paint over canvas. For once, I choose a restrained color scheme, and the results were much better than anything I’ve ever tried with paint.

The small canvas looks like an architectural detail to me, while the piece above reminds me of a satellite image, or perhaps a riverscape. I’m not sure what I will do with either canvas. For the moment, I’m reveling in the knowledge that less really can be more.

Luck and wisdom!

Never Walk and Think At The Same Time

September 24, 2018

The mantra for hiking in treacherous territory is, “If you’re looking, don’t walk. If you’re walking, don’t look.” I never knew it applied to going down the stairs in my own house. Apparently it does. I was thinking of the next bit of cleaning I had to do, and missed the bottom step on the landing. My ankle took a beating, but at least nothing broke.

My ankle in an air cast

I resurrected another saved object – the air cast in the picture is one I used 30 years ago when I broke my ankle practicing a small leap for ballet class. That was embarrassing for so many reasons, not the least because I was taking my first ballet lessons as an adult. My mom never enrolled me as a child. She was afraid it would damage my feet. She was right. One of these days, I’m going to create a story around my dickey ankles and the many times they’ve rolled, collapsed, buckled, and otherwise betrayed me.

What you can make from dowels and stuff

Another story I have to write is about the magic rooms where we keep our collection of odd but useful stuff. As I tried to take a step after the fall on the stairs, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to put any weight on it at all that day. I casually mentioned to my husband that a cane would help. The light went on in his eyes, and within the hour he had made me the cane pictured above from scrap wood and a leftover furniture cup that he had in his workshop. I’m proud of being a pack rat, and someday will find a way to incorporate it in a story.

Luck and wisdom!

Chipping Away at Obstacles

September 19, 2018

I had hoped my row quilt would be done by now, but stuff happened. I was able to chip away at enough obstacles to finish the top. A qualified success is still a win.

I call it “Coast to Coast”

Although I complain about life getting in the way of quilting, the good news is I have things to do, places to go, people to see. Yes, I want to complete my projects, but my life is more than my work. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that. My friend Jan Maxwell made me a potholder featuring a woman wrapped in purple, with a cup of hot tea. Sometimes, despite obstacles and nagging to-do lists, life is good exactly as it is.

It’s okay to just be happy

Luck and wisdom!

World-Building Through Cheese

September 17, 2018

Cheesehenge

The local paper ran an article about cheese not being the source of all evil for anyone worrying about cardiovascular issues. My inner cheese-hound yipped and yapped and chased its tail, because I adore cheese but there is a history of heart disease on both sides of the family. While rescuing my recipes for cheeseballs, cheese sauces, fondues, savory pastries, souffles, and quiches from the dusty corners of the cookbook shelf, I thought of how I’ve used food in my sci fi stories. Ann Anastasio and I have featured food in each book of the Chenille series. We’ve also made a subplot out of Earth foods that are similar to products on our imaginary planet, Schtatik. Reading the article about cheese reminded me of all the nutrition advice I’ve followed only to be told later that the studies were wrong, which illustrated a hole in my world-building. When I think of what my aliens might eat, I’ve always envisioned their diets as an ideal, or bound by ritual. I don’t think I’ve ever given my aliens a chance to cheat on their diets, or indulge in comfort food, or visit the junk food aisle in their groceries. I’ve never even considered what their groceries would look like. Ever. From now on, however, I’m going to spend a little time imagining what my aliens think they should eat as well as what they do eat, and why it matters. World-building through cheese – yeah, that’s a thing now.