Posts Tagged ‘Lani Longshore’

Improv Art

November 14, 2018

The improvisational piecing panels swam to the top of the nearest pile in the sewing room, so I finished the quilt.

I knew I wanted to do something with the raw edges of the panels, so in the true spirit of improvisational art I used what was at hand. Some thick embroidery thread and beads left from another project either had to go in the very next project or be put away. You don’t need to be psychic to guess what I did.

I’m pleased with the quilt, but I do wish I knew why this one worked and other improv pieces I’ve tried didn’t. Perhaps the stars were in alignment, perhaps I’m honing in my signature color palette, perhaps I like it because people I’ve shown it to like it. Fortunately, I have lots more scraps for more experiments.

Luck and wisdom!

Why Novelists Need Research

November 12, 2018

I still use my Encyclopaedia Britannica for quick research. Although I write science fiction, I want my human characters to be grounded in reality. Even my alien worlds and characters benefit from references to what we know (or think we know). Then an on-going project showed me just how valuable research is for novelists.

My husband and I are writing biographies of our families. Since just about everyone was a tinkerer or maker, he thought including a section on tools would be useful. Last week he started cataloging all the cameras we had inherited, and he decided to research each model. He wanted to know when it was produced (to narrow down when our family member might have bought it), how popular it was, what special features it had, anything that would help him understand why the camera was prized enough to make its way to us.

While doing this research, he remembered a narrow, pocket-size camera his father once owned. He discovered that it was marketed as a compact, convenient camera for families to use, but it was picked up by both the U.S. and Soviet spy community because it was easy to conceal and the optics were superb.

When I heard this story, I thought of building a story on the undiscovered spy in an otherwise normal family. Yes, the story has been told before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use the plot, and now I have a tool – Ian’s camera – to use as a prompt.

That is the fun of research. You never know where it could lead you, what story it could inspire, or where that story could take you.

Me and my camera, a long time ago

Luck and wisdom!

A Journey With Embroidery

November 7, 2018

There is something about embroidery that turns my fingers into a (nearly) perpetual motion machine. The top for On To Africa needed more embellishment, so I started adding a few lines of embroidery here and there. Before I knew it, the journey to a quilting-ready top was finished.

One side of the top is more heavily embroidered than the rest, but I’m okay with that. Most of this work was done by another artist (and I still don’t know who – none of my friends remember where I got the blocks either), and I’m perfectly content to let her work get all the attention.

I first thought I would leave the center appliqued panel alone, and fill in the open space with quilting. Then I realized the jacquard will absorb all the quilting, so I might as well embroider the living daylights out of it.

Shameless self-promotion alert, embroidery on the journey into space is a pivotal plot point in The Chenille Ultimatum. If you need a good giggle, give the book a try.

Luck and wisdom!

Normal Life for Me and My Characters

November 5, 2018

I vacuumed for the first time since hurting my ankle. While not exactly an earth-shattering event, it was a milestone for me. Cleaning isn’t my favorite activity, but once I didn’t have the strength or stability to push around the vacuum cleaner I became obsessed with recovering enough to do so, to get back to a normal life.

That got me thinking about character development, and what my characters might latch onto when they feel out of their element. I can imagine my plucky, unconventional heroine looking forward to doing her laundry when she returns to Earth from her interstellar explorations. Her sidekick and potential boyfriend might think running an errand for his mother would mean he is really home. These scenes may never appear in the novel, but that’s okay. If I know that the character feels untethered because part of her past is no longer relevant (even a chore she always hated), it will help me understand how she might react in the scene. Building a character, like keeping house, is all about what happens when no one is looking.

Luck and wisdom!

Samhain, Start of the Holiday Season

October 31, 2018

You probably know that Halloween is my second favorite holiday, because I’m always rambling on about the candy and the costumes.

My no-mess Halloween pumpkin

I also like Halloween because its roots are from an ancient Celtic harvest festival, Samhain. It is a festival of thanksgiving, and those are useful celebrations. I think of Halloween as the beginning of the holiday season, a time of joy and giving that leads into November’s Thanksgiving. Since I’m a vegetarian, the turkey-ness of Thanksgiving recedes, leaving room for the family-and-friend-ness of Thanksgiving. That leads into December, and all the holidays of joy and gratitude. Then there’s New Year, a celebration of hope and change.

Hidden within all this gratitude and hope is a little fear. Perhaps the new year won’t be as wonderful as we would like, perhaps this is the last time we’ll feel joy, perhaps we aren’t grateful enough. That’s another reason I like to think of Halloween as the start of the holidays, because its roots include a time of fear and wonder. At Samhain, the veil between our world and the spirit world was pulled away, allowing space for the unknown to invade. Halloween reminds me that a little fear can be useful, as long as you don’t let it prevent you from stepping forward in hope.

Thanks, Maya, for the painted fabric!

Luck and wisdom!

Coincidence in Fact and Fiction

October 29, 2018

I went to see the doctor about my ankle (which is progressing as well as can be expected), and the universe handed me one of those coincidences that begs to be part of a story. The doctor I saw in the minor injury clinic was the same doctor who saw me seven years ago for a bad sprain of my other ankle. At that point, the clinic had only been open a month; now, the clinic will be consolidated with a another facility – in about a month.

Real life is full of these coincidences. Most of the time, they just make amusing stories. Fictional life is also full of coincidence, but requires the coincidence to have profound meaning. As soon as I left the clinic, I started wondering how I could turn these two chance appointments into something else. A thriller might cast the doctor as a sleeper spy, with the first meeting introducing the spy’s contact (the patient), and the second setting the story in motion. I write sci fi, so maybe I could have the doctor insert a device in the patient in the first meeting, and require the second meeting because the device is malfunctioning. What would your genre do with this coincidence?

My foot, SLOWLY healing

Luck and wisdom!

Tree Series – Experiment

October 24, 2018

Since one of my art quilt groups is exploring theme – and I had some scraps available – I decided to start that tree quilt series I’ve been talking myself out of doing for who knows how many years. I made small panels using improvisational piecing and quilted a tree on one. I showed the group my panels, and they thought I had a good beginning. They suggested floating the panels on an underquilt. Here’s what I have so far:

Better 1?

Better 2?

The big lesson in this experiment is that I am a lot more courageous when I don’t have a huge emotional investment in the fabric I use for art quilts. Of course, that means the lovely pieces I have collected are still languishing in the drawer, but at least I am using my scraps!

Luck and wisdom!

Autumn Prompt

October 22, 2018

My ankle is recovering, but I still like to keep it elevated as much as possible, which makes sitting at the computer or sewing machine a bit dicey. I am keeping up – sorta, kinda, maybe – with my novel and my quilting, but haven’t achieved any ground-breaking results. That’s why, for today’s writing blog, I present a prompt. This is a picture of my region’s autumn color. California really does have a fall leaf season, which usually lasts at least a couple of days between the last triple-digit heat wave and the onset of cold rain and sleet.

You can see a palm and pine through the branches of the tree in the foreground. I took this picture as inspiration for a quilt, but it can work a little harder as a prompt for a short story. Give it your best shot, and if it turns out to be poetry or very short fiction, feel free to post it in the comments section.

Luck and wisdom!

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!