Posts Tagged ‘luck and wisdom’

Challenge Accepted

September 23, 2020

The Challenge project for October is to do something that scares you. Appropriate for the season, yes? I decided I would make myself a Halloween quilt. I’ve been collecting fabric for the perfect Halloween quilt for so long I’d forgotten what I have. I expected to find random pieces that maybe go together, maybe don’t. I had convinced myself the reason I’d never used the fabrics was because I was afraid the quilt would never be as perfect as I dreamed.

Silly me.

When I uncrated the collection shown above, I discovered I had three (3) Halloween UFOs. “Self,” I said, “get off your fraidy-cat hinder and finish these projects.” My reward will be two-fold: first, to have the collection used; second, to fill the empty bin with something else which, once I can see it, will be made into a beautiful and useful project. Let’s hope that’s enough to keep me sewing.

Luck and wisdom!

Who Knew?

September 21, 2020

On the road in Utah

Many years ago, we took a family road trip to the Southwest. Things were going fine until we hit Utah, when one of the cars broke down. As two of us had to be someplace else sooner than that car could be fixed, we split up in Kanab. To me, Kanab represents panic, Plan B, and patience being tested. While I vaguely remember the town as pretty, and am grateful to the mechanics who took care of us, I’ve never had the slightest interest in returning.

Then I read that there is an annual writers conference in Kanab, and has been since 2010. Who knew? Okay, a lot of people probably knew, but I didn’t. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the conference has been postponed until next year. I’m not seriously planning on attending, but part of me is imagining what it could be like to return to that town. Life is full of odd surprises, and that’s been the beginning of many a wonderful novel.

Luck and wisdom!

Finding The Right Art Exercise

September 16, 2020

I collect art exercises the same way I collect writing prompts. I’ll dog ear the page in the magazine and put it in a safe place. Sometimes I even come back to it. Usually, I lose the magazine in a pile, discover it weeks later (or months, or years) and realize this is not the right art exercises for me.

However, there are days when the wind blows fair and the waves are kind, and I find the right exercise. The latest issue of Quilting Arts has a stitching challenge, which I probably won’t ever finish, and an article about traditional quilts from India. I combined the two ideas with fabrics I had on the cutting table, and nearly completed my first art exercise during a Zoom meeting last night.

For me, the perfect art exercise will end with a product that looks like I meant to do it. At the very least it needs a binding. This exercise starts at the outside of the piece. You tuck fabric scraps under the turned-down edge and stitch. In other words, the binding is finished first. I can combine color and texture exercises with the stitching challenge to my heart’s content, knowing that in the end I will have finished pieces that can be part of a series or stand alone. They may not stand very long, but that’s a blog for another day.

Luck and wisdom!

The Physics of Light and Character Development

September 14, 2020

The sky turned orange (or at least yellow) over much of California last week due to all the smoke in the air. It was just physics – blue light got scattered, leaving only red light for us on the ground – but it affected many people. Some were excited, others were more unsettled. I found myself alternating between wanting to hide and parking myself at the window to watch the light.

I can use all those feelings for character development. In historical novels, the eerie sky would be an inciting incident for terrified villagers to grab the torches and burn down the houses of the ones they called witches. It could still be used that way in contemporary novels if one of the characters was particularly superstitious.

I can also use my inability to settle during that day when I need a character to show growing unease. Bouncing from one task to another, or one emotion to another, will be easier for me to describe now that I’ve observed myself doing it. For characters who are trying to talk themselves out of a panic attack, I can use snippets of the conversations I had with friends that day – or borrow from their Facebook posts (with their permission, of course).

The fact that I knew exactly why the sky looked the way it did brought me a temporary relief, but only temporary. A thousand generations of learning to run from a perceived threat isn’t something you can easily ignore. Don’t you love it when those odd bits you remember from physics class (or any other class you thought was useless at the time) help you explore how your characters could react to some new plot twist?

Luck and wisdom!

Improv Piecing

September 9, 2020

When I think of improv piecing, I think of crazy quilts. I was under the impression one used whatever shape scrap was available, and never used a ruler. Those of you who adore improv are already laughing, so let me explain how I learned the error of my ways.

The latest Progressive project was an improv row quilt. Fortunately, I was the last person in the group scheduled to work on the project, so I was able to benefit from everyone else. When I opened the bag, I realized once again that sometimes what my ears hear and my eyes read is not what my little gray cells process. Rather than finding ten strips with shards of fabric randomly scattered on the surface, I found tidy collections of variations on traditional blocks. Taking inspiration from my friend and co-author Ann Anastasio, I started with the bow tie block.

I am no longer afraid of improv piecing, as I finally understand I can use techniques I’m already comfortable with to explore the possibilities. Perhaps one day I’ll hide the ruler, but not until I’m ready.

Luck and wisdom!

A Blog Post About Blog Posts

September 7, 2020

Shameless self-promotion alert, my friend George Cramer is featuring me on his blog, which you can read here. George is a retired detective, loves motorcycles, and has a new book out. The Mona Lisa Sisters is a departure from the short stories and poems you may have seen from George in various anthologies. If you haven’t read any of George’s work, and even if you have, check out his debut novel.

Luck and wisdom!

Eat Dessert First

September 2, 2020

These are the times that send me straight to sugar. Okay, so I often use the slightest bit of stress to justify my sweet tooth. That’s a blog for another day. In years past, I have bemoaned the candy industry’s habit of selling seasonal delights months before the appropriate holiday. Not this year. I snatched a bag of candy corn the first time I saw the display, because who knows if there really will be a Halloween next month? Same with the big jar of M&Ms that I usually buy only at New Years. The Cheez-Its are just because. Don’t judge me.

Luck and wisdom!

Hurrah for Editors (and Proofreaders, and Those Who Produce Documentation)

August 31, 2020

My son reminded me to pack paper maps in my evacuation supplies bag, since relying on my phone’s GPS might be risky. It isn’t easy to find maps these days. I eventually bought a road atlas for the whole country. I like maps, so I don’t mind having another atlas in the collection.

The lack of maps at the local drugstore reminded me of other rare things – a good editor, a diligent proofreader, and the priceless writers who create useful documentation for all the devices, apps, patterns, and machinery I use. YouTube videos may be practical for some folks, but I prefer a well-indexed paper manual.

The next time you sigh over the high cost of editorial services, consider the cost of not paying for them. Your reputation, your readers’ enjoyment, and your very life could depend on the skill of that professional.

Luck and wisdom!

Tote Bags for Go Bags

August 26, 2020

My closet of tote bags

Okay, quilters and crafters, how many of you have more tote bags than pairs of shoes? I have ooh-gobs of tote bags. They follow me home when I’m not looking. I’ve used them for project bags, shopping bags, sorting bags, and now go bags. Since I live with earthquakes and major fires, you would think I’d naturally dedicate some of my tote bags for collecting supplies in an easy-grab format. Well, I haven’t. So here are my questions, quilters and crafters: (1) what is your list of essential items in case of evacuation; and (2) would it help to keep the darn things packed if the bags were cute?

Given that the fire south of me is still going strong, I’m not unpacking my current supplies any time soon. That’s not a gray dawn sky, folks, that’s smoke. The fire fighters have been doing an outstanding job keeping us safe, and I do expect this photograph will be only a scary memory soon, but I’m not tempting fate.

Luck and wisdom!

Setting and Character

August 24, 2020

There’s a huge fire burning south of us. While we don’t have to evacuate yet, we are preparing. That includes planning an escape route, which got me thinking about the shape of the valley we live in, which got me thinking how setting affects character.

A substitute for a valley (surface design by Mary Chalmers Brown)

We live in a shallow valley, similar to the serving bowl pictured above. There’s one major road cutting through from the pass on the west to the pass on the east. One could be lulled into feeling safe since the road is wide and well-maintained, but the security is also a trap. When the road is clogged, there’s no good way to get in or out. If I were to put one of my characters into such a setting, how might she react when a thousand-year flood pours over the hills and rushes down toward her?

I’ve lived on a ridge overlooking a steeper valley. When ice storms made the roads impassable, I felt as if I were on an island rather than a mountain. How would that setting shape my character, knowing that at any moment he could be isolated for long stretches of time?

Friends and family live in the Great Plains region. They’ve described watching a tornado swirl toward them, knowing their only recourse was to head off on the nearest perpendicular road, and hope the tornado didn’t change direction before they could get away. Could I make my villain come from such a place, where helplessness comes with the territory?

Consider trying the exercise of mapping your setting as if your life depended on it, then imagining how that landscape would mold your characters. If your setting isn’t one you see out your window, take a look at the stuff in your kitchen cabinets. Perhaps you’ll find a reasonable substitute, as I did with the serving bowl.

Luck and wisdom!