Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

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.

Writing Prompts to the Rescue

May 7, 2018

I have more than enough ideas to keep me writing, if only I would write. Thank heavens Patricia Boyle, the president of the Tri-Valley Writers Branch of the California Writers Club, opens our monthly meetings with a writing prompt. We get four minutes to write, then on to the next item on the agenda. Those four minutes sometimes rescue me from an entire month when I write nothing more momentous than the grocery list. Some of her prompts have evolved into short stories for me. I’m not sure where this snippet will go, but I like it. The prompt became the first two lines of the story.

She hadn’t seen him for six months, but there he was in the coffee shop. He sat by himself, weeping into his herbal tea.

“Rees, do you mind if I sit down?” she asked. “I don’t want to intrude.”

“Please,” he said, “join me.” He leaned over his cup again. The tears flowed off his cheeks into his drink.

“So, how’s the experiment going?” she asked.

“As you can see,” Rees said, “I’m expressing the antidote as fast as I can. Say, maybe you can help. Tell me a sad story about your divorce. Another quarter cup of tear solution, and I’ve reached my quota.”

A Sci-Fi Crazy Quilt

April 4, 2018

When Ann Anastasio and I wrote our first novel, Death By Chenille, we planned to create patterns for the quilts mentioned in the book. I volunteered to make the crazy quilt we described. I thought it would be pretty, and I love to embroider. Well, our third novel, The Chenille Ultimatum, has just been published and I’m finally getting started on the blocks. I have them pieced, but not embellished.

I believe this one will have yellow chevrons

Although we have mentioned this quilt in all three books, we haven’t described it lately so I had to go back and read the description. I’m one of the authors–you would think I could remember my own words. Not so much. “Self,” I said, “this crazy quilt idea is getting crazier by the minute.”

We described one block bisected with an embroidered ribbon

The quilt plays an important role in getting the aliens to trust the humans. The embroidery stitches tell the story of the first time they visited Earth. I had worked out what each stitch meant. Unfortunately, I succumbed to the worst lie writers tell themselves: “I’ll remember this later. No need to write it down now.” Of course I don’t remember what I had in mind and now I have to come up with embroidery patterns that fit.

The cross-stitch tells the story of the first time the aliens visited Earth

Our books are cozy sci-fi, which means the science is wibbly-wobbly because humor is more important than equations (our aliens disguise themselves as bolts of beige fabric, for Pete’s sake), so I’m hoping our readers are the cozy and forgiving sort. I am counting on the kindness of quilters who will agree that a finished quilt is beautiful, even if it doesn’t entirely fit the description in the book.

Luck and wisdom!

L Is For Lobster

March 8, 2017

The latest Challenge assignment is to feature a motif that starts with the first letter of the maker’s name. I looked around at my fabric collections – lobellia, lightning bolts, lollipops . . . aha! Lobsters!

Yet another fabric collection I can’t really explain

My first thought was to make a convergence quilt, but the fabrics don’t play together nicely for that. Then I thought of keeping the lobsters as whole as possible and adding triangles to lead the viewer’s eye into a central panel. I counted the seams and decided I don’t want to work that hard on what is essentially a joke quilt. Then I read the Bridges post from Random Acts of Piece and thought, “Self, you could do this.”

Except I can’t. Not yet, anyway. The sad truth is every time I plan to use a large print, especially a novelty print, I need to make something that showcases the fabric first. Once I’ve got that done, I can slice and dice to my heart’s content. Until then, my hand hovers over the fabric, rotary cutter at the ready, but will not cut.

So, back to square one. I pondered why I buy lobster fabric, and decided it was because the little buggers look like space aliens. Then I remembered this hilariously awful 50s sci fi film – Teenagers from Outer Space – which features a monster (a screaming monster, no less) that is essentially a lobster silhouette superimposed on the frame. I pulled out my space fabric and auditioned a potential center on my design board.

A first draft

The more I looked at it, the more I realized I could keep this project simple. After all, what I really want is to remember the fabric as it once appeared.

Lobsters and space fabric

I may bead this, or sew on buttons that look like space ships. In any case, I am over my obsessive need to showcase the lobsters. Now maybe I can cut the critters up for something more artsy than jokesy.

Luck and wisdom!

Blessings

August 27, 2014

I was going to call this week’s blog Rewards, but to be honest I didn’t do enough to earn the good fortune that came my way. Blessings fits much better.

I'm not a Viking, but I make up stories about them

I’m not a Viking, but I make up stories about them

These beads are a thank-you gift from my friend Maya Madhavan. They are based on Viking patterns. I’m writing a sci fi novel about space Vikings. Not only am I thrilled to receive such lovely beads, I’m doubly thrilled she remembered my work-in-progress.

Available in October

This is the cover of the anthology that includes one of my horror stories. There are no space Vikings, but there are Norwegians in Minnesota and a really scary tree. Getting published at all is a blessing for a writer, and getting published in a cool book with a cool cover is even better. Eve’s Requiem is from Spider Road Press, and will be available in October.

This space was empty for at least a week

This space was empty for at least a week

This bit of empty space is where Abby’s kennel used to be. Now, I have a bunch of stuff that could go in this space, but I didn’t want to be greedy. However, my daughter left us some storage bins and my husband agreed that they would fit the corner.

Not empty space, but still tidy

Not empty space, but still tidy

Best of all, I get to use the big blue box to stash Christmas gifts. This will be the first time in donkey’s years that I’ll be able to keep the presents together without having to find room in the studio (which usually means stuffing them under the least unstable pile and crawling around it for five months).

May your week be equally blessed.

Luck and wisdom!

Chenille, Dragons and Licorice Herring

May 14, 2014

 

My friend Jordan Bernal (1dragonwriter.wordpress.com) asked me to be part of a blog tour. I’m supposed to talk about my writing process, but since I found these cool licorice herrings and won a bid for two yards of green chenille I’ll write about that, too.

Jordan writes about dragons. She loves dragons, always has. She also loves all things Celtic, so her first book is set in Ireland and her second in Scotland.

 

Jordan Bernal - photo by Patrick Coyle

Jordan Bernal – photo by Patrick Coyle

 

You can find The Keepers of Eire on Amazon, but you’ll have to wait for The Keepers of Caledonia.

I write about what I love, like science fiction and candy and odd connections. My fiber art incorporates things I love, too – like science fiction and candy and odd connections.

cover Death By Chenille

cover When Chenille Is Not Enough

The books that Ann Anastasio and I wrote, are writing, and plan to write are about quilters who save the world from alien invasion. We like to think we invented the genre of quilting science fiction. We also claim to have invented quilting vaudeville since we sing and dance about quilts as Broken Dishes Repertory Theatre. Shameless self-promotion – you can find Death By Chenille as an e-book on Smashwords.com (click here). When Chenille Is Not Enough is also an e-book on Smashwords.com (click here) or a paperback at Amazon (click here).

I think most of us create what we do because it seems like a good idea at the time. The concept of quilters saving the world from alien invasion by smacking them with chenille pillows wriggled into our brains like an ear worm, so we ran with it. It’s lasted through two books, one more in progress and a title for a fourth. Ideas are out there, floating on the breeze, waiting for someone to reel them in for fun and profit.

So I’ll be making something out of the chenille I bought to inspire me while writing the third book in our series, The Chenille Ultimatum. I don’t know what I’ll make – perhaps my own chenille pillow.

green chenille

Two yards of green chenille

 

I probably won’t include dragons in my stories, but I’ve got one on my shelf.

blue soft toy dragon

My dragon

 

Heaven knows where the licorice herrings will take me, but they’re very tasty.

licorice herring

Licorice herring – who knew?

 

If you want to be part of this blog tour and write about your creative impulses, send me a link to your blog and a photo (of you would be nice, of your quilt would work, too). I’ll list those in future posts.

Luck and wisdom!

 

Background Material

January 22, 2014

The nurse who drew my blood at my last donation gave me a gift. She made a different mark for the insertion site.

 

Let me explain. I have teeny-tiny veins, and they’re hidden deep in my arm. When I donate blood, the nurse first has to pump up the pressure cuff to find a vein, then mark it carefully before swabbing down that patch of skin. All the other people have drawn four arrows pointing in one spot. This time, the nurse drew a rectangle with lines on opposite ends marking the line of insertion for the needle. It was so cool, I knew it would make a great block.

 

Looks like chain links, right?

Looks like chain links, right?

 

As I considered the block, I remembered an article I read about medical tattoos – temporary patches made from nanotubes to deliver medication. That brought to mind a scene in a medical bay I had written in The Chenille Ultimatum (part of the series with Ann AnastasioDeath By Chenille and When Chenille Is Not Enough). Although the heroine in that scene was being treated for minor bumps and bruises, I know there will be a bigger battle scene later in the book, and I could use medical tattoos that look like quilt blocks for the wounded.

 

That brought to mind a project I have put aside temporarily about space Vikings. I could have permanent tattoos for those soldiers.

 

Places for soldiers' medical tattoos

Places for soldiers’ medical tattoos

 

When my soldiers are picked up after a battle, I could have the medics wrap them in quilts with matching patches that quickly diagnose the injuries and start repair work while the transport pods bring them to the medical ships.

 

That brought me to my scrap bin to experiment with leftovers for a background for this quilt.

 

A background for embroidery, applique, LEDs

A background for embroidery, applique, LEDs

 

Once I figure out what I want the patch to look like, I can embroider and quilt it sashiko style on the background, then insert some LED lights to make it really fancy. If there’s a chance to add some glitz to my life, I’m there.

 

A glitzy flower makes me smile

A glitzy flower makes me smile

 

All of this background material for various projects, just because a clever nurse drew a different box on my skin.

 

 

Spumoni Day

August 21, 2013

On my calendar of made-up food holidays, today is Spumoni Day.

 

My lunch!

My lunch!

 

Currently, this is my favorite ice cream. It’s a combination of chocolate, cherry and pistachio so really, what’s not to love? There were years when I preferred mint chip, and before that butter pecan. I have no idea why my ice cream tastes change, but there it is.

 

Spumoni features prominently in my latest novel (with Ann Anastasio), When Chenille Is Not Enough.

 

WHEN CHENILLE IS NOT ENOUGH - 2000

 

Authors are told to write what we know – or love – and we were already writing about quilting so Ann and I included ice cream. We have our space aliens adore ice cream. Our quilting heroines bond with them over the special flavor of their clan, which happens to be butter pecan. Then one of the quilters brings out spumoni, only to discover it is the flavor of the emperors. That gets the quilters invited to the alien planet, where one of them is crowned ruler and they sort of start a war.

 

As you might guess, I am using Spumoni Day to treat myself on many levels, including not starting the next project in the sewing room. Now it is time for lunch. Yes, I’m going to have dessert first.

 

Detour To The Next Big Thing

November 8, 2012

Between hiding from the political telemarketers, getting back to the tyranny of the daily routine after my mom’s visit, and gearing up for my pre-holiday fretting, the sewing room went into free-fall:

The view from the hall

 

The view from the sewing machine

There was a little time for creativity – the pumpkin carving, for instance. My kids both found images to copy and transfer to their pumpkins. Not trace, copy; like art students have done from the beginning of art instruction. Meredith carved a witch on a broom in front of a full moon, and Alexander carved the Sith lord who killed Qui Gon. And my pumpkin, the one from the fiber artist who loves Halloween? I carved a candle.

Can you see the face?

Maybe next year I’ll be more adventurous.

In the meantime, a writing friend of mine, Marlene Dotterer, tagged me for a blog chain. Marlene writes science fiction and fantasy, at one time had her own business as a free-lance personal chef, and is a birth coach. Marlene and I are in a science fiction writing critique group – the wordsmith equivalent of a friendship group. You can read her blog about her next big thing here.

This blog chain is about the latest writing project of the taggee. I get to tag other people, and the people I picked are:

V.Z. Byram, who writes poetry, historical fiction, and spy thrillers. She isn’t a quilter, but she sews with her grandkids. She was born in post-WWII Europe to refugee parents, whose stories formed the basis of some of her work.

Violet Carr Moore, who is one part of Carr Twins, a former foster mom, and a writer of devotional material as well as mysteries. She also is not a quilter, but used to sew period costumes for Civil War re-enactors.

J.K. Royce, a retired attorney whose “simple” snack buffet will make you weep for joy, and who writes hard-boiled crime thrillers. She has made one quilt, which proudly hangs on her wall, and (I believe) might be persuaded to make more someday.

Elaine Schmitz, a quilter, quilt judge, quilt lecturer, and writer. I had the privilege of helping her edit her cookbook, Recipes & Recollections of My Greek-American Family. She also writes fiction in a variety of genres.

So, here is my Next Big Thing Q&A, ten questions you may or may not want to ask about other things I do:

What is your working title of your book?

When Chenille Is Not Enough

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is the sequel to Death By Chenille, the quilting science fiction book I wrote with Ann Anastasio.

We had a few loose threads, so we thought we ought to weave them into something fun.

What genre does your book fall under?

Quilting Science Fiction, which is a new genre that Ann and I created. We also created the musical comedy genre of Quilting Vaudeville.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would love to see Sigourney Weaver play the main character of Susan.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Quilters save the world, again, then set off for outer space.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

We’ll be self-publishing. That’s what happens when you create new genres – people get a giggle out of what you’re doing, but the marketing department doesn’t have a clue how to sell it! Ah, well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

We’ve been working on this book a little over a year, which is a huge improvement over our last book, which took fifteen years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hope you could find some similarity with Douglas Adams, because he was absolutely hilarious, and that’s what we were going for in the Chenille series – a good laugh.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Ann and I wrote a quilt design book. An editor found our project interesting, but since we didn’t have a name outside of Northern California, we didn’t get a contract. We thought if we wrote a novel and made our reputation we could get someone to publish our design book. You know, when you don’t know something is hard, you jump in with both feet. Fifteen years later we published Death By Chenille as an ebook, started a sequel, and think about that design book now and again.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Ice cream figures prominently, as does a crazy quilt.

Gifts to Self

June 20, 2012

Happy Solstice! My summer gift to myself was letting the vacuuming go while I embellished a couple of quilts. I unearthed a bag of treasures intended for the Fish ‘N Cat quilt. First was a sprig of seaweed:

Next was a pair of fish earrings Alison Anastasio gave me:

Alison is the daughter of Ann Anastasio, who worked on this quilt (and is co-author with me of Death By Chenille). These were one of her favorite pairs of earrings when she was younger. She found them recently and didn’t want to toss them but knew she would never wear them again. I promised her I would find a good home for them on this quilt.

I continued working on the quilt from last week, including adding another braid for the top binding:

Then I scattered buttons on the surface to see what it would look like:

In case you were wondering, yes, those are my toes on the bottom braid/binding.

Here’s a close-up of my space ship buttons:

I also auditioned embellishments for the area intended to be a legend. The quilt is an invasion map, so naturally there would be a section explaining the symbols. I haven’t quite figured out how the dragon will explain any symbols – I just like the looks of it.

I spend a lot of time on the floor when I’m embellishing quilts as the buttons and beads tend to fall between the sofa cushions, so tomorrow my gift to myself may very well be doing the vacuuming.