21 April 2014

The Late, Late, Late, LATE Show


Ok, so I fell behind a little... This is my February installment of the 2014 Fiber Challenge: Polwarth.  I have to say, contrary to expectations from things I'd heard about it, I didn't really enjoy working with this wool. It was slippery, and waaay too eager to fall apart.  I was informed by a knowledgeable friend after viewing a Facebook photo of the unspun fiber going into the orifice that it looked as if it may have been over-processed, but that might be my fault for overdrafting it.  Anyway, plying it was much, much better; I tried two different things and really like the way they both turned out.  First, I had two bobbins so I plied them together; then when I ran out of one, I used black thread and beads.  This one is my favorite - I am so enamored of how it turned out... as you can probably tell from the amount of pictures.  My next challenge shall be Navajo Churro.  I make no punctual guarantees.


31 March 2014

Work & Play

The two diverge and intersect for me in strange ways.  Writing is my work.  I want to write; I think about writing all the time, and when I'm not, I'm writing in my head, going over key scenes that I can so vividly picture I can sometimes smell them.  And yet, in an odd, cringing sort of way... I don't. 

Gardening is also my work.  It's not so much that gardening brings me joy as that I need it simply to maintain my baseline - to ward off unhappiness.  I just arranged two ornamental Boston Ferns around the yard, transplanted a blackberry root, three herbs, and bean and pea seeds, then gave everything a good drink of water.  All this after working the morning shift, which entails multiple hours on my feet and constant lifting.

Next I'll probably tinker with a flashcard app I found and am using to memorize the meanings of Tarot cards.  I want to be able to do a reading without flipping through the little booklet.  This is a course of study, a form of work, and yet I am as willing to do it as if it were play. 

Perhaps it's the mental props I developed last summer that are tripping me up and draining my confidence when confronted with a blank page that is supposed to form into story.  But perhaps those frameworks are just a shield for my ego.  Perhaps I don't truly believe that my writing will hold any importance to anyone but me, and who am I to count? 

Perhaps I should just stop thinking about it and do it, but that's so much more easily said than done.

14 March 2014

Lake Corriher Wildlife Area

There's a little park across from one of my favorite libraries in Rowan county, next to my home county Cabarrus.  Up until today, I've never had the time and/or, I don't know - nerve? -  to cross the road and go explore; but with bright sunshine, cloudless blue overhead, a stiff (sometimes biting) breeze, and temps in the mid-forties, today I just couldn't resist.  It's a lovely little place, with streams and a bridge and with hiking trails around the man-made titular Lake Corriher if you head left from the parking lot, and some nice sporting facilities if you head the other way.  I don't care much about that, but, whatever.  Full disclosure.  And they'd still make for a nice walk.  I think I'll take Cutty there sometime.

*Sigh* I tried putting in a clever little slideshow with html text, buuuuuut no.  So it'll just have to look all low-tech and dorky.  Here are the other pictures:
*HEAVY sigh* Ok, the format is doing something.  Really. Wonky, and I don't know why and I can't seem to fix it.  So Whatever.  I fail at technology.


04 March 2014

Redirected Efforts

In my efforts to begin (yes begin) my second daft process, I've made some fairly major theoretical decisions, about boy the plot and the protagonists, not to mention some world building adjustments. I haven't quite got a handle on the first things, but I have written a new first paragraph, dealing with the changes in the world around the characters. The original first paragraph focused sharply on one of the main characters and her immediate surroundings. It went like this:
The sun rose on the city of Spierglass, and spilled down from the Sky God's temple at the top of the mount, down to the courts of the palaces and then further, across the inns and markets and slums of the lower city, where stone gave way and the courtyards were made of beaten dirt. 
The Macroura was in the temple.  Standing on the inlaid floor of the altar room which held no altar, she looked out across the city from the southern facing arched, floor-length window.  She rested one hand against the archway, and the fingerless gauntlets, plated she always wore scraped against the rose colored stone.  The ever present birdsong, echoing across the small bowl of the open air temple, paused briefly, then resumed.  The Macroura, Ranwhey Longtail, fifth queen and twelfth ruler of Endellion, turned back toward the mosaic of precious and semi-precious stones on the East Wall, the only wall without a window.  With the sun still behind it, the colors were muted, and the figure depicted receded into the background, almost disappearing.  Which was exactly why the Macroura chose this time of day to discharge her obligatory period of meditation.  The bitter satisfaction she took in the symbolism of it all was that of the very young.
The new opening (which is by no way final, I'm just playing around) is much more detached from the characters, and focuses on a larger geographical and cultural arena; this is because one of the changes I've decided to make is to add the POV of a character who, though a major force in the direction of the story, previously had no voice, and I thought comparing their two cultures at the beginning would shed some light on their interactions later on. The new opening, in its rough draft form, is this:
 The sister cities of Speirglass and Bruemdyke [I'm really not sold on this name; I'll think of something better later] were allies in ancient times, but, as siblings do, they came to quarrel. It was quite the rift, and it never healed. Generations passed, and eventually the cultures diverged so much that the one city could hardly recognize, and barely acknowledge, the other.  Yet they still shared a certain cultural familiarity; their religions drew on the same basic myths, the same archetypal heroes, their societies were similar in structure, although governments and crowns differed in their responsibilities and attitudes.  
Over time, Speirglass became more than just a city; it became the capital of a loose network of cities that, more or less, became a nation. On the other side of the Earthcrown mountains, Bruemdyke bloomed like a living jewel, establishing itself as the center of the world as far as the inhabitants if the Steppes were concerned. And then, spectacularly, it bled out. It became, in the course of only a few decades, a ruin, a blight, and a legend. There formed no nation in the Steppes. No other formalized city stepped up to rule the Steppes, and everyone dissolved into tribes and clans according to their nature.
     Like I said: rough draft.  I'm not even sure I'll go this way, but I have to start somewhere.  Another reason I decided to change things up as far as writing style is that I've also been toying with the idea of shifting the tone from straight up fantasy to something lighter and snarkier in places while still packing a serious and hefty emotional punch when it counts. In creative writing circles, they always tell you to read and emulate writers that you admire, so I've been rereading - well, re-listening to - some of my favorite Terry Pratchett books, paying particular attention to the openings.  I won't excerpt them here, because most of my copies are audiobooks, and my dictation skills just aren't that good.  But the ones I'm particularly looking at are Going Postal, The Truth, and Men at Arms.  Each of these stories begin with one or more almost-prologues that seem nebulous and unconnected, but which both set the tone and become extremely important to the story. 

16 February 2014

Snow Day & Emergency Bird Rations

We've had a snowstorm.  I'm sure you've heard.  It was so bad, even Wal-Mart closed.  For two whole days. 

As I get older, I realize that more and more I feel that there is no use whatsoever for snow that has already fallen.  If it is currently snowing, I'll happily sit in a chair by the window and simply watch all day long, and of course, it's all the prettier as it falls if there's a big pile of snow covering the ground for it to fall on.  But after it stops?  No.  Just no.

Anyway, another factor in the snowfall was that my willow tree was practically taking flight from all the birds resting in it.  And on the ground around it.  And on the feeder by the shed.  We ran out of seed the afternoon of the third day, which, obviously, was the worst day of the storm.  So we pulled out emergency rations: pork rinds and bacon fat.
Traditionally, stale bread crumbs are what you feed to birds, but they aren't really that great, and they can actually cause harm because they don't pack all that much energy and can expand when wet and rupture the small stomachs of birds.  Pork rinds don't shrink when stale, and don't expand when wet, they just dissolve, crumpled up into the makeshift suet of bacon fat, they at least saw us through the afternoon... until the wind blew them out of the feeder tray onto the ground, where Cutty insisted that they were his.  Here's Cutty.  He loves snow.  Silly muffin.  I'll never understand it; he hates rain and rainwater.  He'll slip his collar sooner than walk through a puddle, and yet he'll prance like a drunken penguin through a snow bank.

07 February 2014

iPhoto of the week: Lucky Cat Bowl

I'm interested in the ability my iPhone gives me to take artsy pictures with my phone camera alone.  In keeping my Ravelry handspun page updated, I've discovered a talent (I think) for taking "portraits" of my yarn.  I'll be sharing those in the future, but since I've had a terrible, terrible cold with attendant low-grade fever for the past week, I thought I'd share this snap of my favorite lucky cat bowl filled with comfort soup... Well, just Cambell's, really. 

Between that and starting my new Alter-Ego to protect my secret identity (read: job), I'm pretty well dragged through the gutter.  I'll probably be intarweb-silent until this time next week. 

Stay well, don't get sick.  Be Imaginary. 

01 February 2014

Gardener's New Year

The ground is still frozen.  Snow fell on Tuesday and lingered on the ground through Thursday.  The temperature was in the fifties today, but stayed in the low thirties in the preceding days.  It gets dark too early and light too late.  And the ground is sill frozen. 

But I'm celebrating my garden's new year, with a nifty new seed starting idea I picked up off Pinterest.  (Where else?)  It's also the Pagan spring festival of Imbolc, but I'll talk about that another time. 

I've been saving up egg shells and paper cartons over the past few months (the best method I've worked out is to crush the top of the egg and gently pick away the broken bits of shell and then wash out the interior), and now I'll get to see how this works.  I planted green onions, chives, and garlic chives from seeds, and I'm trying out a few of the bulbs I picked up from Walmart's garden section the other day.  That idea doesn't seem to have been a good one, though, because I overestimated the room in the egg shell.  I also got some garlic bulbs, but I think I'll wait to direct sow those and the rest of the onions. 

The lid of the egg carton will also be used; I think I'll scatter-sow lettuce and spinach and a mesclun seed mix I have left over from last year in that side and either use them as micro-greens or transplant the whole container outside.  I shall track this experiment and report back presently. 

As they say, watch this space.

30 January 2014

Well, DERP

So, I find a correction is in order for my previous post.  This doesn't bode well.  So, I got gifted three bags of fiber from a friend, and in the bustle of our weekly meeting, I forgot to nail down the information on the two animal fibers (the third was a bag of cotton).  On the bag of the fiber I chose to spin first was written, "Gray Suffolk," which I find now is NOT referring to breed of provenance, but rather to an arbitrary color grading system.  The gray fiber I have is Gray Suffolk, but the fiber is Herdwick.

Herdwick sheep are very tough and durable, and as I noticed while spinning the 8 oz. I was given, this quality extends to their wool.  The Wikipedia entry for this breed is quite an interesting cross-section of their history and the history of the British Lake District.

Next month's entry in the 2014 Fiber Challenge will be Polworth, purchased from a farm right here in North Carolina, Three Waters Farm, and the month after that I suspect will be the other bag of animal fiber that I was gifted which I have asked, confirmed, and double checked as Navajo Churro.  Let's hope this goes better in the future...

25 January 2014

2014 Fiber Challenge: January/Suffolk (HERDWICK)

One of my craft related resolutions at the beginning of this month was to experiment with a wider variety of fibers and to keep notes on what I thought of them.  At the moment I have four small quantities of fibers I haven't ever spun or even handled in their raw state before.  This includes cotton, which I've been playing around with a little since I got it.  Not promising.  Lots of swearing.  But more on that later.

My first entry will be Suffolk.  Now, Suffolk is primarily a meat breed, and so the fiber is very coarse.  Generally, I'm told, it's used for outdoor blankets or rugs, and I can see why.  It's scratchy and sturdy, and reminds me a little of butcher's twine.  It's also pretty easy to spin up; properly pre-drafted, it doesn't break off (at least in the section I spun last night, which is about a third of the amount I have. 

Now, as I said, normally Suffolk is not used for fine garments such as shawls, but I have a special all handspun shawl that I'm working on, and I'll be using at least a portion of the Suffolk in it, even if it's just a stripe.  Here are some pictures of the wool, both spun and unspun.

Maybe I'll try to do one new fiber per month or something along those lines; I suspect it will take me the whole month to complete the cotton, if I can do it while holding on to my sanity...

20 January 2014

Human Gestures

...And by that I don't mean acts of kindness or generosity; I mean gestures by which writers can characterize and illuminate their otherwise uninteresting or unbelievable characters. 

I remember in a creative writing class I took a few semesters ago that the professor (a truly terrifying person) was particularly taken with a passage from one of the texts he'd assigned us.  He said it was perfect.  And he meant it literally and seriously.  There was no hyperbole.  The book was Denis Johnson's Vietnam era Tree of Smoke, and the passage dealt with a conversation between a mother and son, the son being one of many protagonists in the book.  Over a meager supper, the mother says of her youngest son:
He'll be around. He's always hungry. I lost weight while I carried him to term.  I started out one-nineteen, and in my ninth month I was down to one-eleven.  He fed on me from the inside.
After a meal of peanut butter and canned soup, over which the son brings up his desire to enlist, the mother asks where the youngest is, to which her other son replies, "He'll come when he's hungry."
"He's always hungry," she said, and began to say all over again the same things she'd just told him, because she was unable not to say them.
The way the professor read and interpreted this passage, the way he described it, reminded me of the way I felt when a read a certain passage in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.  Dickens, of course was always adept at unique characterizations - dare we say, caricatures.  But this passage between Joe and Pip I thought was, in the same way, perfect:
"You might, old chap," said Joe.  "And she might credit it.  Similarly she mightn't."  Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled hard at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.
Did you catch that?  Weakening it by repetition.  Because, when you're having a fairly intent discussion, as Pip and Joe are here, and you say something that sounds good - you know it, right?  And you want to say it again, because it just sounded so good the first time. 

And yet... It never sounds as good the second time around, does it?

What's even more interesting to me, is that I feel as if the observation doesn't actually come from Pip, but from Dickens himself, unable to avoid a slightly too keen attention to the motivations of others even though he should be speaking through Pip's voice and from his perspective only.

What are some human gestures you've discovered in literature?

Oh, but of course.  You're just imaginary.

12 January 2014

A Return to Sketching

Well, my dear imaginary readers,

It's a new year, I'm graduated, unemployed, and disillusioned (but in the best, slightly supercilious and snarky way). 

Now that I am done with school for the immediate future, I've been returning to drawing, as well as knitting, spinning, writing, and other things I do - this week I've been cleaning up/damage controlling in the garden.

One of my Christmas presents this holiday season was a hand-me-down Lenovo Yoga, which features a touch screen, so somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea of computer graphics.  One sketch in particular is destined for this experiment, but once I started, I found myself just enjoying the act of sketching itself.  I'd missed it. 

So here are the innings:

The elf king is the one I think could do with some computer attention, and the sketch page below with the accompanying thumbnails are exploration for a possible creative writing project dealing with North Carolina wildlife - children's stories with a certain edge.