Inspiration Strikes!

Church Trip 039

Maybe it was the relief of Christmas obligations being over. Perhaps it was the end of the frantic push to get things done before the end of the year. I got the hood, tire and headlights fixed on the Subaru, that had to help. It could also have been getting a second four-day weekend so close upon the heels of the last that it felt freer, like a holiday. I had river of inspiration in full spate coursing through my noggin, much like the Wild Branch out front that overflowed its banks and chewed on the gravel road.

 

As I have not sent my 6th t’Hoot Sci-Fi book to the Editor yet, I took the opportunity to tweak it a bit and augment the ending. That book is now the last of the Elise t’Hoot series, the end of an age. I still love Elise, Ricky, stalwart Bartolommeo, that rascal Alvin Wing and the others; they feel like family. The new series will Tenembras World of Our Own Neighbors Distant Trees be different!

We remain in the paradigm of 100 years into the future, Earth in climate turmoil, governments holding tight reigns on the weary population and efficient space travel a reality. In the new series, we drop in on an asteroid mining operation out past Mars. Otto is a new Mechanic. Socks is a Chemist. I drafted the first book in which they both are nearly killed. Otto’s stepmother ET almost met her demise there doing the same job a few years before. Had ET not self-published some smashingly fine science fiction that sparked popular movies, Otto and Socks wouldn’t have had a chance. Except the main contributor to the danger was a guy who literally lived the movies.

I sat back dazed after drafting that story out.  Something NEW! I hit “save” over and over. I backed it up on two different thumb drives. Then I wrote up eight more storylines with those characters and put them in three categories at around one in the morning. I’m excited that I like the characters, I like the story and it feels so durned good to have released that dammed up imagination. The words of the draft poured out in a steady stream, clear water from a crystal ewer. Laptop with Ale

It seems these books will be much shorter than the intertwined storylined grand t’Hoot books. I will indeed use my new templates for the cover and interior. I will start with e-books only and print maybe two or three to a book later. Might I also create my own publishing imprint? The pearl in the big gooey oyster really seems within my grasp. Wow!

Otto Socks blue

Here’s my first stab at the cover art for the new book. If I don’t get excited about all of  it, who would ?

What Might New Year Bring?

Oh boy, the last few hours before the New Year Holiday are tick-ticking by…then CABIN TIME! I have already determined to improve these items:

  1.  Science Fiction Writing. I shall finalize the 6th book of the Elise t’Hoot series, send it to the editor and thank those odd characters for the exhilarating journey. The series started out a little rocky, requiring a second edition of The Distant Trees (1st book) to fix errors. Even so, these books won top or high spots in contests with Tenembras garnering GREEN.Dig.BadgeWINa Kirkus Best of 2012 designation, hooray! I have a new story line in mind with some vignettes and character sketches done. On the Elise t’Hoot series, I had Create Space do the interior design, cover design, everything but the text. It cost me a bundle, more each time. The interiors were okay, but I never felt I got my money’s worth on the covers. Download 090915 078They used clip art and took no apparent effort to fulfill the advertised “Custom” part of the art. I could have done that much. Since I had a poorly resolved dispute with them on the fifth book Hate All Around (cover nothing like what I asked for), I’ll do my own interior and exterior design this new series. Maybe even for this last book of the t’Hoots, although I’d like them all to match. Book Baby has some good deals, so I might jump ship. I got interior and exterior templates from Joel Friedlander “The Book Designer”, licensed for multiple personal use, so I be eager to try them out. They’re 40%off!
  2. Contests. Hate All Around is submitted for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards; cross fingers. The so-far published t’Hoot series is entered into the Eric Hopper Awards, a big time contest. I should know one way or the other this Summer on both. Wish me luck!
  3. Brewing. I shall carbonate properly and not slack on sanitizing since I have recurring Cabin June 2015 085issues with muddy water. I may even get a filter (wow!). I have exclusively used hopped malt, but 2016 is the year to work up to Midwest Supplies’ next stage of brew boxes; you need to assemble more. Surely I can do.
  4. Mead. I discovered a fella that works here is part of a family bee farm. Even if the honey is a little more than my online sources, honey is heavy – no shipping. I got a book called Hooch for Christmas and there is an interesting recipe for mead in there, among other things. Still, the Alaska Bootlegger’s Manual is my go to reference (pun intended). It’s for my stories, I have homebrew and distilling throughout the series. What did you think?
  5. Sewing. I had not sewn more than curtains in decades before Ma arrived just over a year ago. Now I have scads of skirts and dresses for us, I can whip them out in no time. 2016 is the year of sewing challenges. Dresses and jackets with linings and special features. Coats. Cabin June 2015 077Costumes. Slipcovers. One challenge extant is my Janome is 30+ years old, the light won’t work and the presser foot won’t stay on. Santa failed to bring me a new, modern one – I need to rectify that.
  6. Picture Books. This year I wrote several kiddie books and made elaborate plans. I tried to find the right artist on Fiverr (5$ gigs!) and gave up. The ones that put vigor into their art charged many multiples of $5. This could be another case of how I can do as good as I can afford and save the money. I have lots of paint supplies and have devoured Northlight  art instructional videos. I believe I will give it a shot. When I got the interior and exterior templates up top, I also got templates for kiddie picture books. I gotta find out how to make days last longer.
  7. Up in the Air. I could register myself as a publisher and publish with my own imprint. That seems easy, yet it gives me the willies. Too ambitious for the time I have and skill level? I’d be running my own show and having my own imprint would be so cool! I could do podcasts, maybe reading my books, I bought a microphone. Or I could serialize my books on my blog or on Reddit. More practically, I could put gutter up at the cabin…now we’re really talking ambition.

What New Year goals fill your dreams?

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Disingenuous Gift Ideas – Things I Like!

Last minute gift ideas for the reader, the writer, the baker, the brewer, and the sewist!

The easiest is the Reader. I sent my littlest sister’s family boxes of books so each could Science Booksperuse and pick. I know they are ecologically minded (as am I), so had no qualms about getting them at Thrift Books. I also get quite a few at Abe Books and Better World Books, but Thrift had a good sale at the time. Not sure of personal tastes, I got a wide variety – painless as they were inexpensive.

Now the Writer: How about a Lonely Planet Guide to a far-off place? Or a Russian-American dictionary? These are good idea-generators and might come in handy for details. Along a similarIndian Books line, try a picture book of the Pantanal or the Congo. Pictures open the mind and writers need the aeration. The Audubon Society made a dozen different nature identification books a few years ago; I have birds east, birds west, amphibians, insects, clouds, reptiles and more. I have the Cornell University plush birdies that sing authentic songs. A writer might need a reference, or could be inspired by an oriole call.

The Baker. For the bread baker, try a pound of yeast or Kentucky sorghum molasses. Does Cookie Cuttersthe baker load the bread? How about a pound or two of dried cherries or almonds? For the sweets baker, try Mexican vanilla or several bags of different chips, like chocolate chunks, toffee bits, cinnamon chips, the odd stuff. Gee, they might like the cherries and almonds too. Try one of those cookbooks made by a church, the kind with the plastic binding and tons of homey recipes. For a baker who has everything, give a Bulgarian Yule Pastries cookbook or one on home canning in Dutch. Odd cookie cutters are always good!

Any brewer or wine maker can use cool, sealable Cabin June 2015 085bottles. Get ’em out of their comfort zone and give a mead kit or a book and six pounds of clover honey. A specialty ale or stout kit or set of ingredients would probable cause a thrill. Could he use a five pound can of boysenberry puree? You could fill a box with a thousand (new) bottle caps – they will be used eventually with fond remembrance of you.

Oh the sewist! A few yards of a beautiful cloth Skirt maybewould spark imagination. How about a pickle jar (cleaned) filled with different colors of thread spools? Does she need a better or more cushioned chair? One cannot have too many scissors, and there are many different kinds of pinking shears now – they make scallops, waves, like that. For the budget-minded, fill a cloth sack or wooden box with all of the buttons you could find at the second hand store (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Tina’s Treasures). Perhaps the best gift would be raving about the wonderful thing she made you, and being honest about the fit so she can take care of it for you. That way she will see you wear it!

Christmas Card

 

 

 

 

 

They Took Pictures!

Vision to Share from the New Orleans Trip

Some folks may know I wrote and essay on vision care a while back and won a trip to New Orleans with Ma, the subject of the essay. I got this VSP Production (click the link above) in my mailbox Wednesday morning, wow! I knew they had guys with cameras roaming about but thought it was all over by now. By the way, I made the clothes Ma and I are wearing.

On another note, I made a big mistake…I looked at the special offer from Midwest Brew Supplies. They have fully set-up tandem Cornelius kegs with independent dispensing! I bottle all mine, I do not need this, repeat, I DO NOT NEED THIS! If they were Pony kegs instead of Cornies I would not be able to resist as I have an 80’s vintage cabinet-style small keg cooler. We used it for Bass Ale and Felonfoel (sp) Welsh Ale. Would not having my own ales in it be snazzy!

Ornament Clip

Christmas decorations!
Cabin spider 2Oops, this is a Black Phase Rabid Wolf Spider in my Kitchen sink. These are great guys, good pest predators. This was a big fella, and he stayed a few days  before disappearing to who knows where. I love the black tarantula look. They jump fast, too. We always wear shoes in the house.

Now, where the Dickens did the Christmas decorations go? Here we are! That multicolored thing draped across is a scarf Ma crocheted for me decades ago. I have worn it every

Christmas Lights

Christmas, but the last couple years it has done double duty as décor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grand Painting Update

I went upstairs several times over the weekend simply to look at the big canvas with the bright background. What would it look Painting Backgroundlike with a Titan Buff glaze? How about iridescent bronze or gold? Antique gold or bright gold? Saturday, I prepared a large cardboard with stripes  of the same background colors.

Saturday night it was dry. Not having buff right then, I tried bronze diluted with medium, then diluted more as it was so dark. next was the antique gold. Still darker than desired. The Paint tubelighter gold worked best, yet could not be all I sought. I left it and finished a brightly flowered dress, rayon, knee-length. At first I though I’d put the zipper on the wrong side but realized I had the dress on backwards. Never mind it was supposed to be a side zipper, grrrr.

Sunday evening came the epiphany! Crackle! Over my test board, I slathered a varying thickness of crackle medium with a dab of azure in it. Since it has to dry a few days, I stay in anxious anticipation until I get back home to see it. Of course, since then I’ve been mentally going back to it again and again on exactly where to put that crackle. What color should it be? I’m thinking it goes across the green part between the sky and space, the green swirls should show at the cracks. Greenhouse gases. Broken sky. Gosh, I want to get back to it! I did get the stars put up in that dark blue sky.

Pictures of the test board? Shots of the starry expanse? Forgot! How about cats to round out the post? These are the cabin crew. Fatty and Barto are hand picked from the Humane Society. I got Bridget, Gidget and Digit from the chicken plant junk heap…only Bridget is left after all these years. I’ll have to tell all about Krink someday, she really is special.

Krink Beg 2
Krink Pestercat, My Sweetie
Fatima Relaxed
Fatty, Typically Relaxed
More Cat Than Box
Barto, More Cat Than Box
Bridget, Rescued from the Chicken Plant Junk Pile

Here, Chicky-Chicky!

Cabin ChickenI had an obsession years back ( who, me?) about chickens. The cabin was about ready to move into and I needed to segue from working on the cabin to working for pay. I got work at the brand new, opening soon chicken plant five miles away! New factory, new career (food safety) and great folks to work with. As a fabulous bonus, any packaged chicken with too few days left to ship was sold at deep discount to employees. I lived on chicken.

Back home, I had a cabin to decorate. Why not chickens?

These are some treasures I’ve collected over the years. The silver one is from Iran – Persia the guy said. The bug-eyed one is battery operated and squawks while waddling. The one with glasses is the Scottish brainy fella from Chicken Run. The one with her neck stretched out I got while in Scotland, from the shop that

Cabin Checken Arraymade it. The rooster in the lower corner was done by April White, a co-worker at the chicken plant. When you roll the wooden one, the egg inside tumbles.

The best of all was the little chicken house I built on the front porch with a ladder going down into the fenced front yard. I got three cochins and a Rhode Island Red. Blackavar was solid black. Guess which breed Rhoda was. Sylvia was, that’s right, silver. The sweetest doll was a Partridge Bread cookbooksCochin, thus Partricia. She would come up to me for a neck rub and would eat from her own little bowl of cereal as I ate mine. I wish I had pictures of them all, especially Partricia. I got so may huge brown eggs I got “The Good Egg” cookbook by Simmons and got really good at making soufflés.

Years of happy. Then fox, fox, fox and finally Particia, fox. I wish I had pictures of those ladies to post. I do have these pictures, Bark and Bark:

Bark 2 Bark 1

A Little Color

Painting BrushesCabin June 2015 056I’d stared at the blank canvas for far too long, not wanting to ‘mess it up’ and attempting to make final decisions. Heck with it! That canvas is slathered with great gobs of paint now. I took a couple pictures of the initial volley and of the background with sketches taped to it. I guess I still have the ‘don’t mess it up’ phobia because the next step has me dithering.

Painting BackgroundReading up on acrylic glazes, my most Painting with Sketchesprobable next step in making a thing glaze of bronze and put it over everything except the dark blue at the top. That’ll tone the bright colors down and blend the composition better.  I watched a couple North Light videos too, and they have lifted my confidence level in that it’s okay to PAINT OVER something you don’t like! Less inhibition, now, and perhaps better skills.

Always before, I put the colors down and when the canvas had no white left, it was done. I’ve tried realism, painterly and bold cartoon-like pictures. I always used by nice easel. This one, I’m going to experiment with glazes, texture and pay more attention to the physical composition. I have the painting flat for easier access. We shall see!

Cabin June 2015 066

Of my past ones, Stick Chick Crosses the Road is my favorite. That was inspired by a change in management at the place I’d been with from start-up. My new $&*%# boss wanted her own person in my spot but I did a good job, so firing me was problematic. Wahhh. I let her harass me until I found another job, then I hung the 30 inch x 40 inch about a square meter) picture at my desk and let her stew a week before I put in my notice. Ha! Did I mention it was a chicken plant? I use a chained biker-type wallet and so does Stick Chick. I had often posted cartoons of dung beetles in amusing situations, so Big Black Buggety got a cameo as well. Maybe one day I’ll post a few of those here…

 

 

 

 

Trying To Get Ready

I have a full almost 400 page sci-fi adventure that I thought was ready to go to the editor. Since the editor won’t be able to get to it until book note 001Spring, I figured I had time to give it one more read-through, look for story flow, detect any silly things I missed all the previous times I went through it. It’s well known that a writer has a miserable time finding fault with something she’s written.

Stemmery QC 027
Leaf it alone?

First and foremost is the fact the author knows the story and automatically fills in the holes anyone else might see in the plot, the motivations, the backstory. ‘I know what I meant to say.’ Another issue is that I’ve seen it all so many times now, it’s tough to read each word carefully. The good thing is that it’s been eight months since I finished the last draft of this one and it’s not nearly so familiar now.

So I get through the first dozen chapters, happy, and hit an idiot passage. The crew on the alien planet splits up for no good reason, in fact it’s dumb for them to do it. Okay, I put them back together. I rewrote the entire chapter. Read it. Tweaked it. Read it. Vowed to look it over again later. Moved on.

Next was a glaring style difference. I do my first drafts quickly, just writing down the gist of the story, to establish the story structure. Then I go back and record what the characters had to say and do to get each part done. The result is that dialog and action carries most of the story and takes up most every page. So here goes little Aroun, in a dangerous situation, performing an important part of the story arc. And he didn’t have one thought. The entire chapter was ‘he did this’ and ‘he did that’. True, if you’re sneaking you might not talk to yourself. You would feel nervous, maybe afraid, you’d get hungry, you might worry about surveillance catching your breathing. Poor Aroun’s ordeal chapter came across very different than any other chapter and he was severely short-changed emotionally. Okay, fixed that. Read it. Tweaked it. You know the rest.Keyboard 001

This reminded me of this year’s ale batches. They all seemed fine when I capped each bottle and smiled. It’s much later when I discovered I didn’t do it quite right. Comparatively speaking, I do believe the book is much better written than the ales were carbonated.

 

The 4-Day Turkey Day Weekend!

Yippee for a double weekend! Stressed me raced to the cabin Wednesday evening as if chased by fanged devils! Oh, the solace and comfort of my log cabin, mid-ridge, the Stemmery QC 055Wild Branch running out front and the pileated woodpecker screaming my welcome back! I feel I’m a shell of a person until I reach the bounds of my woodland; then I find the part of my soul that lingers there.

I am thankful for my cabin and woodland. I’m thankful for Ma, 85 on the 27th, who is still able to get around and enjoy life. I’m frequently grateful to have paints and canvasses, musical instruments, a sewing machine and many projects, woodworking tools and the skill to use them, and for being able to write well enough to at least satisfy my own need to tell stories. I thank the Lord for all my blessings!

Let’s not forget baking and fermenting! My brother took Ma out for her birthday, so I got to fend for myself for the first time in a year or so. I played Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells 3 at high amplification (outrageously wonderful), made me a chocolate soufflé and savored a pretty good home-fermented Porter. All here in the cabin! Bliss!

Yesterday I dug in the closet and pulled out the snowman front mat, the large, plaid reindeer pair, the tabletop 2013 Vacation Ma SaluteSanta, a wad of little lights and the Salvation Army bell ringer and band figurines up here in town. At this time, they’re in a heap on the edge of the living room, except for the figurines that are prominently placed on the enormous fireplace’s brick mantle. You see Ma used to be a member of the Salvation Army in Charleston, South Carolina and it helps her recall halcyon years.

If you happen upon a Salvation Army ringer this season, toss ’em a quarter and say howdy, will you?

Ale-Repair Update, Cookies

After all that bluster last week about opening up bottles and attempting to carbonate that flat first batch of ale, I made no moves toward that task whatsoever last weekend. Why?

  •  Not enough time. The nerve of even writing that…I spend ample time staring into the ether, wondering about what I should Me puzzledreally be doing. It felt like I had a destination and purpose but had slid into a ditch on an icy day. (That happened last winter, had to shovel an hour to get enough traction to heave-ho.) As it got closer to supper time, I finally decided to make cookies. At least that would be welcomed by others and might even bring a few smiles.
  • The method was too iffy.  Lame excuse. If I under-carbonated it, I’m no worse than now. If it looks over carbonated, don’t bottle it yet, wait a day and see. If worst comes to worst, there’s nobody in the basement unless I go down there. An exploding dozen bottles would (probably) Cabin June 2015 095not send shrapnel as far as the litter boxes. Fermentation is not rocketry.
  • Live with your mistakes and learn.  Ah, the real reason. If I leave the house without my lunch, I deserve to go hungry or to subsist on microwave popcorn for the day. If I go out without a sweater on a cold day, I walk faster and warm up. If when loading groceries in the car I realize there’s no milk, too bad. No gravy, no cereal, no pudding in the coming week. The intent of this harsh discipline is to learn to do better. Generally, it works darned good as I do like to enjoy a real lunch, to be cozy warm and to stir up a good milk gravy for supper each week.

The problem with this disciplinary approach is that my nature is warring against my nurture. I have learned things that can be fixed with what I have on hand ought to be done. I like being experimental, to find out if something can be done well. Hence I was stuck in mental loops until cookie time.Oaty close

The snickerdoodles and oatmeal cookies with walnuts came out fabulous. Ma loves sweet stuff, so she got the snickerdoodles. I have the oaty gems right here at my side. Not all was lost!

Plus, there’s a nice long holiday weekend nigh. What I really want to do is make a nifty long overcoat with a wide, skirt-like bottom half. I have looked at the fake fur material online until the drool threatens to short out my keyboard…we’ll see. I do have a 20% off coupon and the fur is 50% off and the pattern is $1.99 and the lining is also 50% off. Today only. Like I could go by there tonight after work. This doesn’t look as if I’ll fool with ale, does it?