A Cabin-ette?

Instead of cleaning up the cabin as I planned to do and really intended to do, I have been writing more Otto Socks blueOtto and Socks stories. It’s slow going, especially when I deviate from the outline for the series. How can I not let the characters do what they want? I can’t force them, bend them to my will. Now I have to see if I can merge then latest one back into the outlined sequence.

With that frustration, I went out to enjoy the sunshine. I looked up the ridge behind the house and the image of a tiny cabin part way up popped into my head. I pictured the wide steps leading up to it. How would I get electricity up there? With juice, I could move my audio recording up there and Ma’s radio would never interfere again! I am on the edge of phone reception that far up (not at the cabin!) and could do even better with a 4G antenna for Download 090915 054WiFi! Then I could have internet, which I need to upload books to Abe Books. Did I mention I have a storefront there? ‘Old Lady Who?’ is the name, and is something I can do with a few hundred of my excess books. It would be great for uploading manuscripts, voiceover recordings, looking up references and tutorials!Science Books

Glancing back at the cabin, I noted the front gutter and the facing board it is hooked to are falling off. I am plagued by big fat boring bees. The well needs a protective shed, and has needed it for a couple decades. I looked back up the hill and the mini-cabin, the steps and the antenna had vanished. The concrete barrier to keep the ridge from encroaching on the back porch collapsed. I can’t turn on the front porch light because it trips the freezer circuit. The garage doors don’t work without brute force.

I wonder how much it would cost to build that little cabin-ette studio marvel?

 

Dynamite That Word Dam!

I could stand it no more! The quiet, patient laptop won me over Saturday. I made a pot of inky coffee and made a batch of oatmeal cookies so I could be up there in Sci-Fi land for the long haul. The cookies were made with very expired flour, expirOtto Socks anded oats, expired eggs, elderly, rock-hard sugar and crystallized sorghum in lieu of the brown sugar I didn’t have. They turned out fine and went upstairs with me to the writing closet. That was after I’d guzzled a cup and a half of the black brain-cleaner. With the coffee cup topped off, I fired up the computer and opened “Otto and Socks – Mama’s Big Fat Clue” and read through what I already had.

Then I stared at the screen. The term ‘writer’s block’ wafted through my head…NO! I am stronger willed than that and shall never succumb to a word-dam. I gulped some more java and imagined it etching big gaping holes in the word-dam, eroding it until it washed completely away.

I had the loose draft and had used it as an outline before. This time, I saw the great insufficiency of the draft; it didn’t account for the actual characters! Pfft! Write, write, slurp, write, gnaw, hours went by. I only wrote six pages in that multi-hour span, but they were so satisfying. That included two rounds of editing, and changing the title to “Otto and Socks – Mama’s Fat Packet of Clues”. Of course, that could change again, who knows.

I have over a dozen stories drafted that follow that story arc with the same main characters. I naturally would prefer to compile them into a single, cohesive novel. Yet the desire to try something different, to accept the Cats at My Deskchallenge of writing succinct stories instead of sprawling sagas, is very appealing to me. The main driver isn’t wanting to try the art form, per se, it is more related to how I present what I wrote to the world. Short stories will be much easier to record. They’d be short enough to post. Maybe. Dunno, they may morph into a contiguous book after all. My wild ideas that seem so cool and innovative at the cabin pale a bit by the time they reach the outer planets.

An example is the idea to take my five published Elise t’Hoot novels (and the last one not published yet) and split them Tenembrasinto at least two books each. A 400 page book is $15, and nobody wants to pay $15 for a paperback by an unknown author. I even thought up new titles and World of Our Ownimagined new covers. Download 090915 078I only went for the 400 page thing originally because I wanted to hook up with Baen Books and that was their requirement. Then picture a big BOXED SET!

Distant Trees

After reality sank in, I wanted the rest to match. Hmmm, most have a good division point, but they would need a bit of rewrite to have then each stand alone. NeighborsSince they’re self-published, I can do what I want with them. I think they would be much more accessible and easier to work with. At least I thought all that was fabulous this weekend. Now I’m very hesitant to mess with projects I completed when I have so many in queue, wanting me to hurry it up.

A Reader from Sentience to Senility

Mouse readingFrom the time I was a wee tot, I have loved BOOKS. Sure, at first I actually ate them, leaving slobbery gnawed scallops in the covers of my Little Golden Books. When I started READING them, I was so sad I’d eaten Mama Cat’s head (The Three little Kittens). You know, the three little kittens lost their mittens and they began to cry, “Oh Mother dear, we sadly fear….” Yup, I ate Mama’s head so she couldn’t hear them cry.

The funnies in the Courier-Journal newspaper were great to learn on because they were illustrated. Peanuts was good because Schultz used a good variety of words. Andy was a bald kid who never spoke – phooey! Beetle Baily was okay, and it was funny all the ways the Sarge would yell at Beetle. I remember I would cheat and sneak at look at the puzzle answers, then pretend I’d solved it myself. When I could really solve it myself, it was too elementary and I found harder puzzles.Science Books

Ma had a small plant stand with a bookshelf underneath. The only books I remember being there at this moment were Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) and The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck). Other kids were watching Spot Run, Run Spot Run while I was reading about Scarlett making a dress from her curtains. Gosh, I thought that was neat. Not our curtains, though, they were from the Dollar Store. Dad was on a minesweeper in the Korean War, so I thought the Chinese were bad because of some of the things I’d heard about the war. Ms. Buck showed me another side of China, something much more human than a gun.

Such a marvel is a Bookmobile! Ma and I walked to the grocery every week and I convinced her to visit the Bookmobile that parked in the broad parking lot between W. T. Grants and Woolco Department Store. I got books on her card until the driver finally said I could get my very own. Victory! The first book I ever checked out using my own card was The Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton. Wow! I got the limit every week and read them all.

Ship BooksI still have the first set of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien) I got, paperbacks. Then I got a book club set in hardback. That edition has what I believe is a typo, where Gollum has a griping hand. Come on, it has to be a gripping hand! About ten years ago I got a Folio Socity set; posh, precious, read multiple times.  I also have the calendars, Leaf By Niggle, the elven lore books, the commentaries, all I could find. Then everything by C. S. Lewis: All seven Narnia stories in boxed paperback , in hardback and in Spanish, plus Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, The Screwtape Letters…get an author I like and I must acquire them all! Very frustrating about Dune. I had all of the original books by Frank Herbert. Then his son and another guy started making more. And more. And more? The idea of it being a franchise mill wars with my desire to have ‘the whole set’.

I have two sets of Encyclopedia Britannicas, one is from a guy’s trunk 30 years ago, paid him $200 (they were recent then). I have about 50 books on sewing and textile crafts. I have all David Brin , Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Benford and Ben Bova ever wrote as well as all of Richard Adams, Anne McCaffery and Ursula K. LeGuin. I have four feet of shelf space for Physics, six for Navy, andScience Books another eight feet for repair-fix it-construct it-design it books. There are about 200 cookbooks in the kitchen, all cooking methods and many ethnicities. That doesn’t count the 30 or so on growing and using fruit.

All together, that makes about 5000 total now on all subjects in all genres and I still devour books.

 

 

I Have A Few Books

Ship BooksBread cookbooksI cannot seem to take a picture aound the cabin that does not include BOOKS. I’ve been obsessed with 071415 022books since I chewed up my Little Golden Books so long ago. I take a shot of a dress I made and there are a few hundred fiction books to keep it in style.

Cookbooks? How could I not have more cookbooks than I could ever consult?

BWBooks Order 122915
Buy Books By the Box

 

If you ever need a reference on Mesoamerical cultures, I got ’em.

Indian Books

 

Are we travelling somewhere? I cannot plan a trip without getting a country Insight Guide and  a Lonely Planet Guide, and maybe some city or feature specific ones too.

 

Travel Books 2 Travel books 1

Language books with scrabbleYou’d want to know the languages there, wouldn’t you?

 

And how about some cultural and geographic background? Or some fiction based on whatever locale? Or even something on the

Science Booksexploits of that country’s most famed paleontologists or physicists?Dinosaur

 

Lab Dog by Keeping Watch

3 sheep on books

 

 

 

 

Gargoyle Winged
My Library Guardian
Laptop with Ale
As if there aren’t enough, I must MAKE MORE BOOKS!

 

 

 

 

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?

13A Plus 024

 

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?

What Does an ET Look Like?

As a Sci-Fi writer, I have given excessive though over the shape, temperament and environment needs of an alien being we might meet someday. There’s no reason to not have a billion different forms of life and limb, but some attributes seem likely to be more common than others. We are more likely to cozy up to aliens with the ability so communicate and that are not microscopic or gargantuan. They would be friendlier looking if not blobby or reptilian either.

If a planet has a sun similar to ours and the rocky planet is at a similar distance, many of the natives should have senses adapted to the available light and have body temperatures much the same as well. The basic  Line of Planetsquadrapedal plan might be a common solution, but not necessarilyTriple planet. For a sci-fi book, nobody wants to meet the same old alien that looks like a guy in a costume. My favorites are the Falana here.

Copyright Mary Ellen Wall, June 2013
Mama Kreeek, Papa TaaTaa and the precocious little girl LeeLaa (with apples to throw)

I varied a few parameters. The planet orbits a binary with greatly changing temperatures and gravity. These aliens will be rather resilient, I’d think. A soft body like ours would have a tough time enduring the rigors of annual variations in such an environment. I submit that a carbon rod shell to protect the tender body inside might be appropriate. And just because the vision should respond to a similar sun in a similar war does not mean the alien must have an eyeball. I gave the Falana eye stalks with different wavelength ranges for each sensor. They are two to three meters tall and can manipulate gravitational fields. Really handy, that.

Plus they are professional and respectful as well, as contractors out looking for work should be. Why not? I think civility in an advanced species is more likely than wanton blood-thirst. Besides, they would have alien DNA and our blood would be incompatible to their digestion.