Saturday, March 23, 2019

I Don't Always Read, but When I Do...

I read something no one has read lately.  I mean, why would they?  I finished reading this book this week and here are my thoughts on it.

A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair (copyright 1957)

My second favourite novel of all time is Something Light by Margery Sharp.  I was checking out the adorable new cover the novel has lately been given on Amazon and the suggestion box at the bottom suggested A Winter Away.  It’s about a young lady who goes to work for an extremely cranky estate owner who wants her to help him catalog his library.  I am a trifle ecstatic when it comes to the idea of cataloging a library the old fashioned way.  I’m going to do that for my own collection of books someday.  Sadly, there is not much adventure in the library in the novel.

The book has such understated romance in it, I honestly thought it was going to end without Maud having selected a romantic partner from the two young men presented.  I felt that would have been very modern for the time, but alas, she does choose one of them in the last chapter.  Though, I honestly have no idea why she bothered.  She spends the entire book complaining about one and then the other.  And I do suppose it’s good to smash the idea that one can only love perfection in one’s partner… it was also good to have a hard boiled egg roll across the floor and have everyone stop what they’re doing to stare at it.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to insert what I would write about a girl cataloging a library, which I think is utter perfection.  However, it will be obvious why I never write a book about my fantasy very quickly.

Lilian sat down at the desk.  She changed the height of her chair twice before she got to the height she found most satisfactory.  Reaching across the desk, she chose a pen with a long feather on the end of it.  It was not a ridiculous pen.  It was a safe ball-point pen even though the feather attached to the end of it was decorative.  

She scanned the stack of books to her left and without prejudice selected the book on top.  It was a book about bathrooms.  It gave tips on how to design a beautiful bathroom, and later how to clean your bathroom of choice with as little fuss as possible.  It was a cherished book.  

Lilian flipped open the front cover and removed the paper cover attached.  Then, without a moment’s delay she threw the paper cover immediately into the recycling bin without looking at it for another second.  Now, the book would always be held comfortably without the villainous, flimsy paper cover biting into another reader’s hand.  

What was left was a book with a white cover with gold lettering on the spine and on the front cover.  It had become, with that simple step, a thing of beauty.

With her spidery handwriting, Lilian prepared the envelope and card for the back cover.  She wrote the name of the book and the name of the author.   After the ink was dry, she peeled the wax paper from the adhesive on the back of the envelope and carefully centered it on the inside of the back cover.  It went down perfectly without a bubble or a ripple.

She nodded her head in delight and set the finished book aside.

The second book on the stack was a paperback.  She’d have to construct a hardcover for it!  Adventures in the library never ceased!

I hope you all enjoyed that.  There was nothing like it in that book.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Hybrid Afghan

This is an afghan I made last year and I just finished weaving all the ends in last week.  This is a special blanket and I’ll tell you why.  It was made with one hundred percent new materials.  Normally, I don’t do that.  People have unloaded an incredible amount of craft material on me that someone purchased and didn’t use before they died.  Moving to BC meant that I left any craft material I wasn’t madly in love with back in Alberta.  So last year, I didn’t have the same craft supply to draw projects from, so I decided to try something different that required initial shopping; a hybrid blanket.  This is how it went down. 

First, we have the fabric.  The purple fabric was fabric I bought years ago, because I loved the print.  It was probably around the time prints like that first came out.  Now they’re everywhere and that is the least interesting coloured square.  I almost didn’t use it, but I wanted the blanket to be actual blanket size and the extra colour brought me into the right dimensions for that.  Then we have the green and the grey.  Both of those I got out of a remnant bin, so they were super cheap.  The yellow was on sale.  The black and the pink were full price.  I only bought half a meter of those and my wallet burned while I did it.  So, since I only had half a meter of the black, pink and yellow, I sat down with my calculator and made the squares the best size they could be to make the most of the fabric.  I used the same amount of all colours.  I cut all the fabric and all the quilt batting.  I did not have a quilters wheel.

So, then, we get down to sewing on the machine.  I sewed each block right sides together with a matching block (didn’t want weird colours bleeding through the yellow per say).  Turned them inside out, stuck in my quilt batting, and then sewed an extra line all the way around the outside.  Now, those of you who know what I did, know that I then had a little hole in each one of those blocks between the seam from when I turned it inside out.  Some of them got sewn shut when I sewed the square about 5mm from the edge.  Some of them didn’t. 

Next, I took white baby weight yarn and blanket stitched by hand all the way around all the squares, so I would have something to crochet into.  It also closed any remaining holes.

I used the same baby white yarn to crochet three border lines around each square.  Doing one square probably took about an hour. 

Then, I arranged all the squares the way I wanted them and whip stitched them together… on both sides. 

Then, I did the border.  The border just went in a seashell type pattern until I ran out of yarn.  I also added a little gray line on one side that I think it quite charming.

Finally, I weaved in the ends and proclaimed it finished.

Now, I have some things to say about this project. 

The sewing part took a couple weeks and the crocheted part took like six months.  I had no idea quilting was such an easy hobby.  Really easy.  That’s why you go into those quilting shops and the ladies have cut their fabric into diamonds two inches long and with the seam allowance, there’s only one inch that’s visible.  They’re trying to make it harder.  That’s the goal, because that’s the only way quilting is going to stand up to other hobbies with a similar ratio of money spent on materials versus how long you were entertained by it.

The next thing to point out is that crocheting into a solid piece of fabric is the pits.  When you crochet into the work you have already completed it has a bit of give to it that is very pleasant and I completely took for granted.  The weave of quilters fabric has zero give and it was like crocheting into cement.  My hands would hurt after I had done a few lines when I used to be able to crochet for days.

The other thing is that I have crocheted in public a lot.  It’s a really good way to prevent boredom in hospitals and waiting rooms.  Not only do you have the work you’re doing, but you get a lot of admiring glances and comments when you’re crocheting something pretty.  Crocheting something interesting is how you pick up people in waiting rooms.  It’s the equivalent of having a dog at the park.  There’s a handy icebreaker, so everyone thinks they can talk to you.  Sadly, I hardly ever got admiring comments or glances when I was working on this thing.  No one knew what it was I was trying to do.  The usual was someone glancing at me and saying, “Cute fabric.”  But that only happened when I was working on the pink.

I wish I could remember how this priced out.  I didn’t buy enough of the baby weight white yarn and had to buy more twice, which I found very demoralizing considering a huge percentage of my usual crafting materials are donated to me and then sold for a profit.

Basically, if I ever wanted to prove that I am persistent to the point of stupidity, this blanket was my way of proving it.  I’m like a mountain goat who keeps banging things with her head. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Upcoming Novels

This winter has been a really good time to write.  I mean, really write.  Finish unfinished projects.  I have a lot of unfinished projects.  Let’s talk about them.  Of course, I can’t guarantee that any of them will actually be available for purchase anytime soon, but you know, all forward motion counts.

Kiss of Tragedy

This is a book of mine I originally published under the title Vampire Kiss, which is not a very inspiring title if you ask me.  When you write online and publish a chapter a week, unless you have the whole thing ready to go when you begin, you might have to post online under a working title.  I really felt that was the case with this story, and rather than alienate my readers, I left it under the old title.  Though, it’s really not a very good title for the book, as anyone who has read it will tell you.  

The book had the tag lines:

Vampire hunting can be dangerous business, until he turns out to be something worse.

He’s not a vampire, but he kisses like one.

Anyway, those were the original tag lines.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with something a little more accurate and fun for what I consider to be my best novel when it comes out in ebook and soft cover this spring.

His Sixteenth Face

Originally, I posted this short story on (as a side note there are also a few chapters of Kiss of Tragedy posted there too).  I’ve been working on a complete novel version of His Sixteenth Face for almost ten years.  What can I say?  It’s a really tricky subject and has required a lot of reworking.  I once finished it and then chopped off 35,000 words to go back to the spot where I was blocked to begin again.  It gets better every time I touch it, but it’s a really courageous piece of work, and I have seen a lot of similar pieces bomb, so I have to be careful with it.  It’s my bonsai tree, in that it can’t get bigger because I keep chopping stuff off.  I posted the first chapter in December of 2009, so my goal is to finish before it has its tenth birthday as an unfinished book.  

The first chapter is still available for reading so, here’s the link.

If you read the first chapter and like it, please fire me off a line saying so.  I could really use the encouragement at this point.

A Little Like Scarlett

I decided to write a partial autobiography of my teenage dating years.  The thing is, as an author it is my duty to write in detail about any unusual experiences I have had.  So, this is that.  Unusual experiences I had while dating as a teen.  So, far I’m up over 50,000 words.  It’s pretty fun.  The next time I post about it, I’ll post a sample.  

Where Her Garden Grows

This is the sequel to Behind His Mask.  It might not be published under that title as I still feel dissatisfied by those words as the banner for the story.  But, on the whole, I’m very pleased with how this book has turned out.  

So, there you have it.  What I would really like is to publish two books every year.  At least, I should be able to do one a year.  Hopefully… You know… hopefully.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Yes, I Have to Display my Pantyhose

So, he turned to me and said, "Do you have to display your pantyhose?"  His tone suggested this was the most ridiculous thing ever.  He was wondering why I couldn't wad all of them into a ball and shove them in one giant heap to the back of the drawer.

I considered it for a moment and then replied, “Yes.  Yes, I do.”  My voice was full of conviction.  I was not going to compromise and he nodded and backed up… as he should.
The thing with pantyhose is that you need to know at a glance what you have.  You require a full arsenal of pantyhose.  There is nothing worse than needing a pair of black sheers and racing around the house like a lunatic from the laundry room, back to your room, and then back to the laundry room again before you have somewhere you have to be.  So, for organization and serenity of mind, displaying them is the only thing to do. 

I made a display rack before that I end up being very disappointed in (the pockets for them weren’t quite big enough), and if you Pinterest pantyhose storage solutions, you’re going to be underwhelmed.  Which is weird.  Usually Pinterest is a powerhouse of knowledge.  Most women I know hate, hate, hate pantyhose, so that’s probably why. 

I needed something that could be vertical and on the wall.  Anyway, I was wandering around the shops after Christmas, and I saw an old box that had been used for displaying Christmas cards.  I detached it from the wall and took it up to the front.  “Can I have this?”

The woman looked at me and chomped on her gum a little.  “No one wants that.  No one would ever want that.  But check to see if there are any cards stuffed in the back.  Really, no one wants that.  It’s garbage.  You don’t look like a hoarder, but if you pick up garbage like that and take it home then you are one.”  Okay, that’s not what she said, but if non-verbal communication is a thing, then that is what she meant.  So, I got the box for free.

Success… sort of.

I hate red most of the time, so I decided to give my little stand a makeover.  It was sort of weird.  Because my expectations were so low, I decided that I couldn’t buy anything for this project.  I did the whole thing with old paper, contact paper and scotch tape.  I’m really not crazy about the contact paper I used, but I have that kind on hand because the pattern is chaotic you can overlap it any which way you like without having to match up the pattern.  It’s good if you’re cheap and hate red, otherwise, try to be cooler.

That’s what I think is the most depressing about this solution, is that I know this isn’t going to last.  I’m going to end up making a new pantyhose wall hanging thing.  I did this last year too!  If only I could be cooler!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Fitted Desert Fashion

One time when I was living in Edmonton, I locked myself out of my apartment on accident and I didn’t know when my husband would arrive with the keys.  I then decided to try a little social experiment which is completely reprehensible.  Let me state clearly, I should not have done this, but I was curious and so I did it.  I got down on the grass, put my hands behind my head and pretended to soak up the afternoon sun.  I also put a copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune on the grass next to me so that anyone who was passing would be able to read the title.  The experiment was asking how long it would take for a reasonably nerdy young man to hit on me using the book as a jumping off point.

It took about ten minutes.  

He talked to me, providing me with ample entertainment to pass the time, until my husband arrived with the keys.

Now, since I moved here on the island, I’ve noticed that a lot of the moms who come to the school to pick up their children wear coats and vests that are black stitched with long bubbles all down them.  They don’t wear different colors of this kind of bubble coat.  Just black.  They look very much like the still suits from the 1984 film version of Dune where the long bubbles very much resemble either the muscle groupings in the human body or a rib cage.  If you’ve ever seen the movie they give an explanation about how the suits are meant to filter sweat, urine, and poop, so that you can drink clean water while traveling in the deep desert.  

Thus, I find it incredibly interesting that anyone wears one.  I wonder if it’s a statement, or if it works well in the rain-soaked here.  They don’t look particularly effective in keeping the rain out, due to their material.  Nor do they look warm as the bubbles are way smaller and skinnier than anything down-filled in Alberta.  And yes, if someone suggested that they are black so that you can’t see your bodily fluids being processed, I’d say that that sounds like the best reason for wearing one.

Every time I see one of these island women I want to ask her about it, but I can’t… there are too many of them.  Thus, occasionally, I inquire as to where her coat came from and if there’s a story behind it.  The couple I have asked responded the exact same way.

“My mom gave it to me.”

And then my brain explodes.

Did she buy it for you on purpose?  Did she buy it for herself, come home, try it on, realize she couldn’t return it, and then bum it off on the first person she saw?  You?  Did she buy some for other people she knows?  Are your sisters wearing them?   Is that why so many women have them?

Or is there some beauty to these coats I can’t see?

Then I remember that moment on the grass and how the mere sight of a scifi novel made a man who didn’t even know me stop and talk for me for an indeterminate length of time.  Mother knows best.  She knows that what is beautiful to me, is perhaps not beautiful to a man, and every woman wants to take pride in her daughter’s beauty.  Doesn’t she?  I can’t even count how many mothers I have overheard say noisily about their daughter’s clothes (or lack thereof), “If ya got it, flaunt it.”  Perhaps what they mean to say is, “If ya got it, flaunt it… desert fashion.”

On another note:  I was reading this week about how The Mortal Engines didn’t do so well at the box office.  I can be excused from going to see it as I don’t live close to a movie theater, so I don’t see first run movies.  I read about 75% of that book years ago and I had to stop.  There is entirely too much information about processing poop in that story.  Seriously, entirely too much.  The author drew to a close the only plot arch I was interested in and then started to babble on for pages about how urine and poop are processed in the moving cities.  And I wondered if that was a particularly interesting subject to someone else as I let the book fall from my fingers.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ghost of Dollar Stores Past

“It happened on a busy afternoon around Christmas, just like this one,” I told my friend and the cashier at the Dollarama.  One was running me through the checkout and the other one was waiting for me to be run through the checkout.  It wasn’t the ideal place for a ghost story, but I couldn’t have asked for a better setting for that particular ghost story.  I continued, “At a Dollarama just like this one.”  I paused for dramatic effect, even though I was still loading things onto the counter.  

I proceeded in slow dramatic tones, “I had a cart and I was buying some cute decorative boxes that came folded up.  There weren’t very many to choose from, but I got the last of the cute ones.  I thought I was lucky.  I continued shopping, but I turned my back on my cart for one minute, maybe not even a whole minute, and that’s when it happened.  I didn’t notice that anything was different until I went through the checkout.  All the cute boxes I had put in my cart were gone and they had been replaced with the ugly boxes I had refused to buy.  Someone had seen I had the nice ones and replaced them with the ugly ones in my cart when I wasn’t looking.”

“Did you see who did it?”

“No!  I was at Londonderry Mall in Edmonton!  Have you ever been in there around Christmas time?  Sheesh!  No.  That place was a complete zoo.  That store had so much traffic they had to move it to the other side of the mall and double its floor space.  No, I did not see who did it.  All I knew was that I had to use ugly obviously dollar store boxes for my Christmas favors that year.  It blew!”

In retrospect, I think I was making socks look like cupcakes and surrounding them with hand-made foil-wrapped chocolates.

Anyway, Christmas ghost story for ya.  You’re welcome.  And to whoever took my boxes… what nerve! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Point of View

A nice game to play is to get a creative writing text book and go through the exercises in it. Now I know that sounds boring, but it's not because it's challenging. Here's one:

Man's perspective:

I sit down at my table. It's only my table for a few minutes... maybe twenty, but it's mine in an important sense, in that it is a place for me to sit—a sought after place in the rush for lunchtime noodles.

I'm alone at my table and I notice a few weary looks from those still in line for a place of their own. However, I notice that I am not the only long character on the page of square linen table cloths. There is a woman who is also lunching solo. She has just ordered from the menu and she taps both her fingers on the table and her feet beneath her. Whatever she has ordered, she has eaten it before if her glances at the kitchen and utter destruction of her lip gloss counted as effective non-verbal communication.

Her plate arrives before I even place my order. She has creamy pasta with chicken and black mussel shells protruding in contrast to the alfredo.

My waiter is by my side and I point to the lady I've been observing. “I'll have what she's having,” I say briskly.

Soon, my plate also arrives and I wonder how I'll manage to devour even a third of it before my hour for lunch expires.

A clatter of dishes. I didn't see what happened, but when I looked again at the girl I'd copied, the entirety of her food was seeping messily into the carpet. The sheer horror inscribed on her features was very much like that of a child whose ice cream has taken a tragic dive. For a moment, I wonder if she will cry like that child, but her eyes meet mine and in a moment, that woman knew everything about me that she needed to know.

She sat across from me and with her dinner fork still in her hand she started helping herself to the noodles on the untouched part of my plate.

Barman's Perspective:

One regular and one newcomer sat alone at separate tables. Both ordered the same thing. The girl was so hungry, she lifted her plate to get it closer to her mouth as she struggled to shovel the food into her digestive tract as soon as possible. The weight of the plate was too much for her and her wrist gave way. It was a waste of perfectly good alfredo and a waste of a good chef's time and skills, but most of all it was a waste of that hard-working woman's money. But she was the type to find hope when it had all but run dry. She sat down and helped the shrimp with his meal. It was just as well. He wasn't have finished it anyway.

The Light Fixture's Perspective:

“Can you usually eat a full plate of this?” she asked before bringing another length of pasta to her lips.

“I've never had this before,” he admitted as he scooped a mussel free from its shell.

“I make this at home sometimes, but it never tastes as good. Something about it always falls flat.”

“It's the fat. You either aren't adding enough olive oil, or you aren't adding enough butter.”

She chewed slowly and thought about this recommendation. “I gained seven points since I started coming here three months ago. This is my favourite dish. How much butter do you think is in here?”

He glanced at her figure instead of the noodles. “You look fine to me,” he said. Any man might have said those words, but the way he said them made them a compliment.

It was clear she recognized it as one as she reached across to her abandoned table to retrieve her water glass. “I suddenly feel full. Maybe half a plate of pasta is more than enough. Perhaps we could share one again some time?”

“I dunno. You say you're full, but I feel like I could eat a second plate. Would you care to join me?”