Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Year-end Knitting and Other Hobbies Review


And other hobbies...

My goals in 2015 were to:

1. Finish knitting three more cowls
2. Think about buying expensive wool to make, slowly, methodically, and properly, a gorgeous design by Kate Davies
3. Organise all our photos and print a few, especially for our grandparents
4. Bake more!

These didn't change much over 2016. Instead of cowls, I got heavily into baby blanket knitting:

Photos of the fourth, a purple-y blanket, are here.

In the same post I talked about a secret group project and shared photos of my contribution. Still can't reveal the details yet, but as soon as we've given the gift to its intended recipient, I'll share!

Besides the four blankets and the secret project, I knit:

Three hats (here's one hat)

One shawl, as a gift

One fox scarf:

One pair of mittens

The Azel Pullover

This one didn't turn out quite the way I'd hoped, as the needles I used were a couple of sizes too large given the wool I'd selected, and I also made the pullover too short. But now that I have a feel for the pattern, I'd like to try knitting a child's version of the same item. An excuse to buy wool!

I only seem to have shared one post on my ongoing knitting in the wild series. I like collecting photos of knitting back in the day or in unusual spots or of people you wouldn't expect knew how to knit...

As for that list at the top, I do have some lovely Kate Davies patterns, but haven't attempted one yet. I've actually kept on top of photo organizing and even made a few printed albums, and shared some photos!

I haven't baked as regularly as I'd like. Tried an apple crumble that was a bit of a gooey mess, made cookies often, and attempted a recipe from Outlander Kitchen!:

It tasted good, even if it looked nothing like it was supposed to.

I also have fun supporting artists on Patreon and entering authors' contests every once in a while. Sometimes it leads to fun things arriving in the mail:

Sloth mail, through Amanda Palmer's Patreon

This year, I wonder if I'll get back to finishing those cowls? Or the sweater I started for myself long ago? I'm trying hard not to have too much extra wool and yarn lying around, and to use what I have before I buy more. That said, one of my first goals is to knit some wee hats and booties to go with the baby blankets.

With all this wool lying around, I read this fun book the other day:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

What hobbies are you exploring this year?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Year-End Writing Review and Paul Gallico: Open Your Veins and Bleed

Year-end writing review!

I've done this post rather sporadically since the first year I began blogging (2007!), first in 2010 (the year of the houseparties in Cherry Hill and Istanbul), then in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Finally, I recapped my goals for 2015, which carried over into 2016.

From the 2010 post, I also came across this post-apocalyptic story idea I wrote in 2010, based on a dream. I'd forgotten all about this one!
"I had a dream about a brand new story, which I might not even start writing for at least a few months [ha ha ha!], so here is the synopsis version:
Following a nuclear incident, with few people left on the globe, a group of scientists get together in a specific place and create a dome in which to safely house the remaining humans in that area. Many of them die while working on the dome, until only two brothers are left. One becomes the evil dictator of life within the dome, while the other, because he has a young daughter, lies low and tries to raise her as well as he can.
People continue to trickle in to the dome, in varying stages of ill health. A few years later the daughter, now almost in her twenties, has an affair with one of these newcomers, who dies soon after. She discovers she's pregnant, and is working up the courage to tell her father, when he reveals that he's dying and that the dictator is her uncle, and she'll have to go live with him. Rather than face such a fate, she turns to her best friend and asks him to marry her. Her father dies in peace, knowing she will be cared for by a husband who loves her. When the dictator finds out that his brother has died, he sends for his niece, whereupon she tells her new husband why she married him. He's upset most because she used him, and didn't trust him to stick by her if she had revealed her pregnancy.
They visit the dictator together, and are placed under lock and key in his vast fort, where they uncover more of his evil plans, and work to stop him before he can do is worst.
They succeed, and they all live happily ever after. In my dream, there was a lot of water, and chases, and other action sequences that were lots of fun to watch. Someday if I write the story, I hope they'll be just as fun to read!"

I have quite a few ideas like this one scattered on bits of paper and in emails. Another job for the intern, on top of her additional duties!

And from the 2012 post, I came across the first mention of my Kedi's Paw Badge of Honour Award:
"Kedi is a... spirit who currently happens to be in cat form. Only those with whom he is in direct contact realise that he's more than just an ordinary cat - currently he lets his guard down only around Austin, the English boy he's befriended in my middle grade novel The Face of A Lion.
As a cat, he's a soft grey colour with a white underside and paws, and very long whiskers. He makes chirping noises and purrs very loudly; to Austin and others who understand him, this sounds to them like English or whichever language it is they speak.

Here he is, passing on his Badge of Honour to you:"

Kedi is modelled after our cat Frodo, who passed away this year, as did Sam, his best friend. I wrote a short piece in their honour during yet another houseparty:
"In this snip, Kedi is talking to an old friend, Catullus, and a new acquaintance, a kitten travelling with Charles II:

Kedi, Catullus, and the kitten sat in a row on a low stone wall a few metres away from the hall. The kitten was -- there was no other word for it -- gambolling.
Kedi watched as he twisted about, chased after his own tail, then stopped and tilted his head to one side as the hall doors opened and the sound of merrymaking increased, before dimming again as the doors shut. The kitten crouched, as though he'd spotted prey, but the next second twisted about and pounced on a stalk of wildflower rising from between the stones.
"Rather energetic, isn't he?" Catullus remarked in a low rumble.
"I remember feeling that excited about everything. It was a good time." Kedi had grown to hold such excitement inside, not letting himself lose that sense of innocent pleasure, but learning to show it only at opportune moments.
He had had no reason to feel pleasure for some time now. Not since --
"I remember, too," Catullus said. "But I must confess that comforts weigh more heavily with me nowadays. I am glad the journey here took no time at all."
"Ah, yes. Between myself and his Majesty, we try to do our best for all who join these houseparties. I, too, might confess something: if it had not been for his Majesty's fog [a travelling device], I would have had more trouble than usual. One of my... Well." He curled himself low against the wall into a submissive position. "Cat's bane," he said in a whisper.

Catullus, and the kitten, were immediately alert. Both sat up tall, and the kitten was wise enough to take his cues from Catullus; he grew still, though the tip of his tail twitched; too young to master himself completely.
"Which was it?" Catullus demanded.
"Ah. You can relax." Catullus unbent and lowered himself to Kedi's level. "I have lost two."

The kitten looked from one to the other. "Could you explain, please, sirs?"
"If no one’s told you yet, then it's high time you learned, little one." Kedi sat up once more, and then took a moment to survey the grounds, listening. No odd or out of place noises, no unexpected scents. All was well at the houseparty so far.

"Cats have nine lives," he began. "Everyone thinks the lives are within one cat, but they are not. At least, they are for ordinary cats. But some of us, those who travel in time, for instance, have one soul -- and nine selves. My soul, Catullus' soul, your soul, when we are in a place like this, shows its true self. But to journey on Earth, we must inhabit bodies. You can search for your own, if you like. I can teach you how. I myself know all nine of mine. Catullus?"
"I have lost two, as I said. Mine lived in some difficult lands. Of the remaining seven, I have yet to find one."
"Yes, it takes time. But it’s important to find them, little one. It helps, when the moment comes that you lose one."

"It was recent, then?" Catullus asked.
"Last month. I felt him slipping, and joined with him, and was there for the last few weeks of his life. Worse, I lingered after he was gone, and the friend he had lived with his entire life also passed away. He, too, belonged to a travelling soul but in all that time I had never met him. To do so only when he had both lost one of our Nine was very bittersweet."

"Can't you protect them?” The kitten piped up. "If you -- we -- can travel across space and time, can’t we do something to make sure the bodies holding our nine lives never die?"
Kedi turned away, unable to answer such a question in a polite manner. He caught the look of pity that Catullus gave the kitten. Pity at his ignorance? Or simple sorrow that they all lived in a world where such questions needed to be asked?

He mastered his impatience and turned back, just as Catullus replied.
"We are not masters of our mortal flesh. Nor of anyone's. We might live, and learn, and grow, under rules that differ to those of others, but the essential laws of the universe hold true for every created being."
"Don't waste your time on futile attempts to alter those laws,” Kedi added to Catullus' statement. "There is joy to be found everywhere. Enjoy every moment that you have for learning and for sensing. For gambolling."
He pounced on the kitten and rolled him over, batting playfully. Catullus threw himself in, and all three leaped up and over and around in a mass of fur and whiskers, then set off on a mad chase along the top of the wall."

For a while in 2016 I tried to concentrate on reading all the books we already own. I seem to have a rotating 50 (counted generously) and probably 150 (counting even those books that I never mean to read) in the house at all times. I'd like to move them all onto one shelf, maybe.

I also finished rereading the 12 books in the History of Middle-earth series.

I read a lot in 2016 but didn't get much editing done.

Then in December, I got a new laptop and organized everything, and that's why, following a few general goals,
I'm going to list my 2016 goals by story:

Keep up with blogging (including the A to Z Challenge!) and the Alfred Russel Wallace transcriptions, and maybe the Forum (no pressure on the latter): On track. It helps that the Wallace Correspondence Project is currently on hiatus. And, among beta reading and Forum exercises (there's a great one on now about introducing subtlety in your writing!) and book reviews and so on, I add a few hundred more words here and there to a joint novel I'm writing (s l o w l y) with family members (The Horror of Horhor).

Check box of "writing to do" and type up all notes on paper and collate all story ideas and ideas from dreams, including A Fredericton Story

Find homes for finished work: He Ain't Heavy (short story; Charles and Oliver), Where There's Life (short story; library card Alexandria; written 2014), One to Another (short story; Aggy and snow; written 2015), Eyes of the Sky (vignette), Late Night, Maudlin Street (vignette; working title)

Figure out what to do with the orts: plot bunny murder mystery and CampNaNoWriMo2015 story The Heathen in the Hold, and others

Novel goals (rainbow order shows the order in which I'll be tackling these):
Book A Druid's Moon (Lyne and Frederick; first written summer 2012): Edit final chapters and send to betas, collate reviews and edit one last time, then submit to Barbara Rogan

Book 1 The Charm of Time (Christianne and Rory): Edit
Book 2 The Charm of Time sequel -- radiation, retirement and research -- link to Captive of the Sea (Magdalena and Santiago; first written NaNoWriMo2012, typed up 2013)
Book 3 The Charm of Time book three -- link to Out of the Water (Rosa and Baha): Enter final edits on the latter
Book B Rome, Rhymes and Risk (Ayten and Devran): Finish entering edits on MS
Book 4 Amelia and Angus -- her thesis and research -- link to Larksong (Alice and George; first written NaNoWriMo2013): Type up last bits
Book 5 Amelia and Angus -- baby? -- link to NaNoWriMo2014 (Peter and Penelope): Type up entire story, and find a title! NaNoWriMo2017
Book 6 Amelia and Angus move for her UN job, Christianne and Rory take over the pub, expat life for all -- Mystery at Bertram's Hotel (Phillippe and Milly; NaNoWriMo2015): Print and edit, and find a real title!
Book C The Face of A Lion (Austin and Kedi)

Finally, the dripping Y drop cap at the start of this post illustrates a quote that's often attributed to Hemingway: All a writer has to do is open his veins and bleed. Or some variation thereof. But according to Quote Investigator, it was actually Paul Gallico, author of the wonderful The Snow Goose, and the fun Mrs Harris books, among others, who first said:

"In the 1946 book Confessions of a Story Writer Paul Gallico wrote: 'It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don't feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you're wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.'"

It's storytelling that counts. If you can tell a story, you're all set. Everything else will come in time...

What are your goals for the year? Or for the next month or so?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group Day and a Visit to Ironbridge and Much Wenlock

Insecure writer's support group day -- the first in the new year!

Today's question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

There are many supposed rules that I don't think are useful; "write what you know" is a particularly pointless piece of advice. If everyone followed it, there'd be no historical fiction, hardly any suspense, certainly no paranormal, and no science fiction!

I think all writing advice is best read with only half an eye. It's good to know that it's out there when you'd like some guidance on a specific point. It's nice to have a starting block when you're first beginning to explore the writing path. And it's good to have something to rail against when you are well-advanced on that path and looking to carve your own walkway.

Yet for the most part it's a waste of the time you could be spending on writing. On telling a story. On keeping your readers enthralled. On reading all the good fiction and autobiography and non-fiction and correspondence and essays that are out there.

Others have said this sort of thing before, much better than I can:
Diana Gabaldon: "Read. Write. Don't Stop!"
Diana Gabaldon: My Writing Process
Stephen King: On Writing (no link -- buy the book from your preferred seller!)
Louise Penny: Advice for new writers
Neil Gaiman: Advice to authors
Neil Gaiman: Some advice from the last four months:

Visit the Insecure Writer's Support Group page for lots of advice and helpful links!

One morning last November we visited (again) Ironbridge, the first arch bridge in the world (1781) to be made of cast iron. I also visited the town of Much Wenlock, Shropshire, for the first time. A few photos!:

The Brookes family, prominent in Much Wenlock's history

A new-to-me author: Mary Webb

Dr William Brookes founded the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850, and campaigned for the revival of the ancient Greek Games. The first modern international Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896

This feels like a story...

A building from 1610!

What writing rule do you ignore? What rule, if any, do you follow?

Happy new year!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at