Saturday, November 28, 2015

Knitting Up VK Live 2013: Freia Flux Twisted Rib Mitts

It gets bloody cold in New York City some winters. I dislike the "gadget" gloves on the market, that let you touch your smartphone screen through the special panels on the fingertips. I like knitting gloves. I love fingerless mitts. I love to buy colorful yarn. I really like gradient yarns like those dyed by Knitwhits. I can't resist buying pretty things I have no plans for.

I bought two skeins of Freia Handpaints Flux Worsted yarn, colorway Ultra-Violet, because they struck me like two glowing eyes from the shelf. It's a thickish yarn, single ply, dense, rich in color. I had no idea what to make of them, but initially thought perhaps a hat, perhaps a cowl, perhaps I'd mix them with something else. Finally during the winter of 2014/15, confined to the sofa by leg injuries, I decided they would look wonderful as fingerless mitts, just big enough to fit over thinner fully-fingered gloves on a really cold day. As I was spending much of December and January clutching a cane in one hand, that made a lot of sense. So I made these up as I went along. I have no regrets.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Book A Week, 2015, nearing the end...

So at of the beginning of June I'd only read 18 books of my postulated 52 for the year. Not bad for most people, but well short of my goal. I determined to do better! Crack down  and make more time! But...but...knitting! Bird watching! Orchids! Cooking! Sleeping! Yeah, yeah, excuses.

Including graphic novels/collections like Saga 4 and Saga 5, Rat Queens 1 and 2, Sex Criminals 1 and Fun Home, I've managed to start & finish -- in some cases just finish -- an additional 14 books, making my total for 2015 a measly 32 so far, with only 6 weeks to go. I just finished Tananarive Due's My Soul to Keep, not as quick a read as I first thought. I finished it thanks to a long bus ride midweek, despite also having a lot of seasonal knitting to do and a scarf pattern to write.

Finishing The Story of Spanish and The Emperor of All Maladies, which I read a few pages at a time for months and months, also count for 2015. I also finally finished Moonwise, both delightful and maddening; it went easier when we were staying in the country for a few days, where the setting of the book blended better with my mindset. Funny how that matters more for some books than others.

Reading Jazz Singing in bits and pieces as well -- it's history blended with Will Friedwald's opinions, in sometimes weird ways, but overall I'm glad I grabbed the book from a thrift store bin on impulse. It's hard to learn about the history of jazz from just liner notes and encyclopedia entries, and being partial to vocals I'm enjoying learning the stories of the men and women who shaped the genre. Good discography recommendations above all.

Hild and The Martian were both amazing, in very different ways. I picked up a copy of Hild just a week before we went to Readercon, with author Nicola Griffith as Guest of Honor. I wished I'd read it sooner!!!! so I could have appreciated her even more. Many have remarked on the book's power to transport you to another time and place in ways most fantasy authors wish they could, even though there really isn't any fantasy going on. I entirely agree. The Martian is about as different from Hild as two books could possibly be, but has a similar power to transport you to another place, inside another mind. I loved both books a lot. And I'm very happy Griffith is writing a sequel!

Three more of the best were "more of the same" books: The Magician's Land (#3 of that series), Last First Snow (#4 of Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence) and Ancillary Mercy (#3 of Ann Leckie's deservedly highly-praised series). I dearly love a good trilogy, a good quadro-trilogy, a good long series of stories sharing characters and universe. (Seeing the news on Gladstone's blog that he intends a total of 10-12 Craft books made me squeal with unholy glee.) I also finally read Scalzi's Old Man's War, but I probably won't read the rest of that series anytime soon.

I'm a little bit awed by authors who manage to world-build within the confines of a single story or novel and then -- just walk away. How do they do that?? How do their brains work so differently from mine and George R.R. Martin's and Robert Jordan's and Anne McCaffrey's???

Working hard to finish Roboteer by my friend Alex Lamb, this is his debut novel and it ROCKS. Hard SF with great characters and riveting action. I'll be posting reviews!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Seven for a Secret: My book, it is ALIVE!

Seven for a Secret on Apple's iBooks.

Seven for a Secret on Barnes & Noble NOOK.

Seven for a Secret on Kobo.

Seven for a Secret on Scrib'd.

Seven for a Secret on Inktera/Page Foundry.

Thanks to the miracles of our modern digital age, I was able to get my book published to several major ebook markets in just one evening! Still waiting for notifications from a couple. But this is pretty cool, I have to say. I was able to check the Amazon Australia site and provide a link to a friend down there. Amazing. Love it!

And, the book is also on Goodreads already, which totally surprised me. I intend to find out which market caused the entry to be generated.

Now I have to catch up posting reviews of my friends' books on Amazon and Goodreads! And return to my read-one-book-a-week attempt for the rest of the year. I was doing OK with that until I hit a few big ones...looking at my to-read pile of actual books, and the huge Kindle queue, I think I'll try to get to the shorter ones first!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I'm About to Commit Novel: SEVEN for a SECRET

SO this is the saga of my fantasy novel "Seven for a Secret":

Many years ago, I had a vague idea for a novel and brought a few random chapters of absolute crap to my writing group. Then about 9 years ago the whole idea suddenly clicked, and most of those chapters ended up in the shredder but a few scenes stayed.

I started with an idea for a slightly magical kid in Northern England in the 60s who fell in love with blues music and went on to become a rock star. Big twist, he'd discover hidden magic talents along the way. MEH. The click I needed was to have the kid always know he was magical. In fact, he's part of a growing tribe of born witches living under everyone's radar, but becoming bolder now that society is more tolerant of those claiming magical abilities. He was born already walking a hero's journey, knowing he's special, but he's pretty sure it's a mistake...pretty sure the daring feat he's born to achieve is hardly worth achieving. Other witches beg to differ. Which of them are right?

(Yes, the Chosen One kind of story is overdone and lame, but frankly I hate the "ordinary person suddenly sprouts magic and saves the world" kind of story too. In myth, the hero is always a demigod with the gods stacked against him. So how badly can a demigod mess up? See Jason & Medea, for starters. Yes, it is popular belief that ordinary people can perform magic, even if it's just casting an evil eye from jealousy. We all ask water spirits for wishes in return for coins -- that's simple divine intercession on our behalf, similar to prayer. Divination by tarot cards, love charms with herbs and candles, they're all part of popular belief that pretty much anyone can learn magic spells if they just try hard enough. In my story, In these stories that simply isn't true. I have no opinion whether it's true in our reality.)

Eventually the story arc broadened out into 4 books. I kept adding story complications, and my reallllllllly long "teen witch blues saga" grew backwards into Gerry's traumatic childhood.

I've been shopping book 1 to agents and publishers for several years now -- alas I now realize my early pitches were just terrible, and I do still have some agent queries out there and have more to send. But at my advanced age for a never-published author, I really have nothing to lose by just getting the damn book OUT THERE so I can STOP FIDDLING WITH IT and move on and finish books 2, 3 and 4, most of which are written. So doing this is both cathartic and practical! So there.

I created my own cover for the darn thing, too.

Catasetum Karen Armstrong FLOWERS YAY OMG!!

Fred Clarke of Sunset Valley Orchids rules the orchid universe. Well, at least parts of it. The Catasetum part, certainly. He has an eye for parent plants and a knack for making incredible crosses that are new things to the eyes of the world. After all, he made an orchid so very near black -- Fredclarkeara After Dark -- that digital cameras have a hard time revealing details and many of the images are just sort of blobby. (Really good photographers are able to overcome this challenge. Not so most of us.)

I've had a couple of Catasetums for years now, and itched for another from SVO. One of Fred's pioneering efforts is to create "mini" hybrids in this group, using species known to stay small and keep their offspring small as well. Well, that fits my plans, and my light garden, mighty well! So when Fred was speaking in New Jersey last year, a friend picked out a near-blooming-size Catasetum Karen Armstrong for me. It seemed pretty much ideal for my light garden conditions based on its parentage. I took good care of the plant through its brief dormancy, and was rewarded with an enormous new growth. And was further rewarded with a spike!

Catasetum Karen Armstrong is the hybrid of Ctsm. Susan Fuchs (expansum x Orchidglade) and Ctsm. denticulatum, so it combines "old style" mega-Catasetums with the species most notably being used to create the "mini" Catasetum hybrids. CKA is a great building block parent, but it's also a great plant in its own right. I wuv it. Trouble is now I want more...