Random Favorite Quote

Every so often I read something in a book written by someone else that clarifies my own thinking on what I write. One paragraph from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Komarr, does exactly that. The book is a mystery and a sci-fi adventure, but it’s also a long, detailed, brillant setup of the woman the intrepid Miles Vorkosigan is going to woo and win in A Civil Campaign (one of my favorite books of all time). Miles has many, many faults, all of Darcy’s pride packed into a malformed body, and Ekaterin’s now-dead husband, Tien, was socially conservative and fiscally heedless. She’s attracted to Miles but deathly afraid of being stifled again. In a really brilliant scene, Ekaterin asks about Miles’ past lovers, a telling question to ask any man.

Miles goes on to give a really charming, funny account of Elena, Taura, Elli, et al, and in each case he starts which who they were when he met them, and who they are now. In every case the woman has grown, changed, stretched into someone truly spectacular. Jumpship captain. Admiral. Surgeon. Empress.

To Ekaterin this is pure, cool water in the desert:

“Tien had protected her proudly, she reflected, in the little Vor-lady fortress of her household. Tien had spent a decade protecting her so hard, especially from anything resembling growth, she’d felt scarcely larger at thirty than she’d been at twenty. Whatever it was Vorkosigan had offered to this extraordinary list of lovers, it hadn’t been protection.”

Yes. Exactly.

In Which Anne Gives Up Sugar

…for a very brief time.

Let’s start over.

Hi. I’m Anne and I’m a sugar addict.

While I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, like all joking there’s an element of truth to the humor. I won’t say chocolate runs my life, but I will admit to cravings that pop up at the same time every day. The line between “dessert is one of the food groups” and addiction is thinning, rapidly. I’m also curious to test the assertions that avoiding sugar evens out the daily highs and lows, and improves sleep. So this is both a fast, and a not-quite-double-blind-controlled-study. Just one woman, and her demons, with a fridge full of raw cookie dough (thanks, Mr. C. for playing The Adversary for the next two weeks).

How am I doing so far, on Day 4? I’m a cranky bitch. Thanks for asking. I’m also a little dismayed at how badly I crave a treat after lunch, or a mid-afternoon treat, or dessert after dinner. But what I learned yesterday is that what I attributed to a post-chocolate-covered-grahams crash is actually a post-lots-of-time-with-people crash. (A good friend calls this an “interactive hangover”.) Maybe higher levels of sugar in my blood makes it harder for me to discern what’s good for me and what isn’t.

Because challenges are more fun with rewards at the end, it’s also a giveaway!

My goal is to fast from sugar until my birthday, which is just a couple of weeks away. I started the fast on Monday, August 26 ; other commitments kept me from blogging about it until now but I’m going public with the challenge. Post on any of the blog updates about The Torturous Sugar Fast of 2012 and you’re automatically entered to win your choice from my backlist. Tell me about your favorite desserts. Say something encouraging, or supportive, or even “you are CRAZY, not that I’m judging” and you’re in.

What’s in this for me? If I get through three weeks without sugar, I’ve promised myself I can make our family birthday cake, which is a triple-layer chocolate cake with whipped cream between the layers and chocolate icing. Made from scratch. I counted up the calories in this cake and stopped when I got to 10,000. It’s a towering mass of sugar-sweet delicious, and a great way to celebrate turning…well…older than I am. I might lapse into a sugar coma after three weeks without, but I’ll take that risk.

Stay tuned for daily updates. Let’s hope the cranky bitch is replaced by someone of beatific serenity, or I might end up celebrating my birthday alone. 😉

In Which Anne Makes A Knitting Analogy

Starting a new knitting project takes a fair bit of concentration, especially when the project involves new-to-me techniques. After I finished my niece’s baby sweater, I wanted to start on a similar sweater for me but had to order needles. In the meantime I started another baby sweater knitted entirely in garter stitch. Very simple. Good for brainstorming and thinking through book problems. Busy hands free up the subconscious to send up ideas, if not answers. Sometimes I get snippets of dialogue. Washing dishes has the same effect.

The second project I started was a maybe for me. It’s Lucy Neatby’s Sea Lettuce scarf. When I travel I like to buy yarn and patterns from local shops featuring local designers and fiber artists. Some people buy snow globes. I buy yarn. In Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia I got a skein of Handmaiden sock yarn and Lucy’s pattern. Despite the pattern picture, which looks like the test knitter used leftover baby sweater yarn (so pink! so blue!) I took a chance on a “spiraling, frilly, short-row extravaganza”.

Just because I buy a pattern or yarn doesn’t mean I’ll finish the project. Sometimes you get into the pattern and you hate a) the work involved b) the way the yarn looks as you knit it or c) both. Here’s the Sea Lettuce scarf:

Sea Lettuce scarf

When I finished the setup wedges I stopped to consider whether or not I wanted to continue or if I’d turn the yarn into socks instead. Good news: I like the way the short-row extravaganza’s turning out. The colors are dark enough for fall/winter, which is when I’m most likely to wear it, but that little splash of electric blue would work well in the spring and summer, too. It’s an interesting knit, with colors changing within the rows and enough complexity to keep my attention but not stressed about working on it.

I do the same thing when I get an idea for a story. I work with it a little, knit up a swatch, so to speak, and then step back and think about it. Do these characters have enough color and complexity to keep me (and readers!) interested? How are they coming together? Good tension? What about secondary characters and subplots? Sometimes you’ve got to rip back rows you’ve already knit; sometimes in writing you throw out whole scenes, whole subplots, whole characters. Sometimes you need a break from a project in either medium.

Keep working. Keep a project with you at all times and knit a few rows in your down time. Do the same with a notebook or voice recorder, and your book will move along, too. Books, like sweaters (or spiraling, frilly, short-row extravaganzas) take time and perseverance. The end result, however, whether the perfect, soft scarf to wear with jeans and a white T or a book you’re proud of and can’t wait to share, is well worth the effort.

Baby Sweater on the Cutest Baby Ever!

I’m what’s known in the industry as an unreliable narrator. 😉

This is actually my son’s stuffed dinosaur wearing Elizabeth Zimmerman’s February Baby Sweater. My niece is due to arrive very soon, so I’m glad I finished it on vacation.

Rexy wears this very reluctantly, I can assure you.

 

He’s all boy-dino, and I nearly lost fingers to those sharp teeth when I dressed him, but in return for raw meat he acquiesced and let me take the picture.

50 Shades of Puns

The Tall Ships were in Halifax while we were visiting, so we took Small Boy down to the harbor to see the big wooden boats (and ride the zip line). $5 got a ticket to tour all the ships. We saw the US Coast Guard barque Eagle, the movie version of the Amistad, the movie version of the Bounty, and a few other neat ships. Then we got ice cream at Cows, an ice cream shop headquartered in PEI. The ice cream was good, served in waffle cones made right in front of us, but even better was the merchandise. T-shirts galore, all featuring silly and/or clever puns on pop culture. Some examples:

Cow of Duty: Moodern Warfare

Farmbook

Mootube

Angry Herds

And then there was this one:

50 Shades of Hay

I didn’t buy it.

First Fruits

Aka: there’s food growing in my back yard!

That, folks, is a table laden with the first fruits of spring labor. 5 cucumbers, all falling into the ginormous category (insert your own inappropriate cucumber joke here), one tomato, and 370 pgs of a book that will release in September, 2013. Now I’m going to slice that tomato, sprinkle it with just a bit of salt, and enjoy.

Sidewalk Chalk Creativity

I visited my sister in St Paul a couple of weeks ago and found this fabulous sidewalk chalk art during walk in a park near her house.

You are beautiful…you are wonderful…you are doing everything right.

 

Get your story out.

 

The Meaning of life is Art.

This one’s a little hard to read because of the light/shadow play on the blacktop, but I liked it best. I took the pictures with my cell phone camera, so there wasn’t much I could do to compensate.

Keep Walking…your destiny awaits.

So say we all!

Date Night

On Saturday I picked up the Lacrosse-playing babysitter capable of running herd on both Small Boy and Difficult Dog, and Mr. Calhoun and I went out for the evening. We ended up on the grounds of a local retreat center, walking the labyrinth. (You know…like you do on a date night). The labyrinth is outlined in white rock, with dark brown mulch forming the path, and it’s surrounded by cottonwood trees. I love the sound the wind makes in cottonwoods.

Fallen leaves were strewn all over the path, and I started to pick some up as I walked. At first I thought about the leaves I found was, “Dead leaves.” But as I walked I began to notice how different each of these fallen leaves were from the others on the path. The color spectrum was really spectacular.

That’s all the leaves I picked up, but note the difference in just the shades of…oatmeal, is probably the best choice.

These are my favorites:

A wide range of colors and sizes. A writer’s work is formed in the details. I’m saving all these leaves (I keep a paper journal with a pocket at the back for things like ticket stubs, notes, cards people send, and leaves) for the colors, and the memory of another quiet date night.