Showing posts from 2015

Embroideries: Whales on Fire

I named this little doodle so long ago that I don't recall what I meant with the title, beyond that the fabric is firey red and the main shapes appear to be whale-like. I also see that unfortunately the scan isn't sharp. Stitches are rather undefined which is a pity because the main stitch I used, running stitch threaded through, makes a nice show with variegated yarn. 
I will see if I can improve on it with a photo ...

What I'm Reading ...

As usual I have a few books open and face down around the house, ready to be picked up as the mood takes me.

The Wife Drought: why women need wives and men need lives by Annabel Crabb (2014), non fiction, in which Crabb makes the case that both men and women miss out in the present struggle to combine paid work and having a family. In Australia it is usually the woman in a family partnership who takes the part time, lower paid work when family things need more time. Crabb argues that fathers miss out on quality time with their kids through the accepted custom that mothers do the part time shifts.

I'm not progressing with this book, I admit. I guess at the time when I thought it might be an interesting read, I was in a non-fictional, alert to society and how it operates frame of mind. Different to where I am now, in the depth of a week or two of creativity.

My second non fiction read this month is a fifty cents acquisition from the local library's cast-offs trolley:

The Spike: ho…

Embroideries: Tree of Life

It's been a good few years since I did cross stitch work, in which one of the traditional motifs is the Tree of Life. This one is a freehand, almost doodled and certainly not a planned or designed work.
The strata/background is a piecework of badly joined bits of silk. They suggested something thrown in the ragbag. The tensions were wrong and the finished piece bulges uncomfortably though that isn't very noticeable in this format. The silks are as usual Colourstream's Exotic Lights. 
With one rather large difference, a hank of raw sheep wool to form the low relief structure of the tree trunk. What possessed me? I ended up covering almost all of the wool, it was so ugly!
The tree is surrounded by the elements it needs to grow and thrive. The sun. Water in all its forms ... snow, rain, mist, flowing rivers of it. A tree combines all elements and makes life, I thought. 
I made it before I knew the importance of fungi in the formula of life.

Embroideries: Hastening Away

In this little stitchery I have three little creatures hastening away from hot times to cooler, more verdant places. My intention was to form these creatures from the pale negative space in a pattern of aqua squiggles on a darker ink wash. 
Where their anatomy was colonised by the two latter elements I fudged and framed and finagled the background detail to cover the pattern and wash, to leave the critters their substance. 
The title came to me after I had taken the scrap from the ring. 
I always use Exotic Lights by Colour Streams now for the stitching. 

Learning to Read: Het Leesplankje

Resharing this blogpost from July 2, 2012, I was still not able to get an illustration. At least could add a website where to have a look.  Desperate to get an illustration of the object itself, I tied my computer into knots several times. It's still frozen several layers below this one and it refuses to let me close it. Words will have to do this time, and if you are totally interested check out this link,
where is a nice pic of one with an explanation of the whole scheme.

I learned to read on a ‘leesplankje’. Aap, noot, mies were the first words. Aa p was printed under a picture of an organ grinder’s monkey dressed in a little red jacket sitting on a house gutter.
N oo t was under a walnut against a blue background. 

A tabby cat sitting on a cream gravel path with grass and a paling fence in the background, represented m ie s, a popular cat’s name at the time ...

Embroideries: In the Beginning

Story: In the beginning there was an area of cracks in a lava field. If you climbed the steel tower at the edge of the lava field all the way to the top, and looked across the lava, you would see the flames in the cracks and the smoke still venting from the most recent eruption. 
Notes: This scrap of fabric, a delicate velvet, didn't stand up well to being stretched in an embroidery hoop. Impossible to press out the creases. The wavy watery sculptural pattern made it a test to come up with an idea. I could've stayed with the water and waves, but I like to see if I can subvert a fabric's original pattern. 
Additional Materials: The embroidery floss is Exotic Lights, a 100% silk floss from Colour Streams. I like to work with a split thread, one of three in this yarn. The embroidery floss frequently got hung up in the velvet which I therefore suspect to have an artificial component. As a result, the stitching became loopy and not as neat as I would've liked. 

Potholes - literal and metaphoric

Potholes around the district are almost too many to count. The complaints are many and fierce. Tyres, suspensions, wheel rims are all suffering. People's pockets. As you can see, the hole above has been there a while, with grass growing in it. 
The local council has only 23k ratepayers, more than 1.5 million day visitors per year. Car movements in the millions. Hundreds of kilometres of road. Old-timers remind the rest of us of the days when all the roads were gravel, cheaper to fix and cheaper on wildlife by way of slower traffic.

The pothole is a metaphor for the hole in my back, neatly sewn it is true - the excision of a suspect skin spot - the excuse I have for not performing any shoulder exercises, possibly 'overdoing' it by posting something on a blog, reading #Saturday Scenes for the first time in weeks, and various other no-no activities that can only be performed while sitting in a chair and not being too active.

Embroidery: In the Fields

One of my favourite method of decorating cloth is to take a scrap, a piece of sheeting in this case, clamp it in a little embroidery hoop and superimposing a design onto it. I start by accentuating parts of the background and then fill the resultant shapes with stitches and objects suggested by the enclosures.

In this piece, the new-way-of-seeing began with the three flower shapes in the bottom right quadrant. After I'd outlined them they resembled trees. Next, a web of chain-stitched fencing outlined the overview of a farm, which variously filled became fields of different crops.

Editing: Keeping the Subsequent Drafts Apart in my Mind

One frustrating thing about rewriting a novel of some length is trying to remember the version in hand. A bit like looking at ten layers of graffiti and wondering which you liked best.

When the particular book has been on the boil for a while, say five or six years, and the older versions have worn a groove in your brain, the draft in hand can be difficult to keep in the forefront of your awareness. 
At least I'm assuming some of you have the same problem. The beauty of the internet, there is always someone with similar problems. 
Hence I have again begun printing my newest draft out as I go. A couple of pages at the time, after each session. This after a few years managing everything on the computer. I find I've got too much history now with Monster-Moored to be able to recall just the latest words I wrote. This is especially the case where I'm making big changes. The older more familiar decisions keep popping up, like palimpsest ghosts, and confusing the new story no en…

Editing: The Importance of Names

I admit to resisting changing names of characters late into the piece, but when two beta readers confuse a character's gender because the male character's name resembles a female name, I thought I'd better do something about it.

Apparently English speakers may read 'Polk' as 'Polly'. The ones that did then totally glossed all the masculine pronouns meaning that they discovered the gender swap pages later.

So, I spent the morning reading my favourite name book. I decided I need to get a Scandinavian dictionary because I came to no inspiring conclusions. Changed 'Polk' to 'Poul' in the end, the Swedish version of 'Paul'. But I don't like it. It looks to me like an abbreviation of 'poultry'.

I try to have different initials for every name to cut down on confusion. All the other Scandinavian names the book came up with had initials already in use. And dammit, I'm only going to change that one name!

Fungi in Fiction: Raising the Stones (1988)

Book Review: Raising the Stones by Sheri S Tepper (1988)
The first couple of times I read this speculative fiction novel, I totally missed the first clues pointing toward its fungi related theme. The title, Raising the Stones, comes from a poem by George Seferis, Mycenae. Twenty years ago, I thought it to refer to some once-upon-a-time Greek islands ruined by volcanic action. As a consequence of missing the word play, I could never reconcile the title with the content.
At that time, several other important themes kept me reading. Godless then and now, I’ve nevertheless always been interested in the way in which gods seem to arise out of the natural world. Tepper’s treatise on the animistic religions of the past, I read this as. So much so, that I always thought the book could easily have been titled The Hobb’s Land God.
There’s more to it though, with a feminist plot in which the Hobb’s Land matriarchal society is pitted against a fiercely patriarchal society shouting ‘Ire, Iron and…

Re-purposing Embroideries

The usual troubles getting the scanner working today ... frustration, frustration! This time it was that the printer needed a new ink cartridge ... that's an almost unethical strategy to get people to buy more expensive ink. Because of course it always happens when sending away for the inks takes one or two weeks and the scanning job is needed now.

I may get a standalone scanner. After I have finished the inks. There have got to be some sustainable models around.

Anyway, as well as the must-do scanning job, I digitalised a bunch of embroideries I did a few years ago, before I began writing in earnest ... with the idea of having some post cards made of some of them, and me printing them out for greeting cards with others.

Fungi in Fiction: The Fungus (1985)

Book Review: The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight (1985)
Though the structure of this novel is confusing and some of the story-telling strategies distracting, the science (IE mycology) is surprisingly well-informed for a story reminiscent of 1950s pulp sf.
The many species of fungi featured are described and named correctly as far as I can tell. Fungal processes such as mycelial growth are up to date (to 1985) and for the sake of those surprises, The Fungus is quite an interesting read.
The first four chapters are pure pulp, describing the spread of a mysterious fungal plague in lurid detail, with each chapter following an unfortunate human to his or her end.
Chapter five is the beginning proper, and skips back in time to before the spread of the plague described previously, leaving a reader to wonder how these previous chapters are involved.
Jane Wilson, mycologist, cradles the result of her experimentation, a giant Agaricus bisporus. Quote: “For one thing its pileus, or cap – which wa…

A New Beginning

Today, just for the heck of it, I started Monster-Moored in a totally different place. One page into the existing chapter, at the actual point of contact between the Protagonist, Tardi Mack, and his burden.

1: Tardi Possessed Tardi swam frantically down and back. A white boat keel came straight at him through the blue underwater morning. The boat lifted over a final little swell and crashed onto his surfboard. Bet the bastard did it on purpose.
A million bubbles hiding a dozen pieces of his board punched him back down the sunlit water column, onto the old trawler’s wreck he’d been filming. His back shredded over the mysterious silver-barbed coral.
Aah! He gulped water trying to get air for a scream. The pain! Up! He had to get to the surface!
Wait, said a thing in his mind. A huge tongue slurped over his back.

Orb in a Shop Window

This is a shop window I pass walking to the CBD in Mullumbimby. I love the way the cherub as magnified in the orb almost looks right-way-up. Only on looking closer do you realise it's not a plain reflection.

Style: Sentences & Sentence Fragments

One thing I won't be doing in my latest edit, or anything else I'm rewriting, is getting rid of sentence fragments. This is one of the things that every editor and all reviewers have noted in my writing for the five years I've been asking for feedback.

Every book I read contains verbless sentences, usually to good account. Jeff Vandermeer's Finch is a recent find. A brilliant fantasy if you enjoy noir, detective fiction and fungi.

The first sentence reads:
Finch, at the apartment door, breathing heavy from five flights of stairs, taken fast.
Though there are two verbs, breathing and taken, they are the wrong forms to make this a complete sentence. But the effects are a sense of immediacy and the feeling that you, the reader, are right there at the apartment door with Finch.  
The second sentence has a couple more no-no's. Two, mark that well, two passive verbs! How often are we told passive verbs are not allowed on the first page?
The message that'd brought him f…

When You Can't Type ...

I see I've been off-line for almost a month. I've been recovering from a combination of overusing my wrists, elbows and shoulders without moving my shoulder blades adequately. This how interpret the Osteopath's comments, and the exercises he set. Sitting still and typing too often and too long is another way of putting it.

I'll be well content if I can get myself fit enough to do my Tai Chi warm up routine every day, as taught me by Michael Rose who learned from Patrick Kelly.

As well as hundreds of arm and shoulder exercises, I've been walking. However, this view is accessible only from a Bed & Breakfast place where I visited a while ago. All my recent walking has been around Mullumbimby which lies to the upper left just out of the frame.

Writing SF? Editing Out Metaphor

Sometimes editing is just like preparing to darn a knit. In the same way that it is necessary to choose the colour of threads to use for the needlework repair, it is also necessary to choose the 'colour' of imagery to use in specific genres.

And just like the obvious wrongness of the above threads for that repair job, I've been using figurative phrases of the wrong sort in my SF stories.

I've had three complaints about two different stories. Readers have been finding it difficult to visualise what was happening. Twice I explained the problem away. 
The third time I couldn't ignore it any longer. After some serious study over the weekend of a couple of my How-To sources, I discovered that my weakness for using metaphor is part of the problem, with metaphor being a way to add meaning, by describing something as though it is something else. 
In SF and Fantasy there can be no metaphor until the world is well set up, and readers are completely accustomed to the mode of…

Is This How Thor Began?

Seeing a sight like this amongst the catastrophe of a volcanic eruption is enough to get anyone to their knees.

Editing: The First Paragraph

This rather macabre image, a photo of a bit of squashed road-kill, was a beginning that led to the invention of many interesting images and illustrations.

In the same way a first paragraph needs to be able to lead into a reader's enjoyment and indeed tweak a prospective reader's intention hard enough to make them want to read. The promise of the whole story to follow must be in the first paragraph.

In my novel Monster-Moored I didn't have that yet. My beta readers found my first paragraph a turn-off. They didn't want the geography lesson I had there. They wanted a description of the main character.

But I resisted for a while. I didn't just want to insert a couple of sentences listing Tardi Mack's attributes. I needed to weave an indication of the whole story into it. I wrote out the first paragraph in longhand a few times, making changes each time. Left it overnight. Next breakfast I had it.

Old first paragraph:

Tardi stopped paddling. He sat up on his surfboar…

About Editing

There's more happening with editing, but due to my shoulders not working properly, I am suddenly limited to 3 x 15 minute sessions a day on the computer.

So it's back to amending a paper print-out of Monster-Moored. With a pencil or pen, as the day may be. This is a sample of the previous 'real' edit of the same novel. What it may look like when I'm finished with it.

Why did I ever think I could edit any other way? I'm finding so much more to improve. It's so much easier to go forward and back, to check on details. So much easier to make notes than with Tracking.

The Nitty Gritties of Editing

This borrowed image, thank you for your art Azot2014, a near-perfection illustrating the mood of the forest scene in my post.

Del, a supporting character in Monster-Moored, is in the clearing at midnight. The moon turns off. Clouds perhaps. A storm threatens. Yet she can't go yet, there's a strange light.

This post is about editing. Making the scene stronger by untangling clauses to clarify sequencing, rewriting in the active mode and ratcheting up tension.

Notes for page 107 1: In my first version I had: In the clearing there was enough moon light to see by. She switched off the torch. Transposing these sentences, and making the new second one stronger, works to strengthen Del as well. Good sequencing makes a story stronger, so it is said, and I can see it becoming so on this page. The new version reads: She switched off the torch. There was enough moonlight in the clearing to see by.
2: My awareness of the need for clear paragraphing has obviously grown since I wrote this. …

Editing and Proof-reading

This mandala was not made by the professional mandala makers, the Tibetan monks, who often visit  these climes. But you might agree that it has a certain charm, and really, if you wanted to use it to meditate over ... sit down, though there's only the ground, I'm afraid, and go for it. Up close you will see enough detail to keep you going a while. 
In the same way that this mandala is 'home-made' so must my novel Monster-Moored be home edited. I'm sure some people will consider it foolish. Or unprofessional. Even impossible. Needs must. 
I had it printed out. Double sided and 1.5 line spaced to save paper. Spiral bound so it can lay flat when open. (Having a go at beta-reading a digital file convinced me that for a comprehensive edit I'd need a paper copy.)
Way back when, when I first began to write, someone advised a loose leaf file. Throw it into the air was the next instruction, and pick it up any-old-how. Edit as the pages come to hand. Pick up 52 they cal…

Nuancing The Game of Thrones

As I began to read The Game of Thrones once more, feeling myself get involved with the characters and seeing them in my memory in their filmic characters, I realized that the texts and TV series will forevermore be intertwined in my experience of the Song of Ice and Fire series.

It struck me then, that what I was experiencing, were two different nuances of the story, a double serving of the different ways that the story has been and is being told.

Reading the book, I am nuancing it, and viewing the TV version I am nuancing it, albeit a a set of different but overlapping nuances. An audio version would still be that story but yet another set of nuances.

Nuancing can be reading, listening to another reading such as in an audiobook, viewing a film or a TV version. Even spending time on is nuancing.

Books, film and audio-files are all different modes of story delivery. Adding drama, dance and video gaming and we are starting to get a collection of modes for story delivery. E…

The Mysteries of Blogging

I was pretty amazed on April 1 to open the Stats page to this blog and find about 200 more hits on than normal for the day, making a pretty impressive spike in the graph.

What? I thought. I don't believe it. Google is playing me for an April Fool?

But no, after I checked different pages and posts, the hits were doled out over the usual topics of interests and panned out pretty well, leaving me only with a few questions.

What interest group did I hit on ... was it the sewing and handcraft cohort with the posting of the twin dollies put in an evil spotlight?

Was it my story in the #Street Scenes page that attracted all these people to my neighbourhood?

Was it something in the outside world that suddenly attracted a truckload of US readers to an Australian blogspot?

What? What? What?

I want to know.

I want to do it again.

Writing Two Novels at the Time

I'm sure it's not a new thing to be writing two novels at the time. But I'm doing it. I've given in to the daily and nightly stream of ideas being generated in my unconscious mind and sent into my awareness for dealing. Or some such mental process. And writing it all down. It's a new thing for me, ideas glissading at me non stop. Who am I to deny any of them?

I know I'm going against best practice, and writerly advice, and all the other well-meant commentary as well as pedantry like: You'll see what I'm talking about. Wait and see. Progress on both is slowed. Can you afford the time?

I'm putting them in the virtual corn-cob pipe I suck on while I'm typing. Because I'm working on/typing out the stories alternately, spending a few days on each. Right now I have Cele King the MC in EarthFall, the Monster-Moored prequel, being given a gift to deliver to Allie, her live-in Antagonist.

I've borrowed an image from…

Amble, Part 3

What I should be writing is .... the prequel to ...

Monster Moored, a novel still hanging around unpublished. With a beautiful front cover, ready to go ...

I know I'm slow, when in my Google+ writing groups people are publishing constantly. Talking about publishing. Talking about marketing. Talking the talk.

My health is slowing me up. Dare I say my age is starting to slow me up? Regular life is slowing me up. I'm at a stage where Writing, with all its bells and whistles, can not be number one. Bummer.

Following is Page 1 of what I would like to be writing. 

Amble woke in someone else’s skin, seeing through not-his-own eyes. A woman’s. Impossible. It was only men and herd animals he could be, for the weit sicht.
Then he remembered. She lay her hand on him. Made him hers. The Esse. The damned stone wolf called her that.
All he saw through her eyes were bare grey walls. She woke to an empty room. As though she'd been abandoned as a piece of collateral shit.
That sound.…

Reading, Writing, Writing, Writing.

I've been reading #Saturdayscenes, the local newspaper, brochures and leaflets
for I cannot read a novel while I am writing one.

I've been editing Tech Wizard Bard one last time. Found out just now I missed at least one passive sentence.

I've been writing a second draft of the Cele King and the Alien story. It's the hard grind, the have-to, the sit-down-and-do-it story. It's the prequel to Monster-Moored and I can't take its protagonist further in his story until I have the Cele King and her grand daughter waiting for him at the Reefarium.

And I've been writing Amble's Story. It's a first draft, just getting my ideas down. I write long hand and shorthand, with biro and by keying in. I'm very partial to Amble just now.

And very conscious of a story's kinship to clouds before it is written down.