Posted in holidays, personal thoughts

So, I’m still around …

The latter part of a calendar year and into the next year is usually a crazy time for me.  Nano in November, Christmas knitting, holidays, the usual after-holiday knitting burnout, end of the football season, etc.  I’ve been MIA four nearly four months now.  Shame on me, but hey, life happens.

Since that last post, I have accomplished a lot:

  • Though I didn’t actually finish one novel, I did work on five different stories I have going and managed over 100K words total for the month which is my highest ever for a November Nano since starting in 2013
  • I finished all my Christmas knitting for the nieces/nephews/my son, AND even managed to figure out how to make coasters out of polymer clay for the adults which I think genuinely surprised them as well as a welcome gift
  • I survived Christmas 2K19 which essentially was a family reunion at my Dad’s house; I even came away the acknowledged winner at Scrabble this time, much to the disgust of my brothers (both English majors in college where I was a history major)
  • I’m still writing nearly every day
  • I am currently attempting to kick the post-Christmas knitting blues by making something for myself with some lovely yarn my brother and his wife picked up for me in Italy last year
  • Kiddo has successfully gotten underway with his second semester of school

So, yeah.  Busy time, somewhat relaxing maybe?  Football is now over, and I’m praying the regular tv stations start picking up more hockey games I can watch, but I know they won’t.  I’ll have to manage for a couple of months until baseball season starts and I’ll be able to get both the Cubs and the White Sox on local tv (gotta love living close enough to Chicago and not having your own pro baseball team!).  In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to get back to knitting for myself, keep on writing, perhaps a bit of reading, and maybe catch up on some tv series I missed out on before over on Hulu (which is new for me – it comes with our new mobile phone service, I guess?).  Anyway, I’ll be around and, hopefully, finding things to post about!

Posted in personal thoughts, writing

The Muses Are What They Are …

I think my preparations, at least outline wise, for Nano are complete.  At least, as complete as I can make them.  I haven’t touched it in over a week, maybe closer to two now.  Most of the past few weeks has been spent on a fanfiction story that I’m close to finishing – just 14 chapters to go!  I’m trying to at least get a draft of each of the last chapters so all I have to do is touch them up right before posting them.

Now, a lot of people look down on fanfic writing, but I’ve found it to be a great way of developing my writing style.  Ever since high school, I’ve loved to write.  However, a very bad case of writer’s block hit from my senior year of HS through college and then grad school, and even while teaching HS, so that I discovered when I moved here in 1996, ten years had passed without writing.  Oops!

Surprisingly enough, being in a new place and leaving so much stress behind helped.  Before I knew it, the writing muses were back and with a vengeance!  I quickly learned a number of things.

  1. Don’t try to stem the flow.  To that end, I now carry notebooks and pens with me everywhere I go – in my backpack, in my purse, etc.  I’ve been known to pause in the middle of grocery shopping to write down an idea, a character description, a plot point I don’t want to forget, etc.  Just the other day, I had kiddo pull out a small notebook I keep in my purse to write down a name for a character for a future story.
  2. MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC!!!  I am, by nature, a visual person.  It’s the best way for me to learn.  Secondary to that, I’m an auditory person as well.  A sound, a tone, a voice, the way the wind blows or someone breathes, the sound of screeching tires just before a car hits another … you get the idea.  Certain sounds will trigger ideas for me.  Same goes for music.  Whether it’s the latest song on the radio, an old classic, or even instrumental, it’ll move me.  (to that same end but on a more visual level, I tend to load up the live camera at Old Faithful on my computer when I’m doing something that doesn’t require the computer to complete, because I find having that in the background to be inspirational, too)
  3. When the muses are on game, they’re on game.  When they decide to head for holiday in the Caribbean, well, just wish them bon voyage and don’t panic.  I’ve had writer’s block show up again a time or two since way back then.  Once it lasted about four months.  More recently, I went almost an entire year.  It was difficult to just let it be, especially when I wanted to write, but couldn’t make the words work.
  4. After this last battle with writer’s block (the year long one), I decided that I would come back and focus on one story at a time.  (yes, I have a multitude of stories, some are complete, some aren’t, and I was working on them all at the same time)  This current story is the one I chose to start with.  It’s part 2 of a 3 story series.  The outlines have been loosely plotted out for several years now, but last spring I focused on firming those up.  The first story was 40 chapters.  This second one is 70.  The third will be 100.  Apparently, I like to increase each story by 30 chapters???  (fanfiction = newer games = more writing ideas/material, I guess).  This series is important to me for a number of reasons (and some of my readers who encouraged me to publish it in the first place), so I will finish it.

Anyway, my point with all of this is that these past few weeks, the muses sort of took over to get those chapters rolling.  I now have 11/14 chapters drafted (we’re talking at least 30,000 words here – more than halfway to Nano – all accomplished in less than a week).  Only three left to go!  I believe I’ve tied up all the major plot holes, though I might have just added a new one (time will tell) to deal with in the next story.

But today, however, I can’t seem to focus on the writing.  It’s a weird sort of reprieve, I suppose, and God knows my knitting needs attention.  At the moment, I’m sitting at work, bored out of my mind because I can’t seem to focus on either, and I’m not quite sure what to do about that.  I may pull out my outline for Nano (just 15 days until it starts!) and glance through it, see if I’m inspired by anything in any way.  I may try to work on Christmas gifts (knitting) because November is a heck of a time to write and try to get all the gifts done!  All I know is I need to find SOMEthing to do because this boredom is driving me mad …

Posted in Crafting, holidays

New Yarn!!!

So, the yarn I ordered to complete Christmas presents was waiting for me on the doorstep last night!!!  Also included were three more sets of needle tips (I like the interchangeable needle sets for most projects these days) that I use on a regular basis.  I suppose it should tell me that I’ve got far too many outstanding WIPs going if I have to keep reordering sizes 6, 7 and 8 needle tips almost every other year.  *sigh*  Someday, right?

Anyway, my first concern when opening the package, after hiding the colors I’m using for kiddo’s hats, was that I had the ‘wrong’ color green.  I nabbed the Cascade 220 Superwash (becuase these are teenage boys I’m making them for) in Shire green.  After consulting with kiddo, my resident Legend of Zelda expert (and I mean, EXPERT!), he assured me that although most of Link’s hats are in a Kelly green shade, there is one (or maybe two?) game where Link’s hat is more of a forest green.  My ultimate question:  Will it work?  His response:  Yes, it will work.

Okay, then!

So, I cast on hat #1 for one of the nephews last night and I’m now about 2-3 inches into it.

For anyone interested, you can find the pattern here.  It’s a great pattern, a relatively easy knit, and I know my kiddo was so tickled when I made him the first one.  After he put it on, he told me, “I need one in ALL the colors!”  Apparently, ALL means Green (normal one), Red, Blue, Black and Purple.  The only two I have left are Blue and Black, and since I don’t want him to know what next year’s will be, my goal is to make both for THIS year.

Christmas 2016
Kiddo in his Link hat and holding the Navi amigarumi I made him in 2016

One more side note:  The Navi pattern is great, too.  I came across it purely by accident on Tumblr about 2 weeks before Christmas.  By then, I was well aware who Navi was, so I nabbed it and started working on it.  Kiddo was so oblivious!  I was crocheting it right in front of him and he didn’t even guess!  It’s a fast project – I think it took at most 2-3 hours?  I made him one in the matching color to his hat for last year – they make great stocking stuffers for any of your Zelda-loving Secret Santas, too!  (I may make a pair for the nephews if I have a) enough time, and b) enough yarn left!)

Posted in Crafting, personal thoughts, writing

Where have the last three weeks gone??

Somehow, I lost track of time and THREE WEEKS have gone by since I last posted!  How does that even happen??

Well, life is busy – we all know that.  Between the job, the writing, the knitting and kiddo in college (not all in that order), it’s easy to put something like this to the side, I suppose.  Add in the gaming groups or just sitting around and watching football on TV, and I’m gone.  No really, I am – I’m a suck for sports, especially if I can knit at the same time! lol  No wonder this is usually my most productive time of year for knitting!

So, I discovered right after my last knitting update that I blew it.  I forgot to adjust the pattern.  For some reason I was thinking the yarn I picked up was fingering weight, like the MadelineTosh I used for mine, but it’s really DK.  I got to a point where I was about to start the headband and  I realized it was waaaaaaay too big!  Math is not my strongpoint, but I managed some (limited) measuring and calcuating and essentially pulled out about two inches in length.  It worked out fine; I can still get the last of the charms in there where I intended to place them, but I’m starting up the ribbing the row after that!  Yikes!

So, the ribbing is done, but the project is sitting in time out until I get to the same point with the other.  Why, you ask?  Well, there’s this stretchy bind-off that was suggested, and I want to do it for both.  I figure if I wait until I have both ready to go, then I can do it without having to go hunting up the HOW part on Youtube more than one time.  So, I started up the second Hatdana and it’s now moving along nicely.  (I’ll post pictures next time)

In the meantime, I’ve also ordered the yarn for the nephews’ and kiddo’s Christmas gifts.  I also treated myself to a couple of new patterns I spotted on another blog I follow, and found that the yarn used in that was relatively cheap at the yarn website I like to use, so I ordered some of that as well.  (socks and fingerless mitts, my fav!)  So, I should have plenty of knitting to accomplish over the winter!!!  In late August or so, I ordered my birthday present for myself – some gorgeous gradient yarns from an Etsy shop I discovered during the KAL I did in January, and those arrived a month sooner than expected, so I have them to knit up as well!  ALL THE KNITTING!!!

My outline for Nano is pretty much set to go.  That took about a week, maybe ten days, to get sorted out.  Not only that, but I was able to sit down and sort of loosely plot out future installments to the series, too.  I think starting with April’s Camp Nano I’m going to really have to focus on editing and getting book #1 ready to go.  If I end up self-publishing, so be it, but this series now has me pulled in so deep, I just HAVE to get it out there!  Plus I have a couple others I’ve worked on over the years that I really want to share.

What is time?  Am I right?

Anyway, suffice it to say, I’m still around, I’m still knitting, I’m still writing, and Nano and Christmas are just around the corner.  I’ve no doubt the next few months will go by far too quickly for my tastes!

Posted in Education, history, personal thoughts

The Things That Stick With You …

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I attended the University of Wyoming and received my MA in Medieval History there.  (I’ll save the jokes about accomplishing that out in no man’s land for later!)  I am, at heart, a perpetual student.  I’ll admit, when I was in high school I didn’t really care for history (we called it ‘social studies’ at the time), and when I first got to college, I was terrified that I’d have to take a history course for a semester or year to fulfill requirements.

My freshman year I managed to avoid it, thank goodness, but then I switched to a different school and BOOM!, Sophomore year I had to take either World History or US History.  I opted for World.  And my life was forever changed.  I can’t recall the exact name of the class at the moment, but I remember Dr. Patricia Howe.  For the first couple of weeks, I sat in class and took notes and … I was bored.  I didn’t want to be there.  I didn’t hate history – far from it – but it didn’t appeal.

Until one day when she gave a lecture on the French Revolution and Napoleonic Era.  WHAM!  All of a sudden, it made sense!  History was a STORY, and stories were fun and addictive!  From that moment on, I took every single course I could from her, and a few created ones to boot!  (as a side note, I lost touch with her after I left school because she changed schools as well, and I only recently found out she lost a battle with cancer in 2012.  It’s disappointing, to say the least, but I have very fond memories of her in the classroom that will never, ever leave me.  That’s something, at least!)

FAST FORWARD three years to the spring of 1993 in Laramie, Wyoming ….

I (successfully) defended my MA Thesis – a process I swear took more out of me than facing classrooms of students later that fall (I taught high school social studies – go figure! lol).  I had my graduate advisor, another history professor, and then one out-of-area professor on my panel.  I had no real idea what to expect for that going in, and by the end I’m sure it was more than a little obvious that I was relieved the whole ordeal was over (I hate public speaking, though I don’t mind teaching, but my brain hadn’t sorted out the difference between the two yet), and my out-of-area professor came over to speak to me.

Dr. Susan Aronstein is a professor of English (I think she’s still at UW), specializing in the middle ages, if I remember correctly.  My mom was taking a class of hers (on the way to a second MA in English) and suggested I select her for the panel.  I did, and when she approached me afterward, we had a brief discussion about my thesis topic: the history of Amesbury Abbey.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit, it has a history that lends itself to stories!  Founded by a queen who was supposedly responsible for the death of the king, her stepson, so her son could rule only to be re-founded 200 years later by King Henry II in an effort to atone for his involvement with the murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury.  Because she, my advisor and I were all fans of the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, Susan suggested I consider writing some medieval mysteries, or at the very least fiction, set in Amesbury.

FAST FORWARD to NaNoWriMo, November 2018 ….

For years, since that day, I’d thought about her words, considered the possibilities, but nothing really grabbed me for ideas.  Not until I met my Ex-husband (another history buff) who not only encouraged my writing, but was more than willing to toss around ideas and such with me.  Sometime back when we were married, I started a rough idea for a plot of a book.  It eventually (still while married) evolved into ideas for something like seven books.  The plots were/are all a loose collection of ideas, but at least I got something down on paper/computer.  Mostly, it was a binder tucked away with those pages in it, something I’d pull out once a year or two and touch up on the idea but never really making progress.

About six years ago now, I started participating in Nano, the idea being that you write 50,000 words in the month of November, and by the end you have something resembling a book that just needs some editing, etc.  Not exactly how it works, but that’s the idea.

The first year I did it, I wrote fanfiction because I had no idea how it worked and I wasn’t about to stress myself out over the whole situation.  (that story is still sitting on my computer waiting for editing, etc.)

The second year however, I started on another idea I’d developed in the meantime.  That one, too, still sits on my computer, but it’s in process of editing/rewriting because I think I figured out a large part of why I was dissatisfied with it.

The year (my third Nano) after that, I started book #2 in that series – got it 2/3 of the way written (over 80,000 words) but I haven’t gotten back to it yet.

Fourth year of Nano, I started a completely different project.  This one was much closer to my heart, closer to my area of expertise (middle ages).  Again, I’m about 2/3 of the way through the writing, but I do go and peek at it every once in a while.  I’m hoping to get back to it next spring to maybe finish it.

Last summer, however, I got the strange urge to pull out my old research, outline, plots, etc. for the Amesbury story that Dr. Aronstein suggested back in 1993.  It took me 25 years, but I FINALLY fleshed out a halfway decent outline for it.  When November hit, I started to write … and suddenly, the story started to FLOW.  I spent most of that month in a Zen-like state writing whenever I had the chance.  And, save for a few small areas in the chapters, I managed to get through my entire outline in the whole month!  It needs work – a lot of fleshing out, a lot of editing, etc. – but hey, I’ve made it past the concept stage!

This summer, I thought about November and I convinced myself that, No, not this year.  Christmas is at Dad’s this year – too many presents to make.  Thanks giving.  No good plot.  Etc….

So what have I been doing the past two days?????

Well, let’s just say that I’m reorganizing my save folders, my bookmarks, etc. to separate things between Book #1 and Book #2 for easy reference.  I have a vague idea of a plot – I’m not happy with it yet, but either I will be in the next couple of weeks, or I’ll stick to my original plan not to write this year.  I’ll be honest though, my main character, Gemma Harcourt, is screaming at me for something to do.  She wants to get back at it – even if it means we’ll be working our way through monstrous changes thanks to actual historical events.  Still, if I can get a good enough grasp on a plot, it could be fun again.  Will be fun again.

And all because of Dr. Susan Aronstein at the University of Wyoming.  One of these days I may even get published, and if I do, she’s the one to thank for it.  End of story …

Posted in Entertainment, personal thoughts

Just as an aside …

I have to say that after that last post, I’m definitely feeling my years today!  LOL

As soon as I went back to edit the post, the title I used triggered the song of the same name (Moving Right Along) from the Muppet Movie that came out in 1979.  I remember seeing it at the theater the summer before entering 6th grade.  It’s amazing that all these many years later, just the words will trigger the tune and lyrics inside my head …

Posted in Crafting, holidays

Moving Right Along …

Tessa 2 charms
100 rows

The knitting on the first of the Christmas Hatdanas is moving right along now!  As you can see from the picture above, I’ve completed one hundred rows.  In three more, I’ll add the last charms (two little bumble bees).  In 21 more rows or so, I’ll shift to knitting in the round and to make the k1,p1 hatband for 2 inches or so.  After that, just a few tassels at the beginning point, a bit of blocking and it will be good to go!  The pattern didn’t call for the charms, but seeing as the recipients are 14-16 years old, I figured they might like the additions.

The yarn for this one is Malabrigo Arroyo, colorway Talisman.  This is my first time using the Arroyo, though I’ve used other Malabrigo yarns in past, and I love both the colors and the way that it knits up!  Lovely stitch definition, and I tend to like darker, jeweled tones – this colorway fits right in with that.  The other I’ll be making uses a much brighter colorway, but more on that in a later post.  Last night I rolled it into a ball just in case I should finish this one today …