Monday, June 18, 2012

FINALLLLLYYYY!

So, I'm pleased to announce that a few short hours ago, I finally typed up the last chapter of my first draft of Temperance & the Duke.

I've spoken to my friend Hollie, who was agreed to take on the task of designing the cover art, and she's going to come up with a few sketches by December so that is flowing very smoothly. We had a great discussion brainstorming what I pictured and her suggestions and questions.

I've sent copies of the draft to some of my most trusted friends for suggestions that I can implement in December when I begin the editing process. I desperately want to jump right in, but I've often been told that editing is best done when you have stepped away for a little while so that you can come back to the story with a fresh, new perspective and it will give you time to 'detach' yourself from some of your favorite scenes so that you edit more objectively.

Whoo! Talk about PROGRESS this month. :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

BANNED!

So...If anyone is interested to know...My story "Home for Hatter" was deleted off FF.net and I was banned from posting for several days because the summary was not G-rated. The irony that my story is rated M for Mature Audiences and I still managed to get a tersely worded email from the admins and a "recorded infraction" for breaking the "Guidelines of Submission" and failing to pander to the site's "widespread audiences" in the smutty story's summary does not elude me. I think it'd be a better idea to ban anyone under the age of 18...OR start a quality fanfiction website dedicated entirely to smutty 18+-reader stories in which case FF.net would never see me again. Because honestly, I've tiptoed over to "Adult fanfiction.net" and hastily hit the back button when I realized that no one over there knows how to use punctuation or the spell check function in their word processing program.

Also, I know I've been horrifically absent lately, but that's due to my crazy work schedule which has moved from part-time to full-time baby-sitting as well as the fact that I am—finally—starting to focus on "Temperance" again...when I'm not starting sewing/quilting projects...and knitting...and working...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Slacking

It's been a while, I know, but things have been crazy around here what with my little sister experiencing pre-term labor for the last two weeks and baby-sitting and pet-sitting and whatnot.
My sister actually just had my nephew today so today's been pretty exciting for me. Oddly enough, both my younger brother and I were due to be born on April 8th, but we both came before then. J was due in mid-May and he came today!

Also exciting is the fact that I FINALLY finished my friend's shawl.
Here's a picture of it getting ready to be blocked--which is a process I think should ALWAYS be done if you're knitting lace since it opens the lace up and really enhances it's beauty.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Updates

Today wasn't rainy so I finally had a chance to finish up my DIY project. For comparision, I've posted up both the original & the finished product side by side.

What a difference! Even better, all the supplies to improve it cost me $20, which is less than I would have paid for a secondhand dresser at a thrift store or on Craiglist. I'm so pleased with the final effect, although I can't promise the drawers will stay that pale shade of gray forever. I may end up painting them again in a few months when I start longing for something more cheery or girly.

And next up, I've finally gotten to a point in my friend's Skywalker shawl that I feel I can post a picture of the progress. I didn't take a full-size photo because I'm actually in the middle of knitting a row, but I have to show off how nicely the Planet stitch is shaping up and that deserves a close-up shot anyway. :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Updates & A Frenzy of Fiction

Geez, it's been busy recently. My birthday was on Friday, we took a day-trip to Savannah, GA to eat at Paula Deen's restaurant—which I'm sad to admit was not worth the four hour wait-time—and I spent Sunday trying to correct some knitting errors I made to the two shawls I'd been working on.

I haven't taken pictures, but I'm about to do the final section of lace for my friend's Skywalker before the edging, which is going to be a pretty lengthy and complicated bit of work since it requires me to follow a chart that has a billion different stitches on it (I'm exaggerating...there's only half a billion).

The picture below shows how I occupied myself during the several-hour long drive to Savannah. It was supposed to be the final lace panel for the Diamonds a Dozen shawl pattern I've been tentatively designing:


I was not happy with the state of the "diamonds"--which had gaping holes in them that ruined the crisp lines I'd expected. So, I decided to throw out the diamonds and set up a lace panel of diagonal lines. I'm hoping this second attempt will be more pleasing to me (I'm very picky and I've already started over on one part of this shawl because the diamonds weren't crisp enough to me).

No telling when I'll get to that though, because I'm more concerned with finishing up my friend's shawl & my dresser.
Speaking of my dresser, work has been suspended on it. I got a good deal of it completed the first weekend, including all the sanding and I put wood filler in all the nicks as well as some of the extra 'drawer pull' holes, which weren't needed. As you can see from the picture below, the dresser had a good deal of damage done to it. The second photo shows the same side after liberal application of wood-filler, more sanding and the first coat of paint.
The dresser needs a second coat of paint to seal everything up, but it's been raining a lot lately so I haven't been eager to go outside and fuss with it.

 


As a result of the grim weather, I've been reading a lot lately. You may have noticed that I posted up a new gadget that lists some books. These are the books I've read recently that I would recommend (with links to the official websites of the authors/books). I've read some other ones, mostly Harlequin romance novels, that I wouldn't recommend. Don't get me wrong, I adore cheesy romance novels, but I was not impressed by the spelling and grammar errors I've been finding in the ones I've been picking up lately. I know this is probably a bit picky and ridiculous (picdiculous?) of me, but I think that, if someone's been paid to read the manuscripts and EDIT them, there shouldn't be any misuses of punctuation, misused words, etc. Although I did get a good fifteen minutes of ridicule out of one book wherein I read "I can mange" and then spent the following fifteen minutes lost in internal dialogue as I contemplated how exactly one manges. In a few days, I'll try to compile some reviews for the books on my list, but for now, the links to the official websites will have to satisfy you. :)


I just finished reading Beastly by Alex Flinn tonight (I'd started it awhile ago, but turned it back into the library when I got the phone call that Power of Six was finally in) and I've decided to go back and re-read Beauty by Robin McKinley to decide which I liked best, but unfortunately, my local library doesn't carry a copy so I ordered it off Amazon. Hopefully it'll arrive near the earlier "arrive by" date rather than the later one. I don't think I can wait patiently until March 28th for it to come in. :)


In the mean time, I'm thinking I'll have to content myself with books I have on my bookshelf—bought ages ago—that I've yet to read...and hopefully, I'll get a call soon about the book I placed a hold on weeks ago. It's Justin Cronin's The Passage, which I've heard good things about—mainly that it combines vampires with apocalyptic chaos. Yes! I love me some apocalyptic chaos & vampires. Put them together, and I'm a happy (and possibly twisted) little hamster.
Hopefully, it won't turn out to be like The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom. I got about sixteen chapters into the book, felt hopelessly lost, and finally broke my cardinal rule about reading—Don't read reviews in case of spoilers—in hopes of finding out what was going on. I ended up finding out that it still wouldn't make sense at the end of the book, so I parted ways rather than continue trudging through in confusion. It started out good, the writing was interesting, but the characters just were not likable enough for me to continue suffering through what quickly developed into slogging narrative and confusing "horror scenes."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Work in Progress & Novel Updates

So...for those of you who don't know, I graduated college in December. I then moved to North Carolina in February and lived there until July—when after failing to acquire a job—I decided to move back home to Florida. Since moving back to Florida, I have been living out of gallon containers—where all my random junk is stored—and laundry baskets--where all my clothes are stored.

I initially began searching Craigslist for an affordable and space-efficient dresser—my room is about 10" x 12" so space is tight given my queen size bed and knitting kit. For those of you who have never lived in Florida and tried to find affordable furniture on Craigslist...Everything is overpriced. Even the really nicked up dressers that are missing knobs, don't open smoothly and smell like animal urine are a minimum of $30.

Then, I wandered into our front room and gazed considerably upon the dresser that was being used as a television stand. I vaguely recalled that we had owned a dresser that you couldn't even open on account of bad tracks. To my surprise and delight, this dresser was not that pile of crap dresser I recalled. All three drawers opened smoothly and I decided to claim it as my own (as I'd already done to a vintage nightstand that now holds my knitting works-in-progress, books I'm reading, candle and coaster for my beverages).
This weekend, I plan to revamp it. As you can see from the photo below, it's missing several knobs and the remaining ones don't match.
And as you can see in the second photo, it's got a good bit of wear. HOWEVER, it has great bones to it and the dresser is sturdy—compared to some of the cheap 'assembly required' laminate furniture we've owned (and destroyed) in recent years.

After some sanding, wood filler, paint and new knobs, this dresser will be golden and I intend to do as much of the work as is possible this weekend. Hopefully by Wednesday, all my clean clothes will be stored in said dresser and the laundry baskets will begin—once more—to do their job of ferrying dirty & clean laundry to and from the laundry room and nothing more. :)


AND finally, we have my novel in progress "Temperance & the Duke." I officially have commissioned an artist—a friend I met in my freshman year of college—who has resolved to spend her year during 12 pieces of free art (one for each month) for friends or family members who might ask it of her in hopes of getting her name out and about. I've given her a deadline of December and a badly rendered Paint-created cover sketch of what I'm hoping for. She then sent back the challenge of writing up a synopsis for the back cover.

Also, to further assist in the development of my novel—and following advice from Becca about creating a map to help orient readers in my world—I created a map of my world (gee, bet you didn't see that one coming. *grin*). Here it is, in all it's smallish glory. I am so proud of it, so I'm going to splurge on the details of how I did it.
See the upper portion—the one that says 'Illyria/AminaChelsea/Forsaken Lands'—that was scanned in from my old map. I then used GIMP (free photo editing software) to create pathways outlining the continent and creating a clean 'map-like' image (using 'create stroke path' or something like that).

The rest of the map is a result of taking a map of the world and playing around with the continents in paint. I took pieces that interested me visually and flipped/rotated/moved them around until I was satisfied with the effect. After that, I pasted in the work I'd already done so that everything would fit properly and proceeded to tab my way back over to GIMP, where I underwent the same process for that part of the map that I had for the upper section.

<shameless plug>Isn't it glorious? Doesn't it make you want to swoon and read the book? </shameless plug>

Monday, February 13, 2012

The end of a hellishly long week & WIP updates

It's been a loooong week, starting with my dad telling me on Monday that my 1996 Oldsmobile Achieva had a busted power steering hose that would be a beast to fix and that I would have to find a ride to work.
Wednesday, my brother-in-law and pregnant sister's car's battery died. My dad had to jump start them so they would be able to drive to pick me up from work. Did I mention they have a newer Chrysler 300 that keeps stalling? Including stalling in the middle of intersection and causing them to nearly get hit in South Carolina? The dealership sold it to them knowing it had serious problems and they keep giving Katie & Michael trouble about getting it fixed--including telling them that they don't have a warranty (they do) and that they'll have to pay out of pocket for any repairs (they shouldn't).
 Friday, we found out my mom's uncle was being put in hospice, her cousin Kelly was going in for open-heart surgery & that her brother Doug had been hit by a car at work when the driver didn't realize his stickshift wasn't in neutral as my uncle was checking something wrong (he's a mechanic). That afternoon was my appointment at a local college to inquire about their Pharmacy Technician program and I found out it was going to be nearly 18 thousand dollars to attend for 8 months and that--even better--I was going to have to take out federal loans for half and a private loan with a 14% interest rate for the other half (and that I would have to pay $200 a month on interest alone for the private loan while I was enrolled in the program).
Saturday morning at 6 AM, mom got the call that her uncle had passed away. She had been hoping he could hold out until next weekend so that she could go see him one last time. Katie said we could cancel her baby shower so Mom could mourn. Mom was determined not to cancel considering that this is the last time Katie's doctor would give the go-ahead for Katie & her husband to drive from South Carolina to Florida before the baby comes.
THEN, we went to Walmart to pick up the last few things for my sister's baby shower--which was being thrown at Mom's house at 3 PM--only to discover that Walmart's company policy requires an exchange of food for food (we had unknowingly bought yogurt and fancy-pants cheese that had already passed the expiration date a week before we bought it). I walked around Walmart's food section three times looking for my mom to tell her that I had to come up with $12 in food-stuffs (I'd only come up with $9 and the lady refused to either give me the extra three dollars or count it as a loss because of the company policy). I called Mom three times and she wouldn't answer. By this point, I had gotten so angry that I was seething and muttering to myself about BS company policies and women who shouldn't have phones since they don't answer them. I kind of pity the people I passed in the store since they probably thought I was nuts and an inch away from a grocery store massacre. They scurried out of my way from the look on my face. I finally got hold of my mom, had to walk back through the entire Walmart to grab a gallon of milk and then I fell off the bandwagon, walked outside with those groceries and bought myself a Dr. Pepper from the machine which--by the way-- refused to accept one of my five quarters so that I ended up having to scrounge for change at the bottom of my purse. And yes, I did just refer to buying a soda as falling off the bandwagon. Three weeks soda-free and I caved after one visit to Walmart with my mom. *sigh*
On the way home from Walmart, we had to order the part for my car because they don't have it in stock. Took me thirty minutes to do it--which meant we had ten minutes to get home & start setting things up for the baby shower. Mom was panicking at this point there were dishes in the sink, she hadn't showered or dusted again after Dad finished up some of the construction on the in-progress wall in the living room.
Suffice to say, I'm glad last week is over. Onward to the updates!!
Lace Sock
I finished up the entire foot of the sock I began in December. I even finished up the entire heel--although I did have to start it over twice because I kept losing my place and knitting the same stitches over and over instead of increasing the way I was supposed to be doing. I just have the leg left to do and then I can start knitting the second sock. Considering how cold it's been the last few days here, this project can't be finished soon enough. My feet have been feeling like icicles all weekend. :D

Diamond Shawl
I managed to get another four rows finished on my diamond shawl, but it's not enough work to start showing the lace pattern off so I didn't take any pictures. Plus, I'm getting onto a time crunch for my friend's birthday--which is at the end of February--so I'm having to tuck this project aside for now so that I can get her shawl knitted up on time. I hate giving people belated birthday presents. The picture below is the progress I've completed on her shawl, my second Skywalker. It's being knit in Patons Lace yarn in color Porcelain.

Novel Updates
I wrote another chapter of my NIP and received some great feedback from my friend Becca that is going to help a good deal with improving what I currently have "finished". I also have a potential artist for my cover, although I gave her a deadline of December--which is also my goal-month for finishing the first draft--so I won't be able to post any potentials for a WHILE.
I also have a potential map--which I had made up years ago before I ever began writing Temperance. It shows some of the countries I plan to include in later novels, but no mention of the ones currently playing a part in the plot. I just have to figure out how to scan it onto my computer and get it edited so it looks more attractive (I made the original in Paint).
Well, I feel accomplished now that I've written up another blog post. :P Time to go read three more chapters of Becca's novel (which will hopefully be getting released as a self-published e-book by the end of the year) since I haven't done that today.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Works in Progress

I realized I've been a total slacker lately as I was rearranging the furniture in my bedroom and came across a hibernating knitting project...followed by two more hibernating knitting projects. Don't even get me started on the novel I started writing so devotedly in November during NaNoWriMo (I hit the 50,000 word goal, but didn't get anywhere close to finish the book itself).
So I figured, what better motivation to finish my stuff than to post pictures on my blog so that I feel like I *have* to make some progress each week.

First up is the sock project I started at the beginning of December. It's the lace pattern featured in Donna Druchunas' Knit Sock Workshop (available here). I don't have the money to buy all the fancy yarns suggested so I went with Deborah Norville Serenity Sock yarn in purple. This particular sock yarn is 50% wool, 25% Bamboo & 25% Nylon. For those who don't know, the nylon makes the sock yarn extra durable and bamboo is supposed to give yarn a nice sheen, but that must depend on the lighting. In the store, it looked so bright and felt so soft, but when I got it home, the color became very dull and as I knitted with it, it felt like I was knitting with crochet thread. Hopefully it will feel better on my feet than it does on my hands, otherwise all my family members will be getting socks instead of me...(I'm pretty selfish about socks).
I was nearly finished with the first sock--excluding the afterthought sock heel--when I realized it was way too big (and that blocking it would only make it bigger). So, I started over again on smaller needles. The picture below shows my progress on try #2.
The second project is one of my own making and which I started mid-January. It's a lace patterned shawl. All of the lace patterns shown were found on Knittingfool.com (which is in my knitting links). Knitting fool--for the most part--provides written instructions, so I had to read through those directions and convert them into an easy-to-follow chart. I'm a visual learner when it comes to knitting. I created the chart courtesy of Kauri's knitting font--also in my knitting links. The increases for the shawl are loosely guided by the increasing of Laura Nelkin's Skywalker shawl--as in...I had to make the numbers fit to the repeats of the lace patterns I selected.
The yarn I'm using for this shawl is Patons Lace in color Patina. Patons Lace is a laceweight yarn that is 80% acrylic, 10% mohair & 10% wool. Compared to other laceweight yarns, it's cheap and easy to care for (especially compared to hand-dyed yarns which must be hand-washed), but because of the mohair and wool, it does require more care than a 100% acrylic yarn would.
At first, I didn't care for the yarn because it's not as soft as Patons Lace Sequins (I suspect from the dying process) and the colors aren't as bright, but the color progresses so smoothly compared to cheaper yarns (i.e. Red Heart Super Saver) and I quickly found myself getting used to the feel of the yarn to the point that the sock yarn from the project above feels rough and uncomfortable to me.
PS: The pink yarn you see is my lifeline (never start a new section of lace without it. TRUST ME on this one. :D)


Now aside from the knitting projects I have going on, I also have a novel I've been writing off and on and I'm searching for someone who would be willing to create some cover art for me that won't cost me any money. I'm not saying I want it free, but I would prefer to trade my skills for theirs since I don't have the ability to pay for artistic services. I've been testing the waters with my artistic friends. We'll see how that goes...and hopefully I'll be able to update soon with a cover for my in-progress novel "Temperance."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Book of Feral Knitting



Initially published in 1988, the Book of Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore is considered one of the holy bibles of Fair Isle Knitting. I was SO EXCITED to purchase this book at a local crafting store with a 50% discount because $25 was too steep for me, regardless of how much I love the thought of knitting gorgeous Fair Isle sweaters for my whole family.

Overall, the book was a bit of a disappointment for me when it comes to pattern assistance. I was very interested in the History & Technique sections, but I feel the Pattern/Pattern Library section is a complete mess. I think she could have cut out everything except the technique section, a brief color section (instead of twenty pages of pictures and explanations of why the pictures look "so pretty"), and expanded the pattern section. She would easily have gotten a 200 page book and it would be less overwhelming for people like me who are new to Fair Isle and were hoping this book would help them ease into it rather than throwing them in over their heads.

The book is 200 pages long and the patterns/library section is a meager thirty-four pages. There was so much information crammed into what I think of as the Pattern Theory section that I had to go back and re-read several times—and I still felt lost.

I think for me, it would have been easier if the pattern library was worked neatly into the "types of patterns" section. For example, the information about Peerie patterns would be located as a sub-paragraph under the Peerie Pattern heading followed by the common peerie patterns and the book would continue to do this for the Border, Large Fair Isle, Allover patterns, Norwegian star patterns, and seeding patterns. After those would be the sections on reading pattern charts, stitch repeats, adjusting stitch repeats, etc.

I would have preferred an added section about determining a good “repeat” for a chart that would have gone something along the lines of this:
A 60 stitch by 60 row repeat is perfect for working in a well-rounded pattern consisting of a Norwegian star pattern in the center flanked by peerie and border patterns…The peerie pattern, you’ll notice, uses a 6-stitch repeat for a total of 10 even repeats across 60 stitches, the border pattern uses a 12 stitch-repeat, and the Star is a 20-stitch repeat which creates a perfect center star with the first and third stars on either side of it.
This for me, is a big problem when designing charts. I’ve spent countless hours trying to work out an attractive pattern with an even repeat of all the pieces and I feel that a lot of my trouble comes from three major issues I have with the pattern library in this book.

My first big problem with the pattern library is that the patterns are shown in dots. Typically, knitting charts show patterns as a break-down of squares. Each square represents one stitch. Not so in Ms. Starmore’s book. Each stitch is represented by a tiny dot and in my opinion, this makes it hard to determine if a pattern is going to be attractive in a chart or not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created a color chart only to rip it to pieces because that ‘cute little leave-looking peerie pattern’ in the library ends up looking like teeth trying to eat my center star panel.

My second issue with the pattern library is that there are no indications of repeats. There are no squares showing that “this section in red” is a single full repeat that can be copied evenly across your chart. Nope, you get to figure that out on your own and let me tell you, it’s easier than it sounds. I have tried to pick nice round numbers that lots of numbers divide into without nasty leftover stitches, but inevitably, I pick a pattern or two that just refuse to conform.

Thirdly, there are no numbers in the pattern library so, for example, if you want to know how wide a particular star is, you get to count all the little dots and hope you don’t miss any, which usually means you’re going to have to pick up a pencil, draw a box around the square and count. If you’re one of those people who go crazy about “ruining” your book—which I am—I think you can see my problem with this.

I’m not even going to get into the sections of sample patterns she included—none of which made me want to pull out yarn and cast on—or the “Creating Your Own Designs” section because, honestly, I didn’t read that section all the way through. I started getting way too confused and felt like I need to take a Sweater Workshop before I could approach that section again even though I’ve read tons of articles that made me feel like maybe, just possibly, a beautiful hand-knit sweater could be in my future.

So, after reading through this book, I have to agree with my friend Tori when she misheard me during my first attempt to make a gauge swatch of Fair Isle knitting and asked in a tone of disbelief, "You're FERAL knitting?"
Yes, yes I am.

Friday, January 27, 2012

25 Reasons Readers Will Quit Reading Your Story

25 Reasons Readers Will Quit Reading Your Story

I stumbled across this link on my friend's Facebook page and some of his comments had me cracking up laughing. Underlying the humor is a lot of honesty and this article was definitely a good "laundry list" of what not to do with your writing. It makes me want to go back and write up a "check-list" for my beta-readers to make sure I've avoided these pitfalls.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle!

Welcome, welcome. Grab a cup of tea, put your feet up and settle in for a read, would you?

I tried about half a dozen times to edit my "about me" section, but I keep getting a code that I think stands for "This is us telling you to get off our domain." This is, to reiterate the blog description, a combi-blog. I'm an aspiring author and I've been writing short stories and poetry since first grade...which isn't to say that I still have all of that writing packed away some where. A lot of it went mysteriously missing and I suspect my mother has something to do with it. She likes to spring clean which means throwing every bit of paper that isn't a receipt or bill out once a year.

I also happen to be a self-taught knitter so this blog will have a posts about writing and posts about knitting. Mostly knitting, though, if we'll be honest. I love to share all the little tidbits and tricks I pick up as I continue to learn and my Facebook friends are no longer interested in reading my millionth status update in one week about my "super fabulous gauge swatching skillz!!!"

I'm also hoping to throw in posts about books because I do enjoy reading (I think it's a given with any aspiring author), whether they are non-fiction knitting books or novels that I've read recently. There will also probably be a lot of posts about books that I *want* to read, with hopes that people will comment with their opinions. I like to have different perspectives other than mine crowding my head when I'm perusing the local library/bookstore/Amazon. :D

So...just popping in for a friendly chat, a few hellos and an invitation to please feel free to comment until your fingertips get callused and numb. I love to read and respond and I'm looking forward to building a good following!