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 (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."