Posts Tagged ‘what on earth am I going on about?’

Aaaaaaahhhhh

Good afternoon, Squiders! (Though it’s inching onto evening at this point…) I hope you all had a lovely weekend! I didn’t have to host anything so mine was quite nice indeed.

We’re into tech week for my musical review. We started on Sunday, and on we go, three hours a night, until Thursday. Friday’s off, and then the performances are on Saturday. Ha. Haha. We got a new song last night which tells you about the general put-togetherness of the whole thing.

The music sounds lovely, for the most part, though there are still a few songs that are a bit shaky (ironically, the new song actually already sounds pretty good). Mostly it’s songs where we’re expected to do something as well as sing, but not always. Also there is a children’s choir singing songs which I was unaware of until Sunday. Ha. Haha.

We finally got the order of the show sometime at the end of last week and are expected to have it memorized by Saturday, which may be wishful thinking. Said show flow also included a ton of new lines for people, so that’s also been interesting. (My sole line–“Uh, I don’t think so”–has luckily been easy to remember.)

This whole thing has been very interesting. I love the people and the music is super fun, so whether we sink or swim on Saturday is kind of moot for me (also it is a free show and the audience shall be plied with cookies and cocoa). I think we’ll probably pull it together. Everything always seems to do so, no matter the odds. And, as I said, the singing sounds good, and isn’t that really what you need out of a musical review?

In other news, people from the shows have been bugging me to join the choir, and so I have, at least for the big Christmas concert. This is an hour-long concert that they do during church service, so I figured we were talking 3-5 songs (since there are children’s choirs and bells and brass and all sorts of various musical groups included) but I got handed 10 different songs last night, all of which are 4 or 8-part pieces. And the concert is on the 10th.

Ha. Ha?

At least for choir, we get to hold the music in our hands. So thank goodness I don’t have to memorize all those, just know how they go.

Just know that I will probably be a little frazzled for the rest of the week.

And probably next week.

We should still have a common writing problem on Thursday. But I’m going to hold off on picking a readalong book until next week or the week after. I’ve done what I tend to do around the holidays, and that’s descend into cozy mysteries. I mean, if everyone’s into cozies we can totally do that, though it’s somewhat out of the scope of this blog.

(I’m on my third in the last two weeks. I read a Poirot book, and then the latest Meg Langslow–How the Finch Stole Christmas–and am now onto the first of a cozy series called To Helvetica and Back which was recommended by the cozy mystery group on Goodreads. And I love punny titles and also font jokes, so…)

Anyway! If you have cozy recommendations, let me know. I’m not generally one for baking-related cozies, but other than that I’m pretty open to themes, and if the baking ones are good, I’ll read them too. I’m really not picky. And otherwise, I shall see you on Thursday!

Advertisements

Ode to My Osprey Bag

We’ve been in Iceland! Sneaky, I know. And I wanted to highlight an MVP of this–and several other–trips: my Osprey Porter 46 backpack.

(Oooh, I see it comes in colors now! Back in the day it only came in black.)

This bag has been with me on four continents over the past seven and a half years. You see, back in May 2010, my husband and I were about to embark on our first big trip as a couple, a 17-day trip across Germany, Denmark, and a tiny bit of Austria. We’d found our guru in Rick Steves, who recommended packing in a carry-on sized backpack so a number of reasons, which, off the top of my head, were:

  1. If you’re wearing the bag on your back, you don’t have to worry about dragging your bag through whatever is on the road, if there’s a road.
  2. Roller bags = tourists, which in some parts of the world is not something you want to be promoting.
  3. By using a carry-on sized bag, you didn’t have to worry about your bag getting lost/stolen/rifled through while it was out of your possession, because it would never be out of your possession.

We took this advice to heart, bought a few different bags to try, and ended up with the Osprey based on comfort (I’ve worn the bag, completely packed, on an 8-mile hike over a mountain in Japan with no issues), storage space, and general awesomeness. (For example, the backpack straps can be folded in, essentially turning the bag into a suitcase.)

Ugh steep

(Here I am wearing the pack on our first day in Germany–in a little town called Bacharach. You can see my thoughts on the steepness of the hill.)

We’ve used these packs exclusively for all our international travel. They’ve been with us in Copenhagen and Berlin, in Cuzco and Lima, in Toyko and Kyoto, and now in Reykjavik and the countryside beyond. We’ve never had issues getting everything we needed into them, though we were a bit worried this time, with the amount of layers/boots we were taking. But everything worked fine.

The bags have weathered well too. One of the clips to help tighten the straps on the outside of the bag broke on my husband’s bag after Japan, but Osprey sent us a replacement for free.

Anyway, this bag is great. I highly recommend it. Everything fits great (we use packing cubes to keep things organized), there’s always room for souvenirs, they’re super comfortable, and we never have to wait to go places.

Do you have something that’s been indispensable for traveling, squiders?

Camel Interlude

Ah, squiders, it’s been a long time since we’ve visited with Landsquid and Alpaca and those lot, but I found out today what a baby camel looks like, and it is amazing.

Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Look at those legs. They go on forever. It’s a fluffy, ungainful mess.

I mean, look at it.

Photo credit: Taylor Weidman / The Vanishing Cultures Project – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24648541

They’re adorable. And will still probably spit in your face.

This has been your camel interlude. See you Thursday, squiders.

Why You Need to Break the Mold

We’re doing a sewing analogy today, Squiders. Sorry.

So, at the end of last week I finally managed to get my patterns together. (Which was a pain in the butt–one pattern had to be traced off a sheet included with the book that included ALL the patterns on the same sheet, and the other one had to be printed off an included CD–in 21 pieces which then needed to be trimmed and taped together. Worst ever, why would you do that? The tracing is highly superior, in the end.) And I got all my pieces together, laid them out and realized…

…I couldn’t use them.

Well, I couldn’t use them as is. I remembered, as I stared down at all those pattern pieces, that I have to modify the patterns, usually extensively, because I am 9 inches taller than the average woman. I have to length everything. I have to change where the darts go. Sometimes I have to completely reshape a pattern.

And then I realized I probably hadn’t bought enough material for one of my planned shirts and had to go make myself some tea.

The same thing goes for writing. Have you ever read a book where parts of it felt derivative? Like, instead of spending any time on a character, the author just used stereotypes? Where, instead of focusing on a good-fitting setting, they just grabbed the status quo, even in places where it didn’t make sense?

It can be tempting to take shortcuts sometimes. To use the default setting, because it’s expected and familiar. To grab the usual bag of characters, because you know how they fit into a plot and why invent the wheel, right? And sometimes it’s okay to use the pattern. There are reasons patterns exist. They do work.

But it’s important to make sure you’re using the right pattern for the story that you want to tell, and if it’s not fitting right, it’s okay to modify it. The fit is what’s important, in the end. If your story ends up too long, too short, lumpy in odd places, too tight, too loose–all things that can be fixed with a little modification–your readers will notice. And next time they’re looking for a well-crafted, good fitting story, they’re going to go somewhere else.

Have you ever tried to use a standard bit of plot/setting/character and found it just didn’t fit? What ways do you employ to fix the fit?

(In regards to my shirt without enough fabric–because it turns out I need to lengthen it almost four inches–I think it can be salvaged by doing a sleeveless version. I had planned for elbow-length sleeves. I suppose I could go back and get more fabric, but the likelihood of the store still having the same kind in stock seems low.)

Let Me Tell You a Story About Failure

I’m taking a break from revising, squiders, because I got really excited about my own story and, while that’s a good thing, it’s not the best state of mind to do revision in. (Almost done! And then on the rest of what needs to be done to get this book out.)

So, it seems to me–and feel free to fight me on this–that most author fears fall into two categories: fear of failure, or fear of success.

(We’ll talk about success later. Tuesday, maybe. I’m making no guarantees til this revision’s back in.)

So! Story time. Imagine, if you will, a 15-year-old Kit, learning to drive, because I lived in a single parent household and my mother really wanted there to be another driver around.

I was terrified of driving. Nothing seemed like a worse idea than giving me control of a several thousand pound machine and letting me around other people. But I did it, because I wanted to help my mother, and I liked the idea of freedom, and it’s typically one of those Life Skills that American society expects you to have.

The driving school I went to had a week or two of classroom education before they released us into the student driver cars. Now, I’d handled a car before: my father had let me steer the car on his lap since I was four or so, and my mother had let me drive around the neighborhood and other low-population areas as practice. But my first day, I went and got in that car with one of those people that you wonder how exactly they came to be teachers, because they obviously dislike children.

So I’m stressed to be driving at all, and then I get the least sympathetic person possible on my first “real” time out.

He had me drive around the neighborhood next to the school for about 20 minutes, then suggested I take a left turn out onto Colfax. (Colfax is a 3-lane-in-either-direction state highway, for non-Coloradoans.) I told him I wasn’t ready. I asked to spend a little more time in the neighborhood. I asked to try a right turn onto Colfax, since I’d never been on a big street before.

But he insisted, and off we went, white knuckled on the wheel. The light turned, I went, then realized I wasn’t turning quite enough. So, instead, I overcompensated, went over the median into oncoming traffic, and blew the tire.

My teacher was irate. I was much relieved.

Here’s the thing. When you fail, you have two options. You can give up, or you can try again, knowing there’s no way it could go worse. I’m pretty sure I was the only one of my friends who managed to physically break a car while learning to drive, but on the other hand, it gave me valuable experience.

In retrospect, it was good that he pushed me. Could he have done it better? Sure. But it forced me to give it a try, and even though it ended poorly, I felt better in the end, probably better than I would have if I hadn’t tried at all.

So don’t let your fear stop you. Yes, you might fail. But then you can try again, with no where to go but up.

Had any particularly spectacular failures, squiders? Stories about learning to drive?

This Will Be a Super Bowl Interlude

So, hey, my local football team, the Denver Broncos, won the Super Bowl. As you might imagine, nothing much is getting done around these parts. My financial adviser stopped by for a minute this morning to pick up some paperwork on her way downtown for the parade and rally.

There’s a million people downtown right now. Even I considered going, but the thought of small child wrangling around all those people seemed like a terrible, terrible idea.

(The population of Denver isn’t even a million people.)

I’m not a huge football fan, but I do keep general track of how the season’s going and occasionally break out my Broncos shirt. And we always watch the Super Bowl, no matter who’s playing, because it’s a good excuse to hang out with our friends and eat too much food and watch the commercials.

I find myself kind of lukewarm about winning. On one hand, it’s really exciting. Super Bowl 50! Our defense is ridiculously unstoppable. We’ve got two ex-players running things backstage now (Gary Kubiak and John Elway), which is kind of neat. I like the idea of people staying with a team. (Our hockey team is currently run by some ex-player as well.) And everyone is so happy. Nothing brings the state together like the Broncos. There’s a reason the motto is United in Orange. And it’s kind of amazing that we got here when our starting quarterback was out for half the season.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a great game. The offense was pretty terrible. The poor Panthers couldn’t get anything done. The commercials were boring.

So part of me wonders–is it right to be so excited when it feels like we didn’t really do much?

And I know it’s wrong to judge an entire season off a single game. The team did a lot of good stuff this season, especially when Peyton was out. And the defense is brilliant, and was brilliant in the Super Bowl. It’s just not as showy.

Defense is one of those things that is so necessary, and isn’t terribly visible when it’s working, but is oh so obvious when it’s not.

I want to make to make some sort of writing analogy, but it’s not coming today. What would the “defense” of writing be? A basic control of the written word. Story structure. Plot pacing. The sort of stuff that is necessary for a story to feel right, that might not be obvious to the reader when it’s working, but feel wrong when it’s out of place.

You’ve read stories like that, haven’t you, Squiders? Where something is wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it?

Anyway, happy football parade day, everybody. Also Fat Tuesday. We’re going to have pancakes for dinner!

Goodnight Moon: Creepy Children’s Book or Creepiest Children’s Book?

Ah, squiders, we all know Goodnight Moon, right? It’s a classic from the ’40s or some such. Good night, room. Good night, moon. Good night, cow jumping over the moon. And so on.

OR SO YOU WOULD THINK.

We have my husband’s copy from when he was a kid that we have recently broken out to use again with the next generation. Such a sweet, calming book.

Until you get to this page:

Goodnight nobody

From Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight nobody. Because that’s not creepy.

It’s creepy in the way that small children are sometimes creepy, like when they stare at the corner and hold a conversation with no one. You know they’re probably just practicing their language skills, but there’s some small part of you that worries that there’s actually someone there that you can’t see–and they can.

The book then goes on until right near the end:

Goodnight noises everywhere

From Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight noises everywhere. Innocuous enough by itself, but by now I’m worried about nobody and I’ve started to wonder what sort of noises we’re talking about.

(My apologies for the crappy phone pics.)

Now, of course the story hasn’t changed since I was a kid, and I certainly had no recollection of these particular pages, but I think that (sadly) as an adult it’s easier to look at something and worry about what something means, whereas as a kid, you’re just like, “Goodnight nobody. Sure, of course, why not?” and it doesn’t faze you in the least.

Anyway! Happy forthcoming Halloween, squiders!