Archive for the ‘Arts and Crafts’ Category

Shy Mei-Ling and the Invader

December 29, 2021
Who’s Coming Down the Hallway?

My mom came for Christmas, our first overnight house guest since 2018.  Mei-Ling came to live with us in August of 2019, as a very shy fourteen-week-old kitten.  She had just begun to entertain the idea that people other than me and Jim in the house might be a good idea when the pandemic shutdown hit and she had the luxury of over a year to renew her opinion that visitors were not to be befriended, but to be waited out.

This was her tactic when Mom arrived on the 22nd.  Mei-Ling dove into the closet in our bedroom and refused to emerge, even for dinner.  When Mom settled down in the guest room, behind a closed door, Mei-Ling emerged, which is probably a good thing, since the litter box is not in our bedroom closet.

Roary, who also had never dealt with an overnight guest, was also uncertain.  At first, he hid in the closet with Mei-Ling, but by later on the 23rd, Roary (probably taking his cue from Persephone, for whom Mom is a longtime friend), began to join the party from a discreet distance.  By the morning of Christmas Eve, he even let Mom take his picture.

Maybe this is why, by mid-day on the 24th, Mei-Ling was at least up on our bed, and then, by evening, when we settled down to play mah-jong, actually came out to the front of the house.  It’s not as much fun to lurk and hide all by oneself as with another cat, and she and Roary are great friends.

Christmas Day, Roary came to look at the boxes and wrapping paper, while Mei-Ling lurked at the edges.  Coming out of the back of the house had advantages, especially since if she skittered fast enough, she could go out on the porch, which she loves, and watch what went on in the kitchen from behind the security of a closed sliding glass door.

By the 26th, both Mei-Ling and Roary were behaving relatively normally.  When we settled in for our evening mah-jong game, Mei-Ling actually started meowing, trying to get either Jim or me to come into the living room and play with her.  She’s really quite out-going when she forgets she’s shy.

And on the 27th, Mom departed for her home.  Now we’re waiting to see how Mei-Ling will behave when we have guests next time.  Will she have learned that “stranger” does not equal “danger” or will she try to wait them out?

We’re going to be playing mah-jong later this week with our friend Michael Wester.  I wonder if the clatter of tiles will encourage Mei-Ling to come out and try to tempt us to play with her instead of with those noisy plastic tiles.

And Roary Up in the Tree

December 22, 2021
Stealth Roary

The tree has stayed standing to this point, although Roary has been up in it repeatedly.  Putting on ornaments definitely helped, since they were placed to block inviting openings.

Thus far, Persephone has been viewing the tree with the calm insouciance of a nearly ten-year-old cat who has seen it all.  Shy girl Mei-Ling thinks that it’s terrific that we’ve decided to give her a new place to sit under and feel safe.  She carries her treats onto the tree skirt to dine in secure comfort.

Since the tree is artificial, Dandy and Coco, the guinea pigs, have no opinion.  They would prefer we made a tree out of kale with a celery stalk trunk, and ornaments cut from various vegetables.  Carrot strips could serve as garland.

I made a lot of cookies this past week.  I’m shooting for a total of ten: cookie press butter, butter and walnut balls, pecan/maple, sugar, gingerbread, hermits, fudge, meringues, sesame balls, and…  I’m forgetting the last one…. Got it!  Linzer tarts.

The sugar cookies and gingerbread will be decorated in stages.  It’s more fun that way than doing a marathon.  My collection of cookie cutters is wildly varied, so in addition to the more usual trees, wreathes, stars, bells, reindeer and the like, we have buffalo, bears, rhinoceros, stegosaurus, rocket ships, and, of course, wolves and coyotes.  And cats and guinea pigs.  Can’t forget the cats and guinea pigs.

It occurs to me that I make cookies the same way I write: a lot of variety, not one type of cookie, or theme or motif.  Variety definitely fuels my creativity.

Now to go put jam between the layers of the Linzer tarts.  Last year I used cactus pear, the year before, raspberry.  This year will be cherry.  All three red, all three different.

May these crazy days leading up to the Christmas weekend be filled with fun for you, whether you’re travelling or home, being a guest or having guests, or simply enjoying some peace and quiet!

Wrapping Up

December 15, 2021
Lizard Dressed Up for the Holidays

At the end of last week, I turned in the page proofs for Aurora Borealis Bridge, the sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind.  They’ll be out early next year, in February and April. 

With that job wrapped up, I took a look at the calendar and launched into all the neglected holiday preparations.  Jim and I don’t live near to any of our families, so getting gift packages in the mail is the first thing.  Next comes the Christmas letter.  That’s my department.  We do the cards together, usually to the accompaniment of appropriate music.

Jim’s been putting up decorations, a few at a time, which is nice, since it gives us a chance to savor them.  We haven’t yet put up the tree, but when we do, it will go up with no decorations other than the lights (it’s a pre-lit sort), so that we can find out what the cats will think of it.

Last year, they pretty much ignored it, but we like to give them a chance to try and knock it over before adding decorations.

My first cat and my first “on my own” Christmas tree happened the same year, so most of our decorations are of the more or less unbreakable type.  I say “more or less” because cats will always surprise you.

Breakable decorations are hung on a garland high up on the walls.  It works.

We’ll also be starting the baking this week.  We make a lot of cookies, some of which are fairly time-consuming, but it’s fun.  Nothing on earth could make me do this if it wasn’t.

This year, my mom’s coming to stay with us for Christmas.  Having a stranger in the house for more than a handful of hours will be a Major Event for Mei-Ling and Roary, neither of whom has ever had to deal with such, and both of whom tend to deal with guests by keeping their distance.  I have no idea how they will cope.  Stay tuned.

I have a few jobs to finish up, but after an incredibly intense year, where I pretty much went from job to job to job, I am trying to convince myself that a little downtime has been earned.  Even so, I’ll be working, because a writer really never stops.  There’s always creative thought going on. 

I hope this finds all of you well…  Now, maybe it’s time to put on some holiday music.

Seizing Opportunity

July 14, 2021
A Opportunity Accepted

Many thanks to all who helped Jim decide which photo to enter in the little local contest.  With your prompting, he chose “After the Dustbath.”  Responses overall were interesting, but this one seemed to hit people both on an artistic level, and on an “awww-so-cute” level.  It also seemed to appeal because of the sense of motion it contains.

Several comments (as well as e-mails) asked me about Jim’s photography.  So, here’s my very amateur attempt to reply.  First of all, all four photos featured last week were hand-held, no tripod.  Jim used a long telephoto lens for most of the photos, although “Cedar Waxwings” was taken with his regular lens.

None of these photos were taken at a zoo, aviary, wildlife preserve, or any location where the birds’ freedom of motion was restricted.  Three, in fact, were taken in our yard.  The sandhill cranes were photographed at a facility created as a rest stop for migrating wildlife.

In the case of the photos taken at our house, Jim often had minimal time to prepare.  The set-up was likely something like this:

“Hey!  Quail out front!  With chicks!”

Camera is then grabbed, pointed, focused, and photos are taken.

Jim doesn’t have any of those fast clicky devices used by professional photographers who specialize in action shots.

The photo accompanying this piece was taken in our back yard, by flashlight (held by me), for no other reason than that we’d never seen a toad actually sitting on the lily pads of the miniature waterlily in our teeny pond.  The toad knew us so wasn’t scared.  In fact, he started singing, and thus the photo.

This brings me to the value of seizing opportunity.  So often I’ve encountered people who refuse to do something because they don’t feel sufficiently assured in advance that it will be worth their while or “pay off.”  The recent trend of self-publishing and the related one of “monetizing” crafts has added to the sense that no one should do anything for any reason except to make money.  That’s such a pity.

The two novels I recently sold (Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge aka “The Over Where Duology”) were written without any promise of anything except that I’d really have a great time writing them.  And I did.  Even if these books had never sold, nothing could have taken that joy from me.

The Firekeeper books, my most popular series to date, come from the same happy place.  I wrote Through Wolf’s Eyes because I wanted to, even though I was surrounded by people who held forth that a professional writer like me, who already had several published novels (including some like Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls and Changer, which had received a lot of critical acclaim) should never take on such a big project without a contract.

But I did, and in addition to making me happy, I made a lot of other people happy, too.

So, seize the opportunity, whether to write or craft or dance to your favorite song…  Or join our toad friend, and sing for no other reason than that you feel like doing so.  Joy is its own reward.

In the Pink

June 23, 2021

Life here has been busy, with activities on many fronts.

The interview I did with the podcast Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy went live on Friday.  You can go here and listen to me talk with host David Barr Kirtley about writing, including some background anecdotes about how some of my stories came to be, as well as how I fit writing into my life. If you don’t have time to listen, he’s transcribed some of the interview as text, including comments about living with Roger Zelazny and one of the few occasions I saw him get really angry; the time my character out-smarted George R.R.’s in a role-playing game, as well as my archeologist husband, Jim, on finding dead bodies.

I also spent some time this week setting up to participate in the SF/F Libertycon, which is virtual this year.  I’m on two pre-recorded panels: one on the space western anthology, Shootout at Europa Station, and their traditional “Meet the Newbies,” which introduces guests new to the LibertyCon experience.  On Friday, June 25th, I’m scheduled to do a live reading at 6:00 pm EST/4:00 MST.  I plan to read from my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind.  If I can figure Discord out, I might be able to take questions!

I’m also still finishing setting up my new desktop.  It’s in place so that I can write and do e-mail, but there’s tweaking to do.  The adventure in finding a new printer was definitely worthy of Kafka, but it should arrive this week. 

There was silly fun, too.  Last Saturday, we had dinner with friends who make incredible gelato.  The visit before, we had brought iced tea flavored with prickly pear cactus juice.  The discussion segued into what gelato made with prickly pear cactus juice would be like, so they had the custard prepared, we brought the juice, and they finished the gelato after dinner.  It was terrific!

The photo shows a glass of lemonade with prickly pear cactus juice, and the remaining pint of gelato…

Despite all of this, I did continue working on the editor’s notes for the sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge.  These two “Over Where” novels are due for release Spring of 2022, so I’d better get back to work, so I don’t miss my deadline!

Hope to “see” some of you Friday at Libertycon, but if that’s not likely and you have any questions, feel free to ask them here!

Getting Ready

December 30, 2020
Now All I Need Is Black Coffee and Some Paper!

We’re just a few days out from the New Year.  Now that my Christmas preparations are taken care of, and we’re in the middle of that lovely liminal space between holidays, I’ve been readying myself to start back into my writing routine.

Over the years, I’ve been given some lovely mugs celebrating my work as a writer, and I’m marshalling these along with a new fountain pen to launch me into creative mode.

Although the majority of my writing is done on my computer, I often start a new piece longhand.  Maybe because I started writing fiction longhand, it’s as if there’s a hotline between my writing hand and my Muse that isn’t always there with the keyboard.

Even my choice of keyboard is made to provide the absolute least interruption between the Muse and getting the story into a form I can share with other people.  I use a very old keyboard on which I’ve worn away about half of the letters from frequent use.  (I really need to get some of the stickers that have been recommended to me.)  I even have a back-up of the same old model for when this one goes, because the point for me is not thinking about the act of writing.

In that way, I guess my root perception of myself is as a storyteller rather than an author or writer.  I’m just a storyteller who prefers to use writing as the way to tell my stories.  However, as my gamers can tell you, I can spin a pretty decent yarn with nothing but the spoken word.

One of my self-assigned challenges for this year may be to use a cool digital voice recorder Jim gave me for my birthday to make short audio files of some of my work.  However, on the whole, I don’t really like to listen to myself composing.  For that reason, I hope that—unlike my buddy David Weber—I don’t find myself needing to transition to voice-activated software.

That said, if the choice is that or not telling stories, you can bet I’d learn.

Now, although I’d promised myself a break (or maybe even because I took a break), I wrote a bit (longhand) the other day that got me through a rough patch in my current novel revision.  I think I’ll go insert it into the manuscript, then see if the Muse wants to talk some more.

Baking and Decorating

December 23, 2020
Persephone Unpacks the Tree

Busy time here, as we squeeze in decorating and baking into our already busy lives. Here and there, I’m even finding time to write.

Our young cats, Mei-Ling and Roary are enjoying the changes and fuss, quite possibly because Persephone greets it all with enthusiasm.

Blissed Mei-Ling

Wishing you and yours a happy whatever your choice of celebration is!

Roary Samples the Tree

Little Sparkles

August 5, 2020

Kumihimo bracelets, lanyards, and key-chains

A lot going on here…  I’m now immersed in getting a copy of SK4 (the yet untitled fourth book in the Star Kingdom series I’m writing in collaboration with David Weber) into Jim’s hands.  My website is undergoing some revision, so it’s going to look a bit weird for a few weeks.  Also, I appreciate how many of you have signed up for my mailing list.  I will be doing a drawing for a giveaway before the end of summer (I hope), and mailing list people will get their own special “thank you” at that time.

Lately, when I’m not being a writer, a small business owner, or cat wrangler, I’m definitely spending a lot of time on my garden.  Monday night, it got bombarded by hail, but most of the plants have survived.  Yay!

Another favorite hobby activity is beadwork.  A couple of years ago, courtesy of a birthday gift from my sister, Ann, I became devoted (Jim would probably say “addicted”) to doing kumihimo with beads.  I mentioned my new interest at the time, but I thought I’d share where that has taken me nearly two years later.

The photo shows a limited assortment of the pieces I’ve created: limited, because I’ve given quite a few bracelets and several keychains as gifts.  Recently, I graduated to making longer pieces.  Ironically, I’d intended to use these as badge lanyards for future conventions but, now that everything has gone virtual, I guess I’m making them so I’ll be ready when there are conventions again!

I will admit, as much as I enjoy the bracelets, there’s something very satisfying about making a thirty inch or so rope.  These involve approximately 1,800 beads per finished piece, each of which is braided in individually.

Unlike my writing, which takes many months before anyone other than me gets to see the finished project, or a gardening project, which also takes a long time to develop, kumihimo gives me something to look at and enjoy within a few hours (although the complete project takes longer, depending on length and complexity).

There’s probably something profound there about creative contrasts, but I haven’t figured it out.  What I do know is that I really enjoy my little sparkles!

Easter Egg Hunt

April 12, 2020

Easter Egg Hunt

Jim took this picture of some of the birds in our front yard.  The male quail really does look as if he’s hunting for Easter Eggs!

Saturday Silliness

April 11, 2020

Cat In A Box!

My friend, Yvonne, has always been a letter-writer.  In these days of isolation, she’s been sending “care packages” of columns and cartoons to cheer folks up.

The packet she sent me and Jim included the cartoon above.  We both immediately thought of our eleven month old kitten, Mei-Ling, who is rather shy.  I pulled out my colored pencils and dressed it up a little.  (Sorry it’s not a perfect job, but it was a rather small cartoon!)

So, here’s a smile for you…  Have a good Saturday!