Archive for the ‘Arts and Crafts’ Category

Mental Stretch

September 28, 2022
Dancer at Aki Matsuri

This past weekend, Jim and I took a break from the on-going tumult that has been our lives and went to Aki Matsuri, the Fall Festival hosted by the New Mexico Japanese-American Citizens League.

In the course of our several hour visit we walked around a lot, and visited various displays.  We talked with the bonsai growers, and chatted with a young man who does both digital art and traditional ink brush painting.  We sampled matcha (a frothed green tea), served after eating a citrus candy (sort of like a fruit gummi) “because matcha is bitter.”  We admired the ikebana, and got into a discussion of how combining roses and chrysanthemums gives a very New Mexico twist to an autumn arrangement.

In one of the display areas, a potter paused in spinning clay to encourage me to give yet one more try to folding an origami crane, assuring me that the person doing the demonstration was very good.  I knelt down on the floor and did my best with a square of purple paper.  It’s certainly not the best crane ever, but what will stay with me is the memory of the kindness of my sensei, as well as of how the potter, and the woman demonstrating tea ceremony, cheered us through fold after fold.

We also sat down and watched first a display of taiko drumming, then four Okinawan dances, then, finally, a cosplay exhibition.  These three demonstrations, so different from each other, were not only fascinating in themselves, but a vivid reminder of how much there is not only to Japanese culture, but to any culture.

I also did something very important for me as a writer.  By going to the festival and doing things I don’t usually do (including trying to fold that darn crane), I kept my creative brain from stiffening up.  It felt good to mentally stretch.  Almost without my willing it, I could feel new ways of looking at things taking shape.

Some of these will show up on the page almost immediately.  Others may shift around and take months, even years, to find their way into print.

And, y’know, I even feel encouraged to try folding another crane.

A Least Favorite Job

May 18, 2022
Words Into Terrain

Last week, I promised to reveal what is one of my least favorite jobs as a writer.  It’s making maps.

You’d think that as a long-time gamer, I’d have mapping down to a science.  I mean, I’ve been gaming since I was not quite eighteen, and have been running games for almost as long.  But, nope.  It doesn’t work that way.  Lately, when our games need more detail, gamer Rowan (also cover artist for Asphodel) takes my rough drawing and starts gridding.  She’s amazing that way.

I have no trouble envisioning the terrain in which my stories are set.  I just don’t seem to be able to draw it.  For many stories, I don’t need a map.  Maybe I can access real maps of the locations involved, as I did for Child of a Rainless Year or Thirteen Orphans and the other “Breaking the Wall” novels.  Or maybe the focus is tight enough or on something other than moving through a landscape, so I don’t need a map.

Or maybe I can get away with a very general map, noting where locations are in relation to other locations.  That’s what I did with the early Firekeeper novels, although later I needed more detailed maps.

So, what do I do when I need a detailed map?  I turn to my husband, Jim.  As many of you already know, Jim’s an archeologist, and making maps is a part of his professional tool kit.  The maps he draws are very detailed, and even include elevations, which is definitely useful when the challenge of crossing a bit of terrain is part of the story.

When Jim needs to help me out, I start by giving him a verbal portrait of the landscape, including the rationale behind various terrain features.  This narration is often accompanied by a rough map by me, drawn not with images, but with words.  Jim then translates this into a sketch, which, in turn, often reveals to me additional ramifications of the terrain.

Sometimes these ramifications even become plot points.

We’re still roughing out the current map, but you can get a glimpse of Jim’s work, as well as the very little he has to work from, in the accompanying photo.

Now, off to do what I like doing far more than I like cartography.  Writing!

I Still Have Questions

March 30, 2022
Our Yard Last Wednesday

But at least I have some answers… 

First, though a few public service announcements.

This Friday, April 1 (no fooling), I will be speaking at the meeting of the Albuquerque SF Society.  According to their official announcement:

“Jane Lindskold will talk to us about the three novels she has out from Baen Books this year – Library of the Sapphire Wind: Over Where Book 1 in February, Aurora Borealis Bridge: Over Where 2 in April, and A New Clan (Star Kingdom book) co-written with David Weber, in June.  She will definitely answer questions from attendees, and might even read a passage from the first Over Where novel.”

The meeting will begin at 7:30 pm (doors open at 7:15 pm) at St Andrew Presbyterian Church, 5301 Ponderosa Ave NE (between San Mateo & San Pedro, south of Montgomery – near Erna Ferguson Library).  See their website under Meetings for further information.

I will have a few nifty little things to give away… And if everyone has already read Library of the Sapphire Wind, I will read from Aurora Borealis Bridge.  And, of course, I’ll be very happy to sign your copies of the new books.  Or even older ones.  I’ll bring my colored pens.

In further news, my website, JaneLindskold.com, has recently had some shiny new additions.  Among these was updating PayPal for the site’s bookshop.  If you’ve had difficulty ordering, you might want to try again.

In a Wednesday Wanderings a few weeks ago, I mentioned various things I was musing about.  One of these was when would the flickers vanish and the quail reappear.

 I am happy to announce that last Sunday we saw the first quail, and the flickers are still around, so evidently, they overlap.  We have also heard our first toads of the season.  Our neighbor’s apricot trees are in full bloom.  I guess it’s officially Spring.

As to another of those musings, I’ve decided that rather than having “gotten used to” fifty-degree temperatures shifts, I’ve simply come to rely on New Mexico’s weird weather as a source of amusement.  This last week was particularly good: Wednesday we had about four inches of snow; by Sunday, the temperature hit 87 F.

I haven’t gotten around to baking using rose water as an ingredient.  I’ll let you know if I do!

Our Yard on Sunday

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