Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photographic Evidence

For Karen, by request. The pattern really doesn't show up well, does it - but there aren't any mistakes, I swear!

Reality Bites + Evil Cardi Update

Last night I discovered that the spam I am getting is a good representation of the TV I could be watching. Over 2.5 hours I sat in front of the excavation of a Roman town, or as much of it as could be done entertainingly in a 3-day dig; the pitch of a video investment to wealthy business geniuses, the valuation of unusual personal property; a wedding planned for a cancer patient and his baby mama; and exterminators battling an attic full of rats and an apartment full of every other kind of imaginable bug menace.

Actually, I found the exterminator show fascinating. Does this say something about me, or something about the impact on the human brain of two hours of reality programming?

Either way, next time I knit it will be to music or to my collection of Hitchcock movies, or maybe Charade. Promised update: I've finished the back and one half of the front. Go me!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Who's It Now, Taylor???

I done got tagged this morning, so HA. I'm tagging
and a literary agent who, oddly enough, has time to blog entertainingly

I'm not tagging seven people because I don't follow seven blogs, even, and Kathi, on whose blog the rules of this game are posted, already tagged Karen (ha again.)

And now to note seven random things about me:
1/ I wrote a postcard story this morning
2/ I only drink decaf tea these days
3/ I have a weakness for shoes
4/ I will have to start storing shoes in the oven if I acquire any more
5/ I enjoy chocolate
6/ to excess
7/ The last movie I saw was Children of Men... in the theatre. Man, I need to get out more.

Jump around jump around

I've been humming the song that goes with that lyric ever since I started typing this morning because now that I have a new hard drive, my computer is once again doing something it used to do a TON, and that is moving the cursor all on its own to some other part of the screen I'm working on. So, if I'm typing 'morning', part of it might appear in the title box of my blog. Or if I'm deleting, a sentence fragment in the upper part of my document will disappear.

It's really frustrating.

But on the bright side, it can make for some interesting plot points.

I'm hoping to get back to some of those today: it's that, or cleaning out one of the three closets I didn't get to over the weekend. I did get the big junk purge done though, and got the worst rooms cleaned up big-time. That means that this week is a writing week! unless I get no inspiration, even from my hoppy keyboard, and have to trudge to one of the closets. Fingers crossed (h'mm, I wonder if that would solve the cursor problem?)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Can you get there from here?

You can start from different places. "Yep, they say it'll be a cold winter," or "I don't think I can stand another four straight months of looking like a neon Michelin Man," or even "I need a backup coat for when the first sweaty-from-shoveling one is in the wash."

Go straight to, "If I get a burgundy coat, I can finally wear that cool stripey hat with the tassel and matching mittens," which leads to "But then I'd have to get new rubber boots, because they're really best for deep snow and the pink polka-dots just won't go with burgundy."

Then you can go to "That leaves pink, which I already have but it's too puffy" and "I'll have to go with black."

Take a left at "But black is so drab. I always wear black. Four months is a long time to be practical, even with polka-dot boots."

And that'll take you down the hill to "Maybe if I had a big scarf or shawl to wear on the outside of the coat..."

And you're there! You've justified the swallowtail shawl that both Kathi and Karen have been flaunting! Congratulations and enjoy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Inspiration, c'mooooon down!

Oh MAN. I promised myself I'd clear out the scary workshop today with the teetering piles of Stuff that fall down on anybody who causes the least vibration, for example by stepping into said workshop. I know. It's not much reward for getting 30,000 words down to 14,921 without losing very much detail at all, is it?

But I can't leave a topple hazard in place, especially when I know I'm going to need to dump more stuff in there all through the fall.

So unless I get a huge inspiration between now and nine o'clock, such that I just have to sit down and write...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Precision of the Precis

Today I will be cutting the last 2700 words from the 15,000 I was asked to cut from a document twice that length. And I would like to salute, once again, Miss Booker: my high school English teacher who taught me not only that it is perfectly reasonable to have enough high heels never to repeat a pair over a two-week period; not only that rich people used to carry around perfumed hankies not to show off but because nobody ever took a bath; but how to write a precis.

It's one of the most common editing jobs I do. I do it every day on this blog, even.

It's fascinating to me that in cutting 12,300 words so far, I've cut next to no content. It was fascinating to me that during SummerCamp, when one of our workshoppers had her incredibly beautiful closing paragraph cut to an incredibly beautiful and strikingly powerful sentence, how much was gained through what was lost.

There is always a tighter way to say something if you take the time to find it. And if there's one thing we procrastinating types like, it's taking the time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Great Pumpkin

Well, it is almost October, after all.

Yesterday I got another magazine in the mail with pumpkins on the cover, and once again I was tempted to do something fancy with the ones in front of my house this Hallowe'en. Letters that spell out Boo! or pictures of witches carved out with who knows what fine woodworking tool, or this year's addition - holes carved out of many different colours of gourd with an apple corer, then plugged with colours from different gourds. They're all cool and different.

On the other hand, if all these innovations keep up, and I go on with my traditional scary face and candle option, I'll eventually be cool and different myself.

I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day. And I'd rather put my energy into costumes. Sewing and gluing and painting, mmm. They take soooo much longer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Joy of Radio

Something I rediscovered during the recent knit frenzy: radio.

It's easy to overlook the power of radio, now that we have iTunes and YouTube and TV and TiVo and of course pre-recorded hold music on top of regular stereo festings, but what we hear does take hold of our minds in tremendous ways. The other night I stayed up late when I wasn't supposed to (am I ever?) to read an amazing article about a Russian station that reminded me just how much so.

Print has power too. I read a column recently about one of my two favourite stations eliminating its classical programming in a bow to the mass market. The columnist was upset, and because I love classical music (it sure wasn't because I find said columnist a kindred spirit), so was I. I nearly didn't listen to the new station, even.

BOY, would that have been a mistake. Now, instead of classical in the morning, we get pop and jazz and world music performed by highly trained, extremely polished musicians. And when that show ends, we're treated to modern classical - the stuff I'd never hear otherwise. Classical's great, but it's not like it's a rare breed.

So - yay knitting! even though I'm editing today instead.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today's Top Ten

What Situation Normal means:

10/ I'm working this morning and
9/ I've got lunch prepped and
8/ I moved the magnets on this week's meal planner and
7/ I want to update my website some more and
6/ I'm thinking about shopping and
5/ I had a BRILLIANT idea for a short story I started and
4/ I have paintbrushes to fix chipped paint on the back window and
3/ I probably won't do anything with them until next week and
2/ I need to find a box to mail a big present this week and...
1/ My computer is back and almost familiar again. Ahhhhhhhh.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Well, that was fast

No sooner did I regret my lack of interest in finishing the garden, than the solution to another difficult garden problem suddenly popped into my head*. And with it, interest in finishing the garden!

Plus, I cleaned a room yesterday AND did a big chunk of paying work.

So now I'm feeling all girded for this season's major purge, and thinking that I can get to those short stories super soon.

Problem: rotting post = sag in neighbour's fence = view from window.
Impact: major downer in winter.
Solution: attractive trellis nailed into delinquent post above highest fence line to compensate for sag + giant fibreglass pot, filled and shoved against post as prop + attractive tallish evergreen planted in pot = cheerful 4-season view.
Response: bring on the garden gloves, baby!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh, the projects I start...

... and should finish and don't, now that I'm writing again. When I think of the passion I felt for the front garden until it was mostly done! but not quite done! I could use a tenth of it now for cleaning the house enough to hire somebody to clean the house.

In summer, and increasingly in fall, I identify with squirrels frantically storing food for the winter. In winter, I'll be too busy shoveling to paint, never mind that it's less pleasant to air out a room in January than in April. I don't have to paint a lot, but I gotta paint. And find cubbyholes to store presents for Christmas. And so on.

So I'm going to jettison some of the contest deadlines that always drive me to write. As soon as I'm done the current editing job, I am totally going to not write for as long as it takes to get this place whipped back into some semblance of shape.

Even though I know that the moment I've got three boxes of junk spread out on the floor is exactly when inspiration will strike for the perfect short story.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good luck has a price

... and that price is having to talk to Dell.

In good news, a friend asked to see everything I've written recently and I sent off the files mere hours before my hard drive died yesterday. So even though I have not been able to access my online backup (and it looks suspiciously as though I never will) I do at least have copies of the things I've worked hardest on.

All except, you know, MY NOVEL.

But I have faith that all my files will be recoverable from that drive. Firm, teeth-gritting faith. Because I am a lucky girl.

* * * *

VERY lucky. Apparently the damage to my disk is very light, and all my important files have been copied off. I might be missing some mail stuff though; if you're wondering why you haven't heard from me, it's because I don't have your address - so write me!

Another Kind of Blowup

I am a very, very lucky person, and I feel gratitude for that every day of my life. Even when things go badly for me, I know full well how much worse they could be.

For example, when your computer suddenly freezes and you try to reboot and get a screen message that says Disk Error Occurred, with instructions to reboot, and you reboot and get the same message again, and so on, you might be tempted to cry or gnash your teeth or panic at the work you won't get done and/or the photographs you never got around to backing up or... oh, crumbs, the online backup account you have to renew asap or lose the data that is stored there.

I on the other hand can call a very, very nice man who not only knows just about everything you need to know to respond to such a message but is generous enough to make helping me a priority. Also, I have an old clunker of a computer to use in the meantime. And I wrote down the number I need to call to update that backup account.

Definitely, I am a lucky girl. And the new shoes I'm wearing today are AWESOME.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Maybe it's my brain's fault?

Last night I watched Dr. Daniel Amen give a lecture on how to Change Your Brain, Change Your Life on PBS. Since I am totally brain-obsessed at the moment (and contrary to my friend's comments, my obsessions last much longer than a day... the trouble is I add a new one most days) this was perfect knitting-viewing for me.

It was an entertaining and inspiring show. I didn't learn a ton I hadn't read somewhere else already except that the brain is way gooier than I thought. Also there is a certain part of the brain that, if not performing well, leads its person to obsessions and controlling behaviours and... yes, I have to type it. Procrastination.

Do I really need to exercise more? I do that every day. More carbs? Um, check. Blueberries and fish oil? Got that down. Maybe I don't actually obsess and control and procrastinate as much as I think. Or maybe I need simply to accept my inner obsessive control freak procrastinator. It got me through three deadlines in five weeks, after all.

And if I'm very nice to it, maybe it will get me through the four deadlines I found that all hit in the next six weeks...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Launch Pad

This morning as I enjoyed a bowl of Liberte Mediterranean Vanilla yogurt (love when visiting guests introduce me to new foods) and read my e-mail I discovered that the anthology I am in, the one being published this fall, will be launched in Toronto on November 21.

This is interesting to me because I have been struggling with whether or not to go to the Ottawa launch on November 13. Going would require me to inconvenience quite a few people. However, the 21st poses even more scheduling challenges, and that makes Ottawa more attractive.

And naturally, me being me, now that I know there are two, I want to do both. What if I never get asked to sign another book? I might never get enough practice to write pithy, brief, and/or meaningful messages. Legibly.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Look out - she's gonna blow!!!

Wow, I didn't even make it to Monday! Yesterday some new words came flooding into my head, and when I tried to type up the first few of them so I wouldn't forget, a couple of pages poured out.

My visiting friend pointed out something to me this weekend ("Mary, your obsessions change constantly") and this new story confirms that: it's in yet another voice. Seriously, apart from two personal memoirs I wrote this summer that pretty much match the style of my diary here, my writing voice changes in every story, published or otherwise. The voice, the point of view, the tense, the setting... they all come to me as something different than the ones I got before. What I write about is pretty much the same all the time, but what writer doesn't have at least a passing interest in interpersonal relationships and the fallout from tension or tragedy?

In other news, I finally revised my Now Even Easier! bread recipe and added it to Delay Tactics. I highly recommend at least looking it over because making bread is sooo much easier than it seems, and even if you give the end result to other people who don't mind having huge slices of the stuff strapped to their hips, your house will smell awesome.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Yes, well then.

Okay, it seems that 'work 57 rows in patt dec 1 st at each end of every 14th row' means concurrently, not consecutively. I would have known this without thinking ten years ago, but now... and after a 18 months of editing and mentally putting periods into the middle of run-on sentences... well.

I've ripped out the 19.5" I knitted this week and have cast on again and worked up to the first decrease row. It's not like I can write this weekend anyway, because I have a friend visiting and I'm not going to be burying myself in my laptop when I only get a few days to fit in six months' worth of chat, right? Plus, if I'm working concurrently, the sweater will take half as long to make as I thought. So I can still be done by next weekend, maybe.

I'm going to start writing again on Monday, though. Two weeks off is plenty.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm Taking This as a Sign

To recap: I stopped knitting about 10 years ago because every sweater I made turned out not to fit. And I didn't take it up again because I have carpal tunnel, almost never have time to sit down and when I do I want to be writing, and I can't justify the hours and cost of materials if all I actually need is a functional garment.

But I am a procrastinator: those objections are all enticements.

So I made a spontaneous decision six days ago to dip my toe in the water again by paying full price for the correct yarn for a straightforward pattern. Then I knit a test swatch three times. Then I started knitting and the old compulsion came rushing back, to the exclusion of all else, including two perfectly appealing new short story ideas.

Last night, 19" into the back and wondering how long this thing is supposed to end up, I discovered through elaborate mathematics that the entire finished piece should measure 19". Which means there is a horrible typo somewhere in Sirdar's pattern and I have thrown away two days I could have spent writing. Now, I've thrown away years on fiction that ended up not working, but I don't mind - writing is a creative and learning process. When you're knitting other people's patterns... that's their creative and learning process.

I'm deeply annoyed, but I'm also a realist. I'll phone the store today (no refunds, exchange or credit note only, and not on $15 pattern books) and work something out. And I'll take it as a sign that I'm a writer, and I should be getting my carpal tunnel from typing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Will I or Won't I?

It's September 11th, which is not just the anniversary of all those terrible losses but also, of one of the few days in my life I've felt super happy in every conceivable way, right up until I started getting e-mail to go check the TV. I'd finished a big writing project the night before and was heading off to meet a girlfriend for a gabfest and tea to celebrate and the sun was shining and... yeah.

I was thinking last night that I've been writing ferociously for about a year now, after a spotty performance since the few months following that day, and now here I am 10 days into a dry spell and it's kind of weird. Not scary - self-imposed breaks so you can clean the toilet and put the house back together and conquer the laundry mountain range and all that stuff are not even remotely like writer's block - but weird.

I'm thinking I should get back at it. If I'm not inspired with something good for the old-lady-vs.-chair story and I don't feel like trying out my new idea for overhauling the tricky first chapter of the novel, I can always do my critique of a friend's two short stories.

Or I could knit! Okay, I admit it - there's just the teeniest chance that if I knit until my carpal tunnel has my wrist throbbing, I'd finish the back today. I know, I know! and I just started on Tuesday afternoon! It's so exciting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Impatience thy name is Mary

I really got to knit last night! I got to knit cables! Cables have always been my best thing - so much better than the oversized leaping greyhounds I knit into a background of green field and night sky in the 80s when you could just get away with salvaging a disaster project with shoulder pads.

So I was knitting cables and enjoying as I did so long ago the movement of the cable to the left and the right, watching the interlocking pattern unfold, feeling the (not so bad for mostly acrylic) yarn shifting under my hands...

... and calculating how soon I could be done this sweater so I can stop knitting and wear it already. This may have been another reason I stopped knitting, the not enjoying the process nearly as much as the result part.

So: if I put in 3 hours a day, I could be done this thing by the end of next weekend. Can I give up writing until the end of next weekend? Tune in often to find out!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bred for Bread

I promise I'll post the recipe somewhere when I get all the finetuning done, but I think I've worked out how I can bake bread more easily than I can walk over to the bakery to buy a loaf, with minimal effort and maximum flavour. Still takes nearly an hour's prep in the (very) early morning though. Not real-bakery early - see post below - but early enough. Sometimes I think that the whole baking thing is imprinted on my genes, I get so much satisfaction from the process.

In any case I feel so virtuous after baking bread and critiquing a friend's very fine short story and finishing my editing job and making it all the way to the afternoon without falling over in a heap, I don't seem to have any room at all for guilt about not writing (yet) today. I might even look into that website software I was considering buying so I can figure out how it works.

Or maybe I'll get my knitting. Mmmmm, knitting.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Not Writing

Mornings are my writing time now, but I'm thinking about giving myself permission to take this week off.

There were just so many things I wanted to get done and didn't before September started. Plus, I'm working this week and it would be nice to do that in the mornings when I'm conscious. And I reeeaaally want to get started on the sweater. Even though I ended up buying myself an extremely cool sweater from a local designer because it is getting cold and I have the patience of a gnat. Or do I mean as much patience as could fit into a gnat?

In fact right now I want some chocolate and I don't even have enough patience to finish thi

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I Blame Karen

Back when she was writing mysteries, Karen did such a good job of keeping me on the straight and narrow. Now, she's knitting (cue doom music here.)

You can visit her not-a-KnitGeek blog, listed in my blogroll, and see just how appealing she makes it sound. And though it may not show, I'm actually a recovering knitting addict. There are worse vices, but not when you have carpal tunnel and a very busy schedule with hardly enough time for writing let alone sitting down for hours and hours with some scrawny string and a pair of sticks and creating beautiful, soft, warm things to wear that turn out not to fit.

This is the worst time of year for me when it comes to avoiding knitting, what with the temperature dropping just a little and the leaves fluttering down to blanket the ground. And yesterday I followed a link on Karen's blog to a knitting magazine cover that displayed a vest that looked soooo easy and soooo fast and soooo flattering - how could I lose?

None of which explains why I came home yesterday from a simple errand with a bag of acrylic wool blend (acrylic? did I even think to read the label before I said yes please?) and a Sirdar pattern for a heavily cabled raglan cardigan. Yep, I said cardigan. That means I have to knit sleeves too before I can realize my not-insignificant investment. And there were so many other things I wanted to be doing now... overhauling my website, writing another story or two, working on my novel, finishing the work assignment due on Tuesday...

It's all Karen's fault.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Christmas Bells Are Ringing

Man, what is WRONG with me?

I started getting little ideas for Christmas gifts (to give to other people, not for them to give to me, though I'm sure that's on the horizon as well) last week, and I ignored them, because for pity's sake we haven't even had Hallowe'en or Thanksgiving yet.

Speaking of which I think it was the prospect of cooking another turkey that brought it on. I was reminded of that when I went into Williams-Sonoma to buy a special tool for dividing bread dough - cheap as heck and so useful I'm kicking myself for being too stingy to get one before - because I used the Williams-Sonoma How to Cook a Turkey brochure for my first one, which I cooked on Boxing Day last year. Nothing like a little pressure. Or maybe it was when I bought the really awesome... okay, never mind, I don't want a niece or nephew stumbling across the current top candidate for this year's chocolate-filled present.

In any case, today I'm working, which bears a very fine distinction from writing in that I feel more guilty about sneaking off to surf for a purveyor of the one item I think would be perfect for whomever when I am editing for money than when I am writing for myself. So I should not be looking for the item I was just seeking. And I definitely should feel more guilt about doing it.

There really must be something wrong with me today. Maybe I should take my temperature... right after I find out when the Grimsby arts fair is this fall.

* * * * *

UNbelievable. It's today. I wonder if I still have time to go...

* * * * *

Nope. Maybe next year.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A writing day!

Well, a writing morning. Or half morning. Still! Writing time! I had so much all summer I thought I'd get sick of it, but no.

Also, I've run out of ingredients, so I can't procrastinate making more bread (used up the last of the yeast yesterday) or a huge batch of chicken soup (yesterday's stock project is in the 'frig but I need more actual chicken, having frozen what I cut off the bird for future emergency soups.)

I must say though, it was nice to go back to my old bread recipe yesterday, the one with the amazing, slightly sweet flavour - you can visit marykeenan.com and click on Links and then the mysterious phrase related to making the house smell great (third one down if I'm not mistaken) for the recipe. I used the techniques from the 5 minute bread book to carve down the time and number of pots involved and it worked! If I never use that book again, it's paid for itself twice over, right there.

And now to track down my notes about the old lady coveting her neighbour's goods...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How much before breakfast?

So far today I have made lunch and put it in a Thermos, made French toast and put it on a plate, had the shower and the tea that wake me up enough to move past food prep, plus other fripperies - and I might even have time to get out to the garden to cut sage for a possible roast chicken a little later this morning. And then I will eat breakfast.

I probably won't roast a chicken though, since I have no free Tupperware in which to freeze the stock that is the point of the exercise. Plus, it's too darn hot! As my esteemed KnitGeekery friend Karen points out, where was this weather when it was actually summer?

In any case, all of this self-congratulation is pure indulgence. On the weekend it was slow enough in one of my local bakeries for me to be able to ask the owner what time he starts baking bread for the day. I was guessing 4. I guessed wrong. He fires the ovens between 2 and 2:30. Can you imagine how much writing you could do before breakfast if you were conscious enough to be trusted around hot ovens at that hour?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tupperware oh Tupperware

I'm like a serial monogomist when it comes to shopping, or maybe a scuba diver - when I find a product line that works for me, I just keep working my way down the list until I have one of almost everything. Witness my Bazura Bag obsession, which I keep thinking has to stop and then doesn't. I must have about thirty of the things now in various sizes and shapes and I'm still finding new uses for them.

Anyway, if I didn't have Tupperware I couldn't be storing vast amounts of bread dough in the 'frig or freezer, or safely packing up crushable snacks for outings, and for some reason these things are now an indispensable part of my life. I like efficiency, especially if I'm procrastinating... it makes me feel virtuous about not writing.

Which is why I should probably stop buying Tupperware and sit down with the new short story idea. And why I e-mailed my Tupperware ladies today instead to start up another season of shopping and storing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Envelope, Please

It's IN! not just done, but IN the envelope, which is sealed with a nice neat strip of packing tape so I don't change my mind about one more word on my last insanity submission.

And already I'm scheming for the next one in November. Well, at least that gives me a little more lead time than usual...

Monday, September 1, 2008

One Down, One To Go

Somebody I like today even more than usual noticed that I thought August ended on Saturday, and pointed out that in fact there are 31 days in that particular month. So I got 24 extra hours to finish and submit the first of my two insanity entries to Labour Day Weekend literary competitions.

Entry #2 must be in the mail tomorrow, but I'm thinking I might finish and print it and seal its envelope, like, NOW. So I can enjoy ten minutes of summer before it's gone. I mean, if I couldn't do the 3-day novel contest I wanted to be finishing up right about now, I gotta have some consolation, right?