Sunday, December 6, 2009

Writing with cold hands

It has finally gotten cold here in Northern Florida. I refuse to turn my heater on until I can see my breath in the house because I love having lower electric bills and it is an excuse to wear all the lovely woolen things that I knit all year long. Let's fail to recognize that I have so many lovely woolen knit hats that I can change them throughout the day. So my toes are toasty warm in their woolen socks. My body is toasty warm in its woolen fair isle sweater. My head is toasty warm under a beautiful woolen cap. The problem is that my fingers are freezing and it is very difficult to type while holding a mug of tea with both hands.

It isn't that I don't have lovely woolen knit things for my hands. I do. I have a pair of cabled woolen mittens in forest green. I also own a pair of bright pink woolen gloves with cute cables running up and down them. And somewhere I own a pair of beautiful dark turquoise Fetchings (fingerless gloves) made out of Malabrigo (the most sumptuous sheep's wool ever!) They are slightly felted (due to my washing them in the pocket of my jeans by accident) but fit my small hands just fine. Except one of them has crawled off and left me. I have only one Fetching and it is not doing me any good. Which leads me to question why I am torturing myself trying to write when I could be making a new pair.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I hate when rejections are correct

I received a very kind rejection yesterday to my witch trilogy. But by golly I can't argue with anything she said. She was also kind enough to offer some helpful criticism, which I have not received in the past. I'm so used to the standard, "Thank you for your submission. You ain't got what we want right now. Quit calling yourself an author. Sincerely, Very Rude Form Letter" In fact it almost caught me off guard to actually have some constructive criticism on how to make the book more readable.

The biggest comment was giving my character more of a voice that people can relate to. I think that the second and third books are much more like that as I learned more about my characters. So far I've eliminated nearly 12,000 words from the book by ditching the prologue and finding ways of incorporating that information into the body of the story. I may write a prologue after the fact later if I feel something is missing, but I'm not going to start with a prologue. I have also combined the first two chapters into one and made what was two days into one to get to the real action of the story quicker.

I've been reading through some of my more favorite YA books over the past two days and realizing how much action does take place in the first 50 pages. Hell, Bella moves to Forks, gets a truck, starts school, goes to classes, is introduced to the Cullens, has her first encounter with Edward, he leaves and then comes back all in the first fifty pages. Whew! I compared that (and other books) to my first 50 pages wherein you meet the twins and their family and they start school and you are introduced to the surly boy with a chip on his shoulder. But really nothing happens until the next fifty pages.

I'm not feeling defeated like I have been in the past. I know it is a good story, I just need to tell it better.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My new phone

This deserved its own little post. This is my new phone. It's red. And shiny. And has Internet access. (Which I found out my old phone had and I just didn't know it!) It has a camera and a qwerty keyboard that slides out. Oh and I don't randomly call people with my butt. This is a good thing. (Ask my friends.) And now I am totally addicted to checking Twitter. Just had to share. Oh and to make this relevant to my blog, I do have a notepad on this phone that I can write when I somehow find myself void of paper and pen.

I'm alive ... but just barely

I'm crawling out of the NaNoWriMo trenches to say: I WON! I made my 50K with an end (thank you very much) Friday night at 50, 806 words. Of course I do need to go back and fix a dangling subplot that was just dumped when more exciting things to write about came along. It was tough this year. Not because I had no clue what I was going to write about, but because I had a planned Disney vacation that started on the fifth. We came home a day early because of Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Wake Me When It's Over Ida. Then three people decided to get the flu and the room with the computer was contaminated. I refused to step foot in there and people say I'm mean because I shoved grilled ham and cheese sandwiches under the door. Hey, I could have stolen Dan's laptop and just gone to a hotel and left them to make their own grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Thanks to a few five thousand word days, though, I quickly caught up.

I like this story. In fact I like it better than the first in this series. Maybe it is because I'm understanding my characters better and finding them more developed the more I write about them. The really nice thing is that I know what is going to happen in the next book. I love these guys.

In knitting news (yes, I actually got a bit of knitting done amidst all the NoWri-ing) I managed to make a scarf and hat to go up to Sylvia's place and made Dan a fair isle ear flap hat since he is about to leave to Someplace Cold later this week for a month or two. I finished his third pair of socks at Disney and am almost finished with Keon's socks that I started there. It's nice mindless endless rounds of stockinette and I found I can do it easily while standing in line, riding in the car, or waiting for movies to start. I really need to get on the ball and knit up the lace scarf sampler for the January/February JoAnn classes and I have another (super secret) project that I want to work on as well. I just can't decide which to do first. (Especially since I really want to just write some more seeing as I lost eleven days.)

And I'll catch up on cooking before I get back to more writing stuff. Everyone will be happy to know that I have finally successfully had a complete Thanksgiving dinner. Yep. I set the oven on fire and didn't get to bake the rolls. The good news is that the oven was easily cleaned out (the next day) and the rolls were baked on Friday to go with the leftover turkey and rice. (For those of you who don't know, you can stuff risen bread in the refrigerator overnight. In fact you can even do a cold rising if you are patient enough. I'm rarely patient enough.) They were delightful and now I'm craving another batch. I wonder if anyone would mind another batch of turkey and rice tonight. Or rolls. Oh the funny part of all this: the firefighter in the house thought it would be OK to spray "mostly water" sanitizer on the blazing fire. Do not do this. It will not put out the fire. Your best friend for kitchen fires: baking soda. It's cheap too and won't cause your oven to burst into huge tongues of flames and billow out (most likely toxic) smoke.

Now back to writing because that is what interests me at the moment. I bought a magnet a while back that reads: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Then Saturday evening I received a fortune in my cookie that read: No man is a failure who is enjoying life. It got me to really start thinking about my books and what I want to do with them. I really want to publish them. I go to the bookstores and I look for the place where my books would sit on the shelves. I touch the books on either side. Is it too presumptuous of me to want to rest between Ursula Le Guin and Madeleine L'Engle? And what happens if I fail? I'm really no worse off than I am, but perhaps with a broken heart. I have an advantage of not needing to be financially dependent on my writing. I don't have to publish. I just want to publish. So I'm going to pursue that earnestly in the coming year. I'll keep you all posted on how it goes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Size does matter!

OK, maybe not size per se, but gauge. And don't always trust your memory that you know what gauge you got the last time you knit with a certain yarn or needle. And don't believe yourself when you say, "Oh 72 stitches is perfect for a hat on size US 8 needles with this yarn. I've made them like that before." Because you know what? It's all a lie! Your brain will lie to you in order to not make gauge. It will convince you that the last time you knit with this particular yarn you got 4-5 stitches per inch. I'm quite sure of it. Yeah, and ... and ... and ... I've made lots of hats by casting on 72 stitches. Remember?

Except the sad truth is, now thinking back I've never used Moda Dea Wool 'n' Silk and all the 72 stitch hats I've made were on size US10 needles not US8 and I've never done anything like this before. Ever. Which all means that I just blindly cast on 72 stitches of a lovely blue silk and wool blend yarn and knit it like I knew what the heck I was doing. And in the end I had made a very lovely little lacy hat that would possibly fit a baby!

So repeat after me: Gauge matters. If you aren't 100% absolutely positively 100% sure that you know your gauge with that wool then don't just willy nilly cast on and set to town. You will spend many hours making something that doesn't fit anyone in your household (let alone the charity I was intending this hat to go to). It will make you cuss. It will make you spit. It will make you want to attack your finished work with a butcher knife. (Please refrain. I did and so can you, but you still want to.) Just suck it up, cast on some stitches and swatch for gauge. Your inner self will appreciate you for it.

Fortunately, I know a little boy who is going to look just dandy in a blue silk and wool cap and since he is a baby he wont' mind the lace.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank you for your query but blah blah blah

Yep, you know what it says after the "Thank you for your query but..." It means "YOU SUCK!" Or at least that is what you are envisioning the agent or editor to be saying. However, it is humorous when you read through a form rejection letter and count six (yes sax, sex, seis, zes, sass, shest' - you know 6) spelling or grammatical errors in the letter. Six. Wow. Maybe I didn't want that person to represent my book after all (although, admittedly I forgot I had sent that query over three months ago).

But I'm not letting that get me down. I'm not going to quit. I'm going to persevere. I think I've got a good story in me and eventually it will be recognized. I just have to wait.

But in all this waiting, I'm getting quite a big of knitting done. Socks, hats, and I'm even searching for a sweater pattern. I just have this feeling I've got to get to the point of no major UFO's before November 1st. I'm already losing six days of NaNoWriMo due to our Disney vacation. I can't afford to waste anymore with something silly like knitting. I'm even wondering if I will cook anything but hot water for tea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Prob!

As promised I am here to write about No Plot No Problem by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. It was a fun read. Having already won NaNoWriMo once before and having written that ubiquitous 50,000 words in 30/31 days several times since then, I saw this book as more of a reflection of the work I have done while picking up a few ideas on the way. For someone who is trepidatiously stepping off that cliff of insanity that is the power writing of NaNoWriMo, it could be a great comfort as well as affirmation that you can indeed write 50,000 words towards a novel in 30 days (or less). There is much wit over the task of forced word count writing which I easily saw as a reflection of my own derangement. (Please, I am the sort of crazed author that has lengthy conversations with her characters when she is alone in the car. You just think that I am singing to Cold Play.)

In other news, I did finally sit down and write the synopsis to last year's NaNo. I've heard that the weather here is supposed to cool down this weekend. Maybe even highs in the lower 70's, which is fantastic to finally get out of the 80's that we've been hanging on to like a toddler fearing that first solo step. (That was a feeble attempt at changing the subject. Let's just say that if I were to read the synopsis that I wrote I wouldn't be interested in reading the novel. And no, I really don't want to talk about it anymore. Suffice to say I much prefer writing novels than synopses and it is an area that I know now I must expend more energy in order to become a better synopsist, synopsisist?)

The next book on my table is The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another day another book on writing

Sorry to all my knitting friends, but you are just going to have to live with more posts on writing for a while. At least until Nanowrimo is over. I'll *try* to sneak in a few yarns here and there that talk about food or woolly goodness if I can.

This weekend I sat and made my way through Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook. It has an excellent chapter on writing synopses which I totally SUCK at (all of those agents who are reading this and might be considering my book(s) please disregard that last statement) primarily because I tend to become way too wordy or I fall into the "then she did this and then she did that and then they all died." I think my challenge for today is going to be to actually write a real synopsis of one of my books.

I was most impressed with the use of real and fictional examples of query letters and synopses. It was helpful to read synopses and pitches for books that I had actually read rather than books that are either on my "to read" list or that I had never heard of (or that don't actually exist). I keep reading the chapter "Handling the Wait - and the Rejection" over and over. That I think is truly the hardest part of being an author. At least a new, yet-to-be-discovered author. I obsessively check my e-mail account and the spam folder (just in case) and double check to make sure that I actually sent what I was supposed to. I mean what if I only filed the follow up letter in my drafts folder or what if s/he is really writing back, but Gmail is considering that all important letter as spam? It's hard not to worry. My favorite "analysis of the silence" is "They haven't stopped laughing long enough to put the rejection slip in the envelope." I keep reminding myself that I write for my own enjoyment. Publishing will be the icing. It's good cake without it, but it would be more the sweet with.

As far as my most recent exercise (to write about a vampire without eluding to vampires). Well, that went miserably horribly fantastically badly bad bad bad. No, really. I'd post it, but I'd be too embarrassed. I'm going to try again, though. Of course the entire writing exercise wasn't a waste because it did help me rewrite a portion in my third book that I wanted to remain ambiguous as to who was speaking. It did help me find key words that one character would say and another not. So I can't say that trying to write vaguely about vampires was futile. I have yet to find a writing exercise to be completely wasted. Sometimes it just doesn't reveal itself immediately.

Next up is the book No Plot? No Problem! : A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty. First step is going to be digging it out of my daughter's hands. She's glommed onto it and is considering attempting NaNoWriMo herself. I think her biggest concern is character development as she has mostly written Harry Potter FanFic up to this point where characters have already been created for her. Cheer her on, though. I think she has some marvelous stories in her head to share. The problem I foresee with two writers in the house both competing for NaNoWriMo is that we will be consuming far too much caffeine and no housework will get done. There's always December, write? Uh, I mean right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Without really saying it

This morning over breakfast, my husband pulled out a pack of Via, Starbucks new instant coffee. Being a writer, I, of course, had to read the packaging. What I realized is that Starbucks must hire a team of creative writers to do their package descriptions. Not just advertising people, but near savant creative writers. The package reads like a writing exercise. Here it is: Describe our new instant coffee without ever using the phrase "instant coffee." In actuality it is pure genius. they don't even hint at it being "instant." There is no phrasing that makes you think "Sanka."

This little packet of "soluble and microground" coffee got me to thinking about a problem I am having in my current book. How do you describe vampire without ever saying vampire? Without even hinting that what you are talking about is a vampire? That is my task for the day. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Not to Write a Novel

In preparation for Nanowrimo, I've been reading quite a few novel writing books. Yay for the public library or I'd be broke from everything I want to read. Yesterday I read the book How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid them - a Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman. If you ever feel like your writing sucks, read this book. Seriously, in comparison to some of the examples that they use (which are not (at least I hope are not) from any actual book - published or un-) you will feel like a genius. Seriously, an MIT geek in comparison. Or at least I did. This book introduces you to some of the most common mistakes and while some of the examples are overdone, there are some that I have seen reading some fan fiction. This, of course, leads me to realize why some people are writing fan fic and not really publishing books.

Of particular interest to me at the moment is Part VII: How Not to Sell a Novel. At least I don't seem to have made any major mistakes according to this book. Maybe my potential agent(s) need to read this.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Knitting for Charity

I love knitting for charity. There is something gratifying about making something as simple as a hat or a pair of mittens or a washcloth that is received with so much joy. I like thinking about the person who may receive the article I am knitting and wonder what his/her life is like. Will she be comforted by this hat? Will he feel like someone cares when he puts his mittens on? I've knit for various charities, but the one that I keep going back to is called Sylvia's Place in NYC. It is a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. I have a soft spot for them in my heart.

I have noticed a phenomenon with knitters. Most knitters tend to be charitable. They seem to jump at a chance to knit for someone in need. Maybe their homes and drawers are overflowing with knitwear that they have a desire, nay, a need to knit, but fear that if they knit one more thing that their house is going to look like it threw up a gigantic hair ball. One could simply say, "Then stop knitting." But those are the words of a non-fiber person. There is something comforting and calming about knitting. Some would call it an addiction. But the truth is that the meditative qualities of knitting feed our endorphins (and no, I have no scientific proof to back that up. I'm just going with it, so just accept that it is true.) It is my hope as I knit and feel the relaxation that eases over me that the receivers of my knitted goods will also find that serenity when they wear and use the things I offer.

If you have never participated in a charity knit, look on Ravlery. There are hundreds of charity opportunities. Everything from snugglies for dogs to hats for the homeless. There are cancer hats, preemie hats, mitts and sweaters, demise blankets for premature babies, lap blankets for elderly or those suffering from a myriad of diseases, and there is even a charity to make bandages for those with leprosy. I'm sure there is a charity that will speak to every knitter. Think how good you will feel about yourself. Think how good you will make someone else feel. Think of the good that will do the world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The anticlimaticness of it all

Today is a sad day. You strive and work and toil and write a fantastic novel (at least in your own unbiased opinion of your own work) and you are proud of what you have accomplished. And then you log on to NaNoWriMo and realize that they have reset all the stats from last year. You are left with a zero word count and you no longer have a purple bar under your name declaring you a WINNER! Your novel information is blank and you feel like all your work from last year has been wiped away. Erased. Deleted. It was all for nothing because now there is this zero under your name. A big fat black 0! There isn't even recognition that you even wrote a novel last year. I wept. And then I ate a turkey pot pie and felt a little better.

And then I sat down here at the computer and realized that I don't have my novel idea for this year even half formulated. Perhaps I'll write another witch book. Perhaps it will be the next installment of my vampire series. Maybe another romance. Although, I like writing in the young adult genre more than romance. Maybe it will be a whole new story with a whole new genre and a whole new idea with a whole new cast of characters. I just can't decide. Last year it was so easy. I knew I wanted to tell Aria's story. I knew that it was only going to be the first of a three part set. I knew from a dream how it was all going to play out. I knew the characters (at least most of them) and I knew I was going to enjoy it. And then 84,000+ words later I sat staring at the finished novel and wondered how I'd done it so quickly.

And now it is T-29 days and counting and I have no enthusiasm. All because Chris Baty reset my word count.

Perhaps I need tea and chocolate.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eeep! It's been that long?

This past few weeks have felt like they have flown past. Sadly, I can't really tell you what has happened. Part of me was at a loss for two weeks as my computer wouldn't boot, so I was stuck with only Internet and basic word processing. I didn't want to edit on just my memory stick (I insist on two back ups of everything) so I did no writing at all during that time (as long as you don't count writing out knitting patterns as writing and recreating my knitting class notes so I didn't stand around bumbling my way through a class trying to remember everything I am supposed to teach).

The good news is that my hard drive was recoverable, but now it sits as an external hard drive on my desk and squeals at me very loudly. It makes it hard to write when there is this high pitched buzzy squeak that sort of reminds one of a huge swarm of mosquitoes chasing after you as though you were an animated character running for your life. That means that I don't want to write much at the computer and my hand writing skills are slow ... slow ... slow. (And then I get bored when I transfer handwriting into word documents because I've already written that and I want to write something neeeeeewwwwww!) (I promise no more whining.)

The other good news is that in this time I have also had the ability to catch up on some reading that I have wanted to do. I finally got around to reading The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger This is one of the most amazing pieces of literature that I have read in a long time. Not because it was "the story of the century" or even because the actual writing was so dynamic (although it is a wonderful story and the writing was pretty dynamic). No, the thing that caught me about this book was the author and editor's (I'm presuming here that Niffenegger's editor had to help in some capacity) abilities in keeping the story straight and remembering how old Henry and Clare were at various times of his time travelling and remembering when he'd seen her when and what he told her. It was electrifying to think about what she went through just to be able to keep her story in order. I've written books that span decades. After reading this book I will tell you it is a piece of cake. I mean I'm at least keeping things in order in a linear fashion whereas Niffeneger's time line looked like she was following silly string sprayed by a group of adolescent boys at an unsupervised party! I am in awe.

Aside from that I also read a few knitting books (nothing much to note on that front) and re-read the J.R. Ward Black Dagger Brotherhood series (just for some mindless reading). (Yes, again. You got a problem with that?) Sometimes it is good just to relax into a familiar book that is comfortable and has a decent plot to keep you interested. Interesting is good. If something isn't interesting it isn't worth reading. I refuse to try to continue to drudge through books that are droll just because they are on a bestseller list.

My next read is The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I seem to be reading quite a few "author's firsts." So far I'm enjoying it. Of course I need to get past the acknowledgements, but hey, it's a start.

I'm also gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I'm going to attempt to win again. Might be a tad challenging considering I've got a Disney vacation planned right in the middle. However, if I can pull off the eighty-three thousand I did last year and didn't start until the 7th (had to wait for the elections to be over) and write over fifty thousand earlier this year in 10 days, I think I should be able to handle it. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh my spinning head!

I can't believe it has been several weeks since I posted something. I was going along fairly well and then life hit me. Since my last post I have:

1. Bought a new car
2. Dealt with all the issues of buying a new car (insurance, tags, and yelling at people to get their stuff out of my brand new car)
3. Spent way too much time driving in my brand new car (maybe I need satellite radio for the house as well)
4. Discovering BBC Radio 1 (see above)
5. Sewing
6. Knit Dan a pair of socks
7. Kicking a computer that decided to die on me
8. Kicking a second computer that decided to die on me
9. Working a medieval event
10. Doing some much neglected calligraphy and illumination
11. Forgetting to do my Wii Fit
12. Rereading J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series (why when I have a huge stack of books beside my bed that haven't had a first reading yet?)
13. Knit me a pair of socks
14. Started another pair of socks for Dan
15. Taught several really good classes at JoAnn
16. Baked some really good bread
17. Finished a pair of socks I'm trading for hand thrown pottery whorls for drop spindles.

So you ask me, "Lorna, where is the part about writing?" Well, that would be there isn't anything to report on that front. I've been so busy that I haven't had the time nor the energy to actually write and with two dead computers (one of which has several of my partial works on that need retrieving - and are retrievable, it just has to be done) I haven't had the motivation to go back and edit the second two books in my witch series. Although, I did have a fantastic "ah-ha" moment this week. I was smart enough to write it down in my notebooks. I'm hoping tomorrow that I will actually sit down and figure out what is missing in my witch series. There is this big gaping hole in the middle of the second book that I keep skirting around. Maybe if I drive around in my car for a while I'll figure it out.

P.S. I have discovered a brand new thrill - having Google spell check say "No spelling errors were identified." It's the little things that make me happy.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I should be cleaning house today. Should be. However, on days such as today I don't want to do anything but sit and write or knit. I have a knitting pattern that I need to work on for one of my books. It's not that difficult, but it sort of niggly and needs to be fiddled with to make the pattern repeat nicely in 84 stitches. And I need to figure out what yarn to do the hat in as well. (Perhaps that should have been the first step, but I at least know I want to do it in a worsted weight yarn on size US 8 needles, so that helps limit things.) So I sit balancing delightful fun creativity with dust bunnies and dishes. The Practical Person would not be sitting here at the computer blogging about why she doesn't want to do dishes and should really be working on her pattern that needs to be finished. a Practical Person would instead be trying to get the dishes done quickly and sweep up the dust bunnies so that she could sit and sketch and chart and sample as well as have clean dishes to eat off at dinner time (although I'm actually considering Chinese take out which means I just need to wash chopsticks, right?)

Unfortunately (?) I am not a Practical Person. I'm a writer and a knitter. And it is raining. The soft plinking on the windows of raindrops is a coy reminder that I would much prefer to be sitting here considering what chapter is really missing in Echo's book or playing with needles. It sings out, "Come write, Lorna. Come write" with every tapping on the window that mimics the tapping of fingers on a keyboard. Then it whispers, "Knit, knit, knit" as the wind swishes a soft spray against the window, reminding me of bamboo needles rubbing against each other.

I believe I am going to be a Not Practical Person today and just pay the kids to do it all and be satisfied that there are still some dust bunnies dancing around the legs of furniture and that the dishes may not all be perfect.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

True friends!

Sometimes you don't realize how good of friends you have nor how much your friends think of you until you receive something totally unexpected in your life. For me it was my friend Lori and a package that she created from goodies she picked up at Sock Summit. She knew how much I was missing it and this little treat was almost as good as going (but not quite, I didn't get hugs or the ability to squish all kinds of fibery goodness!)

Nothing says "I love you" like receiving stitch markers made from ninjas, kitties, and flying monkeys. Why ninjas, kitties and flying monkeys? Why not! For some reason there is some secret connection between knitting and flying monkeys that I haven't quite understood yet, but that I am not willing to dismiss just because it doesn't all make sense.

Everyone needs a superhero. Even knitters. Perhaps especially knitters. So who better to be a knitter's superhero than Alex Miller. Mild mannered high school kid by day. Tireless knitting savior of the world by night (who just happens to knit). If you are a knitter and you haven't found your way over to Handknit Heroes then march yourself right over there and get a subscription. Then you, too, can make super cool dude handknit glasses just like Alex's! I can't wait to cast these babies on. Who knows? Maybe I, too, can become part of a league of superheros. I can wield knitting needles with the best of them!

This was the cream of the crop, though! If asked what knitting superhero I would want to be when I grew up (realizing of course that I refuse to ever grow up) I would state without a moment's hesitation that I would be Anna Zilboorg. I have to admit right here that I assumed that the woman was dead. I mean her books weren't published that long ago and they were out of print and selling for four or more times their original prices. Nothing had been published since 2004 and in the knitting world that means only one thing. You are dead. So when I found out that she as going to be at Sock Summit I about flipped out. So, my friend Lori found a copy (at her local yarn shop no less) of Socks for Sandals and Clogs she bought it for me! Then she took it with her to Sock Summit and actually asked Anna Zilboorg to sign it for me!


Now I just have to convince myself to finish the two pair of socks I already have on needles before breaking out the yarn and casting on yet another pair of socks. And I need to make those truly cool goggles for my night time superhero adventures.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fiction into Actuality

Sometimes when I write something I will go back and consider whether or not the completely made up bit of fiction I wrote is actually plausible. In my latest series, which is about a race of vampire hunters, I was writing about one of my male characters. He's a bit edgy (or at least likes to think himself so). In my mad dash of writing I said, "His tanned arm sported a new tattoo. An ambigram that read Vamp in one direction and Hunt upside down." I read that through a few times wondering if it could be done and amazingly it can. I love when something I make up can become something real. My children joke that I will have it etched into my own skin someday. Perhaps if this series gets published.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Admit it you've all done it. Perhaps you've never heard the term before, but you've done it. Procrastiknitting. What is procrastiknitting? It's that project that you want or need to complete but there is something (usually small) that is keeping you from finishing it. For instance, I have a Clapotis that I started quite some time ago. It's been sitting in its project bag for several months because I messed up on one row. Yes; one row. I just need to back out one row. Actually it may not even be an entire row. It may just be a few stitches, but I just don't want to deal with it, so as much as I really want to finish this love orange and pink wrap, I can't get past this procrastiknitting. I've been procrastiknitting on a pair of socks that I am making for a friend (we are trading pottery for knit goods) because I am bored with the pattern. It's near drudgery to work on because the pattern is too familiar.

I know that when I have to do something that is all stockinette or garter stitch that I yawn and tend to procrastiknit. Sure, I can do it with my eyes closed (and I have), but it doesn't engage my brain enough so it isn't something I want to do so it gets procrastiknitted. Projects that I have to do as samples for my classes get procrastiknitted until I am approaching the deadline and then I finally pull them out and get them done. I also will procrastiknit if I have a pattern that doesn't make any sense the first few readings through and end up throwing it in a pile to deal with later.

Just like mundane procrastinating, I know I shouldn't with my knitting as well. However, there is no solution other than to just get up and do it. So why are you reading this blog? I'm sure that there are some knitting projects that you are procrastiknitting finishing. So go do it. Go pick them up and finish those projects. Meanwhile I found this new sock pattern I'm going to go cast on.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gratification after a long toil

There is something gratifying about finishing any work you do. Whether it is a pair of socks or a poem or finally making biscuits that don't pass as hockey pucks. Last month I wrote the first book in a new series in a matter of eleven days. That felt really good. However, this week I finished a book that I have been toiling on for over a year and a half. It wasn't that I don't love this book. I do. I love the MC and the plot is engaging. However, it kept getting set on the back burner in favor of more fun and jovial pieces or with a book that came like wildfire and demanded to be written. But this past week I sat down and looked at this book again and the story finally came tumbling out until I got to the end. And the end surprised me. (I love when that happens.)

There wasn't the overwhelming "YIPPEE! I finally finished!" like so many of my books have been. It was more of a contented, "It is done." A warm feeling that you did a job well. I actually had an almost sad feeling that I had gotten to the end of the story and wasn't going to be visiting the characters except to edit or revise the story. There was nothing new for me to learn about this character and in a way it was sad. But in another way it was fulfilling to know that I had somehow made the MCs' lives whole. It doesn't always feel like that when I finish a book. Maybe because I write so many books in series that there is always more to find out about one or more of the characters as time goes on, but when writing a novel, a book that has a beginning, a middle and an end, you are through. Sometimes reading the words THE END at the bottom of your page can feel so final yet so content at the same time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pity Party Reprieve

Yesterday I was really feeling down about not being at Sock Summit. I pouted for most of the day. I wrote for a while (nearly four thousand words) but then got halted by trying to find pictures of what I was missing. So I decided to go to the bookstore instead. For fun I wondered over to the knitting books just to see if they had anything new (which is rare) and found out that they did! Sitting right there on the shelf were about eight copies of the book Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner. It is an entire book of socks with a Japanese inspired theme. The socks are knitted with everything from a very fine lace weight (on size US 3 needles) to chunky (on size US 9 needles). They are fresh and innovative and very very fun. I immediately came home (book in hand) and dug out some nice bright pink Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere (a worsted weight yarn) to make the Obi socks, which are heel-less, toe-less, foot-less yoga socks (they have a band - or obi to go around the foot to keep them in place.) They are knitting up quite quickly (almost ready for the "non-heel").

I'm having a lot of fun with this sock and a new technique (at least for me) called a pkok (which I call a peacock). It is made by lifting the third stitch on the left needle over the first two stitches then knitting the first stitch, yarn over, knit the second stitch. It gives a totally different look to a mock cable and is quite fun to do as well. And I'm quite sure that today pictures will start rolling in on the various blogs to prove to me that Sock Summit was very crowded, very hot and I would have had a very miserable time. (Please, just let me live in my fantasy.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More Writing Prompts

Some days I just get stuck. I can't figure out the next sentence much less the next word. I may know where I want my character to go, but I just can't figure out the correct words to get the plot going again. That's when I turn to writing prompts. I have two that I like to turn to as they have short little writing prompts that sometimes jolt my thinking even if I don't complete the exercises. The first is called (the very unoriginal) Creative Writing Prompts. These are quick little exercises and you don't even have to click on them. Just hover your mouse over a number (pick one randomly) and the writing prompt will come up in a little speech bubble. The other is Meredith Sue Willis' writing website/blog. There are around one hundred fifty different exercises. Some of them are helpful some aren't. I do like that she will have you write about a picture. You can describe what you see or the emotions you feel from looking at it. Sometimes there is action to write about while other times it is still life. This is very helpful to me because there are times that I will have an image in my head that I am having a hard time putting down on paper.

It's tough when you get stuck. I'm not always sure what is worse; staring at a white screen with a little cursor blinking at you demanding that you type something or to be somewhere when you can't write but your characters are demanding that you do.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm not "there"

"There" being Sock Summit. I was going to go. I wanted to go. And the way I knit socks I should have gone. But I didn't. Instead I stayed home and was a parent and didn't spend close to a thousand dollars to go play and learn and shop with hundreds (thousands?) of other sock knitters and designers.

So I'm following them on Twitter, not that they have updated much this week! Grrrr. And I'm checking out the few really cool people who actually are posting updates and pictures over on the Ravelry website. I'm sure that various blogs will be greatly updated post the summit, but it sure would be nice for those of us that couldn't attend to be able to see a little of the goodness that is happening as it actually happens.

I have no desire to even knit the pair of socks I should be working on.

But I'm writing. And it is going fairly well. Susan (my MC - Main Character) is getting ready to return home and face the realities of what she left there. I've been anxious to get to this part. I love it when I finally get to write a part in a book that I have thought of often. It's like watching a much-loved movie and you just can't wait for the part where Joe Fox looks into the window of the coffee shop and realizes that his secret correspondent is his rival. That transformation in his thoughts about her is wonderful and I love that part of the movie every time. (For those of you who are scratching your heads, go see the movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (no, the other movie with Meg and Tom. No, the other movie with Meg and Tom. You know, You've Got Mail.

And now I would like to take a moment for our sponsor, The Save Function. Yes; Mr. CTRL S. You know the one. The one you always forget to press then walk away from your computer and come back later to find your cat napping on top of it, having rewritten the entire last three pages with her butt. There's no recovering it. There's rarely the ability to rewrite it. The second draft never flows as nicely as the first. You forget the subtle nuances of banter that your characters had or you can't recall if your character was seeing her life flash before her eyes or watching the scene play out in slow motion. Or maybe it was both. Or maybe it was neither. How can such tragedies be stopped before they happen? CTRL S. That's it folks. Just move your left hand pinkie down to that CTRL button and then press the letter S with your left ring finger. Takes one hand and approximately .847 seconds. About the same time as it takes to type a capital letter A. You, too, can have one for the low low cost of remembering to just save! Save your document. It will save your sanity. (Do not ask my why that rant got started.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's all in what you write

I realized around four o'clock this morning that it wasn't that I was distracted from writing, but that my writing was distracting. Let me explain. No, that would take to long. Let me summarize. I wrote a book in ten days. Lots of words in a few days. The story flew. I knew that this was just the first book in a series, so I decided that I needed to write the next book. Right? Well, maybe. But I truly don't know the entire story of my next book. I know who I want it to be about and I know what basically needs to happen. But it isn't all worked out. Not like I need it to be. I still want to write. Still need to write. But looking at Carlos' story and not knowing how he was going to get from the library to the end of the book (which would be at least 50,000 words worth of stuff going on) was not working. But Susan tapped me on the shoulder at four forty-five (right as I was about to get back to sleep) and said, "Psst. You know, I really like that you have written that new series. It's a great story and if I were a real life editor I would sign you in a heartbeat. However, you seem to have forgotten that I exist and I'm sitting here dangling in a Catholic confessional. Could you please get back to my story. I really want to see if I end up with this guy or if my story is going to end with my life as boring as when the story began." (If you haven't picked up on this Susan is a character in one of my books.)

So I went back to Susan. (Everyone will be happy to know she is no longer dangling in a Catholic confessional.) And the words flowed again. It's nice to know that your mojo/inspiration/muse/talent/desire hasn't left you. Sometimes you just have to take a break from what you feel you need to do and concentrate on something else.

I think that is true with knitting (or fill in your favorite) projects as well. Sometimes I will be knitting along and I can barely make it through a row. I have no inspiration to work on the project at hand. It usually isn't difficult and doesn't take much in the way of brain power to do. Sometimes it is simply endless rounds of stockinette stitch in the round on a pair of socks. The kind you could do in your sleep (or a dark movie theater.) But for some reason it is like molasses pouring on a winter day. That's when you know it is time to switch projects. Pull out that sweater you were working on a few months ago or cast on a new hat. Dig through your stash and find those four balls of Plymouth Kudo and realize that there is a pattern out there calling it's name or crack open that new Cookie A book and design yourself something to go with that sock yarn you purchased on the yarn crawl three years ago.

Things just flow so much better when you are wanting to work in them rather than when you feel you have to.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Distracted by all things

Today has been one of those days where I have been distracted by any and all things. I got up this morning, did my thirty minutes of Wii Fit and then sat down to have my breakfast and check my e-mail. That's when the distractions started. Something in my e-mail prompted me to go look up something and then my Rice Krispies got soggy. I ate the blueberries around the mush.

I hopped over to Ravelry to look something up and then had an angry cat demanding her sip of milk. Now before anyone gets upset, let me explain. KiKi is over sixteen years old. She's quite deaf (can hear high pitched noises), her vision is starting to get a bit blurry, and she startles quite easily. We've also recently gotten a new kitten (a sweet darling little part Manx/gray tabby) who hasn't learned that a glare, a hiss and being knocked into the next room means "leave me alone" from our alpha princess. Her lap of milk in the morning is part of her daily routine. She expects it and gets quite put out if I decide to have eggs or oatmeal or a bagel. Her serving size is about a tablespoon and it is demanded. I oblige to keep from being killed in the middle of the night.

Of course after my royal chewing out by the Queen Supreme of All Catdom, I realized that I had less than an hour to get myself and Emily (my oldest child) out the door for our local Wednesday morning SnB. (That's Stitch and Bitch for the unenlightened.) I showered, woke Bubblegum Head (her hair is currently a delightful bright pink) and we ran to the bookstore, assuring the one other person who ventured out in the hot and muggy Florida "sunshine" that we were indeed on our way, albeit late because, well, I got distracted because I found a Wii Fit strategy guide and was delighted to find out that after I log 100 hours in playing Wii Fit my little piggy will turn gold. (This wee Wii Piggy has yet to turn gold.)

When we finally returned home I sat down to write, but of course realized I was too hungry to write so I went and made myself some lunch. Ate lunch while watching my children play Wii Fit (OK, it's new to us, so very distractible.) I again force myself to go write. Can't. I read the group boards on Ravelry. I read the news. I check the weather. I check the mail (the real kind that someone actually delivers to your house). I then get this fantastic idea that I need to work on the quilt that I have neglected for the past four years. It's completely pieced and I even had the batting on it, it just lacked a backing and the actual quilting. So I piece together the backing and get it all sandwiched and pinned. I sit down at the sewing machine and realize that I've never actually quilted with this machine before. I can't get the large spool to sit like it is supposed to on the spindle which is supposed to hold the giant spools of thread. So I find smaller spools of thread. I then decide that it would be a good idea to load a few bobbins ahead of time. (This part isn't so much distraction as time-saving in the world of quilting, but nonetheless, it did halt me from diving right in.) Finally I have the right foot on, the quilting table installed and I set to work. I'm just free-styling the top and pretty satisfied with the way things are going. I'm whistling away. When ...

The bobbin carriage goes all cablooey! Parts are going everywhere. I stop and open the machine up to discover that maybe I should clean my sewing machine more often. (I've done one half of one of twelve squares on the quilt.) I clean it. I reassemble the bobbin carriage. I get everything put back the way it is supposed to. I continue. I get through three and a half squares when the bobbin carriage goes cablooey again and the needle bends in half. (The bobbin carriage has had a running problem, but it has not given me any problems in two years with all kinds of weights of fabric.) I change the needle I reassemble the bobbin carriage. I decide I need a drink. I settle for water as there is no good wine in the fridge and one really shouldn't drink and quilt (just as someone shouldn't drink and knit or drink and write - although the latter is rather amusing the next day.)

Water reminds me I have to go to the bathroom. The bathroom is reached by going past the computer. Perhaps I should check my e-mail again. And Ravelry. Oh, and I just thought of something I could put in my book. I start to write. Someone says something about dinner. I go cook. Then eat. Then decide to do a few more minutes of Wii Fit which turned into forty-five minutes. Finally it has quieted in the house. The boy is in bed. The girls are quiet in the living room (TV or a game or something.) So I sit down to write again (after again checking my e-mail and the news). And I write (drum roll, please): Carlos tried to smile, but it didn't come out very well. "There are...

There are what? There are enough minutes left in this hour for me to go blog about what I have not accomplished today. Maybe I should just go to bed. I'm sure once I am there, something will interrupt my sleep.

P.S. Google spell check does not like the word cablooey.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Love to Teach

Today I have a knitting class to teach. I'm the local knitting instructor at my town's Jo-Ann. I'm not going to get rich teaching these classes, but I gain something more from them. To put it simply, I love to teach people to be creative. Since knitting is something that I am passionate about it makes sense that I would want to share that passion with others. Today's class is a Knit 101 class. In two and a half hours I will be teaching five willing soon-to-be-knitters how to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off.

There is something fulfilling to see a new knitter have that light bulb go off in their eyes when they catch on to the longtail cast on or when they figure out on their own the difference between a knit side and a purl side. When I take them on a tour through the yarn department of the store and watch their faces when I toss them a ball of bamboo and silk or a superfine merino and they go "oh this is nice!" that is my greatest payment. When I see them at the store looking for their next project it makes me plum giddy. I have spread my psychosis love of fiber creating.

Of course I don't tell them that this is an illness that they just paid to receive. Soon they are going to be hiding yarn in bins under their beds and deciding that the sofa cushions don't need pillow forms in them and make just dandy hiding places for stashed yarn (Thank you Yarn Harlot for that suggestion - not that I would do anything like that). They will make "arrangements" in flower vases because they have more knitting needles than spaces for them in their handy dandy needle case that they purchased thinking they would never fill it. They will find themselves on Ravelry at all hours of the night looking for that perfect summer cardigan or a fantastic pair of socks. (Ravelry links) They have no clue that in a year they are going to be paying an astronomical amount of money to go on knitting cruises, knitting trade shows or conference on nothing but socks! All because they decided on a whim one day to take a $35 class at their local Jo-Ann and ran into a crazy lady in hand knit socks with a pink bucket hat on her head. (More Ravelry links.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

It is done

The escaping to write theory didn't work to well. It might have except for Mr. P. I'll explain. I had gone to the bookstore and taken up a seat in one of the quads of chairs that are in the cafe. I had me strawberry Italian soda sitting on the coffee table in the middle and pulled out my knitting. It was like a homing beacon for Mr. P. (not his real name). Mr. P. is an older man with wild bushy gray hair and a beard that can best be described as grizzly. He always wears this gigantic wood cross around his neck. It's huge. He also always wears some sort of t-shirt that has the word GOD or JESUS in equally enormous letters. I have no problem with people expressing their religious beliefs. I just wonder sometimes about this man's obsession with his own (and if you could meet him you would agree it is an obsession not simply a fever.) So yesterday it was a GOD t-shirt and he sits down across from me and watches me knit. And then he starts talking. "What are you doing?" "Is it hard?" "How did you learn?" Then he tells me how his mother made an afghan once and his sister stole it from his rightful inheritance. I continue knitting. Then he asks me if Jesus' mother may have knit. I explained, patiently, that most likely she wouldn't have as we have no extant (had to explain that word as well) pieces or tools from that region or time. I return to knitting. Then he wants to know if I would teach him. I smiled as nicely as I could and said that I was a professional instructor and he could go to JoAnn to sign up for classes. I decide that my knitting is too distracting for him and maybe if I were curled up in my notebook he would get the message and leave me alone.

I pull the notebook and pen out of my bag and set to writing. Things are flowing, but there is that weird feeling that you get when someone is watching you. Sure enough Mr. P is staring at me. I don't make eye contact. It's the first rule of the wilderness when encountering wild animals. I scribble some more. The words are finally starting to flow. I'm in my groove. I reach for a word that is escaping me momentarily, causing the pen to cease its flow of ink on the page and Mr. P says, "You might as well write a book." I give him a tired smile and say, "I am. I came here to get away from distractions so I could write." He doesn't get the hint. "So is it a book about knitting?" I try not to sigh. "No, it's a fiction novel." I click the end of my pen a few times and start writing again. His voice interrupts the flow again. "You shouldn't write books about fiction. You should write about things you know."

I pretend I have a telephone call and then sigh because I'm being called away.

I return home. It's actually quiet here and there is no annoying person asking me questions as though he is my friend. And then my daughter calls and tells me that there is this fantastic sale at a clothing store and she needs some clothes. I go and find that there really is a good sale going on and $42 later and eight pieces of clothing in a bag, I finally make it home. I just make it into the book and am finally enjoying where I am going with the story when the children remind me it is dinner time. When did that happen? Sure enough it is six o'clock. I stop, get dinner (thank you Publix for rotisserie chicken). I decide to take a break (as though I really need one) and watch last week's episode of Saving Grace. Finally around eight o'clock I return to the computer. At eleven thirty-eight I type the words THE END at the bottom of my last page. 54,846 words in ten days.

Now the editing begins.

And today I'm making cheese.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Writing The End

I'm on the last part of the book I started last week and I can't force myself to finish the end. It's not because it isn't worked out. In fact, I have it all worked out. I know exactly what the characters are going to say and do. I know how it ends. This is always so hard for me to write, because it is much like reading the last chapter of a murder mystery, knowing "whodunnit" and not caring about reading it because there are no surprises.

Often when I'm in one of my writing blitzes (like this past week where I have written over fifty thousand (50,000) words in nine (9) days) I sometimes don't know where my characters are going to take me. It's an adventure. As the words spill across the screen (I write almost exclusively on the computer) it is like I am reading someone else's work. It's intriguing. But as I get towards the end I start thinking about where my characters need to go to "have closure."

Early this morning I was lazing in bed enjoying the tremendous pounding of the rain on my roof and the distant rumble of thunder. I started thinking about this book that is so close to being finished. I had an idea where I was going with my story, but I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get there exactly. And then it all worked out. All the characters were strategically placed around the board and I had the conclusion in check mate. And I can't force the queen to take the king.

I have baked biscuits (see previous post), checked my e-mail (several times), visited almost all my boards on Ravelry (my name is knitcookwrite there as well), looked through some knitting patterns, ate biscuits, talked to my friend Susan on the phone for nearly an hour about everything from the Cars for Clunkers program to Mexican food, and taken a shower. Oh and written another blog post. So I'm taking myself out of the house and going to the bookstore with my Moleskin Notebook and refusing to come home until I have written it out.

I'm taking a knitting project to. This is going to be a long day.

Free-Range Top Knitter

A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, also known as The Yarn Harlot. For those of you not familiar with her work, she writes books about knitting. Not pattern books, not books on spinning or construction of wool products, but books about knitting. Essays about her trials, tribulations, insights and joys when it comes to manipulating string with two sticks to make something wearable, useful or artful. She spoke at a nearby independent bookstore to promote her newest book Free Range Knitter. Sometimes reading her stories is just a little to real. Chapter four has got to be my favorite from this book. It is entitled Left-Leaning Decreases: Stories about Women, Politics, Knitters and Looking at Things in a Different Way. My whole life is like looking at things in a different way. So if you are looking for a book about knitting to take your mind away from consider picking up one of her lovely little books.

More exciting than actually getting my copy of Free-Range Knitter autographed (as well as one from my visiting sock monkey, but that's another story) is that I got to listen to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talk about what it is like to work one's way through the publishing world and society's view of authors of non-standard genre. When you think about it, her niche is very small. She writes books about knitting. So for those that don't knit these books probably don't make much sense. For those who aren't interested in looking at knitting with with, wisdom, and the continual FGO's that go with knitting her books will probably be seen as juvenile or a waste of time. But for those of us who understand knitting and how it reflects life, living and life's little lessons in ways that we can relate.

So in cooking news, I am attempting the fearful. As I mentioned earlier I can't bake biscuits. In fact there was a rumor going around at one time that the Detroit Red Wings were considering contracting with me for hockey pucks. This morning, armed with my newest digital scale and my copy of Ratio, I set to make a batch of biscuits. They aren't bad. They still aren't my grandmother's light and fluffy biscuits, so I'll keep trying. For this batch I used 9 oz flour, 3 oz. butter and 6 oz buttermilk. The recipe actually called for just milk, but I only had enough for a bowl of cereal and if someone woke up and wanted cereal and milk they could still have some. My grandmother always used buttermilk, so that's what I used, but then my grandmother also would oscillate between shortening and lard for the fat. I may try shortening next time rather than the butter and maybe add in a bit more baking powder. They were a tad thick. But at least they were edible.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Books on Words

It is my opinion (and not a very humble one at that) that writers who don't love words truly don't love writing. Why without words there would be no writing. And to use the same tired words again and again, over and over, day in and day out, ad nauseum (I'll stop with the idioms now) is just boring. I liken it to working in a factory and seeing the same product run through on an assembly line. That is one of the wonderful things about the English language. We have lots of words that mean essentially the same thing. There are volumes of thesauri, tomes of dictionaries and countless treatises on the words in the English language. Every writer should have a well worn thesaurus, a tattered dictionary and an atlas whose pages are nearly falling out on their bookshelves. (Why an atlas? Do you know how many delicious words are in atlases?)

I found two new (to me) books while at the library this week that I want to share. The first is called What in the Word?: Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to your Peskiest Questions about Language by Charles Harrington Elster (now if that isn't a name that sounds like a wordographer!). This is truly a fun little read. It isn't dry or dull as one would initially expect from a book about words, There are quizzes, fun ways to remember commonly misused words (they're, their, there) and delightful lists of idioms. One of my favorite little things from this book was a discussion on the phrase déjà lu (and no I won't tell you what it means!)

The other treat I picked up is called How We Talk: American Regional English Today by Allan Metcalf. I've had the unique opportunity to travel the world. I've been to Japan, Europe and all around the the continental United States. (I've been to some of the interior of the US, but prefer to live in areas that are near tremendous bodies of water.) One of the advantages in this is that I don't presume that everyone talks like I do (or the people around me as most people assume that I am from somewhere in the Midwest rather than the deep south - except when I say y'all.) One of the disadvantages is that I never can remember how words are delivered and received where. For instance when talking about carbonated beverages. I never can remember if in the Pacific Northwest we would say soda or pop. I'm thinking it was soda, but that may have been New York or perhaps it was southern California. I know here in the south we say coke as a generic word for any carbonated beverage. First you ask your guest, "Would you like a coke?" They respond in the affirmative. So then you need to clarify, "What would you like?" The answer could be anything from Sprite to Dr. Pepper or even Pepsi. This book is broken up into regions, taking into account that within that region are sub-regions. For instance under "The North" one can choose from New England, New York City and the Mid-Atlantic, and The inland North. There are also sections on American Ethnic, In the Movies and Dialects 2100.

I'd love to know of your favorite books on words.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


There is nothing more wonderful for a book person who cooks than a book about cooking (not necessarily a cookbook/recipe book.) I was listening to NPR the other day (Sunday's ATC episode) and they were interviewing Michael Ruhlman about his new book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It sounded interesting so I went and picked a copy up from my local bookstore. I was captivated by the first sentence that I read (which was not the first sentence in the book, actually.) What caught me was from the section on Pâte à choux. It read: "Pâte à choux is one of the coolest flour-and-water preparations in the kitchen." After hearing the author talk I could hear him actually reading passages to me. (I love when I know the author's voice, it means I don't have to read everything like Alan Rickman playing Col. Brandon. Not that that's a bad thing.)

I am not a recipe cook. I rarely use recipes, especially the second time around. It was the way I was taught to cook by my grandmother. She didn't even use a recipe when she made jelly or pickles. Her forte was her biscuits. She just knew how to cook and how much baking powder to use to how much flour. If more company was coming she'd just made more. (I suck at making biscuits. It's the one food that I truly can't make. My family groans when I say, "I feel like biscuits." They'll beg me to not try it again and just get in the car and go to Cracker Barrel.) So I'm intrigued by this book as it actually has an entire chapter (OK, it's only three pages long) on the ratio of biscuits.

One of the things that gets greatly overlooked in the world of cooking by many home chefs is the food scale. I love my food scales. In fact I own three (although one has been relegated to my knitting so I can weigh yarn and fibers). My latest acquisition is this mighty mite. It's small, but it can weigh up to 6.6 pounds. (All together, OoooooOOOooo.) Ruhlman has all his ratios designed around weights rather than measurements, so it is important to have one (or three, you just never know.)

If you have always had problems with cooking before, especially baking, I highly recommend this book. Now if only he knit.

Writing Prompts

An online friend has recently started weekly writing prompts on her blog. I have been humored by the first two as it seems she has been channeling my work. I have to laugh when I read them. The blog is called Open Road Writing and it's quite a good read.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Knit, Cook, Write

A friend of mine recently asked me, "What is it that you enjoy doing most in life?" It got me to thinking and the thing I came up with was the name of the blog: knitting, cooking, and reading. It's true. Now I could couple that with reading, but for most writers reading and writing are fraternal twins. For the past two years I have been on a writing frenzy. It has lead to me learning some very interesting things about myself and my outlook on life. Currently I am in that long drawn out stage where I am sending out query letters trying to catch the attention of just one author or editor. I've bought books on the subject and have started reading magazines on writing regularly. That hasn't halted my writing though. In two years I have completed four novels and have just recently begun on a new series.

I have been an avid knitter since I was around eleven (and for those of you that are going to be nosy and as, "So just how many years is that?" the answer is thirty-three. You do the math.) I have evolved from a crimped-cord-metal cheap needle with the cheapest acrylic yarn money could by (OK, I was poor and it's all I could afford) to an avid knitter with at least two pair of every size from US 0's to US 15's and some miscellaneous metric sizes that fit in between and some really nice honkin' big US 50's. (Admission: I probably own around eight sets of size US 1.5 needles either in long circular or dpn's.) My yarn choices have become snootier as my budget has afforded. I have stashed silk, mohair, bamboo, wool, alpaca, and even some cashmere. That isn't to say that my stash doesn't also contain yarns bought at big box stores. There are some really nice yarns being released by mass merchants and I'm not so snooty to turn my nose up at a lovely bamboo and wool sock yarn that is in the perfect shade of turquoise just because it came from a large retailer.

And to cooking. I'm a foodie. Should I say more? OK, maybe I should. I love food. I love the texture, the color, the flavor, the aroma, and the action of making food. I like shopping for food. I like tasting food. I adore seeing well presented food at a restaurant, but especially at a friend's home. I like serving food on beautiful platters and in hand thrown pottery bowls. Food is more than just sustenance. Food is life. I'm even such a foodie that I buy books about food. Not recipe books, but books that talk about the history of food, the relationship of food, and how to put food together (that aren't actual recipes.)

At one time I had three blogs. And then I realized that they were interconnected because they were all extensions of myself. So that is what this blog is all about. It's about food. It's about knitting. It's about writing. And it's a place for me to gab on about those subjects and somewhere in there I might even have something interesting to say.