Knitting Exploits

Over the end of year festivities, I had time to do a bit of creative work that didn’t include writing. Instead, I undertook an adventure in knitting.

I was a tiny three year old when my mother gave me a pair of knitting needles, a ball of wool and spent the next several years teaching me to knit.  It took patience on her part because, like all kids, I wanted to do it instantly and it’s not quite that easy.  I knit European style with long needles, one trapped under the right arm and the other loose to do all the movement.  When you finally get the knack it’s fast and easy.  My Mum spent most of her free time knitting and I wore beautiful jumpers, coats and dresses as a kid. My children also wore her creations.  Unfortunately, she passed away too early. So, it’s up to me now to take over from her.

First effort these holidays was a project started by a friend who left it behind when returning to the UK.  A Minion beanie.  IMG_1071

It was pretty simple and the pattern was easy. Knitting for the body and crochet the eye. Had fun with it though.

Next came something for my grandson – like all nearly 3 year olds, he’s into spiderman. So off I went to the internet and came up with a great pattern by Irene Johnson – Webspinner.  It’s free too. The wool arrived early December and it’s Wool of the Andes – lovely colours and nice to work with. Then I started. I judge myself to be an intermediate knitter but this project shot me up to expert level. It uses a  method I’d read about but never tried – Intarsia. The method is like weaving all the threads so that you don’t end up with lots of threads at the back of the work when it’s finished – but you do while you’re knitting. The 1st photo shows the 12 different strands I was using to get Spidey going in the back. After embroidering the wed, it ends up looking much better on the inside than the fair isle method and ensures the black doesn’t show through the white of the eyes. And kids don’t have anything to pull loose – bonus!

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So I ended up with a nice jacket for the grandson that I now just have to go and find a zipper for. According to the pattern it’s the hardest bit – getting it straight. I have found though, that if you do things slowly and with patience it normally works.IMG_1072

And that’s the point. One thing I didn’t have when I was young and Mum was teaching me, was patience. I managed a few pieces over the years but each took me more than 24 months to finish anything. In fact, I didn’t really pick up knitting again until a few years back. It seems in the intervening years I learned patience – most likely with my kids (at least some of the time LOL). And now the frustration levels are low and allow for these more complicated adventures in crafting something special.

I’m pretty happy with the outcome. I guess now it’s time to find another adventure in knitting. Although I do have to finish collating and editing my writer’s group end of year novella – The Alien Zoo. Plenty of stuff to get on with.

 

 

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This Is My War

A great blog about ‘resistance’ to working creatively when the body and mind and ‘down’. Especially useful and relevant to all my writer friends. There are no excuses even at the worst of times not to write.

JamesRadcliffe.com

I am smack-bang in the middle of the hardest part of my current project.

No longer the fresh excitement and boundless possibilities of the new, nor yet the fragrant and tantalising promise of completion, just the work; the seemingly endless and repetitive no-mans-land of the daily grind.

But still everyday I get up, brew my coffee, and get after it.

This post is about why.

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Christmas Reading

For those of you interested in low cost or free books, check out Fablecroft Publishing on Facebook.

For those interested in more about Anne McCaffrey and Pern, check out their site. (click here).

It’s been a busy time with getting all the stories together for our writers group end of year project – The Zoo. Imagine being a human shafeshifter and having been kidnapped by an alien race for their zoo. And now there is a hope of escape. Will be out on Amazon in the first quarter of 2016.

For those in the Christian world, Merry Christmas. For those in other places with other beliefs, have a wonderful end of year with family and friends.

Happy Holidays

Anne McCaffrey and Pern – Isobelle Carmody and Obernewtyn

Recently friends decided to re-read all of the Pern Novels.  So far Tehani Wessely and Marisol Dunham  read the first in the series and blogged about it here. To keep in the spirit of things I decided to read along as well. I had only read two or three McCaffrey novels including The Crystal Singer and loved those.  I Dragonflightnever got around to the Pern novels. So glad I did  because I loved Dragonflight and look forward to the next one, Dragonquest.

Another wonderful series in the same genre is Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles.  I’m quickly reading The Sending before tackling the final of the series, The Red Queen, released on 12 November.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend a little time with Isobelle at Conflux and she was still writing the Red Queenfinal chapters – that was in early October and it’s just been released. The woman is magic I tell you.

Both these series have had lasting effects on several writers I know and many readers.  It’s amazing how McCaffrey wrote a whole series with females as the main protagonist, especially in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Isobelle did the same in Obernewtyn with a strong, self-motivated female protagonist. Both series show how the girls grow into strong, able women who are just as capable as men in saving their societies and cultures.  It motivated so many women to do the same for themselves.

It helps that both Carmody and McCaffrey write in a way that is very accessible with a range of wonderful characters and each in an unusual and sometimes dangerous world.

I see that often Isobelle Carmody is tagged as writing Young Adult books but, like Harry Potter, the Obernewtyn series is definitely for adults as well. I find myself reading quite a lot of so-called YA and wonder how these books might miss out on the mainstream reader because they are labeled YA – many are great stories that have, in my opinion, wider appeal.  Still, it’s the publishing world and I’m not sure anyone really understands what’s happening there.

I love a good old-fashioned book in my hands when it’s a new release or it’s a series I want to keep to re-read. That said, I’m happy to buy ebooks as well because often the cost is less. If I’ve  not got any books in a series then I will buy the e-book series but if I already own hard copies, I will wait till they are on special or have free shipping and buy from Booktopia (my favourite online book store I must admit).books-vs-ebooksI’m hoping that with the birth of my second granddaughter Darcy, I will have a chance to read these novels to her in time if my daughter doesn’t get there first.  I will get a chance with Ashlyn though and that suits me just fine. And whether e-book or hard copy, I’m good either way.

 

Writer Conferences and the Aftermath

It’s been six days since Conflux 11 finished and it’s funny the ‘down’ you get after such an event.  Over the next few weeks and months there are several more writer conferences in Australia including the Sydney Writers Freecon 6-8 Nov, GenreCon 30 Oct to 1 Nov, SuperNova 24-29 Nov to name just a few.  For the full listing see Events at http://www.cannedgeek.com.

As a writer it is very tempting to go to more of these conferences just for being amongst those who think and have fun like you do.  However, the cost, particularly of travel, can be prohibitive.  But it’s oh so tempting.  It’s a pity that those I really want to go to, those named above, are all so close together.  I guess it will take some planning but GenreCon or SuperNova for 2016 might be on the cards for me.

creativity word cloud on blackboard

creativity word cloud on blackboard

The other thing that these Cons engender is renewed energy to write. Several of my friends who attended are also writing madly at the moment. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I can see several great stories coming out of Conflux alone.

Even I have been working on what started out as a short story and is turning into a Novella. The writing mojo seems to be revved up and running and that makes me happy.  Added to that I have a few weeks where there are no visitors to Chez Sheely and no part-time work at the moment so plenty of time to get the fingers flying over the keyboard.

It’s Sunday but I decided after several weeks of neglect, the housework needed doing. As I cleaned toilets, bathrooms and laundry, dusted and wiped down cupboards etc I got a great idea for progressing my novella – adding in an additional plot line to make one part of the story much more interesting.

So I get creative ideas while doing housework. Hmmm.  That could end up with an overly clean house if I keep it up *chuckle*.  But I don’t think my husband would mind much. ht_apple_wireless_keyboard_ll_120716_wbOther writers I spoke to over the previous weekend used showers, swims and running to get the mind woken up and plotting. Seems just sitting at the keyboard can be detrimental to creativity.

And then there is the plotting – to plot or not to plot – that is the question (to hijack Shakespeare). Most writers agree that you need to know where your story is heading or ending to write.  I couldn’t disagree with that.  But how to get from beginning to end seems to be what suits each writer.  Some undertake detailed plotting with each chapter and scene dealt with before writing starts.  Others undertake a synopsis that provides the overall direction Plottingof the plot but leaves the freedom to move as the characters develop – updating the synopsis as you go.  I may add, that’s probably what I do and thanks to Marisol Dunham, writing as M.A. Dunham, who did a great workshop on that at Conflux.  Then there are those who simply sit down and let it happen.

All through the past ten years as I’ve been learning the craft of writing, there have been a lot of times when the advise is that you must plot. That’s great advice.  But it seems overall, that it is really each individual writer’s own process that needs to be developed.  You take in all the advice, structure, world-building, character development and so on, and then incorporate it into the way you, as a writer, work best.

So in general it is very much worth going to Cons and workshops and listening and learning from experienced and published authors, editors and publishers. The more you hear and take in, the more you begin to work out your own process. Advice is good, practice and writing and getting out there with your stories at critique groups. writers groups and submissions, is even better.

To me, writers conferences have two influences; the first is learning about other people’s processes and working out your own and the second, and to me the most important, is the energy to keep going and get creative.

 

Conflux 11 – Writers and Fans

Conflux is over for another year.  For the past eleven years the science and speculative fiction writers and fans conference has been held over the October long weekend in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.  It is a conference run by writers of speculative fiction with panels, workshops and activities that both assist writers and provide fun for fans.  It provides an opportunity to meet well-known and respected writers and spend time with them.

This year Isobelle Carmody was guest of honour.21716189560_5cd0c8f435_o  Prolific author of fantasy fiction, she generously gave her time while in the process of completing her latest book, the Red Queen, the final of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, on a very, very tight deadline – the launch is expected in early November.  Between launching books, participating in panels and kaffeeklatches (coffee meetings), she took the time to mingle with attendees and chat. She spent time signing copies of her graphic novel ‘Evermore’ which she produced with graphic artist Daniel Reed.

The Mistress of Ceremonies for the four day event was Laura E Goodin, poet, playwright and short-story 21892265602_6ecdfc8a97_oauthor, Laura had the attendees in stitches as her introductions and announcements were constantly interrupted by urgent mobile phone calls from her home with questions about zombie apocalypses, imminent danger of death and starvation and all from her scotch loving cat.  She also wrote and hosted the Conflux Radio Play performed by several of the Conflux panellists and authors. The audience loved it.21951008176_9030441ee0_o Radio-Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another well-know attendee was Sean Williams, author of over 100 short stories and 42 novels with several Aurealis Awards and a Ditmar Award to his name.

Several books were launched:

Striking-Fire-cover-1 The first was “Striking Fire” by Dirk Flinthart, published by Fablecroft Press.  Followed by 

“Hero” by Belinda Crawford, published by Odyssey Books,

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2014,  andBloodlines-web Bloodlines , published by Ticonderoga Publications,

“The Floating City” by Craig Cormick, published by Angry Robot

“The Time of the Ghosts” by Gillian Polack, published by Satalyte,  

Fanzine, “The Vortex” edited by Tara Ott and Maddy Piggott which can be found on Etsy and

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s latest anthology, Never Never Land.

The art show E Harvey Award went to Shauna O’Meara for the cover of Never Never Land and was richly deserved.

theneverneverland

Cabinet_of_Oddities_flier_smallerFor writers there were pitching sessions that allowed authors to take their novels to a publisher to see if they were interested in their stories.  For fans there was entertainment like the ‘Cabinet of Oddities’ and the Banquet with entertainment by Meri Amber, self-styled ‘geek’ pop-singer, song writer whose delightful voice and wonderful songs had the audience clapping and singing.  I recommend going to her website and sampling her music.MeriAmber

 

 

 

 

This was my 6th Conflux event.  Every one I’ve attended is fabulous and the workshops and events, as a writer, are invaluable for improving my knowledge and skill as a writer. So much so that I was able to pitch my novel this year.  Whether it will be taken up is another matter, but just the knowledge that I’ve finished it and a publisher liked the premise of the story is a whole deal for me.  Fingers crossed it’s good enough to be worked on and published.  But if not, it was a learning experience I would not forgo.

Also being with fellow writers and fans who love genre fiction is, in and of itself, worthwhile.  For four whole days I was with people who ‘got it’ – who thought the strange thoughts I did, and talked in stories and about stories and had fun with stories.

So Conflux 11 is over for 2015 but now the planning begins for Conflux 12 – Red Fire Monkey. If you’re a writer or fan of speculative fiction, set aside 30 September to 3 October 2016 and come and join in the fun. Put it in your diary.

I am delighted to thank Cat Sparks for the wonderful photo’s. Her coverage, as in past years, was terrific.

 

Time Constraints

toobusyWe are all busy people, at times more than others. Over the past few summer months I’ve had the wonderful experience of having many visitors to our little retreat on the South Coast.  At the same time we have had an increase in interest in our writing group and at least 4 regular new members.  As one of the coordinators this has meant extra work.  At the same time I have begun a new part-time activity; I now teach Project Management from 1 and 2 day workshops to 5 months Diploma level.  All fun and interesting but requiring a lot of my attention.

It has meant that I have not had very much time for writing, blogging or even reading.  I’m feeling out of touch with my author side *sigh*.

Now that autumn is upon us, and the courses are all mostly set up, I’m hoping some of my time can be spent getting to my writing. There is a book that needs editing, several short stories that need completion, editing and submitting and a lot of reading to catch up with all the work my fellow writers group has done over the past three months.

Fingers crossed I can get it all done.

 

Reading, Writing and Research

A post from a writing friend Leife Shallcross, got me thinking about what I read, how I get ideas, what I write as a result and what research I do. Added to that, another writing friend, Donna Maree Hanson blogged about her writing drought and how she got going using writing ‘dates’ – meeting with fellow writers for the purpose of writing.

This past weekend I got going on a shortish story when Donna and Marisol Dunham came to stay for the weekend. Donna actually got around 13,000 words written, Marisol wrote 2000 words but got around a sticky situation with her plot by re-writing bits and planning out a new plot direction to overcome the issue.  I slowly and thoughtfully wrote about 4,500 words of the new story. It was fun, productive and the wine with dinner on Saturday night followed by a game, made it a great weekend.

I’m still learning the craft of writing. I’m told it’s a lifelong enterprise. But what I love about reading is that I now read differently. Yes, the characters and story are still most important, but I now look at what is good about the what I’m reading. Do the words flow? Are the characters well written? If I love them, why? How is the story structured that makes me keep turning pages and going on to the next chapter?

I see from my favourite books that I like a fast paced book that tells me about the character’s background in bits and pieces throughout the story. I like good dialogue and I realise that writers who really love and know their characters, despite what they do the poor buggers throughout a book, get me to like them too. I keep that in mind now when I’m writing. Not that I let my internal editor slow down things too much, but I do write more slowly to ensure some of my writing ‘ticks’ don’t show up. Things like word repetition. It seems I love ‘small’ a lot.  Or slipping into ‘to be’ verbs rather than active verbs.

Our critiquing group has a lot to do with improvement in writing too. It’s hard sometime to hear that something you really thought was good has some hiccups that need fixing but it’s really worthwhile sitting through the pain to get the gain.

And then there are the other writers. One thing I have found is that writers in general are very, very generous with their time and are fun company. Even well-known writers like Isabelle Carmody or Russell Fitzpatrick or Kaaron Warren are happy to come to writing workshops and conventions to talk to apprentice writers.

So I read all the works of writer friends who are published, and that is delightful. Most fun reads recently included ‘Shatterwing’ by Donna Maree Hanson, ‘A difficult second album’ by Simon Petrie, Tehani Wesseley’s anthology ‘Phantazien’ and Alan Baxter’s ‘Bound’.

Then there is the research.  When I’m writing, like this past weekend, and especially when I’m doing a science fiction story, I need to make sure that what I’m writing doesn’t hit a nerve with science that is wrong and/or impossible [although sometimes skipping explanations entirely is useful]. These days we are so lucky to have the internet. A quick read on Wikipedia and follow the links to the scientific paper and journals. Then, before sending it out, a favour asked of knowledgable writer friends and, voila, something reasonably good from that point of view.

I also read many more blogs than I used to. There is so much good and/or fun information out there just for a little time at the keyboard. Between blogs and Facebook writer groups, it does get a little hectic keeping up.

Finally, it seems I also need to stop putting two spaces after every full stop. Apparently it’s old hat, old school, no longer acceptable. But after more than 40 years of ten finger typing, it’s a hard habit to break {hmmm… good title for a song}. But going back and deleting or find/replace is also annoying. Guess I’ll have to change that too.

Having spent time with doing this, I now have to go back to the PowerPoint and notes I’m preparing for a workshop next month. This was decidedly more fun though.