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Friday, March 30, 2012

Pigeon-squishing and Branding

I'm snowed about why every book has to have it's pointy bits lopped off so it can get crammed into a pigeon-hole. Aren't pointy bits what make the book interesting and different? Why must we become Carolyn Keen pumping out Nancy Drew books to be successful? (Not that I didn't love my share of Nancy Drew books growing up.)

By pointy bits, I'm not suggesting printing a bunch of trash. I mean the salient features which make the story unique. If it's a great story, for heaven's sake, tell the story! 

For that matter, why does an author have to stick to writing one type of book? The rebel in me hates this idea. So many ideas are jetting around in my head that I refuse to settle into one rut forever. I know I'm not alone in this. It seems to me that if a person gets crammed into that pigeonhole and spends the rest of her life writing the same thing, it becomes pedantic and formulaic. If you read one of their books, you've pretty much read them all. She might have a great following because she's branded herself, but she also won't know what could have been around the corner either. She'll (or he'll) be safe.

It seems to me that the idea is to bring forth something fresh and brilliant. Why can't vampires be in love stories (and be sparkly for crying out loud--vampires are MYTHS! You can change mythical beings however the heck you want to). Wait...done already. Enjoyed it. Why can't you have lovable space cowboy pirates in a half Chinese universe? Oops, done. Loved it. How about fairies in a Western? Why not have a family safari on another planet? How about a religious girl finding love in the depths of space? I want to tell them to kick out the claustrophobic walls and breathe free!

I think we get too bound up in branding and genres, sometimes. If Jos Whedon can do it, why can't all of us? So what if bookstore owners have to try and figure out a new shelf to put you on. They should try being creative for once! Make a new shelf. Do something intrepid! For the sake of great stories, let them fly and breathe free!
                                                                                Sincerely,
                                                                              Indigo Chase

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Safe Word and the Motorcycle Man

There is a family we know who has a family safe word. Whenever someone sees something they feel inappropriate for the family to see, that person yells out the safe word and they all (apparently) obediently look down. 

While it's possible that such a practice works for them,  those in my family harbor no such fantasies. When someone makes a comment, we all look up. I believe it's human nature to look at what someone is commenting about. That practice has saved many a person from stampeding animals, for one thing. 

It's the old elephant-in-the-room syndrome. If someone says, "Don't look at the elephant in the room," where are you going to look? Come on, be realistic. That's going to be one well-perused pachyderm.

So our family laughingly set our "un-safe word" as "AAAAaaarrrgh!" knowing that everybody was going to look up and groan.When we don't want them to look at things, we don't call attention to them and the kids blithely continue to do whatever it is they do in the car (read, play games, fight).

The other day we were going to church. As we turned the corner onto a main thoroughfare, I noticed a rather portly man on a motorcycle. That in itself might have been darkly noteworthy. We've seen all kinds of oddities on motorcycles: a man in a brown tartan suit with a parrot on his shoulder, various kinds of Hell's Angels, and German army officers to name a few.

But, as well, in the tradition of plumbers everywhere, this man had rather a large part of his posterior residing outside of his pants. When he went over bumps, more of his over-gracious derrière burst out.

Now normally I wouldn't call attention to something like that. But the "AAAAaaarrrgh!" just flew out of my mouth. I wanted to cover my eyes, but, being the driver, couldn't. All the children dutifully looked up and began groaning about how I'd poked their mind's eyes out with a stick.

I believe I'm going to suggest a change of "un-safe" words to "Prestidigitation" or something similar.

Princess A

Last year we were in Colorado for a family reunion. We stayed in a lovely mansion of a cabin with an amazing view of the mountains. Quite a delightful retreat.

My granddaughter A. (who was two) had found her way into the upstairs game room where the boys were all bunking. When the kids went in to play games, they found her there, getting into my son's bag of candy. She gave them one of those looks a cockroach gives you when it sees that big boot descending.

She whispered with an elfish grin, "Shut the door."

I think that given the body of her previous sayings and actions, A. will be cracking the String Theory by the time she's sixteen.

You can find more of Princess A.'s twisty wisdom at hinge-by-nimble.blogspot.com.




Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Indigo

Today, March 13th, 2012, is the birthday of Indigo Chase, author of science fiction and Dystopian novels. She's my alter ego, and partner in...mayhem. I'm in the middle of re-writes for H. Linn's books or I'd spell out for you the wonderful, mysterious life of Indigo Chase. History coming soon...

Tired Hacks Apply Elsewhere

I hate it when I'm watching a show or a movie and they have smelly writing. It's such a waste of time. My favorite shows or movies are almost always those which boast of great writers. I'll only mention shows right now.

The old Firefly series from Jos Whedon was a stellar show. It's one of my all-time favorites. Every episode (there were sadly only nine) boasted of several quotes which our family STILL quote all the time. "What you plan and what actually goes down aint 'zactly the same thing" or "Did that just fall off my ship?" (Everyone in the family has a cache of these.) I think it's criminal that they cut this piece of delicious fun off in its prime. There are so many questions I still want answered.

Psych is a fairly new (to us) series which has great writing. The one-liners fly right and left as two lovable loons plow through bodies pretending to be psychics. I love the weave between street smart police work and the crazy antics Sean gets up to when he's explaining his incisive observations.

Doctor Who is a fantastic series--one of the longest running sci-fi series in history. One would think that they'd have run out of interesting plots by now, but they continue to please. After all, the Doctor has all of time as his playground. We laugh, we cry, we toss our popcorn when we jump out of our seats.

Chuck's first year or so was absolutely LOVELY. The nerdisms really drove the show. Near the end he stopped being such a nerd and we lost interest a little.

Castle boasts Firefly's Mal as it's MC. I love him as Castle, but I wish they'd let Mal go back to his ship. There's only so long they can keep the sexual tension going in this one.

The Office, while it still had Michael Scott, was hilarious! The crazy mix of insanity vs. mischief really worked to keep us wanting more. 

There are many which once kept us up at night, but which no longer have writers who care enough to really write. That's when we turn off the TV or leave the theater. Do us a favor, TV writers. Please don't hand us tripe and demand that we watch. Don't just flop a few body parts, some sex and battling housewives onto the table as a crutch to carry the day. Give us something to sink our teeth into. Give us something to tickle our funny bones and make us think.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tag, You're It

Mary Walling asked me these questions: 
 
1. You're on a deserted island for six months with one person ~ who would it be and why?
     
I'd have to go with Christ first and my husband next. No offense, Sweety...:o) I just have way too much to ask Christ firsthand.
 
2. You were caught in a meteor shower which left you with strange abilities. Now every time you eat chocolate, you can ... what?
 
 Travel through time. I'd get everything done, talk to all of those amazing people from the past, and learn the truth of everything!
 
3. A friend takes you to an abandoned castle that has been hidden for centuries. She heard a rumor that great treasure was hidden in the sixth tower. Would you venture inside or turn it over to the authorities to investigate? What would you find? 
 
 Absolutely no question, I'd spend as much time in that castle as possible, exploring, taking notes and pictures, and then I'd have a faux battle in it, and then I'd have a huge feast with medieval clothing and thousands of candles for all my friends. As for the treasure, I'd leave that for the people who own the castle.
 
 4. You can only drink one type of beverage for the next year - what would it be and why?
 
 I guess it'd have to be water, since that's the only beverage the body has to have to stay alive...:o)
 
 5. Have you ever had to face a fear of yours? What was it and how did you overcome it, if you did?
 
 I was afraid of being on my own. After high school I went up to Alaska with my cousin to work in canneries. She left me to go back to the lower 48 and I was left alone to try and find a place to live and work. It was petrifying at first, but I found out I could do it. It definitely made me stronger. (And I found I could gut 5 good-sized salmon a minute...:o)
 
 6. Have you enjoyed certain ages in your life more than others? What is your ideal age and why? 
 
 Every age has had its challenges. They've all had good points and things I wished were different. 
 
 7. Has anyone totally amazed you in life? Who and why?
 
People amaze me on a regular basis. Nearly everyone has great potential in them. Christ, the guy who had to cut out of his arm to get out of a crevasse, Queen Elizabeth I who ruled like a man but had feelings like a woman, Sir Edmund Hillary who climbed Mt. Everest, Mother Theresa, Joseph Smith, my husband and children, my parents, Jean D'Arc, George Washing and the rest of the Founding Fathers, the soldier who gives his life to save his platoon, so many people! 
 
 8. Have you ever written in a character in a story patterned after a real person ~ out of spite, because that person ticked you off? 
 
  Absolutely. It's the best revenge...:o) 
 
 9. Do any of your characters make you totally crazy because they have a mind of their own and take you places you hadn't planned on?
 
 Yes indeed. I've had characters totally jump the outline and kick it to pieces. Sometimes I even let them get away with it.
 
 10. What is your most favorite phrase/paragraph that you have written? Can you share it? 
 
 I'll have to think about this one and get back later, since I'm putting off polishing to do this little exercise.
 
 11. If you could sit down and talk shop with any writer from any time period - who would it be and why?
 
It would have to be either Shakespeare or Jane Austen. For Shakespeare, I'd have loved to ask him the meanings of a few of his soliloquies. For Jane Austen, I'd have loved to thank her for all the joy she's given so many people down through the ages. And I'd have asked her to write about fifty more books. I'd have thanked Shakespeare too...:o)
 
 12.  When did you first realize you wanted to write books and what genre?
 
I've had books crashing around in my head since before high school. They only managed to bash their way out about five years ago. My first outline (which never made it out of that stage) was Prima Nochta--a historical novel. The first one to actual make it to the end (and subsequently to the end of a 4 book series) was Watcher at the Gates of Day, my Dystopian series.
 
 
13.  Who is your favorite book character and why?  What is your favorite book? 
 
I almost hate to say. There are so many. One of my favs is Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. I love how she's an intelligent, witty person, but isn't too mean about it.She's vulnerable but she can verbally cut you into little chunks if you deserve it.
 
14.  Life can be a challenge
sometimes. What do you do that helps you to get through life's challenges? 
 
I go compose something on the piano or squirrel away with a good book. 
 
15.  I know that some of you do something special when you write.  I like to drink iced lemon water and eat peppermint patties(sugar free) or yum, dark chocolate.  What special something do you do when you write? 
 
I like to eat corn nuts. I don't like music or any other distraction unless I can edge it out. If I'm unsnarling a problem, though, I want it quiet. 
 
16.   My parents were my inspiration growing up.   Who has inspired you the most in your life?  Why? 
 
My mother told me bazillions of stories growing up. I was ALWAYS asking for stories from her bottomless well of imagination. She inspires me with her stellar example as well. My father inspired me not to be a quitter, and to search for the truth. 
 
17.  I have traveled a lot in my lifetime.  My favorite place to live was Colorado where there were four seasons and the beautiful mountains.  Have you traveled and if so, what was your favorite place and why? 
 
I also lived in Colorado and would move back in an instant. I've gone to all but 13 states, Canada, Mexico, and nearly all the European countries. My favorite places were Austria and Germany. I would dearly LOVE to go back. Greece was fun too. 
 
18.  Have you ever used a family member as a character in one of your novels? 
 
Once. He's not a family member anymore. 
 
19.  What have been the inspiration for the title of your novels?  A person, place or thing? 
 
There have been many. For Psyquake, my husband suggested it jokingly, among a whole bunch of silly things. He was amazed when I actually used it. 
 
20.  "What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" 
 
Besides going to the Celestial Kingdom? I'd like to find several of my ancestors, find my family castle, climb K2 and several frozen waterfalls, map the ocean floor, and raise fantastic children to adulthood. 
 
21.  Are you a pushover for everyone who wants you to do stuff for them?
Why? 
 
Often. I feel that doing service helps negate a bunch of the rotten things I do. I hope the plus side of my ledger outweighs the negative side. 
 
22.  How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
 
That's a silly question. A person's childhood provides their main frame of reference. I doubt there are very many people who can totally negate their childhood when writing. 
 
Check out Theresa Sneed's answers too. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Happy Birthday to Doctor Seuss
May he rest in suit of puce.
May he sleep in piles of fluff
Which was gathered from the Schmuffs.

I hope he's watching from afar
On his Schprinklehorn bubble car
Watching as we try to live
The simple lessons he did give.

Treat your neighbors as if they
Were your favorite mates of play.
Stars on bellies matter not
When we treat them like they've got.

Thank you, Doctor, for your smarts
We sure loved your writing arts
Whimsical pictures made us glad
When we were down and feeling bad.

May you know that we are proud
Of your gift to the writing crowd
We hope you're writing up above
Not making ooblek, which we do not love.

Happy Birthday!
H. Linn Murphy

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kilt Kraziness


In exchange for my work as editor for our clan newsletter, my relative, Gussie, sent me kilt material in our tartan. 
For the better part of a year I was petrified to cut into the material. At $100 a foot I didn't want to mess it up in any way. OK, I'm a chicken. I asked knowledgeable friends (who had pleated kilts before) to give me a hand with it, since I'm such a visual learner; they all had other things to do with their time. My sister, ever the practical one, said I most assuredly should take it to a tailor and have HIM do it. If he messed it up, I could make him reimburse me for damages. (Not that our tartan is all that readily replaceable.) Perhaps I should have. But I am a stubborn Scot cuss from both sides...;o)
This year (I think it was 2008) I decided that I wouldn't let another St. Patrick's Day go by without being in my own kilt. So about two days before the big day I got out the material. There it sat in all its tartan glory, just daring me to make that first cut. I tell you it was nerve-wracking. I just knew that as soon as I made the cut, I'd remember that it really needed to be about two inches longer.

Finally, the next day, I summoned up the courage and just DID it. And it went amazingly well. Of course there are all of those nice straight lines to help me out! That was easy. So then I spent another several hours reading the instructions Gussie sent with the tartan, and getting on the computer to see if there were any more visual tutorials. They pretty much said exactly what Gussie's instructions said.  Not nearly enough.
 
Finally I just bit the bullet and trusted in my intuition. I began pleating, following the instructions to the T, except for the inverted pleats that were supposed to go next to the two aprons and looked unnecessary. It went pretty well. I basted at the top AND the bottom—a thing I refuse to do with any of my other sewing. Plus there were three layers of pins. I felt CONFIDENT! So I held the thing up and...

It was HIPPOPOTAMIC!

So I took all the dang basting out and all three layers of pins and made the pleats smaller. You still have to include the full sett (the entire pattern square) in each pleat. I just made them closer together. Then I re-basted and re-pinned and took a deep breath and held it up.

It was still HUGE!

Bother! This was taking a century. So I took it all out and re-pleated again, this time without the dang basting. Who needs it anyway with three layers of pins? I held it up again and (sort of like the Three Bears) this time it was just right. Everything fit. It looked smashing! So I ironed all the pleats flat and began sewing them in. 

By this time it was evening and we were going over to a friend's for dinner and a movie. The kilt went too. Try sewing on expensive material and eating popcorn while watching a movie and also trying to avoid getting cat hair all over it—lots of jumping up to wash hands. I sewed and sewed and sewed, all by hand. Yep, I have a perfectly good sewing machine, but I was being a SCOT! Hah! 
 
So I got nearly to the end of sewing the pleats after having already sewn in the waistband and noticed two things. 1. I had messed up the pattern on one of the pleats about a third of the way in, (Was I temporarily insane? Drunk on ice water? Sleep deprived at 11:30pm? Who knew?) and 2. I would really have to have that inverted pleat you remember I'd thought I could ditch. It looked funky. So I painstakingly went back and picked out the waistband next to the wretched botched pleat and fixed it. Then I had to figure out what to do about the inverted one.

That thing was annoying to fix. I had no idea whether it was supposed to go over the gore or what. Finally I put it right over the last pleat and called it good. I sewed it in and held up the perfectly pleated, deceptively lovely thing and gaped in horror.

IT WAS TOO LITTLE!

Both of the aprons are supposed to go from hip to hip and the pleats go from hip to hip too. Now it was ten inches too little! How the freaking heck did that happen? What to do? Firstly, I ditched the whole thing since it was nearing 3am. That night I dreamed about that stinkin' kilt, since the tartan with the mind of its own had lain there taunting me all day and much of the night while I worked on it. 

That tartan pattern nearly gave me nightmares and my husband wondered why I was so bleary-eyed the next morning. (Just kidding. He didn't notice anything...;op) But then I dreamed that I was able to make the inverted pleat where it was supposed to be and it would look better. Not a bad come-back dream, eh?

The next morning was St. Patrick's Day and my kilt looked funky, so I got up early to work on it. I asked my husband how I looked in it and he nodded and said, “Uh huh...fine.” He's the helpful sort. I had to wear my green 9th Aberdeen 'jumper' (a sweatshirt which I got from one of the Scottish Scouts who came to visit here recently) so the kids wouldn't pinch me black and blue while I was getting my kilt conquered. I had to re-pick the waistband out for a few inches both ways and move the pleat. Amazingly, it worked. The kilt was still too small but it didn't look nearly as odd as it had before. Some of it I could even disguise under the dagged corset I wear over it.

I wore my kilt plus a Scout 'muffler' (scarf) I'd gotten from one of the 9th Aberdeen Scouts, to my Cub Scout Pack meeting and we tossed the caber and hammers and had a lovely (though squirrelly) time! Then for the next Sunday, I made the girls all scarves and the boys and my husband each a tie with the leftover bits. According to several non-Scot churchgoers, our “outfits” looked smashing!

So. I know several ways, now, NOT to do kilts. I'd be happy to do consulting for the intrepid kilt-maker. And eventually I will either pick out the hours and hours of sewing and re-do it all again to my exact measurements, or (best case scenario all around) lose ten disgusting inches of girth! I think I'll go with the last one. Someday. In the meantime, remember I can toss the caber.

This is a great treatise on pleating a modern kilt:

This is a really good site to look at for pleating an early kilt with photos:
Don't worry about the noisy tartan background on the type. There are pictures...;o)

This is a good site to look at when deciding for box pleats or for knife pleats:

This is a good one if you want to go shopping for accessories:

Finally, when someone asks you what you're wearing under your kilt (a common question) you smile brightly and say, “Shoes and socks!”