Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I'm going to do WHAT?

So, the social phobe author is going on an adventure right in her own backyard. The Livingston County Writers and Poets club is meeting tomorrow at the Chip Holt Nature Center. This is literally right around the corner from my house. I'm more than a little nervous about this. That said, I recognize it would really do me a great deal of good to go and have something resembling a social life.

I am planning on bringing my bullet journal and my writing journal. I'm leaving the morning pages stuff at home because that is the sort of thing I'm supposed to not share with people. It's like my daily journal (and interestingly the content is shifting in that direction too despite my efforts to stay focused on writing in there). Both are private and generally not something to let most anyone view.

Wish me luck or something. If it goes well, I'll be attending both meetings on a given month (first and third Wednesday of the month). I just worry that it is going to be a situation where I'm the youngest person in the room and I completely don't fit in at all. Because social phobia says this would be a horrible thing and I should just give up before I try. Scumbag brain is getting medicated for this jaunt.

My work on rebuilding plot maps is slowly progressing. Other things have been getting in the way today, like paying bills and dealing with papers. Because not everything is going to be about writing, yanno? Next Tuesday, I will have the next installment of The Iron Lily up. The following Tuesday, I should have the next installment of Dacia's War, provided everything goes according to plan.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Craft of Writing: Organize and Attack with Mind Bullets!

I am adjusting my bullet journal and how I approach writing again. It seems to be a thing that I am going to do regularly. This is not a bad thing, just time consuming. Still, as I work on this, I am finding the creative well is beginning to fill up again. Perhaps the biggest change that I have made over the last few weeks is just making a point of dedicating a solid two hours everyday to journal writing. Spending that time focusing on myself is actually helping me find my voice again. A fantastic thing when you have been in a writing slump, to be honest.

In the pic below, I changed my layout a little bit. The weekly work log is divided up into three sections. The one at the extreme left is morning, the middle is afternoon, and the final is evening. I am also now adding appointments in so that I can keep better track of time spent on things. I also deliberately added blogging to my list of daily tasks. As I am having some difficulty staying on top of work for different books, I added a section noting my major things to get done this week on that front as well.

I am still in the process of getting plot maps done. It has been frustrating work, but this is what happens when I don't write down what I was planning and I have to back track to figure out what to do. I did have a brainstorm Friday night when I was out picking up takeout for dinner and found my way out of one plot hole. Maybe I'll get lucky and find another bolt of inspiration to resolve other plot holes.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Summer's End: Harvest Festivals of Evandar

Image from Pexels.com
The autumn is a season of harvest. While the harvest of the world of Evandar is far more labor intensive than harvest in much of the real world, it is a time of largess and celebration (when the harvest is good). For the people of Evandar, autumn is considered to begin with the first major harvest of the major crop of the region.

Generally, this is the wheat or other grains that were planted as late in the last year as possible so that there is grain growing as soon as all is thawed. The practice was one that the people of northern Evandar developed to compensate for the challenges of the growing season in that mountainous region.

The first harvest celebration is known only as First Harvest. It is celebrated when the final field of early, ripe grain is harvested. A corn dolly is made and left standing in the field to draw the attention of mischievous spirits to the field rather than the places where the grain is stored. Sometimes, the corn dolly will be paraded around the field with great ceremony and people trying to douse the dolly with water. The general tone of the celebration is joyful. This is also a time when many marriages take place because the harvest is considered to be an auspicious time for weddings and they have no reached the time where multiple things are due for harvesting.

The second harvest celebration is a few weeks later. The second full moon of autumn is known as the Harvest Moon and under the light of it (and by the light of bonfires) there will be harvesting done out in the fields. At the same time, however, there are races, feasting, and celebrating. The Harvest Moon celebration is also one of the ones that is focused on fertility. A pregnant woman will be chosen as the Harvest Queen and sit upon a throne of sorts. She will for the evening outrank local nobility and, later, rule the time between Harvest Moon and the final celebration. The Harvest Queen is housed in the local noble's home as an important guest. When the final celebration comes, the Harvest Queen is sent back to her home with a chest that holds the donations and gifts of homage that she received. (Most often, the gifts and such are things that she would need to care for her child and manage her household.)

The final harvest celebration comes after the first frost that lasts beyond sunrise. This is known as the Cold Harvest. Some also call it the Blood Harvest. During this final harvest time, herds are thinned and meat is prepared for storage. Where the other celebrations are filled with joy and excitement, the Cold Harvest is a time of great solemnness. The Harvest Queen kills the first fatted stock animal with an invocation that the animal's death be taken by the bane-workers (the deamons) and the animal's blood keep their thirsty lips away from human throats.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Serial Stories Update!

Hi folks!

The major depressive episode that was approximately a year long is finally gone. Unfortunately, I've rather lost the thread of where I was going with both of the stories. This week, I am in the process of back tracking through the past installments. My goals are to reestablish what the plot was that I had been working on and to build upon it to get things moving forward again.

It may sound odd but these two very different stories are connected. And they connect to the main stories of the Umbrel Chronicles. In fact, there are going to be two major characters from books six and seven showing up once I reach the place that it makes sense for it to happen. There will be some other easter eggs between the serial stories and the novels. This is something that I do have fairly clear recollection of planning on doing.

The challenge is to recover what the mechanics of said eggs was going to be. Right now, they're scrambled. They say you can't unscramble an egg. A chemist once told me that with sufficient resources, it would be entirely possible to do so by way of breaking protein bonds. Now, what does this have to do with my stories? Precious little, because advanced chemistry is not a thing yet in this fictional world. But, if it is possible to unscramble an egg with proper resources and time, it is possible for me to unscramble my plot lines too.

I do have one other thing to add to today's post. I want to apologize for how whiny Halthor has been. It wasn't my plan for him to be at that point, but the character is morphing. I am realizing that there are some deeper unresolved issues that he is going to be struggling with along side the original adventure/mischief of fate plot line. Hopefully, I will get a better handle on it and try to move Halthor from the 'teenage angst' position to 'struggling adult' position instead. Because he's not a youth and his personality was supposed to be more goal oriented and classic hero stature, with a few twists. This take on the Hero's Journey is not quite going as I planned.

Oh, before I forget, y'all are going to love to hate Al-Uzza. She is based on some individuals I have known in the past with their worst traits mashed into one person. But, don't worry, unlike some others in this universe, she is going to get exactly what she deserves for her malarkey.

Have a wonderful evening!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Flora et Fauna: Bestiary & Herbal.

Hi folks!

I have vaguely talked about how I wanted to make an herbal manuscript in the style of the Voynich manuscript and other medieval documents. I have made similar statements regarding a bestiary. Today, I have begun assembling my supplies and making decisions on how to work things. The bestiary and the herbal are going to be in two basic black bound sketchbooks that you can pick up pretty much anywhere art supplies are sold.

I am still deciding between the different types of tools I want to use for illustration. While I love the vividness of the pens I have, I feel like they would not blend well with the medieval style. I have pencils, but I feel that they are too soft in coloration. I am still trying to pick the best way to put the color to the images. I have some very rough ideas of how to approach this. I am tempted to get my hands on some tempera paints and use them. After all,when the medieval documents were created, the colors were very vivid.

I know how to handle the text. I am going to be using a dip pen for this. The text is going to be written up in a script that I am in the process of developing. I think that the text is going to be the hardest part of this project. I will, however, be putting it forth in English. Specifically, it is going to be a polyglot of English from multiple eras, up to and including Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and early Modern English. This is going to be challenging, but I think it is going to ultimately be easier than using the language that I am still in the process of developing.

I will be adding to the images I post of these things a 'translation' of the text pictured. It will be using the spellings as fitting for the period that I am drawing from and include at times some lesser known letters such as thorn ( Þ ). Incidents where I am using unfamiliar to modern eyes spellings, I will include the modern spelling beside it in brackets and different colored font.

This is going to be a huge project. But, I think it will serve me well to get me back into the swing of describing this world. First images, ideally, will be done some time next week.This will be accredited to a character in the series and I will be the 'translator' of the document. Because I am a dork like that.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Craft of Writing: Bullet Journal manipulation & stuff.

So, the last several weeks have been exhausting and chaos. Having both boys going back to school on Wednesday is a glorious thing and I hope to get a lot of stuff done. This hope has lead me to sit down and revise my Bullet Journal layout for the week. It still has the essential elements from the last two I shared.

I have added, however, a second page. The page is divided up into seven sections. Obviously, one section for each day. It is where I am going to use the 'rapid logging' technique from standard Bullet Journal practices to note what writing I get done on a given day. This is to keep track of two things. First, I want to keep some kind of record how much writing I am doing on a given day. I want to get an idea as to where my writing time is getting spent. If I am spending my writing session derping around on Facebook and Pinterest, I really want to catch that and correct it.

Secondly, I want to get a picture of what writing I am doing. I know this sounds just about the same as what I just said. The thing here is that I have a really wide range of topics that I am writing about. It is hard right now for me to tell where I need to do more work and where I can trim back my word count expectations. My goal is three fold on adjusting blog posts. First, I want to get back to posting consistently across all of my blogs. Second, I want to have my posts be of higher quality. And, finally, I want my blog posts to be a more efficient means of expressing what I have in mind.

So, this is why I made the adjustments to my weekly set up in my Bullet Journal. It is a small thing but it seems to be small changes that are allowing me to make forward progress. I am trying to focus on progress instead of perfection. I saw a thing on Facebook where they were encouraging people to focus on just 'do the thing' instead of trying to make it meet some nebulous idea of perfection. The argument is that perfection is not possible. Improvement, however, only happens when we do the thing many times and focus on completing the task.

I am shifting how I have my planning pages for my blogs set up. Up until today, I had them all together in one binder. Each one had its own set of colored pages and was divided into their own sections. Theoretically, this was the most organized method that I could have. Unfortunately, that big binder was big enough to be difficult to use. This resulted in little to no planning. I considered shifting blog planning into my Bullet Journal but remembered, again, that having everything together in some kind of mishmash really was the reason why I was separating things out.

Now, we have a bit of a glut of school supplies at my place. I took my multicolored paper and put it into folders for each individual little stack. Next, I am going to sit down and make a few adjustments to how I am planning on those stacks of paper. Right now, everything is just listed on the page. There is no outlines. Just vague topic notes. I have come to the conclusion that outlines are going to be necessary if I am going to actually get anything done. (By the way, this means more material coming for Dacia's War and the Iron Lily over the next few weeks. This week is a set-up week where I am trying to make things more user friendly.)

The biggest irony right now, however, is that I look at my stock pile of notebooks and I feel torn as to if I should grab one to start writing down a 'book bible' for the series that I am writing. I catch myself worrying some about this turning into a fiasco with a random pile of notebooks with a few entries in there and nothing more. This was sort of how things turned out the last time I attempted this level of organization. That, however, was almost 20 years ago and I was in the middle of figuring out what the hell I was doing at college.

I have obviously learned some things. My anxiety is understandable given how the last year has been for me. I am not going to give up. I have worked too hard to get to where I am now. And I still have a story to finish. (A story that is going to be approximately 20 books if I keep going at the rate I am with these books thus far.) I am turning 37 this year. I can't afford to let myself run in circles going 'what if I screw [XYZ] up?' and coming up with as many catastrophic images of disaster as I can think of. The last year was full of that. A good amount of it came from brain chemistry being off kilter. That's been addressed now. So, it is time to get back to work.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Flora et Fauna: Update note.

I have been lax in my updates and writing. I apologize for this. I have finally found my colored pencils and picked up a set of watercolor pencils. This may not seem a big deal, but my primary medium for drawing natural themes are pencils. I've tried with markers and what I posted most recently is one of the better results. I also found one of my extra sketchbooks. This one is fairly small, but that actually works in my favor.

It allows me to put something together that more closely resembles the herbals of antiquity than the work of John James Audubon. (Not that I don't love Audubon's Birds of America and other works, it is just a level of work that is beyond me.) I tried with the larger paper but I simply couldn't get to where I had the organization and groundwork laid out for it. Now, I will attempt to keep my sketches detailed.

They will, however, be more like what you would find in this English herbal. It is also my plan to write notes with my sketches. I will be reworking the sketches I already have completed. I am looking for my other blank mini-sketchbook to create a bestiary. I may wind up just buying another one. (And I may even have it with different cover designs on it too.)

As the kids will be going back to school in a week and a half, I may not have a whole host of sketches and such for you. After school starts up again, though, I will be working on getting back to that previous level of work produced from before that terrible depressive episode started.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Craft of Writing: Making a Writing Schedule.

My writing Bullet Journal
So, I mentioned in my last craft of writing note that I have reworked my bullet journal. The layout is far more streamlined. It is the simplest that I have seen anywhere. (I still look through Pinterest and other places for ideas on how to improve my bullet journaling. Multiple colors assigned to different major projects is one example that I lifted from another place.)

I realized that I was attempting to go after things from a perspective of DO ALL THE THINGS! This is partly due to the fact that I am very ambitious in my thinking about my projects. And it is partly due to the fact that my initial work setting this up was a combination of a mixed episode and using it as an attempt to shift my attention from feeling awful. All together, it was just a problem to work with. I briefly considered just pitching the notebook. Then my refusal to waste paper hit me and I decided that I would just try again.

My 'pocket' Day Planner
The other thing that got influenced by the bullet journal concept wasn't just organizing my writing stuff. It was also how I approached my day planner. This originally was more like what FLYLady uses. Then I realized that format really wasn't working well for me with everything going on in my life.

Cue my setting my planner up with time blocked out as seen in the example to the left. It was almost effective. Then I realized that I needed to apply the bullet journal organization techniques towards my schedule. Add this to my finally having that damned depressive episode end and I found myself becoming better at scheduling my day. What isn't pictured in my day planner here is the time immediately after I get up. Some days, I may be up at 6, but more often, I am up at 5 am and I sit down to write my morning pages immediately after I am up for the day. (With a cup of strong coffee and my favorite pencils. I'll talk more about that next week.)

Later in the day, I block out time for writing in general. I am finding that if I give myself the same time to work in just about every day, it gets easier to write. Granted, I may just be writing rambling angry tirades about the idiots I find myself dealing with on a somewhat regular basis. (White supremacists repulse me and for some reason they seem to be regularly regurgitating the pablum of the Third Reich on platforms that I frequent on an increasing basis.) All of that writing is focused right now on just getting writing done.

My goal is to get myself to producing at a volume I want. This means effective time management techniques. The daily planner and the bullet journal are proving to be two very helpful tools. Also, I confess, I have been using a timer on my work as well. It was refreshing to find that I could still pull off writing approximately 300 words in fifteen minutes. (I have started doing prompt based writing again. I will post some of the prompts later this week. I need to pick the good ones to share with you because a lot of them are pretty lame, in my opinion.)

As my late Grandfather said, half of getting the job done is just showing up to work. A writing schedule is part of making sure that I do that. I also make sure that my schedule is one that does not get interfered with. It is hard and some days, I am not half as successful as I would like to be. But, every day is a chance to do better and do more.

Keep your chin up and keep trying to do your best, folks. ♥

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Editing whilst hypomanic?

Hi folks,

If you're keeping score, I'm still trying to get medications sorted out. I'm somewhere between hypomanic and full blown mania right now. So, what am I doing (aside from cleaning all the things and getting super frustrated with everything)? Editing stuff. It is going SO SLOWLY.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Craft of Writing: Bullet Journal stuff (again)

Hi there, everybody!

I hope you have all been doing quite well (or at least are at a place you can tolerate and find some enjoyment on a regular basis). I have been all over the place of late. There's been things happening on the health front that has given me a new perspective on things. (That depressive episode that started in the fall last year is finally gone thanks to Wellbutrin, but now I'm hypomanic and cleaning/organizing everything. It's been interesting.)

Among the new perspectives is a change to how I approach the Bullet Journal method. I had started using a kind of fancy layout for a weekly thing. It did not help me get anything done. So, I stripped all the fancy bits off and turned it into a single page. It is nothing super fancy, but my focus was to be utilitarian with the whole thing right now. Because I need less distractions right now with my attention span being a bit short.

The first line has the week noted (I used the format of : July 23 - 29  2017.). Beneath this there are two boxes with my tasks noted. On the left side is my daily tasks. As you may be able to see in the picture, I have listed only four things as stuff I MUST do everyday. This actually takes a lot of pressure off of me. On the right side is the box with my weekly tasks. Each day of the work week has two lines. The tasks for each day is noted in my own style of short hand.

Beneath this, there are two additional sections. On the left is the running tally of my daily word count for a handwritten manuscript that I started back during NaNoWriMo last year. On the right side is my tracker for the work I'm doing as I reboot (again) doing the Artist's Way exercises. My goal is to get through all of the exercises for the week. It doesn't feel like it is a super ambitious goal and I am devoting a specific time block for working on it. (It's when the kids have their 'homework' time for their summer school stuff. They hang out in the living room reading books as I sit in the kitchen and to my writing. It seems to be working well.)

I have my reminder to do my planning on Thursdays for my writing stuff as well as my regular day planner and calendar stuff. I also am going to try to keep track of my average word count on my blog posts.

At the bottom of the page in an entirely different color (so it grabs my attention), I have written down two reminders that I keep applying in other areas of my life because I tend to be a perfectionist.

  • Imperfect work is still GOOD work!
  • Goal = progress not perfection
I'm trying to be realistic in how I approach this stuff. We'll see how successful I will be this time next week. In addition to all of the writing stuff, I still have things to do like getting ready for my youngest's birthday party on Saturday and the usual work of being Mom. The kind of fun thing, honestly, about the Bullet Journal, is how the really useful parts about notation are creeping into my day planner. Which helps me stay on top of everything. So, I think I like the Bullet Journal concept. Now I'm just trying to figure out how it works best for me in multiple areas.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Review: Angels: An Endangered Species

    Title: Angels: An Endangered Species
    Author: Malcolm Goodwin
    Publisher: Simon and Schuster Date: 1990

    I've signed out three book and I'm tempted to try the trick of reading all of them at once, but it would make it difficult to keep a log on each of them. The first one I am reading is prompted out of a combination of curiosity and a desire to understand these beings I have seen in visions.

    I've finished nearly half of this book and it really is rather useless to me. So I'm just going to stop reading it.

    [Note: I had forgotten entirely about reading this book. It really made a poor impression on me if I can't even remember it.]

    Originally Published on Livejournal on 3/25/2006.

    Book Review: Universe in a Nutshell

    Author: Stephen Hawking
    Title: The Universe in a Nutshell
    Publisher: Bantam Books Date: Nov. 2001

    The introduction repeats Hawking's amazement at how successful his first book, A Brief History of Time, was. It carries a simmilar feeling that is in the introduction to his previous work, Black Holes, Baby Universes, and Other Essays. The layout of the book includes alot more graphics, so it is like the illustrated reprint of A Brief History of Time. 

    The illustrations are entertaining and informative. It helps make the book more accessable. Hawking's change of written formant and being less dependant on front loading and sequential development makes the book more engaging.

    Hawking's discussion on Einstein is refreshingly free of hero worship. He treats einstein and his work with a sense of humanity and warmth of an old friend remaniscing. Also, the description of Einstein's work and it's impact is wonderful.

    While I can appreciate the EPR paradox and I can see how the apparent result is governed by the Heisenberg Uncertianty principle, I find it difficult to accept that the pair of particles in a conjoined (entangled) system which are indentical can't give information about each. I find myself thinking that if one measures something on the particles, different qualities at the same time, that it would be possible to work around the Uncertianty principle. I also question how such a system has issues with that principle.

    The argument that time and space are essentially the same dimension is one that I'm forced to disagree with. The reason why is because it is possible for a body to remain at the same point in space but not for it to remain at the same point in time while doing so. I believe that time and space re two separate dimensions. I suspect that space and time are ... correlated and that there can be interplay between the two. I do not believe, however, that the motion of a body within time is the same as those of a body within space. One can not move laterally in time, except possibly on the quantum level if bi-location is what I believe it to be. Clearly, we do not have any experimentally recorded evidence of backward motion in time.

    I believe, however, that time has a dynamic effect on space and it is possible for space to have sucn an effect on time. These effects would be identified as forces. Also, I can not argue that time is a function of energy or some interplay between forces or quantum particles. Time is fluid. I believe it can fold, loop, and act in many different ways. Space, however, is not as fluid as time. Space is close to the rubber sheet analogy of Hawking's. Time... time is independent of this. It can have an apparent reaction to physical objects, gravitational forces, and space. The apparent effects observes are due to the interactions between space, matter and the forces at play. Time, however, is not impacted, the measurement device (matter) is.

    What is needed is a method to observe (or measure) time with a method not influenced by forces that act on space and matter. The photon cloc is the beginning of an appropriate device, with the exception of one thing. A proton has mass, a very small mass, but there is mass. I suspect that if corrections were made for all the Lorenz contractions and the impact of said contraction of mass on the wave form of the photon, one could develop a clock that is dependant on pure energy.

    Originally published on Livejournal on 3/25/2006

    Book Review: In Our Time, a Memoir of A Revolution

    I have been reading a book titled In Our Time: A Memoir Of A Revolution, written by Susan Brownmiller. As I have read this book, I find myself inspired by their activism and the explosive energy of their movement. I also find myself disagreeing with some of their political views and thinking that some of their focus was/is in the wrong areas and that these activists have ignored the major needs of women. Women's Liberation and Feminism are not the same thing, I recognize this. As I learn more about these movements through my research, this book, and the information I'm given by my instructors, I find that I have more to think about.

    Brownmiller's prologue and her first chapter, entitled The Founders, was both interesting and educational. I enjoyed how she provided character sketches and her warm, intimate style. The way that she transitions from this seemingly personal introduction into the nuts and bolts of the movement makes it feel as though you're sitting in conversation with her. She raises several very interesting and valid points, suggesting that the needs and the social status of women has been ignored for far too long. In the lingering after effects of these movements, I think that we've reverted back to that same state of ignoring women.

    I find myself asking, where has the Women's Liberation movement served to liberate us? It seems to me at this point in time to have given us a state of confusion. This state of confusion is questions of our status in society, the validity of our needs and experiences, and what our roles are in society. The blank response from the government makes sense, because the government can not really influence social issues. These issues... they're social, not legal. Women's Liberation and Feminism did act to present solutions to some of the legal issues that were an outgrowth of these confusing and painful problems that we women face. I can't help but ask, however, are we truly better off then we were at the beginning of the Women's Liberation movement?

    I can't help but wonder, if the Women's Liberation movement acted to raise the consciousness of the nation and the world to the needs of women, then why are we still blamed when we're victimized? Why are we still treated as though we're second-class humans (or worse, depending on where you are in the world)? This is but a small part of the problems that still haunt us, and in many respects the highly militant activism of various groups in Women's Liberation seems to have presented additional blockages. Now, when women gather to discuss women's issues, we find ourselves quick to shoot down our activism or our anger at various issues because we don't want to make waves and there by make things worse for ourselves. The fear of being labeled a feminist is so great that we police ourselves for any slight deviation from the role that we're expected to have.

    This fear has killed the activist spirit of the Women's Liberation movement. And it was fermenting within the movement, from what I can see thus far in Brownmiller's book. They didn't focus on the fundamental issues, the core perspectives at the base of these surface issues. These women worked to ban pornography, not to challenge the attitudes behind it. Where did these women challenge the social view that nudity was forbidden and that the human body was some how impure, the woman's especially? Where did these women challenge the cultural attitudes that said it was alright to degrade women and to hold them down because they were some how flawed for being born female? The attack on pornography could have been a start to that, possibly even the attacks on advertising that encourage this attitude. But the focus shifted and became heavily suggestive of the superiority of women.

    The abortion issue looks like the culminating point for this. As I've been reading about it in this book, I find the wide range of views all unified by one thing. That single unifying point is that women are superior because we can give birth. The sexual physiology of women is the most visible aspect of their feminity, but this is just ridiculous. They claim to be experts, but how can they be if the ignorance of their bodies is encouraged? How can they claim to know the value of their sexuality if they continue to insist that there's something wrong with the acts of sexuality? It troubles me to see this under current in a movement that I once thought had resulted in the abilities that I now have to attend college and be successful in the workplace. Where Brownmiller's work would have been inspiring, I find that it doesn't so much fill me with a sense of wonder for their successes, so much as it fills me with anger. The glaring points where the feminists ignored the vital issues and continued their pet projects, the points where the Women's Liberation movement backed off of some major issues after making some form of minor success, and how there is a high handed air of superiority by virtue of their sex angers me.

    This post originally published on Livejournal on 3/5/2006. Text presented exactly as it was on LJ.

    Monday, June 26, 2017

    Mild rant: Writing schedule?

    Hi everybody!

    It's me, your favorite procrastinator writer at large and I have another confession to make. Since school went on summer break last week, my writing schedule has been shot to the outer darkness if not worse. I am trying to juggle kids and activities for them, my typical household stuff, and my own appointments and whatnot. It is really frustrating me. I have been trying to ascertain just what the best solution is to this matter.

    It is somewhat sobering to realize that last year when I was doing all the things at the same time, I was clearly in the grip of mania (or is it hypomania, it's hard for me to understand the difference in the terms). At the time, I just thought 'hey, I can finally do stuff like I was before I got sick.' and laughed off my therapist at the time's amazed response that I was doing ALL THE THINGS. Now, however, I am realizing that I need to schedule things. That is proving a lot more challenging than I anticipated.

    I still have that bullet journal I started. I also have the planning stuff that I started before. My piles of planning materials, however, are not equating to getting planning done or acting on that planning. I know some of my problem is the fact that there has been a major household shift in how our days go. And I know that some of my problem is the fact that I am still dealing with a depressive episode. (I am contemplating attempting to write 'emo poetry' in an attempt to break this creative block. It is warring with the thoughts of just doing pages in a coloring book. Sloth is presently winning this whole rage and nothing is getting done except for my anxiety knitting - a mitered square washcloth that I'm not sure I am doing correctly but can't tell until I have it off the needles.)

    Something's got to give if I am going to make any forward progress here. I just can't figure out what.

    Anybody else in the writing world dealing with tricky schedule problems? I'm trying not to sacrifice my time with my husband at the end of the day and not to drop any balls I've got in the air during the day with the kids. I'm stumped. Any suggestions? (I'd consider boarding school but I don't think that would work out well for anyone involved. LOL)

    Friday, June 23, 2017

    Book Review: The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (Dec. 2002 entry)

    Title: The Heart of the Buddah's Teaching
    Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
    Publisher: Broadway Books Date: 1999

    The easy demeanor of the author makes this very plesant to read. The introduction is quite... different from what I expected. Thich Nhat Hanh presents the basic beliefs of Budhisim as a more life affirming view then many other authors. Very interesting... also, this is an easy read with the structure and choices of font.

    The first truth of Buddhism is that al life is suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh expresses this bleak concept differently from the general expression I've encountered. he states that suffering is an inheirant part of life and should be welcomed as such. He also speaks strongly of being aware of the absence of suffering. The practice of Right Mindfulness, as the author describes it, could be beneficial to me. Simply, the author asvises the reader to be aware of the present. I beleive that he makes a very good point in stating that wea are all too frequently inattentive to what we are doing due to our thoughts being elsewhere.

    I believe if I apply the practice of Right Mindfulness and I practice it with diligance that it can be of some psychological good to me. Many of the meditative practices that are used in the world's religions have multiple benefits. Some are physical and others are psychological. It is true, those who are in clergy must act as healers in all area of the parishioner's lives.

    There are other practices that I just think are being over simplified, but the practices of Right action dosen't appear to be one. Looking honestly at what the author has been presenting, I'd have to argue that there are three major themes. Compassion, responciblitie, and benevolance are what comes to mind as the major themes. At the same time, I am beginning to have a sense of the nihilisim crisis in the text.

    I'm just going to have to see if more appears in this. If this proves to be turning into the sterotypical "Life is an illusion, we must trancend this illusion to the reality of non-being," I'm not going to read more.

    My concern seems to be justified. The author is becoming icnreasingly focused on the concept that reality is as we percieve it and our perceptions are flawed because they are perceptions. I can't accept that. There is a base concept of reality that we all operate in. This is not a perception or something of an illusion. It is fact.

    [Note: I realize now that concept, in the last sentance isn't the best word to use. But I suspect that you get the idea I'm trying to present.]

    This is the first of a list of posts that are going to be transferred over from my LiveJournal. I am going to be shutting down that blog when I complete transferring stuff. Please forgive massive typos and grammatical errors. I'm debating starting another blog where I can put this. I'm not decided on it yet. While the typos make me twitch, I am going to leave them there, as it is part of the original text. The post here was uploaded to my LiveJournal March of 2006. It was written in my paper reading journal in 2002.)

    Monday, June 19, 2017

    Brutal honesty, in one shot.

    Imagine, if you will, a scene. You are ready to sit down to your work. You have all of your tools at hand. You have all of your plans ready and well documented. You literally have everything you need to engage in the task. When you move towards your work, someone puts a hand on your shoulder and tells you that your work is worthless before you even begin.

    Most days, this person is just making snide comments about how you are 'pathetic' and that your past or present success is a case of 'dumb luck' and that you are not really as competent or skilled as you know you are. These comments don't just come at you when you sit down to do your work. They also arise when it comes to things as simple as personal care, doing household chores, or just paying the bills. This person never leaves your side. They never shut up. They are always there telling just how 'bad' you really are.

    Now, here is your plot twist. (Because every story needs a plot twist, right?) That person lives inside your head. Go to bed, they will show up in your nightmares. You can't go away from them. You can't stick a gag in their mouth and lock them in a closet. There is simply no escape. And, as time progresses, they just get more sly and creative in their attacks on you. (And these are clearly attacks upon the person suffering from this sort of nonsense, look up gaslighting. It's a quaint term from a theoretically more civilized age, more like the time where it was acceptable to lock people in the garret and forget about them as much as possible.)

    This is what I suffer with on a daily basis. When I'm in a depressive episode, that 'person' is loud and generally decries anything that makes me feel good as bullshit. When my depressive episodes get really bad, things go from that running mental commentary to I start having auditory hallucinations of someone standing at my right shoulder (because irony) saying these awful things. It wears on me. I've been told that I'm a badass because I'm battling my own mind all the time. I don't feel like one. I feel tired and a good heaping amount of despair because this isn't going away.

    (Yes, I am working with my doctor. Yes, I have a psychiatrist I am working with that seems pretty competent. And I have just started working with a new therapist who seems to have a good idea about how to approach my case. And, no, I am not contemplating self-harm or anything else of that variety. I just feel awful and it is making everything harder than it really should be.)

    So, please accept my apologies for not posting much of late. I am still quite unwell. I am medicated, but it is being adjusted which makes things challenging on a good day. I have plans. I have my notes. But I can't quite seem to manage the confidence or mental cohesion to put them down in something resembling the established pattern of posting. It is going to be a few more weeks before I really know if these changes in treatment are taking effect and having positive results. Please bear with me, for I am trying.

    Addendum: If you are suffering from mental illness of any sort, seek help. There is no reason why you should be suffering. And there is no shame in getting help. It is one of the hardest things to do, but it is completely worth it. ♥

    Tuesday, June 13, 2017


    Dear Reader,

    I am a little bit stalled on work right now. I managed to put myself into something of a creative corner with the plot on both serials. In the Iron Lily, I have lost the physical notes I had about where I was going next with the story. As a result, I am spinning my proverbial wheels trying to remember what the next plot point was. I honestly think they got tossed out, which means I have to go back and recreate it all.

    With Dacia's War, I have no idea how to go to the next plot point. I know where I want to go, but now how to get there. This is partly because I failed to take a few things into consideration. And because I am distracted by trying to get the distribution problem with Book 2 of the Umbrel Chronicles out to y'all. I think I may have gotten that problem licked, but I'm not going to say it is solved until I have no problems with the matter for at least a month.

    So, I am working, but I am stuck on a few things. I would ask that a rescue dog be sent with a bottle of Bushmills, but I don't think that would work out too great. I may just hunt down a bottle of Johnny Walker later this week as a reward for this juggling of horse crap. In other news, I am attempting to garden and actually have a few things starting to grow despite the fact that I am using old seeds. This is exciting, because I get to have fresh, homegrown produce soon and I can reacquaint myself with the growth process for several plants, which will be instrumental to the illustrations I am working on.

    Monday, June 5, 2017

    Flora et Fauna: Sketch No. 3

    Behold my amazing artwork! It is a flower. Or as others would say 'flwr'.

    I'll have a real sketch for you next week, that actually looks better than this. I confess, however, I had to resist the temptation to draw a sun in the corner of the picture.

    Craft of Writing: My BuJo annoyed me today.

    As you can see, I am working still on keeping a bullet journal for all of my writing tasks. I thought I was going to sit down and use one of those 'month at a glance' layouts. After drawing up the calendar and starting to fill things in, I have discovered that I don't have enough room to make adequate notes.

    I honestly am thinking I'm never using this layout again. Or at least, not like this.

    The sheer volume of different monthly layouts that people have shared on the interwebz is mind boggling. I confess, I got overwhelmed and started to give up before I even got started. Now that I have tried one of the easiest layouts, I have a bit of a better idea of what I'm looking for. The small bullet journal that I am trying to consolidate my various writing work is not going to have the notes for every single little blog post I'm planning. (All of that ink on there is an attempt at blog post planning. I'm running out of room and that is just topic ideas.)

    Instead, I am going to start using the notebooks I have started for each blog as where I draft out posts and track what topics I have covered. In the bullet journal, I'm going to have notes on things like deadlines, word count goals for the week, how many posts had a picture with them, and details that are something that can be applied to all the blogs I am working on (like the section I started with all of the html I need to customize my blogs). I am going to stick with keeping each blog with its own colored pen for notation.

    I have decided that I'm going to be taking those different colored pens and using them for writing my notes in the respective blog's notebooks. Throw in on top of this the fact that each one has different colored paper, I think I can make this work out well. And transferring the nitty gritty details about each blog to their own notebook means I have a place where I have actual space for writing down notes. I am still trying to decide where I want to keep track of things like viewing statistics. It is a question that I am wrestling with, honestly.

    But, I'll talk more about that and some of the other questions about monitoring how well my blogs are performing on another day. I hope you have a wonderful day.

    Wednesday, May 31, 2017

    Still trying.

    Dear Reader,

    I'm not doing very well right now. It is something I am somewhat ashamed of, but I realized that keeping silent was making everything worse. Right now, I am struggling through a depressive episode. I start seeing a new therapist in a little over a week. I am currently adjusting to a medication shift that my new psychiatrist made about two weeks ago. And, to top things off, my clumsiness is about at epic levels as I am tripping over pretty much everything. Not an hour ago, I managed to clock my right elbow on the wall as I was walking down the hallway. (Seriously, I am clumsy enough to fall up stairs on a regular basis. There is a reason why we live in a first floor apartment, that is it.)

    On the writing front, pretty much everything is stalled. I am getting very frustrated with Lulu.com as I am trying to publish something on the religious topics I write about. I honestly don't know what I am doing wrong. It keeps resetting my margins. I am still trying to get it taken care of, but it is difficult. Aside from that, I have been trying to catch up on my journal writing. And I'm redoing The Artist's Way exercises in the hope of resolving some writer's block.

    I'd add more, but the battery on my laptop is about to die. Good luck and good hunting, y'all.

    Sunday, May 28, 2017

    Craft of Writing: Research ALL THE THINGS!

    Image from Pexels.com
    What do I do when I am not writing? (I wish I could say the answer was sleep and eat, but I'm not writing ALL the time.) When I'm not battling the black beast of mental illness or editing, I am doing research. It is a habit that helps me relax (most of the time). My research tends to go in a few different directions.

    It may be tied directly to my present writing projects. (Currently, I am looking up stuff about how to use html in blog posts. This way I can customize my work a little bit more.) It may be tied to larger projects that are in progress. (I have been slowly building up a body of research about medieval knitting techniques and trying to nail down just where crochet started or the earliest evidence of it. It gets tricky because naalbinding looks a lot like both. Not even the archaeologists are sure where crochet got started and nobody knows where knitting began, not for sure.) And then there is the research I do on the basis of crafts I'm working on. (I'm making a heavy blanket out of multiple strands of yarn. It is an adaptation of some scrap-afghan concepts and trying to make something similar to a weighted blanket with out having to pay $80 for one.)

    I confess, my research is not half as well organized as it should be. My fiber arts work is jumbled up with my daily journal writing and some fictional stuff that I am doing for a LARP I participate in. At best, I have stacks of papers and notebooks. It is a messy practice that has been carried forward from my college days. I am working on correcting this because I am finding that it is getting mixed up with the stuff for the kids for school and my paperwork that goes with running the household. (Nothing like finding an important letter buried in a pile of recipe notes two days before it needed to be addressed, and the postage date is a month before. I now have a real mail sorter where things go so that doesn't happen again.)

    It is an entertaining hobby. I tend to specialize in things that are a bit obscure. Honestly, though, I am at my happiest when I am learning new things about 10th century Ireland and how to master a new crochet stitch as I am waiting for the newest recipe I have tried to finish cooking. Throw in a dash of my making other peoples' day better by doing so and my happiness is complete.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Update: What the hell have I been doing?

    Dear Reader,

    Hi! How have you been? It's been a while since I posted something with actual text of any worth to it. I'd like to apologize for that. I have been busier than I expected. I wish I could say that all of this activity that has been keeping me from blogging is a case of I'm getting a new book written. It is actually more along the lines of minding a sick 7 year old for the last week, gardening stuff, and doing all of those things that go into being a stay at home mom. Throw on top of that the fact that I have not been well and it has been difficult to do much aside from the essentials.

    I have, however, been working on resolving problems with getting The Dragon Child of Evandar out for sale. (I have come to the conclusion that part of the problem is clearly something to do with converting the book from paperback to e-book. I have also been working on fixing issues with stuff like the cover.) I expect that will be resolved come the beginning of June. I am also in the process of getting book three of the series ready to go to the printer. The working title for that volume is Shadow Fall. There is more sword-and-sorcery action happening here, but also some politics. As I get closer to sending it to the printer, I will share with you the cover art.

    Work is stalled a bit on book seven of the series. This is mainly because I have been having a hard time finding the time to sit down and just write the damn book. This, however, is something that I can resolve with scheduling (and not having any surprise issues I need to take care of, such as a little boy throwing up all over himself as we head out the door to do something). I will be adding a new pile of posts here, as I am going to transfer the book reviews I posted up on LiveJournal over here. It will have a separate page compiling all of those book review post links on it. I am also going to start posting reviews of what I am currently reading right now as I finish the books. This may even include a discussion in the near future about how I keep a reading journal (a paper journal in a miniature binder that goes everywhere with me when I am reading something, so I can note stuff with a reference to chapter, page, and line).

    I am still working on customizing my bullet journal. I am currently working on the section where I put down details about how to format things for blog posts. It is taking a little longer than I expected. I, however, am not working on it everyday. I may start doing that for fifteen minutes or something. Either way, I am working on a laundry list of things and blogging fell by the wayside. I will work to correct this.

    Monday, May 15, 2017

    Flora et Fauna: Images Pt 2.

    Here is a sketch of Liar's Weed. I used my Sharpie markers for the coloring and the sketching was done with my Prismacolor .05 mm felt tipped pen. I'm not exactly thrilled with how badly I did the ombre shading, but you live and learn, right?

    Monday, May 8, 2017

    Flora et Fauna - Images Part I

    Gentle Reader,

    I did promise to give you illustrations of these plants I've been writing about, here is the first one. This is Beggar's Purse. I forgot to note anything about seeds when I sketched this up. I apologize for the lack of color, I can't find where my stock pile of colored pencils went. And I didn't feel comfortable using my boys' crayons for this.

    As you may see, the blossom has a shape similar to a pouch. The leaves are similar to broad leaf platain and it grows fairly low to the ground. And the roots are fibrous.

    Craft of Writing: Staring at the Page.

    Image from Pexels
    Sometimes writing comes to us pretty easily. Sometimes it is all we can do to keep up with the muse. And then there are the day where we feel like we're thinking through mud and honestly questions what we were thinking about attempting to be an author business.

    I have been having more days where I stare at the computer with this horrible sense of dread that I must write SOMETHING. And my mind goes blank. Writing the Morning Pages exercises, as encouraged by Ms. Cameron in her book The Artist's Way, has even become difficult. It fills me with a sense of failure.

    The amazing thing about being a writer, however, is that you have options. You don't have to write great work all the time. You can just sit down with a super cheap notebook and an even cheaper pen to write about how much you hate the writing process right now. I'm learning to be more flexible in what I do for my prepwork for writing. Just today, I sat down and colored in a wee little coloring book for about 15 minutes. I can't say that it cured the sense of writer's block that I have right now, but it did help. It showed me that I can still be creative, even when I am struggling in my preferred arena.

    I am also doing things like making myself a schedule for writing time every day. I am one of those people who get cranky and in a foul head space when they don't get any writing time in on a given day. If I let it go too long, I then move into a sense of depression. As a person who struggles with Bipolar (and am presently slogging my way through a depressive episode), making regular writing time is a big thing for self care.

    Self care is the key to getting out of that mental prison called writer's block. Sometimes writer's block is a minor form of burn out and your brain is forcing you to take a break. Sometimes writer's block is a manifestation of an underlying problem (in my case, it is a sign that I am going into or am presently in a depressive episode). And, sometimes, writer's block comes about because you are bored with what you are working on.

    Boredom is not good for the creative person. It can kill. I think this is why Ms. Cameron so strongly encourages the people who are working through the Artist's Way to do things like take themselves on 'Artist Dates' and go do something novel or fun instead of keeping their noses to the proverbial grindstone.

    Funny thing about grindstones and whetstones, you have to keep your blade at the proper angle and concentrate all the time on what you're doing. If your attention wanders or you just try to do it out of simple habit, you will mess up the angle on the edge of the blade and make something that is useless. As a result, you'll have to start the whole process over again.

    So, when your attention begins to wander (which is one of the signs of writer's block), take a moment to back away from the grindstone and take a break to refresh yourself, this way you can reapply yourself to the task later with the same high level of attention to detail that you can accomplish when all is well.

    Thursday, March 30, 2017

    The Iron Lily - Part 12

    Halthor's expression of pained grief made Moridan sigh. "Listen to me," he said to the builder, "When you reach Memmin, seek out Count Olerand. He should be able to help you. The journey to Memmin should not be gravely perilous but when you reach the flatlands, be wary of the ones who would offer to guide you. Look for the sign of the stag. If they do not have it, do not trust them. After you have found Count Olerand, you will know what you must do."

    Halthor looked over at Moridan. "The hour of twilight has passed and deep night comes. Finish your fare, traveler," the old priest said, "You will have a comfortable bed tonight. The traveler's rest will not be quite so pleasant but my grandson will keep you well. The men from Wynnwode will seek to beset you at dawn. You will need to leave at the small hours of the night to avoid them. If the Light Father wills it, snow will cover the signs of your passing."

    Ewen stood up, setting his bowl aside. "Father Moridan," he started when the old man lifted his hand. Ewen looked over his shoulder at the door. The persistent feeling that something ominous was waiting for dawn beyond the door. The ferryman looked back at his grandfather. "Grand-da," he said quietly in an urgent tone. Moridan frowned at him. "He needs to leave now," Ewen said, "Something waits and grows stronger as the night passes." Moridan looked over at Halthor and then back to his grandson.

    "You must leave with him," the old priest said, "Guide him to your brother. You know the path and the dark should not be a trouble for you." Halthor looked over at the ferryman and noted his very solemn and troubled expression.

    "What is going on?" Halthor asked. Moridan said nothing as he stood up. He found his way across the room and opened a chest. After shuffling a few things around, he stood up. The old man lifted a short spear from inside the chest. Halthor eyed the piece of equipment suspiciously, as he had never seen one that was shorter than he was tall before. The bronze head of the spear gleamed dully and Halthor questioned if it was even sharp. Moridan handed the spear to his grandson with a measure of finality in his gestures.

    "When you return, you know what must be done. Your uncle and I will do our best to prepare," Moridan said as he set his free hand on the ferryman's left shoulder. Ewen nodded. Moridan looked over at Halthor. He made a gesture of blessing. "Go with the Light Father's blessing and mine upon you, young man," Moridan said. Mavora looked up. He saw the spear in Ewen's hand and sighed before shaking his head with a look of disappointment. He stood up and began filling a sack with foodstuffs. When he had finished, he walked up to Halthor and handed it to him. Halthor looked as though he was about to refuse this second sack of supplies when Moridan shook his head.

    Halthor shook his head slightly with confusion and took the sack. He then found his goods where he had set them. Mavora and Ewen walked with him to the stable. Mavora loaded the pony with Halthor's goods and patted the hound that trotted up to him. The dog's tail seemed to droop and it looked as though it was upset somehow. Mavora turned to Ewen and clapped him on the shoulder. Ewen gave his uncle a brief, but strong embrace. The clouds above parted and the light of the mother moon and her daughter shone down brightly on the snow, making it seem almost as bright as day.

    Ewen, bundled in his coat, heavy cloak, hat, and other winter gear looked apprehensive. When Mavora went back into the temple, Ewen took the pony's bridle in hand. "Come on," he said, "It draws closer. We must move quickly now." Halthor found Ewen's sense of unease contagious and he looked around himself expecting some foe to jump out of the shadows. As the pair moved briskly down the path out of the village of Hyle, Halthor's back itched between his shoulder blades.

    Tuesday, March 28, 2017

    Road to the North (Part XX VI)

    Lady Al-Uzza was tired. The long hours of riding in the hot sun made her weary. She looked at Althos with something of envy. Somehow, the monk was cheerful and seemed to show no signs of discomfort for their travel. She ignored her secretary but suspected that the younger woman would be equally chipper. Althos laughed and joked with the guards. When a snake appeared in the path and his horse was spooked, the gravelly voiced monk laughed as he got the beast back under control. Then he dismounted, picked the serpent up, and tossed it aside calling after the creature that he wished it a swift journey. It brought some laughter from their companions. Al-Uzza, however, was not amused.

    It was close to midday. They came to a village that the priestess did not think was large enough to support the few goats she saw milling about. The party stopped at the well in the center of the village. A woman drawing water looked up at them in surprise. When she saw Al-Uzza, she bowed deeply. "My Lady," she said, "may the Holy Mother bless you always." The woman's sudden, reflexive gesture of homage made Al-Uzza forget for a moment her discomfort.

    She put on a benevolent smile and made a grand gesture of blessing. "And may you and your home be ever blessed, my child," she said, trying to sound as dignified and benevolent as possible. The woman did not straighten. She remained bowed and quietly asked how she may serve Al-Uzza. The priestess's smile turned to one of pleasure.

    "Draw us water, my child, and all shall be as it must," she answered. Althos restrained the urge to scowl at Al-Uzza. The monk dismounted as the woman began drawing water up with her pail. He spoke to her in a small whisper. Then he began pulling water up from the well. As he poured it into the trough, the woman stood beside him with her hands clasped and her eyes lowered. When the trough was full of water, Al-Uzza began to motion her mount forward.

    Althos stepped up and took hold of the bridle. "You must dismount so that the horse may rest," he whispered in his low voice. Al-Uzza's smile faltered. "May I assist you, my Lady," he said. Al-Uzza gave a nod. Althos's hands took of Al-Uzza's waist and he looked up at her. She awkwardly shifted her weight and Althos's expression turned to an inscruitable mask. "My Lady, if you would turn so that both of your feet are towards me, this would be most helpful," he muttered. Al-Uzza restrained the urge to huff in annoyance, deciding that it was more comfortable to be irritated with the man helping her than the fact that she had forgotten how to dismount a horse.

    After an awkward moment, Althos successfully helped Al-Uzza to the ground. He lead her mount forward and began the business of getting it settled. Behind them, the rest of the party dismounted. The woman standing by the well began to draw water for the party when Althos turned to Al-Uzza. "My Lady," he said, "I ask that you allow this mother to rest." Al-Uzza squinted at the woman for a moment. There seemed to be a roundness to her belly that the priestess didn't note earlier. She made a dismissive gesture.

    "Of course," Al-Uzza said, "And may our Lady bless you and your child for your service." The woman gave Althos a grateful look before taking her jug of water. As she began to walk off, one of the gaurds walked up. He lifted the jug and set it on his shoulder as he spoke quietly to her. They walked towards a house at the edge of the square. He set the jug down before the door. The woman stepped in her door when a boy stepped out and carried the jug inside.

    Al-Uzza looked around the village, her stomach rumbling slightly. "Where are the people?" she said, annoyed that no one else had greeted her or otherwise given indication that they were aware of her presence.

    "My Lady," Althos said, "The elders of the village are likely resting as it is the hour of the midday sleep. The able bodied men are away with the army, as her Serene Highness had called them to service. Our pause here will not be long because we are expected at Midloth when the sun is in the third quarter of the sky, a few hours from now."

    Al-Uzza glared at Althos. "You do not rule this journey," she hissed at him. Althos straightened from drawing water to add to the trough. He looked at her with his earlier mask like expression.

    "No, my Lady," he answered, "But I know that we must travel faster if we are to reach the city before the storm comes. Do you not feel the weight of the air? Do you not sense the way it grows thicker as we move north? A storm awaits us in the most physical sense, my Lady. I did not think you wished to travel in rain. Am I incorrect? I will confess, a bit of rain would be refreshing."

    Al-Uzza scowled at Althos. He gestured to the east. She looked towards the hills and saw that the clouds she had been ignoring had grown darker. "No, let us go to Midloth. When the beasts are refreshed, we shall continue on." Althos gave Al-Uzza a bow.

    "I defer to your wisdom, Lady Al-Uzza," he said. One of the gaurds hastily coughed to cover up a laugh. Al-Uzza would have turned to glare at the man but she wasn't sure who it was. The acolyte stood serenely behind Al-Uzza, holding the bridle of her own mount. As the priestess looked over her shoulder at the young woman in white, the acolyte gave Al-Uzza a bland look.

    "Note this village," the priestess said, "Let the mother who served us be rewarded for it." The acolyte nodded.

    Althos said in a dry tone. "My Lady is wise as she is benevolent." Al-Uzza scowled at the monk but said nothing.

    Sunday, March 26, 2017

    Craft of Writing: To pre-write or not?

    Image Courtesy of Plexels
    Some people swear by pre-writing exercises before they sit down to work on a big project (such as a novel). Other people feel that it is just too much additional work. This is where the divide between 'pantsers' and 'plotters' comes from.  I fall in to the 'plotter' camp and I do pre-writing exercises. It is not, however, the case that my pre-writing work is going to be sitting down and writing up an outline.

    Pre-writing is a practice that I got started on when I was in college taking English 101. My instructor strongly encouraged us to take time to write down at least one page of free writing that was unrelated to the task at hand. It may sound a little funny, but that one page of free writing actually did a lot to help me get into that mental zone for writing larger things. I have since moved up to writing 3 pages of free writing every morning (as per The Artist's Way from Julia Cameron, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling artistically or just looking for a jump start for their creativity).

    Pre-writing exercises can take a wide range of forms. It can be anything from writing lists of what you want to accomplish with your writing session for the day to free writing to purging your writing anxieties with some creative journal writing. The focus of pre-writing is to get yourself ready for your writing session. For some people, this may be as simple as spending fifteen minutes to list out what the major highlights of the scene they are writing and listening to inspiring music. For others, it is going to be a whole little ritual of getting their cup of coffee fixed just so, putting on some inspiring music (and their lucky socks), and organizing their writing tools. Usually, it does involve some form of writing, but it doesn't have to.

    That is the beautiful thing about writing for yourself. You get to decide just how much and what sort of preparation is necessary for your writing session. You get to decide how much leg work is necessary (usually, college students and anyone writing something research based do have some things that are mandatory, namely research) before you start that first draft. This is sometimes intimidating because all of that freedom can be disorienting. But, it also allows you to tailor your work sessions to your strengths.

    So, if you are like myself and you need your pre-writing session, don't feel bad about it. Just schedule that time in and use it as necessary. It may feel a little funny to first start out trying, but you may find that your pre-writing time leads you to develop more as an author and have an easier time finding your voice. And, it may just be that little bit of pre-writing time turns in some self-pampering which everyone could use once in a while when they are working hard. Writing is hard work, so time to reward and encourage yourself is always necessary.

    What are your feelings on pre-writing and preparing for your writing sessions? Let me know in the comments!

    Friday, March 17, 2017

    Dacia's War: Departure (Part XX VI)

    Al-Uzza looked at the party readying to go north. She scowled with displeasure at the glaring sunlight and the dry dusty scent in the air from the desert. Though Al-Uzza was born on the sands, she grew up in the halls of the temple proper, given to Julara as a tribute and as a way to make one less mouth to feed. She vaguely recalled her mother as a stern woman and had a dim recollection of her brothers. The black haired woman stood on the portico of the temple, waiting for the junior priestess assigned to her as secretary to arrive. The veil that Lady Al-Uzza wore was the deep blue-black of the higher ranking priestesses. A band of silver thread was woven into it on the left hand side, glistening like water in moonlight. Upon the hem where that narrow band ended at the front of the veil, there was a tassel of silver. This and the silver band marked her as the local high priestess of the district she was assigned to.

    The tassel rested against her chest, winking in the light and distracting her for a moment from her bitter musings. She glanced down at it. As she set a finger against the beaded tassle, she marveled at how it felt cool to the touch despite the sun's heat. She considered her gown, of much finer fabric than what she had worn as a mere secretary, though that was also of high quality. The linen and silk fabric should have been uncomfortably warm, but it some how retained the coolness of the temple within it. Al-Uzza smoothed a hand over her shoulder when a voice behind her gave a small cough.

    Al-Uzza looked over and beheld a young woman dressed in the pale grey of the acolytes who served as the keepers of lore. The woman wore a satchel of dun colored leather over her tunic, hanging on the left side. Al-Uzza knew the satchel well, for it was hers up until recently. Now, the woman standing at her left shoulder bore it and the combination of heavy books and precious writing tools. Al-Uzza's shoulder ached slightly in sympathetic memory of how the strap dug into her when she was sent to bear messages on the Empress's behalf. The young woman's hair was shorn and a grey kertchief covered the stubble. Al-Uzza gauged her companion's age as to be that of sixteen at best and shook her head with a slight look of distaste.

    "Remember your vows," Al-Uzza said sternly to the acolyte as she looked forward, "Speak only when spoken to, maid. I will not tolerate frippery and foolishness. Am I clear?"

    The young woman behind her answered in a voice that was quiet, almost timid sounding, "Yes, my Lady. I shall do as you command in accordance with Our Lady's will." Al-Uzza felt a measure of satisfaction with the apparent meekness of her secretary. The soldiers who had marshaled for the journey to the north had finished going over their orders. The mules and ponies that served as their beasts of burden had been loaded with their goods. A man dressed in robes the color of the burning sunset moved amongst the party. Al-Uzza frowned as he looked over at her.

    Althos of the brothers militant was not a handsome man. But something about him made Al-Uzza highly suspicious of him. Perhaps it was the casual way he smiled at everyone in his party or the way his expression changed so quickly from that easy companionable smile to a look of sober consideration. His head was bald. Al-Uzza could not tell if it was because it was freshly shaven or if he was truly bald. Althos somehow managed to look rakeish in Al-Uzza's eyes, which simply meant he was not a hideous creature and was therefore suspect. He approached Al-Uzza. No smile touched his lips when he walked up to her.

    "Lady Al-Uzza," his gravelly voice said, sounding jarringly harsh to her ears, "the party is ready to depart when you are. I have made sure that all beasts are well prepared and all provisions are secure." She wanted to say something stinging to him because of all the men present, it was Althos that made her uncomfortable and she wanted to diminish him somehow. She could not, however, find the words.

    "Let us depart then," she said, "The sun is rising high in the sky and enough time has been wasted." Althos gave a graceful bow as he motioned Al-Uzza towards her mount. He stood at the side of the roan nag and made a step for her with his hands. Al-Uzza looked at the horse and found herself wishing that she had a block for mounting rather than the man's hands. He looked at her expectantly. With a small noise of annoyance, she set her left foot upon his hands and then moved to mount.

    Though Al-Uzza was not a diminutive woman, she was surprised by how Althos aided her with out any sign of strain. She sat upon the back of the horse and looked down at the monk. He had turned away to help the acolyte upon her mount before Al-Uzza could possibly have considered he had looked at her bare ankle. He vaulted lightly into the saddle of his own horse and moved to the head of their group. Althos looked over his shoulder at the newly elevated priestess with an expectant expression.

    Al-Uzza made a gesture in a forward direction. Althos arched an eyebrow. Deciding that her silent response indicated that she felt it was not necessary to invoke the blessing of the holy Yulara herself upon their journey, Althos deemed it necessary to call out to the members of the party to pray for the blessing of the Lady of Rivers on their travel through her lands. His voice was a loud, cawing cry as he shouted, "May the Mother of Life look kindly upon us and guide us in our wanderings over her green fields." The people around Al-Uzza answered with some muttered words, a few giving her uncomfortable glances as they did so.

    Lady Al-Uzza could hear her clerk mumbling something indistinctly behind her. The priestess realized that she had broken some sort of taboo in failing to call for her goddess's blessing. She remained proudly silent, however, because the idea of somehow acknowledging her error was something that Al-Uzza believed would undermine her authority. Althos looked to the right. Upon a high balcony, he saw the Empress standing. He pressed his right fist to his left shoulder in a salute while bobbing his head in something that looked almost like it would have been a bow if he had been standing. Mina extended her hand in a gesture of blessing.

    She watched as Al-Uzza looked up at her. For a moment, Al-Uzza's expression betrayed her loathing of her Lady. Then the party began to move and the haughty woman had to turn her attention upon keeping the horse following Althos. Mina watched as the party moved out of the temple gates. "I fear this will not end well," she sighed. A messenger scurried in the temple gates, the yellow band tied around his arm identifying him as someone coming from the black sands. Mina sighed and walked into the temple, unsure if the sense of weariness passing over her was because of her sense of foreboding about Al-Uzza, the desire to be done with the matters of war, or the fact that her sleep had been troubled the night before.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Food of Evandar: Roast fowl with Herbs

    Image from Pexels.Com
    It has been a while since I posted any sort of recipe. It is also a day where, at my house, we are dealing with a snow storm and I am interested in not making a whole lot of pots to wash even as the kids want to help cook. After a little consideration, I realized that what I am making for dinner would be rather common fare in parts of my little world.

    Now the name of this recipe is an indication of how common it is. It is, however, a little bit deceptive. In the middle ages in our world, herbs was used as a general term for all parts of a plant and pretty much all manner of plant. It was applied to what we consider vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

    The recipe itself is exceptionally simple. I am making a relatively small portion here because I have a household of four people (which has two children who are somewhat picky eaters on a regular basis). It is possible to do this with a whole bird. I, however, am using two chicken quarters cut into pieces with enough chopped vegetables to fill a 12 in cast iron skillet. My 'herbs' here are potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and radishes. If you were making something that reflected the Middle Ages of our world, the potatoes and sweet potatoes would not be part of this because they didn't come into European cuisine until the Renaissance period. (This is because they are native to the New World, along with corn, modern squash, and tomatoes.)

    In my little world, the variety of root vegetables used is pretty close to what you would expect for medieval Europe. They would also include tubers like cattail roots and the more exotic plants native to the world. Lower class people would be having this simple meal with a dash of what ever savory herbs they had collected in the wild (such as dill or fireweed). The upper classes would include more exotic things to their region. Thus, it could have peppercorns, salt, or cinnamon in it. The dish consists of a cleaned bird flattened and roasted upon a bed of root vegetables with spices mixed into the vegetables and upon the bird. The bird would have butter rubbed on it and the root vegetables would be mixed with a portion of oil sufficient to coat them and enough water to keep them from burning to the pan.

    The pan would then be covered and cooked at a moderate temperature until the bird was cooked fully. For our purposes, this would be approximately an hour at 350 degrees F. When I added oil to the vegetables, I tossed them with it and some pepper, salt, thyme, and paprika. I then added approximately a cup of water. The chicken was set upon the vegetables. I spread about a tablespoon of butter over all four pieces of chicken. It is probably a little excessive, but I'm not going to deny myself a little luxury after a long day with two boys having a snow day from school. I put the salt, pepper, and thyme on the chicken. I also added garlic instead of paprika.

    I covered my pan with aluminum foil because the pot lid that fit it would not cover the pot completely with the chicken in the pan. You want to make sure that your chicken and meat combination is well covered so that the steam from everything helps cook it more completely. When finished, you would serve the chicken with the tender veggies along side. I am also going to be making a loaf of soda bread to go with it. I haven't decided yet if soda bread is a common thing or not, but in the world of Evandar, a loaf of bread would be served with this, as with any meal.

    Given the heaviness of the root vegetables, you could do well to serve this with a hard cider. You could also do well to replace the water in this recipe with chicken broth or hard cider. I'm sure that you would get a good result from adding onions to the mix. (I was going to put onion in but then discovered that my onion had gone bad in the depths of the refrigerator sometime last week.)