Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sheared Delights Fiber Event

Karin of White Oak Alpacas  
Last weekend, I was fortunate to attend Sheared Delights, a fibery event at White Oak Alpacas in SW Washington State. Karin is one of the farm owners and the imaginative force behind the event. And she knows alpacas and their fleece like no one I've ever met. She's also a gracious host and a kind lady.

White Oak Alpacas
The farm is lovely, situated in the country surrounded by rolling green hills. It was cloudy on the first day, and the clouds wrapped the hills like a shawl.

Monica and Laurinda with the Craftwich Creations booth, featuring designs from ReCrochetions.
Monica trekked down from the north with her car loaded with goodies, and Laurinda and I were both there to help set up her booth inside one of the barns. Laurinda had her two books available along with a binder of patterns and several examples of her designs. I brought excerpt of my first fiber fiction story, Unraveling: A New World.

The hair pins were popular, and I'm sure this amazing display helped show them off. Notice her lovely cowl?
Monica's displays were awesome. Especially with alpacas in the background.

We were joined by other vendors, too.

Knit designer Melinda VerMeer displayed samples of her amazing designs.

Melinda VerMeer, knitting beside her booth.
Sari Peterson of Twists and Turnings had a table full of lovely drop spindles, and she gave several demonstrations in their use between spinning on her wheel.

Sari Peterson spinning.
Twists and Turnings booth.
Christine Arrington of Urban Wolves Fibre Arts, one of Vancouver's lovely new yarn and fiber shops, brought an amazing selection of spinning wheels and tools for fiber arts.

Christine Arrington of Urban Wolves Fibre Arts.
And many spinners joined us, setting up inside and outside the barn, depending on the weather. It was amazing to watch them at work.

And, of course, there were alpacas.

Alpacas everywhere.

And alpaca fleece. Bags and bags of it. I was fortunate to watching a fleece being skirted, a process I'd never heard of before. Apparently, to skirt a fleece you remove all the bits and pieces that you don't want processed with the fleece when it goes to the mill to be made into yarn. Of course, you could process it yourself, too, and spin it into yarn on a wheel or drop spindle.

Alpaca fleece, with is delightfully soft to work with.
Which is what I watched Monica do the first day. She had a bag of roving with her in green and blacks and spun them together in one strand, then spun that strand into a three-strand yarn.

Monica at the wheel.
 Which turned out so lovely.

Single-strand yarn.
 The second day was beautiful. Sunny and warm without being too hot. The perfect NW spring day.

The roses outside the barn were incredible to see and to smell.

We spent the day chatting and sharing our love for all things fiber while crocheting and knitting and spinning throughout the day. Visitors came in, some purchasing a hook or pattern or a bag of fleece before touring the farm and watching the alpacas.

I took the opportunity to learn how to use a spinning wheel. It was touch and go at the beginning, but by the middle of the day, I had a small ball of interest yarn to show for my efforts.

I borrowed the spinning wheel to try more at home, but I've been struggling to get it to work properly. I'm hoping to attend a spinning night at one of the many local gatherings for help. I just loved spinning and would like to pursue it, but I can see that I'm going to need more mentoring until I have the feel for it. 

It was such a fun event with two days of connecting with other fiber-minded folks, of sharing our arts and skills, and, of course, watching the alpacas. 

While they watched us.

Lots of alpacas, staring at us.

I intend to go again next year. Maybe with a spinning wheel of my own.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Writing Historic Fiction: A Guest Post by Author Auburn Seal

Today I'm welcoming author Auburn Seal to the blog. Auburn's latest book, Maya Vanishing, was published this month. She has a fun mix of genres available to read, from historical fiction to paranormal romance to a great co-authored romp featuring inept witches and a murder. I asked Auburn to talk about her research, since we both share a love of history:


Writing Historical Fiction is at the top of the list of fun things to do with my time. Studying about a specific era or a historical figure while I’m researching for a book gives me an opportunity to get up close and personal with a vibrant piece of history.

The research actually came first, before the writing. When I was 16 years old, my grandmothers and I would talk for hours about our own family history. I was the only teenager I knew who spent more time in a genealogical library than anywhere else. This was before the internet put this information at our fingertips, back when microfilm records were the best option for finding primary sources. When I see something historical that catches my interest, I love to then dig into the lives of the people who were affected. What must have their lives been like? What were the cultural norms, the social customs? How many children did they have? How many did they then have to bury? The lives and deaths of those who came before me have provided rich fodder for my imagination and feed the plots of my books, especially the books in the Vanishing series.

Roanoke Vanishing was released in October 2013 and features the lost colony of Roanoke. You may remember that this was the first colony the English established in the ‘New World’ that included women and children and that the famed colony, both the people and the buildings, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I had so much fun coming up with my own ideas about what may have happened to them. Because I have a tendency to pepper my stories with a paranormal element, a ghost of one of the original colonists naturally appeared in the story (much to my surprise) and the rest is history.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been working on the sequel, Maya Vanishing, and am pleased to announce that it has finally found its way into the world. This book was tougher in some ways to research than Roanoke because we know so little about individuals (other than kings) in that ancient culture. For example, with Roanoke I was able to find primary sources written by John White, the governor of that colony. Hearing details about a time period that come directly from the source are more likely to be correct and also more likely to be interesting to me. They become real people, with relatives. People to love and people to lose. There was rich research that I could pull from for that book and then play with my own fictional interpretation of those events. Easy peasy. And fun.

With Maya Vanishing, though, it was much harder for me to connect with the culture from a distance. I started with the basics of their society. When they existed, where they lived, etc. But I was having a tough time getting interested in the differences between the pre-classic and post-classic Mayans. My first draft suffered from a lack of details about this culture that still really eludes many people today. I was making up very generic details about their culture that left the story feeling flat and empty.

Then something happened. I discovered that the Mayans were fascinated by the female menstruation process. It symbolized life-giving powers to them. So, they did what any jealous person does. The men emulated the women. They had ceremonies where they would cut their genitalia to pay tribute to the creation process. I also discovered that when they would sacrifice another human, they would paint the victim blue and then eventually pull their heart from their chests. These were all details I could sink my teeth into. I could attach these events to my fictional characters and create circumstances in which to showcase this odd (to us) behavior.

I write what I like to call ‘historical fiction lite’ because when I’m reading, I want enough detail to help pull me into the world, but not so many that I forget about the characters and their journey. And I write what I would enjoy reading. One delicate decision that I must make with every book is how much of my research makes it into the novel. The answer is always the same: just enough. And yet the answer is always different depending on who you ask. Some readers want pages and pages of historical detail while others get lost and close the book. I include enough to (hopefully) keep the reader entertained, immersed, but not bored.

I’d love to hear from you about the amount of history I include in my novels. It’s a fine and delicate line to traverse.


Roanoke Vanishing is available in paperback, ebook, and audio.

Avery Lane is driven to discover the fate of the 117 missing colonists of Roanoke. When she encounters a mysterious group called the Descendants, who are determined to keep the colonys secret hidden, Avery must choose between her obsession for the past and her own survival. Will solving this mystery cost her everything? Is there more to this secret than what is buried at Roanoke? Haunted by visions of the past, she must find answers before the Descendants stop her and forever banish the truth.

Maya Vanishing is available in paperback and ebook. Audio coming late summer.

What if history changes everything you thought you knew about your future?

Avery Lane's search for the tablet and clues to unravel the mystery around the Descendants continue in book 2, Maya Vanishing, as she travels to the Yucatan to explore Mayan Ruins. Avery will find more than she bargained for and will soon learn that the Descendants will stop at nothing to ensure the tablet remains buried.

Auburn Seal published her first short story in 2012. Since that time, she has written and published many stories in a variety of fictional worlds.  Of Auburns titles currently available (5 novels, 7 shorter pieces), only one of them doesnt include death in some form. Its not that she is particularly dark, but rather that fictional violence is exceptionally therapeutic. For the record, she wants to announce that she is only a murderous psychopath in her books. In real life, she is a perfectly lovely person with only a slightly twisted mind. Auburn lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Awfully Quiet Around Here . . .

The permanent writing station.  
I've been completely wrapped up in my offline life lately (which is usually for the better), so the blog has been quiet. My apologies, though I think the quiet will be worth it. I'm on the final edits for Unraveling: The New World, Part One. This will be the first story included in the Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit shipping in June. You can read an excerpt here.

Aside from editing, I've been busy outside the house. Spring has sprung, which means the blackberries are once more trying to take over the hill in our back yard. In the center right of the photo above, you can just see where the hill ends at the back of the yard. It runs the entire width of that side of the yard and rises almost to the roof-line of the house at a rather steep incline.

My goal this year is to strip the hill down to the plants I actually want (bamboo, butterfly bush, Forsythia tree, and a random park tree we salvaged from the neighbor) and then fill in with plants I have been collecting for this purpose. I have blueberry bushes, lavender, boxwood, fountain grass, and bulbs, and I'm hoping to move a small crepe myrtle and add some vinca, hostas, and strawberries.

I love planting, but I absolutely despise digging in our soil. The hill is a combination of clay and rocks, so it will take lots of amending while putting the new plants in. And digging on the hill--not the easiest thing to do when I'm not all that coordinated. But I'm eager to see what it'll look like once it's done.

I've been crocheting quite a bit again. Nothing major--I needed a couple new dishcloths, so I made a few. I'm also way behind on my cat blanket project. It's based on a challenge that Laurinda held a few years ago. The founder of the cat blankets for reading, Stephaniejo, passed away this past year, and in her honor, I've been crocheting a cat blanket a week to donate. I'm not certain if Kazoodles will  hold their cat blankets for reading program or will change the program for this year, but either way, I hope to have 52 cat blankets by the beginning of August to donate to them or directly to the shelter in Stephaniejo's name. It's a small thing that I can do to honor her, a woman I found so inspirational and devoted to her craft and to cats and to encouraging children to read.

I'm a little behind on the challenge, since writing got in the way, but yesterday after I finished my edits, I sat down to watch episodes of Arrow (I've just discovered this show and I LIKE it!) and crochet. I made three cat blankets, which puts me at 25 total. I have my work cut out for me to catch up, since I should be closer to 40, but I'm less than halfway through season one of Arrow, so I have lots of watching and crocheting left to do. But first, the edits for the day have to happen. Arrow and crochet are my editing reward.

In other news, my laptop has taken up permanent residence on the desk overlooking the back yard. I'm finding that when I come back here to write, it's like I've left the house. The kids can't find me. Which is hysterical, given how small the house is. So I disappear back here when my husband gets home and can sneak it some uninterrupted editing time. Or I come back here while the kids are playing in the yard and I get to enjoy their antics as I work.

Kiwi has taken full advantage of my move and now resides next to me while I'm writing on a blanket I laid out for her.

Cat and Author selfie
She's sleeping next to the laptop now. She snores when she sleeps.

Okay, back to editing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The View From Here

My old, trusty typewriter. 

I am intrigued by where writers write. I own a book called The Writer's Desk by Jill Krementz that shows photographs of famous writers at their desks. I look through it often when I'm having doubts. I can't explain why I find those photos so inspiring and uplifting, but I do.

Recently, I came to the startling conclusion that I don't work as well at a coffee shop or a library as I do from home. I finally realized why. I write in spurts. I put in a good long push at a scene, then push just a little more past where I'd normally stop, just to nudge the creative juices, and then I need to do something physical. Like dishes. Or laundry. Or mow the lawn and whack back the ever-growing blackberries in the yard. And after twenty or thirty minutes, I'm ready to sit back down and write.

I can't work this way out of the house. When I'm at a coffee shop or library writing, one of two things happens: either I get a lot of writing done at one time that I'm never completely satisfied with, or I end up chatting too much with the other writers who have joined me and don't get nearly enough done. Either way, when I get home I still have all the usual work to do, plus I feel like I haven't spent my writing time as wisely as I could.

I also find that when I'm away from home, I can't count on two things--at what sort of place I'll be sitting and what sort of noise level there will be.

I like silence when I'm writing. I don't listen to music or have any background noise other than the hum of the fridge or the furnace and the tick of the click when I work at home. At coffee shops and libraries, I have no control of the noise level and usually put on headphones to listen to soundtracks while I work. But headphones tend to irritate my ears after a while, and I have to take breaks to fiddle with the music, either to load it or change it and heaven help me if I lose internet connection and have to rely on whatever I have saved on the laptop.

I also lose time just getting to the place to write outside the house. First there is packing everything up to take with me, driving where I'm going, finding a seat, getting a drink or snack, switching everything on, and then trying to settle. Lately, it seems like wasted time when I have so few hours in the day to work. At home, I open the laptop, grab a cup of water or tea, and set to work. This also saves me gas and money I'd otherwise spend on drinks.

I freely admit, I'm a hermit. I'm introverted, I prefer my own space, and I don't do small talk. I do enjoy meeting with my writing friends every now and then to see what they're all working on, but those times don't translate into my best writing times. Those are times to reconnect, to share, to build upon the community of writers that I enjoy so much being a part of. And thank goodness for the internet and online communities! It is often weeks, if not months, between times when I get out to write with a group, so I rely on the online groups I belong to in order to connect and discuss.

I'm rather relieved to have finally come to the conclusion that I'm a stay-at-home writer. I'm getting more work done, feeling more confident, and while I don't have a desk, I do have two dedicated writing areas, which I thought I would share.

This is where I spend most of my writing time: sitting at my dining table, back against the end of the kitchen counter, a window to my left that faces the front yard, and the living room in front of me.

When the kids are home, the TV is usually on, or the desktop computer, which sits on a desk to my right. The cat is usually sleeping on the couch or she's on my bed, which I can see from where I'm sitting (it is a very small house). If the kids are outside, I can see them from my window. I can watch the birds in the weeping cherry tree that I planted out front, or wave to the neighbors, or just sit and watch the sun or the moon rise over the house across the street. I've seen so many startling amazing sunrises through this window, and some spectacular phases of the moon, too.

I do most of my computer work here, from writing and proofreading, to finances, social networking, and researching.

There are times when I need a change of scenery, however, or I want to work on my typewriter. Then I move through the kitchen into the little area I call the craft room. It isn't much for crafts anymore, though I do sew here. Mainly it holds our freezer chest, three bookshelves worth of board games, and my sewing table that doubles as a writing table.

I love the view of the backyard with the bamboo and all the greenery, though not so much all the blackberries that like to take over the hill to the right. I have a squirrel feeder on the fence and bird feeders hanging off the porch, and several of my favorite knick-knacks on the window sill, including a Christmas cactus that came with a planter I received as congratulations for the birth of my first child--which makes the plant over 11 years old now. It blooms a couple times a year, gorgeous pink flowers that spill open suddenly. I don't type as often as I use to, but I do still enjoy it. I suspect that after it arrives, my Hemingwrite will reside here. 

I've taken to occasionally sitting on the front porch in good weather, but my dream is to one day have a little shed built in the back yard where I might put a writing nook, so that even when the family is home, I can find a bit of solitude for myself to write. It's a good dream, but until then, I've embraced the two corners I've carved out for myself. And occasionally, I know I'll still make it out to my favorite coffee shop and library to write and reconnect. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tabletop Day

My lovely Ticket to Ride game, which I haven't played for a while. Hint hint hint.

Today was International Tabletop Day. I'm a big fan of many types of tabletop games, which anyone who has followed me for very long is aware of and might also have heard me talk about the board game podcast my husband and some friends and I do each week called the Tattered Board. And so I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't be able to join in with those friends at a gaming event at our favorite game store, Cloud Cap Games.

However, I was pleased to fit in several games today. I did drive out to Cloud Cap to drop a friend off for the gaming day and had the chance to try out a new card game called Kobayakawa. It's a fast-paced, quick-to-learn bluffing game that is just my style. I totally lost and had a blast doing so.

Then later in the day, Mom and Buggie and I sat down for a game of Skip-bo, a favorite of ours. I don't get to play it very often as it is a little too down in the heels for my usual game group, but as it is an old family favorite, Mom and I break it out whenever we have a chance, and Buggie enjoys it too. Mom won, but it was a close game.

Afterwards, Buggie and I taught Mom how to play Sushi Go! It is another fun, quick-to-learn game with a great card-drafting mechanic. And the artwork is adorable. I haven't played it for a while so it was wonderful to revisit.

I also taught Mom how to play Timeline: Diversity and Niya. The Timeline games are some of my favorites, and I like teaching Diversity since it gives a taste of several different card types. My personal favorite Timeline game is Historical Events, naturally. Niya is one of my favorite two-player games. It's Tic-Tac-Toe meets Connect Four with a tile board twist. It was great fun, and Mom totally smoked me.

I love to have the chance to teach these quick-to-learn, fun games to share my passion for this hobby. I'm so glad I had the chance to play with my mom and daughter today. I'd hoped to get a game in with the boy, but he was a bit too distracted by the Harry Potter Lego game. Maybe tomorrow I can convince him to play a game of Zingo! He loves that game.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Beach Writing

Lovely beach morning!

We're spending the last few days of Spring Break at Gearhart, OR, near Seaside. It has been gorgeous here. This morning there wasn't a cloud to be seen, and the blue of the sea and the blue of the sky mingled into one. I love beach days like this.

I also love it when it is stormy and raining, so I guess I'm not too picky.

Today the plan is breakfast, beach, swim, lunch, beach, swim, supper, beach, swim, with breaks in between for playing games (kids), watching movies (Mom), and writing (me). I think I might cobble together a writing desk on the balcony. I have a couple of exciting scenes to write today and I love to write outside when I can.

A gorgeous beach evening, with Mom gathering seashells. She tells me the names of the clams when she finds their shells. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Heroine's Journey

I had the opportunity this last weekend to attend Norwescon 38. One of the great things about Norwescon is all the writing panels they hold throughout the weekend. And even though the con itself focuses on science fiction and fantasy, the writing panels often have a wider appeal.

I was fortunate to attend seven panels. This was just a small number of total writing panels offered, but they were the ones that interested me most:

Next Gen Publishing
Writing a Series
Adding Authenticity to Historical Fiction
Character Arc, Plot Arc, Story
Level Up your Indie Skillset
The Heroine's Journey
Write What You Don't Know

I took copious notes in my free Intergalactic Passport (thank you, EMP Museum) and nearly filled it. And since it was a passport and I was at a scifi/fan con, I attended the panels on Caprica via the Nostromo. Probably not the best options (I think Risa via the Enterprise would have been less dangerous, but then again...).

See, I have visa stamps to prove it.

The panel that resonated the most with me was the Heroine's Journey. I had not encounter the term before as applied to storycraft and literary criticism. And I hadn't expected it to have the profound effect on my writing as it had.

So, in a nutshell, what I learned at the panel. All mistakes are mine, as my note-taking is rusty.

First, the program description (links are mine):
Is the heroine’s journey different from the hero’s? How does gender affect plot and character development? Join us as we talk about how and why a strong female protagonist is not the same as a guy who looks good in a dress. 

From my notes:
Classically, the tradition is of a hero's journey, the boy growing to man. Two stages. (Joseph Campbell)
For women, it is a girl growing to woman growing to crone. Three stages. But there is a choice whether to follow motherhood or not. 

The male journey: of course you'll leave home.
The female journey: what do you mean you're leaving?

The male journey: allies are sidekicks, the hero journey is of power and experience, there is no going home. The hero goes from innocence to experience. The hero perseveres through levels of battles leading to a war. "Leveling up" to defeat the big bad. 

The female journey: allies become family, the heroine's journey is empowering and toward wisdom, a return or finding of home. The heroine goes from innocence to wisdom. The heroine lifts up her allies, which benefits her as they become stronger, she uses teamwork and cleverness. 

*Learning to be wise instead of learning to be strong. 
*Ways of accomplishing goals that don't require battle. 

Examples of a Heroine Journey:
Wizard of OZ
Buffy and Katniss
The Avengers (the movie)
The Belgariad
Legend of Korra (tv show)

We spent a great deal of time in the panel naming and discussing examples of the heroine's journey. Those were just a few of the examples. We dove into the ways and hows of many of them, but I just noted titles. What was fun to note was that not just women embark on heroine journeys, and not just men follow a hero journey.

A couple of resources I noted on the Heroine's Journey that I intend to look up:

From Girl to Goddess by Valeria Frankel
The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock

What this meant for me:
I have a story I'm writing, and one of the issues I've been having is that the plot isn't a typical story of a hero's journey. There is no big bad, there is no grand goal, there aren't battles to fight or heavy odds to overcome. And while it has felt as though the story has been progressing well enough, those lacks have bothered me. Until now. Now I realize that all along, I've been writing a plot following a heroine's journey. And now I am writing with confidence. 

I realize this isn't an exhaustive study on the subject of a Heroine's Journey. It isn't mean to be. Panels at conventions aren't places to hold exhaustive studies, but they are great for learning a few new tricks or tips, or subject matters I hadn't heard before, and then to continue the study on my own. Some of the panels were hit and miss for me; either I knew the subject matter already, or the panel derailed with constant questions that were too specific to help anyone but the person asking. Those are a couple of dangers of attending panels at conferences. But in every panel, I came away with something, either a resource (like the manual on the Special Forces Use of Pack Animals) or a subject (such as writing episodic series or arc series) or some detail (like business licenses).

It's been a long time since I attended panels or a convention, and I am more motivated than ever to attend writing conferences. And, thanks for Norwescon, I have a list of local ones to look in to!