Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winter Icons

A few weeks ago, under the influence of several art deco books, I created a few designs that I though would be seasonal.   Here they are:

Winter Sun. I designed this first using a compass and then switched to a computer program.  

Snowflake 1.  This one sort of came to me in a dream.  Okay, and I'd been fiddling with the compass a little before I went to sleep.

Snowflake 2.  This is what happens when you can add "difference filters" 

Winter Moon.   I wanted something that implied the mutability of the moon without being too crescenty.  

I think we have our favorite in this house... but My Art Critic had some strong words to say.   So... It's a pole (see the box to the right)!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Old Photos

I was reading Mary's blog about how she visited the Cathedral at St John the Divine and it reminded me that I have a photo of a squirrel jumping into a hole in the gigantic bronze statue of St Michael slaying Satan (on top of a giant crab while giraffes are necking behind him).  (The contrast isn't so good in this photo, but if you look at about 10:30 from the tip of the crab's claw, you'll see the squirel's back legs and tail.)

I liked the columns at the front entrance, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Too. Much. Stuffing.

The food I like the most at Thanksgiving is the stuffing.

This year we didn't eat Thanksgiving with our families, so we ate it with some friends instead.

I made the stuffing.  Now, I've never really watched my Mom make the stuffing.  While speaking with my sister over the phone, she opined that Mom fried bacon and added that to the mix... but I digress.  I flipped through the Joy of Cooking and found a recipe that had most of Mom's ingredients in it -- just one problem, it's not really a recipe so much as a list of things that one could put into a stuffing if one so desired; even the measurements are suggestions.  

The other thing:  not only do we live in the Coupled Lesbian Capitol of the World, and the Tie-Dye Capitol of the World, we also live in Oregon's Largest Vegetarian Enclave.   So, no turkey.  My work-around to not being able to mix in giblets and sew the stuffing into a neck cavity was to use boxed turkey gravy as a sauce.

So let's see... a loaf of bread, a bunch and a half of celery, two boxes of mushrooms, a onion, garlic, sage (and other random herbs because we were out of paprika), a package of cashews and more butter than I care to think about later and I've got a Very Large Bowel full of stuffing.  It looks like Mom's stuffing, but more importantly, it smells like Mom's stuffing.  

Lots of stuffing.  I was going to cook it in the Very Large Bowl, but Mark suggested that the manufacturer might not have had ovens in mind when they made it.   I had enough to fill two big casserole dishes.  

The dinner was lots of fun.  One of the female teens called into question the manliness of one of the male teens because he took the smallest portions possible -- "So," I asked her, smiling, "Are you saying that I'm more manly that he is?"  Since I was wearing what Mark calls my "Lesbian High Priestess" outfit (beige jacket with padded shoulders, purple iridescent scarf) she started to say yes, but then faltered.  

There were three carnivores at Thanksgiving.  One brought a chicken.  Not only did I eat way too much, but I've got a Large Deep Dish of Stuffing living, untouched, in our fridge.   Oh, and dirty dishes in the sink; which means I have to waddle to the kitchen and start putting things away.

Happy Thanksgiving

Got a five-day e-mail short story rejection. Off to make stuffing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Papier Mâché Fish

I've always been impressed with the craft of Mary Robinette Kowal, so after she posted a papier mâché tutorial,  I knew that I had to try to make some fish.

I used scissors to freehand cut out fish shapes out of an old cereal box (I get more milage out of those boxes).  These were about nine inches by four inches.  I had a vague notion that it would be fun to hang a school of them from the ceiling (which is sort of passe when one lives in the Pacific Northwest, but it does look cool).

I found an old paper bag -- this was slightly harder than I thought it would be because we have about eight fabric bags we go shopping with.  I also dragged out about four reams worth of printer paper that had been printed on both sides with short story rough drafts.  A helper and I ripped them into strips about an inch by six inches.  

Then dinner happened.  One thing sort of lead to another, and now that I'm actually re-reading Mary's tutorial, the only instructions I followed was use to whole wheat flour and paper bags.  (There was post-dinner hot chocolate involved, so I was busy with a whisk, a double-boiler, and a hot stovetop when the rest of my family decided to start.)

Somehow the cardboard fish were dumped into a pretty wet mixture of flour (with maybe some salt and no paste -- I wasn't in the room to see the actual mixing process).  Mark decided he wanted his fish to curl around.  So here's a picture of his.  Mary suggests using a painting tin, as you can see, we used a Very Large Mixing Bowl.

For my fish, I applied a base of the paper bag strips along the belly of the fish to try to give it some depth.  At the time it seemed like it was getting pretty thick, but I think that was wishful thinking because I wanted to be through dodging the papier mâché  being splattered around the room (no, the large drop cloth we'd put down wasn't big enough, and I'm still finding odd blobs of the stuff on the floors and used mugs of hot chocolate).

We avoided a Tasmanian Devil moment with the craft materials and put the fish out in the garage to dry.  That was last night.  This afternoon they're still kind of wet and pliable (it's Thanksgiving time in Oregon, so the sun puts in about a half-hour's worth of time).  

I can't help but look at the random words from a short story on my fish and remember the words of Eric Witchey, who, when using a fish metaphor for selling short stories, said, "Even a dead fish will float down stream."  

I'm pretty sure this fish will be a prototype, and the next batch I might try using two cardboard cutouts to get a jump on the three-dimensionality.  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Story Marketing and Harping

Been marketing.  The PHP scripts are helpful -- I'm finding the suggestion lists they generate very useful -- although they make me feel a little draconian in terms of looking at markets simply for their pay rates.  Oh well... at least I managed to send out two stories to postal-only markets.  

I'm playing harp this Sunday evening for a kind of advent labyrinth walk at the UU church.  This means I've been practicing a lot, since I have to provide about a half-hour's worth of music while people walk a labyrinth of evergreen boughs and light candles.   It's times like this when I realize that all of the music I know (or at least can play on the harp) is divided into two groups:  music that has a C-F-G-C chord progression and music that has an Aminor-C-G chord progression.

I think the only exceptions are "We Three Kings" and "Diamonds Are Forever."  

Anyway, I have to make a play list so that there aren't too many lurches in song style.

Colds and Discoveries

I have a cold; not too bad -- mostly I'm only congested in the morning (and tired, and sore). On the bright side, at least this year I haven't gone to OryCon and turned the cold into something much worse.

Yesterday I went to a bat mitzvah. I had two of those ah-ha moments as I was following along with the transliterated Hebrew. One was that I really enjoy the translated, transliterated, and annotated prayer books and I wish that Neo-Pagans had some (this is usually in conjunction with wishing Neo-Pagan chants were more musically complex than "Three Blind Mice").

The only bits I recognized were from Dion Fortune's "The Mystical Qabalah," and -- I guess some of this comes from reading an excerpted chapter from Cynthia Eller's "Living in the Lap of the Goddess," -- I was really struck by how the vocabulary of the occult system underpinning a lot of Western European Neo-Paganism is appropriated from Hebrew prayer. Hearing the worshipers in the synagogue reminded me that "Chokmah" isn't just a little symbolic circle on a symbolic pillar -- it's also the divine gift of wisdom granted by God.

Looks like I have some housekeeping to do...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dream Saxophone

Lots of long dreams lately.  

Probably the coolest image lately was of a kind of saxophone.  It was very large, and not only could you play it with your hands, it had pedals for your feet connected to articulated sticks so you could play the bowl of the horn (sort of like a cross between playing pots and pans and a steel drum).  

Yes, I've been exposed to a lot of Dr. Suess lately.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Silver Balls

The other night we went window shopping.  It's been a while since I got to look at all the shiny things.  In one store there were a bunch of fist-sized silver balls.  I couldn't tell if they were made of glass, ceramic, or some kind of metal -- unfortunately the cashiers couldn't figure it out either.  

They reminded me of the gazing globe from long ago, and I thought how much fun it would be to hang a few from the cherry tree out back.   Not to mention, since I was wearing my cloak, holding two of them in my hands made me look two-thirds of the way to Jereth The Goblin King (or maybe his woodsy older brother).

But they were made in China, so who knows what nasty chemicals lurk inside.  Mark suggested that I lick one to see if it was sweet (from lead) or not, but I declined.  

I did remind him that I thought it would be fun to have a surgical stainless steel obelisk, ala David Harber, in the backyard.   That prompted the speech about when I'm a writer who makes money I can afford a little writers' colony (with gardening staff).

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Notes and Dreams

Well... Let's see.

I think the dark is affecting me.  Either than or kicking the Pepsi habit from 24 fluid ounces a day to 12 every other day is.  

In the writing department:  I got another rejection.  It was a very nice form letter, obviously from a stack of form letters, that said, "Gee; we know you writers work really hard, but we don't have the time to do more than send you this really nice rejection letter."  I had to write the date and the name of the piece on it for my records.  Of all but one of the stories that I sent out at the beginning of last October, none of them sold (the final one is at a market that has a six month turn around time).  

In the house department:  I managed to prime and get a first coat of new paint over the strip of water blistered paint that Mark noticed last week.  Just in time:  the winter rains have begun and it's likely that they won't stop until February or April (OK, that's not quite true, but sometimes it seems like it).  So hurray!  The house is more or less the color it should be in the front.

In the dream department:  I had a very long convoluted dream.  The main conflict was that I was on a boat along with another guy who was somehow a college friend.  The boat was hijacked by a twenty-something girl and taken to a secret river harbor.   There was lots of flying, and an art show, and at one point the boat (a large yacht) turned out to be an inflatable boat with a hole in it.

The other main part of the dream was trying to recall an e-mail posting I'd made to a mail group which involved instructions (with illustrations) of how to make a suspended table in the silhouette of a person -- the joints were joined by chain links.  So the the table (or shelf) was like a shadow puppet, only horizontal instead of vertical.    And at the same time the table was an essay.  And I couldn't remember exactly what I'd called it and I was trying to remember when I'd e-mailed it.  I spent a long time in a kind of dream-fugue trying to recall the steps of the argument in the essay so I could remember the e-mail's title.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sigh. Computer Problems

The iMac is overheating or something. Unfortunately, zapping the PRAM and the SMU and blowing out all the dust doesn't seem to be fixing the problem -- which is about five hours of use causes a little electric sounding ZZZZT, the screen to go black, and the fans to rev up like a jet engine's.

The latest crash happened in the middle of e-mailing a story submission. Grrrr.

Another Rejection

Sigh. Got a very nice, "close but no cigar" rejection today. That makes three rejections this week (and one of those was in a record 50 minutes). Time to edit, send out more, and eat some chocolate. (I'm starting with the chocolate.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's a Sign

Hmmm. In a twenty minute period I've read Mary's latest blog entry, and someone forwarded me this excerpt.

I think the universe is telling me to work harder.   (Or possibly that I should have been born in 1955.)


Scene:  The kitchen.  I've just explained that I've received a rejection and I spent the morning reading the market to try to figure out what the editors want.

Mark:  "You always say that writers shouldn't try to figure out what editors like.  If they are always rejecting stories you think they'll like, maybe you should send them stories you think they won't like."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Remembrances from Apr 1997

Corvallis.  Sat, 5 Apr 1997 

My Dippy-Hippy self demanded that I nap in the circle in the sun and wait for visions. Since I'm lucky enough to have a circle of bricks a stone's throw from the house, complete with an outer circle of trees and next to a river, this impulse took on the nature of a Moral Imperative.

It was a beautiful day: sunny, but not too warm, with an occasional breeze to remind you that the Spring Equinox had just been last week.  And it was a Saturday, too.

My harp was set in the shade of one of the trees. The wind blew through the harpstrings, producing an otherworldly sound. I spread out a blanket upon the long grass, wrapped myself in my cloak (don't want to prematurely age my skin in the sun), and lay on the green sward. In the darkness of the hood, beneath the shadows of my eyelids, I waited.

The harp hummed under the unseen fingers of the blowing wind. I was drifting in the wood between the worlds; there was a woman in green walking towards me. She looked up and began to speak and -- a really loud airplane flew overhead.

The red-black screen of my eyelids shifted, resolved. There were snow-capped mountains Suddenly, I was seeing them through a stone doorway. The stone lintel of the portal was made elegant by simple straight lines carved along the edges. Wide stone pillars held up the roof over the door; it was a colonnade surrounding a courtyard which I had just entered.

Guards and yeomen, wrapped in bands of cloth reminiscent of something Asian, clustered in small groups about the courtyard. I walked towards the temple priests and -- AN ANT WALKED ACROSS MY THROAT.

Shaking the ant out of my cloak I relaxed once again.  It was no use, the sun was beating down on my cloak, turning it into a sauna, and more ants began to walk across my arms, feet and face. Unlike Starhawk, I was unable to eroticise this experience. I sprang up, and made ready my preparations.

Moments later, I began in the North (because Danger Always Comes From A Cardinal Direction), and started circling widdershins.

The voices of animals long dead roared out as the lawnmower blades cut back the grass and scattered the ants.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Funny Things

These nothing like a roomful of Unitarians with karaoke equipment to put a smile on my face.  Yes, we sang, "Blowing in the Wind."  Yes, small children sang "American Pie."  Yes, I sang, "Diamonds Are Forever."  

And yes, I did belly dance during my rendition of They Might Be Giant's "Istanbul (not Constantinople)."

But, no, I did not sing "Missionary Man," but I could have.  And no, I didn't have the best voice in the room -- it was some 20-year old with a scratchy alternate rock voice.

In the "Heard Today Department"

My dad: "... and if we die you guys will get to clean out the house, mwah-ha-ha-ha!"

Suddenly, where I got my sense of humor seems much more clear.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Doesn't Everyone Know What Dolmen Means?

Just back from the Wordos.   

The first story confused the hell out of everyone.   Sigh.  This hasn't happened for a while.  I guess I got so into the story that I forgot to adequately translate it for 21st century readers (the story was set in paleolithic times).  I and my characters knew what they were doing and why, but not my readers.  (Although the person who seemed to be the most confused by the story was the person who figured out what was happening.)

Someone said that the story felt like a translation from another language -- which was good; the story was told from a 20 C BCE tribal person's point of view.   And I guess I was so casual about the fuzzy boundaries between this life and the afterlife that it killed any tension about dying.... And no one knew what a dolmen was; I thought "dolmen" was in most fantasy readers' lexicons -- but I guess that's only if they also read a lot of archeology and Neo-Pagan paleolithic history.  (It's a stone with a hole in it or a stone arch or gateway -- like what they have at Stonehenge.)

Oh well.  On the brighter side, my surreal story was more positively received.  I think I mananged to channel my inner Ray Vukcevich (probably a more manic Ray than the real Mr. Vukcevich, but still a successful channeling). The folks who recognized it was a slipstream story enjoyed it a lot.  The folks who read it as a more "mainstream" fantasy story got frustrated with the narrator's logic (and they were more likely to find the more confusing plot elements).

Oddly, although the first story is more Burridge-esque,  the second story, which is more Vukcevich-esque,  will be easier to fix.

It's Raining, It's Pouring

I've been feeling a little bleah the last few days -- I'm not sure if it's from the change in light or from my flu shot.   Chocolate and hot tea help; and in a OMG-why-isn't-this-woman-exhausted way, so does the blog of Mary Robinette Kowal.

In house news:  painted the rain gutters.  Now we have to re-attach them (just in time for the two inches of rain forecast for the next twenty-four hours).

In writing news:  Got a form rejection last week.  I need to sit down and send more stories out via USP.   It would be nice to sell something.  

I've been working on a Wordos experiement; it's hard -- it's a short story with a very specific outline.  I suppose it's building character, and I have to work myself up to work on the story.  

Last week I completed two flash fiction pieces; they're going to Wordos for critique tonight.  One is grim, the other one's fluffy and kooky; we'll see which one (if any) the Wordos like.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

Old Dayhist Dream

I was flipping through some old files and I found this dream from March of 2002. Apparently, I had a cold and took some Dayhist before going to sleep, because this dream is extra wacky, even for me...

I was in a cave with a river flowing through it. It was the cave of unborn souls. A voice said, "You can choose to be reborn, but it will not be easy, for you must plunge through the waterfall of rebirth." The whole sequence had a kind of Native American feel to it.

Someone else was there, and he said, "I will go with you through the waterfall." So we both jumped into the river and went over the edge of the waterfall. (In typing this, I'm having flashbacks to Marshal, Will and Holly falling to The Land of the Lost.)

As we were in the river, falling, I could hear some rhythmic drumbeats. The waterfall was like a tunnel we were travelling through. "The otters are drumming us along our way," said the person with me.

"Wow," I thought, "it's like the beating of a mother's heart as a child goes down the birth canal... or the rhythm of two lovers..."

"Or me jumping on a bed!" said Joey from Friends. Suddenly the entire cast of Friends was riding on a huge log that was floating down a busy New York street. There was no water, no river, just a log floating about eight feet off the ground as if it were in water. I was hanging onto the roots as the six of us floated down Manhatten. We were on some sort of travel through time.

"Oh look," said Rachel, "there's the old apartment building where we were first roommates!"

...and the dream went on to other things....

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Numinous Moments

Yesterday we went on a hike about forty miles west of Eugene. The drive is mostly pretty, as the road parallels a local reservoir. It was raining off and on, but at one point the sun came out enough to provide a wonderful moment. Pine and cedar trees surrounded us as we stood upon the sloping bath. Across the wide still river the climbing hills were crowned with more evergreen. Mist obscured the vanishing point; each receding curtain of trees growing less and less distinct.  Silvered rain fell out of a pearl sky. Beside us, the trunks of the trees wove a tapestry of shadow and limned leaves.

It was a numinous moment and I didn't have a digital camera.

A few moments later the 3 PM afternoon became as dark as twilight as the rain clouds thickened.

So welcome November. Even if today I -- despite two cups of tea and another of hot chocolate -- wanted to hibernate.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rain and Paint

Tomorrow we get to paint the rain gutter drains we took down to paint.  The rains have come, so rain's been spattering next to our foundations.  Probably a Bad Thing in the long run.   I'd rather see the simulcast of Dr. Atomic.  Oh well, I guess that's the price of home ownership.

This has been a tiring week; I was speaking with my sister and I think she summed it up:  Halloween, the elections and the time zone change all happened at once.

In writing news, while I was in the shower, the ending to a short story I'd been tinkering with presented itself.  I managed to jot it down before breakfast and then massage it into the story later.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


 Last night folks were setting off fireworks -- presumably they were happy with the Presidential election results.  I think many (but not all) people in Eugene were singing versions of "Ding Dong The Witch is Dead."  It will still be a while before we know who our mayor is; last time I checked, the candidate I wanted to win was ahead by about 500 votes.  Likewise, we're not yet sure who Oregon voted into the senate.

I'm cautiously optimistic about President Elect Obama.  I remember Bill Clinton not delivering on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and going ahead with NAFTA.  And Mark likes to point out that Obama's good at getting elected, which is about all we really know about him.   In my mind, at the very least Mr. Obama will appoint Supreme Court Justices more in line with my political and cultural views.  

In the writing department:  Got another rejection today -- this one looked like a form rejection... but it also looked hand-typed.  Oh well; at least it frees up the market for another story.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Back Flap Shot?

A friend of mine took this photo last Tuesday at the Halloween Reading. To quote Londo Mollari, "Everybody's cute. Even me. But in purple, I'm stunning."



Last week was extra spacey -- I managed to forget my cell phone and wallet in Corvallis Thursday and had to drive back to retrieve them. I think I must have been pondering if I should be a UU Worship Associate very heavily. In the end I decided that it wasn't the right time to go down that path. It was hard, because I really like some sort of group; but helping out with a Protestant liturgy ultimately wasn't going to feed my Neo-Pagan soul.

We got many more trick-or-treaters this year. The signal in our neighborhood is to keep your porch light on (last year we had lots of pumpkins lit, but no porch light). Mark got a bunch of glow-sticks, which were a big hit with the kids.

The rains have returned. I'm hoping that it fixes the ground underneath our house so that the door between the kitchen and the garage goes back into alignment. Of course, it's kind of grey now, and I could feel the dopamine transmitters in my brain turning off. Or something. Looks like it's time to break out the halogen lamp and stare into it for the next six months.

Had a fun weekend with the family on the train. It's more expensive than driving, but more relaxing. Mark found a good deal, so it wasn't quite as expensive as it might have been. Our Thanksgiving Fantasy is to rent a Silver Slipper and have it do a round-trip up and down the Willamette Valley collecting relatives so no-one has to travel far for Thanksgiving Dinner.

In the writing department: Got two rejections; on presumed one on Halloween and a nice "please send us more" rejection on All Souls' Day.