Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Countdown Is On

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday. I am suitably excited and nervous and full of dread, especially since I have to be at work at 6 a.m. that day -- no midnight NaNo running starts this year. To make the project seem even remotely feasible, I've been reading all sorts of self-help books and blogs. I have been trying to follow Alexandra Sokoloff's suggestions on plotting, characterization, and  setting. Ms. Sokoloff  suggests that we start by making a master list of our favourite books and movies -- and/or the books and movies we wish we had written. When I did that, I realized that my favourites are all about character. It doesn't matter what happens to the characters (and in some of my favourite books, Terrible Things Happen.) or where these things happen, as long as I get the chance to know the characters and love them. Wait. That's not altogether true. I much prefer happy endings. I adore chick flicks. Nonetheless, I don't care how happy the ending is if I haven't fallen in love with the characters.

So I had a revelation. I write that way. I am much less concerned  with plot than with character, and setting is almost an afterthought. My favourite movie really should be My Dinner with Andre.

This brings me to today. Today, I came across a post at Write Anything   that dealt with the topic of Setting and set out several exercises to hone one's skills at description. I played with the last one, and this is what I wrote:

There are three iron tables outside The Vault to which smokers retreat from time to time. There, they can watch the cars go by, make faces at the dogs that always seem to be tied to the lamp post, and shiver in the Vancouver Island damp. Meanwhile, the rest of us have the benefit of huge windows
that let in what sunlight penetrates the clouds. We can sit on the main floor, where the bar is,at high bar stools arranged around little -- that is, small in circumference -- tables. There aren't many of them, because part of the room is taken up by the stage, which is used a couple of nights a week for professional shows or Open Mike.

Or we can sit in considerably more comfortable, shorter chairs at shorter tables on  the mezzanine, which is a mere five steps up. The kitchen is located right behind the bar, and from a perch on the mezzanine we can see everything that goes on in the kitchen. Better yet, we can watch the proprietor or his staff prepare perfect cappuccinos, lattes, etc. at those intimidating Italian machines. Of course, we can also hear all this happening -- particularly the coffee making, which is a very noisy operation --louder by far than the music that's piped in. To distract us from the noisefest, there are paintings on the very high walls --works by local artists of an avant-garde bent. The walls themselves are painted an unfortunate yellow, sort of goldenrod, but muddier.

Speaking of the walls, and the art, there is a certain amount of art involved in choosing a place to sit. If you wish to write at your computer, you probably want to sit at one of the tables near the electrical outlets. After a while, you learn where those outlets are. They are generally hidden behind the furniture, but with a bit of acrobatic effort, you can get plugged in, and then you're set for hours. The wi-fi is great, and nobody appears to care how long you stay. Occasionally someone will wander over and offer to sell you a carving of an eagle or a whale, but otherwise you are comfortably incognito.

At the back of the main floor, as you head toward the washrooms, there is an antique (read "battered") buffet on which are stacked fliers, business cards, and several huge plants that bring to mind the Little Shop of Horrors. Adjacent to the buffet is a bulletin board on which are tacked yet more cards, fliers, warnings of impending doom, calls to action...and across the way, behind the pastry case, is the vault door. It's a real vault door, harking back to this venue's origins as a bank. When its banking days were over, the building had several more lives - as an insurance agency and a clothing store and I don't know what else -- before it found its true calling as Demeter's Vault.

Somehow, it all works. I plan to spend much of November at The Vault, as I did last year -- but this time I've managed to convince a few more NaNovelists to meet me there, so my dream of completely taking the place over may yet come true.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Praise of Elbow Grease

My mother always extolled the virtues of elbow grease for cleaning (her daughters' elbow grease, that is, not hers!), but it seems to me that all I hear on the television are ads for products that will clean and polish the world and everything in it without the use of any elbow grease at all, so that we can all spend our lives lying around, eating bon bons. Unfortunately, a lot of those products are pretty toxic. And expensive.

Just the other day, as I was bemoaning the fact that my weight has been creeping (galloping?) up again, I thought, Hey! Could there be a connection? Could the fact that I don't have to put much of an effort into housework be contributing to my weight problem? I sit all day at work, my favourite leisure activities (writing, reading, knitting) are all sedentary in nature, and when I clean house, I expect my cleaning products to work like magic. Maybe if I worked a little harder, I'd burn a few calories.

This line of thought coincided with my discovery (on Facebook, if I remember correctly) of a recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that I could make at home for pennies. The ingredients were non-toxic.

Deep inside my I Hate to Housekeep personality, there's a Suzie Homemaker crying to get out. Or so it seems. I rushed out and bought whatever ingredients I didn't have, and I made some Green Cleaner. That was just the beginning. My daughter jumped on the bandwagon and demanded the recipe. The next thing I knew, she was calling to say "Did you know you can make homemade Febreze?" The two of us spent hours googling and YouTubing, finding ways to Do It Ourselves (whatever IT might be).

So now I've got spray bottles full of homemade cleaner which, in fact, I prefer to the commercial preparations. I can't find the All Purpose Cleaner video that I saw originally, but the interwebs are full of recipes. The one I've embedded here is similar to mine, except mine has more borax and vinegar, but no washing soda. I'm going to try them all. I haven't even bothered with the essential oil, because I love the clean fragrance of the solution. My mission now? to use up the commercial cleaners I have lying around, and from this day forward, to roll my own - and use a little more elbow grease.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I am Very, very full...

and grateful to my next-door neighbour, who invited R and me (and several other people) over for Thanksgiving dinner. She served -- and we ate -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cheese sauce, carrots,sweet potatoes, squash, fresh pineapple, apple pie, pumpkin pie, ice cream, whipped cream, and wine.


It was delicious, every bit of it, and we even got to bring home some leftovers, which we might just be hungry enough to eat some time this week, though at the moment it feels as if I'll never be hungry again.

While we were there, I found out that this same neighbour hosts a Stitch & Bitch in her living room every Wednesday night. I think I'll check it out. There will be people doing crafts that are not knitting, which might be interesting, if weird.

It's funny. We've been neighbours for years, but it's only just recently that we've gone beyond the "Good morning, lovely day" stage and started to get properly acquainted. I like this.

Speaking of gratitude, I saw Mamma Mia again the other day, and I can't stop singing this song:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Photo Shootout - Reflections

It's been a long, long time -- but I wandered onto the Friday Photo Shootout site this morning, just in time to take part in today's shootout -- and as it happens, it's raining here today, so my world is full of reflections.

I decided to head out in search of unusual reflections -- and promptly changed my mind because, well, it was (and is) raining.

So I lay down on the carpet and took this photo of me and my camera reflected in my faux fireplace. Shades of Dante.Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.

Later in the day, I really did have to go out, rain or no rain, to pick up the ingredients for dinner. On the way, I stopped to photograph these --  grapevines and assorted other greenery reflected in the  Turtle's window --
and this, the last rose of summer nodding good-bye to a reflected tree. At that point I decided that the warmth of home sounded really good, so I abandoned all attempts at photography and scuttled back to my den.

And speaking of reflections, I've recently given some thought to the fact that my faithful little netbook might not last forever, and all those pieces of fiction and poetry hiding in its files could end up at the recycling depot, lost to me forever. The sensible thing would be to dig them out, one by one, finish them, and send them somewhere --

But for me, writing is like knitting. I have knitting projects stashed all over the house in various stages of completion. The sensible thing to do would be to finish all those projects before I start a new one, but every time I see a particularly lovely skein of wool, my mind leaps to a new pair of socks, a new sweater, a shawl -- and off I go.

It seems I am addicted to yarn. And words. I am addicted to words. I love to watch them form on the page. Finishing a project isn't as important to me (barring a deadline) as the process itself. I could make all sorts of resolutions about finishing one thing before I start another, but I'm a pretty old dog now, and stuck in my ways, so maybe I'd better invest in  (1) more plastic tubs to hold knitting projects and (2) a whole handful of memory sticks.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I did it again.

I held off, this year, worried about overbooking myself and bringing on another bout of exhaustion/depression, but yesterday, finally,  I couldn't resist. I closed my eyes and clicked, and just like that, I'm signed up for NaNoWriMo again. And just like last year, I find myself ever so slightly obsessed already. I was glancing through the forum list last night, and I found a group of knitting NaNovelists. I took it as a sign. I don't need to do less; I just need to concentrate on doing the things I love, and let everything else slide. Or so I hope.

While I'm hanging around with the NaNovelists, I think I'll show them how to knit a sock that doesn't look as if somebody's been nibbling at it.  (I'm sure there's a story behind that image, but I haven't found it yet.)

Last year, I started with a title (Fly Away Home) and some characters. This year, I'm taking a different approach. Among the features I've discovered is an adoption agency. People drop off their surplus ideas (for plots, characters, etc.) and leave them in the hope that they will find good homes. I found a plot that looked interesting, and I made a note of it at My Writing Nook. That's my starting point. Now I'll set about thinking up some characters. I think I'd prefer to create my own characters, rather than adopting them, but plotting is my weakest point, so I'm grateful for the help with that.

Off to work I go. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Before I was so rudely interrupted,

I was telling you about the Manor Ball. I know it's been over for days, now, but I'm still glowing a bit -- I mean, who wouldn't be?

As I was saying, we arrived at the door, where Willow greeted us warmly. A quick look around revealed a party in full swing. I saw George Sanders twirling Zsa Zsa Gabor around the floor, dancing dangerously close to the bar - oh, maybe that's where that stain on Zsa Zsa's dress came from. I must say, she didn't seem fazed by the stain. She was dancing and laughing, then leaning in close to George's ear.  George, meanwhile, was looking across the dance floor, seemingly entranced by the lush figure of Marilyn Monroe. My, my.

Denzel, on the other hand, had eyes only for me. We danced and danced, until I simply had to take a break. I had long since lost my near-naked shoes (under a potted plant somewhere, if I remember correctly) and was dancing barefoot. We went out to the terrace. I collapsed into the nearest chair. Denzel gallantly took my left ankle in his hands and massaged my aching foot while I did my best not to moan.

Oh, dear. This is bordering on TMI, isn't it?

Fast forward, then, to the end of the party, the delicious brunch, the much-needed coffee, the startling sight of Marilyn holding court in the altogether -- this was indeed a night to remember.

Willow, you are indeed the hostess with the mostest. Thank you again for your gracious hospitality.

Monday, October 04, 2010

I should have stayed at the Manor.

My last post  ended "to be continued..."  I wrote that in good faith, thinking I would be able to continue my story at my next port of call. Unfortunately, the wi-fi there turned out to be less than --let's see -- less than extant?  The rv park manager said there was wi-fi, and I did manage to connect to it, but that was as far as I could go. There I was, connected to the network, but since the network had no connectivity,  my being connected to  it wasn't very useful to me. I decided that the "wi" in wi-fi stood for "wishful". Other than that, it was a great place to stay, and I'm sure we'll stay there again, but next time, we'll be sure to get a site closer to the hot spot.

Now I'm back at home, and the Turtle has gone to its winter home to hibernate. When I woke up this morning, it was still dark. I looked over the edge of my bed, expecting to see a five-foot or so drop to the floor, but something was wrong. I could tell that, even in the gloom.  So I turned on a light and saw that my bed was really, really close to the floor. It's odd. I seem to adjust immediately to being in my over-cab Turtle bed, scrambling up and down via the "dining room" bench. But when I get back home, I don't adjust nearly as quickly. Maybe I should build myself a lofty bed. I had one of those once, a bed that was six feet off the floor. I had to get in and out of bed via a ladder. I liked that.

Anyway, our journey of 9,980 kilometres is over. We had a lovely time. For the last two days, we were in Port Townsend.

On the first day in PT, Angel May and I made our traditional raid on the William James bookstore. I found three wonderful books. Her husband waited patiently while we sorted through dozens of books to find the ones we wanted -- AM's on quilting, mine on knitting. Then the three of us went to the Thai restaurant for lunch -- also a tradition on my visits. Robin opted out of this trip. He was busy cycling all over Port Townsend, trying to make up for several weeks of insufficient exercise.

As it happened, we were in Port Townsend for the last festival weekend of the season -- the Kinetic Sculpture Weekend -- so we went to the parade. I heard that I was expected to dress as oddly as I could manage, so I wore pajama bottoms, a muu-muu, a bright pink and turquoise rain jacket, hot pink Crocs, and my bicycle helmet, which I fitted out with some silk roses and ferns. Basically, I went as a potted plant. I fit right in. Unfortunately (or not), I have no photos of me, because I was carrying the camera. There were Kinetic Kops all over the place. I heard that they might throw me into jail if I failed to dress oddly, and I was taking no chances.
For those of you who have never visited Port Townsend, I should explain that it is a special sort of place. The architecture is Victorian, the populace is generally somewhat left-of-centre, politically, and I suspect that even if there hadn't been a parade, I could have walked down the street in my potted plant outfit without raising very many eyebrows.

Oh, yes. Have I mentioned the official Port Townsend bumper sticker? It reads "We're all here because we're not all there."