Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Very Own Dragon

Oops. Looks like I missed last week's post. I had some purple soup to show off and everything. But that is going to have to wait because this week I was given a Dragon!

crocheted dragon
She says, "Hi!"

Her name Yarnlord Patches: Master of the Seven Rooms. You may address her as Your Yarnship.

stuffed dragon
Her tail is pulled around a little funny, but you get a better idea of just how awesome she is.

My husband like to think of her as Yarnlord Atarka because "Patches" is not a terribly fearsome name, and he's a Magic The Gathering addict, but she only allows her friends to refer to her as Patches, so I think it's okay. It shows she has a softer side.

crocheted dragon tail
Look at all that crocheting!

My wonderful and awesome friend Camilla (Hi!) made me the dragon because of the book I wrote about dragons and also because, apparently, she was willing to spend untold hours crocheting a dragon. As previously mentioned, she's awesome (and also reads this blog!)

I may have a bit of a fight on my hands because my husband has claimed the dragon for himself.

reading to his dragon
They're reading together. Probably browsing my blog.

His clever method of claiming involved saying, "I'm claiming her. She's mine now." He ignored my protests and went so far as to say, "Wow, that is the coolest thing anyone's ever made for me!" while I ground my teeth in annoyance.

And, because you can't see this bit, I'm going to tell you that Patches even smells good. Because she is an awesome dragon, and she is mine, all mine! (Although my husband might disagree.)

sleeping with dragons
This is a phone quality photo, but I personally thought it was rather adorable. I'm biased, though.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Photographic Inspiration

I have a wee bit of a Reddit addiction. When I want to waste a little bit of time, I'll head on over. And sometimes I accidentally waste way more time than just a little bit.

But this week I saw something truly beautiful that I want to share with anyone who's reading. Photographer Amos Chapple (this is a link to his site, which is also awesome - but I want to yabber a little before linking to the gorgeousness that inspired this post) took a series of aerial photos across the world (Russia seems particularly well represented). He took these photos using a drone, which is apparently illegal these days. He took them before such a thing was illegal, and it's amazing seeing the world from above.

aerial drone, photography
Amos' photos are copyrighted, but this is a drone from Kevin Baird.

Usually I've got zero patience for any photo album that's got more than ten photos. Not here. Each and every photo is gorgeous. Photos like this transport you and make you appreciate the beauty of the world. It's so easy to forget sitting here behind our computer terminals.

I'd like to recommend clicking on each photo. It'll take a while to get through, but it's worth it to experience the photo without any distraction. At least it was to me.

This is the link to the Imgur album (you may have to click the thing at the end to view all). This is the Reddit post that links to Imgur. These are the same photos at his site instead. He provides interesting context, and I love that he focuses on man-made beauty. I'm personally apt to admire natural landscapes and ignore the wonders of the human world.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Drawing of A Faraway Place (That I've Been!)

I've been having fun plotting a refresh of one of my old, beloved books. I've got a whole mythology going and about 15 pages worth of outline. Sometimes its more fun to outline than to actually write. It's hard to muck up an outline (and if you do, you can just change up your bullet points!) It's so much harder to actually write an engaging chapter.

But enough of that. I've got something else to share that's probably a bit more fun to look at. This week I wanted to make a card of sorts for a co-worker who just happened to be in Italy at the same time as me. And so I used this picture I took from Il Duomo's bell tower (oh, the stairs!):

Florence view, il duomo

And a piece of 8.5" by 11" paper and my pastels and drew this:

Florence drawing, the dome, Sarah Hipple

The first time I drew the little rounded windows below the dome, I saw two eyes staring straight back at me. I did a bit of shading and highlighting to minimize the staring eyes effect, but honestly now I've seen them, they can't be unseen.

And I've just told all of you about them too. How do you like the owly Il Duomo of Florence?

I think my proportions are a bit off, and the cross on top of the dome looks a bit like it might fall over, but overall I like the effect.

Now I just have to learn how to describe things with words as I draw them with pastels. One of these days I'd like to think my word paintings might even outshine my paint paintings. I do spend far more time on the word paintings, and I hear that practice makes perfect. Or at least it helps.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In Which I Play The Describing Game

Description is one of my weaknesses. It's hard and usually boring, dangit. But ever since I read Rick Riordan's description of the entrance into Hades as a cross between the New Jersey Turnpike and airport security (from The Lightning Thief) I realized description could be awesome.

Okay, so that might not have been the first time I had that realization, but it was the most recent. I mean, how great is that describerizing? Sounds pretty hellish to me.

And it just so happened that I had several hours as a back-seat passenger on the way to my Very Important Meeting (referenced last week). I entertained myself by figuring out how to describe the scenery.

This photo was basically all I had for a while:

glowing moon sliver
Photo by Jeff Gamble

Only my moon sliver was more on its left side.

The easy description here is the Cheshire Cat grin. Bright smile and all that, but it didn't feel true to my moon.

It took a while, but I decided that my moon looked much more like she was showing off her bright, glowing belly.

Then an orange glow started pushing at the dark night sky.

At first it was sleepy (like me):
sunrise and moon sliver
Photo by Laurel F

But then the glow started to wake up the sky:
sunrise in the mountains
Photo by Ken_Lord

And you know what? The describing game is actually kind of fun.

I didn't take my own photos, but I felt like these ones did the job quite nicely. That is all for today.

Thank you.

(And, yes, I am ever so super entertaining on long car trips - especially crazy early in the morning.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Willy-nilly Wednesday: A Linky Post

Tons of blogs do link round-ups and have cool names for them. I do not. I'm gonna pretend that "Willy-nilly Wednesday" might suffice, but I'm certain you'll never see it again. It's not even particularly descriptive.

But, to be honest, I've got other things on my mind. For work this week, I'm off to a Very Important Meeting. Last year I was so anxious I nearly chewed through my lip. This year, my lip is merely gnawed about the edges. I know it'll get easier the more I have to attend, but I truly cannot imagine ever wanting to go. So this week you're getting a collection of links that struck me as interesting or funny. Because that felt easiest.

elegant centaur
'Tis a gay and noble centaur.

First off, if you follow Reddit, you most likely saw this post. Somebody decided to dream up some very, er, helpful? self-help books. They created the front and back cover and front and back flap of the book. I have to wonder exactly what book they put them on. My favorite is definitely So Your Son Is A Centaur: Coping With Your Child's Confusing Life Choices.

fat centaur
The first centaur was rawther majestic.
This one made me snort a bit.
Photo by Ed Schipul.

Chuck Wendig's blog has its profanity-filled moments (consider this fair warning), but just when I was feeling particularly down-hearted about my lack of querying success, he put out this blog post. It basically says that sure there are people to which this whole writing/arting/whatevering thing comes naturally. But everybody's definition of what it means to be "talented" is subjective. There will always be people that hate something, no matter what. So you've got to be okay with that and you've got to work and keep going and hopefully get lucky too - but mostly you've got to keep working.

Sure, you might not be the next J.K. Rowling (you know, the first author to make a billion dollars from their writing - I always hear about her as the "first" but then nobody ever has another name to throw into that pot, so for now I'm thinking she's the only billion-dollar author.)
Anyway, Chuck's post was a bit rambly. His posts usually are (like I'm one to talk). I might have missed a point or two, but you get the gist of it.

Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
Photo by Aviva West

I found this fun tally of some of the books that were made up for Parks and Recreation. Aw, that Leslie Knope. She's crazy.

Terry Pratchett
Photo from Myrmi

Then there was the sad news of the week. Beloved author Terry Pratchett died at age 66. That seems far too young to me, but at least we can appreciate the legacy he left behind. The Guardian has an article that I enjoyed very much, and XKCD did a tribute too. He had a beautiful imagination.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Context is Key (the lesser known adage to Content is King)

I've decided to augment today's post with photos of my husband & I in New Zealand.
No particular reason other than NZ is awesome.
This is me looking ridiculously happy in front of Mount Doom.

I had an enlightening writing experience recently. One of my critique partners read an older novel of mine. I love the novel, but I wanted a fresh perspective on why I couldn't get any agent interested in it.

I knew the story itself evolved into something fairly fun-to-read with enjoyable characters (obviously I'm biased). My husband (yes, also biased) said he had a hard time getting started with the book but around the 2/3 mark he started reading and got so absorbed he forgot where he was.

The problem, of course, is that readers give a book maybe 5 pages. More likely 1 page. After that, if their interest isn't gripped, they're putting it down.

This was like a tiny lawn shrub we have at home.
Only it was enormous. This wasn't even the biggest one we saw.

Here were some of the early comments my critiquer made:
  • "I feel disoriented."
  • "Why?" - As in "Why on earth did this happen?"
  • "I don't have context."
  • "I still don't know what's going on."
And, weirdly enough, I loved those comments because they really put the problem into perspective. They told me exactly what my first few pages needed.

My husband likes to skip rocks.
I've got a rock skipping picture of him from pretty much every vacation we've ever taken.

Yes, you need engaging characters and an interesting plot. Yes, the overall book needs to work.

But first you've got to build a world for your reader. You've got to get them interested in the plight of your main character. You've got to make it clear who the heck your main character is and why the reader should care about him (or her). And you've got to immerse your reader in your world. These pages didn't do that.

A lot of my novels failed to give a good sense of place. One thing I've started to do is extensive world building before writing (or revising) my novels. It's funny how the littlest things can seep into the world and make it feel like a nuanced, well-thought-out place that might actually exist.

Our feet propped up on the balcony of our Queenstown hotel.

Holly Black gave me some similar advice, and I can see how following it would help me build a much better sense of my world and main character.

This post talks more about what details to include and exclude, in case you were looking for a more in depth analysis.

So, I'm off to revise. Or, rather, re-write. I've decided my next project is stripping that old novel down to its bones and giving it new life - with a little more context.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Van Gogh Inspired Daffodils

I spent a fair amount of my weekend finishing my daffodil painting. It's meant to be van Gogh inspired in that I tried to really show my brush strokes, and I didn't necessarily bother with the colors of nature.

I'm not sure it ended up looking very van Gogh-like, but I do like the painting. (And since I spent my weekend painting rather than writing my blog post, this is what you're getting this week. Plus I wanted to show it off. I'm rather proud of this painting.)

Here is the finished work:
daffodil painting

I took two photos while I was painting, and I always find the artistic process interesting, so, on the off chance you're like me, here are those two photos:

incomplete daffodil painting
Rather ugly, right?

ghost daffodil painting
Ghost Daffodils.
You'd think I was nearly done here, but those daffodils took forever.

I think I'm going to frame the painting and put it in the little writing nook I fashioned for myself.