darkemeralds: DarkEm self portrait in magenta cowl, left profile, against a black wall (Silver Magenta)
The ice must breaking up or something, because I made a thing today, after months of making no things.

I got out my heavy old sewing machine, a magnet bristling with pins, my shears, my cookie tin of threads, and an extra task light, and put two pieces of fabric together.

Just a big rectangle, but still. Making a thing. )
darkemeralds: DarkEm self portrait in magenta cowl, left profile, against a black wall (Default)
The one-year mark in the don't-work-no-more phase of my career has come and gone, and I find that I want some structure back in my life. I feel ready to emerge from my cave a little and reconnect, too.

So maybe I can do a post a day for a month.

Boy, am I rusty. Whew. Let's see... [self-censor kicks into high gear: "No, that's unoriginal. No, that would be whiny. No, that sounds like a commercial..."]

Screw you, self-censor. )
darkemeralds: An old book whose spine reads Signsls and Cyphers, with the text DarkEmeralds (Cyphers)
I've just finished listening to the audiobook version of Julie Sondra Decker's The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality (narrated by Reay Kaplan).

I book-reviewed it on Audible, but I wanted to make a few notes about my more personal reaction to it.

Aces. )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's been five years since I got the sudden wild idea to buy a bike. Since then I've lost 65 pounds, sold my car, reduced my transportation expenses to $75 a month, let my driver's license lapse, and, in a not-entirely-unrelated development, retired1.

Five Years By Bike, in lists )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
The only real downside of non-car-ownership (for me) is that one's orbit contracts significantly: every now and then an urge to get out of the city strikes, and it's not easy to satisfy.

So when my good pal [personal profile] roseambr invited me to go with her to Montana at the end of September, I said yes, yes, and yes-indeedy. She's taking a four-day art glass course in the small and apparently picturesque town of Hamilton, and I'm going to go along and treat it as a writing retreat.

Since our lodging is seven miles outside of the town itself, and since I've actually let my driver's license lapse (whoops) and so can't use [personal profile] roseambr's car during the day, I'm going to rent a Brompton to take along. Hamilton being a ski-resort-y kind of place with at least one bike shop of its own, I'm hoping that a gray haired lady on a folding bike won't raise too many eyebrows.

Hamilton is a nine-hour drive from Portland, and from what I hear, late September is an excellent time to visit: pre-snow, post-summer-heat. I'm more of a Left Coaster than an American West-er, so the farthest I've ever been into the interior is western Idaho; Montana is a vast, Big Sky mystery to me.

Should be fun.
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
I know I'm 45 minutes early, but I want to be the first to wish a very happy birthday to [personal profile] ravurian, whose presence in my life is among my chiefest joys.

Peace and love to you, my friend.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
I was battering my brains against a writing problem this afternoon when there came a knock at my door. Rescue!

It was a former coworker, just passing by, and we ended up in an absorbing two-hour conversation about life in Stumptown, and wonky city politics, and the neighborhood we have in common. It refreshed my mind wonderfully. I felt smart and connected at the end of it, instead of adrift and lame.

What if, I thought: What if, in my story that's refusing to take shape, I insert a sudden and unexpected knock on the door? What if someone the protagonist hasn't seen for ages drops by? What if that person drops by with a gun?? Oooh...

What if the protagonist opens the door and there's nobody there, but there's a letter on the mat. "I saw what you did that day..." Or a package: the bloody shirt, the stolen heirloom, a hank of hair, the exculpatory proof...

What if the protagonist is high on opium and the apparition standing at the door is a hallucination dispensing mystical advice that turns out to be deadly? Or shows him the future--accurately?

What if I'm actually writing a fantasy and there's no opium and the being isn't a hallucination at all? What if it's an angel?

What if I open my door and it's the Angel of Storytelling, here to help me bring this sucker in for a landing? That would be cool.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Anyone want to study an amazing writing technique with me?

Every bit of writing training I've ever been exposed to has defined "good writing" as clean prose, strong characterization, dramatic conflict, lively dialogue, concise description, etc., etc., etc.

But apart from "It should have a beginning, a middle and an end," I've never had story structure broken down and explained--or even mentioned. I've never consciously observed it in my reading. I didn't really know it existed. It's been all flesh, no bones.

Larry Brooks lays out the bones, and once you see them, you can't unsee them.

Story Engineering )

A lot of writers and editors no doubt intuit their way to this structure, but I'm done groping around in the dark. This guy has handed me the keys to the room where all the light switches are, and I want to share them. I need a critique/study partner or two to work the method with and get better at applying it.

So who's interested in learning more?


Aug. 3rd, 2014 11:57 am
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
As desperately as I believed I wanted an oh-so-shiny, thin, sleek, sexy ASUS Zenbook, as imminent the failure of my beat-up old Dell Studio, and notwithstanding my having saved up for a fancy new laptop, the universe said, "Whoa, Nelly."

'Listen to your heart and what it has to say.' )

And bingo, I'm back in business. Total cost: $100 and an afternoon. I feel like I've saved a failing marriage or something.

Moral of the story? You tell me.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
[personal profile] lycomingst pinged me yesterday to inquire after my continued existence--very kind!--and caused me to face the ridiculously wide gap in my posting history around here.

I continue to exist. )

So, yes. Still existing. Chipping away at this thing called life. How's everyone doing?
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
I put my hinged table project on hold because this whole other almost-full time, intensive, non-paying job of writing intervened, but today after "work" (I shouldn't put that in quotes--it's work) I finally finished it.

Wall table )
darkemeralds: DarkEm self portrait in magenta cowl, left profile, against a black wall (Default)
"Writers, you need this book."

That was the tweet from my friend Sue last Monday morning. Ordinarily, "Yeah, yeah, whatever" would be my response, because I have never gotten anything of out of books for writers.

But last Monday was different. )

It's like a fucking miracle.

Writers, you need this book.
darkemeralds: Photograph of the seal on King Tut's tomb, with the words "What do you see?" and "Wonderful Things!" (Wonderful Things)
How many motors do you have in your house?

Kevin Kelly, in What Technology Wants and on his blog, talks about how the most successful technologies disappear. They start as major innovations, then become increasingly invisible and ubiquitous. (Douglas Adams pointed this out, too--Kelly quotes him at the link.)

Buckminster Fuller called it "ephermeralization," doing "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing." (Note that he says can, not must or should. I don't think he, or Kelly, or Diamandis or any of the Techno-Evangelists actually advocates for banning old technologies. There are still people producing illuminated manuscripts, buggy whips, and flint arrowheads.)

Kelly cites electric motors as one example of massive ephemeralization. When they were new, electric motors were huge and expensive. Entire factories were adapted to run off a single large motor. As they got smaller and cheaper, they were adapted to a million uses that weren't originally anticipated. They became ubiquitous and invisible.

How many do you have around you? Think about everything you own where you push a button and something moves. There's a motor in there.

It's a longish list. )
darkemeralds: Shirtless construction worker. Caption "Home Improvement" (Home Improvement)
In the One Thing Leads To Another category (a category which pretty much characterizes my life), I'm making a work table.

Two things led to this project: First, I have a leftover door from the bedroom remodel; and second, several items1 on the remodel punchlist2 require sewing, which called for a bigger work surface than I have room for in my tiny house.

So hey, I have an idea!3 Why don't I make a wall-mounted, lift-up/drop-down table from that door? How hard could it be?4

Harder than I thought. Story of my life. )

1slipcover, decorative pillows, a faux-fur throw. Ironically, no window treatments.

2I just learned that what's called a "punchlist" in my neck of the woods is called a "snag list" in the UK. Either way, it's the list of final corrections needed on a project.

3Another category that characterizes my life.

4And yet another.


May. 25th, 2014 11:22 pm
darkemeralds: Image of an open book whose pages are turning into wings and flying away (Winged book)
It's been a peculiarly stressful week, beginning with a short visit from my brother, who flew up from Santa Barbara for our oldest sister's milestone 60th birthday.

(First of all, oh my god how do I have a sixty year old sister?)

I both love and like my brother, and we get along well. We had a nice time together.

DarkEmeralds and her sisters, brother, nieces and mother
from left to right: DarkEm, niece, younger sister, niece, niece, Mom, niece, brother, the birthday girl

But... )
darkemeralds: (catastrophe)
One of the brightest highlights of all my travels over the years was visiting Glasgow three years ago as the guest of [personal profile] kis and Mr Kis. And the highlight of that highlight was the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building on Renfrew Street that houses the Glasgow School of Art.

Facade of the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Building, Renfrew Street Glasgow, UK

Kis and I walked there from a little lower down in the town. Glasgow celebrates its status as a cradle of Art Nouveau and the home of Mackintosh in all kinds of ways, but that building, which Mackintosh and his wife designed and built specifically to be an art school, and which has been an art school since it opened its doors in 1909, is the crown jewel. Climbing to it is entirely appropriate.

From basement to rooftop, the Mackintoshes designed everything in the building. Clocks, locks, beams, benches, the very room numbers on the doors...everything. The elegant curves and straight lines, the just-so ornamentation, the restrained exuberance of Art Nouveau are everywhere.

I don't know why it struck me so--maybe because it's urban, and technical, and seems to have arisen out of the industrial heart of a wonderful, harsh, challenging northern city--but it did. It grabbed me and took hold of my imagination, and I immediately started a novel set in Glasgow in the period. Its opening scene was set in the School of Art.

Today the building caught fire. The damage is described as extensive.

I feel heartbroken.
darkemeralds: Melted chocolate in a pot (Chocolate)
Recipe time. I mentioned these the other day and so here, let me share my vices with you.

Chocolate hazelnut little freezer square candy thingies

Melts in your mouth. And in your hand. Hence the freezer. )
darkemeralds: Sam & Dean leaning on the Impala on a lonely highway, text "It's a long long road from which there is no return" (long long road)
I'll have to read a lot of meta before I get all the plot-bits straightened out in my mind. Very often, other people help me understand what I liked and didn't like about a given show. But I know I liked some things right off.

Spoilers below the cut from which there is no return )

I feel like Show has dug in and found one more catlike life, and I'm surprised and very happy to be looking forward to a tenth season.

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