darkemeralds: Image of a ring of neurons in blue (intuition)
I timed my Season One and Season Two re-watch to end yesterday, so I could launch right into Season Three (which just dropped on Netflix). I'm trying to figure out what I find so compelling about this show. The theme music was running in my head all day today, saying, "Go home! Turn on Netflix! Watch Season Three!" like some kind of addiction.

I'm kind of fannish on Philip and Trevor, and wouldn't hate it if some more fic were to appear....
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
My two sisters and I weathered a crisis over the summer in which our mother, 88, underwent three surgeries. The third one was an emergency, during which she was taken from her condo on a stretcher, to the emergency room, to surgery, to rehab, and thence to her new assisted living apartment.

She never saw her own home again.

We prepared and sold the condo in short order. We were going to need that money pretty fast to pay the assisted living rent. Mom agreed to it all willingly.

An elderly woman in blue shirt and pants, in a wheelchair in a large institutional room with big windows and linoleum floors. Her daughter, laughing, is pushing the chair.
My mom and my younger sister, touring "the home"

It was such a nice place! 24-hour on-call help, three pleasant meals a day served in a communal dining room, but all the privacy of a normal life in the apartment itself. Rides to doctor appointments. Medication monitoring. Laundry, housecleaning, and bed-linen changing provided.

Circular driveway and covered entrance to a large apartment facility, labeled The Terrace
The Home

'Little,' as the saying goes, 'did we know'... )
darkemeralds: An old book whose spine reads Signsls and Cyphers, with the text DarkEmeralds (Signs)
I've been working with sigil magic lately. I don't know if it works, but it's turning into a form of creative expression that I didn't expect.

The concept is that written words have power (they don't call 'em "spells" for nothing). You distill a statement of intention down to a simple clear phrase, then remove the vowels, then remove any duplicate consonants, so "My intention is to find a five dollar bill" becomes:


which becomes 

which becomes:

Then you take the remaining consonants and create a glyph from them, something that abstracts them enough that they aren't really "readable" anymore, like so.

Once you have your sigil, you launch or activate it through meditation, focused intention, ritual, etc. Then you're supposed to basically forget it. Let it go out into the world. It should be difficult to remember which sigil means what after a short time has passed. The idea is to let it melt into your unconscious mind, which will then act on it. Some magicians burn theirs.

But not me.

After a couple of dozen sigils, I began to develop a personal style. I got some paint pens and a stack of blank black business cards and a circular punch. My activation ritual morphed into the act of coloring, then photographing, cropping, and stylizing each sigil image with a drop shadow, then storing the image in a special file. I stick the paper original on my wall with Blu-Tac.

Pretty soon I had a collection.
So I decided to make magical house art out of them. In a further act of activation-consecration-launch, I'm now gluing them between glass bezels and hanging them on my front door jamb.

This house of mine gets witchier by the day.
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'm still watching Supernatural. Season 14. The little show that could.

Show has had its ups and downs, and the fandom--which seems to have expanded rather than contracted over the years--is almost as nutty as ever. But I still like the boys.

I long since stopped being a focused enough fan to get involved in ship wars or fanwank.

I have no expectations of any canon Destiel. I'm perfectly happy with the expansion of the universe to include Apocalypse World hunters (including doubles of our old friends), the return of Mary, the British Men of Letters (though their ultimate banishment from our shores was satisfying), and Jack. I loved the return of Chuck. The musical episode brought a tear to my eye. I thought the episode from the POV of the Impala was brilliant...

...and I really liked Byzantium last night. So no death is ever permanent on Supernatural and we knew Jack wasn't gonna stay dead, and of course someone made some crappy deal with a supernatural creature to bring Jack back. Okay by me: Family and bad deals. As they say, that's it. That's the show.

The reunion of Jack with Kelly Kline was lovely and the mourning/drinking/nougat scene was just solid gold. This is no country for old men, and the boys are getting there, and the end is surely in sight. I'm just enjoying it until that ending comes.

darkemeralds: (Cat)
...why I painted my porch bright purple (the paint color was actually called Red Meets Blue) until I got a security camera--and a bright, sunny (albeit VERY CHILLY) day. Now I can enjoy my color choice from indoors, on my phone. 

Purple porch deck
The technology of home security is weird. I don't want or expect to catch any villains with this thing. Mostly, I want to see who's at my door, or whether my cat Graydie is sitting there wanting to come in.

But since it's brand new, I'm having fun turning on the speaker at night, saying, "Hey Boo-boo," and getting Graydie to look up at the camera. 

Porch at night with glowy-eye cat

darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I read yesterday that Flickr is about to change its retention policies, so I went there for the first time in quite a while to plan a kind of general rescue of my old photos.

The very earliest one was dated 2005, and corresponds to one of the first posts I ever made on LJ. Let's see if I can remember how to attach a photo to a DW post, because it's been a while since I had to actually write HTML to do that.

Okay. Here it is. I went out on my lunch hour one day in 2005 with an early digital camera (maximum image size 600 px wide), and thought this bus ad was funny enough to make a LiveJournal post. I was just getting the hang of even how to think about blogging, a word which etymonline.com tells me did exist by 2005.

So here we are, thirteen years later. I was an Old then and have gotten no less Old, of course, relative to internet people or in absolute terms. I'm 63 today.

Since 2005 I have retired from the job I took a lunch break from that day. The building I worked in for much of my career--behind and to the right of me as I took that photo--is under massive earthquake-proofing these days, basically an empty shell of bullshit postmodern architecture plus a famous statue, while all its 3000 denizens work in rented spaces around the downtown area. I don't get downtown anymore, so I haven't seen it. 

I've also written and published a novel and become a professional editor. I've built myself a little recording studio and become part of a podcast, the Story Grid Editor Roundtable, a group show of which my first solo episode just posted today.

So hello to all who've been more loyal to the DW/LJ platform than I have, and to those returning because of the impending Tumblr diaspora. And happy birthday to me.

At last!

2/3/18 18:52
darkemeralds: Photograph of DarkEmeralds in profile with the words "Sail On" (Silver Girl)
I am pleased to announce the official publication of Restraint.

The journey from fanfic to published novel has been a long one. It involved a steep learning curve, certification as an editor, and eleven full drafts over three years.

The resulting novel is 43% smaller than its fanfic original. Its average chapter length dropped from 3600 to 2100 words. I toned down the period language a bit. Tightened up the plot. Cut a few characters and a couple of subplots.

And yeah, deleted a lot of scenes, some of them beloved. Those were hard decisions. But I think it's a better story now.

Its heart remains the same. It's still the romantic, bittersweet story of lifelong forbidden love between a portrait artist and a nobleman who face down gossip, blackmail, and censure to be together any way they can.

a word-cloud in earth tones on a black background, featuring John, Tristan, and keywords from the novel Restraint

Anne Hawley aka DarkEmeralds holding a copy of her novel Restraint

You can get it now in print and Kindle from Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Australia.

And Iif you do, 'd be so pleased and honored if you wanted to write me a little Amazon or Goodreads review, and tell your friends.

Cover art for Restraint, A Novel, by Anne Hawley, depicting a long haired young man in Regency attire, white poet shirt, brocade waistcoat and tight-fitting yellow buckskin breeches, lounging in a high-backed chair

darkemeralds: Photo of a microphone with caption Read Me a Story. (Podfic)
Who here likes audiobooks? Can I ask you some questions?

What's important to you in a reader/narrator/actor--particularly in fiction? Have you ever figuratively thrown an audiobook across the room because some particular thing about the reading bugged the crap out of you?

For example, do you value voice quality above all? Can't stand certain types of voices? Would listen to Alan Rickman reading the phone book?

Or is vivid characterization most important? Do you like really dramatic character readings? Or are subtle variations enough for you to keep track of the story?

How much do you care about authentic dialect, accents, and accurate representation of, say, foreign words in a text? 

What about male versus female voices? Have you ever felt that an audiobook would have been improved by an actor of a different vocal gender? 

And pacing: do you use the playback speed control on your audiobook app if someone is too slow? Too rushed?

Here's why I'm asking: I'm thinking seriously of hiring a voice actor to create an audiobook of Restraint. I know what I like, but in the long process of workshopping the novel I've learned that my taste is pretty specific, maybe even alienating to people who might like my work if I opened it out a bit more.

I can't please everyone, of course, but if I'm gonna shell out for this production, I'd like to get a sense of your taste, too, and try to meet it.

darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
What's the best and worst criticism you've ever received? And how did you assimilate it?

I'm thinking mostly of feedback on writing, but I'm interested in experiences of any kind of critique you may have received on any kind of activity.

Here's why: In September I'll become a certified Story Grid Editor. There's a big discussion among Story Grid course-mates about how to make sure the client is ready for the editorial work.

Well, receiving feedback is a skill, and I want to write a little book or cheat-sheet for prospective clients to help them build that skill. I've managed to acquire it, but I don't know how I did it.
  • Do you have the skill?
  • How did you get it?
  • Was there a particular turning point?
  • Or do you avoid critique altogether? If so, why? And is there any ideal situation under which you'd be open to it?
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)

I now have most of the props for my book cover photo shoot. Spray paint, pins, hot glue, RIT Dye, masking tape, old curtains, bits of hardware, an actual riding crop off eBay--I really haven't had this much crafty fun in ages.

The lighting is pretty good. I'm pleased with the complementary orange/blue color scheme--which was a happy accident. It was time to put a body in the chair and start testing poses.

So I asked my sister to don the shirt and drape the (very skinny) "buckskin breeches" (linen drawstring pants, still awaiting modification) over her legs, and strike the attitude.

I liked the effect, so I pasted on the head of the actual model I hope to hire for the photo shoot.

test book cover art for Restraint, showing a long haired and barefoot young man in Regency garb lounging in an ornate wingback chair

(The professional graphic designer will be charged with a real layout and real fonts. It's still up to me to tweak the costume. The draped column might have to go.)

What do you think?

darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Have you ever had that dream where you're not quite flying, but where every step you take carries you a mile across the landscape? Or where you can descend flights of stairs in a single graceful bound?

Riding an ebike is like that.

Meet Gudrun*. )
darkemeralds: Vape pen with a blue mouthpiece, cannabis cartridge attached, emitting curls of vapor (Cannabis)
I find that vaping is harder on my lungs than I'm comfortable with, so, having toked up a whole half gram of cannabis concentrate, I'm looking for alternatives.

I suspect that my uptake wasn't good (I coughed it all out instantly!) and that I might not have gotten adequate doses, because after that first miraculous end of toothache misery, I couldn't replicate the pain-relief results. Once the offending tooth was extracted and the local wore off, I was in misery and no number of hits on the vape pen had the slightest impact.

But I can't keep relying on ibuprofen, and I am not resorting to opioids. I have arthritis, it's a problem, and joint-replacement surgery isn't really on the table.

So, next stop: sublingual CBD tincture.

Also, actually doing the exercises I went to physical therapy to learn. And maybe not sitting so much.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
There's been some progress on the book cover photo shoot. Here's the first mockup, just to test color contrast between the costume and the chair.

Yellow trousers, white formal shirt, and a red and gold brocade vest draped over a red wingback chair to resemble a Regency gentleman lounging, for the Restraint cover shoot

Those are Goodwill garments in roughly the right colors and shapes. We decided that with the pale costume we'll want a dark chair, so here we're testing red rummage-sale curtain fabric. We've got a bronze-gold-brown-red pair of drapes coming from eBay.

The backdrop will be a nearly-black wall, aka my living room, so pretty soon I'll have to drag that chair indoors.

Meanwhile, I've acquired some fake gold leaf for illuminating the decorative elements, and a white linen tablecloth that will make a pretty nice poet shirt. Sewing will ensue. Really quick-and-dirty, fusible-and-glue sewing.

Then we just need to find the guy. Think "finding the guy" thoughts, please!

a poster advertising for a male model for a book cover photoshoot
darkemeralds: Vape pen with a blue mouthpiece, cannabis cartridge attached, emitting curls of vapor (Cannabis)
Lately I've been hurting more than mere ibuprofen can handle--osteoarthritis, mostly, but a motherfucker of a toothache right at the moment.

So, though I've never been much for getting high, today I tried medical marijuana for the first time.

It took a lot of homework for me to get here. I read books, attended a workshop, and spent several hours on Leafly. I asked my doctor (who, as a naturopath, is all for it). I researched cannabinoids, terpenes, strains of sativa and indica. I read about the different dispensaries. Learned something about the labyrinth of laws surrounding legalization in Oregon. Became engrossed in delivery methods. Decided on vaping. Vaping is fast-acting and doesn't stink the joint up.

Harlequin is a sativa strain bred for high CBD and low THC, which translates to "pain relief without getting high", and my neighborhood dispensary sells it.

So off I walked to Kings of Canna on 15th and Prescott, and came home half an hour later with some paraphernalia and drugs.

A white zip bag, a vape pen with USB charger, a cannabis cartridge, some retail packaging

But look! It comes in retail packaging. There are USB chargers and LED indicators. The only baggie in sight was the fancy opaque white zip-lock bag mandated by the State of Oregon for carting the goods off-premises.

It's a couple of hours and several hits of Harlequin later, and behold! The tooth isn't really hurting anymore.

Heh. Maybe I need a new icon.
A vaporizer pen with a bright blue mouthpiece. A cannabis oil capsule is attached. The device is emitting curls of vapor

ETA: And I really don't feel high. Maybe a teeny bit hazy. I might have eaten a box of cookies...

Cover Art

2/3/17 10:04
darkemeralds: detail of beaded purse, caption One Bead At a Time (Details)
I need a book cover!

There are quickie template-based designs online, and there's $5000 for original artwork, and there's not much in between.

"Well, what do you want to wind up with?" asked my sister Helen.

"Basically this," said I:
Working cover of Restraint, a photograph manipulated to look something like an oil painting, featuring Jared Padalecki's face on Johnny Depp's tuxedo-wearing body slouched in an enormous baroque brocade armchair, all in tones of red and gold

"...but a) without Jared Padalecki's face; b) not stolen from a copyright fashion shoot with Johnny Depp; and c) featuring a poet shirt and buckskin breeches rather than that 20th century tuxedo."

"So let's do our own photoshoot."

Wait. What? Do it ourselves? )
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Beta-reader notes on the final draft of Restraint have started coming in. This is the most nerve-wracking process!

The feedback so far is excellent: constructive, knowledgeable, and detailed. Nobody so far hates the novel. But the silences! Do the non-responders dislike it too much to comment? Were they too bored to finish? Are they too nice to say so?

It's impossible to get my ego out of the way. These people are doing me a huge favor and I don't want to press them, but only the fact that I have acrylic nails is keeping me from biting those nails off.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
Beta readers are coming back with very few notes on Restraint. The rewritten story works for them. I think it really is finished. Seth Godin (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a workshop in NYC a couple weeks ago) basically said, "Ship it."

Now comes marketing. )
darkemeralds: Healing hands with white, blue and violet rays of light (Healing)
It's gonna be a long road. At 61, I accept that I won't see the end of it, or a return to "the way things were".

Which is all the more reason to remember that every day is precious, I am not unlimited, I must give my best work to the Resistance as best I can, and that means taking a breath, and a walk, and a moment to recognize that there is still beauty and hope in the world.
Gray cat foot standing among early green daffodil spears in the leaf-litter of winter
Graydie and the daffodils. January 30 2017
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
I finished my final draft of Restraint on Thursday and sent it out yesterday to four champion fellow writers willing to read it for structure, pacing, flow, and logic. That's a big, big job.

I expect to get suggestions back for further small changes, and of course I spotted typos the instant I hit the send button. I could undoubtedly still shave a few words for style, or add a sentence here or there to fill out a minor plot point, but the novel--this novel--is finished. Any big changes at this point would be making it into a different novel.

It's a little weird, cleaning up all the files, closing all the research tabs, shutting down the gigantic spreadsheet called "Engineering Restraint" after more than two years of rewrites. The prospect of starting a new project is daunting.

But I'm starting. I'm thinking about the new political situation, and how it's my responsibility to write for the Resistance in some way. Not a dystopian Hunger-Games-ish thing--that's not who I am as a writer--but somehow a weaving of resistance into the fabric of the historical novel I'm already researching.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Happy New Year to the few, the strong, the loyal who are still here at Dreamwidth.

2016, like 2015, has been about my homemade MFA program in creative writing. My "thesis"--which was due on December 31st and should be done this week--is a publishable final draft of Restraint. I expect 2017 to be about writing, too.

My program of study has revolved primarily around story structure and editing. As I approach the finish line, here's a roundup of the changes my studies have wrought:
  • Word count: Fanfic 230,000, Profic 145,000.
  • Character names changed: 15
  • Characters cut: 2
  • Subplots cut: also 2
  • Subplots added: 1
  • Scenes cut: I've lost track. A lot.
  • Scenes added: about 10
  • Average sentence length: Fanfic 16 words, Profic 14 words
  • Reading ease score: Fanfic 69, Profic 72 (higher is easier)
  • Number of drafts to get here: 8
Here's a rough and improvised heat map of the restructured novel, scene by scene. Green bars are scenes that end positive; red, negative. Height of bar approximates scene intensity:

a bar graph with green bars rising above the centerline and red bars descending below it, representing scene-by-scene valence shifts in the novel Restraint

Three fellow writers have volunteered to read and comment on the final draft. Assuming they find no major failings, I'll polish it up and start sending it out in March.

In other writing news, I'm taking Shawn Coyne's Story Grid Workshop in New York City in February. It'll be three days with the story structure master and 25 other writers who are ready to go pro. Since Restraint will be finished by then, I'll be applying what I learn there--and everything I've learned in my Homemade MFA Program--to my next novel, which is currently in the proto-outline stage.


darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)

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