Since I last posted on here, I have done a lot of creative whatnot. Covid has given introverted me a legitimate reason to leave the house as little as possible, and I have done my civic duty and then some, let me tell you. Do I even know how to socialize anymore? I don't know. Do I care? Eh. A nice benefit of this social distancing has been that I have so much more time to create. So, I have created.
Let's start with my podcast, Space Mantis. As of my last post, it had not even been released yet. Now, Season One is complete and we are working on Season Two. I'm so happy with how Season One turned out, and so, so proud of (and thankful for) all the people who have helped to make Mantis a real thing. And of course, anyone who has subscribed to or listened to it: THANK YOU. You're magical, and you fill my heart with joy. If you haven't listened to it yet, clicky-click. I bet you'll dig it.
Black Spot Books has put out another seasonal anthology, Dead of Winter, and I have a short story in it called Jolly Old Saint Ryan. It's a horror anthology, so I tried as hard as I could to do horror, but I'm pretty sure it's the least horror-y of all the stories in there. It's horror/comedy for sure. It tells the dark truth of Santa. You know, that creepy stalker of an old man who judges your children harshly all year long for ever having negative/sad feelings and for not being perfect (as opposed to we adults who are always perfect and never react badly to anything), and bribes them into performing well with the promise of material possessions. That guy. I'm here to tell you he's even worse than you already knew. Check it out. As of the posting of this blog, the anthology cost a grand total of 99 US pennies, so it's not even much of a financial commitment.
That's it for the big stuff for me in the realm of writing. Now, onto crafty pursuits! So, I have always thought Huichol beading was the coolest thing ever, and toward the end of 2020 I was finally inspired to give it a try. I have this statue that used to be my grandpa's, and as much as I love me a peregrine falcon, I gotta say this statue just wasn't my thing. So, I painted it black and started gluing beads to it! Mr. Peregrine Falcon doesn't know what hit him, poor guy. In stressful times, I find that doing time-consuming, twiddly little detaily crafts really calms my brain down, so I guess I have American politics to thank for this project.
And last but not least, math! I know, I know. "Math?" you ask. "How is math in your blog about creativity?" Well let me tell you, though in school I was not a fan of math, I am relearning it on Khan Academy (so that I will be able to help my kiddos with their homework when they get into the higher stuff), and either it's the way Khan Academy teaches it or my brain has finally developed, but I must say not only do I love math now, but it feels like it lights up the same spots in my brain as writing/arts/crafts do. For the past week or so, instead of reading before bed, I have been balancing equations. And I bought a new calculator for myself, and I'm obsessing over graph paper notebooks, and yep, math is lovely. Who knew? Not me! Until like three weeks ago.
OK, that's it for now! I have been doing some other little projects here and there like some jewelry and painting some Dungeons and Dragons figures, but maybe I'll post those pics later. Right now, this is long enough for internet attention span.
So yeah, the world's gone insane. Or, rather, it's been insane the whole time and the more sheltered and/or denial-happy among us have been living in much more ignorance than we should have been for much too long, and now things have hit a tipping point and BAM, RealityCon 2020 for all! Am I talking about the disease of racism that white people have been (either intentionally or accidentally) been reaping the benefits of for far too long? Yes. Am I also talking about the fact that we've been idiots about the possibility of a pandemic, and now a pandemic's actually hit, and we're still being idiots instead of learning? Yes. Two very nasty diseases, friends.
Considering the state of the world, I feel like my first update in months shouldn't just me obliviously blathering about whatever projects I've got going. It feels empty and inappropriate.
So, though my thoughts are nothing new and have been phrased much more eloquently elsewhere, in short, my thoughts are thus: as regards racism, my job as a white person is to (1) listen to BIPOC and never inflict my opinions on them regarding racism since they live it and I have no clue, (2) educate my children about racism, (3) have tough conversations with other white people about racism, and (4) educate myself (I joined an anti-racism book club and am learning so, so much. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, man; I knew the prison system was horrific, but I always assumed it was a thing that had accidentally evolved to be in the awful state it is in. But nope. It was intentional, and it's chilling, and it needs to change. Read. This. Book.). I'm sure there are other things I should be doing that I'm not thinking of, which is why the learning can't stop.
And as regards the pandemic, I'm not going to get into the whole mask debate or the stay at home debate or anything like that here. Let me just say that my opinions on pandemics and how to behave during them are formed by the scientists who have devoted their lives to studying this stuff and have a huge body of statistics to back them up. The end.
So yeah, the world. I tell ya. The below pictures are depictions of the two moods I swing back and forth from on a day-to-day basis (hour-to-hour basis?). I'm currently the one on the left, but I'll switch over soon. I hope you're all doing well, whoever reads this.
I'm writing a podcast! This project has been in the works for years; there are a lot of people involved, all of whom have real lives and jobs and a million other projects, so it's been slow going. But, at long last, it is going to be released in April 2020! I'm so excited. It's called Space Mantis, and a bunch of writer friends and other creative-type friends are doing voices for the characters. I am so lucky to have so many pals who are into making Mantis a reality.
Why a podcast, you ask? Well, dialogue is my favorite part of writing, and a podcast is basically 100% dialogue. Funsies! But know what's not necessarily funsies? All the other podcast stuff. See, the files that people record don't just magically form themselves into a podcast. Yeah, I know. I was shocked, too. There's actual work that must be done. Ugh. If it weren't for my super kind and super podcast/computer-smart pal, Joe, this project probably would never have been able to happen. So, three cheers for Joe!
No, not that one.
No, not that one either, but man, if this Joe wanted to come down from heaven--where he certainly is--and write the soundtrack for Space Mantis, I would be so in. Anyway, thissun's the Joe I'm talking about: https://jawaters.com/j-a-waters-is-a-spec-fic-author-of-weird-sci-fi-and-fantasy/
Anyway, yeah, podcasts are work. I've been editing audio, organizing files, nagging people, recruiting people for little side parts, doing more nagging, writing more episodes, nagging, and nagging. But, weirdly, it has been fun. I have enjoyed all of it, except the nagging bits. I mean, I have a reason to use a big ol' binder and fill it with colorful tabs! I get to have a to-do list that I can cross things off of and feel like I'm getting stuff accomplished! What could be better? Yeah, that's right. Nothing.
Okey dokey, well that's that, I guess. Mark your calendars for (probably) April 1. Space Mantis is going to rock. I guess before I wrap up this blog, I should describe the podcast a bit: it's part space opera (with a lovable, scrappy crew, of course), and part...uh...well...know what? I'm not actually going to describe the other part, because that would break things. It's cool, though, and I'm proud of it, and I'm proud of everyone who is a part of it, and I hope you listen and like it.
I am a great fan of dying arts. Weaving, spinning yarn, dying yarn, making paper. They're all lovely. "The deader the better" the old saying would go if it was one. My favorite dying art of all is book binding. I worship physical, non-electronic, paper-and-ink books. I write them, I buy them, I make them. I make them for myself, for friends and family, for beta readers. Sometimes, like with the book below, I do super fancy stuff with the spine, and I draw patterns on the covers, and I put rhinestones on because sparkly.
I love to get fancy with books, like with this exposed spine that shows off the stitching and all the pretty papers inside:
I'm so fanatical about books that having them published in mass-produced paperback just isn't good enough sometimes. So I do some fancy, special book fold printing on my computer, stitch and glue it all together, and bind it up with fancy papers, since every novel deserves to be dolled up using real, artsy techniques instead of just machine printing that falls apart after more than two reads:
Below are some books I have made. Some are blank, some are lined, some are hard cover versions of things writer pals or I have written, some are just little booklets.
And below are pictures showing the process of book binding, step by step, for one of the fancy rhinestone journals.
So, there's a little window into my favorite crafty hobby! I hope you liked it! And if you want a journal, sketch book, fancy copy of a book you wrote, or anything else along those lines, you just let me know! I welcome any opportunity to make a book. Prices vary a lot based on materials, but it varies from approximately $30 for a blank journal to $65ish for a printed novel.
I love cowriting.
That's doing cow rituals. Like performing dark magic with cow fur and milk, casting spells on cows to endow them with the ability to drive cars and dance the tango, that kind of thing.
Unrelatedly, since I'm talking about hobbies, another thing I like a lot is co-writing. Here's a picture of my pal Jennifer Flath and me writing. I'm the old guy with the hat. Even though Jennifer lives on the West Coast and I'm in the Midwest, and even though I'm busy with parenting stuff and she's busy hawking fabric softener, we have already managed to write two books together!
Yes, co-writing is one of my favorite things to do. Working on a creative project with a person who is one the same wavelength as you humor- and creativity-wise is crazy good times, let me tell you. It all started for me with some pretty stellar fanfiction that my little sister and I used to write about Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. It was amazing stuff if I do say so myself. We got to out Snape as the vampire he obviously is, let Gandalf and Galadriel have that affair they so clearly have been carrying on behind Celeborn's back for centuries, and have Boromir not die but instead run off to a hippie commune to recuperate and become a pacifist. Very fulfilling.
And then! I met writer folks on the internet! The internet, as I'm sure you know, is a magical place where you can often find like-minded people a lot easier than you can find them in real life. I started some super fun co-writing with one of these writer pals, but then he went and decided he wasn't a writer after all or some crap, and the story died on the vine, and my heart shattered into a million little pieces for the loss of a story that could have been. I guess if I there's a downside to co-writing, that's it. People might kick you to the curb.
I'm over it.
No, I am.
Then good ol' Jennifer, another writer pal from the magical internet, asked if I'd be interested in writing a YA mystery and I was all like hecks yes, and we've been writing ever since.
I'm sure you're wondering how one works on a project with a person halfway across the country. You're so curious I can feel it all the way back from here in the past before you even read this.
The key to co-writing is Google Drive. This is a picture of how Google Docs works:
Before the magic of Google Drive, there was this cumbersome thing called Word. Bleh. All you need to know about it is that it's a half step above the Pony Express in terms of communicating effectively with a co-writing partner. Google, while its spellcheck is hilariously idiotic at times (Shut up, Google. I do mean "pointed stares", not "pointed stars." Presumptuous upstart, get back in your corner), is swell because you both get to be on the doc at the same time, making changes and bouncing ideas off each other and stuff. It's pretty much the same as having the other person in the room with you, except your hair can be super messy and you can be in ratty pajamas and no one will give you funny looks. And you don't have to clean up your writing room.
It's list time! What's so great about co-writing:
1. You can write twice the book in half the time.
2. You get to have fun with another person on a creative project.
3. If you get to the point of searching for an agent for your book, you don't have to do all the querying alone, and you have someone to whine to about the rejections as they roll in. Jennifer and I are currently in querying mode, and it's so, so, so nice to divide up this horrific process.
And the downsides:
1. Time zones. Sometimes your co-writing pal is a few time zones away. It's more of an annoyance than a real problem, though, for a halfway competent person. And Jennifer and I are halfway competent.
2. Sometimes the person decides they don't want to write with you anymore. But, as mentioned above, I'm totally over it.
So, in closing, I highly suggest finding yourself a writer pal and make a book.
Here's a link to books by Jennifer Flath:
"Why Laura!" you say. "A gardening post on a writing website? That's crazy!"
Yeah, I see how you might think that. But follow me here: Gardening directly relates to my writing, since in the spring and summer it is the #1 thing that gets in the way of me and writing.
"Oh," you say. "That totally makes sense. Cool. Show me some pictures of dirt with little seedlings starting to poke out! Say stuff about the dirt and plants! I'm so excited!"
Awesome. You go pop some popcorn, then come on back and feast your eyes on my rockin' blog...
Got your snacks? Groovy. Let's do this thing.
Exhibit A: My seedlings! This is not all the stuff I'll be growing. Not by a longshot. It's just the stuff that I start indoors ahead of time. Cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, and celery. The top left one is the cabbage, and the other ones are all tomatoes. The peppers haven't sprouted yet, since peppers are losery drama queens who take their sweet time to sprout and then grow like garbage for me since they like to make me mad. I've never been able to grow peppers, and yet I keep trying.
The top right squares that are kinda not even in the picture are the celery, which is also sorta a drama queen, I think, though I've never grown it before. All I know for sure is it likes to be kept uniformly moist until it sprouts, which makes it rather high-needs.
At least my tomatoes aren't making trouble for me. They always just explode right out of their seeds like they own the place, since, as tomatoes, they run the garden and they know it.
Exhibit B: Anise. They're one of my first plants to sprout, and thus they fill my heart with joy. Also, they smell nice.
Exhibit C: Speaking of plants that fill my heart with joy, STRAWBERRIES!!!! I love these dudes so much. Berries grow so well in my soil, and strawberries seem to do especially well. They're one of my first plants to produce each spring, so they're basically my BFFs. My arch-nemeses, the groundhog family that live under the shed next door, also like the strawberries. I wish the groundhog family would die and burn in hell.
Exhibit D: Egyptian walking onions. They're a little pathetic right now since they got hit by the frost, but they're tough little guys so they'll bounce back just fine. I adore walking onions. They grow really tall, and their bulbs grow on the very top of their stalks (if stalks is the word I want). When the bulbs mature, they weigh down the stalk-thing and it bends over to the ground and the bulbs take root, thus "walking" a few feet away from the plant they came from and making a new plant! Neato!
Exhibit E: My sweet, lovely bees. I frankly don't want to talk about them too much at this point since it's still cold and I'm afraid they'll die before spring really comes. Stupid colony collapse. Stuff of nightmares, I tells ya. But if they survive I will do a big ol' post all about them for sure. And if they don't survive, I'll do a rage-post about how we're killing the planet and we don't care about anything and humans are jerks and blablabla.
OK, wow, you read the whole thing? Cool! Thanks for checking it out. Laters!!! xoxox