In which features ancient forests and trees, books of the electronic and paper kind, and The Writing Closet
When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she was busy typing away at stories and articles, and looking forward to a Sunday filled with writing and crafting. Ha, ha, ha. That didn’t happen. Turns out migraines love to hit when you’re really looking forward to a day of not doing anything but being creative. A plague on migraines! It may not be The Disease That Must Not Be Named, but it can still put you in bed for a few days!
Well, the blasted headache finally broke Monday afternoon (which was a huge relief as I was starting to wonder whether I’d need to go to the doctor for a pain injection as the pain meds weren’t doing much). That meant that I could, albeit slowly, return to my normal working day. Thank goodness I only had some emails to tend to Monday morning! I think I’ve been stressed more than I give myself credit for, judging by the flares and the migraines. Fun. But definitely something to work on.
The Writing Closet or, my version of a writing hut in the garden
In other — happier — news, here are some photos of The Writing Closet! Although I still have a few pictures that I want to put up on the walls (I need more Prestik), it is basically done. The desk is also set up in such a way that Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat can still come and sit with me if he so wishes. I give you: The Writing Closet —
Living on the edge
I finally listened to an episode of the In Defense of Plants podcast (Ep. 265 – Ancient Trees: Living on the Edge), and what an episode! The episode’s interviewee was Dr. Doug Larson, who had studied ancient cliff-dwelling trees. He also uncovered “some of the oldest living forests on our planet in the process”. How awesome is that? Plus, he is really entertaining to listen to! Listen to the podcast or download the episode over here. You can also find more about Dr. Larson’s work at the same link.
In which I read some books, work on my portfolio, read poetry, and quote some poetry
I don’t know if it’s the twilight zone of lockdown that we’ve entered into, but May have flown by with all the days melting into one very long, very strange day. But at least The Writing Closet — also known as the home office — is now properly set up, yay!
Of Stars, Short Stories, and Portfolios
Be sure to check out “The House With the Blue Roof”, some flash fiction I wrote during the week. It starts to set the scene for the collection of stories I’m busy with for Where the Stars Used to Sing. Other than that I’ve mostly worked on my portfolio during the week. It’s still not ready (sigh) but I’ll finish it in the coming week and then also put the link to it on the blog. At the moment it’s still safely tucked away in my private folders in Notion. By the way, if you’d like to see how a portfolio can look in Notion, be sure to watch this Notion Office Hours video on design with Marie Poulin and Lennon Cheng. It was this that made me decide to build my portfolio in Notion as well.
I’ve also worked late a few days this week because of some late press releases that needed to be turned into articles, so I did not get as much time to work on Ruon Chronicles as I thought I was going to have. Okay, and I also watched a few documentaries on Curiosity Stream, including one on Roald Dahl; who remains one of my favourite authors. Although I don’t think I mention him nearly often enough. I’m sure that his books — especially his short stories — helped to warp the story writing part of my brain a bit. Let’s face it, some of those stories are dark! There is also a — for the moment — top-secret writing project in the works that will go live towards the end of the week, huzzah!
Books by the dozen!
Alright, not exactly a dozen books but more than two! Thanks to my sleeping pattern that seems to be all over the place for some reason, I’ve been able to read a lot more (though mostly at 2 or 3 am). The books that I’ve finished (still busy with The Burning Season by Andrew Revkin) have been mostly books about writing craft, branding, etc.
I think some of it is the need to be motivated a bit after The News of Retrenchment. I’m still feeling crushed by the news of the magazines’ closures and seeing the final issues on the shelves when I do venture out to buy food is painful. So I decided that I needed a kick not only to get me into gear to look for new work, but also to put more time into my fiction. Without further ado, here are the books:
I’ll be posting some thoughts on the books (I always feel weird to call them “reviews” as they are never looking at them very in-depth, it seems) over the next few weeks, but I really enjoyed all of these. I can also recommend The Story Studio podcast to listen to in the meantime (just beware — they do swear in the podcast) if you’d like to get a feel of Sean Platt and Johnny Truant’s styles.
Some Poetry to End the Post (Because Why Not?)
I was lucky enough to get an almost-complete (I think three volumes are missing?) Harvard Classics set (yes, those in the beautiful dark green hardback bindings, not the e-book; although the e-book is also very handy) for part of my birthday present (precious!). We found them at a second hand shop and the woman sold them for $7 for the set. I kid you not. Anyway… Fast forward to me paging through one of the volumes (Tennyson to Whitman) after going down a rabbit hole that ended with Dead Poets Society and how it’s awful that one of my friends haven’t seen it yet. If you, dear reader, also haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a huge favour and watch it. (Although “O me! O life!” by Whitman isn’t in the Harvard Classics collection, “O Captain! My Captain!” is, by the way.) My eye caught “Ode” (1874) by O’Shaughnessy and, although it was just the first three stanzas and not all nine, I immediately fell in love with it. I want to believe that my pets enjoyed hearing it for the first time as much as I did… Here are all nine stanzas of “Ode”:
Ode by Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881)
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams;— World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties We build up the world’s great cities, And out of a fabulous story We fashion an empire’s glory: One man with a dream, at pleasure, Shall go forth and conquer a crown; And three with a new song’s measure Can trample a kingdom down.
We, in the ages lying In the buried past of the earth, Built Nineveh with our sighing, And Babel itself in our mirth; And o’erthrew them with prophesying To the old of the new world’s worth; For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.
A breath of our inspiration Is the life of each generation; A wondrous thing of our dreaming Unearthly, impossible seeming— The soldier, the king, and the peasant Are working together in one, Till our dream shall become their present, And their work in the world be done.
They had no vision amazing Of the goodly house they are raising; They had no divine foreshowing Of the land to which they are going: But on one man’s soul it hath broken, A light that doth not depart; And his look, or a word he hath spoken, Wrought flame in another man’s heart.
And therefore to-day is thrilling With a past day’s late fulfilling; And the multitudes are enlisted In the faith that their fathers resisted, And, scorning the dream of to-morrow, Are bringing to pass, as they may, In the world, for its joy or its sorrow, The dream that was scorned yesterday.
But we, with our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see, Our souls with high music ringing: O men! it must ever be That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye.
For we are afar with the dawning And the suns that are not yet high, And out of the infinite morning Intrepid you hear us cry— How, spite of your human scorning, Once more God’s future draws nigh, And already goes forth the warning That ye of the past must die.
Great hail! we cry to the comers From the dazzling unknown shore; Bring us hither your sun and your summers; And renew our world as of yore; You shall teach us your song’s new numbers, And things that we dreamed not before: Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers, And a singer who sings no more.
The man of the moon lived at the end of a quiet street in a small cottage that had a curious thatched roof the colour of the sky on a clear spring day. A low fence overgrown with brambles enclosed a small front garden and larger backyard. Although the front garden of the cottage was immaculate, the back garden held a chicken coop with five hens, a large tabby cat (who enjoyed the taste of scrambled eggs more than a mouth full of feathers), a tangle of birch trees, shrubs, and a jumble of buckets and containers. These seemed to have little use, but the man of the moon refused to part with them, even though the neighbours complained and gave him stern, sidelong stares.
In the centre of the garden stood an oak tree that was much older than the cottage, the neighbourhood and even the whole of the long-lived town. It’s boughs stretched upward and outward to touch the birch leaves and form a shaded garden of dappled sunlight. The man of the moon looked after the oak tree day after day, even talking and singing to it during the bleak midwinter when everything seem to lose its colour. Then, on the nights when the moon had waxed fully and the silver light of the moonbeams struck the oak and birch trees, the man of the moon would be outside and clattering about with his containers and buckets well past midnight to the chagrin of his neighbours. Placing the containers just so to fill them with the dripping dew of the moonbeams could take the whole afternoon. Balanced on his rickety, silver-splashed ladder, the man of the moon would hang pails on some of the middle branches of the oak tree, adding more silver-splashed pails, buckets, and even glass jars beneath the trees in the garden where the dew would drip from the heavy summer leaves. By the time the sun finally set, the whole garden would be set aglow as the moonbeams gathered among the trees and the moonlight-filled, silver dew drip from the leaves into the waiting containers. As one container filled, he ran to empty it into the large water tanks that he kept in the corner of the garden, rushing back again, splashing through the silver dew to replace the receptacle before emptying the next filled container into one of the water tanks. So it would go on the whole night. Rushing from one jar to the next, from one bucket to a dangling pail that he deftly hooked and unhooked from the height of the old groaning ladder.
By morning his clothes and boots were as silver-splashed as the garden, but he would quickly close the water tanks before the sun rose and go scrub his face and hands while the jumble of containers settled noisily in their heap next to the water tanks.
By the time the first people up the street left their homes for the day, the garden with its oak and birch trees would look like any other; the moonlight dew faded to nothing but water that dripped-dripped onto the leaf-strewn ground below. The boots by the back door were no longer silver-splashed, but muddy, and even the tabby would have washed the last remnants of silver from its coat. She, of course, would be sitting by the front gate with such a look of malice and disdain for the people of the street that none would dare to come and bother her owner while he was trying to eat breakfast without falling asleep at the table.
It would be with new moon that the man of the moon’s next task would begin. This night, after all, was the best night to see where he painted the stars that would swirl, shine, and shimmer for the next month. The rig that he built to pump the moonlight dew from the water tanks to the roof was almost silent and he turned it on after everyone had headed inside for the day and he was left alone outside. Standing on the blue thatch, he took a large paintbrush from a bucket at his feet and ran his hand over the bristles to make sure that they weren’t clumped together. He dipped the brush into the container of silver at his feet and, with broad strokes of his arm, painted the light swirls of the Milky Way, stippling the stars of the sky and paint the constellations in place with a fine brush. By midnight the swirling night sky was alive with silver light again and he looked at his work with a smile. He headed back inside after taking down the light dew’s rig and climbed into bed dreaming of dancing silver swirls.
This is the first story that I’ve written that will make up part of the collection titled Where the Stars Used to Sing.
In which Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat is recovering from his dental, I write some more, have squirrel moments, and we’re still stuck on “Level 4” lockdown.
Since last we saw our intrepid writer with her pets, Sir Tristan has gone for his dental (poor-baby-although-he’s-actually-fourteen-years-old) and is recovering very well at home. Unfortunately I do have to try and get antibiotic tablets into him twice a day. It’s fun for neither of us (I think they taste awful, although pilchards seem to be working), but luckily it’s just 2 days to go before the course is finished.
On the work front
Okay, so not much more to say other than echoing the shock and sadness of my colleagues and our readers. It all still feels so completely unreal. The newsletters — well most of them — have now gone out to tell readers that the magazines are coming to an end (barring someone buying titles) and I actually wasn’t able to read them in case I start ugly crying while still trying to write about sushi for the last issue of one of the weekly magazines.
That said, I have been updating my CV and putting together a new, updated portfolio, but those things always seem to take longer than you think it’ll take, doesn’t it? I also updated my website’s look to something I’m much happier with. I hope you like it as well!
Side note — I am designing my CV on Canva, and you can do so for free, so if you also find yourself in the job market… (Not an affiliate link.)
On the writing front
I have started with the flash fiction series, but have honestly struggled this week to put in proper time to write. My brain just seems all over the place! But I guess that is to be expected. I’m want to have three of the flash pieces done by the end of the weekend and then I’ll post them here next week!
In which I have a pity party, Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat goes to the vet for an emergency, and all’s well that ends well
Today, I must say, I am (at this moment) feeling better than on Tuesday, all things considered. There has been a lot of shock and tears over the magazine closures, which reminds you that you made these mags for everyday people and that they really enjoyed them and looked forward to them. So, yes, I’m still very sad — and also still a bit shocked myself.
I had told myself that I would get one day for a pity party and then start working again. Well, Wednesday went fine and I even saw the Great Outside while going shopping for some headache tablets and groceries.
Today was a hellish day, but at least ended well. Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat looked a bit off yesterday and I thought it was a hairball. Well, this morning he couldn’t eat because his mouth hurt so bad! Oh why oh why must cats always hide their pain? Hmf!
Well, while trying to see into his mouth and getting a few scratches, I saw it. A lump in his mouth. That should definitely not be there.
Of course my mind immediately goes “feline mouth cancer” and I burst into tears.
I got an appointment at the vet for three o’clock this afternoon and spent the day crying and trying to work (and completely failing). I didn’t know if I was glad when it at last was 3pm, because I was 99% sure that I was going to have to euthanise him today.
See, I lost my previous cat, Kleintjie, which means “Little One” in Afrikaans (also a stray that was just left behind when her people moved), to cancer about a month before Sir Tristan showed up as a kitten lost and alone in my garden. That was fourteen years ago.
Let’s just say Kleintjie’s last days were hell on earth as she was stuck at the vet and I couldn’t go visit for three days. Long story short, when I saw her again, I had to euthanise her to stop her awful suffering. And with mouth cancer, I just wasn’t prepared to put Tristan through anything like that.
Anyhow, got to the vet, I blubbered what I’d seen and he checked Tristan’s mouth to discover it’s an abscess and he needs to have three teeth extracted. Okay, so that’s not great, but much better news that cancer!
He’s now going in for surgery on Tuesday and has received some antibiotics and pain meds to pull him through until then.
By the time we got home he was already feeling better, and ate some tuna (hey, he deserves it!). Then he pawed and pawed at his mouth … and one of the teeth — the worst one! — just came out on its own. I am shocked and relieved!
In which I get bad news, feel sorry for myself, and also do some crafting, writing, and worldbuilding
I won’t lie; I’ve had some difficult days this past week and a half. Motivation to do anything has just declined and having a flare and a few bad headaches in-between didn’t help my motivation at all. Cue a few days of feeling very sorry for myself. Then cue today, when I got really bad news at work, and took another day for a pity party before dusting myself off to start looking for some greener pastures tomorrow. Anyway…
I have been doing quite a bit of crafting and less writing over the past few days; crocheting, knitting and sewing away. I figured — after making myself some masks — that it’s high time that I make the scatter cushion covers for which I’ve had the fabric for for more than a year. So that’s happening! I may also sew (using a sewing machine) to drown out the one neighbour’s foul, extremely loud music. (My poor ears!) Hey, if it works, it works! I’ll put up some more photos next time of all the craftiness going on.
Music-wise, I’ve been listening to a lot of Classical music and trying out to see which playlists help me to focus and work better. Okay, so Baroque music really works as well as is often said! I’m also adding some medieval music (as in chant) to the playlists, which also works quite well. I did use Two Steps From Hell the other day when I was feeling very tired during the work day to give me a boost, and that also seems to work for some parts of my work day.
Writing and World Bible Building
Okay, so I don’t know where I was, but I completely missed the Roam Research review on Keep Productive, but I did catch the review of it on Thomas Frank’s channel. And I had a brain wave — that Roam will be perfect for building a story bible/world bible. I signed up for Roam basically immediately, and have been building on the world bible a bit since the weekend. And I think it is just the kind of wiki-writing-idea-scribbling-thing that I need to put all my info on Airtha-Eyrassa in. Yay! Here are the videos by Thomas Frank and Keep Productive and, if you’re intrigued, click here to go to Roam Research.
Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy.
Notice how it’s day 26 of a 21-day lockdown? Yeah, me too.
I’ve had a few days of feeling down — which I guess is normal after being stuck in the house so long? But I seem to be feeling better today. This may also be because I had a proper night’s sleep, come to think of it… Plus, my poor sister is sick (though not with the disease that must not be named), so it sucks that I can’t even go visit her and be a nurse for a bit (don’t worry, her husband is looking after her!).
Plus, my other audiobook at the moment is The Return of the King and to make it “worse”, the end of the book. Which always has me ugly crying, so it’s not the best thing to be listening to at this moment. It is easier to listen to an audiobook and cry, though, than reading and having to remove your glasses every few paragraphs — if not every paragraph — to first wipe your eyes. Ah, those heady days of reading without glasses!
In keeping with “sad is happy but for deep people” (thank you, Doctor Who), or at the very least, bittersweet things, I give you:
This piece by Margaret Renkl in The New York Times, titled “The Joy of Paper Flowers”. Which I did click on in the hope that it may just include quilling. Alas, I shall have to write my own piece on quilling, it seems! Nevertheless, it is really a wonderful piece that I can recommend.
And, finally, my day has completely been made as I woke up to find Radical Face’s new video on my feed — an acoustic version of “Doorways”:
Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy. Until (probably) tomorrow.
Today it’s back to working from home (instead of having a long Easter weekend in lockdown). I think I am better rested after the long weekend, though. I specifically kept myself from writing too much and rather listened to podcasts and crocheted or knitted. I figured that I needed a bit of a break from the laptop screen! I also did some DIY-ing yesterday and painted — okay almost finished painting — the one wall in the bathroom that I want to be coloured instead of white. I did not, however, count on not having enough paint. Oops. So, after lockdown, I’ll have to get some more and finish the wall. It’s looking good, though, and I love the colour (which is known as “the colour of happiness”).
That said, I also started on a whole declutter-binge. So far I’ve only done my wardrobe (clothes, shoes, bags) and yarn stash, but I think that’s a good start! I’ll be donating everything and have already contacted the charity shop to ask if they can come and pick it up from me (which they can, yay!). I’m not sure if I’m suddenly in high gear because I rested a bit or because I’m trying to keep busy and keep my mind off of The Disease That Must Not Be Named. Either way I’m getting things done, so that’s good. I’ll just make sure that I don’t go on such a huge declutter that I end up with another flare…
In other news I want to start writing a series of flash fiction along the same theme and imagery. I won’t be publishing it, but putting it up on the blog and Instagram. I am hoping that most of them will end up with happy endings, but as I pants flash fiction I’m never quite sure! I’m going to try and start writing tomorrow morning before work, so if everything works out, I’ll be posting a flash story here as well two or three times a week. To see what kind of inspiration I’ve gathered for these stories, you can check out my Pinterest board “In Need of Stories”.
Okay, so — the magic system of The Ruon Chronicles are set in needlework and weaving, with nith or magic woven or worked into a specific design.
The main charms of the Ruon are worked in embroidery, for example, this is a healing charm meant for pain and fever. It is also made up of a pain charm and a fever charm that has been “locked” together. (Designed and embroidered by me.)
Ruon nith, however is used in all kinds of needlework, and this work can be divided roughly into:
Tatting and lacemaking
For embroidery, tapestry, weaving, and knitting, you can read part 1 of this series. This part will be looking at crochet, tatting and lacemaking.
Those who follow my blog will know that I’m an avid crocheter (mostly addicted to shawls and doilies. Yes. I make doilies and actually like using them). However, the idea of crochet also being part of the magic system only came in later in my worldbuilding — at first it was only tapestry and embroidery. But then I thought, hey, what about all the other crafts? And a whole new world of magic opened up…
The crochet that is imbued with nith is made from fine thread and usually has a very lace-like appearance. The stitches and different motifs contain different kinds of charms or guarding magic.
Here is a video by Olga Poltava showing how crochet — and specifically crocheting with thread — looks:
The crocheted nith usually takes longer to make than the embroidered charms, although crocheted motifs can also be healing charms.
(Asan aside for other crocheters – I usually use number 5 thread for all my thread crocheting as other sizes can be tricky to come by where I live. My favourite patterns fordoilies are usually Japanese and Russian, while my favourite shawl designer is Jasmin Räsänen.)
The finest of crocheted motifs imbued with nith are made with thread no thicker than sewing thread. This technique, however, is highly specialised because of the delicacy and fineness of the work.
These crocheted motifs can be either worn on the outside of clothing where they are visible, or on the inside of a garment where they are not visible and where they may give someone the upper hand when they need to use nith in a fight.
A shirt may be made of these lace-like motifs and, if it contains enough nith, it can be as hard as… well… mithril.
The first time this kind of nith comes into its own, is in book two of the planned Ruon Chronicles series when Ruenna wears some of the motifs at the beginning of the book.
Right, now on to tatting and lace making.
Tatting and Lace Making
Tatting, which you can see being done in the video below, is not only a craft that I still want to try, but also another type of needlework that can be imbued with nith. Very fine work — almost as fine as the lace which I will discuss next, the motifs are made up of a series of “knots” so to speak.
Tatted motifs are used as part of guarding magic and those making this kind of lace are held in high esteem because they are quite few and far between.
Here is the video showing how a small motif is made:
Lastly we come to the type of needlework which is most scarce among the Ruon. It is important to again emphasize that not all lace makers are Ruon and that not all lace are imbued with nith.
However, the lace of the Ruon are the finest lace that is available in all of Airtha-Eyrassa. Those practicing the art can only be taught at a few of the Sanctuaries because there are so few lace makers.
Used only for guarding, the lace that the Ruon make is extremely strong with a lot of “concentrated” nith contained in the different stitches of the work.
That said, the lace which I have in mind as being the nith-imbued kind, is bobbin lace, which you can see being done in this short video:
And some more in this documentary on Vologda lace and lace making:
Happy Easter! (If you’re celebrating) I always feel like I should only send my Easter messages to everyone on Easter Sunday, not Good Friday, but anyway…
It is day 17 of the lockdown in South Africa. I’m feeling much, much better than yesterday and the anti-inflammatory tablets seem to have done their job well. Thank goodness. I really didn’t want to spend the whole long weekend feeling absolutely dire! (If you’re new to the blog, I’m still working full-time, but am working from home – thank goodness!)
Today I bring you “Our Own Private World Wide Web”, a blog post by Thrums Books (a publisher of books on different types of textiles and needlework around the world). Honestly, the more I get into different types of textile and needlework, the more I’m amazed by the vast variety of styles and methods across the world. I mean, in Ruon Chronicles, I make use of the basics of knitting, embroidery, crochet, lace making, etc. that I wonder where the series will finally end up as I add a little bit of my new-found knowledge here and there. By the way, I’m still busy with my Firebird embroidery. Hopefully I’ll finish it this year still.
Also, I have found the perfect (real life!) rock to be a “blood stone” for The Ruon Chronicles — rhodonite! Check out this article from Rock & Gem magazine. Basically the blood stones are used in dark magic (I really need to finish that worldbuilding post…) in The Ruon Chronicles. Hopefully I’ll have a proper blogpost on this for Worldbuilding Wednesday — that is to say, a blogpost that doesn’t contain a bunch of spoilers.
With it being Easter Sunday and all, I thought I’d share some more music to set the tone:
And, just because I really like her music, here is some music by Hildegard von Bingen.
Finally, I’m sharing an article that was delivered to my inbox yesterday but I only actually read it and watched the video today. Yeah… I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that much reading one of his articles, and that’s saying something. And if I needed an eye-opener that really puts stuff into perspective and for me to stop moping here by myself at times for having to stay home — this is it! “Life and Death in the ‘Hot Zone’” by Nicholas Kristof.
Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy. Until tomorrow.