Lockdown Chronicles — 15 May 2020

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.

Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat!

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.)

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

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!

Lockdown Chronicles — 7 May 2020

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.

Cue Thursday…

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!

Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat!

The Lockdown Chronicles — 5 May 2020

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…

Craftiness

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.

Play 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.

The Lockdown Chronicles — Day 26, 21 April 2020

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!).

I’ve been listening to Dan Well’s A Night of Blacker Darkness again in the evenings to cheer me up — I highly recommend it!

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:

The Stolen Child, written by W.B. Yeats and sung by Loreena McKennit:

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.

The Lockdown Chronicles — Day 19, 14 April 2020

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”).

Behold the Color of Happiness! (And the fact that I didn’t buy enough paint…)

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”.

And, lastly, I’ve signed up for one of Futurelearn’s free courses — Factory Lives: Working in the Textile Mills. I figured that, apart from being interesting it will also have a lot of story fodder, so win-win!

Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy.
Until tomorrow.

Worldbuilding the Ruon magic system, part 2

Well, it’s about time I post this, don’t you think! Here is the link to the first part of the more in-depth look at the Ruon magic system.

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:

  • Embroidery
  • Tapestries
  • Weaving
  • Knitting
  • Crochet
  • 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…

Crochet

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.

(As an 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 for doilies 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:

The Lockdown Chronicles — Day 17, 12 April 2020

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.

Also, here’s a picture of a cat.

Photo by Tatiana Аzatskaya on Pexels.com

The Lockdown Chronicles — Day 16, 11 April 2020

Today is that weird day of limbo between Good Friday and Easter Sunday — at least, it always feels like a day of limbo for me. Unfortunately, my body has decided to flare, so I can’t say I’m feeling well at all. I guess it is forcing me to take another day off so that’s good.

The flare also explains why I’ve been so tired the past few days — a different kind of fatigue than a simple lack of sleep (or, in my case, not sleeping very well since the lockdown began).

It was a busy week work-wise though. Which I don’t mind at all. I’d rather be busy than sitting at home not having any work. (Yes, I do count my blessings every day!)
On Thursday, though, the president announced that we will have two more weeks of lockdown, lasting until the end of April. I guess closer to the end of April they’ll relook the lockdown again and decide whether it will last even longer. (The lockdown will be 5 weeks… so far.)

I’m still holding out okay otherwise, and have only actually had to go to the pharmacy because I did my usual grocery shop just before the lockdown started. So I’ve really been sequestered in my home. Although I’ve had to chase Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat around the garden to get him inside one day when I went to take out the rubbish! He thought it was a lot of fun — me not so much.

In other news, the Veritas Forum has released a very interesting conversation about creativity during this time:

And Radical Face released a live, acoustic version of Small Hands a week ago and I can’t stop listening to it:

Then there is also this fascinating article about Minerals of the Vikings from Rock&Gem magazine.

I’m also still crocheting a lot, though knitting less, basically because I’m mostly watching YouTube while crocheting and at least if I drop a crochet stitch it’s not a big deal, while knitting can be a lot trickier to fix.

Finally, I’m also starting work on an article that I’d like to send to Piecework magazine. I’ll share more details later, but I’m really excited to write this one!

One of the charms used in The Ruon Chronicles

Because the workweek was so busy, Ruon Chronicles is basically still where it was during last weekend, with only a bit of extra plotting added.

Hopefully this coming week will be a better week for fiction! (Not to mention blogging cough, cough.)

Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy.
Until tomorrow.

The Lockdown Chronicles — Day 9, 4 April 2020

Welcome to day 9 of lockdown in South Africa. Although 9 is a magical number, I can’t say that the day has been very magical thanks to a pounding headache…
This meant that I only wrote about 200 words on worldbuilding and crocheted a bit in-between sleeping for stretches of time. Soft Baroque music helped a bit for this, as did the soft rain that we’ve had most of the day. Luckily I am starting to feel better now, yay!
I was still listening to this playlist today. I love it!

Writing and worldbuilding

That said, the 200 words that I wrote actually sorted out part of Ruon Chronicles that I’ve been struggling with. You see, I’ve been writing bits of worldbuilding during the evenings this week — just the kind of train of thought stuff that usually makes me move forward with a story world — and figured out quite a few plot points.
Unfortunately it does contain a lot of spoilers, so I can’t just copy and paste the whole thing onto the blog! So I’ll try and see if I can strip it down tomorrow into a blogpost that makes sense and won’t just go and spoil the story.

Introspection

I think that one thing this lockdown is doing, is making people more introspective than usual. (Perhaps it’s just the content that I’m still consuming, but hey.) This emotion that I’m feeling is almost the kind of existential-crisis-introspection-wondering-if-you’re-actually-living-your-life thing that I feel at funerals and other somber occasions. Or, you know, when I start getting depressed.
(Don’t worry, I am taking my meds and have enough meds and everything, and I can still “see in colour”, so it’s not like full-blown depression. I am keeping an eye on it, though.)
I think that the numbers are just overwhelming at the moment. And my brain just absolutely loves milling about thinking of all the families and people and how this changes everything for them, etc. It also loves to worry more than probably necessary about people with other ailments getting the help that they need from doctors and hospitals now. My brain loves rabbit holes. No wonder I have a headache of note.

One thing that I have found helpful, is Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast, where she talks from a personal perspective on how this pandemic is affecting her and others.
The last two was titled “Mourning Time” and “Comforting or Comforted?” and really hit home.
I think I am not allowing myself to feel the full force of the changes that this pandemic is causing and trying to be happy and everything while this is raging on as a kind of barrier between me and the sorry, trepidation, and anxiety that I’m feeling. So that’s something to work on — especially since I still have (at least) two weeks of lockdown ahead of me.

In other news, here’s an interview with John Lennox that is quite helpful. But, then again, I find his talks and interviews helpful every time, so… if you enjoy it, there’s a lot more on YouTube!

It also feels weird that there won’t be church over Easter. We all got an SMS about Palm Sunday this afternoon (I have yet to venture into the wet garden to get a branch that will have to do for a palm) and it was quite somber in a hopeful way. A bit like Sam’s song in Mordor.

Anyway, I’ll hopefully be back to a routine on Monday (Sunday is usually quite routineless) when it’s back to work. I am so thankful that I am one of the lucky ones being able to work from home in this trying time.

Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy.
Until tomorrow.

The COVID-19 Lockdown Chronicles — Day 7, 2 April 2020

In which I sleep too little, have a busy day at the home office, and found some tips on not procrastinating. Also, pirate music.

Apparently the lockdown is causing me not to sleep well. Which meant that I was awake at 3am. Fun. I’m also starting to flare, which is not exactly what I would call a timely thing to happen — but, then again, it is a flare and not something worse, i.e. The Disease That Must Not Be Named.

In happy news, though, the weather today has been absolutely wonderful for me – rainy and cool and basically bliss.

Work was busy and at least today the internet played along! My “home office” is slowly coming together although I must remember to leave space for Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat on any desk or workspace.

I also watched this video this morning, which I found inspiring —

How to stop procrastinating with the 10-minute rule

Time for some music

Today’s music was some of the ambient mixes of Ambient Worlds, and specifically I’ll mention one of the Pirates of the Caribbean mixes. The ocean sounds are really calming.

Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy. Until tomorrow.