Monday, October 31, 2011

Favorite Writing Getaways

Writing spaces are a big deal among authors. Even though it’s a big deal, some writing spaces aren’t as glamorous or romantic as non-writers may think. For some, it’s the end of a kitchen table, a corner in a laundry room or a chair in a bedroom (my current writing space). For other’s it’s a dedicated home office. These places are important because they can greatly determine how productive an author is.

But no matter how wonderful the space, a writer may have a back-up writing space, aka somewhere other than home. This can be as equally important as a home writing space. Sometimes, you just have to get away from the piles of laundry and children and phone calls. You need a place to escape it all…or at least most of it.

With this in mind, I decided to compile a list of my favorite writing getaways.

3. The public library. This is a last resort for me. There never seems to be enough outlets available when I go there.  Also, their hours don’t always work for my schedule. But I must admit, I love being among books when I’m writing. It’s inspires me. My two favorite writing libraries are the Joint Base Andrews and the Prince George’s County Public Library Accokeek branch. The Joint Base Andrews library is very quiet and normally I have my pick of outlets. The Accokeek Branch has a wall of windows where the tables are which provide a wonderful view of outside.

2. Borders. WAAAAAAA! I’m so sad that Borders closed. I used to go and pick a spot near the café and write for four hours easy. I loved the fact that I could have a cup of tea and a scone, something I can’t do in the library. And going always provided opportunity to browse for new books. The free WiFi was an added bonus. I don’t know if I’ll ever find somewhere to replace Borders. Heartbroken.

Drum roll please…

My number one writing spot: a church’s sanctuary. Okay, I know that this seems like an odd number one, but I discovered this gem of a place a few years ago. I was working at a church and my children attended the church’s academy across the street. The children had to be at school by 8:25am but I didn’t have to be at my desk until 9:00am. So I would sit in the back of the sanctuary, put on my headphones and write. That short thirty-minute or so of writing was more productive than a two-hour stint at Borders.

No, I couldn’t have a cup of tea in there, there was no WiFi and the only books around were Bibles left from Sunday service, but that didn’t matter. There was something about being in a hallowed place that made me feel connected to the One who gave me the gift of writing.  

What are your favorite writing getaways?

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Life in Stitches: Christmas Knitting

This year I’m doing something that I haven’t done before: Christmas knitting. I’ve never given knitted projects for Christmas gifts before. Not that I’m doing that much. Right now it’s looking like I’ll only be making one or two projects.

Christmas is such a hectic season for me that I rarely have time for knitting, much less knitting Christmas gifts. This year, however, is a little different. My husband’s deployment had really shifted my thinking about Christmas. Actually it’s shifted my thinking about just about everything. It has taught me to plan ahead, which got me thinking about Christmas earlier than I normally do.

Fetching Fingerless Gloves
I’m almost finished my first Christmas gift, which I can’t say because the recipient might read this blog. All I can say is I love the yarn I’m working on and the project is perfect for the person I’m making it for. I was thinking about knitting some Christmas stockings for the house, but that means I would have to buy more yarn…maybe.

My next batch of holiday knitting is for my church. The women’s ministry is sponsoring a silent auction. I really enjoy knitting for causes. When I heard about the silent auction, I immediately started planning my projects. Besides, the ladies at the church are constantly commenting on the scarves I’ve knitting for myself. Now they’ll have a chance to own something themselves

Pinkerton Shawl
The first contribution to the silent auction is Fetching, a pair of fingerless gloves. It’s a pattern from Knitty that several of the ladies in my knitting group have made. They are extra cute and shouldn’t take me long to make. I’ll be making them out of Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepard’s Wool. I don’t anticipate it taking me more than a weekend to finish them. My second contribution to the silent auction will be a Pinkerton Shawl from Interweave Knits Spring 2011. I’ll be using Lorna’s Laces Shepard Sock Multi (Gold Hill).  I’ll try to remember to post pictures of my progress. Depending on how fast these projects go, I may throw a cowl into the mix. 

What are you holiday plans? Do they include any crafting?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tea & Read: At the Captain's Command

Title: At the Captain’s Command
Author: Louis M. Gouge
Rating: Two cups of Tea (four stars)

Sometimes good things come in small packages. That is the case with Louise M. Gouge’s latest book, The Captain’s Command.  Gouge takes us back to East Florida, this time with the story of Captain Thomas Moberly and Dinah Templeton.

As with her other novels, Gouge writing is great. The pacing was great. No skimming here. Also, Gouge’s description of East Florida isn’t overdone but employs great imagery. I almost expected to smell the flowers and sweat from the humidity.

Gouge does an excellent job of depicting not only the struggle between the newly formed US colonies, but the struggled between class and rank. Also, the relationships between the characters and Dinah’s domestic problems draw you into the story. Also, Dinah’s struggle with her loyalty to her brother also creates a good depth of character.

Who doesn’t love a man in uniform? Captain Moberly is dashing and brave like a captain should be, but he also has a good bit of vulnerability. His relationship with his brother, Freddy, also added a very realistic ring to the story. Also the inspirational element of the story seemed organic and not preachy, a bonus.

This is a great little book, and series, for a quick read. I’m looking forward to more books by Gouge.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My NaNoWriMo Conundrum

I have not participated in NaNoWriMo since 2009. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a month-long quest into insanity. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s about 1667 words a day. For me, it’s 1923 words a day since I try not to write on Sundays. It’s crazy, but it’s a good opportunity to ramp up your word count.

The NaNoWriMo site is pretty awesome, too. It’s like Facebook for crazy, crack-head writers. You can add friends, assign yourself to regions and compete in word count competitions. You can even find others in your area sponsoring write-ins. So if it’s so wonderful, why haven’t I participated in two years?

First I have to give you a little history in my participation in the contest. I did my first in 2007. I discovered NaNoWriMO close to November 1st, so I had little time to prep for it. I finished that year, and in 2008, but I did it seat-of-the pants. No plot, not outline. Just writing.

For 2009, I decided to do a preemptive strike. I chose to outline my novel that October.  Since I’d just converted to outlining/plotting, I started light with some character sketches. Before I knew, I had much of the plot laid out and was ready to write. But it wasn’t November yet. I ended up jumping the gun, starting the story in October, but not participating NaNoWriMo

And thus the conundrum.  You see, you have to start NaNoWriMo with 0 words. Yes, I could cheat because no one really checks, but that wouldn’t be honest and it doesn’t matter if this isn’t a real contest. By October 2009, the story was fresh in my mind and I was ready to get started…so I did.

I am the type of writer who has to write while the idea is hot. My words normally come out in one big rush, which is why NaNoWriMo works for me. I can just feverishly write and ignore the internal editor.

So here I am preparing for NaNoWriMo again. I started plotting this month. And once again, I’m ready to write now. I had a great brainstorming session with a friend. I still have some kinks to work out, but I think they’ll come out when I start writing, which I am very ready to do right now.

I don’t know if I can wait until November.  What to do…

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Life in Stitches: Fingerless Mitts, Square Needles and Breaking Rules

Fingerless Mitt #1 and Cubics Needles

I’m all grown up and knitting fingerless mitts.

I casted on Susie’s Reading Mitts last week after deciding to frog a cowl I was working on. Besides, I got some new needles, Knitter's Pride Cubics Double Point. I was planning to buy their Dreamz needles, but the concept of square needles fascinated me. Once I read that the yarn doesn’t slide off the square needles like it does with round one (a problem I was having), I was hooked.

I must admit it took me a minute to adjust to the square needles. They feel like I’m knitting with small pencils. But, as promised, my yarn didn’t roll off my needles. I’m seriously considering getting another set, maybe 6”.

The pattern for Susie’s Reading Mitts are pretty simple, much like knitting a big sock. If I would do anything different, I would have used smaller needles. The first glove is kinda big.  The person I’m making them for is shorter than me but has bigger hands than I do, so it may work out.

Also, I seemed to have broken out of my one-project-at-time rule. Last week, I had three…count them…three different projects on my needles. Fortunately, one of them was a hat, which I finished quickly and one of the other’s was a hibernating Marigold Ishbel. It may not be a bad idea to relax my one-project-at-time rule, but only for a really good reason.

I broke my rule last week because my church is having a coat drive for a men’s homeless shelter. Since I don’t have any coats to contribute, it seemed like a good idea to knit some hats to donate. I’ve done three so far and I just found another skein of yarn I can use to make another. It’s a good cause, worth breaking my rules. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tea & Read: In Every Heartbeat

Title: In Every Heartbeat
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Rating: Half a cup of tea (two stars out of five)

This was the first book by Kim Vogel Sawyer that I've read.  The premise of the story drew me in, three orphans, Libby, Pete and Bennett, going off to college to pursue their dreams. Books with the premise of starting a new life always appeal to me.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t hold my attention very long. First, I struggled to connect with the characters. Their motivation behind their actions seemed unrealistic. Libby, Pete and Bennett often reacted to their plot twists with more consternation than necessary. I can’t say that I could relate to their emotions.

Second, the pacing was slow. I found myself skimming pages and it took me a long time to finish the book. The writing was good, one of the reasons I didn’t give this book a lower rating. Maybe this book is for a different sort of reader than me, someone who enjoys books that are a stroll. And despite the low rating, I would give Sawyer another shot (I actually am currently reading another one of her books. Stay tuned for my review).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Personalized Sheol

As a writer, sometimes when my imagination gets the best of me…okay, my imagination gets the best of me often. And it doesn’t take much to spark it.

For instance, last week, I made had my normal snack, peanut butter on wheat bread and a cup of tea. Well, the piece of bread I used (I don’t make a two-slice sandwich. One piece of bread folded in half with no jelly) was at the end of the loaf. I made the sandwich and then realized that the bread was a little stale.

Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than CHUNKY peanut butter on stale bread. I thought, if Sheol is personalized, I would have to eat stale bread and chunky peanut butter for all eternity. And that simple thing, peanut butter on stale bread, got my brain wondering what a Hell would be like if it was personalized.

So here is a picture of my personalized Hell. First I want to give a few disclaimers. First, I have no intention of going to Hell. I read Revelations. Beasts and chains and plagues and wars…yeah, I’m good. Don’t need to see that. Second, the worst part about Hell is being separated from God, which is the greatest tragedy anyone can face, in this life or the next.

But if Hell was personalized, this is what mine would look like:
• I would have to eat stale peanut butter sandwiches with nothing to drink
• I would have to give everyone in Hell a pedicure. I really don’t like feet.
• I would have to knit Fair Isle sweaters with mohair… or worse angora!
• I would only be able to travel by airplane and there would always be turbulence.
• There would be a library but no books, only computers for people to get on the internet.
• I would be on hold for tech support for all eternity.

What does your personal Sheol look like?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Question of the Day

Are you satisfied/content?

That is the question my pastor posed last night in Bible study. He is known for hitting with powerful thought-provoking questions, but this one nearly floored me. Am I satisfied and content with my life? I think for most people, the answer would be no, and that might not be a bad thing. Sometimes our discontentment is the drive to improve some areas of our lives that have fallen into disrepair. Nothing wrong with a little “holy” discontent.

But when that question was presented, I didn’t feel holy discontent. It was whinny, ugly, soul-degrading discontent. It was the bad kind of dissatisfaction, which got me thinking about my life. Which, by the way, I think the whole point of the exercise. God was using ALL things, whether it be holy discontent or not, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And I definitely fall into that category.

The question was still ringing in my ears this morning as I walked my son to the bus stop. The morning was crisp but not cold, as the Northeast is on fall’s doorstep. The sun was shining and the tops of the trees, just starting to transform into their autumn color, swayed slightly. As I walked, another question popped into my mind.

What’s really wrong with my life?

Yes, I have ten tons of complaints about my life, but really, is it so bad? I have a husband who adores me, and even though he’s had to adore me from Afghanistan for the past nine months, the separation has made our relationship stronger. I have great kids despite the fact that they drive me bananas every now and then (but what children don’t drive their parents crazy every now and then). I don’t have a job, but I have everything I need. And God has blessed me with a life that I can pursue my dreams of publication. Most of all, I have a relationship with God, which far outweighs all that I think I want or need.

That’s the funny thing about discontentment. It blinds you from the things that you do have, the blessings God has already given you. It makes you feel incomplete, when you actually have more than you could every want or need.

Now did I get completely delivered from all my discontent this morning? No, but I have gained a new perspective on my life and that perspective has lessened my discontent considerably. I have a good life and I think if you look close enough, you’ll realize you have a good life, too. A good, satisfying life.