Thursday, March 28, 2013

April A to Z Characters

April is nearly here and that means it's almost time for the A to Z parade through my characters. I'm pleased to announce that I managed to pull 26 characters with names from A to Z from works both published and languishing on my hard drive without having to resort to a single discarded character.

Okay, that's not exaclty true, one was previously a Victim of the Knife, but he was placed back into a story long before this challenge was issued.

The entries will be short, but will hopefully give you insight to some of the stories that I've been working on and/or have published. They come from short stories and novels. Some are main characters, others are supporting characters or have small roles but I did try to stick with the bigger players when I could.

Things I discovered when pulling these posts together:

• I like characters with M and J names. There was a lot of competition on those two days.

• I was surprised to learn that I'd used every letter as the starting point for name over the course of the years. I guess only having two that I keep repeating isn't so bad given the amount of variation.

• I really hate not reading things not in manuscript format. Some of my earlier novels haven't yet made into the correct format. My eyes, they blur and burn.

• After skimming through Swan Queen, the novel I'm currently rewriting my way through, I'm reminded of how much I've missed those characters, and yet, how much time and effort that novel is going to need to make it work.

If you haven't signed up for the April A to Z Challenge yet, there's still time.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Victims of the Knife: Blue goes to camp

Blue arranges his tentacles on the DVD player that shares my writing space. Turns out that while it takes up a lot of space, it also makes a nice seat for my resident alien. He stares at me expectantly.


"I've been waiting for you to call me up here."

"For? Look, it's early. Not only do I not do mornings, I don't do people...or aliens...until around noon. And by "do" I mean-"

He holds up a tentacle to which is strapped a wide, silver bracelet. "I believe translator conveyed the correct meaning."

"Good. I'm not much for humor this early either. So?"

"Your April Camp NaNo project. I hear I'm going in?"

"You are?"

He looks around and leans closer. "No need for secrets. It's just you and me. Everyone else is still sound asleep."

"Lucky them."

"Into the Blue. That's your title. That would be me. I'm Blue."

"If I told you it was just a phrase regarding space travel, would you believe me?"

He consults his translator and lowers what would be his eyebrows if he were more humanoid. "I'm Blue. You're writing about me. I'm going in."

"I admit, I wasn't aware of this. That you were going in, I mean." I hold up a hand to halt his reiteration. "I know that you're Blue."

"Seems only logical."

"Who are you, Spock?"

"No, I'm Blue."

"Right." I sigh. "Well, you did eat my Barthromains so I suppose it would be best if I got you out of here before you dine on anyone else."

"I would greatly appreciate it."

"If you'll leave your adverbs with Nekar when you pack your things, I'll see what I can do."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Getting Crafty: Book Page People

While in the midst of my book page fun, I had some rolled bits left over. This led to pondering what to do with them, because as crafty people know, you don't just throw extra stuff away. You might use it for something (rather like my discarded characters), so you either find something to do with it right away or you set it aside for later in what can become a huge pile of stuff if you aren't speedy enough with ideas.

Out of this need a speedy idea, so my craft mountain doesn't grow any further out of control, came the idea for book page people. Yes, as with most things, these little guys and gals will end up in my NaNo give away pile. But that's a whole different pile and it goes entirely away once a least for a few weeks until it starts building again.

What you'll need to make your own people:
• Heavy book pages
• Light book pages
• Tacky glue
• A thick dowel (or pencil)
• A thin dowel

Using the thin dowel  roll a page of the thin paper. As in my previous book page craft posts , I tore into my dictionary. I'm well into the Cs now. If you're making several people, you may as well roll several pages at once.

Simply set out one page and brush or spread a little glue along the outside edge.  I like to also put a row of glue about half way along the page to help hold the roll tight. Then put your dowel on the unglued edge, wrap the paper over the dowel and roll. Once the whole thing is on the dowel, smooth the edge and pull it off. If it is hard to get off the dowel, just twist it a little until it loosens enough to pull off.

Let the rolls dry an hour if your patient as they will cut easier when not moist with tacky glue. If you're not patient, you will need to straighten the ends of your cut rolls as they will flatten. Not a big deal really, and I'm not patient. However, I did wait to cut them until I'd rolled the body so that does give you a minute or two of drying time.

This is backwards of what I'd intended
to do with my body page as you see
from the two people already done.
Now you'll use your thick (3/8 or so) dowel or pencil and a heavy book page. I cut* my heavy page in half long-wise and doubled it up, lightly gluing the two halves together to make a very strong piece. This will be your body. No, not your body, that would be weird and you'd have to avoid fires forever. This will be the body of your paper person. Roll the page up and this one you'll probably have to hold for a minute or two until the glue sets a little.

 *As I discovered by mistake in the process of making several of these at once, decide what you'd like the body of the person to look like before folding, gluing and rolling that thick page. I really liked the upper bit as blank page (the face) and the lower part covered with words. It seems I reversed my fold part way though and made some of them differently. Oops. They still worked, it just wasn't what I'd intended at the beginning.

Once you have your body and you've decided which part you're calling the face, you can decide how long you'd like the legs and arms to be. Then comes to the cutting of the rolls you first made. Generally, you'll need two arms and two legs per person unless you're making mutants or zombies or people missing parts for whatever other reason. Hey, I don't want to judge your creative whims.

I used little extra bits for feet, but you'll put those on last.

Cover the tops of your legs with glue and shove them into the body until they feel secure. They may have to be flattened a little at the top and that's fine, just don't bend them as you want them sturdy so your person will stand.

No one wants a lazy lay-about paper person. Adjust the leg placement and level the legs until the person has a good chance of standing. You can further adjust the odds of standing when you add the feet.

Then attach the arms. You will have to hold the arms in place for a few seconds to keep them in position. Go ahead and have fun with posing the arms if you'd like. The arms can bend because they're not holding up the body.

Once the body is mostly dry (or two minutes later if your impatient like me), glue on the feet. Adjust the stance as necessary to make your person stand.

Now comes the fun part of adding facial features and hair. I used some long strips of thin pages for the hair. You could cut it short, long, curl it around a pencil tip, etc. Whatever you decide, keep the pieces joined in the middle so you can put glue on one easy to insert piece. Put that piece down inside the top of the head and there you go. You have a little person to inspire you with its wordy body or make funny faces at you while you're writing.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Progress Report

Progress on Swan Queen is slow, but moving forward. Not because the story is bogging me down, but finding time to work on it between shuttling kids and working is interfering with my writing time. However, I have managed to carve out enough hours to get myself into chapter six.

It's funny how writing characters that came to me years ago feel when writing them anew. Swan Queen is told in multiple point of views, which was the experiment when first writing this story as I'd only written single POVs up until that point.

Some of the characters need more work to flesh them out, others feel like slipping into my favorite jeans and going for a walk. Leoric (a young suitor) continues to be a favorite as does Kenric (the antagonist). (Jarvis (captain of the guard) needs personality help. Maribella (AKA The Princess) is getting a major character do-over. She was far too cookie-cutter the first time around. Now she's got moxie!

The biggest goof, or change, depending on how you look at it, is the fact that I began rewriting without realizing that I'd swapped the name of Maribella's country with that of one of her suitors. It didn't even occur to me until chapter three that I'd made the switch. That's the beauty of rewriting from scratch. My subconscious often knows best. I like this much better.

You'll get to meet all these characters and many more in my upcoming April A to Z Blog Challenge, which, holy bovines, has grown to 1085 participants and counting! My characters stand ready to meet you because I'll be (hopefully) deep into writing a sci-fi novella for April Camp NaNo. I love that the word goals are now adjustable for camp so I can legitimately aim for 25k.

Now then, back to working on chapter six and juggling the five submissions I currently have out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Getting Crafty: Book Page Roses

You gave me a dozen roses and I'd be happy. But they die. Pretty quickly. And, well, while I appreciate the sentiment, sometimes thinking outside the box is even more appreciated.

So when I saw these, I wasn't about to wait around for someone to make me some. Hell no. I'll give myself some roses thank you very much.

More specifically, I made myself some roses out of book pages. Double win. If you guessed this was yet another excuse to tear into my already torn and worn dictionary, you'd be right. I also used Henry the Eighth because that dictionary isn't the only one sitting on my craft pile.

So how does one go about making book page roses? Well you get yourself an old tattered book or two (the kind you'd otherwise throw out, not the valuable vintage sort) - one with lightweight pages and one with a little heavier pages. Any pages that have colored or worn edges are best. Yes, you could paint the edges, but I like the natural look.

Official supply list:
Tacky glue
1/8 wooden dowel that is longer than your pages
Book pages you never plan to read again

1. To make the stems: Take full book pages and apply glue to the outside edge. Roll using the dowel and smooth the glued edge. Pull out the dowel, and hey, you've got a stem. Lightweight pages work best for this as they are easier to roll this tight.

2. Cut a 1.5 x length of book page strip and fold over one corner. Glue this onto the stem and then wrap, pleating the paper a couple times to create interest. This makes the center of your rose.

To fill this giant gap between pictures, I'll tell you that once I had the process down, each rose took about five minutes to make.

3. Cut a selection of petals. For the heavier book pages, I made the petals roughly two inches long by about 1.5 inches tall. For the thinner pages, I made the strips 5 inches long because I could pleat them a I wound them around the center section.

4. Start with a heavier page petal. Varying the paper weight adds some substance and interest to the petals. My pages were also slightly different colors, with the heavier one being a darker page with a red edge, though not all of the petals came from the edges of the page. Manually pleat the heavy page petals. These can be done all at once or as you go.

5. You will need to hold the heavier page petals in place for a few seconds until the glue sets a little. Then follow that petal with a lighter weight one. Sprinkle the heavy pages throughout. I used three to four per rose. The heavier pages are bulkier so keep that in mind when working around the underside of your rose or it will end up with a huge base.

6. Keep adding petals all around, making sure to vary the length of the petals to keep the rose round and somewhat natural looking. You know, as natural as a rose made of book pages can be. Overlapping the petals an inch or so also helps keep them looking like petals.

7. Once you have the desired amount of petals pinch down the bottom against the stem. Cut a 1 inch by 5 inch strip of lightweight paper and wrap it around the underside of your rose to make the base. This serves to clean up the underside a little and transition the clump of petals into the stem.

8.  Cut a couple leaf shaped bits. I used one or two per stem and placed them roughly two inches below the rose. Glue the leaf onto the stem.

There you go. Now go wash all that glue off your hands and enjoy your roses.

My bouquet is sitting in a vase on my writing desk. The best part...they'll never wilt. Also, if I ever need a word beginning with B or C (as that's where I am in my dictionary), I can simply consult my roses for inspiration.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Reading and Echoes

Ever have the feeling your email must not be working because there's nothing in the inbox? So you check it. Frequently. Because darn it, something should be in the inbox.

That's my inbox the past month and half. I'm usually a pretty patient person when it comes to the submission waiting game. I really am. But I've got four projects floating out there at the moment and they've all been out from one to six months. Usually there's at least one project that bounces back with a quick form rejection to prove that my inbox is indeed operational. Not that I'm begging for a quick form rejection, that just how the submission game usually works.

Now that I've broken down and complained about it, the rejections will come flying in. That's also how it usually works.

Deep cleansing breath.

While I'm waiting, I've been busy writing. Swan Queen, which I've been searching for a new title for now that I've adjusted what I'd originally set out to do with the theme, is creeping along. Chapter three is now done.

I've also been busy reading. However, not much from my TBR pile. That pile has been there long while as have two books I'm in the middle of that I just can't seem to finish reading. Nothing is lighting my fire at the moment. Meh. Even a trip to the bookstore didn't reveal a book that I knew I could dive into and love. Tis a sad state of anxious emotional affairs I've worked myself into.

Instead of reading from my pile, I did critique a full novel last month. My month of reading accomplishments isn't totally lacking. I also had the driving urge to read Trust and Chain of Gray. Not for editing, but for enjoyment, though I did fix a few lurking ninja typos. Sneaky bastards.

Now it's time to get back to chapter four and, yes, waiting.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Getting Crafty: Recycled Dictionary Page Coasters

In another fit of craftiness, I cut into my old dictionary for writing related words. There are an awful lot of them in you get specific about it.

By the time I had gotten sick of finding words and their definitions, I had quite a pile. In fact, I ended up making four sets of coasters and still had a pile left over. I suppose that means there is another project in the wings.

All the stuff you need.
To make a set of coasters, here's what you'd need:

Ceramic tiles
Mod Podge
A brush
Tissue Paper

1. Cut a square of tissue paper to fit the top of your tile and apply a layer of Mod Podge.

Mod Podge Tissue Paper to the tile
2. Once the paper is affixed to the tile, find the words you want to use. I went several different ways with this. On one set, I burned the edges of words that had long definitions. On others, I used stripes of words and made more of a collage.

3. Mod Podge the words on top of the tissue paper.

4. Let the tile dry.

5. Apply a top layer of Mod Podge.

Mod Podge your words onto the tile.
6. Cut a square of felt or cork. I used felt because it seems some mice got into my shed. (Where I'd last used the cork to make a new washer for my rustic water pump. Some ants had eaten the old one. Stupid ants.) The mice ate my cork. Stupid mice. Shredded cork doesn't work very good for this so, yes, I opted for felt. Felt is also much cheaper by the way.

7. Using Tacky Glue, affix the felt t o the bottom of your coaster.

8. Sit back, have a tall, sweaty drink and enjoy your craftiness.

Some of my finished tile coasters.