Things I Love Thursday

Once again I ask my friends what crochet if they’d be willing to make something awesome. Check out these completely adorable Cthulu babies! I really want the Christmas one. “I have a little present for you.” So cute!

Hilarious gif is hilarious.

That cat really loves his string.

Getting a bit more serious now, I’ve read two articles online this week that really resonated with me. I think you guys should read them too.
A disease called perfection from the Single Dad Laughing blog is an excellent wake up call. A kind of ‘Hey, we’re all real people and we have flaws’ call to action. Then he has a proposal for curing it.

Straight up this is me starting the honesty and the realness: I am completely wishy washy and frequently grumpy. Mostly Lee gets the brunt of this, which isn’t really okay. He doesn’t deserve me being grumpy at him because of stuff other people (or life) did!
– Actually I think with a lot of my friends we’re quite good about being honest and real about ourselves and that’s why my friends are so important to me. But I am aware I am lucky in this respect, not everyone has the friends I do.

The Simple Marriage manifesto. Related to the above, ways in which you can fully commit to making yourself and your marriage a success. Lee and I have been together over ten years, only married for four-ish but still. Long relationships is hard, yo. They need work to stay good.

Honourable Mentions: Dry roasted peanuts (so much more delicious than ordinary peanuts), doctors who sympathise, workmates who give you odd little post it doodles, books arriving in the mail, Brittany/Britney-gasm in the new Glee episode, burger fuel and the return of beer battered fries.

Be Prepared

So three weeks ago Morgue did a very important thing on his blog. He pointed out that when it comes to being prepared for a natural disaster procrastination isn’t good enough. These things could happen any time and the intention to get stuff together isn’t much good if it happens before you get off to the supermarket to stock up.

Today he did his reminder post and I went and checked in. It worked, his two posts (and the earthquake, naturally) got me off my butt and onto it. I feel like we have enough water for several days now, canned food to keep us going, hand sanitiser, etc.

I left an epic comment on his blog, but it occurred to me that I have people reading that he doesn’t and reminders are important. So I’m taking his idea and propagating it and making it a meme. I’m still not quite there in terms of being prepared.

I still need to: get back up batteries for the torch and a bigger, meatier torch might be nice too.
– Transistor radio? Conceivably not necessary if we have access to the car, but we should probably not rely on the car.
– Landline phone that doesn’t need electrical power. We only have a flashy called ID phone that relies on the cradle being connected to mains power.
– Couple more things for the first aid kid (esp wipes, gauze, etc)
– Alternate method of cooking. We have a little wood burner BBQ but not so much fuel for it.

How about you? Does your survival kit need updating? This is your reminder to do it now. I’ll check back in 3 weeks and we’ll all have done something towards it by then. Comment below if you have stuff you need to do, public accountability can help with these things.

Finally some motivational music from Scar…

Sock Skeleton

Last week, when I was home sick and unable to concentrate on writing or editing I spent some time randomly wandering around the internet. I can’t quite recall how but I ended up on Martha Stewart’s website looking at Hallowe’en crafts.

This little guy was looking at me. He was so endearingly odd looking he caught my eye.

Then I saw that he was made of socks and well, if I know anything at all I know how to make things out of socks. So I kept that tab open and read the instructions and opened up the template for sewing and cutting in another tab and finally I sewed up some white socks on Sunday and made up a skellington.

It was a bit fiddly, but I’m not sure it took longer than a sock monkey. There’s lots of little bits you have to do on both so I think it ended up the same. The trickiest part I thought would be doing the arms, since they’re such narrow tubes of sock. The good thing is that socks are stretchy so this part wasn’t too bad. I had more trouble with the face, making the mouth look right. Judging from the reactions to my sock dude I didn’t get the same winsome expression above. I still think he’s adorable though.

oh hai, I'm Raymond

Actually the silliest thing about my skeleton is that his butt came out really big. Something about the heel of these socks means that when stuffed, they’re ginormous. That’s alright though, who says a sock skeleton can’t have a sizable butt?

Baby Got Back

Sideways he looks a bit like a firefly. Hence I call him Raymond, after the firefly in The Princess and the Frog.

Raymond and Dog

Skeletons look awesome with dogs don’t they? I think it’s because of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

If you want to make one too, you can find the pattern here.

Next up: a beigey-brown sock skeleton so it looks aged. Might also look more creepy, I’ll let you know.

Things I Love Thursday

I am cool bone guy.

Paul and my superhero LARP worked out really well. The players mostly had fun, there was crazy shit happening, people liked my cake…well, I blogged this the other day. I’m so glad I was part of making that happen, and also yay I achieved something new.

My editing mojo has been good this week. I received some in depth feedback from a reader and I’ve been looking carefully at sentence structure, character interactions and why I have included a smoking scene in the start of Rain. These are good things to think about when editing. I’ve been getting at least a half hour a day in most days this week. Will try for some epic sessions on the weekend.

I really love Hyperbole and a Half. This new article about The Party made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt. Even though I’ve read most of them over and over again they still make me laugh when I read them again.

These Lord of the Rings mini plushies are completely adorable. If someone wanted to buy me them for my birthday I would not cry. In order of preference: Legolas, Gandalf, Frodo then the Orc. Also I really don’t have enough Batman/Batgirl themed T shirts and I need this one.

Honourable Mentions: Mark Reads Harry Potter (a blog post for each chapter, it’s a lot of reading but pretty freaking funny.) 3 ply extra large aloe vera tissues, being in the making sock beasties swing again, sunshiney weather, it not being properly dark even after 6pm, daylight savings starting again this weekend (bad for the earlier wake up time, but good for the sunshiney hours and summer is coming!), fresh squeezed orange juice, eating at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, new books (Zombies vs Unicorns! ), trailers for awesome sauce new movies (e.g. Trolls) and hot chocolate from Scopa.

Au Contraire workshop – From First Draft to Final Version with Jeena Murphy

The first thing Jeena asked us to do was to tell the group about the work we are currently editing in 25 words or less. This was incredibly helpful for me. I got 24 for WtWTCH? “I’m writing a superhero chick-lit about Shelley, whose super power is that she can see the worst possible outcome of her choices.” Nice.

We did some exercises in this workshop too, so my notes are sparse. She put headings up on the windows and got us to stand in a spectrum from the people who write by getting a bunch of random scenes and forming them into a story to organic shitty first drafts and those who plan and structure everything before you start writing. I stood right on organic shitty first draft because that’s how writing works for me. I’ve tried the random scenes thing with Kiki and ended up with a disconnected, episodic story. The planning thing is what stopped me from writing for so long because I just can’t work that way. It was really interesting talking to my buddy in organic shitty first drafted-ness about how we work and what we’ve learned. Sharing stories about the creative process is really fun, it turns out.

In terms of knowing when a story is done we talked about how you stop when you feel like it’s done which isn’t terribly insightful. Getting to the climax and then ending, etc. We all agreed that you ‘just know’ when the story would end.

Jeena had these points about revision and getting to the final version:

What is going to make or break your story? Work to your strengths.

You must get feedback. A fresh pair of eyes is essential. When you ask for feedback you have to be very specific about what you want back from people.

Know your writing style (see above) and work with it. Give yourself a break, don’t tell yourself you have to work another way.

We then brainstormed in pairs about aspects of good writing. Me and a lovely lady I have forgotten the name of worked on ‘Pacing’, writing down ways you know that the pacing is good. Then we all went around the room making notes of what we believe we can do well under each kind of thing. This gave us our strengths and weaknesses, which is pretty exciting.

Here’s my results based on that exercise:

Structure: Good at the ‘shape’ of a story (climaxes and ebbs), ensuring things make sense chronologically, plot hooks.
Bad at having a seamless flow (maybe?), making sure the internal logic of the story is consistent.

Pacing of story: Good at fast paced action and can’t-put-it-downedness, no scenes that achieve nothing, creating a physical reaction in my readers (I hope!) and absorbing the reader into the story by making them care about the characters.
Bad at varying fast and slow paces and knowing when it’s good to be slow.

Description: Good at an appropriate level of detail to the scene (sweet FA if lives are in danger), keeping description from interrupting the story and making the details given relevant.
Bad at cutting out adverbs and engaging all five senses.

Themes: Good at keeping them subtle or making them obvious if it supports the story.
Bad at knowing if there is the right level of theme in a story. I’m also bad at knowing what my themes sometimes.

Characterisation: Good at making it fit the part, creating believable, realistic characters and having them be credible.
Bad: my characters may be too similar ans the characters may be taking over the story rather than serving it. (I’m not convinced that the last point is necessarily a bad one, but other people seemed to be all ‘keep your characters under control! The story is all!’ which is not what I do at all.)

Plot: I’m pretty confident in my handle on story arcs and shapes, so I think I can pull off twists, strong beginnings and endings, conflict and keeping the plot tight – really restricting the tangents.
Not sure on my abilities on cliffhangers and having a plot that matches the themes…

Superhero Wedding Reception LARP

I can’t believe it’s over. It only seems like a week ago that Paul and I were brainstorming character ideas and now it’s all been written and confirmed and finalised and actually *done*. Odd feeling.

The whole cast of the LARP

My worst case scenario brain told me a bunch of things about this night: some people wouldn’t turn up, people would get bored and leave early, all our character’s goals will be resolved in an hour, people will sit around saying nothing.

My worst case scenario brain as it turns out, was entirely wrong. Everyone turned up. Everyone stayed the whole duration (and even helped tidy up after!), people talked, characters linked up that I didn’t expect to, time went slow but slow enough that stuff happened in a paced manner.

I don’t really know how to express my experience of running the superhero LARP. I wanted to be everywhere at once, listening to all the important conversations between characters I loved writing. I wanted to answer everyone’s questions and I was weirdly pleased when they came to me rather than Paul. I loved it when Paul and I had important conversations and worked stuff out on the fly.

I loved when I saw people acting characters out in just the best way possible: a combination of how I’d imagined them and their own amazing interpretations. So many stories happened that I wasn’t involved in at all. I’ve been impatiently checking NZrag and livejournal looking for people’s posts of their experiences.

Let’s see, what did I have direct control over? The set dressing came out pretty much perfect. A couple of scattered tables with white tablecloths and flowers, a big centrepiece on the head table and wedding favours (floral cupcake cases with lollies inside) and we had the reception dining room. We had a second room with a table of drinks and cups and another with food made up the bar. There was dancing in there later on. I made a wedding cake, because I thought it would be an excellent touch and it went down really well. People were surprised and pleased and it was quite like being an actual waitress at a wedding to carry the cake away, cut it up and then start handing it out with napkins.

Wedding cake with two stars, one for each hero

OK, not sure this has made any sense. I’ll maybe update again later in the week if I can get my head together.

In the mean time, other people’s experiences:

The write up of Tog, who played Jack Reynolds: the groom.
Ellen’s write up, she played Kara 6582 aka Cyborg, one of my favourite characters.
Two part blog write up of one of our villains starts here and ends here.
A letter from the Mother of the Groom.
The bride’s experiences.

Heaps of gorgeous photos care of our papparazzo Robyn can be viewed here.

Things I Love Thursday

The Superhero LARP is on this Saturday and it’s all getting very exciting.
And not just because Paul and I have everything pretty much sorted, but also because people have been asking questions and posting on the forum in character, and some have even been writing fic for their characters! OMG. So much awesome. I can’t wait to see everyone’s costumes and see what the Hell happens on the night. I just have no idea what plot threads people will follow and which will be ignored…can’t wait. Watch this space on Sunday for photos.

Getting stuff done. So despite having a rather nasty and very persistent cold I have achieved the following in the past week:
– I converted my scrapbooking station into a dedicated writing desk. It was very therapeutic actually, because every time I’ve seen my scrapbooking stuff I’ve felt very guilty that I’m not scrapbooking. Even though I haven’t really done any in over a year.
– I have decided to edit and rewrite Rain so that it is submittable at the end of October so I can enter it into the Tessa Duder awards. (Thanks to Matt and Debs for the heads up!)
– Dragged out all my half finished craft projects to work on while we watch DVDs and movies. I have often felt like I’m wasting time when I’m doing this, but I do like TV so I don’t want to give it up altogether. Cue half sewn sock monkeys, little quilted wall hangings I just stopped working on for some reason, and random other projects. It feels good to go “That’s done.” Plus, I have gifts for people now and birthday season is coming up.

Felt Aid is a store where people are donating hand made goods and all the proceeds are being given to Red Cross to help out with the Christchurch earthquake aftermath. Nice one!

The Dog blog has moved to Tumblr and is updating more often. I say: excellent.

I had lunch with Zephfi, and I hadn’t seen her in forever and we had salad and talked and it was great. Also had Yum Cha with friends on the weekend and that was lovely. And Sok came by briefly last night and even brief chatting is good with Sok and Star came by on Tuesday to deliver me the new Meg Cabot book. My friends are awesome.

Honourable Mentions: Finding random lost stuff when I converted my desk and being happy about finding stuff, conversely, decluttering while I converted my desk was great too. Related: Making little labels for my sets of drawers and putting stuff in them that is useful, I still love my video shop even though the 2 of 4 movies I hired this week have been a bit smaverage (The Last Mimzy and In the Loop), I love the $1.50 wonka candy I can get there, scorched almonds, being warm under blankies, being sick but (mostly) cheerful, compliments on my whacky coloured hair, new camera arrived, Chrome’s gmail autochecker extension, pink heart shaped buttons, Burger Fuel and fresh clean sheets.

Fall actual play report – 208 “Parlour Games”

Megan finished the programming of her super computer, stays up all night to doing it. (Cue lots of jokes out of character about skynet.)

Alex gets up the next morning – a woman on a mission. She’s going to see Claudia and confront her. She wears her most emo gears: black clothes, lots of eye make-up, etc. Jared and her parents are having breakfast. Her mother calls her back, but Alex rushes out the door saying she has study to do before school. She cycles to Calvin’s house, is let in by Martha and runs up the stairs and jumps on Calvin’s bed. He startles awake and slightly freaks out.
Alex: Hey!
Calvin: Hello.
Alex: So, let’s go and get a ghost.
Calvin: Sure. (pause) What’s with the make up?
A: Well, I figured if we go looking all emo then we can say that Sam sent us and she’ll let us in.
C: Demons are emo. Got it. I guess I’d better get some clothes on.
A: You don’t *have* to.

Some time later Calvin and Alex arrive in town at the swanky apartment building that Claudia lives in. There’s a receptionist/doorman/security guard who challenges them as they go in, even though Alex fully strides towards the lift like she knows what she’s doing. He doesn’t believe that two teenagers are expected by Claudia but agrees to call her apartment for them. There’s no answer. Alex offers to wait until she gets home but the doorman is a second away from calling the police so they retreat to a coffee shop conveniently located across the road. Alex orders a chai latte and Calvin says he’ll have the same, he’s a bit distracted.
Continue reading

American Magee’s Alice

American Magee's Alice

Ants had an A themed party for his birthday and I kept thinking to myself ‘eh, it’s ages away, I don’t need to worry about my costume yet.’ and then it was suddenly that week, and I had a very busy week being ill and having no energy and then it was actually *the day* of the party. I slept in, got some food and then wandered around town trying to find something appropriate.

I had been worried that the party would be full of Alices in Wonderland, given the movie coming up earlier in the year, so I wanted something dark and Gothic like American Magee’s Alice. I found the perfect dress *on sale* at Jay Jays. It’s even official Alice movie wear, possibly designed by Avril Lavigne. It was pretty 80s, with the lace inserts at the neck line and the puffy skirt so I was definitely doing my own spin on the costume.

I got home and made myself an apron. I went with a little half-apron, since I knew I could do it quickly and without thinking too hard. I did the pockets though, and drew the symbols on with water resistant sharpie pen. I whipped it up in 45 mins, ironing, hemming and making a nice hidden hem waist band. I’m really happy with how it came out. Then I needed blood stains, so I took my red food colouring and the apron out on the balcony and had an excellent splattery time. It looked very effective when it dried!

I had a pair of black and white striped tights from ages ago and I paired these with my fairy-tale knee highs from Sock-dreams and my mary janes to simulate the boots. I dug out my seldom-worn ethereal arm warmers to compensate for not having puffy sleeves, stuck on a head bow and a bunch of dark eye make up and I was ready to go.

People got nervous about my knife. Can’t think why…

The necklace is from Jay Jays also, they have heaps of cute key themed jewellery at the moment. I looked around the $2 shops and 2 Cheap but no one had a fake plastic knife, there was only swords, so I had to take a knife from our very own kitchen. I used the most blunt one we have.

You can see the socks better in this one.

Thanks to the lovely Hannah for the photos.

Au Contraire workshop – Nicole Murphy on characterisation

This workshop write up is a bit slimmer than the others because we spent time doing exercises.

To this workshop we brought a character from our own work that we were struggling with and Nicole showed us a number of exercises we could do to explore the character and hopefully develop them more fully. We talked a little bit about our characters. I chose Jake from Rain. I worry that he is a bit on the two dimensional side and I want to make sure he is more real.

We did a worksheet exercise here, filling out details for our character. Some of the boxes had things I wouldn’t have thought of un-prompted such as Spiritual beliefs (which is quite complicated for Jake as it turns out), Education/Job (education was patchy, but he did study through high school), Loves/Hates (loves to win, being the one who knows things and his big brother/hates people who get away with bad things, hypocritical behaviour and ghosts) and Hobbies (collects exorcism stories in his journal). I was surprised, while filling this sheet out, with how much I did know about Jake. I was remembering little moments in various scenes from the book and what it meant about him. So although I felt a little bit like I was back in school it was a helpful thing to do. I ended up writing all over the margins with complicated details of his family background and what it meant for how he acts now.

The first impression you get of someone is physical, you see what you see. Then as you talk to someone you get details of their personality.

Ways to go deeper with a character: think about why you love them (if you do), ask what their motivations are, think about details of their background (esp childhood and adolescence), this is where they have come from after all.

Nicole mentioned that one of her ways of finding names is to look for the meanings of names first. Figure out what traits define your character and then find a name that means something like that.

Nicole asked us to think about the most interesting people in our actual lives. What is it about them that is so interesting? How are they thinking what they are thinking?

There was a bit of discussion about what makes fictional characters more compelling. Heroes with elements of evil in them, for example, or someone who is doing good in spite of himself. (Han Solo was mentioned as an example.) The way the character relates to the setting can give them more depth. How do they interact within society? What are the implications of what they do within the world?

Some exercises/tools for getting inside a character’s head.

If you can’t work out how your character will react to something, try interviewing them. Like, think up some questions and ask the character. Apparently Nicole did this once and got through some writer’s block. It’s especially good if you can make the interview itself important to the story (debrief after a mission, for example). Think hard about what question(s) your character will not want to answer.

Try writing your character’s CV, or filling out a census for them. Even a quiz from a magazine, as the character.

Think about what your character’s star sign is and use the recommended traits for that sign to flesh them out.

Write a random scene of your character interacting with someone else. (I did this one, a flash back with Jake at 13 and his big brother. I quite liked it.)

You need to be able to demonstrate character in the frame of your story by showing how the character acts, reacts and interacts. Do not just spell it out for the reader. One suggestion for checking this from another person in the workshop was to use Ctrl + F and search for ‘was’. If you’re using it to describe something (Jake was sad) then you should probably take that out and replace it with an action that shows what they are.