So many projects are currently on hold.

On the bright side I am deep into rewrites on the WIP with much tangling over world building and redifining my main character.

Summer is coming though and with the thaw everything begins to move a little faster. Good times ahead.

I’ve decided to actually start checking items off of my bucket list. My Pinterest page has a long list of things I would like to do, some of them quite complex. For example Build a tiny house and live in it for a full turning of the seasons is going to take a little more work, time, and money than Get a tattoo.

At the top of my list is of course Complete a submission worthy manuscript. However my bucket list is somewhat longer than that.

I’ve begun directing my day with an eye toward activities that will help me complete my goals one small step at a time; which in the case of Walk to Rivendell is literal.

My big push though is the goal Sew myself a wardrobe.

This goal for me has taken on loads of extra meaning in terms of promoting body positivity and self-love. I love that it challenges me creatively but also delves into a lot of other things that I want to explore like personal style, body image, and the politics behind where clothes, and by extension so many of our inexpensive goods, come from.

It has become so complex with so many interesting facets to explore and research that I decided to turn it into a blog. Partly because I already want to pictorially document the experience but also because I’ve been so inspired by many of the fat fashion bloggers that have helped me look at clothes and bodies with different eyes.

Pinterest is how it started. It is frustrating to be a size 24 and have to guess what plus size clothes will look like on your body because plus size models are often a size 14. So I sought out images of actual plus size people. Google was not helpful but Pinterest introduced me to a new world of plus size fashion and body positivity blogs. I’ve been reading for so long that now I’m kind of itching to get in on the fun.

I’m trying to get a three or four week cushion written before I begin to publish and I’m currently about half done. I’m a little intimidated by how big this project seems to be growing and I’m getting a bit paralyzed by it. It’s easy to get into a rut and let it all pass by unfinished. That’s why I decided it was time to take concrete steps to use my time to do the things I actually want to do.

I’ll be posting the Fashion stuff to a separate blog so that this blog stays properly eclectic but I’ll be sure to boast about it here when it’s up and running and include a link for anyone who might be interested in following along.

Now I’m off to do some editing. Wish me luck!

10 Random Facts about Me

One of my favorite new blogs (The Militant Baker!) did a 10 facts post and challenged others to post 10 facts about themselves. It got me kind of excited, plus I’m in full NaNoWriMo procrastination mode so here are my own ten random factoids. Hoozah!

10 facts - blog post title pic

  1. I have only begun watching horror movies in the last couple of years but now it is practically all I watch. Don’t get me wrong I had seen a few before, all under duress, but then the 2005 Dawn of the Dead broke some sort of dam and suddenly it was all zombies all the time and like any good gateway drug the zombies led me to other types of horror.
  2. As a matter of fact, I am the reason they keep making shaky cams. Diary of the Dead? Yeah! Blair Witch? Fuck yeah!  Paranormal Activity? Quadruple Fuck Yeah!!
  3. It is possible that I own more books than I can read in my lifetime unless I give up all other activities including sleep. I’m not sorry but I do wish I was a faster reader.
  4. I am the worst housekeeper in existence. Okay, not quite the worst but I’m definitely a slob. It is possible I do not actually have the ability to see dust except during full moons or something.
  5. I started getting grey hair at 17.  Just a bit at a time, so I’ve only just managed a Rogue-esque streak by age 32, but because it started so early it has never made me feel old.
  6. I was voted “class judge” in grade 7. Not as anything official, just a majority of my class mates getting together and assigning everyone roles. (We were a class of 14) I was never sure if it was because they trusted me to be impartial or if they felt I was a judgy-mcjudgy-pants. Either way I was proud of the events that prompted their decision.
  7. I have several sleep disorders that have only been partially treated successfully. Sleep has become a sort of unknowable almost magical thing that has no rhyme or reason in my life. It is just a thing that happens to me sometimes.
  8. I have three rules when it comes to buying souvenirs while on holiday. They must be small, they must have a semblance of usefulness, and they must feature the name and preferably a picture of the place being visited in the kitschiest way possible. An optional rule is that souvenir shopping is best done while drunk.
  9. I dislike collections. I live with a constant worry that I will be known for liking one particular thing. Which is not to say there aren’t groups of things I own that could be considered a collection, but I dislike considering them in a way that might make me anxious about getting rid of anything.
  10. I went to a performing arts high school and majored in visual arts.  I don’t do much sketching anymore but I miss it and have recently picked up some watercolous to experiment with.

So that’s my ten things. I could do twenty but the thought of coming up with ten more things to say about myself seems exhausting.

Where Magic Lives

I’ve been all over Pinterest lately and if you’ve caught the bug than you know what I’m talking about. That website is crack!

One thing I’ve noticed is that I re-pin a lot of bridges. Especially narrow people-bridges. After awhile it dawned on me that I love bridges. I don’t cross a bridge without stopping, just for a moment, before taking that first step. Driving across a bridge always feel like cheating and I inevitably crane my head, whipping it back and forth trying to see everything before it falls behind. I’ve done this all my life and yet never really been conscious of the act, the thought.

I’ve always known how much I loved shorelines, this magical place where two worlds touch, my own and a wholly different alien one. I can visit but I can’t stay in the water forever.

Bridges hold a similar mysticism for me. as a magical place, a boundary. I think I will include this in my current work in progress. It seems like just the perfect fit.

Want to see some pictures of awesome bridges? Of course you do!

Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver, British Columbia

Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver, British Columbia. This is one of the places I will visit when I go back to British Columbia.

Like something from one of the Myst games. I could live here.

Deep in the rainforests of the Indian state of Meghalaya, bridges are not built, they’re grown. For more than 500 years locals have guided roots and vines from the native Ficus Elastica (rubber tree) across rivers, using hollowed out trees to create root guidance systems.

This reminds me of the local conservation areas. So many little rustic bridges to keep the trails above the swampy ground.

This is a bridge that is just off my walking/running route. Some days I detour away from the much more spectacular lake view just to cross it.

Crossing my bridge from the homeward direction.

It’s all about the little details.

What are the ordinary things in your life that make you stop and take notice? Where do you find magic?

Not Dead and now on Etsy

So PiscesMuse and I have started an Etsy shop that caters to nerd crafters. Right now it’s all stitch markers and knitting project bags in various nerdly themes. If that sounds like something you might like then you can find the store at The Eclectic Muses or you can peruse our wares in collage form over on pinterest account. There is also a link at the top of the page now so it can always be found. If you’re not so keen on knitting and nerdery then you can probably ignore that little tabideedoo.

Coming up I’m going to be posting some new book reviews, some photos from around my town, some photos of things I’ve knit and a few other things I’ve got in the works. If anyone has requests let me know and I’ll do my best to accommodate. Oh and of course NaNoWriMo is coming up. Most excellent.

I suffer from chronic insomnia. (It is 3:46am as I begin typing this.) I occasionally use my sleepless time to write but, though I cannot sleep, I am usually too tired for brain work. Often I would watch tv or surf the internet. Until last October that is. That is when I learned to knit.

Knitting is a bit like writing. Through a series of small actions you build something larger and more complex and although you think you know what all those little bits will look like when you’re done the finished product often surprises you.

Anyway, since I caught the knitting bug, (A dangerously virulent disease! Consider yourself warned.) I have twisted many thousands of meters of yarn into complex patterns of orderly knots. I love making something useful from one looooong strand of unbroken yarn. It feels like a kind of magic. (Also it feeds my hat addiction.)

While I have no plans to turn this into a knitting blog there may on occasion be pretty pictures of yarn and projects and honestly who doesn’t love brightly coloured pictures of pretty things now and then? Probably the people who need them most, that’s who!

Oh hey! Here are some of those pictures now!

Kepi imitating a very large ball of green yarn. D'awww. (She actually curled up closer to it in her sleep. Double D'awwww.)

Silk yarn. In skein form and my (perfect) first hand wound ball.

Seriously. Is that not a thing of beauty?

I wound the second skein (left) but it did not turn out so well. Unless you are a football fan. If you are a football fan than you should be pretty impressed.

I then knitted the yarn into this totally awesome hat! (I know my face is overexposed but this was the best picture of the hat. Look at the hat!)

Sadly I don’t think my camera ever really captured the brilliant tone of the red yarn but I will keep trying and working on this photography thing. I still love words but all the other things I do can only hone and enliven my creativity. Life is good.

Now to try this sleep thing I keep hearing about again…


Ps. I can be found on ravelry.com under the name Aurabeth. New knitting friends welcome!

Pss. If you like my hat here is a link to the pattern at Mary Keenan’s awesome knitting blog Hugs For Your Head.

Dreaming of Summer

There is much that I love about winter. It has a unique beauty to it and so many opportunities for fun activities. It also gives me ample opportunity to sport all the cold weather knitting projects I’ve embarked on since I learned to knit this fall!

However sometimes in the cold months when the sky is always overcast and it feels like everything is coloured in dull greys I get nostalgic for the warmer months. So to tide us over until the seasons change here area bunch of pictures I took on my phone last spring and summer. And tomorrow I’m going to go play in the snow so when it does get warm I won’t feel like I squandered the winter.

What is best about the spring? The bright showy flora of course!

A flowering tree in early spring

A rose-bush just outside my front door

There is a little cafe about 5 minutes walk from my house. It’s a great place that offers tasty gluten-free pizza and in the summer it has a patio sandwiched between itself and the antique shop next door. The building walls are old and worn and there are climbing vines all along them.

The vine wall on The Laughing Buddha patio.

When the sun shines down through the leaves they glow with life.

Ramsey lake is a mere half hour walk from my house.

Sunburst through the clouds

Enjoying the empty lake in the early morning...

Except for a distant fisherman...

and a lone rower...

and a few friendly Canada geese. (The canoers are late-comers.)

My balcony is a great place to hang out in the warm weather. I like to sit with my laptop and write or just enjoy the view of the creek. Sometimes I prepare food out there, especially if I have a lot of grating or peeling to do. It’s especially lovely in the rain.

A view of the trees along the creek in a summer downpour.

This winter I discovered that my only viable window for keeping plants is too cold and most of them died off. I’m sad but I’m looking for solutions and I’ll try again next year. I did manage to save the avocado plant grown from seed in the yellow pot along with a second that was in water on the counter when I took this picture.

L to R: Polka dot plant, sprouted avocado, basil, lavender shoot, dieffenbachia.

Ah summer squash, So light and delicious on a hot day. Yes I can find it and cook it in any time of year, and I do, but there is something special about a zucchini salad with fresh lemonade out on the balcony in the sunshine. The picture below is of a fabulous recipe for eggplant slices marinated in tamari (a type of soy sauce without gluten) and artificial smoke and baked in the oven about ten minutes or until chewy/crispy. It’s divine even if it’s pretending to be something it’s not.

Vegan Bacon (ostensibly)

I love my neighbourhood! It’s a lovely place full of pretty little houses and yards without being pretentious and a smattering of small apartment building and rooming houses. My neighbourhood has a very bohemian feel to it for a little mining town in North Ontario. It might be the affordable housing attracting students and artists/musicians combined with the open-minded and welcoming atmosphere fostered by the long time residents. It’s just a lovely place to live.

In the summer there are always garage sales going on but sometimes people put out stuff out for others to take. Sometimes it ‘s the usual furniture and old electronics but often it’s more interesting fare.

There were several pairs but I had to run home and get my camera and by the time i returned only this poor lone pair was left, waiting for someone to love them. I salute your pluck unwanted 80's cast-off.

Birdcage free to good home with someone more willing to embrace their inner pack rat than me. I like to imagine there was an ad on Kajiji reading "Curbside birdcage for rent - suitable for family of birds or squirrel couple without children. Pets welcome. No smokers.

As I said, tomorrow I will go out and enjoy winter while it lasts and generally be happy in the moment. Tonight I’m thinking of warm sun and swimming and all the green things waiting to grow.

Enjoying the summer day from my kitchen.


by Scott Westerfeld

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

My Thoughts:

This review has been a stone around my neck for far too long.

First, I loved the book! No question it was well written, interesting, and I’m glad there are more in the series and that I don’t have to wait for them to come out. I’m likely going to read everything in every series written by Scott Westerfeld that I can get my hands on. That’s not what was keeping me up at night as my blog lingered, post-less, waiting for me to get past this review. (There were other disruptions as well but the initial stall was definitely the pressure to get this review right.)

It’s a dystopian to be sure but… I think at the end of this book (book one of a series mind you) I can’t bring myself to disagree with whoever is in charge of this dystopia.

The premise: when you reach 16 everyone gets surgery and becomes a “pretty”. Then they spend a bunch of years partying and generally getting along before settling down and becoming happy productive members of society in a job they choose and love. To be honest I don’t have strong opinions on plastic surgery so the idea of a culture defined by looks doesn’t appeal to me but it doesn’t exactly horrify me either. That is not what got my brain spinning to a standstill about this book. So this review will not address that.

*potential spoilers hereafter*

The government has certain methods of ensuring a harmonious population and in many ways it’s pretty horrifying. And yet…

They live with the shadow of human corruption around them, including decaying cities sprawling across devastated landscapes and genetically modified monoculture plants that eat entire ecosystems. They require jobs that do nothing but focus on undoing the damage of our current culture gone wrong. Sometimes that means just stemming the tide when the problems are too great to really ever be fixed. None of what Mr. Westerfeld imagines is particularly far-fetched and in many ways falls far short of the terrible things we’re doing to the planet and all the plants and creatures we share it with.

So now humans are confined to cities where all of their needs are met. Not imprisoned except by a common sense of responsibility to not repeat humanities past crimes against the rest of creation. People are happy, healthy and seem to honestly lead fulfilling lives.

Is the situation more complicated than that? Absolutely, this is not a simple book.

Do the people at the top make huge, life altering decisions on behalf of the rest of the population without their knowledge and consent? Yes. I just can’t bring myself to see them as villains because honestly, we had our chance and we messed up in every way possible.

This is the picture of a world where humanity has squandered its right to freedom as a species to continue as we are. I dislike that the way the culture is structured consent cannot be given and cooperation is ensured through repulsive if invisible measures. The room for corruption and abuse is potentially staggering because the story is told from a POV where balances and checks upon the powerful, if any, are unknown.

I’ve read dystopias that horrified me. Where the old are killed at an arbitrary age and jobs, spouses and futures are dictated without consultation. This is not one of those books. And yet it is fundamentally worse, providing you think humanity should be allowed to do whatever it wants at any cost. Individual human spirit and choice, Ra-Ra, and all that.

Plastic surgery aside the world in Uglies is one that seems to work. It meets humanities needs and mitigates our destructive tendencies. The implication is that humanity wouldn’t choose it if not for the meddling that makes people be good. If we’re really so destructive as a species than forget individual human free will, we lose the right.

Or rather, what’s worse, the loss of humanities right to be a dick or the loss of everything else?

Ruminations About Sharing

Today on twitter I noticed that yet another author has made something of a fool of themselves online. I’m not going to link it because it feels like this has become pretty common. To sum up:

  1. A negative review was posted on Goodreads.
  2. The author and/or her agent chose to make negative comments on the review.
  3. The agent and author exchanged words on twitter and certain rude names were slung about in regards to the reviewer and Goodreads users in general.
  4. Followers of said reviewer and other reviewers did not take this kindly.
  5. Sh**storm!

There is clearly a lot more to this but I decided to forgo the Schadenfreude of reading through all the gory details. We’ve seen this before.

We’ve also seen some excellent responses to one star revues like those from Mike Mullin author of Ashfall. See here and here. I far prefer Mr. Mullins brand of response. Good show sir!

This has led me to several thoughts on the matter.

Know how a tool works before you use it.

I refer to the internet. It can be as terrible as it is powerful. When I post on  this blog, when I write a tweet, when I comment on a blog, when I put anything out for the public to read I try to be mindful of what I am contributing because someday I intend to publish. What goes on the internet is immortalized forever. Or might as well be because of archive sites. I want my google-able persona to represent me, not me on my bad days. If an author, or any user of the internet, doesn’t understand that then the results can be unfortunate. (link not writing related but darned satisfying)

I will get bad ratings.

A long time ago I thought I would not be able to handle it when I got a bad review and was fully prepared to just ignore that they existed. Ithink differently now. Everyone gets some bad reviews. All of my favorite authors, the ones I think are perfect and awesome and how-could-anyone-else-not-think-they’re-awesome!!!  *breathe* Yeah, them? They get bad reviews. Authors I think are brilliant get called stupid. Authors I think have lovely prose get called pedantic. The point is even the best get bad reviews. I have no illusions about matching my heroes. So yeah, I’m going to get bad reviews it’s just not as big a deal as I used to think. I hope the positive ones outnumber the bad but there will be some. It’s not the end of the world. Especially because…

I’m more likely to read a one or two star review.

Yup. When I’m on Goodreads I check out the top rated reviews and then I check the ratio of good reviews (4-5 stars) to poor reviews (1 and 2 stars). I’ve found good reviews tell me it’s all awesome but doesn’t always tell me what I want to know. A bad review will go into more of the types of detail I want. How was the prose? Was the subject well handled? Etc. My experience is that a good reviewer doing a one star review is more motivated to give a clear account of why. Two star reviews often want to be nice so they’ll poke around what they didn’t like but it’s usually still pretty clear.

More often than not a bad review does not put me off of reading a book. Sometimes it confirms that the plot is not going to be for me or that the book is riddled with bad writing in which case I’m better off not reading (and adding another poor star rating). More often it lets me know that this book is actually way more to my taste than that of the reviewer.

In the end I think there’s a quote that says it best.

A writer should respond rapturously to bad reviews or not at all.

Most of the time I’d say that last bit won’t fail you.

Note: I tried to find an attribution to the quote but alas my google-fu has completely failed me. If anyone can point me to a source that would be awesome!

The Old Switcheroo

Today I was supposed to post my review of Uglies by scott Westerfeld but the thing is, I’m still working on it. I finished reading it two weeks ago but put off beginning the review until yesterday because there was a niggling idea in the back of my head and it was taking some time to come through.

I want to keep the reading challenge reviews short and sweet. A paragraph, maybe two if I’ve got more to say. But I’m currently sitting on over a thousand words about Uglies. I need a little more time to organize and compact my thoughts on the book because thematically it brought up some really interesting questions. So no review today.

I’ll try to post it tomorrow because I’ll be busy cooking Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. Sunday will likely see the return of Author Recipes plus some thoughts on why I love dystopian YA.