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.
Of headaches, Zoom meetings, sometimes really disliking technology, music, writing, and resources for working from home
Wow, what a couple of days! On Monday I had an absolutely lovely headache and actually ventured to The Outside World, to the pharmacy to get some Migril. Because guess who forgot that her Migril was finished.
It was really weird to see everything closed and with so few people out and about. (Well, at least where I live most people seem to be adhering to the lockdown and staying inside.) We seem to be in almost a kind of limbo, unsure of what will happen next but still trying to act normal. Also, with the one undersea cable being damaged again, the internet has been really slow, making Zoom meetings quite interesting, as you might imagine. It’s not this, however that had me fuming at technology — that waited for Day 5, when I lost nearly a whole days’ work (falls on bed dramatically, cries).
So, here is a song to cheer us up a bit. Well, it’ll cheer me up, so there. 🙂
Of busy days and crochet
Today was thankfully a busy day “at work”, so I didn’t have time to dwell on — as Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats would say – The Disease That Must Not Be Named. By the way, her daily vlogs during her self-isolation is a delight to watch. Plus I find it very calming – if you like crochet and knitting, be sure to check her out!
Here’s also (at last) a photo of the finished crocheted shawl, as well as the new shawl that I started (Aranuir by Jasmin Räsänen, probably my favourite crochet designer).
Working from home resources
In other, more professional (and probably practically helpful), news, Thomas Frank is doing a series of videos about working from home. The first two are out and I must say, they are very entertaining and informative. (Side note: have I finished putting the Home Office in the Closet together? Unfortunately not. That will have to wait for the weekend, methinks. I mean, decorating the desk takes time.)
What’s a day without music?
Finally, the day’s music was provided by Halidon Music and Adrian von Ziegler, specifically the playlists below. I am finding classical music very calming at the moment — I guess also liking it anyway helps — and I’m very glad that Halidon Music made a whole Baroque playlist. Add some earphones, and you’re ready to work! Or read and relax.
Writing fiction — outlining The Ruon Chronicles
I’m off to listen to the news now, though, and then to write a bit on the Ruon Chronicles outline. I’m trying to figure out how to structure the ending of The Knowledge Stones to keep it from feeling too fragmented, while also setting up the next part of the story.
I think it’ll do me good to focus on some fiction again. At the moment I’d really rather think about the magic systems and stuff than dwell on the pandemic as, at the moment, I can’t really do anything else than what I’m already doing to help.
I leave you with a photo of Sir Tristan helping me with my work…
Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy. Until tomorrow.
Day 3 of lockdown and… well, except for the creeping anxiety, it kind of feels like a long weekend that I decided to stay in. Which is weird. Maybe I will feel the weight of the lockdown tomorrow when I don’t go to the office but still work remotely and have to see my team through on a computer screen and a talk to them via a WhatsApp group. Because it’s Sunday, I have not done much except watch a video of a church service, read, crochet, and write a bit. I’m afraid I can’t get myself to focus on any one thing for long, so I keep on jumping between Things To Keep Me Busy. One good thing is that I’m writing about knitting and crochet for another blog, so that is entertaining to me at least. I’ll post the links here once they’re posted. Another good, no awesome, thing is this video by John Green on tips for your mental health while in self-isolation.
Be sure to check the links in the video’s description for more resources.
One thing that I am finding is that I seem to be slowing down. Taking time to think and ponder and just trying to digest and fathom what is happening around me and that, yes, this is suddenly my real life and not some weird dream or movie. At the moment I am telling myself that I will only focus on the 21 days lockdown and not worry about self-isolation being longer. That sends me into an instant thought spiral and the last thing I need is to have another bad panic attack. I also remind myself about a hundred times a day of just how fortunate I am even in lockdown. I have a proper roof over my head. I have my psychiatric medicine for the month. I have food in my cupboards. I still have a job. I’m still getting paid end of April when so many people have lost their jobs or just aren’t getting paid. Also, why can’t thought spirals ever be positive? Asking for a friend.
Besides staying in touch with my family every day, our writing group are also hosting sprints throughout the day, which seems to be helping a lot to keep our spirits up. I also hope to have my crochet shawl done tomorrow — and should then really remember to take a photo or two while the light is good!
Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and stay healthy. Until tomorrow.
Welcome to day 2 of the lockdown in South Africa. As of today, we have 1 170 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. Unfortunately, while my neighbourhood has been quiet for the most part, there are some places where the lockdown is being disregarded and the police even attacked.
I’m still trying to keep from following the news every minute of the day and have filled today with writing, crochet, and good music. The music have ranged from Radical Face to the Firefly soundtrack (”You can’t take the sky from me!”) and some of Halidon Music’s playlists. In fact, next up on my playlist is their “Classical Music for Beginners”.
The shawl that I’m busy crocheting with some of Elle Yarn’s Alula yarn (the colourway is Tanager) is almost finished! Probably another hour or hour and a half and it’ll be done. The pattern is this “Dancing with Wildflowers Shawl” one that’s been designed for the yarn (the pattern is free), but I actually like the starting lace pattern so much that I’m repeating it for the whole of the shawl. I’ve put my thread crocheting aside for the moment while I work on the shawl, but will probably take up the one tablecloth I’m busy with next week. The pattern is a Japanese one and very lacy, but not too difficult. I hope it’s just what I need to keep my mind busy.
Also, I’ve started exercising again and want to do at least a bit of barre (well, as well as I can do barre with my buggered knees — at least I can do the arms well) and climbing the stairs up and down whenever I get up from writing. The last thing I need is to not get any exercise in while I’m at home. I may also have had to chase Sir Tristan through the garden to get him back inside when I slipped out to throw away the rubbish today. I’m sure my neighbours enjoyed the show…
In happy news
Bluprint is free for about another 2 weeks, so be sure to check out their classes! They not only have craft tutorials, but also dance, exercise, cooking, and writing.
One of my friends rescued a beautiful white kitten and said kitten has been dubbed Jon Snow.
I learned a lot more about feather stars! (See the video below)
Well, here we are on day 1 of the 21-day lockdown of South Africa because of COVID-19. It is also the day of the first two deaths from this illness. For a few weeks now, the inevitable creep of the illness and then arrival of the illness in South Africa has featured prominently on the news. On Monday evening (23 March) President Ramaphosa told us about the 21-day lockdown that started at 12am today. Because I’ve still been at the office until Wednesday, I’ve seen the streets empty out day by day as the schools closed and offices closing one by one. On Wednesday I went to pick up my chronic meds — the first time that I’d been in a shop for almost 2 weeks — and the new security measures were quite a shock. I also had to venture out on Thursday morning for some human food and pet food before setting up for my first day working from home.
I’ve been trying to find words to write for the blog, but there just seem to not have been any. I’ve also been struggling with really bad panic attacks over the past few weeks. I can’t say my anxiety is suddenly a lot less now that I’m home, but I do feel safer because I’m not constantly surrounded by other people. I’m hoping that I will be able to write my way through this strange time. I wrote a short piece yesterday, the first fiction I’ve written in a while (I’ve put it right at the end of the post). So I hope that that’s a good sign. I also watched the video of Chris Fox that came out today (I’ve embedded it below) and find what he says to be very helpful.
I’m trying to keep my eye on as much positive content as possible instead of only focusing on COVID-19 stats. This includes some daily vlogs and my favourite podcasts, some of which I’ll share here in the days to come. While one part of me is scared out of my skin at the thought of what could happen should the illness get into the informal settlements outside the large cities (not to mention rural areas where medical help is well… basically nonexistent) and I feel sick to my stomach, another part of me knows that this needs to be documented — even if it’s just for me to look back on. (The other part of me is probably trying not to throw up or have another panic attack.) I find focusing on one country’s plight at any one time is a bit less nausea-inducing that only looking at the world as a whole all the time. So, in light of that, I’m going to try and blog here daily during the lockdown.
I’ll share the projects I’m busy with (you can probably expect a lot of stress crocheting and knitting!) as well as other content that I’ve found helpful. Oh, and there will probably also be pictures of Sir Tristan the Wonder Cat, and the budgies Frodo and Samwise.
To everyone reading — keep safe and keep healthy! Until tomorrow.
The Woven Stars
The tower was older than the city. Much, much older. Where the city’s walls were of finely cut stone that was yet to show wear, lichen and moss covered the pockmarked, ancient grey stone of the tower. A single door at the bottom of the tower had long ago been shut and locked so that it could never be unlocked until the world had wholly changed. There was one window high in the tower. Some, if they squinted in just the right light, could see that a few of the panes had been shattered by storms during the long, long years. Some even said that they saw a figure at the window at times and a faint light could be seen on the darkest nights. She sat at the spinning wheel while the world went scurrying about beneath her window. The wisps of straw that she spun into the finest of yarns and knotted into patterns were coloured by snatches of voices and music that drifted up from the city, by emotions that she remembered or still felt, by the birdsong and eagle cries and thunder and wind and rain and other nature sounds that drifted in through the broken window — blue, silver, and gold. The dark clouds came without warning and, with it, a foul air that made people dash inside, locking their houses and peering in fear through the windows as a figure of pure midnight approached. Best Knitting Needles for Scarves/Shawls There were no stars anymore, no moon, no night sky with wisps of silver clouds. At last, the figure came to the door of the tower and hammered upon it. She rose from where she had been kneeling and knotting the fine threads, went to the window, and pushed it open for the first time in a hundred years. She peered down to the void the figure left. “Think you won this time?” she called out to the figure with its strange face and long beak. A laugh that seemed to emanate from the bowels of the earth shook the city. “I have won. The darkness is complete.” She stepped away from the window for a moment and then, with a flash of light, the threads she had woven and knotted fell from the window and rose with the winds, light as a feather, to cover the darkness of the night sky. And the woven stars shone.
Guess what? I’m still busy with the Ruon Chronicles full outline. Thank goodness for Aeon Timeline and Scrivener! Okay, and I’m using Notion as well to a point for random jottings for ideas. Notion is awesome, by the way (not sponsored mentions).
So, I’ve also had a bird’s eye look at the overall outline and I think my mix of novels and novelettes/novellas will work better than just novels.
Besides working on Ruon Chronicles, I have been trying to not only read more, but also spend more time crafting (basically my way of self care and relaxation). I realise that it’s not yet Easter (and time for the various public holidays in April and May in South Africa) and I need to take better care of myself than I did last year when I basically burned out by September. Oops.
I am thinking, however, that I will make use of the holidays coming up to not only catch up on blogging, but also write a few Medium articles.
But, talking about self care, I share with you Loepsie’s most recent video. I agree with her completely that, a lot of the time, self care can be too focused on making the outside beautiful without really moving beyond that (although a long bath can be healing, obviously) to doing hobbies just for the sake of enjoying them.
Ok, honestly, I look at people who don’t really have a hobby (for example my one cousin) and I just want to say “How do you live?!” because my hobbies is one of the things that brings me a lot of joy and fulfillment. But I digress. Here’s Loepsie’s video — and be sure to check out her website as well!
I actually watched this video over the weekend already (I think I should as a rule take Deadline Week At The Day Job off from blogging because goodness me it gets intense!). Anyway, he makes some extremely valid points that I took to heart – and, let’s face it, he says it far better than I could. Enjoy!
Besides sitting with a nasty head cold while writing this (oh the joy of the changing season — hello there, autumn, my second-favourite season who’s not being very friendly this year), the past two weeks have not been too bad.
The one highlight (oh, and what a highlight!) was finally seeing a-ha live on stage after waiting a whopping 26 years. But more about that in a next blog post.
I’ve been Busy with an uppercase ‘B’ trying to get everything done that I want to get done by the end of February. Like outlining the whole of Ruon Chronicles. Methinks I need another month
Anyway, here’s an update of the stuff I’ve been reading and listening to that I really enjoyed. Most of it is for research purposes and that which isn’t is basically my mind going “squirrel!” as soon as I spot something remotely interesting or helpful to read.
Books — Bits and Pieces of Everything
Because I’ve been so busy I’ve been book-hopping like mad. And, while a New Year’s resolution had been to not buy any more books until my TBR pile is smaller, I ended up grabbing a free book by Darla DeMorrow. (Takes deep breath to read the title.)
Basically I’m busy — okay, slowly — busy revamping a space for my home office. This includes my standing desk (it’s this one from Deskstand) which I haven’t been using for most the summer because I’ve been flaring quite a bit thanks to all our heat waves. Luckily now that the weather is changing I can move back into my room properly (it’s an oven in the summer) and redo the Writing Closet.
So this volume came by just in time for me to make the most of my space, yay!
Yes, I’m still busy with this one, but that’s because I’m doing the exercises as I go. It’s really a helpful book — and I think this may become my favourite craft book.
It really delves into the emotional hooks and really thinking about characters so they don’t become cardboard cutouts. And I’ve already changed part of Knowledge Stones based on the advice in this book. It’s definitely better now!
I know it’s a pricey book (she says, keeping the Rand/Dollar exchange rate in mind), but it’s definitely worth it.
I’m reading this book about the Willard Suitcases again as research for an article I’m planning to write. It really is a heartbreaking book (I think more so because I have a mental illness and would probably have found myself in a similar place if it wasn’t for modern psychiatric medicine…), but I think it’s one everyone should read because it shows the people behind the suitcases in so much colour. You come to understand them so much better and really see them as people and not “just” another patient number.
I’ve also been reading quite a lot of magazine articles. I usually get my international magazines from Pocketmags and, while I still prefer physical magazines, the digital ones do just make more sense price-wise. Plus I get to have magazines on my phone for those moments when I’m in a queue for instance and I don’t have my knitting with me. Because, let’s be honest, nobody likes queues.
I’m still absolutely addicted to PieceWork Magazine — their Spring 2020 issue is now out, by the way. Plus they now have all their back issues online for subscribers to read!
On the website there are also fascinating articles, for example these two:
Other interesting magazines I got on the back issue sale includes a few Rock&Gemissues (which is also for research for, among other things, The Ruon Chronicles), some BBC History issues, Writers’ Forum issues I’d had my eyes on, the 200th issue of Knitting Magazine and a couple of Cardmaking & Papercraft issues. Did I get enough mags to keep me busy for a while? Definitely!
Some of the interesting articles on the Rock&Gem website include:
I’m quite a “slow listener” when it comes to podcasts — no listening as one and a half or double speed for me, thank you! — but I also seem to listen the longer episodes and lectures in about 1-hour intervals. One of my favourite podcasts is the Mythgard Academy lectures.
I’m currently busy with the lecture series about Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and even though it comprises 36 two-hour lectures I really don’t want it to end!
If you’re a fan of Arthuriana, or even just medieval romances and literature and would like to know more, I can highly recommend it. They also use the Middle English text, which is awesome!
Mark Norman’s podcast never fails to entertain and to educate at the same time. Though I know more about these fairies than those in the rest of the world, there were still much to learn and a lot of Story Fodder to get stuck into.
The episode of The Folklore Podcast which I listened to before episode 67, was episode 60 (Magical House Protection) which was just as fascinating.
I’ve been a fan of Lore for a few years now and found it quite by happy accident (or did I…) when searching for something completely different. Needless to say, I’ve been listening since and still look forward to the new episodes.
Episode 136’s description is as follows:
Folklore is our legacy. We humans have carried it with us everywhere we’ve gone in the world, and it anchors us to our roots and our community. But it also does something else: it gives us a place to hide our fear, to put it on a leash and control it. And there’s one story in particular that does that better than most.
Now, if that doesn’t make you want to listen, nothing will.
I Should Be Writing: Episodes 478 “War of Art”, 473 “Character Names (1)”, and 472 “Trust the People in the Basement”
I love Mur Lafferty’s podcasts I Should Be Writing and Ditch Diggers. Her honesty about her writing and struggles with mental health really hits home.
Thanks to the episode about character names, though, I realised that I have three (yup, 3) characters with very similar sounding names in the first part of The Knowledge Stones. So I need to work on changing some names…
The podcast about War of Art actually needs a whole post as it was something which I have also been thinking about when it comes to self-help-ish-like books and craft books.
*Yes, I know I work in advertising, but some of the podcasts really do go overboard with the amount of ads that they have. I quite like the way Lore does ads; leaving them until almost at the end of the episode. However, if a podcast’s creator(s) are able to get revenue without advertising, I’m also really happy because it shows me that people are still willing to pay for the content they enjoy. But let me stop before I start a whole marketing lecture!
Last time I looked at the four branches of “Nith” or magic in The Ruon Chronicles. This week I’m going to look a bit deeper at the magic system that I’m building for the Ruon specifically.
Okay, so while the main charms are worked in embroidery, there are also other forms of needlework and weaving that can contain the Ruon nith and can be used in various ways. For example, there are:
Tatting and lacemaking.
The embroidered charms of the Ruon can be divided into two main types – healing charms and guarding charms. The healing charms may include such charms as those against pain, fever, and to knit bones, as well as those to ensure safe delivery in difficult pregnancies.
However, some of the guarding charms may also be used for new mothers and babies; usually in conjunction with healing charms. Some of the most potent of the guarding charms are those which guard against the Khalver and weapons. These, however, are seen and used very seldom because they are so difficult to make and take such a large amount of nith or Talent (this refers specifically to the Ruon talent gifted to an individual by the creator and not just the talent to create needlework) to make.
Most of the knowledge of making them was also lost in the Great Burning, during which all but a tiny handful of the books of the Ruon were burnt and their knowledge subsequently forgotten. This took place before The Ruon Chronicles: The Knowledge Stones start. There may be a short story about it in the future…
The hiding cloaks some of the Ruon can make are also counted among the guarding charms because they are mostly used to hide a Ruon from the eyes of those who are not Ruon and specifically those who are the enemy of the Ruon. However, these cloaks are not easy to make, can only be worn by those with Ruon nith, and uses nith while it is being worn, unlike other charms which has all the required nith built in, so to speak.
The Nithin have also found a way to make hiding cloaks, although they are not as potent as the Ruon hiding cloaks. The Ruon are still able to see the Nithin even when they wear the cloaks although they are invisible to non-Ruon eyes. The role that the Nithin plays in “weeding out’ the Ruon from among those living in Agraver and in some of the Mountain Kingdoms (like Ogjan) is clearly shown in the Novella Grove of Graves, the second story in The Ruon Chronicles.
Not to be confused with needlepoint (where canvas is embroidered), the Ruon tapestries refer to woven tapestries that are imbued with nith. This nith gives the tapestry a dynamic quality which means that the picture that is woven can move. Okay, they basically weave a gif. But a gif with class 😛
So it’s not like a neverending movie that plays itself out on the threads, but rather a short scene (about a minute is the longest) that repeats itself. It works very well on landscapes (think trees swaying in the wind, etc.), but people and even important battle scenes and other historic moments are also shown in these tapestries.
Because they take so many people to make they are very expensive and is the main way for the Ruon sanctuaries to make the money they require to feed and clothe the Keepers of the sanctuaries as well as deliver healing and other services to the communities they serve.
Widely used in the making of clothing for the Tellerassar (eagle shapeshifters), the nith is what causes the Tellerassar to be able to change form and keep their clothes “on” while in shifted form. (Because having your shapeshifters looking for clothing to wear for half the book gets old very quickly.) The cloth can be made from various materials, most often linen or very fine cotton. Most of the cloth is produced locally in Heimfeie, although the finest cloth (based loosely on Jamdani from India) comes from the north of Sjahra.
Cloth used in the shrines of Sjahra and Khallahna are also woven in Sjahra by Ruon weavers and imbued with a certain amount of nith.
There are so many styles of knitting, that I’m not going to go through all of it here — especially since the knitting part is the newest part of the magic system and the figuring out of it is still a work in progress!
Much as the nith is trapped in embroidery stitches, so, too, is nith trapped in the knitting stitches. Different patterns can hold different guarding charms and healing charms, though they are usually a lot more specific and intricate than those that are used in the embroidery. (Here is a post I wrote regarding the basics of knitting for KnitPal.) Lace knitting is one of the favourite types of knitting that is used by the Ruon and also gives a very light fabric that is both easy and practical to carry.
In the colder climates in the north of Airtha-Eyrassa, denser fabrics are created in order to be practical for that environment, however. The Eastern Keepers and especially the Northern Keepers specialise in these knitting styles, while the Southern and Western Keepers are usually trained rather to knit lacework or at the most light blankets and cloths. The sanctuary of Holt Haliern, which lies in the centre of the world, is one of the few places where both “main styles” of knitting is taught and practiced.
If you’ve been following the blog, you probably noticed that most of my stories are fantasy, sci-fi or some form of speculative fiction. So you can understand my trepidation when I learned that the genre for the Jozi Shorts Anthology is contemporary fiction. Well, colour me challenged.
The last non-genre story that I wrote was Pandjieswinkelgoed that appeared in Vrouekeur magazine two years ago.
Luckily we received an extension on the closing date for stories, as I could not for the life of me think of anything to write. Well, at least not anything that wasn’t genre fiction. I did finally get an idea for the story, and ended up still writing some of it on the day the story was due. Oops.
It’s called “The Goldfish and the Astronaut” as I quite like the title and, yes, it does go with the very-much-not-spec-fic story. The astronaut bit actually popped into my mind when listening to “Difference Maker” by NEEDTOBREATHE.
What I learned from writing outside my genre
All in all, though, writing a story that is outside my usual genre did teach me some things:
I can actually write outside my genre when I need to (or want to). Writing about “normal” people may just be possible — without ending up giving them superpowers or adding a dragon to the story, or something, I mean.
Writing outside your genre takes practice just like writing in your genre does. Boy is that story going to need some editing still!
A short story needn’t be a sprawling epic — a few moments of a life can feel “epic” as well. Also, you don’t necessarily need a dragon or other creature to make it epic.
I still really struggle with happy endings in short stories. Give me longer pieces and I can do it. Given me a few thousand words and, apparently, I cannot.
Waiting for the story to magically write itself is not going to work. You need to start typing or writing to get the story flowing. (Where are those story elves who work through the night cobbling a story together when you need them?)
Writing outside my genre does stretch some writing muscles you didn’t know you had. So, much like a new yoga position, you need to practice your muscles if you want to write anything worthwhile.
I will get lost in looking at the gallery section if I go on the NASA website.
Even when writing non-genre fiction, my search history will somehow turn out weird. Go figure.
This week I’m back to working on The Ruon Chronicles’ outline and hopefully doing a breakdown of book 2 to see where some changes are needed. I still want to finish this by the end of February, so let me get cracking!