Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Apparently I have not posted anything at all this month. My virtuousness was confined to getting my Christmas cards sent, my charitable donations mailed out, presents bought, and cubicle decorated excessively. There was no virtue left over for posting. Or for decorating the house beyond a couple of door wreaths.
I thought I was so well ahead that I'd have lots of time for baking, but the days did that inexplicable shrinking thing they do as dates draw closer, so I am behind on my baking unless I were to only count shortbread.
I'd like to post some lovely artistic shortbread photos, but I'm on the iPad and it doesn't get along with  Blogger, so that will have to wait. But I thought I'd let you all know I'm still around.
More later, my dears!

Friday, November 30, 2012

girls on a road trip

I crawl out from under the heaps of apples and the much smaller heap of Nanowords to post a picture-studded side-trip. Specifically, a little about the Golden Swan event in October (this is apparently a non-chronological blog).
I've posted before about the Tournament of the Golden Swan. It's a persona-development SCA event, originally designed to encourage the more creative and less combative aspects of the Society for Creative Anachronism, or more pragmatically described, to give non-fighters something to do. This is done by testing how thoroughly entrants have researched and imagined the medieval person they present themselves as being.
Given that it's been going a fair few years, the contest has been stuck in several ways in a very SCA mindset, perhaps describable as a 1960s take on a romantic Victorian idea of the Middle Ages. As knowledge about medieval society and daily life has grown, and research within the SCA reached a higher standard, the better-researched your persona, the less likely you were to find a good fit with a contest that required an embroidered favour (an SCA tradition, not a medieval one) and expected entrants to inspire the lord who fought for them. Last year the outdated format was addressed once again, and actual changes were made.
Perhaps relatedly, there were three entrants this year, compared to none last year.

I leap ahead chronologically to show off a painting I did several years ago, for the Wild Women of Frozen Mountain. It's based on a German playing card, the Queen of Animals, and depicts a wild woman (covered in fur) with a unicorn.
It was hung up inside the hall, so I took the opportunity to get a digital pic of it.
Geez, guys, you could hem it sometime, you know? 

Anyway, Joan and Rosie and I drove out Friday morning--a beautiful clear Friday morning--from Port Moody. The plan was to have enough time to stop for scenery and wineries, and this worked out nicely.
Stop on the journey. Rosie surveys the Hope Slide. It must have been too cold for the chipmunks that Deirdre and I saw and fed, because they did not appear, though we made coaxing noises.

Stretching our legs in Manning Park. High altitude and shade meant lingering frost on the grass.We did not spot the derelict cabin this trip.

We did, though, encounter this cool tree-trunk,. Is it safe to turn your back, or will it lurch after you?

Despite wineries, we arrived in good time, and set up our tent alongside Alicia and Stephen's tent. Most people were sleeping inside the hall because of the cold, but we hardy medievalists were relying on wool and down (and straw mattresses) to shield us through the night. I have a photo of the frosty grass taken early the next morning, but perhaps the point was made above. It was cold. The stars were amazing, bright white in a black black sky. Until I set off the motion-sensitive light outside the hall.

Swans at bowls, on the field behind the hall. Most of the contest is indoors, sitting and chatting in close quarters, thus not appropriate for taking photos. Outdoors it's more relaxed, and I followed the gamesters about making quick sketches. This one they posed for.

Another shot from the bowls game that meandered all about the site. It started in the field beside the hall, wandered past the bandshell, behind the mock-frontier streetfront, through the seating for the fair bbq, past the animal pens, and around to the fighting field. (There was fighting going on, with HH Gemma exclaiming 'Man fall down!' at intervals.)

A game of 9 mans morris outside Alicia's tent. Entrants need to show competence in pastimes their character would have known, as well as skills in their craft or station.
Needless to say (but I will say it anyways) Alicia kicked butt in every category. Happily, all three entrants carried it off successfully and joined the Order of the Golden Swan.
We packed up as early as we could manage the next morning and set off, managing to stop at another couple of wineries on the way back, and take our pictures with the sasquatch.

A Garbage Gobbler, an icon of my childhood travels. Joan poses with it on our way out the gate.
Then I ran away with the sasquatch and was never seen again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

more WFC

So my fellow VPXer at this year's World Fantasy Convention was John Chu, fresh from selling short fiction to Asimov's and to Tor.com, and thus in a state of not-quite-believing and recalibrating status as a neopro. (There's more than one kind of 'sense of wonder', and the OMG I'm REAL! version is fun if exhausting.)
I went to more panels than last year, and a mixed bag they were.
I was disappointed in the Humour in Horror and Fantasy panel, because the description promised some historical overview, and it turned into 'who's writing funny books right now' and 'how I shoved humour into my own books'.  Because apparently none of the panelists had ever read any Victorian or Edwardian fantasy, or even much from before the 1990s. Eh. A similar problem turned up with Bibliofantasies (discussing the trope of arcane and dangerous books and libraries) so I wandered over to Have the Antiquarians Served Their Purpose? where the panelists were better acquainted with the topic.
Sandra Kasturi's interview of Tanya Huff was huge fun and very funny. I'd meant to tear myself away and catch a couple of Hadley Rille author readings, but couldn't manage it. Forgive me, I am weak!

Then dinner with my agent, as mentioned before, and back to the hotel for the Autograph Reception. I collected my tent-card (all attendees get a tent-card, whether they plan to use it or not) so that I can pretend to be real, and trotted around to collect autographed books, mostly for Christmas presents.
It's also a good chance to discover new-to-me authors, by asking people what their books are about. The highlights this time were chatting with Hiromi Goto about Darkest Light (she tried and tried to give Gee a happier ending, but the way the story ended was really the only way it could have ended.) and getting to try the Death Machine. My death fortune is 'misfortune', about as non-specific as could be. The person before me got a more specific death.
Hiromi Goto with Darkest Light--you should buy it and read it, even though it isn't out in the States yet.
 The Death Machine. Not only your death:
but a ribbon to stick on your badge saying 'Ask Me How I Die'.

I almost didn't go to the Fritz Leiber panel because Danel Olson was on it, and he brings me out in a rash, but thankfully he wasn't the moderator, so it went much more quickly. The panel on Designing and Building a Book Collection was terrific, though someone behind me was disappointed that it wasn't much more than anecdotes about collecting. Ed Greenwood and John Clute were funny enough that I didn't care.
Then, instead of going to the bar to argue with John Clute about the relevance of social-networking sites to book collectors, I trotted over to The Road to Urban Fantasy, where Farah Mendlesohn had a completely different definition of 'urban' from the other panelists, dating its origins to the first British children's fantasies to use cities for their settings (and entry to other worlds) rather than the countryside, for instance Elidor, by Alan Garner (as opposed to his The Weirdstone of Brisingamen). The other panelists hadn't considered children's books at all, and she wondered if this was a US/UK split.
The other notable panel that day was Diversity and Difference in YA Fantasy, even though the description was rather disjointed and only mentioned female protagonists (perhaps so as not to tread on The Changing Face of YA Fantasy the next morning). Nonetheless, there was a good discussion of diversity in race and ability, and I got to recommend the books of Zoe Marriott, fellow Furtive Scribbler who should be better known in North America.
I felt my hackles rise some when an audience member asked whether the race and/or disability of characters should be mentioned if it wasn't going to be 'dealt with' within the story. The panelists were quite polite in responding that there were still plenty of 'issue novels' being written that were all about the difficulties of being a non-default person in a default white-ablebodied-straight-male setting  (sorry, my paraphrasing got annoyed there) but that there was merit in writing stories where non-default characters were just characters, not problems to be 'dealt with'.
Sunday morning I was torn between Maps in Fantasy Literature and The Changing Face of YA Fantasy, ended up in the latter and stayed in the same room for Part Seen, Part Imagined, which was about fantasy art, particularly book covers. I was impressed that all the artist panelists said they read the book whenever possible and contacted the author whenever possible (sometimes the art director didn't allow contact, hmmm).

Got the usual bag o' books, and added more from the Dealers Room, haunted the swap table, wandered through the Tor party and the Chizine party, sat on the floor in Hospitality and talked about e-publishing with Kathryn Sullivan and about racist subtexts with John Chu, made it to a few readings ( checking my program book suggests Julie Czerneda, Andy Duncan, Max Gladstone, Barb Galler-Smith)
 Andy Duncan answering questions after his reading.
Julie Czernada with her newest book, a fantasy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

contrary to popular belief

Well, I made it to the World Fantasy Convention with roughly a 100k wordcount section of novel under my metaphorical arm (actually it was emailed a couple of days before. I met with my agent and we ate Chinese dumplings while discussing how I needed to restructure the entire first third of the historical storyline, and majorly intensify the modern-day storyline. The lack of a romance in the modern-day story is a problem (caused by the refusal of the two main modern characters to take a proper interest in each other). Another problem is that in a darned good scene, I knocked off the first minor villain in the 2d chapter. Villains should be saved for later, even if there are bigger villains waiting to take the stage.

Above, the Richmond Hill restaurant where we had really really good lamb dumplings and spicy green beans. Mmm.

So we hammered out a potential new sequence of events for the first part, hopefully allowing me to keep the best scenes, and we discussed various ways to bring storyline two up to speed. I made it clear that not only am I okay with criticism and hearing what doesn't work, but that I enjoy 'talking story', one of the joys of co-writing. So that was fun.
And I was given a couple of pieces of general advice for revision, both of which made me blink rather.

Now, dear readers, I don't know how much time you spend on writerly websites and discussion fora, or how many of the Folk Beliefs of the Hopeful Writer you personally subscribe to. For those who aren't familiar with the scene, let's say that there are many things you must never never do or not only will you never get an agent or publisher, but you will probably be blacklisted on the Secret Blacklist that Publishers and Agents secretly keep.

Such deadly sins include (among many others):
Opening a story with a dream or someone waking up.
Using adverbs:  any at all, not just the non-information-conveying ones like 'really', 'very', 'actually'. (For some reason, adverbial phrases don't come under this interdict).
Using any word other than 'said' to describe speech.
Telling rather than showing (made more difficult by the explainers not having a clear idea which is which).
Info-dumps (sometimes extended to mean any direct conveying of information to the reader).
Opening with dialogue.
Opening with the weather.
Using 'passive voice' (another poorly-understood term, sometimes extended to include past tense or adjectival phrases).

I'm leading up to something, you've doubtless guessed. Which is that the two pieces of advice I had were:
Use more telling, less showing.
Use more info-dumps.

But why? you ask.
Because telling improves pace. And since it turns out that Cost of Silver is a thriller, it needs a fast pace. So, cut back on description, intensify emotions, increase stakes and speed up the pace.

I'll post more about WFC and other excursions when I can. November is less overbooked than October was, but I am besieged by apples and Nanowrimo, so I make no guarantees.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

so much happens

And I have so little time to post about it.
The pear harvest.
Making pectin from culled apples.
The plum harvest.
The Vancouver Science Fiction Convention, and being liaison for Connie Willis. (with pictures)
More strike action.
A drive to Rock Creek BC for the Tournament of the Golden Swan. (with pictures)
The grape harvest (jelly! pictures!)
A concert by Richard Thompson.
A week off work to spackle as many holes as possible in Cost of Silver before the World Fantasy Convention.

The last item is what I'm engaged with now and why I haven't posted. It's not because I don't love you. It's because I will love getting that damned book in the mail/email more.

Monday, September 24, 2012

strike bike

Back in 1999 I made the jump from 'someone who believes unions are a good thing' to 'being involved in my union', and offered to be a picket captain. And look, here I am again, a picket captain.
Not going to get into the issues, other than that 6 years of zeroes with no inflation protection means that many of our members are making effectively less than they were 10 years ago, while admin-level people get around the zeroes with various sneaky bonuses (boni?) and 'allowances' like a 'living allowance'.
I have a living allowance. It's called my salary.

So okay, pictures. We picketed out Traffic and Security (hey! free parking!) all of one week, and the Admin Services Building for one day, and the Bookstore and coffeeshop for one day--that day with live music.
Lacking the physically-imposing booming-voice inspirational aspect, I settle for being cheerful and amusing on the line. Because the usual slow march is dull and hard on my recovering leg, I did a lot of free-form picketing, bopping, robot-walking, sashaying and a sort of rhythmic gymnastics / interpretive dance business with two little flags. 
You can see a bit of me at .40 and .50 in this video for as long as it's up. Yes, I'm a goof, but more than one person told me it cheered her up to see me.
My bike, the cool matte-black bike, was pressed into service as a flag-holder. The first day only two flags.

And I had my mascot, this sweet little Playmobil striker (no kidding, it says 'striker' on the back of her little yellow vest) who holds a stop-sign like the stop signs featured on our picket signs.
The mascot mostly guarded the bag of chocolate gold coins that I was handing out to picketers ('Have some strike pay!') but on the big day she got out on the line too.

For extra added cuteness, here's the littlest (real) picketer.

The tough days were Wednesday, when I had a 6 am to 10:30 am picket shift, to the dentist for a temporary crown, napped for 2 hours, back to help at HQ, finishing with a 6pm to 10pm picket shift. Though I think it was the 4 am drive to the airport that did me in. Then Monday, 6 am to 2 pm on the line, followed by two more airport runs, one at 8 pm, the other at 11 pm.

The leg has held up remarkably well, without swelling or any more twingeing than usual. I think it's the dancing that did it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brief PSA

So, a couple-three posts are getting hit by drug spammers pretty constantly. Blogger catches them and plops them in the spam-bucket without fail, but it's still annoying to see them pile up there. So I've tweaked my settings so that only 'registered users' can comment, which seemed more practical than requiring word ver, which isn't always easy for those without perfect vision.
I think that 'registered' includes something like four possible places one could be registered, not just Blogger. I'm hoping the change won't silence any of my regular readers, but if it turns out to be too restrictive I'll reconsider.

In other news, I've been picketing a lot. Expect a post on that, with pics.

Monday, September 10, 2012

wild animals I have known

in my backyard, eating fruit.

Last year's buck, nicknamed Popeye after he showed up with a lumpy brow and crooked antler (best guess:  an altercation with a motor vehicle) has not been back. Now we have both a young buck who prefers to eat young leaves of apple trees and the flowering tips of broccoli and tomatoes, and a doe who eats pears and the new shoots of the rosemary bush.
The doe is at least a little skittish. The buck on the other hand.... Well, I had just finished folding clothes when he arrived in the back yard, and I attempted to scare him off by picking up the IKEA clothes-drying rack and opening and closing it in a threatening giant-scissors fashion (RRASP! RRRASP!) while walking towards him.
Nothing. He stared blankly at me, oblivious to how much bigger my rack was than his rack. I had to throw windfall Spartans at him to get him moving over to the neighbour's back yard. (Credit to Sina for suggesting that I shout 'This is Spartan!' while doing so.)
 I'm undecided now which I should do. Get a new elastic for my Wrist Rocket slingshot and add some oomph to the Spartans, or look in the attic for Chris's old Supersoakers and keep one by the back door?
No raccoons under the house this year, but Momma and a trio of young ones did come prowling (Momma) and wobbling (young 'uns) along the top of the fence while I was picking blackberries. Momma gave me a growl so I growled back, she for the kits, me for the garden.
A few days later I was sitting in the kitchen with the cat on my lap when a half-grown raccoon wandered in through the open back door. I thought at first it was a neighbour cat (there's a creamsicle-coloured one that came right up the stairs not long ago) but it was awfully leggy for a cat.
I spoke to it. Unlike the deer, it scampered off when spoken to. Our cat remained oblivious on my lap.

Meanwhile the crows clatter around on the roof in a suggestively thuggish fashion, and occasionally descend to accept offerings of catfood (not offered to them originally, but they'll overlook that little misunderstanding. This time.)

So far last year's woodpecker, the one that wanted into the house, hasn't renewed its efforts. There's been one in next-door's oak tree, knocking delicately at outlying branches in rattling concert with one I couldn't see that might have been in the other oak tree cater-corner. I hope it wasn't after some part of the garage.
Here's a damp bee, my one successful capture of a bee in pixels, because normally they move too fast. This one was resting up on a gallica rose just at sunrise, with the look of someone who'd partied all night and wasn't quite sure where he'd woken up.
This increase in wildlife is probably connected with the season of mists and not-so-mellow fruitfulness that's going on. While the Transparent apples are well and truly dealt with, dried and bagged or sauced and frozen, the pears are dropping fast. I've done two dryer loads and a jar of pear sauce (pear butter?) already, and there are two mixing bowls of windfalls still to go.
The blackberries may be done, with only one pie and a large ziplock bag frozen. They looked promising, but perhaps because of the dry summer, most of the berries are small and of the sort that doesn't want to detach from the stem. Oddly, the bushes have swapped qualities this year, with the nice fat berries coming from the bush that last year produced small tight berries.
The young greengage tree produced a crop this year. Are greengages normally the size of cherries? It did make them easier to pit, with my new cherry pitter, but it wasn't going to make much jam. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

7 days after 3 days

I didn't manage, as you may have noticed, to blog my 3-Day Novel writing. I tried so hard to stay offline that I could only allow myself to post a daily wordcount on Facebook. Which didn't prevent me finding random things I needed to research for 'inspiration' (excuses, excuses) online.

On the debit side, I went in tired and mentally unprepared, because somehow, with dealing entirely with the Transparent apple harvest, followed by the Living History Week, followed by a week of unpacking and washing linens after Living History Week, I hadn't given myself time to put together an outline, come up with an opening scene, or sketch a couple of characters.
What I did have was my brother's request / suggestion that I write about our childhood, particularly the summer of looking for ways into other worlds.
After a couple of days of muttering 'memoir is not story', I remembered a half-formed idea I'd had of conflict between a young man and his mother over her ebay habit:  she is attempting to recreate her childhood home or room so she can throw herself back in time to it.
As said at Viable Paradise, two half-baked ideas can make one good one. So I thought I'd go with mashing those up.
Three storylines:  a) present-day, from the son's POV, watching his mother's behaviour with some trepidation but not wanting to take away her independence. This because I'd wanted to write from a male POV, which I haven't done since Fold, I guess, and to keep some mystery going about what the old woman was up to (especially since I didn't know myself yet).
b) past, from the child's pov, she and her brother exploring the woods, playing make-believe, getting into petty crime with a neighbour boy, with the real-world worry of their own mother's health.
c) meta: an adventure story by the child, mixing in elements of her own life with bits from books she's read.

It was unexpectedly difficult to write autobiographical material. That old guideline of 'write what you know' has never rung particularly true to me, and not just because I write fantasy by preference. Sure, experiences like the death of parents, or miscarriage, or moving away, are things I draw on, but not necessarily directly. The emotions are mirrored, distorted, scraped off and re-applied.
The big obstacle to writing from life was knowing what to leave out. When I imagine a scene, I don't see every brick in the wall or even every character in the room. When I remember a scene, I remember too much of it, especially the before-and-after parts. What's relevant? I don't know, especially when writing something that's as improvisational as a 3-Day Novel.
Looking back, I wish I'd let my fingers run more often, and just filled the time with words, even if it did mean starting many hares that were never caught. But I was worrying, up until Monday late morning, about where the story was going, and whether I was building towards any kind of conclusion, let alone a satisfying one.  Monday morning I finally got an idea, and wrote the ending, so the rest of the day was bringing the story up to that ending.

I changed names and conflated incidents, but I'm not sure how I feel about other people seeing this one (says she, who sent it off to a panel of unknown judges on Tuesday). Rather, I don't mind strangers seeing it, but having written it sort of for my brother, I don't know how I'd feel about showing it to him. Whether the hesitation springs from the made-up parts or the from-memory parts, I'm not sure.

Ah well. Wordcounts: Midnight on Saturday, 6019 words; 11 pm on Sunday, 12019 words; midnight on Monday, 17400 words by Scrivener count.
ETA: Here's my banner, courtesy of the 3-Day rep. 
Beginning and ending were young Sandy's story, beginning PRIVATE! DO NOT LOOK! and ending To be continued...

Friday, August 31, 2012

wandering around

Maze pictures!
Because of the new campsite for Living History Week, I was able to place the labyrinth much closer to the tents and make it easier to spot. Because of some great help bringing up stones, I got it finished on the first full day, and later on tweaked it a little to make the 'walls' more curved and natural looking, though I don't know whether that really shows up on the photos.
It annoys me that apparently there's no way to zoom or enlarge a photo once it's posted on Blogger. Argh.
Anyways ....
 The maze in early morning, uninhabited.

 The maze in full use by the young and spry.

The maze for contemplation by the more sedate.
The ghost of the maze, all its bones removed.  (photo credit Joan Kew)

All symbolical this is for me, because tomorrow, right after midnight, the 3-Day Novel Contest begins--though I will not myself begin until something like 6 am, because I am old and need my sleep--and I am less prepared for it than I have ever been.
Seriously. I have less of an idea than ever, no outline, no characters. I might have a setting, in that my brother suggested I write about our childhood running about in the woods and lake and so on, specifically this passage from my website bio:
"The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings taught me that forests were full of magic, and my brother and I spent most of one summer looking for the secret door to other worlds. We thought we'd found it once, where a huge tree had broken above our head-height, and toppled to land on another, making a rough gate. We walked between the trunks as many ways as we could think of, with different things in our pockets or hands, but never got through into the other world."

Will anything come of this? We shall see. 

labours of the months, 1371

Our Living History Week is over for this year. A new campsite, just down from our previous one which is now becoming a Garry Oak meadow. I was a bit apprehensive, but it worked out nicely. So, a few pictures of everyday life in the 14th century, below.

 Isabeau at the churn. Behind her you can see information booths for some modern enterprises. She's actually quite close to the kitchen, which is just out of the shot.

I love this medieval style iron-shod spade. Unfortunately we aren't allowed to do any real digging onsite, but I got Mark to pose with it as a model for a potential calendar of the labours of the months

Ditto with Havise, performing one of the labours for November (rather ahead of time)--baking bread. This is a labour for every day, to be accurate. Yes, we had fresh-baked bread from the oven and fresh-churned butter. Life in the Middle Ages was nasty, brutish and short, and everyone was starving and clad in rags, don't you know?

Alicia card-weaving. Ingeniously, she is able to adjust tension by turning the tent-pole her work is fastened to. I have a video as well, but given my past lack of success at posting them, I'll wait to attempt it this time. 

My studio this year. I found the big easel at a consignment shop and snapped it up right away. I managed to finish off the two paintings on it, and begin a new one. The smaller one in front is, yes, baking bread as the Labour for November. 

A final picture of the oven, with two loaves of bread successfully produced. Beside them you can see the ashes of the fire that heated the oven and was pulled and swept out so that the loaves could be put in for baking.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

how to write a bestseller

I really need to be packing for Living History Week at Fort Rodd Hill, but so selfless am I that I pause to drink tea and share a revelation with you.
Whenever there's an unexpectedly huge bestseller--The Da Vinci Code, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey--people who enjoy reading or take pride in writing graceful prose, tight plotting and thorough characterisation tend to have their heads meet their desks in a painful and repeated fashion. Why, they ask, why this book, of all the thousands published?

So here's my theory. Which is only about novels, because I don't care about nonfiction bestsellers.

First, the trick of becoming a bestseller is that a book needs to appeal to non-readers. Because the novel-reading public is just not numerous (or uniform) enough to make a breakout bestseller.
 How do you manage to appeal to the non-novel-reading public? By speaking in a voice that is not like a novel, but like something more familiar and comfortable, so they're not startled away.

The Da Vinci Code is famously written in the style of bad journalese, with its 'renowned curator So-and-so', and its flat clunky sentences that cram too much in. It's like reading a second-rate Newsweek article, but that's the key point:  it is not like reading fiction, because reading fiction is scary and uncomfortable.

Twilight and 50 Shades I can consider together, what with one being a fanfic of the other, and thus having a very similar voice (though frankly E.L. James makes Stephenie Meyer look pretty good as a stylist). That voice is not a literary voice at all. It's the voice of your flaky neighbour, or your drama-queen BFF, the one with the complicated love life and massive angst. She's sitting across from you at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and crumbling a muffin into bits because she is too upset to eat. She's telling you about this guy she's involved with, and you are listening in horror and fascination because you would never get into that sort of situation (and if you did you'd handle it better but you can't tell her that). Sometimes you want to shake her and other times you're a little jealous and now and then you think she's got to be kidding. But you keep listening.
And the best part is that she's a book, and so you can shut her up and go have dinner or go to bed. You don't have to keep pouring her coffee until neither of you can sleep, or make up the bed in the spare room because she's too upset to go home or her parents have kicked her out until she stops seeing this guy.  The experience is much better when controllable by the listener.

There's my theory, kids. I'll have to finish Cost of Silver before I can write my blockbuster bestseller, so you can probably get a good head start on me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

making an oven again

 More extensive photos of this are on Facebook, but here's a summary of what I helped make last weekend. You may recall that our last year's Living History week's oven fell apart over the winter (sounds of weeping offstage). So we are learning from that experience and doing it better, with the help of Build Your Own Earth Oven, 3d edition. Reportedly in the 4th edition he says that making a portable oven is a bad idea, but that's what we need to make.

So! In a wooden frame that allows the oven to be moved (since we can't have a permanent oven at Fort Rodd Hill) on a layer of insulating fill, a firebrick and cob base is laid.

A sand form patted into place to be the core. This will be removed after the oven is built around it.

A layer of newspaper to make it easy to tell which is the sand form and which is the cob wall.

A layer of cob is the innermost wall of the oven. 

And here's the crew watching the door being opened up at the end of the first day.
 The second day. The cob layer has dried somewhat. Cracks have been covered with more cob.

Adding a doorway that the wooden door (leaning against the platform) can rest against. The doorway is built of straw ropes rolled in slip. 

An insulating layer of slip and wood shavings is patted on.  The sand core was pulled out at this point to allow the interior to dry more easily.

An outer layer of cob mixed with chopped straw comes next. This is where any modelling and decoration is applied. We limited ourselves to two 'ropes', similar to the decoration of last year's oven.

And here it is, smoking away with the first drying fire. Quite expressive, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

mostly pictorial

Mark is away to Pennsylvania for the Pennsic War, and I am home with two big bowls of Transparent apples that need processing and dehydrating, a freezer that needs defrosting, a garden that needs weeding and watering, a cat that needs attention and comfort, and a novel that needs finishing.
Oh, and a knee that still needs physiotherapy exercises.

So I'm going to ignore all that  and show you some pictures of roses.
Well, that one's a rose hip, on the rugosa, a full-figured lady to be sure. 

The Bright Jewel miniature is blooming happily. That's my hand, again for size reference.

The Dortmund that blooms forever and ever.

One of the front yard gallicas. It's much redder than it looks here, but none of my photos show it properly. 

Apples! This is the Golden Delicious, which goes through a reddish (bronze?) stage before it gets fat and yellow. Fortunately it doesn't ripen until October, and lasts into December.