Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Back on Monday

I am still at my parents' house in Tennessee, and I have lots to share, but my internet access is spotty out here in the sticks, and I may not even make it through this brief post before it conks out on me again. Tomorrow is our last day and we'll be leaving Friday morning and returning home on Saturday. (If I attempted another 13-hour drive, I'd surely suffer permanent butt-nerve damage.) So, I'm going to skip my Thursday but I'll be back on Monday with a picture-heavy post—and some of it will even be quilt-related!

P.S. Scorpion count is holding steady at two. Except for the fornicating ones hidden in my luggage.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Scorpio rising

My kids are on spring break and since we have a spanking new mini-van, which I love so much I do indeed want to marry it and have a million of its babies, I came up with the brilliant idea to load everyone up in it and drive to Tennessee to visit my parents. Never mind that deadline for the June/July issue is coming up. Never mind that David would not be able to come and I would drive all that way by myself and I am almost as scared of highway driving as I am of flying. Nope, I said I would do it and it turns out that when I say stuff like that, everyone believes me, so two days ago I packed up everything I thought one woman and two kids would need and got up at 4 a.m. to hit the road early.

I managed to drive the whole way in one day, though by the time we pulled into the driveway, I had permanent butt-numbness and when I went to bed that night, I still felt like I was hurtling downhill at 70 miles an hour. What happened to the 55mph speed limit? That was a reasonable pace. Seventy is what I consider an elude-the-cops sort of speed. It took me a while to work up to 70; I don't think I got there until somewhere in the middle of Virginia. Yes, I am a big sissy cry-baby.

There is not much to say about the visit so far. We have only been here a day. But if anyone is planning to visit Tennessee, you should know that it is no longer safe here. The state has apparently been the victim of some sort of plague:

SCORPIONS! This was INSIDE my parents' house. They crawl in under the french doors, and were apparently enough of a problem that they had to call an exterminator. So this one was dead by the time it crawled over the perimeter of poison and ended up in the house.

So was this one, who came in the next morning:

But you just know that there are more getting in who are resistant to scorpion spray, and they're probably in my suitcase right now, having scorpion sex and squirting out millions of scorpion babies, which I will then unknowingly bring to Maryland, introducing a new species to the state which will thrive and multiply and probably kill off all the labrador retrievers and take over the state legislature.

For which I apologize in advance.

Research indicates that these scorpions are actually native to Tennessee, but I think they're just telling us that to prevent a mass panic. I grew up in Tennessee and never once saw a damn scorpion. I think these have been sent as punishment for all the gun shops and porn parlors in a state where they try to outlaw saying the word "gay" in schools. "Dear Lord, I'm sorry for not makin' it to church this Sunday, but they got in a new shipment of Fleshlights down at the Smut Hut, and I had to get there before they sold out. Got so excited, I shot m'self in the foot. Shot the dog, too. Now I gotta go pick up some fireworks and Kona cottons for Mabel or I'm the one'll get shot next."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

By Crom!

Do you know Steotch? You may recall this gem, designed by the husband and wife team behind Steotch:

I've gotten further than that, but it isn't done yet. Why? Because cross-stitch is so freaking boring. But then Steotch went and designed another one that I HAD to have, so I can make it and frame it and hang it in my fo-yay:

click here to go to the etsy listing for this item

Do you know this quote? It's from a gem of classic cinema:

This is exactly the sentiment I wish to greet my guests with. Then I'll hang the ba-donk-a-donk one in the powder room. God only knows what will end up in the bedroom.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meet Caleb and Theresa

About two weeks after Jon passed away, I got an email from an old friend. It was actually a mass email, and my husband and I were included in it, letting many people know that he had just self-published a novel and giving the link to it on Amazon. Frankly, considering the type of people I have been friends with over the years, I'm surprised that this is the first email of this kind I have ever gotten. I suspect everyone I went to college with, plus a whole lot of others, thinks they have a novel in them. God knows I do. I've had one particular story in mind for many, many years, and I plan to start working on it for reals soon, but until then I have to face the fact that many first-time authors neglect: I've never written a novel and I don't actually know how to do it.

Sure, I know how to put a damn pithy sentence together. I can write a hell of a paragraph when I'm of a mind, and I've written articles/columns that were not vomit-inducing as far as I know. But novels are complex and while I think I'm smart enough to figure it out, I don't think I can make it sing on the first go. I feel like I need to take a couple practice runs at it first, not just to get the feel of novel writing, but also just to get back in the practice of writing fiction. You know, made up stuff and not just a description of my primitive quilt binding techniques. (I use large rocks and a series of grunts.)

I wasn't going to tell you about this until I was ready to do it, but since I have nothing else to tell you about today and it's Tuesday, I'll go ahead and fill you in on what I plan to start later this spring.

First, let me say that I love romance novels. LOVE THEM. I love many different kinds: contemporary, historical, "urban paranormal." Yes, that last one is a thing and it's awesome.  A lot of people really hate romance novels because of all the sex, and yes, romance novels are, in many ways, just erotica with a LOT of plot. I see nothing wrong with this; I think it's fun. I have absolutely no issues with graphic descriptions of people getting it on, and some authors are better at it than others. But the sex is not the main reason I love these books. I love the hunt for a writer who can take a genre that is, frankly, fairly routine, and make it sparkle with snappy writing, great characters, and a story that might be just a little more interesting than the usual I-need-you-to-pretend-to-be-my-date-even-though-I-actually-hate-you-whoops-I'm-attracted-to-you-even-though-I-hate-you-let's-go-bump-bits-to-get-it-out-of-our-system-nope-it's-not-out-yet-so-let's-get-married-instead plot line. So, it's not like I whip every Harlequin off the shelf and love them all unconditionally. I also feel this way about mystery/thrillers, but not with quite the same affection, and I don't feel personally compelled to write about a hard-boiled detective who just can't play by the book because of his inner demons and sense of justice. There's just something about boy-meets-girl and their long pursuit of connubial happiness that I just think is fun. (Don't worry, I also have a whole list of "serious" writers whom I worship with something akin to a religious fervor, so I'm not just wading in pulp ALL the time.)

Anyway, I always thought it would be fun to try and write a romance novel, especially a comic one, and that it would be a great way to get the feel of character and pacing and plot that one needs in order to write a full-length story. Then I discovered the most glorious thing ever devised by the human mind: The Romance Novel Plot Generator. You can choose straight romance, LGBT romance, paranormal romance, or mystery/crime romance. I knew right away that I wanted paranormal, because I know I can make paranormal really funny, and this is what I got:

The girl's name is Theresa and she is energetic and a hard worker. She enjoys crafts. Her occupation is artist and overall she is suffering a physical problem . She is also able to heal through physical contact.
Her hair is blonde and long and straight. She is 5'8" and is softly rounded and with generous curves . She wears off-the wall, unique clothes that make her stand out in a crowd
She meets Caleb at his work. He is a Fireman , distinctive and sad , and he enjoys gardening. He appears to be worried . He is also able to sense the emotions of animals.
His hair is streaked with blonde highlights and very long. He is 6' and has a well developed chest and strong arms. He wears sexy shirts and expensive trousers, like a playboy.
The paranormal situation these two face is a coven of good witches has been spotted.
Answer these questions:
  • Why do they meet there?
  • Why is she there?
  • Why is he there?
The obstacle to their romance that they must overcome is that if people found out about the paranormal situation and their involvement, there would be serious social consequences. When one of them is willing to sacrifice themself to save the other it brings them to the realization that they can overcome the obstacle.

IS THAT NOT THE GREATEST THING EVER? As soon as I read this—well, okay, after I got up off the floor and wiped the tears of laughter off my face—I knew I had to try and write it. A blonde, long-haired, sad fireman who enjoys gardening and can sense the emotions of animals? I'm on it. A curvy blonde artist/crafter who wears "unique" clothes and can heal through physical contact? Needs work, but we'll get there. But the absolute best part is where it says the obstacle to their relationship is that if anyone found out about "the paranormal situation" there would be "serious social consequences." That is so hilarious, it makes me happy every time I read it.

So, in a month or two, I am going to start writing this book. It will probably suck, but that's okay, because it is meant to be for practice. And for fun. And I'm going to share it as I write it. I'm going to start a new blog,, and as I write, I will post the sections and chapters there. People who keep up can read the posts as they appear, but I will also maintain a section of pages that has the whole book in order. 

I think this is going to be a lot of fun and I hope you'll pop over now and again to see how it's going. I'll warn everyone if I decide to write anything steamy and I'll probably offer alternative scenes for prudes, wimps, or relatives. There's no reason the victims of our sex-negative society should miss out on the fun. A coven of good witches has been spotted! This could have serious social consequences! I think this is a plot we all can enjoy. And make fun of. 

I'll make another announcement when this is ready to go. Meanwhile, I'll be daydreaming about a hunky fireman dressed like a pimp, wiping a tear from his eye as he pets a basset hound who only pooped in his marigolds because of low self-esteem.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Words I cannot say

I just realized that the title of this post sounds as though I'm about to discuss something heavy and possibly dramatic, something so powerful mere words are too weak to adequately describe it.

But, no. I'm just talking about words that I cannot say out loud without wanting to harm myself in punishment. Words that are just squicky.

Some time ago, I remember reading some things online about people being glucked out by the word "moist." I guess, for those individuals, it conjures images of fungus and open wounds in secret orifices and not, say, cake mix. And when they hear it, it causes very unpleasant shuddery feelings and a desire to take a decontamination shower. I get that. I don't have that reaction to the word "moist," but I do to the word "pleasure."

Yes. Pleasure. Honestly, right now? Just having typed the word twice? I had to change my clothes and then picture a flowery meadow until the demons went away. I think my hatred of this word comes from my childhood when I went to an ultra-evangelical elementary school. At this school, they were forever telling us what was going to send us to hell, which included dancing, playing cards (not that this was ever clarified into "poker for stakes" or anything like that - just "playing cards"), listening to rock music, reading books other than the Bible, anything involving science, and saying "gosh" or "gee" because these were just substitutes for "God" and "Jesus." And one thing that people like this are highly suspicious and, dare I say, afraid of is...pleasure. Of any kind really, but when they say it—and even if they are saying it in reference to, say, cake mix—they say it in such a way that you know what they really mean is sexual pleasure. These people truly hated their own tingly parts. And ours. But the thing was, we were in elementary school and they weren't going to be even remotely explicit about it, because as everyone knows, if you mention a weenie to a pre-pubescent girl she suddenly sprouts boobs and pubes and starts pole dancing at truck stops. Boys and men were clearly unable to control themselves around even the merest suggestion of girl flesh, so girls couldn't wear shorts. Ever. Not even for gym when we had to run around outside in the sweltering Tennessee heat. So we learned that sex was very, very bad without ever learning the first thing about actual sex. But we heard a lot about pleasure. All those things I mentioned that would send us to hell? Those were, we were told, pleasures...of the flesh.

Imagine the word "pleasure" actually meant something like, "an itchy, painful, pus-filled sore that is highly contagious and appears primarily on the eyeballs" and then imagine the sneering, disgusted way someone would say it while thinking of how gross and vile it is while also secretly being fascinated by it. Now add a southern accent and a contemptuous, pedantic attitude.  THAT'S what I hear in my head every time someone says the word "pleasure." This has occasionally made knocking boots with the opposite sex a trial because some dude would have the notion to use that word in reference to what we were doing and I would have to stick my fingers in my ears and sing the Star Spangled Banner at the top of my lungs until he promised never to say it again. Which is kind of a boner-killer.

So, yeah. Please don't ever say it was a pleasure to meet me or that it's a pleasure to work with me. I'd hate to have to hurt you.

And while you're at it, don't call me a "gal." Don't say "gal." Don't write "gal." Okay, you can say it or write it if in some way you are existing in the 1950s, but please don't say it and mean it. I don't know why this rubs me the wrong way, but I hate reading something that is otherwise perfectly innocuous and then discovering that the writer likes to call women "gals." "Gal" just sounds to me like what the ad execs on Mad Men call their secretaries while patting their butts after a quick and mandatory shag on the desk. And if I say it out loud it just sounds wrong, like I tried to say "girl" but got smacked in the back of the head while it was coming out. We used to watch this show on Nick with our daughters called The Upside Down Show, and it was from Australia, and anytime they had little kids on it, the adult performers would ask them silly questions and the answers were always an emphatic, "No!" But for some reason, the little Aussie accents made the "no" sound like "NAR!" to my ears. So, maybe my dislike of this word is just a combination of too much Don Draper and a need for an ear canal irrigation.

This is acceptable. (Also, I want this.)

Oh, and I get hives whenever anyone refers to her husband as her "hubby." AND EVERYONE ON EARTH DOES THIS. (You do it too; I know you do, I've seen your Facebook posts, and I love you anyway. You know I love you, baby.) I'm sure people who speak other languages have appropriated it and and are peppering their speech and writing with it just to make me suffer. "Hubby" sounds like a nickname you'd give a plump baby, not a term of endearment for the man you make the plump babies with. I cannot actually say this word, and if it happens that I have to read something out loud that contains it (and this occurs more often than you think), I replace it with "eunuch."

Of course, what all of this essentially means for me is that I have to avoid Cosmopolitan magazine at all costs, because it's highly likely that they have and will use ALL THREE words in the same sentence, quite possibly on the cover.  So, if I ever mysteriously keel over in a grocery store checkout line, you'll know it was because I read: "Gals! Learn 56 New Ways to Pleasure Your Hubby With String Cheese and a Moist Towelette."

Note to readers on iPhones and iPads and other portable devices: my comment system doesn't seem to work on tablets and smartphones, so if you leave a comment, I will see it, but it won't necessarily appear here unless I do a copy-and-paste thing for you.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

All in good time

Do you guys remember Mark B.? Marky Mark? Magic Marker? Mark B. Goode? Sparky Mark?

Perhaps this will refresh your memory:

If you recall, that right there is my magic ironing board cover, a gift from my friend Peggi.


Remember that auction thing I was gonna do to raise money that my calendar didn't make because I have been a terrible blogger this past year? (Go back and read this post if you need a refresher.) And then remember how the whole beginning of 2013 just sucked big donkey balls?

Okay, let me back up for a minute.

This blog means the world to me. I started it back when I started teaching myself how to quilt, and it has grown right along with my sewing skills. Then...a bunch of other stuff happened, semi-career-wise, and I got, let's say, distracted. I have been promising myself (and you) over and over that I would be back, that I would stop shoving this blog I love so much to the side, but it just didn't work out that way.

But that's got to change. It has to. I can't let this baby wither and die. I've been going on for a very long time knowing that my life wasn't right, but not knowing how to fix it. And now I know.

I need to sew. And I need to write—I need to write for me. Those are the things that bring me joy. And dirty ironing board covers, on occasion.

Several weeks ago, I got a call from a friend who wanted me to make a quilt for her. It was okay if I couldn't do it; she would understand. But it would be a cool thing for her and me if I could do it. (Vague, yeah, but that's all I can say about it.) I knew I had to say yes. I also knew that I had barely touched my sewing machine at all in the last 12 months, so I might have been promising more than I could deliver. So, I had to sew something. Just to see if I still could.

So, I started with these bags (which, honestly, look a hell of a lot better hanging here than they do up close. The pattern (which you can find here)involves weird twisting and pinning and folding and there are places where they're just being held together by static electricity or something.):

Then these pillows (the paper piecing pattern for the design on the left is here and a tutorial for the Somerset star on the right can be found here) :

And then I dug out some fabric I had cut for another project that didn't work out, and decided to sew them into nine patches and combine them with some Kona charcoal on point. With little slashes of color mixed in. (My "design", if you want to call it that. Or, my what-the-hell. Whichever.):

And that quilt top? I'm hand quilting it. Nope, I've never hand quilted anything, but I figure, why stop now? Might as well learn everything while I have the chance, right?

So, anyway. Yeah. I think I can still sew okay.

But can I write? Do I still have anything to say? That's harder. I didn't have my regular column in the last issue of GenQ, because I just couldn't come up with anything. It's the first time in, I don't know, ALWAYS, that I haven't turned in a writing assignment. I would sit and stare at the screen for hours and if I did manage to type something, it was dry and bland and not even remotely amusing.

I've come to a lot of realizations concerning this over the last few months, and eventually, I'll tell you more of them. But for now, I'll say this. I can't write if I don't write, and I haven't been writing at all. And that has got to change.

This blog has always been where I can write without obligation. I don't have to please anybody but myself here, and I have to remember that. Even if all my readers have gone away, then fuck it, I'll just start over. And it may not be as good as it was at first, but then again, maybe it will be like the sewing, and I'll find I'm still okay at it. But whether it's good or whether it sucks the aforementioned donkey balls, at least it won't be nothing.

So, I'm going to set a goal of two posts a week for now. Maybe Mondays and Thursdays. (Yes, this is Tuesday. Whatevs.) I think I can handle that. You up for it?

So, where was I? Oh, yeah. Mark the Shark and his Magically Appearing Wonder Wiener. Peggi sent me two Mark B.-emblazoned ironing board covers for the auction, so now I really gotta get my ass in gear and have the damn thing. But, knowing how much I have neglected the blog and how few people are still reading it, I thought I'd try my two-posts-a-week experiment for a while and see if we can get some readers back before we start. So, I'm going to say that the auction will start in the first week of May. There will be fabric and patterns and calendars and naked men—pretty much everything this blog stands for.

Wish me luck.