Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Still Typing

Hey, look! I have a blog! Who knew?

I've been working on the novel. It's still in first draft. After...eighteen months since I started? Is that right? But it's getting closer to done--that is, closer to the first draft being done. Picture it, for a moment, as a patchwork quilt. For a long time, it was like a bunch of patches laid out on a table, a few here, a few there, but with no particular form. Now I can see the form of the quilt; it has big holes, but I can see them as holes, and holes mean there's a structure. So I'm progressing to the end of the first draft.

I may have already used that metaphor.

Anyway! I'm not sure how many drafts I'm going to go through, because I have discovered that my writing habits are weird. I like polishing. I know that many people hate editing--I love editing. I get no satisfaction from a piece of writing until it has a certain level of smooth readability.

So my "unit" of writing is the polished scene. I start a scene, write, delete, write, delete, figure out what the scene wants to be, finish writing it, polish it once, twice, probably three times, maybe five times, until it's as polished as my current level of skill can make it. Then I put it away, take a breath, and a day or so later start another scene. In theory, I write one scene every three days. In practice, it's more like every five days. But that's OK; as long as the progress is steady, it's OK if it's slower than the goal.

So when I go to the second draft of this novel, I'm not going to have a slimy mishmash of incoherent writing. I'm going to have a bunch of polished scenes that may, combined, make up a slimy mishmash of incoherent plot.


So. First draft not done.

That is all.

(Oh, and I sent off for fourteen perfume samples. So I may also be blogging about perfume. More woo!)

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 9, 2018

Blogging: Still alive

Well, that took a while.

I'm now about 130,000 words into a 100,000 word novel. And only eighty percent done. There will be cutting, lots of cutting, but that will wait for a later draft.

The novel is filling my brain. When the novel briefly retreats, the Farm fills my brain. So, logically, if I want this blog to be alive, I should be writing about those things.

Except, I put my arms around the novel like a suspicious eater protects their plate--I have some beta (alpha?) readers, but I hesitate to put even a hint on the blog.

But I could write about writing, yes? And, of course, also about the Farm. I have no particular expertise for writing about writing, but I didn't have any particular expertise for writing about perfume or gardening, either. So why not?

So that might happen. Or you might not see me for another six months. Or you may have all deleted this blog as being idle.

Let's see.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Whoah. Been a while.

I'm not dead, nor do I intend to abandon the blog forever.

The novel is up to 53,000 words. Actually, the scrap heap also has 87,000 words, but that's not a reliable count; some scenes are represented by four or five scrap heap versions. I'd say that there are about 30,000 words of scrap that may or may not re-enter the main timeline of the novel.

So I've been writing.

Just not here.

Eat turkey!

That is all.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Rambling: Huh.

It's been a while.

The novel is up to 25,000 words.


Apparently that's where my writing time is going.


I'll be back eventually. Hopefully it won't be seven weeks again.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

SOTD: Parfum d'Empire Tabac Tabou

Tabac Tabou. Good name.

I dug through the subset of samples that live in the Tightly Sealed Metal Canister, and this one had by far the most interesting name. I tried to find something else, because it was in one of those pop-top 1ml vials, but nothing else intrigued.

So, after struggling with thumb and fingertips and fingernails and a butterknife over the sink, I finally got it open.  By then the excitement had faded, because the wet traces on the edge of the cap and on my fingernails didn't really smell all that interesting. But I smeared just a little on my wrist, and...


The opening was a civet-forward "what have I done?" moment, a shout of "I'm going to be really dirty!" A blast of animalic and dark-spicy notes that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then the civet apparently shrugged and wandered off, and for the next few minutes I smelled moderately aggressive leather, progressing from well-worn and slightly sweaty to new and clean, a new belt emerging from tissue paper. It was accompanied by a little tobacco, quiet and retiring.


What is that? There's still an echo of leather and pipe smoke, but the main body of the scent has a powdery and faintly creamy vibe. It makes me think tea, not tobacco, but tea with a texture like buttercream cupcake frosting, with a faint crunch of sugar crystals now and then. 

And now I finally look at the notes--I try to force myself to experience at least a few minutes of a scent without looking. Luckyscent says "immortelle, tobacco, narcissus, honey, grass, musk". I'm guessing that the tobacco-tea-cupcake is coming from the honey and immortelle. The honey grows as time passes, with no hint of that urinous thing. I love beeswax, and this is close enough to be pleasing.

By the way, I'm not getting narcissus. At all. Not a hint. 

At this point, the scent also feels vintage. Some scents do a sort of deja vu thing on me, where a new scent announces itself as familiar. My brain is trying to say, "Oh, that smells just like Aunt Amelia always used to smell..." even though there never was an Aunt Amelia. 

I like it. So far I like it a lot. I actually tried it yesterday (SOTY?) but I can still smell it on my wrist if I put my nose up to the skin. I want to buy some, but a bottle would be madness--based on the projection and longevity I got just from that tiny smear, I suspect that the 1ml vial alone would last me a dozen or more wearings. So, a decant. I think. Though we might be at Scent Bar later this year...


That is all.

Review Roundup: Fragrantica and Now Smell This (from whom I realize that, yes! that scent I can't put my finger on does have a vibe of horse) and Kafkaesque and colognoisseur and Scent For Thought and memoryofscent and FragranceGeek and A Bottled Rose.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gardening: More Perennials!

I may have mentioned that The Farm has 120 four-foot-by-six-foot beds.

Prepping and planting a bed--lifting the weed barrier, digging or forking, adding fertilizer, adding compost, possibly swapping the weed barrier with a piece that has suitable holes for the new crop, re-attaching the weed barrier, making a watering apparatus or moving in an apparatus suitable for the new crop, manicuring the soil of the holes or drills, possibly adding sand or vermiculite or compost to accept the seeds, possibly mixing seeds with sand, planting seeds or plants, possibly adding a layer of compost, watering the planting in...


...takes at least a couple of hours per bed. Planting a line of several beds--like the 24-by-4-foot garlic bed or last year's 36-by-4-foot bean bed--doesn't really reduce it that much.

120 beds, two or three plantings per bed per year, takes us to, oh, maybe 300 hours of prep-and-plant per year.  On weekends, when the weather is suitable and we're in town and I have time. So this explains why I have yet to get the whole farm in production at one time.


Perennials. Edible perennials. Preferably what I'm calling "soft" perennials--the kind that are easy to move or eat or give away if I want a bed back for annuals, someday when I have more gardening time.

Currently, the perennial list is:
  • Six (seven?) beds of strawberries.
  • Three of black currants.
  • Two and a half of chives.
  • Half a bed of garlic chives.
  • One bed of thyme and oregano and tarragon.
  • One of sage.
  • One of rosemary.
  • One of perennial scallions.
  • Two of Jerusalem artichokes.
  • One of artichokes.
So, nineteen or twenty. I'll probably remember one or two more. So that's a little under twenty percent perennials.

My plans for more include:
  • Another bed of chives.
  • Another five beds of strawberries.
  • Two beds of garlic chives.
  • Ten beds (one full row) of blueberries.
  • Probably six beds of raspberries.
  • A sweet bay.
  • At least one more bed of herbs.
  • Ten roses along the left-hand fence. Probably rugosas, for lots of rose hips, so that they count as food. See the picture up top? Fruity!
  • Ten of something along the right-hand fence, where the ground is painfully gravel-filled from the parking lot next door. Something tough, like maybe butterfly bushes to bring in pollinators for the rest of the stuff.
  • Five evergreen shrubs of some kind, preferably edible or edible-themed, along the front of the five right-hand rows.
  • Another five at the back of those same rows.
What's that add up to? Seventy-six total, leaving twenty-four beds for annuals. Three-quarters perennials. I'm not sure if that's too many or two few annuals. And I'm a little worried about the high number of un-soft ones--for example, you can't peacefully pull a blueberry bush out of the ground and replant it or give it away the way you can a raspberry or a clump of chives. But it's going to take me plenty of time to plant the extra fifty-six (fifty six!) bed of perennials, so, I have some time to decide how much those things worry me.

Oh, hey, I forgot asparagus. And I keep thinking about breaking the edible theme and planting some peonies.

Anyway, it's a plan.

That is all.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Writing: Highly Flavored Fiction

As usual: Wow, it's been a long time since I posted.

So I've actually been writing fiction. A couple of weeks ago, I started a new strategy: the highly flavored strategy. I'm...

OK, let's just paste in what I wrote on a writing forum at the time.
So after talking about flow over in the writer's block thread, I did some thinking about what used to be rewarding back when I spun daydreams in my head. Some of the appeal, I realize, is that in my own head I embrace any situation that I find emotionally satisfying, even if it seems foolishly angsty or sentimental, and even if it doesn't necessarily fit a neatly coherent and likely plot. I go for immediate emotional reward. For the fictional equivalent of salt and fat and sugar. (Isn't there a Yiddish criticism that translates to "without salt or fat"? Or am I misremembering?)

So I sat down to write a scene in a fictional/fantasy world, with the deliberate determination that when something feels a little too salty or buttery or sugary, I'll embrace that something rather than back off. I'll embrace, in fact pursue, the overflavored first draft.
One goal, I realize a while after writing the above, is to have a period where I enjoy writing fiction. I usually enjoy having written fiction; I don't usually enjoy doing it. I'm enjoying doing this. I've written five thousand words since the third, which is admittedly not a lot, but it's (1) more than my official allotment of 300 a day (446 a day on average), (2) got written during a high-stress time when I'd probably write nothing, and (3) I enjoyed almost every minute of it. I say "almost" because the first couple of sentences, each time I sat down to write, had to fight against resistance, but then I was into enjoyment. Oh, and (4) The plot is surprisingly close to coherent.

The flaw with this as far as the blog is concerned is that highly flavored scenes give me stage fright, so I'm not willing to post them to the blog. We'll see if that changes.

That is all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rambling: Farm Rambling

Wow. A month since I posted.

I've been writing scraps of one of my book ideas. Not all that reliably, but more reliably than usual.

The farm is progressing nicely. Much of the following was already discussed, but, hey, I'll re-list!
  • Onions! All the onions! Garlic, potato onions, shallots, French grey shallots, perennial scallions. Oh, and I divided one big clump of chives into 21 sub-clumps. There will be a lot of chives. Later on, I'll do the same thing with a big clump of garlic chives.
  • The Oregon Giant peas are nice big plants and there's a flower or three in the bed; it shouldn't be too long for peas.
  • This past weekend I planted some potatoes--German Butterball, Purple Majesty, and Yukon Gem. Only three beds, instead of the planned six, but I did plant them mostly right. In a later post, I'll probably show pictures. If they, well, grow.
  • Sadly, the raspberries that I planted a few weeks ago didn't grow; six out of nine died. I'm not good with bare root plants. I'm going to prep another set of beds, get more raspberries from either the back yard or the grange, and fill those beds with the new ones and the survivors.
  • I'm moving the survivors because I really wanted to get some beans planted, and the spaces that the dead raspberries vacated were all ready for me to just poke some seeds into the ground. I planted some Blue Lake bush beans in part of it. In the other part, I planted Russian Mammoth sunflowers, with the plan of growing Fortex up them. I had very few of both means; I'll be ordering more.
  • Oh, and herbs. A few weeks ago I planted a new bed of oregano, tarragon, and two kinds of thyme. Soon I'll plant sage and marjoram in another bed.
Oh! And the overwintering cauliflower overwintered! I thought that it had "buttoned" (made an itty bitty head) but I ended up with three perfectly nice heads out of, I think, four plants. (If it was six plants that's obviously rather less successful.)

I'm extra pleased with this year's spring garden, due to the fall and winter planted crops; it doesn't have that sad desolate look. I'm going to try to plant more this coming year. Let's make another list:
  • Again, the garlic, shallots, French shallots, potato onions.
  • Lots more overwintering cauliflower.
  • A much bigger late summer crop of carrots.
  • Late winter peas again.
  • More potatoes--if they work this year.
But I'm also discovering that I simply won't do all the work required to plant every bed every year. So, I'm thinking about some added perennials:
  • If those perennial scallions take hold well, a couple of beds of them.
  • Another multi-bed block of strawberries.
  • Hedgy perennials that are kinda food: Rosemary, sweet bay, roses known to produce lots of hips.
  • Maybe daylilies. People eat the flowers, after all.
  • We've been planning a row of blueberries forever. Someday it might happen.
  • Probably some perennial flowers.
I look at the annual beds that that leaves, and I get nervous. But I've left a number of beds unplanted every single year; it would be a lot more fun to see things growing everywhere. I need to remind myself that if I have more time, I can always give some things away and go back to annuals.

And so. That is all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

IttyBittyFictionScraps: In which people think

(The conversation continued, leading me to observe that I tend to do all-dialogue, or no-dialogue. This one is no-dialogue.)

Jane peered into the bakery case as she sipped her coffee. Buttercream. Candied violets. Crunchy sugar. Marzipan. Meringues. The cup was half gone by the time she finally ordered. A plate of a few things, please. A mini cupcake. And one of those little layered things. (And the counter girl showed no amusement or disapproval when she ordered it in exactly those words.) And a slice of yellow layer cake with pale chocolate buttercream.

She sat at the table by the window, the one with the cracked marble top. She finished her sugary lunch, then took out her notebook. Now. Get to work.

Who to kill?

And how?

Losing the museum director would throw the operation nicely into chaos, but he was management, and management was always distinctly replaceable. A temporary fill-in would be hired, and he might be, well, competent. That wouldn’t do.

So the key was to find those with irreplaceable skills. That might not even require killing anyone. She preferred that, in a mild way, just as she preferred to eat a salad once in a while. The climate control system, for example, was limping along, tended by a head janitor whose primary purpose was to serve as its nanny. Arrange for that man to retire, and the system would break down within weeks, requiring an evacuation of the more delicate bits of art.

Monday, April 10, 2017

IttyBittyFictionScraps: In which people move

So I posted an all-dialogue bit on the writing forum where I hang out, and there was a feeling from some people that occasionally a dialogue tag or even an action or a scrap of setting might be nice. So I wrote this. And once written, let's blog!

Joe ordered his third Howards End, drank it rapidly, and resumed drumming his fingers on the table. How could this have happened? What would they say? Would they ever forgive him?

“Wow, that’s a lot of glasses.”

Joe jolted out of his reverie and looked up at Alice. When did she get here? “Huh?”

She blinked. “A lot of… Nothing. What’s wrong?” She pulled out a chair and sat on the edge.

“You’re going to kill me.”


He took a deep breath. He grabbed the near-empty glass and slurped the last drops of ice-diluted blackberry vodka from the bottom. He kept on slurping long after the liquid was gone, and was reminded of those scenes in the movies where the traumatized character keeps on pulling the trigger on an empty gun. Click. Slurp. Slurp. Click.

“Joe!” Alice grabbed his shoulder and shook it slightly.

He put the glass down. “I lost the map.”

“Oh!” She released his shoulder. “Is that all?”

He stared. Wait. She wasn’t going to kill him? She always carried those knitting needles; he’d imagined himself being impaled, nailed to the chair. “What?”

“Well, it’s not as if I really believed that it led to treasure.” She air-quoted ‘treasure’. “It was just a fun thing.” She settled into her chair, hung her monstrous purse on its arm, and extracted her knitting. “No big deal.”

He kept on staring, and automatically reached for the glass again, but found to his surprise that he didn’t need its comfort. “Really?”

“Really.” She loosened a length of chartreuse angora. “Not a problem.”

“Is that how Stan is going to feel?”

“Oh.” She looked up, halting in the act of winding the yarn around the needle. “Oh.” The second ‘Oh’ was far deeper.

“He’s going to kill me, isn’t he?” He clutched the glass and started slurping again.

“Maybe you’d better run along. I’ll tell him.”