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Crafty Cool


5 geek craft projects to make your own

The best way to justify a day in front of Netflix is to be knitting/sewing/making while you do it. Instant ‘I’m being productive’ vibes, while you binge so many shows that the plots get confused. Were the clones in Orange Is the New Black, or Orphan Black? Was I just crying at Riverdale or the Vampire Diaries?

Bonus: make people stuff & they think you’re clever and creative. It’s quicker & cheaper to knit up a zombie hat than it is to attend university.

So, today I bring you the very best in knit & crochet fandom. You’re welcome ;-).

1. Knit your own Death Star

The one time you want holes in your knitting, or else how will the rebels get in?
This pattern from Nicole Kostelec is free on Ravelry, aka the best knitting site around.

2. Hook up with the Firefly crew

Behold the cuteness of Lucy Collin’s Firefly amigurumi! Why not buy the patterns from Etsy here, make all of them and send them to me. Please. I can crochet but I’m too lazy. I also love her Adventure Time cuties.

3. Fake a Futurama face

In the future, we won’t need Zoidberg costumes because the sea-levels will have risen and it’ll be ‘Evolve or Die’. Finally us humans will have our own tentacley crustacea thing going on. Til then, why not knit this Zoidberg balaclava and mittens? They’ll call you futuristic. They’ll be right.

4. Bring Your Own Brains

Pessimists among you may dispute my ‘in the future we’ll all have gills’ theory. Perhaps you think it more likely that a zombie plague will wipe us out before we get to evolve to Zoidberg heights. Knit yourself a zombie brraaiins hat and go to war against the zoidberg-balaclava people. Fight! Fight! Fight!

5. Dream with Doctor Who

Me, I’m a pacifist, more about the theorising than the fisticuffs, so I won’t get involved in the dispute. I’ll be at home, snuggled under my Doctor Who quilt. Night night. Sweet dreams.

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NANOWRIMO jealousy

revision supplies, bright stationery and writer toys

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I have a Twitter friend who is also revising her novel & we’ve been watching wistfully, noses pressed against the window, while others get to do The Fun Part, aka NANOWRIMO, aka just writing with abandon & making new things every day & getting to hit tangible word count goals, fingers flying & beams beaming and sentences running on, long and lovely like this one, because they don’t have to be well behaved & polished yet, la la just do it la.

Revision & editing, on the other hand, are slow and laborious chores, & neither of us have faith that what we’re working on is going to be worth it.

We’ve swapped some DMs to be mutually supportive, & today I’m taking my reply public, in case any others in Edit Land find it useful. And so I can get my daily dose of procrastination before I open Scrivener…

Yes, Twitter Friend, there is an argument for giving a misbehaving novel a cut-off point, by which time it must behave or be abandoned. But I have a Maggie Stiefvater quote pinned above my desk which says that the ones who make it are the ones who keep going:

…even if they know that this novel is not the one that will be good enough to get published, because they know that practice is the only way to get to the one that will be good enough to be published

I’ve kept going on this damn novel because I think the experience of finishing it, with all its knots & tangles, will teach me something valuable, even if no one ever reads it but me.

But, hey, I don’t know what you’re working on & it’s also true that Laini Taylor only wrote Daughter of Smoke and Bone when she gave up on the Sci Fi project she was supposed to be finishing instead. I don’t want stoicism to stop us writing our own DOSABs!

Yes, Twitter Friend, I do have editing/revising resources I use. They are Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel, the questionnaire in Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel Workbook, & the section on edits in Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k.

Holly’s course is massive & takes months, It’s also marvellous, but I suspect you don’t want to dwell that long on your project so check out the others if you haven’t yet – Rachel’s is fastest, Maass’s is medium.

A mix of these methods has left me with a Revision To Do list in Excel, full of promises that if I ‘just’ do those things (make X younger, foreshadow Y, make the flea market a cafe), this novel will be better.

I’ve spent too long trying to figure out which thing on the list to do next. Which one will be the cleverest, the most sensible, the one I with the smallest rubiks cube effect, where one scene is now perfect but it’s made a knock-on mess of all the other ones. Which action will make me happiest, fastest?

It’s become an excuse that freezes me. So I’m just going to pick one. Here it is:

Block out the moves & drama & consequences of the very last scene. What precise ways does the threat manifest, and how exactly is it defeated? Then I can foreshadow that in the previous scenes.

The other thing I’m going to do is *actually write* version 2 of the scene. I’ve been leaving a lot of notes for Future Me about what to do to improve things. But I haven’t been doing those things, just imagining how good/bad (depending on my self esteem weather-vane) the eventual scene will be when I do. Time to do more writing than planning, Rhian.

Has writing this post been procrastination? Kinda. Is it wonderful to get to start & finish & share something, even just an imperfect 500 word blog post? YUP!

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Editing The Dream Feeders

A witchy bar in the mountains of Switzerland

Found this witchy bar in the mountains of Switzerland

Edits & self-doubt

I cautiously went back to my Dream Feeders edits this week, after 5 months away. That’s how long it took to go near it without flinching. Even after reopening the Scrivener project, it took 3 days for me to actually look at the contents.

And…

I think it’s going to be alright. I think I’m going to be alright. I think I can finish this without going mad. Maybe?

With fresh eyes, and a rested brain, this feels manageable. Big, and complicated, but not beyond my reach.

I can see how i got tangled up – the start of my edits list makes sense, and my optimism grew while reading it. ‘Hey, this might be more than just finishable, it might even be good!’

Then, blam! kerpow! my notes-to-self turn into a black lump of confusion & lostness, & I’m not surprised I ran away. I might just delete those notes, rather than try to unpick what I was trying & get trapped in the same messy worries as last time. Bravo, self-doubt, you did a tremendous job.

Reading: Borne, by Jeff Vandermeer

borne by jeff vandermeer, illustration by keith negley

Borne illustration by Keith Negley

I chose a Jeff Vandermeer novel for my holiday read, because I always get gripped & absorbed and can read for hours. I hate airports and there was a 4 hour train journey to follow the flight, so I took Borne.

I hadn’t factored in how creepy his stuff is though, & forgot that sometimes I’m obsessively page-turning Vandermeer stuff because I’m too terrified to look away.

So my holiday reading experience was an odd mix of stunning Swiss scenery past the windows – model villages, alpine flowers, snow topped mountains – and Vandermeer’s warped, dark-tech version of the future in my e-reader, alive with mutant children and giant, flying bears.

I finished reading on the midnight coach from Heathrow, and without spoilering I’ll just say that the shadowy, slippery landscape & lights of a late-night motorway (combined with very little sleep) was a suitably eerie backdrop.

Verdict: do read it (I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads), but maybe not in the dark…

Borne print (& other cool illustrations) available from Keith Negley at Society6

Writing advice I liked this week

The creative process will always have downs. It’s part of the cycle. Everyone gets them, and it doesn’t mean you are failing. The next part of the cycle will come along soon if you just keep going.

That’s my paraphrasing of Joanna Penn’s interview with David Kadavy on the Creative Penn podcast:

Joanna: ‘It happens every time and you have to go through that part…it is a cycle…this creative process, it has these stages and it’s not like you can skip any… One of those stages is fear and anxiety and it seems to happen wherever you are on the journey unless perhaps, you’re a sociopath.’

David: Yeah. ‘And if you are, then hey, go for it.’

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Summer stories: fantasy and science fiction podcasts

girl on a hazy sunny day needs a fantasy or science fiction podcast to listen to

It’s never too hot to read.

But it *is* hellmouth hot here in the UK right now. What’s a slightly sweaty, story-starved girl to do?

Sure, you could lug a book to the park. Will there be room in your bag, though, once you’ve packed your your sun hat, water & Chocolate Salted Caramel Booja Booja ice-cream?

(My hardback of Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor is making sad-eyes at me right now. “Why won’t you read me? I’m so pretty! And you can bet I’m full of beautiful words!” Because you’re too big, my darling, and I am too lazy to carry you around when my slim kindle has lots of tiny books in it (plus I know you’ll slay me with your perfect sentences and some brand new flavour of heartache, damn you Taylor).)

Sure, you could take your kindle/ipad to the beach. Get ready to knock the screen up to full brightness, though, & watch out for seagulls who’ll think it’s a yummy snack to swoop on.

OR: just lie back on your picnic blanket, in your sunglasses and high SPF, & let someone tell you stories instead? Keep your hands free for making daisy-chains & holding elegant parasols.

Here are 3 podcasts** to listen to from your lawn, and a bonus playlist of songs I associate with being hot. I wish it was a cool relaxing beach-chill mix you could impress your smooth friends with while eating sophisticated gelato, sorry, but blasting noisy 90s alt guitar bands while dunking chips in mayonnaise is more authentically me.

Happy summering!

My three top fantasy and science fiction short story podcasts

  1. Lightspeed I’ve probably mentioned this one before, right? Four new fantasy or science fiction short stories every month. Always fabulously narrated. You can listen to all the stories from year one as an audiobook, too.
  2. Starship Sofa Short SF stories, genre chat & the finest example of a Geordie accent you’ll ever hear. Tony’s enthusiasm always cheers me up, and the stories are top notch.
  3. Far-fetched Fables A fantasy slanted sister show to Starship Sofa. Both shows are part of the District of Wonders stable, who have a patreon set up to fund paying their writers & narrators, aka paying people for the new worlds, characters and stories we love. Definitely something to support!

My noisy summery playlist

*I’m averaging at least two tubs a week right now. What? Vegan means good for you, right? 😉

** I use the free Overcast app to listen to podcasts, because it links to Twitter and tells you what your friends there are listening to. It’s got ‘smart speed’ and ‘voice boost’ settings which improve how shows sound, too. iphone/ipad only, though).

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