Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Icy Excursion

My husband and I went for a stroll in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park yesterday. Here's a covered bridge that you can find in the park:

It was pretty cold and we saw lots of icy crystals in interesting shapes:
and patterns:
You can find the remains of an old sandstone quarry in one part of the park. One of the quarry walls is in the background below. The stacked stones here, I think, are spalls - the parts that were trimmed off of larger blocks in the sizing process and left lying around:


Sharp crystals laced the tops of frozen ponds, streams, puddles and rivers:

Some tumbling blocks of Berea sandstone:

Sandstone steps leading nowhere in particular:

We didn't follow the steps today, maybe we'll go nowhere in particular some other day : )






Monday, January 25, 2010

Keeping the faith - some writerly advice

Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling and Fire, has a nice post up about keeping the faith while writing, even if you feel your manuscript is "a total mess".

She emphasizes that, yeah, your book might fail, but it definitely will fail if you quit writing it. She talks about faith and doubt, and how you can have both at the same time - give yourself permission to believe even as you have your doubts, and don't fail because you didn't work hard enough.

Only, she says it all so very much better. See her post here.

And talking about writing, I almost seem to jinx myself if I talk about my writing here. I'll throw caution to the wind, though, and say that I am indeed writing, and the story is coming along nicely so far.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Heading West

This summer my family and I will be loading up the pack mules and heading out west:

I suspect we'll be gone for a couple of weeks or so, visiting relatives and seeing sights.

These pictures are of Bryce Canyon. We took them on a trip we made out west five years ago.


This time we'll be further south. We'll be in Texas, New Mexico, and possibly Arizona.

The sights in those parts of the west are very different from the Bryce Canyon area in Utah. On our trip this summer, we'll be seeing things like White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, and lots of other interesting things.

I just wanted to warm up a bit and think ahead to summer and the hot, sunny southwest.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Reindeer People

This book just came in from my hold list at the library. I've read some excerpts online already - it's a captivating look, via an anthropological study, at the reindeer herders of Siberia.

Can't wait to crack it open today and sink into it. These people are descendents of the peoples who erected the reindeer stones in mongolia thousands of years ago when Mongolia still had the climate to support reindeer. Maybe that's why I like fantasy. I'm an anthropologist by training and sometimes, as evidenced in lore, myth and ancient religion, beliefs can often be quite fantastic - and fascinating. As, of course, can be what has happened to these peoples today.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Blackbringer, by Laini Taylor

This week I was going to start on a new story idea in earnest. I’ve begun gathering information, I have books on hold at the library for research purposes, I have websites bookmarked, I have some doodles and a few fragmentary elements jotted down. The whole process started over a year ago, maybe two, when I tagged some websites and wrote down a couple of ideas, but then it all sat, unlooked at, on my computer for a long time.

I dusted things off a week or so ago and started the wheels in motion again. I’ve been excited to sit down with books all around me, websites at my disposal, a pen and notebook in hand and begin the dreaming stage – when I sit and stare, read through various tomes, look up rosters of ancient names, and let things coalesce into the story that tugged at me, waiting to take form in the first place.

But then everything screeched to a halt. Why? Because a young adult fiction book that I had put on hold a few weeks ago finally came in at the library, and, like a fool, I began reading in on Sunday. I couldn’t put it down and all of my wonderful plans for starting my new story in earnest flew out the window on faerie wings – specifically on wings of the Faeries of Dreamdark.

The book in question is Laini Taylor’s Blackbringer, the first of now two books featuring the Faeries of Dreamdark.

Laini Taylor has one of those minds that can pull forgotten bits of lore from far flung places and twine them together with her own imagination to make something wonderful and deeply satisfying. The world she creates is solid and remarkable and her characters are unforgettable.

Blackbringer is the story of faerie lass, Magpie Windwitch, and her clan of crow friends. She is a bit remarkable, as faeries go, because she travels the world where most faeries stay in their forests. She also hunts devils, something that faeries used to do, but have forgotten all about. But she and her crow friends have learned something about the old days – the days of the devil wars – by traveling with her parents who find the lost, forgotten temples and read through their ancient libraries.

But not all devils are alike, it seems. When Magpie and her feathered friends come across evidence of some new kind of devil, unwittingly set loose from its prison, it’s nothing like they’ve ever encountered before. And Magpie must find the ones who trapped it all those millennia ago – if they even still exist – to see if it can be trapped again before this very old, very powerful force proves to be the unraveling of the world.

I’ve put the second Faeries of Dreamdark book, Silksinger, on hold at the library. I can’t wait for it to come in, and when it does, there’ll be another few days that my own story will be put on hold so that I can once again enter Magpie Windwitch’s adventurous world, and hopefully learn a thing or two about how to write a remarkable story.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A study in crystals

Get comfy and pull up a seat:


It was frosty as well as snowy this morning, so when I went out to replenish the bird feeder, I grabbed my camera to snap some frosty pictures. Click on any of the photos for a close-up view.

A crystal-encrusted tulip tree bud sleeping through the cold:

Thorns and frost:


I heard yesterday that all snowflakes are hexagons. Is that true for frost crystals too?:


It's a rare sunny day. Maybe I'll go out for a snowy adventure. Hope you're staying warm!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I found Narnia!

Aslan??


Oh. Wait... it's just my dog and the park next door.

But it FEELS like Narnia. Always winter...

One last word on my TruFocals (now called Superfocus)

(Edit: TruFocals are now called Superfocus) I recently received an email from someone who read my Trufocals posts. Here's what they said:

Hi,

I found your blog looking for some unbiased trufocals info. Considering a purchase myself but trying to get past the marketing hype before dropping that much money. Now that you have had them for awhile what is your opinion? Worth the $? Pros and cons?

Here is the email I sent back:

Here's what I think.

I've read through a few other reviews and I think that if you are a long-time, full-time wearer of glasses, Trufocals seem to work out very nicely. I wore glasses only for reading up until a few years ago when I began to need them for distance, too. I got bifocals and they worked very well for sitting in a college classroom and taking notes from the board during lectures (I was an older student working on a 2nd degree after raising a family). But I didn't wear them full time because I didn't like the sort of fish-bowl effect. I don't need glasses for driving yet, but I would wear my bifocals while shopping or at concerts or at museums, etc.

I didn't like having to tilt my head to read (anything, not just at the computer) with the bifocals, so I got a prescription pair of reading glasses for reading, computer work, and other close work. They were ground for computer work, so when reading books or newspapers, etc, I had to keep things at a bit of a distance, which wasn't always comfortable or cozy.

When I heard about Trufocals I decided to give them a try because I figured they would take care of having to keep things at a distance, and I would need only one pair of glasses instead of one pair of bifocals and one pair of prescription reading glasses. And the Trufocals work very well for that purpose for me. I can hold books at whatever distance is comfortable, whether I'm at a table, in a cozy chair, or sitting up in bed. I can hold my knitting at a comfortable distance too, and everything's in sharp focus. I must say, though, that while wearing them shopping, etc., using them for distance, things are still a bit fish-bowly. And that's where I think full-time eyeglass wearers may not be bothered because I guess they might be used to that effect in eyewear. Not having ever really worn glasses full-time, that effect still bothers me, even with the Trufocals.

They are pretty amazing, though. You can focus and see things extremely clearly and it's so gratifying to be able to read really small print, or zoom from the newspaper in front of you over to the little time display on the thermostat on a wall and read the time clearly.

I have to say that maybe they work a little too well. Sometimes I catch myself re-focusing from the top half of a page in a book to the bottom half because the focusing is so minute that even over that tiny change in distance, you will notice that things change in sharpness and a re-focus adjustment will sharpen things up. And then of course you re-focus again when you reach the top of the next page. I think that behavior is a function of being spoiled by being able to have everything in such crisp focus, and when it's not exactly crisp, you reach up for that little slider to adjust things.

They are very pricey, though. But purchasing a pair of bifocals and a pair of prescription reading glasses can be expensive too. And last summer I found that regular sunglasses were not working very well anymore because they made things a little blurry for me. Add a pair of prescription sunglasses and the cost of those three pair of glasses will be comparable to the cost of a pair of Trufocals, even with the added expense of the tinted lenses. Still, I think you could probably do the three pairs for just a little less than the Trufocals if you played your cards right and shopped around.

One more thing. Each of my eyes is a little different prescription-wise, which I think is probably true for most people. As the prescription for my reading glasses got stronger over the years, I could tell that each lens was a little different and didn't always make what I was seeing on the page exactly the same focus-wise or size-wise in each eye - just by minuscule amounts, but it's something that I've noticed over the years. I am here to tell you that it is the same with the Trufocals. In fact, I sometimes have a bit of trouble focusing because when you get in the range of sharp focus, it seems that the two eyes never quite meet up. A small adjustment of the slider to the left and my left eye's focus is sharp, but the right eye isn't quite there. A slight adjustment to the right and the right eye's focus is crystal clear, but the left is now just slightly off. It seems that I can't quite hit that golden place where both are right on the sharp spot. But then again, it was the same story with my prescription readers. And it's on a minuscule scale - but I do notice it.

Hope this was helpful. There is that 30 day trial. You can always send the things back if you don't like them. But it's a big decision. Good luck to you!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Breaks

There have been a lot of breaks around here lately:

  • Winter Break, from school
  • Elbow Break, my son's (a slip & fall accident)
  • Thumb Break, my daughter's (a shut-in-the-car-door accident)
  • Sunshine Break (nothing but clouds and snow for us lately)

This has lead me to consider another break - a small one from blogging. Not a bleak, no blogging break. More of a blogging slow-down. With a newly re-built computer gracing the desk in the office room of our house, I'm trying to get back into my writing. In order to do that, I need to concentrate on the blank page and not my blog page.

So, I'll still be posting, but perhaps not quite as often. If there is a real dearth of posts, you'll know my writing is going well. If I'm posting fairly regularly, then tell me to get back to writing!!

I'm leaving you with a picture my husband took over the holidays. I know Christmas is over, but I really liked this picture of our quaint little downtown on a snowy night just after Christmas:



I'm sure I'll be in touch again soon!

Saturday, January 2, 2010