Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Inspire: Wheel of Fortune

I had the opportunity last week to be a part of a guided meditation.  I actually did the trance drumming.  During the meditation, tarot cards were handed out to represent the journey and inner conflicts that we were going to be working on.  As I was drumming, I didn’t take a physical card but one popped into my head.  It was the Wheel of Fortune.
From Tarot.com, the Fenestra Deck
As some of you may already know, my life tends to be cyclical.  I will be riding high and things will be going great, then they will fall down around my ears.  It’s much better now than it used to be.  Now I just get into slumps where nothing gets done.  I used to play hermit after every major event dealing with other people.

The Wheel of Fortune doesn’t refer to the TV show or just good luck.  It refers, instead, to the ups and downs that everyone goes through.  You can rise only to fall back down.  But the center stays the same.  One of the quick ways to explain it is:  Learn to go with the flow without resisting its ups and downs.

What did I learn from this?  I learned that even though I’m in a down period doesn’t mean I will stay there.  When I recognize that I am on the down swing, it helps me return to the upswing instead of wallowing.  If I can recognize it and work past it, maybe someday I will reside in the center and be sure in myself. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Create: An Arsenal

By now, dear readers, you should remember that I have a wonderful son running around my house.  As he was growing up, I thought I could take the high road and keep him from playing with guns and pretending to kill things.  That didn't last for very long and now, at the age of eleven, he has a whole arsenal of nerf guns, swords, and crossbows. 

Being a boy (and a child in general), his room is a mess.  Being a Magic: the Gathering player, the carpet in his room is typically Magic cards.  I've recently introduced the notion that if you don't take care of your cards, you don't get any more.  That has cleaned up the cards, but the weapons tend to stay scattered. 

How do you manage to keep weapons picked up when they are odd shapes?  You make an arsenal.

I just bought this wire shelving as a place for him to keep baskets of toys and other bits and pieces scattered across his room.  I picked this wire shelving because it allowed me to put hooks through it.  On the hooks hang the the guns.

The kiddo is spending the weekend picking up his room and making it look nice.  I think that just having the guns hanging up makes a big difference in his room. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Write: The Jewel Heist

Jasmine grinned as the rent-a-cops came around the corner.  She gave them the finger and took off running.  Flashlights flickered over the exhibit, but she was already gone.  Jasmine ducked into a service stairwell and climbed up to the roof.  Heavy feet tromped after her, but she had a head start and knew where she was going.

She hit the door to the roof at a run and let it clang against the wall.  Her steps barely slowed on the slippery gravel roof and she threw herself into the open door of the helicopter.  Jared slammed it shut behind her and in moments they were air-born.  The shouts of the guards behind her faded away in the hum from the helicopter blades.

Jared slammed a pair of ear phones on her head and dragged her into a seat.  "Did you get it?"

Jasmine laughed and nodded, still catching her breath.  She dug into her bag and pulled out a cloth pouch.  Inside it was nestled a glowing ruby the size of her fist.  Every facet of the jewel was carved with arcane symbols that twisted in it's own light.  "Of course I got it.  Now let's go set the Master free."

The other two grinned with relief as the helicopter headed north.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inspire: What about the Bad Guy?

I'm always a sucker for a bad guy who decides to do something good.  I loved playing Shadowrun because we got to be criminals as well as degenerates and anti-heroes.  A good bad guy is hard to find. 

Most movies have them as completely evil, or completely bumbling, ordering knee caps taken out by incompetent underlings who fall down stairs.  That's always good comedy relief, but how good is the good guy if he doesn't have a good bad guy?

Superheroes tend to bug me because everything is white and black, good and evil.  There's no middle ground with Superman or Spiderman.  Where is the moral dilemma?  What makes the good guy really good if you can't see him/her stretch her mind and actually think about what they are doing?

Dr. Horrible is one of my favorite bad guys.  Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog follows his rise to evildom from his point of view.  To him, he is saving the world, keeping it from the evil that is society.  The good guy in the movie, Captain Hammer, feels like he is the bad guy.  He has a white/black point of view, and is seriously shallow, and does what a hero does - kicks the crap out of the bad guy and steals his girl. 

Bad guys are just like everyone else.  They have a skill, they use it.  The Transporter is a bad guy, but he kicks the really bad guys' butts.  Jet Li in Romeo Must Die is a bad guy, but he does it to revenge his brother's murder.  Bad guys have motives, lives, and feelings just like every other character.  Stories wouldn't be as good without a bad guy, happy endings wouldn't happen without a bad guy.

So let's give a cheer to the bad guys that make it all entertaining.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Create: What does a Princess need? Cat Ears!

My sister is definitely not a fainting princess.  And being my sister, she loves anime - more than I did at that age!  Then again, I was stuck with Tenchi and Ranma 1/2.  She has things like Bleach and InuYasha.  It goes without saying that my sister is in love with a demon animated character. 

What does an anime loving teenager need more than anything else?  Cat ears!

My sister's birthday is on Wednesday, she turns 17.  Can you believe that?  At some point I'll have to stop thinking of her as a little kiddo.  I have a habit of creating at least one item, if not all, of her birthday gift.  I decided that I'd make her cat ears.  I found this tutorial and found it worked pretty well.  I think I might make some other ones this weekend with different material.

For this, I wrapped ribbon around the metal headband to make it match the color of the ears and look like more than a metal band.  My new friend the hot glue gun helped.  I seriously don't know how I crafted without him before.

Then I added the ears, twisted it oddly, and folded over the bottom and glued that to the band.  I think she'll like them.  And if not, I have my halloween costume picked out. :)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Write: The Princess is Gone

The tavern door opened and in stepped a young man.  His hair was wind blown and wet from the pump in the front yard.  His clothes were travel worn.  The man's dark eyes darted across the room and caught Corinna staring at him.  Only then did Corinna remember to drop her gaze back to trestle table in front of her.  She didn't want to draw anymore attention than she had to.

A thunk on the other side of the table caused her to jump, pulling her elbows off the sticky surface.  Settling into the bench across from her was the traveler.  He gave her a fleeting smile.  Corinna swallowed as she made out the insignia on his jacket marking him as a member of the House Royal of Montmallet. 

The serving girl returned with Corinna's dinner of Shepard's Pie and a glass of milk, saving her from having to greet the newcomer.  The serving girl gave the man a long look and stood half protectively over Corinna.  Corinna tried to hide the holes in her sleeves from her fight with the blackberry bush as she picked up a fork.  Compared to the serving girl, Corinna was in a horrible mess.  Her dress was dirty and she didn't think she would ever get the tangles out of her hair. The serving girl had offered her a room and a bath for free tonight and Corinna didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that generous offer.

"What can I get you, sir?"  The serving girls voice wasn't nearly as kind as when she had welcomed in the travel-stained woman.

"You can tell me what is going on here," he replied in frustration.  "I traveled this far to help rescue a princess.  When I got to the tower, there was nothing but empty stone rooms.  If she was rescued, why isn't Bengary celebrating?  If she never existed, why are princes from every surrounding country out trying to find her?"

He seemed honestly confused by the situation, and Corinna couldn't blame him for it.  The girl even relaxed her stance against him and glanced at Corinna.  She fidgeted with her apron for a moment before answering.  "The word is that the dragon got loose and ate the wizard and the princess and went flying off."

"But then why isn't the country in mourning?"

"Oh, it is."  The serving girl fidgeted again.  "But nothing is certain.  There is some who think that the dragon stole the princess away."

"Then I must go find and slay the dragon!"  The prince stood up only to loose his balance as his the back of his knees hit the bench.

"Oh sit down," Corinna snapped, dropping her fork back into the pie.  The girl and prince both stared at her as she crossed her abused hands over her stomach.  "The dragon didn't take off with the princess and don't you dare go hurt that beast.  She was spelled and tortured into helping that horrible wizard and left as soon as he was dead."

The prince sat back down, smoothing out his tunic.  He frowned at Corinna and the girl put a hand on her shoulder.  "How do you know this, young lady?  You look like you've been traveling as much as I."

"Not that much.  Just from a tower to a castle to here."  Corinna muttered.  She looked back up at the prince and met his gaze.  "I am the Princess Corinna, and I rescued myself.  I loosened the bonds holding me and kicked the wizard between the legs.  He lost his concentration and the dragon freed herself from his magical bonds and ate him.  She went home to her family and so did I."  Corinna sniffed and looked around the room to find all eyes were on her.  "I went home and was kicked out for the crime of defending myself.  My parents didn't want to explain to all those princes who had traveled so far that they weren't needed."

The prince stared, open-mouthed, at the princess.  At the end of her speech, he rested his chin on a fist, elbow propped on the table.  His dark eyes looked her over and nodded slowly.  "I can see how that would be a difficult situation."  He cleared his throat, "I suppose that I should be returning home then as there is no need for me."

Corinna nodded and turned her eyes down to her dinner but the prince grinned and lifted her chin with a finger.  "If you happen to be heading toward Montmallet, I could offer you the use of my second horse.  A gift from one fighter to another."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inspire: Don't Save The Princess!

I like to believe that one of the reasons I never finished the Nintendo Mario game was that I thought the princess sucked.  You go through all those levels just to be told by the same toadstool that she's in another castle.  Couldn't someone have given the plumber better advice?  Couldn't the princess get away herself?
The Princess is in another castle!
I've never been a big fan of rescuing princesses, or princes.  The fainting, the weakness, not my thing.  I like my damsels to be distressing their captors, raising hell, and giving the bad guys more to worry about than just the hero.  I want the captive to be tied up because they kicked the captor in the balls.  I want the person saved to be a help escaping, not a hindrance.

And I want that toadstool to tell me where the princess is!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Create: Keeping up with the Plastic

Whew.  Finally got INTO Blogger.  It was down all morning.  This late post isn't, finally, not my fault. ;)

In my quest to reduce the amount of plastic and individual use items I throw away, I decided to finally make a plastic bag dryer.  I had a great one in my last apartment, made of skewers sticking out of a clay base.  But it broke somewhere or we stopped using plastic bags, I can't remember, but it didn't make the move with us.

I have been using the edges on my dish drainer to stick my bags on, the prongs where I assume you are supposed to put cups.  However, in an effort to declutter my kitchen, I took the drainer off my counter.  Hopefully it will force me to dry and put away my dishes immediately rather than letting them sit there forever.  But the change left me without a place to put my bags!

I thought I would make another clay based stand or some other intricate contraption I could share with you.  Then I started poking around on the internet and realized I was trying to complicate the thing.  Why not just grab a jar, fill it with rocks, and put in my sticks?

I guess I have to complicate it somehow, so I pulled out my glue gun and hemp to make the jar pretty. I had used the same technique on cans used in my craft fair stand last November.

I laid down a line of glue and stuck my thick hemp right on the jar.  Following the line, I glued and wrapped the cord around four or five times.
It turned out well, but I think I might go back this weekend and trade out the glass jar for a can again.  But if I do that, you can't see the pretty rocks I put in it!

It felt good to have a reason to use those.  They've only moved a couple times with me...

At last, I have a dedicated dryer for my bags.  I have no reason not to wash them now, and I can stick the thing in a corner when I'm not using it.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Write: A Sidewalk Hero

"Help!  He stole my purse!"

John looked up as the woman screamed down the block.  Only a few people were present on his side of the street, one of them a hysterical woman trying to job in high heels, the other a scuzzy guy barely into his twenties running towards the stoop John sat on.  Clutched to the runners chest was a bright pink handbag that probably cost more than John saw all year.

John rubbed a hand over his unshaven cheeks and sized up the runner.  He wore a torn and dirty hoodie that didn't do much to hide his stick thin frame.  The hood was pulled up over his ragged blond hair.  Black sunglasses tried to hide most of his face.  What wasn't hidden was as dirty as his clothes - black smudges and sores played connect the dots on his tan skin.  He ran like his life depended on it, and judging from the situation, it might.

John stood up suddenly, lunging forward with his arms outstretched.  The runner yelled as John caught hold of his hoodie, jerking him out of his momentum.  The stench of unwashed clothes almost convinced John that the runner needed the money more than he did.  John's eyes were watering as he knocked them both to the ground. 

They wrestled for control of the bag for only a few moments.  The runner gave up and rolled off of John, leaping up to his feet and beating it.  He was more concerned with fleeing than keeping the stolen property.  John lay on the sidewalk relearning to breath.  The pink purse was clutched to his chest.

The click-clack of heels entered his consciousness and the lady appeared upside down above him.  John held up the purse and she smiled at him.  The scent of her expensive perfume mixed with the stench leftover from the runner and suddenly John didn't want to breath anymore.

"Thank you so much, mister!  You are so brave."  She gushed.  "I don't know what I would have done without you."

John stood up slowly to the dying applause of the few witnesses to his heroic act.  He rubbed his short hair and winced at a bump on the back of his head.  "You're welcome, lady.  We were just lucky he ran right by me."

She smiled at him again, a brilliant flash of white teeth.  "Very lucky!  Well, thanks again.  I can't say how much it means to me."  She waved at him, painted pink nails in a blur.  She turned on a heel and headed back to wherever she had been going.

John watched her for a moment, waiting for her to turn around again.  When it was clear she was gone, John sighed and got up slowly.  He stretched and winced at the few bruises he had acquired.  Reaching into his pocket, he grinned to himself and looked over the wad of cash he had grabbed from the purse.  None of the bills was under a twenty.  John chuckled and perched back on his stoop.  "Good thing I rewarded myself.  She forgot to."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Inspire: "But I didn't mean to save the world..."

I love anti-heroes. 
I love the grit, the 'hell with it' attitudes, the cigarette smoke, and the cheap bars. I love the inner conflict and the way they reluctantly save the day. None of them plan on going out and saving the day. None of them want to be the big, damn hero. After the world is saved, they disappear back into the sleazy bar they came from.

Maybe my love for the anti-hero comes from my years of playing Shadowrun, a cyberpunk roleplaying game where the characters are hired to do (mostly) illegal jobs in the Shadows. Cyberpunk is a genre filled with anti-heroes. The characters tend to be addicted to something, down to their last cigarette, and for hire by anyone who can pay. But I think I've always just loved the bastards.

In Supernatural, Sam and Dean Winchester save the world from one motel room to another. (Seriously, do they expect us to believe those nifty hotel rooms really exist? Where are they when I travel?) They aren't licensed or paid anything and are in trouble with the law more often than not, but they get the job done.

In Sandman Slim, the guy escapes from Hell not to save the world, but for revenge. Along the way, he keeps the world from falling apart.

Harry Dresden, in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, does what he does because he has to. The authorities are always waiting for him to take one step out of line so they can smack him down, but he keeps going.

Howard, from Howard the Duck, was just a duck who gave up his dreams and got a desk job. Then he got pulled across the universe and had to stop a race of demon beings from taking over the world.

The anti-hero embodies the fight within us all to put aside our crappy problems and to rise above it. They give me hope that even in my worst moments, even if everything in my life goes down the river, I will be able to become the best person I can. There is a quote from Franz Kafka that embodies it all:

“No people sing with such pure voices as those that live in deepest hell; what we take for the song of angels is their song.”

Friday, May 6, 2011

Create: A Book or Two

One of my favorite new crafts is making books.  If you have been following this blog long, you may know that by now!  :)  You may also know that I am a terrible hoarder when it comes to paper.  Some day I will make it to the hardware store and get screen so I can make my own.  Then it will all be worth saving when I make it into new paper, mwahaha... ahem. 

One of the easiest ways to reuse paper, or envelopes, that have only been printed on one side is to cut them up and staple them together.  Tadaa, you have a notepad.  But one of the downsides is that you have to work around the staple.  I make my notepads at work kind of thick so I don't have so many laying around.  The staple always annoys me.  I have to bend the pages around it, hold it open, and then it won't lay flat when I'm done with it. 

I decided to take my elmer's glue to work and make my own, easy notepads.

It could be the (second) easiest way to make a notepad, but it does take some time.  You have to line up the pages, clip them together, brush on the glue, wait for it to dry, add more glue, wait, more glue, wait, etc, up until you get the nice binding that you want.  I only used a few layers on these notebooks but made it pretty thick each time. 

I use binder clips to hold them together and add a piece of cardboard (the thicker the better) along the edge to be glued.  Keep the cardboard back from the edge just a bit or it will become glued to the pad and you may loose a few pages when you take it off. 

You could cut a piece to size and glue it to the notepad as a backing, if you wanted to.

I'm off to enjoy my new, no staple, notepad.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Noumenia: A New Month

It's hard to believe another month has gone by so quickly. 

I'm pretty much out of my funk from last month.  I descended into a different one, but now I feel more calm and on top of my projects.  I spent some time on Monday going over all my commitments and projects and outlining a way to get them done.

I'm still heading on some ambitious time lines, but it puts me in the right direction for where I want to be with my writing.  Now I just have to reign in my crafting ideas!

I took a few steps towards being a 'real' poet and signed up for the Iowa Poetry Association.  I also attended one of their workshops this past week.  We were supposed to send in a poem we were having problems with.  I sent in one that I couldn't get into editing because I couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong - not that I thought it was a good poem, I just couldn't figure out where I was going wrong.  The feedback I received was good.  I hadn't thought of what they said and I can apply the feedback to a number of my poems now.  I just need to sit down with my editing hat on.

I hope your month ends and begins well.  I'm still waiting for the warm weather!

Write: The Van to Hell

"He's late."

"He is always late, Rocky.  He will be here."  Lily glanced at the demon in the driver's seat and continued to watch the road.  Her hands were deep in her coat pockets as she contemplated the morning traffic past the parking lot.

Rocky sighed at her indifference and slumped further down in the drivers seat.  He glared at the succubus for a moment, but it wasn't the thin blondes fault his morning was going crappy.  Anxious fingers danced over the steering wheel of the parked car as he went back to scanning the light at the corner.  "If he's not here in five minutes, we're driving ourselves."

Lily just blinked blue eyes at Rocky, slightly smiling at his impatience.  He frowned at her and folded his arms over his chest, causing his suit jacket to strain at the shoulders.  "At least we have enough time once we get dropped off that we won't be late.  Some of the others aren't so lucky."  Lily nodded out the window to a demon chewing on his tail between glances at his watch.

Lily had been riding the vanpool to work for over two years.  It was much better than driving the long distance out of town every day herself.  She had driven for a month after getting her job and the commute almost killed her.  An extra ten minutes waiting for their seasoned driver was an annoyance, but much better than the alternative.

Rocky had been riding just a little longer than Lily and still got agitated about the time.  He was only thirty years old but hoarded his time like an old man.  His short brown hair reflected his no nonsense style.  Lily wasn't sure he even had to brush the short strands.

"Finally."  Rocky sighed with relief and checked the clock as he saw the fifteen passenger van pull up to the stop light.  6:54 am.  The van was four minutes late.  Rocky climbed out and pulled his bag from the backseat.  On the passenger side, Lily did the same, adjusting the fall of her knee length coat and skirt.

The van pulled up in a flash of garish colors.  Hell Express was written across the side in flaming letters. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Inspire: A Story A Day Keeps the Crazy Away

Yesterday was the first day in the Story A Day Challenge.  The challenge?  To write a story a day, complete and done, every day in May.  It's like a short story version of NaNoWriMo.

Yesterday I finished off a flash fiction piece.  Today, I haven't written yet since I am driving myself into work.  It's only the second day and I feel I might be overwhelmed.  But then I remind myself, I've done it before.  I've written thousands of words per day when I wrote for NaNoWriMo.  This month, however, I don't want to push everything aside to write every day.  So I may end up with a lot of flash fiction.  That's fine to me, as they are short little snippets that I can always expand on in the future.

Why am I going to do Story A Day?  Because I need goals.  I want to write some short stories that don't always have to evolve into a longer one.  Every time I get an idea, I think wow, I could turn that into a novel!  It doesn't leave me anything short and sweet to submit to a magazine or publication.  It doesn't give me other ideas to explore when my longer pieces have me at my wits end.

Will I be writing a story a day?  Probably not.  I plan on workday pieces and maybe one longer piece on the weekends.  I'm hoping this will keep me from sitting on the couch watching tv every night.  (Netflix is evil). 

I'm excited to get to try out new ideas, new ways of writing, and new points of views.  This month I'm going to experiment and not kick myself if I don't write something good.

Welcome to May!