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Archive for December, 2014

Scouting Locations

I’m always on a lookout for places to set my stories or places to include in my writing. One summer as I drove home from New York, I spotted this large building in this small town. It totally dominated the cityscape and I couldn’t help but wonder what it was. My mind then went to, well, what if it was an abandoned building and some kids went exploring? I still haven’t used it, but it has never left my mind.

Sunday I went to the movies, to see The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. The movie theater is perched on the top of a mall. I keep calling it Richland Mall, but its changed its name so many times I have no idea what it’s called anymore. I first remember it back when it was an open air mall, u-shaped with some department store anchoring the bottom of the ‘u’. There was a Woolworth’s there and a bookstore. All that got torn down for the two-story mall and parking garage. The movie theater, a huge one-screen relocated to the top of the mall transforming into a multipex. None of the screens can compare to the one before. Since the remodeling I haven’t liked it anywhere near as before.

After the movie, wanting to do a little Christmas shopping, I descended down the escalator to the second floor. As I stood there looking for a way to get into Belks I thought: This place is creepy. From where I stood, there wasn’t a shop open. There wasn’t even a shop! A small sign, paper, had an arrow on it pointing to the Food Court and Barnes and Nobles, but no way did I want to go that way. Another, smaller sign, even less permanent contained a few initials. I’d heard a call center now lived in the mall, but I thought they moved out. Who knew what those initials stood for.

Later, as I returned to my car, and having seen all three stores that remained in the mall, I soaked up the creepy feeling, the emptyness, the old and left for dead feeling. I can put this place in a story, not a horror one although it’d be ripe for one. Not sure how I can use it yet, but I will be. It’s too perfect not to use.

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I’ve been wanting to get back into drawing so I picked up this book. It has 30 exercises that built up on one another. First you learn to draw an object and then put in details. I’m about half through now and find myself doing some of the exercises on whatever scrap piece of paper I find on me. It’s getting a little harder now, but, I tell myself, I’m only a beginner of course it’s not going to turn out that great. I’d recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn how to draw. I do have one negative comment though and it’s aimed at the publisher, North Light Books.

When I selected the book, what drew me right away was the splashy “All you need is a pencil” on the cover. My first thought was: I have a pencil. I have several in fact and I have paper, scrap paper itching to be used. I get home and at the first opportunity open the book to start reading. My pencil and paper are right at hand. I am ready to get started.  Before I can do, on page ten, on pages ten through seventeen really, is a list of what all I should have. Pencils, sketching and drawing pencils, mechanical pencils, woodless pencils, water soluble pencils, kneading erasers, sanding pad, stump, and an eraser template and more. I’m feeling overwhelmed here. I thought all I needed was a pencil. And where can I get these things, not that I will.

I thought about what if I had ordered this book for my library, for my kids? Dollar General and Family Dollar don’t sell those supplies. I don’t think Wal-Mart, if we had a Wal-Mart, does either.

Can you do the exercises without all those extra items? I’m chugging ahead without them. It’s probably one reason some exercises don’t turn out that well, but I’m going ahead, me and my one trusty pencil.

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Old Stories – Yuck

Finding myself with some time, I’ve decided to go through my old computer files and transfer those really, really, I mean really, old files to an up to date word document. Some of these were written on a Tandy machine and if you know computers, that’s old. I can’t even begin to tell you what word processing software I used.

In doing so I found my very first novel, which is also my second ever completed story. When I first transcribed the story from it’s beginnings in a notebook I used a typewriter. It was electric, but  it was a typewriter. Kinda tells you how old I am. I didn’t finish typing the story. I can see why too. Geez this is bad. Every beginner’s writing mistake is there in its glory. As I read it, I’m almost embarrassed to continue.

The gun felt warm in his hands. That’s how it starts. It is a mystery about a retired ski champion. If there is a case for writing about you know, this is it. I set it in England. Why? It sounded good. Have I been there? Yes for a week in London. The main character doesn’t go anywhere near London.

Despite it being so bad, it has its pluses. One, I actually finish it. Two, the ending isn’t so bad. I think. I’ve never gotten that far to read it because I get too bored to continue typing it in the computer. Three. I actually finished it. And for that alone, it has its pluses and I launched myself into become a writer and I’ve have grown, which leads to point four: I can see how far I’ve progressed as a writer.

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They were supposed to live in Austin, TX, a vibrant, big city where Truly’s cousin and uncles lived. They’d bought a house. Truly made plans for school. Her parents made plans too and all those plans disappeared when an IED exploded and her father, an Army pilot, lost an arm and his best friend.  Now Truly and her two brothers and two sisters, live in nowhere Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire. Her mother is back in school, her father, discouraged and down, manages the family’s bookstore with his sister, and Truly has failed math big time. Unhappy at the turn of events, things began to turn around when Truly finds an old, odd letter, which she and her new friends try to decipher.

By the title: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery, it sounds as if there are more mysteries in the offering and I, truly, hope there are. Truly is an engaging character, a very much alive person with ups and downs. Sometimes you get aggravated with her, but mostly you like her and her family and all the characters in the book, from little Pippa to Aunt Truly from the dog Miss Marple to Memphis the cat.

How the author dealt with the issue of Truly’s father adjusting to his new circumstances and interwove it in the story felt real. Little Pippa is shown scared of the hook he wears temporary and Mr. Lovejoy’s feelings as shown as he reacts to that fear.

One really got a feel for the little town of Pumpkin Falls although it did sound to me too small to have a college in it when all they have is a small school for K – 8 grade and only one class room for each grade. I don’t think kids will notice so that’s alright. This is a funny, touching mystery and all around good read.

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Dear Hamish,

Thank you for the additional pictures you sent of the fall harvest festival. Yes, I can just make out how it looked  before the lamb stampede. Thank you also for saving me sisters even though they did not deserve to be saved. Obviously, I did not tell them to dress like pumpkins. How Mum and Da can think that, I have no idea. And me here miles away in the colonies.

I enjoyed the video too as did Pawnee who wanted to upload it to YouTube. I told her she wouldn’t want her kind to be on it for all to see and neither did us Scottish Miniature Sheep. Ian wouldn’t like it either as he wasn’t supposed to be there. To see all the lambs running over to the twins thinking they were party sweets was quite funny. I saw you too, bits and pieces, a leg, a hoof, and an ear as you got trampled. Good thing they were just lambs and not grown sheep.

We have visited more parks since I last wrote. Chester State Park with a loch and boathouse. It was quite bonny and pretty with the fall foliage. We then visited the town of Chester. The person detoured for a peek in the library and found they sold some books a bag for a dollar. She was quite pleased.

The best place was Historic Brattonvilles. They had sheep! Aye, bonny ewes in a delicious pasture. Pawnee said the other sights, houses and that from the 1700, 1800’s were interesting too, but I stayed with the sheep and thought of home and the pasture.

Around here the colonists think 1700 is old. The croft in which I were born is from the early 1600’s and me granda’s croft is easy 1450 and the old house is late 1000’s.

I must go now. There is baking to be done for Christmas. The Easy Bake oven will be used nonstop for a few days.

From the colonies,

Your Friend.

Angus. McSheep.

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With the success of the rumballs behind me, I turn to the next cookie, Spritzgebaeck. You crank the dough through a grinder making shapes. Ive made it before, once, and it came out okay. No problem. As I write down the ingredients I come across a problem. Seems like I need like 500 grams of butter, but the butter doesn’t come in grams. It comes in sticks marked in tablespoons or teaspoons. Turns out I have trouble telling teaspoons and tablespoons apart especially if it’s abbreviated.

I get through the gram problem by using the scale in the kitchen. It’s all in grams and I can measure everything nicely on it. Ingredients obtained, I wait for the next day to create the dough and I when I start making and squishing all the butter, sugar, and what not together, it turns out they don’t like each other much and it crumbles. I squeeze and fold and finally get it in the fridge. When it’s cold, it’ll be better I think.

Not. I take the dough out early so it’ll warm up, which makes me think: why refrigerate the stuff if you have to get it all warm again? Not being a cooking guru, I take my Mom’s word for it and bolt the grinder to the table. I’m worried my mom will tipple over while she’s helping me as she is not steady on her legs, but how can I tell her to go and sit down? She’s been waiting to do cookies again for years.

The grinder comes with an attachment for a template that allows you to squish three different shapes, flat, star, and another flat. It’s like one of those playdough toys. I pack the dough in and discover if you pack in too much, it’ll squish right back out the top, and onto the floor. I will also find out you got to keep the dough packed inside or an air pocket will weaken your dough. And the dough has to be warm, which means more squishing of dough.

Squish, grind. Squish, pack it in, grind. It comes out in a line on a plate and my Mom cuts it out with a knife. I thought she’d use the oval cookie cutter she made me crawl in the cupboards to get. But she only measured the cookies with it for length. It’s slow going.

When my Mom tires out and I finally get her to sit in her chair, I continue, squishing, and packing it in, and grinding. Having a lazy nature, I forego the knife and just use the cookie cutter to measure and cut the dough in strips. Wow, what a difference. I’m cranking those babies out like nothing. It’s about this time I start thinking if we really needed to make the whole amount of dough. I mean, these are a lot of cookies. I mean, we still have Christmas cookies, store bought, from last year.

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