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Archive for January, 2016

Last week I checked out a book by Robert Westall. The copyright: 1977. Despite its age, the prose didn’t show it and it could have been a historical novel set in 1977 rather than written in 1977. Good writing is good writing. Reading the book I started thinking of authors I’ve read whose work I don’t see in the libraries anymore, or, at least not many libraries. Patricia Beatty, Alistair MacLean…

I used to devour novels from Alistair MacLean. He wrote adventure, mystery, war novels such as The Guns of Navaronne, Ice Station Zebra, and The Way to Dusty Death. The latter is difficult to find, but I have it.

And what about Phyllis Whitney? She wrote mysteries for adults and young adults. I also have some of her mysteries and loath to give them away because I can’t find them in the library.

There are so many now deceased, good authors out there whose books are disappearing from library shelves. How will new readers discover them? Some titles are now available as e-books so I hope they get rediscovered, but it’s sad.

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I talk to my sister every weekend, on Sundays morning. We relate what we’ve done that week and what we plan to do the next week. More often than not, she tells of busy weekends, mowing the lawn and working in the garden and putting decorations up, or down, or something.

Last Sunday I asked her: Do you ever do anything for fun? She said she planned to build a weekend in each month for an activity such as taking a road trip. Schedule it in? Why not just do it? No way could I work all the time without my ‘fun’ time’.

This might not be such a big deal. I’m here in South Carolina and she’s there in Texas, but we thought to consolidate households later on to save money. I could see my fun time dwindling. Yet we somehow made it work before when we lived in Houston and we better make it work because I’m not spending my weekends doing chores and what not. I need recharge time, a time to have, well, fun.

That’s not to say that’s all I do – have fun. I’ve found I’m pretty busy and I’m never done. Also, some of what I do for fun isn’t what people consider fun, but it is to me. Sad to say, somethings I do for fun, writing and drawing, working on my day trips (which I plan to convert to a workshop) look pretty much like I’m doing nothing. I feel as if I have to convince people that this is work (but it’s also fun).

My sister says she does all the house chores on the weekend because she has no time and no energy on the weekdays. That’s true, she does work hard. She’s an engineer and goes out to job sites sometimes driving two-three hours each way. Working at school wasn’t easy either, but I did do chores on the weekdays mainly because I didn’t want to do on the weekend. I think it’s how I did it that’s different – turning a chore into exercise (and earn a quarter for every twenty minutes of work) or making it fun (harder, but doable and not a group activity because people will discover you are a truly strange person. I won’t even go in detail or give examples.

During our Sunday conversation we decided we balanced each other out. I made my sister stop and do fun activities and she made me do chores I really didn’t want to. I guess all will be good in the end.

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You can draw

Finally. A book for which I only need a pencil and paper. But I don’t even need the latter for there are some pages in back if I were desperate.

I first came across Mark Kistler’s books at a book sale where I bought his Draw Squad Book. That incorporates lessons from this one. When I saw this book in the library, I snatched it up and checked it out. Then I asked for it as a Christmas present so I can go through the lessons in peace and not worry about having to ever turn it in. I’ve been doodling spheres, boxes, and koalas ever since.

So far I’m on lesson 12 – advanced houses or something like that. It’s fun. Mark, I feel like I can him Mark instead of Mr. Kistler, makes the lessons enjoyable. He incorporates complex ideas in each without browbeating one over the head. Draw a box, create the shadows and you’ve learned some perspective and foreshortening and others and you don’t even know until he tells you. Each step is explained and there are fun bonus challenges in which to hone your skills. I drew 25 koalas for the heck of it.

You can visit his web site or go to Youtube for video lessons too.

My cubes are still not great and I have trouble with cylinders, but once I’m through with the entire book, if I hadn’t gotten those down pat, I’ll redo the lessons, or doodle my way to semi-perfection. Truly, if you want to learn to draw and think you can’t or if you want to get better, get this book and a pencil.

 

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Christmas Baking

Mama wanted to bake Christmas cookies again this year. I made a list of what I wanted to bake and she made her own. I told her I wanted simple cookies. She said the ones she selected were simple. For her, yes, not for me. She said she was going to bake this and that, which translated to I was going to bake this and that. I had to reel her in on that. Fortunately I do the shopping so I could control some things.

One Saturday she said we were going to bake. I hadn’t planned on baking that day. I had other things to do and had told her we’d bake on Monday. I had no time to bake, but she was adamant so I switched things around to accommodate her. Then she fell asleep in her chair and we didn’t bake that day. We’d bake on Sunday. We didn’t bake Sunday, but we did on Monday, but after I made the dough on Sunday. It wasn’t the only 3 day cookie we made either.

One day I had to run errands and when I returned she’d just finished making a dough. I about keeled over as I watched her wobble out of the kitchen huffing and puffing from exertion. Was I ever going to be able to leave the house again? I had visions of her falling and smacking her head against something. She has a walker, but sometimes she leaves it.

She already did that once, falling in my room because she heard me saying I was ill, which I wasn’t and I hadn’t said anything being fast asleep and was now awake and cranky and then down she tumbled hitting her head making me leap out bed, worried she’d really hurt herself. She hadn’t, thank goodness, but she couldn’t get up and I couldn’t get her up so we had to call for help. She refused to be seen in my room and crawled out of it to the hall. My room may be a bit messy but only because I had to move into an already furnished room and where can I put my stuff if her stuff is already in there?

But baking was good for her. She’d be sitting in her chair saying she can’t move because she’s in such pain, which she is, but then she’d get into decorating or rolling out dough and she’d be happy. I might have to keep on baking cookies so she’ll have something to think about other than the pain.

 

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Putting together my Christmas picture book, Christmas Comes to Alban’s Department Store (might as well plug it again. It’s at Blurb.com) was a satisfying and exasperating experience. I kind of left it late, but then I’d been thinking of doing another story, one I’m glad not I didn’t do. I had a story written, but I couldn’t begin the illustrations for some reason. I’m thinking it was because they were too advanced for my current ability. I needed something simpler and when I figured that out, the ball began rolling.

After I settled on a story, one I’d written years ago, I edited the heck out of it, trimming away like one does with a Christmas turkey. Then I did the illustrations using a mix of my drawings as well as some photos that I photoshopped. I needed a larger store and I needed some help with the candy counters. I wanted to give it a 50’s, early 60’s vibe.

One thing I found out making the book is that it’s a really good idea to know the format of the book before you create the illustrations. In my head I thought the book would be landscaped. Blurb doesn’t do landscaped trade books right now so that blew that out of the water. I went with 8×10 and didn’t think that would make any difference in regards to the drawings, but it did. When I placed my drawings on the page things didn’t go quite so well. I had to go to my photo editing software (I use Adobe Elements and Gimp) and fiddle with them to make them fit right. A frustration, but now I know what to expect.

I had someone read over the story too to find boo-boos. I wanted to make sure I didn’t open the book and have my eyes focus on one. I did, but that was my fault not my reader.

I’ve enjoyed making this so much I’m already planning a new one, a brand new story for a Spring bazaar.

 

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As a senor in high school one has the whole world in front of them – college, travel, employment. If your legal that is, a legal citizen. M.T. is illegal. Not that she looks it. She fits right in with her more privileged classmates at the private school she attends, a school that doesn’t ask for documents. Her father works two jobs. He’s abusive, but who can M.T. ask for help. She calls the cops, they get deported back to Argentina. It’s hard for her especially when everyone expects her to go into college. But she can’t. She’s illegal. And she can’t tell anyone.

The author writes from personal experience. Born in Spain, her family moved to Argentina before crossing into the U.S. via Mexico at age 8. That gives this story more power. It’s more than just a story. She shows the despair of a teen who sees no future for herself.

I loved Jose, her little brother, a SpongeBob fanatic who has a SpongeBob pillow. I related to that, I used to have a SpongeBob steering wheel cover. I also liked the development of the mother as she grows to be independent of her domineering husband. She married young and had a baby young so never got to be her own person.

I did think M.T. a bit self-centered, but a teenager reading the novel may not and may relate more. I felt terrible when M.T. ignored her mother as she worked at school, that M.T. was embarrassed, but there was a point to this and, again, teens always get horribly embarrassed by their family.

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