And a bonus Fraggle.
Not completely happy with Red, might take another stab at her sometime. But I’m awfully proud of Beaker up there.
Happy New Year, everybody! I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of 2017. Natural disasters and human disasters seemed to be the theme. Nevertheless we persisted; we made it to 2018! (except those who didn’t).
Before I get to my book statistics I’ll share a few writing highlights. I wrote at least three new stories and majorly revised several more.
Here is a screenshot of my submission stats from 2017.
I doubled my story submissions from 2016 and received nearly 6 times as many personal rejections. (Personal rejections are gold when you’re in the submission trenches.) This is a tangible reminder that I’m making progress.
My story Wandering Eye was published on the Lorelei Signal in January of last year. I recently sold another story that should be going live in the next few months. I’ll post a link here when it does.
Over the last year I’ve become a part of a critique group of local authors. We’ve been meeting once a month. The advice I’ve gotten from Marcia, Anika, Jennie, and Tim has been invaluable and my writing continues to improve. It’s also a great motivator to have something written in time for our meetings.
I’m still in touch with most of my classmates from Viable Paradise 2016 and connect with them nearly every day. It is an incredibly supportive community. They’ve been doing great over the last year too. Several have made pro sales, signed with agents, and attended incredible workshops. I’m thrilled and grateful for my little writing family.
I entered Podcastle’s Flash Fiction contest and made the top ten out of 200 stories. I think I ultimately placed 5th.
In June I attended 4th Street Fantasy, a very small local fantasy convention with such guests as Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear, John Chu, and Max Gladstone. It’s limited to only about 250 attendees and socializing is encouraged but not mandatory. Which suits me perfectly. It also attracts a lot of Viable Paradise graduates and ended up being a mini reunion for VP20, with 16 of our class of 24 in attendence.
In September I ran a meeting of MinSpec where we did Sherwood Smith’s 2-Page exercise. It was huge success and we’ll be doing it again this spring.
On to the books part of the Year in Books!
Every year since 2010 I’ve kept a running list of the books I’ve read over the course of the year. It functions sort of as a diary of my reading habits.
By the Numbers
Grand total: 103 books read
52 comics and graphic novels (not including singles issues read month to month)
22 borrowed from the library
17 borrowed from friends
11 short story collections or novellas
Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire
Room – Emma Donoghue
The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett
O Human Star Volumes 1 and 2 – Blue Delliquanti
The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill
The Refrigerator Monologues – Catherynne M. Valente
Lots of favorites this year!
Favorite Author stats
Neil Gaiman 4
Gail Simone 3
David Mack 2
Charlie Jane Anders 1
Holly Black 2
Carrie Fisher 1
Seanan McGuire 2
Rainbow Rowell 1
John Scalzi 2
Terry Pratchett 2
George R.R. Martin 1
Marissa Meyer 1
Kelly Barnhill 1
Ursula Vernon 2
Catherynne M. Valente 1
Connie Willis 1
So that was 2017 in books.
Here is the current state of of my to read shelves.
I hope that by next year the piles in front of the shelves will have been read. But that would mean I stopped adding to them and that is not as easy as it sounds.
A few other highlights from 2017.
I saw Hamilton in Chicago!
All the Hugo Award fiction categories were won by women!
Hidden Figures! Wonder Woman! Thor Ragnarok! The Last Jedi!
Brienne and Arya’s sparring match!
Black Panther and the Thirteenth Doctor to look forward to!
Extreme weirdness on tv in the form of Legion, American Gods, and Twin Peaks the Return.
The Big Sick! Ladybird! Master of None! The Good Place! Steven Universe!
The Women’s March! Trumpcare defeated! Roy Moore defeated! Resisters everywhere!
Lace Stormtroopers part 2.
Before I get to the second batch of lace troopers I wanted to share a picture of my niece wearing the storm trooper hat I made her.
This was one of the troopers from the first batch.
With the second batch I did things mostly the same way as laid out in the first post. The key differences were that the lace was not a stretch fabric, the template I used was larger, and I went with the updated helmet design from the Force Awakens.
I used this picture as my template. This design ended up being much less complex to recreate in fabric than the original.
First step was to cut out a basic helmet shape from the lace for the base. Then sewed a square of black fabric to the base. I used some black velvet I had in my scrap pile. Then on top of that, I sewed on three lace pieces that created the updated helmet look. Finally, I sewed on a visor and lens details using thin black knit. The result being these.
Not bad but it needed something extra. So I decided that these weren’t just any lace troopers, these were going to bloody handprint Finn style Lace troopers. And I just so happened to have bought a starter pack of embroidery floss from target for a different project, with a nice bold red thread. So I decided to embroider the handprint on to the lace.
One small problem. I didn’t know how to embroider. So several tries and Youtube and Pinterest searches later, I had accomplished this.
That is a chain stitch, which I now knew how to do. But that wasn’t good enough. The bloody fingerprints had to be solid red. So a brief tutorial on the satin stitch, several more tries, and at least two more trips to Target to buy multiples of the same starter kit, because I kept running out of the thread and needed the same thickness and shade of red. (Which incidentally meant I ended up with about seven times of all the other colors in the kit. And what I ended up doing with them is another post entirely.) But at the end of the day, I had these.
Two bloody-handed lace troopers and/or abstract roosters, ready to be applied to the item of my choice.
I chose throw pillows. I used a blanket stitch (also learned off of youtube) to sew them on. On my first attempt even with it pinned in place it bunched up went all crooked. So I tore up the stitches, ordered a set of embroidery hoops from Amazon, and two days later tried again with the hoops, with better results. Although one still ended up a little tilted.
And there you go!
Again, if anyone out there decides to create their own lace stormtroopers, or sith lords, or Mandalorians etc. please share the pictures.
I rediscovered this little story while cleaning up my writing folders on my hard drive. I wrote it probably about five years ago in response to a forum challenge to write a love story in under 1,000 words. I like it more than I remembered. Enjoy!
A Conventional Love Story
I knew nothing about her; not her name, not where she was from, or if she was seeing anyone. All I knew was that the woman of my dreams was dressed as Hogwarts, and she was getting away.
It was love at first sight when I spotted her on stage between a Dark Phoenix and an Optimus Prime. Hers was certainly not the sexiest costume in the lineup. That title belonged to a scantily clad interpretation of a Ghostbuster. Nor was hers the largest, that went to a team of five people dressed as the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro. Nevertheless, from the moment she stepped onto the stage to the moment she finished her allotted strut, the Quidditch pitch bobbing alluringly on her left hip, I could not take my eyes off of her.
Despite getting a standing ovation from the crowd, to which she gave an awkward curtsy, she did not place in the top five. While I thought the judges were crazy to exclude her, I was happy to see it. The sooner she was out of the contest, the sooner I could meet her. As the contestants were eliminated one by one, they filed off the stage and into the audience. The more impressive the costume, the more people swarmed to have their pictures taken with it. I dodged and weaved my way from the back of the room to the area next to the stage.
It took some time; the costume contest is one of the most popular events and the room was packed. Fortunately, I knew that with her bulky costume she could not move any faster than I could. I forced my way through a crowd of people I thought were waiting to be photographed with her, only to find a breakdancing Ewok in the middle. Irritating little showboaters!
“Where did Hogwarts go?” I shouted over the din.
“I think she was going for the Joss Whedon panel,” a partially transformed Bruce Banner replied.
He shrugged. I hurried as quickly as I could out the door. Back out in the hall, I asked everyone I saw if they knew the room number for the Whedon panel, finally getting it from a guy handing out promotional wrestling magnets. It took another fifteen minutes to make it through the throng of conventioneers to the proper room. Just my luck, the door was closed.
“Sorry, it’s full,” the con staffer said, sounding harassed as twenty other people were hovering by the door.
“I don’t want to get in, I just want to know if you saw a girl dressed as a castle go inside.” The staffer looked at me like I was a loon, and turned to rebuff the next person trying to get by him.
“Damnit!” I sighed.
“I know,” groaned a girl in a Captain Hammer tee. “I got in line two hours ahead of time, and I still didn’t get in,” she griped.
Two hours? That meant my would-be paramour hadn’t gotten in either!
“Did you see a girl in a Hogwarts costume?” I asked the disgruntled Whedonite.
“Is that what she was supposed to be? I thought she was Castle Greyskull.”
“Which way did she go?”
“Out to the floor.”
I took off sprinting, or as close to it as I could get when every square foot of space was taken up with people swinging swag-bags. I found myself back on the main floor, a football field-sized labyrinth full of vendors selling all the sci-fi/fantasy/comic book/gaming paraphernalia you could imagine.
Frantically, I took the route that was flowing the smoothest at the moment, praying she’d done the same. Finally, I spotted her headpiece through the sea of bodies between us. I could clearly see the unmistakable silhouette of the astronomy tower, perched on her head, complete with an action figure of Professor Dumbledore dangling from it.
“Hey!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, desperate to be heard over the cacophony.
“Hey! You with the turrets!”
For a moment she paused. I saw the action figure swing around, as her head turned. I leapt forward, my heart beating in my chest, only to barrel straight into a vampire covered in body glitter.
“No,” I moaned, as my unfortunate collision partner tried to help me off the floor. It was too late, by the time I regained my feet, there was no sign of her. I trudged to where I had last spotted her. All I found was a crumpled piece of cellophane, that had been a part of the Black Lake. I folded it neatly into a square and put it in my wallet.
I searched the con for the next two days. I never saw her again. But I’m not giving up. I will be back next year, and I’ll be damned if I won’t be the most accurate Platform Nine and three-quarters you have ever seen.
And here is a selfie I took with the Hogwarts miniature at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but I’m standing on an elevated ramp and the miniature is enormous, the room it’s kept in is about the size of a basketball court. I’ll admit, I may not have fallen in love when I saw it, but I definitely got chills.
This all started when I picked up a lace tee shirt at a clothing swap with the intent of using it for crafts. The problem was I had no clue what kind of craft. But eventually the idea to make stormtrooper helmets in lace came to me and I could not get it out of my head.
Here is a step by step should anyone want to try it for themselves. Unfortunately, when I was making these, I didn’t plan on creating a how-to, so I didn’t take pictures of every step. And of the pictures I did take, some have errors. So if you do want to make a lace stormtrooper of your own I advise reading the whole post before starting.
White lace (one size L shirt produced two medium sized trooper helmets and one mini, with scrap leftover. Or you can purchase the lace of your choice by the yard.) The shirt I used was stretch material, but it caused some difficulties when sewing, so I would use a nonelastic fabric next time.
Black fabric of your choice. I used an old black shirt from my scrap bag.
Optional dark gray fabric for some of the helmet details. The black will work fine for this but I had dark gray fabric in my scrap bag so I used it for the nose piece.
A shirt, jacket, hat, etc. to sew it on to.
Sewing machine optional. This can all be done by hand, but I did most of it on the machine. Go with whichever method you’re most comfortable with.
A printout of a trooper helmet to use as a template.
Cut a decent sized square of lace. Pin the template to the lace and cut the fabric into an approximation of the helmet shape.
You’ll notice that when I cut the printed helmet, I left space around the outline.
Once cut, it’ll look like this,
Unpin the template (but don’t throw it away) and you’ll have this,
Viola, you’re done. Enjoy your lace trooper! Kidding. This is the bottom layer of your helmet. The details get sewn onto this.
Pin the template to another square of lace and cut out just the visor portion of the helmet. You will want to cut the paper template with the fabric this time. Cut the remaining white sections of the helmet.
I forgot to take pictures of them laid out individually, but that is the visor piece, and the jaw and nose piece laid on top of the piece that you cut in step 1. Don’t worry if the pieces don’t fit together perfectly.
Alternately you can skip this step and sew all the detail pieces directly on the base and end up with a nice looking lace stormtrooper. I did that for the mini, but I chose this layered method for the larger ones to create an illusion of depth. And don’t we all want the illusion of depth?
Cut out the helmet details on the black fabric. You can use the template to cut them out, but I freehanded them. If you do want to use the template for this part I recommend printing a second copy. You need two black triangles for the eye lenses. Two long thin rectangles for the side vents. One very thin strip for the top of the visor. Two half circles, with a middle point for the cheek details. Two short rectangles rounded at one end for the jaw camera-like pieces and one wacky shape (sorry, I can’t describe it any better than that) for the mouthpiece. You will also need a long V shape with ridges cut on top edge for the nose piece. That is the one piece that I used the dark gray fabric for, but you can use black for it as well.
Once cut out, pin the pieces as seen above. Sew them using black thread onto the lace pieces. You should end up with three separate pieces: the base with most of the black pieces, the jaw with the nose and mouth pieces. And the visor with the two pointed half circles. (Note that in the picture I pinned them to the base piece, but that is wrong. They should be on the visor just to the side and slightly below the where the eye lenses will be.) (Other note the eye lenses are placed correctly in the photo. They do get sewn to the base).
I didn’t really take pictures of this step, so I’ll do my best to describe it. You’ll be adding more detail to the sewn on details here.
On the mouth piece, to create the vent effect, cut several lines lengthwise, being sure not to start the cut below the top of the piece and ending just before the bottom of the piece. You want the shape to remain intact. (It may be easier to cut the lines before you sew it to jaw piece, but I didn’t. It’s your call.) Cut two rounded triangles in the visor for the lens pieces. You do want to pay attention to your template or reference photo for these. You can play fast and loose with the other details, but if the eye lenses are off it won’t look like a stormtrooper.
Cut out ten or so slits on each side of the jaw piece over where the long black rectangles are sewn to the base. I made my slits too thin, so they can hardly be seen, You can make them a little thicker. Or you can skip this altogether because it’s a minute detail. (If you do skip this part then you can leave out the long rectangles from step 3.
Cut out spaces on the jaw piece where the two jaw camera pieces are on the base.
Time to sew the three separate pieces into one almost completed helmet.
Pin together and sew with white thread.
The above picture has all the pieces in the correct spots but was taken before I had sewn the details to the separate pieces. Don’t try to sew the whole piece together before you’ve done step 3. It’ll end in tears.
I don’t have a picture of this step.
Cut two little circle of white lace and sew them to the jaw cameras, for jaw camera lenses, as seen in the step 5 picture. (I sewed these by hand because my sewing machine could not deal with such small stretchy pieces.) Now your helmet is complete.
Sew your helmet onto the item of your choice. I chose a tee shirt. This is where the stretchy fabric really caused problems for me. It tended to bunch and warp as I sewed and I had to start over a few times before I was satisfied. And even then it ended up a little crooked.
And there you go!
I’ve worn this shirt a couple of times and it always makes me happy. Once I’d recovered a bit from my first attempt, I made two more with even better results.
The larger one went onto another tee shirt for a good friend who once hand-knitted me a Yoda doll. The little one I sewed onto a hat for my niece.
If anyone does follow these somewhat vague and amateurish instructions, please share the results with me. I’d love to see more lace stormtroopers in the world.
Be on the lookout for a part 2. I’m not done with lace stormtroopers yet.