In Which the Author Knits a Winter Blanket

About a year ago, I finished knitting a blanket that was a gift for someone else and realized I missed its pieces piled up in my lap. I decided it was time to knit a blanket for myself :o). Wanting something cheerful for the cold, dark months, I chose this free pattern at Lion Brand…. and got started.

First I collected my colors.

This blanket is knitted in three parts: the reds and oranges in one big triangular corner; the yellows and greens in a stripe across the center; and the blues and purples in another triangular corner.

The pieces are worked in intarsia colorwork. This means that most of the time, I was actively knitting with more than one color, which I admit can become a bit of a tangled headache. Below, I’m knitting the center stripe in three different greens and one yellow, and I have all four colors attached to my needle at the same time.

When I went to a writing retreat last February, half my suitcase was full of my blanket :o)

Below, I’ve knitted the red/orange triangle and the yellow/green center strip, and am just starting the  purple/blue triangle. All five of those purplish balls of yarn are attached to my needle as I work. Constant tangles! But pretty colors.

I had a bit of a hiccup at this point in the process, because after working for MONTHS, I discovered that I’d knitted my purple/blue corner piece much, more more tightly than my red/orange corner piece — which meant it was far too small to fit with the other blanket pieces. Why did I do that? Because I was in the middle of a really difficult revision with a stressful deadline. When I’m relaxed, I knit loosely. When I’m stressed, I knit tightly. SIGH. I had to take it all out and start again. I was so depressed about this that I put the whole project aside for the entire summer!

Then, this fall, I started up again.  
Below, you can see the three completed pieces lined up on the floor.

 I attached them together, then, on the advice of several sages, chose yellow as the border color. All done!

I”m ready for winter.

In Which a Zebra Unicorn Is Creepier Than Anticipated!

This year’s Halloween costume involved less preparation than usual. I’ll be honest, I’m still recovering from the year I dressed up as a library. My goal this year was something creative yet simple to assemble.
I glitter-striped a unicorn horn and made myself some ears…
Then attached them to a Cruella deVil style black-and-white wig.
I figured a zebra unicorn wears something sparkly and striped, right?
Nothing odd about this dress… *cough*
And this is when things got intense. The plan all along was to study the way stripes sit on a zebra’s face, then paint that pattern on my own face to create something magical. But it turned out SO CREEPY!
 Creepy’s okay with me, though.
Click on any picture to embiggen/get a more focused view.
Till next year! :o)

Come to BostonFIG Fest This Weekend!

The Boston Festival of Independent Games, BostonFIG Fest, is on Saturday, at the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston.

Local people, if you’re interested in the best new indie games, whether tabletop or digital, you should come! And when you do, stop by Kevin’s booth to visit Kevin and his indie game, Starcom: Nexus. I’ll be there too, being Helpful. Come say hi! :o)

The Arctic Circle: Arctic Critters

Nemo was the most important critter on our Arctic journey aboard the Antigua, of course. Here, he’s closely tracking our progress through the Arctic seas.

Svalbard reindeer. In this picture, our guide, Kristin, is keeping very quiet and still, being careful not to spook them. In case anyone is getting the wrong idea, the rifle on her back is solely for the purpose of protecting us artists from polar bears.

This little seal was so curious about our Zodiac and kept swimming around us!

The white crescents in this picture are the backs of beluga whales.

We watched these walruses for a long time… And some of them slipped into the water to get a better look at us!

Oh hi.

Does lichen count as a critter? :o)

What about fossil imprints of long-gone critters?

More reindeer.

Good camouflage!

Here is something we encountered over and over and over again. Tracks of polar bears who’d passed through recently. The prints were shockingly gigantic.

It’s tiring work being in charge.

We also saw a lot of animals that were impossible to photograph, in particular, an Arctic fox. The animal sightings were frequent and always special. Most of the time, I tried to take a few pictures, but then I reminded myself to put my camera down and enjoy. Consequently, this is only a hint of what we saw, but I hope it gives a nice sense of things.

If you’re coming late to my report from my journey aboard a tall ship in the Arctic Circle last fall and want to see more, just search for “Arctic Circle” in the search box on my blog!

Guess Where I Just Was

There were over 245,000 people at this place on the day we were there. Kevin was more calm about this fact than I was.

You could probably take out your globe and figure it out from this picture. If you really wanted to :o).

Two dollars for all-you-can-drink milk. (Yuck!)

Fried pickles. (Fried everything else, too.)

This building is called Sheep. (Subtitle Dairy Goats.)

Standing is hard, guys!

In another building, displays of prize-winning flowers.

Kevin was extremely patient while I took pictures of basically every single flower. I LOVED the flowers!



Have you guessed yet?

Where can one find prize-winning vegetables, and this veterinarian holding a piglet?

You guessed it. Kevin and I had lots of fun Sunday at the Minnesota State Fair.

Hi, my dear readers! I know I haven’t been blogging lately, despite having a lot to share – including more Arctic pictures, from the trip that was almost a year ago at this point! These days, the amount I blog is inversely proportional to how intensely I’m working on the next book. This is good news for those of you waiting for my next book, but I am sorry about the lack of blogging :o). I’ve made a promise to myself to blog some pictures of Arctic critters soon. Stay tuned.

For Those Who Loved Susan Bloom

Dear Susan,

You were one of the caretakers of my life. The moment you saw me, you recognized me as one of yours and brought me under your wing. What a big wing it was—you brought so many people under there. I found some of my best friends under your wing, where you were sheltering them, as you sheltered me. We were all lovers of that “impractical” thing, children’s literature. Until I came to Simmons and met you, I didn’t know there was a place where people like us could go.

I think—I hope—I told you, before you died, that I have the best job in the world for me. It’s not possible to be happier about one’s daily work than I am about mine. Do you know who held the lantern and lit my way to this work? I would not be here without you. You changed my life, enormously. Do you have any idea how many women and men are thinking about you right now and saying to themselves, “She changed my life?”

You were so unique. You were a person who could never, ever be mistaken for anyone else. If faced with a line of your clones, it would’ve take me the briefest glance into your expressive, thoughtful face, the slightest sound of your careful grasping for the right words, for me to know which one was you. I would recognize your hug, too. I would certainly recognize your skirts and your earrings. I think I would recognize your perfume. After I got married last summer, you surprised me at tea. (Thank you, Cathie, for arranging that marvelous surprise.) You and Cathie gave me a bouquet that contained a beautiful flower and a beautiful umbrella (because you knew how much I love umbrellas). I brought them home to Kevin. As I showed the umbrella to him, trying so hard to express how much it meant to me, I exclaimed, “It smells like Susan!”

Last weekend, I was in Vermont by myself when I got the news that you’d died. I spent the day sitting on the porch of the cabin, looking out over the mountains, watching for hummingbirds, and reading a mystery novel by A. A. Milne. But really, I was thinking about you. I wondered if you knew that A. A. Milne wrote mysteries. I bet you did know that. I would’ve liked to talk to you about it. The story I read was just exactly the smart, funny (and annoyingly man-centered) sort of mystery you would expect A. A. Milne to have written, though Pooh is better. I wanted to know what you would have thought of it. You would’ve offered some perspective it wouldn’t have occurred to me to have. I would’ve gone to my friends, the ones I found under your wing, and told them, “Listen to what Susan said about this mystery by A. A. Milne.” And they would’ve laughed, delighted, then said, “That’s so Susan.”

While I was thinking about you, a hummingbird landed on my foot. It’s less surprising than it sounds; I was wearing pink and red socks with flowers on them. I thought to myself, “I hate that I can’t show this gift to Susan. It would have delighted her.” Like Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem “Dirge Without Music” that was read at your service yesterday, I am not resigned to your death, and I do not approve. The best was lost when you died. “More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.”

And now I’m writing this letter because you are gone, and I don’t know what else to do. How else can I express what you meant to me? I’m writing it to myself, and for all the people who loved you. I think—I hope—it helps to share grief, and to hear one’s own gratitude expressed. There’s no tidy way to wrap things up when someone dies, so I’m not going to try. I’ll just say thank you, Susan, for that place under your wing. I love you, I miss you, and I’m not resigned. I will never, ever forget you.

Susan Parker Bloom, 1938-2019

For Susan.

Teeny Books for Christmas

This December, I discovered the Etsy shop Ever After Miniatures, which offers DIY printable miniature books. You buy the templates, print them out, then cut, fold, and paste the sweetest little openable books, which have readable pages inside.

This sort of project is made for me.

Most evenings, I would work on a few. I made them as gifts, mostly.

We have a small secret drawer at the end of our dining room table. I kept my project in there when I wasn’t working on it.

At a certain point, Kevin pointed out that they would make good tree ornaments. So I started adding strings and ribbons to a few of the covers. :o)

I got a little obsessed with this idea.

Here’s one of my favorite pages of Pride and Prejudice.

After they were dry, up they went!

I have loads more Arctic pictures to share, and will do so as time permits. Hope you’re all having a nice January! As I type this, it’s sleeting in the Boston area, and our temperatures are expected to be close to 0°F tonight, which is about -17°C. Svalbard-worthy temperatures!

More pictures soon, when book-writing permits.

Novel-Writing in the Arctic

My title is disingenuous, because I didn’t do any novel-writing in the Arctic. However, I thought and plotted and observed and learned with intensity, such that in the two months since my return, I’ve written an entire third of the new novel that was my primary Arctic project. This writing pace is unheard of for me. It’s partly because I’ve had some clearheadedness lately, unrelated to the Arctic. But it’s also largely because I got so much hands-on experience on the ship!

Since most of my work in the Arctic was happening in my head and my heart, it’s not going to be possible to show the entire process in pictures. But I can share some of the experiences that helped me make progress.

My novel takes place partly on a tall ship, where my main character is learning a lot about the work the sailors are doing.

Therefore, it helped me to learn to haul lines, and to watch others do so. (On a ship, ropes are called lines. It takes 60-ish lines to operate the rigging on the Antigua!)

(The Antigua is a barquentine. That’s a tall ship with three or more masts that has square sails on its foremast and fore-and-aft rigged sails [sails that stretch from front to back] on its other masts. This sail configuration gives it power and maneuverability, but also makes it possible to be operated by a small crew.)

On the occasions when we could turn the engine off and just sail… I was SO HAPPY. These were my favorite moments of the entire trip, which is saying an awful lot. It was silent, and graceful, and our movement felt so good in the water. It taught me a lot about my character and how she feels, too. 

The main character in my novel spends time lying inside a rowboat on deck, watching the sailors raise and lower the sails. So I did the same, curling up in one of the Zodiacs :o).

Photo by Dawn Jackson.

I did a lot of thinking and observing from that position. The masts swung back and forth above me as we moved through the waves and I got a lot of ideas! I also had the best views.

My main character also climbs the mast. So… in the picture below, our captain, Mario, gives me help and support as I make my first attempt.

John Hirsch took this picture, and the further-back one below, because I shoved my iPhone at him before I started :o)

Barbara Liles took this picture. As I climbed, the ship was moving through ice.

I’m on the right in this photo.

 Climbing was a thrill. Each time I tried it, I got up further. I knew it was safe, because I always wore a halter, but the ship was moving a lot and it was very, very cold up there, and sometimes slippery… and the places where your hands and feet went were not always intuitive… I learned a lot about my character’s experience from that experience.

By the way, it’s probably time for me to introduce our sailing crew — our captain, Mario; first mate, Marijn, and second mate, Annet! I’ll have more to say about them in future blog posts. They kept us safe, taught us so much, and were so patient whenever we “helped”!

That’s it for today’s Arctic chapter, but there’s more to come. Hope you’re all having a cozy December. :o)