October Is for Anthology

Ah, yes, that’s a bit of a lame title for the blog post this week, but it’s eerily prescient. Last year (in October) we launched Corrugated Sky Publishing with the publication of our first anthology, Tales of the Black Dog. We started a second anthology with the hopes of printing it this spring, but that came and went and then the summer sun burned down on us and we still didn’t have a finished book in hand. And now it’s October again, and we are very, very close to getting the second anthology in print. So close that we will probably have it next week, just in time for Halloween — again!

This second book is called Smoke and Steam and it’s big: 260 pages, which means that what started out as four Steampunk short stories morphed into four Steampunk novellas, including “Wings over Staria” by JC Rock, “Hekatite” by Karen Garvin, “Heart of the Matter” by Michelle Schad, and “Freedom for a Foster” by Cathryn Leigh. We’ll have the book available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon, but while you’re waiting for our second anthology, why not pick up a copy of the first one — Tales of the Black Dog? After all, it contains some great horror stories, and what better time of year to read them?

With the anthology all but finished except evicting a few typos and finalizing our print files, it’s time for me to get back to other writing projects. The looming question, with November coming up, is whether I’m going to do NaNo this year. I did it last year and managed to meet the word count, so technically I had a “win,” but the story never quite jelled into something worthwhile. It was supposed to be a noir mystery, but the only “noir” was my character riding a bus at night and the only “mystery” was the plot. I loved my title (Killing Palatino); I also liked the art I came up with for the cover. Maybe I’ll dust it off sometime, but not this fall.

I do have another book idea that I’ve been thinking of developing. It would be a young adult story and the protagonist would be a young girl who lives in a country where being healthy is considered a social duty and being overweight is illegal. I want the politics to be in the background, not in-your-face, but I’ll need to develop an interesting character who has motives and desires. I have some ideas, but you’re going to have to wait at least until December to learn more … as will I!

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October Scribblings

This year has been pretty unproductive as far as writing goes, although I’m pleased to announce that Corrugated Sky‘s second anthology, Smoke and Steam, is in production and we hope to have it out before Halloween. Save up your dimes and be sure to buy a copy (or two or three)! The book will include four novella-length short stories, so this volume will be much heftier than Tales of the Black Dog, running in the neighborhood of 250 pages.

I have to admit that work has wiped me out mentally this year, but I finally feel as though I’m pulling out of the nose-dive and managing to get back at the keyboard without feeling an overwhelming sense of loathing. Since I work as a copy editor, I read all the time and I guess I just got burned out. Instead of writing and reading, I’ve been taking up knitting (yes, really) and making small projects that make me feel as though I’ve accomplished something. Although I did make a shawl, and that wasn’t really a small project, so I feel doubly accomplished for managing to finish the project (and I’ve even worn it a couple of times).

I have three major writing projects on my desk right now: the Smoke and Steam anthology; my novel, Seacombe Island; and a nonfiction project that I’m developing from my master’s thesis, which has been sitting for three years collecting dust. I’m ambivalent about doing NaNo this year, but a part of me says that I need the mental challenge and group pressure to get back at the keyboard and stay there. We’ll see. I have 26 days to make up my mind!

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 141

My sketch of the clock at Savage Mill, Maryland. Media used: Canson art journal, Utretch sketching pencils, and Ooly Kaleidoscope multi-colored pencils.

I’ve joined a Meetup sketching group to do some urban sketching. Many years ago I took an art studio class, and since then I’ve taken watercolor painting and dabbled a bit with acrylics, markers, and colored pencils. I’m kind of a lazy artist and it helps me to have an assigned project or something particular to focus on to get started. So, with no further ado, let me introduce this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt.

Clocks have been with us for many centuries in one form or the other. We have atomic clocks that measure time down to the pulse of a cesium atom; we have mechanical clocks with gears and flywheels and pendulums; we have sundials, where the shadow cast by the gnomon indicates the hour; and we have water clocks, where the slow drip, drip of water filling up a reservoir is measured to show the passage of time.

Your writing prompt for this week is to come up with a different way to measure the passing of time, whether for an alien race, or a group of humans. You should plan on deciding what kind of measurements would be of importance to your characters, and then design a timekeeping device or some way of tracking time that can be used by more than one person. For example, say your characters only care about the seasons, and they want to measure the solstices and equinoxes. You’re probably thinking about Stonehenge and Mayan temples, but how else could they track these things? And if your characters measure the hours, what kind of device would they use? Water-powered, steam, wind turbine?

Have fun, and plan to do a little bit of research for this one. Some clocks are really works of art and will be a good source of inspiration for you, even if you’re considering something other than a mechanical clock for your timepiece. Also check out sundials for a bit of variety. The North American Sundial Society is a good starting point, and there are links to images as well as instructions for constructing your own sundial, should the maker bug bite you.

The Eclipse, and All That

I really wanted to see the full solar eclipse, but I was stuck at home in Maryland, where we had a partial eclipse with 80 to 85 percent coverage of the sun. I knew that I wasn’t going to travel for the event, so I never got around to ordering sun viewing glasses. Instead, I put together a makeshift projector from a sturdy cardboard tube. I folded a piece of aluminum foil over one end and poked a small hole in the center of the foil with a frilly toothpick (class act, and all that!). Holding the tube with the foil-covered end toward the sun, I projected the image of the sun onto a piece of white cardboard. It’s nothing fancy; just a shipping box that contained pretzels, but the white coating on the box was perfect for this makeshift project. The timestamp on my camera was not set correctly, so I’m guessing this photo was taken between 2:30 and 2:45, or close to totality.

 

What was also interesting was finding little crescents everywhere. We don’t normally notice the shapes that are projected onto surfaces as sunlight filters through leaves, but during an eclipse the small gaps between leaves actually behaves like a lens and focuses the shape of the sun onto the ground and everywhere else. Usually it’s circular and we just aren’t aware of it, but here you can see the crescents scattered on the road surface. I also had crescents dancing on my living room floor where the sunlight was being filtered through the tree leaves and my Venetian blinds.

So, I’m hoping to catch the next solar eclipse. I want to experience the quality of light as well as the astronomical event itself. Perhaps by then I’ll be ready with a telescope and tracking mount for my camera, too. But in the meantime, there are some very interesting effects from the eclipse that are easy to photograph with basic equipment. I took both of these photos with a Nikon Coolpix, and these images could easily have been captured with my cell phone’s camera, too. I’d rather do some serious photography with my SLR, but my work schedule — and admittedly, my lack of preparation — meant that I had to grab things at the last minute and run out the door.

The worst part of the eclipse photography for me was that my yard is full of mosquitoes, and so now I am full of mosquito bites — and still scratching, one week later. Ugh.