Bacteria Wars

This has been a rough spring. Not only do I have allergies that turned into a sinus infection earlier this month, but I then I developed a lingering cough that I thought was bronchitis, so today I went to the doctor and it turns out I have strep throat. Well, the bacteria might be making me sick, which is pretty unfortunate since I just joined a gym, but they are not stopping me from writing. I am wondering if I should spray my keyboard with disinfectant. Nah. It would probably short-circuit, and then I’d have to write by hand. And I can’t read my own handwriting after the first paragraph!

Additionally, one of my cockatiels was unwell and so I took both of them to the vet. Poor little things, they both had blood drawn, and while Peachfuzz powered through it like a champ, Zim screamed his head off during the entire exam and then he bit the vet — twice. Guess who’s a favorite at the animal hospital?

Progress on the second Corrugated Sky anthology is going well. We’re revising our first drafts and hope to publish the book early this summer. I’ve completed my last encyclopedia entry on Ray Bradbury, although I have a few things to tackle for the editor to clear up some rough patches and fill in a few gaps. I’ve submitted a chapter proposal for an academic book on the First World War, and with most big projects off my desk I can turn to editing my novel for one last time.

I’ve revisited my thought process about how many words/hour editing should count for and decided that the 1,000 words per hour is really not unrealistic. I was toughing it out at 750 words an hour, but I was kind of cheating myself given the amount of work I was putting into the editing process. I’m happy to say that I am now ahead in my weekly word-count goal by more than 5,000 words, and I intend to stay there.

Stay well, stay pollen-free and bacteria-less, and I’ll see you on the next page!

I Can Has Allergies

I really, really, really need to move. Since mid-March I’ve had a stomach bug, allergies, and a sinus infection. After battling the sinus thing for three weeks and coughing so hard that I pulled a muscle, I realized that I needed more than vitamin C. So, I went up to a local walk-in clinic for antibiotics and some nasal spray. Well, that helped a lot, but I still have allergy headaches, and now I’m having eye strain headaches. I need a vacation, and I need a paradise to escape to. It sure looks pretty outside, but … achoo!

In March and early April I’ve so busy that I’ve had to let the blog “rest” for awhile. I had an encyclopedia article on howdahs to complete by the end of March, and then I had to prepare a paper for presentation on Victorian detectives, detective fiction, and journalism for the 2017 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of British Studies. And this week I just wrapped up an entry on the cultural and historical impact of Ray Bradbury for another encyclopedia. And all this stuff is in addition to my full-time job.

Yes, I do sit at the computer for a very long time every day! And this is a problem, so I’ve joined a local gym and signed up for four training sessions. My second one is today, and I’ve actually worked out twice so far this week.

I’m slowly catching up on my writing goal of 240,000 words for this year, despite a couple of very unproductive weeks. With this blog post, I’m just about 700 words behind where I want to be, but I still have two days left in my writing work week. On the fiction writing front, I’m starting the revisions to my Steampunk story for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology, to be published in late spring or early summer. Seacombe Island is next up; it’s getting a final revision and should also be published this year. I have several nonfiction projects in the queue as well, including a proposal for a chapter in a book on World War I, a book of writer’s prompts, and extending my research and writing about Victorian detectives. Oh, and there might be a cocktail book in the works, too. But that’s for after hours!

Lights, Camera … Subject?

I bought a photography table tent a few weeks ago and a pair of tabletop LED lights to use with it. The lights were very inexpensive so I didn’t expect very much from them, but they produce quite a bit of light and are small and easy to use. The lights came with blue and yellow plastic filters that fit over the light, but let’s face it, I’m never satisfied with just two colors of art supplies! Are you?

So immediately I went looking online to see what else I could find — never mind the fact that I have no immediate use for these things. The filter gels, which is what they’re called, averaged about $12 for a sheet, but my lights are very small and I don’t have a need for a large square filter. I found a Roscolux sample book and ordered that. If I could cut out one of the samples and fit it over my lights, that would be great, but if not then at least I would have actual samples of the gel colors. Then, if I want to buy larger sheets later on, I’ll know what colors to order.

I’ve done traditional photography and darkroom work, so filters are nothing new to me. I still have a collection of Cokin and Tiffin filters that I use occasionally (hey, not everything has to be Photoshop!) but they won’t fit my new lights without being cut down and I don’t want to ruin them. So, here are some photos of my lighting adventure.

Here is the LED lamp. There is a gap between the white bulb and the black lamp housing, which is a bit difficult to see in this photo. The bulb I want to cover with the filter is just over an inch and a half wide. You can see the blue and yellow plastic filters that came with the lamps in the background, and that black ring top right (also shown below) is what screws over the lamp to hold the filters in place.


And this is a close-up of the ring for the housing. I really only need to cover the opening with any new filter or gel that I use, although the lamp housing will accommodate something up to about 2 inches.

Here’s the yellow plastic filter that came with the lamps. It measures about 2 inches across so it’s wider than the opening in the housing ring. I cut one of the Roscolux samples out of the book (actually not the whole piece, but about three-quarters of it) and placed it over the yellow plastic filter to compare sizes. I marked where the gel was too large and cut off the corners (not shown) so it would fit the lamp housing.


Well, it’s close! The red Roscolux sample gel is narrower than the yellow plastic filter, and here’s what it looks like when the lamp housing is assembled with the gel in place. Although the red gel doesn’t entirely fill the space inside the ring, crucially, all of the LEDs are covered. When I tried the lamp, it worked wonders. The white photography tent lit up like some demonic Halloween world, blood red and spooky and very, very bright. And that was with only one colored lamp!

So, it’s possible for me to use my samples for some actual photography, although I’ll need a second sample book to cover both lamps. If I buy larger photo lights I will need to purchase entire gel sheets, but for now, this is fine for experiments. I have my lights, and my camera. But now, I just need a good subject …

Traveler Art

One of my attempts at collage, this piece includes preprinted elements, brads, and wings made with a stencil and stucco acrylic medium.

I’ve been in the mood to do some artwork recently. I signed up for a Craftsy class on working with colored pencils and so now — you guessed it — I have even more art supplies on my desk than I did before I started watching the course. But honestly, is there such a thing as too many pens or pencils? I’ll only consider it to be a waste of money if I put the pencils away without using them.

And I haven’t used them much so far, but I am pulling out papers and other art supplies and creating something. I’ve done a few minor sketches with the pencils but nothing that I want to share. This small piece was done on a 4- by 6-inch card. I sprayed the card with Ranger’s Distressed stain in Tumbled Glass but it beaded up on the surface, so I blotted it with a paper towel. That left behind the impression of the paper towel, so I rubbed at the card until that design was gone and ended up with a nice mottled background. For the edges of the card I just dabbed at the paper with an ink pad.

The wings were done with a stencil and Liquitex ceramic stucco acrylic gel, which I later drew on with a pencil to give them a bit more definition. The color of the stucco blended in too much with the background and I thought it needed a bit more of a distressed look to carry through with the rest of the design.

I’m continuing to work on writing projects but I think there’s a fair amount of burn-out going on. I’m hoping the art projects will help keep me moving forward with a little bit of creative cross-training.