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Posts Tagged ‘weaving’

Lots of stuff going on around here right now, and not enough brain to deal with it all. So, please to enjoy some interesting stuff I found on YouTube.  😉

 

Manuela & Esperanza: The Art of Maya Weaving

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrBdRbrXMVw

 

Weaving a Culture: A Film on Saris of India (Part 1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_TEHWmL6fY

 

Weaving a Culture: A Film on Saris of India (Part 2)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfgUp-NYSOI

 

 

 

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Nearly three weeks ago I had cataract surgery in my left eye. You know, the one that’s been a major butt-head for a couple years now. First the mondo-Cthulhu-floater-from-the-Underdark, and then the detached retina – the laser surgery repair of which greatly accelerated the cataract already growing there. Just part of the fun of us blue-eyed Northern European-types.

And while this type of surgery is pretty routine here in the Western Civilized World, it still meant someone was poking sharp things in my eye. Not something I think anyone can look forward to. Of course, my anxiety was greater than the sum of the procedures. I walked into the surgery center at 11:00am and was being driven home by 2:30pm. The actual time under the knife was about fifteen minutes, during which my doctor chatted with his staff about training for his latest triathlon. I got a nice shot of sedative, so pretty much just laid under the drape muttering “Duuudde…” while watching vague shadows moving in the bright light shining into my eye. Even being loopy from the sedative and dealing with an eye so dilated it looked like I had no iris anymore, I could see better that afternoon than I had in years. I so love our modern advancements…

I do have a bit of double vision when wearing my glasses now, because of the difference in prescriptions and their relative focal points. But I still had two sets of contact lenses from before all this eye BS started. Rigid gas permeable lenses that had been carefully sealed in storage containers. Yes, it had been years, but when I opened them up, they appeared to be in beautiful condition. A good cleaning, some fresh solution for an overnight soak, and then the test-drive.

I’m one of those people who is really lucky with contact lenses. I received my first pair when I was 14. My eyes were changing so rapidly and so drastically, it was costing us loads of money every six months just so I could sit in the front row at school and squint at the chalk board (yes, chalk board, not white board). The doctor was the one that suggested contacts, citing studies that had shown hard lenses actually slowed down – and in some cases could reverse – the changes in my eyes. Being that geeky teenager everyone at school loved to tease, I jumped at the chance to have one less piece of fuel for that fire. We did a test fitting with lenses that were close to my prescription, just to see if it would work. Some people just can’t do contact lenses of any type, while others can manage with soft lenses (which weren’t really that common at the time). I was one of those cases that jumped right in without much of a problem. Within 15 minutes in the test pair, I was able to look up at the doctor. Apparently that was a big deal, since most people can only look at their feet for the first few days. At least, that’s how it was forty years ago.

Grumpy Cat with Glasses

I saw clearly once. Hated it.

https://www.facebook.com/TheOfficialGrumpyCat

So, there I was a few days after cataract surgery putting a contact lens into the right eye and looking around at a newly clear world. I could read street signs again. There were no more rainbows around every friggin’ light at night. And I had depth perception, too. I could see well enough to feel comfortable driving at night, and in unfamiliar places – something I hadn’t felt good about for over a year. The song says you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. This is a case of not really comprehending how much was gone until you get it back. It was cool to just sit in the car and look out the window again, enjoying details I hadn’t seen in ages.

The left eye does still have some residual damage from the detachment, though. There’s no such thing as a straight line with it. Everything’s slightly distorted, sort of like a funhouse mirror, but much more subtle. The cool thing about the human brain is that it can compensate for such things, as long as the right eye has the contact lens in. Left eye (artificial lens) + right eye (contact lens) = hey, I can see!

Unfortunately, I’m losing my one superpower – microvision. Because of my nearsightedness, I could see details on miniatures and with my stitching that other people often couldn’t. That’s gone in the left eye as the artificial lens was meant for middle/far distances. In a few more years it’ll be gone in the right eye as it gets the same surgery. I’ll need to wear glasses for reading and figure out where to get the magnifying lenses I need for my close-up work. There will be some adjustments involved, and I’ll be annoyed for a while because it won’t work like I’m used to. But at least it’ll work, which is something millions in the developing world can’t say.[*]

It has also become pretty obvious that I don’t have my poor eyesight to blame anymore for my lack of production with words and wool. Here again is where my husband proves just how good he is for me. In another of our late-night-deep-conversations he revealed that the eyesight was never the problem – it was all my attitude. You might be saying “Well, duh!” but sometimes us depressive creative types are a little slow to pick up on stuff like that. When my writing and weaving and needlework went from being just something I did for fun to agent-hunting-publication-submitting-commission-building-next-sales-event-searching, the fun got lost in the shuffle. And we humans have a bad habit of pouting and refusing when someone tells us we HAVE to do something. The wise man I sleep with told me to just forget that shit and have fun again.

So that’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to have fun watching clouds, wrangling words, and playing with string, and not give a damn what happens afterwards. I’m going to enjoy seeing everything anew again. Including myself.

 

[*] Here are some charities and their facts on this global issue (among many – don’t just take my word on it. Do your own research, too.):

http://missioncataractusa.org/

http://www.sightsavers.org/

http://www.ascrs.org/

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A couple weeks ago my husband and I enjoyed one of our weeklong camping events. Okay, maybe “enjoyed” is too strong a word. It was one of those mixed emotions things: enjoyed being with friends I hadn’t seen in a while; liked playing with string and talking to customers; terrified over how the new feline overlord (who we had to take with us for a variety of reasons) would deal with the whole thing (amazingly well, all things considered); and just simply toasted by the heat. Like, for real toasted. It was in the mid-90’s all week with hardly a puff of moving air beneath clear skies. I’d show you a picture of the orange puddle formerly known as a cat in the middle of our booth, but I was too weak to reach for the phone.

My (unfulfilled) intention had been to get a whole bunch of pictures to show you guys just how we do camping in our version of the Middle Ages. It’s more like moving than camping, really. We filled up a U-Haul trailer and the full-sized truck bed, all for just a week. Now, about half of that was our merchant stuff: bins of product, tables, tent, etc. Plus the hubby does his blacksmithing on site at this event, so we had to have all his basics as well. Then there’s our living tent, with the four-poster bed, nightstands, shelving units, lights…,

 

Tannenberg Hall

Home away from home

The above picture is from last year, but it’s been our living tent for a few years now. It’s looking a little saggy here because I don’t think we had the walls staked out yet, but you get the idea. It’s a lot to put up. Eighteen feet at the base, fourteen feet at the eaves, fourteen feet tall, with enough poles, ropes and stakes to build a Viking raider. We tend to swear a bit while dealing with it, and continuously wonder what the hell we were thinking when we decided to go this route. But the next morning when we get up from our real bed and make coffee and tea on our stove and sit in nice chairs to enjoy the day, we’re glad we have it. We’ve both done our time as minimalist campers – and it certainly has its appeal – but we ain’t getting any younger. When trying to get up off the floor of a modern tent (we affectionately call them earth pimples) takes a chair, your husband, and an engine hoist, it’s time to make the upgrade.

 

Steel-n-Strings montage

Little shop of hoarders

These pictures are mostly from an event we did in February. I do fiber arts stuff and the hubby plays with hot, sharp, heavy things. At this point it basically just pays for us to go to the events and make more stuff, but even that is nice since we’d probably not be able to do either without that small income. We’ve had slow but steady growth since we started, and our long-term desire is to be able to live off our crafts. My husband is looking into larger projects such as gates and doors, and I’m still struggling with my demons to get my writing into some sort of positive state. I love playing with string, but it’s not what I want for my full-time vocation. It is, however, where I’ve made the most money lately, so I’ll be weaving and stitching for a while.

IMG_1238

Big men, small anvil

We also both happily teach what we know. Above is the husband-unit with a willing student discussing the basics of blacksmithing. I suppose playing with an 1800 degree fire makes standing around in 95+ degree heat seem positively brisk by comparison, but I still think they’re both quite bonkers.

My eye situation has left me hesitant to do any teaching, as I can’t see well enough to offer any positive critiques. But I do answer plenty of questions as I sit and weave in our booth, and have sent many a customer happily off with their purchases. It’s especially rewarding when they come back at some point and show off their projects. That’s the true joy of teaching, seeing that spark of enthusiasm and knowing you were able to help them.

When the sun sets, we close up shop and head back to the camp we share with several other good friends. We eat breakfast and dinner together, trading off kitchen duties and coordinating food and other camp chores. Most nights we sit around after dinner in our camp hall (another tent used as a communal room), and chat and drink and trade stories. That’s the best part, sharing the day with good friends. We had the added attraction this year of being on the main road close to where a lot of the event’s activities were scheduled, which gave us quite the show of costuming (good and bad), and was especially entertaining at night once the alcohol was fully imbibed by those passing by. Nothing like drunken revelers in over-sized codpieces accented by glow-in-the-dark rings to liven up your evening respite.

Eventually, it’s time for us to pack up and head back to the modern world. A bit bittersweet, as it means another year before I see some friends again. Even though we all keep in touch via the various electronic means, there’s nothing like sitting around the table sharing a bottle of whiskey and trading stories face-to-face. Something we don’t do enough of in this artificially accelerated civilization. If anything can be learned from my decades of experience as a re-creationist, it’s how important direct interactions can be.

So ditch the smart phones, the tablets, the laptops, the game stations, the widescreen TVs, and grab a friend for some real time together. Doesn’t matter what you do, just go do it. Live life with your own eyes. Even if it means dressing in funny clothes and renting a trailer.

IMG_1253

Now that’s riding off into the sunset…

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    I have occasionally mentioned in these pages my (not-so) secret second life as an historical recreationist. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit I run around in costume various weekends pretending to be someone else, but it just never seemed something I needed to talk in depth about here. I’ve recently come to the decision that maybe it’s time to offer a little more on this alternate facet of my life. It’s been with me longer than just about anything else in my adult life, and is a large part of the reason I am who I am.
Darius & Elana

Me and my man in costume.

Way back in college, some friends turned me onto role-playing, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. That was in the early days of the game, and us poor college kids who were far from home and had little money spent a lot of time lost in the fantasy worlds created by each other. While I’d been writing since junior high school, it wasn’t until I started running our college games as the “Dungeon Master” that I really learned what it took to develop a story and keep it interesting. And it turned out I was pretty good at it, as people kept asking me to run the games so they could play. It was also occasionally frustrating, as I really liked to just play, too, but I consoled myself by pitting my intellect against the players’, challenging them with puzzles and mysteries of ever growing complexities. Our classmates were getting drunk at parties and street racing, while we sat in a dorm room rolling dice and living in a world crafted from imagination. A lot of fond memories from that time. I still have all my First Edition game books. There are some collectors out there that would practically kill for them, but I have too much sentimental attachment to let them go.

Then one day a friend mentioned a group he had run across in a park in his hometown. Said group was dressed in funny clothes and several were actually in armor, bashing each other with makeshift weapons. We found there would be a large assembly of them at the Texas Renaissance Festival, so we made a pilgrimage to meet them. It was a cold, rainy day and the fair was lightly populated. Those people in the funny clothes gave us a dry space to hang out, warm drinks and good conversation. We discovered kindred souls, people who were a little geeky, a little shy, and a lot too smart for the mortals around them. Our mutual love of fantasy and science fiction and role playing and all those other things that “normal” people just didn’t seem to get brought us all together into one cohesive group. That was the fall of 1980, and I’ve been part of that group ever since.

The Fighting Tannenbergs

I’m in green, hubby’s in the middle in black. We made a great team.

It’s called the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (“SCA”), and it was formed in Berkley in 1965. Originally intended as a one-off fantasy party, it has morphed into a not-for-profit historical education and re-creation organization that spans the globe and boasts some 30,000 paid members. The focus is on pre-1600AD Europe, and members develop “personas” for themselves of people that “could” have lived (but not actual historical persons) at some point during the studied centuries. I’m an early 10th Century Saxon landholder, living on the Baltic Sea. My husband is a late 15th Century Prussian mercenary. Others we know are Roman soldiers, or Spanish sailors, or Norman archers. And others still are just what we call SCA-generic: no particular place or time, but enjoying learning about as much as they can all over the spectrum.

Things we've made

Some things we’ve made.

The SCA is a hands-on participatory group. We try to recreate the clothes, armor, arts, food, dance, music, whatever of our respective personas and then share our knowledge with others either as exemplars or via classes and demonstrations. Being a bit of a tomboy, I also jumped into armored combat. Yup, I put on armor and beat other people with a stick. Full contact, full speed, not choreographed and the best aggression therapy available on the planet. A few years ago I took a break from fighting to have knee replacements, and while recovering really got into needlework and weaving, something I’d only toyed with in passing before. I’m much better at those arts than I ever was at fighting, but now that I’ve had to completely retire from combat because of the detached retina, I’m realizing just how much I’m going to miss bashing my friends in the head.

The SCA has been more than just a hobby for me. It’s a second life, a place where I can be the real me and not that corporate stooge who took too long to figure herself out. I gained confidence. I learned how to speak up for myself and others. I honed skills as a public speaker and a leader I might not have been able to elsewhere. I held officers positions, organized events, taught classes, and fostered those who were new. I met my husband on the battlefield and we were married in a pagan ceremony at a major event – an event we haven’t missed since. Most of my best friends are also SCA members. We are a community of intelligent people who value the ideals of honor and chivalry in a world where none of that seems to matter anymore.

Darius & Elana Wedding 2

Our wedding ceremony.

Nobody questions a little girl who puts on a foofy dress and tiara, but they tend to look sideways at an adult doing the same thing. Adults are supposed to be serious and hard working and responsible. But research has indicated that adults need to play just as much as children. It releases tension, builds social connections, keeps our minds sharp and boosts creativity. My entire life is so very different than it might have been had I not put on a costume all those years ago and pretended to be a sword-maiden fighting monsters. And so very much better.

Maybe historical fantasy isn’t your thing. But something out there is. Computer games, line dancing, Scrabble, basket-weaving, splashing in fountains, whatever. Go find it. Go play. Tag!

Home Away From Home

Home away from home.

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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Humans are a study in contradictions. We want to take our time doing our own jobs (if we do them at all), but expect everyone else to snap to our demands instantly. We order the large chocolate shake and then bitch about our weight. We don’t vote, but then complain about the results. We want to have it both ways: one standard for ourselves, and a totally different standard for everyone else.

It’s evident in politics all the time. Taxes and gun control are for the masses, but not for the elite. We’ll cut the pay or hours of a minimum wage worker to balance the budget, but don’t expect one red cent of our bazillion dollar a year salary. We’ll cut education so we can build more bombs. We’ll kill all the abortion doctors in the name of a loving god. The ass-backwardness of the way we do things just makes my head spin sometimes. Usually counter-clockwise.

Watching the real world can be very disheartening. That’s why I avoid it whenever possible. The 21st century beyond my front door isn’t the one I imagined when I was a kid. We were supposed to be more enlightened by now, with better science and less war, while discrimination and poverty would be just history terms learned in school because neither existed anymore. I look out the window and it seems we are stupider than ever.

But even in my escapes from the modern era, I am my own oxymoron. At night I’m a science fiction writer. I read up on nanotechnology, microbiology, quantum physics, all so I can travel decades, centuries or even millennia into the future and tell the tales passed to me by the characters there. I love technology. The advances that have been made just in my lifetime are almost mind-boggling. As a child I watched mankind take its first steps into space, and now a handful of us live there nearly year-round. Those grainy, jarring videos of the moonwalks have been replaced with crystal clear digitals of the Martian surface. Star Trek, my most revered childhood love, foretold handheld communicators, computer tablets, FTL drives, and medical diagnostic tables. And I still want to be a starship captain.

On the weekends, though, I travel back in time over a thousand years and take on the guise of a Continental Saxon from the shores of the Baltic Sea circa 925AD. I study weaving, needlework, sword work and archery and wish I could afford a great black charger upon which I could gallop through the woods. Time is much slower, and scissors represent the height of technological advancement. I spend weeks or even months working on a single project, silk stitched carefully onto linen, or wool woven into a brightly patterned belt. Some might think that life was much harder in those days, but our ancestors didn’t know any different. It was simply their life. They worked hard, they played hard, and they were ingenious inventors and unparalleled artisans. Everything they did was done with the fullest of efforts. Something that is lost to us these days.

I’m happiest when I’m not in the present century. Give me a starship or give me a knight in shining armor, but don’t bother offering up cranky third world service reps, land-bound cars, or airport security checks. Why should I deal with that crap when I can stand on an alien shore under twin moons and listen to the winds chime across the sea, or sit quietly by the fire on a cold winter’s night and enjoy the sensuality of soft silk as I stitch a new garment? The dichotomy of my alternate lives gives me both high tech and low demand. Both sides of my personae are satisfied, and the real world can just go stuff it.

All of us are oxymorons in our own way. We are all bundles of contradictions, and often lose the oxy- prefix and are just plain morons because of that. Don’t let that be you. Pay attention to yourself and your interactions with others. Do you expect perfection from them, but let yourself slide? Is it okay for you to overeat, while feeding your ten-year-old yogurt so she doesn’t get fat? Do you get mad when someone is late meeting you, yet you think nothing of being “fashionably late” for dinner with friends? Is everyone driving faster than you crazy and everyone driving slower than you an idiot? It’s everywhere, and you perpetrate it. The only way we can grow into that bright future envisioned by some dorky TV producer 50 years ago is to let go of our double standards, to leave our flawed rules behind and teach ourselves to actually live to the standards we insist others do. It’s our responsibility, each of us and all of us, to make the world less oxymoronic.

And while you’re handling that, I’ll be doing needlework on the bridge of a starship…

 

 

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

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It lurked under the table, skittering about to avoid each swipe of the broom. A malevolent little bugger despite it’s fluffy, soft exterior, and completely disregarding any sense of order or cleanliness. Who knows how long it had hidden there. Weeks, perhaps, or even months. Time has no meaning to such evils.

It’s dexterity allowed a deft avoidance of any direct attack. It could bounce out of the way as if lifted on the very winds produced by any movement around it. It left no tracks and seemed to grow with each passing day, sucking up insect and crumb alike into its insatiable maw. And its intelligence, oh, it’s cunning little intellect, could drive the best of us mad with frustration. Like it knew exactly where you must look to see it, and then glommed on to a chair leg or darted under the refrigerator to avoid you. Wiley little bastard.

There is no greater foe, of course, for those of us who guard our homes against the crimes and pestilence of the outside world. While the hunt can be arduous, and the risk great, the reward for finally capturing such a deadly adversary is beyond the riches of the Tzars.

You must know it, too, friend. It tasks us all at one point or another. If not under the table, then under the couch, the bed, the nightstand, even behind the toilet. We all suffer its attacks. You know of which I speak, that dreaded beast, the bane of all domestic goddesses everywhere: the Dust Bunny.

Yes, I was cleaning this weekend. Okay, not really a thorough wash-the-walls spring-cleaning kind of thing, but enough to (hopefully) not drive away the people scheduled to come for a visit. With the whole money situation these last few years (read: we’re broke as hell), we haven’t been able to do some basic upkeep on our house like we should. Even something as simple as putting on a fresh coat of paint in a room has been beyond us, let alone new carpets, exterior paint and repair, or finishing the bathroom that got tore up for plumbing repairs (mumbly) years ago. Add that to the fact I’m lousy at serious cleaning, the house looks (and smells), well, let’s just say tired.

I’m good at keeping things tidy. I organize. I file, sort, stack, alphabetize, order, and store things. I do dishes and vacuum and even clean the toilet, but usually under threat of embarrassing myself in front of friends that are going to visit. If they could see what this place looked like under normal circumstances, they’d probably never play with me again.

I can find anything of mine in this house in short order, usually often in just seconds, even under complete darkness while hampered by a cat in desperate need of attention RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND!!! It’s one of those OCD things I have, which I think probably develops from the fact I’m extremely near sighted and hard of hearing. I have to be in control of my immediate environment under even the worse case scenarios, because, Goddess knows, I don’t have control of anything else.

This is in stark contrast to my beloved husband, who seems to think the chair next to the bed is a closet, and the floor next to his desk is a filing cabinet. He has a finely tuned ability to put things right in front of other things I need, or right in the middle of a walk way. It’s like he’s psychic or something. He, needless to say, doesn’t have the same issues with our house and its cleanliness (or lack thereof) that I do. But I think that’s part of that being a guy thing. It’s okay to eat leftovers cold, sheets only need to be changed once or twice a year, and farts are funny.

But what the house really needs, and what would help a lot, is a deep cleaning. One of those top-to-bottom-sort-through-every-nook-and-cranny-scrub-with-a-toothbrush kind of cleanings. I keep telling myself that I just need to pick one task to start off with, just one thing in one room, and then slowly work myself through the house until it sparkles. Unfortunately, trying to figure out the starting point just overwhelms me with all that needs to be done. And then there’s the whole laziness issue. Not to mention that fact that cleaning my own house doesn’t make me any money, whereas my weaving and needlework (and hopefully one day soon, my writing) do, so I stay focused on those things and leave the real cleaning (or, rather, the tidying) for those angst-ridden days right before friends come over.

So there I was, chasing dust bunnies around the kitchen, wondering how the hell the laws of physics aren’t broken by their teleportation away from my broom, and then equally stumped when all of a sudden they adhered themselves to the bristles and wouldn’t let go until the downward application of about 5,000 pounds of force, at which point they stuck to my hands like vampires just woken from a 1,000 year sleep. The theory is if I clean more often those vicious little fur balls wouldn’t get so big, but I’m not buying it. That’s a lie “They” tell you to keep you in line, to be a good little housewife and not make trouble. The truth is, dust bunnies are really from a parallel dimension and are launched into ours through microscopic unstable wormholes built by their evil overlords. They are the first wave of an alien attack and nothing we can do will stop them. Just when you think you have them cleared out of the kitchen, they show up in the living room, the bedroom, the bathroom. And since we’re all doomed anyway, what’s the point in cleaning?

Well, the point is, we mustn’t give up! There’s always hope, a silver lining in every cloud, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or, at the very least, take as many of them down with you as you can. Put on your Elmer Fudd hat, grab your shotgun broom and get hunting. The life you save may be a friend’s.

And just because your life is boring, doesn’t mean your writing has to be.

 

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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I’m not known for my patience. The people who watch as I spend hours on end weaving or doing needlework may think otherwise, but handwork allows me to go into another realm where time doesn’t exist, so patience isn’t really needed. It’s the same when I’m writing – I’m lost somewhere/when else and so caught up with the story being told to me I have no need to exercise anything remotely close to patience. But it’s a whole ‘nother matter when it comes to this place around us we call the real world.

As a perfectionist sufferer of OCD, I find the inefficiency rife in our modern society to be a tremendous annoyance. I’m constantly having to wait longer than I think necessary. There’s the clerk who didn’t bother paying attention when (supposedly) trained on the new equipment and therefore takes forever to attempt even the most basic of tasks. Or the elderly gentleman who has no idea what prescriptions he has and/or which one he needed renewed and complicates issues by refusing to listen to the pharmacist trying to help him. Then there’s the Gen Y’er at the gas station with the car radio at 900 decibels and her fueling done who can’t seem to understand why the line behind her is honking as she chats on her cell phone.

You might be thinking those examples are more about the (bad) behaviors of individuals than efficiency, but let me set you straight here. Bad behavior happens because the perpetrators don’t care to be efficient. Being efficient is about paying attention and taking the most direct path to the end result. If you’re a clerk at a store, the end result is to give your customers the correct information and get them out quickly. Futzing around trying to figure out how to access the right code because you didn’t bother to pay attention in training doesn’t do that. Just because you’re in a low-paying dead-end job doesn’t mean you have to be a low-paid dead-end worker. Don’t live the stereotype.

When I go to the pharmacy, I know exactly what I’m there to pick up. I know the brand and generic names of my prescriptions and I know their exact dosages and what they look like. This makes questions and transactions all that much faster, and by keeping track of all that I can catch any mistakes. At the gas station, I don’t blare the radio or talk on the phone and make sure I get out of the way as soon as I’m done fueling. What you might call common courtesy, I call efficiency. I don’t want to spend any more time there than absolutely necessary and neither should you. Get off the fucking phone, pay attention and drive.

If only it were so easy in the writing world. No matter how efficient you might be, waiting seems to be the only thing a writing career can guarantee you. Waiting to hear back on a query. Waiting to hear how you did in a contest. Waiting for some sort of feedback on a submission. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Usually weeks, and sometimes months. I entered a short story contest in April of 2012 that still has yet – as of this writing – to finish judging and announce its results. So I wait, wondering if I will ever find out how I placed, if at all, and frustrated that there’s nothing I can do to speed up the process.

Instead of just waiting, and stewing, and wondering, writers need to develop a selective sort of amnesia. Once whatever you’re sending is out of your hands, you should just “forget” it and move on to the next thing[1]. This is where short-form writers may have it easier than long-form writers. Lots of different projects, for lots of different markets might go a long way to keeping someone busy enough to not obsess on that latest submission. I’m primarily a novelist so that makes things a little tougher to put out of my mind (though out of my mind is what some people might think of me…). I have one novel in submission with a major publisher, two short stories out to a couple of magazines, and the aforementioned contest entry. So, even as I slog through the new novel, those few submissions aren’t far from my thoughts. Tick tock goes the clock…

So here I wait, trying to keep myself busy while my writing fate is in someone else’s hands. A frustrating position for a control-freak like me. A real lesson in patience, someone might say. And just the way it is in this business.

Sure beats the hell out of asking someone if they want fries with that…


[1] But keep a log! I have an Excel spreadsheet set up with pertinent info, such as the project, the date submitted, to whom, any notes, etc. I also will set up calendar reminders based on the guidelines of the recipient. Whatever works for you, but definitely keep track of what you sent where and when!

 

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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I am self-employed these days, working out of my home. It’s a lot like being unemployed, in that I’m not making a whole lot of money. But the benefits are pretty nice. Thanks to my hard-working husband, I get room and board and medical coverage, and can work pretty much on my own schedule without some myopic manager hovering over my shoulder. Though sometimes the boss can really be a bitch.

But there seems to be a perception in our culture that people who work at home are lazy, bon-bon snacking, soap opera watching lay-a-bouts who only pretend to spend a few minutes actually doing something. At least, that’s a common feeling I get from people when I mention that I don’t work at a “normal” job anymore. Stay-at-home parents (which is an oxymoronic term, if you really think about it) have experienced this for decades. I’m not a parent, – largely because I’ve watched my friends and family and their children and learned the dangers – but there’s nothing easy or leisurely about keeping a household running while changing diapers, chasing toddlers and keeping your working partner fed.

I think it’s really about jealousy. While the “regular” workers are spending the average of 25-45 minutes (depending on your source) trapped in a compact car and stuck on a polluted freeway commuting to their offices, I spend about 30 seconds walking down stairs. I deal with cat toys and dog hair rather than flat tires and traffic. Instead of the drive through and $5 for one drink at Starbucks, I casually stroll through the kitchen and put on a pot of tea. For $5 I can have tea several times a day, every day, for a month. And my version of casual Friday consists of ditching the sweats and t-shirt in favor of pajamas. Given those points, I can understand what people might be seeing.

But the fun ends there. Being self-employed actually takes a ton of self-discipline and planning. While I’m good at the latter, I suffer from a dearth of the former. The first few months of unemployment were pretty much wasted because I had no exterior motivations to get anything done. I caught up on about 20 years of sleep and about a dozen DVD collections of shows I’d always wanted to watch but didn’t have the time for. I read a lot, too. And killed many, many things on my computer. But I didn’t really get anything constructive done. I might as well have been eating bon-bons and watching soap operas.

So I developed a new plan of action. It took some time, but over this last year I’ve settled into a routine that allows me to be constructive, while also allowing me to work on my normal nocturnal cycle.

Most days the alarm goes off at noon. Yes, you saw that right – I set an alarm. I’m very cat-like in my desire for sleep, so I have to set an alarm to get my ass out of bed and get to work. Here begins my first part-time job: housewife. I handle the chores, run any errands, pay the bills and deal with any other administrative tasks that might come up. I make sure my husband comes home to a cooked meal and we spend a little time together before he retires to his lair for the evening.

My second part-time job begins once the hubby is recharging for the next day. One of the things we’ve been doing over the last couple years is trying to build a side-business based on some of the skills we’ve developed for our historical re-enactment group. He blacksmiths, does decorative metalwork and builds armor. I do needlework and weaving. Because we’ve specialized in areas few others are handling, we’ve begun to develop a nice little following. So far it’s netting us enough money to keep us playing in our group. Pretty much the only social life we have at this point, so it’s been nice to do. We want to eventually get to where we have enough income from our “hobby” to live on, which means making a ton more stuff and then selling it. To that end, my evenings are spent either at a loom, or holding an embroidery hoop. Okay, so I’m watching TV and dealing with an old cat who thinks my lap is preferable to any other place in the house, too, but I’m still knocking off about three hours a night of handwork.

I head to the office once the late news is over. That’s where I have my third part-time job, writing. That’s the job I really like and the one that gives me the most joy, as well as the most frustration. For an embarrassingly long time, I would fritter the hours away by watching bad science fiction on Hulu, playing computer games or otherwise finding reasons to avoid doing the one thing I said I wanted to do. I’d go to bed about dawn feeling guilty and full of self-loathing, while all those characters and scenes I should have been putting on paper swirled chaotically around in my head, screaming at me for neglecting them.

Finally I had enough. I can’t really describe what went on inside me (sorry, even the best writers are at a loss for words sometimes), but one night I went into the office and took up my fountain pen and started writing. Even if it’s just a few sentences, some notes on a scene, or a character description, I write SOMETHING every night. As Jim Butcher has said in a number of his interviews, even one word is one word closer to finishing. The new novel is now over 30K words and going strong. I’m not going to be one of those writers that can push out several books a year; I’m too slow for that. But I will keep going until it’s done, while entering contests, submitting short stories and plugging steadily away at the one thing I’ve never been able to do without.

So the next time you hear someone’s “self-employed” or “stay-at-home,” think of me. Think of coming home to a freshly vacuumed house, a hot meal and clean underwear. Think of what it’s like to hear the bills are paid, a paying commission has been finished, and the paperwork for a new selling venue has been filed. Think of reading the book jacket of a new novel, and realizing you know that person.

Being self-employed isn’t for the faint of heart. But given that I’m finally past all the negative crap in my head and making progress in my chosen career, it’s a road I’ve gladly taken.

© 2013  Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

 

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It’s officially been three years.  Since what, you ask.  Since last I darkened the door of an office environment to work for someone else.  I was an office manager for a nice law firm, and then I wasn’t.  It came at a time in my life when I was really questioning what the hell I was doing and why, and was the answer I needed, if not the answer the checkbook wanted.

If you’ve read any of my past ramblings, you know I have spent the last three years trying to get another office job, while bitching about not wanting to at the same time.  I sent out hundreds of applications, only rarely landing an interview, and gradually lowering my standards until I ended up testing for a county job I had already done back in the ‘90’s.  I was really depressed about that for a long time.  Leaving 15 years of job experience and certifications and education on the shelf just to get something, anything for the paycheck.  Of course, I landed in the top tier of candidates on that test.  It took a couple of months, and then the calls started coming in for interviews.  Apparently the county budget had opened up and they were filling positions again.  In the span of five weeks I had four interviews with three different county departments.  One of those departments was the exact same one I had already worked five years for, in the exact same job, in the ‘90’s.  I figured I was a shoe in.  Within a couple days I had scheduled three more interviews for three other departments.  Then, one after another, the notification deadlines went by and I had no job offers.  None.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.  For a job I had already done, to excellent reviews, for FIVE YEARS.  The exact same classification, the exact same county, the exact same department.  NADA.

That’s when I decided I was really and truly done.  Done with working for someone else, done with looking for a job I’d probably just hate anyway, done with subjecting myself to the standards of those life forms lower than me.  Done, done, done.

So I had a serious sit-down with the hubby.  We talked pros and cons, we looked at the bills, we hacked things off the list like machete-wielding banditos in the jungle.  And we decided it was possible.  It wouldn’t be easy.  It meant we’d be tap-dancing penny to penny for an unknown length of time.  It meant deciding that things we’d always said we couldn’t live without, we would now live without.

Most importantly, it meant my husband had faith in me.  And with that kind of backing, anything is possible.

So I am now strictly an independent contractor.  For a few hours in the afternoon, I’m a housewife, taking care of chores, errands, dinner while my husband spends the day schlepping things at work.  In the evenings, I work on projects for our hobby-turned-side-business while watching TV.  We’re not making a lot of money off that business, but it’s been enough to pay for our hobbies and give us a little extra for the occasional household expense.  It helps keep us sane.

At night, well… at night is when I’m a writer.

That was the decision.  A full and complete acceptance of the one fact I’ve been avoiding for most of my adult life.  Mind you, I wasn’t avoiding it out of fear.  Okay, maybe it was fear, but it’s the fear associated with not paying the bills, not having the things everybody expects you to have, not living the life we’ve been told we should all be living.  I’ve been different my whole life, picked on mercilessly in school – you’d think I’d be used to it by now.  But there’s a part in each of us that desperately, feverishly wants to fit in, to be part of the club.  I finally managed to shut that bitch up.

I am who I am.  My creative nature has been with me since the day of my birth.  Music came first, then writing, then needlework and weaving and all the other things I’ve dabbled in over the years of my life.  But writing has always been the one outlet I’ve needed the most.  It is always with me.  Even when I’m not actually writing, I’m writing.  Things are always going on in my head – characters showing up out of the blue, scenes playing on some internal Caille-o-scope, plot-lines, worlds, gadgets, etc…

Now it is all free to romp without fetters.

My first novel is complete and I’m querying agents, using sources like Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware and Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents to wind my way through the craggy mine fields of the publishing industry.

I’m on the first draft of a new novel, as well.  Something that came to me out of a fan-fic writing exercise and then turned into something entirely its own.  Handwriting it on 60lb bond paper with a fountain pen.  Nothing like it.

A completed short story is being fished around for a home, another one has been entered into a contest and a couple more are languishing on my desk as I fumble through this monster I’m creating in green ink.

I’m trying to blog more.  (See?? Here I am!)

I do the occasional edit/polish/or-flat-out-typing job for a couple business clients.

I also have subscriptions to e-letters from FundsforWriters and the Creative Competitor, which list contests, grants, workshops and job opportunities from all over.

And I even applied for a grant from the Speculative Literature Foundation.  Can you believe they have one specifically for older writers who are just getting their pro game on?  How cool is that!?!

I’ve also joined FanStory, an on-line writers community where you can get your work critiqued by other writers, enter contests, or just read lots of stuff written by all levels of writers from all over the world.

And there’s so much more out there.  The Internet has made it so much easier to be an entrepreneur in these modern times, just as it has made it so much harder to filter all the information into our tiny little brains.  Modern technology is allowing me to work from home and not spend months and months waiting for something in the mail.  I can do research, video chat with an agent, and play my favorite tunes all without leaving my desk.  For someone who doesn’t get enough exercise to start with, it might not be the best thing for my physical health.

But finally doing what I really want, what I have ALWAYS wanted, full time, damn the bank account, screw the nay-sayers – that has given me a boost in my mental health the world’s best pharmaceuticals couldn’t manage.

So here I am, world.  Casting about in the sea of uncertainty, hoping something bites on one of my hooks while baiting the next one.  Man, I love the air out here.

 

© 2012  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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Hi there.  Remember me?  I used to occasionally ramble about these pages, boring you with my depressive mutterings.  Yeah, it’s been a while.  Life got a little too interesting and I just went and hid under the bed, metaphorically speaking.  Took me a bit to crawl out.  Not very conducive to a writing career, that whole not-writing thing.  But sometimes you just have to wallow in it until you figure out that what you really need is a good shower and a shot of bourbon and to just get over it.

Just to bring us all up to speed, I’m still not working in a “conventional” sense, though my husband and I have started a small business catering to our historical re-enactment group that’s been showing some promise.  The hubby is blacksmithing while I’m doing needlework and weaving.  That’s given me a good bit of pleasure, figuring out new patterns and seeing them come alive and then watching them walk away with a happy someone.

Stitching for Viking apron.

And it’s given us a small (very!) amount of money to help supplement the household.  Not as healthy for the bank account as desired, but certainly a lot more fun than typing up disciplinary memos.

After sending out hundreds of resumes and/or applications and only landing about a half-dozen interviews, with all thanks-but-no-thanks responses (used to be if I could get an interview, I got the job – but that doesn’t happen anymore…) I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of going back to an office environment.  Didn’t think that I’d have a problem with that, but being told you’re not wanted anymore is different from deciding that you don’t want to anymore.  Yeah, let’s just add more fuel to the depression.

And I hit a milestone this year: the half-century mark.  Yep, I turned 50 a few weeks ago.  At least, that’s what my driver’s license says.  My mom says I’m only 41 since she’s only 59 and she wouldn’t lie to me, would she?  I know, probably not something I should brag about, given today’s youth-oriented market for just about anything (writing included), but dammit, I earned those years.  When I was a kid 50 seemed like some unheard of ancient age that no one ever really reached, but now that I’m here, I wonder what all the fuss is about.  I don’t feel like 50 and I’ve had people tell me that I don’t look like 50, which just makes me wonder what the hell does 50 look like anyway?

I also stopped coloring my hair.  Partly because I just couldn’t afford the salon bill anymore, but also because I was just done pretending to be something I wasn’t.  Let’s just age gracefully, shall we?  It helps that I seem to have a lovely shade of silver coming in, instead of dull grey, with a bit of a wave to the hair it didn’t used to have.  All those years of perms and color and here I am just letting Mother Nature do Her thing to get the same result for free.  Lessons learned.

And while I haven’t been writing here, I have been writing.  Some.  Not nearly enough and I’m ashamed that I’ve been wasting the opportunity given me with this time on my own.  I’m determined not to piddle anymore of it away.  I finished my novel earlier this year, and then choked for months on the query letter to an agent I’d like to have represent me.  That’s on my hit list to get completed this week, come hell or high water.  I’m tired of being afraid it won’t be perfect.  Nothing is perfect.  And nothing gets me nowhere, so I might as well get over my OCD issues and just throw it out there.

I finished a short story and just submitted it to the third magazine for possible publication (two rejections already – I took them better than I thought I would).  I also have two other short stories in process, and have been mulling over possible story lines for a sequel to my novel.  My initial plan was to go back to a trilogy I started years and years ago, but I got side tracked.  There are a couple of characters that have been running around my head for the last few months, demanding attention.  They started out as part of a fan-fic mental exercise I gave myself, trying to envision how a favorite sci-fi show could be rebooted ten years after the fact using these new characters as catalyst.  Then they just kind of took over and dragged me into a world wholly their own.  Sometimes you just don’t have a choice in these matters.  I’ve already jotted down several scenes and they haven’t shut up, so I guess it’s on to a full draft now.

So, there you go.  Not exactly all the details, but enough to let you know I’m still around and still trying to plug through this.  Okay, maybe I’m not as exciting as the Republican debates on Fox News or as cute as the kittehs on icanhascheezburger.com.  But neither are you.  And that’s why we’re here, commiserating and swearing and beating our heads against the table, so we can make our own way in this crazy world.

© 2011  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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