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articulate_ungulate
07 August 2014 @ 07:30 pm
I'm surfacing briefly from migraineheim to relate some good news:

My story 'Mister Bob' is live in audio form over at Drabblecast, issue 332.

Cover for Drabblecast 332, Mr. Bob, by David Krummenacher

Also, my poem, 'siren', will be appearing Year One, Issue Two of Lakeside Circus, on 13 August. There's already about half of the issue live, so go enjoy!

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articulate_ungulate
17 May 2014 @ 05:55 pm
I have found a decision. It seems I get snippets of composition the more I read fiction and the less I pay attention to social media. Why ignoring LJ and Faceborg entirely for a whole day helps with this, whereas checking in on social media for a mere 15 minutes here and there during the day does not... I have no idea, but suspect some odd psychological quirk on my part.

Most of my time is caught up in coping with migraine now. Things are no longer as scary or excruciating as I've posted about in the past - my neurologist's treatment plan is helping in many respects - but I am in a holding pattern where I can rarely come up for air.

Since I cannot get out of the water, I am going to try going into the woods - even if that means swamps, mangroves, or other mucky bits. Until further notice, I'll be off social media entirely (and I am half-tempted to delete my Faceborg account, though not LJ), in the hopes of focusing what free time I have on family, on yard work (yes, yard work; have you seen how much deadfall an ice storm brings down?), on the touch-and-go of telescopes and star-gazing, and on reading and writing as much as I may.

I will still see LJ comments here, and messages sent via FB, but those are the only email notifications I will be leaving on. I may post the rare bit of publication news, for what little has been accepted; but I'm strongly against it in this moment.

Goodbye and good luck. May spirits stand between you and harm in the dark places of the world. I am away wandering.


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articulate_ungulate
05 May 2014 @ 09:28 pm
Saturday was quite good for star-gazing; probably the clearest night so far. A friend came over, and C did more post-ice-storm burning so we all could have s'mores. No pictures taken by me this time, as I was trying to preserve my night vision, but this shot of the moon was done by my friend with a proper camera - though still afocal, so not the best possible. At least the craters show up a bit before exposure gets washed out. :-)

The picture beside it, taken from this Public Domain image by Peter linde, gives a good impression of the best sighting on Saturday night - M13, the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules. The picture is sharper / higher contrast than what I saw through my scope (thanks to light pollution), but we were able to see most of the stars as individual points.

waxing_moon2         M13

Before I go into Saturday's observations, remember that the Eta Aquarid meteor shower is at its best tonight through Wednesday! (Alas, all we have here are clouds this week.)
More details of sightings and such under the cut...Collapse )
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articulate_ungulate
03 May 2014 @ 11:56 am
The Zhumell 1.25 Inch 8-24mm Zoom Telescope Eyepiece, that I ordered after last weekend's observing, came in on Thursday. I had a chance to use it that night, as well as last night, in spite of cloudy conditions. Tonight looks to be the best observing night I've encountered so far, with completely clear skies and humidity in the 40-50% range (compared with 70-something % last weekend).

I didn't try for pictures the past two nights. Conditions weren't ideal, and I wanted to get some experience with the Zoom eyepiece. But my eldest took the photo below with her iPhone 4 - again, an afocal hold-it-to-the-eyepiece-and-hope approach - while the new crescent moon was veiled by passing clouds:

crescent_moon_02-MAY-2014

More details on how the Zoom eyepiece performed under the cut...Collapse )


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articulate_ungulate
27 April 2014 @ 09:33 am
As mentioned a couple posts back, I got my first telescope this month and am starting to learn the ropes of amateur astronomy from our yard in the country. Last night had either more haze or more humidity, compared with Wed's viewing - even though the forecast for last night looked better than the forecast for Wed night had been. But I did have more success using the Dobson - no trouble with the finder scope this time!

I tried some very rough astrophotography. This is probably the best of the lot from last night, showing Jupiter and four of its moons:
Jupiter with 4 moons 26-APR-2014

More pictures and details on last night's viewing under the cutCollapse )

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articulate_ungulate
26 April 2014 @ 04:30 pm
Holy...

So...

I just finished brain-dumping the characters, setting, and early plot for a YA-ish novel (that could become more than one novel) which simultaneously feels original and influenced by (derivative of?) almost everything I've read that's meant something to me - and which I watched/read while dreaming during a mid-day nap trying to recover from a dose of Dramamine after three days of insomnia and disturbed sleep schedules...

Does this mean disruptions to my normal routines, lack of sleep, and a wee bit of mildly mind-altering drugs is good for me? (Don't answer that.) (Although... Coleridge was my favorite Romantic poet...)

I haven't felt like this since writing Codex, when I was downright loopy (both from my perspective and based on the comments of those around me)...

Maybe I have really do have to take the plunge, go a bit crazy... in order to write these days. I wonder...

Anywhooo... This brain-dump is similar to the one I did for the prior work-in-progress, with the difference that I dreamed, rather than thought up, today's outline. I literally watched / lived all the elements of the story while dreaming - and woke up thinking, 'This would make a good story... I wonder if someone's written it? Wait...'

I'm hopeful this is a novel I can work on in spite of migraine, get into a writing-as-work schedule and just plug away at it, inspiration-be-damned - but I'm also largely migraine-free right now. It feels like I have more of the plot, and just enough detail, compared with the prior work-in-progress, to be writing without the need for inspiration or quick wit. Here's hoping...

Unfortunately, I also feel like I've just been given Top Secret For Your Eyes Only information and that if I share any info about the story, even with trusted friends, I will ruin it. As Peter Jackson's Bilbo would say, after slapping one's hand, "It's not ready yet!" Proof is in the pudding, not the recipe, so we'll see how it all turns out - once I have a completed draft (or drafts) of the whole thing, whether novel, trilogy or series...

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articulate_ungulate
25 April 2014 @ 02:35 am
While I'm still battling the migraine sea (why, hello, insomnia)... I have a few good things to share:

I wrote a poem this week that feels like it may be worth submitting. It's currently on I-need-some-distance-before-editing, but this is the first 'feels right' bit of creative writing since I finished Codex almost 16 months ago (not counting the novel progress blip this Feb).

My poem 'siren' should be appearing in Lakeside Circus in the coming weeks or months, hopefully complementing 'seining the sea'.

My story 'Mister Bob', originally published in Kaleidotrope, was accepted by Drabblecast right at the end of March. I'm looking forward to hearing the story. :-)


And I'm hoping to have a reason to post more, thanks to my new hobby of astronomy! (Probably observation logs and what limited astrophotography I can coax from my Dobson.) Ever since moving into our house here, I've been stunned by how well the night sky can be seen here in the country on a cold, clear night. There's still light pollution, and this isn't the furthest out in the country I've lived, but we have 2 acres of relatively open land, with limited lights nearby...

I've been saying we need to get a telescope for the past 2 years, and the current nearness of Mars (plus paying off a long-standing debt) encouraged me to go ahead and revisit amateur astronomy. I vaguely remember being interested in middle school, joining a local astronomy club, then getting discouraged and giving up when I realized we'd never be able to afford even a toy telescope. Now, I'm hopeful this will be something I can do in spite of migraine (unlike writing). It will certainly make better use of my obsession with weather forecasts (rather than just in anticipation of migraine attacks).

I got an Orion SkyQuest XT6 Dobson as the best balance between budget and interests (good aperture, reputable quality, transportable, simple to use, able to view planets as well as deep sky objects). Only been out with it once, Wednesday night, but I saw four of Jupiter's moons! And a hint of the bands on Jupiter! And Mars as a reddish bright blob! And the rings of Saturn, plus maybe two or three of its moons! (Makes me feel thirty years younger, that. :-)

Saturday night looks to be one of those clear, sable and sparking nights. Hopefully, I'll be able to see Mizar as the binary it is (in the Big Dipper), maybe one of the galaxies in the Virgo cluster, or else M101 (just out from Mizar) or maybe M51, further up, the Whirlpool galaxy. And if insomnia strikes again, I can put it to good use for a change...

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articulate_ungulate
19 April 2014 @ 11:45 am
I have mixed feelings about this book.

amongotherssm

Putting on my "everyone's a critic" hat... The pacing builds incrementally over the course of the novel. It felt slow in the first half, and I didn't reach the "can't put it down" stage until two-thirds along. I hate diaries as a narrative tool, except in small doses. I don't have patience for the daily drivel that would make a diary more authentic, but get annoyed when a "diary" comes across as a well-crafted, first-person narrative written by an author rather than by the diarist. (Though, to be fair, Walton strikes a good balance between those two pitfalls.) I can see, from the reviews of the book that I've read, how one might feel the ending is abrupt, or that the portrayal of Mor's mother is two dimensional and cliche. The book can also come across as being more about the way an individual can lose themselves in books, can escape into their imagination, than about the realities of finding oneself, and one's place in the world, by way of fiction.

But...

I love this book, and it took me two-thirds of the account to get to know Mor well enough. Yes, all of the criticisms above can be leveled at the book. But I never felt, at any point in the book, that the way it was written was anything less than necessary. This is a book about a year of transitions, of crossing thresholds both social and soulful, of being between, of being an Other among Others, both fairy and human. This is a realist novel, with the most accurate portrayal of the magical that I've ever read. (Please note that I am not saying "most accurate representation of the fantastic"; the fantastic is not synonymous with the magical.)

It is both unflinching and sympathetic in the way it shows how imagination shapes experience. It allows one to speculate about the reality of Mor's experience *without* breaking the enchantment of that experience. A reader can question whether Mor is just believing in make-believe, is escaping into her imagination - and in Mor's worries about the effects and extent of the magic she's done, it is clear to the reader that she's skirting delusion. Yet, at the same time, Mor's experience is real to others around her (e.g. the walking stick and Wim seeing the fairies). The way she perceives magic in objects (e.g. the earrings) and in the intent of others (e.g. her father's sisters) is accurate - even if a skeptical reader would interpret her perceptions as an intuitive understanding of psychology, rather than "magic" as such.

This book doesn't say to the reader: "If fairies and magic were real, then..." Rather, it says: "Fairies and magic are real, and..." It doesn't assume a particular objective reality and make an exception to that authoritative assumption. It assumes experience is subjective and reality no more than the interaction between perception and imagination--both our own and with others' perceptions and imagination.

And then there's my personal stakes in the book. I put off reading it for a few years because, within the first few pages, I could tell I'd need to prepare myself for it. There are too many touchstones.

Everything Mor says about magic, from the way it works to its deniability, matches my own experience. I've never read any account, fiction or non-fiction, that does that (though I must admit I've never seen fairies or ghosts - though, maybe will-o'-the-wisps).

Books, and speculative fiction especially, shaped my growing years in very similar ways. I know what it's like to grow up without a father, living with a mad mother, and much later find out you're more like the distant father. I know what it's like wanting your childhood back, being forever marked by survival, longing to belong.

I've never read of, nor spoken with, anyone who shares my experience of trains and travel as times of safety, contentment, and connection - aside from Mor's comments on the same. Those times of transition are a comfort because being between feels right, instead of wrong.

I know what it's like to live with chronic pain and to endure limited mobility, to always be the outsider looking in (and questioning one's right to belong once on the inside). And I've experienced the same moments of interconnection that Mor does near the end of the book. One of the most powerful being when I was on the train out from Aber, at the end of my semester in Wales, watching the sun light up the low hanging clouds drifting down from the mountain tops.

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articulate_ungulate
18 February 2014 @ 09:01 pm
I think I may be getting the nuances here in migraineheim. One of them, anyway.

With the exception of a few hundred words of novel draft revisions & additions, I have not written anything of substance since the end of Yule over a year ago.

Things are vastly better this winter, compared with the last two. Since changing neurologists last March (to a proper headache specialist) and starting a regimen of metabolism-boosting supplements, my cognition has gotten a lot better -- no more worries of dementia, much better functionality at work, etc. -- and my chronic pain has come down from wild fluctuations between '3' and '8' (on ye olde 10 pointe scale) to a steady, more manageable meander between '0' and '3'. (And taking lamotrigine seems to have been responsible for the last four months' ever-so-gradual improvement -- a trend which may be continuing.) But there are limits.

Six inches is no different from six fathoms when you can't keep your head above water.

There is a threshold at which I can -- or can't -- be creative. It's not a switch. There are gradations. Things do get better approaching the threshold and worse when falling back under. As things start to improve, I notice its easier to do scripting and problem-solving at work -- solutions come to mind rather than being obvious only after the fact. If I keep coasting, I'll feel more quick-witted, make connections between concepts more readily, be able to start holding a thesis in mind long enough to compose the facts to support it -- and maybe start feeling like I could write a paper. Then there are those rare hours when I feel inspired, I can write fiction, and (if I'm lucky) read-and-understand poetry.

By then, I'll have crossed the threshold.

I'm beginning to think of health in terms of a 20 point scale, from -10 to 10 rather than 0 to 10. The threshold between them is being healthy, or not. Holding steady between 0 and -3 is still negative, even when it's better than -8. It still means coping and functioning rather than living.

I'm beginning to adapt -- maybe.

A week's run of good weather at the turn of the month meant less migraine symptoms and prompted me to do some amateur research again (for my third paper in the Troth's Lore Program). I came back to a thesis I've been circling for years, found a way to treat it in brief, and outlined it. Now, I'm slowly re-reading the necessary sources, taking notes as I go, since I know now I won't be able to do this all in one go and keep it all in my head.

Then today, I found ideas for the novel-in-progress coming to mind again. Ideas that had come to me months ago came back -- and embellished themselves. So I've written them down and will see what happens next.

That seems to be the way of it. Sometimes I break the surface, and I can breath.


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articulate_ungulate
05 February 2014 @ 08:53 pm
I hadn't thought to know anything until the contest was over, but the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest has posted the finalists for this year - and I'm on the list!

I shall now be hanging about on tenterhooks...


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