blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
For weeks, Dev and I have been scheduling--and having to cancel--a trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Today, we finally made it, and I definitely needed the break.  For writer-me, it was a research day as well.  For Dev, it was a school day.  We win!  :)

The museum is both restful and stimulating. We spent a huge amount of time appreciating the African Art galleries, but somehow completely missed the North American collections. We wandered the galleries of European and Asian art, sometimes with great seriousness, and sometimes laughing as we created dialog between the paintings.
Pictures and Chit-Chat )

Then, on the way home, Dev asked about Sand of Bone, and helped me talk through a solution to a long-standing issue. It'll make revisions a tad more complicated on one hand, but it does indeed solve the issues while at the same time enhancing the story and opening possibilities for future storylines beyond this and the sequel. I have such a cool kid!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Trying to explain what Gambit looks like is always interesting. A Staffy-Boxer-Rotty mix doesn't really look like any breed. Maybe a dog crossed with a hyena, with a head too small for the body.

Pictures under the cut: )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Karate Camp is always a great--albeit exhausting--experience. But this year just seemed extra wonderful. I got to spend my time working with upcoming black belt candidates (my favorite group to teach) and being a pseudo counselor for the kids and junior counselors who were in the lodge rather than the main cabin this year.

The pattern for the kata Passai is now mine, so I can begin working on its lessons. Dev learned three new basic weapons katas that he has promised to pass along to me as well.

Best of all, I got to catch up with old friends, make a couple new ones, and see kids who'd never spent a night away from home find their confidence and evidence by the end of the week. I even spent about an hour with a fellow student and teacher who is interested in self-publishing his work.

Now, laundry is progress, the dogs aren't letting me out of their sight, and the work week starts all over on Monday.

And just for fun, here is Dev as The Doctor.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
From the 30-Day Blog Challenge…

Five weaknesses, eh? Frankly, I don’t like this one very much. What if my archenemies are reading, and are suddenly inspired to orchestrate my destruction?

Gah. Very well. Weaknesses.

First weakness that comes to mind: food. Remember Five Fonts of Happiness and my chatter about food? Yeah. I have to work hard to keep myself from eating to excess. It isn’t a matter of using food as a response to stress or emotion. I love food. I love consuming food. When I was in my most intense period of karate training, one of my favorite benefits was the ability to eat four or five full meals a day without an ounce of weight gain. I don’t mean little snack-y meals. I mean having chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, salad and pie at four in the afternoon, then chowing down on pasta, meatballs, salad, breadsticks and ice cream at nine at night.

Then there’s my temper. Every year, that becomes less and less of a weakness, but it’s still there. Mostly it’s my outward and visible reactions that have improved. On the inside, I still feel that same surge, that same feeling of expansion, as if the anger is a physical thing pressing out against my ribs and skull. If my anger is over something that happens to and/or threatens a family member or close friend, I have to do a bunch of self-talk to remain focused.

Tied into that is my pride, and that weakness becomes readily apparent whenever I face a physical challenge in front of witnesses. It’s been four or five years since I’ve sat a horse for more than an hour, but it you invited me to ride all day, I’d jump at the chance then grit my teeth into a smile when I dismounted at the end of the day. I’ll spar until I’m ready to pass out if my opponent is still going. I’ll keep going long past the point when I should cry uncle, then spend however-many-days pretending my body doesn’t feel as if it’s been tumbled down a cliff and rubbed raw with rock salt.

I also suffer from clutter-blindness. My home is clean—I have this weird thing about clean floors and counters–but ohmigosh the clutter would drive my neat-tidy friends into insanity. From June to August, I can walk past a stack of sweaters destined to be stored for the summer with nary a blink. The Christmas wreath from my front door is, I’ve just noticed, is still sitting on a little used chair in my dining room. Alas, my son seems to have acquired clutter-blindness as well, so keeping such things under control in this house is an ongoing battle.

Lastly, I can be extremely lazy. Really. Were it not necessary I run like crazy to make ends meet, I’d train a little karate, write my stories, do a little gardening, then hire somebody to take care of everything else. Now and then, I seem to believe I’ve already hired that person. Alas, reality soon blunders in when I open the kitchen cupboard and realize every bowl is still sitting in the dishwasher.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So over at [ profile] aberwyn 's LJ, there is a link to a nifty site that lets you paste in a chunk of test, then supposedly analyzes it determine which famous author your writing seems most like.

Since I can't just do things once, I did it twice. The first piece was from The Drunkard, a story I've been kicking around for ages and fervently wish I could complete to my satisfaction. It's about as far opposite in style from Sword and Chant--the second sample I submitted--as I could get.

The Drunkard resulted in the claim I write like Margaret Mitchell.

Sword and Chant seems, to the analyzer, to be like William Shakespeare.

I'm... not certain what I think about the accuracy.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Today the 30-day blog challenge is to describe a typical day from my life.

I do not have typical days.

The best and the worst thing about being self-employed in three different fields--karate, wellness, writing--while also homeschooling a teenager is that no two consecutive days will be alike. Toss in a sister who works as a flight attendant while parenting my little nephews, parents who love to spend time with extended family, and two crazy-sweet dogs, and it is guaranteed days will be interesting in the ancient proverb sense.

Let's take today, for instance.

Up at eight in the morn (because I suck at early rising) to get laundry rolling and hoe the garden before it gets to muggy. By nine, the garden has been weeded, laundry is well underway, breakfast has been eaten by human and canine residents, and I've settled in to answer wellness emails while Dev works through his assignments in algebra and economics. We talk about Doctor Who somewhere in there. At a few minutes after eleven, Dev and I head out the door, with Dev driving. (We're trying to figure out how to get the time for his driving test in before the end of the month.)

Dev sees his econ/algebra teacher for two hours. In that time, I run to the printing shop to pick up karate-related stuff, then see a karate student at his own factory to provide a private lesson on kata and kicks. We finish ten minutes late, which means I barely make it back to the teacher's office in time. But the teacher is also running late, so all's good. I return phone calls while I wait: a client looking for info on digestive enzymes, the mechanic trying to schedule what might be an all-day job for my car, someone seeking information on karate classes.

By the time we return home, it's a little after two. The dogs dance on their back legs as if we've been gone forever and threatened to never return. Fortunately, the Lab didn't find any unattended food items to devour, and the Bull-Boxer-Rotty didn't tear up anything in his crate, so their greetings were well-received. We indulge in many minutes of playing with the dogs because it makes the entire day better for all involved.

Then came the midday ninety minutes with Dev, when we make something quick and easy for lunch before sitting down to watch one of the nighttime shows we record to watch together. Today was the most recent episode of Falling Skies. I ate a Sloppy Joe and salad. Dev had the Moo Shu left over from last night and a banana.

After the show, we chatted for a bit before Dev had to start his government assignment and I had to be out the door. I reached the dojo just five minutes ahead of both my instructor and my sparring partner. Fifteen minutes of kata work and forty-five minutes of sparring followed. Less than five minutes after the end of practice, I bowed beginning students on the mat for the first class of the evening. Four hours later, around nine, I bowed my last students off the mat. In between, I taught some students a new kata, others a new throw, then worked as both teacher and uki for an hour of multiple-attacker self-defense.

Upon arriving home, a shower--quick and cold--was the second order of business. The first was to hug Dev. Since Dev is working on a Minecraft something or other video and chatting with his international friends, I am left to my own devices: more answering of email, petting the crazy sweet dogs, and writing this post. By eleven, I'll be settled enough to get some fiction in before my eyes begin to cross. By midnight, I'll curl up in bed with my yet-nameless Kindle, and read until I fall asleep somewhere around one in the morn.

And that's about as typical as it gets around here. Tomorrow I'll teach karate again in the evening, and Dev and I will still spend our midday time together, but everything else will be different.

That midday time is most precious to me. Because Dev and I often work evenings, we can't have dinner together very often. Instead, lunch is our time.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
More on the 30-Day Challenge...

Benkil from Sword and Chant is one of my most favorite characters. Without getting into spoilers for the novel, I can tell you he was once little more than an average warrior from an average tribe of Calligar--able to sit a horse with a grace, handle edged weapons to give more damage than he received, and loyal to his tribesmen, his chieftain, and his Iyah. But Benkil succumbed to the Chant--the exiled god of sacrifice and unfulfilled dreams--and believed the Chant's promises of eternal life. So the Chant molded Benkil into an assassin of exceptional skill and ruthless intent. But the Chant didn't take Benkil's awareness of self (or his doubts and fears and hopes), and left Benkil with the constant reminders that he chose to become the killer that he is.

Benkil's primary passion is for living. For surviving. More than anything, his drive to survive will make all manner of actions, circumstances, and shames acceptable. It is his greatest fault. The Chant has yet to find the action or deprivation that would make Benkil prefer death over existence. "The vibration snagged on old memories of torment and indulgence, pulled out the remembrance of the day he'd agreed to be the Chant's tool because life--survival at any cost--had seemed a better choice than death. Such was the vice of youth."

Benkil's next passion is for expertise. It isn't enough to do something right. He wants to do better than expectation, better than everyone else. It doesn't matter if the Chant is his only witness. It also doesn't matter if his expertise is the result of the god's tampering. So long as Benkil can feel the velvet ease of a dagger slash perfectly delivered, the smooth flow of turning an embrace into a headlock, the reverberation of a punch that comes all the way from heel, he's pleased. "He could outrace the swiftest pony to ever run the steppes, shatter walls of stone with the timbre of his voice, make warriors slash their own throats with the rhythm of his chants—by all the gods, he could fly."

Benkil also has a deep passion for sensory indulgences, though his recent circumstances have provided him only rough living in a stony alcove while dining on roots and snakes. If he were to walk into a grand festival, the first thing he would mark--in detail--would be the food and drink laid out for feasting. He doesn't merely bathe; he experiences the rub of cloth on skin, the warm-to-cool sensation as water slides away, the lassitude of soothed muscles. When the Chant wishes to convince Benkil of his next role, the Chant knows to use sensation rather than words. "...blood that washed down his cheeks, filled his open mouth, flowed over his tongue and gums as sun-warmed honey, infused and enwrapped him with swaths of gold-washed crimson..."

It's those passions--which seem so average when named simply as life survival, expertise, and comfortable living--that the Chant used to... "convince" Benkil to be the god's own thrall and, eventually, immortal assassin.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This should have gone up last night. Alas, I got carried away with gardening and yardwork yesterday and thus spent the evening trying to ignore the spasms in my back.

Vegetable gardening is not my dream job, even though I do enjoy it and its results.

I cannot choose a single “job.” I’ve never been the single-career track type. I enjoy and take satisfaction in many things. I don’t have a single favorite, but two.

Writing would, of course, be a significant part of the mix. I love storytelling. Were I able to devote more time to those endeavors, I’d love to experiment with scripts as well as novels and short stories. As the coming year unfolds, time for writing will become easier to come by mostly because I’ll no longer be driving my son all over the place day after day.

Teaching must be part of it as well. Whether it’s at the dojo or at a conference, I love sharing information, watching the student’s process of understanding, and hearing of successes that come when the new knowledge is put to work. Teaching changes people. That’s a remarkable evolution to watch and be party to.

My goal over the next three years is to establish a working base that combines the two. I think I can make it happen.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Mmm... Chinese food...


Five things that make me happy. Very well.

First, that mention of Chinese food by [ profile] spaceintheway does indeed make me happy. Mentioning Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, American, Indian and European food makes me happy, too. I love food. I adore food. I don't consider myself a foodie, or a great cook, or even a discerning eater. But taste and scent and texture—and sharing that experience with others—is a great joy. I remember the immense pleasure of eating fresh cilantro atop carne asada for the first time. I can recall the sweet tang of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, tossed with feta and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. My mouth waters over what I was served at an Indian restaurant in Salt Lake City, though I can't tell you what it was called. The fried green tomatoes and chutney I ate in Charleston were a delight. Tarragon chicken. Burgers and onion rings. Cannelloni con asparagi. Moo shu. Noodles with butter, garlic and oregano. Sweet corn. Beef barley stew. Cheesecake. Naan. Fried mushrooms. Hummus. French fries. Marinara. Steaks. Oh, yes, steaks. Food makes me smile from the inside out.

Unless it involves fish, and then I really don't want anything to do with it.

Wow, that was a really long paragraph. I guess I'm serious about that food thing.

Second, my son makes me happy. Not in that general I-love-my-kid way, but in specific ways. He has a sharp wit, and isn't afraid to use it. He isn't afraid to make stupid jokes, either, if the opportunity seems right. When he heard the recent Doctor Who news, he told me that, on a scale from one to ten, his bummer feelings rated an eleven. "Get it, Mom? The Eleventh?" Yes, my child, I got it. But what makes me smile most about that is... My son loves Doctor Who! On the more serious side, his maturity makes me happy. His assumption that women are of course his equals makes me happy. His willingness to work, his growing ability to talk through problems and feelings and fears, his devotion to friends and family, his courage in the face of bigotry—all these things make me happy.

Third, training karate makes me happy. I like knowing I'm strong. I like sparring and self-defense, and working to be better at both. Every now and then I have a moment when I can't believe I'm doing what I'm doing. When I realize I'm in my forties, throwing and being thrown by teenagers and young men, and I'm less winded than they are. I did a very un-sensei-like happy dance on the mat last week, when I performed a few moves in kata properly for the first time after weeks and weeks of trying. It's joyful, that moment when every part of the body suddenly understands what the brain has been trying to achieve.

Fourth, I find great happiness in teaching. Whether I'm teaching karate, wellness and nutrition, basic writing skills or fundamental cooking tasks, passing along knowledge is one of my greatest joys. With cooking, it's seeing people realize the empowerment of transforming basic ingredients into a fulfilling meal. With writing, it's enjoying the beauty of story emerging as talent is honed by craft. With wellness and nutrition, it's watching people move out of illness and into the power of self-responsibility and hope. With karate, it's seeing children develop the confidence, respect, and honor that comes from hard work and achievement, and adults uncover the poise and conviction that comes from taking risks and not giving up. I love watching people straighten their shoulders, lift their chins and say, "I can do that!"

Lastly, creativity brings me joy. Developing an entire world--from the broad boundaries of geography to the details of textile fibers--is a delight. Sharing a story, bit by bit, with an audience is awesome. Acting, which I haven't done for years, was a thrill unlike anything else I've done in life. Directing live theater brought a sensation equal in pleasure, but deeper in satisfaction. In fact, directing was like a combination of writing and teaching. Yes, I controlled the parameters for the actors, but once the show opened, the actors had to take what direction I'd given them and make it their own.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

At this particular moment, doing a 30-day blog challenge sounds enjoyable. I figured I’d better mention it in public before that sense of enjoyment slipped away.

So: Beginning Monday, June 3, I’ll start on the questions below. Any and all are free to play along!

But… There is a wee catch for those playing along. If you’re a writer, relate one of every five answers to one of your characters or worldbuilding aspects in a past, present or future story. If you’re a reader, relate one of every five answers to some aspect of a story you’ve read. Since many of us are both, feel free to choose either one or both as the fancy strikes you. Note that it doesn’t have to be every fifth answer. It just needs to be at least one of every five answers. If you want to do it for all thirty, you will have thirty most impressive entries!

Here’s the list:

Read more... )


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