Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tuesday Book Reviews

My present to you is two reviews:

 5 star review of Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens

This was one of my favorite stories in the Unladylike series, possibly because Hazel is coming into her own as a detective.

Staying at Daisy’s aunt and uncle in London, she and Daisy have joined a theatrical production of Romeo and Juliet to ‘keep 

them out of danger’. But death finds them there when a member of the cast is found drowned in a well at the lowest level of 

the theater. When Daisy comes down with the flu that earlier struck other members of the cast, and the girls are forbidden to 

go back to the theater, Hazel must detect in other ways, with help from Alexander and George. Of course, in the end, they

both find the murderer.

Danger's Vice by Amanda  Carlson

5 star review of Danger’s Vice by Amanda Carlson

This book follows directly on Danger’s Halo. Holly and her friends thought they could go back to normal after they got rid 

of Tandor and company and they could find the pico computer so they could find out what’s on the quantum drive Daze 

stole. But part of Tandor’s crew remain in the city and have a new plan to control it. Holly’s still not sure whether or not to

trust Chase, and as usual she works alone. But she’s taking her responsibility as Daze’s sustainer seriously. Carlson continues

to build this world and the characters in it.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Knitting Blog

Knitting blog – getting started

The easiest projects to start with are a scaft or hat; the result will come in handy when it’s cold outside. But shopping in a yarn or craft store with so many different yarns in different colors could be overwhelming.
Learning to knit is easier than ever. There are tutorials on YouTube, lessons on Ravelry and Craftsy and your local yarn shop will offer knitting classes too.
One of my favorite yarns is Cascade. It’s made from 100% Peruvian wool and comes in a medium 220 weight and an extra chunky yarn. One skein will be enough for many projects. The store will wind the oblong coil shape of the skein into a ball for you.
Blended wools like Plymouth Encore are inexpensive and great to use when you’re still learning. The acrylic-wool blend is soft and washable.

Best knitting needles for beginners

Bamboo or wooden needles like Clover Takumi 9-Inch Single Point aren’t as slippery as metal or carbon needles. Size ten needles let you produce items quickly.
After a few projects, you can graduate to circular, double pointed, and cable needles.

Best knitting accessories for beginners

To confirm the size of needles, a plastic card, called a needle gauge, is great to have. You might as well get one shaped like a fuzzy sheep.
A little scissor that’s sharp is important for cutting your yarn. Embroidery scissors work well.
To finish your scarf, hat or neck warmer, you’ll have to weave in the dangling ends of the yarn. A tapestry needle or plastic yarn needle is useful.
Other notions that are useful include a crochet hook, stitch markers, and highlighter tapes. You’ll also want books and a bag to hold your project.

If you start now, you should have a number of items to give as gifts next December, and maybe something for yourself.

Wishing you all a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday Book Review on Wednesday

Five star review of Danger's Halo by Amanda Carlson

Danger's Halo (Holly Danger #1)High action postapocalyptic adventure

Scavenger Holly Danger knows her postapocalyptic city, but when she's asked to find an urchin and he's about to jump off a cliff, she decides to sustain him. We follow her through a series of fast paced adventures and meet the others in her "family" and a stranger with skills and equipment they can use. I'll continue to read the series and see what the future holds for Holly, Daze, Chase and the others.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday interview

From now on, I'll post interviews on Friday. My knitting columns have moved to Sundays. Today I interview J C Steel.

Questions for interview - J C Steel

What genre(s) do you write in and why? Do you write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and/or novels? Graphic novels, anime or comics? If you do multiple genres and/or lengths, which do you prefer? Have you ever written any poetry?

At some point I’ve experimented with most types of writing, including that old author favourite, lying on a patch of carpet somewhere and waiting for writing to happen.

My open relationships with poetry, short stories, and essay writing petered out in my mid-teens, probably to everyone’s relief, and gave way to full time science-fiction and urban fantasy novel-writing.

It’s a funny thing, but until this past week, ‘why science-fiction?’ wasn’t a question I’d ever asked myself. It may come of having been born wanting to explore on a planet that’s been pretty thoroughly explored, but by the time I got around to asking myself ‘why sci-fi?’ I’d already got four novels published.

What writers do you admire? What are you currently reading?

Writers I admire? There’s shelves of them. In fact, there are so many shelves of them than visitors to my home tend to back away from the evidence of my fetish slowly. If I had to name a few, I’d have to go with Robert Heinlein, for managing to weave the most thought-provoking, intelligent sci-fi stories out there, Dorothy Dunnett, for being able to create characters more real than most people I meet on the street, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the one pantser who rules them all.

Right now I’m reading a Canadian sci-fi and fantasy author, Tanya Huff. She’s got a military sci-fi series out that I love, with excellent characterisation, and a couple of urban fantasy series that are also very good. In fact, one of them was turned into a TV series a few years back, called ‘Blood Ties’.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the final print proofs for my very first urban fantasy, Death is for the Living. It’s currently out for advanced readers, and it’s a tale of vampire hunters working from a yacht in the Caribbean. I originally wrote it in my teens; I was in boarding school, and feeling homesick (for clarity, I was homesick for the Caribbean and the yacht, not the vampires...um). The tag-line I’m currently running with is ‘People think vampires are a curse of the Old World. But before modern borders divided the lands around it, the Caribbean Sea was better known as the Spanish Main...’ (Insert creepy crescendo here...)

Because I have commitment issues, I’m also in edits on the fifth in my Cortii Universe sci-fi series. It’s running under the working title of The Instructor, but that sounds vaguely BDSM and may change during edits - so much tends to.

If you had it to do over again, would you have started writing sooner?

That would actually have been difficult :) I started writing seriously when I was about fourteen, which coincided conveniently with leaving the yacht I’d grown up on and having computers available to actually write on. That said, they were over-worked and abused school computers, and a number of very fruitful edit rounds in those early days were triggered by corrupted floppy disks. My tendency to keep hardcopies and print proof copies very probably dates back to those days. I keep hoping that one day they’ll be memorabilia auctioning for millions, but then, what author doesn’t dream?

Which do you find hardest: coming up with a story idea, writing, revising, or marketing?

Marketing, hands-down. Story ideas happen to the extent where lobotomy is probably the only solution, and writing usually happens quite irresistibly and of its own accord (often at times when I’m actually supposed to be doing other things). While editing can and sometimes does feel like pounding sand, I do enjoy it most of the time. As I’m an unashamed pantser, editing is also when a lot of the ‘Ah! That’s why that happened!’ moments come in, as I tweak, and re-arrange, and add in the cameo scenes that explain why something happened the way it did.

Marketing, however...I have the greatest respect for those who can, but as I loathe receiving marketing, and there’s about two companies out there whose ads don’t go straight in my junk mail, I have trouble imagining what kind of ad copy wouldn’t be badly received. I also share with a lot of authors the problem that I’m perfectly happy in the 50,000 - 500,000 word range, but I can sit there petrified when faced with 50 words designed to entice punters.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid of the two?

I’m a pantser all the way. My books start with a scene, or a bit of dialogue, playing in my head that refuses to go away; it shows up in the shower, when I’m supposed to be listening to VIPs in meetings, and at 0300. After a few weeks, by which point my attention span has degraded to that of a blue-arsed fly on crack, I cave and write it down, and once I’ve dropped my characters into the scene, the rest of the book is really just a case of me typing fast enough to keep up.

While I have nothing but respect for people who can plan down to the scene level and know exactly what will happen at every stage in their books, I couldn’t write 100,000 words while knowing exactly how it was going to go. I write to find out how the story ends, and if the story isn’t interesting enough to keep me typing, well, that’s a pretty good heads-up that it’s not going to keep a reader interested either. Happily, I’ve only had a couple of manuscripts that died that way.

What's your solution to writers' block?

What’s writer’s block? (Sorry.)

Seriously, as a pantser and a self-publisher with a full-time day job, if I get stuck on one thing I’m working on, I go and work on something else for a bit. I usually have at least two manuscripts vying for whatever free time I can throw at them (with a day job plus commute that eats 11 to 12 hours of my weekdays, there isn’t a lot), and if nothing there is calling my name, drawing summoning circles and offering sacrificial snippets, then I blog, or start one of the side stories that’s been bugging me. By the time those are partway done, one of the main manuscripts is fresh and waiting for me again.

How much time do you spend on research for your writing?

Eh, good question. I noticed that the editing end for Death is for the Living took a bit more time spent on the Internet checking details than my sci-fi novels usually require (as a not-random example, just exactly where other than Paramaribo can you moor a 65-foot yacht in Suriname?), but usually research is more general. I’ve researched blood spatter analysis, orbital mechanics, explosions in vacuum, and once, late at night, accidentally typed ‘coronal mass ejaculation’ into my browser instead of ‘coronal mass ejection’. (Don’t make that mistake - voice of experience.) Generally, research for my writing is a lot of fun, although given my browser history, I do fully expect to receive the ‘Men in Black’ experience at some point.

Website: jcsteelauthor.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/steel_jo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjcsteel
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/JCSteel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j_c_steel

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday Book Review

The Glass Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #2)

More exciting than the first in the series. In her efforts to help, Ceony's only gets into more trouble. I'm happy to see she can often save herself, but not always. The title could refer to her friend, to the man they're after, or even (spoiler alert), Ceony herself. I'm ready for the next in the series.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday Yarn

Instead of Friday, when I'll post interviews, I'll write about yarn and knitting on Sundays. This one again is taken from a Yarn Shop at Nob Hill newletter, more about the history of yarn in N. M.

How did New Mexico become a player in the wool industry?

by Karen Christensen

Prior to the Civil War, the small sheep farms in the East and Midwest provided most of the wool to users in the United States. Until the Civil War, cotton was king in the textile mills in the United States and the overseas. Due to the Northern Blockades during the Civil War, cotton prices became very high and cotton was too expensive to use. As a result, wool production grew dramatically for the rest of the 19th century and early 20th century. Mills all over the world and United States converted to wool and linen. Wool during that time became an important export commodity for the United States economy.

So how does New Mexico come into play - remember the Navajo Churro? Sheep are usually bred to be either mutton or wool, not both. The Navajo Churro breed was unique in that it produced both mutton and wool, so this breed became a very desirable commodity. The Navajo Churro fleece is light, low grease, can be cleaned and combed easily, and can be spun finer than wool. Navajo Churro wool was used for weaving blankets, carpets and sturdy but inexpensive clothing.

During the Civil War, the demand for wool was skyrocketing as it was needed to make uniforms and blankets for the troops, as well as other applications for inhabitants in the Northern states. This demand for wool continued into the early 20th century and wool products outproduced cotton products.

During this period, millions of pounds of wool, largely Navajo Churro, from New Mexico was being sent to the mills in the Northeast to produce goods and the sheep were being retained as wool producers and not meat producers.

During the 1880's there were over five million sheep/lambs in New Mexico, and by the early 20th century, the United States was the third largest producer of the wool in the World. By the 1890's, America's consumption of wool was the largest in the world.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and they did for wool in the early part of the 20th century. Demand for wool decreased and cheap imported wool from overseas flooded the United States market-- wool prices decreased, world wide production decreased, and the wool trade in New Mexico declined as well.

Sorry to end on such a sad note but the next article will discuss what currently is happening in the New Mexico Wool Community - and it is good news.

Sources Used:  New Mexico History website, Navajo Churro Sheep Association website, Santa Fe New Mexican article, Chimayo Weavers website, Wikipedia, American Sheep Industry website, The Sheep Industry of Territorial New Mexico - Wallace and the Slow Food website.