A new restoration project arrived yesterday, and tonight I sat down to have a good look at it and see if I had the silk to match. It's another jewel-toned silk and satin quilt, about 70 years old, in a tumbling blocks pattern with a mosaic crazy border and backed in dense red silk velvet. A bit too new to be Victorian but rich and expertly made, and with only about 10% in need of repair work. I'll have to find my camera tomorrow so I can post some pics.
I decided to replace a patch on the border, to test the strength of the interior muslin foundation and just because I was restless waiting for the kids to come home. It was tricky as the maker's patches are tiny and I didn't want to disturb the original embroidery. Patching silk with silk can be like trying to grab a greased pig, too -- you have to pin it to death, and even with a thousand pins tugging too hard can pull the repair patch out of place.
I started snipping away the worn area, then I realized what I thought was a printed design on the old silk was actually the maker's embroidered initials ATL, in tiny scrolled letters with little flowers worked around it. The silk beneath the stitches had worn down to just the weft threads; ATL was the only thing holding them in place.
I know a little about ATL. I'm going to guess ATL was a woman, as most quilters are. She cut up some old silk ties to make this quilt, maybe her husband's. ATL learned her needlework young; her stitches are the tiny, uniform work of long experience. ATL liked the graphic punch of black, she understood color balance, and she knew how to blind stitch like nothing I've ever seen.
The quilt still smells faintly of cedar, probably from the chest where ATL stored it, maybe her hope chest. It's an odd size, about 3/4 of a single bed, so she may have made it intending to use it as a throw for a sette or a divan in her parlor. But she rarely if ever used it. Silk and satin are a bitch to wash and there were no gentle cycles on the hand-cranked washing machines of her time.
ATL's signature patch can't be restored, so I carefully excised it and placed it in my quilt diary, where I'll also put a copy of this post. When I'm gone, I hope whoever inherits this quilt gets my diary, too, so they don't have to wonder who SLK was, and why she embroidered ATL under her own initials.
Scrub to the Movies:
Some serious housecleaning was in order today, so while I was autoclaving my kitchen I put on "Basic" with John Travolta to have something to listen to. It sounded so good that I ended up shifting the TV/VCR to watch while I cleaned. Great movie; killer ending, and God I love to watch John act. :)
I should say the same about the Life of David Gale, which was equally well crafted and plotted, but that
killer ending -- which I saw coming and hoped I was wrong -- ticked me off completely. Kevin, I love to watch you act too but one more movie like this and I stop renting your videos, period.
Now the resident author has to go sort her socks and fold her towels. The glamor just never stops around here....
I turned on the television for the first time in a week (kids gone = no TV) to watch the Weather Channel, and caught Madonna's new Gap commercial. I've always felt Madonna is an extremely smart business woman and trend setter beyond compare, but try as I might, I could not summon the tiniest spark of enthusiasm for her new line of jeans.
As the commercial progressed, I started feeling the same way I do whenever I see a middle-aged woman dressed like a 16 year old: sad, angry and embarrassed. Madonna is my age, but this is the first time I've seen her look like it. Maybe because she's trying so hard not
The emphasis our culture puts on youth is tough on older women, and I wish more of them would stand up and say, "Hey, I'm middle-aged. Deal with it.
" For me, the attraction factor is outweighed by unhappy memories -- youth may look pretty, but it's like being twelve -- did that, it sucked, and I don't want to go back there, thank you. Trying to preserve youth will always be an exercise in futility.
One more minor niggle about the commercial: why are the bottoms of her jeans folded up at the ankles? In my day (she says, in her best crusty old crone voice) rolling up your jeans like that = you were a total dork.
Revisions on "Portraits of the Past" are finished and outta
Fixed the ex's A/C leak and subsequently got stranded at his house, thanks to another of these humongo thunderstorms* we've been having all week. Rush hour traffic and heavy rain in my neighborhood usually means I'm staying put; too many people drive like maniacs on bald tires no matter what the weather.
My ex has good neighbors; one came over in the middle of the storm to basically check on why I was there messing with the breakers and so forth. I showed him my ID and explained I am the ex-wife/house sitter, and identified two other neighbors by name so he would know I once lived there. People are starting to forget me, which is better than the one neighborwoman who keeps calling me by my ex's current girlfriend's name.
After I got rid of Concerned Neighborman, I made dinner for me and the dog, after which we curled up on the couch to wait out the rain and promptly fell asleep together. Bad nightmare commenced. Worse, it went on and on as we slept for five hours. I woke up about thirty minutes ago and came home, now totally SOL for any hope of sleep tonight.
The boys sniff-checked me as I came in, and I could see what they were thinking: She's late because she was with that damn dog again.
All three felines stalked off to my daughter's room, where they are presently sulking and ignoring me. I guess this means if I ever start dating again I should put them in therapy.
Everything has been slightly surreal this week, but the kids will be home tomorrow. I'm glad. I miss their voices and smiles and goodnight-Mom hugs.
*The same storm that spawned this tornado
which you'll be hearing about in the news.
Joke for the Day:
My attorney told me this one, so I am absolved of all blame for the subject matter:
Q: What do you have when 100 lawyers are buried up to their necks in sand?
A: Not enough sand.
I'm up a little extra-extra-early today because the ex's A/C unit is leaking internally. Lightning tripped the breaker for his compressor and when I checked the house last night the air handler was blowing 88 degree air. I was able to reset and get the compressor back on, but then heard water dripping and had to find that and set up a bucket in the wall under the unit to catch the drips.
He might have a plug in the condensate line, which means I get to flush it out today while he and the kids are relaxing in the Keys. Which is probably good for my soul, but I also have another set of revisions to get out of here today, hence the 2:30 am wake-up call. One small plus -- working in that tiny crawlspace gave me a short story idea. :)
Courage Under Fire:
After enduring what had to be the Week from Hell, Rev. V. Gene Robinson has been confirmed
as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire by leaders of the Episcopal General Convention. Which just goes to show you that not every one pays attention to the rantings
of ignorant bigots, no matter how much power they have.
No matter what else is said from this point, Bishop Robinson is an extremely brave man, and I'm keeping him in my prayers. If you have the time and inclination, I hope you will, too.
One of my bookseller friends tells me that B&N.com has sold out of Blade Dancer and as of today is delaying new order shipments until restock arrives.
Utterly Partied Out:
I have to take a moment to file charges against my sadistic friends Jessie and Rob, who kidnapped me this afternoon and made me sign books for them and Rob's parents in the middle of a nice restaurant while stuffing me with Chesapeake crab and creme brulee. It was a brutal ordeal, the waiter will likely never recover and neither will my hips. Thanks so much, you hooligans.
First sighting of Blade Dancer -- at Borders tonight (post dinner book stop.) It was promptly purchased by Rob's Dad, who made me sign it at the counter and take off my glasses so the clerk could see that yes, I was indeed the lady in the book jacket photo. Borders had seven on the front table which I'll take to be another good omen. Thank you, Charles, for buying yet another
Roc made an appointment with my agent today for talk about the future. Nothing specific, and rather unexpected, but doubtless it will add some spice to the interesting mix of ongoing negotiations. Thank you, Robin.
Things wound up with a phone call from my little sister tonight, which pretty much made my whole day. Her surgery in June has eliminated the pain she's been enduring for two years, which proves that there is a God and he is catching a few of my prayers. Thank you, Big Guy.
P.S. Jessie, I opened the chocolate as soon as I got home and overdosed on the double-latte truffles. I'm still chuckling over the carrot-shaped box, thanks again.
Trivial but True:
I know some people's eyes glaze over when any author talks about writing their books (mine certainly do) but Jessie suggested I do my spiel via a top ten, which is always fun. So, here are:
The Top Ten Trivial But True Facts About the Writing of Blade Dancer
1. It's older than you think:
Blade dancers were born waaaay back in 1997, while I was writing "Beyond Varallan." I needed a dangerous type of activity for dialogue during the opening scene (see bottom of pg 6 in BV), and "blade dancing" popped into my head.
2. So much for that idea:
I intended to develop blade dancers as a cult of Tingalean temple warrior/priests. After BV was finished, I filed my notes and promptly forgot about them.
3. I owe Bill Whelan a book:
The novel concept first evolved from listening to "Reel Around the Sun" from the Riverdance soundtrack. I imagined the sounds of the dancers' shoes as swords clashing.
4. How hard can it be?:
I knew absolutely zero about sword- and knife-fighting when I began roughing out the idea.
I went to observe at an iaido martial arts class, pulled a dozen reference books, discovered exactly
how difficult it would be to translate into words, and nearly abandoned the idea.
6. But then, I'm stubborn:
I took a six week crash course in blade fighting with a private instructor. We used wooden katanas and rubber knives and I learned just how hard it is to fight two-handed (it's hard
.) I nearly gave up on the book another three times.
7. Secret messages:
I used a ton of anagrams in this book. Nalek's name is an anagram of Kalen
(The Steel Caress) and Galena's name is an anagram of An Angel
minus one of the "n"s to make it more Jorenian.
8. Busy busy busy:
I wrote four other novels during the time it took me to actually write Blade Dancer. Three of them are the JH books, which all feature swords in the plots.
9. Prep work:
Jory Rask is first mentioned in "Shockball" (pg 372) which is the other book I was writing along with the JHs at the same time as BD.
10. Life is just as nasty as fiction:
I fell down a flight of stairs the same day I wrote part of one notorious scene (see pages 275-277) and subsequently wrecked my knee.
Jory and Company:
Since today is the official release date, I'm declaring it Blade Dancer
day here at Star Lines. For what I went through for this book, I've earned a couple hours of self-indulgent smug gloating, I think. :)
Of the many interesting relationships in the book, the one between Jory and Danea was the most fun to write -- probably because they wanted to kill each other 90% of the time:
Excerpts from Blade Dancer
by S.L. Viehl
When Jory Met Danea:
“I know. They know – but they didn’t bother to tell anyone else that, did they? They just stuck you out there with the cows.” I turned to Danea, whose face had darkened to a beautiful shade of royal violet. “Sparky, what did they do to you and Renor?”
She bared her pointed teeth. “Call me that name again and you die.”
“Okay, we’ll skip you.” I turned to Kol.
And it just got more fun from there:
A faint yellow glow suddenly flared up off to my left. “What have you done to us, you stupid Terran bitch?”
“Sparky’s still around,” I said, then assumed a conversational tone. “I haven’t done anything yet, you cranky, foulmouthed power outlet. But I’ll keep you updated.”
Not that they were ever intended to bond, if you know what I mean:
Galena returned to her mat, stretched out with a sigh, and quickly fell asleep. Over her shoulder I saw a pair of glowing white eyes watching me.
My mouth hitched. “You want to share some girl talk now?”
Danea rolled over and presented her back. “Shut up, Terran.”
“Good night, Sparky.”
But when push comes to shove:
Fayne moved forward then, but a crackle of energy flared as Danea came to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me.
Blondie licked her lips with a little white tongue. “We eat your kind on my world.”
Danea turned her blade so it reflected a flicker of light. “Come and have a taste.”
“Or you can bite me,” I offered.
As with Squilyp and Cherijo from the StarDoc novels, the evolution of the relationship between J & D surprised me a lot. Toward the end of the book they basically ignored me and did what they wanted. It's the reason that if Roc decides to pick up the series, Danea's story will be the plot for the next book.
What are you doing up?
I've not been to bed yet, so I have my excuse. Insomnia party!
No, actually, I think I'll take a migraine pill and go to bed. Nothing good will come out of an all-nighter this week.
Duck (in 7 years or so):
I love the Hubble Space Telescope. Everyone does. Look at all the neat pictures it sends back to Earth, right? Galaxies! Exploding stars!
Nebulas! No Hubble = all that gorgeous spacey stuff out there that we would have never seen. The Hubble is just tres cool.
Not that we've gotten a free
peek at all that gorgeous spacey stuff, of course. Oh, you didn't think I was going to bring this up without talking about the price tag, did you? Tsk tsk, you should know me better than that.
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) cost $2 billion to build, and $ 500 million to launch, and $500 million to operate per year. Let me get out my calculator....shit, it doesn't have enough spaces for the zeroes, wait, I'll do it on paper; 5 mil per year times 12 years....that's $8.5 billion dollars. To keep a running account, just add, what, $1.9 million dollars a day.
Still too many zeroes for your head? Okay, think of it this way: in the thirty minutes it took me to write this weblog entry, me and you (assuming you are an American taxpayer too) and the rest of the people who foot the bill shelled out 40 grand for the Hubble. But damn, it sure does take pretty pictures of them galaxies way out yonder that we'll never ever go to, now, doesn't it?
If you're worried about the price tag, don't sweat it. The HST is destined for decommissioning in 2010, as soon as NASA figures out
how to do that. Yep -- they put it up there without knowing how they were going to bring it back down. Which I believe makes the HST the most expensive disposable telescope in existence.
One option is to just let it fall -- sort of like Skylab, which most of you are too young to remember. I still have my official Skylab target tshirt from when that one crashed back to Earth. And it won't be as bad as when they try to resnag Cassini
on the trip back from taking pretty pictures of Saturn. At least the Hubble isn't a potential nuke...is it? Hell, don't tell me, I already have enough Pu-238 nightmares. And there's only a 1 in 700 chance that there will be any human casualties from the school bus-size HST smashing into Earth.
I know, will Cassini be back by 2010? Why don't we have it smash into the Hubble? It would be like that TV robot demolition show everybody likes so much, only bigger.
Anyway, so much for the Hubble. In a few years that nasty $80 grand an hour bill will go away...until we start paying for the James Webb telescope
, which NASA is sending up to replace the Hubble. Just out of curiosity, do we know how to decommission that
Word from the Tribe:
Predictably, some reviewers make money
off the free books they receive from publishers ("with the reviewers paperwork laid in!"
). In fact, whenever I need extra copies of my ARCs I'm usually able to buy them on eBay. Review copy selling gets my books to readers who might not otherwise be able to afford them, so the reviewers are actually doing me a favor while they're making money on something they got for nothing.
I've heard many wonderful comments about Blade Dancer from friends and family over the last two years, and they helped me get rid of 99% of the release-week heebie jeebies writers get when a book hits the shelves. Yet I have this superstition about the first reaction from a real reader I don't know -- I know it's random and it can come from anyone, but if it's good, I stop worrying (I do other things if it's bad and no, I'm not going to tell you.)
Thanks to Terie Storar
, I stopped worrying at 7:04 am this morning. (And no snickering when you see the best book of the year comment, you rabble.)
Off to be Mom & Write:
I have a week to get ahead with my WIPs before I run into the same deadline collision that happened last month, so I'm going to jump into a seven day two-book marathon, starting Monday. Today I'm going to spend with my kids before they go off on vacation to the Keys (and try very hard not to pack myself into one of their suitcases.)
I found an interesting though somewhat depressing random SF story plot generator
over at Jocelyn Paine's site (lovely name, Jo Paine. I could do something just with that.) Reloading the page produces new plots, of which I got the following:
Planet 9 of Alpha-Centauri is invaded by nasty aliens and is visited by good robots who copy the lot into a giant Sextium 3000 and edit out the nasty bits but they run out of CPU time.
Aha, so this is where Gibson gets his plots.
Earth is invaded by nasty aliens and is visited by good aliens who are wiped out by atom-test radiation which then turns everyone else into supermen.
And Dean Kootnz, too. I was wondering.
Earth falls toward the Sun and almost everyone dies.
And who, exactly lives?
Earth falls toward the Sun and is visited by evil mutant brewers yeast cells who steal its reserves of water.
Okay, apparently the beer drinkers live.
Mars is taken over by mutant diploid armour plated pterodactyls with ESP and silicon-based DNA and is visited by good aliens who rewind time to before the disaster but then Mars is taken over by mutant diploid armour plated pterodactyls with ESP and silicon-based DNA and everyone dies.
Oh, look, it's a NASA plot. How charming.