Drawlloween 2018 Daily Sketch Practice Wrap Up

Did you notice the surge of illustrations on social media in October? Have you heard about Inktober? What about Mab’s Drawlloween Club? Both provide a drawing prompt for everyday of October. Anyone can participate by sharing their illustration and tagging it with the challenge name. Inktober, created by Jake Parker, has topics which are perhaps broader in scope. Mab Graves, creator of Drawlloween, makes prompts oriented to Halloween or horror genres.

I’ve wanted to do Inktober for a couple years but was a little shy to do it on my own. This year, an artist friend started a small group on Facebook to support each other through the Drawlloween challenges. Sharing the art more widely on social media was optional. Perfect!

The idea of some kind of daily practice without a lot of pressure was really appealing. But I didn’t want to get too caught up in this challenge while I had other obligations. I set a few personal rules:
1. Try to spend no more than 20 minutes on a sketch
2. Try to use a medium I’m not good at or comfortable with.
3. You have permission to make bad drawings

Week 1:

LIKES: The Cat, the mushrooms, the haunted object
DISLIKES: The witch, the lab. Mainly time issues. My idea for the lab was an old alchemist lab but… ideas bigger than my skill.
DISCOVERIES: I’m not as good at pencil drawing as I thought. Drawing on Post-Its is awesome. White ink on black paper isn’t what I thought it would be. WORK SMALLER!

Week 2:


LIKES: The yokai, the lagoon creature, the vampire.
DISLIKE: The skeleton. It was freaking hard, couldn’t put in the time and it shows. 😩
DISCOVERIES: I love the idea for spider babies. I’ve m finding that some of my ideas are not going to happen in a single, quick, sketch. I’m spending time on pen and ink and I think I’m getting a bit better.

Week 3:

LIKES: Werewolf, Rat
DISLIKES: Seance
DISCOVERIES: The wax crayon (Caran d’Ache) was fun but I have to relax on detail control with them. My determination to make the white on black paper is… I just need to let that go.

Week 4:

LIKES: I like the pun for pumpkin. The Lint Monster (which was surprisingly popular) but I’m not a fan of anything in particular.
DISLIKES: Pretty much this whole week, especially the forest.
DISCOVERIES: Super swamped with deadlines and visiting family in the hospital. I wasn’t doing these daily. At first I was excited by the prompts and then I found them excruciating. The watercolour pens for the forest annoy the heck out of me. I’m frustrated and annoyed with the stuff I’m making but since I’m 21 days in, I’m not going to quit. I liberally applied the DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT rule.

Final Days:

LIKES: Mary Shelley was the one I was least keen on at first. It’s my favourite. Victor Frankenstein is a single line drawing. The Bride… I find it funny.
DISLIKES: Not this week!
DISCOVERIES: By this time I’m caught up and doing one a day.  I think these are the best ones of the series. I took way longer than my allowed 20 minutes. My image of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab was similar to the day 5 challenge. I barely avoided that rabbit hole.

THE FAVORITES GALLERY:

SUMMING UP
Daily Practice: Momentum in a project is really a thing.
At the beginning, the idea of daily practice really appealed to me. By the third week, I’d fallen behind and started to get stressed. But having done 21 drawings gave me that extra push to make sure that I completed the challenge even though I was doing multiple drawings on some days.

Time Management: Reflect, compromise and know yourself?
No surprise that investing time gives better results. My favourite images took way more time than I planned. The biggest struggle here was letting go of certain visions in order to meet deadlines. A couple things were good: working smaller, use whatever is on hand (result was drawing on Post-its). I was really inspired by the artists I did the challenge with. They inspired me to make my work as good as possible. The drawback was  frustration. I know I could do better with more time. It was also easy to start comparing myself to them and that was totally not the point of the challenge. More importantly, we are all on different points of our artist journey and I think comparing yourself to another artist is a waste of time and harmful.

Different Media/ Technique Challenge: good to try new things but great to be in the comfort zone
I felt like pen and ink work improved a lot. Using black paper didn’t work out how I expected. The guache was better than white ink pen and the coloured pencil on black paper… no. I feel like I needed to try a wider variety of techniques. I realized my pencil drawing technique is not as good as I thought. That’s fine. It’s good to know what to work on.

Permission to make bad drawings: taken at full face value
This permission also freed me up to try different techniques. Even when I didn’t like the direction of the sketch I kept going. For me and this kind of practice, it’s important to say done is better than perfect. It also helped me with time management.

Anyway, a very long wrap-up of my daily art practice with Drawlloween. If you’re curious about any of the drawings, feel free to comment.

Also, if you have any art medium or techniques you recommend let me know. I do love to experiment.

Write Cycle August. The Results and the Review

For August I decided to try an Instagram writer’s challenge where you do a writing-related photo every day. I thought it would be a good way to focus on the writing habit.
Here’s the gallery of the photos with a review of the process following:

In all, I missed 9 days (as I doubled up one “today’s office). I did great until it came to showing work at home. I feel like my home is just too chaotic to share. And while I get the basics done, I’m really not Martha Stewart in home decor. Ah guilt. You bother me.

The other big stumbling block was talking about favorite characters. I either had brain block and could barely recall a characters from a book or suddenly I had too many. And it was tough to figure out how to show that visually. I want my Instagram to be my pictures not stock photos or using work by other people. Book towers are cool but hard when 90% of your books are e-books.

The goal reviews were great. Though day 14 was a huge shock when I realized I was behind schedule. Reviewing again on the 31st is also informative. I had a lot of stuff that wasn’t on that list. So while the 31 Days of Writing looks kind of like a flop, I feel like I did a lot of work.

Overall, I think I plan to do more than I have time for. When mapping out goals I often think of Browning and how “Man’s reach should extend his grasp.” But when it comes to getting things done, maybe SMART goals are more logical. And if I worked in a more linear fashion, I think that would be great.

SMART goals work better for me for planning and looking for pitfalls rather than a schedule. So far, working from a massive list of tasks and due dates posted in multiple places seems to be the most effective. So I’m going to give this another go in September and also mix in this 15 minute time chunking thing. I’m not as in love with my instagram images from August so I also want to take more images I that I like.

Wish me luck! And good luck to you in your creative endeavors.

L

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Artist Interview with Arthur Huang

Is This The Way I Went. Photo credit: Arthur Huang
Is This The Way I Went. Photo credit: Arthur Huang

Arthur Huang took time to answer some questions as part of my interview series to wrap up Art Byte Critique group’s participation in the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016.

Arthur is the founder of ABC. Arthur is a neuroscientist and his artistic practices reflect data collection and the structure of memories and the brain. He describes his work best:

“I live and work in Tokyo, Japan as an artist and researcher. I am interested in everyday memories which I have been exploring in my studio practice since 2001. I moved to Tokyo in 2009 to work as a molecular biologist and neuroscientist at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute studying memory and learning in mice. I am the director of the Tokyo-based artist collective Art Byte Critique. I have exhibited work in the United States, Europe, and Japan including HAGISO, Southern Exposure, Printed Matter, neurotitan, the Austin Museum of Art, Tokyo Art Book Fair, Spiral Independent Creator’s Festival, and the Setouchi Triennale 2013.”
-Arthur Huang

Why did you want to participate in TABF?
Books and printed matter are so fascinating to me.  Along with the ideas presented in printed matter, the way they are printed and how they feel in my hand are equally important.  I love going to a bookstore and choosing a book just based on how it looks and how it feels in my hand.  Artist’s books are an further extension of that idea of object and it offers another way to present ideas that is not solely restricted to reading from front to back.

21 Days of Memory Walks. Photo credit: Arthur Huang
21 Days of Memory Walks. Photo credit: Arthur Huang. 2015

Back in 2013, I came to the TABF for the first time and I was amazed at the range of books, zines, and other printed matter that was being made in Japan and around the world. I made a simple artist book using screen printing in graduate school and I found the process of making it and the end result quite enjoyable. But between the end of graduate school and my first visit to TABF, I never found the proper motivation or inspiration to return to the process.  Seeing what was possible with artist’s books and looking for a way to bring together different artists associated with Art Byte Critique, I decided to organise artists to learn how to make artist’s books and participate in the TABF.  This was our third year of participating at the TABF and it continues to be inspirational interms of seeing what other artists are making as well as a way to seek out other like-minded artists to participate in Art Byte Critique’s activities.

What kind of books did you produce?

For the TABF 2016, I decided to simplify my process due to a number of concurrent exhibitions.  I also wanted to move away from the overly labor intensive production process that I found myself involved in for the last two TABF.  I decided to focus on my

everyday drawings and make a zine that speaks to my process of making these drawings.  The result of these efforts was an A5 size, 16-page zine called “Dialogue #1” where I start two drawings with two different motifs and let the two motifs bleed onto the other drawing over the course of making the final drawings.

How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
Having regular meetings about organising the booth as well as seeing work in progress was very motivating.  It was fantastic to see the continued enthusiasm of artists who have been making books for the TABF since 2014.  It was also great to see artists become enamoured with the making of artist’s books for the first time.  The energy was contagious for everyone I think.

What do you take away from this experience?/What did you learn from the process of preparing for the show?
It continues to be a great experience and I look forward to ABC’s continued participation in the TABF.  What I have come to realise is that while the process of making the artist’s books is the main focus, we also need to think more about the presentation component of our work within the context of the booth.  Walking around the TABF and looking at other artists and what they came up with for the presentation was inspiring and daunting.  We learned a great deal about the potential for creating a presentation that catches the eye among the hundreds of booths at TABF.

Over the course of the last several years, I have come to realise that my artist’s books are not a standalone work.  They often work in relationship to or supplement larger works and ideas that I am interested in.  I think that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, I want to work more on making artist’s books that can be presented on their own without the need for any additional context.

What was your biggest challenge?
I am used to working on labor intensive projects so simplifying the studio process for this “Dialogue #1” zine was my biggest challenge.  Even seeing the finished project and being satisfied with how well it correlated to the idea in my head, I still continue to spin ideas about how to make it more.  I need to try and remember that sometimes, “more” is not necessary.

If you are interested in Art Byte Critique, you can find out more at https://atobaito.wordpress.com or check out their Facebook page.

You can find out more about Arthur Huang and his work at: http://www.arthurjhuang.com/

 

Artist Interview with Nick West

Nick West iss part of the Art Byte Critique group which participated in the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016. Nick was kind enough to take the time to share about his work and his experience with ABC and the TABF2016.

Photo by Nick West,
Photo by Nick West,

Why did you want to participate in TABF?
I wanted to show work that belonged among other artists’ editions and independent publishing projects. TABF was the ideal event to share work with readers who were receptive to this kind of work.

What kind of books did you produce?
I made a drawing and a book. For some time, I’ve been intrigued by the fake wooden logs used for steps or fences in the parks and forests here. Using these as my starting point, I made some drawings that I collaged together that looked as though they could be assembled to make a fire. I thought of it as a kind of pre-book.

How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
Broadly speaking, the creative process can often be an isolated activity. Being part of a group of artists who meet up and discuss what they are making helps to inform your creative decisions. I had a couple of false starts in my preparation for TABF but by meeting up with other artists allowed me to realise that I needed to change course.

What do you take away from this experience?
More than anything, I take away an appreciation for how much interest there is in physical objects. It was really encouraging to see how popular TABF was, and to see people taking delight in leafing through artists’ books.

What did you learn from the process of preparing for the show?
That making art is a continual process. It’s not an activity that you can dip into occasionally. I had probably given more of my time to research than to production in my preparation for TABF, and this hindered what I made initially.

What would you like people to know about your books?
That there are more to come. In the past, I have made artworks using circular-bound books, and this is the direction I plan to develop future book works.

What was your biggest challenge?
As I mentioned, by giving more of my time to research than to production in my preparation for the fair. Having said that, participating in TABF has spurred me on to make more books, more often.

If you are interested in Art Byte Critique, you can find out more at https://atobaito.wordpress.com or check out their Facebook page.

You can find out more about Nick West and his work at:

Nick also writes for TABlog the Tokyo Art Beat Blog.

Happy New Year Wishes for You!

  
Best Wishes for you this year. I wish you all the best in all you endeavors and adventures.

Also wishing you lots of monkeys to take over your bad habits from you!

Thanks for reading the Spendy Pencil and here’s to another year of sharing and learning from each other.

I’ve also gotten rid of Candy Crush games from my phone so that’s one goal done. Thanks Mock Sonkey the Sock Monkey!

Making up with Mochi. Gateway Foods in Foreign Lands.

My gateway mochi dish: Shiratama and shiruko at the Onishi Matsuri.
My gateway mochi dish: Shiratama and shiruko at the Onishi Matsuri.

If you live someplace long enough, you eventually develop craving foods you thought you once vowed never to eat. There’s one moment and one dish that becomes the gateway for appreciating that food in all its forms. This is true for me and mochi. This is sort of a tale about my journey to mochi appreciation. Plus a recipe!

Mochi is one of the foundation ingredients for countless Japanese desserts. It’s made from a different kind of rice than used at a meal. Mochi rice is more glutinous. You can pound the cooked rice into a sticky dough or mix up a special mochi rice flour and make a different type of sticky dough.

Sticky. Sticky is a key word when it comes to mochi. Sticky is the reason I was used to be scared to eat mochi. When I first moved to Japan, people delighted in telling me the number of people who died from choking on sticky mochi balls. Mostly the victims were elderly Japanese and kids. The cautionary tales of mochi tragedy are a kind of rite of passage for newbies to Japan but they really hit me hard.

I’m scared of choking on stuff because of two childhood events. The first was a Reader’s Digest story about a young man dying from a mysterious illness that turned out to be a fishbone lodged in his throat.** In my teens my sister choked on a huge gob of cheese from her French onion soup. She survived the incident  and endures the jokes that come up with every subsequent mention of mozerella and onion soup with pretty good humor.  So yeah. I had some issues.

Mochi’s pretty much flavorless. So why do people like it? Because of the texture. Just make sure you chew it carefully. Mochi also acts like an umami base to balance the sweeter parts of Japanese deserts like anko (a paste made from the sweet red bean, adzuki) or kuromitsu (a syrup made from Okinawan unrefined, dark sugar). If eaten with something a bit more bitter, like green tea or matcha, then you can taste the slight grain sweetness. You find mochi in variations of dango (usually mochi with adzuki bean paste centre), kagamai mochi at New Year’s  and sometimes in soups. You can even bake it in toaster.

I’m fascinated by Japanese desserts, mostly by how they look. I never craved mochi. I’ve ocassionally eaten dango, usually because someone gave it to me, but never really wanted to eat it until I recently discovered shiratama. Now I’m even making for myself at home. It’s that easy to make and pretty hard to get wrong.

Shiratama are exactly what the name says, balls of white dango. I learned how to make shiratama dango (literally white balls of dango) while helping out at the Matcha Café in the Kinuya Building ofo Shiro Oni Studio in Onishi., Gunma. Matcha Café is only open during the weekend of the Onishi Matsuri (festival). Fuyuko Kobori is a Sado (tea ceremony) practitioner and was runs the café.

During a break from the busy cafe, Fuyuko made me a cup of iced matcha and a bowl of the shiratama we made with chilled shiruko. I sat on a bench in front of the cafe and enjoyed my cool snack as the matsuri parade passed by. The sun was hot and many people stopped at the cafe after catching sight of my icy cold matcha. Others were interested in slightly salty shiruko blended well with the deep rice taste of the shiratama. The matcha was the perfect complement of bitter and slight sweet matcha aftertaste. And they were easy to eat. Not at all difficult to chew.

It wasn’t just the taste that hooked me. It was the experience. The sun, the matsuri, the camaraderie of working in the cafe and learning to make shiratama. It was something I wanted to continue by making at home. My husband loves this kind of dessert and I realized that I could share this by making it for him. Mochi is becoming something I tolerate, but something I enjoy making at home.

What food do you love now but it used to ick you out? What was your gateway food or moment?

Recipe Time! If you try this please post a picture and let me know how it turned out.

How to make Shiratama
Ingredients:
Powder
Water

happymochi-loriono
Increase the happy value by adding faces to shiratama before you boil it. My first attempt at shiratama on my home.

Instructions:
1. Mix one package with about 90 mL of water (double check the instructions on your package as it may be a different size).
2. Add the water bit by bit. The dough shouldn’t be crumbly and it shouldn’t be too wet. If it’s not just right you, breaks down when you boil it. Fuyuko gave this great analogy for the perfect dough texture: it should be about the same firmness as your earlobe.
4. Make balls about 2.5 cm in diameter and pinch them slightly. This allows the middle to cook. Smaller, flatter dango also reduce choking hazards!
5. Add the mochi balls to the boiling water.
6. Boil until they float on the surface.
7. Drain them and run under cold water.

Store unused shiratama in water otherwise it will stick together. Keeps for about 2 days in the fridge. It’s actually safe to eat it for a bit longer, but shiratama dissolves a bit when stored in water and after two days, the texture isn’t as nice to eat.

Some Suggestions on How to Serve Shiratama


Summer Style
Serve on top of green tea ice cream with anko.
Serve with cold shiruko (red bean soup) and green tea ice cream and a nice cup of matcha.
Serve with cold fruit, anko paste and an mitsu (agar jelly cubes)
Winter Style
Heat the shiruko and eat shiratama like a warm sweet soup.

**There is another rite of passage I had as a newbie to Japan, where I was directly confronted with this fear of fishbones.

Go For the Knowledge, Leave with Inspiration—Learn about Travel Writing with La Carmina and Odigo

If you think that spending your Saturday in a day-long travel writing workshop sounds exhausting, then you didn’t make it La Carmina and Odigo’s writing workshop held at Ryozan Park Otsuka. I learn a lot and I left more energized and inspired than I’ve felt all week. La Carmina is a tv presenter, blogger/video blogger who covers counter-culture all over the world and has a huge following. Odigo is a new travel app/service designed to help visitors access locals’ insider knowledge in order to enjoy a more authentic travel experience in Japan.

Eric Bergemann, La Carmina, Melissa Rundle at workshop with Odigo
La Carmina (middle) with team members Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle

In the morning, Marla Hall presented a basic workshop on travel writing. We covered different types of travel writing and had a chance to start or continue an article and do peer critiques. Marla’s presentation helped me refine the angle I will take for writing more about my recent Zao trip.

In the afternoon, La Carmina, and her team members, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann generously shared their expertise on what makes a successful travel blog and how to make a living from travel writing. They were friendly, extremely organized, and direct about their experiences.

I’ve been to a lot of different classes and this was the best presentation I’ve attended about blogging and social media. Using examples from her blog, La Carmina talked about the importance of creating a great experience for readers and how to maximize your blog’s effectiveness.

Eric and Melissa are screenwriters and film-makers and had lots of tips for making effective videos. They talked about the types of gear they use and what they do with it. Melissa an Eric also gave practical tips for editing segments to create a professional video. I haven’t really done much video, but after listening to Melissa and Eric, I’m keen to start experimenting.

My favorite tips include naming your media files with key words and hyphens to increase SEO and always filling in alt tags for images. It’s an easy thing to do but it’s an easy thing to overlook. I hadn’t realized how much difference it would make. I usually name my files in an unintentionally cryptic way that works for my projects but aren’t helpful search terms. I am changing how I do that today.

La Carmina emphasized that it is a process and that it takes work and that generating a successful blog doesn’t happen over night. When they finished their presentation I had renewed respect for how much work it all takes, but I also left with the feeling that I had been shown some good steps that I could use to grow. From talking with other participants, I know they also feel the same way.

Melissa Rundle, La Carmina, Ryozan Park Otsuka, Odigo
After the workshop with Odigo.

Community Manager Lauren Shannon gave an overview of Odigo’s purpose and goals then led a roundtable discussion about writing and blogging goals in general. I’m pretty excited about the concept of an app based on local knowledge helping people get to know Japan. I’ve been here a long time and there is a lot to see and do beyond Tokyo Tower and Kaminari Mon in Asakusa.

We finished the day over snacks and conversation with La Carmina, Melissa, Eric, Lauren, Marla and other participants. It’s always good to meet people who share similar interests. When you get a chance to learn from friendly people who are doing so well it’s even better!

Thanks La Carmina, Melissa, Eric and Odigo for the great opportunity.

Social Media Carousel: Around and Around I Go.

Tinted photograph of carousel at Cosmo World In Minato Mirai, Yokohama
Mastering social media integration seems exciting at first, but it doesn’t take long to grow old.

The time you invest in automating something should eventually pay off in the time you save. I haven’t yet found this to be true when trying to consolidate my social media. Around and around I’ve been going with end in sight. My goal is to post something to my blog and then for it to fan out in a beautiful display of modern efficiency to Twitter and Facebook personal page and my “fan” page.

Sure, I could go to each one and link, or just go to the fan page and link it up, but meh. I know I would get distracted. The biggest problem is that most app widgets want you to choose either your FB Home page or, if even an option, your fan page. If I didn’t want to have the blog go to the fan (or as I like to call it, my “writer”) page then I’m golden. The native widgets get it all done.

But getting to that Fan page is tricksy. Real tricksy. I’ve looked at Hootsuite.com and after much cussing at the fact it won’t recognize passwords and doesn’t connect to my primary blog, I pretty much have it figured out. But I’m not a super big fan of posting from Hootsuite. I don’t want to pay the $9.99/month for Pro versions for my modest needs. The free version limits you to five streams. Just to clarify, Your Facebook homepage and your Facebook Fan page count as two.

Enter IFTTT to (sort of) save the day. IFTTT stands for If This Then That. It is a collection of recipes that does what the title says. You can select a recipe that takes each tweet and posts it to Facebook fan pages. Yay! There are a variety of recipes designed to save you time. Saving files to Dropbox or transferring things to Evernote are only a few of the things IFTTT can do. When I started looking at Hootsuite, this is what I expected it to do.

So this is now how I understand things to work: 

  • Posts from Hootsuite can immediately go onto selected social media sites. They do not really post from one thing to the other for you. I have things going from social media site to others through the respective site’s native widgets. It looks like you could work around using RSS feeds but at some point, I need to respect my boundaries and the fact I don’t have forever to perfect this,
  • IFTTT can have a post on one site lead to that being posted on another site. It also has many other handy tools to organize and automate online life.
  • Native app widgets like the ones you find in WP to connect to twitter,  or vice versa, are great. It might be useful to make a flowchart of the apps where you post to and where they go. You could probably do it through judicious use of native apps, unless you want to post to Fan and Home page on FB because then you have to choose.
  • Facebook Fan Pages are very awkward beasts.

I’m pretty happy with IFTT at the moment. Now I’ll have to see how badly the double posts are going. For some of you, this posting will be full of errors and obvious information. Let me know if I need to change anything. I’m still working on my skills. Hopefully, this article is helpful for people who are looking for simple ways to get their content across different social media venues.

Wishing everyone a minimum of frustration in their quest for social media mastery.

Quick Update (which didn’t take that long): I’ve got everything going where I want it to go, but it doesn’t look so beautiful on the FB Fan page. So there is a link, but it is not enticing. It may be that it’s coming from Twitter.

Update #2: Definitely make your own recipes. It doesn’t require any coding. You just push buttons and enter info. I made a WP->FB fan page recipe of my own and that makes much more attractive links. I still have blog links going through twitter and so there is a bit of double posting. I will have to make some decisions. But making choices is a different skill set than making choices possible.

Revisiting 15 Authors Who Influenced Me Because It’s My Birthday.

It’s weird when you come across things that you wrote a while ago. Reactions fall into two camps, Completely Cringeworthy or Still Resonating. It’s my birthday today and birthdays for me reflection. Usually I make a list of good and bad for the last year and make a list of goals for the next. But I came across an old post from three years ago and I decided to revisit and update it a tiny bit.

My friend, Missy Taylor, tagged me with this challenge to list fifteen authors “who have made some sort of lasting impact on [my] life, from early childhood to now, whether it was to make [me] read, write or both.”

Intriguing. It soon became apparent I had two categories: authors I love, authors who have caused a paradigm shift in the way I see the world. Here is the list sort of in the order I encountered the authors and the their work that influenced me.

Dr. Seuss: I Wish I Had Duck Feet
This is the first book I was able to read to myself and my siblings without help from an adult. The imagination of Seuss, the silliness and weirdly wonderful are a basis for my aesthetic today.

A.A. Milne: Winnie the Pooh
My mom gave me a hardcover. It was lovely. It had nice black and white illustrations. I loved them so much I wanted to color them. I did. Mom was not so happy. Coloring the pictures was my way to interact even more with the characters. Ernest H. Shepard, thank you for the lovely illustrations. I think this is the book that made me want a best friend. Piglet FOREVER!

Roald Dahl: James and the Giant Peach
I read this, then I read everything he wrote. I mean EVERYTHING! Similar to Dr. Seuss, Dahl’s way of seeing the world really affected me. I’m still attracted to the ludicrous and the darkly funny.

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey
Greek Mythology and the basis for thousands of plots in the future. And so begins an addiction to classics. I didn’t read the version I linked to, but I did read a rather kid-friendly version. I was a bit shocked to re-read it as an adult and see all the sexy stuff. Nothing wrong with the sexy stuff, it just surprised me that I just missed all that as a kid.

Anne McCaffrey: Dragon Song.
One of the first books I read with a strong, and actually interesting, female character. I don’t count Anne of Greene Gables. She was just way to girly for my tastes. Nancy Drew just seemed way too wealthy to be real. And then there is the McCaffery’s Pern series.

Frank Herbert: Dune
First there was Dune and way after there was Star Wars but that is not the order I experienced them. My first intro to complicated world building. I wanted to be Paul Atreides. Or date him. I think I spent hours trying to move just a single muscle like the Bene Gesserit. And Paul’s challenge of proving he was a human and not an animal by thinking instead of reacting to pain really challenges me to this day.

I also loved Herbert’s The White Plague. Scary book. Never piss off a geneticist who experiments with viruses.

Robert Browning: “My Last Duchess”
Okay, he is a poet, but still
 MAJOR influence. This was the first dramatic monologue I encountered. Excellent example of people saying one thing and meaning it, but reality being completely different. I’d experienced that in life but to see it as a literary device blew my mind.

Ray Bradbury: “Sound of Thunder”
This is the story where the butterfly effect comes from. Pick anything by Bradbury. You won’t be disappointed.

Edgar Allen Poe: “The Cask of Amontillado”
Similar to “My Last Duchess” in terms of what is said and what is real. I imagine Poe must have scared himself so much he needed all those drugs just to be able to close his eyes. To be honest, that tv show, The Following, has kind of ruined Poe for me.

Isaac Asimov:
I think I have read everything that he wrote but I did so in my teens and twenties so now I don’t remember specific plots as much as I remember being in awe.

William Shakespeare: Macbeth
Macbeth is my favorite because I think that play is all about choices. It’s what happens if you decide to believe in prophecy instead of making your own decision free and clear. Proof positive that a story that taps into human motivations will always be relevant. Humans are still fascinated with glimpses into their future, but I think that “knowing” your future means you give up the ability to make decisions based on your free will. The knowing influences you to make events fall out differently than you might if it were simply based on your beliefs. I suppose I’ve over simplified this but distill it to the core and I think this is what you get.

Ursula K LeGuin: “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
Amazing story of choices and prices for our leisure. I’m not so into her other stuff. I never was able to finish The Wizard of Earthsea.

Jane Yolen:
Her fairytale reinventions are intriguing and inspiring. Real proof that a modern storyteller can use the same plot but it is ALL in the way you tell it.

Mary Jo Putney: The Rake
The Rake is a regency romance with a realistically flawed hero. He’s and alcoholic with some serious issues and a believable redemption. This is the first romance book I read where I thought, “I want to write romance!”

Amanda Quick a.k.a Jayne Anne Krentz: Reckless
Hello Regency! I think Reckless was the second regency romance I read after The Rake, then I got hooked on Amanda Quick. Really, I like them all and I read most of her books during a summer in San Diego. I also like how her heroes were never really described in minute detail. I think her heroes and her heroines are not particularly beautiful, but they are beautiful to each other and that is more interesting. Suddenly, historical fiction was fun! I based almost a whole trip to London on visiting places I encountered in her novels.

I’d love to read what the 15 is for others. You don’t have to add commentary, but it would make it much more interesting.

Playlist Your Work Habits

A few days ago I wrote a post about music and work habits.

This evening has been an editing evening and I thought I’d share another playlist.

Finally Moving by Pretty Lights is a song I really like to listen to. Electric hip hop soul. Great for thinking or writing a rainy scene set in the city. Maybe you have another idea. I love listening to this song when driving in the car at night except it makes my husband sleepy. He drives and I don’t so that is a problem.

Frohlocker is a staple.  I was listening to Hipbrass and decided to move onto Malaga-la-la-la (Frohlocker’s Sweet Duck Edit). Frohlocker tags are funk, latin, and world music. Hipbrass is a bit more contemplative, a kind of techno-swing but with a steady beat. Malaga-la-la-la is pure energy. Better for cleaning my room. I’m going to try playing it when I’m getting ready for work tomorrow.

I adore Cinnamon Girl by Dunkel Bunt. I think if you can listen to this electro swing song and not become cheerful, there is something seriously wrong. But there are lyrics which, while fun, make it a song for doing something other than writing.

Chambermaid Swing by Parov Stelar cheers me up immensely. I always imagine some kind of heist. It’s been integral to writing an action scene in my graphic novel. Libella Swing by Parov Stelar also will do but it’s less vivid in my imagination.

And more or less, that takes care of tonight’s playlist… except for the Def Lepard and TopGun 80’s flashback that somehow got on my genius playlist.

As always, if you have songs that motivate you or work for you in certain situations, share them and what they do for you.

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