I’ve Moved

Well, moved the blog, anyway. Please change links and such. My new blog is at www.southernmystic.wordpress.com. And while you’re at it, check out the full website at www.southernmystic.com.

3, 2, 1, LAUNCH!

Big changes are in the works here. As some of you may know, I’ve been home with my kids for almost 6 years at this point (yes, one is 5; I started staying home while I was pregnant.) Almost from the beginning I’ve wanted to work again. There are Major Issues back there and I won’t go into it. Because I’ve put together a cunning plan! Go on, put a tail on it and call it a weasel. As much as I would like to Go Back to Work properly, with the kids being so little and DH so very unavailable for emergency baby duty, it’s just not feasible. So we are looking at expanding my online shop, Southern Mystic, tenfold! No really, I’m serious, x10. Dyeing and spinning is something that I enjoy, it’s creative, it’s acceptably profitable, and I can do it while home with the kids. The living room might be a chaotic center of hell, but that’s ok, I won’t be in the living room. I’ll be in the kitchen. Hiding, and coloring yarn/fiber.

It’s true that no one gets rich doing this. But you know what they say – if it was easy, everyone would do it. And since I won’t be paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars every month for childcare, it’s actually quite a bit more lucrative than it might seem on the surface. Plus, there’s no commute, no additional wardrobe, no meals out … the little things can add up. Now, there’s always the issue of sales, but I’m actually not too worried about that. I think I have a pretty good bead on the marketing segment of this sort of business, and once I have inventory, I am confident I’ll start to see some interest.

Some people are to blame – I mean, be credited with helping me get this far, because it’s not easy to form a business plan, make contacts, develop policies, get licenses for wholesale, etc. Ady from Knittink is one of my biggest cheerleaders, and I try to be the same for her. She’s just awesome, she’s helped so much. Plus, COMIC BOOK YARN! How can I resist?! Val from <a href="http://www.woolywoolofthewest.etsy.com"Wooly Wool of the West is a wonderful lady who’s been very supportive, and a lot of her wool is in my products! Dale from Light Brown Hare is fantastic, an inspiration and a great source of information. Stephanie from WC Mercantile is a great fiber friend and supplier, and of course Jessie from Phat Fiber, who I truly believe is the fairy godmother of the fiber world! So a big thank you to all those awesome folks. See you online!

Backyard Tetris

So there’s a problem with have a teensy tiny backyard. If one thing has to move, then five other things have to shuffle as well. Some time ago, we decided that the kids and the chickens really needed large, designated chunks of the backyard, and we needed to just pave the back corner, which is a wasteland. This meant moving the paving stones and the flowerbeds, laying down weed blocker, finding mulch, and rearranging toys. It also meant getting rid of a pile of firewood, moving my tomatoes, moving the newly discovered okra plants (“I planted those last March! Why are they sprouting now?!”), removing part of a fence, moving my herb garden, borrowing a truck to get a chicken run, emptying the shed, partially dismantling the shed, MOVING THE SHED … I think it would have been easier to sell the house and start over.

But all this work has a bright spot at the end. When it is done, my yard will be well and truly functional, instead of limping by. It might not be the function that I want, but it will do something well instead of doing everything poorly. I have put to rest my dream of having goats. It just isn’t going to happen at this house. I kind of wish I knew how long we were going to be here, but I’m not banking on that. I don’t even know if we’re going to ever have acreage. It was one of our dreams starting out, but things change. One way or another, we’re getting to a good place, even if it’s not the place I’d envisioned. Our children will be happy, and my first farm love, the chickens, will be happy.

Speaking of chickens … in a couple of months, the baby chicks we hatched will be ready to be outside with Ember. Yay! I will be very pleased when they are OUT OF MY KITCHEN. They make a mess. I wish I knew which ones were roosters already! I live in fear of all of them turning out to be roosters. Ah well, lay or crow, then you’ll know …

An EMP Pulse At Least Would Have Been A Better Explanation

I am cursed by technology. Within the past few months, the following pieces of electronics have failed me: digital camera, iPod touch, Nintendo DS, printer, Wii, laptop, and digital scale. Yes, even the little scale rebelled. Some of these poor devices were victims of encounters with a small child, or water, or a combination of the two. Some of them, however, just died a horrible death for no reason that I could fathom. These things are supposed to come in threes. This is more like a plague.

However! Some exciting things are happening in analog-world. Cameron has started kindergarten. That deserves a post all its own. I am hatching chicks, to replace the three birds we’ve lost this summer. Again, will delve into that another time. I have a drum carder, and it cards wool just like … well, like a drum carder. I’m writing, I’m doing yarn crafts, I am obsessed with comic books. What else is new?

Well i’ll tell you what else is new! I would like to remind the world that I have a new book of short stories available at Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. It is free or “pick you price” through the former, and $3.96 (currently on sale) through the latter. These particular stories are not romance/erotica, like my work through Circlet Press is. Below is the Smashwords summary, and the cover. Enticing, right? I would love to hear what you think!

“In Hearth and Harvest, Julie Cox explores the roles of parents and children through stories steeped in magic, wonder, grief and inevitability. A farmer hatches an unlikely egg; a barren girl searches for a god; death and birth abound, and creators clash with their creations. These six stories find the fantastic in the mundane, and the grounded, dirty world in the unreal. “

Cover

Spinalong Ideas

So I’ve had a niche within a niche idea for a spinalong. What’s a spinalong? Glad you asked! It’s where I dye an card fiber then mail it to the participants to spin into yarn. Or felt, or eat, ya know, whatever strikes their fancy. I’ve seen plenty of cool ideas for spinalongs – 40s pinup girls, flowers, seasons, knights vs dragons, you name it. I was struck by an idea, and it has delighted me. Let’s see if it delights anyone else.

I’d like to do a spinalong based on geek culture icons. These are my ideas:

Neil Gaiman – a big cloud of salt-and-pepper mohair locks, with a few shocks of blood red thrown in, just for scariness. Possibly a button with a white dog or bees.

Wil Wheaton – not sure. How can fiber be as geeky, snarky, adorable and awesome as Wil Wheaton? That’s a real challenge. It might have to be from a bunny. It’s the only thing cuter.

Carl Sagan – Obviously something nebula-colored. Maybe silk.

Stephen Hawking – fiber in a wheelchair? Ok that was dark. Maybe a color-changing roving from colorful down to a black center. Black hole, ya know?

There are so many other possibilities. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Tesla, Felicia Day, mmmmmm, Joss Whedon … Ok now I’m just thinking about things done by Joss Whedon. I digress! This has possibilities. Share with me your thoughts, noble readers. And you Mublood readers too.

Myrtle Mae Watford, 1922-2010

My grandmother died yesterday. Ganny was 88 years old, had emphysema, and had smoked for something like 70 years. Over the past two months she became extremely frail; her breathing and heartbeat became erratic, and eventually she was bedridden. It was very difficult for my mother and aunt; someone was with her all the time. I could not be of any real help, because I have two tiny children with me at all times. I was expecting the call, but it was still very difficult.

I asked for an extension on my book for Circlet. I have to be realistic about what I’m going to be able to accomplish, both time-wise and mental-energy-wise. I feel alright most of the time, but every little while my throat will catch and I’ll hold my breath until it passes. I don’t want to get upset in front of the kids. I’ve cried a little with them, but they don’t need to see their Mama having a mild fit every 15 minutes. Especially the toddler, who has no idea what’s going on. He came over to me at one point and patted my hair and said “It’s okay, Mama.” My sweet boy.

Ganny was a fixture in my life from an early age. When we lived in Pennsylvania we would make regular trips to Texas for visits. My father was transferred to Texas when I was 6, just after starting 1st grade. When Mom asked us, “Who wants to move to Texas?” my older brother and I screamed “I DO! I DO!” and my little brother yelled “ME TOO!” This being Robert’s rallying cry. Me too. We lived with Ganny for a little while in her tiny house in Hutchins until Mom and Dad bought our house in Duncanville. Eventually Ganny bought half a duplex in DeSoto; it was nice having her so close.

For the next dozen or so years, she was over a lot. She came and looked after us while my mother got her master’s degree and then worked as a special education diagnostician for Duncanville ISD. I remember her folding the laundry on the coffee table, yelling at the cat as it knocked stacks of clean laundry onto the floor. She and Lady, our labrador/golden retriever mix, were especially close. Lady was a good dog; she stayed with Ganny when we went on vacations, and they enjoyed each others’ company.

As I got older I learned more about Ganny’s life. I learned that she grew up on a farm in Central Texas during the Depression. No wonder she was as frugal as she was. She hated spending money on things like appliance repair, taxes and bills. Those kinds of maintenance expenses irritated her. In fact, lots of things irritated Ganny; she was an irascible sort, though always loving and (mostly) patient. There are things that I will always associate with her. Radishes, for one. She usually had radishes in her garden. She hated snakes with a deep and abiding passion, and could barely tolerate worms because of their resemblance. She loved hummingbirds, cardinals and other songbirds; she warred with the squirrels.

I asked her once why she didn’t remarry. She said there had been some hopefuls over the years but, she said with a sigh, “There wasn’t another James.” I’ve heard a lot about James Watford over the years. How he was the volunteer fire chief, and how he loved tinkering and fixing things. While talking about computers once, Ganny expressed some relief that computers hadn’t been around when he was alive. “He would’ve had a dozen of those things in pieces all over the house!” She eloped when she was still in school, and was really mad that they would not allow her to return to school because she was married. Especially since Some Other Girl got married, and was allowed back because of some of her connections. Different times, huh? There is some debate as to whether Ganny did eventually get to finish school. We may never know.

There are so many stories going through my head … How her brother Travis came back from the war, stayed two weeks, then as he drove off, waved at them – wearing a wedding ring. Oh that must have driven those girls nuts! How her father had tracked a thief who had taken some meat from them to a nearby shack. Stories of her animals, Pedro and Tuffy and Bo and Queenie and a dozen others. How her older brother Pete used to make her hold the chicken while he chopped its head off. How no one knew that her father’s name was Yelbert until his funeral; they’d known him as YC. Can’t say I blame ol’ Yelbert.

So next Monday we will go down to Groesbeck, where most of the rest of the family is buried. All my life, there’s been a tombstone with her name on it and one date. Shortly, there will be a punctuating date on it. On one side is her husband James. On the other is her daughter Frances, or “Cookie.” She never did get along well with Cookie, who was mildly mentally challenged and lived with Ganny most of her life. Ganny once pointed to the narrow space between her and Cookie and said, “You oughta be buried right here, to keep me and her a little more separated.” Thanks Ganny, that’s exactly what I want to do for eternity. Makes me smile to think of it, though. It’s a nice spot, next to a pasture with a herd of cattle, a pond and lots of big oak trees. It’s right down the road from the farm on which she grew up, which belongs now to her nephew Donald. When we were in Groesbeck this past spring to bury her sister-in-law Marian (the mystery bride Travis flaunted at them), I got to see the old farm. It is a beautiful place. A good place to begin, and a good place to end.

Me and My Trashy Writing

Yup, I write erotica. I don’t give a rat’s ass if that shocks the world. My stars and garters, what WILL the bridge club say? I write erotica for two huge reasons. One, it sells. Circlet Press has been my most consistent publisher, far more so than more lofty arenas. Two, it’s fun to write. And really, aren’t those the only reasons that matter? If I enjoy it and it sells, then hell, there we are! Especially since with Circlet, I can write the kind of erotica that pleases my heart – romantic, psychological, with science fiction and/or fantasy mixed in. Vampires are old news; give me androids and satyrs!

But I have now reached the difficult part of a project. I have a short story series due in less than 2 weeks and it just might kill me. I had a ridiculously hard time writing the sex scenes in the last two stories. After all, there’s only so many ways you can describe sex. Last night I had something of a breakthrough and actually managed to write both the scenes I was having trouble with. Huzzah! It took me four or five hours, but I did it.

Now I have one more story to do, two stories that need a bit of wrap-up, and editing. My editor, the incomparable Joy Crelin, has been so very kind and sweet, and has not glared at me at all saying “deadline approaching.” She is gifted, that one. I look forward to hearing what she has to say, assuming that I can finish the blasted thing on time. Today I am actually in the negative for word count. I think I’ve deleted about 1000 words – painful stuff. But they were crappy words. They had to go. The press is on; I am babysitting Ben for the rest of the week for my friend Jen (she is moving), my husband is leaving for a vacation with his brothers and father on Friday, today is the last day of school for my kids and my grandmother is dying. So I have a lot less than two weeks to do this. I have three evenings. There’s a possibility I will get some babysitting from a friend next week; we will see if I have the juice left to write anything at the time.

Wait am I supposed to do laundry too? And spin yarn? And look after my animals? And cook? Hope everybody likes mac ‘n’ cheese …

Only the Good Dye Young

EDIT: Rae says this blog needs a glossary, so here it is.
Bluefaced Leicester (BFL), merino, corriedale, rambouillet, shetland – breeds of sheep
roving – a big strip of processed wool
locks – a piece of wool just as it is off the sheep.
skein – yarn wrapped into a big loop

Today I dyed three big skeins of yarn and some fiber. They are AWESOME. I am pleased with the results of all, if a little surprised or confused by one or two. Two of them are variegated blues, greens, browns and gold. Another is a sort of really dark rainbow. The BFL roving has pale spots of green and brown which should spin up very pretty, and some merino locks that were supposed to be “gun metal” and instead came out pink and purple. What the hell? Who knows. I’m still pretty new at this dying business, but every time I try a new technique or have something unexpected happen, it’s exciting.

One of the more exciting discoveries was how pretty moorit shetland wool looked when overdyed. I recently bought a three pound fleece from Windswept Farms, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It’s softer than the Leicester I worked with before, not as soft as merino of course, but the grease loss is a lot less, and the texture is quite nice. Of course, the main source of my fiber fixes these days is working through the 4 pounds of fleece I bought from Wooly Wool of the West. The fleece from Annabelle continues to rock. In fact, the three skeins I dyed today were from her. This sheep has a lineage that includes merino, corriedale and rambouillet. What a great background, huh? It’s super soft and crimpy, the locks hold together well when washing, and the staple length is like, 4″ after washed. I gotta get me some sheep, man.

As a relative newcomer to spinning, I still find most of my inspiration comes from looking at the works of other people. I’d like to share a few of my favorites from Etsy. These fiber artists are incredible! I aspire to be their peer. Click on the picture to go to the listing.

“Aspen”, merino and bamboo roving by Knittyandcolor

“Fire Pit” by Huggybearknits

“Morrigan,” by Welovethor

“Heathered – Earthen Hues” by Greenwoodfiber

“Iron Man vs Gryffinger” by Knittink

Books

I don’t get nearly as much time to read as I would like. I do well to get enough peaceful time to catch up on the few blogs that I attempt to keep up with. But, I thought I would share some of the very few books I’ve managed to sneak in lately.

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley – A great vampire book for those of you who like vampires but want something significantly different from “True Blood” / “Twilight” / Anne Rice / etc. Neil Gaiman called it “just about perfect,” which is why I picked it up in the first place.

The Line Between, by Peter Beagle – This fellow is best known for “The Last Unicorn.” Believe me, the rest of his writing is quite wonderful. This particular book is like a box of Godiva chocolates; I know exactly what I’m going to get, thank you very much, because of the author’s notes / chocolates guide. I’ve taken forever to consume it, savoring one at a time with an intentionally long time in between. And each and every one is wonderful, including the one I had to put down because it scared the shit out of me. This is where my chocolates metaphor breaks down, by the way.

Fables, by Bill Willingham – I know I’m plenty late to the party on this one. Willingham won *mumble mumble* awards for this comic series. It will go up by “Sandman” in “The Case for Why Comic Books are a Relevant Medium.”

Mouse Guard, by David Petersen – Another one for the Comics Are Relevent wall. A fantastic series about survival, heroics, sacrifice and mice.

Dark Tower Comics – Ok so I’m on a comic spree. I was going to skip this one, since everyone knows Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is the shit, but Peter David was involved with this one. And it seems like every time I turn around, Peter David is turning up involved in things I love. I must stalk this man.

Peter Pan, by JM Barrie – I put this one in here because I had the most lovely moment the other night over at the McCown’s. The boys were all playing nicely. I worked on knitting a sock for Xander while Jen read passages from Peter Pan. There wasn’t anything particularly extraordinary about that moment, it was just one of superb peace and contentment.

Alright, I think that’s all for the moment. Happy reading all!

Origin Story

I love comic books. I am unashamed. The pulp nature of it, the gleeful tossing aside of scientific reality for the sake of story and fun, the “because it’s cool ok” justification for just about anything … It is a medium more accepting of the fantastic than just about any other. It has great potential that is largely untapped, so many stories that could be told. Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series and Bill Willingham’s “Fables” series demonstrate just how versatile the medium can be. Comics are not just about superheroes – though really, who doesn’t love superheroes?

I have my own ideas for comic stories, but that’s another post. I started thinking about my own Origin Story, as they are known in comic lingo. What made me what I am today? Sure, there’s the boring stuff, where I grew up, who my parents were, all that. Big deal. The defining moments were much smaller.

My big brother is seven years older than me, and several levels higher in Geekdom. He’s a computer programmer with a blacksmithing hobby, for crying out loud. But way back in 1992, when I was but a tweenager, my older brother was a rock musician, a gamer, a college student and, as always, Way Cool. (Okay, so he’s still Way Cool.) And somehow, he knew exactly what his little sister needed to follow in his geeky footsteps. He sat me down one night and made me watch “Star Trek: The Next Generation” with him. A Wesley Crusher episode. I don’t remember which one. Now I know people dis Wesley, and as an adult I cringe at some of the stories they put this character through. But in 1992, I fell. In. Love. Here was a handsome, highly intelligent, awkward, GEEKY teenager, only a few years older than myself. And people were paying attention to him, praising him, rewarding him for being exactly what he was.

So down than slippery slope I happily tumbled. I watched “Star Trek” whenever it was on, which was happily two or three times a week. I read the novels. I went to conventions. In costume. I helped win a trivia contest at one of those said conventions, in said costume. I still remember that last question … What rank was Commander Data in the novel Imzadi? Commodore, of course. Psh. Everyone who was obsessed with that book knew that.

Fast forward to 2010. Things are rough. I stay home with my two children. I can finally admit, though still with a significant amount of guilt and disappointment in myself, that I am not good at being a stay at home mom. No one’s really happy. I struggle with loneliness, inadequacy, rejection and depression. I write, spin, knit, etc., trying desperately to find something that will not only make money but that I am happy doing, that I’m good at, that will impress someone – anyone – other than my long-suffering husband or a handful of friends. Two steps forward, one step back. Things are getting better, but boy, is it slow, and the down days are still Really Down Days.

At my friend Jen’s behest, I started reading Wil Wheaton’s blog. Yup, the guy who played Wesley Crusher, now a fully functional and non-space-suited adult. I read with great empathy about his troubles post Star Trek, finding meaningful work (or work at all), about his love of geek culture, his complex internal life. I read his books – Dancing Barefoot, Just a Geek, and others. And I fell in love all over again, not because he was handsome (though the guy is still smokin’) but because he was genuine, intelligent, and ultimately, like me, like the title of his book, just a geek. Now, my life is significantly different than this geek-culture-celebrity’s, because he actually HAS found a meaningful life, but I feel a kinship with his struggles. His story gives me hope, that I can be just a geek too, and work – and eventually, happiness – will follow.

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