Project Knitting: Izzie’s Workshop

One of the goals I set at the beginning of the year was tackling an ambitious knitting project. Considering I’ve been leveling-up with the garter stitch over the past year (and made my first baby blanket), it only made sense to challenge myself.

What I had in mind at the time: learning to purl and completing a pattern requiring purl and knit stitches.

What I actually did: opened an Etsy shop for my knitting, Izzie’s Workshop.

My stash of completed hats and headbands have come in handy, and so the shop is stocked at the moment. But it still looks pretty bare, which means I’m already raiding my yarn trunk to find anything pretty while also trying to figure out what to knit. I want to have an eclectic mix of items for sale and not just hats and headbands. I’m thinking scarves and baby blankets and shawls and cowls. Maybe cardigans and sweaters eventually.

The challenge now is avoiding Michaels and AC Moore until I put a significant dent in my yarn stash. Like can see the wood bottom of the trunk-sized dent. If I knit as much as I plan to, that should happen sooner rather than later.

I’d appreciate it if you’d check out Izzie’s Workshop and give us a follow on Instagram and Twitter. Those second two will feature new items and sales in addition to cute dog pictures and knitting updates.

Quit Fridging the Girlfriend: The Umbrella Academy

“Fridging”: a trope where a (usually female) character is injured, killed, or otherwise lose their agency as a plot device to further the arc of another (typically male) character.

Since that’s out of the way, let me get to what’s pissed me off this week: The Umbrella Academy. My S.O. was away for the weekend, leaving me ample time to binge-watch season one of Netflix’s superhero show. And the first few episodes showed promise. Not a lot but enough to keep me watching even as it turned into an utter trainwreck.

UA undoubtedly has a number of issues. I could honestly do three or four posts on how the storytelling went to shit. Depending on how well this post satisfies my rage, I very well may write another one.

Anyway, to the point of this post: fridging. (Usual disclaimer of spoilers).

There are at least three instances of fridging in the ten episodes of UA: Patch’s death, Allyson having her throat slit, and Agnes being held hostage. Want to know how many male characters die to further the arcs of female characters? Zero.

Patch’s death becomes Diego’s motivation for going after Cha Cha and Hazel. Never mind the fact that they’re assassins (as his brother, Five, can confirm). And never mind that he’s established early on as a character who goes after criminals and other bad guys. Because those two things aren’t good enough reasons for him to hunt down the pair, but his ex’s death (after she takes his advice to “break the rules”) is.

Allyson nearly dying after Vanya slits her throat not only makes Luther overly protective of his sister-slash-crush but also literally silences her. As in she can’t speak. She can’t  defend Vanya or to talk to her daughter on the phone as the apocalypse looms, and she’s forced to rely on (and defer) to Luther. And Luther manages to trigger the apocalypse.

Then there’s Agnes. Shes such a sweet, albeit cliche character who causes Hazel to turn his back on life as an assassin, and that honestly would’ve been one of the lesser sins (and forgivable) UA committed. But then ChaCha literally ties up Agnes and nearly drowns her in a hot tub. And if that’s not enough, the Handler then holds Agnes hostage until Hazel and ChaCha succeed in their mission of making sure the apocalypse happens on schedule. Would Hazel have become a quasi-good-guy without Agnes? No. But he’s such an interesting character that he should’ve been given another (non-fridging) reason to return to working with ChaCha for a final mission.

The superhero genre has a history of screwing over female characters in order to further the male heroes in their journey or mission or whatever. And in 2019, this shit needs to stop. Guys should be allowed to have motivations other than women and their suffering. Women should be allowed to have their own narratives not tied to a guy’s.

Have you seen The Umbrella Academy? What’s your pet peeve when it comes to storytelling tropes?

February Reading Recap

I’m seriously proud of how many books I managed to read this month, considering it’s the shortest month of the year and I had so much other stuff eating into my “free” time.

5/35 BOOKS READ IN 2019

I finally finished The Lost World by Michael Crichton. It’s the sequel to Jurassic Park, and once I got over the fact that a certain character was still alive (it was written after the Jurassic Park movie), I enjoyed it. The dinosaur-fact-heavy sections lost me occasionally; but the descriptions more than made up for it.

The next book was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I bought the eBook after watching the Netflix show, understanding that the book only loosely inspired the show. Hill House follows a paranormal scholar and three others as they spend time in the nefarious Hill House. It managed to creep me out at points, which is an achievement in and of itself.

My final book of February was Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I decided to reread it before reading the second book in the series (The Vanishing Stair, which just came out). Truly Devious chronicles two mysteries at the elite Ellingham Academy: one a kidnapping and the other a murder. And I actually didn’t mind that several loose ends were left to be resolved in the next book (though that’s usually something that bothers me a lot).

What books did you read this month?

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Fresh Air & Sunshine

The weather in my corner of North Carolina has been rather rainy these past few weeks, and I hadn’t realized how much the lack of sunshine weighed me down until yesterday, when it was sunny and mid-60’s and my S.O. insisted we get out of the apartment.

I resisted at first. There was yarn in need of knitting, words in need of writing, and clothes in need of washing. Plus I hadn’t taken my anti-anxiety medication in a couple days, so the idea of venturing into public put me on edge. But I let him prod me into going out, and so we headed out with a dog, TANK, in tow.

The first dog-friendly bar was a bust; the fenced-in patio was nearly bursting at the seams with people and dogs. We brought TANK to work on her socialization, and while she did awesome and even made friends with an Australian Shepherd puppy, we decided it was too much stimulation.

The patio at the next dog-friendly bar was empty. Like tumbleweeds rolling between the picnic tables and benches empty. S.O. popped inside to get us drinks, and we spent the next hour basking in the fresh air and sunshine. TANK showed off her new-found ability to climb onto picnic tables; she occasionally took breaks to let me take a dozen pictures of her cuteness.

I did something during that hour that I haven’t done in a long time: I enjoyed the moment. Life has been one thing after another, one to-do after another. I regularly try to knock a week’s worth of items off my to do list in the four hours after work. It’s a lot, and I recognize that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself disappointed by a perceived lack of productivity.

Writing is work. Blogging is work. Knitting is work. REDACTED is work. Each one requires my full attention and brain power, which works until I’m going for two weeks straight and don’t have the spoons to do more than feed the dogs and myself.

Time to recharge, to enjoy this moment happening right now, isn’t time lost. It’s necessary if I want to keep writing and blogging and being creative, and not burnout.

S.O. and I grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant. The sun had started going down by that point and the wind had picked up, making me glad that I’d brought my parka but also wishing I’d put a sweatshirt under it. Even so, we had fun. Especially TANK; she really enjoyed the fried pickles.

TANK passed out when we got home, and I nearly did the same. It was a good day.

TANK enjoying fresh air and sunshine

Project Adventure: Alpacas

Project Adventure: Visit somewhere new (ideally) once a month.
Adventures completed: 1

I found out about the Carolina Alpaca Celebration through Facebook; one of the local interest pages posted the event info. I’ve become fascinated with fiber-producing animals (alpacas and sheep) as I’ve been knitting more, so I jumped at the chance to see alpacas up close.

The Cabarrus Arena & Events Center is about thirty-minutes from my apartment. It took me about that to get there, and I walked inside and into a massive open room that smelled of hay and manure. The front half contained a handful of vendors dispersed among three rows, and in the back stood a dozen chest-high pens with fans attached to the bars.

The alpacas ranged in color from beige to gray to brown to black and looked like over-sized, super-fluffy stuffed animals. A few of them hummed.

A couple industrial, roll-up doors were partially open, making me regret my decision not to wear a winter coat. The show area, located inside the arena-portion of the building, was slightly warmer. It also housed a handful of adorable baby alpacas.

I took lots of pictures and browsed the vendor booths for the better part of an hour. Long enough to see everything (and to justify the trip up). I bought a ball of alpaca yarn; I haven’t figured out what I’ll make from it though I’m leaning in the direction of fingerless gloves.

What kinds of new places or experiences have you had so far this year? Do you have any planned?

Me with an alpaca

Freelancing Again

After a few years of being out of the freelance hustle, I’ve decided to start looking for writing gigs.

I’m not looking to do it full time again; been there, done that, and I’m glad I have the experience. But I want something part-time because–honestly–I’d much rather hustling for part-time gigs I can do from my couch rather than… well, rather than drive to work during rush hour (traffic can be a bitch in Charlotte).

So I’ve been digging out my clips, which entails a fair bit of Googling “Sarah Stone” and “Publication.” And… I wrote more pieces than I remember writing. I really should’ve compiled a list with links as they were published. Or maybe I did but it was lost when I got a new computer. Either way, I’m going to rectify that with help from Excel and Mountain Dew.

Finding freelance work isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and the biggest hurdle is going to be getting that first gig because my most recent clips are from 2016. (Though a couple pieces written back then were just published early last year.) Once I get the first one in the bag, I’ll feel better.

Like I’ve still got it. Which I do. I just need to show that after a couple of years away, I can still meet deadlines and write killer copy.

Have you ever freelanced? Do you have any go-to websites for finding gigs?

Spring Fever

North Carolina decided to take a break from winter and spend a couple days pretending that it’s spring instead of mid-February. And as a result, I’ve gone into gardening mode. Like buying seeds and fighting the urge to buy potting soil and recognizing that the cold will kill anything I plant but wanting to start gardening anyway.

I’d hoped that going through photos of flowers and the garden from last summer would help take the edge off. And they have, somewhat.

How do you handle these unseasonably warm winter days? Do they leave you with a touch of spring fever?

Project Serial: First Draft

I’ve been working on the short story for what I’m dubbing Project Serial since the beginning of December, kind of sorta intending for it to be a serial and having in the back of my mind that I might one day post it on this blog. And I probably would still be tinkering on it with a few words here and a few words there until summer. But Project Serial gives me a deadline. More or less.

Apparently even a more or less deadline motivated me enough to get me to where I’m DONE with the first draft. Not DONE as in I’ve written The End; DONE in that I finally figured how I want the story to go and am ready to start revising so it starts looking like the one in my head.

Which is a good thing. It leaves me the position of having to throw out an entire plot-line; I’ll be able to reuse descriptions and hopefully a character. Focusing on only one plot gives me the opportunity to expand on the characters and hopefully make the whole thing scarier. I’m excited.

So what’s this story actually about? It’s a about teenage paranormal investigators and a cave with a creepy history. The placeholder title is Cedar Creek Cavern. I’m aiming to start posting  in June.

How do you feel about serial fiction? Are you a fan? Or do you prefer the opportunity to read the whole story at once?

A Successful Trip to B&N

I took a trip to Barnes & Noble the other day and walked out with three new books. This is an unusual occurrence for two reasons. First, because I tend to do all of my book-buying online (whether ordering paperbacks from B&N or Books-a-Million or snagging an eBook while it’s on sale). Second, because I rarely find books or authors that interest me (the YA section excluded).

I’m going to chock my success up checking the B&N website for whether the Maureen Johnson’s new book, The Vanishing Stair, was actually in stock at my local B&N. The other two books were just a bonus: I decided to grab a physical copy of Truly Devious for my re-read and there were autographed copies of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing in stock.

How’s your luck with brick-and-mortar bookstores? Do you have a go-to bookstore or method of finding books?

January Reading Recap

The Goodreads Reading Challenge book-tracker-thingie says that I need to read 3 books a month to hit my 2019 goal of reading 35 books. I managed two, which I think was due to one being an eBook (that I could pick up anytime) and the other being a hardcover (that I could only read when I had the book with me (obviously)).

The first book I finished was Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn. It’s the second in the Lady Julia Gray series, featuring a Victorian widow and a brooding PI. Sanctuary gave me such Miss Fisher vibes and scratched that itch for a historical cozy mystery. I definitely recommend the series.

The other book was The Family Plot by Cherie Priest. I read this book around when it came out in summer 2017, but I’ve been feeling for some time that I rushed through that reading. So I picked it up again. It’s a slow-burn plot and then all of a sudden it isn’t. Part of me is thinking twice about my desire to buy and fix up an old house after this reread.

I started a third book this month: The Lost World by Michael Crichton. I’m about a third of the way through as of writing this post.

What books did you read in January? Anything that I should check out?