September 2009

Some art from a poster design project earlier in the year…I had to work so huge to make poster sized prints that I wound up painting this in two halves.

Capricorn (Scratch this–just realized I did it for the 2010 project, not the 2009. I’m an idiot. I’ll put it back up in a month when the designs are actually out!)

Meanwhile, this one’s still pretty cool:

Unused Concept

I really resent the intrusion of pomegranate into everything. Artificial pomegranate is not a flavor I much like, and it seems like you can’t even buy underwear these days without it coming in pomegranate flavor and advertising its value as a superfood that will grant you immortality and the ability to see the future in goose poop. ("This splatter on the windshield tells me that you will meet a dark, mysterious stranger…")

However, there’s this Persian place in Chapel Hill that does a walnut-pomegranate chicken that’ll knock your socks off, so I wasn’t quite writing the whole fruit off, and then Kevin and I were watching FoodTV one night, and Alton Brown showed this amazing method of cleaning pomegranates that didn’t involve all the picking and red death. (You score the pomegranate in several places, put it in a bowl of warm water, and break it apart, then scrape the seeds out with your thumbs. They don’t burst, and the waxy bits float to the top of the bowl, so you can just skim them off and then drain off the water. Takes about five minutes to separate all the seeds that way, as opposed to picking them grimly out of the fruit with your nails for an hour.)

Then he dumped them over cottage cheese. This struck me as madness, but Alton Brown has written some damn fine cookbooks, so in the spirit of science, and with a vague craving for fruit, Kevin and I bought two pomegranates and gave it a whirl and oh my god, they are AWESOME on cottage cheese. It sounds insane, but it’s delicious. I see why Persephone wound up in the underworld. If they’d offered her cottage cheese, she’d never had returned, and Demeter would have sulked her way into a new Ice Age.

I have to go buy more cottage cheese.

I am the new owner of a used Pontiac Vibe! (The only sort of vibe I’d buy used, let me add…I see little chance of this car not being dubbed "the Vibrator" for the foreseeable future.)

2006, 39K miles on it, got it for around a thousand under Blue Book value. They were offering it for right around Blue Book, and I attempted to haggle. Kevin claims I did respectably on that front, since I waved said values around, pointing that this car was probably Good rather than Excellent, particularly with all the dog hair in the cab, and furthermore pointed out that there were two similar Vibes in my area for less than that. 

"But those are high mileage! And this has a sunroof! And alloy wheels! And we’ll get rid of the dog hair!" he said. 

There was a brief silence while he gazed into the face of a woman who hadn’t the foggiest idea what alloy wheels were and didn’t much care. He bowed to either my ignorance or the dog hair and knocked off another seven hundred off his first offer, bringing it down to the same price as the ex-rentals I’d been eying locally, and down to the lower end of the price range I was willing to pay.

The fact that the parking lot was utterly empty and there were a half dozen salesmen standing around like bored vultures probably helped.  I also think I threw him off a bit by being prepared. "I’ll run you a free Carfax report–" "Already ran it last night." "…oh."

Final total went back up a bit when I got the extended warranty, but bugger if I’m doing without that. Financing was no problem, as I have better credit than God. In the end, I am pleased. It’s basically a Toyota Matrix cosplaying as an American car, it’s got a lot more hauling space than I’m used to, and the reviews are universally that it’s a reliable, economical, dead-dull car, which is exactly the sort of thing I want.

So now it’s home, and I have transferred the all important Car Totem (a painted fish my mother made) to the rear-view mirror, and must arrange to order a new "Ganesh is my Co-Pilot" bumper sticker so that I can find the damn thing in the parking lot. Later in the week, I’ll clean out the Nissan, and then decide whether to junk it, or fix it and donate it, or what.

ETA: Oh, hey, I had only done it on the standard model–with the sunroof and alloy wheels, I got it for $2100 under Blue Book. Now I’m actually kinda proud of myself.

Spent the last two hours looking at cars online and talking to various car-buying-type people I know (i.e. Carlota and my father.) and grimly running Carfax reports. Predictably, most of the cars I like and can afford locally are ex-rental cars, which, depending on who you ask, are either bad or not that bad or the transmission will fall out of the car in fifty thousand miles and land on the neighbor’s dog and also there will be explosions and I won’t be able to get a warranty and thus when a chicken leaps into the engine in a fit of melancholy and feathers are sucked into the ignition and the whole car goes up into a fiery ball that smells vaguely of KFC, I’ll have to pay for it out of pocket because I foolishly didn’t get chicken coverage on my insurance and I’ll have to declare bankruptcy. And it will have been a rental chicken, as well.

Found a Pontiac Vibe in my price range that apparently WASN’T a rental, and will schlep out to look at it tomorrow. And the Altima on the lot next to it. If neither of these proves feasible, then I will become deeply depressed, come back to Pittsboro, test drive one of the ex-rental cars, wonder if I’m making a horrible mistake even looking at it, come home and go heavily to the bottle. I will do all of this with a seven year old in tow (except for the bit about the bottle) because it’s a teacher work day tomorrow and this is the price of Kevin driving me around.

I think my problem is that I don’t like cars. I mean, I don’t dislike them, but it’s a thing that gets me from point A to point B, not an object of passion. I do not feel the thrill of driving which some friends profess to have. I have never loved a car. I felt a vague affection for my Nissan, which affection died today at approximately 3 pm Eastern. I have never drooled over a car. I think old Beetles are cute, but I think llamas are cute too–it doesn’t make me want to buy one.

Buying a new car does not thrill me. It’s just a horrible amount of money I have to lay out for something that I then fear will break. It is an opportunity for me to be both foolish AND unlucky. There is no joy in this process.

May Ganesh look favorably upon my shopping, and spare me from the wickedness of salesmen.

My car may have just died. I was going to look at getting a new one, once my big advance arrived…it hasn’t yet, but I have just enough that I could scrape together a down payment on something decent.

I’d kinda been hoping to drive it to a lot and get a trade-in, though, and if it’s not driving, that’s a little trickier. My fear is that it’s the transmission that’s going–it won’t start, I think because it doesn’t really believe the car is in park–and the cost of getting a transmission fixed is way more than I’d get on trade-in. So I just had it towed home (always a Sunday, the death of cars…) and I’ll get it hauled down to my mechanic tomorrow, and hear the verdict.

For all I know, the little snail on the treadmill died.

So if this all is true, I may wind up buying a new car this week. (Well, new for ME.) Tonight, Carmax, tomorrow…I don’t know what. Plus I have to go make sure the title is really truly in my name and not my ex’s and mine, and…ugh. It’s gonna be a fun week.

I have never shopped for a car alone–I was hoping Carlota’d be in the state when next I did, because she is fearless and tends to leave salesmen befuddled and traumatized in her wake–but Kevin will undoubtedly come with me. He’s not a size H cleavage, but he’ll do.

Yesterday, we cleaned.

We cleaned like our lives depended on it, like non-existent mother-in-laws were visiting in ten minutes, like we were possessed by the Nine Demons of Hygiene. Kevin shampooed the carpets. I wielded a mop across an acre or so of hardwood floors. Bedding was changed. Scrubbing occurred, and then occurred some more.

It was glorious. Well, the actual cleaning was mostly exhausting and filthy, but the house doesn’t smell like beagle at the moment* and we finally threw out some old drapes that were contributing to the bat-cave aspect of the living room. (The man’s ex-wife had a virulent hatred of natural light, I swear. I gotta go get some plain white sheers…) 

Afterwards, of course, we were exhausted. We’d had plans for the evening, and instead we fell down and ate cheese and crackers and laid on the bed and whimpered. Dignity is not one of our strong suits.

But yesterday was awesome for a number of reasons. I found–finally! gloriously!–those little foil-wrapped Laughing Cow cheese cubes that I have a dreadful addiction to, and which I hadn’t ever found in the South. People were bringing me to them at cons, that’s how desperate I was. But apparently the Kroger down the way carries them, so life is good. Kevin and I did a small dance of joy in the dairy aisle. People looked at us funny.

Also awesome–my pineapple sage finally bloomed! It’s been so hot, I guess it was waiting for it to cool off or something. I doubt there’s any hummingbirds around to enjoy it, but it’s a huge head-high shrub now, starting to put out little red trumpets. It was a tiny little plant the size of my hand. I planted it in a small bare crack in the garden, late in spring. It’s the biggest thing in the yard now. I love that stuff.** I stood out in the rain doing the dance of blooming pineapple sage, which looks more or less like the orc girl dance in WoW. Kevin regrets not having his video camera available for this.

As we wandered around in a post-cleaning daze, to the front porch, I spotted a little dark shape in the corner of the roof, and we found a house-wren roosting up there in the corner. It was very cute.

Looks like we may finally get some fall weather, too. I’m ready for it. 

And finally, and best of all, I finally got a check from the publisher for…hell, something or other book related, I don’t know, but since I was gettin’ down to the dregs of my bank account and this puts me back in fine fettle for a couple of months, life is good.

*It’s not just Gir, or my failures of housekeeping, either…apparently several of the hound breeds, for whatever reason of coat oils or whatnot, are really pervasive on the odor front. I’ve heard this from basset hound owners as well–you put one in a room for two hours, and the room reeks of hound afterwards. It’s definitely the beagle, too–the house never smells like border collie, except immediately after he’s come in from a soaking rain and the charming aroma of wet dog is sending us all running for the hills.

**It’s also just cold enough here to be non-invasive–the stuff grows crazily, but like lantana in this climate, it can’t quite establish. A cold snap comes along every few years and kills all of it in the ground. I’d fear to plant it any farther south, though…

Today, I finally got off my ass, went down to the little Chatham Art Gallery in downtown Pittsboro* that showcases local artists, and dropped off an application.  (It’s only been, what–a year?) I imagine it’d mostly be matted prints that I’d be selling, and they do a lot of racks of little mini-print cards, so if they accept my art, I’ll get to spend an evening playing mat-and-bag. I’ve got a motley collection of originals stuffed in the closet that deserve a chance to see the light of day, too…

I’m hopeful I’ll get in–my problem with Real Galleries is always content. Of course, since these days I can casually say "Why yes, I’m a children’s book illustrator," that buys me a lot of leeway on the frivolity front. (And now I’m being overly bitter–I had one bad application to a gallery with a woman who dismissed half my portfolio, and anything digital, with a brisk "I have no interest in any of this," and now I’m sore at the whole lot, and they mostly don’t deserve it. These people seem very nice, they sell a lot of fun wildlife art, and I suspect I’d fit right in. There’s a really good watercolor artist locally who makes geese and emus look majestic, and that’s not easy to do.)

And on the bright side, I dropped off the application, and the woman flipped through to the prints and said, sounding very surprised, "Oh! Your work is beautiful!" And after I thanked her and was strolling towards the door, "I really mean that!" I laughed, because I’ve been in similar positions**, and I can only imagine the slush that a local-artist-art gallery has to wade through. So that was comforting.

*Quit laughing! We do SO have a downtown!

**God help me, but you frame stuff for people at a frame shop, you get artists preparing for shows, and when one comes in with work that’s actually really good, you find yourself trying to say "Your work is very good!" without it coming out like "And I totally expected it to suck, too!" This can be difficult. 

It’s a mad mad mad mad world! With pears!

Whew, way too long since I updated! We have new art, which you can find by wandering through the gallery and clicking anything with “updated!” next to it. We have cool news–I’ll be the art guest of honor at FurtherConfusion 2010, and will be a returning GoH at Midwest Furfest in November. Dragonbreath is in its fourth printing, which isn’t too shabby for a book that came out in June, and Dragonbreath 2: Attack of the Ninja Frogs, which will come out in February, has been selected as a Junior Library Guild Selection!

And I just finished art for Dragonbreath 3. And next month I have to write Dragonbreath 4. I think I get to sleep at some point after that, but maybe not.

*pant, pant, pant*

Two exciting new things, though–we have Biting Pear figurines available for pre-order! I’ve got photos of the preliminary models, and this is gonna be pure awesome!

Next up, this is the last week to pre-order the hardcopy version of Irrational Fears! I’ve got my pre-press copies, and man, they did a very nice job.

So that’s it for now…I think…

Re-read The Mote in God’s Eye yesterday–read it back in college, but not since. Man, that’s still a classic. (Pity about the sequel…) I dreamed about aliens, which wasn’t surprising, but the rest was a nonsensical jumble of wandering between large tents and solemn discussions of nothing in particular.

I was actually inspired to re-read it because of a line in Pratchett’s Hat Full of Sky, when the Feegles are describing various worlds they’ve traveled to, and one says something about a world where people have five different bodies for doing different jobs, and a huge left hand just for opening pickle jars. I’m not sure if I got that the first read-through, but something clicked on the most recent one, and I went "Dude! The Feegles are talking about Moties!"  Which was awesome.

My tolerance for hard sf with military twinges has apparently improved since my college days–I wasn’t skimming large sections to get back to the aliens–so that’s nice. On the other hand, I think that probably hit my limit for the next six months, and now I have to go read something floofy with unicorns.

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