Back to the Black Book

If you want an illustration of how Ashland is going, I set aside my baby blanket after a gross miscalculation about how much yarn I would need and started an old-fashioned granny square, something that would sit in my hands and require no thought.

Reports from my readers are coming in and, I swear, even when you say to yourself, “Yeah, something’s not quite right here and here and here but I can’t figure out what it is” and then you say “Hey, guys, can you help me?” when they say “Yeah, something’s not quite right here and here and here and I think it’s this and this and this,” my immediate reaction is “Why does everyone hate me and think I suck?” Like, seriously. At this point, having been through this a few times, I know the feeling will pass. But it’s ridiculous.

I’m going to say that, in a way, I kind of get the Puppies. Not in the slating or the cozying up to that Nazi, but I get the massive amount of pouty hurt that they run around with. I feel that same pouty hurt. I totally get the impulse to say “Well, why can’t my shitty thing be good enough? Lots of shitty things are good enough! Fuck it! My shitty thing is good enough and I will destroy everyone who says it isn’t!”

Plus, that approach has its victories. It’s satisfying.

Whereas, the thing I have to do now is not satisfying. It’s scary. I have to crack this thing open and fix a lot of things. And, at the end of all that work, there’s no guarantee that it will be good enough.

That sucks and, like I said, is scary. But that’s the way to get to where I want to go.

So, I’m moving the black book full of notes back into my purse and I’m back to mulling and mulling and making granny squares with my hands so my mind can focus on other crap.

The Tripping Jaguar Dries on My Bed

HOLY SHIT! I want to make ten of these. Maybe not ten. But damn. Damn. Damn.

finished jaguar 1

Here’s the whole thing, laying on towels, drying out.

finished jaguar 2

Here it is up closer. You can see that some of the squares aren’t lying flat, which is probably always going to be a slight issue for the afghan, unless it surprises me in the next few hours.

finished jaguar 3

I think what I really like about it is how the self-striping yarn and the imperfect nature of the squares works together to really make it seem as if all parts are interesting to look at.

finished jaguar 4

Even the back turned out really lovely.

jaguar stripes

But see what I mean? Here’s the exact same yarn, just worked up into rows. And it’s fine, possibly lovely, even. It will make a cheery baby blanket for a winter baby. But it doesn’t quite do it the way the squares do.

A Little Pride

I’m done with the tripping jaguar afghan except for the blocking (and the bragging, of course), which I will do tomorrow. I haven’t spread it completely out, but I feel like it’s amazing.

I took the left over yarn and started a baby blanket for a friend and I must say that one thing that makes me proud is that, though the baby blanket will be lovely–because it’s a lovely yarn–I don’t think it quite has the wow of the tripping jaguar afghan. So, it’s not just the yarn that makes the afghan, it’s also picking the right thing to do with the yarn. And the perfect thing to do with self-striping yarn, it turns out, are squares.

So, good for me!


I finished piecing the afghan together last night and I’m into the border. I’ll be able to block it this weekend! I’m pleased with both how light it is and how warm. I guess that’s wool for you.

It’s really beautiful. I am pleased. Anyway, pictures when it’s done.


I got the potato salad made, but then I went to the state museum with the Butcher, his girlfriend, and her kids, which was much more fun than vacuuming. I did finish the squares on the tripping jaguar afghan and I’ve begun putting them together. I am really, really pleased. It’s really gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it finished.

Can It Happen?!

I need to make potato salad, clean the bathroom, and vacuum. I really want to finish this afghan.

Can it all happen?

I doubt it. I have a lot left of the afghan. But I’m close enough to taste the end.

Yes, I’m tasting my afghan. What of it?

So Very Close, So Not Close

I had to lay out the tripping jaguar afghan to motivate myself into believing that it is close and that it will eventually be done. I just have fourteen more squares to do. I think it’s really amazing looking. I’m not blocking the individual squares before I sew them together. I may regret that, but I figure the seams will help pull the squares square in the end. Plus, I have a spot I can dry the afghan–the bed covered in towels. I don’t have a good place to block 63 individual squares. Well, except the bed. But, damn it, I’m not blocking the same square twice!!!

Anyway, I’m pleased with how this is going. It reminds me of some modernist artist’s work, but I can’t place who. I was thinking Klimt but I looked through his gallery and no, that’s definitely not it.

I think my favorite thing about this color scheme is that it looks like the colors metals become as they oxidize. Some scientist is going to look at this and go–copper, iron, brass, etc.

jaguar 14 shy

The Afghan Is Not Taking Up My Whole House

It is making a mighty big pile at this point, though. I need nine sets of seven. The lone square in front represents the first of the sixth set.

It is making a mighty big pile at this point, though. I need nine sets of seven. The lone square in front represents the first of the sixth set.

Here's a look at the square up close. This self-striping yarn is just amazing.

Here’s a look at the square up close. This self-striping yarn is just amazing.

So, what you're seeing here, hopefully, is the really simple decorative touch that, I think, makes the square--the three rows of single crochet. It just gives the square a little extra something.

So, what you’re seeing here, hopefully, is the really simple decorative touch that, I think, makes the square–the three rows of single crochet. It just gives the square a little extra something.

Nine–when a Third and a Half Are Really Close

I haven’t said much about the afghan, but it’s coming along. I’m doing it seven squares across, nine squares down. I have four sets of seven done. This weekend, when I finished up my third set, I said to myself, wow, the afghan is 1/3 done. And last night, when I finished up the fourth set, I thought, in three-and-a-half squares, I’ll be halfway done. So, it feels like it’s going quickly. Kind of, anyway.

You’ll be proud to know that I’m tucking my ends as I go, so there won’t be the usual moaning about all the ends I have to tuck at the end of all these squares. I can’t wait to see how it comes together. But the corners are so weird that I’m kind of wondering if I should block the squares before putting them together. And that makes me kind of want to gouge out my eyes. But it is a wool blend. It would take to blocking very well. Still, man, you know I’d rather wait until the end, when I have the seams to help pull everything into the right shape and size.


The Yarn Has Arrived!

I can return to the tripping jaguar afghan. I really love it. It might be a little muted for the room it’s going in, but it’s wool, so it’s a winter afghan. I think people are allowed to curl up under something warm and dark during the winter.

I finished a very rough outline of the end of Ashland, which was helpful in that I realized I had in my head the wrong person doing the incredibly stupid thing. I also realized I kind of have a vestigial husband and I either need to bring him into the action or cut him loose. Also, I definitely have a kid who needs to go. Not be murdered or anything. Just, his parents need to be childless. And I have a couple of other kids who probably need to be a little younger. Plus, probably some neighbors need to be nosier.

But all that can be fixed.

The dog and I had a really nice walk this morning. The orange cat joined us coming and going, though he was smart enough to stay out of the road. Every time the cat walks with us, I think, isn’t it weird that cats, so vicious, so ruthless, were never used as animals of war? And then the cat, for no reason, decides to walk between my legs and almost trips me and I see why they were excluded from the armed forces.

This Afghan!

I feel like this is the kind of afghan you would find while exploring in a remote jungle and stumbling across an ancient terraced pyramid. You drink something bitter. You throw up. You start to trip.. You wrap yourself in this afghan, but it’s not clear to you if the afghan is part of the vision or if it is the only real thing left in the Universe. A jaguar is also tripping. His vision is of a never-ending Grateful Dead concert where you meet William Shakespeare and he offers to tell you the secrets of life. You agree and he leans in and whispers something that, when you wake, has slipped out of your head. You still have the afghan.

barry 3

Things Settle

The cats are coming in the house in shifts, I guess so that they’re able to rest while the black dog gets hissed at non-stop. Sonnyboy has been eating the black dog’s food like he’s some kid of metaphor for Western Imperialism, but this morning, the black dog, who doesn’t normally eat breakfast, ate Sonnyboy’s breakfast.

The Return to Hill House afghan lived through the wash! It’s sitting in the dryer as we speak, and I’ll have to go take it out here in a second and declare the afghan either a success or a failure.

I finished a chapter in Ashland that makes me wonder if my book is about to include ghost fucking and, indeed, if ghost fucking would be considered a type of haunting or, instead, a very specific type of possession.

The Next Afghan

Whoa, I just did a test square to see how it was going to work. I love it.

Here's every skein of yarn in this color way I could find in Madison.

Here’s every skein of yarn in this color way I could find in Madison.

Here's the test square. I'm stunned and happy.

Here’s the test square. I’m stunned and happy.

Ends Tucked

The ends are tucked. The first column of squares is together. If I weren’t going off in search of a witch’s grave today, the Return to Hill House afghan could be finished this very day. But soon!

I’m also 30,000 words into Ashland. I feel good about that.


Working, Working, Working

Sorry things have been so light here. I’m just working on the Return to Hill House afghan and stealing alone time when I can to work on Ashland. Since my alone time is usually for blogging, well, obviously, blogging’s getting neglected a little.


I’ve started tucking ends on the Return to Hill House afghan and I’m already noticing that the squares lie a lot flatter than they did on the first afghan. Also, I really like how the middle looks. It’s a subtle difference, but the squares have small gaps. The small gap in the middle just goes along with it.

So, here’s what chagrins me. Why would you construct a square in a way that falls apart in the wash if constructing it with a knot at the start looks better and lays better and won’t fall apart (knock on wood)?

Oh, This is Why I Do This

Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch with friends, then I wrote a chapter for Ashland that just went exactly how I wanted it to. No doubting, no stopping to check Twitter, no getting up to clean the bathroom. Just me, that screen, and all the words I wanted to get out.

I also finished all the Return to Hill House squares. Now on to the end-tucking. I’m listening to the audio book of A Head Full of Ghosts as I work on the afghan and it’s terrific. The voice actor they have reading it is just amazing. And I’m definitely picking up on things that I didn’t give enough weight to when reading. I’m especially starting to wonder about the younger daughter’s stomach problems and her sleeping in her clothes.

I just really want Ashland to be good enough to get published. Or eye-catching enough, or something. And I really want to figure out how to make that happen. So, I’m studying.


It’s tough going on Ashland at the moment. Or maybe has been all along. I’m surprised to find myself second-guessing everything and having to remind myself that this is just a rough first draft of a form I have never tried before. But I’m worried my POV character is not very interesting. But then I also kind of feel like, let’s get the blocks of the plot in place and make sure that works, before we worry about fixing things that can be fixed on edit.

I am closer to the end of the Return to Hill House afghan. I have,  by my reckoning, thirteen squares left. Because who’s not looking forward to getting an afghan in July?

Also, it’s official, official. F&SF bought my story and announced it.

Octagon Afghan!!! Woo!

It’s done. I have to wash it. Not just for the sake of this afghan, but because I can’t do the Return to Hill House afghan unless I know this modified beginning works. But man, not tonight.

My ends are all tucked.

My ends are all tucked.

I love how the squares turned out.

I love how the squares turned out.

And look at how it turned out! Just holy fucking shit!

And look at how it turned out! Just holy fucking shit!