December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!



Happy New Year!

Hard to believe another year is here! Hope yours is great and all your goals come true!

** Come back tomorrow for the Year in Review and check some of the year's best posts on miniatures and writing.

December 30, 2009

Publishing in a Haunted House: Pill Hill Press follow-up

An interesting follow-up to yesterday's First Graphs featuring an excerpt from my recent story "My Dear Mrs. Jones" published in the new anthology, THE BITTER END: TALES OF NAUTICAL TERROR from Pill Hill Press.

I'd seen a mention on the website about the publisher being located in a haunted house. Definitely makes you wonder...

Well, "ghostwriter" and friend Courtney Mroch got the scoop today about Pill Hill House at her Haunt Jaunts blog.

Check out the flowery 1920s obituary. And no wonder this house is reportedly haunted. What a background!

Congrats, Courtney on an interesting post!

December 29, 2009

First Graphs: My Dear Mrs. Jones in The Bitter End: Tales of Nautical Terror

For today's First Graphs, I thought I'd highlight one of my latest stories, just released in the new anthology, THE BITTER END: TALES OF NAUTICAL TERROR from Pill Hill Press. (Isn't the cover cool?)

In my story, "My Dear Mrs. Jones," a woman in Victorian times facing financial ruin after her father's death makes an unusual decision, agreeing to marry the mysterious Mr. Jones.






Excerpt from "My Dear Mrs. Jones" by C.A. Verstraete

The ink glistened as it flowed from the fountain pen, the squiggles still wet and gleaming on the page.

Elsbeth Masters fought the urge to smear the vestiges of her signature across the page like blood, but she dared not. It was already too late.

The sailor grabbed the parchment in his dirt-encrusted nails and rolled it into a tight tube. “Aye, he’ll be expectin’ ye in three days time then. At the beach.”

She nodded, still not completely sure of her choice, though she knew it was necessary. A shiver hit her.

The man grunted and walked away, the clump of his boots along the rough plank floors of the trade office sounding to her like the clang of the death bell. She staggered, grasping the edge of the worn wood desk. My God, what had she done?

Buy:

December 28, 2009

Miniatures Monday: Christmas Gift

Now that it's no longer a secret, I thought I'd share a fun project I made for my friend, Courtney for Christmas.

I used a large size greeting card which I attached to a square wood floor covered with scrapbook paper. The walls are insets made from foam core board, also covered with scrapbook paper. Butt one wall on top the other to glue.

I put wood strips at the top and sides. Acrylic pieces can then be fit. The side pieces are glued to each other and to the top.





Courtney btw, runs the great blog site, Haunt Jaunts. Check it out for some neat info on haunted places!


December 25, 2009

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to all



A wonderful, happy and blessed Christmas to all. I've enjoyed meeting so many new people online and making new friends. Hope you have a fantastic 2010!

..But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2, KJV)

December 24, 2009

A Merry Little Christmas

Hope your Christmas is a little calmer than this guy's!

The fun elf and scene are by doll maker Nancy Cronin.

Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2009

Today: Van Gogh Injures Self


Today marks the day in 1888 when Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cut off part of his left ear while staying in Arles, France. He painted himself later with a bandaged ear in the painting titled, "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear."

For two months previously, Van Gogh had been working with fellow painter Gauguin, who had came to stay with him in Arles. Tensions developed and Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before injuring himself. He was hospitalized in Arles and checked himself into a mental institution in Saint-Remy for a year.

While hospitalized, alternating periods of madness and creativity resulted in some of his best known works including Starry Night and Irises. Van Gogh died in July 1890 at age 37, two days after shooting himself.

December 21, 2009

Better watch out! Don't throw that snowball!

Just on the news this morning - nothing worse than a big mob fighting in the streets huh?

But this time it was a giant snowball fight - and the cop objected to his car being hit jumps out with his gun.

I say good to see a bunch of young kids having fun - not doing other fighting - throwing punches or with their own guns!

Holy cow! Granted, it's a stressful job, but this guy needs some Prozac or a vacation!

** Read more

** Watch the video

December 19, 2009

Christmas Memories & In Miniature - Pink Saturday

Today Beverly at How Sweet the Sound asked everyone to share some of their Christmas traditions for Pink Saturday.

The favorite Christmas tradition, of course, was waiting for the arrival of Santa and opening the gifts! Here's a pic of me with my little pile of loot! I love the silver tree (which is popular again!)




I admit, I don't remember much. We were a Christmas Eve family, celebrating then and relaxing on Christmas Day. I still enjoy spending Christmas morning in church, hearing the Christmas story, singing carols, and going home to open gifts, watch a movie and enjoy the day.

These days, I enjoy decorating many trees - in miniature, of course. I wanted to show a few I've done.


This Christmas scene is in half-inch scale set in a small glass terrarium.


One thing about miniature - you can have lots of gifts! ha! This is a scene on a shelf in a vintage medicine cabinet on my kitchen wall.




For a change of pace, I decorated this tree for my smaller scale Halloween house. I painted it black, wrapped it in iridescent ribbon and put small clay eyeballs on the branches.


** Don't forget to check out my fun Christmas story, "Christmas at the North Pole Compound." See ebooks. Click on cover link in side column.

December 17, 2009

First Graphs: Mary Cunningham, author of Cynthia's Attic, The Magician's Castle


Today we resume our feature, FIRST GRAPHS, and welcome Mary Cunningham, author of the Tween fantasy-mystery book series, Cynthia's Attic.

In THE MAGICIAN'S CASTLE, book four in the series, when a magician's fiancee disappears through the magic trunk, friends Cynthia and Gus must find a missing page from a spellbook or Cynthia's family could be ruined.

The pair travel back to a 1914 Swiss castle to get clues from the magician's grandmother and follow tree tunnels, end up in an enchanted garden, and scale the Alps. A trip 50 years in the future may give them the answer—but at what price?

** Comment and you might win a free download of Mary's new Cynthia's Attic Christmas story, "Christmas with Daisy" **



Excerpt, Chapter One, THE MAGICIAN'S CASTLE:

"An-neeee!" I reached Cynthia's bedroom moments after the Beatles record began blaring.

"This is just like the gramophone I saw at the circus, Gus, only you don't have to crank it! What's it called?" Her face was lit up like a Christmas tree.

Gramophone? She sounds like my grandmother. "It's called a record player, Annie, but, you're making too much noise! We can't let anyone know you're here. Not yet." I shut off the record. Too late.

"Who are you?" A tall, frowning teenager, arms folded, stood tapping her foot in the doorway.

"She's with me, Danielle." This was bad. The last person I wanted to see was Cynthia's cranky older sister. "Her family is just visiting and, uh…Cynthia and I said she could hang around with us since she doesn't know…anyone…" My voice cracked.

Fortunately, Danielle didn't care enough to stick around and ask more questions. "Whoever you are…no more noise! I'm trying to practice." She stormed out of the room. "Pests."

I slumped onto the bed, head in hands, knowing this was just a preview. How was I going to explain-away Annie's appearance? Or…make that, disappearance. Now, where did she go?

** Learn more at the Cynthia's Attic blog

** BUY:



December 16, 2009

Miniatures & Books Collide - Christmas at the North Pole Compound, new ebook cover!

My miniatures collecting has again influenced my writing.

The new cover for my Christmas ebook, "Christmas at the North Pole Compound," features one of my favorite elves and a few miniatures from my Christmas dollhouse.




About Christmas at the North Pole Compound:

It's not all Fa-la-la and Ho-Ho-Ho at the North Pole. Chief Elf Investigator Finius Flaherty is on the case. Can he find the missing gifts - and save Christmas?

In the story, Chief Elf Investigator Finius Flaherty is not only alarmed by the decrease of Christmas cheer (it's enough to threaten Rudolph's ability to pull the sleigh, he says!), but is even more disappointed that crime has come to the North Pole – and is most likely an inside job.

Excerpt:

"Before I continue, let me introduce myself. I'm Finius Flaherty, Chief Elf Investigator. No, I don’t bake cookies. I leave that to the West coast cousins.

My branch of the family was hand-picked by the big guy for his security team at the North Pole. Big responsibility, though I’d prefer to sit on a beach in Florida.

Not that I don’t enjoy my job. I do, but unfortunately, our services have been needed more in recent years. Christmas spirit doesn’t prevent crime, you know. We’ve been feeling that lack of spirit lately ourselves, too. Just ask Rudolph. This is a real hazard as even the smallest drop in Christmas cheer influences his ability to pull the sleigh. Can’t have it dragging now, can we?"...

*** BUY: Christmas at the North Pole Compound




December 14, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Winner and Halloween Winner!

Camille Minichino is the 12 Days of Christmas winner!

And as I'm so slow.... Lone Dollier is the Oct. winner! Marilyn H - got your address on my other computer! Thanks for everyone's interest!

Now back to writing.

Next a poll - what writing topics to discuss?

December 12, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 12: Night Before Christmas - To All a Good Night!

Welcome to Day 12 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature for 2009.

This year we are following along with the classic tale, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (click link to go to day 1.)



'Twas the Night Before Christmas


He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!"

* * *

Merry Christmas and thanks for visiting! Wishing everyone God's richest blessings, the best of holiday cheer and a wonderful 2010!!



(Photo: Santa and his favorite reindeer by Lucie Winsky.)

** Enjoy part 2 of the slideshow of artists' works featured during this year's 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature.


Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Mini Christmas 2
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December 11, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 11: Night Before Christmas, Up the Chimney He Goes!

Welcome to Day 11 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature for 2009.

This year we are following along with the classic tale, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (click link to go to day 1.)


As we are nearing the end of the story, enjoy the slideshow featuring the work of various miniatures featured in the past 12 Days of Christmas - in miniature.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas


And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;


Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Mini Christmas Part 1
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** Next: 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature - Day 12

December 10, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 10: Night Before Christmas, Santa at Work



Welcome to Day 10 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature for 2009.

This year we are following along with the classic tale, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (click link to go to day 1.)


'Twas the Night Before Christmas





A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,


Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,









* Photos: The two incredibly cozy sitting rooms with fireplaces are by Jody Raines. Jody's secret: these are only scenes! (very clever!)

The scenes were staged in a homemade lightbox her husband made from plywood with windows on the top and sides covered with layers of sheer interfacing to allow light to come in at each side for photographing. The back of the room is foam core board covered with various wallpapers/scrapbook papers which can be changed to create different back walls.

See more of her photos at Flickr and visit her blog.

Jody has been collecting "for over 35 years at least" beginning with a dollhouse she had as a child. she is now building a house for Joanna, her youngest daughter age 10.


** Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 11

December 09, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 9: Night Before Christmas; A Christmas Room



Welcome to Day 9 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature for 2009.

This year we are following along with the classic tale, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (click link to go to day 1.)


'Twas the Night Before Christmas


He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.








He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;



* Uh-oh, someone's peeking at the gifts already! (No wonder she's smiling!)



* Photos: Santa by Bonnie Glazier.

* Christmas room in bag by Chris Pecherzewski. This was her first Christmas room. See more of her minis here.

* The charming older lady, titled, "The Gift," is by Gina Gagnon of Lone Wolf Miniatures. Gina makes some incredible characters!

** Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 10

December 08, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 8: Night Before Christmas and Old St. Nick

Welcome to Day 8 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature featuring the classic Christmas story, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (click link to go back to day one.)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas


His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!


His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;




* Photos: Traditional red-suit Santa by Bonnie Glazier.

* Christmas room and Santa by Fern Rouleau.

** Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 9

December 07, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 7: Night Before Christmas - It's Santa!

Welcome to day 7 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature for 2009.

This year we are following along with the Christmas classic, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." (Click link to go to day 1.)




'Twas the Night Before Christmas


As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.





* Santa photos by Diane Pietrocola

New Yorker Diane Pietrocola has been collecting miniatures for 14 years, with pouring, painting and dressing porcelain dolls one of her favorite activities.

Instead of the usual Thomas Nast-style Santa in a red suit, Diane wanted to make a more classic Santa.

"I have wanted to do a Victorian Santa for a few years and this year I just decided to do a Google search and find several that I liked," she said.

She chose several elements of different Santas and joined them, with great success, wouldn't you agree? He looks like he stepped out of Victorian Christmas card.

Her favorite part? "Adding all the gifts. He just wouldnt' be the same without all the presents. It was so much fun to see him 'finished.'"

Diane sells her dolls (Ebay seller id, dollartbydiane. See more of her work here.

* Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 8.


December 06, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 6: Night Before Christmas; Santa's Toys

Welcome to Day 6 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature for 2009.

This year we are following along with the classic tale, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."(click link to start at day 1.)


'Twas the Night Before Christmas

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,


With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.





And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.



* The darling toys are by Massachusetts sculptor Morena Ciambra. Morena hand-sculpts these adorable little animals working in porcelain and recently in polymer clay. She often accents her charming figures with vintage laces and trims, or with hand-crocheted touches, only a few of the steps she takes to make each doll or figure special. She also includes a signed certificate and gift box to make them truly collector's items.

"There is something about the feel of these older pieces that brings that magic to miniatures," she says. "Crocheting tiny accessories that I have trimmed with tiny thread roses just finish these tiny dolls and give them that handmade feel.

"I sometimes will make a little wicker basket or crib if the doll needs something special. Each of my little ones has it's own personality. I do not make two that are exactly the same. Presentation is very important since these little ones are passed down through the generations. Nothing leave my hands unless I feel that it is my best work because my name is on it. Each piece finds its way to a good home, for that I am grateful, because I know that a new creation is just about to appear."

* Photos: Handmade toys and Santa with toys by Morena Ciambra. Visit her blog.

* Handmade reindeer with sleigh by Alice Zinn. Read more about Alice and see other animals and dogs she's made here.

* Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 7.

December 05, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 5: Night before Christmas; Read Christmas at the North Pole Compound Ebook

Welcome to Day 5 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature. (Click link to go to day one.)


'Twas the Night Before Christmas

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

(Hey, don't forget Rudolph!)




To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!





Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"


* Photos: My Christmas house

** Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 6.

* Enjoy a fun story during the 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature.

TODAY: Featuring my story, "Christmas at the North Pole Compound" by Christine Verstraete



It's not all Fa-la-la and Ho-Ho-Ho at the North Pole. Chief Elf Investigator Finius Flaherty is on the case. Can he find the missing gifts - and save Christmas?

In the story, Chief Elf Investigator Finius Flaherty is not only alarmed by the decrease of Christmas cheer (it's enough to threaten Rudolph's ability to pull the sleigh, he says!), but is even more disappointed that crime has come to the North Pole – and is most likely an inside job.

Excerpt:

"Before I continue, let me introduce myself. I'm Finius Flaherty, Chief Elf Investigator. No, I don’t bake cookies. I leave that to the West coast cousins.

My branch of the family was hand-picked by the big guy for his security team at the North Pole. Big responsibility, though I’d prefer to sit on a beach in Florida.

Not that I don’t enjoy my job. I do, but unfortunately, our services have been needed more in recent years. Christmas spirit doesn’t prevent crime, you know. We’ve been feeling that lack of spirit lately ourselves, too. Just ask Rudolph. This is a real hazard as even the smallest drop in Christmas cheer influences his ability to pull the sleigh. Can’t have it dragging now, can we?"...

*** BUY: Christmas at the North Pole Compound

December 04, 2009

12 Days of Christmas in Miniature 4: The Night Before Christmas, Santa's Sleigh!



Welcome to Day 4 of The 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature where we are following the classic tale, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." (Click link to go to day one.)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow



Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,



With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick!

* Next: Christmas in Miniature Day 5








* Photos: Sleigh: Simon Howden

* The amazing Victorian Santa was made by New York dollmaker Diane Pietrocola. (dollartbydiane). See more of her work here. I'll share more about her work and additional photos on another of the 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature posts.

* The cool sleigh and reindeer are by Florida miniaturist Alice Zinn. She made the reindeer and their leather tack. Don't they look like they're ready to take off?


* Enjoy a fun Christmas story, sure to brighten your holiday. Buy: "Christmas at the North Pole Compound" - see ebooks


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