February 28, 2011

Miniatures Monday: Dolls that are the Cat's Meow!



South African Miniaturist Lianda Sutherland enjoys creating her own figures and scenes - but with a difference. As a pet lover, Lianda enjoys making figures that, well, are the "cat's meow." (Pictured above: Cats in Indian dress. Love the detail!)

Don't let the cats fool you, though. They were too "cute" not to show here, but yes, Lianda also created an amazing scene featuring Yorkies. See below. (And yes, now you know: the dogs do run the place! )

This mother of three not only creates her own porcelain figures from start to finish, but she's also teaching workshops. You can see details at her Kelirosh Studio blog.

Most notable is her scene of a soldier being knighted based on that famous Renaissance flavored painting, The Accolade, (1901) by Edmund Leighton, but in her version, the participants are all cats!

"It is also my favourite period in history," says Lianda. "The cats started about two years ago when I had this idea wanted one cat to do a 1920's glam scene, a lounge singer... I started to play and walla, we had a cat which I was delighted about, then like typical cats, she multiplied, and now I cant remember life without them."





The king below, dubbed "King Arthur Piss-cat," wears royal garments hand-made by Lianda, including the creative knit chain mail. The helmet is made from FIMO clay as is the sword's blade. The rest of the sword is a charm she "found somewhere on my travels. Love beading shops!" (Oops, looks like the King's had a little too much wine!)



Another fun historic scene: mice in Tudor times... (don't even think about fleas and the plague!) And yes, this isn't the end of her animal scenes... "I love the animals in rooms, because they are different. Watch this space we have our first family of dogs coming out very soon, and then there will be the giraffe, and the mind boggles. Now I want an animal hotel..."




The proof: dogs are king of the castle. (You thought otherwise?)

Thanks, Lianda for sharing your fantastic work!

February 26, 2011

Books vs. eBooks and Kindle

This is too funny! And a smart marketing move by this Indie bookstore...

But well, yes, eBooks are books too.... so is a compromise coming on how to download these in other Indie bookstores?


February 25, 2011

Writing the Synopsis

This has to be worse than writing the book, I think. It's kept me preoccupied for most of the week, but I think I finally have it down. At least the one-page synopsis is about done. It'll be much easier to expand it since then I am only adding in events per chapter after that. Next, I have to write the query letter.

This is one of the best tips I've found in writing a synopsis and the only one I use. I like that it shows you in steps what to do:

* Author Beth Anderson's tight synopsis.

February 21, 2011

Miniatures Monday: New Hats


Thought I'd share a couple new hats I made. Adapted them from an easy pattern for ball-jointed dolls - see pattern here.

February 18, 2011

Great Information Links

Some of my favorite links for writing or information.

* Sign up for a word-a-day email at The Urban Dictionary

* One of my favorites: week by week music charts

* Francais (French) Dictionary

* Slang Dictionary

* Plants and carnivorous plants

* Wisconsin Historical Society (working women, 1930s)

* Famous Proverbs (World of Quotes: Today in History)

* Old West Lawmen (information and cool postcards

* American Vaudeville Museum

* History of Musicals - Burlesque

* Movie Maidens - Stars of the 1920s-50s

* The Hollywood Thirties

* Classic Movies

** and more I'll add later. Enjoy!

February 15, 2011

Welcome to Stephen Brayton, author of Night Shadows, talks eBooks and getting published

Today I welcome Stephen Brayton, author of the mystery/sci-fi eBook NIGHT SHADOWS.


About NIGHT SHADOWS:

Des Moines Homicide detective Harry Reznik teams with F.B.I. agent Lori Campisi to investigate a series of gruesome murders.

While dealing with personal problems, the unlikely pair find themselves battling malevolent creatures from another dimension.

Getting Published
By Stephen Brayton

For some it’s 8th grade graduation. Or high school graduation. Maybe yours is the first day on the new job. For women it’s their wedding. (For guys, too, I realize, but work with me here.) Maybe it’s the birth of a child.

I’ve experienced the first three but I can tell you about some other personal ‘big days’. When I received my first degree black belt. And my second degree. And third. (See the pattern here?) The first day in a new (read: used, but new to me) car. The first date with a girl. (Let’s see, the last one was…uh…well, let’s move on, shall we?)

February 15th. Another big day and one I’ve thought about for a long time. The day my first book gets published. Now this didn’t happen the way I thought it would. (That holds true for most things, doesn’t it?)

For instance, I thought another book would come first. Beta (release date July 15), was written first and I had been querying agents and publishers awhile before I had completed Night Shadows. Then both novels and four short stories were accepted.

This was the first unexpected thrill. The second was my books were going to be released in eBook format. This format has become so popular in recent years because of the ease of book readers. There are some old school people (and I’m still partially one), who will only read hard/soft covers of ‘real’ books. That fine, but they’re missing out.

So it’s the big day. My perseverance, years of writing and editing, endless hours at critique groups, and miles of travel have paid off. How am I going to celebrate? Well, I have martial arts classes scheduled, so I’ll be teaching tonight. LOL. Yep, I still have a schedule to follow and obligations to fulfill. However, my celebration comes in the form you’re presently reading. Telling people about my book, letting them know they can finally read my work. This is the day I can shout to the world, “I’m an author!”

I’ve been a writer and if you want to get cute, I was an unpublished author. Now, today, the title "Author" can be attached to my name.

I think every author experiences this. Surely they must, even if the newest release is their second or twenty-second. They must feel some sense of accomplishment. Yes, they’re selling a product, but General Mills sells products, too. I don’t know if they revel in every cereal box they sell. Books are personal, even if they’re products. A person took the time to write the words, submit the manuscript, edit the work, and he or she should feel something special to see it in print. (Or in my case downloaded to a book reader.)

Everything in moderation, they say, but you can tweak a little more pride out of an accomplishment like publishing a book. Sure, there are thousands of books printed every year, but thousands more that aren’t.

This year, I get to celebrate twice, and maybe a few more times when my short stories are published.

Yes, this is my big day. Help me celebrate it, won’t you? I’m not looking for praise or even a pat on the shoulder, but you, the blonde over there? Yeah, you, I wouldn’t mind your number. Ahem! Anyway, all I’m asking is check out my book and I hope you enjoy it. I thank you.

* BUY: See author's website for latest purchase links. - BUY at OmniLit

February 14, 2011

Miniatures Monday: Happy Valentine's Day!


Happy Valentine's Day!


I love Valentine's Day in miniature. All those pretty cakes, and the great pink and red colors. It's so fun!

Some new miniatures I made: a Valentine's Day card box with vintage Valentines. Love those old cards! I made a card box in a much smaller half scale size also.




Here's a mini Valentine for you, too!


* Don't forget to check out my "mini" ebook - The Killer Valentine Ball. Only 99 cents! (See links below.)

Excerpt:

As they walked into the shadows, Jess noticed that things weren't quite as they appeared. Sections of the room lightened for a moment before being cast again in deep shadow. What Jess thought she saw in that split second made her heart race. On the dance floor, the same three couples stood, clasped to each other. Jess stared. She swore they never moved.

The music played quietly in the background. When the shadows brightened, Jess caught a quick glimpse of one of the couples. The young man's mouth gaped open. His partner's gown glistened with streams of dark ribbons. The light flashed again and Jess gasped. Those weren't ribbons! The girl's dress shone with dark glimmers. Like-like blood, she thought. No, it can't be! She looked back at Dylan, who shook his head and urged her on... (Surprise ending!)

"Light tricks," he whispered. "It's not real. It's Halloween stuff, like the movie. Don't worry."

* Barnes & Noble

* See MuseItUp Publishing bookstore

* Amazon - Kindle:

* Amazon.com:

February 11, 2011

Welcome to Geraldine Evans, author of DEADLY REUNION, Rafferty & Llewellyn Crime Series



Today I welcome Geraldine Evans, author of Death Dance (Rafferty and Llewellyn Mysteries), her 18th novel and 14th in the humorous Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series (Dec. 2010, Severn House Publishers).

The next book in the series, Deadly Reunion (Rafferty and Llewellyn Mysteries), comes out in June.

About DEADLY REUNION:

Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty is barely back from his honeymoon before he has two unpleasant surprises. Not only has he another murder investigation - a poisoning, courtesy of a school reunion, he also has four new lodgers, courtesy of his Ma, Kitty Rafferty.

Ma is organising her own reunion and since getting on the internet, the number of Rafferty and Kelly family attendees has grown, like Topsy. In his murder investigation, Rafferty has to go back in time to learn of all the likely motives of the victim's fellow reunees. But it is only when he is reconciled to his unwanted lodgers, that Rafferty finds the answers to his most important questions.

(* Keep reading for prizes, links and excerpt.)

TEN TIPS FOR WRITERS
By Geraldine Evans

1 Metaphors are good, but don’t strain after them. When your prose starts turning purple is the time to pause for thought.

2 Take care over your presentation, as it matters. I’ve just held a contest for people to write the first 250 words of a crime novel and some of the presentation was poor. This is not impressive when the number of words required were so few.

3 If your grasp of grammar or punctuation is poor, try to get someone well-versed in this to read your work through and correct it. It’s off-putting when you read a story and – because of a lack of apostrophes, for instance – it’s unclear who, or how many, owns what.

4 Read as much as you can. I won’t say always read the classics because the style of older books isn’t going to help you write today. I’ve had 18 novels published as well as a number of shorter nonfiction pieces and I’ve still only read about three of Shakespeare’s plays and I’ve never attempted War and Peace. Read widely amongst contemporary authors with perhaps an occasional dip into the classics.

5 Each time you write a story, go through and cut by 10 percent. You’ll be amazed how much better the story reads.

6 Read your story aloud. Sometimes I do this for my husband as he’s not a keen reader. The errors just leap out at you.

7 If you belong to a writers’ group, offer to set your own writing contest, with prizes. You’ll find there’s nothing like holding a contest of which you’re the sole judge, for making you look more carefully at your own writing. I was scared to write anything immediately afterward (including this!) because I thought the critics would have at me with both barrels!

8 When entering writing contests it pays to study a little of the style of the judges (assuming they’re writers). For instance, I write humorous police procedurals and I’m more apt to look favourably on an entrant whose work makes me smile.

9 Make sure you catch the reader’s interest quickly. I find that the older I get the more unwilling I am to struggle on with a book whose author hasn’t troubled to engage my attention with humour or intrigue or maybe just a punchy first line. It matters. Think about it. If I, as a reader, can’t be bothered to stick with a book, how likely is it that an editor, with piles to read, will?

10 Enjoy your writing. If you find serial killers depressing, write about something else. It’s never a good idea to follow the crowd. Ploughing your own furrow, about something you feel passionate about, is more likely to spark originality and a strong story.

* See all Geraldine Evans's books - Amazon.com.

* See the trailer for her ebook, DEAD BEFORE MORNING.

* Follow the blog tour.

* PRIZES: At the end of the February tour, three winners who comment will win one signed copy of Deadly Reunion, and one copy of the ebooks, Dead Before Morning and Down Among the Dead Men. They will also receive a subscription to my blog (which they can let lapse when it runs out).

* See the excerpt and some of what Geraldine has learned from writing 14 books below.




WHAT I’VE LEARNED THROUGH BOOKS 1 – 14

I suppose I must have learned a lot, but it’s been such a gradual process that I’m not really aware of it, though, having said that, I’ve learned to do my best to keep things simple and not strive to write something beyond my ability as it only ends in tears.

I’ve learned to think a lot more about what I have my characters do as it saves me several drafts. When I started out writing novels, the number of drafts was frightening, but now I’m down to about three or four, with run-throughs of shorter pieces of the novel on top of that.

Don’t strive for a style. Don’t try to write like, say, Ernest Hemingway or P D James. Your style will come naturally if you just let the words flow in your own voice.


EXCERPT from Chapter One, DEADLY REUNION

A Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel by Geraldine Evans

Griffin House was an imposing building, dating back to the late 1500s. It had been recently featured in the local paper, the Elmhurst Echo, as part of a series on Essex’s historic houses and Rafferty, keen on history and old buildings, had kept a cutting. The school was approached by a long, straight drive with mature trees and shrubberies either side of the road. It was built of red brick that had mellowed over the years to a deep rose and it had the tall, twisted chimneys so typical of the Elizabethan age. Like a lot of the houses of the period, it was constructed in the form of a letter E, in tribute to the virgin queen. It had once been the main home of the mad Carews, a family of aristocrats who had gambled and fought and wenched their fortune away. It had gone through various metamorphoses over the years, including being a bawdy house and the county lunatic asylum, but had been a private school since the 1880s.

They found the headmaster, Jeremy Paxton, waiting for them outside the huge grey oak door of the school’s main entrance. Paxton was a tall, gangly man who seemed to be all elbows and knees. The headmaster was a surprise to Rafferty. He’d expected an older, donnish type, with a gown and mortarboard in keeping with the school’s venerable status. But Paxton could be barely forty and seemed to have adopted an eccentric mode of dress comprised of a cream silk cravat and a scarlet waistcoat reminiscent of some regency rake. To Rafferty it seemed as if he was trying to mitigate for his youth by adopting the fashion popular during the Carew family’s last dying days.

Paxton led them to his study. Considering the school was a prestigious establishment with fees to match, the headmaster’s study was not even shabby-chic. Yes, he had the obligatory computer and other high-tech gadgetry on his desk, but the oak-panelled walls with their scabby varnish looked as if they had some unfortunate disease and the furniture appeared to have stood here since the school was founded in the late nineteenth century. And while the mahogany desk was large and inlaid, its leather surface was scuffed and stained with ink blotches. There were several ill-assorted heavy Victorian chairs in front of the desk and Paxton invited them to sit down.

Paxton had a foppish manner to go with his dandy clothing. He tended to wave his arms about a good deal and generally gave off an air of being like an escapee from a St Trinian’s farce. But in spite of the clothing and mannerisms, he must have been considered suitably qualified for the post. Perhaps the parents expected an eccentric character given some of the post’s past incumbents, one of whom had been a scientist in the mould of Dr Jekyll, who, instead of using himself, had used his pupils as guinea pigs for his outlandish experiments. If Rafferty remembered his local history correctly a couple of the pupils had died and the headmaster had been removed from his post and just escaped a murder charge.

Rafferty had explained about the situation with Ainsley over the phone and now Jeremy Paxton displayed an efficiency entirely at odds with the foppish appearance, He gave Rafferty a list of the school’s old boys and girls who were currently staying at the school as well as a detailed map showing the school’s sprawling buildings, which dated over several centuries.

‘You said over the phone that Mr Ainsworth would have died within two or three hours of ingesting the poison. That being the case, I’ve taken the liberty of inviting those who shared his table at lunch that day to wait for you in the Senior Common Room.’ Paxton paused, then added, ‘You’ll need somewhere to interview the reunees, I imagine. There’s a room opposite the Senior Common Room which is empty and which has a desk, chairs and a phone. I hope it suits you.’

Rafferty thanked him. ‘You’ve been very through. If you could show us to the Senior Common Room, we’ll get started.’

‘Of course.’ Paxton stood up. ‘Please come with me.’

Rafferty and Llewellyn followed him along several dark, art-strewn corridors and up a flight of massive stairs to the first floor. Paxton opened the door of the Senior Common Room. It was large and surprisingly airy with an array of well-worn mismatched settees, a large plasma TV and the usual technological gizmos deemed essential by today’s youth. The occupants of the room were as ill- assorted as the settees; all seven looked to be in their early thirties, but that was where any similarity ended. They wore anything from ripped jeans to City suits and everything in between.

Paxton introduced them to the group and vice versa, then left them to it, saying he’d have coffee sent up to their new office across the way. The group comprised four men and three women, and while their hairstyles and clothing might be widely dissimilar, they all had a wary look in their eyes. Jeremy Paxton had told them that he had explained the situation to the reunees, who had all received the best education money and the county could provide, so would be under no illusion that – if, as seemed likely, given the dreadful symptoms the poison produced, the dead man had been murdered – they were all suspects.

February 09, 2011

New Review for Steampunk'd!


Great new review for Steampunk'd is up at Flamingnet.com.

Kids review the books and the 17-year-old reviewer gave it a rating of 9 out of 10. See full review here.

My story, "Edison Kinetic Light and Steam Power" by C.A. Verstraete is excerpted at the beginning of the book.

Excerpt from front title page of book (from my story!):

Alva Edison knew her life would never be the same.

"It can be done, sister, I know it can," he told her again.

"Thomas, I keep telling you, remember Mr. Franklin? The founding father never signed the Declaration because he foolishly stood out in a rainstorm, with a kite of all things. And stringing a key on the end? How foolhardy. Anyone with common sense knows that you do not want to be near any metal in a storm. No surprise that he was electrocuted. It was such a tragedy that could have been averted."

"But his idea was right," Thomas insisted. "The power of those thunderbolts can be harnessed as a new energy source."

She snorted at that. "Thomas, dear, next you'll be saying that thunderbolts can do all kinds of things, like that kooky Dr. Frankenstein and his outlandish, sacrilegious ideas about life and death. They took him off to the sanitarium and not soon enough, I say. Please stop such talk. I do not want to lose my only brother to some ridiculous notion."

-From "Edison Kinetic Light and Steam Power" by C. A. Verstraete

February 07, 2011

Miniatures Monday: The Tudor Half-Scale House in Progress

For a change, I thought I'd share a project that I finally am making progress on.

I bought the house a while ago and had papered the inside, but needed to put in the floors and do the outside. So I've been working on it and hope to finish soon.

The bottom floor is a garden/flower shop. The floor is painted tile. The ceiling is the formed "tin ceiling" sheet.



Front counter on first floor is made of matboard trimmed with wood trim and wood strips on top. I glued a garden picture from a magazine to the front. (Ignore the nail polish bottle. ha!)



The side bookcases filled with garden supplies. I glued two bookcase kits together from SDK Miniatures and added a slightly wider top. (I love her furniture and flower kits. Go together well and good prices!)



The top floor will be a cafe/bookstore. The walls are covered with textured paper. Th ceiling is sand-painted and I'm going to add some flat "beams." The window isn't glued in it. Some lace trim made perfect curtains!



I changed the original windows to add a double window on top and a bay window on the bottom. The front is now covered in white stuco (lightweight Spackle) and has several worn brick spots showing through. (Brick is painted plastic sheet brick; add layers of color by sponge-painting, then seal. Glue to surface and layer stucco around it to make it look like the surface was worn away.)

This is what I have so far; I'll do another post with the next stage. I'm trying to make a counter for the cafe with a clear top as I want it to show a selection of cakess and it's not working how I want yet. I need to find something to use for "glass." Or I may end up buying one.

* See my other miniatures at my website.

February 06, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: The Killer Valentine Ball


For fun, thought I'd try something different and share some sentences from my short story, The Killer Valentine Ball for Six Sentence Sunday.

Jess wonders if maybe, just maybe, there's a way to save this one when she goes out on a blind date -- on V-Day of all days! (Can you say loser?)
Well, it turns out to be a night she'll never forget...

Six sentences from The Killer Valentine Ball by C.A. Verstraete

The music played quietly in the background. When the shadows brightened, Jess caught a quick glimpse of one of the couples. The young man's mouth gaped open. His partner's gown glistened with streams of dark ribbons. The light flashed again and Jess gasped. Those weren't ribbons!

** You can read more about Jess from The Killer Valentine Ball today as well at the MuseItUpPublishing blog.

February 05, 2011

Miniature Gifts!


I'm so behind that I figured I'd better show the mini gifts I got from my mini friend Kitty in Holland. She always makes such fantastic purses, totes and display boxes. I'll have plenty for my ladies' shop I've been collecting things for. (forever!)

The robe is a pretty iridescent fabric, and it's hand-sewn! The tote and bag are great too! She also hand sews her pillows and most of her mini clothing. And she knits the hats, too. Something I can't do!





We've been friends and trading minis for about 10 years now I think? It's always fun and we both enjoy sharing our projects.

Next time I'll show the fantastic things she sent for Valentine's Day! After that, I'll show the half scale Tudor house/shops in progress, so be sure to come back Monday!

February 02, 2011

Peg Herring, author of new mystery, The Dead Detective Agency, says Don't Slow Down Your Readers!

Today, I welcome Peg Herring, author of the new mystery, THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY.

About the Book:

Secretary Tori Van Camp wakes one morning on a luxurious ocean liner where she is offered whatever a person might desire: food, clothes, recreation, and the companionship of congenial people. But Tori has no memory of booking a cruise. What she does have is a vivid recollection of being shot point blank in the chest.

With the help of the stunningly handsome Mike and the unnervingly serene Nancy, Tori soon learns the purpose of her voyage. Still, she is haunted by the image of the gun, the crack of the shot, and the malevolent face of the shooter. Who wanted her dead, and why?

* Contest: Comment here and on any of the blogs, or answer "The Poser" to be entered in the drawing. * See the next blog stop.

The Poser: Name three books/series with a female P.I. as protagonist.

The Prizes: Weekly prizes (your choice of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in ebook or print format) will be drawn from the names of those who comment on the blogs as we go. Comment once daily, but the first commenter each day gets entered twice in the drawing on Saturday!


Slowing Readers = Bad Policy
By Peg Herring

In fiction, anything a writer does that slows down the reading experience is probably not good. We read fiction to escape and enjoy, and we should generally not have to stop and think—or stop at all. Reading a mystery novel should be like floating down a river, but sometimes authors make things difficult, and it’s more like slogging up a mountain.

Author intervention, those times when the writer’s attitudes and beliefs slip into the story, slows the flow of the narrative, and I always wonder how it slips past the editors. If in a novel I think, “This guy is trying to convince me that the government is evil,” the story becomes less enjoyable. Now, if I’m shown that the government is evil, okay. But if characters sit around and talk about how evil the government is, or if the main characters think a lot about how evil it is, I’m taken out of the story. And that’s bad.

Another way authors slow a reader down is by going over the emotional aspects of the story again and again, especially toward the end, when the action should pick up. If you’ve read a book where the author visited for the fourth time the protagonist’s doubts about whether his father really loved him, you might have wanted to shout, “There’s someone sneaking up behind you with a knife! Leave the angst for later!”

Avoid the Dump

Some writers describe every outfit worn by a character and every setting visited. Unless it is important to the plot, that information can be woven in or even left out. Most readers create their own images, so brief, simple descriptions, casually thrown in as the story progresses, are better than overkill. Even history or detail on a topic should be inserted carefully. I dislike the “Tell us what you know about the history of archery, Jane” that often precedes page after page of “info dump” in a way no real conversation would.

It’s true that great authors of the past introduced stories slowly, describing everything from rock formations to apparently unrelated action (think THE GRAPES OF WRATH-the turtle crossing the road). Most writers today, especially mystery writers, can’t get away with it (unless you’re a dead Swede).

Another noticeable slowdown is repetition, like overuse of characters’ names. At first it helps us get people straight, but later it isn’t necessary, particularly for major characters. As long as there is no confusion, pronouns work well, being such faint words as to be almost unnoticeable.

The same is true of dialogue tags, modifiers, and what I call “empty phrases”, those that don’t need to be there. “Alicia noticed that Tom seemed angry.” Why not just say, “Tom seemed angry?” For writers, I’ll offer a cure for repetition on the 18th at Bo Parker’s blog, but as a reader, I get irritated at the drag on my consciousness. If a story is moving well, I should not even notice individual words and phrases.

There are people who like a leisurely story, who don’t mind if a body doesn’t appear until page 71. I am one of them IF the writing is good and the characters are intriguing. Even then, readers don’t need to be slowed by unnecessary words, author intervention, obvious “teaching moments” or needless description.


The Perpetrator: Peg Herring writes historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010. The second in the series will be available in November from Five Star.
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