October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween Story + Virtual Book Tour

Today is full of Halloween Treats!

** First, how fun! Sam and Lita from Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, do the talking and reveal some of their spooky moments at Emma Larkin's blog.

Don't forget to enter my Spooky Scavenger Hunt. See rules at top right column.

Boo! Spooky Story!

What's Halloween without scary stories?

Amy at My Friend Amy's Blog is having a Halloween bash. Vampires, witches, and goblins, oh my. Everyone's sharing a scary Vampire story. So check out my story here and head over to Amy's link HERE to read the others!

The Promise - C. A. Verstraete

Deidre looked in the mirror again and sighed.

He'd promised.

She combed out her long, dishwater blond hair and waited. The curtains flapped through the open window.

Maybe he was like all the rest. But no, he promised he'd be here. He promised to come to her. Tonight.

The clock ticked closer to midnight.

Carefully, she slipped out of the worn jeans and baggy T-shirt. The silky gown slid over her, clinging to her generous curves.

She put a final slick of gloss on her lips and pinned up her hair.

She was ready.

Deidre looked in the mirror and smiled, pleased at the results. Instead of the plain Jane that sat alone every weekend, a young lady dressed in finery stared back. A princess awaiting her prince.

A smile lit her face as, like before, he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. She didn't question why. It didn't matter once he was here.

Deidre felt his eyes burn into hers. She reached for him.

He whispered in her ear. He promised again to love and cherish her, to make her his bride.

She shivered as his cool fingers caressed her. His cool lips touched her face and lingered on her neck.

Anticipation turned to agony as his fangs plunged into her jugular. A tear trickled down Deidre's cheek as her dreams of the perfect wedding night faded with each weakening beat of her heart.#

(c) 2008 C Verstraete http://candidcanine.blogspot.com

Halloween Searching For A Starry Night Virtual Tour

Today I'm being interviewed by Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel. Be sure to leave a comment here and at Helen's blog.

Don't forget to go pumpkin picking at my website and enter the contest. See rules at top right column.

Halloween Treat

Today's Halloween treat is a fun little quarter scale (1/4" = 1') roombox by Emily Blair. Emily, a full-time college student, has been doing miniatures for 10 years, beginning when she joined a miniatures club at 11! (Kudos to those getting the kids interested!)

Her room, which she says she's still working on, started with one purchase (don't they always?) and grew from there. She bought many of the items at the NAME national convention.

(Note: If you're not familiar with quarter scale, furnishings can be as small as a thumbnail; a room can be a few inches wide.)

October 29, 2008

Halloween Searching For A Starry Night + Witch Tree Tour Day 2

The Halloween Book Blog Tour for Searching For A Starry Night & The Witch Tree continues.

**See the Bonus Halloween Treat below!**

Today it's a triple header - I'm interviewed by:

* Courtney Mroch at Families.com

* Get a preview with Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel

* And I talk with Mayra Calvari at The Dark Phantom

* Don't forget to go pumpkin picking and enter the contest! See link for rules at top right column. Visit the blogs for the Scavenger Hunt clues!

Halloween Treat

For fun, I'm sharing this amazing miniature ghost hand-sculpted by doll artisan Nancy Cronin whose witches I featured in a previous post.

Nancy is also featured in a story I wrote in the Dec. issue (#174) of DollsHouse and Miniature Scene, now on sale.

October 27, 2008

Spooky Halloween Book Blog Tour

Spooky Blog Tour and Scavenger Hunt!

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Tues. 10/28: Today kicks off the start of my spooky blog tour and scavenger hunt for Halloween!

Enjoy reading some excerpts from Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery and from my spooky ebook, The Witch Tree. Learn more about both books and even scarier, learn a little more about me, Christine Verstraete.

Bonus! Halloween Treats!

No trick! Take a chance to win a PDF copy of "The Witch Tree" and some handmade Halloween miniatures for your desk or wherever by following the blog tour.

How to Play

1. Go to each stop on the blog tour. ** See Halloween Blog Tour list in top right column.** Each stop ends with a Scavenger Hunt Clue. The clue refers to a page on my website at http://cverstraete.com/. Only a few specific pages are involved. Don't forget to comment at my blog and on the participating blogs. NOTE: Mention what list or group you're from.

2. Look for the pumpkin pictured here on the page corresponding to each question. Find the pages at http://cverstraete.com/.

3. Email me the list of all 6 places you found the pumpkins, and their corresponding numbers - plus your full mailing address (US Only) - to chrisATcverstraete.com (replace AT with @) - Winners outside US are eligible to win the ebook.

Contest ends Nov. 8, 2008. All 6 answers and numbers must be included. Two winners will be chosen to receive either a spooky miniatures set by mail or a Witch Tree ebook by email.

The Prizes

A pdf of "The Witch Tree" or handmade Halloween miniatures - a medieval book; small orange tulip plant; "Hand" Sandwich plate, pumpkin and witch hat placemat.

Have fun! Boo!

Halloween in Miniature 4: Lost Love

For fun, thought I'd share a new figure I just finished dressing.

Matilda is still waiting for her lost love...

* Come back Tuesday, 10/28 for the start of my spooky book blog tour. Play the Scavenger Hunt for the chance to win a copy of my ebook, The Witch Tree, or a set of spooky Halloween miniatures.

October 23, 2008

Halloween in Miniature 3: No Bones About It

Illustration: Danse macabre, Hans Holbein, 1493

One of the better aspects of working in miniature is being able to make something that tickles the "funny bone." Appropriate when you're talking about miniature skeletons, right?

Long before Pirates of the Caribbean made skeletons live again, miniaturists were finding "skellies" the perfect inhabitants for that Halloween or haunted scene.

Keeping with the pirate theme, dollmaker Marsha Mees of Sassy Mini Dolls came up with her own fun twist using the miniature skeletons. Ahoy, maties!

Even better was her view of some "upper class" skellies relaxing at home.

Fun Miniature Projects

Wanna in El Paso began making fairy houses as a child and passed on her love of miniatures to her grandchildren. While her teaching career didn't leave much time to spend making things when her two oldest grandsons, now 22 and 20, were young, an Elf Feeding Deer Scene she made never failed to grab their attention.

That scene (which they still enjoy) grabbed the attention of a new set of grandkids, too. Jenna, who'll be 13 in two weeks, was 5 and her brother Joel was 6½ when they decided they wanted to make something, too. All told, Wanna now has more than 30 projects on her website that she made with her grandchildren. Great ideas if you want to do something fun with the grandkids.

"Working with my grandchildren, girls and boys, at their request, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," says Wanna. "They use their imagination and it's fun to brainstorm together to bring their ideas to reality. They have learned about scale, color and design; to follow directions; to use all kinds of techniques and materials; and to take care of their tools. And there's hardly been a project when I haven't learned something from them, as well."

Wanna says the projects are the perfect ways to build memories together. The grandkids even come up with their own ideas like Jenna did with her recent project, "Skeleton Beach." You can read about how she made the project here.

Twisted Fate

Last but not least, miniaturist Dale Fluty went a step further and wrote a poem to accompany his twisted tale of love gone wrong. The jilted skeleton holds a crumpled marriage license and a torn picture of her no-longer-intended in her lap. In her hand lies a small bottle of poison. Take that, Mrs. Haversham.

"She walked down the aisle, but alone there she stood. Her man was a cheater and he left her for good.
The poison she took was quick to claim life.
Forever a bride...
But never a wife! "

October 21, 2008

Halloween in Miniature: Not-So-Wicked Witches

Following up on my previous post on Wicked Witches, today's post concentrates on some "not-so-wicked" witches in miniature.

In literature, witches often are evil or menacing, a common theme in Grimm's Fairy Tales. Not exactly ideal bedtime fare, but plenty of inspiration if you like to create in miniature.

For instance, while most cartoons show the witch in Hansel and Gretel as more menacing, can't you see this lovely lady more successfully using trickery and her delightful goodies to tempt her visitors?

Dollmaker Marsha Mees of Sassy Mini Dolls was lucky enough to make her witch in a sculpting class with doll artisan Marcia Backstrom at a past Mini Doll Convention. Marsha has since gotten hooked on character dolls and has now started making miniature food, too, she says. A perfect combination!

Home Sweet Haunted Home

What's a haunted house without a witch? When I began making my own haunted house, I took the traditional route incorporating a witch in black working on her spells. (Witch by Detta's Darling Dolls.) While I usually like to make my own dolls, I couldn't resist the face and bought the doll. The fun was making a spooky-enough setting for her.

But not all witches are ugly or look like the Wicked Witch in the classic film, The Wizard of Oz. Some can be pretty, like Glinda the good witch in the film.

My red witch is such an example. One of the projects I've been collecting and making items for is a witch's bakery which will have all kinds of different cakes, the majority made by my talented friend, Kitty, who makes great cakes and fantastic rooms. The customers will be varied. The red witch is one of the "prettier" customers I decided to make. But I can't say who will drop by…

This is one project where even Death will be welcomed to drop in. I plan to dress some of my own skeletons as customers, but in this case, Death, better known as the Grim Reaper, was dressed by North Carolina miniaturist Dale Fluty. Dale, who claims to be a "Halloween Freak," has been making miniatures for about 10 years and began creating miniature dolls about eight years ago.

October 18, 2008

Halloween in Miniature: Wicked Witches

Nothing says Halloween better than a boiling cauldron, a secret spellbook and a few witchy women who aren't afraid to cast a spell or two.

The classic Halloween witch with warts, long grey hair, a pointy black hat and her black cat at her side is probably one of the more favorite characters to create in miniature. Witches, though, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. (Note: dollhouse dolls featured here are in the traditional 1" or 1/12th scale where 1" equals 1 foot. Most female dolls average 5.5 inches tall.)

Halloween Fashionista

Take the work of Montana doll artist Gina Gagnon. She brings more than just exquisite design and dressmaking skills to her dolls, as seen in her latest creation, a witch she calls Gladys.

This witch, who is a fashionista of sorts, isn't willing to be seen outside in just anything, of course. Instead, she's wearing a Gagnon original including a suede cloth cloak, a raw silk undress, and don't forget the stylish midnight blue pointy shoes.

Gladys whom Gina hopes someone will buy "and give her the witch house of her dreams," is memorable for more than her wardrobe, though. Gina invariably adds a touch of humor to her dolls to make them memorable.

Consider this view of Gladys, waving goodbye to her friend Myrtle, who's riding off on her broom in the unseen distance. But Gladys isn't just waving goodbye, her creator insists: "She's trying to tell Myrtle that she's forgotten to wear her underwear!"

The Many Faces of Nancy

In the hands of miniature doll artisan Nancy Cronin, the wicked witch has a charm all her own.

Her witches – all hand-sculpted from polymer clay, some are cast in resin as well - are characters that Disney wishes his artists had dreamed up. Her witches are ghostly white, dressed in traditional black and looking a bit matronly, and shades in-between. Look and you'd swear you can almost hear them cackle.

Pretty, they're not. In fact, most of her dolls don't have a pinch of Hollywood beauty about them, which is just the way Nancy (and everyone else) likes them. "I do a lot of people watching," Nancy says. "Most people aren't pretty."

Pretty in Black

The word "witch" usually has one meaning to most people. But Dutch doll maker and collector Christa Chayata had a different view when she made her miniature witch.

The doll, which Crista made using the "Gertie" mold by Cynthia Howe, was inspired by a witch hat from Margriet van der Zee that she won in a contest on the MiniDollList.

The hat was so pretty, that well… "What is such a beautiful hat without a witch?" Christa says. "I mostly don't like ugly witches, so I tried to make one that looks a bit nice."

And she does, doesn't she? In fact, in this case, they all look nice (but don't tell them. Witches must keep their reputations after all.)

** Don't forget to visit A Fanciful Twist today for more Halloween fun!

** Add your comments today and in the following days for the chance to win a copy of my spooky ebook, The Witch Tree.

October 17, 2008

Boo! Come to a Halloween Party Tomorrow!

The blog, A Fanciful Twist, is hosting a Halloween party! Be sure to visit her blog and all the participating sites, including mine tomorrow (Sat, 10/18)!

I'm in a Halloween mood, so come back to my blog tomorrow. I'll have the first of many special features for Halloween as a prelude to my Spooky Online Book Tour featuring my Miniature Art Mystery, Searching For A Starry Night & my spooky ebook, The Witch Tree.

One person commenting here tomorrow through Nov. 4, and at sites participating in my spooky book tour (site list to come), will win a free copy of my ebook, The Witch Tree.

Hope to see you! Boo!

October 09, 2008

Art in Miniature: Interpreting Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'

Sometimes what you don't see is as important of what you do see.

In a previous post, I highlighted an amazing project by miniature doll artisan Lucie Winsky, who is recreating several famous artists and their masterpieces in 1/12th dollhouse scale. You can see the figures she has completed so far here.

Lucie's latest commission, interpreting the work of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, has proven to be even more challenging.

To make his now famous masterpiece, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (Het Meisje met de Parel), come to life, Lucie found herself with a dilemma. Interestingly, it is one of those things that most of us probably overlook. Can you guess what it is?

"I have seen other miniature doll artists' representations of the 'Girl with the Pearl Earring' in the past and she was standing, which is why I had the idea in my head until I saw the movie," says Lucie.

Hollywood Meets Vermeer

Ah, Hollywood strikes again. But it does present an interesting question - is the "Girl with the Pearl Earring" seated or standing?

Some people make the argument that many of Vermeer's portraits do feature women who are seated, although he seemed to have painted an equal amount of women standing as judged by the works featured in this gallery.

Does it matter? Not really, except that for a doll artist, the doll's position does have an impact on the body proportions, especially in miniature scale. (Miniature dollhouse sized dolls are 1 inch scale or 1 inch = 1 foot).

Lucie's final decision?

She decided to make only half-legs for the doll and have her stand -but the doll can be seated if the new owner chooses. "A sitting doll is a bit different as you have to make the legs a bit longer when you assemble her so her feet will touch the floor," she says.

I will post a photo when the doll is completed.

The painting, completed by Vermeer in the mid-1600s and now housed in The Hague, The Netherlands, was virtually unknown until its sale in the late 1880s. Read more about "The Girl with a Pearl Earring" here.

** Your Turn: What's your opinion? Do you think "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" is seated or standing? Feel free to share your reason why.

October 08, 2008

Old Dogs are Best Dogs

The Washington Post tends to have some interesting dog and animal photo galleries, with today's maybe more thought provoking than usual, at least to me.

Titled, "Old Dogs are Best Dogs," the gallery features a poignant collection of photos of faithful friends who have long passed puppyhood.

Some are blind, some have eyes that look a bit hazy, but all are faithful, loving companions who've been by their master's/mistresses' sides for 10, 12, even 16 years. Who can beat a friendship like that?

In this odd economy, dogs are often the silent, overlooked victims. A recent article I read stated that here in my area of Wisconsin, at least 10 dogs had been turned into the local humane shelter in one week. Sadly, some people are feeling the pinch, many are hurting. But the newspaper also revealed our society's growing selfishness - saying that many families had to make the choice to fill the car or feed the dog.

Yes, gas has taken a big chunk out of people's wallets; yes, getting to work is a necessity. Many people are now regretting those huge, gas-guzzling SUV's and trucks. But... I can't help but wonder, what have they cut out of their lives? Have they stopped eating out? Have they cut back and begun cooking simple, penny stretching meals at home if need be? (Remember those filling meals like Chili Mac?) Quit smoking - drinking alcohol or that Starbucks? How about cable TV, satellite, what else?

I've had dogs all my life. Only once did I give up a dog that we couldn't control. Fortunately, the Shepherd mix ended up being trained as a therapy dog for a wheelchair-bound woman. Otherwise, I've always viewed a dog as a life-long choice. They grow attached; they love and await you. They depend on you and they grieve.

I don't want to over-simplify, but there is so much waste, foolish spending, selfishness, and over-eating in our society. There has to be something, somewhere, that a person can give up before they make such a terrible, unbelievable choice.

The dog or the car? Which one would you choose?

** Your Turn: if things got that bad, what would you do about the family pet? Could you give them up or how would you adjust?

October 02, 2008

Random Thoughts on Writing: Newspapers

Having a journalism degree and dozens of years under my belt writing for newspapers, I admit a special affinity for news on the printed page. Yes, I read stuff online, but I still like to sit down with a newspaper open at lunch or dinner.

Of course, most people's reading habits have spelled a death knell for the printed page. Call it naive, but I remember the shock I felt when someone I'd sent a box to had no newspaper around to use as wrapping and padding- not one page. She confessed to reading only online. The printed page is still the first choice I think for most people over 50 as lifelong habits are hard to break, but for many younger readers, unless their parents were regular newspaper readers, the daily paper just isn't that important.

I would hope, though, that those looking for news are at least perusing papers online and not depending on TV network news only. With sound bites and bias, there's a lot overlooked and a lot left unsaid.

Newspapers have been trying to change their style - trying to get hipper, shorter, a la USA Today, in hopes of gaining new readers, keeping what they have - and cutting costs. Shorter stories, less newsprint. But the latest economy crunch, combined with the escalating costs in newsprint, has publishers hanging on by their fingernails.

Papers are bleeding readers and the changes they often make to try to hang on aren't always for the better. Some go the diet route, making the paper trimmer in pages and leaner in content. The result? A paper that has much less to read, and fewer pages. I know they're trying to stay in business, but the end result can make that 75 cents even harder to spend if you think you're getting even less for your money.

** Your Turn: Do you read the newspaper in print or online? Do/did you read in print? What made you change (or not change your reading habits?)

October 01, 2008

Tag, I'm It - 6 Book Things Meme

Helen over at Straight from Hel saved me from having to quickly dream up a blog post while I try to get back on track here.

Today's Meme: Name 6 Book Things about Yourself

Okay here goes:

1. In case you didn't know, my book, Searching For A Starry Night is partly inspired by my own interest in collecting and creating dollhouse miniatures. I love working on projects when I'm not writing. I even have the actual miniature replica of "Starry Night" done by talented miniaturist and artist Lucie Winsky. You can read more about her and see the miniature painting here.

2. I like to collect vintage books from the early 1900s. I only have a few but try to find them cheap at flea markets, etc. mostly for the cover decorations and inside art. I also want to try preserving some of that art in miniature by framing the smaller images.

3. I get a kick out of miniature books. I thought of making a mystery bookstore in miniature but the idea of creating all those books is still daunting. Many are only covers with blank pages but I admire anyone who has the courage (and patience!) to do it.
Check out this French chateau library; or for something slightly different, how about tiny rooms based on storybooks.

4. I like to re-read certain books. A few favorites include Dracula by Bram Stoker, Gone with the Wind, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Salem's Lot...

5. I'm still trying to finish my adult mystery set in a diner. I read someone else's book or another story and then fear I'm on the wrong track. :?)

6. I used to read one book at a time. If I'm hooked, I'll speed through it non-stop. Others I enjoy but read here and there. I have four books I'm reading right now.

** Your Turn: Share some book-related things about you. Be sure to comment here so we know to go visit your blog and see what you wrote.

** I TAG:
* Katie - Katie's Clay Corner
* Morgan Mandel
* Emma Larkins
* Mary Cunningham