February 27, 2009

Mystery & Mini Inspiration: Agatha Christie's House

Both miniaturists and mystery writers will find inspiration over the pond with the opening on Feb. 28 of Agatha Christie's summer home, Greenway House, in Devon, Southwest England.

The house opens after a two-year restoration.

Now owned by the National Trust, the charming and "no-fuss Georgian," is where Christie spent her summers from 1938 to 1976. She didn't write here, though, and supposedly just concentrated on writing letters, relaxing, collecting, and entertaining. Some guests were supposedly entertained with readings from her books. The house is the setting in several of Christie's novels and the scene of a couple of her fictional murders. The house is restored to the 1950s and is much as the writer enjoyed it.

* Learn more, get visit details and watch a video here.

February 26, 2009

Cookbook Challenges in Miniature

This great miniature tart from Stephanie Kilgast of Petit Plat at the The Mini Food Blog is a great example of miniatures imitating life. She made a yummy looking strawberry tart copied from a cookbook picture. (Stephanie also makes the neatest miniature food jewelry).

I had done something similar last summer as part of a challenge with the Miniature Collectors Club with Yahoo Groups. Here, everyone had to duplicate a cookbook picture.

For fun, I thought I'd share those photos again. I duplicated the cover from the Southern Heritage Celebrations Cookbook I found at a yard sale.

Really gets you thinking about warm weather, picnics, summer... ah.

* You can still see the other miniature cookbook challenge entries at Webshots.

February 25, 2009

New FAB Blog Award!

Katie from Katie's Clay Corner just awarded me with a pretty FAB new award. Thanks, Katie!

So, the rules are:
I list five addictions and pass this on to five other blogs whose owners then do the same.

I'm addicted to: (in no particular order, well, depending on the day!) chocolate, minis, writing, chocolate, color yellow. (Earth shattering huh? ha!)

Hard to pick just five fab blogs - they're all great! So, hoping I don't repeat what others have done, I pick:

* My friend Kitty at Kitty's Minis who always has fantastic mini ideas!

* Tracy at Minis on the Edge who inspires me with her fantastic clay houses!

* Artist Christina Rodriguez who delights with her wonderful, charming illustrations!

* Author Mary Cunningham at Cynthia's Attic, for her fun books, inspiration and is always helpful!

* Author Katie Hines for coming by, commenting, and her insights!

That's it. Now it's their turn. :>) I also thank you, dear reader, for stopping by, reading, and commenting. This award goes to you, too! Better than the Academy Awards, huh? Take that Kate Winslet. ha!

February 24, 2009

Writing and Talking to Yourself. I do. Do you?

I realized that most of the time I probably look crazy. Why? I talk to myself. A lot.

Hey, you know you get the best answers that way, right? (Or at least the ones you want!)

But talking to myself is not a sign of mental instability. It's more an occupational hazard.

You see, when I'm talking to myself, it's not really me. (Uh-oh) It's really my characters speaking through, and to me.

No, I'm not talking possession or multiple personalities, though I do hear a lot of voices in my head. The voices I hear don't tell me crazy things, though. (Thank goodness I don't write about serial killers).

As I'm writing, my characters tell me what they think. They tell me if what I'm putting on paper sounds like them - or should be attributed to someone else.

Writing is more than just putting words down on paper. It evokes the senses.

If you're in tune with your writing, you should see the action in your head. You should see it unfold in your imagination. You should see a character doing things that only he or she would do.

You should hear the lilt of a character's voice, or the gruffness of a crabby old neighbor, or hear the fear in your character's voice. You should hear the way that character speaks.

You should smell their surroundings, or the musky scent of their sweat, or the slightly cloying smell of an older lady's favorite perfume. You should smell the sweetness of fresh-baked cookies. Your mouth should water as you see those still warm cookies get taken out of the oven.

All it takes is a few words, the right words, for you - and your reader - to experience all those things and get into the story.

All it takes is sitting down and letting your characters talk to you. And don't be afraid to have a conversation with them. Hearing your characters speak, and getting to know them, is what makes them come alive and seem real.

If you can't hear them or know who they are, will they be real enough for anyone else to want to read about them - or really care? If not, you need to start letting them talk - and start talking back.

** Your Turn: How do you get to know your characters?

February 23, 2009

Miniature Tudor Dollhouse Beds

I've been planning these beds for a while as part of a long-overdue swap that I owe.

The beds were punched out from an old Greenleaf dollhouse furniture kit.

Bonnie Glazier, who's made several fantastic miniature dollhouse dolls for me - (see my Van Gogh on her page? She also made some half-inch scale dolls and mermaids for me) - wanted some beds for her Harry Potter-inspired castle.

Granted, these are not real dark and dreary, but rather elegant. I wanted to use the burgundy velvet and the shiny red fabric to give it some pizzazz.

I glued straight sticks to the sides for posts, then added some scalloped wood trim around the top to make the canopy. I covered the top with a gold mesh. The curtains were pleated, then glued around the sides. The bottom skirt matches the curtains. The top diamond patterns are cut from a tapestry bookmark. Gold ribbon was glued around bedspread edges and used as ties around the curtains. They're kind of hard to photograph, but I'm pretty happy with how they came out. I hope she likes them.

February 17, 2009

Writing Tip 17: Limit sentences, Says Debbie Macomber

Today's writing tip comes from a dyslexic mother of four who once thought she'd never get published! Her first book, published by Silhouette in 1982, became the first romance reviewed by Publisher's Weekly.

Writing Tip 17: Limit Sentences, says Debbie Macomber

Best-selling author Debbie Macomber offers a simple tip on style that authors can sometimes overlook.

Macomber says, "never allow a sentence to go longer than 23 words. Find a way to break it up." She calls this "simple, easy, and in some ways, profound."

Debbie Macomber, the author of BACK ON BLOSSOM STREET, SUSANNAH'S GARDEN, A GOOD YARN, THE SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET, BETWEEN FRIENDS and the Cedar Cove series, is a leading author, with books regularly hitting #1 on bestseller lists and translated into 23 languages.

-- Debbie Macomber is author of several series and stand-alone books, including the popular Cedar Cover Series. In 8 Sandpiper Way, (Sept. 08), a wife find a strange earring in her husband's pocket, and begins to wonder…

Emily Flemming can think of only two explanations-an affair or sticky fingers-but neither sounds like the husband she knows and loves. Still, Pastor Dave did regularly visit the elderly woman whose jewelry has been turning up missing, and he does refuse to tell Emily where he's been when he comes home so late. He may be a good man, but he sure looks guilty-even to his wife.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Troy Davis's long-ago love has moved to town, and there's news aplenty from newcomers and old-timers alike in Cedar Cove.

February 16, 2009

Love Me, LOVE My Characters 4: Cynthia's Attic Meets Starry Night

Sam takes a break from her sleuthing in SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT, A MINIATURE ART MYSTERY, to talk to her new pal, Gus, from Mary Cunningham's CYNTHIA'S ATTIC series about what's going on in her life.

"Hey, Gus, you know, you and me are a lot alike. You say you're a tomboy? I'd rather go fishing than put on a dress anyway. Well, okay, I'm going to do that once. Me and Lita, my bff, are going to dress up for our friend, Helena Sanchez's wedding to pet shop owner, Mr. G. But just that once! Hey, tell me; how come you're called Gus?”

"Hate my given name, Augusta Lee, so everyone better call me Gus or risk getting a kick in the shins!"

"Okay, okay, sheesh, don't get all riled. I hear ya. Only one that calls me Samantha is my mom, and that's when she's mad! My friend, Lita, was telling me you and your bff, Cynthia, have a magic trunk? Awesome! But I don't know...I, um, am kind of skeptical, I guess. I mean you actually go places in it, like a flying carpet? That sounds kind of cool."

Gus nodded. "All the adventures we've had through the magic trunk have given me a little more self-confidence in being able to solve problems and work on my insecurities. They've also given me a greater sense of family loyalty and an even closer friendship with Cynthia."

Sam thought about it a minute. "When you put it that way, guess I can't doubt you. I'd do anything for my friend, Lita, too. Hey, you have to track down an ancient curse, too? Wow. Lita really got spooked when Petey - that's our friend's Dachshund - dug up an old family curse, too. Another thing we have in common!"

Sam snapped her gum and turned to her new friend. "Hey, I wonder...is there a way you could let Lita take a trip down South with you? You know, in your trunk? She sure misses her brother in Mississippi. Never mind. You're right. What if something went wrong? Maybe she'd end up in some jungle or never come back. You've tried it, but you've still had some scary moments, right?"

"Scary? Wow. We never expected to meet a Cajun guide named Mud Bug in a Louisiana bayou!" Gus said. "New Orleans was pretty wild back in 1914. Then there's the pirates...Don't think I want to go back there again!"

"P-Pirates? Oh, wow, I'd love..." Sam paused and brushed back her auburn hair, which was just a shade lighter than Gus's copper-color. "Oh, I guess you don't mean funny Captain Jack kind of pirates. Hmm. I see what you mean. Maybe time- traveling is pretty scary." Sam smiled. "Okay, let's forget that. What else do you like to do?"

"Now I take piano lessons, but can't seem to learn to read music. So frustrating!"

"You should talk to Lita," Sam said. "She took piano lessons. Maybe she can help. She's pretty talented. Not me."

"I love to swim," Gus said. "I'd rather be outside all summer."

"Me, too. Wouldn't it be fun if you and Cynthia came and visited here in Wisconsin this summer? We'd have a lot of fun!"

"We'd love to do that," Gus said. "You could come by and visit us, too. Do you like to eat?"

"Do I?" Sam asked. "That's my second-favorite thing to do!"

Gus gave a big smile. "Maybe we could get a hot fudge sundae sometime at the drugstore soda fountain. Cynthia won't eat sugar. Says it'll rot her perfect, white teeth. Ha!"

Sam laughed with her. "Your friend sounds just like Lita! She'll pig out on that fake banana candy, but she won't eat chocolate! I think we'd have a lot of fun. I hope we can spend more time together. I'd love to see how your magic trunk works!"

"Cynthia and I'd love to spend more time with you, too. Who knows what adventure we'll be facing next?"


-- In THE CURSE OF THE BAYOU, book three of the CYNTHIA'S ATTIC series, adventurous, twelve-year-old best friends Cynthia and Gus find themselves in 1914 New Orleans. There, they search for answers in the disappearance of Cynthia's great-grandfather, Beau Connor, who was on his way down the Mississippi River to sell a flatboat full of produce.

A warning to stay away from the orneriest pirate this side of the Muddy, his gang of misfits and their thieving parrot, falls flat as the duo instead fall straight into his evil clutches! A mysterious treasure and heart-stopping adventure lead to a final confrontation that'll leave you cheering for the girls as they fight to save Great Granddaddy Beau.

--In Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, bff’s Sam and Lita, and a mischievous Dachshund named Petey, face a cranky housekeeper, a dog-hating gardener, and an ancient family curse as they search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

February 13, 2009

Love Me, LOVE My Characters 3: Guy Talk

Today it's the guys' turn, and it's also a chance for Guy - that is the character Guy in stories by Norm Cowie, featured in the Echelon Press anthologies, THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT, and the new MISSING!,to be interviewed by Alyssa Montgomery's Connor (WHERE ARE YOU?). (Boy, that Connor gets around!)

Check out the interview at Alyssa Montgomery's blog.

THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT, stories focusing on fire, proceeds to San Diego fire victims.

MISSING! During 2007, 814,967 missing person records were entered into the National Crime Information Center’s Database.

Seventeen tales of missing persons. Proceeds from all sales benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

February 12, 2009

Love My Characters 2: Ghost Whisperer meets Connor from WHERE ARE YOU?

www.quakeme.com In day two of our Valentine's Day series, LOVE ME, LOVE MY CHARACTERS, Gus from Mary Cunningham's fun, time-travel story, THE CURSE OF THE BAYOU, book three in the CYNTHIA'S ATTIC series from QUAKE, turns Ghost Whisperer.

Twelve-year-old Gus talks with Connor, whose friend, Parker, is finding it hard to live with the guilt over his bff's death. Or maybe someone doesn't want him to live, either, in Alyssa Montgomery's spooky e-book, WHERE ARE YOU?

What secrets does Connor reveal to Gus about the accident and his new (after)life? See what they have to say at Mary's Cynthia's Attic blog.

In Alyssa Montgomery's WHERE ARE YOU?, Parker Ryder’s best friend is dead. Everyone says the accident wasn’t his fault, but Parker can barely live with the guilt. Now, Parker is getting strange e-Mails. It seems that someone else doesn’t want Parker to live with the guilt … Or live at all!

February 11, 2009

Love Me, LOVE My Characters 1

www.quakeme.com The best part of reading is getting to know the characters, right?

Several of the authors from QUAKE decided to do something special for Valentine's Day.

Take a tour around each of our blogs and meet someone special - our characters! We think they're pretty neat people and hope you enjoy meeting them, too!

First up is Briana Morgan Fairchild, also known as Brie, and leader of THE PIXIE CHICKS by Regan Black.

See what she has to say at Sam Morton's blog today.

-- In THE PIXIE CHICKS by Regan Black, life takes on a delicious new flavor when their normal Friday night walkabout through the Hobbitville Gardens reveals secrets and adventures previously unimagined. Four teens explore portals, magical gardens, and reach for the stars in an adventure only the boldest will dare face.

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing

An article I read about improving your life started me thinking about similar easy ways to improve your writing.

1. Start Small.

Big projects can sometimes be overwhelming. Break it into bite-size pieces. I'm guilty of stressing over not writing the 20 pages a week I'd planned. Setting goals smaller, say 3 pages a day, will get near the same results, with less stress. And if you don't get the exact amount done, don't beat yourself up. Even one paragraph or page is one more than you had before, and 500 or so words closer to your final word count.

2. Believe in Yourself

A bad review can hurt. But that inner critic who tries to hold you back and tear down your efforts (you're a lousy writer, you'll never get anywhere, why are you wasting your time?...) can be worse. Believe in you. Think on what you've accomplished and move forward. One rejection is just that. It's not the end. Don't let rejection stalk you. Send that story or project to another publication and move on to the next one. Having at least a few stories circulating (some say 10 or 12 if you can) will prevent you from obsessing over one.

3. Learn From Others

Success comes from listening to others who have already been there. Check out the experiences of other writers in your genre. Study the works of writers you admire to see how they did it. No matter how many years you've been writing, there is always something new to learn.

4. Review Yourself.

A little self-evaluation can be good to gauge where you are in your writing goals and progress. Be honest; don't be afraid to point out your shortcomings, but also decide on how to improve them. Maybe you've only been published in lower paying markets and are afraid to move to the next level. Pick a market you haven't written for; study the content, and work on a story to submit. Becoming a better writer doesn't mean treading water; test the waters in new markets.

5. Make Goals.

Goals keep you from stagnating, but make them reasonable. Start with one goal, like planning to get published in a new magazine in your genre, or working on a story in a different genre or field. When that goal is accomplished, make a new goal. Keep moving forward and don't stress over how long achieving that goal may take. It isn't a race. Work at the pace you feel comfortable with.

6. Seize the Day!

Swallow your fears. Some opportunities only come once. Don't be afraid to take a chance. You never know where it will lead.

7. Don't Fear Mistakes.

You'll make mistakes; you'll write less than stellar stories. We all have. It's one mistake. Even if you make the same mistake, it's not the end of the world. Learn from them. Every mistake only makes you stronger.

8. Don't Be a Victim

Self-pity leads to depression, which leads to inactivity, self-doubt and can be a vicious spiral that robs you of your energy and happiness. No matter your circumstances, there is no reason to sit still and be unproductive. Don't make excuses, do something. There are tons of free resources available. Use the Internet and computers at the library. See if there is a niche in your community where you can volunteer or provide a service. See #5.

9. Enjoy Yourself

We all can't be Rockefellers or live like them. Always thinking the grass is greener on the other side will never make you satisfied. Look closer and you'll find crabgrass and weeds there, too. Enjoy your faith, friends, family, pets, and hobbies. Shut off the computer. Make time to exercise and have some fun. You'll feel better and be more productive.

10. Think Positive.

It takes less energy to think positive, plus it'll add more to your life and your writing.

** Have any favorite tips or lifestyle changes you've made to improve your writing? Please share!

February 10, 2009

Scrabble Tag

I love playing Scrabble(R) so it's funny that Helen from Straight from Hel tagged me.

According to Helen, this tag is called either “The Love of the Written Word” or the “Scrabble Tag.” The rules are:

List at least five things you do to support and spread a love of the written word, then tag five people. (If you list something that touches youngsters, you get a bonus letter!)

Okay the five things I try to do to support writing:

1. Feature writers on the blog and share interviews with them.

2. Invite writers to share their writing tips.

3. Try to write original posts on different aspects of writing.

4. Mingle posts on writing with posts about miniatures and other topics for variety. It draws non-writers to the blog who may find the book posts interesting also.

5. Seek advice and encourage other writers to share their knowledge. I realize I really don't know it all. ha!

Five people I'm tagging are:
* Chester Campbell
(oops, sorry Chester, I see Katie tagged you first. ha!)
* JR Turner
* Mayra Calvani
* Pam Ripling
* Emma Larkins

Have fun!

February 09, 2009

Eye Candy: Preview Miniature Witch's Greenhouse

I've been awfully slow about getting this project close to being done, though I've been making things and working on it forever (or it feels like that. ha!)

This is the bay window shop in the Houseworks Street of Shops set. I love this set and was thrilled to get it one year during Hobby Builder Supply's 50% off sale. Great buy!

The double window shop, is now home to my Teapot Shoppe. You can see it by clicking the link at the Verstraete Miniatures Gallery. The corner shop is going to be my witch's bakery.

Witchy Wallpaper

The first obstacle that prevented me from going any further was the wallpaper. Finally, when I saw this "UGLY" scrapbook paper in the clearance section, I knew I'd found the perfect thing! (Egads, believe it or not, it's supposed to be Christmas holly. More like a Tim Burton Christmas I'd say).

The floor is made of painted egg carton pieces set in tinted spackle. The stones outside are egg carton also. I'm thinking of putting matching rows of stones on the sides, too. See Victoria Miniland for tips on egg carton stones and bricks.

The Table

The fun part was making this table. It's a bit "wonky," but what else would a witch want to work on? (Try saying that fast!) I had to do some figuring as I wanted it to fit in the corner. There'll be shelves full of odd plants above the table and around the room.

A Few Funny Plants

Here are a few "odd" plants I've been making. The red "Poison" plant also has little "googly" eyes. The bone plant is perfect for keeping the dogs content.

The Witch seems to have a knack for, uh, growing extra parts.

I'll try to add some more photos when I get a little further. I also have a wallhanging box I covered in paper clay and will use as a wizard's room. I still have to paint it. Maybe I'll have one of these done by this Halloween. (Maybe).

** Have any special projects you've been working on "forever"?

February 05, 2009

Searching For A Starry Night in Top 10 of Reader's Poll

Wow! A great surprise! Last time I checked I was stuck at #11 in the annual Preditors & Editors Readers Poll and pretty much thought I was out of it.


Today I checked back at the final results for the 2008 poll and was stunned to find Searching For A Starry Night at #8 in the Top 10 of the mystery category...

And Searching For A Starry Night was also #8 in the book art category. Isn't that cool!

Thanks to all who voted!

* Read more about Searching For A Starry Night and get your copy at Quake (Print, ebook, and now in Kindle!)

February 02, 2009

Searching For A Starry Night Now in KINDLE!

My book - Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery is now available in Amazon's KINDLE format.

Sam, her bff Lita and a mischievous Dachshund named Petey, face a cranky housekeeper, dog-hating gardener, and an ancient family curse as they try to find the missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's Starry Night. For ages 10 and up.

Check it out!