March 31, 2009

Words and Definitions

A couple recent news stories I read offered some food for thought, or at least a good laugh.

One story talked about a British official's recent brush with the law in mistakenly writing off some personal video rentals and x-rated movie rentals from her husband. The spokesperson in trying to explain it says, "x-rated videos are not porn."


And on this side of the pond, a Wisconsin school was having another brush with political correctness. In a recent incident, it supposedly corrected the symbol for the school's logo - W - for Warriors - by substituting what they termed a more gender-friendly symbol and word - knight.

I'll let you think on that one.

March 30, 2009

Real Miniature or Photo Trick?

Here's a stumper: how much time do you think it would take to get a dollhouse in a bottle?

Think it can't be done? Well, like those people who have built ships in a bottle, this person on eBay claims to have branched out and built a house in a bottle!

Read more about this intriguing dollhouse. (Or put 280326147574 in search box at

* Build your own ship in a bottle from "Boy's Life" magazine.

* How about the "other" Dollhouse? (TV Show) (ha-ha!)

March 27, 2009

World's Oldest Dog is a Dachshund!

Chanel, a Dachshund from New York, prefers to enjoy her leisure these days, but that's okay. She's entitled.

At age 20, the dog will be listed in the next edition of The Guinness Book of World Records, coming out in September, as the world's oldest dog. Chanel will be 21 on May 8. Here's hoping she enjoys more dog cookies on her birthday!

You can read more about this amazing dog here.

March 26, 2009

Amazing Miniature Creations

A lot of people don't realize the complexity of some miniature projects.

Take the "Safari Sweater" completed by miniaturist Shelly Norris, who also creates amazing flowers. (More to come on those later.)

The sweater is made in 1-inch scale (1"=1 foot) and sized to a 5-6" tall doll (equaling a 5-6-foot tall person in real life). The sweater is 1 1/2" long x 1 5/16" wide. The sleeves are 1 1/4" long.

More amazing? The sweater was created using sewing thread and completely done in French knots, where the thread is "rolled" to form a knot. It took about 2,240 French knots to do one square inch.

Now picture at least that same number of French knots per inch applied to a miniature rug.

Shelly began making what she calls her "monster rug" in October 2008. This is her progress so far. Wow, talk about dedication... especially considering that the rug at 8 1/2" W x 9 1/2" long and using one strand of embroidery floss per knot will require approximately 1,990 french knots to create 1 square inch of rug.

If you've seen the movie, "Coraline," then you've seen other examples of miniature sweaters. Renowned miniature knitter Althea Crome of Bug Knits created the miniature sweaters for the movie.

* Check out the video of her knitting.

* See more miniature sweaters at the Bug Knits gallery.

March 25, 2009

Zamora's Ultimate Challenge, Meet MK Scott!

Welcome to the next stop on the Zamora's Ultimate Challenge Blog Tour! Be sure to read to the very end as you don't know what you may miss! (like a chance to win stuff!)

* * * * *

Meet author M.K. SCOTT, who calls herself a "total book fiend" and horse-lover. Oh, make that dog lover, too, given her "writing partner" is a four-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Java.

If you didn't know, M.K.'s alter-ego Michele Scott is author of the Wine Lovers Mysteries and the Equestrian Horse Lovers Mysteries with Berkley Prime Crime.

As M.K. she'll be writing for children, beginning with her tween fantasy, ZAMORA'S ULTIMATE CHALLENGE available from QUAKE/Echelon Press.


Is the name of Mason and Carter Clover's favorite video game. But fantasy turns to reality when Zamora's evil face appears on the brothers' TV screen. Now the queen threatens to take over the soul of their kidnapped baby sister, Isabella. Zamora's plan? To use the baby as a human vessel to reach Earth and dominate the world!

The boys enter the video game and are helped by several guides in the magical land of Boysen - a sage, a quirky mermaid and a Pegasus, who flies them to subsequent levels of the game. They also face other enemies as they try to jump to the next level and rescue Isabella. Will they beat Zamora's Ultimate Challenge?

Who is M.K./Michele?

Michele, who has a degree in journalism, has been writing since childhood. She wrote her first book while taking a Writer's Digest Magazine correspondence course and caring for her premature son, who's now 17.

"It only took me 12 years later and almost as many books to get an agent and sell three books," she says.

She's made up for lost time, with books nine and book 10, the latest being ZAMORA'S ULTIMATE CHALLENGE (QUAKE/ECHELON PRESS, Feb 2009).

Her family once again played a role in her decision to delve into another genre. Being on bed rest for her third pregnancy, Michele decided to write a fantasy for her own children. She calls it a book of her heart and a book with a message.

“The morals have to do with familial love and bonds, as well as faith in one's self,” she says. “That is all so important to me because I don't think there is anything more important than your family and your belief in yourself and others. We all have gifts to share, and the book gets that across in a subtle way that I believe kids and parents will enjoy.”

About that Dog...

And Java? Call him confidant and right-hand man, er, dog. Michele spends much of the day writing until it's time to pick up her youngest at school, with the dog usually beside her.

"I write in the kitchen most of the time on a laptop and Java sleeps next to me on the kitchen sofa in the breakfast nook," she says. "Sometimes our other dog does too, and occasionally the cat as well. They all sleep all day long."

It sounds ideal but don't be fooled. With 10+ books under her belt (there are others being considered), Michele's got this writing thing down pat. Not that there aren't some moments...

The worst?

"Revising a book for the 10th time," she says. "At that point I am into another book and want to move on, but know that I have to do whatever it takes to make what I have written the best that I can."

But there are good things, she says, "like creating a story with characters that I feel readers can connect to. The simple act of writing itself is by far the best part."

With the day's writing done and the kids home, Michele is then ready to spend time with her family and her horses. Wow, who says a writer's life isn't to be envied?


Did I say prizes? Yes, I did!

Now were you paying attention?? Three lucky readers will have the chance to win copies of Zamora’s Ultimate Challenge by answering this question: What creature inhabits Boysen and what’s the name of the dragon fighter? First make a comment here on something and then send the answer to Michele at (copy and paste in your mail browser)

Read More

** Read an except of Zamora’s Ultimate Challenge at Michele’s website.

* QUAKE/Echelon Press.

Follow the Rest of the Blog Tour

* Tomorrow, March 26, Michele shares the story behind Zamora's Ultimate Challenge at Cynthia's Attic

** Don't forget to stop every day at Michele's blog for a fun contest. San Diego anyone?? (Be sure to check out the cool book trailer!)

* March 27: Michele blogs about the novel project she does with middle school and junior high kids at Marta's Meanderings.

* March 30: Michele blogs about the differences between writing children's fantasy versus adult mystery at Drey's Library

* April 2: Michele talks about balancing multi-genre writing and family at Booking Mama.

* April 3: A tween's view of "Zamora's Ultimate Challenge" at Beth Fish Reads.

* April 4: Stop at Teen-Seen and maybe win some prizes!

No, writers don't lead a life of leisure. But their "helpers" do! Hope you enjoyed this stop of the tour!

March 24, 2009

Bowls and Books, Soup and Authors

Tomorrow is the 9th annual Bowls & Books event, a soup-tasting contest featuring delicious soups from 16 local Kenosha, WI restaurants. New this year is a "Meet and Greet" with local authors, including myself.

Bowls & Books will be held Wednesday, March 25 at the historic Rhode Center for the Arts, a renovated 1920s-era theater at 514-56th St., Kenosha, WI, 262-657-7529.

I'll be there with copies of Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, from 5-7 p.m., so please stop by and say hello if you're in the area!

Tickets are $12 lunch and $15 evening. The evening session includes wine, hors d'oeuvres, and music. The event is a fundraiser for continued renovations at the theater.

March 23, 2009

Miniature Projects & Dollhouse Printies

I can't really ever say that I have nothing to do. Not with dozens of project ideas and several in progress. But... I get bored and tend to hop between projects. I like to do something for a while and then move on to something else.

Well, I found several things online that'll keep me busy. Check out these links for some great miniature ideas and printies sure to keep you busy, too!

Watering Jug/Pitcher:
* Marlies of Marlies Minis has a pattern for pitchers you make from paper. You can coordinate in all kinds of colors and sizes! Very cool!

Apothecary Printies:
* Jean Day makes incredibly darling little outfits and other miniatures. She also shares some neat printies on her blog, like miniature books or these interesting pages from an 1800-era apothecary book. Can't get more authentic than that!

Make a Chest:
* Debbie at Debbie's Tiny Treasures has some neat ideas. Her Harry Potter apothecary project is so cool! Here's a free tutorial for a small trunk she made from mount board (picture framing matboard). Continue here: Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6.

Potion Labels:
* Kat the Hat Lady shares some interesting witch-wizard potion labels to shrink. While you're there, be sure to check out her amazing miniature witch hats!

Printies and Posters:
* Grace at TreeFeathers (check out her incredible miniature books!) also has a great printies page. My favorite? The vintage monster movie posters. Check out her blog too.

Potion Labels:
* Whittaker's Miniatures recently started blogging and has the neatest, er, spookiest ideas! Check out these great labels they're selling at Etsy. Next on my shopping list for sure!!

Have fun!

March 19, 2009

1000 Must Read Books - or Not

I see there's been a lot of talk going around about the 1000 Books You Must Read Before You Die published in January at the Guardian.

The books are divided into categories, Love, Comedy, Family, etc. And the lists are long. Yes, with more books I admit to having never looked at.

Book lists, of course, are subjective, with a "to each their own" feeling. None of us will agree on what books are "musts."

As my interests lie mostly with mystery, I found the crime section interesting. A lot of Raymond Chandler and other "classic" authors, though they're not my cup of tea, er, whisky. A few authors weren't familiar to me. Others I haven't gotten to yet. I did see books I've read in the other categories, but I'll stick to the Crime list for now. A few I read:

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (and read many others)
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (didn't finish it, loved the movie I saw on Mystery!)
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (I probably read every Sherlock book)
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Never really thought of this as "crime" though what they did was)
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (this is one I have read several times)
Dolores Claiborne - Stephen King
Misery - Stephen King (interesting King choices)

What's missing:
No new, cozy mysteries. A genre of its own? But still enjoyable, at least to me.

** What are some of your favorite mystery or crime books? Are they listed - or not?

March 18, 2009

Five Simple Steps to Finish Writing Your Stories

Okay I admit it - I'm a procrastinator. I get tons of ideas and don't finish many of them.

How to avoid this? How to finish a project?

I realize that besides procrastination, sometimes it's boredom that keeps me from finishing a story. Wow. If I'm bored, what will readers think?

No, it's not that the story is boring. I just lose interest in writing it.

So, a few simple tips I learned while writing to keep myself moving forward:

1. If a story isn't working, move on to another. That boredom means I need to let it sit for a while and go back to it later. Usually works.

2. Write a short description. Get to know the characters. A character sheet helps you fill in those little blank spaces. It helps if you know who is in your story and not just the what, where and why.

3. Do an outline. I need an outline so I know where I'm going. Doesn't mean it's set in stone. I do change things along the way or add things as new ideas emerge or I think of something that fits better. At least I have a road map to work from.

4. Make a list. I'm a list maker. There's something satisfying about checking things off. When you feel you aren't getting anywhere, you can check something off or look at what you've done. Makes you realize you have accomplished something.

5. Stew on it. Let the story idea simmer. I usually need to "stew" on an idea a while. If the story isn't fully formed in my head, then I lose interest in it or am not sure where to go with it.

Simple, right?

** What are your simple suggestions to keep your story (or book) going? How do you stay motivated?

March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Miniature by Nancy Cronin

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Doll artist Nancy Cronin has the "Luck O' the Irish" I think with her original sculpted Leprechaun. He looks kind of tired, doesn't he? Maybe he's worn out from hiding all that gold. Think we can find it somewhere? (Wouldn't that be nice!)

March 16, 2009

New Miniature Plant Terrarium

I made a unique new planter terrarium with a red "spider" plant, black and orange tulips, a black barbed plant and several "magic" or poisonous mushrooms under a removable plastic dome.

It is 2 1/4" in diameter and just under 1 3/4" high. The plants are set in "dirt" and planted on a handmade Paperclay base.

It's perfect for witches, Harry Potter, a wizard scene or a unique greenhouse! I'm making some others with white spider plants and different flowers, too. And I'm trying a half-scale size.

This planter is now for sale on eBay. Or type in item number in search: 250390451330

March 13, 2009

Read an E-Book Week, Some E-book Ideas

Can't just have you wonder what to read for READ AN E-BOOK WEEK, right?

Most of these books from QUAKE are in traditional print, but they're also available in e-book, at Fictionwise and on the Kindle.

Here're a few suggestions for some good (make that GREAT!) e-books to read.


I love the cover of SURVIVING SERENDIPITY by Jacquelyn Sylvan

Kidnapped, taken to another galaxy, June's duty as princess and sole surviving royal is to use her newly discovered magical abilities to save the planet from impending doom.


Coming this summer, FANG FACE from humor author Norm Cowie is definitely on my to-read list.

Erin's life is changing, like her. She's turning into an Undead. It could be worse... her complexion clears…finally…she can fly - cool! - and a liquid diet can't hurt. She can even freak out her little sister.

Everyone says she's beautiful, but they start calling her names, like Fang Face. Life is great... or isn't it?


In SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT, Sam and Lita, along with a mischievous Dachshund named Petey, face a dog-hating gardener, a crabby housekeeper and an ancient curse as they search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."


In MR. MYSTERIOUS by Alyssa Montgomery, a night of hanging with friends might just turn out to be an amazing night that Cara and Allyson will never forget!

March 12, 2009

You Call That, Uh, Art?

Since my book Searching for A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery involves art, it seems fitting to mention a new exhibit just opened in Paris.

Now, Searching For A Starry Night centers on real art, namely a miniature replica of Vincent Van Gogh's famous painting, "Starry Night."

This new exhibit called "Voids, A Retrospective," supposedly focuses on - nothing. Lots of nothing.

Imagine paying your admission fee, walking into an exhibit, and you find an empty room. Literally. In this case, the exhibit has not one, but nine empty rooms.

Stemming from what's called the "void" movement, these exhibits, music, etc. focus on emptiness. Art critics, of course, wax poetic, one calling it "radical."

In real life, we'd call it stupid.

Okay, I'm no art critic. Nor am I going to pretend to be an intellectual. But I'm not dumb, either. Call it common sense.

It's kind of like that red or black dot, or a splash on a blank canvas being given great psychological meaning. You can read anything into that kind of "art." Look at a van Dyck, a Van Gogh, or a Monet, however, and no double-talk is needed. The beautiful images and brushstrokes of the masters speak volumes.

Now compare that kind of art to this new exhibit. Sure, creativity is good. Contemporary thinking is different, etc. But I think the only thing being emptied are people's wallets.

Or maybe the emperor really doesn't need any clothes. Maybe there is something to it... Tell you what. Give me $10 (or whatever admission the show charges) and I'll show you an empty room, er, a "Void" exhibit that will top any of the others.

** What do you think?

March 11, 2009

Surprise Miniature Gifts

Katie at Katie's Clay Corner sent a great miniature surprise! Besides this fantastic painting she did (one of several artworks she showed on her blog previously), she also sent some other neat things she made.

I love this yummy looking tart!

Katie got the idea to make tarts from another blog, and it looks so great, I think I'll try making some too!

She also made this pretty set of Christmas bags. (Much nicer and fancier than the ones I made before.) She sent the pretty colored bottles, too. Thanks, Katie!

March 10, 2009

Doxie Day w/ Searching For A Starry Night

I went to the dogs Sunday - and was glad I did! (Pictured left: shy Willie preferred the bag to the ground!)

I joined members of the Suburban Chicagoland Dachshund Lovers group for a St. Patrick's "Pawty" in Grayslake, Ill.

I read a portion of Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery and enjoyed meeting all the Dachshunds. (Petey would be jealous!)

Talk about characters! Dogs beat people any time! Here are a few of them:

Sam (whom I dubbed the Ham) is a charming 12-year-old whom his owner adopted at 10. Every time you turned around, this sweet dog was either loafing in his owner's giant tote, or begging.

Dayden (left) was pretty in pink!

Baron (below) looked pretty sporting (and quite the Leprechaun!) in his green bowtie.

March 09, 2009

Miniaturist of the Month: Louise Goldsborough

What could be more Spring-like than flowers - and fairies?

British miniaturist Louise Goldsborough of Angelique Miniatures. makes miniature dolls that make you take a second look. She is also still a collector who's been collecting miniatures since childhood.

"I had my first dollshouse for my third birthday," she says. "My dad made it and I still have it and all the original furniture and occupants."

Her dollhouses are still among her favorite collectibles, and - not surprisingly - so are Fairies.

"I have four dollshouses (including my childhood one), plus quite a large collection of fairy ornaments," she says. "I also have a smaller collection of the larger 16 to 22 inch fashion dolls."

(Pictured: New Fairy Life)

A professional dancer when she was young, Louise began to dress dolls as a hobby, but soon she was hooked! "I swapped my hobby with my profession in March 1988 and never looked back," she says.

(Pictured: Magic Shoes)

She's been making dolls for more than 20 years and has been designing them professionally for seven years.

What keeps her interested? "It's definitely the dressing...the prettier the better," she says. "That's why I love doing the fairy stuff!"

Her work is really a labor of love - and it shows, which is what keeps customers coming back time and again.

(Pictured: Sweet Music)

"It is love," she says. "I feel it is important to reflect this valuable quality in my work as the item that I am making for each individual customer needs to bring them the maximum amount of pleasure. After all, they have chosen me to make their special miniature so I want to get things just so for every customer."

Louise now is getting ready to open a shop at Etsy.

After that, well, she probably has the fairies' blessing!

March 08, 2009

Read an E-Book Week March 8-14

Today is the start of READ AN E-BOOK WEEK, a celebration of reading GREEN.

Why e-books, you ask?

* They're green. It takes 12 trees to produce a ton of paper - and only 5% is recycled, according to environmental notes on the Read an E-Book Week website.

* They take up less space. The Kindle and Sony E-book Reader let you store hundreds of books. Think of the savings in money on textbooks (and less strain on students' backs!)

* Less eye-strain? While not everyone likes to read electronically, you can adjust the text size and font. A bonus for older readers.

* Cost. E-books are cheaper.

Will they replace print books? I doubt it. Books are still something that no one wants to see disappear. But e-books are a good option.

While not everyone likes to read on a computer or other device, I think young readers who grew up with computers think of it as "normal." They're used to reading online and using computers in school. Many writers are used to reading on the computer, also. I know I don't mind reading stories on my computer and think an e-book reader itself would be neat.

Hopefully e-book readers will come down even more in price as popularity increases so that they will appeal to more people and pocketbooks.

** Do you Kindle? Read Searching For A Starry Night on Kindle.

** E-book: Read THE WITCH TREE at Fictionwise - only $1!

All Jimmy Grayson wanted was a place where he could sit on his porch and listen to ball games. What he found was a veritable hell on earth, ruled by a plague so vicious it threatened his very existence. Soon Jimmy is tormented by his own obsession to destroy those that torture him. Where will it all end? [Fast & Freaky Fiction Writing Contest Winner]

March 07, 2009

READ AN E-BOOK WEEK: Free Writing for Kids Ebook

To kick-off READ AN E-BOOK WEEK, here is a free ebook full of writing advice from various authors, including myself, compiled for the Children's Writing Blogfest. Enjoy! (Click link to go to site; have to sign in to save from here.)

Writing for Children Blog Fest eBook

March 06, 2009

Agatha Nominated Short Mysteries

If you enjoy reading short mysteries, then you're in luck! Five of the stories nominated for the 2009 Agatha Awards, can be found online for your reading pleasure.

The awards, named for Agatha Christie, are awarded at the annual Malice Domestic Conference, being held May 1-3 in Arlington, VA.

Here are links to the nominated mysteries:

"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe
(Penguin Group)

"Killing Time" by Jane Cleland, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine - November 2008

"Dangerous Crossing" by Carla Coupe, Chesapeake Crimes 3 (Wildside Press)

"Skull and Cross-Examinations" by Toni L.P. Kelner, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - February 2008

"A Nice Old Guy" by Nancy Pickard, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2008

March 05, 2009

Writing Tip 18 - Grabenstein: Outline

Today's writing tip from Agatha-nominated author Chris Grabenstein involves a valuable research method that every writer has done, or maybe should do.

Writing Tip 18: Outline

"My favorite tip comes from Lawrence Block's TELL LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT, a collection of his essays for Writer's Digest," says Chris Grabenstein, author of WHACK A MOLE and the young adult novel, THE CROSSROADS, a 2009 Agatha Award nominee. "He suggests that you find a book you really like, maybe one like you want to write. Then outline it.

"Don't just read the book (okay, maybe once for fun) - go through it with a yellow legal pad at your side and chart out what the writer is doing in each chapter.

"I remember doing this with a Tess Gerritsen book when I wanted to try to write a thriller. Tess is a master at getting a lot of stuff going at once. And then I discovered the flow that was helping propel her story forward.

"I guess it's the old expression: read like a writer. Analyze the technique, strip the piece down to its blueprint. Once you know the skeleton, you can dress it up with your own fascinating characters and sizzling prose."

** In THE CROSSROADS, Zack, his dad, and new stepmother have just moved back to his father's hometown in Connecticut, not knowing that their new house has a dark history. Fifty years ago, a crazed killer caused an accident at the nearby crossroads that took forty innocent lives. He died when his car hit a tree in a fiery crash, and his malevolent spirit has inhabited the tree ever since. During a huge storm, lightning hits the tree, releasing the spirit, who decides his evil spree isn't over, and Zack is directly in his sights!

** Your Turn: Who is your favorite author that you've studied or learned from when you began writing?

March 04, 2009

New Review - Searching For A Starry Night

Just in, a new review from my friend Tracy at Minis On the Edge, which gives a different perspective, showing the value of reading to your kids as a fun family activity!

Tracy says reading Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, to her two daughters was something they enjoyed doing together.

She says, "each character was well developed and several of the nights I read the story to my girls, they did not fall asleep until I left the room because it was a story that captures and holds your attention (no matter your age)."

I'm glad they all enjoyed it. Thanks, Tracy!

** BUY: Searching For A Starry Night

March 03, 2009

What are you reading - and why?

For fun, I thought I'd ask other authors and readers to share what they are reading. What drew you to a certain book and why? Was it the genre? The cover art? The author? The cover blurb? Share your thoughts on what grabs your attention as a reader.

I tend to gravitate towards books in two genres, mystery and horror. Cover art does draw me, but it's not a final deciding factor. I'll pick a book if I've read the author before, or if the back cover sounds good and the first page grabs me.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I've gotten into the bad habit of reading several books at once. Do you?

I'm now reading:

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, mystery, Joyce and Jim Lavene

Mayhem in Miniature, mystery, Margaret Grace/Camille Minichino

Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

**Your Turn: Share your books and thoughts.

March 01, 2009

Kitty's Fashionable Miniatures

My friend Kitty has outdone herself again.

Her new project is a Ladies store, full of all kinds of wonderful accessories. You know, that "girlie" stuff we all love, especially in miniature.

I love the new shoes she's painted. Then there are boxes, and pretty containers, and... a visual feast! (As someone asked, the shoes are metal/pewter that you paint and are in one-inch scale, measuring less than an inch.)

Many of the items are from Lisa's Little Things. You can see more pix at Kitty's blog.