May 29, 2009

Coming Blog Stop: Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog

On June 24, I'll again be hosting Barb Techel, author of the charming children's picture book, FRANKIE THE WALK 'N ROLL DOG. Be sure to stop by as she shares her Top 10 Reasons Living with a Disabled Dog is a Blessing.

Here is some information on the upcoming tour:

Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog Virtual Book Tour - June 2009

Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog, an Inspiring Story About Overcoming Adversity, Tours Cyberspace

In June Barbara Techel will tour cyberspace to promote her multi-award winning picture book, FRANKIE THE WALK 'N ROLL DOG. The book tells the true story of her dachshund, Frankie, who was paralyzed by an injury. Frankie recovers, thrives, and keeps on rolling with the help of a custom-fitted wheelchair.


The story is told from the point of view of Dachshund Frankie, who survives the normal challenges of puppyhood, including a struggle with house training, after Barbara and John adopt her.

After a spinal injury, her human family nurtures her through a long period of rehabilitation and buys her a custom-fitted wheelchair. It takes a while to adapt to her new wheels, but soon she is joyfully rolling and playing.

Barbara wrote this book to offer hope and inspiration to people who face challenges. A lifelong animal lover, she realized Frankie's paralysis was an opportunity to spread a positive message.

The book's themes include:

* Teaching children and adults about compassion

* Helping readers learn to overcome adversity

* Providing encouragement to children with disabilities and their families

* Helping people see challenges as a way to learn and grow.

* Showing animals with disabilities in a positive light

* Helping dachshund owners (and many vets) understand disc disease in doxies and know that a wheelchair is a viable option

About author Barbara Techel

Barbara is a writer and animal lover. Her column, "For the Love of Animals" has appeared in the Depot Dispatch. Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog, her first children's book, was awarded the 2008 National Best Book Award (children’s picture book soft cover) from USA Book News, the Merial Human-Animal Bond Award from the Dog Writer’s Association of America, and the Editor’s Choice Award from Allbooks Review. It was also a finalist in the 2008 Indie Excellence Awards. Frankie was inducted into the 2009 Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame.

* See the tour schedule

* For more information see Barb's website

* Check out Frankie's news at Barb's blog

* Get the book at:

May 28, 2009

Halloween in Miniature Early!

Remember my little witch I shared earlier? Well, she has company!

I make no claim as to being a great doll dresser, but it is fun to do. For a real kick, check out the amazing miniature Halloween dolls made by other contributors from the Mini Doll List. The costuming and imaginative details are incredible!

The dolls will be displayed at a miniatures museum. I'll share the details as soon as I find out more.

May 26, 2009

Anthony Nominated Short Mystery Stories

The annual Anthony Awards for books, short stories and other mystery categories will be given at the 2009 Bouchercon in Indianapolis in October. Several of the short story winners can be read online, so enjoy. See the Bouchercon site for other category nominees.

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

"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" by Sean Chercover, Hardcore Hardboiled

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

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

"Scratch a Woman" by Laura Lippman, Hardly Knew Her (William Morrow)

"The Secret Lives of Cats" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Ellery Queen
Mystery Magazine - July 2008

May 22, 2009

Duckling Rescue

The story was shared on ABC News and is posted all over, but it's so cute I just had to share it. Guaranteed to make you smile! Aren't they adorable?

May 21, 2009

Writing Tip: Flat vs. Fluffy

Back to adding a new writing tip each week.

The question: Is your writing flat - or fluffy?

The little bear on that Snuggle fabric softener commercial has the right idea - fluffy is better.

How do you get fluffy writing, you ask? Simple.

1. Describe. Give the reader a mental image, but don't overdo it.

It's easy to just write and fill in the blanks, watching your word count pile up, only to end up with serviceable, good sentences that are kind of blah. They're flat on the page.

2. Fluff up your writing by reading authors you like, and even a few you don't like.

Watch other authors' word usage. Remember: a car isn't just a car in fiction - it's a gleaming red hot rod or a burgundy-striped clunker. Flat: car. Fluffy: color and type.

I started thinking about fluffy writing as I'm reading one of Elaine Viets' latest in the Dead End Jobs series, CLUBBED TO DEATH. No criticism meant; I love her books. (Elaine, I mean fluffy as a compliment. Her book was the one at hand at the moment. Any examples of hers are in quotes.)

I'm enjoying the story, but when I read I always take note of the writing, too, in this case, the descriptions. Example: hair isn't just hair: it's "long, chestnut hair."

3. Another example: give a mental image of the person - Flat: He strolled. Fluffy: "...had a bulldog walk..."

When you're writing, it's sometimes easy to forget this and rely on those tired old favorites. (Mine is walked, and sometimes nodded.)

4. Use a fine-tooth comb.

As a few other writers have mentioned, it's a good idea to go back and do a search in Word for your favorite over-used phrase or word. See how many times you used it, then think up a few fluffy new examples. Your writing will only be the better for it.

* Your Turn: Ok, writers admit it: What's your tired old favorite word or phrase?

May 19, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Revisions

Reading a recent post on first drafts by author LJ Sellers had me glad that I was on the right track, at least in some ways.

Writing is individual, of course, and everyone has their own method. Stories or books, I tend to do the same thing. I admit it; I'm an outliner.

1. Outline

Yes, not everyone's cup of tea. But once the idea comes, I like to write it out. I put down all the main events and can fill in the rest as I write. For a book, I outline chapter by chapter so I know where to go next. Things do change as you write, and things are added or deleted as needed.

2. Make a Plot Chart

I outline keeping a chart in mind that another writer had told me about - Make a chart of 5 boxes across with 5 rows. Keep turning points in mind for the 5th box (chapter 5), the 10th and especially the 15th. Initially I use the box method, then I write out the action and plot points per chapter and print it out.

3. Revise later

One thing I can't seem to do. A bad habit - I tend to go back and go over things. This is a rewrite, of sorts. I catch mistakes, change things, but it can halt your progress, too. A better idea: reread the last few graphs to get you back in the story and continue.

Resist rereading and revising until the end of the next chapter. (Even better, don't reread until you write The End if you are that disciplined. I confess, I'm not.)

4. Get Organized

LJ offers a good suggestion about making a character database. Good idea. I have things written in my outline and have them in mind since I'm still working on the book. Bad idea to trust my faulty memory. I'll have to work on this once the book is done since I won't recall everything later. A character chart will help in keeping everything straight for future stories.

5. Keep the flow going

It can be hard to pick up where you left off when you are writing a few days, then stopping and going back (hence the rereading habit). The outline helps keep me on track and writing even a few hundred words keeps me going. (Better than zero words).

What usually works better is to make a writing goal of a certain amount of words per day. Relocating to another area, like the library or coffee shop might help. A schedule change can help spur a better word count since time then has to be used more productively. Of course, some days it doesn't work. Sometimes writing out of sequence - getting parts down for a future chapter can help. You can always flesh it out later. And yes, sometimes it's best just to go write something else for awhile.

** Share your writing style. How do you keep focused? Do you outline? How do you keep going on a book or story?

May 18, 2009

Miniature Little Witch Girl

Thought I'd share a miniature doll I recently dressed that will be used, along with several other dolls, in a Halloween exhibit at a miniatures museum. Details to be shared later.

I saved these little dollar store dolls as I liked the simple faces and thought they'd be fun to re-dress. (And yes, aren't the outfits horrid?)

My miniature witch is dressed in black silk with black silk shoes. She has part of a beaded ribbon on the top of her dress and black net for stockings. This net also had some glitter sparkles in it. The black silk was a neat piece from a old women's bodice that had pin tucks in it so I kept the lines in for a design.

The silk hat was made from a witch hat pattern and tutorial by miniature doll maker Gina Bellous.

There is also a pattern for a witch hat at

May 15, 2009

Upcoming Searching For A Starry Night Events

I've got some fun things coming up in connection with Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery.

* May 18: Beginning this week, Teacher Cara Gorr's 4th grade class at Nash Elementary, Kenosha, WI, will be reading Searching For A Starry Night as a class project. The students even made a wall mural and their own miniature Starry Night paintings! I'll pop in a few times to share my minis and join their discussions.

I'll share pix here at the blog.

* June 6, Printer's Row Lit Fest, Chicago; Come say hi at the Quake - Echelon Press tent!

* June - Date TBD. Book discussion and signing, Girl Scouts, Camp Alice Chester, E. Troy, WI.

* June 25: Schaumburg, Ill. Township Library, book discussion and kid's craft, Make a Dream Room. Kids working in miniature!

If you're in the area, please stop by and say hello!

May 14, 2009

Books and Reading Lists

I've been a big reader since I was a kid, the family "joke" being that the house could explode and I'd have my nose in a book.

Like other readers (and writers) I have a l-o-o-o-ng to-be-read list. I have several books going - one in my purse, three on the nightstand, and book piles everywhere. Then there's my own book in the writing process. So, I thought I'd share a few books I'm reading and have finished.

Books I've recently finished include:

Echoes - Danielle Steel
Susannah's Garden - Debbie Macomber

Books I'm reading now:

Dyer Consequences - Maggie Sefton
The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson
Mayhem in Miniature - Margaret Grace
Doomed Queens - Kris Waldherr

I'll share some reviews when I finish.

** Share some of your favorite or current reads. What's in your to-be-read pile?

May 13, 2009

New Miniature Finds and Surprises

Katie at Katie's Clay Corner sent me this cute pair of little bags. Thanks, Katie, a nice surprise (and now I'm even further behind on getting a swap back to you. haa! Well, things are being made, then I finish something else and try to get writing done and a story and...)

Haven't been blogging as much since I'm trying to keep the ideas focused on the book I'm trying to finish. It's coming along, though not as fast as I'd like. I won't even say when I started this!

Thought I'd share a miniature find. Found this neat cabinet at a garage sale. It has acrylic panes and lifts off to hold a plant, but gee, why would I use it for that? I'll add a floor and put in some half-scale furniture. Thought it'd be nice to do a matching yellow/green scheme. Yeah, add it to the list of someday projects. (The list is getting longer.)

** Make me feel better. Share a few of your someday projects.

May 11, 2009

Summery Miniature Dolls

Since summer is around the corner here in the Midwest, I thought it wasn't too early to share a couple of summer-inspired dolls I've dressed.

The first, my flamingo lady, was made as part of the "Fanny" doll contest and project at the Mini Doll List. (You can see more of the dolls at the website.)

There was a free tutorial to make the flamingos. I made mine from Model Magic Clay which I painted and clear-coated. I had the idea of dressing the doll as a retiree out spending a day shopping. The doll is the Maisy mold from Cynthia Howe dolls, I believe, and was originally painted by Dana of Miniature Art.

I gaudied up some of the doll's face and added more color as I wanted her to be a little more flamboyant to match her summery outfit, made from part of the provided dress pattern. I designed the jacket and capris, and made her sandals.

The half-scale mermaid was made and painted by Bonnie Glasier. This was the first half-scale doll I did. Yes, she is so tiny! (Only about 3 inches tall!)

It was fun figuring out how to dress her. I gave her to my sister as a gift last year. You can see some of Bonnie's miniature dolls and her doll kits for sale at her Webshots site.

** See more of the miniature dolls I made at my miniature dolls page at my website.

May 08, 2009

Meet Patty Clark and her babies - Happy Mother's Day!

Move over Octo-Mom. Doll artist Patty Clark is a mother many, many more times over - and she couldn't be happier.

Patty's babies may not technically be real, but anyone catching a glimpse of her original miniature doll sculpts can't resist the urge to reach out and cuddle one.

Patty has been sculpting her one-inch scale dollhouse babies and toddlers for almost five years now. She's made at least a few hundred dolls already and hopes to keep producing even more babies for years to come.

"Sculpting a baby and then dressing them is a thrill," she says. "I still love everything about it! It is so much fun to have the finished baby in my hand and seeing a tiny little face looking back at me."

Children of the Heart

Who can resist any of these chubby-cheeked little wonders? (Pictured: Baby Elodie)

The dolls come in standard dollhouse size (1 inch = 1 foot) and are hand-sculpted of polymer clay. They sell for around $265 and up.

She also sells occasionally on eBay under the name czechrosette or on her website,

Patty has since progressed to adding cute little toddlers to her line (1 3/4" to 2 3/4" tall) and has achieved artisan status with the International Guild of Miniature Artisans (IGMA).

For her, the best part is coming up with new ideas. She loves sculpting and continually works at improving her skills.

"There are still some challenges and still so much to learn with this art medium," Patty says. "I discovered over the last year that I am having so much success with 'series' baking. I always start with the head first when I am starting a new sculpt. I spend up to two hours on that alone.

"After the first bake I will add a touch more clay to the cheeks, bridge of the nose, and then build the forehead up. It is amazing to see the transformation after the second bake. At that point I can see if I have a baby girl or boy and proceed from there."

New Challenges

Patty is not one to rest on her past success, however. She likes to be challenged and has begun making more of her own clay props such as baby carriers, toys and bottles - and, not that she needs to - she just keeps improving.

She next wants to continue working her way up the age scale. "I am looking forward to trying my hand at children that are the age of five or six now that I have become comfortable with making the toddlers," she says.

(Pictured: Toddler Gracie)

Another change she's had good results with is posing her dolls to look like they are interacting with each other.

"I recently made two toddlers that looked like they were discovering something together," she explains. "The customer that bought them is thrilled to have them join her other toddlers and babies in her nursery. I have had a couple of customers decide that their dollhouse was for babies and children only after purchasing a couple of my dolls. It is very sweet when a customer falls in love with my dolls as much as I love them! It makes me want to sculpt even more."

Of course with all these motherless children around, Patty has been asked if she intends on sculpting a mother doll. She is considering it, although she admits it is a bit daunting.

"I have had a couple customers ask me when I will try to make a mother for some of the babies which made me realize I need to attempt to make an adult," Patty says. "It's so easy to get settled into a little corner doing what you feel comfortable making. This will be so good to step out of the box and experiment more! This will be a goal for me this year."

Favorite Faces

While Patty loves all her children, she admits that a recent favorite was her new pair, Martin and Daisy, along with her newest little baby, Mia.

"I loved how both of them looked so good together and I also loved the little outfits that I made for them," she notes.

"Everything just seemed to work so well with both of them. They were sporting new hairstyles and I finally made pairs of pants that fit well! That was great fun having them turn out the way I pictured them in my mind.

(Pictured: Baby Mia)

"Another one of my favorites is my most recent baby, Mia. I loved how she turned out and her little outfit. I also experimented for the second time making a carrier and was very happy with the outcome."

Even more fun was the cute little Trick-or-Treater dressed as a bumblebee that Patty made for a Halloween-themed miniatures museum exhibit being organized by Tammy Shoup, a member of the Mini Doll List. (Details to come.)

Talk about realism... Patty laughs and says, "one of my neighbors wanted me to email a picture to her. Along with that I emailed pictures of my cousin's babies for her to share with her husband. When he was looking at the letter, he thought my Bumblebee was one of my nephew's kids! Of course, his wife corrected him!"

* Visit IGMA Artisan Patty Clark's nursery to see more of her babies and children.

(c) 2009 C. Verstraete

May 07, 2009

Dancing with the Stars RIP OFF!

Boy the shocker on Tuesday's Dancing with the Stars voting show had to be about as bad, if not worse, as when Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan was voted off.

I'm not a rap fan, but Lil' Kim is a cutie, fun to watch dance and was great on the dance floor. I thought she was definitely a top contender, if not the winner. I love this show but this was a real travesty, that's almost made me lose interest. I'm not sure I'll watch the finale.

No offense to Ty Murray, who seems like a nice, charming guy. He has improved and is trying his best, but he should stick to dancing with his wife. I bet all his cowboy, bullriding friends kept racking up the votes just to keep him on the show. Sorry, Ty. In this case, nice guys (should) finish last.

May 06, 2009

Working for a Living

Katie at Katie's Clay Corner challenged readers to blog about the various jobs they've held. She mentioned three. Well I surely can beat that. ha!

Since I wasn't born with a silver spoon, I began working at a young age for extra money. I babysat for years when I was younger. I was around 15 when I got my first "real" job. Since I grew up in Chicago, it was easy to take the bus or walk almost anywhere to go to work. This job required only a five-minute walk down the alley where I worked for a small caterer. I don't remember much about the job other than having to decorate pretty little sandwiches.

Other high-school jobs included working at a dry cleaners (creepy boss, creepy phone calls); Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips (loved the fish, but, ugh, your hair and clothes smelled from all the frying!); and Dairy Queen (can't beat ice cream!). Oh, there was the factory job too where you all you did was load plastic forms in the machine, pull down he handle and vacuum seal bicycle repair parts in plastic. Bo-ring! I also typed letters for an insurance agent, played gopher and typist to some self-indulgent pr execs, and did other office work.

Later I began waitressing, went to college, waitressed again, did some other freelance jobs, and then got into newspaper work. Then it was back to waitressing and freelancing (hmm, there's a pattern here. ha!) Next was fiction writing and authoring, plus other freelance work.

That's not every job, of course, but most of them. Needless to say, I have a lot of eclectic skills from office work to web building and various writing including pr, fiction and nonfiction. Btw, I'm always open to freelance work, so feel free to contact me!

** Your turn: Share some of the jobs you've had. What were some of the worst and best?

May 05, 2009

Happy Cinco De Mayo, miniature Mexican room

Cinco de Mayo (The Fifth of May) marks Mexico's victory over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

To celebrate, I'm sharing my Mexican-Southwest Corner. The small room is made of foam core board covered with lighweight Spackle that was painted yellow. The floor is matboard with strips cut out to resemble tiles.

The majority of decorative items came from other miniaturists in a group swap. I made the chair from a punch-out furniture kit. I made the sideboard from wood pieces and painted it with acrylics. This was a fun project and being small, a good way to get something done (though I swear even the smaller projects take as much time to do because of the detail.)

I love the bright colors used in Mexican decorating and eventually would like to make a Mexican-styled room or a cantina.

I think one of the most fantastic structures I've ever seen is the half scale cantina by miniaturist Bill Lankford. The detail is incredible.

I am going to try to see if anyone has a finished interior to share and if so, I'll see if I can post some photos and details here soon.

May 04, 2009

Congrats to the 2008 Agatha Award winners!

The Malice Domestic mystery conference is but a memory to those who attended this past weekend - and an even better memory to this year's Agatha Award winners. Named for mystery writer Agatha Christie, the Agatha Awards celebrate traditional mystery books and stories reminiscent of her style.

Published works eligible to receive an Agatha Award are defined as mysteries that don't contain explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence; usually have an amateur detective; take place in a confined setting; and have characters who know one another. The books are generally more "cozy" and may feature police or private detectives, but cannot be classified as "hard-boiled."

The 2008 winners of the Agatha Award are:

Best Children’s/Young Adult
“The Crossroads,” by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Best Non-Fiction
“How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries,” by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)

Best First Novel
“Death of a Cozy Writer, by G.M. Malliet(Midnight Ink)

Best Novel
“The Cruelest Month” by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s Press)

Best Short Story
“The Night Things Changed,” by Dana Cameron (Penguin Group)

See the Malice Domestic site for the full list of winners.

May 03, 2009

Margaret Mitchell Awarded Pulitzer Prize

Today in 1937, author Margaret Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for her sweeping saga of the south, Gone With the Wind, published in June 1936.

One of my favorite movies starring Clark Gable and Vivienn Leigh. They were Rhett and Scarlett!

** Check out Tara, Scarlett's plantation - in miniature! Gone with The Wind dollhouse

* Have a favorite scene (or most hated scene) from Gone With the Wind?