June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson

What a shock to hear that Michael Jackson died.

Sure he was eccentric and had other problems, but no one can deny the sheer talent he had.

While many consider "Off the Wall" as the best album ever, who can resist the monster dance in "Thriller"?

For fun, I thought I'd share some dollhouse printies I made from our albums. Even dollhouses need MJ albums right? (click to get full image; right click to save. Personal use only.) Print on heavy card stock and spray with a light gloss.

June 29, 2009

Kids Create a Miniature Room at the Library

It was fun seeing kids get creative in the class I led Saturday called "Create Your Dream Room in Miniature" at the Schaumburg Township Library in Schaumburg, Ill. (This is one amazing library; check the enchanted forest page. I'll put up my own pix later.)

The miniature room was made in a standard size gift bag and used half scale furniture from the wooden Creatology dollhouse furniture puzzle found at Michael's Arts and Crafts.

We used scrapbook papers for the back wall and floor (or they could use a "wood" print paper.) They painted the two inner side walls. The best part was seeing what the kids came up with. Each student also received a signed copy of Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery.

Maddy mixed her own colors to create an original floor and wall to accent her avant-garde furnishings. Hey doesn't everyone have a lawn chair in their bathroom to lounge in?

Caitlyn was a future Picasso as she chose to make her own version of modern art, forgoing the standard room setting for a furnished ceiling.

Sarah took the traditional design approach and made a colorful setting that looks ready to move into. She even painted her own window and curtains!

Michael did a great job, as well, making a comfy looking room and bed. He even added his own original painting!

I loved the bright color combinations Claire used to accent the confetti-print paper she chose. I can't wait to see how she finishes it.

Here's the room I did and used for a sample.

The kids did an amazing job and seemed to enjoy it. They have enough furniture to do several rooms, so maybe we'll have some future miniaturists!

The library agreed to display the kids' finished works, so I'm hoping to get more photos when they are brought in.

June 24, 2009

Living with a Disabled Dog: Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog Blog Tour

Today, I welcome back author Barbara Techel, who is coming by as part of a multi-stop blog tour for FRANKIE, THE WALK 'N ROLL DOG, a charming book that gives children a glimpse at some of the challenges Frankie and her "mom" Barbara faced when the miniature Dachshund ruptured a disc in her back.

After a fall, Frankie had a 30 percent chance of walking again, but she ultimately lost all feeling in her back legs. By sharing the story of how Frankie continues to "roll on" with her own doggie wheelchair, Barbara wanted to inspire young (and older) readers alike to have hope and find courage in facing their own difficulties.

(Pictured: Frankie wearing her medal after her induction into the Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame)

With brightly colored illustrations by Wisconsin artist Victoria Kay Lieffring, the book tells about Frankie's life before and after the accident.

While many editors and publishers might want to shy away from talking animal books, who better to tell Frankie's story than Frankie herself? (with, as Barb says, some help from her "human mom.") This approach helps the reader relate to Frankie's story and gives the book a more personal touch. Children, especially, can feel empathy for the real Frankie via her story and learn compassion for the disabled. The illustrations are simple, but serve as a backdrop for the wonderful, big-eyed images of Frankie whose motto is "be positive, and keep on rolling!"

Sure, there are difficulties taking care of a paralyzed dog that many dog owners may not be able to deal with, but Barbara says that living with a disabled dog does have its own blessings.

Top 10 Reasons Why Living with a Disabled Dog Is a Blessing - By Barbara Techel

1. Living with a disabled dog like Frankie helps me appreciate every moment of every day.

2. Living with a disabled dog has given me a new appreciation for patience.

3. Living with a disabled dog makes me smile watching Frankie’s perseverance, and helps me realize I can do anything I set my mind to do.

4. Living with a disabled dog means no cleaning up doggie do-do in the yard. Because Frankie is partially paralyzed I express her bladder and bowels for her, and I do it right on the toilet. :)

5. Living with a disabled dog has connected me with some of the kindest and most compassionate people.

6. Living with a disabled dog is an honor. Being with Frankie and watching her thrive despite her challenges makes me appreciate all the beauty of life that surrounds us each day.

7. Living with a disabled dog reminds me that challenges can get me down, or they can uplift me and help me grow.

8. Living with a disabled dog has taught me to be grateful no matter what.

9. Living with a disabled dog makes me smile every morning when I wake, and eager to start the day.

10. Living with a disabled dog has blessed my life beyond anything I could have ever imagined. My life has been enriched ten-fold because of Frankie, and I thank God for my little dog with tires each and every night before I go to sleep.

** See other stops on the Frankie Walk 'N Roll blog tour.

More information:

* NEW! Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Activity Workbook

* Frankie's blog

* Frankie at Facebook

* Twitter/walknrolldog

June 23, 2009

Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully by Julianne Moore

It's humor to the rescue as Freckleface Strawberry faces a bully called Windy Pants Patrick.

Acclaimed actress, four-time Academy Award nominee, and picture book author JULIANNE MOORE again teams up with bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham for their new children's book, FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY AND THE DODGEBALL BULLY.

This time, their loveable seven-year-old character encounters a bully during a game of dodgeball. Now Freckleface and her friends must figure out how to stand up to the playground bully who faces them down with the dreaded dodgeball in his hands!

Ms. Moore’s humor and heart made her debut picture book, FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY, a charming story inspired by her own childhood experience, a favorite with young readers and critics.

The story's title stems from her own childhood nickname, which she says she disliked as much as her red hair and freckles. “As a child, my hatred of my freckles was only matched by my love of reading,” says the author, who now tolerates her distinctly beautiful coloring and found amusement in telling her own kids about her childhood nickname.

** See the video of Julianne Moore talking about being a writer.

Julianne Moore is the U. S. Ambassador for Save the Children, working with children and families in rural areas, focusing on literacy and early childhood education. She successfully launched the Save the Children Valentine program in 2008 where children’s book illustrators donated art work for cards, with the proceeds benefiting poverty in the United States.

She is also a member of Reach Out and Read, a children’s literacy organization dedicated to educating parents on the importance of reading to their children.

An acclaimed actress, she has appeared in such movies as The Hours, Far from Heaven, The End of the Affair, and Boogie Nights. She now lives with her husband and children in New York City.

* Don't forget to check out the next stop on the blog tour:
Wednesday, June 24 – Chelle Cordero

* Buy Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully by Julianne Moore at Amazon.com.

* For complete tour information and schedule, visit the tour home page.

** See other videos of Julianne Moore here.

June 22, 2009

The Latest Flea Market Miniature Finds

I struck miniature gold this weekend at the outdoor flea market. The flea market, which just opened this year, is held on Sundays in the parking lot of the local ski mountain. This weekend it was held Saturday also as part of the first local festival.

We usually get there about 7 a.m. when it opens and walk around the aisles. You never know what you'll find, but I wasn't thinking I'd have much luck this time. Not sure why. So, imagine my surprise when I came upon a table in the back row at the far end and found this clock case scene.

I tried not to drool! A miniaturist I knew years ago had made one of these in a club meeting, so I'm not sure if it's manufactured or not. But the case is nice solid wood, has slots for the glass front and sides, and is 12" h to top outside; 11" w and 3" d. The top has one of those brass/gold lion head drawer pulls on it. The front has a bronze plaque that says Victorian Foyer, Skoog 1979.

The inside back wall lifts out. (It's just matboard covered with green cloth with a piece of baseboard glued on. Neat as I can make a couple other replacement walls and change them with the seasons if I want! Cool!)

All the furnishings were included: two Chrysonbon chairs with pairs of gloves on each, a top hat, cane, table with flower centerpiece and a pewter bowl. There is also a hand-colored rug. (Prettipoint? I forgot the name; I had some of these years ago, you colored them in with markers. Anyone know?)

There are two small fluorescent lights on the inside top lid. Well, someone did a lousy wiring job as the copper tape was put on the outside back. So the electrician (hubby) already took a look. Makes more sense since the wall is removable to tape on the inside back wall, drill a hole, come out the bottom and put the plug there. It came with a small transformer, too. Not that I'm complaining.

Now the best part. I tried not to look shocked when the lady said the price and believe me, I grabbed it and ran. I would've been willing to pay much more. All she said was she wanted it out of the house. (Not a miniatures lover?)

So take a guess how much?

My other find was this tall case with acrylic on the front and sides. It's 14" h and 5 1/2" w. It has acrylic shelves inside and mirror in the back. A bottom drawer is missing but no big deal. I can add a piece of matboard or wood.

It's not really a jewelry box, but I figured it's a good holding place to show minis until they find a room. (Otherwise they're in boxes. What good is that, right?)

As slow as I get rooms done these days, it makes more sense to have cases. I have a shadowbox with food from swaps on the wall and a mirror-backed glass case with three shelves holding most of my mini food swaps. I'll share a pic of that later. It looks neat seeing it all in one place.

And guess how much here, too?

Should I be mean and let you wait until tomorrow?

Thinking. Hmm....

The more amazing price is for the top wood clock case. I'm ecstatic about that one as I always thought they were neat projects. (Ok stalling...)

(Aww, shut up already...) ha!

Do you give up? It's like The Price Is Right! (Except, sorry, I'm not giving them away as prizes.) So if you guessed $1 each you were right! Isn't that absolutely unbelievably incredible???

June 19, 2009

Meeting Young Readers at Girl Scout Camp

I had another great meeting with young readers yesterday when I met with a group of Girl Scouts at Camp Alice Chester in E. Troy, Wisconsin.

I first met with girls at the camp last year and was thrilled to be asked back again. The girls, ages 9-11, all enthusiastic readers and a few budding writers, had good questions and insights about mysteries, too.

After talking about writing and publishing, I passed around samples of my miniatures for them to see, like the miniature Starry Night painting and some miniature dollhouse food.

This time I tried something different by reading a short story featuring my characters Sam and Lita from Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery and had them guess the solution. I also had the chance to sign several books. A fun meeting and I hope to hear some of the girl's opinions and thoughts after they read the book.

June 18, 2009

I Give In - Follow Me!

Ok, I admit that this thing has tempted me. All those eyes keep looking at me. So, I give in. I've added the Followers gadget, so please follow me and I'll try to follow you!

June 16, 2009

Words per Day? and Celebrity Revealed!

As I'm working on finishing my adult mystery and rereading/editing a set of mystery short stories I finally want to submit, it got me wondering how others do it. It's hard switching gears and finding enough time in a day to do both.

Realistically I know if I did at least 2,500 words a day (about 10 pages) a week, I could finish the over 20,000 words I need yet in less than three weeks. Well... it never seems to work out that way, right? Somehow, guess I'll keep plugging. (Today it's near 1,000 words but I'm not done yet.)

Maybe I should be a midnight writer. ha! A few of us at the gym joked about us all getting up in the middle of the night, combined with the couple trips to the bathroom. Maybe on those prolonged can't-get-back-to-sleep sessions, I should write instead of read. (and I did consider plugging in the laptop tho I hate turning into a zombie later. ha!)

So, I'm curious and am asking other writers: what do you do? How many words a day? Do you write all day? Get up at night? Please share!

** Answer to Monday's Celebrity Quiz:

I shared the photos of two miniature dolls in Monday's post and asked people to guess their identities.

Philippa guessed the identities right off - Kevin Costner, and I thought the second doll looked like singer Susan Boyle. So Philippa, if you're a miniatures collector, contact me, or I'll try to find your email to send you a little something!

June 15, 2009

Miniatures Monday: Name that Celebrity!

The enjoyable part of making miniature dolls is that there are molds available of famous personalities, or those who look like them. Or sometimes talented sculptors will sculpt their own original versions of famous (or infamous) persons.

For fun, I thought I'd showcase a couple of new dolls today, but let you guess what famous persons they may look like.

The first porcelain doll was hand-sculpted by doll artist Diane Pietrocola, who makes dolls under the name Doll Art by Diane.

The porcelain figure (in standard 1/12th scale, 1" =1 foot) is actually fashioned after a well-known male actor. I won't give his name as that'll give it away, so I'll let you guess who you think he looks like.

The second doll was a special commission made by artist Gina Gagnon of Lone Wolf Miniatures. Gina does a great job creating dolls that look real and have "personality."

The female doll you see was designed in the role as pictured, but the minute I saw her face, I noticed the resemblance to a recent person in the news. Don't let the outfit fool you.

* Feel free to share your guesses. I'll share the answer in tomorrow's post.

June 11, 2009

Searching For A Starry Night 4th Grade Visit 2

A few notes from my visit today to Nash Elementary School in Kenosha, WI. (Pictured: Teacher Cara Gorr reads Searching For A Starry Night to the class.)

The kids and 4th grade teacher Cara Gorr finished reading Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery in class.

Fun to see whom they picked as the thief of the miniature painting, a replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night." (It was about half and half favoring the housekeeper and the gardener!)

Today, I signed copies of the book for students and shared my miniature Candy Box Room which they thought was "sweet!" (Sorry, I couldn't resist. ha!)

(Pictured: Blackboard image)

I also asked the kids to name their favorite parts of the book. A couple replies:

"When Petey ran to get the key from Mr. Jensen, I imagined it. It looked funny." - Josh.

"When Petey ran away with the keys at Mr. Jensen's house cuz my dog alwasy runs away with stuff." - Kaitlyn.

** Next, I'll share some interesting lessons and how the kids answered the class questions. I even learned a few things and new ways to look at things, too!

June 08, 2009

Printer's Row Book Fair

Thought I'd share a few pix from the Printer's Row Lit Fest Book Fair in Chicago.

I went on Saturday and sold some copies of Searching For A Starry Night in the Echelon Press tent. Despite the terrible weather (blowy and chilly, this is June?), it was a great event and fun seeing everyone again.

I grew up in Chicago, but the Chicago skyline never fails to impress. This view is coming south on the expressway.

It's always at least 10 degrees cooler by the lake. Considering that I don't think it even reached 60 degrees Saturday it was a little nippy, but that didn't stop book lovers from coming out. The crowds were pretty steady.

Echelon Publisher Karen Syed shares her opinion. (lol!)

Other "Characters"

Some of the other "characters," er, authors at Echelon/Quake:

Norm Cowie introduced brand new, freshly published copies of his new ya humorous vampire novel, FANG FACE, (due out in September).

I agreed to take a photo with him only after he retracted his fangs. Yes he is tall (and yes everyone is taller than me anyway).

Norm talks to a woman about his books, while Tim Broderick, author of the graphic novel, CASH & CARRY, does a credible imitation of explorer Stanley Livingstone.

Mary Welk, author of the Caroline Rhodes' mystery series, including A MERRY LITTLE MURDER.

June 05, 2009

Happy Me, Happy You Tag

Rachel at Miniatures by Rachel (check out her cool handmade food and spring earrings!) tagged me with the Happy Tag. Fun, as these seemed to have stopped for a while.

How it works:

1. Name and link back to the person who tagged you.
2.List 6 unimportant things that make you happy. (Well they're not really unimportant, right?)

Six things that make me happy in no particular order are:

1) Watching a funny movie.

2) Doing something creative that turns out like I wanted.

3) Writing a good passage.

4) Reading a story that I hate to put down.

5) Beautiful flowers or a garden

6) A good joke. We all need a good laugh now and then.

I tag:
Christina Rodriguez
Katie at Katie's Clay Corner
Clea Simon
Kat the Hat lady
Marsha at Sassy Mini Dolls
Katie Hines

** Feel free to share your happy items even if you haven't been tagged. We all could use more happiness!

June 04, 2009

Searching For A Starry Night Goes to the 4th Grade!

Cara Gorr, the 4th grade teacher at Nash Elementary School in Kenosha, WI, graciously chose Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery for a three-week reading project in her class.

Mrs. Gorr and her students have been reading one to two chapters each day for their reading time. They also discuss what they've read and do writing exercises designed to meet certain educational requirements such as making connections with what they're reading, comprehension, visualization, etc.

(Mrs. Gorr holds up a hook fashioned by a blacksmith at Old World Wisconsin.)

It was interesting to see how a word or topic led to other topics. So, Grandpa Sylvester's letter and inventory list (in the book) dug up by Petey led to a past discussion on jobs unchanged by the Industrial Revolution (horseshoes still being made by hand) and the modern name, a ferrier.

I stopped in to say hello to the class last week (as a visitor) and went for a full visit yesterday. Mrs. Gorr had wanted to surprise the kids so we kept my identity as the author secret until yesterday's visit. What fun! As the majority of kids had never met an author before, many were surprised at our surprise.

The fun was hearing the kids' questions about the book and about being a writer. They had some great questions, such as:

* Were Sam and Lita (my Searching For A Starry Night characters) real (and based on anyone real?) (That led to a few comments on inspiration, using real people as characters, and the possibility of being sued.)

* What inspired the story? Why was Mrs. Drake (the housekeeper and an important character) so mean?

* Did I have a dog like Petey? What kind of car I had? How much money I made? (Which led to a few comments on talking about royalties, advances, and how most writers are not rich unless they are ultra-famous and sold many books like Stephen King or get a big break, like Charlaine Harris's vampire mysteries being filmed and airing on HBO as the True Blood series. And I mentioned, many (most?) writers do have other jobs.)

It was a fun 1 1/2 hour visit. They enjoyed seeing part of my collection of dollhouse miniatures (fast food this time), but the miniature Starry Night painting (just like in the book) was a big hit. Seeing is believing, and they were amazed at the detail in such a small painting. I also read a short you-solve-it mystery featuring my characters, Sam and Lita, and gave them a word search puzzle with words from the book (I'll be putting it up soon at my website.)

Next week, the kids will finish reading the book, so it'll be interesting to see what they think, and if they solve the mystery of who stole the miniature Starry Night painting!

I'll share some of their writing and some of their art in coming posts. (They made their own small versions of Van Gogh's Starry Night in class, which were very creative!)

June 03, 2009

A Thank You for Great Miniatures!

I wanted to share the amazing broom and witch hat made by Kat at Kat the Hat Lady's blog.

I swapped her some Halloween food for the Halloween broom set. My miniature witches will be fighting over who gets to wear it!

Guess I'll have to design a matching color dress! Funny as I was thinking only of traditional Halloween colors, so this will be an interesting challenge to think of mixing pastels in. The detail is wonderful, better than the photos. Thanks, Kat!

June 02, 2009

The Dream Child, Short Fiction from Dragons Composed

Today, I'm sharing an excerpt from my story, "The Dream Child," included in the recently published anthology, DRAGONS COMPOSED, from Kerlak Publishing.

Excerpt, "The Dream Child"
By C. A. Verstraete

"Margriet, you have to do something with the boy." Lionus Van Der Straete slugged down the rest of his ale and belched. "Another cup, woman, and a hunk of that bread."

A feeling of dread hit Margriet as she grabbed the pitcher of ale and walked across the room to the table. "Yes, yes, I will talk to him again." She filled the mug and sighed, wishing the answer on how to control her youngest was as easy as sidestepping her husband's groping fingers. Something she should have done six children ago, she thought.

The youngest boy, Bernardus, had come out of her womb nine years hence screaming, with a full head of hair, fists flailing. "Ach, a lively one he'll be," the midwife had remarked.

Margriet had cursed the woman and her prediction ever since.

The knife made a pleasant thunk against the wooden board as she cut a chunk of bread, making her think of things that she'd be too ashamed to tell the Father at this week's confession. She dropped the bread on the man's wooden trencher and went back to kneading the few coarse leftover grains and flour to make a new loaf.

His meal done, the man rose and gave her a pointed look as he fastened the heavy cloak about his shoulders. "Talk to the boy or I will."

She nodded and watched her husband pick up his tools and head to the market square in hopes of being chosen for a day's labor. She hoped he'd get something to ease his surliness, and their worries. They needed the coin to supplement the few pennies she earned from sewing lace under the dim light of a candle late into the night.

Her fists pounded the dough, the force of her motions putting healthy dents in the moistened mass. Her mind raced as she wondered how to get the thickheaded boy to see reason, to make him stop his foolish storytelling.

She partly blamed herself.

She would never have let him hear all those fanciful tales of dragons, soothsayers and the like as a little one if she'd known how much he'd take them to heart.

Margriet mulled over her brood as she placed the raw loaf into a cloth-covered bowl and set it inside the still warm stone oven to rise. She had nothing but praise for her more sensible older children. The eldest, Alexander, though quiet, had outgrown his moodiness and was courting the cobbler's daughter; a good match.

She said a silent prayer, thanking God for her four daughters, especially Maria and Constancia, who at thirteen and twelve were well-versed in cooking and cleaning, helping make the endless chores a little easier. They were good examples to the two younger girls. She regretted the coming day when they would leave her hearth for families of their own.

One of the problems, she knew, was as the last to be born, Bernardus was too many years removed from his older brother, and the younger girls had no patience for his dirty fingers grabbing their few playthings.

Left on his own, he often found troublesome ways to amuse himself. The boy was lucky not to have been jailed after he set fire to a neighbor's barn the year before. Margriet had barely been able to contain her husband's rage when the boy insisted he was only trying to burn the dross from the hay so it would turn to gold.

"Alchemy?" Lionus had yelled, grabbing a sturdy switch off the tree outside their door. "The boy has crazy ideas instead of doing his chores? I'll give him something to dream about!"

Margriet had long feared the boy was soft, that he'd been injured coming out of the birth canal. When he began coming home bloodied and bruised, his sisters crying that he was ruining their future chances for being wed, she knew he had to be kept even closer to her apron.

But more worrisome were the boy's increasingly elaborate tales.

She tried to keep this from his father, fearing fatal harm to the child, but she wasn't sure how long she could keep it secret. Even his sisters began calling him het droom kind, the dream child, harkening to the bedtime story she'd told them about a child saving the village from a dragon. She remembered her own mother reciting the tale to her while she learned to sew and make lace as a little girl. Her own children had enjoyed the story, too, but they had outgrown it. Her youngest, though, still found it fascinating...

(c)2009 C. Verstraete, published in Dragons Composed, Kerlak Publishing - http://candidcanine.blogspot.com

* Order: Amazon.com

June 01, 2009

Miniature Cigar Box Room

Thought I'd share a neat roombox that hubby found at the local flea market.

This General Store is set inside an old wood cigar box. It looks to be about half scale. It's a fascinating room as most of the items were probably handmade. It's one of those projects that has a lot of detail in a small space and every time you look, you're sure to see something new.

What's neat is that there are some really creative items in here. The hanging lamp was made from a Christmas tree bulb. The wood stove is a wood cylinder that was painted. "Jars" and packages on the shelves were formed with pictures on wood blocks for depth. There are all kinds of little metal doo-dads to simulate those odds and ends you'd find in a general store.

The sad part is that it is signed and was given as a gift in 1992 to a nephew. Obviously the maker Chuck Och of Illinois made quite a few as this one is labeled #119.

I'm not sure why the box ended up in a flea market, but Mr. Och can rest assured that his work lives on and is being enjoyed by myself and others who love miniatures and appreciate the craftsmanship he put into it.