August 31, 2009

Miniatures on Monday: Kitty's Lady's Shoppe

The real joy of working in miniature is creating a project that invites the viewer to return again and again, and each time, they see something new.

That's what happens when you look at the recent project completed by my Dutch friend, Kitty Balke.

Her Lady's Shoppe is somewhere I'd love to go shopping. This store offers a great assortment of goods.

There are shelves stuffed with shoes and shoeboxes. How about the wealth of goods on the tables? The displays offer plenty to choose from as well.

She has become a big fan (as I am) of Kansas miniaturist Lisa Engler who sells kits and other items as Lisa's Little Things, using many of her decorative items, packages, and furniture kits in the room. Fantastic, isn't it?

* See more of Kitty's miniature rooms and dolls at her blog, Kitty's Minis

August 27, 2009

Searching for A Starry Night and Other Books in Galena!

There's nothing like a group of authors getting together to make a booksigning memorable. (Unless Norm Cowie or Joe Konrath are there. No explanation necessary.)

That's what a bunch of us did this past weekend at the first Literary Bookfest in Galena, Ill.

Thanks to the organizational skills of, and wonderful accommodations at the charming Huckleberry Inn by author Barb Annino, this soon-to-be-annual event in Galena, Ill. managed to even outshine former resident, Civil War General and 18th US President, Ulysses S. Grant (if that's at all possible!)

Besides their own books, most of the authors had stories in the anthology, Missing, with proceeds going to benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Authors present included:
* Norm Cowie (Fang Face); (be sure to read his funny take on the trip and a few of the uh, less "savory" events);
* Barb Annino (Missing);
* Henry Perez (Killing Red);
* J.A. Konrath (Cherry Bomb);
* Luisa Buehler (The Innkeeper: An Unregistered Death);
* Margot Justes (A Hotel in Paris);
* Mary Welk (The Rune Stone Murders);
* JD Webb (Moon Over Chicago);
* Barbara DeShong (Too Rich and Too Thin);
* and me, Christine Verstraete (Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery)

There were two signings, one at the Fried Green Tomatoes Restaurant, where you were greeted by this guy inside the door. (Nice place, don't let the grouchy face fool you.)

A second signing was held at the Brio Art Gallery, a wonderful modern jewel set right in vintage downtown Galena. Stunning art and jewelry.

Oh Beautiful, Spacious Skies!

I hadn't been to Galena in over 20 years and forgot some of the highlights. The big surprise was coming over the hill on the way and suddenly this wonderful green vista explodes in front of you. I forgot how hilly - and beautiful - the area was. (This pic doesn't do it justice. I thought I'd taken the better view looking down.)

Oh, and when I say hilly, I actually mean monstrous stairs! There are several whopping sets of steps. I think this is the one that has more than 200 steps. Going down was fine. (I didn't try going up; walking back up the hills to the B&B was enough for me.)

It is a town full of interesting shops and fascinating history. Lincoln spoke from the balcony of the old DeSoto House Hotel.

Grant's Home, a gift from the townspeople after his return from the Civil War on Aug. 18, 1865, is a charming brick residence and still contains much of the original furnishings.

I didn't get a chance to tour any of the other historic buildings, but I'm looking forward to another visit and more time to do so.

It was a great event: interesting history, great books, fun people and beautiful scenery. What more can you ask for?

August 26, 2009

First Graphs: The Advocate by Teresa Burrell

Meet the female John Grisham!

With a background as an attorney and teacher in San Diego, Teresa Burrell has been active in advocating for children and children's isssues.

Now Burrell is striving for justice in fiction that is inspired by many of her past cases, including her new novel, THE ADVOCATE (Echelon Press, Aug. 2009):

For Sabre Orin Brown, life is good; she has it all...or would have, if only she could solve the mysterious disappearance of her brother. The search for her brother and her career as a Juvenile Court attorney collide when she defends a nine-year-old whose father will go to any length to obtain custody.

First Graphs from THE ADVOCATE:

"If I knew he were dead, maybe then I could let go." Sabre Brown's fingers slid up and down the side of her Styrofoam cup as she and her best friend, Bob, walked away from the coffee cart, in front of the Juvenile Division of the San Diego Superior Court.

He put his arm around her tiny waist and pulled her closer to him. "I know how much you miss him."

"Not knowing is the worst part. You'd think after five years, I'd quit expecting him to return." She sighed and her voice softened. "The last time I talked to him, he called to wish me a happy birthday. He called me the night before because his plane was leaving early in the morning and he didn't want to wake me. I teased him about growing up, since waking me in the middle of the night would generally bring him great pleasure."


August 21, 2009

Searching For A Starry Night Featured in Austin Writing Examiner Column

I can't say I enjoy being called "older," but Austin Writing Examiner Sylvia Dickey Smith featured Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery in her new Austin Writing Examiner column.

She calls the book "delightful" and says: "Who can resist a story about an adorable canine, a search for a miniature art piece--and a haunted house, to boot."

Thanks, Sylvia!

August 20, 2009

First Graphs: Curse of the Bayou, Cynthia's Attic by Mary Cunningham

Today's excerpt is from the fun children's series, Cynthia's Attic, by author Mary Cunningham.

In book three, CURSE OF THE BAYOU (2007, Echelon Press), time-traveling best friends Gus and Cynthia find themselves in 1914 New Orleans.

There, the girls 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.

(Book Four: THE MAGICIAN'S CASTLE will be published in December '09.)


"Don’t move.”

“Are you kidding? Why on earth would I move?”

Just another boring trip through the trunk. There we were, hanging on for dear life to a log in the middle of a swamp.

My best friend and I had been on some frightening adventures together since discovering time travel through an old trunk in her attic. But nothing prepared us for a face-to-face encounter with an alligator. No, siree. Nothing prepared us for this.

* Buy:

* Visit the Cynthia's Attic blog

August 19, 2009

August 17, 2009

Authors Share their Self-Promotion Secrets in Women on Writing Story

I talked with several bestselling authors including Elaine Viets . Carl Brookins, Betty Webb, and others to share thoughts on their self-promotion experiences - and a few of the pitfalls.

See what they have to say in my story, "Real Authors on a Budget" in the Aug. '09 issue of Women on Writing

* Guess what is the "small" promotion secret for Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery?

August 15, 2009

Pink Saturday: Pink Miniatures and More!

Today is again Pink Saturday at Beverly's blog, How Sweet the Sound.

Pink is such a pretty, fun, frilly color, isn't it?

What makes me feel - in the pink???

* This is soooo cool! How about this pink party "dress?"

I love these kinds of cakes. I still want to try making one -- in miniature, of course!

* How about a few babies dressed in pink? Take a peek at my miniature dolls.

** Or how about a tiny pink teapot on a table in a room - in a candy box? See my mini candy box room.

* I hope you enjoyed your visit!

** Keep in the pink by reading- and get your kids (and grandkids!) reading!!

** Searching for A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery is a fun mystery for ages 9 and up. Friends Sam, Lita, and Dachshund Petey search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

August 14, 2009

Guest Author Pam Ripling: Keeping Young Readers Motivated

Keeping Young Readers Motivated

By Pam Ripling

I wish it were as simple as typing those words. True, some kids devour books, avidly reading nearly everything they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, there are some children and teens for whom reading is merely a chore, and still others that struggle with below-grade level skills. These are the ones on whom we need to focus our attention.

We all know that reading can be six-kinds-of-ways boring. Between history books and math word problems, kids get pummeled with words from all sides. Some even develop shorthand comprehension, skimming for key words but never fully reading the material. And that ain’t readin’! Steering young minds away from the written word, even unintentionally, is simply a crime.

For most of these would-be-great-readers, it’s all a matter of subject and interest. Reading about the U.S. Constitution is not the same as reading about zombies descending on the local shopping mall.

I mention this because zombies did converge at our big regional shopping center this week, and you can bet even reluctant readers were all over Facebook the next day, soaking up the story with gory delight. When Six Flags opened up their latest and most terrifying coaster this summer, news of its harrowing twists and turns were posted, texted and tweeted all over town.

Great, but what about those math and history textbooks? No walking dead, no thrill rides grace those pages. But students with better reading skills are less reluctant to suffer through the dry stuff. Good comprehension and vocabulary actually make reading less of a dreaded event. Therefore, it makes sense for educators, parents and students alike to focus on reading improvement by going to the material that holds the most interest!

When I wrote LOCKER SHOCK! for young adolescents, I discovered something interesting.

The subject matter, guns in school, had a broad appeal amongst young teens and tweens alike. Because I was focused on the story, which is set in an average California middle school, I didn’t try too hard to aim the reading level at any particular age. As a result, the book is enjoyed by younger, voracious readers and middle-schoolers who don’t want to be too challenged. It’s also a fairly quick read, and that almost always appeals to reluctant readers.

Our blog host, Christine Verstraete, has written Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, a mystery with great elements: a mischievous Dachshund and a missing, museum-quality, miniature Van Gogh painting! Kids love dogs as characters, and teeny-tiny anythings. It’s all about grabbing their interest before they even realize they are reading a book.

Last, it’s important to start early. Kids need and like to be read to, all the way into sixth grade. Some school districts have instituted “Read With Me” programs, involving community members such as seniors and future educators to help students improve their skills. Matching interests with reading matter will go a long way toward keeping young readers motivated.

Pam Ripling is the author of middle-grade mystery, LOCKER SHOCK! Buy it at Quake, Fictionwise or Amazon today! E-book version now available for your Kindle! Visit Pam at

August 12, 2009

First Graphs: Leaden Skies by Ann Parker

Today's excerpt is from the Silver Rush historical mystery series by Ann Parker.

Publishers Weekly called LEADEN SKIES (Poisoned Pen Press, July 2009) "a twisty tale of murder and ambition."

Excerpt from "Leaden Skies" -

"July 22, 1880

When the summer storm arrived late that afternoon, it was hailed as a blessing. Damp splots the size of half-eagle gold coins pocked hats and shawls, sent small dust explosions puffing up from dirt streets ground to dust beneath boots and wagon wheels, and tempted small children to stand with faces upturned, tongues thrust out to catch the drops."

(The description makes you feel like you're there, doesn't it?)

* Buy:

August 11, 2009

I LOVE Garage Sales & Flea Markets!

This was one of my great finds at a recent garage sale... Can't believe hubby didn't see it! I must have miniatures radar as I zoomed right in on it!

It's now hanging on the kitchen wall. The inside back wall has a photo of an old time grocery. I have to study the photo better to see what is in it, but I'm going to see how a small counter and some displays fit inside. I figured I'd use some swap items I have saved. I may put a meat counter, fruit-vegetable display, some candy - I have to see what I can use. You won't be able to really see it unless you peek inside, but I thought it was a cool display box. Neat, huh?

Oh and the price? Heh-heh. $3!!! (We replaced that cheap string on the side and put a chain on which looks better.)

What will I do this winter when the flea market closes and garage sales are over??? (Yeah I know, save money. haa!)

The week before I got a bag full of old wood furniture, perfect to age for Halloween... $8.

August 05, 2009

First Graphs: Locked in Death by Eric Mayer and Mary Reed

Today's First Graphs excerpt is from the short story, "Locked in Death," by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, published in The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes and Impossible Mysteries, ed. Mike Ashley, Robinson, 2006.

Reed and Mayer are also authors of the John the Lord Chamberlain mystery series from Poisoned Pen Press, set in 6th century Constantinople.

Excerpt from "Locked in Death:"

"During his years with the Mongolian police Inspector Dorj had witnessed crimes in sufficient variety to inspire several Shakespearean tragedies, but until the crowbar-wielding midget sent the locked door of the circus caravan flying open the inspector had never seen a man murdered by a corpse."


August 04, 2009

Art Come to Life 2: American Gothic and The Little Chocolatier

Across "the pond," British doll maker Claire Smith Campbell also enjoys making a variety of miniature dolls and making art come to life.

Amusingly enough, her latest pair of dolls replicated a classic American painting - "American Gothic" by Grant Wood.

(Pictured below: American Gothic by Claire Smith-Campbell)

(Great likeness huh? Though no one can exactly match that woman's scowl!)

Claire, who's been making dolls for 20 years, used Janna Joseph molds to make the "American Gothic" couple. "I didn't have to alter much, it was just a matter of copying the portrait and finding the right sort of hand and feet molds," she says.

"I had to guess what they would look like full length, but took in the time period when they were painted. I had fun trying to find the correct hay fork (pitchfork), but the good people on The Camp miniatures group helped me find one!"

Sweet Inspiration

Another of Claire's charming recreations was of the painting, "The Little Chocolatier. (The Chocolate Girl)"

The painting is by Swiss miniaturist artist, Jean-Etiene Liotard, 1702-1789

Claire first began making full-size dolls, but says she had to give it up "when the molds became too heavy (she has MS) and the market was flooded with cheap dolls. I gave up totally for about a year, but was as miserable as sin."

When a friend brought back a collection of fairy molds and said, 'these are impossible, you can have them,' Claire was more than thrilled: "Whoopee, that got me going again."

She found other suppliers and molds, converted a bedroom into a workroom, and then moved into a larger workspace. She's since come back to making dolls after taking a break following her husband's death.

"Nearly two years ago, my husband had a beautiful cabin built for me at the bottom of the garden, complete with double glazing, two rooms and a deck," she says. "Sadly, he died just after last Christmas and I have only just come out of a parallel universe and started making dolls again."

Claire mostly made dolls for her own pleasure, but she is thinking of trying to sell some of her original dolls on eBay under the name Sugar Plum Dolls.

"I can`t do 'production line' dolls," she says. "I take a long time making them, and as such I think they deserve the best armatures and wadding, etc. At the moment, I'm quite happy making them and the ideas are beginning to come back."

So, what's next?

"I rather fancy Manet`s "Bar at the Folies Bergere," she admits. "She`s just sitting in my mind right now."

We can't wait to see her!

August 03, 2009

Art Come to Life: De Pury's Bobbin Lacemaker in Miniature

One of the most fascinating aspects of miniatures is the ability of artisans to replicate the work of famous artists, bringing their work to life in a way the painters never could have envisioned.

IGMA (International Guild of Miniature Artisans) Artisan Lucie Winsky has brought a number of famous paintings to life with her skill in making miniature dolls.

(A story on the dolls she made based on the work of Johannes Vermeer and other artists will be in the Oct. issue of the Dolls' House Magazine.)

This time, Lucie was asked to replicate the work of a painter she wasn't familiar with - Edmund de Pury's "The Little Bobbin Lace Maker."

Good likeness, isn't it? Lucie has captured both the charm, and the skill, of the painting in her miniature doll.

* Read more about lacemaking

* See some beautiful antique bobbin lace

** Come back tomorrow for a look at more artistic doll replicas, this time by doll maker Claire Smith Campbell.

August 01, 2009

Pink Saturday 3 - Miniatures for the Lady of the House

Welcome to another Pink Saturday! Thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for another fun event!

Today, I decided to show some of the fun lady's items I made that I posted in a past blog. Hope you enjoy them!

Pretty in Pink:

Even dollhouse size ladies like to keep things orderly.

What better way than with some pink boxes, a hat box and a pretty floral bag?

I love the handbag! I want to make a ladies shop with all kinds of miniature bags and shoes.

A pair of shoes I made, complete with heels!

* That's all for today. Thanks for stopping by!

* Did you see Shelly's amazing pink peonies?

* Keep your kids' reading "in the pink" with a copy of my kid's mystery, Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, ages 9+.

**2009 Eppie Award finalist for ebook version in kids/ya category.**

Sam and her bff, Lita, along with a mischievous Dachshund named Petey, face an angry housekeeper, a dog-hating gardener, and an ancient family curse as they search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's famous painting, "Starry Night."