Crafty Wednesday

Have I got a treat for you today! If you were expecting more cards, I hate to disappoint you, but you’ll have to wait until next week. Instead, I’d like to give you a taste of Canadian heritage. Yesterday, I went to my favourite historic site, Lower Fort Garry, to get inspired for the writing of my next book and also to get a little footage to put in a book trailer to promote Withershins and Spirit Quest.


One of the activities that I watched and participated in was creating Cattail ducks and dolls, so I thought I’d share it with you. Here is what the finished products look like.

 

 

 

 

 

The instructions for the duck are as follows:

1. Take a long reed from a bullrush or ‘Cattail’.

2. Begin at the thinnest end (looks like a duck’s bill) and tie a loose knot, pressing it so it stays put. That is the duck’s head.

3. About an inch down from the knot, fold the reed so it lies perpendicular away from the duck’s bill.

4. Here’s where I got confused and folded it again so the duck’s beak ended up looking back over its shoulder. What I should have done was simply fold the reed back upon itself about 2-1/2″, then continue to wrap the reed around itself to form the duck’s body.

5. Tie the body with a thin piece of the Cattail reed to hold it in place.

The fun part about the Cattail is that it contains long tubes inside it which makes it buoyant enough to actual float. 🙂

To make the Dolls, here’s a little video with instructions to show you how to do it:

Hope you liked this little trip to the past and learned something about pioneer crafts. Have a great Wednesday! 🙂

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Sunday Interview # 13

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Hi, Everyone! I am here, today, with Christy Birmingham, a Canadian freelance writer, poet and fellow blogger from Poetic Parfait.

Welcome, Christy! Would you please begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Absolutely! I am a freelance writer and blogger from British Columbia, Canada. I have recently started writing full-time and am loving it! I write for various websites and private publishers as well. I am also the proud owner of Poetic Parfait, where I share my poetry as well as having a weekly music feature. The blogging community has been very welcoming to me and my writing, which has been called ‘Interesting’ and ‘Unique’. I take those descriptions as compliments!

You should! 🙂

Most writers seem to have been bitten by the writing bug at an early age. Please tell us how long you have been writing. Was there any particular event that started you writing in the first place?

I first began writing creatively in elementary school, and majored in Writing in my first year at University. I didn’t think I could realistically make a living at the craft so I switched fields. I now have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology and Psychology (Joint Major). 

When I switched studies, I put writing onto the back-burner. In the last few years, I battled some difficult life circumstances. They were devastating for me. I still struggle some days. As I rise from that dark period, I realize that life really is short and we have to make the most of our time here. I decided to follow my passion for writing and brought it up to the front burner from its position at the back. I’m going to try my hand (literally) at writing, rather than wondering “What if?” and “If only” later on in life.

We are all glad you’ve risen from that dark place and have decided to share your passion for poetry. 🙂

How did you come up with your blog name and why do you prefer to write in poetic form?

Just the other day, I was asked why I chose “Poetic Parfait” as my blog name. I wanted to create a poetic spot for readers and writers of the genre, as I want poetry to get more of a spotlight in the general public’s eye. I wanted the name to tie into the reference to that goal. Two of my favourite things are poetry and sweets. Alliteration is a fun writing tool so I came up with Poetic Parfait. A few people tried to talk me out of the name when I first started the blog but I stuck with it. I went with my instinct! Now where are those M&Ms….

I like to write in poetic form because it allows me to play with words and provide snippets of emotion within a few stanzas.

What styles of poetry do you prefer, either to read or write? Who are your favourite poets?

I actually do not follow a set style in my writing format. Sometimes I start a poem with one line in mind and just type from there as my mind and fingers move together. I call it “free form” format. Some of my poems are edgy, while others are funny, and there is always emotional ties. I often write in the first-person. 

I have admired the poetry of Margaret Atwood for a long time.

Ah, our Canadian icon! 🙂

What other types of things do you write about?

Aside from my blog, I also write extensively about social media trends and tips, as well as writing advice for freelance writers. I like to share what I have learned and help others along the journey.

As a freelance writer, do you write for any particular company or publisher? If not, how do you approach people about writing ideas you have? Is it anything like submitting a novel or short story to a publisher? I’m curious about the whole process. 🙂

Curiosity is a good thing! I write for multiple websites as well as working with private publishers. I write online for HubPages, Knoji, and Helium. As well, I have been fortunate enough to form connections with two publishers. There is a lot of multi-tasking between writing and also promoting my online work.

Do you have any links you’d like to share?

Feel free to stop by the table at Poetic Parfait:  http://poeticparfait.com/

I also encourage connections on Twitter and Google+.

Twitter: @christybis 

Google+:  https://plus.google.com/112149635100346840584/posts

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Making a living at being a freelance writer is hard work and does require drive to be successful. For all of those aspiring writers, just remember: We all have to start somewhere! Keep working hard and, with time, your little successes may just build up to large ones. Let’s make those goals happen!

Thanks so much for your encouragement and for taking the time to chat with us, Christy! 🙂

And thank YOU, readers, for joining us, today. Please take the time to check out Christy’s poetry. It really is like ice cream for the soul! 🙂

Love Lists

Elodie at commutinggirl shared a marvelous idea from Stephanie Perkins, who was a guest on Natalie Whipple’s blog regarding the creation of ‘Love Lists‘. Basically what this involves is listing all the things you love about the story you’re writing to help keep you focussed on what is important and what you like about the story, so that when you’re editing, you can throw away all the stuff that didn’t make it on your list. This creates a tighter story. After all, if you only keep the bits you like about your story, the more likely your reader will enjoy it!

After reading these posts, I thought I’d go back through some of my older stories that I haven’t had the gumption to send out into the world, just to see what it is about them that I like. This might help me when writing out query letters, giving me ideas what parts of the stories to push. I have a WIP that I started many years ago and have come to a point where I could end it or continue the story in another book. Some of the things I love about it are:

– mysterious island

– history

– love story

– alien civilizations

– space battle

– alien technology

– world building

– chocolate

– learning to live with a tail (How does THAT one grab you? lol)

With this list in mind, I really should get on with the process of seriously editing it. I’ve got to stop making excuses and start working up a synopsis and query letter, too.

For you writer-types out there, what are YOUR Love Lists? Do you think a list like this will help you focus on what is important to your story?

Tunnels of Time and Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink

I popped into the Red River Used Books store next to Artspace, where I was supposed to be attending a meeting of the Writer’s Guild. A miscalculation on how long it would take to maneuver through traffic and around road construction, allowed me about half an hour to spend strolling through the many crowded rows of books. Normally I’d head straight to the Mystery or SciFi section, but wasn’t really in the mood to focus on book titles in the hopes of finding something that would appeal to me, so I wandered to the back and found the YA section. One title nearly jumped off the spine at me: Tunnels of Time by Mary Harelkin Bishop.

Tunnels of Time

How perfect! Anyone who has been following me for awhile will probably guess why this would attract my attention. The title simply screamed TIME TRAVEL! Since The Time Tunnelwas one of my favourite shows growing up, I had to take the book off the shelf and read the blurb at the back. (Here’s part of what Amazon tells of the book:

At a family dinner party in a local restaurant, Andrea agrees to look at what she thinks is just a phony tourist attraction: the tunnels beneath the streets of Moose Jaw. Legend has it that in Prohibition days the tunnels sheltered crooks, maybe even the notorious Al Capone! Andrea scoffs, until she has a small accident at the tunnel entrance and wakes up in another time.)

Even more perfect than I first thought! It was about the old bootlegger tunnels in the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Most of you will not know that, during Prohibition, Al Capone is said to have set up shop in central Canada to sell booze, using tunnels beneath the town of Moose Jaw to avoid revenuers. For more information, you can check out the tunnels here.

A couple of times, we’ve taken road trips out west to visit family and friends in Alberta and B. C. and have passed through Moose Jaw. The first time, while having lunch at a roadside cafe, I noticed the brochure for the tunnels and had hoped that the next time we passed through Moose Jaw we would visit them, since they  have  reenactments of some of the things that went on back in the 1920s. Unfortunately, on our second trip, there were delays in our departure that made time too short to spend there. So, that is why I was so excited to see Tunnels of Time on the bookstore shelf. I can’t wait to dive into its pages. I’ll review it at a later date.

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink

The other book I picked up was also of interest to me, as I have always loved the reenactments at our own Lower Fort Garry historical site. Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm is about a 17 year-old who gets a summer job working in a ‘living museum’. The book claims it’s ‘A story of crushes, corsets, and conspiracies.’ Sounds like a fun summer job, don’t you think?

Here is the Amazon blurb: Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to take part in the summer program at Lower Fort Garry, so I think this story will be fun to read, too. I’m glad I had the time to spend at that used book store. It’s never a waste of time. 🙂

Have any of you picked up some special finds in a used bookstore lately?

The Pack Rat Gene

A few days ago, I came across Tim Kane’s post ‘Writer or Hoarder‘. It got me thinking whether there was a great deal of difference between a hoarder and a pack rat. He suggested that you’re a hoarder if the junk you collect interferes with your life, so I guess I’m not quite at that point yet. I’m still a pack rat. While I have no biological proof that the compulsion to ‘save things for posterity’ is an actual allele on a DNA strand passed down from one generation to the next, I’m afraid I do have physical proof – LOTS of it!

On my side of the family, I no longer have grandparents or parents, but I am constantly reminded of them everywhere I look in my house. Here in the living room as I write this, I see the mantle clock that was always over the fireplace at our cottage. There is a Wood Shops project that my grandfather did as a boy – an old-fashioned sleigh with horse harness and green padded seats. There’s also the balance scale he made.

Our dining room is filled with the dining set that my grandparents received as a wedding present back in 1922 -a beautiful oak table with six chairs, all with the original leather seats in perfect condition. The table now seats 12 after Grandpa added two additional leaves for it. Along with that is the matching buffet and china cabinet.

On the buffet cabinet sits an old oil lamp, an antique carriage lamp, my Grandmother’s old green teapot and cozy she crocheted, while above it is the mirror my parents got as a wedding present.

On and in the china cabinet are green-glass dessert dishes, Hummel figurines, and vases of my grandmother, rescued from the cottage before it sold.

Up in my kitchen cupboards are other dishes and paraphernalia that belonged to her. While these things are antique treasures, these things are not what makes me think I am a pack rat.

When we were cleaning out my parents’ house after they passed away, we found boxes of papers from my Dad’s parents, as well as all the financial records of my Mom’s mother. Since my Mom did her mom’s taxes, this made sense . . . except my grandmother died 8 years before that! As for my other grandparents’ paper things, there were financial records of my grandfather’s dating back to 1910! It was very interesting to see what he spent his money on back then – and he was very thorough, even including how much he spent for ice cream – but did Mom & Dad really need to keep all that? Dad’s parents had been dead for decades by the time we came across them!

I must admit that it was fascinating when we came across memorabilia from when they took their European Cruise. The letters from my great-great grandfather are priceless and I really want to transcribe them for posterity. There were even speeches that my grandfather wrote for the Outlook Club (like Toastmasters), which talked about issues that concerned him growing up, as well as historical stuff that went on when he was young – all things I want to re-write as a family history or biography of my grandfather. However, there’s only so many boxes of paper that we can store in our small house!

I’ve been intending to clean out our storage room and get rid of all the old notes that I’ve kept from high school and university. After all, I’m close to retirement and really don’t need to keep all that information. It’s too outdated for my children to use, so why keep it?

Just as I am contemplating this huge project, my brother drops by with another box of papers he’d gone through from my Dad’s house. He thought I’d be interested in reading them. So, what was in the box, you might ask? Dad’s old notebooks from as far back as Elementary school! (sigh!)

I went through them this morning and, (dare I say it?) I was fascinated to see the keepsake of the Royal Visit  in 1939, complete with newspaper clippings detailing all their stops across Canada. Okay, that is quite interesting, especially since I’m a history buff. Next, were a couple of notebooks that he used when he was a Cadet, including pictures of airplanes and their names, articles about the war, etc. (I should point out at this time that my Dad turned 18 just as WWII ended, so he never actually had to go overseas to fight in that, thank Heavens!) Among the papers Dear Brother brought me were university essays from his Commerce course. While some of it does have some small historical value, I’m afraid I will be getting rid of the lot . . . some day when I get the gumption to go through everything! 🙂

So, as you can see, I come by my pack rat tendencies honestly. Do any of YOU have the pack rat gene? If so, how do you deal with it? I really need to know! 🙂

Crafty Wednesday – masculine cards

Welcome to another Crafty Wednesday! 🙂

With all the pretty paper, stamps and embellishments on the market today, it can be difficult to find something masculine for the men in your life. That’s why I thought I’d focus on them, today. Last time I was at The Scrapbook Cottage, they were having a paper sale, so I picked up some more masculine paper with a camping theme. I thought this striped paper from the 12 x 12″ ‘Camp-A-Lot’ collection by Bo Bunny Press would be perfect for some cards I had in mind. I loved the paw and footprints that were in some of the wider stripes.

The base for this card is beige card stock, cut so that the card dimensions when folded are 5-1/2 x 4-1/4″. I cut the striped paper to 5 x 3-3/4″ and attached it to the base. I added some felt animal stickers that I’d picked up somewhere along the line. Dollar Store, maybe? I can’t remember. Anyway, they were perfect for this outdoorsy-type card. All the black heat-embossed sentiments are from Close To My Heart’s ‘Pure Adventure’ stamp set.

Inside, I cut a 3-1/2″ scalloped circle with my paper punch out of my 6 x 6″ ‘Weekend Market’ paper pack, also by Bo Bunny. Onto this I added the sentiments. The ‘Happy Birthday’ is from Stampin’ Up. The stamp can be found in either the ‘Plane & Simple set or the ‘You’re My Type’ set. The ‘Kitty Cat Paw Border’ stamp is from INKADINKADO and can be found here, although I found mine at Michael’s. It’s a fairly simple card to make and perfect for the outdoorsman in your circle of friends and family.

 

Here are two more masculine cards, using buttons and twine. Everyone has buttons lying around, so this should be easy for you, too.

Using the Bo Bunny striped paper again, I cut it to measure 5 x 3-3/4″ and cut beige card stock the same dimensions as the previous card for the base.

Hint: Before attaching stuff to the front of this card, emboss the inside (see below) by running the ‘Moroccan Screen’ embossing folder and your card base through the Cuttlebug. I thought of embossing it after the front of the card was done and broke one of the buttons because of the pressure of the rollers. Then I had to glue on a replacement button.

Before attaching the striped paper to the base, wrap twine around it three times and slide on three buttons, placing them so they line up with the largest of the three in the centre. Make sure you use a strong adhesive like Sookwang to hold the twine and the paper in place.

The light brown label was cut out using the ‘Fanciful Labels’ cutting/embossing folder and my Cuttlebug. I stamped the ‘Happy Birthday’ (by INKADINKADO) using my Versa Mark and black embossing powder, which I then heated to produce the desired effect. Since the lettering was just an outline, I painted in the centre of each letter using my shiny paint set and a very fine brush. The label was attached with 3-D sticky tape and slipped underneath the twine so that some of the striped paper s visible on the right-hand side. Sticky Dots can be used to hold the buttons in their desired places.

The inside of the card is fairly simple. I cut a rectangle out of contrasting card stock (approximately 3-1/2 x 2-1/2″) and trimmed the corners with my ‘Ticket Corner’ punch by Stampin’ Up. I printed out the sentiment with MS Word (I usually set the page to 3 columns so the width is the right size). I cut it to fit the frame and trimmed the corners with the punch. Everything was attached with a glue runner since there wasn’t much weight to any of the elements.

 

This card is very similar to the previous one, except I used wooden buttons and made sure this nature-lover could see the paw and hoof prints in the paper. The base was cut the same size as the others using a camel-colored card stock.

I also discovered a new technique that could be done with the cutting/embossing folder. Before removing the label from the folder, once it’s cut out, the embossed portions of the label are exposed. You can then brush an inked sponge over the exposed portions to create the outlines. It brings out the raised parts quite nicely, don’t you think? I stamped the sentiment (same stamp as before) but instead of heat-embossing it, I just used the same brown ink I’d used on the outlines.

The inside is similar to the previous card, except for the sentiment. I cut out the contrasting card stock so it was an inch larger than the sentiment. I added the paw prints across the bottom corner to coordinate it with the paper on the front. I used the same brown ink as on the front of the card.

And there you have it – three simple masculine cards, each one slightly different, each one unique.

 

Hope you enjoyed this week’s projects. These cards would be easy enough for a beginner to try, so if you’ve been thinking this is a hobby you’d like to explore, why not start with a pattern similar to these? Happy crafting! 🙂

Sunday Interview # 12

Hello, Everyone! Today I’d like to introduce a fellow blogger and writer who loves everything ‘pirate’. He often posts about everyday pirates and is writing a serial-style futuristic story, Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo. Please welcome J. D. Ryan.

Oh, please, call me Jim!  I hear “JD,” I think of either what my brother calls my son, or think of what they used to use ‘JD’ for, short for ‘juvenile delinquent.’  And no, my son does not act that bad…

Okay, hi, Jim! Would you like to start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m a writer based in New York, waiting for his long evening to end so that he can become an ‘overnight sensation.’  It shouldn’t be more than a few years from now for that to happen…  I’ve pursued the craft for a while between bouts where other things have popped up, like being a husband, a father, having a trade, all the stuff that keeps frustrated writers from ending up like a sad pastiche from La Boheme

What got you interested in Pirates? 

I think you could say I’ve always had an interest in those who didn’t “color within the lines;” even as a kid, the rebels and malcontents tended to get my interest in just about any story.  This applied to pirates, but also to revolutionaries, civil justice crusaders, punk rockers, all the folks outside of the whole “rigid law and order” alignment; hell, as a kid I identified a lot more with Han Solo than Captain Kirk…

Beyond just about every kid’s attachment to Treasure Island and Captain Hook in Peter Pan, I can’t claim that every instance when growing up that someone unfurled the jolly roger got my attention, but there were plenty of opportunities to go on the account when they came up.  I remember being one of the few people who really took notice in Watchmen that when superheroes actually showed up that comic books in that universe would turn instead to pirate stories; I thought it was one of the coolest things about the work.  And to my surprise, no one else I knew thought the whole Tales of the Black Freighter subplot was worth paying attention to; it’s finding yourself all alone out there that can keep you from finding your strengths for a while.

Were pirates the inspiration for your writing, or did you like to write before you were interested in pirates?

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I’d been writing for years before I found my muse, at the pilot wheel of a brigantine, doing work in other areas.  I had some success out there with some gaming articles and some fiction in print, and it’s an area I’ve never fully left.  For some time, I was doing a lot of stuff in horror and SF, particular alternate history (AltHis) with some degree of success. 

A few years ago, I discovered an interesting book, The Science Fiction Stories of Jack London.  Apparently, early in his career, before Jack London was Jack London, he wanted to be H. G. Wells.  None of the stories collected in the work were all that bad, but it was watching him trying to find his voice that made me look at what I had been doing, and ultimately something clicked. 

It encouraged me to take a good look at what I had been writing at that moment, which was feeling a little stilted, and when I just let go, Abigail Sanders showed up, probably after killing some time in the same room Harry Potter was hanging out in before he introduced himself to Jo Rowling.  I used to think this whole “character springing up and introducing themselves to the author” thing was just bad PR copy, and yet there she was; our eyes met and a half an hour later there were thirty pages of first draft narrative at my feet…

I noticed on your Author Page that you have published work on many on-line sites. Why did you decide to use this format to publish your stories?

I spent a lot of years sending my stuff to anyone who’d be willing to look at it.  When I started out, there were no online opportunities; the concept of an Internet writing outlet was years away from being a reality when I was collecting my first rejection slips from the likes of Analog and Playboy.  One of my online pieces, Tick-a Tick-a, actually got reprinted physically in an English magazine, The Dream Zone.  If an opportunity came to share a work in that way, any opportunity, I would certainly be willing to go that route.  Paper, electrons, smoke signals, synesthesian odors; hey, I will do it all…

Have you ever considered traditional publishing routes? Why or why not?

You know, I’m of two minds on that.  On the one hand, part of me would love to do the traditional thing, get a book done with a publishing house.  It’d be part of an old picture I used to have as to what it meant to be a writer, which included drinks at the Russian Tea Room with my agent and a few minutes during Carson’s third half hour on his couch to discuss the book.  And yeah, I had this image in my mind for a long time…

But part of my going digital is this fear/belief that Publisher’s Row isn’t going to wait around for me to give them a book they want.  I gave it a pretty good try for years, with a lot of encouragement from reading groups and confidants who’d keep me from giving up, then we would all gripe about something that did get published like Fifty Shades of Twilight or some such and wonder, what the hell?  And with the technology and the market forces actually allowing writers to seize the means of production (and yes, I did go there), the whole question of the underlying relationship between writer and publisher can’t help but be challenged.

And truth to tell, when it comes to inspiration on how to decide this, pirates don’t help as much as you might think.  Yes, every pirate out there all found their fortunes by going their own ways as the flew against all flags, but give a sea dog a chance to have a letter of marque to make it all legal and he or she would often take the opportunity.  Henry Morgan, the pirate who terrorized the Spanish, brutally sacked Panama and got a line of rum named after him?  He ended up Deputy Governor of Jamaica, so there you go…

I read your story Rooftop Sessions! From that, I have a feeling you’re a fan of ‘The Beatles’. What is it about their music that you enjoy?

Where to begin?  When you’re young, you get drawn to the hooks in each piece that just draw you in and get the endorphins running, and when you’re older and start studying musical theory and deconstructing songs you realize what complete geniuses they were when they wrote their own pieces. 

I can’t really recall a moment when the Beatles weren’t around me in some fashion.  I just about grew up on the Beatles, playing my poor parents’ first pressing of Magical Mystery Tour to death; we could have found oil in the gouges I left in that disk.  One of things that drew my wife Susan and I together was our interest in the group; she’s gone on to become a recognized authority on the band, its members and their influence, which means for the sake of shalom bayit  that I just cannot change my mind about them this late in life…

There’s another aspect concerning the Beatles and my fiction:  They were and still are great focal points for historical and AltHis pieces.  Because they were some of the best documented people of the 1960s and later, writing about the history of the time and how that history had changed in a piece, using them as foci, relays a lot of information to the reader very quickly.  And they were so interconnected with their times, with everyone wanting to be with them and they with others, that you can write about a large swath of the 1960s in one story.  So for me, doing pieces like One Ring to Rue Them All, Magneto and Titanium Man, and Act Naturally, they were a way to approach a decade loaded with rebels and questioned authorities and delve into themes of challenge and change.

I’ve noticed in your writing a rather wry sense of humor that I find very amusing. When you’re writing, is humor something that just slips in or do you put it in deliberately to create comic relief in your stories?

I’d have to say it is deliberate, essential even.  On the one hand, there’s so much misery and bad news we all get bombarded with every few seconds, and Lord help you if you depress easily and get caught in a big 24 hour news cycle, as none of those are ever happy affairs…

There’s another reason for bringing in humor wherever possible.  In most of my material, I have characters that are in the process of being under threat of assault, threatened with being stabbed, shot at, blown up, raped, tortured, you name it.  And for most of them, given half a chance they’d flip from being victims to perpetrators if they could.  None of these are folks you’d really want to be caught with on the subway between stations for 20 minutes, so something has to be done to keep it light…

Getting back to pirates, would you please describe the premise for Red Jenny, to those who are unfamiliar with the story?

Well, Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo is a tale that takes place a few years after climate change became undeniable as it rendered major changes in the world we knew.  Hardest hit was the United States, bankrupted from failing to save the East Coast cities from being claimed by the sea and unable to get a good crop from a perpetually dry Corn Belt.  Things are so bad that a war they launched with Canada to claim the Great Lakes solely for themselves ended in defeat with a hostile neighbor to the north, with one of the results of the war being the closure of the border.  And on this border over the lakes, smuggling between two former trading partners has flourished, which prompts a rise in piracy, as practiced by our heroine, Red Jenny DiNapoli.  And we follow Jenny through a rough patch in what’s a rough trade to begin with, as trying to celebrate a successful raid as the book opens just spins wildly out of control for her.  Her luck’s like the weather in Buffalo, if you think this is bad, wait an hour…

You’ve painted a rather dim view of the future and with good reason, I think, with everything you’ve posted about the economy and real life pirates these days. What was the inspiration for Red Jenny, the thing that triggered in your writer’s mind, ‘THIS is what I will write about’? 

The main inspiration actually came to me years ago, with the release of the Schwartz-Randall Report to the Department of Defense.  This was written back in October of 2003, but the administration at the time did their best to keep this paper’s profile lower than an SSBN on station.  The thrust of the report was to raise the possibility of radical climate change as a national security issue, and included as one of its suggestions that the Pentagon “(i)dentify no-regrets strategies,” which is a wonderfully euphemistic suggestion that we get ready to do some nasty things to neighbors we can’t really share with anymore.  

Now, I spent a lot of my life in Northern and Western New York.  Both my folks were from Buffalo, I have a lot of family in and around Erie and Franklin County, and I spent a few years living close enough to the border to be able to cross it casually.  I still come back upstate every chance I get.  Most people, when they get word that their government is seriously thinking about invading their neighbor to claim a resource formerly shared in friendship, feel a little uneasy.  I was shocked, like a lot of people who live on a friendly border would be to find that we actually considered how to be anything but a good neighbor. 

Now by the time word of the paper started getting out there, which was inevitable considering what a better Republican president said about “fool(ing) all the people all the time,” there was growing evidence that climate change might not be as slow a process as imagined, and that we might need to consider “no-regrets strategies” sooner rather than later.  At the time, I was working heavily on writing Raging Gail, but I started to keep notes so that I could get things ready to launch once I wrapped the first book.

Why have you chosen to post Jenny in a short serial form instead of larger blocks, or waiting until the whole story was written before posting it?

Well, most of the writing was done before I started posting.  I have the overall story and most of the key plot points written out.  When I do work on the novel now, it’s a matter of polish and flow to get the individual pieces to “crisp up” and to make the flows from scene to scene work better. 

Putting the work online in this format is actually a business decision that I came to when I started work on the first novel.  I noted the work of other online writers and comic creators who were getting their material out there without the constraints and hassles other distribution channels offered.   Because of the nature of the Internet, the fact that users when they get online expect their content to be in manageable bits refreshed regularly dictated the form, while proving that Marshall McLuhan was right yet again

One could argue that the tradition of a novel coming out in short segments harkens back to an earlier time.  Charles Dickens presented his novels in serial form before ultimately being collected in single volumes.  Rather large volumes, too, as he used to get paid by the word on first pub, which explains some of the extended scenes you find in Great Expectations that seem to go on forever…

That’s true! Do you have any other ‘irons in the fire’, so to speak, that you’d like to tell us about as far as your writing goes?

I’m a little superstitious about pitching upcoming works.  I’ve had stuff previewed by me before it was ready to share, then watched it disappear as something comes up and the moment passes.  There’s footage out there of me at an old Beatlefest previewing a work I was halfway through, a piece with John Lennon growing up in a post-Operation Sea Lion Liverpool; I still have problems living that one down…

What I can mention with some comfort is that I’ve finished work on some short pieces that I’m going to try and offer to paying markets, to try and update my collection of rejection letters going back a few decades.  I have some larger works that are very preliminary right now that keep me distracted in a good way that might some day lead somewhere; some older set pieces from things that didn’t get completed found their way into Red Jenny, so there’s no waste of material on this end.

I do have a few notes for how to follow up both Raging Gail and Red Jenny with direct tie-ins.  Whether I move ahead depends on the reaction when I post notice in the future on the soon-to-be-launched KickBriber (TM pending), where my ardor for the work depends on what goodies I’ll be offered for going that way.  Let me say right up front that yes, booze is always a good enticement, but that I am open to any vice that you may wish to seduce me with…

Well, on that note, I encourage you (my readers) to check out Jim’s website, Raging Gailhere and if you want to read what has been posted of Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo, you may do so by clicking here.

Jim, are there any other links you’d like to share with us, places where we can find your writing, websites you enjoy, Facebook, Twitter?

I am fairly regular over at io9.com, where you can watch me make an even bigger fool of myself on a grand scale.  I’m also on Facebook, and maybe a few government watch lists as well...

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close, today?

Oh Lord, I have always been bad at closing thoughts; there’s a good chance that when my number’s up, the epitaph I come up with is going to be pretty lame.  Which gives me yet one more reason to be careful and not snuff it yet…

Well, let’s hope you don’t ‘snuff it’ any time soon! Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to join us today!

My pleasure; and thank you for hosting me!

Crafty Wednesday

One of the last few times I visited the zoo, I dropped in to see what was new to the gift shop. Among the very cute stuffed animals, chirping birds, books and T-shirts, I found some very unique paper that I thought would look nice on my cards. The heart shape is perfect for weddings and anniversaries. What is especially good about the paper is that it is ‘green’. I know, you’re looking at it and saying, that’s not green, it’s PINK! I meant, it is environmentally friendly. Can anyone guess what it’s made from?

No, not bamboo.

Not hemp.

Would you believe elephant poop? Despite its origin, it is lovely thick paper. There is no smell, like you might imagine, just a little texture since elephants eat mostly plants. You can see at the bottom of the label, the process in which it’s made.

I just hope the people I gave these cards to won’t immediately toss them in the trash or recycling bin because of this post! Let me show you how the cards turned out and you be the judge on whether they should be trashed or treasured.

The first card I used it on was a house-warming/anniversary card for my nephew and his wife. The background was a set of cards I picked up at Michael’s in one of the bargain bins. I liked the unusual round shape, but I wanted it to be red on both the outside front and the inside of the card instead of red only on the outsides. In order to accomplish this, I cut the card at the fold and turned the back side to the inside. Using my Sew Easy stitch piercer, I punched holes for sewing along the top edges so I could weave pink embroidery cotton through the holes to bind the two parts together. I used my castle stamp that originally said “This book belongs to”. I stamped another copy of the banner and cut it out before printing “A new house is like a” onto it. I attached it with 3-D sticky tape. Using Q-Tips and my chalk palette, I added a sand-stone color to the castle.

Inside is where I used the heart-shaped elephant dung paper. Onto this, I added a circle where I had printed “Happy housewarming and…”. The “Happy Anniversary” was heat embossed with red embossing powder. The flower was stamped and heat embossed in black. I then painted the stems and leaves green with my shiny paint and glued ‘Sweet Pea’ Flower Soft embellishment bits onto the flower part to add color and texture. The final touch was the two sequin hearts. Considering where it came from originally, it’s not bad, is it? 🙂

Here’s another card where I used the heart on the front. Before attaching it to the red circular card base, I stuck lace around the back edges with Sookwang double-sided tape. I pierced the heart through the heart-shaped buttons so I could run the red embroidery cotton through the holes and tied them in a knot, tucking the strands behind the ‘love’ sentiment that I heat embossed.

Hint: I should have separated the strands or used only one strand instead of three so I could have made a bow that didn’t overpower the buttons. (That’s why I just tied the strands.)

Once the lace was in place and the buttons sewed on, I traced the heart onto a sheet of Sooqkwang and cut it out. I stuck the Sookwang heart on the back of the elephant dung heart over the lace to hold it all in place before sticking the whole shebang onto the base.

Hint: While any two-sided tape might work, I have found that Sookwang tape has the strongest stickiness and holds when many others might fail.

I stamped and heat-embossed another flower, but instead of the Flower Soft, I used red flocking powder for a different effect.

Inside, I cut out a simple scalloped circle with my 3-1/2″ punch. I printed out the sentiment onto white card stock and cut it down to size, trimming the corners with my corner punch. I left a large enough space so I could tailor the number to suit the recipient. I have a small scalloped circle punch to cut out the 1-1/2″ circle onto which I stamped the number with a set of Dollar Store stamps I picked up that are the perfect size for the job.

The final project in which I used the heart-shaped poop paper is this one, another anniversary card. I followed the same procedure for the lace as I did on the last card. This time I simply heat embossed “Happy Anniversary” onto whit card stock & cut it out. I added two jeweled-heart embellishments and the ribbon rose at the bottom.

 

Inside, I used paper with a red/orange pattern for the 3-12″ scalloped circle. I printed out the sentiment onto white card stock, added the number onto the 1-1/2″ scalloped circle. To add some embellishment, I used a red ink pad and the clear acrylic swirl and tiny heart stamps from the Close To My Heart ‘Love Life’ set. At the end of the swirls, I glued on tiny red jewels.

What do you think? Is Mr. Ellie Pooh’s Elephant Dung Paper trash or treasure?

Brave Review

Today I was able to kick back and relax a little. Rampage Buddy and I went to see ‘Brave‘. (Click to see the trailer on the Disney site.) It’s a very sweet coming of age story. It has a few scary parts that might frighten young children, but overall, it’s about a girl who wants to change her destiny and goes to great lengths to do it. Her actions cause some unforeseen problems, which she must correct within two days or the problem becomes permanent. I had expected the story to progress in a certain way, but the writers went in a very different direction, which I found refreshing. As with most Pixar films that I’ve seen, the detail in the graphics is absolutely wonderful. As one person said, the girl’s hair is almost a character in itself! I don’t want to add any spoilers. If you haven’t seen the ads for it yet, check out the trailer and you’ll see how wonderful the lead character is presented. 🙂

Life Happens

Whew! Things are finally winding down for awhile. The past week has been unbelievably busy, especially with Hubby home on holidays and his plans to work in the yard, among other things. I didn’t have a whole lot to do with the fence repair. Hubby conscripted Son to work on that. However, my hectic life began Wednesday morning baking and blogging about my banana bread, then doing a quick tidy before things really got started. At 2:30 in the afternoon, Daughter showed up at the door with Grandson in tow. She dropped him off along with his playpen, diaper bag and a large reusable grocery bag full of toys, etc to keep the boy occupied. We were ecstatic! We finally got him for a sleepover! 🙂

We played peek-a-boo, hide-and-seek, run-and-chase all afternoon, inside and out. We had dinner and finally got the tuckered-out little guy to sleep. I guess we really wore him out and he wore US out, too! Not too long afterwards, Hubby & I decided to hit the sack. I slept in the same room as Grandson since we haven’t got a baby monitor yet. I couldn’t believe he actually slept for 11 hours! 🙂

Up around 6:30 am, Grandson was surprisingly chipper and not at all upset that he was still at Grandma and Grandpa’s house instead of his own home. I gave him some toast when he first got up and played with him for a while until Hubby finally awakened. He watched Grandson while I took a shower and then I started to make our breakfast. I stuck some Pillsbury croissants in the oven to bake and started the bacon because we were expecting company for the morning meal. Grandson was so interested in watching me cook the bacon that he insisted on sitting on my hip while I turned the bacon one-handedly and kept him far away from grease splatters.

About 9:30, Rampage Buddy arrived at the door. Grandson was a little unsure of her at first, but after a few rounds of peek-a-boo, they bonded. She kept him busy while I finished off the bacon and scrambled some eggs. Banana bread was also added to our breakfast menu. Grandson sat on Buddy’s lap and let her feed him scrambled eggs and croissant bites. Once we finished eating, we packed up his stuff, loaded him in the car and headed for the zoo. We were fortunate that the oppressive humid heat of the past few weeks had passed. It was warm but there was a lovely breeze that made the long walk bearable. Daughter met us at the zoo with his car-shaped stroller. We checked out some of the new exhibits, like the butterfly garden and the Birds In Flight Show where they showed off the large raptor birds like a hawk, bald eagle and a turkey vulture. Here is a brief video that I took of the Butterfly Garden:

I loved the beautiful blue butterflies. I’m sorry for the quality, I was waiting for them to alight so I could get a better shot, but they were so busy chasing each other! 🙂

Around 1:30 we stopped at the restaurant  for something to eat before sending grandson on his way home with Daughter for a badly-needed nap. Mind you, Grandson was remarkably good-natured, considering he didn’t have his usual mid-morning nap except for a brief snooze in the car on the way there.

After the zoo, Rampage Buddy and I stopped at Tim Hortons (like Starbucks) on the way home and sipped Ice Caps as we caught up on our news. We got home around 5:00. She said goodbye and I threw together a pizza, put it in the oven for Hubby and Son, then headed out again to meet with a high school friend who was in from out-of-province. She and I were joined by two other high school friends. We all enjoyed a lovely meal at the Prairie Ink Restaurant, part of McNally Robinson Booksellers, and filled each other in on all that had been going on since we last met. It was 10:30 pm by the time I got home. Not all that long after that, I tumbled into bed so I could get up in time for Tai Chi, which my Friend reminded me was taking place the next morning.

I arrived at said Friend’s house at 9:00 am. She was excited to show me some of the unique items she had purchased at the previous day’s rummage sale for SAM (Stroke Association of Manitoba). We then headed out and spent an hour stretching and moving our old tired bodies. I really needed the exercise as my previous days’ babysitting adventures had left my arms strained from lifting Grandson’s 20-something pounds and all the walking we’d done at the zoo had taken its toll on my weak arches and hips. At the end of the session, I checked out the leftover items from the rummage sale, which included a huge box of books. Since the city’s Writing Festival, Thin Air, was looking for books to sell at their used book sale next month, I took the books off their hands.

image

Then, Friend and I went to Applebee’s for lunch and spent several hours eating and talking. She mentioned that, if the Writers Festival wanted more books, her daughter had a garbage bag full of books that I could take, too. Back at her place, we transferred the books to the other stash in my trunk. As we stood in the street chatting, a car drove by with a weird ball-shaped thing on the roof. The logo on the car read Google Earth. By that we inferred that the ball thingy was actually a panoramic camera. I don’t know whether it was actually taking our picture as it drove past, but it’s kind of fun to think that we might end up on Google Maps at some point! I’ve checked, but it hasn’t been updated, yet. 🙂

As soon as I got home, Hubby informed me I’d had two calls while I was away – one regarding an ’emergency writers meeting’ scheduled for Sunday, the other was from Best Man and his Wife informing us they’d be in the city, in our area, around supper time. I returned the calls, informing the writers group that I’d be there on Sunday and inviting Best Man and Wife for dinner, since we hadn’t had a chance to talk to them in months. Once I hung up the phone, I took a deep breath and headed for the kitchen to clean up the dishes that hadn’t been done while I was out and about. Then, I started cooking.

perogies

Best Man and Wife arrived about 6:30, just as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner. Hubby fixed us each a drink and we sat down to eat. After stuffing our faces with ham, perogies and salad, we were too full to attempt eating dessert, so we sat out on our deck, sipping coffee and enjoying another mosquito-free evening. This is the second summer in a row in which we have had a greatly reduced mosquito population because of fairly dry hot weather. Believe me when I tell you, it is truly a blessing not to have to contend with those miserable flying insects!

When the sun set, we returned to the dining table, enjoyed either lemon meringue pie or banana bread, as tastes dictated, and took out the Cribbage board. I am happy to announce that we ladies beat the boys – another rarity we thoroughly enjoyed! 🙂

They left around midnight. Hubby and I went to bed with the thought that we had to be up and out of the house around 8:30 Saturday morning. Hubby hooked up our trailer to his truck and we headed off to assist Good Friends with their shed repairs. When we arrived, they were bringing out the last few items stored in their shed. That’s when we all realized that there was going to be more to the repairs than was first thought. The floor was completely rotted in places and we had to take care not to step right through the plywood. The Men pulled off the old floor boards while Lady Friend and I went behind them, pulling out all the nails that remained in the beams, having pulled through the mushy flooring. We nailed on fresh boards where needed and shimmed up the floor to level it and get it ready for new plywood. By 5:00, we were all exhausted. Lady Friend ordered chicken and fries and went to pick them up for dinner. We sat around their table, barely able to lift a chicken leg to our mouths. That’s how tired we were! We left shortly after that and got home around 7:30.

I was able to check through a few of my emails when I got home. One exciting bit of news came from a brand new Twitter follower. He had just finished reading ‘Withershins‘ and posted a great review on Amazon and Indigo. (You can read it here, if you are so inclined.) After reading that, I worked on this blog post a bit before calling it a night.

Sunday morning, I was happy to have an interview reading to simply hit ‘Publish’ so I could finally post something, while Hubby and Son got ready to head off to Good Friends’ house once again to work on the shed. Once my men folk left for their manual labour job, I wrote and printed out a farewell poem for K, the writers group member who was heading off on a one-year sabbatical – hence the reason for our ’emergency meeting’. After that, I headed for the shower. Before I got there, I got a call from Lady Friend who said Man Friend’s Sunday night band practice was cancelled. She asked if I was open to going out to dinner after my writers meeting instead of Monday. Originally, we were supposed to meet for dinner on Monday to celebrate their anniversary. With the dinner a day earlier, I tried to make a card for them before my writers meeting but ran out of time.

I quickly headed off to my writers meeting, picking up E along the way. Although we didn’t get any actual critiquing done, we had some useful discussions. E is in the process of getting one of her stories published on Amazon, so we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing and the difficulties she was having setting up an account so she would actually get paid for her book. Apparently, there’s some problem with Amazon.com accepting notarized documents from Canadians. They will accept them from Europeans, but not their closest neighbors – go figure!

GIFT CARDS

After my meeting I rushed home and tried to finish the anniversary card so I could bring it to dinner with us. Hubby told me the progress on the shed required them to finish it Monday. Unfortunately for them, intermittent rain had interrupted their work. They managed to finish laying the floor, so they could at least work under the roof of the shed when it started to pour. By the end of the afternoon, they still had two of the walls to put up, one of them the side with the doors, which was going to take a bit of creativity to replace. This information was a great relief for me, because I just didn’t have time to get their card done before heading out to the restaurant. Despite how tired the men were, we all had a very enjoyable meal at The Keg. The ‘manly men’ had steak, of course, while Lady Friend and I each had the chicken and seafood. The meals were excellent. I even had room for dessert, so Hubby and I shared a plate of their ‘minis’. I was stuffed by the time we left there. When we got home, I glued some embellishments on the front of the anniversary card and worked on this blog post until I was too tired to see straight.

This morning, I was up around 6, unable to sleep because of Hubby sawing logs beside me. I decided to get up and finish the inside of the card so Hubby could take it with him to Good Friends’ house once he was up and fed. I also retrieved the video clips of my zoo trip from my Canon Sport camera, put them into iMovie so I could give you a peek at one of our zoo’s newest attractions. I then uploaded the movie to YouTube so I could embed it into this blog.

All I really want to do, right now, is take a nap but there’s still stuff to be done. I have to tackle the stack of dishes that have accumulated because we had no time (or energy) in between rushing here & there to do them. Then, I have to get to the laundry as Hubby is back to work tomorrow and needs clean clothes. I might get to reading the 120 blog posts I have in my in-box in-between wash loads – if I’m lucky!

So, now you know why I haven’t been commenting on your blogs for the past week! I promise to get to them as soon as I can. In the meantime, I hope you all have great summer weather like we do, so you can enjoy the last few weeks of the season. 🙂