Monday, June 29, 2015

My Big News! My First Published Book!

This month I published my first book! That's right--I'm a published author!

About my book:
One month ago, Ailee Donaghue married a stranger to save herself from scandal. Now aboard a ship bound for the New World with ninety other Scots-Irish, she has no idea what she’ll be able to offer her new husband. She’s a horrible knitter, a bad cook, and can barely be trusted with a sewing needle. But she can make friends, and she is eager to learn. Can she face the challenges ahead with a man she barely knows and dangers that she cannot begin to imagine?

The book shipped with Ficstitches Yarns' first crochet kit and is already being read, which thrills me to no end. But now that the kits have shipped, I can make the book available to everyone.

It isn't the entire story. This is part one of a three-part novel. Parts two and three will be released first with kits two and three through the crochet kit club, and then they will be released separately.

It is an amazing undertaking, being part of the crochet kit club. I'm loving it! Not only do I get to write this fantastic story about Ailee Donaghue and her adventures traveling to the New World, and I get to do all this amazing research into the 1720s and the history of the Scots-Irish and crochet, but I also get to work with two other talented women to build the kits. It was so amazing to see my words come to life in the gorgeous crochet pattern that Laurinda Reddig designed, based off a description of a shawl in the story, and to see Elsie's shawl pin become reality through Monica of Craftwich Creations and her wonderful craftsmanship. I can't wait to see what they do with parts two and three.

Unraveling: The New World, Part One is available in print and digital. The digital price is on sale through the month of July while preorders for kit two are open. Please tell all your friends!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Embracing Fibery Fiction

Me embraced in hand-dyed yarny goodness
In the early 1990s, a friend and I took a creative writing class together. Inspired, we set a challenge to each other: to write the sequel to a song we both loved. My friend was a song-writer and so she wrote her sequel as a song. I was more of a poet in those days, but I also enjoyed fiction-writing, so I thought I'd try my hand at a short story. I struggled with them, and this challenge seemed just the thing to help me practice writing one.

The story I wrote involved the young lady from the song and embroidery. I didn't actually embroider, but I had been cross-stitching since the late '80s, so I knew enough to get by. It was my first story involving handcraft. It wasn't a bad tale, but as it was based on copyrighted material, it exists now only in my memory.

In 2004, I attempted my second NaNoWriMo. The story I wrote and finished that November involved a weaver, a tapestry, and a sleeping god. I'd never weaved before, but I admired the craft. I'd also seen a full-sized fold-out picture of the Bayeux Tapestry, which served as part of my inspiration. It isn't woven but embroidered, but I was hazy on the distinction back then. If you haven't seen images of it, you should. It is breath-taking.

Then, in 2007, I met Laurinda Reddig. It didn't take her long to learn that I was an aspiring writer. Since learning of it, she has dropped not so subtle hints that I should write crochet fiction. Considering I didn't learn how to crochet until I met her, I merely grinned at the suggestion and put the idea away.

Until this year.

This year, Laurinda had the brilliant idea for a crochet kit club, something that would be both elegant and playful. Lovely hand-dyed yarns, carved hooks by our friend Monica, patterns that Laurinda would create for each type of yarn, and fun accessories that Monica would create. I loved the idea and offered to help however I could. So Laurinda did what she'd been trying to do for years. She encouraged me to write a crochet story that would tie all the elements together.

It was a lovely idea. I jumped on it. I started writing. And writing. And writing. And remembered that I'm not a short story writer. I write novels. And she still made it work. Part one of the first novel will be released in the first kit, shipping next week.

Writing that novel felt new, but at the same time, it felt like coming home. And I remembered that story back from college, with the girl and the embroidery. I remembered that first finished Nano-novel with the weaver and the tapestry. And I realized that I'd been leaning toward writing fibery fiction for some years.

So I have embraced being a writer of fibery fiction--not just crochet, but handcrafts of all sorts. And the ideas keep pouring in. I have the crochet kit story, which will be released in the kits in three parts, one in each of this year's kits. I have taken out that old sleeping god story and brushed it off, realized that there is actually a trilogy resting in its pages, and have started turning into something more. I'm adding spinning to it, as I'm learning to spin both on a wheel and a drop spindle.

And I have several other stories in mind, too. A crochet short story for the first of next year's kits, a western that will have crochet and perhaps quilting involved, a fantasy using wire crochet . . . and the idea keep coming.

I couldn't be happier!

I find myself looking through old story files, wondering how I can add yarn or thread to them. I'm playing around with different genres and how I can use crochet in them in a fun, new way. It's a blast, and I cannot wait to show you what I've come up with.

If you can't wait, we'll be opening sales for the Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit #2 in July. It's going to be a great kit. I can't wait to make the pattern myself. And I love how part two of the story is developing.

Or you can wait until next February, when the three-part story will be released as a novel, along with a new pattern by Laurinda centered around the story.

Or you can wait for book one in The Weaver's Trilogy. I don't have a release date yet, but I might aim for December. I'll have more news on that as it develops. I can tell you that book one will be called Tapestry's End.

Great writing days are ahead, and I hope, great reading days, too, for fans of fiber crafts.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bits and Bobs

All aboard the crazy train!

This is my daughter's last week of elementary school, and it is packed with activity. My son is out of preschool and has started his summer vacation with more video-game-playing than is truly healthy. I'm nearing completion of the first in a major career undertaking and have already begun a second and am contemplating a third and fourth. And none of this is counting the vasts amount of yard- and house-work needing to be done or just the day-to-day living that happens.

And the crocheting. We cannot forget the crocheting.

It's just too much fun and not enough hours to do it all in. It's actually a wonderful problem to have. I am absolutely not complaining.

What I am doing is struggling to find a way to keep up with it all.

My lovely friend Aurora, who is also a life-coach, is holding a seven-day Self-Care Toolkit challenge next week. I am definitely signing up! She's created a magnificent self-care planner. I've tried to use planners in the past and found them unhelpful, but I can see the appeal in creating one that works for me. So I am eager to see what she has developed, and hopefully after her challenge I'll have come up with something that works for me.

I've also been listening to Tara Swiger's podcasts on marketing and creating an authentic business. It is aimed at crafters, which I consider myself to be, as I craft stories. But since I happen to be a crafter of fibery goodness as well, I find the podcasts inspirational on a couple of levels. She recently held a webinar on How to Defeat Overwhelm. I wasn't able to attend the actual webinar, but I will be watching the recording this week.

This week as become my 'pull it all together' week. Or at least the 'attempt to pull it all together' week. I have no idea how successful I'll be, but I have plans, GREAT PLANS, and I simply can't sit on them any longer!

There might be a book involved. Or a trilogy. I'm still debating. Actually, I'm rather desperate to talk the whole thing out with someone to see if it is even a good idea.

At this point, I simply can't tell anymore.

Focus! I need focus!

And a cookie . . .

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sheared Delights Fiber Event

Karin of White Oak Alpacas  
Last weekend, I was fortunate to attend Sheared Delights, a fibery event at White Oak Alpacas in SW Washington State. Karin is one of the farm owners and the imaginative force behind the event. And she knows alpacas and their fleece like no one I've ever met. She's also a gracious host and a kind lady.

White Oak Alpacas
The farm is lovely, situated in the country surrounded by rolling green hills. It was cloudy on the first day, and the clouds wrapped the hills like a shawl.

Monica and Laurinda with the Craftwich Creations booth, featuring designs from ReCrochetions.
Monica trekked down from the north with her car loaded with goodies, and Laurinda and I were both there to help set up her booth inside one of the barns. Laurinda had her two books available along with a binder of patterns and several examples of her designs. I brought excerpt of my first fiber fiction story, Unraveling: A New World.

The hair pins were popular, and I'm sure this amazing display helped show them off. Notice her lovely cowl?
Monica's displays were awesome. Especially with alpacas in the background.

We were joined by other vendors, too.

Knit designer Melinda VerMeer displayed samples of her amazing designs.

Melinda VerMeer, knitting beside her booth.
Sari Peterson of Twists and Turnings had a table full of lovely drop spindles, and she gave several demonstrations in their use between spinning on her wheel.

Sari Peterson spinning.
Twists and Turnings booth.
Christine Arrington of Urban Wolves Fibre Arts, one of Vancouver's lovely new yarn and fiber shops, brought an amazing selection of spinning wheels and tools for fiber arts.

Christine Arrington of Urban Wolves Fibre Arts.
And many spinners joined us, setting up inside and outside the barn, depending on the weather. It was amazing to watch them at work.

And, of course, there were alpacas.

Alpacas everywhere.

And alpaca fleece. Bags and bags of it. I was fortunate to watching a fleece being skirted, a process I'd never heard of before. Apparently, to skirt a fleece you remove all the bits and pieces that you don't want processed with the fleece when it goes to the mill to be made into yarn. Of course, you could process it yourself, too, and spin it into yarn on a wheel or drop spindle.

Alpaca fleece, with is delightfully soft to work with.
Which is what I watched Monica do the first day. She had a bag of roving with her in green and blacks and spun them together in one strand, then spun that strand into a three-strand yarn.

Monica at the wheel.
 Which turned out so lovely.

Single-strand yarn.
 The second day was beautiful. Sunny and warm without being too hot. The perfect NW spring day.

The roses outside the barn were incredible to see and to smell.

We spent the day chatting and sharing our love for all things fiber while crocheting and knitting and spinning throughout the day. Visitors came in, some purchasing a hook or pattern or a bag of fleece before touring the farm and watching the alpacas.

I took the opportunity to learn how to use a spinning wheel. It was touch and go at the beginning, but by the middle of the day, I had a small ball of interest yarn to show for my efforts.

I borrowed the spinning wheel to try more at home, but I've been struggling to get it to work properly. I'm hoping to attend a spinning night at one of the many local gatherings for help. I just loved spinning and would like to pursue it, but I can see that I'm going to need more mentoring until I have the feel for it. 

It was such a fun event with two days of connecting with other fiber-minded folks, of sharing our arts and skills, and, of course, watching the alpacas. 

While they watched us.

Lots of alpacas, staring at us.

I intend to go again next year. Maybe with a spinning wheel of my own.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Writing Historic Fiction: A Guest Post by Author Auburn Seal

Today I'm welcoming author Auburn Seal to the blog. Auburn's latest book, Maya Vanishing, was published this month. She has a fun mix of genres available to read, from historical fiction to paranormal romance to a great co-authored romp featuring inept witches and a murder. I asked Auburn to talk about her research, since we both share a love of history:


Writing Historical Fiction is at the top of the list of fun things to do with my time. Studying about a specific era or a historical figure while I’m researching for a book gives me an opportunity to get up close and personal with a vibrant piece of history.

The research actually came first, before the writing. When I was 16 years old, my grandmothers and I would talk for hours about our own family history. I was the only teenager I knew who spent more time in a genealogical library than anywhere else. This was before the internet put this information at our fingertips, back when microfilm records were the best option for finding primary sources. When I see something historical that catches my interest, I love to then dig into the lives of the people who were affected. What must have their lives been like? What were the cultural norms, the social customs? How many children did they have? How many did they then have to bury? The lives and deaths of those who came before me have provided rich fodder for my imagination and feed the plots of my books, especially the books in the Vanishing series.

Roanoke Vanishing was released in October 2013 and features the lost colony of Roanoke. You may remember that this was the first colony the English established in the ‘New World’ that included women and children and that the famed colony, both the people and the buildings, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I had so much fun coming up with my own ideas about what may have happened to them. Because I have a tendency to pepper my stories with a paranormal element, a ghost of one of the original colonists naturally appeared in the story (much to my surprise) and the rest is history.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been working on the sequel, Maya Vanishing, and am pleased to announce that it has finally found its way into the world. This book was tougher in some ways to research than Roanoke because we know so little about individuals (other than kings) in that ancient culture. For example, with Roanoke I was able to find primary sources written by John White, the governor of that colony. Hearing details about a time period that come directly from the source are more likely to be correct and also more likely to be interesting to me. They become real people, with relatives. People to love and people to lose. There was rich research that I could pull from for that book and then play with my own fictional interpretation of those events. Easy peasy. And fun.

With Maya Vanishing, though, it was much harder for me to connect with the culture from a distance. I started with the basics of their society. When they existed, where they lived, etc. But I was having a tough time getting interested in the differences between the pre-classic and post-classic Mayans. My first draft suffered from a lack of details about this culture that still really eludes many people today. I was making up very generic details about their culture that left the story feeling flat and empty.

Then something happened. I discovered that the Mayans were fascinated by the female menstruation process. It symbolized life-giving powers to them. So, they did what any jealous person does. The men emulated the women. They had ceremonies where they would cut their genitalia to pay tribute to the creation process. I also discovered that when they would sacrifice another human, they would paint the victim blue and then eventually pull their heart from their chests. These were all details I could sink my teeth into. I could attach these events to my fictional characters and create circumstances in which to showcase this odd (to us) behavior.

I write what I like to call ‘historical fiction lite’ because when I’m reading, I want enough detail to help pull me into the world, but not so many that I forget about the characters and their journey. And I write what I would enjoy reading. One delicate decision that I must make with every book is how much of my research makes it into the novel. The answer is always the same: just enough. And yet the answer is always different depending on who you ask. Some readers want pages and pages of historical detail while others get lost and close the book. I include enough to (hopefully) keep the reader entertained, immersed, but not bored.

I’d love to hear from you about the amount of history I include in my novels. It’s a fine and delicate line to traverse.


Roanoke Vanishing is available in paperback, ebook, and audio.

Avery Lane is driven to discover the fate of the 117 missing colonists of Roanoke. When she encounters a mysterious group called the Descendants, who are determined to keep the colonys secret hidden, Avery must choose between her obsession for the past and her own survival. Will solving this mystery cost her everything? Is there more to this secret than what is buried at Roanoke? Haunted by visions of the past, she must find answers before the Descendants stop her and forever banish the truth.

Maya Vanishing is available in paperback and ebook. Audio coming late summer.

What if history changes everything you thought you knew about your future?

Avery Lane's search for the tablet and clues to unravel the mystery around the Descendants continue in book 2, Maya Vanishing, as she travels to the Yucatan to explore Mayan Ruins. Avery will find more than she bargained for and will soon learn that the Descendants will stop at nothing to ensure the tablet remains buried.

Auburn Seal published her first short story in 2012. Since that time, she has written and published many stories in a variety of fictional worlds.  Of Auburns titles currently available (5 novels, 7 shorter pieces), only one of them doesnt include death in some form. Its not that she is particularly dark, but rather that fictional violence is exceptionally therapeutic. For the record, she wants to announce that she is only a murderous psychopath in her books. In real life, she is a perfectly lovely person with only a slightly twisted mind. Auburn lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Awfully Quiet Around Here . . .

The permanent writing station.  
I've been completely wrapped up in my offline life lately (which is usually for the better), so the blog has been quiet. My apologies, though I think the quiet will be worth it. I'm on the final edits for Unraveling: The New World, Part One. This will be the first story included in the Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit shipping in June. You can read an excerpt here.

Aside from editing, I've been busy outside the house. Spring has sprung, which means the blackberries are once more trying to take over the hill in our back yard. In the center right of the photo above, you can just see where the hill ends at the back of the yard. It runs the entire width of that side of the yard and rises almost to the roof-line of the house at a rather steep incline.

My goal this year is to strip the hill down to the plants I actually want (bamboo, butterfly bush, Forsythia tree, and a random park tree we salvaged from the neighbor) and then fill in with plants I have been collecting for this purpose. I have blueberry bushes, lavender, boxwood, fountain grass, and bulbs, and I'm hoping to move a small crepe myrtle and add some vinca, hostas, and strawberries.

I love planting, but I absolutely despise digging in our soil. The hill is a combination of clay and rocks, so it will take lots of amending while putting the new plants in. And digging on the hill--not the easiest thing to do when I'm not all that coordinated. But I'm eager to see what it'll look like once it's done.

I've been crocheting quite a bit again. Nothing major--I needed a couple new dishcloths, so I made a few. I'm also way behind on my cat blanket project. It's based on a challenge that Laurinda held a few years ago. The founder of the cat blankets for reading, Stephaniejo, passed away this past year, and in her honor, I've been crocheting a cat blanket a week to donate. I'm not certain if Kazoodles will  hold their cat blankets for reading program or will change the program for this year, but either way, I hope to have 52 cat blankets by the beginning of August to donate to them or directly to the shelter in Stephaniejo's name. It's a small thing that I can do to honor her, a woman I found so inspirational and devoted to her craft and to cats and to encouraging children to read.

I'm a little behind on the challenge, since writing got in the way, but yesterday after I finished my edits, I sat down to watch episodes of Arrow (I've just discovered this show and I LIKE it!) and crochet. I made three cat blankets, which puts me at 25 total. I have my work cut out for me to catch up, since I should be closer to 40, but I'm less than halfway through season one of Arrow, so I have lots of watching and crocheting left to do. But first, the edits for the day have to happen. Arrow and crochet are my editing reward.

In other news, my laptop has taken up permanent residence on the desk overlooking the back yard. I'm finding that when I come back here to write, it's like I've left the house. The kids can't find me. Which is hysterical, given how small the house is. So I disappear back here when my husband gets home and can sneak it some uninterrupted editing time. Or I come back here while the kids are playing in the yard and I get to enjoy their antics as I work.

Kiwi has taken full advantage of my move and now resides next to me while I'm writing on a blanket I laid out for her.

Cat and Author selfie
She's sleeping next to the laptop now. She snores when she sleeps.

Okay, back to editing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The View From Here

My old, trusty typewriter. 

I am intrigued by where writers write. I own a book called The Writer's Desk by Jill Krementz that shows photographs of famous writers at their desks. I look through it often when I'm having doubts. I can't explain why I find those photos so inspiring and uplifting, but I do.

Recently, I came to the startling conclusion that I don't work as well at a coffee shop or a library as I do from home. I finally realized why. I write in spurts. I put in a good long push at a scene, then push just a little more past where I'd normally stop, just to nudge the creative juices, and then I need to do something physical. Like dishes. Or laundry. Or mow the lawn and whack back the ever-growing blackberries in the yard. And after twenty or thirty minutes, I'm ready to sit back down and write.

I can't work this way out of the house. When I'm at a coffee shop or library writing, one of two things happens: either I get a lot of writing done at one time that I'm never completely satisfied with, or I end up chatting too much with the other writers who have joined me and don't get nearly enough done. Either way, when I get home I still have all the usual work to do, plus I feel like I haven't spent my writing time as wisely as I could.

I also find that when I'm away from home, I can't count on two things--at what sort of place I'll be sitting and what sort of noise level there will be.

I like silence when I'm writing. I don't listen to music or have any background noise other than the hum of the fridge or the furnace and the tick of the click when I work at home. At coffee shops and libraries, I have no control of the noise level and usually put on headphones to listen to soundtracks while I work. But headphones tend to irritate my ears after a while, and I have to take breaks to fiddle with the music, either to load it or change it and heaven help me if I lose internet connection and have to rely on whatever I have saved on the laptop.

I also lose time just getting to the place to write outside the house. First there is packing everything up to take with me, driving where I'm going, finding a seat, getting a drink or snack, switching everything on, and then trying to settle. Lately, it seems like wasted time when I have so few hours in the day to work. At home, I open the laptop, grab a cup of water or tea, and set to work. This also saves me gas and money I'd otherwise spend on drinks.

I freely admit, I'm a hermit. I'm introverted, I prefer my own space, and I don't do small talk. I do enjoy meeting with my writing friends every now and then to see what they're all working on, but those times don't translate into my best writing times. Those are times to reconnect, to share, to build upon the community of writers that I enjoy so much being a part of. And thank goodness for the internet and online communities! It is often weeks, if not months, between times when I get out to write with a group, so I rely on the online groups I belong to in order to connect and discuss.

I'm rather relieved to have finally come to the conclusion that I'm a stay-at-home writer. I'm getting more work done, feeling more confident, and while I don't have a desk, I do have two dedicated writing areas, which I thought I would share.

This is where I spend most of my writing time: sitting at my dining table, back against the end of the kitchen counter, a window to my left that faces the front yard, and the living room in front of me.

When the kids are home, the TV is usually on, or the desktop computer, which sits on a desk to my right. The cat is usually sleeping on the couch or she's on my bed, which I can see from where I'm sitting (it is a very small house). If the kids are outside, I can see them from my window. I can watch the birds in the weeping cherry tree that I planted out front, or wave to the neighbors, or just sit and watch the sun or the moon rise over the house across the street. I've seen so many startling amazing sunrises through this window, and some spectacular phases of the moon, too.

I do most of my computer work here, from writing and proofreading, to finances, social networking, and researching.

There are times when I need a change of scenery, however, or I want to work on my typewriter. Then I move through the kitchen into the little area I call the craft room. It isn't much for crafts anymore, though I do sew here. Mainly it holds our freezer chest, three bookshelves worth of board games, and my sewing table that doubles as a writing table.

I love the view of the backyard with the bamboo and all the greenery, though not so much all the blackberries that like to take over the hill to the right. I have a squirrel feeder on the fence and bird feeders hanging off the porch, and several of my favorite knick-knacks on the window sill, including a Christmas cactus that came with a planter I received as congratulations for the birth of my first child--which makes the plant over 11 years old now. It blooms a couple times a year, gorgeous pink flowers that spill open suddenly. I don't type as often as I use to, but I do still enjoy it. I suspect that after it arrives, my Hemingwrite will reside here. 

I've taken to occasionally sitting on the front porch in good weather, but my dream is to one day have a little shed built in the back yard where I might put a writing nook, so that even when the family is home, I can find a bit of solitude for myself to write. It's a good dream, but until then, I've embraced the two corners I've carved out for myself. And occasionally, I know I'll still make it out to my favorite coffee shop and library to write and reconnect.