Monday, April 10, 2017

11 Ways Sewing is Like Writing and They Both Suck...

Rice Cake likes to take it easy. All day.

Let's just get this one thing out there: Writing is really hard and sometimes it sucks.

Some time ago, after I lost my will to write, I decided that I should maybe have some other creative outlet to engage in so that, when I wanted to spit on my laptop and instead went to the couch and sat in front of the television to calm down, I could do something to keep my supposedly creative know, flowing or whatever.

I chose to sew!

That's right. I did this to myself. I could have chosen something zen. I don't know...bonsai tree growing. Raking lines in a sand garden? Dance. I could have done interpretive dance. But I decided to sew. Keeping with my desire to never leave the house, I thought sewing my own clothes was a brilliant idea.

As it turns out, sewing is a lot like writing and I'm not sure that it's helping in the creative juice flow department. At all.

All the ways in which sewing is like writing:

1. You can't really just jump into it. You have to know a little bit about what you're doing. If you just jump into it, you'll come to a part that's all screwed up because you didn't know you were supposed to clip seams on a curve, or not start with a dead body if you're writing a romance. Things that make a lot of sense once you've got to that point and made a big mess, but that you didn't think were important when you started.

2. Not every scrap of fabric, or writing, is really worth saving. It's okay to dump stuff in the trash.

3. Sometimes, you have to go slow. You can't always run a seam through the machine like a wild woman, or type without thinking for an hour. Because when you do that, you might end up with something really, really wonky and then you'll be pissed off that you have to rip it all out and start again. Sewing, and writing, should be enjoyable. It's not a race.

4. There's a sequence to follow that will make things go together really well, if you'd just follow it. Stay stitch the neckline, shoulder seam, neckband, shoulder seam, sleeve, etc. Or, a bit of outline, a bit of writing, determine your theme, decide what your main character wants and why he can't get it, back to the outline, a bit of writing, check goals, etc. The best thing is, once you get the hang of your sequence, the next time you make something new, it'll be easier.

5. No matter how much practice you get, you will probably spend twice as much time fixing something you've made a mess of than you spent making the mess of it. And you'll wish you could just do it right the first time. But sometimes, that's just not possible. Get used to it.

6. You feel compelled to make something, even though each project is a frustrating mess. You're a masochistic sewer/writer who has deluded herself into believing that one day, it'll all be worth it. You'll be a star!

7. You really need to take some time to think about what you're about to do. Stop! What sort of fabric are you working with here? Why are you rushing into doing the hem/scene that way? Are you sure you don't want to do it differently? In a way that might turn out better? You need to think...but your chances of doing so are pretty slim. And when you do screw up royally, which you will, stop and think some more. Thinking is good! Thinking is a part of sewing and writing.

8. The results of your efforts at first will be awful--you're going to produce stuff that you won't even want to donate to Goodwill. As you get practice, your projects turn out better. But that doesn't mean that what you end up with is exactly what you'd hoped for at the start--that hardly ever happens. So, no matter what it is you're creating, it could be okay, it could be fabulous, and it could be a disaster.

9. Sewing, and writing, are extremely frustrating...or they're easy and fun. You just can't tell which it's going to be from day to day.

10. You really need to give up on your dreams of fashion week or best seller lists. You'll be happier that way. Trust me.

Okay, so, speaking of sewing. Remember last week I said that blue fabric would be a piece of cake to work with.

Famous last words. What a mess.

First, the neckline. The first band I made was with the grain and so had no stretch. I cut a new one. Great. I put it in only to find that as I stretched it, the seam curled terribly and the band got smaller and smaller. Naturally it was at its worst in the front where it would be obvious. Fine. I had to take it out and try again.

Not so fast. I could barely see my stitches in that fabric. I gave up on that, cut the neckband off and tried again. This time, I pinned the edges to prevent curling, and made the band slightly bigger and the seam line smaller. Much better! Except in one spot. On the front. I managed to get just a couple of inches of stitching out--a frustrating, nerve wracking hour of work. And I sewed it again.


Never mind, I decided. I will just put something over that area. Fabric flowers or something. It'll be cute!

My next mistake was in attempting to top stitch the neck band seam allowance down. I used a longer stitch, so it could be seen on the front neckline. You're supposed to see this top stitching. I thought I was doing a really good job. I used my seam guide foot with the little blade that runs right down a seam so your stitches to the left of it are nice and even.

But in the end, it was a horrific job. Seriously. Ugly as crap and very easy to see. I just had to go and make the stitch length longer, didn't I?

But because of that, I could see the stitches on the right side so I technically could spend a few hours carefully taking them out. But if I tried to get them out, it would almost certainly ruin the fabric. So...I cut the neck band off again! And wondered what else I could do with this fabric now that it's been cut into the shape of a front and a back of a shirt. Purse? Meh. Toss it into the trash? Maybe.

Determined that I could figure out something, I thought and I thought and I thought. This is very much like what I do when writing. Lots of thinking. I needed a neckline that would add coverage where I'd chopped it all off. This is what I came up with:

It's like a twisted cowl, right? It hangs nicely and I tacked it down in a few spots. I guess considering I figured it all out myself without any pattern, it's pretty good.

Second, the hems at the sleeves and bottom edge. I'll be damned if I wasn't watching an online sewing class and the instructor said that the coverstitch should "cover" the bottom edge of the hem. Ohhhhhhhhh! I've been doing it wrong. I've been folding over the hem, coverstitching, and leaving that raw edge of fabric there, like this:

Knits don't fray and unravel like woven fabrics do, so this works. But, well, I want to do it the right way. Who doesn't? So I did. I mean...I tried.

After doing those hems, I considered never sewing again. Ever.

I didn't fuse the hems in place, for one thing, so naturally, the knit fabric slid around and part of the edge was poking out--left unstitched...unbound. I tried to resew those stupid parts only to make a royal mess of my hem. But it's not really very noticeable if you're not looking for it.

 I'm still considering cutting the bottom hem off and doing it again. My way.

The truth is that even if I'd stabilized the hem, the chances of my being able to catch the edge of it in the coverstitch is slim because you coverstitch from the top of the garment. You can't see the edge of the hem while you're doing it. So forget that. I'm doing it my way from now on.

Damn straight.

11. It's okay to do it your own way. Screw what everybody else says you're supposed to do.

So, yeah. I'm having just as much trouble sewing as I am writing. How could I have thought this was a good idea? A way to help my writing?

I find myself suddenly questioning every decision I've made in my life. Rethinking everything! (Except the husband and kids. And the cats. And the chocolate. But everything else!)

How are your life choices panning out?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I made it all by myself! Sewing favorite tees...

I think I may have finally created a t-shirt pattern that works for me! I used my favorite tee, copied it twice, because I wasn't happy with the first time. Made one. Messed it up royally. Tweaked the pattern. And then made this:

I think I've finally got the pattern down. Now I need to make more! I need tees. 

Also, I used my coverstitch machine (in background) to do the hems and it worked like a charm. Well, okay, the first time I did it, I forgot how to remove the fabric and tie off the end so it wouldn't unravel. So, I had to remove the entire hem and do it again. (And while it did unravel a bit while I was trying to figure out how to make it not, it didn't unravel easily at all when I had to remove it. Figures.)

Here's some up close shots of the hems.

That's what it looks like on the wrong side--and it stretches. Perfect for knits. And then what it looks like on the right side.

Same for the sleeves. And a pic of the neckline. Can you tell I'm proud of my work?

It just really feels good to make something that I can actually wear and feel like I did a good job.

Here are some fabrics I'm going to try next:

The blue is a sturdy knit that I won't have any trouble with. But the pink stripe is very thin. I'll try using the coverstitch machine on a sample, but I'm not sure about it. My first try, the one that turned out awful, had to be stabilized so that the machine wouldn't chew it up. It was fine and slinky too. 

In the end, it got eaten and I ripped it trying to get it out of the machine. I'm sure it was my fault. Anyway, I tried to fix it, but it ended up too short. So I tried to fix it again by adding a ruffle. I just didn't like it. Live and learn.

I don't tend to go for horizontal stripes across my chest. But I got all this cheap fabric when Hancock went out of business last year. So, dang it all, I'm going for it.

Oh, well, that's all. Happy sewing!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The elusive red-cockaded woodpecker...

I spent all day Friday at Quilts & Lace in Melbourne with It's Sew Easy's Angela Wolf.

I really thought my shirt was prettier than that. It probably is, in person.
Oh, in case you can't tell. That's me on the left. Angela Wolf on the right.
Another lady in the class in the background, caught in an angry stare that is not her usual look, I'm sure.
She is just like you'd expect her to be from watching her on television or on her live Facebook posts. Super friendly and fun. And she's much more than just the instructor on It's Sew Easy. She's a fashion designer and she sells some of her best patterns! I bought three of them. (Of course I did.)

The class was sewing a skirt. As I don't wear skirts, I sat in on all the lessons, which were excellent and helpful, but saved the fabric for other projects. (I wasn't the only one, so don't say I was being petty or anything.) I did get to use the Brother Dream Machine 2 to embroider designs on the fabric. It was very cool.

I think they call it the Dream Machine because you can only afford it in your dreams.

Anyway, as an introvert, I had to recover from that day of being with (egad) people by eating a lot of chocolate on Saturday. So I baked a Krusteaz double chocolate muffin mix in a loaf pan and had at it.

Today, I'm still in recovery. Headache, puffy eyes, feeling like throwing myself in front of traffic but not enough to leave the house on my own to do it. But, hubs did take us out this morning to St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park in search of the supposedly rare (it pops up in my "rare bird" email alerts) red-cockaded woodpecker.

Here's the little sucker we're after:

Stolen from the Audubon Field Guide website

He's not red, is he? No. That's part of his disguise. We see that people are spotting them at the park, so today we decided we were going to find one for ourselves.

Apparently, they're seen mostly on the Yellow Trail, so we hiked it. We could hear a woodpecker off in the distance as soon as we started out, so spirits were high, to say the least. Unfortunately, we saw very little of anything out there.

It's scrub. Typical Florida. So, picture a lot of palm shrubs and some grasses, dotted with tall, spindly pines. Rarely an oak. You could see someone a hundred yards away if he was there, but we were alone.

We saw some flowers.

No idea what they are. Weeds, no doubt. But I like weeds.

You know you're not finding any birds when you find yourself taking pics of flowers. Oh, and trees.

Anyway, eventually we came to this sign:

Well, they're making it awfully easy, we thought. We're sure to see a red-cockaded woodpecker. And, as hubs learned on the Tubes, they paint certain trees with a ring of white. In those trees, they've pre-cut holes for the little peckerwoods.

Like this:

Alas and Alack. We saw no red-cockaded woodpeckers.

But we did see our very first owl! A great horned owl, pretty far away. But we have great zoom.
Here is his back: 

(That picture won't center and I'm too tired to make it.)

And here he is looking at us.

I think they always look angry. But we did try to get just a tad closer and he flew off.

On the way out of the park, in the car, we saw a raccoon!

I love raccoons! They're a lot like cats.

Anyway, here are a few more pics we took.

Mockingbird and kestrel.

A pine warbler.

Here's a funny looking pine tree:

Seriously, what's with the needles?

We got some great pictures on Saturday at the Viera Wetlands. But I'll only post one here because I don't think anyone wants to look at too many pictures. I forgot to make a mid-week post of pics from last weekend there. Oh, well.

Anyway, hubs came across this tiny snake in the road and I got some pics. We were standing right in front of a car (its occupants were photographing a bird) so we carefully encouraged him out of the road when we were finished. (I can't tell you how upsetting it is to see squashed caterpillars. I don't even want to think about a squashed snake.)

Here he is, the cutey.

All right, that's enough blogging for today. The red-cockaded woodpecker remains a goal. I have to say, I much prefer walking the Viera Wetlands, filled with birds and wildlife, than the St. Sebastian Park. It was dead by comparison. I'm spoiled, I suppose.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Narciso Family Cookbook...Great food, hardly any bugs*

Rice Cake was perplexed when he realized I wanted to take a picture of him with a potato.

My sincerest apologies for not blogging last week. I forgot. Seriously. I just forgot. I spent that weekend over in Lakeland at the Original Sewing & Quilting Expo, which was a lot of fun. I might do it again next year, but Lakeland is awfully far away.

Yesterday, I was at a new writers conference here on the Space Coast. They had a good turnout and I hope they'll do it again. We need a conference here, I think.

I'm still struggling to write my latest fantasy novel. I think I'm paralyzed by a suffocating, panic-inducing fear of failure. I just want it to be so good! And I'm scared it won't be as good as I imagine it in my head. There's a lot of laziness involved, too, but we don't need to go there.

Today, I'm going to give you an excerpt from The Narciso Family Cookbook. And mid-week, I'm going to post some more pics I took at Viera Wetlands last weekend.

I wrote The Narciso Family Cookbook for my sons. It's got some stories for them and recipes that they grew up with. Here's a little story about potato salad and Nazis.

Potato Salad
 Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks 
Eggs, same number as potatoes, hard boiled, peeled, and quartered 
Potato salad comes with a story. A sad story. It involves Nazis. Now I know that it’s not right to put the label “Nazi” on things because it dilutes the evil that was Nazism. But what do you call it when a person wants his food pure and white? He’s a food Nazi.

When I was young and free, I ate garbage. Garbage pizza—Pizza Hut’s Thin and Crispy Super Supreme. My spaghetti sauce had ground beef in it (all my Italian food had meat in it), and green pepper and onion and mushrooms and who knows what else? I’ve forgotten now. 

And garbage potato salad. It had all kinds of stuff in it. I know it had olives in it but I can’t remember if they were black or green. I know that I added in pimientos that came in little glass jars (really cute jars) so I think the olives must have been black. (See? Diverse potato salad.) But I can’t remember how it must have tasted, those black olives with pimientos. Maybe it was green olives and I just wanted extra pimiento. And I think I put in bacon, cooked and crumbled. And the eggs were chopped up. It was loaded potato salad! 

But then I married your father and all that was in the past. My Thin and Crispy Super Supreme became doughy Little Caesar’s pepperoni. And my spaghetti sauce, my lasagna, my ziti, all lost their meat. We’ve become purists. 

Alas, my potato salad. Now the recipe is to be strictly adhered to. One egg for every potato, which is ridiculous so sometimes I cheat. Seriously. What if I use 12 potatoes? I’m supposed to put in a dozen eggs? Pffflllttttt. And the eggs have to be quartered because there’s some kind of “have to see the eggs” fetish going on. 

Anyway, as to the recipe, I tend to go for more of a mustard base than mayo and the paprika (after having been thoroughly checked for bugs) is only sprinkled on top after it’s been shoveled into the serving dish. (Okay, it’s possible that I sprinkle a bit into the mix, too. I cook by mood, รก la George Costanza’s packing ritual.) 

Refrigerate and serve nice and chilled. Heil Potato! 

*I do tend to obsess about paprika and bugs in the cookbook. But honestly, you get pantry bugs once and the rest of your life is spent a little freaked out about it.

Monday, March 13, 2017

They key to confidence...BE the idiot

This is so embarrassing.

I'm a nitwit. I freely admit it. I have done some of the most embarrassing things imaginable.

When I was in early high school, I went to the beach with my family and a friend and as I was splashing around in the surf, one of my boobs popped out of my swimsuit. And my friend pointed at me and said, "Your boob!" And then she laughed. Everybody saw my boob. Looking back on it, I now wish I hadn't covered up and stomped up the beach to where my family sat, plopped myself down and refused to budge for the rest of the day. I wish I'd flashed the other boob, too, then laughed, and had a good time. But I didn't understand yet.

One time, when I was working at Waldenbooks (I was, ahem, the manager), I was talking with my assistant manager...the store was quiet...and...I farted. Loud. I didn't know what to do. So I did nothing. My eyes glazed over and I just kept talking. Like, maybe she didn't notice. I should have laughed. Then she could have laughed and we could have had a good time. But I was too ashamed.

Once, I was on a date with this guy at a restaurant and we were drinking beer and I burped and beer spilled out of my mouth onto my shirt. I was so embarrassed I ran to the bathroom and tried to clean up and then didn't mention it, as if he hadn't seen it. As if he couldn't see the wet spot on the front of my shirt. I never went out with that guy again. How could I? Nobody else could ever be so crude, except on purpose and I certainly hadn't done it on purpose!

Another time, I was on another date and he was driving. I was sitting next to him and there was a dead something in the road. It looked like he was going to run over it, so I grabbed the steering wheel and made him swerve to...hit it! I made him run over it! And he looked at me like I was a serial killer and said, "I can't believe you did that!" I wish I'd had the nerve to explain to him that I was trying to do the opposite of what I did. But I didn't. I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I didn't know that he was an idiot, too.

Sometimes when I try to talk to people, I stutter. And other times, I'm so nervous I talk really loud and really fast. This one time, I was taking this herbal drug hoping to lose some weight and one of my weight-losing acquaintances found out. She wanted to know more about it and I was so freaked out that I couldn't stop myself from raving like a lunatic. She asked me, "Will it make me antsy?" "Oh, no!" I said, jumping around and shaking. She must have thought it was an amphetamine.

I don't answer the phone and I don't like public speaking because I know that things are going to fly out of my mouth. Random things. Things that I probably shouldn't say.

For instance, I was at a writers and readers festival of sorts once and agreed to be on a "panel" of fantasy writers. I was lucky, because there was another, more popular, panel at the same time, so we had only one person, a woman, at ours. The panel was just me and this guy. And this guy mentioned a friend of his...a well-known to this particular community friend. And his books. Books that I'd read. And I proceeded to tell him and the one woman who'd come to hear us talk what I didn't like about this man's books. I could almost hear myself in my head telling me to shut up. "You're being rude," I said. "In public. You're dissing this guy's friend. A fellow author! In front of him! Stop!" But I didn't stop.

I'm an idiot. Can we just admit it?

And that is why I don't like leaving the house. It's just too stressful to navigate the world knowing that at any moment, idiocy is going to pop out.

Apparently, however, according to this brief video, the key to confidence lies in accepting that we are nitwits and realizing that we are all idiots. Every single one of us.

But this video doesn't go far enough. Don't just accept it. Because the problem doesn't lie in our lack of awareness that we aren't alone. It lies in our unwillingness to BE idiots. We might understand that idiot happens. But we would still choose not to let it happen. (Except for the comedians who really get it.)

So, embrace the idiot. Be the idiot. Rejoice in it.

I am an idiot! And if you want me to speak to you in public, expect great idiotness! Aw, come on. It'll be fun it'll be fun it'll be fun.

Seriously, though, this is an amazing revelation to me. I've always known I was an idiot. I tell myself I'm an idiot nearly every day. And people say not to do that. They say, be nice to yourself. But maybe that's the problem. I keep trying not to be what I am.

I mean it. I'm ready to embrace the idiot inside me and I think you should too. Because you are, you know.

An idiot.

(I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sewing: Knocking off my favorite t-shirt pattern...

I'm about to do a knock off. I don't really want to kill anybody...exactly. Though sometimes I feel like I could hit a few people. Better to knock off a pattern. Fewer bad consequences.

Here's the thing. I go through t-shirts pretty quickly. They wear out, they stretch out, they shrink, they get splattered with chocolate syrup. And I get tired of clothes shopping. This is the whole reason I started sewing again: I want to make clothes that I can wear.

Easier said than done, apparently.

I have yet to make a manufacturer's pattern that fit me. Even after I learned to fit the pattern, measure the pattern, and fit it again, they just don't fit. Every time, there is too much fabric under my arms and the sleeve starts way too far from my body. wth? So, I am learning to tailor clothes out of necessity. And I'm struggling to just make a simple t-shirt. How hard could it be?

I want a pattern that I love and can use again and again. I am determined to make this happen.

And so, here is another chapter in the t-shirt saga. I took an online class on how to create patterns from clothes in your closet. Maybe I didn't need that class. I already did it once and it turned out...okay. But it was my first time and I'd only just started sewing again. Still, I thought I could learn a few things. And the instructor said I should make the pattern differently than I had the first one.

The first one I made, I just laid the shirt out flat and stuck pins in it. But the instructor folded the shirt along the center front, and did the back the same way. So that's what I did. It didn't work. I'd like to blame the technique, and I do think there were flaws there. But it was also due to some finagling on my part. I thought the neckline couldn't possibly be right, and changed it--making it very wrong. And the sleeves were way too gathered.

So, my solution was to try another manufacturer's pattern. And, naturally, despite fitting it the way they said to (I even pinned the pattern together and put it on!) it still gaped under the arms. I fought and fought with that shirt until I was sick of it. (And I burned it with the iron. What I need is a class on proper use of an iron.)

So, I went back to the pinning board and tried again--my way. Here I am, pinning up my favorite tee.

When it's laid out there like that it looks ginormous, doesn't it? And shaped funny. Looks like a shirt for a Weeble.

Anyway, you want to put the shirt on cardboard. I use the back side of my big fold up cutting board. And put a piece of paper behind it. Then you spread it out as smoothly as possible, and stick pins all along the seam lines. Front. Then the back on its own piece of paper. This puts holes in the paper underneath it. I actually took a darning needle and poked the holes to make them bigger.

Then, connect the dots and cut it out.

What I do then is pick a side, left or right. Whichever side looks nicest. Because inevitably they won't be the same. I blame this on the original shirt being all stretched out and not on my pinning capabilities. Then I fold it down the middle, trying to cut the neckline right down the middle and still get the side seams to meet up. It never works out very well. I press the middle fold and then lay it flat again and, using a ruler, trace down the center line. Then I cut it, very carefully. I do all of that for the back as well.

At this point, I throw away the half that I didn't like, thus burning any bridges that might help me out of a mess later.'s my way.

If I need to, I use my French curve and hip curve to smooth out the curves and lines. I also do my best to get end points (where two lines meet) at 45 degree angles--like at the underarm and at the shoulder. I do that because I'm pretty sure an instructor in a class said to do that. But who knows?

Now, a word about evening up these lines. I put the front and back shoulder seams together and made sure they were the same length. I'm always finding that one is longer than the other and I thought it was my bad. But last night, I was reading a new book on sewing that I got at Amazon. Janet Pray, an excellent online instructor at Craftsy, says that you are supposed to ease the back to the front at the shoulder seams! Lightening struck my brain! All this time, I was supposed to be easing the back to the front. wth?

Why? Why is the back shoulder seam longer? So, I did some research and...nothing. I can't find out anything about this issue. So for now, I'm going to go ahead with my pattern as I've made it--with the shoulder seams the same length. But I'm going to contact Janet Pray and ask her about it.


Next, the sleeve. Again, in the class I took the instructor had this weird way of doing the sleeve. You draw two lines, one horizontal and one vertical, intersecting it, then line up the folded sleeve along the vertical, pin that side, then flip it...whatever. I ended up with the weirdest, funkiest shaped sleeve ever. And in the end, it had way too much ease in it, giving me a puff sleeve basically. Something that I could have easily fixed, but for some reason, forgot all my lessons on checking the ease of a sleeve. (How long do I have to sew to start remembering these things?)

Anyway, I decided to do the sleeve my own way. Like this:

I made one piece for the front and cut it out. Then turned the sleeve over and made another piece out of the back. And then I put the two pieces together at the shoulder line to make one sleeve.

And guess what? It was one wonky, funky looking sleeve. And I did not like it one bit. I have never seen a sleeve that looked like that in my life. (Except for that first time I tried to do this.) So once again, I blamed stretch. And I took out a manufacturer's sleeve pattern, looked it over, and trimmed up my sleeve pattern to look more like a sleeve.

Note the mark at the shoulder seam at the top, and the marks for the front and back of the sleeve. Very important! You don't want to put your sleeve in backwards.

Okay, so, the next step is to trace these patterns onto my pattern paper and cut them out. Then I went around and added a half inch seam allowance on most of it, with a one-inch hem allowance on the sleeve and bottoms edges.

The neckline was a problem. I'd decided to pin and draw the neckline as it was, as opposed to at the seam line because I wasn't sure what I was going to do about the neck facing. So, I figured I was going to do a half inch facing with a quarter inch seam. I hate math. I think I figured it out right.

Next was cutting out the pattern pieces and walking the sleeve.

The great thing about this pattern paper is that I can see through it. You line up your sleeve at the underarm, matching the pieces at the seamlines not the cutting lines. Then you "walk" it up toward the shoulder. And along the way, when you get to the front and back marks that you made, you add those marks on the armscye (that's sew talk for armhole) and keep walking. You're looking now to see at what point the sleeve comes to the shoulder line. It should be a bit before the shoulder mark at the top of your sleeve because the sleeve should be a bit larger than the hole.

For a knit tee, and to match the one I'm copying, there should be very little ease--about an inch. That way, there won't be a bunch of gathers along the top and it won't look like a puff sleeve. You especially don't want a puff sleeve that sits a bit off the shoulder. Blech.

Anyway, mine looks good so far. Next I need to make a pattern for the neck facing. Then I'll try to find some cheap knit fabric in my stash and make a muslin. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dead dolls, Bookish Meets Boy, and some bird pictures...

Creepy doll head. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017

You know how when people find dead bodies and at first they think what they're seeing isn't real, because what are the odds, right? And then they realize it's real and they freak out. Well, when I saw that doll head, of course my first thought was that it couldn't be real. Seriously. Just a head? And a baby's head?! And, like, we're the first ones to come across it right there just off the road in the Viera Wetlands? I don't think so.

And then...yeah, then nothing. It was totally a doll's head. Somebody's playing games. That's what I think. Ah, ha. Ha. Good one.

February is over! Remember last year when I wrote about February and the vomitorium? That was so cool. Anyway, I got flowers for Valentine's Day; what did you get? And I bought a bunch of Girl Scout Cookies, because where I live, that's what you do in February. You have to make a point of going to Walmart on the weekends or you miss out. Can't let that happen!

I've been trying to blog at least once a week and I didn't have anything really interesting happen to me this past week so I'm going to post the review I got for Bookish Meets Boy. I think you're supposed to do that when you're a writer. You about yourself and your books. So, whatever. Here goes. Oh, and at the end, I'll post some pictures I got over the weekend at the Viera Wetlands.

I've been entering books, etc. into the Royal Palm Literary Awards for a few years now. So far, I've always won something. This past year, all the entrants were sent a survey about the competition and one of the questions was, "Why do you enter?" The two options I remember were 1. To win an award or 2. to get feedback. I got the idea they were hoping that most people were going to go with "feedback." And sure enough, according to the Florida Writers Association 54% of respondents said "feedback" was "very important."

Well...not for me.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just don't care what anyone thinks about what I write. I write it the way I want it and if other people like it, that's great. If someone doesn't like it, then they don't like it. And as far as mechanics go, well, I've been writing since I was in fifth grade, at least. I think I've got it well enough to suit me and, like I said, I'm the one doing it so I'm the one that counts.

I enter competitions to win awards.

That being said, if you want feedback, the Royal Palm Literary Awards is the way to go. The rubric you get for each entry is comprehensive and informative. I just don't look at it anymore.

So, I enter a lot of contests. It's fun, I guess. And sometimes you win stuff. The biggest competition for self-publishers is the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. By big, I mean, huge numbers of people enter it. You're doing great if you get an Honorable Mention in that one.

And what do you know? I got one for Always Magnolia.

I did not get one for Camelia or Bookish Meets Boy. But the feedback I got, which in this contest is a review, for both books was fantastic. Perfect scores! A perfect score doesn't mean a win, though. Oh, well.

Here's the "review" I got for Bookish Meets Boy:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5 
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5 
Plot and Story Appeal: 5 
Character Appeal and Development: 5 
Voice and Writing Style: 5
Judge’s Commentary*:

BOOKISH MEETS BOY by Dianna Dann is a fun, thoroughly modern romance novel that will especially appeal to writers, cat lovers, and avid readers who love and understand the romance genre. As for readers who’ve been dumped (and haven’t most of us been at one time or another?) they’ll especially love this fun romp!
This has to be one of the most original titles I’ve seen for a romance novel, and it works! The cover is well done and with its colors and whimsical illustrations, including cute cats, and lets the reader know right away what type of story the book entails. (ha ha!) The back cover is well done, though I might have chosen to include a color photo of the author rather than black and white. I do like the spirit of the photo, though, because it's in line with the book. The writing is lively and engaging. I am rooting for these characters.
I like the notation that this is A DOWNTOWN DIVAS ROMANCE, because that tells me this author has big plans for a series. That's exciting and wonderful news for this authors' readers – and reviewers! No doubt Dann’s following will continue to grow with each subsequent book. following...sigh. That's not to say I don't have a fan. I'm pretty sure there is one out there. Anyway, so yes, five is the highest score you can get in each category.

So, that's what you get with Writer's Digest. You can try to take out praise-y snippets to post on your book's Amazon page. I haven't done that yet. I'm not so good with the "selling" part of being an author-preneur. But if I did, I'd use this bit: "The writing is lively and engaging. I am rooting for these characters." That's a back cover blurb if I ever read one. But when it comes to quoting, you don't have a name to put on it. You have to say that Judge #10 in the WDSPB Awards said that. I don't know...sounds fishy, doesn't it?

Okay, enough about me, here are some photos to inspire you.

First is a limpkin. I'm beginning to think the limpkin...this one right my favorite bird. Just look at the way he's standing there in the road waiting for us! As we approached, he was making these cute, pitiful squeaks at us. I got it on video! I'll post it later. Anyway, we figured that what we thought was cute might be his way of feeling threatened, so we walked on. But according to wikipedia, they don't fear humans. Maybe I was right to think he liked us!

Limpkin. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017
Here's a sweet little alligator taking a snooze on a log.

Florida Alligator. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017

And here's a juvenile anhinga, I think. He has some cool eyes, doesn't he?

Anhinga. Viera Wetlands. Feb 2017
Okay, it's time for me to get back to work.