"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, February 26, 2012

TEEN Agents -- Guest Post by Joshua Unruh (contest closed)

I've been looking forward to this post for weeks! I'm so excited to finally bring it to you that I'm not even going to write a lengthy introduction. I've already told you a few things about my good friend, and fellow Kindle All-Star, Joshua Unruh. I'll let him tell you the rest and then explain how you can win a signed paperback copy of his latest book:  TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol.

Find the new paperback on Amazon
or pick up the e-book!
I love Young Adult fiction. Most of the time that looks like guys in capes fighting would-be world beaters instead of boy wizards or, God deliver us, sparkly vampires.

But I’m also a lover of a wide variety of genre fiction. One of my favorites is Spy Fi, the genre best exemplified in the past by The Avengers or The Man from UNCLE and, more recently, by shows like Alias and the Middle Man. These two things, YA fiction and Spy Fi, come together in my latest novel.

TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol is a novel about three girls, best friends, whose fathers are kidnapped by an evil genius...one who just happens to be ten years old. This is how Elly Mourning, Hea Jung Noone, and Saturday Knight discover the existence of the Teenage Extranormal Emergency Network and how they join its ranks as agents.

There’s plenty of weird gadgets, exciting espionage, and plots for world domination in TEEN Agents. But at its heart, it’s a story about three girls who want to save their dads but have to grow up quite a bit to do it.

Right now, I’m the father of just one kid, a little boy. He and I watch all kinds of adventure cartoons, read comic books, and I continue to take in all that genre fiction I’ve always loved. But now I have an eye as to when I can share it with him.

I’d also like to be the father of a little girl someday. I don’t want to climb a soapbox, but it’s pretty hard to find stuff to excite and empower my hypothetical little girl.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

I should have as much strange and exciting genre fiction with young heroines as I have with heroes. Since I don’t, I decided to do something about that.

So that brings me to Elly, Hea, and Saturday. Elly is sharp and together, a born leader. Hea is a free spirit and incredibly athletic. Saturday has a brilliant scientific mind.

Click here to visit Joshua Unruh's blog.
I wrote them to be  the kinds of girls I’d like my future little girl to look up to. They aren’t perfect, but they are as accomplished and secure in who they are as thirteen year old girls can be. And they’re learning and growing as they go.

But I didn’t want to write a “girl’s story.” I wanted to write a spy fi story that starred girls. One that would be exciting for girls...and for their brothers and dads. Which is why I can assure you that the genius is evil, the enemy agent is suave and debonair, the traps are deadly, the lairs are secret, and the plan is diabolical.

This book is for girls looking for exciting fiction that makes them feel good about being girls because it's a book about heroic girls. Not to mention it's a fun read.

loved writing this novel for so many reasons. And my beta readers have absolutely loved reading it. I hope you can contribute something to the project. Trust me, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, you won't be sorry you did.

PS: Laurie tells me that a lot of her readers are moms. Moms, if you're going to dig my point of view, you're going to dig it on my main blog. Sometimes, though, I'm a bit...unvarnished on that one. For the kiddos who just want to know more about the TEEN Agents series, you might want to direct them to www.teenagents.net. Thanks!

Agents, here are your rules of engagement. You'll have up to six opportunities to fulfill your mission. For each of the following, you will receive one entry:

1.  Stop by Josh’s blog, follow it, and leave a comment on any post except the one that describes this contest. If you're already a follower, just leave your comment.


2.  Stop by Laurie's blog, Big Girl Blog, follow it, and leave a comment on any post except the one that describes this contest. If you're already a follower, just leave your comment.


3.  Tweet the link to the contest with a cc to Josh @JoshuaUnruh or Laurie @LaliberteLaurie. It doesn't matter which blog you link to in your tweet. If you're not on twitter, then post on facebook or Google+.

AFTER ACTION REPORT:  After you've done one or more of the above, return here and leave one comment telling us what you did. At the end of the contest, each of us will pull one name.

BONUS OBJECTIVE:  If you tell both of us what you did, you double your chances of winning.

Don't forget we'll need your email so we can notify you that you've won and deliver your prize. Each of the two winners will receive an email from kindleallstars[at]gmail[dot]com explaining how to claim their prize.

The contest begins at 8:00 a.m. GMT on Sunday, February 26, 2012. (That's 3:00 a.m. on the east coast and midnight on the west coast.) It ends at 8:00 a.m. GMT on Sunday, March 4. (Again, that's 3:00 a.m. on the east coast and midnight on the west coast.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ten Things I Love (crochet edition)

I thought I'd throw you all a curve this week and share some favorite things, partly because I was at a loss for a post subject, but mostly because I love them so much, so here you go. . .

Textured Stripes Dishcloth pattern by Kiel Lemon
free pattern found via Crochet Pattern Central
view my finished project on Ravelry
features reverse single crochet border
stitched with my Susan Bates Silvalume aluminum crochet hooks
photographed with my Canon Power Shot digital camera

1.   Susan Bates Silvalume aluminum crochet hooks
I posted recently about my search for the best knitting needles, but really didn't talk about crochet hooks except to tell you all that I like my bamboo needles so much that I bought a set of Tunisian bamboo hooks. I use the same hooks (not the actual same, the same model/brand) that my mother used when she taught me to crochet. I got very used to them. Mom can use pretty much any brand, but I'm such a creature of habit that I end up giving away just about any other hook I buy.

2.  Reverse single crochet
This really has become a favorite stitch of mine. I find it to be a soft, somewhat feminine but not too girly, way to edge my creations. I like it so much that my next big collection may feature rsc as the border. (I tease, but you love it.) For instructions, take a look at this youtube video:  RSC/aka Crab Stitch. Now, the video indicates that you should go up a hook size when you work the rsc. However, I find I need to go down at least one size, often two, because my stitches tend to be very tight except when I work the rsc. The best advice I can offer is that you practice on a swatch or dishcloth before you tackle a larger project.

3.  Ziploc Easy Zipper plastic storage bags
Granted, the zippers don't last as long on these bags as I wish they would, but they're a great way to store tools and projects. Plus, they're quicker and easier to close than regular zip top bags.

4.  Ravelry
When I tell people this, I sometimes get "Rav-a-who?" and a blank stare. If you crochet, or knit, or even spin, and you don't use ravelry.com, you are soooo missing out! I post my yarn stash, my hook and needle collection, my projects, and even sell every one of my patterns from there. Okay, one qualification: some of my patterns for sale can't be purchased directly from Ravelry due to contractual obligations, but they're still listed there for my customers to find. Plus, I find it's the best site on the web for finding patterns, both knit and crochet. And there's so much more to the site that I don't even use. Oh, and always a huge bonus in my eyes:  Ravelry is based in the Boston area. Chalk one up for the home team!

5.  Google Chalkboard Counter gadget
I heart gadgets. I also keep all of my patterns saved on my computer, so this app is right up my alley. It sits in my Google sidebar, right under my news feed, takes up little space, and it's always there when I need it. I use it as a row counter, sometimes as a stitch counter, and it interferes with nothing. If you've never seen it, it resembles a tiny chalkboard. All you have to do is click on it and it adds a hash mark. If you right click, it removes a hash mark.

6.  Crochet Pattern Central
My regular readers already know this, but Rachel over at Crochet Pattern Central is one of my favorite human beings. I owe about 100,000 page views to her. Most people who have found my blog have done so via her site. It's definitely the best resource I know for finding free crochet patterns. There's also Knitting Pattern Central, the sister site, which I fear because my pattern collection is embarrassingly large at this point. Plus, in writing this article, I just discovered there's also Tatting Pattern Central and Embroidery Pattern Central.

7.  Michael's Loops and Threads Cotton Club yarn
Maybe not the best yarn for scrubbies and washcloths because it's so soft, but boy is it soooooft. This yarn is a great basic worsted and an absolute pleasure to work with. The first time I used it, I couldn't stop touching it to my cheek. It would be great for baby blankets because of its cuddly softness. Did I mention it's soft?

8.  My Canon Power Shot digital camera
If not for my digital camera I wouldn't be able to photograph all of my gorgeous creations and share them here with you. It's crazy easy to use, offers great resolution, and it was relatively inexpensive. It's a great camera for snapshots and for those of us who don't really need more professional gear. Every photo in my upcoming book was shot using that camera.

9.  Vistaprint
Vistaprint.com is hands down my favorite place for professional looking business cards and other promotional materials. Sign up for their newsletter and see regular promotional emails for all sorts of free products and discounts. Oh yeah, and they are also based in the Boston area, so there's that.

10.   My Dell Inspiron laptop
Poor Pinkie. She's served me so well. She's taken a beating over the past few years that she's been with me, but she perseveres. This baby wasn't built for speed or power, she was built for convenience and specifically for crafting. I just hope she'll do me the honor of lasting another year.

Maybe next week, I'll do a knit version, or a knit addendum. Come back and see.

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Coming Soon

I am so beyond excited right now! Just a few short hours ago, I sent the photo files off to the graphic designer who is handling my (drum roll please) first book of crochet patterns.

Okay, okay. Truth be told, I'm scared to death, but read that quote at the top of the page. I said read it, doggone it! I'll wait.

I'd be a big old hypocrite if I let my fear stop me. The e-book version will be exclusive to Amazon and formatted only for the Kindle, but it's possible the print version could appear in a local yarn store or two in the very near future.

I've had some queries recently from yarn shops who were interested in selling my patterns. The most serious wanted me to have them printed so they could sell them. Truth be told, I'm not equipped to do something like that the right way at a sensible price, so I declined the offer. It would have cost me, rather than made me, money. That's probably not the best way to do business. So I finally took the plunge into publishing thanks to a kick in the tail from my good friend Bernard.

Teen Agents in
The Plundered Parent Protocol
by Joshua Unruh
Okay, so what else is happening? Well, within the next two weeks you'll be looking at a book giveaway on the blog. I've alluded to it a few times, but the details are pretty much set. I'm just waiting for a definite date from my pal Josh. Click the caption below the book cover and check it out on Amazon.

Josh will be giving away print copies of the book to celebrate the print release. I have to admit, I haven't had time to read all of it yet, but if it's half as good as the rest of Josh's work, we're all going to love it. While you're there, grab an e-copy of Josh's "Hob Lesatz for Hire." It was the first thing I read by him and I fell hard for his writing style. If you like noir, or Harry Dresden, you'll thoroughly enjoy Hob Lesatz. I must confess I have a bit of a crush on him (Hob, not Josh).

Heck, why not grab a copy of the Kindle All-Stars anthology, Resistance Front too? That way you'll be able to read Josh's other Hob Lesatz story as well. Each of those two will cost you less than a buck and the proceeds from Resistance Front go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

And since I must tease, a look ahead on the Blog: I had a crazy idea back in December for National Poetry Month. Some of you may or may not know or recall that I love poetry. And I write horrible poetry, but I don't let that stop me. Last year, I did a tribute to some of my favorite poems and poets. This year I thought I'd invite a few of my Kindle All-Stars pals to contribute a poem or two and maybe share a few of those poems with you.

Huh. Apparently when La Consigliera (that's my KAS nickname. . .long story) makes a request, stuff happens, because my mailbox was suddenly full of poems and "what do you need"s. I even received a piece from someone who I never, ever, in a million years, expected to even reply to my email. That one's my favorite, not because it's the best, but because I was touched. So you can expect an April that's chock full with an all out poetry slam.

Last, I really should apologize for some confusion. I got more than one panicked email this week from my dear followers asking why I'd pulled my blog. Most of you have probably figured out that there were broken links all over the place. I switched my blog address to better reflect me. AND because Big Girl Crochet is trademarked by someone else. There's also another Big Girl Blog out there, so I'm moving away from the whole thing and will eventually be giving up the name in favor of something else. Maybe I'll have a blog-naming contest. . .Now THERE'S a thought.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Am So Ready for the Game Tonight...Are YOU?

football dishcloth by Bunny Stamping
free knit pattern available here
My love of football is part genetic and part accident. I grew up watching the games (mostly whining that Dad was watching the games) with my dad. Still, I was all about Steve Grogan. Do the math. Yes, I AM only 29!

I loved football in high school. Okay, I had a crush on Dennis whatshisname who was on the team. Our team was awful, but they were ours and they tried. I doubt any of them went on to play college ball.

Then I began a job selling men's dress clothing (on commission) which required me to work two Sundays out of three. That was when I REALLY learned to LOVE football. You see, the rest of the store could be an absolute mob scene, packed with female shoppers on Sunday afternoon, but the men's department would have crickets chirping and salespeople praying that those women would reward their dear, hard-working husbands with something, anything, just so we would have someone to help, something to DO!

It took me about a month to figure out there was a rhythm to Sunday business, a pattern. And that pattern followed the New England Patriots schedule. So I started timing my lunch hour on Sunday to coincide with the start of the third quarter because THAT was the slowest part of the business day. I'd be in the employee lounge for most of the second half. Pretty soon, the guys were asking ME about player stats and injury reports.
football helmet dishcloth by Knitted Kitty Designs
free knit pattern available here

I fully understood the heartbreak that once was the fate of the native New England sports fan. Our mantra for so long was, "There's always next year." But next year never seemed to arrive.

Enter the holy Trinity of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady, who proved that yes, it was possible for New England to win THE BIG GAME. And they brought home a trinity of those glorious trophies in four years.

So, tonight, it's easy enough to predict where I'll be. And you all know who I'll be rooting for. But I will also say this: The Bills are one hell of a football team, and if our boys can't get it done tonight, at least they won't be losing to the Jets.

Happy Footballin'!