"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, May 27, 2012

Remember the Living

This is a weekend for remembering fallen soldiers, but beyond remembering them, there isn't a whole lot we can do. They're gone. We can't bring them back. So I thought I'd focus on what we can do. We can take care of the troops who are still with us, either still serving or retired. We can help their families cope with their absence. We can make a difference. So, as we remember the fallen, let us also remember the living.

I dug up a few charities that make a huge impact in small ways because sometimes those little things make the biggest difference.

General donations/care packages:

Operation USO Care Package sends care packages to service men and women all over the world. Your $25 donation pays for the items that go into the package.

Operation Gratitude sends care packages to troops overseas. A $15 donation pays for shipping.

Operation Shoebox sends care packages, but accepts donations of products that are sent to them. If you'd rather send items than a monetary donation, this is the one for you.

helmet liner without helmet courtesy
of Packages from Home website
Handmade items:

Warmth for Warriors sends hats and washcloths to active and retired troops. Simple hat patterns and further details are available on their site.

Soldiers' Angels - Blankets of Gratitude group sends knitted, crocheted, and hand-loomed blankets to veterans. (The open work of these items prevents them from being useful in a hospital setting.) Poke around their site for other types of blankets they send to active duty and wounded soldiers.

Packages from home uses hand knitted helmet liners in their care packages. Very specific instructions and a pattern are shown on their site.

How you can earn a free pattern:

If you decide to donate handmade items and would like to use one of my washcloth or hat patterns, leave a comment below with the pattern you intend to use. If you pledge to make two hats or three washcloths from the pattern of your choice, I will send you the pattern free of charge.

However, I want to see pictures! Perhaps I'll post them on Veteran's Day.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Put down Your Book and Pick up Your Hook

Haven't we had enough of reading around here for a little while? I think it's time to get our crochet on and I've found the perfect way to do it. A while back, Samantha emailed me and told me about these great towels she makes using a portion of my Big Girl Towel pattern. I can't remember how it all went down, but we basically decided that she should write up a tutorial that we could each post on our blogs. I think you'll agree with me that the towel and the yarn colors she used for her example are awesome. (I love pink.) Anyhow, please welcome Samantha and her rockin' kitchen  towels.

Hi Everyone!!
I have been asked a few times how I make my Kitchen Towel Toppers:
The crocheted top I use is fashioned after top of Laurie’s hanging kitchen towel patterns (I have most of them), so I asked her if she minded if I created a tutorial and I use her pattern for reference.  Her idea was for me to do this guest post and I happily agreed.
I have made these using worsted weight yarn and dk weight yarn.  I think you could easily adapt it for other weights as well.

Materials needed to start:

·         Yarn
·         Scissors
·         Towel
·         Needle (I use a tapestry needle, but that means I need a thimble to push it through sometimes)
First thing you need to do is cut the towel in half.  You really only need one half of the towel and on the plus side you get more for your money!

I don’t really worry about this being perfectly straight because in the end it is going to be somewhat gathered.
After the cut is made, thread your needle with a long piece of yarn.  I now make mine really long because one time I made it too short and had to redo it and that was not fun.

Next you want to fold down the top of the towel like so:

Folding the towel down like this makes it so you don’t have any raw edge exposed.
Next we want to put the needle through so that the knot is on the edge in the back.

Then we want to start doing the blanket stitch (youtubetutorial found here) across the top of the towel.  Make sure to continue to fold the very top down so the cut edge is not exposed.  You can pin this edge if you want to make it easier for you.

Here’s how mine looks from the back with the top folded down.

Once you have gone all the way across make sure you knot it in the back.

We are going to put one sc in each blanket stitch, so make sure to keep the stitches fairly close together.  Although the thicker the yarn you use the farther apart the stitches can be.  I am using dk yarn in this example.
Now you can start doing sc across the blanket stitch.  I use a larger hook than recommended for the yarn with these, but it is all what you are comfortable with.

Now once you get to the end just chain one and do a few more sc rows.  For worsted weight I tend to do 4 rows, but for this example in dk I did 5 rows.

If it starts to pull in a little that is okay.  We are going to start gathering it and decreasing anyway.
This is where I start to use Laurie’s pattern (Free Big Girl Kitchen Towel).  We want to sc dec
(A sc dec is insert hook into both loops of first stitch being worked, yo, pull up a loop, insert hook into both loops of next stitch, yo, pull up a loop, yo, draw through all 3 loops on hook)
over the next few rows to get down to 6 stitches.  Now this all depends on how many stitches you have.  In this example I have 54 stitches. 
So first row I just do sc dec all the way across and I end up with 27 stitches.

Next I sc dec 7 times, 1 sc, sc dec 6 times to get to 14 stitches.

Then I did sc dec 2 twice, dec over 3 stitches twice, then sc dec twice to get down to 6 stitches.
(dec over 3 stitches is insert hook into both loops of first stitch being worked, yo, pull up a loop, insert hook into both loops of next stitch, yo, pull up a loop, insert hook into both loops of next stitch, yo, pull up a loop, yo, draw through all 4 loops on hook)

Once down to 6 stitches, chain one and sc across.

Continue making the 6 stitch rows

I did about 20 rows.
Next, once it is long enough you will do the row that will become your button hole. 
From Laurie’s pattern:
Note:  Before proceeding, you may wish to fit your hanging loop to the place where you'd like it to hang.  If worked as instructed it will fit the average drawer pull or oven door handle.  If you need to add length simply continue repeating Row 64 as necessary.
Row 82:  ch3 (counts as dc), trc in next st, dtrc in next 2 sts, trc in next st, dc in next st, turn (6 sts)
Note:  The space between the two dtrc is your buttonhole.

Next you want to chain one and sc in the first two sts, two sc in each of the next two sts, and then sc in the last two sts, do not bind off.

Next, you want to sc down the side and stop right where you started the decreases.

Fasten off, then start on the other side where the decreases started.

Fasten off and weave in ends.

Sew on a button of your choice.

Sam, I can't thank you enough for dropping in to do this. I LOVE this idea and am going to have to make a couple for a friend this week.

By the way, folks, you can find Samantha's blog HERE.

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Smut Sells?

Well yeah, supposedly smut sells faster than any other fiction category. So I wrote some. Here's the quick story behind the story:
Many thanks to my pal and fellow KAS
Tony Healey for this great cover design

A while back I got an email from my buddy Aaron. He wanted to know whether my contribution to the Kindle All-Stars Resistance Front anthology was actually the abridged, "clean version" of a longer erotica piece. What? ME? Write erotica? Are you crazy?

Sure, I've written plenty of erotica over the years, but never for an audience larger than one. Specifically, one person (at a time) whose interest I wanted to pique. I never dreamed of writing erotica for a consumer audience.

That set the wheels to turning. Suddenly I was full of ideas but short on time. So I've been working on what I fondly refer to as an anthology of smut. It's been slow going because editing projects, personal business, and other concerns that I may divulge in the coming months have taken precedence over my own writing.

The first piece, the teaser if you will, is the "naughty version" of "Fear of the Dark." It is currently available on Amazon for .99 and I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. This is not for younger audiences by any means.

Here's the description from Amazon:
A woman steps off a bus into a blackout and must make her way home in the dark. What, or who, will she encounter when she gets there? The "clean version" of this psycho-sexual thriller was featured in the Resistance Front anthology. This new, extended version runs about 4000 words and is definitely NSFW.

And here are a few quotes from the reviews (all five stars):
"If you like your fiction extremely well-written, and a little saucy, then look no further."
"A quick, dirty, fun little read."
"Good writing is a pleasure to read, and for a psycho-sexual story like this one it's a must. Well done."

So snag "Fear of the Dark" and I'll let you know when the big antho is done.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stranger Than Fiction

I have a difficult time saying no to people. Especially Kindle All-Stars people. So when David Hulegaard, my "brotha from anotha motha," sent me an email asking whether he could take over my blog for a day, how could I refuse him? David's latest book, Strangers has just been released and the KAS folks are all over it. Some acted as beta readers and Tony Healey designed the cover. What can I say? We're a fairly close-knit group. Anyhow, read what David has to say about his latest labor of love then pop over to his website to download a sample story from the collection.

Happy Reading!

Humanity can be ugly.

I toyed with several options for a tagline, but in the end, that's the one I felt represented my new book the closest. I didn't necessarily set out to write an uplifting collection of short stories when I started, but all cards on the table, Strangers took many twists and turns that even surprised me.

My original concept was pretty simple. In all my years of traveling, I had met some rather intriguing characters and amassed an impressive collection of too-crazy-to-be-true stories. At business dinners I was constantly being asked to entertain clients by sharing the latest and greatest of my experiences. Without fail, someone would say to me, "You have GOT to write a book of these stories!"

So at long last, that's what I've done. I sifted through years worth of my compiled notes and selected some of my favorites to share in this book. Some of the stories I experienced first-hand, and others were events retold to me by complete strangers as we traveled together. The things that people will tell you thinking that they'll never see you again would astound you.

Strangers contains eight twisted short stories and is available on Kindle now for $2.99. You can download "Chicago" for free here, but be warned... humanity can be ugly.