"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, June 30, 2013

Merry Handmade Christmas!

Basket Case Kitchen Set
I think we're all familiar with the crazy practice of Christmas in July, but it's not so crazy when you consider that you have about five months to decide upon, and make, all those handmade gifts for the holidays. I love giving handmade gifts whenever I can. I also love receiving them. Partially because they can be economical, partially because it makes me feel good to know how much love and attention goes into handmade products. They don't simply roll off an assembly line, mass produced in a factory where thousands, even millions, of the same design are spit out by machines.

The only part of gifting that makes me happier than bestowing a handmade present is returning to find that gift tattered and torn and used and abused. Why? Because that use and abuse tells me that the item was truly cherished, truly loved. I'd rather return to find an afghan falling apart than one in pristine condition as though it's been hiding in a drawer except when the recipient pulls it out because they know I'll be visiting.

A person who truly cherishes a handmade object (and the person who made it) understands that it won't last forever, and that the maker filled it with love, and that the best way to acknowledge that love is to use the item.

My mother, about thirty years ago, went through this crazy afghan-crocheting binge. I took several of those blankets with me, including one she made specifically for me, when I moved into my own apartment. I still have one of them. I will confess that it's currently packed safely in a box on the floor of my closet waiting for the day when I again have a larger apartment where I can proudly display that afghan (and use it daily). That blanket is one of my prized possessions, which is saying quite a lot when you consider I've become something of a minimalist.

On the opposite side, I have a friend for whom I made a beautiful baby afghan to celebrate the birth of her first child. I searched my personal library for just the right pattern and decided I wanted to cross-stitch an adorable Pooh design to match his room. I stood in the store, pattern in hand and picked out just the right fabric and scoured the rack for the correct colors of embroidery floss. Then I spent evenings and days off, whenever I could find a few spare moments, bringing the design to life. I washed it by hand, allowed it to air dry, and pressed it carefully so it would be pristine and ready for use by the first child brought into the world whom I would be honored to call not "my friend's kid," but "my nephew."

The "baby" is about to celebrate his eleventh birthday. The blanket already has. You see, that cross-stitched afghan has spent nearly all of its eleven years in a drawer. Hours of painstaking work, hundreds, maybe thousands, of stitches, and it has hardly seen any use. That breaks my heart. I begged my friend to donate it to Project Linus or to Children's Hospital so at least a child who needed it could use it. But she refused. Why? Because she didn't want it to get ruined.

If I had known it would never get used, I would have purchased a blanket for half what it cost me to make that one and the store-bought one would have been put to use. Fifteen bucks, fifteen minutes, done.

So why have I shared these stories with you? Because I hope to remind you to choose wisely if you're making some gifts and buying others this year. And if you receive any handmade gifts this year, I hope to help you understand that a handmade gift belongs in your hands where it will be used, not in a drawer where it won't.

The Whole Shebang Value Bundle (pot holders)

Anyhow, let's get to the point. It's time to decide what to make and what materials to buy. And I'd like to help if I can. My Whole Shebang Value Bundle is already a great deal at $24.99 for 18 patterns; that's six different kitchen sets. But I'm sweetening that deal for the month of July*. Use this link which will take you to my Ravelry store and automatically drop the deal into your basket. What's the deal? When you purchase the Whole Shebang, you will also receive my Basket Case Value Bundle, normally priced at $5.49, as my Christmas in July gift to you.

If you prefer, you may drop the two bundles into your basket separately and the highly intelligent Ravelry computer will do the rest. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to offer exactly the same deal automatically via Etsy, so I will do it manually in the back of the house. (That's retailspeak for, "I'll take care of it for you; don't worry.")

*Offer expires July 31, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. GMT.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two Favorite Authors and a BOGO

When my two favorite authors collaborate, you know there has to be a guest blog. Take it away, Tony:


If anyone had told me a year ago that an idea I had for a sci-fi serial would be an international bestseller . . . I’d have laughed.
But that’s what happened.
Every instalment of FAR FROM HOME has hit to the Top 100 in its category without fail upon release. Its readers number in the thousands, and those numbers continue to rise.
I’m not boasting. But as an experiment in serialization, nobody can argue that the series is a resounding success.
So it was inevitable that I’d team up with another successful author, who just so happens to have his own sci-fi series.
Bernard Schaffer and I have known each other a couple of years now, and I not only view myself as a fan of his work, but as his pupil in many ways. I learn more about the craft with each book he publishes.
Seriously, the guy has not peaked yet. He’s not even half way up the mountainside. Bernard calls his writing ‘weaponized words,’ and you just can’t argue with that.
Our writing styles are completely different . . . and yet as we came to realise when we worked on this collaboration, they sort of complement one another.
I shot a suggestion across Bernard’s bow a few months ago with regards to teaming up, maybe having a two-part story that crossed from my universe to his, or vice versa. He was instantly excited by the idea, and we emailed back and forth to work out a story that would take an antagonist from the FAR FROM HOME universe to that of his GRENDEL UNIT.
We each wrote a rough draft, then shared it with one another – something neither of us ever does. As Stephen King says, “your first, rough draft is your own private domain. It happens behind a closed door.” But with this project it was essential we read where we both were and made notes, suggested changes.
We fired some more emails, then set about rewriting.
Finally, we worked with the wonderful (and hardcore) Laurie Laliberte to make the two pieces shine.
The two halves are called:
respectively. And as a special offer this Sunday and Monday, I am making Part 1 FREE on Kindle. This way you’re getting a TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE deal.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy it enough to grab Part 2 and see how the story ends.
This two-part collaboration is very much a stand-alone tale in each universe, meaning you don’t have to have read either of them before to enjoy it.
It’s a good old fashioned romp in space, and I swear Bernard rocked my socks off the first time he sent Part 2 for me to read.

Thank you for reading. And thank you to Laurie for letting me post here once again.

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The KAS Takes on Comic Con

My original intent today was simply to reblog Alexander Maisey's post recapping the boys' trip to Philly ComicCon. However, the entire KAS panel had great posts to talk about last Sunday's shenanigans. So, I will instead share with you the links to each author's blog post and encourage you to check them out.

Michael Shean who didn't actually make it, but blogged about it anyway ;)

And, in my desire to inject at least one photo into every one of my posts, I offer you a sneak peek at my most recent crochet projects. They will all appear in my next crochet book, but you will also find them here on the blog* . . . eventually.

I can barely put into words how much I am enjoying this project.
Shown are the Large Tote and the Tablet Sleeve.

*The motif on every piece in this collection is the Big Girl/Blog Collection motif. I have every intention of keeping my original promise to my readers that those patterns will be available on my blog free of charge. I have no release date for the book yet, but the patterns in it will be released on the blog, one at a time, over the next twelve months.

By the way, the boys plan to take on New York next. Stay tuned to the Kindle All-Stars website for more news.

Keep Calm and Comic Con!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lining and Cheating

Hey y'all! Perhaps one day I will blog about this week's adventures and tell you how much fun it isn't to have a mile-wide tornado headed straight for your neighborhood, but not today.

I won't have time to offer you a proper blog post, so instead I will round out the Windmill Bag series with a link to a fabulous tutorial I found for making a lining for your bag. I plan to use this one myself if I can find just the right fabric. (Call THAT a great excuse to visit my favorite Wal-Mart on the other side of town.*)

I can't tell you how deeply I've fallen in love with this bag. My version, the original that inspired it, and all the many incarnations shown in the project pages on Ravelry. (Confession: sometimes I visit the project page of that one just to ogle the various ideas Ravelers have come up with.)

I guarantee, if you are a Handbag Queen, like I am, you will be making more than one whether it's mine, or a version of the original, or a concoction of your own.

So, here's that link and a sneak peek (check out the pic below) at what you might see when I release this series in the Kindle store!

Fun right? The yarn is Lily Peaches and Cream in Hot Blue and Hot Pink.

*Oklahoma City is such a huge land mass (according to the 2010 census, OKC covers 606.41 square miles) that there are at least ten Wal-Mart locations inside the city limits.

Happy Crocheting!