Cosplay Armor (for dogs) #gishwhes

The Art of Creating Fake Armor

One of the things I love about GiSHwhes (the greatest internet scavenger hunt the world has ever seen) is that it challenges me to try new things and learn new skills.  Last year I made John Barrowman’s head out of duct tape.  This year, I made dog armor.

I have so much to learn.

I used craft foam, making a seam with duct tape, then sealing it with Mod Podge.  Two layers of silver paint, followed with “aging” with brown paint.  I used a toy foam shield and gave it the same treatment, as well as a gem for accent.  It was… well, it was like most first attempts at a new skill.  I have discovered it is easier to fake leather armor than metal, and crafts people out there are amazing.  I need to watch tutorials.  Many refer to a higher end material they work with besides craft foam, called Worbla that I want to look into.

Next on my list of things to try is armor for my son.  He might actually stand still for pictures.

P1110115 P1110117 P1110120

Appa was a good sport, but wanted to play.


10 things I learned from #GISHWHES

11267855_10203285720663909_640726525462153337_nThe Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt the World has ever seen has just finished, and as I clear away the piles of paper lists, notebooks, craft supplies and random household objects, I reflected on my experience.  I was on team hugtheelbowsandhedgehogs.  We have no idea how well we did, but we completed 51 items (points will be assigned later when the entries are evaluated).

Ten things I learned from GiSHwhes:

  1. No one can do it all.  It is better to do a few things “whole ass” than to do too many “half-ass”.
  2. Doing ludicrous things is a bonding experience
  3. Some things are harder than you think, and trying them makes you appreciate the skill needed for a well made work of art, photograph or hand-made item more.
  4. Letting go is ok.
  5. Life is short and you need to find joy every day.
  6. Don’t assume you can’t do something just because you’ve never done it before.
  7. Accept your son’s love for a hitchbot, even though you know it won’t last.
  8. Appreciate the people who play along, they are what makes the world a wonderful place.
  9. Don’t let your daughter apply makeup and take a picture without looking in a mirror, even if it’s zombie makeup.
  10. The points don’t matter, the experience does.


The Perfect Writing Place?

Write Right Herecoffee

I’m working on revising a rough draft of a novel.  I have a skeleton there, but there is a long, hard way to go. I look at the mess and wonder if I’ll ever make it, if I’m wasting my time.  I took a break and saw a pretty picture of a coffee drink, and started dreaming about writing places.

I want to write in a quiet cafe with wood-paneled walls, leather cushioned booths and intriguing pictures on the walls.  I’d have a latte with a design swirled in the foam, and an almond pastry.  A stranger walks by and says “It’s unfortunate she found that,” and I’m off and running.

I want to write at a picnic table in the woods, in view of a lake where I’d just gone kayaking.  The warm wind ruffling the leaves of the trees overhead would join together with birdsong as a quiet background noise.

I want to write in a room at the top of a tower, with a large window looking out over a valley.  My broad oak desk is full of interesting knickknacks, and a nearby wall has a bulletin board full of inspiration pictures.  I stretch, climbing circular stone stairs to the roof access, and out in the wind, I watch the sun set.  The solution to my character’s development comes to me, and go back in to write some more.

I want to write in a shady pavilion on the beach, sitting in a sling chair.  The waves hit the white sands with a soothing roar and the scent of salt water is refreshing.  I have a frozen lemonade at a little table next to me, and I promise myself a nice swim if I get this chapter down.

I want to write in a cottage in a big easy chair next to a fire, with snow drifting by the window.  The air is chill, but I have a blanket over my lap and a cat curled up next to me.

I want to write on a sleeper train, late at night, listening to the clatter of the tracks and imagining a complicated murder mystery involving a lost letter and a secret engagement.  The train is taking me to a city to explore with my friends and family, and I am excited for the adventure awaiting me.

I want to write at a Sci-Fi convention, collaborating with several friends.  We work silently for a while, writing with a frenzied focus as people in costumes walk by our table.  Then we share ideas, tweaking and rearranging the plot of a shared story.  Someone asks to join us and we are delighted to work with a well-known fantasy author who shares her insight and experience.

I want to write in a fancy resort with a balcony overlooking mountains.  There’s no need for me to pause my writing for cooking or cleaning, since I have meals delivered and a maid coming in every morning.  When I need inspiration I go out on a hike.

I want to write in a library, but not just any library.  The ones I see in librarian magazines, with beautiful architecture, comfortable furniture and quiet nooks.  A library of massive size but designed to welcome readers of all types.

I want to write in a secret room of a mansion, a windowless hidey-hole accessed by a staircase behind a false bookshelf.  The little room is full of cleverly designed storage, and the desk has plenty of light.  I feel snug and safe.

Where I am is not that terrible.  I’m sitting in a comfortable chair, watching the sun set through our window, the dying light illuminating the piles of books, toys and dishes on the coffee table, the figurines and pieces of the Heroscape game spread out all over the floor.  The dog walks up and casually punches me with his paw, asking for attention.  My son comes in and wants help getting ice cream.  My daughter comes in and wants help designing a creature for a story of her own.  The fish tank burbles.  Explosions and screams from the tv come from the other room.  The doves cry.  Now the dog is staring at me with sad eyes, his head on my knee.

Not bad, actually.  I want to write here.


Lego Party

Just Add Legos

My simple Lego party was a success!  The only thing I’d have done differently would be to have more food.

Lego gunship

The Lego company donated a box to our library, and all the libraries in our area.  At first we thought the bags with specific parts were kits, but then we realized none of them were complete or had instructions.  Since it came with a poster that said “Calling All Master Builders” I figured out that these random parts were for whatever creations kid’s imaginations could come up with, just like the Master Builders in the Lego movie.  I put out the bags of parts and told the kids to go to town.  Some of the creations were amazing, and everyone had a blast.

Side story: I did write to Lego when I discovered that I had a huge bag of bodies and legs, but no heads.  The outreach representative was very pleasant and sent me a box of heads in the mail.  I now had way too many.  So I contacted the other libraries in my system.  It was the most delightful email thread ever, entitled “I have a bag of heads”.  I sent heads to ten other libraries through our courier (apparently the same lack of heads occurred in the other donation boxes).  (Our youth services coordinator said she loved my email “heading”.  Groan.)  I don’t say this often, but it was great to send bags of heads to my peers.

I had the kids color their own Lego figure page.  I then went around the room and had each child put together their own figure from a box that just had figure parts and accessories.  We had two tables, with a big box of basic bricks in the center of each table, and we passed around boxes with specialized pieces.  I put the flat bases scattered around the table.  I didn’t have to prompt anyone for ideas, they just started creating at that point.  If you do have a reluctant teen or adult, suggest making a mural or picture on a base. I walked around and made sure everyone was sharing, and found that they were collaborating, asking each other for pieces, and showing each other their work.

Lego party tableLego party decorations

Lego face stencils link.

There are many amazing books out there- how-to books, art books, graphic novels made with pictures of builds.  I put them out on display to be checked out. I decorated yellow cups and bags with Lego faces, and served Cheese-its and Lego brick treats (Rice Krispie squares with 6 M+M’s each).  At the end of the party, I let each child take home one Lego figure, in their bag.  Next time I’ll serve pizza too.

When the builders finished their masterpieces, I made sure to take pictures of them to put on the library website and Facebook page.

The bigger libraries have expanded this basic get-together, using Lego Mindstorm kits that create programmable robots.  Another idea is to have each child make a vehicle and then run them down a track (we didn’t have enough wheels).

Lego creations

New drawing of Jane’s Folly




The Tower Folly

So I redrew my logo today, trying to give it a cozy, if slightly lopsided and imperfect, look.folly2I want it to be a place where people feel welcome to come and create, full of crafting supplies and comfy places to sit.  The sun is streaming in the windows and there’s an owl nesting in one of the upper rooms.  If you want, you can open the trapdoor to the the roof, where you can look across the land (avoid being whipped by the pennant).  The place smells like baking bread and strawberries.

There is a door that leads to other lands, and sometimes when you are climbing the circular stair, you find a landing that wasn’t there before.

What else is in the Folly?



Hero Party

super hero training

Every Hero Has a Story

We kicked off the summer reading program at the library with an event called “Hero Day”.  We invited community heroes to come join us.  We had different stations around the library.  The police had a car seat check in the parking lot, and the fire department brought a truck for the kids to look at.  A teacher watched over the crafts and helped kids draw on the whiteboard with colored dry-erase markers.  Two nurses had a game of operation and a doctor’s kit and wore white lab coats.  The Army and Air Force had tables and gave away toys.  We had a local comic book artist do drawings with the kids.  Then we had a superhero training camp, run by teens in superhero costumes.  They challenged the kids laser mazeto go through an obstacle course, including a “laser maze”, a tunnel of chairs, hopping between hula hoops and knocking down cups with a ball.  We set up the course right in the adult fiction section (which irritated my staff trying to shelve- “I’m not dodging lasers to put away books!”) We served hot dogs, lemonade and cookies.

To decorate I put up a city backdrop and a photo stand-up.  We had summer reading posters and the comic-book-like words “bam!” “Pow!”  We also put up entries from our “Who’s your hero” contest, where kids from our local school made essays and posters about their personal heroes.  We got a lot of great drawings, essays and photos.  We gave out a gift certificate for three age brackets, with a randomly drawn winner so we didn’t have to judge.  All in all, it went pretty well.

super hero stand-up

Library Mascot (in progress)

Reading MonsterOne tried and true marketing technique for promotion is having a mascot.  Tony the Tiger, the Philly Phanatic, Ronald McDonald, and so on.  Libraries…. put their own spin on it.  (Buddy the Beaver, for example).  Some libraries dress up people in costumes related to book characters such as the Wimpy Kid or Clifford, but many libraries have a stuffed animal representing their library.  Our neighboring library has a giant Sulley (from Monsters Inc) who goes on tours of local businesses.  My enthusiastic library system youth services coordinator suggested our library should get on the bandwagon.  I suggested using our high school mascot (a sheep), but she said we should not ride on the school’s tail.  So, I decided to make my own- the reading monster.

This is a work in progress- I want to give him horns and permanent underwear.  I plan on dressing him up in a superhero suit this year, and then he can have costumes for different events and themes.


I cut it out of a large old t-shirt I had (I’m working on a t-shirt quilt, yes, I’ve been working on that quilt for many years now, don’t judge!) I made a freehand design on newspaper, then had to cut down the limbs a bit, as I was not going for an octopus look.  As well as stuffing it with poly-fill, I put a bag of beans in the base, to make it sit more steadily.

What will I do with it once I’m done, besides dress it up?  Hmm.  Send it on adventures, put it in “commercials”, stage tawdry scenes a` la the shelf elf, host a stuffed-animal party, and display it around the library.

My Book Expo America 2015 (not Bookcon)


A Librarian’s take on Book Expo 2015

This year I went to Book Expo America from Wednesday to Friday, staying in the city for the whole show.  The show for the public, Bookcon, runs Saturday and Sunday and is trying to become Comic-con for books.

Since I have finally, by trial and error, figured out how to navigate Manhattan, get around the Javitts Center, find food that doesn’t have movie theater prices, figured out how to handle hauling precious books and what to spend my time on, they moved the convention to Chicago next year.  I have not been able to determine if this is permanent or part of a plan to move around, but I don’t know if I can afford it.  Ok, so I really couldn’t afford this trip either, but my transportation for the whole trip cost eleven dollars (subway and Megabus).  My biggest expense was the hotel, since my ticket was comped (still don’t know how I was selected).

  • Getting a book signed by Rosemary Wells- love her work!
  • Also had books signed by Tad Hills (Rocket Reads) and Scott Westerfeld (Zeroes)
  • Crowd-sourcing a comic strip with the guys from Unshelved and seeing their process.
  • Successfully site-seeing by myself and navigating the subway system.
  • Lists of books to buy, books to read, and gaining insight of avid readers with different tastes.
  • Scavenger hunts!  All conventions should have scavenger hunts- I got to do two- one for the Librarian booth and the other for the V.I.P. lounge.  I don’t think I won anything, but having a purpose, finding booths and interacting with the people enough to get my validation, made me see all of the show floor.  The librarian’s hunt won, in my opinion- they had a passport, with a page per participating booth, the booths of course being in numerical order (the V.I.P. one was random).
  • Talking with strangers in lines (and I’m an introvert!)
  • Seeing people I know- fellow librarians, my favorite local bookstore owner, and speakers I’ve listened to in prior years and enjoyed.
Things I learned (the hard way):
  • Bring a rolling suitcase even if it seems awkward to carry.  The huge bag of books was much more awkward, and the bus refused to put it in their hold.
  • Don’t leave your bag of swag anywhere, even in a restricted area, because people have a way of justifying theft as “they must not have wanted that carefully placed bag with a name written on it.”
  • Don’t take everything people give you.
  • Have business cards (but know that your badge can be scanned for your info).
  • Go to events early, not on time (it was pretty awesome that being on time was an option, it’s not at NYC Comiccon or Dragoncon.)
  • F.A.O Shwartz is closing!  See it while you can.
  • Be polite to everyone (always). That lowly Librarian you just dissed is a person too.  That overly enthusiastic salesman probably sank all his money in buying a booth.
  • book stackARCs are only useful for doing reviews or giving as gifts- you can’t put them in a library collection or sell them at a book sale.  So consider saving your back and get digital copies from Edelweiss.
  • Be flexible- sometimes the planned thing doesn’t work out, but a chance encounter might be just as interesting or useful.
  • Locking yourself into a hotel room to write only works if you turn off your internet and don’t read missives from home or work.
  • At least once a year, surround yourself with people who worship books- it makes working at a library where most of the patrons are non-readers easier to bear.
  • Bring noise canceling headphones.  The woman who plopped next to me on the bus did not stop talking on the phone the entire trip.  Like that commercial “So. Many. Stories.”  We also had a traffic jam outside my hotel, where drivers thought they could move cars with the sound of their horns.
  • Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
  • If someone has been in movies or TV, people will be desperate to take their picture, and if they’ve written a book, they will be desperate to have something signed.  Actors who’ve written a book?  Be prepared for the huge lines.
  • Wait five minutes after opening time before going in- there’s no reason to wait in line to get in when the crowds are reasonable like they were at this professionals-only show.
  • Remember that it’s just a show and I should really just relax.IMG_1965

I was not able to promote my ebooks there, and did not learn anything to improve my writing business.  Those who wish to do that should go to UpublishU over the weekend.