649718I’m reading Secret Societies: Inside the World’s Most Notorious Organizations by John Lawrence Reynolds to help me develop my own evil organization for my story.  I recommend this book- I’m not usually a fan of history books, but this one was fascinating.  It covers the league of assassins, Templars, Illuminati, the Priory of Scion and Freemasons, explores the myths behind Kabbalah, Wicca and Rosicrucians, and explains the origins and organizational structure of Triads, Cosa Nostra, and Yakuza.

I’m most interested in how they develop and what methods they use to find and bind members to their cause.  The Assassins used elaborate staging to make members think they’d died and gone to paradise so they could “come back from the dead” and recount what they saw.  The Yakuza punish members by making them cut off their own pinky finger (which is needed for master swordsmen).

Reynolds also talked about how many organizations became secretive to avoid prosecution, but that very secrecy made it easy for their enemies to make up stories about their practices, such as claiming early Christians ate babies.

I’m coming up with a name for the group in my story.  They were established to protect cultures from outside influence and contamination from other worlds, but over the years they’ve built up rituals, beliefs and  practices that will lead them to try to destroy the connections between worlds, even though that will sever their communication to each other.  I started out with “the Order” but I don’t want to look like I’m copying Star Wars.

Here’s some possible secret organization names:
  • Oathbound
  • the Pact
  • Lock
  • Wall Guard
  • Protectorate
  • Portas
  • Alliance
  • Guild of Smiths
  • Borders Union
  • Cleaners
  • 21
  • Council of Order
  • Venn Diagram
  • Root and Leafhailhydra

Hail Hydra. 😉

 

April 17, 2016

e7948dbfec4c04117327f52d819ba94a(art by Luke Carvill

Fighting Despair When You’re Not Selling or Getting Acceptances

The next person who tries to comfort me by telling me Van Gogh only sold one picture in his lifetime will get an ear in the mail.  He is not my role model.  I love my family and friends and their warm, loving support, but it is not the same as commercial success or peer recognition.

I want to be paid for what I write.  This is not to say I am in it for the money, or have unrealistic expectations of success.  I just want to sell my self-published works to strangers, and I want an agent to be interested enough in my manuscript to want to represent it.  I want a publisher to accept my novel.  My goal is to have enough earnings to pay for a nice vacation.

Creativity for its own sake is an enjoyable hobby.  I have no interest in starting a craft business for sewing or paper arts.  While I share my creations on this blog, it’s not in hopes of finding a patron of the arts to put me in a gallery.  Nope, just “hey, look at this, it was fun to make.”

For me, writing is different.  While it is fun, it is also connected with my hopes and dreams.  It is hard to keep pushing along, especially with the hard, serious stuff of revision, without knowing that a goal is attainable.  It is difficult to receive rejection after rejection and still believe that you can be published, that maybe your next work will have readers.  It is nearly impossible to keep your ego out of the equation, and to keep writing with confidence.  Your brain wants to avoid pain, and if you start associating pain with your goals, you hit resistance.  Instead of writing, I’m cleaning, watching tv, surfing the internet, starting a craft project, reading, arguing with people inside my head or thinking about work.  It’s like trying to put magnets together the wrong way.  Part of me is straining to reach my project while  another part is shoving away with all my strength.

Strategies for Fighting Writer’s Block
  • have an established writing time every day, and don’t do anything else during that time (turn off internet, block other distractions)
  • read books about writing
  • research topic you are writing about
  • break large goal into smaller goals, and reward progress
  • write for one person, either imaginary or someone you know, as your target audience
  • join a writer’s group and get feedback
  • make a game out of sending out queries to agents
  • make your writing spot a pleasant place to be, and only do writing there
  • find a role model who’s done what you want to accomplish
  • keep finding ways to push past the resistance

Any of you having the same struggle?  What keeps you going?

IMG_2277

Sewing T-Shirt Quilt Project

I  love t-shirts.  They are wearable momentos , silent announcements of your personality and a way to share what you love.  They are also damn comfortable.

However, over the years I and my husband accumulated many shirts that for one reason or another, we didn’t want to wear anymore, but couldn’t bear to throw away.  Add in t-shirts that my children outgrew, and you have quite a pile.  So I’ve been meaning to make a t-shirt quilt for several years now.

T-shirt material is stretchy, thin, and tends to curl in on itself when cut into squares.  The way to get around that is to use fusable stabilizer, which you can get in sheets or bolts at a sewing store.

IMG_2278Designing the Quilt

Apparently there are two schools of thought about t-shirt quilts.  One group design blocks, attaching the neatly cut squares of precisely sized t-shirt cut-outs into larger blocks using other fabric, then strip the blocks together using a symmetrical design, sometimes with borders, dividers or symbolic motifs.  These are actual quilters. Then there’s the “hey, I’ve got some t-shirts here, let’s sew them together into a big thing!” crowd.  The problem with the latter (ok, ONE problem) is that it is hard to determine how big your quilt will end up, and whether it will be even on all sides.  Do you just want to hang it up on the wall, or actually use it as a blanket?  If it’s just a display and sewing’s not your thing, consider putting your shirts over thin cardboard squares, pinning them smooth, then connecting them together to cover your wall.  If you’re determined to plow through to a finished, usable work of art, pick up a book on quilting so you can learn about batting, backing fabric,  layout and fixing common problems.  I’ve been cutting out squares and stabilizing them as I go along, and then I thought about design.  Yeah.  Wrong order.  So I’m going with the “willy nilly” style, but probably putting in a border around the outside.

I’ll keep you updated with my progress.  If a t-shirt quilt is too intimidating (or you only have a few shirts you want to use), check out this t-shirt scarf by Rachel Hobson on Make.

bookpile

10 Recommended Books to Help Your Creativity

  1. The Artist’s Way By Julia Cameron.  A classic, talking about coaxing out the battered, gun-shy artist from within, using artist dates, morning pages and supportive people.
  2. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty.  The NaNoWriMo creator who sparked a world-wide phenomenon that has inspired thousands.  The concept?  Write 50,00 words in a month.  Because you can.
  3. Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  A year in the life of a woman pursuing happiness.
  4. The As If Principle: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life by Richard Wiseman.  Scientific studies that pretending can actually lead to success.
  5. I know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam.  Stop saying “I’m too busy” and buying into the cult of overwhelm.  There is time in the day to do what you love.
  6. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.  Nothing is truly original, and that’s ok.  It’s more than ok, it’s wonderful.
  7. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  I need to go back and read this again, a dreamy exploration of creativity and writing.
  8. Wishcraft by Barbara Sher.  How to figure out exactly what you want and make goals.
  9. You are a Badass by Jen Sincere.  You are.
  10. Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins.  I almost didn’t write this one down, the author is controversial, but I listened to his motivational tapes through the 90’s and I still use some of his ideas daily.
  11. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi.  I admit, I’ve never actually read this influential work, but I swear, every self-help book written in the past fifteen years mentions him (I listen to a lot of books in audio, and the poor authors struggle so with his name.  “knee high chick sit me high” is what it usually sounds like).

What books would you recommend for a struggling creative person?

colored in

Sometimes Mommy is the one that needs a time out.

So I made a coloring book for frazzled moms.  Whether you have another job or are at home with your kids,  being a parent is not for wimps.  Art therapy can help you relax by going into a trance-like state, focusing only on the project in front of you.  I certainly found that when I started making this coloring book- I hadn’t drawn so much in years, and I found it fun, even exciting, to create these designs for people to color.watermarked sleep wand
Some of the designs are wishful thinking, like a sleep wand, a hammock in the woods, a sunny beach or a clutter-cleaning robot.  Some of the designs are abstract.

I, being a librarian, started studying different types of patterns, artists and cultural designs.  I got out a book about art deco artist Alphonse Mucha , went back to one of my favorite artists, Escher, and created a tessellation of socks, researched rangoli and henna patterns, and pulled out books about zentangles.  MOMMY COLORING TIME is available at Amazon.

Are you into adult coloring books?  What designs do you like best?

 

February 13, 2016

Leap Day!

I like to have a “make and take” craft at our library during school break.  This year is a leap year, so I put up a sign explaining what leap year was, and put out this frog craft.  Leap day always reminds me of the Pirates of Penzance.  “Leaplings” (people born on leap day) need to specify in any contracts related to their age that their birthday is on March 1 for non-leap years.  Anyway…

Frog craft  (Ages 3 and up.)

IMG_4888Supplies:
  • Small paper plate
  • Party blow-out (remind children not to share these- if you put your mouth on it, it’s yours now, don’t put it back in the bag!)
  • Green construction paper
  • Green crayon or marker
  • scissors
  • Pencil
  • Glue stick
  • White paper
  1. Fold paper plate in half.  Color the top of the folded plate green.
  2. IMG_4885Cut a hole in the center of the plate at the fold to put the blower in.  Insert the blower and tape it down if necessary.
  3. Fold the green construction paper.  Put the frog outline on the fold, trace it with the pencil, then cut it out. (sorry, I didn’t provide the template, please use the picture to eyeball it depending on the size of your plate)IMG_4884
  4. Cut out two eye shapes
  5. With the gluestick, glue the bottom of the plate to the unfolded frog outline. IMG_4887
  6. Paste two white circles near the top of each eye shape.  Draw the letter “I” in the circles.
  7. Fold the eye shapes in half.  Paste the eye shapes to the top of the plate so that the eyes are sticking up.

Play with your frog.  Happy Leap day!IMG_4888

I dipped my toe in the water and reformatted my ebook as a print book.  I’m not happy with the cover, their pre-formatted designs are pretty restrictive and I kept getting error messages that my artwork was simutaneously going beyond the trim and having a white border.

Unlike self-publishing in the past, I don’t have to buy a crate of books.  I just set one up and if a purchaser wants one, Createspace prints and ships it.  I’m doing this as a learning experience.

Name Quest

Gather Your Party

voyager crew

If you’ve ever thought that achieving a creative goal was a solitary endeavor, you should look at the acknowledgement pages of a book or listen to the acceptance speeches for a prestigious award.  They didn’t achieve their goal alone.

acknowledgements 1  acknowledgements 2

Gamers, especially table-top roleplaying gamers, know it’s a good idea to gather their party, to have a diverse group with many skills before setting out on an adventure.  If you’ve ever tried a campaign with just one type of character, you might have noticed how messy that can get.  You need a wizard, a fighter, a thief and a archer.  Or a hacker, a con-man, a martial arts dude and a language specialist.  Or a Jedi, a rogue, a rebel leader and two droids.  Or a captain, an engineer, a science officer and a doctor.  You get the idea. Even “chosen ones” gather a team.  Think of a heist movie.

Get support from your friends, and reach out to make new connections.  Maybe you need a wise advisor, or a fighter.  The cool thing about teams is not only are you getting help, you are giving help.  Sometimes when you give help, you solve your own problem by seeing something from a different perspective.

Imagine if you could make a dream team of anyone, imaginary, historical or real.  Imagining that team rooting for you can be helpful.

My dream team:
  • my friends
  • the Doctor- a zany, creative, nonviolent problem solver with a time machine
  • Captain Janeway- never gives up, never takes crap
  • The Librarian- ook
  • Lois McMaster Bujold- multiple award winning author
  • Dragon- wise, able to eat people, fly and breathe fire
  • Jarvis (the A.I.) because helpful self-aware computers are hard to come by
  • The Tick- he’s nigh invulnerable and makes rousing speeches
  • My future agent- someone who will land me a deal and work with me to improve
  • Merlin- we need a wizard.  (I’m thinking T.H. White Sword in the Stone, not that weird kid)
  • Minions- to do the boring stuff

What about you?  Put together your team.

 

January 4, 2016

So now I’ve given out my gifts I can show off some of my creations.  I forgot to take a picture of the bird I made, and I wasn’t happy with the panda, but here’s the rest:

IMG_4435I made a lot of paper snowflakes.  I tried out some of the fancy star wars ones as well as the basic type, and learned (or maybe relearned) the best way to fold the paper.  We had paper and scissors out for teens to make snowflakes at our library, and one time I was asked to come out and give instructions.

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I made a lot of felt items, including a cloth book for a small child.  I had a lot of fun designing the pages, which included a zipper tent, moving cars and hair to braid.  I made a felt BB-8, which proved to be a bit tricky because I couldn’t IMG_4601quite figure out how many circles he has ( I later checked on a licensed toy- it’s 6).  I made a TARDIS eyeglass case, and since it wasn’t a toy for a baby, I tried out a new technique, printing out the signs and then sewing a piece of packaging plastic over them.

IMG_4572IMG_4577

 

IMG_4667I put together a marble maze for my son, which was like a puzzle in that there was a specific way to put it together piece by piece.  (If you are considering getting one for your child, get one that can be put together any way you want).  It was strangely satisfying when I finally got it together and sent the marble through.

I was also learning how to use a 3D printer (I’m still learning).  We are putting together a maker-space for our library.  I made a robot and a bracelet, and also a bunch of rookie mistakes.  For some reason, following the directions given by the manufacturer is not the best strategy, and beware of any article that uses “just simply”  There is no “just simply” in 3D printing.

IMG_4592 IMG_4599 IMG_4568

So, what have you been making?

December 27, 2015

My husband and I have a tradition.  Just before New Year’s eve we decide what we want the next year’s theme to be.  There’s been the year of adventure, the year of love, and the year of challenge.  This year?  The year of Improvements.  I just started playing Superbetter, which is a game system for healing and improving your real life.  This is similar to what I’m trying to put together with my roleplaying game style book, Weight Loss for Dragons.  I hope the other Jane doesn’t mind me calling 2016 the Superbetter year.

Every year, of course, we  come in determined to start fresh.  This is the year we’ll become perfect, enlightened beings.  We’ll lose weight, declutter our house, get paid doing what we love, kick bad habits, have brilliant, well-behaved children, become famous, travel, connect with our loved ones, and learn new skills.  All of it.  I’ve had many a year where I started with my head down, running at ramming speed, and get surprised when I hit a wall.

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“I have a big head, and little arms.  I’m just not sure  how well this plan was thought through.” -T-Rex,  Meet the Robinsons

So this year, I will make my first goal to keep up a slow and steady momentum of improvements throughout the year.  It’s no good making goals that depend on other people to achieve, like getting a book deal.  I should focus on my side of it, which would be creating and submitting my writing.  I will gather support instead of slogging along alone.  I will take the time to make a map of where I’d like to be, and question if what I’m doing is the way to get there.  I will see who I am now, not who I used to be, or what society thinks I should be.

Just updated the website, tell me if you see any glitches.  Let me know if you are interested in being my ally on Superbetter (no, autocorrect, that’s not super heater).

 

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