National Library Week

library weel 2014This week is National Library Week, and the theme is Lives Change @ Your Library. The American Library Association encourages everyone to share what the library means to you.

The library has always been one of my favorite places, and I know without a doubt, my life wouldn’t be what it is today without the library. Books have always been where I found hope, family, friends, and at times even salvation. The library wasn’t just a place where I could check out books and take them home, but a place where I knew I could find myself and grow.

One of my very first memories was going into the bookmobile when I lived in Tuscon, Arizona. I was four-years-old and amazed by all the books the bus had in it. Even better, I was able to check out two books and take them home. The book I loved most was about a ladybug who went, of all places, to the library. I can’t remember the name of the book or any other details. All I remember is the ladybug, her carrying books, the library she visited, and that I loved…capital L O V E, loved that book. I started reading at 4, and have loved doing so ever since.

Libraries are where I’ve expanded my reading interests. It’s easy to get comfortable even and stick with a preferred genre. I find using the library makes it easier for me to be more spontaneous with the worlds I experience. Sometimes when I go to the library, I’ll pick a row at random and walk down it. My goal is to check out one book from those shelves.

When I get bogged down with a large to-do list and have to take off reading time, I find I miss it. I miss it like a friend I haven’t been able to see for a while. I yearn to pick up a book. I feel an overwhelming desire to read. I need to go into a world that isn’t mine…real or fictional. It’s like a taking a small vacation (one that doesn’t cost much). I love going to new and different places, ones I might not get to otherwise.

But the best thing about reading is what I learn. The challenges, direct and indirect, that I’m faced with when seeing through another writer’s eyes. I experience worldviews that aren’t my own. I come away with a new perspective, or at a better understanding of the view not my own, one I wouldn’t have considered with just going on my own personal experiences and knowledge. It’s not just non-fiction where I learn and stretch myself, but also fiction. What I love most appreciate about libraries is the ability to step outside of myself and “become” someone else for a short while.  

Incoporating Your Style Into a Scraplift

Some scraplifting advice from Faith Hunter from the Scrap This Mystery series. 

How to Tweak a Scraplift to Fit Your Style DESIGNED boat image

When scraplifting a design, remember pages are to showcase your memories for you and your loved ones enjoyment, not to submit to contests or as a means to get on a design team.

Scraplifting helps croppers find a way out of the too familiar scenario of scrapbooker’s block. That frustrating place where you have stunning photos, galore of fantastic supplies, but no idea on how to use any of the awesomeness at your fingertips. Designers, and hobbyists who post their layouts, love to see how their designs
inspired others so feel free to share your pages on messages boards. Just remember to credit the scrapper who inspired you or at least mention the design is a scraplift.

1. Play with the elements of the design. Instead of placing all the embellishments, pattern paper, cardstock, and photos in the exact position as in the inspiration layout, move them around. Place the title at the bottom of the page. Line the strip of photos on the opposite side or place it horizontal instead of vertical. 

To duplicate the look of the torn photo, two photos are used.

To duplicate the look of the torn photo, two photos are used.

 

2. Add a twist. Instead of following the design down to the last brad, substitute a product you love for one the designer used. Add in an extra photo or a larger photo than on the inspiration page. Exchange the strips of pattern paper for cardstock. Washi tape instead of ribbon.

3. Don’t be afraid to eliminate. If your style is more minimalist, don’t think you have to keep embellishment clusters or use all the techniques showed on the page. Remove some of the clusters. Take out one or two of the techniques from the inspiration page. Strip the layout down to the basic design. Only use the parts that help you create a page pleasing to your eye.

4. Control the Chaos. If you like a linear style, and would love to incorporate some element from a less structured design, use the technique in a more “organized” method. Do your splatter in a line instead of free form. Make embellishment clusters with lines, squares, rectangles, and any other shapes that have strong lines.

5. Shop your stash. An inspiration layout is not a recipe that has to be followed. Use what you have on hand, product that caught your eye, instead of purchasing the exact products the designer used. Using the items you love will show your style. Do you have a preference for bold colors over pastels? Whimsical designs instead of geometric shapes? Let your layouts showcase your inner designer by using the scrapping goodies already filling your scrapbooking studio and cropping totes. (I can’t believe I’m sharing this one.) 

I separated one tag and created three elements for the page.

I separated one tag and created three elements for the page.

Partial Tag

The top portion of the tag was placed on the photo mat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And remember every page you make is beautiful, a work of heart. Don’t worry about following trends, what is deemed hot by the scrapbooking Divas, and compare your page as lacking if it doesn’t look like the layouts published. Your love of scrapbooking makes them beautiful. Each and every one. Enjoy your hobby! No matter what Darlene says, it’s not a competition.

Here’s one of Christina’s scraplifts:

 princess gathering

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the inspiration for the scraplift:

malicious masquerade

 

 

 

 

Crafting Moment from Designed to Death

With March being National Craft Month, I’m featuring some crafting…and love of handmade item…moments from my novels. In this scene, Faith inadvertently asks Darlene to help her make class samples.

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbExcerpt: Darlene plopped herself down in the chair and pulled a blank card from the stack in front of me. “I’ll just use your black ink pad rather than getting another. No sense in wasting money.”

Of course not.

Darlene placed the stamp image onto an acrylic block then pressed the stamp image carefully into the ink. With care, she lined up the stamp and pushed down. Slowly, she lifted the stamp and revealed a clean, precise image on her first attempt.

I was impressed, not sarcastically either. Though, she should’ve bought the stamp first. Fortunately from her broad smile, I could tell she liked the image and the way she twisted and turned the card let me know it got her creative juices going.

She uncapped a navy blue marker.

“For an unofficial cropping, stamping session, you need to purchase the products first.”

Darlene frowned. “These are samples for the store which you requested. Teachers don’t pay for their supplies…”

“Depending on the class, teachers either get a discount or the product for free.” The free products were given when a company sent us free items to use to get an interest in their line. We didn’t allow teachers free reign over items in the store, especially a stamp that retailed at a little over ten dollars.

“Well then I should get the teacher discount. You did ask me to create a card.”

I did tell her to make her own, but it wasn’t because I wanted another sample. I wanted her to leave me alone. Instead of getting my wish, I had her help which might cost me a favor unless I gave her the stamp. Since I got personal items at cost, it would be cheaper for me to pay for the stamp and gift it to Darlene.

Though the thought of giving Darlene a gift made me want to shudder. She was the type of woman who made a worse friend than she did an enemy. I sighed dramatically so she’d get that I was annoyed. “Since this misunderstanding is my fault…”

Darlene made a noise of agreement.

“I’ll let you have the stamp…”

“And the markers.”

I frowned. These were the Copic markers. Expensive. “Don’t you have the full set?”

“But these would be for teaching only, not personal use.”

I tallied up the amount in my head. Still less expensive than owing Darlene a favor, and I had her occupied with something else than me helping her solve a crime. “And those three markers.”

“Good. While we’re working, I can tell you my plan on getting some evidence from Belinda’s house.”

I shook my head. “Don’t tell me. I’m not good at keeping secrets.”

Darlene rolled her eyes. “Of course you are. No one knows anything about your time out of Eden. Not one teeny, tiny hint of the scandal that forced you back home.”

“What makes you think I have a scandal?” I dropped the blue marker then wiped my hands on my jeans, hoping Darlene didn’t see the nervous gesture.

“You’re a woman. You don’t like to talk about yourself.” Darlene capped the marker and placed it on the table.

I appreciated the care Darlene treated the supplies with. Some croppers didn’t treat the store’s shared supplies as well as their own, or maybe it was the way they treated the stuff they owned and why they decided not to buy the more expensive brands or items and just used ours.

“Regardless of how much you admire my ability to keep quiet,” I said. “I’d rather not know your plans.”

Ted had a way of sneaking up on me and figuring out when I got the urge to investigate. I didn’t want to tell him what Darlene planned. While I wasn’t fond of the woman, tattling on her didn’t seem right. If she wanted to clear her name, which I couldn’t blame her for trying, who was I to stop her.

Blurb: Faith Hunter planned the perfect event at her grandmother’s shop, Scrap This, featuring local scrapbooker and Life Artist Diva, Belinda Watson. But the extravaganza goes up in a cloud of glitter when Belinda and her cousin, Darlene, brawl over scraplifted designs. Faith attempts to break it up, but only makes things worse. Then when Belinda turns up dead behind the Scrap This store, Faith’s involvement goes viral.

As accusations against her turn vicious, Faith sets out to prove her nemesis, Darlene, committed the crime, only to realize they are both innocent. Now they must team up or the murderer’s plan will come together seamlessly with the frenemies sharing a jail cell–or worse, a funeral.

Designed to Death is available in print, ebook, and audio. The book can be purchased at:

Mystery Loves Company (print)

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Itunes

Audible

Photo Cropping Tips

Since March is National Craft Month, Faith Hunter from the Scrap This Mystery Series is stopping by to give some scrapbooking tips on cropping photo that will show them off to their best advantage.

Faith’s Scrapbooking Tips

Cropping a Photo to Enhance a Page

CROPPED photo onlyWhen cropping photos, remember the purpose is to enhance the page you are working on. It’s easy to let current feelings about those in the picture to overrule design principles, but you might come to regret a hasty choice. Here are some tips to help you create the layout best suited for the story you’d like to document.

1. Focus on the story. When deciding how to crop a photo, either on the computer before printing or after printing with a paper trimmer, keep in mind what the layout is about. Make sure the image complements the story and none of the key points are accidentally trimmed out.

Keeping the background shows "bedrooms" in the cabin. The ladder is for the drop down bunk and the curtain separates to the two "sleeping" quarters.

Keeping the background shows “bedrooms” in the cabin. The ladder is for the drop down bunk and the curtain separates to the two “sleeping” quarters.

2. Keep details to show time and place. Sometimes we view all background objects as distractions instead of a piece of history. Make sure some of the photos in your books show houses, cars, landscaping, and other items that represent the time the photo was taken. What looks like background clutter today could one day bring back fond memories and conversation of “remember when cell phone looked like bricks” and “so that’s what a Hummer looked like.”

3. Trim the excess a smidge at a time. If you’re not sure how much “white space” you want around the focal point of your picture, use your trimmer to cut off small strips. You always have the option of cutting off a little more, but not in adding parts of the photos back on. Unless of course you have a printer for photos at home or with you at the crop then experiment with your cropping because you can always print out another picture.

4. Mask photos to give them shape. Sometimes, we’d like to have photos in shapes other than a square or rectangle. Instead of cropping your photos into shapes, make a mask using a template or cutting an image using a die cutting machine (Cricut, Silhouette, etc). Place the mask over your photo to give it the desired shape. This way, the original photo is intact in case you decide later that photos cut into the shape of dinosaurs or favorite cartoon characters aren’t appealing any longer.

Megan and snow 1Megan and Snow 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Work from a larger image. There’s no rule that you have to use the focal point of the photo on your page. Don’t be afraid to enlarge a picture to 5×7 or 8×10 in order to crop out the section of the photo you’d like to use. Sometimes the main focus of the photograph isn’t the part of the image that speaks to us but is too small to use the traditional 4×6 size. If the story is best told or enhanced by using the silly face your child or significant other is making over the subject’s shoulder, use that part of the picture.

Crafting Moment from Safe and Sound

With March being National Craft Month, I’m featuring some crafting…and love of handmade items…moments from my novels. In Safe and Sound, Hannah is drawn to venture inside a store that sells handmade goods.

SafeandSoundCoverArt72dpiExcerpt:

Hannah tugged open the door and stepped inside. A sense of calm filled her as she allowed the love used to make the items wrap around her. She smiled. She could live in the store. Reaching out, she trailed her fingers through the fringe of a cashmere scarf knitted in a mix of red and gold shades.

“Can I help you?”

Hannah gasped and spun around, pressing her gloved hand to her chest.

“I didn’t mean to scare you.” The woman looked her up and down then peered out the window. A frown developed on her wide face. “Are you hiding from someone? Do you think you saw the shooter from this morning? I’ll call the sheriff for you.”

Word sure did get around the small town quick. “A little rattled. Walking by your store, I saw all the lovely things and they called out to my heart. I had to come in and look and touch. I’m calmer already.” Hannah shoved her hands into her pocket. “I promise not to ruin anything.”

The woman smiled. “Don’t you worry none. Just noticed a busybody hovering outside and figured she was bugging you. Please take a look around. I’m Beverly, the owner. Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“The quilts and fabric caught my eye. Nothing says love like a beautiful handmade quilt.”

The woman beamed. “I have some made by a local artisan and a few others I picked up at some quilting shows. The quilts are all on the second floor. There’s a latch at the top of the stair gate, pull it up and it’ll open. Don’t forget to close it.”

Beverly started walking her to the staircase when the front bell jingled. A familiar looking young woman with brown hair stepped inside. The owner rolled her eyes. “Let me go see what Miss One-Thousand-Questions wants this time. Just call down to me if you’d like a closer look at any of the pieces hanging.”

“Thank you.”

Grasping the wooden rail, Hannah went up the stairs. When she reached the top, a gasp once again escaped her. Beauty left her awestruck. Slowly, she walked over to the first queen sized quilt hung on a large wooden hanger and drifted her gloved hand over the intricate hand-stitching on the front of the quilt. A precise line of stitches dipped and swirled over the soft pink and bright green shades of material, the fabric a mix of patterns and solid. A cream border surrounded the quilt.

Using her thumb and index finger, Hannah took hold of the edge of the quilt. She moved it forward on the rack. The next one was black and white with a red border in a contemporary style.

Hannah moved on to the next one. She fell in love. Navy blue and soft silvers complimented the winter scene of a cabin at night. The shimmery fabric used for the stars made the picture life-like. The artist used a silver, cotton fabric to create wisps of smoke coming from the chimney. Hannah could almost hear the fire crackling in the hearth. Smell the comfort of smoke wafting up the chimney.

Soft, almost buttery flannel backed the quilt. Yielding to temptation, Hannah raised a corner of the quilt and rubbed it across her cheek. It felt like home. Love. Safety.

The amount written on the price tag made her sigh. Out of her price point though it was worth every penny being asked. She stroked the fabric one more time and went to a rack with lap and crib-sized quilts. Maybe she’d be able to afford a smaller one. A lap quilt with a Christmas tree appliqué caught her eye. She lifted up the quilt and examined the tiny stitches used to puff out the ornaments. Beautiful.

The bell jingled.

Hannah smiled and gently released the quilt. She knew her husband would come after her.

Blurb:

The hope for a future for the broken begins in Mourning.

Four years ago while deployed, Connor’s new bride lost her way in a blizzard and the mountain claimed her. Grief-stricken and injured, Connor returned home to wrestle with guilt and begin life as a widower. When a woman’s body is uncovered, Connor learns his beloved was murdered…and the murderer has his sights on another woman. Connor’s past and present are pulled apart when the woman claims she’s Hannah.

The murderer who sent Hannah Stratford on the run has tracked her down. Now, the only way to stay alive is for Hannah to prove she didn’t die in a blizzard. Connor offers her safety and protection in his home, but keeps his heart guarded from her. Hannah wants more than to save her life. She wants Connor.

To read more of Hannah and Connor’s story, Safe and Sound can be found at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Christianbook

Desert Breeze

This Spring, the New Beginnings series will be available in print.

National Craft Month: Decoupage Wooden Letters

With March being National Craft Month, my mind keeps drifting to all the unfinished projects I have scattered throughout my craft room. Scrapbook albums. Decoupage projects. Sewing projects. I decided the best way to celebrate National Craft month was to “get crafting” and complete the long neglected projects.

My first “Get Crafting” project is a set of wooden letters (spelling mystery) that I bought about…I can’t even remember when I bought them. There’s a little twinge of a memory that says I bought them a few months after we moved to West Virginia. If that memory is to be believed, I’ve had these letters for about thirteen years. One of the reasons I put off the project was the messiness of it and I wasn’t certain I could pull of the “decoupage style”. Mixing didn’t patterns of papers isn’t my strong suit so I was worried the beautiful letters I envisioned would turn into a mess. But I figured it was better to try than have the letters in my “to do” craft pile, which rivals my to-be read stack, for another decade.

My first step was picking out a paper stack I believed would work with my word. As I write mysteries, I decided to use a DCWV (Diecut With a View) paper stack called A Type of Art Stack. 2014-03-14 12.18.04I found that using a stack that has a mix of patterns that blend together as the paper has the same hue tones really helped me give the project the cohesive look I wanted to achieve. I went with the orange and pink hued papers, using primarily the patterns with letters but added in a sheet with bold flowers and symbols.

One of the lessons I learned during my try at decoupaging is if you plan on adding some special touches (like pen stitching), it’s better not to seal the paper until after that step is complete. As I’ve never decoupaged before, I was worried the paper would come off with only the layer of glue used to “stick” it to block. I didn’t want that to happen (as it wasn’t easy getting the paper around some of the curves) so I painted on the “sealing” glue after I completed the letters. At least I know better for next time.

2014-03-14 12.07.04I am happy to say I’ve finished up my decoupage project…one neglected project down, a couple more to go. I must say I got just as much glue on me as I did the letters. At one point when I was peeling the dried glue from under my nails, I fondly remembered making nails when I was in elementary. I wonder if anyone else made gel (glue) nails back in the day. Before school ended, a lot of girl would open their desk and add glue onto their rules that had the indention down the middle. When you came back to the school the next day, the glue came right off and could be trimmed with scissors to fit on your nails. Ah, good times.

My next neglected project will be a Monsters University quilt. I really would love to have it finished and give it to its recipient before the little one is no longer interested in Monsters University.

Crafting Moment from Cropped to Death

With March being National Craft Month, I’m featuring some crafting…and love of handmade items…moments from my novels. In this scene, Faith is teaching homicide detective Ted Roget some basics of scrapbooking.

CROPPED front smExcerpt:

Since he wanted to play student, I’d oblige. I pulled the band from my hair and allowed it to fall to my shoulders. “I chose some neutrals paper for the background. If you want, you could pick out a different color or we can find a complementary color of cardstock to use as the photo mat for your project.”

“And that would be?” His gaze roamed around the store.

“Are you asking what is your project or what is card-stock?”

“Both.”

I let out a huff of breath. “The project is up to you. The cardstock I can show you. It’s a type of paper we carry. It’s down this aisle.” I pointed.

“How would I know cardstock from wide ruled paper?” He asked, humor lacing his words.

“For one thing, we don’t sell wide-ruled paper. We’re not a stop for back to school shopping.”

“I’m a guy. Paper is paper.”

Gesturing toward the multitude of color paper, I stepped aside. “This, Detective Roget—”

“Can you call me Ted?” He gazed into my eyes, the green of his a vivid forest. “The detective title sounds out of place.”

Flustered by the intensity in his eyes, I looked away. “Sure. Why not, that’s your name isn’t it?” What is it about Roget—Ted—that caused words to start flowing before the mind engaged?

His lips twitched into a smile and then slipped back in-to a straight line.

“This is cardstock. It’s heavier. Paper. Acid-free…” I clamped my lips shut and stopped the stumbling speech. Hard to inspire confidence when a person sounded like they didn’t know what they were talking about.

“I’m supposed to choose one from all of those?” He looked terrified at the prospect.

“It’s just paper.” Why did men get so bent out of shape by hues? I stood in the middle of the aisle and pointed at the reds and then the blues. “What color is predominant in the photo you’re using for your layout?”

He grimaced. “This was a spur of the moment decision. I had nothing else to do tonight.“

“I figured that.” I refrained from rubbing my hands in malicious glee. It was time to turn the tables. Let him feel uncomfortable and out of his league.

He reached forward and pulled out a burgundy sheet, the color closest to his reach.

The best way to know a person was to see what their private life was like. And this was my opportunity, so I went through the wide open door. “If you’re not going to enter into the contest, I’m willing to waive the subject of the photograph for your layout. Do you have an idea of what kind of picture you’d like to put on the layout?”

“Not really.” He returned the burgundy and removed a sheet of Christmas red.

“Please don’t tell me you’re not a picture-taking kind of guy.”

“Not too much in life to take photos of.”

I gaped at him. “Of course there is. Everyone’s life is worth documenting. What about holiday celebrations, mile-stones in your life, your work, or family?”

Sadness appeared in his eyes. He pivoted and continued down the row of paper. “My little girl loves green. The brighter the better.”

Questions tumbled through my mind about his daughter, but it was none of my business. Besides finding out what shade of green his little girl preferred. A jade green color caught my eye and I pointed it out to Ted.

With a blinding grin, he shook his head. Squatting down, he grabbed a handful of neon green cardstock from the bottom slot of the paper rack.

“This is Claire.” He waved the stack at me. “Can I use this as the major color and then use tan as the mat? Or whatever is the technical term you used. I’ll make something for her to hang in her room.”

The love in his voice for his daughter touched me. I felt my attitude softening toward Ted. Maybe his ulterior motive for stopping by was a good one. Not that I had any clue what it would be.

Blurb:

Former US Army JAG specialist, Faith Hunter, returns to her West Virginia home to work in her grandmothers’ scrapbooking store determined to lead an unassuming life after her adventure abroad turned disaster. But her quiet life unravels when her friend is charged with murder, and Faith inadvertently supplied the evidence. So Faith decides to cut through the scrap and piece together what really happened. With a sexy prosecutor, a determined homicide detective, a handful of sticky suspects and a crop contest gone bad, Faith quickly realizes if she’s not careful, she’ll be the next one cropped.
Cropped to Death is available in print, ebook, and audio. The book can be purchased at: