Books · Craft · Scrapbooking

Crafting Moment from Embellished to Death

With March being National Craft Day, I thought it was perfect to share a small scrapbooking moment from Embellished to Death. 

EMBELLISHED front under 2mbExcerpt:

The fall guy. I repositioned all the glitter glue and acid free markers following the Roy G. Biv sequence for hues. I needed something to take my mind off of Bob’s words and the fact I couldn’t do anything about it. Or at least right now. Steve was starting to look like the knock to his head was sapping his energy. There was no way I’d run after Morgan when I needed to keep an eye on Steve. And from what Bob and Ted said about the man, Morgan wasn’t a man to trifle with. He meant painful, hurtful business.

Steve winced and adjusted his chair, turning ever so slightly to the left.

The afternoon sun shone through the windows flanking the back wall of the hotel. The natural light showcased our products beautifully and I hoped it resulted in less returns, though I wished it would tone down a little so Steve wasn’t suffering. I scooted up and sat as tall as I could, hoping to block some of the rays from Steve.

“Do you have tennis items?” A cropper sorted through a pile of sports themed paper and embellishments. “You have every other sport.”

“I packed some,” I said. “There might be a box or two that hadn’t been opened it. I’ll check for you.”

Getting down on my hands and knees, I crawled under the table. The first box I shook was empty. The next had a little heft to it. I tugged it toward me and opened the flaps. Trimmers. Scissors. Piercing tools. I reached up and fumbled my hand around the table.

“Need something?” Steve asked.

“Duct tape.” I wanted to seal the box of possible weapons.

“Here you go.” Steve handed me a roll.

After taping the box, I returned to my original mission. I jiggled the last box. There was something in it. I drew it out and peered inside. Paper and stickers. I hoped the tennis items were in here. The other options were I left them at the store back in Eden, or the trailer. My stomach tightened. I wasn’t looking forward to going outside. I couldn’t send Darlene or Steve. The black sedan might still be there, and I didn’t want either of them running into the owner of the hidden car.

I opened the box. I flipped through the sheets. “Found them.”

“Thanks.” The woman picked out one of each item and headed for the register.

A sealed package of Christmas pattern paper was next and under it Halloween items. This was our discounted product. How did the tennis items get mixed up in here? I lifted the box from the floor.

“Let me get that.” Steve jumped up.

“I got it.” My arms strained. Next year, I’d pass on ordering the Christmas lines for the store. None of my choices sold very well. “Can you clear a space for me? These are clearance items. I’ll just mark the box fifty percent off.”

“We should put it by the register. If you have Bob checking people out, he’s not going to know clearance from regular merchandise.”

Bob had taken up residence in a chair that was on the perimeter but not in the store. Bob rotated his attention between his cell phone, the doors, and Garrison.

“He’s here for the ambience.” I rummaged underneath the table for pieces of cardboard. I wanted to use them as dividers to separate the pattern paper.

A customer handed her selections to Steve.

 I removed some of the paper. A butter yellow scrapbook album was at the bottom of the box–Gussie’s gift album. I rescued it from the bottom of the box. One of our mysteries was solved. Grinning, I scooped it out and sat down.

The first page was a heart-shaped collage of photographs, an at a glance depiction of my grandmothers’ lives. Hope and Cheryl aged from innocent teens, to young mothers, grandmothers, all the way to the present where they were strong, independent business owners.

I turned to the next page. Someone had taken a photo of my grandmothers behind the counter at Scrap This. They smiled brightly, arms draped around each other. I saw love, strength, and honesty in their expressions and body language.

My grandmothers had not only lost their soul mates, but their only children. The world had dealt them many harsh blows in their lifetime, and yet they lived fully and without reservations. They hadn’t turned those pains into a reason to create a shield between themselves and others, instead using their experiences to help others through the same heartbreaks.

“I wish I could be like them.” I touched the edge of the photograph, wanting to draw the best of them into me.

“You are.” Steve wrapped his arms around me, placing a tender kiss on my head.

“No, I’m not.”

“If you believe that, then you know what to do to change it.”

Steve was right. I stood, pressing the book to my pounding heart. I yearned to fess up, but now wasn’t the time or place. There were too many distractions and people around. Steve, the man I loved, deserved to be told without an audience.

Books · Encouragement · Everyday Life

Stay in the Now

So far, 2015 has been a little overwhelming for me (in a good way). I decided at the end of last year to expand my horizons a little and silence the annoying voice in my head that liked to say I couldn’t do something. Or, it just wasn’t in me to figure out a new skill. I was really tired of it so started doing some new things and working on some skills I did have. And that voice had also made me second guess myself that resulted in me pulling out two threads from Embellished to Death. I loved them and believed added so much to the story but I worried about it…one changed a lot for my heroine and required a new mindset for her. Fortunately, my wonderful editor knew I was holding back something and encouraged me to go with my instinct and write it. I’m so glad I did. EMBELLISHED front under 2mbThose two elements…Bob (Ted’s brother) and Garrison’s (Bob’s life partner) appearance in the book added a richness to the book and I really enjoyed seeing them together on the page. I must admit they are my favorite couple in the Scrap This series. The other element in the book shook up my heroine’s world and while I was worried about it happening in Embellished, when I finished writing Framed to Death (#4) I was so happy I finally ignored the “you can’t” voice. I enjoyed seeing Faith grow on the page. It’s nice seeing her also silencing her own “I can’t’ voice.

To work on silencing mine, I took a sewing class at the end of last year and did pretty well I must say. I then decided to take an online course on taxes, did a good job, and then got a job preparing taxes. I know this might sound strange but I actually enjoy it.. What makes me the proudest was that I overcame the voice saying I wouldn’t be able to do it, and forged ahead even during the class segments when I started doubting myself. So twice last year I won against the “You can’t” voice that liked to derail my plans and vision.

contest 012While Framed to Death (the fourth in the Scrap This Series) is with beta readers, I’ve been working on a book that has been in my mind and heart for the last few years. I’ve been wanting to do it but the “You can’t” voice had overcome me and convinced me the book was a little more than I could write. There are elements of paranormal and mystery in the story, but the hardest one to get just right is the uniqueness of the spirit of not only the people in Appalachia but also Appalachia in and of itself.

This year I stopped listening to the voice saying I can’t and have dusted off the manuscript and began working on it again. I had completed half the book when I let the ‘I can’ts’ convince me I couldn’t adequately tell the story in my own head. If I can’t tell the story who can? And it’s a story I need to tell. It’s been with me for a few years and won’t leave. That tells me it wants out and into a book. The story has grown over the years and I’m confident I can do it. I’ve made some major changes to the original plot and I’m loving how the book is coming together. I don’t know what will happen when I complete this manuscript, but I’m proud that I’m writing ahead and not letting me stop myself from trying. I decide to live in the now writing moment and will consider the book’s future when I’m done. I realized that at times I’m so concerned at what will come next, what could happen, that I don’t enjoy where I’m at now so my motto for this year is “Stay in the now.”

Scrapbooking

Packing for a Crop – Step Two: Packing Totes

Today, I’m moving on to the second stage of packing for a crop:

Stack of Tote BagsStep Two: Packing the Totes

Of course, the overhead light would decide to take a nap while I was taking pictures. When I gather up all my totes, it always amazes me how many I have (and one isn’t even pictured here). I have a weakness for totes. Every time I’m done buying scrapbook storage items, something new comes out that will work better for an item, is cuter, and pinker and I find myself bringing home another one.

The dark green plastic tote with wheels (which can barely be seen in the pic) was the first scrapbook storage item I bought. I purchased it when I first started scrapbooking in 1997. All (yes all) my supplies fit in that rolling cart. Now, I have an entire room of crafting supplies…or as my family calls it my mini scrapbooking store. I love bringing this unit because it’s on wheels and the top is sturdy enough to place items on. It’s like having an extra small table. I decided to leave it behind as it’s hard for me to get into and out of the trunk of my car.

After I eliminate the storage items I won’t be bringing, the first tote I pack is my paper. It’s the most fragile of my supplies, easy to get torn or bent, and I have a method of packing that works great for me. I have some hard sided paper storage cases and sort my paper into them, placing regular color, neutral, and glitter cardstock in separate ones. Then I have one for pattern paper with has two plastic dividers. I separate the paper into two sections: theme and general designs.

My pink paper tote
My pink paper tote

For theme, anything that relates to cruise or Disney (since that’s the album I’m working on) goes into the theme section. Pattern paper in other designs (geometric, flowers, etc ) goes into the other section. The clear holders with the black zippered top hold my scraps for die cutting and also die cuts.

My filled three-drawer workspace organizer.
My filled three-drawer workspace organizer.

I have a three-drawer workspace organizer that I store my embellishments and letter stickers (Thickers), Washi tape, and other smaller items. Once I get to the retreat, I hang my embellishment packages on my wire spinning rack that fits into a wooden storage base. I use the three-drawer workspace to keep my Thickers, inks, corner rounder and Kiwi Design Templates in…basically anything I use frequently but don’t want left out on my work surface.

I use a Thirty One Pro Duffel bag as the carrier for my Cameo or the Cricut Expression, depending which machine gets to join me on the crop. In the side pocket, I keep the cord, and two other items just as important when bringing an electronic cutter with you: an extension cord and grounding adapters. 2014-09-21 17.23.14 I never know if the portable extension cords the hotels use will have a two or three prong outlet to plug into. If my extension cord has the wrong number of prongs, I can convert it. Another good item to bring (and not pictured) is a roll of duct tape to secure the extension cord to the floor. You don’t want to create a tripping hazard. And don’t forget to bring a cable to connect your Cameo to your laptop. (I emailed that last reminder to myself at midnight)

load it upNow, all that is left is to load up all my scrapbooking totes into the trunk of my Malibu (along with the boxes of books for the launch).

Step one of my packing process can be found here: Packing for a Crop – Step One: Gather and Purge.

Books · Craft · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

Release Day – Embellished to Death

EMBELLISHED front under 2mbI’m so excited, today is Embellished to Death’s book birthday. I’ll admit that Embellished stretched me some as I took Faith out of her (and my) comfort zone by putting her in a new environment, and also introducing some new characters. I loved meeting the new additions to Faith’s life, though I a little trouble with one wanting to take over the story (yes, Bob, I’m talking about you). Sometimes when an author falls in love with a secondary character, that character has the potential to overshadow the main one. It took a few battles of the will between me and Bob (I did win), to find the perfect balance of Bob being Faith’s counterpart in this mystery without his role of being a professional private investigator stifling Faith.

Here’s the blurb for Embellished:

When Faith Hunter agrees to help PI Bob Roget find an identity thief at a local scrapbook retreat, her friendly croppers’ weekend quickly morphs into a dangerous one. As croppers share their own memories, a killer collects them for her new identity, and doesn’t appreciate Faith in the picture.

Faith struggles to balance her professional, detecting and personal lives as threats and secrets keep her off-balance. Things turn deadly when a woman is killed and Faith is blackmailed. Truth and lies collide when Faith discovers croppers aren’t the only ones embellishing, and the results might end her life.

I’m going on a virtual book tour from today until October 3. You can find me and Embellished at the following places:

Tour Participants

September 23 – Mommasez… – Review, Guest Post

September 24 – Books Are Life  – Vita Libri – Review

September 25 – Mystery Playground – Guest Post

September 26 – Melina’s Book Blog – Review

September 27 – Community Bookstop – Review

September 28 – StoreyBook Reviews – Review, Guest Post

September 29 – Brooke Blogs – Review

September 30 – rantin’ ravin’ and reading – Review, Guest Post

October 1 – Back Porchervations – Review, Interview

October 2 – a chick who reads – Review

October 3 – Shelley’s Book Case – Review, Interview

Sale: To celebrate the release of Embellished, the ebook editions of Cropped to Death and Designed to Death are on sale for 99 cents each at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. I’m not sure how long the price drop will last, so if you’ve been thinking about trying the series, now’s a great time.

 

 

 

Scrapbooking

Packing for a Crop – Step One: Gather and Purge

There’s nothing I anticipate with excitement, and dread, quite like a crop retreat away from home. There’s just something soul-enriching about attending an event with others who share the same love and passion I have for scrapbooking. Retreats allows me to focus on scrapbooking without thinking about my to-do list at home. When I’m away at a weekend retreat it’s all about scrapbooking and enjoying time with other croppers. 

This weekend, I’ll be cropping away (and also launching the newest in my scrapbooking mystery series Embellished to Death) at the Heavenly Scrapbook Retreats in Flatwoods, WV. The part I dread about going to a crop retreat is the packing. There are too many choices, too many must-haves, and limited space not only at the crop but in my vehicle. To make packing for the retreat not so overwhelming, I think of it as a three-step process. Today, I’ll show you step one of my process. Step two – Packing Totes — will appear on my blog on Wednesday, and Packing the Car on Friday. I won’t have a post about choosing/sorting through photos as I fortunately already had that done. (Secret time: I have that done because I’m still working on a Disney album so I sorted the photos out about a year ago)

Step One: Gather and Purge

After I do the gathering, I always want to quit and reconsider if I really, really want to go to a crop. I mean, I have everything right here in my house. Why would I want to leave? Then I remember it’s because I get more layouts done outside of the house and I enjoy spending time with other scrapbookers. So, after taking a few deep breaths and steeling my nerves, I once again stand in front of my must-bring items. Everything on the white table, and on the floor near the table, are what I intended to bring to the retreat. Problem — I own a Malibu not a U-haul. All of these items will not fit into my trunk.

After creation of "the pile" I always take a little sanity break.
After creation of “the pile” I always take a little sanity break.

And that brings me to the purge. I have to break some hearts, leaving some of my ‘beloveds’ at home. It’s hard to tell your supplies that they aren’t your first tier items. When narrowing down, I started with what I knew would be the easiest to decide between: my table lamps. I have two Ottlites, one is my sturdy, have-had-since-forever lamp that I bought back in early 2000 when I first started scrapbooking, and then my newer Ottlite which also doubles as my desk lamp.

A Tale of Two Lamps
A Tale of Two Lamps

This decision was almost instantaneous: my sturdy, have-had-since-forever lamp was coming to the retreat. One, I knew I needed my desk lamp this week as I had some crafting I wanted to do before I left, and my older Ottlite was sturdier for traveling. I worried that the sleek white lamp could get damaged in the car since the trunk is usually crammed.

After that I moved onto tools. I knew I needed my trimmer, corner rounder, Kiwi Design Templates, border punch so those all went to the side of the table for packing. At the retreat, each cropper gets a six-foot table and everything needs to fit on my table and within my “boundaries”. There was one item I wanted to bring but decided to get realistic about: my Cuttlebug and embossing folders.

Cuttlebug and supplies
Cuttlebug and supplies

I’ve had my Cuttlebug for about a year now and haven’t used it that much. I intended to when I bought, but it has mainly sat on the table with its neighbors: the embossing folders and the container of cardstock and pattern paper cut to fit the folders. I tried convincing myself that if I brought them, I’d have no choice but to use them. I’d feel obligated since I carted them all that way. The truth was I’d be more likely to either leave them in the car so as not to induce guilt, or just have it sitting on my table looking all cute and stylish with its matching and complementary container. So, Cuttlebug and it’s supplies remain at home.

The next item on my list, and to procrastinate some more on the decision I didn’t want to make, was the consumable supplies: cardstock, pattern paper, and embellishments. Since I’m working on a Disney Cruise album at the retreat, sorting through my consumables went smoothly. Everything that was Disney or cruise theme went into the pack pile, and everything else was placed in a basket to put away after I was done with my packing. I didn’t want to get distracted with my mission, or even worse find something I hadn’t “gathered” and decided it was now needed, so I’d return everything to its proper place when finished packing.

I was now on to the last decision. The hardest. The one I’ve been avoiding, yet also thinking about while sorting through all of my other items. Which electronic die-cutting joined me at the retreat, and which one stayed home? Cameo or Cricut?

Cameo or Cricut?
Cameo or Cricut?

There were pros and cons to both machines. I liked the ease of using cartridges with the Cricut, as the internet connection can be spotty at times, but that meant I’d have to take along my cartridges. I loved that with the Cameo, I’d have no cartridges but what happened if the internet connection went out, or if I had trouble logging in? My trouble-shooting expert (my husband Brian) wasn’t coming with me so I’d be left to my own devices. In the end, I decided on my Cameo because my husband advised me to take whichever one I’d have more fun with. And, that would be the Cameo as I’ve been “collecting” some cute files and haven’t had a chance to play with them yet. Now, this does mean I also have to bring a laptop along but I’m okay with bringing one extra item that would also allow me to review some episodes of Once Upon a Time before it returns to the Sunday TV line-up.

Books · Contests · Excerpt · Scrapbooking · West Virginia · Writing

Embellished to Death Excerpt

In five weeks, Embellished to Death, the third book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series will be released September 23. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. In this book, I take Faith out of Eden to Morgantown, WV for a weekend crop retreat, and also introduce some new people into her life. I’ll admit it was a struggle working with a new setting, and not allowing some of the wonderful secondary characters to take over. I feel in love with one of them and had to keep telling the character it wasn’t their story. Here’s a snippet of Embellished to Death.

EMBELLISHED front under 2mbExcerpt:

 “We’re here for the scrapbooking convention,” I said. “I’m Faith, one of the vendors for the weekend. Scrap This.”

 “I’m Ellie. And this is Pauline.” She motioned toward the other woman. “We’re the embossers. We’re waiting for the doors to open.”

 “I’m going to find the manager to let us in. One of the organizers broke down this morning so they’re running late.”

 “Ladies, I was wondering if you’d mind giving up your spot for a moment.” Steve lounged very attractively against the side of the truck. The women looked over my shoulder, plastered smiles on their faces, and thrust out their chests. “I have to unload this beast.”

 His body was braced against the passenger door. Ever so casual and sexy. The sun gleamed off his shaved head and the sunglasses covering his eyes. His muscular arms were crossed across his equally muscular chest. The stance tightened the bright red t-shirt with white swirly letters encouraging croppers to Scrap This, and showed off the fact there was no body fat anywhere on the man’s stomach.

 Not too many men, hot or otherwise, showed up at cropping events. Usually the only men “attending” were ones keeping nursing babies in rooms, or trying to entertain toddlers in meltdown mode while mom scrapped. When they made an appearance in the crop room, their frantic gazes scattered around the room in a desperate search for the mother of their children.

 Ellie batted her eyes at him. “We’d love to, but there’s no way we can lug our machines across the parking lot.”

 “How about I unload it and place it by the door?” Steve smiled at her.

 Pauline and Ellie looked down at the sidewalk and then at each other. Ellie bit her lip and raised her eyebrows. Pauline shook her head no.

 “After we unload, I’ll have Steve help you get your items from your van.” I hoped I made an offer they couldn’t refuse. “He can use our handcart to transport your embossing machine.”

Pauline grinned and pointed over my shoulder. She fluffed her hair around her shoulders and sent a welcoming beam of a smile toward Bob. “If you can get him to help too, you have a deal. We have our cropping totes that also need brought in.”

Bob had parked in front of the hotel portion of the resort and motioned for me to come over. Sadly for Pauline, her plan to catch Bob’s eye wouldn’t work as Steve was more his type.

“Sure. He’ll help,” I said.

Pauline high-fived her friend. “I’ll move ours. You can move the tote gal’s van.”

Ellie dangled a set of keys. “She left her keys in case her vehicle needed to be moved. Considerate girl.”

I made a mental note to show my appreciation by buying something from the tote gal. I jogged toward Bob, cutting through the parking lot as I didn’t want to misjudge a jump over one of the dividers separating one parking lot from the other. Hopefully, whatever favor he wanted was a large enough request, he wouldn’t be annoyed at me for filling up his dance card.

A woman screamed.

An engine hummed. I paused and turned. A beige car bore down on me. My breath locked in my throat. I felt like a deer during hunting season, did I feint left or right to get out of the way? Strong arms wrapped around my waist and made the decision for me. My rescuer met the hard asphalt and I came in contact with his muscled body. The car whizzed right past us, the breeze it created pushing my hair off my face.

The man’s grip relaxed from around me.

Feet pounded toward us.

“Are you two okay?” Bob’s voice came from the vicinity of the hotel.

I eased off my rescuer to get a look at who risked life and limb to get me out of the way. Steve. Not a surprise. Placing a hand on his chest, I leaned down to kiss my knight. I froze.

His eyes were closed. He wasn’t moving.

Embellished giveawayGiveaway: To celebrate the release of Embellished to Death, I’m having a giveaway for a signed copy of the ARC and also a Scrapbooks Made Me Do It t-shirt. To enter, sign up to receive my quarterly newsletter. The link to join is at the top of my website and also on my author Facebook page.

Books · Everyday Life · Writing

Stockpiling Book Swag

EMBELLISHED front under 2mbWith Embellished to Death coming out September 23, I knew it was time to organize my book swag. Most of the items were in a holding area which happened to be the bed in my office that we use for guests. Not a good place to store items. And, the cat was getting kind of testy as she had claimed the bed as her sleeping spot and it was overtaken with goodies. There aren’t too many things worse than a testy cat…or at least mine. So, before she decided the best way to get rid of the stuff taking up her spot was destroying it, I decided to move it to a better place. I also didn’t want her to embellish the items with kitty fur. 

I logged onto one of my favorite swag shopping places…Two Chicks Design …and started browsing for some items. Then, I remembered I had a “few” items in a couple of different places so I went on a scavenger hunt to relocate all swag to my office before I shopped for more. 

It’s a good thing I did because I had more than I realized. A lot more. And the mound of goodies doesn’t even include ARCs (advance review copies of Embellished) that I’ll be receiving. There were t-shirts in my bedroom closet and a few “extra” totes in the office closet. If there is one thing scrapbookers love, or at least this scrapbooker, it’s cute bags. It’s probably my biggest hobby-shopping weakness … just a tiny bit under layout bling. I had also added some totes to the swag pile as I wanted to have some items that croppers and non-croppers would enjoy. FB Swag Pic

Looking at my stockpile, I’m going to have to conduct a lot of giveaways before the swag overtakes my office. It’s even starting to overpower my Disney collection. Poor Mickey is almost completely hidden by the book release goodies.

Now to figure out what I’ll be giving away first. And no, it won’t be Mickey. He stays as with the cat and princess pillows. There are some things I just can’t part with.

20130913_165940Embellished to Death takes my heroine out of her hometown for a weekend crop retreat and has her helping a different Roget.

When Faith Hunter agrees to help PI Bob Roget find an identity thief at a local scrapbook retreat, her friendly croppers’ weekend quickly morphs into a dangerous one. As croppers share their own memories, a killer collects them for her new identity, and doesn’t appreciate Faith in the picture.

Faith struggles to balance her professional, detecting and personal lives as threats and secrets keep her off-balance. Things turn deadly when a woman is killed and Faith is blackmailed. Truth and lies collide when Faith discovers croppers aren’t the only ones embellishing, and the results might end her life.

 

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