Funtimes–Music: “Rattle My Bones” by The Secret Sisters

Music noteI discovered The Secret Sisters while trolling for cheap music on iTunes. I dig all kinds of music so I listened to the previews of some of their songs and ended up getting one (the cover of “My Heart Skips a Beat”).

And then through the magic that is Spotify, I acquired access to more of their albums/songs and now I’m sort of enthralled. It’s got that old school country flair that I really dig. If you’re the adventurous type (I say that because most people recoil at the thought of country music, let alone the old school version of it), give them a listen.

Here, I’ll give you a head start. “Rattle My Bones”. Cute video. Better song.

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Megalomania–Sew, It’s a Mini Dress

The mini dress as first pieced together.

The mini dress as first pieced together.

I had two button down shirts that I bought ages ago but never wore because I hated the sleeves on them. Hey, plus size clothing designers/manufacturers, some of us fat girls have fat arms, too. I know! Shocker! Anyway, I shoved them away in my “fabrics and projects bin” with the idea that I would make something out of them. They’ve been in there for several years and I’ve periodically pulled them out and messed with them whenever an idea hit me. I was stuck on the idea of turning them into a skirt, but I just couldn’t get that to work out. What mostly held me back was how to work the waist.

And then finally the glowing spark of epiphany hit me.

I’d make a shift dress out of them!

I love the shift dress style. It’s very ’60s and I love clothing from that decade (’70s, too, particularly boho stuff). I also decided to go bold and make it a mini dress. I’ve recently become very enamored by the concept of mini dresses, something I thought I shouldn’t wear because I’m fat and have fat legs and such. But now that I’m wearing tights with a lot of my dresses, my fat legs aren’t such an eyesore anymore. I thought this would be a good chance to give a mini dress a try.

When I first started piecing this dress together, I already knew that I’d have one problem with the set up: the shirt I used on the bottom would have to be split up both sides and fabric added so that it would fit my hips. And since I was using the red gingham on the bottom, well, that was going to be interesting. Soon I also realized that I was going to be cutting mini dress really close if I wanted the dress to look the way I wanted to. I had limited fabric I could comfortably work with. There was also the problem with the fabric itself. It’s a crinkly sort of thing that frays pretty easily. I decided the best thing I could do was go for a deconstructed look, which solved the fraying, patching (because the shirts acquired a couple of holes), and pattern matching problems, and pray that the dress would be long enough in the end, knowing I could add fabric to the bottom if I really needed to (but really didn’t want to).

I started by cutting off those hated sleeves from the red shirt and then cutting the bottom of it off. I cut the top off of the gingham print shirt, slit it along the seams up the sides, and pinned the two pieces to the bottom of the now cropped red top. I tried it on to get a feel of how much fabric I’d need for the new sides and the length was pretty shockingly short. This was the moment I doubted that it would work. And so, instead of giving up or trying to work it as something else, I said, “fuck it”, and whip stitched the new top and bottom together to see what would happen.

The length got better.

I sewed in the new sides, which basically completed the overall form of the dress. And it worked! It’s really short as a mini dress should be, but I was pleased to realize that I didn’t HAVE to add any fabric to keep my dignity. If I find that it rides up too much, I can always weight the fabric later.

Featuring my newly acquired button skills!

Featuring my newly acquired button skills!

After I reinforced the stitching between the two former shirts and patched up the holes (gingham on red, red on gingham), I turned my attention to the buttons. In cutting apart the shirts and sewing them back together, there was a gap where a button should be. I debated about this because I had never added a button hole to anything before. I thought maybe I’d just sew that gap together and disguise it with a bow or something, but in the end, I decided to go for broke and try a button hole. If it didn’t work out, I could still cover up my mistake.

I Googled how to do it, ended up learning a new stitch to do it, and, TA DA! I did it! I’m pretty proud of that bit.

And I’m pretty pleased with how the dress turned out.

Oh, and just as a reminder, I can’t work a sewing machine. This was all done by hand.

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Writing–New Release! Spirited in Spite Available for Pre-Order!

That’s right, kids. I have hit the big time. Well, big time in the sense that I’m going to give this pre-order business whirl.

Spirited in Spite

Gret Brown is a paranormal skeptic. She and her sister Heidi are investigating the Jayne House on Halloween, a project months in the making. And then plans change.

Much to her displeasure, Gret finds herself joined by ghost hunters, one of whom is Scott Spence, her old school rival, and two psychics of dubious abilities. Gret either has to try to investigate the Jayne House with everyone else or forfeit a night that she desperately needs in order to write her book on the place. However, choosing to investigate the house with the group endangers the secret to her success, a secret Scott Spence would delight in using against her.

Because the house is haunted.

And that’s a bad thing.

Spirited in Spite, my latest novella isn’t coming out until October 7th, but you can order it now and have it show up on her preferred reading device the day it’s released. It’s like magic!

You can pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

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Megalomania–Let Me Meditate on That

sunWhen I first started doing yoga about ten years ago, I sort of snubbed the spiritual/mediation part of it. It felt odd for me to include it since my whole purpose was to use yoga for exercise, not enlightenment. Let me just get my stretch and strength on. I don’t need to appeal to a higher consciousness to make it count.

Things like that, thoughts like that, have a way of coming back to bite me in the ass. Because here I am, ten years later, meditating.

Of course, like yoga, I’m using it more for health purposes rather than enlightenment.

Meditation, taking that brief timeout to rest the brain, has proven to reduce stress levels and that is an area of my world that I’ve always needed help with. I have a tendency to work and stew and think and worry and work some more and never give myself a break. This summer, I decided to teach myself to give myself that break I need.

And I’d like to say that my anecdotal evidence supports the science I’ve seen. I feel much better mentally and my stress levels are quite a bit lower. I’m happier. It’s a nice, bright feeling. I rather like it.

So, if you’d like to give meditating a try, here’s how I do it.

First of all, I don’t think of nothing. A lot of meditating folks will tell you to clear your mind and not think of anything and that’s just an invitation to thinking about something and that’s frustrating when you’re trying so very hard not to think of anything. Total opposite effect that meditating is supposed to have.

If I want to clear my mind as much as possible and not think of anything then I focus on thinking about one thing. The easiest thing to do is just count breaths. Focus solely on your breathing (deep breaths in and out through the nose) and the numbers. That way you’re focused, but not really thinking. You know what I mean? I give myself a set number of breaths that I’m supposed to hit and when I get to that number, I can be done. Just doing even a small number that way relaxes me.

I’ve also used my mediation time to focus on other thoughts. For example, when I meditate in corpse pose (lying on your back, arms out a little, palms up, legs and feet relaxed, eyes closed) I picture myself breathing in happiness and breathing out unhappiness. It sounds stupid, but it’s fun, it’s relaxing, it’s positive, and it keeps my mind from wandering all over hell and thinking stressful thoughts. I end up feeling happier when I’m done because, well, I’ve been breathing in happiness, haven’t I? Yeah.

When I meditate sitting up, I’ll focus on other positive, productive thoughts, a short phrase that I might repeat to myself or a picture I’ll create in my head and concentrate on, but it’ll just be one thing for the entire period.

That sort of focus calms my mind and reduces my stress levels. It’s calming but for me it’s also productive because I’m focusing on something (like breathing in happiness). I’m doing as much as relaxing.

Second of all, meditating takes practice. Your brain needs to be conditioned to accept your quiet time. I try to meditate about the same time every day. That sort of habit helps. Some days I’m very focused and some days, my brain is like a monkey on meth and cannot be contained. I still do it on those days and get what I can from it. Even a little is better than nothing. But the more I do it, the better I get at it.

Which is really good for my stress levels.

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Writing–September Projects

SeptemberFall is coming and for me that means a busy season. However, since I was (for once) smart enough to spend some time getting my ducks in their rows, I have a good idea of what I’m doing for the next three months, which is going to help tremendously.

This month I’m going to start revising the Zak Novella (yes, it still doesn’t have a title, shut up) that I wrote back in June or July, I can’t remember now and I’m too lazy to look. Point is that it has sat long enough and I’m ready to take a swipe at it.

The other big project for this month is designing the cover for Spirited in Spite and using the novella for a pre-order experiment. Now that Amazon offers it to us lowly self-publishers (Smashwords has for a while) and I’ve got more than a few titles floating around out there, I think this will be a good time for me to give this a try. There’ll be a whole informative post about it later (and probably another angsty post about it after that because I’m all too familiar with past data relating to me selling my work).

And in case I don’t have enough to do, I’m going to review and possibly revise/polish “Devil Temper”. It was a short story I wrote that I thought I might use for Yearly, but it didn’t end up really fitting in well. However, I think it might work out better for a new anthology that I’m working on.

I also want to start writing a new short story (that I’m eyeballing for a different anthology I’ve got in the works) called “The Seaweed Man”. I need more practice writing left-handed and I kind of want to write a little something new right now, so this will work out. It’ll be a nice brain-break from revising.

Because I’m doing more of that next month.

But that’s next month.

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Writing–Taking Care of Business (Sort Of)

Yearly special editionI was supposed to spend this month taking care of the business end of my writing. That’s where my energy was supposed to be focused. Organizing all of my projects and my schedule and trying to figure out how to sell more books, most notably, how to sell the Yearly Special Edition.

Well, I managed part of that.

My projects are organized. I have a good idea how the next few months are going to play out schedule-wise.

But I’m really no closer to figuring out a selling plan than I was at the beginning of the month.

Here’s the deal.

I think I have a good enough position in the Internet world to throw out links to my ebooks. It costs me nothing and I don’t do it enough to annoy people or turn them off. If nothing comes from my tweets/posts, then I really didn’t waste anything. It’s easy and comfortable and guaranteed.

However, I have no position in the Real world and not enough position in the Internet world to try to sell a physical book. It’s easy to ask people to spend a buck or two on my words. It’s a lot harder for me to ask people to spend 10 or 12 bucks because I’m nobody. How can I say I’m worth it?

Because of this uncomfortable uncertainty I don’t want to make the monetary investment it would take for me to sell those books in the Real world. It’s available online and I could do the same ol’ link-and-leave-it maneuver, but there’s a bit of ego that really would like to shill this thing in a hands-on way. There’s a bigger bit of ego that would like to actually sign these books and give a few away as part of a contest that drums up readers and such.

There’s a bigger bit of practical sense that says I will lose my ass doing this. This bigger bit of practical sense points out that I’ve never been a good salesman, that I’m not exactly popular, that I’ve got no place to store unsold books, and that my credit card would probably be happier if I didn’t buy books I couldn’t sell.

I really envy people who can do this sort of thing. That can make this kind of investment and then pull it off. I just don’t have the skills for that, which hurts like road rash on your ass in the self-publishing world. Doesn’t look good to agents/publishers either when nowadays getting published means you do most of your own marketing.

I guess I’ll stick to what I know for now until I get a sign that I’m ready to scooch further out on the selling limb.

At least my credit card will appreciate it.

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Writing–The Characters in Me (and Vice Versa)

Rainbow paperMy mom is a supportive mom and she reads most everything I write. I either give it to her for a beta (because my mom is not shy about her opinions and won’t be biased in my favor just because I’m her kid; if she doesn’t like it, if she thinks there’s something wrong with it, she’ll let me know) or she buys it. But either way, she reads it and there’s something she’s pointed out to me on more than one occasion.

Sometimes she has trouble with the story because she can see bits and pieces of me in the characters and it distracts her.

Now this is not a huge concern to me. Joe and Jane Average-Reader aren’t going to be able to pick up on whatever characteristics of myself I put into characters, so it’s no big deal. I just find my mom picking up on even the smallest little tidbit amusing. And also accurate.

I do put bits and pieces of myself into my characters. And not just the protagonist either (though, they might have more than the rest). Something of me can probably be found in every single character I put on the page. And not just my good points, either. Many of my characters get saddled with some of my worst traits.

Part of this is probably ego. I find myself to be a great, complex, interesting human being on occasion, so why wouldn’t my characters benefit from a little bit of my awesomeness?

But the bigger part I think comes from a revelation I had when I was in high school.

For a while I courted the idea of being an actor. It didn’t matter to me that I was too fat and not pretty enough and my boobs were too big. It was something I wanted to do, so I gave it a run. I took theater arts my senior year of high school and I think I did a pretty okay job of it (I got an A in the class, for the record), though maybe the stage wasn’t my best venue. However, when it came time for our final project, a play put on for elementary school kids, I got the full-taste of what I could expect for my acting career.

I had to play Mother Goose.

See, the play was about Mother Goose’s children acting out various nursery rhymes to raise money so the bank wouldn’t foreclose on Mother Gooses’s shoe-turned-house. I wanted to be one of the kids because I wanted to play a bunch of the different parts in the nursery rhymes. Instead, because I was 18 and already looked like I’d had eight kids, I had to play Mother Goose.

And that’s when I realized I’d never be an actor. I didn’t want to be Mother Goose for the rest of my life. I wanted to be everybody.

Now, as a writer, I can be everybody. I can be a private investigator and a gigolo and a medium and a vampire and a bartender and a serial killer and a teen in the ’70s and a corrupt sheriff and a man gone missing. My size and my face and my ability to cry on cue don’t hamper me. And just like an actor, I use bits of myself to make the characters I play become more real.

It won’t win me an Emmy, but it’s still pretty useful.

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