October 28, 2011

Death by Murder

Piano Skirt
I recently got to participate as a suspect in a "Clue" type murder mystery game. My character was an accomplished musician with a conductor wand for her weapon. 

In real life I've played the cello and tuba--neither of them very well. I've never been good at counting anything faster than eighth notes. I lucked out that the band conductor was more concerned that I could march a mile with the 30 lb instrument than if I could hit all the notes.

I am thoroughly convinced you don't need to have musical talent to play the tuba, just a good chiropractor. My brother confirmed my theory his freshman year by following in my footsteps.
26" Bell Diameter  

So, even though I didn't really fit the part of the "accomplished" musician suspect, I had a blast sewing this pleated skirt for my costume.
The yoke is pleated bridal satin.  The ruffle fabric is just something I picked up in the quilting section at Jo-Ann's. The sharp keys, flat keys, and box pleats on the bottom are moirĂ© .

If anyone lives in Florida or is thinking about visiting Orlando on vacation, there's a Sleuth Mystery Dinner Show that's worth checking out:  www.sleuths.com 

The comedy is pretty funny and the jokes are subtle/clean enough that it's safe for young kids too. 

October 19, 2011

Spooky Spirits

This Halloween, bring back empty bottles from the dead.

Pumpkin Candle Holder

Step 1: Remove label from bottle. I soak them in warm soapy water then use Goo-Gone to get rid of the remaining sticky residue.

Step 2. Wrap masking tape or painter's tape around the barrel of the bottle.

Step 3. Using a marker or pencil, draw on face. I blackened the area I wanted to keep so that I wouldn't get confused while cutting it out.

Step 4. Carefully cut along markings using a razor blade or an X-Acto knife. Peel off surrounding tape leaving the eyes and mouth in place.

Step 5. Cover the bottle with orange spray paint. Let dry until paint is no longer tacky, then remove masking tape.

A little about paint:

 I prefer to use acrylic paints because they dry fast  and stick to almost anything. Acrylic paints are usually diluted with water. However, if you want the paint to dry faster, you can use rubbing  alcohol. Acrylic paints can be purchased in spray cans, so an airbrush is not a requirement. (Drying time is almost instantaneous.)

Where to purchase paint: I recommend Hobby Lobby, Hobbytown, HobbyUSA etc... anywhere that plastic airplane model kits are sold. I have found that most Michaels do not carry acrylic paints in the spray can format.Home Depot/Lowes/Walmart will have a selection of oil-based spray paint.This will take much longer to dry. Do check with a paint expert if the paint is meant to bond with glass.

Model Master, Testors, and Tamiya are example brands. Do not buy the kind in tubes or anything with 'craft' on it. It will not coat the glass evenly.

October 13, 2011

The Twelve Dancing Princesses


I read PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George several months ago. A while later, I read Heather Dixon’s variation, ENTWINED. It was my intention to discern for myself, which author did a better spin-off of the classic fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Right from page one of Entwined, I realized picking a winner would not be easy. I gave up on the concept of comparing the two books half way through. Although they share the same premise, I still had the impression I was reading two different stories. The overlapping elements are minor enough that I honestly can’t recommend one over the other.
 Then, while traveling to California to visit my family,  I purchased THE NIGHT DANCE, by Suzanne Weyn, on a whim.  This seemed the least like a 12 dancing princesses story and more like a King Arthur adventure spin-off.

And since I’m on the topic, I absolutely adore  THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES, retold and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson. I think the illustrations in this children’s book are just gorgeous.

 Just over a year ago, I had to move from North Carolina to Florida. My hardcover copy of this book is one of three books I packed in my valuable car space and took with me, rather than letting the movers handle.  

That left me wondering: Are there any books in your home library you wouldn’t trust anyone else to transport across the country for you?

October 11, 2011

Mad Scientist Drink Bar

 Okay, if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love Halloween more than any other holiday—yes, even more than Christmas. But, I should clarify that I’m not into the scary, morbid, aspects.

A few things pertaining to Halloween usually happen every year:

  1. I will sew my own costume. It will be elaborate and unrivaled in craftsmanship, but will fail to win the local costume contest.
  2. I will spend at least $100 dollars on new Halloween decorations (this is a self-imposed restriction since I can easily spend more) and another $70+ on candy.
  3. I will host or attend one Halloween party where over half of the food must be cleverly garnished to resemble something spooky or Halloween-like.

Since this was a success at the party I hosted last year so I thought I’d share some tips for creating your own Mad Scientist Drink Bar:

 Science equipment is relatively inexpensive if you can find a local supplier. However, if you don’t have one, and have to purchase the items online, it can get pricey with shipping& handling. I’ve been very satisfied with every item I’ve purchased from American Science & Surplus. (www.sciplus.com)  Their descriptions for each item are sarcastic and funny too.

Test Tube Rack- The rack was actually not stained when it arrived, so I did a quick sand, stain, varnish job to give it the dark 19th century look I admired in the picture.

Test tubes- DO boil and sterilize these after they arrive. Then do it again. These make fun “drink shots”.

500 ml Erlenmeyer Flask- (Triangular bottom)

500 ml Borosilicate boiling flask- (Has a round, bulbous bottom)

10 ml 1/2” tubular bottles- (Uses #0 cork) Boil and sterilize before use. I filled them with mystery “potions” (drink/juice concentrates). You can let your guests uncork the bottles and use eye droppers to add flavor to  their drinks. With larger bottles you can use powdered drink mixes. Use a miniature funnel or eyedropper to fill vials.

Tongs-Kitchen or scientific. If you're going to crush dry ice for your guests to add to their drinks, I strongly recommend the scientific tongs.

Cocktail Stirrers- Party City

Formaldehyde pumpkin in a jar- (Marshmallow pumpkin)-Walmart 

Brain Freeze Ice Cube Mold-Target, Spirit Halloween

Brain Freeze Ice Cubes

Drink labels- Spirit Halloween, Halloween City
Pick your Poison

Apply stickers at room temperature, then put the drink in the fridge to chill. If you decide to print your own labels, they may not hold up after the bottle begins to sweat once it's removed from the fridge.

October 3, 2011


Every time we revise, polish (or just write) we tend to repeat ourselves. Writing a whole paragraph to elaborate on one thought can  reinforce something critical to the story, or it can gunk it up. 

             She admired his preference to swear in Russian over German. When compared to several of the other Slavic languages, which all sounded threatening when spoken in raised tones, German actually had a limited vocabulary of offensive words. Unlike Russian, which had so many they almost constituted another language and a separate dictionary was needed to name them all. Furthermore, the Russian word for a German person literally translated to, “Somebody who does not know how to speak.”

(Your sarcasm is welcome in the comments section, but please hold your thoughts for now…)

Unless the character is a linguist and this is a clue for a detective novel (which they’re not) there doesn’t need to be a long paragraph rambling about swearing in foreign languages.

As a connoisseur of vulgar remarks, she noted his preference to swear in Russian over German. 

Redundancy can be eliminated even from short paragraphs:

Jennifer started to cry. She sat on the floor, her head hung between her knees, and sobbed. The tears poured hot and bitter, searing down her cheeks like the dripping wax of a burning candle.

The two sentences following “Jennifer started to cry” say (show) the same thing.  When deciding what to cut and keep, I  try to go with the sentences that are most interesting.

Jennifer sat on the floor, her head between her knees. The tears poured, searing her cheeks like the dripping wax of a burning candle.

The important part to remember is that without redundancy, I wouldn’t have written the other sentences, the ones I ended up keeping. Editing for redundancy is a revision concern, and shouldn’t hinder you while you’re first drafting the novel. 

Other tips:

 It's common to state something the reader can clearly figure out from the text. Trimming the extraneous details can tighten up the prose and make it read smoother.

I darted to the window [and peeked out.] David was running toward the building, waving his hands above his head and yelling.

We can cut “and peeked out” from the sentence since it’s clear the character looks out of the window because the next sentence tells us what the character sees.

I slipped my hand into his, trusting him.

This one is not as easy to spot since it’s out of context, but the act of slipping her hand into his implies trust, so saying she trusts him is unnecessary.

Words can be redundant as well:

 Back - He eased [back] into his chair, hissing a sigh of exasperation.  
Up/down (when the direction is obvious)- He jumped [up] onto the porch. / He looked [down] at this feet.