Monday, June 27, 2016

Saying Hello: Minis and Writing

Hi everyone!

Let me say I’m happy to be here. Following up on Joanna Slan's post last week on getting caught up, I’ll start my post with an introduction.

I’ve been crafting in one way or another most of my life. As a kid, I liked to draw; I strung beads and did macramé as a teen (remember that?); I tried all kinds of crafts and then I discovered dollhouse kits in my 20’s and never looked back. 

Between working as a newspaper reporter, I started building dollhouses and miniature rooms. I’m now on #00000. Let’s say I’m still under the 50 mark, but I have many ideas and lots (and lots!) of kits to assemble. I’ve also gone smaller, now loving the idea of building in half the size in half or 1/24th scale. (That’s 6” to the foot compared to the standard 1” to the foot measurement.)

If there’s anything that crafters will agree on, it’s this: I became a packrat. Maybe I only have “one” hobby, but it encompasses many, many things: painting, building, woodworking and finishing, model making, soft goods: clothing, linens, curtains, rugs, etc., animal furring, oh, the list goes on. And it takes a lot of stuff to do all that.

But I love it.

Writers being the creative types anyway, I think it’s natural that we also do crafts. It’s another creative outlet. And it's fun. If you're not having fun, why bother, right? It’s like we have to keep our minds—and hands—busy 24/7. My mind is often working on a story, of course, with my writing for newspapers and magazines, plus working on both fiction books and short stories. And how often is it you get to do your hobby and write about it, too? So I enjoy writing nonfiction books on dollhouses including In Miniature Style II and the new Dollhouse Décor & More, co-authored with Joanna Campbell Slan.

When I’m not writing, I’m doing minis (and spending the money.) When I’m not doing minis, I’m writing and making money (to spend on more minis.) Yeah, it’s a vicious cycle. 

You can see some of my projects and other stuff at my website, or my blog, so feel free to stop on by and say hello!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

4 Terrific Sources for Ideas

By Joanna Campbell Slan

People often ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" and the answer is...everywhere. But I thought I'd share a few of my favorite resources:

1. Walks -- I'm a huge fan of walking without headphones or music. The silence gives me a great chance to think. More importantly, I often hear the "voices" of characters in my head. Or I'll see someone or something that sparks ideas. Here's an example, I found a scuffed up piece of glass stuck in the dirt. I dug it out. The coloration reminded me of an old shop window. From that I made Odd Bob's Antiques.

In the door on the right, you can see the piece of glass that started all this rolling. I embedded the glass between two pieces of foam core board. The frame is cut out of drink coasters.

2. Memories-- Thinking of old shops reminded me of the year we lived in England. The streets feeding into Covent Garden were full of poky little stores. The dust and traffic guaranteed that windows were dusty. Yes, I thought, that's how Odd Bob's would look.

3. Challenges -- My pal, Christine Verstraete, and I call ourselves Two Mad Miniaturists. We're working on a new book of tutorials, especially for Halloween. She suggested that I try my hand at a bookend, as that's a new trend (or the revision of an old one) in miniatures. I looked up the size on a cool website called www.dimensionsinfo,com and started building Bob's.

4. Brainstorming -- Chris has been telling me about all the cute things she's crafting, and I didn't want to duplicate her efforts, so I decided to go darker. Last night before bed I brainstormed a list of horrific items. Today, I built a miniature guillotine, only 1 1/2 inches high. I also created a cobra in a basket, and a set of horns on a plaque. I'd already made a gold casket, and I sculpted a dis-embodied hand, too. 

The guillotine can barely be seen on the left, bloody blade and all. The cobra in a basket is next to the guillotine. The plaque with horns is on the left, second shelf, and so is the gold casket. You can't see the hand I made. Hmmmm....maybe I should put it somewhere else?

The piece isn't perfect yet. I need to rearrange the shelves, attach the lights, and create the roof. But it's definitely coming along. 

What sorts of horror-ific props should I add to the outside of Odd Bob's? I'm curious to see what you suggest!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Getting a Bonus

It’s funny how things turn out . I am working ona proposal for something new. It used to be you had the first page to grab a reader or in this case editor, but now it is really down to the first paragraph or even the first line. A proposal is made up of a synopsis and the first fifty pages. I find that trying too hard doesn’t work well for me, so I just moved on from the beginning figuring something would turn up.

It was all put on the backburner earlier this week when I went with my son to do my job as support in our financial seminar business. There was a bonus involved. The office we were working out of is next to a big shopping mall and there is a Barnes & Noble. Ever since the two Barnes & Nobles near me closed, going to the bookstore has become a treat. During some down time I went to the bookstore with the idea of picking up something to read. The last time I was there I picked up a Mary Kay Andrews book on the bargain hardcover table. It was the first book of hers I’d read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I went back to the same display table to see what they had. There were several books I considered and I read the beginnings of all of them. In the end, I left empty handed, or did I?

Later when I was thinking about the proposal, I thought back to my bookstore trip and the beginnings I’d read. I didn’t remember them word for word, but I did remember the overview of them. And I had a aha moment about what I was working on and a better beginning for my story popped into my mind.

I had looked at my book shopping as time off from writing, but I am beginning to realize there is no time off. My mind is always working.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Meditation to Find Joy

woman drop leaves in autumn park

We all have within us the ability to experience joy, if only we remember to look for it. The meditation below is one of my favorite tools for clients experiencing anxiety or depression. I recommend keeping a journal nearby, so you can write down thoughts, ideas, and commitments to yourself when you finish.
  • Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up toward the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  • Allow your eyes to close, or if this is too challenging, keep your eyes at “half mast” gazing quietly at a place below and in front of you.
  • Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. First notice the warmth and coolness of the breath as it enters your nostrils. Notice the movement of your rib cage and belly. How does your spine move with each breath? What other sensations can you feel?
  • After you feel comfortable and relaxed, ask yourself the following question:
    • What brings me joy?
  • Don’t try to audit or evaluate the answers that come to you. You may hear words, see images, feel sensations, or experience emotions. Allow whatever you experience to float across your consciousness.
  • After a few minutes, change the question to:
    • How can I invite more joy into my life?
  • Again, there is no “right” response. Sit quietly with whatever comes to your attention.
  • If your attention wanders at any time during the meditation (and it will!) simply notice it, then invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath. When you feel ready, ask yourself the question again.
  • Continue this meditation for 10 – 15 minutes. Note any thoughts, ideas, or personal commitments in your practice journal.
I hope you enjoy the practice!

Tracy Weber

books available

PS--all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at  Thanks for reading!