Month: April 2014

Who is ready for International Scrapbooking Day?  It’s been a busy and fun week of digital scrapbooking for me. I look forward to sharing all the fun kits, bundles, & collabs I’ve had the pleasure of creating with.

In the meantime here is one collab I can show off.  I made this with the “Geekin Chic” collab  Southern Serenity Designs by Amber Morrison & Amber Shaw have.  It is available as a feature favorite at Pixels & Company this week. 

And this is just to shamelessly enable one of my designers.  Tami Miller Designs has these commercial use items on sale today.  You can find them in her Mscraps store.

I did some paper scrapbooking Saturday with my friends in a group called Memory Keepers at my church. Week 4 2014

Project Life Cards, “Cut and Paste” mini kit by Amy Tangerine; Cork Circles by Studio Calico from the March 2014 Kit; Marker: Pine Needles Distress by Tim Holtz from Ranger.

Sorry for the low quality of the next two photos. Trying to get a shot with the least amount of glare off the page protector can be tricky. That’s what I get taking these at night.                 Week 5 & 6 2014Cards-Picture my Life “Later Sk8r” by Close to My Heart; Washi Tape-Scotch by 3M; Photo Editing in CS6; Navy Ribbon-Ribbon by the spool Michaels; Marker-Chipped Sapphire Distress Marker by Tim Holtz for Ranger.

Week 7 2014Cards-Picture My Life “Laughing Lola” by Close to My Heart; White Cardstock by Wausau Paper; Rub On-Sentiments Transfers to go by K&Company; Sparkle Flourishes by Close to My Heart, Studio 18, and Micheals; Ink-Black Adirondack by Ranger; Marker-Black Pitt Pen by Faber Castle; Washi Tape-Michaels, CK True Type Font

It’s kinda crazy I wasn’t raised in Indiana. Most of my extended family live there. Both my parents graduated High School there, my surviving grandparents, and almost all of my cousins live there. I made this page with the new template pack from WM (Squared), “State Templates: Indiana”. Kit is “On the Go” Mini Kit and word art. You can find both in her Scrap Orchard Store

I got this picture of my four in their Easter Best.  I have to give my husband credit for waiting in line to take a picture with the spring floral display at church. It was totally worth it.  New from Southern Serenity Designs by Amber Morrison, “Grace” available in her Pixels & Company Store. The kit is Amber Shaw’s, “Tweet, Chirp, Sing”. She is guesting at Pixels & Company. 

I had fun last week taking pictures with Melanie and Bonnie at Girls of Grace. Birthstones: May by Aimee Harrison Designs available at her store in The Studio. The template is by Little Green Frog Designs and is available in her store at Scrap Orchard.

I’m getting prepped for next week-International Scrapbooking Day! Can’t wait to see all the new releases and freebie’s that will go live next week.

Last week I reviewed Extinction Point, and this week I am reviewing Exodus (Extinction Point #2) by Paul Anthony Jones. I gave this book three out of five stars. 

**This review does contain spoilers about this book.**

The fast paced action and terror continues in the second book Exodus of the Extinction Point series. I enjoyed the tense roller coaster ride the author creates as Emily makes her cross country trek to Alaska.
What I liked the most:
1) I loved the opening of the book. What a “Ground Control to Major Tom” moment.
2) I like the attempts the author has made at creating strong female characters. He does it with the commander of the space station, Emily, and I even saw it in Rhia. Could all of the characters use a little more polish-sure, but kudos at what’s there. It’s far better than others I’ve seen.
3) I liked the mystery of what attacked the seven frozen dead near the end of the book. It really made meeting Jacob a little more eerie. I thought Emily was kinda crazy not taking a closer look at them, but they left a lot of open doors for book 3 which I liked.
Things that bothered me:
1) I don’t think it was necessary to come up with some mysterious weather impervious valley to create more survivors from the red rain. I think it would have been more interesting for her to stumble across a clan of preppers living in a bunker. Simon asking if she was there to save them like she’s with the government, wow he’s dumb.
2) She left all of her gear at the other house-how stupid is our protagonist Emily? Come on she was supposed to be getting better at this survival thing, not worse.
It was like a bad horror movie when Simon left his kids to go retrieve the Durango. I was irritated when this happened because it just did not fit the common sense test. Why is he leaving his kids with a stranger? A father abandoning his kids to go get a vehicle when he knows there is an unquantifiable danger lurking about-NO WAY. They didn’t stick together to save time-he gets car and stranger lady is going to pack the kids stuff? NO WAY. We knew what was going to happen when Simon left and it pissed me off. I think it would have been more dramatic to be ambushed by the creepy creature at the other house and have to watch the creature take over Simon and then come for the kids. No need to split up, the terror of it all would remain the same. And it was a little bizarre how little miss “I don’t know how to drive” magically figures it out enough to ram the creature not once but twice-without flipping or destroying the SUV. What happened to all the cool rifle skill’s Emily gave us in book one?
3) I did not believe her character should have had so much unease at the drop in temperature. The woman did grow up in a small town in Iowa, she should be in her element. She’s from the Midwest, people from this part of the USA know all about winter-it starts in November and drags into late March. She should have been having flashbacks to her childhood. Not reminding herself of the cautions Jacob gave over the phone about the cold.
4) If I’m not mistaken this is a kill or be killed scenario. If you are going to kill a kid-turned alien get it over with. Why was it more important to spare his sisters feelings than keep them all alive? Why did she not shoot the alien Ben when it was hunched over Rhia in the middle of the night? Emily’s dealt with enough creatures at this point to know the boy Ben is dead. Does she really need to overnight with an alien to spare his sisters feelings? And why are they burying him in a rose bush-without a shovel-when the red storm is raining on them? That’s one of those sorry dear-we need to leave him here and press on moments.
5) Why is Emily freaking out on Jacob over the other people not being there? She broke into an apartment in book one because she was so desperate to find another living human. I don’t think she would have not gone to Alaska even if he did tell her what happened. Besides he’s basically saved her life dragging her there.
I still look forward to reading book 3 and seeing how this series shakes out.

 

Criticism. I don’t think I have truly crossed this bridge yet with my writing. I’ve read numereous other writer blog posts, where they mourn negative reviews of their work. I read their words and wonder if my life experience has prepared me for the kind of criticism I am sure to see in the near future. Over the years, I’ve been told by different supervisors, that I take criticism well.  When my editor praised my ability to take her criticism in stride, I saw it as further proof that yes, I do take criticism well. I don’t have a magic formula for dealing with criticism, but it is the focus of this weeks writers advice.

Writers Advice #6: Criticism, ready or not here it comes! 

I was an Army Intelligence officer, and my branch of officer gets copiously groomed during the basic course on how to take a beating during briefings. It is one branch of the Army where you could graduate your basic course as a Second Lieutenant, and walk into a position where you might be briefing officers with stars on their shoulder. I didn’t believe my instructors when they touted this fact. Boy was I wrong. I learned a lot in a short few years as a junior officer working with a Division staff. The best lessons I learned was how to take criticism, and not take it personal. I was surrounded by senior enlisted and senior officers, some of whom liked to tell me they had uniforms older than me. Everyone outranked me in time or grade.  I was constantly being criticized, mentored, chastised, and groomed. What does my fledgling officer career have to do with writing? A lot, I definitely grew a thick skin for job performance based criticism in the Army. I may not have had a novel torn apart, but I’ve had my share of lovingly crafted Operation Order Annexes and Appendices ripped apart.

1) It is impossible to please everybody.  What I found most frustrating about all the copious grooming I experienced, was the sheer amount of it. For me it felt like everyone around me felt the urge to impart some nugget of wisdom or advice. It just got to be a to much, to soon, and a to often kind of deal for me. While the majority of it was well intended, in the long run I had to decide who I wanted as my mentors. I needed to determine for myself who’s lead was best to follow, and let the rest fade into the everyday noise. I learned how to discern criticism by incorporating my opinions about the person giving the advise. How do you feel about their performance, experience, and ability? Do you revere them or does their opinion not mean a whole lot to you? This is easier to quantify when dealing with a supervisor or coworker. When you are dealing with a general audience reader you will never get a handle on how you feel about each individual. Which means you should not hang your hat on the good or the bad reviews. Focus instead on the people whose opinion you honor and respect. As writers we need to hone in on whose opinion matters to us.

2) The truth can hurt. In my experience, criticism that hurts the most, is what I’ve needed to work on the most. If it hurts, then a part of you is conscious of what has been addressed, and you are feeling the pain of the realization of a shortcoming or failure. It is easy to rebuff hearing a hard truth, play it off as false, or as being said by someone trying to be mean. However I think it is more brave to face down shortcomings. Don’t push away the people willing to deliver a hard truth with you. It takes heart and courage for someone to deliver a hard truth. People who have your best interests at heart will be honest with you, even when it is a difficult message to deliver.  Others will tell you how wonderful you are, and remain content to watch you fail, verses taking the risk of telling you about a potentially offending truth. It is up to you how you handle a hard truth, but in my experience it is much more noble to own your failures than ignore them.

3) Relevant Criticism will be accompanied by a remedy.  Often times helpful criticism will be accompanied by rationale or a way to improve the mistake pointed out.  For example:

  1. I didn’t like it, the characters were to dumb for me.   
  2. I was not a fan of the protagonist, she made a series of bad decisions I could not relate to or understand.

While both examples might have the same meaning, the second example gives an explanation. If I was given the above comments about something I wrote, I would simply write off number one as someones opinion, “oh well I can’t please everybody”. However number two I would latch onto. That is criticism I can take action to correct in the future.

  1. It was such a bad read, I didn’t finish it.
  2. I had a hard time finishing this book. There were numerous grammatical errors, and the formatting of the dialog was strange.
  3. I couldn’t finish it. There’s to much exposition narrative for my taste.
  4. This is just not my genre.

As someone who cares about writing a quality review for both the author, and future readers, I hate it when I run accross reviews where a reader makes a blanket comment.  For example the comment, “It was such a bad read.” This kind of critic is not helpful if it is not followed up with disclaimers or explanations as to why. A helpful review will give explanations of the good and the bad. In contrast to number one, two through four provide reasons for a potential “bad read” or low review score. Numbers two and three a writer can work to fix in the future, and number four is not the writer or readers fault. It is much easier for the writer to know the reader did not enjoy their work because of the genre, than get a blanket “bad read” comment.

4) Where is it coming from? This is the question I was taught to ask myself, while learning to be discerning about criticism.  Is what was said intended to be mean or are they trying to be helpful? This can be tricky, you have to be careful not to assume the worst in people. There is a difference between how you hear things being said when you read it, and what was actually written. It is easy to exert our own internal voice over written communication.  If we are negatively responding to something, we can suddenly be reading into what is there, and see a message that was never actually stated. Put the criticism aside for few days and circle back to it later when you might be less emotional about it. Have a trusted friend read it without telling them what kind of message you are reading.  See if they are reading it with the same message you are. If they are not, then odds are you are emotionally over reacting to what is there. Your ego is probably angry at the audacity of someone not seeing your perfection, and that is an entirely different issue.

5) Don’t “What if” about the future opinions of your audience. I had the opportunity to observe my daughters Kindergarden class last year when a guest speaker was presenting. At first the questions asked by the students were focused and specific. Towards the end, the five and six years olds questions got a little crazy, and these questions all began with the words “What if”. The teacher swiftly took over for a moment, reminding the class, “What if” questions were not allowed. She turned to me as an aside saying, “They’ll what if all day if I let them.” Don’t “What if” about the thoughts and opinions of your future readers. You too can what if all day if you let yourself. This is a form of worrying that is unproductive, and will not aide in your pursuit to handle criticism with grace. There was a study done about what Americans worry about verses what actually ends up happening. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found 85% of what we worry about never comes to pass. In most circumstances, we are our own worst critics. We will identify and perseverate over our flaws, while everyone around us will never see it. Generally speaking, most people are so self consumed, they hardly notice what we find fault with. Don’t get distracted worrying about something you cannot control, the opinion of others.

6) You will be judged. I didn’t forget about that other 15% of valid worries. Common phrases I’ve heard, when writers agonize over the lack of empathy people have when criticizing their work:

  • “They can’t even comprehend how much time it’s taken me.”
  • “It’s part of me I’ve exposed.”
  • “It’s my baby.”

Please, get over your self.  Quit being a baby. Yes it’s taken a ridiculous amount of time, yes you have made yourself vulnerable, and of course you have nurtured it. That’s how most art is made last time I checked. It is for these reasons I feel it takes a special level of courage to be an artist. Publication puts a writers art in front of an audience. Welcome to the world of being an artist, you shall be judged. Learn to deal with the critics, learn to get over the disappointments you might feel reading less than stellar review. Congratulations, someone actually read your work, hopefully they will share an articulate opionion of it.  You should honor the time the reader dedicated to reading your work, by considering what they are saying about it. Most people don’t open a book hoping it will be a terrible read. Be a professional, don’t hang your hat on what they say, but listen to your readers opinions. Doing this has the potential to provide you with an opportunity to learn something. If you can’t be a professional, your ego is to fragile. Being overly sensitive to negative criticisms about your work, means you are defining yourself by your work. If you cannot tough through this assault on your ego, I suggest you not pursue publication of your musings. You get to choose whether or not to place your work in front of an audience.  You need to choose how you react to them. You can ignore criticism, you can leverage it for your betterment, you could even try to fight it, but you will not escape it.

 

 

Melanie and I were shopping at JoAnn’s a few weeks ago.  We saw wooden egg’s and suddenly Melanie had this cool idea to modge podge them in paper.  Since I am a paper addict, we both knew my stash would be chock full of something that would be perfect for what she had in mind. Then last week Melanie was struck by the Pintrest Fairy.  She sent me a series of pins, one she wondered if it was alcohol inked. There were some twine wrapped eggs, and a pretty basket of eggs wrapped scrap fabric. In the end this is what we came up with.

Materials: Newsprint, Club Scrap Paper, Gellatos Water colors by Faber Castle, Modge Podge, and wooden egg forms.

Happy Easter!

I’m kind of excited about this freebie. I made it with WM (Squared) Tennis Fever-The Mini.

You can buy it in her Scarp Orchard Store.

You can pick up the Freebie below on WM (Squared)’s Blog.

I used Aimee Harrison’s new release, “Cottontail” to scrap my girls eating their chocolate bunnies last year. You can pick it up at her store at The Studio.

I used “Selfie” by Tami Miller Designs, this bundle is available as part of the Pickle Barrel Sale at Pickle Berry Pop. You can find it in her store HERE.

This one was made with WM(squared)’s new release Tennis Fever-The Mega Mini Kit, the Alpha, and the Word Art. I also used Simply Dated V40. They can be found in her Scrap Orchard Store.

This week I am posting my review of Extinction Point by, Paul Anthony Jones. This is the first book in his series. I rated it four out of five stars. The third book in the series released this week. I am kind of excited to dig into it.

A scary and action packed book, I enjoyed it. I look forward to finishing the series. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the protagonist Emily.
What I liked about the book:
1) The construction of the red rain-to the extinction of life on earth was very well done. It was scary, and brutally real to witness through Emily’s eyes.
2) The creatures and what she learns about the fallout from the red rain is so fascinating. I was right with Emily-terrified through every grotesque moment.
3) The authors handle of loss, shock, and not letting the protagonist “magically” find her way out New York City. Emily suffers physical pains from getting hurt, she spends a night terrified in her closet, and has to suddenly plan for daily food and water when a day ago she was eating lunch in a café. She struggles emotionally through it all, dealing with the death of her boyfriend, her parents, her neighbors, and co-workers. I felt her reactions were sincere and genuine. When the protagonist is faced with a particularly disturbing “creature” she makes it to safety and finds she wet her self. That was real-and we see Emily do her best to keep it together.
I hate to say these were things I didn’t like, but more questions I think an editor should have exposed.
1) Jacob and his Alaskan friends found her how again? Social media-which kind? I really wanted to know this. Why-I don’t know call me crazy, but I think I’d be posting stuff to Facebook before I made phone calls to the White House or political parties. I think her “contact to do list” was a little backwards-but that’s just me. The White House-really?
2) Her priority of what she needs to take. I don’t know, was this just supposed to reflect or be more “true to life” of an average person’s survival competence? She’s smart enough to acquire a sweet bike, and take a small stockpile of bike extras, but looses her brain when she hits the camping store. She upgraded her bike but STILL sticks with a lame used army ruck. WHY? She was already chafed by the thing when she was at the store. I was in the Army, I carried those rucks, I know intimately how horrid those things are. I can get you a laundry list of other women who have served who will all agree with me-Those damn things were NOT made for women to carry. You couldn’t pay me money to carry one of those POS into the backcountry. Her food rations, does she like to carry more weight than necessary? Why on earth did she choose to carry heavy canned goods over lighter-and made for long shelf life backcountry food? Idiotic. Her reasoning, because she did think about it, no she’s going to resupply on the road. Only when she’s on the road she did this once. Her clothing supply, it was adequate before she hit the camping store. But once there I would have turned the camping store out. The first leg of her journey is roughly 150 miles-and she’s not going to get pants to pedal in. NO-WAY! I’ve pedaled enough to know she will be raw as all get out after 30 miles weighted down like she is. I’m sorry her jeans would be in the dumpster. I also would have turned out any house I slept in, but maybe that’s just me. She didn’t even look for sunglasses or dogfood-and she knew she needed those. I’d have scrounged up a map-stopped at a bookstore and picked up a good old Randall McNally with pages dedicated to each state. It’s not like she’s going to MapQuest her route-does she magically know all the interstates to Alaska?
3) Screw the bike-I would have taught myself to ride a motorcycle. I get how a car could be trouble with so much debris on the road, but a motorcycle/dirt bike she could have figured out. No way would I have been as calm as she was about pedaling her way to Alaska from New York.

Southern Serenity Designs has three featured favorites this week. I made this with a Funkalicious Template by Southern Serenity Designs by Amber Morrison available at her store pixelsandcompany.com/shop/Funkalicious.html; Limeade Lifecards by Karla Dudley, Shabby Flowers by Mommyish; Renewal Doilies and Gingham Paper by Wishing Well Creations; Time Out Paper & Flutter by KimB Designs; Bright side of life Pixels & Company collab all found at Pixels and Company.

Pixel’s & Company is giving away this kit for FREE when you sign up for their newsletter. You can signup for the newsletter HERE.

And if you want to find some more FREE stuff, The Studio has a Facebook hop going on. Aimee Harrison has a free mini on her Facebook Fan Page. You can find it HERE.