Friday, May 30, 2008

The Friday Fact

Today is counted cross stitch. My addiction of choice! I was going to do images, but that's just too time consuming, so there's lots of links to click if you're interested. I love showing off my work to anyone and everyone.

I'm not sure how it came about and evolved into the art form it is now though. Separating its history from other forms of needlework is a little difficult. But it does date back to at least the 1700's and I think it made its first appearance on a sampler.

Counted cross stitch is made up entirely of little x's. You start out with a blank piece of fabric, your chart and floss (aka embroidery thread). Each symbol on the chart corresponds to 1 x on the fabric. Designs can be everything from simple and monochromatic to detailed containing over 100 colors. I'm working on 2 that have 90 colors each and are reproductions of actual pieces of art.

This one is my "baby". It's called St. Petersburg White Nights and was designed by Martina Weber, a German designer. I've identified most of the buildings in the completed design. She releases hers in 12 parts, and this is parts 1-4. The buildings start on the next part! I just haven't figured out which palace it is. Here's what the finished piece looks like.

This piece is from a fantasy artist named Nadia Tate. I adore her mermaids. This one is called Kimono Butterflies Mermaid. It was charted by Heaven and Earth Designs, a company that charts art work for stitching. Mostly fantasy, but they do a lot of pre-Raphaelite paintings too.

And this one is called A Favour, also from HAED. The artist is Frederick Leighton. It's a lady in Empire leaning over a metal railing with the sea in the background. I like to think it's the Mediterranean. Yeah, there's a lot of sky and that's the top of her head all by its lonesome.

I'm also in love with this one, of course. It's St. Basil's Cathedral as imagined by Terrence Nolan of Dimples Designs. The fabric is a hand-dyed fabric. I have the frame for this one now, just need to frame it so I can hang it on the wall.

I like stitching Christmas tree ornaments too. The tree is formed by a word. Guess the word!

This one was the second "big" one I ever finished. A mermaid of course, the Queen Mermaid from Mirabilia Designs.

This piece nearly drove me insane. The designer is Teresa Wentzler and she's known as the Queen of Blends. That's when you take one strand of two different colors and put them together to make a new color. This piece had 64 blends in it! But it is gorgeous. The shading is magnificent.

It's kind of amazing what you can do with colored floss and a bunch of x's.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Friday Fact

Continuing in the series on needlework.

This week is needlepoint. NOT to be confused with counted cross-stitch. The two are totally different.

Needlepoint is one of the oldest forms of needlework. It dates back to the middle ages at least, and very likely even earlier. Tapestries were originally worked in needlepoint, and later on they were woven.

It's worked on mesh canvas in a stitch known as the tent stitch. Traditionally needlepoint was always worked with woolen yarn, but nowadays the fiber possibilities are endless. Your options include everything from cotton to bamboo. I've actually stitched with bamboo floss and my word! The stuff is SO soft and the colors are so vibrant.

Because of the canvas it's stitched on and the use of wool, needlepoint pieces are very sturdy and durable. During the Victorian era needlepoint seat cushions were extremely popular. The heroine in Hearts In The Highlands does needlepoint.

Next week will be counted cross stitch and I'll show off some of the things I've done. It's my addiction of choice when it comes to needlework.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spotlight on Europe- Interview!

Today I'm interviewing Ruth Axtell Morren about her recent Love Inspired Historical, "Hearts In The Highlands".

Outside of Indiana Jones and the required dinosaur obsession, few people pay attention to archeology these days. Was Reid's occupation a conscious choice on your part or just what he told you he had to be?

Originally I had toyed with the idea of making him an archaeologist, then I'd decided on an art history professor, thinking that required less research. But my editor, Melissa Endlich, preferred a more exciting profession like archaeologist, so I rose to the challenge! It worked out well. I kept picturing Reid as Indiana Jones and Robert Redford in Out of Africa--rugged adventurers!

I'm also a fan of the Naked Archaeologist, so I loved the way you included the Holy Land as it was during the Victorian period. Why there and Egypt instead of Rome or Athens?

I was doing research on the Victorian period and found out how popular 'Egyptology' was at the time. Then it seemed a neat idea to make Maddie's parents former missionaries from somewhere in the region.

Tell us about your writing process.

When I get an idea (which can come from anywhere--from history books to a secondary character to a dream), I begin researching that time period both from books and online. The more I find out about a period, the more my plot starts forming. Sometimes the idea just comes to me almost complete (ie, the plot). Then the research just helps fill in the holes. Other times, it's a lot more sketchy and I need to think a lot about possible what-ifs for the hero & heroine.
Once I start writing, I aim for 10 pp a day, preferably working mornings till about 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Then I take a long walk, where I continue mulling on the plot, generally getting idea for the next day's scene. After finishing a first draft (anywhere from 2 months to 4), I start rewriting--then I send it off to my critique partner, then I further revise at least 2 more times before sending it to my editor for her suggestions.

And the big question: Are you a plotter, pantster or somewhere in between?

definitely somewhere in between. I used to be much more a plotter, but the more I write, and the more I know my historical period (and the tighter deadlines get), the more I begin writing before I'm quite ready to. That means, winging it more, knowing the ideas will come as I write.

What's your favorite time period to write about or research?

Definitely both Regency England and Victorian England. Growing up those were the periods I most like to read about. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy other settings, esp. exotic. Right now, I have an idea for a post-Napoleanic Paris-set story. And, I do enjoy the late 19th century downeast Maine setting I've used.

What advice would you give a beginning novelist who wants to write historical romance?

Read as many classics written in the time period you are writing in as you can. This give you a feel for dialogue and slang and what some of the everyday things people used were--things that aren't always easy to find in the history books.

Ruth can be found online at her website and her blog, which is linked in my blogroll.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

I finally finished Hearts in the Highlands, so today I'm doing my review. Next week I'll have an interview with Ruth. Since the hero is an archaeologist I decided to time the interview posting with the new Indiana Jones movie.

Hearts in the Highlands was Ruth's first LIH, and my first book by her. I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Reid had just the right amount of tragic past to suit my tastes, and a big secret that prevented him from acting on his feelings towards Maddie.

And Reid's aunt... What a character! I loved her and hated her. She was the perfect stuffy high-society matron that you just want to throttle. A lot like Mrs. Harris in the Anne of Avonlea movie. (who actually shows up as a character in Anne of Windy Poplars) Or as the movie is called currently Anne of Green Gables: The sequel. (how lame is that?)

I loved the Scottish highland setting and the little glimpses of Scottish life. Some of my family roots are Scottish, so those books are always special to me.

The progression of the romance between Reid and Maddie was very well done and never once felt forced or contrived. Their mis-understandings in regards to each other's feelings was very believable, as were all of Maddie's incorrect assumptions about him.

I also really enjoyed the little touches of how quickly the world was changing in 1890. There's a wonderful scene with Reid teaching Maddie how to ride the new-fangled bicycles.

If you like Scottish settings, well-written romances and touches of the exotic, you will love Hearts In The Highlands.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Friday Fact

Yeah, I forgot last week.

So, I want to talk about all the different kinds of needlework. If you haven't noticed yet, I'm kind of obsessed with/addicted to it... This week is a forgotten needlecraft called candlewicking.

And no, it's not done with candle wicks. The only stitch used in candlewicking is the French knot. It was very popular during Colonial times. Basically, the outline of a shape was drawn on the fabric and then those lines were covered with evenly spaced French knots. Very simple and very elegant.

Candlewicking is pretty much a dead artform these days, but one of my great-grandmothers used to dabble in it a bit and there is a pillow at my Mamaw's house that was candlewicked. The fabric is red and the thread is white. The design is 3 candles, Christmas type candles.

Doug Phillips has continued his series about Marxism and motherhood on his blog, so please do check those posts out. There are 4 more posts and here's the link. The Peter Marshall he mentions by name is the son of Catherine Marshall who wrote Christy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Evils of Motherhood

Yes, you read that title right. I'm borrowing it from Doug Phillips, founder of The Vision Forum.

I don't talk about politics much on here, but his two posts today struck a cord in me. About a month ago, we HisWriters ended up in a discussion about the Biblical model for womanhood and how today's society frowns on women just wanting to stay home. So many Christians have fallen prey to the attitude that raising children in a Biblical way isn't as important as providing every material comfort you can imagine. Many have also adopted the view that a woman should always have a back-up plan "just in case" marriage doesn't work out. I personally have major problems with that attitude and refuse to allow it into my thoughts.

I admire Doug Phillips a great deal. I've had the pleasure of meeting him several times and listen to him speak on many subjects. He's a very entertaining speaker and his heart for the Biblical family is obvious to anyone who spends more than 30 seconds talking to him. I read his blog every day and the posts today are title "Lenin on the Evils of Motherhood". You can read the posts here and here. He quotes from Lenin and the most disturbing thing about it is how Lenin's words mirror the thoughts of many Christians.

Since I'm obsessed with Russia, I know more than the average American about the atrocities committed by the Russian Communist Party. They had the Russian people so thoroughly brainwashed that most of them do not believe the Gulag system continued to exist after Stalin's death. The last gulag prisoners were not released until 1993, and even after that many Russians refuse to believe they were really in the gulag. Even after the book "Gulag" by Anne Applebaum, Russians refuse to believe it. The family unit in Russia was systematically destroyed--by the government no less--nearly 100 years ago and their society is now spiraling out of control. It may be legal to be a Christian again, but in no way does that mean the government will let you practice what you believe.

The same thing is slowly happening here in the US. It's not as overt because nobody makes speeches on the subject like Lenin did, but that doesn't mean it's not happening. Christians, and I mean ALL of them--not just the ones who share my particular brand of conservatism, should be appalled and outraged by this. And yet the majority stand silently by and many of them propagate those words to their own children and demean the Biblical family model. I bet most of them don't even know they're doing it.

The downfall of the Biblical family model is a major part of what's wrong with the world. God instituted the model the way He did for a very good reason, and we are now reaping the consequences of ignoring it. I've been accused more than once of being old-fashioned and unrealistic in my wants and desires, but gosh darn it I'd rather be in line with what God wants than what the world wants. If that makes me "unrealistic"' and "out-of-touch" with reality, so be it.

This young woman does NOT want to work. Even now. I am ready for this part of my life to be over so that I can move into the part that God made me for. Raising a family and upholding traditional, Biblical family values. I've also taken some flak for having a cast of characters in my head made up, in large part, of a big homeschooling family. That's what I know and that's what I believe, so why shouldn't I write about it? The one single theme that runs through every story idea I have is that of family unity and the Biblical model.

Consider this my shouting from the rooftop statement. I AM NOT AFRAID TO EMBRACE MY CALLING TO BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Case of the Blahs

I've got a major case of the blahs lately. It's really hit hard today. I'm restless, ready for the next part of my life to begin. Whatever that is. I'm so tired of feeling like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting waiting waiting... I'm not all that great at waiting to begin with.

I haven't written much, practically nothing. Still plotting and working on things in my head, just not much actual writing going on.

I did finally get started reading With The Armies of the Tsar and just as I suspected it's turning into a gold mine of info. I'm only a few pages in and have already come across one of those little things that historical authors dream of finding. You know what I mean, that one little authentic tidbit that history never records but you *know* will bring your scene to life if you can just find it. And oftentimes you don't even know you're looking for it until you find it. I have a feeling this book will be full of little sticky flags by the time I'm done with it. I'm hoping maybe it will also help me crack Yelena open a bit more. I don't know much about her just yet.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Interview with Susan May Warren!

Unfortunately it was not hosted by me. Christian Woman Online did it and it's a radio interview. Susie spends the first part of it talking about her next release, Wiser Than Serpents and the issue of human trafficking, then she goes on to talk some about her life now, life in Russia and towards the end there's a little bit about the next Josey book.

Susie's interview!