June 30, 2016

Book of the Month: Making the Cut

Making the Cut: by Margaret Gurevich

I think this is a well done cover. The figure in the middle is nicely framed by the watercolor splashes. The font for the title is fun while the font for the series name suggests the fashion world this book is about.

Chloe Montgomery has been designing clothes since she was little. When her favorite show, Design Diva, announces they will be having a teen version, she has to try out. She's chosen to go on the show along with her hometown rival, Nina, and thirteen other contestants. But being on a TV show is harder than it looks. Can she make it through the challenges and win the show?

My Thoughts

This is a fun book for anyone who loves fashion and sewing. It is detailed and specific on how Chloe constructs and sews garments. However, if you don't know much about sewing, the details can be over your head. The book also has illustrations of the designs. These are great to visualize how they look.

Chloe is awesome. She's from California, which could have made her a stereotypical character. Instead the author made her from Santa Cruz and with a grandfather who used to be a rodeo clown. I think that gives her an interesting background. Plus, she has a great style. At the beginning of the book, Chloe doubts that she is able to compete with all the other designers. By the end she learns to be courageous and take risks.

While I like the protagonist, I don't like one of the antagonists- her rival, Nina. Nina is popular and has a gaggle of mimickers. She also steals Chloe's ideas. I think she could have been a much better character. I know she's not that important, but it was a missed opportunity.

The plot was well constructed. The one thing I would have changed is I would have made Chloe not be one of the winners of the second to last challenge. It would have made the end more impressive if she had to fight more doubt in the final challenge. It's fine the way it is, but that's what I would have done.


Overall, this is a great book for anyone who likes fashion and TV shows like Project Runway. It would be good for kids ten and up.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know.

June 27, 2016

Best Websites for Writers

There are hundreds of websites and blogs out there with writing advice. Some cover the whole craft, others focus on a tighter topic like writing or publishing. The list I provide here are the ones I personally like and find helpful. You may not like them or have your own favorite sites. I don't claim to know all of the best ones either. With all that out of the way, here we go.

She's Novel- This site is run by a lovely girl name Kristen Kieffer, and covers a variety of topics. From pre-writing to publishing, She's Novel has something for everyone. Kristen also offers courses and e-books. I suggest getting on her mailing list and joining her Facebook group, Your Write Dream. It's a great community full of helpful writers.

Helping Writers Become Authors- I find this site by K. M. Weiland helpful because not only does it include great content, she often uses books and movies as examples. She covers structure, characters, common mistakes, and more. If you're looking for a great book on story structure, I suggest her book Structuring Your Novel. It covers structure in an easy way to understand.

Ink and Quills- So far, I've loved every post that Kaitlin writes. She makes great points and writes excellent posts. Plus, if you join her mailing list, you get access to many great resources. She also has a workshop on YouTube that I want to watch soon.

The Write Practice- This is a site that posts daily, due the large amount of people that write for them. You can write guest post for them, so long as you follow their guidelines. They cover a variety of topics. It also has contests, books, and even a section on teaching writing.

Blots and Plots- Jenny Bravo is a published author, and writes excellent articles on her blog. She covers things from reading lists, to outlining, to storyboarding. She also has a YouTube channel.

Tomi Adeyemi- This is certainly a place to go if you want lots of writing prompts. She loves to post them and they are inspirational. The articles are well done and many come with worksheets you can get for free if you join her mailing list. She also offers a couple of courses for reasonable prices.

Hint of Jam- This site is for both writers and readers. Jamae (see what she did with the name?), despite being rather new, writes interesting articles. I can't tell you much more, since I'm new to her blog, but I do like it.

Writerology- This is a great website for people who like science. The writer, Faye, has a degree in psychology, which she figured out how to blend with writing. No more excuses that sciences and arts can't be combined. If you want to write accurately about problems like obsessive-compulsive disorder or PTSD, this is the place to go. She's also know for her Write Chain Challenge, which encourages writers to write daily.

So, that's my list- for now. I suggest, when you find a site you like, sign up for their email list. Not only will you be able to keep up with their posts better, you also get cool freebies. If you want to look for other great writing sites, this list from the Write Life comes out yearly and has many awesome sites on it.

What is your favorite writing site? Is there one I didn't include? Comment and let me know.

June 23, 2016

How to Use a Travel Journal

I take my travel journal on all our trips. Whether it's to somewhere I've been a lot, like DC, or somewhere new. In this post I'll show you how to use a travel journal as well as the point of one.

What Is a Travel Journal?

To start, allow me to explain what I call a travel journal. It is simply a sketch book that you use to record your travels through drawings and writing. There may be other names for this, but that is the name I use.

How To Use It

Before you can get started using the journal, you need to get some supplies. First, the sketch book itself. It doesn't have to be fancy, but I do suggest getting a nice one that won't fall apart in minutes. It should be big enough you can sketch in it easily, but not so big it won't fit in a bag comfortably. Mine's 8" x 6" which works great for me. Make sure the pages are thick enough that ink won't show through to the other side.

You'll also need pencils and pens. For a pencil, find a HB or 4B one. This will give you a nice line. If it doesn't come with an eraser you'll need to get one of those too. A pink school eraser works fine. For a pen, all you'll need is a ballpoint or gel pen.

I carry all my supplies, except the notebook, in a small bag with a wrist strap. It's just long enough to hold them. This way everything is easy to carry and quick to grab. (Oh, and don't forget a pencil sharpener.)

My sketching supplies

Using a travel journal isn't hard. Part one is take it on every trip. Old or new, near or far. Part two is sketching at least once on every trip. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as you do it. You can also write about your travels beside the pictures. I only write the date and place but you can do what you want.

But Why?

That might be the question you're asking about now. What is the point of keeping a travel journal? For one, it gives you a really cool record of where you've been. Anyone can collect postcards or tee shirts. Not everyone has a sketchbook full of their own artwork documenting their travels.

Second, it helps you learn to be observant. You'll be looking for things to sketch while you travel. See a piece of art you like- sketch it. How about an interesting piece of nature? The same. It's fun and eye opening.

And lastly, it will help you improve at drawing. Don't be discouraged if you can't make your sketches look like you want at first. Only by practicing will you get any better. Your sketches don't have to be perfect either.

If you want more on journaling like this, I suggest Sketchbooking: How to Create a Delightful Journal of Your Travels At Home or Abroad by Barbara Stetcher. It helped me learn not to worry so much about perfect drawings. 

Remember, don't give up on yourself. Just keep practicing. Over time you'll see yourself getting better.

What do you think of travel journaling? Is there anything you want to know that I didn't cover? Comment and let me know.

June 20, 2016

Author Spotlight: Brian Jacques

Welcome to another author spotlight. But before we begin, what do you think of the new blog header and logo? Also, check out the Etsy button in the sidebar. If you click on it, you'll be taken straight to my Etsy shop.

But anyway, on to today's post. I'm going to talk about one of my top authors- right up there with Tolkien and Lewis. His name is Brian Jacques (pronounced "jakes") and he's also from Britain. Let's take a look at his life first.


James Brian Jacques was born on June 15, 1939, in Liverpool, England. (I didn't know I had this post planned so close to his birthday.) He went by his middle name because his father and brother were also named James. Brian went to St. John's School in Liverpool. At ten he showed his developing skill for writing by handing in a short story about a bird that cleans crocodile teeth. His teacher thought he couldn't have written it and called him a liar.

When he left school at 15, he was a sailor for a while. Then he returned to England and did a variety of jobs- including a bus driver, a truck driver, a bobby, a fireman, a postman, and a stand-up comic. Later in life he also had a show on BBC radio.

Redwall was written for the children at a blind school. He wrote vividly so they could "see" the story in their mind. The first book was published because his old school teacher showed it to a publisher behind his back. They asked him to write more.

Brian married a woman named Maureen and had two sons. He died in February of 2011 of a heart attack.


Brian Jacques wrote a multitude of books. His Redwall series has been translated into 28 languages and sold more than twenty million copies. I have read the complete Redwall series as well as the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman series and his Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales.

Redwall- There are 22 books in the Redwall series, plus a bunch of extras including a cookbook, so I won't list them all here. You can look them up online. They take place around the abbey of Redwall in a world populated with animals that talk and such. Animals like hares, badgers, mice, and hedgehogs are the good guys, while foxes, rats, weasels and the like are bad.

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman- This three book series is about a young boy and his dog who are made immortal by an angel to help people. They travel the world and make friends, but can't stay because they'll never get older.

Urso Brunvo- I have never seen these anywhere nor read them so I don't know what they are like. All I can gather is that they are about a bear.

Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales- When he says strange and ghostly, he means it. These were weird but also cool. Don't read it at night.

The Ribbajack and Other Curious Yarns- I've never read this one either. According to Wikipedia it is six tales similar to his other book of short stories.

What I Enjoy About His Work

There are many things I enjoy in his style. Like his descriptions. Most writers use the eyes to describe things, then the ears, lastly the nose. The rest of the senses don't come in a lot. But Brian uses everything, including taste. When you read his books, you feel like you're there. The feast scenes are so good they make your mouth water. He said this was because he would read a book and say "They had a feast" but never describe anything about it. He was a master of description.

Second, he doesn't stray away from tough concepts just because it's a children's book. His books are full of good verses evil, with good always winning. Good guys die as well as the bad. It's sad, but that is life.

At the same time as being true to life, it is funny. The hares are hare-larious (get it?). I love talking like them. The creatures know how to have fun and celebrate.

His characters are also real. You can feel what they feel. You love those characters. I'm especially fond of his girl characters. While being completely feminine, they can also be as brave and strong and as good fighters as the boys. I could write a whole post on writing females like he does.

How many of Brian Jacques books have you read? Which is your favorite? Tell me in the comments, I'd love to know.

June 16, 2016

A Guide to Necklaces

This is the second part in the Guide to Jewelry series. Today we're all about necklaces. Necklaces come in many different styles and lengths. I'm going to cover the basics in this post.


Collar length necklaces sit high on the throat, like Cinderella's necklace. They are often made of a ring of metal or ribbon. Collars are the tightest necklace.

Choker length necklaces are slightly looser than the collar. They normally sit around the base of the neck. If you don't like things close around your neck, neither collars nor chokers are for you.

Princess is the next length. It can be anywhere from slightly looser than a choker to right around the breastbone area. These are very popular for pearls or pendants.

Matinee length necklaces go around mid-breast. They are considered a formal necklace and sometimes include more than one strand.

Opera length is even longer than the matinee, though it isn't the longest. It normally falls all the way past the breast. They often are made of a single strand of the same beads.

The rope or lariat length necklace is the longest of them all. This, however, is because it does not have a clasp. Instead, you either knot the necklace or thread it though a provided circle. The ends are often made fancy with beads or pendants.


Pendant necklaces are made of chain with single or multiple pendants on it. Pendants can be a gemstone, a tooth, a metal charm, anything that you can put a hole in.

Multi-strand necklaces have, you guessed it, two or more strands. Some can have as few as two or as many as ten. Often the strands are same, but if done right, each strand can have a different pattern.

A braided necklace is made of multiple strands braided together. The strands can be made of many different materials. The braids can range from a simple three strand one to ones I have no idea how to make.

Illusion necklaces are made by crimping beads in different positions on a clear cord. It gives the illusion that the beads are floating with no support. These are beautiful pieces.

Chain necklaces are made simply of chain. The chain can be anywhere from thin to big, chunky links.

And finally, statement necklaces. These are all the rage right now. Basically, it's any necklace that is fancy and makes a statement. Most have dangles and multiple parts. Some are garish but most are pretty. You just have to know what fits your style.

I hope this post and my previous one on earrings, are a help to you. You can use them to learn more about the decorations you wear or to help you in your own path to jewelry making.

Which is your favorite type of necklace? Is there one you'd like to try? Comment and let me know.

June 13, 2016

4 Ways to Use Pinterest as A Writer

Pinterest is a site full of ideas galore. You could spend days on it only browsing. But doing that can be a time waster. If you know how to use it right, however, Pinterest can be a great resource. Today I'll show you four ways a writer can use Pinterest.

1. Learning

Pinterest is full of boards dedicated to writing. There are boards simply on writing as well as editing, drafting, characters, publishing, and more. All you have to do is search for the topic you're looking for, then find boards dedicated to that. Also, if you have a favorite blogger, see if they have boards you can follow. (If you want to see my writing boards, click here.)

2. Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are great for those days you don't feel like writing. Simply searching for "writing prompts" on Pinterest turns up a million ideas. If you're in the mood for a certain genre, just add that to your search. I have a hard time picking just one because there are so many.

3. Inspiration

We've all had those times we feel we aren't a real writer. Or our story is no good. Or just need a bit of encouragement to get us going. Pinterest is full of inspirational quotes from all types of authors. I have a whole board full of quotes. Sometimes one little phrase is enough to get you out of that slump.

4. Storyboarding

Storyboarding your novel using Pinterest is one of my favorite things to do. This is when you make a board for your current novel and pin everything that helps you visualize your story there. Haircuts for a characters, a person's face, animals, buildings, anything you can think of. I plan on doing a post about this next month.

What do you think of Pinterest for writers? What's your favorite way to use it? Comment and let me know.

June 9, 2016

Zootopia Review

Zootopia came out this Tuesday on DVD, so I thought I'd review it for you. If you haven't seen it yet, don't worry, I won't spoil it.


A city where anyone can be anything. Sounds perfect, right? But like anything, this supposed metropolis utopia is more complicated than it sounds.

The story follows the bunny Judy Hops (Ginnifer Goodwin), who has a dream of becoming a cop. Most cops are big, tough animals like big cats, elephants, and bulls. But in spite of everything she succeeds. Just to be put on parking duty. There she meets a world-wise, reprobate fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). After being given a case of animals going savage and 48 hours to solve it, she searches out Nick to help her. Their investigation brings to light some surprising things and they must hurry to stop the villain before more animals are hurt.

Like many Disney films, this is a masterpiece of plot, characters, and themes. While being a fun, epic mystery, it is also a message about belief and discrimination. The city of Zootopia as well as the characters are beautifully designed. There are buildings of all types in the mixed environment city. The animals are all the right sizes and even walk like the animals, albeit, on two feet. And all this is set to an awesome soundtrack.

Judy is the most determined person, or bunny, ever. Everyone around her tells her she can't be a cop, she can't solve the case, she can't do anything- but she ignores them. Even when she is given 48 hours and no help to solve a case the police haven't solved in weeks, she tries her best. Naysayers surround her but she fully believes she can be anything. And Nick. Despite his apparent negative outlook on the world, you come to find out he was a bullied little kid who dealt with it by choosing to never let anyone get to him again.

The story tactfully deals with the theme of discrimination in a way children can see and understand. It reminds me of the problems African American faced in the 1950's. Animals who are predators, specifically foxes in this story, are bullied, refused service, and warned against.

And of course it wouldn't be Disney without a multitude of jokes, for kids and adults (like sloths running the DMV). Even if you're a grown-up, you'll enjoy this adventurous tale. There are also easter eggs hidden throughout the film, like when a thief is selling DVD's which are spoofs on Disney titles.

In short, this is a great film. Some of the more intense scenes with savage animals might scare younger children, so be warned. I give it five stars. 

Have you seen Zootopia yet? What was your opinion of it? Tell me in the comments, I'd love to know.

June 6, 2016

Classic of the Month

Welcome to June's classic of the month- The Chronicles of Narnia. As you can see by my books, I love this series. They have been hugely popular ever since the first one was published in 1950. Fun fact: did you know Tolkien and Lewis were friends? They were even in the same writing club, the Inklings.

The Chronicles of Narnia

The series consists of seven novels, each taking place in the mythical land called Narnia. While the characters change from book to book, they're all connected. Digory, one of the characters from the first book, is the professor who has the magic wardrobe through which the Pevensies travel. Eustace is their cousin, who in turn brings in Jill. If you've never read the books, heaven forbid, you'll just have to read them to find out what I mean. So, I'm just going to give a short overview of each book.

The Magicians Nephew- This is the first book chronologically, the sixth in publication order. (People read them both ways. I prefer chronologically.) This story follows Digory and Polly, two children who find magical world by the means of magic rings Digory's uncle made. They are there when Narnia is created.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe- This time, the story takes place during WWII. The Pevensies, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, have been sent out of London due to the air raids. At the house of old Professor Kirk, Lucy discovers a wardrobe that lets her into a magical land. The rest of her siblings follow her and together they defeat the witch who has enslaved the land and take their place as its rulers.

The Horse and His Boy- The story of this book falls right in the middle of the Pevensies reign, which is why it is placed third. Our protagonist this time is Shasta, a slave boy in Calormen. He meets a talking horse and the two of them decide to run away to Narnia. Along the way they are joined by a second talking horse and a girl named Aravis. But on their journey, they learn of deadly plot and must race to stop it before it's too late.

Prince Caspian- The Pevensies have returned to Narnia, only to discover it's been hundreds of years since their reign (time moves differently between the worlds). They must help the young prince Caspian in driving out his uncle and restoring the land to freedom.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader- Edmund, Lucy, and their horrid cousin Eustace, are sucked by to their favorite world through a painting. Only this time, they won't actually be in Narnia. Caspian has set out on a quest to find the seven lost lords and will not stop until finds them, even if he has to sail to the end of the world.

The Silver Chair- Eustace has return to school and there meets Jill, a girl bullied by a gang in the school. He tells her of this magical world he travels too, and through a door in the wall, they return there. By this time Caspian has died, and left no heir, though he did have a son. Aslan (if you don't know who this is, shame on you) sends Eustace and Jill on a quest to find him. They are joined by a marshwiggle named Puddleglum. The three of them follow the signs they've been given to an underground kingdom, where they must rescue the prince from under a witch's spell.

The Last Battle- It is the end times for Narnia. Alsan is being impersonated by a ape and a donkey. The land is falling to ruin. Eustace and Jill return one last time to help save the land. The last battle is not what they expected, and in the end, they find themselves in the real Narnia, where Aslan had been preparing them for all along.

What I Like About It

Oh, where to even begin? I like so much of it, I could go on for ages. But I'll choose some of my top things for sake of the post length.

The deeper meaning behind it all. On the surface, this seems to be just another children's story about a different world with magic, strange creatures, and talking animals. And it is all that. But it also has Christian meanings that anyone can see if they choose to look. There have been many books written on the subject, so I won't go into depth. Find those books if you want to know more.

The characters. You come to know and love these characters as the series progress. The way the stories connect is very clever. The girls have always been my favorites. Polly, Susan, Lucy, and Jill. Such normal names attached to extraordinary girls. They're all brave and strong, but can also be vulnerable. But of course, Aslan is unbeatable. Who doesn't love him?

The names. C. S. Lewis, like Tolkien, had a way with names. They sound beautiful and roll off the tongue. The Dawn Treader. Narnia. Rilian. Aravis. Mr. Tumus. They're awesome. Period.

The writing style. As I've said before, I love that old style of writing like Lewis, Tolkien, and other such authors use. The words they choose, the way they write, it's all very different than the style we use today. I can't replicate it, but I love to read it.


First of all, if you can find the audio drama of this series by Focus on the Family, get it. It's beautifully done. The actors are excellent and most of the material is exactly quoted from the book. I still read the books and can hear their voices in my head.

Second, there's the BBC TV series made in 1988-1990. They did The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair. While old, they are a great one to watch. Before the movies, that's all I knew of.

And finally, the recent movies. They did the three books with the Pevensies. They are well done, even if they did stray further and further from the books. I like the casting and the way they were made. Definitely look at them too.

What's your favorite book in the series? Mine's either the first or the second. What do you like about them?

June 3, 2016

5 Ways to Wear a Bandanna

I love bandannas. The ways to wear them are numerous, and depending on what you do, can range from looking sweet to tough. They are also cheap and easy to find. In this post I'm going to show you five ways to wear one.

But first, here are the two ways to fold them.

The triangle. Take the bandanna and hold it by opposite points. Fold it so if forms a triangle.

Second, the strip. Start with a triangle. Then fold the tip up as far as you want the strip to be wide. Continue folding until it's a complete strip.

This way is the simplest way to wear one and has been popular for a long time. Fold your bandanna in half so it forms a triangle and tie it underneath your hair. Done. It would go great with a peasant shirt.

When I wear a bandanna this way, it reminds me of a biker (as in motorcycle). Fold the bandanna into a triangle. Tie it around your head, but on top of your hair. Tuck the point under the knot and make the whole thing as smooth as you can. Looks excellent with a leather jacket.

You can also make a bandanna into a headband easily. Start this one with a strip. Tie it around your head like a normal headband or around your forehead, if you want a more hip-hop look.

I love that word. Neckerchief. Has a fun sound to it. Anyway, begin once more with a triangle. For a cowboy type look, go ahead and tie it around your neck with the point in the back.

Our final way to wear it always makes me think artist and Paris. I don't know why. Fold the bandanna into a strip. Tie it around your neck. If you want to look more chic, turn the knot so it faces slightly to the left or right.

Do you like bandannas? What's your favorite way to wear them?

June 1, 2016

Etsy Announcement

I know it's not my normal day for a post, but I had to share my news with you. As of today, I have officially reopened my Etsy shop- Shine, Sparkle, Bling! (You can check it out here-https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShineSparkleBling)

It's been a long process and has taken me awhile. It was one of my goals to open by June 1. Which accomplished. Boy, does that feel good.

But because I've been working so hard at opening, I haven't had time for much else. I haven't been able to do my normal blog planning for June yet. So, tomorrow's post will be moved to Friday.

Thanks for understanding.