Thursday, May 28, 2015

An Interview with Author Cathy Elliott...and a Giveaway, Too! :)

The best thing about my local writers group, aside from learning about writing, is getting to know the other members. One of my oldest friends from the group and long-time encouragers is Cathy Elliott. Her friendly smile, uplifting words, and no-nonsense critiques have always been just what I needed to keep going in my writing. She is a traditionally published author, and her most recent book release is a cozy mystery called A Stitch in Crime.

 For those of you who don't know, a cozy mystery is a mystery which downplays the violent aspects of the genre and often takes place in a small community. Basically, a fun, non-creepy mystery...the type you can read before bed and still go to sleep. ;)

I had the privilege of reading A Stitch in Crime and enjoyed its quirky characters and fun, lighthearted yet mysterious plot. It made me want to go back and read A Vase of Mistaken Identity, Cathy's first cozy mystery featuring the same characters.

Cathy agreed to do a book giveaway here on the blog, so I thought it would be fun to have her stop by and share a bit about herself, her book, and writing in general.

1. Tell us four fun facts about yourself.
    Are you sure? goes:
  1. I used to sing and play guitar in a country rock band. Playing class reunions, wedding receptions, and other gigs provided the cash to put my daughter through private school for three years. Loved it. We even provided the music for a big Navy Ball on Mare Island near San Francisco. Unexpected fun!
  2. Years ago, I entered a fiddle contest for our local district and won a second place trophy. Some of the judges wondered about my style, since I'd played violin in some orchestras first. Classical fiddle? He-he. Maybe.
  3. For several years in my youth, I lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with my family. We had a lovely home on a wee peninsula, called Mobile Point, and though we could never leave the base because of Castro's occupation of the rest of the island, I rode all around on Navy buses. It seemed like a lot of freedom and we were very safe, even as children on our own. There were riding stables, swimming pools, daily fruit boats from Havana, gorgeous was a paradise for both adults and children.
  4. I'm a dedicated Anglophile, loving all things English. In fact, I created a character in my book, A Stitch in Crime, who takes it much farther than me. My amateur sleuth, Thea James, has a mother who insists on being called "mum" by her girls and speaks in an affected British accent though she is Italian American. She's done it for so many years, no one remembers that she is not to-the-manor-born.
2. When did you first get interested in writing?
    My first memory of writing was as a freshman in high school. My friend and I used to write and exchange stories, thinking we were oh-so-clever. Always a reader, I longed to write from that point forward. I thought I might write gothic romances but ended up writing cozy mysteries, instead. Going goth is still a possibility.

3. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
    If you have talent and are willing to persevere, you will make it to your goal. My advice for traditional publication (but it applies to self-publication, too) is:
  • Read, read, read good books. Read books like you want to write and books not in your genre. Stretch yourself. Absorb the classics. Read poetry to learn how to make every word count. Read Pulitzer Prize winners and writer journals. You will learn much about writing from reading.
  • Join a good writers group, one that has a critique component. You must have your work critiqued by folks who will be honest. Your goal must always be excellent writing over publication. Keep the bar high.
  • Go to writer's conferences. There, you will learn to hone the craft, meet editors and agents, and network with other writers. Writing is a solitary vocation and writers are notoriously full of self-doubt. They need the supportive writing community. Encouraging one another along the journey makes all the difference. 
  • Start small. Try writing articles or book reviews or a personal essay – even a filler piece. Look for opportunities to build your writer resume while you are working on your book. The more you are published, the more likely an agent or editor will take you seriously.
  • Read books about writing. Some favorites I recommend: Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King, Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and a special fave for new writers – Give 'Em What They Want by Camenson & Cook. (The Writer magazine is tops.) 
   Keep writing, rewriting, and honing the craft. Often, you think your book is ready for publication, but there is still more work to be done. That happened to me. Don't be discouraged; it's a long road to publication. But you'll get there if you persevere. 

   "Be persistent. Editors change; editorial tastes change; markets change. Too many beginning writers give up too easily." John Jakes.   

4. What sparked the idea for A Stitch in Crime?
    As a quilter who loves history, I purchased a book about Civil War quilts and the Underground Railroad and found it fascinating. It made me think about messages in quilts and legacies over time. That was the core spark for me to create the fictional Larkin's Treasure, a highly prized quilt with a secret of great riches. And decide how someone might insert that message into it somehow, yet in a way that isn't apparent and is mysterious.

5. Could you give us a brief summary of the story?
    When a beloved quilt judge gets clobbered, a renowned textile expert goes MIA, and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, the town of Larkindale's reputation as a tourist haven is at risk. Quilt Show Co-Chair Thea James attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town's investment in the event before something worse happens.

6. Are there any fun "behind the scenes" facts about the creation of the plot or characters that you'd like to share?
    When I was developing the character of Gram (Thea's grandmother), I had the best time! Feeding my appetite for all things British, I decided she came to the USA from England during WWII as a war bride. So I did a lot of research about that fascinating subject. In addition I gave Gram a propensity for wearing silly hats in deference to the Queen. And in my mind, this sweet lady, especially in old age, was a lot like the bumbling, forgetful Aunt Clara on the original TV series, "Bewitched." When Gram has a scene, I see a blend of Aunt Clara (who collected doorknobs) and the dear grandmum I created. She just tickles me. I love her.

7. Which of your characters was the most fun to create?
    That's a good question. An author tends to become invested in every character. They are all like my kids. But if I must pick one, it would be the main character, clumsy, scaredy-cat but brave, twenty-nine-year-old Thea James. She has some of my traits (on steroids). We are both procrastinators and both love antiques. Thea is a better businesswoman than me. She is kind. But flawed. I love watching her react to things – especially when trying to reel in Gram, who might say anything at any time. Thea tries, but she can never be cool.

8. Do you foresee any other stories for Thea in the future?
    I do have other stories for Thea lightly outlined. And titled. I've even designed quilts for each future book. Whether or not they make it to publication is a mystery. :) A couple of my readers have asked for a book that deals with Thea & Cole's romance. Will they end up together? Inquiring readers want to know. But...that's also a mystery.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us, Cathy. Some of your answers were things I didn't know about you! :) (And for the record, I'm totally one of those readers who thinks Thea and Cole need another book. A third book to make a Thea James trilogy would be quite nice, don't you think?) ;)

Visiting Cathy at her book signing. :)

As part of the interview, Cathy has graciously agreed to provide two books for a giveaway. One reader will receive both A Stitch in Crime and A Vase of Mistaken Identity, the first of Cathy's mysteries about Thea James.

Here are the details:

1. This giveaway is open to residents of the USA only. 

2. If you are under 18, please get permission from a parent or guardian. 

3. Leave a comment below with your name or username and email address. Comments with personal information will not be published.

4. The giveaway will be open until Thursday, June 4th. On Friday, June 5th, a winner will be chosen by random draw. 

5. I will email the winner, and he/she will have one week to respond via email with a mailing address. If I have not heard from the winner by Friday, June 12th, another winner will be chosen.

Thank you for stopping by, and have fun entering! :)

For more information about Cathy, be sure to check out the links below:

Author Website & Social Media Links
Website & Occasional Blog -
Pinterest -
Facebook – Author Cathy Elliott
Twitter – @CathyElliott10

Read the first Chapter of A Stitch in Crime HERE.

Cathy Elliott is a full-time writer in northern California whose cozy mysteries reflect her personal interests from quilting and antique collecting to playing her fiddle with friends. She also leads music at church and cherishes time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s other plot-twisting works include Medals in the Attic and A Vase of Mistaken Identity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EBay Listings

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful three-day weekend with your families. :)

I just wanted to let you know that I've got several eBay listings up (twenty-three, to be exact). ;) I'm finding the need to downsize a bit, as my space is pretty limited. I'm also trying to earn some extra money so Hubby can cut back on his second job.

You can see all of my listings HERE.

I'm working on another post for later this week. Talk to you again then!

(Sorry I'm a bit behind on comments, too. That's my other project for the week.) :)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sales and News (Disney Store, American Girl, Tuesday Morning, and More)

Hey guys! I thought I'd post this morning before my full, crazy day. We have a potluck at the church and a special Memorial Day service tonight. Then the girls and I will most likely be spending the night at Mimi's with Mimi and my mom. That way, Mimi can watch the girls while Mom and I shop the 50% off sale at Goodwill tomorrow.

I just wanted to share a few sales and things I've noticed around town that might interest you. First off, at my local Target, the live action Disney Cinderella dolls by Mattel are on clearance for $27.90 instead of $39.99. I've decided to hold out and see if they'll go down any lower. I might miss them since there are only about five of them left, but that's okay. I don't really need a Mattel Cinderella (but it would be fun to have one). ;) They don't appear to be on clearance in any other stores.

Interestingly enough, the dolls are not on clearance on Target's website, so I don't know if they'll be on sale in all Target stores.


In other news, Tuesday Morning has had some fun things in stock lately. The Madame Alexander Favorite Friends dolls, which share my Maggie doll's face mold, have been showing up for around $30 there. If you like this face mold, this is an excellent price. Usually they're priced at around $60 or $70, which in my opinion is too high considering the less-than-stellar quality of their hair. Here are a few shots I got of the dolls currently in my Tuesday Morning:

This one is labeled "Favorite Friends Doll Factory". 

She has a face just like Maggie's. I love her adorable jacket. :)

This doll is not actually labeled as a "Favorite Friends", but she should be comparable to the other doll. She's got quite the outfit. Lots of mix and match possibilities there. :) 

I tried to get a picture of her face without catching the reflection on her clear plastic, but it was pretty much impossible.

Another look at her outfit. 


For those of you who are fans of the original releases of the Ever After High doll line, Tuesday Morning and Ross are really good places to shop right now. You can find the initial dolls, the "Getting Fairest" line, and sometimes even "Thronecoming" or "Legacy Day" dolls for around $12.99-$14.99. These are a great price, and now that the dolls are being re-released with fewer accessories and lower quality outfits, this is the time to snag these original ones. 

Some of the dolls currently on my Tuesday Morning shelf. 

Some of you may not be aware that the Ever After High dolls now have new packaging and simplified outfits and accessories. For example, I found a Dexter Charming a few weeks ago at Walmart in the new package. Here he is:

Now compare him to my original release of Dexter (which I still haven't managed to review yet):

See the differences?

Aside from the smaller box, this Dexter has no scarf and a jacket with less detail that looks rather cheap. He has no backpack either. 

A closer look at his outfit:

And what happened to his hair?

Granted, this "munchkin style" on the first doll was a bit over the top, but the completely flat style of the newer release doesn't exactly work either.

I've seen similar cutbacks on other new releases. The dolls are missing their rings and their purses. Many of the dolls that had fuller, curly hair now have flat, simplified styles. It's very disappointing to see Mattel take this shortcut route. :( 

On the same day I found Dexter, I was thrilled to finally see a Lizzie Hearts in person, even in the newer packaging:

Then I noticed something "interesting". Check out her hands, especially the one in the background: 
Did you notice? They gave her two right hands! I've seen this at least one other time on a different EAH doll in someone's YouTube review. I thought I should point this out so you can check hands when you buy a new doll. Make sure she has a right AND a left!


The big news in the American Girl world is that Caroline is retiring, a new 1950s BeForever doll named Maryellen Larkin will be released later this year, and the "My AG" line has now been renamed "Truly Me". Also, three new Truly Me dolls have been released, along with some new clothing and accessories.

I think Maryellen is going to be adorable with her green eyes and strawberry blonde/light red hair. Some of the outfits on the covers of the books look adorable. I'm sure she'll have some really fun accessories, too.

You can get a small preview of what she's going to look like from these photos of the mini doll and books:

Like many others out there, I'm sad to see Caroline go so quickly. I hope to get her Spencer and Hat set before she's completely gone, but we'll see what happens.

As far as the Truly Me line, I'm actually a bit relieved that the name has changed again. It's super hard to search for "My American Girl" on any sort of secondary market, because it brings up everything with American Girl in the title. Also, "American Girl Truly Me doll" sounds a lot better than "American Girl My American Girl doll". ;) 

Here are the three new Truly Me dolls: 

Truly Me #62
(Picture found HERE)

Truly Me #62 has the Sonali mold, dark hair, medium skin, and beautiful amber eyes. I'm not in the market for any more AG dolls (I've run out of space!), but if I were, she is the one that would come home with me. She is my very favorite of the three new releases. :)

Truly Me #63
(Picture found HERE)

Truly Me #63 has the Classic mold, blonde hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.

Truly Me #64
(Picture found HERE)

Truly Me #64 has the Jess mold with the special Ivy eyes (which had more detail around them), dark hair, light skin, and brown eyes.

This is #54, who is not a new doll, but her eyes now feature the extra lines of the Ivy mold, just like #64.
(Picture found HERE)

There is currently a Truly Me sweepstakes going on with weekly prizes. For details about this and other AG news, you can check out their Facebook page HERE


Finally, just for today, there are some great sales going on at on dolls, toys, and more. I'm sure they'll have a new promotion tomorrow for Memorial Day, but I thought I'd mention this to you guys in case there's anything there you're interested in. You can see all of the sale items HERE

P.S. Am I the only one who holds my breath and scrolls through the whole sale when I see the Fairy Godmother and Lady Tremaine dolls on sale? I'm really hoping one of these times that the Prince and Cinderella set will go on sale, too. ;) I'm not thrilled with their serious faces, but I love their clothing. I just don't want to pay the full $70 for them. ;) 


I think that's all for now. I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with your families. In the middle of the festivities, swimming, barbecues and sales, please stop to remember the fallen warriors who bravely fought for our country. That's what this holiday is truly about. Which sounds rather hypocritical after I've just spent an entire post talking about sales and toys. :{ I do feel, however, that it's important to stop and be thankful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be free. May we never forget.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hello...Remember Me? ;)

Yes, I'm still alive. Just in case you were wondering. ;)

This past month has been nuts. It seems like I blinked and it was over. ;) I'm sure some of you have felt the same way, especially if you have kiddos in school and are winding down to the end of the school year.

So, what have I been up to since I obviously have not had the time or energy for blogging?

Let's see...

I found doll-sized pies at Walmart for 50 cents each for dessert day. The pies came in all sorts of flavors and were greatly enjoyed by both dolls and girls. ;)

Middle Gal set up these last two pictures herself. ;) Sorry the first one is so blurry. I didn't realize it until the dolls were back in their room.

My mom was able to find a Bridge Direct Blueberry Muffin for my Strawberry Shortcake shelf. :D (Finding these dolls has been super tricky in my part of the country.) Now I just need to find Plum Pudding and I'll have all of the Bridge Direct versions of the characters. :)

One of the ladies from my doll club found me a couple of Magic Attic project dolls at a garage sale: 

They're in pretty rough shape. Alison (in the first picture) has super loose arms and a haircut. Rose (in the second picture) has a bad eye and a haircut. Her limbs aren't too bad, though.

Removing their wigs was fairly easy. Alison has some pretty bad pen marks across her belly that make her look a little like Frankenstein's monster.  I'll have to attack them with oxy clean later. 

I was hoping these dolls would be pretty easy to restring, but once I removed Alison's arms, I realized I had my work cut out for me. The head is attached with a zip tie at the neck. The arms have cups inside the body cavity and additional cups inside the small holes in the shoulders. The elastic has to be carefully threaded through them both. Blech. ;) I'll probably have to get help from my stringing mentor with these ones. 

I always feel kinda bad sharing my doll projects on here nowadays, because there's never any guarantee how long it will take me to finish them. I'll try to update you in the coming months when I get around to finishing these gals.

I attended the Women's Spring Event at our church last Friday. It had a bird theme, and I sang "Under His Wings" as part of the special music. I also won a basket full of ocean-themed gifts. (They always give away baskets at the event, but this is the first year I won one of them.) :)

Unfortunately, most of the candles and soaps were too strong for me. It worked out nicely for the girls, though. They got to take them outside and play with them. Middle Gal set up a little garden scene with them. Doesn't it look nice and peaceful? :)

And of course, it wouldn't be the end of the year without the school projects for Open House, right? ;) Here's the aftermath of Saturday's crafting time.

Little Gal's penguin diorama. She did most of it herself (I carved the icebergs for her). Middle Gal drew a backdrop for her wax museum display. She's going to dress up as Louisa May Alcott and pose like a wax sculpture. When someone claps, she'll recite a paragraph she memorized about Louisa May Alcott. (Yes, their teacher is awesome.) ;) Oldest Gal worked on a president poster about F.D. Roosevelt. I didn't get any pictures of that, but she did a great job. :)

On Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day and my dad's 66th birthday. My daughters sang to me, gave me lovely homemade cards and handmade flowers (pictured above). They also unloaded and reloaded my dishwasher. I felt so loved and special, especially since I'd been a complete bear earlier that week. My girls are so precious to me. 

For his birthday, my dad requested a simple yellow cake with white buttercream frosting. Mimi couldn't handle putting out such a plain cake, so she melted some caramel and formed it into a rose decoration.

Isn't it beautiful? Very fairytale-ish. ;) 

And speaking of such things, I suppose I should update you on my book progress...or lack thereof. ;) 

First, some exciting news...which I already mentioned in my last post. I finally finished my maps of my fairy tale world, which I framed and used as prizes for my $100 Kickstarter backers. Like a doofus, I forgot to take any pictures of them framed, but here's the completed map before framing:

It's not nearly as impressive with all of the pixelation, but I really need to keep the names a secret until I'm closer to official publication. I would love to spill all of my secrets now, but I know that would not be wise. So for now, you'll just have to content yourselves with a partial reveal. I can't wait 'til the day I can show you everything. 

I've struggled a lot with my story ever since returning from Mount Hermon. Several plot devices fell through, and I've had a difficult time figuring out how to fix them. I also needed to rename some of my characters. I realized that four of my twelve main characters had names beginning with "A", which is a big no-no, as it can be confusing for the reader. Of course, at this point, those characters ARE those names, so I essentially feel like I'm murdering them. Two of my characters also may be changing ethnicities, which is also difficult since I've pictured them so strongly a certain way. After lots of dead ends and horrible feelings of worthlessness ("What ever made me think I was a writer?", "I totally stink at this.", "This is officially NOT FUN."), on Monday I finally made myself stop thinking and just sat down and typed. I ended up typing over 2,000 words. They're rough and will need revision, but I must say it was a relief to know I still had some capability as a writer. ;)

I think part of the struggle this month has been that before this I've always written for fun. Now, I'm trying to view my writing more as a potential vocation, which means I have to write even when I don't feel the creative juices flowing. :} It's a discipline, just like anything else. There are a lot of things that come rather naturally to me, writing being one of them. So often, when I find myself challenged by something that usually is no problem, I find it difficult to push through and feel tempted to give up. This new challenge has been a good exercise in patience, discipline, and perseverance. And trust. Trust that God will lead me through this tough story stuff, just like He's led me every step of the way. I need to relax, to stop putting impossible pressure on myself to live up to my own unrealistic expectations. I need to just keep writing, keep learning, keep growing. And eventually, when the time is right, the story will be ready. :}

I guess that's about all I have to share for now. I'm in the process of working on another "real" blog post that should be up either later this week or sometime next week. School gets out next week, so things will be a little crazier for a while. However, once summer is here, I hope to do more reviews and things with the girls. We'll see how that goes. :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend and have a great week this week. :)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Giveaway Results! :D

It's time to announce the winner of the Glamerup doll dress and necklace giveaway! :D  There were nineteen entries total:

Please excuse the painty napkins at the top of the picture. I finished up my maps of my fairy tale world for my $100 Kickstarter backers last week, and I decided to paint one last copy for myself. ;) The computer desk is my all-encompassing work station. ;)

You guys know the drill by now, but I like documenting my process so everyone knows the giveaway winner was selected fairly. I cut all of the names apart on strips of paper.

The names were put in a bowl, and I drew one out at random (without looking, of course). :)

And the winner is....

Beth M!! Congratulations! :)

I'll send Beth an email shortly to confirm her win. She'll have one week to get back to me. If I don't hear from her by next Saturday, a new winner will be chosen. I'll let everyone know on this post when I hear from her. :)

Thank you to all of you who entered. I have other giveaways on the horizon, so don't be discouraged if you didn't win this time around. :)

UPDATE: I've officially heard from the winner, so the results are final.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Last Chance to Enter the Giveaway! :)

Hey everyone! I just realized I never did a reminder post about the end of the Glamerup doll clothes giveaway I'm currently hosting. I'll be picking the winner tomorrow around 10 am Pacific Time, so as long as you get your entry in before then, I'll still count it. :) Thank you to all of you who have entered. I can't wait to find out who the winner is! :)

For those of you who need a refresher, you can read about all the giveaway details HERE.

I'll be back with results tomorrow!