2016 NaNoWriMo: concept development and worldbuilding


Another interesting bit of conceptual development from the NaNo worldbuilding forum.

1. What is valued most in your Society? (Money, Family, Love, etc.)

Tesh (my main character) isn’t sure what her people value since she’s lost her memory; as the story progresses she realizes she values independence and knowledge. The La’an race values their Goddess, personal strength, magical/political power, and most of all control. The races that lived in the city where the story takes place before the disaster seem to (from what Tesh remembers and sees of how the city is designed) value beauty, freedom, art/craft, and trade.

2. What is the main cause of conflict in your society? (Is there war? Is there a group of people that no one likes?)

The La’an feel their Goddess has told them to take over the city. Some of their people (accidentally?) caused the magical disaster that flattened the city center and turned most of the city to rubble, and now the ruling council of the La’an trying to find out what exactly happened so they can harness that same power to rule the world. Tesh (main character) wants to get away from the La’an and finds herself trying to prevent them from getting access to the magic. Meanwhile the power/destruction has created monsters called The Twisted (and a killer Plant as well) who want to eat everyone.

3. What is your climate like and what grows there? (You can’t build your characters house out of wood, if you live in a barren wasteland where nothing grows.)

The city before the disaster was the cultural and trade center of a thriving country. Semi-rainforest in most of the country, with hills loaded with trees and beautiful well-watered plains for growing food. Loads of natural resources, fast growing plant varieties (each home had tiny hanging gardens of beans and hemp), and great trade deals with neighboring countries. Now the entire city is flattened, and the Plant is what grows there, feeding off of anything it lures close enough to catch.

4. What do the people there eat? How do they get their food?

What food and water the few people still alive in the city can find is suspect because it’s been heavily dosed with magic.

5. What in our world threatens your main species? (Is there Famine or an Epidemic? Is the planet dying or is there wild predators? No one is completely safe)

It’s more like “What isn’t a threat?” in this story. There are three major visible threats (the La’an, the Twisted, and the Plant), rubble and buildings falling down, no untainted food, no untainted water. It’s only been three days since the disaster, so who knows what sort of diseases will be a threat as time goes on. The Twisted suck out all the magic that makes people/animals live and what’s left is just an empty shell that survives for a few days and then falls over and turns into dust. The Plant lures you (with scent), then stuns you and absorbs you. The La’an will sacrifice you if you get in their way (or maybe just because you don’t look like them, or worship their Goddess). And don’t look now but the magic in the heart of the city seems to be growing…

2016 Nanowrimo plot post


This year I stumbled on thread on the NaNo forums where you were challenged to write your plot like a Pixar plot summary. The Pixar pitch goes like this:

1. Once upon a time there was …
2. Every day …
3. One day …
4. Because of that …
5. Because of that …
6. Until finally …

Example: Finding Nemo
1. Once upon a time there was … a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
2. Every day … Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
3. One day … in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
4. Because of that … he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
5. Because of that … Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
6. Until finally … Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.

What a fun way to summarize a plot! But it is tough to fit to this year’s Nano outline, since 1 through 4 is basically the first few paragraphs, and the rest of the book are items 5 and 6! Here’s my Pixar’d plot:

1. Once upon a time there was a city that was destroyed when a magical bomb exploded, leaving the city a ruin and full of twisted magic.
2. Every day the magic spread and grew stronger, creating monsters (and monsterous plants) who were non-living and magic eating. And they began to leave the area where the bomb went off.
3. One day soon after the explosion a mysterious group came hunting for the cause of the magic, hoping to use that power to take over the country. But instead they found Tesh, who had lost her memory during the explosion and who seemed to instinctively know how to deal with the magic-eating plants and zombie creatures.
4. Because of that the rescuers find a small boy trapped in a magical plant, and as Tesh frees him the boy warns them the monsters are coming. And the monsters come, with the rescuers, Tesh, and the boy barely getting away. The rescuers then blame the boy and Tesh for the danger they’re in.
5. Because of that Tesh and the boy run away from their “rescuers” and try to find the source of the twisted magic themselves, in hopes of preventing more monsters and preventing their rescuers from taking over the country.
6. Until finally there’s a big battle with the monsters, the rescuers, and Tesh and the boy, where Tesh remembers a few things and she and the boy work together to stop the magic-eating zombies, slow the spread of the magic, and drive away the rescuers (who are now revealed as the group who set the bomb).

It doesn’t really fit…but it did help me tighten up my rambling 10 point outline into something sleeker.

It’s day nine, and I’m at 7,500 words (about 7,500 below where I need to be to hit the 50K target).

Fabric Paper Clip Art for Cookbooks

Fabric Paper Clip Art for Cookbooks

More rubber stamping for paper clip art last night, this time on strips of fabric with black StazOn ink.

Bought two colors of plain cotton fabric in fat quarters at Walmart for $.97 each and used my pinking sheers to cut strips. Strips are about 2cm (just over 1/2 inch) wide, and about 3.5 to 4 inches long. Going to angle the ends and seal with Fray Check then use these on my cookbooks.I may give a few for xmas as well.

Dinner/lunch/breakfast word stamp is a Technique Tuesday stamp set, the little star-flower dot is from another set that I think was all Technique Tuesday.

They’re a lot floppy-er than the ribbon clips, but I like how easy they are to read…wonder if I can use spray starch to make them less floppy? Hmm, I may have to go buy some tonight and see.

Double Ribbon Altered Paperclip Tutorial


A couple of FB friends have asked how I made the double-layered ribbon paperclips I’ve been using in my planner, so I took a few cellphone shots last night while I was making one. Here’s the scoop.

Step 1: Pick out two ribbons that coordinate, with one ribbon at least a slight amount narrower than the other. The “skinny” ribbon will be the one in front on the final paperclip. Cut a length of each ribbon about 2.5 times longer than your jumbo paperclip.

ribbons for altered paperclips

Ribbon and paperclip

Step 2. Layer the skinny ribbon on top of the fatter ribbon and fold in half.

layer the ribbons

Layered ribbon folded in half

Step 3: Slide the folded end of the ribbon through the paperclip. Make sure the two halves that clip onto the paper are pointing downward — you’ll be attaching the ribbon to the part that goes on the top.

folded end inserted into clip

Slide folded end through the clip

Step 4: Grasping the ends of the ribbons in one hand (left for right-handed people), poke open the folded area.

opening the ribbon loop

Open folded area into a loop (while still keeping a hold on the ends)

Step 5: Reach through (with your right hand for right-handed people) the open fold and grasp the ends of the ribbons between your finger and thumb so you can pull them through.

reaching through the loop

Reach through and grab the ends

Step 6: Pull gently. You may need to assist the ribbon that wraps around the clip to lay flat with your other hand.

pull the ends through

Pull the ends through the loop

Step 7: Once the ribbon is tight around the clip you may need to adjust the two ribbon ends so they look nice and flare out. Pull the ribbons tight once you have it how you want it.

pull ribbon tight

Pull tight and arrange ribbon how you want it

Step 8: Trim the ends of the ribbon to the length you want — shorter ribbons will stand straight up, while longer lengths may arch or flare (depending on the stiffness of the ribbon). I usually trim at an angle. You can optionally use a sewing tool called “no fray” liquid on the ends of the ribbons at this point.

trim the ribbon

Trim ribbon to desired length

Step 9: If your ribbon is very slipery and seems like it’s starting to untie itself, pull it tight and flip over the clip. You can put a tiny bit of some kind of tacky glue right where the ribbons meet in the center of the clip arch to keep the ribbons from slipping.

back of clip

Back side of ribbon clip showing area where you could add glue

Let the glue and no-fray dry (if used) and your clip is ready to use! You can decorate it further by gluing a button on the front area where the ribbon is wrapped flat across the clip, or use it as it is.

If you have any questions about my how-to please let me know! Thanks for reading.


Planner love


I’ve developed an addiction to decorating my planner. I currently use a red cloth DayRunner with the monthly insert that came with it, and some printables. Here’s my latest creative bit: a custom laminated “dashboard” for the front page of my planner.

DIY planner dashboard

Custom planner dashboard with scrapbook paper background and hand-painted decorations

After cutting the paper to size I glued on the hand-painted items on the front side page. All the items were painted with Twinkling H2O paint which has a metallic sparkle. The geometric shapes were from my pattern design class last summer (the Jewel lesson) and the crown and dress form were ones I’d painted in the past but never found a use for. The flip side is solid orange-red scrapbook paper. I laminated with self-stick laminating sheets and then trimmed and hole punched the dashboard.

I’ve also made myself a laminated time zone chart (which you can see and download here) and am working on a few other pages as well as tabbed dividers for the major sections.

Planners are definitely a lot “prettier” than back when I used one in the 80s and 90s, and I’m enjoying using washi tape and stickers on the calendar pages and to-do/note pages as well.

Instagramming my life away


I started Instagraming when I started the MIID courses talked about in previous posts. I think it combines the best of blogging with the ease of Facebook scrolling through multiple people’s posts. I’ve noticed that if the choice is between grabbing my phone, taking a photo, and uploading it to IG with a couple of hashtags, vs finding the right cord to offload the photo to my computer so I can go through the multiple-step process of logging into my blog and creating a blog post IG wins. Except on sore hand days — then the “ease” of typing on a small phone screen is trumped by my comfy keyboard and the speed at which I can type. I think there’s a place for both blogging and the soundbyte methods (twitter and IG) but worry that blogging will go the way of the blink tag in html.

FYI, here’s my latest IG post (as of this writing): planner charms. Did I mention I’m on a planner kick and have dug all my old daytimer/dayrunner/franklin covey things out of their rubbermaid box? It’s already turned into one of my creative addictions and I’ve only been back in the planner world for a short time. Good clean fun, and useful too.

Brief #3 MIID Summer School — Jewels


The third and final brief of the Make It In Design Summer School was centered around Jewels. I immediately began day dreaming about tiaras and other sparkly things and spent hours browsing Pinterest and Google images. But my first sketches went nowhere. As did my second set. And because I was leaving on vacation in just a few days I felt a lot of stress, and didn’t sleep well the night after the assignment was given (Monday). The next day I was groggy enough to sit down for a few minute nap in my favorite chair (a green Lay-Z-Boy with massage and heat, my back loves it). After just 5 minutes I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to do for my pattern — isn’t it funny how the brain works? A few years previously I’d discovered Twinkling H20s, a glittery watercolor paint in a wonderful range of colors — and the set I have is jewel tones. After creating a set of shapes in Adobe Illustrator I printed them out and began to paint.

painted gem shapes on paper

Painting in the jewel shapes for my pattern

Once the shapes were painted I cut them out and then arranged them into shapes and scanned them.

watercolor gem shapes arranged into flower shape

Individual gem shapes arranged into a flower and then scanned

I also created some strands of “pearls” for the background in AI, and then took both the “pearls” and the gem flowers into Photoshop.

swirls made in Adobe Illustrator

Swirls of pearls for the background on the surface design pattern

Once I had all the elements in Photoshop I arranged them and rearranged them until I created a seamless pattern, which I then submitted to the class gallery.

Flower gems as a seamless pattern

Flower Gems repeat pattern

Once the pattern was submitted I decided to apply it to my mockup to see how it would look, and was quite pleased with the result.

repeat pattern on mockup

Flower Gems repeat pattern on product mockup

I’m quite pleased with my design for the third and final brief, and feel the class really improved my skills as well as forced me to learn some pattern-specific aspects of both Photoshop and Illustrator.



Make It In Design Brief #2 — Tribal Theme Pattern Design


The second brief for the Make It In Design summer school program revolved around Tribal patterns. Having never designed anything tribal, I went looking at my childhood in South Dakota and Alaska for inspiration and found lots of beautiful artwork, including some inspiration from things I own.

"Eskimo" doll from late 1960s

Native American doll made from Seal Fur, a present from my mom when I was in grade school in Alaska.

As lovely as the memories were, those styles, colors, and patterns didn’t feel like the right direction for this assignment, so I went back to the brief and centered my exploration on the triangles and lines mentioned in the bullet points.

sketch book with pens and coffee

Sketches of various triangles and other shapes

The not-quite-triangles with the squiggles and some wavy lines ended up being the base for my submitted pattern. The colors are both bright and subtle, and the pattern is a seamless repeat (which I have to say is one of the biggest challenges I’ve overcome in Adobe Illustrator).

tribal pattern for class

The submitted pattern

I’m quite happy with the way the pattern turned out and like how elements of it can be used both large and small.

mockup showing pattern on pillows and aprons

Mockup of “Tribal Notions” pattern on products

Make It In Design Summer School


I’m one of the many folks obsessing over the Make It In Design summer school program this summer — so much so that I haven’t blogged anything about it yet. It’s a six week course, with a brief delivered to participants every other week and that assignment due the week after, for a total of three assignments. The Facebook group is a very big part of the course, with participants from all three levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) posting rough sketches, how-to and style questions, and finished designs.

sketch of pattern design

sketch for Brief #1 of MIID summer school

I’ve never tried my hand at surface pattern design before, so it’s been a huge learning curve. I have really, really enjoyed the challenge, even when I was feeling like banging my head against the nearest wall. I was pleased to finish brief #1 before the deadline and uploaded my pattern to the website gallery.

pattern design

Pattern as submitted to MIID Summer School

I felt I’d met the requirements, but wasn’t actually satisfied with what I’d designed. For one thing, it wasn’t a repeat pattern. For another, the colors were bright and tropical, but I could see the weren’t the type of colors that someone would buy in the form of a pillow or a kitchen towel (typical media for patterns).

I decided to leave the pattern as uploaded and be ready to move on to the next class…and then I ended up taking a class from Creative Live on Surface Pattern Design during the week between when I turned my pattern in and when the next assignment was given, and my mind got blown. (Well, further blown, actually, since it was already pretty close to explosion levels thanks to the amazing patterns I was seeing in the MIID Facebook group.) That class taught me how to make a repeat pattern, and how to apply it as an Adobe Illustrator pattern to a vector mockup of a product. So much for doing things like house cleaning or paying bills…I felt that I needed to take my sunny tropical idea of a pattern from true beginner to something a little more sophisticated. So I did.

repeat pattern in two color variations

My tropical pattern from Brief #1 turned into a softer repeat pattern.

I’m very happy with how my revised tropical pattern turned out, and really excited about everything I managed to learn in a two-week period. Making repeat patterns is quite addictive, and I’m sure that I’ll continue to make patterns long after the MIID Summer School 2014 has ended.

Working for a higher purpose vs. cleaning the toilet


People throw around phrases and words like “spiritual meaning” when talking about what they do for a living, but there’s a hard cold truth about work that most folks hate to admit: for most of the folks talking about their “higher purpose” it’s really hot air and a way of rationalizing the long hours and time away from family and friends. Seriously, sitting on a mountain top meditating has spiritual meaning, selling knick knacks or services only has the meaning that you pretend it has.

Pretend is not a bad thing — pretending we all get along and agree is how nations are run. It’s what keeps corporations from imploding when there’s a change of management. And it’s how most marriages survive past the first couple of years. It’s a good thing both for stability and mental health. But believing (i.e. pretending) that your life’s bliss comes from having a deep spiritual bond with your clients and that your only real goal is to enhance the universe has two huge problems when it comes to business:

  • A business needs to make money, and that type of airy-fairy attitude not only doesn’t encourage people to spend money with you, it often keeps you from asking or demanding money and respect.  
  • It can keep someone who is making a decision based on rational thought from respecting your pricing because in the back of their mind they’ll assume your prices are based on emotion rather than hard cold numbers, and if the prices are based on emotions they can use emotion to get you to change your prices.

How many forum posts and private emails go around every time a small business owner has a client who doesn’t respect him or her and who treats them badly? Lots. It happens daily in some industries, with the same people posting/emailing the same complaints over and over.

And how often do you think that attitude in the client has been accidentally nurtured by the business owner being all “spiritual meaning” about their work and leading the client to believe that the business owner will do ANYTHING to keep from having their spiritual meaning tarnished? Seriously, you just gave a pushy client a giant advantage, because if this is more than just how you pay your mortgage they know that you’ll honestly do anything to keep them happy.

But in addition to giving the client power, by making your work all about some kind of “higher purpose” you’ve given yourself an “out” to not do certain things well. Bookkeeping for example — you can justify ignoring the numbers by telling yourself you’re following your bliss. You can focus on the things that are your “passion” and happily ignore those things that actually make a business successful, which usually means numbers and processes and nitty-gritty late nights doing non-creative things while your family and friends are out having fun.

Sadly, 99% of running a business (any business) is sweat and paperwork and customer service rather than the bliss that modern “isn’t my office beautiful” magazines would have you believe. There’s not a lot of spiritual bliss in realizing you need to scrub the office toilet before the client comes in, especially not when you know that specific client doesn’t respect you and will demand extra services and more attention and not want to pay you for those things.