Friday, February 28, 2014

An Interview with Randall Spangler of Heaven and Earth Designs

MM2: Randal, let's talk about how long you have been designing? What was your first professional design?

I began my professional career in 1977 attending art shows and drawing my first dragons.

MM2: On the average how long does it normally take you to design a piece?

A week to 10 months, depending on the size and complexity of the piece.

MM2: What do you like about bringing your work to life?

I like creating the world full of my favorite things - dragons and books and cats and chocolate chip cookies.

MM2: Your designs are fun and so full life that each detail means something special to make the whole picture. Do you have some advice for someone who wants to design and stitch professionally in cross stitch?

Do artwork that means something to you.  You have to do what comes from you and hopefully other people will connect with it.  You still have to do good composition (design) and use of colors.  You have to know the basics of what makes a good design.

MM2: What advice do you have for the stitchers who buy your designs?

I don't have any specific advice, but I totally admire anyone who does cross stitch because it looks so complicated and overwhelming.

MM2: How many works of art have you designed? Do you have a favorite design or series in which you have created?

My libraries are my favorite.  I don't know how many works of art I've created, hundreds, though. 

MM2: How many of your designs have you cross stitched?

None.  I always have more ideas than I have time to paint, so that is all I do.

MM2: Do you have a stress free place you like to visit or travel to on vacations?

The ocean

MM2: Are you currently designing a piece? What does the future hold for you in designing these wonderful works of art?

I am always designing new pieces.  I have no idea what the future holds, but I'm optimistic!

MM2: In closing is there anyone you would like to thank that has inspired you by their work or words?

I get inspired by all kinds of things.  I am always inspired by good music.  Some of my best ideas come from customers mentioning something that creates a picture in my mind.


Thank you so much for the interview. I am so excited that you and Michele agreed as I am a big fan of both your patterns. I can spend hours looking at all the heavenandearthdesigns. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Interview With Cindy Blackburn

Interview: Cindy Blackburn

MM2: Cindy, tell us about your Cue Ball Mystery series?

Former pool shark Jessie Hewitt usually knows where the balls will land and how the game will end. But she keeps getting caught up in the middle of this and that pesky murder investigation. Maybe it’s because her hunky beau Wilson Rye is a homicide investigator? The Cue Balls are cozy mysteries with a lot of humor, a little romance, and far too much champagne. Murder meets menopause. Take a guess which wins.

MM2: Where did you get the idea to write this series?

Jessie just came to me one night, kind of magically. She tells me the stories, I write them down. For instance, I didn’t know she was a pool shark until the first scene in Playing With Poison. She was in a bar, there was a pool table, and I immediately knew all about her past. Magic!

MM2: What advice do you for have writers who want to write a mystery series?

Give it a try! For me, I like writing about my characters. I’d say be sure you have a sleuth you love, give her a strong voice and let her roll!

MM2: Tell us about your writing schedule?

I write all the time, or close to it. Early morning, with coffee in hand and cat cuddling up nearby, is when I get the most work done. I am less productive in the afternoons, so that’s when I take care of other parts of my life. Most evenings I try to write a little before bedtime. I think my subconscious then works on my stories all night while I sleep.

MM2: Time to time do you have a favorite book that you like to reread?

I reread Sue Grafton, Joan Hess and early Janet Evanovich a lot.

MM2: Do you collect books?

No. I live in a small place and moved last year. So I actually got rid of a lot of books. I am reading on my kindle more and more. Hubby tells me I’m the opposite of a packrat.

MM2: How many books have you written?

Four Cue Ball Mysteries so far. Playing With Poison, Double Shot, Three Odd Balls, and Four Play. I’m thrilled that there are fifteen balls in a pool ball set. I have lots of work ahead of me!

MM2: When you want to take a break from writing and go somewhere to unwind or vacation. Where are some of your favorite places to visit?

I live in a shack in Vermont every summer. Rustic, rural, on a lake. In other words—heaven! I also like to take tropical, warm vacations in the dead of winter. South Beach, Miami, Florida is one of my favorites. I go to Europe anytime the budget allows.

MM2: Who would you like to thank for being in your corner through thick and thin of your writing and becoming published path?

My husband John. The Cue Balls would simply not exist without his help. He’s a technical expert, and writing a book these days takes A LOT of computer skills! As the dedication in Playing With Poison reads, John bought me a lap top and suggested I use it to write a book. So this was all his idea.

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?

I hope my books take you away from everyday stresses and strains. I hope they make you laugh. A lot!

MM2: What would you protagonist say about what comes next for her?

Jessie is rather relieved that I’m giving her a break for a few months. She’ll be back for the fifth Cue Ball Mystery, Five Spot, at the end of 2014. In the meantime, I’m starting a new series, the Cassie Baxter Mysteries. Cassie’s first adventure is called Unbelievable and will be available this summer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2013 Nebula Awards nominations

2013 Nebula Nominees Announced

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are pleased to announce the 2013 Nebula Awards nominees (presented 2014), the nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Best Novel
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)
Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Hild, Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata (Mythic Island)
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Harper)
Best Novella
‘‘Wakulla Springs,’’ Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages ( 10/2/13)
‘‘The Weight of the Sunrise,’’ Vylar Kaftan (Asimov’s 2/13)
‘‘Annabel Lee,” Nancy Kress (New Under the Sun, Arc Manor/Phoenix Pick)
‘‘Burning Girls,’’ Veronica Schanoes ( 6/19/13)
‘‘Trial of the Century,’’ Lawrence M. Schoen (, 8/13; World Jumping)
Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean)
Best Novelette
‘‘Paranormal Romance,’’ Christopher Barzak (Lightspeed 6/13)
‘‘The Waiting Stars,’’ Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)
‘‘They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass,’’ Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s 1/13)
‘‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters,’’ Henry Lien (Asimov’s 12/13)
‘‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King,’’ Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/13)
‘‘In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,’’ Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons 7/1 – 7/8/13)
 Best Short Story
‘‘The Sounds of Old Earth,’’ Matthew Kressel (Lightspeed 1/13)
‘‘Selkie Stories Are for Losers,’’ Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons 1/7/13)
‘‘Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer,’’ Kenneth Schneyer (Clockwork Phoenix 4)
‘‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,’’ Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)
‘‘Alive, Alive Oh,’’ Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (Lightspeed 6/13)
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Doctor Who: ‘‘The Day of the Doctor’’ (Nick Hurran, director; Steven Moffat, writer) (BBC Wales)
Europa Report (Sebastián Cordero, director; Philip Gelatt, writer) (Start Motion Pictures)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, director; Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, writers) (Warner Bros.)
Her (Spike Jonze, director; Spike Jonze, writer) (Warner Bros.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, director; Simon Beaufoy & Michael deBruyn, writers) (Lionsgate)
Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, director; Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, writers) (Warner Bros.)
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black (Little, Brown; Indigo)
When We Wake, Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin; Little, Brown)
Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central)
The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Hero, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
September Girls, Bennett Madison (Harper Teen)
A Corner of White, Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine)
Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Samuel R. Delany
Special Guest: Frank M. Robinson

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Interview with Michele Sayetta of Heaven and Earth Designs

MM2: Michele,  how do you come up with the ideas for your designs?

I have a 35 year history in computer programming and I wanted to come up with a way to provide cross stitch charts of images that were of very high quality.  I worked on development for about a year and then refined the process and we now have a wonderful process that allows us to provide the highest quality cross designs converted from images.

MM2: On the average how long does it take for you to design your cross stitch patterns?

It can range from 2 to 40 hours depending on the size.

MM2: Your art is so beautiful and tells a story. Can you tell us about how important fabric, floss, color and size is for your patterns?

We design for 25ct but have found that a lot of folks prefer 28ct and our designs lend themselves well to all counts, even 14ct without pixilation.  Size is really dependent on the detail of the subject, the more detail the larger the chart.

MM2: Do you have some design advice for someone who might want to design cross stitch professionally?

Love what you do and do your homework.  Designing for conversion is very different compared to traditional design work and when converting artwork you need to very familiar with RGB values and color saturation etc, this is what makes our designs unique and provides the depth and shading that cannot ever be accomplished with a computer generated design.

MM2: How many of your projects have you cross stitched?

I have completed one design and test stitched hundreds

MM2: Do you have a favorite cross stitch piece ? One that is more sentimental than the others?

Lady in the Meadow by Kinuko Craft.  It was a poster that my Mother had given me when I was in my teens and remains my favorite although it is now retired.

MM2: Are you currently designing a project?

I am designing each and every day 7 days a week.

MM2: Give us a little background on you, the designer, the friend and of course how Heaven and Earth Designs came about for you?

My Grandmother had taught me to stitch and I first learned Hardanger and then went on to cross stitch.  I completed my first sampler when I was 10 and I have completed hundreds of designs since then.  I continued stitching through the years and my programming background is what led me to develop a process and thus Heaven and Earth was born.  I have an artistic background with my Mother being an accomplished painter and I have done all kinds of technical types of crafts and currently a glass artist as well in which my beads are used for needlework tools.  I also weave, silversmith, do stained glass and jewelry design.

MM2: Is there someone you would like to thank ?

My husband for his patience and his perseverance with my tendency to be picky and stubborn.  My customers of whom are family as well, without each and every person that stitches our designs we would not be here.  Every stitch placed in one of our designs is a legacy for the family of the stitcher, the stitcher and us as the time spent to stitch our designs is immense and it is quite humbling.  I must also thank our artists, without them the world would be a very different place.  The honor of stepping into a canvas and recreating it with needle and thread just cannot be described in words.

MM2: In closing is there a future design you want to share with us?

I don’t share anything that I am currently working on but I will say that I am working on the next bookshelf by Aimee Stewart.

MM2: Last but never least why do you think your designs touch our souls?

I believe that is not the designing but the artwork that speaks to people and for that we thank our artists.  To stitch something that speaks to someone and see it come to life is an experience that cannot be compared.  I have hundreds of stories from folks on why they have stitched a certain piece, for a parent that has passed, a child that has passed, marriages, life celebrations, life hurdles, medical issues, triumphs in human nature of all sorts.

Michele, If you wish please add a picture of you and a few of your designs with the interview.

I have attached a few here for you.

Thank you so much for the interview. I am so excited and if I have left anything out please feel free to add any questions and answers that you wish. 

New Charts For February

Glowing Dreams
Glowing Dreams
Starting at $19.00
Mini Trapeze
Mini Trapeze
Starting at $12.00
Mini Cries of The Night
Mini Cries of The Night
Starting at $12.00

Mini Sisters
Mini Sisters
Starting at $12.00
Treasures ML
Treasures ML
Starting at $19.00

Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Leopold II: Butcher of the Congo by Tod Olson

Leopold's (Prince of Belgium) own father didn't care much for him.  He main goal in life was to have his own colony - and he chose the Congo.  Hundreds of thousands (at least) died so that he could acquire it..  And it wasn't until a few brave souls brought it to the public, that Belgium took over from him.  Maybe the damage was already too late.  Maybe it could have been worse (though that is hard to imagine).

The history of the Congo has always fascinated me - maybe because it is colonialism at its worst.  This book is part of a series called Wicked History written for younger readers and I think this is history we need to know.

Wicked History Scholastic Series of Books

This book explores not only his brutality, but the journey of HM Stanley at his urging (an account of which is horrifying as well).  Greedy is a good subtitle for the book.

I read this book in one sitting


Friday, February 21, 2014

Submission Is Everything:

Okay as most of you know I have penned four self published books.  My problem is I don't know where to submit to next as I want to steer away from self publishing and go with electronic or regular publisher (small house) but I don't know whether to say anything about the four books? I don't know whether to consider the mystery a first time author category say for Malice Submissions or for any other publisher or contest.

Okay authors on this list tell me what you would do how to handle this topic?


Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Update from Pamela

Good Morning,

So I am still stitching on the sampler. Although I only have the pie, the eggs and basket plus the rest of the utensils in the crockery left to stitch. The end is in sight. I will still have more backstitching to do as I go along. I have kept up on the backstitching.

How is life going for all of you? What books are you reading this week? I have to say I am sooo excited for our blog this month. I adore heavenandearthdesigns and we are having at least two of  the designers interviewed on our blog. I am hoping for more than the two designers but these two are my so far my favorite designers.

Then there is Duffy Brown who has a great cozy mystery series and so much more for our blog this month!

Now for today's schedule. of course more cross stitch, light laundry and doing dishes. Tonight I am not sure what I will make for supper.....might be grilled cheese again.

I admit I am feeling a little antsy and stressed today. I think spending a week indoors is the problem but there is still snow and ice out there. However it should hopefully melt tomorrow or by the next day and then maybe I can get out and about which will be good. I am trying to quit smoking so I could stand to get out of this house.

I don't know if I mentioned but I finished reading Cloche and Dagger in the past few days. This was the first in the series by Jenn McKinlay. I love the whole premise for the series. Frank took the book back to the library before I had the chance to write down everything I needed to write the review. So I will just tell you that Scarlet moves from the states back to London to help run her late aunt Mim's Hat Shop. However from the beginning everything goes wrong. First there is a childhood friend who meets her at the airport instead of her sister Vic who has disappeared.  No one seems upset about this except Scarlet. One thing leads to another and this has to so far be my fun read of 2014.

Now to my excitement it will be 60 here on Sunday. The other excitement is I will soon be able to order and start a new cross stitch project this month. Of course it will be a heavenandearth one! I have one that is by Michele Sayetta titled Mad Hatter's Tea Party. I might start it but so far have not found the exact material big enough or budget minded enough so I may have to wait to start it and order another pattern to start, Terri and I will discuss my options when she returns to the office and blog etc... I think the quitting smoking incentive is this ----starting something new. I can't tell you how happy I am to have Terri back in the office and we always learn something from Terri's blogs and reviews. I love how we have a good blog balance.

Okay time for more coffee so I can have the clear mind I need to finish this project. Do you have a new project or new book that you are looking forward to this month?



Review: Teen Titans Vol. 1: It's Our Right to Fight (The New 52)

I love comics.  I love Super Heroes.  I loved The Teen Titans in their various incarnations over the years, so nowhere is another reboot.

Tim Drake, AKA Red Robin, see a pattern of teenagers with metahuman abilities disappearing.  He tries to save some of them and find and stop the organization behind it - N.O.W.H.E.R.E.

It is a nice update to the whole Teen Titans concept, a fresh take with some nods to what has gone before.  Fresh and fun.  And fabulous artwork!


Review: All Things Slip Away by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Frank Lester was a Chicago cop who almost caught a killer - shot him, but the killer got away. Years alter, he has moved to Spookie, a small town where he grew up, trying to have a quiet retirement. Only the killer has come to Spookie and is after those he cares about.  

The town itself was a great setting.  A town that  capitalizes on its quirkiness.

I liked many elements of this story, especially Abby, Frank's girlfriend. She was an interesting character, who having had rough times, pays it forward and cares deeply.

I got distracted however, by elements re. foster care services etc... that didn't ring true to me. I think that lessened my enjoyment of the story. I actually had a conversation about it with a friend who agreed with me that things didn't make sense.  It's funny what can take you away from a story.

Also, the name, The Mud People Killer, made me smile instead of cringe in fear, the killer did not seem as developed as I would have liked and the motive to have made me invested.

All, in all, a decent story with several mild flaws IMHO.  I like Griffith's vampire stories and will read more by her, it's just this book didn't quite do it for me.


Review: Blotto, Twinks and the Intimate Review by Simon Brett

Blotto and his friend go see  Light and Frothy;   a new popular show and his friend falls for the star of the show.  After his friend is k...