Exploring options with my new Cricut Air Explorer

My friend Misty has a Silhoutte while my friend Kim has the Cricut. For those of you not into crafting, these machines are die-cutting machines. They can cut paper, card stock, vinyl, leather and poster board.

Misty makes T-shirts and personalizes bags and other items with hers. Kim only has used hers for cutting card stock letters and shapes.

Now I don’t do a lot of crafty projects. No scrap booking. No making cutesy little cards or other craft projects. If I make a custom card it is more likely on my computer than a cut intricate design. Even the party supplies – banners, name cards – that I have done were done on the computer.

But I love the die-cut machine at the school and liked seeing Misty’s shirt designs. I began looking into their differences between these two machines with the idea of maybe getting one.

And then my husband took the choice away when for Mother’s Day this year he bought me a Cricut Air Explorer.

But what was I going to do it?

I installed the software on my laptop and gave the tutorial project a try. (That is the card in the above photo.)

After that, the machine sat on the bedroom floor for the next two months. (What can I say…I was busy with other things, and I didn’t have any projects going on that needed a die-cut machine.)

But in the back of my head, I was planning to make an Imagine Dragons T-shirt for the concert in November. However, I knew nothing about making my own shirt with vinyl or how to use the design program that came with the unit.

So I watched some videos, ordered some supplies and cranked out four projects in two days.

Cell Phone Cover – My very first project was to cut some vinyl and make a decal for my new iPhone 7 Otter Box case. If you have read any of my books, you know I love dragons so that is what I wanted for the decal.

Lesson learned – The fine detail of the dragon’s tail and the curly parts of the letters proved to be a little difficult when removing the excess vinyl. This probably shouldn’t have been my first project but it worked out.

Toiletry Bag – I recently put an emergency toiletry bag together for my husband to keep at work. (He is an attorney but mostly dresses in jeans and a T-shirt. He keeps a suit at the office for sudden court meetings or meetings with clients. I decided it would be fun to personalize the bag. I choose his initials and a Star Wars rebel symbol.

Lesson learned – For my first iron-on project I should not have chosen something as cumbersome as this small bag. Also the black vinyl on the dark grey fabric is very subtle, and if I had to do it again, I would pick a different vinyl color.

So yes, this means the first two projects I did were not the easiest of projects. But the next two were shirts so a tad easier.

 

PTA shirt – This past weekend I attended a PTA conference. I just recently became the treasurer for my son’s middle school. The problem was since it was a new school for him, I don’t have a PTA shirt and decided to make my own.  I loved being able to use a soft lady’s shirt instead of the standard T-shirt material.

Lesson learned – Double and triple check to make sure the design is straight on the shirt. I still can’t decide if it is slightly crooked or if the “Rocks” word just makes it look that way.

Imagine Dragons shirt – As I said before, I wanted to do a shirt for the concert, so I came up with this design based off their latest album Evolve. Again, I choose a unique women’s shirt (It has a crisscross design on the back) rather than a T-shirt. Of course with months before the concert, I may just make another one – perhaps a long-sleeve one in case it is cool in November.

Lesson Learned – Don’t try to double cut the vinyl. I had read this suggestion somewhere, but the cuts didn’t line up properly. I ended up having to use the other half of the sheet of vinyl to get the correct cut.

So there are my first four projects with the Cricut. I am sure I will keep learning new lessons as I find other fun projects to try. Hmmm….everyone may be getting personalized gifts for Christmas this year.

Today’s Featured Author – Nikola Dimitrov

Today I welcome author Nikola Dimitrov to my blog. Nikola is on a virtual book tour promoting his non-fiction book The Four in One Gospels of Jesus that was released in May.

Book Blurb

The Four in One Gospel of JESUS is the Four Gospels compiled chronologically and contextually, this giving the fullness of each Bible story in the Gospels. This unique material is describing the life of Jesus in its fullness, without the repetitions. It stores all facts about Jesus and comprises a full biography of Jesus Christ. It’s a chronological Bible project, but also a contextual one, featuring subjects such as: Jesus in the Old Testament, the story of the birth of Jesus, Jesus life, Jesus saves, Jesus Cross, Jesus crucifixion, Jesus death, Jesus blood, Jesus tomb, Jesus resurrection, Jesus in Heaven, Jesus works, Jesus miracles, Jesus baptism, Jesus crown, Jesus call, The Jesus teaching, the Passion of Jesus, etc. It shows us how we can be walking with Jesus – the Anointed One, and how we can be servants of Jesus. The book will show You that King Jesus loves You, and will trigger our falling in love with Jesus as well. It’s a one of a kind material indeed, the result of thousands of hours of work in compiling, referencing, structuring and fitting all details in this easy to read, yet, fully referenced edition of the Four Gospels of the Bible.

About the Author

In 1992 Nikola Dimitrov experienced a miraculous conversion, receiving Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Since 1995 he has been a full time minister of the Gospel, serving as pastor, Bible teacher, preacher, and Christian educator. He started his first church in 1994, which is still standing today, and in 1998 he began his traveling ministry. Nikola is currently pastoring several church groups in Bourgas, Bulgaria and is frequently sought out as a speaker around the country. He also serves as a Bible teacher at the Apostolic Kingdom Institute in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.

As editor-in-chief of Vetil Media Ministry, Nikola has translated and published more than thirty books into Bulgarian, as well as writing some himself. He is passionate for a glorious Church, without spot, wrinkle or any such thing. Nikola’s dynamic preaching pointedly encourages believers to be everything the Lord created them to be. He then encourages his congregations to take responsibility in word and deed toward that end.

As a translator, Nikola has also produced and distributed around the nation nearly 1000 Bulgarian versions of audio and video teachings by famous foreign preachers and teachers.

As part of a charity in Bulgaria, along with other volunteers, Nikola takes care of needy people from the minorities, distributing clothes, food, medicine, and school materials to children.

Nikola is married to Helen, and they have two lovely young-adult daughters, Annie (which means grace) and Mikaela (which means who is like God?). Both are part of Nikola and Helen’s ministry, serving in the area of music.

You can find out more about Nikola on his website or follow him on Facebook.

You can purchase The Four in One Gospels of Jesus on Amazon.

Tackling the Second Draft (Novel Writing)

The first draft is done! Whew. But now the real work begins. For many authors, the first draft is just where they jot down the story. Maybe they had an outline to guide them, or maybe they simply wrote whatever came to mind. In either case, there will be a lot of rewriting and cutting coming up.

My first drafts take a long time because I spend time both writing and editing at the same time. I am constantly rewriting and refining as I write my initial draft. This means I don’t have as much to cut out or change as some authors might have.

Now every author approaches their second draft different. For me, this is a time to check the consistency and where I can amend the story either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots.

To do this, I cannot stop on every page to fix and worry over every word. That will come later. To begin, I need to read through the first draft without stopping to correct every flaw. Yes, I may add a missing word or fix a spelling error, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. I want to read it straight through first. As I read, I am making notes of areas that need work, whether it be adding something, deleting the scene or polishing. I am checking the timeline and looking for consistency in travel time or character behavior.

Now once I have read through and made my notes, my second draft isn’t done until I go back and make all those changes. For me, the second draft is about re-writing, expanding and cutting scenes. Descriptions are added to bring the story and characters to life. Scenes that don’t advance the story are deleted – even if they are well-written or your favorite.

Sometimes you will re-work an area once or twice. And sometimes it will take many more tries until you get it right. This part of editing where you take away and add to the story can be very messy, and you may need to be ruthless but it will make your story better, stronger.

It may take many read-throughs to finish this stage. (Which depending on how you count them could be considered additional drafts.) If you do multiple readings, you should take a break between each one. This will allow you to view your novel with “fresh eyes” and will help you catch more things that need to be changed.

And when you are done perfecting the story, the timeline, the characters, it is time for the third draft where you will further tighten your writing, perfect word choices and descriptions, cut unnecessary words and fix punctuation. (For help on the third draft, check out my revision outline).

Ah but at least we have the basics down and ready to turn into a well-written novel!

Cursive handwriting will NOT be a dying art in this family

This image is so true! Today, many schools don’t teach cursive writing or spend so little time on it that kids don’t become proficient in it. Cursive writing is after all not required by the national education Common Core Standards.

Even in Texas which currently requires cursive writing be taught in elementary school, my kids still don’t know it. Yes, they did spend a month or so working on it in third grade, but since it isn’t consistently required to be used in the higher grades, it isn’t retained.

Jase just finished fifth grade and couldn’t read what his Nana wrote on his birthday card because it was written in that secret cursive writing. And of course both kids sign their name by printing it.

I am sure there are many out there that don’t think cursive writing is important. With the advancement of electronics in the schools and workplace, those people don’t see the benefit of cursive writing. Even my husband seems to prefer that Jase learn different word-processing software and email programs rather than work on his atrocious print handwriting, let along work on cursive.

Of course, I am one of those who thinks our children should be learning cursive writing. I want my kids to be able to sign their name – even if it is just for signing on those horrible electronic screens at the grocery store. And if they want to read family letters or historical documents, they will need to know cursive.

But there are even more important reasons. Research has shown that people who learn and write in cursive are better at expressing their ideas. It has been linked to better reading, increased brain activation and increased performance in all academic subjects, especially in language activities such as spelling.

And it will certainly help them as they advance in school when taking notes in class becomes important as you can take notes faster in cursive.

My mother (a former school teacher) has already sat down with the kids once this summer and worked on them signing their names. But now that we are back from vacation, I think we will continue working on not only their signature but the rest of the alphabet. I hope to have them reading and writing in cursive before school starts at the end of August. Of course then the trick will be to make sure they keep using it so that they retain that knowledge.

For those of you who want to teach your own kids, check out this website for cursive worksheets to practice individual letters, words and sentences. You can find short educational lessons written in cursive for reading and writing practice at this website. Good luck!

Today’s Featured Author – Pat Simmons

Today, please welcome author Pat Simmons. Her latest book, Love by Delivery, was released in February. She is currently finishing up her novella, Late Summer Love, which should be out by the end of summer.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My Name is Pat Simmons. I’ve been a wife for 34 years and a mother of a son and daughter. I graduated from a great college in Boston, and eventually worked in my field of broadcast journalism for over twenty years. I started in radio and was truly blessed with an opportunity to transition into television news for ten years. Because of my media experience, I head the publicity team for the RT Booklovers Conventions. In my free time, when I’m not writing, which seems like all the time, I enjoy sewing, tracing my family roots, reading, and watching romance movies.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

It was my play mother, the late Lorna Robnett. She had faith in me that I could do anything, especially after she heard me weave a story to a houseful of guests.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I received an email from a reader about my first book. That’s when it kicked in that I really was an author. That was 10 years ago.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I think each story has a little bit of Pat Simmons’ personality in them, or my alter ego, like Grandma BB or Sandra Nicholson in the Jamieson Legacy series. Grandma BB is the seventy something smart talking childless widow who says what she wants, when she wants. On the other end is sweet and sanctified Sandra Nicholson, who finally found love in her early sixties and married him. She was the epitome of an uncompromised Christian woman. The Confession won the Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance in 2016, so I was happy readers fell in love with Sandra and Raimond’s story. My news background has sparked many a plots in my stories. It’s my curiosity about a subject that has created great storylines, like Guilty by Association. Kidd Jamieson wasn’t fond of carrying his absentee father’s last night, but thanks to my genealogy search, I was able to write his story when I uncovered documents that showed pages of enslaved African Americans who were buried without last names.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Actually, I’m sitting on the second edits of a completed novel, Mystery of Love, because I’m trying to finish Late Summer Love before summer is over. I’ll close out the year with my annual Christmas novellas, Prayers Answered by Christmas, which is a sequel to Couple by Christmas. I’m looking forward to writing it.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

Yes, I’ve been writing full-time for about nine years. When I run short on cash, I’ll work a temp assignment, but my steady income is from my monthly royalties, mainly from eBooks. Since I’m a Christian author, I begin my day with prayer time, I study my Bible, hoping God will give me a message to incorporate in a scene, or a personal word of encouragement for me. After that, I try to start writing my ten a.m., and many times will write until midnight. I do take breaks for chores, eating, and a movie with my husband, but I spend a lot of my time doing administrative tasks: reading and sending emails, looking for blog content, newsletter content, monitoring my social media accounts, looking for stock photos for book covers, and most importantly, staying on my writing schedule to meet my releases. I think every author is always in search of promotional opportunities, me included.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I want to say I’m in control of my income, but it’s God who supplies my needs, especially when I’m on the road and can’t write, or my funds get low. The worst? People don’t think I work—that writing isn’t a job, and therefore, I have to tell me people I’ll call them back or let it go to voicemail, then I forget to check voicemail. The other thing is some people think I can write a book in a month or less—I wish.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Since I release three to four books a year, I appreciate outlining them. I didn’t at first. When I did, I would go off the outline anyway, usually by chapter 7. But even now, God gives me fresh scenes every morning and I say, “Thank you, Lord that is a good one.”

Please tell us about your current release.

My recent book, Love by Delivery, was released in February. Since then, I’ve completed a full length novel entitled Mystery of Love that is waiting for me to do the second round of edits until I finished Late Summer Love.

What inspired you to write Late Summer Love?

It’s a sequel. Readers wanted Paige Blake to find happiness.

How did you come up with the title?

I got the idea last year while I attended my husband’s family reunion. The plot was perfect for Paige’s story, so I had planned to name it Summer Reunion, but a fellow friend had a release called Winter Reunion, so I changed it to Summer Love, but when my first round of re-writes for Mystery of Love worked me over, I knew my novella wasn’t going to hit a May or June release. I told my husband the story had to come out before the end of summer because it was called Summer Love. He joked, “It’s going to be a late summer love.” I thought about it, and tweaked the title and gave him the credit.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Of course. They are a mixture of physical characteristics, personalities and mannerisms. My best friend says she can hear our voices in my characters’ conversations.

Which of your characters is your favorite?

My hero: Blake Cross. It’s easy on the eyes and has a good heart.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

This is book 2 of the Perfect Chance at Love series. I have to come up with another scenario for my main character’s cousin. I don’t have anything yet. I’m sure it will come to me.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

All my characters have too many issues for me to jump into their shoes. LOL. They all have happy endings, but their journeys aren’t easy. I’ll pass.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I have a home office that faces the front. I can write and be nosy—a great combination for an author.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

That I read—The Warmth of the Other Sun; That I’ve written—Crowning Glory.What book are you reading right now? I won’t read until I finish a project, then I’ll read three and four books to detach from my characters. I have a TBR pile.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

I’m around a lot of authors—indie and New York Times bestselling authors like Sylvia Day, Charlene Harris, Brenda Jackson, and Francine Rivers. So I count it a privilege to mingle with these ladies and others at the yearly RT Booklovers Convention

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I do have bouts of shyness, but nobody believes it—seriously!

Book Blurb

Could a chance meeting during two family reunions be God playing matchmaker? Paige Blake recently witnessed her best friend marry. Now, Paige is struggling to tame the pity party stirring within her heart, questioning whether God had forgotten about a husband for her. After twelve years of serving his country, Blake Cross is ready for civilian life. He soon learns there is another battle he must fight. When he meets Paige on an elevator, he’s drawn to her. There’s one slight complication to win her heart. Blake has to surrender to the Lord’s will in his life first.

About the Author

Pat is the multi-published author of more than thirty titles, and is a three-time recipient of Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance. She has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country.

As a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth, Pat is passionate about researching her ancestors, then casting them in starring roles in her novels. She describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as an amazing, unforgettable, life-altering experience. God is the Author who advances the stories she writes.

Currently, overseeing the media publicity for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions, Pat has a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Pat has converted her sofa-strapped, sports fanatic husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and her administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and a daughter.

You can find out more about Pat and her books on her website.

You can sign up on a wait list for Late Summer Love here or check out the rest of Pat’s books on Amazon.