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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Dragon Spines and Tail

Yesterday I wrote a tutorial to make your own dragon wings. Today I made the spines and tail for the costume, and here's how.

I wanted a long row of spines, with tail attached, that I could pin onto the costume after the wings were harnessed on. I cut two 3cm-wide strips of plastic sheet (from a poster frame), but you could use sturdy card although it won't give the tail the same "bounce" as plastic does. Whatever you use, it needs to be something with firm edges, so you can pull the felt triangles around it, which forces the triangles to stand up straight.

For the spines my daughter chose white glitter felt, which comes in A4 sheets. You could use card, maybe metallic-coated or with a pattern, in a color that matches the rest of the costume. It needs to be able to stand up by itself.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Garbage Bag Dragon Wings

A couple of weeks ago my daughter announced she wanted to be a white dragon for Halloween. There are a dragon costume options available in the stores but none are white, other than the How To Train Your Dragon Light Fury for younger children. (My daughter is 9 and skinny, but so tall she wears age 12 clothes.)

I boldly said I'd make her dragon wings, and rather than the soft type hanging from the arms, I decided to make proper shaped wings coming out of her back. I don't know what I was thinking! But my husband cleared his weekend D&D game off the trestle tables so I had a big workspace, and today I finished them (other than the harness). I thought I'd share how I made them.

Initially I found an online tutorial showing how to turn two kites into amazing wings, and I tried to replicate this. The only suitable kites I could find were rainbow colored. White spray paint failed to cover the color (it just doesn't stick to that fabric, and isn't thick enough), so I decided to start from scratch using white garbage bags and garden wire.

These are super cheap to make, especially if you already have supplies like spray adhesive, a glue gun, and wire cutters. Unless you use something other than garbage bags for the wings themselves, you're probably limited to white, black, or green. I used extra large (40L) garbage bags which are stronger than the smaller ones, and in any case I needed them to be large in order to cover the wire shapes.

Update: The final costume:


Here we go! (List of what you'll need is at the end.)


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Narrow Escape: The Doomed R101 Airship

My daughter and her dad were going through her National Geographic Kids "How Things Work" book tonight, and were reading the chapter on dirigibles, which mentioned the British R101 rigid airship.

This reminded me of a story my dad likes to tell about his father, John (Jack) Creasy, born in 1899. Jack was a chemist whose company, Titanine Ltd., supplied the nitrocellulose paint, otherwise known as "dope", for fabric used to cover the R101. After the ship was built, his team went on a tour of the airship. The story goes that Jack was so horrified by the workmanship, he declined a free ticket for its maiden overseas voyage to India in October 1930.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

NEW RELEASE: Natural Harmonics (Book 6)

Natural Harmonics is book 6 of the Wynter Wild series. The reason Wynter looks so happy on the cover is because her band is finally getting gigs and she loves playing live!

The ebook is now available for purchase for a teeny tiny price:

Amazon USA (US$2.99)
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK

It's also available in multiple formats on Smashwords, and through other online retailers. (BTW I accidentally pasted the book 7 description into the Amazon upload, and it'll take a day or two to fix. Big oops! Even I get confused when I'm working on three different books in the series at the same time.)


Friday, October 18, 2019

Breaking the Rules: What the What with the Wattys?

The other day I checked out the 2019 Wattys winners, looking for books to add to my reading list, and to get an idea of the kind of stories that win.

I started uploading my Wynter Wild series to Wattpad in December 2018, which in theory made the first few books eligible for the 2019 Wattys. I'd never heard of the Wattys until I joined Wattpad, but of course I considered entering Little Sister Song, come June, for the chance to become one of the ~60 winners. An award is great exposure for any writer using this platform where there are 500 million stories fighting for attention.

When I read the rules and found that published works were ineligible, I had to put that idea aside. (At the time, the later books in the series that weren't yet published were eligible, but I saw no point in entering book 5 or 6 of a long series, as it's necessary to read them in order.)

But back to those Wattys winners: On a hunch, I searched for one of the stories on Amazon and discovered it was self-published earlier this year (same title, author, and cover). I checked the other winners and found a second winning story on Amazon.

This blog post is partly a bitchfest about why ineligible stories won the award when I (and no doubt many others) specifically gave up our chance and did not enter because of the exclusivity rule. Yes, the chances of winning are minisculefor example, your story has to impress a "Story DNA" computer algorithm before a human even lays eyes on itbut that's not the point. And it's partly a piece of advice to Wattpad to get their house in order and be more professional about their contest, to avoid this problem reoccuring.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Rhubarb Crumble, Or Not

My sister's green thumb rescued my rhubarb plant (see previous post), and this week she gave me a bundle of its bounty so I thought I'd post a crumble recipe.

I grew up on apple, rhubarb, and peach crumble (not all in the same dish, except for the first two, sometimes) and my mother claims she used the recipe from the old Be-Ro cookbook, published in the 1920s. (Be-Ro was a brand of flour.) I also grew up using this cookbook for cakes and pancakes, etc. 


The crumble recipe called for rubbing in the fat and flour, then adding sugar, and baking it as a topping on stewed apple. Over the years we modified it a bit, such as adding oats or desiccated coconut, using crunchy raw sugar instead of white or soft brown, and using half self-raising flour to add some texture.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Gardening Woes

My least favorite pastime is killing plants. Unfortunately, I keep doing it.

Unlike my main character Wynter, every plant left in my care suffers a quick (hopefully painless) death. So when I discovered one of our major supermarket chains is giving away a free seed kit with every $30 spent (aimed at kids, like all similar promos - last month it was Lion King Ooshies), I was probably less thrilled than many parents. Not because it isn’t fun and easy to sprout seeds with your kids (it is!), but because I know damn well those seedlings are going to keel over and die as soon as I repot them and attempt to turn them into useful veggies, herbs, and flowers.


Experience has taught me how bad I am at this. A friend gave me rhubarb in a large pot a few years ago. It sat on my back patio refusing to either die or grow to a sufficiently useful size that I could harvest anything (I love rhubarb, by the way). When we moved to our own home I replanted all three paltry stalks of it in the garden. It still refused to die, which baffled me, and it even occasionally grew new leaves. Every few weeks when I checked on it, most of its leaves had been eaten by snails. I’d sprinkle snail pellets and let it be for a while. A few weeks later, same again - all the new leaves bored through with snails, still no stalks to harvest. Throw down more snail pellets. Rinse and repeat.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mail Order Chicks Spotify Playlist

Wynter plays in an all-girl band (that isn't all-girl), Mail Order Chicks, starting in book 5. They play mostly 80s-90s British pop covers, so I made a playlist of the songs mentioned along with a few others they've probably played now and then.

Link to Spotify playlist.




You can find a more extensive playlist from the Wynter Wild books in this blog post.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

One Night Vacation - How Many Tiny Things Can Go Wrong?

Since my daughter is on school vacation, we decided to spend a couple of days, along with my mum, on the coast where my sister has a caravan. There were already six in the caravan, so we stayed the night in a nearby motel. MCP was home alone, fending for himself, because I didn't have time to restock the fridge before I left. He appears to have survived on hash browns and bacon.

How many little challenges can we fit into one 36-hour period?

First was a half-hour traffic jam on the freeway offramp, due to roadworks at the roundabout. Added 50% to our travel time. And I wasn't even supposed to go that way. I followed the GPS instead of my usual route, which would've taken me off that freeway earlier.

As soon as we arrived at the campsite, I parked in the usual place - a grassy area off the dirt road. Sister comes out waving her hands - "Don't park there! The ground's mushy." I was indeed bogged down. All the kids were roused to help push me out, leaving these deep tracks in the ditch - and a filthy car.