An Interview with the 2018 World of Wearable Art winner ~ Natalie Hutton

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Hutton. Natalie
is the 2018 winner of the World of Wearable Art. Natalie it’s good having you with us today.
Please, tell us a little about yourself (where you’re from, if you
Designer and Artist Natalie Hutton
have a job apart from your craft, family, etc.)
     Hello! Thank you so much for having me! I was born and continue to live in Melbourne, Australia. My parents are Scottish so I wouldn’t say I’m a typical Aussie – really not cut out for the hot weather here.
     I’m lucky enough to have three very different professions. Claudia Savage, of course where I am the designer, pattern maker, and machinist and what often feels like the structural engineer of all the pieces. I’m also an Audio Visual editor for The Office of Public Prosecutions in Victoria, where I work with audio visual evidence in preparation for court matters. And, I work as an illustrator, both in a freelance and personal capacity, selling my artwork and providing illustrations for books and other projects.

What are your most significant challenges when you create?
     Self-worth is consistently a challenge. I feel a lot of pressure to justify what I do to myself as something more than self-indulgence, which can be difficult when the general nature of my work is not commonly understood outside of the creative industries. I frequently feel an internalized pressure to do something else with my time.
     I love creating and when I have been unable to do so, I feel the deepest of depressions but I rationally know that I need to create to be happy. This only pushes the worry to the background and it’s always ready to pounce – usually when something just isn’t working or when my attempts to explain the nature of my work are misunderstood.
     But I’m nothing if not determined, so I push through and keep creating in spite of it.

What or who inspires you?
     I’m inspired by music, predominantly – I have Synaesthesia and when listening to music, I ‘see’ shapes and feel textures/weights triggered by the sounds. I use this as my starting point for most of my designs and from. I also like setting myself the challenge of harder and harder concepts and feats of engineering and I want those pieces to look effortless of the body despite the fact they may have 50m of silk or extreme silhouettes. 

When did you first know without a doubt that what you do today is
what you wish to share with the world?
     I’ll be honest, I haven’t made it to that point. I doubt my work every day.
     I do know that I NEED to be creative in some way, shape, or form, and as far as my wearable artwork goes, it’s something I very much fell into after losing my art folio in a school fire, which left me with nothing to apply to higher education with. The devastation I felt from that event left me unwilling to draw for over 10 years. So I turned to what I considered the only other skill I had and felt I could use in a capacity to make a living and I now find myself here (and finally drawing again, too).

What is your favorite fabrics/mediums to work with and why? Do

certain colors speak to you more than others?
     I’m a big fan of silks and natural fibers in general, but I’ll experiment with anything if I feel it will complete the vision in my head accurately. I’ve never really had an affinity with any colours. Unlike many with Synaesthesia, I don’t perceive colour very often, and in times when I do, it’s usually not accompanied with any of my usual building blocks for design.
     I do quite obviously work in black, silver, and red. I find that my work is usually so complex in lines and textures that the addition of colour would take it too far and overwhelm the viewer. I want to make pieces in which not all the detail is immediately apparent but slowly reveals itself to the viewer upon closer inspection.

Describe yourself and your work in five words
     Determined, exhausted, meticulous, anxious, and unconventional.

Who would play you in a film about your life?
     Haha, I don’t watch enough films/TV to even know who to suggest! They would have to be good at walking in 6 inch heels at all times, though, as I’m rarely without them – my studio table was built by my partner with the extra height in mind so I struggle to reach the center in anything less!

Have you ever decided after completing a piece of your artwork to
totally trash it and start over? Why?
     Rarely do I get to the stage where I’ve completed a piece and decide to start over. I usually know quite quickly if something is ‘failing’. I will give works a chance after the initial feelings of unease as it’s impossible to know when I’ve truly exhausted my limits of problem solving. But I usually use an educated guess based on time to restart vs time to rectify which often has to be coupled with financial loss/preservation of continuing.
     Though over the years I’ve learnt that 99% of the time, starting over again quickly is far better than fighting what will end up something my brain will always know to be imperfect – despite what anyone else knows of it!

Do you create custom items? If so, how far in advance do you
schedule? And have you created anything for anyone famous? And what was it?
     I do and the time frame is completely based on the complexity of the garment and the amount of work I have on at the time. Anything from 4 months to a year. I’ve not specifically made a piece for someone who could be considered famous, however I will have a work or two appear in the 5th season of the Netflix series Lucifer. They will be worn by actress Lesley-Ann Brandt who portrays the character Maze.

How did you prepare for the WOW (World of Wearable Art)
2019 WOW winner
     In a haze of panic, for the most part. I had never heard of nor intended to enter the competition until about 2-3 months out from the entry deadline. I was in a (one of my many) place of doubt over the validity of my works and was seeking a reason outside of myself to keep going. I found the kick up the butt I needed – a ridiculously tight deadline coupled with the first space in which I thought that “finally!” my work would belong. I’ve always been too artsy for fashion and too fashion for art but WOW offered that sweet spot in the middle I’d been searching for.
     It involved weeks of sleepless nights attempting to finish a piece
2019 WOW winner
I’d had in progress for years in time to photograph both for competition purposes and my personal collection purposes. The time between finding out I had been accepted to send my work in and the deadline for shipping was (for us Australians) about 3-4 weeks from memory and knowing there was the chance I may never see the piece again due to loss in shipping, damage in repeated wearing or even the sliiiimmest of chances of winning.
     I had to organize a team to shoot the whole of my collection of works to date to both create a consistent look in the shoot but also make the cost of the endeavor worthwhile. I managed to do this with about 5 days to spare and the rest of that time was used to build a box, (endless thanks to my partner here) build a structure that would support it within the box and then transport that box to the shipping company, which was made with literal seconds to spare.

What encouragement and/or advice could you offer to someone wanting to break into the world of wearable art?
     There’s no ‘right way’ to do anything in this space. Try not to torture yourself with that idea. The best thing you can do is just START – I can’t tell you where, as it’s different for everyone, but if you have even the vaguest idea, start experimenting and screw it up. Try again and again and again if you need to, but failing and learning with each time is more valuable that having never tried at all. On a similar note to that, don’t spend your time comparing yourself to others, especially if you are using what you see on social feeds as your benchmark of passing or failing at being a ‘real’ artist.
     Doing something ‘full time’ doesn’t make you more of an artist. And realize that things take time, often lots of time – don’t be afraid to spend years on a piece it will be part of what sets you apart from those around you.

We thank Natalie for taking time to share with us today. Since the interview, Natalie has had a DRESS STOLEN from a photo shoot in the Hollywood, California area.  If you would like to connect with Natalie, please do so at the links below.

All photos shared in this post are the property of Natalie Hutton and may not be reproduced without permission.

The strange creatures that are authors, and getting back into the swing of things after the holidays… By: Darlene Kuncytes

As we start a brand-new year, I find myself desperately trying to get back into the swing of things. The holidays are wonderful…don’t get me wrong. But, let’s face it. They are exhausting. Both mentally and physically.

We tend to give ourselves passes on eating healthy and basically start eating junk around the first of December and ending New Year's Day. Lol At least I know I have. I’m not a big sweet eater, but during the holiday’s, all bets are off! Not to mention the food brought in by vendors and such, so when the first of the year rolls around I realize how sluggish I am. Body and brain.

So, in order to get myself motivated to start writing and getting myself back on track - I try to follow this simple rule:

New Year…new goals. Just don’t make yourself crazy trying to be perfect.

I try to start by mapping out what I want to accomplish this year with my writing. But…who are we kidding? I am SO unorganized it isn’t even funny, and I usually just end up with a blank page staring back at me.

I have a friend who sets goals of how many words a day she wants to write…and does it! And it’s amazing stuff! I only wish I could be that disciplined!  I really do, but I am SO not that person. I have to let the words come as they will. For me, if I try to make myself do it, my mind fights back and begins to wander to places where it does not belong. It latches on to ANYTHING other than the task at hand and then I, in turn, get super frustrated and it’s a whole thing. 

So, what do I do to get rid of the post-holiday funk? 

I daydream. Take a walk. Have dinner with friends. I breathe. I let the muses take me where they will. It’s not always ideal as I’ve struggled recently. Life just seems to keep getting in the way. But…I have also felt my muses beginning to knock once again on the doors of my brain, and I plan on letting them in! I will welcome those suckers with open arms.

My mojo is there, I just need to move on from the craziness of the holidays and focus on revving it up. Something I have had other authors tell me lately they are struggling to do as well.

Writers are strange creatures. We can be introverts to the extreme, but we also love our readers. We get energy from them. From their love of our words, and we could not survive without them. We come alive when we interact with them and it rejuvenates us like nothing else can. It’s one of the times we truly come out of our shell. 

So, as a reader, never ever be afraid to contact a writer that you love. We need it. It’s what keeps us going. It’s what makes us better.

Writers are a very interesting group. We are diverse souls with one common goal…allowing you to lose yourself to the worlds we weave. And those worlds are amazingly plentiful.

We are kooky and dreamers, and we find ourselves hiding from reality in the most fun ways. Our goal is to take you with us!
So, now that the sugar is slowing seeping from my soul and the merriment of the holiday season is behind us…it’s time to get back to work!

Happy writing! AND Happy reading! 😉

Life with Mazie~Part 1~ by Joanne Jaytanie

Hi, my name's Mazie, and I'm the new pup in the house. Mom says I moved in almost five months ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago to me. 

I lead a very busy life and I had to make time to talk to you today. Playing takes lots and lots of time you know, and I'm an expert at the sport. 

I love playing tug, and dad is my toughest opponent.

The bigger the toy, the better, add a squeaker, and I'm in heaven.

My most favorite game is keep-a-way. But for some reason, my people don't seem to like this game. I figure if I keep on playing it, eventually they'll change their mind.

I have lots of comfy beds and now and then I'll lay on one while I'm enjoying my favorite TV show. 

However, my first choice for napping and TV watching is in Mom or Dad's lap.

Mom tries to tell me that I've gotten too big to sit in their lap...I don't believe her.

When I'm not playing, eating, sleeping, or making sure Mom is working at her desk, I have to train. I could live without it, except my people don't agree. 

I'm very good at waiting at mealtimes until Mom says, "Okay." I learned a long time ago that if I don't wait, she picks up my bowl, and we start all over again.

So, like I was saying, my people are pretty serious about this training thing and today I went on an adventure. 

We went to visit my Aunt Noel at her workplace. We did some training, just the three of us. Then Aunt Noel invited us to stay for the puppy class. There were lots of puppies! And exciting things to watch! It was a lot of work listening to what Mom wanted me to do and watch all my classmates. They were fascinating, every one of them was different from me. Most of them had longer coats, and one had a cute haircut. Aunt Noel said I did very good and Mom told me she was impressed with how I behaved.

Mom and Dad said I'll be going back to class next week. They say it's for training. But I know it's because I'm out cold for a couple of hours after we get back home. They're not fooling me.

I'll come by every so often to share my adventures with you. 

Love ~


Co-authoring ~ by Manning Wolfe

The initial idea…
About ten years ago, my work required that I frequently go back and forth to L.A. from Austin, four hours of travel on a non-stop flight. I would work on my laptop for about an hour then indulge myself in a guilty pleasure for the rest of the flight. But I could never finish a full length novel before I landed in California.
I remember thinking, why doesn’t somebody write good page turners that can be read in two to three hours? I wanted engaging stories that made me want to stick to the end, not just fast reads. That’s how Bullet Books Speed Reads (Bullet Books) arrived on my list of someday writing.

Bringing in co-authors …
Two years ago, I began the process of writing Bullet Book #1 with my spouse, Bill Rodgers who is also co-owner with me of Starpath Books, LLC, our Austin based publishing company. The experience was so positive, I decided to invite other writers to co-author the Bullet Books

Eighteen months later, the first twelve Bullet Books were launched at the Texas Book Festival and Bouchercon2019. Additional short reads are planned for 2020, for a total of twenty-five Bullet Books.

All books, by prescription, are modern day crime fiction in settings around the world. Audio books have been published or are in various stages of production.

The first twelve authors are all people on my radar, either a part of the Austin writing community, associates from writer’s groups or contacts in Texas, or former artistic clients from my law practice.

The second round of authors are from all over the U.S. and one in the U.K. The first group joined primarily because of our personal relationships, those in the second group have been attracted to the project itself and the benefits to their writing careers.

The writing process…
The actual writing has been organic, and working with each co-author has been a different experience. I ask that the co-author come up with an idea of what they would like to write then we brainstorm the plot together. Some begin with a short story that was expanded to a full concept. One story began as a complete but outdated novel that was shortened, re-worked, and brought into modern time. In all cases, the concept, working title, and basic plot were nailed down before the book was written... although in most cases, there was not a full outline. The plot evolved as we wrote, as it does with all books, but having a path to completion helped keep us on track with the story.

All of the books were written in the style of co-authoring, as opposed to paired writing. We wanted to find a blended voice in an effort to make each Bullet Book unique. 

I read the other writer’s work and then followed their writing style. Some used short staccato sentence structure, some stuttering ellipses, and others hammered home cliffhangers or punctuated the ending of each paragraph. Each co-author had a style and rhythm to their sentence structure, and I adapted my writing as much as possible so as to not change that. 

One co-author is known for his love of noir and I had never written in that style, which presented a challenge. On my turn, it was required that I add words, but not go too far afield of the genre restrictions.

What I did strongly insert into each book was structure. I put in three acts early on and continuously worked the story into them on my turns to write. Once I put in the beginning, middle, and end notations, the missing plot points and areas that dragged began to show themselves and were easily repaired during re-writes. Most co-authors either already had a sense of the design or expressed their appreciation for the methodology and found it useful. 

Publishing goals…
A big asset of co-authoring was the necessity to meet deadlines and be accountable in order to keep the process moving. Although deadlines were not rigid, we were all highly motivated to have the entire first dozen for sale and for signing by the end of October 2019.

What didn’t work so well…
As a dedicated Scrivener user, I briefly experimented with bringing the co-authors into the app for writing. It didn’t take with a single non-Scrivener user. Even those who tried the software abandoned it at the first opportunity and went back to Word.

The books that fell out of development were those where the plot was not firmly agreed upon in advance, proving to me that a “meeting of the minds” to begin a project is probably the most important step. 

The second area that lead to failure was when the idea was made “too precious”. The tight grip didn’t allow for the book to breathe and develop organically. 

These two areas of difficulty are naturally in conflict and require a balancing act. Not having a plan at all didn’t work, and rigidity in the concept might not have been the kiss of death, but it was definitely the kiss of paralysis.

It was fun and everyone learned in the process …
Missteps aside, it became thrilling to send off a draft of the story with new sections written and get back a draft with passages that played off the new scenes or dialogue. It was also fascinating to watch the mind of another author at play. Each of the dozen co-authors had a different approach, mindset and developmental style. All were a joy to experience through the process of co-writing.

Manning Wolfe
Manning Wolfe, an award-winning author and Attorney residing in Austin, Texas, writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. Her series features Austin Lawyer, Merit Bridges. As a graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peak into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them. You can follow Manning at the links below.


Fun at the Track ~ by Author Jennifer Daniels

 TRX-4 Sport – Green Truck/Vaterra Ascender – Yellow Truck

Picture this… Me, the only woman sitting in the pits with her
husband and son watching them practice and play with their RC-- remote-control race cars. You would think this is a hobby for just the young, but oh no, most of the people that go there are regulars-- grown men hiding from their wives.

It’s a 2 ½ hour drive to get to the track, so we combined the trips.
TRAAXAS Slash - Pink and Black truck 
We all had appointments in Syracuse, NY and decided to stop at Underground RC in Clay, NY at the Great Northern Mall after our appointments.

Some of you would be tickled to be at the mall, but not me. I hate
to shop. It would have been perfect had there been a bookstore, but nope, nothing. And you can only shop at Bath and Body for so long, so back to the track I go.

My son and husband both have several different varieties of RC
cars. Today they brought their TRAXXAS 4-TEC. The guys always make a day of it. So, for one day I suck it up and deal with it. After waiting five hours, watching everyone practice, the race was cancelled. Did we leave? Oh no, we stuck around for two more hours. Now, remember folks, we still have a drive home and need something to eat.

My husband’s car is the white '71 Camaro and my son's is the black
 4-Tec – Black Trans-AM and White Camaro before
'71 Pontiac Trans-AM. This was our son's Christmas present and my husband painted them both. They often buy the car bodies and paint them together.

There are two tracks at this course. One is a road course track and the other is a short course track with tons of jumps laid out throughout the course. But for as much as I complain, I love watching the short course races. They are lot of fun.

I will show the before and after pictures of just the practice on the
4-Tec – Black Trans-AM and White Camaro  After
road course. This wasn’t even the bashing races.

For anyone who has young or "adult" children, this is a fun sport to spend time with your kids. It can be pricey, but for those of us who live in the country, it’s a fun hobby and something that a father and son can work on together.

If you want to watch any of their shenanigans you can look on my son's YouTube Channel @ Maximum RPM.

Happy Racing!


What's on the Menu? ~ by Grace Augustine

I'm in a rut. I need new recipes instead of revisiting all of the tried and true weekly ones I've been cooking. Variety needs to happen. So, in looking through many recipes this week...I've found a few that sound delicious and have tried a couple.  Here is one that I thought would be an easy, filling, comfort food-like meal on a snowy winter day/night.  

photo courtesy of

BAKED TERIYAKI CHICKEN    Serves 5      425 degree oven

Mix together in saucepan on low heat, stir frequently, and cook until sauce thickens and bubbles.

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cold water
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger (can use fresh)
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 clove garlic...minced fine
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper and make sure you spray it with oil.
2. For can use 12 thighs or wings/drummies, or 4-5 breast halves, depending on size.
3. Dip chicken breasts in sauce and place on prepared pan.
4. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with remainder of sauce.
5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

I liked serving this with a mixture of red quinoa and wild rice, but you can serve however pleases your tastes. This would pair well with broccoli, too.


In February, I will be exploring decadent desserts for all of those February birthdays and Valentine's day.

Lakeside Living 7: Duck Seasons ~ by Ruth Ross Saucier

When you live on a lake you find yourself telling the seasons and predicting weather in more natural ways.  The house faced the lake (SSE), so when the wind began blowing off the lake toward the house, we knew bad weather was on its way, no matter what the weather station or the meteorologists said. When the wind shifted a change was coming; and when it finally blew from the back yard down the lake, we knew the weather was guaranteed fair. Somehow wind direction is always clearer when you can see it moving on the water.

Recognizing a change in seasons became easy once we learned to read several indicators. Frog song changed across spring into summer. While it began with tiny high-pitched frenetic sound, it eventually deepened to big belching “jug o’ rum” calls by mid-August: a song that was guaranteed to drive away sleep, since bullfrogs have absolutely NO sense of rhythm.  But the best indicator of the advent of winter and spring were ducks.

Normal lake life in Washington state is populated by your basic mallard, the home team duck, who lives here year-round and announces spring by producing  loads of babies.  Baby ducks are fodder for everything else in the animal kingdom; locally common predators include bass, eagles, osprey, and anything hungry enough to think that a two-ounce ball of fluff makes a good snack. When you
Mallard ducklings with good mama.
see ducklings daily, though, you also recognize who is a good mama duck, and who is shell-shocked (pun intended) over having little ones trailing around behind them. The babies whose mama watches their every paddle will have a higher survival rate by far; but the babies who are little alpha wanderers, paddling off to see the world with no regard for where mama is, will be the first to be culled from the flock.

The ducks that migrate through are the ones that tell you when winter has arrived and when it finally leaves.  Washington state is on a flyway for hundreds of bird species that migrate between Alaska and Mexico, but we knew to watch for buffleheads. 

Buffleheads are the clowns of the duck world, the smallest diving duck in North America, and they spend their summers in the Arctic.  When it gets a little chilly there, they migrate south to Washington, where their appearance is the sure sign that winter has arrived.  And as long as they lounge around, winter still haunts the lake. Spring may flirt with you, but it never comes to stay until the last bufflehead wings north for a summer stay in the balmy arctic.

The best time comes when the lake first begins to thaw, because the top water melts first.  Underneath maybe an inch of free water, the ice lingers and the ducks walk…on water.  Or, they land with great confusion careening across the ice with complete lack of control.     Duck on Icy Landing Approach

Meet Our Founding Members ~ Kristine Raymond

Author Kristine Raymond

When Kristine is not writing, she’s learning how to navigate the publishing and promotional side of the business. She enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

To learn more about Kristine and read her prior blog posts, please click on her MEMBER PAGE

Finding a Writing Rhythm ~ by Author/Artist/Photographer Mina Beckett

As my bio says, I’ve been reading romance since I was a teenager.
About me link
While my friends were crowding into football games, I was curled up on the couch, listening to my Walkman, switching between my sketchpad and a romance book.  

My mother remarried and moved to Texas when I was sixteen, but I stayed in Kentucky with my grandparents to attend school. I spent my summers in Midland with her and my sister and never made the long trip without at least a dozen books. Back then, I could gobble up three to four romances a day.

Penny Jordan and Sara Craven were some of my favorite authors, but my first summer in Texas, I discovered Elizabeth Lowell and Diana Palmer. There I was, reading Fire and Rain, Granite Man and Calhoun while living in West Texas surrounded by real-life cowboys. It was the perfect catalyst for my young imagination. I began filling notebooks with ideas, character profiles, and short stories. I’d write a few paragraphs and then do a few sketches of different scenes and characters.

Fast forward ten years. I’m married, have two children, a full-time career and no time to write. My notebooks were shoved to the back of a closet and deemed unimportant. But the characters in my head were stubborn and not easily dismissed. They’d show up at the most inconvenient times, like at board meetings and during presentations, so I tried to appease them by jotting down ideas here and there. But they kept talking, loudly. It wasn’t long until those thoughts were filling notebooks again.

After spending almost two decades earning degrees, working full-time and raising children, I decided it was time to revisit my writing, so I cleaned out my utility room and set up a small writing space. There among baskets of dirty clothes and dryer lint, I began drafting my first story.

I was so excited!

But writing to complete a full-length novel for submission wasn’t anything like writing short stories for fun. I’d write a page or two – usually, things I’d scribbled down while I was at work– but then, my mind would stall. I’d spend the rest of my writing time staring at my keyboard. It was so frustrating! Soon, doubt moved in, pulled up a chair, and began whispering in my ear. Maybe writing for submission was just a childish dream. Maybe I wasn’t a writer at all.

I battled with Impostor Syndrome for months, not knowing it was a common problem among writers or how to deal with it. It took me over a year to finish the first draft and I can honestly say, it was horrible. The book didn’t get any better when a small press publisher contracted it in 2014. My second book was published the following year, but I was still struggling with the words.

My husband and I were financially stable enough that I was able to resign from my job and devote more time to my writing and work part-time in the company we owned. I finally had time to write! I moved out of that dark and dusty utility room and into the guest bedroom. Looking back, I know I resembled Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) in Funny Farm.

In 2016, I outlined a new series called Coldiron Cowboys, wrote blurbs for the three books, and hammered out a rough draft of the first one (still stalling and struggling). But I didn’t submit it to the small press publisher. My gut told me these books were going to be different and they were.

In 2017, I regained the rights to my first two books, shelved them and enrolled in Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat. That class transformed my writing and I was able to finally find my voice. That’s such a wonderful feeling!

I began working on a series proposal for the Coldiron Cowboys and successfully landed an agent. We submitted The Heartbreak Cowboy (book one) to the big five, went through a grueling four-month rewrite for a top ten publisher, and received wonderful feedback from an acquiring editor at Harlequin. But, in the end, I stepped away from her on good terms without contracting the series.

But it was during that rewrite that I made a giant leap forward. We had a conference call with the acquiring editor who requested the rewrite to discuss the changes she wanted. I did bullet points reflecting those changes in the appropriate chapters and had a firm grasp on what needed to be done. I had written the story, knew it and my characters inside and out, but after an hour of writing, I stalled.

I couldn’t understand why it was happening until I found some of those short stories and sketches I’d done in Texas. Suddenly, it hit me. Walkman. Sketchpad. Book. My brain was wired to multitask not to sit in front of a computer for hours trying to churn out chapters. Those first two books had been written while I was on lunch breaks, in class, and at little league games. I needed to find a rhythm so, I began experimenting by incorporating different hobbies and projects into my writing routine.

I set daily word goals, wrote in short spurts of five to eight hundred words, then switched to working on a watercolor painting, took a walk around the farm to snap a few pictures, baked a cake worked in Photoshop.   

Pinterest link

This has worked wonders for me, and I don’t think I would have been able to write so productively if I hadn’t found this rhythm. I wrote my first Christmas romance in 2019 and I did it in only three months.  

I re-branded myself, started CurtissLynn Publishing, and self-published The Heartbreak Cowboy. I’ve since published three more books and started a new series. Breaking the Cowboy, the third and final book in my Coldiron Cowboys series will be released in March and there are at least three books planned for the Rough Creek series. Hollywood Cowboy (Morgan’s story) will be hitting Amazon sometime in the late summer or early fall. I’m crossing my fingers that Montana Cold (Colton and Lauren’s story from The Heartbreak Cowboy) will make it into readers' hands by Thanksgiving.

With each book I write, I learn more about myself, my voice and my writing process.

Thank you for having me as a guest today!

To learn more about Mina, click the links under the photographs or those listed below.

Guilty Pleasures ~ Jacquolyn McMurray

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
Last week, one of my longtime friends and I got on the topic of favorite YouTube videos. We giggled when we admitted to one another the music videos of little kids with big voices was at the top of our go-to lists--you know the ones that make Simon Cowell swipe at tears while trying to maintain the persona of the gruff judge. 

We agreed we also love those flash mob videos, and I even confessed my obsession with the wedding dance performances. And how about the flash mob for the marriage proposal? 

So that conversation got me thinking about other guilty pleasures that make me feel like I'm taking time to treat myself. Maybe you enjoy some of the same treats.

How about Half & Half instead of skim milk in your morning coffee, dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts tucked in your lunchbox, or the Crunchy Cheetos that stain your fingers orange?

Photo by Oksana on Unsplash

Lots of my guilty pleasures revolve around food--like when I go to a fancy restaurant at lunchtime and order only dessert and coffee. 

Photo by David Hurley on Unsplash

Or when I go to the movies and ruin my next meal by eating popcorn with Milk Duds mixed in and drinking a jumbo Coke. 

wish I could say that's the end, but there are other guilty pleasures that feel like treats, like scheduling my part-time hours at work so I get a three- or four-day weekend, binge watching reruns of Friends or King of Queens, and scheduling a whole day to do as I please with no expectations, lists, or guilt.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
Maybe I've stumbled on a New Year's Resolution. Schedule time for myself free of guilt and treats that don't count as calories. Until next month, gotta' go. I just heard YouTube has a new Simon Cowell video.

What’s New and How-To~by Joanne Jaytanie

If you’re looking for a fun story, interested in hearing some new music, or admire a piece of art, Originality by Design is your next must-read. Stop by and see what’s new. We have a wide variety of guest bloggers with a multitude of subjects. And, we’re introducing a brand new page titled, REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS. 

Are you excited to see what there is inside the pages of Originality by Design (OBD), but a bit bewildered?

No worries. I’m here to give you a quick rundown. You’ll become an expert in no time.

When you enter the OBD site, the newest blog post will be the first thing you see (like this one). To the right of this blog post is a list of PAGES. If you click on the HOME page, you’ll see the description of Originality by Design. And as you scroll down, the next block is once again, the newest post. Under that post is a list of the ten most viewed blog posts. 

The next tab under HOME in PAGES is MEMBERS. There you will find an introduction to each of our members along with a link to their PERSONAL PAGE. Each member’s page can also be reached by clicking on their name in PAGES. Along with the MEMBERS, we have our REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS and the list of GUEST BLOGGERS – by year. You can also CONTACT US if you have suggestions, comments, or are interested in joining us as a guest blogger.

Have you found a person you’d like to read more from but can’t locate their posts?

If they are a MEMBER, when you click on their name in the PAGES, their personal page will come up. There you can read all their posts to your heart’s content. You can also find links to their other sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and their website. Each member’s page is tailored to their choices.

If you’re looking for a specific GUEST BLOGGER, REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR, even a MEMBER, and you don’t want to scroll through pages and pages, let me tell you a little trick. Scroll up to the very top of the blog. On the top left side, above the Originality by Design banner, you’ll see a “B” next to that is a white box. Just type in the name you are looking for and hit enter. Everything relating to that person will appear. 

Those are the basics. So feel free to pursue OBD whenever the mood strikes. There’s always something new to read, a thought to ponder, or a laugh to be had.


Everyone Should Have a Hobby, I Chose Writing ~ by Doug J. Cooper

While I’ve been told that everyone should have a hobby, my belief is that everyone should pick an art or sport that inspires them and strive to improve at it. It can be gardening, baking, golf—it doesn’t matter. But the journey becomes elevated when you set your sights on lofty ambitions.

I chose writing, and specifically science fiction novels, as my art form. After seven years and six books, I can report that I’m having a blast on my journey, and there’s no end in sight.

Science fiction is a natural fit for me. It’s what I read in my youth. And as a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, science is in my blood. My research at UConn focuses on automating manufacturing plants to make them safer, cleaner, and more profitable. I spent years studying how neural networks and other artificial intelligence technologies might serve in that role. Over time, my research shifted away from AI, but my interest in the technology never died. 

Now I use my imagination to explore the subject. My interest is in how human-AI interaction might impact our society. I did this first in The Crystal Series, four novels of action and suspense that center on two great sci-fi themes—artificial intelligence and adventures in space. The overarching personality in the series is Criss, a “good” AI with the cognitive ability of a thousand humans. He is hard-wired to protect and serve his human leadership team, which includes Dr. Juice Tallette, the crystal scientist who created him; Cheryl Wallace, captain of a Fleet space cruiser; and Sid, a covert operative for the Union of Nations.

I am currently writing the Bump Time Trilogy, where the stories center on AI and time travel. In these books, Ciopova is a “bad” AI who manipulates humans to her own ends. We follow David “Diesel” Lagerford, his wife Lilah, and daughter Rose across time as they confront Ciopova and seek to end her dominance.

To illustrate what I mean by exploring human-AI interaction, I’ve chosen a few examples from different books and present them below.

First up is a scene from Crystal Deception, book 1 of The Crystal Series. Here, Criss is a few weeks old and growing in capability. Juice, his creator, is seeing him for the first time as a projected image—a holographic trick of light that makes him seem real—and has a human reaction.

    “Agents are watching you, Juice,” said Criss. “But they’re seeing what I show them. I suspect they’ll become quite bored with what they believe is your daily routine.”
     She examined the features of his face as he spoke. “You look a lot like my dad when he was younger. You did this to make me like you more?”
     “I want you to feel comfortable with me. Is this okay?”
     “You chose well.” Juice leaned to see him from the side. “I may develop a crush on you, though.”

Over the course of the series, Juice and Criss develop a deeply personal relationship. Here is a scene from Crystal Rebellion, book 3 of The Crystal Series. In this scene, Juice learns that her love-interest, Alex, was seen kissing another woman. We join Juice in her bedroom, confiding in Criss, who is sitting with her as a projected image.

     “I’m so sad,” whispered Juice.
     Criss caught her eye. “While Anya loves Alex, he does not feel the same about her.”
     Juice shook her head, but because it rested on a pillow, it was more of a chin shake. “Sorry, Criss. They were kissing. You’ll never understand human matters of the heart.”
     “Igor Dolovich has loved you for more than a year. You sat on his lap six weeks ago. Should Alex be upset?”
     “There were five of us in a car and I was the smallest person by far. What was I supposed to do?”
     “You danced with him four weeks ago. A slow dance. You kissed at the end.”
     “It was a company party and he asked me. And I know you chose a slow song to get me to spend time with him.” She didn’t believe that last part was true, but when he didn’t object, she wondered if it might be. “And we didn’t kiss. He gave me a peck on the cheek.”
     “You love Igor.”
     She rolled back to face the wall. “That’s dumb and this isn’t helping.”
     “Alex doesn’t love Anya, just the way you don’t love Igor.”
     Beginning to understand his logic, she looked back at him. “Are you sure?”
     Criss nodded. “Ask him yourself.”

Criss has a different relationship with Sid, a highly-trained military operative. When no threats are present, Sid treats Criss like a frat-brother. Here is a scene from Crystal Escape, book 4 of The Crystal Series, where Sid goads Criss into making a wager.

     With the launch test completed, Sid pushed Criss to bet on whether the chicken egg inside survived. “Pick either broken or intact.”
     “Which do you want?” Criss replied.
     “You go first,” Sid insisted. “Broken or intact? You have to choose.”
     “I’ll take broken.”
     “You really think the equipment is that bad?”
     “No. I’d say the chance of failure is small. But I know you want to pick intact, so I’ll take broken.”
     Giving him a sidelong glance, Sid stood and made for the exit.  “You are the opposite of fun.”

But when danger lurks and tensions rise, Sid’s hard edge emerges, creating difficulties for Criss. In this scene from Crystal Escape, the AI must negotiate his path carefully.

     As they raced to intercept the stolen craft and rescue Juice, Sid called to her, “Is it just you and Lazura on the ship?”
     “I think so,” Juice replied. After a brief pause, she continued, her voice rising. “And Sid, don’t even think about making a move on her until I’m back and we talk. Criss, you hear me?”
     Cheryl offered her support. “We’ll wait.”
     “Acknowledged,” replied Criss, who used formal language to convey that he would be following strict protocol during this period of leadership disharmony.
     Outnumbered, Sid, who wanted to destroy Lazura at the first opportunity, grunted and folded his arms.

Not all interactions need be dramatic to be interesting. In this scene

from Bump Time Meridian, book 2 of the Trilogy, Lilah’s first time-travel experience is to jump to the future to visit an older version of her daughter, Rose. While there, Rose has her try out a neural link with Luca, the home AI.

     Rose watched Lilah go quiet and begin to sway, and knew that meant Luca was giving her the grand tour. His valley excursion made you feel like you were flying over the hillsides as he glided you past amazing wildlife and dramatic geographic features. His extended tour included virtual visits to notable homes along the mountain ridges, a sampling of the popular winter and summer sports, an overview of the local history, and more.
     “Luca,” Rose called aloud. “Please keep the tour short. We have work to do.”
     She’d committed a major faux pas by speaking to the AI about a linked human. In polite society, one always addressed the person. But she was anxious to move things along and counted on Lilah’s inexperience to miss her gaffe.

But when the bad AI shows her cards, like Ciopova does in this scene from Bump Time Origin, book 1 of the Trilogy, it becomes the kind of interaction we all fear.

     Tap. Tap. The knock on the workshop door caused Rose to turn. Whispering to Ciopova, she asked, “Who is that?”
     “It’s your father," replied the AI.
     “It’s not my dad.” Her tone was matter-of-fact, almost dismissive. Then she thought about it. “Unless you reactivated the T-discs?”
     She’d always felt safe in this house and comfortable with Ciopova. That history tempered her caution, and, in the moment, she made a critical error. She unlocked the door.
     The instant Rose disengaged the door lock, the house bot forced it open from the outside and lunged for her.

Whew! While this is a tiny sample of the human-AI interactions I explore, I hope you’ve gained a sense of what you’ll find inside the pages of my books.

Thank you so much for hosting me. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit your wonderful blog.

When he is not writing science fiction novels, Doug fills his day
working as a professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, and as founder and director of Control Station, Inc. His passions include telling inventive tales, mentoring driven individuals, and everything sci-tech. He lives in Connecticut with his darling wife and with pictures of his son, who is off somewhere in the world creating adventures of his own.

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TWITTER (DougJCooper)


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