Halloween Decor

This is my first year decorating my own house for Halloween, and I’m excited for my first ever trick-or-treaters! I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween (even though my boyfriend and I met at a Halloween party), but as long as my decorations stay cute and not gory, I’m all in! Here are my three favorite Halloween crafts I’ll be making this year. For more, check out my Halloween Pinterest boards @KaylaBain-Vrba.

Halloween

Haunted Village
The hardest part about this Halloween craft is that the dollar store hasn’t rolled out their Christmas department yet so I can buy all the little houses and people! I may have to wait and make this one for next year. Once you have the pieces, just spray paint them black and be as creative as you like in organizing your Halloween town.

Skull Candle Holder
This project is fairly cheap to make, with everything you need coming from the dollar store. Three plastic skulls, two terra cotta pot bases, and some black paint. Voila! Glue your creation together, and top with a candle

Spiderweb Pillow
This is an easier crafting project, especially if you already have a throw pillow to cover. It’s just black fleece and white puffy paint! You can even print off a spiderweb template online and transfer it onto the pillow if you’re worried about your lines getting wobby.

Should Books Have Content Warnings?

If you’re a reader of fanfiction, you’re familiar with content warnings. At the start of their stories, authors will list potential triggers for readers as to why they might not want to read the story: slash, self-harm/suicide, abuse, death of a main character. It’s similar to movie ratings, when they say it’s rated R for language and violence. Video games are rated T for Teen or M for Mature. Even CDs will have a warning of explicit content. Books on the other hand, remain largely disclaimer-free. (I believe some novels that are erotica say ‘for mature audiences’ on the back, but they don’t specify the reasoning.) Which begs the question: if essentially every type of media includes content warnings, should books?

Personally, I’m torn on the idea. Many people believe that seeing and hearing explicit content is more severe than reading that same level of explicity on paper, which I tend to agree with. That being said, I recently became a big fan of Sherrilyn Kenyon and will be the first to tell you that her novels are graphic – not necessarily in terms of gore or sex, but in abuse – often toward children. I read one of her novels once that was so incredibly graphic that I was tempted on more than one occasion not to continue reading. That’s not to say that the abuse is gratuitous or doesn’t enhance the plot. In fact, it defines her characters. That doesn’t make it any less shocking to read. Should I have been warned going in that there was graphic child abuse in the story? Or does it take away from the story if we provide a warning that might give away a secret to the main character’s past and development? If we start putting warning labels on novels, how do we determine the list of potential triggers to warn people of? It really is a delicate balance that could easily be tipped either way.

Do you think we should be putting warning labels on our novels to avoid inappropriate audiences from stumbling across them? Is your mind made up one way or the other, or do you have any thoughts on this debate? I’m eager to hear your views.

DIY Fall Decorations

I love all manner of crafting and am getting started on my fall decorations. Here are three projects I’m working on, all at different levels of crafting experience so there is always a project for everyone! For more ideas or complete directions, stop by my Pinterest @Kayla Bain-Vrba.

Fall

Give Thanks Bottles
My boyfriend drinks whiskey and the bottles are so lovely I hate to throw them out. I’ve saved a bunch over the course of the year and this is one of several bottle art projects I’m making this year.

Pumpkin Painting
I just finished my version of this painting and am waiting for the oil paints to dry before I can seal and hang it. It’s not as complicated as it looks, and my best advice is not to worry about it being perfect. Depending on where you hang it, no one will see it up close, so it helps to back up and take a look at it from a distance. Don’t worry about the imperfections you can see as you paint at arm’s length, they will blend nicely at a distance!

Pumpkin Toilet Paper Covers
These are so cute and simple that I had to pin them! All you need is some printed material or even tissue paper to wrap around your toilet paper rolls. I think the bathroom gets forgotten sometimes during seasonal decorating, and it’s always nice to spruce up the room with a little color.

Some Of My Favorite Authors

I’ve always been a reader. When I was young, I would read for hours a day. Growing up, I read almost exclusively fantasy, and my favorite authors were JK Rowling (of course), Tamora Pierce, and Christopher Paolini. I’m eagerly awaiting Tamora Pierce’s book about Numair. Even though I am now much older than her target audience (I read her series in middle school), I’ve been waiting for Numair’s story for what seems like forever!

Now that I’m older, I still read a lot of fantasy, but I’m a lot more interested in the romantic elements. When I’m looking for family oriented contemporary romance, Sheryl Woods is always my first stop. Her Chesapeake Shores series was so sweet, and I really enjoyed getting to meet a different family member with each story while catching glimpses of the happily-ever-afters of previous stories. Jodi Picoult writes excellent novels where the surprise ending always catches me by surprise. And when I’m looking for a hot and heavy romance and adventure combo, Sherrilyn Kenyon is always the way to go. Her League series is my favorite, and I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the next installment!

Who are your favorite authors?

Authors (and other celebrities) Ruined By Their Ego

I think that in an author’s world, a certain amount of ego is not only a good thing, but necessary. When you spend months or years writing your novel alone, you sometimes need to tell yourself how great an author you are, how wonderful your story is, and how much your fans will love it – or you may not make it to the end of the writing process. Being an author can be very lonely and solitary work, and if you don’t share your story during the writing process, you may tear yourself down with self-doubt and criticism. That being said, there is definitely such a thing as too much ego.

Authors (and other celebrities) must realize that their “fame” and success are due to their fanbase. That’s not to say that authors should try to write only what they think their fans will want; they should still write what they love and then find an audience who will appreciate. In my opinion, anyone in such a position needs to be gracious of their fans. Without fans, their work will not sell and they won’t be able to continue doing what they love. I remember sending fanmail to actors as a child and how excited I was when I would get an autograph back – especially personalized ones! I fortunately have never run into a position with an author where they were ungracious toward their fans, but I have had an incident with a filmmaker that turned me off to his films.

Growing up, I wanted to be a filmmaker, and I sent fanmail to two directors whose films I loved, looking for advice and encouragement. Understandably because of how busy they were, both had their secretaries respond. One secretary sent me a heartfelt letter wishing me success and included more than 100 pages of photocopied articles where that director discussed his filmmaking technique, stories, and provided advice for aspiring filmmakers. The other essentially blew me off and said that the director was too busy to communicate with fans. That same director also once told his fans that his films were “just movies.” The first director was Peter Jackson, who I still admire to this day. He continues to be a source of inspiration for me, both through his films and what I have learned of his processes. The other director was George Lucas, and I have no desire to watch another of his films.

Have any of you had experiences with authors or other celebrities who don’t appreciate their fans?

Favorite Romance Themes/Subgenres

Romance is possibly the broadest genre of books. Just saying that you’re reading a romance doesn’t say much about the book at all. Is it a sci-fi? Fantasy? Space fantasy? Urban fantasy? Paranormal? Steampunk? Historical? Inspirational? (You get my drift.) I’m a big lover of fantasy; I’ve written largely fantasy stories myself. I’ve never really gotten into the vampires/werewolves/ghost-hunters side of paranormal, but Sherrilyn Kenyon, one of my favorite authors, is considered paranormal (I consider it space-fantasy, but that could just be me.)

Once you’ve narrowed it down to the subgenre or theme of the romance novel, there are popular “tropes” within romance, favorite plotlines that we love to read. Secret baby, marriage of convenience, enemies to lovers…

Personally, I love marriage of convenience stories in any setting (fantasy, historical, or modern). Probably my favorite are modern day marriages of convenience because in our liberated world, this plotline is just such a stark contrast. In fact, my current work in progress is a modern day marriage of convenience to save the family business. More hints to come!

What romance (or non-romance) genres do you like to read? Any favorite tropes or plotlines? I’m all ears!

Favorite Quotes

I’m a big lover of inspirational quotes and song lyrics. Always have been. On the wall of my office, I have a painting that says “She believed she could, so she did.” I really find that motivating.

I have two favorite quotes (right now). The first is from the Prince of Egypt. “When all you have is nothing, there’s a lot to go around.” The most generous people in this world seem to be the people who have the least; the richest people are the most selfish. This quote is a reminder to me to never forget where I come from and to be as generous as I can.

My very favorite quote (and one my boyfriend is sick of me reminding him of) is from Frasier: “And in the third act, the hero gets revenge by living well.” This idea is so important to me. In my opinion, the best way to “get revenge” or to prove wrong the people who have doubted you is to be happy. To be the best that you can be. To achieve your dreams. There will always be haters who don’t like you or you’re work or just want to put you down. Instead of stooping to their level or being nasty, I think you will feel the greatest sense of pride if you achieve success. Glee said it well in their song Loser Like Me. “I’m not thinking about you haters. ‘Cause hey, I could be a superstar. I’ll see you when you wash my car.” Want to get revenge on the small minded people who picked on you growing up? You grow up and rock the world.

What quotes/song lyrics inspire you guys?

The Pinterest Game

For those of you who use Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve seen the Pinterest Fails. There are boards devoted to them (I just Googled it – there’s also an entire website). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine seeing a beautiful manicure of marbled red, yellow, and blue. You decide to try this on your own nails. How hard can it be? Instead of a beautiful simple swirl of colors, it looks like you mixed all the nail polishes in a bowl and then dumped them on the ends of your fingers. This is a Pinterest Fail.

So, we’ve all heard of Pinterest Fails. But have you heard of the Pinterest Game? (This is what I call it when I play with my boyfriend or family.)

Here’s how to play.

Step One: Find a single post that has multiple pins. For example, 15 DIY Gifts That Aren’t Lame or 15 Christmas Decorations Anyone Can Make.
I will use this board: 15 “PUN” Christmas Gift Ideas (I like planning for Christmas months in advance. Go ahead and judge me, I do not care.)

Step Two: Look at the pin’s cover. Hopefully this will give you a clue as to the quality of the other items on the list. Is it totally lame? Does it look impossible to make? Would you ever want to receive it as a gift? Now you get to make a judgment. How may pictures in the post do you think will actually meet the criteria of the title? Everyone “playing” (when I called this a game, I meant it in a loose sense) makes a guess of their own.
In this case, the cover photo has three of the gift ideas. I enjoy a good pun, so I’m thinking this list will be full of great things. I would probably use the Mistle Toes pun and the Sprite – not so much the neighbor one (partially because I don’t speak to my neighbors or interact with them in any way.) So I’m going to guess there are 8 ideas I might actually use.

Step Three: Read the post. Share them aloud with whoever you’re playing with. Keep track of how many list items you actually like.
Going through them (and thoroughly enjoying the punniness of each), I decided that there were 6 that I might actually give to anyone. Some of the puns were duplicates, and I’m not giving out bundles of money. That’s not very DIY to me. If you remember, I guessed 8 but ended up with six – this post was not quite up to what I was expecting. If you are playing with whoever else is in your living room, the winner is whoever’s guess is closest to the actual number of great ideas you found.

So there you have it – The Pinterest Game! Go forth my children, and play! (And Pin.)

When I Think Of A Hero…

You know when you’re reading a good romance that the hero is always super yummy. When I need a little inspiration for some yummy heroes in my own writing, I turn to these two fellows.

Hot Guys

On the left, we have Jason Momoa from Stargate Atlantis and Aquaman. On the right, Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy (pictures are property of their respective owners). As you can see, I have a bit of a type. 😉 Plus, I think my boyfriend looks like Jason Momoa, so that’s a double win for me!

How about you? Who do you think of when you imagine the sexy hero you’re reading about? Do you like them a little rugged, or more sophisticated? Or a combination of the two?

Harry Potter Memories

In honor of Harry Potter’s birthday next Monday, I thought I’d relive some of my favorite Harry Potter memories. Growing up, Harry Potter was THE THING – not just for my sisters and I, but my whole family. The whole world. There is something beautiful about groups of people waiting in lines at bookstores in the middle of the night to buy a book. Not the newest phone or gaming system, but a book.

Here are my favorite Harry Potter memories, in no particular order.

  1. Midnight Book Releases. We would dress up in costume and hang out in bookstores until 12:01 when they would sell us the first copies of the newest book. I think we did this three or four times.
  2. Harry Potter Parties. We have had a few of these over the years, and not just for birthdays. We’ll decorate the house to look like the Great Hall and play Quidditch in the yard. I love crafting and always had so much fun making decorations and re-creating the magical candies and treats.
  3. The Movies. We’d go to see the movies in theatre and then spend hours dissecting them in comparison to the books. We enjoyed the movies, but to hear us point out every single flaw, you’d think we thought they were the worst thing ever.
  4. Playing Harry Potter. My sisters and I would play Hogwarts like other kids play house, dressing in costume and attending classes. We created our own magical textbooks, wands, the whole shebang.

My absolute favorite memory comes from after the midnight book releases. On the way home from the bookstore, we always ended up stopping at the grocery store for something we had forgotten on grocery day. So there we’d be at one in the morning, traipsing through the grocery store in full costume. Delightful 😊

What are your favorite Harry Potter memories?