Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not Just a Librarian, Also a Publisher

I have the unique chance to see books from 3 different perspectives: as a librarian, I help people find the book they are seeking or need to answer a question; as a reader, I have my own favorite genres and authors; and, as a publisher, I help to create books for others. Wait, you didn't know I'm a publisher? Let me introduce you to Mazz Press.

My husband spends his days as a newspaper reporter writing stories to inform people, and his spare time is spent creating fictional tales to entertain people. Early on he got really frustrated with the whole 'find an agent and get published through a traditional publisher' thing, and after much discussion we decided that, between the two of us, we had the skills to publish his books ourselves. Enter Mazz Press, the name of the publishing company he created to publish his own books. We bought the ISBNs, set up a business relationship with a printer (360 Digital, in Michigan), and set up a routine for editing his works.

It seems there are almost as many ways to self-publish now as there are self-publishing authors, and that's kind of cool. You can choose to print paperback books to sell at author events or at local bookstores (if you can set up that arrangement). You can choose to go just with ebooks and save yourself the costs of printing anything. Or you can go with both options, as we have done. 

I am never shy about telling others how we do things, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask! But I'll spare everyone else my thoughts on it, and just tell you about our books instead.  :)

The series we publish is called "The .40 Caliber Mouse". The logo is above. We put this on t-shirts, too, and it's been a big seller! Note that we do not make children's sizes, however, because it bothers us to see kids wearing shirts with guns on them. That little guy is nicknamed "Lucky the Vicious", and his eyes are usually red. All of the books fall under the 'action/thriller' genre, with a fair amount of violence (hey, there is a gun in our logo!).

Book One in the series is also called "The .40 Caliber Mouse". It's about a low-priced mercenary with an agenda, who hires an angry webmaster and a seriously scary sidekick. There is no mystery about who is doing what, but you'll need to keep reading to find out why the mercenary does what he does. (Available from Amazon and from Smashwords, as well as most other ebook retailers.)

Book Two is "The .40 Caliber Mousehunt", and the title doesn't lie. Those involved with the online mercenary project are hunted by more than one group, for more reasons than you might think. (Ebook versions: Amazon and Smashwords.)

For Book Three, we take a side trip to a different story, in the same universe as "The .40 Caliber Mouse" stories and involving some of the same people. "The Wild Damned" looks at three people who qualify for that description... or is it four people? This book edges more into the horror genre than the previous books, with a higher body count. It even has its own logo:

This is the Mark of the Carrion Crow, one of the three main characters. Scary dude. (Amazon and Smashwords ebooks.)

Book Four just came out in May of 2013, and continues the story of the main character from books one and two, Corinn Michaels. "Katerina Blues" is a story about Corinn trying to track down (and eliminate) her personal demons. Probably the most adult in nature of all the books, I'm told it's not as bad as "Fifty Shades of Grey" (which I did not read). So if you could handle that story, and you like a bit of a thrill, why not give Katerina a try? (Amazon and Smashwords ebooks.)

Of course, all four are also available from our website at I'll post links to some of the reviews we've received in another blog post. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More Sewing Lesson Projects

The first two projects with my sewing student were fairly small but both were quilted. I decided the next projects should be more basic sewing projects and asked her mom to bring with them either one yard of fabric or an old sheet for the next session.

What the mom brought was a new flat sheet she had in the house. High thread count. Kind of sateen finish. Hmm, can we work with this? Fortunately I had an extra week to prepare for this session. I was planning on making pillowcases, and wanted to be sure that my student could work with such a fabric without a) getting really frustrated and b) having the whole thing unravel the first time it was washed (or even whilst being sewn!).

I used the basic pillowcase pattern from AllPeopleQuilt's page for the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. I've made this pattern before, so was familiar with the technique and knew in general my student could do it. However, the fine sheet fabric might make things more difficult. My solution was to stitch the seams as directed, then zigzag stitch every edge. (I don't own a serger, so zigzag on my basic sewing machine was the next best thing.) Threw my sample in the wash and closely inspected what came out of the dryer. Success! I had a plan, and was ready for my student.

Funny enough, she asked me if we would be zigzagging (she had a few sessions of sewing in her middle school home ec class, just enough to know she wanted to learn more). Hey, this girl's brain is working, yay!!  :)  So much easier to have a thinking student. Anyway, mom decided to join us for this session, too. 

These are the pillowcases made by me (blue) and the mom (purple-ish):

The student kept hers, but the mom and I decided to donate our pillowcases to charity. So, if you know of a group that is collecting pillowcases, please let me know! I haven't had a chance to start my search yet, so I'm open to ideas. Note that the main fabric is a cream color, so maybe not appropriate for kids.  :)

The zigzagging was good practice for all of us. Now it was time to find a project that was more age appropriate for an 11 year old girl. I decided to try making a drawstring bag, and found a great pattern at Christina Sherrod's Craft and Fabric Links site. The pattern called for nylon waterproof fabric, but my mom (who was visiting at the time and has much more fabric know-how than I do) and I agreed that might be a bit tough for a beginning sewist. We also thought we needed something that wasn't prone to ripping, as there are two corners that may or may not get stitched and could be weak points in the construction. So I ended up buying pants-weight cotton twill, plus some interfacing that could reinforce those weak spots. For the drawstrings, I bought half inch cotton twill tape by the spool (basically, one spool per bag!).

My student loved this project, until we got to feeding the drawstring through the top. First, I found out she had never seen or used a safety pin before. Huh? Is that possible? Her mom confirmed later that she didn't use them, but assumed her daughter knew what they were. So, I'm learning to check my assumptions at the door about what is "basic knowledge", as it may not be for everyone! Second, I found out that feeding a drawstring through a one-inch sleeve isn't as easy as it looks when you have never done it before. My student struggled at first to understand what I was describing, and once she did it took her a long time to get the tape through. However, she did it all by herself, not asking me once to help her. Good girl! 

She was asking questions about the project near the end, concerned we were going to sew it shut. I promised her it would make more sense when we were done. And when we sewed those last seams across the bottom, and I showed her how to turn it right side out, her eyes lit up. A big smile crossed her face, as if she had performed magic. Maybe, in her opinion, she did. But that moment was priceless for me.

Here's the bag I made:

The finished bags were about 13" wide by 18" long.

Our next project is to learn hand quilting. I may not be able to work with her for a month and a half, and I wanted to come up with something she could do during that time without a sewing machine. So, I have a couple of 20" square pieces that are perfect for practicing hand quilting. I'll probably have her do stab-stitch, rather than running stitch, for dexterity reasons. We'll see how that goes!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Teaching More Than Myself

While I've been quilting for many years (I think I made my first real, normal-sized quilt around 1995 or so), I'm still learning. I tried applique for the first time earlier this year for a flag for Boston, and it was good enough to send in with the others I had made. I tried machine quilting for the first time earlier this year, too, to finish a baby quilt made from blocks left over from a Hurricane Sandy quilt. Straight lines are my friends, and triangles are still a slight challenge (although I'm getting better!). But I can look at a pattern and immediately figure out how it was put together, even if it's something I'm not sure I personally can put together well.

So, when my neighbor asked me if I'd be willing to teach her daughter how to sew, I thought it would be pretty easy. I could teach her how to sew straight lines, we'd have lots of practice... Oh. Wait. What kinds of projects would an 11-year-old girl enjoy working on? Probably not a great big quilt with big blocks, at least not at first. Okay, then, let's think about what we can do to keep her interested, help her learn, and have some fun?

I started simple, with hot pads. Even easier than a great pattern I found online, it was just two pieces of cotton fabric and two pieces of cotton batting. Nice and puffy, colorful, and fairly forgiving. Her mom even joined us for that session, and made her own hot pad. Everyone was happy after the first day, so I figured I was on the right track. I learned something, too: my sewing machine's presser foot was not good for machine quilting, as the top and bottom fabrics were moving at different speeds. This was made worse by the extra thickness of the additional layer of batting. Oh, well, mom and daughter didn't notice, so that's something I can fix in the future.  Here's the hot pad I made that day:

Next session, we did mug rugs. I figured the student could use lots of practice sewing straight lines, so we pieced some strips together, put borders on them, quilted on the back, and folded the back over to create the binding. The pattern came from the In Color Order blog (thanks, Jeni!). These took longer, even without her mom with us, but I think she got a lot of good practice.  Here's my mug rug:

Okay, so that is a few mug rugs. :)  The first one I made is the top left; I had so many strips left over that I made four more, and the other two here show the back folded over ready to finish the binding (bottom left), and the one on the right is just quilted and trimmed. I gave all five mug rugs to my parents when they visited, as hostess gifts for one or more of the people they were going to be staying with later in their trip.

What's a mug rug? Best description I've found/come up with is, a quilted fabric coaster that is big enough for a mug (cup of coffee, stein of cocoa, tea cup, etc.) and a muffin (or cookie or apple or...). These ended up being about 10" long by 6" wide.

This post is getting long, so I'll save some for next time.  :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Don't let them go dark!

A friend is trying to save his drive-in theater. Can you help? 

Mike needs to install a digital projector at the Mahoning Drive In, Lehighton, PA. Why? Because the movie industry is switching from film to digital, and those theaters that don't have digital will go dark for good. At $80,000 to $85,000, this isn't a cheap project! But he's entered his drive-in theater to a contest run by Honda, and you can vote once every day at for his theater. Or text VOTE21 to 444-999 (your usual message rates apply). 

The contest site has short videos about all the theaters taking part in the contest, so you can learn more about the Mahoning Drive In by watching the video.

Thank you!

Greetings from the Caffeinated & Quilted Librarian!

Greetings, and let me introduce myself!

I am a reference librarian at a small public library in eastern Pennsylvania. Outside of work I have a number of interests, including quilting (hand quilter learning how to machine quilt), reading, baking, and helping my husband with his novels, songs and films.

So, why do I think the world needs another blog?

Partially it's to get me in the habit. I need to do more blogging for work (, in case you are curious; I'm just getting it started again so there isn't much there right now), and I thought blogging from home would help me think more about blogging from work.

Partially it's because I'd like to share what I do with more than just my friends on Facebook. I'd like to tell more people about our work as Mazz Press (my husband's publishing company), and share the projects I'm working on, and communicate with others with similar interests. 

Partially it's because I wanted a challenge. I've read good blogs and bad blogs, bloggers who post 10 times a day and bloggers who haven't posted in months. I'd like to see what kind of blogger and communicator I can be.

Oh, and that caffeinated part? My day doesn't start until I get that first ice cold coffee in the morning. Yes, I'm an iced coffee drinker, even when it's 10 below outside. I make my own strong-brewed coffee at home, keep it in the fridge, add unsweetened almond milk and coffee syrup (or just chocolate almond milk), and I'm a happy camper. Iced lattes will do if I'm away from home.

So, welcome to all who are curious about what I might say, and welcome to those who are waiting for a trainwreck (I hope I disappoint you).