Why “Avatar: The Last Airbender” Was Good—But Not Great

A friend of mine recently watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, and says it has become her favorite show ever…by a good margin.

Why "Avatar: The Last Airbender" Was Good—But Not Great — Kimia Wood

Image credit: CartoonsOn.tv

And…nah.

It was good, I’ll grant you…but it wasn’t THE CRUX AND APOTHEOSIS OF ALL GOOD WRITING AND THE PEAK OF ENTERTAINMENT. (And my brother gripes about this show way more than I do.)

You can read my full review to get all my initial thoughts, but I think the basic element that held this show back was:

KID VS. GROWN-UP CHARACTERS

You might be thinking, “But it’s a kids’ show! All the principle characters are kids!”

I’m not talking age. I’m talking maturity.

And while it’s understandable (and almost expected) for characters to start with some immaturity (especially young characters), it should be something they grow out of. The plot should force them to develop.

It shouldn’t be celebrated. Continue reading

Dear Diary…we will never mention this—ever!

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”

By the time we roused in the morning, Kobort had had breakfast and left on his horse. I wish him well.

As we headed back to the Moat-House, we saw the workers toiling away on the fortress construction…and among them were the two bandits we captured yesterday.

I was worried about them, so I’m glad the knight and all figured something out. Better than being dead.

We made good time again, taking only about two hours to get to our destination. Continue reading

RWBY (Seasons 1-5)

"RWBY" (Seasons 1-5) — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Haruhichan.com

Color is associated with emotion.

Which is super appropriate for RWBY.

This is yet another web series that my brother raved about…and then also mourned when later seasons “went loopy.”

It’s an anime-inspired adventure of four girls training to become hero-protectors of their world, fighting the monstrous Grimm from without and human divisions from within. The title comes from the first names of the four leads, which match their associated colors (and I was so proud I figured that out on my own, without having to read the Wiki page).

TL;DR— If you like stories that make you feel, this is for you!

The Colorful Cast

Each member of Team RWBY has a dominate color that dictates their character design…and to a certain degree their personality.

Yang is bright, loud, gung-ho, and quick-tempered.

Weiss is up-tight, cold, yet rigidly determined and precise…and so earnest.

Blake is…well, worried about her inner demons.

And Ruby has a heart – as big as the moon, as warm as bathwater.

All the characters have a “gimmick.” Even if it’s not a huge deal, there’s something to make them stand out…to give us a “hook” to hold on to and remember them by.

"RWBY" (Seasons 1-5) — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Youtube

I hesitate to call them “larger than life”…but there’s definitely an emotional flair that makes these characters (all of them, even the side characters) latch onto you and not let go.

Combat…in Color

This individualism is carried over into the battles. Every single person has a personal weapon and fighting style…and a personal super-power called a “semblance” that usually informs their combat preferences.

Ruby has a scythe that’s bigger than she is, doubles as a sniper rifle, and folds up to the size of a notebook.

Weis’s style is all about precision and proper form…using her semblance of magic glyphs. Yang has wrist-mounted, punch-activated shotguns.

Everything is about jumping, flip-flopping, spinning, and using everything as a gun. It’s something you have to see for yourself.

The art style combines anime influences with a simplified feel, distinctive colors, and a feeling of momentum and energy that mixes with the magic system– you just have to see it for yourself!

The Grimm

Red-eyed creatures of darkness, the Grimm are spawned by negative emotions and attracted to panic, fear, and distrust.

They actually make sense of that old stand-by, the “don’t tell the populace what’s going on or they’ll panic” cliché. The cliché is still kinda tired, but at least there’s a viable reason for the policy when popular unease can literally attract sharp-toothed monsters to your door!

While we see bigger and scarier Grimm as the series progresses, it’s also very clear that their power comes from people…the bad guys who prefer widespread terror and bloodshed if it gives them power.

You can kill Grimm…but they just evaporate into smoke when they die. The deeper problem lies in the hearts of men.

Can a plucky little girl with a massive scythe do anything against that?

Soundtrack

RWBY features many official songs, both as episode intros and for the end-credits.

Why are they so…catchy?

The lyrics are fine…clever and effective, but the rhyme schemes can be sloppy at times. The tunes are pretty, but hard to sing until you listen to them a couple times. (And lean toward the one-note, syncopated style of modern praise music at times.)

The style is like cinematic orchestral smashed with rock with a smattering of ballad, which is apparently my groove. And the performers are first class.

Yet…what elevates these to “play constantly on repeat”-worthy is—

The emotion.

Red Like Roses

We get a hint of this, Ruby’s theme song, in the first teaser short. The full version is a back-and-forth between Ruby and her dead mother…and it’s HEART-RENDING.

I Burn

I think this is a credits song…I only found it through the soundtrack lists on Youtube.

It’s Miss Punchy Powerhouse on a power trip! The only downside is one of the verses has (ahem) words I can’t play in front of my parents… (Ooo — found a cleaned-up version!)

When It Falls

This villain song has been in my head for a solid month.

Maybe it’s the innocents lying in pools of their own blood, or the “victory for hate incarnate.”

I have issues.

Professor Ozpin

This is my brother’s favorite character because he sips coffee while launching students off the cliff.

The first few volumes take place in the magic school, and suffer from some of those clichés of “the students have to fix everything.”

And yet…Professor Ozpin is always in the back-ground, watching with wise eyes. In my brother’s words, he’s the “grown-up among grown-ups,” who knows way more than he lets on…and is patient enough to let the students grow at the pace they need – to become the protectors the world needs.

Along with Ruby’s uncle and the other teachers, he maintains the feeling that, yes, the grown-ups actually do know what’s going on…and when bad things go down, they have their eye on the long game.

This is one of the things that breaks in Volume 6, apparently.

It’s all very well to have twelve-year-old superheroes…but when stuff gets real, they need to have older, experienced warriors at their back.

But I stopped watching at the Volume 5 climax…which is everything you could wish for, bringing all players (junior and senior) together on each side of the battlefield for an epic show-down.

(By the way, Blake’s parents are AWESOME.)

Themes

Family

Part of Yang’s personal quest is finding her mother, who abandoned the family when Yang was little.

By the time she finally meets her mother, though, she’s had time to develop her attitudes based on the unconditional support and encouragement she’s gotten from both her dad and uncle. (And her team.)

Weis comes from rich gentry…meaning her identity is wrapped up in her family name. Blake is a racial minority, and quarreled with her parents about how to respond to that.

And Ruby… Well, Ruby accepts everyone, whatever their race, appearance, or mechanical make-up.

And as the Volume 1 title song says, “Victory is in a simple soul.” It’s Ruby’s open-hearted optimism that has a chance to defeat this grim world (ha ha).

Racism

Two races exist in RWBY: Humans, and Faunus…basically humans with animal attachments (ears, tails, horns, etc.). While we get hints that the Faunus have been treated as second class citizens – excluded from restaurants and paid unfair wages – what we actually see is the activism group that’s started using terrorism to get their point across.

The show does a good job showing the problems that arise when activism becomes a goal in and of itself…when righteous indignation becomes hatred and selfishness.

Emotions again: even the characters on the “wrong” side have their motivations and feelings honestly explored. Their actions are unjustified, but we see how the feelings of oppression and revenge led them to this place.

What isn’t done so well is showing the original oppression that they’re reacting against. (Although a character short for Volume 5 does a pretty good job.)

Teamwork and Friendship

When the students arrive at “hero” school, they’re paired up and combined into teams in seemingly random fashion.

But the teachers apparently have a method to their madness. (See Ozpin above!)

Ruby and Weis, while initially polar opposites, are forced to work through their differences to become best friends.

Two other students – a try-hard who got in on forged transcripts, and a universally respected prodigy – are teamed as partners…and develop a beautiful relationship that spurs character development and EMOTION. They are still my most favorite couple although they are also the most TRAGIC one!

Heroes and Fairytales

Just as RWBY draws on classic fairytales for its art direction and character design, it also weaves into the themes and subtext questions like:

“Are fairytales just real stories we’ve forgotten?”

“Are heroes real?”

“The mighty warriors of the past all died…usually while fighting the darkness. Is it still worth doing what they did? Did they still accomplish something?”

People sometimes think of a “fairytale” as something full of improbable things with an unrealistically happy ending. But fairytales also have dark, scary, and depressing things in them.

This tense balance of tone also flows through RWBY.

They’re just little girls, learning how to be warriors. Their moves look really cool and colorful…until you see a glimpse of the real horrors out there.

The horrors that have killed real, grown-up warriors.

The series gets progressively darker, and we seem to ask the question:

“Can Ruby’s idealism really conquer Grimm?”

“Won’t her eagerness to befriend everyone bite her back one day?”

“Can this team of misfits really stick together and accomplish anything?”

“The villainess out there is so huge and horrible…so much worse than what these mere kids have faced so far. If the grown-ups couldn’t stop the darkness, how can we have a hope?”

As for the last question, the Volume 5 finale seems to say: “Together!”

The Never-ending Story?

My brother DNFed Volume 6, so I haven’t watched it (or the seventh volume currently streaming).

But the Volume 5 finale is a pretty perfect place to end things. Sure, there are lots of plot threads still in motion…but the character arcs have peaked, the teams have merged into cathartic awesomeness, epic battles have been pitched, and mini-bosses have soundly had their butts handed to them.

It is, in short, an ending of EMOTIONAL RESONANCE.

So…

If you want to giggle, laugh, say, “Oh, that’s so cool,” and (ahem) sob like a little baby (like when Ruby is chit-chatting and telling all the school news to her mother…’s grave?)…try RWBY.

You can even watch it with your parents and younger siblings, because – while there’s scary, creepy, suspenseful stuff – there’s nothing you have to cover their eyes for. (Or their ears, unlike RoosterTeeth’s other show…Also, careful searching for fan art online!)


While it’s not necessary to start with them, these four character shorts will introduce Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang (er…hopefully hers will go over your kid sister’s head)…and then you can watch the actual episodes for FREE on Youtube.

Or get them directly from the creators at RoosterTeeth!

Dear Diary…the work of merchants

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”

After lunch, Ezekiel searched the dead bodies for weapons. There were some clubs and cross-bows, and a halberd, but nothing that looked extra special.

As we were preparing to head back into town, we heard scraping above the ceiling. We all took a look, but couldn’t see anything through the beams and debris poking through.

Some of us thought it might be the guy who got away, but that didn’t make any sense to me. I expect he’s long gone by now. All the same, I wasn’t anxious to have the ceiling collapse in on me, so I was glad when we finally got moving – Kobort and Raven carrying the chest, and Mikael “encouraging” the prisoners (who were tied around the arms and hobbled at the knees).

Once we reached Kobort’s horse at the entrance, we secured the chest to the saddle…awkwardly, but at least then Kobort and Raven didn’t have to haul it themselves. Continue reading

Dear Diary…the Moat-House

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”

The bunkhouse provided bread for breakfast, so we got a good start.

Kobort has all kinds of weapons, including a battle ax, splint mail, and a war horse! On the one hand, it makes him seem like the real deal…on the other hand, horses need a lot to eat.

Once we came to the fork off the main road, our pace really slowed down. It’s all overgrown, with creepers, boggy patches, and straight-up mud puddles…not to mention the trees and undergrowth.

It took us probably four hours to go three miles. Continue reading

Dear Diary…chock one up to the spider

ALERT: May contain spoilers for the adventure: “The Village of Homlette”

With a little more internal direction, we headed back to Homlette.

They’re building some kind of fort at the east end of town. The walls aren’t too imposing yet, and the gatehouse is barely started, but the tower in the center looks sturdy and well-made.

Elmo split off from us near the edge of town…off to do his own secret mission stuff, no doubt.

Ezekiel wouldn’t stop dancing down the road. I guess he likes having a definite direction to move in.

As we passed the house of the village elder, a warrior in blue armor led a horse out the gate, mounted, and rode off. The elder stuck his head out and waved to us as we passed. It’s nice to know now that he’s on our side…and that he hasn’t been murdered. Continue reading

Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?)

Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?) — Kimia Wood

CHOOSE YOUR PATH! Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

So once upon a time an older person met a younger person. They didn’t know each other very well, but were connected through socio-cultural similarities.

Wanting to encourage the younger person, the older person chose to give advice about their potential life choices.

See if these words sound familiar…

You’re interested in writing? You should go to a four-year college and get a Master of Fine Arts degree! That will let you make money as an author.

You did very well with your three lines in the church play! Maybe you should go to a four-year acting college, move to California sight-unseen, and get a job in the movies!

You enjoyed high school math and economics? Invest in that! Go to this website and check out internships in your field, then look into advancing your education and getting into clerical/economic positions!

Do you notice anything…off?

Naturally, there’s a lot of good here: the older person is trying to affirm the younger person…to notice their interests and passions…to give them positive feedback…and encourage them to better themselves.

The older person wishes only the best for the younger person. They seize on what little data they can find, and build on that…with nothing but the best intentions.

And yet…

What god do these people worship?

Take a close look at the quotes. There’s not a lot to go on, is there? There’s mention of a “church play”…but what else in the scene places these two characters?

They might be meeting at a Lions Club. They might be distant relatives at a family reunion. Perhaps they’re total strangers interacting briefly in a store.

Look again at what the older person said. Based only on their words, who (or what) do they consider the most important thing in the world worship?

Short Aside—What Is A God?

If you’ve ever read the Bible, you know that “idols” are things people worship apart from God, and it makes Him very angry.

Because, if we’re Christians, we’re “married” to God…but every time we put something else in His place, that’s like having an affair with the idol.

That’s what He literally says through his prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

(Anyone else feeling dirty right now?)

My dad defines a “god” as this—

A god is something we go to when we want to get things done…or something whose claims on us we acknowledge.

Examples?

Money is an easy target. It’s even mentioned in the Bible. Money is a very generous god…it gives us anything we could desire.

But in exchange, it demands our soul.

Power and sex are other “gods” we go to for getting what we want.

Sports is a harsh authoritarian, demanding our Sunday mornings, our school nights, and our time with family. It can be hard to deny Sports the things it demands.

Pride? Pride is a god worshiped by many (including me – that’s why Jesus needs to change my heart). I want other people to praise me, to acknowledge me, and to speak great things of me. Because (get this) it’s all focused on ME…not God.

And in exchange, Pride rots my heart from the inside out.

Back to Our Fairytale…Who Gets My Life?

An older person spots a younger person…just starting out, an image of what they themselves once were, with a chance to do anything and be anything this world offers.

This older person wants to advise the younger person…to give them a hint about the direction they should take…to encourage them to put their youthful energies and resources into something meaningful.

So the older person says:

[…what would you say?…]

[…what is the most important thing?…]

[…what one thing would you point to, that you wish every whipper-snapper in your life would devote themselves whole-heartedly to?…]

There’s no guarantee they’ll listen. They’re young…they probably won’t.

But what is so critical, so vital, that you’ll use your one interaction with this incarnation of Past You to impart?

Think about it. Your answer will say a lot about where your heart is…


Listen, Kid…(What Do You Say Next?) — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family…including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

Subscribe to her mailing list before society collapses and the web goes dark! You’ll get a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier…plus periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Christmas Night, From the “Other” Side

What is he waiting for?

Christmas Night, From the "Other" Side — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

The shepherd men are here. The mother and husband are in position.

Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting? Isn’t it time?

I got excited when the Emperor signed the census order. After all, that was finally the beginning of the end, right?

Then there was that Simeon guy…Remember when the word came down? Somebody took him a message from the Throne:

You won’t die until you have seen my Promised Anointed One with your own eyes. (see Luke 2:25-26)

Good grief gravy! I was so pumped I couldn’t walk straight. Remember how we said to each other, “You know what this means? It’s happening soon. Like, human-standards soon!”

Man! I can’t even–

What is he waiting for? How long can it take to deliver a baby? Couldn’t some of us dash over and give the girl a hand? Please?! I’ve been waiting so long!

Just make yourself visible already! We can’t come out until you come out! Listen, I’ve been practicing this song since Isaiah got the tip.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

I can’t even imagine being separated from Him – even for a moment. I despise our former kin who took up arms against Him.

And yet…these weak, momentary humans…He’s coming for them! The Great Plan – you’ve heard the rumors, yes? The little, cryptic hints we were allowed to give the prophets?

Gah! So long! Why is this taking so LONG? Don’t you tell me, “It’s only one night.” This is THE night — the night all other nights are counted from…

The point where Eternal, Immortal Invisible cracks Time, the Physical, the –

We have got to go to the stable after this and see for ourselves. Imagine Him – wrapped in a flesh body – hokey smokes, won’t the light and majesty just leak out of Him like a bush on fire?

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? The shepherds are just waiting around for us. The fat one is asleep – I can tell. Wake him up! Wake them all up! Wake up the whole damned, soon-to-be-redeemed-and-ransomed world!

He Is here! In the flesh! God fused with human form so closely and completely that He is fully both –!

At last! Look at ’em scream and hide their eyes. If you only knew, boys…if you only knew.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

It’s time! IT’S TIME! Can’t take it any more…gonna become visible – Boom! Listen up, little men of the sheepfold – listen!Christmas Night, From the "Other" Side — Kimia Wood

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

He’s here! He came! The Son of Man Himself! How can you not be shouting – dancing – with me? He’s come to redeem your poor, pathetic, flesh-bound lives and make ALL THINGS NEW!

How can you not sing?!


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Kimia the Author lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother that strangers mistake for her boyfriend.

Subscribe to her mailing list before society collapses and the web goes dark.

Now I gotta go dance and sing for a while…

Best Articles You Shouldn’t Miss

I love Twitter for all the cool articles I can find and share there. So I dug back through my feed for the best articles, posts, and videos I found and shared this past year!

Whether you’re an author, a blogger, or just a Christian who likes thinking deeply about things, here are some cool (and/or important) pieces for you to enjoy!

Writing and Story DevelopmentBest Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

This year I fell down the deep, dark hole of “writer YouTube”…Here are some of the amazing (and addicting) videos I found:

Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV

via WIRED

I found this video while researching my spy/suspense/action story Transmutation of Shadow, and it’s so cool!

Trope Talk: Robots

via Overly Sarcastic Productions

Red does a great job recognizing that humans and computers have totally different ways of thinking…and she also breaks down the good, the evil, the friendly, and the realistic of writing robots in fiction.

Rey and the Sad Devolution of the Female Character

via Thor Skywalker

We don’t hate female characters…we hate poorly done characters that serve a meta agenda, rather than feeling like genuine people within the story world.

Watch the video to see for yourself!

(Also check out this video – by Literature Devil – about “Mary Sue” characters…what they are, why people dislike them, and how they relate to the issue of “Social Justice Warriors”.)

A Few Words from Roger Zelazny

via on Tor.com

Roger Zelazny wrote the Chronicles of Amber, which inspired my dad as a young writer…and became a surprise favorite with me when I read it. This interview with him gives insight into his writing process, his opinion of fantasy vs. science fiction, and on writing complex characters.

It’s not a video…so read it at your leisure.

Action Choreography for Novels

via Felix the Fox Mysteries

Action plays a big role in my White Mesa Chronicles (especially Gladiator…guess why) and in Transmutation of Shadow. Thus it’s important to get the physics right!

This post (also not a video) will help you think about those pesky problems of what’s actually, physically possible in your story!

Also check out his post on making pre-modern (and fantasy) battles more realistic in terms of equipment, technique, and strategy. Remember: everything happens in context!

The Elevator Pitch

via Christa MacDonald on Christian Shelf-Esteem

If you’ve been in the “author” circle for long, you’ve heard you need an “elevator pitch”…a short, pithy expression of your book(s) that would fit into the space of an elevator ride, but make whoever’s listening want to hear more.

Christa MacDonald found she was making assumptions about what the people she was talking to would be interested in, and defending her work before anyone had raised any objections.

Read her post to see how she decided to let go of this fear rooted in pride, and share her stories at face value.

Worldview

Best Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

How we think about the world is crucial…and our different perspectives form a central part of who we are.

Each of these articles (or videos) explores a different element of our lives and challenges us to think about morality, culture, art, ourselves, and/or God in a different light.

Enriching Lives – What Mass Effect 2 Teaches Us about Morality

via Extra Credits

Extra Credits create entertaining, thought-provoking videos about video games…how to make them well, how to tell meaningful stories through them, what they can mean for the broader culture, etc.

This one talks about how video games can force us to examine our own moral beliefs!

Artistic Originality: Is It Dead—or Was it Merely a Fallacy to Begin With?

via Sean P. Carlin

In our cultural climate of reboots, sequels, prequels, reboot-sequels…Mr. Carlin has asked the question, “What is artistic originality anyway?”

Can we ever truly be free of our creative influences, and make “original” art?

Read his article to find out!

Also check out his article about his childhood of urban exploration in New York City, and how our shifting culture of security-consciousness makes that impossible for kids of the modern day. We’ve lost something…is it worth the price of “safety” to give up?

Read his piece and decide for yourself!

How Virtual Horse Armor Paved the Way for Micro-Transactions

via Cheddar

Micro-transactions are all over the place in free-to-play games…sort of like YouTube has started shoving ads in my face every time I want to load a video.

This video (on YouTube…ahem) talks about how it started…and why micro-transactions that affect game-play make players more unhappy than things that affect aesthetics.

How Our Addiction to FREE is Poisoning the Internet and Killing the Creatives

via Kristen Lamb

This post was so interesting, I even wrote my own follow-up piece.

Basically: we all love free stuff. Getting free stuff, that is. But nothing is free…someone has to give it. And as authors give away more free stuff (books, songs, etc.) the more audiences expect free stuff, and the worse the whole problem gets.

Just go read her full post – then read my post about living generously!

(Also read her post about the flood of new books that self-publishing has created, and some strategies that we as an industry could use to find the “good fish” amidst the tsunami. Basically, go check out her blog in general.)

My Son Was Addicted to a Smartphone

via Sabrina McDonald on Family Life

Yes, smartphone addiction is a thing, and yes, you can confront it. In fact, before drugging your kid up for ADHD, look into culling his screen time! It might be the trick you need.

YouTube: Manufacturing Authenticity (For Fun and Profit!)

via Lindsey Ellis

Having become, ahem, slightly addicted to YouTube this year, I naturally found channels/content providers that I liked and looked up all their videos.

However, as an author and blogger, I also have a feeling for the other side (people all over the world aren’t watching my face, but they can look up my words at any time).

When the wall between “media celebrity” and audience comes down…when your favorite YouTuber or author “gets real” and shares personal things…what does that do to them? What does it do to us? What are the “moral hazards” of this “authentic celebrity” culture?

If you’re not sure exactly what I mean, just watch the video! It’s thought-provoking! (Language cautions, though.)

Christian Fiction Guidelines

via Chad Pettit

Did you know that some “Christian” readers have very specific guide-lines for what they consider to be “Christian” fiction? And that they’ll rake authors over the internet coals if they break these rules?

Perhaps we should go back to the BIBLE for a consideration of what we should be reading/writing in our fiction…and maybe we can extend some Christian kindness to our brothers and sisters.

This post is a plea for just that. Read it yourself!

A Tale of Two Worldviews

via Scott Allen at WORLD Magazine

Ta-Nehisi Coates versus Martin Luther King, Jr. — two African-American thought leaders with very different approaches to the race issue. Justice and reconciliation will only come from a Jesus-centered worldview.

MarketingBest Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia Wood

We authors are always looking for ways to better get books into readers’ hands. Here are some of the useful posts I’ve found on marketing:

How To Improve Your Amazon Book Descriptions

via Jane Friedman

How do you describe your book so that someone else will want to buy it? Making the text easy to skim, and starting with a grabby line, are just a couple of the suggestions you’ll find here!

How to Improve Your Email Newsletters Right Now

via Bad Redhead Media

Email newsletters are one of those things that are so important, yet so mystifying. These tips and tricks will help you look like a pro to your fans! (Hint: STOP USING G-MAIL ALREADY.)

How to Write for a Blog: 10 Tips for Writing Strong Web Content

via Anne R. Allen

Writing a blog post is different than writing a term paper. Here are some easily digestible, understandable tips to help anyone write a better blog!

Blogger + Author Interaction Etiquette Survey Responses: Answers from the Book Bloggers’ Perspectives (2019)

via Vicky Who Reads

200+ bloggers were surveyed (anonymously) about how they want authors to interact with them. I found some of the answers very interesting, and it’s worth it to check out someone else’s perspective.

The Eternally Clickable Headlines of Buffer (And How to Write and Find Your Own)

via Buffer

Blog post headlines are mysterious, but very important. Here’s some advice that is readable and digestible to make your blog headlines even better!

Six Reasons Nobody Reads Your Blog and How to Fix It

via Mixtus Media

You say you could never write a blog? That it’s too complicated, or too hard?

These six tips might just give you the tools and the steps you need to become a blogger (or to take your blog to a more professional level)!

Hope you enjoyed these posts!

Be sure to share the posts you liked best with your friends, and support the authors!

What did you enjoy learning this past year? What were your favorite things to read? Give us your suggestions!


Best Articles You Shouldn't Miss — Kimia WoodKimia Wood lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s currently bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY

What can you do with all those fabric scraps you have sitting around? Make cute little Christmas ornaments for your friends!Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia Wood

Even those scraps that are too small for other projects can be used for these adorable ornaments.

You will need:

  • Christmas-themed cookie cutters…shapes with bigger angles and few corners will be easier (stars, candy canes, hearts, gingerbread men, angels, etc. I also used a Christmas tree, but it took more work to get right)
  • Cardboard (such as empty cereal box)
  • Pencil
  • Pins
  • Lace or ribbon (3/8″ works well…if it gets wider than, say, 1/2″, it won’t work so well)
  • Stuffing
  • Needle/sewing machine and thread
  • FABRIC SCRAPS 🙂

1—Cut Patterns

First, make your patterns. You could just use the cookie cutters as patterns, but they stick up and make it awkward to trace onto the fabric.

So take your cardboard, place your selected cookie cutter onto it, and use the pencil to trace your ornament’s shape.

There are two methods:

Method A

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia Wood

Here you can clearly see my stitches trying to follow the pencil lines…

Cut cardboard exactly along the lines of the cookie cutter’s shape.

Method B

Using a ruler, extend the “shape” out about 1/4″ on all sides, then cut out the cardboard along these new lines.

Pros and Cons

With Method A, you have to remember to leave a 1/4+ inch hem around the fabric when tracing your pattern…but you then have a handy pencil line to help you stitch the shape.

I initially invented Method B so I could make the ornaments bigger, but when you just “balloon out” the line of the cookie cutter’s shape, the new shape doesn’t look the same (it looks more fat and rounded). On something like a star, this works better.

The benefit of Method B is that you can 1) make your ornaments slightly bigger, or 2) you have a built-in allowance for the hem, and can cut out your fabric directly on the pencil line.

I prefer Method A, however, because having that line to stitch along is sure useful.

2—Trace Onto Fabric and Cut

Take your cardboard pattern and place onto your fabric scraps. Even if you have a really small piece – as narrow as two inches! – you can probably fit a candy cane shape on it! Just remember to be sure you have extra space for the hem.

Once your pattern shape is traced, cut out the pieces (again, leaving roughly a 1/4″ for the hem).

3—Match Fabric Pieces and Pin

Once you have two fabric pieces of complementing colors cut out, hold them Right Sides together and pin.

I like to use joints or corners to make sure I have the shapes matched up to one another…for example, stick a pin into the peak of the Christmas tree on one piece, and then through the peak of the other Christmas tree piece…or stick a pin through the matching armpits of two gingerbread man pieces.

Stick two pins through matching points along your shapes…and then use them as “fulcrums” to align your pieces.

4—Sew Pieces Together

Sew the pinned pieces together — leaving at least an inch open at the top for turning.

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodI was constantly second-guessing myself that I wasn’t leaving enough space to turn the ornament…and once I even snipped the stitching to make the opening bigger. Don’t do this! The stitches will pull out and you’ll have to repair it and it’ll be annoying…

An opening of an inch to an inch-and-a-half is plenty big. Just remember to put it at the top of the ornament…

5—Snip Corners

Gingerbread men’s armpits, the boughs of Christmas trees, and the hooks of candy canes all need to be sniped out to make turning easier! Just be careful not to snip your stitches (ask how I know).

Also make slits around the gingerbread man’s hands and feet, the points of the Christmas tree and the star, the curve of the candy cane…you get the idea.

6—Turn Inside Out

Turn your ornament inside out, through the small hole you left. Be patient and take your time…even if you think, “This hole is way too small to fit the fabric through!” if you take your time, it’ll usually work.

Get something long and pokey to help get the corners turned out. I started with the eraser end of a pencil, but that was poking right through my seam and tearing my stitches — so I went for a large crochet hook.

7—Sharpen Points

You might need to use a pin to grab the points and help pull them out…This is especially true for the Christmas tree, but also for the gingerbread men’s feet (and hands).

Basically, for the Christmas tree to actually look the way it’s supposed to, you need to pull all the little branches out…and for this, it usually works best to use a combination of the crochet hook and a long pin.

Just remember: this is your chance to get it looking the way you want it to!

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia Wood(I made a dog ornament, making my own pattern based on a silhouette from online…and getting all the nooks and crannies turned right-side-out was a pain! On the bright side, it did look like a dog at the end! The key is to take your time and pay attention.)

(You could iron it at this stage to make it nice and crisp and neat…but who has time for that nonsense?)

8—Stuff

I used polyester fiberfill…but use whatever you have on hand. Use the back end of the crochet hook to help you get it into those hard-to-reach legs, branches, and bends.

Don’t over-stuff it…This is just to give it some body, not to turn it into a plush toy.

Stop when it feels good to you.

9—Hanger

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodI usually used between 2-1/2 and 3 inches of ribbon or lace for the hanger. (This assumes that it’ll still need a paperclip-style hanger to go on a tree.)

This is my typical procedure:

Take the end of the ribbon/lace…estimate a thumbnail’s worth to go inside the ornament…hold the ribbon behind the ornament and bend it in a loop until it looks long enough…pin the loop flat…and snip the ribbon off, level with the ribbon-end.

Then, using your thumbnail to help with the placement, stick the ribbon ends into the top of the ornament and fold the loose fabric down on itself, so it looks neat and closed over the top of the ribbon.

Pin firmly, then check the back-side to make sure your raw edges are all hidden, and your ribbon hanger is inside the fabric on both sides.

10—Stitch Closed

Stitch along the top of the Christmas ornament, closing the hole and fastening the hanger at the same time.

Check the back side when you’re done to make sure the stitches grabbed both sides of the fabric (ask how I know).

Optional—Topstitch

At this point, you can top-stitch around just inside the seam of the ornament. I only did this with one of mine (because my seams were messy and it needed extra reinforcement)…but with contrasting colors of thread, it could look very nice.

Enjoy and Give Away!

Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodI worked on these in stages, focusing on cutting out, turning/stuffing, ribbon-ing/stitching, or sewing… I could usually knock out ten ornaments on a lazy afternoon.

Not only is this a great way to eat up those itty-bitty scraps of fabric, but it makes adorable (and seasonal) little gifts for your giving needs!

In fact, with “neutral” shapes like hearts and butterflies, you could make pincushions for everyday use…make Easter ornaments (those are totally a thing, right?)…show someone who’s sick that you care…

They’re small enough – yet challenging enough – that you could use them to introduce your child to sewing.

Okay, I’m done. I actually have a basket-full of these I’m giving away for Christmas.

Happy crafting!


Fabric Scraps to Ornaments DIY—Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

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