Feeding the Creative Soul

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope the holiday was a special one despite the tough times we are experiencing across the globe. Today I want to talk a little about what art supply I ordered this weekend and why. I’ve also started a new book to read that I have been enjoying so much that I’m wanting to take my time with. First, let’s talk art.

A few years ago, I developed my own technique in creating painted papers without the use of Gelli Plates. I didn’t want to spend the money and I wanted to be as original as possible. I created a masking technique of sorts and use my abstract painting style to create these papers. I knew one day that I wanted to invest in the Gel Press Plate. This weekend I decide to bite the bullet and order a plate. I can’t wait to see what I create with it and how much it differs from my painted papers “Masking” technique. I’ve even ordered a new soft brayer for this project. I look forward to sharing with you all what I come up with!

This weekend I started Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan and I’m really enjoying the story so far. I’m about half way through. Callahan is a talented story-teller and when I saw this one available for reviewers, I had to read it! Savannah Georgia is in my State and its history is among my favorites to study and read about. -Stephanie

Expected publication: March 9th 2021 by Berkley

About the book:

It was called “The Titanic of the South.” The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten–until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

A Time of Celebration

Quilted Christmas Tree Skirt

Once in a Manger

Once in a manger, a long time ago,

Before there was Santa and reindeer and snow,

A star shone down on humble beginnings below

Of a baby just born who the world would soon know.

Never before had there been such a sight.

Would the Son of a King have to suffer this plight?

Are there no armies to lead? Are there no battles to fight?

Shouldn’t He conquer the world and demand His birthright?

No, this frail little infant asleep in the hay

Would change the whole world with the words He would say.

Not about power or demanding His way,

But mercy and loving and forgiving God’s way.

For only through humbleness would the battle be won,

As shown by the actions of God’s only true son.

Who gave up His life for the sins of everyone,

Who saved the whole world when His journey was done.

Many years have now passed since that night long ago

And now we have Santa and reindeer and snow

But down in our hearts the true meaning we know,

It is the birth of that child that makes Christmas so.

–By Tom Krause

See you all again on the 28th!

Mixed Media: Rolodex Card Art

I was inspired by a fellow artist on Instagram to create art on Rolodex Cards. When I first saw the artist’s cards, I was quite intrigued with idea. Crafting with this medium was a bigger challenge than I originally thought.  These cards are a lot smaller than the index cards I was working with beforehand. I struggled to find my way in the beginning. After four or so cards completed, my muse awoken!

I’m thrilled with how many of them have turned out and looking forward to crafting more of these beauties. The pictures you see here are among a few of the cards I’ve created thus far.

I did have a few thoughts on what I would do with them but I think I will leave them in their original container. It certainly adds more interest that way.

Which one is your favorite? What is your latest inspiration for crafting and art making?

Supplies:

Rolodex cards, ephemera and images for collage, stickers, acrylic paint, stamps and ink.

Be sure to comment below and click on the subscribe button to stay updated with new content.

Stephanie Hopkins

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

de Young: Selected Works

I came across de Young Selected Works through a good friend who was clearing bookshelf space in her home library. I was delighted she had a copy and was willing to pass it along to me. I’m always curious to see what my friends reading interest are. She has a broad collection and she is definitely a well-rounded reader.

I’ve looked through a few pages and will be studying this book thoroughly in the near future. As an artist, I am extremely interested in learning the history of art and why artists create what they do and their process.

Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

From Goodreads:

“An illustrated survey showcasing the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s finest works of art, each accompanied by an informative commentary.”

From Amazon:

“The two museums that in 1970 became the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco were at one time rival institutions. The de Young museum grew out of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. The Legion of Honor had its genesis in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, but was conceived from the outset as a museum of fine art. A striking copper-clad building designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the de Young museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park houses a broad spectrum of art from diverse cultures and traditions, including a world-renowned collection of American art; traditional African art; art from Oceania and the Americas; Western and non-Western costumes and textiles; contemporary art and works on paper. This illustrated catalogue showcases the museum’s finest works of art, each accompanied by an informative commentary.”

Q&A with Writer Judith Starkston

Stephanie Hopkins

Writing is an art form that weaves together words that tell a story.  My passion at Layered Pages is to capture their essence and to further explore the craft so people will have a deeper understanding of reading, writing and their importance to our society. Today, Judith Starkston is here to discuss with us her Tesha book series.

Thank you for visiting with us, Judith. Before we talk about your story, “Of Kings and Griffins,” what is your favorite childhood story and why?

There were many. I was a bookworm from the get-go, but “The Wind in the Willows” was a particular favorite, partly because my older brother did such a lively job reading aloud the voices and personalities of Mole, Ratty, and Toad. Friends messing about together outdoors, which is its main theme, appealed to me. That was back when a kid could wander unsupervised around the hills, canyons, and waterways near her house. At least, my mother never knew where I was or what I was up to. Also, I was a cautious child, and I think the main plot suited me. Toad receives his come-uppance for wild and absurd behavior, and he realizes that treating his friends kindly mattered most. So much of that book meanders rather than races—not how books are paced these days, but I loved it.

Has your love for reading influenced you to become a writer?

Absolutely! I have to get lost in a story on a regular basis or I get buggy in the head. I love that sensation of being drawn compulsively forward through the pages inside a twisty, layered plot amid characters I can’t stop caring about. To make that happen for someone else is such fun. And doing that wouldn’t be possible for me if I didn’t have a lifetime of models bombarding my imagination with every word I write.

Tell me a little about how you became interested in ancient worlds and historical fantasy?

My career before I became a fiction writer was as a scholar and teacher of Greek and Roman languages and literature. So, I had the knowledge base and enthusiasm for ancient worlds. When writing my first novel, set at Troy, I discovered the culture of the Hittites, powerful neighbors of the Greeks. The archaeology of this massive empire (roughly today’s Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon) had only begun to emerge when I was a graduate student, and I didn’t learn about it then. It’s very exciting for a whole people to step from historical obscurity with the help of all the brilliant, contemporary archaeological tools. It helps that this literate people left behind archives that are gradually being translated.

No one was bringing the Hittite world alive in fiction at that point, so I couldn’t resist. All the more when I met in the written record the most respected and unusual of the Hittite rulers, a queen named Puduhepa, whom I renamed Tesha in my fiction. (Tesha is the Hittite word for “dream,” and this queen was known for her divinely inspired dreams.)

The fantasy aspect flowed naturally from there because the Hittites believed in rites and practices that we call magic. This queen was also a priestess, and she excelled in all these supernatural skills. Allowing the magic full expression inspires my plots with creative power. The framework remains historically grounded and accurate.

If a reader came up to you and asked about, “Of Kings and Griffins,” how would you describe your story?

A Bronze Age queen takes on a vicious king, vengeful griffins, and a scheming goddess.

The somewhat longer version is this:

For Tesha, priestess and queen, happiness is a world she can control, made up of her family and the fractious kingdom she and her husband rule within the Great King’s empire. But now the Great King is dead, and his untried son plots against them. Tesha fights back with forbidden sorcery and savvy. In yet another blow, the griffin king lures Daniti, Tesha’s magical blind sister, into a deadly crisis that Daniti alone can avert.

As danger ensnares everyone Tesha loves, her goddess offers a way out. But can Tesha trust this offer of divine assistance or is it a trap—one that would lead to an unstoppable bloodbath?

Does, “Of Kings and Griffins,” make a good stand alone or should readers start with your first book in the series?

“Of Kings and Griffins” is the third in my Tesha series, but readers will have no trouble starting with this book if they wish—especially if they are drawn to mythical beasts! “Priestess of Ishana” is the first book in the series for those who like to start at the beginning. I am careful to write each book as a satisfying stand alone.

My interest was sparked when I read on goodreads that your series is inspired by the Hittite empire. For those who might not be familiar with that particular empire, can you please tell us a little about it?

The Hittites ruled Anatolia and parts of the Near East from 1650 to 1200 BCE. Their capital, Hattusa, now a World Heritage site, lies about an hour northeast of Ankara. Kingdoms like Troy on the western coast shifted over time from loosely allied to vassal states subservient to the Hittite Great King. The primary rival of the Hittites was Egypt. During Puduhepa’s reign, she and her husband sealed a peace treaty with Ramses II, the Pharaoh in the Biblical Moses story. The Hittite language is related to Greek, although it’s written with the Near Eastern writing system of cuneiform, groups of wedges made with a reed stylus in clay that represent words and syllables, so it doesn’t look anything like Greek. Their culture borrows a lot from Mesopotamia, but it also has a significant core of distinctly Hittite religious and ethnic traditions. In many ways, the Hittites are the bridge we’d lost between the Greeks and the Near Eastern world. Historians now recognize how much “Western Civilization” owes to the cultures further east.

Will there be another book in the series? If so, when can your readers expect the publish date?

Fortunately for me, Queen Puduhepa (my Tesha) ruled from her teens into her eighties, so there is almost never-ending inspiration for more books, and the Late Bronze Age was a time of great turmoil and international political scheming—all great raw material for epic historical fantasy. I end each book with a satisfying sense of completion, even while the next “chapter” in Tesha’s life beckons, so no frustrating cliffhanger endings that require the next book instantly to cure the pain.  No one has to “wait until the series is complete” with mine—a comment I hear a lot about some books.

The fourth Tesha novel will hopefully come out next Fall/early Winter. I say hopefully because I’ve taken a short detour and haven’t started it yet. I am working at the moment on a novella set in the land of the griffins because I’ve been having such fun with those characters, and I wanted to explore them entirely in their own terms. They live for centuries, so my main griffin character in “Of Kings and Griffins” has some seriously grand life stories to dive into. I will publish the novella in a month or so and give it to my newsletter subscribers as a present before I make it available to buy. This is a good time to head over to JudithStarkston.com and sign up!

Thank you for such an intriguing interview, Judith. Where can reader purchase your books?

My books are available in the “real world” at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore (They’ll mail you signed copies, which are also sealed with my reproduction of Puduhepa’s actual seal) and online at Amazon. “Hand of Fire” is my Trojan War book told from a woman’s point of view. The three Tesha series books are “Priestess of Ishana,” “Sorcery in Alpara,” and “Of Kings and Griffins.”

Judith Starkston

Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get two degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell. She loves myths and telling stories. This has gradually gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write fantasy set in the exotic worlds of the past. Fantasy and Magic in a Bronze Age World. Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award. Judith has two grown children and lives in Arizona with her husband.

Author Links:

Amazon  / Newsletter Signup    / Website  

Twitter    / FB   / Instagram

Weird Wednesday: Butterflies

Mixed Media Art by Stephanie Hopkins

An Exploration of Our Quirky World

We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a new joint series, partnered with our friends at before the second sleep, that explores the quirky side of our universe.

We live in an extraordinary quirky world that often times we forget to pause in our busy lives to notice. During these times many cannot venture outside-another great reason to pick up a book-so we are bringing our explorations to you.

Throughout the years I’ve taken pictures of butterflies during my outdoor explorations. Alas, I haven’t been able to uncover those pictures. Nonetheless, I’m obsessed with Butterflies and use their images in my art quite often. How wonderful and calming it is to see Butterflies fluttering in the air or watching them look for food and such. I often wondered how they ate or how they protected themselves from predators. I did know a few facts about them but I was pleasantly surprised to discover more.

There are a lot of fun facts about butterflies and today we are exploring some of those. You probably already know their life goes through different cycles or that they only live for a few weeks. But did you know…

Butterflies belong to the insect group called, “Lepidoptera.” I believe that means, “Scaly wings.” In Greek. What is cooler about their wings is that they’re covered with thousands of tiny scales that overlap in rows! Which is interesting because their wings are supposedly transparent.

Butterflies Live on an All-Liquid Diet: They cannot chew solids. The way they eat is basically like how we humans would drink from a straw.

Butterflies Drink from Mud Puddles: Yes, I would say they are very particular about what they eat.Ha! I have heard it said that they will even drink tears from turtles.

Butterflies Taste with Their Feet: They have taste receptors on their feet that finds food. When they land on a leaf, they drum the leaves with their feet. Apparently, they do that until the plant releases it juices…

There are so many more wonderful fun facts about Butterflies and I hope to revisit this subject another time with you.

Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click follow to keep up with the blog content. We’ll be having contests coming up, so you’ll want to be sure to stay tuned!

Stephanie Hopkins

Should Speed Reading be Your Objective?

Introduction to exploring why we read and what methods we use.

The topic of speed reading has been around a long time. For a while now I’ve been meaning to explore why it is even a consideration.

The concept of speed reading according to Wikipedia is to improve one’s ability to read quickly. Reading further on the subject, I discovered that the term was coined by Evelyn Wood in the late 1950’s. She was a school teacher who wanted to understand why some people read faster, and to create a method to increase speed. Wood claimed her intentions were also to improve comprehension.

It is safe to say that most have heard of the speed reading. Does the method over shadow the main objective that comes with reading? Or should it even be something you try? How will it benefit you? Does it really improve comprehension? Is there value in the method? Would speed reading decrease your ability to be a critical thinker? Will there be important details you might miss? Do you speed read just to see how many books you can read within a limited time? Or to reduce your ever-growing pile of books? Those are a lot of questions to ponder.

I’ve looked at this from different angels and I’ve come to the conclusion that you might as well not read if speed reading is your main objective. The point of reading is broad and a matter to explore further. One of the points of reading is to expand your knowledge. I realize that everyone learns differently. What one method might work for some; it might not work for others.

When we take the time to appreciate and reflect upon the material we are reading, we add value. Especially if you apply it. Let’s face it, you’ll enjoy a book more or get more out of it by slowing down your pace. Of course, if you incorporate reading in your daily routine, you’ll find yourself consuming books faster.

I’m still wanting to write about this subject in more depth and to discuss the many important points of reading. Looking forward to it. Who knows where this might lead us?

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

About the Cover: This cover is definitely and eye catcher! Love the landscape and colors.

About the book: There are a lot of books out there about Word War II. Though a bit burned out on them, I find this one interesting. It looks to be character driven. Keeping an eye on this one! -Stephanie

Book Description:

Bookouture

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 20 Jan 2021

An unforgettable novel of human kindness, inspired by an incredible true story.

Snow falls and a woman prepares for a funeral she has long expected, yet hoped would never come. As she pats her hair and straightens her skirt, she tells herself this isn’t the first time she’s lost someone. Lifting a delicate, battered wristwatch from a little box on her dresser, she presses it to her cheek. Suddenly, she’s lost in memory…

January 1945. Dachau, Germany. As the train rattles through the bright, snowy Bavarian countryside, the still beauty outside the window hides the terrible scenes inside the train, where men and women are packed together, cold and terrified. Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When the prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd and installed in the nearby household of Senior Officer Becher and his young, pretty, spoiled wife. With his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher, but he knows his life is only worth something here as long as Becher needs his skills.

Anna Reznick waits table and washes linens for the Bechers, who dine and socialise and carry on as if they don’t constantly have death all around them. When she meets Isaac she knows she’s found a true friend, and maybe more. But Dachau is a dangerous place where you can never take love for granted, and when Isaac discovers a heartbreaking secret hidden in the depths of Becher’s workshop, it will put Anna and Issac in terrible danger…

A gorgeously emotional and tear-jerking read set during World War Two. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of AuschwitzWe Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.

Be sure to follow and check out more of my art at my Instagram!

before the second sleep cover crush

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

My thoughts:

Simone St. James is among my favorite suspense writers and when I spotted this book on NetGalley, I might have almost fell out of my desk chair. I was overjoyed! I must confess I read the story last year and for whatever reason I failed to write a review. I do remember having a few issues with it and I couldn’t remember some details of the story. This prompted me to read the story again for a fresh start.

St. James is brilliant at setting the stage for a creepy story! Reading Sun Down Motel definitely gives one pause about staying in a road side motel! The location and the people of the story are intriguing and you do sympathize with their troubles. Like the first time reading the book, the second time around, I still had trouble with some parts that were dragging. I felt there were too much detail in the telling and not enough showing. Maybe that is just me.

Viv and Carly’s story were so similar that at times, I became confused who I was reading about. Maybe it was because of the lapse of time when I wasn’t reading the story? Not so much the second time around.

There was a scene in the story where I guessed what happened to Viv. It actually was a small detail and I was actually surprised to pick up on it. Towards the climax the story started to weaken and I was really disappointed in the ending. It fell completely flat in my opinion.

Don’t allow my thoughts on Sun Down Motel sway you from not reading this story. It is a good premise, atmospheric and over all I enjoyed it.

I’ve rated this story three stars and I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Banner Created by Stephanie

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

New Book Release: Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristin Harper

Congrats to Kristin Harper book publication of, “Aunt Ivy’s Cottage!”

About the book:

Description

Up in the attic, with views across the sparkling bay, she opens the lid of the carved trunk. Carefully moving aside, the delicate linen wedding dress once worn by her great-aunt, she unpacks all the smaller boxes inside until she finds the leather-bound diary. She knows this will change everything…

All Zoey’s happiest childhood memories are of her great-aunt Ivy’s rickety cottage on Dune Island, being spoiled with cranberry ice cream and watching the tides change from the rooftop. Now, heartbroken from a recent breakup, Zoey can see her elderly aunt’s spark is fading, and decides to move to the island so they can care for each other.

When she arrives to find her cousin, Mark, sitting at the solid oak kitchen table, she knows why Aunt Ivy hasn’t been herself. Because Mark—next in line to inherit the house—is pushing Ivy to move into a nursing home.

With the cousins clashing over what’s best for Ivy, Zoey is surprised when the local carpenter who’s working on Ivy’s cottage takes her side. As he offers Zoey comfort, the two grow close. Together, they make a discovery in the attic that links the family to the mysterious and reclusive local lighthouse keeper, and throws doubt on Mark’s claim…

Now Zoey has a heartbreaking choice to make. The discovery could keep Ivy in the house she’s loved her whole life… but can Zoey trust that the carpenter really has Ivy’s best interests at heart? And will dredging up an old secret destroy the peace and happiness of Ivy’s final years—and tear this family apart for good?

A stunning and emotional read about old secrets, new love and never forgetting the importance of family. Perfect for fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Robyn Carr and Mary Alice Monroe.