New Jewelry Designs

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I took some pictures this morning of the jewelry I’ve been designing and creating. Some of these are based on patterns; others I came up with on the fly. This first picture is based on the popular wrap-around bracelets that you see.

Since gold is becoming more popular, I wanted to expand my closet to include the color. It’s not cheap as a raw material and I have metal allergies, so I turned to beads. This first one is my second wrap bracelet I created after taking a class at Fat Cat Beads.

I’m really digging chainmaille. This creation uses aluminum and rubber rings and was inspired by another Byzantine weave bracelet I picked up at a con. My version incorporates two sizes of rubber rings to make the weave tighter.

This necklace is one I designed around the three focal beads. It’s made of natural stone (jet), silver spacers, and Chinese beads. It’s a little heavier than a necklace made out of plastic and I really like the texture.

The Crystal Medallion pendant in gold was my first foray into bead stitching a complex form. This was another one that I learned from taking a class and I now know you *have* to focus when you’re putting this together otherwise you’ll create a monstrosity. I think this one turned out grand, though.

Many of the beaders I know are huge, huge fans of crystals and *bling*. I prefer something understated myself, unless I’m wearing it as an art piece and everything else I have on is very muted. I love this bracelet so much I want to make one in gold and other colors, too! This one I learned how to make in a private class and I’m so glad I did. (Thanks Suzie!)

Last but not least, this is another design of a necklace I put together specifically for the texture and the line variance. The silver beads are really cool because they take on the color of whatever you’re wearing.

    Mood: I should be sleeping.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: They’ve gone into my system, but they’re not doing *any* good.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hah. Work out? HAH.
    Yesterday’s Projects: Game, Short Story
    In My Ears: Enigma. Yep, from the 90’s. Yep, I am un-hip.
    Game Last Played: Kittens in a Blender
    Movie Last Viewed: Ironclad
    Book Last Read: Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal cluster bracelet in silver
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Sigh. Why Edit Old Books and Revise Slavery?

If you read my blog, you know that I tend to explore both sides of an issue before making a decision. There are a few things, though, that I am firmly against. There is a definitive phrase that is drawing my ire and it is called historical revisionism. From rewriting Mark Twain to the current recommendation to remove slavery from history books, there is no shortage of desired changes. Critics who’ve come out against such revisions are purported to cause controversy as if rewriting textbooks to avoid mentioning awful acts in human history was a rational thought in the first place.

Editing certain pieces of information to paint a particular group in a better light is not a *new* phenomenon. Ever since human beings have been able to depict events into words, pictures, and song, there have been those who have sought to revise or edit what really happened. The historical record is, in a way, its own truth that will never be precise — but it will be accurate. Cultural attitudes that appall you or I today were common in that era or decade. Regardless of how we feel about it, that is the way it was. Our ability to record and archive information is relatively new, so we experience micro-trends like we have never been able to before. We sometimes can’t see the big picture because we’re too heavily focused on the details, but make no mistake — we are a living, breathing part of a historical record not just on a day-to-day basis, but from second-to-second.

There are times when the historical record is inaccurate or has some amount of bias. When I say “viking” what immediately jumps to your mind? Stereotypes and attitudes are greatly affected by literacy. The reason why many less-developed cultures are treated with disdain is because their frame-of-reference is completely and totally different. Read Who were the Vikings? as one of many examples. Writing words is separate from painting, composing songs, telling stories, or drawing glyphs about an event. The lack of literacy doesn’t mean that culture was “dumb.” It simply translates to different people doing different things in different ways. I get my food by going to the grocery store whereas someone else might hunt, skin, preserve, and clean their dinners. To that person? I probably look like an idiot because I couldn’t track a deer. Would I be offended? Maybe, maybe not. Say I was a vegetarian. Sure, I probably would be upset by learning about how other people find food. Would I want someone to edit out their way of life? No, because that’s them and this is me.

I take specific issue with glossing over bad things that happened and moreso when it comes to the treatment of slaves or Native Americans. These two things in particular are what helped me moved past some terrible attitudes I had when I was younger. Diversity was rare where I grew up and I recognized I had a problem. I leveraged my time at UW-Madison to work through many of those issues and this served as the foundation for (what I hope to be) a more balanced approach to understanding other people and cultures. Besides poring through books and exploring other experiences in college, I also scoured court records from 1686 up until the American Revolution for a year-long Honors Class reviewing how Native Americans were treated. I was fascinated by what I found because I was reading events in sequential order as they happened rather than from analyses that pinpointed specific events that spanned centuries.

Slavery is outside of our understanding and modern sensibilities. However, the practice didn’t just exist in this country — it went on for thousands of years and it’s still happening in some parts of the world today. It is ingrained into the American culture in a myriad of ways and it does no one any good to water down the capture and sale of human beings for profit. Yes, slavery did happen in this country and yes, we are *still* feeling its effects today and no, we have a *long* way to go before we’ll achieve equality of any sort. In order to treat every culture the same, we have to work on our empathy and respect for one another even in cases where we do not agree with someone else’s choices.

What appalls me, is that we’d revise history because of how we feel about it. It seems like some worry about a phantom person we’d offend, how people will think about our founding fathers, or how we’re not equipped to deal with racial tension. This can easily be rectified by one word: EDUCATION. Use books as they were written to teach kids something rather than omit it from their “precious” eyes. That is the only way we can ensure these atrocities never, ever happen again. Yes, kids are young and naive. This is why we have good educators and parents!

    Mood: Hazy
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Still waiting for something to kick in.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Rolled my eyes a lot. Sheesh. Should do something today.
    Yesterday’s Projects: Game, Short Story
    In My Ears: Nothing
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy XIII
    Movie Last Viewed: Ironclad
    Book Last Read: Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal cluster bracelet in silver
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Back from Austin

I was in Austin all last week for meetings, meetings, and more meetings with Steve Jackson Games. When I started back in November, I was a little hesitant to talk more about my job because every company is different and I wanted to see how it was working before I’d start blogging more often. Even though there’s nothing “official” that companies can do or say to stop employees from being themselves, I’ve run into situations where being genuine (and I am a WYSIWIG person) works against you — especially if it doesn’t fit the culture or there’s politics involved.

That is most definitely not the case here. The people I work with — Steve included — know I’m an author and a game designer on top of what I do for the company. They also understand that I consider the work I do for them to be a part of me, too. While there are some common sense/NDA boundaries, I feel like I’m finally in a position where I can say: “Hey, I’m going to X con for an author appearance. I have scheduled a time where I can hand out Munchkin bookmarks, etc. Would you be interested?” The reason why I can do that is because the company’s core philosophy is to be genuine.

I started going back through the Daily Illuminator and took a trip down nostalgia lane. We opened one of the first sets of Car Wars, pored through old catalogs, reviewed Ogre, and laughed about how the Illuminati card game is a perfect snapshot of politics at the time. There is a *lot* of history here and that perspective really helped me to understand what I’ll be doing and how I can make sharing the fun a real experience. Being genuine is a hard marketing approach for a lot of companies because there’s some amount of risk attached to that. Here? Steve Jackson is Steve Jackson Games. I leave, the company doesn’t suffer. (Though, I’d like to think it would!) He leaves?

Yeah, you get the idea.

Much of the staff is invisible in the sense that you probably haven’t gotten the chance to see or talk to them except at cons. I was impressed with the talent and friendliness of everyone at the office. There are award-winning mini painters, gamers who’ve played a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for twenty-five years, music connoisseurs, video game aficionados, toy collectors, foodies, animal lovers, master game demoers, and crafters. We worked our proverbial tails off and, at the end of each day, I felt like we accomplished something. The experience is a little bit like working for a newspaper or a fine restaurant. You don’t see the chaos or the careful attention being put into the games and toys, but it’s there and it shows.

I’m happy I get to telecommute because there’s a lot of strategy and writing I have to do in my position. I have to concentrate — especially since I have editors. Truth be told: I’ve always gotten more done working-from-home than I have in any office with someone looming over my shoulder. Remember Scrooge McDuck and his pacing room? I’d love one of those! Though, I could have more days slaughtering winning a game like Castellan for the first time. Here’s the Castellan thread on

Lastly, there is something I get from this position that I haven’t gotten out of a job before. I don’t have to *hide* or apologize for my intelligence, my randomness, or who I am. Yes, I have had to do that for non-consulting/non-freelance positions in the past. No, I’m not going to go into details because, quite frankly, I’m part to blame for that. And yes, this does not just happen to me especially in a culture where typos are common and people are considered snobs if they use a dictionary or read and research before they open their mouths. Regardless of what happens during my time with this company, I will be eternally grateful for the ability to simply focus on the work. This, combined with what I’m doing for John, allows me to continue writing, designing, and telling stories. For me? It’s the best of many worlds and fortunately they’re all on the same fun-loving planet.

Special thanks to Phil Reed for arranging this trip and making me feel at home.

    Mood: Zoning
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A “few,” but they’re not doing any good.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I pressed many buttons on my controller.
    Yesterday’s Projects: None, sadly. Grrr…
    In My Ears: The Queen of the Damned soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy XIII
    Movie Last Viewed: Cowboys and Aliens
    Book Last Read: Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough
    Latest Artistic Project: Crystal cluster bracelet in silver
    Latest Release: Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Pets Play Games, Too!

I blogged a lot about games this week, so I thought I’d end it with this video of a bearded dragon playing Ant Crusher. There are a *ton* of videos like this. We have an albino water frog, but it’d be a challenge to take him out of his tank to play with the iPad. Also? Very slimy. I’ve thought about getting a bearded dragon. From what I hear, they’re pretty fun and very loyal.

Neither of our cats play games on the iPad, though they both like to watch me play video games and will run downstairs to hang out and/or be used as a rest for the controller.

    [Insert Life Bits Here.] This week, my life “bits” that you normally receive are on hold. (Get your mind out of the gutter…) I am away on business and, in anticipation of a thrilling but busy week, have written this post in advance. I’ll be back soon, though! Comments are moderated, but I’ll get to them when I can.

An “Anonymous” Snafu

Back in 2008, I wrote a chapter for a game called Exquisite Replicas. In my design essay called Initiation to Exquisite Replicas, I talk about writing from the perspective of a senior citizen. I remember that GenCon debut like it was yesterday because I shared a booth with John Wick who, if you’ve never met him, has a powerful personality. That year, Houses of the Blooded also appeared and people emptied their wallets for the “atlantean blood opera.” (The Live Action version, by the way, is loads of fun… Especially if you’re a newbie in a group of people who know one another very well… Muwahahaha.)

Wait, what was I saying? Oh yes…

In my game, there is a group called “The Anonymous.” When Exquisite Replicas was in development, Lee and I were chatting about having a defining look and feel for the characters. So? I rubbed some brain cells together and came up with something iconic and (what I thought was) unique. The Anonymous in Exquisite Replicas wear masks and dress in black to hide their true identities from the real world. Only they can see the truth and they will do everything they can to save the world from being replicated by alien creatures bent on destroying humanity.

Sound familiar?

After the game was at the presses, I found out about the hacktivist group called The Anonymous, who wear masks, dresses in black and… Yeah, you get the idea. So? I did what any writer would do. I had a meltdown where I spontaneously combusted from the inside out. My creative jolt of energy was certainly not intentional, nor was it mean to be malicious or satirical in any way shape or form. But? You never know, so I alerted the publisher just to be on the safe side and focused on the other, cooler parts of the game when I promoted it.

The moral to said tragic tale of neurotic woe? If you are naming *anything* in your game or story, do your homework. Um, I’d also include copying quotes or images in that, too. Oy.

    [Insert Life Bits Here.] This week, my life “bits” that you normally receive are on hold. (Get your mind out of the gutter…) I am away on business and, in anticipation of a thrilling but busy week, have written this post in advance. I’ll be back soon, though! Comments are moderated, but I’ll get to them when I can.
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Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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