How Not To Blog

When you end your last post “stay tuned,” you probably don’t expect your illustrious blog host to disappear for six months.

Felix/Mommy selfie time. Also, feeling the love with my @bitchmedia B-Hive mug, because we value independent media.

A post shared by Marla Dawn Holt (@tinydinostudios) on


I got new glasses!

Yeah, I didn’t expect that either. I have spent the last six months in a haze of not enough sleep, baking, yoga, playing with babies, and of while plenty of writing has been happening as well, there has been a lot of I don’t have time to turn this into a blog post, lets make it an instagram instead. But I have missed this space.

This peasant loaf is my prettiest so far. Can’t wait til it cools to see how it tastes. #gfbaking #glutenfree

A post shared by Marla Dawn Holt (@tinydinostudios) on

Over the years, I’ve talked about doing a lot of different things with Tiny Dino Studios, and I get excited about new projects and new hobbies, and make all sorts of plans that I never quite follow through on. I start out with the best intentions for a yarn dyeing business, for helping people with their handmade business, for freelance writing, for selling soap, and then I get side tracked by whatever story I’m working on and all my good intentions go straight out the window.

You’d think it wouldn’t take me years and years to realize I should put all of my energy into my writing already and be done with it, but it did.

For whatever reason, I felt like writing wasn’t enough to focus on. Those other things had the potential to bring me money sooner, even though I cared more about the writing.

I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with owning that I want to just be a writer.

And doesn’t that make it sound simpler than it really is? There is no “just” about it.

I currently have one novel in time out while I decide if it’s done or not, another I have been working on for a year, and a third that’s waiting in the wings. Not to mention all of the scary parts of writing like query letters and synopses, and whether self-publishing a little isn’t a bad idea.

Enjoying being outside before it gets too hot. ??? Love watching the plants grow. ????????????????

A post shared by Marla Dawn Holt (@tinydinostudios) on

On top of that, I miss the good old days when blogs were a way to genuinely connect with readers instead of another avenue to facilitate the means of production.

I don’t want to sell you stuff.

I want to talk about my writing and complain about this elimination diet I’m getting ready to start. (I’m totally Fat Tuesdaying it up this weekend, because come Monday, I have to give up all of my favorite things: coffee! chocolate! chickpeas! tomatoes!)

Mostly, I want to share fun stuff, like this pinterest board I made for my current writing project:

I know some authors have boards and boards and boards for each of their stories. This is the first time I’ve done it, and it was fun trying to find people and places that match what I see in my head when I write.

Now, anyone want to beta read?

Continue Reading

Bad Romance

At one point in the original Gilmore Girls series, someone says to Lorelai, “You like movies right?”

And Lorelai’s reply is “Good, bad, and in between.”

Ladies and Gents, that is how I feel about the subtle art that is the romance novel. There are good romance novels (anything by Rachael Herron is fantastic, for instance), and there are the bad (Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m looking at you), and there is a whole lot of in between. Folks, I have read them all–well, a lot of them anyway, and I am not in any way ashamed.

So here’s the thing. I feel like I shouldn’t need to say, “I’m not ashamed.” But when I tell people that I read and write romance novels, a lot of the times they look at me, and their mouths are saying, “Oh that’s great!” but the slant of the eyebrows and the tilt of their head is really saying, “Huh, I thought you were smart.”

Guess which one is louder?

I won’t argue about how a good romance novel is some of the most intense, character driven, real shit you’ll ever read. And if you’re going to argue that the main reason romance novels suck is because they are marketed toward bored housewives, we’re not going to make much headway. I’m not here to convince you to take up the romance novel. If you’re not a believer, I won’t be able to convince you, and that’s fine.

What I’m more interested in is the romance novel audience–an audience primarily made up of women, reading about women. And in a good romance novel, that woman usually has to confront some hard shit, and it is liberating and empowering, because she finds a strength inside herself she’d been denying. Lesser quality romances are usually plagued with some pattern of dude bro heroes holding up the patriarchy and the heroines deciding that for some reason, the patriarchy totally turns them on. Gross.

It was a forgone conclusion well before I settled into romance that any work of fiction I penned would be feminist. In a genre that might be a young woman’s first real safe place to explore the idea of her sexuality, that it’s OK to feel desire, a feminist interpretation is more important than ever.

Because I say there are good romances, and bad romances, I don’t necessarily mean the quality of the writing, though they usually go hand in hand. No, what I mean by “bad romance” is the romanticizing of abusive, obsessive behavior from both men and women. There is a prominence for characterizing relationships as such, especially from contemporary indie authors, that I find disturbing.

You guys, it is not OK to to represent abusive relationship as normal. It just isn’t. Yeah, I’ve read them, and it’s like watching a train wreck happen. I have to know how the author resolves this horrible situation, and it usually isn’t to my liking. The heroine almost always is the (anti)hero’s fix at some cost to herself, and the only thing they have going for themselves is their desperate obsession with one another. That isn’t romantic. It’s scary as hell.

What I mean to say by all of this, is that when I say I’m writing romance novels, I’m striving toward the earth shattering, character-driven, feminist approach…and maybe I tend to tweet a lot about bad habits of bad romance writers when I’m reading one of those books.

I’d like to start a discussion about your favorite romances, about heroines that make good role models, and premises that make you want to vomit, and why all of these stories matter.

Stay tuned.

Continue Reading

I Didn’t March for Unity

Women’s March Kansas, January 21st, 2017

I marched in the Kansas Women’s March this past Saturday. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the march from both sides, and a lot of people who didn’t really understand what it was about. Unity was a word I heard bandied about a lot, but unity with what? With whom? Certainly not the current government. Certainly not with those telling us to keep calm, keep quiet.

This march wasn’t for unity. It was a rallying cry, a starting place, an all-inclusive launching pad for a movement that won’t stop fighting for the freedoms of everyone in this country. A friend of mine on facebook put it well when she said, it wasn’t just a women’s march, but a human march.

I didn’t march for unity.
I didn’t even march because I am afraid of losing my rights.

I marched for all of the men, women, and children in this country who are still fighting for the ease of my white, middle class life.
I marched so that as my kids get older, they will have support should they need it.
I marched so that when Felix and Rufus get to school age, there’s a school worth going to.
I marched for clean water.
I marched for LGTBQ rights and civil rights.
I marched for religious freedom.
I marched for healthcare, for birth control, for the right to choose.
I marched for immigrants, for refugees, for peace.
I marched because climate change is real.
I marched for Kansas where the fight’s been going strong for six years
I marched for all the ways each of those things intersect across so many injustices.

I marched for you on Saturday, because you deserve Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, and so does everyone else.

Continue Reading

What is Saving My Product Photos

Last week, I posted on the Tiny Dino Studios facebook page about playing with my foldio, and I got a bunch of questions about how I liked it. Before this past week, I’d only used the foldio a handful of times, and mostly with my phone. And after that, I’d never taken the time to edit the photos, but holy smokes you guys, the little light box thing is totally worth it!

Mocha Morning Soap

Here is one of the new product photos I took last week using the foldio. It’s not perfect, but it is light years ahead of the photo of the same product I took a few weeks before that on my desk using the window for light.

See the difference?

Box of Chocolates Special Edition Valentine’s Day Soap

Here’s another soap that just finished curing. It’s scented with chocolate and lavender, colored with cocoa and red oxide.

Good Vibes Soap with poppy seed swirl and calendula petals

This is brand new, and has a couple weeks left on the curing shelf. I call it Good Vibes because it’s a very earthy, fresh, relaxing essential oil blend of sandalwood, eucalyptus and patchouli. I also adore how the poppy seed swirl turned out.

I’m not the most composition-minded photographer out there–and I call myself photographer in the sense that I hit the shutter on my little canon power shot and a photo results–but I’m really glad I have my foldio. While there are some of my photos where I couldn’t edit around bad composition (see below), it’s not the foldio’s fault I barely pay attention to whether my shot is in focus. It’s designed to photograph small things. That’s why it’s only ten inches wide.

See how you can see the edge of my back drop and the sides of the light box? The soap is true though!

With a little conscious effort on my part, I can really improve my product photography with the help of my little light box. So, while this is what I have, I’m going to say that any light box will help.

I’m going to keep practicing my photography, focusing on getting more usable pics out of each photo session, and paying more attention to how I line things up. But editing photos this time around was so much less frustrating than usual. Hooray!

Continue Reading

32

On my 32nd birthday, I am three days into a huge life transition. Having given up my day job to stay home with my kids, I am excited and nervous and full of plans. But really, when am I not full of plans?

The first day I stayed home, I did all of the things. We cleaned for a couple of hours (I gave Felix a duster and he “helped.”) Then we did yoga–I give Felix his own mat and he joins me when he feels like it. I managed to squeeze a shower in there and we ran some errands followed by lunch and a trip to the Chick-Fil-A play place. Then it was home for a nap, miraculously both kids slept at once and I got some photos taken before it was time to push burgers and beer at the new job. And when the night was slow and I got off an hour early, I treated myself to a glass of wine and got some writing done at the bar and got home at my usual time. I was so proud of myself.

Then Rufus woke up constantly all night long, because he was hungry, because he was cold, and I got barely any sleep. Brock worked from home for an hour or so, letting me sleep in. Then I woke up, drank all of the coffee, and decided I was going to take it easier, because the whole not having two jobs meant I wasn’t supposed to have to work myself to exhaustion.

I’ve been puzzling over how I’m going to do everything I want to get done this year. I have a few very broad goals, but each of them come with pretty hefty to-do lists.

1. Be there for my kids and husband
2. Get back into shape after all of the pregnancies.
3. Get First Novel out for submissions, then write Second Novel and Third Novel (both started)
4. Make Tiny Dino SoapWorks successful.

All of these things have various working parts that could each be their own full-time job, and my current schedule is just too new for me to know how it will all work together. My first goal is to find a rhythm that allows me to do some housecleaning, hang out with my kids, write, make some bath and body stuff, work and do everything else–maybe not all in one day, but perhaps some sort of rotating schedule. Most importantly, I need to give myself more than a couple of days to figure it out.

While I find I am pretty much incapable of doing nothing, today and through the weekend, I plan to do my best. I’ll hit a couple of cleaning project, maybe strain and grate some beeswax. (I get my beeswax from a local apiary, and it’s about one step above raw. Not quite ready to go into finished product as is.) I’ll definitely write everyday, because I can’t not, but slowing down and resting up seems like a good way to start a year where I have some pretty big goals to hit.

Continue Reading

Thoughts At the End of the Year

1. All of the blog people are talking about their new year goals.
2. I don’t usually play by the blogging people rules. I rebel against most of the “blog this way to build an audience” schtick, but I kind of like this.
3. I especially like this one since my day to day life will be drastically altered at the change of the year.
4. Having a plan going in seems like the smart thing to do.
5. I will have to coordinate life with the kiddos, kicking off a couple of businesses, and the evening job.
6. Good news is that I should have more opportunity to tackle that stuff.
7. Bad news is, I haven’t had much time to think about it yet.
8. But Christmas is over. I have two days left at the day job. I am giving myself next week to rest. To adjust the kiddos to the new schedule before I settle on my plan of attack. (Any advice from work at home mom would be greatly appreciated.)
9. I turn 32 next Thursday.
10. I’ve always liked having my birthday at the beginning of the year, because my need to grow introspective about myself when I turn another year older fits in with the seasonal zeitgeist.
11. I also tend to have too many goals for one person to reasonably accomplish during any one time frame.
12. That probably means I’m ambitious, but I have yet to be convinced that ambition is a bad thing.
13. How do you get anything done without a desire to do it?
14. I’m spending the next week asking myself what’s most important to me to do this year, and what’s best for my family, and finding where those things overlap and where they don’t.
15. The overlap is still probably too much to get done in one year, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

Continue Reading

New Adventures

I have some pretty exciting news.

I am quitting my job in three weeks.

I have been working as a specialty retail buyer for 4 1/2 years now, and it has been a blast, but it is time for something new. In fact, I have already started another job. I’m working at one of my favorite local restaurants in the evenings, which is where I’ve been instead of writing here. I’m having a blast, but the best part of all this change is that I’m going to be able to stay home with my kiddos during the day!

I have been trying to maneuver into this position for the last two years, and I am so stoked it is finally working out.

I am full of plans, both for the kids and myself and the writing projects and the soap business. It has yet to be seen how all of this will fit together, and I’m sure it will take us most of January to fall into a routine, but I am planning to make the most it.

Starting in January, I can also poor my full energy into Tiny Dino Soapworks, which I have been operating a little bit under the radar as I sort out all the moving parts.

Here’s a peek at my favorite new soap, Mocha Morning. It’s made with PT’s coffee and smells like coffee and chocolate cake. It’s delicious!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be gearing up to launch the soapworks full-blast with a wholesale linesheet and a bevy of new products. If you know anyone who loves handmade soap and body products, send ’em my way!

Continue Reading

The Day After

This morning I awoke with a knot in the pit of my stomach.

I feel like I should have done more.

Most of this past year, I have been focusing my mental energy inward. I was growing a baby, preparing myself for labor, trying not to panic about the logistics of bringing another member into our family.

I did not have energy for the political.

I knew I was with her from the beginning.

The other candidate’s speeches were incomprehensible and tailored to incite rather than to unite.

I am the person who called sexism and racism. Probably the one you brushed off because I didn’t say it loud enough.

Today I am in mourning. I am grief stricken. I am outraged. I want to give Hillary Clinton a big hug and tell her that I was honored to vote for her yesterday. That her name was even on the ballot was a huge victory, and I know how hard she fought. But I also know that it is not enough.

It is not enough in a world where a woman has to be perfect to compete in an arena where men are routinely corrupt.

It is not enough in a world where people of color don’t feel safe in their homes.

It is not enough when LGBTQ people are shot down in what is meant to be a safe place.

It is not enough, and I didn’t say it loud enough.

Continue Reading

Meet Rufus, Our Tiniest Dino

He's about one week old in this photo. And, Hey! That's the blanket I knit him.
He’s about one week old in this photo. Also, taken at night.

We added a new member to our family two weeks ago. On August 17th, 2016, Rufus King was born. He weighed 10lbs 9oz and was 21.5 inches long, making him my biggest baby by 1 whole ounce. (If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll also know that August 17th is my wedding anniversary.)

Rufus was born at our local freestanding birth center. We were privelaged have a lovely water birth with zero complications.

Both he and I are doing fantastic. We’ve spent the last two weeks getting to know one another and nursing nearly non-stop. He and I are working on easing back into day-to-day life.

I’m still working on all of my projects from soap to novels to freelance writing, and Rufus will be my constant companion for the next few months. I am so excited he is here!

Continue Reading

Shampoo Bar 101

french vanilla soap topped with chamomile
french vanilla soap topped with chamomile

While I was developing my soap recipe, it was important to me to create a bar that was so luxurious you couldn’t wait to shower, but also one that could multi-task as a shampoo bar.

You guys, shampoo bars are what originally got me hooked on handmade soaps.

I have naturally curly hair. Sometimes it’s fantastic and defined and curvaceous, and other times it’s big and bushy. It’s thick and dry always.

My hair has little consistency, and literally does whatever the hell it wants depending on the weather. Bonus cell phone selfie! Here’s what it looks like today, on a hot and humid summer day: somewhere between curvaceous and bushy.

case in point: second day hair after straightening my bangs. The bulk of my hair is a little flatter than normal, but my bangs, which started the day straight curled up to match.
case in point: second day hair after straightening my bangs. The bulk of my hair is a little flatter and frizzier than normal, but my bangs, which started the day straight curled up to match.

I gave up trying to control my hair a long time ago. I’ve never been a fan of moose or hairspray or gel. It all just feels gunky and like it weighs my hair down. I gave up on conventional shampoos ages ago too. With liquid shampoos, my hair was either brittle, oily, or so dandruffy I looked like I didn’t wash at all. Gross, right?

Enter the almighty shampoo bar!

Bar soap has literally saved me and my hair from constant flux. While I can’t control how my hair reacts to humidity, I can keep it clean and healthy and my scalp relatively itch free. In my book that’s a huge win.

Here’s the thing though–I had to find the right shampoo bar. And believe me, I tried a lot of them along my quest to greatness.

You need to look for two things in a good shampoo bar:

  1. A high percentage of castor oil. Castor oil is a thick, moisturizing oil that boosts the amount of lather so your hair is easier to wash. Because castor oil is so thick and soft, it isn’t often used above 10% in any bar of soap. Any more than that and the bar can become sticky and soft, but between 5-7% is perfect for a shampoo bar. This will still puts it low on the ingredients list, but if it’s there, it’ll be good for your hair.
  2. Hard cleansing oils like coconut oil or lard, balanced with a moisturizing oil like olive oil. Balancing the hard cleansing oils with the moisturizing oils creates a balanced bar that gets your strands squeaky clean without drying out the natural oils in you hair.

Sounds good, right? But I know what you’re thinking. How’s the transition period? Will I look like I haven’t showered in weeks? The answer is no, of course not. There is a transition, but it’s nothing like going no-poo if that’s what you’re worried about.

What to Expect from Switch to a Shampoo Bar

  • A shampoo bar will clean your hair so well that all the silicon and other gook commercial hair products have left behind will start to wash out.
  • Transitioning from coated to clean hair can make your freshly denuded strands feel extra thirsty and dry for a few days or more
  • Your hair might be a little frizzier or even hold a little more static since it doesn’t have that commercial gook weighing it down
If you have dry hair like me, finishing your shampoo with an apple cider vinegar rinse (ACV). ACV acts like a conditioner and adds moisture and balance back to your hair and scalp. Remember, soap is alkaline, so a little acid goes a long way. An ACV rinse should also help with any dryness, frizziness, or static-cling.

I use about 3 oz ACV and fill the rest of a 24 oz condiment squirt bottle and apply directly to strands and ends after shampooing. I let the rinse set while I finish my shower and then rinse with water before I get out.

I wash my hair about every 2-3  days depending on weather and activity level. I’ll wash it more often if I want my curls to be super defined for a special occasion, but most days, it looks like the selfie above, and I’m cool with that.

Have you ever used a shampoo bar? What were the results?

All of Tiny Dino Soapworks soaps can be used as shampoo bars. All you have to do is choose your favorite scent!
Continue Reading
1 2 3 36