It’s Almost Nanowrimo Time Again!

I I know it’s been all mittens all the time around here lately, but I have been writing more than ever. And as always, it’s the middle of October, so I am gearing up for Nanowrimo. Though I’ve probably spent more time this past year writing daily than any other, I am still super excited for Nanowrimo. In my daily writing, I usually average 1000 words. Which means the 1667 goal for Nanowrimo is still a push for me.

I’m hoping I set myself up well this year. I’ll be working on a companion to the book I was working on most of this past year, so I know the characters well, and I have a basic plot outline in my head. I even brainstormed and wrote a loose summary. This is so not my typical writing by the seat of my pants behavior.

I even made a cover for this year’s project, because I recently found Adobe Spark’s book cover maker.

This is my first go. I’ve made a few others since then. I am especially enjoying the one I made for The Other Lane. (This is just for fun, mind you. I am not publishing these books myself.) It’s very calm and serene and spare–which is nothing like Lane herself, but something she is searching for.

I even updated some information about The Other Lane on my Nanowrimo page. It’s the first nanowrimo I ever won, and I will always love this book. I even put together an official playlist on spotify because I felt the need to share my sad bastard writing music.

Gonna do Nanowrimo? Be my writing buddy this year won’t you?

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How to Knit a Thumb onto a Mitten

Here is the final mitten video! When you finish this you should have a complete mitten. Don’t forget to knit two to make a pair. The great thing about plain stockinette mittens is that you can knit them exactly the same and they are interchangeable.

I’m working on a pattern with cables that I hope to share in a couple weeks that will have a rigjt and a left mitten. But first, if you want to learn how to make any mitten pattern into flip-tops, that’s what we’ll be learning how to do in my next video.

So, when I filmed this video last week, I was so proud of myself for getting it done. You might not be able to tell, but while I was editing the footage, all I could think about was how sick I looked. Even my hair looks sick compared to other videos.

I was suffering from what those of us who are unlucky enough to not be able eat wheat, barley, or rye like to call “getting glutened.” It was an awful couple of days, somewhere between your worst hangover and the most miserable days of morning sickness with a little bit of sea sickness and other digestive distress thrown in. And I was fighting a headache and twingy muscles for the rest of the week. I wanted to crawl back in bed and shut out the rest of the world, but I made a commitment to doing these videos, and being there for my kids, and meeting my wordcount. So I kept going.

And I’m glad I did, because working through sickness is tough, and it’s a good reminder to take care of myself so I don’t have to. Take care of yourselves, ya’ll, whatever that means for you. And don’t forget to knit that second mitten.

As always, here is the link to the written pattern, and if you would like to start the videos over from scratch, you can start the series here.

And let me see those #mittenselfie (s)!

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How To Decrease the Hand of a Mitten


Happy Monday! I am excited for another week of querying literary agents, knitting mittens and writing, writing, writing. What are you excited about working on this week? I mean, I know you’re knitting mittens, and I’d love to see how those are going, but what else?

Here is this week’s installment of the Simple Chunky Mittens knitting tutorial. Today we learn how to k2tog and create an even, round top to our mittens. We even check for fit and weave in an end.

We’re so close to having a finished mitten! Next week we’ll knit the thumb and that’s it!

If you like, here is the written pattern we are using.
And if you need to catch up with the videos, they begin, here.

Don’t forget to share your progress photos with #mittenselfie and #simplechunkymittens. I’ll be searching for your photos on instagram.

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How to Customize the Hand of a Mitten

This is an exciting step in knitting your mittens, in that it finally starts to look like a mitten. You can even try it on and see how it looks. I do that later on in the video, and man, do I look good in pink.

Oh, and if you want to reference the written pattern, as always, you can find it here.

How are your mittens coming? I’d love to see a selfie of you and your mitten. Use #simplechunkymittens, and go see mine on instagram.

Oh, and I totally submitted my novel query to that agent. Fingers crossed as I submit to a few more and wait to hear back!

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How To Knit a Thumb Gusset

I had a little scare over the weekend. I dusted off my first novel to start querying agents again. I had my query letter ready, my synopsis done. I had a sample of the first few chapters all neat and shiny and decided to check in on the full manuscript to look for errant typos and formatting issues.

When I open the document, I scan the whole thing, so far so good. Not too much work to be done. Then I see it. The word count in the corner.

106,000 words.

Holy shit. No.

When I last closed this document, it read 90,000 words. And that still is a little too long for the genre I write in, but 106,000 words? Oh hell no.

I panicked, scanned to doc again in case I accidentally duplicated a chapter. Nope.

So I took a breath and went in with my mental machete sharpened and prepared to hack 16,000 words out of my book.

A few chapters in, I’d gotten it down by about 2000 and was despairing when my husband suggested I email him the story. He popped it into his copy of Word, and looked at me like I was crazy.

His word doc said 90,000 words.

I copy and pasted my whole book back into google docs, where I do all my writing, and got roughly the same word count he did. We tried a few shorter documents with similar results

Turns out, the free word processor I downloaded when I got my new computer last spring can’t count words for shit.

But what a relief. I will rely on my google docs word count from now on. It’s seen me to winning two Nanowrimos, so I think I’m good.

Word count is a finnicky thing, which is why I love the thumb gusset we’re working on today. It is neat, simple, and beautifully symmetrical.

Want to get started on this project, visit the written pattern to find a materials list and links to earlier videos.

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How to Cast On to Double Pointed Needles


Back when I was teaching knitting classes regularly, I had a lot of students who had never knit in the round, and more specifically, had never knit with double pointed needles (DPNs), because they were intimidated by the mechanics of it. So we spent the whole first two hour lesson in any sock or mitten class learning how to cast on and getting to know all those needles.

Today’s video is like a condensed, 10-minute version of that class. It’s got all my tips and tricks, but it doesn’t take long to watch. And even better, you can watch the parts you need over and over again. I am still learning the video editing process, and I still sound like a grade A idiot on film, but my husband said I could tag this video as knitting ASMR, so I’m calling that a win.

If you would like to follow along with the written pattern, check it out here.

Next Monday we’ll increase for the thumb!

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Simple Chunky Mittens Video Tutorial

Back in 2012, I published a little knitting pattern I cooked up for one of my knitting classes. I also posted it on Ravelry. Since then, that pattern has been the number one thing that brings new folks to my website.

Along with those new folks have come requests to see a video tutorial on how to knit these mittens. I’ve been meaning to do it 4 out of the last 5 years, but this year, I finally figured out how to make it happen.

So, if you’re interested in learning how to knit a quick and easy pair of mittens with minimal materials, or are just curious to see how awkward I am talking to my phone in an empty room, click on the video below!

In the video, I only mention what you need to get started: yarn and needles. If you’d like to follow along and collect all your supplies now, here is a full supply list

-100g of chunky weight yarn
-1 set of 4 size US 10 double pointed knitting needles
-2 stitch markers
-Waste yarn
-Yarn Needle
-Tape measure

I made a video about casting on to double pointed needles to get you started.
To learn how to increase for the thumb, check out this video.
To learn about knitting up the hand and customizing length, this is the video you’re looking for.

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I Dream of Romance Heroes Who Defy the Patriarchy

On Saturday nights, my oldest son and I stay up and watch something together after the little kids go to sleep. It’s time just for the two of us. After finishing all of the episodes of Bake-Off on Netflix, we were at a loss of what to watch, until we happened upon a bunch of early 90’s Disney live action films. We watched The Mighty Ducks and Cool Runnings and some others I remember enjoying when I was his age. For the most part, he’s gotten a kick out of them, and we can talk about them later, what’s positive, what’s problematic.

This week Netflix suggested Mulan, and I thought, sweet! A movie about a woman who defies the patriarchy and kicks some major ass. So we watched it, and Mulan does defy the patriarchy (mostly), and she does use her brain and kick some major ass. (By the way, did you know that Miguel Ferrer voiced the bad guy? I had no clue. He was also the villain in Blank Check, because yeah, we watched that classic too.) But the message about gender roles, like how Mulan can’t help but be nurturing bothered me. Then the song about what a real man is was so full of stupid toxic messages that I almost stopped the movie to tell my son that no, that’s not what a man is. And while I am that lame mom that’s going to make him talk to me about, I’m not so lame that I’ll hold up the movie.

But good Lord, I cannot get that song out of my head. I mean, it’s a Disney song sung by Donny Osmund, so it’s catchy as hell, and I’ve been singing it for days. But the chorus has been bothering me for other reasons.

The Chorus (from Google)

Be a man
We must be swift as the coursing river
Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

These qualities are describing what it means to be an ideal man: swift, forceful, strong, and my favorite, emotionally unavailable. Looking outside Mulan, how often do we see men depicted this way across pop culture? Real men are strong, real men are assertive, real men are stoic, real men know how to take charge of a situation.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Bullshit.

All it takes to be a real man is to identify as one, but the expectations of toxic masculinity still permeate our culture. They are especially rampant in romance novels.

While the last couple of decades have seen heroines in romance novels gain agency, purpose outside their relationship, careers, and independence, the heroes haven’t come nearly as far. Far fewer of them are rapists. But the popularity of manipulative dipshits like Christian Grey and his hundreds of cheap billionaire-fiction knock offs greatly disturbs me.

I can’t figure out what is sexy about an emotionally disturbed, abusive gaslighter who lets you think you’re being independent while manipulating every move you make. Apparently, all is forgivable (even desirable) if you are young, rich, white, and conventionally handsome.

Christian Grey and his ilk is where toxic masculinity leads us, and just like romance writers need to do better by women than limp noodles like Anastasia Steele, we need to do better by men than Christian Grey.

Compassionate, caring heroes do exist in romance novels, but often I find they are still put on a pedestal by the heroine. He is the sexual agressor and/or tutor. He is the long time crush that makes her feel insecure. He is the suave businessman who somehow wows her with his cool disregard. And she is always striving to be worthy of him somehow.

There is never any question that he might not be worthy of her.

I want to see more heroes take an emotional journey of their own. I want them to come to understand how their socially ingrained misogynistic mindset can work against a successful relationship.

As he was reading latest novel, my husband commented that Ethan, the hero, had to overthrow his inherent misogyny to be with Juliet. I took it as a huge complimemt because my husband is a smart dude, but I hadn’t really thought of it as anything special before that.

Who doesn’t want their partner to think of them as their equal?

That’s fucking sexy.

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Author Platforms and Snake Oil Salesmen

I finished my second draft of my second novel last week and now I’m stuck in the in-between place where I don’t really have a project to work on. It’s two months to Nanowrimo. And that feels like too little time to really dig into the manuscript I have in progress (a romance novel story with a haunted house, how exciting in that?) only to have to set it aside to start something new come November 1st.

I realize that I don’t have to participate in Nanowrimo but I’m going to. I love it.

No, during this 2 months between writing projects felt like a good time to focus on myself as an author whose trying to get published. I am going to write a couple synopses, query some agents and, sigh, work on my author platform.

I don’t think I can convey to you how much I loathe those two words.

Marla’s definition of Author Platform:

The online persona authors are supposed to don in order to sell their books. Usually this persona is some insincere scrap of their real personality that ensnares the masses into a sales funnel where each individual ideally buys ten copies of your book. IE, writing free, snazzy, sparkly content to get attention in a way that tries not to look sleazy but uses all of the online sales gimmicks of those people who try to sell you thousand-dollar classes so that you too can make a million dollars in passive income on the internet.

I would apologize for exaggerating if I didn’t get at least six of those emails a day. More if they’ve got a new $1000 course coming out.

Honestly though, are some good points to putting together a author platform. Namely, nobody can read my books if they don’t know about them. So, in the spirit of making my dreams come true, I’ve been searching for people with integrity (I really like Mixtus Media) who can tell me how to get started.

Combing through all of these websites about how to determine your ideal reader / customer has me thinking a lot about performance.

Since I left the Historical Society I have been working a serving job in the evenings where I present myself in a way that is far more outgoing and effusive and cheerful than I really am. In short, when I’m at work I am an extrovert. I even have a costume that I wear (a basic black jeans and t-shirt unifrom) because it helps me transition to that place where I can excitedly sell beer and burgers.

It feels like some of these passive income sales experts are telling me that I need to adopt a persona similar to what I do when I am serving if I want people to pay attention to me.

I’m not about to try selling my books like that. There has to be more to representing myself authentically then pasting on a smile and pretending to be happy. I don’t want to be performing all the damn time.

I read an article last week about how modern fitness culture is a way for (white) upper middle class Americans to enforce social discrimination. There’s nothing wrong with exercise or eating healthy, but when it is performed to reinforce a system of discrimination for those who are not performing (ie, not thin, not buying the right food, shoes, yoga pants, etc.) there is a problem. And a lot of what I’m seeing from the experts on how to sell my books is that I need to shine up the aspects that are aesthetically pleasing, disregard those that aren’t, then “create value” for what it is you want to sell, usually by making the potential customer feel insecure about how much they really know on the topic, then selling them the solution for only $297.

“Creating Value” is the best way to make people feel like shit about themselves so they’ll spend their money in order to be able to perform success on the internet. Because performing success on the internet makes you an expert in whatever you are selling.

But dear lord, why?

Isn’t the whole point of being your own boss to make a living doing what brings you joy? Because it sure sounds to me like a lot of people thinks it’s about being like everyone else.

So yeah while I am indeed going to endeavor to blog at least once a week and post some photos on Instagram, there is no way in hell that I’m going to adopt another persona and pretend to be that person once or twice a week just to get readers. I don’t need to create value to what I am doing, because my contribution is already valuable. I write books about love stories from a feminist perspective, because I think it’s important to have as many woman characters with agency out there as possible.

I don’t want to play who can win the internet. I’ve never been into role playing games, and I don’t have a character. And honestly, I really don’t think that the same strategies the bozos shilling essential oils use should be the same ones that I use to try and connect with readers.

I just want to be the usual cranky, stressed out, blissed out, distracted by kiddos, preoccupied with my current characters me.

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In Case I Didn’t Mention it, The Last Few Months Have Been Hard

Yesterday I did something out of the ordinary. I took some time off.

I have a history of trying to work something productive into every moment of everyday. I am constantly cooking or tidying (not that you’d notice), writing, reading, knitting, etc. I don’t sit still very well. It’s part of the reason yoga is such an important part of my day. It’s the only time I try to decompress, and most days, I don’t do that very well.

Since Felix was born, and especially since we had Rufus, I haven’t been away from my kids (outside of work) for more than a couple of hours at a time. Mostly, I didn’t want to be. I like my kids, and I don’t like interrupting their routine, but since January, when I became a stay-at-home mom, I have been with my kids All. The. Time. And I needed a break. So did Brock.

Anniversary celebrations well under way. 4 years with @hashtagphysics. ????

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

For our fourth anniversary, Brock and I made it happen. We left the kids at home with grandma went out. We drank our coffee hot, we ate too much Indian food, we saw a movie. Then, after all of that, instead of going home and putting the kids to bed, we went to a hotel for a little peace and quiet.

At our first movie since Rufus was born. We'll be seeing Wonder Woman.

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It might have been too quiet. We’re used to the hubbub of 2.5 boys and the near constant sounds of traffic and sirens and neighbors. And even though this hotel is probably less than two miles from our house, there was none of that. The suite was a cocoon of silence and privacy. I have had a baby living in my bedroom for the last three years, I don’t get a lot of privacy. I was so out of my element, I was unnerved enough to dig out my white noise app and think about turning on a thunderstorm just to have something to listen to–because apparently the music we had playing wasn’t enough for me.

Our home for the night has three rooms. And a hot tub. Because this is the first night we've ever spent away together. Ever.

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

While the quiet was surreal, having an evening with my husband without a baby waking up in the middle of the movie and then again just as we’re going to bed was just as magically restorative as I wanted it to be.

Helping Felix make the transition to starting pre-school no longer feels so daunting, even though it means establishing a new daily routine for everyone, and dealing with some intense three year-old emotions. And there are other things I have been putting off (writing synopses, querying agents, finishing drafts, etc.) that don’t seem so scary today as they did yesterday, even though yesterday they felt a helluva lot more doable than they did six months ago.

I want to hang onto this feeling. I want to capture this sense of renewal and invigoration and seal it into capsule somewhere inside me where I can open it up whenever I feel bogged down by endless to-do lists, or when the baby wakes up an hour after I finally got to sleep, or when I have to be an extrovert at my service industry job and all I want to do is sit in a corner and read a book.

I know I can’t. But I can be better about taking care of myself. When I feel peaceful, it’s better for my family, it’s better for my writing.

Even though Felix’s school doesn’t start for two more weeks, tomorrow morning we’re all getting up early so we can practice getting out of the house by 8. That means my alarm goes off at 5:45. Despite opening the coffee shop for years, I am still not good at getting up in the morning. But I am getting up this early so I have time to do yoga. Because if I take care of myself first, maybe I can maintain a little bit of this energy.

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