Author Interview – John Baird Rogers

We are definitely not at a loss for talent today, folks!  A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received.  (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.)  I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-blogger, John Rogers, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure you will find as captivating as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more entertaining tales.  And now, heeeeere’s John…

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ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

My name is John Baird Rogers.  I have thought of myself as a writer for most of my adult life.  In 2011, I became a fiction writer full time.  I majored in English at Dartmouth College, where I took creative writing over several terms.  Then came family and career.  I worked in finance as CFO of a public company, on and off in Vienna, then founded two biotech startups.  Now, I have the opportunity to use my real world experience as the substrate for stories that have been rolling around in my head.  The first takes on the world of Big Data and the very timely issue of cyber war.  The second uses the manipulation of financial derivatives as impetus for attempted murder during a trip from Vienna to Budapest on the Danube.  The third, only sketched, is a thriller involving genes, ‘junk’ DNA and the aspirations of an arrogant scientist.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

http://johnbairdrogers.com :  A blog on words and music and the making of them.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/john.rootsmusic

Twitter:  @johnrootsmusic https://twitter.com/johnrootsmusic

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/authorjohnbairdrogers/

3. How many books have you written?

One complete, one drafted

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

No publication that can be purchased.  Short Story at http://www.scribd.com/doc/150588742/The-Cle-eland-Travel-Inn

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

I am currently querying agents, about ready to query small presses.  If I don’t get published that way, self-publishing.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author? 

I started creative writing seriously in college.  Always wanted to be an author, but didn’t commit to the pain and financial misery until recently.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing? 

I want to find out more about the people in my stories.  I have always loved telling a good story and have done so as part of being a musician and storyteller.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

I like the classics, Chaucer and Shakespeare in particular.  James Joyce.  Modern authors.  Jillian Flynn, William Kent Krueger (current Edgar nominee).  Reading Bret Anthony Johnston Remember Me Like This (just out), Steve Ulfelder’s Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage when it comes out soon.  Many writing books … E.M. Forster, Steven King.  Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King) particularly interesting because I’m about to enter rewrite on my second novel.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

I like real books best, and they are the only way to go for reference books.  I use Kindle most often because I have limited library space and a great deal of the mystery/thriller fiction I read deserves a silent, electronic burial.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

All.  Depends on the situation.  The thriller genre leads me most often to 3rd present.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

Always read

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

40-50 annually; usually only one fiction at a time; up to 5 non-fiction simultaneously.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

Skins and Bone is almost completely drafted.  Hack the Yak is completed through several rewrites, and I am querying it to agents.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

Both books are thrillers (larger problem discovered by individual, bad guys known or suspected early in plot).  Both have strong literary content.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

The basis for the story I’m writing now is trading in financial derivatives, which I know about from my former day job.  The inspiration is the devolution of the financial trade into the cesspit of moral relativity in the last couple of decades.

The basis of the completed novel (last rewrite March 2014) is the immediate future of health care and the ubiquity of the grid of wi-fi, streaming audio/video/information.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

General adult reading population.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

Hack The Yak is a thriller about big data, old-fashioned greed and the cruel reality of future medical care.  An ordinary guy, Joe Mayfield, unwittingly challenges malevolent software embedded in the most secure database in the world, goes off the grid pursued by a couple of bad guys and a very good gal named Weezy.  Joe and Weezy end up in a singlewide trailer in Panacea-by-God Florida, from which they expose the fraud designed to steal millions at the cost of thousands of lives, but not before the bad guys come up with a whole new take on burn the evidence.

Skins and Bone is a thriller about financial markets and manipulation.  In the world of finance, if you can foresee the worst-case scenario, you can protect against it.  If you can then make the worst case happen, you can profit enormously.  That is the proposition behind Skins and Bone.  The story is set a few years from now, following the end of the prior novel, Hack the Yak.

The protagonists are Joe Mayfield, a self-proclaimed ‘ordinary guy’ and Louise Napolitani (Weezy), a brilliant ‘tracker’ for the IACC database (the Yak).

In Hack the Yak , Joe exposed a massive fraud in the Yak and in so doing, met Weezy.  They are a pair now.  To quote a country music song, “If it ain’t love, it ain’t bad.”

Joe is hired by the investment banking firm ZCG, which specializes in Skins, financial derivatives intended to protect against political risk.  The story carries Joe and Weezy through murder, a trip to Vienna and Budapest and finally to the comeuppance for the high-flying banker who is managing to make very bad things happen and to profit from them.

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

I pretend that I write daily.  In reality, it’s about every other day.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Varies a lot.  The least, when I’m working on specific passages in rewrite, maybe 300 words.  The most, when I’m rolling on a draft, 3,000 or more.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I have not yet used a professional editor.  I am in three writing groups that include seven or eight published authors and an editor.  I have been relying on their critique so far.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

Generally, I want to write a draft of the entire story first.  That said, I do moderate rewriting as I go along.  For instance, a plot change in Chapter 10 may require adjustment of Chapter 3.  I do that kind of stuff as I go.  I work from a general outline … really, a synopsis of a couple of pages … and let the characters behave as they would in the situations they get into, which often alters the plot.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

I don’t have a single muse who comes to me bringing inspiration.  My cousin, Gamble Rogers, was a fine guitar player and story teller, and his stories and language inspire me.  The blues music I play and the people who came before inspire me.  Those influences give me the voices of my characters.  And then there’s the beach (see http://wp.me/p2Muv2-83).  The plots are built mainly from musings and frustrations growing out of my (former) professional life.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

Hack the Yak took about a year to draft, and Skins and Bone should have taken 6-8 months, but has drug on for 18 months.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

No on word limit, though I try not to stop at a natural stopping point (on the advice of Bret Anthony Johnston, a great teacher).

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names? 

Character names are partly based on people I’ve known, partly on internet searches (particularly for ‘foreign’ names.  Major locations are places I’ve been … there are some things you can’t easily get in a Google search, such as odors, the feel of North Florida heat, the way people walk in Vienna and the like.  But those Google maps help a lot, particularly Street View.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

I take a lot of notes on technical stuff … how a hacker would operate, standard terminology used in derivatives, city and country maps.  In other words, a lot of stuff that I have to know but which doesn’t get into the book.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

I like a cup of coffee or tea.  There’s nothing like a walk on the beach for plot development (see http://wp.me/p2Muv2-83)

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

I write when I have time.  I like morning, and I like my writing desk in Minnesota.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

After many years of ‘real life’ trumping all other activities, I feel as if ‘real life’ interrupts my writing too often.

 

30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

Unanswered, considering the perfectly legal prohibition against self-incrimination.

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

Can’t answer yet.  The second is not finished.  From the point of view of marketability, the second will be better, but I like the broader cast of characters in the first.

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

My initial answer is the male protagonist, Joe, because I know him so well and he’s such a fundamentally good man.  But Big Al, the 6’4” auto salesman in New Orleans … well, it’s be fun to be Big Al for a day.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

It’s embarrassing, but I know so little about movies that my opinion is probably not so great.  Maybe Kevin Spacey for Joe Mayfield and the actress who played Lisbeth in the Swedish version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”.

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

South African voortrekker derogatory slang.  Also, the depth and temperature of the Danube in June near Hainberg and der Donau (available on the Internet) and the wake pattern of a 200’ riverboat going over that same place (available from a ferry boat captain.)

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

The trading process for financial derivatives and the terminology and slang that go with the trading.  Difficult because it is detailed and currently largely opaque.  Very difficult because I wanted to project the near future and had to pass the current complex process through the filter of the abject incompetence of the current political system.

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Thank you, John, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

 

Writer Interview – Mike Steeden

Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  However, today’s interviewee didn’t contact me.  He did as he does, and sat quietly on the sidelines until I approached him.  Over the last few months, I think I’ve gotten to know Mike Steeden, or “Sir Mike” as I call him, pretty well, and he has one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  He comes across as humble, but is he is so intelligent and his brilliance definitely shows in his work.  He writes side-splitting satire and humor as well as deep and beautiful poetry among other things.  (By the way, I’ve also had the occasion to speak to his wife, Shirley, who is pretty amazing as well!  As you can imagine, she has a terrific sense of humor and she’s very witty too.  The two of them definitely go together!)

While this interview is long, please take the time to read the whole thing.  I think you’ll definitely be glad you did.  He is definitely one funny guy!  After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to both of his blogs and follow him for a regular dose of his charm, wit and satirical humor.  And now, I turn the microphone over to Mike…

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ABOUT YOU::

 1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

For better or worse I go by the name of Mike Steeden. I am an old fool.  Born in England I call myself a European – much to the annoyance of the many little Englanders who frequent these Isles.

I have had five lives. The first as a bland ‘only child’ ‘human shadow’ who largely speaking went entirely unnoticed in the world. In the fullness of time I became a hash smoking, mescaline swallowing, failed student who has long since forgotten the name of the subject he was meant to have been studying. Following this I worked in the finance industry where I developed consummate method acting skills pretending I actually cared. It seems I did rather well in that regard as I carved out a reasonable career.  Eventually tiring of that industry I was instrumental in the founding of, and became a partner in a Private Investigation business specializing in discovering the whereabouts of fraudsters who had gone on the missing list!  Finally, and still, in relative terms quite young we sold up the business as working a seven day week was both killing me and boring me senseless. It is at that point I decided to be the real me and ditch once and for all the noble art of role play in order to suit the demands of those about me. In short I released from imprisonment my real self and allowed the lunatic I always was to take over. Bliss! I have no shame is declaring that I am stark, raving bonkers in a self-deprecating (rather than serial killing violent) way!

Prone to the occasional bout of depression (a thing I quite enjoy in a perverse way) I am lucky my Shirley puts up with me. Still we laugh a lot and the nearly three decades we have been together has felt more like an exciting illicit affair than a marriage – I should add here that I am only hazarding a guess as to whether or not such love affairs are actually exciting.

I am a devout non-confrontational atheist and a libertarian to boot.  The net result is that I believe in ‘live and let live.’ A long-time political ‘lefty’ I hold the view that the State should control the basics i.e. energy, transport, water supply, health services etc. on a non-profit making or even state subsidized form. After that I am more than happy to see responsible capitalists run the rest.

I adore the company of women – in a good way I stress – and would have no problems with it if gals ruled the world.  Indeed I would advocate it as well as total equality in the workplace. All women are ‘young ladies’ to me and I believe in manners even when the lady on a crowded train I offer my seat to looks me up and down and tells me to ‘fuck off’ as happened not that long ago. Nothing will deter me in that regard.

I follow The Arsenal football team and am in raptures of ecstasy when they win and die a thousand deaths when they lose. Pathetic really yet better to direct the testosterone charged bit of me in that direction (well there is one other area where that testosterone charged bit comes in handy in a power cut yet I’m far too polite to mention it) rather than kill.

Oh yes, nearly forgot – I take all things literally. I rarely understand a joke unless it is first explained to me in some depth. The ‘two nuns in the bath’ joke comes to mind as it was 27 whole years, whilst stuck in a traffic jam, the meaning of said joke unravelled in my mind. Pathetic really yet that is the way I am made.

2. Please provide the link to your blog(s).

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/

http://leagueofmentalmen.wordpress.com/

3. What do you normally write?

Lately I am hooked on blogging.  It is the perfect vehicle for knocking out short, almost comic book skits that combine satire and storytelling that can be written, done and dusted, posted and pretty much forgotten about all in the space of an hour or so from start to finish.

I adore getting into the mind-set of the characters I invent and becoming that person as I put together the narrative for any post.  For each episode regarding a specific character I write to a set template in order that any readers – again just like a comic – know what to expect as soon as the title comes up. I believe that is that ‘expectancy’ that has made characters such as JONNY CATAPAULT THE PLUMBER THE ARTISTS ALL TRUST; JESSICA DOWNLOW THE SUICIDAL TREE HUGGING POET; JUNIPER SPIRITSUP THE ANNOYINGLY OPTIMISTIC SCHOOL MISTRESS & POET and many more popular on my blog.

Nearly forgot, my long-time favourite and seemingly one the punters all like namely CARRUTHERS & CHUM are a couple of complete idiots who work for the Foreign Office in London and have developed the habit of misinterpreting all that they overhear or are told. I must have written forty or so episodes of this pair and as one blogger commented just the other day that even though they know how the ending will pan out they still cannot resist the read. Praise indeed, for ending with a well-worn ‘catch phrase’ has long since been the bookend of choice for comedy writers the world over.

Most of what I write is in ribald narrative with a good measure of double-entendre. My female characters suffer terribly at the hands of the idiot males either through sexual frustration, unfair criticism or they just get ignored. However, and again with my template in mind, I always make sure they come out on top – so to speak – at the end of the day. It would probably assist to provide a few links to stereotypical posts that reveal most of what I mention here;

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/the-sad-demise-of-jessica-downlow-the-tree-hugging-suicidal-poet-4/

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/juniper-spiritsup-the-annoyingly-optimistic-school-mistress-poet-2/

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/jonny-catapault-the-plumber-the-artists-all-trust-rembrants-clogged-up-bath-outlet/

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/svetlana-discovers-just-how-wealthy-carruthers-really-is/

Additionally, and along with Clive Danton and Gary Hoadley, I am one of The League of Mental Men and contribute posts to this blog regularly. Both Clive and Gary are men of instant, witty riposte and on the occasions they find themselves together on the same Facebook thread is perhaps the only time Facebook inspires and amuses. Woe betide the ‘thread hecklers’ when this pair are on the loose! I am sure Gary will not mind me saying that Clive aka Danny Soz (http://sozsatire.wordpress.com/) is the very finest topical news satirist. Blessed with the intellect to be able to fashion the English language any which way he wants, he takes no prisoners, is happy to take on the most controversial of subjects and does not fear the reactions of those who ‘don’t get it’. He gives his critics more than they could ever have bargained for should they choose to take up metaphorical ‘wordy’ fisticuffs.  I should add here that he is also a decent man of high moral principles. Following, insofar as I am able, Clive’s approach to satire certainly has emboldened me in terms of pushing the possibilities of any chosen subject matter to the n’th degree – as opposed to prodding it tentatively with a broken twig as was my want previously.

In terms of pushing satire to limits I not thought capable of previously I cannot leave this section of the interview without a mention of young Lennard VanRee (http://www.satnat.net/). Lennard will grab hold of his generally contentious subject matter; explore the arguments for and against any given view then ‘shred’ them with panache

The skit thing aside I also write humorous (subjectively that is) verse. As with the skits I cannot resist making them a little on the naughty side.  Occasionally I will write a few verses as if I am trying to write something serious and throw in a ridiculous conclusion. They really are tremendous fun to write. Here is one from when I started blogging and had just the one follower and his feline pet. Maybe I should do that reblog thing to this one sometime.

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/the-waitress-who-wears-only-shoes/

I dabble in poetry yet am fully aware of my shortcomings in this regard – just read the exceptional dexterity of the wordsmith Paul Lenzi (http://poesypluspolemics.com/) and you will get my drift. The most satisfying thing about poetry is that I can let the mind wander picking out events, observations or recollection as my theme. I also write poems about that old poetical nugget ‘love.’ My preference is to write of love’s positives in these poems preferring to leave ‘lost love’ to the domain of the youngsters who I think suffer a little more angst when an affair goes pear-shaped. In every instance of so called love poetry Shirley is my muse – wouldn’t have it any other way. We fight like Mediterranean cat and dog yet have a passion for each other that knows no bounds.

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/eleven-ravens-for-the-magicians-top-hat/

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/a-beret-she-likes/

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/the-hotel-end-of-time/

4. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Having been on the cusp of illiterate for my first decade of life I recall the day when at 13 years old a school teacher belted me about the cranium for spelling ‘what’ as ‘wot’ – he went spare as it happens and I feared for my very being at the time.  It was thus that abject fear pushed me toward learning to read and write.

Whatever, I spent my entire working life writing reports and business letters yet, aside from the odd poem of distress from my late teens, had never written for pleasure until 2008 at the grand old age of 104 years if I’m not mistaken. And it was this report writing that was to prove my downfall when in said year of 2008 having sold our business I thought ‘I need a hobby and I think I will knock out a swift book.’ I decided to write about the thing I knew best namely ‘me.’ I had had an unusual upbringing with a mother who possessed some truly amazing germ phobias and also quite literally sought through a process of overwhelming protection to ensure that I became a cushioned immortal. What with that and my latter day drug indulgence plus general failures and escapades of life I thought a self-deprecating autobiography a certain winner! It even had a title ‘The Almost Obedient Only Child.’ Three years plus a few months later the book now close to 400,000 words was arguably finished. Even proof read and ready to go! ‘Bingo the world is my oyster’ thought I. It was then that I had that all important final read and it dawned upon me that the first third of the book whilst amusing in parts was written in the formal style of a business letter and the rest of the book, chapter by chapter imitated the writing style of the author of whatever novel I was reading at the time I was writing.

I concluded the whole thing needed culling and rewriting which is when I said to myself, ‘Fuck this for a game of soldiers’ and gave up.

It gets even worse for I also wrote a book of ‘silly’ verse for children and ageing juveniles everywhere. My lovely daughter Ellie was commissioned and did indeed produce all the artwork yet when push came to shove I aborted the mission. My only excuse was laziness. When it comes to the marketing bit I simply could not be bothered. Shame really as, if I say so myself, there was some really brilliantly stupid stuff in it that Shirley test drove with legions of kids and had them all in fits. See example verse of one I rather liked below;

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/angela-the-chicken/

It could be said of me that in many respects I am a waste of space yet a good bloke at heart. ‘Could try harder’ was the kindest thing my school reports ever said of me. ‘Moron’ perhaps the most cruel one – especially when you are merely 7 years old.

5. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

People like you Rachel. Especially you young Rachel!   (Rachel here – Aww!  See why I love this guy?)

6. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

There are a shed load of authors that fall into my favourite category – far too many to list here.  For what it is worth should I ever end up a condemned man in a cell awaiting execution at dawn and be offered just one book to read to help me through the night it would be The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. It is set in Europe just as WW2 is kicking off – I shall say no more for fear of ruining it for any potential reader.

My fascination with and desire to have lived in the period between the two World Wars shapes much of my humorous verse. Even living in that time frame with the knowledge that the evil of Hitler was just around the corner would not stop me wanting to spend my days in a café in Montparnasse sipping a coffee or a cold beer chatting to a load of clever bastards, thinking and watching the pretty girls go by.

7. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

Proper books, always proper books. That said I recommend eyes open and remembering to turn the pages right to left.

8. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I do not restrict myself at all when writing. I can be the doer or the watcher; a reflection or the reflected. I think the old libertarian in me determines that to a writer – indeed to anyone, anywhere whatsoever they may be doing – restrictions murder art; ruin life.

9. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

Since I started blogging in October last I have barely read a single book – and there was me a two book a week man. I must admit this irks me something chronic. The problem with a blogging addiction is that it can be all consuming.   There are twenty or so blogs I enjoy to the extent I actively seek out and read them and this takes up a lot of time. What started out as good manners with me simply taking cursory glances at any blogger who may have shown an interest in what I had written has now turned the whole circle and I confess to being disappointed when a favourite blogger has not blogged for a few days.

10. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

Pre blogging 100-150 books a year; post blogging zilch!‘   In answer to the second part of your question, ‘Just like my women; just one at a time’- do you know I’ve always wanted to say that although it only works if spoken aloud in the manner of Barry White (what with him having the deep, husky dulcet tones that could melt knicker elastic at a hundred paces).

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT WORK::

11. What is the title of your current work in progress?

‘Lonsdale Belt – The Man with the Square Shaped Ring’!  This is proving particularly challenging I might add as I have not yet formulated a template to write to yet do have a catch phrase for him, it being , ‘God it’s painful when I walk.’ Lonsdale may yet prove to have legs – the jury is out presently.

12. What is your writing genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than others in the same genre?

A difficult question this is.  I basically write lunacy to a pre-determined template. Is that a genre? I think probably not? Many others do the same and the only difference twixt me and them is that it is my own brand of lunacy I put into words. An inadequate answer but the best I can come up with.

13. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

You again Rachel when you wanted me to mix and match characters from other stories I have written into a Carruthers & Chum skit. Cannot think what I would do without your much valued inspiration. Honest.  (Rachel here again… This is true… I LOVE when he mixes and matches characters!)

14. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

The ladies – always the ladies!  Any age I’m not fussy.

15. Do you have a favorite story or character that you’ve written?

If I had to choose one skit that made me laugh a bit more than usual as I wrote it, it would have to be ‘Marilyn Munroe – the Theft of her False Teeth.’

http://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/marilyn-monroe-the-theft-of-her-false-teeth/

As to a favourite character there is of course ‘Carruthers’ yet one that has appeared on both The League of Mental Men and my own blog ‘Lenny Noggins – Lunatic Illegal Immigrant’ has a special place in my catalogue of drivel. He is delightfully harmless and a complete twat.

http://leagueofmentalmen.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/lenny-noggins-lunatic-illegal-immigrant/

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 ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

16. How often do you write?

Shamefully every single day – even when on holiday! Addiction is a sorry thing to live with.

17. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

As many as I can spell in one sitting! I was not a very good English student having studied originally at a school for thugs and vagabonds. The written word had little purpose there.  On a roll I can write forever.

18. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

I do not really have a muse, save for Shirley when I am writing poetry. I do ‘muse’ though. When I am stuck for new material I sit back and have a jolly good think letting the first thing that enters my head arrive without restrictions. For example, in deciding how best to answer this question two things popped into the old noggin quite randomly. First the tiny jet black bat tattoo Shirl has on her bum from years back. Then I recalled how, when heavily pregnant with George it did for that short period begin to look more like a grey albatross. I remember mentioning this to her and for a reason I could never fathom she thumped me on the upper arm calling me a bastard no less! I had a purple bruise for days thereafter. Good fortune smiled though as it returned to its former jet black glory after the child was born.  As I was thinking this the idea of playing a Joni Mitchell CD became overwhelming (I muse over Joni often) and thus it was I answered this question!

19. How do you come up with your material?

I simply wait for the outline of a story to arrive then set to work.  This can be a hit and miss approach yet I get there in the end. There are many characters I make up and do not make the grade though.  Only yesterday the thought struck me that ‘Alison the Radicalized Wasp’ might have legs. Sadly she did not.

20. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

A functional brain, eyes and non-arthritic hands – oh yes a keyboard and a computer thing as well.

21. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

I write in my little study during daylight hours although many of the ideas for what to write of are conceived over a glass of wine in the evening then a brief skeleton is hastily scrawled onto whatever form of paper is nearby – even loo roll although I say never, never ever attempt to write on toilet paper if the only pen available to you is a felt tip.

22. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

Throughout my life whenever I have an idea buzzing around in my head I can think of nothing else and become obsessed with it. Everything else – paying bills; eating; taking in fluid is forgotten. I have to write it down before I lose the plot and the story disappears into the ether causing me say to myself, yet still audible to others ‘bollocks’ or worse. Having said that I enjoy my obsessions more than I let the missus know – what with her being one!

23. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

On a few occasions I have discovered when writing in the early morn – I am a long time insomniac – that I am doing so entirely naked. Comes as quite a shock to realize one has forgotten clothing entirely. It can also come as a disappointment to be discovered thus especially so in winter.

*.*.*

ABOUT YOUR WORK::

24. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

That would have to be Carruthers for there is so much of me in him. The fact that he takes things literally, gets confused and misses out on golden opportunities staring him in the face – like his maid Svetlana and her desire to bed him of late. She has made it oh so obvious that she is his for the taking and he just cannot see it. Reminds me of myself in younger days and he, in so many ways mirrors my life.

25. If one of your skits became a TV show, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of characters?

Difficult in that I do watch TV but rarely take in the names of the actors.  The odd bits of TV I’ve watched from the Indian sub-continent amuse me in that they are so bad they are good and to have a skit made by a bunch of Indian actors, Bollywood style would be a hoot.

26. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your stories?

Tree huggers! When writing a ‘Jessica Downlow – The Suicidal Tree Hugging Poet’ I desperately needed a not too naughty picture of a naked tree hugger (for artistic reasons you understand). The thing was once I put the key words into Google a good level of hard core porn came up just as Shirley was bringing me tea and crumpet. She took one look at the screen and called me a pervert no less!  How I suffer for my art.

Not even tree hugging is sacred when it comes to the porn industry – most odd.

27. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your stories and why?

Me!  Research! As young Charlie Fink of the British band Noah & the Whale wrote in one of his lyrics, ‘To a writer the truth is no big deal.’ I’ll run with that.

*.*.*

Thank you, Mike, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and all your projects and grows to love them as much as I do.

~Rachel

The Signs Are There

For Today’s Throwback Thursday and our last day of Pet Peeve Month, I’d like to share a story about my final pet peeve: misleading signs.  I can’t stand how many road signs are deceiving.  It reminds me of the song “Signs” by Tesla.  (Okay, it was originally by Five Man Electric Band, but I don’t know that version, or even that band for that matter, plus I think the remake sounds much better, so I’ll stick to the Tesla version, thank you.)

I know this TBT is long, but I think it’s funny enough that you won’t mind once you get to the end.)  One time my sister Michelle and I were torn between two concerts.  We had friends in both bands, and we wanted to see them both.  One show was in the afternoon on Jones Beach in Long Island, New York, and the other was late that night at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut.  So we decided to do both.

We got to Jones Beach early, and the weather was perfect for an outdoor show.  We had a lot of fun, but the moment the show was over, we said some quick goodbyes and had to book it if we were going to make it to Foxwoods in time for our next event.  My sister drove my car and I had the map to navigate.  Now, the driving time between these two locations is three to three and a half hours, depending on which route you take and if the weather is good, so our plan was doable.

However, as soon as we crossed over the L.I.E. (Long Island Expressway), the sky turned black and opened up.  Not only was the rain so bad, you could hardly see the front of your own car, but it was hailing as well.  The 5:00 PM sky was so dark, it might as well have been midnight.  Traffic came screeching to a halt or at least a snail’s pace, and there was no end in sight to the bad weather.  Of course, we panicked that we wouldn’t make the next show on time.  And it was at that exact moment that in the midst of all the mayhem, one of the windshield wipers flung off my car and onto the interstate somewhere!  So as we crawled along, I climbed out my window and had to flip the empty wiper arm up so that it wouldn’t scrape up the window.  Of course I got soaked.)

This was the in days before GPS and cellphones still weren’t very popular yet, so there was no way for us to locate a store that might have replacement wipers, other than getting off at each exit and exploring the area.  So, we made the executive decision to forge forward without the wiper.  It wasn’t as if we could see any better even when it was on anyway.

Finally, somewhere between Stamford and Bridgeport, the rain let up to a light drizzle.  Even though it was dry in the car, we felt like drown rats by this time (and especially me since I was soaking wet).  It was after 10:00 PM, and we still had more than an hour to go, and we missed the beginning of the show.  We decided to try to find a restroom and freshen up, then we figured we’d hook up with the band after the show and visit with them then, even if we missed seeing them play.  Plus, Michelle was tired of driving and wanted me to take over.

So, with our new plan in action, we felt a little better mentally, and began looking for an exit.  Unfortunately, in a lot of the New England states, the towns roll up their carpets and go to bed at 10:00 PM (or earlier), so our choices were rather limited.  It seemed like an eternity, though, I’m sure it wasn’t, when somewhere near New Haven , we saw a sign for a “24-Hour Dunkin’ Donuts – This Exit.”   So, of course we took “this exit” and followed the arrows that said “This Way to Dunkin’ Donuts.”  We ended up along one of those frontage roads… you know, the kind that is a two-lane rural street that runs parallel to the interstate.

But there was no Dunkin’ Donuts in sight.  In fact, there were no signs of life anywhere along the dark road.  We could see the interstate beside us very clearly, but there wasn’t even an entrance to get back to it.  During our search, the rain picked back up, and our speed slowed to about 20 MPH.  As Michelle attempted to see through the blackness of night, I watched the interstate and noticed that the next seven exits all had signs that said “24-Hour Dunkin’ Donuts – This Exit.”

We were flummoxed.  We didn’t understand how we could have possibly passed more than eight Dunkin’ Donuts on the desolate road.  Yet the signs on our road kept instructing us that we were indeed headed toward “This Way to Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Then like a beacon in the darkness, after more than forty-five minutes since we exited, we saw the neon orange and pink DD logo up ahead.  Of course we both had to pee like racehorses by then (I apologize for the TMI moment here, but I wanted you to get a good feel for what we were dealing with), and we couldn’t be there quickly enough.  However as we got to the “restaurant” (Okay, not technically a restaurant… “Shop” perhaps?), the rain was coming down quite hard, and we couldn’t see the entrance which was on the left side of the road.

A few seconds later, and we realized that we had apparently passed the parking lot, and we looked for a way to turn around.  There were no crossroads in sight, and while our side of the road was nearly desolate, the oncoming line of traffic on the left side was bumper to bumper.

I have no idea why my sister did what she did next, but she turned into someone’s driveway on the right.  “What are you doing?” I asked her.

“I’m turning around,” she said.

“You can’t turn around here.  Look at that traffic.  We can’t back up into that,” I said.

She looked over her shoulder and realized I was right, so she faced forward, threw the car into drive and went forward!    I was mortified!

As you can imagine, the lights in the house went on as we drove down the long driveway and into the people’s backyard!  “What are you doing?” I screamed.  “You’re going to get us arrested!”

(As a side note, I’m cracking up laughing so hard even as I type this, that I keep having to take a break!)

She said, “I thought the driveway would have a turnaround at the end.”  (It did not.)

We had to do a three-point turn, which actually ended up being more like a seven point turn (so we wouldn’t run off into the grass and either tear up their yard or get stuck in the mud!), at the end of the driveway which ended at a carport well into the backyard of these people’s house.  The people ran outside with umbrellas and pajamas on and were screaming at us and flailing their arms.  We tried to haul butt out of there, but of course, when we got to the end of their driveway, we couldn’t turn left because there was still so much oncoming traffic.  So we had to turn right and travel a few miles before we found a crossroad where we could turn and go back.  We were laughing so hard by this point, that we definitely needed that restroom soon or our bladders would burst.

When we finally made it to the Dunkin’ Donuts, as we pulled into the parking lot, they turned off the light and put up a sign in the window that said they were out of donut flour and would reopen the next day.  Bwaaahaahaaa!  No, I’m totally kidding, that didn’t happen.  (But I bet that’s where you thought I was headed, right?)  When we finally made it there, we used the facilities, ordered some hot chocolate and asked how it was that we exited where we did, yet we missed over eight more stores on the way.

The cashier told us, “You didn’t miss eight stores.  All those interstate exits lead here.”

I’m sure we looked as stupefied as we felt, but now do you see why I hate misleading signs?

So tell me, was this worth the long read?  Did I cover your pet peeve this month?  Would you like me to do another pet peeve month sometime before next year?  Do you have a tale of looking for a rest stop long after the city went to bed?  What’s the funniest traffic or driving malfunction you’ve ever been in?  (By the way, this was NOT the funniest thing that’s ever happened when my sister and I were on the road.)  What was your favorite pet peeve this month?

Can I Get Some of That?

Before I get to my post of the day, please accept my apologies for not visiting many of your sites yesterday…I’m having a host of computer problems at my house and WordPress failed to email me my notifications for some reason.  Weird.  (If you happen to know why, can you please tell me how to fix it?)  Plus with it being my sister’s birthday, we were out late and the time got away from me.  I’ll catch up with you soon!  And now, back to our regularly scheduled post…

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As I’ve mentioned before, besides being a writer, I’m a professional photographer.  I specialize in weddings, though I also do various types of portraiture as well as other events and parties.  As I wrap up my pet peeves month, one thing that peeves the bejeebers out of me is how often my “friends” will ask me for free portraits of them, their families and their children.  Sometimes, they’ll even ask me to shoot their parties or weddings and parties and expect me to donate my time and talent for free.  If I offer my services for free, that’s one thing, but many of them come right out and ask (and some of them, several times a year).  I think what irritates me even more with these “friends,” is that I never hear from them any other time except when they need photos.

Furthermore, because we are “friends,” many times they call at the last minute to tell me they’re running late.  Quite often this means thirty minutes to an hour or more that I sit around waiting for them, despite the possibility that I have other plans for my own day myself.

Now many of these friends work at stores, medical buildings, law offices, etc.  I have never once gone to any of their places of employment and asked for free merchandise or services.  And before you say it, I already know:  The fault is actually mine for not turning away these clowns who never seem to contact me any other time except when they want something.

While I’m on the subject, another thing that cheeses me about photography is prospective wedding clients who come to meet with me, then need to come back again and waste another hour or more of my time by bringing back their parents, then might even come back a third time so I can repeat everything again.  Then they have the nerve to ask for a discount.

No!  I am a professional!  Would you dare to go to your dentist and ask for a half-off root canal?  Would you ask your gynecologist if he offers a groupon for a pap smear?  No, of course not!

What makes a professional photographer?  Hint: It is NOT owning a “nice camera.”  It is having education as well as experience in lighting and posing.  It’s also owning appropriate professional grade equipment as well as possessing the knowledge of how to use said equipment.  It’s also being covered by insurance which protects us as well as you, it’s having a backup system that duplicates everything we shoot so that there will be no danger of a technical difficulty if one of our cards goes bad, and it’s having a sound contract in place which covers both parties.

I meet so many people that are shopping for the cheapest photographer to capture what should be the most important day of their life.  Sometimes they even get so frustrated, that they rely on their “uncle with the nice camera” and don’t hesitate to tell me so when I refuse to budge on my price.  So many times I want to ask them, “Hey, if your aunt owns an oven, is she going to be baking your wedding cake?”  or “Hey, if your cousin owns a pocket knife, will you be letting him do your appendectomy?”

And the saddest thing of all is when this happens and I get the call after the wedding from upset brides that ask me how much I would charge to “fix” their photos that turned out awful.  The lesson to be learned is, if you’re in the market for a professional photographer and you insist on a cheap one, you just might get what you pay for.*

*Sometimes there are expensive photographers that are simply awful and either take forever to get the photos to the client or have a horrible personality or perhaps are even unskilled.  Sadly, these are a disgrace to my profession.  Most of us that are true professionals, however, are not like that.

Okay, so I’m stepping down from my soapbox now.  I apologize for the rant.  So how many of you have ever had friends ask you for free goods or services?  How easy would it be for you to say, “no,” when that happens?  Did you hire a professional photographer at your own wedding?  Describe the best professional photograph you’ve ever had taken of yourself.

Happy Birthday, Michelle!

Today, I hope you will join me in wishing a very happy birthday to my sister, Michelle.

Michelle & Rachel After Skydiving

This photos is from a few years back just after we went skydiving on one of my birthdays.  Michelle is on the left.

Michelle, you’re the best!  I hope we can skydive again soon and that we have many more fun adventures ahead.  Happy Birthday, Sistah!  ~Rach

What Do Charles Manson, Doris Day and Folgers Coffee Have in Common?

Did my blog post title catch your attention?  Good.  We’ll talk more about that in a moment.  If you’ve noticed, on Tuesdays during pet peeve month, I’ve been discussing gross discrepancies in various laws as they apply to certain people.  Well, I’m not off my soapbox yet.

For today’s pet peeve, I’m here to talk about crime and punishment.  I’m sure I might also tick some people off when I say that I don’t think Charles Mason should be in prison.  Now, hold on!  Don’t jump on me until you’re heard everything I’ve got to say.

My problem with Charles Manson still being incarcerated is this:  He has been in jail for longer than I’ve been alive for murders he did not commit.  Whoa!  Wait a minute before you react.  What I’m saying is he instructed the members of his cult to massacre the people that were killed, but he didn’t actually commit the murders.  His cult members did.  In fact, he wasn’t even charged with murder, but rather the lesser charge of seven counts of conspiracy to commit murder.

Now why on earth would I say that I don’t think this man should still be in prison?  Because, there are worse murderers walking around free.  The murders I’m talking about?  MOMS.  There are plenty of mothers who have either killed their own child(ren) for a husband or boyfriend or with a husband or boyfriend.

Bradley McGee

Case in point:  In 1989, twenty years after the Manson slayings, right in my own hometown, Sheryl Coe helped her husband brutally murder her two-year old son, Bradley McGee.  Of course that was after they abandoned the child at a mall and later the boy had been removed from the home repeatedly by the state because they had tortured him mercilessly throughout his short life.  She served less than nine years in prison before she was released and she moved to Illinois.  Furthermore, she has since remarried, and had another child and was allowed to keep custody of said child by an Illinois court.  Bradley’s stepdad is still in prison.  I went to high school with the sister of the demented husband who killed this child.  His sister was a smart and very nice girl.  I don’t know how he chose to be so wicked.

Ursula “Sunshine” Assaid

Need more proof?  In 1982, again, right here in my home state, Susan Assaid aided and abetted her boyfriend in torturing her five-year old daughter, Ursula “Sunshine” Assaid, for 55 hours before brutally murdering her then dumping her body in a retention pond.  She received only a 15-year sentence and has long since been released and moved to California.  The boyfriend who led in the abuse was killed in prison by another inmate in 1996.  The judge who presided over this trial and sentenced the parents was the same judge who did a rotten job on my custody case with my son.  Of course that’s after he was reassigned to family court after being caught keeping porn in his chambers, but that’s a different story.

Caylee Anthony

Do I even need to go into the more recent Caylee Anthony murder where her mother Casey Anthony was acquitted?  And in case you’re wondering, yes, I believe she was guilty.  At the time the child went missing, I lived only a few miles from her home and I witnessed the family putting up the initial missing child flyers around Orlando.

I think the worst thing a person, either male or female, can do is to purposefully brutalize and kill their own child.  And I’m not talking about an adult-sized angry teenager on drugs or other such factors that might mitigate some sort of “justifiable homicide.”  I mean, these children were all under kindergarten age!  They literally had their entire lives in front of them.

So, yeah, while I definitely empathize with the Helter Skelter victims as well as their families, I’m outraged over the fact that Charles Manson, a man that was admittedly on acid (as well as other dugs) at the time the murders took place is still in jail, yet these women who have since tortured and murdered their own children are now walking around free.  I think the fact that Manson was on hallucinogenic and other mind-altering drugs at the time is proof that he wasn’t in his right frame of mind and I reiterate the fact that he wasn’t even present at the crime scenes.  (I do think it’s a sick testament to his power of persuasion that he was able to convince so many other lost kids to commit the murders, though.)

But these mothers that killed their own children were not on drugs.  Their brains were functioning at 100% when they made the conscious choice to abuse, nay, viciously torture, and allow their husbands to abuse and cold-bloodedly kill their own children.

Is Charles Manson a danger to society?  Probably.  Should he be walking around free?  I don’t think so.  Do I think he should be locked away?  Absolutely!  But perhaps a more appropriate place for him would be in a mental institution.  The State of California is footing the bill either way.  At any rate, I don’t think these moms should have ever seen the light of day again.

By the way, the answer to the title’s question is simple:  Record producer Terry Melcher was Doris Day’s only son.  Sharon Tate and her husband rented Terry Melcher’s house which is where the Manson Family killed Mrs. Tate and some of her friends including Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folgers Coffee fortune.  It has been said that Mr. Manson was actually targeting Mr. Melcher for failing to include him in a record deal (though later it came out that Manson did in fact know that Melcher had moved).  Furthermore, I chose today to post this particular post, because today is my sister, Michelle’s birthday and Michelle’s favorite actress is Doris Day.  Happy Birthday, Michelle!

So that’s my two cents for today’s installment of “Rachel Rants.”  Are you for or against capital punishment?  How would you feel about mandatory sterilization for parents found guilty of barbaric child abuse?  Do you think that parents found guilty of murdering their own child should have to register once they are released from prison, such as a sex offender does?  Or do you think once a person has served their time for murdering their own child, their crime should be erased from the minds of everyone else?