Underneath

I do realize I need to clean the glass on my front door.  But, putting that aside, look:

How rude!  Good thing I didn’t clean the glass yet, or I’d have to do it again to get the slime off.  (But seriously, he’s still small enough to be cute.  When the larger guys come to the door, that’s not as photo worthy.)

Let’s talk:  Cute or creepy?  Have you ever eaten frog legs?  How are you and your family holding up?  What’s changed this week in your city?

The Late for Christmas Feety Foot Shoe Socks

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  Ever since my daughter Stefani was little, jokes about feet were our “Mommy-Daughter Thing.”  Every Christmas stocking, Easter basket, or birthday gift bag I ever gave her always included a little something foot-related.  They were always just stupid little insignificant things, like a foot-shaped eraser, but they were one of the ways I let her know I loved her.

That’s my lovely daughter!

A couple of years ago for Christmas, I’d done all my shopping except for the “foot thing” I’d forgotten.  So, to remedy the situation, I got on Amazon and found the ugliest pair of feet socks you’ve ever seen.  Actually, they were “feety foot shoe socks.”  The socks were, for the most part, flesh-colored, and the top over the feet were feet slid into pink flip-flops, and the bottom part under the feet were the bottom of the flip-flops.  Hideous, right?

Well, after I submitted my order, I got a message that they would, in fact, not be here in time for Christmas.  We had Christmas that year, and I kind of forgot all about the “feety foot shoe socks” until sometime in late January when they arrived.  I opened the package and removed one sock and inspected it.  It was goofy and cheap, but otherwise, not remarkable.  It had a right foot painted on top, and a shoe bottom painted on the bottom.

Here’s what they were supposed to look like, top and bottom

Then I removed the other sock.  I laughed so hard, I might have wet myself.  [I will nether confirm or deny if I really wet myself.]  The second sock also had a right foot painted on top.  It also had another right foot painted on the bottom!  All told, we had three right feet tops, and one foot bottom.  I giggled the whole time that I wrapped the “feety foot shoe socks” up then called my daughter to come over for a surprise.  When she opened them, we both laughed so hard, our bodies were shaking uncontrollably, and we weren’t making any noise.  It was that hilarious!

But instead, here was what we received.

And here, you can see each top and bottom together.

Let’s talk:  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever ordered that was different than what you expected when you received it?  Have you ever laughed so hard you didn’t make a sound?  Do you name certain things odd names like “feety foot shoe socks?”  Do you have a certain repetitive inside joke “thing” with one or more of your kiddos?

Author Interview: Mike Steeden

 

Hello, friends.  A few weeks ago, I encouraged fellow writers (and anyone else who wanted to play along) to write a short story to accompany the writing prompt I featured and then allow me to interview them.   As with many things new, a lot of times people like to wait until they see someone else dip their toe in the water before they take the plunge.  But I anticipated as much when I put the challenge out there.  So, rather than waiting for someone to be the first to respond to my prompt, I’m jumping right into the interview mode, sans the homework.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite Knight of the British Empire, Sir Mike Steeden!   (Okay, he hasn’t technically been knighted yet, but I’m sure once the Queen reads about him here on my blog, she’ll make time on her royal calendar to invite him over for tea and she’ll take care of it then.)  Without further ado, heeeeeere’s Mike!

Please tell us your name (or pen name) and the links to your blog, website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc. When did you start writing? What motivated you to undertake writing your first novel?

Mike Steeden

Firstly, young Rachel, my thanks for the invite. In doing so you must surely be a tad crazed…and there’s nowt wrong with that, all the best people I know are bonkers.   Anyway, I go by the name Mike Steeden, a one-time Private Detective specialising in fraud investigations, now a fast aging-juvenile.

When did I start writing? As a person who cannot spell for toffee, I have to say, “Since ‘Post it’ notes became redundant, and not long after the moment ‘spellcheck’ magically appeared on Word.”

The reason I began writing was to unburden my…such as it is…chock-a-block brain of the plague of words it had housed for far too long.

You can find Mike at his blog at: https://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/michaelsteeden or simply @michaelsteeden.

Please offer us a snippet of your most recently published novel and tell us what it’s about. Also, please share the link(s) to purchase your work:

I well remember the day ‘The Blue-Eyed Cat’…a lovely gal also known as sweet ‘Lily’…had finally been freed from her solitary confinement within the lonely prison cell that is my dark and, of late, empty skull. At last at liberty, the world was now her oyster and boy has she, against all odds, enjoyed herself.

Herewith the ‘blurb’ thing that, in essence, describes Lily’s tale without giving too much away:

‘A book of mind-boggling time-travel, feverish sex, syrupy romance, ho hum history, a dark future, The Moon, Constantinople, Paris and Berlin human consciousness, infinity, a tongue in cheek take on all things carnal, art for art’s sake and three thoroughly mad yet oh so delightful gals.’

Insofar as the overtly risqué shenanigans Lily and chums…both female and male…get up to, shenanigans that committed prudes would no doubt declare as obscene all I can say in my unnecessary defence is that they are nought but an exaggerated take upon the nonconformist life my delightful, yet deliciously, uncontrollable Shirl, long since decided we adopt. By Jove we’ve had some fun.

I believe it is of some importance that ‘The Blue-Eyed Cat’ does have the potential to appeal to free-thinkers, Bohemians, Mata Hari on an average day, Ms Dietrich when the fancy takes, dab hand illiterates, raving lunatics of any and all persuasions plus, of course, uninhibited romantics. Having said that, this is definitely not a book suitable for killjoy Great Aunt Maud, the local Vicar, pious Uncle Percy, racists, sexists, homophobes, those of a sensitive disposition nor, sadly in many respects, swoony types.

You can purchase “The Blue-Eyed Cat” and the rest of Mike’s work at: https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Steeden/e/B015WAUW8C?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1583784194&sr=8-1

Mike was then asked to select three of the next few questions I posed and answer them as he chose.  He selected the following:

If you had one year to prepare, which record do you think you would have the best shot at breaking in the Guinness Book of World Records? Have you ever actually attempted to break a world record at anything?

I’ve never really felt the need to be the best at something or break records. It’s likely the alpha-male gene took one look at me and thought ‘no’. Having said that, I once, late teens, lead the field in a school cross-country run in Richmond Park…a park overlooking the River Thames, south of London and favoured by Henry XIII when not beheading his wives…for the first 5 strides of the long-distance race. I was rather proud of that small success.

After that minor victory I fell hopelessly behind my enthusiastic peer group. However, albeit by unhappy chance, I found that I’d done so well that I’d been chosen for the County of Surrey team in the upcoming annual county contest.

How so, one might ask? Well, what happened was that bringing up the rear, instead of running round the large lake known as ‘Pen Ponds’ like the others, I in my lack of wisdom, spotted a walkway that dissected said lake in two. You see, taking that path enabled me to both shorten my part in the tedious run, and also allow me a little time to enjoy a puff of nicotine. The beauty of my scheme was that, if I made the right choice when re-joining the others…the keen ones…I’d defeat the ignominy of coming in last.

How wrong I was. My calculations not fit for purpose. Unbeknownst to me at that time, I’d prematurely re-joined far too early! The net result was that I’d come in third in a field of over 80 adolescent athletes. The word ‘bollocks’ came to mind as the Sports Master passed on…to him at least…the good news that I’d made the county team.

I never did take my place with the others come the big day. My cunning plan, soaking my right foot in a bucket of beetroot juice for several hours in order that the authentic look of a foot damaged beyond repair would not be in doubt, saved me.

What characteristics, personality traits, likes, or dislikes does the protagonist in your most recently published novel share with you?

Ah, Lily the protagonist. Small, yet perfectly formed, a gal who takes life as it comes; a gal who never gives up on a good cause, despite the curse of dilemmas, the predicaments she finds herself in, and the perilous dangers she has to overcome when seeing to it that fascist Nazi’s get their comeuppance. The bravest gal in all of time…almost, yet that’s the way she’d have it. That she, not unlike my dear Shirl, finds fervent romance and all that that unveils along the way a characteristic that is the one that appeals to me most.

If you could travel through time and take any character from your most recently published novel, who would you take and why? Would you travel to the future or the past and why?

Without a shadow of a doubt it would have to be the incorrigible Lady Freya Hella, a dyed in the wool charmer of lesbian persuasion, who is not just a time-traveller, but time itself. A lady of compassion towards the suffering good and by far the worst enemy the wicked would ever want to know. Additionally, and by nature, Freya defines love in all its definitions.

It is thus, rather than me take her upon a journey across time, she would…hopefully…ask me to join her in the escapade as we, along with sweet Lily, turned back time.

You asked in which time direction would I travel. Backwards, my answer, always backward for I wish to see history in factual progress rather than foolishly take it as read that any and all historical accounts are unambiguous.

Thank you, Sir Mike, for taking the time to answer all my nosy questions with such fascinating responses!  I wish you the best of success with “The Blue-Eyed Cat” as well as with your many other titles for sale!

(If YOU would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please visit my Call to Writers for details.)

Hitchhiker

These days of the unknown are certainly frightening, and the cabin fever doesn’t help.  Which is why I guess when I went out in search of food and somehow picked up this hitchhiker, he gave me just the hearty laugh I needed.  (He seriously didn’t want to leave!  I had to get out the car and hand-feed him some French fries to coax him down.)

Let’s talk:  How are you and your family holding up?  Do you have a curfew or stay home order where you live?  Are you running low on supplies yet?

Just Doing My Part

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  As I’ve mentioned recently, when my Lupus health complications have kept me from being able to devote my time and focus to writing or editing, or even sometimes reading (much less blogging), I’ve found that I could sometimes take on small projects.  One such project has been in helping other authors format their manuscript for self-publishing, and then either designing a cover for them or tweaking a design they already have in mind.

One such author is your friend and mine, Mike Steeden.  You may recall in 2015 when I helped him format his first book “Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse” and designed the cover out of a photo of his wife Shirley that he sent me.

Mike’s original photo

You may also recall when that same year, our esteemed buddy Craig C. S. Boyack allowed me to create the covers for his “Will O’ the Wisp” and for “The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack.”  (While Craig did his own book formatting, it was an honor to help him with his covers — They were both a lot of fun!  Though I do have to bow to the phenomenal artist he has been using for his more recent publications.)  [[Be sure to check out all of Craig’s work for sale on Amazon!]]

Craig knew what he wanted right down to the type of leaves on the trees! This one was such fun!

With Craig’s idea in place of what he was looking for, I made this one entirely from scratch with the exclusion of the snail photo I took on the beach a few months earlier. One of my favorite things in designing projects like this is “weathering” the look of something (i.e., the coffee stains, the nicks and tears, and the crackles on the gold fleck of the writing).

The following year, I went back to working with Mike who was kind enough to allow me to format and create the cover for “The Shop That Sells Kisses.”  His son George came up with the cover concept and Mike allowed me to run with it.  It, too, features Shirley on the back cover.

In 2017, came Mike’s “Notoriously Naked Flames.”  Mike had a friend who had previously made the art that he allowed Mike to use on the front and back covers, so my job there was just getting the title formatted as well as formatting the book.

Also that year, Mike’s son, George Blamey-Steeden, known to his followers as Zoolon, got in on the family’s book-writing pastime, and allowed me to format and create the cover for “The Words and Thoughts of a Dyslexic Musician,” to help promote his music business.  This was a particularly fun project because I was just sent a couple of photos of George and got to run with them however I was inspired.  (I thought adding the guitar patent drawings in the background was a cool touch, and the word DYSLEXIC is written [according to my research] such as the way a dyslexic person may see letters.)  [[Be sure to check out Zoolon’s book on Amazon!]]

If you’ll look closely, you can see where I changed the name of the store in the background to be more fitting for this book.

In 2018, Mike surprised me with two titles ready to publish: “Fanny, I Think of You Often,” and “The Elastic Snapped.”  With each of these, he located a public domain image that he wanted to incorporate, so I altered them extensively to be more of what he was looking for.

Mike found this royalty-free art that was his vision of “Fanny.”

And this is how I transformed “Fanny” into a cover

Likewise, this was the royalty-free art Mike felt was perfect for “The Elastic Snapped.”

…And this was how I transformed her into a cover.

In early 2019, Mike was at it again, but this time had co-written a novel with his lovely wife Shirley Blamey.  Once more, they sent me a public domain image that they wanted to incorporate into “Whatever Happened to Eve?” and this time, I knew from the content and type of book it was, I knew I needed to add a chapter graphic that went with the story’s theme.

This was the cute chapter graphic I made to go under each chapter mark.

This was the royalty-free picture Mike found that he wanted to resemble his cover, but he wanted some changes such as more peacocks and the removal of the pipe and hookah.

We ended up with this cover.

By 2019, Mike referred me to his buddy Clive who we all may know better as the satirical Danny Soz.  While the main artwork for “The Whitechapel Welk” was pretty much done by the time it was sent to me, I added the text to the front and back covers and helped format the book for publication.  [[Be sure to check out Danny’s book on Amazon!]]

The only cover art help I had to do was add text.

As soon as Sire Soz left through my revolving door, good buddy Mike walked back in through the other side with his latest completed work, “The Blue-Eyed Cat.”  Once again, he located a few photos in public domain that he wanted to incorporate, so I got to run with those and add my own touches to the front and back covers.  [[Be sure to check out all of Mike’s work for sale on Amazon!]]

Mike found this royalty-free photo and knew it was his main character, but he wanted me to move her braid to cover her nudity.

Mike wanted this lady’s hat to be on the woman on the back cover (but in blue).

And Mike found this royalty-free lady to be the woman on his back cover — but not so blue.

And here’s what we ended up with!

So, if you have a book you’re just itching to publish but could use a little help with formatting or cover design, I would be more than happy to offer you my services.  And even if you don’t have a book you want to publish, please take a moment to peruse the works of these fine gentlemen and the products of their hard work, skill, talent, and boundless imaginations.

Stay healthy!

-Rachel

Author Interview: C.S. Boyack

Hello, friends.  A couple of weeks ago, I encouraged fellow writers (and anyone else who wanted to play along) to write a short story to accompany the writing prompt I featured and then allow me to interview them.   As with many things new, a lot of times people like to wait until they see someone else dip their toe in the water before they take the plunge.  But I anticipated as much when I put the challenge out there.  So, rather than waiting for someone to be the first to respond to my prompt, I’m jumping right into the interview mode, sans the homework.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite blogging brothers as well as one of the most productive (and most imaginative) authors I know, C.S. (Craig) Boyack*.

*(Don’t let the word count here deter you from reading the whole thing… Craig’s discussion of his book “Grinders” will captivate you, and his answers to my questions will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat!)  Without further ado, I hereby present C.S. Boyack:

Thanks for inviting me over to kick off your author interview series today. I hope it becomes a big hit on your blog.

Rachel was one of my first blogging friends and earliest supporters. I lost track of her for a while, as we all did, but I’m thrilled to see her back.

My first question involves giving you the basics about myself and providing a few links where you can contact me and read my books. Always the rebel, I try to provide my bio box these days along with all the links.

You can contact Craig at the following locations:

Blog   |   My Novels   |  Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Facebook   |   Pinterest   |   BookBub

One of the cool things about Rachel is she’s very artistic. I doubt many other authors could boast this, but she made two of my favorite book covers. As an encouragement to click on the “My Novels” link above, check out ‘Will O’ the Wisp’ and ‘The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack.’ She did a fabulous job on the covers, and I still move copies of those titles.

Let’s see… I’m supposed to tell you about my newest book and provide a snippet.

The new book is called Grinders. It’s a bit of science fiction known as cyberpunk, and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s about police officers chasing criminals known as grinders. These people operate back-room surgeries to install small bits of hardware and software into their customers. It’s almost like the tattoo industry and the plastic surgery gone haywire if you want to think of it like that. That’s the plot, but cyberpunk is largely about the environment, and it’s extensive in the story. It’s almost a character in its own right.

A small sample, but I want to lead you in first. My main character, Jimi, is a painter in her off hours. She’s purchased a Bloody Mary, then taken it to the roof of her building to work on a new project. She is accompanied by her cat, Cole, who is a robot:

***

The rooftop was windy, so Jimi set up behind the doorway. The garden held all manner of vegetables, and there were even some tropical fruit trees. The bananas weren’t quite ripe but made an interesting picture. She opened her photos and found the street scene with the drone and raindrops. “Can you project this across my canvas, Cole? I want to draw the… Cole?”

Cole sat across the roof from her on the very edge of the safety wall. A group of swallows flitted just outside his reach.

“I thought you were going to help me.”

“We discussed no such thing. Besides, I’m a cat. Disdain is part of our charm.”

“Ugh!” Jimi returned to her canvas and drink. Her phone made a small hologram but didn’t project it. She tried to draw the street scene as best as she could. Cole could always project it later, so she could adjust the proportions.

She snitched one of the peppers and dipped it into her drink. By the time Cole interrupted her, she’d figured out the best place to situate the drone in the painting and decided to expand the composition so some of the lights from the grid and neon from the stores made it into the image.

“Sorry to interrupt, but the crew is ready to place your vases,” Cole said.

“Okay. We got a few hours of sun, at least.” She bundled up her things then grabbed the glass. “How are the birds?”

“Maddeningly, intelligent enough to stay out of reach.”

“Millions of years of evolution, pal. That’s their edge.”

***

If you’d like to check it out, this is the purchase link: http://mybook.to/Grinders

Moving on to the next question. If, for one day, you could be any character from your most recently published novel, who would it be and why?

This is a tough one for me, because I don’t know that I’d want to be anyone else. Since it’s only for a day, I’m going to choose Lou. He’s the senior partner to Jimi who I mentioned above. I’d kind of like to explore the cyberpunk world of San Francisco, and he’d be a good one to do it as. I’d get to experience things that are important to the story, like The Grid, robotic and holographic characters, and might even go see the electronic forest before they turn it all into plywood. Then maybe I’d have a nightcap with his holographic girlfriend, Piper.

If the protagonist in your most recently published novel came to life and moved next door to you, would they be a good neighbor?

Either Jimi or Lou would be good neighbors. First of all they’re cops, so that has something going for it. Then there is the fun of creating a cyberpunk world. It’s near future, so I had to do a little projecting based upon where we are right now. The Internet has taken over so much of our lives that people don’t interact much today. We all live in our own little microcosms and this doesn’t change in the future. Having one of them next door wouldn’t be intrusive at all. Jimi is a bit more outgoing, so she might be painting in her back yard from time to time. Although, her cat might stalk the bird feeders a bit.

Even the antagonist in the story wouldn’t be a horrible neighbor. He spends most of his time indoors obsessing over his own personal problems.

What is the one thing you have done and the one thing you have not done during the course of your life that would most surprise (or shock) your readers?

This is a tough one, Rachel. Mostly because people are so judgmental, and I have a public image to maintain. I’m going to go for it and see what happens. I have an ulterior motive, because I’m thinking about writing a novel that would include some of this.

As a young man, I stuck my nose into every dark hole in the west. I’m talking about from the high arctic of Canada to Mexico. Most of these were the result of hunting or fishing trips. I know the vocal minority thinks this is horrible today, but back then it was a way of life for many of us.

I haven’t fired a rifle in twenty years now, but would again if the motivation hit me. What I gained from it is real life experience. This all happened before cellular phones, and when you’re three hundred miles into the wilderness you can’t call for pizza or an ambulance. You have to figure some things out for yourself. I have insight into a world that no longer exists. I’ve seen herds of caribou and musk oxen. I’ve been startled by the buzzing of a rattlesnake, and even played with horny toads as a kid. Having a beer with the Inuit people in their town hall was fun.

One of the advantages to an author is that I know how firearms work, and what they’re suited for. You’ll never hear the pump-racking sound of a double barreled shotgun in one of my stories. (Double barreled weapons don’t have a pump mechanism.) I also know how to build a camp and start the fire. Any zombie apocalypse I decide to take on will have realistic elements in the story.

Leading to the second part of the question, I’ve eaten a buffalo tongue (and testicles). I’ve dug my own clams and hauled in buckets full of Dungeness crabs, then cleaned and cooked them myself. I had to survive for a week on a cube of butter, some Pop-Tarts, and a case of beer. Good thing the river was full of silver salmon, and butter is a great way to cook them.

So to get to the second part of the question, I’ve never once eaten a raw oyster. I know people love them, and I might one day, but it really doesn’t appeal to me.

This interview has gotten long with the snippet included, but I’m going to tack a blurb on anyway. I hope your fans will take a chance on Grinders, and thanks for having me over.

***

Blurb:  Jimi Cabot made one mistake as a starving college student. When she went to work for the San Francisco Police Department, it nearly cost her the job. The union stepped in and they had to reinstate her. They did so by assigning her to the duty nobody wants, Grinder Squad.

 

Grinders are people who use back room surgeries to enhance their bodies with computer chips, and various kinds of hardware. Jimi is sure that if she can just bust one grind shop, it will be her ticket back.

 

Paired with veteran cop, she soon learns that Grinder Squad is a cash-cow for the department. They are nothing more than glorified patrol cops, and generally get the worst assignments.

 

Matchless is the most wanted grinder of all time. He disappeared years ago, leaving only the evidence of those he enhanced during his career. With these pieces, Jimi picks up the cold trail to try working her way back to more respectable duty.

 

Grinders is a cyberpunk story set in a world where global warming has eroded coastlines, and society has solved many of our current problems by replacing them with new ones. There are cyber shut-ins, cyber-currency skimming schemes, and more in this futuristic tale.

 

This book also takes the opportunity to poke a stick at current issues that seem to have lasted into the future. Entitled people, helicopter moms, overzealous homeowner associations, and lack of decent jobs are all present. Never preachy, these issues make up the day to day work of a patrol officer.

I hope you enjoy Grinders as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.

***

Thank you, Craig, for taking the time to answer my questions with such mesmerizing responses!  (And also thank you for the kind words!)  I wish you the best of success with “Grinders” as well as with your many other titles for sale!  (Buffalo testicles, really?  Wow!)

(If YOU would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please visit my Call to Writers for details.)

Friendship

Hello, friends!  I had the honor recently of “meeting” a new friend and Bloggyville sister here in cyberspace, named Sandra!

Sandra is an artistic, creative sweetheart, and if you haven’t met her yet, please hop on over to her blog and introduce yourself.

And while you’re there, please take a moment and read the fun questions she asked when she interviewed me.

I’m sure you’ll lover her as much as I do, and please stay on the lookout here, because she’s going to be paying a visit to my little corner of the Blogosphere soon.

Have a great week!