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

NIJOD

When I read the word NIJOD, I know I can cast my worries aside and enjoy peaceful sleep.  “What’s NIJOD?” you ask?  Allow me to explain…

My 26-year-old son Jeremy lives with me.   But at 26, he’s not a child, so he does his own thing and it’s not like I can stop him, even if I think whatever it is he has planned might be a bad idea.  However, because we are technically roommates (and because he doesn’t have the most reliable truck and is no stranger to speeding tickets and traffic accidents), I still get a little mama-bear-worried if he’s not home around the time he says he will be.

My 30-year-old daughter Stefani does not live with me and hasn’t for years.  While I still get pangs of mama-bear-worry over her, they don’t usually come unless I happen to know she’s in a potentially dangerous situation (such a traveling out of state with bad tires or brakes).  But as for her day-to-day life, since I don’t know her hourly plans, I just have faith that she’s doing well unless I hear otherwise.

My sister Michelle lives with me.  We are technically roommates and have witnessed a lot of the worst life has to offer (unlike my kiddos who are still young enough to think bad things won’t ever happen to them), so because Michelle and I are both old ladies responsible adults, we’ll both still give a courtesy call to each other or even to Jeremy if our plans have changed and we’ll be home significantly later than expected.

It took several years times of trying to explain to Jeremy that I’m not trying to control his every move, but rather just want confirmation that he’s not been in an accident or ended up in jail for some reason (not that he’s criminally mischievous – he’s definitely not, but he also would have no qualms about defending himself by beating the crap out of someone if he felt they were threatening him).

Finally, I got him to agree to texting me a code word if he’s going to be very late or not come home at all that night.  NIJOD.  NIJOD is our code word, and it’s an acronym for “Not In Jail Or Dead.”  I used to text him “NIJOD?” and hope he replied, but now, he almost always automatically sends a quick NIJOD text on his own and I go to bed without imagining all the possible reasons why he might be so late.  Apparently, texting NIJOD is a lot cooler than answering calls from your mama-bear-worried mommy who calls to check and make sure you’re okay if you’re not home when you said you would be.

So, if you’ve got a teenager or twenty-something kiddo who still lives with you but doesn’t feel like they should still have to report their whereabouts or change in plans, you can feel free to adopt NIJOD for your own covert communication efforts.

Let’s talk:  Do you call or text your at-home person or people when your plans change?  Would you be happy with a code word if your at-home person or people was running very late?

Bees!

Last week, I posted a call to writers to respond to a writing prompt and allow me to interview you.  So far, I don’t have any takers on the writing prompt part.  It’s okay. I’m patient.  I can wait for anyone who wants to attempt to write a short something in exchange for me asking you a few fun questions and give you free exposure to promote your book(s) or other offerings.

In the meantime, please check out the following photo of some bees I found in the exterior wall of an old shed when I was hired to do a photo session a while back….

Photo: ©R. Carrera

Have a great Hump Day!

This Simple Human

I’ve always favored the color black to decorate with.  Eons ago, when desktop computers went from that ugly mandatory beige to being available in black, I was overjoyed.  When kitchen garbage cans stopped being available only in that horrible slate blue and black became an option, I was thrilled.

I had my last kitchen garbage can for more than a decade.  It was a basic, black rubbery-plastic can with a lid.  Nothing fancy.  The lid lifted off to fold the bag under the rim, and its two plastic hinges allowed you to manually lift the lid for use.

My old can was not this model but was similar.

Removing a full bag of garbage wasn’t easy, however, so my son Jeremy drilled two holes in the back to negate the vacuum caused by the full bag.  It worked.  The design was not great (but it was black!).  The rim of the lid had ridges where gross stuff like spaghetti or crumbs would get caught, and because of the texture, it couldn’t just be wiped clean, so it had to be hosed off and scrubbed (but it was black!).

It wasn’t fancy, but I lived in rental homes, so they weren’t fancy either.  Fast forward until Sister Michelle, son Jeremy and I bought our first home.  I redecorated and wanted to go high-end with everything.  I replaced everything from doorknobs to every piece of furniture we owned.  The fixtures and appliances are all brushed nickel, so I wanted to get a stainless-steel garbage can to match.  Then I saw the $100+ price tag.  Ouch!

After all my other new house expenses, I decided to keep the old black can a while longer.  Then we started having parties, and people who got a little too tipsy didn’t know how to “work” the old black can.  (Just lift the lid, stupid!)  At one party, one plastic hinge was snapped, and at the next party, the other hinge was snapped.  I soon found myself in Bed Bath and Beyond, and something in me snapped!  I HAD to get a new kitchen garbage can right then!  I walked right past all the plastic babies and headed straight to the $180 Simple Human 14.5 gallon can.  (Luckily, I had my 20% off coupon!)

This can had it all.  It was gorgeous with a brushed nickel finish.  It had this beautiful step opening and a smooth rim under the lid.  And it even had a pocket to store more bags and the rim concealed the edge of the bag being used.  It was the Porsche of all garbage cans!  When I got home and stopped hyperventilating over the price tag, I opened the box and was dismayed to see a scratch on the lid!

The next day, I returned the can for another one just like it, and I was thrilled with how nice it looked in my kitchen.  (It had better at that price!)  But the first time I took out a full bag, it ripped.  Turns out, the liner pocket wasn’t flush against the back.  This frustrated me because, while I’m not cheap, I still think almost 200 bucks for a place to throw outdated lasagna is a bit pricey, and since it was only a few days old, I wanted it to still look showroom new.  I examined the problem and figured there was a little plastic tab missing, so I contacted Simple Human who guarantees their products with an amazing warranty.  They asked me to send photos of the problem, which I did.  I expected them to just send me a replacement liner pocket that I could pop in the back of the can, and I figured I’d have to mail them the damaged one once I switched it out.

About two days later, I received a huge box in the mail containing a beautiful, brand new garbage can!  They told me to recycle the old one and enjoy.  The cost of one of these beauties is about the total sum I’ve paid for every other garbage can combined that I’ve ever owned, so there was no way I was going to just chuck the “old” one.  So, I got out the trusty duct tape (which is, of course, black!) and taped down the liner pocket, and I went on Amazon and purchased a recycle logo sticker, and I figured I’d use it for recycling instead.

Unfortunately, the first sticker I bought was white and huge, so it made my kitchen look like it belonged in a state park!  I scraped it off and purchased a smaller sticker in grey, and it looked so good on the lid that I bought another to stick on the front.

The only trouble has been that I got a violation warning from my city that I’m not allowed to put my recyclables in plastic bags!  (Yes, really!)  What-evs… I’m loving my new garbage can (and recycle bin), and I expect to have them around for many, many years, or until I have another party.  And I also find myself polishing both cans at least once a day.  In fact, I suggested to Sister Michelle and Son Jeremy that we install a disposable shoe cover dispenser above the cans so that people can use them before they step on the pedal to open the cans, but my idea was quickly vetoed.

Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about Simple Human, their superior products, and their awesome customer service!  Thanks, Simple Human!

Let’s talk:  How long have you held onto a garbage can?  How much would you pay for a good garbage can?  Have you ever had a party guest destroy something?  What would you have done with the can that was replaced?

 

#simplehuman