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.)

Fear of the Unknown

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.

For today’s throwback, I’m taking a [not so] long walk back to 2018.  The month was October, and one of my Bloggyville sisters, Rhonda Blackhurst, invited me to participate in NaNoWriMo with her.  With all the health issues and pain I had been dealing with, I was taken aback even further when said health issues and pain brought about an entirely different problem – depression.  So, I was truly in a pit of despair when Rhonda’s invitation came, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could physically even commit to writing my name the following month, much less a minimum of 50,000 words.

But Rhonda is a sweetheart, and I wasn’t about to decline her kind invitation.  At the time, while I’d often contemplated joining the ranks of the millions of NaNoWriMo success stories, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, etc., had held me back in the past.  (I had, so far, been able to pen a first draft in a mere month on more than one occasion, but never in a November when life is hectic with thoughts of Thanksgiving, decorating the house, company coming, company staying, etc.  The mere thought of it seemed too stressful to even attempt.)

But now that I had my own personal cheerleader (Thanks, Rhonda!), I knew I just had to make it happen, both for her and for myself.  I had an entire file of story ideas in my arsenal, but as I read through each of them, I feared that if I was unable to complete the challenge, I’d forever ruin a potentially really great book.  My confidence was already waning, and this just shook it more.  I couldn’t risk it.

So, I turned to the recent news headlines that most personally spoke to me and thought What could make a #MeToo story unique?  It was definitely an Aha! Moment when I realized that a Joan of Arc twist would raise eyebrows, and in that moment, I had my story.

During that November, my previously mentioned vitamin deficiency was still undiagnosed, and as the month approached, we got a call from some out-of-towners that they would like to come to Florida and spend the holiday with us.  We were in the middle of a major renovation project that Sister Michelle and I were doing ourselves, and we had to amp things up to be done before the company arrived.  At one point, I became so physically incapacitated that I had to stop the renovation work and literally teach Michelle how to hang and texture drywall from the sidelines while I supervised.

But despite it all, I still managed to write something each and every day of November, and as it turned out, I found that I enjoyed daily writing every bit as much as even more than I ever had!  (As a matter of fact, I don’t foresee a time where I will ever skip another NaNoWriMo again!)  I completed my first NaNoWriMo with 70,900 words under my belt, and by mid-January, wrote “The End” on the first draft which clocked in at 98,000 words.

At any rate, without further ado, I offer you the synopsis of “Under Seraphs’ Wings.”

For years, Rumer has managed to keep the details of her youth a secret from just about everyone except her husband, Cody.  As the #MeToo movement starts then gains momentum, she remains resolute in her silence.

But twenty-nine years after she was brutally gang-raped at a high school party, the Vice President of the United States announces that he has a terminal illness and will be stepping down.  And the President taps one of her attackers to replace the second in command.

Rumer knows she will be risking her career, her family’s safety, and her standing in the community if she comes forward with her story.  After all, it will be difficult enough to admit to the Senate Judicial Committee, not to mention testifying in front of the entire world, that just months prior to her attack, she was institutionalized because she admitted to the wrong person that God talks to her.  But she knows she will lose all credibility if it comes out that God warned her ahead of time that she would be raped – and that she went to the party anyway.

Hold on tight as you travel with Rumer through the twists and turns of this psychological thriller, and watch justice unfold as the assailant becomes the prey in UNDER SERAPHS’ WINGS.

Let’s talk: Have you ever done something for the sole purpose of not letting someone else down, then found that you actually enjoyed it more than you ever imagined you would?   Have you ever let fear of the unknown keep from you doing something that you later found out you enjoyed?  Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

Checking In

Greetings, friends!

I hope and trust you are all doing well.  It’s been a while since I last blogged, and at the time, I’d been discussing some of my life’s new changes.  One of the changes since that time was that I started taking chemo pills for my Lupus, and they made me so sick and sore!  I was on them for sixteen weeks, and they were causing me so much pain, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t walk well, and it was excruciating to use my hands.  About six weeks in, my rheumatologist actually increased the dosage because she thought the Lupus was the problem, not the medicine.  But I became much worse over the next ten weeks, so she took me off everything except the drug that protects my organs, and I got Cortisone shots in my shoulders and wrists.  Fast forward a week, and I’m currently feeling the best I’ve felt in the two years since I was diagnosed!  There’s still a bit of pain, but it’s not nearly debilitating as it once was.  Anyhoozle, I’m not here to focus on that today, but rather to share some cooler things…

I mentioned the time before last that I’d been working on decorating the new house (as well as remodeling, renovating, remediating, etc.!).  From my medical status mentioned above, you can probably guess that I’m growing increasingly frustrated that this project hasn’t moved along faster than it has.  I’ve got several rooms in various stages of repair and decoration, and I have several art projects in various stages of completion.  Two of them will require a trip to the beach for sand and shells to complete, so I’ve been quite anxious to feel good enough to venture out.

Today’s post will just feature a few of the projects that have been finalized.  Nothing as far as the remodeling is completely finished yet, so I don’t yet have before/after photos of that hard work.  Anyway, here goes…

As you can probably be able to tell from my living room, Joanna Gaines is my hero!

The only clock that is actually running is the red one.  Actually, they’re not all clocks:  One’s a barometer, one’s a thermometer, and one’s a hygrometer.  The other clocks are all set to different “secret codes.”  (The codes aren’t that secret, and in fact I’ll share them with you now:  They’re set to birthdates of all of us in the house and a couple of important anniversaries or dates to remember.)  Above the clocks is one of those 1990s shelves they call “dust catchers.”  I intend to drywall that closed, but we’re considering leaving a secret door when I do and putting a time capsule inside since the wall is themed with time.

The initials are also for the people in the house, myself, my sister Michelle, and my son Jeremy, the “C” is four our last names, and the four is because we have four cats  The four was white when I bought it, so I painted it and added the diamonds.  The “C” was orange, so I painted it.  My sister’s “M” was purple and wood colored!  That was a little trickier to paint.  Jeremy’s “J” was a lot rustier than I wanted, so I cleaned it up quite a bit.  And my “R” was plain white.  After I painted it grey and sanded it to grunge it up a bit, I covered it with chicken wire to give it texture.  (Don’t worry; it’s nothing psychological like I feel caged. LOL!)

This bit of work was a bit trickier.  I went to the library and copied an old map book of the area where my new house is.  (Back when this map was printed, my yard was actually part of a large phosphate pit!)  I then printed the map sections out in red and, here’s the tricky part, I made the canvasses.  My sister cut the wood for the frames (I hate using the chop saw!), and I stapled then gessoed the canvas to the frames.  Then I painted them black, ripped the edges of the maps, and Mod-podged everything.  And to finish it off, the old-fashioned key is where my house would be built a couple of decades later.

Moving on to my bedroom, it has (or rather will have) a writing theme.  Or, as I like to call it, a “writerly” theme.  [WARNING: THIS PART MAY ANGER SOME AVID READERS.  Because I have transferred my library almost exclusively to digital, I gave away a bunch of books a few years back, but I saved some favorites, knowing I’d be using them for art.]

This “R” above is made out of “Gulliver’s Travels.”  I got the initial idea from this “W” on Pinterest, but I didn’t want the flower, so I had to rack my brain to think how I could theme it to the book.  That’s when the giant nails and string hit me like a ton of bricks.

This copy of “1984” is mounted on a board, and, no, the camera mounted on the book is not real.  (Though it’s funny how many people are actually tricked by this.  What’s not funny is that when I explain that it’s just art, more often than not, the people I’ve come across then have a vacant stare because they don’t realize why a camera on a book is art.)  The backboard is just covered with book pages and a few of my favorite excerpts are outlined in black paint.

If you can’t guess from this one, it’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”  The roof was a bitch to make!  I used comic book collecting backer boards to cut the individual circles, but I should have used card stock.  The thickness of the material made it difficult to work with.  I glued cut out book pages to the circles, then painted a black wash over them, then painted the edges of each “shingle” and attached them all to another backer board to make the roof.  I don’t know if you can see it well in the photo, but there’s a little bird on the roof, and a cat and a lantern in the upstairs windows.  The fence is partially whitewashed and partially dirty, and that’s Tom’s fishing pole waiting to be used on the left.  For the base of this, I actually glued sand to the wood.  (I was going to use sandpaper, but it was a little too small.)  The “grass” is floral moss.

Finally, here’s “Alice in Wonderland.”  I used the 2, 5, 7, Queen and King cards because, if you know the story, those are the key players.  I don’t know if you can see everything on the teacups, but there’s a flamingo, a key, a keyhole, a “Drink Me” vial, a white rabbit’s head, a tag that says “In this style 10/6” and a pocket watch with the numbers going counterclockwise.  I wish I wouldn’t have spread the embellishments all around, but placed them where you could see them all from the front.  I didn’t think that through at the time.

Well, that’s all for today, friends, but I hope to be back soon with some more updates as well as to check on all of you.

Let’s talk:  Would you deface a book in the name of art?  (Do I really want you to answer that?)  Have you created anything that hangs on any wall in your house?  If so, what?  Do you know why the camera is significant to “1984”?

Waiting Game and Writing

Hello, friends,

Since my last check-in, I had the blood work I mentioned.  I expected my iron to be low and possibly my B-12.  But I never expected what happened instead…  My “sed rate” (short for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, also known as ESR) came back high.  It’s supposed to be between 0 and 20, and mine was 125.  (Zoinks!)

bariumSoooo… needless to say, my doctor ordered a bunch of extra tests, more blood work, a CAT scan (hence the nasty barium you see here!), an x-ray, and other stuff.  The x-ray already came back fine.  The second sed rate test came back elevated again.  And I don’t yet know the ANA and Rheumatoid Factor test results, nor the CAT scan results.  As far as I know, I have to go back again next week for yet another sed rate test.  I don’t know what he’ll order next depending on the other results.  But until I know something, I’m still plugging away trying to make it through the day without puking or needing a nap!  I’ll keep you posted as I learn anything.

In other news… Since I’ve been too exhausted to spend much time at the computer writing anything new, I’ve been taking some of my printed manuscripts to bed and trying to commit to editing at least a few pages each night.  I believe I’ve made it through all the obvious typos, misspellings, bad or missing punctuation, etc.  (Printing it out really makes quite a difference in catching these little blunders as far as not seeing the same thing as my eyes have passed over on the computer screen so many times before.)

I’ve let a few people (including a few of you) read some of these manuscripts before, and many of you had some remarkable suggestions.  But there was one manuscript – The Prison – which I’ve only let a couple of people even see.  It was the first one I wrote, and I wrote it before I learned and became obsessed with “The Rules.”  You may remember my frustrations when my exact-word orientation from my Autism got in the way of “just writing” once I learned there were so many dos and don’ts.  I got so hung up on The Rules, that I wasn’t able to “just write” anymore, and as I’ve been re-reading, I wince as I see how much I held back.

Don’t get me wrong, I (now) think The Rules are a good thing (for the most part), though my Autistic brain still wishes they were called “The Suggestions” instead.  What I realized was that my first manuscript had so much more “feeling” behind it and felt less “mechanical” than the others.  When I asked myself why, I came to a conclusion:  I used a lot more similes and strong descriptions in The Prison than I used in my other works.   The sad thing is, I know exactly why I did this as well…  I got so stuck on “Show Don’t Tell” (of The Rules), that I was afraid I was “telling” too much, so I deleted almost all instances of these types of phrases and sentences in my subsequent work.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of my problem was due to an article I read that instructed me:  “In order to show and not tell, you have to write as if you’re describing what’s happening to a blind person.”  So, I did just that.  And in doing so, I added a lot of stage direction (a LOT of stage direction!) as well as clumsy description that sounded as if I were telling the story of cyborgs rather than people!

For example:  After learning The Rules and allowing myself to become obsessed with adhering to them — or else!–, I wrote:

Neil’s face turned scarlet as he jumped to his feet.  His chair fell to the floor, and he narrowed his eyes.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers grabbed her arm as hot soup splattered on her.  Tears formed in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

He grabbed her shoulders tightly and put his face close to hers, then without saying a word, he released her and spun on his heel.

*~*~*~*~*

Ugh!  Isn’t that just awful?  It feels so cold and mechanical.  I’m embarrassed to think I actually allowed people to read my work like that!

Now, I’ve changed a lot of sterile scenes like that to be something more like this:

Neil jumped to his feet.  His face was flaming, and he appeared to be six inches taller than he already was. His eyes penetrated Rivers’ as he glared at her with repugnance.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers’ voice caught in her throat, and she began to tremble. “I’m sorry,” she said under her breath.  Tears streamed like twin rivulets down her cheeks as she tried to ignore the hot soup that splattered on her arm.

He huffed and grabbed her shoulders, digging his fingers into her flesh.  He pulled her so close, she could feel his hot breath on her face. 

She attempted to explain, but her voice caught in her throat like a lump of clay suffocating her.  Before she could speak, he grimaced and released her as if she had the plague.

*~*~*~*~*

Isn’t that much better?  The sad thing is, that’s roughly how I wrote in the first place, (though I admit I had a bad habit of changing points of view as well as making the scenes too short and choppy…  Those are some of The Rules that are actually a good idea to follow.)  So, as I’ve been able, I’ve been slowly making the changes to a lot of these old works and trying to get them in their best possible shape once and for all.

 Anyway, that’s what I’ve up to lately, friends.  What about YOU?

This ‘n That ‘n Spoke Too Soon…

Greetings, my friends,

My, what a busy September it’s been…

I guess my first news to report is that when I reported last month that I’d discovered a “magic pill” that helped so much with my gastroparesis, I apparently rejoiced prematurely.  For the last few weeks, despite taking the HCL, I’ve been back to vomiting almost daily.  I also found that even though the HCL is supposed to help digest food and move it along out of the stomach, I’m back to being able to eat just about nothing except grilled cheese sandwiches without feeling incredibly sick.  I have noticed that over the past few weeks, I’ve also been under a more-than-usual amount of stress, so as I reported before, I definitely believe there’s a direct correlation between stress and the gastroparesis.

So, in addition to toilet hugging being my pastime these past few weeks, I’ve been freezing despite the upper 90+ degree weather, I’ve been exhausted, and my hair’s been falling out again.  However, despite these annoying little things, it didn’t occur to me until last week that they are actually “symptoms” and put together, they likely mean I’m anemic again.  So, I started back on the iron and B-12, and I have an appointment for bloodwork coming soon.  My hope is that once the stress goes, the gastroparesis will flee, I’ll stop puking, and I’ll be able to eat a better variety of foods and get nutrients so these things will stop happening.

In other news, I entered a caption contest for The New Yorker, but I was not selected as a finalist.  However, the finalists that were selected were all really good, so I don’t mind losing to them.

I ran across a Halloween decoration a couple of weeks ago that was similar to a Christmas village… Only this wasn’t a village, per se, but more like an interactive creepy carnival.  Well, needless to say, the carnival theme reminded me a lot of the “Zombiefest” setting for my book Thou Shalt Not, so between my sister and a couple of friends at work, I was persuaded to buy this carnival and make it my own.  I can’t find a great video that shows everything, but this one isn’t too bad:

To tell the truth, I didn’t actually plan on spending that much, or on even owning so many Halloween decorations in the first place, but once I went to the store to price them, it turned out they were already picked over since I visited the store the week before, so I had to have them at that point.  Then, when I realized the store I was in didn’t have everything anymore, I then made it my mission to drive all over Central Florida until I had successfully collected every available piece.  And now, to justify spending WAY too much money on a decoration I’ll likely only be able to display a couple of days because if left up any longer, my cats will surely destroy it, I’m afraid I’m going to have to host a Halloween party so that people can see it.  If you think you’ll be in Florida near the end of October, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you an invitation. (I’ll post photos once I have it all set up.)  If anyone has any favorite Halloween recipes to share with me, I’d sure appreciate it.

I entered four short stories in a Writer’s Digest contest earlier this year, and I was notified that one of them received an Honorable Mention.  Woo Hoo!  No, I wasn’t a finalist, but that was still pretty cool news.  Yay, Team Rachel!

Since my last post entitled “The Raven,” I’ve actually taken on the project of trying to memorize Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.  So far, I’ve learned 11 out of 18 stanzas.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

And finally, I wrote an opening sentence in a Writer’s Digest contest where you are to write one opening sentence only based on a photo that they give, and my sentence was selected as a finalist in that contest.  Squeeeeeee!  And THIS is where I could use YOUR help…

If you’re registered at the Writer’s Digest site, would you please vote for me in the comments section?  (Mine is Sentence “B”:  b. Paralyzed with fear, Cole didn’t even have to look over his shoulder to know the kayak that’d been following him for miles was empty.)  The link to the contest is here: http://www.writersdigest.com/your-story-competition/your-story-76-submit-now

If you’re not registered at the Writer’s Digest site, would you please send an email to: YourStoryContest@fwcommunity.com with “Your Story 76 Vote” in the subject line and write SENTENCE B in the body of the email?

Thank you so much!  I’m forever grateful to those of you who vote.

So tell me… How do YOU celebrate Halloween?