Dear Writer…

I tried this last month, but didn’t get a big response.  So, let’s try this again.  (And, no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.)

The following announcement is geared mainly toward my writer friends.  Of course, if you’re not a writer, you’re still welcome to read, reply, and play along, but if you are a writer, you might have a particular interest in what I have to say today.

In the past, one of my more popular blog features has been my author interviews.  Not only did these help draw new traffic to my blog, but they helped market your work to a broader audience. I’ve decided to start a new feature called “Writing Prompt Wednesdays” wherein I will post a writing prompt, either text or pictorial, on the first Wednesday of each month.

I invite you to then take (click to open in a new tab, then right click and save) the prompt over to your own blog and use it to write a short story – say (roughly) between 100 and 800 words, telling what happened to lead up to the prompt, what happened after the prompt, why the prompt, or anything else relevant to the prompt.  Then reply to my post with the link to your post and be sure to include your email address so I can interview you.  For each subsequent Wednesday for the rest of the month, I’ll select one of your responses to feature on my blog along with an interview with you and the links to where we can purchase your work.

April’s Writing Prompt:

Click on this image to open in a new tab, then right click to save.

Actual history of this photo:  This awesome guy actually drives this Radio Flyer car around town, and I see him every so often.  He always gets a lot of looks, stares, honks, thumbs up, and people stopping traffic to get their cameras out and photograph him.  I think it looks really cool, but I’m afraid I’d be too embarrassed to drive it.  Bit I would  love to know what it looks like inside.
Photo: ©R. Carrera

Let’s talk:  Will you be participating in my Writing Prompt Wednesdays?  Would you have taken a photo of this “wagon” if you saw it driving down the road?  Would you ride in it?  What’s the strangest motor vehicle you’ve ever owned?

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

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!

Dear Writer…

The following announcement is geared mainly toward my writer friends.  Of course, if you’re not a writer, you’re still welcome to read, reply, and play along, but if you are a writer, you might have a particular interest in what I have to say today.

In the past, one of my more popular blog features has been my author interviews.  Not only did these help draw new traffic to my blog, but they helped market your work to a broader audience. I’ve decided to start a new feature called “Writing Prompt Wednesdays” wherein I will post a writing prompt, either text or pictorial, on the first Wednesday of each month.

I invite you to then take (click to open in a new tab, then right click and save) the prompt over to your own blog and use it to write a short story – say (roughly) between 100 and 800 words, telling what happened to lead up to the prompt, what happened after the prompt, or anything else relevant to the prompt.  Then reply to my post with the link to your post and be sure to include your email address so I can interview you.  For each subsequent Wednesday for the rest of the month, I’ll select one of your responses to feature on my blog along with an interview with you and the links to where we can purchase your work.

Today’s Writing Prompt:

Click on this image to open in a new tab, then right click to save.

Actual history of this photo:  As soon as I stepped outside Target and looked for my car, I spied this vehicle parked next to mine.  I thought it was kind of funny how much stuff was loaded on the back, but when I stepped around to open my door and glanced in their passenger seat, I knew I had to get the camera out.
Photo: ©R. Carrera

Let’s talk:  Will you be participating in my new Writing Prompt Wednesdays?  Would you have taken a photo of this car if it was parked next to yours?  Do you ever take photos of strange things you encounter during your daily travels for no other reason but to document what you saw?

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”?

Blah, blah, blah…

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope everyone had an enjoyable Cinco de Mayo as well as Kentucky Derby Day.

I’ve been working double-time to get a couple of digital things ready to unveil, but today is not the day for that.  In my last post, I gave you the brief skinny about what I’ve been up to these past twelve months.  One of the major things was my home improvement trials and triumphs as well as custom art pieces I’ve been working on, but, again, I don’t want to reveal those until certain aspects are 100% complete.  So, that leaves me with some of the less interesting stuff to share today.  That being said, I’ll try to keep it brief…

I’m sure you all remember the devastating Hurricane Irma from last September.

 

Thankfully, my neck of the woods didn’t get the worst of it.  But it was an extremely long night (not to mention long days of preparation beforehand).

What was left of my shed.

After the hurricane, you can see all the standing water as well as the preparation we took in boarding the windows, etc.

View from my front door during Irma’s trek up Florida.

We lost power for a minimal time (quite different than when I told you about our month-long ordeal when we had Hurricane Charley).  My son got stuck at a friend’s house, so I was nervous about him.  It was scary in the new house.  But I’m not complaining.  I’m so thankful we didn’t suffer any major loss.  We lost a lot of shingles, our shed, and the covers to the cable and electrical boxes outside the house.  Insurance paid efficiently, and life went on.  The next day, we were trapped in the neighborhood until the city came to take away some trees that had fallen across the road.  And the worst of it all was that we had no garbage pick-up for several weeks because the city was busy collecting hurricane debris.  When we finally got out to look around, we realized how really lucky we were.

This uprooted Oak stood less than 1 block from my house.

There were broken trees, missing roofs, broken power poles, and downed lines.  It’s just proof that Mother Nature deserves our utmost respect.

~*~*~*~*~

I mentioned to you in my last post that I discovered the “absolute best bed in the world.”  Well, that’s not entirely true.  It was my son who discovered it, but after he got his, everyone else in the house got one!  It’s a brand called Purple, and the mattress is AMAZING!  (I haven’t tried their pillow or other amenities.)  If you’ll watch these commercials on YouTube:  The Goldilocks one and the Raw Egg one, I can testify that they really do all that!  (Seriously, when my son got his, we all laid on it on top of raw eggs, and they didn’t crack!)  Remember, with my lupus, I have pain in my joints more often than not, and though my last bed was relatively new and a nice bed, I still woke up with a significant deal of pain each day.  Now, every night when I lie down on my Purple mattress, I literally feel each and every part of me being cushioned and yet gently supported.  And when I wake each day, while I still have the “normal” stiffness associated with my lupus, I am no longer in pain associated with sleeping!  Seriously, this is the most remarkable bed, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about it!

~*~*~*~*~

A couple of months ago, I had bronchitis that just wouldn’t go away.  After 5 weeks on antibiotics – literally the only oral antibiotic that I am not allergic to – I was feeling worse than ever.  Things got so bad that I thought one day I was ready to die!  Honestly, I couldn’t breathe, and it scared the crap out of me.  I called my sister at work and asked her to take me to the emergency room or else I was going to call an ambulance.  So, Michelle left work and picked me up, but on the ride there, I started fearing the emergency room (because of my history with MRSA when I almost lost my leg).  I decided to go to the walk-in clinic instead, and after bloodwork and x-rays, it was determined that I indeed had pneumonia.  However, because of all my allergies, they couldn’t prescribe me any oral antibiotics, and they said I needed the infectious disease doctor to prescribe me IV antibiotics.  And he wasn’t available for another week!  So, I got a breathing treatment there, a breathing machine for home, a high dose shot of steroid there, and a high daily dose of oral steroid for home to last until I saw him.  Once I did see him, I was prescribed a new IV antibiotic that’s in its own drug class called Invanz.  Except once the nurse started the IV, I had an allergic reaction!  They had to stop the IV, and I had to wait to see the doctor again until the next day.  However, later that night, after my throat swelling went away and my mouth stopped itching, I realized that with that third of IV bag, I actually felt the best I had in weeks.  So, I asked the doctor to allow me to continue taking it with a pre-dose of 2 Benadryls.  That continued every day for 12 days, and after about one more week of taking it easy, I felt MUCH better (except for my poor arms!).

 ~*~*~*~*~

So, looking back, I can see that I was unable to keep this as short as I’d hoped. Thanks for sticking with me if you’ve read this far, and I’ll try to make things more interesting in the future.  As a parting gift, I’d like to offer you a photo of my girl Cleo wearing her Halloween skull sweater.  Isn’t she sweet?

Now, tell me:  Have you ever lived through a hurricane or other natural disaster?  Is your interest piqued by that Purple mattress?  Are you allergic to any medications?