Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

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When I downloaded The Beauty Thief over a year ago, little did I know the author, Rachael Ritchey, is local (to me), or that she would be a featured speaker at my writer’s group meeting. When I realized who she was, and which book of hers was still gracing my e-reader I knew this interview had to happen.

We spent a quick hour sipping coffee in a noisy Starbucks. Being the busy mom that she is, it was the only time she had, and boy am I glad she agreed to meet me. Her books are a blend of fantasy fiction, good family values, and swashbuckling adventure. Ritchie, herself, is an intelligent, bubbly, down to earth woman just as captivating as her novels. Keep reading to learn more about author and blog host, Rachael Ritchie.

SnS: Hello, Rachael. Let’s start with a little background. Are you from the PNW, and if not how did you land here?

Rachael: I was born in Sandpoint, ID and spent a short seven years during my childhood in SE Alaska. My family moved back to Idaho when I was 13 and we stayed there until I finished high school.

After getting married and living a couple places, my husband and I settled on the Inland Northwest as a great place to raise our kids. You might say I convinced him that this is the best place to live, but it wasn’t hard. My husband of almost nineteen years not only loves the beauty of this area, but he also still wants to please me! Crazy.

SnS: Sounds like a man in love. How did you meet?

Rachael: We actually met on the internet in 1999. There were no such things as dating sites (that I know of) back then. We met on our GeoCities websites. He was in college in Minnesota at the time, and I was a senior in high school. I had just helped a friend build her GeoCities page and signed her guestbook. He followed that link to my page, which was all about hiking and outdoors stuff. He left a comment on the bottom of my page saying how much he liked all the links and information along with a quote from the Bible: Isaiah 40:81, and a rose.

I thought, “Oh cool, he’s a Christian too!” so I emailed him a thank you for stopping by my website and we ended up emailing back and forth. It started out as once a day, then it was twice, then it was three times a day. After a while I convinced him to stop in northern Idaho on his way back to Tacoma so we could meet. At first he was like, “No, no, no, no. I’m not going to do that.” But finally it worked out and my mom and I met him in Coeur d’Alene. We didn’t date right away though, we were friends first. And the rest, as they say, is history.

SnS: That’s great! So what got you into writing initially?

Rachael: That’s difficult to answer. I grew to adore writing in 6th grade, but I didn’t take the idea seriously until years and years and years later. I started writing about ten years ago, but for various reasons I’d rather not discuss I let fear stop me. I told myself I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never be able to write anything worth reading, that I would never finish. I gave up, but the desire didn’t die.

December of 2013 I couldn’t let it rest any more. I needed to write. I needed to understand the turmoil of my feelings regarding my foster daughter’s uncertain future. The weight of my fear and anxiety had weighed me down so far, I thought everything that made me me would be crushed. As I prayed on the way to church one wintry Sunday morning, a story … more a reminder … slipped through my conscious mind. It stuck with me for a week, and I had to write it down. That short story then had to be made into something longer. Try 90,000 words longer.

SnS: Wow! How many books have you written and what are their names?

Rachael: I’ve written three full novels in a young adult fantasy series called They are called Chronicles of the Twelve Realms: The Beauty Thief, Captive Hope, and The Treasonous. I have another author/illustrator friend who worked with me to create a short 26 page illustrated children’s book version of The Beauty Thief too!

SnS: That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially considering you have four kids!

Rachael:  Thanks. Yes, I have 3 biological kids and we adopted our 4th.

 SnS: That’s wonderful 🙂 So you said you collaborated on the illustrated version of The Beauty Thief. Was that difficult?

Rachael: Yes and no. The illustrator is a friend of mine who is also an author. She actually came to me with the idea. She said, “I have something I want to show you and I’m really excited about it!” So she pulled out this beautiful drawing of Caityn, the main character from The Beauty Thief. I recognized it immediately because my friend is an amazing artist, and her style is perfect for fantasy and fairy tales, so I agreed to work with her.

I know that collaborating can be difficult and sometimes ruins friendships, but we were able to keep communication open and honest, and I trusted her style. We just worked out key points in the story and she came up with pictures for them. She was totally inspired. After the art was completed, I wrote out the completed story, made sure everything lined up and published it.

It was a really easy experience for me, but I don’t think it goes that way for everyone. Sometimes an illustrator and author have very particular ideas about how they want things, so it can be difficult. But I think, if you are honest and keep the lines of communication open – check in with each other before you finalize anything – it can work out.

SnS: Agreed. Now, I have to ask, between family stuff & general life issues how & where do you get your writing done? And do you write in notebooks or on a pc / laptop?

Rachael: I do both. It just depends. With six people in our house I write wherever I can. I write in my bedroom, the basement, in a coffee shop, or at the kitchen table. I do have a desk in the living room that collects things. That drives my husband nuts, but I know where everything is. *LOL* In recent years I’ve written more on the computer, but throughout the first two novels I spent 50% of the initial writing on notebooks. And they’re piled up all over my bedroom … I really need an office.

SnS: So you don’t have a set time to write?

Rachael: Not really. I have about an hour once a week where I get to sit in a coffee shop and write. Then at night, when the kids are in bed. Sometimes I get to write on the weekends or during the day. 

For a while, I did a lot of daytime writing, until the kids began to complain that I wasn’t spending enough time with them; I wasn’t being very helpful. So I pulled it back. I mean, they are only going to be kids for so long.

SnS: Well, in my opinion, that just makes you a good mom & your novel writing even more miraculous! How did you publish your books?

Rachael: I spent the better part of eight months researching the best course of action: traditional vs self-publishing. The more I researched and grew to understand my own desire – getting over my fear and accepting criticism not as dislike of me or my writing but as a path to better writing – I came to the decision that the kind of strange genre writing I’ve done would not be successful at finding a traditional venue. That lead me to self-publishing, along with the fact that I have ultimate creative control over the product and art, I release into the world. I still need help, mind you, but I like the control and responsibility that comes with self-publishing. It’s almost like there’s a little buzz associated with stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

SnS: Yes, and comfort zones are notoriously hard to leave. 

Rachael: They can be, but I think breaking things down into smaller pieces and just taking one step at a time helps. It’s so much better than getting overwhelmed and not doing anything.

SnS: So true. With that in mind, are you pursuing the idea of creating your own publishing company?

Rachael: Yes, as part of my DBA (Doing Business As) plan. Right now I’m only publishing my own books, or those I’ve collaborated on, but later I’d like to publish other people’s books. I’d like to get to the point where I’m able to offer them something for their work and not make them pay for everything. I think that’s going to take me a while. I want to learn more and prove my own abilities first. So it’s down the road, maybe ten or more years from now.

SnS: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? (Nature? Art? Caffeinated drinks? Tai Chi?)

Rachael: Does in my mind count? I guess inspiration comes from whatever around me can bring parts of my stories to life. Like right now, I’m totally finding inspiration for my futuristic sci-fi novel as I listen to an audio book called Life 3.0 and reading another one called The Physics of the Future. For my medieval, low fantasy novels, I love searching Pinterest for castles, clothing, and weapons. I’ve read articles and watched videos about sword-fighting techniques, and I even went so far as to buy a sword to hang on my wall. The sword also serves as a tool for when I want to discover if a certain move I described will actually work. Haha 😉

SnS: What advice would you give to other writers working on their first manuscripts?

Rachael: Hmmmm …. It’s better to know the endgame than not. It’s okay to deviate from any story plans you make in the process as long as they get you to the end and don’t disrupt the suspension of disbelief! If you have to ex machina (god in the machine) your story to get the end you want, either that(those) scenes need to change or the end does…but probably the scenes that are just in there to make stuff happen should come out.

Of course, if that’s too technical, I’d definitely say don’t give up. Keep writing all the way to the end. Read books or visit websites on craft, but don’t read too many. I think that can have the opposite, rather crippling effect than intended.

SnS: I can see how that could happen. Any good ones you can recommend?

Rachael: ‘Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life’ by Anne Lamotte, and ‘Story’ by Robert McKee are good. For me, I find websites like KM Weiland, Kristen Lamb, and Dan Kobalt are helpful. Those are some of my go-to sites for writing advice because they don’t overwhelm you.

SnS: Do you have any works in progress?

Rachael: Yes! I’m planning two more books in the Chronicles of the Twelve Realms series. Along with that there is a prequel in the works that I’m sharing with readers beforehand on Wattpad. And I’ve got a YA sci-fi book in the planning stages, too, so it keeps coming!

SnS: Good news for us fans! You host an event called #BlogBattle – Tell us about that.

Rachael: Ahhh, Blog Battle! My baby. #BlogBattle is a one-word writing prompt. It works best with flash fiction writing because the word limit is up to 1000 (give or take a few) and you have only three or four weeks to write it. Once written, you post your #BlogBattle one-word prompt inspired story to your blog and link it to the battle post. We then add the link to the stories lineup so that everyone involved can find your story, go read it, comment, and share.

Some people are far into their publishing journey, while others are just starting so there’s this great amalgamation of minds that get together, learn from and encourage each other. It’s actually a lot of fun and I’ve made some life-long writing friends because of it. It’s especially great because #BlogBattle started on a lark. A friend challenged me on Twitter one night and after our little war, others wanted to join in. I started hosting it weekly, but over time it became too much for most people to participate in regularly, and I made the mistake of adding extra rules. Between that and my own burnout from running it on my own, I closed it down. BUT it’s back by popular demand and is truly tons of fun. The people are great. The rest is history.

SnS: Speaking of history – If you could go anywhere in time / space to meet an author, who would it be and why?

Rachael: I have so many authors I’d like to meet! So so so many. Lordy, do I really only get to pick one? Uhhh … I think I’d have to say Jane Austen … no, C.S. Lewis … no, Plato … John Bunyan … wait, Martin Luther. I can’t pick!!! Hmm, okay I’ll pick Max Tegmark, the author of the Life 3.0 book I’m listening to right now. I wonder if he could explain things to me in even more simplified terms and answer all my questions about whether or not certain technologies are feasible 250 years in the future!

SnS: That’d be cool. Let’s give a shout out – Hey Mr. Tegmark, if you ever read this please contact Rachael! 🙂  And to you, Rachael, thank you for spending time with all of us at TheSquidandSquirrel.

Rachael: Thank you so much for inviting me here today, M.J. I enjoyed our time immensely and I’m looking forward to another coffee chat sometime soon!

If you would like to learn more about Rachael, or purchase some of her books check the links in the body of this interview and below!

https://rachaelritchey.com/

Read ‘Ismene and Othniel

Find her books on Amazon as well as the following:

Auntie’s Book Store SmashwordsKobo BooksBarnes & Noble, and Apple iTunes.

Follow her on Social Media:

FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube

Read Blog Battle entries at:

https://www.blogbattlers.wordpress.com and on the Blog Battle Facebook page.

 

 

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Finding beauty using Art & Science – an interview with Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

Finding beauty using Art & Science – an interview with Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

Part Artist, part Scientist, Jerry Mudge says beauty can be found everywhere, and he’s got the photos to prove it.

His photographs first caught my eye when I wandered into local art gallery, Avenue West. A brightly colored photo of something I couldn’t identify, something glossy and oddly geometric despite the randomness of shapes and colors, drew me across the space. I’d never seen anything quite like it, and I wanted to know more about the artist. Lucky for me, when I inquired at the register, the person manning the station was Jerry himself. He showed me more of his photos, explained a bit of how he captured the images – using skills that ranged from traditional to experimental – and I was hooked. 

Keep reading to learn more about the creative photography of Jerry Mudge.

SnS: Hello Jerry, thanks for interviewing with me. I’ve admired your work for a while. Now I’d like to learn more about you, the artist. Please tell us (my readers and I) where you are from.

Jerry: Glad to be here, and that you like my work. I was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. My family homesteaded the Wolf Lodge area, just east of CDA, so my roots are dep in the area. I moved to the Spokane Valley about 14 years ago. I was getting ready to retire from Kaiser Aluminum, and Sandy (my wife) had a few years left to work in Spokane, so we purchased a home in Spokane Valley.

SnS: What did you do at the aluminum plant, and how long were you there?

Jerry: I was there for 31 years and I did everything from driving fork truck to making Safety videos and posters. We called them Impact posters because they were fairly graphic, but they got the message across. I retired as a Supervisor.

SnS: Wow, so even at an aluminum foundry you still got to be somewhat artistic?

Jerry: Somewhat, yes. We did all our own filming and editing. I got to use the company’s cameras and video equipment, and even got to drop an ingot onto a Jeep for one safety film. Of course when news of the ingot drop got out, everybody came to watch!

SnS: *LOL* I would too! So what got you interested in photography in the first place?

Jerry: In the early seventies, my uncle was getting into photography. I became interested after watching him and bought my first Minolta camera. We worked together on some black and white photos. You know, the kind. We’d take a profile picture of someone’s head then add gears and things to indicate the workings of their brains. We just played with it, and had fun. I went further with photography than he did, though, and as my interest grew, I soon set up my own dark room where I processed and printed my own color, and black and white photos.

As time passed and family became a priority, my love of photography was placed on the back burner but was always there.

SnS: So did you uncle train you in photography?

Jerry: I am 99% self-taught. The only real training I’ve had were a couple of 4 hour afternoons with a professional photographer. I already knew all the technical stuff, but he really helped my composition. 

SnS: How did you learn all the technical stuff?

Jerry: I learned most of it through experimentation and reading. A lot of reading. 

SnS: Is there a moment from your learning process that stands out to you, where something went terribly wrong, or incredibly right?

Jerry: When I first started using digital. When I bought my first digital camera it was like a foreign world to me, because instead of the dark room, you had to use the computer. I was computer literate, but not in the programs for photography. It took me a long time to figure that out. 

I’ve never really had anything go amazingly wrong, but I’ve had EUREKA moments with certain pictures like “Flowering Beauty” and “Fire & Ice”. 

SnS: Okay, well now I have to ask. What is that blue stuff in “Flowering Beauty”?

Jerry: *Smiling widely* Table cream and food coloring. The flower was submerged too. There was a lot of experimentation to get that shot.

SnS: That’s amazing!  So what’s “Fire & Ice” made out of? I haven’t been able to figure that one out.

Jerry: Ferrofluid. That’s a black, magnetic fluid that looks like oil. It’s one of the messiest things you’ll ever come across. You put a magnet next to it and it creates these forms. That’s the geeky part. I really like using science to base, and get cool photos from. You don’t see photos of this stuff very often, but I love it. 

SnS: You sound like a bit of a creative scientist, Jerry. I’m picturing your photography space full of beakers and Bunsen burners.

Jerry: Well, uh, no. But truth be told, there’s a card table in my basement. It’s all finished down there, so I have to put a big tarp down or I’d be in a lot of trouble if I messed up the carpet. 

SnS: *LOL* So how did you come up with the idea for those shots?

Jerry: Well, I saw the ferrofluid on a TED Talk. The flowers were my own idea.

SnS: Excellent! So do you use lots of different cameras for certain shots?

Jerry: I only use one camera, but I do use specialized lenses for different types of images (i.e. macro, landscape, etc.).

SnS: Do you enhance your photos on the computer?

Jerry: I’ve done a few, but for the most part, I don’t manipulate a lot. Generally, I may sharpen, increase contrast, or enhance color if needed. Occasionally I use HDR (High Dynamic Range) to capture fine detail and to lighten shadows. I try to keep HDR looking natural though, and not over processed.

SnS: So is photography your job or your hobby?

Jerry: It’s a hobby to me. I do it in my retirement. I enjoy pushing myself to learn new techniques and processes while capturing the beauty around us.

SnS: So if you could travel anywhere in time or space for your photography, where would you go?

Jerry: Although I am a sci-fi geek and also like to travel, I don’t need to go far to find amazing things to shoot with my lens. From the largest landscape to everyday things that we take for granted. For example, take a couple of forks from the kitchen, light them at an angle on white paper, and you can come up with great shots. A drop of water on a blade of grass, the colors in a soap bubble. Beauty is everywhere, you just have to look around and you’ll find it no matter where you are on the planet. 

SnS: Okay, so do you have a photographer you admire, or a favorite photo that inspires you?

Jerry: My favorite photograph is of an Afghan refugee girl taken by Steve McCurry and published on the cover of National Geographic magazine in June, 1985. The way the photographer has captured her intensity has always stuck with me.

SnS: That is a memorable photo. Beyond photography, do you have any other hobbies?

Jerry: I do woodworking. I create handmade boxes, bud vases, and candle holders. My wife upcycles furniture, so I get to help her with that too. 

When I retired, I got into remote controlled airplanes and I competed in large scale aerobatics all over the Western US & Canada. I flew really big stuff, with ten foot wing spans, and I built them all from scratch. When I got older and couldn’t see as well, I couldn’t compete as well against the younger folks, so I got out of that and got back into photography. That was around 2006 or 2007. 

SnS: What got you into woodworking?

Jerry: I just wanted to do it. I saw some band saw boxes, they interested me, so I went out and bought a band saw and started making them. I’ve always worked with my hands. I enjoy it, and I like to do things that are different. My band saw boxes aren’t shaped like normal boxes, they are all different and you can’t find things like them in regular stores.

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SnS: No you can’t. They are really neat! So how did you land here at Avenue West Gallery ?

Jerry: I did a brief stint in another gallery for a while, but wasn’t happy with how it was going. I took my items back and didn’t show for a year because I had to work up the guts. I didn’t think my work was good enough. Eventually I heard there were openings here, and I already knew someone who had their art here. I was nervous because this is a juried gallery, but here I am.

SnS: Yes you are, and that’s great! If you were to give advice or encouragement to other artists afraid to put their work out there, what would you say?

Jerry: Just do it. Just try to get through that fear because it’s very rewarding when somebody likes your work. Not everybody is going to like it, and you’ve got to be prepared for that, but it’s still very rewarding. Especially when you sell something. It’s just like, HEY look at that! 

Also, one thing is that I strive to be a little different than anybody else. The thing to remember is that you might have a hundred artists all looking at the same thing (painting or photographing it), but every one of their interpretations is going to look different, and be unique. That makes it worthwhile. 

SnS: Good advice. Thank you, Jerry. Now where can our readers find and enjoy your incredible works?

Jerry: I currently have photos on display and to purchase at Avenue West Gallery – 907 W. Boone Ave. in Spokane, WA. I also have photos to view on 500px  My photos are available in many sizes and mediums; canvas, metal, paper, etc. and I may be contacted at JerryMphotography@comcast.net.