I hope you all have a Halloween fun enough to howl about!
Tail wags & shoulder bumps to you all,
P.S. If you are looking for a good, clean Halloween read, check out my first novel in the Luna Chronicles, Waxing is Useless. What happens when a middle age soccer mom faces adversity? She grows fur and a tail, of course! **Excerpt below.
Miranda closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing, but the minute she shut them her other senses seemed to explode. Her heart raced, a bass accompaniment to a symphony of dripping water, crackling ice, a light breeze, and somewhere a few blocks away, tires on icy streets. She could feel every blade of mushy grass beneath her hands and feet. She felt the mud and the slight temperature fluctuations in the wind. Even the moonlight felt like waves of mist against her burning skin.
Lifting her face to the sky, she inhaled deeply. Scents she’d never recognized before sifted into her brain. She identified crocus shoots, compost, and weirdly, earthworms. She turned her face north into the wind. Someone was smoking marijuana in a nearby home. The Kollyers had apparently grilled chicken earlier. George burned it a bit. The chemical floral scent of someone’s dryer stuck in her throat, making her gag. She sneezed to clear her nose and continued to explore the scents of the neighborhood. Wood smoke from someone’s stove and beer and cigarettes from the bar four blocks away. She couldn’t believe what all she was sensing!
Miranda opened her eyes. She had spent so much time analyzing scents that the moon had slipped lower in the sky, and the temperature had dropped even further. She knew it was cold enough to become hypothermic but didn’t feel cold at all.
She focused on her surroundings. She could see everything so clearly! Details she’d never noticed during the day jumped out at her in the dark. Despite the strange new clarity of her eyesight, Miranda was finding it hard to think. Her brain felt foggy. She considered calling for help, but she couldn’t work up the energy to vocalize her need.
Fighting the urge to lay down in the now semi-frozen grass, she forced herself to stand, and swayed unsteadily for a moment before she turned toward the house. She’d taken two lurching steps when something metallic hit the cement floor inside the garage. Someone is in there!
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!
Find her books on Amazon as well as the following:
Follow her on Social Media:
Read Blog Battle entries at:
In honor of World Book Day I figured I’d post about some of my favorite authors. When I was a kid, Stan Lee ruled my world, with the singular exception of anything Superman related. But one week of staying in bed with a superior case of chicken pox changed my reading habits forever.
I was bored, itchy, and cranky. My mom, God bless her soul, knew that if she didn’t do something soon I might drive her to drink. So with wisdom and kindness she handed me the complete collection of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I read them all over the course of 36 hours, and a life time love affair with reading blossomed. A book worm was born!
Mom’s next gift, the Dune series by Frank Herbert, was an attempt to keep me happy a bit longer. It worked long enough to keep her sane until I went back to school and rediscovered the school library. From then on, if I didn’t have a book in my hand, there was one near by.
Piers Anthony was my go to author for the next few months, then Anne McCaffrey. Anthony’s Xanth series full of adventure, crazy creatures, relatable characters, and corny puns soothed my pre-teen angst. McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern with her strong female characters standing up to social injustice as well as facing down many physical dangers helped get me through those difficult years. I went on to read every series both of these authors had to offer, and there are more than a few.
As I matured, I moved into historical fiction with James Michener, James Clavell, and Victor Hugo. These three authors had a fabulous grasp on both the physical areas they wrote about and the historical details needed to bring their characters to life.
Michener’s books, usually single word titles based on the name of the area he wrote about (i.e. Hawaii, and Chesapeake) built clear pictures in my mind. They allowed me to travel without leaving my room, taught me a bit of the history and gave me a glimpse into the culture of the area while still telling a great story.
Clavell’s novel ‘Shogun’ was a made-for-TV mini-series before I discovered it. I watched it with my mom. I was young enough to be embarrassed by some of the steamier scenes but not so embarrassed that I didn’t want to read the book. I borrowed it from a friend the next week. My mom borrowed it from me after that. I remember being fascinated by Clavell’s take on Japanese culture, the Samurai, and the idea of ‘face’ or honor.
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame transported me through time. They made me more socially aware, helped me reexamine my own motives, and the motives of those in power. Life changing? Yes, and I recommend them highly. These books all prompted me to write, and eventually become an English major in college. I learned about British and American Literature mostly, but later took some classes in Literature from around the world.
Now, many years later and battling chronic illness, I’ve settled into more entertaining reading. Books that take my mind off of the bad days full of aches, pains, and foggy brain. Authors such as Patricia Briggs , Lynsay Sands, and Molly Harper have made me laugh, cry, spit coffee, choke, and occasionally be super grateful for panty liners. Vampires, werewolves, & fae monsters, OH MY! Seriously, their worlds are just too fun.
Finally, there are a group of local authors to whom I owe so much, I’ll never be able to repay them adequately. They helped me get through the process of writing my own book. (The first in a series. It’ll be published soon but I’ll post about that later.) I’ve been honored to be in writers groups with them, and to have interviewed three of them for this blog: D. Andrew McChesney author of the Stone Island Sea Stories , Kate Poitevin author of the Tir Gaeltacht series, and Sue Eller author of the Emily Trace Mysteries. These three, as well as all those in the Tin Pencil writers group, have helped me get to this point. It’s exciting, unnerving, and amazing to be in such great company. If you get a chance, and want to support these terrific authors, check out their interviews or Google them and pick up a copy of their books. You won’t be sorry.
Happy World Book Day everyone!
Hello friendly readers! Well, this months interview went down with the ship. The ship being me.
To say that I’ve been in zombie-mode is an understatement. Between chronic illness, change of season, working on the final edit of my novel, and the demands of everyday life I’ve been pretty out of it. Sorry to drop the ball.
Please hang in there with me. I have a wonderful artist lined up for November. Her work is whimsical, humorous, and filled with child-like delight and wonder. Want to know who she is? Wait for my “Coming Soon” announcement next month.
Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween!!
Your friendly neighborhood blogger, MJ
Earlier this summer, I went to ArtFest with a friend. We took our time walking through, looking at all the amazing art, and talking to the artists. A few of them stood out to us, not just for their artistic offerings, but for their kind and fun personalities. Kelley J. Sullivan was one of them.
Despite the heat of the day, Kelley’s vendor tent was an oasis of cool. Cool paintings, cool water, and a cool artist. Inviting us in, she offered us bottles of water, answered our questions, and was just generally kind and amazing. Her paintings, all done in shades of blue, created the illusion of non-sweat inducing temperatures, and we found ourselves hanging out longer than we had intended. When we finally left to finish our tour of ArtFest, we ended up circling back to her booth. My friend couldn’t leave without purchasing some of her cards, and I couldn’t leave without asking for an interview. I just had to share her talent with you all.
Please keep reading to learn more about the deep, blue, emotions of Kelley J. Sullivan.
SnS: First of all, Kelley, thanks for interviewing with me. I am fascinated with your work. Please describe your style of painting.
KJS: It’s hard to peg my style down to one category. I’ve heard everything from abstract landscapes, to abstract impressionism. For me, the category has never mattered. In my mind, I paint emotional landscapes or models of inner-life. Every painting is a moment in time, tied to an emotional state that everyone has likely felt at some point.
SnS: Looking at your work, that is a great description! So, what drew you to the blue palette?
KJS: I’ve always felt more comfortable using a cool palette. When I try to go branch out into brighter, warmer colors it begins to feel forced. I figure if I’m trying to put some sort of my truth onto canvas, I need to stick to what feels right.
SnS: I like that. After ArtFest I started following you on Facebook. You’ve posted pictures of our art on your page, and many of them have a short poem attached. Do you write those, or are they quotes?
KJS: I write everything I post. (There may have been one exception, but I would have quoted the author) I have an absolute love affair with the written word, and write something for almost every piece I paint. I had originally intended to include the poem on the back of each painting, but realized it may change the experience of the viewer.
I think it is more important for each viewer to have their own personal experience with each piece. Without interjecting my meaning onto it. However, I have included it when requested.
SnS: Good to know. So, how did you become an artist? Did (or do) you have a more traditional job?
KJS: I started creating from the moment I was born. Although I’ve held an expansive array of other jobs, art was always a consistent passion in the background. In 2008 a friend saw some of my paintings and urged me to start sharing them. I started small, showing in local coffee shops and entering every online competition I could find. As I gained exposure, my career just started growing in an amazingly organic manner. I feel so lucky to be at a point in my life where I am able to do what I love as my sole career.
SnS: That is a blessing! Do you have any artists (of any genre) you admire?
KJS: There are so many. I find that most of the artists I am in love with aren’t necessarily world famous. They are artists I find on Instagram, at art fairs, or hanging in coffee shops as I travel. I am definitely drawn towards edgier styles of art. Some of my favorites right now are Walt Hall, Annie Owens, Kathryn Hackney, and James Lipnickas.
SnS: What do you do to get in the mood to paint? What inspires you?
KJS: Music is probably my biggest inspiration. With art as my full time job, I often have to create when I just don’t feel like it. If I put on some sad, moody music with good lyrical content it can usually put me in a place where I can open up and paint.
SnS: You seem to always be on the move. What do you do to relax?
KJS: Relax? Who has time for that! 🙂 But on the rare occasion when I am able to, I head outside. Hiking and camping are fuel for my soul. I’ve also found that as I am getting older, quality time with people who challenge me, in a positive way, can do wonders to help me recharge. I’m lucky to be surrounded by an incredible community.
SnS: Community is important. So what do you think is the one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?
KJS: Probably that putting my art into the world was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I painted solely for myself for years, and never had any intention of showing it to anyone. I had rooms full of unfinished paintings that had never seen daylight. I was terrified that no one would understand what I was doing. I’m still in awe that some connect to it.
SnS: Well it is beautiful, and lucky for us your friend pushed you to show it. So here is my favorite cheesy question. If you could host a picnic for anyone, living or dead, past or present, who would you invite and why?
KJS: I’m EXTREMELY sentimental over the people in my life that have shown me kindness, support, or encouragement. It would be one hell of a party. I would love to invite all the people that I have appreciated. It could have been a kind word on a hard day, or a huge show of encouragement. Some would not be surprised, but I bet quite a few would be shocked to receive the invitation.
SnS: I love that. That’s a great attitude to have. You were very kind to me and my friend at ArtFest. Do you have any causes or charities you support, other than overheated bloggers?
KJS: I am a board member of S.L.A.M. – Support Local Artists and Musicians, in Montana.
SnS: Sweet beans! You are a busy woman. Thanks Kelley for sharing your time and your talent with us all.
If you would like to see more of Kelley’s work. . .
Featured artist at ERA Landmark in Bozeman, MT. Sept. 8th.
INTROSPECTION, an ab-ex group show at FOLD Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. through Sept. 18th.
Bozeman Open Studio Tour – October 21 & 22.
Sip and SLAM Bozeman – September and October.
Hello everyone! Because I’ve been blessed to meet so many wonderful artists and authors this year I thought I’d do a quick retrospective, in case you missed it.
Whether a sci-fi or fantasy writer, intuitive, abstract, impressionist, or illustration artist, all of my interviewees have one (maybe two) thing(s) in common: they are all wonderfully kind and talented people. Learning about these fantastic folks – artists and authors – was such a pleasure I’d like to thank them once again for interviewing with me. You all have broadened my world view and enriched my life. Much love and appreciation to my SquidandSquirrel friends and readers!
First up, our excellent authors:
Now for our amazing artists!
Check out fur suit maker and Multimedia artist Allison J. Wier
A co-op of potters, they started their own business and have expanded nicely. Consider taking a class at Urban Art Coop
Take a gander at pet portraitist Grace Fairchild, an artist with an eye for eyes.
Spend a moment Catching up with artist Kelly Loder’s “Emotion in Motion!”
And finally, enjoy The Many Layers Of Artist, Linnea Tobias
Thanks, once again, to all of the artists and authors who’ve interviewed with me, and kept in touch. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you all, and sharing your talents with the world. Blessings to you all.
~Mj (a.k.a. host of TheSquidandSquirrel)