#TBT – Glad I hired a local artist for my book cover!

Down sick for the last few days, I haven’t gotten much writing done. In fact, I haven’t gotten much of anything done other than to wonder when I’d be able to get anything done. Yeah, it’s been like that. Today, however, I began thinking about my current work in progress (wip) – Lilac City Lunacy.

Building a fantasy world full of characters, plot twists, heroes and villains, is not easy. There’s so much to be done, and though I’m still lagging with little energy I figured I could doodle a few ideas for the cover. Now, I’m no artist. Oh, I can do some silly little line drawings but with about as much talent and flare as a duck using a fountain pen. Still, it’s enough to give a real artist a better idea of what I want. I did this with my first book, Waxing is Useless. In fact, I hired one of the local artists I’d previously interviewed for this blog, Shannon Potratz .

His sense of humor, talent, and accessibility made him the perfect choice for my cover. Let me show you what I mean. On my first visit to his office I handed him this.

My line drawing

And after a follow up visit he created this, and I love it!

Image by Shannon Potratz

Close by and easy to collaborate with I am still amazed by and grateful for his artistry, especially as I have NO experience with graphic art. Worth every penny, he made it so easy for me, as a self-publisher, to load everything up and put it to print. If you are a writer / self-publisher with little to no artistic talent, I highly recommend getting to know your local artists. Beside potentially finding someone great to work with, I just think it’s awesome for local authors to support local artists and vice verse.

Review of ‘Return From Armageddon’ by Sue Eller

Review of ‘Return From Armageddon’ by Sue Eller

In Sue Eller’s world, the people of Earth have finally united under one flag and formed one government with the capital situated in Las Vegas. LAS FREAKIN’ VEGAS, BABY! Of course, despite unification, where there are people there is strife both political and religious.

Two ambitious leaders – one High Priestess and one top General – seek to secure ultimate power by uniting church and government via marriage of convenience. This power couple will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Things go awry however, when a massive armada of alien spaceships appear within their solar system. Can another couple, a dead woman and a truck driver, save the world? Maybe, maybe not.

At only 183 pages, this science fiction story is full of intrigue, murder, aliens, a smidge of true love and Biblical parallels that set it apart from typical sci-fi. If you’re looking for an interesting read, this is the book for you.

#BlogBattle – Loss    **Laurel’s Choice**

#BlogBattle – Loss **Laurel’s Choice**

Laural wandered aimlessly around her living room. Nothing interested her, nothing enticed or motivated. She made another circuit around the room looking at books, games, chores that needed doing and gave up. When she plopped down on the sofa it was with a huff of exasperation. “What the crap am I doing? I’m not getting anywhere like this,” she sighed. She leaned forward and let her head fall into her hands so she could run her fingers over her aching scalp.

She was still massaging her head when her mother entered the room carrying a large laundry basket. Like clockwork, she followed her morning routine. So did Laurel but the two didn’t look at each other much less speak. They hadn’t spoken in months. Too many arguments, vile words, and disrespect had passed between them. Their last conversation had ended with both of them red-faced from screaming. Silence had claimed both their tongues since. Occasionally, she felt her mother’s eyes upon her, but when she tried to speak, nothing came out and her mother grew even more despondent. Despite both of them hoping for a reconciliation, they avoided each other. It was best for everyone. Especially little Haley.

Laurel’s sister, Haley, had been a surprise to everyone. Mom and dad had given up having more kids after mom miscarried baby number two. Lauren had been the one to call 911 when she found mom on the bathroom floor. Her brother had been so tiny! She hated that they hadn’t even bothered to give him a name. Baby number two just sounded like a cruel pun.

They hadn’t buried him either, but they buried Tina – another baby they’d at least bothered to name. Instead, her brother had been cremated and his ashes spread over the river. What the hell that had been about she still had no idea. She’d never been given a decent explanation and had no way to visit him like she did Tina. She was still pissed about that and poor Haley, who was too young to understand, felt the tension in their home. It made her cranky.

Haley cried a lot. Mom would try to comfort her but only Laurel’s voice seemed to soothe the toddler. She’d spent many days in Haley’s room telling her silly stories to make her giggle, and many nights singing so everyone could get some sleep. Laurel would do anything for her baby sister. She glanced toward Haley’s room. She was napping, which was great but that left her at a loss. Still without motivation to do what needed to be done.

Keeping her head down, she watched her mother fold and refold towels until they were perfect before separating them into piles: beach, bath, hand, and wash. Mom was methodical to the point of O.C.D. with some things, but completely March Hare with others. It drove Laurel nuts, but she also found it somewhat endearing. She’d never admit that to mom, though. Towels done, she watched her mom pick them up and head into the bathroom to shelf them. Laurel thought her mother was beautiful when she wasn’t crying or yelling, but again, she would never admit it to her.

Laurel watched a moment longer then turned away. It was too painful, this non-communication. She hoped someday they’d be able to talk again but right now the divide was too deep. She sighed heavily. At least dad would be home soon. Maybe she’d talk to him tonight. He was easier to talk to than mom, especially now, but he wasn’t home much anymore.

It was hard for him to face so much loss. She saw it in his eyes every time he entered their home. His shoulders would slump ever so slightly, while his eyes became weary. It saddened her, but not as much as the lack of affection between her parents. They used to always be hugging or worse, kissing. It used to gross Laurel out, but now she wished to see it again. Her parents seemed to yearn for each other’s companionship but dread it at the same time. She wished she could fix things, make everything better, but she was only a teenager.

The last time she’d spoken with her Dad – mist rising from his lips with each word – he told her she was a great kid. That he loved her and was proud of her, but in her heart, she never felt as if she were doing enough. Of course, doing things now was harder. It took a lot of energy to do anything in her condition.

Laurel sighed again and reached for her aching head. It was weirdly concave ever since that night, the last time she’d argued with her mom. The night she’d stormed out of the house and hitched a ride with that drunk neighbor kid, Mike. She didn’t know he was drunk when she got in the car, and he never saw the delivery truck before they hit it.

The light had come to collect Mike immediately, but she couldn’t leave her sister behind. Haley needed her. So she’d made her way home and hadn’t left since. Deep down she knew she should have let the light take her and let everyone move on, but (in that moment) she’d made her choice. Now it was too late. She didn’t know how to get to the light and wondered if she ever would.

BOOOOOOKS!!!

BOOOOOOKS!!!

Do you love books? Are you a total bookworm? Love to talk about them and share your favorites? Have you written a book and need another easy marketing opportunity? Well, here it is. I’m going to post a link to my book, and another to my 2 fave authors / series. I invite you to do the same in the comments (They’ll show up on the About page).

Whether you’ve written a book or just want to share fave series, let’s see it!

Here’s mine.  Waxing is Useless  smallwerewolf

Here are my 2 favorite authors / series.

Patricia Briggs’ – Mercy Thompson Series Mercy Thompson (10 Book Series) by  Patricia Briggs

And Kerrelyn Sparks’ – Love at Stake Series Love at Stake (15 Book Series) by  Kerrelyn Sparks

Now tell me and everyone else about yours. 🙂

Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays  story / #BlogBattle entry.

Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays story / #BlogBattle entry.

Fresh snow sifted through the forest canopy to dust the sparkling carpet of the previous day’s record twenty-five inches. Low overnight temperatures had created a thick crust on top of the snow making it easier for the pack to get to the designated spot. Stan had chosen the meeting place very carefully. He wanted everything to be perfect for what he had planned.

The Alpha parked his Jeep just off a service road. Normally no one but rangers and firefighters used it, but Sheriff plates came in handy at times. Stan rounded the back of the car and pulled a large bundle and a pair of snow shoes out of the trunk. Time to get to work.

Two hours later, he had everything set. Lifting his nose, he scented the air. Powdery snow was still falling but his nose told him it would stop soon. It also told him his pack was getting near. He checked on his preparations one last time, then cleared the snow off a nearby stump to sit and wait. It wasn’t long before the soft crunching of paws reached his sensitive ears. One by one, pack members began to appear, slipping out of the shadows and into the moonlit grotto. Moving with purpose, they formed a circle around the perimeter of the clearing.

Walt was in charge of bringing their newest pack members, Miranda and Seif, and was set to arrive last. An easy enough task as he lead them in human form while they followed as wolves. This was done on purpose so the two couldn’t pepper him with questions via mind speak. He couldn’t answer them even if he wanted to however because Stan had sworn him to secrecy. Hefting his pack, Walt tightened his snow shoe bindings and grinned in anticipation as he lead them into Riverside State Park. His heart was light; he loved this time of year.

Twenty minutes later the trio entered the clearing and paused at the perimeter the pack had created. Walt stepped through the circle of wolves and motioned his two charges to follow him into the middle where Stan stood waiting. The sheriff, in his street clothes, grinned merrily as he greeted everyone.

“Spokane Guardians, thank you for coming on this beautiful winter night. Tonight we welcome two new helpers into our yearly endeavor.”  He gestured toward Miranda and Seif and the pack reacted with happy yips and chuffs before he continued. “Seif, Miranda, every year our pack adopts families in need and as the holidays approach we collect goods and gifts to deliver to them. This tradition has been handed down, Guardian to Guardian, pack to pack, for hundreds of years and tonight you join our happy band as apprentice elves!”  With his last word, Stan bent over and flipped the switch on a small generator. The pine tree behind him lit up and flooded the snow covered clearing with multi-color light. Bundles of gifts surrounded the base of the tree, as well as one strange pile of fabric with glittery bands. Miranda and Seif, their tongues lolling out in wolfy smiles, stared at the beautiful tableau until Stan began to speak again. “For those of you who’ve done this before, you know the drill. Please line up behind our newest helpers.”

The pack settled in behind Seif and Miranda, chatting happily about their individual holiday traditions while Stan disappeared behind the tree. Walt moved to the forefront to speak to the pack and cleared his throat loudly to get their attention. He was obviously holding something behind his back and Miranda scented mischievous mirth wafting off him. She threw a look at Seif then turned back to eye Walt, tilting her head in question. The old goat chuckled and winked before lifting his voice.

“As the newest members of our Secret Santa Brigade, you two,” he motioned to them, “get to don the honorary head gear!” Pulling his hands from behind his back, Walt approached the duo with red and green striped elf hats with large elastic bands.  He placed one on each of their large canine heads and stepped back. “Behold,” he shouted, “Santa’s newest helpers!” The pack howled their approval, some with obvious laughter, and a few puns were cast to the duo.

Hey, you two look great! You’ve really pulled your ‘elves’ together!

Too bad wolves can’t use phones, you two should really take an ‘elfie’ together!

Good thing we switched to hats. Rudolf noses would have interfered with your ‘elf’factory senses!

While the pack groaned at the puns Miranda and Seif looked at each other and chuffed out wolfy chuckles. They looked ridiculous but it was for a good cause so, grinning, they made a small bow to their fellow pack members. When they turned back around Walt asked them to wait, executed an awkward turn in his snow shoes, and slowly made his way back to the tree where he picked up the strange glittery pile. “All right, come here and let’s get you situated.”

Miranda and Seif padded forward to sit in front of their Beta. He shook out one of the bundles and held it up. It was a large harness with saddle bags attached. In each bag there were several small bundles with names and addresses on them. Moving steadily, Walt attached a harness to each of the 14 Guardians. When he was done they sat chatting amongst themselves as they waited for Stan to reappear.

The time waiting was definitely well spent as far as Miranda was concerned. The Alpha stepped out from where he’d been changing and appreciative sounds emanated from the pack. Stan was now sporting a beautiful old fashioned Santa Suit. The dark red coat that fell to his knees was closed with a sash and trimmed with a light golden fur, as were his thick, black leather mittens and boots. An intricately hand-knit scarf wound around his neck held three small jingle bells at each end. The bells caught the lights and sparkled against his chest. Well over 6 foot 4, with fiery red hair and beard, Miranda thought Stan made an impressive Father Christmas!

Catching her errant thought, Stan smiled. Thank you, Miranda.

You’re welcome. Miranda grinned ruefully. I’m still not used to this mind speak stuff, though.

Neither am I. Seif admitted. But she’s right. You make a striking Saint Nick.

Stan inclined his head to the two of them then the Santa Alpha directed the wolves toward the northern edge of the clearing, across from where Walt had lead them in. A small red sleigh with gold accents and runners awaited them. The Guardians once again formed two lines and Stan moved along them attaching the leads. Miranda couldn’t believe they were going to run around town pulling him like sled dogs, but was so excited to do so! She glanced at Seif and he looked just as thrilled though obviously confused.

How are we able to do this without freaking out the town folk? Seif asked.

People see what they want or expect to see so as far as the town folk go, they’ll just think you all are big sled dogs. The reins, bells, and hats add to the disguise. Plus we’ll be sticking to the shadows as much as possible. Don’t worry, you two. We’ve been doing this for years.

Satisfied by the explanation, Miranda and Seif settled in to wait. When the last lead was connected Stan mounted the small sleigh, picked up the reigns, and with a booming voice called out, “On Guardians, pack members, my family and friends. Let’s make this a merry Christmas for as many folks as possible!”

Before the pack could move, Miranda turned to look back and broadcast a thought to her Alpha. You couldn’t find a rhyme for friends to end that with, could you?

Stan chuckled. Nope, but I did find this.” He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket, ran his finger over it, then held it up and waved it once, sharply. The sound of a cracking whip broke the serene silence and the two new helpers eyes widened in shock.

Are you kidding me with that? Miranda squeaked a split second before the pack’s laughter erupted. She and Seif looked at their fellow Guardians. They’d all been in on this.

“You two should see your faces right now.” Stan chuckled.

Miranda and Seif, now chuckling along, shook their great furry heads and took off pulling the sleigh across the snow, as the entire pack yipped and howled with joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

 

SquidandSquirrel’s Artists & Authors of 2018

This year has been so full of amazing people, beautiful art, fascinating stories, and personal triumphs it’s just a bit overwhelming. I feel so blessed by it all, and by all of you: my readers, and my interviewees, that I just want to re-share some of the fun. So here’s a look back at the artists and authors who’ve made this year great!

Taking a gander at Scott Bassett & his Wild Goose Gallery

scott bassett_in gallery-cropped

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

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Getting Real With Artist, James McLeod

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Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

new author pic

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank some folks. 

First, I’m so grateful to all of my interviewees. You are why I write this thing. I love showcasing not just your talent, but how absolutely wonderful you all are.

Second, I’d like to thank everyone at Art Chowder magazine, esp. Dean Cameron for finding me here and inviting me to join your ranks. Interviewing artists and writing for you has been a fabulous experience. I can’t wait to see what this next year holds!

And finally, a big shout out to everyone who helped make my own book Waxing is Useless a reality: the Tin Pencil writer’s group, the St. Francis of Assisi writer’s group, my two besties Kym & Cheryl, and the best friends and editors a writer could ever have, Sue Eller & Kate Poitevin.

Much love and respect to you all! 

A very humble THANK YOU!

So my first novel, Waxing is Useless has been out for nearly 2 months now. It’s still somewhat surreal that it’s out there, but what’s even more surreal is the sweet, positive comments and reviews I’ve been getting!

To all out there who’ve taken the time to visit the Amazon site and leave a review,

You guys make me feel like this. . .