Category Archives: Guest Writers & Bloggers

Tim Shoemaker, Metal Sculpturist

IMG_0005I found Tim Shoemaker through a mutual friend – she knew I liked dragons and she shared a picture of Tim’s dragon sculptures with me. I am now the proud owner of two metal dragon sculptures.

Tim Shoemaker grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan, the fourth of five boys. He is now married with two grown children, a married daughter who lives nearby and a boy who works and goes to college.

Welding is his business, and Tim’s foray into creating metal sculptures “seemed to make sense.” Tim is especially proud of his Bald Eagle, Rooster, Lionfish, and the Horse.10525703_10203653081441550_5008572376896355533_n-2

Originally working out of a rented commercial space, Tim now has a shop at his home. He hand forms, cuts, shapes, grinds, and MIG welds his pieces. He is inspired by nature.

(MIG welding is a process in which an electric arc forms between a consumable wire electrode and the metal work piece that heats the pieces causing them to melt and adhere.)































11165127_1021136917920101_6816914233529938790_oTim Shoemaker was born in Detroit. He began drawing at an early age –   always “doodling” – and dreamed of one day becoming an artist. Throughout his childhood, art class was his favorite subject in school. As he got into his teenage years, his interest turned in the direction of shopwork, metal, and welding. After high school, Tim served a three-year term in the U. S. Army. Since then he has worked in many areas of construction and maintenance. In 1999, he decided to go into business on his own, and started running a portable welding service. Now Tim has a shop where he combines his natural artistic talent with his welding and metalsmithing skills. He creates unique pieces of ornamental ironwork and welded metal sculptures.

Find more of Tim’s fabulous metal sculptures on his Facebook page.

You can contact Tim at



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An interview with Rick Heit, epic photographer

Karen Sanderson and Elliotts (10)When my original family photographer cancelled on me at the last minute (after having the appointment on the books for months!), I was scrambling for a replacement photographer. One of the gals in my MSU coffee break crew suggested Rick Heit. I checked him out online, contacted him, and made the appointment.

How happy I am now that the original photographer cancelled on me!

Welcome, Rick Heit!

A little background from Rick…

I grew up in Minot as the second oldest of six children. My father was an accomplished artist who drew many realistic pictures that I enjoyed looking at and studying. My mother loved crocheting. Their creativity rubbed off on all of their children. We all loved creating things and showing them off to the family. While we all tried to one up each other, we were very supportive and excited by what the others were making. It was the perfect setting to grow and imagine.

Work history…

My first job out of college was at the Social Security Administration. I enjoyed helping people, but I longed to do more than the often repetitive tasks the job entailed. I got a second degree in PR/Advertising/Broadcasting and went to work at an advertising agency as a graphic designer. I transitioned from that job to Minot State University where I work in the marketing office doing photography, videography, web content and social media. I’m working in my sixth year.

Wedding Night Kiss copyAbout family…

This August, my wife Erin and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary. We have three precocious and highly imaginative daughters ranging in age from 3 to 7.

Do you remember any of your early photos, perhaps one that spoke to you?

I remember my first camera. I found a camera that I could afford as a seven or eight year old on my allowance of $3 every two weeks. I was beyond excited. My parents took me to the zoo so I could try out this glorious new toy. We developed the film and the majority of them were blurry or poorly framed and I thought, I’m really no good at this. But I’ve always been an optimist so I thought, “I bet I just need more practice.” I wanted to take pictures of the family, but my mother informed me that it would be impossible. I thought she was just being difficult or too busy to pose. She informed me that I’d never be able to take pictures with that camera again because it was a disposable camera. After finding out how much a “reusable” camera was, I lost interest in photography.

Are you self taught or have you taken a bunch of photography classes?Karen Sanderson and Elliotts (12)

I’m completely self taught in photography and mostly self taught at Photoshop. I had one computer graphics class at Minot State University.

What prompted you to start your own business?

I’ve always thought it would be fun to be an entrepreneur. My lemonade stand and spring blossoms from trees stands were colossal failures, but that didn’t diminish my desire. I’ve never wanted to own a business full time though as it carries too many risks and stresses. I had been making fun family pictures of my family for a few years in my spare time. My photography business started once I realized that I could make money on my hobby. It’s actually my third job as I also get paid to exercise by delivering a paper route every morning.

Karen Sanderson and Elliotts (14)Who or what is your favorite subject?

I’m drawn to pretty much anything that captures my imagination and gets me really thinking about how to do something eye popping. Sometimes that comes in the form of putting people into a futuristic setting, a spy/adventurer theme, I’ve done Minecraft, Legend of Zelda. There are just so many fun worlds to explore and put myself or others into.

My favorite subject is my kids who have been in Tron, The Last Airbender, and my favorite, Tinkerbell and her fairy friends.

Do you inspire your subjects or do your subjects inspire you?

Most of the time I have a crazy idea in my head and I’ll ask my subject if it’s something they’d like to do. So far I haven’t been turned down for any of my pitches. I do enjoy when clients suggest something as well. I’m not afraid to try pretty much anything.

Other than people, what subjects inspire you? Nature, scenery, wildlife?

I’d really like to do more nature and scenery photos, but Epic Photography takes up a lot of time.

What motivated you to start the background Photoshop stuff for your epic photos?My Transformer

When I had my senior pictures taken I thought it was really cool that the photographer took the pictures out of his own house and got paid pretty decent money. I saw how much fun he was having and I thought, “This is something I could get into.” When I found out how saturated the photography market was I gave up on that idea. I didn’t want to compete with a bunch of other people that were all really good and all doing basically the same thing.

That started to change ten years ago when I was walking through Barnes and Noble and saw a book that taught how to do Photoshop tricks like making a person look like a living tree, set a saxophone on fire, etc. That book looked awesome and I bought it immediately. The first three pictures I Photoshopped were adding a rainbow to one of my wedding photos, turning a day shot into a night shot, and adding snow to a photo of the Bahamas from our honeymoon. They’re all awful. But at the time I was amazed by Photoshop’s power and I was hooked. I practiced for a few more years. When I turned my car into a transformer and my wife and I into Borg from Star Trek, I started to feel like I was getting really good at this. Looking back now they were kind of laughable as well.

Family Borg Photo 2It wasn’t for a few more years before I felt like I was good enough that people might actually pay me to do this. At that point I knew I had my nitch to break into the highly competitive photography field and do something that no one else in Minot was offering. So I decided to open a composite photography business.

Rick and Erin, paying it forward with Sharing Smiles Sharing Smiles

There are more ways to light up someone’s face than just making them look even more amazing in a sweet photo. Frankly, as fun as that is, there are more important, and just as fun ways, to perk up the corners of someone’s mouth. Every month Rick Heit Photography does what we call Sharing Smiles. We try to brighten someone’s day through volunteering, service, or some kind of give away. So far we’ve done a cash scavenger hunt, and for Christmas, we asked for nominations and gave away $100 to someone that’s having a rough time and who goes out of their way to help others.

Up next – I want to do some panhandling and donate whatever I receive to the homeless (I have to see if I might get arrested for panhandling before I do that), and I want to go to a fast food drive-thru and pay for the next-in-line person’s dinner. Then I want to keep cycling through the drive-thru for 30 minutes to an hour doing it over and over again to see how many people we can get to pay it forward.

Rick[1]How prospective clients can contact you

As creative as my pictures are, the name of my business is extremely boring. I can be reached at or 1-701-822-3232.

See Rick at his website – Rick Heit Photography – or on Facebook.



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A little push for “Painted From Memories”

Barbara Forte Abate PFMY’all know I worked with Barbara Forte Abate on her “Painted From Memories.” I feel so strongly about this novel, I have been assisting with the promotion of it.


A great way to get the word out about your novel is to give the book away to a handful of people who will write a review (hopefully a good one!). Elizabeth H. Cottrell of writes wonderful, in-depth reviews about the books she reads.

Read Elizabeth’s “Painted From Memories” review.


Another good way to get your novel into the hands of others is to participate in author interviews.

Shells Walter posted a great interview with Barbara Forte Abate on her Shells Interviews blog.

With Shells’ permission, I am sharing that interview below.


Could you please briefly tell the readers what “Painted from Memories” is about?

Catherine is the emotionally fractured casualty of a hideous childhood tragedy, and yet she’s found happy-ever-after in the person of Grayson Barnett. With the promise of a freshly polished future in her grasp, she feels compelled to bury the poisonous trail of her past beneath the purposeful lies and omissions she offers her new husband.

Now, with the inherent shame of her traumatic history secreted away and losing hold, Cat finds herself increasingly troubled as Gray falls into an erratic pattern of late night wanderings through the house, painting the bare walls with extravagant murals. And only when the unthinkable happens—a devastating blow which leaves her broken and spiraling, and an unexpected arrival on her doorstep, bearing a cache of impossible revelations—is Cat forced to question whether the man she so desperately loves is in truth a stranger, and their beautiful life a gross falsehood constructed upon a foundation of lies.

Catherine seems like a very layered character. Where did the idea of her character come about?

Cat is a composite of several people who have passed through my life and left a mark. While I purposely steer away from writing anything autobiographic, it would be a big fat festering lie to say Cat exists only in fiction. She is determined and strong, yet vulnerable and weak. She is as deeply conflicted even as she is resolute. A survivor without her consent. The more she evolved over the progression of the book, the more I felt I knew her. I absolutely loved writing her and was fully absorbed in worrying how things would turn out for her!

What did you find the most difficult when writing “Painted from Memories?”

Getting the words right! How to write a story with characters who love one another madly, yet without truly knowing each other? Who are equally strong and, purposeful, yet deeply vulnerable. As passionately as Cat cherishes her future with Gray, there is the inescapable awareness that she has, and continues to be, dishonest and deceptive. And so was the quandary of how to convey all of this while keeping these characters sympathetic and inherently likeable.

There seems to be a lesson in this story. How do you feel this would help women who may be in this same situation?

Can anyone hope to build their own “happy ever after” on a foundation of carefully placed falsehoods? Cat created what she believed to be a perfect life with Gray by purposely omitting all those things she believed too hideous to reveal. It’s pretty much saying that as much as she cherished his love for her, she didn’t trust it as being true or durable. Real love is honest love. Many, if not all of us, carry around a quietly concealed box of secrets, but it’s the big things we keep hidden under the stairs that can emotionally cripple. Cat holds to the erroneous conviction that certain stains on her history have left her hideously flawed—a lie that is altogether counterfeit to the promise and purpose of real love.

If you had one thing you wanted readers to get after reading “Painted from Memories,” what would it be?

That we’re never as alone as we sometimes believe we are. There are experiences in life that can leave us feeling very isolated, hideously damaged, or eternally soiled. But life’s unfortunate events do not necessarily define us. Truth, honestly, love, trust … these are the things we can claim and in turn offer. Unconditional love—what an awesome gift to give another person.

Where can readers buy “Painted from Memories?”

Barbara Forte Abate

Barbara Forte Abate

“Painted from Memories” is available in print from your favorite online retailers, or can be ordered through brick and mortar booksellers. The eBook is exclusive to Amazon—but only for a short while—after which you’ll find it hanging out in all the other places where books are sold.

Are there any future works you would like to share with the readers?

I am currently weeding through notebooks scribbled to bursting with a tangle of ideas—so I’m still percolating the next book. I do wish I was a faster writer, but I’m more the tortoise than the hare.


Shells Walter reviews

Shells Walter, author of horror and bizarro, does writer interviews at her blog, Shells Interviews. To contact Shells about interviews, click here. Her interest in learning more about Jack the Ripper has found her in many a site and involved in many adventures.




Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing

Amazing feather art with Chris Maynard


When I first saw Chris Maynard’s feather art, I was dumbfounded. I scrolled through his galleries…amazing!

I contacted Chris and asked for an interview and he agreed. So here we go…


How long have you been creating your art with feathers?

Since I was 12. It’s evolved of course. Ten years ago I picked up the pace and began photographing them and creating photo-composites with an eye toward the biology of the birds. I still do that, but I also like to incorporate the feathers themselves.

Impeyan Monal Pheasant

Impeyan Monal Pheasant

Do you pick a feather and see the image, or do you design the image and then pick a feather?

Good question. A lot of both. Feathers are limited in size, shape, and color, so not many feathers lend themselves to a design I am developing. Usually, the larger feathers work best, and I like it best when the feather is from the same bird I am portraying. That doesn’t work too well for small birds, like hummingbirds or songbirds. There is also the concern of legality, so I have to rule out using many feathers from particular birds.


Evening Rush Hour

Without giving away any secrets, how do you create your art and shadow boxes?

It starts with a feeling for either a particular bird or the meaning we or I give to feathers – like exuberant flight. I make lots of sketches and if one looks promising, refine the sketch. Often I have a particular feather in mind, but if not, I go on a search, looking for size, structure, pattern, color. This can take quite a while to obtain the right feather, but I also have a good stock of certain kinds, like Argus pheasant wing feathers. I then prepare the feathers using a process I have developed and refined over the years.

I use a small surgical knife to cut the feathers which can take quite a while and be detailed enough to require magnifying glasses or even sometimes, a stereo microscope. Then I prepare the background which is usually just pure white to enhance the shadow effect and not take away from the feathers themselves. The spacing of the feathers is as important as in any design exercise in order to create a feeling of movement, unity, and hopefully, intrigue and surprise. I use different kinds of glues to attach the feathers to the background, always leaving a little space between the feather and the background to create shadows and keep the feather’s 3-D form.


Eat Robin

I first saw your art with bird images. Then I visited your website and found dragons. Are you working on other animals or subjects for your feather art?

Mostly birds because this is all about honoring them and respecting them through feathers. So I had to tie the thought of feathers to dragons which I did in a poem – it was actually elicited by a woman who was promoting my work through two children’s books – she asked me to do it. I like tying the symbolism and imagery of dragons to that of feathers. They work well together.


Crow Caw

I was reading through your blogs and realized you write about different bird feathers and how you collect them. How do you find all these feathers?

Zoos and private aviaries. Many of the birds whose feathers I use are still alive. I ask my contacts to pick up feathers and sometimes they do but everyone is so busy that it is very rare that they have time to pick up the smaller ones. So if a pet bird or aviary bird dies, sometimes they save the feathers for me. I have my own pair of Impeyan pheasants, the national bird of Nepal. They are molting now, and I pick up every one of their feathers. I went hiking outside Mt. Rainier NP yesterday and found where something had killed a grouse. I gathered the tail feathers and stuck one in my hat. People sometimes write to me and ask if I would like or could use feathers they have for my art.

Baby Grouse

Baby Grouse

Would you like to include few tidbits about the protected peacock, the color from the Turaco, other interesting observations?

I like the idea of a national bird being something other than an eagle because it expands my thoughts to different possibilities of how a country could respond and act in global politics. If politicians and negotiators could expand their thinking using different imagery, they would have a larger repertoire of responses to different situations – an eagle being more appropriate in one, a peacock in another.

(See Chris’s post about the peacock and did you know you could get color from the Turaco feather?)

You have a photo portfolio for sale in prints and cards. Tell us about those.

I sell open editions through my website. They are inexpensive, more affordable if the originals are too dear.


Grey Peacock Pheasant Feather Hand

You have a book, Feathers, Form and Function, coming out soon. Tell us about that.

The proof is on its way from China. The printing should be finished mid-November. The book is a quality art book – hardcover, thick paper so you see only the picture on the page you are looking at; lots of images of my art, like you see on the web, with descriptions informing what the image is about or information about the art process or the bird that grew the feather; lots of information about feathers – what they are made of, how they grow, how they are shed, what is legal to have, how they help birds stay warm, camouflage, fly, stay dry, and stay protected. And a chapter about what feathers represent to us in myth and meaning.


Eat Deckle

What is Artists for Conservation?

AFC supports animal conservation causes around the world through donating a percentage of art sales to specific conservation groups that the artist specifies. I mostly gift to Audubon. Artists from all over the world are accepted into this group. We have a yearly show scheduled in Vancouver, BC, later this month. I am a new member and will be giving a talk on feathers on the September 28th.

In the same vein, this fall, I will be partnering with the World Parrot Trust to auction two pieces to benefit Blue Fronted Macaw reintroduction to Bolivia.



What’s your background?

My mother was a professional artist – which is a lot of why and how I kept my original childhood creativity – that was encouraged as a child. Plus I got to know the art world of her time by tagging along to museums and her shows. I have always loved the exuberance of life and became a biologist and worked in that field for many years – and through schooling (bugs) and work (birds and fish) was never satisfied solely using the scientific method. I have always pursued creativity and art.




Dragon Feathers

Some dinosaurs had small plumes

to keep them warm, we assume

If dinosaurs had a few,

why then couldn’t dragons too?

But dragon fire would burn them off

unless the quills were really tough

Scales is what a dragon’s got

Cause with plumes they’d be too hot.

~ Poem by Chris Maynard


Chris MaynardSee Chris’s blog Featherfolio blog about his inspiration, collaborations with other artists, and interesting tidbits about protected birds.

Connect with Chris on his website, Facebook at Featherfolio , Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

You can pre-order Chris’s book, Feathers, Form & Function, here.

Purchase cards and prints here.

See Chris’s incredible photo gallery.




Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers