The Corona Diaries


– by Mimi Speike

Yeah, we’ve stocked up, but we’re running through our carton fast. Next time my husband ventures forth, he’d better buy two cartons. Or three.

I’ve been home here, working on my story and my art since November 1, when I was laid off. Now I have a new daunting project.

Someone on medium.com showed me how to display my site as it will sort out on a phone, and, damn! It’s a real mess. What a jumble! Things I need displayed are absent. Things I could do without show up. I have to totally rethink it, create a second mobile-friendly site. I guess it had better be my entry point, from which to direct eyes to the full site that I really don’t want to redesign. I am told that sixty to seventy percent of web traffic takes place on a phone-device.

I have created a story-telling site. I have intro material, and seven chapters of Sly, and it’s set up rather like an illustrated book, with art-heavy sidebars (on the background, an additional challenge for a mobile-device), and miscellaneous pull-quote-style comments. I love the way it looks, but it won’t do for a phone. (In my ignorance, I thought the background art would drop away for the phone-display. I was very wrong. I have no smart phone, and I never got around to finding someone who does.

I just created a new phone-dedicated site, and it looks like I have no choice but to use the new edit-tool, that I have avoided on my original site. I have found it super-annoying, but that may be because I haven’t learned how to use it.

The choices I see for building your presentation on the new site–they don’t give you the option of reverting to the old method–will probably better service a mobile site. Who knows about this? Who has a site tailored to phone-display?

I sit here morning to night pounding away at one of my projects. I’ve started four new illustrations. I’m going to give my Robin-Hood-Sly paper doll a Maid-Marian-Sha-Sha, and I have collected material for a Pirate-Sly and his Port-o-Call dock-side wench. Most of the stuff is 72 dpi, pulled off Pinterest, and will need a lot of fixing-up.

I have no problem keeping to home. I haven’t left the house more than three times since November. My husband does the food shopping and I’m happy to let him do it. My company did me a favor laying me off. I got my money out of the 401K only weeks before the dive in the market. My husband is – cautiously – looking for buying opportunities, but it sits in cash at present.

Talk to me! What is everyone else up to? How are you holding up?




Sly’s front cover (In progress)

There’s a lot to be done yet, but this is close to the final look.


Above: Cover-in-Progress. I’ve mooshed in a background quickly. That will be remedied.

Below: Sha-Sha, as a harem-girl, to go with Sly in his Sultan costume. My next task: to get her head onto a body. The two will eventually be a pair of paper-dolls: Sultan/Harem Girl. Elizabethan Dandy/Court Beauty. A swashbuckling sea-slug and his exotic port-o-call wench.


> The ornamentation on the hat is very poor, copied out of a 72 dpi image just to get something in place. I have to find 300 dpi baubles to replace those iffy trinkets.

> The ruff needs to be brought forward, to top the bottom banner. The subtitle needs to be brought forward also.

> I’m going to extend the tail of the ‘Y’ in ‘Sly’ so it whips around under ‘The Rogue Decamps’ making ‘Decamps’ more readable, and so it acts as a flourish under the subtitle.

> I will fix up the right and left edges of the cat, extend hairs, add whiskers, and so on.

> I’m still playing with the colors.

> The portion of body showing at lower right, I’ll do something with that, make it an asset instead of a nothing-blob.

> I have to adjust the kerning in ‘Sly’. That bugs me. Not easy to do in Photoshop, I’ll have to do it in InDesign.

> I have to reconfigure to a standard size. This one was by eye.

Other tweaks ­will come to me, I’m sure. This thing still needs a *lot-lot-lot* of messing with.


Where am I at with the manuscript? I will go through my notes and add in the best of what I find. I want to do one more intense read/revision. I figure it’s within a month of being published.


I have another *big* problem: what do I do with my website? I have the whole novel on there, and most of book two. I should have up the first few chapters as a teaser. I’ll sell the full piece for, what, ninety-nine cents, one-ninety-nine? Maybe I can make enough to pay to print a paper doll.

I still have to create my own art for the website. A publish may be pushed back, to Christmas. Wouldn’t that be a grand Christmas present to myself!

It would be great if I had book two, with my pirate episode in it, ready to go by February a year from now, and to launch my promotion on National Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day. National Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day is the creation of the guy who brought us The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and those nutty Pastafarians.

I should give Sly a colander on his head as a tribute to the man, in my rapidly accumulating gallery of headwear (a pharaoh giggle is coming next). My hat series is a start on a poster. I call the series The Cat In The Hat, circa 1584.

A sixteenth-century colander, what would that look like? And why would Sly be wearing it? Got to think about that. This is how a short story written thirty years ago grew into a six-book series.


I see I can get a small glossy postcard produced for around twenty cents each. This cover design is almost the perfect proportion.  It will cost more than that to mail them!


Booksie First Chapter Contest

Enter the first chapter of your book to win $1,000 and exposure.

Have a book or a novel idea you’ve been noodling? Enter your first chapter into the Booksie First Chapter Contest and see how it does. You don’t need to have finished the book. You don’t even need more than the first chapter. We’re looking for a start that will grab our attention, that is original, that is well written, and that makes us want to beg you to see what comes next. And for those we find, we’ll provide some hefty awards to inspire you to finish writing the book or, if finished, to help get it published.

You can submit your entire book but only the first chapter will be judged.


Grand prize winner

  • $1,000 cash award
  • Gold winner badge
  • One free week of Boosts for any content of the winner’s choosing (Boosting features the story in front of Booksie’s millions of monthly readers)
  • A review of the winning chapter by Sol Nasisi, the publisher of WorldMaker Media.

Two runner-ups

  • $150 cash
  • Silver winner badge
  • One free week of Boosts for any content of the winner’s choosing (Boosting features the story in front of Booksie’s millions of monthly readers).


The judge for this competition is Sol Nasisi, the founder of WorldMaker Media, the publisher of  Screaming in the SilenceState of VengeanceMy Own Worst Nightmare, and For the Love of Babies. Sol is also the founder of Booksie.com and the online writing workshop TheNextBigWriter.com.

About Booksie Contests

Booksie has run writing contests for the last three years. Our sister site, TheNextBigWriter has run writing contests for the last thirteen years. Click here to view a list of previous Booksie winners.

Please note: Booksie is an online writing site. By entering the contest, your first chapter will be posted on the site. If you do not want your first chapter to appear on Booksie, do not enter the contest. You can delete your entry at any time.

Cost: $7.95 / entry

Start: January 08, 2019

Deadline: June 14, 2019

Prize: Grand prize: $1,000 cash, one free week of exposure, and a gold contest badge. Runner-ups: $150 cash, one free week of exposure, and a silver contest badge

Here’s the link: https://www.booksie.com/contest/booksie-2019-first-chapter-novel-contest-15

You can also find this on Facebook.

There must be many similar contests. Who knows of others?

I’m entering. How about you? Potential wide exposure, screw the money.

Just found this:

We hope you are enjoying the May Issue of The Writer’s Newsletter. As well as some interesting articles on writing there is poetry and wonderful short stories, and we have updated the competitions and festivals for around the World. The serialization of Lex Talionis finishes this month and we hope you have enjoyed this feature. We are now looking for another book to serialize starting next month.

The monthly newsletter contains a list of writer contests. The post is not opening up for me. Facebook is extremely slow this weekend. I’ll try again later.


What’s Up, Pussycats?


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I’m worn out, on my website ever day, trying this, trying that.

Which is why I’ve had so little to say lately.

My apologies to here, and to the TSU and Rabbit Hole threads on Facebook.

That guy up there is Sly. (And who else would it be?) In my half completed drawing he is wearing his pharaoh costume that he dons for John Dee’s séances. I tried to find my image of Dee in his pharaoh garb, but as usual, I can’t lay hands on it. (My files are a mess.)

I’ve been building my website. I finally have a format that will work with a light use page, excerpts, come-ons, a brief intro, etc., and will also do for full chapters. I’ve created a background to underlay all. The images will change with the various sites but the configuration will remain pretty much as is. I am snaking type around images on the background – that left/right/centering of images with a type runaround never works for me, never works as well as I could wish.

I have registered names of six sites in case I decide to put the whole thing up. That would be two novellas to a site. More than that and the menu gets too crazy.

I can always lasso and marry images in Photoshop, but my next task is to learn how to create a clipping path. (I have never figured that out.) So that (ideally) I can place images in the text layer and not have unused areas blocking out what lies behind.

I follow the discussion on Facebook in a thread populated by designers. Someone said: I create my design in (some software I never heard of) and hand it off to the developers to write the code. Here am I, trying to cheat and trick my way around WordPress, getting it to do things it doesn’t want to do.

WordPress could make life so much easier for us with a few small changes. A way to indent first lines. A way to right indent paragraphs. No, they save that stuff for the upgraded plans. You gotta pay for that convenience. Irritating.

Why do I like WordPress? Over Wix, I mean. I love Wix. In Wix you can do anything you want to do, almost. That’s the problem. WP forces me to rein in my more extreme design-y tendencies.

GD’s a whirlwind of activity over on Facebook. I’m trying to wrestle WordPress to the mat. What’s everyone else up to? Or are you sitting back, watching the money roll in?






Scattered* Thoughts.

*(Are my thoughts ever anything but scattered?)



My newest Facebook friend,

Alex Leslie Combs, a friend of my niece, has published a small comic book: Tittybar Tales. His website is: tittybartales.com

The amusing story is of his (formerly her) work as a stripper (to fund a sex-change operation). It’s a handsome heavy glossy stock 6×6 book that he sells on his website and at events. He is active in the San Fran community, very visible, participating in many-many activities. He contributes to several comic-centric web sites, creates posters for comic cons, pursues all kinds of visibility. He is an energetic promotor, we should all take note. Now, I know that a piece of fiction hasn’t the same eye-popping appeal as a splashy comic, but, particularly for the works of sci-fi, there are many areas to exploit.

That is his cat up there. A bit R. Crumb, don’t you think? He shows other styles as well, some more Feiffer-ish. I don’t know if his style has evolved, or if he mixes it up.

Now I have a contact on the West Coast for my bumper stickers! (When they’re ready.) Hmmm. Should I make Sly bi-sexual? 

Just kidding! Kidd-dding! It’s bad enough Sly puts the moves on a saucy capuchin monkey at Queen Elizabeth’s court.


A look at the news

adds to my vision of my own situation (sixteenth century Hameln). This is input far easier to acquire (in terms of time and energy, and on the pocketbook) than what Hemingway espoused: A writer’s job is to live life, and then to write about it.” (From memory/not verbatim.)

From Daily Mail   June 21. 2018

Swedish town is told to keep doors and windows closed
due to plague of GIANT RATS the size of cats.
  • The town of Sundsvall, Sweden, has been ‘invaded’ by rats
  • Kindergarten children kept indoors and locals told to shut doors and windows
  • The problem has been caused by the relocation of a local recycling centre
  • Rats ‘the size of cats’ caught in area, as council launch extermination campaign

Residents in a town in northern Sweden are being told to keep their doors and windows shut, due to an ‘invasion’ of rats the size of cats. The escalating rat problem in Sundsvall, caused by the relocation of a recycling centre, has even forced a local kindergarten to keep children indoors.

These aren’t the normal rats you see in the forest,’ says Benny Sagmo, head of wildlife preservation in Sundsvall, a town of some 52,000 residents. They’re as big as cats.’


I get my ideas from everywhere. I just stole a line from an idiot pastor’s speech, reported on Facebook. Those Evangelicals are good for something after all.


It  has just come to me that Sly was the original hippie. He’s trying to sell Peace and Love to some very jaded rats. Ringo Starr, eat your heart out.



Phillip Roth, Thank You.

At my job – I work for a compositor, we set books for publishers all over the country – I see, and marvel at, first books by young authors. I always wonder, how did this one catch the eye of an agent? And, subsequently, snag a publishing deal?

The answer has to be – through connections forged in a writing program, winning references from people with friends in high places. This is beyond most of us. Maybe Kris has connections, she teaches writing, I believe. The rest of us, that train has left the station.

But references go only so far. A book still has to sell itself. I handled a mystery a year or two ago, set in Boston, interesting to me for the local detail, I lived in Boston for twenty years. That author had been a consultant on a TV crime show, and had gotten a book accepted on that basis. I can’t remember the name, but I don’t see that it’s made waves. And I haven’t seen a second book in what was plainly meant to be the kick-off to a series. All the right moves, the big publisher, the front-sales touts, presumably, an actual advertising budget, and the market, apparently, has not come to Mahomet. The author, a former Boston DA, for all her sexy insider detail and her familiarity with Beantown’s mean streets, has not created another Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Some good news: At least we haven’t spent big money on an MFA, only to see our work submerge in a sea of cute. (“The powerhouse mother/daughter team has done it again, bringing you the laughter of their lives.”) Bestseller shtick is not my thing, for all its charm. (Haven’t read Scottoline, but I have to assume there’s something appealing there.)

How does one become a Phillip Roth?

From Wikipedia: “Roth’s work is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction, for its “sensual, ingenious style” and its provocative explorations of American identity.”


* intensely autobiographical character * philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction * a sensual, ingenious style * a provocative exploration of American (in my case, catly) identity.

I’m there already!



What I did on my vacation.

Wasted a lot of time (watched/read a lot of news). Messed around with my plants. I’ve got two pots of asparagus sprouted way too early. Can I keep them going until I can move them outside? I kinda jumped the gun with them. Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, I built a website.

We need to keep moving forward, in any way we can. To do otherwise is to give up. If I’m not moving forward on my story (I am, but slowly) I’m moving forward in other areas. Movement is essential for our mental health.

I’d meant to spend the week writing. I began fooling around on WordPress and never got to my next (new) chapter. I only have a title so far: The Crystal Visions. (John Dee thought he was able to talk to angels.)

My website is a big step for me. I have eight chapters of book three posted, and I’m pretty happy with them. I’ve got a format I like, for the most part. What I don’t like is how the type migrates. I’m trying to structure my headings so they don’t fall in danger zones and get separated from the body type they’re supposed to be allied with. It’s tricky. This is why I threw in the towel on Wix.

Wix is a nightmare for slippage. You have complete freedom, that’s the problem there. You can do fabulous things, lovely layouts that are a disaster when the page is resized. You have complete freedom to anthing you like, as long as you get out your ten tons of coal a day – who knows where that’s from?

I still have the illustration to create, and that’s scary. I’m working up to it, gathering reference material, cleaning off my drawing table that has been a junk catcher for months. Do I call that a step forward? I do. A tiny step forward. Yeah, I’m pathetic, and I know it.

I’m not going to announce the address of my site until I have three or four pieces of my own art up. At present I have images off Pinterest dummied in as placeholders and as an indication of what incidents I intend to focus on.

I allow myself to get excited about a big response when I finally get my PR effort underway. Reality hasn’t slapped me down yet. Just what the world needs, right? Another version of Puss in Boots?

I’m in a bittersweet mood. I’m proud of what I’ve done with the website. I think it looks damn good. I’m come a long way, but I have a long way to go.

I’ll feel better when I have a finished drawing of Dee in his loopy pharaoh costume, worn for his séances, pulled from a book on the Edwardian theater, ‘The Modern Stage of Today’, copyright 1910. Fabulous characterizations, fabulous costumes. James O’Neill is in there, and a somebody Arbuckle (the book’s downstairs) that I’ve always thought might be Fatty Arbuckle before he hit the silver screen. One of these days I’ll look it up.

Yeah, another silly post, but at least I’ve cranked something out and maybe given GD a break. He’s a trooper.

What about everybody else? What have you done lately that feels like a step forward?


What can I say except – stay positive.


Update: I have discovered that my template ‘cols’ is more flexible than I thought. There is, apparently, a way to isolate articles on a page. That would solve a lot of my problems. Thus, I could have more than one chapter per page. (They’re very short chapters.) There is also a plug-in for pull quotes. (Also on my wish list.)