A Conversation with Dr. Susana H. Case, Poet

Sometimes, reading poetry will trigger a memory so intense that it takes a moment before you realize that the memory it triggered belongs to someone else. That’s what it felt like to read Susana H. Case’s work. Here, I’ve asked her to speak on her work, in the hopes of sharing it with some fellow poetry enthusiasts who would also like to spend some time in the moments she crafts…
Q (Infamous Scribbler): As I perused the Internet, I found many author bios that included a list of your many publications, but not many that talked about who is Dr. Susana Case, and where did she come from. Can you share a little about yourself, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ so to speak?
A (Susana H. Case): I grew up in New York City in one of the outer boroughs (Queens), though I’ve lived in Manhattan most of my adult life (except for a few years in Ohio). Though I’ve traveled widely, sometimes for months at a time, I’ve always lived in the United States. The only child of a public school English teacher and a dietician, who gave up her career to become a full-time mother, I first had some of my poems published in my late teens, but then went in another direction. I earned a Ph. D. in Sociology and became a university professor. In the early 1990s, I returned to my first love, poetry, though I still continue to teach Sociology. The combination of interests means that there are a number of social themes that run through my creative work. For example, I teach a course in gender, and there is a lot about gender that runs through my poems. I’m also interested in power from many different perspectives and that interest is threaded through several of my poetry collections, for instance, my first full-length collection, which was inspired by archival materials from the Salem witchcraft trials (IS Note: Salem in Séance), and also a later book of prose poems inspired by copper mining and the early history of the labor movement in the United States. I’m interested in injustice, but I’m also interested in love, in its many manifestations. You can find one or the other or both practically everywhere you look in my poetry.
My interest in war comes from that interest in power and injustice and is the reason that warfare is the background of two of my collections. My first published chapbook, The Scottish Café, which won the Slapering Hol Press chapbook competition in 2002, and was later translated into Polish and re-published as a dual language (English-Polish annotated) edition by the University of Opole Press was the first series of poems I wrote in that vein, with World War II as the imminent event for a group of mathematicians in what was, in those years, a city that was part of Poland. I returned to thinking about life under war with Erasure, Syria, which has just been released. Having never had to live where a war was in the process of being fought, I consider myself lucky, and my interest in looking at what happens while people are living in those conditions has led me to try to imagine it within the framework of my (very different) experience. What I connect to is the interest in survival, in trying to fashion a life under the worst types of circumstances, a form of persistence and luck. Those are things that interest me. I’m married, to a visual artist, and also live with a dog, an elderly Scottish Terrier.
Q: In your poem, The Apartment, you explain that it was part-experience, part-research, part-imagination. Is this a common theme in your work? If so, how does that amalgamation coalesce when you’re working on a poem? If not, what about the process made this poem unique?
A: Yes, it’s common for me to draw upon my own experience or to project my own experience onto unfamiliar situations and I use imagination a lot. I also read widely if I’m writing about anything that has a historical basis or a basis in fact. Empathy probably also helps. But what I like about writing poetry is the ability to shift from the documentable to the realm of fantasy. “The Apartment” is a poem written about the apartment in which I currently live and the state it was left in at the time I moved in. There had been two people living in the apartment: an elderly man and his schizophrenic adult son. The son was not able to live on his own, and his remaining family eventually moved him out, but the disheveled state of the apartment piqued my interest in the two of them and what their lives must have been like in those final years. I didn’t know them, though I previously lived across the street. The apartment was full of guns, and there were external locks on the internal doors. The son did sleep on a mattress in the middle of the living room. Most of the rest, I imagined from what I know about schizophrenia. I did hear a few details from neighbors as well, the detail about the squeaky wheelchair, for example, which belonged to a resident who had died way before I moved in, coincidentally one of the wives of Robert Moses, the New York planner-builder. I was told that the noise of the wheels irritated the father enormously, that he was not a nice man, but in the poem, I ascribed the disturbance over the sound of the wheelchair to the son.
Q: Your book, Drugstore Blue, resonates, I think, with any woman who grew up in the 1980s. Can you talk about the decisions you made of what to include in the poems in the work, as well as a bit about creating the work in the present with the memories of the past?
A: Although I draw upon my personal experience and biography quite a lot in Drugstore Blue, it’s not a straightforward autobiography. The collection began in its conception as a book of poems about travel. But I soon realized that I wasn’t writing about travel so much as I was writing about the nature of navigating the world as a woman. I then organized the poems in terms of expanding circles of experience, starting with my roots, then moving outward to other parts of the United States, then moving further outward to the world, finishing with a section populated by many who are not of this world, have died, or are mythological, and so forth. But within each of those levels of experience, it’s the nature of being female, and what that means in terms of growing up, love, work, respect, etc., that were important to me for inclusion. I do not have a great memory, so whatever I can remember I’m grateful for, and what I can’t remember, I make up. I generally have not kept a journal, though maybe that would have been a good idea. I think adversity can be mined for creative content and we all struggle, we all have setbacks. I’ve tried to take some of that and turn it into “lemonade” so to speak, something better than it might have been as I was experiencing it. I don’t mean to suggest that my life has been terrible; I’ve been relatively very fortunate. But struggle is universal. We all have problems we are trying to solve. We all want to be loved, and to be happy, and to be fulfilled in our endeavors, and to be somewhat centered. None of that comes easy.
Q: I see from your schedule that you often read your works in public. What about reading the work aloud (as opposed to private creative process) is similar or different to publishing it in a book or online?
A: I was an extremely shy college and graduate student. If anyone had told me then that I would make my living teaching or, worse, that I would get up in front of a crowd of people to read my poems, I would have laughed and said, “no way.” I don’t know exactly what happened—maybe it was the sheer repetition of doing it that eliminated the anxiety, a form of immersive desensitization therapy—but I’m not that shy person anymore, thank goodness. I’ve very happy about that because it made my life at the time more difficult. I could barely say anything aloud. From that kind of history, I’ve come to a place where reading my work in public is something that makes me feel very much alive. But part of the private process for me is also hearing it read aloud. I need to hear it to see if it sounds right before it’s ever sent to be considered for publication.
Q: Your newest work, Erasure, Syria, from Recto y Verso Editions, came out this year. Can you talk about the creative process that went into the works in this book? Many of your other books bring an aspect of personal life from private experience to the public profound. How do you bridge the gap between your process and the lived reality of the war in Syria? 
A: I have no ethnic roots in Syria and, as I mentioned earlier, have never lived or worked in a war zone. I had been following the news. My reaction was to the destruction of a country. It was less a political reaction and more a response to the heartbreak of the situation. I have met a number of Syrians over the years living in other countries who would have preferred to be home, if there was an intact country to return it. It doesn’t look like that will be possible. I mean for my project, which has just been released, in fact the link isn’t even up on Amazon or Barnes & Noble yet, to be a universal response to this kind of upheaval, even though it uses news coverage specific to the situation in Syria. I have been interested in erasure poetry for a while, though I have not included erasure poems in my other books.
Erasure, Syria is a series of erasures of the daily news on Syria. I created one erasure a day and condensed the erasure into a black square in which I paid attention to spacing and other visual elements. It was an attempt to make art out of tragedy, something positive out of something horrific. I was fortunate to work with a publisher with excellent in-house design skills (Christian Ortega) and the book, which is about a terrible sets of events, turned out to be very beautiful. It was the publisher’s idea to also include some pages that showed the process of using this technique to select and arrange text and so it’s also instructional in a sense.
In addition, not that there’s any real money in poetry—that’s not why poets write—I decided I would donate from my part of the royalties to the International Rescue Committee’s programs in Syria. They provide medical and emergency help to refugees within the country and also in bordering countries and also provide water, sanitation, educational, and counseling services within refugee camps. Children and at-risk women are a substantial part of their client base. In this way I felt I would not just be feeding parasitically on someone else’s tragedy. In line with this, if anyone donates $35 to the International Rescue Committee directly, through this link (help.rescue.org/donate), and sends me a copy of the receipt via facebook messaging, I will send that person a free copy of Erasure, Syria. If you live outside the United States, please make a donation of $45, as my shipping costs will be greater.
Q: Anything to add? 
A: I have accumulated a large number of poems in which crimes of various sorts are threaded through the works. I’ve now begun to focus more on filling in the holes remaining in the sequences I currently have and this will be my next project.
~~~
You can purchase a copy of Erasure, Syria from the publisher, Amazon, or by donating $35.00 to the International Rescue Committee and messaging a copy of the receipt to Susana Case via Facebook. You can also find her online at her Website.

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Clay Gilbert

Welcome back to any readers I have after that obnoxiously long hiatus … Our radio silence was for a good reason. We recently moved the entire Traveling Circus and Menagerie from one coast to the other, and have finally gotten settled in. I wanted to share an interview with author Clay Gilbert, who has been quite patient with me as I pulled myself and my interview list together. His a recent release, Cassie’s Song (Tales of the Night-Kind Book Two A Modern Vampire Novel), came out June 8. It’s the second in a series that gives a unique take on vampire fiction. I invited him here to talk about the series, as well as a little bit about writing in general. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the first book, Dark Road to Paradise, and check it out.

And now, without further ado or excuse, a conversation with Clay Gilbert!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you provide a short bio/insight into your writing career? 

A (Clay Gilbert): Sure.  I’ve always loved stories; I was reading and writing at a very early age.  I wrote my first short story—I’m not sure what else to call something that’s only five page long other than ‘short’—when I was four.  I know I was four because, at the time, I was in the habit of putting my age along with my name on the story. It was a science-fiction story.  I don’t remember the title.  I do remember the title of another one I wrote when I was thirteen; another sci-fi story called “The Computer Conspiracy”, about a shy, outcast boy who finds a way to live inside his computer.  Scholastic Magazine liked that one; they paid me $25 for it and published it.  From the time I realized writing was something some people did for a job, the way my father went off to his office every day, that was the job I wanted to have.  Pretty much everything I did in my life from that first sale to Scholastic, through two master’s degrees and a handful of other publications, was setting the stage for finally getting my first novel published in 2013, even though I took some other professional side-roads along the way.  Writing was a goal I never really let go of.

Q: In your novel, you tackle a number of weighty issues, from topics such as living with HIV to issues of adhering to the unspoken rules of a tribe or in-group, and the consequences that result from transgressing those rules. Are these themes that you sat down to consciously write about? How did you develop them? Where might we see them go in the next book?

 A: I’ve always loved vampire novels and vampire movies, and I had toyed with the idea of writing my own spin on the genre.  I began working on Dark Road to Paradise in the early Nineties, using some characters I’d come up with for the live action role playing campaign of “Vampire: the Masquerade” I was playing in downtown Auburn,  Alabama, once a week with some friends.  One of the things that concerns me as a person and as an author is the experience of life as an outsider, or life on the fringes of mainstream acceptance.  That certainly was a conscious concern in Dark Road, but it was also something I grew up with.  I was born with hydrocephalus, and growing up with that experience taught me what it was like to be pushed to the fringes.  It’s hard to be that one kid who doesn’t participate in gym class because his parents are afraid (and rightly so) that he might injure his head, or to be someone who people slow their cars down on the road to ask ‘why’s your head so big’?   True story.

Cassie’s health concerns are different, but they came both from wanting to explore my own experiences as an outsider and the empathy I felt for the lack of understanding I saw HIV patients being treated with in the late Eighties and early Nineties.  Finally, there was the historical fact that Dark Road was begun before any of the “Twilight” books were published, and a romance between a mortal girl and a vampire wasn’t all that common in fiction at the time.  Perhaps even more significantly, I recognized that somehow, there had never been another vampire novel focusing on HIV/AIDS in an actual, literal way, as the central concern of a story–and there still really hasn’t, even now, in 2018.  As for where the themes of Dark Road end up going in the next book, Cassie’s Song—Cassie grew up not really feeling like she had the freedom to make her own choices or live her own life.  What will it be like for her to have that freedom?  I think that’ll be as fun for readers to find out as it was for me.

Q: You’ve published a number of books in a variety of spec fic genres. What draws you to creating other worlds? What are some aspects of worldbuilding that you find essential when writing in these genres?  

A: ‘Worldbuilding’ is something I find myself speaking about on Con panels a lot, as I guess kind of makes sense for an author of speculative fiction.  And this may be an unpopular opinion, but in talking with younger writers, and particularly with would-be writers, I find that ‘worldbuilding’ is the thing that bogs down beginning genre writers most of all.  For me, characters are most important.  I care about the people in my stories first and foremost.  Once I know who they are, they can tell me about the world they live in.  Everyone does this thing called writing differently, but I’ve seen people spend so long on building the world of their story that they end up having no idea what the story is, or who it happens to.  People in a story are just like people in our world—they don’t live in a vacuum; they have histories, fears, hopes, likes and dislikes—but if you find out about the people in your story first, knowing about them will supply everything else you need.  That’s what happened when I started writing about an eighteen-year-old girl named Annah in the book which became Annah and the Children of Evohe.  I didn’t spend any time thinking about the world of Evohe in advance; instead, I got to know Annah as best I could, from her upbringing as someone whose odd opinions and obvious birth defects got her ostracized in her small community, to her claustrophobia, dislike for raw fish, and love of music.  She filled in the rest of her world for me.  I would advise aspiring writers to build their stories around the people in them, not the world they take place in.

Q: You have an MFA from the University of South Carolina; academia also plays a part in your novel, as well as your professional career. What are some of the insights into writing that going through a program like an MFA provides? What are some of the advantages? As a professor, how have you communicated some of those lessons to your students?

 A: I wouldn’t undo the time I spent in academia, although I don’t teach anymore, and haven’t done that since I became a full-time author in 2015.  I will say, though, that I find snobbery toward genre fiction to be alive and well in the academic arena.  Dark Road to Paradise was my MFA thesis, and it was a real struggle to convince the professor who eventually became my thesis advisor that there was any literary merit to a story with vampires in it.  I feel that any kind of story, whether it has vampires or aliens in it, or features people who could live across the street, must be rooted in human concerns to have any weight to it. I’m not interested in writing purely escapist fiction with no relation to the real world.  I’ve always found that the imaginative distance a writer gains in the genres of speculative fiction provides a great lens for focusing on the best and worst that the ‘real world’ has to offer, and enables an author to suggest ways that things might be made better.  As far as advice to my students, or to aspiring writers–if you have a dream, go for it.  Don’t compromise. Don’t settle.  And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

 Q: What is some of the best writing advice you’ve received? What’s some of the worst? 

A: Stephen King advised me, when I met him when I was thirteen, that he tried for ten pages every day.  I adopted that, and I still follow that.  Ten pages a day adds up fast.  Ray Bradbury added to that when I met him three years later, by advising me that it was important to be regular about writing—do it every day, in the same place, at the same time.  I still follow that advice as well.  Worst writing advice?  Whatever that was, I’ve forgotten it already.

Q: What can your readers expect to see coming up next? 

A: I’ve got an urban fantasy novel coming out real soon called The Kind Book One: The Golden Road.  It and its sequel, Terrapin and Back Again, comprise a two-part story mythologizing my own experiences following the Grateful Dead on tour during my college years, although the band in the book is called Coventina’s Well.  It also has a little to do with the value of myth in culture and history, and hopefully has as much fun in it as ‘meaning.’  I’ve also got a fourth Children of Evohe novel coming out called Annah and the Arrow, a third Night-Kind novel called Heartsblood planned for next year, and also next year, a standalone monster novel set in East Tennessee called Pearl.  I like to stay busy.

Q: Anything to add?

A: If you want to be a writer, remember this: you can do it, if you have the drive and put in the time.  Don’t wait for ‘inspiration’ to come; make it come to you.  There’s no such thing as writer’s block; that’s an excuse people make for not doing their job.  Just imagine if you had a stopped-up toilet, and the guy you called told you he couldn’t fix it because he had ‘plumber’s block’ that day.  You wouldn’t stand for it.  Don’t let yourself get away with anything like that as a writer, either.

~~~

Check out Clay Gilbert online at Amazon Goodreads.

 

Don’t look now … it’s Hideous!

Actually, I do want you to look.

Hideous Progeny: Classic Horror Goes Punk launches today from Writerpunk Press. This is the fifth in a series of seven planned charity anthologies that pay homage to classic stories by re-imagining them in a variety of literary punk genres.

The fiction included in this anthology spans the gamut from steampunk to clockpunk to biopunk … and even some carniepunk. Anthology authors have drawn their source material from a wide array of classics and classic horror authors. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein receives a bio-cyberpunk makeover from K.M. Vanderbilt. Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek” is no less chilling re-imagined as steampunk in “After the Occurrence” by Teel James Glenn.

As with previous anthologies, all proceeds go to benefit PAWS Lynnwood, an animal shelter and wildlife rescue located in Lynnwood, WA.

My own contribution to the anthology is a carniepunk homage to Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. This was a challenging project for a few reasons (that I’ll talk about below), but I wanted to complete my hat trick of contributing to the Writerpunk Anthologies. (See my steampunk detective story in Poe Goes Punk, and my dieselpunk Beowulf in English Class Goes Punk.) My short story “The Carnival Ghost,” was accepted, so if you happen to pick up a copy (HINT*HINT*HINT), I hope you’ll check it out. *puppy*eyes*

About those challenges …

I was really, truly trying to make this a steampunk story. I had a few ideas clanking around the ol’ noggin, none of which ever coalesced into an actual story. Or even a note. Most of them are still half-formed blobs of bad penmanship scattered around my bullet journal. The two strongest images that persisted even through the false starts and decisions that I wasn’t going to submit were: 1. Female patron. 2. A carnival.

I couldn’t get the idea of a woman phantom out of my head. It made sense. Someone who would serve as a platonic mentor, without the complications of romantic interest or jealousy, could actually take a student further, to higher heights. They could put all their energy into the development of their protegee, seeking only the reward of their success. At the same time, this would require a degree of ruthlessness from both mentor and mentee, and there were so many depths to explore there.

And–a carnival. I love carnivals and fairs and circuses, even though I’ve always felt they are slightly creepy. Too many shadows. Secrets. Basically, whenever I think of a carnival, I think of HBO’s series Carnivale, and how fascinating and horrifying they can be. Somewhere around this time I re-read the Carniepunk anthology, and that solidified that image and thus, the story.

The challenge? Explaining carniepunk. It’s not a typically category of literary punk, and I wasn’t sure that the anthology editors would be interested in a story that pushed the boundaries of what we included.

On the other hand, we’re not punks for no reason. \m/

“The Carnival Ghost” in all of its creepy carnival glory is part of your reading pleasure.

So, if you like stories that will entertain you, challenge you, and possibly creep you out, pick up a copy today. And let us know what you think.

Rock on, my friends!

Coming Soon: Kadupul

Short term memory loss and an inability to look at herself in mirrors or old pictures–this is college sophomore Klarissa Bloom’s life after surviving a physical assault in her freshman year. However, she’s now determined to prove to her parents that she can handle her return to school.

But recovery is not a straight path, it’s one with dips and twists. A journey, not a final destination. With the help of her friends Ravyen, Xander, and Julian, Klarissa finds strength to identify with her passion for dance, not the assault…

But will she be able to pick up the picture and see who she was before, while trying to build a life that’s new?

~ ~ ~

Want to know more? Check out the Kadupul Trailer on YouTubeTake a peek at the poster, created by the awesome graphic artist Rylee Hunter and trailer below by the talented cinematographer Alex Espinoza. Stay connected and leave a like for updates on events, releases and giveaways at 4CWMedia Productions on Face Book. And check out what the filmmakers had to say about the project in a previous Infamous Scribbler interview.

KADUPUL

Let Your Passion Define You

Release date July 24th!

Produced by 4CWMedia Productions and BRJProductions

Cinematography by Luz Pictura Productions

Kadupul Poster Final Proof - Digital Poster (1)

 

 

 

Coming Soon: Death of a Secret

Check it out! Christy Mann, author of the Fogoyle series, has a new July release coming up. Take a look, then swing by social media and give her a follow. You can pre-order Death of Secret on Amazon, May 15. Enjoy!

Death of a Secret
By Christy Mann

Blurb:

Sarah Rosenthal is a Senator’s daughter.  Despite the high-profile lifestyle that comes with her father’s political career, she has managed to avoid most of the chaos.

On the surface, things seem perfect, but perfection never lasts.

When a stranger comes knocking, blackmail in mind, Latham Buchanan steps in to clean up the mess and Sarah’s life takes a dark turn. Her intention to end the madness may just be the end of her.

Release Date: July 15, 2018 on Amazon
Pre-Order May15, 2018
Rating: 18+

About the Author

Christy likes the finer things in life. Taking walks on the beach, tall cups of coffee, and hitting her friends with sticks.  She really enjoys writing things intended to take readers on emotional roller coaster rides.

She spends most of her days sitting in front of a laptop screen yelling at her brain to produce the words while scrolling through Facebook. Sometimes, it does, and from time to time, the words are worth sharing.

As a relatively new member of the SCA, you can find her on the tennis courts at her local park dressed in armor and swinging a “sword” at least one night a week, attending SCA events, or providing heraldry assistance and teaching historical accuracy about shield symbols and name creation.  She enjoys the hell out of it too.

Excerpt:

 

If she had any doubt about it being Latham, she wouldn’t have stopped. Latham was a big guy, but her father was a powerful man and he could take care of this guy for her if it came to that, but she was a big girl now. She was going to fight her own battle.

He was no stranger, and right here right now, she was going to give him what for. She did not get treated by people the way he treated her on Saturday, and he would not treat her like that again.

She steered her car to the grassy shoulder and made an immediate stop. He was driving close enough that she expected him to fly right on past her. Instead, he pulled in behind her and slid to a stop a few feet behind her. His high beams glaring in both mirrors again.

Fire burned in her eyes and nostrils. She swung her door wide open and stepped out, slamming the door shut behind her. She stomped back toward the truck. She reached the driver side door at full steam.

The driver swung his door wide open at just the right moment. The door smacked her in the face, splitting her lip, and sent her flying backward. She landed flat on her back with a thud.

Follow Christy online:

Author webpage https://christymannauthor.wixsite.com/mysite-1

Amazon’s Christy Mann Page   https://www.amazon.com/Christy-Mann

Facebook: Christy Mann-Author page https://www.facebook.com/christylynharu/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter- @cmannauthor

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16168437.Christy_Mann

Other books available by Christy Mann:

Fogoyle: A Short Story: myBook.to/ChristyFogoyle
Fogoyle: A Short Story Two: myBook.to/Fogoyle2
Fogoyle: A Short Story Three: myBook.to/fogoyle3

Rick Keller Runs Again!

Rick Keller–werewolf, secret agent, Cold War weapons experiment–has been running by himself long enough.

Spanking new, I tell you…

When we last left our intrepid and crotchety–mostly crotchety–hero, he was getting the heck out of Dodge City, which looks a lot like NYC in this case, and heading up to the North Country to find a new pack to run with. He intended to hang out up there, under the radar of MONIKER, the agency that he used to work for, that can’t seem to just let him live his life.

Thanks to Untold Press and cover artist Lia Rees, Rick is getting back in the game. First, we’re giving him and fellow main character, Dr. Karen Willet, a spanking new cover for Cold Run (The Rick Keller Project Book 1).

Second, we’re officially re-launching the series with a mid-April sale, so if you’re thinking about getting a copy, click the link on April 15 and grab a Kindle or paperback copy.

And finally, we aren’t just re-launching Cold Run, but we are going to be bringing you the rest of the Rick Keller Project series. To give you an idea of what’s coming up for Rick and the gang, here is a tentative schedule.

Available May 2018!

APRIL 2018 – Cold Run Re-Launch!
A secret agency reels its first supernatural agent back in from the cold. Where he likes it.
MAY 2018 – Night Run (Rick Keller Project 1.5) A short story to tide you over until…
JULY 2018 – Vegas Run
MONIKER catches back up with Rick, and an old friend calls in a debt.
AUGUST 2018 – Trial Run (Rick Keller Project 2.5) A novella to keep your appetite whetted…
OCTOBER 2018 – Winter Run wraps up the project series!
Rick finds out you can’t go home again, even if your family drags you back in silver chains.

Throughout the next few months, I’ll be offering ARCS to selected readers, sharing news about launch specifics, and sharing information about what’s happening next. If you’d like to stay in touch and not miss any updates, sign up for my mailing list, and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Happy reading!

 

Getting a review from the Infamous Scribbler…

As most of the readers of this blog are aware (all three of you…), I often post reviews and author interviews, here and on Medium (if you happen to be writing as a member of the military or military-affiliated community). I like doing this because a., free books, and b., I like doing it. I am an author for two small presses, and a member of a number of groups of authors of like-minded backgrounds (enjoy writing spec fic or are military veterans), and so I usually go ahead and see if anyone has something new they’d like me to spotlight. That pretty much fills my review/interview quotient.

On the rare occasion, however, someone will reach out to me via Goodreads, or LinkedIn, or even Amazon, and offer me the chance to read their book for a review or interview. I don’t mind this at all, as it gives me a chance to meet new authors and check out their stuff. And, let’s face it, it provides me with content when things are slow (or a chance to procrastinate if I should be writing.) Some authors, or future authors, may be reading this blog post to find out what they need to do to get me to review their book, so here it is, broken down…

  1. Do your research. See if there is anything in my multitude of public information online that resonates with anything in your book, and then tell me that. For example, are you a military veteran? Do you write steampunk? Did we go to college together? Did I favorably review a book that is in the same genre as yours?
  2. Be concise. When emailing (and this is the best way to reach me for this particular matter), give me your pitch/logline, explain why you think I’d be interested, and then offer me a copy in whatever formats you have. If I’m interested, I’ll let you know. If I’m not, I’ll also let you know.
  3. If I’m not interested, please don’t email me back trying to convince me that I’m interested. I know what I’m about. Typically, I will say no if a., the premise just doesn’t sound interesting, b., I don’t have the time, c., I’m deep in the bowels of my own projects. I already have a To-Be-Read list of over 200 books, and if your book doesn’t grab my attention enough to jump to the top ten or twenty, then I would be rude to promise something that is likely not going to happen.
  4. Have an online presence. If I’m going to do an interview (and most of the books I accept, I do so with the intention of doing one), I am going to do a moderate amount of online stalking. At the very least, have an Amazon or Goodreads author page with a bio, author photo, list of publications. At best, have a full Web site with an online media kit. Have something I can sink my teeth into without having to turn Internet detective. If I can’t find this, it makes it more difficult for me to craft thoughtful questions, and I hate doing more work than I have to.

EDIT/UPDATE:

I was perusing Twitter today, and an author mentioned that bloggers who do reviews would be helpful if they mentioned whether or not they were interested in stories from diverse authors. I know that publishing outlets still consider stories with persons of color and LGBTQ+ characters to need their own subcategories and different spaces, but this space is for stories of all shapes and sizes, so if you are wondering whether you should send your SF story here, even though A,B,C, feel free to hit me up.

EDIT COMPLETE.

I hesitate to speak for other online reviewers, and so I don’t know if all of them prefer these guidelines, but I can say that if you are interested in striking up a conversation with me, and getting me interested in reading your book and doing an interview or review, this is the way. I need to get back to writing words for a project, and not for a blog, but if you’d like to send me something, email me at infamous_scribbler ~at~ yahoo, or fill out this handy Google form, and let me know what you’ve got.

Happy writing!

Stay tuned…

We’ve got some awesome things coming, like more interviews, new covers, a plan for the release of the rest of the Rick Keller Project, and of course reviews.

Also upcoming this year: a cross-country move, pitching two new series, writing more words, and all the other things I’m checking off in my bullet journal. Speaking of which, does anyone else find that the more you check off on your to-do list, the longer it gets?

For example, I just finished the first draft of Vegas Run. So … now I have to rewrite, revise, send for edits, search stock photo sites for ideas for my cover design, get edits back and revise some more, plan my launch/ads/reviews, etc. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Still, the work is fun, even if writing is still my full-time job that pays me like an internship. And eventually I might even get promoted to paid intern! At least my boss lets me work outside, and doesn’t mind if I occasionally drink on the job.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

 

Thoughts on working from home …

… or, “My Life Never Turns Out Quite Like I Planned.” Also, “It’s A Little Too Quiet, What Are They Doing Now?”

Prior to giving birth to two perfect little girls, I had many ideas of how perfect our perfect lives would be. One of the things I swore up and down I would do, had to do with how much screen time I would allow the children. They would definitely never watch more than an hour—per week! And it would only be shows that my spouse and I deemed educational, or with merit. Our logic went, if we never let them watch anything except what we let them, then how would they know to ask for anything else?

What ever are those vibrations? Could it be the combined laughter of those experienced toddler parents out there, admiring our goals? Possibly. They were lofty, perhaps a little naïve, but we do our best to balance them with the reality of keeping two little people alive—and also keeping a little bit of our sanity.

We do our best to place controls over what our kids watch—guided access on the phone, no YouTube, not letting them watch television unsupervised. We–and by “we”, I mean “me” as I’m also trying to get in my 2,000 words a day and plan a re-launch of my urban fantasy series–do our best, also, to re-direct and get the kids playing with their toys or each other. Sometimes it works.

Sometimes it doesn’t. What to do when they come to you with the need for attention and the desire to give theirs to the screen? Our oldest is currently in an obsession with a show that features puppies who talk and go on adventures, and so I’ve tried to come up with a few alternatives to watching the same thirteen downloaded episodes over and over.

  1. Let’s read your Talking Puppy Cartoon books! They’re about five pages each, and mostly consist of the characters saying their particular catchphrases—over and over. You do have four of them, so it seems like we’re reading a lot.
  2. I know! You can draw a picture of your Talking Puppy Cartoon friends! Sure, it looks like an early-period (and also crappy) Jackson Pollack, and there are marker stains on our upholstered chairs, but you’re happy and I didn’t have to listen to any characters’ monosyllabic catchphrases for the past twenty minutes.
  3. Take your Talking Puppy Cartoon doll for a walk. While it’s true that I’ll be the one doing the work as you ride in style with Ms. Plushie in the jog stroller I’ve never actually used for jogging—at least we’ll be out of the house. And maybe you’ll take a nap. Or not.
  4. Sit next to me as we put together your Talking Puppy Cartoon jigsaw puzzle that we got as a bonus gift at your dad’s work holiday party. True, your baby sister has gnawed on a few of the pieces, and you aren’t old enough to quite grasp the concept of a puzzle. So it’s mostly you being impatient all the time that I’m putting it together, but at least you aren’t in full-out screen time frenzy meltdown mode. And once it’s finished, you’ll admire it for a full ten seconds before getting bored.
  5. Play with your actual puppies. They don’t talk, but they’re fluffy and will give you love. And possibly some slobber. And yes, the Basset hound is a little stinky. But learning how to interact with pets is good for you, emotionally.
  6. Revisit your previous obsessions! There’s Purple Amulet Princess, Doll Starring as a Mermaid, the Let-it-Go Princess, and of course the multitude of Tiny Yellow Meepers. You’ve got the dress-up dresses, the stickers, and the coloring books, so spend five minutes with them. (Okay, just kidding about the dress. We never take that one off.)
  7. Do some art on the hand-made, wood-crafted, one-of-a-kind easel that your dad made for you with brass fittings from your great-grandmother’s old wicker storage chest. That’s family history right there, kid. Appreciate it. And while we’re at it, don’t drop the chalk on the floor, because your sister likes to eat it.
  8. Let’s read some more books! No, not the Talking Puppy Cartoon books. Other books. Oh, okay. Talking Puppy Cartoon books it is…
  9. Build something with that giant bag of megablocks your mom thought it would be a good idea to get for you. Or throw them around the room and spend a half hour crying because I told you to pick them up. That works, too.
  10. You know what, baby girl? I’m going to let you watch your Talking Puppy Cartoons while I sob softly into my well-researched library of parenting books. Because I have a deadline, three piles of laundry, and a desperate need for a small glass of wine. Tomorrow, we’ll start again.

Tournament of Ymir Rundown…

All right folks! Put on your party hats and reading glasses, as I’m about to fulfill today’s word count with a rundown on yesterday’s event, the Tournament of Ymir. (For those wondering what this is, or thinking that perhaps this crazy organization sounds like fun, check out www.SCA.org.)
But first, a prologue. This past week, I’ve been staying up way too late preparing for the event. I completed my first knitting project made of silk at a super tiny gauge (about 15 stitches per inch/6 stitches per cm). I bound off the last stitch at two in the morning on Friday, then sewed all day Friday because I’m on a mission to get better at sewing and having more authentic garb, and of course managed to sew several seams in the wrong direction (insert mighty cussing). That finished up at about 2 in the morning the day of the event, and I’d prefer if no one looked too closely at the uneven shoulders of the sideless surcote, or the unfinished inside seams of the surcote or the cote. Oh. And then I remembered I needed documentation for my project … and to lay out the things I needed to bring the next day.
I’m not as young as I once was, and somewhere in my marathon garb session, I lost my phone (I buried it in a garb tote and didn’t find it until Rob was rummaging around trying to find it in the morning.) This meant I had no alarm set and woke up right around the time I had planned on leaving. Rob and I got the kids, got the car packed, managed to bring most of what I had meant to bring. (There are advantages to laying things out the night before … Rob … Just saying.)
We got on the road and drove a ways – long enough for me to finish weaving in the ends on my knitting project, because it’s not a real event unless you’re finishing up something on the way there.

Knitting project, a silk relic pouch based on extant examples of medieval knitted items … and Spike the Atlantian seahorse. 😀

Upon arrival, we trolled in (basically paid the entrance fee and got our token for the site), then headed to the A&S competition area. At this point, we were late enough that I figured I could take some time, as we had missed morning court (more on this later).  I dropped off my project with Mistress Michel Almond de Champagne, admired the beautiful works on display, chatted with several folks, and finally decided it was time to meander down to the list field and meet up with some of the other ladies from the Canton of Attilium so we could get some practice in. Lo and behold, as we left the building, we ran into Katie, Jess, and Brittany. Perfect!
We moseyed on down to the list field and found a tent full of familiar faces. At this point, I was realizing how incredibly warm the day was turning, and contemplated removing the surcote, because I was sweating. At this point, I was still not feeling really put together, sweaty already, had a bunch of stuff that still needed to be in places,  had forgotten to bring the linen for my veil/kerchief to hide the short purple hair … Ladybug and Baby Bug were squirmy and excited because YAY OUTSIDE!!, and I was still trying to switch into extrovert mode … and then I received news I had been called into court. Oh crap. Yeah, sorry, I’ll just hide over — nope. Michele Servideo Stech spotted me and suddenly I was kneeling in front of the Baron and Baroness, the former who immediately appropriated Baby Bug, and heard Her Excellency talking about some magical person who liked to do arts and science and had lots of projects and roped other people into doing stuff … then admitted me (WHAT??) into the Order of the Boreas. Which was SO AWESOME, PEOPLE. There was beautiful bling and a beautiful scroll, both by Mistress Michel. They will be framed and displayed with pride, especially the illustration of the Hellenistic figure Nyx. As Mistress Michel later explained, Nyx stays up at night, working and thinking and dreaming. Hm …. Sounds familiar …

Beautiful medallion and artwork by Mistress Michel Almond de Champagne.

As I stood, kind of blown away, I did have the presence of mind to retrieve my youngest child from the Baron. But as I walked away, there was some laughter. Ladybug had decided to get in on the action, and as I was walking away with Baby Bug, she had headed on up for some quality time with Their Excellencies. Finally, both children in hand, we headed off into the sunset … Just kidding. We found a spot to get some rehearsing in.
What were we rehearsing, you ask? Well, glad you wanted to know! Some of the ladies of the Canton of Attilium had been talking about wanting to start doing some music. So we decided to write a song for Coronation. I contributed the melody, Katie contributed the lyrics, Ashley (who we are trying hard to recruit) contributed the arrangement, and Jess and Brittany contributed their beautiful voices. Together, we put together a song about the Siege of Paris (since the theme of the event was Vikings versus the French.) Katie and I dressed in early French fashion. Brittany and Jess dress in Viking garb. The song was set up so two lines of the verse were sung by the French, two by the Vikings, and then we came together on the chorus, which goes:
In the hearth a fire burns
Beckoning their safe return.
At the dawn I long to see
Loved ones marching home to me.
We’d been practicing this for several weeks, and were able to perform it at the 2pm performing arts gathering. I will have to see if I can find some video and upload it. For my part, I have missed singing as part of a group, and these ladies are so very talented that it was a pleasure. We are planning to put something together for Coronation! So stay tuned …
Speaking of Coronation, I had been talking with Baroness Sophie the Orange of the commedia dell’arte group I Firenzi, and my friend Michele, who is an ATS belly dancer and quite a talented one, about putting together something for Coronation. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think we are going to have some fun at that event. Also, during the conversation, we were talking with Catherine Ambrose and I think somehow I volunteered to help with A&S Coordination for performing arts for that event. And by think, I mean, I definitely said I would do it. Because I like planning and coordinating stuff, and I think I can be helpful.
After the performance was over, I had to miss the commedia show, “The Doge’s Swan,” in order to be back up at the A&S competition. Rob, who had taken the kids for a break and some lunch and car naps, had to get his French burnt mead over to the brewing competition. Ah, the curse of having too many fun things to do.
At the A&S competition, which was a bit of a Viking pillage event (or dirty Santa), every artist received a ticket. When their ticket was pulled, they got to pick with A&S piece they wanted to go home with. My ticket got chosen first (which just shows that it was actually my lucky day), and I picked a beautiful icon of St. Germaine painted by Brian Sears. Perhaps it was my fierce French visage, but nobody else pillaged it from me, and it is now hanging on my wall above the baker’s rack. This was one of the most well-attended A&S displays/competitions I’ve seen, and I hope people are fired up to continue to participate. Many kudos to Mistress Michel for coming up with the unique idea and her excellent organization and publicizing of the event.
Next, Rob came to tell me that he hadn’t won the brewing event, and worse luck, the Kingdom Brewer had brought the same kind of mead project. This was kind of a bummer, but since we have more mead at home, was still all around a win, I think. (Keep reading, more about this later…)
The next big thing was going to be our I Firenzi meets Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. But before I get there, a few things I wanted to mention that were awesome:
*Michele and Sylvie dancing with zills in the recreation hall, and teaching the little girls who gathered around some basic moves in an impromptu dance class.
*The ladies who joined us at the A&S performance. I unfortunately did not get the name of the song they sang about the duty of the crown, but it was beautiful and moving. And those riddles … Odin dad jokes, I tell you…
*Bambi, the most wonderful and gracious and hospitable. Right when I needed a miracle, she brewed many cups of Turkish coffee, which were in themselves little miracles.
*Visiting with Kat in the A&S area, where she worked on her spinning wheel and I got a chance to talk geeky fiber talk with her and another lady whose name escapes me (that’s what names do with me).
*A gentleman, Markus, whose daughter ran around and around with Ladybug until they were laughing and falling down. I love SCA kids. We hope to see you at another event!
*The graciousness of our Baron and Baroness and the Baron and Baroness of Black Diamond. Sometimes in the SCA, you have leaders and you have authority figures, and in our baronies, we are lucky to have good leaders and human beings in those positions of authority. I am thankful.
We were planning to duck out to eat before Court, but I’m glad we stayed. The Attilium folks grabbed a patch of grass so the kids could run around. Rob went to court (which was just a few yards away, held outdoors in the beautiful weather.) To his surprise, he was called up to receive an honorary mention for his mead! He received a token of a glass bottle shaped like a bunch of grapes. He was glad of the opportunity to talk shop with some fellow brewers and vintners, and I believe is already planning a short mead for Coronation …
We ended up heading off site for some dinner, and then came back for …. Twelfth Night!
(INSERT DRAMATIC MUSICAL CUE)
So, some back ground on this production. I had mentioned to Sophie that I enjoy Shakespeare and had been around it and studied it, and she had answered that she loved Shakespeare, but never had the chance to do it and was trepidatious because it was different from commedia improvisational techniques. So, I invited her to a Sweet Tea Shakespeare LIT show, and she immediately saw the possibilities.
Baroness Sophie is a giant whirlwind of energy and intention, as well as a source of mentorship and coaching, not just in theater and commedia, but in the SCA, in performing arts coordination, and being open to learning more and more and trying new things. She offered me something that was incredibly risky and generous – the chance to direct her troupe in my adaptation of the script of 12th Night.
Along the way, I grew in my ability to teach and lead, to work with artists deeply experienced in a craft not my own, and bringing Shakespeare’s text to life with a bit of a commedia dell’arte flavor. I think at some point in the process, every member of the troupe individually expressed some sort of trepidation (and believe me, there were moments I was filled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome), but all through that time Sophie was a rock. A rock with some fart jokes, of course, because this IS Shakespeare.
So, the night of Ymir, feast finished up. We set up the “stage” – the commedia curtain – and gathered props and costumes. Master Efenwalt and his incredibly talented and awesome family joined us to play music. (THEY PUT TOGETHER A GALLIARD VERSION OF “BEAT IT” BY MICHAEL JACKSON!!! So cool and perfect….) We all took a deep breath … and plunged in.
The beauty of live theater is that anything can happen. And in this production, I’m pretty sure everything that could DID happen. We had a fart joke that barely anyone laughed at — and a vulgar Elizabethan pun that at least one person in the audience found totally hilarious. There were some moments in the improv that I almost fell over laughing because they were so far above anything we’d seen in rehearsal (Gina Towey, our Viola, had my spleen working overtime, and my side in stitches, with her frog speech.) And yet, every time fate/life/the late hour threw us a curveball, our actors hit it out of the park. If we had to have a beginning of a journey of performing Shakespeare together, I couldn’t have asked for a better one. I hope we get to do it again soon!
So now we are home, back to the mundane world. There is much laundry to be washed, garb to be finished, and plans for next event to start. I apologize if I missed anyone’s name or left anyone out. If I did, feel free to share what I did not in the comments or just over a beer the next time we meet again in the DREAM.
YIS,
Teresa of Attilium