Road Trip!

Set out runnin’ but I take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine…

I’m not sure why long road trips immediately put me in the mood for some Grateful Dead, but this one in particular took us through Reno, NV, and so this song has basically been stuck in my head for three days. Given that it IS a Dead song, my brain DJ has almost gotten to the last verse, after which it will hopefully fade to a different song. Maybe Touch of Grey…

On Route 80, heading east, climbing past the scrub into the pines. Ladybug said, Mommy! I want to build a snowman! Not today, Ladybug, we got places to be. On the other hand, Rick Keller would be quite a home running those elevations.

This trip started as a vague idea about buying a camper and another vague idea about going to visit family in Salt Lake City, UT. We’d been talking about both of these ideas for over a year, so when a confluence of events made it an ideal time to visit (my nephews’ day care shut down for a week, and my sister-in-law took off work, and we found an excellent deal on a Jayco travel trailer), the way east was clear.

I’ve started off many a road trip on Route 80–but from the other direction. Driving from New Jersey, I’ve traveled to and through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, all starting off with hopping on Route 80 West. There was a weird moment of dissonance when we drove past Sacramento and found ourselves on Route 80 East. And later, instead of heading in the heavily populated areas of eastern NJ, and spotting the towers and tunnels of NYC, we found vista after vista, the Donner Lake, signs for the Emigrant Trail, and finally, the sign welcoming us to Nevada. Which, after 17 years of dating/marriage to a native Las Vegas resident, I know how to pronounce correctly. Which I don’t–on purpose. Cuz I love him.

Welcome to Winnemucca, NV! We stopped by this city that seemed like one of those places you find in movies, where the entire place fell into a time warp in the 1980s and you’ll never be seen from again. But in a really cool and picturesque way.

The Brune Coombs Traveling Circus and Menagerie, complete with dogs, kids, and two undercaffeinated adults pulled into Winnemucca, NV, around six at night. While my spouse went for a run, I popped open my tablet to get some MFA coursework complete because of course I waited until the last minute. I wrote two short assignments for my business course, and then finished and roughly revised the next sequence in my thesis novel. I thought I’d done a pretty good job of catching the most egregious errors–until I turned it in and realized there was a bunch of stuff I didn’t catch. Oh well, that’s what critiquing is for!

It was also a beautiful night, with an almost-full moon that would have had Rick Keller jumping out of his skin. Since I am not a werewolf, I succumbed to sleep and headed to bed.

The next day, we finished driving across Nevada, the terrain getting flatter and flatter, the sky getting bigger and bigger.

The road leading us through the desert, wide open under a sky containing all the weather at once.

As we drove, I worked on a knitting project while Rob audiobooked one of the Game of Thrones novels. I cannot stand listening to audiobooks or podcasts–for some reason my attention wanders and I can’t concentrate. So I spent most of the trip thinking about various things. I wrote down a few ideas for a song/poem I’m working on, and a couple of ideas for the next part of Winter Run. And, of course, what the heck I was going to write on my MFA scene.

Next exit, Devils Gate? Let’s not go there, what do you say … I’ve seen that movie before.

I’m writing this blog post sitting at a sturdy plastic picnic table at a KOA just inside the Salt Lake City limits. The family is off walking the dog as I finish up my coursework for one of my classes this week. The weather can’t be beat–not sure what the temperature is, except for the fact that at nine in the morning, it’s perfect. Across from our “campsite” (RV parking space), there is a pool and a jungle gym just perfect for an adventurous two- and four-year-old. Although this area is pretty built up, I can just catch a glimpse of snow-covered peaks in the distance behind the concrete bricks of a neighboring building.

Yesterday, we went to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Today, we’ll hit up a local RV store to get one or two items we’ve realized would make our lives easier, and then head over to spend more time with family. Along the way, I’ll get a few more words added to the Winter Run word count. The time on the road gave my brain a bit of a creative jolt, showing me the wide open spaces a lone wolf could run, the light that a full moon casts over deserts when there are no electric lights to compete for attention. In the meantime, it’s time to write.

A fine night to run the moon at Winnemucca RV Park.
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The ghosts of old soldiers…

At various times during my military career, I’ve been in one training or another where we had either a staff ride or a museum visit, or just the opportunity as an individual to explore local military history on our own. There’s something that resonates when you walk through the same halls and fields that those who wore the uniform before you walked. Or when you take a look at the old kit and see echoes of your modern gear. When you read of stories of training, hardships, and bureaucracy and know that the soldiers who came before you would probably laugh to hear of some of the same issues that still exist … although they would probably also be astonished to hear of some of the changes that have occurred.

We are currently living in a community that, while still military, has been mostly divested of its training areas and military buildings. I’m speaking of the Fort Ord Military Community, a bounded area of military housing and amenities for families of servicemembers who train and work in the military facilities in Monterey. Since I began biking and running regularly in the area, it seems that everywhere I go there is a reminder of the old saying … old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.

How many area like this have I waited for CIF in? Or gone to visit the supply cages? These offices, now boarded, warning away visitors, must have seen some foot traffic. Wonder what the soldiers who used to inhabit these work areas would think to see them shuttered like this?

As you bike along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, the path takes you past some of the old training areas, dating back to WWII. Having spent just a bit of time attending and, later, running ranges, in all types of weather and in many different places, I smiled when the bike path took me past the old Fort Ord rifle ranges. In particular, this one sign made me laugh. Soldiers recounting which was the best duty to get to find a safe place to smoke and joke out of the weather … nothing really changes.

It’s fenced off now, but according to the sign, this was the best duty spot–huddling under the roof untill it was time to change the targets between firers. The wind on this day was unrelenting, and I can imagine what it must have been to spend all day out in it, trying to fire without your fingers going numb.

Even if one doesn’t believe in manifestations of the supernatural, I think someone could be forgiven if they hastened their steps through this area as dusk settled around the old buildings. They may not be haunted with actual ghosts, but … was that the scuff of boots on wooden floors? Did I … catch a glimpse of a tall man in a pressed khaki uniform, disappearing around the corner of one of the buildings, now graffitied and decrepit? As you drift past the old training grounds, you can almost hear an old sergeant shouting to his troops … or maybe it’s just the wind.

Was that a movement in the upper right window? Or perhaps it’s just the wind deep in the overgrown pines.

There is a connection one feels to the soldiers who have worn the uniform in the past … and that connection continues. From time to time, I wonder what it will be like sixty, seventy years in the future. Will the buildings I used to work and train in become fodder for spraypaint and dystopia LARPers?

A few weeks ago, I stopped by the 720th MP Battalion memorial at Fort Hood. There was a good deal of construction going on, and even though I’d spent three years working in that small battalion footprint, at first I drove right by it. I’ve had this same experience when returning to military posts–sometimes just enough has changed that everything is different. What will it be like someday when every record of my service is buried in some old building somewhere, when the experience of deploying to Iraq is something that you have to learn from a book, that your grandparents might have told you about once or twice before you were old enough to care? Will there be new uniforms? New wars? New MRE flavors? Probably.

For me, I’ll keep visiting these areas. You never know who will be reaching out to you from the ghosts of the past.

I wasn’t sure what this old concrete structure used to contain. There was no helpful plaque, and the only thing left was the structure itself and the remains of the fences that had once been put up to keep people out. Whether the original artist meant to indicate “BARD” or not, I thought it was pretty neat. Here endeth my tale.
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Home, sweet California dreaming home…

Just got back from my two-week annual training with my Army Reserve unit, and it is good to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time. In fact, it felt good to be back in uniform … maybe a little too good. It was right around the one-week mark, where I caught myself thinking about what it might be like to explore possibilities of returning to active duty, that I realized I might need to hold off on making any decisions until I returned home and had a chance to let the feeling wear off…

Which it is. As much as I enjoy putting the uniform back on and exercising a different set of skills than those of being a professional writer and caretaker of home and hearth, I made the decision to leave for a reason. Still, I’ve come to realize that I’m never satisfied doing the same thing for too long, and thus will always ever be tempted by the path not taken.

During these two weeks, I had a week off of my graduate school program, and I spent it reading. A lot. This AT I tore through the entire Richard Sharpe series (by Bernard Cornwell, as fantastic as I remember them), scarfed down the book LikeWar by Brooking and Singer, finished up Masha Gessen’s The Future is History, and topped it off with The Grace to Race, by Sister Madonna Buder. I then binge-watched all three seasons of The Last Kingdom, another Bernard Cornwell project, on Netflix.

Somewhere between getting back in the military swing of things, and the time spent in reading and concentration, I started to put together some of the pieces of what I’ve been trying to figure out with my writing. My first professional writing gig was as a 46Q, an army print journalist and public affairs specialist, and my mission was to “tell the Army story.” Fast forward to ten plus years as a commissioned officer, and a military police one, I find myself still trying to tell the Army story, but through the lens of fiction.

Sometimes, this is super subtle. I don’t think anyone realizes the fact that the Rick Keller Project is basically an entire series of me wrestling with what it means to find a place to serve. Frankly, I didn’t even realize that until I was about two-thirds of the way through. And yet, it’s definitely in there.

My most overt piece was a literary fiction short story by the name of Terminal Leave, which appeared in O-Dark Thirty, the literary review of the Veterans Writing Project. This is one of the few non-speculative fiction pieces I’ve written, and it’s likely to remain so. But some of the same themes I explored here turned up in an urban fantasy novel, Steel-Toed Blues, that I’m currently querying. No matter the genre, I can’t seem to keep the military, and my experience in it, from seeping through the cracks of what I’m writing.

Nor do I want to. The Army has been a large part of my life for about half of that life, for both myself and my spouse. Our kids are Army kids. I just got back from shopping at the commissary and sending a text to my troops about filling out their DTS vouchers and posting a note on Facebook in honor of a friend who was lost on this day several years ago. From the tragic to the mundane, these are the stories that people who serve live, and as a writer, these are the stories that drift through the part of my brain that twists them into whatever particular form they are going to take when I get them on paper.

As I sat and churned out my words for the day, then headed out to do the day’s errands, and before I head out on my run, I feel that the urge to explore options to return to full-time status is dissipating. Writing is what I do, and the profession I’ve chosen. Still, there is that small part of me that wonders, What if? But for now, I’ve got a novel to finish, homework to be done, some running to put on my Garmin.

Ciao!

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What am I even doing with my life…

I have no idea. And I’m not sure I’m going to figure out anytime soon. So I am simply going to try to work it out here on the blog, while still hosting guest bloggers and writers.

Basically, I just took a month or two and went through a sort of Marie Kondo process of my life. Now, currently in Texas completing my Reserve annual training requirement, I’ve just started the next two classes in my MFA degree program. And I’m realizing that I’m glad I’ve set aside some obligations so that I can focus on writing and my Army Reserve career.

Anyway, I’m trying to get back to what I used to do with my old Livejournal blog–make it a place where I can put down my thoughts. Sometimes a little more polished. Sometimes rudimentary.

But in the meantime, I’ve got one more class reading list to get through, and then I’m going to maybe read a little.

Peace!

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A Conversation With Jon Ray…

A warm welcome to fantasy and science fiction author, Jon Ray. I’ve invited him here to talk about his writing journey, goblins and panning for gold in the Australian Outback. Sounds pretty cool, right? Let’s get started!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing?
A (Jon Ray):
Greetings! I’m fantasy author Jon Ray. At the moment I’ve mostly written fantasy, but I do have a Sci-Fi Dystopian series planned in the near future, so then it will be Fantasy/Sci-Fi. I prefer Fantasy over all other genres, with Sci-Fi being a close 2nd. I wrote my first full novel “Gorp: Goblin Janitor” as part of NaNoWriMo 2010 while I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I won that year and then just sat on the manuscript for about 7 years.
Flash forward to May of 2017 with my now living in Sydney, Australia, and I found myself having a lot of time on my hands. It was then that I finally decided to finish up my manuscript with a rewrite, edit and publishing so I could feel what it was like and be done with my one novel bucket list item. Up to that point, I’d never considered becoming an author with a series or writing any more books. I did my own book cover and all the illustrations both cover and inside. I’m also a cartographer and make my own fantasy maps as part of my worldbuilding. I also include these in my fantasy books.
It went out and I had that magical feeling all authors get when they hold their first book. I was happy with that and had some extremely modest sells. Along the way, a few people liked and commented on my book and started asking when the next one would come out. I hadn’t originally planned on a next Gorp book, but after seeing what it was like to have a published work and people actually buying my book and responding well to it, I was hooked.
It [was] then and there I decided that being an author was something I wanted to do for the rest of my list and I took charge of a one-off novel and turned it into a series. Now here I am, still residing in lovely Sydney, Australia as I finish up the 3rd and final Gorp the Goblin book in the series and have 2 more books planned for 2019. 

Q: What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A:
The challenging part of the writing process is forcing myself to write. Only a writer can understand the insane level of procrastination involved and being creative types we can come up with a cornucopia of reasons we are not writing. To overcome this, I give myself breaks so I don’t get burned out from writing. But I have an annual schedule and release dates for my projects, which I try to announce so there is no going back or extending them without facing public ridicule. When I’m in the zone, I follow my completed story outline to keep me on track and guided and try to get between 500 – 2000 words a day in, depending on what type of writing day I’m having.  

Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? And why?
A:
The worst writing advice I think I’ve ever received was more about self-publishing than writing itself. I was told I could never publish my own book and that I needed to instead find an agent and then a publisher and hope I made it after years of trying. The best writing advice I got from fellow self-published authors who just said to “Do it!” and figure it out along the way. This was better advice, but of course, I learned as I went and made mistakes in the beginning.
Since then, I’ve gone back to my first Gorp book and hired a professional artist to do my book cover, did a few more editing passes on it, and started focusing on my self-publishing as a part-time business. 

Q: Of the work you’ve done, who is your favorite character you’ve created, and why?
A:
That is easy, Gorp the Goblin. He’s a small underdog type of character, who has heart and tries, despite what the world around him thinks of him. In the series, he spends the entire time in lands that are not friendly to goblins and has to cover his identity, but this goes against his true nature and feels more human than a goblin. Internal conflicts ensue. 

Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A:
What I have on the table for 2019 is to grow my Newsletter so I have a better network on reaching my readers. Writing wise I plan to have the 3rd and final Gorp book completed and published by May 2019. Afterward, I have a fantasy anthology that I’ve already been collecting stories based in my own world of Agrobathe. An original world complete with maps and background that I’ve spent the last 10 years worldbuilding on. I’m really excited to show this world my inner story world that I’ve crafted and plan to stage multiple book projects within that world. After I get the anthology which will be called “Agrobathe Stories” out, I’ll be switching genres for a new dystopian Sci-Fi series, which I’m just as excited about and will tell of the near future world of Earth a few worlds from now after global events nearly end human civilization. 

Q: Anything to add?
A:
I’m an American living in Australia and when I’m not writing or holding down a day job in the city, I love to get out into the Australian Outback and pan for gold. It’s become a new hobby of mine and something I’ve always wanted to do. Included in the photos is me out in the bush with my favorite hat and pan and I almost always find gold and real-life adventure. If you’re in Australia I also do some New South Wales events where I have a stall from which I sell signed copies of my books. Check out my website for event dates and locations or sign-up for my Newsletter and find them there. 

Author Jon Ray, panning for gold in the Australian Outback!

Buy Links!
Gorp: Goblin Janitor – https://www.amazon.com/Gorp-Goblin-Janitor-Jon-Ray-ebook/dp/B071W9MC7B/
Gorp: Dungeon Overlord – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MM6CW2V/
Social Media Links
Official Website – http://author.jonray.net
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JonRayAuthor/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lordjonray/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/lordjonray
Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/c-A3gb

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A Conversation with M.N. Jolley…

Welcome to M.N. Jolley, a very patient author (I got a little behind with some of my blog scheduling …) I invited him here to talk a bit about writing fantasy, writing advice, and his penchant for the name David. So, let’s begin!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing?
A (M.N. Jolley):
My name is M. N. Jolley, and I’m a fantasy author who’s predominantly been writing an adventure series with a western flair to it. I’ve got two books out at the moment, “The Stone Warrior” and “The Blue Flame”, with a third one coming later this month and a fourth one that’s churning its way through a first draft at the moment. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and finished the first project I’d charitably call a “Book” when I was about ten, but I’ve been pursuing writing as a profession for the past two and a half years. 
I like writing fantasy because it gives me more freedom with the setting, so I can craft things just how I like and not have to worry about matching up to any sort of real-world comparison. I’ve dabbled in hard sci-fi and a bit of military sci-fi, but neither of those rang true when I read them because I didn’t have the lived experience or the scientific knowledge to make them credible. With Fantasy, I can make the world seem real and lived-in without trying to emulate or copy anyone or anything else.

Q: What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A:
I’m going to be a bit of a cliche here and say that my biggest challenge is hitting my word count goals. (IS Note: I feel this. I really, really do…) I do freelance videography, which is a lot of fun but generally involves very long days without much down time for other projects on the days I’m filming, and I tend to hit a wall at around 5,000 words even on good days, so when I’m busy with video work it makes it very difficult to stay up to count or catch up when I fall behind.  
My best solution to overcome this is just to make time wherever possible. If I know I’m working a thirteen or fourteen hour day tomorrow, I’m going to make sure I have extra time to write today, so that I have a little slack to work with. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? And why?
A:
I honestly can’t think of any bad writing advice I’ve been given, at least not that caused severe problems for me. Some classes I took in junior high had a lot of prescriptive advice that wasn’t very good, (“An adventure story must do X”, “You shouldn’t ever write Y”,) but I didn’t really take any of it to heart and it never caused me any trouble.
The best advice I’ve received, by far, came from a guy named Kevin Dilmore. He’s an author who writes Star Trek novels and went to school with my dad. When I was around ten years old, I finished up a short book that I’d been working on for the past year or so. It was clearly a childish endeavor, clearly written with a lot of enthusiasm and not much else in its favor, but when I asked him to take a look at it for me he agreed — and then came back a week later with my manuscript full of notes and comments, and sat down with me for about an hour, going through the whole thing to talk about the story, the characters, where he thought I’d done a good job and what could be improved. I only remember a few of the things he actually said, but it was the effort he put in that left the strongest impression on me. It was that push that made me feel like writing was something I could actually do, instead of just a passing hobby that wasn’t worth anybody’s time. 

Q: Of the work you’ve done, who is your favorite character you’ve created, and why?
A:
Theoretically, my favorite character is named David, but it’s probably more accurate to say that I named my favorite character David. What I mean by this is that I’ve been using the name “David” for about a decade now, for something like three or four distinct characters. Some of the Davids are explicitly connected, some of them aren’t, and the David who exists in my current body of work is so detached from the others that he’s got nothing to do with them, but he’s still one of the Davids. The most recent David is also my favorite regardless of the name’s history, but I can’t really say why without spoiling a lot of “The Stone Warrior”. 
I’m still undecided if my next series will continue the tradition, or if I’ll finally break tradition and write a story that doesn’t involve a David. 

Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A:
 I haven’t talked about this publicly yet, but this seems as good a place to make the announcement as any: Once Book 3 of my series comes out, (That is, the one I’m writing now, since one of the books already out is a prequel.) I’m going to take a little time and start work on a serialized urban fantasy/horror short story collection. I don’t want to say more than that at the moment, because plans are still in the works. (The main series will continue on past Book 3 – I have plans for at least half a dozen more books in the main story alone – but it will be running concurrent to another body of work.)

Thank you for having me! 

Author M.N. Jolley

Buylinks:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K9Y237R
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w?ean=2940161871287
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-stone-warrior
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-stone-warrior/id1416277087

Website/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/MNJolleyWriting/
https://mnjolleywriting.com/

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Blog Security

Some of my visitors may have noticed that Google claims my site is not secure. This popped up as an issue a couple weeks (months?) ago. In true techno-denial fashion, my regular M.O., I was ignoring it because I really didn’t know what it meant or what to do with it.

Yes. The foundation of my author platform had an issue and I was in denial. I just did a livestream over on my Patreon talking about how characters will do everything they can to avoid facing their problems, and so it’s our job to figure out what those problems are and force them to face them for the sake of LITERATURE. I was, of course, speaking from my own personal experience, as I am demonstrating here. Ahem. Anyway …

You will be happy to know that yesterday, my hosting provider, Network Solutions, called me up to inform me that I was not in compliance, and the very nice gentleman (who, by the way, turned out to be my “business consultant,” which I didn’t even know I had) I spoke to very patiently walked me through how to purchase the SSL certificates, and then how to follow the instructions to get them applied.

The result of this is twofold. First, visitors to this site should shortly see that the “not secure” label goes away, and Google no longer has a problem with it. I just did this, so it may take a moment, or a day, I don’t know. The second result is that I am going to take advantage of said business consultant to see what are some options for publicizing and marketing my site. Originally, this platform was a place to collect information about my writing, and for me to put thoughts out into the world. Now that I’m moving into Patreon, and coaching, etc., I would like to start spreading the word about that part of my business.

Anyway, it’s about time for me to go play on my new toy that my spouse got me for my birthday. It’s an AlphaSmart 3000, basically a glorified typewriter. I’m excited to see how it works in helping me get words on pages. I’ll let you know!

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How is it MARCH already?

I’m still not sure March is actually here. Maybe this is still January? Mid-February? Anything but late March …

Anyway, the writing proceeds apace. I’ve submitted about five short stories this year. Two of them were in the 3-5K word range, and three were flash fiction. One of the longer ones, an atompunk homage to Helen of Troy, got picked up by Writerpunk Press. One of the flash fiction pieces got rejected by Daily Science Fiction, so I did some tinkering and sent it back out. The other stories I’m waiting to hear on.

I’ve got about halfway with the blurbs and covers for my PNR/romantic suspense that I’m working on. My plan is to collect blurbs/outlines/covers, and then write the series all in a row in order to rapid release at the end of the year. So far, so good. The only problem is that I’m stuck for a title for the fourth book, the cover of which my artist will be working on in mid-April. So if you have any weather-related sayings, please let me know!

I’m about a third of the way down with Winter Run, so I’ll have more on that later.

And last, but definitely not least, I’ve reactivated my Patreon page. I’m going to be posting notes on my writing process, excerpts of works in progress, flash fiction, some livestreams on the writing process, as well as some reward tiers that have to do with coaching and critiquing. If any of this sounds interesting, stop by! Access starts at a buck a month, so the price is right.

In the meantime, back to work. I have words to put down on paper.

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Post-Con Rundown

The three months since November started seem to have gone by so fast I don’t actually remember large swathes of them–and it’s not because I enjoy a glass or two of a festive beverage during the holidays. Working at the church, family, traveling, and trying to figure out how to promote new releases all kind of merged together in one, big blur, which culminated in last weekend’s fan convention, Arisia 2019.

(Warning: This is the part I talk about some of the concerns surrounding my choice to attend the Con. I think they’re important, so I’m putting them first.) This year was the thirtieth anniversary of the convention that was my very first Con, back in 2008, and truthfully, I almost didn’t go. Like some other organizations, information came to light that showed it was institutionally incapable of addressing concerns regarding sexual assault and harassment. It took them far too long to do the right thing. However, from an outsider’s perspective, they did seem to get themselves back on the path towards doing the right thing. I very much understand other people’s decisions to not attend, and respect that. Which brings me to the first panel I attended, a round-table workshop on the reconciliation track aimed at improving institutional response to developing a culture of inclusion and proper response to reporting of incidents of harassment and assault.

Why does this matter to me? For one, I like to hang out with people in fandom, and I like doing it in spaces where assholes are unwelcome. I’m not talking about people whose ideologies differ from mine. I’m talking about predators who think it’s okay to exhibit stalking behavior, commit acts without consent, bully/troll people online, or other similar situations. I’m also raising two little geeky girls, and have brought them to conventions with my spouse and I, and I would prefer if they could also have spaces to hang out and talk about Star Wars without having to deal with assholes. (Although at the moment, they’re more about the rainbow unicorns and less about the Death Star.) So, I didn’t take my decision to attend lightly. I also paid close attention to how they were running the reconciliation track, and the products they expected to arise from them. I have not made any decisions, including if I will return next year (as a panelist if I get invited, or a fan attendee if I don’t, the decision will be the same either way.) I like the progress they’re making, I like the actions they’ve taken, now I want to see what happens when the pressure of the Con being right around the corner is taken off, and some of the reconciliation has to happen outside of the public eye.

Werewolves, urban fantasy, writing, and super moons! All part of the weekend…

The panels and workshops I was on or giving went pretty well (I think … I hope …) Most of them were writing-related, as you might expect, but I also got to hop on a “Geeky Parenting” panel, talking about the fun and challenges combined in raising kids in fandom. I’m quite happy to say that I learned as much as I shared; I’m looking forward to spending time around geeky folks as long as I can, and doing it with my spouse and kids. I’m hoping that next year we’ll be in a place where I can attend Arisia with them. I also got a chance to read the Green Man scene from Night Run, which was so awesome.

One of the highlights was getting to sit on a panel on Writing War with a bunch of people, moderated by author Kevin McLaughlin, who writes some very cool books and you should totally check them out. We all had a pretty good time BS’ing about the military and sharing our favorites, and now my TBR pile is about ten books taller, and I’m super excited to start plotting my own military fantasy novel this semester. Afterward, Kevin and I co-hosted a “Late Night Writer’s Cafe.” About ten other writers came together. We talked shop for about twenty minutes, and then settled down to get words on paper. I got a pretty decent start on a version of the Russian folktale, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” rewriting it so that Baba Yaga comes out on top, with the intention of submitting it to Rachel Kenley’s anthology, The Villain Wins. Speaking of which, I also got to see Rachel on a panel and listen to her read from one of her works, a romance speculative fiction that combined mermaids and New Jersey, my home state. Shout out!

We took a selfie, and then I ate all of Tea & Absinthe’s cookies. They were delicious, and I have no regrets!

Some other fun moments from the Con — locusting all of Tea & Absinthe‘s homemade chocolate chip cookies as I helped them set up their booth in the vending hall; receiving a random gift of a knitted owl after I admired a fellow crafter’s work (so cute!); learning how to use Lyft (get off my lawn); seeing snow at least once this winter; getting a chance to lead my “Writing for Military Veterans” workshop; having said workshop turn into a deep conversation between two veterans and a civilian on writing and the military; having time to read, and re-reading Brian McClellan’s War Cry and the entire Powder Mage series as well as the first book in the next series; having someone on Twitter stick up for me when some rando nitpicked my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged Tweet about doing so; getting a chance to introduce some writers to using military models such as ASCOPE and PMESII-PT to do worldbuilding; getting some words down on some projects even though I gave myself permission to not do that this weekend; and finally, adding many more books to my “TBR” pile, including Kay Kenyon’s At the Table of Wolves, which I read straight through on the plane from Boston to LAX (SO AWESOME).

My little knitted owl; they came with me to every panel and hung out next to my name plate; but, true to form, the wise little owl said not a word!

The Post-Con pace hasn’t quite slowed down. I got home at midnight and then had to wake up at 6 the next morning to get to my day job. I still have a full slate of writing to do this year, and it’s not getting any longer. But Arisia, as it usually does, energized me and motivated me, and that positive energy is crackling as I tackle my MFA, the series I’m finishing, and the series I’m starting. I feel a little closer to the fan community and to the writers community, and all in all, it made a good start for the rest of the year. I’m hoping that the process that was started at Arisia will continue, and that more people will feel comfortable and safe returning to the Con next year. Until then, you’ll find me over here at my laptop, working on the next thing on my list…

Peace, and happy writing!

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Tanks, Monsters, Mercs … oh, my!

Started off this year wanting to get back to writing short stories and sending them out to the world, and then shortly after writing down my goals, I decided to take one of those stories and share it myself.

Bea Wolf, a dieselpunk re-telling of the classic Norse epic, Beowulf, is now available as a Kindle Short Read, for about the price of half a cup of coffee. In the post-war dystopia of northern Europe, Captain Wolf leads her company of armored cavalry mercenaries against their greatest foe yet.

I’ve got about an hour of time to pack until I have to get going with the plans for this weekend, so I’m going to sign off. But if you are interested, and have a dollar, check it out on Amazon! And if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free. Just saying.

Ride strong, my friends!

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