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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What’s Ahead in 2019…

…or, reading, writing, coaching, oh my!

It’s been a minute since I updated my blog, mostly because the holiday season hit me like an overscheduled, frenetic, wrecking ball of joy and fun. To say I was upset about that would be a lie–I enjoyed almost every minute of it. To say that I’m looking forward to taking a few introvert days in a row would also not be misleading. I just got back from a three-day Reserve drill weekend, and I will be flying out again on Thursday to be a panelist, reader, workshop leader, and general fan attending Arisia 2019 in Boston. I’ll have a separate post later with my full dance card, but I hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking stock of what it means to do this writing and coaching thing, and where I want to see it going.

First, a look back. In 2018, I finally broke through my block on writing a series, and finished the next four works in The Rick Keller Project. As it stands, the series includes the first novel, Cold Run, a 1.5 novelette, Night Run, the second novel, Vegas Run, and a 2.5 novella, Trial Run, all released from Untold Press. I’m currently working on the final novel, Winter Run, which got a little delayed by the crazy holiday season of travel and work, but I’m back on track, and should have a draft (and an awesome new cover!) in about a month.

I learned a lot this year, from how to make an effective Facebook ad, to how to start investigating using Amazon keywords and categorizing to maximize impact, to how to write a better blurb, logline, and query. I’ve had an urban fantasy novel, Steel-Toed Blues make it past the first rejection at a couple of places, which is pretty cool, especially since I think it’s a book that shows improvement on my part as a writer in developing characters and theme, and working with antagonists. I also wrapped up working with a long-term coaching client who finished his memoir! That was a really excellent experience, and taught me a lot about how to give effective, encouraging feedback.

And now for a look forward…

This year, I want to write and publish a series of paranormal romantic suspense novels under my romance pen name, using what I’ve learned to rapid release and build a following. I’ve been working on this project for a few months now, and am really enjoying exploring the genre further, planning, writing, and working on a publication plan. After Winter Run, this series will be my main effort for my full-length novel writing.

At the same time, I am going to step up my querying game with Steel-Toed Blues, refining my query, getting it out there, and working on some plotting so that if it gets accepted by a traditional publisher, I’ll be ready to go with finishing the trilogy.

I also plan to write and submit 12 short stories this year. I’ve already written two (an atompunk take on Helen of Troy, and a flash fiction romance), and submitted three (the first two, plus a steampunk detective story I’ve had rattling around). I’ve got a mecha SF short story planned, and am working on a short story that I plan to submit to a shared worlds anthology. Writing short fiction is a fun way to explore different genres, as well as being a storytelling challenge that I relish. It’s also, hopefully, a way to continue expanding my publication credits list.

As for coaching and editing, I am still open to clients wishing to develop their writing, whether it’s in-progress (coaching), or in need of a good developmental edit. I’m pretty easy to work with, I don’t require writers to send contracts, and I always send an invoice with the final product, not before. Giving feedback is something I enjoy doing, and I’m hoping to expand my client list in 2019.

And … I started a Facebook group, Crone Girls Press. Why did I do this? First, I wanted to have a place to invite friends and acquaintances to talk about fantasy and science fiction literature, as well as share what they’re working on, whether it be looking for ARC readers, blurb feedback, launch announcements or just recommendations for new books to read. Second, I would like to indie publish under two different names, and it seemed the best way to do this is to set up a business account that can accommodate such a thing. Lastly, I am planning on publishing a single-author anthology this fall by an author who is not me (more on this later), and my plan is to publish it under this company. So the group is to hang out, talk and share stories, and every once in a while, share a funny writing meme. Come check us out!

Last–but not least–I continue to move ahead with my MFA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. I’m in the second of five terms, and have been learning a lot about how to improve my craft and my coaching techniques. This term, we begin planning the plot, characters, and premise of our thesis project. I’ve got a cool military fantasy project that has been percolating for a while, and I’m using this MFA to develop it. My goal is that my thesis novel (and series kickoff) will be a better piece of writing than anything I’ve done before.

I think that’s about all the news that fits at the moment. If you’d like to pick up one of my publications, check out the links above. If you’ve got an editing project you’d like me to take a look at, hit me up. If you’ve got some extra-strong coffee you’d like to donate to help me accomplish all of the in 2019, I will be forever grateful.

Until later!

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Wandering Around the San Juan Bautista Mission

The other day I found myself having completed all the work for the first two classes in my MFA, which had somehow resulted in a massive case of writer’s block. Instead of sitting and staring at the blinking cursor, I decided to do a little work on setting. In Trial Run, Rick Keller ends up at a Family compound where Calix and Karen have set up shop, working as independent security contractors for the Family. The building they live and work out of is an old Spanish mission that was built in the late 1700s … a little too close to a Family city. Funny enough, once construction was complete, all memory of the place disappeared–records, eyewitnesses, down to the last materiel purchase order.

When I wrote the book, I mostly drew on my memories of the La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA. The rectangular construction around an open courtyard, the chapel, the rooms where the inhabitants lived and worked, the garden and fountains on the ground–all were hanging out in my mind’s eye.

The view of San Juan Bautista from across the street at the historic Plaza Hotel.

We’re a solid four hours from Lompoc at the moment, but there is another of the 21 Spanish missions that were established in the region that became California–San Juan Bautista. I was feeling kind of down and blah, so a field trip was in order. I drove down on a gray, rainy Tuesday to check it out.

The first thing I noticed was that the mission, unlike La Purisima, sits in the middle of a town, surrounded by a state park. For three bucks (actually, more like 20, since I bought a book at the gift shop with my entrance fee), I got to walk around the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park. The grounds include several historic buildings: a hotel, the Breen residence (survivors of the Donner Party), a stables and blacksmith shop, and another grand residence. Definitely worth the price of admission.

The mission itself was built in a giant L-shape, with the chapel at the corner. I

The outdoor hallway at San Juan Bautista Mission. From here, you can access the gift shop, chapel, or more of the property.

entered and walked down the long, outside hallway, which reminded me of the La Purisima architecture. My first stop was in the gift shop, where I picked up a couple of books (I really can’t help myself), a bracelet rosary, a Christmas present, and a candle to light in the chapel.

I also put my phone down while I was trying to juggle everything, and found a cluster of visiting schoolkids checking it out since I hadn’t locked it down. Oops.

Phone safely retrieved, I headed out the door into the inner yard of the mission. There is a garden, more elaborate than the one at La Purisima, with roses and lemon trees, and even a fountain or two. The air was cold, with a sharp chill, and it smelled sweet and wet.

Down the outdoor corridor, a large door with a wooden sign reading “Church” pointed the way.

 

The chapel was a rectangular space, with a baptismal font in a small room off the side. At the back of the church, a depiction of the Savior stood against the left side, and the Virgin Mary at the front. The floor was stone. In Trial Run, Rick stretches out on the floor of the mission’s chapel, enjoying the cool of the tile. It was a little too chilly to do that; also, there were more schoolkids running around, followed by chaperones exhibiting varying levels of enthusiasm, so I decided discretion was the better part of valor.

A view across the center/back of the chapel.

The altar was very much in a familiar style of the other missions. A series of alcoves held depictions of various saints. Unlike the La Purisima mission, San Juan Bautista holds weekly masses. According to their Web site, they have had an unbroken pastoral lineage since the mission was first consecrated. There was a definite sense of history around the place.

The view toward to the altar and its saints.

In Trial Run, Rick goes into the chapel, not knowing what he will find. The people who live and work there continue to use it as a space for meditation and worship, although not in any specific or formal way. Rick half expects to meet with the Green Man, whose manifestation has come to him in various places, but in this place of worship, he does not appear.

Chapels and churches are very familiar spaces to me, having grown up in a faith tradition. I brought my candle over to the space in front of the Virgin Mary. Feeling super self-conscious given the fact that kids were still milling around and, from their reactions, not really expecting to encounter someone worshiping, I lit the candle for my sister,

The devotional area to the Virgin Mary.

Jenn, and spent a few moments in meditation.  Afterwards, I snapped a few photos, and wandered around the garden for a bit.

By that time, I was ready for lunch. I grabbed a burger at a little diner a block down the street. While I ate, I started reading one of the books I bought, enjoying the chance to spend some more time doing introvert things.

After I paid the tab, I wandered in another circle around the grounds. By this time, most of the kids from the school trip had headed out. I got a few more pictures, but mostly just enjoyed the quiet that had descended on the place.

I took a few more notes and photos, stashing the experience away for a future story. Rick isn’t a big fan of California landscapes, but I kind of enjoy them. I find it fun to explore the history, especially on days when you almost have the place to yourself. I’m feeling a bit more energized to keep working on Winter Run, as well as a couple of other short projects whose deadlines are politely coughing over my shoulder.

In the future, I’d like to start doing more of this, finding a place once a week or so, to spend a few hours in. You never know when a place or time is going to pop up and demand a place in something you’re writing, so it would be a way to gather potential future settings in one blog. Looking forward to future mini-adventures.

A view of part of the inner garden at San Juan Bautista.

~ ~ ~

The Rick Keller Project can be found on Amazon:
Cold Run
Night Run
Vegas Run
Trial Run

Winter Run, the concluding novel to the series, is currently in progress!

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Rick Keller meets Shop Small Saturday!

Good morning, and apologies for the intermittent radio silence!

There’s been quite a bit happening. I’m going to throw it out there in a blog post, and then start to slowly update the Website to reflect what’s been happening.

First — the FREE! If you’ve been interested in checking out the Rick Keller project, Cold Run is currently FREE DOLLARS on Amazon.

Next — the NEW! The latest installment in the series, Trial Run, is available for $0.99 on Amazon. This novella is the second-to-last release in the series, and sets the stage for the last book, Winter Run, which I’m currently about 12K words into and counting!

So, if you’re interested, but maybe slightly confused, here is the Rick Keller Project in order:

Cold Run (Novel, Rick Keller Project 1)
Night Run (Novelette, RKP 1.5)
Vegas Run (Novel, RKP 2)
Trial Run (Novella, RKP 2.5)
Winter Run (Novel-In-Progress, RKP 3/Final)

Phew.

In other news, I’ve got two more weeks left of my first two classes for my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I’ve been doing pretty well, until last week, when I spent four days in the smoky goodness of north/central California with the Army Reserve, came home, and failed to fully read the directions on an assignment I was trying to finish on way too little sleep. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work something out with my instructor, and I know that I’ll probably be able to recover from that one grade, but still, my inner nerd doesn’t like seeing those letters on my course transcript … bleagh.

I’ve got a few more interviews with writers and creators set up, and a few more on the way. After a few years of keeping a separate milwriter interview blog, and this one, I’m going to combine the two, which means I’ll probably re-post the interviews I have over there, and start with some new ones.

I also have two new series I’m plotting. One is humorous military fantasy, the other is under my romance pen name. I’ve got some fun ideas swirling around, and I think they will be fun to write (and hopefully, fun to read.)

Anyway, I need to get back to the keyboard, because this novel won’t write itself. Sadly enough. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your Shop Small Saturday, and if you get a chance, check out the Rick Keller Project … and maybe leave a review?

Peace!

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A Conversation with Bambi Harris, Author

Welcome to Bambi Harris, a prolific author who gave me some of the most unusual answers I’ve gotten since starting to interview authors. I enjoyed corresponding with someone who has a fun sense of humor, and apparently loves coffee and carbs as much as I do. Keep reading to find out more…

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your path to writing. What got you into it? How long have you been doing it? What are your genres/stories that you are particularly passionate about?

A (Bambi Harris): One day when I was 29, for no particular reason, I thought to myself, I think I will write a book. So that day I started writing one. I had no idea what I was doing but I thought, no time like the present! What got me into it? Delusion perhaps haha. No particular motivating factor other than thinking I could! I started dabbling in writing about 2006/2007 so just over 9 years. I am most passionate about mystery, supernatural genre’s and history, however I always ensure I have relatable characters, intriguing storylines and happy endings, those are a must.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in writing? What were some challenges along the way?

A: I did not necessarily have an interest in writing to begin with. For whatever reason I thought I could do it and decided to try. Challenges were with my first book especially, trying to work out formatting and grammar and how to do things, ‘right’. My biggest obstacle was believing that other people’s ‘right ways’ had to be my own. I started writing my second book without any preconceived notion of how it ‘must’ be done. The biggest hindrance to my accomplishments was the idea that there was only one color paint to use for my canvas. I found my own voice, my own way, my own format, my own presentation and then I got on with the show.

Q: What in particular do you find most satisfying about your work?

A: Hearing people say that they read one of my books in one night. Having people tell me my book made them smile, or think, or that it gave them a different perspective.

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: Reviews, without question! Leading the reading horses to water and getting them to write a review (even a word or sentence) is the most challenging. It’s disheartening at times. Most people don’t realize how imperative a review is to the lifeline of your work or the morale of its creator.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: If you want to be a writer, write. Don’t ponder how, don’t say ‘one day’, don’t imagine what it might be like if you started, just start. You can’t accomplish something that isn’t ventured. Write a sentence and then you can say you are actively writing something and then add to it, one sentence at a time if need be.

So often people say to me they are thinking of writing a book ‘one day’. I always say the same thing; there is no instigating factor to you doing it. If you want to do something, the only thing in your way is the idea that you have to wait for that special day to come. There is no waiting, you might die tomorrow, get on with it!

Q: What work are you most proud of, and why?

A: Oh, I don’t know really. I have written quite a few and I have a true love for each of them. It’s like asking to pick your favorite child haha. I will say, The Porcelain Bones might be the most universal book I’ve written, as in most people, no matter their tastes, should get something out of it.

The Afterlife Series (starting with Death and Other Inconveniences) has been one of my most enduring and I enjoy how it is still loved by new readers now.

I’m proud in general that I wrote and published a book (and 32 of them now), I can pat myself on the back for that, for having an idea and following it through.

Q: On your website, you write that “other than that, she is a complete mystery.” Can you share one aspect of that mystery?

A: There is a lot to be said about that haha. I am multi faceted and then some, but I will say as a curiosity perhaps, as a writer, I am not a reader. This is apparently a contradiction in many minds, but rules are a foundation, not a necessity. Most artwork wouldn’t exist now if half the painters didn’t try something new. And as a person I suppose I’m a contradiction; I’m unconventionally bright, an engaging introvert, alternating between elegant and goofy.

Q: Anything to add?

A: I love coffee, dogs and most regrettably, carbs. If I can make someone laugh then my work here is done.

~ ~ ~

You can find Bambi Harris online at her Website: www.bambiharris.com; Facebook: facebook.com/bambiharris.author; and Amazon: amazon.com/author/bambiharris

 

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A Conversation with Mistress Leofwen, SCA Bard

I met Mistress Leofwen Cryccthegn, mundanely known as Jennifer Nestojko, when my spouse and I recently moved to the West Kingdom. She is a Laurel, having achieved the highest recognition in the Society for Creative Anachronism for her expertise in writing Anglo-Saxon poetry. As someone who enjoys the Bardic Arts, and listening to performances of music, poetry, and storytelling, I appreciated getting to know her. I invited her here to talk about Anglo Saxon verse, and the Bardic Arts in general. Take a seat, and check it out!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

A (Leofwen Cryccthegn, mka Jennifer Nestojko): I have several areas of interest in writing, and have had two short story sales, but in the SCA I am known for my poetry. I do many forms of medieval poetry, and my specialty is Anglo-Saxon style alliterative verse. I have written a few pieces in Anglo-Saxon as well, which is an interesting process. I begin with a modern English version, translate it into Old English, and then translate it back into a poetic modern English version. It is fun playing with the languages.

I first started writing alliterative verse at least twenty years ago, though thinking about that span of time is a bit mind-boggling. I’m pretty sure it was only a few years ago, right?

I share my medieval poetry orally in performances and at bardic circles, and I also send pieces in to the local newsletter betimes.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

A: In college I took a class in Old English, and I was hooked. It was a tough class, but it was fascinating. The language and the literature and the time period certainly evoked something in me, although much exposure to Tolkien since I was a young child probably primed me for that reaction. I took the next class as well. I then played with the language and poetry a bit. When I went to grad school I was overjoyed to be able to take another class in the language.

It seems I have an affinity for the rhythm of alliterative verse, and I certainly did not start with an affinity for sonnets. I couldn’t figure out how to write in iambic pentameter until I finally realized that I tend to start a line with a stressed syllable, which is certainly not iambic! I love the imagery found in Anglo-Saxon poetry, as well as the variations on tone.

I am challenged by the fact that a bit of time has passed since those classes and that I am not all that confident in my grammar, because the grammar can be a bit tricky. Most people won’t catch the mistakes, but there are a few people I know who can. They keep me honest and humble.

Q: What in particular do you find most satisfying about your work?

A: I find being able to find the right combination of tone and imagery and rhythm very satisfying – especially if others feel the power of the piece as well. It is deeply satisfying, and it is a connection with a distant world that lurks deep in our culture and modern language and traditions.

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: I find my own inadequacies most challenging. I have so much to learn, so much to improve upon, so much to try. I’ve barely started.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: Enjoy the process, play with words and images, make mistakes, but then improve your craft and keep learning. Recognize that it is a craft and learn the structure. Don’t throw a bunch of alliteration together and call it a poem – learn the patterns of alliteration that are part of the form. Play, but then improve.  Don’t dismiss your potential to learn and create.

I sometimes partner-write with people to help them learn the form while doing it and to give them confidence. I wrote once with a friend who had been challenged to do a piece but didn’t know how. The resulting poem was mostly his own; I just guided him through it and gave feedback. It was fun facilitating that experience.

Q: What work are you most proud of, and why?

A: I found translating the chorus of “I Melt With You” satisfying, because I was turning Modern English into Old English, because I’m a dweeb that way. However, of my alliterative verse, I think I am proudest of my stepdown piece as Bard of the West, which was modeled after the poem Widsiþ.  It is my own piece, but it clearly is in the tone of the older poem. Besides, I prefaced it with a translation of a verse from the Bauhaus song, “Spirit”, so it has that.

Q: Anything to add?

A: One of my classes is 12th grade English, and I do Beowulf with them. I love having them write heroic boasts about doing chores or write riddles in the style of the Exeter book. I have had them write alliterative verse as well, and some of the pieces are great. One was a heroic piece about shopping on Black Friday. It is hysterical. I think playing with language is essential, and it leads us into more serious moments. There is some very introspective poetry in Old English, and some of that adapts quite well today.

~ ~ ~

Yppe wearþ scip ligyþe; ic binde þu mæste,
þinre banhuses oferborde gledde,
mærþleoht nealles abitt.

                           (P. Murphy, “Spirit” )

For long years I yearned to tell tales of yore,
to weave my words into patterns of wonder,
as a smith makes strong the corslet of mail,
a many-whorled miracle to be worn in battle;
I hoped that my hearers would take heart at my song. 

So time passes and the Western sun sets.

In combat with great ones I clashed, cut down I fell,
rising again to a new rede, unraveling new riddles,
with feather and ink, with faith I looked to the future,
seeking always a song that would speak to my kinfolk;
after each battle I arose ever stronger. 

So time passes and the Western sun sets. 

My poems have been heard, my place before princes set,
my king and my queen bid me come, my kinfolk heed me,
my voice speaks to the valour and victory of the West.
A royal bard, I do the bidding of those bound in fealty,
by the hearthfire my humble song speaks of heroes. 

So time passes, and the Western sun sets. 

So all things shall end, so I must leave my office,
making way for another to mind our memories.
She is strong and her song swells with wisdom.
I leave, though not vanquished; my voice holds its value,
I still am a wordsmith waiting for those who wish me to sing. 

So time passes, and the Western sun sets. 

Lange gearum ic orðede asecgan giedd fryndagas,
awefan wordes into  bisenum wundre,
swa smiþ  hiænaþ heresyrcan,
hring-fag þeodwundor in feohtlace werian;
Ic hopede min gehierenda woldon habbaþ heortan æt min leoþes.

Byre beleoraþ þus, seo westerneu sunne gryndaþ.

In anwiges wiþ eormenþeode ic hlemmede, aheowon, ic ahnag,
eftarisan to niwum ræde, arafian niwum hriddel,
wiþ feðre ac atrume, wiþ leafan ic forelocede forþgesceaft,
ic cunnede æfre cantic min leoda to cweþenne;
æfter ælcum beadwe a swiþu ic bewod. 

Byre beleoraþ þus, seo westerneu sunne gryndaþ. 

Leoþcwides heorcnedon, stede ætforan cynigum astealde,
cynehlafordes ac cwene bebead me cume, min cynna me hedaþ,
wordhleoðores soðaþ wig ac hreþ Westrices.
Cynesceop, ic hlyste ciegereas hæsena, him hyldajjum cnytton,
by heorþe geeaþmodra heortleoþes recþ beornas. 

Byre beleoraþ þus, seo westerneu sunne gryndaþ. 

Eall arþing lunnon, min folgoð þearfe lætan,
aredian weg to oþre; heo wille ure  worda mimorian.
Heo strang is, hire sanges wiþ wisdome swile wordhleoðores.
Ic læte, unadwæscedlic; wordhleoðores heolde weorþes,
Ic beo wordsmiþ giet, forbyrde hie wilnaþ me asingan. 

Byre beleoraþ þus, seo westerneu sunne gryndaþ.

 

Leofwen Cryccþegn
June Crown A.S. LI

 

 

 

 

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A Conversation with Molly Sotherden, Glass Artist

Molly Sotherden’s artwork is luminescent and captivating; captured digitally, it still shines in the depths. I am in love with her work after being introduced to it through a mutual artist friend, and wanted to give her a chance to share what she does and what her journey has been like. She is currently making a living as an artist whose medium can, as she puts it, “sever an artery faster than a run of the mill vampire.” To check out some more, keep reading!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

A (Molly Sotherden): I’m a stained glass and etc artist. The “etc.” covers glass specialties not typically found in traditional art show stained glass, meaning I also work with fused, painted, and etched glass as well as the overlapping but not intrinsically “glass” things like basic wire wrapping, basic lamp wiring, and maker/hacker stuff. I started with stained glass when I was 17, my first semester in college… so that’s been at least 20 years ago. I worked for three different liturgical restoration firms after college, then hung out my own shingle around 2004 after being downsized twice in 3 years. (The first downsizing felt like my gender played into it. In defense of the second downsizing, the company I worked for was awesome and I knew when I was hired for it that the contract was finite.) But the effect those two events had on me very much influenced my choice to become a full time artist. I knew I wasn’t going to downsize myself, even though starving seemed like a close neighbor some days… I decided to quote Nike and “Just Do It”.

But that was years ago. I’m reasonably successful now, so if you’re looking for my work these days, I sell my actual items at 5 Renaissance Festivals a year. If sharing my journey as an artist is more your thing, that can be done in a “generic overview way” through either my business or personal page on Facebook, or via a more “backstage” or intimate way through a subscription site called “Patreon“.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

A: All three stained glass firms I worked for were mostly peopled by blue collar men, and in all three cases I was the only woman and (to my knowledge) college graduate in their employ on the shop floor. That was challenging on multiple levels, not least of which learning to voice boundaries when their -isms (sexism, racism, etc.) would inevitably creep into the work day. There aren’t a lot of job opportunities for a person with a degree in Fine Arts and a concentration in stained glass, so my years at those three shops were not only formative but necessary from a learning and skill-gathering perspective.

I actually started college envisioning myself as an art teacher and/or a glassblower. Teaching was the occupation of both parents and a grandparent as well, and it felt like a comfortable way to make a living, since you never really hear success stories about artists. But in my freshman year I realized I didn’t like glassblowing, and in my senior year I realized I didn’t like children in massive groups, so I dropped the teaching degree and decided to wing it with just the “stained glass fine arts thang”.

So much of my life now is what comprised my plan B when I was still trying to fit into the “normal job, normal person” modality of life (and I think that’s a really important lesson for people in general! Have a plan B, and don’t be scared if it’s not everyone’s plan B. It doesn’t have to work for everyone. It just has to work for you.) For example, I fell into stained glass accidentally – as I mentioned above, I thought I was going to be a glassblower, and when I had the opportunity in college to try glassblowing, I realized that I didn’t particularly like it. Glassblowing is a team sport, and I’m so very much a loner that I probably border on “closet misanthrope”. And then the teaching thing wasn’t my cup of tea, so I think the lesson I needed to learn was to realize how much my personality has to factor into my Plan A: I’m a textbook Virgo, and an INTJ, so I appreciate that my chosen medium has self-limiting factors and rules. It can also be a solitary medium, and doesn’t have 30 children involved, so I wandered back to stained glass, dove in, and never really surfaced after that.

Q: What in particular do you find most satisfying about your work?

A: When I make a point to dedicate time to play around with crazy stuff that may never sell because it’s too out there. (Check out the photo of my tattooed sea turtle, that’s the kind of weird shit – is it okay to say shit? Edit it out if it’s not – that I really like to do.) (IS Note: That’s not the worst thing anyone’s ever said on my blog! 😀 )

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: I make my living from selling at 5 Renaissance Festivals a year (and then from sharing my weird life over on Patreon). So not only do I make the bulk of my income in half the year, but in essence, I have two very distinct and very different jobs: I spend six months of the year just making stuff and talking to my dog, and the other six face-to-face with the general public, talking them into giving me money for my art. Those two jobs require such different skill sets that the transition between them is always super challenging. Talking to people used to be the hardest thing, but I discovered I like eating, and talking to people is less hard than not eating, so you pick your battles really. I can pass as super extroverted, but that part of my job is nearly as challenging as the transition periods, but in a different way? I don’t know if I have good words to describe that innate difference in how they’re both very challenging, but not challenging in the same ways.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: Keep learning, whether that’s taking business classes, or art classes or both, and the minute you think you know it all, hang up your brushes. Don’t be afraid of failure, because failure just means it’s an ordinary Tuesday. Imposter syndrome (wondering how in the heck you get away with being who you are and why you’re “allowed” to do what you do) is real, and the monsters get bigger and meaner the more successful you get. So make sure you have good people around to not only tell you when you’re being an asshole, but to give you targeted praise that is from people that really know you. Try not to personalize the way people interact with you if you start to become a public figure, cause those interactions are really more about what they might need on that day. As for the stained glass side of things? I don’t get many people asking about my medium as a career pursuit. That’s kind of a lonely field, honestly, which is why I answered more in a “generic art business” way, but if you’re into stained glass, and new at it, and reading this: your solder seams won’t look very good for 5-10 years, that’s normal. Keep trying, and buy a rheostat for your iron so you can fine tune it as you go.

Q: What work are you most proud of, and why?

A: You mean, other than playing with a medium on a daily basis that can sever an artery faster than a run of the mill vampire? Probably starting an art business in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression on record, and succeeding at it. The glass art is my full time job and has been for several years now. That’s not to say that I’m not immensely proud of some of the pieces I’ve made, but I know they’ll be around long after I’m dead and gone. My business exists only so long as I’m here to captain the ship – and while that’s as it should be for any artist – I guess I’m more cognizant of watching the business ebbs and flows from a front row seat? I don’t really get to see my pieces much after I sell them – or the joy they bring on a daily basis from the front row – although I do have excited customers tell me that they wash dishes while looking at my work everyday and whatnot so that’s a total win, it’s just not as present in my everyday life as, say, the business end of things.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Yes. We (meaning Americans) are not a culture that is in the habit of supporting visual artists. We can all name famous film stars and famous musicians, but we really cannot name even a handful of current and successful visual artists. I would ask anyone reading this to change that, even on a micro-level. The next time you buy something that will decorate your life, buy it from a self-supporting artist, or someone who is trying to be so. Like skip the coffee mug from some nationally recognized name brand of brightly colored and mass produced stuff, and buy an actual pottery mug from an actual potter. If we (as a culture) want people who “make stuff” to continue to make stuff, then the big-box store focus of this country needs to change.

And lastly, Rachel, thank you so much for your time and this opportunity to be interviewed.

~ ~ ~

Check out more about Molly Sotherden online:

Website: http://MSotherdenArtGlass.com
Patreon: http://Patreon.com/MSotherden
Facebook: business: https://www.facebook.com/MSotherdenArtGlass/
Personal: https://www.facebook.com/molly.sotherden

 

 

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A Conversation with Adam Messer, Author

Adam Messer is a journalist and fiction writer, currently writing his way through a series that brings together two of my favorite things–vampires and heavy metal. He’s got a lot of good things to say on the subject, so I’ll let him take it away!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a little bit about yourself, and what brings you to writing and publishing?

A (Adam Messer): My name is Adam Messer, and I love helping others. I started writing and doing photography for the Savannah Morning News Do Savannah in 2014, and fell in love with writing and meeting people. As a journalist, I have had the opportunity to interview a lot of different people, and I would ask questions about doing things as an indie creator. There are a lot of talented people and with the way of self-publishing, entry level is open to everyone, but you have to do the work.

My background is in business and leadership. I love reading self development and leadership books, and am always learning. I decided I wanted to write and self publish as an extension of my creative side, and fiction is a natural fit for me. You can do anything you want with fiction; create your own world, characters, problems and solutions, and I feel that a good story also helps share the human condition.

Q: In addition to Blood Thrasher, you are also a newswriter, working for the Savannah Morning News. Can you talk about the similarities–and differences–between journalism and fiction? Do you see yourself primarily as a journalist or a fiction author? And why?

A: Journalism and fiction writing are similar and dissimilar. With journalism, you are held to a higher standard of reporting the
accurate and truthful facts without biasing it with your opinion. Print media with newspapers took a big hit this year with tariffs, and many newspapers have reduced the number of articles they are printing, but they are increasing more online multi-media and interactive media documents and articles for readers to engage in and with, and enjoy. People are inundated with clips, vids, soundbites, and advertising, so capturing someone’s attention is an ever changing platform. People will check out something that is interesting, but click away quicker and not return if it does not grab their attention within the first couple of seconds. Most people do not want to invest in reading through anything if it is too long.

I write about community events, not daily beat stuff such as politics and crime. I like to call it popcorn because it is light and fluffy, and people enjoy the event coverage. I have had the pleasure to interview celebrities like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dave Ramsey, Jerrod Niemann, and others, but I enjoy interviewing local people just as much. The idea of any interview is to be able to encapsulate the story for the audience as informative and entertaining without selling them on anything.

Fiction writing is a free for all. Sure there are tropes, and the hero’s journey, and formulaic storytelling we are used to consuming, but the world is whatever you want to make of it. I have been dabbling with self-publishing for a couple of years, and finally had a story I felt was worthy of printing.

I consider myself to be a creator, able to do both journalism and fiction writing, as well as other areas like photography, drawing, painting, etc. It all ties in together and benefits other areas.

Q: We keep hearing that the vampire novel is “dead” — and yet people keep reading and writing vampire fiction. Can you talk about your decision to write in the genre? What do you think keeps people fascinated by vampires and the genre overall?

A: Vampire lore is as old as storytelling. Humans created myths to explain the natural world around them, including monsters to explain away fear, control the masses, and make children obey their parents. I am a fan of vampire lore, and had the idea to write about the history of vampires in Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is considered the most haunted city in the US, but there is not a lot about vampires here. I decided to change that.

I think the perpetual myth of life after death is at the core of vampire lore. The idea of dying and coming back to life with supernatural powers gives a vampire a certain appeal. Some are monstrous, while others are charismatic and charming. Although they are powerful, their weakness is the need for blood because they cannot reproduce their own to live, so they must take it from other sources.

I feel that when a person can visualize a character and see part of themselves as the character, the story can take on a life of its own for the reader. The escapism allows the reader to become the character and live vicariously through their eyes for a little bit. They get to enjoy the highs, the lows, the adrenaline rush of a fight, or the unraveling of a mystery. I think people can relate to the problems the characters deal with in the stories. For example, in Blood Thrasher: The Devil’s in the Metal, Anna hates the glamour and fame of being the lead singer of the band. She also hates being a vampire.

Q: The novelette, Blood Thrasher, is the first in a planned series. What is coming up next for the characters we meet here?

A: The second novelette in the Savannah Vampire Novel series is called Blood Thrasher: Vinyl All Night.

Johnny, Anna and Greg escape the Order and go into hiding. Greg, the 900 year old renegade vampire, is nowhere to be found after he left for London to secure passage for them. Johnny and Anna move and assume new identities working in a grunge record store that is open from dusk til dawn. David’s obsession with vampire hunting puts him in imminent danger, jeopardizing his family and the Order.

When night falls, whose blood will be shed?

Q: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? Worst?

A: Write every day. Do the work. Finish it. Make it a discipline.

Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. Research online. Watch videos, read books, articles, and forum groups.

Worst…I think sometimes people who you may think are giving good advice to help offer bad advice unintentionally. For example, someone may act like they are more experienced than they are, so take any advice you get with a grain of salt and consider the source.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Act professionally. Take your writing career seriously, even if you are not making any money yet. Wherever you are in your journey, do not compare yourself to others. Learn from everyone, but set your own goals, and follow your own path. What works for others often will work for you, but you will have to adapt it to your own style.

Don’t take criticism personally. Don’t fall for troll bait. Don’t reply to negative comments on the internet. Don’t leave a review for your own book.

Do write. Do research. Do love what you are doing. If you cannot enjoy it, why do it?

Here is what I have learned about writing as a paid professional journalist, and a self-published author:

Write every day.
Write even when you don’t want to write.
Finish it.
Meet deadlines and be friendly.
You’ll learn as you go.
Learn to say Yes to opportunities.
You can do it.

Some people wait for inspiration to write. Forget that. Write daily. Write when you are happy. Write when you are sad and lonely. Write through pain. Write when you don’t feel like writing, but write. There is no mystical or magical path that opens up for the perfect writing scenario. Don’t wait for inspiration. Write to become inspired.

~ ~ ~

Photo by Molly Hayden.

Adam Messer is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. He moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1996 and fell in love with the grand city. He started writing for the Savannah Morning News Do Savannah in 2014, and is passionate about education. He founded The Savannah Quill, which is an author convention, in 2016, connecting writers and readers to promote literacy. He hosts Muses, Memoirs & More radio show on community radio station WRUU.org interviewing authors, artists, and entertainers.

He is the author of The Savannah Vampire Novel, with his first novelette Blood Thrasher: The Devil’s in the Metal.

Author page: https://amzn.to/2B2dOpx
Facebook: https://bit.ly/2vDXcPG
Muses, Memoirs & More : https://bit.ly/2OZtlsY
Blood Thrasher: https://bit.ly/2KMxY6x
Twitter: https://bit.ly/2nvP3Zo
Newsletter signup: https://bit.ly/2M9DaHa
Indie Authors & Readers Book Club : https://goo.gl/b8mc5N

 

 

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