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

New Release: Sealed With a Kiss

For immediate release! On January 29,  Boroughs Publishing Group will release a double-stacked Valentine’s Day compendium, Sealed With a Kiss. (Available now for pre-order in multiple digital formats.)

~ ~ ~

As readers of this blog may be aware, last year I started writing romance under the pen name, Becca A. Miles. My project is a romantic suspense series, set in Wilmington, N.C., which is one of my favorite places to vacation. This Valentine’s Day, one of my stories, “Sweetheart,” a novella that follows up my debut novel, Negotiating Her Release, will be available as part of a two-story collection with Marilyn Baxter’s “The Last Take-Away.” I’ve invited Marilyn to join me as we talk about our stories.

MARILYN: The Last Take-Away is contemporary romance and tells the story of both the hero (Drew Paxton) and heroine (Maggie Sullivan).  Because my editor liked the story so much, she’s asked me to develop this into a series, so it’s the beginning of the larger universe of St. Magnus Island, a small fictional barrier island off the coast of Georgia.

BECCA/IS: I love the idea of a novella that introduces us to a larger world. That is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading romance–in many cases, authors write not just books, but whole series, that allow the reader to spend time in the worlds that they love. My story, “Sweetheart,” is a romantic suspense that takes the characters from my first book, and puts them in a new predicament. It also introduces a few more of the characters that I’ll be sharing with readers in future stories. For example, there are two characters who seem like total and complete opposites. But here’s a romance pro-tip: If a character declares that another character is absolutely, totally, and definitely “Hot, but not my type …” well, I’ll let you be the judge.

I came to writing romance first as a reader who enjoyed the genre, but didn’t have much luck getting any ideas off the ground. Luckily, I had a mentor, romance author Emmy Curtis, who saw promise in my other writing and encouraged, bribed, tricked, and offered me resources to start plotting and creating this series.

Dancing on the Sand, by Marilyn Baxter.

MARILYN: My first published work was in my ex-husband’s government agency’s professional journal.  He was a federal auditor, and we were gypsies living all over the southeastern US for the first two years we were married.  I wrote a humorous article about living out of a suitcase for the southeast field office newsletter, and the regional manager liked it so much he sent it to Washington, DC for inclusion in the national journal.  I even got a nice plaque from the Comptroller General of the United States!  Fast forward to the early 2000’s.  I read in spurts in the years after college (Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Sidney Sheldon, Belva Plain to name a few) but in 2004 I discovered romance, and oh my gosh, I was captivated!  I especially loved category romance and devoured them.  I got to know a couple authors online and was asked to work for a now-defunct website as a reviewer.  A couple of those authors (one of whom is a brainstorming partner) encouraged me to write.  I dabbled and dawdled and took five years to finish my first book.  And a month after I finished it, my marriage fell apart.  It’s hard to write happily ever after when your own has ended.  But fast forward again a few years, and Boroughs had a novella contest I was a finalist in, and they not only published my novella but invited me to submit a full-length novel.  That novel was the five-year endeavor.  And I haven’t looked back.  Also, in and around the romance, I began writing for the confessions and romance magazines (True Confessions, True Romance, True Story) and sold about 50 stories and features to them before they closed shop last year.

BECCA/IS: One of the ways that I began to get a handle on how to write was to review the various romance novel tropes, and see which ones spoke to me. With a background that includes military service, a degree in criminal justice, and an interest in politics and high stakes, it seemed that romantic suspense was my most natural genre, and the alpha male/law enforcement/military was one of the tropes I was drawn to–with a twist! I love it when my male and female characters both live in that world. I also really enjoy opposites attract, friends to lovers, and character in peril, especially when they save themselves with the support and love of the other character. Surprisingly, my first novel, NHR, also uses a virgin trope. I’m not sure why that spoke to me, but I hope that people give it a chance!

Negotiating Her Release, by Becca A. Miles

MARILYN: I love marriage of convenience, friends to lovers, jilted bride and accidental pregnancy.  Least favorite?  Uhm… I haven’t read one yet I didn’t like.  Some are just more favorite than others.

After we talked about tropes, I asked Marilyn, what’s the most challenging thing about writing romance?

MARILYN: EVERYTHING!  I hear people say “I could write that,” and I want to challenge them to do it.  Creating a world and relatable characters with good motivation and conflict isn’t easy.  Or it isn’t easy for me.  Then you have to put it all together into a compelling story.  But struggle as I might, I always love the end result!

BECCA/IS: I don’t have much to add to that!

So what’s coming up next for us?

MARILYN: In addition to writing for Boroughs Publishing Group, I also write for Amazon Kindle Worlds, specifically Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot Bay Kindle World.  I’ve had two BBKW novellas released so far and my next project is another one to be released in July of this year.  It will feature a trope I haven’t tackled yet – the billionaire hero.  And I have no idea who he is yet.  ACK!

BECCA/IS: I’ve just submitted another novel in the series to Boroughs, and am currently working on researching and plotting the next book in the series. It’s been challenging, because I’m working on spending more time in my characters’ heads–and one of them is a serial killer! My goal is to share more of these stories, including writing more holiday-themed novellas, as they are just so much fun.

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If you enjoyed our conversation, please stop by our Facebook release party on Tuesday, January 30, from 5-10 pm! There will be some terrific authors present, awesome prizes, and much fun to be had. Also, you can check us out online, drop us a Tweet or a Facebook comment–we’d love to hear from you!

Visit Marilyn Baxter at her Web site:  www.marilynbaxter.com,

or via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

 

Visit me online at Facebook or Twitter! And stay tuned for more news and musings…

A Conversation with Tiffany Shand…

My guest this Wednesday is urban fantasy author Tiffany Shand, who is currently doing a virtual book tour for her new release, Shadow Walker. I wanted to ask her a few questions about herself and her work, including her approach to the craft and her work as an “authorpreneur.”

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your latest project?

A (Tiffany Shand): I’m an urban fantasy and non-fiction author and work as a professional editor. I started off writing stories as a child featuring my pets and did a creative writing course in my late teens. This really inspired me to publish my first novel back in 2015 and start writing professionally. Doing that also introduced me to editing. I love working with and helping other authors on their books and making them the best they can be.

Q: On your website, you talk about how writing helped you through the transition to home-schooling when you had to leave school. Can you talk a little more in detail about that? What made you pick up writing, as opposed to another form of creativity?

A: Transitioning from senior school to home-schooling was very strange for me at first. I had to leave school because of ongoing health problems and having to go to hospital frequently. Writing became a way of coping with that difficult transition and it really helped me to have something else to focus on rather than my health problems. I’d been writing for a long as I could remember and having more free time on my hands without going to school gave me the chance to explore my creativity more and write things I hadn’t written before, such as non-fiction.

Writing had always been a big part of my life and had always been a creative outlet for me. I always loved crafting out stories and watching my characters come to life. To me there is no better form of creativity than that and that’s why it appealed to me most.

Q: You also spoke about using the Dragon voice recognition software. I’m very interested in this–were there any changes you had to make in your writing process when going from physically writing to writing using Dragon? If so, what were they? How did you work through them?

A: I mainly started using Dragon dictation software because typing became physically painful and tiring for me due to having disabilities that affect my hands and joints. My rheumatologist mentioned dictation software to me and my grandparents were nice enough to buy me a basic version of Dragon software one Christmas. I found it very strange at first talking to my computer and watching it write out words for me. My writing process didn’t change that much, I still wrote stories by hand but instead of typing them I used the Dragon to put them on computer. This actually proved to be a lot quicker than typing as my Dragon types a lot faster than I physically can and also saves me from hurting my hands.

Today I still write all of my first draft fiction stories using good old-fashioned pen and paper, then transfer it onto computer using my Dragon. I have tried typing or using my Dragon to do a first draft, but I don’t find it as creatively inspiring. The only thing I find frustrating about my Dragon is that it sometimes writes things that sound nothing like what I have said to it and it seems to have a mind of its own!

Q: What made you choose urban fantasy as your genre? Who are your inspirations?

A: I got bored of contemporary fiction and fantasy in my late teens so I started reading other genres. I read one book by Kim Harrison which is what introduced me to the urban fantasy genre. This was very different from anything else I had previously read, and I fell in love with the genre and naturally started writing in it. Kim Harrison is one of my inspirations, as are authors such as Cheyenne McCray and Kresley Cole.

Q: I like the word you use on your site, “authorpreneur.” What advice would you give writers looking to get better at the business side of the craft?

A: I would say treat publishing as the business and remember that it is a business. Writers aren’t just writers nowadays, they have to be entrepreneurs as well. Don’t try to do everything yourself such as editing, cover design, or marketing, delegate where you can. Don’t overwhelm yourself with everything, take it one step at a time. Remember that you get better with every book, try to study writing craft and make your book the best it can be.

~ ~ ~

More about Shadow Walker

After her enforcer teammates are killed in a bust gone wrong, Denai witch Charlie McCray struggles to carry on working the job without them. Using her gift of communicating with the dead, she’s determined to get justice and find those responsible no matter what. But her only clue to go on is a mysterious orb with a deadly reputation that everyone wants to get their hands on.

The only one who may be able to help her figure out their deaths, and the connection to the orb, is the dark and sexy demon from her past. Convinced she’s his life mate, to her denial, Charlie isn’t happy to see him again. Can they really work together as partners to track down the truth whilst ignoring the ever-growing attraction between them?

Genres: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Length: 111 pgs.
Add to Your Shelf on Goodreads
Purchase Your Copy from Amazon

Marketing is hard…

As we enter the New Year, I do what I normally do, which is sit down to sketch out my plan for the year. Some of that I’ve put here in my last post, some is still hanging out as an outline in my bullet journal, and some remains to be uncovered in the book I’m currently reading, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (more on this, just scroll down a bit.)

One thing that has changed from previous years is that this time, I’ve set up a system of tracking what I am doing which will enable me to identify areas of effort that are performing, underperforming, or actually quite lucrative. My brain does well with systems that allow me to fill in numbers and see, in a tangible way, what I am doing.

Also, I spent some time, money, and effort in previous years on things that did not really do anything except waste all three.

The first thing to do, though, is get some words down. I’m putting off a few submission goals until I complete the two series I’ve got going on now. The intended result is to improve my craft, and build an audience through giving readers a full series instead of just a one-off. (It will also, with luck, demonstrate to any future agents I query that I have the ability to stick with writing a series, which is pretty important in the genre work I prefer.)

I will talk about my Patreon page, which falls in here somewhere and is intended to create a community of storytellers through coaching, but I’ll hit that at length at a later time. Although you can definitely check it out if you’ve been thinking about wanting to write your own stuff. I won’t stop you. 😉

The next thing is to build social media through connections and interactions. I’m under no illusions that I will sell books through Twitter, but again, it’s a way to demonstrate to readers and potential agents/publishers that I am more established and serious about what I’m doing. Connections and interactions are another reason that I’m applying to various conventions and conferences as a panelist and workshop leader. My theory is, if people want to read books or hire someone as a coach, they are more likely to do so if they’ve met that person in real life, and are able to then connect with them (me) online. So I have some shiny new bookmark/business cards, and a couple of dates in 2018.

The last thing, and this is courtesy of The New Rules book referenced above, is taking a look at how I can use content to gain a wider audience. (I realize I’m burying the lede here, but bear with me.) I’m about halfway through the book, but what grabs me as Mr. Scott’s central concept, is the idea that we’ve gone beyond marketing and public relations to a new concept of communicating and interacting on an authentic basis. The book delves into tactical-level concepts and courses of action, but the overall idea is that an author, or an organization, or a corporation, etc., must find a way to engage an audience of both potential buyers and non-potential buyers. (I know, what? I gotta talk with people who have no intention of buying my book?) This communication then shapes the general perception of that organization.

While much of what I write is available on places like Amazon or my publisher’s Web site, or at my Patreon, I wanted to find a way to continue to share content that would be the basis of interaction. And I specifically wanted that content to come from articles and interviews with a wide variety of interesting people doing interesting things. While some of them may be authors, or poets, or journalists, I also wanted to interview nurses, and scientists, and crafters, etc.

When I first started this Web site, I had a page called “Characters and Conversations.” I still entitle my interviews “A Conversation with …” My goal is that in inviting people to come on here and talk about who they are and what they do, these articles will spur more conversation and invite more people to join us.

If you are an author, or someone who works in any sort of capacity with trying to generate interest in, publicity for, or interaction with any sort of organization (or your sole proprietorship), I can’t recommend this book enough. It comes with a lot of great suggestions and stories, as well as a full online presence, and a blog.

I also suggest checking out the Twitter hashtag #bookmarketingchat as well as The Author Biz Podcast. Find what works for you, even if you have to do a little experimenting to figure that out. (Don’t forget to track your data and set your benchmarks!) And if you figure out the magic overnight secret to amazing online book success, feel free to share in the comments. 😉

Happy Writing!

 

Meet the New Year…

…with any luck, it won’t be the same as the old year.

To be fair, while 2017 was challenging at times, there were still some really great parts of it. For one, we welcomed our newest addition to the family, baby Jennifer. I got to spend time with friends and family, traveling to both the Pennsic War for the first time in almost twenty years, and heading down to Dragon*Con on our annual pilgrimage. I marched in my first protest, and then my second. My romance writing got picked up by Boroughs Publishing, and I made the decision to rebrand and relaunch the Rick Keller series. Also, I won NaNoWriMo for the first time in a really long time.

2017 was also a time of learning. I took a hard look at what I wanted to do as a writer and writing coach. In a manner that was half-experiment and half-throwing pasta at the wall to see if it’s done, I tried a bunch of different things, from a SkillShare account (too much noise to signal ratio), to sitting my butt down and putting words on paper (very effective!), to starting a bullet journal (so far, pretty helpful.)

So, coming up to 2018, I’ve got a few, focused goals and actions.

  1. Finish the Wilmington romance series for Boroughs Publishing. Grow my audience through social media and blogging.
  2. Finish and relaunch the Rick Keller Project for Untold Press.
  3. Finish more than just the first book of the Blues series and write my submission plan.
  4. Expand/promote my Patreon page to not only attract followers, but build a community of storytellers.

I’m also going to pursue attending conventions and workshops as a presenter/panelist. So far in 2018, you’ll find me at Arisia in Boston, where I’ll be leading three panels, two workshops, and sitting on a few more. Then, in March, I’ll be at the Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference, where I’ll be leading a workshop on writing military heroes.

If you’re going to be at one of these locations, drop me a line! Let me know if you’ll be stopping by. If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year you finally sit down to write that story/novel/memoir, get in touch, or stop by Patreon, and let’s make a plan.

2018 is going to be great. Let’s do this!

 

A Conversation with Lonnie Wilson

Today’s conversation is with Lonnie Wilson, a fellow former military police officer, and current project manager on the civilian side. I asked him to talk to me about his decision to leave the military, the transition process, and where he is on his current journey. Without further introduction, let’s get started…

Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you sketch me a quick bio, tell me a little bit about yourself, especially as it relates to where you are right now in your career?

A (Lonnie Wilson): I enlisted in the Army Reserves in the summer 2005 and spent most of three years as both reservist and a ROTC Cadet through the Simultaneous Membership Program. I then entered the active duty Army in 2008 where I served as an officer in the Military Police Corps until late 2017.

I joined the Army for three reasons:

  1. Service to country. I wanted to do my part, regardless of the political motives behind the war in Iraq.
  2. Educational benefits. I had dropped out of college in the fall of 2004 and wanted assistance in returning to complete my Bachelor’s degree.
  3. Increased social mobility. I lived near an active duty Army base and viewed the Army, particularly the active duty Army, as a sure path towards increased social mobility for myself and for my family.

My original goal for my Army career was to complete company command and then decide whether or not I wanted to stay in for a 20 year retirement. I completed company command in 2015 and decided to PCS once more, which would allow me to complete a Master’s degree while in the Army. During my time at this duty station, I decided to leave the Army. I did not leave the Army because I hated it, but I do believe it was time for me to move on. I had little desire to progress in the Army and had become increasingly interested in finding a civilian career with meaning that I could potentially build a career around while I still felt “young”. I’ve put in about 9 years in active duty and need to serve either another 11 years in active duty or 8 years in the reserves to qualify for retirement. I left this second door open by remaining in the IRR, but have no intention of using it.

I used Alliance Careers to assist in my transition from an active duty Army officer to a civilian. I looked into several similar companies and chose Alliance because of the personalized feel their experience provided, as well as success stories from some of my colleagues. Alliance places junior military officers in corporate careers, typically in the fields of engineering, operations, and business to business (B2B) sales. Beginning about a year from my projected separation date, I participated in collaborative web training sessions with the team at Alliance. These classes were self-scheduled, typically required a read-ahead and often coincided with the recommended reading list. The team at Alliance also offered in-depth interview preparation with multiple mock interviews, both telephonic and in person. Alliance holds multiple hiring conferences each year for their candidates. The hiring conference experience could not have gone smoother. Alliance did an excellent job pairing me with companies that matched my interests and desired locations.

I began terminal leave in October and began working about two weeks later. I now work for a global concrete forming and shoring company. In other words, my company provides formwork, braces, scaffolding, etc., that support concrete during the construction of large building projects. My company also provides engineering support and rents the previously mentioned equipment to contractors. Every project is unique, but a typical project could be a parking garage or condos/apartment buildings, often more than 15 stories tall. My current position is that of a project manager and I intend to move into a sales role eventually.

Q: We originally met at the Captains Career Course. Talk to me about your decision to leave the Army for civilian life–what were some of the factors involved? What was the deciding factor?

A: There were many reasons why I wanted to leave the military. One was to give my family more stability and not move so often. Unfortunately I went through a divorce during my separation from the Army, so my reason of leaving the Army for family stability was ultimately unimportant. Another reason was that I noticed that some officers who stayed in for 20 years struggled to find meaningful employment while those who left mid-career often had an easier time finding a great career. I watched several of my peers transition to civilian careers and earn more money with greater job satisfaction, and knew I could do the same. I also questioned whether or not I would be competitive for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel if I stayed in. I did not want to waste some of the most productive years of my life in the Army, only to be sidelined in 5-6 years.

Unfortunately, I had become tired of the Army. Perhaps I was the proverbial “disgruntled captain”, but I was tired of people that hung around for “easy money” and tired of the military police corps; I freely admit that I was never passionate about law enforcement.

Last but not least, I wanted to leave the Army because I wanted a career that I was passionate about. Early on, I hoped that the Army would give me this career satisfaction, but it was not to be. I wanted to leave and become an expert in my field, whatever that field might be. This may seem like the least tangible of reasons, but it was probably the most important reason of why I left.

Q: During your transition from the military, what advice did you find helpful on the outside? What advice did you find less than helpful?

A: Alliance Careers did a wonderful job helping me to learn how to present myself in interviews and what to expect in the civilian sector. Advice that was less than helpful was from people who thought I should just “stay in” until retirement. I’m not sure I would have made it to retirement, and I really wasn’t enjoying being in the military anymore. I would not give anybody advice that basically says, “Just suck it up for another 12 years”.

The worst part of leaving the Army was defining success. It was difficult for me to “know” what I wanted to do as a civilian. What is success and what does success look like? In the Army it’s simple because it’s tied to a position and a rank. As a civilian it could literally be anything, money, fame, a simple life, a position, travel, possessions, family, hobbies, etc. There simply isn’t an answer that works across the board in the civilian sector. It’s up to the individual to decide, and then pursue that goal.

The issue of defining success is something that is vital to us all, whether we choose to stay in the Army of get out. We need to be mindful of how we position ourselves so that we can best achieve our goals.

I now feel connected to my roots through construction as I was a construction worker before college. I like the people I work with and found a forgotten, or perhaps sidelined, passion for construction (I had forgotten this), and there is the potential to make a lot of money. My last day of terminal leave passed without my realization. I do not miss the Army.

Q: Talk to me about your current job–what are some of the skillsets necessary to be successful?

A: Some of the job specific skillsets in my field are: The ability to read and understand blueprints, organization, attention to detail, the ability to manage a large number of complex problems at once, and people skills – selling a solution. I had most of these skills, although I had to brush up on blueprints.

Q: What, if any, of your military experience/training do you find helpful in your civilian career? What might you find to be less than helpful?

A: The military does a decent job of teaching leaders stress management. I learned the value in placing “the mission first,” and the ability to apply systematic approaches to problems (Troop Leading Procedures, Military Decision Making Process, etc.). I use basic organization skills honed during my time in the Army, such as creating and using execution matrixes to do routine things routinely every day.

Less than helpful: This is probably a really long list, but the one thing I’ve noticed a lot is that despite ‘never having enough people and constantly being overworked’, the Army has too many people for the work they put out. Civilians often do more work with less people. I understood that when I got out I would probably be working harder than I’ve ever worked in the Army, initially for less money, with less benefits.

This does not mean that getting out is a bad idea. Just like the Army you may need to pay your dues up front so that you are better off in 5-10 years. You can’t be afraid to start over.

Q: Where would you like to go next in your career? Life goals? 

A: I want to become the best project manager in the company and then become a sales rep. I want to create a training plan for future project managers so that they are able to become effective in less time.

Less than a year after divorce, my life goals are still in a state of flux. What I do know is that I want to provide for my children to the best of my ability, and that I want to simplify my life and be less materialistic. More than anything, I want to be mindful, to be happy in the present, to be healthy, and enjoy the outdoors every chance I get. If I can do these things, I will consider myself successful.

Q: What advice would you give to someone transitioning from the military? What advice would you give to someone interested in the same career?

A: If you’re not happy in the military, do not put off getting out because of money. My advice is to not waste your time “easing yourself out” through the National Guard or Reserves, either. Those organizations often take up more of your time than you realize, especially as an officer, and will hinder your ability to be effective in your new career.

Do make a plan! Set some money aside and be realistic about the cost of getting out. There will be higher taxes and health insurance is expensive! Look around you and see what your paycheck buys you. Does all that stuff make you happy? Learn to live with less before you get out if you think you are going to take a pay cut (and you probably will for the first year or so).

Don’t let mandatory job qualifications stand in the way of the career you really want. If you can’t figure out how to get in front of the right person and convince them that you are awesome and they should hire you, maybe the Army is a good fit for you for just a bit longer. You’ve got to be confident!

My advice to someone in a similar career field: Alliance helps place people in three career fields: Engineering, B2B Sales and Operations. I think that’s a pretty good way to approach the civilian job market, maybe with the addition of Entrepreneurship. There are pros and cons to each. My advice to people entering B2B sales is to do so with caution. It’s an “eat what you kill” environment, so make sure you understand the hunting and farming landscape and take a good assessment of your abilities before jumping in. I insisted on entering the environment as a project manager rather than a sales rep because I wanted a stable income while I was learning the ropes.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Happiness is something you create for yourself. Nobody can tell you what happiness is for you, and nobody can make you happy. You can’t make anyone else happy either, but you can share happiness, and that’s the best part of life.