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

 

 

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

 

 

Target: Weekend Reading!

As I’m typing away on the latest installment in the Rick Keller Project, I’m realizing that my suspense thriller, Soft Target, isn’t getting much love. Since I’m pretty close to the last book of the RKP series, I’m looking ahead at what to start next.

I originally envisioned Soft Target as the beginning of a Target series, but to be honest, the world of indie publishing wasn’t as robust as it currently is, and I wasn’t yet at the point where writing and coaching was my full-time gig. Now, I’m starting to think it’s time to dust off the copious series notes I made and get this book out there.

What does that mean? Well, this weekend, I’m making it super easy for you to check out the series. I’ve got the Kindle edition set for Free-Fifty on Amazon all weekend long. Stop by, take a look, and settle in for the weekend! (And if you like it, I wouldn’t turn down a review!)

* * *

Soft Target
Rachel A. Brune
Pick up a free copy this weekend!

Mark is a cub reporter looking for his big break. Scott is a New York City cop, trying to fit back into his life after a tour of duty in the Middle East. They’re about to discover a plot that will bring the city to its knees.

A Conversation with the Team Behind Querent…

Last Arisia, I met up with a fellow author, fiber artist, and all around interesting individual who also is creating a game incubator. They were talking about this project online, and I happened to see a post about the game’s character creation process. It struck me that this would be an excellent way to create a character for a novella I was working on, but it also seemed like a cool game that I might want to try out in the future. Through my contact, I asked the team to come on the blog to talk about their project. They are just two weeks out from launching a Kickstarter, so go drop them a follow (info at the bottom) and see what they’ve got going on!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Querent seems to be in the beginning stages of the project. Can you tell me a bit about what the project is going to be, and where you are in the process?

A (Querent Team): Querent has actually been in development since about February. It started out as an independent class project for Kayla and Mish, with the intent to get enough of a proof of concept that we could start developing it into something that could be on Kickstarter.
Now we are working on developing a full roleplaying game with tarot cards. We’ve completed our personality creation spread, and we have plans down the line to create a secondary background spread for players who want to go even more in-depth into developing their characters. Right now we are working on story generation spreads. We have one that outlines a story, and another that follows the Hero’s Journey structure for storytelling. We’ve tested all of these but are looking forward to developing them more in-depth!

We hope to make a roleplaying game that gives players and GMs the freedom to tell a story, and keep a story moving, without having to juggle stats or roll dice. Everything is narrative-based and story-driven, while still allowing for freedom from the players. Currently, we are working on creating content and testing our different “spreads” so we can revise and adapt for the final product.

As far as art goes, Amila’s current process is contributing to the design and layout of our book, as well as creating any other assets needed by our designers. A stretch goal for us is to create a custom deck of tarot cards that is unique to Querent, but that’s a very time and labor intensive project for our artist so she’ll either be chipping away at it slowly throughout the school year, or if a grant Amila applied for is approved, then she’ll get to work on it as a part time job and complete it much more quickly!

Q: In the world of tabletop games, what makes Querent unique? What might seem familiar to tabletop gamers?

A: Querent is unique in a number of ways! Our biggest difference is the fact that we use tarot cards instead of dice. Tarot cards are subjective and we use them to create a random, yet personal experience as the players get to interpret for themselves what the cards mean. Using cards helps to make sure that every experience is unique but that the player still has flexibility to interpret their cards as they wish.

We still want to incorporate familiar elements, like character sheets and the whole character creation process, and we also want to incorporate campaigns / campaign generating and a way for players to handle and play through encounters that isn’t reliant on dice rolls. We want it to have enough familiar elements that players of other tabletop roleplaying games can pick it up quickly.

Q: What are/were some of the personal challenges in creating this project?

Kayla: The game itself has been the easier part for me, because we have had a pretty clear vision of what we wanted it to be from the start. What’s been hard has been getting on the path to put this game onto Kickstarter. There’s so many new skills (like social media, marketing, business, finance) that we’re having to learn–we’re basically starting our own small business! There is so much logistical information to learn and to sort out and there’s still work to be done before our Kickstarter campaign in October.

Mish: The biggest personal challenges that came up mostly came from the fact that Querent wasn’t our full time jobs over the summer. We all had other jobs/internships which we had to prioritize, so simply having time to complete the project was a challenge. We had to adjust the amount of work we promised to do so that it would fit our busy lives! Overall, though, this has been one of the smoothest projects that I have ever worked on, and I really have to thank the rest of the team for that.

Amila: We’ve managed really well to work remotely together so far, but going into the school year I could see that being a challenge. We’re all pretty good at communicating though so we’d just have to make sure to continue that.

Q: What are/have been some of the personally satisfying moments in creating the game?

Kayla: For me, some of the early playtests of the game were hugely satisfying. They let Mish and I know that we really had something with this game idea and that we needed to develop it further and past just a class project. This was really inspiring and whenever we test we get at least a few people that really enjoy our game.

Mish: Testing, by far, has been most rewarding. Although we are obviously had a lot of changes to make, people seemed to genuinely enjoy playing our game, and that’s always good to see! Right from the beginning, we knew were onto something based on the response from testers.

Amila: Seeing people’s excitement for our game on social media and during QA testing.

Q: When people are playing this game, what do you hope they will get from it? How is the experience designed to give them that experience?

A: We want the player to get an experience that really seems unique to them, as if they were “meant” to be part of and connected to the world they are playing in. We want them to get invested in the character they created and the story itself in a way that other game[s] don’t allow. We have designed this through the use of tarot cards. The way that the cards work allow for a degree of randomness in interpretation, but also allows the player to project into the characters what they think the card means, giving them some control over the character and with world without having to come up with all this information from scratch. We really want to help players and GMs create rich experiences.

Q: What’s coming up next for Querent?

A: Right now we are working on an outline spread that would help players create the outline of a campaign that they can play through. As soon as we can get the content done we want to start to test it out with new players as well as GMs/DMs (gamemaster/dungeonmaster) of existing RPGs to see how playable our generated campaigns turn out.

We also have our Kickstarter campaign coming up at the beginning of October!

Q: Anything to add?

A: Thank you, Rachel, for this opportunity! We can’t wait to see how our game can work for you!

If anyone wants to follow our process, you can find and follow us at:

Twitter – @QuerentGame
Instagram – @QuerentGame
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/querentgame
Website – https://querentgame.com/

 

Special Update: The Hotter They Come!

THE HOTTER THEY COME
Roxanne D. Howard
The Hotter They Come
Series: Romancing the Seas Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, Romantic Comedy, Holiday Romance
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
When Piper’s job sends her undercover to spy on Jack – the beyond sexy hook-up she can’t stop thinking about – she is forced to decide if her job is more important than her happiness.
HAPPINESS HAS A PRICE
Captain Jack Spencer owns and runs a whale watching company, Ahoy, Matey. When his business takes off, a jealous rival wants him and his company gone. Jack has no idea the delectable Piper Goldhirsch is tasked with scuttling everything he’s worked for – he’s too caught up in their magnetic attraction and her web of lies.
Piper Goldhirsch, head reporter for the tabloid TV show Business Buster, is all work and no play. When she and the all too tempting Jack Spencer have a one-night stand that turns out to be the greatest sex of her life, she is haunted by the powerful magic between them. Sent undercover to expose his whale watching business, she is torn between her assignment and the first man she has ever wanted. With her happiness on the line, Piper has only one choice.

Excerpt

She lifted her bare foot. He held her ankle with more delicacy than she’d expected from such a big man. As he slid the flat back onto her foot, his thumb grazed the indent near her anklebone. She shivered at the sensation. This close, the ocean blue of his eyes shone with intensity as he watched her. What did he look like beneath the costume and makeup? She’d noticed his sexy, crooked smile and the roguish way the corner of his mouth lifted up, as if he knew something she didn’t. His fingers wrapped around the back of her ankle, then stopped. She met his hungry eyes and nudged her leg forward into his hand. His fingers slid up an inch further, moving in a slow, barely there caress.
“I realize it’s none of my business,” he said. “But earlier, out in the ballroom…I don’t know what your friends said or did to make you upset, but if I can help at all, I’d like to.”
“I’m okay. Just shaking something off.” She took a sip from the wine bottle as she watched him. She moved her foot closer to his chest urging his hand closer to her calf. His long fingers stroked her flesh.
She closed her eyes. “Mmm, that feels nice. Don’t worry about what they said. You got a name, pirate?”
“Jack.”
His tone was serious. She looked back down at him and smirked. Two could play that game.
“Oh, of course. You’re Captain Jack, and I’m Little Red Riding Hood. C’mere.” He stood and met her eye to eye. At five feet nine, she often had a vantage point in height in the workplace, which served her well when she wanted to be intimidating, but he had well over four inches on her, easy. His big, muscular frame towered over her. She took another sip of wine and walked her fingers up the buttons of his waistcoat. “Can I level with you, Captain Jack?”
“Yes.”
She pushed aside the question of why she felt so at ease with him when all she’d wanted was to be alone and smoothed her palm over his white pirate shirt, his strong pectoral muscles firm beneath her fingers. When she next spoke, her voice broke as she remembered why she’d sought solace in the first place; she’d gotten a man and his whole family deported.
“See, I’ve had a hell of a hard year. I’ve pushed myself and made magic happen in ways I didn’t think I’d ever be able to, but that magic comes at a price, and I’m not okay with it. Every single day, people want a piece of me. And on normal days, I can handle it. But right now, all I want to do, since you’re here,” she moved closer, her lips inches from his, “and I’m here, is to forget it all and make some magic of our own I can hold onto, even if it’s just this little moment.”
His chest rose and fell as he scanned her. Clarity and kindness were evident in his eyes beneath the desire, and she knew she could have a little fun with him. She noticed that his palms clenched the more she rubbed against him. She smirked, grabbed the lapels of his waistcoat, and crashed her lips onto his.
THE WOMAN WAS unreal. Her thick, pouty lips moved against his, and no sooner had she kissed him full on the mouth than he seized her around her wasp-sized waist and laid claim. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, and her curves were soft and perfect in his hands. His tongue sought entrance to her mouth, and she met him eagerly. She tasted like strawberries and wine, and he groaned as his fingers slipped into her curls. It had been forever since he’d kissed a woman. She scored full check marks in every category, and then some.
Chances were she merely wanted a nice make-out session, but his body already demanded more. He wrapped his arms around her, spanned his hand against her back, and traveled down to the curve of her delectable ass. She shivered against him; the movement went straight to his hardened cock. He nipped her lower lip as he squeezed her bottom.
“Oh, you are one big firecracker, aren’t you? Tell me your name.”
She wrapped her ankle around the back of his calf as she hauled him in close. “No names,” she breathed.
He kissed her and moaned when she rubbed her core against him through their clothes. All right, he’d play along. For now. But he would take the lead.

About Roxanne D. Howard

Roxanne D. Howard

Roxanne D. Howard writes sizzling erotic romance with Boroughs Publishing Group and The Wild Rose Press. She is a U.S. Army veteran, and a Columbia College alumni. She loves to read poetry, classical literature, and Stephen King. Also, she is an avid Star Wars fan, musical theater nut, and marine biology geek. Roxanne resides in the western U.S., and when she’s not writing, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, children, and furry companions. Roxanne loves to hear from her readers, and encourages you to contact her via her website and social media.
Join Roxanne’s Newsletter: http://roxannedhoward.com/subscribe/
Social media links: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Bookbub

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A Conversation with Josh Macias, Photographer…

I met Josh when my spouse and I first moved to Texas a few years ago. They had gone to high school together, and we finally got the chance to head down to San Antonio, enjoy some of the sights, and spend time with him and his family. When we were there, he was just getting into photography. Now, a few years later, I enjoy catching up via social media and taking a look at the work he’s doing. I invited him to come on the blog to talk about photography, and in particular, his work with Beyond the Canvas, a bodypaint-focused art project … but I’ll let him take over from here.

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 (Josh Macias): I am a photographer, for the past 10 years I’ve specialized in portraits & events. My work can be found on FB: Dreamland Studios & Beyond the Canvas.

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: I’ve always loved looking through photos, yearbooks, fashion & travel magazines, but most of all National Geographic; those were my favorite.

Photo by Josh Macias

The first time I saw the NG cover with Steve Mccurry’s famous (Afghan girl), I can’t say that this was the defining moment that I decided “I would be a photographer,” but I will always remember how that image made me feel. It was sad, beautiful, haunting, it was so simple but captivating—the definition of a great photo.

I actually never planned on being a photographer. I was a music major—the saxophone & clarinet were my passion. I wanted to play Jazz & travel, I wanted to be a part of big ensembles & record movie scores.

But life doesn’t always pan out how you plan it. Not having a creative outlet, I spent years in a slump until I found photography.

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

A: To be able to create & capture a moment in time—”super cliché, right?—to be able to preserve a moment that may never happen again, to see someone smile or get emotional over a moment I captured is the moment I live for.

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’re] looking to get into photography, do a little research, talk to a few photographers especially photographers that are shooting the subject matter you are interested in.

Also, gear is not everything. You don’t have to spend thousands for top of the line when you’re learning.

Advice I’m always giving for someone hoping to learn from me is, “You have to study!” I’m constantly studying. I’m good, but I didn’t start out that way; I got a D in my first photo class.

I’m always working on composition & lighting, I study & analyze lighting in my favorite movies. I save images that inspire me so that I can draw inspiration from them for future shoots.

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

A: For the past 4 years I’ve been the lead photographer & Co director for Beyond the Canvas which is an art organization focused on body art, or body painting, which is one of the oldest forms of art.

A normal bodypaint can take up to 6 hours to paint & may last an hour, which makes a photographer an important part of the process.

I’ve not only documented the growth of the artists & artwork of this group, I’ve contributed to the growth & recognition of this community to an international level.

Q: Do you ever work with a team? What are some things you do to make creativity work when you’re working together with people?

A: I do from time to time work with a team. I always try & put together a story board from ideas I’ve pulled from either magazines or images saved on my phone.

I will share these images with the MUA [makeup artist], Hair & model before the shoot so that everyone can get a good understanding of what I want to create.

Q: Can you talk a bit more specifically about Beyond The Canvas – where it is, how long you’ve been with them, the people, getting the right shot?

A: Beyond the Canvas is both an Art Community as well as an Organization based out of San Antonio, Tx., & its primary focus is bodyart.

The people that make up BTC are comprised of Artists (ranging from beginner to advanced), models which we call Canvases (for obvious reasons), photographers & videographers.

I’ve been with BTC for five years & the Lead Photographer for four. In that time, I’ve also taken the roll of Assistant director & Brand Ambassador, helping to create a bigger platform & more awareness to the Art scene here in SATX.

BTC holds regular paint jams & workshops where we bring in famous artists from around the world to teach.

BTC is also the host of the Texas Bodypaint Competition, a yearly contest that has grown from just a few local artists to now an international event that brings artists & performers from all over the world to SATX to compete for the title of TBPC Champion.

Even though I don’t paint, this group has challenged me in so many ways as an artist.

My method to “getting the right shot” has been with a Creative Journalistic approach. I document the process from start to finish & cannot influence the scene in any way during the painting process.

I can’t move the artist or canvas to get the shot; I have to find that candid shot to tell the story.

Once painting is over, then it’s me & the Canvas. I push them to embody the story that has just been created on their body.

The pressure of creating a beautiful bodypaint portrait is a real thing. A full bodypaint can take upwards of 6+ hours & only exists for a short time, then it literally is washed down the drain. There’s NO GOING BACK.

Bodyart portraits are a balanced equation. (Artist + Canvas)time + Photographer = X

If one of those variables is off, then the final product is mediocre at best.

 

Please, give me patience…

Writing bad guys? Or do you mean … my biography?

This past week has been an exercise in patience, thanks to the ever-labyrinthine world of military health care bureaucracy. And military child care bureaucracy. And some other military bureaucracy. Don’t get me wrong. A few hours spent in the house that makes you mad (free digital copy of Cold Run and Night Run to the person who can tell me that reference) is a small price to pay for the services that come with success in navigating your way through. But I still have to take a few stops to breathe deeply and remind myself to be polite and firm and not lose it on the person on the other end who is just trying to do their job, and is also mostly just trying to help me as much as they can within the limits they’ve been given.

Not much writing is getting done today in the sense of words on page. However, I have had some breakthroughs with characters. The novella (novelette?) I’m working on introduces a new team, and a bunch of new people, and I’m trying to work on characters who are stretching my boundaries. I’ve actually got a pretty fun character exercise lined up that I’ll share later this week or next, in conjunction with an interview with the folks at Querent, who are creating a tarot-based tabletop game.

I’ve also got an interview coming up Monday with an old friend who is an awesome photographer. Can’t wait to share!

In the meantime, I’ve got a batch of mini-bagels to finish baking for the art show tonight, and I need to burn off some of this bureaucracy head steam by folding some laundry. As blog posts go, this is pretty mundane. On the other hand, more exciting stuff will be coming up, so stay tuned!

(And let me know if you catch that reference… 😉 )

An abundance…

Lately, I have not been blessed by an abundance when it comes to getting words down on paper. I own this as my fault. I’ve packed a number of activities and errands into my life, and have therefore made it very easy to procrastinate by doing those activities or running those errands.

However, in setting up one thing (childcare) that would enable me to free the hours needed for writing and my part time job, I stumbled into the necessity of setting up another thing (full-time student status) that would enable me to keep that childcare. The military prioritizes those who can show full-time employment or student status. Since my employment is all over the place, at first I wasn’t sure how to approach this. But then, I pulled up old, reliable Google, and searched: Online MFA.

Up popped a program from one of these schools that is expanding with an eye to attracting military and nontraditional students. I’ve worked with these in the past, both attending and then teaching when I was in Kuwait. They are usually very good about online learners, and know exactly how to help people like me, a Reservist, veteran, and military spouse.

About 60 seconds after submitting an inquiry, I got a call from a military admissions counselor who waived the admissions fee, walked me through the process (basically did the application for me), requested transcripts, let me know which schools I still needed transcripts from, and then sent me an email with everything laid out in order of what I needed to do.

Holy cow. Guess this was happening. Guess I was really applying for an MFA in Creative Writing. With a graduate certificate in teaching writing.

Oh, and by the way, I also decided to apply as an adjunct in their criminal justice and communications department.

I don’t know if any of these options will pan out. I do think that having deadlines and feedback will help get me moving.

Of course, now I’m sitting here procrastinating from writing my personal statement (200-300 words about how someone’s story inspired you to become a writer), by blogging about how I am having a hard time picking just one inspiration because I’ve been blessed by an abundance of amazing teachers and writers, who have ALL inspired me in some way or another.

At least, that’s what I was planning on blogging about. Oh well. There’s my brain dump. Better go back, make some tea, and get these words done so I can finish moving on with this unexpected life plot twist!

Peace.

A Conversation with Lara Coutinho, Capocomico…

Lara Coutinho is the sort of person who needs no introduction, and yet you can’t help yourself from introducing her because you want people to know ALL THE COOL THINGS about her. We became friends in the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Barony of Windmasters Hill, where she introduced me to her passion, Commedia dell’ Arte. Later, in an incredibly generous act, she invited me to direct her troupe in a Commedia version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that we performed at a Baronial event. She is an inspiration, a teacher, and an amazing woman. Someday, when she is handing out orange belts, I hope to be graced by one. (SCA reference. 😉 )

And now, without further ado, I introduce Baroness Sophie the Orange, mundanely known as Lara Coutinho!

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?

Photo by Bill Frazer.

A (Lara Coutinho): Performing arts of the 16th century in Europe including music, dance, and theater with a specialty in Italian Commedia dell’ Arte. I also love any kind of improvisation theater, puppets, and circus arts.  I always loved every kind of dance and music, and when I found the SCA in college, I found an outlet for my wide variety of interests. The SCA is a historic re-enactment group with a limited scope of pre-1600 Europe, but that was a huge arena for me to play in. I found teachers and friends of like-mind that enjoyed dance and music as much as I did. From the summer of 1992 until about 2004, I focused my hobby time in the SCA on learning and teaching European dances and the music that matched them. A few of my friends and I joined together to create a band called Musica Subterranea which played and recorded historically accurate dance music for 16th century European dance. The SCA has a robust community of dancers, and they enjoyed our live dance music performances at balls and revels. We produced 5 CDs of recorded dance tunes which are still available on CDBaby.com. We have all the sheet music for the 104 tunes we recorded available on our web page http://musicasub.org.  

Musica Subterranea is the result of amazing teamwork between the band members, but one critical piece is the research and music arrangements created by our Music Director, David Lankford. His understanding and skills in both early music and dance are of the highest caliber. We are always blown away by the beauty of his arrangements and how detailed he gets in matching every phrase to the choreography. I could go on for days about the incredible skill and creations of my buddy Dave, so for now I’ll just say that Musica Subterranea would not exist without him.

In August 2000, I discovered the theater style of Italian 16th century Commedia dell’ arte, and I was hooked. I found my place in the world. The characters of commedia plays were the cartoons of 16th century people. Performing and watching commedia made me laugh and explode with joy. I really can’t stop laughing when commedia is happening. Since then, I’ve been reading and learning about commedia wherever I can. I’ve created 3 troupes of actors that share this joy with me: i Scandali in Dayton, OH started in 2002, i Firenzi in Raleigh, NC started in 2011, and the Commedia All Stars troupe that only comes together at the SCA event called Pennsic War in August started in 2014.

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: I started playing the cello in 6th grade. I thank the adults in my life for insisting that I learn something about music because it’s helped me connect with friends and enjoy performing arts throughout my adult life. I was never very good at the cello because I did not invest the hours of practice that it takes to get really good. But I did develop an appreciation for musicians by being an enthusiastic amateur. Same with dance. I got pretty good at folk dance and loved every opportunity to dance to any kind of music. I also loved theater, but I never had focus. I loved all the performing arts and wanted to play with all of them since I can remember. I remember doing dance numbers and skits at a Girl Scout camp session called “Greasepaint” during many summers.

Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho.

I never felt that urge to practice until I found commedia.  I’d dabbled in every kind of crazy performing thing one could do: juggling, stilt-walking, mime, tap dance, jazz, recorder, ukulele, drumming, belly dancing, ballroom dancing, choral singing, puppeteering, hooping, and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.  But commedia made me want to practice. I wanted to revel in it and work at it until I got good. I still do. I want to dig into every aspect of this art and improve my skills all the time.

Commedia gives me a way towards laughter for both myself and others. I feel the healing power of laughter when it happens, and I want to keep it going. I want to live in those moments where the pain of the world is forgotten because we were laughing so much.

Don’t get me wrong – life can’t be 100% laughter. We have to manage our lives in this world with some amount of responsibility and work. But I do want to maximize the laughter and squeeze every bit of joy out of every moment I can. So far, improvised commedia is my favorite tool for that. 

Challenges along the way are many, and they keep coming. First, finding other people to do commedia with me is the hardest part. I live in the volunteer world where no one gets paid in money. We get paid in laughs and fun experiences. So, the troupes I put together have to be people that are friendly to each other and hopefully get to be good friends. And they have to want to learn something about the historic basis of commedia, improvisation skills, and basic stagecraft. I can teach all of that, but it takes time. And since we’re all volunteers, members of the troupe will come and go as their lives change.  When kids are born or jobs are taken or marriages shift, the volunteer hours these actors have to devote to practicing commedia goes away.

Once we have people that like each other and start learning some commedia skills, we have to find venues to perform at where we will enhance the environment. Those venues have to be easy enough for our actors to get to, eat at, and sometimes stay overnight at. Sometimes they bring their kids along. Sometimes they’re juggling their own paycheck jobs around the performance time. There are a million challenges that get in the way of making a performance happen.

But when it works, it really works. Laughter thunders throughout the area to anyone within earshot. Smiles and joy are created and shared. It does my heart good.

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

A: I want to be laughing, and this is how I get there. Laughter is best when shared, so performing comedy so all of us can laugh together makes me the happiest.

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: The administration of making a theater troupe come to life and run is incredibly overwhelming. It’s more work than anyone else knows who hasn’t done it.

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?

Photo by Hauk Photography.

A: Start small and let it grow. Success breeds success.  Starting with a goal of “Let’s make a commedia troupe!” is setting yourself up for failure. Starting with a goal of “Let’s perform some commedia!” is much more realistic and useful. Start with 2-3 of your good friends that you want to spend time with anyway, and do a commedia-inspired skit. I have a few small skits in the booklet I wrote with some friends and published by the SCA called The Compleat Anachronist, issue #173, Bring Sixteenth Century Commedia dell’ Arte to Life.  It can be ordered for $4.50 on www.sca.org under the Marketplace. Or go to my web page at www.ifirenzi.com and look at the tab for “Starter Kit” where there’s another short 5 person scenario.

One suggestion I’ll give to anyone starting out is to find some mentors. I’ve had many generous mentors, but one was key to my growth. Paul Adams, known in the SCA as Duke Steffan Glaube, is a professional actor, director, and producer in Brisbane, Australia who also happens to really like SCA heavy combat. So much so that he became King of his region, “Lochac”, and travelled around the planet to attend the SCA Pennsic War in 2015. He’s also a Master of Arts, part of the SCA Order of the Laurel, for his expertise in Theater Arts. So, when I met him at Pennsic War, we geeked out about SCA theater and stayed friends online. His own personal mission in life includes mentoring, so he was happy to talk with me about many topics all leading towards excellence in Commedia. His dedication to mentoring had him waking up early and staying up late for online calls with me privately and also my troupe. He watched our rehearsals via web cam and gave constant feedback and suggestions that improved our performances. His unique combination of excellence in theater, leadership, teaching, and SCA life made him a key source of wisdom for me. His devotion to mentoring means that wisdom is shared. I’m one of many recipients of his generosity, and I hope everyone can find an effective mentor like him.

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

A: The Commedia All Stars troupe performed particularly well this past Pennsic, just a couple weeks ago, and I think that was the best show I’ve ever directed. The troupe came together with some new folks and some very experienced folks, and we clicked like we’ve never clicked before. No diva energy from anyone, no slumpy energy from anyone, and no one had a health or family crisis that made me find an understudy. Our work was clearly producing results within the timeframe we had, and once we felt the magic of the audience’s energy, the laughs just kept on coming.

Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho.

I’m also really proud of the Compleat Anachronist I wrote with my buddies Drea Leed, Robert Schneider, Dina Turnello, and my husband Scott Dean. The CA is a quarterly publication of research papers produced by the SCA, Inc. Dina wanted to write a CA on commedia with me as a team, and our dreams expanded enough to easily fill two issues. Those two little booklets have become a manual in How To Make Historically Accurate Commedia Happen. I’m exceedingly proud of my part in making those CAs happen because they’ll be around for years to come helping people make commedia inspired laughter. I love that.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Bringing theater and other performing arts to life is hard. And rewarding. I love the teamwork part of theater and the magic of working with an audience. It’s the kind of energy that makes the work worth it. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for the adventurer. I hope if anyone reading this feels inspired to try it, they will bring their boots, water, and protein bars.  Get and read the two Compleat Anachronists on commedia and email me. The thrills and laughter is so worth it!

~~~

For more information, check out www.ifirenzi.com,  www.earlycommedia.com, www.musicasub.com, and www.sca.org/marketplace

~~~

 

**Featured image by Hauk Photography

 

 

 

 

Writers have egos…

It’s a fact. If I didn’t have a big, shiny ego–big enough and shiny enough to withstand rejection, ridicule, and low-star reviews–I would no longer be in this game.

To a certain extent, I feed my ego with coffee, exercise, and just putting in the work. Whether I’m hitting my word count goal, or just scraping a hundred or so words into the manuscript at the end of a long day, it’s work. And that work has been accepted for publication a few times by people who aren’t related to me and don’t owe me money. And that has helped secure the old ego against some of the buffets of trying to be an indie author in a world where less people are reading, and those who do are willing to pay less and less for what they read.

On the other hand, I have just enough ego to know when something I’m doing is not up to par. This comes with doing something long enough to know what I’m capable of, long enough to know what “right” looks like. And lately, I’ve had a few moments of self-clarity.

It’s like a project I recently completed–a knitted pouch using colorwork and small needles that would have been unthinkable for me to attempt less than a year ago. Why am I not satisfied with it? Because I know what I am capable of, and even though I will still give this as a gift, and even though I know it’s acceptable work, I still look at it and see so many flaws. A skipped stitch. A design flaw. A better way to organize the colors.

My sister sent me a draft of a story she’s working on. I opened it. Read it. It’s fucking brilliant. I take a good, long look at it, and think–why does she refuse to submit her work for publication? Why am I feeling insecure? Probably because I recognize what is really good, and her stuff is really good.

Back to the ego. Time for me to remember that ego can slap you in the face, tell you to get ahold of yourself and drink some coffee and go back to putting words on the paper. Other people’s awesome stuff is just that–theirs. And the only way I’ll get back to find the place where I can look at what I’ve done and be satisfied is … to do the work.

So, sometimes ego is a hindrance that blinds you and causes you to query before you finish the first draft.

Sometimes ego is a kick in the pants that rolls its eyes and tells you to get back to writing.

And so, I shall.