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.


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.


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!

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!



The New Year is upon us, Epiphany has closed the 12 Days of Christmas, I haven’t finished making all the presents for this year, I have many plans for what I’ll do next year, I’ve made some significant progress on Steel-Toed Blues … and so it’s time for a quick sit down and blog type of deal.

(Quick slurp of life-sustaining coffee. Ah–the writing life!)

I love making resolutions! I like them to hang out with my deadlines and then start ignoring them and watch as they fly right by. But since we all need goals …

  • Pen Sword Press: In addition to soliciting submissions and editing the project, I need to put my PR skills to work on my own behalf to get some publicity for the project, and to solicit sponsors. But first – stories. The reading period ends 31 January, so I need to get cracking.
  • My Goodreads challenge last year just kind of fizzled out. I made to about 52 of a planned 100 books. I was thinking of decreasing the number of books this year, but decided to stick with 100. Challenges aren’t supposed to be easy.
  • Fitness. I like to be in shape. I like to have the energy that comes with working out, and the confidence that comes from training combat sports. I also have a passion for boxing. This means, I’m back in the gym, getting my cardio back, re-learning how to jab, straight, slip, pivot, and all the things I know in my head, but need my body to remember.
  • Writing. After farting around with a variety of writing goals, I’ve realized that 500 words/day is a pretty do-able goal. It can be accomplished in about an hour or two, and I can work it into my schedule if I bring Ladybug to the hourly daycare so I can get my gym time and my writing time one right after the other. It’s been working so far. My goal is to finish Steel-Toed Blues, plot and start working on Vegas Run and my zombie apocalypse novel, and write a series of short stories from my steampunk detective world to be put into a novella. And finish and submit a couple of short stories I’ve had knocking6 5ntghbv4rfc3edws2qa around for a while.
  • Music. Still trying to figure out a way to put this into my schedule, but this year I will make sure my instruments don’t feel so lonely.
  • Finish projects. No more new yarn, fabric, fiber, or books (those are projects) UNTIL I finish what I have. To be honest, this is the resolution I’m most likely to break. All the new, shiny, fluffy things … calling to me…
  • Leave the Army Reserve. I need a break. That’s about it.
  • Try something new. This year, I broke through my wall o’ comfort, and auditioned for Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night production. I scored a spot in the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, playing the guitar, and a part as the Priest, getting those crazy kids hitched for a happy ending. (Oh sorry … spoilers …) I would like to continue to do this, as participating in a creative venture outside of my normal outlets has had the happy effect of spurring creativity in my writing and other areas. Perhaps with the regular music practice, my songwriting may even bestir itself.

My next resolution is to not make so many lists, and to blog more, but since Ladybug has decided that there is no squeaky, light-y, bright-y toy more fascinating than Mom and her tablet, I think it’s time to go play puzzles with my kid.

Happy New Year, and onward into 2016 my friends!


Giveaway! Enter to win a signed copy of Soft Target…

Maybe you’ve seen some of the books on my list, but weren’t sure about giving an indie author a shot. Fair enough. So, I’m making it easier for you to try out my stuff! If you would like to enter to win a signed copy of Soft Target, check out the widget below. (And if you wouldn’t mind sharing this far and wide, this #indieauthor would be quite grateful…)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Soft Target by Rachel A. Brune

Soft Target

by Rachel A. Brune

Giveaway ends June 10, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Wrap up and coming attractions…

The Cold Run book tour and giveaway is winding down, although if you haven’t had a chance to enter, don’t worry. We will be hosting another one very soon to celebrate the print release of the book. It’s been a lot of fun and I learned a lot as well, just as I did with the launch of Soft Target. I’m hoping at some point to put together all the lessons learned into a full blog post, for future reference. In the meantime, I’ve started forward movement on the first draft of Steel-Toed Blues, which has been languishing, waiting for me to be able to concentrate some serious time on it.

In addition to the articles I’m currently working on for Task & Purpose, I have a few upcoming blog articles that I’m pretty excited about.

First up will be a two-part piece for the anthology, Accessing the Future, currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. They’ve got 22 days left to raise about $1,200 for an anthology that explores “disability & the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality.” For the first part, I have an interview with the coeditors, Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad. The second part will be a contribution to a larger blog tour, where writers turn the lens of the anthology on their own works in progress. I suggest heading over to the Indiegogo campaign site to learn more, and possibly drop them a few bucks.

Next up, I have Connie Wilson, who was featured last year in a Conversation. Her book, Northern Lights: Part One, releases September 13 (currently available for pre-order), followed by Glow Stick on October 4th. I’ve got an interview, and will have links to the books and some other fun things.

Also in the next week or two (I’m still working on getting organized enough to have a publishing schedule), I will have an interview/review combo for Queen Mother, a book by Angela Norton Tyler. This is an interesting story in that I’ve been joining groups on Goodreads that do read and reviews, in order to see where I can find material for my own blog, as well as places to potentially find readers/reviewers for my books. Angela was featured author of the week on one of these groups, and sent me a copy of her book to read and review. It wasn’t a book I would have found on my own, but one I ended up enjoying very much. Which makes these groups somewhat the Internet equivalent of browsing your favorite section in your local bookstore.

Anyway, that’s what I have coming up. Lot’s of stuff to keep me busy and not bored. Just the way I like it.


Coming soon…

Just finished reading an advance copy of Zeus is Dead, by Michael G. Munz. In preparation for its July 21 release, I will be featuring a review and interview with the author. Check back next week to learn more!

A Conversation with Joshua Safran about “Free Spirit”…

A few months back, I sat down with a copy of Joshua Safran’s Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid. I thought I had some idea of what to expect—after all, I have read more than one memoir of mid-20th century counterculture and thought I was safely in for another.

And then the first scene blew me away. First, the perspective here is different. We’re not reading a book written by an adult reflecting on experiences during which he/she retained some measure of agency. This is a memoir from a child’s perspective—a child who, while loved, was limited in the ways children are, and then some. Within the first few sentences, Safran draws a picture of intense abuse that pulls no punches.

Free Spirit is a heck of a book—well-written, paced to perfection, and honest in its portrayal of the author’s life growing up. After finishing the book, and perusing Joshua Safran’s Web site, I shot off some questions to Mr. Safran about some areas of the book that had me thinking even after I closed the pages (figuratively … I read it on my Kindle).

Free Spirit, by Joshua Safran

Free Spirit, by Joshua Safran

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Throughout the book, I was fascinated by your relationship with your mother. In the notes afterward, you describe finally sitting down and talking with her about the events of your childhood. I received the impression in the book that you were being very careful not to assess blame, or to have the reader blame her for the events. Was this deliberate? How has the publication of this book, and your work, affected your relationship with her?

A (Joshua Safran): Yes, I wrote Free Spirit in a very deliberate voice, doing my best not to let my adult- and father-self pass judgment on my mother, allowing my child-self to honestly appraise her as I did at the time. Interviewing my mother for about a year and questioning her on the details of my childhood brought us closer. I also felt very grateful that she supported my writing Free Spirit. That said, I think it was hard for her to sit down and read the book in one sitting, seeing her every parenting decision splashed across the pages of the book. She and I have continued to talk through those years.

Q: In Chapter 14, you describe a scene where you are in the woods and a tree is falling towards you. It is a low point, and you are wondering why even bother moving out of the way, when you have what I read as an epiphany of sorts – a vision of the child you might have one day, and a feeling that you needed to make his/her life worth living. Have you revisited this vision after that time? Has it changed at all?

A: I had a number of similar experiences as a kid in life-or-death moments, but this is one of them that stand out to me. I have revisited that vision many times. At the time, I was convinced it was a prophecy and that I was envisioning or meeting my future son. Overtime, I’ve come to think of it more metaphorically since I’m blessed with three daughters but no son. The moment remains profound because I mark that as the moment I chose to stop allowing life to happen to me in favor of forging my own destiny.

Q: Did you talk about your childhood with your children before you wrote the book? How did you frame it for them?

A: I did talk with my girls about my childhood before I wrote Free Spirit. One of the silver linings of having a boyhood like mine is an inexhaustible trove of bedtime stories about when I was a kid. I, of course, have given them the PG-rated version of events but they have always enjoyed the drama and humor of the stories as well as drawn some extra comfort in the luxury of their nice warm beds.

Q: Towards the end of the book, you mention that you had tried to write fiction, and that most of those attempts ended up in the drawer. Now that you have written Free Spirit, are you interested in returning to fiction? Why or why not?

A: I’m working on a book proposal for a sequel to Free Spirit about my teenage years after we’ve escaped from my violent alcoholic stepfather and found refuge on an off-the-grid commune near the Canadian border. The irony of that time is that although we are away from my stepfather, those years are lived under his ominous shadow and in reaction to his awful legacy. It was a time of surviving the elements and struggling with juvenile delinquency, sexual intimacy, and spiritual rebirth. That said, I am interested in returning to fiction now that I feel I know how to put a book together and remain brimming with images and ideas for fictional stories.

 Q: In the book, you are very honest about the times you find yourself imitating the behavior of your mother’s abusive spouse. However, unlike some victims, you are able to recognize this and break free of it. What do you credit with helping you take a different direction?

A: For me, I think I’m blessed that the timing was just right. Had my mother taken up with Comandante Leopoldo earlier, I wouldn’t have known that there was any other way to be a man. Had we been with him longer, I would have been under his influence too long to change. I’m very fortunate to have had my “Uncle” Tony provide me one powerful example of what a real man could be.

Q: You are a lawyer and an advocate for domestic violence survivors. As such, do you see our social and criminal justice systems moving forward? Or are we as a society destined to read more accounts such as these from young survivors?

A: I think things are slowly, incrementally getting better. Twenty years ago the DV movement was still in its infancy and the War on Drugs was ramping up. I think we have come a long way as a society in those two decades. Today consciousness has expanded and family violence is no longer taboo the way it once was. In a funny twist, the loss of expectation of privacy brought on by social media has exposed so-called “private” problems like DV to the light of day and people are more willing to talk about these issues. With the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado we are seeing a drop in unethical prosecutions and unjust prosecutions. To be sure, learned violence continues to hammer down from generation to generation, but hopefully less and less children will perpetrate the cycle of crazy with each passing year.


Many thanks to Joshua for taking the time to talk about Free Spirit. If you are interested in more information, including a schedule of upcoming appearances, visit his Web site at:

Thoughts on the “Strong Woman Character”™

Lately I’ve been thinking about this strange bird, the “Strong Woman Character”™.

As November approaches, various conversations regarding characters, and sometimes in particular, the Strong Woman Character (hereafter known as the SWC), arise in the fora devoted to NaNoWriMo. Who writes SWCs? What comprises an SWC? What are the advantages of including one? Do you have to include one to appeal to women? What is at the bottom of the recent focus on her?

The other day, Elizabeth Donald posted a link on her Facebook page to a blog by Kameron Hurley, entitled “The Blog Post that Lost Me Half My Audience.” The main point of the blog was that from lamenting the lack of SWCs, we’ve now seen them arise in the work of men, and now they are seen as valid to the point that when asked “Who should we talk to about sexism in genre fiction?” some answers replied exclusively with names of male authors (Hurley, 2013). Hurley also points out, generously in my opinion, that this phenomenon may in fact be due to a peculiar literary amnesia, to the fact that women were the first to begin writing about women, and as such, should continue to be part of the conversation. Dare we even hope that someday, they become so natural in the landscape that they are finally accorded the status of “writer” as the SWC may be accorded the label of “character” without the heretofore necessity of the gender differentiation?

So, from Virginia Woolf (1929), who noted that the rise of the middle-class woman novel writer resulted in interesting women characters who are read and recognized by women, we have this interesting phenomenon that in ordered to be validated as interesting, we must appeal to men, we must be talked about by men (Hurley, 2013). At the very least, the male voice lends a weight to the discussion even as sometimes the female voice becomes excluded in her own discussion. Are we still to be seen as stunted reflections in the mirror of man’s self-regard (Woolf, 1929)? Or have we forgotten, as readers of any genre, how many SWC’s are hanging out there, written by women, yet ignored because of a biological accident of chromosomal chance?

I started to think about this, and about the fact that there are certain authors who get a good amount of credit for writing SWCs, and because they write these characters, they get a lot of credit for furthering the cause of feminism. Off the top of my head, the whole “Thank you, Joss Whedon and George R. R. Martin, for writing us entertaining SWCs, we’re saved!” phenomenon comes to mind. (I.S. Note – I have a lot more to say on this subject, but as this post is approaching epic lengths and I’m not sure if anyone even made it this far, I’ll wait for another time…)

My goal with this post is not to explore whether or not these authors deserve the attention they get, or whether it’s worth getting agita over the fact that people seem to have developed this peculiar sense of literary amnesia. (I.S. Note –My personal answers are No and Yes, respectively, but see previous note.) Rather, I’d like to address Hurley’s point, that we have forgotten who, exactly, began the tradition of the SWC. I’d like to point out some of the authors who should, I feel, get major points for SWCs – but also for writing what I hope will be the NEXT phase of genre lit’s big thing, namely Human Characters Who Happen to Be Female, or HCWHTBF’s. Catchy, eh? Think it would sound good on a convention panel? (I.S. Note – Any conventions want to invite me to a panel? I promise I’ll behave … mostly…)

Let’s start with Jane Austen. I’m currently reading Michael Suk-Young Chwe’s excellent work, Jane Austen, Game Theorist (Chwe, 2013). While I’ve always enjoyed a good Austen heroine, Chwe’s book has given me a new appreciation of her characters. He illuminates her strategic mind, and her skill in highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of her characters, the strong women, the women who have strength of character, if not necessarily strategic mindsets, the women who are silly, and those who are cunning. But in her books, strengths (of mind, of character) are rewarded, and one is left at the end with the impression of a strongly-minded heroine who learns a lesson, or teaches a lesson, and is, above all, well-rounded and lifelike.

And then, of course, there can be found throughout Austen’s novels, such particular proto-feminist observations such as Fanny Price’s remark: “…I think it ought not to be set down as certain, that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself” (Austen, as quoted in Chwe, 2013, pp.97). When I think of the conversations I have had, both in familiar conversation, or in online fora, regarding the inability of people to understand why women should not have to “expect” male attention when she is moving in public spaces, this line rings particularly true. For a women character to explicitly speak it, reminds me that even in 19th-century literature, there were characters who were strong, and women, at the same time.

Of course, the Austen heroines aren’t the gunslinging, pull-ups executing, super-strong Sarah Connor or Ellen Ripley, but in the setting in which Austen worked, she demonstrated how a women could be strong within the confines of her time. I return to these novels (and some of the excellent film adaptations … Hello, Alan Rickman!) time and again because her characters are not only strong, but also well-drawn, and deeply thought out and felt. My question is, why don’t we (and I include myself here, because until I started reading Chwe’s book, and Hurley’s post, it took a second to think of it this way) think of Austen as a writer of SWC’s, and her characters as such?

Lucky for those of us pondering deep thoughts about women and fiction, we find that minds deeper and more eloquent than ours have been thinking deeply and fruitfully for some time on the matter. Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own that part of the consequence of women in fiction written by men is that: “Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size” (Woolf, 1929). While such a perspective is sometimes conducive to writing those SWC’s, quite often the opposite is true for, by necessity, one does not willingly enhance the image of others when one can so reliably count on the enhancement of one’s own stature by the upkeep of the status quo. But then, as Woolf points out, here comes the change, the metamorphosis of a “woman character” into a “character who is a woman” – the fact that as women begin to write, they begin to display those relationships between women heretofore thought not worth mentioning, for example, friendship, female siblings, filial loyalty, etc.**

It is here, in these relationships, that we begin to see enough depth of women to start to fashion characters who are women, who have strength to them. As referenced above, in Austen’s work, there are several women who display strength of judgment, strength of mind, strength of intellect and strength of character. A woman writing about women, and lo and behold, you have women characters who begin to move beyond caricature.

One possible exception one might take to my exegesis so far would be that these are “literary” authors, whose characters should be expected to be fleshed out, well-drawn, and have some strength of purpose. But now, we’re talking SWCs – modern renditions in what might be properly referred to as “genre literature,” namely, popular books that fall into the categories of science fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, etc. I still argue that the SWC is not a new phenomenon, and that we can find her if only we can extricate ourselves from the temporal blinders of literary amnesia.

Before I hit my 30s and turned into my Dad–by which I mean I began reading almost exclusively non-fiction–I was a voracious consumer of novels. The Beverly Gray books (1934-1955) by Clair Blank told of the adventures of a woman reporter and her madcap friends who traveled the world having adventures and solving mysteries. Beverly Gray was a reporter from NYC (and thus immediately became who I wanted to be when I grew up). She was smart, she was strong, and even though sometimes she made mistakes she regretted, she was one tough cookie. Her friends, some of whom were male and some of whom were female, were interesting. Some of them were there to provide the inherited wealth to fund the yacht trips, but overall they were an amazing world to a 10-year-old girl who loved books about mysteries and newspaper reporters, and dreamed of a career encompassing both. (Note to self, now I want to re-read the series. Although I could probably say that about all the books…)

In addition to the Beverly Gray series, our shelves also contained a bunch of Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books. When I refer to Nancy Drew, I’m not talking about the horrific reboot from the 80s. I’m talking the classics. Nancy and her two friends, George and Bess, who drove around in her yellow convertible solving mysteries, even when the situations placed her in personal danger. Strong Woman Character? Most definitely. Interestingly enough, my mom explained to me that the author, Carolyn Keene, was a pseudonym, and that many of the books were written by different people. It is telling that the publisher chose a female pseudonym–telling, but not surprising. Honestly, I never noticed. I just knew that I liked detective stories, and I thought Nancy Drew was the best one out there. (Eat it, Encylopedia Brown!)

Who was Trixie Belden? She was the heroine of Kathryn Kenny’s (yet another pseudonym) series (1948-1986) about a young girl who lives in the Ozarks and solves mysteries. I remember this series not just for the heroine (who was a distant third-favorite after Nancy Drew and Beverly Gray), but because of a moment that occurred one day when I was reading one of the books. In the story, Trixie is gifted a girdle by her mother to wear to fancy event. In the text, it states that “it slimmed her figure marvelously” (not actually a direct quote, I’m going off memory here). I was a kid in the 80s reading this thing, and had no idea what the heck a girdle was, and also was kind of huge compared to all my normally-growing friends. So I read the quote to my mom and this was her incredibly out-of-character (for her) sarcastic reply: “Yeah, because she was really fat before.” And in that single moment, I realized that I was reading books that my mother had also read and enjoyed, and also that I had a lot to learn from my mother about what was in those books, and also developed a lifelong inoculation against Spanx and control-top pantyhose.

Jumping a little forward in time, I only have to think of some more authors who, last time I checked, wrote prolifically and also managed to slip in a SWC or two. (And then I’m going to wrap this up because this blog post has become so much longer than I originally intended…)

Anne McCaffrey (she’s famous for the Pern series, but what I’m thinking of here is The Crystal Singer), Tanya Huff (thinking here of Sing the Four Quarters), and Mercedes Lackey (thinking here of the Bardic Voices series) are three authors who write in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, and (cue ironic tone) could be said to have churned out an SWC or two in their time. I know that they are part of a rich tradition of authors of science fiction and fantasy who also just happen to be women, but they are well-known in their own right and I have chosen them because they are my favorites. I read pretty much every book they wrote that I could find in my local library, where all the books were free because I spent my babysitting money on karate lessons. I read them most heavily in my high school and college years, where I didn’t necessarily think of their characters as SWC’s in particular, but I sure did start to notice the difference when I picked up a book by, say, Robert Jordan, who I still haven’t forgiven for having one of his characters say to the Queen, who is about to pardon him for his heinous crimes, that he can’t tell her all of them because it might damage her feminine sensitivities. (Frankly, at that point, I was hoping she would invite him to spend the night re-thinking the decision in a comfy cell overlooking the executioner’s block.)

I’m glad this topic came up, not simply for the fact that it’s taken me down memory lane and, in consequence of curing a little of my own literary amnesia, has forced me to reflect on what books I have read, what I thought of them, and how they have affected me both growing up, and now as I pursue a career as a writer. I find myself once again wondering why, with over a century of women established as popular, commercially-viable authors, we still must have this debate, and still must find those who fly the SWC flag as especially worthy of commendation.

Clearly there have been popular authors who have long been in the habit of writing strong, women characters. But we don’t necessarily think of these characters as SWC’s, or we have forgotten they exist except on the bookshelves of our childhoods. Instead, we hold up male authors for approbation because they write SWC’s. (Thank you for noticing women exist, Any Male Author!) Maybe it really is just a matter of literary amnesia, and it’s time for some of the classics to be rediscovered. Maybe it’s time to really look at the SWC’s and ask ourselves, how much credit should these authors really get? And maybe, too, it’s time for all of us to quit answering the question with examples, and start asking ourselves, what, exactly, do we mean by “SWC,” and can we start writing – and reading and valuing – HCWHTBF’s.

Yeah, gonna have to work on the acronym. But first, let’s get writing.



** Woolf also points out, quite presciently, that the first to value these middle-class women writers, famously derided as “bluestockings with an itch for scribbling” were other women readers. Not only did women read these novels voraciously, but the lives of their authors served as an example that women could and did cultivate their imaginations and begin to make a living using their innate talents for creativity.



Chwe, M.S. (2013). Jane Austen, game theorist. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hurley, K. (2013, October 10). The blog post that lost me half my audience. Retrieved from

Woolf, V. (1929). A room of one’s own. Retrieved from


Radio Silence (And a Cold Run excerpt…)

So, I was very tempted to entitle this blog post “Silent But Deadly,” which is kind of an indicator about the level of humor I’m able to drum up nowadays. Things are going along pretty well, if a bit on the busy side. I thought once my grades were submitted for my Legal Aspects of Policing course that I would have a little time to relax, but that was not the case. Like most of my overscheduling habits, however, this time crunch is self-inflicted.

Currently, I’m working on editing a charity anthology (right now in the reading/selection stage), which is a new experience for me. Usually, I’m on the submitting side of things. I’ve also been invited (actually as I type) to be editing staff for another ‘zine, and if you needed further proof that I have problems with time management, have been considering starting my own litmag publication. Sometime next year, of course. Right now, I’m a little swamped.

Also, I have a full reading docket. I just finished up The Archaeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucault. Like most of his stuff, I think I understood about 90 percent of what he was writing about, but that last 10 percent is me making a mad dash for the end yelling “Give me my cookie!!” So yeah, that was fun. Right now I’ve got The Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual open and am reading that. Really, the subtitle should be “Common Sense Shit We Should Have Thought About Before Invading Countries We Didn’t Know Anything About,” but what do I know…

Anyway, it’s been a little radio silent, but I’m ramping up a couple more interviews, some guest blogs, and of course my thoughts here and there on whatever I’m thinking about at the moment. One of those things is my novel, Cold Run, which I’m currently editing in hopes of beginning the long submission process. For your reading pleasure, here is an excerpt, freshly edited, in which the main character, a werewolf by the name of Rick Keller, goes on the hunt for two child-killers…

* * *

Sometimes I can follow a scent for days and wind up at the end of the week with a cold trail and no joy. Sometimes, I get lucky. Sometimes, other people don’t.

The sedan was parked outside a convenience store, one of a row of dusty storefronts advertising carne and vegetables in playful lettering. By now, the gray light had mostly faded from the sky, and a few stark streetlights threw a nimbus around the mist that had started to fall. Rather than cool off the streets, it caused a wave of humidity to roll along the asphalt, sending up all sorts of pungent distractions.

Hey perrito, que haces aqui?” A middle-aged man in an apron and a Phillies baseball cap greeted me, possibly thinking me some tourist’s lost pet. I padded straight by him, deftly avoiding the broom and the sudden spate of angry Spanish he threw my way. I shouldered my way past a swinging door and followed the scent of the men past the kitchen, down some narrow steps and stopped short facing a wooden door.

I lifted my paw and scratched. The sounds from inside drifted off for a moment. I scratched again. I heard someone ask something in Spanish. There was a pause. I scratched again, and a different voice barked an order. I heard footsteps approach, and the door was unlocked.

The inch of space for a questioning look and a Spanish cuss word were all the entrée I needed. I set my shoulder into the door and pushed it all the way open.

The man’s throat was soft flesh between my teeth. I didn’t recognize his scent, but he was standing between me and the table, where the two men I hunted were sitting down. One of them pointed a gun at me, and I felt a short, sharp impact as one of the bullets found my side.

I lifted my head from the neck of the twitching corpse beneath me and growled. One man spoke in Spanish, and the only word I recognized was Dio. He screamed it again and again until my claws found his face, swiping through soft tissue and reducing his screaming to a whimper.

Turning, I snarled at his friend, who had crept closer. He pointed his gun toward me. It shook and trembled in his outstretched hand.

He fired again. The sound in the small concrete room was deafening, and my ears rang with it as I launched myself at his legs. I tangled them up and bowled him over.

He thrust his hands and arms at me uselessly, trying desperately to keep me away from his face and neck. I opened my jaw wide and crunched. The feel of my teeth on his skull was satisfying. My cuspids caught and I sawed my jaw back and forth until I could free his head from the grasp of my teeth.

I felt him screaming through the vibrations in his chest, but my ears were still ringing and no sound came through. He mouthed words, but whether they were in Spanish or English or any other coherent language other than a panicked babble, I had no idea. I ended his pathetic movements with a slash to the jugular.

The first man watched me, slumped against the wall but still alive. The fear on his face twitched something in me, and I started to feel the carousel surf of the change rock through me again.

I found myself with one foot on each side of the border, my shadow cast crazy and upright against the wall by a single, swinging bulb.

I stalked him, and it was fun to see the terror grow in his eyes. He tried to scream, but through his ruined face it came out more as a mewling sound. He put his hands up to shield his face, but with his two friends dead on the floor, I didn’t bother trying to go for the throat.

I was hungry.

Submitting, writing, editing, reading, writing, teaching …

…not necessarily in that order.

First things, while you’re here, be sure to check out the first Infamous Scribbler guest post ever, namely Jim Reader’s Putting a Little Realism in Your Fantasy.

Also, my newest interview is up, this one a Conversation with Dominique Goodall. Check out what she has to say about writing fantasy, wolves, and the combination of both!

In the meantime, I find myself directing most of my writing talents toward projects for work. I’m churning out orders, PowerPoint presentations, and rehearsal scripts like nobody’s business. At the same time, my creative writing is on somewhat of a hiatus. I’m giving myself permission not to worry about writing, at least not until July, when I’m going to finish one of my novel WIPs as part of Camp NaNo.

In July, I will also be editing “Cold Run,” which is the urban fantasy/secret agent novel I plan on querying this fall. (Truth to tell, I already sent out one query letter, but haven’t heard anything back, which I figure is a sign I need to actually edit the thing and come up with a query plan. We’ll see.)

Last but not least, I submitted three poems to a local theater project that a friend posted about on the Writers Helping Writers page. I don’t really consider myself a poet, but every once in a while I write poetry, and so we’ll see if they like it enough to include in a production. If they do, that would be very cool. If not, well, it’s not like I haven’t been rejected before.

Well, other than that, not much is going on. I’ve got to look at a student’s paper and finish drafting this PowerPoint. Back to work!!