Meet the New Year…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Conversation with Randy Brown, aka Charlie Sherpa

Photo courtesy of Randy Brown.


Embedded civilian reporter Randy Brown, a.k.a. “Charlie Sherpa,” poses with Sgt. 1st Class Timmy, a therapy dog assigned to 254th Medical Detachment, Bagram Airfield, May 2011. Photo credit: U.S. Army Capt. Theresa Schillreff.


Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. He authored the poetry collection “Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire.” His essays, journalism, and poetry have appeared widely both on-line and in print. As “Charlie Sherpa,” he writes about military culture at:, and about military writing at: He is a member of the Military Writers Guild.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): You’ve worn a lot of hats professionally, and sometimes even masks. Can you give readers a little background before we jump into your latest project with the Military Writers Guild?

A (Charlie Sherpa): I started Middle West Press as a solo freelance writing and editing business in 2003. I had previously been an editor of national newsstand and trade magazines—as well as an editor at small metro and community newspapers. In 2015, I reorganized the business as a limited liability corporation, and extended operations into independent publishing. We’ve published three books so far—two poetry collections and a collection of journalism—with an objective of publishing from 1 to 4 books annually.

While our mission statement focuses on finding unique stories and voices of the American Middle West, the Military Writers Guild “Why We Write” anthology project stems from a parallel interest in finding new ways to bridge the “civil-military gap”—the lack of mutual empathy and understanding often present between civilians and those with military experiences. The latter can include service members, veterans, family members, contractors, and more.

Q: The project’s call for submissions seeks stories of “how individual military-writing practitioners promote professional and/or popular discourse,” which is a theme after my own heart. Talk to me a little about where this theme came from?

A: When I was a member of the Iowa Army National Guard, I started military blog called called “Red Bull Rising.” I was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, in what was later billed as the largest call-up of Iowa troops since World War II. While I didn’t work in public affairs, my duty position potentially involved blogging and social media. I wanted to learn by doing, so I started an off-duty blog under a pseudonym, based on a nickname: “Charlie Sherpa.”

In my early childhood, I grew up in an active-duty U.S. Air Force family. I remembered my mom and me recording messages to my dad, on these little reel-to-reel tapes. He was a navigator, then flying in and out of Vietnam. When I was in college, my dad was still flying as a reservist, and sent letters home while deployed to Operation Desert Shield.

My personal blog was originally intended to be my gift to my kids—like those tapes and letters from Dad had been to me. They were too young to understand why Daddy was leaving them to go to Afghanistan for a year, but I hoped they’d want to hear my stories when they got older.

In the meantime, I expected that my blog might entertain my citizen-soldier buddies. What I didn’t expect was that I’d get enthusiastic responses from wives, husbands, parents and relatives of soldiers, thanking me for explaining what was going on in our training—and in their loved ones’ interior lives.

I found myself writing not only for my kids, but for everyone. I was bridging the gap, before I knew there was one.

Q: So where does the Military Writers Guild anthology fit in? What sorts of stories you are hoping to receive?

A: Fast-forward to present day: Much to my surprise, I’m now longer just a magazine editor and writer. I’m an award-winning blogger, a military veteran, and even a published war poet. The greatest joy has been in finding a new tribe—finding people like you—who are also out there, telling military stories.

I’m not talking about “expressive” or “therapeutic” writing, although that can be a motivation for some. (I always joke that writing can be therapeutic, but it sure as heck ain’t therapy.) I’m talking about writing for literary merit—writing for the love of words, and great stories, and new ideas. Stuff that can change the world, or other people’s perceptions of it. If you’re lucky, you even get paid for it.

Through organizations like the Military Writers Guild, I’ve been fortunate to encounter other practitioners—novelists, essayists, historians, think-tankers, policy wonks, Sci-Fi writers—who ground their work in military themes, topics, and milieu. From poetry to policy papers to pulp fiction, we’re all doing similar work—sharing military stories and exploring possibilities for our society’s present and future—in wonderfully diverse ways. Broadly defined, military writing is a Big Tent—one that’s “General Purpose, Extra Large.”

And many of us are writing in more than one category.

In my Army days, I often found myself assigned to “lessons-learned” roles—documenting and sharing stories of organizational successes, and sometimes failures. The idea was that everyone has something to teach, based on his or her experiences.

So, in the Military Writers Guild’s “Why We Write” anthology, I’d hope to see stories of how and why writing professionals apply their skills, regardless of genre or objective, in capturing and communicating military stories. What inspires them? What storytelling techniques do they use? What great research finds have they discovered?

I expect we’ll be surprised. I expect we’ll hear from writers of military history and humor and doctrine and theory and practice and things we’ve even never heard of. It should be awesome!

Q: This is not your first project to solicit and spotlight the writing of other veterans. I’m currently reading my way through “Reporting for Duty,” a 668-page collection of military public affairs reporting from Afghanistan. How does that relate to the your work as a publisher, and to the Military Writers Guild anthology?

A: When my buddies got back from their 2010-2011 deployment to Afghanistan—I visited them briefly as an embedded civilian reporter, toward the end of their time there—we noticed that all the great public affairs reporting that the brigade had done was in danger of getting lost on the Internet. This was publicly released information—stories that had previously been published on division and brigade websites—but the public-facing websites were rotting away. Different units take over the mission downrange, websites change and disappear.

In short, we worried about a small-scale “Digital Dark Ages.”

As a former print-media guy, I suggested that one answer was an old-school trade paperback, one that could be a useful, permanent resource on the shelf of every family historian and county library. In many ways, the “Reporting for Duty” project was an exercise in preserving and promoting Midwestern history.

It was also an exercise in military history. For those interested, I wrote a lessons-learned article about it, which won an award from Small Wars Journal.

Middle West Press LLC has previously published two collections of military-themed poetry from Midwestern authors: My own “Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poetry from Inside the Wire,” and Eric Chandler’s “Hugging This Rock: Poems of Earth & Sky, Love and War.” Those helped us validate our production processes, in a relatively low-risk context. In poetry, if you sell more than 100 copies of a book of poetry, you’re near the top percentile. If you sell a thousand, you’re a lyrical rock star.

The size of the “Reporting for Duty” project validated our capacities and capabilities in the production of larger work: Collecting, curating, editing, indexing. So, when the board of the Military Writers Guild wanted to illustrate the breadth of what “military writing” encompasses, we knew that we could deliver.

The great thing is, they’ve opened it to non-members as well! If you’re working and writing on military topics, themes, characters, stories—we’d love to hear from you!

We’re planning to launch the anthology parallel to the 30th anniversary celebration of the War, Literature & the Arts Journal. There’s a conference scheduled Sept. 20-21, 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colo. I hope to see a lot of my fellow military writers there!

Photo courtesy of Randy Brown.

Q: How does this project fit into Middle West Press’s overall publication schedule?

A: We’re planning to slowly grow production over the next couple of years. We’ll looking to publish another Midwestern poetry collection in 2018—not necessarily from another veteran, although I suppose that might make a nice progression or series. It would really be great to publish a collection from a woman veteran and/or person of color. There is a growing number of published collections from 21st century war poets, but few from non-white cishet perspectives. The military is like the American Middle West, and vice versa—our uniformity camouflages our true diversity. To paraphrase Walt Whitman: We contain multitudes.

We’re also looking at a themed war poetry anthology—announcement of that project should take place in January—and another, non-Midwestern, mostly non-fiction military anthology. I say “mostly,” because there may be a way to include flash-fiction and poetry. We’re still play-testing concepts for that one. Prospective contributors writers can stay tuned at Middle West Press website here:

Q: Anything to add?

A: Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you and your readers! The call for submissions to the “Why We Write” Military Writers Guild anthology is here:

And, remember: You don’t have to be a member to contribute to the anthology! More information on the Military Writers Guild is here:



Twitter: @MilWritersGuild

Excuse Our Dust!

It’s the sign that retailers put out when they’re going through renovations, but still want to stay open for business. And now, as I find myself in the thick of NaNoWriMo, I am also going to be slowly renovating this Web site to reflect some new directions, new writings, and a new focus on coaching the writing process.

Part of this renovating process includes doing more “Characters and Conversations” interviews. If you check out the “Conversations” category tag, you will find a series of blogs spanning a few years at this point. The posts are conversations that I have had with authors, entrepreneurs, artists, Army commanders, homesteader/preppers, teachers, journalists, filmmakers, and a whole host of other folks who have shared cool information about themselves and their lives.

During the past year or so, I’ve mostly been focusing on author interviews, which are totally fun and enable me to spread the word about upcoming releases. On the other hand, my original intention was to first, keep a hand in my old journalism training by interviewing people outside the realm of my experience. Additionally, I find that learning about real-life characters not only helps to inform my writing, but might inspire others who are also working on their own writing projects.

So, stay tuned. Check back in. Check out some Conversations. Maybe shoot me a suggestion for someone cool to interview (even if it’s yourself. Don’t be shy.)

And now, back to my regularly scheduled NaNo writing panic. Peace!

Slogging away…

I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo until after it started, so my progress has been slow. But that’s fine. I’m going the Rebel route — using the motivational boost* to get my ass in gear and finish up one novel, expand a short story into a novella for the Rick Keller Project, and start on the next novel in that series. It’s been a slog, because I’m trying to get early NaNo word count with late novel motivation, and I’m a bit backwards and turned around.

In other news, though, I’ve started reading more, which I think really helps my word count. With all this reading and writing I’ve been doing, my mindspace is starting to come around back to where it should be–although the dishes are piling up, and I really need to pick up the mess cluttering the floor …

Tomorrow is Election Day, and while I have already voted early (but not often), I am going to try to get my words done early as I’m sure I’ll be glued to the screen, trying to keep up to date with everything. At the same time, I try to process the news WITHOUT the filter of social media, because sometimes the weight of what everyone else thinks drives me back to the bad mindspace. In other words, don’t read the comments.

Tomorrow will also be a day to get the writing done early, because in the afternoon, we’re heading over to the Y so I can sign up. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get a workout AND not neglect my kids, and they have a drop-in childcare on the premises, so I might actually be able to make this work. Being able to work out on a regular basis is the last piece of the puzzle I need to get my mind back where it really needs to be.

And that’s about all the news that fits tonight. Going to stick my nose in a book. Catch you all on the flip side!


* Yes. Yes, I know that professional writers do NaNo ALL YEAR LONG and they just write and write and write and write and write all the words. Whatever. I like NaNo because it gives me a motivation tune up and a chance to neglect the housework a little and tell my spouse that I have to because there’s a T-shirt at the end. Suck it, killjoys.


On death clutter…

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, given that my little family is a) going through a period where we wait to find out if/when/where we are moving next, b) have two girls who keep outgrowing clothes/toys/assumptions as fast as they can, and c) are still learning how to manage the time and projects and all things. I’ve had a number of friends who have spoken highly of various methods of decluttering and how they are awesome for your life – from KonMari to Swedish Death Metal Clutter Fire Purging … or whatever it is.

I thought about it. I looked at the mess that bugs me. I thought, maybe I should get rid of stuff. Then I realized, nah. I like my stuff. I like my furniture and my clothes and my books and my musical instruments and the various kitchen implements. I love the bits and bracs and knicks and knacks that remind us of loved ones and bygone experiences. When I start to get stressed, I do enjoy a good bit of organizing and cleaning and a dash of purging.

But really, what kills me is the time clutter.

Note to self, “Time Clutter” would be a good title for something. Try to remember it.

Okay, back on track. Time clutter. Yes. Those things that eke away at the time we have to spend on things that bring us joy. Things that steal the creative energy I need to write, or the happy energy and patience I need to be a good mom. The physical energy I need to go for that walk or do that yoga. Projects that I agree to that chip away, dividing the large chunks of time that help me dash out a chapter into smaller niblets of free space, not useful for much more than checking Facebook or reading a news article online.

And so, as I attempt to finish up a manuscript for an editing client, and work on some copy for a Web site client, clearing the road to NaNoWriMo and finishing the next book in the Rick Keller Project, I have started considering which projects ultimately bring me joy, and what do not.

Sometime this week, I will be revamping my Web site a bit to reflect my re-focusing away from editing, and working on adding more workshops to the coaching side of my biz. I love giving workshops, I love working one-on-one with writers, I love bringing them through a thorny problem and giving them the tools to make their writing better. This time spent gives me joy (and sometimes money), so I’ll keep it.

I’ll keep my writing. I love this time, and it’s healthy for me. Also, sometimes there’s money.

As much as I enjoyed my time with one of the local theater companies, I’ve left that project. It was taking away too much mental and creative energy from the two projects above, and I just didn’t love it enough. Clutter. Fun clutter, but not enough to stay.

I’ve engaged more with the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA is home to some amazing, creative people who feed the need for energy that comes from doing things outside the norm – but I can also use it to dovetail in the projects that I’m already working on, such as crafting, performing, giving classes, traveling, camping, drinking, wearing funny hats … okay, I’m getting off track here. But those hats sure are awesome.

I started fencing again. It’s only one hour a week, but it feeds the need to work out, and to pursue a martial art. I’m hoping to start fencing again in the SCA, but for now, these lessons are shaking the dust off.

There are a number of other smaller obligations, things here and there that have demanded my time and attention. Television shows. FB comment threads. Laundry.

Okay, I have figured out how to realistically avoid the laundry. But you get the point.

For my entire life, I’ve pretty much spent my time overcommitting, doing all the things, wishing I wasn’t doing all the things, flopping back onto my couch after doing all the things, feeling somewhat bored, and then overcommitting to doing all the things. I am pretty sure that this cycle will continue for many more years.

But perhaps, just once, I could look back and reflect on the fact that time, like space in a Manhattan apartment, is finite.  And so, at least in the amounts that we are given, sometimes it’s worth considering a moment to clear some of the clutter that steals what can’t be replaced.

Okay, I’m off to do all the things. Wish me luck!


A Conversation with Michelle Cornwell-Jordan…

…in which I talk with filmmaker and author Michelle Cornwell-Jordan, and cinematographer Alex Espinoza about their upcoming project, Kadupul, starring dancer Brianna Jordan. Brianna, who will also serve as the artistic director, developed the original concept, and pitched the idea as a dance film. She and Michelle developed the them, and Michelle wrote the script from their work together. Michelle will direct the film, which is currently in pre-production, and so I invited her to share some info about the project here on the Infamous Scribbler. 

Q (Infamous Scribbler, AKA Rachel!): Tell me a little bit about yourself and the project.

A (Michelle Cornwell-Jordan): Hello Rachel! I’m so honored and excited to be here today!   I am a writer, screenwriter, producer, director, culinary arts apprentice, book nerd, music geek and steampunk lover! In 2016 I founded the new 4CWMedia Productions which (in future plans) will publish written material (i.e. novels and a culinary travel magazine) as well as produce video/audio projects. Presently, I have 12 Young Adult Titles/New Adult Titles, mainly steampunk and science fiction under my belt.  IndieReview Behind The Scenes, an online radio podcast, is a media platform I’ve produced and participated as host (along with four other wonderful authors) since March 2012. The show to date has had over 120,000 listens, and we’ve recently moved to on-line video chats.

Recently I wrote and produced a short fantasy video with the desire to create a web series (that’s still on my to-do list) called Alliance Chronicles: Clockwork Eclipse, which was inspired by characters from my School Nightz novella trilogy.  The video project was filmed and directed by Logan Gilpin with Under The Tower Productions in 2016.  It is now in post editing.

MCJ Alliance Chronicles

Kadupul is my present project, where I act as the executive producer and screenwriter for this indie short film, in collaboration with artistic director Brianna Jordan (of the newly formed Born To Dance Productions). Sky Halliday is our choreographer. The director/filmmaker…our magnificent cinematographer is Alex Espinoza of Luz Pictura Productions and Dallas Film Crew!

Q: KADUPUL What is it?

A: Tagline:  “Let Your Passion Define You”

Kadupul was the brain child of discussions I had with Brianna. When she became a student at UNT, a whole new world opened to her. But in that new world there were some dangers that were prevalent. There were stories of attacks happening on campus during the same time; I had several guests on my radio broadcast who dealt with the topic of physical attacks. Either they worked with those who had been raped or were victims themselves on college campuses. So when Brianna approached me regarding during a dance short film, I thought it an awesome idea! We looked at what was out there, finding many movies such as the Step Up franchise etc.

But we wanted to do a film that meant more…that could help and inspire others as well as entertain. So thinking the story of a young woman, who after being attacked uses dance to find healing and strength, would be the right thing for us! Our hope is that this film could be seen by universities, high school students etc., wherever there are young adults, as a resource on not only the dangers, but using what they love to overcome the darkness in life.

We will deal with some tough topics such as rape, especially date rape, but our focus will be the aftermath…the healing and the strength. The love of friends and self and doing what you love. That is the theme!


Q: KADUPUL Where did the title come from?

A: The word Kadupul is also the name of a night blossoming flower, that if picked will die during the day. It is the most expensive flower in the world. We thought this an awesome title for this project because of the main character Klarissa Bloom who, after the darkness of her attack, creates the beauty of a new life.

THE STORY: Klarissa Bloom is a college sophomore who is a traditional/disciplined dancer mainly of ballet, contemporary and modern dance. But after her attack, she spirals into darkness and uses the energetic moves to translate her pain and anger into her performances. With the help of her friends and the handsome new grad student…Klarissa heals through dance, becoming a stronger person.

brianna Jordan


Introducing the Team

Cinematographer Alex Espinoza My name is Alex Espinoza. I am passionate about my hometown of Dallas, TX and I am the founder of a local organization, the Dallas Film Crew, a creative community of artists, producers, and filmmakers. I have a passion for uniting the community and creating opportunities for other filmmakers. I also enjoy the filmmaking process and wish to improve my skills as a cinematographer; I try to always push my limits with every project and do something that can provide a challenge.



Brianna Jordan as Klarissa Bloom Follow:  @brianna_danz98 Instagram
Angel Ray as Zander St. John         Follow:  @angelray3 Instagram
Julie Allegro as Ravyen Allard       Follow:   @julie_allegro Instagram
Scott Renteria as Julian Daniels      Follow: Face Book
Mose “ProKid” Thomas as Jacob Frye   Follow: Face Book

Choreography Sky Halliday            Follow: @skyflyhalliday Instagram

Michelle writes, first, I asked our Cinematographer Alex Espinoza to chime in and give his inspiration for Kadupul and to tell what his challenges are for this film and how he is approaching them.:)


As a cinematographer, the challenge is working with light on this film. I want to be able to balance how light is used and make sure it does not detract from the dancers’ performance. This is the same for the camera movement; I have to able to capture the performance of the dancers without getting too crazy on camera movements. Last is the lighting; this is a dark subject matter and the lighting needs to reflect it, but there needs to be a sense of hope and healing in the look and tone.

Q: What are some of the influences behind this project?


Birdman, directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, is a huge inspiration for this short. The use of dancing to tell the story mixed in with a narrative gave me an inspiration to follow a theatrical feel. I want to incorporate seamless transitions from dancing to narrative through the use of some creative lighting tactics.


I believe the major challenge for me in this project was learning to maneuver within the film industry. Although I’ve worked seriously in the book industry for six years, I am still considered a novice and have much to learn! But I did have a basic understanding of “bookdom” with being an avid reader and lover of writing/writers. (Authors are my rock stars!)  I’ve studied the book world since my teens!  Although I am a movie lover, working in filmmaking (actually producing those awesome stories on the screen) is totally a different animal than just buying my ticket and sitting in the theater!  Learning the language of film, the format of writing a “good” screenplay which is down to the barest bones instead of the lushness of 50,000 or more words such as in a novel has been a challenge! Acquiring the talent for the film project…a talented cinematographer (I learned there were different types of directors…see…we’re back to terminology lol). Then finding the cast…who can also dance or have the ability and desire to learn! Negotiating with agents, and learning the difference between SAG actors and also non union actors. Negotiating contracts and with the cast all being professionals and actively pursuing performing as a career, everyone involved has intense and crazy schedules! So coordinating practice schedules and film days! Scouting and finding locations and of course setting a budget for all of this!

I looked to God for help and I’ve taken each challenge one step at a time! I allowed myself a year to plan and budget for this project. I started acquiring cast and setting the budget in February 2017 and we shoot on January 27th and 28th 2018! I ask A LOT of questions and I Google for information. I have joined and plan to continue to immerse myself in the Dallas Film Crew organization and I attend the screenwriter’s crew meetings.

So much goes into even a small independent film. Interacting and building a team is imperative, there’s NO WAY to do this alone!  Of course much of this on my plate is because I am also the producer, which (as it is with independent publishing novels) there’s a lot to the “business” of writing! So each person’s journey will be different, depending on whether they are the scriptwriter handing off their masterpiece to the director and producers etc. Versus someone attempting to wear all the hats!

I’ve learned so much through the incredible Dallas Film Crew members and Alex Espinoza, and everyone I have come into contact with from the actors to agents, etc. All realized I am new to this and have shown patience in helping me to learn each aspect! I have been blessed to have met some wonderful individuals on this journey to film day where we’ll shoot at the lovely Crescent Moon Bellydance studio! Lol We truly appreciate Miabella, the owner for allowing us to come in and create Klarissa’s world! See more about Crescent Moon here: Website:

alex 2

Q: Anything to add?  Where can people go to learn more?

A: Well, I’m so happy to have been able to chat about this project. We are very excited and looking forward to begin practice on September 30th and we’re counting the days to film days in January! We hope to share a story that will inspire others to seek what means the most to them in their darkest times, and use that to help them navigate back to the light. Check out some of our behind the scenes dance practices and production photos. More is to come as we really gear up! Also check out Who We Are short film explaining more about the wonderful organization, the Dallas Film Crew! Also I post updates on my Instagram and Author Face Book page.

Thanks so much Rachel for having us and everyone remember, it’s not the situation, set-back or negatives that creates you…but the moving forward and not giving up and allowing YOUR passions to define you

Stay Tuned!  The Kadupul Team

~ ~ ~

MCJordan Author Pic

Learn more about Michelle Cornwell-Jordan at her FaceBook Author Page,  or follow her on Twitter, as MCJordanBooks or Instagram @michelle.cornwelljordan. Thanks for stopping by!

Another Conversation with Dan Jolley…

Welcome back to Dan Jolley, comic book writer, game designer, and author of the Gray Widow Trilogy, the second of which, Gray Widow’s Web, released this year. You can read a little about the trilogy in my first interview with Dan, but first, I’ll let him have the floor to talk about the process of creating, especially working within a world once it’s been set up.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): This is a sequel to your first novel, Gray Widow’s Walk. What were some challenges you found in re-visiting the world of the first book? How did you overcome them?

A (Dan Jolley): I wrote the first draft of what would become Gray Widow’s Walk in 1996. After a protracted series of rewrites, shelvings, and further rewrites, the book finally became what I wanted it to be, and Seventh Star Press snapped it up. But that means I had had twenty years to work on the first book, and one year to work on the second. Basically the challenge was to make sure I could do the same work in twelve months that I had done previously in a more or less unlimited time frame. I would *like* to think, though, that over the course of that twenty years, when I was constantly working on other projects and writing prose as well as other media, that I got better as a writer. In fact, at the risk of blowing my own horn, I think Gray Widow’s Web is a better book than Gray Widow’s Walk. If I can keep that curve up, the third book, Gray Widow’s War, will outshine the first two. Fingers crossed!

Q: In your first book, you spoke of drawing on your background in multimedia creation, i.e. videogames and comics. Did you find yourself re-visiting some of those influences for the sequel? Why or why not? And if so, how?

A: The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the entirety of my career is that, in any kind of ongoing storytelling endeavor, whether it’s comic books or TV shows or novel series, the thing that keeps readers coming back, is the characters. Plot is important (I’ve heard people in literary circles say things like, “Plot is to be avoided,” and “Plot is vulgar,” which translates to my ears as “pretentious hogwash”) but it still comes in a distant second to the importance of the characters. So in the second book I’ve been walking that fine line between preserving what made people respond to the characters to begin with and letting those characters grow and develop in ways that made logical and emotional sense.

(I also think writing comic books for decades has allowed me to create some truly kick-ass action scenes.)


Q: A number of sites I follow continually predict the death of YA, the death of superheroes, the death of the female-led story, and yet all of these genres keep going strong. As someone writing at the nexus of these genres, what are your thoughts?

A: I remember a number of years ago there was a pronouncement made by a Hollywood studio executive, after a movie starring an A-list actress under-performed at the box office. The guy said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Clearly, movies with female protagonists do not perform well, so our studio will no longer produce movies with female leads.” And I was thinking, “What a load of garbage. The movie tanked because it was terrible. It would’ve tanked no matter who was the lead, *because it was terrible*. Maybe try making better movies, instead of excluding half the population?” Essentially, there’s an audience out there for a terrific story. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it’s YA, or features superheroes, or has a female lead. If it’s a great story, people will respond to it.

Of course, the flip-side of that is that now more than ever, the market is absolutely flooded with books, and the struggle for eyeballs is grueling. So there’s every possibility that you could have a terrific story that just doesn’t get seen. But that’s a function of the marketplace, not of the story’s content.

Q: What was your favorite part of this book (Gray Widow’s Web), and why?

A: Okay, SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t read Gray Widow’s Walk AND Gray Widow’s Web, please skip to Question 5 immediately. (IS Note: OR…. Go and read them both and then come back! Don’t worry, we’ll wait.)












When Tim Kapoor finally realizes what the implications of his new Augmentation are as they relate to Janey’s husband Adam—that Tim’s new ability to heal injuries means he could reverse Adam’s gunshot-induced brain damage, restoring him to full mental capacity—I’m pretty proud of that moment. Tim and Janey love each other desperately, but Tim is a genuinely good, compassionate guy, and he has no real choice other than to offer to heal Adam. And once Adam’s healed (which we don’t see yet, of course)…well, Adam and Janey are still legally married, and Adam was the great love of Janey’s life. It’s a horrible place for them to be. Plus it’s a “pure science-fiction” dilemma, since this situation could not be replicated in “real life,” which makes me like it even more.
















Q: What have you learned since starting the Gray Widow series?

A: I think I’ve figured out some new and improved ways to create creepy, disturbing, in some cases nightmare-inducing antagonists. Simon Grove in Gray Widow’s Walk was truly awful—what with his screwed-up shapeshifting and propensity for sucking people’s blood out through their skin—but I think I can safely say that Aphrodite Lupo in Gray Widow’s Web surpasses him on the creep scale. She’s terrifying, she’s more damage-resistant than a Terminator, and unlike Simon, she has a real gift for picking up disciples. Plus, like every good villain, you can kind of understand where she’s coming from by the time the story’s done. (On a tangentially-related note, I’d love to see her played by Amanda Seyfried.)

Q: Anything to add?

A: If you’re looking for something a good bit less R-rated, I also have a series of Urban Fantasy Middle Grade novels out now called Five Elements. Book 1, The Emerald Tablet, came out last year, and Book 2, The Shadow City, hits stores at the end of this month. And, of course, feel free to bug me on Twitter: @_DanJolley.


Thanks again to Dan for stopping by! I highly recommend you pick up a copy of both books, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

Writing & Marketing & Cleaning, oh my!

Actually, today has mostly consisted of marketing, surfing the Internet (I swear, it’s in the cause of marketing), consuming large quantities of coffee (in my Camp NaNo writing mug), and trying not to feel too guilty about the fact that my toddler cried when I dropped her off at daycare. Because I know that none of the writing and plotting and planning (and also cleaning) would get done if I didn’t, and it’s better that she has a chance to run around and play with other kids than to toss the house and then go watch TV when I finally run out of patience and need to get stuff done. But still. Ouch. The feels.

Anyway, I’ve finally come to the conclusion-slash-realization that I don’t know as much about marketing and the stuff that happens after you finish the novel than I assumed. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and SkillShare class viewing to get more information, so that I can get better. And what I’ve learned is that I have the essence of the stuff I need, I just need to distill that essence. And then communicate it.

A few things that I will be doing–setting up a mailing list, and offering a free Rick Keller story to subscribers; starting a Medium blog on various topics; setting up workshops via SkillShare, including my Write Better Fights workshop; writing a lot more words on a daily basis; and, finally, reading more. But even before I can start all of these things, I need a plan, and a schedule. And a clean sink. Don’t ask me why. It’s a thing where I can’t concentrate if I know there are dishes. Yup.

Other than that, I’ve cracked my GRE books in the hopes of re-starting my application process for post-graduate programs, gone full bore on my stash busting, and finished plotting the first third of Vegas Run. And now, it’s probably a good idea if I get back to this stuff so that I can complete today’s planned work and go pick up Ladybug from daycare. If she’s still speaking to me!

Coming Soon: Sonnet Coupled

Sonnet Coupled Cover Art

Sonnet Coupled, Roxanne’s New Adult Interracial Erotic Romance novel, releases April 25! 

ER nurse Sonnet Mendoza’s new housemate Griffith Parker proves there is more to a man than meets the eye, and shows her there’s more to life than just her career.


Sheltered and cosseted, Sonnet Mendoza abided by her papi’s wishes her whole life: no boys, studies first and always. Now an ER nurse in a busy Chicago hospital, medical school is so close Sonnet can taste it. Just like her father always wanted. Just like she can taste all the things she wants—like Griffith Parker, the man of her dreams and her new housemate.

Working “graves” in a large hospital as a security guard while attending the police academy during the day doesn’t leave ex-Marine Griffith Parker any personal time, but after meeting the beautiful Sonnet Mendoza, business as usual is anything but. Sassy, smart…and interested in him, too? Except, she’s made an art of keeping her distance, and she’s been clear that her plans don’t include him. But the heart wants what the heart wants. His wants Sonnet. He’ll put it on the line to win her.



Roxanne D. Howard is a U.S. Army veteran who has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English. 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 time with her husband and children. Roxanne loves to hear from her readers, and encourages you to contact her via her website and social media.

Welcome, Roxanne!

I was excited to learn that Roxanne was not only a fellow romance author and reader, but that she was also a fellow veteran. I reached out to learn more, and found that she served for six years, both on active duty and with the Utah Army National Guard. She was administrative specialist, serving in an O-6 office (that’s a Colonel for you civilians out there – the one with the bird on their shirt) in Heidelberg, Germany.

She writes: “[I]t was a great post and I really enjoyed my time in the Army. It paid my way through school, and I’d definitely encourage my daughters and anyone interested to join. The military shapes lives.”

Check out her new release at the buy links below!

Buy Links:


Barnes and Noble:



Boroughs Publishing:


Social Media Links:






Author Announcement

I am happy to announce that Boroughs Publishing Group has picked up my romantic suspense novella, Negotiating Her Release! Many thanks to Boroughs, as well as to Emmy Curtis, who was my mentor and kick in the pants while writing. Stay tuned, and I’ll be sharing more information and, of course, cover pics and more. You can also sign up on their Web site to review ARCs as well as get the latest info from them.

So, phew … that was cool! Now, I’m headed into the pre-release marketing, spreading the word, editing, and also writing the next novella in the series, so things are a little hectic.

Bonus Announcement! And not only that … our expected arrival showed up exactly a week early. Baby Jennifer decided that she was done hanging out, giving her mom heartburn, and so the day (actually night) after Valentine’s Day, dear hubby was driving exactly the speed limit to Womack Army Medical Center, where Baby J showed up after a qui16836059_10158181975435363_4915682667791615169_ock two and a half hour labor.

So … actual baby AND book baby. There are lots of things going on in the crazy world that is my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.