Wandering Around the San Juan Bautista Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A view across the center/back of the chapel.

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

The view toward to the altar and its saints.

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

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

The devotional area to the Virgin Mary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

Rick Keller meets Shop Small Saturday!

Good morning, and apologies for the intermittent radio silence!

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

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

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

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

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

Phew.

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

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

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

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

Peace!

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.

Character Studies

When I graduated middle school, one of my teachers signed my yearbook: “Rachel, You are a “why”!” I didn’t have to ask. The nickname came about because I often cannot stop asking questions.

Later, when my Dad and I were commuting to work together, he would often get impatient and turn the radio from NPR to the Classical Station of the New York Times WQXR. Usually, it would be in the middle of a radio story about some obscure topic in some country that I would remind myself to look up on the map later. He wanted to listen to news that was more locally relevant; I remained fascinated by the eclectic and the obscure. (We’ve been continuing this same conversation in one form or the other for about the past 20 years or so…)

When I joined the military and trained as a 46Q print journalism and public affairs, I finally found a job where I could ask a lot of questions AND seek out obscure and eclectic stories and make them interesting and known to other people. I enjoyed writing features–getting to know people, what they did, fun facts about their lives.

Now that I primarily write fiction and do the occasional interview for my blog, I find that a lifelong interest in the obscure and eclectic has paid off. I enjoy doing the interviews for my character “Conversations,” although I’m realizing that the time I have for them is very limited. I still have a couple I need to write up and publish, but I still want to expand into sharing interviews with people whose creative abilities are outside of the scope of writing. I will still, of course, continue to share interviews with writers, but I want to branch out to painters and musicians and medieval re-enactors and more.

I am going to start a new series of Conversations, interspersed with my traditional interviews with writers. My goal is to have them up on Mondays and share them throughout the week. Check them out and if you think you might have an interesting story to tell, let me know. If you have a friend with an interesting story to tell, send them my way.

And now, back to my word count.

Stay tuned…

We’ve got some awesome things coming, like more interviews, new covers, a plan for the release of the rest of the Rick Keller Project, and of course reviews.

Also upcoming this year: a cross-country move, pitching two new series, writing more words, and all the other things I’m checking off in my bullet journal. Speaking of which, does anyone else find that the more you check off on your to-do list, the longer it gets?

For example, I just finished the first draft of Vegas Run. So … now I have to rewrite, revise, send for edits, search stock photo sites for ideas for my cover design, get edits back and revise some more, plan my launch/ads/reviews, etc. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Still, the work is fun, even if writing is still my full-time job that pays me like an internship. And eventually I might even get promoted to paid intern! At least my boss lets me work outside, and doesn’t mind if I occasionally drink on the job.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

 

Tournament of Ymir Rundown…

All right folks! Put on your party hats and reading glasses, as I’m about to fulfill today’s word count with a rundown on yesterday’s event, the Tournament of Ymir. (For those wondering what this is, or thinking that perhaps this crazy organization sounds like fun, check out www.SCA.org.)
But first, a prologue. This past week, I’ve been staying up way too late preparing for the event. I completed my first knitting project made of silk at a super tiny gauge (about 15 stitches per inch/6 stitches per cm). I bound off the last stitch at two in the morning on Friday, then sewed all day Friday because I’m on a mission to get better at sewing and having more authentic garb, and of course managed to sew several seams in the wrong direction (insert mighty cussing). That finished up at about 2 in the morning the day of the event, and I’d prefer if no one looked too closely at the uneven shoulders of the sideless surcote, or the unfinished inside seams of the surcote or the cote. Oh. And then I remembered I needed documentation for my project … and to lay out the things I needed to bring the next day.
I’m not as young as I once was, and somewhere in my marathon garb session, I lost my phone (I buried it in a garb tote and didn’t find it until Rob was rummaging around trying to find it in the morning.) This meant I had no alarm set and woke up right around the time I had planned on leaving. Rob and I got the kids, got the car packed, managed to bring most of what I had meant to bring. (There are advantages to laying things out the night before … Rob … Just saying.)
We got on the road and drove a ways – long enough for me to finish weaving in the ends on my knitting project, because it’s not a real event unless you’re finishing up something on the way there.

Knitting project, a silk relic pouch based on extant examples of medieval knitted items … and Spike the Atlantian seahorse. 😀

Upon arrival, we trolled in (basically paid the entrance fee and got our token for the site), then headed to the A&S competition area. At this point, we were late enough that I figured I could take some time, as we had missed morning court (more on this later).  I dropped off my project with Mistress Michel Almond de Champagne, admired the beautiful works on display, chatted with several folks, and finally decided it was time to meander down to the list field and meet up with some of the other ladies from the Canton of Attilium so we could get some practice in. Lo and behold, as we left the building, we ran into Katie, Jess, and Brittany. Perfect!
We moseyed on down to the list field and found a tent full of familiar faces. At this point, I was realizing how incredibly warm the day was turning, and contemplated removing the surcote, because I was sweating. At this point, I was still not feeling really put together, sweaty already, had a bunch of stuff that still needed to be in places,  had forgotten to bring the linen for my veil/kerchief to hide the short purple hair … Ladybug and Baby Bug were squirmy and excited because YAY OUTSIDE!!, and I was still trying to switch into extrovert mode … and then I received news I had been called into court. Oh crap. Yeah, sorry, I’ll just hide over — nope. Michele Servideo Stech spotted me and suddenly I was kneeling in front of the Baron and Baroness, the former who immediately appropriated Baby Bug, and heard Her Excellency talking about some magical person who liked to do arts and science and had lots of projects and roped other people into doing stuff … then admitted me (WHAT??) into the Order of the Boreas. Which was SO AWESOME, PEOPLE. There was beautiful bling and a beautiful scroll, both by Mistress Michel. They will be framed and displayed with pride, especially the illustration of the Hellenistic figure Nyx. As Mistress Michel later explained, Nyx stays up at night, working and thinking and dreaming. Hm …. Sounds familiar …

Beautiful medallion and artwork by Mistress Michel Almond de Champagne.

As I stood, kind of blown away, I did have the presence of mind to retrieve my youngest child from the Baron. But as I walked away, there was some laughter. Ladybug had decided to get in on the action, and as I was walking away with Baby Bug, she had headed on up for some quality time with Their Excellencies. Finally, both children in hand, we headed off into the sunset … Just kidding. We found a spot to get some rehearsing in.
What were we rehearsing, you ask? Well, glad you wanted to know! Some of the ladies of the Canton of Attilium had been talking about wanting to start doing some music. So we decided to write a song for Coronation. I contributed the melody, Katie contributed the lyrics, Ashley (who we are trying hard to recruit) contributed the arrangement, and Jess and Brittany contributed their beautiful voices. Together, we put together a song about the Siege of Paris (since the theme of the event was Vikings versus the French.) Katie and I dressed in early French fashion. Brittany and Jess dress in Viking garb. The song was set up so two lines of the verse were sung by the French, two by the Vikings, and then we came together on the chorus, which goes:
In the hearth a fire burns
Beckoning their safe return.
At the dawn I long to see
Loved ones marching home to me.
We’d been practicing this for several weeks, and were able to perform it at the 2pm performing arts gathering. I will have to see if I can find some video and upload it. For my part, I have missed singing as part of a group, and these ladies are so very talented that it was a pleasure. We are planning to put something together for Coronation! So stay tuned …
Speaking of Coronation, I had been talking with Baroness Sophie the Orange of the commedia dell’arte group I Firenzi, and my friend Michele, who is an ATS belly dancer and quite a talented one, about putting together something for Coronation. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think we are going to have some fun at that event. Also, during the conversation, we were talking with Catherine Ambrose and I think somehow I volunteered to help with A&S Coordination for performing arts for that event. And by think, I mean, I definitely said I would do it. Because I like planning and coordinating stuff, and I think I can be helpful.
After the performance was over, I had to miss the commedia show, “The Doge’s Swan,” in order to be back up at the A&S competition. Rob, who had taken the kids for a break and some lunch and car naps, had to get his French burnt mead over to the brewing competition. Ah, the curse of having too many fun things to do.
At the A&S competition, which was a bit of a Viking pillage event (or dirty Santa), every artist received a ticket. When their ticket was pulled, they got to pick with A&S piece they wanted to go home with. My ticket got chosen first (which just shows that it was actually my lucky day), and I picked a beautiful icon of St. Germaine painted by Brian Sears. Perhaps it was my fierce French visage, but nobody else pillaged it from me, and it is now hanging on my wall above the baker’s rack. This was one of the most well-attended A&S displays/competitions I’ve seen, and I hope people are fired up to continue to participate. Many kudos to Mistress Michel for coming up with the unique idea and her excellent organization and publicizing of the event.
Next, Rob came to tell me that he hadn’t won the brewing event, and worse luck, the Kingdom Brewer had brought the same kind of mead project. This was kind of a bummer, but since we have more mead at home, was still all around a win, I think. (Keep reading, more about this later…)
The next big thing was going to be our I Firenzi meets Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night. But before I get there, a few things I wanted to mention that were awesome:
*Michele and Sylvie dancing with zills in the recreation hall, and teaching the little girls who gathered around some basic moves in an impromptu dance class.
*The ladies who joined us at the A&S performance. I unfortunately did not get the name of the song they sang about the duty of the crown, but it was beautiful and moving. And those riddles … Odin dad jokes, I tell you…
*Bambi, the most wonderful and gracious and hospitable. Right when I needed a miracle, she brewed many cups of Turkish coffee, which were in themselves little miracles.
*Visiting with Kat in the A&S area, where she worked on her spinning wheel and I got a chance to talk geeky fiber talk with her and another lady whose name escapes me (that’s what names do with me).
*A gentleman, Markus, whose daughter ran around and around with Ladybug until they were laughing and falling down. I love SCA kids. We hope to see you at another event!
*The graciousness of our Baron and Baroness and the Baron and Baroness of Black Diamond. Sometimes in the SCA, you have leaders and you have authority figures, and in our baronies, we are lucky to have good leaders and human beings in those positions of authority. I am thankful.
We were planning to duck out to eat before Court, but I’m glad we stayed. The Attilium folks grabbed a patch of grass so the kids could run around. Rob went to court (which was just a few yards away, held outdoors in the beautiful weather.) To his surprise, he was called up to receive an honorary mention for his mead! He received a token of a glass bottle shaped like a bunch of grapes. He was glad of the opportunity to talk shop with some fellow brewers and vintners, and I believe is already planning a short mead for Coronation …
We ended up heading off site for some dinner, and then came back for …. Twelfth Night!
(INSERT DRAMATIC MUSICAL CUE)
So, some back ground on this production. I had mentioned to Sophie that I enjoy Shakespeare and had been around it and studied it, and she had answered that she loved Shakespeare, but never had the chance to do it and was trepidatious because it was different from commedia improvisational techniques. So, I invited her to a Sweet Tea Shakespeare LIT show, and she immediately saw the possibilities.
Baroness Sophie is a giant whirlwind of energy and intention, as well as a source of mentorship and coaching, not just in theater and commedia, but in the SCA, in performing arts coordination, and being open to learning more and more and trying new things. She offered me something that was incredibly risky and generous – the chance to direct her troupe in my adaptation of the script of 12th Night.
Along the way, I grew in my ability to teach and lead, to work with artists deeply experienced in a craft not my own, and bringing Shakespeare’s text to life with a bit of a commedia dell’arte flavor. I think at some point in the process, every member of the troupe individually expressed some sort of trepidation (and believe me, there were moments I was filled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome), but all through that time Sophie was a rock. A rock with some fart jokes, of course, because this IS Shakespeare.
So, the night of Ymir, feast finished up. We set up the “stage” – the commedia curtain – and gathered props and costumes. Master Efenwalt and his incredibly talented and awesome family joined us to play music. (THEY PUT TOGETHER A GALLIARD VERSION OF “BEAT IT” BY MICHAEL JACKSON!!! So cool and perfect….) We all took a deep breath … and plunged in.
The beauty of live theater is that anything can happen. And in this production, I’m pretty sure everything that could DID happen. We had a fart joke that barely anyone laughed at — and a vulgar Elizabethan pun that at least one person in the audience found totally hilarious. There were some moments in the improv that I almost fell over laughing because they were so far above anything we’d seen in rehearsal (Gina Towey, our Viola, had my spleen working overtime, and my side in stitches, with her frog speech.) And yet, every time fate/life/the late hour threw us a curveball, our actors hit it out of the park. If we had to have a beginning of a journey of performing Shakespeare together, I couldn’t have asked for a better one. I hope we get to do it again soon!
So now we are home, back to the mundane world. There is much laundry to be washed, garb to be finished, and plans for next event to start. I apologize if I missed anyone’s name or left anyone out. If I did, feel free to share what I did not in the comments or just over a beer the next time we meet again in the DREAM.
YIS,
Teresa of Attilium

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: www.redbullrising.com, and about military writing at: www.aimingcircle.com. 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: https://middlewestpress.submittable.com/submit

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: https://middlewestpress.submittable.com/submit/99751/call-for-military-writing-essays-on-craft-why-we-write-anthology

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

Website: www.militarywritersguild.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/milwritersguild/

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!