Please, give me patience…

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

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

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

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

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

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

An abundance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace.

A Conversation with Lara Coutinho, Capocomico…

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

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

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

Photo by Bill Frazer.

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

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

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

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

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

Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What do you find most challenging?

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

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

Photo by Hauk Photography.

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho.

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

Q: Anything to add?

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

~~~

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

~~~

 

**Featured image by Hauk Photography

 

 

 

 

Writers have egos…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so, I shall.

A Conversation with Bobby Nash, Author…

I met Bobby Nash through the Sangria Summit Society, after a mutual acquaintance reviewed his SNOW series. In today’s Conversation, Nash talks about the journey of becoming a writer of multiple formats and genres…

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

A (Bobby Nash): I am a writer. I write novels, comic books, short prose, graphic novels, novellas, and have dabbled in screenplays. I’m usually opening to whatever best fits the story that needs to be told or whatever the publisher needs.

My first published work outside of a school setting was in 1992 when I had a comic book published and I started writing and drawing a comic strip for a local kid’s magazine called Keeping Up With Kids. I did strips for them for 12 years. It was fun. In 2000, I sold my first professional comic script, DEMONSLAYER, that came out in 2001. In 2004, I sold my first novel, EVIL WAYS, to a publisher. It debuted in 2005. I’ve been rather busy ever since.

I work for several different publishers. I have worked for larger publishers, small press publishers, small indie publishers, and have self-published a book or two as well. My work is generally available at the usual spots: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, on-line retail outlets, comic book stores, and the occasional bookstore. I also sell books through my website for those who would like autographed copies. www.bobbynash.com is where you can find my work.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

A: I was fascinated by stories when I was a kid. I often mimicked the TV shows I watched or the books/comics I read when I played. Eventually, I started to make up my own stories, creating characters and situations for them to get in and out of before moving on to the next story. I knew that I wanted to tell stories, but it took a long time to find out exactly how to do it. It took even longer to find a way to do it and reach a larger audience. I’m still working on trying to make a living at it.

There have been challenges along the way. Breaking in with a publisher is tough. There was, and still is, a lot of rejection. I doubt that will ever change. Thankfully, I’m too stubborn to quit. Ha! Ha! Being creative is not easy. There are those that dismiss your creativity as “flights of fancy” or “lack of focus,” both of which I have heard said about me at one time or another. It took a lot of years to convince my family that I was serious about what I was doing. I don’t think they ever really understood my passion for it though, but they try to be supportive.

Publishing has changed a lot and so have the challenges. With the rise of self-publishing, it is easier to get work out there, but it is more of a challenge to get your work noticed. As a writer, I’ve had to learn marketing, promotion, salesmanship, customer service, accounting, things like that. Writing is a business and I have to treat it like a business if I want it as a career.

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

A: I love what I do. I love creating and getting to know characters. I love crafting stories and plots, trying to come up with something new or at least put my own unique spin on a familiar idea. I love traveling and writing has helped me do that. It has also introduced me to a host of wonderful people over the years, some of whom have become lifelong friends. All of that comes from my being a writer. Beyond that, discovering that there are fans of my work was a big thrill. Being asked to autograph something or have my photo taken with a reader, those things are just icing on the cake.

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: Breaking into new publishers is still a challenge. My body of work helps make that a little easier, but most manuscript sales are still a lot of work. On a personal level, my biggest hurdle is me. Making myself sit down and get to work is the biggest obstacle I face daily. It’s like that old joke where a writer says, “It’s time to write. But first…” and then you fill in the blank with whatever non-writing chore they are about to do like laundry, cleaning the office, etc.

Once I sit down and get started, I am usually good to go, but getting my butt in the chair sometimes takes work. There’s always something trying to distract me.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: I give this advice often: If you want to write for fun, do so. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to write as a career, then you must treat writing like a job. That means meeting deadlines, long nights, missing out on social events to handle last minute edits, and other things like that. Regardless of why you write, or what your writing goals are, have fun with it.

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

A: I usually answer this question with EVIL WAYS, which was my first published novel. I wrote Evil Ways without knowing what I was doing. I wrote how I wanted in the manner I wanted. It wasn’t until after that I was told there are certain things I should have done differently. Who knew? Ha! Anyway, I think that Evil Ways is the most “me” of anything I have written because I didn’t know what I was doing. In some respects, I miss that ignorance.

You can learn more about EVIL WAYS here: https://ben-books.blogspot.com/p/evil-ways.html

These days, I have found myself changing that answer to SNOW FALLS on occasion. I’m not sure what it is about the SNOW series that has caught on with those who are reading it, but they are loving the characters in this series. The title character of Snow is former undercover operative Abraham Snow. When his undercover alias is blown, he is shot and left for dead. He survives, having had a bullet miss his heart by a mere half an inch. Due to his condition, he is forced to retire. Snow returns to the only home he’s known, the one he ran away from right after high school. As he reconnects with family and friends he hasn’t seen in over a decade, Snow also finds that he can’t quite leave the job behind. While trying to track down the man who shot him, Snow also finds himself getting involved in other situations… the kind that he is uniquely suited to handle.

At present, there are 4 SNOW novellas on sale.

Book 1: Snow Falls
Book 2: Snow Storm
Book 3: Snow Drive
Book 4: Snow Trapped
Book 5: Snow Business (coming late 2018 or early 2019)
Book 6: Snow Down (coming 2019)

Series 1 will include 6 novellas.

The first 3 have been collected in a trade paperback collection. The second 3 will also be collected.

SNOW Series 1, Vol. 1
SNOW Series 1, Vol. 2 (coming 2019)

If all goes well and sales warrant, there will be a SNOW Series 2.

You can learn more about SNOW (with links to the above) here: https://ben-books.blogspot.com/p/snow.html

Q: Anything to add?

A: Rachel, I appreciate the interview questions and for letting me talk a little bit about my work. Thanks again.

~ ~ ~

For more information about Bobby Nash and his work, check out the following links, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon and/or Patreon!

www.bobbynash.comhttp://BEN-Books.blogspot.comhttps://ben-books.blogspot.com/p/snow.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Barbara Smith-Davis, Performer

One of my most memorable encounters with Barbara Smith-Davis came when I took voice lessons with her. While I was only able to go to a couple of lessons before life got in the way, I remember saying something along the lines that I used to be soprano, but now I thought I was more of a mezzo. Maybe an alto. After running through some scales and other techniques, she turned to me and said: “You are a soprano who’s lost her nerve.”
I thought that was the most elegantly blunt feedback I’ve ever gotten. Unfortunately, New Orleans is quite a bit too far away for more voice lessons, but I wanted to invite Barbara to do a character study interview to share her amazing talent and background. (And if you are in the New Orleans area, and might be interested in studying vocal performance, check out her website!)

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?
A (Barbara Smith-Davis):  I am a performer, primarily of opera and musical theatre, but I have sung recitals, church jobs and even cabaret shows. I have always loved to sing and “pretend”. My first stage experience was behind a puppet, and I still own and use puppets as teaching aids.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?
A: I was probably about 6 when I first saw a television special starring Mary Martin as Peter Pan!  I was completely captivated by the singing, pretending, flying, crowing! When it was televised the next Christmas, I sang along, with all the characters.  Mary Martin has always been my hero. I learned so much from her recordings, and even studied with her teacher, Helen Fouts Cahoun, when I lived in Dallas years later. One of my great treasures is a signed picture of Mary Martin as Peter Pan. I always admired it in Ms. Cahoun’s Studio. When she died she left it to me. The next year I went to NY and saw Mary Martin in The Sound Of Music. I took the picture backstage and Mary signed it for me.

I didn’t realize what a challenging path I had chosen. I assumed everyone loved to sing, and dance and act like an idiot. My dear parents offered me lessons and I loved it.  After high school, and many musical performances there, I won an audition with The Dallas Summer Musicals. During the next two summers I performed in 12 professional productions there, and learned more than my classes at SMU could ever teach me.

Q: What in particular do you find most satisfying about your work? Q: What do you find most challenging?
A: I finally went to New York to study opera. I was mentored by a wonderful man named Boris Goldovsky. I attended his workshops and then joined his touring company. I loved traveling and being part of a family of performers. I even met my husband of 50 years, J.B. Davis.

The most challenging part of this business was now evident. NYC is the Mecca for everyone interested in the theatre arts! Competition was daunting, and auditions were often referred to as “cattle calls”! I hung in and hung on and discovered new opportunities.

After the birth of our daughter Debbie in 1974, we traveled with JB and I discovered how much I enjoy teaching! I studied music education at SMU, but teaching singing to one motivated student instead of a class of bored kids, is a tremendous joy!

Q: What work are you most proud of, and why?
A: There is nothing like helping a singer catch on to something as nebulous as vocal technique and seeing his pride when he realizes  he can do it! .  Music has always been an important opportunity for kids to get involved, make friends, work toward a common goal and discover yourself. My constant advice to students and myself is, “Just do it!”

Q: Anything to add?
A: As Debbie got older I resumed my performing career, but I continued teaching voice from our home in northern NJ. After 53 years in the East, I am now living in New Orleans where I have established a new voice studio.

I’ve taught many students, shy and fearful like myself, and I hope that in addition to bringing out their unique vocal talent, I have instilled in them a sense of confidence, and courage that they can take out into the world. Everyone is intimidated by “the cattle call” auditions of life. But the truth is, there can be no competition. Each of us has his own magic, his own unique contribution to make to humanity. We are here to give these Gifts.

~ ~ ~

 

Regaining Focus…

This has been one of those weird weeks where nothing is really coming together, but at the same time, I’m getting things done. Just not the right things. Or I’m too distracted to keep track of them. I don’t know.

My fitness schedule is off track and perhaps completely irreparable at this point. The house is a crazy, unorganized mess (which in turn is driving me crazy and feeding my disorganized-ness.) I’ve written maybe 500 words this week, and they were all in my head. The dogs are wondering why we aren’t taking our evening walks. And one of them has extremely bad digestive issues.

On the other hand, we took a huge load of recycling and garbage down to the dump, I made a dress from scratch for my oldest daughter, I made my spouse a gambeson for SCA heavy armor combat, and I figured out why Darth Jeeves (our Samsung robot vacuum shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet) wasn’t working and got him back and re-charged. I also figured out a plot transition for Trial Run, and got a bunch of stuff done for my part-time job at the church.

Perhaps it’s because I’m waiting to hear back from a couple of things that are going to seriously impact my life. I’ve always had trouble waiting for information that I need to make plans. Once I have it, no problem, I can get my mind set and start working on it. But waiting for that piece of news that I need drives me bonkers. And then I have trouble writing and concentrating and end up all over the place with random stuff.

We’ll see how it turns out. In the meantime, I’m going to try to sneak out for some alone time at a local café to get some writing done. I’ve got another project with a deadline, and so much house to clean that it will distract me for a good, long minute. Next week is a new week, after all, and there is fresh ink in the printer, and words to put on paper.

But in the meantime … more coffee!

A Conversation with Patrizia K. Ingram, Painter…

I became aware of Patrizia’s art through mutual membership in a Facebook group for military families in our neighborhood. She posted a vibrant watercolor painting of the cutest otter, as well as other paintings she had done on commission. I’m hoping to add one of her paintings to our art collection before we leave California, but can’t decide which one… In the meantime, I’ve asked her to talk a little bit about her life as a painter…

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a bit about you…

A (Patrizia K. Ingram): Growing up in Germany and Switzerland I started drawing and painting at a very young age. The earliest I can remember is an oil painting of a field with apple orchard at age five (this painting hangs at my brother’s house right now, 25 years later….)

In fact, my favorite subject has always been nature such as landscapes, floras and birds. I would spend hours of my childhood years drawing and painting. I got my ideas mostly from hikes in the woods and nature fieldtrips. Even now you will find me picking up random leaves and rocks from the ground- I just can’t help myself but to admire them and bring them home for future painting inspiration.

Part of growing up involved marrying a US Army officer and earning a degree in BUS & ADM from Mount Saint Mary College in NY. I never stopped pursuing my passion for art while becoming a mom of a wonderful little girl. I now work as a freelance artist. I am more motivated than ever to paint every day as I try to teach my daughter the beauty around us and the joys of discovering picturesque countryside.  I enjoy what I do and believe my work gives happiness to my clients.

Q: Tell me a bit about your area of expertise. What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Where do you share or publish your work?

A: I am crazy about watercolors; it is my preferred method of painting because of the unique qualities, unexpected results and fun techniques.  Watercolor is what I live and breathe. I am so blessed to wake up every morning to what I love. As I sip my coffee every morning in my backyard garden, I get to sniff the flowers and listen to the hummingbirds and plan my next painting of the day.

I believe good quality art can change your mood, transform the reality into a magical place and also capture precious memories.  This is why a lot of my work is house portraits. I capture memories made in each place such as the first house bought together after getting married or the place where babies were born or brought home from the hospital.  Sometimes it is grandma’s home after she passed away and sometimes it is [the] family lake home where every year there’s a family reunion. I see my work as so much more than just a simple painting; it is helping people remember all the beautiful places with the people they love. God knows how military people get moved around, one can lose track easily – I myself have moved 6 times in 10 years.

Every time I move I try to find local “landmarks” local people love and paint just that. For the place I live right now it is otters, seals, sea gulls, whales, monarchs, California poppies and Monterey Cypresses. I’m on a mission to fill this world with gorgeous art that makes you smile every time you look at it.

I’ve been painting my whole life but professionally for other people I started about 2 years ago. My friends kept asking me to paint this or that and eventually it turned into a business. I found that I have a lot to say through my paintings and get lots of commissions to do just that. I regularly share all my paintings, pictures of work-in-progress, behind the scenes, as well as tips and tricks to watercolor on my Facebook page, Patrizia K Ingram Art. I recently started an Instagram account where I publish my paintings, and I have a website as well with my name, patriziakingramart.com.

Q: Can you share with me some of the story of your journey? What first interested you in what you do? What were some challenges along the way?

A: I think the story of my journey is very simple: I try to listen to what people tell me, what my customers ask me and go do just that. Couple years ago I saw a movie called Yes Man, a 2008 comedy with Jim Carrey. In a nutshell the movie is about guy whose life is going nowhere—the operative word being “no”—until he signs up for a self-help program based on one simple covenant: say yes to everything…and anything. Unleashing the power of “YES” begins to transform his life in unexpected ways, getting him promoted at work and opening many doors…. So, I am the YES woman, haha. Anything my customers ask of me, I always say yes. They asked me to talk to Girl Scouts end of summer and teach them nature art, I said yes. They asked me to donate my local paintings for a fundraiser, and I said yes three times this year. They asked me to paint a seal for the Marine Conservancy Center, I said yes. They asked me for prints, framing, private art classes, art demos, I said yes. They asked me for a mural, well that’s still pending but probably yes. The list goes on and on but my point is that it is important to listen, slow down sometimes and listen.

I think the biggest challenge is, besides moving every three years, being a mom and a wife full time (because that’s not going away) while also trying to work full time and grow your business. Being an artist is a journey and it is not about the final destination but about getting there and the people you meet on the way and the experiences you gather. It is a process of growth and personal development because I leave a piece of myself in every painting. Being a mom to the most beautiful and most perfect little girl ever is incredibly rewarding but can be stressful at times as there only is so much time before bedtime.

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

A: I feel like I can help people with my art. If grandma died and there’s not at least one good picture of her house left, I will piece together her house from multiple photographs (including Google maps) to give the grown-up-by-now grandchildren the feeling of freshly baked cookies and homemade dinners, that only grandma could do, back to them. I often see myself as a solution to many people’s problems: if you need a promotion or graduation gift for your husband, I have done a bicycle painting or nautical chart of Monterey Bay or painting of the work place just for that kind of occasion; if you need some local scene painted like an otter or a seagull because your friend is moving and you want them to remember the place, I can help with that; if you need to beautify your kids room and are looking for custom-painted art of their favorite animals, again, that’s me; if you moved 11 times during your military career and can’t remember which house is which, I’ll do house portraits to keep them straight; if you need some sea animals on your patio chairs to make them more fun, call me for that; if your dad’s beloved puppy suddenly passed away and you need a dog portrait to commemorate the puppy, I’m happy to deliver; if you just bought a house from Over the Moon Realty, Amber and Allison probably gave you a house portrait painted by me… I could go on an on but my point is that every painting has a story that is almost always heart touching and me being a part of it is the most satisfying thing in the world. It doesn’t get better than this!

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: Deadlines are hard, deadlines I put on myself are even harder. No one pushes harder than my own schedule and self-imposed deadlines and endless lists of “to-do’s”. One of the things many artists struggle with is the chase for perfection and I am no different. Yet being creative means that there are always new ideas and thus more work to do.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer someone interested in this field? What piece of advice do you find yourself giving over and over to people who are hoping to learn from you?

A: The worst day painting is still better than a great day without painting. I think if somebody is thinking about becoming an artist it is important to keep that spark that keeps you going at the beginning and treasure it, stay motivated and don’t give up. It is so easy to get discourage or even give up if the painting is not going your way or if somebody makes a negative comment. That could be said about all creative people like writers or poets too. This is where you need to surround yourself with people like you who are also passionate about the same things that you are whether it is art or music or creative writing. I think having somebody who you respect around you to provide you with honest feedback who would help you grow is just gold. It could be somebody in person or it could be online. My fellow artist friend is Amanda Paschal, an amazing illustrator and we are actually talking about creating a Facebook group just for military artists who need a supportive and mentoring place as beginning artists. And lastly, if you want to get better, paint, paint and paint. Then paint some more. Once you’re done, go and paint. There’s no way around it but to practice.

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

A: I am most proud of being part of the community as an artist and using my talents to raise awareness about wild life in the Monterey Bay Area. I often donate my art to multiple fundraisers in the area; it is almost always an otter painting or two.  Every time I paint an otter or a seal I make sure to include some educational facts when posting on social media to help people understand the need to protect the wild life and to keep the ocean clean. By living in Monterey, CA I am exposed to a magnitude of wild life and the ocean itself; being in love with the nature makes me want to protect it.

 

Q: Anything to add?

A: I am most grateful to my husband for his support, my daughter for the constant hugs and kisses, my followers and supporters for encouraging words and feedback every day, for my community and being part of it, and all my family and friends who believe in me. I am always happy to teach and answer any (art-related) questions so please find me on Facebook and Instagram and check out my website. If you love beautiful, light-filled, happy paintings then you are in the right place with me.

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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.

A Conversation with William C. Markham

I recently put Night Run back into a few featured giveaways on Instafreebie, and one of them happened to be an “Urban Noir” collection of urban fantasy. The author running the giveaway, William C. Markham, had an excerpt from his book, “Missing: A Mason Gray Case.” The blurb read: “Mason Gray, a former cop, has a knack for solving puzzles, but the corpse on his living room floor is a piece that doesn’t fit.”  Of course, I had to check it out. I ended up reading not only the giveaway sample, but went over to Amazon and got the rest of the book to finish reading that day. I was prepared to buy the series only … well, keep reading to learn more about Markham and his urban fantasy take on detective noir fiction.
Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a little bit about yourself and your path into writing Missing: A Mason Gray Case.
A: 
I’ve always enjoyed writing. I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories when I was in high school. I even worked on the high school literary magazine. But acting was always my passion. In college, I dabbled in playwriting and took a creative writing class with Nikki Giovanni, a published poet who had some name recognition at the time. I started writing a fantasy novel then, but it never amounted to anything. It wasn’t until much later, while I was living in Chicago, that the idea for Missing and Detective Gray came to me. It took me ten years to finish it, mostly because I kept getting distracted. But once I did, I realized that I had it in me to write an entire book.
Q: In Missing, the city of Chicago becomes its own character in the novel. Can you talk a bit about using the city in your novel, and building the world around it?
A: I love Chicago. I lived there for six years and relished the vibe it gave off, the sense of opportunity, the hope of making it big. But there was also this other side, a darker, grittier version of the city that carried its own romanticism in a way. I tried really hard to capture that personality in the book. I wanted to incorporate my own experience there to make it authentic to my readers. Gray’s apartment was one I lived in, and the Deluxe Diner was right across the street. They had great mozzarella sticks.
There’s so many aspects to the city that convey a sense of mystery. Looking at the lights of the all the skyscrapers in the loop at night made me wonder what life was like for the people that lived and worked there. I discovered Butcher’s Dresden Files and enjoyed the feeling of actually knowing the places he mentioned. I wanted to do that in my own story. The idea of mixing reality with fantasy intrigued me.

Q: This novel evokes a gritty noir world with a modern urban fantasy touch. What were some of your influences in creating it?
A: 
The Dresden Files certainly influenced me, but I think the idea really hit me after watching Blade. Something about vampires running corporate America appealed to me.

I also listened to the Prairie Home Companion on NPR a lot. There was a segment with a character named Guy Noir. It was my favorite. Being an actor, I’m a sucker for interesting characters. When I started writing about Mason Gray, it was more an exercise in character development than of storytelling. But then I wondered what would happen if I put that character into a world with vampires. And so the journey began.

Q: Your bio talks about your work both as an elementary school teacher, as well as a an actor and theater company founder. How does your writing life fit into these other creative endeavours?
A: 
In addition to Missing, I have one other book out, The Great Bacon Escape. I wrote it specifically for my fifth grade students last year. I teach writing and thought it would be an excellent way to show them the process in all its messy glory. When I taught about snapshots, I wrote a snapshot of a character. When I taught about problem/solution, I had them brainstorm problems the character might face. I ended up writing the while thing as a present for them in two months. Then we talked a lot about revising. It turned out to be a great experience and I was able to give them all a copy at the end of the year.

For my theatre company [Impressions Theatre] we do original plays for young audiences. The first two shows I wrote myself. Then I hired someone else to write them due to time constraints, though I do come up with the ideas and a rough outline.

I also have four children. As you can imagine, I keep pretty busy and it is difficult to find time to write. I squeeze in time whenever I can, though, but I’m not as prolific as some authors.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of creating the novel? How did you meet/resolve that challenge?
A: 
I think plotting is my biggest challenge. I started out as a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants), throwing events at Gray to see what choices he would make and where it would take him. I reached a point where I realized I needed more than that. I needed a road map to get to the end and I didn’t know how to do that. So I contacted a good friend of mine, who is an excellent author in his own right, and asked for help. After a couple of brainstorming sessions, I had what I needed and was able to move forward.

Q: My only complaint about the novel is that the sequel isn’t out yet. What is coming next for Mason Gray? When do we get to read the next book?
A:
The next book is called Stolen. I started on it as soon as I finished Missing. I am 40K words into it. Missing was only 52K, but this one is going to be longer. It’s going well and I hope to have it out by Christmas. And I plan to write another kids book this year too.

Q: Anything to add?
A: 
Thanks for your interest in Mason Gray. I love to hear from my readers so visit my website and drop me a line. Make sure to sign up for my mailing list for a free Mason Gray short story: Beaten. You can also find me on Facebook.