Contemplating next steps…

This week I’ve been working the checklists and caffeine pretty hard, as I get ready to start traveling in order to enter the end game of my time in HHC command in the Army Reserve. It’s given me some time to contemplate what I’m doing with my life, and making a few choices to refine what needs to happen.

The process started with a simple question from friends reacting to my manic social media statuses — how are you doing everything that you do? My pat answer (checklists and caffeine) is actually pretty accurate. But I started to reflect. Am I doing a lot? Am I doing the right things? Is this what I need to be doing to achieve my long-term goals?

Some of the things, other than checklists and caffeine, that help me get things done are: 1. Extremely supportive spouse and true co-parent. I really could not do these things without him. 2. Planned (and unplanned) rest times. Sometimes I just ignore what I’m supposed to do and read a book to re-charge the batteries. But, I try to stick to the planned rest times. 3. I have reached a point in my life where I say no to anything I don’t want to do. Yes, I’ll engage in tasks that I might otherwise NOT have a preference for, but it will be in the service of a goal that I have specifically chosen for myself. I recognize this is a luxury, and I try to make what I do worthy of that choice.

However, I have realized that some of the things I’m doing, no matter how rewarding, are not working out. I have not spent quality time writing in a long time. 500, 700 words here and there are not what builds a writing career. I should be done with the first draft, first revision, second revision, and query process for Steel-Toed Blues. Instead, I’m about to write the final, climactic scene. I’ve BEEN about to write the final climactic scene for about a week now. Plus, NaNoWriMo is coming, I need to finish edits and re-query a category romantic suspense, I have a short story deadline for WriterPunk press coming up, and another novel outlined and ready to go. Something in my life has to go away so I can shoehorn in the time to write.

That something is my Army Reserve time. These past two years since leaving active service were supposed to be spent working freelance and applying to PhD programs. That goal has shifted to working freelance and building a writing and coaching career. And also, applying to PhD programs (although I think that will happen AFTER my spouse retires and we are no longer at the whims of the Army assignment process.) But I can’t NOT put the Army computer away in order to work on my civilian career, because to me, the emails and texts and calls are not interruptions–they are Soldiers who have problems that need to be solved, or issues that need to be taken care of. And for a certain amount of time, I was okay with that. But the traveling 12 hours (one way) every month, and the other stresses that come with being a Commander have just about worn out their welcome.

So, while I love serving and have enjoyed my career, I’ve decided to take a year off and head into the Inactive Ready Reserve to re-group, write a bunch, spend more time with Ladybug, have a kid, play some more music, write a bunch more, head to some more Cons, and also write some more.

In the meantime, I’ve got some checklists, the top of which is to write this darn battle scene between Fae and Evil, so better grab some more caffeine and get to it.


Another Con rundown…

Before I head into today’s word sprints for Steel-Toed Blues, I thought I’d take a moment of reflection-er-procrastination and give a little bit of a rundown on the Fayetteville ComicCon 2016. For a short glimpse of how last weekend went, here are the Cliff’s Notes:

Friday: Out of town guests arrive. Prep house and items needed for Con. Get groceries. Stage equipment for performance and Con. Head out for the opening night performance of Romeo & JuliLIT at the Fainting Goat in Fuquay-Varina. Mostly remember all of the chords and notes. Finish up around 9:30, get home around 10:30, try to fall asleep.

Saturday: Get up at 6. Pack car for Con. Grab coffee and head over to set up. Spend entire day ensuring panelists get to their panels INCLUDING getting my writing track panelists in the door and comfortably situated. MODERATE a panel on military science fiction that includes John Ringo. Pause for minor fan-girling. (Okay, more than minor.) Sell a few books. Wonder where the Con Suite is, if it actually exists. Continue rest of day in like fashion. Take off at four for second Romeo & JuliLIT performance at Dirtbag Ales in Hope Mills. Play until fingers and arms cramp up in the middle of a Shakespearean cover of “Poison.” Finish and head home.

Sunday: Get up at 6, pack car. Head to Con at ~8. Find out that they’re not letting vendors in the door until 9 (WTF??). Get situated. Luck out and have a member of the writers’ group show up to take over panel wrangling duties. THANK YOU, ASHLEY!!! Sell a book or two. MODERATE and participate in a panel on self- and traditional publishing and both disseminate and learn some helpful hints and tips. Get fist bumped by Sam Jones of Flash Gordon fame. Spend rest of the day pretending to be an extroverted salesperson/author instead of an exhausted, highly-socialized introvert. Finally find out that there actually IS a Con Suite about halfway through the afternoon and take that buffet for all it’s worth. Finally pack up and head out, ready for more adventures!

Monday: Crash. Crash hard.


The NJ Native Crew: Me and Fred Doot, co-editor and publisher of Fantasy Scroll Mag, hanging out, selling books, and shooting the breeze at FCC ’16.

It’s been a wild and crazy ride here this past month, what with hurricanes and ComicCons and playing the bass for the first time with a great group of theatrical folks. It’s going to be crazy for a little while longer as I head to NY next month to change out of command of my Army Reserve unit. That’s why I’ve specifically turned down any other obligations, save for Arisia 2017, in order to concentrate on writing, writing, and writing some more. (And also coaching and editing, if you should need some of that.)

In the meantime, stop by the site from time to time. Pick up a book. Drop me a line. See you around!

It’s been a while…

…since I posted anything up here on the ol’ bloggeroo. Some of that is because I’m a lazy blogger. This is just the truth. BUT! I’ve also had a lot of things happening.

WRITING!! Writing has been happening! The end is in sight for Steel-Toed Blues, and while I didn’t make my self-imposed deadline of finishing by the end of September, I think it will happen before NaNoWriMo. Woohoo!

Speaking of writing, I’m gearing up to be a vendor, wrangler, and panel participant at Fayetteville ComicCon. I’ll be moderating a panel on military science fiction and, BTW, John Ringo will be a panelist for that. So … major mil sci-fi fan squee going on right now. I’ll also have a table set up if you want to come by, say hi, grab a book, pay for that book (otherwise, we’re going to have some issues), and talk geeky writer-y type stuff. Look for this sign:


But wait–there’s more! Friday night is the opening night for Romeo & JuliLIT, the Sweet Tea Shakespeare season opener and fundraiser. We’ll be at the Fainting Goat in Fuqua Varina on Friday, DirtBag Ales in Hope Mills on Saturday (sold-out show), and at the Marquis Market in downtown Fayetteville on Friday, October 21. It’s going to be a kick-ass, rockin’ show, and I guarantee you will never watch Romeo & Juliet the same way ever again.

In the meantime, I’m always available for coaching, manuscript editing, or general shooting of the breeze. Drop me a line, and hopefully I’ll see you at one of these events!

Dragon*Con Rundown, II

Yesterday (the day before? All the days are going together) I posted a rundown on this year’s Dragon*Con, which was superfun and the best yet. But, in between that time and now, I drove 12 hours from North Caroline to New Jersey and as such had some time to think. So I thought of a few more things, and decided to put them here, because this is my blog, and I can do that.

First, I was thinking about feminism and allies, and how great it was to see that in action on the Violence in UF panel. Not only did Richard Kadrey do his thing, but the panelists, majority of men, felt comfortable talking about their approaches to sexual violence in nuanced ways, all of which made me feel that they had taken time to listen to women talking about their experiences and actually believed them, and incorporated women’s viewpoints into their work. Which is awesome, and not something you see in every writer’s stuff.

But, there came a counterpoint to that on the Humor in UF Fantasy panel (or it could have been a different UF panel, but it was really funny). One of the women authors, whose name is escaping me but she had shoulder-length brown hair and was super funny, mentioned in passing that she had been groped while watching the Dragon*Con parade. She explained she had turned around, given the guy a WTF? look, and he melted away in the crowd.

It made me think about some stuff, like how we handle inappropriate behavior, how someone could think that was acceptable to do to a stranger, and the fact that I have one daughter and another on the way, and even though I want them to come and join in on all the geeky, nerdy fan fun, I also am going to have to figure out how to teach them how to navigate a world that contains assholes. Right now, I’m considering muay thai and Brazilian jiu jitsu, with a side of krav maga and sabre fencing …

Some other stuff I thought about mostly had to do with writing, and how I should be doing more of it. I tried to go to some of the writing panels, but during the first one I went to, I found the participants to be more concentrating on pushing their books they had written on the topic, than on discussing in depth the topic of the panel. Afterwards, I was expressing dissatisfaction to Rob, who remarked: You always go to those writing panels, and you never really seem to find them helpful.

By contrast, when I attended the panels in my favorite genre, UF, I got excited about writing and motivated to sit down and put words in document. I even actually walked up to a publisher and asked if they accepted unsolicited manuscripts. (They did, and I really need to get STB into the “currently doing revisions” status.)

I don’t know if this means my creative process is changing, or if it just requires more discipline, or if Dragon*Con is the place for me to go and have fun and not necessarily network and think about work. But if I want to write successfully in the spec fic genre, I need to be treating the event more as the former and less as the latter. And also, I should be writing now, instead of blogging. Or surfing Facebook.

Anyway, I am hopefully entering the end of my time as an Army Reserve company commander, which will help immensely in being able to direct my mental and creative energies toward writing. Right now, when I sit down at my computer to write, I immediately feel guilty that I haven’t checked my Army computer or email or solved all of the problems that I know are waiting for me. Knowing myself and how I work, I will not be able to overcome that until I leave command, and so I have made some progress toward that end.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to opening up STB, getting some more words in, and hopefully getting ever nearer the time when it’s ready to be pushed out into the world.

TGIF, and happy writing!

Dragon*Con Rundown…

In which I talk about Dragon*Con in a semi-organized, but mostly rambling and at-times-fangirling, fashion.

First, let’s talk about D*C in general. This is my third (fourth? I forget) year going, and the second in a row with Ladybug. I wanted to make sure that I would be able to attend panels without her, which seems heartless, but in reality is the only way I would be able to actually attend, as she is now at the age where she is mobile, fast, loud, and easily bored. None of which makes me the ideal panel attendee with her in tow. So, we booked a suite with a pull-out couch and arranged for a friend to be a “mother’s (and father’s) helper” in exchange for hotel and ticket. It worked like a charm and is definitely on the list to repeat next year. Also, we brought way too much food with us, so we’ll probably cut back a little next year, but again, still a good idea. Last, we stayed in a hotel NEXT to the Westin, with the intention of not having to deal with hotel booking hell, but still being close to our favorite bar. This would have worked out well, had not we had a small surprise in the form of Ladybug’s incoming little sister, and so I spent most of my time at the Westin Starbucks.


Next–the panels. Most of the ones I attended were on the Urban Fantasy track, which was even better this year than last (and it was good last year.) There was an excellent panel on Violence in Urban Fantasy, in which various authors, including Richard Kadrey, author of the Sandman Slim novels, talked about how they treated violence in their work. Lots of great information, and inspiration. Also, Richard Kadrey is a badass, who shut down an asshole who thought making stupid female-parts jokes would be funny. Additionally, the UF track panels introduced me to David B. Coe and Myke Cole, both of whom are great authors I hadn’t heard of before (and the latter of whom displayed the enviable ability to be eloquent while completely intoxicated). I rectified that with a trip to the vendor hall–but more on that later.

I tried a panel on the writing track, but was less than impressed, and attended a fun panel on the war college track, about sieges and urban warfare. That one was pretty good, and I got some good research angles.

There was one sour moment on the panels, when one of the authors described her book as: “…also, she’s a veteran, so of course she has PTSD…” That pretty much decided me on never actually buying or reading any of her books. Maybe it was that my inner veteran was near the surface, due to spending D*C 2016 with military friends, or the character I’m writing, or the fact that I leave tomorrow for drill, or the fact that D*C will always mark the anniversary of the loss of an Army buddy–but that remark highlighted once again the gap between “us” and “them,” and it pissed me off.

Other than the panels (which by the way spurred me to come up with how I’m going to fix the opening for Steel-Toed Blues, as well as motivating me to get back and get the words out), there was some great people-watching. Lots of heroes and princesses, as well as some lesser known characters. There was Marty McFly from Back to the Future, Ogre from Nerds, Barf from Spaceballs, and my husband, who dressed up as Max from Where the Wild Things Are. Also, Ladybug fell in love with the fairy wings and tutu that Rob brought with us, and insisted on wearing them every day, even with her Star Trek command onesie, and her Star Wars stormtrooper T-shirt. As always, though, the amount of creativity and skill in the cosplayers’ outfits was topnotch, and they were, without fail, gracious, polite, and professional when dealing with picture requests.

Last (but not least!) — the vendor hall. I stopped by WordFire Press, of course, as I wanted to see what was new from Quincy J. Allen and some of the other authors affiliated with the press. I picked up his Chemical Burn, as well as a few others, and was perusing the rest of the books when Kevin J. Anderson (yes, THAT Kevin J. Anderson) complimented me on my tattoo. I immediately suppressed a fangirl squee of supersonic proportions, and instead thanked him. And moved on. And then squee’d on Facebook. Because of course.

I spent most of my money on books in the vendor hall, and wished heartily that they would do some kind of Authors’ Alley, because it would be helpful in finding what you’re looking for. Or, if the Dragon*Con app had some sort of way to sort vendors by category, i.e. Clothing, Publisher, Comics, etc. Like in the mall, when you know you want to buy shoes and not every shoe store has the word “shoe” in the title.

Rob and I HAD intended to stay out late one or two nights, especially with the help of our friends to watch Ladybug, but we underestimated how much we like to sleep and hang out. So, most of our late-night routines consisted of him putting Ladybug to bed and waiting for me to get back from the 10 pm UF panel of that day. We party like rocks, what can I say.

I’m hoping to repeat the successful parts of D*C next year, and to improve on what was successful. I’m also encouraging Rob to apply to teach on the War College track next year, as I think he would be outstanding at that. I’ve renewed my writing and authoring goals, and had a great time. Next year, I intend to take full advantage of the Westin bar, as I have fond memories of their mojitos.

See you in 2017!

Just keep writing …

In the past month, I’ve counted all the stuff in my cages at the Army Reserve center, made my way through most of a tricky knitting pattern, finished reading a few books (including some with really small print and no pictures), and contemplated reaching out to start up my Characters interviews again. I’ve also line edited a friend/client’s manuscript, connected a potential client with a transcriptionist, started bass guitar lessons, tried out for the 2017 Sweet Tea Shakespeare theater season, and tried an experiment in making my grandmother’s long-lost cheesecake recipe.

All the while averaging approximately 50-100 words/day on Steel-Toed Blues. This dratted book has taken me so long to write, I think it’s actually older than Ladybug. In fact, the next kid might come along before it’s done. I don’t know what it is about this book that makes me feel like I’d rather be doing anything else than writing it–perhaps it’s cursed by Faeries. Who knows.

Anyway, I’m off to wash the dishes, practice guitar, eat cheesecake and–yes, of course–get in some words. Because words=book.

Also, if you know any interesting characters for me to interview, hook me up. 😀

A lonely voice…

Well, not so lonely, just rather neglected. My blogging has left much to be desired, but then, to be honest, so has my ability to add to my word count for Steel-Toed Blues.

In the past month, I’ve spent a large amount of time traveling for the Army Reserve, doing Army Reserve things, traveling home, still checking my Army computer, and thinking a lot about the stuff I need to do for the Army. I’m working on finding me a replacement who will do all of these things, while I hare off to a new unit and a new career–one that will more closely match what I’m doing with my civilian life–but in the meantime, this part-time job I love is taking up a lot of mental and creative space in my life.

However! Not to complain. I have made some progress with STB, and this afternoon I am determined to get the words I need, inch by inch if necessary, until I’m past this slump. Because that’s what writers do. I guess.

I’ve also start practicing music again, and even auditioned last night to be part of the upcoming Sweet Tea Shakespeare season. I’m hoping to be a part of their Christmas cantata, and possibly their production of Cymbeline, but if they just ask me to play music with the WoCos, I’m good. Even with the nerve-wracking terror that auditions are for me, I got a huge creative jolt out of the process, and had fun, besides.

Last but not least, I wrapped up a line edit for a client, and so I am currently open to new coaching and editing projects. If you need someone to cheer you on, or guide you, or give you good, professional feedback, drop me a line at rachelbrune ~at~ Or check out Scribbler Coach.

In the meantime, happy writing/editing/Tuesday to you!

Guest Post: Michael G. Munz

About two years ago (holy cow, this blog is old…), I hosted author Michael G. Munz as he debuted his novel, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure. Fast forward a few years through the ever-changing, entropy-laden atmosphere of the modern publishing industry, and Michael found himself in a position that may be familiar to more than one Indie Author out there. I invited him to stop by and talk a bit about how the closing of his publishing house affected him, and how he is working through that to continue his writing career. Sit back, grab a caffeinated (or non-, that’s cool too) beverage of your choice, and check out his take on overcoming disruption in the publishing biz.

Take it away!

~ ~ ~

Two years ago, my comedic fantasy adventure Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, entered the world. While I’d self-published two novels previously, Zeus was my first book to be picked up by a publisher: Seattle-based indie publisher Booktrope. The book opened to great reviews. It gained momentum through word of mouth, association with other popular books in the Amazon system. Zeus Is Dead received multiple book-of-the-year honors last summer, which boosted its visibility even more. Things were going great!


Okay, you know that part in a movie where someone says, “Things are going great!” and then, say, zombies with flamethrowers burst in and wreck up the place? Well, last April, Booktrope sent word to all of its authors: the company was going out of business. All books would be removed from publication as of May 31st.

I won’t go into the circumstances of Booktrope closing its doors here. The good news was that I retained the rights to my books (Booktrope had later republished two of my self-published sci-fi novels as well). The bad news is that all of Zeus Is Dead’s associations on Amazon were just gone.

Zeus Is Dead Cover

I didn’t realize that at first. In its final days, Booktrope gave its authors a lot of guidance on republishing their novels. We received the layout files and other things necessary to make the process of publishing under our own label as easy as possible. After creating my own label of Red Muse Press to give the republished versions a greater air of legitimacy (registering the trade name, setting myself up in Washington State as a sole proprietorship, etc.), I got the ebook versions back up. For Amazon, I used Amazon KDP. For Nook, NookPress. For Kobo, Kobo Writing Life, and for iTunes… Well, apparently you can only publish on iBooks if you have a Mac, so I and my PC went through Draft2Digital instead, which is an accepted third party aggregator for iBooks. There was a bit of a (re)learning curve, but it went smoothly enough. I opted to worry about paperback copies later, as my ebook sales had always dwarfed the paperbacks.

So, back to that thing I didn’t realize: While Amazon was great about porting over Zeus Is Dead’s 157 reviews and 4.3 average star rating from the Booktrope version to the new version, there’s something they don’t—and claim “can’t”—port over: the sales rankings and search associations. Zeus Is Dead had a lot of fans who also liked books by more famous authors (e.g. Christopher Moore). You know that “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section? Before, you’d see Zeus Is Dead in that section on some Christopher Moore novels, as well as plenty of other authors. Those associations, built up over two years of marketing, contest awards, and word of mouth, were feeding Zeus Is Dead’s sales.

I tried to get this changed. I emailed Amazon’s Author Central. The answer was apologetic but not helpful: Those things cannot be transferred. Their computer system doesn’t even allow for it. Undeterred, I actually picked up the phone and TALKED to someone at Amazon—which, if you know my introverted proclivities, tells you how desperate I felt. Still no dice. It seemed I would have to start from scratch and crawl my way back into visibility.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve reached out to bloggers (like Infamous Scribbler!) who featured Zeus Is Dead during its initial release. I did a re-release announcement through BargainBooksy, which resulted in enough sales to at least cover the cost of the announcement. I’ve experimented with Twitter ads to drive people either to a page on my website or to the book’s Amazon page, but haven’t had much success. I’ve got an add running on Facebook, targeted toward fans of similar authors to try to regain the lost associations. These seem to be helping, so far, but it’s slow going. My big goal at the moment is to secure a Bookbub promotion for a 99 cent sale, which is always hugely helpful to sales rankings if you can get Bookbub to run it.


Zeus Is Dead’s sales numbers for June are about 30% of what they were just before the Booktrope editions went away. I choose to believe that means I’m making some headway, but only time will tell. What stings the most is knowing that the boosts the book had gotten from book of the year contest honors aren’t something I can recapture again. I can’t re-enter the same book, after all. But I suppose I’ll just have to keep working on the Zeus Is Dead sequel, won’t I?

For the record, I’m thinking of calling it Zeus Is Undead.

~ ~ ~


About Michael G. Munz

Michael G. Munz is an award-winning fantasy and sci-fi writer who is fascinated with Greek mythology. He also possesses what “normal” people might deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though he prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none. Or mostly none. There are exceptions. He dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguini. Follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, and on his website,

Introducing: Scribbler Coach

Good morning! I hope that your week is short and started with a bang–at least for all the folks on this side of the pond, and squished between Canada and Mexico. Which has got to be the most awkward way of saying, “Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans.” But hey, that’s what edits are for!

Speaking of edits, I am posting to introduce a new service on this site. Scribbler Coach, an on-site offshoot of The Infamous Scribbler, will offer a full suite of coaching, writing, and editing services. Whether you are trying to figure out how to start, or you’ve gotten halfway and gotten lost, or if you are done and are trying to figure out what to do next, I can help you.

How did this come to be? I started receiving requests from authors and aspiring authors, with whom I worked in various writers’ groups, for extra help on the side. Some of these authors needed a beta reader, others needed help putting their thoughts together for an outline, and some just needed the motivation that a deadline and a willing ear could give them.

Also, as I started introducing myself as an author (a helpful tip if you’d like to let people know about your work), I started getting variations on the response: “Oh hey, I have this great idea for a book, I just …. don’t have the time/don’t know where to start/am not sure if it would be viable/would like someone else to write it for me, how about you?”

And I thought to myself, you know, I can help people with all of those issues–except the last one. If you need a ghost writer, I’d advise advertising on Upwork, because I do not have the time to write anyone’s novels except my own. And even that is tricky.

If you take a look at the Scribbler Coach page, you will find the services broken down with descriptions of and rates for what I am offering, as well as some testimonials from people I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve got a some discounts for students and military/veterans, and as a biz launch incentive, I’m offering every fifth coaching session free. If you like what you see–drop me a line at

Happy Writing!

A Conversation with Dan Jolley…

Welcome back!

Today, the guest here at Infamous Scribbler is artist, author, and game creator Dan Jolley. His latest novel, Gray Widow’s Walk, is the story of an angry young woman, Janey Sinclair, and the powers she must learn to control, before they end up consuming her. Today, Dan discusses being a multimedia creator, good and bad writing advice, and of course, gives us a peak into the world of his new creation.

Gray Widow_s WalkCover1200X900

Q (Infamous Scribbler): I noticed in your bio that you are from Georgia. How has your natal geography influenced your writing?

A (Dan Jolley): I don’t know that it’s been a huge influence on my actual prose or scripts, but I definitely do like to set stories in Georgia when I can. When I first came up with the idea that would eventually become Gray Widow’s Walk, many years ago, stories set in Atlanta were relatively rare. Now, what with The Walking Dead and various other media projects setting up shop there, it’s a lot more commonplace. One thing I did have a little fun with, though, was in my comic book series Bloodhound, when I set the fictional Red Clay Federal Penitentiary in my hometown of Ringgold, Georgia. I had a few hometown folks approach me and say, “Of all the things you could’ve put here, it had to be a prison?”

Q: In your new book, Gray Widow’s Walk, your protagonist is an angry young woman. What were some of the decisions you made and challenges you faced when writing Janey?

A: Yeah, Janey Sinclair’s life has been a series of cruel, unfair tragedies. Her mother died of cancer when Janey was nine, her father was shot right in front of her (Janey herself was shot in the same encounter and almost died) when she was sixteen, and she lost her husband in a horrible way when she was twenty-five. She’s got some seriously pent-up emotions. Most people deal with that kind of trauma in one of three ways: they handle it in a healthy fashion, usually by going to therapy; or they disappear into drugs and alcohol; or they let it consume them completely and self-destruct. Janey has the opportunity to exercise a fourth option, because—in a way she still doesn’t understand—she’s developed the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another. So she’s got an outlet that no one else has, and decides to try to prevent other people from going through the kind of trauma that she has.

There are definitely some superhero tropes in the book, though it also has elements of science-fiction and horror, and one of the decisions I made early on was not to make Janey too powerful. Teleportation is already an incredibly potent ability, so I wanted be certain that she had reasonable vulnerabilities, and not ones like “the color yellow,” or “alien space rocks.” That’s why she stole a suit of military body armor before she started prowling the streets. Janey’s a little stronger than most people, but she can be hurt by things like bullets and blades and poison gas just like anyone else.

As far as challenges, definitely the biggest one was writing a convincing female protagonist, since I am terminally male myself. But I’ve had some practice with that, in the form of three original YA novels I wrote back in 2007 and 2008, a trilogy called Alex Unlimited. The protagonist of those books is an 18-year-old girl named Alexandra Benno. When I first pitched that property, the protagonist was a boy, and the publisher said, “We really like this, and want to pursue it, but would you mind changing the main character to a girl?” I wasn’t sure how that would turn out, but I agreed, and to my own surprise, it worked out beautifully. (Apparently my inner child is a teenage girl.)

Plus, for Gray Widow’s Walk, I was diligent in getting as many female beta readers as I could. The last thing I want to do is make some boneheaded mistake thanks to being entrenched in a male perspective.

Q: Your work spans a variety of media, including video games, comics, and of course, novels. Is it a challenge to work in different formats? How do they affect your writing process? Did they bring anything new to the Gray Widow’s Walk series, and if so, what?

A: There’s definitely some mental gear-shifting when I go from one medium to another, but I’ve worked out a few different methods to make that easier. I got my start writing comic books, many moons ago, and over the years, largely through trial and error, I’ve gotten it down to a sloppy sort of science. I actually have a series of blog posts on my website,, called “How To Write the Way I Write,” that explains all the nuts and bolts of comic book scriptwriting.


Learning to write comic scripts first was a big help. I sometimes say it’s like learning to drive on a three-speed, stick-shift, two-ton flatbed truck. If you can drive that behemoth, you can drive anything. Comic book scripts, even though there’s no set format for them the way there is for a screenplay, are incredibly rigid in their parameters; your page count is set, your panel count per page has to be tightly controlled, your word count per panel also has to be tightly controlled, you have to take into account the page turn, which means all your big moments and surprises should really be at the beginning of even-numbered pages, etc. Writing in other media doesn’t seem so difficult once you’ve mastered all that.

One of the biggest successes I’ve had with techniques for writing prose might not work for everyone, but for me, using a walking desk is the way to go. I set up a shelving unit over my treadmill, got my wireless keyboard and laptop in the right positions, and now whenever I write prose I plod along at two miles an hour, typing as I walk. It gets the blood flowing through my brain just right.

And probably the biggest benefit of working in deadline-based creative jobs for as long as I have is that I’ve gotten really, really fast. Once I have a solid outline in place, knocking out a chapter a day is pretty standard. You can expect the next two books in the Gray Widow trilogy to come out on schedule.

Q: Without giving away too much, what plans do you have for Janey and the crew?

A: Well, the biggest question Janey has in the first book is where the hell her teleportational ability came from, and in the second book she’ll probably regret not being more careful what she wished for. Also, that same source is what “augmented” Gray Widow’s Walk’s principal antagonist, the twisted, grotesque, bloodthirsty shapeshifter named Simon Grove. Janey will definitely encounter more people who’ve been affected, not quite in that exact way, but in similar fashions. Plus, there’s the question of where Janey and Tim Kapoor are headed, as they try to figure out exactly what their relationship is, and how Janey’s past will influence it.

Basically, life doesn’t get any easier for anyone.

Q: What is the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever been given?

A: The best advice is this: Finish what you’re writing before you start editing. Just plow through that first draft. Don’t go back and try to get the first page, or the first paragraph, or the first line exactly right until you’re done with the whole thing, because if you do, you run the risk of getting hung up in the editing and never completing the story. Now, what this means is that your first draft will probably be really shitty. That’s okay! First drafts are supposed to be shitty. My first drafts are the ripest heaps of camel dung. But once you have a first draft, you can go back and fix it. You can’t fix what isn’t there. (I’ve heard it described as shoveling sand into the sandbox. You’ll have time to sculpt your castle once the box is full.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever been given any really, truly bad writing advice, but I have been given some really, truly bad feedback from an editor. At one point, I was writing a monthly comic book series, and after I turned in a script, the editor called me and said, “I don’t think you’re firing on all pistons, Dan.”

I sort of sputtered, and said, “Okay, but, uh…what did you not like? What do you want me to change?”

He sighed and said, “I just don’t feel like you’re bringing your A game.”

Talk about useless. He refused to give me any specific feedback, so I had to flounder around in the dark, and ended up doing five or six drafts of the script until he finally decided I had delivered what he was looking for. To any editors out there reading this? I know you’re overworked. I know your job is massively hard. But please, don’t do that. Don’t be that guy.

Q: Anything to add?

A: I’ll be a guest all four days of DragonCon this year, set up in Artists’ Alley, and I’ll be part of the Seventh Star Press crowd at Imaginarium in October. Come say hi! (IS Note: We’ll definitely stop by! I need a signed copy…)

Also, please give me a shout on Twitter (@_DanJolley) or Facebook ( Or both! I’m there more often than I probably should be. (IS Note: So say we all…)



There you have it, folks. Stop by, pick up a copy, come to DragonCon, get it signed, and say hi! Until then, happy reading.