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.

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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.

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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.

 

A Conversation with Dr. Susana H. Case, Poet

Sometimes, reading poetry will trigger a memory so intense that it takes a moment before you realize that the memory it triggered belongs to someone else. That’s what it felt like to read Susana H. Case’s work. Here, I’ve asked her to speak on her work, in the hopes of sharing it with some fellow poetry enthusiasts who would also like to spend some time in the moments she crafts…
Q (Infamous Scribbler): As I perused the Internet, I found many author bios that included a list of your many publications, but not many that talked about who is Dr. Susana Case, and where did she come from. Can you share a little about yourself, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ so to speak?
A (Susana H. Case): I grew up in New York City in one of the outer boroughs (Queens), though I’ve lived in Manhattan most of my adult life (except for a few years in Ohio). Though I’ve traveled widely, sometimes for months at a time, I’ve always lived in the United States. The only child of a public school English teacher and a dietician, who gave up her career to become a full-time mother, I first had some of my poems published in my late teens, but then went in another direction. I earned a Ph. D. in Sociology and became a university professor. In the early 1990s, I returned to my first love, poetry, though I still continue to teach Sociology. The combination of interests means that there are a number of social themes that run through my creative work. For example, I teach a course in gender, and there is a lot about gender that runs through my poems. I’m also interested in power from many different perspectives and that interest is threaded through several of my poetry collections, for instance, my first full-length collection, which was inspired by archival materials from the Salem witchcraft trials (IS Note: Salem in Séance), and also a later book of prose poems inspired by copper mining and the early history of the labor movement in the United States. I’m interested in injustice, but I’m also interested in love, in its many manifestations. You can find one or the other or both practically everywhere you look in my poetry.
My interest in war comes from that interest in power and injustice and is the reason that warfare is the background of two of my collections. My first published chapbook, The Scottish Café, which won the Slapering Hol Press chapbook competition in 2002, and was later translated into Polish and re-published as a dual language (English-Polish annotated) edition by the University of Opole Press was the first series of poems I wrote in that vein, with World War II as the imminent event for a group of mathematicians in what was, in those years, a city that was part of Poland. I returned to thinking about life under war with Erasure, Syria, which has just been released. Having never had to live where a war was in the process of being fought, I consider myself lucky, and my interest in looking at what happens while people are living in those conditions has led me to try to imagine it within the framework of my (very different) experience. What I connect to is the interest in survival, in trying to fashion a life under the worst types of circumstances, a form of persistence and luck. Those are things that interest me. I’m married, to a visual artist, and also live with a dog, an elderly Scottish Terrier.
Q: In your poem, The Apartment, you explain that it was part-experience, part-research, part-imagination. Is this a common theme in your work? If so, how does that amalgamation coalesce when you’re working on a poem? If not, what about the process made this poem unique?
A: Yes, it’s common for me to draw upon my own experience or to project my own experience onto unfamiliar situations and I use imagination a lot. I also read widely if I’m writing about anything that has a historical basis or a basis in fact. Empathy probably also helps. But what I like about writing poetry is the ability to shift from the documentable to the realm of fantasy. “The Apartment” is a poem written about the apartment in which I currently live and the state it was left in at the time I moved in. There had been two people living in the apartment: an elderly man and his schizophrenic adult son. The son was not able to live on his own, and his remaining family eventually moved him out, but the disheveled state of the apartment piqued my interest in the two of them and what their lives must have been like in those final years. I didn’t know them, though I previously lived across the street. The apartment was full of guns, and there were external locks on the internal doors. The son did sleep on a mattress in the middle of the living room. Most of the rest, I imagined from what I know about schizophrenia. I did hear a few details from neighbors as well, the detail about the squeaky wheelchair, for example, which belonged to a resident who had died way before I moved in, coincidentally one of the wives of Robert Moses, the New York planner-builder. I was told that the noise of the wheels irritated the father enormously, that he was not a nice man, but in the poem, I ascribed the disturbance over the sound of the wheelchair to the son.
Q: Your book, Drugstore Blue, resonates, I think, with any woman who grew up in the 1980s. Can you talk about the decisions you made of what to include in the poems in the work, as well as a bit about creating the work in the present with the memories of the past?
A: Although I draw upon my personal experience and biography quite a lot in Drugstore Blue, it’s not a straightforward autobiography. The collection began in its conception as a book of poems about travel. But I soon realized that I wasn’t writing about travel so much as I was writing about the nature of navigating the world as a woman. I then organized the poems in terms of expanding circles of experience, starting with my roots, then moving outward to other parts of the United States, then moving further outward to the world, finishing with a section populated by many who are not of this world, have died, or are mythological, and so forth. But within each of those levels of experience, it’s the nature of being female, and what that means in terms of growing up, love, work, respect, etc., that were important to me for inclusion. I do not have a great memory, so whatever I can remember I’m grateful for, and what I can’t remember, I make up. I generally have not kept a journal, though maybe that would have been a good idea. I think adversity can be mined for creative content and we all struggle, we all have setbacks. I’ve tried to take some of that and turn it into “lemonade” so to speak, something better than it might have been as I was experiencing it. I don’t mean to suggest that my life has been terrible; I’ve been relatively very fortunate. But struggle is universal. We all have problems we are trying to solve. We all want to be loved, and to be happy, and to be fulfilled in our endeavors, and to be somewhat centered. None of that comes easy.
Q: I see from your schedule that you often read your works in public. What about reading the work aloud (as opposed to private creative process) is similar or different to publishing it in a book or online?
A: I was an extremely shy college and graduate student. If anyone had told me then that I would make my living teaching or, worse, that I would get up in front of a crowd of people to read my poems, I would have laughed and said, “no way.” I don’t know exactly what happened—maybe it was the sheer repetition of doing it that eliminated the anxiety, a form of immersive desensitization therapy—but I’m not that shy person anymore, thank goodness. I’ve very happy about that because it made my life at the time more difficult. I could barely say anything aloud. From that kind of history, I’ve come to a place where reading my work in public is something that makes me feel very much alive. But part of the private process for me is also hearing it read aloud. I need to hear it to see if it sounds right before it’s ever sent to be considered for publication.
Q: Your newest work, Erasure, Syria, from Recto y Verso Editions, came out this year. Can you talk about the creative process that went into the works in this book? Many of your other books bring an aspect of personal life from private experience to the public profound. How do you bridge the gap between your process and the lived reality of the war in Syria? 
A: I have no ethnic roots in Syria and, as I mentioned earlier, have never lived or worked in a war zone. I had been following the news. My reaction was to the destruction of a country. It was less a political reaction and more a response to the heartbreak of the situation. I have met a number of Syrians over the years living in other countries who would have preferred to be home, if there was an intact country to return it. It doesn’t look like that will be possible. I mean for my project, which has just been released, in fact the link isn’t even up on Amazon or Barnes & Noble yet, to be a universal response to this kind of upheaval, even though it uses news coverage specific to the situation in Syria. I have been interested in erasure poetry for a while, though I have not included erasure poems in my other books.
Erasure, Syria is a series of erasures of the daily news on Syria. I created one erasure a day and condensed the erasure into a black square in which I paid attention to spacing and other visual elements. It was an attempt to make art out of tragedy, something positive out of something horrific. I was fortunate to work with a publisher with excellent in-house design skills (Christian Ortega) and the book, which is about a terrible sets of events, turned out to be very beautiful. It was the publisher’s idea to also include some pages that showed the process of using this technique to select and arrange text and so it’s also instructional in a sense.
In addition, not that there’s any real money in poetry—that’s not why poets write—I decided I would donate from my part of the royalties to the International Rescue Committee’s programs in Syria. They provide medical and emergency help to refugees within the country and also in bordering countries and also provide water, sanitation, educational, and counseling services within refugee camps. Children and at-risk women are a substantial part of their client base. In this way I felt I would not just be feeding parasitically on someone else’s tragedy. In line with this, if anyone donates $35 to the International Rescue Committee directly, through this link (help.rescue.org/donate), and sends me a copy of the receipt via facebook messaging, I will send that person a free copy of Erasure, Syria. If you live outside the United States, please make a donation of $45, as my shipping costs will be greater.
Q: Anything to add? 
A: I have accumulated a large number of poems in which crimes of various sorts are threaded through the works. I’ve now begun to focus more on filling in the holes remaining in the sequences I currently have and this will be my next project.
~~~
You can purchase a copy of Erasure, Syria from the publisher, Amazon, or by donating $35.00 to the International Rescue Committee and messaging a copy of the receipt to Susana Case via Facebook. You can also find her online at her Website.

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Clay Gilbert

Welcome back to any readers I have after that obnoxiously long hiatus … Our radio silence was for a good reason. We recently moved the entire Traveling Circus and Menagerie from one coast to the other, and have finally gotten settled in. I wanted to share an interview with author Clay Gilbert, who has been quite patient with me as I pulled myself and my interview list together. His a recent release, Cassie’s Song (Tales of the Night-Kind Book Two A Modern Vampire Novel), came out June 8. It’s the second in a series that gives a unique take on vampire fiction. I invited him here to talk about the series, as well as a little bit about writing in general. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the first book, Dark Road to Paradise, and check it out.

And now, without further ado or excuse, a conversation with Clay Gilbert!

Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you provide a short bio/insight into your writing career? 

A (Clay Gilbert): Sure.  I’ve always loved stories; I was reading and writing at a very early age.  I wrote my first short story—I’m not sure what else to call something that’s only five page long other than ‘short’—when I was four.  I know I was four because, at the time, I was in the habit of putting my age along with my name on the story. It was a science-fiction story.  I don’t remember the title.  I do remember the title of another one I wrote when I was thirteen; another sci-fi story called “The Computer Conspiracy”, about a shy, outcast boy who finds a way to live inside his computer.  Scholastic Magazine liked that one; they paid me $25 for it and published it.  From the time I realized writing was something some people did for a job, the way my father went off to his office every day, that was the job I wanted to have.  Pretty much everything I did in my life from that first sale to Scholastic, through two master’s degrees and a handful of other publications, was setting the stage for finally getting my first novel published in 2013, even though I took some other professional side-roads along the way.  Writing was a goal I never really let go of.

Q: In your novel, you tackle a number of weighty issues, from topics such as living with HIV to issues of adhering to the unspoken rules of a tribe or in-group, and the consequences that result from transgressing those rules. Are these themes that you sat down to consciously write about? How did you develop them? Where might we see them go in the next book?

 A: I’ve always loved vampire novels and vampire movies, and I had toyed with the idea of writing my own spin on the genre.  I began working on Dark Road to Paradise in the early Nineties, using some characters I’d come up with for the live action role playing campaign of “Vampire: the Masquerade” I was playing in downtown Auburn,  Alabama, once a week with some friends.  One of the things that concerns me as a person and as an author is the experience of life as an outsider, or life on the fringes of mainstream acceptance.  That certainly was a conscious concern in Dark Road, but it was also something I grew up with.  I was born with hydrocephalus, and growing up with that experience taught me what it was like to be pushed to the fringes.  It’s hard to be that one kid who doesn’t participate in gym class because his parents are afraid (and rightly so) that he might injure his head, or to be someone who people slow their cars down on the road to ask ‘why’s your head so big’?   True story.

Cassie’s health concerns are different, but they came both from wanting to explore my own experiences as an outsider and the empathy I felt for the lack of understanding I saw HIV patients being treated with in the late Eighties and early Nineties.  Finally, there was the historical fact that Dark Road was begun before any of the “Twilight” books were published, and a romance between a mortal girl and a vampire wasn’t all that common in fiction at the time.  Perhaps even more significantly, I recognized that somehow, there had never been another vampire novel focusing on HIV/AIDS in an actual, literal way, as the central concern of a story–and there still really hasn’t, even now, in 2018.  As for where the themes of Dark Road end up going in the next book, Cassie’s Song—Cassie grew up not really feeling like she had the freedom to make her own choices or live her own life.  What will it be like for her to have that freedom?  I think that’ll be as fun for readers to find out as it was for me.

Q: You’ve published a number of books in a variety of spec fic genres. What draws you to creating other worlds? What are some aspects of worldbuilding that you find essential when writing in these genres?  

A: ‘Worldbuilding’ is something I find myself speaking about on Con panels a lot, as I guess kind of makes sense for an author of speculative fiction.  And this may be an unpopular opinion, but in talking with younger writers, and particularly with would-be writers, I find that ‘worldbuilding’ is the thing that bogs down beginning genre writers most of all.  For me, characters are most important.  I care about the people in my stories first and foremost.  Once I know who they are, they can tell me about the world they live in.  Everyone does this thing called writing differently, but I’ve seen people spend so long on building the world of their story that they end up having no idea what the story is, or who it happens to.  People in a story are just like people in our world—they don’t live in a vacuum; they have histories, fears, hopes, likes and dislikes—but if you find out about the people in your story first, knowing about them will supply everything else you need.  That’s what happened when I started writing about an eighteen-year-old girl named Annah in the book which became Annah and the Children of Evohe.  I didn’t spend any time thinking about the world of Evohe in advance; instead, I got to know Annah as best I could, from her upbringing as someone whose odd opinions and obvious birth defects got her ostracized in her small community, to her claustrophobia, dislike for raw fish, and love of music.  She filled in the rest of her world for me.  I would advise aspiring writers to build their stories around the people in them, not the world they take place in.

Q: You have an MFA from the University of South Carolina; academia also plays a part in your novel, as well as your professional career. What are some of the insights into writing that going through a program like an MFA provides? What are some of the advantages? As a professor, how have you communicated some of those lessons to your students?

 A: I wouldn’t undo the time I spent in academia, although I don’t teach anymore, and haven’t done that since I became a full-time author in 2015.  I will say, though, that I find snobbery toward genre fiction to be alive and well in the academic arena.  Dark Road to Paradise was my MFA thesis, and it was a real struggle to convince the professor who eventually became my thesis advisor that there was any literary merit to a story with vampires in it.  I feel that any kind of story, whether it has vampires or aliens in it, or features people who could live across the street, must be rooted in human concerns to have any weight to it. I’m not interested in writing purely escapist fiction with no relation to the real world.  I’ve always found that the imaginative distance a writer gains in the genres of speculative fiction provides a great lens for focusing on the best and worst that the ‘real world’ has to offer, and enables an author to suggest ways that things might be made better.  As far as advice to my students, or to aspiring writers–if you have a dream, go for it.  Don’t compromise. Don’t settle.  And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

 Q: What is some of the best writing advice you’ve received? What’s some of the worst? 

A: Stephen King advised me, when I met him when I was thirteen, that he tried for ten pages every day.  I adopted that, and I still follow that.  Ten pages a day adds up fast.  Ray Bradbury added to that when I met him three years later, by advising me that it was important to be regular about writing—do it every day, in the same place, at the same time.  I still follow that advice as well.  Worst writing advice?  Whatever that was, I’ve forgotten it already.

Q: What can your readers expect to see coming up next? 

A: I’ve got an urban fantasy novel coming out real soon called The Kind Book One: The Golden Road.  It and its sequel, Terrapin and Back Again, comprise a two-part story mythologizing my own experiences following the Grateful Dead on tour during my college years, although the band in the book is called Coventina’s Well.  It also has a little to do with the value of myth in culture and history, and hopefully has as much fun in it as ‘meaning.’  I’ve also got a fourth Children of Evohe novel coming out called Annah and the Arrow, a third Night-Kind novel called Heartsblood planned for next year, and also next year, a standalone monster novel set in East Tennessee called Pearl.  I like to stay busy.

Q: Anything to add?

A: If you want to be a writer, remember this: you can do it, if you have the drive and put in the time.  Don’t wait for ‘inspiration’ to come; make it come to you.  There’s no such thing as writer’s block; that’s an excuse people make for not doing their job.  Just imagine if you had a stopped-up toilet, and the guy you called told you he couldn’t fix it because he had ‘plumber’s block’ that day.  You wouldn’t stand for it.  Don’t let yourself get away with anything like that as a writer, either.

~~~

Check out Clay Gilbert online at Amazon Goodreads.

 

Don’t look now … it’s Hideous!

Actually, I do want you to look.

Hideous Progeny: Classic Horror Goes Punk launches today from Writerpunk Press. This is the fifth in a series of seven planned charity anthologies that pay homage to classic stories by re-imagining them in a variety of literary punk genres.

The fiction included in this anthology spans the gamut from steampunk to clockpunk to biopunk … and even some carniepunk. Anthology authors have drawn their source material from a wide array of classics and classic horror authors. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein receives a bio-cyberpunk makeover from K.M. Vanderbilt. Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek” is no less chilling re-imagined as steampunk in “After the Occurrence” by Teel James Glenn.

As with previous anthologies, all proceeds go to benefit PAWS Lynnwood, an animal shelter and wildlife rescue located in Lynnwood, WA.

My own contribution to the anthology is a carniepunk homage to Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. This was a challenging project for a few reasons (that I’ll talk about below), but I wanted to complete my hat trick of contributing to the Writerpunk Anthologies. (See my steampunk detective story in Poe Goes Punk, and my dieselpunk Beowulf in English Class Goes Punk.) My short story “The Carnival Ghost,” was accepted, so if you happen to pick up a copy (HINT*HINT*HINT), I hope you’ll check it out. *puppy*eyes*

About those challenges …

I was really, truly trying to make this a steampunk story. I had a few ideas clanking around the ol’ noggin, none of which ever coalesced into an actual story. Or even a note. Most of them are still half-formed blobs of bad penmanship scattered around my bullet journal. The two strongest images that persisted even through the false starts and decisions that I wasn’t going to submit were: 1. Female patron. 2. A carnival.

I couldn’t get the idea of a woman phantom out of my head. It made sense. Someone who would serve as a platonic mentor, without the complications of romantic interest or jealousy, could actually take a student further, to higher heights. They could put all their energy into the development of their protegee, seeking only the reward of their success. At the same time, this would require a degree of ruthlessness from both mentor and mentee, and there were so many depths to explore there.

And–a carnival. I love carnivals and fairs and circuses, even though I’ve always felt they are slightly creepy. Too many shadows. Secrets. Basically, whenever I think of a carnival, I think of HBO’s series Carnivale, and how fascinating and horrifying they can be. Somewhere around this time I re-read the Carniepunk anthology, and that solidified that image and thus, the story.

The challenge? Explaining carniepunk. It’s not a typically category of literary punk, and I wasn’t sure that the anthology editors would be interested in a story that pushed the boundaries of what we included.

On the other hand, we’re not punks for no reason. \m/

“The Carnival Ghost” in all of its creepy carnival glory is part of your reading pleasure.

So, if you like stories that will entertain you, challenge you, and possibly creep you out, pick up a copy today. And let us know what you think.

Rock on, my friends!

Coming Soon: Kadupul

Short term memory loss and an inability to look at herself in mirrors or old pictures–this is college sophomore Klarissa Bloom’s life after surviving a physical assault in her freshman year. However, she’s now determined to prove to her parents that she can handle her return to school.

But recovery is not a straight path, it’s one with dips and twists. A journey, not a final destination. With the help of her friends Ravyen, Xander, and Julian, Klarissa finds strength to identify with her passion for dance, not the assault…

But will she be able to pick up the picture and see who she was before, while trying to build a life that’s new?

~ ~ ~

Want to know more? Check out the Kadupul Trailer on YouTubeTake a peek at the poster, created by the awesome graphic artist Rylee Hunter and trailer below by the talented cinematographer Alex Espinoza. Stay connected and leave a like for updates on events, releases and giveaways at 4CWMedia Productions on Face Book. And check out what the filmmakers had to say about the project in a previous Infamous Scribbler interview.

KADUPUL

Let Your Passion Define You

Release date July 24th!

Produced by 4CWMedia Productions and BRJProductions

Cinematography by Luz Pictura Productions

Kadupul Poster Final Proof - Digital Poster (1)