A Conversation with Lara Coutinho, Capocomico…

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

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

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

Photo by Bill Frazer.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What do you find most challenging?

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

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

Photo by Hauk Photography.

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho.

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

Q: Anything to add?

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

~~~

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

~~~

 

**Featured image by Hauk Photography

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Bobby Nash, Author…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What do you find most challenging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At present, there are 4 SNOW novellas on sale.

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

Series 1 will include 6 novellas.

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

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

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

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

Q: Anything to add?

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon…

This Monday, I will be interviewing author Claire Plaisted of Plaisted Publishing House on her journey to become an independent author. Stop by and check it out!

Claire Plaisted, author at Plaisted Publishing House.

Claire Plaisted, author at Plaisted Publishing House.

Claire Plaisted was born and raised in England with two loving parents and siblings.  They were a motorbiking family and loved history and cooking.

In the mid-1980s, Claire moved to Colwyn Bay in North Wales.  It was here her adventures began, surprising a lot of people, including her dad.

In 1989, Claire travelled to New Zealand to visit family, her first journey overseas.  It was at this stage she met and fell in love with her future husband.  In 1991, Claire returned, and they married the following year.  Today they have three children and two cats.

Claire started to write in 2012 while waiting for some information for a family history book she was compiling for a client.  The book is called “They Mystery at Crosswick Manor.” Set in Gloucestershire, England at the end of the Regency Period, this book is yet to be published.

Since that time Claire hasn’t really stopped writing.  She now has 8 books on Amazon and Smashwords as eBooks, and 6 of those are in Print.

At this time, Claire is updating her Garrett Investigation Bureau books as well as helping clients with formatting their own books and publishing them.

A Conversation with Markie Madden…

Recently, I was perusing a fellow author’s selection of titles, when I happened upon one that was quite different than her other offerings. It was while on author Markie Madden’s publishing Web site, Metamorph Publishing, that I spied a title that differed from her other offerings of romance and supernatural suspense. Her book, My Butterfly Cancer, available in a number of formats, is the tale of her battle with and victory over cancer. I found the honesty of the writing to be quite interesting, especially as memoir is a genre that interests me, although I don’t feel quite prepared to tackle it. I decided to invite Markie to the blog to talk about memoir, writing her story, and see if she had any tips for writing one’s own story.

Q (Infamous Scribbler): You have a variety of genres available as an author. What made you decide to tackle memoir?

A (Markie Madden): My Butterfly Cancer, my memoir, was conceived because I wanted to help others who are suffering from life-threatening illness to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted them to know that this is something that it IS possible to overcome, and that there can be a life after cancer, even though it may not be the same life they had before, or the one that they might have envisioned. I was a type “A” personality, always working, always busy, and always striving to do the very best I could do at anything. I once worked 12 hour shifts 7 days a week for six months straight without a day off. That’s just who I was. But because the butterfly effect came into my life during my battle with cancer (you know the one, that says a butterfly can flap its wings in Japan and cause a hurricane in Florida), I wanted to put the story out there. Long story short, an old high school friend reconnected with me on Facebook when I was sick, kind of “I heard you were sick, wanted to get back in touch” sort of thing. She’s a published author, so I spent many days in the hospital talking to her about it. I’d already published Once Upon a Western Way in e-format through Smashwords, but I wanted to expand that and get into print as well. She encouraged me and gave me all the help to get started. Now you see how I got the title of my memoir, not only from the transformation of the caterpillar to a butterfly (stemming from my own personal transformation), but from the butterfly effect theory as well, that one small and seemingly insignificant act can create an avalanche in the end.

BCKindle

Q: Was there any point in writing where you felt particularly challenged, or that you just couldn’t go on? What part was it, and how did you overcome it?

A: When I wrote My Butterfly Cancer, I was still suffering from the long-term side effects of chemotherapy. My memory wasn’t what it used to be (still isn’t), and there were a lot of incidents that happened to me during my treatment that I can’t recall, so I had to ask my family in order to detail these things in the book. Fortunately, my oldest daughter stayed in the hospital with me, with the exception of two visits, and she became my memory, even to the point of learning and remembering all the medications I was given.

Q: Did you have a particular method in approaching writing memoir? What did you find worked for you?

A: I basically just wrote the story from beginning to end. It covers just about a year in my life, and I purposely didn’t do a lot of editing work with it, as I wanted it to be raw and uncut. My intent was for it to feel a little bit disorganized, because it was a true measure of what my mental status was at the time.

Q: Is this a genre you might tackle again?

A: I don’t think I’ll tackle this again, aside from possibly editing or adding to My Butterfly Cancer. After all, I don’t think my life is all that interesting, I’ve not done anything noteworthy, and I have more of a talent for writing fiction. Surprisingly, though, my memoir is the best-selling book of my three.

Author Markie Madden

Author Markie Madden

Q: Having completed this work and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to other writers contemplating writing memoir?

A: What can I say to others writing a memoir? To make it as real and believable to your reader, you must be brutally honest in your writing. I left out none of the details (that I could remember), not even to the point of the nurses having to clean me up after using the bathroom. And, in this way, others who are going through the same thing can understand that they’re not alone.

Q: What is next for you?

A: I’m currently working on a brand new series called the Undead Unit Series. It’s a world where supernatural beings like vampires, werewolves, and more live and work among humans. Book One is Fang and Claw and I hope to have it out by fall of this year. Lacey Anderson is a vampire working as a detective for the Dallas police department, and she’s just been put in charge of the Undead Unit, an elite squad dedicated to solving crimes involving either Undead victims or suspects. Her new partner, Colton, is a werewolf with anger management issues whose ancestors were responsible for destroying Lacey’s coven hundreds of years ago. Will they be able to work together, or is the Undead Unit doomed from the very start? Book Two will be called Souls of the Reaper, book Three will be Blood Lust, and book Four is Siren Song. You can read sample chapters on my website: www.metamorphpublishing.com/the-undead-unit-series/.

Fang and Claw Kindle

If you are interested in reading more of Madden’s work, her books are available in print from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Create Space. You can download them in e-format from Kindle, Nook, iPhone, Smashwords, and Kobo. Also, My Butterfly Cancer is now available as an audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, and will soon be followed by her other works.

Coming soon…

Heads up! This coming Monday, I will be hosting an interview here with author Markie Madden, in which we will discuss writing memoir. She will talk about her book, My Butterfly Cancer, which details her struggle with and victory over cancer, as well as give some tips and ideas for writing in the genre of memoir. Don’t miss it!

Author Markie Madden

Author Markie Madden

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (Courtesy of Markie Madden)

Marguerite Madden, called Markie by friends and family, was born August 19, 1975, in Midland, Texas. She grew up in the small town of Flushing, Michigan. While in high school, she took creative writing and was a photographer for the school newspaper. In 1993, she won the National Quill and Scroll Society award for best photo in a high school paper. She began writing her first novel, Once Upon a Western Way, while still attending school.

Markie is now married with two teenage daughters, three rescue dogs, and her horse, Athena, who is featured on the cover of her horse care guide, Keeping a Backyard Horse. She tried many times over the years to publish her novel, first on her own, and then hiring a literary agent, all without success. In early 2012, after getting her first smart phone and e-reader application, Nook, she discovered the world of self-publishing through a website called Smashwords. She finally published Once Upon a Western Way through this distributor in April, 2012.

In the late spring of 2013, Markie came down with a mysterious illness, which was ultimately diagnosed as leukemia (AML specifically). She underwent a rigorous treatment of chemotherapy, during which, at one point, her life was endangered. While she was hospitalized, an old high school friend who is also a published author reconnected with her. Since cancer and the treatment of cancer forced her out of the traditional workforce, Markie turned her attention back to the world of writing.

By December of 2014, Markie was the successful publisher of three books, her first published work, Once Upon a Western Way, now available in print as well as e-format, as well as a self-help guide to horse care, Keeping a Backyard Horse, available in print and e-format, and her cancer memoir, My Butterfly Cancer, available in print, e-format, and audiobook. Her other two will soon be available in audiobook format as well. Markie has founded Metamorph Publishing, in order to publish her own books, and she is now working with two other independent authors as well.

Currently, Markie lives in the small town of Fisk, Missouri, with her family, her dogs, and her horse. She is still writing and is working on a crime/paranormal series called The Undead Unit Series. Book one of the series, Fang and Claw, is expected to be available in late summer or fall of 2015. You can find her at her website: http://www.metamorphpublishing.com.