Welcome to March–no, wait…


Hang on, I gotta go lay down…

So, what’s going on with me? Thanks for asking! Where do I start?

First, March was fantastic! I went to Korea with the Army, which is something I’ve always wanted to do and finally after 21 years got the opportunity to hop on. The exercise we were supporting was challenging but rewarding, and I felt an unusual twinge in my chest that I identified as regret. I don’t often get all teary about roads not taken, but when I was there, I just felt so comfortable and enjoyed the food and learning how to read Hangul and going to the DMZ that I did kind of wish that I’d gone there after the MP Officer Basic Course. (I had a slot at a unit in South Korea, but my spouse did not, so we asked our branch managers for help and both ended up at Fort Hood, TX, where he promptly deployed for a year to Iraq. So it goes.)

I got back from Korea with an ever-expanding to-do list, one which I still haven’t gotten quite on top of. Then, in late March, I headed off to Scares That Care Presents AuthorCon 2, where I hung out with all my wonderful horror fiction people. Seriously, the vibe at this Con is welcoming AF. It really does feel like coming home. I spent a great deal of the Con behind a vendor table with my publishing partner Carol, but I also spent a great deal of time wandering around the dealer tables, going to panels, hitting up anyplace I could find coffee, and also speaking on two panels, the first about putting together an anthology and the second about writing about the military.

Then I came home and started prepping for RavenCon… Also a fun Con. I didn’t do quite as well in sales as we did last year, but I had a couple of great panels, met some new people, and got my picture taken with a giant plushie squid, so all in all, it was fantastic.

Somewhere in there, around the Easter time frame, I also spent time up in New Jersey with family, and a weekend at Fort Meade with the Army (again). I’m still playing catch up from all the things I didn’t get done. That and the fact that I’ve suddenly developed a bunch of triggers for my migraines that I didn’t have before (no idea what they are, but they’ve been coming way more frequently than before and even though I have great meds, they are still a disruption to the day…) So, off I go to do some coursework for the MBA I started last week (yes, I’m back in school, because I am a giant academic nerd who wants to learn how to business more), and then get some words on the page.



Thanks for reading! I have recently started using affiliate links, so if you click on one of the books or items listed, and end up purchasing it, you will be helping support my blogging efforts. If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support in other ways, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, or drop me a buck or two on PayPal, which will help keep me in books and caffeine and colored pens. Enjoy!

Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

6 Things to Read if You’re Writing Werewolves

At least if you’re me, writing about Rickard Keller, a German werewolf who becomes an American supernatural nuke and secret agent.

Okay, first, let me assure you. There are many other books out there if you would like to write werewolves and need research and inspiration. Some of them are fiction, such as Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison or Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow. (I’m sensing a theme. I’m also sensing I should have name my werewolf secret agent series something like “Cold Teeth Run” or “Sharp Cold Run Teeth”. Ah. Missed opportunities.)

They’re so pretty! I enjoyed both of these books a lot and recommend them.

I also have a deep, abiding love for werewolf horror films from Lon Chaney, Jr.’s The Wolf Man, to Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, (okay, so that’s not quiet horror, but I still love it), to Van Helsing (yes, it’s cheesy, no I don’t care) to Underworld, to Dog Soldiers. The latter is still my favorite of all time, and I realize that I’m leaving a bunch more off the list, but this is a “things to read if you’re writing werewolves”, not “all the werewolf movies I’ve watched and loved.”

Also, I write a secret agent werewolf who was born somewhere in the late 18th century, and became a soldier in Bismarck’s army, and then defected during the Weimar Republic, fought alone against Nazis, fought with partisans against the Soviets, then defected to the US and became a supernatural nuke and secret agent before his first attempt at retirement in Vermont after the 1990’s. I’ve got stacks of books that I’ve read about the history of these periods and locations, plus more on the list that I will be hitting as I finish writing the series (I’ve got five total books contracted and about a book and a half to go until I’ve completed all the first drafts.) But I’m not going to put those here. Maybe a future list. Instead, let’s talk…


  1. Best-Loved Folktales of the World, selected and with an introduction by Joanna Cole. Folks, if you want to know how I am the way I am as a writer and a reader, let’s start with this volume. I remember reading this in the fourth grade, obsessing over the stories contained within, from the Anansi tales of Africa, to the allegories of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, to the Baba Yaga and Clever Manka, to stories of places I’d never been but dreamt of going–South America, Japan, China, the Pacific, the Caribbean. It was the first time I read an indigenous North American tale…the first time I’d read any tales. So, what does this have to do with werewolves? Nothing much in a literal sense, except for the occasional appearance of a big, bad one eating either grandmothers or seven kids (as in baby goats.) But, it has everything to do with developing that folklore, deep forest, Germanic vibe that informs everything I write in the Rick Keller Project series. These tales, steeped in cultural memory, and then embedded in my memory as a reader, tend to seep out through the cracks and the corners of everything I write, especially when Rick takes to the narrow, midnight trails of the thickest part of the forest in the deepest part of night.
  2. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. Another reason I am the way I am today is from reading the un-Disneyified tales of the Brothers Grimm at a very young age. True, there are the familiar stories such as Tom Thumb and Hansel and Gretel, but there are more, less well-known stories where sometimes the moral of the story can be quite grisly, and the heroes victorious not necessarily through any smarts or strength of their own, but just pure, dumb luck. I like to think of Rick as a pup wrestling and playing with the cousins in the pack, shepherded up by one of his uncles or aunts, settling them all down to tell them a German folk tale to scare the pants off them. (Do werewolf pups wear pants? That’s a good one for the story bible…)
  3. The Warwolf/Der Wehrwolf by Hermann Lons. This is a book that chronicles a peasant insurgency during the Thirty Years’ War, a period of incredible strife in Europe that, as always, hit the peasant class much harder than it did the class of nobles who perpetrated it. (There are a few historical titles that I’ve read through on the Thirty Year’s War, which had a major effect on Rick’s pack, and the rest of the Germanic packs, but which I won’t get into here because I’ll get all super nerdy and you’ll probably fall asleep. Unless you’re really into that history. In which case, hit me up in the comments and let’s go for it.) This particular volume tells the tale of a German peasant, Harm Wulf, who makes the decision to get his neighbors and fellow farmers together and form a band of “wolves” to fend off the marauding troops and protect their homes. The book, published in 1910, tells the story and, with the caveat that I read it in its original form with my University German (and university was a while ago), to my mind, highlights the devastation and grief that comes from a place of no good choices. I can see Rick Keller picking up this book, reading it, and maybe thinking back to the German folklore surrounding werewolves, as well as the tales he heard his grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles tell of their time, fighting through the Thirty Years War, clandestinely striking the invading foreign soldiers and disappearing back into the woods, to reappear and strike again at the next full moon to keep their packs safe and hidden. The book does promote the idea of defending one’s land and country, and nationalism for the newly-united Germany of the 19th century was one of the reasons that Rick left his pack in the first place. However, as he discovered, nationalism in the wrong hands leads to destruction and war.
  4. Werwolf! The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement 1944-1946 by Perry Biddiscombe. Let’s just be clear about my main character, Rick Keller. In his and my opinion, Nazis can fuck off and die. Rick is especially pissed about the fact that those murdering assholes deciding to co-opt his name and the mythology of the pack to run their half-assed little insurgency at the end of the War. It wasn’t a particularly effective insurgency, and he spent a good deal of time hunting down holdouts, stealth attacking on the full moon, and ripping them to shreds, and then eating them. Where did I come up with this part of Rick’s backstory? Mostly from this book. You see a tiny bit in Cold Run, the first book in the series. There’s going to be more in the third book, which I am currently working on. This book was well researched and, while the print was a bit on the small side (or maybe I’m just getting older and need better glasses), the writing flowed and was not overly academically dry. I read the book about ten years ago when I was getting started on the very first draft of Cold Run. I still hadn’t solidified the timeline, or what Rick was doing during that era, but the information from the book has been percolating in my brain since then, giving me a place in the past to understand the present. And yes. Nazis should always fuck off and die, and according to this book, that happened. A lot.
  5. Metamorphoses of the Werewolf: A Literary Study from Antiquity Through the Renaissance by Leslie A. Scondito. Okay, let’s get SUPER nerdy. You with me? Of course! This book looks at literary representations of werewolves, from ancient and medieval times to the Renaissance. Although the book begins with a brief mention of the Akkadian text, The Epic of Gilgamesh, the focus of werewolf literature quickly shifts to European tales and remains there for the rest of the work. The author explores folk tales from various countries, as well as how the tales interacted with the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church during the time period. I enjoyed reading the exegesis on an intellectual level, and enjoyed the familiarization with the various tales that could have possibly been attributed to Rick’s lineage making themselves known from time to time. I’ve never planned to put in an ultimate origin story for the werewolves in my novels, but a curse from Ishtar back in the Babylonian era might be a good one to start with. In any case, I wish there were more werewolf nonfiction books like this one, especially that might explore non-Western werewolf tales (or were-animal tales) in the form of literary exploration.
  6. And, finally, I’m going to cheat a little with this last one. Luna’s Children: Full Moon Mayhem edited by D. Alan Lewis. This is an anthology of werewolf short stories, and in its pages it contains Rick Keller’s very first appearance ever. In addition to “Night Run,” in which Rick and a friend investigate some sort of haunting in a NYC cathedral, there were as many different imaginings of the werewolf as there were authors. I remember reading through, enjoying the tales, and also enjoying the fact that Rick had been chosen to add to the werewolf fiction that exists in the world. Since then, I’ve re-edited my story, and I currently offer it as a Bookfunnel reader magnet for people who are willing to sign up for my newsletter.
        Books, books, books…arroooooo!

        Anyway, those are the books that I’ve read when I’m looking for inspiration behind Rick Keller, former Four Generations Pack heir, former soldier, former partisan, former supernatural nuke, former secret agent, and currently trying to figure out how to get the world to leave him alone. If you have picked up the series and are enjoying it–thanks! And if you have any recommendations for werewolf books–fiction or nonfiction–let me know.


        Thanks for reading! I have recently started using affiliate links, so if you click on one of the books or items listed, and end up purchasing it, you will be helping support my blogging efforts. If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support in other ways, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, or drop me a buck or two on PayPal, which will help keep me in books and caffeine and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Ramblings, Reading Project, Writing Reflections | Leave a comment

        Itty Bitty Seismic Shift Committee

        Actually, there’s no committee. It’s just me, at a desk, with about a thousand tabs open plus my phone notifications popping up, plus several piles of books around me and twelve different disorganized to-do lists, trying to make sense of my life and profession and everything in the universe.

        It’s been slowly coming, but I feel like we are edging over a line that someone randomly drew in the ground. And by “we”, I mean me. Maybe the folks around me. Life. The universe. Is this what getting old is like? This feeling that the disasters are piling up faster and furiouser? (Yeah, I know it’s not a word, but I like it.) Looking around and thinking, holy hell, when did the world get so bad? Maybe it’s the many disasters that have been in the news, the earthquakes in Turkey, the weird-ass weather that’s blanketing pretty much everywhere, the relentless stripping away of body autonomy for women and LGBTQ+ members and the grandiloquent shrug that that loss is met with, the environmental disaster in Ohio from the train derailment that won’t be cleaned up for a long time, the fact that the folks working on technology seem to want to point AI-type assistance NOT where it could help people out, as in, I don’t know, assisting in the identification of incoming problems that lead to environmental disasters, but instead, to trying to mimic the very things that make human beings creative and special–the work we put into the arts, music, writing, all those things, some of which we pursue as a living, some of which we find fulfilment in as a hobby. And as someone who makes a living publishing, editing, podcasting, teaching those things…am I out of a job? (I don’t think I will be, but it’s making me think long and deep about parts of this life–the publishing and editing–and how I will adapt.)

        Woof. That was a long paragraph. What a Debbie Downer. Excuse me while I go take a nap or drink some tea or something.

        Anyway, I am thinking these thoughts not because I’m depressed or whatever. But because I guess this IS part of being human–taking a moment to work through, inside my mind, what all of these things mean. What can I do? What can WE do? What should I be doing?

        There are few things I’m rolling around in my head right now, and they mostly have to do with where I am and what I want to do and where I want to go. I’m sitting down this week (well, not necessarily sitting down so much as thinking on the go and carrying a sheaf of index cards to write notes down on for easy organization when the time is right) and taking inventory of all the things that I do. The writing–what am I writing? What forms? What’s the status? What’s the priority? The publishing–what am I reading for? What am I editing? What am I launching? What am I doing post-launch marketing maintenance on and how? All those sorts of things.

        I have some ideas about how I want to shape my work in the future. I have some thoughts and ideas about where I want to put my effort and how I want to give the people who enjoy my stuff more of that stuff–and maybe give them more than just a book, but also blog so y’all can see where I’m at, or send a more regular newsletter so if you have thoughts, you’ll have my email address and can send me what you thought, or your questions, or even, hey, your: “DAMN YOU WRITER PERSON YOU KILLED MY FAVE CHARACTER,” which, as a reader, I totally get.

        I’m about three years into trying to make a serious go of a creative career. That’s, of course, the same amount of time that a certain plague has been dogging our steps. I’m learning lessons now I might have learned earlier, had the apocalypse not occurred. But, I’m also learning deep lessons that I wouldn’t have learned if the apocalypse had held off. Many of those lessons are telling me to focus on what I write, what I say, what I publish, and make more time in my life to be engaged–and then to retreat to think some more–and then recharge and return to engage again. I am not, realistically, going to find a solution to all of the things that pop up in the news headlines each day, but I can do something. I just need some time and thought and space to process, to read what others think, and figure it out.

        Sorry for the super downer post today… I’ve got a lot of random thoughts going on and needed someplace to stick them. I’ve also, once again, given up coffee for Lent, so it’s possible these are the fruits of an undercaffeinated mind. But, it’s time for lunch, so let me see if this is just a bout of hangry-ness that I’ve got going on. Peace!


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, or drop me a buck or two on PayPal, which will help keep me in books and caffeine and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

        Alas, poor Yorick…

        I knew him, Horatio. The rest of these dead guys, not so much.

        Anyway, this weekend, I went to my first in-person SCA event since before the plague times. While I’ve attended a few business meetings, as well as local craft nights and dance practices, I haven’t got to a full-on EVENT event in a long time. Part of that was because we moved back to NC in the midst of the plague, and so there wasn’t so much a chance to re-connect to the folks who we knew or meet people who were new–at least not on anything more than the local level. Add to that trying to get a writing/publishing/media business of the ground plus kids school and activities and spouse being overseas a good part of the last few years, and that all added up to not being able to participate like I used to.

        Fast forward to a few months ago when my good friend Lara (Baroness Sophia the Orange) mentioned that she was putting together some Hamlet scenes to perform at the Hamlet-themed Tournament of Ymir (the Baronial Event) … oh, and by the way, would I be interested in playing Laertes?

        Would I? WOULD I? You bet your poisoned blade I would!

        Photo courtesy of Lara Coutinho

        The idea was to put together selected scenes from the play–the ones that an audience would immediately pick up on, recognize the lines from, and then move about the site sharing the selected scenes with whatever audience we could find. I loved the idea of being itinerant, wandering players, trundling with our costumes and props and characters, setting up, playing our scenes, and then moving on.

        We had a few rehearsals, and I started getting more excited, Then, I realized that I hadn’t renewed my SCA membership in a while, so I had to go take care of that (and foolishly forgot to take a screenshot of the message, because once I got on site, my phone wouldn’t load the email.) I ended up paying five bucks extra and signing a waiver, which wasn’t a showstopper because Sophie generously paid the site fee for the actors, many of whom were SCA newbs and had never attended an event before. (I also ended up paying a bunch of money over at the merchant row, so let’s be honest, it was five bucks well-spent, LOL.)

        I also had to laugh because even though Sophie provided the poofy shirt and doublet for me to wear as Laertes, and technically I didn’t need any other garb, I STILL ended up at Joann’s the day before, purchasing the material to panic-sew a hooded short cloak the night before. Listen. It gets cold at Ymir and I was falling down and dying multiple times throughout the afternoon…

        It was so much fun to get a chance to spend the day outside, away from screens (which, don’t get me wrong, I typically enjoy the time I spend with screens and the projects and people those screens connect me to, but there is something to be said for taking a break and getting fresh air and a re-set.)

        This also reminded me how much I do enjoy the SCA. I love spending time with friends, I enjoy the opportunities the organization gives me to try creative things without the pressure of having to use them for anything except fun. I love the fact that my life is a creative life, where I can write and edit and publish and podcast. But sometimes, I just need to do something creative for the sake of creativity.

        And that bit of dopamine spurred something all right, because I got home fired up to get moving on a bunch of projects, one of which was the beginning of a song for a future SCA event (a tavern-themed get together, which is going to be amazing), as well as a design for a trim based on our local Canton of Attilium heraldry.

        I’ve got a few tweaks for the final design, but I’m liking how it’s turning out.

        In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to editing an anthology (multiple anthologies), writing the next book in the Rick Keller series, working on my next class (oh yeah–I’m taking a Fundamentals of Accounting class through the local community college), and cleaning up my office which looks like the apocalypse happened. That, plus, I’ve got Ret-Con coming up this weekend and still don’t have my stuff organized. With that, I should probably quit procrastinating via blogging and get back to work!


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Ramblings, Writing Reflections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

        Academic Nerds Gonna Academic Nerd

        It’s probably fitting that I just got finished recording a future podcast episode with the teacher who taught my eighth-grade English class. Because I am about to do the most academic nerd thing ever and embark on yet another academic journey.

        Right now, I hear my spouse muttering: They’re not Pokemon, you don’t have to catch them all, by which he means, I am currently ahead in the household degree count by one.

        Academic nerds gonna marry other academic nerds.

        And, yes, I guess it would look kind of excessive to other people to return to school so quickly. However, I have my reasons. And, since I’d rather do anything except what I need to do (clean/organize my office), I’ll share them with you!

        First, I hate leaving money on the table. When I finished up my MFA, which was funded primarily by my pre-9/11 Montgomery GI Bill, I got a final verification from the VA that I had a certain amount of months remaining. I looked and thought, oh cool, there’s enough there for another graduate degree at some point. Then, I looked closer and realized, oh shoot, the expiration date on that “some point” is nearer than I expected, looming over me like the T rex. in Jurassic Park. (Yes, the first one, which is still, IMHO, the best one.) That spurred me to evaluate where I was, my career goals, and what would be the best use of the rest of that money.

        After realizing that I could theoretically complete one more degree, and also that I needed to do it by the end of next year, I sat down and thought long and hard about what I want to be when I grow up.

        Mostly, I thought about what I’m currently doing–writing, editing, podcasting, publishing, creating engagement in online spaces that encourage my network and community. Actually, these are all things that I’ve always wanted to do, and that I could see myself doing for a long time.

        So, What Is It That I’m NOT Doing?

        Or, that I’m doing wrong? Or, that I could be doing better?

        I don’t have the answers to these questions…yet. Or rather, I have too many answers to that last question. When it comes to my place on the Dunning-Kruger schematic, I feel that, craft-wise, I am progressing my way up the “Slope of Enlightenment.” I’m putting the work in, both practically and academically and professionally to get better at writing, at editing, at publishing, and now, in podcasting, to create books and anthologies and podcasts that will be good quality. I also, because I’ve spent that time learning and seeking more knowledge and practicing and reading to see what excellence and best practices look like, have a better scale against which to judge my work and see how much farther I have to go. There are always going to be blind spots, which is why I periodically stop and take stock of where I am and what I’m doing, but I’m starting to feel more confident in my abilities as a writer, as an editor, and as a publisher. And while I’m still early on the Slope of Enlightenment as a podcaster, I am more confident that I know what I don’t know, and know where to go to fill those gaps and get better.

        What I don’t know, and where I realize I need to be getting better because I’m not doing the things I need to be doing in this area, concerns that business side of things. As much as I would love to say I never fall prey to Dunning-Kruger, I have to admit to myself that I have been over-estimating my abilities when it comes to marketing, sales, advertising, ROI, accounting–basically, the business side of the business.

        I sort of know a little bit about social media marketing. I know what the acronym “ROI” sounds like. I know that I probably should be doing some kind of analysis on what ads are performing or what social media content is getting the most engagement. There are some things I could probably do to boost sales. But get any more granular than that, and I am forced to admit that I need more knowledge, skills, and experience. And I a) don’t have the budget to pay someone to do this and b) would not ask someone to give me this for free.

        So, I’m going to learn it. Myself.

        Here’s a little secret about me that people probably don’t know. The first graduate program I ever considered was an MBA in Media Marketing. I had just graduated from NYU film school, and I was working at a media ventures company. I saw then that I wasn’t going to be making any money just being on the creative side of things, so the plan was to get an MBA and learn about the business side of things.

        Then 9/11 happened, I joined the Army Reserve, and my life went in the direction that it did.

        Less a Turntable Than A Closing Circle

        Thus, here I am, three years into a creative venture, with a stack full of books on marketing and starting a small business and accounting for creatives and wanting more. On Wednesday, I begin my new (and maybe final, we’ll see) program of learning that will support me doing the work that I feel a passion for–creating and publishing and being part of a community of creatives. I signed up to take Continuing Education credits in accounting at the local community college, and will begin February 15 with Fundamentals of Accounting I.

        On the graduate level, I am following my MFA from SNHU with further studies in the MBA program–a business degree with a concentration in marketing. With the granularity of the accounting classes and the big picture practical of the MBA program, my goal is to fill in the spaces in my knowledge and expertise that I haven’t yet recognized as gaps AND to start closing the gaps that I know are there.

        Here is to learning and improving and understanding better how to go from where I am now, to where I want to be in two, five, ten years.

        And now, because I also have to finish the books that I owe my publisher, I’m going to get back to the creative stuff.


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

        10 Gifts to Get a Writer for Valentine’s Day

        But actually just my Amazon wish list…

        Let me back up.

        When New Year’s Eve rolled around and January 1, 2023 showed up (way too early, given that we went to bed around 3:30 a.m.), I set the intention that I would exercise some restraint in my online purchasing habits. Anything I needed, I would try to buy locally, and if it were something other than groceries or household items, such as books or art or craft supplies, I would do my best to purchase it from a small business, such as a vendor at a Con or an artist’s online website. And, up until now, I’ve been doing pretty good. I did buy my fancy new Blue Yeti mic from Amazon (which, by the way, has been wonderful when recording for the On the Shelf podcast), but that’s about it.

        Still, as the weeks pass, my mercenary little heart misses the little thump and notification of delivery, and then the opening of the package, the perusal of the items, and the capitalist acquisition of stuff. Yes, I realize there is a reason that I needed to set the intention of not actually purchasing things, in part because I do believe that buying local and buying small helps contribute to sustainable economics and the environment AND we are moving this year and don’t need to be accumulating more STUFF, AND we could be saving money for things like experiences that will be in time more valuable than a few trinkets.

        And yet… I gotta say, I stopped by Amazon to look up a prior purchase, and suddenly, there I was happily window shopping along. So, since I have absolutely NO willpower, I’m going to share with you the list of 10 things I found that would be great gifts. For the writer in your life. And, if you’re my spouse reading this, that writer is me. (Not so subtle hint. 😀 )

        10 Gifts to Make Your Writer Happy

        Okay, so if you love language is giving gifts, and you know a writer whose love language is receiving gifts, take a look at this list and let me know what you think! Let’s get started…

        1. Coffee/Tea mugs! Um… this is kind of a no-brainer. Also, potentially a cliché. (Oh no…no…that’s definitely cliché…) Whatever, I’m going to embrace the basic! So, first, I’m a sucker for a witty coffee mug. Probably because I myself am not witty until after coffee. So my mug has got to do some heavy lifting. I’ve got my eye on three mugs, actually, one writing-focused, one reading-focused, and one, not so much. The writing mug is super cute. It’s black with pink and blue writing and it says: “Pay no attention to my browsing history, I’m a writer not a serial killer.” Which, if you ask me, is exactly what a serial killer would say.

        The reading one has been incredibly hard to resist, because it would be PERFECT to go along with a cup of tea while I’m reading the books I’m going to review that week on the podcast. It’s white, with a graphic of a stack of books and next to it the text: Yes, I really do need all these books. Which is the answer to a question my spouse asks over and over and over, and honestly, I’m tempted right now to just go buy the mug and the heck with my no-buying intention.

        And finally, there is a mug here that I’m super tempted to get for two reasons. One, I love flamingoes. Two, I HAD a lovely flamingo mug that I lost when our RV trailer got stolen out of the storage facility parking lot. (I’m still super mad about that.) After the shock of the loss, we started tallying up all the stuff that had been in there–pots and pans that we got for our wedding, some other personal items, and…my flamingo coffee mug that I’ve sipped coffee out of all across the country. I found the perfect replacement, and yes, I am having a hard time continuing to practice self-control. It’s so pretty!!

        2. In somewhat less of a writer stereotype, but very on brand for me personally, the next thing that would be a perfect Valentine’s gift is a new crossbody bag, in particular, THIS crossbody bag.

        Why, you ask? I’ll tell you. I’ve been searching for a good bag to carry around with me at conventions. I usually throw on my pink backpack that is easy to pack and has a few pockets so that I can separate things out. But, I need something better. This bag is perfect for holding my phone, an external charger, my Square device for taking payments, as well as my wallet, a notebook, a Kindle, a book and an assortment of pens. And, the crossbody function with the top zipper is my preferred way to carry all those things.

        It’s also good because when I DO have the backpack with me, I tend to fill it all the way up with just…stuff…and it helps me streamline my life to have something compact and yet portable and utilitarian, such as this bag. In fact, the only quibble I have is that it doesn’t come in pink. (And I don’t know about that pompom…) Although, red is very on brand for the Crone Girls Press signage.

        3. CANDY!!! Candy candy candy!! Did you know they have Valentine’s-themed candy corn? They do. Do you know what’s my favorite candy after Tootsie Rolls? Yes, candy corn. (You can take your whole “they tastes like wax” BS waaaaaaaayyyyy over there. This is MY gift list. And I like candy corn.)

        4. I was a little back and forth on this next item, because I have purchased a similar product before, and it didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. However, I am in love with this pink steampunk keyboard and mouse. I love the color, I love the silver accents, I love the whole aesthetic. (And, it would match my microphone!)

        Also, I love typing on a full-sized keyboard, especially one that makes the little clackety-clackety-clackety sounds as I go. It’s ergonomic and provides it’s own ASMR as you go! I’ve had my eye on it for a while now, but haven’t been able to justify pulling the trigger on a $62 purchase when I have a perfectly functional keyboard and mouse already. Still, this is a WISH list, so I’m going to put it out there. As a wish. 😀

        5. If I’m going to continue to confess all the ways in which I fit the stereotype of Ye Olde Basic Wryter (TM), I will also have to confess that I have a cat and I like refrigerator poetry, which makes this magnetic poetry kit the perfect gift to wrap up with the chocolates, or perch precariously amidst the bouquet:

        Just saying….

        6. The next gift on the list is a bit more practical. It is a pink bullet journal, 192 pages, dotted lines, and with a lovely elastic band closure and of course a ribbon bookmark–which always makes me feel like I’m writing down esoteric knowledge and someday my grandkids might go hunting for treasure or spooky monsters with the notes contained within. Actually, all that’s inside are scribbled down notes for story ideas, mundane bits of to-do lists and in-progress song lyrics, and notes from panels at Cons or discussions with other writers. And really, I’ve got so many notebooks still to write my way through that, again, I couldn’t really spend even ten bucks on this one…but it’s pink. And it’s a proper bullet journal (which is a system that really seems to work for me of all the ones I’ve tried.) Of course, if you’re going to get a pink notebook, might as well grab some of my favorite gel ink pens…in pink. 😉

        7. Would it be a writer’s gift list if there weren’t at least ONE craft book on it? (It would not be my gift list, that’s for sure.) Okay, so I already have Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes, so that’s not technically on my wish list. However, Irresistible Blurbs: How to Write a Book Description Romance Readers Will Love by Siri Caldwell is now on that list. This is not as strange as it sounds for someone who spends most of their time happily swimming the horror, dark fantasy, and urban fantasy waters. I’ve had a couple of titles published under my Becca A. Miles romance pen name, and am working (slowly, behind the scenes) on a PNR romantic suspense series that I’ll be publishing under that pen name (but displayed as Rachel A. Brune writing as BECCA A. MILES, because frankly, I don’t have the bandwidth to maintain two different pen name personas in my social media marketing…) Speaking of which, Like, Love Follow: The Entreprenista’s Guide to Using Social Media to Grow Your Business by Courtney Spitzer and Stephanie Abrams actually WAS a gift from my spouse, one that I’m currently reading through and enjoying very much. So that one goes on the list as well.

        8. Here is where my inner hedonist lazily lifts up and shows its languorous face. I love big, cuddly, snuggly, soft blankets, and I cannot lie. It can get cold down here in the basement office, and although I already have one blanket, I think that I would REALLY love SECOND BLANKET.

        9. And also socks. With flamingoes. Because my feet also like to be snuggly!

        10. Finally, something totally ridiculous and awesome.

        Do I NEED a pink retro electric kettle? No. I already have an electric kettle, and it heats the water to a selection of different temperatures. Do I need a mini kettle? No, I drink far too much tea to want a miniature-sized version. Does the brand name “SMEG” sound vaguely dirty? Yes, yes it does.

        And, would this be the cutest little kettle to set up on my workstation along with a small selection of teas from Tea & Absinthe and my flamingo mug as I wrote, edited, or produced my latest project? YES, YES IT WOULD. Again, it’s a wish list, not an “everything should make sense and conform to my desire to be non-cluttery” list. We’re writers. We don’t even have that latter list.

        Oh no, my tea is gone…

        Why is my tea always gone? It’s about time for me to brew up another cup of herbal tea (greens and herbals are my favorite afternoon beverage) and wrap up some tasks before I head out to pick up my kiddos from school and take them to their afternoon activities. Hope you enjoyed the ideas for Valentine’s gifts for writers in the list above! And if you have something to add to it, let me know. I love window shopping for my wish list.


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Conversations, On the Shelf, Writing Reflections | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

        Sisyphus runs my inbox…

        Seriously, I feel like the more messages and emails and texts and message and emails and whatsapps and notifications I check off the old to-do list, the farther and farther behind I lag. While I’m working on clearing some projects and activities off my plate, I’ve realized that part of the problem is not so much that I’m doing too much, insofar as it’s necessary to sometimes stop, regroup, reorganize, and then go forth.

        Take the podcast, for example. I’ve been hosting On the Shelf: A Writer Reads for the past month. In that time, I’ve managed to schedule almost all of the interviews that I have planned for the first season. I’ve also standardized my promo graphic, the show template, purchased a high quality podcasting microphone (the pink one, of course), and set up a spiffy new Facebook group. My first goal of 50 subscribers is within reach, and I’m really enjoying the process. (It’s also helping me stick to my Goodreads reading challenge goals.)

        However, I did not set up a process for organizing and storing episode material, i.e., audio files, headshots, bios, etc. And that is coming around to bite me in the posterior, because I’ve completed about three-quarters of the scheduled interviews, plus three more for another, future podcast I’m co-hosting and co-producing, and with all the files and material, I’m worried about losing track of something.

        So far, I’ve recorded my book review rundown, added the new release guest interview, edited, and scheduled this week’s On the Shelf episode, both to air and then to post in the FB group. Next up, I’ve got some Army Reserve items to take care of (the weekend after Battle Assembly, there’s always something to follow up on), as well as hosting this week’s TWT-Co-Working event. And then, I will be sitting down and setting up a better process to take care of all of the items that I have collected for the podcasts, and putting things where they need to be, so that I can be less stressed out about it in the future.

        And, finally, my last, big organizing project this week–writing out my master inventory list of writing, editing, and publishing projects so that I can track their status and my progress. That way, I can have, at a glance, a better idea of where I am, and where I can direct my attention from day to day.

        Anyway, that’s about all I have on a Monday. Hope that your week goes smoothly, and that you, too, find some way to catch up on your inbox.


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in On the Shelf, Welcome, Writing Reflections | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

        New mic, that’s who…

        In answer to the question, of course, “New mic, who dis?” Here, let me show you:

        photo of a pink microphone with the logo "blue" and in the background, a computer with a graphic for the On the shelf podcast

        I was reading Podcasting Made Simple by Daniel Larson to learn some ways to approach developing, producing, and promoting a show, and in that book, they (the author is a pen name for two podcasters) recommend the Blue Yeti Mic. It’s a pretty reasonably-priced condenser mic, with a bunch of effects (that I probably won’t use), and when I posted it on my Facebook, a number of people chimed in with how much they like it.

        So…of course I ignored all my adult responsibilities and immediately broke it out for a test run. Safe to say, I love it. I sound SO much better, although I should still probably invest in a angled-arm stand for the desk, as well as a pop filter. I also was intrigued to see that it has a four mic directional settings. In addition to podcasting, I could also use this to record myself playing music and singing. And I do have a bunch of songs that I haven’t recorded that I could put together…

        Anyway, I am going to force myself to get back to editing, but if you have been listening to On the Shelf and you suddenly think, hey, Rachel suddenly sounds way better and more professional, well, this is the reason why.


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in On the Shelf, Podcast | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

        Road trip!

        If we weren’t moving this summer, I probably wouldn’t have driven to Charlotte last night. Right now, I am beyond tired, with my eyeballs drooping and just enough motivation to brew some strong, hot tea and keep pushing through.

        How tired am I? I just tried to download this picture from Facebook onto my phone so that I could then upload it into Dropbox so that I could post it here, and I was getting frustrated that Facebook was glitching on my phone. It took me several minutes to remember that I could just…pull up Facebook on my computer? Download my own photo? Yeah. That’s where I am.

        Seven books arrayed on a table of various titles with business cards arranged in front.
        All set up and ready to go January 31 at Books & Brews at The Casual Pint (Rivergate) in Charlotte, NC.

        Anyway, the reason I was in Charlotte was because there is a local Books & Brews event that a writing friend of mine started up, and I asked if I could attend as one of the writers. He cautioned me that it hadn’t really gotten a huge audience yet, but I figured that if the worst thing that happened was that I got to visit with some of my people, then it would be worth the drive.

        And it was! I showed up a little early, grabbed a coffee from the Target Starbucks, and then headed over to set up. My friend and I ordered some food and I had my one drink (a darn good local sour). The event ran officially from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., although I ended up staying a few minutes later. Toward the end of the evening, I even sold some books–enough to cover the cost of dinner AND the seven beers I bought off the shelf to bring home to the spouse.

        At one point, my friend apologized again for the small crowd. I told him, first, that I appreciated the opportunity to come and hang out with my friends, writing and otherwise, in a setting where we got to actually sit and have a conversation. It was a lovely time, and I really enjoy spending quality time with people I like hanging out with.

        Also, I told him, when I was in high school and college, I played in a band. We would drive two hours to some shitty dive bar in the middle of nowhere on a weeknight and play for a disinterested audience of two, which was one less than the number of women in the band, and then drive back home and still call it time well spent. So this sort of occasion was kind of par for the course. And hey! I got to see another friend who I don’t get to spend a lot of time with, being that they live in Charlotte. So, wins (and drinks!) all around.

        The next time I’m on the road will be to Ret-Con in Durham, the last weekend in February. I will be there with a full table of books and signage, and will also be on panels and attending panels and doing all sorts of fun things. If you happen to be in the area, stop by!

        And finally, a shout out to author Patrick Dugan, my friend who invited me to the event, and presented me with these two lovelies for my girls.

        Two three-D printed dragon heads laying on a table
        They’ve been named Winter and Spring.

        He makes and sells these at conventions, as well as on his Etsy store, Distracted Dragon 3D. Just wanted to send a shout out!

        Anyway, I am hoping that some sort of energy sneaks back in. I’ve got a bunch of editing, a bunch of critiquing, and a bunch of writing and slush reading to get through. I should probably go and start making my way through the list. In the meantime, hope you enjoy the pictures, and hope to see you later next month in Durham!


        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Writing Reflections | Tagged , | Leave a comment

        Dusting Myself Off and Getting Back in the Fight

        Okay, so obviously this week was a bit of a … change in all of the plans we’ve had. I was going through some emotions I didn’t even realize I could experience all at the same time. There was a lot of coffee, a lot of pacing, a lot of rearranging of my underwear drawer. There were also maybe a few tears shed, I won’t lie. Even now, I’m still pretty pissed off.

        But, I’m getting over it.

        First, I gotta keep working. What this has shown me was that I can’t just assume the future is going to happen the way I expected. I don’t know WHY the universe keeps sending me this lesson. Possibly, because I keep refusing to learn it. Meh. But it caused me to double down on many of the projects–work and home–that I have underway.

        Is This Thing On?

        First, when I wrote down my intentions for the new year, I included the fact that I wanted to do a podcast. And now…I am setting up for two. The first one is basically me talking about what I want to read, what I’m currently reading, what I’ve borrowed from the library, what I’ve purchased from authors a Cons, and to a small extent how my reading life influences the other parts of my life, including the writing. I also decided to interview authors who have new releases coming out the week each episode airs, because the younger reader in me thinks it is JUST SO COOL that not only can I host my own “radio” show, but I can also connect with and have conversations with the authors that I love reading.

        Anyway, the first and second episodes are out now (the second one came out today), and you can find links to the various places you can listen on the On the Shelf Anchor site. My first guest is Nicole Givens Kurtz, who was a wonderful first author to talk to. She was very gentle and understanding as I worked through the technical glitches (the first method of recording was too glitchy, and then it took Zoom what felt like FOREVER to update so I could go with the second course of action…) But, the show is up, and I’ve got a few more interviews recorded and a bunch more scheduled.

        I told my spouse that I have an excellent excuse for shirking household chores to read, as it was now part of my professional workload. I’m not sure he totally bought it, but my intention is to monetize my podcast efforts, so please click the link, listen, like, share, review–all those good things. You will be hearing about some awesome books, and I will get a couple of bucks so that I can go buy more books! It’s a win-win, my friends.

        Am I In Denial?

        Wow, Rachel, I imagine you saying. You seem to be doing pretty well after this week’s setbacks. Are you in denial?

        Yeah, probably. Like I mentioned above, I’m still pretty upset. But you know what? There’s literally nothing to be done to change the past. So, I can sit and wallow, or I can sit with my spouse and come up with some plans of what to do next. (Kind of like when your first podcast recording technique glitches out and you go change over to another one…)

        First, I looked up the website of where we’re going. There were a couple of things that made me feel much better about the move. We’re not TOO close to a bunch of things, but we are close enough that I can make a drive and have access to organizations such as the LA chapter of the Horror Writers Association. There’s a wolf sanctuary that you can visit (and I’m definitely planning to!) Living on post will be a great experience for the kids, especially. There is a sort of close-knit vibe that military posts develop, and that can be good or bad, but for my oldest child who never met a stranger only new friends, I think she is going to love that neighborhood environment. I even looked up the local community college to see if they have faculty positions open, so that might be an opportunity to pursue!

        My spouse and I are incredibly lucky to have a good support structure. We were able to call our realtor for advice on what to do with the house, and then I had a good long chat with my mother-in-law, and then over in the family chat where my siblings had some jokes. Mostly at my expense. But they cheered me up. As I talked yesterday on the phone, I could feel so much stress and anger leaving. I left those phone calls with plans of what to do next as well as a sense of both acceptance and even, a little bit, eagerness. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t swing right back to Seattle in a heartbeat if the chance came up, but I’m feeling better about the move and getting back in the groove with my writing, editing, podcasting, and house cleaning/organizing ventures.

        Anyway, that’s what’s happening this week. It’s been a little more nuts than usual, but hey, I guess that’s life. I’m sure sometime a few years (or months or weeks) from now, I’ll be posting again about learning my lesson about anticipating the future too closely. But until then, there’s words to write, content to share, and laundry to fold.



        Thanks for reading! If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to help support what I’m doing, you can buy a book, leave a review, listen to the podcast, or share content. You can also tip me on Ko-Fi, which will help keep me in books and coffee and colored pens. Enjoy!

        Have you picked up a copy of Cold Run: Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project? Do you like fast-paced, gritty urban fantasy and werewolf secret agents? Well, then. Click the link!

        Posted in Conversations, On the Shelf | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment