Case of the Mondays

My fellow Internet denizens, I am just here to say that yesterday was the absolute, most Mondayest Monday that ever did Monday. I’m sitting here in my downstairs office with a cup of coffee and piles of papers and stacks of items on my to-do list, and just kind of staring at my coffee and feeling a little shell-shocked.

First things first–everyone here is well and healthy (and I just took the plague test to prove it, which will make sense if you read to the end of this digital primal scream.) But yesterday was testing every single last nerve, and so, in order to move on with my life, I’m just going to give you all the run down and then try to get back to work.

But first, sip of coffee.

Ah… Much better.

Okay, so Monday morning I wake up about a half hour after the bus has already come and gone. In fact, I’ve got about fifteen minutes to not only get out the door, but to actually drop the kids off at school. Adrenaline spikes, panic kicks in, and in a flurry of sneakers and book bags and barking dogs and slammed doors we make it to the car and down to the school in time to drop everyone off where they are supposed to be. I get back to the house and sit in the car for a moment, listening to myself talk about my new podcast.

“Well,” I thought. “Got the kids to school, and this doesn’t sound bad at all. Guess we got Monday out of the way early today!”

Ha … hahahahahaaa… Poor, sweet, unknowing me…

Then, I checked my email on my phone and realized that A Woman Unbecoming had, unfortunately, not made it onto the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Awards. It was kind of a long shot, as the Stokers are basically the Oscars of the horror world, so I wasn’t too crushed, although it’s always kind of disappointing when something like that happens. Still, I sent a note to my co-editor: “Maybe next year!”, and proceeded with Monday. Nothing’s gonna get me down!

Anyway, the day proceeds apace. I hadn’t yet taken down my Christmas decorations, so I decided that today was the day. We have a lot of cleaning and decluttering and organizing to do before the Army sends us to our next duty station, so I decided to tackle one of the big tasks. I threw on my podcast app and listened to a couple of shows while I got everything where it was supposed to go in our X-Mas bins, and stacked them upstairs to go into the attic.

Moving right along, I powered up my laptop and got ready to lead Co-Working with The Writing Tribe, when I got a message from my spouse. Don’t forget, inspectors are coming.

Truth be told, I had forgotten, but no matter. They showed up and in between co-hosting the session, I showed them around and explained that we have some cracks in the walls that have been getting worse lately. We’re getting ready to move this summer and wanted to be proactive and take care of the issue prior to either renting or selling the house when we move. (Look at us not waiting until the last minute! So proud of us.)

So, they started around on their inspection. Meanwhile, I got a call from Lowe’s customer service. The door that was supposed to be delivered in October, got delayed until late November, arrived and turned out to be the wrong size, got sent back, got re-ordered, got delayed, was supposed to arrive around January 20…has been delayed and will show up some time in February. Okay, not a problem. Eventually it will show up. Par for the course for a Monday.


The gentlemen doing the inspection invite me to walk around the house with them. As they begin pointing things out, they start gently. A little too gently, if you know what I mean. They start with a general caution that there has been some, ah, moisture, and the drainage is not what it could be. Oh, and here are some cracks in the foundation. Some are vertical. Some are horizontal. Whee! So much fun.

The kids get off the bus, and we all go inside. They start getting ready for after-school activities, and I sit down at the table, where the inspectors proceed to show me the photos from under the house. After the second or third one, my attempt at “hunting the good stuff” – Well, at least we’re finding out now rather than right before we move! – starts to take a few hits. By the end of the session, we’ve called my spouse and put him on speaker and made another appointment to get together and discuss in-depth a way forward.

“Wow,” I thought to myself as I saw them out the front door (the old one that hangs crooked on the hinges and doesn’t lock all the way and lets in the cold air.) “What a Monday this surely has been.”

But Wait, There’s More!

So, I get the kids in the car, and we head on out. I drop my oldest and her cousin off at dance, and then my youngest and I hit Kohl’s to return an Amazon purchase that was delivered bent in half, and then to the library, where I returned some books and renewed some others.

As we are listening to some upbeat music and turning into our street, I get a call from my spouse. I answer the phone.

“I’ve got some news!” he says. “Notification of assignments have come out!”

“Oh, that’s great!” I say, thinking, yes–finally. This is the first step in the process of him getting orders to his next duty station, and those orders are the pieces of paper that allow us to put into motion all of the things on the checklist of Army moving (scheduling transportation, getting on the wait list for housing and schools and daycare), etc.

“Well…not really.”

Let me add a bit of context here. We have really been looking forward to this move. The Army marketplace (kind of like a job board, but for the Army) opened up, and Rob listed this unit as his number one pick. After interviews and such, they listed him as their number one pick. So, logically, this meant that since it was a one-to-one pick, we’ve been planning on heading to Seattle for the past several months. I mean, buying winter clothes in large enough sizes for the girls to wear them through the next few years type of planning. Looking into Cons in the northwest and the local chapter of the HWA type of career planning (for me). My spouse was already tracking his first trip for his new job, etc. I’ve rarely allowed myself to look forward to a move with this amount of eagerness, but I was REALLY looking forward to moving to Seattle.

I’m betting that if you have any amount of familiarity with the Army, you will guess what’s coming next.

Ding, ding, ding!

You guessed it. Did that notification of assignment say Joint Base Lewis-McChord? No, it surely did not. Did it say, Fort Irwin, California, home of being smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert and equidistant from literally everything, being that it’s also in the middle of NOWHERE?! Yes, it did.

I won’t lie, I think I’m still in the first stage of the grieving process, namely “denial,” hoping that maybe there’s some way that this was all some paperwork SNAFU, and that it can all be sorted out so that we can go somewhere other than the ass end of nowhere. I’ve got a lot of emotions right now and no time to deal with them, and in the grand scheme of things, these are all very much solvable, first world problems. I’m already starting to look at job openings in California, as well as the fact that we’ll be close to my spouse’s family, and the desert is kind of pretty when it’s not 120 degrees in the summer. Usually these sorts of posts do have lots of things going on for the Soldiers and their families who get stationed there. And it’s the Army–you have to kind of roll with the punches. So, we’ll dust ourselves off, adjust fire, and move on to whatever is coming next.

Bad Luck Lagniappe

Which, come to think of it, sounds like a cool name for an indie folk punk band.

Anyway, I had a great conversation last night with my friend Cristel. We are looking at putting together an hour-long, conversation/interview-format podcast, and were having our first production meeting. That went really well (and about an hour longer than we expected), and so I turned off the space heater and the lights and headed upstairs to bed thinking that, you know, it’s not so bad. We’ve got this, and there’s lots to look forward to.

As I lay down in bed with my latest book on Kindle cued up to get a little reading done before I fell asleep, my phone buzzed.

It was a notification from the NJ plague center–apparently during my travels to and from Arisia, my phone and I had spent some time in the vicinity of someone who tested positive for the plague.

I checked that both my alarms were sent and went to sleep.

Always Look On the Bright Side

Okay, so, like I said, things could be worse. I tested myself for plague this morning, and there was no plague! So that was good. I got the kids out the door to the bus on time, and my coffee is hot and plentiful. I’ve got some things to do that involve sending out submissions, as well as reading some submissions, and writing new material for a contract that I owe my publisher (and, it shows that I’ve made it to a certain point in my writing and publishing journey to even be able to say those things.) I’m going to take a deep breath, drink a few more cups of coffee, and get on with the rest of the week. Here’s hoping your week goes well, and I’ll catch ya later!


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!

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On the Shelf – New and Improved!

Okay, so, it’s a new year, and once again, I am working on catching up from last year, taking stock, taking down the Christmas decorations, and taking a look at what’s ahead for this year. One of the things that I posted on Facebook earlier this year was that a) I want to be more focused on creating content, writing books, etc., and b) my specific list of 2023 goals. Or maybe, let’s call them–intentions.

Without further ado, here are my 2023 intentions:

1. Finish the Rick Keller series.
2. Write my horror novel.
3. Standardize and expand my Crone Girls Press publication plan so I have a continuity document and reference trackers for myself and whoever comes on board.
4. Write two screenplays.
5. Possibly try out a writing collaboration. (I’ve been wanting to do this, but not sure if it’s right for me.)
6. Start a podcast.

Seems pretty on brand for the writing and publishing that I want to do. I also have some other goals, but when it comes to prioritizing, these are the top ones.

Start a Podcast, You Say?

Yes. I did say. In fact, check this out:

graphic that reads: On the Shelf: A Writer Reads

Yes, I have already started on this project. I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to do with my “On the Shelf” blog feature, especially since I want this blog to become, well, more bloggy and conversational and strict features seem kind of not in line what that vibe. Instead, I’m moving my conversation on what I’m reading, my Goodreads reading challenge, and the intersection of reading and writing over to podcast format. I’m even going to include a short interview with an author who is having a new release that week.

I’ve been playing around with how to set this up, as well as recording and editing. The preview episode for the show clocks in around sixteen minutes and is now available from a variety of venues. If you’d like to catch it, click On the Shelf: A Writer Reads, and then choose where you’d like to subscribe. It’s currently available on Spotify, Anchor, Apple, IHeartRadio, and Google. The first episode was definitely a learning experience; as I go on, I hope to get better and better at it.

On to the Writing

I’ve been working on Trial Run, the third book in the Rick Keller series. The first book, Cold Run, is now available on Kindle Unlimited and in paperback from Falstaff Books. If this is your first encounter with the book and/or series, a little bit of background–the series was originally published by a small press, then I got my rights back and self-pubbed it, then I took it down because I wanted to re-vamp the whole thing. Somewhere in there, I got to know the folks at Falstaff Books, got the opportunity to pitch the books to John Hartness, and ended up with a five-book contract.

cover photo for Cold Run plus quote: The forests in southern Germany were old and dark, and a wolf could find easy paths to run in the shadows against the deep, white snow.

One of the reasons I started a reading podcast (and prior to that, a reading blog feature) was because I find that when I am reading, I am also more creative and write more. When I was at Arisia Con this past weekend, I found myself in conversation with Kevin McGlaughlin, an accomplished, prolific writer. I mentioned that I was having a hard time writing a short story, in particular, one that is military science fiction. His advice: Read in the genre.

That made a lot of sense, and so as part of my writing, I am reading my way through a pile of military SF, courtesy of my local library.


Well, that about all the business stuff going on–at least today. I’m also doing a ton of other stuff on the paperwork business side of the house (hello, January!) My office, which was my adult niece and nephew’s room for a year, has recently been reclaimed. I moved all of my crafting supplies, personal hobby and projects piles/boxes, books, and my desk and office books and supplies into the room. Slowly, I have been working to clear, organize, and set up my to-do piles, so that I will get back on the ball when it comes to my work. My intention with this blog will be to come on here and share conversational things, and not just what’s going on professionally–a little bit like my old (yikes, very old) profile on a site that began with “L” and ended with “ivejournal.” Woof. In the meantime, I’ve got some design work to do on this website, and about three feet of paperwork to sort through. Catch you later!

~ ~ ~

If you like what I’m putting out in the world, and would like to support what I do, you can click on the links above to grab a copy of my books, or to listen to the podcast content I’m producing. You can also drop me a tip over at my Ko-Fi page. Thanks very much for your support!

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A quick deal and some other stuff…

It’s been exactly a month since my last post, which is not the longest break between posting, but not exactly the regular blogging I keep meaning to do. Oh well. But I do have a few things to share, so let’s get started.

First, the Kindle ebook of Side Roads is currently on $0.99. If you’d like to own it for a couple bucks less than its normal price, you can check it out here.

Secondly, I’ve been chilling…perhaps a little too much. I was deathly ill the weekend prior to Halloween, with lingering effects. Then, just as I was starting to feel better, all the kids came down with the flu and passed it on to my spouse and then to me. So, that was another two weeks lost to the void. And then, when I finally started to feel better from that, it was time for family and friend obligations, and baking, and kids’ activities.

Freshly baked apple cider donuts in a pretty frame.

Speaking of baking… This time of year, I get out my recipes and cookbooks, dust them off, and start baking with a frenzy. So far, I’ve made a batch of lemon crinkle cookies, pumpkin bread, molasses drop cookies (which turned into molasses-honey-agave drop cookies when I ran out of the signature ingredient halfway through baking), chocolate chip cookies (although I don’t really like the recipe I used and am going to try another), pumpkin pie, crust, French bread rolls (note to self, don’t use that recipe for rolls–crust is too thick and hearty, and a batch of delicious bagels made the correct way (boiling in water and then baked in the oven. I plan to keep going with the cookies, as I have many more to whip up, as well as a cranberry apple pie recipe I found. Tis the season when people seem to be more willing to eat the things I make, and I really enjoy baking for people, so I’m getting my baked goods mojo going.

In addition to baking and socializing and putting books on sale, I’ve also been doing a bunch of reading. I’m within six books of my Goodreads reading challenge total, and have been enjoying a good deal of Josh Malerman (Goblin, Daphne, Black Mad Wheel and Unbury Carol), as well as Grady Hendrix (Final Girl Support Group), and others. I’ve been thinking more and more about the horror novel I’d like to write, and so I’ve been challenging myself to read longer horror works this year, especially from writers I admire in the genre. As much as I love short horror fiction, approaching a novel requires a similar-yet-different set of skills, and writing a full-length horror project bumps up that intensity times a thousand. From reading Malerman and Maberry and Iglesias and Piper and Graham Jones and Hendrix, I’m learning a lot on how to pose a question at the very beginning, and then keep the reader turning, turning, turning to find the answer at the end of the book, whether they like that answer or not.

And finally, it’s almost December, the time of month when I try to wrap up some projects and set up the next year’s worth of goals. Right now, I want to finish all of the editing for all the Crone Girls projects in the works. Next year, I want to focus on bumping up my writing progress and get a bunch of those projects complete and on their way to whichever publication path is right for them.

But for now, I’m going to get some admin to-dos completed, eat a donut, and pick a short story to start editing.


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The end of the tunnel…

This week, I wrapped up all of the requirements for completing my MFA at Southern New Hampshire University. *pause for celebration* Yes, anyway, that’s enough pausing and celebrating. Too many things on the old to-do list for me to take too long of a break. I will lose momentum, crash, burn, and end up hiding in my blanket fort for the next six months.

For real, though. I did take some time to enjoy the end of school. However, I’m not sure if it IS the end of school. I’ve got more time and money left on the GI Bill, and it goes away at the end of 2024. I hate leaving money on the table, so I’m looking at heading into the SNHU business program and pursuing an MBA. I figure that it can’t hurt to know more about running a business, promoting and marketing, sales, and all the things I don’t have expertise in.

Also, in addition to the crushing imposter syndrome that poked its head up out of nowhere when I hit “SUBMIT” on the final draft of my thesis novel, I also had a wave of “OMG I STINK AT THIS I SHOULD GO BACK TO CORPORATE AMERICA” as I was submitting the final copy edits on Cold Run to my publisher. Why does this pop up at the end of a project (or the end of a phase in a project)? I should be thankful that imposter syndrome doesn’t raise its ugly head when I’m sitting down to write; but it’s still an annoying little beast that I have to close my eyes and navigate around whenever I’m trying to move ahead in my career. Ugh.

But the good thing is that I do have a completed draft of my thesis novel upon which I’ve done first-pass edits. I’ll be getting an edit letter from my professor, who always gives strong feedback, doing another revision pass, and then I’ll be heading into the query trenches. I’m also working on expanding the third book in the Rick Keller series from a novella to a full-length novel, which will not be as difficult as one might think, given that when I wrote the novella, I basically left out the entire middle part because I didn’t feel like writing it and going into all that character development that needs to happen… I’m currently deconstructing Trial Run in Scrivener, and will be working on that as my NaNoWriMo project.

In addition to all of the writing, I’m also head-down, getting ready to get caught up on editing projects for Crone Girls Press. I’ve got several publications to put together for 2023, and these are books that I really want to get out there. I’ve got a lot of excitement to share them, and need to start checking them off my to-do list. I also want to finish drafting out the soup-to-nuts publication process at CGP, mostly so I don’t forget steps, in part because I have mental blocks that keep me from moving forward, especially if I don’t have a checklist, and finally in part because someday I can see myself delegating this process to a publishing partner or associate, and want to make it as smooth a transition as I can.

And finally, I am actively on the hunt for projects that will be suited for Falstaff Dread. I’m not super worried about finding them–there are tons of great horror authors out there and wonderful novellas and novels that need a home. Somewhere, there will be projects that are a perfect Venn subset of author-project-publisher, and I’m looking forward to not only the development and publishing process, but everything that surrounds that process.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on here. If you’re reading this, I hope things are proceeding well with you, and if you’re a writer getting ready for NaNoWriMo, then I hope you are enjoying the calm before the storm, and find me over there at “Siegerat.” Happy writing!

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Multiverse Con Rundown

Okay, so buckle up, because this is going to be a long post. I will try to make it short, but there was so much awesomeness packed into one weekend, that will be impossible.

First, if you have not gotten your registration for next year, it’s never to early to head to the Multiverse site and register! Second, I was going to do this linearly, but I think I will chunk it out in a different way to try to capture everything… Let’s go!

Professional Stuff

Two pretty cool professional-type things happened for me at this Con. First, Crone Girls Press officially launched our first charity anthology, A Woman Unbecoming. This was a co-editing venture with Carol Gyzander, put together in response to the Dobbs decision that repealed the Roe v. Wade protections on reproductive healthcare. I brought 30 copies with me to Multiverse, handed out 12 to the other writers (including one for me to get signed by the folks who came!) and then set up at the Book Fair Sunday morning. By the end of the morning, every other copy was sold out. Many of the folks who came to the panels Carol and I had been on stopped by to check it out and ended up picking one up. It was a fast and furious production from soliciting submissions to editing to proofing to launching, and the response we’ve gotten made it worthwhile. A big shout out to Carol as well; without her, the book would not have happened.

As many of the AWU authors as we could corral at the Book Fair!
From L to R: Lynne Hansen, cover artist, Carol Gyzander, me (Rachel!), Bridgett Nelson, Jeff Strand, Jessica Nettles (front!), Samantha Bryant and Darin Kennedy.

The second cool thing to happen professionally was getting a chance to sit down with John G. Hartness, author of the Quincy Harker and Bubba the Monster Hunter series and founder of Falstaff Books. The topic of discussion? Falstaff’s new horror imprint, Falstaff Dread, to be headed up by yours truly. We talked number of titles per year, what year we are looking at launch, promo, marketing, and a number of questions I’ve learned to ask when taking on a new venture. There are a number of reasons why I’ve wanted to work with Falstaff Books as an author. There are ten times as many reasons why the opportunity to work with them as an editor is way too cool. It has been a career bucket list item to develop, edit, and publish full-length horror fiction, to be able to find new voices AND work with established authors, working behind the scenes on the developmental and line editor side of the house. It’s a bonus to do it with a house like Falstaff that works as hard as John and crew do to promote and market the titles they have under contract. This is going to be a lot of fun.

Programming and Activities

Multiverse Con is one of my favorites for a reason. Their programming is rich, diverse, and takes into account several streams of programming of interest to nerds, geeks, and fans of all kinds. There is a robust WRITE track, separate GEEK tracks for Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror (oh, the HORROR! It’s so wonderful… so many great guests and panels and art and fun…) There is a LEARN track for academics, a MEET track for get-togethers, a PLAY track for games and gaming, and a GATHER track for things like burlesque shows and Marc Gunn concerts and even a dance party. I spent some of the panels behind the dais, and several more in the audience, listening with my ears wide open as people chatted about the things that keep them happy. Sheree Renee Thomas, the guest of honor, was fantastic on the many panels I attended at which she spoke. One in particular, was a Slush Wars panel, where she and Hartness and one more editor who I am blanking on, listened as a volunteer read aloud the opening lines of several anonymized stories. Each editor would say “Stop,” when they would have stopped reading the submission. She had fantastic advice which, as an editor, I am going to put into my toolbox.

During the Slush Wars panel, I also got to be present when one of the entries was read in its entirety, and when the sample was complete, all three editors were smiling and applauding. Hartness invited the author to come and talk to him, and I went up afterwards to congratulate and compliment them. It’s a special kind of magic to hear something at the beginning and know it is going to be awesome, and that kind of moment is one of the reasons this Con is so cool.

I can’t NOT leave a note about the ConSuite. I was so happy that the meals were vegetarian with a vegan/gluten free option. I’m not any of those things myself, but I have a number of friends who struggle with finding options they can eat, and these were delicious!

Finally, the hotel is a great space. There is space to move, to chill around the vendor hall, to sit around outside and visit with people. And that leads me to…

I Love This Con

I had originally applied as a guest, been accepted, and then withdrawn due to various other commitments that arose. As the date approached, I decided that fuck it, I was going to Multiverse. I needed a Con, and I needed THIS Con specifically. So many of the friends in my writing and fandom communities attend, and if I didn’t get a chance to sit down and have heart-deep conversations with everyone, I did get a chance to say hi and get a hug and a quick chat. I got to meet new people and listen to music and even let Paige L. Christie drag me up to the dance party (listen, you start playing GenX bangers, and you better move over and make some room for a six-foot overly Caucasian ME.) Carol and I attended a crazy fun event where writers would read a scene from their work, and then audience members would volunteer to act it out. Again, if you invite me up on a stage, you better just stand back and let whatever is going to happen just happen because the opportunities I get to participate in improv are few and far between and I’m going all in.

Post Con, I was expecting a huge Con Drop–the crash that comes when you have to come home to real life. That hasn’t quite happened, I think because I had a frantic day of catching up with Crone Girls biz stuff, and then yesterday I drove twelve hours (ten plus traffic) up to New Jersey, where I am spending family time and finishing my MFA thesis novel. So, no drop, but I am definitely still basking in the glow of an amazing event and wonderful time spent with friends and chosen family.

A big shout out and thank you to every single one of the directors, volunteers, managers, and people who made the Con happen. It really does feel like coming home when I am there. I one hundred percent cannot wait for next year. See you next October!

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Writing, Coaching, and Editing

Woof! It has been a while, and in the time that I haven’t been here, I have been writing, finishing my MFA coursework, working on Army Reserve projects, gardening, and spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is coming next in my life. I’m still working on all of these things, but as I head into my MFA Thesis Capstone course, I think I’m ready to hang my freelance editor and writing coach out for some limited offerings.

Starting October 2022, I am opening my freelance schedule to coaching and manuscript assessment clients.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, but have questions about whether these options would be the best for you and your work, read on.


The coaching option would be best if you are in progress with your manuscript (or about to begin.) Some of the reasons you might be looking for a writing coach would be for assistance in: creating your author platform; developing an outline; in-progress project feedback; resources for getting un-stuck mid-project; understanding the benefits and drawbacks of different publishing paths; finding resources; accountability during the writing process; perfecting/practicing your pitch; and, developing a launch plan. If you just need a sympathetic, experienced ear off of which to bounce ideas, I can help with that, too!

Manuscript Assessment

The manuscript assessment, which to be honest, with me, will probably bleed into developmental editing, would be best if you have your first draft completed, and have either done a self-editing pass, had a beta read, or have finished and don’t know what to do next. If you are not familiar with this option, you can learn more here. That site is also an excellent resource to learn more about the difference levels of editing. If you choose this option, I will provide the edit letter, likely some in-manuscript comments/questions, and an hour session to go over the letter.

Unfortunately, while I have offered other services previously, I do not have the time right now to offer full development/content/line edits/proofreading. After the new year, I will re-visit these and see if my schedule can handle opening up to clients for these services.

Why Choose Me?

The experience I will bring to you:

  • Five years as a military journalist (plus additional experience as a civilian freelance reporter)
  • Six years of academic writing experience (grad school)
  • Ten years of experience in creative writing (More than that, really, but the anniversary of my first short story publication is October)
  • Three years of experience as the Editor-in-Chief at Crone Girls Press

I will be updating my Scribbler Coach page to include these services and rates. If you have any questions, you can hit me up here, or on my Facebook page, or via email at: unfamousscribbler ~at~ gmail dot com. Thanks very much, and I look forward to working with you soon!

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On the Shelf: Fae, Fae, and more Fae!

And a little blood and dust.

Over the weekend, I attended RavenCon 15, which was my first time at the event. I had purchased a table in the dealer room, and thought it would be a good place to sling horror anthologies. Arriving on Friday, I walked into the room and realized three things:

  1. I was set up across from Falstaff Books.
  2. I was going to be staring at John Hartness‘s mug all Con.
  3. There was absolutely no way in hell my wallet was going to make it all the way through the weekend without dropping a few–quite a few–bucks on books.

The book slinging went well, I got to hop on a panel about indie publishing (thanks, John!), and yes, I did indeed pick up some books. The first was Two-Gun Witch, by this fellow, Bishop O’Connell, whose book, The Forgotten, I had picked up and read before I eventually met him during the DragonCon writing mentorship sessions. The other was In Blood and Duty Bound, by Erin S. Bales, which features the cover that Lynne Hansen posted in her newsletter and that I coveted for my own until John purchased it first. Sigh.

Anyway, I spent most of my time at my booth either selling books or weaving bands to turn into Beltane bracelets or bookmarks and bracelets for the Farmers’ Market. However, when I wasn’t doing that (there were a few slow times in the dealer hall), I tore through O’Connell’s book like a bat out of hell … who was reading … instead of flying … okay, you get what I’m talking about. I finished that book up, and then started in on The Stolen, because I didn’t realize that book was a whole series. I ripped through that and then, on Tuesday had to send him a message asking where the next book is… ANYWAY, that is the blessing and curse of being a voracious reader.

One other quick note … I have posted in previous blogs about books I’ve picked up from Falstaff, and how much I’ve enjoyed them. Spending a Con across the aisle, gazing at their covers, talking with John and his authors, was such a great experience. I am very lucky that Falstaff and John decided to take on the Rick Keller Project, and I know that my books, and honestly, my development as an author, are in good hands.

books lying down

So, here are some thoughts on the books that I read this week:

An American Faerie Tale Series by Bishop O’Connell
This series includes: The Stolen, The Forgotten, Three Promises, and The Returned. Each of the books has its own arc, which is satisfactorily resolved at the end of each book, although each of the books links to the next. Three Promises is a collection of short stories that explores various aspects of the characters and gives a little bit of closure to one loose thread. The premise of the series is that some of the Fae, after years of abiding by “the Oaths” (basically, not to mess with humans), violate these oaths in a big way. In the first book, they steal a child, for example. Other Courts of the Fae, in particular the Rogue Court, join forces with the child’s mother, a wizard (who hasn’t really let anyone know he’s one, and doesn’t know much other than what he’s picked up from his grandfather’s library), and an Irish warrior/berserker to go get the child back. In the later books, we are introduced to further characters and organizations, such as “The Order,” who is … well, those would count as spoilers. Things I love about this series: the rich characters who have well-drawn emotional arcs, a writer not afraid to make hard choices (and make his characters face hard choices), and a gripping plot that deftly weaves the reader from one place to another. Things I don’t love — I want more books in the series!! Like now! Anyway, if you love urban fantasy and magic and Fae shenanigans, check it out.

Two-Gun Witch by Bishop O’Connell
Woof. That’s all I’ll say. This was one tightly-plotted, twisty, turny hell of a ride. Talen is an elf, a member of a race that has been shit on and oppressed since they lost the war to the humans. Along with the Native tribes of the West, they’ve been pushed into reservations. Any elf caught east of the Mississippi will, by treaty, be put to death. Talen works, essentially, as a bounty hunter, except she hunts those who are corrupted by dark magic. When she takes a bounty where the inconsistencies just keep adding up, she finds herself on the path to more than just another job. I’m not going to tell you more, I’m just going to tell you to go get this book and enjoy the heck out of it. I did.

In Blood and Duty Bound by Erin S. Bales
Full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading this book, BUT I will as soon as I finish this blog post. Let me say this–as a kid, I grew up reading long, involved, well-plotted, intense, complex fantasy books. Eddings. McCaffrey. Jordan. Feist. McKiernan. THIS BOOK–well, I honestly have felt like I’m a teenager again, lost in the pages of a fantasy world, turning page after page, caught up in the intrigue, the emotion, the characters, the pull of what’s coming next. This is an ensemble book, so I won’t get too deep into what each character is doing, but suffice it to say, there are many threads interwoven as the events of the book proceed. Like many fantasy authors, Bales moves us from one character to another, showing different places and people who are all working toward their own goals. (Unlike some OTHER fantasy authors–yeah, I’m looking at you, George–I haven’t found a single one to be uninteresting or boring enough to skip their section. Yes, as a reader, I confess, there are some books I couldn’t tell you what happened to a certain character, because I flip ahead. But in this book? No way!) Anyway, anyone who is a fantasy fan should pick this book up (careful, it’s satisfyingly solid in width) and read the heck out of it. Can’t wait for the next one!

All in all, it’s been a great reading week. I’ve just had a blast. Can’t wait to see what next week brings!

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Back On the Shelf!

You know that line in one of the Sex and the City movies, where Carrie declares that she’s been “Cheating on fashion with furniture?” Well, I also have a declaration. I’ve been cheating on reading with plants. *GASP*

Plants, you ask? You, Rachel? Who consistently kills everything green?

Ouch. But, yes. I am on a kick this year to finally realize my dream of having a garden–multiple gardens!–in which I will plant, raise, and harvest vegetables, herbs, flowers, fiber and dye plants, and potentially even a Venus fly trap or two. What kicked off this kick? Well, first, grocery prices. Second, again, this has been something I’ve always wanted to do, but had an inner block about. I’ve always wanted to have the knowledge, ability, and wisdom to use herbs for medicine and health, to grow and eat vegetables fresh from the garden (and save some of the harvest for the long winter months), as well as to grow beautiful flowers and have green spaces in which to sit and create.

This year, I’ve realized, I’m not getting any younger, and so I subscribed to a half a dozen gardening, herbalism, and green/plant witch podcasts, bought a bunch of books on herbalism, gardening, and the like, picked up a bunch of garden stuff like soil and fabric pots and seeds and plants, and got started on learning how to do this stuff. Part of this process was something that one of the podcasts (I forget which, I think it might have been The Backyard Gardens) pointed out–namely, not every plant is going to make it, even for the experienced gardeners, so you shouldn’t be afraid to try different things and find out what works for your available garden space, soil, time, and skill.

Another thing that I realized was that I had always thought about wanting to know more about my family tree and history. I grew up listening to all of these family stories, learning about my dad and mom and grandparents, as well as the family lore, folk remedies, and other bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout the conversations. (For example, I told my mom that I was planting elderberries, and that I read that the berries could upset your stomach. She told me she used to eat tons of them right off the tree–oh, and that one time, she got in a patch of poison ivy (my mom is SUPER allergic to poison ivy) and when she got back home, she mashed up the berries and put them on her skin where she was exposed, and the only bit of poison ivy that was reactive was a thin strip where she missed with the berries.

So, I decided that this year, I am going to begin collecting the family lore. I picked up 23andme kits for me and my spouse, I am going to grab a copy of Dragon (because there’s no way I will transcribe all of the interviews I plan on doing), and I am going to be putting together the Brune-Coombs Circus and Traveling Menagerie Family Archive, Library, and Curiousities. (I’m workshopping the name, let me know what you think.)

With that bit of an introduction, here are the books I finished up in the past week (or two…) Also, you may notice that not all of the links here will take you to Amazon. As much as I love the ease of ordering from the ‘Zon, I’m trying to be a little more intentional about my consuming, and so I’m trying to list either the link directly to the author’s site, or another such as Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

an old basset hound standing in the sun next to a greenhouse with a citronella plant in the foreground slightly out of focus
I startled Captain, who has taken to napping in and around the new greenhouse. I think he likes the heat for his old bones.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
I’m currently in my first of three thesis classes for my MFA from SNHU, which are the last three classes I need for my degree. This semester, I’m buckling down to write 25,000 words, the first 11,3000 I turned in on Sunday. For our assigned reading, we got this book, which I had read a year or so ago, but which I decided to read all the way through again. I’m glad I did. This is one of those craft books that, as I go through it, sparks and spurs all kinds of ideas and helps my brain connect a bunch of creative ideas for books that I’m writing (or planning.) In this last read-through, I pulled out some great notes for my thesis project, as well as some ideas for my horror novel, that I think will really help to make that project better than what I’ve written previously. I mean, I hope to improve with everything I write, and this is one of those books that will help you do that. Next, I’m going to try to look up Cron’s Wired for Story, as that seems like it will also be a good craft book to check out.

Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure Folk Magic from Appalachia by Jake Richards
I’ve got a few books in the planning phases that deal with folk magic and getting back to herbal remedies, and that, plus an interest in history and witchcraft, led me to this book. It is fantastic! Jake Richards practices Appalachian folk magic, and he leads the reader through a seamless narrative of history of family and place, conjuring, folk magic and remedies, and even some “how-to’s” — his stated objective is to record these histories, remedies, and workings so that they will not be forgotten. (This is probably where the catalyst to buckle down and start working on my own family history came from, now that I think about it.) Whether you’re interested in the conjuring or just looking for an interesting read, I recommend this book.

The Green Witch’s Grimoire: Your Complete Guide to Creating Your Own Book of Natural Magic by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
Can I just say that I really love how these books are packaged and presented? I love the cloth-bound hardcover, the green theme, the layout and formatting … I won’t lie, that’s probably a large part of why I’m obsessed with Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s books. This one, I particularly enjoyed, because even though I’m more of what you might call an “EpiscoPagan” (sticking with my monotheistic roots but super into meditation, plants, celebrating the seasons of the year, candles and mason jars, etc.), I thought there were some interesting ideas of how to set up a journaling practice. Will I call it a grimoire? Maybe, I don’t know. But do I have a dream journal, a plant and meditation journal, and now, soon, a journal to collect recipes, family/folk remedies, family lore, and my own herbal recipes? Why, yes. This book helped me come up with some ideas of how to organize a journaling practice, and that has been helping me to start focusing on putting my thoughts in my creative work and less into my social media (and THAT has helped with my mental state, let me tell you.) If you are interested in this sort of thing, I recommend picking up a copy (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited, if you have a subscription, but again, the tactile aspect of reading this book was, for me, super enjoyable.)

Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook: Your Quick Reference Guide to Healing Herbs & Remedies by Althea Press
I found this, as the title promises, to be a good “quick reference.” There is a quick overview of herbal medicine, a quick overview of the different types of herbal remedies (liniments, infusions, etc.), a quick overview of many herbs and what they treat, and a quick overview of remedies and their suggested cures, broken down by category. If you are looking for something to try for, say, getting to sleep, then you can flip to, say, the lavender-chamomile sleep balm for a recipe that could help. One of the things I found in this book, though, was that many of those recipes called for using an essential oil instead of the actual plant, and I’m looking to use the plants I am growing, so I found that less useful. The other thing was, for example, the book talked about making lozenges, and some of the tips for making lozenges and TOOLS for making lozenges … but was there a lozenge recipe that one could try? No, there was not. Like I said, this is a handy reference guide, but for what I’m trying to look into, it’s not a one-stop shop for finding things to help sore throats or dry skin. It’s a great book to keep on the shelf next to, say, Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung. I may also end up giving it away if someone comes over who is interested in getting started with herbalism and wants a quick guide to what it’s about before they dive in deeper.

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On the Shelf: Empty Shelves…

Did I read, well, anything? This week? At all?

The sad answer is, no, I did not.

At this point, my Goodreads reading challenge is starting to feel a little neglected, my Kindle looks like someone with undiagnosed ADHD has been dipping in and out trying to get back in the reading groove, and my nightstand is littered with the attempts I’ve made to start and finish something.

Ugh. I’m in a reading slump.

What to do when what you want to do isn’t working…

I really do want to read. I want to lose myself in a good book, lose track of time, and just let the characters take me away. There’s so much research I want to do right now–history, and green witchery, and the craft of horror writing–and the more I want to, the less I find myself cracking open the book and just going for it.

This question is not rhetorical. I’m asking in earnest. How do people get back on track? There’s a concept I’ve found in the books I’m reading called “shadow work,” where you dig into your conscious/subconscious to try to excavate the reasons behind the surface problems you’ve got going on. So, this morning, I decided to sit and meditate and think about what’s going on.

Trying to do all the things equals doing none of the things.

AGAIN! I come to this conclusion. But it’s an old conclusion, and this past month I have been consciously working to divest and delegate and accept that not all things will get done. So what else do I need to confront?

Realization 1: I’ve been wanting to read fiction, but every time I sit down to read during the day, I feel like I’m neglecting my work. I’m not doing the edits I need to for the next Midnight Bites, I’m not reading submissions, I’m not proofing the print master for SWTAM3, I’m not making the writer edits for Cold Run … in short, I’m not working.

Realization 2: I’m worried that if I sit down to read non-fiction, it will give me a writing idea. Wait. What? Why am I worried about this? Okay, so, diving deeper, I realized I’m worried that maybe I won’t have something near me to write down this idea. Um … I have a great multitude of pens, notebooks, index cards, Post-It Notes and other implements of writing at close hand. And if those fail, I have my phone notes. Perhaps I’m worried about losing those notes until the time that I need them? Yes, that’s part of it.

Realization 3: These two worries–that I’m neglecting my work and that I might not be able to write down an idea/might lose that idea and so I should wait until I have a specific time set aside for nonfiction reading–are masking the real worry. I don’t know if I’m a good writer or if I will succeed at writing or if my ideas are any good or if I have the craft to pull off the ideas that I’ve got written down on notepads or index cards or Post-It Notes or on my phone.

There’s my problem right there.

Now what?

First, I acknowledged that I am not going to be doing much reading during the day until I catch up on my edits, both for CGP and for Cold Run, as well as my submissions reading. Okay. I accept that, and if it means I won’t be reading during the day, then so be it. After I catch up, afternoon reading will start happening again.

Second, I accept that sometimes I might lose an idea. But, more likely, I won’t because I always have a notebook, index card, phone, receipt, junk mail envelope, whatever, close at hand. If reading sparks a creative insight, I will welcome that.

Third, yes, I’m behind. So I haven’t been able to work on writing like I think I should be able to. But I’ve still been writing–class assignments, blog posts, etc. And my subconscious is still churning away. Yesterday’s shower sparked an entire outline for a valkyrie story. Cool.

Fourth, yeah, I’m definitely afraid that I suck at writing, OR that I’ll suck at my future writing. I’ve had people who don’t know me, and don’t have any vested interested in pretending to like me or my writing, review my stuff positively, so objectively I know that there is something there. But that little voice at the back of my head who loves to wallow in some impostor syndrome will NOT SHUT UP.


Today, I’m going to finish up this blog post, work on this pot of coffee I’ve started, maybe use a shiny rock as a fidget tool, and get this print master over to the formatter. After that, perhaps I will crack a book and read while I work on a knitting project for the weekend farmer’s market. And then — bake a cake for my youngest’s birthday and remind myself of why I enjoy working from home, and that things will, eventually get better.

As I hope they do for you!

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A New Venture

This weekend, I tried something new.

Not a novel experience, given that I’m always up for trying new stuff. However, this was more of a focused trial run aimed at potentially setting up a sub-business for Crone Girls. What I’m looking at is selling handmade craft items at the local Farmers’ Market.

So, how did I get to this weekend, where I spread my rather thin inventory across a table and tried to look like I had more stuff than I did?

Writing, Plus…

So, first, a few classes of my MFA ago, my assignment was to brainstorm what I could do to supplement my writing, both creatively and financially. Some of my classmates had some pretty neat ideas. For me, all I could really think of was offering coaching and editing services AND/OR crafting. I’ve been knitting for over twenty years at this point, spinning for about ten or twelve, weaving for a little while, and beading jewelry for a couple of years as well. In the start of the pandemic, I was exchanging masks for flour to make bread, sending masks to people who couldn’t sew or find any online, and I still make them for my family. So, I make a few things.

However, even though I turned this idea in for my assignment, I just didn’t want to sell crafts online. Shipping is a pain, marketing takes away from my marketing of my writing and just plain fun engagement I enjoy on social media. But, as I realized I had the ingredients to make some fun charms, spooky Halloween fabric to make masks, fun yarn to make soap bags, cowls, and other designs, and of course, my handspuns and jewelry, I started thinking how some of this aesthetic aligns with my writing and with my Crone Girls Press publications.

Enter the Market…

My spouse and I used to visit the Farmers’ Market at the Fayetteville History Museum every Saturday, where we were known as “Captain’s Parents.” (Yes, Captain is our basset hound.)

This picture is from two years ago, but honestly, I could have taken it today because this old boy is currently sleeping on the couch in exactly the same position.

We moved away, and then the plague happened, and now the market is starting to make a comeback. On a whim, I inquired through Facebook how one might go about vending there, thinking that it would probably require a fee and it probably wouldn’t work out. But when I called, they told me vending was free, as long as everything I sold was made by hand or grown on my property (for which I needed an agricultural license) or baked by hand (for which I needed a license to sell food). I assured them that everything was my personal handicraft, and they said, See you Saturday!

Setting Up Shop.

Yesterday, I packed up everything I could possibly sell (including some pieces that I wasn’t intending to sell…), headed over to the market, and set up shop. There were about ten stalls set up, with people selling everything from resin crafts to popcorn and hot chocolate, to local meats and eggs, to fresh vegetables, to charcuterie boards. I met some amazing people, and had a chance to walk around and talk to all the vendors, some of whom, like Ms. Cherry (who makes amazing baked goods!) remembered us from way back when. At the end of the day, I had sold one bracelet and almost every knit item I brought (I have one little soap bag left.) My niece worked the table with me, and as she scoped out the territory, she started planning the salt and sugar scrubs and lip balm she would make to complement the washcloths and soap bags I’m working on.

I’m currently figuring out how I can finish the final edits to send this anthology for formatting, more edits for the next Midnight Bites, catching up on reading submissions, catching up on schoolwork and, oh yeah, making stuff for next Saturday. Someone save me from myself.

But … I’m thinking that the next time I set up with Crone Girls Press at a Con, there will be some horror-themed fabric masks, some charms and pendants, and some skull-and-obsidian bracelets to complement the horror and dark fantasy stories you can find in our books. Stuff like this:

My first attempt at wire wrapping!

I don’t plan to sell my crafts online, but I did set up a Facebook page, Crone Mother Crafts, to share what I’m working on and where people will be able to find us (and Crone Girls Press!) These Saturdays also give me a chance to work on my sales techniques, get out of my introvert comfort zone, and spend some time outside, which I’m always down for.

So, if you happen to be in Fayetteville, NC, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., come on down to the Farmers’ Market and say hi!

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