Egypt Bound! February Fungus, Classes, and More!

Egyptian Pyramids


I’m traveling to Egypt this year, and have paid a nonrefundable deposit. To help with expenses so I can fulfill my lifelong dream witnesses an ancient, cultural wonder, I’ve been working on a few fundraising efforts I’d like to tell you about.

This month, there’s fungus amongus. I’m participating in @feefal_‘s February #Funguary art challenge. Mushrooms have been posted in a variety of places, but you’ll find them daily on ko-fi/booksofm.

On Saturday, February 11th, I’m teaching a class through the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers titled: Selling Your Work Online: The Ins and Outs of Internet Retail. It’s a great class mindful of creators who despise sales and marketing.

I’ve just released my debut poetry collection titled into shadow: a poetic exploration of personal fears. This collection was made possible by patreon/booksofm. All new and existing patrons will receive a copy of the eBook as their reward.

On Saturday, March 4th, I’ll be leading Magic & Magic Systems Workshop through Apex Book Company.

Lastly, if none of those efforts appeal to you, you can send me to Egypt. Anyone who supports me on GoFundMe will receive an eBook of pictures from my trip when I return.

I hope there’s something in this smattering of links that tickles your fancy. Thank you!

The Story behind my Rethinking Fear in Horror Games Interview with Doctor Megan

It’s the Monday after GameHole Con and the week of Halloween. I had a fantastic time and am grateful to have been part of the show as a special guest. Said I wasn’t going to write the day after the show, but I lied. I realized that I wanted to tell you the story behind why I proposed the Rethinking Fear in Horror Games Interview with Doctor Megan at the show for two reasons: One, MeganPsyD (on Twitter) recorded it, and I’d really, really be grateful if you’ll reshare it when it goes live and two, because the long, sordid backstory isn’t appropriate to share with you when the literal star of this interview is Doctor Megan Connell.

All right… So, one of the many work-related tasks I did during the pandemic was to review all the creative projects I wanted to do but never produced. I think I told you this before, but as a transmedia storyteller I love to develop stories in different mediums to tap into the gifts they bring. Working on IP as a game designer was a great push toward that, because I had the pleasure of being able to study the IPs I was working on in different media forms.

But for all those benefits, working on IPs isn’t “my” work. My IPs. Somewhere along the way, I started recognizing I had limited resources to do what I wanted to do. I addressed this in a previous newsletter, but this was one of the reasons why I developed a scarcity mindset. And, look I am really great at project management to usher projects out into the world with the resources I do have available, but at the same time I have always been a high creative and would much, much rather do that.

So, there I was reminding myself that yes, I have always known what I wanted to do. In fact, here’s a pile of projects I remembered stalled because I needed help to produce them. In the past, I have asked for help. I have a gut-wrenching-to-me cyberpunk story, for example, that primarily works as a movie or graphic novel because of the gifts an actor can bring, but also because the use of color is actually part of the story. [Not just a concept, mind you. I do have materials for this.] Okay, so how do I produce this thing? Write a screenplay, right? Sell it? Win the lottery? Yeah, you see where I’m going with this. Mind you, I did place as a co-write in a screenwriting contest and had a door open for a hot minute, but nothing ever came of that. The real reason I didn’t write the screenplay is because I made a choice not to. I have limited resources and, other than paying money to enter screenplay contests and hoping for the best, it’d be challenging for me in my current position to make the connections necessary for a green light. I also spent a solid five-to-six years pitching and getting to know people at comic book conventions because I secretly wanted to do this story, and wanted to work on other comics first to build of my resume, but have since given up.

Both times, I got a lot of advice to form a path of produced works to increase the chances of my projects getting made. My barrier? Again. Resources. Sure, I could self-publish, but that seems to be the default answer every time. It still costs to self-publish. Time is just one of those costs! My personal art isn’t great enough to pursue it; and I cannot, and will not, find an artist to collaborate with unless I pay pro rates. Laughably, what do you do when you do have a resume but it’s either too long or not long enough?

I have no idea. But, I am lucky I have had friends and folks I’ve thought of as mentors who’ve guided me to an important realization: Keep an open mind and do what I can, because the work is for me even if I enjoy entertaining people. I am so incredibly sad to tell you many of them are no longer with me, but I got here—in this creative space where F-bomb it I’m going to do what I can and hope for the best—because of them. Because of my late Shakespeare professor who not only taught me how to appreciate and write for multiple audiences at the same time, but recognized I was a better fit for film. Because of my late friend who made peace with his own role in publishing and his success after talking to so many other creative professionals in the exact same space I am. Because of several friends of color who have had the patience to help me recognize my own privilege (while recognizing there are still challenges as an aging, female creative) and how I can help lift others and build community. Because of one particular black friend (you know who you are and you are AMAZING) who proverbially held my hand for many years, both before, during, and after a tumultuous time in both gaming and science fiction and fantasy to remind me of my own power. Because of the tireless support and the position I put my loved ones, my friends and peers, my writing group, even former publishers in. Because of the lessons I learned after meeting two of my literary heroes, where one crushed my heart to the point where I never thought I’d recover, and the other extended compassion and friendship.

And now, because of Doctor Megan. The project that I am working on with Doctor Megan is a Ravenloft 5th Edition campaign for This is a set of releases that wouldn’t be possible without Megan’s expertise as a professional psychologist and her deep, deep love of Dungeons & Dragons.

As a former World of Darkness writer myself, I have always felt the horror genre contributes narrative potential to explore our shadows. Philosophically, I believe that shadows and light are crucial components of the human existence and, to a larger extent, the stories we tell. But, I also recognize there are a lot of problematic tropes that I wanted (and have to various ends throughout my career) to work through in the hopes it’ll make the story better, my anxiety notwithstanding. (The concept behind my Apex Book Company anthology Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling was inspired by this!)

As before: I didn’t write this campaign, because I was missing something. I knew I was missing an important thematic piece that could, quite frankly, only come from someone who understood what horror was from an actual psychologist’s perspective who understood gaming. Then, I got lucky. Megan and I met at GameHole Con a few years ago, became friends, play Ravenloft together, and eventually got to a place where I could ask for her help.

This is now our campaign. We playtested two scenarios at this show and got amazing feedback. Now it’s a matter of, again, figuring out my resources. I have to prioritize my deadline-centric work, because without a publisher I am fronting the time and costs and friends, I got bills to pay. Then there’s the collaboration with an actual professional who has a day job, loved ones, etc. But, this campaign is a possibility now because this story required collaboration, and it’s all happening thanks to her.

So why THIS interview? Well, because I can’t imagine I am the only writer who’s worked on horror games, who wants to evoke that feeling of fear at the table in a healthy way, who’d be both curious and feel a little less anxious about this heavy genre work after hearing her expertise. Horror game design is hella complicated, yo. And before you freak out… Please know that horror game design from a psychological approach is not always about The Deep StuffTM or massive genre changes—even small tweaks make a world of difference.

I am extremely grateful to Doctor Megan and to GameHole Con for approving this talk. The room was packed, her voice was heard, and with any luck she’ll go on to huge, huge things.

As for me? I really don’t know, but I have a long-ass list and deadlines I need to keep crushing (while seeking out new opportunities). And I’ll keep muddling through all this the best I can. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even find a little more help along the way.

Wouldn’t that be something.

A Listicle for COVID-19/Flu Supply Planning


I threw this list together for a friend of mine. We were talking about a reasonable plan to stock up in anticipation of shipping disruptions and price jacking. Hope this helps!

Here’s what I used when I got sick:

    1. Menthol/Vicks Vapor Rub: Opens the chest and allows the bronchial tubes to breathe. It’s an external application, which really helps.
    2. Diffuser: COVID-19 dries you out. Hot water on the stove can, too, but I would add bath crystals or a homemade oil. You do have to be careful because there’s some oils that will harm your pets. I’d do a little research just to make sure.
    3. Cough drops (variety): The best ones I used were Cepacol, but you do have to limit how many you have per day.
    4. Supplements: Zinc tablets, Vitamin D, and a good multivitamin
    5. Gatorade and/or Pedialyte: COVID-19 dehydrates the eff out of you, and you’ll need to drink water constantly. Having Gatorade/Pedialyte, even if it’s low sugar, will give you more mileage out of your fluids.
    6. Bland prepared food: Canned chicken soup and saltines are a good option, but you might get sick of it. Some frozen foods would be good here, too. I’d stay away from spicy, but YMMV.
    7. Painkillers/Fever Reducers: Definitely check your supply of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin.
    8. Digital Thermometer: Always a good idea. There’s some you can get that have extra covers, too. I did see a pulse oximeter on the prep list as well, and we just got ours.
    9. Handkerchiefs: They’re reusable, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly.
    10. Laundry/Dish Detergent: Washing towels/sheets/dishes/hankies in hot water is essential. I absolutely recommend making sure you have extra detergent on hand.
    11. Cold Medicine/Prescription meds: Goes without saying, but adding it to the list for due diligence.
    12. Compression sleeves/socks: If it’s cold enough and you can stand it, they’ll help with your circulation.
    13. Hand sanitizer/Lysol wipes: Tons of places are running low or are completely out; I’d keep an eye on this. If you haven’t tried your local office supply store, do check them out. In place of this, you can convert makeup/baby wipes or make your own. I’d strongly recommend getting decent paper towel if you do; otherwise they fall apart.
    14. Reusable ice packs: Really good if you have a fever.
    15. Brain turn-y/off-y entertainment: It SUCKS getting sick and self-care can be really hard. If you have movies/TV shows you’d like to watch on repeat, I’d absolutely make sure you have those accessible. It’s hard to go looking for things when you’re not feeling well.

On Surviving and Planning for Conventions

Kitten and Fish Avatar

It’s taken me many years to finalize a plan for approaching conventions, and I wanted to put my thoughts into writing today because I feel this (e.g. me getting a touch personal here) might help some of you who are struggling with this as I once have. I’ve opened comments up on this post if you have additional tips to share; hopefully some good discussions can be had. Who knows? Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two from you as well.

Size, People, and Purpose

First and foremost, I want to stress that convention experiences are often shaped by three things: size, the people involved, and its purpose. The smaller the show, the more visible the culture of that convention and its internal politics are. Thus, when something goes wrong all guests and attendees deal with the fallout in some fashion or, alternatively, benefit from all the wheels turning at the right time. The size of a convention ultimately leads to issues when there is a personality conflict or people who act in a manner that is accepted by one group, but condemned by total strangers(2). Now, we all have our personality quirks–myself included–and those tend to stick out in smaller groups. For example, one of my quirks is that I tend to laugh when I’m nervous and, if I’m REALLY uncomfortable, I’ll default to my total smartass state of being either on the inside (brain) or on the outside (foot-in-mouth disease). The more comfortable I am, the quieter I get or, alternatively, the more of my natural weirdness I can unleash upon the unsuspecting masses. Yeah, I know… Eyebrow-raising, eh?(3)

Okay, phew! I’m sure you have your own quirks as well. My point to sharing that bit, is that we all have them. Occasionally, I’ve found this translates into social anxiety with respect to meeting new people and this compounds the more people who have social anxiety at the same damn time. At a smaller show, it might seem like it’s easy to meet people–and it is–but often smaller shows will draw local folks who already know one another. This means that a smaller show can be filled with cliques that either get along great and welcome new people, or don’t get along and form silos. At a larger convention(4), on the other hand, while the general culture might be apparent, the specific personality issues aren’t as visible because you simply have more people.

Before I get to specific tips navigating shows, I want to talk about how important the purpose of a convention is and the demographic. For literary-based conventions, the purpose is generally to discuss books and interact with authors. Sounds simple enough, right? For me, I don’t feel this is specific enough to draw me to a show unless I am going there to build relationships. Make no mistake: small cons, or even con offshoots(5), are fantastic to get to know people provided there’s enough folks there who have the same goal. Not everyone does–especially with respect to writers. Maybe a fan on the concom petitioned to get [Insert Very Famous Author Here] at the show, because a book she wrote changed his life. Maybe a parent has a child who wants to write like said author, or a struggling writer wants to get to know that person for up close and personal advice. I’m oversimplifying here, but my point is that there are many reasons to get to know somebody, and that is as true at conventions as it is in Real LifeTM.

In many cases, my experience has been that the concom is comprised of volunteers who have invited an individual in order to honor their work and spend time with them. This person’s needs tend to eclipse all other guests, in part because there might be money involved or a legal agreement, such as a contract, to ensure they’re well taken care of. After all, someone like GRRM doesn’t need to go to cons, but does as a way of giving back to the community. Now, it can feel as if the A-list guests get a certain treatment and all other guests get the B or C, because that is exactly what’s happening behind-the-scenes. Every convention guest, however, knows that GRRM is a Very Famous AuthorTM and deserves to be a GOH. There is no need for any host to rub that in their guest’s faces by treating them poorly, or by reminding them just how much they don’t matter(6).

Personally, I often have better luck at larger shows for the simple fact there is more to do. I can watch or play a demo, visit Artist’s Alley, explore the dealer hall, listen to a reading, go to a panel or signing, etc. and not be, as my British friends like to say, spoilt for choice. Being on the professional side of the equation, larger shows are also harder to conduct business meetings, because fans have to come first due to the way the schedule is set up. Saturday morning, for example, at any convention is a logistical nightmare for portfolio reviews or business discussions. Sunday afternoon, on the other hand, can be a lot better provided most folks have cleared out by then. Here, too, there might be the sense of A-list, etc. but it’s not as omnipresent in a larger crowd. Still, you can glean a lot of insight from watching creators with large fanbases interact with their fans and other professionals. It greatly helps to be a fly on the wall, if you can, because you can learn a lot about conducting yourself at a convention when you’ve got a public profile. Always, always, always think about what might happen if you were in their shoes, because one day? You just might be.

To Go Or Not To Go

Now that you’ve (hopefully) gotten a sense of how I feel about cons in general, I’m going to talk about some of the questions I ask myself outside of the basics. Some of these questions use the word “research”; sometimes, I will attend a show to check it out before I participate in programming, especially if I’ve heard a lot of things about it.

  • Why am I going to this show? Is it to build relationships, see folks I haven’t visited with in a while, maintain business dealings, or use it for research?(7)
  • How much will it set me back? If the cost is too high, is there a similar con I can go to for the same reason?
  • What does the show’s website look like? Do they have programming listed from last year?
  • What are the convention’s policies toward harassment? Disability/access issues? Cosplayers?
  • Do I know the guests? Anybody who’s going?

Though this is a fairly short list, my criteria tends to be impacted heavily by the people involved. If I am expected to show up by myself, not knowing a single person, then I typically don’t bother unless I have to go (e.g. major award, publisher’s/agent’s recommendation, etc.). Or, alternatively, if I’m invited to a show I’ve been to and the same people, year after year, are invited with few changes? Then, I might withdraw and/or recommend other guests.

Con Prep

I’m channeling a little bit of my neuroses here, because the last time I told someone all the things I do for con rep, I got the incredulous look. Thankfully, I’m sitting here behind a computer screen ergo… Hrmm… I kind of dig the lists I’ve got started, so let’s go with that! Please note: I’m assuming that if you are a Mature Responsible AdultTM you don’t need things like budgeting/financial advice, so I’m going to skip talking about the monies.


These are the things I usually bring with me to a convention.

    1. Silver Sharpie–great for signings!
    2. Portable USB rechargeable battery
    3. Bookplates
    4. Business cards: one with personal info for business associates, one generic for fans
    5. Small dice games (I dig Rory’s Cubes for storytelling-on-the-fly and Zombie Dice)
    6. Extra notebook for note-taking and pens, pens, pens
    7. Mini-Larabars for emergency purposes.


    1. Programming: In addition to signing up, I also watch the schedule when it goes live for panels I might be interested in.
    2. Dealer Hall: I find out what the hours are, and if any publishers/authors have a booth.
    3. Meetings: I set up business or personal meetings in advance with a half-hour buffer on either side in case of delays. Mileage varies on when meetings can be scheduled. This greatly depends upon the show, but in general? Don’t wait until the last, possible minute and, for the love of the gods, don’t set up a meeting with someone if you just want to shoot the shit. Every writer, myself included, needs to act out of self-interest at these shows in order to sell books, ink deals, continue getting work. Scheduling a meeting without actually needing to is bad form.
    4. Digi-Cal: I then plug programming into my phone, and I do this with impunity planning for: down/travel/sleep/flex/fitness time, meals, everything. Well, maybe not everything…but you get the idea. I strongly recommend planning downtime if you are overwhelmed by The People! to save your sanity.

Though my schedule might not be final at that pre-planning stage, what I have is a working template I can massage as needed. Having a visible schedule also helps me avoid accidentally leaning on a friend or acquaintance too much, which can happen if I’m having a crappy time.

As the convention approaches, I’ll also start outlining what I’m going to say on the panel as I have the tendency to drop F-bombs and get ranty(8) on certain topics which is not fair to my fellow panelists. So, I’ll use an outline technique to frame the points I want to make and, additionally, the questions that I might ask of my fellow panelists should the opportunity arise. If I get the panel list back and I can’t speak on a topic effortlessly, then I will also back out and ask to switch or recommend someone else whom I’ve touched base with ahead of time.

Alcohol and Parties

All right, I’m getting into “How many words did I write on this topic?”-land at this point, so I’d like to end this by talking about alcohol and socializing into the wee hours of the morning. Typically, I don’t drink more than a few cocktails unless I know the people I’m hanging out with well. If I do, I nurse those suckers for as long as possible. Some people go to conventions to party, sure, but that person is not me. I don’t mean that I’m against it, mind you, but I think about it like this: the folks I meet at a con are either people I’ll work with or plan on working with some day. Copious amounts of alcohol plus embarrassing moments tends to fare badly long-term, especially since I often communicate electronically with folks. If I don’t go to shows very often, then I have less chances to make a positive impression–quirks and all. I’d much rather karaoke or do something equally embarrassing all on my own, like play a game of pool, then get drunk in front of total strangers.

Of course, I’m talking about safety protocols. Your mileage will vary on this, but again… This goes back to the reason why you are going to a show. I often connect with my male friends and ask them to be my con husband; this is a person I know well (or trust) who will escort me back to my hotel, who I can signal if I’m feeling uncomfortable in a given situation, etc. My safety concerns might mean I cut my night short, or I stick to one or two parties instead of attending room parties on various floors. If a con husband (or trusted bestie, etc.) doesn’t make sense for you, then it doesn’t. But, at the very minimum, if you are going to any party that involves alcohol (or takes place outside of your hotel) I strongly recommend that you buddy up with a friend ahead of time. Apologies for launching into nagging mode, but I think this (partnering up) is hugely important, and I have many, many reasons/stories/etc. why I’m repeating myself on this.

Phew! I cannot believe how much I wrote on this subject. If you have advice I didn’t cover, or want to ask for clarification, please post. I want to hear your thoughts, and I’m sure my readers will as well.


So many this time they get their own header…

(1) This may or may not be a subtle hint that I’d actually like to write for the comic and/or Frog Thor!
(a) Yes, this is a footnote off of the original and I am shameless. Mea culpa.
(2) I am not referring to harassment here, as I feel that is a separate (but possibly related) issue. Rather, I’m painting the scenario broadly because harassment deserves its own blog post, and the topic has been covered extensively by People Smarter And More Experienced Than Me. Here, what I’m alluding to are the Five Geek Social Fallacies, or problems that might arise due to social awkwardness.
(3) No, no examples. Promised myself that I’d stop over-explaining. Really, the whole fun in getting to know someone is to pick up on this crap yourself.
(4) Say “small” is less than 5,000 people, and “large” tends to be 25K and up.
(5) By offshoots, I mean: programming tracks, workshops, etc. that are included under the primary show’s umbrella, but are run separately.
(6) Reasons why I don’t return to a con are actually very few, outside of the logistics for cost and time involved. Being treated poorly as a guest is a big ‘un, as well as not being able to provide constructive feedback.
(7) I don’t typically go to shows with the sole intent of having fun.
(8) Remember what I said about my quirks, earlier? Underneath this mild-mannered exterior, lies a fiery heart of deep, deep passion. This is one Italian stereotype I can pretty much guarantee, and my personality can sometimes eclipse others who are quieter and more introverted than I am. I try to be aware of the folks involved, because at a con? It’s their con, too. It’s not just about what I’m getting out of it.

    Mood: Eyebrow raise.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: 5 minus 3
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 60
    In My Ears: Some Final Fantasy heavy metal nonsense.
    Game Last Played: Pandemic (Lost again.)
    Book Last Read: Shooooooot… There’s a pile I’m working through…
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: House
    Latest Artistic Project: Pain-in-the-butt ombre earrings.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.

Wax and Wane

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

I posted this to Facebook, but it made me laugh when I wrote it, so I’m resharing it (and expounding upon it) here.

    Hammered my InBox down to 99 e-mails (not bottles of beer on the wall), have a clear perspective on current/future product load, am caught up on news from varying sources old and new, scheduled *gasp* social time, managed caffeine intake, made the freaking bed!, and am spending tonight playing Skyrim.

    *deadpan voice*

    What happened to you Monday? Did you decide to finally grow up and start acting more like Tuesday? Or am I in a different reality?

I owe you a progress report and…I’m sorry. I have news and, while it’s all still delayed at the moment, I’ll provide an update as soon as I can. The news I can immediately share, is that those updates will start to include my original work again as early as March.

I think I mentioned this before, but I spent the better part of last year working with a group of beta readers. I had some goals which were primarily related to figuring out how other readers view my work for planning and marketing purposes. Now that I have that clear in my mind, it’s a lot easier to move forward.

The importance of other people’s perspectives? It’s kind of like me telling you I’m hilarious and that when you meet me, you’ll be cracking up mid-sentence and wonder why I’m not on television. And then I crack a joke. It’s disastrous. Volcanoes erupt, my frog cries, angels don’t get their wings. But, if nine out of ten people laugh…

You get my point. In a weird, discombobulated way… Yeah, that.

    Mood: I am zen.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Addiction managed.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 40 words a minute
    In My Ears: Wax
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch
    Movie Last Viewed: THE AWAKENING
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

Next Posts

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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