Jann Ryan is still on vacation this month, so we’re running an interview from our archives. The interview with Carol L. Wright first posted April 2, 2017.
Jaclyn lives in the woods of Maine on a Mountain next to a lake. She shares her version of utopia with her husband, two sons, and furbabies! She’s a recovering English teacher who loves digging in the garden, but seems to kill everything she plants and cooks daily, but burns more dinners than she can count. Good thing she knows how to write!
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Funny you ask this! I never did until this year when a fellow author mentioned that she likes to form her writing year around one word to define her year. So, I decided that I would give this Word of the Year a try and this year it’s Create. To remind me that is my goal and what I am driven to do. Create stories. Create an engaging author platform to connect with readers. I want to share the worlds I am creating and the stories I weave from those worlds. I’m finding that this word is driving me to produce not only books, but also create ways to engage readers in my life and get them interested in my work. It’s also forced me to create a network with other authors so we can help each other and learn from one another.
Last night, I decided another word needs to be in my office and life too. UNPLUG. I’ve been so driven to create I can’t forget about the other things in my life that need attention too. So, I’ve started turning off my mobile and other electronics so I can create and maintain meaningful relationships where I am present and engaged.
I am finalizing edits on my debut – Dark Legends: Curse Breaker that will be released on March 15, 2020.
It’s a novella about the Goddess Isis who is reborn into this century in the body of Kalissandra Doe though Kali doesn’t know it yet. She must travel across the world to a remote Island and break a curse to free not only herself but also the man of her dreams.
Kalissandra Doe has a to-do list worthy of the reincarnated goddess she could be.
Break a curse, or die.
Raise a long-dead god, or die.
Reassemble the Osiris Stone…or die.
But when she comes face-to-face with the man, she has literally dreamed of all her life,
Kali realizes that much more than her life is at stake.
The other project I have in the works is called Charming.-
It will be featured in the limited edition Once Upon Another World: A Twisted Fairy Tale Box Set on October 6, 2020.
It’s a re-imagined take on some of your favorite fairy tales with some wicked twists. If you were a fan of Once Upon Another Time, you’re going to love this series. Charming is about a runaway princess who escapes a dark fate by being transformed into a boy. She hides as a servant in a brothel, where she has a chance meeting with a charming prince who persuades her to follow him on a quest. Will they escape the clutches of evil, break curses, and find their happily ever after?
When I was little the best thing in the world to me was a bookstore. I called them my mecca and being there was heavenly for me.
At 11 years old, I’d walk over two miles from my house just to go sit and read crossed legged in the aisles of the closest bookstore being transported to the many different worlds the author’s crafted. Every detail of that store is etched into my memory; including the way it smelled of freshly printed books and promises of adventure. I’d always buy a book or two with any money I saved up, but there were so many I wanted. I could, and probably, did spend hours choosing the right ones. I traveled the world and through time as a knight, a princess, evil queen and many more in that store.
When it closed, I was sad. There wasn’t another bookstore within walking distance. No longer could I stop in after school or spend almost every weekend with new books to enjoy. That is until I learned how to drive of course. 😉
That’s the best thing about being an author. The potential to one day to be that, do that, for a reader. Inspire them to walk distances and sit on a hard floor for hours reading the worlds I craft. With all the technology now, that looks different than when I was younger, but the sentiment is the same.
Yes, I listen to custom created playlists on Spotify. I have one’s I listen to for each work in progress and a general #amwriting playlist.
When I am distractible and need to concentrate I listen to Ambient Sound Mixer. I love their Scottish Thunderstorms channel and the Ravenclaw lounge. Fun fact – when I was writing Curse Breaker, I exclusively listened to a channel I made myself.
I love the sound of a Diesel Engine most specifically a Diesel Train.
I used to live on Long Island and commute by train 2 hours to Manhattan. I would wake up at 4am getting to work an hour early every day and leaving a half hour later just to take the Diesel train. The whole truth is that I couldn’t nap on the electric trains. Something about the rumble of the Diesel makes me sleepy to this day!!
My husband and kids on the beach. Sand, sun, fun and no electronics or responsibilities. Just hanging out, being present, and making memories with them.
Readers can pre-order both of Jaclyn’s books below. While you’re waiting for them to arrive, you can read two of Jaclyn’s stories for free. Kiss Me I’m Irish , is a flash fiction short story she wrote last year for Charmed Writers and is available here on A Slice of Orange. Another piece of flash fiction, Harvest of Memories, is available in Charmed Writers Presents Flash Fiction 2019. This collection of short stories will only be available for a short time, so down load your copy today.
Pick Six Author Interviews are occasional features on A Slice of Orange. We send a bunch of questions to the author who then picks just six of the questions to answer. This month we are featuring a Pick Six Author Interview with Celeste Barclay.
It was utterly surreal. I remember uploading it onto KDP and thinking, “okay, now I need to figure out what I’m doing.” I had a story to tell, and I did. It wasn’t until after I wrote and published it that I realized I needed to figure out how to market it and all that goes with it.
I celebrated by staring at my screen for a good long while in disbelief that it was done and really for sale! I hadn’t told a soul what I was doing (fear of failure and rejection is mighty powerful), so I celebrated when my author proof arrived. I took a pic and sent it to my best friend captioned, “So I did a thing.” I believe at least one glass of wine was involved too.
All of the above. For years, stories have pranced, or is it scampered, through my mind as I’m trying to fall asleep. Usually, it’s a scene somewhere in the story, not always the beginning, and that begins to give me an idea for characters and plot. From there theme and trope materialize. If my mind comes back to it for more than one night, I know I have a story to tell.
I would like to be a daily writer, but I’m not writing full time (yet), so it’s usually weekend warrior bursts or nighttime writing. I’ve churned out as much as 20,000 words in one day, but average between 5,000 and 10,000 on a good weekend day.
One where no one is asking anything of me! I prefer the beach even though I live near one. The Caribbean and Mediterranean are my favorites, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at Bali or Tahiti. I admit I’m still a sun worshiper, so time spent in the water is what I look forward to, or time in a lounge chair reading.
This one makes me laugh. Why would I keep a diary? All my innermost thoughts are shared with my readers through my stories! I write to escape reality as much as I write to offer others an escape, so stories have flashes of my fantasies or memories which are things many people fill their diaries with. Mine just happen to get published for the masses.
We hope you enjoyed this Pick Six Author Interview with Celeste Barclay.
We’ve taken over Jann Ryan’s column this month, but don’t worry, she will be back in November.
These two interviews first appeared on Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Rebecca has graciously updated them for inclusion on A Slice of Orange.
Rebecca Forster marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym, did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall, and mucked around with the sheep to find out exactly how her client’s fine wool clothing was manufactured. Then she wrote her first book and found her passion.
Now, thirty-five books later, she is a USA Today and Amazon best-selling author and writes full-time. Most recently, she released the Finn O’Brien crime thrillers – three books about a shunned cop and his single-mother partner who work the meanest streets of Los Angeles while the Witness series continues to enthrall readers and listeners. Hostile Witness, the first book in the popular series, was released by Tantor Publishing and was voiced by Anne Marie Lee who most recently narrated Gillian Flynn’s, Sharp Objects.
She is a popular speaker at writing conferences as well as women’s and business groups and has taught at the acclaimed UCLA Writers Program. She is married to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and is the mother of two grown sons. Alex is a talent manager and producer, and Eric who has been living overseas researching a book. Rebecca spends her free time traveling, sewing, and playing tennis.
Marianne: Did you grow up knowing you wanted to write? If not, when did you realize you were an author?
Rebecca: No, I didn’t even think about writing until I was in my thirties and then I only began because someone dared me to try. After going to college and graduate school, I worked in advertising. My client was married to an author I had never heard of–Danielle Steel! When I found out who she was, I made a comment to a colleague that “I could do that (write a novel).” My co-worker dared me to do it, and the rest is history. I had no idea I had it in me. However, I don’t think I really thought of myself as an author until my eighth or ninth book. I kept thinking each published book was a fluke. Then one day I realized how deep my commitment was to writing and how passionate I was about becoming the best writer I could be. That was the day I became an author.
Marianne: You started writing contemporary romances and now write thrillers. How did that happen?
Rebecca: I look back on my romances and contemporary women’s fiction novels and realize almost every one of them dealt with a lawyer or some aspect of the law. I guess I thought writing about the law was really for men and especially men who were lawyers. I found my stride when I gave myself permission to write what I really loved. Well, that and my editor at Kensington basically fired me from romance. He said, “You can’t keep killing everyone before they fall in love.” That was a good hint I should change genres.
Marianne: You are not a lawyer, yet you write gripping legal fiction. What happened to the “write what you know” advice writers always seem to get?
Rebecca: The truth is I sort of ‘write what I know.’ My husband has had an amazing career, first as a federal prosecutor specializing in organized crime and terrorism, and then as a judge who handles high profile cases. Our circle of friends includes DEA agents, police, private eyes, court reporters, and lawyers of every ilk. Pretty much I’m a legal voyeur. I read the legal newspapers, watch the news. I love everything having to do with the law, but I never had a desire to actually become a lawyer. As much as I love the technical aspects of the law, I never forget a book is about characters. There is nothing more exciting than pitting a single person against a system. The justice system makes for great personal drama.
Marianne: How much research do you do for your books?
Rebecca: It really depends on the storyline. If it’s a courtroom drama, I do a lot of research including seeking help for appropriate cross-examination and how to explain a legal premise without it coming across like I’m presenting a research paper. Some of my books are more character driven and inspired by some aspect of the law but are not procedurals. When my characters don’t spend much time is spent in the courtroom, then the research is limited. My favorite research, though, was for Eyewitness. I researched the legal system in, of all places, Albania. My son was serving in the Peace Corps, and when we went to visit his village, I came away with an incredible story about the centuries-old system of cultural justice that I combined with our modern judicial system. I love that book.
Marianne: Tell us about your current book. Where can we buy your books?
Rebecca: I’m working on book number eight of The Witness Series and book number four of the Finn O’Brien Crime Thrillers. I actually hadn’t planned on writing Lost Witness but fans kept asking me “what happened to Billy?” I thought they would enjoy using their imaginations to determine an end for that character. Now that I know they want to know how I would handle his ending, I’m hard at work figuring it out. I hope everyone is happy when they finally find out what happens to Billy. The next Finn O’Brien book is Intimate Relations. Finn and his partner, Cori, are turning into a wonderful duo. Instead of writing about Los Angeles in general, I am setting the crimes in the pockets of Los Angeles many people don’t know about like Little Ethiopia. It’s very exciting. And, of course, the big news is Tantor producing all seven of the current Witness Series books for audio. I just heard the first one and it’s so exciting.
You can purchase digital, paperback and audio copies of my work on every online bookstore – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and so many others. You can also visit my website and find sample chapters, book club guidelines and, of course, link buttons.
Marianne: For over 25 years and 25 books, you were traditionally published. Why did you decide to launch your indie career?
Rebecca: One of the reasons was because of a book I wrote called Before Her Eyes. I truly wanted that book to have an audience. Good or bad, I just needed to put it out there. The book was inspired by my dad and my father in law’s illnesses. They passed within three months of one another, and I was privileged to witness what did pass ‘before their eyes’ at the end of their life. For me, there was no question but that book needed to be published and that I was going to have to do it myself. At some point, I think all authors have a ‘book of their heart’ that pushes their creative envelope. This was mine.
Also, the publishing world was changing. Bookstores were disappearing, publishers were not buying as much as they used to. I really felt it was my time to either move forward or retire after twenty-five years in the business. That was three years ago. I am so happy I moved forward. The creative freedom, the ease with which I can engage with readers, the ability to price my books reasonably are all reasons why being indie has been so fabulous.
Marianne: What do you know now that you wished you’d know before you went indie?
Rebecca: I wish I had created a better work model earlier so that my writing time was not given up for marketing time. Writers truly need to understand that whether they publish traditionally or as an indie, this is a business and not all about creativity.
Marianne: What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Rebecca: Develop your unique voice. The best compliment I ever had was when a reader said, “Even without a cover, I would know I was reading one of your books.” That’s what I think every author should strive for: defining and perfecting their voice. It takes a lot of trial and error, but when you ‘hear’ it, you’ll know.
Marianne: What’s the best thing about being an author?
Rebecca: Every experience, emotion, bit of knowledge, and dream I ever had or will have is relevant to what I do.
Marianne: What’s your writing day like?
Rebecca: I am up at 5:30, read the paper, clean at least one room in the house and then take my computer to Coffee Cartel and set up at my favorite table near the fake suit of armor. I’ve been going there for 17 years, almost every day. I write from about 8:00 a.m. To 2:00-3:00 p.m. I pack my lunch. In the evening I answer fan mail, emails, Twitter, Facebook and anything else that comes my way.
Marianne: Do you listen to music when you write?
Rebecca: I listen to talk radio and Pandora.com while I write. I have everything from Classic Baroque to Johnny Cash and show tunes on my playlist.
Marianne: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Rebecca: Here are two. Hannah Sheraton, the sixteen-year-old ward of attorney Josie Bates in The Witness Series is one of my favorites. She is beautiful and flawed; a kid and yet incredibly wise because she has had to fend for herself for so long. She is fiercely loyal and holds hope deep in her heart. I’d like to be as brave and loyal as Hannah. The second is Tessa, the heroine in BEFORE HER EYES. She’s a woman who objectively looks at her life – full of hard knocks, mistakes, misunderstandings – and forgives herself. As death closes in, Tessa understands that she played the hand she was dealt as best she could. Now that Finn and Cori have come on the scene though, I’d have to include them. I suppose, bottom line, an author can’t pick a favorite any more than a mother can pick a favorite child.
Marianne: You’ve written both romance and thrillers –very different genres. Why?
Rebecca: At the beginning of my writing career, romance/women’s fiction had guidelines that gave me parameters. I can’t thank the women’s fiction editors I worked with enough for their guidance. Because of them, I learned the craft and eventually found my true voice in thrillers. Really, though, it’s a matter of emphasis. Each of my romances had a thriller element, and each of the thrillers has a solid relationship.
Marianne: What’s your all-time favorite book?
Rebecca: For an indie book I would pick Eternal L.A. by Eric Czuleger (yep, my son). I love the vision for the future in this collection of short stories but what I really admire is that they are each about compassion and love in a time when the world seems to be all about technology
Marianne: What‘s on your To-Be-Read pile?
Rebecca: Eric Larsen’s, THE GARDEN OF THE BEASTS (nonfiction), BRAINRUSH, another Indie fiction by Richard Bard. THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly. A zillion magazines for research and for fun. I could go on.
Marianne: What’s your favorite song?
“Danny Boy.” When Johnny Cash sings it, I cry. “Ring of Fire,” of course. “Happy Birthday” because everyone smiles even though no one can sing it well.
Marianne: What’s your favorite movie?
Rebecca: These questions are hard! Prelude to a Kiss. Yep, a romantic comedy. Oh, and Beetlejuice. And Legally Blond. And Zombie movies. We see a lot of Zombie movies.
Marianne: You tell the funniest stories, why don’t you write humor?
Rebecca: I have a secret. One day my mother asked me “Why don’t you write books without bodies”. So, for her 89th birthday, I wrote the Bailey Devlin trilogy about a young woman who is struggling to make her way in the world and just as all her hard work is going to pay off, someone appears on her doorstep that changes her life. The Day Bailey Devlin’s Horoscope Came True is the first book and it’s free. It’s a sweet, funny, charming trilogy. No sex, lots of love, some laugh-out-loud moments.
Marianne: What’s the funniest (or sweetest or best or nicest) thing a fan ever said to you?
Rebecca: That if John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline had a literary child, it would be me!
Marianne: If you could be on a TV reality show which would it be.
Rebecca: Project Runway!
Marianne: If you could travel back in time, who would you like to meet and why?
Rebecca: A pioneer woman who walked beside a wagon across the desert in a long dress and high-topped boots, set down roots in the middle of nowhere, raised children without benefit of a ‘village.’ I would want to ask her if she was ever afraid, what did she love, who did she love.
Marianne: If a spaceship landed in your backyard and the aliens on board offered to take you for a ride, would you go? Why or why not?
Rebecca: I’d go in a snap, but they would have to take my husband and boys, too. We all love adventure. Recently, I landed on an aircraft carrier via tail hook and spent two ‘Top Gun” days on the U.S.S. Nimitz. If I can do that, I’d certainly head off in a spaceship!
Readers, writers, friends can contact me here:
Jann Ryan is still on vacation this month, so we’re running an interview from our archives. The interview with Carol L. Wright first posted April 2, 2017.
My first interview on the new A Slice of Orange is with Carol L. Wright, editor for Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC. Carol is a recovering lawyer and adjunct law professor who traded writing on law-related topics for writing fiction. She has published several short stories in a variety of genres and is the author of the Gracie McIntyre Mysteries. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and Sisters in Crime, a member of SinC Guppies, and a founding member of the Bethlehem Writers Group. She is married to her college sweetheart, and lives in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. You can visit Carol’s website at http://carollwright.com, or follow her on Facebook at https://goo.gl/TtR9JL.
Jann: Welcome to A Slice of Orange, Carol. Tell us a little bit about Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC.
Carol: Thanks. I’m very happy to be here.
The Bethlehem Writers Group started out eleven years ago as a drop-in critique group at a local bookstore. While some of our regulars had several published works, many were writers who were just getting started, still learning the basics. As our membership grew, and our skills developed, we began taking on group challenges, such as meeting minimum word counts. That grew into accepting the challenge of compiling an anthology. Since we were based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also known as “Christmas City, USA,” we decided to make it a Christmas anthology. Our writers work in many different genres, and had equally different takes on the theme, so when we decided on a title, we called it A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE HOLIDAY TALES. Sweet, funny, and strange pretty much describes our merry band of writers, too.
Since then, we have published three more anthologies, each with different themes, and are in the process of compiling our fifth anthology, UNTETHERED: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES OF THE PARANORMAL, forthcoming in 2018. In addition, many of our members have published their short works elsewhere, and we have many who have published novels, nonfiction, or memoir.
In addition to our anthologies, in 2011 we began publishing an online literary magazine. Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Shortly thereafter, we started an annual short story contest that offers cash and publication to the top three winners. But through it all, we have never forgotten our continuing mission of meeting as a group of mutually supportive fiction and nonfiction writers to help each other perfect their craft.
Jann: BWG publishes a quarterly e-zine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, are you accepting submissions?
Carol: We are always open to submissions of prose or poetry. We limit submissions to no more than 2000 words, and the work must be previously unpublished.
In addition to publishing stories and poems, we have other features, including an interview of a writing professional, a column on commonly confused words, and another column from the mythical “Betty Wryte-Goode” (BWG!) with links to useful websites for writers.
Jann: Must the author be published or unpublished?
Carol: We are happy to accept good work, whether the author has been published before or not. We have had the pleasure of publishing award-winning authors, as well as writers who have never published before. Our goal is to bring good work to the attention of our readers—it’s as simple as that.
Jann: Is this a paying market?
Carol: Yes, as of this year, we are happy to be able to offer payment for published work. Our Featured Author receives $20/story. Those whose work we publish, but who are not featured, receive $10/story. Poets receive $5/poem.
Jann: How does an author submit?
Carol: Submissions are through our online form at https://sites.google.com/site/bethlehemwritersroundtable/submissions.
Jann: Where can we read the e-zine?
Carol: It is published quarterly at https://bwgwritersroundtable. Our Spring issue just came out on April 1. No fooling!
Jann: What about The Best of Bethlehem Writers Round Table Winter Collection?
We have been fortunate enough to get some really terrific stories to publish on Roundtable through the years. A couple of years ago, we compiled several in one volume: LET IT SNOW: THE BEST OF BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE (Winter 2015 Collection). It’s available in print or ebook formats through Amazon.com. (And also in the A Slice of Orange Book Store.)
Jann: As one of the Roundtable editors, what are you looking for in a short story? A poem?
Carol: We describe what we’re looking for on our submissions page, but briefly, we are looking for great stories. We often receive the equivalent of a “still life” in words—mood pieces or character sketches. But unless they are part of a true story, we’re not apt to accept them. We’re looking for three things: character, conflict, and resolution. We want to see that the main character has changed because of the events told in the story. A great story beats flowery language every time.
For poetry, we want emotion, imagery, musicality, and great use of inventive language. Poetry is a subjective genre, but what we don’t want is flash fiction with line breaks, or awkward or worn phrases. If it’s hard to make sense of your lines, we’re not apt to accept them. But if our editors feel your poem, you’ll be published.
Jann: Any writing books that you would recommend? How about classes?
Carol: There are so many great books out there. As a mystery writer, I’ve found the books by James N. Frey (not to be confused with James Frey) to be particularly helpful. He has a series of “Damn Good” books, including HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD MYSTERY. He also has one for novels and another for thrillers. I found his discussion of mythic characters and themes to be particularly useful. Another great resource is the books by James Scott Bell. He has written on every aspect, from writing to editing to marketing. I’m not a horror fan, but loved Stephen King’s book ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. Great books about being a writer include the classic BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott.
I think every writer also needs a ton of reference works—both about writing and about the subjects they choose. My shelves are full of books on psychology and forensics because I write mysteries. But I also have a number of style books that I use—but only during the editing process. When I’m writing a first draft, I try not to let my inner editor get in the way of my muse.
There are also a plethora of great classes for writers out there. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get some terrific instruction. If you write genre fiction, such as romance, mystery, or children’s
fiction, there are strong, vibrant, national organizations for your genre. They frequently offer their members low-cost or free classes on a variety of writing subjects. For instance, as a member of Sisters in Crime (sinc.org), and its Guppies subgroup, I have access to low-cost classes on all aspects of mystery writing.
There are also “free” webinars offered by self-proclaimed experts on a variety of aspects of writing. These might offer some useful information, but in reality, they are ill-concealed advertisements for their extremely expensive services. They will often tell you just enough to make you want to learn more—for only $99/month for six months!
BWG is now developing workshops for writers, and hope to be ready to offer them to the public later this year. So, if you’re in the Bethlehem, PA area, they might be a good place to start.
When the budget allows, I’m a big advocate of going to writers conferences. You learn a lot from other writers, but you also have a chance to make contacts with people who “get” you. Writing is a solitary profession, and it’s nice to get out there and discover you’re not the only one who is weird like that. I mean—how many of your friends will spend a good portion of their afternoon figuring out how to get rid of a body without leaving trace evidence behind? (Uh–if they aren’t writers, maybe you should find other friends.) I always come home from a conference with renewed energy to write.
But the best thing for any writer to do is to read—a lot. It might be trite, but it’s true. By reading, you learn what does or doesn’t work. You improve your vocabulary, and expose yourself to a variety of voices. Reading opens the world up to you, both as an individual and as a writer. There is no substitute.
Jann: BWG also publishes the Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales Anthologies. Tell us a little bit about these books.
Carol: As I mentioned, it all started with A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE HOLIDAY TALES. We were so excited when it won the 2010 NEXT Generation Indie Book Awards in two categories: Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction.
When we first published A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER, we weren’t sure whether we would ever do another, but after a couple of years, we wanted to do it again. Having published a Christmas book, we wanted to compile one for other holidays as well. Soon, we had ONCE AROUND THE SUN: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES FOR ALL SEASONS which was also a finalist for Best Anthology.
Two years later, we published a collection of food-related stories entitled A READABLE FEAST: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES FOR EVERY TASTE, which earned another finalist medal from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Our most recent anthology just came out last fall: ONCE UPON A TIME: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES FOR ALL AGES. It’s a book of children’s stories ranging from the preschool through middle school target audience—and their parents, of course.
Our next anthology, UNTETHERED: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES OF THE PARANORMAL, is due out next year.
Jann: Do you accept submissions?
Carol: With one exception, the stories in our anthologies are by active members of the Bethlehem Writers Group. That exception is that the first-place winner of the annual Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award competition is considered for inclusion in the upcoming anthology. For some of our anthologies, though, it takes us two years to put out the book. For those, we may have two successive contest winners’ stories included in the book.
Jann: A contest? How does that work?
Each year, we offer a SHORT STORY AWARD to the best story submitted to that year’s contest. As it happens, we are currently accepting submissions of original, unpublished, paranormal stories of no more than 2000 words. Our submission deadline is April 30. Members of BWG do the preliminary round of judging, then pass off the finalists to a guest judge.
Jann: Who is the final judge?
Carol: This year, we’re honored to have New York Times bestselling author, Carrie Vaughn as our Guest Judge. She will determine who our winners are.
Jann: Where do you enter?
Carol: All entries must be submitted through the form on the contest page of Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Payments are via PayPal. There is a PayPal link on our website to make payments easily.
Jann: How much does it cost?
Carol: There is a $10 entry fee per story.
Jann: What are the prizes?
We offer cash and publication to our winners. First place wins $200 and consideration for publication in our upcoming anthology. Second and Third places win $100 and $50 respectively. Both of these stories are offered publication in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Honorable Mentions (if any) receive a certificate, and might be offered publication at the discretion of our Roundtable editors.
Jann: When will the next anthology be released?
Carol: UNTETHERED is slated to be published in the fall of 2018.
Jann: Take off your editor’s hat for a minute and put on your author hat and tell us what you have planned for 2017.
2017 is a busy year. I have just had a short story published in the anthology THE WRITE CONNECTIONS put out by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. Another story is due out in July in the anthology DAY OF THE DARK, edited by Kaye George and published by Wildside Press, LLC. All the stories included are related in some way to the total solar eclipse that will be visible in North America on August 21, 2017.
In August, I anticipate the publication of my novel, DEATH AT GLENVILLE FALLS. It is the first of my Gracie McIntyre Mysteries. The story is about recovering lawyer, Gracie McIntrye, whose newly-opened bookstore is vandalized. She is disturbed when the responding officer is strangely indifferent to the crime. When she discovers that he did not file a police report on the incident, she suspects he might somehow be involved. She complains to the police chief, but gets no satisfaction, even as violence against her escalates. She investigates, only to discover that it is all tied to the 18-year-old murder of her former client that everyone thought was solved.
I hope your readers will look for it, and enjoy it.
I would like to thank Carol L. Wright for taking the time to answer our questions. If you have comments or questions for Carol, please use the comment form below.
Jann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.
Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined Romance Writers of America. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream.
JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning suspense author, editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. He was named one of the Today’s Top Ten Horror Writers. His books have been sold to more than two-dozen countries. Not only is he an exemplary author, he’s also part of a group known as the Philadelphia Liars Club. An organization known for helping writers become authors through workshops and meetings.
Long ago in one such workshop, I met Jonathan and he’s been one of my mentor ever since. I’m pleased to introduce Jonathan to my readers.
Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. The Bethlehem Writer’s Roundtable has a Paranormal Short Story Contest starting on January 1st, 2018 and I would like to give my readers and the participants a scope of what to expect from the genre.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Paranormal is often confused or conflated with supernatural, but they’re significantly different things. The supernatural refers to things like vampires and werewolves, demons and those kinds of monsters. Paranormal refers to things that may appear to be magical but are likely to be aspects of science as yet unquantifiable, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and other kinds of ESP.
The word ‘paranormal’ is frequently misused in fiction, as seen in –say—paranormal romance, in which angels, demons, vampires, and so on are romantic figures. That’s actually supernatural, but try and get a publishing marketing exec to change the wording! Not a chance.
Supernatural elements fit very well with all kinds of fantasy storytelling, because fantasy has always been concerned with monsters, dragons, sorcery, gods, and so on.
Horror is a much broader category and there are no limits to what can fall under that umbrella. Horror can as easily be used to accurately describe a serial killer novel (Silence of the Lambs comes to mind) as a werewolf thriller or a Gothic ghost story.
JM: The paranormal fiction market was created when romance became heavily associated with typically monstrous elements of fiction. Books like Interview with the Vampire helped give birth to what we now call ‘paranormal romance’. TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Forever Knight, Charmed, True Blood, Vampire Academy, and so on, really propped this genre up; and novels by Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Rachel Caine and many others have established it as a huge moneymaker.
All trends wax and wane, and one of the ways to keep them fresh is to spice them up with elements of other genres. Buffy is an example, because it is ostensibly a story about teenage angst and social anxiety wrapped up in a heroic battle against monsters. It’s also a coming of age story, an urban fantasy, a dark fantasy, a family drama, an action series, a comedy series, romance, and –well, I could go on and on. Every time they wanted to make it fresh they threw in some other genre elements –even a space alien (no joke). And…it worked.
The fanbase is easily jaded and wants more, which is why those writers who can bring in those other genre elements are the one who most often manage to surprise and intrigue their fans.
One show (and subsequent series of comics, games, anthologies and novels) that has very successfully combined paranormal, supernatural, horror, science fiction and fantasy genres is The X-Files. Week-to-week you never quite knew from which direction the punches would be coming. Which made the original series so much fun; and now it’s back.
JM: I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a story in which Nikolai Tesla and Dr. Moriarty team up to conquer the world. That would be a whole lot of fun to write. It would also combine science, science fiction, mystery, thriller, Steampunk, and action into one wild ride.
JM: Actually the Rot & Ruin novels are straight science fiction. There are no paranormal or supernatural elements to them because the cause of the zombie plague is an old Cold War bioweapon based on actual parasites found in nature. I just finished a new novel in that series, which is the first of a spinoff storyline with a Latina bisexual teenage main character, Gabriella ‘Gutsy’ Gomez, who is a hell of a lot of fun to write.
But my all-time favorite character to write is Joe Ledger. His novels are predominately science fiction with some paranormal elements, and (in some books in the series) a taste of the supernatural. Ledger is a character I can throw into any series or any story. Between the ten novels in the series, two collections of short stories, a guest appearance in a comic book (V-Wars) and an upcoming anthology with original Ledger stories by my writer colleagues, Ledger has faced corrupt scientists, terrorists with cutting-edge bioweapons, secret societies, genetically-engineered vampires, werewolf super soldiers, changelings, ghosts, alien space spiders, and even H.P. Lovecraft’s elder god, Cthulhu. And he guest-stars in the Rot & Ruin novels.
JM: Short fiction is often similar to the third act of a novel. We typically hit the ground with events already in motion and don’t always pause to explain everything. Much is implied. There are fewer character and the character relationship arcs are less deeply explore, though again, much can be implied to suggest greater depth of that relationship. In a novel, for example, you might explore how a couple falls in love, some highs and lows of that budding relationship, interactions with other people, and view the whole process through the filters of different scenes that put different kinds of stress on those two characters. In a short story we might step in when one of them is lying in an empty bed; or driving away from a burning house; or trying not to sign the divorce papers; or at a funeral; or in the delivery room. We join their lives in progress.
My personal style for writing short stories is episodic. I break my short fiction into several mini-chapters. Micro-chapters, really. These allow me to build scenes and then jump to the next important story moment without having to write the transitional material between scenes. I also use those mini-scenes to allow me to establish dramatic beats even within a larger overall scene. In that way I’m using a condensed version of the same style I use for my novels.
JM: It’s never a good idea to rewrite anything before a first draft is done. It packs on time, frequently derails the whole project; shifts focus from one skill set (storytelling) to another (revision), often to the detriment of mental focus and overall momentum; and often results in an uneven story, with the early sections more overwritten then the later.
I advise my writing students to draft the story out into a logical plot outline. However I remind them that it’s illogical to assume that you’re going to have all of your best story ideas the day you write out that plot. So, be flexible. Allow for organic growth in both plot and character evolution. Having the plot roughed out, though, is smart. Plots are the mathematical equation of cause and effect that establishes the internal logic. Without knowing how a story ends you can properly foreshadow, built tension that supports the conclusion, and so on; and you often waste time writing scenes that don’t serve the story and will likely need to be cut.
JM: I have the great good fortune as a young teen to meet, get to know, and be mentored by Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. They were very kind and generous with their support and advice. They taught me to make serious studies of both the craft elements of writing as well as the policies and practices of the business of publishing. They also advised me to be generous and compassionate –both to other writers and in general. That was key advice for a troubled teen who need a gentle nudge in the right direction.
JM: I’m in the middle of one of the busiest years of my career. I’m about to start writing my third novel this year (#33 overall). I have a standalone novel, GLIMPSE, coming out in March that is getting a lot of advance buzz from folks like Clive Barker, Scott Smith, James Rollins, Charlaine Harris and others. And it’s being considered for TV. A couple of my other projects are also heading to film or TV. So that’s exciting. I just finished writing Broken Lands, the first of a new spinoff of my Rot & Ruin series of post-apocalyptic novels for teens. Next up is the 10th Joe Ledger thriller, and then I jump in to writing the first in a new teen series of mystery thrillers. I’ve also got an anthology, JOE LEDGER: UNSTOPPABLE, debuting Halloween day, with original stories using my characters written by a slew of other authors. And just after that my dark fantasy/urban fantasy/mystery genre-mashup anthology, HARDBOILED HORROR debuts. Really looking forward to seeing that launch. And I’m editing KINGDOMS FALL, an anthology of epic fantasy. So…I’m driving in the fast lane and having a hell of a lot of fun.
Readers will find a selection of Jonathan Maberry’s titles below:
Jonathan Maberry was interviewed by Diane Sismour. Diane has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers. She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops. Diane’s shorts stories are available on A Slice of Orange.
Her website is www.dianesismour.com, and her blog is www.dianesismour.blogspot.com. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter at: http://facebook.com/dianesismour, http://facebook.com/networkforthearts, https://twitter.com/dianesismour
We would like to thank both Jonathan and Diane for contributing to A Slice of Orange.
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