It’s a cold Super Bowl weekend, and I’m staying warm with a cup of coffee and chatting with my good friend Shannon Yseult. I met Shannon at a local write-in a few years ago, and we have traveled the road to publication together. Her story, Over-Extraction, is featured in the 518 Publishing Company LLC’s premier anthology, Dark & Bitter. The short story is a fast-paced alternate thriller, and a great read.
“Shannon, the fans of the 518 want to hear about the Dark & Bitter authors, and I’m glad you had time to be interviewed,” I said.
“I’m happy to do it. You know I always enjoy a cup of coffee, and chat about writing,” Shannon said.
“Excellent. How did you get into writing, and when did you realize you wanted to be an author?”
“When I was in third grade one of the librarians was encouraging us to write stories. Even at that age I was into mysteries like 'Nate the Great', so I wrote about 'The Mystery of Witch Island'. I don't remember the story that well, but I do remember being SUPREMELY proud of my final product. I read it, and reread it, to everyone who would sit down with me for five minutes.
Once I got my own computer in eighth grade, I realized that there was this thing called 'fanfiction' and I was all over that. I wrote myself into a number of series, and while the writing was terrible I enjoyed every second of it. By the end of high school I realized that I could write my own characters AND my own stories and started to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The first year I wrote and agonized over the perfect 1,779 words in a story about dragons, and never got any farther. Since then I've written something for NaNoWriMo each year and have successfully completed it a handful of times now.
Despite the trials and tribulations natural to a writer's life I've been interested in some form of writing since I learned to read. That proud moment of showing everyone my third grade book still sings in my heart as I continue my writer’s journey,” Shannon said.
“Wow, third grade. It was much later that I got interested in writing. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?” I said.
“This has been changing quite a bit recently. At the moment Michael J. Sullivan with his series Riyria Revelations is at the top of my list. Patrick Rothfuss and his book 'The Name of the Wind' is a close second. 'The Mote in God's Eye' is also a huge favorite of mine, and I can't see it leaving my favorites list ever. If you're looking for a less well known then I highly recommend Wen Spencer, particularly her book 'Tinker',” Shannon said.
“I’ve read ‘The Name of the Wind.’ It was excellent. I’ll have to check out the others. I’m always looking for the next best read. What genre/genres do you write?”
“Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, and YA. It sounds weird when listing them all in a row, particularly ending with YA. The natural follow up question is why, and the irony of the simple answer isn't lost on me; I'm a complicated person. My ideas don't fit into a single genre mold, and I don't force them into one. I take the idea and test drive it in different genres in my mind before choosing the one that I think will give the best story and go from there,” Shannon said.
“I’m with you about writing different genres. Crossing boundaries and not staying in a small box is paramount to a well-rounded person. How would you describe your daily writing routine?” I said.
“The most consistent part of it is going to writers group on Sunday's at Denny's. Being around so many fellow writer friends is an inspirational pleasure. Right now I'm in the thralls of editing the novel I wrote in November 2017 for NaNoWriMo (another consistent part of my writing life). So I'm taking each week to focus on a different part of the story (plot, character, etc). Next I'll put together a game plan for fixing the story and then I'll go about editing it. Basically, I'm doing a daily editing routine right now, but I'll get back to writing for NaNoWriMo 2018!” Shannon said.
“Yes, staying connecting with the writing community is important to any author. Friendships are formed, and are a support system through the many trials in life. What is your writing Kryptonite?”
“Reading a good story! Also if I'm writing along and know that something is fundamentally wrong with the story. If I have a good outline this doesn't happen as much, but for those times I'm pantsing it's like throwing on the emergency breaks,” Shannon said.
“I hear you. A good story is definitely a distraction. Where do you get your ideas?” I said.
“All over the place!
Sometimes I'm reading about a new scientific discovery and think 'what if'.
Sometimes I'm talking about a specific genre/writing style/etc, realize that I haven't written anything in that format, and challenge myself to do so.
Sometimes I use a random word generator, or random plot generator, or random religion generator, until the sparks of ideas colliding take over.”
“Generators are great. Many writers use them to inspire when the ideas dry up. How long did it take you to write the story 'Over-Extraction'?” I said.
“It didn't take me long to write the first draft, once the ideas fly writing can be quick. However, the amount of time I spent editing it was quite a lot,” Shannon said.
“Yeah, editing can be long and sometimes painful. Well Shannon, I like to thank you for your time and I look forward to your next story.”
Two years ago this month the idea of the 518 Publishing Company ignited a spark in the eyes of four women. During the process of creating the small press, we encountered a few struggles. First, getting everyone on the same page took a bit, though that wasn’t a big issue. All of us wanted the same thing, to help local writers realize a goal of seeing their words in print.
Secondly, and probably the biggest hurdle was setting up the LLC. Paperwork, filing, and taxes were just short of a nightmare. The formal LLC letter from the state didn’t come promptly. But after many calls and a good chase, we were finally legal.
Setting up financials was difficult and we had to be creative. With only a few dollars in the bank, the funds wouldn’t cover the cost to publish a book. We needed a professional editor and a book cover. The 518 is not a vanity press. We don’t expect an author to pay for editing and book covers. So what do we do? Kickstarter of course.
Many people use the crowdfunding tool to help fund an idea. Friends, family, and a few unknowns backed us. Dark & Bitter was published, and a few writers became first-time published authors.
And this is why we are here. Every Sunday local writers in the 518 meet at Denny’s to write. Some weeks there may be only a few, and other times as many as thirty. Last Sunday was the deadline to submit for 518’s next publication. A fellow writer felt our push, and they will be published in the upcoming anthology, Exploits of the Adirondacks. It feels good to know that one more person will see their name in print and become a published author.
Check out our ‘Submit to Us’ page. You could be next featured author in our third anthology.
Our debut publication, Dark & Bitter, is now live on Amazon, and the 518 is continuing with interviews with the authors. Today I’m talking with SJ Garman. She is the author of ‘The Bracelet’, a paranormal story about a woman and her journey home from work one snowy night.
“SJ, I know you are busy and you are all the way out west, but our readers would love to know the person behind the tale,” I said.
“Thanks for having me. I’m happy to chat with you, Lizette,” SJ said.
“I absolutely love your story. A fast-paced thrilling tale that I can imagine happening to me. What was the inspiration for ‘The Bracelet’?”
“I came up with the basic premise for ‘The Bracelet’ many years ago, but when I saw an eerie spider bracelet with glowing, ruby red eyes in a second-hand store, I knew it needed to be the focus of the tale,” SJ said.
“Wow. I always wondered where writers got their ideas. I love thrift stores. And to think, a trip to one spawn you to write such a fabulous story. By the way, how did you get into writing?”
“I never intended to be an author. My love for writing began with a summer project to help improve my son’s writing skills. We created the alien world of Sabathea as we sat fishing in the middle of a lake in Northern Wisconsin. My son decided writing wasn’t an interest for him, but I was hooked,” SJ said.
“Well, me and all your readers are thrilled you went on that fishing trip. ‘The Bracelet’ is a paranormal thriller, but I wonder, do you write in other genres?”
“I’ve written a series of young adult science fiction novels. The first two novels, The Betrayal of Sabathea and The Rise of Tophet, have been completed and I am in the process of choosing a publisher. The third novel, Operation Gemini, is a work in progress,” SJ said.
“Sci-Fi YA is a hot genre now. Finding the right publisher is very important. A small press like 518 Publishing, LLC is a niche publishing company helping writers to reach their dreams. I wish you luck with the series.”
“Thank you,” SJ said.
“How would you describe your daily writing routine?” I asked.
“It seems strange, but I don’t have a specific writing routine. While performing boring household chores, like mopping the floor, folding laundry, or mowing the yard, I’ll think about my plot and how I want to proceed with the story. I even dream about sections of my story that aren’t flowing in order to work out the kinks. This process allows me to explore several plot options before I ever put them to paper. When I get a few free moments during the day, I’ll write the paragraphs or chapters down on a legal pad, allowing my thoughts to flow. As I reread it, the scratch marks and arrows will appear all over the pages! My second round of edits occurs as I type the pages into my computer,” SJ said.
“I guess writers do what works. Me, I’m a plotter too. I love the ‘Snowflake Method’ by Randy Ingermanson. Though I do a modified Snowflake. Sort of half plotting and half pantsing. How long did it take you to write the story?”
“The story was written over a single weekend,” SJ said.
“Impressive. It takes me forever to get words down. I tend to edit while I write, which I must say isn’t good. But when the story is itching to come out, the words flow. And that leads me to ask, what is your writing Kryptonite?”
“Silence and scheduled writing times are my kryptonite. I can’t write in a quiet place; there has to be noise!! I also never set writing times – it creates too much pressure to get things done. I’ve found that I write best with minimal structure. Having a productive fifteen minutes can be better than an hour sitting in front of a blank computer screen,” SJ said.
“Do you have any favorite authors?” I asked.
“When I was young, I'd scour the library for short stories and novels by Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Daniel Keyes. They created and explored breathtaking, new worlds while raising and discussing difficult ethical questions. These authors pondered issues regarding medical, societal, and technological advances that still hold true today,” SJ said.
“Well, I’ll let you go, SJ. Good luck with your work in progress, Operation Gemini. I look forward to reading the series.”
Readers, don’t forget you can read SJ’s story, ‘The Bracelet’, in the ‘Dark & Bitter’ anthology. It’s now on Amazon.
November is filled with excitement. The holidays are almost here, National Novel Writing Month is underway, and the 518 Publishing Company’s debut publication will soon be released. Dark & Bitter is an anthology of short stories by authors from the New York’s 518 area code and beyond. The common denominator of the genre-spanning anthology is: characters who enjoy coffee. Many of the authors selected are heretofore unpublished, and it was a great experience to work with them. We kick off November with a series of author interviews from our maiden publication: Dark & Bitter.
I’m at Denny’s having coffee, of course, with Rosanne Braslow. Her story, What Waits in Quiet Places, is an intriguing mystery with a shade of paranormal.
“As you know, 518 Pub is blogging about the authors of Dark & Bitter, and you are the first interviewee.”
We clinked our red coffee mugs in honor of the upcoming release of the anthology.
”What’s your connection to the 518?” I ask.
“I went to college in Albany and lived in the 518 for many years. Although I’ve moved around the country, the Hudson Valley is my home base. I’m all about Upstate NY. It’s the setting for most of my stories.”
“Albany’s a great place, with many notable schools of higher education that bestow not just textbook knowledge, but a sense of being. How did you get into writing?” I asked.
“I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but not taking it seriously. Seven years ago, a friend introduced me to NaNoWriMo, and later I joined a critique group. This month I’m celebrating my first published credits: a short story in Dark & Bitter, and a poem in 56 Days of August,” Rosanne replied.
”Congratulations! National Novel Writing Month is a fabulous way to get a novel under your belt. Just think, 50,000 words in 30 days. It was the same for me. A good friend encouraged me. It was a challenge, but I did it. And a critique group is crucial for growth as a writer. What genre(s) do you write?”
“Primarily horror, but I’d like to try lighter fiction, maybe a mystery. I’d love to create work that is both horror and literary fiction, like Shelley’s Frankenstein or Stoker’s Dracula…,” Rosanne said. “I also write poetry (non-horror!)
“I love horror. Where do you get your ideas? Sometimes they come from peculiar sources.”
“I was raised on Dark Shadows and Creature Features. My mother is a great storyteller and a believer in ghosts, so my love for the supernatural was passed down. Everything we’re exposed to sparks ideas, everything we read and hear. It helps to believe in things that you can’t see, nor explain, if you are going to write horror,” Rosanne said.
“Your mother must be an interesting person. I love to listen to stories from older people. What was the inspiration for your story, ‘What Waits in Quiet Places’.”
“My protagonist was originally intended to be a grown-up Nancy Drew. When I submitted it for a Nancy Drew-themed anthology, the publisher felt that my Nancy Drew who enjoyed martinis was irreverent! So I tweaked it and submitted it to Dark and Bitter, where I thought it might be a good fit. Thankfully, 518 Pub agreed.”
“518 Pub is pleased you submitted. Your story is fast-paced and mysterious. I loved it,” I said. “Last question: what is your writing Kryptonite?”
“Inertia. When I haven’t written for a while, I fear that I’ll sit down and find that the words have dried up. The longer I go without writing the harder it is to sit down again. Hence, a daily routine makes good sense.”
“I was thinking that, as I work on my own NaNoWriMo novel for 2017. I’m so glad we got together so that our readers have an opportunity to know a little about the author behind the short story, ‘What Waits in Quiet Places’.”
As a writer, I am continuously looking for inspiration for characters. One thing I do, which I may say I thoroughly enjoy is to people watch. Yeah, I know a lot of people do it, but an author does it with a critical eye.
It’s amazing the people out there. I was recently traveling for work and about halfway to my destination I stopped at McDonalds. As I sipped my coffee, I heard the clinking of coins. At first I ignored it. I was so focused on getting caffeine into my body. But the noise continued and I looked up. I turned my head and sitting in the next booth was a man.
He was probably in his 40s. It was hard to tell since life had steamrolled over him. His edges were tattered and the bulging knapsack on the table told me he was probably homeless. I studied him for awhile and our eyes met. To my surprise the man had the most beautiful blue eyes. Not just a plain old blue but clear crisp cerulean. If it wasn’t for his appearance, I would have thought they might have been contacts.
After a few moments the man looked away and he continued to dig into his change purse for money. This guy is what makes a character. It was as if his eyes held a secret and it had to be told.
As I left, I smiled at the man, placed a $20 bill on the table in front of him and told him I was paying it forward. He looked up in surprise and whispered thank you.
I still think about the McDonald’s man. What’s his story? How did he come to this point in his life? So many questions and only he had the answers. I can see him in my Sundowners story. A man with few words and a secret. A secret when revealed spins the plot 180 degrees.
So the next time you are enjoying a cup of coffee, take a look around. You never know, I may be in the next booth plotting you into a story and deciding if I should kill you off.
When I started to write fiction, my first story was a full-length murder mystery with a romance woven in. I struggled with plot points, turning points, and character development. Basically, I had difficulties with everything. The whole thing of writing 70,000 plus words was intimidating.
This is a problem for most new writers. The feeling of being overwhelmed can stall and even turn people off. But I keep chipping away at my murder mystery. It’s still not done but I’m persevering. I’m sharpening my writing skills and getting better.
However, if I had to do it over, I think I should have started with a short story or a flash fiction. Small steps are definitely a better way of easing into something. Here’s a flash fiction I did for a contest for Edgar Allan Poe inspired stories with a word count 250 words or less.
I didn’t do it. At least that is what I told everyone, and to my amusement, they believed me. Funny how a young innocent face can manipulate opinion.
It was a cold snowy night, and I just finished my shift at the diner. The walk home wasn’t something I relished. A car stopped, and I snapped at the chance to be warm.
Opportunity. It all came down to that. Months had passed since the last time I felt the euphoric plunge of the knife.
“You want a ride?”
“Yes, thanks,” I said.
“No problem. You’re the dishwasher at Ruby’s, right?”
We exchanged small talk for the next few miles. She was pretty for a middle-aged woman. I usually targeted the less desirable, but the redhead fascinated me. With each swish of the wipers, the need inside me grew. My fingers tightened around the hilt of my knife.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
That was all it took. Three downward thrusts of the blade and I had my high.
It has been days since my ride with the woman, and I smile at the power I yielded that night. The town is in a quandary wondering who did it. Fools. They’ll never figure it out. I pull my coat tighter against the cold wind and quicken my steps toward home.
“You want a ride?”
“Huh?” I lift my eyes from the road and pause.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
With my lifeblood staining the snow, I realize not everyone was fooled.
Thanks for the read. Give writing a try. You never know, you might like it.
On December 31st, we ushered in another year. Many cheered with excitement and toasted to Auld Lang Syne. And under the influence of the bubbly, came the New Year’s resolutions. I’ll lose weight and get in shape. I’ll be a better person. I’ll spend less and save more. All promises, which I may say, are rarely kept beyond a few weeks.
I’ve learned a long time ago, not to make New Year’s resolutions. Promises that are so outrageous, they are laughable. I’ve accepted myself as I am, but I still have goals. Each morning, I try to improve on what I missed the day before. They are not resolutions or promises. I call them my daily ambitions. It is the human condition to strive to live better and accomplish something. Some days we reach our objectives and some days we don’t.
Last New Year’s Eve I didn’t make any resolutions and 2016 started out with a bang. In January, 518 Publishing Company, LLC was created. Short stories were accepted, and we are on schedule to publish our 1st analogy this spring.
I also published a children’s book, ‘Pink Sneakers in Space’ in 2016. Publishing a book was a personal ambition I had for years. What writer doesn’t want to see their words in print, and on a shelf in a bookstore? I have many stories started, but never felt they were polished enough. After hemming and hawing, I finally pushed the button.
I’m now writing the sequel, ‘Pink Sneakers on the Run’, but I’m stuck. I sit in front of my computer and go blank. Writer’s block? Yup. To shake things up, I decided to work on another story that has been dormant for too long, and I’m still struggling. Every day I tell myself I’m going to sit down and write. Do I do it? Barely. This is my worst flaw, procrastination.
So this year I am going to make a resolution. I’m going to write 300 words a day. I know that it may not seem like a lot, but to someone who puts things off, it’s an attainable goal.
I guess New Year’s resolutions may not be that bad after all. Of course, only if I keep my promise and write.
When I was six years old I got my glasses. Within a week I went from not reading at all to reading chapter books. The books I fell in love with were The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. These books spoke to me. I read every one, over two hundred. Something about these characters just felt real. The girls were so different from each other, yet they were best friends. I could point to each one of my own friends and tell which character they would be (for the record, I’m Mallory). I found that I love falling into this world. These books also helped me discover my love for series. While I enjoy a standalone book, the girls in The Baby-Sitters Club helped show me how much more I could learn with each new book. I think this speaks to me as a writer. I always continue the stories in my head, and with a series I know what actually happens.
The next series I fell in love with was Harry Potter. These books had special meaning in my household, which I won’t get into. But more than that it was a great escape. Like the previous series it gave a chance to fit everyone I knew into place. I find I like my characters to be as realistic as possible, even in a magical world.
As an adult I found the world of cozy mysteries. I’ve always liked trying to figure things out, and since cozy’s are usually series’ as well these were a perfect fit. While there are many cozy’s that I love my favorite is probably the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris. Harris is most well known for her True Blood books, and while I enjoy those as well, it was her earlier books that I fell for. What I like most about Aurora was actually how she broke from the typical cozy mode while still staying true to the heart of the genre. For example, there is no love triangle, an aspect of cozy’s that often bothers me. I also found a lot of similarities between Aurora and myself.
As a teacher I also find myself reading a lot of young adult and middle grade stories. Most recently I have found the books by Rick Riordan. He has five different series, but they all connect to each other. Each follows a different teenage hero who has just discovered they are the child of a god (or goddess). These books seamlessly interweave Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Viking mythology with today’s technological, modern world. I find them a fantastic tool to teach these classic stories that my students are often find boring. And as a reader, well they are just fun!
Many pairs of glasses later, books still influence me as a writer and as a person. Reading often inspires me to write and I am always looking for fun new suggestions.
The first book series that I loved was Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer. The initial three books in the series were absolute favorites when I was young. Both the characters and plot have stayed with me to this day, to the point that I could actively talk to my ten year old sister about them without a refresher. I have a horrible memory, anything that leaves that much of an impression is amazing.
After that was the series that influenced almost everyone; Harry Potter. I don't think I need to say more.
Then I found Neil Gaiman. I particularly loved the variety of genres and art forms he wrote for. No matter what he was writing the plot was wonderful and the characters felt so real. It was while reading Neil Gaiman books I realized that I wanted to become a writer.
Most recently I learned about Brandon Sanderson. He wrote a letter for NaNoWriMo writers during my second year as an Municipal Liaison. At the bottom of the heartfelt letter there was a link to his first novel, Elantris. The letter had piqued my interest, so I downloaded a sample onto my Kindle to look at after November. During a break I decided I really needed to completely distract myself from the novel I was writing. "20 minutes of reading should do the trick...." The next day, after no sleep and no writing I finished reading Elantris. I was instantly in love with the characters, the magic system, the writing, and the complex tangle of subplots. The bar was placed higher. I put that book down knowing I wanted, needed, to write something as good as that book.
Since then my writing has grown. I've read all of Neil's blog posts, listened to over half of Writing Excuses, and have started to watch Brandon Sanderson's writing classes on YouTube. All have been a huge influence on my writing journey!
As a writer, I spin tales to take the reader away from everyday life, if only for a few hours. However, becoming a published author and reaching readers is a struggle. Writers sit in front of laptops and tap away in hopes of creating the next great American novel. But what happens after the manuscript is written and edited?
It was a dilemma for a few of my fellow writers and me. One Sunday night at Denny’s we pondered the question. Sending query letters to publishers is nerve wrecking. It takes the stars to be aligned just right to connect and get a contract.
We knew there had to be another solution. Yes, self-publishing on Amazon is an option, but the writers at the Sunday Night Write In knew there had to be other alternatives. So in January, the idea of starting a publishing company for authors in the 518 was spawned.
The 518 Publishing Company, LLC has been created to help writers in the 518 to publication. We will make it happen.