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.”
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’.”
We’ve all heard of NaNoWriMo. That crazy month of November when we do nothing but write. What many people don’t know is that there are two other months for writing. NaNo calls the months of April and July “Camp” months. The goal here is similar to that of November, but there are some differences.
The first difference is your goal. During November you have to write 50,000 words. Camp is much more flexible. You choose your own goal, any amount you want. This allows people with busy lives to be more realistic about what they can do. It also let’s overachievers show their progress. You can also change your goal as you go, usually until the last week of the month when winning starts. That way if life got in the way you can still win, or if you’re doing better than expected you can surge ahead. This year my goal is 15,000. I think that this will be enough to finish my current work-in-progress.
That is another difference with camp. NaNo asks you to start a new project, Camp does not. You can if you want to, but you can also continue an old one, or use the time to edit or revise. Basically, as long as you are working on some type of writing, it works. I often use camp to finish the novels I start in November.
Another major addition to Camp is Cabins. Cabins allow you to have a specific group of writers to talk to. During NaNo we have the message boards. Cabins are more like a chat with a smaller group. There are a few ways to get a cabin. I usually form a cabin with people from the local NaNo group. We add as many people as we can and often end up with more than one cabin. One person sets it up and then adds the others. I like doing this because these people already know my stories and personality, so I don’t have to explain myself as much. You can also get added to a random cabin. You just select this option and the powers that be put you with a group. This can be interesting because you are interacting with new people.
Overall I like the flexibility that Camp gives, especially as someone who works, a lot. It gives me the motivation I need but at a pace that works better for my life. Happy writing everyone!
NaNoWriMo is an incredible undertaking for anyone. 50,000 words in only 30 days is a lot. I have participated four times now and won twice. I failed last year due to working three jobs and also attempting to have a life. This year I had been hoping it would be different. I was down one job and had my mornings free. Surely I would use them to write and get something new finished.
Well I failed. Miserably. Even worse than last year. As of this writing I have fewer than 7,000 words. According to the website I will finish in June! And you know what, I don’t care. Sure, it would have been great to finish. “Winning” would have been awesome, a great accomplishment that I could share with friends and family. But the thing is, “losing” is great too. I may not have a lot done, but I got words on paper. I introduced new characters and plot lines along the way. I cleared my head of some things that were bothering me.
Most importantly I learned more about myself as a writer and a person. I learned to prioritize. Writing is important to me, and I still take time out every week to do a little, but family, friends, work, and sleep are more important. I am slowly learning how to space these things out in my life, and doing so will only help my writing process. I remembered how difficult it is for me to write at home where I am distracted.
Even though I “failed” at writing 50,000 I succeeded in a lot of ways. I can still feel good about this. So even if your writing experience is going poorly, remember that there is always some good to be found while writing, no matter where or how you find it.
~Rachael Miller Crawford
You've made it through the rest of the month with your word count intact. Now, like any good book, a new challenge comes forward that you, the main character, needs to overcome. This time it's the dreaded holidays.
That's right, Thanksgiving is near. Christmas presents must be amassed, traveling must be done, weather fretted about, and then comes the biggest time eater of all: socializing.
How will the main character survive this time?
Some lock themselves up in the bathroom and write words in their phone, hoping that auto correct doesn't mangle them up too much to figure out their meaning in December. Others spend extra money on a train ticket and spend the traveling time in a novel writing frenzy. Still others will determine that the traveling time is really the issue. They'll be the ones who offer to host and cook. Throw the turkey in the oven, quickly vacuum the first floor, and then twiddle down the hours by writing while bathed in the scents of home cooking.
1) You're the main character. You want to win this, and us, the readers, are rooting for you every step of the way.
2) Main characters want something and then they make a plan to get it. You should make a plan, schedule out time to write every day, even on the holidays, and then stick to it as best you can. While the best plans may fail, the plan is a start.
3) When main characters fail they make a new plan and keep going. When plans go askew they do they best they can, and that's ok. As Confucius said thousands of years ago. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall."
As a writer with a day job, I often struggle to find the time to actually write. Sure I spend night and day with ideas and characters swimming around in my head, occasionally keeping me up at night. But the time to actually sit down in front of the blank screen of my laptop and put those ideas on paper, it simply doesn’t exist. Add into that family and friends and forget it. My novel may just stay in my head.
This is how it went for years. My novel sat in my head, sleeping, just waiting for me to find the time. Then I found NaNoWriMo. What a great idea I thought, a way to force myself into putting my ideas on paper (or screen as the case may be). And it was only for a month, so if it didn’t work, no big deal.
Well, it did work. Here I sit, almost four years later, having written two and half novels and numerous short stories, and most importantly having found a group of friends who get it. Every week we MAKE time for writing. We leave our jobs, family, and friends for the night and write. Sure we talk and gossip, but when it comes down to it this diverse group of people is there for one thing, to write. Thanks to this group I now feel like I can truly call myself a writer, my words are on paper. I have written something.
My advice to all of you out there who say, “well, I have all these ideas but when am I going to have time” is to just do it. Find a group, or a space, or anything that motivates you, and write!