Interview with Elan Barnehama

 

Elan Barnehama, Contemporary Fiction Writer

Continuing in this series of interviews with my Running Wild Anthology colleagues, it’s my pleasure to welcome Elan Barnehama. His story, “Just Be,” truly moved me.

Welcome, Elan!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing. What do you like best to write?
I like writing flash fiction and novels. Opposite ends of the story spectrum – but I like the way they influence each other.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
I would say my stories are more character driven as I like knowing who people are, who characters are. Of course, it’s impossible to separate who they are from how they are in a situation. So maybe the easy answer is both. Clearly, plot influences the choices a character makes, but how they respond reveals who they are.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
When I read EAST OF EDEN as a kid – my mother gave it to me– I loved it and it was the first time I thought to see what else a writer had written. That was followed by falling in love and in awe of the characters and the writing of J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Dylan, and others. Later Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon came and knocked me over.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I was born and raised in New York City, and while I have lived away from the city more than I lived in it, New York continues to be a large part of who I am. But I have also spent time in Los Angeles, and it’s become a part of me and is the setting of the novel I am working on.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
My story in the anthology, “Just Be,” is an excerpt from my novel, ESCAPE ROUTE – which is making rounds with agents/publishers. Since the Anthology was published, another excerpt of Escape Route, “Raining In The Holy Land,” was published in JewishFiction.net, September 2018.

In July, I had a new piece of flash fiction, “Snowflakes and Earthquakes,” published by DrunkMonkeys.us. A book I helped edit, “A Mile In Our Shoes — Personal Stories of Global Journeys,” will be published by Whyte Tracks Publisher, Denmark, in September 2018. And, my flash story, “Everyone to Dance,” will be published in the October issue of BostonAccent.com.

What do you plan to work on next?
I am working on a new novel about starting over and taking risks that is set in Los Angeles.

How can readers connect with you?

Twitter: @elanbarnehama
Website: elanbarnehama.com
Facebook: facebook.com/elan.barnehama
Instagram: elan32
Email: Elan32@gmail.com

Thank you for joining me on my blog, Elan! I’m happy to hear of your ongoing publications and wish you many more to come.

Interview with Author Rebecca House

Rebecca House, Writer of Dark Fiction

To continue celebrating the six-month anniversary of RUNNING WILD ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES VOL. 2 , I’m delighted to welcome author Rebecca House. Her story, Visiting Friends, left me chilled and rather wide-eyed, honestly.

Welcome, Rebecca!

Our Anthology, as several people have commented to me, has an evocative cover that hints at a collage of varied stories inside.

 

What part of the cover reminds you of your story?
There is a picture of what appears to be a body lying face-up on the ground. It’s a good hint at where my story ends up.

What element would you hypothetically add to the cover to hint at your story?
I may have added a ghostly figure looking down at the body.

What do you like best to write?
My writing leans towards dark fiction. I like to explore the darker aspects of the natural and supernatural worlds or more precisely, what is it that drives people to the edge either in struggling with their own personal demons, external forces or both combined. Sometimes I just like to throw a character into a tension-filled situation and see what happens.

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
Romance. The style of writing I lean towards does not naturally lend itself to typical commercial romances. Now in saying that, gothic romance, that I could do and have done in another published short story titled, “Frozen Beauty.”

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
Definitely character-driven. With a psychology background I love to poke around in the inner world of people, dead or alive.

What authors did you love most as a kid? And now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
As a kid I was drawn to mystery/thrillers like Nancy Drew and Christopher Pike. That evolved to a slight obsession with Anne Rice, Tolkien and Stephen King as a teenager. Now, I read so many different kinds of authors. Interestingly, because I write darker fiction I’m not as drawn to read it (which I should!) but instead like to sit with a good literary novel, Marian Keyes or non-fiction.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I am very influenced by setting of places I have lived and travelled. “Visiting Friends” was interesting because I wrote about a place I researched whereas a lot of the settings in my other stories are typically based on a place from my past or present. I’ve used my hometown in Southwestern Ontario, my grandparent’s farm where I spent a lot of time as a child and of course my current home in Prince Edward County. One story was a combination of where I live now and the French countryside and a small costal town in Spain called Tossa del Mar. I love wandering in places and often take pictures of setting, buildings or scenes that catch my fancy and use them as prompts for a lot of my stories.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Actually, “Visiting Friends,” was one of the first short stories I wrote that I felt captured what my style of short story writing was – it opened up creative flood of short stories that I wrote over a year and felt confident enough to submit.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
Since the Anthology launched I’ve had two other short stories published. One called “Monika Unraveling” in Weirdbook Magazine #39, and an online story production site, thebreakroomstories.com, published one of my previously published short stories, “Silent Houses.”

What do you plan to work on next?
This past summer I took a bit of a writing break so now I’m back at it. I have a few short stories I am submitting and a whack of them to finish. I also am working on my third novel and debating whether to finish it or fine tune my two other manuscripts. Decisions, decisions.

And finally, a question from your own interview of other authors that you would like to answer:

Are you a panster or a plotter?
I am a panster by nature. For various reasons, time constraints and how my brain works, I need to let a story or character develop organically and sometimes in frantic spurts. I akin it to an Advent calendar and opening up those little doors to get glimpses of plot or follow the story/character. I have to be very disciplined to sit down and commit to a plot, which I have done when it needs to be done, but it’s not my nature of writing. It can be good and frustrating to write. I’ve learned to write an outline on longer projects, although I’ll go through at least two or three until the story reveals itself enough for me to make sense of a manuscript.

How can readers connect with you?
www.smalltowngal.com. All my social media information is there as well as links to my blogs and where to find my published works.

Thank you for having me answer the questions! I hope the readers liked the entire anthology. It was great to work with Running Wild Press and meet an amazing group of authors.

I agree entirely, Rebecca – the Anthology is full of excellent stories, and it’s a pleasure to get to know some of you. Thanks for taking part in my blog!

Interview with Author Tori Eldridge

Tori Eldridge, Suspense Writer

Today, Sept. 15th, marks the six-month anniversary of when I became a published author, and I want to celebrate!

In honor of RUNNING WILD ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES Vol. 2 I’m delighted to feature author Tori  Eldridge. Her story, Life After Breath, made my heart race and left me honestly breathless.

Welcome, Tori!

First, a bit about the Anthology and your story.
A number of people have commented that the Anthology has got a beautifully evocative cover, and that it hints at many varied stories inside.

What part of the cover reflects/reminds you of your story?

There’s an element of nostalgia in the cover of our Anthology that reflects my protagonist’s state of mind as she strolls into an ominous fog along the beach. Memories of her late husband and regret for what they’ve lost is a driving force.

What element would you hypothetically add to the cover to hint at your story?
I would have loved for the anthology cover to suggest the ocean or, better yet, a glimpse of a dark and grasping kelp bed. That would have been awesome.

Now a bit about your writing in general:
What do you like best to write?

I gravitate toward suspense, often, as with my short story Life After Breath, involving psychological tension and some aspect of the supernatural. I also enjoy stories steeped in culture, either from my own multi-cultural heritage or other intriguing and especially exotic cultures. And naturally, as a 5th degree black belt ninja, I do tend to sprinkle in some action. *wink*

What’s the biggest stretch for you to write?
The biggest stretch for me to write is anything I know nothing about. On the other hand, I love learning. So an assignment that takes me out of my comfort zone always leads me to some cool research from which an unexpected story emerges.

Where do your stories fall on the plot-driven vs. character-driven spectrum?
Right in the middle. I like to keep a story moving with action, turning points, reversals, and climax. But at the same time, I am fascinated by the human condition—the commonality of our internal struggles with love, loss, fear, integrity… everything that speaks to the core of what makes us human, as well as our unique perspectives that make us so different. I love those gray areas where the line between villain and saint get muddled and you find out too late you’ve have it all wrong.

What authors did you love most as a kid? Now? What authors have influenced your writing most?
As a kid, I was often too serious for my own good, so my favorite authors were Pearl S. Buck, Leon Uris, James Clavell, and later Stephen King, Ann Rice, and Michael Crichton.
When I became serious about writing, I paid attention to Ken Follett, Barbara Kingsolver, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel series), Lisa See, Jonathan Maberry, and Lisa Gardner.

Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
I was born and raised in Hawaii, which is unlike anywhere in the world. Not only do Hawaiians have our own rich culture, language, and heritage but we also benefit from the cultures of people who populated our islands during the plantation era, most notably the Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Samoans, and Caucasian missionaries, seafarers, and colonists. Many cultures. Many perspectives. Growing up in Hawaii has not only influenced my writing but how I look at the world.

What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of or happy with?
My first short story, Call Me Dumpling, was published in Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2014 issue and remains one of my favorites. In fact, it inspired a novel and a potential mystery thriller series.

What have you been up to since the Anthology came out? Any other news?
In the last six months, I finished the revisions of one novel, began the sequel to another, wrote a short story, and am currently working on a new novel inspired by another of my short stories. It sounds like a lot, but I’ve been approaching it all in a relaxed way since I’m still building back my strength and agility from hip surgery!

What do you plan to work on next?
I’m having a blast writing my dystopian futuristic thriller.

How can readers connect with you?
Readers can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, of course, my website torieldridge.com. Just google Tori Eldridge and I’ll pop up everywhere.

Thank you for helping me celebrate our Anthology’s semi-anniversary, Tori!

 

Summer Reading

Summer is almost over, which makes me a bit wistful and nostalgic. When I was a kid, one of my favorite summer activities was going to the library with my mom. She would take me to the kids’ section and go to the adjacent adult section (those were different times; I could never recommend such a thing now). I loved going through the shelves and taking down all the books I wanted to check out. By the time my mom came to get me, I needed her help to get them all to the checkout desk! I devoured them at home, and was ready to check out more by the time they were due.

 

Old Favorite, Secondhand from Library

In other words, I LOVED summer reading.

BUT – if my school had required me to read specified books over the summer, I would have HATED it. I would have resented that chore and put it off until the last possible moment. And then I would’ve approached the required readings with such a chip on my shoulder, I might not even have enjoyed books which otherwise I would have loved, if I had just been given the choice to read them.

If this is true of me, an avid booklover, what must it be like for kids who don’t love to read, and for those who struggle with the process?

I do understand why so many schools put a great deal of emphasis on reading over the summer: to keep and build reading skills, and keep kids’ minds active. I entirely respect that. But is forcing kids to read really the way to do that?

When I worked as a bookseller, every spring the dreaded reading lists would come in. And I would be filled with sympathy for the kids. For one thing, the lists were patently unfair. Some kids got to read popular novels by the likes of John Grisham or Stephen King, while other kids had to read things like the nonfiction book First They Killed My Father. I have absolutely no doubt that the latter is worthwhile to read, but in that case, why not have the kids read it during school when they could discuss it, and then help them process the difficult material?

Many kids had long and specific lists they had to read over the summer. Heavens to Murgatroyd, there was required reading for kindergartners! Again I ask, is forcing a kid to read the way to nurture a life-long love of reading? I have to think the answer is NO.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and… play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” Why make such onerous work out of something that could be a joy?

Why not do something like libraries around the country are doing? My local library system hosts Summer Reading for kids of all ages and adults. It varies from library to library and between age groups, but what I’ve seen are things like game boards for the younger kids and bingo cards for the older students and adults.

Reading for Fun

You get to fill in a spot when you finish a book or do other fun things – like go to a library program, write a book review, or design a book cover.

Then you get raffle tickets for gift baskets of cool things, like movie candy with vouchers for free DVD rentals, and gift cards for everything from grocery stores (for adults) to concerts, plays, and music lessons. And for students, books read must be age- and reading-level appropriate. The library offers lists for reading suggestions, for example from the YA Library Services Association and Teen Reads. Note that they emphasize to the kids “a book YOU want to read.” They also encourage kids to ask the Youth librarians for help. And the teens get a pizza party at the end of the summer. How cool is that!

Reading by Choice

I tell you what: I took part in the adult program, and it was great fun!

Libraries absolutely do rock!

Reading Fun for Adults

Pennwriters Conference 2018

Every May, writers, editors, and agents gather in Pennsylvania for three days to share their knowledge, wisdom, and passion about the art and business of writing. I know I’ll always come home from the conference inspired and brimming with ideas; it’s reason enough alone to belong to Pennwriters, and there are many others.

One of the great delights is connecting with people who share this passion. This year, I had the pleasure of meeting my Running Wild Anthology colleague Suzanne Mattaboni, a gifted writer who is also a local Pennwriter representative.

She put together a beautiful raffle basket full of goodies and books by Pennwriters – among them the RW Anthology which features a trio of us Pennwriters, including Susan Helene Gottfried, another talented writer and an editor (I’ve really enjoyed emailing with her and wish she could’ve come so I could meet her).

I contributed a few items to the basket, clues to some of the RW Anthology stories. You can just spot them in the photo: seed packets for “Bee Heaven” and “Holy Basil” (for my story, “Last Memory”); a bag of pirate gold (for Cindy Cavett’s fun “Rehoboth Beach Break”); and a tiny Excalibur (for Amelia Kibbie’s touching “The Idylls of the King”). And the “Seaglass” candle (furnished by Suzanne) fits well with Laura Selinsky’s poignant “Seawall.” Curious how these mysterious things fit in with the stories? Look into the Anthology and find out!

Three of my critique group friends were there this year, and hanging out and comparing notes with them was excellent fun. It was thrilling to see E. Williams win second place in the Pennwriters Annual Contest for short fiction with her story “Cici Accepts the Facts” (find out more on her website). And my friends Katrina and Rowan got requests for their manuscripts from more than one agent. Congratulations, my friends!

I was so pleased that Suzanne won third place for her short, “A Trailer Full of Cadillacs,” in the “In Other Words” contest (and that her daughter won first place in the poetry division! A lot of talent in that family).

Though “In Other Words” is a small and informal contest, it’s judged by attendees, and it’s an honor to be voted for by your peers. I was delighted that my short story tied for third place (not with Suzanne, as it happens).

As always, the conference had so many great workshops, I had to make tough choices. Once I got home, it took me weeks to edit all my notes and distill the wisdom that I can use here, now, and soon. Here is a tiny sampling from just a handful of the excellent presenters.

Don Helin, award-winning writer of thrillers, presented a lively, good-humored workshop on “Writing a Marketing Plan.”

A few tidbits for my present use:

• Develop a press kit; if you were going to write an article on yourself, what would you need?
• Develop a non-fiction hook: some fact that ties into your stories, to catch the attention of people who might promote your work. It can even work with fantasy. (I’m still working on what to tie into my fantasy in progress; it might have to do with the legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows.)
• Keep your website up to date…good advice I’m working on right now!
• Keep writing! Publishers want the next book. And for me, none of this matters if I don’t get to keep putting my stories into words.

 

Kathryn Craft, award-winning author and freelance developmental editor, talked about how to “Play Jenga with your Prose.”

Intriguing title, isn’t it? First, she and an audience member defined just what jenga is for those of us ignorant: a game where you start with a short, solid tower of wooden blocks and take out one at a time to stack them on top, ending (before it falls) with a taller, airier tower.

Her key point: overwriting builds a wall between the author and the reader. So…make holes in the wall and beckon to the reader through them. She gave eloquent examples from excellent authors.
Things I found particularly useful have to do with setting:
• Save description until it counts and something interesting happens.
• Make details meaningful.
• Consider ways to make setting interactive.
• Give details that anchor the reader in your world.
• Use the setting to support the plot.

 

Hallie Ephron, NYT bestselling author, talked about “Parallel Tracks: From Back Story to Front Story.”

One of her many helpful ideas is to chart your characters in relationship to your protagonist:
• Draw arrows toward the protagonist if they’re helping and away from if they’re hindering.
• You need a mix of push and pull.
• Some characters may do both.
• If there aren’t many arrows pointing away from protagonist, there’s probably not enough conflict in your story.
• You may need more characters, or hidden goals in existing characters.
• The protagonist can be hindering themselves.

And she highlighted the concept of Parallax: where you’re standing determines what you see.
• Different people will believe different things.
• What lies do characters believe, what truths do they doubt?
• What really happened, vs. what people think happened?

 

In “World Building 101,” multi-talented fantasy writer Jack Hillman presented a treasure trove of things to consider.

Some essential points:
• Make sure you know the backstory for your world.
• Your world will determine, at least in part, your people.
• Build your society around your world, and your conflict around all these factors.
• BUT don’t tell the reader everything about the world backstory. Let them figure some out themselves.

 

With a great deal of humor and hard-won wisdom, Western writer R.G. Yoho shared “What NOT to do as an Author.”

Some key things that stuck with me:
• Remember: the manuscript you don’t finish can’t be improved.
• Don’t let others define success for you.
• Enjoy the successes along the way, and enjoy the ride.
• It’s amazing how many ‘yeses’ you’ll hear if you’re not afraid to hear ‘no.”

 

Finally, with great verve and energy, Donna Galanti shared much helpful, practical information about “School Visits 101.”

Having been to some of her workshops and read her excellently fun Joshua and the Lightning Road I only wish I were a kid lucky enough to have her visit MY school!

These are just hints and samplings of what these presenters, and many more, had to offer. I’m still digesting this feast of information. Now it’s time to put it into use, and get back to writing!

First Book Signing

Poster by Cindy Cavett

 

When Cindy Cavett  invited me and Laura Selinsky (@huzzahlns)  to join her for a book signing in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, at first I hesitated. Rehoboth is a long drive from where I live. But it’s the setting for Cindy’s fun pirate tale, and Laura’s lovely and poignant story Seawall is also set along a beach, so the place is perfect for the occasion. Laura gladly accepted Cindy’s invitation, though it’s a longer drive for her. And to turn down my first chance at a book signing would be nuts! So, Carpe Diem! (You should understand this upfront: I am such a word nerd, this is on one of my favorite t-shirts. You’ve been duly warned.)

Bright and early on April 21st, my husband and I got to downtown Rehoboth. Excited, I spotted the big green awning of Browseabout Books, our host for the signing  (I love how the sea lurks in their name).

Art by Susan Thornberg : Postcard from Browseabout Books, Rehoboth, DE

Honestly, running late is my norm, but for this event we were so very early, the friendly young lady behind the counter told me they wouldn’t even set up for another half hour.

I could have easily gotten lost among the books and treasures in Browseabout, but that would’ve been chancy — it can be difficult to extricate me from a bookstore. Besides, it was a beautiful spring day. So my husband and I went out to walk Rehoboth’s handsome boardwalk under the blue sky and brilliant sun. The town was pleasantly bustling, the air was fresh and crisp, and frothy waves crashed on the beach – a perfect and invigorating stroll. Any other day, I would have been happy to walk with no mind of the time. But today we had an Event! We found the lovely bandstand, central to the pirate’s exploits in Cindy’s story, and it guided us back to the main street and Browseabout.

Printed by www.LanternPress.com Postcard from Browseabout Books, Rehoboth, DE

Cindy arrived just before us. We had never met, but we hugged like friends – the camaraderie of writers! My lovely critique partner Laura soon joined us, and there were excited greetings and introductions. The bookstore staff made us wonderfully welcome at a table in a prime location just inside the door, covering it with a sea-green tablecloth that perfectly matched Cindy’s shawl. Synchronicity!

Cindy’s husband and brother-in-law helped us set up. She had brought lots of fun things to bedeck the table: a chest overflowing with chocolate gold coins, a treasure map, a miniature telescope Laura and I had fun playing with. I brought pieces-of-eight replica coins (because I’m also a history nerd and such things delight me), and a small brass figurine of Bastet. (Why Bastet? One of my anthology stories gives an inkling). I think she brought us luck!

Before long, people began showing up. It was heartwarming how many friends of Cindy’s came to support her and buy our anthology. They were the first people whose books we had the pleasure of signing.

I’ll tell you – that was a bit of a thrill. I had practiced my rusty cursive ahead of time and decided what I would write – and still my hands were rather vibrating with the delight of it.

We greeted incoming customers and welcomed them to our book signing, and lo and behold, many came up to take a look at the books and pause to chat. One man had a remarkable connection: he had gone to school many years ago with a different author in the book. Though she now lives in Florida, and his home is out West, by chance he was in Delaware in time for the book signing! More synchronicity.

We also got to talk to aspiring writers, young and old, and this meant a lot to me. We all gave them encouraging words: if you want to write, do. Put words to paper. Tell your stories. Find support like good critique partners, as Laura urged, and good groups, as Cindy suggested. You’re neither too young or too old. And though publishing can be hard, there are opportunities, like Running Wild Press, where the publisher looks for excellent writing that hasn’t found a niche.

The two hours sped by. By the end, the stacks of books had dwindled to just a few – we had sold most of the copies, and most of them to people who did not even know us! And the best parts were the camaraderie and conversation with readers and writers.

Many, many thanks to Cindy for arranging the event and inviting us, and to Browseabout Books for being such welcoming hosts. And to Running Wild Press, who made all this possible through their mission to give voice to the imaginations of authors whose work may transcend typical genres.

If you’re near the Delaware beaches on Sat., May 12th, you can meet Cindy at Browseabout Books’ launch party for Beach Love! I think you’ll find both Cindy and the bookstore delightful.

Anytime you’re in the area, visit Browseabout to see the vast variety of treasures they offer (among them, the beautiful postcards on this page). And if you’re looking for more great stories, you can find them at Running Wild Press.

If you want to connect with my wonderful book signing colleagues:

find Cindy at https://seasidecindy.com and on social media @seasidecindy

and Laura on Twitter at @huzzahlns.

Happy Reading!

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