Even more importantly, Amelia’s book Legendary is a story where kindness, love, and courage shine light through a time of fear and uncertainty. I loved it, and it’s a good book to read in these uncertain times.
It took a series of unexpected events to bring this novel to life. This is the story of my story.
I love to cruise writing websites to look for contests and calls for submissions, as many of us probably do. I saw a call for submissions for an LGBT romance anthology called Heart of Steel. The submission guidelines requested an LGBT romance featuring knights. As a lover of fantasy and someone who understands the importance of representation, I was ecstatic to write something for the anthology, and read the stories others had written.
I wanted to write something different, something unexpected. How could I include a knight without setting my story in medieval Europe or some kind of Lord of the Rings rip-off fantasy setting? The idea came to me that a character in the story might not be a literal knight, but could have a heart of steel regardless. What if someone in modern times found a suit of armor and put it on?
I thought about the kind of story that I needed to read as a young person. A story with LGBT protagonists who were realistic, not stereotypes. A story with a same-sex romance that ended happily. So happily it was cheesy, like a fairy tale. A legendary ending. Because LGBT characters deserve the chance to have such an ending, and readers need it in their minds and hearts as well, especially those struggling with their sexuality and how their families and society might react.
So, I wrote a story about two outcasts who find each other, and the legendary love that blossoms. James and Arthur are bullied by their peers for different reasons, and this cruelty increases tenfold when they are sent out of London with their classmates to avoid the Nazi Blitz. Arthur, empowered by the legends of King Arthur Pendragon, finds the courage to don the armor and stand up for James.
Authors often love the things they write, their darlings, I suppose — but there was something about this story that gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I rarely cry, but I cried as I wrote the ending, and simply talking about the story would get me emotional. Imagine how I felt when the story was rejected by the anthology.
I continued to submit it, even though it was an awkward length and a niche genre. Rejection, rejection, rejection. Then, I heard about Running Wild Press’santhology of stories. Expecting a rejection, I sent them my story “Idylls of the King.” When it was accepted, I cried again. At last, James and Arthur’s story could reach readers.
I thought my heart would explode right out of my chest when, one day, I got an email from Lisa Kaestner, editor of Running Wild. She said, simply, that she’d like to see a novel based on the characters I created in “Idylls of the King.” I worked closely with her to develop an outline that she felt would produce a book that Running Wild would be interested in publishing. I brought readers forward in time to James and Arthur as young men in 1950s London as they struggled with prejudice and rough patches in their relationship as they travel cross country to solve the mystery of a close friend’s dying words. I included the original short story as a flashback. Three drafts and two beta readers later, I had a manuscript for Running Wild’s Benjamin White to edit. Long story short, my book was published in November of 2019.
I wanted to share my journey for a couple of reasons. First, if you are a writer, don’t give up after a few rejections. Often, you’ll hear stories about famous writers being rejected multiple times until finding success. Yet, there’s always some part of me when I read those stories that doesn’t believe them. But I’m here to tell you as a real person that you shouldn’t give up. Keep submitting! Keep querying!
Secondly, if you truly believe in representation in fiction for a marginalized community, it’s your duty to keep submitting until someone says yes. We need these stories in the hands of readers who come from these groups, especially young readers. Write the book that you needed in the past. You never know what kind of impact you may have on someone’s life.
News about Covid-19 is everywhere. It spans from the global to the local. Even if we are fortunate enough not to be sick with it in the present, worry about it can seem to be everywhere we look.
As a counterbalance to this worry, I have been gathering wisdom from several sources – some sent to me by kind friends and family. A good friend connected me with an article written March 17th by Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist and contributor to The Atlantic. This resonated with me:
“Of course, it’s normal to feel anxiety right now, and while we need to allow ourselves the space to feel these feelings, we also need to give ourselves the space to let them go.”
I found an echo of this from one of my favorite writers: Maggie Stiefvater. Her modern fantasies are lyrical, and her Twitter and blog are often wryly funny while making trenchant observations. She’s been frank about having OCD and how she deals with it, for instance. On March 12th, she wrote about dealing with the news about Cov-d-19, and though her audience has lots of teens, I find a lot of wisdom for myself in her words:
Maggie Stiefvater @mstiefvater ·Mar 12
I know a lot of my readers are Freaking the Hell Out™ today, so some internet advice from this OCD author:
set a time for WHEN you allow yourself to read news (i.e. every 6 hours)
set a time limit for HOW LONG to read (i.e. 15 minutes)
be mindful of negative coping behaviors that feel logical, but are not
remember that perceived disaster doesn’t give you permission to perform negative behaviors
remind yourself of specific times, if necessary, that giving in to them have made the situation worse overall
set up a daily goal unrelated to the news: i.e., finishing that novel you were reading, cleaning your closet
set up hopeful long-term plans for much later in the year and when anxious, focus on that minutia instead
do all that you can to help the situation personally, and then allow yourself to step out of the information loop until your next scheduled time
if necessary, completely opt out and recruit a friend to disseminate necessary news to you
sometimes this means putting your phone someplace you cannot get it, or sitting outside with the cat looking wistfully over all the land that will one day be Simba’s
Finally: This list isn’t just relevant to this week; it’s relevant to our entire high-paced, high stakes news cycle. Be informed as you need. Be able to step away for perspective and health.
Establish psychological protocols for yourself now and you’ll use them again later.
P.S. teens, I know it’s especially psychologically difficult because you’re shifting from an understanding that adults are supposed to be informed & want to take care of you.
The news, as a complete animal, doesn’t want to take care of you. It just wants you to engage.
And here is more from Lori Gottlieb: “In being confined to our homes as much as possible, whether alone or together, we have an opportunity to embrace the ordinary—to play board games, cook meals, watch entire TV seasons, read books, take walks, do puzzles, get those art supplies out of the back of the closet, catch up with people we “meant to call” weeks or months ago and make one another laugh—precisely because our busy routines have been disrupted.”
This lovely graphic was sent to me by a dear friend, Danila Székely, who is also a life-coach:
Another good friend just today told me about Yo-Yo Ma’s mission to share Songs of Comfort — beautiful music from him and other musicians shared from their homes to ours. Among other places, you can find out more about this on Silkroad Home Sessions. This is a wonderful way to spend some time freed up by moving away from the news.
If you live in the northern hemisphere in a temperate zone, Spring is here. This is true even if you’re in the middle of a blizzard (which I hope you’re not). Where I grew up, March snow is common, and so was the sight of crocuses blooming in the snow, bravely and beautifully. They not only blossomed – they survived. We can be like the crocuses – or at least we can see and be heartened by their beautiful resilience.
Spring is every bit a real and true as Covid-19. And Spring is the triumph of Earth and Life over an adversary far more ancient than this virus. That is worth being mindful of, and worth celebrating.
Wishing you all light and comfort in these uncharted times.
I’m very pleased to continue my series of Running WildAnthology of Stories author interviews with Jenn Powers. Her story, “A Friend’s Text,” captured my senses with its vivid imagery and my emotions with the plight of the main character.
Gemma: Please give us a taste of what your story is about.
Jenn: My short story, “A Friend’s Text,” is about a woman who has an epiphany that helps lead her out of an unhealthy love affair with a married millionaire.
Gemma: Do you remember what the seed for this story was?
Jenn: Yes, I do. I fictionalized a similar relationship I had fallen into myself. During that relationship, I always felt like I was betraying my true self—the core of who I am. Once I decided to do the right thing and end the relationship, it was completely life-altering and empowering, even though the pain was immense. I think this scenario is, unfortunately, too common. I hope my story will inspire others to find it within themselves to do the right thing if they’re in an unhealthy relationship, which comes in many forms.
Gemma: That is truly a powerful mission, and I can see your story being a positive catalyst. Can you tell us a little about your writing history?
Jenn: I started journaling when I was 15 years old. It was a way for me to soothe my emotions since I was quite lonely and I didn’t have many people I could trust or open up to. Journaling turned into a survival mechanism. Being able to spill out my troubles onto the blank page became (and still is) very therapeutic.
Gemma: Writing can be such a healing process, and to be able to share that is a gift. I found out from your website that you’re an artist as well as a writer. Does art have a therapeutic effect for you like writing does?
Jenn: Absolutely. Whenever I’m being creative or out in nature, I lose myself. It’s very in-the-moment mindfulness. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, even as a child, and so, early on I found ways to tend to that. I figured out how to self-soothe with art and nature. I journaled throughout my teens and the writing sort of bloomed in different directions from there. I can say the same thing regarding art. Painting, drawing, photography. One feeds the other. And both feed me. It’s symbiotic.
Eventually, I played around with creative writing, such as flash fiction and short stories. By my 30s, I started to pursue it seriously and I got my first short story publication in 2012.
Gemma: I’d like to hear more about that.
Jenn: My first publication was in The MacGuffin in 2012, a short story about domestic violence. It’s titled “Some of Us.” I’m proud of this piece because it’s important to keep violence against women (and men) at the forefront.
Gemma: That’s truly something to be proud of, and a vital message. Can you tell a little more about your writing history?
Jenn: I kept at the craft, sporadically, while living life and working a multitude of jobs. Around 30 to 33 years old, I took writing more seriously. I wrote several days per week, and now, about eight years later, I have around 70 publications in literary journals. (Half art, half writing.)
Jenn: I earned an MFA in 2014 and I plan on applying to PhD programs this year.
Gemma: That’s impressive and exciting! What are some of your recent publications?
Gemma: Very cool to have so many stories published in so short a period! How has your writing changed over time?
Jenn: I’m continuously growing as a writer. It’s a constant learning process, and, for me, there’s no end point. I improve every year. And, like anything, the more you work at something, the better you get at it.
Gemma: What do you like best to write?
Jenn: Drama, thriller, mystery.
Gemma: What’s the biggest challenge for you to write?
Jenn: I tried writing in other genres, like romance. But it doesn’t work for me. I write about the dark stuff. I’ve experienced some crazy situations. I’ve been a victim many times over, but I’d rather call myself a survivor. As a survivor, I empower myself through writing, and I believe my past experiences have molded my style and preferences.
Gemma: And good stories, like “A Friend’s Text,” can empower readers in turn. When you get an idea for a story, what comes to mind first, the plot or the characters? Or does it vary from story to story?
Jenn: It varies from story to story. It might even be a feeling, a song, a landscape or place that makes me feel something. When I sense that dip of inspiration, I stop to explore where it’s coming from. Does it remind me of something or someone? Does it reconnect me with a lost emotion? My ideas come from the strangest places and my inspiration is super-fickle. I’ll sit there frustrated for hours, take a break and go for a walk or run, and an idea will hit me. Boom! Just like that. Easy-peasy. Taking the pressure off can stimulate creativity. And creativity needs to be organic, natural, flowing.
Gemma: I often get some of my best ideas walking, too. If nothing else, it can open up the channel and let the creativity flow, as you say. I read on your website that you have a fondness for botany and geology as well as music. I have a love of biology and botany that’s stuck with me since junior high, so that resonates with me! Do you have stories that particularly reflect botany, geology, or music?
Jenn: A driving force in my life is exploring nature, whether that comes in the form of hiking up Mt. Washington, driving solo cross country, or studying a birch tree throughout the seasons. Inevitably, this passion and interest has infused my life and work as a writer and visual artist.
Jenn: Growing up as an only child without too many close friends, I always found solace in nature. Early on, I’d collect pinecones and chips of Mica and bluets. I’d explore the forests and swamps near my neighborhood. I’d be outdoors as much as possible. I’d also draw, paint, and write since I was alone a lot. In school, ecology and biology classes felt very natural to study. It came easy, even though I majored in English and creative writing in college.
About seven years ago, I started studying botany. I love exploring the woods with a field guide to identify the plants, flowers, and trees. Mostly the New England area, and specifically, Connecticut. I like to observe how nature changes throughout the seasons. It’s like getting to know a friend. I focus on the anatomy, ecology, and taxonomy. It’s fun to nail down genus and species. It’s this entire plant kingdom that’s keeping us alive, and vice versa. A true symbiotic relationship. It amazes me how every little thing is connected. I just started getting into geology too—rocks and minerals of a particular location and the geological history of that location. For example, the plethora of rock walls crisscrossing New England.
So, as you see, this passion I have for the outdoors has formed a large part of who I am today as an adult, and, inevitably, it shows up in my work. I’ve used nature (or setting) as a character itself in many of my short stories. It’s a tool used to set the tone or mood. It can be used symbolically, metaphorically. It can literally be an extension of the protagonist or antagonist, or even a minor character. Mix that up with being a fan of nature writers, like Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, Dillard, Ackerman, and certain literary periods and movements, like the Romantics, Gothic, the Transcendentalists, the Beat Poets, and contemporary mysteries and thrillers, and that’s my writer-artist brain on fire. It’s nostalgia, melancholy, and the darker side of nature rolled into one.
Since I started writing a mystery-thriller in 2016, I’ve infused my novel with a lot of botany, and I believe it adds something truly special. I believe people want to feel that connection to earth, which is so easily lost in today’s fast-paced, superficial, materialistic society. They want real. They want to feel something that’s good for their soul. I also believe the more you know about a specific region, the better. You may not use all of that collected information but knowledge is never a waste.
Gemma: I totally agree – knowledge has worth for its own sake, and you never know what connections that will spark in your brain. You mentioned several authors before – what authors did you love most growing up? And what other authors have influenced your writing?
Jenn: Ironically, I didn’t read a lot as a kid. I loved being read to in school. I remember falling in love with the work by Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. I liked the Sweet Valley High series too. I liked The Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, and Poe and Bram Stoker. But it wasn’t until college that my obsession with books began. As an adult, I’ve been most influenced by legends like Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, John Cheever, Joan Didion, and Mark Twain. As for more recent authors, I read Gillian Flynn, Shari Lapena, Jennifer McMahon, Delia Owens, Janet Fitch, Karin Slaughter, A.J. Finn. I could go on and on.
Gemma: It’s a wonderful thing to have so many authors to love, and it makes it hard to name just a few! What are you reading right now?
Jenn: I’m reading several books right now. For fiction, I’m reading Burntown by Jennifer McMahon and Paint It Black by Janet Fitch. For nonfiction, I’m reading Kaufman’s Field Guide to Nature of New England, and, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers (Eastern).
Gemma: I love reading field guides, too, and I actually use them sometimes even though I write fantasy! They really can help ground you in a place by learning about the other living things around you. Is there a place that you’ve lived that most influences your writing?
Jenn: Old New England. The snowy, gray winters. The green hills and rock walls. The homesteads and chimney smoke.
Gemma: Where I live in Pennsylvania has a lot in common, and the green hills, rock walls and centuries-old buildings are inspiring to me, too. Tell us a bit about what you are working on now.
Jenn: I’m writing a mystery thriller around 80-90K words. I’m in the rewriting phase. I should be done by spring and will be searching for agent representation. I’m also working on a collection of paintings/drawings based on the hometown in my novel. Here’s an example of where my passions overlap each other. Science meets art. Left brain meets right. I’m in love with nature, but I’m also in love with art. The fictional hometown in my novel is named Rockwall Springs, which is loosely based off Tolland, Connecticut, my own hometown.
Gemma: That is so cool! Will your artwork about the town be viewable by your readers?
Jenn: Yes, these photos and paintings will be available for anyone interested. I’ve had several photos of Rockwall Springs published in various literary journals. For example, three photographs were published in The Sandy River Review (September 2018) and one photo was published in Blue Mesa Review (Issue 39, 2019).
Gemma: What do you plan to work in next?
Jenn: As soon as I begin the querying process for this book, I will begin another mystery thriller. I would like to write them in succession. I’m also working on short prose, poetry, and art.
Gemma: It’s very impressive that you work on multiple projects at once. Will the next mystery-thriller be a sequel to the one you’re working on now, or are they stand-alones?
Jenn: That’s a good question. I’m open to either option. As of right now, it’s a stand-alone novel. But, I could definitely create more novels using the same characters and settings. If not, I’d like to write a mystery-thriller every two years or so. Once I find an agent and get a book deal, that’s my goal. I want to stay productive.
Gemma: How did you find out about this anthology?
Jenn: Honestly, I don’t remember. I am a subscriber to several outlets offering opportunities for creative writers. It might’ve been via Submittable. I am thrilled to have found this west coast press.
Gemma: How can readers connect with you and find out more about your work?
What do you call a unicorn with wings? The Oxford English Dictionary blog once posed that question. As a word nerd with a passion for mythical beasts, that fired my interest! The blog, sadly, was taken down, but it gave several possible answers. Since that venerable and wide-reaching source gave no one definitive answer, I have to conclude there isn’t one.
A search of the web similarly brings up lots of possibilities, including pegacorn, unipeg, unisus and other portmanteau combinations of unicorn and pegasus. I have to say to my eye and ear these seem rather inelegant and clunky, conjuring up images of flying pigs and peg-legged unicorns. Cerapter is a clever alternative, from the ancient Greek keras for horn and pteros for wing.* To me it has a sort of dinosaurian flavor, though.
He traces Alicorn back to 14th century Italian and later Arabic; he uses the term to mean the horn of a unicorn,** a most precious, almost sacred object. It was the sovereign antidote to all poison, and it could heal the sick, even of the dreaded Plague.
In the dark corner of a museum, I once had the privilege of seeing an Alicorn. Well, at least its mortal cousin.
This is the skull of a narwhal, found in a whaling museum. I’d never seen one before, though I’d read about them. It gave me a shiver of pleased recognition to lay eyes on it.
Alicorn is a word of both elegance and substance to my mind. But since it already refers to something other than a winged unicorn (or horned pegasus), I’d suggest a slight variation. My proposal: alacorn, from the Latin āla for wing and cornū for horn. (Like cerapter, only without connotations of velociraptors and pterodactyls.)
Now for a somewhat related question: what do you call a sea-going unicorn?
It is called a Hippicorn, and since that name was given by its creator, there can be no more fitting title. Hippicorn is a doubly hybrid word, a portmanteau of hippocampus (from Greek roots) and unicorn (from Latin). More on that later.
Some might wonder what a hippocampus is.*** I’m so glad you asked! (Pretend you did, even if you didn’t.)
A hippocampus is a mythic seahorse, the equine equivalent of a mermaid. Sometimes it has a dolphin-like tail, sometimes a fishy one. Here’s a fine one found on Cape Cod. It seems to have a fondness for jewelry and scarves.
The name is from ancient Greek, hippos for horse, kampos for sea monster. It is, I think, a close cousin to the campchurch, which is another kind of sea-going unicorn, but rather different from Sarah Minkiewicz’s wild hippicorn. It has no tail, but webbed hind feet. Here it is where I first encountered it in one of my favorite childhood books.
Here the marine cousins are together:
And here is another close relative, found in the same whaling museum as the alicorn, carved out of whale ivory.
Because I am a word nerd, I wondered where the “church” in campchurch came from. Webster’s Unabridged dictionary was, alas, no help. Even the massive Oxford English Dictionary was silent on the matter. Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon of Ancient Greek vouched for the antiquity of hippocampus, but had no trace of campchurch.
An online search brings up a lot of opportunities for worship while camping, but very little about sea-unicorns. I found one woodcut image of a campchurch from 1575 – walking flat-footed on dry land!
Could the “church” of campchurch have come from the modern meaning of house of worship? It seemed unlikely, but Webster’s and the OED do agree that “church” is derived from the ancient Greek kyriakon, and ultimately kyrios, lord and kyros, supreme power. Could campchurch mean something like the lord of sea monsters? I’m left to wonder…But Sarah’s hippicorn is certainly a lordly beast!
I also wonder what else might one call a horned hippocampus or marine unicorn? What about mericorn? (I think I kind of like that).
The truth is, if I should ever be so fortunate as to see any of these mythical beasts, I’m certain I’d be unable to call them anything at all, being struck dumb with awe and wonder!
If you, too, like mythical beasts – one of these creatures lurks in the pages of Running Wild Anthology of Stories V. 3! I won’t tell you which one, but the title gives a clue. Why not go explore? You’ll find several supernatural creatures hiding among those excellent stories.
Check back in a couple of weeks for another interview with one of my anthology colleagues!
Laura kindly let me have a look in advance, and it is a quick, fun read that caught me offguard more than once. “These are not the angels you expected,” she says. Indeed! Go, read it. You’ll see what she means.
As I understand it, everyone can read it for 24 hours, and then it’s available only to members.
It’s my pleasure to continue my series of Running WildAnthology of Stories interviews with Dawn DeAnna Wilson. Her story, “Los Sueños,” was very vivid and poignant.
Gemma: Can you give a taste of what your story is about?
Dawn: The story is about a medical student who can sleep, but she can’t dream. One night, during her pathology rotation, she discovers that she can hear the dreams of the dead.
Gemma: What a striking story premise. Do you remember what the seed for it was?
Dawn: I have serious insomnia, and the whole science of sleep has always fascinated me. There was a sleep center at the hospital I used to work for, and the director knew about all these unusual and bizarre sleep disorders. Essentially, the REM phase in dream sleep is what is responsible for keeping us healthy. Dreams are necessary.
From there, it kind of meandered. I remember thinking of the dead as being “asleep” and wondering what it would be like to never, never be able to dream.
Gemma: That is quite a disturbing concept – and disturbing concepts can turn into great stories. Yours is proof of that.
Gemma: How did you find out about this anthology?
Dawn: Through the Submittable website.
Gemma: I need to explore more about Submittable’s calls for submissions and other resources for writers. Do you remember when and why you started writing?
Dawn: I wrote my first story when I was in kindergarten. I loved creating the characters and delving into different worlds. I can never remember a time when I did not want to be an author.
Gemma: That’s impressive – I’m not sure I was writing full sentences when I was in kindergarten! What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Dawn: My first novel, “Saint Jude,” is about a young adult with bipolar disorder. The novel is far from perfect, but it has touched the lives of others, which of course, is the whole point of writing.
Gemma: That is truly something to be proud of – and the best kind of legacy for a story. Can you tell me a little more about your writing history?
Dawn: My first poem was published when I was in eighth grade and my first short story was published when I was 16.
My work has appeared in such publications as Byline, Writer’s Digest, Evangel, and The Lutheran Journal. I won second-place in the N.C. Poetry Society’s annual contest for my love poem, “Learning English in Four-Letter Words.” My play, “Jesu of Fondue,” has been produced by the Nash County Arts Council and presented as a staged reading at the Storefront Theatre in Waxhaw, NC.
Gemma: You have a wonderful array of published work. How has your writing changed over time?
Dawn: I think I’m delving much more into quirky characters, exploring the difficult facets of what makes them who they are. I’m also going more outside my comfort zone, as I’m preparing to tackle a murder mystery novel that is in a genre I’ve never written before.
Gemma: Good for you for going outside your comfort zone! What’s the biggest challenge for you to write?
Dawn: I wouldn’t dare undertake some historical fiction. I would just get so easily overwhelmed by all the research.
Gemma: I have dabbled in historical fiction, and I can totally understand – I got lost in the research for a couple of years, I think! (It was a really good excuse to not get down to the nitty-gritty of writing.) What do you like best to write?
Dawn: It’s hard to say, because every story and every project has its own joys and its own personality. I think that my favorite part of the writing process is the exploration that goes on during that first draft, when you’re getting to know the characters and unearthing the story. It’s like going on a treasure hunt.
Gemma: Oh, that’s a cool analogy. When you get an idea for a story, what comes to mind first, the plot or the character(s)? Or does it vary from story to story?
Dawn: Honestly, sometimes it’s a line or two. Sometimes, it’s a scene that stands out very crisp in my mind. Then I explore—WHY did they say that? Who is in this scene and why is it important?
Gemma: I remember C.S. Lewis saying something about how the Chronicles of Narnia (one of my childhood favorites) started with the image of a faun with an umbrella in a snowstorm. So you are in good company! What authors did you love most growing up? What authors have influenced your writing most?
Dawn: Ray Bradbury, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula K. LeGuin and Rod Searling. And maybe a bit of Donald Barthelme.
Gemma: Ray Bradbury and Lloyd Alexander are two of my favorites to this day! For a long time I’ve been meaning to read Ursula K. LeGuin, and now I want to learn more about Donald Barthelme. On another topic, is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
Dawn: Living on the coast of North Carolina is a fantastic, inspirational place to write. There’s the gorgeous beaches, the marshy inlets and the full spectrum of Southern characters.
Gemma: What are you working on now?
Dawn: I’m polishing up a few short stories to try to get them ready to send out. Not trying to give anything away, but one does have a lizard man in it.
Gemma: A lizard man sounds intriguing! What do you plan to work on next?
Dawn: I’m going to tackle my first murder mystery/thriller that’s kind of in the same vein as the Stephanie Plum series.
Gemma: Going outside your comfort zones like you said! How can readers keep up with you and your writing?
Dawn: I’m around here and there. You can connect with me by contacting me through my website or on my author Facebook page. Although I encourage readers to email me through my website (I’m not on Facebook as much these days. I find that the more I’m on Facebook, the less I write)
Gemma: Oh, yes, social media and the internet in general can be such time-stealers! I find I have to keep offline to get writing done, too.
Thanks for taking time to join me on my blog, Dawn. And Happy Valentine’s Day to you and our readers!
There’s a rich variety of stories in our anthology; not all of them are urban or contemporary. (Take, for example, VT Dorchester’s haunting Western, Under the Eye of the Crow, and Monique German Gagnon’s Creach, which takes place at an indeterminate time.) And by no means all involve elements of fantasy. But as Katrina points out, “There’s an air of mystery that ties all the stories together; the sense that something more is going on in the scene below the surface.” And the very variety of the stories included is one of the anthology’s many pleasures
Along with her thoughtful review, Katrina (editor) also generously posted an interview with me. Elsewhere on the website you can find helpful and interesting reviews of books of speculative fiction both new and old. It’s well worth taking a look!
I’m welcoming 2020 with interviews of some of my Running WildAnthology of Storiescolleagues. I’m delighted to begin with Monique Gagnon German, whose story Creach gripped me with its understated tension.
Gemma: Give us a taste of what your story is about.
Monique: Creach is a story about a family living a simple life off-grid, until the unexpected arrives. Creach asks the question, “When something entirely new shows up in your life, do you embrace it or fear it?”
Gemma: Do you remember what the seed for this story was?
Monique: A parenthood moment spurred this story. With two kids, there is an almost constant barrage of requests for various toys, pets, games, & tech. For me, there’s always this decision-making duality: I want to protect them but I want to give them whatever they need to grow and thrive. Knowing with certainty the “best” yes’s and no’s is impossible.
Gemma: Your story crystallizes and magnifies this paradox so well!
Monique: That is a great compliment. Thank you!
Gemma: You’re very welcome! How did you find out about this anthology?
Monique: I saw a call for submissions. I investigated the background of Running Wild Press and was very impressed with who they are and what they published. When I sampled some of their published pieces, I really wanted to be in that company. I was absolutely thrilled when they wanted Creach.
Gemma: Do you remember when and why you started writing?
Monique: I grew up immersed in books. Quite the book nerd, actually. Some of my heroes include: Alice Walker, Steven King, Stephen Dunn, Nathanial Hawthorne, Lucy Grealy, Flannery O’Connor, Emily Dickinson, and Billy Collins. I wanted their jobs; I wanted to create worlds in stanzas and paragraphs.
Gemma: That is a cool way of putting it! And you wanted to be a poet from the beginning, it sounds like. What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Monique: One poem I’m still proud of is, “God’s Voice,” (it was picked up by The Wayfarer).
Monique: One short story I’m still proud of is, “The Gambit Game” (it was published by The MacGuffin).
Gemma: Tell a little about your writing history.
Monique: I started with poetry, but stories were also always coming to mind. I’ve written both pretty much all along, but only in the past few years have I submitted stories for consideration to be published.
Gemma: How has your writing changed over time?
Monique: Hopefully, it has gotten better. By better, I mean better at transporting the reader into the content, so they feel they are “in” it for the journey of the story or poem.
Gemma: In Creach and your more recent story The Now I really felt immersed in the atmospheric worlds you created, so well done! What’s the biggest challenge for you to write?
Monique: My first thought is always, hey, there’s no challenge too big! And then, the second thought races in, every story/poem I write is the current biggest challenge.
Gemma: What do you like best to write?
Monique: Anything that feels new.
Gemma: When you get an idea for a story, what comes to mind first, the plot or the character(s)? Or does it vary from story to story?
Monique: Story ideas are a combination of plot, characters, setting, and mood for me; even at inception they form a sort of blurred painting in my mind. But, usually, the spur that gets me excited to write the story is the engine: the plot concept.
Gemma: I love the “blurred painting” analogy! Plot is often what comes to me first, and spurs me to write, too. Do you tend to know the ending when you start writing?
Monique: Never. Sometimes I think I have an inkling, but I am always wrong. [laughter]
Gemma: Is there a place that you’ve lived (or visited) that most influences your writing?
Monique: I think living in so many places has influenced my writing more than any one place in particular.
Gemma: What are some of the places you’ve lived?
Monique: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona – But before you gasp at so many moves, let me explain, I married a Marine some 14 years ago. He’s retired now but we moved every three years for awhile there based on his assignments.
Gemma: What are you working on now?
Monique: A few things are in progress… a few new flash fiction stories… a few new poems. I have a process where I get multiple things started, then edit, change, edit, change, edit until they feel done.
Gemma: I admire your ability to work on more than one thing at a time! Readers can find one of your recent works, The Now, on Typishly. I really liked how swiftly I was immersed in that new world, and the tense journey you took readers on.
Monique: Thank you. I had a weird sense of fun writing The Now, I felt immersed in that world and like I was seeing it rather than “inventing” it. That story really came alive almost movie-like in my mind when I was writing it and it was such a cool journey for me.
Gemma: That is cool! And I think it shows in the story. How can readers connect with you and find out more about your work?
Monique: The best way is through my website or email.
My favorite gifts to give are books. If you’re like me (and also haven’t finished your gift buying yet), I have some books to recommend. Many of these I have already given as gifts, or would happily give, and some are current favorites of mine.* Of course, you can always give them to yourself anytime of year!
As a gift to your community, buy books from your local bookstore if you can! If you can’t visit a store in person, you can order online from many independent bookstores as well as Barnes & Noble.
For picture book lovers and readers: Imagine! by Raúl Colón. A story told in the luminous illustrations of Raúl Colón, about a boy who goes to a museum where people from the artwork leap out to interact with him.
A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine. The poignant story of a boy who discovers the mind-boggling fact that his family are time-travelers, while dealing with the loss of family members. It’s about family, friends, adventure, grief, and the love that changes everything; it truly touched me.
For fans of fantasy, young adult and older:
Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine. A captivating take on Romeo and Juliet’s story, as seen from the characters in the shadows, with magical underpinnings.
Running Wild Novella Anthology Volume 3 edited by Lisa Diane Kastner. I’d buy this for the story “Broken Soul to Broken Soul” alone; a story about ‘Two souls, two traumas, one path to healing … love.’ [Full disclosure: I haven’t read all the other stories yet – it just came out this month!]
Season of Hope by Laura Nelson Selinsky. Can two new adults with big responsibilities find holiday happiness at the end of their struggles? Find out in this heartwarming Romance novella.
Strife and Harmony ed. by Dixianne Hallaj and D.J. Stevenson. Strife, doubt, & suspicion — heroic (and not-so-heroic) characters search for harmony in this international anthology. Especially read the exploits of Sippy and Algernon Moynihan, two characters I’ve met and am quite fond of.
Legendary by Amelia Kibbie. I fell in love with the short story that predates this novel – about two boys in England, struggling with bullies and the perils of WWII England; Kirkus Review calls the novel (set years after the short story) “A rousing story of love and sacrifice.”
And in honor of the very soul and heart of Christmas, A Vine-Ripened Life by Stanly D. Gale, a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation on and exploration of the great fruits of grace.
However you observe this season, may you celebrate the light, and share it.
* where the picture quality is questionable, it’s because it’s of my own treasured copies.