A Bit of Happy News

Today, Feb. 21st, my writing friend, guest blogger, and Running Wild Press colleague Laura Nelson Selinsky has a story published on Havok, “Better Than Here.”

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.

picture of Laura Selinsky
Laura Selinsky, Author and Teacher

As I understand it, everyone can read it for 24 hours, and then it’s available only to members.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a few minutes and have a fun read!

Guest Blog by Laura Selinsky: Holiday Reading Break

picture of Laura Selinsky
Laura Selinsky, Author and Teacher

Today is St. Nicholas’ Day, a traditional time of gift-giving, and in honor of the occasion I offer you this gift: a blog by my friend Laura Nelson Selinsky.  It is particularly fitting for this day – please read on to find out why!

Candles, a cup of tea, and…a Christmas story. Sure, there are television specials by the score, but nothing compares to cocoa or tea and a heartwarming story after a busy day. I’m here to share my favorite way to step back from my too-busy life and prepare for the holidays.

In my family, we often shared reading breaks before Christmas…our quiet little respite in the hallowed chaos of the season. Until my kids left home, we read aloud regularly. For the holidays, we read everything from Luke’s sublime nativity story to the nonsense of Vip’s Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher. We read our copy of Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to tatters. I owe the Christmas reading tradition to my high school drama teacher who read Dylan Thomas’s* A Child’s Christmas In Wales to us each year, a practice I continue in my own classroom.

Perhaps you’d enjoy a holiday reading break of your own. The best place to start is Charles Dickens’* A Christmas Carol, with its happiest of happy endings. Be prepared for a little social justice tucked between the candles and figgy puddings of the Dickens. There are many shortened versions of his novella available, and reading a condensation is not an insult to the author. Dickens himself recited a condensed version on his lecture tours. Christmas Carol always awakens a little holiday spirit. If you are one of Gemma’s writer friends, visiting Scrooge is a good way to review Dickens’ mastery of playing his reader’s heartstrings.

If heartstring tugging is your pleasure, then holiday romances make a perfect break between wrapping and baking. My own little romance Season of Hope** was released by Anaiah Press on November 1. Can two new adults with big responsibilities find holiday happiness at the end of their struggles? Of course! That’s why romance is the perfect genre for a relaxed holiday reading break.

cover art for Season of Hope novella

Gemma’s note: And the hero of this story is a pastor named Nick! Happy Namesake Day, Nick.  

Thank you for sharing your lovely way of calming this hectic season, Laura! I invite readers to connect with you on your Twitter and Facebook. They can also find you on Amazon.

*Thomas’ and Dickens’ works are in the public domain and can easily be obtained online, but reading from a screen is less relaxing than from paper, (blue light, social media, yadda, yadda…). Your public library certainly has A Christmas Carol on paper. {And likewise your local bookstore! Gemma.}

**Season of Hope is available from Anaiah Press  {Gemma’s note: see coupon code for 30% off , then scroll down just a little to see their Seasonal Titles on sale!} or from Amazon. My publisher Anaiah Press has a Santa’s pack  full of charming novels and novellas being released for the holidays. They might be just what your reading break requires.

Banner of Season of Hope cover art

 

 

Guest Blog by Laura Selinsky: Writing By the Numbers

picture of Laura Selinsky
Laura Selinsky, Author and Teacher

{From Gemma: I am deeply pleased to welcome my friend and colleague Laura Nelson Selinsky as a guest on my blog to celebrate the release day of her new novella, Season of Hope. Please read on for Laura’s post.}

Banner of Season of Hope cover art
Release Day Nov. 1 2019

If you are a reader of a certain age, your childhood included “paint by numbers,” an allegedly artistic activity. It was the sort of gift you received at Christmas from childless and unimaginative relations. Paint by numbers sets attempted to quantify beauty and force it into the chubby fingers of eight-year olds. At best, painting by numbers represented a quixotic and foolish quest.

As a fantasy writer, I do love a foolish quest. Today, I’m on a quest to quantify my writing by numbers, starting with zero.

Zero: For much of my life, I wasn’t a fiction writer. That doesn’t mean I didn’t write, but that my writing wasn’t a passionate creative process. In college and seminary, I wrote essays, analyses, and research. As a pastor and ministry leader, I wrote sermons, scripts, and curriculum. For teaching, I wrote reports, emails, and even a few letters. But I wrote zero words of fiction from the day I graduated from grammar school to the day I turned fifty.

Fifty: On my fiftieth birthday, I started a novel. A host of fictional people live in my head, and I wanted to let them out to play. Two months later, I had completed a draft of the still unpublished Daughter of Fire. By the time I was fifty-two, another novel was complete. I began to write query letters, seeking print homes for my books.

300,000: The next decade of writing meant watching my wordcount tick toward the stratosphere. 300,000 is roughly the number of words in A Game of Thrones or Bleak House, depending on how classy you like your wordcounts. And that’s only if I think of each story as a single draft. Some of my projects have been through five drafts; one has been revised nine times. If I consider the number of words deleted, supplemented, or revised? Yikes, that’s a lot of writing. 300,000 is easier to imagine.

Ten: By my sixtieth birthday, I had published a couple of short stories and a nonfiction piece about teaching students with learning differences. My birthday gift was an email from the wonderful editor Kara Leigh Miller, saying that she was taking my Christmas novella before the purchasing committee at Anaiah Press. I had sold Season of Hope by the end of the following week—ten years after I began writing seriously. Through Kara’s editorial guidance Season of Hope grew to 50,000 words, treading the line between an overgrown novella and a wee little novel. Ten is also the number of years that I have spent in a priceless critique group sponsored by Pennwriters and marshalled by Gemma Brook, mistress of this blog.

cover art for Season of Hope novella

One: Season of Hope is being released today, November 1, 2019. It will be followed in ten days by Beach Dreams. I entered my first writing competition this summer, and my short story Shells won second place. That story, a meditation on the ways we measure the children we love, will be featured in Beach Dreams, published by Cat and Mouse Press.

cover art for Beach Dreams anthology
Release Day Nov 10 2019

Winning a writing contest in one try seems absurdly, undeservedly easy if you ignore ten and 300,000. But writers aren’t paint by numbers automatons. If you want to write, ten and 300,000, and the perseverance they represent, are the only numbers that matter.

From Gemma: Thank you for sharing a bit of your writing history, Laura, and the inspiring perseverance encapsulated within. Congratulations on the excellent news of your imminent publications! I invite my readers to connect with you through these links for Facebook and  Twitter or by searching Laura Nelson Selinsky. Readers, you can also find Laura on her Amazon page. And you can meet her in person at the Beach Dreams launch party! If you can’t make the party, you can read new interviews with Laura by Melinda Dozier, by Sara Beth Williams,  and at Batya’s Bits

Interview with Katrina S. Forest

I’m delighted to welcome Katrina S. Forest to my blog. Katrina and I have been in the same critique group for many years, along with Laura Selinsky and others, and Katrina is the first of us to release a novel! It’s a very cool-sounding middle grade sci-fi called My Best Friend Runs Venus.

cover by Crystal Rose

You can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Katrina’s site, or order it from your local bookstore. I ordered a copy from my local Barnes & Noble – I got Free Shipping to my home and it arrived in only about 2 ½ days. (It looks even more cool in person – so cool, in fact, I ordered another copy from my local indie bookshop for my great niece!)

To celebrate this great news, I’m taking part in a blog tour for Katrina’s book; the tour runs until June 16th. This blog tour is hosted by Lola’s Blog Tours. You can see the full tour schedule here.

Be sure to get to the bottom of this post, as there’s a tour-wide giveaway for the blog tour. One winner will win a signed copy of My Best Friend Runs Venus along with a $25 Amazon gift card.

Here’s what the book is about:

“At 12.9 years old, number-obsessed Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids “living” across the solar system through robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Unfortunately, robot bodies can be hacked.

One day during an (innocent!) experiment, Kade unwittingly breaks a major security wall and releases an infamous hacker. The madwoman targets all the royal avatars, including Kade’s best friend, Princess Tamika of Venus.

If Kade and Tamika don’t want to become the hacker’s puppets, they’ve got to stop her fast–even if it means waking up on Earth to fight with bodies they never realized could be hurt.

Kade and Tamika illustration by Crystal Rose

Sidebar: after a quick peek inside, now I know why Kade looks the way he does – I think.

 

Welcome, Katrina! What a fun story this sounds like. Can you tell us something (non-spoilery!) about what first gave you the idea for it?

Katrina: It started with me trying to take a fantasy-based idea I saw on an old TV show and imagine how it could conceivably work as a science fiction setting. The show’s premise was that a group of teens were secretly interstellar royalty and drew magic powers from their respective planets. I think a lot of sci-fi starts with the “what ifs.” So in this case it was, “What if we could live comfortably on other planets without magic (or magic-like levels of terraforming)?” “What if we had kids and teenagers in charge?” and more importantly, “Why would we do that?” I came up with the concept of the robot avatars allowing people to live across the solar system. And since kids are much more adaptive to new technology, they’re the only ones that can use it 24/7. Hence, they’re in charge. The characters who would inhabit this world were then developed, which is actually the complete opposite of my usual brainstorming process.

Gemma: I love the thinking behind this! Tell me a little more about one of the characters. For instance, which of them would make the best friend?

Katrina: Princess Lorelei of Mercury would make a great friend, as long as you can understand her unique way of talking. (She’s trying to create a simplified language and throws a lot of invented words into her speech.) She’s very open and accepting and tends to see the good in people. She’s also a creative type, and let’s face it, they’re awesome. 🙂

Gemma: oh, she sounds like a lot of fun!

Lorelei illustration by Crystal Rose

Gemma: I’d like to know a bit about your writing past. What’s the first story you remember writing?

Katrina: The first story I ever wrote was called “The Prettiest Flower.” I think I was five. Old enough to sound out simple words but young enough to go pester my mom for spelling helping every two minutes. I guess technically it was a non-fiction piece and included such impressive insights as, “Flowers are pretty” and “Bees like flowers.” I stapled together pieces of construction paper with only a mild attempt to straighten them out first, and my cover was an extra-wide sheet of paper from a dot matrix printer. I knew that “real” books had logos of some kind on the back of them, and because I was making a “real” book, mine got one, too. It was the Chiquita banana logo. I took the sticker from the fruit basket. My mom still has this book, and a few years ago, she showed it to me. It was a totally surreal experience. ^_^

Gemma: I love this! And it’s awesome your mom kept it to show you. When did you realize – or decide – that you wanted to be a writer?

Katrina: Pretty early. My mom got me a school memories book when I entered kindergarten. Every year had the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (It changed to, “What do you hope to do after graduation?” for 8th grade and up.) Every year, without fail, I wrote “writer” or “author.” In kindergarten, apparently, I was also open to the possibility of being a ballerina.

Gemma: it’s always good to keep an open mind about such things. And it’s quite impressive that you’ve followed this dream for so long and now have brought it into the world with a novel! What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Katrina: The hardest part is admitting when I’m stuck. I like to try to push through problems, and sometimes what’s really needed is a quiet step away with a long walk, a cup of tea, or a good book. Or, you know, all those things, because they are all awesome.

Gemma: I totally agree – and those are good ways to get unstuck. What’s the best part for you?

Katrina: The moment of breaking through the aforementioned stuck-ness.

Gemma: yes – that’s a wonderful moment! I think many writers can relate.

A lot of writers when they start out emulate other writers, consciously or not. Can you think of any authors you emulated?

Katrina: Not specifically, although I’m sure I have subconsciously. I do remember being a kid and writing a line I thought sounded totally awesome and way better than what I normally wrote…only to realize shortly afterward that it was a line from Charlotte’s Web. Apparently I’d read the book so many times, my brain just sort of internalized it. ^_^

Gemma: well, that’s an excellent book to absorb! What are you reading presently?

Katrina: I’m currently reading The Merchant Princess series by Charles Stross. My friends are all reading the Laundry series by the same author, but I just really latched onto the protagonist in this one. She’s a very analytical character who finds herself in what’s essentially a magical portal story. Characters really make or break a novel for me. I’ll sit through the most predictable of plots and the most uninteresting of settings if the characters are good. Thankfully, The Merchant Princess has good characters and an intriguing setting and plot to go with them.

Gemma: that sounds like a great combination, and I know what you mean about good characters. If I don’t like at least one character, I can’t make it through a book.

What are you working on now?

Katrina:  I’m finishing up a YA novel called How to be an Immortal. It’s about a gorgon and a vampire forming an unlikely friendship as they try to find the gorgon’s sister and stop a mysterious entity from stealing a bunch of humans’ life energy.

Gemma: I’ve been enjoying reading this in our critique group, and I’m very excited to hear you’re close to finishing it. I can’t wait to read the finished book — and, of course My Best Friend Runs Venus! I think it will make a great summer read.

Thanks so much for joining me on my blog, Katrina – and congratulations on your new novel! 

 

Find out more and connect with Katrina at:

– Website: http://www.katrinasforest.com/

– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkatrinasforest/

– Twitter: https://twitter.com/forest_paterson

– Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14369266.Katrina_S_Forest

– Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katrina-S.-Forest/e/B01M0DPFIA/

And you can find My Best Friend Runs Venus on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44549693-my-best-friend-runs-venus

 

Here’s the link to that giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/3ede45711/

And hats off to Lola for hosting this blog tour.

 

Our Anthology Featured in Gift Baskets to 2019 Golden Globe Nominees and Presenters

You read that correctly: the Running Wild Anthology my stories are in will be given to nominees and presenters of the Golden Globes!

This awesome, jaw-dropping fact is due to the amazing work of Lisa Kastner, founder and executive editor of Running Wild Press. Our anthology (I cannot possibly call it mine when my stories are just two among so many wonderful tales) will join Suzanne Samples’ “Frontal Matter: Glue Gone Wild” and (if my eyes don’t deceive me) Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. 2 pt. 1. And with them, many other gifts.

Have a look: is this not one spiffy gift basket??

Golden Globe Weekend Gift Bag

Now, let me be clear: these are not official Golden Globe bags. They are “Red Carpet Gift Bags honoring Golden Globe nominees,” to quote Hollywood Swag Bag, who will place these gifts in the celebrities’ rooms, working in conjunction with the hotel management. How amazing is that!

Here is a partial list of who will be receiving these excellent books among all the other cool gifts:
Glenn Close
Bradley Cooper
Lady Gaga
Benedict Cumberbatch
Hugh Grant
Elisabeth Moss
Emma Stone
Justin Hurwitz
Tina Fey

UPDATE: thanks to Lisa, here is the full list! 

I’m excited that not only my stories will end up in these talented hands, but also the stories from all my RWP Anthology colleagues I’ve interviewed plus many more from the Short Story Anthology, including Suzanne Mattaboni (who I got to meet at the Pennwriters conference) and Cindy Cavett and Laura Selinsky, (who I shared my first book signing with), and still more from Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. 2 pt. 1.

Two of these authors have blogged about this rather incredible thing: Christa Miller, whose story The Kings of Babylon appears in Running Wild Novella Anthology Vol. 2 pt. 1and Julie Doherty, whose story Justice is in Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2I hope you’ll give their thoughtful posts a read.

And check out this newsletter from Running Wild Press:

In our third year of publishing, Running Wild Press has had an impressive year. Already nominated for several awards including the Pushcart Prize, the executive editor, Lisa Diane Kastner, is excited for two of the press’s books to be included in gift bags to 2019 Golden Globe nominees and presenters. The bags will be gifted to actors, actresses, and presenters for the 2019 Golden Globes the weekend of January 7, 2019.

“When we were informed that both ‘Frontal Matter: Glue Gone Wild’ and ‘Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 2’ would be included in the gift bags, I couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Lisa Diane Kastner, Founder and Executive Editor of Running Wild Press. “This is the perfect tribute to our authors, our readers, and the stories of 2018 as well as a gorgeous beginning to 2019.”

Lisa founded Running Wild Press with the vision to bring great stories and great writing that do not fit neatly in a box to readers worldwide.

“In 2018, we published nine books with stories ranging from personal narratives to cross-genre fiction and non-fiction,” said Lisa. “These two books represent a great compilation of our narratives.”

Never one to shy from an opportunity to feature talents who don’t necessarily fit in mainstream media, we chatted with Lisa about the press, the Golden Globes, and anything else we could fit in.

How Did You Get Into The Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards Gift Bags?
A dear friend reached out to me and mentioned that there was an opportunity to be included. There are only a handful of companies authorized to provide gift baskets for events such as the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Oscars, and SAG Awards. I figured, heck, can’t hurt to have a chat. That chat resulted in our stories being included in 50 gift bags for both Golden Globe nominees and presenters as well as SAG Award nominees and presenters. We couldn’t be more excited. Only a select few are invited to be included in these baskets so this truly is an honor.

Who Among the Recipients Are You Most Excited to Meet?
Admittedly, I doubt that I’ll personally meet any of the celebrities or nominees during the weekend of the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards, but I am incredibly excited to have the likes of Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Spike Lee, Constance Wu, Charlize Theron, and Lin-Manuel Miranda read these amazing stories.

I have admired Bradley Cooper’s rise and strategic choices for years. Lady Gaga continues to broaden and expand her repertoire. Her ability to tap into her own meager beginnings in “A Star Is Born” was truly breathtaking. Spike Lee’s true gift to bring forth real life situations and demonstrate their relevance to today’s society is beyond phenomenal. Constance Wu and the rest of the cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” not only brought theatrical houses down but showed the world how a Rom-Con should be done. And Lin-Manuel’s gifts for storytelling – no matter the form (Have you seen his Twitter account? Oy!) continues to inspire. I could go on and on. Needless to say, we’re proud to have these stories in such amazingly talented artists’ hands.

What Inspired You to Start Running Wild Press?
I had spent over a decade studying the art of storytelling from New York Times Bestsellers, such as Jonathan Maberry, Alexander Chee, Porochista Khakpour, Da Chen, Pulitzer Prize nominees such as Luis Alberto Urrea, National Book Award winners such as Julia Glass, Ha Jin, and PEN Award winners such as Percival Everett. I studied fiction, non-fiction, memoir, journalism, screenplay writing. Each experience and interaction brought greater knowledge and understanding.

I ran several writers workshops including Running Wild Writers Community out of Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. I often found writers whose writing was on-point – truly magical stories with great writing; the pieces simply needed a little tweaking. I gave the authors feedback and recommended that they send the pieces out for publication. I checked with each one and was often shocked when they said they couldn’t find home for their work. When I asked why, they informed me that the publications said the author’s writing was wonderful but didn’t quite fit. The more I heard this, the clearer it was that tons of great stories with great writing simply don’t fit into the mainstream media. So, I created Running Wild Press for great stories and great writing that don’t fit neatly in a box to find worldwide audiences. I’ve been humbled by the public’s enthusiastic response to our stories. We’ve been nominated for several “Best of” collections, the Pushcart Prize, and several more honors that are currently in the works.

To find out more about Lisa and Running Wild Press, go to runningwildpress.com 

Previous articles about Lisa Diane Kastner and Running Wild Press include:
Small Town Gal blog: Editor Profile – Lisa Diane Kastner 
JMWW blog: Running Wild: An Interview With Lisa Diane Kastner By Curt Smith
Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
The Speculative Fiction Cantina 
Books Chatter blog
Littsburgh 
Additional audio interviews are available on Soundcloud

As for me, Gemma – I’m still gobsmacked by this whole thing! Thank you, Lisa and congrats to all the talented people involved!

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