Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I'm always amazed at how all religions seem to celebrate similar feasts at about the same times. The Jews and Christians celebrated Passover and Easter in late March, just as the Spring Equinox occurred. The Orthodox Christians are in the middle of Holy Week, with their Easter this coming Sunday. I shouldn't be surprised since we're all descended from the ancients who adopted new customs and beliefs as the wheel of time turned.
Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft was assembled with great care by Rayne Hall to celebrate a varied interpretations of witches and witchcraft by different authors, some of whom are witches, and others like myself who know, love, respect, study, and write about them. I've made many friends on this journey to understanding and appreciation of the Craft, and welcome fellow Beltane author Karen Heard to tell us a little about herself and her writing.
With gratitude to Rayne and Deborah for all they have taught me about magic, witchcraft , and writing I wish all of you bright blessings no matter of which ilk they may be.
Most of my short stories can take months to write. However when Rayne told me she needed a final story as soon as possible, I knew I e to produce something of quality in a very short space of time. From contributing to Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, and reading the other work in Rayne’s collections, I knew that she set a high bar for the quality of work she accepts. I knew it had to be something special.
I didn’t have any suitable ideas in my head, and so thought I was going to have to decline the offer. However, as I was walking home along the Southbank, looking at the patterns in the river-side sand, an image came into my head of a strange ethereal girl floating across the sand. She had long white hair and instantly I knew her name would be Alba: a girl with a secret identity. I saw her stumble across a body lying in the sand, but that only Alba, with her secret knowledge, could sense that some unnatural force had killed the girl. I knew instantly that I had to write that story.
Sometimes, it helps with the creative process to have a loose brief. Not only did the theme of witchcraft inspire me, but as I knew the story would be part of a collection, it encouraged me to come up with an idea slightly different to the other stories. I wanted to describe Alba in the language similar to that used for magical realism to evoke the mystical quality she possessed. However, as soon as I saw Alba on that beach - the only person able to see what had happened - I knew she would have to be the one to solve the mystery herself, and so wanted the story to be, at heart, a detective story. I hoped this would be an unusual twist on the witchcraft theme.
I wrote the outline of the story in half an hour, as I walked along the Thames that first day, stopping every few minutes to scribble down another scene whilst the lunchtime workers rushed around me. Rewriting then took me quite another couple of weeks, with the occasional nudge from Rayne to keep me motivated.
I wanted to make the work evocative by capturing the smells and feelings that Alba experiences. However I also wanted to show Alba from an outside point of view, as, with her secret past, she is as much of a puzzle as the murder. In the end I introduced a detective: Sergeant Taylor, to also investigate the murders from an official point of view. The two narratives hopefully complement each other and towards the end, when the two stories combine, they help the reader make sense of what each person finds out.
Part of the joy of writing for a collection is when the finished version comes out and you can read the other stories and enjoy being a part of something. When I read Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft I felt proud to be included among so many other varied and thought provoking tales. I really enjoyed reading them all, and I hope you will give them a chance too.
Amazing story, Karen. It illustrates how authors come up with story ideas--and how our muses make their wishes known. Thanks for sharing.
Be sure to join the blog hop and check in on all the other Ten Tales author's Beltane Blogs. I will post the links as soon as they are live.
Here's the link to my post in celebration of Beltane, both the day and the book!
Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft is available on Amazon
To read more dark short stories by Karen Heard, check out her Amazon Author Page and new collection: It’s Dark Inside
Saturday, January 12, 2013
I'd like to extend a great big New York City welcome to my very good writing friend, Andrew Richardson from the UK. We've been critique partners since meeting on critters.org six years ago. I hope to finally have the chance to meet him in person when I travel to London for Worldcon in 2014.
Andrew writes a curious mix of supernatural horror and erotic fiction that never fails to terrify me or delight me--and his readers. He's got news about his Next Big Thing to share right now.
Thank you to Carole for inviting me to take part in The Next Big Thing.
What is the title of your next book?
‘Dana’s Children’. The background is an Irish Celtic myth about a tribe led by the Mother Goddess Dana. Her people were forced to live underground when ‘modern’ man arrived.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I’ve always been fascinated by Celtic myths and legends. The stories are varied, with some being violent, some being romantic, and some fantastical. Most of my books have a Celtic element and I’m sure will provide me with inspiration for years to come.
What genre does your book fall under?
Horror, but it would be very difficult to write a story based on Celtic myth without including a fantasy element, too.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My heroine has green eyes and long black hair. I think Megan Fox is probably nearest.
My hero is a boy-next-door sort. A younger Tom Cruise would do nicely.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Modern day archaeologists uncover a subterranean tribe.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. I sent Dana’s Children to a publisher direct, and it was accepted a few days ago – although I prefer not to name publishers until contracts are signed, just in case something goes wrong.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your masterpiece?
Planning took about three months. The first draft took around nine months, followed by something like another six months proofing.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’ve tried to think about this, but failed. I’ll go with a couple of films instead, and I think Alien or The Descent are reasonably close.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was doing some research for a novel about Irish invasion myths, but I wasn’t happy with the story so discarded it. I read about Dana’s people while doing the research, and thought the concept of a hostile subterranean tribe had possibilities so I went in that direction instead.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
My Acquisitions Editor liked Dana’s Children for a couple of reasons; firstly for the use of Irish folklore in a horror story, and secondly because it has a twist ending.
Who is next to be interviewed?
I’d like to nominate Gianna Bruno and Philip McCormac.
* * *
Andrew Richardson lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife, teenage son, and a hamster. He is within easy reach of Stonehenge and other historical places whose regal solitude provide a clear mind for working out plot difficulties and story ideas.
Most of Andrew’s work falls squarely into the ‘horror’ genre, but he also enjoys writing some erotica so his characters can have some fun for a change instead of being scared out of their wits.
He has a pathological dislike of laptops, so adopts the old and quaint approach of typing with a desktop, which at least has a screen big enough to avoid the need to squint.
Andrew has a background in archaeology and has worked in several trenches. It’s not really a surprise that most of his work reflects this interest and experience, even if it’s as peripheral as his characters living the university lifestyle.
When he’s not writing or working as a science administrator Andrew follows Aldershot Town Football Club and takes long walks over rugged countryside.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
The last time I took a deep breath was October. Hurricane Sandy, though it did no lasting damage to my home or family, disrupted everyday life for months. Power problems, cable problems, gas lines, traffic jams, participating in relief efforts--time marched on until the Sandy Hook shootings which came close, but thankfully did not harm any of the friends and loved ones who live in Newtown-physically anyway.
Despite an absolutely miserable year health wise, which included trying to recover from a debilitating case of tendonitis in my right arm (made worse by writing and "mousing"), topped off by yet another knee injury (on the left this time), and a host of other troubles, none of which turned out to be serious but nevertheless created great anxiety, I was able to finish, proofread, format and submit two novels. The Widow's Walk, second in the Cape Cod Paranormal Romance Series and Boulevard of Bad Spell and Broken Dreams: Void of Course, the first in The Bronx Urban Fantasy Series.
Always being the type to try and make lemons out of lemonade, like a true midwife, my belief in complementary and alternative medicine and spiritual healing enabled me to experience the power of yoga and meditation, acupuncture and energy healing, as well as Santeria in a way that has both enhanced my life and my writing. Special thanks go out to Deborah Blake, Aida, and Nan who infuse everything they do with deep, abiding belief in the metaphysical and who have allowed me into their world and practice.
I was able to attract the interest of several agents, and the jury is still out as to whether any of the two who have full manuscripts in hand aren't responding because they're busy, the attachments are trapped in spam, aren't interested, or a combination of all the above.
I've semi plotted (I am a panster) the third and second books in each respective series.
In the last year, three short stories based on characters and situations in the novels have been published in the Ten Tales Series (Breakwater Beach in Haunted, The Dhampir's Kiss in Bites, and Mishmash Magick in Beltane). One additional is on submission for Seer: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance and another serial anthology.
I've taken the time to solicit additional crits for two shorts languishing in oblivion "Fairyflies" and "The Ultimate Test," both of which are making the rounds of suitable venues.
I've appeared in the Voices of Fiction series, thanks to Cher Green and in The Next Big Thing thanks to Rayne Hall. A very busy spring and summer of submissions paid off big time with several nonfiction excerpts published or re-released this fall, including "Artichokes" in A Quilt of Holidays, "The Dance Class" and "Endless Possibilities" in This Path, and "A Catholic Schoolgirl's Primer" in Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman. Several excerpts of my memoirs Someday I'm Going to Write a Book and Karma, Kickbacks, and Kids are still out on submission and I eagerly await word on their fate.
All my publications are now in one place: my very own Amazon Author's Page.
Since September, I've been deeply immersed in doctoral studies--something I've needed and wanted to do for a long time. It's as awful and wonderful as I expected--mind numbing and opening at the same time-as is any scholarly pursuit.
Flickers of bad memories of the mental and physical exhaustion from the intensity of graduate study while going through a divorce from my first husband and working full time have come back, even though my social situation is much different. Being a mother of three (and the teenagers/young adults are worse than the school agers) and working full time (in two separate positions) in an electronic medical record implementation induced pressure cooker has done nothing to calm my nerves.
Suffice it to say my average bedtime has gone from 10 pm to 1 am, while my average awakening remains at 5:30 am, leaving me in a sleep deprived, perpetually heart racing, how many balls can I keep in the air at the same time before I reach the marathon finish line--or drop everything.
he last repairs were made to our phone, Internet and cable system on January 4! Kudos to Con Ed and Verizon for superior customer service. Three thumbs down to Time Warner Cable for abysmal service. Shame on Slomins, a Long Island based alarm and heating oil company. My alarm system just came back online last week due to cable and other programming outages, they weren't even answering the phone for two weeks, couldn't get a techncian out to my house until after the holidays, and still have the cohones to refuse to grant any service credit. Will be looking for a new provider this year.
Goals for 2013 include completing this semester--the heaviest in terms of didactic studies both credit wise and content wise--with a statistical methods course and health informatics program. Five major assignments and counting for one, three for the other, not including the weekly statistical analysis exercise, work on my project proposal and IRB applications--ah yes, I have outdone myself this time.
It will all be a bad memory by the end of February, when the credit load drops by half and the preparation for the clinical research (I love being with patients) begins. I look forward to a glorious summer off to write fiction--always my first love--while I continue to market my novels.
There are points of light--LunaCon in March, CTRWA events, the monthly meeting on Saturday and FictionFest shining through the darkness like beacons of hope (purple prose notwithstanding).
As always, thanks to fellow members of the Professional Author's Group, the Anticipation Workshops and my fellow my Taos Toolbox alumni, many of whom I got to read, write, drink and otherwise hang with at Worldcon 2012.
And to Andrew Richardson, fellow member of critters.org who waits every so patiently for the manuscript swaps and is always there to lend a hand when I need it, as well as a broad virtual shoulder when the writing tasks collide with reality. I hope to finally get to meet him--and Rayne Hall, editor extraordinare, when I attend Worldon 2014 in London.
Speaking of Rayne, she nominated me and Tracie McBride for The Next Big Thing, and I've nominated Andrew. His post, and his big news about another sale, will be up on right here this Saturday.
Friday, December 21, 2012
For me, the week that was supposed to conclude with the end of the world began with The Next Big Thing. I'm featured on Tracie McBride's blog, which she calls Exquisite Corpse. Fitting in a cosmic sort of way. I'm a fantasy writer so them ghosts, zombies and vamps don't scare me none. An apocalypse is just another opportunity for a story.
If it really does occur, nothing will matter anyway. Nothing. Not how many stories you've written or if you are traditionally or self-published. Or if the novel is done or it isn't. But my belief is you have to keep moving forward because, as the tragic events of last week point out, you never know when your number is going to come up and some lunatic is going to turn your workplace into just another live violent video game. For the families and friends of the victims of all of this year's senseless tragedies, the world came to an end a long before today.
I live on the edge, always too busy, too stressed, and too close to neighborhoods where gun and gang violence is so routine the shooting at one NYC Public High School last week didn't even make the news because no one died. Even though none of those I know and love in Newtown were hurt, my Christmas spirit is near death.
Last Wednesday, a rare sunny day, the fact I got to go to the bathroom and eat lunch at work, and that I avoided all measure of parking and traffic gridlock nightmares lulled me into a sense of hope. I began this post in Starbucks on East 9th Street in Greenwich Village, sipping a tall skinny vanilla latte, nibbling a tomato and mozzarella panini, before heading to Fantastic Fiction at the KGB Bar.
I should have gone home to do homework, and paid for it with two almost all-nighters to hand in my assignments due before the world ended. There is a lot of holiday work still to be done but it seems a waste of energy to bake cookies and wrap all those gifts (bought online and still in the boxes) if no one will be in any condition to eat them or open them
The future seems grim, well with massacres every couple of months, catastrophic flooding on a regular basis, blizzarding in October and pouring rain in December, and people still arguing that violent images and games have nothing to do with this and climate change is a myth. So why should I not enjoy Mary Robinette Kowal reading and puppeteering?
I don't scare easy. So, if the end does come it will have to be absent my older son since I don't want to die in traffic going to pick him up from school in the middle of yet another flooding rain and windstorm. Getting the Noah's Arc analogy yet? My middle son got home early, not wanting to met the end of the world on a Megabus speeding along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Like in Pompeii, if it happens in NYC today, those Amazon boxes piled in a corner will be mini time capsules of a civilization who ignored the warnings and blissfully bought new iPads and iPods, and paper books, and pretty clothes for their little daughters instead of repenting or running for their lives.. Depending on the time of day disaster strikes, I might die doing my life's work-- taking care of kids in a New York City public high school with scanners and metal detectors and an average of three ambulance calls a day. Because most of the kids are great and appreciate the care and service and maybe I've left my imprint in time by helping a few out along the way. Would like to think so. But I'd rather be with my husband and pretty daughter and son # 2--if he's not out celebrating the apocalypse with his friends.
If we're all still here Saturday, we'll go food shopping, get the last few gifts, bake those cookies, make the gingerbread house, wrap the presents, and put up the tree.
Apocalypse or not there isn't anything you can do, nowhere you can run. Just gotta keep moving forward. In the end, if it comes in one big bang, a shower of bullets, an accident, or simply dying of "natural causes" how much money you have or how many fancy toys or baubles you possess won't mean a thing. Nothing but what you did with your life, no matter how long or short, will ever matter. Nothing else. Nothing..