Book Reviews

Review: Nano for the New and Insane by Lazette Gifford

I recently found a book online titled NaNo for the New and Insane: A Guide to Surviving NaNoWriMo while searching for resources for the upcoming National Novel Writing Month in November. The title automatically grabbed my attention because, having participated in NaNoWriMo twice already, and Camp NaNoWriMo twice more, I would generally chalk it up to insanity. (Well, literary and very fun insanity, at the very least.)

National Novel Writing Novel Month is an online and virtual event with thousands of participants. The goal, in its purest form, is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in the month of November. The rule is to begin on November 1st without any words written towards the actual novel (although you may have written outlines, character descriptions, synopses, etc. in preparation.) There are, as always, some rebels.

NaNo for the New and Insane is a great book if you’re looking into participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. It’s accessible, easy to read, free, well-written, and not too long. (Which means you’ll be able to finish it in time for NaNoWriMo!) For those who have already participated in the madness of NaNo, this book remains a useful resource. I, myself, found a lot of tips and tricks I hadn’t heard of before.

This book is free and available through Smashwords. (Linked here for your convenience.) It’s very easy to read online or to download an ebook file and send it to e-readers like Kindles or Nooks. This is a great plus! But it is important to keep in mind that most of it wasn’t originally intended to be a book. NaNo for the New and Insane is really a curated collection of articles written by the author, Lazette Gifford, on the subject of NaNoWriMo. Content has been added in to make it a more unique experience, it’s been organized well into easy-to-follow chapters, and it always lists if the article has already appeared somewhere online.

NaNo for the New and Insane was an enjoyable read. It covers both the steps leading up to and following NaNoWriMo, which I find incredibly useful. Rather than focusing on one particular aspect, it gives a sweeping yet sufficiently detailed panorama of life before, during, and after NaNo. Granted, portions of this book (namely the post-NaNoWriMo chapters) are primarily meant for someone whose objective on November 1st is to begin–and hopefully finish–the draft. Gifford does, however, make mentions of hobby writing with suggestions for those looking to write solely for fun.

Since I’ve already participated in NaNoWriMo a few times, a lot of what Gifford said was already common knowledge to me. However, she still brought up a lot of useful ideas, like the concept of using “phases” to plan out your novel. I also found her idea of NaNoWriMo as a time to explore new genres refreshing and intriguing. I will definitely implement some of Gifford’s character-building techniques.

Gifford’ ideas are very adaptable to those who have a limited time frame for outlining (since NaNoWriMo is upon us!), and also to those who already have set outlines (since they can turn to some of her suggestions and adapt them on the spot).

There are a few typos here and there; not a huge deal, but something I did pick up on. (I tend to notice typos a bit more than most.) Additionally, this book was written in 2006 and revised again in 2011. However, some parts of it do still seem a bit outdated.

I found certain aspects of this book tinged with the author’s personal opinions. That’s to be expected, as with any book, but it is important to keep that in mind when reading. (Some of the ways she represents self-publishing, for example, are different from the ways I’ve seen it represented.)

All in all, I give this book a well-deserved 3.5 stars out of 5. NaNo for the New and Insane has plenty of potential; perhaps with another revision to expand on some points and update it to the current year, it would be a perfect handbook to those taking the plunge into the insanity of NaNoWriMo!

Articles

Camp NaNo Tips & Tricks: Part 2

Camp NaNoWriMo is nearly coming to an end.

If you’re on target, near the finish line, or you’ve already won Camp NaNoWriMo, congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment and a reason to feel a tremendous amount of pride. Pat yourself on the back. Go on, you deserve it.

However, if you’re anything like me, Pantser and Procrastinator Extraordinaire–a dangerous combination–you are currently flailing, running around in circles, rocking back and forth, hyperventilating, completely avoiding the topic, or masterfully doing all of the above.

There are only a few days left. I know, it’s madness. Breathe in. Breathe out. Okay? Okay.


First of all, remember: You have more words now than what you started with.

Regardless of whether or not you reach your goal, you’re a winner just for trying. I know, I know. It sounds cheesy. But it’s true. The fact that you challenged yourself

Think of it this way: all words are just a combination of 26 letters, yet they elicit vivid imagery, raw emotions, and lasting changes. Basically, they’re magic.

You’re a wizard, [insert name here].


Don’t Forget: All words have worth.

Not to say you won’t have to do a substantial amount of editing or completely rewrite certain passages.

I tend to think of these type of words as fertilizer. Quite frankly, a lot of what I write is sh*t. But it makes great fertilizer. I keep a folder in my Scrivener projects where I can dump–never delete–these kinds of words. Once in a while, I’m able to pull something from them, if only a concept or a sentence.

Ray Bradbury’s philosophy is that quantity produces quality.

Think about it this way: Assume 90% of your writing sucks, but only 7% is acceptable and another 3% is utterly breathtaking prose. If you write 50,000 words, you will have written 3,500 words worth of perfectly good writing, and 1,500 words worth of magic.

Keep writing. The more you write, the better the chances you’ll write something extraordinary.

Check in with us.

We’d love to see how your Camp Project is going! Drop us a line in the comments. We also cordially invite you to our Writer’s Haven, an online chat community. We write, talk, vent, give and ask for advice. All are welcome at any time!

Interviews

Elahmeth Part Four: Welcome to Elahmeth

Rachel, Sara, Meme, and Liz join us one last time, graciously allowing us into the world of their Roleplaying Guild: Elahmeth. Yesterday, we witness a very touching, special, and singular moment: the naming of their guild. Today, as we conclude our interview with the Roleplayer’s Guild, we take a fun twist to see how each member would be like in the world they themselves created.

 

Mayra

Thank you for continuing to share your stories with us, and allowing us to step into the world of your guild!

Tell us a bit more about your main characters.

 

Liz

Oh that’s true. We haven’t explained our characters…

 

My character is Draco. He’s an assassin, best skilled with swords. He’s also a telepath.

 

Meme

Now I really wish I’d kept that elegant description/analysis Sarah made of my character. Le Sigh.

 

Thason is a former Sidhe Knight of the Summer Court. He made the grave mistake of not just cheating on the Queen with another Sidhe woman but actually falling in love and siring two children with her. Chaos ensues and he’s left to die on the other side of the Veil in modern-day Manhattan stripped of everything. As a side note, he has wind glamour.

 

Rachel
Kait’s a fae god.  Giant cat most of the time, and yes, he’s been known to eat people.

 

Sara

Balthos, my main character, is a gambling man with time magic who’s married to Rachel’s character.

Mayra

To conclude, I have a bit of a fun question: If you found a portal that led to the world you all write in, how would you think you would react? What would you do? What do you think the other members of Elahmeth would be like? How would you act as a character coexisting with your own characters? Or, better yet, how would your characters react?

Sarah
Oh wow. I think this is my favorite question I’ve ever been asked. XD

 

Liz
Wow that is a fun question!

 

Meme
Ooooh I like that question!

I think it depends on which world. If we were to go to the world of Liz’s novels for example I would be grabbing the other members of Elameth and getting the heck back through that portal. Lol. I think Liz would be fine in that world – as the author she would know where to hide and who would be likely to accept her. Rachel is smart and really good at navigating woods so she should be all right until the aliens grab her. Sarah, I am sorry, but I see you in the same boat I would be in – end up lost and then dragged off to some auction block. Hangs head.

 

If it were the world my main RP character is from I would make a point of keeping my hands to myself and trying to curb my natural instinct to apologize for bumping into any and everything. Let me just tell you, if I were in my character’s or the world of Rachel’s novels, then I would lose my freedom in less than three seconds. Rachel you might also struggle here. Lol. Sarah and Liz I feel would actually do pretty well. They don’t seek out people and know better than to apologize to some fae thing.

 

I feel like I would wander around in Sarah’s world until I stumbled someplace I shouldn’t and then my only defense would be a rock or something. I have this very vivid image of wandering into pixies and yeahhh. I am not very adept at this survival stuff, heh. Sarah would be most at home in that world, I think. Since she knows the ins and outs like the back of her hand. Not gonna lie, I see her setting up as a robber baron or something. Complete with a throne! Hahah. I am unsure about Rachel. I sort of see her setting up a healer’s shack. Liz, I could see you as a dog breeder. Very elite. Fancy schmancy court clothes because of course the only people to have dog breeders would be rich and/or influential right? Weird but going with first thing to pop into my mind.

 

Oh, God. If I were to coexist with my character he would hate me. I would be thrilled because, oh my gosh I know you! Hugs! And yeah; it would be bad. His life sucks and I have put him through the wringer in roleplay, too.

Liz
We tend to portal hop and make our worlds an obstacle for the characters. I think I would probably react similarly to my character and think it’s all a dream at first, like it couldn’t possibly be real. I would also be relieved that it’s not the world I created in my series, because then we’d just need to backtrack through that portal. Then, knowing what I know about every world we have created, I would wonder about the whole reason behind this.

 

I think we would discuss options for what we’d do. Which direction, what we have with us supply-wise, and the best way to find a way out. Knowing us, we would probably discuss how our characters’ adventures went and what we should do differently or similarly.

 

My character would have some choice words for us for all that he’s gone through, specifically me and probably Meme because she helped with a lot of that background story. He’ll be very angry and probably untrusting of why we’re there and if this is some sort of a trick. He’d probably get protective of the other characters and threaten us.

 

If I was a character, I would go one of two ways, depending on how meta it all is. One, I would be another character and I would try to gain trust, especially because I know I would lose if I had to go against any of them. My character was a trained assassin so he has an advantage there. Though he also has telepathy so that may not actually work with him. Two, I would take advantage of the whole “I am your creator” thing after we come up with a common story amongst the four of us that we want to share and really believe it ourselves so he wouldn’t figure it out.

 

I honestly think it’d be terrifying to be in our worlds we create. We make them difficult and full of dangerous things that you have to be wise and tough and skilled to best. But I think we could stand a chance because we are a really good team.

Meme
I love how put together you make us seem in that Liz. I just went full on here we go, thrown in a world!

Liz
I tried to think life or death, we can do this.

Meme
I hope that we are more like your imaginings than the wild flailings of my imagination.

 

Rachel
I honestly just keep on circling back to how my main RP character, the Kait, came about after a dream where it tried to eat me, so…. D:

Meme
That was a while ago, though, Rachel. *waves it off* So much has changed.

 

Liz
I still think the Kait would try to eat her/us.

Meme
But she is the one who linked it to Balthos in the first place.

 

I think out of wariness she would live.

Rachel
This is true…  But I still don’t trust Kait much.

Liz

Yes, but I think an on the spot, first response of us would be to eat us.

Meme
Nods. Or crush us.

Oh, there is no trust. None.

Rachel
I think he would debate whether or not eating us would undo things that have been written, honestly.  If someone didn’t talk him down first.

Meme
Is it wrong I almost want to write this scene?

Meme
I would like to add that, Rachel, in Sarah’s world you wear a Gandalf hat.

 

Rachel
I accept this. XD


Meme
HEHEHEH

Sarah
Yeah, in my world Rachel would be some kind of druidic stone caster/healer. So not much difference from now actually!

But as for my answer to the question –

 

Honestly the first thing that came to mind was Balthos  (my character) looking at me, surprised, as I stepped from the ether into the sunroom of his and the Kait’s house in Australia. The Kait isn’t home at the moment, probably meeting with Thason (Meme’s character) over something.

 

Balthos drops his phone, flashes me a smile and says, “Well, if it isn’t the old creator herself. Got a taste of your own medics for once, did ya?”

 

He’s referring to how we’ve poofed our characters through so many portals by this point it’s not worth counting. He’s laughing at me slightly, but it’s good natured, as is his way.

 

“Oh, shut up,” I say, looking around at the house I’ve only ever seen in my imagination. The view of the ocean through the glass wall of the sunroom truly is remarkable. “Can’t walk around my own world once in a while?”

 

“You’re world, sure, but this isn’t it.”

 

Eventually he suggests we kidnap Chadwick, his cinnamon bun of a best bro (Rachel’s character) and go out for drinks and general trouble making, as is also his way. In the morning we make waffles and get to work on figuring out how to get me back in the right timeline.
There may or may not be a side quest into mine and Rachel’s world’s along the way. XD

 

Liz
That’s beautiful Sarah ❤

Meme
I love it. So much. Oh Sarah ❤


Mayra
That was captivating! Thanks for sharing that with us, Sara!

 

Sarah
Haha thanks guys 💜

 

Mayra

Any final thoughts you would like to add regarding yourselves as individual writers, your guild, or your writing?

Sarah
I think for me, I just feel so lucky that I’ve been able to make such great friends through writing and I’m amazed at how close writing has brought us together. We were already classmates and therefore read each other’s work regularly in classroom workshops, but it takes on such a different feeling when you write together as friends. I look at writing as a form of weaving. You’re weaving characters and worlds and motives into a narrative. Well, this kind of writing has added a new layer in that we are almost weaving into each other. Weaving ourselves together in real life and on paper into a story that we will keep close to our hearts forever. I mean it’s cheesy to say but having this huge, tangled, messed up, beautiful thing between us, I know that no matter where we are ten years or twenty years from now, we will always be bound together in this moment and have it to look back on.

 

Meme
We are such good friends that even when our characters are fighting and furious with one another that we don’t carry that over into the real world. This is a very good thing, actually, since our characters tend to have emotional outbursts and we all get dragged along for the ride. Hahah. For example, does anyone else remember Draco getting into the Fae wine? Dear Lord. Do not give a sci-fi character magick wine. Just don’t do it. As Sarah said, writing together has certainly brought us closer. Linking our lives and the lives of the characters in our heads, it somehow tightened all the bonds between us.

 

Liz
As an individual writer, and a co-writer, I always liked how involved we all got. We shipped the couples, we got mad with them (even though we were the reason for what happened), and sad, and I think at the end of the day we all enjoyed creating that response. It’s nice to see someone read to the end of the adventure and have that giddy, sad, anxious feeling of ‘please don’t let it end already’. When Meme and I had our scripts read before an audience for the first time, it was rewarding to hear people laugh and actually find it funny. Thank you again, Sarah, for your awesomeness in that. I look forward to reaching out and getting reactions from people. As for our guild, it’s just amazing to have created our group and how we stick together, and support each other. I consider myself truly lucky to have something like this with such amazing people.

 

Rachel
I feel like everyone else has definitely expressed what I feel about our guild.  We’re a strong group of people who are able to do crazy things together that would be unimaginable otherwise.  I mean, I bet if you would have asked any of us if we could write over a million words in a year, you would have gotten a round of laughs.  Yet we’ve done it, and written even more than that together since then.

 

We’re there for each other when we need someone to flail about plot points, or to bounce character motivations around.  When we need a beta reader, we have each other to turn to for honest, constructive criticism. And when we desperately need a distraction from the crappy parts of day-to-day life, we have our RPs to escape into.

 

But the guild’s a lot more than that.  It’s a strong friendship that binds up all together, even when we don’t have the energy to write a new reply for weeks or months.  It’s having people scattered across the world who you know, with a single text, will send out prayers and requests for strength on your behalf when it feels like everything’s falling apart.  I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Mayra
Absolutely beautiful and incredibly touching!

 

Thank you, Meme, Sarah, Liz, and Rachel for all the wisdom, insight, and anecdotes you’ve shared with us! I have truly enjoyed having a conversation with you guys and I hope our readers, as well, enjoyed learning more about Elahmeth!

 

Rachel
Thank you again for interviewing us in the first place!  It really was a lot of fun – we love flailing about this stuff |D;

Sarah
Yes! It was a lot of fun talking with you, and I’m glad you had fun too. =]

 

Liz
We do love flailing! ❤ It was great to do this. It was great to talk with you.

 

Meme
Thank you for letting us blab about our crazy adventure!

 

It was really fun talking to you!

Closing thoughts:

Sara, Liz, Meme, and Rachel were welcoming, and their dynamic as writers shone through in the way they built on each other’s response and bounced off each other constantly. Interviewing them was almost like becoming a temporary fifth member of Elahmeth.

We would like to express our gratitude to Elahmeth and it’s four marvelous members, once more, for allowing our readers to step into their world and for sharing something so special with us. Thank you!

Interviews

Elahmeth Part Three: The Essence of Elahmeth

Rachel C. Lightfoot, Sarah L. Parris, Meme Dixon, and Liz Konkel from Elahmeth: The Roleplayer’s Guild join us once more! Yesterday, we talked about how their writing has evolved, and how they expect it to continue evolving. Today, Elahmeth talk to us a bit more about working together and collaborating as writers.

Mayra
You have each mentioned that your writing, as a group, is now very much in sync and flows wells. Do you think that’s a result of the working together shaping characters and worlds? Or do you suppose there was some sort of “predisposition” that allowed your writing styles to generally align with each other’s? In other words: nature or nurture?

 

Sarah
That’s an interesting question and as I’ve taken some time to mull it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably a bit of both.

 

The four of us tend to write similar stories on our own anyway. We all gravitate to the same genres, we share a sense of humor, and I think share a similar taste in the kinds of stories we enjoy – adventure, darkness tinged with comedy, characters who drive the narrative through internal conflict rather than external, and so on.

 

I would say the main difference in our individual writing is a matter of tone and medium – some of us preferring dark to airy, or off-beat humor to a more general upbeat vibe, or script to prose.
But I think because we have a shared sensibility in what makes a good story and good characters, writing together felt fairly natural from the beginning, and took off beautifully once we had found our rhythm. The nurturing came in when it came time to figure out the more technical side of things – what actually made sense for the story, what would most help the characters grow, or what would most challenge them in certain instances. Much of the time, we have different ideas about those kinds of things, and it can take time to hammer them out until everyone agrees we’ve come up with what will work best for the story.  

 

We’re in one of those tangles right now actually, concerning a scene where two characters must have their souls tested. We all agree that they must be tested for a certain overarching issue, but are unsure what the challenge for that issue, or the catalyst for their personal growth should entail.  It’s a fine line, but I feel it differs slightly from pure plotting, as the nuances of the scene will affect the characters’ growth and how they will come to perceive their places in the world differently than they do now. Here we must do what’s best for the characters and what we decide will have an effect on the tone and trajectory of the story, if that makes sense.

 

Rachel
I definitely agree with Sarah on it being a mix, for a lot of the same reasons.

 

As I said, I’ve roleplayed in this style for years.  I picked it up in 7th grade during a low spot with most of my classmates, and quickly found myself part of a guild dedicated solely to medieval fantasy RPs.  I loved that guild, and definitely owe the other members a lot – they taught me how to RP and have a good time with it.  But time passed, we got older, and we parted ways.
Comparing our guild now, and my first guild back then, I honestly think the main difference is the mindset – knowing what’s good for the story and characters rather than just focusing on what’s going to give us a good, no-fuss time.  

 

It’s relatively easy to pick up a roleplay and go – I used to RP with complete strangers in short stints, where we’d dive in feet first and see what we could make of four or five free hours, then never communicate again.  Those kinds of RPs are a lot of fun and have their place, but they can become very repetitive after a while, and they lack the potential to really dive into a character’s inner workings.  They’re just snapshots, and though a lot of snapshots strung together can tell a story, it feels disjointed and one dimensional.  That’s the trap my first guild fell into – we used the same characters, but the events of one RP might never color another RP.  They were just static “what if” scenarios.

 

We definitely have had a lot of “what if” scenarios along the way, and it’s that kind of spontaneity that got us started in the first place.  That was the natural aspect of our guild – how well we could mesh our styles and goals from the beginning.  As Sarah said, we all have a common idea of what makes a story and character interesting, so we easily fall into the same stride.

 

But rather than plow ahead blindly, we plot a lot with world goals in mind.  And sometimes that plotting takes time.  Like Sarah said, we’re currently in a fairly large tangle for our current main campaign.  We made some good headway a week or so ago in terms of plotting, but…  No roleplaying yet.  We started this campaign in December 2015.  Only a few posts have been written since then, and none since last July.  The tangle’s just that big.  All of us want to finish the campaign, for the sake of clarity and closure, but none of us want to rush it.  If it takes time to tell the story right, so be it, because whatever we do will influence our characters and their stories indefinitely.

 

Liz
Collaborating as a group was fairly easy for me. I wrote with my friends in high school, and had to work with three friends for a group project where we rewrote “Oedipus” in modern style, with a genre attached. I hadn’t roleplayed before Rachel and Sarah were like ‘hey let’s do this’ but it helped me having already worked with friends before.

 

I think it’s a mix of both as well. My first day at college some of the first people I met were Meme and Sarah, who happened to have the same adviser. From there, Meme and I just kind of clicked and somehow got super excited about our scriptwriting classes which led to us always plotting and writing together. We clicked rather quickly, and our writing synced up seemingly from the start. Then Sarah and Rachel had a similar thing so I think it was easy to come together as one group.

 

I think it took a bit of work to get these four worlds to go together, especially since mine was vastly different from what the others have, but once we found a certain spark that worked, everything seemed to fall together. We plotted hard, did math and timelines, with Sarah and Rachel covering hundreds of years worth of info, but everything came together in a nice little bow.

Meme
I definitely think it was a mix of nature and nurture. I won’t go into it too much since my feelings and thoughts are pretty much the same as everything that’s been said and I don’t want to be too repetitive.

 

Our similarities definitely made it easier to come together when we first actually went for this.We all meshed really well and became close friends faster than I believed possible. So maybe that played a part. I remember it was only awkward for a bit getting into the roleplay. Then the characters began to adopt this sort of “Okay we’re in this, let’s set goals and see them through until we’re home” mindset. And as Liz just said, once we found this spark that ignited not just us but our characters then everything started falling into place. Like something unlocked in our heads and now here we are.

 

A lot of times we will pair off when we hit these roadblocks. Because at any given time two of us are on the same or similar pages, it helps to split and get the ideas worked out and then come back together for further tweaks and overall approval and then that usually leads to long sessions where more plot and development unfurl from what we have (I’m actually thinking about the Wyld Hunt). Does that make sense?

 

Rachel
Definitely makes sense to me, Meme.  I mean, even when we plot now, Sarah and I usually try to be in the same room (our houses are about 15-20 minutes apart at the moment), so we end up talking and scribbling things on whiteboards before tag teaming typing replies in the group chat.  And I know we’ve all done similar side conversations before we jump into our big plotting sessions, just because one of us will get excited, feel the need to share a new idea, and not everyone will be around to flail with at the same time.   Then when you add in our tendency to pair off and work on side RPs, to get our characters to going, too….

Liz
We do pair off. And that can lead to interesting results. Like the night where we thought the Wyld Hunt was a great idea, you and Meme went all FAE LORE! and Sarah and I had a conversation I can’t remember still.

 

Meme
Excitement makes sharing a necessity because until we get that enthusiasm out we are just talking really really fast.

 

Rachel

And yes.  All the fast talking. With some random squealing incoherently thrown in a lot of the time.

 

When I first interviewed Meme, Sara, Liz, and Rachel, they did not have an “official” name for their guild. It was such an honor–and surprise–to have with witnessed when they decided on the name of their guild. It is with great joy that I share those special moments with our readers!

 

Meme

OOH GUYS! LIZ JUST REMINDED ME THAT WE NAMED THAT ONE WORLD! SIAMAK’S WORLD!!

 

Sarah
Oh yeah! Elahmeth right?

Liz
Something like that. I know we used our names!

 

Meme
Yes! We used our name because it went with the feel of the world.

Rachel
Yes, I remember that much – we used the last two letters of each of our names to name the world.  I just couldn’t remember if that was our guild’s official name?

Meme

 

I don’t think it was but I’d forgotten.

Liz

 

I can’t remember if it was, but I know that we got very excited about putting our names together.

Meme

 

I know we liked how magical the name sounded.

Sarah

 

You know, I like that for a guild name though.

 

Meme
Oh oooh

Rachel
As do I. So, shall we go with it?

Liz
I think so. ❤ It’s a little bit of all of us.

Rachel
It is. ❤

Sarah
Nice! Elahmeth it is!

 

Meme
I am so happy right now!

 

Mayra
*observes with tears in eyes and tissues and chocolate*

What a moment to witness! ❤ Elahmeth it is! ❤

 

The essence of Elahmeth: “A little bit of all of us.”

Interviews

Elahmeth Part Two: Elahmeth’s Journey

Rachel C. Lightfoot, Sarah L. Parris, Meme Dixon, and Liz Konkel make up Elahmeth: The Roleplayer’s Guild. In Part One: Meet the Guild, the four writers shed light on who they are as a collective and as individuals. Join us as we continue exploring Elahmeth’s thoughts on their journey and expectations.

Mayra
Yesterday, our readers had the pleasure of meeting each one of you and learning more about your dynamic as a writing guild. With that in mind, what lesson(s) would you say you’ve learned from writing together?

Rachel
First one that comes to mind – try to have some solution for a seemingly impossible plot problem before you throw your characters into it.

 

Like Liz said yesterday, our writing style varies greatly between 8pm and 4am.  One event we still all joke about comes from our first main campaign, probably somewhere between 4am and 6am.  We’d set up camp in my dorm’s 3rd floor lobby, all of us set around the room’s one square table by the power outlet with our laptops.  And, for whatever reason (I think Meme and I just got overexcited, do you guys remember?) we ended up deciding to shove our party right in the middle of the Wylde Hunt.  It’s a myth that gets tossed around a bit in different fantasy stories, but there really are just a few things you need to know about the Hunt:  Once you encounter it, you either join or die, and there’s no physical way to escape the Hunt’s hunting grounds once it’s got its gaze set on you.

 

We remembered that last bit after we shoved our characters in harm’s way, then had to come up with a believable solution on the fly that didn’t feel like a huge cop out.

 

Our party lived (and promptly passed out once they were out of harm’s way), the Hunt lost all of its hounds, and we ended up with another character joining our main four’s story, though I don’t think any of us realized he’d become as recurring a character as he is now.  He was a throw-away failure in that scene, but now he’s the group’s healer when their misadventures go really bad.

 

I don’t think any of us regret what we got out of that scene, but at that time of night (and yes, we wrote through until the party was able to pass out)…  It’s not pleasant trying to logic out how to keep from killing everyone off in one go.  I think we’ve become a lot more cautious about our different scenarios since then, finding solutions before we pass a point of no return, but it also just goes to show in our separate stories that you don’t have to have all the answers before you set out in a story – eventually you and the characters will find a way out because no one involved wants the story to simply end.

 

Sarah
That being said, there have still been some close calls with main characters nearly dying!

But I think the big lesson for me is that writing is not a lonesome activity like I thought for so long. It used to be that when I worked on a project I holed up in my room for hours on end, told no one about my story or characters. I wanted my work to be utterly perfect before anyone read it and I feared giving away important spoilers, so I didn’t even bounce ideas off friends.

 

After this whole adventure where everything is open and mistakes are made on the regular my perspective on writing has changed. Even with us talking and communicating all the time about the story, it still takes twists we don’t expect, and several times the four of us have been drawn to tears during scenes we’d already had planned for months.

I realized that no harm is done when you open your work to your friends, and in fact, my books have been so enriched by having this kind of breathing room, instead of locked away entirely in my own head.

Mayra
That’s beautiful! ❤ Personally, I think that’s a lesson worth learning for each and every writer.

 

As you continue writing together, how do you see your writing–or your approach to writing– continue to evolve?

 

Liz
In the beginning we would throw out ideas and take turns sharing them, discussing and plotting, giving positive feedback. Now a lot of times we seem to be on the same page with the direction we want things to go.

 

Meme

Our characters keep forming stronger bonds among themselves and other peripheral characters, and with each new recurring character we have all these thoughts branching out, plot skittering around as both the characters directly affected and those in the circle of influence start thinking about life down the line. This has led to interesting instances of isolated growth. Each of our main characters has to reconcile their pasts and their present situations.

 

Liz
I’m not sure about everyone else, but I know my writing has evolved due to the different influences I have in my life. As I child I would write little stories about animals in my pink sparkling notebook because living on a farm gave me a personal connection to animals, and the books I read were Animal Ark and Animorphs. The older I got the more my writing evolved with the influence of my friends sharing their opinions. I think my writing will continue to grow with me. The more I grow as a person, the more my writing voice will change. Though, I think the biggest evolution on my writing has come from the relationships we have formed through college. Meme and I often find our writing intersecting on tone and voice, because we write together so much.

Meme
I grew up reading pretty much the same things Liz did, which is really interesting to me since we both stick our toes in the darker edges of fantasy. I found that I was able to delve into these characters in horrible situations than otherwise. I’m still not super dark but I feel there is poignancy to going into a character losing everyone she has ever known through events set in motion far away from and far beyond her control, forcing her to fully experience the events.

 

Liz says I like to write about the martyrs, the people who are willing to push themselves to their limits to find what it takes to be a hero. And that’s true. Discovering an individual’s potential is important to me. And it has become more important as I’ve begun to share more of my work and ideas with people other than myself and my mother, who has always been my editor and biggest support system. It’s extremely helpful to go to someone who thinks in ways completely different for your own and get their opinion on a plot point or a scene. But I had never realized how awarding working with people on the same wavelength as you could be; I’ve found that most of the time I prefer working with a partner or three.

 

Rachel
We definitely all do get on that kind of wavelength a lot, too.  I’ve lost track how many times two or more of us will be typing something while plotting, only to have others beat us to it.  Usually we just stop typing mid-sentence and send it on with a note about the wavelength working again.  It doesn’t matter how physically distant we are, even now that we’ve graduated – the wavelength remains, helping to guide our plots and characters in a coherent direction.

For me, I know the biggest change in my own writing has just been the sheer amount of backstory and worldbuilding I have to draw upon.  When we started this crazy adventure, we decided to use my books’ world as kind of the main backdrop for the first roleplay (and many after that) just because it was generally underdeveloped.  Sarah’s compared it to writing in the Holodeck from Star Trek – if you need something, you can just make it appear, and it’ll be there from hence forth.  It left us open to explore and put our characters through anything we could dream up, but it also meant we’d be floundering around with things like travel times and distances.  Things I’ve had issues with in my novels as well.

 

Roleplay forced me to solidify a lot of these different elements, and to dig around in character interactions even between my own crew – the three main characters I roleplay as when needed all met before our original party formed.  It only made sense they’d reference aspects of that shared past, even if some of them still hold grudges over what happened.

 

The four of us have decided that there is no difference between roleplay canon and story canon – they’re merely a continuation and interweaving of one another.  For me, that means novel stuff is old history for characters in roleplay, but for Liz, that means her characters are simultaneously experiencing the events of their books while going on these crazy “side adventures.”  It’s fascinating to see how it all plays out, and I think it’s safe to say what we’ve roleplayed has helped shaped different aspects in our novels.  I know I’ve tried to sneak in a reference or two about certain ships, at least.

 

Sarah
Yes having decided to make everything in the roleplay canon in the books has definitely helped put my world into focus and adds a layer of depth that I think makes it feel more genuine, more solid. And it gives me a ton of material to play with in future books too!

Meme
It leaves so much open, and does add – it makes the ships more relevant somehow? I know my main character struggles with true intimacy, which definitely affects my view of these ships. The decision to make everything a continuation makes the ultimate realization on my character’s part that actual love is in his reach so exciting for me!

Rachel
Definitely agree with you, Meme.  Cementing the ships just feels so right…  One of my characters has a really, really rough time in the books.  Knowing what lies ahead for him in the roleplays makes that pain easier for me to handle as the writer, even if I know most readers probably won’t know about it.  And another ship truly rounds out a very apathetic character, finally giving them a reason to do more than just exist.  It just fits so well…

Liz
I agree with you Rachel. I know that having a happy ending already known helps get through one my character’s journeys. Because everything he has is very dark and tragic so knowing that he’ll grow and develop strong ties, and an eventual happiness waiting for him (maybe even multiple) makes it easier to tell that story.

Meme
We’re all just so connected to these characters, having gone through so much with them. Hurting them really hurts us, so this ray of happiness at the end is crucial, I think.

Interviews

Elahmeth Part One: Meet the Guild

We had the great honor and joy of interviewing Elahmeth: The Roleplayer’s Guild. Elahmeth is composed of four magnificent writers: Rachel C. Lightfoot, Sarah L. Parris, Meme Dixon, and Liz Konkel. Because of the length of this interview, we will be releasing it in parts. Enjoy!

First of all, introduce yourselves to our readers! Tell us a little about yourselves, as individuals.

Rachel C. Lighfoot:

Kinda chuckling to myself that we all seem to hate to go first in roleplaying, too. x)  Intros are always awkward for us. Always.

 

Meme Dixon:

Yeah. We are fine once the first step has been made. Honestly, we’re a group of followers!

 

Sarah L. Parris:

Every time lol. So true!

 

Rachel:
I’m a 23 year old farm girl that’s fallen in love with travel and learning about the world around me.  Until college, I’d lived on my family’s 170 year old farm and never dreamed of leaving it.  I still love to go out and roam around in the woods with my camera for inspiration.

Writing’s one of my two main loves in life; the other’s science.  I graduated with a pre-med biology degree and chemistry minor back in December 2015, and will be attending my first year of medical school at Trinity College in Dublin this September.  I don’t find fantasy writing and science to be at odds with each other, and in fact feel I need a bit of both to balance everything out in my head.  When coursework is overwhelming, roleplay and writing are there to preserve my sanity.  But science keeps me questioning and ready to explore new angles and possibilities I couldn’t otherwise imagine.

Most days you can find me chilling with a cup of tea and my yorkie, a sweetheart named Bear.  He’s my writing support staff and usually asleep somewhere amidst all the whiteboards and sticky notes that I use for plotting.

 

Sarah:
Well, I’m a gamer, a singer, and something of an anime aficionado, if you will.  I graduated class of 2015 with a BFA in Creative Writing and a minor in Music.  If I’m not spending the weekend playing my favorite Dragon Age game, then I’m pondering over new folklore for the fantasy world of my books.  Basically put, I’m your average nerd.  

 

Fantasy is my deepest love in life, and plays a significant role in helping me stay grounded from day to day.  When everything goes wrong and the world is on fire, fantasy in the form of games, books, or movies, is there to give me a much-needed dose of magic.  

 

I live in Missouri with my fiancée, Kate, and look forward to self-publishing my first book hopefully by next year!

 

Meme:
What on earth do I say about me? I graduated in 2015 with a BFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Scriptwriting. I’m 24 years old and live at home with my mother and older brother who has Downs’ Syndrome. I work most days at the Dollar General store in town, and am up late most nights writing frantically with Liz. If I’m not glued to my phone, I’m at my laptop, or passed out in bed – my other favorite pastime is sleep. I consider myself a gamer, but it’s hard to find time to just check out, making writing an ever more important part of my life. I would honestly be a total nut if I didn’t have my nightly sessions. I’ve co-authored and self-published a novella with Liz and had a play selected as part of the First Friday Play Reading in Kansas City on December 2, 2016. I discovered a passion for play and scriptwriting during college, and hope to find more avenues for that. More novellas will be coming soon, hopefully this year. I do have my own novels/novellas in the works but those are still very rough.

 

Liz Konkel:
I am a farm girl with a passion for storytelling and nature, and an avid lover of television. I graduated in 2015 with a BFA in Creative Writing, emphasis in Scriptwriting. I spend my days writing book reviews for three different websites, soon to be four, and writing articles for Am Reading and Blasting News. I pull late nights working on projects with Meme, which will hopefully be shared soon. I have a co-authored and self-published novella with Meme, a photo novella, and a bunch of short stories which were a gift to my niece. I recently got my second photo published, this one in a literary journal. I’m currently working out the kinks of my unpublished science fiction-fantasy novel series, and plotting my next photography novella.

 

Mayra
Wow, you all sound like very awesome humans!

 

For our readers who may not be familiar with roleplaying / RPG, how would you describe it or explain it?

 

As I learn more about each one of you, I notice that you are a very diverse group while still maintaining many things in common. How do your similarities and differences transfer to your writing and roleplaying?

Rachel
Haha, we’re nerds really. x)

There are a lot of different kinds or roleplay, but for us I think of it as collective storytelling.  Each of us writes for at least one character per roleplay, describing their responses to the other characters and the world around them.  We generally have a rough plot planned before we dive in (something as simple as “Our characters were magically poofed to an unknown world and have to work together to get back to their respective homes” has served us well in the past), but from there…  We just let the characters lead us where they may.  We plot more when we get stuck, but otherwise, our roleplays, or RPs, are probably one of the purest form of pantsing you can find.

 

I feel like we mesh quite well despite our differences.  All of us went to a very small college, so even though I was in a different major, we crossed paths frequently (and I actually ended up going to more creative writing events than to science activities).  We all have a strong tie to fantasy and fae lore, which helps with blending everything together for a coherent RP.  

 

Sarah’s really strong with worldbuilding, something I’ve always struggled with.  For as long as I’ve known her she’s always had long histories and myth systems for her world, plus maps of everything.  Being able to keep things straight like that is a lifesaver when we’re 300 pages into a campaign.  I’ve lost track how many nights we’ve spent untangling continuity errors, adjusting transcripts for readability, or plotting out how time’s passing for our characters when they’re in separate worlds.  Quantum physics theory was tossed around once.  It gets intense.

 

Meme and I have two characters who are from a similar setting (faerieland, for lack of a better term), even though they’re not from the same story.  It lends itself perfectly to our RPs though – my story primarily focuses on the wilder parts of faerie, hers on life in a faerie Court.  In our first main campaign, we decided to treat our worlds as if they were one, and that decision’s helped both of us tremendously.  Two heads are truly better than one, and what we come up with blends seamlessly without contradictions.

 

Since Liz’s novel dives into science fiction, she and her main character bring a very different twist into our RPs.  Here we have someone who knows aliens and interplanetary travel are real, while other parts of our party don’t even know what a planet is.  Yet when everyone else is quite familiar with magick, he’s never heard of it and isn’t above questioning when he doesn’t think something makes sense.  It leads to a lot of confusion between characters at times, but often in comical ways.

 

I don’t think a whole lot of my science actually comes into my writing style, not in an overt way.  But I do like to check some things out and try to explain them scientifically (or at least, theorize their plausibility) in out of character conversations.  I clearly remember a few times when I’d research stab wound locations or poisoning techniques off to the side since it would seem less odd for a biology student to be researching that kind of stuff than a writing major, if anyone in the tech department decided to pull up our search histories.

Sarah

 

Yeah, I think we all have clear strengths as well as unique pools of knowledge to draw from. The interesting thing in having a sort of guild like this is the strong mix of influences that come of it. From video games to folklore, pop culture to ancient history, and the occasional dip into the  quantum physics Wikipedia page, we have no shortage of things to write about.

 

We often have very different ideas about what to incorporate into a story and usually end up using most, if not all of them, making for some interesting blends. For instance, Liz and I once wrote a roleplay that involved a labyrinth, a chupacabra, and a sphynx. That mesh of seemingly opposing ideas is one of our strengths and has helped me learn to think outside the box in my own writing.

 

Meme
We play off of each other’s strengths. Sarah’s world building expertise helps us elaborate on the world and bring that extra something to whatever place we’re in, rather than having a cookie cut-out sort of place. Rachel is our resident “healer” and so gets to answer everything from what happens to a fae when they overextend themselves with their glamour to how can we get this wound with x amount of blood and x degree of incapacitation without having the character bleed out in minutes. Liz has the refreshing perspective of being completely new to roleplay before we embarked on this craziness, plus with her eye for visualizing all these different scenic shots developed through her background with photography. It’s harder for me to say what I add, since I immerse myself in character as much as possible. But I think combining our different humors is what was easiest for us: Sarah has a love of puns and has a quick snark, Rachel has a talent for the unexpected and offbeat, Liz has a love of situational humor, and I tend to lean towards banter (which our characters often did).

 

I have an absolute adoration of all things myth, so I find myself drawn to retellings of myth and folk/fairytale. Oftentimes I get a stirring from a familiar myth – take Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and delivering it to man for example. Rarely is the focus on the pivotal character, in this case Prometheus. A young woman, or man, come to age in the time just before these events take place and flailing their way through the total upheaval of their world… those sorts of stories are the ones that come to me. Often Rachel and I would dive into research while we roleplayed, wondering how we can pull from lore to through an obstacle in the characters’ paths.

 

 

Liz
I for one didn’t have a clue what roleplaying was until they explained that to me. But before that Meme and I wrote scripts together all the time, stage and screen. So we learned how to collaborate with different limitations and settings.

 

Meme

I think that my work with Liz on our scripts has helped a lot, since scripts have their own limitations and challenges, teaching you to look for these looping ways to get what you feel you need to in there. But we also learned creative ways to make anything work. I had roleplayed before, once, and that was a horrible failure on my part. Life has a tendency to get super crazy for me, so these guys have put up with a lot on my behalf. Love you all!

 

Liz

I remember when we first had the idea to roleplay and we were trying to figure out which characters to do, and Rachel and Sarah were super excited while I was all confused and nodding. But I think we originally wanted characters that were different because we wanted that conflict of having to grow as a team and learn to work together through those differences. And I think the more we wrote them, the more we learned how to write together. We learned how to use each of our strengths to build this unique band of characters.

 

I always liked writing stories that flipped a perspective, like the world in my book is a dystopian so it’s this warped version of Earth and a warped sense of science fiction because it also has fantasy elements. When Meme and I first started writing together, we found a common similarity through our humor, which showed mainly in our apocalyptic comedy scripts.  As a group, a lot of the situations developed from our individual humors, and our sense of tragedy, and it also changed from whether it was 8 pm or 4 am when we were writing. We like to do a 180 at the last second from this dark and tragic emotional place to a snarky humor. Sometimes we were really serious and there was going to be an epic battle, and then other times someone is hitting a wall from laughing so hard.

Sarah
Exactly! We needed our characters to grow into a team through conflict, and in the process we learned how to write together as a cohesive group. We’ve learned how to play on each other’s strengths and how to mold the story into one unified vision rather than a jumbled mess and I know that has helped my writing a lot, and will continue to help as I form new projects with other people.

Articles

Rollercoaster Reader, Rollercoaster Writer

I recently began reading and writing again. I’ve missed it more than I can express.

I consider myself a rollercoaster reader and writer, in the sense that life’s ups and downs profoundly affect my ability to participate in the two activities closest to my heart: reading and writing.

It’s more than unfortunate and quite the Catch-22 that, with regards to my mental illnesses, what most brings me relief and helps me heal are the same things I cannot do when I’m unwell. Reading and writing are the greatest casualties in my war against the phantasmagoric mental illnesses that haunt me.

I stop reading as soon as my depression and anxiety decide to visit. Writing follows shortly after. I quickly find myself unarmed in the midst of a raging war.

I go through a period of desolation. Then guilt. How could I be stupid enough to forsake the one thing that makes me better? That guilt escalates to self-condemnation, then loathing. I push myself over the edge and force myself to read or write. The result is always awkwardly robotic and very obviously faked and forced. And, even worse, the pitiful creation proves painfully draining to produce. It only reinforces my negative emotions and leaves an overwhelmingly bitter aftertaste.

I truly wish my ability to read and write wouldn’t be susceptible to the constant misgivings of my personal afflictions. In a sense, I feel like my identity as a loyal logophile is fundamentally questioned by how easily I turn my back on words when darkness seeps back in.

I am not unwavering. I am not constant.

Yet, when words make a reappearance in my life the ray of hope is twofold: I am embracing words, again, which is amazing in it of itself, and I am getting better, for if I weren’t I wouldn’t be embracing them.

In a sense, the fact that mental illness betrays me by taking that which I love most makes me love writing and reading even more; being away from it for so long makes me appreciate it a lot more when I come back to it.

For me, words flutter away so easily. Yet, when I try to catch them, much like Thoreau’s butterfly, they elude me.

 

I have to ask myself: should I focus on the fact that I stop reading and writing when I get bad?  or should I concentrate on how, sooner or later, I always come back to it when I’m better?

Perhaps someday, I’ll learn to sit still and be patient. After all, regardless of how far I fall, I always pick myself back up, and when I do, words always flutter back and alight upon me when I least expect it.

I have yet to embrace myself as a rollercoaster writer and reader. But I’m working on it. That’s what’s important.
Interviews

Interview: Ann W. Shannon

Thank you for joining us, Ann! To start off, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about yourself and the anthology We Are Not Alone.

I’m Ann Shannon. I’m an author, blogger and avid reader. I write romance and erotic romance. My blog is the Manic Writer and its focus is on Indie Authors. I review indie books and run a monthly spotlight called the Indie BLT where I feature a different Indie author each month amongst other things. I also read a variety of books, about 4-6 a month. I read a mix of Indie authors, writing craft books, and others. My favorite genres are romance, and paranormal.

The idea for We are Not Alone came up when Skye and I had a conversation about some poems and short stories we’d written concerning mental illness. These pieces had been written from the heart and we felt people needed to see them and be encouraged that they were not alone. Finding a place where they belonged, however, was proving difficult, so we decided to make our own and open it to others who also had something to say. The anthology will be a collection of poems, letters, essays and short stories that all focus on the impact mental illness has on everyone, not just the individuals who are ill. It’s purpose is to raise mental health awareness. All proceeds will go to a mental health charity.

Nice to meet you, Ann!

In your perspective, what is the connection between mental health illnesses and creative writing? How do you see that played out with the anthology, We Are Not Alone?

I think there’s a huge connection between mental health illnesses and creativity in general. That being said, I don’t think there has to be. I’ve known many creative people who did not suffer from mental illness. But I do believe that mental illness tends to make us look for ways to express ourselves, as a cry for help, or just as a way to communicate what we are feeling. In my case it’s an amazing outlet when I feel pain that I can’t express in other ways.

That’s one of the reasons We Are Not Alone came to be. Often the pieces we write in our pain are dark and sad and, as a result, hard to place. I wrote just such a piece. A short story called “A Terrible Mistake.” It looks at the pain a young teenager feels as she copes with the death of her baby brother while she babysat him and her thoughts of suicide to end that pain. Skye read it and felt that people needed to know that pain was real and normal, but that death shouldn’t be allowed to win. We decided the anthology was the place for it and for others. We wanted to gather people’s stories for others to read and know they were not alone.

You refer to writing as a means of expression and communication. Have there been times that writing has fallen short? Have you faced any difficulties in using the written world as a vehicle for self-expression and communication?

I think every writer has had times when their chosen outlet has failed them. As an individual who lives with bipolar disorder there have been times when I’ve been so down I couldn’t imagine writing. I was literally too depressed to put words to the page. My brain too befuddled to organize them.

Fortunately, for me, those moments don’t last for more than a day or two, if that long. I have an amazing support network and my husband is a chief part of that. He is always willing to listen to me and help me work through what is bothering me so I can move on.

Can you offer any advice to those who, at times, are unable to use writing as an outlet?

I think the best advice for those times is to allow yourself to take a break and not see it as an end. Sometimes we just need to step back and allow our minds to run free.

When I’ve hit a wall and not felt like writing I used to panic and worry that I’d never write again. I know now that isn’t true. I may not write for a while, it might be 2 days, 2 months or 2 years, but I will always be a writer. I think also, during those times it’s important to be sure you have another outlet for your creative energy.

Let’s transition to the anthology. What are your hopes for We Are Not Alone?

I hope the anthology will show people living with mental illness, either because they have it or have a loved one who does, that they are not alone. I hope it helps to normalize some of the feelings and experiences that are unique to mental health problems. It’s why we chose the title we did. There is a stigma attached to mental health issues, people living with them sometimes are left to feel as if they are the only ones. We want to end that misunderstanding.

Thank you for tackling the important task of fighting the stigma!

Is there any significance as to why the title is in the plural (“we”) and not the singular (“you”)?

The significance of the title being plural is that we recognize (1) that mental illness is not a solitary disease. It always affects those around us, and (2) that it is not rare. We probably talk to, work with and associate with people every day who are dealing with mental health issues, if we used the singular “you” we felt we’d be insinuating that is was an individual problem.

Most definitely!

What are your thoughts on tackling mental health issues as a collective or community, instead of or in addition to addressing them as individuals?

I think like other community issues we need to gather as a community and offer love, friendship and help to those who need it. We need to campaign for and vote for leaders who will support those dealing with mental health issues and then support them in our own communities. If we are going to consider ourselves a first world country then we are required to care for those who can’t care for themselves.  Globally we need to break down barriers and end the stigma that mental health issues are rare, or only happen to “other” or are a sign of depravity or defect.

We can start this individually amongst our friends, but it’s not enough. It needs to happen in literature, and other media and in the government as well.

Well said!

I understand the anthology is in progress. Are submissions open? If so, what kind of pieces are you looking for how should writers submit their pieces?

If anyone is interested they can contact me at my email, annwshannon@gmail.com

Is there anything you would like to add in regards to your anthology or mental health?

In regards to my mental health, I’d like to add that it’s important to ask for help. I was the primary caregiver for my elderly grandmother when my bipolar symptoms became unmanageable but I didn’t seek treatment for 5 yrs. That was easily the most difficult 5 years of my life. I think I was afraid to admit I couldn’t do it all. We are taught to be independent and not ask for help but with clinical or bipolar depression, and many other mental health issues, you can’t do it alone. You can’t just buck up and get better.

Also, don’t be afraid to gently suggest help for a loved one. And support them after they get help. Mental health issues will not go away on their own, and they take time to heal. Be patient with yourself and your loved ones during the healing process.

Thank you so much, Ann, for joining us!

Thank you for interviewing me.

 

Interviews

Interview: Markie Madden

Thank you for joining us, Markie! First thing’s first! Introduce yourself! Tell us a little about yourself and your books.

Hi, I’m Markie Madden. I’m a married mother of two and a cancer survivor. When I got sick in 2014, I couldn’t work. So, I turned back to my love of writing.

I’ve been writing since the 4th grade and wrote my first full-length book in high school. It was my first published book, Once Upon a Western Way, published in e-book in 2012. It’s had a rewrite and new cover and is now available as Clash of Times: The Quest.

It’s a little fantasy, a little steampunk, and a lot of steamy romance!

I’ve also published 4 books in my crime/paranormal #UndeadUnit series set 100 years in the future. These books are Fang and Claw, Souls of the Reaper, Blood Lust, and Siren Song.

The Pharaoh’s Destiny is my first historical romance, and the first book in a trilogy centered around 3 important women in Egypt’s history. The first book follows the life of Hatshepsut, the first woman to claim the title of Pharaoh. But, it’s alternate history, too, for Hatshepsut makes sure that all the Pharaohs after her are women.

I also have a short horse care guide (an Amazon #1 best seller in free books) called Keeping A Backyard Horse, and my memoir, the story of my battle with cancer, called My Butterfly Cancer.

Wow! That’s amazing. You’re quite a prolific writer and such an inspiration!

The Pharaoh’s Destiny certainly sounds very intriguing. What inspired you to write it?

Ancient Egypt has always fascinated me, and Hatshepsut is probably the very first famous woman in known history. I felt her story grab me and I had to write it!

Many times, there’s a substantial amount of research behind books, particularly historical fiction or alternate history. How did that aspect of the writing process play out for you? What difficulties did you encounter when researching?

I loved it! In preparation for this book, I actually took one of those free college courses on Egyptian history. I enjoyed the course so much, and it turned out one of my instructors’ site a book about Hatshepsut’s life.

Sounds fun! Would you say you enjoyed the preparation stages more? Were they any easier or more difficult than actually writing the book?

Writing the book was more difficult than most of my others. I wanted to present an accurate account of the way of life, even though I changed a bit of the history to an alternate ending. But as far as the food they ate, the manner in which they lived, I tried to remain true.

Because of the difficulty with names and certain words, I included a glossary and a pronunciation guide to further enrich the reading experience.

Thank you for being so considerate! That’s very thoughtful of you to put in some extra effort to further engage your readers.

I know how I feel when I can’t pronounce a character’s name!

Many writers are also avid readers. Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or a reader, as well?

I’m an avid reader, too, like most authors. My favorite books are the Clan of the Cave Bear series, anything by JD Robb, Patricia Cornwall, or Kay Hooper.

Do you find yourself generally writing the same genres you read? Or are they distinct?

I do read a lot of crime. But I spent half my life in law enforcement, so I guess it’s only natural that I started writing a crime series.

How interesting! Do you feel writing crime is different from writing other genres, given you have extensive experience in the field?

Crime can touch on subjects uncomfortable to some, such as assault or murder. But, those things do happen in our world, and writing about them increases awareness.

Do you feel, on a similar level, that there’s a need to increase awareness about Hatshepsut and her story?

She is a misunderstood historical figure, one we could learn from.

In what sense would you consider her misunderstood? What lessons do you think we could learn from her?

She led the country in a prosperous time, even though it was not “normal” for a woman to be king. After her death, many of her monuments depicting her as a king were removed or defaced. Those depicting her as just a queen were left alone. It wasn’t “proper” for her to rule. Then again, 100 years ago, it wasn’t proper for women to wear slacks or pants. Hatshepsut is an inspiration to those who aspire to break the mold of their gender.

How do you feel you, in a sense, engaged with her story on a creative level, and how did Hatshepsut’s going against the status quo influence your writing or your very self, if at all?

Historically, royal women of Egypt are meant only to marry the king, and were never allowed to marry anyone else if their king should die. But, history speaks of the possibility that Hatshepsut had a relationship after her husband died, though no one can confirm this. The story started out being a straight historical. The romance part was a complete surprise to me! I guess Hatshepsut didn’t want to go through life alone.

It’s crazy how our writing sometimes takes us to unexpected places!

Yes, it really is! I often speak of my characters like they’re real people who talk to me. Because often, they do.

It’s interesting that you say that, since I, personally, often struggle to connect with characters from different time periods. Did you experience any cultural, temporal, or spatial barriers when writing your characters?

Well, writing ancient history was certainly a culture shock! Especially since I went from it to the 5th book in my crime series, which is also set in Egypt, only 100 years from now!

What advice would you give to other authors who are also writing books across several generations?

Do the research, especially if you’re wanting to really nail the authenticity. Yes, research can, at times, be boring, but it’s necessary for a great story.

Great advice!

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about yourself, your books, or writing in general?

I love hearing from readers, so follow those links and stalk me! Also, the first book in my crime/paranormal series is now free across all e-book retailers, so it’s a great way to get to know my writing. The Amazon link for that one is: http://geni.us/4BBh

Marvelous! Thank you so much, Markie, for sharing your wisdom and insight with us!

You can find Markie Madden online at the following sites:

Social Media Links:

Official Website: https://metamorphpublishing.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/markiemaddenauthor/

The Pharaoh Queens Trilogy Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pharaohqueenstrilogy/

The Undead Unit Series Home Page: https://metamorphpublishing.com/the-undead-unit-series/

The Undead Unit Series Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/undeadunitseries/

Official Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/booksbymarkie

Twitter @metamorphpub

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/httpsgoodreadscommarkie_madden

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/naddya81975

Instagram: http://instagram.com/naddya81975/

 

For The Pharaoh’s Destiny:

Kindle: http://geni.us/dest

Nook: http://geni.us/destnook

iPhone: http://geni.us/destap

Articles

#WWGotYourBack: Swords, Gowns, & Plot Fodder

The latest Wonder Woman movie was released just 5 days ago, on June 2nd, and already there has been speculation over whether it’s actually plausible for Wonder Woman to keep her sword in her dress.

Wonder Woman fans and writers, rest assured. Just a day ago, on June 7th, Eva Wei posted a few images on Facebook proving that it’s surprisingly plausible.

As a writer, I’m always looking out for character
inspiration. The hashtag Eva Wei created,
#WWgotyourback, simply screams “plot fodder.”

PLOT FODDER

/plät  ˈfädər/

noun. A character, group of characters, scene, action, plot, item, etc. that inspires writers and/or generates an idea that can be incorporated into an author's current or future works in progress. In their natural habitat, writers depend on plot fodder to thrive. Be wary: When enountering plot fodder, writers may jump up excitedly or grab the nearest person by the shoulders and overdramatically express the joy and importance of their epiphany.

Others quickly joined in and posted images of
themselves keeping their weapon of choice down the
back of their dress. As a writer, character
inspiration abounds when I see these images!

Thanks to all those participating in
#WWgotyourback
for sharing such captivating images.

What do you think? Would any of your characters keep their swords in their dress? Have an idea for a character that would? Leave your thoughts in the comments.