Interviews

Q&A: Greg Alldredge

I’m excited to have the chance to take a peek into the world of another new-to-me author. Today we are talking with Greg Alldredge about his novel,  Lights in the Night.

Plagued by nightmares, Trevor’s drawn to Texas by unknown forces. What are those lights? Join Trevor and the quirky town residents as he searches for answers and tries to fill the void in his heart.

To start things off I asked Alldredge to tell us a bit about himself. Here’s what he had to say:

I guess I said it best on my author page, I’ve had several careers over the past 50+ years. Currently, I am a theatre teacher and a writer, this is probably where I will continue to work until I die. Growing up, I was bitten by the travel bug. Since my parents were not independently wealthy, I joined the Navy to see the world. I spent twenty years in the Navy I met and married my wife we adopted our son and we traveled extensively, I also acted professionally from time to time. Once I retired from the Navy I went into the medical manufacturing industry that was great it put my son through college. I came to Texas to retire, I failed at retirement. I began teaching because several people said I would be good at it. After five years teaching in Texas, we decided to travel overseas and teach. While in China I found an outstanding opportunity to write. I had tried and failed to write books in the past, either by location or maturity this time I was able to complete what I started.

I’ve been provided with the first three paragraphs of Lights in the Night to share with readers.

Let’s take a look inside this Sci-Fi Novel:

Everyone in town called ‘Old Sits’ the crazy old hermit. One of those men that by choice decided to live a life of solitude in the open desert.

Yet, this particular night, he was on a mission. Like a forward observer, equipped with surveillance equipment more suitable to the NSA or catching cheating spouses. Dressed in a ghillie suit, camouflage netting covering his entrenched position. Armed with a high-power camera, hyperbolic microphone and a four-inch tripod mounted telescope all targeted at the distance southern mountain range under observation.

Any rational observer would recognize someone who was spying on someone or something. He chose to position himself here, in this very location watching the same chunk of real-estate for the last four months. Every night from before moonrise to first light, eating cold spam sandwiches and drinking vodka, waiting for anything to happen.

It’s time to delve into the Q. & A.

This my favourite part. My questions are crafted to give a reader a clear look at how an author writes, what drives them, and what can be expected in their books.


Question: What genre would you say the book falls into?

I always say you must know your genre to know your audience. My book as science-fiction with a bit of humour. Of course if you find it funny it’s humour with a bit of science-fiction. I do feel every good book should have some mystery and suspense thrown in. If you know the end of the story, that’s half the reason for finishing the book. No one is surprised when the Titanic sinks.

Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content readers should know about?

Not really, if it were a film it would be rated R for drug use. It’s not excessive drug use, the language is not harsh and there is very little sex. Oh my God, I just made it so a good portion of the world will not read my book. Hopefully, you read it even with my last sentence.

Question: Do you have any upcoming events?

My current events all revolve around finishing classes towards my master of theatre education from the University of Houston. After that, I must travel back to China and begin teaching a new school year. Any events between now and June I will have to schedule via the Internet.

Question: What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works?

Currently, I am working on the second book in the series. It has a working title of Darkness at Midday.

Question: Do you have any special mentions? (Editor, cover art etc…)

I must mention my wife, Connie. She is my editor, my muse, my sounding board, my proof-reader, and just about everything else. I’ll never understand why she has put up with me for the last 30+ years.

Question: What was your favourite book when you were growing up?

Funny thing is I didn’t read a lot until I got out of high school. I guess my favourite book in high school was by Alistair MacLean Where Eagles Dare. I was more of an action adventure reader. I didn’t begin reading a lot of science fiction until I was in the Navy and an early adult.

Question: If you could meet any character from any book, who would it be? Why?

Crystal; I think she could teach me a lot about yoga.

Question: When did you realize you were meant to be a writer?

That is a loaded question, I’m not 100% sure I should be a writer now. Lights in the Night was my third attempt at writing a book. The first two failed. Either time, space, or both has changed enough to allow me the motivation to finish this book. Now I feel the dam has been broken, I am finding it hard to not write. I guess it will be up to my readers to decide if I am meant to be a writer or not.

Question: If your life was a book, what would be the tagline?

Will he ever stop moving?

Question: What advice would you give new writers?

Just do it. There will always be excuses why not to write. There will be times you start, and times you never finish, but you’re never really done until you die.

Question: What has been the worst mistake you have made in your writing career?

Not finishing my first two books. Even if they never saw the light of day it would’ve been a start. I know I needed to mature before I could finish a book. It would’ve been nice to have started writing before the Internet became so popular and changed the way publishing happens.

Question: What is the best moment you have had with a fan?

I posted a saying on Facebook. A former student replied saying “I don’t know if you meant that for me, but I really needed it today.” There are times I think we overlook the simple things, and the effects they can have on those around us. I never want to forget the simple things.


Lights in the Night is in my TBR pile – watch for my future review! If you’re interested you can follow the following links to find out more about this author. 

www.amazon.com/dp/B071ND2SMF

www.facebook.com/G.Alldredge

www.greg-alldredge.com

Thank you, Greg Alldredge and all my readers for your time!

Interviews

Q&A: Stan Faryna

Today I’m taking a look into an author whose book, Francesco Augustine Bernadone: A Brief History of Our Tomorrows, I’ve recently reviewed for Books and Quills.

“A disabled, recently unemployed man is desperately searching for hard cash in a brutal, post-apocalyptic MMO game about zombies, greed and survival. All of which strongly reminds us of Shakespeare’s midsummer qualm, the course of true love never did run smooth. This epic, near-future science fiction and fantasy at its best – it asks us big questions about what it means to be human.

Stan gives us glimpses of the future that are as interesting as anything being said by Michio Kaku, Ray Kurweil, Marc Andreessen, and Jeff Bezos.

RIP Dollar and Euro! Viva la #Bitcoin!”

— Liam deTroch, Generation Z blogger

 

Mr. Faryna does an excellent job in describing the human condition, no matter how painful it may be. In short — This story is truly a must-read.

— Ms. H of Mom’s Minute Video Game Show

Stan Faryna was gracious enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions:

Question: What genre would you say the book falls into?

Answer: Primarily, Science Fiction and Fantasy. Some have suggested, Literary Fiction. Others have said it is a multi-genre work with elements of classic literature, fantasy, action and adventure, romance, futurism, apocalyptic, dark dystopia, and litRPG.    

Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content readers should know about?

Answer: There is a shocking and horrible scene near the beginning of the story. It’s a gruesome metaphor of the real world and game world in which the story takes place. Maybe, our world too.

Question: What is your favourite Quote?

Answer: “Love never fails.”

Question: What advice do you have for new writers?

Answer: Write the words that travail the longer darkness and distance. Like starlight. Be the light in a dark place. Be truthful. Love strongly. Do try to write something good, excellent and praiseworthy.

Question: Where do you write?

Answer: Wherever I am – assuming I can plug in my laptop. The mundane and peculiar rituals of writers can become traps and prisons. I might have some, but I don’t want to admit it. I don’t want to give them power over me.

Question: Are your characters real to you? Do you speak to them?

Answer: Reading a fanfiction piece related to my novella, Grimdark Fantasy author M.L. Spencer commented to me in a private message that I really love my characters.

Is there something more real and worthwhile than love?

Question: What piece of advice from other authors do you hear the most but choose to ignore?

Answer: Just write.

No human activity is useful to us for its own sake. Neither art nor writing or any talent. If it does not serve a higher authority and virtue, it’s all just more dust in the wind.

Question: Which do you prefer Novels or Novellas and why?

Answer: I like them both. I imagine, however, that the Novella has a better shot with the much-diminished attention of modern people.

Question: Are there any Easter eggs in your book(s)?

Answer: There are lots of Easter eggs in my novellas!

The red dumpster in the beginning is a big one but I can’t explain it without spoiling a larger story.

Question: What’s your favourite food? Have you ever mentioned it in your book(s)?

Answer: I like good and healthy food. I like good cooking. I mention a smoothie recommended for cancer patients.

Question: Do you have a writing Motto?

Answer: Nudi nudum Christum sequi.

To nakedly follow the naked Christ.

Question: If you could change the date to any year past or future, what date would you change it to and why?

Answer: Are you asking me if I could time travel, where would I go?

I was born for this time so I have no regrets. The grass is not greener…

But if I could travel in time, there would be many stops in my adventures. First stop would be when Jesus speaks his sermon on the Mount.


I’d like to thank Stan Faryna for his time!  In my review, I recommend this story to anyone looking for something thought-provoking. If you are interested, it’s here on Books & Quills Magazine.  

If you are looking for more information, here are all the links you need:

Book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071S75DWB

Author’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Faryna

Author’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stan.faryna

Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/Faryna.FanPage

Author’s blog: https://stanfaryna.blog

 

Interviews

Author Q&A: Mercedes Prunty

Yes! I’ve found another fantasy author to check out and this one has a bit of horror mixed in. I was looking forward to reading Junia – The Magic Of The Element Souls before the interview. If it’s half of what I think it will be, It’s going to be a huge success.

First, let’s find out about the author. I asked Prunty to share a bit about how the writer came to be:

I am a mother, wife, author and blogger. I mainly write in the genres of Horror and Fantasy, ever since I was young I have had a love and interest in zombie horror mainly due to the video game ‘Resident Evil’ and later in life the video game ‘The last of us’ and now the television series ‘The walking dead’. I love the suspense and the thrills of the scare those types of books can give you. (I own all the resident evil novelizations and the walking dead comics). I also love Fantasy, my all-time favourite fantasy story is another video game (Yes I’m a geek) ‘Final Fantasy X’ which inspired my story ‘Junia’.

Now for the book: Junia – The Magic of the Element Souls

Welcome to the magical world of Junia, a place where everything is made up of souls from the green grass you walk on to the lake made of lava, everything in Junia is alive.

Some people just don’t know it yet.

Mira the princess of Cosima wakes one night to an attack on her home, the culprit, a Grand Dark Witch who plans on taking over the throne and the whole of Junia and doesn’t care for who she kills in the process. To save her Kingdom Mira must venture out into a world she doesn’t really know or understand, to collect all the Element Souls, to then awaken the final Element Soul who will be powerful enough to defeat the Grand Dark Witch but not all the people she meets wish to help her on her journey. For the royal family is disregarded as traitors to the religion of Junia and to the Element Souls themselves.

And with a chance to find love will she lose it all to keep it or will Mira abide by her royal duties and save her Kingdom first? Or will she lose everything by the hand of an ancient evil?’

Already hooked? The idea of everything being alive and made from souls grabbed me right away. It also brought a bit of a chuckle – don’t step on the lava (the floor is lava). That’s my geek side showing! Right below is the Amazon link!

Amazon UK: Junia: The Magic of the Element Souls

Amazon: Junia: The Magic of the Element Souls
Still not sold?

 

Let’s try a short excerpt from Junia:

I didn’t sleep that night, how could I? It was most probably the last night I would ever see Thane almost alive. We both sat in the main hall of the temple, talking and watching the souls sing as they floated past us. Nuelle had thought it best we all stayed in the temple as it was the safest place to be, even though Lumi had managed to get in and attack me.

I wondered how Andromeda was feeling now, knowing that I had defeated her main warrior. My mother had warned me that she might use my father to make me weaker and I was guessing she would do something horrific to make me weaker now I had taken out Lumi but I hoped that seeing my father in the void meant he had managed to get away from her and settle into Spirit.’

 

Time for the best part – at least my favourite–the Q & A:

Question: Who is your favourite character in your book and why?

Answer: Nuelle is my favourite character, she is wise beyond her years and when I wrote her I envisioned a beautiful silver haired girl who could control the element of souls. She comes across as a little strange and blunt with words but she has a big heart and wants the best for Junia.

Question: Please describe him/her/they a) physically b) their personality.

Answer: Nuelle has silver hair and is suspected to be around 16 years old but in all honesty she is as old as Junia itself, she was born to watch over Spirit. Personality wise she is strong, a natural leader and doesn’t like to mince her words.

Question: Could I have a couple of quotes from your book of dialogue that shows that personality?

Answer: “Yes”, she answered plainly her eyes holding no emotion, “Thane was not originally your soul guardian”.

“A true Queen can see the beauty in everything, even the things she doesn’t fully understand…That was where you’re so called ancestors failed, they had no vision”, she said.

Question: What genre would you say the book falls into?

Answer: Fantasy (Young adult fantasy)

Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content I should know about?

Answer: Not really, there is a lot of death but that’s because the world of Junia is built of souls.

Question: Do you have any upcoming events?

Answer: Not at the moment but I should be attending a book festival in my local town later in the year but the date is yet to be confirmed.

Question: What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works?

Answer: I have about six projects on the go, a novella I’m writing to put in a competition, the final in my horror series ‘Alone’, a Sci-Fi type of story and another horror… I have so many files and folders I’ve lost count of all my Work in Progresses, I just pick the one I’m in the mood for writing and write.

Question: Do you have any special mentions you would like to share? (Editor, cover art etc…)

Answer: I tend to do it all on my own, money is very tight at the moment but if I had to give a special mention it would be to my husband Jamie who puts up with my tapping of the keys every night so I can write.

Question: If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? Please describe the place rather than just a name. The weather, the time of day, the ground, the surroundings, foliage, etc…

Answer: Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, I would love the see the mist roll in and cover the bridge giving it the spooky image I have seen so many times on the start of ‘Charmed’ my favourite television series. I guess the mist would either come in the morning or late afternoon when temperatures change but I’m no expert haha.

Question: If the character from above were in that place what would they be doing?

Answer: Probably fighting a monster of sorts or collecting lost souls.

Question: If your character was allowed one chance to say anything to your readers, what would he/she say?

Answer: ‘Don’t fear death for your soul will be recycled to bring new life to a baby or to something else living in the world.’

Question: If your character could donate to any charity, which one would he/she choose?

Answer: As there is a huge battle and most of the temples in Junia get destroyed she would most probably donate to the ‘Temple build’ fund. The temples are of the upmost importance in Junia and without them there are no elements, no magic and ultimately no Junia.


Thank you for your time, Mercedes Prunty. I’ll be reading Junia soon and posting my review.

Interviews, Unique Lives

Unique Lives: Danny Knestaut – From Alienation to Entrepreneurship

Unique Lives

writers and characters who reject the mainstream

 

In this Q&A corner, Lia Rees speaks to authors with a difference. They approach the world from an unusual perspective, and create characters who push social boundaries. But what drives these bold spirits? Are they rebels or just misfits? In the fourth of the series, Danny Knestaut – author of Arachnodactyl – discusses his journey from alienation to entrepreneurship.

1. What makes you different?

I have no idea what makes me different. I suspect it has a lot to do with my mother’s cynicism and her desire to teach her children to think for themselves. She never really trusted systems or authority, and so the ability to think critically and to always question everything became some core family values. As an adult, my ability to question things and evaluate their perceived worth against actual worth has led me to exist largely outside of the mainstream.

2. What does “being different” mean to you?

Being different doesn’t mean much to me. It’s not a badge of honor or something I strive for. I am the result of everything that has ever happened to me, and it just so happens that a lot of odd stuff has happened to me over my lifetime. It’s not something I embrace, but rather, something that I live with, like my eye color. It is just what I ended up with.

3. Did you reject the mainstream, or did it reject you?

I think we both came to a mutual understanding.

4. How does your non-mainstream view/lifestyle affect your writing?

My non-mainstream views and lifestyle have both had a tremendous affect on my writing. For starters, as a child, my parents’ inability to consistently model socially appropriate behavior led to me being shunned at school by my peers. As a result, I spent a good bit of my childhood alone, with my nose buried in a book. I developed a love of reading, and a love of fantasy in which I constantly told myself stories. I never really grew out of that. To this day, I still read a good bit, and I am constantly getting lost in my head and telling myself stories.

The biggest impact my views have on my writing though, is my ability to be the outsider looking in. I pride myself on my ability to write well-developed characters, and though part of that is just learning how to do it, but a large part of it is also the ability to step back and examine human behavior through a dispassionate lens. Questioning why people do things is second-nature to me now, and it comes in handy when dealing with the motivations and actions of characters.

As for my lifestyle, it has allowed me to launch a career not only as a writer, but as a publisher. Consumerism has never been something that I participated in, as I’ve never seen a personal value in it, and as a result, my wife and I are able to live an austere existence on very little money while we work hard in pursuit of our dreams. Furthermore, our ability to step outside of mainstream expectations allowed my wife to start a business. After a couple of years, I left my job as a nurse to have more time to write while I helped her produce hand-made knitting project bags. After seeing the success she had with her business, I felt that I could do it on my own as well, and so I decided to launch my own business as an independently published author. Being able to live outside of the expectations of American materialism has allowed me to pursue my dreams on a level I never expected.

5. How does your uniqueness help your writing?

My uniqueness helps my writing by giving me a unique perspective on people, events, and motivations. I can write fiction that stands out because everything is being filtered through a unique lens. Though there is very little that is truly original, I am able to take my unique experiences and filter my fiction through them for stories that stand out and are unlike anything else that one will find in mainstream fiction.

6. What problems does your uniqueness cause to your writing?

Marketing. My uniqueness means I write fiction that is difficult to market because I can’t say, “If you like [blank] you’ll love Arachnodactyl!” I read a fair amount, but I can’t always find the stories that go where I want them to go. So when I sat down to write Arachnodactyl, I wanted to write the book I wanted to read because no one else was writing it for me. And though I’m happy with the book, I now have a book that isn’t like anything else, and that makes it very difficult to market. Who likes books about a young man who falls in love with a blind woman who may or may not be an automaton? Show of hands, please.

7. Do you wish you were more like everyone else?

Nah. I can’t be more like everyone else anymore than a fish can be a bird. A fish is a fish. I might as well make the most of being a fish, because that’s all I’ve got.

8. Are there any other observations you want to make?

I wish to observe the process by which people decide what they like and what they don’t. Trying to predict what will be popular, or how what is popular became popular, or why something else doesn’t take off at all, just maddens me. I’d like to be able to observe that process, watch it happen, see how people slot an experience into their values.

9. What’s your name?

Danny Knestaut

10. What’s the title of your book?

Arachnodactyl

11. Any web links or social media you want to include?

http://dannyknestaut.com

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.

Interviews

Questions & Answers with DJ Cooper

DJ Cooper

DJ Cooper is the author of the Dystopia book series, and also writes humor, poetry, and research articles for her blog Surviving Dystopia. Included in her works are editorial pieces for local newspapers, blog articles, and of course dystopian fiction. Along those lines, she is also an internet radio host/executive producer of the Prepper Podcast Radio Network KPRN-DB. DJ Cooper was born in Salem, Massachusetts, but lives in and writes about Kentucky in the Dystopia series. Currently a student at Southern New Hampshire University, she is studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing/English. When asked about what kind of writer she is, she says, “The starving kind. I believe that writing is an ART, and often times, one must sacrifice to maintain the artistic integrity of the works.”


Dystopia: The Beginning of the End

Soon the action intensifies as Destiny & Matt, along with their small group, struggle to maintain some semblance of routine while the world around them spirals into chaos. With limited resources, some knowledge and skills they soon find that even though they are somewhat removed from the worst of things, the chaos comes to them. Our group manages through each day until the world’s troubles come to their very home and it is soon apparent that they must adapt and improvise. Watch as they make do and work together to reconcile the reality of this new life. Working together with ingenuity and compromise they begin to overcome many threats that challenge their very survival. It soon becomes apparent that something just doesn’t fit about the Ebola and Isis news. When the financial crisis grinds society to a halt and changes their way of life, they find themselves at the heart of a war they did not intend and pursued by an unlikely enemy bent on their destruction. Enjoy their humor as they bring a lighthearted perspective to a very dark time.

DJ Cooper’s first novel and the first book in the Dystopia series offers a different view of things that could be, how these events could shape what might be and gives hope for what can be. Written for those of us who are somewhat prepared to handle what may come but are like most of us who just make it day to day, they do not have unlimited resources or knowledge and improvise as each challenge arises. A story of today, in our current world of uncertainty, anything could go wrong and bring our way of life to an end.


Here’s a look at what you’ll find in the book:

“Amanda spotted one of the guys who had raped her, she stood up and fired at him, hitting him in the head and he crumbled to the ground.

Dez grabbed her and threw her to the ground, screaming, “That was so stupid. Get your shit together.”

George caught sight of Dez as she was pulling Amanda down and headed for their position in a rage.

Matt was horrified when he saw this and yelled to Sam and Loel, “Take him out! Get him, he’s spotted Dez and going for her!”

“Oh My God, DESTINY” he screamed as he broke position running at George.

Loel and Sam stood up and covered him, as Frank came running from the back house to take his spot

Jeremy was still in the woods and saw what Matt did. He broke cover and sprinted across the road to cover him just as Matt tackled George, toppling them both into the ditch below her position.”


Questions & Answers with DJ Cooper

I’m asking the hard questions today. I hope you’ll stick around and read the answers!

Question: Who is your favourite character in your book and why?

Answer: Destiny Walters (Dez), Destiny is one of the lead characters but more than that she is what I would hope to be. Strong, yet lighthearted with intelligence and kindness, she handles all situations.

Question: Please describe him/her/them a) physically b) their personality.

Answer: Dez is older, but not elderly (I leave her actual age up to the reader.) With long dark hair, she is also fit and young enough to have a significant other that is much younger than she is. She has twentysomething children and a grandchild, yet had no one told one might never know. She is strong in her convictions and outspoken. Her lighthearted nature allows her to quickly get over issues and find solutions.

Question: Could you provide a couple of quotes from your book of dialogue that shows that personality?

Answer: Dez eyed him and said, “After how George acted I don’t really want to deal with his stupid ass anymore this evening.”

Dez spoke up, “I think we need to consider non-lethal forms of defense, we may have to defend, but could run into legal issues if we use lethal force in the beginning.”

Herb spoke, saying, “I think this is a good idea, you know Janice and I are not spring chickens, I worry we would be a burden to you all.”

Dez replied, “Don’t you worry about that, I know lots of ways you two would be of help and we would feel better knowing you were close enough to keep an eye on, wouldn’t want you not so spring chickens; getting into any mischief out here.”

Question: What genre would you say the book falls into?

Answer: Fiction: Sci-Fi / Post-apocalyptic

Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content readers should know about?

Answer: A few minor expletives are used in dialogue but nothing you wouldn’t hear on cable TV 😉

Question: Do you have any upcoming events?

Answer: None scheduled yet, but will be doing signings and interviews for Prepper Podcast at Preparedness Expos

Question: What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works?

Answer: The Beginning of the End is my first Novel and I hope to gain experience and knowledge. There is a second in this series already available called Dystopia: The Long Road. In the works is a Character Novel (started out a novella to tie up some loose ends but is ending up more) and also the third book in this series Dystopia: The Dark Days. Both are being written simultaneously as the character novel unravels some of the information, but I can’t share it in the third book because I haven’t decided what it is until I write it in the other.

Question: Do you have any special mentions? (Editor, cover art etc…)

Answer: Just my children, Chris and Jamie. They have been life’s greatest blessing and support Momma in everything. Growl at me to get my school work done and offer feedback to what I write. Jamie has also started writing her own book and I could not be prouder of her.

Question: If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?

Answer: Oh, to go anywhere I choose would be magical. More so would be to go to anytime. I love history and would love to experience some of the things that fascinate me. I guess for this question, I might like to be a Viking. To go to areas of Scandinavia, More specifically Sweden, where there are yet some who choose an old-style Viking life would be an amazing adventure. Glancing around, a current time Viking village set amongst the green mountains and blue waters of a rarely traveled fjord. Across the water, two Viking ships come into view and even though they are new they still carry the look of the once great ships. Looking into the village are a number of small cabins with grass growing on the roofs. Because I would choose to visit in the summer the weather is fair with a breeze gently blowing off the fjord. Inhabitants mill around the town tending livestock, tanning hides or working on various tasks. I hear from the edge of town a clank, like metal being beaten and choose to investigate. I find a blacksmith shop where swords are being made. The heat from the forge can be felt on my face from the doorway. Many men stand in warrior clothing carrying shields and swords sheathed at their sides. What a wondrous adventure I might like to never return.

Question: If the character from above were in that place what would they be doing?

Answer: Dez would be a shieldmaiden of the time, not only that but one of power. She would have the kindness to win the people’s hearts but the fierceness to conquer their enemies. Practicing her fighting skills as well as negotiating peaceful solutions to whatever threat they may face.

Question: If your character was allowed one chance to say anything to your readers, what would he/she say?

“Never be so strong you lose your sense of compassion, never be so compassionate that others think you’re weak, and always remember to laugh at yourself. It is with the ability to empathize we can care for others, our strength we overcome issues and laughter that we are able to remember to lighten up.”

Question: If your character could donate to any charity, which one would he/she choose?

Answer: Any charity that helps battered and abused children.

Thank you for your time. This has been another wonderful Q&A Session!


Looking for more information about DJ Cooper? Here are all the links!

Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J82P5NM

Website: Http://Djcooper.co

Twitter: @DJCooper2015

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDJCooper/

 

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.