I used to read a lot of Stephen King when I was a kid, so I understand the appeal of a good scary story. For me, it’s all about the buildup of suspense—the increasingly menacing ghost encounters in the Overlook Hotel, the bullying by peers and the crazed mother that sends Carrie over the edge, the tragic burden of foresight that plagues Johnny in The Dead Zone.
But I’ve never even thought about writing a scary story until I was prompted to during a flash fiction workshop. I’m happy to say that story, “You’re a Crayon this Year,” was just published as part of Necessary Fiction’s Spooky October series!
I think sometimes it’s important, and really super fun, to write outside of your comfort zone. What is your normal type of writing, and do you ever try something outside of it? I hope you’re creating great stuff, and taking risks that appeal to you, and crafting amazing pieces. And I hope I get to read some. Please hit us up here if you’ve published anything recently. We’d love to promote your work!
Oh, and NaNoWriMo began on Monday! Anyone participating this year?
Happy almost Halloween. Arborview is almost one month old, and I have to say it’s been a fun and productive month. I had a terrific Zoom launch reading hosted by my local library, and I have a few more events scheduled in coming months.
Numerous blogs and promoters have already featured Arborview, and we’ve received some really nice reviews, for which I am truly grateful.
Julie writes historical fiction. Here, she treats us to a bit about her process, her inspiration, and the tough road women traveled in the American Old West.
Take it away, Julie:
Thank you, Karen, for hosting me on your blog. I’m happy to talk a bit about the inspiration for my upcoming release, The Three Widows of Wylder, a historical fiction that takes place in the American Old West. There are three main characters in this story, as the title implies, and each gets their own chapter in alternating fashion. Early on, their stories merge as they join up to escape their pasts.
I’ve had shadows of these characters in my mind for a few years, with the overarching story inspired by a few people I know. The characters are nothing like the real people I’ve known. When a real person inspires a character, the inspiration could come from a brief conversation or the way someone views life. It could be evoked by a physical quirk or the way someone laughs at their own jokes. Often, that’s enough to get my imagination into gear.
In this story, the women have complicated pasts with secrets to hide. They band together in a disharmonious goal to reach safety. In their previous lives, these are women who would never become friends, but their plights compel them to work together.
This story is part of a broader series my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has produced, where each book is set in the fictional town of Wylder, in the old Wyoming Territory. In 1882 when my book is set, Wyoming was truly the Old West and under a huge change. The area attracted a huge mix of people, from adventurers seeking lands to explore to ranchers to outlaws. I’ve always been intrigued with how difficult women had it during this time, and how hard they had to struggle to have any independence at all. For the most part, their existence was ruled by the men in their lives. These themes, too, play a large role in this novel.
Emma stood, legs apart, one hand on the pistol at her hip. The covered wagon was the type used years ago by pioneers, before trains tamed the prairie, and they still lumbered across areas where tracks hadn’t been laid. Two women sat side-by-side, too focused on their argument to yet notice the camp they entered. Their one horse, overmatched by the heavy wagon, was damp with sweat, its mouth flecked with froth.
“We should have stayed on the main road.” The peevish one appeared much younger, curly gold hair topped by a large straw hat. She wore a light-yellow dress with lace at her wrists and throat, a perfectly inadequate outfit for travel. “Someone could have provided directions.”
The older woman had finely-drawn features, a few strands of gray threaded through her dark, uncovered hair. Dressed in sensible blue calico, she gripped the reins too tight and the poor horse gave a pathetic shake of its head. “The whole point was to avoid people,” she sniped.
Emma strode forward and seized the reins. “For God’s sake, you’re killing him.”
The two women gaped as though at an apparition. The horse, released from harsh hands, lowered its head and halted. Its sides heaved as flies drank at its sweaty flanks.
“Whomever let you two fools handle a horse should be whipped.” Tempted to dispatch the women to hell for their cruelty, Emma rested her hand on the pistol’s handle.
They two travelers spoke in tandem. “Who are you?” and “How dare you call me a fool.”
As Emma crooned into in the horse’s ear, her expert fingers undid the buckles at its shoulders and haunches. By the time the older of the two women climbed to the ground, the horse was unhitched and Emma led it to the creek.
“That’s our horse,” cried the one in yellow. “Clara, what is that insane girl doing? She’s stealing him.”
Emma halted, shoulders stiff. She turned and pointed the pistol at the one with lace at her throat. “I’m no horse thief.” She cocked the hammer. “Apologize.”
About the author:
Julie Howard is the author of the Wild Crime mystery series and Spirited Quest paranormal mystery series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and editor of the Potato Soup Journal.
I have a new flash fiction story up at Fiction Attic Press, the wonderful people who brought Karen’s first book, Homing Instincts, into the world. They are a terrific bunch to work with, and I’m so grateful to them for giving this story a home. Please check it out when you have a minute:
This story is very loosely based on a friend of mine, who is a realtor. And while she doesn’t sneak into her client’s homes (that I know of), she did go through a crappy breakup recently, and she’s been on my mind a lot. I felt like I had to give her a heads-up before this story came out, so she wouldn’t read it blindly and then be startled to see bits of her life sprinkled in here and there.
Do you write about those around you? If so, how do you handle telling them about it? How do they respond? It’s a tricky thing for writers. We’re supposed to always “write what we know” but sometimes that can get a bit close, can’t it?
I hope you’re all staying safe, writing well, and submitting all you can. In fact, if you have a new piece out, please share the link in the comments. We’d love to read it.
Here at Write Despite, we really like baked goods and pastry, which is why Sarita Leone is a perfect guest blogger. Sarita loves happy endings—in life and on the page. The lead character of her new book? A baker.
Sarita’s story is part of The Wild Rose Press’ upcoming Christmas Cookies Series. Each book features a holiday recipe. Sarita spotlights the delectable snickerdoodle. Snickerdoodle Snowmen is available November 3.
More from Sarita:
When I heard about The Wild Rose Press’ Christmas Cookie Series, I immediately remembered all the wonderful hours I’ve spent baking holiday cookies. Baking is one of my passions, so there was no doubt in my mind I’d submit a story to this special series.
But how to pick just one cookie? A tough one, that. I mean, let’s face it there are so many yummy recipes to choose from! But in the end it came down to a matter of comfort. Snickerdoodles seem so warm and inviting, such a comfortable and comforting cookie. So, I pulled out my recipe and baked a batch—just for inspiration, you know.
It worked, because the longer I rolled dough balls and pulled perfectly crinkled cookies from the oven, the more I liked the idea of writing about dreamers, the snowy Alaskan wilderness, and romance beneath the Northern Lights. Before I’d washed the cookie sheets, I had a good idea where this unlikely couple would end up. And that, the ending, is a bit of a wintery surprise!
I loved writing this story, and I’m hoping it will bring warmth and holiday cheer to readers. It releases on November 3 but is already available for pre-order from Amazon.
And in case anyone wants to bake their own snickerdoodles, I’ve included my recipe.
Thanks so much for having me here today!
1 cup shortening 1 ½ cups sugar 2 eggs (egg substitute is fine) 2 ¾ cups sifted flour 2 t cream of tartar 1 t baking soda ½ t salt
Combine shortening and sugar until well mixed and fluffy.
Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well.
Roll dough between your palms to form balls.
Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Well, Arborview has officially been in the world for one week, and the reception has been heartwarming. Thanks to everyone who reached out with congratulations and who is already reading Arborview. Please share your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Eighteen people attended my launch reading via Zoom, which was hosted by my local library, and since then the book has been making the rounds on several Book Launch Blog Tours.
How am I feeling? Relieved, gratified, kinda tired. Arborview is being marketed much more heavily that my debut novel was seven years ago. All this blogging, and chatting, tweeting and instagrammingtakes time. Precious time.
Not that I’m complaining! I’m just eager to pour more of myself into my new writing project…which I am VERY excited about. My job as an author now is to divide my time between promoting Arborview and forging ahead on my new project. (Oh, and hold down my full-time paying job and raise my kid!)
Tips, anyone? How do you balance the marketing aspects with the creative aspects of being an author in this digital age? I welcome all advice.
And for anyone on NetGalley, Arborview is listed all this month. Apply to review, if you’d like. You get a free digital copy.
Hosting author Darlene Fredette on Write Despite was a no-brainer. The woman has written a novel about an ice cream entrepreneur who finds true love. I wouldn’t mind hanging out in this world for a while.
Darlene’s new novel, Cherry Red debuted earlier this month, published by The Wild Rose Press. With a strong female protagonist and a cool leading man, you almost don’t need the ice cream backdrop. But then again, ice cream does make everything better. Or as Darlene puts it, “Who doesn’t love ice cream?”
As you may have guessed, Darlene is something of an ice cream connoisseur herself. Her top-ten flavors:
1. Cherry Red … of course!
2. French Vanilla
5. Butter Pecan
7. Strawberry Cheesecake
8. Peanut Butter Cup
9. Maple Nut
10. Pina Colada
This summer, ice cream entrepreneur Carly Redd’s only focus is expanding her business—until she’s coerced into attending her ex’s engagement party. Showing up without a date is unthinkable. She reluctantly agrees to be escorted by her brother’s co-worker, although doing so breaks her rule of not dating firefighters.
The daughter of the town’s fire chief should wear a Do Not Touch sign, but firefighter Noah Harding’s interest blazed the moment he saw Carly. Agreeing to be her fake boyfriend is a no-brainer, but convincing Carly to trust him with her heart is harder than extinguishing a fire.
Overstepping the platonic-only rule is as dangerous as fire and ice swirling into a tempting combustion.
ARBORVIEW releases in just seven days! Look what arrived in the mail, my author’s copies. How I love my cover artist.
To commemorate the release, my local library is hosting a Zoom launch event on September 29 at 6 p.m. I’m hoping some of you can attend. Just registeron the library’s site, and they’ll send you the Zoom link.
We’ll have a short reading and then a Q&A session. It promises to be a lot of fun. Come, armed with questions for me.
More events are planned, and ARBORVIEW will be popping up on multiple blogs and book sites. Here’s an early guest spotwith some good excerpts. Feel free to Google the book’s title and my name to catch more. My website will share larger events, as well as the ARBORVIEW buy links.
Can’t believe we’re almost there. It isn’t often you get to see a dream materialize before your very eyes. I’m walking on clouds, feeling blessed. See you on launch day!
The topic today: the hidden and not-so-hidden angst of ladies swimwear.
Please welcome author Susie Black to Write Despite. Susie is a ladies swimwear sales executive, who has cultivated a serious side gig as a mystery writer. Her debut novel, Death by Sample Size, was published this year by The Wild Rose Press.
As a ladies apparel expert, Susie’s got a good handle on what women feel when they stare into that fitting room mirror, and her work is the better—and the funnier—for it. She’s even created a choosing-the-right-swimsuit tips primer. Reach out to Susie, if you’d like one.
Let’s hear a little more about Susie’s journey to publication and what she learned as a pioneering woman executive in an industry long dominated by men.
Take it away, Susie:
I had always envisioned a career as a journalist, but life had other plans. Right after my college graduation, our family had an emergency while my apparel sales rep Dad was at a trade show in Atlanta. When no one from the companies he represented could cover for him, dad asked me to help. Despite having absolutely no background or interest in his business, this was my dad, so of course, I said yes. After a half-hour crash course in how to sell ladies’ apparel, dad left me alone to muddle through running the trade show. When dad returned three days later, he was stunned by the huge number of orders I’d written.
To my astonishment, he offered me a job as a sub-rep. Graduate school didn’t appeal to me and the opportunities for women in journalism were few and far between. So, I accepted dad’s offer, and the adventure of a lifetime began. At the beginning of my apparel career as a sales rep in the deep southern states, I was the ONLY woman traveling a territory. I had to prove myself daily to an industry that doubted a woman’s ability to do the job or last more than a season. I proved all the doubters wrong and broke every glass ceiling.
Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered, as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of.
My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write. I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it.
One thing I learned during my career is that the type of clothes we choose says a lot about how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world. Our wardrobes speak legions about whether we are followers and go by the trends or are we leaders who are the trendsetters. This insight was invaluable when I became an author and was a major influence on the way I write.
As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of the characters in the Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling. Holly Schlivnik, the main character, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. All my stories take place in the fast-paced ladies’ Los Angeles apparel industry. The premise behind my debut cozy, Death by Sample Size, is an apparel industry buying office exec was so universally disliked that when she was murdered, that it wasn’t a question of who wanted her dead, it was a question of who didn’t.
Things rarely turn out the way you think they will, but I am living proof that things do happen for a reason. Life is indeed a circle. I got into the rag biz because I was destined to write about it
More about susie
Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.