How To Be A God of Creation, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked a little about why I chose to build a fictional town for my Detectives Anais Quinn and her partner, Lorne Winters, rather than just have them live and work somewhere that already existed. I told you about the population of Sitka Cove as well as how it’s growing as a community. But growing pains are real in real communities, so of course Sitka Cove will suffer from growing pains as well.

With growth comes crime, and all sorts of cases for Detective Anais Quinn and her partner Lorne Winters to solve. 

The challenge for me was not just to create a town that I could build future stories on, but to make the town sustainable enough that it could grow. In short, provide Sitka Cove with a future as well as my detective. Cue the research into successful settlements of the past and why they were located where they were, sustainable cities, and urban growth. It’s been a wonderful rabbit-hole to get lost in. Another challenge is how much of all this new knowledge to use. Ideally, I want to use enough to give my reader a sense that Sitka Cove could be a real place, run by a real Town Manager. In turn, how can I use the Town Manager as a useful character, instead of a pointless walk-on? (I’m leaning heavily toward the Town Manager being either a jogging buddy of my detective or perhaps a fellow poker player. It remains to be determined.)

I see Sitka Cove as more than just a place for people to do things on their way to do other things. Remember I told you last time that Sitka Cove sits on the shore of Lake Superior? The Northern end of town is the oldest part, the first settled end of town, that the locals call “Old Town”. Lake Superior has been reclaiming that land, the flood coming in a little closer every spring and not really receding. So Old Town loses a little more of itself every year. The people that live at this end of town are here because they can’t afford to move anywhere else. They tend to live hand-to-mouth and life is not easy in Old Town. The houses are run down, the roads are not kept up and Town Council can’t quite figure out how to fix the problems of Old Town. Crime festers in neighbourhoods like this. Drugs, theft, vandalism…all stem from a lack of hope. Gangs are born in this environment, fed by frustration, and grow quickly in the absence of community leadership.

At the other end of town, there is growth. A new college has been built – clean, shiny and full of promise. It will keep the younger Sitkans closer to home while it teaches them skills they will need to make a living without going South. Without going “away”. Part of the college’s mandate is also to give older residents new skills. Re-educate them in new fields so that they have more choices, so they can be a productive part of Sitka Cove’s growth and future. Not all of the citizens buy into this, of course. Many call it “political bullshit”. They are too jaded to see anything but the rest of their lives spinning out exactly as it has for all their lives.

But Body In The Bush is not simply about disheartened and frustrated people taking out their frustrations on one another. It is more than just an investigation into who the dead man is under the pine trees. It is the story of finding one’s way back home again. Finding family, and love, and hope, and shining a light on the future that is full of possibility. But before you think the characters are going to break into song, remember this is a mystery. Sitka Cove is peppered with people that might live beside you. Or me. Conspiracy theorists, paranoid people making their way through life by playing on the mistakes of others, people just trying to make a living off the land, the lake or each other. People who want a better life, but just don’t see how they can have one. Folks who make poor choices, who are desperate, judgmental, angry, addicted or simply tired of feeling powerless. Body In The Bush is their story as well.  

I can’t wait to bring you Body In The Bush! These edits are going far slower than I like. Have you ever read a book that featured a fictional place that left an impression on you? Shout out in the comments and share it with us.

An Honour And Big Shoes

Once in a lifetime, some folks are lucky enough to be the recipient of a life-altering gift. As far as I know, I’ve never been able to count myself among them.

Until this week.

Back in late autumn of last year (2020), I joined the Golden Crown Literary Society, a leading literary organization for editors, publishers, readers, writers, and friends/supporters who celebrate books about women loving women. A couple of months later, I applied to their writing academy. I was tickled pink when I got an acceptance letter! Their writing academy has educated, bouyed, supported and kick-started the careers of many authors. But as with quality education in anything we’re passionate about, it wasn’t free. They offer payment plans, so I wasn’t worried. Too much.

Just a couple of days ago, I was thrilled beyond words (which is saying a lot!) to find out that I’d been chosen to receive the very first Erica Abbott Mystery Scholarship! Erica Abbott was beloved and cherished by the lesfic community and when she passed away, she left a void that can never be filled. She was a friend to many and an accomplished and gifted writer as well. It is an unfathomable honour to be the first recipient of a scholarship in her name.

I have very large shoes to fill.

The Golden Crown Literary Society has apparently seen merit and potential in my writing, and it’s a mind-blowing opportunity to be accepted into the writing academy. I have a responsibility not to waste this moment…this gift. At the same time, I am reminded of the power the written word can have. Empires have been crumbled, or fortified with words. Swaths of wilderness and the animals that live in them have been saved or brought to ruin with a written word. The environment, and we ourselves can be saved with a series of words.

The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Tell me about a gift you recieved that changed your life, or the way you viewed something.

Still Life In Ice

Good morning!

You might remember that I have a German Shepherd whose greatest pleasure is his morning walks. Now that the air isn’t frigid, I keep my eyes open for interesting photo opportunities, especially while the sun is still coming up.

This morning, this little tree, still coated in frost from last night, presented itself, back-lit by the rising sun.

Beauty is all around us. All we have to do is pay attention.

What do you find eye-catching where you live?

Tea With…

I’ve always wondered about other authors. What do they enjoy? What makes them tick? So not too long ago, I got the idea to reach out to a few authors I admire and see if they would be willing to answer a few questions for us. Thankfully, they’ve been generous with their time. In a perfect world, I would be sitting down having a cup of tea with these talented folks, but with distance and a raging pandemic, email is safer.

I have been a fan of Kory Shrum for a few years now. She’s a brilliant author and a creative soul that is both entertaining and inspiring. She is the author of sixteen novels, including the bestselling Shadows in the Water and Dying for a Living series. She has loved books and words all her life. She reads almost every genre you can think of, but when she writes, she writes science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers, or often something that’s all of the above. This past year she launched a true-crime podcast “Who Killed My Mother?” under the name K.B. Marie, sharing the true story of her mother’s tragic death. You can find it on YouTube. When she’s not eating, reading, writing, or indulging in her true calling as a stay-at-home dog mom, she loves to plan her next adventure. She’s written both paranormal mysteries and now mysteries set in the future, and every book she writes is more gripping and compelling than the last! (Trust me on this, I spent all night reading her last book and got NO sleep, but it was SO worth it!) Pop over to her website and check it out. 

Kory was generous enough to answer a few questions I had for her about writing, comfort food and reading. If paranormal mysteries or science-fiction mysteries are your reading-jam, pop over to her website and check it out!

What do you think the most compelling elements of your current story are? 

Probably the characters. I don’t have clear good guys and bad guys most of the time. They’re just people, with a good mix of virtues and faults, but this makes them seem more real and compelling on the page. I hope the plot isn’t too bad either! 🙂

What is your favourite genre to read?

Oh gosh, I don’t know! It’s like naming a favorite child! I read everything from nonfiction to comics, to fantasy, and mysteries. To really weird stuff like how to lucid dream, which is on my bedside table right now 🙂

If you could give your younger writing-self a piece of advice, what would it be? 

**clears throat** This is going to take a lot longer than you think it will. Getting the first book published is only the start, so settle in. Get comfortable. And start thinking about what stories really matter to you—which ones will you regret not writing if you were to die this year. Focus on those.

Who are the authors who have made a difference in your life?

If not my life, certainly my writing…

For fiction: Ruth Ozeki, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Robert Galbraith, Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton, Neil Gaiman and many others.  I also owe a debt of gratitude to the poets Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Wislawa Szymborska and Lucille Clifton and more. And to the meditation/dharma books of Pema Chodron as well.

What occupies your time when you’re not writing? 

Right now, it’s producing my podcast! For every 20-25 minute episode, it’s about thirteen hours of work. I also like to read, paint, play piano, study French, travel – though none of us are doing much of that at the moment.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Just two. 🙂 A werewolf novel and a novel about an 18-year-old demon-hunting witch.

What is your go-to comfort food?  

Macaroni and cheese. I also like a good hot tea.

What was the hardest scene you’ve ever written?

Well, the one that comes to mind, probably because I wrote it not that long ago, is from Episode 8 of my “Who Killed My Mother” podcast? In it, I was recounting a traumatic story of a doctor’s visit I had when I was six or seven, and it triggered some pretty intense emotions for me.

How do you choose the names of your characters? 

Usually they come to me along with the character, but then I check them using a baby name book online to make sure the meaning of the name matches the character.

 What challenges you the most about writing?

Showing up, honestly. I’ve published sixteen books and I can attest it hasn’t gotten any easier with time! But it’s important to show up and put words on the page every day, so I’m certainly trying my best.

Anything else you’d like us to know?  

I love interviews! This was fun. Thanks for having me! 🙂

Thank YOU, Kory!

Undercover Justice

Residents of a small dusty town are held fast in the grip of a controlling, cruel egomaniac. Those who try to leave are hunted down and killed. When a stranger comes seeking medical help, enforcers begin dying one by one. Only one person knows why, and that person may be the town’s only hope. This is a tale of secrets, hope and the bravery it takes to stand up to cruelty.

Available now for less than the price of lunch at Smashwords in all formats!

Looking Back & Forward

As so many others do at this time of year, this past week I’ve been reflecting back on the dumpster fire that was 2020. Not from a personal or political standpoint, but an authorial one.

Last year was the year I started tracking sales of my short stories, a category all the experts say is a hard sell. While I would have preferred to see higher numbers than I did, I was pleased every time someone took a chance on my writing. While I would have preferred more of those readers leave reviews, at least I did not get bad reviews. Self-publishing short stories, especially in the Speculative Fiction and Western genres, is always a crap-shoot, and I’m satisfied with the lessons I learned from my experiment.

One of the other things I learned last year is just how difficult it is to make new connections with new readers. I focused much more on my blog and newsletter over the past twelve months, and my mailing list saw a small increase in folks trusting me with their inboxes. I also dabbled a little more in flash fiction and even sent a couple of pieces out to flash fiction magazines. Both pieces were rejected, but both markets have high refusal rates so I tried not to let their rejections sting too much. 

I also invested more in learning my craft. The writing craft has more layers than baklava, and I don’t think writers ever stop learning. The past year saw me dedicate more time and focus on becoming a better writer. I reached out into the professional law-enforcement world and made connections with folks who answered so many questions about forensics, the law-enforcement world in general and how things were done in law-enforcement here in Canada. Because I want to be sure that I’ve done all I could to write my made-up worlds with as much accuracy as I can. My readers deserve that.  

I also submitted my mystery novel to a publisher. It was very politely declined and so I’ve been working on strengthening, adding layers and elements I thought of after it had left my hands (as is always the way) and just generally trying to make it stronger.

To my way of thinking, 2020 was the year of lessons. Not as successful as I’d hoped, but definitely not a failure either.

Looking forward, I’ve already decided on my goals for 2021.

  • Collect all my “Frizzle” dragon stories and compile them into an anthology. Release these in time for Easter.
  • Finish the rewrite on “Body In The Bush” (previously referred to as ‘the mystery’)
  • Collect and compile all my “darker” short stories and flash fiction into an anthology in time for Halloween
  • Outline the sequel to Body In The Bush
  • Collect all my holiday stories into a holiday anthology and release in early December
  • Build a collection of writing for my (still fledgling) Patreon patrons
  • Continue to develop my writing craft 

I think all of that should keep me fairly busy.

What goals would you like to reach for in the New Year? Let me know in the comments below, or in an email if you’d prefer.(dragonquillca@gmail.com) Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

Want To Know The News Before Everyone Else?

How would you like to be one step ahead of everyone else? How would you like exclusive sneak-peeks at fiction not widely available? What about insider-only behind-the-scenes peaks into an author’s inspiration?

You can get all this and more!

If you like what I’ve been sharing here, if you want to get short stories, flash fiction, essays about the act of creating make-believe people and the places they live, you want to sign up for my newsletter, Words & Worlds! I also talk about books, authors and sometimes Harley (the dog who thinks he’s human) chimes in as well.

So how do you get in on all this good stuff? The top of the blog, under the big box that says WORDS & WORLDS, has a newsletter sign-up form. Tap that, fill in your email and you’re good to go! I solemnly swear not to share your email address with anyone (not even Harley).

See you in the newsletter!

Carolyn