Tag Archives: #virginia carraway stark

The Importance of Being Bloggy

Recently I was interviewed by author and Cycon organizer Richard White about blogging and why or even if blogging is important.

You can watch that here

We were later joined by Leslie Conzatti, someone who is more professionally organized about her blog. I’m a scatterblogger. I blog about what’s on my mind, sometimes that’s beauty tips, sometimes that’s an exciting win in life or in writing and other times it’s a hard earned life lesson. Sometimes, it’s just something really cool I found out about (like that one about Lyndon B. Johnson and maybe the rest of the world knew about him playing with his junk, but it was news to me!)

It’s an interesting subject, because I don’t blog with any regularity but my blog gets a lot of views despite my neglect. I should blog more. I should do a lot of things 😉

I started my blog because everyone kept asking me for my author’s page when I did writing for them or submissions. I realized that it wasn’t a lot for them to ask for, essentially an online resume… oh, I can do that.

(Don’t look at my online about me… it’s hopelessly out of date, I promise I’m going to fix it! Now you’re going to look at it XD I know you are… d’oh!)

It seemed so simple. But then there came a time when I realized that people were actually interested in me and what I had to say. People were excited for new posts and were subscribing and checking out my new blogs. I guess I better get blogging.

I tried at first to delineate between my personal feelings and my professional ones. I felt like a tool. My personal feelings attracted interest, my professional feelings read like what they were, sales pitches. My personal feelings, ironically, were what made sales, unlike the sales pitches that tended to drive away subscribers. The reason was painfully obvious to me before I even posted for the first time, I wasn’t being authentic in my professional posts.

That’s what being professional is about, it’s about hiding our authentic selves and appearing as pristine and well pressed as possible. But it’s not the truth about us. No one is like that in their real life, and if they are, who wants to read what they have to say? They’re boring. We want to hear about the people who are passionate, we want to hear about the people who have a story to tell and who are fearless in telling their story. They want it to be authentic and they want to be as involved as possible without getting the messy parts of the story onto their own lives.

It’s just the way it is. Kinda messy, filled with sorrows and triumphs and reality.

That’s the importance of being bloggy. It’s the same as the famous play I’ve punned this blog after, it’s the importance of being earnest. It’s the importance of sharing yourself even when it hurts. It’s the importance of letting yourself be judged and standing up to those judges and bullies and saying, no, this is the way I am and I have a right to be that way.

I knew a woman who was a poet. She published with StarkLight Press but was told that her success hinged on whether or not she held up her end of things. That end included being public minded. Being seen. Doing book signings, all the things that authors and writers and artists need to do to form relationships with their audiences. She didn’t make any sales but she wrote some angry emails demanding that she be remunerated for sales… she also didn’t do the book signings, she didn’t have a blog, she didn’t do much. She then angrily unfriended me.

You can hire an agent, but if you don’t go to the places that you’ve been scheduled to go to, if you don’t do interviews, if you don’t do book signings, if you don’t let people into your world, why should they want to pay money to spend their time looking into your world?

A wise author friend told me that when someone buys your book, they aren’t just paying a bit of money for an item, they’re also committing a period of time, energy and of their creative energy and mind to the world you’ve made. It’s a huge thing for someone to do, a sign of trust in you as a human being as well as a writer. It isn’t an issue of, ‘a book costs the same as a latte, support local authors’, it’s an issue of you are asking for more than money. You are asking for the greatest comodity of the twenty-first century, people’s time.

I’ve been to quite a few book signings, on both ends of things. I remember going to one book signing at a large event where there were authors of varying levels of fame. Two of the authors were international celebrities, the rest were middling to first time published. The famous authors did a really good job of repelling me from their writing. I got my books signed by them, but I never read another book of theirs after that.

One of the first time published authors was in the washroom when I came out of one of the stalls. I had her book in my purse. It was an intense book, an excellent read named, ‘Gemma’. I thoroughly recommend it. I had been treated in a high handed way by the other authors and was about to give up and go home but she had read her work out loud and as we both washed our hands, I remembered the tears that sparked in her eyes during her reading.

We glanced at each other and I shyly asked her if she would sign something for me. She was surprised. She hadn’t had a lot of attention, despite the fact that, in my opinion, she was one of the most heartfelt and most stirring authors at the event. She said, “of course!”

I got her book out of my bag. It was dog eared and well loved, she stroked the cover and looked at it in surprise, “you’ve read it already.”

I nodded, “a few times.”

I recognized the nervous behavior of someone who wasn’t used to signing a book and gently guided her through, giving her my name and thanking her. We chatted for awhile and I told her how much of an impact her book had made on me.

This isn’t blogging, but it’s the same principal, it’s truthful giving of yourself. It’s conversations, ‘just between girls’ in the lady’s bathroom. It’s conversations around the table with a pizza and friends. It’s watching a movie or playing a game around a table in the basement with people you can tell anything to. It’s intimate and at the same time, anyone can read it, anyone at all.

When you blog, pretension will get you nowhere. People will be far more likely to trust you and want to hear more about you and your writing if you bleed in your blog the same way you do on the page.

I couldn’t ever get past the pretension I saw in those famous authors and I heard it ringing from their words the same as it had rang in their readings of their own work. Don’t be like that. Just be you. People will like you, and if they don’t, it was never meant to be.

That’s the importance of being bloggy.

 

 

The Celestial Snail #5wordshuffle

Five Word Shuffle Fun for July 11, 2019

writing

The game is simple! Using the five words below, I am to write a flash fiction piece under 500 words. This piece is 495.

  • triangle
  • incident
  • quota
  • snail
  • total

#5wordshuffle

five word shuffle

This is a story concept I’ve been writing on for awhile, but this piece is brand new and written just for this shuffle!

The Celestial Snail

Virginia Carraway Stark

The Celestial Snail appeared at Belle’s side, nuzzling her with his eye stalks and interrupting her train of thoughts. She shut the book she hadn’t been reading anyhow and rubbed Herman’s head, ignoring the pearlescent goo that came off on her hand and cooing at the snail. His total size was about five times the size of the slight girl, but she had never been afraid of Herman or of any of his Celestial friends. Her father had taken the first incident where she had seen a Celestial squid as something to celebrate and since that day that a squid tentacle had swept her off her feet, she’d received a regular quota of visitors, always of the aquatic variety. It seemed that was where her talents lay.

Other than her father, it was unlikely that anyone would ever see Herman or her other friends. His eye stalks nuzzled against her, nudging her to stand up. She tried to give him a pat and hoped that would be the sum total of the incident, but of course, he wanted more.

His eyes closed on their stalks and formed a persuasive triangle, good for prying girls off the ground where they’d rather be reading than following slime trails (no matter how pretty the Celestial Slime may be). Belle stood up and tried to get some of the goop off of her.

Her father, love him as much as she might, always tried to get her to bring back anything Celestial she might find, but coming home with hands covered in slimes was an incident that was asking more of a young girl than any father had a right to ask!

“Herman, I don’t think today is a good day for an adventure. I think you have more than your quota of adventures for a snail, even a celestial one.”

He looked at her mournfully and Belle put a stalk of grass in her place in her book. Her father never really expected her home at any time at any rate and he’d be disappointed if she turned down an opportunity to become closer to the Celestial beings that Belle attracted to herself in droves.

Little was know about the beings, they made wherever they were fruitful and they filled the air with moisture, healthy, happy clouds blossomed where celestial beings flourished. Most people couldn’t see them, but those who could either attracted the Heavenly Celestial Beings, like Herman the somehow beautiful giant snail, or… diabolical beings. Those beings dried out the soil and caused destructions. The Celestial Beings would vacate an area wherever the Diabolical beings invaded.

The sunshine was fading and a raindrop pelted Belle’s cheek. She looked up and saw black clouds rushing towards where she had been resting moments before. Herman moaned and nudged her again.

“I should warn my parents,” she murmured.

Herman pushed her, there’s no time. We must leave now. They’re coming.

The clouds were as Diabolical as Herman was Celestial.five word shuffle

The Pretty Lifeguard

I want to talk about a pretty lifeguard.

She is a very pretty, blonde, willowy lifeguard who is also a good friend.

pretty lifeguard

We always had a lot in common. We were both whimsical, liked to sing, to dance, to swim, to run and play.

Some of my favorite memories together were coming into her living room (which always smelled like coconut) and she was resting upside down in an easy chair. Her head was balanced on the floor and her hair was cascaded around her. Her feet were pointed with excitement and she tensed them and relaxed them in the air above the chair’s headrest. Her body was poised with excitement, but her face was serious and studied. She held a pad of paper and a pencil in her hands that she rested on her chest.

writing pad

“Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you’re here!” She exclaimed when she saw me.

I had no idea why. I hadn’t seen her for quite awhile and I was surprised from things that had been whispered in my ear that she was excited to see me at all.

“What are you doing?”

She flipped her legs over her head and tumbled to her feet. She reached out a hand and I steadied her. The dizzy fit passed as quickly as it came on, it seemed and I didn’t think about it, or the fact that she’d never gotten dizzy like that before.

She clambered back into the chair, this time upright. If I had known more, I would have realized that was a symptom of her invisible illness.

invisible illness 2

“Alright,” she was breathless. “Listen very carefully to this, and tell me what you think.”

She read the short poem she had on the pad, her blue eyes were large with expectation when she looked up at me. It was a couple of sets of rhyming couplets, something romantic. I wasn’t sure what to say. It meant a lot to her, I could tell that… but what was I supposed to be listening carefully to?

I pulled my hair back and thought about what she had just read to me.

“Do you want to hear it again?” She asked anxiously.

writing

“That might be a good idea,” I agreed. What on earth… don’t talk to someone for a week and then this happens?

She clambered upside down again, perhaps more blood to the brain was called for or it read better that way?

I wish I could remember what the poem was, I asked her if she remembered it and said she didn’t. She said that if she’d written poetry it must have been awful.

Print

I wasn’t sure what merits I was supposed to be judging the poetry by, or if she’d even written it. She’d told me nothing! She read the poem out again, this time I decided it sounded like perhaps someone expressing a sentiment to someone, some sort of monologue?

Her cheeks were pale but had little pink blotches from her acrobatics, “well, what do you think?” She was more insistent.

“It was… good?” I tried.

She shook her head, and put up a hand as though to stop such sentiments in their tracks, she lowered her face so her hair covered it as though to disguise further signifiers. In retrospect, a bellyful of education behind me, I should have understood what she was after… right?

invisible book cover

I wrote a story for “Invisible: the mystery  of hidden illness” after being struck by a car and developing PTSD. I suddenly understood how PL felt and how she had been misinterpreted. You can read more about my story in a separate blog and don’t forget to get a copy of the book as well! It’s made the top 100 in Canada! 

 

“Well… who do you think wrote it?”

“Umm, you?”

She threw down the paper and pencil. I could see that words had been erased until their was no more eraser and then crossed out.

writing pencil

“No!”

She abandoned the notepad like it was rubbish and stalked into the kitchen. I read the poem over. It sure looked like she’d been writing it.

“Who wrote it then?”

“You were supposed to say you thought Shakespeare wrote it.”

shakespeare rainbow

I didn’t point out that she’d clearly been writing the poem so I had assumed she had written it. I read it yet again. It was a love ode, I think she mentioned a dove.

“It’s iambic pentameter for school. I thought it sounded just like Shakespeare,” she sighed, despondent and then bounced back and brightly offered me some lemonade.

She ripped out the page and let it crumple down to the carpet. She wiped away the hurt and I didn’t think about it again… much. It’s a confession that writers’ carry. Every event, every human reaction around with them, occasionally taking them out and turning them over and looking at them, learning from them.

I turn that memory over now, not the conversation that followed, not that she wanted to sound like Shakespeare, but that one moment. The one where her face flinched in pain and hurt and her enormous blue eyes sparkled like lakes about to overflow into streamlets. So briefly that it was nearly not even something that could be observed.

When I asked her about it, she said she didn’t remember it. I’m sure she’d say that it wasn’t important, but I bring it up to show an insidious chain of events. These sorts of events happen every day and people with invisible illnesses are particularly prone to having these bad chains happen to them. They’re such little things, but they make this writer question: what if I would have given the correct response? Would that have stayed with the pretty lifeguard and made a love of writing blossom instead of being a forgotten, incidental memory?

i am a writer

Let me share a bit more of my perspective and perhaps it will become more clear. The Pretty Lifeguard, we’ll call her PL, was diagosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and I hadn’t seen her for awhile when I came to her house that day.

Now, expand further: I described the scene as though I was alone when I went to her house, but that wasn’t the case. There was someone else there, someone who had been telling me things about PL and making me feel isolated from PL. Despite having CF, her friends and people who appeared to be her friends, were seeing something else. They were seeing someone isolate themselves from the rest of the herd; the question was, why was she separating from the herd?

It was a question that PL had tried to answer, but a question that her friends had a hard time understanding. PL made a point of continuing with her job as a lifeguard, that’s a smart thing to do. Regular exercise is important for everyone, but especially for people who are chronically ill! She did her hair and makeup, she got a trip to Hawaii in the hope that the sun and the beach would make her feel better. She got a sunbed for the same reason.

invisible illness 3

Yikes! Did you just see what I saw? A green eyed monster walked into the room and said: why does she get special treatment? She looks just fine.

This left PL open to machinations that she had no way to protect herself against.

I had been told quite a few things at this point about PL and her family. How they looked down on me, how they thought they were better than me and my family… all the things that people whose eyes have been invaded by the monster say. I was young and stupid. I avoided PL increasingly. I stopped inviting her to things because her answer was often, ‘no’. I never thought about how that must have made her feel, to be increasingly isolated by ‘the herd’ so those days when she felt like she could be a bard and write like Shakespeare, her friends weren’t quite on the same page as her.

lemonade

The friend I was with gave me significant looks, they told me afterward… well, things that weren’t very nice. Yes, I fell for it. I wish I hadn’t, because it turns out, PL had no ill intentions towards me whatsoever. They had never told X that I was any of the things X had said.

X pulled me out of PL’s house and said only a few things. Subtle things. Like most subtle poisoners, her victims, myself, people in our circle, PL had no idea that we were being poisoned.
green eyed monster

 

 

I’ve decided to write about that circle of friends. I’ve learned a lot about things that went on behind the scenes. I’m not going to write about it a non-fiction book, but I don’t think anyone would believe the things that went on anyway. I’ve started a third person perspective series about it, each character will be carefully fictionalized to be a ‘character’ but it will, nevertheless, be the story of the lives of many people. If they read it, I think each character will recognize themselves. That’s what good books are for, for us to be able to recognize ourselves in, right? 

Promoting Your Work: You ARE Doing it Right

This is a difficult article to write because promotion of your writing is intensely personal. This is a collection of advice I’ve frequently give, advice I’ve frequently been given (and it has proven to be effective! Frequency of advice doesn’t always mean that it works!) and general observations from what I’ve seen and done over the years. This is by now means a definitive guide but read it through and some of it might be just what you’re looking for to improve your own promotional skills.

Being Constant. Constantly YOU.

I don’t mean constantly spamming your friends and family, that is in fact being a spazz. Don’t gush your enthusiasm and then deflate in despair. Look at what you’ve written and talk to people about it. A lot of the time having a comprehensive interest in your own writing will lead to invitations to engage in further conversations and interview. This happens because you’ve successfully expressed why you  spent so much of your time and energy writing whatever it is your’re promoting.

I mean be constant the way a butterfly will ‘constantly’ pollinate flowers. Butterflies aren’t looking for appreciation from the flowers, but despite acting on pure, intuitive needs, they provide a service for every flower they visit. Writing is giving a gift of leaving a trail of words behind you; if you’re lucky, people will find your words when they need to hear them. That’s when the real magic of writing manifests!

popular-fail

Take advantage of these invitations to showcase who you are; and don’t panic if it seems like you aren’t getting instant recognition!

I don’t mean ‘invitations’ in terms of who you wish you were or how you wish people would perceive you: people are sensitive to insincerity. This also doesn’t mean letting the worst of you out and being a depressive wreck during your interview. You need to be your best self, but still true to you. Be as honest as you can when you talk about your book and your process and don’t forget that this is a chance to engage someone not just in your promotion but in their promotion as well. Whoever is interviewing you is a human being too and listen to them and how they interact with you.

There are more deceased famous writers than living ones. You don’t know when you’ll be heard or if you’ll even be heard in your lifetime. The best way to promote yourself is by being you. Maybe there’s a dozen different ways to be ‘you’, explore them all. Be prolific if it’s in you to do so. Share and don’t count your value as a writer in terms of dollars earned.

i am a writer

Your life and your experiences will invade every aspect of your writing, go with it. Love it. Even when you think you’ve lost yourself in the page and the world has nothing to do with your life; one day, you’ll look back on your writing and see layers in what you were saying. 

You’ll know you are doing the right thing in promotions when you start to hear back from people and they say: what you wrote spoke to me. What you wrote was exactly what I needed to hear and it showed me the way when I felt like there was no way.

Those are the sorts of fan letters you want the most… those and the ones from fans who also send chocolate!

Getting Back to Unfinished Business

It’s the middle of February; if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution, statistics say that you’ve likely broken it by now.

broken new years resolutions

I’m in a small minority of people who DOES manage to keep my resolution, I’ve kept my resolution for five years now and I’ll continue to keep it. The reason I’m so sure? I make the same resolution every year: For every project I start, I will finish one unfinished project.

One of the most difficult stumbling blocks to my resolution is when I attempt to finish a project that has involved other people. I’m working on a few unfinished projects this month. One of them is all mine, another involved Writer Colony Press and the other… well, not every group of people is unanimously concerned with finishing projects. But I’m sure it will have a happy ending one way or the other! Determination and good hearted people are far more endemic in the world than those who blindly roadblock because of their own bitter disappointments.

new years resolution

Writer Colony Press is a press that I’ve worked with before. A major project that we are working on is an anthology in memory of Terry Pratchett. The proceeds go to support the research that is ongoing into Alzheimers, the dreaded disease that robbed Mr. Pratchett of his brilliant mind and ultimately of his life.

the long night watch promo

I LOVE writing for The Longest Night Watch Anthology. It’s so much fun! I was reading a note and thought that I’d missed the 2018 call for stories… but it wasn’t, it was the call from 2017.

It turns out that I did have a story accepted for the call out and after a few people got to talking… everything came together and Volume 3 of the Longest Night Watch will soon be available for sale! Woohoo!

There is a phenomenon in the writing industry (and any creative pursuit) called the lure of the shiny new idea. The lure is a powerful thing and hard to resist.

The end result of chasing the lure of the shiny new idea is a plethora of unfinished projects that sit unread and unpublished. The fear of not following the shiny is that the beautiful new idea and the energy contained in it will be lost forever. It’s not cool to ignore the shiny new ideas; they’re part of what makes being a creative person so delightful!

But the downside is the huge number of files where you’re unsure of what exactly you were writing and where that idea was going… Onward! To the next shiny new idea!

It’s no way to live. It’s where the bad reputation of creativity comes from. Creative people are labeled as flakes, unreliable. We are being unreliable if we never finish the projects we begin. There’s a certain humility to bowing your head and gathering your energy for something that you neglected. It’s like asking for forgiveness after going on a shiny new idea binge (I’m sure there’s a twelve step program!).

One year I looked at the colossal number of unfinished projects and decided that I would devote time to each orphan project for each new one that I followed.

The results were astounding. First of all, I became extremely prolific because I had so many projects that were close to being finished. They only needed that last little bit of dedication to finish them. A little bit of elbow grease and voila! An entire novel was completed!

Second of all, I learned to have more stamina. Working on finishing these projects and realizing how much more work it is to lose my inertia by abandoning a project and returning at a later date taught me to have fewer orphan projects.

Third, it raised my self esteem. Every time something is abandoned, there is a part of our mind that secretly dwells, mourns and chastises us. You may not even realize it’s going on in the deep recesses of your mind until you pick up the project again. The guilt is even greater if other writers were involved. I’ve recently dealt with writers who, when approached about a project finished but unedited and dropped when it was slated to be published years ago, broke out in a rage!

(How embarrassing for them! Can you imagine the pain and guilt they’re experiencing to act like complete nut jobs because they feel so much like they’ve failed?)

Getting back to unfinished business has taught me one thing about writers and the writers who share the burden of publishing: some people are born writers and other people think they’re going to get rich and famous and write for no other reason.

I don’t believe that if you are a writer you can ever stop writing. You might have a pause, but I don’t think you can ever STOP. The rage of failure in particular convinced me of this. The person who was so angry had come to me years ago and put a post up in a writing group that I kept for the purpose of encouraging writers.

writing love

I was dubious about her, it seemed strange, opportunistic. She said that she had been an airplane hostess and that she was now pregnant and stuck at home: this seemed like a good idea.

She seemed like a goodhearted person so I let her solicit in my writing group for writers and contributed to her collaborations myself. When she came to write in a collaboration that I was directing, things abruptly changed. When someone else is guiding things, I’m quick to agree, quick to change my writing, it’s their ship, I’m not going to argue with them! Suddenly when she was on my project, she became pugnacious and angry when I pointed out a chapter she had written that made no sense.

She quickly came to the conclusion when other people noticed the same problems, that we were ganging up on her! Unknown to me, this disagreement resulted in her nurturing a long, simmering hatred toward me that makes here look like a mad women! Unfortunately, she’s one of the people who is involved in a long ago project that I’m trying to get to the light of day. She furiously asserts that no one can take anything anywhere… if I’m involved in editing.

I think the fact that her publishing project ceased to produce projects and didn’t generate revenue may have contributed to her anger. It convinced me that she had never been a writer at all and gave me fresh determination towards my ‘orphans’. Her assertions that she owned everyone’s writing (except mine, since I had it in writing that I owned everything I wrote before I contributed) were not answered when I asked her what legal contracts she had to say she owned the other’s writing.

popular-self-worth

It’s amazing how success, even if that success is simply to make sure that things get finished and that you keep on keeping on- can make some people furious!

If you are a writer, you need to write. When things are bad, you need to write more than a junky needs heroin. For other people, when things are bad, and success is unseen, they drop their writing and slink away, ashamed of what they see as failure.

The only failure is giving up on what you’ve begun. The only failure is fury over creativity and a generous heart. The only failure is in the orphans you’ve left behind and never revisit.

So hurray for all those people brave enough to pick up their orphans and to keep on keeping on! Hurray for all the people who get some joy out of the orphans who are reclaimed and brought home to get their life completed, no longer miscarriages, but happy, joyful children that are sent out into the world.

the longest night watch 1

Most of all, hurray for Volume 3 of The Longest Night and all the warriors and loving guardians of the written word who have picked up their words and returned to finish this volume of hope and humor. Congratulations to everyone at The Writer’s Colony on the upcoming publication and picking up the longest night watch… the watch over our own creative whims.

longest night3 promo

Thoughts On Being Interviewed

Thoughts on Being Interviewed

By Virginia Carraway Stark

 

Being interviewed by Kelly Blanchard about my upcoming novel, “The Hunt for Z’iaster’ was an interesting and imaginative romp that showed Blanchard’s clarity of vision of her world. I had never written about myself in the third person before and adding to the challenge of trying to think of how to describe and characterize my movements, voice and idiom was the challenge of being transported to Blanchard’s fantasy universe as well.

pearl oyster

An interview puts me in mind of being an oyster; the questions make me think and pearls are the result of the stimulus that the questions bring. It’s not about revealing yourself, it’s about discovering your own potential in answering the questions! 

It also reminded me of projects that I’d put on the back burner in favor of more current books and inspired me to get back to what I was working on!

Blanchard encourages play over a standard, by the books interview and lets the interviewee lead with creation and imagination so that the interview takes place in another world, Kelly Blanchard’s world. In my case we started off in a royal garden and then rambled through a woods and into an ancient rune.

kelly blanchard red coat

 

The suspension of belief and the removal of the bounds of reality are essential to the creative process, this is what was distinguishing about the interview, it was an effort of creation rather than a simple rundown of facts. There was no list of interview questions an it was much more a conversation between writers that allows others an inside peek into the world of not one author, but two.

kelly blanchard writing

Find Kelly Blanchard’s Books online and look for her on FaceBook! Kelly has become a professional interviewer as well as an author. She has been an inspiration to many writers and works diligently to promote and encourage those around her.

Interview With Virginia Carraway Stark

This interview was done by Kelly Blanchard-Dale and is available on her website.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Prolific Author Virginia Carraway Stark, Some of Her Many Books and Public Appearances

Kelly strode through the palace corridors, nodding and smiling at her characters as they passed in the hall, but then she stepped out into the courtyard, which led down into the gardens of the palace. This part of the gardens were well-kept and cared for with short trimmed hedges forming walls, guiding all visitors from section to section of the garden. Kelly strolled past a few statues of heroic warriors, and she passed the mesmerizing display of fountains—impressive for a medieval kingdom, but she sensed Lorrek or some other magic user had a hand in the display.

 

Most of the guests were content to wander through the stone paths and trimmed ivy on archways. They’d settle on the stone benches near the stream to chat or maybe even lay a blanket on the ground for a picnic. However, none of this interested Kelly. She walked beyond all this toward the shadows of the woods where the stone path gave way to a narrow beaten path.

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Enter the Fantastic Realm of Author and Professional Interviewer, Kelly Blanchard-Dale

As she entered the woods, she looked around, finding much undergrowth and vines dangling from the trees—at least initially. The further she went, the clearer the woods became. The initial appearance was to ward away those who might cause trouble or be disruptive. Not many dared to venture this far—especially when rumors spread of how those who entered were rarely seen from again…unless they had magic like Lorrek.

 

Kelly ducked beneath a branch and kept walking in the cool shadows of the trees. She came to a stream but didn’t cross it—not yet. She knew what lay beyond it, and she would go there—just not yet. For now, she waited for someone, and she knew Lorrek would bring her visitor here.

 

At last, Kelly heard some conversation, and she turned to see the dark-haired sorcerer walking alongside a woman, and Kelly smiled as she drew near. “Virginia, so wonderful to meet you!” Then she nodded her thanks to Lorrek before shifting her gaze back to Virginia. “If you’ve read any of my ‘Someday I’ll Be Redeemed’ story, then you know who that is.” She motioned to the tall prince.

 

Virginia looked around at her companion and her surroundings, “I think I know you,” she said. She was suddenly nervous at the idea that she would fudge up protocol in the presence of someone she had more or less thought was fictitious previously

 

He smiled warmly at her then bowed to her. “Prince Lorrek of Cuskelom. A pleasure to meet you.” Straightening, he nodded at Kelly. “I will leave you to your conversation.”

 

“Thanks, Lorrek!” As he left, Kelly smiled at Virginia. “He’s an awesome guy, but anyway, you’re here!” She spread her arms out,gesturing to their surroundings. “The royal gardens of Cuskelom. Would you like to explore?”

 

“Please, that would be lovely.” Virginia exclaimed, looking around the garden in delight.

 

“Fantastic! This way.” Kelly grinned as she motioned for Virginia to follow. She made a small hop over the stream and led the way. “I think you’ll like where I’m taking you. So anyway, we’re here to talk about you. What inspired you to write?”

 

“Well, I’ve always been a story teller,” Virginia began.  It always felt a little odd to her to talk about herself this way but she put that aside and pressed forward. “I think in another era I would have been a storyteller or a wisewoman and told parables and things, but since that isn’t really a job anymore, I write down the stories that come to me. The stories push on me to be told, it’s more like being bossed than inspired in many ways,” She laughed.

 

“Being a storyteller is great, but putting those stories down on paper…that’s a challenge sometimes. Have you always been writing too then?” Kelly cast her a glance then led the way up a hill in the woods.

 

“Yes,” Virginia thought for a moment, “I started reading and writing when I was very young, only three. I didn’t write whole stories then, of course, but I did read a lot. C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were my reading books with a dash of Lewis Carroll.  They were good role models and made me eager to learn how to write so I could get the stories down to be shared.” Virginia looked around, “It’s getting to be more of a forest than a garden, where are we going?”

 

Kelly shrugged. “Guess you could say gardens have a different meaning in Cuskelom.” She chuckled. “I want to show you something. You’ll like it. It’s just over this hill.”

 

They didn’t say anything until they came to the top of the hill, and Kelly gestured at the bottom on the other side. “There…the Garden of Ruins.” Before them spread out ruins of a castle overtaken by nature once more. Archways and pillars still stood, but many of the walls were broken down.

 

Kelly glanced Virginia’s way. “But if you’d rather visit the actual Palace Gardens, we can go back…”

 

“You’re right to think of showing this to me! I want to go and see them!” Virginia exclaimed at the sight spread out before her.

 

“This way! Watch your step.” Soon they made their way down the hill into the ruins, and Kelly sat down on a huge stone—what was once part of a wall—and watched Virginia. “Go ahead an explore! But stay within hearing range. We’re supposed to be having a conversation—not get lost exploring. We’ll have too much fun.” She laughed but then plucked out the next question in her mind. “So, what’s your favorite genre to write? And why?’

 

“My absolute favorite genre to write is plain old speculative. I love the paranormal and I love to put spooky or interesting things into stories. Plus, it’s so freeing to have a wide-open genre, it’s all just speculation and there aren’t any rigid walls to confine me.”  Virginia threw her arms open and turned in a circle, “It’s like these ruins, they aren’t defined enough to define me and there are endless places for the imagination to run off to!” She took a breath, her blue eyes twinkling, “letting my imagination off it’s leash is my favourite thing of all!”

 

“I can completely relate, and I’m glad you let your imagination run wild. The best works are really when the author doesn’t hinder him or herself.” Kelly shifted on the stone then hugged her arms close to her—should have asked Lorrek to conjure her a cloak or something, but oh well! She focused on the conversation. “So, what’s your current story about?”

 

“I have several on the go right now, but the one that is on my mind the most is a fantasy story that I started working on ages ago and am slowly coalescing into a solid story. It starts off in an orchard where an apple tree has started to attack the peoples who live there. The apple tree even attacks the trees next to him and the people (They are called Covemals) are forced to cut down and burn the tree.  They discover that an evil treasure is buried at its roots and adventure is the result.

magic sword

Kelly’s eyes widened. “A tree attacking people? Woah! That would be very…disturbing.” She then glanced around their surroundings at all the trees and hollered at them. “You better not think about attacking us, or I’m going to call Lorrek!”

 

Satisfied, she smiled and fixed her eyes on Virginia once more. “What inspired that story?”

 

For a minute Virginia couldn’t recall what exactly had inspired that precise story but then she recalled the challenge a friend had issued, “You know that one started off kind of funny, it’s part of a much larger story that didn’t always have attacking trees in it. Rhonda Parrish, a writing/editing type friend put of a meme on her page, it was one that was ‘find your sword name.’ I love those sorts of games and my sword name was ‘nighty naptime’ sword, or something like that. Rhonda challenged everyone to write a story about their sword name. So, part of the treasure is going to be my new sword.  That’s not the evil part of the treasure though.” Virginia rushed to explain the last bit to prevent confusion. It’s strange, she thought how as soon as you ask an author what their story is about the floodgates open.

writing at work

Kelly understood all too well, so she nodded. “I’m not going to ask you questions that’ll spoil your story, but who are the main characters here? Not the tree, I’m guessing…” She raised her brows.

 

Virginia laughed, surprised by the idea and a little chagrined at the charred remains of the poor enchanted thing. “There is the Cov, her name is Hazel and she is the mistress of the orchard but after she finds the treasure she is destined for adventure, and then there is a young prince named Anomare who is a bit of a geek and lives in the palace library. His kingdom is very backward and he is delighted to meet some more enlighted folk on the course of his quest.” Virginia tried to think over what she had just said. “Did all of that make sense?”

butterfly

 

Kelly wiggled her fingers then shrugged and smiled. “A little. I know it’s not easy to summarize things off the top of  your head. So what are some obstacles they run into….that you can tell me without spoiling the story?

 

“They are searching for seven orbs that have changed the landscape and the environment of the land that they live in. The entire world is called Dorian, which I named for the musical scale.  The orbs were disrupted by a wizard who has been hiding out and making the whole place generally uninhabitable.  The book is about them discovery the identity of the wizard and hunting these orbs to restore order to the land.”

 

Kelly nodded as she came to understand the full idea of the story. “That sounds really cool! Quite an adventure. Now though…” she set her elbow on her knee and rested her chin in her palm, “I need to ask—what makes this story of yours so unique from all the other quest adventure stories?” She raised her brows.

 

Virginia folded her hands thoughtfully, “The Hunt for Z’iastre is character driven and the world itself is highly developed and unique.  For example, the land that Anomare is prince of has been blighted by acid rains and the only thing that has survived are the pigs and some weeds that the pigs eat. So he has some unique obstacles to overcome as his kingdom only has pig as a resource.” She considered for a few minutes. “They also have a lot of interesting punishments, crushing people with a ritual rock and things like that. Ultimately I think that it’s a successful melding of character and classic fantasy elements that make the beta readers look at me and say, ‘hey, I want to read more!'” Virginia laughed, her laughter echoing across the ruins.

large rock

“That does sound interesting!” Kelly nodded then hopped off the rock. “Our time is almost up, so we should be heading back, but we can talk as we walk.” She began to lead the way through the woods once more. “Now, I’ve been meaning to ask everyone I’ve interviewed but keep forgetting, but have you done NaNoWriMo? If so, how many times?” She glimpsed at her companion as they trudged up the hill and down the path heading back to the palace.

 

Virginia took a wistful look at the landscape around, it was always like this when it was time to leave the hole in the page and go back to reality. “Last November was the first time I did NaNoWriMo and I was successful in finishing it, a novel called, “Gendler’s Landing”. It still needs a lot of editing and some finishing work though.” Virginia wrinkled her nose. Those were her least favorite parts about writing.

 

Kelly recognized that expression and laughed. She completely understood. “Have you published any work? Or do you have something to be released soon?”

 

Virginia blushed, keeping track of her resume was not her strong suit. “Umm, ok, well, I made a couple of movies, they starred Rowdy Roddy Piper and one had Nick Mancuso in it, those can be found on IMDB.” No matter how hard she tried to be chronological it just didn’t work, Virginia started explained her eclectic resume further, “I have a whole bunch of short stories out, some of them in print and other soon to be in print. Some from Weaver Press, Magpie Press and then some online blogs but most of my writing goes through Starklight Press.  I also have a novel out, called “Dalton’s Daughter” which is soon to be followed by the sequel, ‘Detached Daughter’.” Virginia’s eyes scanned an invisible page of reference notes. “I was also published in an anthology of poetry marathon poem and onflight magazine and several others that currently escape my mind.” She laughed, she was never sure why elucidating her writing achievements was so difficult, but it really was! “I think there are some I’m forgetting… I got an honorable mention at Cannes film festival.., oh, and I was nominated for an Aurora Award too! And I’ve been in four Starklight Anthologies now.”  Virginia was nearly as red as her hair now. This was the embarrassing part! Virginia folded her hands nervously, wringing her fingers at the long list.

 

Kelly stopped and stared at Virginia. “And you’re talking to me? I’m quite honored to have had the privilege to interview you! Wow, now you make me all nervous with all those accomplishments. Quite impressive!” They had come to the clearing where they met, and soon they’d have to part ways.

 

Virginia laughed again. It was her response to the world to laugh at everything in joy. “It’s been my pleasure, Kelly!”

 

“Well, unfortunately, we must part ways, but I’m quite looking forward to going into your world and meeting one of your characters.” Kelly smiled then motioned to the clearing. “We shouldn’t keep Lorrek waiting. He’ll magick us both to our own world.”

 

“I”m looking forward to seeing what adventure you and Lorrek have as well.” Virginia smiled prepared to be sent back to her own home.

 

With a smile, Kelly nodded, and Lorrek stepped forward. He raised his brows. “Miladies, are you ready to go?”

 

Kelly crossed her arms and gave him a look. “Am I ever ready to leave Cuskelom?” But she then winked. “Yes, I suppose it’s time to go home. It was great meeting you, Virginia! I’ll see you online, I’m sure.” With that, both returned to their respective homes.

 

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Being Interviewed by Kelly Blanchard

By Virginia Carraway Stark

 

Being interviewed by Kelly Blanchard about my upcoming novel, “The Hunt for Z’iaster’ was an interesting and imaginative romp that showed Blanchard’s clarity of vision of her world. I had never written about myself in the third person before and adding to the challenge of trying to think of how to describe and characterize my movements, voice and idiom was the challenge of being transported to Blanchard’s fantasy universe as well.

 

Blanchard encourages play over a standard, by the books interview and lets the interviewee lead with creation and imagination so that the interview takes place in another world, Kelly Blanchard’s world. In my case we started off in a royal garden and then rambled through a woods and into an ancient rune.

 

The suspension of belief and the removal of the bounds of reality are essential to the creative process, this is what was distinguishing about the interview, it was an effort of creation rather than a simple rundown of facts. There was no list of interview questions an it was much more a conversation between writers that allows others an inside peek into the world of not one author, but two.

 

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