Out in Schools- An Excellent Resource for Finding Community Allies

Report on Bullying, Discrimination and the LGBT2Q+ Community

by

Virginia Carraway Stark

** Please Note: A list of helpful websites is available at the bottom of this page**

I went to ‘Out in Schools’ on behalf of the South Peace Community Arts Council and StarkLight Press. Myself and Tony Stark with StarkLight Press were contacted by SPCAC as last minute attendees, because all other members of the SPCAC were unable to attend this afternoon seminar.

Out in Schools focuses on raising awareness against discrimination in all forms, particularly the LGBT2Q+ community. It was well attended by people who are extremely concerned by the situation of bias, discrimination and hate crimes against anyone perceived as not being part of the mainstream community.

The major focuses of the meeting were

  1. Resources
  2. Connecting with allies
  3. Self-advocacy
  4. Protecting vulnerable persons from discrimination and hate crimes.

The conclusions on these points were that Resources in the Peace River Region are sorely lacking as is a sense of community. Dawson Creek has been identified as a place in the province of British Columbia that is particularly prone to bigotry and discrimination. People leave the area rather than trying to deal with the storm of hatred in this area. This has caused province-wide concern.

SPCRS is one of the only groups that has any programs to assist the LGBT+ community. They are dealing with children and teenagers who are being kicked out of their homes by families that lack education and understanding. There was concern expressed about the lack of doctors for the LGBT+ community in particulary the Trans-gendered community.

Most resources eventually end up being routed through Vancouver. This and the extreme lack of understanding and compassion have caused most of this community to leave or to stay hidden. There are few community events and these events tend to be segregated from the community at large. This further isolates the LGBT+ population.

Both at the meeting and afterward, I connected with several people who said they were planning on leaving the area because of the unwelcoming environment. It was pointed out to me that there is little or no involvement of the LGBT+ community, People of Colour and Aboriginal population and the disabled community inside the arts community as a whole.

This has been noticed by provincial bodies as well and may affect future funding if diversity isn’t embraced.

The meeting served to connect allies with the LGBT+ community and the atmosphere at the meeting itself was warm and welcoming to all. Terms were gone over. It was discussed that a dictionary with terms should be made and the advocate from SPCRS discussed this matter with me and it was agreed that StarkLight Press would volunteer our services to make a dictionary based off of current terminology with a bold note in the front to let people know that these terms are highly changeable. Future editions of the LGBT+ dictionary will be an on-going project and something that is worked on in newer editions.

A side note to bring to your attention was discrimination in other fields not as yet legally recognized. These areas touched on the topics of those who look different having similar discrimination issues against them. This is particularly true for people with piercings, tattoos and alternative hairstyles including in some cases individuals with shaved heads. Freedom to express yourself should not limit your lifestyle or job options in an open society. These are things to keep in mind for the future and to be aware of in our daily conduct.

Support groups for men who are dealing with the subject of ‘toxic masculinity’ was breached. Many communities have started support groups to help men dealing with the suppressive atmosphere of emotion and sensitivity, essentially providing a ‘safe place’ for men to express their feelings. For many men this also includes emotional education and learning how to safely express their feelings after being taught in life and in the workplace that such things were not permissible.

It was generally agreed upon that this was something that Dawson wasn’t ready for but something to keep in mind for the future. If men should express a desire to start a group it is important that resources be made available for them to do so and that most of all community receptiveness is present. Toxic masculinity is a topic that isn’t addressed enough and many people aren’t even aware that it is a problem. Nevertheless, it induces feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and has resulted in many suicides and other acts of violence that could be prevented by opening this dialogue.

In addition, Self Advocacy was discussed at great length. It has been observed that abusers, bullies and those used to practicing discrimination rely on a regular course of attack on their victims to attempt to undermine and isolate them from the rest of the community at large. A Self-Advocacy booklet will go over the steps to reporting hate crimes, hate incidents and how to file claims with the various Human Rights Tribunals, the RCMP (as well as special Hate Crime division numbers to avoid any local problems from people attempting to go to the police who fear for their safety). Most of all this booklet will focus on how to speak up for yourself.

As a recent victim of discrimination myself, I have had the dubious distinction of learning more about how to file Human Rights Complaints and both how to speak up on my behalf and how the narrow-minded abuser will attempt to ‘mind rape’ people into being silent.

These tactics involve:

1 Calling the victim a trouble maker.

2 Calling the victim a liar.

3 Rallying around the central abuser. This is why Hate Crimes are often referred to as ‘a cancer in the community’ or a ‘community virus’. Justifying for the abuser and demonizing the victim brings more and more people into the conspiracy of discrimination in an effort to maintain the status quo.

4 Shunning the victim. Showing preference for the abuser.

These tactics were portrayed in a short film about a young trans-gendered boy in Prince George who nearly ended up committing suicide. He was not only expelled from school for speaking out about the abuse after being admonished by school administration to be silent, he was also chided in front of the boys who had assaulted him for daring to speak up and, ‘cause trouble’.

This pattern is one I witnessed after being called, ‘retarded’ by the president of the Pottery Guild of Dawson Creek and subsequently denied membership and access to the guild. I was admonished for speaking up about the abuse and discrimination on Facebook, to my husband and to friends. I was told that I had brought ‘bad press’ to the potter’s guild so now I would definitely not be given membership. This was after I was made to feel sub-human from Dori Braun’s characterizations of me as being mentally and physically too handicapped to be a potter. Even describing me as being, ‘unable to comprehend even the most basic of skills’ and as, ‘suffering from retardation’.

After continuing to speak out I was told in strong terms that I wouldn’t be welcome to perform at a public poetry event arranged by Donna Kane on behalf of the Peace Liard Arts Council because Dori was distressed that I was speaking about how she had treated me. Dori had now changed her story entirely, following the standard model of calling me a troublemaker, then a liar and finally gathering first the Potter’s Guild and then Donna Kane and other members of the arts community around her to validate her discrimination.

The result of this was that Dori performed and I was forced out of the community.

This is key to speak out about because anyone, regardless of the type of discrimination will see the same pattern. This can culminate quickly into violence or suicide and it is important to file a police report. It is also integral to intercede on behalf of the victim. One should never assume that a victim is not a victim because you have ‘known someone forever’. Every member of the community should have the same rights regardless of how long they have been in the community or what perceived or actual discrimination is being shown against them.

There is little to be gained in the material sphere for making claims against bullies. You are at once pressured by the abuser and their circle who try to vilify you and twist the situation around to the abuser’s advantage. It takes great strength to stand up against discrimination and speak out. There are few rewards and much pain and suffering.

If someone speaks out about abuse you need to listen. This is not ever a case of, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Discrimination, bullying and hate crimes are often difficult to prove and it is the responsibility of every good-hearted person to improve society by intervening in this sort of behavior before more harm is done.

Protecting vulnerable people from hate crimes and discrimination is something that must be done as a community. Dawson Creek has received failing marks on this on all counts.  Help for local victims of discrimination and abuse is almost always sought out from outside the community as the people of Dawson Creek fail again and again to fight these crimes.

Every Guild and Society must make it clear that it is open to all members. This is supposed to be clearly laid out in the charter of each group and when you sign for government funding that is one of the pre-requisites on nearly every form that the activity/guild/society be freely made available to all people. Rules of conduct and admission must be written up and clearly posted on your groups website and physical location if there is one.

This isn’t being done and is a violation of the reception of government grant money and loans.

In addition, a method of mediation for problems within societies should be clearly laid out. Communication should be transparent and the Arts Council as the one who holds the purse strings is responsible for ensuring that these steps are taken to ensure a friendly and inclusive environment for everyone. None of this is currently apparent.

I propose that someone be made responsible for this oversight and enacting the necessary changes to start making moves in the right direction. I also propose that a deadline be put on this activity to ensure that Dawson Creek doesn’t humiliate itself on the 75th anniversary of the Mile Zero celebrations by showing itself to be letting down its vulnerable population. Looking to the past and how the black population and the native population has been routinely ignored and abused I think it’s important that the current council not repeat the mistakes of Dawson Creek over the past 75 years.

  • Virginia Carraway Stark is an award-winning author, whose short stories have appeared internationally. You can find her work at StarkLight Press, and on Amazon.com.

You can find more information about the Out in Schools program here:

What’s happening

More Resources:

South Peace Community Resources Society

www.spcrs.ca

www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/lgbt-vol6/lgbt-resources

www.qmunity.ca

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Alex Benitez Talks Superheroes

This week’s interview with one of the authors of The Irregulars is with American author, Alex Benitez. He took some time out of writing his epic vampire saga to talk about his Irregulars character, Kevin Parker- the teenager who can move faster than the eye can see.

You can watch Alex’s interview with StarkLight Press’ Tony Stark here:

Thanks again to Alex Benitez for taking the time to talk to us- and for his awesome T-shirt!

 

Cadence Colton’s Author Speaks

Today’s interview features the ever-enthralling Virginia Carraway Stark, who had the task of bringing Cadence Colton to life for The Irregulars. Cadence is a teenager who witnessed her mother’s murder at her father’s hand, and was forced to take to the streets with her younger brother, Jeremy, to keep themselves safe. Virginia talks to StarkLight Press about her process, the characters, and the challenges of writing a girl who can disappear into the crowd.

virginia medic3.jpg

SLP: What is your experience as a writer?

I have been writing my whole life. My first published works were screenplays. You can get a look at my complete bio at www.virginiastark.wordpress.com
It’s been diverse in the extreme. I’ve written in many anthologies, poetry anthologies, guest blogs, my own blogs, monthly columns for local newspapers, science articles, novels as well as collaborations like this one. I’ve also written non-fiction short stories, biographical and autobiographical works as wells as plays. I like to explore and write in many genres and use whatever medium works best to express myself in.

SLP: What if any experience do you have as a writer working with other authors in a collaborations?

I’ve been involved with quite a few collaborations, I believe this is my tenth one but I would have to count to be sure. I work with other authors in groups of two or three in addition to the larger collaborations. I’m not a fan of working in groups larger than 8-10 at most. I find that more authors than that make a committee-esque manuscript that is less than satisfying. I found that I didn’t feel a sense of ownership over the writing and that when it came to working on it I was less connected than with any other writing I have ever done.
The round robin of 8 or ideally less was enough time to get a strong story line going with lot of input from the other authors to help steer it in new and challenging places without the story becoming removed from me on a personal level.

 

SLP: Who was your character in The Irregulars. Tell us a bit about them.


I wrote for Cadence Colton. Cadence and Jeremy Colton were the only two of the eight children who were biologically related. Unfortunately for Cadence, she witnessed her father murder her mother. Cadence assumed that her father was mentally unbalanced but she doesn’t seem to know the actual motivation for the murder. Cadence testified against her father at the trial and holds herself responsible for the loss of her father in addition to the violent death of her mother. She developed PTSD from witnessing her mother’s murder and was treated by psychiatrists and doctors for awhile after her mother’s death and developed an addiction to barbituates. When she and Jeremy were sent to stay with an abusive aunt and uncle the two decided to run away and ended up on the streets with their family withholding their trust fund and other support from them.
Jeremy has a lot of the traits of his father and of his abusive Uncle. Although this isn’t touched on much in the story he becomes increasingly unstable and it is a simple conclusion that Jeremy has inherited his father’s demented temperament. Cadence is repeatedly abused by him as he grows from a loving child into an angry and hate-filled adolescent until she finally shuts down towards him.

  1. Cadence has the gift of not being seen. While she isn’t invisible she goes unnoticed whenever she chooses to. In fact, in many ways, it seems that Cadence has to work to be seen more than she has to work to be unseen. Because of this talent she frequently is the one who gathers supplies, food and medication for the others. She bears a lot of responsibility and is hard on herself any time anything goes wrong. Jeremy works hard to augment this trait in her and blames her harshly for anything he perceives as being, ‘unfair’.
    At the age of 16, Cadence is only now old enough to file for emancipation and to try to retrieve her inheritance for herself and the other seven children as well. One of the largest struggles they all face is that they have a lack of faith in humanity as a whole and are unwilling to trust anyone who might have been able to help them in their situation. This mistrust is often validated by the way people and the world treat them.

    SLP: What was the most challenging part about writing your character?

    The idea for The Irregulars was my idea but the characters themselves were sketched out first with Jason Pere and then with the individual authors who were selected to work with us on the story.
    Cadence was one of the characters that was entirely my idea and I didn’t realize when I designed her how much of myself I put into her. I was dealing with the first onset of PTSD after being struck by a car. This caused a cascade of childhood memories of trauma in addition to dealing with the much more immediate trauma.
    I ran away from home when I was 15 and had a little brother who I left behind. The results for my little brother were catastrophic. I myself dealt with the trauma and went on to university and then to travel the world. Because I had moved on so much from my childhood and being a runaway myself, I had to acknowledge this for the first time in myself. Although rationally I was aware of the fact that I left home and was emancipated due to the abuse I suffered I didn’t realize how much this had shaped my personality and how many advantages in life I didn’t have because of my poor family life.

    Writing about the effects of running away on Cadence opened my eyes to the complications I had to deal with. At the time, each thing was an obstacle to overcome and once I had overcome it I put it behind me. Seeing that these obstacles were common to all runaways put myself into a more objective light. I realized that what I had been through wasn’t particularly unique and neither were my PTSD symptoms. Writing about those symptoms in an open matter was a challenge as well.

    SLP: How did you most relate to your character?

    Subconsciously, when I developed Cadence I was really writing myself. I felt foolish when I realized that I had put so much of myself into her without consciously realizing it. Dealing with therapists in the present and applying the grounding techniques I’ve learned to a child version of myself was an interesting experience and, I think, a healing one.
    Unlike Cadence, I was able to shed my old life from me like a snake shedding an old, dead skin. For me, there was little left of the evils I had been subjected to in my youth and in moving on unencumbered I was able to create a new self that was free from that baggage. I was able to deal with my traumas when I was ready to and on my own terms. Cadence, however, was forced to deal with her trauma every day. Jeremy was incredibly self-absorbed and constantly rubbed the past in Cadence’s face. His hatred and blame was a burden that she could only escape by shutting her heart to him.
    This was another way I related to Cadence in that when I reconnected with my family they did everything they could to blame me and acted with hatred towards me. When they asked for forgiveness and I was happy to give it to them and move on they reacted with anger and even more hatred towards me. This aspect of my family reminded me a lot of Jeremy and indicated to me that he was fundamentally mentally unhealthy.

    SLP: Tell us about your take of the world of The Irregulars. What is happening? What would interest readers about it most?

    The Irregulars is about eight children who each ended up on the street for various reasons and who were attracted to each other through essentially a sixth sense that the others were special in ways like themselves.
    No two of them are the same in their abilities but they are all the same in the fact that they have a lot of baggage. Some of them are affected mentally and other physically or more likely, both. They have a lot of fear of the world and trepidation about anyone who doesn’t have the special feel to them as well as inherently mistrusting adults. This puts them into a more vulnerable position than they necessarily would have had to be in. There are quite a few ways that I, as an outsider looking in, could have seen to get help for the children that they were blind to.

    I think this is quite common when people are in a dire situation to not think rationally, all the more so because they are children.
    They are being hunted by a group that goes by the shortened name, ‘M.A.C.’ who has learned that psychics can be used for military applications and works to hunt them down. They are lead by a woman named Dr. Glenn Portsmith who Milton and Bruce, two of the children, have had interactions with in the past. They were held captive and tortured and their experience is enough to send all the children into a panic run away from the danger they find themselves in.

    SLP: How long do you take to write a book independently of a collaborative? How long would this compare to writing with other authors?


    It varies a lot. Some collaborations go really quickly but require extensive editing and others just go quickly. A lot of writing in a group comes down to group dynamics and to enthusiasm about the work. It becomes evident early on who wants to promote the story as a whole and who is in it to write whatever they want in an echo chamber that robs the other writer’s of their voices. This is, of course, a situation that makes a story biased in one characters direction while the other characters/writers spend all their time cleaning up after those messes. In situations like this writing a collaborations can become a tiresome affair. It is intensely important that each author carefully consider the previous writer’s writing and integrate it into their own. It is important that story threads are picked up and woven into the largely story. I’ve seen too often a writer leave a hint/prompt in their section only to see the next author ignore it and go off in another direction, ignoring what the other writers are processing.
    I think of this a lot like when you have a conversation with someone who is clearly not listening and is only waiting for you to stop talking so that they can say something on their mind.
    When I write on my own the process for writing a novel can be very quick (weeks) or very long (years). The good thing about a collaborative is that you know other people are relying on you to write your part and you don’t want the story to lose the story’s momentum so this works as impetus to get going and to write your section in a timely matter. This is, I think, the key feature that makes collaborative work move more quickly than independent work.

 

SLP: How do you incorporate the noise around you into the story you are writing at the moment?

If I’m distracted I find that the music I’m listening to or voices around me penetrate into the mood and timber of my writing style. Once I get into the flow of the story I find that nothing gets through to me. Not even the phone ringing or an alarm going off really gets through to me. I find that people often have to ask me a question several times before I even start to hear them. I’m highly immersive.

SLP: Do you prefer being intoxicated to write? Or would you rather write sober? Do you do anything
to alter your mental state when you write?


I have written drunk before. It’s an interesting experience. It’s kind of fun in a sloppy sort of way! The biggest thing is that I get really sleepy when I drink so I pretty much would have few coolers or a couple of glasses of wine and then go to bed after only a few pages.
I don’t think it particularly affected the quality of my writing although poetry written while drinking or being really tired is often much more in tune with the subconscious. I do poetry marathons every year and I find that as the hours progress (24 poems in 24 hours) that my poetry gets increasingly deep. Sometimes this touches on old hurts or pain and other times it comes out in the form of stories that are somewhat surreal but beautiful.

SLP: What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I have decided that I definitely want a brick of gold Bullion but I haven’t really worked out a life plan or goal. I got hit by a car just when I started to really get a life plan in place and that kind of changed everything. Priorities shift when suddenly you are faced with death staring you in the face and the mental alterations of post concussion syndrome, life long nerve damage and PTSD.
My life took on a new trajectory after that event and I still don’t know what that means for me. I think a lot of that is sorrow at the losses that I am still processing where life goes from here. I know I have a lot of stories in me that I want to write and other than that I’m still putting one foot in front of the other and that’s the best I can do.

SLP: Do you think translating books into languages other than their origin forces the intended essence away?

Not at all if done by a competent translator, I think that it forces a lot of the original manuscript to try on a new wardrobe.

SLP: Do you blog? If so, what do you blog about and where can other people find it?

I have a couple of blogs, one is my writer blog where I blog on whatever comes to mind. The other one is a blog where I have been working on my memoirs. My writer blog is highly eclectic and you can find it at www.virginiastark.wordpress.com my memoir blog is www.ihavememory.wordpress.com

SLP: How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write? Please share the platforms you’re active on and how people can find you there.

I’m pretty active on Facebook and my blogs. I’m not as as active on my author page as I am on my personal page but you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts you can also find me on twitter @tweetsbyvc
I have an instagram account that is underused. Other than that I’m frequently interviewed or on guest blogs and you can find me by googling me in a wide range of places.

 

SLP: Do you enjoy theater? Would you ever like one of your stories to be turned into a play? Would you prefer to see The Irregulars as a movie, a play, neither or both?

I have seen Carnival Fun, turned into a play. It was originally a short story that was developed into a world so the first play was a lot different from the re-vamped version of it that I’m working on now.
I don’t think The Irregulars would make the best play as it stands now. It would have to be re-written a lot as a lot of the characters are too introverted to be captured on the stage. I think with a lot of rewrites it could make a compelling play.

I think The Irregulars would actually make a much better movie than a play but I’m wary of trusting manuscripts into the hands of random strangers and would want to have a lot of say in casting and directing etc. I’ve seen too many stories mangled beyond all recognition.

Thanks to Virginia Carraway Stark for taking the time to answer our questions about Cadence, and about her experience writing for The Irregulars!

The Irregulars will be available later this autumn from StarkLight Press.

Announcing StarkLight 5 Short Story Contest

It’s here- that moment you’ve all been waiting for-

The StarkLight Volume 5 Short Story Contest!

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That’s right, now you can send in your original short stories to our latest edition of StarkLight Anthology! Be it horror, or fantasy, science fiction, suspense or speculative fiction, send us your original piece before Feb 28, 2017, for a chance to win a coveted spot in one of the most talked-about anthologies in North America.

You can have a look at our submission guidelines here:

Official Short Story Contest Rules

Be sure to like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/StarkLight-Press/ to hear updates about this contest, as well as other cool short story and poem opportunites we have for authors this year.

 

– Tony Stark,

Publisher and CEO,

StarkLight Press.

Brian Paone Sits Down with StarkLight Press

Interview with Brian Paone

paone author pic.jpgwith Virginia Carraway Stark and StarkLight Press

Hugo Award nominated musical/rock fiction author, Brian Paone, was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. His love of writing began through the medium of short stories at the young age of twelve. After almost twenty years of consistently writing short stories for only his friends and family to read, Brian’s first full-length novel, a personal memoir about his friendship with a drug addicted rock-star titled, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, was published in 2007. Brian’s second novel, Welcome to Parkview, was published in 2010 and is a macabre journey through a cerebral-horror landscape. Brian’s latest novel, a time-travel romance titled, Yours Truly, 2095, was published in 2015 and follows a man who wakes up trapped in the future, to discover he’s been the victim of a time-travel conspiracy by a woman who is not what she appears to be. Along with his three novels, Brian has two published short stories: “Outside of Heaven,” which is featured in the anthology, A Matter of Words, and “The Whaler’s Dues,” which is featured in the anthology, A Journey of Words. Brian is married to a US Navy nurse and has four children. He is also police officer and has been working in law enforcement since 2002. Brian has ideas for enough future novels where he should be able to continue publishing books well past retirement. When Brian isn’t writing, he is playing or recording music with his band. He is also a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, and his favorite color is burnt-orange. For more information on all his books and music, visit www.BrianPaone.com

You can listen to ‘Outside of Heaven’ for free, simply by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGB_3naL1N4

http://www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/of-words-series/

https://www.facebook.com/BrianPaonesNovels

https://www.brianpaone.com

(NOTE: Chris isn’t part of the group anymore so I took that part out) Brian Paone is dedicated to helping other authors to realize their dreams and runs the Facebook Page ‘Fiction Writing.’ If you’re interested in an online community that is supportive and fun ask to join the Fiction Writing group to share your work, get feedback, get tips and learn from other’s success and failures check it out here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/611602735649133/

All 3 of Brian’s published novels are available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook.

Paone book cover.jpg

Thanks for joining us at StarkLight Press today, Brian!

I guess my first question is ‘author and musician’? Those are two difficult skills in one Brian shaped package! What sort of musician are you and do you multi-task in this sphere?

  • I have been in recording/touring bands for 19 years now. I have been in a total of 4 bands, and my 7th album is coming out at the end of the summer this year. I am the singer & keyboard player for all 4 of my bands.
  • Drop Kick Jesus has 2 albums: “Splatterguts” (1998) & “Depress The Heart” (2001), and we sound like a cross between Slayer and Slipknot.
  • The Grave Machine has 1 album: “The Grave Machine” (2004), and we sound like a cross between Ministry and Neurosis.
  • Transpose has 2 albums: “A Delicate Impact” (2007) & “Retribution” (2011) and we sound like a cross between Deftones and Thursday.
  • Yellow #1 has 2 albums: “Bottle of Rain” (1997) & “Thanks for the Nostalgia” (that’s the album that’s coming out later this year, 2016) and we sound like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Digital Underground.

How do you find time to write as well as being a Police Officer? Do you work full time as an Officer?

  • I worked fulltime as an officer from July, 2002 until October, 2011, when I then went to part-time, and have been ever since. I wrote and published my first 2 novels, Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts and Welcome to Parkview while working fulltime, writing on days off and some nights staying up until the morning writing. But I was working part-time when I wrote Yours Truly, 2095.

paone yours truly 2095 cover.jpg

Was it ever a decision between the three careers of Police Officer, Author and Musician?

  • There was never a decision because I was able to sustain all three; working fulltime as an officer, playing concerts and mini-tours with my band on the weekends, and writing at night or my days off during weekdays. I somehow found a way to make it all work. However, because music is my number one love, if a genie was to grant me fame and success in one career of my choice, I would pick music and my band without even blinking an eye.

How do you find that the three jobs nourish and grow the other careers? Do you take a lot of the lessons learned as one of them and apply those lessons to the others?

  • To be honest, I leave my policing career 100% out of my writing and music career. However, if anything, it’s my writing and music career that consistently blend and integrate with each other. My band Transpose’s 2011 album, “Retribution,” is a concept album that is a short story I wrote. Instead of trying to publish the story, we took the story (dialogue and all) and wrote our album around the story. So every night, when we play that album night, it’s me really just singing the words to my own short story. I even made a movie to go along with the album that I published on YouTube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYb9fx0okmw

What is the most important thing that you’ve learned as a writer?

  • You can’t rely on family and friends to all buy your book. If you want anyone to read your work, you must promote, promote, promote… and then promote again.

Would you say that is the same answer for what the most import thing you’ve learned in life is?

  • Most important thing I’ve learned in life is, when there is a bump in the road, or an instrument doesn’t work on stage, or a plot idea isn’t panning out, you just … keep … moving forward.

If you could pick one song to describe your career as a writer, what song would you pick and why?

  • A Small Victory” by Faith No More

When you were a kid did you say: I’m going to be a writer and a cop and a musician or did these careers grow with you?

  • Yup. That’s EXACTLY what I said. I started obsessing over Pink Floyd when I was just 6 years old and wanted to be a musician. I saw a girl get beat up in 5th grade and then wanted to be a cop so I could help people. And I read Stephen King and started writing my own fiction in 7th grade and wanted to be an author.

Of your jobs, do you have a favorite? Do you have a dream that you could quit two or one and focus on a narrower field or do you like things just the way they are?

  • I am very happy with my careers so far. I have achieved some milestones and accomplishments in both music and writing that other’s try their whole life to reach. My band has played a sold-out show at CBGBs in NYC (the most famous club in North America), I have toured and opened for many of my musical idols. I have 3 published novels that keep surprising me in their sales and positive reviews.

What’s your most treasured ‘incident’ as a writer with a reader?

  • Last year I had a fan email me to tell me that my first novel, Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts, is his favorite book of all time, and convinced him to not commit suicide and get help for his addictions. He asked if I wouldn’t mind Skyping with him so he could thank me “in person.” I agreed, and then found out … he lived in Russia!!!

What is the worst moment you’ve ever had as an author?

  • Thunderstorm. Auto-save turned off. Writing Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts. Wrote for about 10 hours straight. Lights flickered. Power went out. Lost about 20,000 words. POOF.

If you were suddenly confronted with an alien ship landing in your backyard would the aliens be friendly or fierce? What would you do next?

  • Hopefully they would taste like chicken.

How would you describe your life? Is it generally easy, hard or somewhere in-between?

  • My life is pretty easy. As a part-time officer, I only have to work the street about 14 shifts over the span of 3 months. Other than that, I am in my office Monday – Friday either writing a new story or novel, editing other author’s work, or creating music for my band. I do have 3 children (with a 4th due in August) so when they come home from school, it’s like tornado alley in my house.

When do you do the most writing?

  • Weekdays between 0700 – 1500, and after the kids go to bed at night (if I’m not working on new music with my band).

What’s your worst distraction from writing and how do you fight it?

  • The Fiction Writing Facebook group that I admin. I can’t fight it. I have to be there. Ha!

What is the one thing you would tell yourself as a young writer if you could go back in time and give young you advice?

  • DO NOT approve that first editor that was hired to edit Welcome to Parkview! Go straight to the second editor that was hired after the first one was fired… that’s almost a year of your life you’ll never get back.

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Is this the same advice you tell young writers when you mentor them now?

  • I tell them to at least GET an editor. Do not self-edit your own work, and DO NOT self-publish anything that hasn’t been professionally edit yet.

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What’s something new and exciting that you would like to share with everyone?

  • I have begun outlining my 4th book, tentatively untitled. It’s going to be a comedic-military novel, almost in the style of the film Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton. This will be about the true adventures I had when my wife, who is an Officer in the Navy, left me alone with our two toddlers when she got deployed for 8 months to Djibouti, Africa, and the learning curve and craziness that ensued during those months. I’m hoping to have a 2017 release schedule for that.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

  • Best advice I ever received: Don’t write while drinking!
  • Worst advice I ever received: Don’t write while drinking!

Virginia Carraway Stark and Her Posse of Great Ladies

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Virginia Carraway Stark has a diverse portfolio and has many publications. Getting an early start on writing, Virginia has had a gift for communication, oration and storytelling from an early age. Over the years she has developed this into a wide range of products from screenplays to novels to articles to blogging to travel journalism. She has been published by many presses from grassroots to Simon and Schuster for her contribution to ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible’ as seen on ABC. She has been an honorable mention at Cannes Film Festival for her screenplay, “Blind Eye” and was nominated for an Aurora Award.

She has written short stories in well over twenty anthologies as well as magazines, novels, poetry, poetry anthologies, blogs, journals and many other venues. She is Editor-in-Chief at StarkLight Press as well as for Outermost: Journal of the Paranormal. She formerly worked writing medical papers into language for the lay person and worked on scientific papers for numerous platforms and did professional editing as well.

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/about/

https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/contact-me/

Hi, Virginia, thanks for spending some time sharing insights into your writing today. The Great Ladies Anthology was impacting for everyone who worked on it, how did it impact you?

I ended up writing several stories for this anthology. A lot of people had a hard time with it as an assignment so I ended up with the whole spectrum of what could be considered, ‘great’. Great is a word we throw around without thinking about it much and when it is aptly applied to people, particularly historical people, it is a word with a lot of power to it. “Great Ladies” aren’t often very ‘nice’ ladies and that’s part of how they worked to become great. They had the will and the determination to manifest their light into a world that was predominantly ruled by men. That wasn’t an easy job and nice girls need not apply.

Some of the great ladies were truly great in their time, but Hitler was truly ‘great’ during his time too. He made a HUGE impact on the world and as we counted the toll after the war his ‘greatness’ grew and grew. He caused great horror, great death and great trauma. Nevertheless, he was still ‘great’.

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Queen Isabella of Spain was the great lady that I wrote that impacted me the most. She was strikingly like Adolph Hitler in how dogmatic, brutal, bloody and racist she was, and yet we owe much of the modern world to her impact on it. She shaped the world in her image and that is in the end greatness whether we want to admit it or not. Great also doesn’t mean likeable, politically correct or ethical.

Greatness is also influenced by the fashions and beliefs of the era. Isabella is the perfect example of this. She was following the ethics and morality of the Catholic Church and she obeyed the Pope in everything he told her to do. She came to the throne at a morally degenerate stage in Spain’s history. The country was in anarchy and her half brother had been weak willed but worse yet, far worse by Isabella and the Church’s standards, her half brother had also been gay.

Isabella honestly believed that she had to do anything the Church told her to save her brother’s soul and she didn’t care who she had to kill, invade or exile to do so. She invented the Spanish Inquisition, overran the largely peaceful area of Grenada that had been home to Muslims, killed or exiled all the Jews and then started in on heretics and witches.

But it gets worse.

Unlike Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Regime, there was a clear-cut beginning and an end to the horrors he caused. There was an end to the death and to his political power. Isabella, on the other hand, not only had a long and bloody rule but her standards for the Inquisition continued for HUNDREDS of years after her death. Isabella was buried and people were still being tortured, maimed, hunted and killed for their religion, their beliefs or just on the accusations of people who were afraid themselves of being burned at the stake and tortured. Or maybe having a finger pointed at you because someone, somewhere, doesn’t like you.

This is another area where Isabella’s ‘greatness’ smacked me hard in the face. She didn’t look for a way to kill millions as painlessly and efficiently as possible, she looked for ways to torture the human body to its utter limit to make the pain last as long as possible.

As I researched her I realized that she was great, but not in the way I had thought. Not in that way at all. She was a great killer and the most terrifying thing is that I’m positive she died believing she had done the will of God and would go to her reward in the afterlife for how incredibly great she was. Even now when we describe history’s greatest monsters I have never once heard Isabella of Spain referenced even though I’m sure she earned the title.

So, I guess to answer your question, the impact on me of Great Ladies was that first of all, I was thoroughly educated in the history of many women that I had a less than complete understanding of and second of all, I had to completely re-evaluate my concept of what the word ‘great’ was. I had to do this without being reactive and disgusted. I had to think about things from Isabella’s perspective and I had to most of all, not judge her, but be her. It was a queasy feeling but I think it made me a legitimately bigger person to learn and understand these less than desirable qualities of greatness.

What Ladies did you end up writing about?

Great Ladies was an invitation only event and we had a lot of people who just couldn’t do the job and so they dropped out. Some people found the lady that they had been given wasn’t a good match for them. If I could find a good match for the lady I would replace the person but the ones that were ‘lost’ I adopted and took onto myself to write. We also had a few people who had last minute problems and so I had to re-write stories after the fact to make up for this.

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The Great Lady that I actually drew was Aphra Behn. I had never heard of her before. I had looked up names of great ladies on the internet and wrote down their names, usually based off of how often they were listed. Aphra Behn was mentioned repeatedly and was a compatriot of Charles the Second of England. I was surprised I had never heard of her since this is a period in history that I have researched relatively thoroughly. She was truly amazing and after learning about her she became a hero to me. She was fearless, creative, beautiful and utterly loyal. I enjoyed the definition of ‘great’ much more in reference to Aphra Behn than I did to Isabella of Spain!

Isabella, I have, of course mentions, I also wrote Eva Peron, Catherine the Great and we will be editing in a new version of Joan of Arc that I will write for the second edition of this collection. If I have time I may also include Elizabeth Woodville. We lost both of those stories, one to plagiarism and one to grumpiness of the writer involved.

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How did you deal with those last minute re-writes?

Everyone was shocked to find the original author for Elizabeth Woodville had plagiarized her story. When it was run through a plagiarism checker it came up as 99% plagiarized! I think the one percent that wasn’t was probably just the author putting her own name on the story. The author denied the accusations vehemently even when she was shown the results of the checker and an interview that clearly states what Phillipa Gregory made up and what was on the historical record. The author had just read Gregory’s novel and counted it as historic research and claimed fictional thing from Ms. Gregory as her own creation.

We were mortified! We had trusted the woman involved and when we ran her other stories through checkers the worst came up as 15% plagiarized so, she could write, she just decided that she liked Phillipa Gregory’s story so much that she would take it for herself. How she thought she would get away with it? I have no clue. Pure delusion is the only conclusion I can come to. Gregory’s book The White Queen (which I had read and lead to us running it for plagiarism), is being turned into a mini-series so stealing from it was beyond self destructive. The fact that she thought she wouldn’t get caught out when it was not only from an extremely well known and respected historical novelist but also a mini-series suggested to me that their may have been some mental instability involved.

As for the Joan of Arc story, the author of that one made it plain that he wasn’t happy and then demanded free books and I think was looking for a position as an editor. It was unpleasant and rude and that’s why my husband started a press, so we wouldn’t have to work with jerks. So we cut his story from the second edition and my story will be made available instead.

We don’t like people who undermine and make power grabs at our press. When it comes down to it I would rather help a new writer blossom than a more experienced writer whine and moan at me about every little thing. There comes a point where if you are that critical of the people you work with, then you should spare everyone (including yourself) and just go somewhere else where hopefully you can be happy. Some people, however are happiest when they are miserable lol!

What are your thoughts on doing a sequel to Great Ladies? Who would you pick?

I would definitely like to be involved in a sequel. As for who I would pick for a great lady this time around, I have no clue. There are so many women who are largely unacknowledged or who were in the firs anthology and such a small slice of their life was written about that it would be great to write more about them.

Women come from an angle in history that is totally different from men. There are these huge hurdles that come up before they even get to the meat of the problems of life. With men there is a problem and they can either attain success or not. With women, there is this whole other aspect to things where you have to prove that you even belong on the chessboard before you can start to play.

How did this contrast with the ‘Game Changers Anthology’ due to come out for Labor Day?

I answered some of this one earlier, of course. When writing about men you can kind of cut right to the chase but with women there is always the ‘proving’ stage. It’s kind of assumed that men belong while with women, in nearly any situation you have to make room for yourself.

I chose Leonardo Da Vinci for the Game Changer’s anthology. He’s a fascinating historical figure and had a lot of ideas that seemed to be utterly out of time and space. He was like a time traveler to the era. I think that’s why I chose him, in a way, he starts out of place like a woman does. He had ideas that couldn’t be enacted because they just didn’t have the technology to measure up to what he believed was possible. He was a dreamer and he was out of phase with the rest of the world.

In this way, I find my choice for Game Changers similar to the Great Ladies Anthology because unlike most men, he didn’t fit in with the other men around him. The way he thought, the way he acted and his beliefs in the impossible made him an outsider who had to bend himself out of shape to play by the established rules of the time.

As a mother’s day gift, how do you think ‘Great Ladies’ measured up?

I think that it’s a pretty cool mother’s day gift. It’s hard to express to our mothers how deeply they impact us for good and ill in our lives. Even if a mother dies during childbirth or if a child is given up for adoption, ever action their mother takes is ‘great’. They are our creators and for all the amazing things they do they can mess us up too.

This anthology, as an actual mother’s day gift makes a statement that is deeply profound and possibly, just a little bit insulting but mainly aggrandizing. It is a way to say to our mothers that they are everything to us, their actions affect us on a cellular level from the very start and they can be queens, commoners, monsters or a combination of all three. They can be any thing to us and accepting our mothers as human beings that are capable of evil as well as good is both a high compliment and acknowledgment as well as a realization that they are human and capable of destroying us more than anything else.

Any closing thoughts to share?

This was to date the most challenging of all the anthologies I have been involved with. Other than novels, I have never had to bend my mind around so many corners to understand the essence of people. The histories of these women, their childhoods alone were remarkable. The heights that they rose to were astounding and doing it in the past, where the world was even more of a ‘man’s world’ than it is today makes everything they accomplished exponentially remarkable.

I still think about what I learned from writing about these women frequently even still and I think for everyone involved that these women moved into our heads in a lot of ways. 

Will Norton and Boudicca

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StarkLight Press author Will Norton has penned some truly gripping tales of horror, science fiction and historical hypothesis for us over the years. For Great Ladies, he wrote a piece about Boudicca. Here is a bit about Will Norton, and his interview with Virginia Carraway Stark.

William Norton grew up in Vancouver B.C. And has spent the past few years working in the oil industry north of Fort Saint John. He usually writes stories that are uniquely and specifically from his perspective, his characters often share his name. He writes when he has time but spends most of his time working and being filthy. His hobbies include sleeping to catch up with sleep when he’s not working. Based off the current trend he suspects he will soon have more time for writing and social media than in the past which would be great if he didn’t have truck payments.

Hi Will, Thanks for being with us today for this live interview!

Thanks for having me, I give no guarantees on anything I do ‘live’. Editing is my friend.

That’s ok 🙂 Why don’t you start by telling us how you felt about writing Boudicca when you drew her as ‘your’ Great Lady?

Well, at first I was given Catherine The Great and I thought that one would be really easy to do. There was so much to her story and of course, there was so much scandal around her. When I started researching Catherine I had only really heard that she loved horses so much that she died fucking one. That turned out to be complete bullshit, by the way.

There turned out to be so much information on Catherine that I got overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start with her so I hung my head in shame and asked for a redraw. When I got Boudicca I knew nothing at all about her except that everyone says her name differently. When I started to look into her I found out that Boudicca is the most modern understanding of the interpretation of her name and how it is (they think) supposed to be pronounced.

I found out that most of what we know historically about Boudicca is from the Roman records so everything was pretty biased. She planned all theses battle campaigns and caught the Romans with their pants down time after time. No one really knows how she died in the end, but after she started to lose wars her daughters died and she died shortly after, there was speculation that maybe Boudicca poisoned them all to save them from being raped (again) by the Romans.

I still had a lot of choices to write about but I decided almost right away that I didn’t want to write about the battles. Battles are hard to write and it’s the before and after part of them that really matter. When you’re having a fight you’re so hyped on adrenaline that you don’t know what happened until after when you try to figure out where all the bruises and broken bones came from. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, of course.

That left me with the beginning or the end of her life to write about and the idea of writing about either her or someone else poisoning her and her daughters made me queasy. Dying from poison is usually slow and I’m pretty sure that right after doing it there’s a lot of, “What did I just do? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” Then that’s followed by, “This hurts way more than the bottle said it was going to, holy shit, yep, this really hurts.” Then comes the crapping and puking and the realization that you’re going to be found covered in your bodily fluids and you realize that this really sucks and it’s really too late to do anything about it. There, I just wrote the end of their lives. Now imagine that is slow motion, I’m not that sadistic so I wrote about a mother watching her daughters get raped instead.

The concept of writing about women getting raped as an ‘inspiration’ point has a lot of criticism behind it. How did you feel about writing that part of things?

I thought, well, it happened and it was what made Boudicca go ape shit and who can blame her. People can talk about ‘tired tropes’ all they want but that sort of thing happens and I think that its a good reminder that ‘hell hath no fury than a woman who you rape her daughter in front of’.

I get it that people are tired of hearing about and want more complex back stories and for that I should have stayed with Catherine The Great. The thing is, I know women who have been raped and I’ve seen the devastating effects on their psyches from it. I’ve seen women get revenge on their rapists, I’ve known guys (I don’t want to get into trouble here so lets leave it at, ‘I’m talking about friends, not me’) who have gone after rapists. I also know that the women involved aren’t happy if someone else goes and makes the guy pay, they want revenge for that sort of thing in an up close and personal way.

It’s a ‘tired trope’ to talk about rape and the effects it has on women and that makes me sick. It’s only tired because it keeps happening. It keeps happening only because some guys seem to think that it’s something that is either their right or that ‘it’s just sex, what’s the big deal’. I’ve heard guys say that, I work in the bush and some of those guys are really rough characters, the sort of thugs most people will only meet briefly or in prison. Or at least, that’s the way it should be. Rape is still talked about so much because it happens so much. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away and I find calling it a ‘tired trope’ kind of like saying, “I’m tired about hearing about your problems so go away”. Rape isn’t going away and it’s still hard to prove and even harder to prosecute.

I think you only get to call something a ‘tired trope’ when it’s no longer a common part of society. It happens a lot. It happens to women and sometimes to men as well. I think that putting it out there that there are consequences is a good thing.

You wrote your story from the first person. How hard/easy was it for you to see things from the eyes of a woman?

I’m not sure about that one. I thought about what women I know have told me and I’m a pretty good listener, or I like to think I am.

If I saw something like that happen to my daughters I would like to think I’d have the courage to act even a little bit like Boudicca did. I don’t have any kids but its not hard to imagine how I would feel about it, even a little bit. I’m not sure that I could ever capture the rage Boudicca must have felt, I don’t think anyone who did see her rage lived long enough to talk about it.

The good thing is that Boudicca’s revenge was a warriors revenge and I could relate to going and making ‘them all pay’ for a crime committed against my family with violence. I hope those words are never read back to me in court, by the way.

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So you think you would have reacted like Boudicca did to the crimes against herself and her daughters?

I like to think so, I’m not sure though. It was such a fucked up situation. The Celtic laws clashed so much with the Roman ideas that women were just evil things sent from the gods to tempt men. The Celts were matriarchal in their lines and for most of the tribes it wasn’t a big deal to give inheritances and titles to their daughters or wives. The Romans didn’t just beat the crap out of Boudicca and rape her daughters, they also proved to their tribe that they were conquered as hell and that none of their culture or laws mattered anymore. That part must’ve stung almost as much as the rest.

Their tribe has successfully fought the Romans for ages and then, when they finally sought a peaceful resolution and capitulation it wasn’t enough for the Romans, they wanted to rub some salt into those wounds and make their point clear. That point was that: You guys are our bitches.

It wasn’t a civilized response (to make the understatement of a couple of millennium). The symbolism of the act was the point of the act and it was to tell the Isceni tribe that they didn’t have any culture anymore. They didn’t have anything. It was the real start of the eradication of Celtic laws and traditions. The beginning of the end in many ways. I guess they call those watershed moments. The Romans paid for it big time but there were too many of them for Boudicca to win against ultimately and when her rage stopped carrying her the Roman war machine ran her and her army over. It was sort of the style of the day.

Any final thoughts on Boudicca and what you wrote? Anything you would change?

It’s a haunting story. It stuck with me after I was done writing it, I guess all tragedies do that. It was a fucking tragedy and it brought home the fact that for all the glamorizing of Roman civilization they had all they had through taking it from others and slavery. The fact that so much of our civilization is modeled after their civilization just goes to prove that there is a real streak of monster in humanity. There is a part of us that still believes that ‘might makes right’ and that it’s ok to make someone your slave. It’s ok to conquer and that the most heartless and cruel are the ones that rise to the top. If you aren’t willing to be a corrupt piece of shit, chances are you won’t ever be in a position to make change and that means that we aren’t a nice species at all.

It also explains the ‘tired trope’ of rape. It’s I’m stronger than you so I can just take what I want, errr, what my dick wants, that is.

It’s not going to go away while any part of our mind or civilization thinks that might makes right. It’s never going to go away unless people are punished for believing that these things are anything like ok. We’ve got a lot of problems and this is the root of a lot of them. Women are the ones who make all of us and so long as they’re treated like less, or like strength over women gives anyone the right to do what we want to them, we are hurting the sources of life, the sources of our whole species. It’s so self destructive of us as a species to hurt the women who are the only ones who can continue our species that it messes with my head.

This ‘tired trope’ is the basis of so much of human history that it has to be talked about because if we ever get tired of talking about it as something wrong, a way we are scarring our very species, it’s never going to go away. That’s leaving the individual element of the human herself who hurt in this way out of it and trying to appeal to humanity on a global level.

I don’t think writing about Boudicca is going to make that element of society go away but it made me think and I think about the things I hear the other guys say in a new light. I guess I’m hoping that Boudicca will hear them and come back to show them what ‘some bitch’ could do to fuck them up.

Christopher Ryan Talks with StarkLight Press

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Christopher Broom is an award winning author, freelance fiction editor and host of Writing Without Limits video series available on YouTube. He is well known for his support of other authors on his facebook writer’s page https://www.facebook.com/groups/611602735649133/ where he and collaborates with Brian Paone to mentor and support writers in all different stages of their careers.

You can find Christopher on the Internet at the following locations:

Facebook Page: Facebook.com/ChristopherBroom-Author
Twitter: @Cbroom_Author
Here’s his interview with Virginia Carraway Stark below:

Hi Christopher, thanks for joining us at StarkLight Press!

I understand that you are best known for your mentoring despite the fact that you are a prolific writer yourself. How did you first get involved in the mentoring process?

Thank you for having me! I’ve always loved education. I’ve felt if I can do one thing it would to be help people by educating them. Mentoring the aspiring writers on Facebook through the Fiction Writing page allows me to do just that. My partner Brian and I spend an inordinate amount of time showing new writers not only the structural nuances of writing but also the technical aspects as well. By doing so and watching those writers succeed by finding publication outside of the Fiction Writing page I get a feeling of great pride and it’s that feeling that keeps me going.

What do you feel you get out of the mentoring? Do you learn from it?

I learn from it every day! I get to meet so many amazing writers, I get to understand their process, what makes them tick and why they write what they write. Mentoring is one of the best things I could have done with my life.

Do you ever get frustrated that in assisting other authors it takes away from your own writing time or are you able to find a balance?

You know it’s definitely a balancing act that takes a lot of work to get right. While I love mentoring I do find that it monopolizes my spare time quite a bit. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in my day so I was able to do everything I want to do without having to put something aside but it is what it is.

What is the most common thing you notice about new writers?

So many new writers believe they can write the next big trilogy blockbuster akin to The Hunger Games or Twilight or even a series like Harry Potter. I have to constantly remind them that the narrative has to be worthy of continuing and most books, even famous trilogies and series could have been reigned back in to one or maybe two books. They don’t always listen and firmly believe their books will break the mold. It’s almost heartbreaking to watch them realize their fantastic trilogy simply won’t work.

What is the biggest mistake, in your opinion, that a new writer can make?

Believing they know more than those that have come before or they don’t have to follow standard rules of fiction simply because Stephen King doesn’t. I have to remind them they are not Stephen King or V.C. Andrews or Issac Asimov or any number of famous authors. I can only hope they listen but more often than not they have to fail and learn the hard way.

What is your best advice to new writers?

Read in your genre. Absolutely. So many new writers want to write science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical reinterpretations or any number of genres but they don’t read current or classical works in those genres. How can one write science fiction if they’ve never read anything from Asimov or Bradbury or Updike? The same can be said of any genre. If you want to write, read.

Can you tell us a bit about the ‘Fiction Writing‘ Facebook page and the atmosphere you and Brian have created there?

Fiction Writing came about as a new home for writers who simply enjoy the challenges inherent in writing fiction no matter the genre. When we first came together as a community we simply wanted to support each-other but over the past year we’ve exploded in growth and now we’re both an educational community where Brian and I educate new writers in every facet of writing and we’re also an independent publishing house through Scout Media Publications. Through Scout Media, owned and operated by Brian Paone and supported by me, we highlight the best authors on the Fiction Writing page and publish them into an anthology of short stories every year. Last years A Matter of Words anthology has been well received and several authors have gone on to promising publishing careers. We’re hoping for similar results with A Journey of Words releasing this fall.

How did you and Brian meet? How do you work together?

I met Brian through a similar writing community on Facebook and once we realized we were spending so much time helping others we decided it was something we wanted to continue. When some Facebook drama happened that forced us to create our new page, Fiction Writing, we continued with the lessons we had begun on the previous page. Since then we’ve gone from a scant 350 members to well over 3,000 and growing!

Christopher is well known not only for his mentorship but also for his own fiction, in particular short stories. Below is an excerpt from a short piece:

‘Sometimes, high among the clouds, I forget about the Tick Tock Man and the picture books. Sometimes I simply circle the sky reveling in the gifts of the Splicers. I see my parents from on high. My mother with her powerful legs straining against the weight of the old iron plow. My father, his tail wagging, dances alongside her ever vigilant towards those who may slink or slither by seeking an easy meal. Carnal instincts often overpower good judgement. ‘

-Excerpt from, ‘Mechanical Me, Mechanical You’.

Can you tell us a little bit about, ‘Mechanical Me, Mechanical You’? What inspired it?

I took a fairy tale course during my time at Arizona State University and I was enthralled with the different styles of fairy tale adaptions from well-known current authors. When it was my turn to create my own original tale I wanted to create something visually striking while bending traditional rules of fiction. So I did away with traditional dialogue in favor of something a little more streamlined as well as classical, to adhere to fairy tale conventions. I ended the piece on a dark note because classic fairy tales were not the Disney versions we’re used to and I wanted to stick to tradition as much as I could. When the course ended I took Mechanical Me, Mechanical You and made some subtle changes to its core mechanics and then released it to my blog where it has and continues to receive, rave reviews.

About how many short stories have you published?

Over a twenty-year career I have published nearly one every year. Unfortunately, many of my earlier works have appeared in magazines that are no longer in print, the companies no longer exist so it’s been a challenge to track them down. Currently I have a collection of short fiction available titled, Through the Eyes of Another, available in paperback and eBook. You can also catch one of my stories in the upcoming Scout Media anthology, A Journey of Words to be released this Fall to bookstores everywhere.

Where is the best place to find your fiction? Do you have any anthologies of fiction or plans for anthologies in the future?

My current anthology, Through the Eyes of Another is available in paperback and ebook through Amazon and you’ll find me in the upcoming Scout Media anthology, A Journey of Words this fall. I also have plans for a second full anthology titled Where Light Refuses to Shine to be released hopefully sometime in 2017.

What are some of your favorite pieces of short fiction and why?

So many and you’re making me choose? I suppose my favorite pieces have been ‘For a Breath I Tarry’ which is a science fiction adaptation of the western creationist tale. While it may have religious undertones, and I’m not religious in the least, I felt the story was beautifully penned and you’ll be hard pressed to find better prose. ‘Those Who Walk Away from Omelas’ by Ursula LeGuin is dark and beautiful and makes one think about our own lives and what we sacrifice in order to achieve it. Lastly, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins has to be in my top five favorites. The way Perkins writes about feminine struggles during a time when a woman’s period was thought to be a sign of the devil is something I will never forget about.

Find the rest of Christopher Broom’s short story and more free and more about his other short stories, other writing as well as blogs and reviews at his author page:

http://christopherrbroom.wix.com/author

Christopher Broom’s upcoming ‘God Killer Chronicles’ is his first major novel:

Rian, weary of the road, sighed in relief as the dim lights he had spied earlier, partially hidden by a copse of tress became brighter highlighting his dusty face and the elongated muzzle of his hashuan mount, Wyndameir. Tossing a rope about the beast’s neck and tying the loose ends around a sturdy tree trunk Rian had to pat the animal’s neck as it kicked its six powerful legs into the dirt. Wyndameir continued to whine and protest as Rian pushed against a large wooden door and strode inside the only establishment between the port city of Corvega to the south and the Bashalian controlled lands to the north and beyond.

Mulvars had benefitted greatly from the unification of the four ruling houses of Immur. The House of Automata of Hymbari, The House of the Mystic Craft of Anuar’Bashal, The House of Sovereigns of Sika and The House of the Silver Sword of Corvega. Rian saw the effects of the unification in the patrons of the two-story watering hole. A group of hooded Bashalians mingled openly with three Hymbari hybrids. The Hymbarian women were showing off their implanted automata including limbs that had been replaced with an amalgamation of colored metals, wires and in the joints where the elbow connects the upper and lower arm, a ball of swirling colored energy bounced back and forth in its crystalline enclosure. Their upgrades tripled their strength, Rian overheard one of them say as he passed by and then one of the women grabbed her companions body length polearm and bent the thick metal until it resembled the letter ‘L’ and then she bent it back leaving it as it smooth as it had been before.

In exchange, the Bashalian’s showcased their talents. They began by levitating one of the thick and heavy tomes they carried with them. The books turned their own pages until it settled somewhere in the middle. Of the two Bashalians, a woman whose face was kept partially hidden underneath her thick cowl began to trace her finger along a line in her floating book. She then uttered a series of guttural noises that emanated from deep within her then slowly at first but quickening in pace she began to split apart. Her skin popped and tore but instead of blood or entrails her separation of self brought on three identical images. All four versions of the young woman mimicked the motions of the others much to the delight of the Hymbarian women as well as the rest of the patrons around Mulvars who erupted into a cacophony of applause and shouts.

Soldiers of the Silver Sword, guardians of Corvega, laughed and swallowed large gulps of chilled tipik alongside well-dressed men and women, sovereign bankers of Sika.’

-Excerpt from The Godkiller Chronicles by Christopher Broom


Wow, that’s quite the start to a story. Can you tell us a little bit about the plot of
‘The Godkiller Chronicles’?

So The Godkiller Chronicles follows the tale of Rian Cor’Va’Shar, a lone mercenary travelling the wilds of Immur in search of personal redemption for creating an entirely new race of people. I would say more but hopefully that little teaser and the excerpt will whet your appetites enough.

What was your inspiration for this book?

I take inspiration from everything. But, the stories of Avatar: The Last Airbender and its heavy use of Asian mythology helped me to build the backbone of the Godkiller Chronicles as well as the powers found in the book. I also take inspiration from author R.A. Salvatore and more specifically his Dark Elf series of books.

Why did you decided to make the leap from short stories to novels? How does it feel to be making a novel versus a short story?

Novels are so much harder. I think I’ve written upwards of sixty drafts for The Godkiller Chronicles, I wish I was kidding. Balancing each act and building towards a dramatic climax is something not typically found in shorter works so having to bring those elements, which aren’t something I’m used to, into this new endeavor has been a challenge but I think the results are paying off!

What has been your favorite thing about having the longer medium to write in?

I have so much more room in which to build my characters which is a nice change. I also have more freedom in in the pace of the book. Instead of rushing towards the action in order to come to a respected conclusion like I would in a short story, I can now add in slower scenes that do nothing more than expand on my characters.

When will ‘The Godkiller Chronicles’ be available and how can we buy it?

Hopefully soon! In all seriousness I have been in contact with several agents from DAW Books and they too are anxiously awaiting the final draft.

In addition to mentoring, short stories, interviews, reviews, blogs, you also have a YouTube Channel where you address issues related to writing. Can you tell us about what inspired you to go in front of the camera and start teaching other from what you had learned?

I’m always seeking new ways to reach my students. Whether I’m in front of 30 people in a classroom or 30 million on Youtube, the premise is the same. Educate. The videos have taken a back seat while I shift my focus to more pressing matters, preparing for the final stages of the A Journey of Words Anthology but I have ideas for around ten videos that I hope to record in the next 6 months to a year. Beyond that? I’m currently undecided. I have a Udemy.org course where I will be teaching the basics of story editing beginning in September so maybe after that I’ll return to the video series.

Where can people go to find your channel and subscribe?

Exclusively on Youtube first and then on my professional blog a week later. Simply search for Writing Without Limits on Youtube.

So far, we’ve learned a lot about your writing, but what about you as a person? Who is Christopher Broom away from the keyboard?

A massive gamer and a goofball. I love playing with my kids and my German Shepard, Zelda. I’m also a husband who adores his wife. When I’m not writing, teaching or editing you can find me lost in some digital world or another. One of my favorites lately has been the Witcher series of games which follows the story of Geralt the White Wolf. The games are of course digital adaptations of the Polish novels of the same name. Seems no matter what I do, I can’t escape books.

How do you feel about your real life versus your writing worlds?

My real life is actually pretty normal and unassuming. I work a full time job (not creative related), I spend time with my kids and wife, I take my dog for walks, I listen to music and play video games. Out in public you’d be hard pressed to find anything outrageous about me.

How much do you draw from real life?

Not much to be honest. I find reality to be fairly mundane in the “everyday” aspect.

Do you feel your writing affects how you deal with your personal relationships and your general outlook on the world?

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. There have been several instances in which I would see something on the news or have an argument with my wife or the kids are driving me nuts and would turn to the pen to vent my frustrations in some fictional world through the eyes of some fictitious character. This has led to some interesting conversations with people who assume some stories have been written expressly about them. Even if they were right, I wouldn’t admit to it.

Tell us something that you’ve never told anyone ever before?

I’m massively jealous of people who can dance.

If you had a small duffel bag and had to fill it with everything you would need to live happily on a deserted island with a thriving ecosystem, what would you bring?

A Nintendo 3DS with an everlasting battery and Wifi, a bottle of everlasting scotch, my collection of science fiction (hardcover, 1200 pages), a series of pens and a stack of notebooks.

You’re told in addition to your backpack, at the last minute you’re allowed to bring anyone with you that you want, or 200 lbs of books. Which would you choose? Who would you bring or what would be the top books to start taking up weight (and no, you can’t put them on your kindle ;))

Tough question to answer! If I didn’t say my wife and she read this interview, I think she’d be quite peeved so of course I’m going to say my wife. However, if I couldn’t bring my wife I would take all 200lbs of books simply to preserve my own sanity.

Any final thoughts?

Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure. For those aspiring to stand where I’m standing now, keep writing, keep reading, always plug away at your projects and never lose sight of why you’re writing. It isn’t about the money or the fame or the million-dollar movie deals, it’s about the literature.

~Keep writing for writing is sustenance for the soul~

An Afternoon with Kelly Blanchard

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Today we are visiting with Kelly Blanchard, also known as ‘The Muse’. This enigmatic writer, interviewer and visionary works to inspire those around her.
You can find her latest short story in StarkLight 4, A Time for Everything- and you can read more about her below!

Kelly Blanchard lives in the middle of nowhere in Texas, but has an online global reach. While she’s a dedicated writer in both fantasy and science fiction, her true self shines when she takes on the role of Muse for other writers, mentoring them, prompting and challenging them, and counseling their characters. She’s developed a unique method of interviewing both author and character, and she uses this to promote the authors. She strongly believes the community of writers should encourage and support one another, and she strives to do just that.

Thanks for being with us today, Kelly and for bringing The Muse. This dichotomy is a mystery to nearly everyone who will be reading this so perhaps you can tell us a bit more.

  1. Tell me how you came to call yourself ‘The Muse’: The way I came to be known as ‘The Muse’ is because in writing groups online, I’d always share pictures that tended to spark ideas for other people. They started calling me ‘The Muse’, and it just stuck.
    2. How would you define a muse?
    Everyone has their own muse. Usually this is something in their own mind that generates ideas. A muse then inspires ideas, connects the dots between two formerly disconnected idea, and sparks a story.
    3. How do other people relate to you differently as Kelly Blanchard as opposed to The Muse?
    There really isn’t a separation between the two. The Muse aspect of me isn’t like a fictional character that I’ve written. She’s not a separate personality. The Muse is Kelly Blanchard. Kelly Blanchard is the Muse.
    4. What function does being a muse play in your creative pursuits? I get ideas just like everyone else. Sometimes I seize the idea and apply it to my own pursuits, but other times I give the ideas away because it might just be what someone else needed in that moment.
    5. How do people react when you explain about The Muse to them?
    Actually, I don’t explain it to them. I’m merely Kelly Blanchard, but if they spend enough time around me, they begin to call me The Muse because they see what I share and how I try to inspire other writers, and they’ve likely gotten a few ideas from all my sharing.
    6. Why The Muse rather than a specific Muse? Or is this an entirely different concept from the Greek traditional idea of the nine muses?
    It’s ‘The Muse’ because that’s what everyone merely called me. My boyfriend once read through all the different nine Muses to see if I would be a specific one, but he said they all applied. But, if anything, I like to say I’m the Tenth Muse, and I’ve made up an entire backstory for that.
    7. Do you feel that the muse is specific to you or that everyone has a hidden muse and you’re just a lot more in touch with yours?
    Everyone has their own muse, but what I do is different. Most people get ideas and keep them for themselves, but I get too many ideas, so I freely give them away yet I never find myself low on ideas.
    8. Is there a transitions when you are Kelly and become The Muse?
    I’ve always been The Muse even before I realized it. I always had ideas, ideas, ideas! And sometimes all the ideas would make me feel like I was going insane (more than a writer usually is), but when I got online and started giving away those ideas, I realized that was what I was supposed to do.

    9. What does Kelly Blanchard do in an average day? If there’s any difference between the two, I’d say that Kelly Blanchard is the one who does everything in real life, interacting with others, writing, housecleaning, cooking, etc.
    10. What does The Muse do in an average day?
    The Muse takes those every day activities and finds inspiring ideas.
    12. How do the people in ‘Kelly’s’ life react to the concept of The Muse? Can they tell the difference between the two?
    People in my life really don’t know of the Muse side of me because they’re not in the online groups where I act more like the Muse. To them, I’m Kelly Blanchard.
    13. Do you get the sense that The Muse continues with her life separately from you when you are stuck with the mundane in life?
    Not really. I mean, she’s always there, lingering in the back of my head, and she’s always the first to hit me with an idea regardless as how mundane life is in the moment.
    14. What is the greatest gift The Muse has given you as Kelly?
    The knowledge that my ideas aren’t bad ideas and that they can actually be the key someone needs to unlock an aspect of their story.
    15. Is there a down side to being a muse?
    Getting overwhelmed with too many ideas.
    16. How have you impacted the world and/or your environment as The Muse?
    The greatest impact I think I may have on the world as The Muse is to show people that their ideas aren’t bad ideas and to encourage them and offer them a safe place to spread their wings. There are a lot of writers out there that don’t have family support, and their friends just don’t understand what it means to be a writer, so I offer a bit of a safe haven. Writers who are encouraged then go out and gift the world with their stories—any of which could impact the world in numerous of ways. 

 

Steve Stanton in the Spotlight

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By Virginia Carraway Stark from Starklight Press

Steve Stanton’s post-graduate training in accounting led him to volunteer as the financial administrator of SF Canada. He served on the Board of Directors for seven years, including three years as President from 2011-2014. SF Canada was started in 1989 in the pre-internet era to sponsor a sense of community among Canadian Authors.

Steve Stanton is the author of The Bloodlight Chronicles Sci-fi trilogy. His stories have been published in sixteen countries in a dozen languages.

His latest book is FREENET, a novel of interplanetary intrigue: A pretty girl falls from the sky, a handsome boy rises from the underground, and a popular newscaster dares to tell the real story.

Coming April 2016, available for pre-order today!

Hi Steve! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for StarkLight Press! We tend to get a little informal in our questions, so please have fun with them.

When did you first begin to suspect that you were a writer?

Hi Virginia! Thanks for your interest at StarkLight Press. I love the idea of grassroots publishing!

I think creative people are just born that way. When I was a teenager in the ’60s, I wrote poetry and song lyrics inspired by Bob Dylan and the folk-rock music of that era. After graduating from university, my wife and I had three daughters, and raising a family became our primary concern. It wasn’t until I was thirty that I began to write seriously. I re-enrolled at U. of Toronto to take a course in Creative Writing and was influenced by the postmodernism of the ’80s. I was thirty-three when my first stories began to appear in magazines and literary journals.

Did you find your background in accounting was helpful to you when you ‘left your day job’ to become a full-time writer?

Not really. Novelists usually don’t make enough money to need an accountant. I suppose I developed great respect for money along the way, seeing the ups and down of various clients and dealing with death and bankruptcy. I had my house paid off, which is the biggest thing for most people. I learned how to live frugally on the financial fringe. I use free phone, free TV, free internet, free website. I borrow books and movies from local libraries for free. I hardly ever go to restaurants or bars, or buy clothes in an actual store. I live a bohemian lifestyle.

What first drew your interest to the sci-fi genre? Was it always important to you or something you developed as you grew in your interests?

I was always into sci-fi. I used to think I was from the future. When I was a kid, comic books cost 12 cents, and all you had to do to buy one was find six empty pop bottles and bring them to the counter. So while my brother was reading Archie and watching Hogan’s Heroes, I was going from Legion of Super Heroes to paperbacks by Isaac Asimov.

When you sit down to write, how do you get into ‘the zone’? Do you have a ritual, set times, or do you just sit down and do it?

I generally prefer to write first thing in the morning, especially if I have been awake in the night rehearsing scenes. If I am left alone with no wife or grandchildren, I usually fall naturally into writing mode. Sometimes I screw off work completely, especially between rewrites, because I know my subconscious keeps working in the background. The rare times that I find myself in a breathless panic writing a vivid and meaningful scene are the rewards that keep me going year after year, because writing a novel is a slogging task.

What is the funniest question that anyone has ever asked you about being a writer? How did you respond?

Someone once asked me about kitchen utensils. 😉

How do disruptions affect your writing? Even though you have some buffering from ‘real life’ interfering in your work with the power of writing being your full-time pursuit, how do you deal with the intrusion of life? What is your advice to authors juggling day jobs and writing?

I hate disruptions when I’m trying to work. I find it difficult to get back inside my imaginary world if I get pulled out to answer the phone or stop to eat. Real life sucks. The best thing I ever did as an artist was to drop out of society. All the novels I wrote while I was working in the real world were crap, but some of my short stories from that time are still being published and translated. Based on that limited experience, I would advise young authors to concentrate on short stories, which often arise “full blown” in the imagination and can be worked out quickly with great personal satisfaction. Novels take a huge investment of time and energy. In some of the top short-fiction markets, you can make just as much money as you will get for a royalty advance on a novel these days.

What song best describes your work ethic when it comes to writing?

“Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive, because I love to work at nothing all day.

If you had to be a kitchen utensil, what utensil would you be? Why?

I would be a butcher’s knife, capable of trimming fat, cutting to the bone, and plunging deep into the heart of a metaphor.

If you could switch bodies with anyone on the planet for the day, who would you pick and what would you do?

I would pick an attractive woman, probably middle-aged, someone with a vast life experience for me to cannibalize for my next novel. That way I would “know” both sides of the interpersonal coin and could represent the genders equally. I would have sex, eat fatty food, drink fine champagne, go dancing, and spend all her money.

What frustrates you? In writing, in love or in life in general?

I find humanity frustrating. I can’t understand on a visceral level why someone would deliberately do evil to another person or racial group, or why a culture would distribute resources in an inefficient or wasteful manner. Watching the news is painful for me, and reading a horror novel is out of the question. I can barely sleep as it is.

Tell me something you’ve never told anyone else.

I’ve never told anyone any of this stuff. 🙂

What do you wish that other writers could understand or know?

Well, I’ve never had commercial success as an author, so I’m probably not the best person to dole out advice, but I think writers have a great privilege and responsibility. Many people in the world cannot read, and many choose not to learn how to spell, even in so-called civilized societies. Literature can elevate both authors and readers. Writers have a duty to educate the future, and an obligation to represent the truth in their fiction. Your words will be the only thing you leave behind.

Thanks for taking time out to talk to us, Steve!

You can find Mr. Stanton at his webpage  http://stevestanton.ca/

There you can find more information about his upcoming book, FREENET.

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