Monday, November 24, 2014

From the Bookshelf: Losers and Their Friends by Erin Thorne

I first had the joy of meeting Erin Thorne through her submission to an anthology I was asked to edit, Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification.  Her tale, "Jarred Expectations", was one of the first stories accepted.  So when the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing approached me to write a forward for Thorne's new collection, Losers and Their Friends, I didn't hesitate despite a work schedule that was and is growing denser by the day. Thorne's book, its meat drawn mostly from a pool of excellent tales that went out into the publishing universe and somehow came back rejected, is difficult to put down once picked up.  Perhaps part of my fondness for the release involves the inclusion of "Jarred Expectations" as one of the collection's reprints; the story is as fresh the second time around as it was the first when it set a very high bar as to the kinds of material that would be accepted in our book of modern day mummy tales.

Stories of alien invasion, holiday horror, an unexpected and antihero superhero novella, and, yes, that marvelous read of canopic jars that contain forbidden secrets are all part of Thorne's vision, each tale presented beautifully with original artwork.  The author was kind enough to share her insight on Losers and Their Friends, as well as news of what's to follow.

I loved Losers and Their Friends—there’s a little of something for everyone, and yet it’s all in Erin Thorne’s unique voice.  What are some of the highlights on the Losers journey that you, yourself are most proud of?
I think getting the chance to work with so many talented artists was one of my favorite elements of the process. They ran the gamut from amateur to professional, and they all did an excellent job. Most of the pictures in the book were commissioned pieces, so I was able to see what someone else’s vision of my story or character would look like. One in particular really grabbed me; it’s the illustration for “South Ridge Superhero,” done by Erik Wilson. He depicted the exact appearance of the man on whom the story was based, after having been given only a rough, one-paragraph description. It was almost uncanny, and highly moving.

Was there a method in choosing the variety of stories for this collection?
Many of them were prior submissions, some of which were rejected and subsequently revamped. One that was accepted had started as flash fiction for a holiday episode of the podcast, “The Wicked Library,” and I expanded upon the story after it had aired. Others were simply tales that I was inspired to write, with plots and characters that wouldn't leave me alone until I’d gotten them out on paper.

What's your process of creating stories?
That can vary, depending upon the impetus for writing the story. If it’s one that was based on dream or a spontaneous idea, I scribble a hurried paragraph or two containing the basic premise while the memory is still fresh, and work it into an outline later. When I’m crafting a story in response to a submission call, one which usually has a specific theme in mind, I brainstorm a little more. I pull from the mundane, often from actual incidents and people, then stretch and embellish the whole thing until it’s a different (and entirely fictional) account. I also do this if I have a story I want to tell that’s based on real life, if there’s an image or a feeling I want to remember.

I happen to believe you’re one of the publishing landscape’s most exciting new writers.  When not writing, what’s Erin Thorne’s world like?
Thank you! I have two children who keep life both busy and fun, and I also work with my significant other at his gallery/studio, Cornerstone Creations, where we hand-pour concrete statuary. I paint several pieces, too; it’s relaxing, and another way to enjoy being creative. We vend at various fairs and events together, at which I sell and sign my books. I love working out as well, although I’m not enough of a fitness nut to give up sweets or fast food.

What are you presently working on, and what’s next for you in terms of releases?
I’m working on a few stories and projects at the moment, some larger than others, and I’ve recently sent two more out as submissions. As far as upcoming releases, I’m excited to be working on a re-issue of my third book, Behind the Wheel, right now. It was picked up by Great Old Ones Publishing, and will feature a custom painting for each tale by the artist Bob Chipman, aka Greywolf Moonsong. Two of his works, “Solace and Sorrow” and “The Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever,” are in Losers and Their Friends, and the new illustrations are amazing. There will also be an introduction, in which I’ll describe what lies behind each of the stories, and a foreword by a special surprise contributor. All in all, it promises to be a beautiful collection when finished!

Friday, November 7, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 Part One

Five years ago, on a warm November Sunday that now seems part of another life, I put my pen to a fresh pad of paper, fifty blank sheets, and jotted the first sentence of my novel Lawrence, an homage I'd always wanted to write to one of my favorite movies of all time, Otto Preminger's brilliant film noir Laura.  I didn't know what I was in for exactly, other than that a publisher had mentioned interest in the book even before word one was written, and that I'd hitched myself to the runaway horse that is National Novel Writing Month. Every First of November dating back to 1999, untold flocks of writers delve into their creativity, hopeful that by the Thirtieth, they will have completed 50,000 words.  It's the kind of pressure and a commitment that may seem insurmountable. Not all make it to the finish line.  Far fewer than those that do go on to sell their novels (there's a great debate about quality among all that quantity, and plenty of chatter about lit agents cringing soon after the end of November rolls around). Regardless of the yay-sayers and nay-sayers, I gave it a whirl, And the whirlwind of that month was unforgettable.

(November 1, 2014 -- deep in Chapter One)
Over the course of thirty days, I belted out the entire first draft of Lawrence, along with a novella, a short screenplay, and two short stories. It's possible that November 2009 may be the most productive single month of my literary life.  I completed my novel not only on time but early, and throughout could not wait to return to the world of a New York socialite targeted for murder, the hardened cop who works to save him, and the delicious mystery that flowed from my psyche through my pen and onto the pages, which flew off the pad at a record speed.

With three friends of my way-cool local writers' group (and several from my extended circle), I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go in 2014, helped along by a literary agent who approached me about doing a M/M-themed fantasy novel (a sort of 'Gay of Thrones', if you will).  At first, I was hesitant; I'd already decided over the summer to work on a project called Different.  Given the deadline imposed by the agent, I did do something different after all -- over a day spent jotting down notes, I crafted a solid and engaging (I hope!) story called Kingdoms Be Damned. I committed to the novel with the agent, more so with the characters and the exciting, danger-fraught world they inhabit.  As the first of the month approached, I worked to clear the desk and then, this past Saturday (a morning far less balmy and sunny than its predecessor in 2009 -- in fact, we woke to the first trace of winter's snow!), I uncapped my pen, opened a fresh pad of paper, and dove in.

(NaNo Swag Bags -- break open in case of emergency!)
November 2009 was marked by lots of icy Diet Pepsi, sipped at numerous venues, like the town library where we used to live and the cozy comfort of the A & E Roastery, where the very first write-in kick-off to that year's literary road race was held.  Public write-ins, in which friends and strangers gather at destinations announced via social media, are a NaNo standard, and normally great motivation to put in one's words.  No such events exist up here in the North Country, so to honor the fun, I decided to create several for our circle of talented friends.  The first started in my living room on November 1, complete with gourmet hot chocolate (courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa), 'emergency' Swag Bags filled with notebooks, pens, Buffy bookmarks, and chocolate, pastry, and, of course, cold Diet Pepsi. I drank a lot of it way-back-then when, that month, we also all suffered from the ravages of the swine version of the flu.  No H1N1 this year, I hope.

(Second Write-in at the Berlin Public Library, courtesy
of Dan Szcezesny)
Our second official group write-in took place on Tuesday, the Third at our town library.  It's a beautiful building with the perfect tables for writing adventures set in far away lands, an amazing fireplace, and books that rise up, up, all the way to the distant ceiling and require those huge rolling ladders to access.  Good pals, the dynamic Judi Calhoun and Dan Szcezesny, who just got courted to write for The Huffington Post, joined me among the stacks for several productive hours. We wrote and boosted our word count despite the presence of a loquacious Marine recruiter at the table beside the one where we were camped with our novels. It was another unforgettable, fun time as we forged forward in our respective new adventures.  Later, we enjoyed a big dinner at home and a wonderful writers' group meeting.

A week into NaNoWriMo 2014, and this Wrimo (as we're lovingly called) has maintained a very healthy 2,500 daily word count -- to reach the 50K goal, one is expected to write 1,667.  I'm only 500 shy of reaching 17,500, and the exciting conclusion to Chapter 7.  At this rate, as before, I'll finish my first draft of Kingdoms a full ten days before the end of November.  Flus, colds, and the many horrors from the fantasy land within my novel willing, of course!