I’m especially excited to host my wonderful critique partner, Janet Walden-West, on my blog today in the second instalment of our “Two questions with…” blog tour.
Right, while Janet’s distracted pouring another round of coffee, I’m stealing that last slice of cheesecake…
Thank you for inviting me to drop by for bottomless cups of coffee, cheesecake, and a chat. Now that the cheesecake is gone, let’s jump in.
- Why do you write?
I always joke that it’s to get the voices in my head to shut up. But that flip answer really is kinda true on one level.
My stories tend to slam into being as 3D, surround-sound, hi-def scenes. Vivid and difficult to ignore. Those images spark something, and next thing I know, I’m losing sleep and adding to the original scenes. Daydreaming at work about what my characters can get into next. When you have an addictive personality, well… The obsession to see where those scenes go is real.
I’ve learned not to ignore those bursts of imagination. So for me, the best way to deal with that creative impulse is to get the story on paper. I empty my head out and get to create new worlds.
Oh, and finally get some sleep!
- Do you see any issues in your genre and how are you addressing them?
I’d love to paint a hearts and rainbows picture, but reality and all.
One issue that crosses genres is representation. What stories get told, and who tells them. On the plus side, I think publishing is having a moment. It’s examining the fact that it isn’t diverse and that it is a top-down problem, from publishers to editors to agents to writers. That lack of diversity and representation is robbing readers of so many new, gorgeous stories and experiences.
My best practices for myself is to think about what I’m writing and why. About whether someone else can do it more authentically if given the chance, and to take every opportunity to signal-boost marginalized writers instead.
My bookshelf is far richer for it.
Janet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. She has an unseemly obsession with dusty artifacts, great cars, and bad coffee. A founding member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance and The Million Words craft blog, she is also a member of Romance Writers of America member. She pens Urban Fantasy that escapes the neat confines of the city limits in favor of map-dot hillbilly towns, and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance. A #PitchWars alum, her first short story, Road Trip, is included in the Chasing the Light anthology.
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Read on for an excerpt of Janet’s short story, Road Trip, in the Chasing the Light anthology.
Once upon a time, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Faith Hunter and award-winning authors David B. Coe and John G. Hartness agreed to mentor a group of rising authors—the Roaring Writers. Chasing the Light—with tales across the spectrum of science fiction and fantasy—is their celebration of success.
It is also a tribute honoring Melanie Otto (AKA Melanie Griffin), one of the founding authors, who died unexpectedly in 2016. Melanie critiqued many of these stories at the Roaring Writers’ annual writing retreats, and the authors will never forget Melanie’s sparkling eyes and delighted laugh as she found passages she loved in each. With this collection, including stories by Melanie, the Roaring Writers share her light with readers everywhere.
Thanks to the generosity of their mentors and contributors, all profits from the sales of this anthology will be donated to help Melanie’s lifelong partner defray medical and legal costs.
I kicked the bejesus out of my tire, wishing the rubber was something more flesh and blood to vent my irritability on. I had missing campers, a possible will’o’wisp to blame, and no backup.
And my last temporary-partner possibility had just called from the hospital, beat to hell by a poltergeist, with a “Sorry, Samantha, I’m out.” Although she’d taken the initiative, sending me a replacement.
Hard to say which pissed me off more—not having help or getting set up like that one friend who can never find a date on her own.
I paced around the truck, swatting gnats and no-see-ums. The tail end of September, and Tennessee hadn’t gotten the memo it was pumpkin spice and cozy sweater time.
The minutes ticked by, dread climbing up my spine and raising the hairs on my neck, like a late-season tick crawling up my leg. Two separate, experienced hikers had disappeared in southeast Georgia over the last week. The only survivor of the latest disappearance swore his missing friend babbled about lights in the forest before they bedded down for the night. The next morning—no friend.
A sweep with Search and Rescue dogs, and the forest service hadn’t turned up a trace or a body, same as the first disappearance. With Fall Break approaching and leaves coloring up, people would turn out for day hikes on those trails, or weekend camping trips.
Boozy, happy, oblivious prey.
And I was standing around useless, waiting on some asshole hunter with time management issues.
I whirled for another go at my innocent tire. A gleaming gold and white SUV wheeled in, gravel spitting, taking the turn to the deer camp too fast.
The Escalade settled in a cloud of gray dust and pinging rock.
My irritation turned darker. I shook my arms out, shaking away tension and loosening muscles. Popping the knives from each forearm sheath, the hilts hitting my palms but hidden under my sleeves.
My supposed backup took her time, flipping the visor to check her lip-gloss. She finally popped out and surveyed me, a critical sweep from head to toe.
We’d never met, but I knew all about her. Hard not to. Not many creatures dared hobnob with human hunters.
Like she read my mind, this one smiled, showing unusually square, perfectly white teeth. “Well, as I live and breathe. It is the infamous Sam Vasquez. I thought Andi was pulling one of my legs.”
The Kelpie might not be living and breathing long.
“And what are you going by these days?” Not that I expected her true name.
If you were going to use the moniker of famous female racehorses as your alias, why not go with the best?
“Go away, Rachel Alexandra.”
“Fact—you needed a second. Fact—I owed Andi a favor. Fact—here I am.” She checked the cuff of her suede blazer, tugging it straighter.
“Fact—I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, I don’t trust you. Bye.”
Big liquid-brown eyes narrowed. “Fact—monsters never put their killing sprees on hold until your preferred backup gets her casts off. This creature isn’t going to hold off snatching tourists because you’re a snippy bigot.”
True, but I wasn’t hunting one supernatural with another breathing down my neck. Especially this one. “There are no swim-up bars or suites at the Bellagio for you to crash in where I’m going. You aren’t qualified to help.”
She smiled, slow and ugly. “I was a predator before your grandparents were born. I’m also difficult to kill. Say what you mean—you won’t deign to hunt with me because I’m not human.” She crossed her arms and stared me down. “And you’ll sacrifice innocent lives for your bigotry.”
I swore, fingers closing over the knife hilts until my knuckles creaked. I doubted her generosity came from giving a damn about human lives as much as it did the burning need to discharge whatever obligation she’d bound herself to.
My obligation was to oblivious people out for a weekend of fun and fresh air.
But she wasn’t wrong. I chewed on the inside of my cheek and rolled the idea around, poking for weak spots. Andi had been my last resort, and Kelpies probably had little to fear from wisps. The incorporeal elementals used compulsion to mesmerize the unwary and lead them away. Kelpies shared a similar form of psychic suggestion. Maybe they were immune.
“I hope you’ve got something you can actually hike in.” I eyed her Prada flats.
The Kelpie would make an acceptable stalking horse for this job. I just had to survive working with a creature who won human trust, then carried them to a watery death.
If you want to read more, pick up a paperback or e-book copy here. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D9N12GD
You can also follow our tour to learn about Melanie’s influence and see excerpts from the other stories in our anthology.