Have you ever wanted to read a novella and didn’t know which one to pick? Here’s a story you won’t want to miss! Guest author, Rick Ellrod, writer of Fantasy and Science Fiction, debuts his first novella, The World Around the Corner, today.
Hi Rick! The World Around the Corner has a fantastic hook. Would you share with us your inspiration for the story?
I always liked the “Shop Around the Corner”—“You’ve Got Mail” type of story, where a couple get to know each other in two different ways without realizing they’re the same person. The idea goes back to Shakespeare’s hidden-identity plays, like “Twelfth Night”—with the added twist that neither person knows the secret. The potential for misadventures and misunderstandings is just too good to pass up.
I spent a good deal of time playing World of Warcraft some years back, and it occurred to me that the same mistaken-identities device could also be used with a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game,” a MMORPG. At that point, I was off and running!
It’s always fun to hear about the creative early stages. How did you decide on your character’s names?
I love names, and I like to try to fit them to the characters. Here I was aiming at a light, playful romantic comedy. “Jeff” sounded to me like a good name for a good-natured, likable hero—polar opposite of a brooding Heathcliff type. Giving him a more iconic full name (“Jefferson”) and traditional English surname (“Stanton”) went along neatly with making him a history professor. So did his character’s name, “Badon,” which comes out of the Arthurian legends. “Dana” struck me as feminine but also a little tomboyish, distinctive enough to suggest confidence and independence. I don’t recall where I came up with her last name, “Roland”; but I did get a sort of pun out of it, since she’s got a poster of Orlando Bloom from “The Lord of the Rings” in her shop—which is an early clue to her interest in fantasy games.
A secondary character’s name actually gave me the most trouble. I named a teenage girl “Raina,” which sounded interesting and unusual. But as soon as I wrote “Dana and Raina,” I knew that would never work! I changed Raina to the more commonplace, but still pretty, “Renee.”
Do you hide any secrets in the story that only a few people will find?
Oh, yes. Love those Easter eggs! There’s at least one “in” joke that only my family will get. But when Dana and Jeff are talking about their favorite music and books, I also had a chance to toss in some slightly obscure favorites of my own—along with a few I invented. Readers can Google them and find out which are which. (Or, for a short cut on the music, check the “World Around the Corner playlist” on my Web site).
What was your hardest scene to write?
The road-trip scenes before they find out their game identities were especially tricky, because I had to show Jeff and Dana not getting along with each other—but without making either one seem like a jerk or really unlikable. On the other hand, that ended up leading into a discussion about academics and auto mechanics that I particularly enjoyed. So maybe the hardest scenes also bring the best rewards!
Congrats again, Rick! Thanks for being my guest. The World Around the Corner is available now. Honest reviews are always welcome. D. K.
The World Around the Corner Blurb: Jeff and Dana are ardent—and flirtatious—companions in an online role-playing game. Neither is aware they also know each other in real life, where they’ve clashed on multiple occasions. But when they join forces on a road trip to solve a mystery, they discover the connection between their online and everyday identities. Can their virtual relationship carry over into a a real-life adventure?
Posted February 7, 2018 February Guest: Welcome Jessica L. Randall! I can’t think of a better way to kick off the day than with guest author, Jessica L. Randall. Author of The Obituary Society three book series, Golden Hood, and Lovers’ Quarrel, Jessica released her sixth novel, Keeper, in January.
Hi Jessica! Would you share with us what you enjoy most about writing? I love the way I feel when I get an idea for a story, and I start exploring the possibilities. I love it when a piece of the story-puzzle falls into place, and it feels like it was always there, just waiting for me to discover it. I admire your insight! What was your inspiration for Keeper? I’ve long had a thing for aliens. It started in college when my parents bought me a shirt that said The Many Moods of an Alien, and of course there were twelve expressionless aliens on it. They said it reminded them of me. After that I received more alien gifts. It was very flattering.
I was a big fan of the Roswell series. It’s the complete package, with hidden identities, superpowers, teen angst, and forbidden love. I also enjoyed reading I Am Number Four. One day after re-watching that movie, I really had an itch to write an alien story myself. But it wasn’t until I watched Dark Skies on Netflix that the concept for Keeper came to me. I hit the internet and started reading about all the creepy signs that you might be the victim of an abduction, and that really got me going. The cover is beautiful and intriguing. Is there anything you can reveal about it without giving away a spoiler? Thank you. I wasn’t sure I could design this one, but I was pleased with how it turned out.
The story is about a girl named Lexi whose life is saved by an alien-human hybrid. The trouble is, when Micah takes her into his ship, he is forced to choose her as the test subject for his research. Neither of them feels they can escape their fate. But the bond they form gives them unexpected strength to fight. Jessica, thanks for sharing these fun Keeper details! I appreciate you being my guest. Congratulations! D. K. Keeper Blurb: Lexi is almost certain that her rescue by an extraterrestrial was just a vivid nightmare. But when the boy that has haunted her dreams shows up in her speech class, she has to accept that it was all too real. To complicate matters, Micah didn't just save her life, he chose her. She is his test subject.
Even though she should be terrified, Lexi suspects that the rigid, rule-abiding alien isn’t what he seems. As she helps him uncover the sensitivity and individuality his superiors have tried to bury, the bond between them grows. Their connection creates unexpected changes in both of them, but for Lexi, they mean danger. A super-human ability has been awakened in her, making Lexi and her little brother specimens of interest to Micah’s ruthless alien race. When Micah discovers that Lexi is no ordinary lab rat, will he help her and her family, or will he use her to advance his species and win the respect of his father? And even if he chooses her, is there a way out for either of them?
ISOLATION A writing dream, an editing nightmare One of the greatest things about being a writer is the isolationism. There are no political games to be played with co-workers. No bosses are riding your back and telling you what to do. It's just you and your imaginary friends creating a world to live in for the upcoming months. One of the worst things about being a writer is the isolationism. There are no games or jokes to share with colleagues. There is no one to spur you into action when don't feel like working, which results in going unpaid for weeks, months, perhaps years or maybe never. And some days your imaginary friends won't talk to you—then you're really screwed.
So where does a writer get his or her inspiration? It has to come from within, but we also need a little help from our friends. But where do we get like-minded friends when we're locked away in solitary confinement? If you're serious about your writing, you find them in an environment where they are working to improve their craft—not trying to Facebook their way to the top of the bestseller list.
The point is this: even though writing is a solitary effort, an author needs people from the outside world to help progress their work. Everything I write makes perfect sense to me because I know what I intend to convey, but it doesn't always translate to an outsider logically. I need feedback long before it gets into the public domain. And there is a way to get it before spending several hundred or even thousands of dollars on a professional editor.
I wrote my first book in 2010-11. I sent it to twenty-one agents, and over the course of time, I received nineteen rejections—two no-shows. I didn't want to give up or self-publish at that stage so I decided to polish it and try again. I went in search of an online writer's group and found critiquecircle.com I expected hearty slaps on the back for brilliant writing and waited for the other writers on the site to tell me my commas were in the wrong place and that's why I suffered rejections. Perhaps I dangled a few participles or split my infinitives—you know, all the boring stuff. And after I restructured my grammar and punctuation, agents would beg me to sign a three-book deal. As they say in Spain, "El wrongo!"
What I got was a slap into reality. It was brutal, but I learned. I learned how to show, not tell. I was educated to the fact that filtering what's happening through the character weakens the action. I was taught how and when to use action beats instead of relying on dialogue tags. I learned so much I felt guilty learning all this treasured information on a free site.
Not only did I receive invaluable lessons about how to write more effectively, but I also made friends. Real writing friends who understand what it's like to stare at a blank screen waiting for that magical line to be spoken by a fake person. I still use Critique Circle from time to time, but I've developed friendships with people who understand my writing and style and don't try to change everything to suit their own personal tastes—which does sometimes happen with complete strangers. I built relationships.
And with that, I now have a 'go to' people. One of my friends is a lawyer. I ask her legal questions from time to time about the plausibility of some courtroom situations and such. Another friend is a bleeding heart liberal and totally in tune with political correctness—which I am neither of those. She knows I sometimes write on the edge of acceptability, and she tells me when it crosses a line, but she gives me a pretty high threshold. As a writer herself, she understands I need edginess to cultivate tension, but she can also see when it may be seen as gratuitous for the sake of a misspent laugh.
D. K. is another friend I count on. We met on Critique Circle and have a great writer relationship. If I write a query letter to send to an agent for my latest book, the first place it goes is to D. K. She gives me honest feedback and tells me what's lacking. But she also compliments what she likes, which gives me encouragement. A sticky plot point? I ask D. K. And my screen is always open for her as well. Having that second opinion before sending it to the sharks is priceless—for confidence alone if nothing else. Having writing friends you can count on is important. We can get the cheerleaders from family members. Pats on the back are widely available from people who don't know what they're looking at but are impressed by the fact that you've been able to string 70,000+ words together in a coherent fashion. But now and then a writer needs someone to tell them, "This actually sucks," and then be able and willing to tell you why it sucks so you can fix it.
I write alone, but when I edit, I step out of my solitary confinement and get a little help from my friends.