Sample Saturday: “Ghosts of Tupelo”

Blog tour of the authors of Dark Visions. This is a good story!

Sharon E. Cathcart

dv blog tour

Hi, everyone. Today, I’m honored to welcome visitors from the Dark Visions blog tour! As you saw in yesterday’s post, the anthology is sitting at number 1 in its category, and I’m very excited to be able to call myself a best-selling author at last!

Today’s sample is from my award-winning short story, “Ghosts of Tupelo,” which was selected for the anthology. The action takes place at the Elvis Presley Birthplace Center, in Tupelo, Miss.


I get tired of explaining to people that my mom is sick. I wish things were different, but I’m old enough to know that’s never going to happen. I used to get really mad about her illness, but I don’t anymore. I’m almost fifteen years old, practically grown up, and I know better now than I did when I was a kid. Besides, she hates it more than anyone, you know? I love my mom…

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My Interview with Sydney Paige Richardson

Sydney Paige Richardson’s debut novel The Halves of Us is the first book in her trilogy published through Parliament House Press. It is receiving great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I took a few moments to ask Sydney about her story and her writing process.

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What inspired you to write your latest to write The Halves of Us?

I have suffered from night terrors for most of my life, and they are what inspired my story. A friend of mine suggested writing them down to help me feel some control over them. I merged a few ideas together and began drafting The Halves of Us. I had to fill in the blank spots between the dreams and build the story – but it all began while I was sleeping.

As writers we are often inspired by events in our life like your night terrors. Our characters can also reflect people we know, or even our own character traits. Which character in your book are you most like? Unlike?

Ooooh! This is a good question. I think there are parts of me in each character. I have night terrors like Adie, and I am headstrong like Aura. But I really feel fondly toward Tut. He is a minor character in book 1, but plays a much larger role in book 2 and 3. He’s quirky, talks to himself, collects things, likes doing odd experiments, and sometimes he doesn’t make sense (but in a brilliant way). If that statement above doesn’t prove I am like Tut, I don’t know what does. :]

Unlike? Hmmm…I would probably say Wendelone or Zakar. I don’t crave power.

I’m very excited to pick up my own copy of The Halves of Us. Let’s get into your writing process. What is your journey from idea to published piece?

Honestly, I have been writing The Halves of Us for ten years(ish). From taking years to piece together and build the story, to querying, rewriting, querying, rewriting – taking some time to let the story sit and repeating the querying process – it is really a journey. I knew I wanted an agent to help me navigate through the publishing world, so I held tight and reworked my query and found my agent, Rebecca Angus at Golden Wheat Literary. We edited and polished the story before sending it out on submission. With a few hiccups along the way, The Halves of Us found its home at The Parliament House.

I am sure my future projects will endure this journey as well – but minus the querying! It will just be editing and rewriting with Rebecca before sending out on submission and hoping it gets picked up by a publishing house (and then more editing).

Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

So many. Really. I guess to keep it simple, I want to complete The Halves of Us trilogy (I am currently writing book 3). But I want to continue to write and tell my stories. That’s a goal, right? Just to keep going. But in big major goals, I would love to get on the NYT Bestseller list one day and write an episode for Doctor Who.

Love that one! I’ve been a big Doctor Who fan since I was ten. Besides the NYT Bestseller list and writing Doctor Who episodes, what does writing success look like for you?

I feel like so many people define success as hitting it big time. But there are so many successes you should be celebrating. You wrote 1000 words today. You sent the final draft (ha) to your agent/editor on schedule. Your book came out into the world today. I think there is little successes every day. Today? I plotted out some potential scenes and interacted on social media with readers.

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I love to write in my office or lounging on my bed. Where do you like to do most of your writing?

I find I do my best writing in places I am not supposed to be writing. Example: while I am at work trying to finish up something and inspiration hits and guess who is taking her lunch early? THIS GIRL. I don’t know why that happens, but I always write my best when I am at my day job.

That’s funny. I’m a teacher and I’m way too busy to even jot down an idea. How about inspiration? What helps you most when you are writing?

Music. Music really helps me set the mood and fall into the world I have created.

Continuing with the theme of inspiration, who or what inspired you to become a writer?

I don’t think I can remember having an aha! moment that made me feel as though I wanted to be a writer. When I was little I just knew I wanted to be one because I could make up anything I wanted. My mother tells me she knew I would be a storyteller when I listened to music. I would tell her what I would see and feel from it (scenes I made up to go with the music). Maybe it was then.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working on book 3 of The Halves of Us trilogy, while occasionally stepping away and working on my WIP, The Chains that Bind. But every now and then I have a crazy random dream/nightmare and have to write it down. I swear I could just publish a book with a bunch of first chapters. You would be amazed! Ha!

How often do you write? Do you have another job besides being a writer?

I write as I can. I use to try and have a schedule (write on some days, read on others, edit photos on the other days). But sometimes you go through crazy life events that throw a wrench in those kind of plans. I got really sick in the middle of this year and that just threw my whole inspiration out of whack. I am still gathering it back, but right now I write when I want to. I plan to try and get myself back on a schedule, but don’t want to overwhelm my mind. Mental health (and physical) comes first.

I am a photographer (weddings, portraits, conceptual art), and I also work full time with the City of Austin in their Resource Recovery department as a Contract Management Specialist. Basically, I write scopes of works for contracts. I’m a busy gal!

Do you plot out your entire story, or have the characters drive it?

I think I do a mixture. I have this idea of where I want the story to go, but sometimes when I write things happen and I just go where the story flows. This happened a lot when I was writing The Reflections of Us (book 2 of The Halves of Us trilogy). One time even resulted in me crying in my cubicle (I hate when characters die — tragic foreshadowing!).

I totally get that! My husband always wants me to kill off characters. He’s my biggest fan. Fans are great, but how do you feel about critiques? Eh, or bring them on!

Constructive criticism is the way of life for artists. I think it was engraved in me to take every advice you could when I was a dancer. You could always improve and if someone offered their opinion, listen gratefully, and thank them. I try to have that mindset with my critiques and reviews. There is always ways you can improve your craft and learn. When editing, sometimes you have to be decisive on whether the advice is something you will follow, but be thankful for getting that advice. When reading reviews, you have to remind yourself your art may not always be someone’s cup of tea. Learn from it and move on. Try to not take it personally (even though sometimes it can get in your head). All I can say is The Halves of Us wouldn’t be as amazing as it is right now if I didn’t listen to the critiques along the way. And I hope my work in the future is better from what I learn from the reviews I have got so far – and continue to get.

Speaking of reviews, do you have a favorite? Why do you like it?

I loved this review from Random Bookish Banter. Seeing their love for the world building really made me happy because of how much work I put into it. Plus the Once Upon a Time reference made me squeal!

“As I was reading I couldn’t quite put my finger on what this story reminded me of. Then the answer popped into my head. It reminds me of the relationship between Regina and Zelena on ABC’s Once Upon A Time.  Both sets of sisters are similar in the manner that the younger becomes Queen. Which I will admit was my favorite parts about this book. More often then not it is the oldest that is due to inherit the throne. The fact that the youngest sister is due to the inherit the throne is a different twist.

Richardson does an amazing job crafting this world that will suck you into it. I was reminded of the Land of Untold Stories from again Once Upon A Time. Thindoral is a place where all walks of life in the region would find themselves welcome. There has been times in the past when the extensive world building would drag the story on. In this case it doesn’t. I was engaged and devouring all of the new information I could about this world.

However there are a few things that I wasn’t a fan of. But I think I’ll let you figure that for yourself…(hint hint….GO READ IT)

DUH DUH DUHHHHH”

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Now a few personal questions. Which book has had the most impact on you? Why?

I think as a child it was probably The Chronicles of Narnia series. I liked the childlike wonder of it. It fed my imagination. As a teenager, anything I could get my hands on by Holly Black. I am obsessed with fae and the darkness she has in her novels is perrrrfect! As an adult I think Lilith by George MacDonald really impacted me. Visually, I love his work. And V.E. Schwab. As a writer and a person, she is really inspirational.

What is a little known fact about you?

Hmmm…I am a pretty open book! But hmm…I don’t know how to ride a bike, I sleep with nine pillows, have a mild obsession with chapstick, and I own wayyyyy too many skirts (or so the hubs says). :]

What else do you like to do besides writing?

I love to create. Photographs. Painting. Doodling (someone add professional doodler to my bio).

Sydney

I want to thank Sydney for hanging out with us today. You can connect with her at sydneypaigerichardson.com, @sydneypaigedecides on Instagram, or @sydneypageauthor on Facebook. 

Click here to purchase The Halves of Us.

 

The Importance of Setting

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There is something about the setting of a story I’m writing that means a lot to me. I find myself drawn to places that have meant something in my life. In several of my books, or short stories you will find that the forest plays a central role. Growing up in New Hampshire, the woods surrounded me. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how important the mystery of this world was to me.

In my novel, The Weaver, I use the forest behind my college campus as the place where Laney not only encounters danger, but also love. My freshman year in college, I took an adventure class where we spent a lot of time on the ropes course in the woods. I had to face my own fears by climbing the “pamper pole.” This was a large pole, kind of like a telephone pole with rungs. Nailed to the top sat a one-foot by one-foot box that I had to stand on top of with the pole swaying beneath me. To make things worse, our goal was to jump and try to catch a trapeze about five or six feet away. Not easy for someone afraid of heights! I also spent time by the pond with a good friend one night talking about our future and our hopes. This setting engrained itself in my heart.

In my short story, Cabin 5, that is now available in the anthology Dark Visions, the camp used in the story is the camp I worked at as a counselor during my college years. My experience at camp was vastly different from Brittney’s. I stayed in Cabin 5–the furthest cabin out in a place called the Village. The forest at camp served as a place for nighttime “big games.” I also spent one night sleeping outside on the mountain with a pillowcase over my head to protect myself from mosquitoes. Friday evening bonfires was a place where many campers opened their hearts to God.

As I write more stories, I continue to turn to place as an important writing tool. By using places that mean something to me, I am pouring my heart and should into my writing.

How has setting effected your writing or reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dark Visions: A Horror Anthology You Won’t Want to Miss

Positive review for our upcoming anthology. It releases on October 15th.

Writing to be Read

Dark Visions

October is the month for scary things, and a horror anthology filled with spine chilling short stories from over thirty authors is the perfect read for the season. The release of Dan Alatorre’s compilation of Dark Visions anthology is October 15th, and you won’t want to miss it. In addition to a wonderfully original and entertaining  prologue, and his own story, “The Corner Shop”, Dan has lined up a slew of writing talent to include in this tomb of short horror tales.

Not only does this anthology have a very cool cover, (Check it out above), but it also has some very well crafted short fiction, some that will stay with you in times to come. These shorts cover a wide spectrum of horrors; nightmares, voodoo, vampires, apparitions and spirits, and even demons. The stories found here prey upon your inner fears, making brief little ditties from the stuff of…

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