DEATH SPARKLES ROUND TABLE INTERVIEW

Several of the DEATH SPARKLES contributors were able to take the time to answer some questions about the process. It’s always fun to see how these things evolve!

Devon Ellington: How did the story spark from the prompt and grow?

KT Wagner: I was googling related phrases, desperately searching for inspiration, when I came across a news story about a young man in New Zealand who had purchased a diamond ring, and then his girlfriend rejected his proposal. He set up a treasure hunt and gave the ring away, but not before he created some controversy by profiting from click-throughs – money he donated to charity.

Faith Dincolo: I found the process of visualizing a dead woman with diamonds dangling from her hand, to be fertile ground for creativity. In “Persephone’s Progeny”, the diamond necklace was a catalyst for Persephone to grow as a robot. The prompt really helped me to think outside of my usual story telling process. I would recommend a prompt to anyone struggling with writer’s block, as it opens up the creative flow.

Diana Holdsworth: When we got the prompt, I was rusty at short story. My first version came out like the compressed outline of a novella. The necklace was used as an example of greed over common sense, and the prompt line was stapled in near the end of the story. I brushed up on my short story skills and realized the first version wouldn’t do. Starting from scratch, I tried again, but nothing came. I didn’t think I could manage it. Then I reached back into my life and a tale came to mind that resonates for me on a deeply emotional level. The story poured out with ease. The necklace in “A Girl’s Best Friend” stands for something quite different from the one in the first version. As for the prompt line, no staples required.

PJ Friel: I’m not a fan of horror so when I read the prompt, I knew it was going to be a challenge for me. My solution for this was to discuss the prompt with a friend, Jessica. I find that my imagination really kicks into gear during lively conversations. Focusing on the necklace and the meaning behind it was key for me. What was so important about that necklace? Jessica and I threw around some ideas and then I went home to begin my research. With some facts and pictures in hand (visuals are very important to me), the story started to flow. Oddly enough, I really didn’t know where the protagonist was going to take me. I always know the ending of my stories, but not so with this one.

Killion Slade: As soon as I read the prompt, I immediately knew I didn’t want to write a simple murder scene. My horror muse truly wanted to be fed and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wanted the piece to seem surreal, confusing, a bit disorientating, and downright uncomfortable. From initial beta readers, I was asked to take the story further, deeper, and then once I added sensory elements, it truly took off on a life of its own.

Nina Benneton: A day before the assignment was due, I’d listened to a conversation between two sisters and their dialogue was so rich, I went home and fictionalized the characters, taking advantage of the dialogue’s rhythm.

DE: What was the hardest thing about writing to the prompt?

NB: This particular prompt screamed mystery or thriller or horror to me, but my muse was not cooperating. She wanted humor instead, so I relented and let her be. After all, I had a deadline.

FD: How and where to place the prompt was a big issue for me. I wanted a seamless use of the prompt that didn’t jar the reader and make them say, “oh yeah, there is the prompt.” This was a challenge for me, because putting the prompt as the first, or last sentence, seemed very appealing. Make it obvious and blatant, then this little voice in me asked, “is the prompt more important than the story, or vice-versa?” When I wrote the story, the prompt fell naturally into place at the dark point of the story.

PJF: The hardest part about the prompt was that it didn’t come from within. It’s difficult for me to take someone else’s idea and build around it. This prompt was especially hard because it was drawing me into a genre that I avoid. I could have worked the sentence into a fantasy story, which is my chosen area, but I felt that the point of the prompt was to write something outside of the norm. I’m glad that I didn’t take the easy way out. I don’t think I would have been nearly as satisfied with the results.

DH: I knew the story I wanted to tell before I knew where to put the prompt line. The muse is a subtle creature: I believe my creative self understood where the prompt line was meant to go long before my conscious self did. During the writing process, my big worry was that the prompt sentence would stick up like a nail in the road. By the time the story was done, the prompt line slipped into place naturally.

KS: I would say the hardest thing about the prompt was the tense. Writing in first person created a challenge to meet the prompt. It also was the style of the death. Immediately, when I think of diamonds dangling from a dead woman’s hands, I think of her stealing them, getting caught, and being poisoned in some sort fashion. So trying to come up with a unique situation for this woman and why she was dead and had diamonds dangling that was not cliche’ in my mind was indeed a challenge.

KTW: Other than some terrible cliched ideas, I floundered around seeking inspiration for far too long. I remember one night lying in bed staring at the ceiling and playing word association games when I should have been sleeping.

DE: Do you see these characters in any other pieces besides this story?

DH: In a sense, yes. My recent Victorian Gothic short, “No Tongue Can Tell,” is similarly themed, with similar characters in parallel situations. Writing “A Girl’s Best Friend” allowed “No Tongue Can Tell” to pour out with ease, even though I’d never written a Victorian Gothic before. Creativity feeds on itself.

NB: Not until this question. Hmm. I think I might like to see Catarina and Nipolita showing up to help the priest at the orphanage in Guatemala.

KS: Devon Ellington taught us how we can use our short stories to ‘put the feelers out’ for new characters. Let them try on their story, so to speak. We also learned how to incorporate older characters into new situations where we normally wouldn’t see them in, to find out more about what drives them. I have not considered writing more for these two characters in “The Trophy Wife”, but it could becomes a twisted little mini-series of short stories based around the unique world built for them.

PJF: While the protagonist is certainly an interesting character, I don’t think I could spend an entire novel inside her head. It’s a rather scary place inside her noggin and I’m a big chicken.

KTW: The motivations and rationalizations of people like the main character fascinate me, but no, I won’t be writing about these particular characters again.

FD: I always see my stories as bigger pieces. Short stories really turn on the creative flow, and get me thinking about all the possibilities that I could do with that story. I find that it can be very difficult to write a short story, because the story wants to grow. I envy short story writers that can see their stories in a few pages.

Bios:

Nina Benneton always wanted to be a priest and save orphans in third-word countries, but ends up writing romantic comedies; for now. Visit her at www.NinaBenneton.com.

Faith Dincolo writes horror, sci-fi comedy, and creative non-fiction. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/FYDincolo.

PJ Friel is a writer and artist, dwelling in the land of fantasy. Visit her online at http://www.amberstar.net.


Diana Holdsworth writes novels, novellas, short stories and memoir. Visit her at http://www.DianaHoldsworth.com.

Killion Slade comprises of a married writing team who met in the virtual realms of Second Life and virtually enjoy everything. Read More at http://www.killionslade.com.

KT Wagner writes science fiction, Gothic horror and steampunk, novels and short stories, with the occasional forays into other genres and her garden. Visit her on-line at http://www.northernlightsgothic.com

Purchase DEATH SPARKLES here.

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Death Sparkles — Murder and Mayehm in Nine Voices!

And Faith Dincolo, who wrote “Persephone’s Progeny” in this collection, passes the baton to me.

One of the joys about working with a group of writers is how differently we are inspired by the same foundation.

“The diamond necklace dangled from the dead woman’s hand.”

What I find exciting about this anthology is in how many different directions this prompt took each of us, yet still had that single sentence as a fulcrum. Contemporary, mystery, gothic, horror, science fiction — this collection has it all.

I admit, the first few drafts of this story were very different. They had to do with a small town beach community and a woman murdered less for the diamond than for other reasons.

The story didn’t work.

In the middle of the night, the character of Fiona Steele plopped down on the edge of the bed, woke me up, and said, “Yo, writer girl! Wake up. Got something to say to you.”

And there it was.

The first draft poured out quickly. It needed serious rewriting, smoothing out, getting rid of qualifiers, tightening — all the stuff you’ve got to do to make something submission-ready. The terrific writer, KT Wagner, was kind enough to be my Trusted Reader on it, and pointed out a few more flaws that got smoothed out. For a short story experience, it was terrifically satisfying.

Fiona, I promise, will be back. She’s definitely got more to say!

And so we circle back to Kelly Whitley, who started us on this journey of DEATH SPARKLES.

Excerpt from “Sea Diamond” in DEATH SPARKLES:

I felt the presence rather than the dramatic “a shadow fell across the bar.” Although dim inside The Wicky Cog, the lighting was uniform and didn’t create shadows with only me and my erstwhile companion as patrons. Even the bartender was virtual, until the next transport landed, or until the clock chimed Happy Hour. Time measurement differed from system to system, but Happy Hour was universal.

“What’re you doing on Sandegarde?”

“Drinking.” I didn’t even look up. I recognized the voice, I recognized the vibe.

“There are a hundred and forty bars just in this station, Steele,” he retorted.

“And why did I walk into yours?” I shot back. I looked at him now. For a cop, Rowan Wilde wasn’t bad. Not bad-looking, with the dark hair and blue eyes, strong physique, a brain to match, and wasn’t so bound by the rules he couldn’t see reason. On occasion. “Between jobs.”

“Good. I need your help, Fiona.” He sat on the stool next to me and tapped the screen on the bar surface, ordering his drink. An instant later, a panel opened, and a glass of beer rose up to meet his hand. I wasn’t sure what time it was, heck, I’d been traveling so long, I wasn’t even sure what time management segment it was, but the sight of Rowan Wilde drinking in a nearly empty bar, and the fact he’d used my given name rather than just my surname told me he was worried.

“Am I gonna need another drink for this?”

“Rather you didn’t. I need you on your game.”

“I’m always on my game, dickhead.”

He grinned. “Nice to know you’re still so fond of me.”

I let that pass. Not going down that road right now. Water under the bed, and all that.

DEATH SPARKLES is one of the top 100 sellers on Amazon.com, and is available here.

Devon Ellington
publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, including the Jain Lazarus Adventures (http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com) and romantic suspense as Annabel Aidan. Visit her sites www.devonellingtonwork.com and her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee, http://devonellington.wordpress.com.