Is it tea time where you are? Are you sipping your morning coffee? Even if it’s neither, I invite you to pour yourself a cuppa and join me, Joy E. Rancatore, (JER) and authors R J Rodda (RJR) and Audrey Driscoll (AD) as we have a little chat about writing, stories and the release of The Crux Anthology. We are proud to be part of The Crux Crew—16 international authors who contributed to this collection of Adventure SciFi & Fantasy short stories, edited by the fabulous Rachael Ritchey.
We hope you enjoy our little chat. Please check out all the links below to connect with each of us and to order a copy of this incredible collection today! All profits go to Compassion International!
Let’s dive right in with the most important question …
Coffee or Tea?
AD: Tea, please. Writers run on coffee, but I’ve had too much lately!
JER: I hear you! Once, while on a tight deadline, I consumed 30 cups of coffee in three days—true story. I enjoy strong, black coffee each morning, but there’s nothing better than a good cup of tea in the afternoon.
RJR: Although I do like my green tea in the morning, the rest of the day is coffee. Love it.
Now that we’ve got that settled, I want to know more about you ladies. None of us have met in person, of course. In fact, we come from three different countries!
Tell us who you are, where you’re from and what led you to your writing path in the first place.
AD: I’m Audrey Driscoll, from Victoria, British Columbia. Former cataloguing librarian, now a writer and self-publisher. I resisted writing for years, thinking it was an all or nothing deal. Finally, in 2000 I couldn’t hold out any longer and started writing my first novel. Since then I’ve written several others and published five of them.
RJR: I grew up in a country town in South Australia and was the oldest child. I loved to entertain my younger siblings with never-ending stories of princes and quests on horseback. My sister even took me to task at my wedding for never finishing one epic adventure story. I also had my Nanna as an example. Despite only having a grade seven education, she loved writing poetry and drama and stories. She self-published a number of books. Her aim was to always cover costs and so she would door-knock to sell them. That kind of bravery, to believe in your work enough to ask total strangers in person to buy it, I still find astounding. She always sold enough to fund her next book.
JER: She sounds like an absolute delight! I always love to hear how influential writers’ families are to their pursuit of writing. My grandparents, parents and siblings influenced and fueled my love of literature. I chose a career in journalism and then PR, and now I’m doing exactly what God created me to do—write stories. I am an aspiring Indie author with plans to publish my debut literary fiction novel in 2019. While I don’t have any one hometown since we moved a good deal, I am from the United States and currently reside near New Orleans. If I were to call anywhere home, it would be the mountains of NC. I spent one summer in Asheville and have been in love ever since. I realize it sounds crazy, but I swear the mountains call to me sometimes.
If we haven’t scared you off yet and you’d like to get to know us better, we’ve got bios as well as links below so you can follow us in your favorite online spots!
For now, let’s share any published works or online tales everyone can read while they’re waiting for The Crux!
RJR: I have a true story “She Stood Up” appearing in the upcoming Three Dummies in a Dinghy and other Stories of Life anthology and a Wattpad account with a variety of both fiction and non-fiction. If you drop by, don’t forget to comment! It’s the interaction around reading that makes Wattpad fun. I also intend to start posting the novel The Vixen Trials which has some of the same characters as “Chosen for the Fox-dance.”
JER: You may just convince me to “officially” get on Wattpad, R J! I have read some of your stories there and love the idea of that community. I have a few fantasy short stories posted on my blog that are set in the extended world of “Ealiverel Awakened.” Subscribers to my blog, Logos & Mythos, will also receive a contemporary short story, “Walking the Parade Route,” as a sign-up thanks. My goal is to publish my first novel—a contemporary Southern literary fiction—in 2019 while I continue working on the fantasy series of which Elspeth’s story will be part!
AD: Well, my magnum opus (ha, ha!) is The Herbert West Series. It’s available in ebook and print form. And I’ve just published She Who Comes Forth, a paranormal adventure set in Luxor, Egypt, in 1962. It’s a standalone novel, but in a way, it’s a sequel to the HW Series.
Let’s get to the CRUX of the matter now with a few questions about our winning short stories and this incredible anthology!
What made you decide to submit to Rachael’s Adventure SciFi & Fantasy Short Story Contest?
RJR: I looked at the cover picture of the pavilion and got inspired! I also looked at the contest guidelines and really liked that the anthology would raise money for Compassion International and that it was PG in content.
JER: I love that because we have several of the same reasons! A theme I’m noticing is that quite a few of us found major inspiration for our stories in Rachael’s delightful cover! I haven’t told her this yet—I don’t think anyway—but I stumbled upon Rachael on Goodreads. It was one of those entirely random (AKA totally GOD) occurrences where I was scrolling and noticed a friend followed this author, Rachael Ritchey. This is going to sound very judge-a-book-by-its-cover-y, but I saw her picture and thought, “She looks super nice!” I started clicking and following and next thing I know it’s super late and I’ve become a fangirl. See, she’s a Christian wife and mom who’s a published Indie author … that’s my favorite kind of super hero! Her books looked right up my alley, and I was excited to discover she’s already done something I was planning for my fantasy series—she’s created a picture book that tells the story of her novel. As if all that weren’t enough, I see she’s just about to launch this contest. Like R J, I admired the cover and then got a little more excited with each aspect of the guidelines. I sent a link to the guidelines to one of my writing besties and she immediately said, “Sounds right up your alley!” I completely agreed.
AD: I read a post announcing the contest that was reblogged on R.J. Llewellyn’s “heroicallybadwriters” blog, which I’d been following for a while. Somehow the photo and the description ticked all the boxes for me, so I right away resolved to enter. R.J. has a story in The Crux Anthology, by the way. I’m looking forward to reading it.
I just have to wonder what the odds are that we end up with TWO authors by the name of R J in the same anthology! In case you missed it in earlier posts, the R J we’re currently chatting with (RJR!) won first place with her story [Check out her interview with Rachael here … ], mine won second [ … and mine … ] and Audrey’s won third [ … and hers!].
Of course, all sixteen tales are winners, in my opinion. Seriously, if you like stories full of adventure that pull you in and don’t let go, you will want to read this collection cover to gorgeous cover!
When you got the news, how did you celebrate?
AD: After I finished racing around yelling, “Woo, hoo!” and telling my husband and dog the news, I sat down and reblogged Rachael’s post announcing the winners.
RJR: I went all quiet and then after I’d processed the news, I told those who support my writing journey. I couldn’t stop smiling.
JER: Does anyone else find it hilarious how you two reacted in the opposite way? My family just happened to be camping that week near my critique partner and her family, so we decided to consider our dinner at a favorite burger place a celebration!
Now let’s talk about the most important thing here: the STORIES!
Please share with us what your story is all about!
RJR: “Chosen for the Fox-dance” is the story of a desperate girl who fights to save herself and her young friend from dying. She battles with all her cleverness against the much-feared Hattavah and in doing so, changes him.
JER: Elspeth has accepted her calling—Faerie Shepherdess. She journeys to Temple Taepaeum where she must pass several Trials to awaken all her power within in order to begin her Training.
AD: In a fantastic, cliff-like city, two young people strive for achievement. Deon wants to make a blue rose. Luna is in the City Guard, learning how to govern and administer. The Master Fabricator Sylvius acts as mentor to them both, but his motives are ambiguous, influenced by his own creative ambitions and his knowledge of an ancient apocalypse. The land beyond the City exerts a perilous allure, setting Deon and Luna at odds and beguiling them to make risky choices.
We all want to know, what was the inspiration behind each of these incredible tales? Any real-life experiences that may have fueled them?
AD: It began with the idea of creating a blue rose. In real life, I’m a gardener, and I’ve read about the mostly unsuccessful efforts to do this. It struck me as a grand ambition that goes against nature. But that’s also its appeal. It reminded me of alchemy, which lurks in the background of the book series I’ve been involved with (writing and publishing) for more than 15 years. I guess I’m drawn to the intersection between science and magic, as played out by characters who add to the mix human emotions such as ambition, love, and fear. The setting and characters came to me organically, without much artifice on my part, but thinking about it, I see influences form J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft’s novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
JER: Tolkien is my all-time favorite author, Audrey! I love that concept of science and magic coming together, and it seems several stories in The Crux play with that thought. My story actually began one hot summer afternoon in 2017. That’s when I started this journey with Elspeth, thanks to a journal prompt that set the “What ifs” to rolling. When I decided to enter this contest, I decided to explore what I felt was a “crux” for her in the midst of this whole series I’m developing—her first steps toward training to become what she’d been prophesied to be: Faerie Shepherdess.
RJR: I looked at the picture of the white pavilion and it reminded me of a scripture I half-remembered: “In the time of trouble he will hide me in his pavilion.” (Psalm 27:5). I wondered what would happen if someone misunderstood that verse and thought it meant a real pavilion and that reaching it would somehow magically save them and then what would happen when it didn’t. But above all, I wanted this to be a story of a very unlikely friendship and of a girl using cleverness to survive and protect the young boy she cared for. Further real-life inspiration came for me from a family outing. We once went hiking in the Grampians. I suddenly found myself climbing over huge rocks that I was afraid I would slip down, especially because I was wearing thongs that couldn’t grip the surface. I definitely used that memory in this story.
As you can see, writers’ favorite questions begin with “What if …” Before we take our final sips and wrap up this chat, let’s tie together two more questions.
What has been the best part of participating in this venture? And, what are you most excited about for our readers?
RJR: Rachael has been terrific to work with. I admire her enthusiasm and energy. The readers have a huge variety of stories to look forward to, all inspired by the same picture as well as the satisfaction that comes from knowing they have supported a good cause. And glad to have the opportunity to met you Joy via Twitter!
JER: Same here!! I always enjoy tweeting about camping with you! And, I have to echo your words about Rachael and all the stories. I have enjoyed slowly getting to know each of the writers. Each one I’ve “met” so far has been absolutely delightful! E. E. Rawls, author of “Vanished,” has become a huge encouragement to me as we’ve started following one another’s writing journeys. Our readers have a treat in store, not only with the fantastic fiction but also with a lineup of incredible writers who love stories and let their commitment to literature shine!
AD: It was a great motivator to complete and polish a story! And then to risk putting it out there to be judged. Of course, I can’t deny that winning a prize was a thrill. I hope the book will delight readers and inspire them to seek out more by this group of writers. Given the theme, this book is a portal to new worlds and vicarious adventures, which is what reading fiction is all about.
Audrey is so right! And—great news!—you don’t have to wait any longer to preorder your copy of The Crux Anthology, set to release on November 26! Here are all the links you need:
(If you purchase the print version on Amazon, you will receive a Kindle ebook version for FREE!)
Barnes & Noble (ebook)
Thank you for joining us today for our little chat! I’ve had a blast getting to know more about these ladies and their stories and can’t wait for you all to read them! We’d love to chat some more, so follow us on all our social places!
R J Rodda
R J Rodda is an Aussie Christian mum living on a mandarin farm in an ex-Soviet country. Her inspiring non-fiction has been published in The Age and the Three Dummies in a Dinghy and other Stories of Life anthology. “Chosen for the Fox-dance” is a teaser for her upcoming Wattpad novel The Vixen Trials about the Hattavah being ordered to kill his childhood sweetheart.
Joy E. Rancatore
Joy E. Rancatore writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between. When she’s not doing horrible things to her characters or dreaming up faery creatures and fantastic weapons, she beats her husband at card games, homeschools her two children, snuggles her two stinky dogs and lets her cat, Tolkien, do whatever he wants. They’d prefer to live in Middle-earth or Narnia or Hogwarts or in a galaxy far, far away; but, for now, they live across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
Visit her any time on her website, follow her on Goodreads and subscribe to her newsletter for a behind-the-scenes look at a sleep-deprived writer and exclusive content, including upcoming releases, cover and title reveals and more!
Audrey Driscoll grew up reading books, and found she was as interested in how stories were constructed as in how they turned out. She worked out scenes and bits of dialogue in her head, and made her friends act out little dramas based on her favourite book at the time – Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.
With that background, it was inevitable she would become a writer. It just took a while. After establishing a career as a librarian – first at the University of Saskatchewan and then at the Greater Victoria Public Library in British Columbia – Audrey had a meaningful encounter with H.P. Lovecraft’s character Herbert West.
Audrey was fascinated by HPL’s corpse-reanimating physician and his friend the nameless narrator. The result was The Friendship of Mortals, which was followed by three more novels to form the Herbert West Series. Self-publishing became respectable and relatively easy just in time to rescue Audrey from the sad fate of the Unpublished Writer.
In November 2018 Audrey published She Who Comes Forth, a paranormal adventure set in Luxor, Egypt, in 1962.
Audrey Driscoll lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband and a Newfoundland dog. Her opinions on a variety of loosely connected topics and information about her books may be found on her blog at https://audreydriscoll.com.