Virginia Carraway Stark and Her Posse of Great Ladies

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Virginia Carraway Stark has a diverse portfolio and has many publications. Getting an early start on writing, Virginia has had a gift for communication, oration and storytelling from an early age. Over the years she has developed this into a wide range of products from screenplays to novels to articles to blogging to travel journalism. She has been published by many presses from grassroots to Simon and Schuster for her contribution to ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible’ as seen on ABC. She has been an honorable mention at Cannes Film Festival for her screenplay, “Blind Eye” and was nominated for an Aurora Award.

She has written short stories in well over twenty anthologies as well as magazines, novels, poetry, poetry anthologies, blogs, journals and many other venues. She is Editor-in-Chief at StarkLight Press as well as for Outermost: Journal of the Paranormal. She formerly worked writing medical papers into language for the lay person and worked on scientific papers for numerous platforms and did professional editing as well.

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/about/

https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts

https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/contact-me/

Hi, Virginia, thanks for spending some time sharing insights into your writing today. The Great Ladies Anthology was impacting for everyone who worked on it, how did it impact you?

I ended up writing several stories for this anthology. A lot of people had a hard time with it as an assignment so I ended up with the whole spectrum of what could be considered, ‘great’. Great is a word we throw around without thinking about it much and when it is aptly applied to people, particularly historical people, it is a word with a lot of power to it. “Great Ladies” aren’t often very ‘nice’ ladies and that’s part of how they worked to become great. They had the will and the determination to manifest their light into a world that was predominantly ruled by men. That wasn’t an easy job and nice girls need not apply.

Some of the great ladies were truly great in their time, but Hitler was truly ‘great’ during his time too. He made a HUGE impact on the world and as we counted the toll after the war his ‘greatness’ grew and grew. He caused great horror, great death and great trauma. Nevertheless, he was still ‘great’.

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Queen Isabella of Spain was the great lady that I wrote that impacted me the most. She was strikingly like Adolph Hitler in how dogmatic, brutal, bloody and racist she was, and yet we owe much of the modern world to her impact on it. She shaped the world in her image and that is in the end greatness whether we want to admit it or not. Great also doesn’t mean likeable, politically correct or ethical.

Greatness is also influenced by the fashions and beliefs of the era. Isabella is the perfect example of this. She was following the ethics and morality of the Catholic Church and she obeyed the Pope in everything he told her to do. She came to the throne at a morally degenerate stage in Spain’s history. The country was in anarchy and her half brother had been weak willed but worse yet, far worse by Isabella and the Church’s standards, her half brother had also been gay.

Isabella honestly believed that she had to do anything the Church told her to save her brother’s soul and she didn’t care who she had to kill, invade or exile to do so. She invented the Spanish Inquisition, overran the largely peaceful area of Grenada that had been home to Muslims, killed or exiled all the Jews and then started in on heretics and witches.

But it gets worse.

Unlike Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Regime, there was a clear-cut beginning and an end to the horrors he caused. There was an end to the death and to his political power. Isabella, on the other hand, not only had a long and bloody rule but her standards for the Inquisition continued for HUNDREDS of years after her death. Isabella was buried and people were still being tortured, maimed, hunted and killed for their religion, their beliefs or just on the accusations of people who were afraid themselves of being burned at the stake and tortured. Or maybe having a finger pointed at you because someone, somewhere, doesn’t like you.

This is another area where Isabella’s ‘greatness’ smacked me hard in the face. She didn’t look for a way to kill millions as painlessly and efficiently as possible, she looked for ways to torture the human body to its utter limit to make the pain last as long as possible.

As I researched her I realized that she was great, but not in the way I had thought. Not in that way at all. She was a great killer and the most terrifying thing is that I’m positive she died believing she had done the will of God and would go to her reward in the afterlife for how incredibly great she was. Even now when we describe history’s greatest monsters I have never once heard Isabella of Spain referenced even though I’m sure she earned the title.

So, I guess to answer your question, the impact on me of Great Ladies was that first of all, I was thoroughly educated in the history of many women that I had a less than complete understanding of and second of all, I had to completely re-evaluate my concept of what the word ‘great’ was. I had to do this without being reactive and disgusted. I had to think about things from Isabella’s perspective and I had to most of all, not judge her, but be her. It was a queasy feeling but I think it made me a legitimately bigger person to learn and understand these less than desirable qualities of greatness.

What Ladies did you end up writing about?

Great Ladies was an invitation only event and we had a lot of people who just couldn’t do the job and so they dropped out. Some people found the lady that they had been given wasn’t a good match for them. If I could find a good match for the lady I would replace the person but the ones that were ‘lost’ I adopted and took onto myself to write. We also had a few people who had last minute problems and so I had to re-write stories after the fact to make up for this.

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The Great Lady that I actually drew was Aphra Behn. I had never heard of her before. I had looked up names of great ladies on the internet and wrote down their names, usually based off of how often they were listed. Aphra Behn was mentioned repeatedly and was a compatriot of Charles the Second of England. I was surprised I had never heard of her since this is a period in history that I have researched relatively thoroughly. She was truly amazing and after learning about her she became a hero to me. She was fearless, creative, beautiful and utterly loyal. I enjoyed the definition of ‘great’ much more in reference to Aphra Behn than I did to Isabella of Spain!

Isabella, I have, of course mentions, I also wrote Eva Peron, Catherine the Great and we will be editing in a new version of Joan of Arc that I will write for the second edition of this collection. If I have time I may also include Elizabeth Woodville. We lost both of those stories, one to plagiarism and one to grumpiness of the writer involved.

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How did you deal with those last minute re-writes?

Everyone was shocked to find the original author for Elizabeth Woodville had plagiarized her story. When it was run through a plagiarism checker it came up as 99% plagiarized! I think the one percent that wasn’t was probably just the author putting her own name on the story. The author denied the accusations vehemently even when she was shown the results of the checker and an interview that clearly states what Phillipa Gregory made up and what was on the historical record. The author had just read Gregory’s novel and counted it as historic research and claimed fictional thing from Ms. Gregory as her own creation.

We were mortified! We had trusted the woman involved and when we ran her other stories through checkers the worst came up as 15% plagiarized so, she could write, she just decided that she liked Phillipa Gregory’s story so much that she would take it for herself. How she thought she would get away with it? I have no clue. Pure delusion is the only conclusion I can come to. Gregory’s book The White Queen (which I had read and lead to us running it for plagiarism), is being turned into a mini-series so stealing from it was beyond self destructive. The fact that she thought she wouldn’t get caught out when it was not only from an extremely well known and respected historical novelist but also a mini-series suggested to me that their may have been some mental instability involved.

As for the Joan of Arc story, the author of that one made it plain that he wasn’t happy and then demanded free books and I think was looking for a position as an editor. It was unpleasant and rude and that’s why my husband started a press, so we wouldn’t have to work with jerks. So we cut his story from the second edition and my story will be made available instead.

We don’t like people who undermine and make power grabs at our press. When it comes down to it I would rather help a new writer blossom than a more experienced writer whine and moan at me about every little thing. There comes a point where if you are that critical of the people you work with, then you should spare everyone (including yourself) and just go somewhere else where hopefully you can be happy. Some people, however are happiest when they are miserable lol!

What are your thoughts on doing a sequel to Great Ladies? Who would you pick?

I would definitely like to be involved in a sequel. As for who I would pick for a great lady this time around, I have no clue. There are so many women who are largely unacknowledged or who were in the firs anthology and such a small slice of their life was written about that it would be great to write more about them.

Women come from an angle in history that is totally different from men. There are these huge hurdles that come up before they even get to the meat of the problems of life. With men there is a problem and they can either attain success or not. With women, there is this whole other aspect to things where you have to prove that you even belong on the chessboard before you can start to play.

How did this contrast with the ‘Game Changers Anthology’ due to come out for Labor Day?

I answered some of this one earlier, of course. When writing about men you can kind of cut right to the chase but with women there is always the ‘proving’ stage. It’s kind of assumed that men belong while with women, in nearly any situation you have to make room for yourself.

I chose Leonardo Da Vinci for the Game Changer’s anthology. He’s a fascinating historical figure and had a lot of ideas that seemed to be utterly out of time and space. He was like a time traveler to the era. I think that’s why I chose him, in a way, he starts out of place like a woman does. He had ideas that couldn’t be enacted because they just didn’t have the technology to measure up to what he believed was possible. He was a dreamer and he was out of phase with the rest of the world.

In this way, I find my choice for Game Changers similar to the Great Ladies Anthology because unlike most men, he didn’t fit in with the other men around him. The way he thought, the way he acted and his beliefs in the impossible made him an outsider who had to bend himself out of shape to play by the established rules of the time.

As a mother’s day gift, how do you think ‘Great Ladies’ measured up?

I think that it’s a pretty cool mother’s day gift. It’s hard to express to our mothers how deeply they impact us for good and ill in our lives. Even if a mother dies during childbirth or if a child is given up for adoption, ever action their mother takes is ‘great’. They are our creators and for all the amazing things they do they can mess us up too.

This anthology, as an actual mother’s day gift makes a statement that is deeply profound and possibly, just a little bit insulting but mainly aggrandizing. It is a way to say to our mothers that they are everything to us, their actions affect us on a cellular level from the very start and they can be queens, commoners, monsters or a combination of all three. They can be any thing to us and accepting our mothers as human beings that are capable of evil as well as good is both a high compliment and acknowledgment as well as a realization that they are human and capable of destroying us more than anything else.

Any closing thoughts to share?

This was to date the most challenging of all the anthologies I have been involved with. Other than novels, I have never had to bend my mind around so many corners to understand the essence of people. The histories of these women, their childhoods alone were remarkable. The heights that they rose to were astounding and doing it in the past, where the world was even more of a ‘man’s world’ than it is today makes everything they accomplished exponentially remarkable.

I still think about what I learned from writing about these women frequently even still and I think for everyone involved that these women moved into our heads in a lot of ways. 

Will Norton and Boudicca

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StarkLight Press author Will Norton has penned some truly gripping tales of horror, science fiction and historical hypothesis for us over the years. For Great Ladies, he wrote a piece about Boudicca. Here is a bit about Will Norton, and his interview with Virginia Carraway Stark.

William Norton grew up in Vancouver B.C. And has spent the past few years working in the oil industry north of Fort Saint John. He usually writes stories that are uniquely and specifically from his perspective, his characters often share his name. He writes when he has time but spends most of his time working and being filthy. His hobbies include sleeping to catch up with sleep when he’s not working. Based off the current trend he suspects he will soon have more time for writing and social media than in the past which would be great if he didn’t have truck payments.

Hi Will, Thanks for being with us today for this live interview!

Thanks for having me, I give no guarantees on anything I do ‘live’. Editing is my friend.

That’s ok 🙂 Why don’t you start by telling us how you felt about writing Boudicca when you drew her as ‘your’ Great Lady?

Well, at first I was given Catherine The Great and I thought that one would be really easy to do. There was so much to her story and of course, there was so much scandal around her. When I started researching Catherine I had only really heard that she loved horses so much that she died fucking one. That turned out to be complete bullshit, by the way.

There turned out to be so much information on Catherine that I got overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start with her so I hung my head in shame and asked for a redraw. When I got Boudicca I knew nothing at all about her except that everyone says her name differently. When I started to look into her I found out that Boudicca is the most modern understanding of the interpretation of her name and how it is (they think) supposed to be pronounced.

I found out that most of what we know historically about Boudicca is from the Roman records so everything was pretty biased. She planned all theses battle campaigns and caught the Romans with their pants down time after time. No one really knows how she died in the end, but after she started to lose wars her daughters died and she died shortly after, there was speculation that maybe Boudicca poisoned them all to save them from being raped (again) by the Romans.

I still had a lot of choices to write about but I decided almost right away that I didn’t want to write about the battles. Battles are hard to write and it’s the before and after part of them that really matter. When you’re having a fight you’re so hyped on adrenaline that you don’t know what happened until after when you try to figure out where all the bruises and broken bones came from. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, of course.

That left me with the beginning or the end of her life to write about and the idea of writing about either her or someone else poisoning her and her daughters made me queasy. Dying from poison is usually slow and I’m pretty sure that right after doing it there’s a lot of, “What did I just do? Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” Then that’s followed by, “This hurts way more than the bottle said it was going to, holy shit, yep, this really hurts.” Then comes the crapping and puking and the realization that you’re going to be found covered in your bodily fluids and you realize that this really sucks and it’s really too late to do anything about it. There, I just wrote the end of their lives. Now imagine that is slow motion, I’m not that sadistic so I wrote about a mother watching her daughters get raped instead.

The concept of writing about women getting raped as an ‘inspiration’ point has a lot of criticism behind it. How did you feel about writing that part of things?

I thought, well, it happened and it was what made Boudicca go ape shit and who can blame her. People can talk about ‘tired tropes’ all they want but that sort of thing happens and I think that its a good reminder that ‘hell hath no fury than a woman who you rape her daughter in front of’.

I get it that people are tired of hearing about and want more complex back stories and for that I should have stayed with Catherine The Great. The thing is, I know women who have been raped and I’ve seen the devastating effects on their psyches from it. I’ve seen women get revenge on their rapists, I’ve known guys (I don’t want to get into trouble here so lets leave it at, ‘I’m talking about friends, not me’) who have gone after rapists. I also know that the women involved aren’t happy if someone else goes and makes the guy pay, they want revenge for that sort of thing in an up close and personal way.

It’s a ‘tired trope’ to talk about rape and the effects it has on women and that makes me sick. It’s only tired because it keeps happening. It keeps happening only because some guys seem to think that it’s something that is either their right or that ‘it’s just sex, what’s the big deal’. I’ve heard guys say that, I work in the bush and some of those guys are really rough characters, the sort of thugs most people will only meet briefly or in prison. Or at least, that’s the way it should be. Rape is still talked about so much because it happens so much. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away and I find calling it a ‘tired trope’ kind of like saying, “I’m tired about hearing about your problems so go away”. Rape isn’t going away and it’s still hard to prove and even harder to prosecute.

I think you only get to call something a ‘tired trope’ when it’s no longer a common part of society. It happens a lot. It happens to women and sometimes to men as well. I think that putting it out there that there are consequences is a good thing.

You wrote your story from the first person. How hard/easy was it for you to see things from the eyes of a woman?

I’m not sure about that one. I thought about what women I know have told me and I’m a pretty good listener, or I like to think I am.

If I saw something like that happen to my daughters I would like to think I’d have the courage to act even a little bit like Boudicca did. I don’t have any kids but its not hard to imagine how I would feel about it, even a little bit. I’m not sure that I could ever capture the rage Boudicca must have felt, I don’t think anyone who did see her rage lived long enough to talk about it.

The good thing is that Boudicca’s revenge was a warriors revenge and I could relate to going and making ‘them all pay’ for a crime committed against my family with violence. I hope those words are never read back to me in court, by the way.

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So you think you would have reacted like Boudicca did to the crimes against herself and her daughters?

I like to think so, I’m not sure though. It was such a fucked up situation. The Celtic laws clashed so much with the Roman ideas that women were just evil things sent from the gods to tempt men. The Celts were matriarchal in their lines and for most of the tribes it wasn’t a big deal to give inheritances and titles to their daughters or wives. The Romans didn’t just beat the crap out of Boudicca and rape her daughters, they also proved to their tribe that they were conquered as hell and that none of their culture or laws mattered anymore. That part must’ve stung almost as much as the rest.

Their tribe has successfully fought the Romans for ages and then, when they finally sought a peaceful resolution and capitulation it wasn’t enough for the Romans, they wanted to rub some salt into those wounds and make their point clear. That point was that: You guys are our bitches.

It wasn’t a civilized response (to make the understatement of a couple of millennium). The symbolism of the act was the point of the act and it was to tell the Isceni tribe that they didn’t have any culture anymore. They didn’t have anything. It was the real start of the eradication of Celtic laws and traditions. The beginning of the end in many ways. I guess they call those watershed moments. The Romans paid for it big time but there were too many of them for Boudicca to win against ultimately and when her rage stopped carrying her the Roman war machine ran her and her army over. It was sort of the style of the day.

Any final thoughts on Boudicca and what you wrote? Anything you would change?

It’s a haunting story. It stuck with me after I was done writing it, I guess all tragedies do that. It was a fucking tragedy and it brought home the fact that for all the glamorizing of Roman civilization they had all they had through taking it from others and slavery. The fact that so much of our civilization is modeled after their civilization just goes to prove that there is a real streak of monster in humanity. There is a part of us that still believes that ‘might makes right’ and that it’s ok to make someone your slave. It’s ok to conquer and that the most heartless and cruel are the ones that rise to the top. If you aren’t willing to be a corrupt piece of shit, chances are you won’t ever be in a position to make change and that means that we aren’t a nice species at all.

It also explains the ‘tired trope’ of rape. It’s I’m stronger than you so I can just take what I want, errr, what my dick wants, that is.

It’s not going to go away while any part of our mind or civilization thinks that might makes right. It’s never going to go away unless people are punished for believing that these things are anything like ok. We’ve got a lot of problems and this is the root of a lot of them. Women are the ones who make all of us and so long as they’re treated like less, or like strength over women gives anyone the right to do what we want to them, we are hurting the sources of life, the sources of our whole species. It’s so self destructive of us as a species to hurt the women who are the only ones who can continue our species that it messes with my head.

This ‘tired trope’ is the basis of so much of human history that it has to be talked about because if we ever get tired of talking about it as something wrong, a way we are scarring our very species, it’s never going to go away. That’s leaving the individual element of the human herself who hurt in this way out of it and trying to appeal to humanity on a global level.

I don’t think writing about Boudicca is going to make that element of society go away but it made me think and I think about the things I hear the other guys say in a new light. I guess I’m hoping that Boudicca will hear them and come back to show them what ‘some bitch’ could do to fuck them up.

StarkLight Press Makes Book Launches Shine!

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Many thanks to our intrepid, sociable authors who helped to make the Merely This, Poe Goes Punk book launch sparkle over the weekend!

 

In addition, StarkLight was pleased to take part in a second charity book launch on Sunday, Stardust Always, a compendium of David Bowie/Alan Rickman centric fiction. While Stardust Always is a charity book with proceeds that go to Cancer Research, Merely This proceeds go to Paws for a Cause.

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Each anthology began with a short story contest with open submissions from authors all over the world. Both works featured excellent tales by Virginia Carraway Stark, and Merely This included a tale by Tony Stark as well. These two StarkLight authors were joined at the launch parties for both books by a bevvy of fellow authors, including:

Jenn Spaulding

Van Fleming

Krista Michelle

Will Norton

Leanne Caine

Alfie Elkins

What a turnout for our fellow anthology-makers! StarkLight Press wants to thank all of our authors who took the time to chat with fans and drop-ins at the launches. In addition, our authors took time to host great contests that included e-copies and print copies of StarkLight Publications!

Winners for our plethora of contests will be announced in the coming week as results are tabulated.

Congratulations to all the authors, editors, layout artists, artists and publishers who took part in the crafting of these two fine anthologies!

Thanks again to all the great talent that makes StarkLight Press The Center of the Media Galaxy!

Proud to have you all on board 🙂

-Tony Stark,

Publisher and CEO,

StarkLight Press.

An Afternoon with Kelly Blanchard

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Today we are visiting with Kelly Blanchard, also known as ‘The Muse’. This enigmatic writer, interviewer and visionary works to inspire those around her.
You can find her latest short story in StarkLight 4, A Time for Everything- and you can read more about her below!

Kelly Blanchard lives in the middle of nowhere in Texas, but has an online global reach. While she’s a dedicated writer in both fantasy and science fiction, her true self shines when she takes on the role of Muse for other writers, mentoring them, prompting and challenging them, and counseling their characters. She’s developed a unique method of interviewing both author and character, and she uses this to promote the authors. She strongly believes the community of writers should encourage and support one another, and she strives to do just that.

Thanks for being with us today, Kelly and for bringing The Muse. This dichotomy is a mystery to nearly everyone who will be reading this so perhaps you can tell us a bit more.

  1. Tell me how you came to call yourself ‘The Muse’: The way I came to be known as ‘The Muse’ is because in writing groups online, I’d always share pictures that tended to spark ideas for other people. They started calling me ‘The Muse’, and it just stuck.
    2. How would you define a muse?
    Everyone has their own muse. Usually this is something in their own mind that generates ideas. A muse then inspires ideas, connects the dots between two formerly disconnected idea, and sparks a story.
    3. How do other people relate to you differently as Kelly Blanchard as opposed to The Muse?
    There really isn’t a separation between the two. The Muse aspect of me isn’t like a fictional character that I’ve written. She’s not a separate personality. The Muse is Kelly Blanchard. Kelly Blanchard is the Muse.
    4. What function does being a muse play in your creative pursuits? I get ideas just like everyone else. Sometimes I seize the idea and apply it to my own pursuits, but other times I give the ideas away because it might just be what someone else needed in that moment.
    5. How do people react when you explain about The Muse to them?
    Actually, I don’t explain it to them. I’m merely Kelly Blanchard, but if they spend enough time around me, they begin to call me The Muse because they see what I share and how I try to inspire other writers, and they’ve likely gotten a few ideas from all my sharing.
    6. Why The Muse rather than a specific Muse? Or is this an entirely different concept from the Greek traditional idea of the nine muses?
    It’s ‘The Muse’ because that’s what everyone merely called me. My boyfriend once read through all the different nine Muses to see if I would be a specific one, but he said they all applied. But, if anything, I like to say I’m the Tenth Muse, and I’ve made up an entire backstory for that.
    7. Do you feel that the muse is specific to you or that everyone has a hidden muse and you’re just a lot more in touch with yours?
    Everyone has their own muse, but what I do is different. Most people get ideas and keep them for themselves, but I get too many ideas, so I freely give them away yet I never find myself low on ideas.
    8. Is there a transitions when you are Kelly and become The Muse?
    I’ve always been The Muse even before I realized it. I always had ideas, ideas, ideas! And sometimes all the ideas would make me feel like I was going insane (more than a writer usually is), but when I got online and started giving away those ideas, I realized that was what I was supposed to do.

    9. What does Kelly Blanchard do in an average day? If there’s any difference between the two, I’d say that Kelly Blanchard is the one who does everything in real life, interacting with others, writing, housecleaning, cooking, etc.
    10. What does The Muse do in an average day?
    The Muse takes those every day activities and finds inspiring ideas.
    12. How do the people in ‘Kelly’s’ life react to the concept of The Muse? Can they tell the difference between the two?
    People in my life really don’t know of the Muse side of me because they’re not in the online groups where I act more like the Muse. To them, I’m Kelly Blanchard.
    13. Do you get the sense that The Muse continues with her life separately from you when you are stuck with the mundane in life?
    Not really. I mean, she’s always there, lingering in the back of my head, and she’s always the first to hit me with an idea regardless as how mundane life is in the moment.
    14. What is the greatest gift The Muse has given you as Kelly?
    The knowledge that my ideas aren’t bad ideas and that they can actually be the key someone needs to unlock an aspect of their story.
    15. Is there a down side to being a muse?
    Getting overwhelmed with too many ideas.
    16. How have you impacted the world and/or your environment as The Muse?
    The greatest impact I think I may have on the world as The Muse is to show people that their ideas aren’t bad ideas and to encourage them and offer them a safe place to spread their wings. There are a lot of writers out there that don’t have family support, and their friends just don’t understand what it means to be a writer, so I offer a bit of a safe haven. Writers who are encouraged then go out and gift the world with their stories—any of which could impact the world in numerous of ways. 

 

Announcing Our Latest Contest!

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It’s here, at long last… our latest  anthology!

Just in time for Mother’s Day, StarkLight Press is saluting all brave, iconoclastic, fearless, intrepid women throughout history with a set of short stories about them!

We are accepting applications for this unique exercise in writing, only available at StarkLight Press. Send your email and a brief bio to us at starklightdesk@gmail.com by March 1, 2016.

Within forty-eight hours, we will contact the winning applicants with their famous historical woman and a quality… and our writers will craft gripping fiction from those two words!

Final submissions will be between 3000-8000 words and will be due April 18, 2016.

Send in your bio to starklightdesk@gmail.com today before all the spaces are filled for this remarkable anthology!

 

Quality Time with L.E. Caine

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L.E. “Leanne” Caine is a recalcitrant author who has submitted some truly remarkable work to StarkLight Press. Her classic tale of a LoveBot who gets self-determined during Valentine’s Day is no exception.

Leanne Caine is from Kamloops, British Columbia. She has been a ghost writer for a number of years. Recently, she has started working under her own name and has published in various magazines as well as from Starklight Press. Her day job is in the world of customer service which is why she generally avoids all human contact when not at work. She has a young daughter who is the center of her world. Other than that she is a practicing pagan and eccentric witch. She practices herbology and has a garden that she has learned to use intensively to provide safe, healthy vegetables and herbs for her and her daughter.

You can read an excerpt of her story for Hearts Asunder here:

He put it on and I traced the profile of the woman on the cameo with my fingertips. I had glanced at her briefly but I pulled up the details in my inner screen and looked at the optic footage again. She was a lady, her head held high and her bearing one of dignity.

“Thank you, Del, it’s nearly perfect.” It was more somber than anything else I owned, my belongings were few and mostly designed for the bedroom. It was a grown up thing too. Oddly respectful of the man who had given me a ‘Mrs. Clause’ Corset and panty set with Santa hat for Christmas a few months before.

“Nearly?” He went and got another bottle of wine. He liked fine wine but always struggled with getting the cork out.

“Yes, I had imagined for a moment that it would be a ring,” I said.

He stopped his struggle to look at me, “You thought I was asking you to marry you?” He asked, his voice shocked.

“I didn’t really, because you only think of me of a thing, but I had hoped, just for a minute, that maybe you loved me.” I returned to my now cold lobster tail. It was nearly plucked clean now anyway but it was my new favorite food.

 

Leanne answered our interview questions below:

  1. Do you have a real life horror story of love gone wrong in your life?

    So many. I’m a single mom and honestly so jaded by the dating scene, I hate it. I’m not saying that I will never have a meaningful relationship, but I am thinking it. Seriously, I’ve met so many nuts out there that after a point I have to wonder how anyone is ever compatible ever. I had one guy break into my house in some sort of ‘grand gesture’ and scare the hell out of daughter. Thank gods he was just a needy freak and not a knife wielding psycho, or lobster fork wielding psycho.

  1. What do you find makes the combination of love and horror such a potent combination

    Because love sucks. It gets you all excited and if it fails it’s already that they’ve ripped your heart out and thrown it at feet. How to explain that to someone who has never experienced it?? You almost wish they’d kill you if you actually fall in love and then they leave you. Love is a horror story waiting to happen, writing one was more a matter of ‘which one’ than of finding inspiration for it.

  1. What was the source of your inspiration for your Valentines Day horror story?

    Blind dates. Or just dates. I’ve been on so many and yes, I have had violent fantasies about doing horrible things to the person who just ate my evening. Fortunately I’ve written them down to avoid doing hard jail time (I’ve got a daughter to think about).

    If you’ve gone on a bad date you know how it is. You have the awkward. You have the weird. You have the sudden declarations of the bizarre, frightening or messed the hell up. I think that dating is traumatizing and to deal with it I’ve had to learn to disassociate. It’s not healthy.

    I’ve felt this way on dates, I’ve felt like a robot on dates, I’ve felt like a cake on a platter waiting to be gobbled up by the wolf across the table from me.

 

Will Norton: Roughneck, Writer, Historian

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William Norton grew up in Vancouver B.C. and has spent the past few years working in the oil industry north of Fort Saint John. He usually writes stories that are uniquely and specifically from his perspective, his characters often share his name. He writes when he has time but spends most of his time working and being filthy. His hobbies include sleeping when he’s not working. Based off the current trend. he suspects he will soon have more time for writing and social media than in the past- which would be great if he didn’t have truck payments.

 

In addition to writing, Will enjoys looking into the history behind our current holidays, customs and society. It was through his researches that he developed his story for Hearts Asunder, which is a fictionalized account of the events surrounding the death of St. Valentine. Here’s an excerpt:

 

September had wandered into October by this time and Constantine treated Valentine as he would one of his own sons. He was impressed by the boy’s quick mind and envious of his charisma. Boniface had been charismatic as well and the boy orated and lectured in his father’s cadences. Valentine wasn’t the only one sending letters. Constantine had sent letters to Boniface, telling him of his sons poor situation and the fate that the one god had felt fit to thrust upon him. Boniface agreed to take him back as his heir if Constantine could get rid of the boy’s silly notions and get him agree to come home and to marry.

In a fit of genius Constantine negotiated with Boniface that Valentine would take his blind daughter has his bride if he succeeded in returning Boniface’s only son and heir to him. Constantine could see how badly Boniface missed his son when the man agreed to this term. If Constantine could only show Valentine the error of his ways, all would be well.

Lucy had noticed Julie’s prowess at finding her way around but even she underestimated how well Julie could find her way through her home when she chose.

It was late in October and her infatuation had increased. She had many conversations with Valentine and knew he was obsessed with the one god but she still wanted him for her own. Much of their conversations had been about the man on the cross. Valentine feeling that if he could convince the daughter he would have someone to help him convince Constantine to come around to the true faith.

The conversations bored her but his voice was what she listened to, not his words. Other times he would sit in the garden with her and they would talk about the flowers. He taught her to name them by touch, taking her small, childlike hands in his to guide her to their petals. He described their beauty and their colors, laughing at himself when he discovered how hard it was to explain these things to someone who had no sight.

He took to comparing them to textures. Pale blue was the cold water from the well and dark blue was the warm water of a bath. Red was the stones around the hearth. Brown was the feel of the bark of an olive tree.

Will also answered our interview questions:

  1. Do you have a real life horror story of love gone wrong in your life?

    I’m not sure if you’d call it a horror story, more misplaced intentions and a lot of ‘can’t believe my good luck’ and then shit went down. I met this girl at a local bar, took her home with me and she stuck around. I was pretty excited when I found out that having girl in the house meant I got sex way more than without girl in house. Having made this realization I made to effort to make her leave and then left for the bush. This happened a few more times and then one time I came home and we had been together long enough to be considered common-law. I was only at home for three weeks of the six months but never mind that. Legally she could claim we were ‘married’. I came home out of the bush and found all my stuff on the front lawn and she called the cops on me when I tried to come in and find out what the hell was going on. That was the most expensive girl I ever met at a bar and I still have to pay her some of my pay check. Bitch. (I hope she reads this because I’m petty), is this a horror story? With the oil industry slow down it’s sure starting to be. I miss my house.

  1. What do you find makes the combination of love and horror such a potent combination

Trust. Like I said up above. You trust someone, I don’t pretend that I loved her. She was a girl I met at the bar and she did things to my body that I liked. Stupid. That’s it, love makes us stupid and because we all forgive stupidity in the name of love we are more stupid than usual.

  1. What was the source of your inspiration for your Valentines Day horror story?

I almost wrote a vicious story about my ‘ex’ but then this idea was suggested to me by Leanne Caine. The cover for the book was screaming out for someone to write this story and for some crazed reason she thought of me. This story was completely out of my comfort zone, usually I write up close first person and the lead character is always just me letting my imagination and fear get free reign for what could happen or might be. Leanne’s cute though so I said I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did it but I hope people are forgiving of my many historical inaccuracies and other mistakes. I took a lot of liberties with a legend that has almost no information about it. I don’t know much about 5th century Rome and did a lot of research that a half-assed historian could probably poke a lot of holes in.

Maybe one day I’ll work on a more accurate version but my goal with this was to breathe life into a story that is so dusty and uncertain that even the catholics gave up on it as an official part of their calendar. I hope people will enjoy it for the story’s sake because in the end that’s what I did. It’s not meant to be a history of the era, just a story and I hope people can enjoy it that way.