Meet the Authors!

Here they are! Eleven contributing authors whose stories are featured in our upcoming speculative fiction anthology, Beyond the Latch and Lever!

Erik Amundsen is from a small Norwegian village north of the Arctic Circle. Surrounded by forests, mountains, and fjords, he spent his youth hiking, fishing, and cross-country skiing. When he wasn’t outdoors, he had a book in his hand, reading mysteries and westerns before he was old enough to start school. After college, Erik lived in Oslo, worked in IT, and became a genealogy researcher. He had nearly forgotten about books until he married a writer. Erik divides his time between Norway and the Pacific Northwest. He has over 70,000 relatives in his family tree. 

J. S. Artz spent her young life sneaking into wardrobes searching for Narnia. When people started thinking that was creepy, she had to find other ways to explore her passion for mystical adventures. Now she finds those long-sought doors to magical story worlds in her work as an author, developmental editor, and book coach. An active member of the writing community, she volunteers for SCBWI and Pitch Wars and is a member of EFA and AWP. Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Redmond, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers, and a couple of naughty furry familiars. 

Elle Blackwood is a writer, poet, and editor with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English literature. She is the author of A Map of My Existence, an autobiographical poetry collection published under her pseudonym, Elle Wonders. When crafting prose, Elle writes magical realism and literary Gothic fiction infused with folklore. She creates landscapes of dark woodlands, lochs, and rugged moors, with old mansions and thatched cottages that serve as central characters. Elle lives in a small Victorian river town with her husband, son, and a big black poodle with a penchant for solving mysteries. When Elle isn’t writing, she’s painting, traipsing through old graveyards in search of lost stories, or browsing antique shops. She collects obscure antiquarian books, lonely teacups, and vintage photographs of people she doesn’t know. 

R.L. Castle writes science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction—from robotics and elementary particle physics to dragons and wizards. He has a soft spot for writing realistic family dynamics, despite fantastical settings and circumstances, and slays the page with love and loss. He holds an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University and writes in all forms for young readers and adults alike. When not writing, he can be found battling monsters on Pokémon Go. 

Steve Garriott has always been a voracious reader and writer. He enjoys all genres of fiction and non-fiction, with a special love for books about Presidents Lincoln and Grant, and the works of Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut. In 2016, Steve’s three submissions were chosen as the winners of the Everett Public Library flash fiction contest. He has navigated ships, taught writing to high school students and adults, been a corporate trainer, and currently works as a technical writer. A regular participant in National Novel Writing Month, Steve has numerous unfinished novels scattered on flash drives. 

Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez is a Chicano writer who grew up in a household filled with music and books. He became absorbed in storytelling at a very young age, and being half Mexican mestizo, half European-American, he has two distinct cultures to draw from. An autodidact by nature, Carlos has been a lifelong historian and is fascinated with alternate history. Aside from writing and researching, he loves grunge music, concerts, and single-malt Scotch. Carlos is majoring in Chicano Studies at the University of Washington and will graduate in 2021. 

Evvan Land is a writer who grew up immersed in storytelling of all kinds—through books, role-playing games, movies, and a wicked sense of humor. Evvan is drawn to philosophical ponderings, mathematical proofs, and astrophysics. When he’s not writing or calculating, you can find him playing piano, practicing Japanese, reading, and eating peanut butter. A Pacific Northwest resident at heart, Evvan is pursuing a degree in Mathematics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Karin Larsen fell in love with writing during a childhood filled with arts and music in the American Midwest. She pursued a degree in sacred music, combining writing and music composition to create and direct a stage musical for her capstone project. When fibromyalgia ruled out the world of collegiate-level teaching after a few years, she turned her energy towards her family and faith communities. She now works as music director of a small Lutheran church, and her writing often focuses on family and relationship dynamics. She lives in the state of Washington with spouse Keith and daughter Phoenix. 

Bobbie Peyton is a writer of Filipino and European heritage. Born in the Philippines, she moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in an idyllic small town in Oregon. Bobbie now lives in northern California with Tillman and Wonton, her two little (but ferocious) dogs, where you can find her at work on many writing projects, especially for younger readers. A former high school special education teacher, Bobbie has master’s degrees from Tufts University and Hamline University’s M.F.A. program in writing for children and young adults. 

H. K. Porter is new to writing, but not to stories. She’s been an avid reader since she was three years old and is currently an active member of two book clubs and National Novel Writing Month. In addition, she is a beta reader and provides critiques for the books of indie author and publisher, Heather Marie Reaves. Ms. Porter lives in the Pacific Northwest, and aside from reading, she loves cooking with her partner, gardening, and exploring thrift stores for unusual objects as inspiration for short stories. 

Susanna Skarland is an editor, author, and unicorn, holding an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University. She is a member of SCBWI and volunteers for PNWA and the Society of Young Inklings, providing editorial support. Susanna writes fantastical, adventurous fiction about ancient dragons and flighty faeries. A sucker for playful language, she flagrantly fashions fanciful fractal fricatives. All of Susanna’s stories weave in a strong thread of science and the natural world, the residual effect of a substantial career in biological research. Her home is under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest, where you will find her with a cup of tea in hand and cat underfoot.  

Ready For a Cover Reveal?

We are so excited to share the cover of our upcoming short story anthology, Beyond the Latch and Lever! With a central theme of doors and doorways, this genre-bending collection of literary, speculative fiction includes magical realism, Gothic, sci-fi, and fantasy, with threads of alternate history, time-travel, other universe, paranormal, and more. The expected release date of Beyond the Latch and Lever will be the beginning to mid-December, just in time for holiday shopping. The book will be available to purchase on Amazon.com as a paperback and e-book.

This fantastic anthology edited by Susanna Skarland and Elle Blackwood contains stories written by eleven authors with ties to the Pacific Northwest. Stay tuned for introductions!

Drawing Inspiration from Artistic Mediums

Guest Post by Susanna Skarland

I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my writing craft, and lately this journey has led me across the artistic divide, venturing into other mediums—movies, poetry, music, and painting. Surprisingly, there is much to be learned from these that can be translated into writing craft. In using successful techniques from other mediums, we can infuse our writing with more depth and let our art bloom.

One obvious place to look for inspiration is within television and movies, which are good for examining plot, character, and theme with minimal time investment. Game of Thrones (GOT) came to my rescue when I was having trouble blocking the action of a middle grade food fight scene. I felt lost trying to manage the large group of characters, who were all in motion, and I needed a strategy to make sure that the reader could follow the action and still care. The GOT technique for blocking battle scenes kept the camera trained in on the main character as they moved through the chaos and emphasized how the protagonist interacted with the primary antagonist. By focusing on one or two characters, the viewer remained invested on a personal and emotional level despite the large scope of the battle.

Poetry condenses the written story down to a core emotion—like condensed milk, sweet on words and rhythms and fat on emotion.

Like movies, poetry is a close relative to the novel, simply bending in the opposite direction. While movies use audio/visual to expand the story, poetry condenses the written story down to a core emotion—like condensed milk, sweet on words and rhythms and fat on emotion. Borrowing from poetry can mean reviewing your word choices and phrases, paying special attention to verbs and diction. It can mean reading your manuscript aloud to catch rhythms with your ears, discovering where your prose sings or stumbles. It can mean showing your character speaking gracefully by using graceful rhythms and language. In a word—prosody.

A form of prosody, called “word painting,” is also found within music theory. The technique involves pairing the words and tones of a song, such as singing a high note on the word “up” or “high,” and singing a low note with the word “low.” A great example of this is in the first verse of the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen where the words about minor and major chords falling and lifting match the underlying chord transitions in the music. In a novel, this can mean setting off a bang! with onomatopoeia. It can mean slowing time while meandering through a long sentence. It can mean punctuating shortness of breath with short sentence fragments. Play with your tones.

Think about what order the reader’s eye encounters the images and present them with intention.

But what can we glean from the static visual arts like painting? For me, it’s all about the setting. When describing a room, setting, or person, think about what order the reader’s eye encounters the images and present them with intention—from big to small, from bright to dark, from near to far, from head to toe—whichever flow pattern makes the most sense for the scene, and land the description on the focal point. Think about near and far. Foreground, midground, and background. Items that are closer to the viewer/POV character will show more detail than things far away. Think about light and shadow. Light brings height, and shadows add depth, adding 3-dimensionality. Think about sight lines.

As with all these techniques, the reader may not notice them on a conscious level. And they shouldn’t. The techniques are simply ways the author can manipulate their prose to help obtain a desired emotional effect from the reader, same as do actors, poets, musicians, and painters.