A great story deserves a great follow up profile.
This week we’re putting a spotlight on all our contest winners.
Formerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, the setting of many of her stories.
Since 2007 her short stories have appeared in a number of literary journals. These stories include, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a short romance competition), Ginger Man, Elvira, The Memory Tree, Going Home, Reunion, Yesterday’s Wings, Smoker’s Lament, Kaddish, and Sabbath (nominated for the 2013 Best of the Net). A collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been released by Solstice Publishing.
Susan Solomon is also the author of the Emlyn Goode Mysteries. A finalist in M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Contest, and a finalist for the 2016 Book Excellence Award, her first Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, The Magic of Murder, has received rave reviews, as has the novelette, Bella Vita, and the novel, Dead Again, which is a finalist for the 2017 McGrath House Indie Book of the Year Award. In the latest Emlyn Goode Mystery novelettes, The Day the Music Died, and now in ‘Twas the Season, Ms. Solomon once again demonstrates that murder can have sense of humor.
Pull up a chair and learn more about this fascinating person with me!
DAN: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece or something you had written before?
SUSAN LYNN SOLOMON: I wrote “Sabbath” several years ago after a conversation with my sister, Robin (she’s actually my first cousin, and how she became my sister is another story). We had been talking about our grandparents, and the Brooklyn house in which they lived. Though fictionalized, “Sabbath” reflects what we recall of them, and of our heritage. Subsequent to this story, I wrote two more short stories, the first called, “Kaddish,” and the second, “Yesterday’s Wings.” Both look at my narrator’s subsequent life. In the back of my mind is the thought of expanding these three stories into a novel. I might get to that one day when I have the time. At this moment, writing and promoting my published series of Emlyn Goode Mysteries takes up most of my time. By the way, the new mystery novelette, “’Twas the Season,” will be released in Kindle and paperback formats on December 14. This book will be a perfect Christmas stocking stuffer.
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
Some people outline their stories. I’ve tried, but found if my characters came alive, they would insist on the direction the story would take. So now, with a story plot in mind, I sit at my computer and tell myself the story.
Where the ideas come from? My first published story, “Witches Gumbo,” was spurred by an article in the Buffalo News about a man arrested for beating his wife. This story found a home in the online journal, Imitation Fruit. Another story, “Second Hand,” was written from a prompt given by the moderator of one of my writers’ critique groups. A third short story, “Elvira,” was written from a prompt in another of the online journals (this story became the basis of my mystery novels). As to the mystery novels, one evening after a writers’ group session I was speaking with the moderator (who is also a good friend). I was telling him that I’ve always loved that genre. He asked why I didn’t write a mystery. I said I’d tried, but couldn’t plot one. He dared me to try. I’ve never been bright enough to ignore a dare, and over the next three months I wrote the first draft of “The Magic of Murder,” the first Emlyn Goode Mystery. This novel sat on my shelf (well … in my computer’s hard drive, actually).
How it got published? Prior to “The Magic of Murder,” I had completed a very serious novel, “Dancing Backwards,” based on the transgender lives of people I once knew and did legal work for. I had been shopping that book to agents, and one Sunday I received two rejection emails. Stewing over this I thought, I’ll show you! I went to the Query Tracker site. This site has listings and links to both agents and independent publishers. Scanning the publishers, I spotted one for which I thought “The Magic of Murder” would work. I submitted it, and three weeks late Solstice Publishing accepted the book. The rest, to use the cliché, is history. Two Emlyn Goode novels (with a third recently completed), and three novelettes all published by Solstice—and the effort of promoting them—have left me little time for much else.
As to the journey from idea to publication, I go through several drafts before submitting a story (even I don’t want to read my first draft), then another draft reflecting comments by from writers’ groups. Between each draft, I walk away from the story for a week or two, so that I can return to it with fresh eyes. Once the story or novel is accepted, I’ll work on a final draft that reflects an editor’s comments. This is a long process, but worth it. Each set of comments teaches me something new, which, in turn, allows me to grow as a writer.
What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer, and the most rewarding?
the most difficult thing—and it’s a horror—is staring at a blank page, praying for the muse to speak…
and dreading that this time she won’t.
– Susan Lynn Solomon
It isn’t only when I’m ready to begin a new story that this fear rears its head. It might strike when I’m facing the next chapter of a story in progress. Recently, I panicked because of a silent muse. About a third of the way through writing the new Emlyn Goode novel, even my characters refused to speak to me. Stuck, I was certain the fun had ended. Never again would I have a story to write. To the annoyance of my family, I sulked for a week. Don’t laugh. A writer is the only thing I ever wanted to be. It’s who I am. The sulking ended when I woke one morning. Apparently the muse spoke to me while I slept. She told me to change the name of one of the characters that appears for the first time in this new book. When I did this, the words flowed. Once again I was a writer.
There are other challenges to writing, of course. Once finished, I want my story published. This means I’ve got to create a synopsis. 1,000, maybe 1,500 words, and, it has to be compelling. I hate this! If I could have told the story in 1,500 words, I wouldn’t have used 70,000 or more words to do it in the first place. Even now that Solstice Publishing is accepting my mysteries,
when I submit a story I have to give them a tag-line.
This means telling the essence of the story in one or two compelling sentences
– Susan Lynn Solomon
And the biggest challenge is still to come. Once a story is published, I want people to read it. This means promote, promote, promote. When Mrs. Price, my 11th grade English teacher, encouraged me to become a professional liar (isn’t writing fiction actually the art of lying convincingly?), she forgot to tell me this thing I’ve grown to love eventually becomes work.
But there are great rewards for all the work. I recall the thrill the day my first short story was accepted by a literary journal. “Witches Gumbo.” So I’d never forget how that felt, I had the first pages framed. It hangs near the desk where I write. Many other stories have been published over the years, and several of them were nominated for awards and a few actually won. I feel the same thrill each time one of my stories is accepted. Still, the greatest thrill came the day I received an email saying Solstice Publishing had accepted my first Emlyn Goode Mystery novel. After its release, each day I looked at the Amazon website and saw the incredible reviews posted by those who’d read the novel. In spite of all the challenges—and yes, rejections while I learned my craft—so many years later I still thank Mrs. Price for encouraging me to write.
Where do you do your writing?
My stories take form at the computer in the bedroom of my Niagara Falls house, though I write almost anywhere. By this I mean that
I carry my writer’s journal with me wherever I go. Restaurants, the County Fair, movie theaters.
Several of my short stories grew from notes I made in airport waiting lounges while I waited for flights.
– Susan Lynn Solomon
I listen to people’s voices and watch their body language when they speak or react to something said, I make notes of the way they walk, sit, and dress. I make notes of my surroundings. All of this has found its way into my stories.
This can sometime cause a problem—apparently some people get annoyed when they catch me listening to their conversations. Once, I was asked to leave a restaurant.
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
This is an easy question to answer. My goal—my dream—is that people will read the stories I write, that they’ll be touched by them and laugh at the humor in some and, perhaps, learn a bit about me and themselves. These stories are my legacy, and my greatest dream is that at least one will remain long after I’m gone.
There are a lot of writing contest out there. What drew you to this one?
I learned of this contest from a friend’s post. A small amount of research indicated that this might be a competition seeking serious well-constructed short stories. I also learned that, unique in a writing contest, this one gave editorial suggestions to the finalists—another opportunity for me to learn. Because I had written “Sabbath,” and it fit within the contest’s word-count guideline, I decided that this would be one of the contests I would enter.
Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
I frequently enter writing contests/competitions. These competitions allow me a means of comparing my skill level and vision against those of quality writers. An early story I wrote was awarded an honorable mention in a Writers Journal short romance competition. Since then, my novels and stories have been finalists for Book Excellence Awards, my novel “The Magic of Murder,” was a finalist in the 2016 in M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Contest, and the second Emlyn Goode novel, “Dead Again,” was recently a finalist for the McGrath House Indie Book of the Year. The successes I’ve had in these tells me my writing is on the right path.
Will we see you again in the next Word Weaver Writing Contest, if there is one?
I intend to submit a story for the next Word Weaver contest.
This, of all competitions intrigues me because of the highly professional editing Word Weaver did subsequent to my submission.
– Susan Lynn Solomon
As I mentioned earlier, I cherish the additional view of my stories—and my writing of them, and again have learned a bit from the experience.
Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
I can’t know whether “Sabbath” will be special to others. It is for me because of memories it evokes. Though, as mentioned above, it’s a work of fiction, there is much of me—my heritage—in it. This is the reason that here, as opposed to other stories I’ve written, I’ve given my narrator my name.
What’s next for you?
Next I’ll be returning to my Emlyn Goode Mystery series. The third novel has been written, and I’ve stepped away from it for a few weeks before submitting it to Solstice Publishing. In the meantime, my publisher has put out a call for a mystery novelette for its “May Mystery Month” anthology, and I have just begun some research while putting this story together.
Gang, I know you’ll all join me in congratulating Susan for her amazing piece in this contest, and to wish her well in her future writing endeavors – which I hope we are reading soon!
Here are her links:
Links to Books
The Magic of Murder: http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Murder-Susan-Lynn-Solomon-ebook/dp/B015OQO5LO
Dead Again: https://goo.gl/hMUJg9
The Day the Music Died: https://www.amazon.com/Day-Music-Died-Emlyn-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0747V1DPT
Wanna get YOUR story critiqued by a bestselling author and have a shot at winning a real live writing contest with awesome prizes?? Check out the NEXT Word Weaver Writing Contest that starts in March 2018! 3000 word approximately per submission, NO limit on the number of times you can enter, and the winner will be published in an anthology we release in 2018.
Click HERE for full details and to enter NOW!
THEME: mystery/murder/ and or suspense – and you can get started right now. Early bird fee of $15 locks in your spot – click the CONTACT ME button to register early and save $$$ plus ALL entries will be critiqued BY ME. Early Bird discount ends soon!