05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Interview with Judith Ashley and Sarah Raplee

We decided to try something new today. Freelance writer Sally Sweet volunteered to interview Judith Ashley and Sarah Raplee for today’s Guest Post. We are highlighting Romantic Short Stories this month, and three Genre-istas wanted to share a way to repurpose both short stories and flash fiction (short-short stories.)

Along with Diana McCollum (who posted yesterday), Judith and Sarah decided to debut in a short story anthology entitled LOVE & MAGICK - Mystical Stories of Romance. Ms. Sweet was interested in learning more about their unusual introduction into the world of publishing.

SALLY SWEET: Judith and Sarah, you each took two previously-written flash fiction (short-short stories) and expanded them into stories over 10,000 words long for your debuts in the LOVE & MAGICK anthology from Windtree Press. What was that like? Did you have a process for doing so?

JUDITH ASHLEY:  Sally, Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. Sarah, Diana and I contribute to Free Reads From The Genre-istas so we already had the experience of writing shorter works of fiction. Deciding which of my stories to expand was easy – I picked the ones that, when I thought of them, I could easily see how I could add length and depth to what was already there.

I do have a fairly simple process, at least for me. I spend time mulling the story over, maybe take a walk and think through scenes, go off and work on other things (leaving this project to percolate or simmer on a back burner). When I sit down to write, I start at the beginning and work my way through adding in the new ideas and at the same time either making the adjustments so the new idea fits or highlighting the section I need to come back and work on. Pretty cut and dried because I’ve done the mental work up front. I consider myself more of an organic writer because I am not very visual so things like storyboards and play lists would be very distracting.

SARAH RAPLEE: Like Judith, I expanded two of my flash fiction stories my readers had liked. The first, a paranormal romance set in 1871 called Curse of the Neahkahnie Treasure, involved the search for a cursed pirate treasure. Readers had told me they wanted to learn how the rest of the quest for the treasure went. Few changes were necessary in the original story, but I continued the story for another ten-thousand words or so. It was almost like writing a sequel. A really long sequel.

For my second story, I chose Enchanted Protector, a story loosely based on one of Grimm’s Fairytales. While outlining the original story, I’d realized the plot and characters I had in mind were too much for a flash fiction story, so I wrote a pared-down version. The little sister character that I had to cut had never stopped pestering me to write the full version of the story, so that’s what I did. This involved major changes in the plot so that Star could take her rightful place as a major character in the story.

It turned out my readers were right. Both stories are much stronger now. However, I learned that expanding flash fiction stories was just as hard and time consuming as writing new short stories from scratch.

SALLY SWEET: How interesting!
Did you find collaborating with two other debut authors more difficult than you expected it to be? What were the special challenges? How did you overcome the problems that arose?

SARAH RAPLEE: More difficult than I expected? Yes. And no!
With three strong-minded, unique and creative people teaming up on this project, it was inevitable that at times reaching a consensus would be difficult. Just ask our extremely talented and patient cover designer, Karen Duvall, LOL.

The fact that we did not all live in close proximity to each other turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected. The three of us prefer face-to-face meetings over conference calls and video conferencing. But when a whole day is needed for an in-person meeting (and bad winter weather can cancel drive plans), we found we often couldn’t count on finding room in our busy schedules to accommodate those meetings. Additionally, although I knew both of my co-authors well, they did not know each other well, which led to some miscommunications.

We overcame problems through patience, persistence, focusing on the positives, and consuming a lot of chocolate.

JUDITH ASHLEY: It was more difficult than I expected for some of the same reasons Sarah mentioned. I’d also add in that we had a time frame (publish on February 14, 2014) that when we set that final date in early to mid-December seemed so doable – so doable that we began spreading the news beyond family and friends. Because of public announcements, we felt duty-bound to produce. Add the time pressure on to the other challenges Sarah mentions and something that was merely daunting became so much more. February 13, we subsisted on chocolate and nuts as well as strong cups of tea. Because we were a team we persevered and uploaded Love and Magick at 11:51 p.m. with nine minutes to spare. Why did we persevere? It is a strong trait in each of us and we had each other (and chocolate) and a shared vision of publishing a professional looking book with great stories (and chocolate).

SALLY SWEET: Why are you glad you collaborated on this book? What were the advantages to doing so?

JUDITH ASHLEY: Great questions, Sally! I am grateful I had Sarah and Diana as co-authors and collaborators on Love & Magick. There is so much to learn if you want to self-publish (which we all did.) To have had to climb that steep learning curve by myself would have been so daunting, I know our book would not yet be published.

For example: when uploading to the various e-retailers, there are places to enter your “meta-data” or key words that help readers find your book. Having the three of us work on this project made something that for me was akin to fingernails on chalkboard doable. Not only did we have each other to rely on during this process, we relied heavily on Maggie McVey Lynch’s wonderful book, DIY Publishing, and Maggie’s generous mentoring as well.

The unasked question: Would I do this again? I would. Why? The trials and tribulations were worth it. I can now say I’m a published author which was my goal when I entered this project with Sarah and Diana.

Available Now!
I have learned so much working with these two amazing authors! Our trials and tribulations forged us into a strong team. We each brought different strengths to the project. As Judith said, with three of us working together, it was easier to laugh at our mistakes, figure things out and keep on keeping on. Self-publishing well requires an incredible knowledge and skill base. Because we are so different, one or another of us seems to more easily master the various aspects of the work. Having two people with different perspectives to kick around ideas with has been invaluable.

Walking this path with Diana and Judith has been a huge blessing. My journey would have been long and lonely without their support.

Publishing under the auspices of Windtree Press is an honor. Thank you, Maggie, for being so generous with your encouragement and mentoring. Your how-to book, DIY Publishing, is our go-to reference book for self-publishing.

I would definitely do this again. I look forward to promoting and marketing our anthology together.

You can learn more about our publishing adventures at


Diana McCollum said...

Great Blog! You hit all the high and low spots of self pubbing! I believe we've all learned so much about not only the programs we used but about working with others. I've enjoyed the experience and would certainly do another book with the two of you. Have a great weekend.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thanks for the kind words and feedback, Diana. I agree it's been (and still is!) a great ride.

Judith Ashley said...

I'm not sure I've ever eaten as much chocolate as I did on 02/13! What a sacrifice!

Another benefit to our collaboration is that what we learned in the process serves us well as we continue our publishing journey both individually and in another Anthology!

Louise Pelzl said...

I enjoyed the interview and love the book. Great job ladies.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thanks for stopping by, Louise!