[00:00:00] Jenny Kate: Today’s sponsor is author Mandy Brown Houk. She is a Georgia born Southern girl now living a life in the mountains of Colorado. She writes for the Pike’s peak writer’s blog and has three stories with Chicken Soup for the Soul. Her current book, Hope is the Thing with Feathers is rent by McGregor and Lou Decky literary find Mandy on Twitter and on her website at MandyBrownHouk.com.
This is Writer Nation.
Hey everybody. Welcome to Writer Nation. I am your host, Jenny Kate. I’m sitting here today on my birthday editing the podcast, and I love that because today is also my guest’s birthday Shannon Lawrence is a prolific writer of horror and speculative fiction. This girl writes more than anybody I have ever met.
She has several short stories out and her website is called the Warrior Muse. I think you like this conversation because not only does she tell stories all [00:01:00] day, every day, she also works. She volunteers, she’s a wife, she’s a mom. She’s super busy and I can totally relate. I hate sitting around. I have to be busy all the time and I’m constantly juggling, you know, five or six different projects.
But I have to tell you, this girl puts me to shame and she still finds a way to write killer stories. Before we get to Shannon, I just want to remind you to find Writer Nation on Facebook at facebook.com/writernation. Make sure to sign up for our email news. I promise you won’t get spammed. Uh, but, you will receive access to our Facebook group for free advice and tips on marketing and publishing.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter at Writer Nation Jenn. So all of this advice is free because you know, Writer Natio exists to bring you inspiration and motivation to finish your project. The world needs it. If you’re already a member of our Facebook group, be on the lookout in January for a free gift I’m developing right now.
Okay. Let’s go ahead and get to Shannon. So I met her at Pike’s peak writer’s conference. Like my first conference, I think, and she introduced [00:02:00] me to Stephen Graham Jones. He’s a Blackfoot Indian from Texas, who teaches at the university of Colorado in Boulder, and he writes horror Now I’ve never read much horror. I’ve got one Stephen King book when I was a kid, but. Anyway, they hosted a screening of The House in the Woods from what I learned was wild. This is definitely not my genre. I can absolutely fully appreciate the creativity and horror writer brings to fiction. I use the word fascinates a lot, but I’m absolutely fascinated by creativity of all fiction and the brains that produced that creativity.
So between the screening and getting to know Shannon and Steven, I had now have a new appreciation for speculative fiction. Shannon is one of my favorite writer buddies. And I hope that you enjoy our chat. Okay, here we go.
So here we’re back again in the Marriott.
Shannon Lawrence: Second home.
Jenny Kate: Yeah, it really isn’t it, and I love the view. The view is awesome. But [00:03:00] all right, so let’s, let’s talk about when you started writing. Um, I, I love this question because people are so like, I was in kindergarten, of course, you know, or I’m like, I didn’t even think about as I was 40, you know, and I, I just find that to be fascinating. So tell me when you started writing.
Shannon Lawrence: Oh, well, I was telling stories well before I was writing, I actually made it a box that was a TV and would make my poor mother listen to me as told her stories.
Jenny Kate: Was your like, was your head in the box?
Shannon Lawrence: Oh yeah. It was one of those tall ones. So here we are and I’m telling her stories.
Jenny Kate: Please tell me she has pictures of that.
Shannon Lawrence: No.
Jenny Kate: Oh, no. That’s so great. Ok so you were telling stories as a kid, so when did you start writing them?
Shannon Lawrence: Uh, yeah. So then what, like probably right from the beginning, specifically, the thing that sticks with me is my fifth grade teacher, and she was the first one ever to give us prompts. She had pictures that she had just cut out of magazines every and we each had to come up and do one. And I loved [00:04:00] it so much. I still like writing to a prompt if I’m just kind of feeling bored or I’m done with whatever.
Jenny Kate: That is fascinating cause I hate writing to prompt because my view is what does it have to do with my story? Nothing. But what I have found every time is, hello. You have a muscle up there, you know, sparks creativity. Right. Whether you use it or not, it’s a good tool to have. So you did that in fifth grade?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah, I think that’s so cool that she did that, but, and I just, it was a picture of the earth, like from space, and I don’t even remember what I wrote, but it was just so cool. And then we got to keep our picture and our story and everything like that
Jenny Kate: But you wrote again later though. You had said you kept a story from the sixth grade.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: So what is that story?
Shannon Lawrence: I was writing in between then and the sixth grade story was about, um, a sentient bouncy ball. And the apartment that we were living in, the whole apartment complex. It was traveling cause it got lost by his child and he was trying to find his child. And I wrote that for my little brother who’s five and a half years younger than I am.
Jenny Kate: So you wrote that to him and did you read it to him as a bedtime story?
[00:05:00] Shannon Lawrence: Yeah he loved it.
Jenny Kate: You still have it?
Shannon Lawrence: Even during the day. Yep. I still have it all written in my little, my handwriting was better then actually,
Jenny Kate: Oh I’ve got notebooks from when I was a kid that, yeah.
Shannon Lawrence: I type so much that I start writing and then it become like lines. Like you see kids who are just learning to write you and they think they’re right. Look what I’ve been writing. That’s how I write now.
Jenny Kate: Meet too. Absolutely me too, and I write all the time.
Shannon Lawrence: Like this would be so much faster!
Jenny Kate: It would be right? By just typing, so it just looks like garbage and I’ve got a clue what that is. Right. All right, so past sixth grade, you’re living in Colorado, yes?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. We moved here when I after sixth grade, so the summer between sixth and seventh.
Jenny Kate: So finish, go through middle school, high school. Were you writing then? What were you doing?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah so I had so many amazing teachers that encouraged it. I even had a high school teacher, my sci- there, he did, um, I had him for astronomy and for physics. So he was a science teacher, but he loved the creative arts. He was a Vietnam veteran. And, um, he, I actually got to do my final in physics in a [00:06:00] story.
Jenny Kate: You’re joking.
Shannon Lawrence: I am not. Instead of taking the physics final, he let me write him a story. As long as I used the actual things we learned in the story.
Jenny Kate: I love that.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: I do love that. Sure, because now you can illustrate that you understand the concepts, but you’re doing it in a way that you’re comfortable with.
Shannon Lawrence: Yes. And I’m not going out there and take a multi choice. The test was a big test. So he let me do that instead.
Jenny Kate: I’d give anything to do that instead of a multi. I hate multiple choice quiz. I just hate tests.
Shannon Lawrence: I’m just like, I don’t know. It sounds like it could be true. And now I’m confused cause I thought I knew the answer.
Jenny Kate: Because of course A and C are like almost exactly the same answer and yeah, it’s funny they did that in my daughter’s middle school. They cross pollinated, I suppose from each of the different classes and I thought that was a really interesting way to get concepts across and to help kids learn from their own learning styles. I mean, anybody who knows me knows I’m a shrew when it comes to educators, [00:07:00] and I was an educator. And so unfortunately I really, I have little patience when I probably should have a lot more than I do. And I’m very interested in individual learning styles.
And I think that also helps us in writing because what’s your individual process, you know, to put that stuff on paper. Cause I, I know people who do like the big visuals on the walls, they can see their plots or whatever. I can’t do that.
Shannon Lawrence: Well, I’m a pantser anyways. No, I tried writing with a group of people a few years ago, other PPW folks. And it was a experimen Deanna Nibbling was running cause she’s always expanding and learning. And um, two different groups broke up and we were each writing, trying to write a novel together. And I think theirs succeeded and cause they’re like, okay, we have to outline the entire thing and my mind like exploded. So I tried and I’m like, ah, this is stupid.
Jenny Kate: But this goes back to individual or individual learning or writing styles. Everybody does it different. [00:08:00] That’s why, you know, you were telling me, who do you write like, well, I mean, the question you get at conferences or whatever, who cares who you write like?
Shannon Lawrence: I write like me. Either read it or don’t read it. Please stop asking me if I write like Jack Ketchum. Do you write like Stephen King?
Jenny Kate: Yeah, I go to Maine every year. I go sit for the summer.
Shannon Lawrence: And I just go sit outside his house.
Jenny Kate: Through osmosis. I am now writing, right. All right. So, um, so after high school, what do you do?
Shannon Lawrence: Um, yeah, after high school was all about, cause I got married at 18, so I had graduated early and then my parents moved a month after I graduated in December to out of state and I had to choose, do I stay with my fiance or do I go with them?
He still has a semester of college left and so I stayed. So it was all work though. At that point, there wasn’t any writing writing happening and it didn’t start happening again. Well, that’s not true because I wrote in Oregon. I remember sitting up at night. I was [00:09:00] managing a movie theater then and just writing away, writing away. I don’t even remember what I was working on. Oh, I was doing the long range writers school. That’s right.
Jenny Kate: Ok so long range writers school. What is that?
Shannon Lawrence: Long range writer’s Academy or something like that. I did two programs with them, children’s writing, and then short stories, I guess. And it was all by mail. And you worked with those STEM published author, like postal snail now, cause this was 96.
Jenny Kate: Oh my gosh.
Shannon Lawrence: It’s 96, so I, computers were still just like, I didn’t have an email address then.
Jenny Kate: I don’t even know what an email was then.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. So, um. Yeah. And so I forget, I have my stuff from them still, but I forget what two authors I worked with, but they were always published authors that were working with you.
Jenny Kate: So you wrote short stories or whatever at the time, and you’d mailed those to these other authors and they’d critique them?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah and then they’d mail back their criticisms.
Jenny Kate: That is fascinating.
Shannon Lawrence: Maybe with the [00:10:00] children’s stuff you learned how to lay it out and all that stuff’s very interesting. I don’t write children’s, but
Jenny Kate: No, but that would be interesting to know how they do that.
Shannon Lawrence: It’s very specific. There were dummy sheets that you used because the words are the least important part of a children’s book, cause they’re supporting the picture and the overall story.
So yeah, that was good. And I just remember, um, the first thing they had me do was write a nonfiction essay about someone we knew or something I wrote about. I described my husband with the cats. Cause he was sitting there working.
Jenny Kate: Okay. What about the cats?
Shannon Lawrence: Well, do we, because they just loved him. He’d be working on computer because at heart he’s a computer guy, but he was doing construction at the time and it was just, I remember there’s descriptions because he was an electrician working for, he was doing the electrical in mobile homes out of, cause there’s a big Liberty homes or something out of where we were. It was tiny little Podunk town near the coast and he, he’d get a big cut and he just wrapped black electrical tape around it and go on with his day.
Jenny Kate: Oh no he didn’t,
Shannon Lawrence: Oh [00:11:00] yeah and he’ll still do that stuff. I’m like, I, you know, that’s damaging when you have to pull that off. Right. Here I am. I’m a CNA. Um, that’s not okay. Um, yeah, and so it was just this description of him, and I still have that too, but he would have our orange cat curled up in his lap and a dark cat sitting up on that. We had a Calico mix, and she’d be up on the desk next to him and he’d be on his computer working on something in the evening and
Jenny Kate: And you wrote a story about that.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: And that’s the one you sent off to the authors. What was the feedback?
Shannon Lawrence: Oh, that one was, they liked it. They were, because it was just a descriptive essay about somebody.
Jenny Kate: But not horror.
Shannon Lawrence: No.
Jenny Kate: Cause that’s what you do now.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: Okay. All right. So you were in Oregon and then what, what happened after that? Where did you go after that?
Shannon Lawrence: So we lived there for almost a year and so I was doing those, um, we moved back here to Colorado and then that’s when I ended the children’s correspondence class. And then I started writing again and that’s when I started working on my first novel and I was [00:12:00] working huge long hours. I was making so much money because I was all over time, just all over time. And it was, I was actually doing billing for a electrical company that was building the Intel building.
Jenny Kate: And you were doing that because like we talked earlier, you wanted to contribute to the family.
Shannon Lawrence: Well at that point, I still needed to.
Jenny Kate: Okay. You still needed to. I wanna get to get to the point with where you’re like your mom and you’ve got two kids at home and the writing is happening, but so is work and there’s all this dynamic going on, so, so you’re writing right now and you’re working a billion hours a week or whatever it is. Right? So that’s when you started your first novel.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: Okay. Did you know what you’re doing? Were you like three act structure, character development, anything?
Shannon Lawrence: No. I hadn’t been going to classes. It was just that I was a, that I’d read forever and that I had awesome teachers. I was in a writer’s club that I had mentioned earlier in seventh and eighth grade. I wrote an opera that got put on and got picked up by the imagination [00:13:00] celebration. I co-wrote it.
Jenny Kate: An opera?
Shannon Lawrence: And actually did the music to it. I have no musical. Well. So two of us went and it was with this teacher and she knew how to play the piano. The other student did. And so I would like do note like this, just stay at LA, da da da. And she would put it to music and then she would write down the music.
Jenny Kate: That’s fantastic. So you clearly just have artistic brain and that’s just your creative brain.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah, it works all kinds of ways.
Jenny Kate: So how long did it take you to write that novel?
Shannon Lawrence: Um, I don’t think, I didn’t finish it. I still have it somewhere on a floppy disc. It was the hard floppies at that point. Right. So, um, cause that would’ve been probably 2000 2001 somewhere around there when I started doing that. And it was horror.
Jenny Kate: It was horror back then?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: So what turned you onto horror? How did that happen? What did you read that made you do that?
Shannon Lawrence: Um, well, so as a little kid, I lived in Maryland and there’s so many it’s so rich with history, right? Everywhere you go around there and you can drive to [00:14:00] a different state and you can visit some more battle grounds. And you’ve got the, you’ve got Washington, D C right there. So I used to go and get the books that were ghost stories about DC, right? Like. One of the, what is it only Madison? There’s a story. It might be her, don’t, don’t hold me to this, but what am I, the ones that stuck with me was the underground tunnels underneath the White House that they always talked about. When the White House got burned, she was dragging, she dragged a painting out. Um, and it was said she was going through a tunnel. And so the ghost, you would hear something drop and you would hear an exclamation and that was her ghost or something like that. So stories like that.
And that got me hooked. Originally it was just. I love history too, and so it combined those two. Here’s this thing that could be a little creepy and but history too.
Jenny Kate: So you were a kid when they turned, when this, when you turned onto this.
Shannon Lawrence: Oh yeah. I started reading Stephen King in high school or in elementary school because my parents each had their books they read. Dad read Stephen King, and then mom had [00:15:00] like romances and they, they cross pollinated. He didn’t read the romances, but she read Stephen King and Dean Kootz, but they didn’t limit what I read off the shelves. At the same time, I still snuck it. So it was like, I think they want me to read this. So the first book I dragged in was like It. And he was reading it, and so I’m going to read it when he wasn’t there, where it was sitting. And, um, it’s a huge tomb of a book, so it’s
Jenny Kate: It’s still fascinating though. I think Tommy knockers was probably my first one. Scared me to death. And I was in, and I read it because a boy at school was reading it. And I’m like, well you’re kind of cute, I should read this book. And I hated it. I would cause I, well, I’ll say it this way. I don’t hate Stephen King, but it scared me to death. And so I guess that’s exactly what he was going for, so it worked. You know, but sometimes after that would kind of sneak little bit here and there if I was in the mood, but it would scare me a lot. Okay. So horror the whole time, this novel that you wrote, horror or no?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah, [00:16:00] but it wasn’t, I never finished it.
Jenny Kate: Okay.
Shannon Lawrence: And, um, then I just started doing short stories because I was like, I have very little time to write. So let’s start doing this first. And that’s why I started learning those dynamics, and I was still, well before I ever discovered writer’s group or anything like that. And you couldn’t find online support at that point. Like it was still spotty. The internet didn’t have a lot on it, so I’m
Jenny Kate: Yeah even my mom bought me a book at like a yard sale. It was somebody writer’s market something. 1999 his first I’d even seen of a book like that. So anyway, so this is what, early 200s?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. So and end of the nineties and beginning of the two thousands. Cause then I had my son in 2005 and then I was home. I felt very strongly that I wanted to be home with them for a certain point. And I was working online and, um, doing texts, answering services like Tron, Tron, KGB, and all these other things and how to monetize [00:17:00] blog about being a mom and I started writing. I was also taking college classes online at that point.
Jenny Kate: Good lord, you’re busy.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah. I like being busy. Like sometimes I get stressed about it, but then when it doesn’t happen, you’re like, I don’t know, like, what am I supposed to do?
Jenny Kate: Yes. Yeah.
Shannon Lawrence: So yeah, so I was doing all that, and that’s why I started writing short stories, but I didn’t start. No, that’s not true. I submitted before my son was born, a couple of short stories that got turned down by asthma ops and Alfred Hitchcock magazine, which were of course the big ones that I was just beginning. And at that point, you still mailed it in. And, um,
Jenny Kate: So were you like totally like, dejected, or were you like no, that’s cool or whatever?
Shannon Lawrence: I was totally dejected and I didn’t submit anymore, which was funny cause I just didn’t know. I didn’t know. I had the writer’s market thing and I was like, Ooh, awesome. I’ll find who that is. And Ooh, Alfred Hitchcock, I know who that is. I had no idea that this was like the highest pro markets. I knew nothing about that, but just not a good cause. I recognize those authors [00:18:00] and had read them so. Sure I’ll submit there and I still have the stories I submitted and I keep thinking I should go back and rewrite them. But rewriting is a lot harder than just writing something new. And I’d like to revisit them cause they were cool stories.
Jenny Kate: I’d like to see your home office because you keep a lot of stuff.
Shannon Lawrence: I have a filing cabinet that has one drawer that’s just like old stories.
Jenny Kate: That’s fascinating though. And that’s so good you don’t get rid of it cause your kids are gonna love that one day.
Shannon Lawrence: Cause you know what? I read, my mom had a folder and she had one of her short stories in it that she’d written back in school and it was fun reading that and I still have it. I just kept it. She was like, I’m just going to throw that out and I said no, you’re not.
Jenny Kate: That’s going in my drawer right here. Okay, so you’re going to school, you’re raising kids, you’re taking all these jobs and you’re writing short stories. Um, at what point do you focus? Like how many, what I’m trying to go, I guess is when were you like, no, I need to just write. Do you ever get to that point or like, no, I need to just be [00:19:00] busy.
Shannon Lawrence: Um, I now make the time to write, but I am a sprint writer anyways, so I might go all week and not write and then sit down and knock out, here’s 5,000 words, here’s this many in one sitting. And it works for me. Like I tried that whole pressure. You must write every day and it’s not going to happen. I can’t force the creativity. They said, well, just write your grocery list and do it and I’ll recommend you recommend that to other people cause it works for some.
Jenny Kate: It probably won’t work for you then during the week, like you just have a prompt.
Shannon Lawrence: I can do that. It’s not necessarily going to go anywhere though. It’ll be nice and I’ll work that muscle. Um, but I don’t know. I rarely go back and take one of the stories I started with a prompt and finish it.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So clearly pantser. So how did, do you really just sit down at a computer and start typing away a story like , there’s nothing that’s germinating through in your head?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. And then it sort of rolls through in your head as you’re going.
Jenny Kate: Yeah?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: So clearly though there’s, I mean, it’s your, your subconscious has been thinking about this for some time and you don’t take notes or do anything before you start.
Shannon Lawrence: No, and sometimes I haven’t been thinking about it. I’ve [00:20:00] written stories. One of my stories is called Know Thy Neighbor is, I went out for a walk. Somebody freaked me out. I came home and just wrote a whole story that had nothing to do with actually what the person had done.
Jenny Kate: So you’re just stimulated by the environment.
Shannon Lawrence: Yes. And so, and sometimes I don’t know what the next line is and sometimes I have to sit there and go, what do I even want to happen next? And then I go from there, and then it tends to sort of propel it forward and say, okay, then after this happens, this launch really happens after this happens.
Jenny Kate: So do you ever get stuck when you’re like, you got to go do something to figure that out?
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah, there’s times when get stuck. Well, and I’ll usually just switch to a different short story and then I will let that story germinate. So usually at the beginning I’m just sitting down and writing. Um, but then if I have to pause, then it’s going to start rolling around and let my subconscious deal with it a bit. You work on something else. I have like right now 15 unfinished short stories in a folder that I just hopped around between.
Jenny Kate: Holy cow. 15?
Shannon Lawrence: And then some of them will write in one sitting. So.
Jenny Kate: That’s so fascinating. I mean, cause I was telling a friend the other day that I went to [00:21:00] a workshop in Nashville, like killer Nashville this past month. Well, in this, you know Jeffrey Diver, he sits down, he writes for eight months, he writes out an outline. I’m like. And it’s a a hundred page outline and all I keep thinking is that is extremely organized, right?
Shannon Lawrence: And it’s really just that you’re writing out the basics of the story.
Jenny Kate: Because 90 days later he just, now he’s got a story and I’m just, I’m fascinated by people’s processes because I’m not, I’m sure I somewhere you could call it a process. I don’t know what it is.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: All right, so when you use blink, is there a point where you start getting serious about, okay, I really like what I’m doing. I’d like to see where this can go. Where, what is that point?
Shannon Lawrence: I think it was 2008 is when I really started going. Okay. I went to my first conference seven years ago. So
Jenny Kate: What co, what conference was it?
Shannon Lawrence: Pikes Peak Writers.
Jenny Kate: So you went to your first Pike’s peak writers in 2000?
Shannon Lawrence: It was whenever Kelly Armstrong was keynote, which she’s the whole reason I went and I had just dissolved. So that’s another one I didn’t mention. I [00:22:00] also sold Mary Kay and I’m not a salesperson. And, um, it was that whole, I started doing that and when I was pregnant with my son, who was my oldest, so I was like, okay, I’ll have this thing I can,
Jenny Kate: Okay. So let’s, so let’s talk about your career outside of writing, because it sounds like you did a lot of stuff. So let’s talk about why. So you and your husband made a conscious decision that you were going to stay on with the kids. Okay. And you did that and discovered
Shannon Lawrence: You can’t do that.
Jenny Kate: So that’s when
Shannon Lawrence: Because even though he’s never been the type who’s like, this is my money. I still have that feeling of, no, I need to be putting something in here besides my time and energy. Um, and also back when we were, you know, uh, originally when we were a young couple and we didn’t have kids and whatever, we had those desktops where I was like, I’m working more hours than you, so you need to start stepping off with the house stuff. And he did. And so now we balance out really well, the more I’m working, then okay, then he’s going to contribute more to doing that. [00:23:00] And if I’m not working, then it makes sense that I’m doing more of that.
Jenny Kate: But that comes with your own personal growth. Right? 18 when you got married. You know, years later you have figured out what is important to you, how you function in life. You know, I mean, I think that’s, we all go through that. What we need to feel like you’re part of the team and you know, important and however, how you make that work.
Shannon Lawrence: Well, yeah. A lot of it came down to, um, becoming a mom, which only people realize until they’ve done it, how drastically it changes who you are as a person. Uh, because I, the two things that had value to me, and this is going to be sad too, is, um, my work ethic. I’d always been a hard worker. I worked from, I had my job before I turned 16 and I started on my 16th birthday at my first actual officially paid, not under the table job. And, um, I was working before then for people who had paid me under the table.
Jenny Kate: Yeah babysitting, that kind of stuff.
Shannon Lawrence: And yeah. And I worked for a printing press for a while where I just wasn’t legally employed. They, I would go and stuff stuff for them and they would [00:24:00] pay me some cash. And, um, all of a sudden I didn’t have that anymore. I didn’t have career stuff. I didn’t have a college degree. I didn’t,
Jenny Kate: Because you’re, you’re home with kids. This is where you have the revelation.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah. And um, the second one was, looks.
Jenny Kate: Looks?
Shannon Lawrence: That I lost, that I had based a lot of my value on how other people responded to me, which is the sad part.
Jenny Kate: Well now you’re at home and you don’t have that
Shannon Lawrence: I’m overweight and I’ve got a baby and I’ve got spit up all over me and I don’t have that either. So I lost the two things that I kind of base my value on. However flawed it was that, that’s what I based my value on.
Jenny Kate: Don’t apologize for that, no.
Shannon Lawrence: But then I had neither of those things and I was like, who the hell even am I? And the whole process to get there, I, I’ve yeah. Five years of trying to conceive before they even told me, Oh, you have 0% chance. It’s like, could you have told me that five years ago?
So all of that, and then, yeah. So then I left there going, okay, now I have to start working again. In a way, and I want to be home and I want to do this because, [00:25:00] um, I grew up with parents who didn’t have a lot of money and they were both working. And I actually had a great experience where I got to go to work with my mom at movie theaters and stuff like that. And just all the employees would do what they needed to keep me busy during different times or go up with the projectionist when it was busy down on the floor. So that’s not so easy to do anymore. But, um. Yeah. So I needed to refine that. And then that’s when I started, well, I was already going to school when he was born, and then I just switched to online. Really easy. And it’s all essays but yeah, so I needed to change what I valued, and that’s when I was also like, okay, I have this opportunity and yes, I’m doing these jobs, but I can control my hours with them and I can start writing.
Jenny Kate: Good for you. And I think that everybody gets to that evolution of figuring out, and frankly. Just because we figured out today does not mean we’re not going to keep figuring it out like 10 years from now. Right? Every day. Every day can totally relate. Okay, so first Pike’s Peak Writer’s conference [00:26:00] was 2011-12?
Shannon Lawrence: It was something around there. 2010- 11.
Jenny Kate: Because the keynote was
Shannon Lawrence: kelly,
Jenny Kate: Kelly Anderson.
Shannon Lawrence: Yeah. Kelly Armstrong. And I had just discovered her books.
Jenny Kate: Clearly not a horror reader here, sorry.
Shannon Lawrence: No. And she writes urban fantasy. She did the women of the other world is kind of what our series, yeah, is what her series was called. And I had discovered urban fantasy only a few years before.
And it was magical because it took horror elements and stuck them in the real world and this fantasy thing. And I was just like, this is amazing. So I’ve got totally hooked on those. And, um. Who else? She was keynote this year. Um, she was actually the first one. I found them. I can’t think of her name now. Um, she wrote the Edita.
Anyway. She had bodyguards. Um, anyway, she was the first one, but then I discovered Kelly Armstrong through her, and I had just shut down my Mary Kay business [00:27:00] and you can return a certain percentage of your products. So I got that chunk of cash back and a friend of mine who was my director at Mary Kay said, Oh, you need to go to this writer’s conference. And she gave me the flyer for it that she had gotten and she ended up not going. She gave me all these tips like. Well, I’m not gonna stay on because people need to learn that a different way. But all these tips for how to get in and do various things and talk to various people, and then she doesn’t even go. So I knew nobody and went there and I had my earbuds so I could ignore everybody. And my book and people still talked to me. Cause it’s a friendly conference.
And now of course I’m there and I never do that. And I’m talking to people that are working. But yeah. So I went to that and I’ve got to sit in with Kelly Armstrong twice. And she’s a mom. And I was talking to her about how do you make the time and how do you have the mental energy to do something creative at the end of the day.
And she talked to me forever, even though I was [00:28:00] totally nervous and fan girly and repeatedly that I want to talk to her now and be like, I just want you to know if you remember me, I’m so sorry. I was processing that you said you have a garden, but your husband, it’s been your husband’s passion and you want to talk about it.
But I had just done a garden and so that was all I could think of and talk about, cause I don’t small talk. I can’t small talk just saved my life. And, um, so I was like, Oh, latching on, here’s the topic and I can talk about, and she didn’t want to talk about the fricking gardens. Anyway, once we got on to being a mom and writing and stuff.
So I went home and over the course of the next few months, finished a novel, finished my first novel all the way through, and it was a wild post-apocalyptic that hasn’t seen the light of day. Maybe I’ll revisit it eventually, but it was my learning process. So that conference really spurred me forward, and that’s when I started writing it, and that’s when I started writing the short stories again and finally started submitting.
Jenny Kate: Yeah.
Shannon Lawrence: And I discovered duotrope.com and that’s where I was able to go find markets and it was so [00:29:00] easy.
Jenny Kate: What is, okay. Talk to me about that.
Shannon Lawrence: So duotrope.com, and there’s another one. It’s free now. Submission grinder, but Duotrope is a paid service. It wasn’t, then.
Jenny Kate: I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes.
Shannon Lawrence: Okay. Yes. And. Um, they just, they have on the markets now, they’re starting to put agents there, but it’s just started and editors, publishers that even want novels are in there. But I was on there specifically for short stories,
Jenny Kate: So is it like a marketplace kinda?
Shannon Lawrence: Kind of, so it’s a database and you plug in what you want. So I want a short story length. I want this rate of pay pro. It’ll do pro semipro or token or any. Which could be contributor copies and um, just other stuff like that. Here’s the genre, here’s sub genres. If you want to go that deep, you can how I want to submit. So I will do electronics mission only because there are still markets that only take snail mail. And I’m like, forget you guys. I don’t care how respected you are. I don’t have time for that and I need to manage this. [00:30:00] But other people do, and that’s fine, but it lets you just narrow it down to what you want and then up pop your market. And you go through and has information on them, what they pay, what word length, and how responsive they are.
Jenny Kate: So it’s not just asthma. And, um. Alfred Hitchcock’s right.
Shannon Lawrence: Right. There’s so many more. Actually, I have a story out to Alfred Hitchcock for the first time in what, 15 years?
Jenny Kate: I’m going to call you back here in a couple months.
Shannon Lawrence: They take a year to get back to you, and that’s another reason I’m like, but I finally went, I’m willing to put this story to them for a year and just see what happens.
Jenny Kate: Congratulations. And good luck. Okay. So right now, um. You have a book of short stories. Tell me how that evolved and where is it, where we can get it?
Shannon Lawrence: Okay, so I have a collection and it’s Blue Sledge Blues and other Abominations and. It’s probably 75% stories have already been published that I got the rights back on. And I realized [00:31:00] that once that’s gone, it’s gone. You know, there’s not people still picking up that edition of a magazine. It’s done. So I put them together. If I’m going to put out my own collection, put out some stories that have never before been published so that there’s kind of a bonus. Cause otherwise I have people who buy every single thing that I have something published in. They’re amazing and I love them. And I wanted to give them something new too. Cause I knew they were by my stuff just to be oh this is some stuff I’ve read before. So yeah, I put it together. I did a bunch of research and self-published it cause I figure on this. Why not? This is a great thing to cut your teeth on. I’ve already had editors go over the bulk of the things in there and I don’t need a lot of editing. I’m kind of the grammar Nazi. So we’re good there. I rarely get edits back.
Jenny Kate: Did you get a team together? Like do you have an editor or the publicist? You do all of that yourself or
Shannon Lawrence: I do it all myself. My husband did my book cover, so that was cool working him with him. Cause I can be like I don’t like it. No, I wasn’t that mean. Because you’re doing this for free. Let’s do this. So he, [00:32:00] cause he had been wanting to learn more and I was like, alright, yeah, let’s do this. So
Jenny Kate: Family affair then. Yeah.
Shannon Lawrence: But I did the editing and I did, um, everything I needed to do.
Jenny Kate: And where can we get it? Amazon?
Shannon Lawrence: Oh yeah. Amazon. It’s available through Smashwords and Barnes and Noble has it. And. In fact now apparently they have the paper copy, and I thought it was just going to be ebook, but boom.
Jenny Kate: Nice. All right. So where can readers find you online? Are you like, what is your website?
Shannon Lawrence: The warriormuse.com.
Jenny Kate: Is that true for your social media too?
Shannon Lawrence: That’s why socially, it’s a blog and a website. So I have publications, I have upcoming appearances. I’m speaking at mile high con this month. So yeah,
Jenny Kate: That’s awesome. So I’m going to check in with you in about a year and see where this Alfred Hitchcock thing is. So thanks so much. I really appreciate taking the time to come out.
Shannon Lawrence: Well thank you. This is fun.
Jenny Kate: I’m really glad you liked it cause I can’t ever make this thing work. Actually, stop recording. See?
[00:33:00] This is Writer Nation.