Prompt to Publication | Elaine Dodge
Today we are celebrating Elaine Dodge. Since 12 Short Stories started in 2017 we’ve seen many of our writers go on to publish and accomplish great things with their writing. The Prompt to Publication emails are all about celebrating these writers and their wonderful stories.
I hope these interviews will help you and teach you how to use 12 Short Stories to build your author platform.
Author feature: I’d like to introduce Elaine Dodge.
Elaine has been a member of 12 Short Stories since it started in 2017 and has been participating ever since. She completed the challenge in 2017, 2018, 2019, and is writing up a storm for 2020
How has 12 Short Stories helped you write and publish?
Elaine Dodge: To date, I have published two novels and 1 book of short stories. The two novels are Harcourt’s Mountain (published 2013), and Heart of the Mountain (published 2020) which is the sequel. My book of short stories L.E.T.H.A.L. (one of my favourite Challenge stories) is composed mostly of stories I wrote for the Challenge.
I love the 12 Short Stories Challenge. It has been one of the joys of my writing career. There have been times when the 12 Short Stories was the only writing I was doing. The last four years I’ve been part of the Challenge have been some of the toughest of my life for personal reasons, and having the commitment to put bum on seat and write for that ‘damn deadline’ has been so good for me. I don’t plan to stop participating in the Challenge.
What did you learn that you applied to your novel?
Elaine Dodge: Writing for the Challenge is a great training ground for ‘thinking different’. When a prompt comes up, I try to think of what the obvious solution would be, what would others most likely write. And then I set myself the task of creating something completely different, as off-the-wall as possible and unexpected.
The Challenge is an excellent place to try out concepts for long-form. If people ‘get it’ and like it then I have created the germ of an idea which may work well in long-form.
I was already published when I began the Challenge and being a part of it has given me the courage to continue after I had amicably parted ways with my publisher.
Did the feedback help?
Elaine Dodge: The feedback has been such a good tool. It’s hard as a writer to find anyone to talk to about the process or the work in progress who doesn’t get glassy-eyed in a few moments. As the Challenge is a safe place, it’s great to get feedback from people who mean you well. It’s like having one’s own private pom-pom parade!
Did the deadlines and wordcounts help?
Elaine Dodge: I think it’s been the adrenaline rush of deadline day composition and the pom-pom parade that has kept me going and which has honed my writing skills far more than writing only long-form, alone in my cottage, could ever have done. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I also work at not overthinking the story otherwise it loses its spontaneity and freshness, which is why out of nearly four years of short story writing I think I have only written two in advance. I write every story on the day of the deadline. It’s an adrenaline rush I’ve become addicted to. While I am a compulsive plotter for my novels, I totally pants the short stories.
Elaine’s favourite 12 Short Stories stories
Elaine Dodge: It’s hard to choose one story I really like from four years of the Challenge as I also use the short stories as a way of exploring wildly different genres. I’ve written magical realism, science fiction, dark humour, family humour, murder (usually wives killing husbands – which is concerning), re-imagined stories from other sources, time travel and legend-style stories. One of the first I wrote which still makes me smile is: Mastermind
Africa, apart from the two and a half years I was away, has always been my home. Born in Zambia, I grew up in Zimbabwe and am now living in South Africa.
I sustained myself through dreary and seemingly endless maths classes at school by equally endless daydreaming and the hope that one day I’d be ‘making movies’. When I arrived in South Africa, I fell headfirst out of design and into the local and international broadcast television industry working for broadcasters like NatGeo Wild, Animal Planet and Discovery. On winning the odd international award, it seemed as if my movie-making dream was about to happen.
It dawned on me, finally, that it wasn’t so much movie-making that mattered, but rather ‘storytelling’. It started after having done the Romance Writing Course with Writers Write where I tried out scenes of the story I’d been mulling over for years. The course facilitator pulled me aside one day and said, “You must write this book!” I went straight home and four months later sent my book to an editor. A few months after that I was a published author. The euphoria! My first novel, Harcourt’s Mountain was published in 2013. Heart of the Mountain and L.E.T.H.A.L. in 2020. In between, I was working on a quasi-steampunk book, The Device Hunter. As I am a compulsive outliner, the decision to ‘pants’ this book taught me a huge lesson – #PantsingIsForTheBirds. As a result, I am on draft #4 and who knows what number edit!
Read an excerpt from Harcourt’s Mountain by Elaine Dodge.
He watched her sashay across the saloon of the Silver Forest Hotel, seduction written clearly on her face and in every curve of her body. Harcourt had to admit she was enticing. Big violet eyes, black hair twisted up in inviting curls, the knowing smile on her red lips, not to mention the tight, low-cut dress leaving little to the imagination. It all promised untold carnal delight. Her perfume, a dark, satiny aroma eddied around him as she swayed to a stop in front of him, her hand on her tiny waist.
He smiled. “Miss Butler.”
“Mr. Harcourt. I was watching you. You play well.”
His smile deepened. He’d been very aware of her gaze during the game. As he’d left the poker table with the evening’s takings, most of which had come out of Stephen Butler’s pocket, he’d seen the calculating look on the man’s face. A few minutes later, in the mirror above the bar, he’d watched Butler give the girl instructions. What kind of father would send his daughter to seduce a man? But here she was, and apparently, it didn’t worry her in the least. In fact, she looked as if she were enjoying herself. This could be interesting.
“Would you like something to drink?” he offered.
“Some champagne would be nice.”
He raised an eloquent eyebrow.
“We have to celebrate your winnings,” she said, using her little girl voice. Did she always talk like that, or only when she was trying to entice a man?
“Of course,” He nodded at the barman.
While the waiter was opening the bottle, a very expensive bottle, he noted, Harcourt looked Ida May Butler over, slowly. The fact that she wasn’t insulted by it stirred his amused contempt.
He handed her the glass. Her fingers drifted over his as she took it. He was disappointed. She wasn’t even original in her tactics. Mind you, she couldn’t be more than seventeen under all that gloss. Taking the bottle and his glass, he followed her to the deep velvet sofa that stood in the alcove to the left of the bar – the one behind the potted plants and the artfully draped curtain.
She put her heart into the performance and Harcourt played along to see just how far she would go and exactly what she wanted. She coquetted outrageously for the length of time it took them to finish the bottle. When a waiter came to see if they wanted another, to Miss Butler’s obvious disappointment, Harcourt shook his head. As the waiter left, she stretched out her hand towards the cord that held the curtain in place. Harcourt was quicker. He captured her hand saying, “Leave it. It might set tongues wagging.”
She shot him a look, as if trying to read his face. Harcourt smiled, lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. “We wouldn’t want that,” he said.
She fluttered her eyelashes. “Mr. Luke Harcourt. You don’t mind if I call you Luke?”
Harcourt wondered if she seriously believed that half a bottle of champagne had made him more pliable. “Not at all, Miss Butler.”
“You’re a very good poker player, Luke. How much did you win tonight?” She moved closer, her knee touching his.
“Just over five hundred dollars, I believe.”
“Don’t you know for sure?” She laid her hand on his thigh.
He shrugged. “Counting the money while you play is a distraction.”
“How wonderful to be able to play and not worry about how much you might be losing. That’s awfully brave. You must be rich.”
Harcourt gave a short laugh. “Not rich enough for you, Miss Butler.”
“You could be very rich. My father says your mountain is a gold mine.”
Ah. Of course. “Does he indeed?”
“Oh yes.” Her fingers danced lightly on the muscle of his leg. “He says a man could be wealthy overnight with all that lumber and salmon. Not to mention the possibility of gold. Imagine how exciting it would be to discover gold!” Her hand tightened.
“It must be awfully lonely living up there on your own.” She gazed into his eyes, her hand drifting up his thigh. “I’d be terrified. It’s so far away. No one there to keep you company. What if something bad happens? Indians or bears?” She took his hand, pressing his palm on her chest. “Here, you can feel my heart trying to leap out my body even thinking about it.”
He let it lie on her white skin for a moment. It’d been a long time since he’d been with a woman. He felt a momentary flicker of disquiet. But looking into her eyes he caught a glimpse of her empty, amoral, little soul and knew he had no cause for concern. He moved his hand round until it cupped the soft weight of her breast. She breathed in.
“If you sold your mountain to my father,” she murmured, “you would be very rich. You could move to town. We could get to know each other better.” Her hand crept up his thigh. “I’d like to get to know you, Luke, very well.”
He ran his thumb gently over her skin and bent towards her. She closed her eyes. Her red lips parted, softening in anticipation, her breath came quickly. He gave a soft laugh. He could feel her skin begin to warm under his fingers, her desire spreading through her like smoky whiskey, melting her in his hands. She seemed to have totally forgotten who was meant to be seducing whom.
“Luke,” she purred.
“Miss Butler. Will you do something for me?”
His voice so latent with want she almost moaned in response. She could feel his breath on her face. She tilted her head back, shivering as his lips moved very gently on her neck, the tip of his tongue touching her. “Anything.”
“Anything?” His voice was deep, intoxicating. She pressed herself into his hand.
“Good.” His voice was normal, hard even. He released her and sat back, “Tell your father my land is not for sale.”
She blinked. “What?”
“You heard me. Neither my land, nor my person for that matter, is for sale.” He rose and put on his jacket.
“But why? I, I mean I don’t know what…” She stared up at him. The shock of his rejection was swiftly replaced by outrage. She leaped to her feet. “Oh, how, how dare you! You were—”
“If you do want to get to know me better, Miss Butler, you can start with this – I’m not interested in little girls.”
Elaine Dodge’s books
Spring 1867. Luke Harcourt has made a home for himself on a mountain in the wild Canadian forests. On a supply run to town he comes across the Bride Ship. One of the women catches his eye; although dirty, her clothes speak of a gentle refinement and her eyes of desperation. Luke knows he can’t leave her there. He buys her on a whim, compelled to save her from a life of prostitution and slavery.
Hope Booker is terrified when she’s sold. But Luke allays her fears by promising not to touch her, unless she asks him to. She’s frightened, confused and facing danger every day on their mountain. As she gets to know him, Hope is tempted to open her heart to Luke but, uncertain about his feelings, she’s afraid the biggest danger is falling love with her husband. Read more…
For Hope and Luke, Harcourt’s Mountain is their haven of happiness,
and the last thing Hope wants is to leave.
When Luke’s father suffers a stroke, they have no choice but to rush to his side.
They head to Boston not realizing they’re about to face their toughest challenge yet.
Family can be everything, but Luke and Hope soon discover it can also threaten that which you cherish most. Faced first with Luke’s family, and then her own, the long reach of vengeance turns their world into a nightmare.
Blame, heartache and loss will bring them to their knees before
they can return to their mountain home. Read more…
A sharp, witty, and sometimes heart-warming selection of stories. Original retellings, hilarious witches, tales that taste of old legends, murderers getting caught or getting away with it, dark comedies, mad scientists, tragic love-affairs, fantasy, and magic realism –
L.E.T.H.A.L. has it all. Read more…
Well done, Elaine.
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