Monthly Archives: April 2011

Blog Award

I thank Deirdra Coppel for taking the time to stop by my blog and read it, and award me the powerful woman writer award. She is the artist of the award as well.

Deirdra Coppel

It’s a lovely gesture and part of her way of sharing. I’ve found that giving people complements doesn’t hurt and often makes you and the other person feel good. So, thanks, Deirdra. http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/

As it is, it’s late, I’ve been editing all day and packing. I’m on the road tomorrow and still have to finish up a few things tonight so this is all I’ll be posting.

I guess I should mention that I hope to do a site update in the next while, change the them around and maybe start linking to more blogs. But that’s a couple of months from now.

See you all in a few days.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Editing

Here at the Chi hub (Chizine.com and ChiZine Publications…that’s online magazine vs paper books) I’m juggling my several hats, and getting ready for a short sojourn into the US. First, we’re accepting poetry again at Chizine as well as fiction, so get on it. I’ve just read two poems with provisional acceptances. What does that mean? It means we want a few changes but overall have accepted the poem. And Steve Vernon and I have  made our picks for the poetry winners of the Rannu competition. The winners will be announced next month (they still have the fiction winners to sort out).

Whats this got to do with editing?

Taking off my plumed poetry editor hat and donning my slush editor fedora for ChiZine publications, I’m almost through my part of the slush backlog. Only one manuscript left in that pile. But…I have about three full manuscripts to read where I asked for revisions and to see the whole thing. A couple more might come in. What I find fascinating is that when I send out a positive response–saying these things need fixing. Once you’ve done so, send me the full manuscript–I often never hear back from the person. You would think… Hell, I would think because I am a writer too, that if I had a reply from a publisher I would definitely jump on the wagon…unless of course I have so many publishers knocking at my door. That’s a rare occurrence. But even if some other publisher is looking at the manuscript I’d be sending a polite thank you to the publisher. You never want to burn possible bridges of crossing for the future.

Still, there are some fascinating ideas swirling around out there in people’s minds. My travels to the US are going to be pleasure. I’ll have to do some editing for the first part because I am getting snowed under. But I’m also on my way to the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas next week. It’s going to be a great time with parties thrown by Chizine on Friday night and Cutting Block Press on Saturday. In personal editing, I’ve signed up for a pitch session where first there will be a workshop on how to pitch one’s book and then a one-on-one with an editor or agent to pitch. I’m a bit nervous about that as I’ve never pitched before but what have I got to lose. The worst they can say is no.

Besides sitting on a vampire panel Saturday morning I will also be interviewing Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, owners of Chizine Publications and editor guests of honor at the convention. It’s an hour interview and I’m taking questions from the virtual audience to add to the list, so if you want to ask something of dark fiction and poetry writers, small press entrepreneurs and dark fiction editors, then post your comments here. I’ll be publishing the interview afterward, somewhere, maybe even here.

So, you’re possibly wondering, what does the above picture have to do with editing besides that I just wanted to stick a picture in here? Well, I am an editor and I am edited. I’m between a rock and a hard place. Because I wear the hat of a writer as well I see the writing world from two sides. Do I ever worry that someone I rejected, who also might be an editor, might reject me in revenge? No. We’re professionals and it’s the name of the game. I have a friend who is editor of one of the “Big Three” SF mags (which really is the big five) and he’s faithfully rejected me for years. It’s the way the world works. Likewise I don’t expect a writer to get all bitter and angry when I reject them. It happens to us all and yes, someone else might buy the piece. We’re human after all, with our own experiences, training and predilections.

It’s a business and that means the shopper and the contractor have choices. If more people actually looked at writing and publishing this way we’d have less bitter writers. Sorry I didn’t buy your lawn chair. I like this one better. I like that brand of makeup over this one. I like my produce from the mom and pop shop, not from Safeway. Someone else will like otherwise.

The blog entries could be sporadic this next week but I hope to blog about the con while I’m there. See you on the writing side.

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Big Scams: I’m a Winner!

We’ve all heard about the Nigerian scam letters, the requests from various banks to update our information online, even from the IRS and Canada Revenue that we’re getting a refund on our taxes. Some of these are more than the “Dear Beloved” letters requesting to transfer oodles of dollars through your bank account. Really, it’s amazing how much money is just floating around through the world for our benefit. I’ve seen many of these. I delete them all.

Tovar Travels Treasures

I’ve been thinking of going on a trip lately, sometime this fall to Europe or Asia. So when I found a a letter sent from Malaysia I was intrigued by the stamps and wondering what it could be. I don’t know anyone there.

There are actually four panels to this.

When I opened it, it was a travel brochure, very glossy and professional looking, from Tovar Travel.

This is a four-page foldout with a sexy yet healthy looking woman on the cover, beautiful turquoise beaches, palm trees, white sands, lawn chairs and amazing rock formations. Everything that speaks Asia at its best, relaxation and appeals to those of us in North America freezing our tushes off in springtime. (Okay, not you southern folks, but it’s still exotic, right?) Very bright, glossy and professional looking. Hmm, a travel brochure for a company. Okay, I’ll take a look to see what they have to offer.

As I began to peruse it there was something about a lottery, with a scratch and win ticket inside. Who doesn’t love a scratch and win? I didn’t even read what the lottery was for but scratched the two tickets inside. One is blank and just shows a plane. The other shows I’ve won $150,000 USD. Oh my god. I’m  a winner. I’m rich. I can quit my job. Woo! But wait, there must be a catch. I read the fine print. They won’t disclose my information, I may have to pay taxes in my country, I must give them my name, age, address and call. Of course the one clause that says “Prize winners may be obliged to submit taxes or any other mandatory charges as a result of the award,” is a bit worrying. After all, what is a mandatory charge for free contest? Hmmm.

I didn’t bother wasting my money on a call. I’m a bright girl and did a few cursory searches of the internet. What I found: well I wouldn’t use Tovar Travel for travel nor for winning the lottery. Lucent Tours is always the same thing. Don’t go there. There were only 2 (according to the brochure) second place prizes of $150,000. The internet shows that many people have won that prize. Many. And those that contacted the company have to pay $3,750 to release their winnings. I’d tell them to just deduct it from the $150,000. The winning card, as you can see below, looks like it’s sponsored by real companies, like Panasonic, but I bet if you contacted the companies they would be surprised of their involvement.  I think this just goes to prove, if something is too good to be true then it probably is. Darn, this means I have to keep working.

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Writing: What is Dark Fantasy?

In the world of speculative fiction there are many genres and sub-genres and son of sub-genres. In fact, it seems every two years someone comes up with a new term whether it’s slipstream, horror, dark fantasy, metafiction, mundane SF, dark fiction, hyperfiction, splatterpunk, steampunk or the next new catchphrase.

Dark fantasy is indeed like fantasy but came about, you could say, when the term “horror” fell out of favor. Publishers quit printing horror because the books weren’t selling. You’re probably thinking, “What about Stephen King?” Well, for one he’s a mega star so he could write a shopping list and it would sell. Some of his writing is considered…other, maybe science fiction or thriller, though really most of it falls under horror or dark fantasy.

So what, you ask, is the difference between dark fantasy and horror? Besides DF being the more acceptable term for publishers, dark fantasy may not be as horrific as horror. It might be disturbing, it might have intonations of darkness and it might have an unhappy ending. Remember, many of these terms really are shades of gray under the greater genre umbrella that is often called speculative fiction. But even that is a sub-genre of fiction. Under the horror fiction umbrella lurks dark fiction, psychological horror, dark fantasy, splatterpunk, thrillers (sometimes) and bizarro, again sometimes. Dark fantasy of course needs an element of otherness, something fantastical and strange. It will be less in your face gore and terror and more under the skin, crawl into your mind disturbing.

Is dark fantasy faeries and elves? Yes, if they’re gutting each other and stealing your mind. Yes, Lord of the Rings is dark fantasy. In fact LOTR is so epic it falls into many categories. It’s partly why I’ve used it as an example. However a story about a girl who finds a bright red lollipop that influences her to commit monstrous deeds is also dark fantasy. It is also psychological horror. While terms can define a story, there is great overlap.

Is it a chickpea or a garbanzo, a hazelnut or a filbert? Like food items that may have more than one term so do the genres that overlap and cozy up to each other, sometimes sharing the same bed. It all depends on how a publisher believes they can market the story. A reader who likes psychological terror may not pick up something labeled dark fantasy, or may prefer dark fantasy over horror. A story by any other name is still a story but it might have the slightest tinge that leads you down a different path. Dark fantasy is definitely not for the light of heart…unless they need some balance.

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Our Lives: the Microcosm vs the Macrocosm

The world revolves on a grand scale and on a small or microcosmic scale. The macrocosm can be something as enormous as the galaxy or the universe. But within the environs of the earth it comes down to a country’s personality. It is also earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes. It is war, and pandemic diseases. As well it is the nature of both humankind as a whole and the planet in its entirety. On this grand scale we see the war in Libya, the overturning of the government in Egypt, the rising price of gas, heating, food, etc., the many deaths from Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the political temperament of France or Tunisia, the cholera in Haiti, the religious fervor in Afghanistan or the human rights issues of China.

The macrocosm can be scary and all-encompassing. It is the onslaught of the human condition. It can also be beautiful: the ocean, the skies above, a forest, the many species that blanket the earth. It is humanity in all its great creativity, the collective consciousness, the evolution of our kind.

But when we look at the world as a whole we see doom and despair. We see death and cataclysms and everything looks like it’s spiraling down the hole. There are rapists and murderers and pedophiles, drug dealers and car accidents, disease and poverty, wars and subjugation. The news dwells on the negative and not the uplifting. It’s one reason I don’t read newspapers or watch TV; to lessen the onslaught to my sensibilities. My soul weeps when all I see is the tragedy of life and ever impending doom.

But…and this is a big emphasis on a small word…but when I look at the microcosm I see my neighbor who will rescue my cat, the friends who push my car through the snow, the person who holds the door open for me, the intimacy and love of friends and family. I smell a flower, watch a tree slowly unfurl its leaves and blooms, pet a cat, plant a flower, nod to a fellow shopper, go to a party, have a drink with friends and listen to their trials and tribulations, and relate to people every day. That’s my world.

We have to remember this  to achieve some balance in life. To look only at the macrocosm means the world is a despairing place bereft of good and beauty. To look only at the microcosm can mean your problems seem to be mountains or you are ignorant of the world around you. I remember the microcosm daily so that my spirit lifts and I have hope and joy. What matters most are the relationships we form with the people around us, and our environment. What is greatest is sharing love and joy. It is the only way to exist and stay sane in a world filled with chaos. Here’s to the intimate moments in the microcosm.

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More Ways to Slaughter Your Career

Creative Commons: @daniel_nelson abduzeedo.com

The human race is capable of mighty deeds and also some pretty stupid ones. We already saw the editor who blew her career (and Food Source’s site) to kingdom come with her arrogance and ignorance in regards to editing and publishing.

Now here’s another end to the writing and publishing world. Writer’s who self-publish may have great works or really humdrum pieces or even gobbledy-gook that is completely unreadable. Some writers who decide to self-publish their works have the unassailable attitude that they are geniuses, their works are brilliant and anyone who doesn’t agree is a misanthrope or worse.

It would almost seem that people should know and understand this but many don’t. Some people have an idea and write it, without having any expertise as a writer. Expertise comes from practice and learning the techniques, and from what I can tell it’s a lifelong process. Publishing houses have editors and copyeditors and proofreaders who all work to make sure the manuscript is shipshape and will sell. If someone is going to self-publish, then they can serve themselves best by hiring a copyeditor, someone to at least go through and fix the grammatical issues.

So, it’s of interest when one Ms Jacqueline Howett was reviewed for her book The Greek Seaman on a blog titled Big Al’s Books and Pals and she did not react well. How badly did she react? Well, I read the review and the sample of her writing and as I read her responses I thought, “This can’t be real. Surely it’s a gimmick to get more hype.” But as I looked a little further and then found her own webpage I realized in fact this woman was real but had no clue. At first I thought she must be only about 12 years of age with the way she responded.

The reviewer says the story is quite interesting but the writing lags, and has numerous grammatical issues and typos, which garnered Howett only two stars. She responded that he didn’t download the correct version (why have the wrong version up). Al responded with posting just two passages of her writing:

“She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs.”

“Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance.”

WTF? I mean seriously, I would not have been as generous in giving two stars. Talk about Frankenstein sentences. How about this for a rewrite:

She carefully walked back down the stairs. (Frankly, it’s difficult to make this one very good at all and would need the context of the scene to rework it. It separates the person from their body in awkward phrasing and would have been better to describe her shape/size elsewhere.)

Don and Katy watched as Gino hypnotically set more coffees at another table. (I’m leaving out the “supreme balance” because I can’t tell if Gino is balancing himself or the coffees, and if he’s balancing them in his hands, on the tray or on the table.)

You can read the full interaction at Big Al’s but here are a few of her responses:

Look AL, I’m not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine. You were told to download a new copy for format problems the very next day while they were free at Smashwords, so you could choose any format you wanted to read it in and if their there were any spelling mistakes they were corrected. Simply remove this review as it is in error with you not downloading the fresh copy i I insisted. Why review my book after being told to do this, and more annoying, why have you never ever responded to any of my e-mails? My comments in italics, red for corrections. Wow! She’s accusatory and demanding. What the hell is “playing snake?” She can’t see any errors in her writing. She can’t capitalize “i”, she doesn’t use commas.

And please follow up now from e-mail.
This is not only discusting disgusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don’t fool me, AL Al. Hmm, discusting?  Al is in all caps, maybe for emphasis; again no use of comma. How can I believe she knows how to write if her comments here are an example of her writing style? Let’s not even get into the highly inflammatory and juvenile language.

Who are you any way anyway? Really, who are you?
What do we know about you? And no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. I wonder if she’s forgotten to take some medications as this has nothing to do with a review.

You never downloaded another copy, you liar!
You never ever returned to me an e-mail I’m not even through all her subsequent curses but I started to think she was a teenager at about this point, though many of them talk way more maturely.

Besides, if you want to throw crap at authors you should first ask their permission if they want it stuck up on the internet via e-mail. That debate is high among authors. Hooboy, yet another example of how people don’t understand a process. Reviewers review. They don’t need permission, and yes everyone is entitled to an opinion but Ms. Howett exhibits arrogance and that she just thinks she’s entitled. What’s debated or discussed more amongst authors is the self-righteous self-publisher and some of the crap that is published. No one debates the right of someone to review anything.

Your You’re the target not me!
Now get this review off here! Demanding, and the wrong use of “your.” Try “you’re”, Jacqueline.

I skimmed through the some 300 comments (before comments were closed) and Jacqueline’s tone gets worse until she’s just saying “F–k off!” At least she spelled that correctly. Although she’s gaining notoriety (can we say viral) and maybe even a few sales from this, I doubt that many people will bother to read her book because it’s not edited and because of her rant that paints her as someone lacking any nobility and just a temper tantrum waiting to get uglier. If you’re thinking of publishing anything, even if it’s self-publishing, please don’t even walk beside Howett’s footsteps, let alone in them. And get a proofreader.

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What’s in a Name?

Creative Commons: Eric Guiomar

I once, at the earlier end of my writing career, asked an instructor and author if it mattered what my last name was, in terms of positioning on the bookstore shelf. He gave me a look askance and probably thought I was an airhead. But it was in fact a valid question…to some extent. I spent many years ordering books for a SF and fantasy bookstore. The A’s always are near the top and the Z’s are near the bottom of the shelves. But after that, it really depends on how tall and wide the shelves are and whether people arrange the books left to right or top to bottom. So in the long run, yes a person at the bottom of the shelf may sell a little bit less, but in the end it will depend on the story and the popularity of that author.

The other thing I always wondered about was my name in general. It’s a pretty generic name. There are tons of Andersons and several famous speculative Andersons such as Poul and Kevin. So perhaps if I had a unique name it would stand out. But more, if I could design the perfect author name for dark and specultive fiction, what would I choose?

I always said that if I wrote romances I would go by Felicity Meadows. The author names are sometimes stately, sometimes evocative of beauty or nature or virtues. I  have met people with the last names Lethe and Styx, two of the rivers you encounter on your way to the Greek underworld. How great it would be to have such a name and write dark stories of spirits and hidden realms.

Well in the world of speculative fiction, here are a few names. Brian Hades, owner of Edge Publications. I call him Mr. Hell. Then there  is Mort Castle, Gabrielle Faust, Wrath James White, Chad Savage. It’s not like these names will make someone a better writer, editor or publisher but you have to wonder, were they born to it? Was it their destiny to end up in the speculative and dark fiction field? Or did they change their names? I’ll be attending the World Horror Convention at the end of April and I think I’ll ask these people about the unique aspects of their names. I know Brian Hades was born with the name but what about the others?

I’m sure there are other unique names for writers. And not that it will make you write better or sell better but I’d sure like a name like once of those. From the not quite generic Colleen Anderson who sometimes writes under the family name of Calligari, made famous by Edgar Allen Poe.

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Chizine Shazam!

Imaginarium cover, due out this year from CZP

We are plugging along at the ole Chi factory. The Chizine (Chiaroscuro) website has been revamped and is up for viewing here: http://chizine.com It opens with a mega issue or a Super God mega issue as we’re calling it.Which means it’s chockablock full of good stuff. Lots of fiction and poetry by some fantastic writers, not to mention that we’ll be posting poems from Chizine alumni, every writer who has ever been published in Chizine, the online magazine. Take a look and keep checking back. And there is a handy little visual vial that readers and those who appreciate the arts and reading can fill with donations.

Besides Chizine there is ChiZine Publications, which publishes books, and there’s the Rannu competition. And…many other promotions and contests and readings and things that CZP is involved in doing. To help the avid dark fiction fan find all this fun stuff, we’ve created the Chi hub. You can check all sorts of info at this darkly awesome site: http://chizinehub.com/

You can even check guidelines! Gasp! Yes, before you submit to any publisher you should always read the guidelines. In fact we’re going to expand an explanation on what a synopsis is. When a publisher or agent asks for a synopsis it is not the short catchy description on the jacket flap of a book. Nor, especially not, is it a movie teaser. Teasers only present the highlights and tension and we need to know, after we’ve read your three sample chapters, if there is enough story and plot to want to read further. It behooves the author to make sure we know where your story is going and how it ends. None of: “Hamid realizes the world is not as he expected after he meets the carnivorous unicorn girl and events take a turn for the worse.” Tell us that Hamid fights off the carnivorous unicorn girl only to find out she is a virtual creation of his anima. He  conquers his fears, eats his beliefs and recreates himself, quelling the hallucinations. On a new day, Hamid has become a murderer, immersing himself in a shadow world of his own imagining, which is explored in book 2.

Synopses list the main events AND give a conclusion. Check out the Chi hub and if you have any comments, please let us know.

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Reflections on Water

I found some scribbled notes in my purse and recall writing it one night while sitting in the bar. Here’s how my mind thinks at times.

Creative Commons: by Lorna is flickr

Glasses lined like hardened ethereal soldiers, the larger toward the middle protected by champagne and port glasses. Then the sturdier ranks of snifters and martinis, a veritable chessboard of glass.

We waste water so much, where there is purified ice and water in a martini glass to cool it, that ice is tossed down the drain, steaming water, heated with detergent to clean glasses. Pouring in a stream from a running tap, straight down the drain.

In the Middle Ages people died from uncleanliness, cholera, e coli, from not washing and from inadequate sanitation.

We are coming full circle, needing to be reminded to wash our hands, which was common place fifty years ago and little about super bacteria killing people in hospitals because it just wasn’t spread. There was more politeness, more structure, more manicured and precise clothing and styles but more secrets were hidden.

The shadow side was under control, but perhaps too dampened down. Now it is in full flight. It is the light and the brighter side that is becoming hidden, being tamped down. Our shadows are winning and we are still out of control: too politically correct, too balanced to the point of sterilization.

Creative Commons: D Sharon Pruitt

We make heroes of the bad guys, wearing gangster clothing and black clothes because it’s cool or hot or the new white. We cherish the gun-toting, car chases and children emulate the drug lords. We are spinning into the vortex of darkness, embracing it with heady exuberance and forgetting the balance is still needed, that we need light and dark, and should let these out in controlled ways not in darkness masking itself as the light. Evangelical crusades, religious tirades, justice by sacrificing rights. We must be careful.

And water…more precious than gold, more pricey than oil for we cannot drink these other commodities. Look at Haiti, look at Japan. Water polluted by fecal matter, by radiation, by the dead. And here we are in North America, letting the liquid more precious than all just run down our drains, grace our cups as luxuries that we don’t necessarily appreciate. I love water but I could be much more frugal about it and hope I will consider not wasting it.

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