Tag Archives: Chizine

Bad Behavior in the Publishing World

booksI’ve been gone for awhile from my blog, and was going to come back with a tale of what’s been happening in my life. However, with recent upsets in the publishing world, and specifically Canadian speculative publishing, I feel I must speak up as well, for several reasons that will become clear.

In some ways, the world of the small press, even the big mega publishers, is often fraught with financial mismanagement and suspect deals or questionable contracts. The recent events in Canada were about long time Calgary speculative publisher EDGE Publishing and long time Toronto dark fiction publisher CZP or ChiZine Publications.

Bilodeau nigh 5-final

Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh series Book 5

Canada is rather small when it comes to population and even smaller with writing population. Most speculative authors know of each other and of any press that can publish speculative fiction. There aren’t many. Recent complaints by Marie Bilodeau not receiving more than one sales/royalty report and being blocked in other ways with the sale of her book started a discussion about EDGE. It spurred a minor rise up in the SF community and discussion on the SF Canada list, our own pro writers group. I believe the SFC executive managed to help in communicating with EDGE and Marie’s long outstanding case was resolved. EDGE has a reputation of not communicating, paying late or not paying and not getting contracts out on time. I’ve co-edited a Tesseracts anthology and been in various anthologies with EDGE. I was always paid, sometimes a bit late. I have received one contract after the book was published and a signed contract after another book was published. EDGE ran a risk that someone would pull their story without a signed contract and that would have meant the print run being pulled or face litigation. I was however, aware of the issues with EDGE.

When the EDGE accusations came out on SFC, people started mentioning issues they had had. I reported as I did above. This was not ever to say I didn’t believe other people’s reports. In fact, I very much believe them. It was only to report; I wasn’t going to lie. In this way people can determine that 75% of authors working with X publisher reported issues, or 100% did or 2% did. This is an important statistic and in any lawsuit that data would be used to show a pattern. It also indicates if a publisher is going through a tough phase, or if they have a regular habit of bad behavior. EDGE’s reputation is known but not everyone knows of it.

Kurtz

Angel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz

Then out came ChiZine Publication’s debacle. It’s been all over the web, on people’s blogs, on Facebook and I cannot report it all here. (This will be long enough as it is.) However File 770 will give anyone reading here a place to start. It started with Ed Kurtz’s complaints about rights and payment. It spread like wildfire with many authors reporting no or late payments and statements. Then it spread to allegations of misconduct, of gaslighting, of ostracizing and even trying to break up relationships.

This was extremely shocking stuff, especially because I considered co-owner Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi friends. I attended their wedding many years ago. I read slush for CZP, did a bit of editing, hosted the Chiseries readings in Vancouver for 2 years, and was co-editor of the online poetry section of Chizine with Carolyn Clink. I live on the West Coast. CZP is in Ontario. I didn’t even see Brett and Sandra once a year and maybe talked via phone once a year. I knew of one fight between them and another friend but that can always be chalked up to differences of opinion or personalities. Other than that, I had no clue. One blog poster has said, “we told you but you wouldn’t listen.” However, whoever the “we” were didn’t tell the “you” that included me or most of SF Canada. It’s hard to “hear” when you’re not part of whatever group is considered the “you,” so in many cases geographic areas of writers might be very well unaware of what is happening elsewhere. Perhaps Ontario authors knew but most of us did not.

Yes, I was shocked. I was disturbed and I lost sleep over it. I read many of the posts by Michael Matheson, Sam Beiko, Helen Marshall, Beverly Bambury and others. I know most of these people professionally; many of them worked for CZP, and I have talked with them in the past. I was so surprised, but I believed their statements. Unless there is a mass conspiracy, I would have had to stick my head in the sand to disbelieve the sheer number of complaints. There may be nuances to tales that haven’t been revealed. That, I don’t know.

What ensued next was just as disturbing to me. I posted on SFC, probably within the first 24-48 hours of the wildfire, stating I hadn’t seen this behavior, only what I had worked on for them, but that I was also on the West Coast and was not physically in the vicinity. Again, as with EDGE, I only posted my experiences; I didn’t lie. I also said, let’s see what they post about these allegations.

Immediately I was attacked and accused of ignorance, of negating the other reports and god knows what else. I stated again, that even in a court of law the accused gets a chance to speak. I reiterated that this did not mean I didn’t believe the statements. What ensued after was not pretty. Messages came out indicating that if you didn’t say anything then you were against the maligned authors, pretty much the black and white “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” belief. People were attacked, just because they were men or because of some statement about publishing or rights or this or that. If this were a street brawl there would have been bodies. There were members with their own agenda or trauma who will always see every statement through that particular lens. There were others who deliberately tried to misconstrue every comment, who intentionally dug into every word so that they could rise up in righteous anger. There was no asking to elaborate, just harsh judgment and accusations. Other people raised the torches and pitchforks. Some handed out blanket judgments of everyone on SFC or of this group or that group. Some people left the list. I’m sure some people unfriended me on Facebook. I don’t know so I can’t be offended but if deliberately misinterpreting my words is the way to go, then I don’t need them reading my posts.

What I did do was stop posting. After all, I was attacked once. I would now be seen as the enemy and attacked again. With the trauma and grief I’ve dealt with in the last year, this was triggering me and that’s partly why this post has come out several weeks after the initial event. I might never post again on SFC. I might let my membership lapse. I don’t know but I certainly don’t feel safe posting anymore. That’s a lot of fallout over one publisher and a lot of evidence of things that need to be fixed.

Burning-book-mrtwismBut are EDGE and CZP the only two publishers who have indulged in bad behavior? And is it only Canadian publishers? Absolutely not. I’ve experienced it myself more than once, from big companies to small.

I wrote articles for magazines called Best Whistler and Opulence. The first never paid me. The second was so far behind or just not paying writers that the writers rose up in force, contacted advertisers and formed a class action lawsuit. I helped get everyone in contact. I had played my cards close, having been burned by Best Whistler, and never let the amount they owed me get too high, also leaving enough time in between articles that they would often pay. Though before the mass uprising I had to threaten a lawyer to get my money and then leave. For that reason I didn’t join the lawsuit as I had no outstanding payments owed.

Even before that I used to copyedit for NY book packager Byron Preiss. They sometimes did work for other publishers and I was copyediting four related books in a faeries series. It was cancelled I think after book II but I’d copyedited book III. I spent a year fighting with them since they were arguing over who should pay: Penguin or Byron Preiss. In the end, I had to threaten lawyer to get less than $500 measly bucks. One of the biggest houses in SF exhibited disorganization when they lost not one but two copyediting tests I did for them.

Then there was Zharmae Publishing. Never heard of them? I’m not surprised. They were new. They gave me a massive contract that asked for all rights in perpetuity throughout the universe. Yes that was the exact wording. I sent them a sample of the SFWA contract. I figured they were earnest but misguided; we haggled the contract. “Tower of Strength” came out in the Irony of Survival. The true irony was surviving as a writer. I’m sure maybe eight people bought this anthology. For over a year after publication they never sent me my copies and they literally said the cheque was in the mail. The payment was $100, not very much and they knew it would be more expensive for me to get a lawyer.

What they didn’t know was I had a friend who was an entertainment lawyer and for free he had his assistant draft a letter. In 24 hours I had my pay but they still tried to wiggle out of the books. I had those in a week. These are just my stories of dealing with publishers. Publishing houses can still mismanage their operations, either intentionally or out of inexperience and bad business practices. I had other publishers disappear into the dark of night without ever responding on submissions or acceptances. That’s almost par for the course these days.

More recently I was invited to write for an anthology that was royalty based. I’ve not done this before and I will never do it again. There was no editing done on the stories and the publisher never gave any royalty reports. I never received a penny, or a hard copy of the book, only a PDF. I’m sure any sales that were done with the minimal marketing went to the publisher, and the editor who did nothing to deserve payment. But…I am unable to complain about this publisher. This is a case of me being a small pea in a pod, with little clout, not known well, and the publisher being a very well known member of a large organization. I don’t feel I would ever be heard or believed in such a situation. How does one complain to either SFWA’s or HWA’s grievance committees knowing that this person will probably have wind of it and that it could end up getting me ostracized in the writing community.

I need to mention that lawsuits and grievances have probably happened to many bookof the big publishing house’s. you don’t always hear of them because of NDAs. After all, entertainment lawyers make their money interpreting and looking for loopholes in contracts. Sometimes the publisher is to blame but sometimes an author can be to blame as well. There are notoriously difficult writers. If they’re famous enough, publishers will grin and bear it, but if they’re newer, then authors might be booted to the curb. It’s good to remember that not every complaint on any side may be founded and that it’s always best to hear both sides of the story. I believe this fundamentally, even in the workplace.

This is the power publishers and editors hold over writers. We want to be published. There’s more of us than there are spots to fill. People will often be paid peanuts for massive rights grabs by the publisher. The publisher can blacklist you. Big and well-known publishers and editors can spread enough word that you are a difficult author so that no one will touch you. It could be game over for whatever sales we can get. So yes, I’m still the victim of some publishing bad behavior that I cannot report on. And my rule is to always try to treat everyone kindly because you don’t how it can come back to bite you on the ass.

I’ve become more and more cautious and don’t get caught as much, and I’m a barracuda in going after my rights. I don’t care if I have to nag. I will keep on. But we don’t always know when a publisher might change or a new publisher might just forget to get contracts out or runs out of money. Even vigilance can’t save us all from getting caught.

There are various writers organizations such as the Writers Union, HWA, SFWA, etc. that can go to bat for authors but if one is not a member it’s not as easy. And as I’ve shown, membership won’t necessarily save you. There is no easy solution to all of this. Sometimes an author thinks they’re the only one that has the issue. I guess all we can do is communicate better, to grievance committees, to each other and listen calmly. We should be trying to hear all sides and not leaping to conclusions and condemnations without weighing everything. The era of social media means that judgment can come without knowing the facts. I just know I do not have the energy to be attacked by someone’s perceived assumption about my words. Try asking for clarification first. And publishers need to have better business practices. We’re probably going to end up with a gap in Canadian speculative publishing, which is already very slim. I guess we’ll see what the future holds.

 

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Chi Reading Series Vancouver

writing, readings, speculative fiction, Canadian authors, Chizine, CZP

The ChiSeries features published authors every quarter. Also in Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

Coming next week  is the third event in the ChiSeries Vancouver, which Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall first started in Toronto. I chair the Vancouver branch and we started in April with Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa and Steve Erikson, with a second in July with Eileen Kernaghan, Linda DeMuelemeester and Hiromi Goto. This third reading has Peter Darbyshire (also writing as Peter Roman) author of Mona Lisa Sacrifice, Melia McClure with her first novel The Delphi Room, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, editor of Innsmouth Free Press and author of the collection This Strange Way of Dying.

dark fiction, speculative fiction, Canadian authors

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room debuts this month.

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room is a quirky, darkly surreal novel currently out from ChiZine Publications. She has adapted The Delphi Room into a screenplay. Her fiction has been shortlisted in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) National Literary Awards, and she is the editor of Meditation & Health magazine, which is distributed in multiple locations in the United States and Canada as well as in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Melia grew up dancing and acting, and now, when not penning strange tales populated by quirky characters, or creating other varieties of writing, she can be found collecting vintage coats, dabbling with paint and perfecting her Charleston.

Click on Melia’s name above and you’ll get a taste of her very evocative writing. If you can’t make Oct. 9, she is having the official launch of her book on Oct. 18 at the Cottage Bistro at 4470 Main St.

Canadian authors, dark fiction, speculative writing

Peter Darbyshire’s novels have received rave reviews.

Peter Darbyshire is the author of the books The Warhol Gang and Please, which won the ReLit Prize for Best Alternative Novel. He’s also the author of the supernatural thriller The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, under the pen name Peter Roman. When he has time, he writes strange short stories, but they’re never as strange as real life.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia lives in Vancouver with her family and two cats. Her short stories have appeared in places such as The Book of Cthulhu, Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. She has edited several anthologies, including Dead North and Fungi. Her first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, is out this year. Her first novel, Sound Fidelity, will be out in 2014.

publishers, editors, Canadian author, Mexican writers

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is editor of Innsmouth Free Press and author of This Strange Way of Dying.

These authors have impressive writing styles and they’ll be reading from their works next week. The event is free, as are all the Chiaroscuro Readings Series (sponsored in part by ChiZine Publications) across Canada. Other reading events are in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto (which receive some sponsorship from the Ontario Arts Council), where national chair and co-founder Sandra Kasturi has been running monthly readings for about four years.

It’s a great way to spend a rainy or cool October evening. Come out and meet the authors and listen to them read. If you’re in other parts of Canada, check out the ChiSeries there and keep an eye out for more events in other cities in the future. The next one for Vancovuer will be in January. https://www.facebook.com/ChiSeries

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Just Another Cyber Monday

I don’t have a lot to report in the writing scheme of things. I’m working on some stories and reading slush still for Tesseracts 17. We’ll probably have another batch of rejections and “hold for further consideration” to go out in the next few weeks. Remember, if you’re submitting, you must be Canadian, expat Canadian or living in Canada. We’re looking for something from every province and territory. So far, there are very slim to no pickings for NW Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Manitoba. I would love to see stories or poetry from these areas, as well as from younger writers. Spread the word.

In the meantime, if you would like to pick up my book, Embers Amongst the Fallen, for your shelf or as a holiday gift, it’s on sale till tomorrow for $10.95 instead of $16.95  (UK and Euro prices are cheaper as well). This is for the print version available through Amazon. I’ll put the e-version on sale in a week, if I have time. This is a reprint collection of speculative stories, from fantasy to SF, with a bit of darkness sprinkled in between.

In the non-cyber world, I recently realized that Vancouver doesn’t seem to have much of a speculative community. There are writers and artists scattered about but we don’t always know each other. I noticed how much stuff Toronto does (colloquia, readings, other author events) and that Calgary has IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) and I thought, why should they have all the fun?

So ,last Friday I held a cocktail party and invited writers and spouses/children to come to my place and mingle. It turned out to be a lot of fun and about 20 people came (my place isn’t large so it worked well). Everyone enjoyed themselves so we’ll try another one in January. I’m hoping that as we build community, ideas will germinate and grow and we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Chizine Publications also sponsors the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Toronto. In April we’re hoping to launch in Ottawa and Winnipeg and I’m hoping we can do the same in Vancouver. This will involve published authors reading from their work and receiving an honorarium, and raffles for bags of books at a bar. I’m still searching out venues that would work and be central enough that people can get to them on various forms of transportation.

If you’re another Vancouver speculative writer, reader, artist, drop me a line and I’ll make sure you know about the next Specfic Cocktail Party. In the meantime, get out there and read.

 

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Writing: Aurora Award Nominations

writing, Aurora Awards, poetry, fiction, speculative fiction

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

Again this year, I’m eligible for the Aurora Award, one of Canada’s speculative writing awards. My stories or poems have to first be nominated, and the top nominations in each category are put onto the voting ballot. That’s usually 3-5 nominees per category. To nominate and vote, one must be Canadian or ex-pat Canadian and must pay a $10 registration.

Nominations close on March 31st, and voting begins on April 16th. If you’re interested in registering, you can go to the Aurora site. To view a list of eligible Canadian works, go to on of these two sites:

http://www.canadiansf.com/node/161 or http://friendsmerrilcontest.com/2011-can-SF/

My works are listed here. Reprints are not allowed but fiction or poetry published in other countries is and two of my stories and two of my poems were published in the UK and US respectively.

*Anderson, Colleen. “A Book By Its Cover.” Mirror Shards. Thomas Carpenter, ed. Bad Moon Books, Aug. 2011.

Anderson, ColleenIt’s Only Words.” The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies (England). D.F. Lewis, ed. Nemonymous Press, June 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Tasty Morsels.” Polluto #8 Magazine (England). Victoria Hooper, ed. Aug., 2011.

*Anderson, Colleen. “A Good Catch.” Polu Texni. Dawn Albright, ed. April, 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Darkside.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. May, 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Shadow Relams.” Witches & Pagans #23. Anne Newkirk Niven, ed. BBI Media. Aug. 2011.

Anderson, Colleen. “Sundance.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. June, 2011.

And you can read my poem, “Queen of Heaven and Earth” now up on the Eternal Haunted Summer site.

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Writing Update: January 2012

publishing, speculative fiction, anthologies, poetry, fiction, stories

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

It’s been a while since I did much in the writing department. Last fall slowed down for various reasons. So here’s a recap of last year. First I have several works from last year eligible for this year’s Aurora Award, one of Canada’s speculative writing awards. If you’re Canadian (current, expat or living abroad) you are both eligible for works published and able to nominate or vote. I believe the $10 fee now covers both nominating and voting. A list of works by Canadians is viewable at the Canadian SF Works Database. My eligible works for last year are:

Short Fiction

Poems

  • A Good Catch.” Polu Texni. Dawn Albright, ed. April, 2011. (can be read online)
  • Darkside.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. May, 2011.
  • Shadow Relams.” Witches & Pagans #23. Anne Newkirk Niven, ed. BBI Media. Aug. 2011.
  • Sundance.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. June, 2011.

There were a few other things published last year but they were reprints. You can nominate me or any other Canadian writer until March 31st and you can vote starting on April 16th. Along that line there is a short review of the Mirror Shards anthology, and Des Lewis has gathered all the reviews for the Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies.

In the world of new, some time this year my poem “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” should be coming out in Bull Spec. “Gingerbread People” in Chilling Tales 2 has now been postponed until 2013. 😦 And my poem “Queen of Heaven and Earth” will be coming out in the spring issue of Eternal Haunted Summer.

I’ve been trying to finish my German steampunk story but still cannot come up with a good resolution, though it’s mostly done. I’m working on a tale about skin and psychopaths for another anthology if I can work out the structure. It’s being elusive. And still chipping at the novel. I also made January submission month and sent out quite a few poems and stories. Now I have to buckle down and get more

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Writing Update

writing, publishing, poetry, fiction, stories, horror, dark fiction, magazines, anthology

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It’s time to do another update on the writing front. Right now everything is happening quickly and I’m very busy so I can’t even keep up with myself. A new poem, “Sundance,” is up at Chizine, actually it went up last week, as part of the mega-issue, which is being done to raise donations to keep the magazine free. Chizine, as a magazine, has been going for ten years and had a sponsor who left the magazine high and dry last year when they didn’t pay promised fees. This has meant many of us have continued to work for free or nearly nothing so that the writers could get paid. If you want to read some stellar fiction and poetry there are thirteen weeks’ worth with over a dozen pieces in each week. “Darkside” was published about a month ago on  Chizine as well.

Besides Sundance, my poem “Shadow Realms” is coming out soon in Witches & Pagans #23. The poem “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” was published last year and is nominated for an Aurora Award. A third poem, “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” will be coming out in Bull Spec but I don’t know what issue yet. These last two magazines are print only. As well, the reprint of the poem “Obsessions” should be coming out soon in gothic anthology Candle in the Attic Window from Innsmouth Press. While these poems could all be considered speculative, “Kore’s Innocence” and “Leda’s Lament” are part of a Greek revisioning series.

On the fiction front, my story “It’s Only Words” specifically written for The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, will be the opening story in the anthology. It’s going to print as we speak and is edited Des Lewis. “Tasty Morsels” should be out sometime this summer in Polluto #8. They call themselves a magazine of anti-pop culture. These two publications are out of England. “A Book By Its Cover” was also bought for the Mirror Shards anthology, which is a collection of horror stories about augmented reality.

I’m also on a steampunk kick and sent one story, about blimps, off into the submission world. I’ve just finished a second, which I wrote specifically for an anthology but no idea if it will be accepted. It would be considered horror or at least dark. The third, “Nightingale,” is still in the works as I have to figure out how my protagonist breaks out of the antagonist’s trap. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Emperor and the Nightingale” but very different. I still keep meaning to get back to my novel and really need to do so soon. I just have to get the brain to stop churning out other ideas. I think I’ll get this last story out of the way and backburner the rest so that I can get back to the novel in July. My goal is to have the novel completed by next year so I do have to get going.

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Social Media and a Couple of Regular Joes

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When I was at the recent World Horror convention in Austin, Texas I was looking forward to it for a number of reasons. It was a social event, a place to make professional connections, meet new friends, have a vacation and put names to faces. With email and social media I am sometimes communicating to people but I have no clue what they look like. I’m on the West Coast and the rest of Chizine staff are around Toronto and Montreal. Though I’ve met a few, there were many strangers and it was a good time to refresh the old acquaintances and meet the new ones.

Also, as part of SF Canada and the Chicago writers list Twilight Tales, there were names that I’d never put a face to. I got to meet John Everson and Sylvia Schulz, as well as seeing again Yvonne Navarro and Weston Ochse who I had met once years ago. I’d met Dave Nickle (Eutopia, Monstrous Affections), Gemma Files (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns) and Claude Lalumiere (The Door to Lost Pages) before, and Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi are friends. Still, I had last seen them in 2003. That’s a long time.

SF Canada is Canada’s professional speculative writers’ association and though we talk online we’re spread out through one of the world’s largest countries. We rarely get to meet in person. I met some of Chizine’s authors such as Bob Boyczuk (Horror Story and Other Horror Stories, Nexus: Ascension–I met him once many years ago), Brent Hayward (Filaria, Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter). I ran into fellow BC writer Sandra Wickham whose first two sales are in Edge Publications Evolve vampire series, as well as editor of Chilling Tales Michael Kelly, including authors Suzanne Church, John Nakamura Remy who read from Rigor Amortis (zombie love tales doncha know).

There were many other authors, old and new so it’s easy to be flooded with new names. And of course there was Joe, who again I’d only talked to through email. There he is working the con, in charge of the dealer’s room. I’m surprised because I know Joe is awfully busy working for CBC radio and that he doesn’t even get time to write much so I see his name and go, “Joe! So nice to put a name to a face. Colleen Anderson!” “Oh hi,” says he, looking perhaps a bit surprised or maybe that’s his natural look.

So in a typical effusive, friendly Canadian way I chat off and on to him all weekend. “Joe, I didn’t know you had books out. Through Pinnacle, really? Wow, Joe I didn’t know you were writing zombie fiction.” And of course I’m vaguely thinking. Wow, I thought Joe was too busy to write novels and geeze, he didn’t seem the zombie type. He’s never mentioned it but then of course, I’ve never met him and what he says on the rare occasion he posts to SF Canada is never about zombies. Well whaddya know.

So I spend all weekend acting like I kind of know Joe, virtually because I kinda did but only in that nebulous sense where you can say, hey we were at the same party and chatted about Degas. After all, WHC is partly about meeting people and having fun and putting names to faces, right?

Joe McKinney

Joe Mahoney

Well it was, but it  didn’t register until I was home and recovering from lack of sleep (I can blame it on that, can’t I?) that I’d mixed up my Joes. SF Canada’s Joe is Joe Mahoney and he works for CBC. The Joe I was talking to is Joe McKinney, zombie master. I also work with someone named McKinney. What do they have in common (the Joes)? Well I’d never met either before and they both write speculative fiction and they both have grey hair. Duh. Did I feel a fool.

You can see the two Joes here. They both have full cheeks and gray hair so considering I’d only seen a picture of Joe Mahoney once before I think I can understand my mistake. And poor Joe McKinney was either thinking, oh she’s just one of my fans or who is that crazy woman?

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World Horror and its Aftermath Part I

World Horror Convention 2011

This last weekend I was in Austin, Texas for the World Horror Convention. I arrived on Wednesday, relishing the heat after our record cold April, and was picked up by Portland author Camille Alexa, former resident of Austin. We were meeting up with Boyd Harris, publisher of Cutting Block Press and one of the committee members for the convention. Since Camille was off to her own meetings Boyd pretty much did two round trips from the hotel to the restaurant to get fourteen people together for dinner.

Now Texas is the land of tequila and barbecue; oh and Tex Mex so we ate at Polvos, a Mexican restaurant, with pitchers of tangy Margaritas. There were many people including Bailey Hunter, of the retired Dark Recesses magazine and cover artist for some (maybe all) of the Cutting Block covers, R.J. Cavender, editor with Cutting Block; Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi of Chizine Publications and many other people. I ate camerons diablos, or spicy prawns. I would say it was pretty good but a couple of my prawns were off and with such a crowd I couldn’t get the waiter. After a seafood poisoning experience in Baltimore at a World Fantasy Con I decided not to eat the suspicious prawn. The salad that Camille had was pretty bland and unimaginative. She had to ask for salad dressing; what kind of salad has no dressing. That’s just rabbit food.

Afterward, many people went back to the hotel but Boyd dropped Bailey, Rena and me off at an Irish looking pub called Il Fado. I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings with its organic, meandering interior, polished trees crawling up the walls to the ceiling and various Viking art and plaques. Boyd and R.J. joined us after the two trips for dropping people off. By the time we got back to Boyd’s to sleep that night, and more talking it was about 4am, a typical start to a convention.

The next day we went off to the Crown and Anchor for lunch. In Austin, whose logo is “Keep Austin Weird” food and well-drinks can be very cheap with beer and hard alcohol only costing around $3. Wines are more on the average of $6-$8. Crown and Anchors food was pub food. My chicken sandwich was standard fare. Then we hit the Doubletree Austin, a nice and airy hotel with a central courtyard consisting of trees and fountains an a swimming pool on the second floor.

I missed the opening ceremonies, as I always seem to do and ended up spending most of the time in the bar, drinking and chatting with people. Friend and past editor (of a story of mine) Claude Lalumiere, an excellent writer, also met up with us. We walked down the street (Austin has a ring road/highway that encircles the downtown and it’s busy) to a little Japanese restaurant. I ate light since I’d had a late lunch. Friday truly began the convention.

I began with a pitch workshop. This is something unique to any con I’ve attended. Kudos to the WHC folks and Rhodi Hawk for putting together the workshop, and letting us practice how we would pitch our novels to agents or editors. I had to really work mine out as it’s a complex storyline so this truly helped. In the afternoon I interviewed Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, editors and owners of Chizine Publications. The hour-long interview covered Brett and Sandra’s writing careers and reasons for getting into dark fiction, as well as publishing. When I asked Brett, why dark fiction, his answer was “Why am I bald?” It’s that inherent to him. Sandra read a piece of Brett’s work and two of her poems, then we talked about the evolution of the magazine, the style of printing they do as well as where CZP is going and the bumps along the way. I hope to publish the full interview at some point in the near future.

After that I checked out the dealers’ room. Dark fiction has a lot of independent presses and there were publishers from the US, Canada and Britain. I might be biased since I edit for Chizine but by far the covers on CZP books are more imaginative and the best compared to the others. Edge Publications is getting better covers too. There are far too many red, bloody, skull-covered books in horror writing. CZP goes farther with great design and concepts. I’m going to do a cover art review of the books I brought home with me at some point soon.

The evening wound up…or began…with the art reception, which was small but had some stellar art, the Damnation Books launch party and then the Chizine launch party. Here we chatted, drank margaritas and wine, ate hot dogs (for those who dared like Dave Nickle and Peter Straub) and looked at the goods. A few people read excerpts from their stories so it was a great way to sample the merchandise and the hospitality. I met so many people, which to me is the sign of a good con, that I can’t remember them all. I met the minotaur guys who are working on a full length animation. I chatted with a writer who is slow on submitting, and I sampled wine and margaritas, Texas style. Most attendees are writers, editors and publishers but there was also the magician Jonathon Frost who’s interested it putting a dark slant to his prestidigitation. I should also mention that I got to put faces to all of the CZP staff since I’d only talked with them through email before the weekend.

The night was still young at 2 am but since I was fighting a cold I chose to go to bed and not be completely insane. This post will be continued in the next day or two with the rest of the convention.

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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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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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