Taking Submissions: Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts, oh my!

Deadline: December 15th, 2018
Payment: US/CA Authors – $20 USD, or 2 complimentary copies. Non US/CA Authors – $20 USD, or 1 complimentary copy

Smoking Pen Press is issuing a Call for Submissions for a short story anthology.

This will be the next title in the Read on the Run series (See A Step Outside of NormalA Bit of a TwistUncommon Pet Tales and A Wink and a Smile) and the tentative title of this new anthology is Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts. Please note that this is only a tentative title and it is not intended to encompass all possibilities.
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Story Worms: Biting the Bullet

Despite being a huge horror fan, I’m scared of a lot of things. The dark, spiders, flying, food with a face. In fact, simply leaving the house each day can feel like a test of courage. There’s just all sort of things that can go wrong, or cause a moment of awkwardness, and I can’t prepare for them all.

But when you’re a self-publishing author, you’re also running a business, and businesses require scary things like marketing and networking. We’re a funny lot, us writers. We hide away in darkened rooms, or basements, or under the eaves, sometimes in quiet corners of coffee shops and libraries if we’re particularly brave, and we spend much of our time talking to fictional characters, and living in fictional worlds. And that’s just how we like it, right? So it’s hardly surprising that social awkwardness tends to be rather prevalent among our numbers.

Last Saturday I attended a local speculative fiction literary convention. I’ve been going for a few years now, and I know a lot of people who go, and I spend the day hugging and chatting and catching up with everyone I’ve not seen for a year. But I remember my first time there. Not only did I have the anxiety of going somewhere new, with people I didn’t know, but I was set to read an excerpt from one of my short stories. The convention hosts several book launches, and the anthology the story was published in was being launched that weekend. It was absolutely terrifying. But I did it, and I’m so glad that I did.

That book launch got me recognition in that community, it made me friends in it, and it led me to what has happened today.

The one thing I always leave the convention with is ideas. Loads of them. Story ideas, project ideas, character ideas, and business ideas. Ways to push my self-publishing business forward.

I approached the event’s organiser (it actually took me 3 days to pluck up the courage to email him!) and pitched an idea I had for a workshop I wanted to run next year. And when he responded, it took me a while to pluck up the courage to open his email. Because this meant so much to me. But, with one eye squinted shut, I read his reply. Not only did he love my idea, but he asked me to bring it forward to the winter event, and he asked me to sit on one of the panel discussions.

Being on a panel discussion scares the absolute bejeezers out of me. I practically grew up on the stage, but I always had a script, a costume, a character to hide behind. This will be me. Unscripted. With a whole audience of people expecting me to say something clever and insightful. So I said yes. I bit the bullet. Because sometimes we have to do the thing that terrifies us the most.

And not just because it’s good for business. But because it’s good for us.

 

Story Worms: What’s the Worth of Permafree?

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However counter-intuitive it may seem, making the first ebook in a series free is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for indie writers. Of course, as with any equally controversial tactic, there is a very strong divide and a lot of heated debate between the yays and the nays.

I can understand the arguments on both sides; after all, why would you give away something you’ve slaved over for months, maybe even years? Surely your blood, sweat, and tears are worth some compensation. And I completely agree. I stopped submitting to non-paying and exposure only markets a long time ago, and even Horror Tree itself no longer lists them.

There’s also the argument that authors giving away their books devalue the work of all authors, with readers expecting to get ebooks for free. It’s a fair point. We’re living in a culture where people expect to get ever more for less and less. Where hard work, talent, and particularly creativity are hugely undervalued. It’s not a culture we should be perpetuating.

Others feel it encourages low-quality ebooks; rushed, unedited, with poor DIY covers. The indie market has fought hard to shake itself of its low-quality reputation, and it’s a reputation that, even now, it’s only partially rid itself of. There are still many readers refusing to read self-published books.

But the permafree model is one with a proven track record. It’s also one that focuses on the long game. It requires patience and a strong nerve. It’s not about making a quick buck (obviously), it’s about gaining loyal readers and nurturing a relationship with them over time. Why? Because a loyal reader will buy your future books, they’ll review them, and they’ll recommend them to family and friends. And I’m sure I don’t have to explain the value of that.

Like it or not, we live in a society where the consumer is king. And the king likes to try before he buys. This is hardly a new thing, nor is giving away free trials to get future sales (and, hopefully, brand loyalty). We see it with free tasters offered in supermarkets, or at farmer’s markets. We see it with the free sample packets of cosmetics in magazines. It’s been a marketing model for years, and if it wasn’t successful, no one would be doing it anymore. Mind you, a small free sample hasn’t cost these companies months and months of hard work.

So it does remain a controversial approach, and there will always be those that speak out against it. After all, should we be encouraging readers to expect books for free? But on the other hand, we’re struggling for visibility in a saturated market, and against those with much bigger marketing budgets than we have. We have to do something if we want to sell our books beyond a few copies to friends and family.

In my next Story Worms post, I’ll show how I made my book permafree, and reveal the results from the first few weeks.

In the meantime, let me know what you think about the permafree approach.

Ongoing Submissions: Ink Stains

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Payment: $5 for stories 4,999 words and under, $10 for stories 5,000-9,999 words, $15 for stories 10,000-15,000 and $20 for 15,001-20,000 words

We are proud to announce that coming soon is the new Ink Stains Anthology –  a literary journal filled with dark tales of fiction from Dark Alley Press.

The first edition of Ink Stains Anthology will hit the presses in March 2016.

Submissions are now open for pieces 3,000-20,0000 words for all works that fit under the Dark Alley Press banner, including those in the following categories:

  • Dark fiction (including lit fic)
  • Gothic fiction
  • Supernatural/paranormal fiction
  • Horror
  • Steampunk
  • Black Comedy
  • Fantasy and Sci Fi

Authors of acquired pieces for Ink Stains Anthology will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories 4,999 words and under, $10 for stories 5,000-9,999 words, $15 for stories 10,000-15,000 and $20 for 15,001-20,000 words. Payment is made upon publication. Exclusive worldwide English print and digital rights for one year are required. Previously published work will not be accepted if it is still available for purchase or is accessible online.

Ink Stains will be printed three times per year: March, June, and September.

Please submit your work through Submittable. Be sure to include a synopsis and a short bio.

Via: Dark Alley Press.

Women in Horror Month Special: Behind the Veil

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When people first meet me, they’re often surprised that I’m a horror writer. People who know me well, however, they’re not surprised at all.

Generally, what you see is what you get with me: a big grinning idiot, favourite colour yellow, loves kittens, laughs at fart jokes. And I’m scared of just about everything; spiders, the dark, cupboards under the stairs (if you want to know, check out Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch). Probably not everyone’s typical idea of a horror writer.

But those people who know me well, who’ve known me a long time, they know. They know that behind the shiny happy me, there’s what I refer to as ‘horror-me’. Horror-me is an entirely different beast altogether. Horror-me is scarily sadistic, knows several different ways to kill a person, and has an internet search history that raises serious questions about her sanity.

But, it’s not a case of me hiding horror-me behind a facade. I’m proud of horror-me, I love her. You just need to get to know me well before you meet her.

Looking back, I suppose it was inevitable for me to end up like this. My parents met one another at a UFO meeting, my father read me bedtime stories by the likes of HG Wells and John Wyndham, and by my teenage years, me and my brother were watching our way through the back catalogue of 70s and 80s horror movies. All this coincided with a lot of heavy metal music and a phase of serious goth fashion. Yeah, it was inevitable.

But it’s not always easy being a woman in the horror world. I know many female horror authors who’ve been told many times that women “shouldn’t write horror”, or even that they “can’t”. (Although, why any man would risk upsetting a woman who spends her days torturing her characters, is anyone’s guess. After all, hell hath no fury, right?)

But on a serious note, throughout the history of publishing, women have been advised, or forced, to hide their gender. Whether using their initials, opting for an androgynous pen name, or even a male one, women can’t always stand open and proud as women. Unless their writing in the ‘acceptable’ genres for a woman (romance, chick-lit, paranormal romance, more increasingly crime), it can be really tough. I’ve come across so many men that simply do not read books written by women. Seriously, they simply don’t. Have never, will never. Have a look at your own bookshelf, and see what the gender ratio is.

The fact is, many women find that they can sell more books when they disguise their gender. It’s sad, and it’s something that’s never going to change as long as women continue to hide. But I don’t blame them, not at all, it’s savvy business sense.

Maybe it’s the countless portrayals of women as nothing more than helpless victims in horror, maybe it goes further back into our cultural psyche, to when asylums were crammed with ‘hysterical’ women, or even further back to the view that women can only be one of two things; the virgin or the whore, and no one wants to associate with the latter. I can only speculate.

But this is why we need movements like Women in Horror Month, why we need to specifically promote, celebrate and champion the work of women. Because, otherwise, they remain invisible, veiled. Because women can do horror, and they can be far scarier than you can possibly imagine.

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