Author: Angelique Fawns

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Jim Phoenix, Founder Czykmate Productions & Haunted MTL

An Interview with Jim Phoenix, Founder Czykmate Productions & Haunted MTL

By Angelique Fawns 

 

There is a dark and creepy place lurking on the internet for those that LOVE all things that go bump in the night. Hauntedmtl.com publishes horror news, criticism, and original fiction.  Looking to learn about the hottest new survival-horror video game? Need some direction finding the best in scary television and movies? How about some original dark fiction? Jim Phoenix and his team keep the daily horror feed current and prolific.

 

Haunted MTL is also announcing a new project called The Undead and Uncut -Live! It’s a podcast running just for the month of October, where everyday is a new episode building to an exciting climax Halloween. Any and all “listens” equal donations to the Ottawa food bank for Canadian Thanksgiving. Also anyone who donates to a food bank this month can show the receipt to @HauntedMTL, and get a free PDF copy of their new anthology 101 Proof Horror, which is for sale right now on Amazon.

 

Czykmate Productions is the publishing branch and produce anthologies and novels/novellas. They look for work that is “strong, punk, dark, humorous, and just strange enough to be true.” 

 

 I discovered this gem when I found a call on Submittable from Czykmate Productions, “How HORROR-able”.  I uploaded one of my very first short stories “Death Metal Fan” in February of 2019 and it was accepted. It was the first money I ever received from my fiction, and I was thrilled to make the $2.00 US. 

 

Jim Phoenix is also a very interesting and mysterious character. When asked about his day job, he said, “I used to write scripts and book adaptations but put that away once Czykmate started up. I do have ‘another life’ outside of horror, but I can’t say what it is here. Let’s just say my current day job isn’t exactly ‘open’ about things.”

 

Well, now I’m intrigued! Let’s learn more about the man and his mission…

 

AF: How has your company evolved since you opened your figurative doors?

 

JP: We started out ‘way back when’ as a punk ‘zine. It was something I wanted to start for people who normally wouldn’t have a voice in publishing. Our first venture was Ricky’s Back Yard named after my friend’s brother who died way too young. He was a new punk that wrote his own songs – something damn rare – and the name was a tribute to him. Our ‘zine was anthology based and we would have certain themes where all the money (not profit–all of it) went to the charity that was tied to the theme.

 

Back then it was Lizzie Nicodemus doing all the cover art and Jenni Hill reading the subs. I made sure that the people who we accepted got paid and did me best for internal design. We experimented a lot back then (still do, really) and hit major conventions like the AWP (The Association of Writer’s and Writing Programs) to help us grow. I remember ‘inventing’ a Trello board slush pile scheme because we didn’t have enough money to use Submittable. That’s how raw things were.

 

That moved slowly to Czykmate with an experiment of ‘ebook only’ authors where I likened it to ‘not ready for prime time’ but they had ‘something’. The result was offering an ‘ebook’ only contract where if the ebooks sold enough, we’d offer a print  book contract to the author. We were getting bigger then and, unfortunately, Lizzie and Jenni had other obligations so they parted ways.  I did most of the ebook covers and interiors (again, learning form conventions like AWP on how to do it) and went to out source the print books. With Lizzie and Jenni gone, I had to move into the freelance market to round off the staff (readers, editors, cover, interiors). 

 

From Czykmate came HauntedMTL. I’ve had this ‘real life hauntings’ idea for some time now. Originally, the website showcased some ghost hunting material that I was part of in Montreal with Taylor G and Stephanie R. We even had a pilot filmed where the concept was not so much ‘we believe everything’ but ‘we doubt’. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll dig that old pilot off…

 

After the ghost hunting died down (no pun), I turned the focus to covering horror. We’ve kept the charity grass roots and are huge supporters of LGBTQ and BLM issues, as well as food banks, retired veterans, and other projects of the more political nature. In the early days of that the site was just me–then Dave Davis came around. I gave him a shot as a writer and he expanded into designer and creative push for the site. I started recruiting from Submittable and put people in. Now we have reviewers, original content (short stories and art), a line of podcasts, and even a bit of swag available on Red Bubble. The future has a few tricks in store (video and radio dramas and choose your own adventures with RPGs and oh my! I’ve said too much!) but it’s always family first. I don’t have staff–I have a horror family with Brannyk, EV, Payne (yes, ‘that’ Doctor Payne), LJ, Parz, Shane, two Nicoles, Court, Dave, Vicki, Jenn, Jake, Brianna, Sarah, Rachel, Wade, Scream, Ruby, 3C3, Kayla, and Kota. And, of course, all of our listeners (special shout outs to Eric Gengle, a Missouri friendo of Brannyk’s, and someone who beat the dog act, and everyone lurking daily on the site and on our feeds–come say hi!).

 

AF: What kind of writing do you do yourself?

 

JP: I had a career as a script and novel writer (read as ghost writer). I got tired of ghost writing. It felt weird getting money for something I could never put on my CV. I still like to write, though. I have a novel in short stories that is coming out in 2021 where every chapter is a stand alone short story (yet they are all linked together like a traditional novel). After that, there is the Choose Your Own Adventure along with a YA novel. Believe it or not, I’ve got a card game coming out with an old friend (hi, Mike!) in 2021, too. 

 

AF: You certainly have a lot of irons in the fire! Is there any profit margin in your website/publishing?

 

JP: I’ve never done it for the profit. It’s always been about creating a safe space for horror fans. To be fair, we still give most of our money to various charities. Heck, there are people like Payne and Cleaves on my staff who have donated all of their pay to charity. I think giving people a voice, especially underrepresented people, is far more important that money. We used to use Google ads, but I got sick of banning so many crap political ads (and that damn earwax ad gave me the willies–if you use Google Ads, you KNOW the one I’m talking about). I’m a bit weird about money. It’s just funny little numbers to me. I’m definitely not a ‘money beats soul’ person (as Morrison would say). 

 

AF: There is an alternative, avant garde feel to your website. What sort of stories and/or writing are you typically looking for?

 

JP: Authentic. Make it real–from you. Don’t retell the same ol’. Grab me. Make me shiver. Make me go HOLY FUCK DID YOU SEE THAT?! It all comes down to being real with your art. Hone your craft and send in the best version of that story you can. 

 

AF: Thank you for picking up one of my very first stories. Why did you like Death Metal Fan?

 

JP: Remember when I said ‘grab me’? Check this hook: ‘The weather was unbearably hot. Smoking, steaming, bra-dripping hot. Mia lay on top of her bed with a fan blowing air on her body. Moderate relief.’ 

Let’s break that down. It’s hot out. How hot? Smoking. Steaming. Bra-Dripping. Hot. Some writers ignore rhythm in their work, which is a shame–BUT–when someone does have a great sense of rhythm it shows up that much brighter. I loved the beats here. This play goes throughout your writing–‘yada yada yada. Ya right.’ That plays out as Bum-pa Bum-pa Bum-pa. BUM BUM! Alex Van Halen would be jealous of that rhythm. 

 

https://hauntedmtl.com/originals/death-metal-fan-angelique-fawns/

 

AF: Your contract has a clause where the contributor has to pay $1000 if the work turns out to have been previously published. Why do you have that clause?

 

JP: Previously published can mean two things:

 

1) The author ripped someone off directly (boo!) or were using lyrics because they’ve seen their favorite authors do it (I think most people who haven’t studied writing need a big lesson…ready for it…here we go: If you didn’t write the song–then please don’t include the lyrics in your writing. Lyrics are expensive for rights and we don’t have Random House’s money.)

 

2) They published it before somewhere — maybe with another publisher or even a blog — and don’t own the rights for a republish. Not owning rights to republish puts us in a shitty spot. Don’t be that guy. Also, if you put something in a blog–and gave it away for free–why would I pay you for it? Why would a customer pay you for reading something they just read for free?  Writing is a business. 

 

AF: What are your plans for your website in the future?

 

JP: The immediate future includes an audio version of an exquisite corps for October. We are recording 30 one-minute story extensions October first ‘live’ and then releasing them one per day until Halloween as a special episodic podcast feature. Also–very exciting–short film and radio story originals are coming your way! COVID 19 makes some filming a bit tricky, but there are always possibilities…

 

AF: Any advice for others who want to start up a horror destination on the web like yourself?

 

JP: Family first. Don’t chase followers. Build a product people want to see and they will come to you. Be real with people. Don’t be a dick (Jim Breuer rule #1). Have fun. Learn from people (shout outs to SexyFandom, BlueBlood, Molly, Amelia G, Forrest Black, Sandy King-Carpenter, S.R., Darcy n Joe Bob, the Shudder crew, Kevin Smith, Sharknado crew, Tony Todd, Norm MacDonald, and everyone else that pushed, taught, gamed, and help us along the way–luv on ya). 

 

Most of all–do it with a purpose. There are so many amazing horror voices that need amplifying–if you are one of them, drop me a line. If you are in a position of power–help others. Be kind–I guess it all boils down to that. Just be kind. 

Taking Submissions: It Came From the Closet

Deadline: October 31st, 2020
Payment: Contributors Copy and an unknown amount
Theme: Queer memoirs deepened, amplified, illuminated, and (re)considered through the lens of a various horror movies

Horror movies hold a complicated space in the hearts of the queer community: historically misogynist, and more than occasionally homo- and transphobic, the genre has also been inadvertently feminist and open to queer readings, thanks to tropes such as: the circumspect and resilient “final girl,” body possession, costumed villains, secret identities, things that go bump in the closet. Horror films have also been, for many of us, a safe space where our closeted selves could hide in plain sight among our cis, heteronormative peers and, for two hours in the dark, share in the camaraderie of fear and vulnerability without giving ourselves away…

It Came from the Closet will be, at its core, a strong and eclectic collection of queer memoirs deepened, amplified, illuminated, and (re)considered through the lens of a various horror movies (international, obscure, classic, mainstream – open to all!).

Submissions should be personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction ranging from 2500-7500 words, though length and format/structure are flexible if the writing calls for it. We are committed to inclusivity along the LGBTQIA spectrum, particularly QTBIPOC voices.

Previously unpublished work preferred.

Final Submission Deadline: October 31, 2020.

Contributor Payment: All contributors will receive a copy of It Came from the Closet upon publication and a modest honorarium (amount TBD).

Send queries, pitches, questions, and submissions to: [email protected]

Via: Lambda Literary.

Interview with Frog Jones, Acquisition Editor for Impulsive Walrus Books

Interview with Frog Jones, Acquisition Editor for Impulsive Walrus Books

By Angelique Fawns 

 

Frog Jones and Ester Jones aren’t sitting at home, lurking behind masks, while waiting for this pandemic to blow over. Instead they’ve chosen to use the global shutdown as inspiration and create a fun and thoughtful anthology. Socially Distant: The Quarantales is a collection of twenty-one stories from all over the world. Writers from India, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States ponder what life will look like in the near future if we remain socially distant. 

 

Impulsive Walrus opened its doors in January 2018 based on a whimsical moment at a book launch party. Frog told a bunch of party-goers a story about cows, a catapult and a coconut. By the end of the yarn, the whole room of authors wanted to take two lines from the story and write their own cow tale. 

 

Well It’s Your Cow: An Anecdotal Anthology was the very first book published by the duo. Since then, they have continued to produce fantasy and science-fiction works. I met Frog and Ester (digitally of course) when I submitted to their call for stories about what life might look like if the quarantine isn’t lifted. 

 

Socially Distant: The Quarantales is available for pre-order now.

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DMTZPXV/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/socially-distant

 

What was your inspiration for Socially Distant: The Quarantales?

 

Well, the obvious is the big one.  But the more specific part of that was when one of my friends told me about her black-market hairdresser.  Frankly, and I detail this in the anthology’s introduction, the idea  of edgy hair-stylists shanking each other for turf just sort of struck me as really interesting–and I thought I might not be the only author  

like that.  So I put the call out, and I can now say that I didn’t know the half of what I was getting into.

 

What hiccups and issues have you had publishing during a pandemic?

 

Well…the biggest one is marketing.  Normally, that’s done by the speaking tour to various conventions–obviously, that’s not happening this year.  Which means we’ve had to adapt a whole new method of launching our works out to the world.  Actually doing the introverted work of assembling an anthology or writing a novel is pretty much  unchanged… but telling people about what we’ve done has gotten a lot  harder.

 

Tell us about your background and day job?

 

In the day, I’m the Chief Public Defender of Mason County, Washington.  I’ve been a practicing criminal defense attorney for fifteen years. I’m on the board of two different charities– one for housing homeless teens, one for adult education, and I’m a proud Rotarian, to boot. 

 

(I had to look up what a Rotarian is… A Rotarian is a member of a Rotary Club and believes in “service above self” and maintains a high ethical standard in one’s business, profession and personal life.)

 

How did you find the name Impulsive Walrus?

 

We’ve done a lot of sales from convention tables, and we’ve noticed that the impulse buy is your best target.  Something a little funny-looking, something that catches the eye and the interest quickly.  We actually conceived our first anthology, Well, It’s Your Cow, before realizing we needed a publishing company to go with it.

 

So, we chose the word “Impulsive.”  And…well, and then we just picked the funniest animal we could think of.  “Platypus” was a strong contender…but “Walrus” won out when we thought about what the logo would look like.

 

What kind of writing do you do yourself?

 

My wife and I co-write the Gift of Grace urban fantasy series.  In addition, we appear in fifteen different anthologies, including the recent Straight Outta Deadwood published by Baen Books.  I’ve had short stories published in anthologies alongside Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Charlaine Harris, Mike Resnick, Todd McCaffery, Phyllis  

Irene Radford, and Jody Lynn Nye.

 

How has your publishing business evolved?

It’s still pretty new.  We’re reaching out every day to find new authors and add to our list.   

How does your publishing company turn a profit, if it does?

It doesn’t.  It could, if we wanted it to… but we pay our authors in currency of the realm, and we pay for professional editing services as well.  We’re interested in producing a quality product…and we’re confident that, once we build up a larger portfolio of books, that  dedication to quality will begin turning a profit.

 

What sort of stories and/or writing are you typically looking for?

We are open to anything in terms of speculative fiction!  Beyond that, our anthologies come out once in a while to a certain theme… like this one!

 

What is really exciting you in the publishing field currently?

The publishing field is wide, wide open currently.  That’s exciting…both as a publisher looking to get ahead, and as a reader, looking for new stories.  There’s no established tastemaker, yet, and as a publisher the amount of upset in the field is both an opportunity… and deeply terrifying.

 

What are your plans for your press in the future?

We’re going to keep putting together quality fiction for our growing audience to enjoy.  We’re also looking at breaking into audiobooks–that will be an exciting leap forward.  In the long term, though, it’s going to be about attracting and paying a group of authors that produce quality work and developing a reputation as a solid, ethical small press you can turn to for new amazing stories.

 

The Horror Tree Presents: An Interview with Diane Turnshek

Interview with Diane Turnshek, Co-Editor of  Triangulation: Extinction

Published by Parsec Ink.

By Angelique Fawns

 

Triangulation: Extinction is a speculative fiction anthology due to be released at the end of July. How does our world changes every time we lose a species? Fantasy, science-fiction and horror authors craft tales of imposing threats, remarkable creatures, and the heroes who fight for them.

 

Parsec Ink produces an annual anthology that wrestles with some profound themes. Last year’s issue Triangulation: Dark Skies explored light pollution. 


Diane Turnshek is no stranger to the world of writing and science fiction and is co-editing this year’s edition with Isaac N. Payne.  She credits him with the idea of exploiting extinction in this year’s anthology. We talked a bit about Diane’s background in science and the challenges of publishing in today’s environment. 

 

Angelique: Tell us about your background and day job. 

 

Diane: I wanted to be an astronomer ever since I was seven. It’s amazing that I actually achieved that goal. I’m a faculty member in the Physics Department at Carnegie Mellon University. I have a couple dozen research papers published, mostly about cool temperature stars. But observational astronomy is not something one can easily do with four children, so I stayed home raising them for decades  — and wrote science fiction. 

 

Angelique: What kind of writing do you do yourself?

 

Diane: My first penned story sold to Analog Magazine of Science Fiction and Fact in 1999. The next stories that sold to that market showed me what kind of writer I am. I’ve tried many things, but at the core, I write scientifically accurate short stories. 

 

Angelique: Do you believe in alien life?

 

Diane: Almost all astronomers believe in alien life, but out there, not here on Earth. Space is vast. Hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and hundreds of billions of galaxies? It’s presumptuous to think we’re the only life that’s ever arisen in billions of years. It’s also, simultaneously, ego-centric to think that Earth is a tourist attraction for aliens. If a flying saucer landed in Times Square tomorrow and alien-looking creatures stepped out, it is overwhelmingly more likely to be a hoax, perpetrated by humans, than any cosmic voyagers. Intelligent species have probably evolved millions of years offset in time from our eager-to-communicate species. We may someday find them, waiting patiently to be discovered in the gravitational fields of black holes where time runs slower. 

 

Angelique: What was the inspiration behind Parsec Ink?

 

Diane: I founded Parsec Ink’s Triangulation anthology series in 2003. At the time, I was a new writer with a few pro sales and a swelled head. Barely on the first rung of the ladder to success, I thought I could help other local writers by giving them turns at playing editor. Once you read hundreds of submissions, you see quite clearly what not to do in your own writing. The anthology also provided another paying market for new talent. This summer, we’ll publish our 17th anthology in the series, which includes ten different editors along the way.  

 

Angelique: How has your publishing business evolved?

 

Diane: I took the anthology editing position back last year. I changed the format to be about world-scale issues that needed to have more light shed on them — stories as creative visions to entertain and educate the public. Triangulation: Dark Skies, in 2019, was about light pollution, the unnecessary, unwanted artificial light at night that robs our view of the stars and adversely affects plants and animals, including humans. Triangulation: Extinction, for 2020, is about anthropogenic species extinction. Studies now show that if we continue on this course, climate disruption will send 7.9% of all species on Earth into extinction in the near future. Think up twelve animal types. Now pick one to willingly throw into the dustbin! We receive hundreds of submissions a year, but thousands of writers read our guidelines. That in itself educates a lot of people to a specific problem in the world. Hopefully, book sales will make even more people think. 

 

Angelique: How does your publishing company turn a profit, if it does?

 

Diane: Parsec Ink is a branch of Parsec, Inc, a non-profit, charitable, literary, 501c3 organization. Parsec has been around for over 35 years and is well-established as the premier speculative fiction organization in Western Pennsylvania. The other branches are the monthly meeting group, summer conference (http://parsec-sff.org/confluence/), an author lecture series I started at CMU (http://parsec-sff.org/blog/category/lectures/) and a workshop I started in 2002 (Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers https://alphawritersworkshop.org/). Each branch has their own funding structure and supports the others, for instance, the current editorial staff of Triangulation (20 people) is mostly made up of my former Alpha students. Because of this educational component of the Triangulation anthology, we have received a grant from SFWA. Last year, we also received a grant from Metro21 at CMU whose mission statement is making life better for people who live in cities using technology. Metro21 funders felt the educational value of an anthology that deals with light pollution was worthy of their contribution. We also sell the books at a price that’s set to cover other costs. The editorial staff is all volunteer, but we pay the authors and artists. What helps is our large fan base, going back many years. 


Angelique: What sort of stories and/or writing are you typically looking for?

 

Diane: It was interesting to see each person’s individual likes and dislikes fall out of the comments section on the Submittable site. Some swoon over prose that borders on purple. Some go for action-packed stories. I like stories that are scientifically accurate and closely tied to the theme. A couple of us are partial to stories with cute animals and babies. I won’t include stories with rape or suicide. Isaac insists on consistent, logical plotting. Everyone loves stories with proactive characters, a strong voice and hard choices. I like subtlety in stories where the reader is dragged in because they have little idea of what’s happening at first — an absorbing mystery to be solved. Most of the editorial staff members hold creativity above all else. I hope readers will see that we listened to everyone on staff and have all sorts of stories in the mix. 

 

Angelique: What is really exciting you in the publishing field currently?

 

Diane: Young voices. Their idealized worlds carry none of the societal baggage the rest of us may unwittingly bring to the page. I wish somewhere there was a list of stories and books in the speculative fiction field written by young people. (I’m not talking about YA, not books written for young adults but by young adults.) Magazine editors know some authors are too young to sign contracts on their own and have to get their parents to sign. Example: Osahon Ize-lyamu https://africanstreetliterature.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/interview-with-nigerian-speculative-fiction-writer-osahon-ize-iyamu/

 

Angelique: How is the current pandemic affecting you and your company?

 

Diane: I’ve heard of pizza and beer parties where submissions are read on paper, then thrown into the fire if someone doesn’t like them, but that’s never been us. We had an in-person editorial staff meeting on March 14th. That was the last time many of us met with anyone outside our own families. That meeting was just to boost our connectivity, since everything is done online anyway. Our group members are mostly spread around the world in different time zones.

 

Angelique: What are your plans for your press in the future?

 

Diane: I’ve been so focused on getting this edition out the door in July that I haven’t really thought about it. We’ll probably be needing a new editor to step forward and pick a theme. The team is waiting for someone with extra time in their schedule, dedication and inspiration . . . know anyone? 

Interview with Juliana Rew, Publisher and Editor of Third Flatiron Publishing

As we all strive to find inspiration and cope during this unprecedented world pandemic, Third Flatiron is releasing an anthology we can all appreciate. 

 

Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses takes tales from twenty authors about their visions of a brighter future. A mixture of fantasy and science-fiction, these stories explore how life might change with increasing use of social media, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, space exploration, and medical advances. 

 

Third Flatiron Publishing opened its doors in 2012 and has dual headquarters in Boulder, Colorado and Ayr, Scotland. I had the opportunity to connect with the Publisher and Editor Juliana Rew when she accepted one of my short stories for Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses -available for pre-order now on Smashwords and for purchase June 1.

 

Juliana Rew is no stranger to exploring the world of science with a background working for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Geological of America as a former science and technical writer. We explore the world of publishing in these tough times and what is exciting her in the future.

 

AF: What was your inspiration for this anthology?

 

JR: Although the idea pre-dates the current coronavirus pandemic, we felt it was time for a positive-themed anthology. Luckily, our authors rose to the occasion. It’s currently available for pre-order on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1023097, and readers can set their own price (even free!).

 

AF: How is the present Pandemic affecting the production of Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses?

 

JR: It has slowed down our production process a bit, but nothing serious. We’ll probably only do three “issues” this year instead of our usual four.

 

AF: What do you do as a day job?

 

JR: I am a retired technical editor and software engineer, and have been publishing quarterly SFFH anthologies since 2012.

 

AF: Can you tell me more about your background and how you got interested in Speculative Fiction?

 

JR: I was formally trained as a staff editor at the Geological Society of America, which is where I learned the art of bookmaking. So, when electronic publishing became popular, it was easy for me to dive in. I also worked as a programmer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, so I heard about global warming, straight from the horses’ mouths. I’ve always loved science fiction, and I wanted to “give back” by publishing SF by other authors as well as trying my hand at writing fiction.

 

AF: What kind of writing do you do yourself and where have you been published?

 

JR: I’ve been published in around 20 short story anthologies, as well as in a YA SF novella series (Dragon Stead). More recently, I’ve published a historical fantasy set in 1880s Colorado Territory (“Mountain Ma’am”), and two high-concept space opera novels in the “Unwinding” series. My latest one comes out in August, entitled, “Extremophile: Violet Rain.” More info’s at my author page: www.julianarew.com

 

AF: How do you find time to write/do your own publishing?

 

JR: I belong to a local writers’ critique group, which helps keep me on track with my own writing. And of course, it’s always fun to see what other writers are doing when we open up Third Flatiron anthologies for submissions on various themes.

 

AF: Is there any profit margin in publishing anthologies?

 

JR: Heck, no. Why would you even ask that? I do try to market via social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and the website at www.thirdflatiron.com. We mostly publish on Amazon, although the upcoming book will be published on Smashwords, so that we can give it away for free. It’ll be our little way of thanking our readers and helping people on a tight budget these days.

 

AF: What sort of stories and/or writing are you looking for?

 

JR: I have a small cadre of First Readers in Colorado, who help out with the submissions and proofreading. We each have our personal tastes (I like Pratchett-style humor and dislike zombies), but in general I would characterize our books as offering fresh speculative takes. Mild horror is fine, but nothing too graphic (think PG-13).

 

AF: What is really exciting you in the speculative fiction field currently?

 

JR: I’m encouraged to see more women rising to the top of the science fiction/fantasy field, especially Nnedi Okorafor, Aliette de Bodard, Jo Walton, and Ada Palmer, to name a few. In my personal reading, I’ve been dipping into old classic horror/dark fantasy tales, such as by M. R. James, Manley Wade Wellman, and Lord Dunsany. They show there’s more than one way to deal with your surroundings.

 

AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?

 

JR: Since our press is partly a family enterprise, we hope to keep publishing by sharing the work with our “Scotland contingent.” My daughter does the artwork, while her husband does the audio engineering for our podcasts.

Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Kristi Peterson Schoonover, publisher of 34 Orchard

Interview with Kristi Peterson Schoonover,  publisher of 34 Orchard

There are two types of writing that I really love. Literary stories with prose that takes your breath away and transports you into another world. Then I also love to be scared, made uncomfortable and sometimes even shocked. 34 Orchard is a new literary on-line journal that combines both. The first issue will be unleashed in April, and promises that “the most frightening ghosts are the ones within.”

 

Kristi Peterson Schoonover is the publisher and brain child behind 34 Orchard, so I took some time to figure out the passion and purpose behind her new venture. 

AF: What do you do as a day job?

I’m a receptionist and run the front end at the local branch of a national firm. My responsibilities have changed over the years—I guess I’m sort of a cross between an operations and an office manager. I chose this field for two reasons: So that my brain would stay untaxed and my creativity wouldn’t get exhausted; I have my MFA and could teach, edit, or go back to the newsroom, but that would wear me out in terms of pursuing my passion, which is writing short fiction. The second reason is that I really need stability; I wanted the steady paycheck, benefits, and vacation time. Having to write and scramble to put food on my table, although I am awed by many of my friends that do it, just isn’t my idea of a good time, or my idea of freedom. If I can’t write whatever I want when I want, and do whatever the hell I want with it, there’s no point. I also couldn’t invest financially and time-wise in esoteric art projects like 34 Orchard—or chair writing-related committees, or help other writers in their walks—if I was freaked out by needing to find an agent who sells my novel by this date or we can’t afford the groceries. I find my life as a writer is much more fulfilling and joyful because it’s not my bread and butter.

AF: What motivated you to start up your small press?

My father was an English teacher, and from the time I could read really well on my own, he’d bring home the short stories he was teaching in his high school classes for me to read. I’ve been hooked on short fiction ever since, but sometimes, in a magazine or collection, I’d find only one—possibly two—stories that really spoke to me in such a visceral, emotional way they haunted me (I actually have a file where I keep all my favorites). I don’t like to use the word ‘triggered,’ but I’ve found the best writing—in film as well—is the stuff that pushes personal buttons; that’s the stuff that can truly affect a reader or viewer—change his perception, or even his life. While that’s all subjective to the reader or viewer, I’d always dreamed of putting out a literary magazine in which every single story just grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. Although I had plenty of experience as editor or curator of other literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, the production part was always taken care of by someone else, so I didn’t think it was possible.

Then, I stumbled across a magazine called Orca. They were publishing amazing work; work that grabbed, work that went out on a limb. Nearly every story spoke to me, and the issues were released as downloadable PDFs. I sat there one night, reading it in bed, thinking, wait—I can do this! A downloadable PDF is no more difficult than my holiday chapbooks I send out every year. So 34 Orchard—which was going to feature work with the same power as Orca’s, just much darker and mostly in the speculative realm—was born.

AF: What sort of stories are you looking for?

When I started 34 Orchard, I had a specific vision in mind, but as the work came in, it morphed into something much more intense … and I just know if something has that 34 Orchard “vibe” when I read it. I’ve had to turn down so many excellent—I mean, seriously, excellent, it killed me to write rejection letters for some of them—pieces of work by both incredibly talented and accomplished writers simply because they didn’t match whatever that “zing” is that 34 Orchard wants. That’s why, in our guidelines, we just ask that writers send us anything dark and intense and let us look at it. It’s not something we can tell someone to write, and it’s also difficult, because no one’s read our first issue yet; there are no examples to follow. So don’t overthink it. Just send.

AF: Is there any profit margin?

People think I’m insane, but no, there isn’t. This is my “hobby,” if you will. The overhead isn’t terribly high—we only pay for the website and the work that we want to publish. We’re always open for donations, and we’ll put $1.99/donation link for each issue, but it’s more important to me to get the work out there. While it’s been said that many magazines fold because they can’t afford to keep going or don’t have an effective business plan for generating cash, I figured out what I used to spend going to events and cons (sometimes to sell my own books), and on trips to Disney World, neither of which I do anymore. All of that travel cost significantly more than a magazine would. I decided how many issues I could afford, time/energy and cost-wise, during the year, to keep it manageable and not all-consuming (I’m a writer, too); the amount of work I purchase for each issue can be adjusted based on how many donations I receive, or how much I’ve set aside during the ten months of the year I’m not purchasing work. So as long as I’m excited about doing this, it’s sustainable.

AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?

I’d like to be able to find some awards (in addition to Pushcart) to nominate what we’ve published; I’d like to join the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses—those are my goals to have met by January of 2022.  My plans for the next two years are just to get this up and running, tweak workflow issues, and publish great work.

Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Jemimah Halbert Brewster of Underground Writers

Interview with Jemimah Halbert Brewster, operations manager and editor-in-chief at Underground Writers.

Underground Writers is an Australian-based zine and resource for writers around the world. It grew out of Perth’s Edith Cowan University in 2009. Four times a year they publish a zine, and the next three issues are looking for stories in the genres of Thriller, Sci-Fi, and Horror.

I submitted a story to them for an upcoming issue, and although it was rejected the editors gave me some wonderful advice. One of Underground’s promises (and what makes them different) is they always give feedback to every submission -accepted or not.

Jemimah Halbert Brewster has a day job as a university administrator, and took the time to answer some of my questions.

AF: What motivated you to start up your small press?

Technically I didn’t start Underground, but I’ve kept it running since 2015 because it fills a real need in the writing community, particularly in Australia, in providing a safe, constructive space for all new and emerging writers to get that first step up into the world of publishing, which can be daunting, cruel, and discouraging when you’re just getting started on that journey. I also love the freedom that we have as a small, not-for-profit organization; we decide what topics we write about for the website, we set our own schedules and deadlines and goals, and this means we can adjust what we do as we please. For example, we’ve had a lot of questions recently about self-publishing books, so we’ve just started a series on that. Last year we received many queries on freelancing and how a writer can set themselves up as a small business, and our Marketing Manager Jess wrote an amazing 16-part series that is everything you could ever possibly want to know on the topic! And, on a more personal note, I keep Underground going for my own joy and passion in writing and editing; it’s amazingly rewarding and only takes up most of my spare time!

AF: What sort of stories are you looking for?

Each issue has a theme or a genre; our most recent issue was Romance, our next issue is Thriller, then Sci-Fi, then Horror, so we expect submissions that fit into these genre requirements as set out on our Submissions page. But more than just complying with genre or theme requirements, we look for stories that are clever, thought-provoking, interesting, well-considered, well-written. This doesn’t mean they have to be perfect; we take our authors through an editorial process before publication so that a story can be developed further, but we want to read that initial submission and see the thought, effort, and creativity that went into it.

AF: How long have you been publishing and how many issues have you produced?

Underground Writers issue 1 was published in October 2009, and in May this year we’ll be publishing our 30th issue. There was a hiatus from 2012 to 2014 when the zine took a break as the previous team moved onto other things, but we’ve been going strong since then!

AF: Is there any profit margin?

Ha, nope! All of our editors are volunteers and Jess and I are always looking for new ways to expand their knowledge and skills so that they keep learning and gaining from their time with us. We are able to pay our writers a gratuity due to the incredible generosity of our Patreon supporters, and we bolster this by providing feedback and a thorough editorial process so that everyone gains something, even if we can’t pay as much as we’d like to.

AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?

We always have plans, and each year we try new things. For example, in 2020 we’re taking on two junior editors for six months who will help us produce content for the website and will help us work on issue 30 and 31. At the end of that six months we’ll take on another two junior editors, and so on. These rotating junior editors will work one on one with authors for those issues, and with our current editors to develop their skills and knowledge. This is something Jess and I have been talking about for a long time, so it’s very exciting to see it happen. We also launched the Underground Bookstore in mid-2018, which was very exciting, and we’re always looking for ways to expand that. Our next step would be to hold workshops or classes in different areas of writing, editing and publishing – we talked with the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre about running some workshops on social media marketing and submissions processes for authors. So that’s an area we’d like to expand into when we have the time!

WIHM: An Interview with Azzurra Nox

Interview with Azzurra Nox, publisher of Strange Girls in Horror

 

Strange Girls in Horror has just been released in February, during Women in Horror Month. This anthology features 22 female authors bringing their dark tales of “girls who dare to be different”. Vampires, selkies, murderous mermaids, succubus and possessed dolls are just some of the strange ladies within these short stories.

 

Azzurra Nox is an avid fan of the horror genre, and this is her second anthology featuring an all-female cast. Her first anthology My American Nightmare had a successful debut and was published in 2017. Nox likes to showcase the work of women in a genre she feels is often dominated by men. She is the founder of Twisted Wing Productions, and also an author of a paranormal urban fantasy called Cut Here.

 

I have a story in this anthology, and took the opportunity to interview Nox about her obsession with the horror genre. 

 

 

AF: How did you get interested in horror?

 

AN: I’ve always been interested in horror. It started around the age of two when I used to watch Elvira’s Movie Macabre.  My dad was also a big fan of horror and so was my mum, so they didn’t mind me watching horror movies at a young age, even cause my dad would always tell me that everything in the movies were just “Hollywood” and unreal, so I never was scared or had nightmares. I always saw them as an entertaining genre. Kind of like how people love to go on rollercoasters, or go sky diving, horror is a genre that helps you explore fear in a somewhat safe setting of your own home.

 

 

AF: What kind of writing do you do yourself?

AN: I’ve done all sorts of different writing in the past. But I didn’t return to horror till I published my paranormal YA novel, CUT HERE in 2015. My latest publications have mostly been short stories as those are easier and faster for me to write. This summer, the short story “Fragile Fruit,” that I wrote with Erica Ruhe will appear in the anthology put together by Running Wild Press. It’s a literary short story with some elements of darkness to it, because I always love to explore the darkness in people and situations.

 

AF: How do you find time to write/do your own publishing?

AN: I actually make time to write. I used to do a lot of writing at night, but since I work a full-time job as a graphic artist that requires me to wake up early in the morning, I’ve found that harder to do. So now I do most of my writing in the early mornings before work and then work on editing in the afternoons. I also have a lifestyle blog www.theinkblotters.com that I update twice a week, so that’s another thing I have to plan a week or two weeks in advance. If you have time to binge-watch shows on Netflix, then you can find time to write if you’re serious about your writing. I know that we have far more distractions now than we ever did in the past, but you have to prioritize what is important to you, and writing is important to me so I make the time for it, even if it means that I don’t have time to watch shows.

 

AF: Do you fundraise, or how do you get the money and assets for your anthologies?

AN: No, I don’t crowdfund for the anthologies I’ve put together. The money that I use for the Women in Horror anthologies have been my own. And the money I made from My American Nightmare were invested in putting together Strange Girls. I know a lot of people do crowdfund and it’s a wonderful way to receive money for projects, and I did that for a short horror film I put together, but ultimately for it to be successful you have to put a lot of time and energy into it, and I’d rather use that time and energy towards the actual project, especially since I am the only one behind the whole publishing process.

 

AF: What is the best way to market your anthologies?

AN: Marketing takes a lot of trial and error. Luckily, Strange Girls is my second anthology, so I know what worked for My American Nightmare and what didn’t. Some of the best ways to market the anthologies or any book, really, is to have it up on NetGalley as that will help with finding reviewers. If you don’t have the money to pay for that then you can always use Booksprout, only you won’t be able to receive as many reviewers. Book blog tours are another way to get your book out there. And don’t underestimate the power of finding book bloggers and bookstagrammers (book loving influencers on Instagram) that focus on your niche, as they have a very powerful audience. I do a lot of marketing on Twitter too and have found that a lot of the preorders have arrived from there. Plus, if you have your own personal blog that has a decent following, it also helps in self-promoting. You have to be very proactive and seek people out in your genre. This can mean contacting indie bookstores that stock books in your genre to stock your book or newspapers or websites.

 

AF: How do you find your writers?

For both anthologies, I asked if I could have my call for submission listed on The Horror Tree as they specialize in horror writers and many of the writers I have accepted for my anthologies have come from there. I also put out my call for submissions on both my blog and website, Facebook, Twitter, and have contacted several horror authors asking if they would be interested.

 

AF: What is really exciting you in the horror field currently?

 

AN: I’m really loving the emergence of female directors in horror. Even people that you wouldn’t readily think would be in horror like the actress, Romola Garai who just debuted her first featured directed horror film, Amulet at the Sundance Film Festival. And I love seeing all the new horror female authors releasing some very exciting YA titles. Some of the past YA horror I’ve enjoyed have been The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, This is Not a Test from Courtney Summers, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, and Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn, just to name a few. 

 

AF: What are your plans for your press in the future?

AN: I look forward to putting together more Women in Horror anthologies in the future! By far, those have been the most fun to do because writing is a solitary task, but when you work with other authors then you’re able to forge new friendships and I think it’s important for writers to have friends that are writers too because they will be able to understand many of your struggles that your non-writer friends may not comprehend.