Author: JD Blackrose

WiHM 12: An Interview With Rachel A. Brune Of Crone Girls Press

Hi Rachel, Thanks for being with us at Horror Tree in celebration of Women in Horror Month. As editor of Crone Girls Press, we are thrilled, and maybe a little chilled, to talk to you about the darker side of speculative fiction. – JD Blackrose

Can you tell us how your first horror anthology came about?

It’s because my sister is the slowest writer ever…

I had been editing some horror short stories for my sister, Thea, and had been encouraging her to submit some for publication. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I’ve always loved horror, especially in short story form, both reading and writing it. It seemed almost a natural progression to go from wanting to read a story in an anthology, to taking the reins and making an anthology happen. I reached out to my writing community, found a number of writers to send me their work, and started putting it together. And once I started working on what became Stories We Tell After Midnight 1, it was too late. The horror antho bug had bit, the rash had spread, and Crone Girls Press was on its way.

 

What is it about anthologies that you like so much?

I’ve compared anthologies to mixtapes before, so I think I’ll stick with that analogy. I love short stories, first. The form is so versatile and impactful, with room to play for the writer, and I feel like that really shows in the best short stories. In an anthology, you get to spend time with a range of different settings and characters and emotions, like the very best kind of mixtape, and that is the sort of journey that I love reading.

 

Tell us a little about Midnight Bites.

Midnight Bites started because I was having trouble saying no to a bunch of the novellas that people had submitted for our 2020 publications. After considering a couple of different ways I could publish the novellas and novelettes as standalone projects, I decided that the best way would be to offer readers a selection of three authors and three stories–long enough to really sink their teeth into, but not requiring so much time as a novel would to get through it. We are about to publish our third of the series; each has a general theme to it, although in some it’s a little flimsier than others. For example, we started off with military/paramilitary horror, and that first volume includes a World War I story a mercenaries-in-Antarctica story, and a paranormal-hunting, shadowy-government-agency-in-San Antonio story. We’ve got another four volumes scheduled for 2021, and more planned for after that.

 

Where do you think women authors stand in horror today? Have they made strides into the mainstream?

From speaking with women who were writing and publishing in the genre even five, ten, fifteen years ago, and hearing some of the struggles they dealt with, I would say yes, women have definitely made strides within the genre, and mainstream. I don’t think that this standing is completely even; I don’t think I would compare my experience to that of women of color or trans women working or trying to work in the genre. But there are now multiple examples that we can point to of women killing it (metaphorically speaking) like Nia DaCosta directing Candyman, as well as venerable names within the genre who have always been there, such as Ellen Datlow’s incredible editorial work, and women writers who are telling me there is less of a: “Oh, you write vampires? Romance is right over there…” (Not that I don’t read my fair share of PNR!)

Do we still have a ways to go? Yes. Am I optimistic we’ll get there? Yes. And I intend to do what I can to make it happen.

 

What’s ahead for Crone Girls Press?

This February, we’ll release our third Midnight Bites, “Hard for Hope to Flourish,” a three-novella collection of literary horror. Also on the slate, we’ve got another four mini’s, as well as a full-length anthology, the third and final volume of Stories We Tell After Midnight, which we’ll start reading for this spring. We also have a pretty fun Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/cronegirls) to share new work from our authors, Halloween memes (who doesn’t need more of these?), and articles of interest to those writing in the darker side of genre fiction. And from there… who knows? Horror is a genre of possibilities.

 

Thanks again!

#Audiblegate: When Audiobooks Go Bad

Creators of stories, those who tell them, produce them, and help sell them, are under attack on multiple fronts by large corporations that seek to control the market, control what you see and hear, and most importantly, make the most money they can at the expense of the little guy. This sentence could have been written at almost any time in the history of storytelling, but I am writing it today because it is stunningly on display as we speak.

One of the most egregious examples is what we now know as #Audiblegate. While adding the suffix “gate,” to the end of anything has become its own overblown trope, in this case, it fits. Right now, an Audible member can use a credit to buy a book, then can listen to that book in its entirety, return that book for any reason for up to 365 days, and then use that same credit to purchase another book. 

Let’s review that.

  1. A member uses a credit to buy a book.
  2. Listens to the book. Enjoys it, possibly. Loves it, even. 
  3. Returns the book, at any time during a year, for any reason, no questions asked.
  4. Gets their credit back and uses that same credit to buy another book, perhaps the second book in that series.
  5. This can continue, endlessly.

For the reader/listener, this is marvelous and no doubt, the reason he or she has this membership. What the member does not know, however, is that each time this happens, Audible claws back the royalty paid to the writer/narrator/publisher (creators) of that book. Anybody who earns a royalty upon purchase of that book gets it taken away once the book is returned. 

On top of this, Audible does not give creators insight into how many times this happens. There is virtually no transparency in reporting because they do not include a returns line on the reports we receive. If we see one purchase, we don’t know if one person bought a book, or if two people bought it and one returned. 

To top this off, keep in mind these facts:

  • Creators do best, royalty-wise (40%) if they go Audible exclusive with their books.
  • Doing so locks creators into a 7-year contract, with no way out.
  • Audible controls 90% of the audiobook market.
  • We only uncovered this issue because Audible made a mistake on one single day in October and accidentally released returns data. 

Due to pressure from indie writers, narrators, small and mid-sized publishers, and their fans, Audible responded to concerns about this by saying they will no longer accept returns after 7 days, which sounds great but isn’t. They still won’t provide data. This implies that most returns happen well within 7 days and they know it and won’t share it. Without transparency, this isn’t a solution to the problem. Most audiobook readers can easily plow through a book in two to three days.

What can you do to help?

  1. Please enjoy audiobooks, but do not abuse the return privileges. This literally takes money out of your favorite writers and narrators’ pockets. 
  2. Please sign the letter from The Author’s Guild to Audible CEO Bob Carrigan and General Counsel Zakharenko and invite friends and family to sign as well. This letter is sponsored by a number of national and international organizations including The Author’s Guild, Equity (UK), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and many others. There are tens of thousands of signatures at present. Add yours.  https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/sign-our-letter-and-tell-audible-to-stop-charging-authors-for-returns/

 

#DisneyMustPay and The Merger of Simon & Schuster with Penguin Random House

There are other issues clamoring for attention including #DisneyMustPay, which involves Disney not paying prominent author Alan Dean Foster royalties they owe him because, their words, “they bought the contract but did not buy the obligations of that contract.” The mind boggles. https://www.sfwa.org/2020/11/18/disney-must-pay/ 

And, to add to the complications, publisher Simon & Schuster is being sold to Penguin Random House, creating a mega publishing house that would account for approximately 50% of all trade books published. This would reduce the current Big 5 to only 4. It would have huge ramifications on the publishing industry. You can read more about it here: https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/ag-statement-on-proposed-sale-of-simon-schuster-and-its-ramifications-for-authors/

 

References:

File 770: http://file770.com/how-audibles-returns-policy-exploits-writers/comment-page-1/

Susan May: https://www.susanmaywriter.net/single-post/audiblegate-the-incredible-story-of-missing-sales

Glitchy Pancakes: https://open.spotify.com/episode/22QYuMACJu1lKh24co6gzd?si=1Pzt1H4vQUGvJtMFiyLpgQ

Video Refresh: Rejections and a Crisis of Confidence

Who hasn’t gotten the dreaded email that starts with the word, “Unfortunately, we received…?” Ugh. The humiliation. The stab to the heart. I don’t care that they got 500 submissions for twelve spots. They should have chosen mine, darn it. Mine! Don’t let rejections create a crisis of confidence. Here are things you can do to shove that crisis back in the bottle where it belongs. (And one you shouldn’t…)

Video Refresh: Interview with G.A. Miller

Today we revisit an interview with horror author G.A. MIller. After you watch the video, read the entire article. Interviewer Stacey Jaine McInstosh asks some interesting questions not included here, such as what is G.A.’s favorite band. Hint: Their initials are L.Z.

Notes From Purgatory by Franklin Murdock

Are our stories our babies, or our soldiers, or is that a metaphor that doesn’t really matter except in the author’s mind? Franklin Murdock thinks of them as soldiers, and his version is actually a little sexy. 🙂

Video Refresh: Nicole Simms on Why Writers Should Be Part of a Writing Group

Today we revisit Nicole Simm’s column on Being Part of a Writing Group:

The one main fear that can come from looking into joining a writing group is that your work will be torn to shreds, and your ability will be questioned, which for us self-doubters is our biggest fear, to have confirmed what you already fear. However, as I have often said in my past posts Mr Self-doubt often lies to you, if writing is your passion, then you do not need permission to do so, and no one starts off as a brilliant writer, like everything in life practice makes perfect.

 

Video Refresh: An Interview with Naomi Rourke by Scott Summers

Today we revisit an interview with the fascinating Naomi Rourke, who tells us the story of her name, and her wondrous journey to drama and writing, even after a stroke at young age. Please read the whole interview because it has a lot more in it than this video can hold. https://horrortree.com/the-horror-tree-presentsan-interview-with-naomi-rourke/