Today We’re Talking To Filipe Lichtenheld On Dream of Shadows

Filipe Lichtenheld & Dream of Shadows

By Angelique Fawns

 

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Filipe Lichtenheld loves honest and daring stories that exist in the grey zone. Send him your stories of struggle, moments of horror, and flashes of fantasy. Launched in 2019, Dream of Shadows is based out of London, England, and publishes monthly short stories and annual anthologies. I’ve sent several submissions to this market and Lichtenheld has always taken the time to send me a few notes on how to improve my writing. I took his advice to heart and finally sent him a story he accepted. “Ogri Trips the Light Fantastic” will be published on the Dream of Shadows website on November 15, 2022. 

Dream of Shadows is also running a Halloween Contest this year from August 1 to September 15, so if you have a short spooky tale looking for a home, check out the website for more details. This August you can also find the annual anthology for sale on Amazon. I sat down with Lichtenheld to learn more about his vision and what lurks in the shadows…

AF: Tell me the origin story of Dream of Shadows?

FL: Dream of Shadows started because I wanted a home for the kinds of stories I like to read. There weren’t a lot of places for darker stories, stories without happy endings, stories where the characters are morally ambiguous. I wanted a place for stories where the hero kicks the dog to save the cat.

AF: Are you a writer yourself? Why the genres of horror and fantasy?

 

FL: I am, and I write mainly horror and fantasy myself. I have always preferred horror and fantasy to literary fiction. Writing about reality is great, and it’s important for art to reveal something about the world or encourage discussion around the big issues. But I always felt that horror and fantasy can do that too. Except they hide the moral within the spectacle. Horror and fantasy stories are pure escapism. They take you to worlds that don’t exist, populated by creatures or forces that don’t exist. But they can work as a powerful metaphor, where the underlying truth – the message about love or friendship or death and the thoughts on human struggle – is just as valid as in any literary work.


AF: Do you have a day job and what is it? How do you find time to run a magazine and deal with all the submissions? How many personalized rejections do you send out and why?

FL: I work as a cloakroom attendant. It gives me a lot of time to read. I try my best to give personal feedback on each submission. What frustrates me most as a writer is the form rejection. It’s one of the reasons I started Dream of Shadows. It tells you that your story wasn’t right, but it doesn’t tell you why. What are you supposed to do with that? If you know why your story was rejected, why that particular magazine didn’t accept it, you can work on that and send them something that fits more into what they’re looking for. Isn’t that the end goal for everyone? Having said that, I do understand that other magazines are bigger than Dream of Shadows. And as the amount of submissions grows, it gets harder to devote enough time to each one. But I try, even if it’s just a tiny comment.


AF: Any tips for submitting writers? What is the number one thing that makes you buy a story?

FL: I love the simple, straightforward stories. You know, the stuff you learn about when you click on a YouTube video about writing. Character wants something and overcomes conflicts and obstacles in pursuit of that want. If the story gives me a captivating internal conflict or an engaging theme on top of that, it’s got a much higher chance. It’s a lot to ask for in 1,500 words, but it happens.

AF: Can you tell me more about your Halloween contest?

FL: I’ve always loved Halloween and the monsters connected to it, so a specially-themed contest made sense for a magazine that publishes horror and fantasy. The contest runs from the 1st of August to the 15th of September every year, and the guidelines and submission form are on our website. We charge a £6 fee per submission and the prize money is £300. I judge the stories myself. It’s essentially a fancier version of our regular submissions. The winning story is published as the October monthly story. We also mention two shortlisted stories. We might offer publication for them as regular monthly stories.


AF: Is Dream of Shadows profitable? How do you market?

FL: Next question, please. But no, it’s not exactly profitable at the moment. But if I was after money, I probably wouldn’t be running a short story magazine. I decided at the start that I wanted the focus to be on the writing. That’s why our site looks so, let’s say, simple. No bells and whistles, no ads. Just the information you need to submit and the stories. As for marketing, we’ve got a Facebook page where we keep readers updated on what’s going on, and we’ve recently opened the option to subscribe to our mailing list. The mailing list is probably the best way to reach people.

AF: Any hints for submitting authors?

FL: We’ve got a special page with hints to win us over. We’re not great fans of second-person narration, for example. I’ve only bought one second-person-narration story since starting the magazine, and then I’ve asked the author to rewrite it in third person. Stuff that is too experimental is also difficult. I know that the short story is the one area where writers are supposed to try things out, and I hope they do. But I think there are a lot of markets already out there looking for those stories, and I made a decision early on to stick to the straightforward.

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

FL: We’ll keep publishing monthly stories and yearly anthologies, growing our list of readers. But I’d love to expand to audio within the next couple of years. We’ve already had one of our stories read by the author, and we’ve got “Ogri Trips the Light Fantastic” coming out in prose and audio at the same time in November. I truly love the stories we pick, and I will try to find more ways to bring them to audiences. 

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