Wednesday, January 22, 2020

First Time at COSine

There's a local fantasy and science fiction convention called COSine. Last year, there were rumbles about it shutting down and not coming back, but some dedicated folks took it over and made it happen this year. This was my first time attending, despite it being right here in Colorado Springs. I'm not sure why, other than that the time of year made it easy to overlook.

I was on three panels.

Slasher vs. Creature Feature: What Scares Us Now?

Our moderator kept us pretty specific to the two types of films in the title. Everyone had different opinions, of course. One was very into classic monsters, such as vampires and werewolves. Another was most affected by Lovecraftian style monsters. For me, people are scariest, because they're the most realistic, which means slashers win. Sort of.

It was discussed how slashers are innately misogynist, with women being the main victims, and with their deaths/attacks often being far more severe and often sexual. I threw out that I'm seeing a change in that, such as with the new Black Christmas. We discussed the self awareness of movies like Scream and Cabin in the Woods.

All in all, it was an interesting panel to be on. Too bad there was only one attendee! (We were up against Connie Willis, it's not a horror con (the other panelists weren't horror authors), and it was 10 AM. Who goes to panels at 10 AM? I don't. Unless I have to.

Mind Exercises to Release the Creativity Genie

This may be the first all female panel I've been on at a convention. Not at a writer's conference, though. They had us set up in a room with sofas instead of a panel table, which worked well for the topic. We talked about using aromatherapy (scent as a trigger to get into the writing mood), music, walks, images on Pinterest, routines, writing in public, etc.

Short Story Writing

We covered reasons to write short (explore new worlds, instant gratification, explore novel characters further), how to find markets (Duotrope, Submission Grinder, It was recommended people read short, submit to their dream markets first then trickle down, follow the submission guidelines, put their stories into collections once they get the rights back, and more.

The mass autographing was well done in that they had food and drinks, plus a cash bar, and they did a raffle and badge number giveaway of donated books, jewelry, and art. So rather than just relying on the autographing to draw people in, they drew people in to the authors by feeding them and doing the prize drawings in the same room. I don't think we sold anymore than we usually would have, but I have to give them credit for trying to find a clever solution to that issue.


This week, I read Dave Barry's Greatest Hits and started The Elephant in the Room. My favorite Barry story was in this collection: Adventure Dog. It's ridiculous and funny.


I watched Dolemite is my Name, starring a cast made up of people who could draw me to watch a movie individually, such as Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, and Wesley Snipes. They all did a great job, but Murphy stood out.

Trivia from IMDB: This is Murphy's first R rated film since 1990. Kind of surprising if you've seen his original stand up.

Joker was excellent, as well. It's a look into the Joker we've never had in the movies, and one that makes him sympathetic without excusing him being a villain. It's very much a scathing look into society and mental health care. Heath Ledger will always be my Joker, but Phoenix did an amazing job on a nuanced character.

Trivia from IMDB: Arthur Fleck (Joker) performs stand up at Pogo's Comedy Club. Real life serial killer John Wayne Gacy went by Pogo the Clown during professional clown stints.

For pure comedy fare (the other two were dramas), Jexi was funnier than I thought it would be. Honestly, I thought it would be so stupid I'd roll my eyes through the whole thing and feel like I wasted my night, but I enjoyed it. Of course, I was really exhausted following not sleeping all weekend at the conference (early mornings and a noisy hotel room), so maybe I just needed sleep.

Trivia from IMDB: Adam Devine has scars on his legs from a childhood accident that he keeps covered with socks, even when not wearing pants in the movie.

Finally, I watched an old Dario Argento horror film starring Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth) and Donald Pleasance (Halloween) entitled Phenomena. I was surprised to see that costume design was by Giorgio Armani. I didn't know he ever did that. It was an interesting flick (available on Shudder) that I'd never heard of before, where Connelly can communicate with insects and uses this power to track down a serial killer. There's also a chimpanzee. If nothing else, it was a novelty. Apparently, it split Argento's fans, as it was considered science fiction horror, and many didn't like him going in that direction.

Trivia from IMBD: Jennifer Connelly had to be rushed to the hospital after the chimp bit her finger.


We're in a comedy show hole, so we returned to two series we enjoyed, but had drifted away from for a while: My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Netflix) and Detour (Hulu). My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has random, hysterical musical numbers in it and Detour is about a goofy family on the run. We tried to watch Lodge 49 to fill the need, but it didn't really draw us in, though it had some good elements.


Time for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Zombie Pirate Publishing is seeking science fiction short stories for Raygun Retro. 2000 to 6000 words. Pays $10. Deadline February 1.

Cantina Publishing is seeking short adventure stories featuring queer women for Silk & Steel. 3000 to 7000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline February 22.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking pieces with the theme Listen to Your Dreams. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline February 28. 

The Cincinnati Review is seeking fiction, literary nonfiction, poetry, and artwork. Fiction is limited to 40 double spaced pages. Pays $25/page. Deadline March 1.

Great Escape Publishing is seeking stories about getting paid to travel. 300 to 600 words. Pays $150. 

What have you read or watched this week? Have you ever been to COSine? Do you have a local con? What's scarier, slashers or monsters? What tricks do you use to stir your creative mind? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

2020 Rah Rah Rah! Plus Horror Book Review: 120 Days of Sodom & Zombie

At this time of year, I'm usually reviewing my goals from the previous year to see what I finished, what I scrapped, and what I need to carry forward. However, a lot happened last year that kept me from getting much of anything done, and I've decided it's not worth looking back on those goals, as it would just serve to make me feel bad about what I wasn't able to accomplish. 

Instead, I'm making some simple, but useful, goals, with the intention of setting up a base to grow from through the year. Basically, I want to get things done, but I also want to be kind to myself concerning expectations. This is a year of healing as much as anything else.

2020 Goals:

Write at least one day a week.
Stay on top of submissions.
Release a collection.
Blog at least twice per month.
Read two craft books.
Walk regularly.
Read a lot of fiction!
Take some fun pictures.

Of course, I can't do anything about the much loftier goals in my head, but whenever I look back at these goals, I want to feel like I'm doing what I expected, at least.

Moving on, I've got two best horror reviews to do, and I figured instead of doing those as individual posts as I've been doing the last couple years, I'll just add them to other posts. Before I jump into those, here's a snapshot of some of the books I've read the last couple months:

Ebooks I've read include: The False Inspector Dew (Peter Lovesey), Clowns vs. Spiders (Jeff Strand), Poisoned by the Pier (Ellen Jacobson), The Haunted Forest Tour (Jeff Strand), Creepers (David Morrell).

My favorites from the above:

Salvage the Bones - Jesmyn Ward
Gorgeously written, this book is set over the course of several days leading up to Hurricane Katrina hitting a small, rural town in Mississippi. As the storm brews and grows, so do the struggles of the main characters, siblings whose mother has died and whose father is sunk in his addiction, leaving them to fend for themselves. A story about family, relationships, deep poverty, and so much more.

Trevor Noah: Born a Crime - Trevor Noah
With his characteristic candor and humor, Noah talks about his youth in South Africa, where his very existence is a crime. His mother does her best with a child who's a bit of a troublemaker (but also charming, innovative, and deeply intelligent.) I was in turns touched, amused, shocked, and sad. I'd like to listen to the audiobook read by Noah, himself.

The False Inspector Dew - Peter Lovesey
This was the fluff book I read after FINALLY finishing The 120 Days of Sodom (review below). It was a light murder mystery, with some solid twists. A man takes on a false identity aboard a ship bound for America. The identity of a famous police inspector. When a body is found in the water, he's called upon to solve the crime. After all, that's his wheelhouse, right? Clever and fun, a delightful break I sorely needed.

Unbury Carol - Josh Malerman
This one is set in the old west, which is an era I love. Described as a thriller, it qualifies as horror, as well. A woman has a condition where she goes into a state that makes her appear dead. Her husband, knowing her condition, takes advantage when she slips into this state. She's got money and fame, and he's tired of living in her shadow. Interesting characters and a hell of a ticking clock. 

Poisoned by the Pier - Ellen Jacobson
Ellen's books are always fun to read. Great cast of characters, interesting settings. Good, clean mystery fun.

Some movies I recently saw and enjoyed:

Knives Out. This is such a witty and well scripted murder mystery. Vastly engaging and amusing. Twisty and well acted.

Incident in a Ghostland. A movie hasn't kept me this tense in a long time. Not for the faint of heart. This one's horror, and though it has plenty of flaws, the suspense is incredibly well done. I had to keep forcing myself to relax.

TV show I'd recommend:

My husband and I both loved Fleabag and are eagerly awaiting the next season. It's a dramedy, irreverent and often inappropriate, but also funny. The humor is quite dry, which I enjoy. You'll probably know within the first few minutes if this is the show for you or better avoided.

Okay, the part I've been avoiding: Horror List Book Review. I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

I finished two recently--The 120 Days of Sodom, by the Marquis de Sade, and Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates.

The 120 Days of Sodom - Marquis de Sade
I'm not sure I have anything good to say about this one. It was a struggle to read. Admittedly, I was curious to read something by Sade after having heard about him for so long. Partway through this book, I convinced myself he couldn't possibly be encouraging or supporting the horrific things happening in this book. I actually thought it might be a commentary on the elite of the time.


I'm glad I waited until afterward to do research on him and realize I was giving him too much credit. It would have been even harder to get through if I knew what kind of person he truly was.

I really can't go in depth on this review, because of the subjects of the book. I described it to a friend as reading like it was written by a sexually deviant 8-year old with a feces fixation. There is extreme harm and mistreatment of children. Extreme. Sexual mistreatment, torture, etc. I'm going to need more distance before I can delve into what I needed to learn from this book. Do yourselves a favor: avoid this book and don't read the reviews on Amazon, because some of the readers are as bad as the Marquis. Disturbing.

Zombie - Joyce Carol Oates
This one was also deviant, but nothing like Sodom. It follows a man (I seem to recall he was 38 or so?) with a lot of mental issues. He wants to create a zombie lover by lobotomizing men he's interested in. The book is put forth in journal form. 

The writing is skillfully done in a way that brings the reader into the disorganized and frenzied mind of the killer. I imagine the writing style would drive some people crazy. Part of the horror of this book is how matter-of-fact the main character is about his plans and the results as he tries to figure out the right way to reach his goal.

CURRENTLY READING: Dave Barry's Greatest Hits (ebook) - Dave Barry
CURRENTLY WATCHING: Nightwatch Nation (Hulu)

Have you read any of the above books and/or seen any of the shows/movies? Did you set goals for 2020? Do you do long term or just short term goals? What book, movie, TV show, song, or other media would you recommend? What are you reading right now? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

IWSG - Year of Yes...And No?

It's 2020 and time for another posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is here for writers to air their insecurities and support other writers with theirs. Anyone can participate. Simply click on Alex's name and add your blog to the list on the IWSG tab.

The co-hosts this month are:
T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, J.H. Moncrieff! Try to stop by and say hey in thanks for them taking this on.

I read a book by Shonda Rhimes a year or two ago entitled Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. Saying yes to things that make me uncomfortable was already something I practiced before reading this, but it helped put it all in perspective and see how much my saying yes has helped me with my writing career.

This year, I'll continue saying yes to opportunities, BUT I'm also going to be more careful of my time and taking care of myself, which means I'll be saying no more often, too. I tend to jump into too many things, because I think, "Of course I can do this." Then I'm stuck with them on top of everything else going on.

This year needs to be about my continuing my return to writing and submitting more after what was a hard year. That means saying no to more things that aren't writing related.

But I'll still be actively practicing saying yes to things that make me nervous, because stretching myself and taking on new things is generally good for me. It's good for everyone! As long as you stick to what you need for yourself, whether that's giving less time to other people or avoiding certain time sucks.

I'm also looking at what I want to do with my blog going forward. I think I want to make it more personal, talking about things I enjoy, such as books I've read or movies I've watched. It will still be an author's journey, but I won't limit my posts to just writing-related stuff as I have mostly done. There will probably be a bit more about horror, mythology, etc. I'll probably go more into this next week.

I should also be returning to posting about short story submissions by February, if not by next week. I believe I've figured out what stories to include in my next collection, so once I've finalized that, I'll be getting some of the stories back out there!

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm merely passing these along, not endorsing them. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Pixie Forest Publishing is seeking stories about phobias for an anthology. 1500 to 4000 words. Pays $10. Deadline January 15.

Freeze Frame Fiction is seeking flash fiction. 1000 words or less. Pays $10. Deadline January 31.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking crime, mystery, and suspense flash fiction. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline January 31.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking stories about women ruling the world for Reign of Queens. No limit on genre. 5000 to 15,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline January 31.

Twelfth Planet Press is seeking stories about disabled characters putting things back together after the apocalypse for their follow up anthology Rebuilding Tomorrow. 2000 to 6000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline January 31.

Have you been rethinking any elements of your life for the upcoming year? What are you feeling insecure about right now? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

There's Room for Everyone

Recently, someone said to me that it was easy for me to get published, because I write horror, and there are a bunch of horror magazines. When I stated that there aren't many pro paying horror magazines, they shrugged and told me it's easier for me to get published, because I'm not a white male, that white males can't get published right now, because you have to belong to a minority group to get published.

I've been hearing this a lot lately, but this is the first time someone came directly at me and made a statement that blithely intended to diminish or cheapen what I've achieved. I can assure you, I get published because I do the work, I hone my craft, I learn, I write, and I submit. Neither my gender nor my race show up on my submission letters. I don't send in my submission with the following note:

Dear Editor,

I am a part-Native female author, and I want you to accept my story simply because of that.

No, actually I don't mention either thing. My submission letters are brief, as is expected in the majority of the short story world. They list my story title, word count, and genre, plus a couple publication credits. Oh, and my contact information. That's it. My name is actually gender neutral. In certain parts of the U.S., you're more likely to find a Shannon who's male. It all just depends.


More important is the fact that this is a pure fallacy. If you pull up a bunch of short story markets, they will likely ALL list that they're looking for diverse voices. Where people appear to be getting confused is in thinking this means that's all they'll take. Tables of contents say differently. What it actually means is that they're encouraging diverse voices to submit, and they'll consider them along with everyone else. This isn't a white male blocker. This is an attempt to not JUST have white males in publications.

I took a look through the publications I've been in, so I could break down the stated genders in the bios. I won't name them by publication, because this isn't an attack on publishers, and these are not in order of publication date. This is me bloody well being exhausted from having my achievements questioned by people who aren't doing the work, and are more than happy to blame it on whatever they can grasp at.

I only went through print publications that were still in print. I did not count the all female anthology I was in, because that came out in response to a major anthology featuring Stephen King in which there was ONE female author, and she was one of the editors. I also obviously removed any from consideration that were a single author. That left me with 21 publications to comb through.

Publication 1: M - 3, F - 2

Publication 2: M - 13, F - 4

Publication 3: M - 4, F - 8

Publication 4: M - 7, F - 4

Publication 5: M - 7, F - 7

Publication 6: M - 9, F - 2

Publication 7: M - 6, F - 4

Publication 8: M - 4, F - 1

Publication 9: M - 5, F - 2

Publication 10: M - 6, F - 1

Publication 11: M - 16, F - 2

Publication 12: M - 7, F - 8

Publication 13: M - 20, F - 9

Publication 14: M - 13, F - 6

Publication 15: M - 5, F - 8

Publication 15: M - 7, F - 10

Publication 16: M - 9, F - 6

Publication 17: M - 3, F - 3

Publication 18: M - 6, F - 6

Publication 19: M - 4, F - 6

Publication 20: M - 11, F - 11

Publication 21: M - 8, F - 4

TOTAL: M - 173, F - 114

Publications in which I was the only female: 2
Publications in which I was one of two females: 4
Publications in which there were more males than females: 13
Publications in which there were more females than males: 5
Publications in which it was an even split: 4
Publications in which there was only one male: 0
Least amount of males in any publications: 3 (there were two, one with 3 females and one with 2 females)
Largest difference between male and female authors in any publication: 14 (Publication 11 - 16 males, 2 females)
Largest difference between male and female authors in any publication where the majority was female: 4 (publication 3 - 4 males, 8 females)

Someone explain to me how much easier I have it, because I guess I'm just missing it. I especially need it explained to me how much harder it is to get published as a white male.

Happily, this shows me that the rate of females being published is improving. It also shows me that it's still skewed in favor of males. As far as race, sexual orientation, etc., it would take me forever to comb through and figure out how many of each author fit under which category, but I think we can all agree that cis white authors of any gender are still being published at a higher rate, despite calls for diversity. I count myself in that group. I'm entirely white passing, and I am mostly white. I don't feel it's my place to claim being a minority. I have mentioned it in relation to a novel I'm shopping, because the main character is mixed in the same way I am, and her experiences are similar to mine.

Why write this post? Because I've heard this so much lately. I've seen such indignation that calls are put out for diverse voices. That is not an attack or an attempt to force men or white people out of publications. It's simply a means to get the word out that publishers want to consider ALL writers.

It stings that someone in my circle would say something like this. When it's strangers or even acquaintances I can let it roll off my back (most days). When it's people claiming women can't write horror, I try to ignore it and keep writing and submitting to prove them wrong. But something like this sticks with me. It makes me angry.

It also makes me even more determined to move forward and to keep getting published.

I wish every single one of you good luck in getting published in the new year.

May you find your Muse.

*Volunteering Hands,, legacynola

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG: Making Time & Space, Plus Damyanti Stops By

It's the first Wednesday of December, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the brain child of Alex J. Cavanaugh.

All are welcome to participate. Just click on Alex's name above, sign up on the list, and post about your writing insecurities. There's a convenient optional question in case you're just not sure what to say, but want to take part.

Thank you to this month's co-hosts!

Be sure to visit, Alex, the co-hosts, and some of the other participants, so you can meet some new folks!

Last month was busy, and this month is shaping up to be the same. To get back to previous writing levels, I'm trying to guarantee myself one solo writing date out of the house per week at a local cafe, plus a writing date with friends, hopefully also once per week. A guaranteed two days per week is all I can do right now, but I get a ton done when I make the time. 

My office had also become crammed full and messy due to having to move things to have windows put in. Plus, I came off several appearances, and had just shoved my stuff from each engagement into the office and hastily packed what I needed each time. I find I avoid my office when it gets in a messy state like this, because it overwhelms me. I freeze up, because I feel like I can't get anything done until I clean/tidy it. I've now tidied it up, and am looking forward to getting back in there.

So my insecurities this month involved making time and making space. Now that I've completed that, I'm optimistic about getting some writing done!

Now that we've discussed my insecurities, I've got a guest post from Damyanti, delayed from what was to have been an earlier posting. It's about writing crime fiction, and her journey to publishing You Beneath Your Skin.

On Amazon USA:
It is not easy for me to speak about my journey into fiction, because I never imagined I’d be a writer. And ten years ago, if you’d have asked me if I’d be a crime writer I would have laughed.

I’d started writing by then, but I thought I would write realistic, literary stories.

Always been a compulsive reader—it is hard for me to survive without reading—even on days I don’t have time to eat or sleep—I read a little, of something. It is mostly reflex action. One of the reasons I write fiction is because I’m insatiably curious, and curious about people. Reading does not always satisfy this curiosity. I want to know what makes people tick, to figure out why humans do the mundane and extraordinary things they do. In my writing, my effort is to render the mundane extraordinary, and to examine the unusual and make it familiar.

Stories come to me from characters and my urge to understand them-- and in so doing, in a curious, intangible way, to understand myself.

Some of my first crime stories began as attempts to make sense of human nature—I wrote about a voyeur first, ( we had a voyeur in our neighbourhood) and then another story about an unrequited lover avenging the death of the woman he’d been devoted to. Yet another was a traditional woman, a forensic expert, who realised that the long-distance online relationship she’d been having was with a fraud, who’d been cheating her for money. She avenges this by shooting him and burying him in her backyard. I proceeded to write about a husband taking care of his moribund wife—we do not know if he mercy-kills her in the end, but we suspect it.

The turning point came with reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This was literary writing, but it described horrors we humans are capable of. It made me think of writing about the characters who had haunted me over the years. Anjali, specifically. And she appeared in Delhi, a city I’d spent many years of my life in, and one rather infamous for crimes against women. As the novel evolved, and I worked with Julia Bell, my mentor from Birkbeck University, I realised I had a crime novel on my hands.

I studied under various tutors, understood POV and characterization, plotting and dialogues, and the novel kept changing shape and size, morphing into the being it is today.

Engaged in telling the best story I could, I found acid attack as a plot point, and being the obsessive sort of person I am, I wanted to meet at least one acid attack survivor before I wrote the draft. That changed many things, because having met acid attack survivors, heard their stories and held their hands, it was impossible to turn back. I was still writing a crime novel, but you cannot reduce horrific pain and devastation into plot devices—you must either write about them exclusively, or if they fit into your story, write about them with the greatest respect and as much authenticity as possible.

Book Launch with Acid Attack Survivors

This is how You Beneath Your Skin came about. The framework is of a crime thriller, and it can be read as one. But my years of supporting Project WHY has somehow trickled through—the alleyways I’ve visited, the people I have met there. The acid attack survivors and their pain has seeped into the story as well, and all my proceeds of the novel go to Stop Acid Attacks and Project WHY.

Writing a crime novel, here’s what I have learned:
  • Characters are everything. Many readers have written to me about how much they cared about the characters, how pleased or disappointed they were for these fictional people—Anjali, Jatin, Maya, Pawan, Nikhil. How the novel stayed with them. So I believe characters must be 4-dimensional, unique, independent beings.
  • Setting. No one thinks of New Delhi as a cold place, but it gets close to freezing in winters. For the last few years smog has been a huge issue—New Delhi now has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most polluted city. All that grime and dark lent well to You Beneath Your Skin. When writing crime novels—whether cosy or hard-boiled or literary, the setting needs to be a character, and be used for the plot. In You Beneath Your Skin, the smog and traffic become effective blocks against the protagonists.
  • Motivations are important. Whether you’re writing a traditional whodunit, or a literary whydunit like my novel you must know what motivates each one of your characters. Who is doing what is important, but the novel becomes stronger if the reader knows why they’re doing it.
  • Pace is crucial. Not imposed pace, but pace that comes from all the story questions raised. Each chapter must end on a story question or a revelation that leads to more questions. The plot must follow this path: Incident> Insight> Decision> Consequences> Insight> Decision> Consequences.
  • You can’t be didactic. You Beneath Your Skin raises many issues, but that’s because New Delhi is a very complex city and all the issues are part of its fabric. In a crime novel, story trumps everything—if you raise issues, they should be a corollary of the story, not its main thrust.
  • Research. Make your novel as real as possible. If the details are right, the reader sinks into a fictive dream, believing all of that happens in the story is real. That’s what you need in order to keep them turning the pages.

Writing crime fiction is not for everyone, but it can be a very rewarding experience. It leads to tons of fascinating research, a deep insight into human nature and the thrill of creating scenes that lead neatly from one to the other.

About the author: Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and supports Delhi's underprivileged women and children, volunteering with organisations who work for this cause. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. She has recently been shortlisted for The Fay Khoo Award in Penang, Malaysia.

You can find her on her blog and twitter.  

Her debut literary crime novel is an Amazon bestseller, and all the author proceeds from You Beneath Your Skin will support the education and empowerment of women at Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

What about you? Do you read or write crime fiction? What kind of crime novels do you read or write? Why or why not?

What are your insecurities this month? Do you find that a mess keeps you from writing?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

My First Royalties: Why It's a Big Deal

This week, I officially received my first ever royalty payment!

And it's a big deal.

See, the very first time one of my stories appeared in a publication was April 2013. The first time a story of mine appeared in a publication for which I was supposed to receive a royalty was April 2015. It's been four-and-a-half years since I sold my first royalty-based story, and I've just now been paid.

It wasn't for that original royalty-based publication. It wasn't for my second royalty-based publication. (Or the third, which was in the same book). It wasn't in the fourth one, which never saw the light of day, and for which I've just recently gotten the full rights back so it can be published for the first time.

Nope. Six years after my first publication, I finally received a royalty on my fifth royalty-based sale. It took that long for me to find a publisher honest enough to make that happen.

The timing is interesting, because there's been quite a bit of drama in the horror community in the last week, due to a publisher who has spent years cheating their authors. In my case, all these publications were short stories. But for those people published by this publisher, they were both short stories and novels.

I'm not going to name the publisher here, and as Dr. Phil might say, I have no dog in this hunt, but if you'd like to read about it, you can click HERE.

My point in this post is to put information out there for newer authors looking at submitting to publishers. This is why when I post links to open calls I put a disclaimer asking that people do their own due diligence before submitting. A search online might show issues that have previously come up with those publishers.

Then again, it might not.

There's only so much we, as authors, can do to protect ourselves. It's considered bad form to bad mouth a publisher. The fear is that outing your grievances publicly will get back to those publishers and/or find their way to possible future publishers, resulting in being blacklisted. So we keep our mouths shut. In doing so, we protect ourselves, but then people considering these publishers have no way to see that there are issues. Right now, that fine line still exists. The above mentioned publisher is an exception, because this situation broke out in a big way online. The author who first spoke out about it WAS, in fact, mistreated and maligned because he stepped up and aired his grievances. He ended up being "lucky," in that others with the same grievances came out with their own after things had blown up and it looked like he was done with publishing for good.

While I can't tell you what to do in the future, you have options:

1. If the royalty is small enough, you can let it go. 

This is what I did with the first royalty paying publication. In that case, it likely wasn't dishonesty, so much as lack of income. The contract stated royalties would not be paid out until they had reached a minimum ($10). The publisher did a lot of other things for their authors, and I was happy with what I got for it. They ended up going under.

2. You can contact the publisher with a polite inquiry. 

This is what I did for the second and third publication. I wasn't the only one. Several of the other authors published in the same anthology contacted the publishers. We followed up multiple times. Though we were repeatedly promised we would be paid, including multiple emails to all of us in the publication saying the payment was incoming, we still haven't been paid. The book was published in April 2018. There was no minimum payout involved, and we were to be paid quarterly. But so far, zilch.

3. Report it to professional organizations you belong to and/or Writer Beware.

I haven't done this yet, because the publisher I've been cheated by is local, incredibly small, isolated from the larger community, and run by people I know personally, which further complicates the issue. I've spoken with the other people impacted privately. I'm not dismissing the possibility for the near future, though. As a member of the HWA, I can report it to them. SFWA, MWA, and RWA, plus other organizations, offer this to their members, as well.

4. You can call them out publicly. 

This one's completely up to you. You have to take the possible damage to your career into consideration. It's easier to do when you have the backing of other impacted authors. It's also easier to do if you're somewhat established. Someone like Stephen King calling out a publisher publicly would likely go differently than someone like, say, me doing so.

I have to state, as I have in the past, that my experiences with publishers have been overall positive. I've met some truly wonderful people, who care about the writing community and always do right by us. I'm able to call some of these publishers friends, which is wonderful. Issues like the ones outlined above shouldn't keep you from diving into the publishing world. Just be sure you go in with the understanding that there will be bad experiences mixed in with the good. Royalty-based publications aren't the only ones who don't pay. I've had three publications not pay me when they were supposed to pay a flat fee. Two of these went under before I could query them, so that money's never coming in. The last one has been queried about the payment, so we'll see how that goes.

It's important to keep track of your publications and expected payments so you can follow up in whatever way you deem fit if you don't get paid. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself. You can be polite and still ask for what you're owed. Many of these small presses are run by one or two individuals, so mistakes or delays might happen. Only you know how far you're willing to let it go before pursuing your payment.

To end on a positive note, even the situations where I've been cheated in some form were ultimately worth it. They taught me valuable lessons concerning the publishing world, and I'm sure I'll learn plenty more going forward. In addition, I enjoyed getting to see my stories in print, and for those same stories to get in front of new people. I still love the world of fiction publishing, and refuse to let the few bad experiences destroy it for me. I hope that the information in this post informs without deterring. We all have our place in publishing.

Now for some links. Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Stormdance Publications is seeking submissions for Grumpy Old Gods, Volume 5. 3000 to 4000 words. Pays in a royalty split. Deadline December 1.

Slice Magazine is seeking short stories, flash fiction, essays, and poetry with the theme Persistence. Up to 5000 words. Pays $100 to $400, depending upon submission type. Deadline December 1.

Speculative City is seeking horror short stories, poems, and essays for their 7th issue. Up to 5500 words. Pays $20 to $75, depending upon submission type. Deadline December 2.

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, and more. Pays $50. Deadline December 15.

Malefaction is seeking stories with the theme Femme Fatale. Up to 2000 words. Paying market. Deadline December 16.

Have you had experience with not being paid? What actions did you take? Do you have recommendations not mentioned here? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.


Nosmoke (dollar signs) by OCAL
Shoosh Shoo Smiley by OCAL
Writer Beware logo from their website
Megafonim by OCAL

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

IWSG - Picking Up Steam

It's the first Wednesday of November, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, helmed by Alex J. Cavanaugh!

Our co-hosts this month are:
Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! Be sure to stop by as thanks for hosting!

The last couple IWSGs I've really been struggling. My writing wasn't going well, submissions weren't being picked up, and it was taking me a long time to turn stories back around after rejections. It felt like I'd never get back to writing again.

Then suddenly, the words and ideas and enthusiasm were back! I've been getting much more done, and am feeling closer to my old self. So this month I'm just celebrating that! The insecurities are still there, but I'm so happy to be able to write again. And to care about it instead of looking at it like it's a job I'm failing, but have to do.

The optional question this week is: what's the strangest thing you've ever googled while researching a story? 

Wellll...I write horror. I've researched things like the effects of poisons, deadly flora and fauna, Christmas songs, how long certain injuries would take to heal, what damage tools might do to various body parts, laws in different states, what it feels like to drown, serial killers, acids and bases, odd phobias, the symptoms of the "date rape drug," etc.

I can't update my stats tonight, because I'm switching everything to a new computer, and I'm working off that computer right now, but I haven't moved over my spreadsheet yet, and it's late! So next month I'll have to do this month's stats and next month's. (I took last month off from doing it since I was in the doldrums.) I will give you a sneak preview: I got a couple acceptances and one story has been short listed. Yay!

Coming up this weekend, I'll be doing a reading in Denver!

Links will have to wait, too. I just got back from a trip at 9 PM tonight, cleaned a week's worth of cat boxes, caught up on some day job work, and I really, really want to go take a hot bath and go to bed. I hope to post some photos next week from my beach vacation! As well as some foibles that accompanied the trip.

How have you pulled yourself out of the doldrums in the past? How is your writing going? Are you submitting? Any news? What's the strangest thing you've ever researched?

May you find your Muse.