Interview with Sam’s Dot Publishing Editor Cathy Buburuz

NightCathy BuburuzA lot of writers (I know I did) have groaned over the frustration of rejected submissions. What catches an editor’s eye? What are publishers and readers looking for? And so tonight, I will be chatting with SDP editor Cathy Buburuz. Cathy has been sending poetry, fiction, and art to Night to Dawn since I became editor in 2004. Her work has appeared in magazines across the USA, Canada, Australia, England, Romania, Japan, Yugoslavia, and other countries. Along with her horror writing and illustration, she edits Champagne Shivers and other magazines for Sam’s Dot Publishing. Cathy’s got some interesting insights on the industry, so let’s hear what she has to say.

BARBARA: You wear several hats – editor, illustrator, fiction writer, and poet. Do you have any one favourite?

CATHY: I don’t have a favourite task and I’ve always enjoyed that luxury of going from one creative project to another. Doing all four keeps things fresh and interesting. To me, all four are meaningful and fulfilling forms of creativity, but it’s the writing of fiction that helps me work off the anger and frustrations associated with the aches and pains of our society and everyday life.

Right here in my hometown there was a news story about a man who beat his toddler to death for touching the family’s television. The story stayed with me far too long and writing was a way to deal with it. I wanted to draw attention to the problem and promote the idea that as parents we need to pay more attention to our children, our own little world, and the world around us. We often forget how important love and kindness are to a child and how easily they can fall prey to sly monsters that single them out because they’re starved for affection, or even a little attention. This thought resulted in my story Jesus God in Heaven, about a little girl who falls victim to the least expected villain. The story has seen publication no less than six times in three different countries, so I have to believe it succeeds in its intent and purpose which is to make a solid connection and to awaken readers’ emotions.

I don’t always write with a serious goal or purpose in mind. Most times I write for the natural high that it brings. When you’re on a roll with a great idea, it’s an unequalled magic, a thing that has a way of blocking out all else, taking you to places you wouldn’t otherwise explore.

BARBARA: Some folks say Stephen’s King’s writing has changed since his accident. I beg to differ, although I couldn’t get into the Dark Tower Series like the others. In particular, I enjoyed Duma Key. What say you?

CATHY: Stephen King’s earlier novels were his most impressive, and his short story collections were outstanding. His sense of humour and his ability to connect with readers through convincing fiction are his charm. I loved Carrie, Salem’s Lot, Misery, and Dolores Claiborne, and I thought Nightshift, Skeleton Crew, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and Everything’s Eventual were fantastic. King writes for the common man and in doing so he’s gained the world as his audience because, when you cut it to the bone, we’re all emotional beings faced with everyday decisions and dilemmas that could change the course of our lives in a flash.

My first experience with Stephen King was a well worn copy of Salem’s Lot, probably read by a dozen others before I discovered it. I own a lot of his books, and movies based on his books, and I still enjoy going back to these year after year. The movie Stand by Me (based on his short story, The Body) is among my favourites. In so many ways, that story reflected my own childhood and the things that were going on in my head at the time. I loved Dolores Claiborne for its high level of believability and the authenticity of its characters. King’s characters are always memorable.

Years ago, Inscriptions held a poetry contest. To enter, all you had to do was submit a poem by e-mail about Stephen King. My short tribute won the contest and netted me the prizes, $50 and a hardcover copy of King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have won because I enjoyed that book immensely. The poem that won went something like this:

Ink is blood

the thought, an artery

as psychotic razors

slash his creativity

gushing a story

on a winter white page.

Do I admire the man and his work? Most definitely.

Am I awestruck by every word he has ever written? No, I am not.

For a writer to please every reader 100% of the time is an impossible, unattainable task, simply because we all have different tastes in fiction and in writing styles. Still, when you look at the man’s career, it’d be impossible to deny that he’s done an amazing job, is envied by many, and ultimately deserves respect.

BARBARA: The economy has hurt paperback sales in the USA. Have you noticed any of this in Canada?

CATHY: Chapters is my favourite Canadian bookstore because you can enjoy a Starbucks coffee while cruising its many bookshelves for the latest releases. There’s something special about the aroma of coffee in a bookstore. Whether it’s the sale of books or the sale of coffee, or a combination of the two, this phenomenal bookstore has survived despite the challenges. I can’t deny that the cover price of a book is downright depressing sometimes, but a book is a unique form of entertainment, a journey, an often intimate experience between writer and reader that opens minds, changes minds, and expands minds. To me, it’s worth the price of admission.

Despite harsh economic times, book lovers continue to read. The only difference now is that more and more used books are being traded or sold, and that’s having a negative impact on sales of new books. More and more avid readers are turning to garage sales, yard sales, flea markets, libraries and used bookstores to fill the need.

BARBARA: What advice would you give writers hoping to get into Sam’s Dot Publishing’s books and magazines?

CATHY: All it takes is a well written story that’s in harmony with each publication’s guidelines.

It’s important for writers to know that an editor can read just a few paragraphs of your story and know whether or not you’ve bothered to read the guidelines, whether or not you’re a professional or an amateur. The opening paragraphs of your story send signals about whether or not you’re serious about your craft, or whether you’re just another wannabe. The great thing about Sam’s Dot Publishing is that we take pride in publishing stories and art by new and upcoming writers as well as the seasoned pros, but you have to be willing to perfect your manuscript, to work with us on it if it needs work. If your manuscript needs a major rewrite, chances are we’ll decline it, not because we don’t want to help, but because we believe it’s your responsibility to learn the rules of good writing and submission beforehand, and our time is just as valuable as yours.

BARBARA: I notice a lot of writers/illustrators promote their work through www.cafeshops.com. How does that work for you?

CATHY: I believe that self-promotion that could fill an ocean is the key to success.

If you type your name into a search engine and only about a hundred web pages come up, you’ve failed miserably in online promotion. Getting your name and your product all over cyberspace is time-consuming but it can be done. Work toward a presence on as many websites as possible, preferably reputable websites that have their origins in several different countries. If your work is leaving an impression on those who experience it, typing your name into a search engine will help you locate those comments. Although reviewers are fast becoming a rarity, they can be found, but searches do take time. Not so long ago, there were many more science fiction, fantasy and horror magazines with review columns – even entire magazines dedicated to reviews – but the world is ever-changing and good reviewers are few.

If you’re an illustrator, focus on what counts. Paint, market, and sell. If you sell your art on products, strive for representation by many different companies and galleries, preferably those who take advertising and promotion of their artists seriously.

If you’re a writer, the same applies. Write, market, and sell. Seek out reputable publishers who go the extra mile to promote the work of their contributors.

If you’re an editor, you have to take the time to comment on manuscripts and work with potential contributors to perfect their craft so that you can produce a noteworthy and memorable publication.

There are hundreds of writers out there who relentlessly market the same old manuscript to dozens of editors, sometimes simultaneously, instead of admitting to themselves that their manuscript needs work before it will sell. The only way they’re going to know that is if the editor they submit to makes the decision to offer an honest assessment of the manuscript, even if that honesty comes in the form of a single sentence. Don’t look at it as rejection; look at it as constructive criticism. When an editor takes the time to point out the problems with your manuscript, learn from that. Do not continue to make the same mistakes over and over ’til death do us part.

BARBARA: Could you talk a little about Sam’s Dot Publishing (SDP) and its current projects?

CATHY: Sam’s Dot Publishing (SDP) is owned and operated by Tyree Campbell, who took over all responsibilities and changed the company name when James B. Baker of ProMart Publishing passed away. Mr. Baker had many admirable goals, but the one that meant the most to him was to publish and promote new talent. Mr. Campbell has carried on in this tradition and has expanded the numbers and the kinds of publications produced each year. He publishes upcoming artists and writers alongside the pros. We have several editors on staff, and we take pride in the publications we produce. The novels, anthologies, and magazines have in recent years progressed to perfect bound publications, most with full colour covers. I’m responsible for the editing of Champagne Shivers, Expressions, the Potter’s Field anthologies, and the Side Show 2: Tales of the Big Top and the Bizarre anthologies. We have a special guidelines page on the SDP website where all of our projects are listed along with our pay rates: http://www.samsdotpublishing.com/guidelines.htm

Our publications are sold in the electronic store on the SDP website, in a couple of brick and mortar bookstores, and in The Genre Mall. Mr. Campbell also travels across the USA each summer to promote and sell SDP publications at many conventions.

BARBARA: Where do you see the publishing industry five years from now? Do you think e-book sales will outrun those of paperbacks?

CATHY: I love paperbacks. I don’t read e-books. I’ve paid $35+ for a book written by someone whose work I admire, yet I decline the generosity when writers and publishers offer free e-books. In my line of work I spend anywhere from six to fourteen hours a day looking at a computer screen, so a paperback will always win me over. And for the record, that goes for review copies as well; especially review copies.

BARBARA: Your illustrations have drawn many compliments from NTD readers. What do you find most enjoyable about the work in process? The most challenging?

CATHY: All art is a challenge for me, simply because I’m one of the slowest artists on the planet. It takes me two to five hours to design a piece of filler art, and a minimum of ten hours to complete a full page artwork. For some, art comes easy. For me, it does not. I’m hard on myself as an artist and because I have a deep love for the physical aspects of drawing, I never want the painting to end.

 

I’m not as flexible as most artists, nor am I as talented, and it just blows me away when I receive a compliment, a kind review, a fan letter, or someone actually takes the time to hunt me down to ask if they can buy one of my originals. The truth be known, the reason why I became an artist in the first place was because I dared to send a small piece of filler art to an editor and he published it on his cover. That editor changed my life because he gave me the confidence to continue, to experiment, and to submit more of my work to other publications. American artist Marge Simon saw that very first cover and invited me to collaborate with her. At the time, she was the most published artist I was aware of – she’d won great recognition and awards for her art and her cartoons – so I was as nervous as hell about working with her. I gave collaboration a shot. I loved it, and I learned from it. Over the years I’ve worked on art collaborations with more than a dozen artists and illustrators, and I’ll always be grateful for that experience because it served as an education in its purist form.

BARBARA: Could you describe what a typical work day is like?

CATHY: My typical work day is spent multi-tasking. One day never resembles another. I chose to work on what I’m interested in at the time, what my mood or creative energy dictates, and the job I feel I’m best suited for on any given day. I might spend three or four hours reading and responding to submissions to my projects or spend an hour researching potential markets for my own work and my online monthly newsletter, Expressions. Every now and then, to give my work variety, I take on a private job editing a novel or a chapbook.

I tend to do artwork during the day because I prefer natural light. I write the majority of my stories, poems, and reviews in the evening because that just happens to be the time when I’m the most creative and productive, and it’s also a time when the phone or the doorbell is less likely to ring. When I need a break, I wander out into my flower garden and pull weeds or water the lawn, or go on facebook to play a few rounds of Word Twist or to learn more about what other creative people are working on. To dump the junk in my head, I read a good book or magazine, watch a movie or an episode of North of 60, Bones, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, or CSI Las Vegas.

No matter what I’m working on, I like to take breaks every three or four hours. The only exception to that rule is when the writing is going well. I never stop writing when the words are coming faster than I can type them. I’ve also been known to dive out of bed at five in the morning because of an idea I fear losing. I’ve also been known to work until six in the morning because I’m on a roll.

I seem to thrive on maximum overload so, in an effort to hang on to my own sanity and stay grounded, I try to spend as much down time as possible with my family, and I always shoot for one to three short vacations each year.

BARBARA: Which forums would you recommend to authors hoping to promote their work? Any other advice?

CATHY: I choose forums that suit my particular wants and needs, places where my levels of privacy and comfort aren’t in jeopardy, a forum that feels like home. While I believe that a writer can’t spend too much time on promotion, I think writers have to allot a fair amount of time to their craft. In fact, most of us work so long and hard at our chosen professions, we wish we had more time for self-promotion. There are those of us who would much rather work on an illustration, a short story, or a novel than tackle the chore of marketing and promoting ourselves.

Still, I’d have to say that the absolute best form of self-promotion is publication. The more you’re published in reputable books and magazines, the wider your audience, and the more likely you’ll be acknowledged as someone who’s serious about their craft.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to remember that readers don’t admire you because you’ve had 500 or 600 illustrations, poems or stories published. The reality is, truckloads of crap are published each year. Readers admire writers simply because they enjoyed their work, they could relate to it, and it lit an emotion in them.

It’ll always be quality, not quantity that counts most in this business. If you can accomplish both of these simultaneously, you’ve more than done your job.

Interview with Balloon Artist Turned Author Ralph E. Horner

TandemTrystSome time ago Night to Dawn Books published Heroes of Ancient Greece, an anthology featuring Ralph E. Horner’s tale, “Atalanta.” I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to learn about his brainchild Tandem Tryst and forthcoming sequel. Also fascinating is his background in magic and balloon art. He has crafted every balloon animal you can imagine and now, he has brought his experiences with him into publishing and marketing. So let’s hear what Ralph has to say about Tandem Tryst and his upcoming sequel.

BARBARA: I’ve known that you’ve written short stories for some time, having published one in Heroes of Ancient Greece. What motivated your transition to novels?

RALPH: Actually I started writing novels first. I wrote three rather short novels between 1985 and 1995. They were about fifty-five to sixty-five thousands words, and during that time I did write one short Christmas story. Even though I was a bit discouraged after none of these novels got published, the concept of Tandem Tryst seemed better than the other stories I had written. That alone motivated me to continue writing it. I also decided that extending the story to eighty thousand words would make it easier to sell.

BARBARA: Could you tell me about balloon animals and magic? How do you garner publicity for your business?

RALPH: Every year I try to make four or five new balloon creations. I’m up to around one hundred now. I used the term make new balloons rather than learn because once you’re up to making twenty-five or thirty you start creating things that aren’t in balloon books. Figures like Angels, Frankenstein, the wolfman, fairies, etc. Also with magic, I learn a new trick or two a year and try to implement comedy into most of them. If you can get the kids laughing that really helps a magic show. I now teach balloon art and magic for children and adults at a local junior college. For advertising my business I use the area phone book which also gives you an on-line listing.

BARBARA: Do you find yourself bringing your experiences as a clown to the printed page? If yes, can you give an example?

RALPH: Outside of the fact that clowning and creative writing are both considered entertainment, they are very different. With my stories usually being series in nature, I don’t often use humor, but there are exceptions. In “Pandora Spoxx” from the Startling Stories Anthology, I used humor to color my Captain Danger and the Space Rangers story. I used a lot of puns and satire in that one. Even in my novel Tandem Tryst I occasionally wrote in a humorous situation and a little joke here and there, and when the two main characters are watching a vaudeville show, I wrote an entire comedy routine that could have taken place at that time.

The sequel Midnight Mist, which I’m working on now, has the most humor of any novel I’ve done. For the first time I’ve even written in a character who is a birthday party clown.

BARBARA: Where did you get your ideas for your characters and theme for Tandem Tryst?

RALPH: I was mowing the grass one day and the concept of the story came to me. What if my wife passed away suddenly and then years later I was somehow able to travel back in time and meet her soul in a previous life. And what if she looked, sounded, and acted as my wife did? This would be the ultimate blessing for someone who lost their soul-mate.

Tandem Tryst was originally going to be a third story in my Witch’s Moon trilogy I was writing. Since the first two novels took place in MA this one would too, and the time was to be 1893. When I told my mother about this new novel she mentioned that the time was the same as the World’s Columbian Exposition here in Chicago. I’d heard of that fair, but knew very little about it. Since I live in the Chicago area I changed the story to that location. I spent more time researching the history of the fair than I did writing the story. I was only in the third chapter when I saw the book The Devil in the White City being advertised in the Chicago Tribune. I knew I’d done the right thing by putting the story at the fair. Instead of having this novel as a third story of an unpublished trilogy I decided to make this a separate story. As far as the characters, they evolved as I wrote the novel.

BARBARA: I hear you’re working on a sequel, Midnight Mist. Could you give a preview of this tale?

RALPH: While my lead characters, Jeff and Melody, in Tandem Tryst solve the problems, like revealing the stalker, another dilemma opens up as Tandem Tryst comes to a close. I don’t want to say too much about Midnight Mist that might spoil Tandem Tryst for people who haven’t read it, but the sequel gives the first story closure for the two lovers. In the first story Jeff, who is from 1993, goes back in time to Melody’s time 1893 and in Midnight Mist, Melody comes to Jeff’s time with some new and existing problems.

BARBARA: Most writers find moving from short stories to novels a great leap. What do you find the most challenging about novel writing?

RALPH: Well, since I started with short novels, and novellas, I would say the hardest part about writing a full length novel is trying to incorporate side plots and keeping the word count up, if you’re not use to writing that long of a story. The thinking process is different for a novel.

BARBARA: What advice would you give an aspiring author trying to hone his or her technique?

RALPH: Join a writers’ support group. You have to have other writers evaluate your work. Writing has so many facets involved; plot, dialogue, narrative, good descriptions, a good writing style or voice, punctuation and the list goes on. Just when you think you have these attributes down your writers group will find another flaw for you to consider. Your writing can always improve. Sometimes the criticism of the group is painful, but it’s worth it if you want to improve and get published. If the people in your group don’t find your problems, the editors at the publishing houses will.

BARBARA: “Atalanta” enjoyed a favorable review. What motivated that tales, and how did the collaborating with Tom and the other contributors come about?

RALPH: I had two stories published through Tom’s magazine Classic Pulp Fiction Stories and we had done another anthology together. One day he emailed me asking if I could write a story about Atalanta the woman warrior from Greek Mythology. I had never heard of her, but told him I’d do some research and write one. Tom was planning an anthology of Ancient Greek Heroes and also contacted a mutual friend, Mike Black to help him with the writing. Tom wrote two stories; one with Hercules and one about Atalanta. Mike wrote a Hercules story and I did a second one with the Atalanta theme. It was a lot of fun writing in a new genre.

BARBARA: Where may people get copies of Tandem Tryst and Greek Heroes?

RALPH: Amazon.com has both of them. You can also buy Tandem Tryst from my publisher, Wings-press.com, or my website www.ralphehorner.weebly.com, and the book store at the Chicago Architecture Foundation where they conduct the White City bus tours, and at their on-line store www.architecture.org. I believe now you can also order it at Barnes and Nobel.

BARBARA: If you could give one piece of advice to an author trying to promote their books, what would it be?

RALPH: I’m still learning myself, but I’d say get a website, try to get on-line reviews and schedule book signings and readings to get your name out there.

RalphTT

 

Interview with Author & Essayist Minnie E. Miller

Seduction of Mr. Bradley features dark fantasy by Minnie E. MillerTonight, I’d like to talk with Minnie E. Miller, author of The Seduction of Mr. Bradley, Forever My Love, and Catharsis. Having worked for San Francisco’s Mayor, Atlanta’s City Council, and Chicago’s WMAQ TV’s newsroom, Minnie has acquired a strong interest in politics which blends in with the fiction / fantasy on her printed page. Mr. Bradley has earned several 4 and 5-star reviews. I’ve had the pleasure of reading her books and found them entertaining and at the same time thought-provoking. Minnie will be discussing her books and marketing strategies, so let’s hear what she has to say.

BARBARA: What motivated your writing of The Seduction of Mr. Bradley? Can you give a brief summary?

MINNIE: I had a conversation with a gay man about alternative lifestyles (because I’m nosy) and in thinking back, discovered I knew a man who was bisexual and put what I understood in the novel. I did not interview the man. Bisexuals will not publicly admit their lifestyle.

Bill Bradley is adopted and mentored by Ted Grassley from high school to manhood. Ted is a CEO with deep pockets. Although married for forty years, he is bisexual. Bill, caught in the throws of Ted’s lifestyle, complicates matters when he meets Jina Cook, a straight, attractive young lady. The two feel an instant attraction toward each other, but both try to pretend it is not happening. Finally, Jina makes the first move, and Bill knows he can’t live without the woman. Unfortunately, Bill has a big secret; he is bisexual and finds himself torn between Jina and Ted – his male lover and father figure. This spontaneous and deeply gratifying tryst throws him off balance. When Mr. Bradley reveals his bisexuality to the only woman he’s ever loved, an emotional war erupts.

BARBARA: You’ve done so well with your characterization in Mr. Bradley and Catharsis. Where did you get your ideas for some of these characters?

MINNIE: I answered where my my idea for Mr. Bradley came from in question 1, above. Also I started writing Mr. Bradley from a female POV, but when his voice became stronger, I switched the protagonist to Bill. I also researched bisexuality and visited many Bi sites. The novel does not bash alternative lifestyles; it’s about love and humankind.

Catharsis, three short stories, was my first book ever. Looking back, I think it came about because I was angry about slavery and with corporate America – corporations are one group listed under vampires! The last short story in Catharsis, “Connecting,” was taken from another MS I was working on and came from my heart.

BARBARA: Could you talk a little about your forthcoming releases?

MINNIE: Whispers From The Mirror is a paranormal novel. Protagonist Brianna Deville is a feminist/activist. Mother Belle raises her to be a strong, independent woman. In deference to her mother, she lives most of her life hiding behind the mask of a feminist until she learns mother abandoned her for a career she tethers Brianna to. She hears her biological clock ticking and knows she is at a crossroad in her life. Mirror-lady, an apparition, counsels Brianna and tells her the truth about her role as a feminist and how it has inhibited  her. The ghost is a strong sub-character who nearly steals the story. She has quite a sense of humor.

I’m rewriting “Forever My Love” into a novel. It’s an Amazon Short and still available online. Vampire Lucien is lonely and searches the world, looking for his soul mate. He finds Christina in an opera house in California and mentally seduces her. During their many visits together, she is unaware that he is a vampire and falls in love with him. Unbeknown to her, he stalks her, enters her bedroom in the night and telepathically plants his lovemaking into her mind. Christina has no idea what awaits her. Lucien vows to have her at any cost.

I would like to release both novels in mid-2010.

ForeverMyLove features more dark fantasyBARBARA: You’ve talked about editing on your blog and website. What tips can you give on how an author should approach an editor?

MINNIE: Areas of expertise, price, and schedule are all-important in choosing an editor.  Learn how the editor charges and compare it with your budget. I think it important that you discuss your plot. Some editors will not work on certain stories. Also, ask about their clients – most will put their client list on their website. Ask friends for references. IMO, an editor is very important to your work and I won’t slack on the cost, but I demand the best results for my work.

BARBARA: The economy has had a big effect on publishing houses – staff cutbacks and the like. Do you think that more and more authors will opt for self-publishing?

MINNIE: I’ve seen this happening. I’m even looking at e-Publishing, but haven’t found the connection yet. However I publish, I’ll use three avenues: paperbacks, eBooks and reading machines like Kindle. When publishing houses come out of their tortoise shell – understand that publishing is a business that requires a profit – like the turtle, they will be slow in taking on new authors. They more than likely will work from their “A and B list” and new authors are rarely on these lists.

BARBARA: Have you given any thoughts to e-Book publishing? As the economy changes, will e-Books become the wave of the future?

MINNIE: No doubt e-Books are now. The future is now. I’m going to look into it.

BARBARA: What advice would you give an author hoping to market their books?

MINNIE: Get a website; a blog would also help. Work within social net sites. I would save enough money to hire a public relations person unless you’re good with marketing. You will need a book distributor; they are expensive but necessary. Get on online talk shows; there are hundreds out there! I don’t do too many book signings unless they are in my city. Rarely will a book signing cover the cost of table, transportation and hotel room. You could spend as much as $1,200 and sell maybe five books. That said, try to make at least one book fair a year so that people get to know the face connected with the book. Make your book information and website a permanent part of your e-mail, a tag line.

BARBARA: What would you consider to be the most challenging part of your writing?

MINNIE: Personal editing and rewriting after a professional edit. Understand that you cannot see your errors, but you can try to clean up the MS before sending it to a professional editor. I use two editors: developmental and proofreader. It would work well if you could find an editor who will copy edit and proofread. Your next challenge is marketing – it’s your job regardless as to how your book is published. Publishers WILL NOT market your book for you. Yeah, they’ll put you on their list of authors but beyond that, it’s your job to push your novel.

BARBARA: Do you have any signings or radio interviews coming up?  When?

MINNIE: A friend has asked me to have a book signing of Mr. Bradley at her boutique this September. Her boutique is seven blocks from my apartment. Ha! I also plan to have two online radio interviews when my new books drop in 2010.

BARBARA: Where may people get copies of your books?

MINNIE: As of this year, The Seduction of Mr. Bradley is no longer available on www.amazon.com, and Catharsis is not carried on B&N any longer. I have copies of both books in my apartment. Contact me by email at minnie247@sbcglobal.net or http://www.millerscribs.com. I accept PayPal payments or money orders.

Interview with Award-winning Author Denyse Bridger

Tonight, I will be chatting with Author Denyse Bridger, whose tales and characters have enchanted many readers. A prolifice writer, she has penned close to 400+ short stories and novellas. Her dark fantasy works have earned her Eppie finalist in 2006; finalist for 2008 Prix Aurora Award, Book Lovers Cover Best Book Award (2009) and others.  So let’s hear what Denyse has to say about her creative genus and methods to her success.

BARBARA: I understand you’ve partnered with Branscombe Richmond to write motorcycle adventures (modern-day Westerns). How is that going, and how does it feel writing in a different genre?

DENYSE: This isn’t really a different genre for me, I’ve been in love with traditional Westerns for most of my life, so it’s relatively smooth to take the adventure and mindset, and project it forward to the 21st century. As Branscombe said when he proposed this, just replace horses with motorcycles and go from there. It’s working beautifully!

BARBARA: I see you’re working on a tale set in Italy. I’ve been there myself and find it a perfect atmosphere for romance. Have you gone there for your research/ How do you research other settings?

DENYSE: I have not been to Italy, but again we’re talking about something that has been an on-going love affair for me virtually my entire life. There is something so perfect about this country, the culture, and the amazing spirit of the people of Italia. They embody romance on all levels, with their passion for art, and love, and ‘la dolce vita! I hope one day to visit this dream place, so hopefully one day I can sit on a balcony in Sorrento, look out at the Bay of Naples, and write the magic. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that. For the moment, I use pictures, read many books, rent DVDs, and drive my Italian friends crazy with questions that they graciously answer for me.

BARBARA: What do you see in the future for e-books versus paperbacks?

DENYSE: I think the e-market is slowly expanding and becoming more legitimate in the world of books, but there will always be a special kind of attachment to books that you can hold in your hands and touch. For me, I’ve been reading my whole life, and there is nothing quite like the feel of paper and texture in your hands as you settle in to escape to a different world. My first major release was absolute magic to me, to touch it and see it stacked on the table at the launch, walk into stores and see it on the shelf. It’s a feeling that can’t be captured with eBooks, honestly.

It is a general consensus that eBooks are the future of our industry, and it makes sense. Environmentally it’s logical, and from the traveler’s standpoint, it’s amazing. You can take your eReader and carry a hundred books in your hand, and you don’t have to worry about the weight limit from the airline!!

BARBARA: I’ve heard that “horror” has become a taboo label, and people are now calling it dark fantasy or supernatural thriller. What are your feelings on that?

DENYSE: Horror conjures up such negative images, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the label has become somewhat taboo. Not all dark fantasy is about blood and gore, and that tends to be what people think of when they see the word horror, something that will terrify and sicken in some ways. There’s a brutality to the genre’s subconscious in many people’s minds, and that may be why many authors want a different classification. I think if you are writing supernatural beings, etc., that there is in most cases a redeeming humanity to those characters, and for that reason alone many authors don’t want it called horror. Because it’s not meant to inspire fear but emotional empathy. Horror brings to mind the cinematic kind of mindless violence that makes many stomachs turn, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Chainsaw, things of that nature. I’d rather be thought of as a dark fantasy author than a horror writer, and perhaps many others feel the same way.

BARBARA: What would you recommend for an aspiring author to hone their writing?

DENYSE: Write. Ultimately, that’s the best training there is. Persevere, and keep learning with each piece you write. Don’t listen to your friends and family, listen to what other authors have to say, and what editors have to say. Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect book, just the best book you can produce at the time that you write it. Once it’s done, leave it, take what you’ve learned from it, and make the next one better for what you’ve taken from the experience. If you constantly revisit old books and tweak and work them, you’ll never discover the new adventures that are waiting to be told. None of us are so good that we can’t benefit from honest and constructive opinion. You have to learn to take what works for you, and benefits you, and leave the rest behind. Bad reviews are a way of life, because there is no such thing as a book that is universally brilliant to every person who reads it. Accept that early and you’ll be a much happier author!

BARBARA: What is the once piece of advice you would give to authors trying to market their books?

DENYSE: Take your time and find the right publisher for your book. There is always a niche for what you create, and sometimes a smaller specialized publisher is a better fit than a big publisher, especially early in the writer’s career. So, take advantage of the internet resources and libraries, see where you think your book would find the best editorial acceptance, and fit with the catalog and reputation of the press. It wouldn’t make sense to submit a fantasy tale to a romance publisher, or a thriller to a children’s press, so make sure you’ve chosen well and appropriately.

Once you’ve found the right publisher, you have to then be prepared to be your own biggest cheerleader. The promotion and saleability of your book is in your hands, really. It’s a major job and requires dedication and a lot of time and work, so you have to be prepared to put in a lot more hours than you may realize. It’s a competitive market, and authors abound, so you will be one of many people vying for a reader’s hard-earned dollars and interest/time. Make it worth their time, and they will be loyal and supportive of all you do. Give them a shoddy product and it doesn’t matter if your second effort is worthy of a Pulitzer, you’ve already lost the audience. Treat your readers with respect, and they will never desert you.

BARBARA: I found your “coming soon” attractions intriguing. In particular The House of Secrets. When will this book become available?

DENYSE: With a little luck this book will be available next Spring. There is one more story to finish from the group of contributing authors, then I have to write my part of the tale. Ideally, it will all flow into one smooth, connected story. The Italian title is ‘La Casa di Segreti. And the idea is one that has been in my mind for a couple of years. When I made the decision to propose it to a group of authors, and turn it into an anthology of different voices, they were amazing, and very detailed in their research and dedicated to making the whole thing dovetail nicely. I’m very proud of what they’ve done, and I think readers are going to enjoy a really wonderful book!

BARBARA: Here in the USA, the economy has had a big impact on the way publishing is done. People seem to favor e-books because they are cheaper. Are you noticing this in Canada also?

DENYSE: I really don’t know if there’s been as much impact on the Canadian market, because the stats here show that people are buying more print books than ever, so whether that also means more eBooks, I really couldn’t say with any reasonable certainty.

BARBARA: You’ve been very prolific with your tales. How many hours a day do you spend at the keyboard, and where do you get your energy to keep going?

DENYSE: I tend to spend approx. 12-14 hours a day at work, interrupted by breaks of course. And real-life, which tends some days to make the days turn into 16 hours!!  Seriously, I do spend a lot of time dedicated to either writing, or doing all the things that have become part of the process and are now routine. The promotional posts, blogs, guests, coordinating it all takes time and energy. If you maintain a MySpace, or FaceBook page, those things also eat into the time. It’s all become part of the day to day routine, though, and at the end of it, if I get a few hours of actually writing time in, and see some progress made on a story, then I consider the day a success!

BARBARA: Which book won the Best Book Award, your latest?

DENYSE: Yes, the latest release, Whom Gods Have Favored. It won Best Book Cover in the month of May, and the cover is rather stunning and eye-catching. It was also nominated for The Covey Award in June, so that cover alone is getting lots of attention! I’ve been fortunate, really. This isn’t the first time a book of mine has been in the running for an award. My fantasy novel was a finalist on the ballot for the very prestigious Aurora Award here in Canada. Another erotic contemporary was a finalist for an Eppie; I have won Fan Quality Awards for my early fan fiction, and an international poetry award. My first professional contract was won in a competition, and I haven’t looked back since. Just as my first original fantasy tale was voted Best in Issue in the Reader’s Choice poll for the magazine it was featured in. I’ve been very lucky to have my work recognized and appreciated in this way. Just as I’ve been extremely blessed by the excellent reviews for virtually everything I’ve written.

One of the thing I was most proud of was being asked to be the feature in Sable Grey Magazine, which debuted in February. It was an honor to be part of something so widely read by so many readers. Sable is a wonderful and talented lady, and her friendship is an added bonus to a great professional introduction.

Thanks very much, Barbara, for having me as your guest. I’ll look forward to chatting with your readers, and answering any questions they may have. I hope they’ll drop by my website too. There are lots of fun things on the Freebies page and the Extras! Plus, I co-own a magazine of my own, designed for Readers of Romance. That’s on the links page, Sensual Treats Magazine. All in all, I keep pretty busy!!

Denyse Bridger
Website: http://www.denysebridger.com
My Blog: http://fantasy-pages.blogspot.com
My Passion: http://amoresenzaconfini.blogspot.com
Sensual Treats Magazine: http://www.sensualtreats.webs.com

WhomGodsFavored

 

Interview with Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Marge Simon has mastered many talents – poetry, art, editing, short stories, and…cooking. She edits the journal Star*Line. Her collaboration on Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet with Charlee Jacob won a Bram Stoker Award in 2008. She has received the Rhysling Award for her poetry, and the James award for her illustrations. When she’s not writing or painting, she enjoys catering to the monsters we know and love and will be happy to share her recipe for Zombie’s Delight. So tonight, I will chat with Marge about her writing and other talents.

BARBARA: That meal you’ve got going is a zombie’s delight. So yes, you’ve got me curious about the recipe.

MARGE: All right, Barbara, Zombie’s Delight is a secret family recipe which I’ve been given permission to reveal only once:

Purchase hand fresh from your local Hand Stand. Make sure it is tender by pinching the skin. A male hand, bone in, is best; some female hands, if adequate, will suffice.

Prep hand with garlic salt. Boil five minutes on medium heat. Drain juice, put aside.

Place in large kettle. Combine 2 cups chopped celery, 1/2 cup diced liverwurst, 6 used bandages (preferably gauze), 1/3 cup toenail clippings, 1 egg, slightly beaten, 5 cups watery plasma, 2 tbsp. Saki, 1 cup wallpaper paste. Pour over hand. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. You’ll know when it has the right consistency. Remove from heat. Chill one hour. Pour or scrape into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 hours, or until the aroma becomes overwhelming.

Serve warm with the au jus you set aside and probably forgot about.

BARBARA: Moving onto writing – I noticed you used your own illustrations for Vectors as you did with Artist of Antithesis. Many publishers prefer to assign their own cover art to their books. How did you approach the publisher about using your own?

MARGE: In both cases you mention, the editor/publisher knew I was/am an artist. In fact, I’ve never had a problem with providing cover art for my collections. As fate may bring luck, I’ve also illustrated five Bram Stoker winners. But I don’t for a minute think that it was on the strength of my art that the publication won.

BARBARA: How did collaborating work out for you and Charlee Jacob during your work on Vectors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration?

MARGE: Here’s how it happened. Charlee had written a series of poems about an apocalyptic virus that went global, infecting every mortal on this planet. In May of 2007, she invited me to join her as a kindred voice in this collection, as I have written numerous poems along the same lines.

Problems with collaborations? Charlee and I had no problems between us. If you want me to make this more exciting, Charlee and I had crazed fits and vowed to never to speak to each other again. I refused to change a single word, and so did she. But that isn’t so.

BARBARA: From what I’ve seen in Night to Dawn, you wear several hats: illustrator, poet, and fiction writer. Which one do you like best?

MARGE: I like them all. I also wear an editor’s hat (for Star*Line, digest for the SF Poetry Association). Then there is my TV talk show: DEADLY SURVIVORS and my Food Channel show: DYING TO EAT.

Oh, as for the other hats–I love multitasking. I’m happiest having something going in all departments.

BARBARA: I notice that you’ve collaborated with other artists for the Night to Dawn illustrations. How does collaborating work for illustrations, especially if you and the other artist live miles apart?

MARGE: Cathy Buburuz (Saskatchewan, Canada) and I “met” thanks to ETOU magazine, about 1989. I was so intrigued by a cover she did, I had to get acquainted. We started collaborating long distance snail mail in the 90’s. I thought her excellent designs would work well with my (then) stylized pen/ink line and vice versa. She agreed, and for about a decade, we continued to work on art–mostly dark fantasy. She would send me about five or more unfinished compositions or vice versa. Cathy marketed our collaborations both in the USA and abroad. It was a wonderful experience, which continues with our work that she still has available.

Today, you don’t need to wait weeks to do collaborations, thanks to the Internet. I can’t think of anyone else that I’ve collaborated with in a long time, and I don’t do digital art, though I now use Photoshop for enhancing my paintings/illustrations.

BARBARA: What has been the most challenging part of the writing/illustration process?

MARGE: Leaping off very small buildings (outhouses) to get attention on U-Tube. Singing shocking songs in London Square. Pointing at my own paintings/book display, saying, “OMG!!”

Seriously, “challenging” is a personal word for me. I challenge myself. I know what I think I can do. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. Other times, I see I’ve gone over the top and need to scrap it.

Writing a novel would be a real challenge for me. But I’ve always tended to write flash fiction–that’s a fun challenge. A book would be too much like work, and besides, I’ve a short attention span. (That is my excuse, anyway!)

BARBARA: When did you first get into writing? Where did you get your first credit?

MARGE: If you mean professionally, that’s hard to say. I’d guess somewhere in the mid-80’s. Which makes me old enough to be a witch. My first big (to me) credit was Bradley Strahan’s Visions, Black Buzzard Press. It was an all SF theme, and I’d never written a SF poem until that time –never even heard of one. Wrote one anyway. He took it. After that, I got into Amazing Stories with poetry. Around the same time, I started doing pen/ink stylized art –mostly dark which was well-accepted. My style and media are constantly evolving; I prefer watercolor with oil or watercolor pencils nowadays.

BARBARA: Which contemporary authors would you recommend to readers who love dark fantasy?

MARGE: Peter Beagle, Harlan Ellison, Charles Beaumont, Ted Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Boston, Gene O’Neill, Stephen King, Elizabeth Massie, Cormac McCarthy, to name a few writers of dark sf and fantasy. I know this may be contradictory, considering my recipe and lifestyle, but horror per se doesn’t appeal to me.

BARBARA: What do you believe the future holds for dark fantasy and supernatural thrillers? Will ebooks replace paperbacks, do you think?

MARGE: Don’t know. But as for what I hope–NO. A book is to be held and cradled, if you will. A book can be laid down on a surface where you know what it is by the cover and then you pick it up and start reading it again. You can have a personal relationship while reading it. A book has its own smell. It gives you secrets.

BARBARA: What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators?

MARGE: Never marry a musician.

 

 

Interview with Vampire Aficionado Rod Marsden

RodMarsden

Tonight, I would like to chat with author Rod Marsden about his recent release Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand. Rod and I first met years ago when I used to write for his magazines Prohibited Matter and Masque Noir. His magazines have since retired, and now Rod is devoting his writing time to vampires and the nightmares they create.

BARBARA: Did your writing begin with your magazines Masque Noir and Prohibited Matter? What made you interested in writing?

ROD: My interest in writing began with my family trips up north to a fishing village called Iluka. These yearly trips in May, the beginning of the Australian Autumn, were a joyous time. They were a time of exploration. There was bushwalking and swimming. There was fishing and there was reading. I bought my first comic book while on one of these trips and the same is true about the first paperback I read for enjoyment. My dad made an effort to keep us away from television during this time so that we could experience nature and become more of a family. He worked long hours and it was these trips up north that gave us all a chance to reconnect. My parents when they retired moved to Iluka.

I began writing in college for the magazines and newspapers there. Masque Noir and Prohibited Matter were an outlet for the itch. They came around when I had two of the three degrees I would end up with and fewer ways of seeing my writing through to publication. There were other horror titles around I managed to get a piece or two in back in those days. Everyone was struggling.
 
Writing came naturally. The rewriting did not. High School was not a place to show any real interest in that sort of thing. Even today the way well known novels are gone over in the classroom seems wrong. Just how many people have been turned off reading for enjoyment by high school? Now I think maybe we can count the I-pods and mobile phones in use on the train, every train for a clue.
 
Anyway, my early heroes were guys like Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Then came Asimov and Silverberg. I was determined either to become a writer or an artist. I toyed for a short period with becoming an actor.
 
All up, I was a Star Trek fan. When the show and its spin-offs weren’t around I’d gobble up the novels. I would enjoy them on trips up north to see my parents. In my late twenties and early thirties I would head up north with enough Star Trek stuff to choke a horse and whatever else to do with either science fiction or horror I could lay my hands on. Then after consuming other people’s fiction I would sit down and write my own stories. I was also keen on superhero tales and continue to be.
The Buffy series came along and inspired me in a number of ways. I could enjoy the television series with my nieces and nephew. I could give them a Buffy comic book or novel every once in a while as a treat. Buffy took the vampire out of the 19th – early 20th Century mold. This was healthy for the horror genre. I found myself writing vampire stories because of this. All of a sudden vampires became cool again. Twilight might do the same for the present generation of teenagers and uncles. I hope so.
 
If you are not a writer, it is hard to say what makes one want to write. If you are a writer, no explanation is required. There’s a muse at times. Where she comes from and where she goes I cannot say. All that is clear is that she’s around when I do my best work. God’s influence? Who can say for sure? Being in contact with other writers can stimulate you to write.
 
BARBARA: Masque Noir and Prohibited Matter enjoyed good reviews during their run. Any thoughts of revisiting magazine publishing?
 
ROD: No thoughts at all of revisiting the world of magazine publishing. I learnt a lot through my involvement in those magazines and made a lot of friends but I have moved on. Mind you I have kept the friendships. Don Boyd worked with me on the magazines. If he had lived longer we might be reading Don Boyd novels or watching Don Boyd scripted science fiction or horror films.
 
BARBARA: A lot of your tales revolve around sailing. Does your fishing and other interests provide grist for tales?

ROD: I am keen on travel. I would love to visit the USA again and see more of it. I would love to visit England and the rest of Europe for the first time. Right now I use my mind and my pen to travel. What does this have to do with fishing? Well, when you are fishing you spend a lot of time either at sea or looking out to sea. You can’t help wondering what is over the horizon for you and, of course, the horizon after that. Marco Polo grew up where he could look out to sea and I am betting it was true for Chrisopher Columbus. I sometimes travel up and down the mighty Clarence River in northern New South Wales but in a small boat. The boat is too small to challenge the sea which is beyond the mouth of the river. I am not a sailor. If you are looking for an old salt then Diane Carey who writes the occasional Star Trek novel is your person. I write the very occasional tale of adventure at sea but I am not in her league. Right now I have a niece in London and hope to get some great e-mails from her about her adventures there. It will help me to imagine what it would be like to be in modern London. Someday I hope to be there for real.

BARBARA: A lot of writers take the leap from short story writer to novelist. What prompted your interest in vampires?

ROD: Yes, a lot of writers do start off with the short story and work their way to the novel. The short story is a great place to start and also to go back to. It is where you learn your discipline. My interest in vampires began with both the old Universal monster movies and the British Hammer series of horror flicks. Then horror seemed to lose its grip on the public. American authors like Stephen King, who first made a name for himself in a British short story horror series, came to the fore. The zombie movies made out of Hollywood in the late ’60s to the mid-’70s also helped. Day of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead did a lot to perk up interest.

I have always had an interest in vampires but after a while I really didn’t want to deal with the sort that dresses for the opera and would stand out like a sore thumb just about anywhere in modern society.
Romero was one director who broke with this trend. Steven King with Salem’s Lot also made a break.
 
Then along came the Buffy television series. In this show vampires could come from all walks of life and the same could be said for demons. It opened my eyes to the possibilities as it did other writers.
All up, vampires are very human monsters and I would say that is what really makes them scary. If the writer is good, we see our reflections in their glistening fangs. What we see we may not always like. Writing about very human monsters is a way I can comment about the society I grew up in and the society I am living in now. I do this in my book of short vampire stories and in my novel Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand.
 
BARBARA: What are the most challenging parts of the creative process?

ROD: The most challenging part of the writing process is the blank page or, for you writers who are wed to your computers, the blank screen. You have plenty to say but where to begin? The best answer is to make a start. If this start doesn’t look to you like a good beginning it might become chapter two or it might end up in the trash. Either way you have to start and keep going until you find your feet. Having a plot in mind or on paper helps. Don’t expect the ending to be the one you originally came up with. As your characters develop so will the plot and so will the ending.

The second most challenging part of the writing process is the character that won’t do what you need him or her to do in order for the plot to work. You have a nagging feeling in the back of your mind telling you that this character is out of place or you want them to do something they are never, ever likely to do and if you don’t come up with a good reason for them doing it then you better find some other character to say the words or do the deed. Oh, and it is a good sign when you do have one of your fictional characters so strong in character they will kick up a stink if you treat them bad.
The third most challenging part of the writing process is often finding the time for both the writing and the re-writing. There are teachers who only tackle the novel once they have retired from teaching.
The next most challenging part of the wrting process is finding a good editor. Writers always need good editors.
The last most challenging part of the writing process is finding someone interested in you as a writer and interested in your latest effort. They have to be interested enough to put your stuff out there. They will be taking a chance, sure, even if you look good, even if you are good, even if you are great.
 
BARBARA: How do you feel about Stephen King and other horror authors?

ROD: Stephen King is good in a number of areas of fiction but he has specialized in horror over the years. Like Hitchcock and Stan Lee he does occasionally appear in movies based on his writing. King’s books on the art of writing are well worth reading.

Lyn McConchie, a New Zealand writer, has been an inspiration. She writes mostly in the pulp style though her Farm Daze series of humorous books on farm life are wonderful. By pulp style I mean like the writers who wrote for the pulp magazines when they were popular. Also like the Star Trek authors. Over the years she has turned her hand to every genre including horror. She is even in the process of putting out a Western novel. She is someone to be admired. And, yes, I do see myself as someone also writing in the pulp tradition.
 
I grew up on Robert E. Howard whose prose is much more colorful than my own. He is best known for creating Conan the Barbarian and also Red Sonja. He wrote some horror short stories and he did come out of the pulps.
 
Tom and Ginger Johnson mostly write adventure stories but delve into horror. They keep the ideas and the ideals of pulp alive in the USA.
Terry Pratchett is not strictly speaking a horror writer. He does, however, use the elements of horror in his Disc World novels. There are Igors, Golems, Vampires, Werewolves,and two versions of the Grim Reaper romping around. I enjoy the way he uses the tried and true elements of horror to poke fun at modern society.
 
BARBARA: How do you feel the economy will affect the book industry?

ROD: The book industry was crippled by the goods and services tax when it was introduced in Australia some time ago. Now we have a severe downturn in the economy which is worldwide. I believe there will always be books around. Whether or not they will be books worth the time and trouble of reading is another matter. Whether or not there will always be chances out there for new authors is also another matter.

BARBARA: Tell me about some of your writers’ forums.

ROD: I have been involved with writers on Facebook, YouTube and Myspace. I have had fun on Twitter. I have been involved with World Fiction Writers which can boast of having quite a few talented writers under their belt.

BARBARA: If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring novelist, what would that be?

ROD: Work with the short story for a while. You are more likely to have a short story published than a novel and it is a good exercise in story construction and brevity. Get to know other writers in your area and overseas. Some writers I have been corresponding with for 30 years.

BARBARA: Where may people order copies of your books?

ROD: My books may be purchased through www.amazon.com and www.bloodredshadows.com. The novel Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand is available as an ebook as well as a paperback.

  • Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 35 other subscribers