Monthly Archives: August 2017

Never and Always: Interview with Desirina Boskovich

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Desirina Boskovich. Desirina’s work has appeared in numerous outlets including Clarkesworld, Nightmare, and Lightspeed, among others. Earlier this summer, her new novella, Never Now Always, debuted from Broken Eye Books.

Recently, Desirina and I discussed her evolution as an author as well as her inspiration for Never Now Always.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

DesirinaI first decided to become a writer at age 5. I think I had just discovered chapter books. I don’t quite remember how I learned the term “writer” – maybe I asked my mom where books came from – but somehow I found out about the job title and instantly decided I would become that.

Favorite authors… there are the classics such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ursula LeGuin, Shirley Jackson, William Gibson, Jeanette Winterson, David Mitchell. In the past few months I’ve been reading the crap out of some page-turners, which seem to be just what I need in these trying times. I am loving Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, Ruth Ware, Ruth Rendell and others in the thriller/mystery genre.

What draws you to speculative fiction? Do you remember the first speculative story you ever read?

The first speculative story I read was definitely The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, followed by the rest of the Narnia books. My parents read a few of these to me and my sister before I was old enough to read them myself and I read the rest as soon as I could (probably just after I decided to become a writer). I did not have a good childhood and these books were my comfort and escape. I’ve written elsewhere about my love for those books and the influence they’ve had on me. They definitely imparted a love for the weird, fantastical and uncanny.

I always gravitated toward science fiction and fantasy as a young reader. One book that I still remember is This Star Shall Abide by Sylvia Engdahl. That story blew my mind.

I think now I’m drawn to speculative fiction for the same reasons I’ve always been – my underlying conviction that the world we see is a very small sliver of what is, that we’re sleepwalking, mostly, and the universe is vast and terrifying and beautiful and much stranger than we could possibly imagine. I want a piece of that, as much as I can find it. And often it feels to me that the language of magic, of fantasy, of horror, of the weird, is truer and more familiar to me as a depiction of my life than anything that pretends to be “realistic.”

Never Now AlwaysWhat was the inspiration behind Never Now Always? As you were writing the early drafts, did that initial vision evolve, or did the finished story match how you first imagined the novella?

I started with this idea that I wanted to write about something I personally find unsettling, even horrifying. What I thought about then was the horror of trying to hold onto an important part of my mental landscape, a memory or a story or a knowledge about myself, and not being able to. Knowing I would lose it, or knowing I’ve lost it, and the powerlessness of that, the invasion, the loss. So I ran through a few scenarios and ended up with this one. I had the basic outline of the novella before I started drafting. I think the finished story turned out pretty close to that, except it took me a long time to find a language that felt natural to my characters and their world.

You’ve written both short and long fiction. What factors help you to determine what length a project should be?

I think when I write short fiction I’m writing toward a single powerful image or emotion or scene – sometimes the ending, not always. The rest of the story is designed to support that, to bring it about. I want it to be short because I don’t want to waste any words getting to that moment of power.

With a novel, I start with a set-up that intrigues me and I see where it goes. I usually don’t know what the end will be. So I have to write a while to find my way there.

In your work, you’ve explored themes that focus on identity, loss, and childhood. What draws you to these ideas in particular, and are these the themes that you see guiding your work in the future?

I grew up in an abusive home and my childhood was traumatic. I think from my earliest I’ve been trying to navigate this great loss at the center of it all – a life lived without the anchor of safety in childhood, of parental love. It is a great loss because it’s something that I think every human demands instinctually, from the moment we’re born or perhaps before, we want our parents to love us and make us safe. You can grow up without it but you know always that you missed out on something irreplaceable. And that, I guess, feeds into identity. I am who I am because of that past, in ways good and bad. I try to lean into the good and I do my best to leave behind the bad.

I think my work will always center on these themes, but hopefully I’ll find new ways to explore them. Lately I’ve become obsessed with psychological thrillers about women, that explore family dysfunction and buried traumas through the framework of suspense, danger and bloodshed. I really want to write one soon and I think that’s a very interesting way to delve into the same ideas.

Out of your published work, do you have a personal favorite?

One is “The Island,” published in Nightmare Magazine, which explores the themes mentioned above. Another is the more recent “The Voice in the Cornfield, the Word Made Flesh” from F&SF, which is something I really pushed and stretched myself to write.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am halfway through the second draft of a novel, which I hope will be finished soon. It’s weird science fiction that’s a little bit cyberpunk and a little bit eco-apocalypse.

I am also collaborating with Jason Heller on a nonfiction book titled Starships & Sorcerers: The Secret History of Science Fiction, which will be published by Abrams Books. The book will be illustrated and contain tons of gorgeous imagery, and contributions from a bunch of very smart people, too.

Tremendous thanks to Desirina Boskovich for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online at her author site as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy reading!

PRETTY MARYS ALL IN A ROW, My Debut Novella Coming Soon from Broken Eye Books

You might have seen the announcement earlier this week on the Broken Eye Books website, but if not, then allow me to share a very exciting update: my debut novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, is slated for release later this year!

Inspired by the Marys of folklore, this novella is part fairy tale, part horror story, and part one of those ideas that has lived with me for years (and I’m so happy to have finally been able to get it all down on paper). In this writer’s personal opinion, Pretty Marys is among the very, very best things I’ve ever created, so I’m thrilled that it will soon be shared with the world.

And here’s the official description to give you an even better idea of what it’s all about!

You’ll find her on a lonely highway, hitchhiking at midnight. She calls herself Rhee, but everyone else knows her by another name: Resurrection Mary. And when she’s transported home each night to a decrepit mansion on a lane to nowhere, she’s not alone.

In the antique mirror, call her name three times, and Bloody Mary will appear. Outside, wandering through a garden of poisonous flowers is Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary, a nursery rhyme come to gruesome life. Downstairs is another jump-rope rhyme—Mary Mack, forever conscripted to build her own coffin. And brooding in the corner with her horse skull is the restless Mari Lwyd.

They are the Marys, the embodiment of urban legend and what goes bump in the night. Every evening, they gather around the table and share nightmares like fine wine, savoring the flavors of those they’ve terrified.

But other than these brief moments together, the Marys are alone, haunting a solitary gloom that knows them better than they know themselves. That’s because they don’t remember who they were before—or even if there was a before. And worst of all, they don’t know how to escape this fate.

That is, until a moment of rage inspires Rhee to leap from the highway—and into the mirror with Bloody Mary. Suddenly, the Marys are learning how to move between their worlds, all while realizing how much stronger they are together.

But just when freedom is within their reach, something in the gloom fights back—something that isn’t ready to let them go. Now with her sisters in danger of slipping into the darkness, Rhee must unravel the mystery of who the Marys were before they were every child’s nightmare. And she’ll have to do it before what’s in the shadows comes to claim her for its own.

Broken Eye BooksIf you want to read more about the book and my inspiration in developing it, then be sure to head over to the Broken Eye Books site for the official announcement! And of course, tremendous thanks to editor Scott Gable for taking on this project!

Now as we move toward the fall release date, Patreon supporters of Broken Eye Books will receive the ebook first (likely in early September) with a wide release to everyone else down the road. So that means if you’re really eager to read Pretty Marys All in a Row along with all the other great releases available and forthcoming from Broken Eye Books, then consider becoming a supporter of their Patreon.

And naturally, expect me to be discussing Pretty Marys a whole lot more in the upcoming months. I can reveal that I’ve already seen a mock-up sketch of the tentative cover, and it’s incredibly beautiful and eerie. As soon as it’s finalized, I’ll be sure to share it here and promote the fantastic artist who’s designing it! It’s a very fortunate life to work with so many amazing editors, writers, and artists!

Happy reading!

Beyond the Shores: Interview with Sam Cowan

Welcome back! Today, I’m pleased to spotlight Sam Cowan. Sam is the founder of Dim Shores, a specialty press for chapbooks and other publications that focus on weird fiction. Previous titles have included Anya Martin’s Grass, Kristi DeMeester’s Split Tongues, and Michael Griffin’s An Ideal Retreat, among other releases.

Earlier this month, Sam and I discussed the genesis of Dim Shores as well as the hotly anticipated anthology, Looming Low.

Sam CowanA couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become an editor, and who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t really consider myself an editor. I select manuscripts, and I proofread and copyedit them, but that’s about it. As for favorite authors, today it’s Thomas Ligotti, William Gibson, S.P. Miskowski, and Cody Goodfellow. It changes day to day, depending on what I’m reading and thinking about.

What inspired you to start Dim Shores? Additionally, what first drew you to weird fiction, and where do you see the genre heading in the future?

I read “The Call of Cthulhu” in an anthology when I was 11 or 12 and it really stood out to me. That got me interested in Lovecraft, and from there it just progressed. I had not heard the term “cosmic horror” but that is what grabbed me so hard, that feeling of insignificance. 30-something years later I attended NecronomiCon Providence 2013 and for the first time met other people, in person, who were interested in the same kinds of things I was. The experience really charged me up.

In 2014, I went to the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland (much closer to home for me) and saw many of the same people, and met more new folks. I was friends with Michael Griffin and wanted to do something fun, so I bootlegged all of his stories I could find online and put them in a chapbook, with an introduction by Justin Steele (another convention friend). I enjoyed the process of making the chapbook and started thinking about doing it for real. It took a little while to get going, but Dim Shores debuted in March 2015.

Weird fiction is a broad term and I think it will only get broader. The voices and perspectives will continue to get more diverse, a very exciting prospect for writers and readers alike.

Looming LowLooming Low, the anthology that you’ve co-edited with Justin Steele, is due out later this year. The authors in the table of contents are magnificent, and the cover art is truly stunning. What can readers expect from the stories within?

Thank you! Marcela Bolívar and Yves Tourigny both nailed it. Their styles are very different but both pieces evoke a feeling that something strange and probably dark is about to happen.

Looming Low is unthemed. Our guidelines called for unsettling, literary speculative fiction and that is exactly what we got. The 26 stories vary greatly in length but there is a certain tone that carries through. Some stories could probably be considered dark fantasy, and a couple blur the line between science fiction and horror, but they all exist in the same general emotional space.

Justin and I agreed at the start that we would only include stories that we both felt strongly about. There were a few we disagreed on so they didn’t make it in, but for the most part we were in sync. We planned to whittle the TOC down to 20 entries but couldn’t get lower than 26, there was so many great stories.

The first issue of Resist and Refuse recently debuted through Dim Shores. How has putting together a magazine been the same or different from your usual workload at Dim Shores?

The process and experience of making Resist and Refuse was very different. I usually work on one or two chapbooks at a time, so I’m dealing with two or four people. Resist and Refuse involves about 25 people and was a more difficult project logistically. It was an impulsive reaction to the last election cycle, not just to Trump but to the proudly ignorant movement that gave him the win. I was horrified and wanted to do something and this is what I ended up doing.

It was also quite different in that the page size is considerably larger (8.5×11, chapbooks are 6×9) and there are many more graphics. The chapbooks include three interior illustrations that generally take up a whole page. To make R&R feel more like a periodical I added a bunch of photos, art, and pull quotes to fill up pages. There are still some holes but I’m happy with it.

Split TonguesAs an editor, what advice do you have for writers out there? Anything that you see frequently as an editor that writers shouldn’t do, or perhaps things you see writers doing well that they should keep doing?

As a copyeditor my only suggestions are about technical issues. There is no need to double-space sentences, and for the love of all that’s good in this rotten world, don’t use a tab or even worse a bunch of spaces to indent a paragraph. Word has an auto-indent feature, it’s great. Run spell check before you submit a document. And If you are purposefully using incorrect grammar somewhere, mention that to the editor.

I love your posts on Facebook when you’re editing work for Dim Shores while having a beer at the local pub. That seems very much like you’re doing publishing the right way. So keeping with that theme, have you found that certain writers’ works pair particularly well with certain styles of beer?

I read different types of work but my beer palate is pretty limited. I usually drink IPAs, sometimes red or pale ales, and occasionally I enjoy a good stout. I find that pretty much everything pairs better with everything else when beer is involved. I do sometimes drink scotch when I read Laird Barron though, it just seems right. Reading and editing while eating and drinking at the pub was one of my favorite things. Despite my dutiful patronage, the pub recently closed. I’m waiting to see if someone else opens it back up, fingers crossed.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the process of gearing up for NecronomiCon Providence 2017. Looming Low is at the printer now and will debut at the convention. There will be a launch event on Saturday, August 20, at 6:00 with readings by Michael Griffin, Livia Llewellyn, Anya Martin, and Michael Wehunt. I’m still putting together the details for that but should be fun.

After I fulfill all of the Looming Low orders I’ll focus on the next three chapbooks: Coffle (Gemma Files, art by Stephen Wilson), Curses (Anna Tambour, art by Nick Gucker), and Pwdre Ser (Kurt Fawver, art TBD). Coffle is already in progress, most of the layout and the cover art is already done.

Where can we find you online?

Awkwardly, Dim Shores doesn’t have a real website at the moment. I had a WordPress site but destroyed it while trying to add features via code. I’m still not sure what i did. That said, dimshores.com will take you to the web store, and will eventually lead to a new website. For now most news and information is relayed through the Dim Shores Facebook page, as well as an email list. Dim Shores is on Twitter, but I don’t like Twitter and don’t do a whole lot there. I am very new to Instagram and haven’t posted much yet but it seems better than Twitter, we’ll see.

Tremendous thanks to Sam Cowan for being this week’s featured interview!

Happy reading!

Summer Writing Vacation: Submission Roundup for August 2017

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! August features some great opportunities for all you authors out there, so get to writing and submitting!

But first, my usual disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these publications, so please direct your relevant questions to the respective editors.

And onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

SQ Mag
Payment: .01/word
Length: 1,000 to 5,000 words (firm)
Deadline: August 15th, 2017
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction stories that relate to the theme of rebellion.
Find the details here.

Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief
Payment: .06/word for fiction; $35/piece for poetry
Length: 500 to 3,000 words
Deadline: August 15th, 2017
What They Want: As the title of the anthology suggests, submission should focus on loss and grief. The editors are not necessarily looking for speculative fiction, though the theme is being left open to interpretation.
Find the details here.

Digital Fiction Publishing Corp.
Payment: .01/word
Length: 3,500 to 7,500 words
Deadline: August 31st, 2017
What They Want: Horror fiction reprints that were originally published in professional or semiprofessional venues.
Find the details here.

The Beauty of Death 2
Payment: $100/flat
Length: 4,000 to 5,000 words
Deadline: September 1st, 2017
What They Want: Horror stories that fit the theme of “death by water.”
Find the details here.

Grievous Angel
Payment: .06/word for fiction; $1 per line for poetry
Length: up to 700 words for fiction; up to 40 lines for poetry
Deadline: Ongoing
What They Want: Open to science fiction, fantasy, and horror as well as related subgenres.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Judge and Jury: Musings on the Bracken Flash Fiction Contest

Welcome back, and happy August! And what a happy day it is indeed, with the release of Issue IV of Bracken Magazine! In addition to the usual roster of incredible fiction, poetry, and art, this issue also includes the winning stories from the micro-fiction contest held earlier this summer. I was fortunate enough to serve as judge for the contest, a role that was both thrilling and excruciating, because all of the stories were so good, which made my job very, very hard in a very, very good way.

Now that the new issue has made its debut, I figured I’d take a moment to give readers some insight into what the behind-the-scenes process of the contest was like. (Think reading, rereading, and rereading again!)

Bracken 4A bit about me as “judge and jury”: I’d never served as a contest judge before, so it was at once a fun and nerve-wracking experience. Obviously, you always want to do great work with anything you try, but when it’s a magazine as fantastic as Bracken, the pressure was on to do right by all the authors who submitted as well as the wonderful editor, Alina Rios. From the start, I knew I wanted to read all of the submissions blind. Speculative short fiction is a small world after all, so I assumed I would probably know a few of the authors. Hence, reading blind ensured that no byline could even subconsciously affect my decision. I also read every entry in full at least twice. I wanted to give each piece my undivided attention. Likewise, I wanted to give each piece a second chance to catch my attention. Fair or not, so much of the submission process really is dependent on how an editor or judge is feeling at a given moment. So to the best of my ability, I ensured that each and every entry truly got its due.

A bit about those wonderful entries: Now I’ve served as a first reader at publications in the past, but I can honestly say that these submissions were some of the very best slush I’ve ever read. I was stunned at the incredible quality of these stories, which only made the process of picking two winners all the more agonizing. So that being said, if you did submit to the Bracken Flash Fiction Contest, believe me when I say congratulations on a fantastic submission. It was an honor to read your work.

A bit about those winners: After much deliberation, soul searching, reading and rereading, I settled on two beautiful and emotionally compelling pieces: “When Mama Calls” as the winner and “Path of Stones” as the finalist. Once I sent my selections to Alina and she contacted the winning authors, she revealed that these entries were written by Maria Haskins and Kathryn Kulpa respectively. Now anyone who is a reader of this blog already knows that I’ve long admired both Maria’s and Kathryn’s works (I’ve even interviewed them both here and here), so it was quite the pleasant surprise to discover they were the winning authors. (It also proved my initial suspicion very right: it is a small publishing world, and I did know at least two of the authors who entered the contest, which made me extra glad that I read all the submissions blind.)

So now that you know all about those behind-the-scenes goings-on, please check out the latest issue of Bracken! It’s a breathtaking issue, and I’m so excited for readers to check out the winning entries of the contest. They’re both such gorgeous tales. And congrats once again to Maria Haskins and Kathryn Kulpa!

Happy reading!