Monthly Archives: April 2018

Queen of Tragedy: Interview with Leza Cantoral

Welcome back to this week’s author interview! Today my featured author is Leza Cantoral. Leza is the author of Cartoons in the Suicide Forest as well as the editor-in-chief at Clash Books, which has just released the absolutely incredible Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath.

Recently, Leza and I discussed the Tragedy Queens anthology as well as her inspiration as an author and editor!

What first made you want to become a writer and editor? Who are some of your favorite authors?

I began writing poetry in high school. I don’t think anyone wants to become a writer. It is kind of a shit career. I never wanted to be a writer, it is just the thing I am the least bad at. I am an artist & I need an outlet. I am not that great at painting or drawing or film or willing to do the bullshit to be an actor or filmmaker. Writing is the career the artist takes who has the lowest bullshit threshold.

I started editing Mandy de Sandra as well as nonfiction posts for the site. I learned that editing is so much more than doing line edits. I love working with writers & helping them find their voice & tell their story. As Editor in Chief of CLASH Books I have so much fun doing just that.

Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Vladimir Nabokov, Angela Carter, Gillian Flynn, Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, Joyce Carol Oates, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Baudelaire, Clive Barker, Jonathan Franzen, Bret Easton Ellis, Roberto Bolaños, Scott McClanahan, Sam Pink, Kim Addonizio, Melissa Broder, Lisa Marie Basile, Rios de la Luz, Juliet Escoria.

Big congratulations are in order for the Tragedy Queens anthology! Before we dive deeper into the process of creating this gorgeous book, let me ask you this first: do you remember the first work by Sylvia Plath you ever read? Likewise, do you remember the first Lana Del Rey song you ever heard? What was it about these two artists that inspired you to bring them together for an anthology?

‘Lorelei,’ is the first poem of Sylvia Plath that I read that grabbed me. Then I read the Ariel collection & it changed my entire life. That collection always has a strange effect on me when I read it. I think it has mystical powers.

I don’t remember if I heard Born to Die or Cruel World first, but they both grabbed me right away & I was hooked for both albums.

Lana Del Rey has made herself into a channel of feminine archetypes. Her songs are like stories from the perspectives of different characters/aspects of herself as well as American icons like Jackie Kennedy & Marilyn Monroe. Sylvia Plath did that too. She drew from Greek Tragedy, the Tarot, mystical lore, and fairy tales. I wanted this anthology to bring a full range of female voices to life. Male dominated narratives often put women into boxes. You are either a whore or a good girl, a sex object or a scary crone. It is very limiting. I wanted to challenge these stereotypes about femininity & I thought these two incredible artists would be the perfect muses.

What was the process of putting together Tragedy Queens? Did you know exactly what you were looking for going into the slush pile, or did you let the book evolve naturally as it went?

I came up with the title & the idea & put out the submissions call. The call described the themes of the anthology. My inbox was flooded pretty quickly. I was looking for lyricism & strong character arcs. There are some stories that are more on the dreamy/lyrical side, & others that are more plot driven. I did not care about genre, just compelling stories & characters. I left submissions open for quite a while, because I cared more about getting the right stories than publishing this on some kind of schedule. The goal for Tragedy Queens was for it to feel like an album. The stories are the playlist & it is a killer track list.

Of course, you’re also an accomplished, award-nominated author in your own right. 2016 saw the release of your collection, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest. What can you share about that process? How did you choose the stories for the table of contents, and were there any surprises along the way in writing the book?

Most of the stories I had written at that point made it in to the collection. ‘Star Power’ was the first story I wrote that felt like my voice. It was a piece of flash fiction that I wrote for a writing workshop, based off a Tarot card prompt. That one & ‘Fist Pump’ were written years ago. The rest were written in the couple years leading up to the release of the collection. I left out a couple that relied a little too heavily on dream logic for their narrative structure. The title of the collection appeared in my mind one day & I wrote a story based off the title. It was more literary horror than the other stories. There are also a couple nonfiction pieces in there. This collection was very therapeutic to write. It is the journey of me finding my voice as well as a love letter to fairy tales, surrealist poetry, & horror movies.

In addition to your writing and editorial work, you run the podcast, Get Lit With Leza. What inspired you to start the show? 

Whenever I go to cons or readings I have such fun conversations with other writers, but I live in a very isolated place, so I do not get to hang out that much. Talking on videochat kinda bridges that loneliness gap. I used to drunk-dial my writer friends, now I get them on my podcast. The podcast is a great way to have a conversation with a cool artist & make something entertaining out of it. I was inspired by shows like Between Two Ferns, The Eric Andre Show, The Tom Green Show, & Da Ali G Show with Sacha Baron Cohen. I like talk show hosts like Crag Ferguson, who are not scared to show their flawed & awkward parts or talk about their dark past. It is very human & I connect with it. Get Lit With Leza began to take shape when I started to think about the charm of the bad interview. I am often not sober when I record episodes. I am not trying to kiss ass. I am just trying to have a real conversation.

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

‘Saint Jackie.’ It’s a short story in the More Bizarro Than Bizarro antho. It is a conversation with the ghost of Jackie Kennedy about relationships, alcoholism, & growing up.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

A poetry collection called Trash Panda, a personal essay collection called Never Cursed, & a novel about badass witches called Operation Bruja.

Big thanks to Leza Cantoral for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website as well as at Clash Books and her podcast page!

Happy reading!

Spring Fiction Has Sprung: Submission Roundup for April 2018

Welcome back to this month’s Submission Roundup! Lots of great writing opportunities in the coming weeks, so if you have a story looking for a home, perhaps you should send it the way of one of these markets!

First, a quick note: I am not a representative for any of these publications. If you have any questions, please direct your questions to the respective editors.

And now onward with April’s Submission Roundup!

Submission RoundupHaunted Are These Houses, an anthology from Unnerving Magazine
Payment: .01/word for fiction; .12/line for poetry
Length: 400 to 6,000 words for fiction; up to 500 lines for poetry
Deadline: April 28th, 2018
What They Want: Open to Gothic fiction and poetry.
Find the details here.

Payment: $150/flat short fiction; $300/flat for novelettes; $50/flat for poetry
Length: 2,000 to 7,000 words for short fiction; up to 15,000 words for novelettes
Deadline: April 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction from authors from the African continent and diaspora. The upcoming issue’s theme is Music.
Find the details here.

Battling in All Her Finery from Mad Scientist Journal
Payment: .02/word
Length: 500 to 8,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2018
What They Want: This special submission call is seeking original first-person speculative fiction that focuses on female leaders in any field.
Find the details here.

Unidentified Funny Objects 5
Payment: .10/word
Length: 500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: April 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to humorous science fiction and fantasy stories.
Find the details here.

Apex Magazine’s Zodiac-themed special issue
Payment: .06/word for original fiction
Length: 1,500 to 5,000 words
Deadline: May 1st, 2018
What They Want: For this special issue, guest editor Sheree Renée Thomas is seeking speculative stories that explore and/or rework themes of the Zodiac and Zodiacal archetypes.
Find the details here.

Eraserhead Press
Payment: 50% of net revenue
Length: 20,000 to 100,000 words
Deadline: June 30th, 2018
What They Want: Open to unique, well-crafted weird stories that fit within the Bizarro Fiction genre.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

Beneath the Streets: Interview with Daniel Hale

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m pleased to feature Daniel Hale. Daniel’s fiction has appeared in The Myriad Carnival, All Hallows’ Evil, and Strangely Funny III, among other publications.

Earlier this year, he and I discussed how he became a writer, the inspiration behind his recent stories, and what he’s working on next.

What first inspired you to become a writer? Also, do you remember the first speculative fiction story you ever read?

Daniel HaleI’ve been playing with the idea of writing since I was in high school, though back then it was mostly just one-off scenes handwritten in notebooks that didn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t seriously try it until college when I figured there was nothing stopping me. I suppose inspiration as we know it didn’t really happen until I read Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman, and specifically the introduction in which he explained the work that went into each story in the collection. It made me realize that writing is work, and takes a while and that a story can come from anywhere.

The first book I can remember reading for actual pleasure is One Day at Horrorland by R.L. Stine. One day I hope to write my own original take on a theme park of horror and will dedicate it to him in thanks.

Your story, “Plague Automata,” appeared in The Myriad Carnival, an anthology edited by the talented Matthew Bright. What can you tell us about your inspiration for that particular story?

“Plague Automata” was inspired by the old penny machines that played little tableaus. I liked the idea of these little arcade machines that acted out a story through animate, uncanny sculptures, and wanted to see how they would fit in at a place as strange and unworldly as the Myriad Carnival.

You’ve also had stories appear in two anthologies—Strangely Funny III and All Hallows’ Evil—from Mystery and Horror LLC. I’m a huge a fan of editors Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo, so I always love talking about the fiction they publish. So in that vein, what was the process behind those two stories that appeared in their anthologies?

All Hallows’ Evil was the first anthology I ever submitted for, and I’m still deeply pleased by the reception my story, “Pact of the Lantern,” has received. One day that will be a book.

Strangely Funny IIIThe story came from my own fascination with Halloween and the things I learned about the holiday visiting the town of Salem as a boy. It also stemmed from my sadness that so much of the holiday is fading from common practice. I’m still worried that one day my son might not be able to go trick r’ treating the right way, from house to house lit by lanterns. The day trunk r’ treating becomes the norm is the day that I am officially done with the holiday.

Strangely Funny III featured one of my more enjoyable stories, “A Familiar Problem.” It was surprisingly easy to write, too, being so distrustful myself of smartphones and other modern, labor-saving technology. I figured wizards might have the same problems that they think can be solved with the right gimmicky time-saving enchantments.

You are originally from Massillon, Ohio, which has a special connection for me (since it just so happens to be my birthplace). Have you found that the Rust Belt in general or Massillon in particular has figured into your fiction in any way?

My grandparents live in Massillon, and the house of the wizard in “A Familiar Problem” is partly inspired by theirs. I also wrote a few short pieces for the ongoing “Big Trouble in Little Canton” project by Jason Daniel Myers. Oh, and the Buzzbin in Canton became the Din Den in my story “The Miasmatist,” which will be featured in my upcoming collection.

So as yet it’s mostly just been minor places in the area that I’ve borrowed for my stories. My most recent attempt at a novel took place in the area and featured the melon heads and the lizard lady of Akron, and other local bits of folklore.

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

My Halloween stories have tended to be my personal favorites so far. “Pact of the Lantern” and the stories I’ve written connected to it have received the most praise. One of my ongoing projects is a collection of stories that feature Halloween and Christmas stories together.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

The Library Beneath the Streets will be my first published book. Editing with Zumaya Publications is finally wrapping up, and we’re hoping for a release in April at the latest.

I’m also working on two other collections: my holiday collection, tentatively titled Hallowed Days, and Sleepless Nights, a more general collection of mostly unpublished works. It also includes “Faith and Folklore,” my last attempt at a novel, as the penultimate story. I’ve yet to find the right combination of focus and time to write a proper one.

I’ve got a publisher in mind for Sleepless Nights. I’ll keep working on it as I wait for them to open for submissions.

I’m usually working on a short story at any given time. Right now I’m trying for a crossover between two obscure fairy tales, “How Six Made Their Way in the World, and “The Bird, the Mouse and the Sausage.” We’ll see.

Huge thanks to Daniel Hale for being part of this week’s author interview series! You can find him online at his author website and on Twitter.

Happy reading!