Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Bit of Frustration

Before I start this mini rant, let me first thank the editors I’ve worked with this year. Library of the Living Dead’s Victorya, Tim Long and Mark Johnson have all been exceptional to work with, as have Jessy Marie Roberts of Pill Hill Press and Lori Titus of Flashes in the Dark. The editorial staff at 69 Flavors of Paranoia, MicroHorror and The New Flesh have also been great to work with, and despite the fact that their markets don’t pay (I still enjoy submitting to nonpaying sites once in a while, if only for fun and networking purposes) I’m glad to have found homes for some of my shorts with them.

That said, something has been bothering me for a while that I need to get off my chest.

I checked my Duotrope Submissions Tracker earlier today and found that not only are several of my submissions dating from August still waiting for responses, but that most of the markets I submitted to are either dead, unresponsive of have been pulled from the listings by their editors. Normally, this would not be a problem, except there’s one tiny detail here that everybody involved (with the exception of myself) seems to have overlooked.

I haven’t heard one word from any of them. Not one.

The details for each publication are a bit different. Some are completely dead, their websites having already reverted back to their hosting company. Some have put up notices that they are no longer taking submissions. Some are actively seeking submissions for their next issue. Still, not a one has gotten back to me. Seeing as I submit almost entirely electronically these days, how hard is it for an editor (especially one whose publication is no more and is, therefore, not engaged in any upcoming projects that may dominate their time) to respond with a one-line reply letting me know it’s time for me to shop my work around elsewhere? I’m not the type of writer who is bothered by form rejections (though I always appreciate any kind of personalized communication), so even an obviously mass-mailed notification would suffice.

I don’t care about receiving a “we’re not buying it” response. It doesn’t bother me at all. I just want to know if and when I should move on.

Non-communication is pretty much the only thing about the submissions process that upsets me. I understand rejections, long turnaround times, dropped projects and anything else that might come up between a writer and a publisher. Things happen. People have personal lives and full-time work that often gets in the way. It’s completely understandable, though unfortunate, if things should happen to go wrong or take longer than anticipated. I can deal with that, and I am very patient when necessary.

What I don’t understand or accept is the idea of leaving a writer entirely clueless with the intention of never contacting them at all. If your publication has gone under, let those hopeful contributors know. If you’re experiencing an exceptionally long delay, let them know. If you’re not using their manuscript and are still in business, for crying out loud, let them know. Being left in the dark when a publisher folds is annoying and frustrating, but not being given even so much as a form rejection by a publisher that’s still active is a full-on slap to the face.

Not contacting a submitter while staying in business and moving forward with publication as usual is tantamount to saying “You’re not even worth a few words from me,” and that kind of insult doesn’t go over on me very well. It’s unprofessional as all hell, for one, and it shows a lot of negative character on the part of the editor. Who in their right mind would want to work, even just for one story, with someone that rude?

Not me, for starters.

I suppose the lesson learned, if any, from these experiences is “Contributor beware.” From here on I’ll have to be much more diligent during the research phase of the submissions process, only contributing to publications I’m already familiar with or have heard positive word of mouth on from other writers. Having a network of friends in the business should help weed these publications out a bit better. I’ll continue to be thankful for all of the exceptional editors I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and do my best to avoid the unexceptional ones floating about out there.

"Beneath the Earth, the Pool" Appearing in Letters From the Dead

It looks as if my short story “Beneath the Earth, the Pool” will be in the upcoming anthology Letters from the Dead, published by Library of the Living Dead Press. It’s a short piece about the transcontinental friendship of two longtime pen pals (one American, one German) during the outbreak of an apocalyptic virus.

I’m very excited to be a part of this anthology. Like all other Library titles, this is going to be filled with a wide range of interesting shorts, this time tied together through the context of the Reaper Virus. It will be a lot of fun to read the rest of the stories and see how they all fit within the same universe.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Reanimated Marital Advice" appearing in The Moron's Guide to the Inevitable Zombocalypse

I received an email from Tim Long, editor of Library of the Living Dead’s The Moron’s Guide to the Inevitable Zombocalypse (and author of Among the Living and The Zombie-Wilson Diaries) last night. My short story “Reanimated Marital Advice,” will be included in the collection.

This is my second acceptance for a Library anthology (along with Baconology, edited by Victorya), and I’m very excited. Both this small press publisher and 2009 in general have been very kind to me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas is Coming Early!

I don’t think there’s going to be any fancy wrapping paper or shiny gold bows involved, but there may as well be.

I was lucky enough to see David Dunwoody read during a panel at Horror Realm this year, and I’ve been meaning to pick up his novel Empire for a while now. He’s recently been included in an aquatic-themed anthology called Dead Bait, which I’ve had on my Amazon wish list since a day or two after it came out. Seriously, anyone who knows about my obsession with fish and all things water could see me freaking out over this book from a mile away. Just the cover was enough to make me grin.

Look at this. Just look at it. Is that not the most awesome book a horror-writing fish lover could own?

I received an email today telling me I was a winner in his November mailing list raffle, which means I’m about to find signed copies of Necrotic Tissue (an awesome horror magazine that’s often mentioned over on The Funky Werepig, one of the most informative and hilarious podcasts I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to) and Dead Bait in my PO box.

It is kind of like Christmas, and just in time for semester break. I’m going to be tearing through books until the first day of Spring classes.

I really lucked out. Awesome, awesome stuff.

"Singles Line" Appearing in Flashes in the Dark

My short, 900-word flash piece “Singles Line” will be appearing on Flashes in the Dark. It goes live mid-December, and I hope I made it in time to participate in the “Worst of Love” competition, which was what I wrote it for. Life (and NaNo) got in the way most of the month, so it was cutting very close to the deadline when I submitted it.

David Mitchell’s first novel, the wonderfully odd Ghostwritten, has a chapter towards the end of the book that consists entirely in dialogue. It was a difficult book for me to read, and I put it down and picked it back up several times over the course of a few months, but once I got to that chapter I was hooked. It deals with a late-night radio shock-jock and a listener who calls in on the same night every year for a series of years, never giving away their identity but revealing much about the nature of the world.

When I read the chapter, I was struck by Mitchell’s technique. Up until that point, I don’t believe I’d read anything that was comprised entirely of dialogue before, and I was amazed at the amount of story that could be told just through the speech of a few people. I was determined to try it myself.

The first story I wrote employing this technique was The Anything Goes Call-In Show, which is still up over on Ficly, a neat little open source flash-writing site that I’ve mentioned on the blog before. One of the hardest things about using this technique is that you have to create a scenario in which it is plausible for the characters to only be talking, without any descriptors, and still get enough information across. For a horror writer, the easiest way is to put them on the phone or other mass-communication technology, and then throw in a nasty twist along the way.

I’m not going to talk about “Singles Line” much yet, because it’s available on the site yet, but suffice it to say that I loved writing it and look forward to seeing the reactions of readers. I hope they find it just as interesting and creepy as I did while writing it.

Gizmos and Gadgets

I am horrible with lists. HORRIBLE. I’m not even sure if that’s the right word to describe it, but I can’t think of anything stronger at the moment and I’m running on coffee vapors, staying up to finish the first draft of a paper on Poe, alcoholism and alternate theories of his death.

I found one thing today that I think may be able to save me from myself in regards to my absentmindedness, my need for better multitasking abilities and my general slovenliness. It’s called Anxiety, and it’s a tiny OS X Leopard widget that manages tasks. You can add multiple calendars (just a fancy way of saying “category”) to add extra layers of organization, which I desperately need, and assign levels of importance to each task. The widget exports to both Mail and iCal, which is nice, and keeps copies of completed tasks.

I’m liking it so far. Right now I’ve got calendars for School, Home, Writing (general things like blogging, interviews, reviews, etc) and Submissions, and each one is color coded and separated by a drop-down menu. Very nice. When exporting to iCal, it’s easy to add deadline dates as well, which helps me keep track of which things I need to get done first and which I can give my usual “Eh, I’ll do it later, right after I read these blogs and post on this forum” treatment.

The best part of all is that it’s free.

I’m always looking for new Mac apps to make my life better, and this one is a tiny little gem. Here’s hoping I stick with it and give it a real chance to increase my productivity.