Publisher’s Roundtable

At a time when speculative fiction and fact seemed to have collided, three small magazine publishers have gotten together to discuss their viewpoints on the genre and the future of publishing. Join Scot Noel of DreamForge Magazine, John Linden Grant of Occult Detective Quarterly and me, Angela Yuriko Smith of Space and Time as we discuss how the pandemic is affecting publishing.

Do you have a burning question you’d like to ask? Leave it in the comments and I’ll organize another of these.

  1. Where do you see the role of speculative fiction right now as the world seems to have become part of some wild, dystopian tale?

John Linwood Grant: It depends how people utilise the fiction they read or write. For some it is pure escapism, a chance to take their heads away from whatever real life anxieties they have – which is admittedly harder when under the direct influence of a pandemic. It wouldn’t surprise me if people are reading more classic mysteries, romance and pure fantasy at the moment. For others it can be cathartic, exploring fears and psychological issues in a fictional environment as a way of processing it all, which where weird and strange tales can actually have relevance and value.

Scot Noel: The role of speculative fiction is first to entertain by engaging the reader in flights of imagination – no different really than telling stories beneath the night sky 50,000 years ago. (My wife made the painting below for me years ago.  If I had a more high-res version handy, you could see that every moonbeam has its own story, bit of mythology, connecting the storytellers to the sky and the universe itself.  And when are they telling the story – at night, when they are most vulnerable and alone.)  Secondly, speculative fiction can provide perspective. We are both ancient and newborn.  100,000 years from now we will still be in our beginning. In our adolescence we may know the worlds of the galaxy. In our maturity, we may make of space and time a craftwork to call our own. Plagues far worse than this one have (and may yet still) spend all their might against the human spirit with no lasting result beyond our increasing power to understand and outmaneuver them.

Angela Yuriko Smith: In the past I’ve compared speculative fiction with the mirrored shield Perseus held up to defeat Medusa. Using the shield, he was able to safely look into the face of evil and defeat it. In my mind, this is the role of spec fiction. It is the mirrored shield that allows us to gaze upon the monster safely and study best how to defeat it.

  1. Where do you see the future role of spec fiction heading during this time of mandatory social distancing?

John Linwood Grant: To be honest, I’m not sure why it should change, but then I’m old enough to have lived through nuclear scares, HIV/AIDS and all sorts. The role of speculative fiction is to speculate. The intrinsic elements of the pandemic are little

Image by Ahmed Hassan Kharal from Pixabay

different from those which have occurred during other diseases outbreaks. Quarantine, isolation, fear of infection, anxiety and suchlike have all been explored in fiction before, and will be again. I only pray that we won’t later be subject to ham-fisted stories where Covid-19 has been levered in to make a fast buck.

Scot Noel: All fiction is going to have to deal with some new realities. A hundred years from now, this time may be no more than a forgotten moment only a few will look back on with curiosity. For now, it is possible that “social distancing” may be with us for a lifetime or two. Many of us will have to live out our lives with a new awareness of viral threats, COVID-19 in particular. I think it would be a mistake, however, to look at a future a century or two from now where society is structured to keep us apart in common practice as a bulwark against plagues. That just won’t happen. We’re far too technically gifted and biology is on the verge of a revolution that will put the computer revolution to shame.  That said, it would be cool to imagine all the ways we engineer the defeat of anything that would keep us apart in that way, along with its unforeseen consequences.  (I already see memes hinting that this is why so many characters in the Star Wars universe wear helmets and breathing gear.)

Angela Yuriko Smith: I think our stories might become less dystopian now that we are in the middle of the real thing. Going back to my Medusa metaphor, she is no longer a theoretical threat. She’s in the room with us in the form of COVID-19, shortages, and politics going off the rail. No need to think about how we might defeat her. Now is the time to just get on with it. I think our stories in the future might change the most by not dwelling on the horror. Like soldiers who don’t like to discuss their war, I think literature may be able to move past 1984 and A Clockwork Orange. Maybe.

  1. What are some of the challenges with keeping a magazine running before the pandemic?

John Linwood Grant: If you have any realistic confidence in your ‘product’, then the main problem is always making people aware of it. I’m absolutely sure that more people would read Occult Detective Magazine, for example, if they knew about it, but with an almost non-existent marketing budget, that’s a stumper. There are horror fans, crime enthusiasts, people wanting a different read now and then, people bored with what they have to hand etc. out there, and so few of them know we exist. More sales means being able to buy more stories and art, or to pay higher rates, or to have a genuine, funded marketing plan.

Image by Сергей Ремизов from Pixabay

Scot Noel: My wife and I had decades of business experience before running a magazine, so perhaps the “running” part was too easy for us.  What we utterly failed to consider was how difficult getting subscribers would be. The market is just too rich with often fabulous content. Our experience, backed up by what we hear from some others, is that the “cost-per-acquisition/customer” (that is, how much do you have to spend in advertising and outreach on average to get a subscriber) is about $50/person for a magazine.  That’s more than we can charge, because that’s just marketing, and the cost of the magazine would be on top of that.  So except for large businesses with big bankrolls in a position to amortize startup costs over time, the challenge of putting out a magazine like DreamForge is almost insurmountable.

Angela Yuriko Smith: Funding is always the biggest hurdle for us. At best, S&T nearly balances income with outgo. Nearly. After artists, authors, printer, and postage are paid, we usually have a zero balance and are ready to begin the cycle again. We lose a small amount on every issue we send out, even after raising prices this year… but we expected and accepted that before we started. It’s truly a labor fueled by passion and prayer.

  1. How have those challenges evolved during the current crisis?

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

John Linwood Grant: No staggering changes, but there are inevitable problems with distribution – bookstores are closed; online retailers prioritise other products; conventions and physical launches are cancelled and so on. Some people in the business, including the writers and artists themselves, are heavily involved in sudden additional family responsibilities; some have employment problems. Which can mean communications can slow down. And many readers have rightly to focus their cash on essential supplies – no one’s going to buy a magazine instead of bread. Well, not a lot of them.

Scot Noel: People have other things on their minds and getting any new subscriptions to a magazine, for a while anyway, seems unlikely. Boy, doesn’t that sound grim.

Angela Yuriko Smith: We are facing a plethora of possibilities right now. With the USPS talking about having to raise prices or close, small businesses closing, and ourselves having less expendable income we are looking at a variety of changes we may have to make to keep the magazine going.

  1. Has the pandemic affected your motivation? How, and what are some of the things you are doing personally to get through?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

John Linwood Grant: I can only speak personally on this one. Anxieties about infection and the complications of lockdown mean that instead of having more time to work on the magazine, I actually have less. Being at the supermarket or the chemist at the right time is more important than finishing an editorial; checking on family elsewhere and far-flung friends takes precedence over submission reading. I’m not a big drinker, so I scientifically titrate my evening gin or pale ale to achieve that point where I am mildly less stressed but still more than functional. And I spend time with the dogs, who quite frankly don’t care what’s going on as long as they get walked, fed and entertained. The lucky little sods.

Scot Noel: I don’t mean to be too flippant with this answer, but if something like a little global plague is going to demotivate you, you probably shouldn’t be trying to publish a magazine. Story tellers, publishers, printers, entertainers, and the whole “steal hope from the jaws of death” crew need to be ready, and always have been ready, to work through wars, plagues, totalitarian regimes, inquisitions, natural disasters, and probably mass extinctions.  We are the torch bearers that keep the frightened masses moving through the night, always toward the dawn, passing the torch when we fall, always and ever firm in our resolve, the belief that the dawn shall never fail to return and that those who see it must be ready to live it out in hope and joy and the confidence that they belong. For the universe is indifferent to our existence, but it is irrelevant without us.

Angela Yuriko Smith: Short answer, yes. I’ve found it very hard to focus on the magazine and my own writing as real-world crisis takes over. As a writer, I think it’s less a lack of motivation than just a need to process. For me, the world in my head just joined the world we all share and there is some readjustment there. I’d love to sound zen and suggest that we be kind to ourselves and allow that space to process, but that would be hypocritical of me. I started off fine, got hit with illness and personal loss and am just now finding my feet again. I attribute my retention of sanity to dogs, gardening, and patient loved ones.


Participating Publishers:

About John Linwood Grant:  John Linwood Grant is a professional writer/editor who lives in Yorkshire with a pack of lurchers and a beard. Widely published in magazines and anthologies, he writes strange fiction, including the Mamma Lucy tales of 1920s hoodoo, the Last Edwardian series and contemporary weird stories. His 2017 collection ‘A Persistence of Geraniums’ – stories of murder, madness and the supernatural – is available on Amazon. He was the co-founder of Occult Detective Magazine (with the late Sam Gafford) and continues to edit it, now with Dave Brzeski. He is also a regular editor of anthologies, including ‘ODQ Presents’, ‘Hell’s Empire’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes & the Occult Detectives’. For more information on the magazine visit http://greydogtales.com/blog/occult-detective-magazine/

About Scot Noel: Scot and his wife Jane Noel are, to be honest, life-long geeks whose eclectic tastes in reading are well steeped in the worlds of SF and Fantasy. They’ve been together since the early 1990’s when they met working their way toward Project Management positions at computer game developer Dreamforge Intertainment, a now defunct but fondly remembered organization (ahh… you have it now!) Scot is the writer, having bluffed his way into computer games with a Second-Place win in Bridge Publications’ Writers of the Future Contest, Volume VI. Jane (then Jane Yeager) is the artist and designer whose work as Art Director assured the success of early Dungeons & Dragons computer game titles like Menzoberranzan and Ravenloft: Stone Prophet, along with award winning original titles like Anvil of Dawn. Both Jane and Scot worked on Chronomaster, an adventure game title designed by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold. While it was Roger’s last project, we’ve been blessed to have Ms. Lindskold as a dear friend ever since, and we appreciate her guidance, support, and participation as we undertake the daunting challenges of establishing a new genre magazine. Upon leaving gaming, Jane and Scot worked together to found a web development and digital marketing agency known today as Chroma Marketing Essentials. With CME set to celebrate its 20th year in the spring of 2019, we’ve decided our younger partners are the better stewards of our beloved company’s future. And though we have no intention of quitting our day jobs, we believe it’s time for one last great adventure. For more information visit dreamforgemagazine.com.

About Angela Yuriko Smith: Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award. Her novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. In 2019 she won the SFPA’s poetry contest in the dwarf form category. She has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net.

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Poetry Month with Jezzy Wolfe

Photos courtesy Jezzy Wolfe

April is National Poetry Month and back in March I had big plans to celebrate. Then it unofficially became International Pandemic Month… and I don’t need to elaborate. We’re all in that together.

Fortunately, I’ll be able to celebrate Poetry Month a few times here at the tail end beginning with an interview from Jezzy Wolfe. I’m excited to be able to share this rising poet here.

Angela—How long have you been a poet—is it something that came naturally to you as a child or something you decided on later in life?

Jezzy—I think I have always been a poet. As a young child, I tied poetry closely to music and would make up tunes in my head for the poems I read most often. We had so many books in our attic, and I spent a lot of time up there. There was an enormous book of Grimm Brother’s fairy tales and a large book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. There were also the reading books my brother and I used in school, and I loved those in particular. Especially the poems, which I would sing. To myself. In the attic. Or as I walked down the street because it didn’t occur to me that the people in their houses could likely hear me singing as I walked to the recreation center, or the Post Office, or the store. There were a few early poems I’d written that I also sang.

As time passed, I studied poetry in school that wasn’t the lyrical, rhythmic stuff of my youth. And my taste in poetry shifted as new favorite poets emerged. The way I wrote poetry shifted, as well. I was heavily inspired by the poets I studied, particularly those in high school.

Angela—What kind of poetry do you write, and is it different or the same as the poetry you enjoy reading?

Jezzy—While I might occasionally write a ballad or metered poem, I most often write free verse, the occasional acrostic piece, a number of traditional Japanese styles (who doesn’t love a good haiku?), and an ample amount of concrete poems. They are also the types of poems I enjoy most to read. I love a poem that moves across a page.

I am partial to both modernists and post-modernists, and the poems I write are greatly influenced by them. My favorite poets are E. E. Cummings and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I love Cummings’ irreverent punctuation, lack of capitals, the way he pushed words together. Ferlinghetti had such wild visual imagery, a really punchy narrative. I also appreciated the way he played with form and movement in some of his poems. He had that concrete mojo. I could dig it.

Angela—How important is poetry?

Jezzy—Poetry is what came to me first. It’s instinct. It’s …breathing, really. When I am frustrated, angry, hurt, mourning, poetry is the most natural way I can express those feelings. Poetry allows us to reconcile the turmoil we can’t always wrap our heads around. It is a place to vent. It is catharsis. Poetry is the couch in our therapist’s office. In that way, I feel poetry is incredibly vital. Poetry keeps me sane. I think it does that for many people.

Angela—There is a lot of fear, anger, and misunderstanding going on at present. What do you think the role of poetry is today?

Jezzy—It is that place to vent, of course. But more than that, it is where we find solidarity and comfort. To find those other voices, expressing those fears in your head, that anxiety in your belly, those are the tribe you didn’t realize you had. They are your common ground. And there is something reassuring in hearing your fears expressed in someone else’s words. We do that all the time when we hear those messages in music, and this is no different. Poetry is a way of offering solace to someone who, like us, is feeling overwhelmed or terrified by the things happening in the world today. The poems we compose represent what we are surviving now, and will be that sign of hope for those that come after us. Just as the poets that came before offered us that same promise. They went through hell, they came out the other side. And so will we.

Angela—Where do you hope poetry will take you in the future?

Jezzy—I have been focusing almost exclusively on poetry lately because it is uniquely satisfying to create. I intend to pour myself into my collections for the foreseeable future, and my hope is that others will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. I will continue working on my fiction in between, of course, but for now, I am focusing on writing that next clever line. Maybe writing a piece in the shape of a ball. And if someone mentions me in the same breath as Ferlinghetti someday, I will know all those hours singing in my attic paid off.

Angela—Please let us know where we can find you and your work.

Jezzy—I am on just about all the social medias, so just look for Jezzy Wolfe and you will likely find me!

My fiction can be found in various horror publications such as Crystal Lake’s Shallow Waters, Vol 1, Smart Rhino’s Zippered Flesh (1, 2, and 3) and Insidious Assassins, and Western Legends’ Unnatural Tales of the Jackalope. My poetry can be found published at The World of Myth ezine, or as an occasional feature on my blog. I am currently finishing editing my first collection of horror poetry called Monstrum Poetica and will release further publishing information on that as soon as it becomes available.

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“Safe Introversion” on PoetryNook

Image by David Mark from Pixabay.

When she coughed on me
I remained calm and measured.
I said my goodbye

through tightly pressed lips.
The mask could cover my frown
but not the horror.

I could feel her breath
damp and possibly germy
attach to my skin.

At home, I used bleach
ammonia and pure vodka
to ward off disease.

And it worked, too well…

Read the rest on PoetryNook.com

Enter PoetryNook.com’s free weekly poetry contest
for cash prizes. Previously published work welcome.

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Confessions of Failure

Image by Adrian Malec from Pixabay.

Lately, I’ve been utterly failing.

I got sick the week before last-ish. Without looking at my calendar I can’t give an exact time frame because time has blurred. The actual being laid up in bed part wasn’t too terrible. I had chills, fever and a colossal headache for a week and then I was back up and ready to get back to things… except I wasn’t.

Physically I was ready, but my brain decided to play hooky. I had zero focus or motivation to write. I managed to squeeze out a few poems and blog posts and then I gave up and started gardening.

I could hear the deadlines wooshing by so I’d peek into my three email inboxes, flinch at the amount of work that had piled up and go back to gardening. If I popped into social media I’d feel that colossal headache coming back and I’d just click back out. It felt like the world had become a very dark place in my absence.

The fact that the world seemed to have suddenly been drenched in ignorance and negativity isn’t what knocked my feet out from under me. It was my reaction—the fact that a global-scale catastrophe could affect me. I write about this kind of thing. Fictional ignorance and negativity are my bread and butter. Why was I now failing?

In one of my brief forays into Twitter during this time I found a video posted by Neil Gaiman where he stated he was failing. I replied with some trite statement about how maybe he wasn’t failing but processing. This was just after I’d gotten up out of bed and was expecting total insta-recovery both mentally and physically.

I think it was my quick, pseudo inspirational reply that got in my head to work its dark magic. I was telling an author I respect not to feel bad about the words he couldn’t seem to write, but where were my words? I couldn’t accept that I was also “processing.”

So here I am. I’m 30k words away from finishing the completed Bitter Suites. I have a large dark fantasy novel I’m editing for Ryan Aussie Smith. I have a collection of poetry ready to be published and another started. I have a pile of stories to read so I can announce the Space and Time ToC. I have a small stack of magazines to mail out. I have zero motivation.

The new world I find myself in caters to my inner hermit. I am secretly pleased that hugs are outlawed and events have become digital productions I don’t have to leave the house for. This is my natural state of being. If I didn’t have goals I would probably live alone in a cave and never see daylight. It’s tempting to let myself vanish into solitude.

Image by TotumRevolutum from Pixabay

But, those pesky goals. Things have changed, but my obligations haven’t. The world has a sense of normalcy about it, but it keeps skipping around like a damaged film reel. One second we are traveling forward just fine and then a few frames of death flash by. Destroyed houses, bodies lined up in hallways, angry faces yelling—and then back to skittering normalcy.

I will try to take my own advice and allow myself to process this. I keep hearing the word unprecedented. It’s simultaneously whispered with fear and shouted as an excuse. Experts aren’t, but everyone else is. I’ve finally decided that normalcy, what I thought of normalcy anyways, is gone for good. This is something else.

What something else is it? I don’t think anyone knows yet, but do we need to know now? Apparently I’m not alone in my brain freeze. Among all the emails I haven’t answered (sorry!) are quite a few that mirror my own lack of focus. It seems we are all either turning out piles of garbage in a fervent effort to look busy or staring, mouths agape, at the abyss.

Soon we will all figure out what the Hell just happened and process it. Until then, I give myself permission to reduce my output to minimal functions. I am preparing another shipment of magazines to go out today. I will select the ToC for the next magazine. I’ll figure out how on earth we will print that magazine given the circumstances. Most of all, I think I’ll allow myself time to grieve. I’ve already lost a few faces to this pandemic and I think we are just getting started. I’m bracing myself for further loss.

With confession comes absolution, so here is my confession: I feel overwhelmed by the losses. I feel fear of future losses. I feel guilt because a theoretical apocalypse has been bouncing around in my imagination all my life. I feel like I discovered Santa is real, but he isn’t jolly. I’ve waited for him all this time, but now I hesitate to unwrap his gift.

Now that I’ve confessed, I will go mail this stack of magazines and retire back to my garden… and process.

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Congratulations to Bram Stoker Awards® Winners and Finalists

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), the premier organization of writers and publishers of horror and dark fantasy, announces this year’s Bram Stoker Awards® winners after a ceremony held via Live Stream.

“This year’s winners reflect a great showing of impressive works from a wide range of competitive finalists,” said John Palisano, HWA President. “This year’s winners truly represent a broad spectrum of titles in the horror and dark fantasy. HWA members and awards juries have again shown objectivity and dedication to the selection process for outstanding works of literature, cinema, non-fiction, and poetry.”

Here is the complete list of talented winners along with the finalist nominees.

2019 Bram Stoker Awards® Final Ballot

Superior Achievement in a Novel

Winner: Goingback, Owl – Coyote Rage (Independent Legions Publishing)

    Also nominated:

    • Malerman, Josh – Inspection (Del Rey)
    • Miskowski, S.P. – The Worst is Yet to Come (Trepidatio Publishing)
    • Murray, Lee – Into the Ashes (Severed Press)
    • Wendig, Chuck – Wanderers (Del Rey)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

Winner: Read, Sarah – The Bone Weaver’s Orchard (Trepidatio Publishing)

    Also nominated:

    • Amor, Gemma – Dear Laura (Independently Published)
    • Guignard, Eric J. – Doorways to the Deadeye (JournalStone)
    • Lane, Michelle Renee – Invisible Chains (Haverhill House Publishing)
    • Starling, Caitlin – The Luminous Dead (Harper Voyager)

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Winner: Nzondi – Oware Mosaic (Omnium Gatherum)

    Also nominated:

    • Bérubé, Amelinda – Here There Are Monsters (Sourcebooks Fire)
    • Dávila Cardinal, Ann – Five Midnights (Tor Teen)
    • Gardner, Liana – Speak No Evil (Vesuvian Books)
    • Marshall, Kate Alice – Rules for Vanishing (Viking Books for Young Readers)
    • Salomon, Peter Adam – Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds (PseudoPsalms Press)

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel

Winner: Doran, Colleen & Gaiman, Neil – Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples (Dark Horse Books)

    Also nominated:

    • Bunn, Cullen – Bone Parish Vol. 2 (BOOM! Studios)
    • Liu, Marjorie – Monstress Volume 4: The Chosen (Image Comics)
    • Manzetti, Alessandro – Calcutta Horror (Independent Legions Publishing)
    • Tanabe, Gou – H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness Volume 1 (Dark Horse Manga)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

Winner: LaValle, Victor – Up from Slavery (Weird Tales Magazine #363) (Weird Tales Inc.)

    Also nominated:

    • Manzetti, Alessandro – The Keeper of Chernobyl (Omnium Gatherum)
    • Taborska, Anna – The Cat Sitter (Shadowcats) (Black Shuck Books)
    • Tantlinger, Sara – To Be Devoured (Unnerving)
    • Warren, Kaaron – Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Shorts)

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

Winner: Kiste, Gwendolyn – “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” (Nightmare Magazine Nov. 2019, Issue 86)

    • Also nominated:

      • Chapman, Greg – “The Book of Last Words” (This Sublime Darkness and Other Dark Stories) (Things in the Well Publishing)
      • Landry, Jess – “Bury Me in Tar and Twine” (Tales of the Lost Volume 1: We All Lose Something!) (Things in the Well Publishing)
      • O’Quinn, Cindy – “Lydia” (The Twisted Book of Shadows) (Twisted Publishing)
      • Waggoner, Tim – “A Touch of Madness” (The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias) (LVP Publications)

Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection

Winner: Tremblay, Paul – Growing Things and Other Stories (William Morrow)

      • Also nominated:

        • Chiang, Ted – Exhalation: Stories (Knopf)
        • Jonez, Kate – Lady Bits (Trepidatio Publishing)
        • Langan, John – Sefira and Other Betrayals (Hippocampus Press)
        • Read, Sarah – Out of Water (Trepidatio Publishing)

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay

Winner: Peele, Jordan – Us (Monkeypaw Productions, Perfect World Pictures, Dentsu, Fuji Television Network, Universal Pictures)

      • Also nominated:

        • Aster, Ari – Midsommar (B-Reel Films, Square Peg)
        • Duffer Brothers, The – Stranger Things (Season 3, Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt) (Netflix)
        • Eggers, Robert and Eggers, Max – The Lighthouse (A24, New Regency Pictures, RT Features)
        • Flanagan, Mike – Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros., Intrepid Pictures/Vertigo Entertainment)

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

Winner: Datlow, Ellen – Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories (Gallery/Saga Press)

      • Also nominated:

        • Brozek, Jennifer – A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods (Pulse Publishing)
        • Golden, Christopher and Moore, James A. – The Twisted Book of Shadows (Twisted Publishing)
        • Guignard, Eric J. – Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror (Dark Moon Books)
        • Wilson, Robert S. – Nox Pareidolia (Nightscape Press)

Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

Winner: Kröger, Lisa and Anderson, Melanie R. – Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction (Quirk Books)

      • Also nominated:

        • Beal, Eleanor and Greenaway, Jonathan – Horror and Religion: New Literary Approaches to Theology, Race, and Sexuality (University of Wales Press)
        • Earle, Harriet E.H. – Gender, Sexuality, and Queerness in American Horror Story: Critical Essays (McFarland)
        • Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra – Masks in Horror Cinema: Eyes Without Faces (University of Wales Press)
        • Kachuba, John B. – Shapeshifters: A History (Reaktion Books)

Superior Achievement in Short Non-Fiction

Winner: Kiste, Gwendolyn – “Magic, Madness, and Women Who Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” (Vastarien: A Literary Journal Vol. 2, Issue 1)

      • Also nominated:

        • Liaguno, Vince A. – “Slasher Films Made Me Gay: The Queer Appeal and Subtext of the Genre” (LGBTQ+ Horror Month: 9/1/2019, Ginger Nuts of Horror)
        • Renner, Karen J. – “The Evil Aging Women of American Horror Story” (Elder Horror: Essays on Film’s Frightening Images of Aging) (McFarland)
        • Robinson, Kelly – “Film’s First Lycanthrope: 1913’s The Werewolf” (Scary Monsters Magazine #114)
        • Weich, Valerie E. – “Lord Byron’s Whipping Boy: Dr. John William Polidori and the 200th Anniversary of The Vampyre” (Famous Monsters of Filmland, Issue #291)

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

Winner: Addison, Linda D. and Manzetti, Alessandro – The Place of Broken Things (Crystal Lake Publishing)

      • Also nominated:

        • Cade, Octavia – Mary Shelley Makes a Monster (Aqueduct Press)
        • Lynch, Donna – Choking Back the Devil (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
        • Scalise, Michelle – Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning (LVP Publications)
        • Simon, Marge and Dietrich, Bryan D. – The Demeter Diaries (Independent Legions Publishing)
        • Wytovich, Stephanie M. – The Apocalyptic Mannequin (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Named in honor of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula, the Bram Stoker Awards® are presented annually for superior writing in eleven categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, screenplays, and non-fiction. Previous winners include Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, Joyce Carol Oates, and Neil Gaiman.

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Hope from Jericho

A few years ago my friend Soraya sent me a Rose of Jericho plant. Normally it looks like a tiny grey tumbleweed, but with a little water it springs back to life in an hour and becomes a green fern. It’s a super survivor.

There are many legends about this plant. It’s associated with the 40 day fast of Jesus, the nativity and his resurrection. It’s often called the Resurrection plant.

Some people use the water to bless their thresholds to guide the blessings in. To everyone, it’s a reminder of hope. No matter how bad things look, they can turn around fast.

Today, I brought my little plant survivor out and watered it back to life. It will remain on our kitchen table for the time being as a reminder of our own resilience. I videoed the opening to share as proof that miracles still happen, and the best miracles happen when things look at their worst.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay kind!

 

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“Song of Lazarus” on PoetryNook

Image by falco from Pixabay

I slept for a week
while the world around me died.
Inside, so did I.

Self-righteous lips pray
for those trapped on sinking ships—
no absolution.

Regardless of cost
good advice springs up like weeds.
No truth is required.

Souls have become cheap
worth less than the USD—
profit margin-less.

We are all equal
laid head to toe in mass graves
united in death…

Read the rest on PoetryNook.com

Enter PoetryNook.com’s free weekly poetry contest
for cash prizes. Previously published work welcome.

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How NOT to be a Starving Artist

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay.

Things are looking scary. As the government assures us we won’t face food shortages the news tells us otherwise. Meat production plants are closing indefinitely, the distribution chain is breaking down and economists warn of a “Greater Depression.” However far we stick our heads in the sand, we can all feel the trembles.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been having conversation after conversation about how this is survivable. The Great Depression was survivable. With great upheaval comes great opportunity… I offer all my patent answers and the follow-up question is usually… But how?

For many of us, especially creatives, learning to live with less is just a way of life. Old news for us. This is nothing new. We salvage, scrimp, save and make due. The same creativity that fuels our dreams also fills our belly.

To keep the magazine going (and our creative careers) we’ve visited food pantries, salvaged furniture from the corner and did quite a few odd jobs from working the Renaissance Faires to writing poetry for tips.

So what does a seasoned starving artist do at a time like this? To start…

  • The first potatoes poke up through the straw…

    Garden like your life depends on it. It might. Last fall I set up a deep mulch garden using the Ruth Stout method. I chose this method because it’s ridiculously easy, efficient and almost no-cost to free. I bought a huge bale of ‘spoiled’ hay for $10 and turned half our yard into a garden in an afternoon. Any mulch will do. Old leaves, yard clippings… you could be growing in a week. I joined a local garden co-op to get organic bulbs and seeds for cheap. All together our garden cost under $20 and a few afternoons. The first produce is coming up now. Explore Ruth Stout method here.

 

  • Explore foraging. I’ve read a lot about foraging but I’ve never actually tried it until recently. Dandelions are an easy one to start with, and lucky for us they are in their culinary prime in spring. I located an abandoned park that is covered with them,

    Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

    grabbed my bag and went out to get some greens. As long as you stay away from the bitter stem, the rest of the plant is delicious this time of year. Even in the rest of the season when the leaves have a more bitter taste they can be delicious. In less than 20 minutes I had enough delicious greens to toss into the crockpot with our white beans and enjoy in a fresh salad later. If being a free, plentiful and easy superfood weren’t enough, you can dry dandelions to use in winter. Explore dandelion dining here.

 

  • Think free and find freedom. Lots of things people normally toss are gold to thrifty

    Even a non-sewer like me can do simple projects.

    folks. My seedling starter pots are all recycled and saved from years past. I also use toilet paper tubes as biodegradable plant pots. My back porch bean trellis are actually large, wood pallets we salvaged. When the CDC suggested everyone wear masks out of their home, I made some out of clothes headed for donation. The best dish scrubbers I have found are made from onion sacks in less than 5 minutes. When you need something, look around and see if you don’t have it already. With economists predicting dark financial days ahead, now is a good time to pinch pennies. I had a chance to interview Amy Dacyczyn, the Queen of Thrift and Frugal Zealot herself years ago. Her Tightwad Gazette* books will get you in the right mindset. Here’s a reprint of that interview.

There is so much to say on this subject, I can’t possibly fit it all in one post. As a long time practitioner of penny-pinching (my first blog was called The Penny Pinscher back in 2008, visit it here) I’ve been collecting notes for a someday book called How NOT to be a Starving Artist. It looks like that book’s time has finally come to be born. Until then, I’ll share those notes here.

Note, links marked with an * are affiliate links to Bookshop.org and I receive compensation when you purchase through them.

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On Death, Illness and Roots

Photo courtesy of Danny Clinch

What a strange week it’s been. I came down sick days ago and I feel like I’ve been in an alternate reality. I had many conversations that feel like dreams. I read far too much social media and news and it colored everything sour. I find myself looking around, wondering what still matters.

I think what hit me the most, surprisingly, was the news that John Prine had died. No, I don’t know John Prine personally but he is my 2nd cousin. I’m told I knew him as a baby. My parents had all his records and I grew up listening to his songs. It’s odd remembering that when I was very young I loved country music.

All my life John has been there in stories—my famous relative, the one that made it. My grandmother told me endless tales of how John adored her. By this time in my life I was not only over country music but systematically trying to wipe any hint of redneck/hillbilly/country from who I was becoming. The fact that I was born in Kentucky became an irony I’d always follow up with but I barely lived there.

Last summer I went through Madisonville, Kentucky where I’d lived as a baby. It shocked me how tiny it was. The town consists of one street, some old buildings and a gas/grocery. When I asked about my aunt in the grocery I was given her address based on the fact that I was short and stocky “just like a Grant.” The logic: we looked like family therefore we must be family.

It occurred to me that, in spite of a lifetime of trying to ignore it, that is also part of who I am. Maybe John passing reminded me. I’ve meant to write to him for years as “Little Angie” but never got around to it. I just wanted to say hi to the family legend. Too little, too late.

In keeping with my tradition of writing a poem a week for PoetryNook, I finally wrote that letter. My favorite song of John’s was Dear Abby, and I used it as my guide for this poem. It’s a terrible poem for terrible times. You can read this poem here.

And now, like a complete nut I’ll cry while I listen to a man I never really knew sing one of my favorite songs since I was the child I’ll never admit to. Perhaps I’m not just crying for John, but many things. Like I said, it’s been a long, strange bruising week… for most of us.

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The Circle of Influence for Sanity

My new morning habit… I check the coronavirus stats on my phone when I wake up. The numbers have climbed. The death totals have climbed. The stock market is still volatile. Jobless claims rise. Predictions of doom have escalated. These are things I can’t help. I go downstairs for coffee.

Years ago I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book. I got a lot of great things from that book, but the thing I use most is his idea of circles of influence versus circles of concern. As the world around me seems to be falling to ruin, it has kept me together.

It’s a simple concept. The circle of concern is everything we worry about but can’t directly affect. Global warming, pandemics and if the neighbors like you fall into that circle. It’s a big circle because there’s a lot we can’t directly affect.

The circle of influence contains all the things we can directly affect. Reducing our garbage, taking care of our health and being nice to the neighbors are actions we have power over. If you focus too long on your circle of concern you are apt to freeze up and take no action at all. Like a deer in the headlights, the thing you fear may hit you head-on. If you focus on your circle of influence, you become empowered and you can change things for the better.

In the news, I’ve read about jobless claims, potential food shortages and how COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Last week I planted my garden with extra in case we need to share. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the little expenses we don’t need in our budget. I’ve started working out again and getting decent sleep.

We are all in a stressful situation, so I finally set up the quiet meditation area in the house where we can unwind and listen to music. I worry people I care about may not make it through this, so I’ve spent time making contact and checking in. I’ve organized my pantry. I stay inside as much as possible except to take the dogs for walks. I wash my hands and avoid touching my face when I do have to go out. These things are all in my circle of influence.

We find ourselves in an unprecedented crisis. None of us have experienced a pandemic of this scale before. The news is a constant shock. Every day the disasters get bigger. What was unbelievable yesterday has become today’s reality. But these things are not our problem. They are outside in our circle of concern. We can’t save the whole world, only ours.

Image by Peter Fischer from Pixabay

There’s a Polish saying I love that’s gotten popular—nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy. It translates to not my circus, not my monkeys. This is what we need to repeat when we feel fear trying to capsize us.

Yes, there is a huge crisis at hand, and it’s quite scary. Ignoring it will not make it go away. All we can do is what we can do.

We can be kind. We can share when we are able. We can plan ahead and make sure that in our corner of the world, we have things under control as much as possible. How many times have you wished you could just spend some time at home to get it organized and catch up on things? Your wish has been granted. You’re welcome.

The wild winds of the world are blowing hot panic but we can resist. Panic is a contagion more deadly than anything nature can throw at us. We choose how we will react to it.

Stay safe, stay smart, stay strong!

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