The email arrived on February 22, 2016—a time of sickness and worry; fear and hospital visits.
“Erin,” the message read, “I have to say, I profoundly enjoyed your story: your style, vision, and command of atmosphere, irony, and character are tremendously effective. It would be an honor to showcase your enormous literary talent in this year’s journal.”
The email, from Michael G. Kellermeyer, Editor of Oldstyle Tales Press, went on to say that my short story, The Demon Inches, had been accepted for The Yellow Booke, an annual journal of original horror, ghost stories, and weird fiction.
I was flattered, of course, by Mr. Kellermeyer’s generous words. He certainly knew how to find his way into a writer’s affections; particularly when most authors receive many, many (get the idea?) more rejections than acceptances.
But what Mr. Kellermeyer didn’t realize, had no way of knowing, was that his email would become a beacon, guiding me through a bleak landscape. It reminded me of literature’s unique power, how healing can be found through emptying oneself onto paper. And that by getting lost between the pages of a story, one might emerge a better person at the end. Books can be both escape and redemption, lifeboats for navigating the restless seas of time.
It also made me think of the unknown effect we can have on others. A smile or compliment, sincere at the time then forgotten, often imprints on another’s psyche. Or, as in my case, a particularly kind acceptance letter, despite the writer suspecting the editor of exaggeration, arrives at the perfect moment.
So now Demon Inches, my own form of speculative fiction, has been published. It’s a genre I return to again and again. My mind explores the remote lakes, woods, and mountains of central Idaho and northern Michigan, the two states I call home.
I wonder what waits at the end of twisting two-tracks, disappearing into dusk, or the secrets contained within the walls of an abandoned cabin. And, like in Demon Inches, I question what resides within the shadows of our minds, and where the line between reality and imagination splits.
My stories may be speculative, exploring a world of fantasy, but I never speculate about two characteristics—bravery and hope, inspired by the people who surround me and embedded in everything I write. Horror creeps up on us, in novels but also in life, and without these core traits, we might find ourselves blinded by darkness.
The literary landscape in which I navigate also reinforces my optimism, finding endless comfort in the written word. It illuminates everything I do and has become a lifelong travel companion, as a well-timed email from a kind editor reminded me not so long ago.
The Yellow Booke: Demon Inches, The Old House, The Little Madness: and Other Terrors
A compendium of original horror stories (some written in the vein of classic supernaturalists such as M. R. James, J. S. Le Fanu, H. P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, and William Hope Hodgson, others written to push, test, and redefine the boundaries of the postmodern horror tale) “The Yellow Booke” is an original publication from Oldstyle Tales Press, whose annotated and illustrated critical editions of classic horror have piqued international interest from fans and scholars alike. “The Yellow Booke” contributes to Oldstyle Tales’ mission of invigorating interest in the classial past of the horror genre, while inspiring and encouraging those who would participate directly in its future. In these pages you will find mystery, weird fiction, body horror, science fictions, ghost stories, dark fantasies, and other strange tales written by living authors — some professional, some amateur, and all deeply talented in conveying what Monty James called “a pleasing terror…” Featuring the imaginative, powerful talent of Ever Dundas, G. L. McDorman, Joseph Burt, Silvia Barlaam, Columbkill Noonan, David Groveman, Erin Fanning, Greg Howes, Thomas Olivieri, M. Grant Kellermeyer, Daniel Pietersen
Fifty Best American Short Stories 1915-1965 sits on my bedside table. It’s an unusually heavy book and has burst from its spine, as if weighed down by the importance of the stories and authors contained in its covers. Pages tumble from the book like leaves falling from a tree or perhaps a branch, when a larger chunk of papers breaks apart from the binding.
But I have no intention of discarding it.
I keep it because I admire Editor Martha Foley’s confidence, no equivocation–so sure of herself. “These are the best short stories spanning fifty years,” she seems to say, “and I dare you to disagree.”
It’s also a reminder of forgotten authors—Elsie Singmaster, Morley Callaghan—along with familiar ones—Ernest Hemingway, John Updike: a symbol of both the transitory and permanent nature of literature. But, most importantly, the book was a gift from my sister Kelly, which she rescued from a used book sale, knowing my love for unusual collections of short stories.
It also joined me one summer while traveling along the north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It became my literary companion, as dark and somber as the depths of Lake Superior, which were always in view.
The collection began to disintegrate during that trip. At night, I’d grasp several pages and read Flannery O’Connor, James Thurber, or Bernard Malamud. I considered scattering pieces of these great stories across the U.P.–John Cheever in Grand Marais, a few pages of Dorothy Parker for Munising, and a smattering of Lionel Trilling in Marquette.
And now I wish I had… a souvenir of my reading self everywhere I went, to be picked up by a walker strolling next to a park bench or a waiter bussing a table, creating an endless cycle of reading and sharing, just as Martha Foley intended.
Filipino Fiction For Young Adults: “Open Call For Submissions–Science Fiction: Filipino Fiction For Young Adults – Editors Dean Francis Alfar (publisher of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies) and Kenneth Yu (publisher of Philippine Genre Stories), and co-editors for Horror: Filipino Fiction For Young Adults, announce an open call for short fiction submissions for Science Fiction: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults.”
Till Death Do Us Part: “Burnt Offerings Books is planning on publishing a series of monthly anthologies in 2014. The tentative title and theme of the anthology will be Till Death Do Us Part.”
Thirteen Press Anthologies (scroll down to Feb. 6 entry) – Accepting submissions for three anthologies – War, Wildwood, and Pyromania.
Dark Heart Volume Two: “With the theme of ‘Mirrors and Tears’ writers (both new and established) are invited to write a short story from 1,000-10,000 words for this anthology. The theme is open to interpretation and we look forward to reading a diverse range of YA tales.”
The Best Women’s Travel Writing: “Women writers, please send us your best stories about travel throughout the world for our annual series, The Best Women’s Travel Writing. We’re looking for the full range of experience: adventurous, mystical, funny, poignant, cuisine-related, cross-cultural, transformational, funny, illuminating, frightening, or grim-as well as solo travel and travel with friends, partners, and families.”
Finally confirmation for what I’ve always believed: “The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories.”
” To create The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1, Joseph Gordon-Levitt — known within the hitRECord community as RegularJOE — directed thousands of collaborators to tell tiny stories through words and art. With the help of the entire creative collective, Gordon-Levitt culled, edited and curated over 8,500 contributions into this finely tuned collection of original art from 67 contributors. Reminiscent of the 6-Word Memoir series, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 brings together art and voices from around the world to unite and tell stories that defy size.”
A new short story collection from Tamora Pierce means it’s time to take a break from writing and get busy reading:
Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce: From Amazon – “Collected here for the first time are all of the tales from the land of Tortall, featuring both previously unknown characters as well as old friends. Filling some gaps of time and interest, these stories, some of which have been published before, will lead Tammy’s fans, and new readers into one of the most intricately constructed worlds of modern fantasy.”
And while you’re at it, check out these other short story collections for teens:
Drollerie Press’s Playthings of the Gods (includes my story “Naiad”): From Black Sun – “Playthings of the Gods is one of Drollerie Press’ strongest anthologies to date, filled with tales both heart wrenching, and empowering. One thing that really ties the anthology together, aside from the theme, is the very lyrical prose. While each author has a style of their own, some stories compliment each other so beautifully you would swear it was intentional.”
As long as I’m doing a little self-promotion then take a look at my collection of short stories from Sam’s Dot Publishing, The Curse of Blackhawk Bay – “Around Lake Trillium strange events occur. Children disappear, ghosts appear, and a man bursts into flames. The lake itself is inhabited by something vast and dark. With each event there appears a crow–but what does it want? Who will be next to confront the secret of the lake and of Blackhawk Bay?”
Bloody Horowitz by Anthony Horowitz: From Booklist – “With the blood spatters from Horowitz Horror (2006) and More Horowitz Horror (2007) nearly dry, in steps the titular tale spinner bringing another 14 tales of the macabre.”
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black: From Kirkus Reviews – “Black’s first story collection assures her place as a modern fantasy master…. Sly humor, vivid characters, each word perfectly chosen: These stories deserve reading again and again.”
The Kissing Game: Short Stories by Aidan Chambers: From Amazon – ” These provocative stories beautifully lend themselves to discussion, and once again Chambers treats us to his fiercely intelligent, finely crafted prose and his incisive understanding of the wonderings of young people on the verge of adulthood.”
The publisher continues its mission to find unique voices with Wyvern Magazine, an ezine for teen fiction. In this interview, editor Holly Stacey talks about what she’s looking for, her favorite authors, and what’s new at Wyvern.
What do you look for in a story? Are there any specific types of stories or plots that you wish writers would send you?
I personally look for character led stories that fit the basic genre of what we have advertised for – teen!. For the magazine we get so many stories, it’s sometimes impossible to choose and of course, we don’t just have fiction. I always look for strong, well-rounded characters with an original storyline (or a new twist on an older tale) and well paced action. I want to feel what the main character is feeling and be taken through his or her story absolutely gripped and convinced that they are real. First person limited and third person limited are our preferred narrations, and all the editors on the Wyvern team will tell authors to not jump from one character’s point of view to another. The magazine usually has slots for two to three short stories, some flash fiction and maybe a poem or two.
As for particular stories or plots, we are generally open and like to be surprised! As long as it fits well within our readership, has a strong narration and original voice, we’re interested.
Why would you pass on a story?
If a story was good but had so many grammatical errors that I wanted to give up reading, I’d pass on the story. I’d also pass if it was boring, switched viewpoint mid paragraph, was unoriginal, or just poorly written. Excessive foul language, graphic sex, or violence are also a no for us. For the anthologies, the editors will sometimes find stories that they like but need improving on. When this happens, we contact the author and tell them what we’d like changed if the author is willing. For main submissions, however, there are just too many to give personal feedback on, which is a shame because there are some amazing stories that come our way (and some very poor ones, but there is a learning curve for all writers).
What do you enjoy the most about editing Wyvern Magazine?
That’s a tough one to answer. I think when it all comes together at the end is when I’m most enjoying it, but I love the point of sending out acceptance e-mails (the worst is having to reject, but it comes with the territory). Of course, there are times when things seem to go terribly wrong. These are usually technical hitches such as images not uploading on the website properly, or my PDF deciding to reformat.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Favorite short stories? Is there a story (or two) that was completely unforgettable… changed your life or outlook in some way?
I absolutely love Neil Gaiman! Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins (I do love turn of the century fiction), Holly Black, Tolkien, Poe, Crissida Cowell, Diana Wynne Jones, ah, I could go on forever. Derek Landy also is one of my favourites. Aubrie Dionne, who we are lucky enough to have as one of our authors also keeps me gripped when I read her tales. I think it’s the magic in the stories that keeps me wanting more; there is something almost bewitching about the way they write and I end up getting so emotionally involved with the plot and characters that they will creep into my dreams.
One of my favourite short stories is by Poe – where the lunatics in an asylum break out and pretend to be the doctors. It always makes me laugh, but also reminds me that life’s ‘rules’ are always dictated by those in power, no matter how insane they are. For teen fiction, my favourite short story is by Alice Godwin called Clearskin. It was the winner of the short story competition for Wyvern Publications last year and it left me in gooseflesh for days afterwards it was so beautiful.
Anything new coming to Wyvern Magazine this year?
We’ve got the ‘Assistant Editor’s Corner’ which is good fun as it allows our assistant editor to use some of his own fiction to highlight some do and don’t for writing. Other than that, it’s the usual articles, fiction and interviews.