Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction

Edited by Rose Mambert and Margarita Bezdomnya
Published by Pink Narcissus Press

This anthology was easy to enjoy because the whole collection is really solid. My favorites were "Mike Dies at the End" by W2, "Baker Boy" by Thomas Fuchs and "Dark Entries" by Michael C. Thompson.  Okay, so I'll just move onward to the summaries:

Incubus-Ex by Ashley-Renee Cribbins
I could kind of see where this one was going from the beginning, but I like the inclusion of an incubus. Okay, so the main plot points would be sister has a relationship with an incubus, Sully, but wants to go to college unburdened so she puts up a hex bag to bind him to the house. Her brother, Austin, is the only one who can pull down the hex bag and set Sully free. He decides not to...as to why he doesn't, that's up to you to find out. 

Mike Dies at the End (A Parody) by W2
First, I just have to say that I love the idea that mystical powers are sexually transmitted. I love all the well-placed absurdity of this story. The line the squirrel says near the beginning, and the fact the fries sing...yeah, you see where I'm going with this-- uh, no you don't. I don't even know where I'm going.
Anyway, the characters are fun and have lots of personality. The situations are crazy, but well-written so that makes them believable in a surrealist on acid kind of way. The descriptions of Real Dolls; horrifying. The solution to the puzzle; quite entertaining.
In final review I love this story. It speaks to me.

Monsters So Fair by Lyle Blake Smythers
This is a fantasy story about fate and prophecy. The narrator, Agib, has first been told that he is the person who can end the curse over a stretch of ocean by destroying the bronze statue on top of Bent Mountain that keeps destroying boats with magnetism. Droo, the son of a merchant, has been told that if the statue on Bent Mountain falls he will be killed by a false Prince named Agib by the time he turns eighteen. The two end up on the same island, but there is no animosity between them, so how can the second prophesy be fulfilled if there is love and not war? In a way I was kind of dreading getting to the ending because the moment that Droo and Agib have together is quite perfect.

The Song by Rob Rosen
Somewhat scary in the build up to the siren, and I enjoyed the treasure hunter's determination to thwart the siren's song. The basic story is that a treasure hunter goes on a quest for gold where he knows that others have failed due to reports of sirens luring the adventurers to their death. Despite his preparations the siren manages to get his attention anyway, but not as he was prepared for.

Dark Entries by Michael C. Thompson
This story is rather twisted and made me want to listen to Bauhaus while reading to get the full effect. The couple, Jonathan and Lawrence, in this story already has a lot of issues with drug problems and paranoia just being the icing on the cake. Lawrence's nightmares and reality start to blur together, and things get even more disjointed around the time he meets a strange, but beautiful man on the beach. The strange man appears to be mocking him, and claims to be named Peter Murphy. Lawrence sees Peter as teasing him, then he sees him as a disturbing fish creature in his nightmares, and then Jon's paranoia sees them as entirely something else. The ending of this story is rather shocking as it is revealed that both men end up with their wishes fulfilled.  

Welcome to Anteaterland by Nathaniel Fuller
I kind of felt like I was missing something as I went through this story. It was like something bigger going on behind the scenes, which I guess is kind of what happens in Anteaterland so maybe that all works out.  

Blood Sugar Sex Magic by Geogina Li
This story is interesting because it reads like a prose poem with influences of city life, and I also get this sensation of contrast between night and day. I had to read this one a couple times to pay attention to everything that's going on around the characters. The rhythm of the words is interesting. I also like the idea of James reading the signs and believing that there are meanings and then other meanings. This story feels like a series of images and has a pace that reminds me of wandering around cities at night after the bars are closed and everything is kind of disorienting.  

Baker Boy by Thomas Fuchs
I love how this story looked at temptation, and it was strange enough that I had to tell a friend who has a culinary arts degree about it right after I read it. References to Baker Boy have been added to our dialogues about food. So, good job.
In this story a man in the best shape of his life gives into the temptation of a mysterious bakery, and to the allure of the baker boy who tempts him with food among other things. Sure, the main character gains a lot of weight that the sexual escapades can't work off, but the end results were not quite as expected.

The Zombissager by Colleen Chen
Sir Zomablot is out to conquer Peaceville with his army of undead cocks that he has packaged and sold as Zombissagers.  Super boyfriends Coolman and Awesomeman can't let that happen. If the names are any indication this is a silly story, but it is pretty entertaining.

Shudder by Alice Fox
This is a cute little graphic novel-like piece that involves an exiled noble and the headless apparition of a minstrel who has a demon problem. The demons look like stretchy cats, which I suppose would be quite horrifying to see in person. After the demon problem is remedied the exiled man can stay in the castle and you can cue true love's first kiss, or something like that.

Mondeval's Heart by Rose Mambert
Ash and Tamaril are companions by chance or fate, but they are loyal to each other and prepared to die on their quest. Ash is human while Tamaril is a ferlik who is also Cursed with a powerful magic that can only be used at a high price. Tamaril trades his memories or blood for magic, use of the power in the past has destroyed his memory to the point that he doesn't remember even his original name. This story throws your from the heat of passion into the heat of battle and makes you wonder what all will be lost and gained once the fight is over.

Zombie Hunt by Danielle Renn
In a post zombie apocalypse world zombie infectee James Hunt protects a settlement of survivors in exchange for shelter and feedings of blood to sustain him. A young man named Evan who lives in the settlement latches onto Hunt and follows him around. Evan is quite curious and in awe of Hunt and wishes to forge any sort of connection that he can between the two because they have a relatively simple past, and within the settlement connections between people are not as simple as they seem. In this world the ugliness of the created society in the settlement is hidden behind the fa├žade of civilization. Evan's actions indicate that he is looking for a sort of salvation and an escape from the settlement, but how far away can he get? And at what price?

The Hollow Hills of New Hampshire by Frank Muse
This was an amusing horror story about a young man named Derek who becomes the owner of a brownie--a short, hairy, naked house elf of lore. (Side note: brownies creep me out already and I rarely encounter them in my usual reading...so that got to me right away.) At first the brownie makes sure the apartment is clean, food is prepared and the place is comfortable to the point of creepiness, but then he starts to cause a bit of trouble when he panics at the realization that his new owner really has no interest in women or reproduction...and the Brownie kind of needs him to have an heir in order to survive.

This Won't Hurt a Bit by Thomas Kearnes
The narrator first hooks up with a guy named Harrison, and is annoyed by Harrison's show of consideration over whether or not he was enjoying their encounter. Soon after that the narrator admits that he's used to getting in between couples and at the moment is trying to be involved with Blake, who is already living with Sam. Blake and Sam are a train wreck of a relationship, but Blake has obvious feelings of complacency and fatalism towards his situation. When the narrator is given a slight chance with Blake it isn't quite what he expected, but from that he garners a sort of revelation.

 The Golem of Rabbi Loew by Johnny Townsend
As I read this I noticed that the pacing of the story feels similar to a biblical story. I enjoyed this retelling of The Golem of Prague, and found it easier to read then the version of the original story that I was supposed to read for a Survey of Jewish Culture class. Anyway, the golem in this story not only defends the Jewish population of Prague, but also serves as a companion for Rabbi Loew who feel that his desires for other men would lead others to sin, but since Joseph lacks a soul there's no concern for him sinning. The story is quite bittersweet.

Fools in Love by Chelsea Crowley
Gus, the court jester, insults the court wizard, Horatio Metorimax, and as punishment the jester is forced to assist him in order to better appreciate the wizard's work. Horatio is surprised to find that he can relax around Gus and they both get along better than expected. Gus turns out to be a more complex character than he initially seems and he confesses that he has been hurt by magic before. This is a cute story and I enjoyed the explanation of Gus's background, and I think Horatio learned a lot from Gus.
Super Love by Chris Helton
This story deals with the everyday frustration of dating a super hero, which is a profession with a highly irregular schedule. Odd schedules are a rather relatable feature of relationships in general, and I enjoyed seeing how Maddex tried to bridge that divide in order to spend more time with Greg.
Starpoint Rendezvous by E. Craig McKay
Simon and Jeremy work together as prospectors and play together in the Melia Starpoint space hotel that can provide all varieties of tantalizing sexual experiences. They spend most of the story indulging in what each other, and the hotel, has to offer, but also discuss their newly joined business endeavors and the trouble of transporting asteroids. I must admit that my mind kept wondering off while reading this story because I kept imagining what all could possibly be at such a hotel. So, I generally enjoyed the lazy, sexy and indulgent nature of this tale, and the excitement of the trials of hauling asteroids through space kind of took a backseat to the entertainment at the hotel.

Color Zap! By Sam Sommer
The Genofacility allows two people of any gender to have children, and produces those children in a regulation manner in which they are prepared for a drab world, but Spencer was born with periwinkle blue hair. His parents force him to cover his hair with a hat, and then begin shaving his head as he gets older. He decides for himself that he wants to show off his hair, but on his first time out in public he is given an unfair amount of abuse. He soon finds more people with colorful hair including his boyfriend, Gavin, who has bright green hair. The people with brightly-colored hair form a society to promote the acceptance of them in the general population. I found the story interesting and inspiring and think it was a good note to end the anthology on. The feeling I got from this story was that even though some progress is made there is still room for equality, and sometimes different groups get left behind during the quest for acceptance.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Didn't punch a single hipster. And a basic publishing guide.

I went to CD101 Day Side A on Saturday and I didn't punch a single hipster. I didn't even find one person that I would consider that annoying...so that was good. Maybe it was too cold that night. As far as the show went I liked the set by J. Roddy Walston and the Business (Link to their song "Don't Break the Needle"), and Of Monsters and Men (Link to their song "Little Talks"). Left before Kasabian because it was too cold outside.
Before the show we walked over to the Three-Legged Mare and had a couple beers. It's a pretty nice place and the bartenders are cool, so I think I will definitely go back there in the future. At the LC I can't believe people pay $8 for a giant cup of horrible beer. Recently I have begun to examine my hatred of Bud Lite and Miller Lite, and then realized that I drink PBR sometimes so I have little room to talk... but I never drink it ironically.

The review of Queer Fish will be posted later today. I had to go back and reread several stories and that has slowed down the process. I don't mind rereading them because I like the book.

This is a basic intro to publishing that I wrote for a writing group I'm involved with on VampireFreaks:

Big Publishing Guide

Publishing can be a heartbreaking process even for the best of writers. You create a concept for a story, your characters live on paper--or in your head, or maybe they're a part of you...maybe they talk to you-- and you give them an adventure, then you revise that adventure to make it perfect, and you locate a magazine/anthology/etc and send your story off into the unknown...just to get a form letter in return "I'm sorry, but we're going to pass." There really is no arguing with it, and all you can do is to hope to understand the process.

Researching markets in advance will save you some time, and possibly rejection, if you generally know what a publisher is looking for. It does help to read the publications as well. I've been researching markets for about a year now and still haven't figured out all of it because there are a lot of publications and then there are anthologies, too. If you have a particular piece that you're interested in sending to a publisher I may have a lead on who might be looking for that sort of thing, so reply to this post or send me a message.

What are publishers looking for and where do you find that out?
Make an account here, I'm serious. This page is easy to use and they send out a weekly digest of market updates including new markets, dead markets and temporarily closed markets.

Poets & Writers: Tools for Writers
This page has listings for publishers, magazines, contests and agents. They also list grad school programs, jobs and grant opportunities.

Writers Market
Web page for the book by this name. Requires a subscription fee.

I personally hate writing cover letters, but it does seem to get easier each time. A cover letter is likely the editor's first interaction with you and your writing so it should be professional and courteous. It's okay to be a little clever in tone, but don't be obnoxious. A cover letter is like a sales pitch, so you want to sell yourself and your work as best as you can. It's similar to a pitch letter, but a pitch includes more information on a project and is usually done before the project is finished.
When I worked as an editor on a university-related Arts magazine most cover letters we got said:
"Hi, my name is------- and this is my submission"
And in that situation it was fine to have such a short message. It really depends on where you're sending your work. We didn't refuse to read any submissions due to poor cover letters.
Other places are a bit different. I've seen one place that wants the official cover letter as the first page of the submission, but most places just want the cover letter in an e-mail and the submission itself attached to that e-mail as a word document (or other document type, I know one place that only works with PDF). Pay attention to the individual publisher's guidelines.

When writing a cover letter include:

Editor's name, if you can find it, or just say editors of (whatever the publication is).

Your name--should be obvious.

Publishing history, or if you lack publishing history, but have Creative Writing education you could list that. When it comes down to it most places will only be judging on the merit of what you send them and not your publishing history--unless you are a big name that will help move their publication's sales.

Title of piece, approximate word count and brief synopsis.

Acknowledge where you are submitting it--the magazine, anthology, book, etc.

The fact that you think it will fit what they're looking for.

Thank them for considering your work.

Sometimes the publisher asks for specific things in a cover letter--where you're most easily contacted, where you're from, a short bio in 3rd person, etc.

I figured that the best way to give you an example of a cover letter was to post one that I actually sent out--they rejected the story, but gave me good feedback, (I'm reworking the problem they had with the story and will try submitting again later)-- I just deleted a lot from it.

Dear editors at -----------,
My name is J. Lannan and I'm most easily contacted at (e-mail address here). I've previously been published in Shawnee State's Arts magazine (Silhouette: Spring 2011), the Dylan Days Publication (Talkin' Blues: 2011), and Ohio University-Lancaster's Arts magazine (Station: Spring 2011). "Hey, You Never Know" is my submission to be considered for inclusion in the -------------- anthology. Its complete word count comes in at just a little under 17,000 and has a summary that goes a little something like this:

In "Hey, You Never Know," Ian Winter picks up the missing persons case of Conrad Blum as a favor to a family friend, but has trouble getting any of the homeless people around the park where Conrad was last seen to talk. In fact they seem a little scared of him. With the reluctant guidance of shelter worker Brend, Ian concocts a new identity---------------------In this quest of disappearing bodies, a silver shuttlecock to a quasar, clandestine yard work and political intrigue everyone has a past.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

J. Lannan

I currently have submissions in at a magazine that takes up to a year to reply. I think I sent it out in November and obviously I'm still waiting. My fastest rejection came in at a number of hours after sending the e-mail out, and then there are some that never reply. Some places will not allow you to simultaneously submit your story to them and other publications, but some will. Make sure to keep track of these things.

Rejection happens. And, if you know the piece is of a good quality, the rejection usually happens because an editor did not like your style or it was just not a fit for their publication. Send it somewhere else. I had a piece rejected last year--personally I think it was too edgy for that publication now that I've actually met the group associated with that anthology-- but I read the story again and made a couple minor revisions and it was picked up by another publisher that is more interested in the sort of things that I write. I currently have plenty of rejected stories that I'm revising at the moment.

After acceptance you'll have to do a contract of some sort, or sign off on it. For the arts magazine that I worked on we were pretty relaxed and just wanted first rights, and we had each writer sign off on how their piece would look in the magazine. That's when they signed the agreement. I didn't sign off on anything for one of my poems to be included in another university's arts magazine. Currently I'm waiting for my contract for a short story publication. It seems like it will be pretty official and legally binding.
Usually you will get contributor copies. If there is money involved it seems that a lot of small publishers pay through PayPal. I haven't worked with any big publishers. I also have no experience with royalties at this time.

This is an addendum because novels are different. I have not pitched a novel, yet, but I've watched my friend go through the process and so far that story is not published.
1. The novel must be complete before it is pitched.
2. Smaller presses will let you pitch the novel directly to them if they are accepting novels, but the really big publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts--meaning: you need an agent.
3. For novels I suggest getting a copy of the Writer's Market book because they do include statistics on how many novels that a publishing house publishers per year where the novel was represented by an agent or not.
4. The Association for Authors' Representatives is a good place to start looking for an agent. Poets & Writers Literary Agent Database. The Writer's Market also has listings of agents.
5. Whether pitching to an agent or directly to a publisher you will have to write an effective synopsis of the novel and a query letter. (Note: figure out the name of the person you're sending the letter/e-mail to) Some accept e-mail and others do not. There's a lot that depends on the publisher's or agent's preference--they have submission guidelines on their web pages. Query letters pitching the novel should go out much like cover letters for other submissions, so take note of the guide to cover letters I posted in this publishing guide. A synopsis seems like a more common request, but some publishers want the whole novel attached to that e-mail. In general the synopsis itself determines if the publisher or agent wants to read any more of the story. If you only sent a synopsis and the agent or publisher liked it, then they will ask for the first three chapters. If they like those, then they will ask for the whole novel. Here is a link to a successful query letter, so you have an example other than my lack of novel pitching letter experience.
6. Much like other forms of publishing once the letters are sent out, you just wait.
7. If it's rejected: Look for more feedback, reread it yourself, make repairs and try somewhere else. If it’s accepted, good for you.

Even if a piece is accepted by a publisher make sure it is a place where you actually want to be published before you sign a contract. You do not want to be published where they accept everyone because that doesn't speak very highly of the quality of work that they accept.