Interview: Jason Chen on StoryBundle

What is StoryBundle?

StoryBundle offers collections of DRM-free ebooks where readers select the price they want to pay for the bundle, and can choose to donate a percentage of the portion of the proceeds to charity. At a certain price threshold, “bonus” books are unlocked. Readers download the books directly to their tablet, ereader, computer, or smartphone.

One of the current bundles is the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Jason!

Jason started StoryBundle in mid-2012 because he was seeing people bundle games and other things, but not books.

The Interview

How did you come up with the idea of creating

It’s hard to remember now, in 2018, but back in 2012 there were no book bundles and there were no box sets on Amazon! It was very difficult to find curated sets of books that were both high in quality and sold for a good price. Nobody was putting different authors together back then—as far as most readers knew—so I thought it was a very good market for people who wanted to fill up their ereaders.

So we took this idea for curated books, coupled it with quality authors and curators, plus made an easy delivery system that allowed anybody with essentially any electronic device capable of reading ebooks to enjoy the books, DRM-free!

How do you select curators to create bundles?

We pick our curators from authors we’ve worked with before. This is so that we know how their tastes run, how their promotional efforts go and if they can handle the job of curating, since it’s a totally different set of skills than writing and promoting.

Does StoryBundle put together bundles as well, or are they always managed by outside curators?

We started by curating the bundles ourselves, but as we’ve grown, we’ve moved to an almost 100% author/publisher curating platform.

Does StoryBundle participate in the selection of authors/books for bundles?

We leave most of the curating to the authors/publishers, but we do sometimes make suggestions or try and introduce authors to each other that make sense for different bundles.

If a curator wants to donate to a charity not on your current list of charities, is it possible to add to this list?

Definitely! We’re open to adding new charities all the time, and we work together with the authors to find one that makes the most sense for the bundle theme. And if they don’t have one specifically in mind, we have a lot of charities that we’ve worked with in the past that may fit.

What are the biggest mistakes you see some curators make?

By far the biggest mistake is that some curators think the curation is done after choosing authors to be in the bundle. I would say at least half of the job of curator is to promote the bundle, arrange for authors to promote and figure out how best to get the word out. Because the curator knows the theme of the bundle, how it was assembled and which authors are in it, they’re the best equipped to market the bundle and try and get as many eyes on it as possible.

Is there a limit to how many bundles can be available at any given time?

There’s no technical limit, but the practical limit is that we only launch one bundle a week that go for 3 weeks each. Technically there can be 4 bundles live at once. We’ve also found that it’s good to stagger the bundle themes, so they don’t overlap too much with each other. It’s really no good to have 4 sci-fi bundles live at once, because a potential reader wouldn’t pick up all 4 sci-fi bundles. Instead, we recommend doing a mix of bundles so that readers with different tastes can find at least one bundle they enjoy, and maybe a second in a different genre while they’re here.

How much lead time do you recommend to set up a Storybundle?

We recommend at least a couple months for new curators, but experienced curators with lots of connections can set it up in about a month. Of course the longer the curators have, the better, since it takes publishers often a few weeks to get the books approved to be in a bundle.

What is the minimum and maximum number of books allowed in a bundle? Is there an “ideal” number of books?

The minimum we aim for is at least 8, but there’s no hard maximum. Some bundling sites shove in as many books as they can find for every bundle, but we take the long view that we don’t want to de-value the concept of ebooks. Here’s our thinking: If you can get 25-30 books at once for a really cheap price, how likely is it that you’re going to finish all of them? Unlikely, yes? And how likely are you going to be to buy another bundle when you have 15-20 books in your backlog that you may want to read, but will never get around to? It makes it difficult for subsequent bundles to appeal, and if you’re pricing your books at just cents per book, what message are you sending to readers as far as how much you value those books? And to authors?

Long story short is that just because we’re combining books together in a bundle, we don’t de-value the individual book and we want to make sure we make this sustainable for all our authors and for us as well.

How long are bundles generally available for? Is there a set amount of time, or can this vary

We usually have our bundles for 3 weeks, but certain bundles, like the NaNoWriMo Writing bundles, go for 2 months to cover the ramp-up to NaNoWriMo and the month of November itself!

Promotion for bundles is primarily done by the curator and the participating authors. What promotional techniques have you seen people have the most success with?

There’s no one best way to promote a bundle, sadly, or else we would copy and paste the method for every bundle! A variety of things have worked for us in the past, such as involving the charity, getting different blogs to help promote, reaching out to author friends to signal boost, and even getting more notable people to talk about the bundle on social media.

What do you enjoy most about running StoryBundle?

This may be a sappy answer, but the thing I will take away when StoryBundle is over is the friends I’ve made along the way. Getting to correspond with authors has made some friends that I wouldn’t have imagined I would make before I started StoryBundle, and I’m sure these friendships will last when the site is over. It’s been great to get to see different authors’ writing processes from the outside, and I’m cheering for all of them to do well no matter where they’re selling their books!

About Jason

Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for and Before that, Jason was a software engineer, a student, and way before that, a fetus.

Find StoryBundle

Website | Facebook | Twitter | StoryBundle FAQ

Interview: Mark Leslie on the “Books Gone Bad” bundle

Meet Mark!

Mark is an author, professional speaker, and bookseller, with more than a quarter century of experience in writing, publishing, and bookselling. He started writing at 13, and has written three novels, a number of non-fiction books on locations where ghostly and eerie things occur, published numerous short stories, and edited quite a few story collections.

He has a podcast on writing and publishing, publishes a regular video series in which he reads from either his short fiction or his eerie non-fiction, and does many, many other things. Mark loves craft beer, has a skeleton sidekick named Barnaby, and has managed to combine his love of beer with his love of the unexplained.

Books Gone Bad

Books make the world a better place. They are, perhaps, the only thing you can buy that actually make you richer. As Stephen King says, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

But what if it were actually true? What if there was actual magic emanating from a book itself? What if a book was sentient? What if a book could actually interact in our world? What if there is something a bit more evil or sinister lurking in the pages?

What if a book doesn’t just open up a world of possibilities to a reader, but, instead, brings the reader into that world? And what about the people for whom books are a central part of their lives? How do they interact with, or perhaps, include books in their magic, their schemes, their lives? How do they protect the infinite possibilities that books store and provide?

This bundle of about 260,000 words from 10 short stories and 2 novels includes explorations of books and the world of books that include magical, supernatural, science fiction or speculative elements. Book nerds will…

The Interview

Books Gone Bad ties the themes of books and magic together. What inspired you to create this bundle?

I have always been a giant book nerd. Books are a special type of magic all on their own. But I have long enjoyed reading stories that center on books and bookish people. I had a short collection of stories on that theme and was trying to figure out a way that I and perhaps some other authors could cross-promote one another. I thought that a themed bundle like this might be just the thing for readers like me.

Having had previous great experiences being part of collaborative BundleRabbit bundles, I thought this might be a great way for me to get my feet wet in curating a bundle to my reading passions.

If this project helps me and the other writers earn a little, perhaps sell more, or attract new fans, then great. If not, then at the very least the project has given me some fun stories to read and enjoy.

This bundle contains your book Active Reader, a collection of three short stories related to books and bookstores. How did your years of experience working in bookstores tie in with this collections?

My experience in bookstores ties in quite tightly with this collection. While one tale (“Browsers”) in the collection is about getting lost in a bookstore (which is more from the browser’s point of view and inspired by an actual experience I had visiting a bookstore in Hamilton, Ontario and getting lost in the store), the other two tie directly to my own bookselling experience. “Active Reader,” the title story, is about the misuse of a bookstore loyalty program (and a story that occured to me when I was in the midst of selling the “Avid Reader” card for a book chain I worked at). And though “Distractions” is about a writer dealing with a combination of writer’s block and distractions, it’s really another cautionary tale about those who follow the advice of self-help gurus (whose books I sold a ton of over the years).

In addition to writing fiction, you have a podcast! On Stark Reflections you interview authors, people in both the traditional and indie-publishing communities, and provide your own reflections on writing and publishing. What do you enjoy about your podcast, and how has it surprised you?

What I love best about the podcast is that it keeps me engaged and learning from authors and other folks from creative industries. With every single chat and interview, I find myself learning something new, or perhaps re-learning something I’d forgotten about. And every single time, the conversation inspires something in me.

While I know the podcast offers quality (ie mean, c’mon, look at the breadth of knowledge that my guests bring) and I know the listener base is constantly growing, I am surprised when I meet someone while out and about, at a conference, etc, who mentions they listen to the podcast and they love the content I provide as well as the open-sharing that I do. I figured my podcast was just another voice adding to an already almost saturated market, but the surprise is how many folks share that they feel it provides a fresh perspective that isn’t offered in the same way elsewhere. Perhaps they appreciate my attempt to balance the traditional and self-publishing perspectives, which I haven’t really seen in the podcasts I have been enjoying listening to.

You’ve combined your love of haunted places with your love of craft beer. Tell us about Spirits Untapped!

I have always been afraid of ghosts, monsters and the unknown and have long described myself as a Book Nerd. So I thought that writing the book TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries would be the crowning moment of the book I was meant to write.

But then, in 2014, I met Liz, my partner. On our first date, we met up for a beer (both being self-described craft beer enthusiasts) and the rest is history. As our relationship grew out of that first date, our exploration of both ghostly tales and the spirit of beer culture grew from that.

At some point a couple of years ago, we realized that all the traveling that we did together to various beer locations, could be used in a book. So we started the SPIRITS UNTAPPED blog as a way to document some of our beer adventures. While the blog and website itself is for the exploration of the SPIRIT of craft beer culture, the forthcoming book SPIRITS UNTAPPED: Haunted Bars & Breweries, will focus on the ghosts and eerie and unexplained events in bars, breweries and restaurants.
So, apparently, there’s a second “crowning moment” of the book I was meant to write. In this case, Liz and I are writing the book together, so it’ll be a dual crowning moment for us.

How did you select the stories for the Books Gone Bad bundle?

I logged onto the BundleRabbit website and did a few keyword searches for books, booksellers, librarians, then scrolled through the titles available. I also reached out to a few friends to see if they had any titles that might be applicable for such a theme and asked them to submit the title to BundleRabbit so it could be included in the bundle.

It was a fun experience, because as I was scrolling, I picked the stories that were bookish in theme and were ones that I responded to with: “Gee, I’d really like to read that.” So if that were the case, I reached out and asked the author if they would like that story to be included.

You’ve participated in story bundles before, but this is the first one you’ve curated. How has the experience been? What have you learned, liked, or disliked?

Having selected for and edited anthologies, I was already familiar with that type of curation experience. But this one was somewhat easier, because most of the stories were already out there and “completed” and already available. That part was easy.

I think I underestimated the time involved in helping to push and promote the anthology. I created short videos and multiple creative assets for my books as well as the others in the anthology, but, because I’ve been up to my eyeballs with more tasks than I can handle, I let my own promotional efforts slip – I was a bit disappointed to see minimal promotional efforts overall outside of the few things I had done.

There was a really smart curator (you might know her) who told me her method of choosing authors – she shared that she spent a bit of time exploring each author’s own social media and promotional presence as part of her strategy. IE, if they seemed to be active, they were more likely to put some effort into supporting the bundle. I suppose that’s something I learned that I can take with me going forward.

I’m not saying that I’m disappointed, because I think that the stories collected in the bundle are excellent tales by great writers. I suppose I was expecting each author to do at least a bit more sharing of the bundle – but the good news is that soon I’ll likely have time, again, to focus on promoting the bundle (I already have a promo scheduled via a manual request through BundleRabbit), and, since it’s not a limited time release, perhaps different authors will push it at different times, spreading out the effect.

After all, it’s NOT just about the first 30 to 90 days – it’s about long term sales. And it’s a quality bundle, regardless of when or how people discover it over time.

You’ve worked in virtually every type of bookstore, including at an online bookstore – Kobo, where you drove the creation of their author/small publisher platform. What do you miss about working in physical bookstores?

The thing I miss most about working in physical bookstores are the daily interactions with readers and customers and the tactile experience of holding books, unpacking new books and placing books in customers hands.

I created Kobo Writing Life to fulfill a need. I’d been self-published to Kobo, but they didn’t have an easy way for authors or small publishers to get into their systems (not without doing a lot of technical gymnastics) – Also, I had created a similar system for Chapters/Indigo (Canada’s version of Barnes and Noble) about 10 years earlier, so it was using the same methodology – create a FEW platform, let people publish their work and support them in ways to help them grow their sales.

In a nutshell, I created Kobo Writing Life for me to use as an author. Using that as a basis, it’s obvious that there were tens of thousands of other authors who wanted and needed the tool as well. So, like advice writers are given, I focused on a niche and a target audience (me), and many other people like me found it useful as well.

#FreeFridayFrights is an audio and video series where you do live readings of your short stories and your non-fiction about ghosts and eerie tales.

Yeah, I started it back in April 2018 as an experiment of providing something free for two main reasons – 1) to expand and grow my author brand and 2) to give people a free taste of what my writing was like in the hopes that they might consider being a reader/fan of my work.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Apart from a non-fiction book that outlines my 25+ years of experience as a bookseller, I am working on a variety of short fiction projects as well as finishing up some of the longer/novel length works.

I am the poster child for “do what I say, not what I do” because, despite some of the advice I offer to authors, I have three novels that are the first books in three different series’ out with not a single sequel finished.

For EVASION (Book One in my “Desmond Files” series), I have a ¾ completed COVERSION sequel that I’m working through.

For A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (Book One in my “Canadian Werewolf” series), I have a 50% completed draft of FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES that I’m working through.

If I were smarter, and followed my own advice, I’d finish off EVASION with COVERSION and the final book in the trilogy, INVASION. And I’d also get my butt back on the “Canadian Werewolf” series which looks like it could be part of something a bit longer. After all, my hero, Michael, has plenty of ways to exploit his “superhero” wolfish abilities.

And that’s not to mention I, DEATH (which I did sell to a publisher – however, I just secured the audiobook rights back from the publisher so do plan on turning that into an audiobook while drafting out the next stories in that series)

Speaking of audiobooks I plan on releasing an audio-book ONLY version of “The Best of Free Friday Frights” – again, just a test concept, since the FreeFridayFrights are mostly previously published stories – I love playing and experimenting with different forms and so compiling an audiobook that combines so many different moving parts could be interesting (especially since I’d already paid for several of the stories I would include to be professionally narrated)

Again, more projects than there are hours in the day. But I love having tons of things to choose from. I never get bored.

About Mark

Mark Leslie would be the first person to admit he’s still afraid of the monster under his bed.

Proudly adopting the term “Book Nerd” for himself, Mark is a writer, editor and bookseller and is most comfortable with a pen in hand, fingers on keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book.

His first book, ONE HAND SCREAMING (2004) collected mostly previously published short stories and poetry along with a few original tales. His other fiction includes I, DEATH (2014), EVASION (2014) and A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (2016). Mark’s dark fiction is often compared to “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror” in terms of style, exploring “what if” themes with contemporary settings that include speculative elements, gently skipping around the genres of sci-fi, horror and urban fantasy.

Apart from editing science fiction anthologies NORTH OF INFINITY II (2006), TESSERACTS SIXTEEN: PARNASSUS UNBOUND (2012) the horror anthology CAMPUS CHILLS (2009) as well as FICTION RIVER: EDITOR’S CHOICE (2017) and FICTION RIVER: FEEL THE FEAR (2017) Mark writes non-fiction “true ghost story” books that include HAUNTED HAMILTON: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers, SPOOKY SUDBURY: True Tales of the Eerie & Unexplained TOMES OF TERROR: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries, CREEPY CAPITAL: Ghost Stories of Ottawa & The National Capital Region and HAUNTED HOSPITALS: Eerie Tales About Hospitals, Sanatoriums, and Other Institutions among others.

Mark continues to publish short fiction in small press horror magazines and anthologies and most recently had stories appear in TESSERACTS SEVENTEEN (2015), FICTION RIVER: SPARKS (2016) and 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush (2016)

Born in Sudbury Ontario, Mark has courted with a serious addiction to reading and writing his entire life. He has called both Ottawa, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario home and currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

Find Mark!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find the Books Gone Bad bundle

BundleRabbit | Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Facebook

Interview: DeAnna Knippling on “Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” (in Beauty and Wickedness)

“Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet DeAnna!

DeAnna Knippling is always tempted to lie on her bios. Her favorite musician is Tom Waits, and her favorite author is Lewis Carroll. Her favorite monster is zombies. Her life goal is to remake her house in the image of the House on the Rock, or at least Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. You should buy her books. She promises that she’ll use the money wisely on bookshelves and secret doors. She lives in Colorado and is the author of the A Fairy’s Tale horror series which starts with By Dawn’s Bloody Light, and other books like The Clockwork Alice, A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre, and more.

“Doctor Rudolfo Knows All”

On a lark one Black Friday at the local toy store, teenager Connor agrees to earn a little extra cash reading tarot cards, and thus the amazing Doctor Rudolfo is born! But when the good doctor starts getting things a little too right, Connor learns that not everybody likes it when the truth comes out, especially when it involves a bank scam. Can Connor and his little brother Aiden make it back home safely? And maybe keep a little of that extra cash, too?

“Aiden,” I whispered. “Time to get up, bud.”

He didn’t answer me, and I opened the door slowly, pushing something heavy out of the way.

No sign of Aiden—or, should I say, there were about ten thousand too many signs of Aiden. The kid had trashed his room again, and trying to find him in the mess was gonna be an effort.

“Mom’s snoring,” I said, “so we’re going out today.”

He didn’t answer again, but it was a different kind of non-answer. He was considering.

“Where?” came his voice from somewhere under the mess. It could have been from under his bed or above the ceiling. He had this trick of throwing his voice. I’d taught it to him, more fool me.

“Let’s go to Epic.”

To Epic Toys & Games, that was. Which was only two steps down from Willy Wonka’s candy factory in terms of cool places to take a kid on the day after Thanksgiving. They were open early and were doing giveaways and stuff. We’d already missed out on the 6 a.m. doorbusters.

Aiden stepped out from behind the door. For a freakin’ miracle, he was already dressed and ready to go, as long as you didn’t count matching socks or a right-side-out shirt as requirements for leaving the apartment. I made him brush his hair and brush his teeth and eat his cereal while I drank the coffee from the travel mug. I barely had time to finish a third of it before he was seriously ready to go. He did not screw around when the word Epic was being thrown around. He loved that place.

– from “Doctor Rudolfo Knows All” by DeAnna Knippling

The Interview

Connor thinks he’s an average teenager in most ways, even though he can see ghosts. After he experiences what might be called “second sight,” he still doesn’t seem to think he’s exceptional. He certainly could have been giddy with power instead. Why do you think you made that choice?

I wanted to write about two incredibly talented, unique boys who were in a situation where they couldn’t see how amazing they were. A lot of people are literally like that. They feel like imposters, or like the best things about themselves are kind of a waste of time.

You’ve said you plan to write another Doctor Rudolfo story. What special appeal does Connor/Doctor Rudolfo have for you?

I finished the story; it’s called “Dr. Rudolfo Meets His Match.”

I first came up with the story for the fairy tale retelling anthology Beauty & Wickedness, just something to fit the requirements without being too predictable. But I found that Connor’s attitudes toward life—the good ones and the bad ones—really speak to me. He doesn’t believe in himself. He should. He’s finding his way through the impossible mess that is his life, believing in nothing, just knowing that he can’t give up. I think the world of him.

You explain at the end of the story the fairy tale it’s based on. I’m curious about something else in the story, too. Connor says that his grandmother put something in his and his brother’s eyes when they were babies to give them “sight.” What, if anything, was that based on?

I can’t remember now! It was one of those things where the only conscious thing I remember was, “What would really piss off the mom character here? Aha! Putting something in their eyes!” I still don’t know whether that did anything, or it was just something she did that became a family story.

Connor and Aiden are African American, but you are not. As the story unfolds, Connor is always highly aware of how the adults they interact with could assume the worst about them. That must have been an interesting “inner monologue” to explore. What can you tell us about that process?

I think the story came out of the process of re-evaluating how I was raised, in light of a lot of racism that we’re seeing today.

Here’s just one example. There used to be this thing called “the paper bag test” where you could get into a party or a club if your skin was lighter than a brown paper bag. Just…what. When I found out about it, I was ill for a couple of days, not because I couldn’t believe that it happened, but that I’d never known. I keep running into stuff like that. I’m ashamed of the things I don’t know, of the effort that it takes to keep people like me blind and comfortable.

Somewhere in my subconscious, I went, “This whole setup is a fairy tale for white people, isn’t it? Like not a real fairy tale, but an illusion of comfort and charm that has been performed for my benefit.” So putting a couple of black characters in the white-world fairy tale, as legit fairy-tale heroes trying to deal with magic and ghosts and second sight, feels a lot more right than it does wrong.

Because I live in the Denver area, I knew both the bank building you mentioned and the toy store (under a different name, of course), and had always been curious about both of them. Was there a reason you included such distinctive places in your story?

I just think they’re cool. I moved up to Denver from Colorado Springs fairly recently, and found out about both places at about the same time. I want to say that I drove past the bank a few days before writing the story, and it was on my mind.

You are a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll, and have written two novels based on Wonderland. Why do you suppose that world has captured you so?

You may not want to know…

It didn’t come on all at once. The more you peel back from Alice in Wonderland (which I’m gonna say here is the world/series name, where Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the book title), the more cool stuff you find. I obsessed with the movie as a little kid, more so than the book, and named our farm cat Cheshire Cat.

Then I found The Annotated Alice, which is Martin Gardner’s annotated version explaining just how brilliant the jokes are.

Then I read The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which is a book about a book that gets given to little girls to turn them into world-wise computer hackers, and I realized that the originals were the Alice in Wonderland books, given to the real-life Alice and other little girls.

Charles Dodgson was always training up girls in how to solve math problems and use advanced logic. Like, stuff that’s beyond me completely.

Then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out, and I was jealous. I was just going to rewrite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with zombies added, but it didn’t make sense, so I backed up a level of reality and wrote the story about how the book gets written, by a zombie. And that required a lot of research, which was completely fascinating.

Then I wrote a sequel to The Queen of Stilled Hearts, called The Knight of Shattered Dreams, covering the events behind Through the Looking-Glass. But I wasn’t a good enough writer to pull off what I wanted, so I put that book on hold. It needs a complete rewrite.

Then I got bored during Nanowrimo season (National Novel Writing Month, in November), and wrote The Clockwork Alice because I got the image of mechanical Wonderlandians in my head and couldn’t get them out again.

I have to finish up the current novel, and then I get to take another stab at Knight.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on book 3 in the Company Justice series, Thousandeyes. It’s giving me fits. I keep thinking I know what I’m doing, and the book is like, “You think too much.” It’s a cyberpunk/near future thriller thingy. I just finished the Dr. Rudolfo story—like, I literally put off writing this interview until I knew I had that done, so the questions wouldn’t affect what I wrote. Then I get to work on the rewrite for Knight of Shattered Dreams. I’m nervous about it.

On the client side, I have a cozy and two adventure stories coming up.

The Company Justice series is fun because it’s both cynical and filled with wonder. And weird murders gone amuck. I’m writing a lot of stories lately based on plans that go awry on the bad guys’ side, making everything ten times worse than it should have been. Having a dry, steady detective in the middle of that is fun. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor, which I always enjoy writing. All hell is breaking loose, and he’s like, “Then the fake elephant exploded. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but it was fun watching the bad guys try to cope.”

About DeAnna

DeAnna Knippling is a writer, a parent, and an overthinker who boldly paranoids where no one has paranoided before. Her superpower is speed reading. She ghostwrites novels for fun and profit. She has an essay in the award-winning Women Destroy Science Fiction! collection. She has had stories published in Penumbra, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more. Her latest novel, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, comes out of her obsession with all things Alice. She writes books for middle-graders as De Kenyon.

Find DeAnna

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

Interview: Chuck Heintzelman on “The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0”

Meet Chuck Heintzelman!

Chuck is the founder of BundleRabbit, a do-it-yourself story bundling platform that helps authors create ebook story bundles, and collaborate on collections in both ebook and print. He’s created well over a thousand ebooks with Vellum as part of his work with BundleRabbit.

Chuck is also a very talented writer, and occasionally manages to sneak in some fiction writing as well as spending time with his family, working a full-time job as a computer programmer, and enhancing BundleRabbit.

The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0

Take the pain out of creating books!

Vellum helps you:
– Generate high quality ebooks
– Create professional looking print books
– Assemble boxsets in record time
– Create beautiful books

“The Author’s Guide to Vellum” steps you through the software, explaining each feature, and has tips & tricks that can save you hours of time.

Don’t have a Mac computer? No worries. “The Author’s Guide to Vellum” shows you how to run this amazing software without owning a Mac.

Whether you’re new to Vellum or an Advanced user, you’ll learn something with this book:
– Why do some pages not show in the Table of Contents?
– How can I get a page to appear before the Title Page?
– How can I force my books to have blank paragraphs?
– Which pages can start on the left side of print books?

“The Author’s Guide to Vellum” answers all these questions, and more!

The Interview

What is Vellum, and why is it so awesome?

Vellum is a software package that allows you to import a Word doc and format your doc into ebooks and print books. The great thing about Vellum is it makes creating ebooks super-easy … and the resulting ebooks look simply stunning.

Vellum is Mac-only, but your book explains how to run it without using a Mac. Is this hard?

Not hard at all. There’s a service called MacInCloud that allows you to “rent” a virtual mac. You share files between your local computer and your MacInCloud using DropBox or OneDrive and use the software in the cloud to create your ebooks.

How many books have you created with Vellum?

I don’t have a clue any more. I stopped counting a few months ago when I passed a thousand ebooks created. My guess is probably somewhere between 1500-1600.

Vellum allows you to create print books as well as ebooks and print books. Do you have to set things up differently for each format?

You don’t have to, but Vellum gives you the option to have certain parts of your book only appear in the ebook version or print version. Let’s say you want the copyright page at the back in the ebook, but at the front of the printed book. You simply create two copyright pages, one that only appears in the print version and one that appears in the ebook version.

There’s a “Tips and Tricks” section in your book. What’s one of the most useful tips you’ve learned?

Probably the non-breaking space trick. Using this hidden character will allow you to add vertical spacing to your text. For instance, let’s say on the print book you want a section to appear at the top of the next page. You can hit the enter key five times to insert five blank lines, but Vellum will treat those lines as one blank line in the formated book. Simply add a non-break space character, hit enter, another non-break space and enter, and now you have three blank lines instead of one.

You’ve created a lot of box sets with Vellum. How does Vellum help make this process easier?

It’s easy as drag-and-drop. You can take individual Word docs or Vellum files and drag them into the box set you’re creating and a new volume is automatically added. With everything prepared I can easily create a five book box set in Vellum in less than five minutes.

What’s your favorite Vellum feature?

The preview. By using the Vellum Preview you can see what your ebook look like on any device. Set it for Kindle Paperwhite, and you’ll see how it appears on that device. Change to an iPhone or iPad and you’ll get a preview of those devices as well. Or, you can see exactly what the printed page would look like in a print book.

About the Author

“His short stories are stunning” — Dean Wesley Smith, USA Today Bestselling Author

Indie Chuck Heintzelman writes quirky short stories, usually with some sort of fantastical element. He’s as surprised by this as anyone. Even after dozens of stories published, he still stays up too late at night, feverishly working on the next tale. Many of his stories can be found in various issues of Fiction River or Boundary Shock Quarterly.
Lately, Chuck’s time has been consumed managing and enhancing BundleRabbit, a DIY ebook bundling and collaborative publishing service.

Find Chuck

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Find The Author’s Guide to Vellum: Creating Beautiful Books with Vellum 2.0


Interview: A. L. Butcher on the “Here Be Monsters” bundle

Meet A. L. Butcher!

A. L. (Alex) Butcher has a background in ancient history, mythology, and classical studies – all of which have given her an interest in the fascinating world of monsters. Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in her Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem series. In addition to her many short stories and the story bundles she’s curated, Alex writes The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, a series of adult dark fantasy romance adventures set in a world where magic is forbidden.

Here Be Monsters

Here Be Monsters is a collection of 19 tales of myths, monsters, and mayhem.

We love to fear them and fight them. Monsters come in many forms, from the monsters within to the monsters outside and under the bed. Dare you venture into the caverns and the castles? Dare you enter the darkness of an accursed soul?

An eclectic collection of dark creatures and those who fight them. You have been warned.

~ Here Be Monsters is only available through September 2018 ~

The Interview

Here Be Monsters is the fifth volume in your bundle series Myths, Monsters, and Mayhem. What inspired you to create this series, and this volume in particular?

I love fantasy, and the total diversity of worlds, creatures, people and situations within. Fantasy is by far the widest and most creative of genres, and the possibilities are limitless. In my view fantasy is freedom. I love the old style myths, fairytales and bardic stories, and this series has a bit of everything. Our cultures are saturated with myth, legend and the fantastic – St George and the Dragon (see my blog for an article on the history of this); giants and fairies, even Santa Claus is a fantastical story. These are not only aimed towards children – there are 131 public houses called George and Dragon in the UK, 67 called Robin Hood (or similar), 59 called The Griffin, 51 called The Phoenix, 52 called The Unicorn and 31 called The Golden Fleece. Such tales remain popular, and most if not all countries have a mythic past which still appears in current life.

Here Be Monsters features the darker side of fantasy – those beings and beasties we all love to fear. Not all are bad – In The Stolen Tower (which features in the bundle too), two of the primary characters are Trolls – but not your usual bridge-lurker type of troll. The monsters in this one are taken from their past – at a time before the magical Fae Realm was sealed off, and should not exist in the world they currently inhabit. There’s an earth elemental too – a personification of the mountain. The Keres are nasty, nasty creatures – think harpies with an even worse attitude. But there are also human monsters, and creatures the humans fear which are the good guys.

I know some of the other stories have an array of nasties, but not always those creatures who we would assume are the monsters.

You’ve written a number of stories set in Erana, a fantasy world you created – including “Warrior’s Curse,” which appears in Here Be Monsters. What is it about the world of Erana that keeps bringing you back to it?

Erana is a world of magic – but that magic has been seriously beaten into submission. After years of war between elves, men, fae, trolls and various other magical creatures the fae realm is closed off, the elves fall to a mysterious plague that almost destroys their civilisation, the trolls retreat to the mountains and largely shut themselves off, and martial law is imposed. The Order of Witch-Hunters take charge and blame the elves and magic for the plague (rightly or wrongly – that will be explained in later books), and seek to obliterate magic, and enslave elves where ever they are to be found. Magic, however, refuses to abide by the laws of men, and appears in odd places, and people.

It’s a world of contrasts – magic is everywhere – albeit on the sly – but it’s usage and possession are punishable by death. A person doesn’t choose to be magical – they just are. Most people soon learn to hide what skills they have or pass them off as something else. There are temples to various gods – which not even the Order has the courage to forbid. Many people think the gods are real and it doesn’t do to take the chance they aren’t. Most of the elves live in hiding, or in Enclave (basically ghettos) and have no rights, and are owned by humans. But most humans are peasants and too ignorant, afraid or overworked to see the problems. It’s been that way for three hundred years, it must be the truth. Truth and freedom are relative terms.

Warrior’s Curse starts with some treasure hunters seeking refuge from a storm in a cave. They soon discover bags of shiny loot – but as with most things in Erana such treasure has a past, and is not what it first appears. One of the group (a Troll Past-Seer) recounts the history of the most rare and expensive item and decides she wants nothing to do with it. The menfolk are not so wise… The ‘story within a story’ is set in the past – for there are witches, monsters, and unholy magics – and none of the treasure hunters would even comprehend such things in a world where magic is illegal.

Erana draws me in time after time. It has a dark history, but there is hope for the future. The good guys are anti-heroes – they kill, steal and manipulate but for the good of others and a ‘cause’. The bad guys are bad – but many just don’t know any different or are following orders. Good and bad are not clear. But in many ways it reflects our world – there are oppressed and oppressors, the wise and the foolish, a history saturated with blood, and the indomitable spirit to survive, no matter what.
Remembering Warriors is a story bundle you organized as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First Armistice Day. A percentage of the royalties goes to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes, two charities that support wounded and ex-service personnel and their families. What inspired you to create this collection?

This one is easy for me to answer. My father served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was wounded in action in 1959 – he lost the sight in one eye. My mother served in Queen Alexandra’s Army Nursing Corp (fortunately she came out unscathed). The Royal British Legion helps ex-veterans and their families in a number of ways. My father currently resides in a British Legion nursing home, and all the residents there have served in the forces.
Help for Heroes is a more recent charity which also promotes rehabilitation and help for those wounded in action.

2018 is the centenary of the end of World War One – the Great War which decimated Europe and led, it’s argued, to the Second World War and the horrors there. In the last century war has continued, although thankfully not a global scale, and men and women return damaged (those who do return). I firmly believe the Great War, and World War Two shaped modern European history, and such horror should never be forgotten. There were villages in England where every man between 16 and 50 was lost. It’s very easy to disassociate oneself from war – which for most of us is fought far away against people we aren’t very familiar with – and we can become blase to it. But these soldiers, no matter whose side they might be on, are someone’s child, sibling, parent or friend. I have seen the price war can exact – and how it changes lives.

The slogan for the Royal British Legion is Live On – that is an important message as those who remain CAN live on, and those who suffer injury can now have worthwhile and valuable lives. We must as humans, as descendants, as free people remember the sacrifices some pay for freedom. I set this bundle up to try and raise awareness of these charities, to stir a thought for the soldiers past and present. The Great War was known as the War to End All Wars – sadly it did not.
In The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, you created a world where magic is forbidden and elves are enslaved. The series starts with Dii, an elven sorceress, fleeing for her life. How did your background in politics and mythology help you craft this series?

One only has to look back on human history to see parallels to the world of Erana – Despotic government, rule by fear, divide and rule, blaming a particular group of people for society’s ills and the list goes on. Politics doesn’t change much, oh yes new leaders and parties come and go but the machine rumbles onward nonetheless. No party/leader will change the system which got him or her elected (assuming they were in fact elected), and no party is likely to radically change the status quo. In many ways it’s a case of better the devil you know. That said there have been uprisings – the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution to name a couple, and there have been individuals and groups who have made a difference but they are few and far between. Certainly with many revolutions the common man or woman has not noticed a great deal of difference to his or her life. And many folks are content with that. Change can be frightening. But also there is always someone willing to fight for the little guy – to stand up and say no more. There is always hope and the human spirit to fight on, to live and to discover a better world. Sometimes it’s so much bullshit, but not always.

Much of the background lore for Erana is similar in form to our own mythology – and of course in myth anything is possible – from vast flying lizards, to demi-god heroes, to the lowliest beating the greatest. It doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to show us the best and worst in ourselves, and that people can be greater than they imagined. The allegories of myth hold moral, and symbolic meanings.

You have a background in politics, sociology, classical studies, ancient history, and mythology. How does your interest in and knowledge of these areas influence your writing?

I love the old Roman and Greek tales and I read a lot of history. Erana is mostly a medieval society, with a few tweaks. As I said earlier myth and storytelling are really important aspects to our modern society – although it’s not obvious at first. I like reading myths, fairytales and the lore-laden fantasy stories and try and style my work in that way. Sociology and politics teach one about societies, relations between classes, people and countries – how government is run, and more importantly how people THINK it’s run – which is vastly different.
How did you select the stories included in the Here Be Monsters bundle?

Some were from authors I was already familiar with, and some I read the synopsis or the look insides and decided the book was a good fit. Authors can refuse to join a bundle if they feel the vision doesn’t match their work.

You’ve put together a number of story bundles, and have more planned. What do you enjoy about creating these collections?

The Bundles are a lot of fun. They are also a GREAT networking tool. The idea is that readers get a bundle of books for a bargain price and find new authors and the authors get ‘cross-pollination’. I’ve found some great new authors and books to read.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Currently I am working on Book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, an Erana novella (currently which is stuck), an historical fiction for an anthology, and a ghost story. It’s all fun – I love creating stories. Except when the story won’t tell me where it wants to go – then it’s annoying.

About the Author

British-born Alexandra Butcher (aka A. L. Butcher) is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative. She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.

Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.

Her short novella Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017.

She is also the curator of a number of exciting book bundles on Bundle Rabbit and frequently works with other authors.

She activity supports nature, wildlife and veteran’s charities.

Find Alex

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog | Goodreads

Find Here Be Monsters!

BundleRabbit | Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Books2Read

Interview: Louisa Swann on “Bye-Bye Daddy” (in Beauty and Wickedness)

“Bye-Bye Daddy” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet Louisa!

Louisa Swann writes genre-bending fiction, including Star Trek short stories, steampunk novels, hardboiled noir, western tales, and space operas. She lives on an eighty-acre ranch in northern California with her husband, her son, two horses, a cat, a varying population of rabbits, deer, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, snakes, frogs, birds, and bugs, and no electricity.

“Bye-Bye Daddy”

As a queen jumps to her death, there’s a giant lurking near the castle. They call him the Black Thief, who steals children and eats them. But is that really who he is? Or could this be a case of mistaken identity? Take a deeper look at this vegetarian half-giant, and find out why the queen held the key to his broken heart.

Some say my heart’s blacker than the ace of spades, but my heart beats red just like everyone else’s.

It’s my mind that carries the darkness.

A darkness with roots buried deep in my soul. But every darkness needs light and Gwendolyn was my light. As soon as I laid eyes on the woman fourteen years earlier, I knew she would break my heart.

Queens are funny that way. Human or giant, queens always act like they own the world and maybe they do.

But the queen splatted on the ground in front of me didn’t own anything. Not anymore.

She was dead as a rotten toenail.

And I was the one who’d killed her.

Grief clouded my head, choked my heart. I knelt by Gwendolyn’s side, fingered the soiled white silk.

Yes, I’d killed her.

Murdered my lady love without laying a hand on her.

All in the name of justice, of course. The kind of justice you’d expect a Black Thief to dish out.

She wasn’t my first killing, though.

My father got that honor.

– from “Bye-Bye Daddy” by Louisa Swann


The Interview

Traditionally, fairy tales are told from the perspective of the humans who encounter trolls and giants and other fearful creatures. You chose to tell your story from the giant’s perspective instead. What appealed to you about telling his side of the story? 

Everyone has their own story and while protagonists are generally (though not always) the most interesting characters in a tale, I’ve always been curious about side character stories, especially the nonhuman characters. In this case, I started wondering about the giant’s family. Who were they and what were their stories? Do they fall in love and what happens when they do?

Are there any other stories you’d like to tell from unusual perspectives?

That is an interesting question. Generally, I don’t know if a story is going to come from a different sort of character until I start writing, especially if I start with a scene in my head or a general idea. As I work with that scene or idea, the characters sort of form themselves if that makes sense. Other times, the character infiltrates my head and demands story time. I never really know if I’m going to be writing a human character, or someone like a giant or a horse or a dwarf vampire with a calf fetish, or a man who’s been stuck in a penguin’s body.

You’ve written five novels and dozens of stories. For you as a writer, what are the advantages and disadvantages of longer and shorter formats?

Shorter formats require more skill. A writer needs to get the story across in less words (duh) which means every one of those words has to further the story. I have to decide exactly what story I want to tell and stay focused on that story, not wander here and there. I started writing novels, and learning to stay focused was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a short story writer.

Novels allow more of a story to be told. As a writer, I can explore other characters, get deeper into the main character, and utilize setting to maximum effect. There can be subplots and other threads running through the narrative which are a lot of fun to deal with *grin*. I get to spend more time with characters I’ve come to love. Conversely, I have to spend more time with characters I’ve learned to despise.

You write in such a wide variety of genres. Do you have a favorite or two, or do you think you will always explore many different styles?

Intriguing characters and relationships. That’s basically what attracts me to a story and keeps me reading. It doesn’t matter to me what genre the story is written in. The same is true of my writing. First and foremost—What is the story demanding to be told? And once that is determined, then I look at where the story might fit as far as genre is concerned, what genre would best serve the story. Right now, I’m focused on the steampunk/weird west novels. Future novels include an epic fantasy, several mysteries, a thriller series, and possibly, a sci fi series. I’ve also had a request (from my mom) to write a historical novel or two. Plenty to keep me busy!

You’ve previously written mystery and suspense novels, but your latest steampunk novel series, featuring Abby Crumb, are classified as “weird west.” Can you tell us a little more about that genre and what you’re enjoying most about it?

Loosely speaking, steampunk stories are set in the Victorian era and tend to feature steam-driven technology as opposed to electric/gas. Weird West (according to stories are set in the American West during approximately the same time period and feature supernatural elements. I grew up with shows like “Wild, Wild West” and loved the gadgets thrown in with the western setting. I also tend to be drawn to “other than natural” occurrences that somehow seem to find their way into my stories. The Abby Crumb series provides an opportunity to combine fantastical gadgets, a western setting, and supernatural occurrences in stories that address timeless issues such as friendships and family with a few “stuck on the horns of a moral dilemma” moments thrown in.

Oddly enough, I find myself enjoying the research element of the stories more than I had anticipated. I love research in general, but I didn’t realize how much research was going to be involved in getting certain things “right” for the time period. I’d never really thought about how different today’s world is from the world of the 1850s. How something as simple as a fork was different in material and often (depending on where in the world you were) uses. Were canned foods around back then? Cigarettes? Jeans with pockets? Belt loops? Not everything has to be precise—this is fiction and sci fi with a fantasy bent, after all—but I find certain historical information fascinating and those readers with a keen interest in history will too (I think). It’s kind of like using the right gun with the right ammunition for the appropriate purpose in a mystery or thriller. Some readers won’t notice, but others will.

You’ve said that the Abby Crumb series started as a single novel, and that the first novel turned out to be the second novel, and then you realized it would be a trilogy. What do you think drove this evolution? Character? Plot? Setting? Other factors?

Some stories just turn out to be “bigger” than the writer intended. A short story will turn into a novel. A novel will turn into a trilogy or a series. Abby’s first draft was a short story. Then I realized there was more to tell in order to get her story “right.” So she became a Nanowrimo novel. When I went back over that Nanowrimo draft, I realized how much was missing and started over again. When I finally finished that version and had my first reader take a look, the manuscript (Night of the Golden Pea) was over 100,000 words. The first reader had a few comments that should have been minor fixes, but in reviewing those comments, I realized I’d left out some important elements, elements that would increase the size of the manuscript more than I felt was appropriate for the genre. So I decided to break it into a trilogy (which has been a huge learning experience :). And thus the first trilogy of the Abby Crumb series was born. Sometimes a story just runs away from a writer.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Abby’s series is my primary concern right now. I’m also working on another series in the same “universe” with my son Brandon. That will be the Myrtle Creek series. We’re hoping to launch it by early fall. I love working on both, mainly because I never know what the characters are going to pull next. I know the general plot of the story, but leave my characters the freedom to indulge in shenanigans!

Growing up in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada mountains, surrounded by deer and beaver, muskrat and bear, Louisa Swann found ample fodder for her equally wild imagination. As an adult, she interweaves her experiences with that imagination, creating tales of fantasy and science fiction, mystery and thrillers, steampunk and historical fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Fiction River anthologies, including Reader’s Choice; Mercedes Lackey’s Elementary Magic and Valdemar anthologies; and Esther Friesner’s Chicks and Balances. Novels include light-hearted mysteries (It Ain’t No Bull, The Trouble with Bulldogs) and her new steampunk/weird west series, Abby Crumb and Myrtle Creek (with Brandon Swann).

Find Louisa
Website ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

Find Beauty and Wickedness!

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

Interview: Rei Rosenquist on “A Froth of Starry Sea Foam”

“A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet Rei!

Rei is a writer of speculative fiction, a barista, a baker, and a semi-nomad. They received a Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest in 2016.

“A Froth of Starry Sea Foam”

“A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” is a fairy tale about a white star nebula who embarks on a quest to find love.

“But, first,” Darkness paused importantly, “you must make a deal with me.”

“A deal?” What price could be too grand for this rare chance to dodge one’s own death and, in doing so, experience love?

“You must make one of those souls fall in love with you within the time of one full cycle of the Earth’s satellite—called the moon.”

“Fall in love?” the nebula asked, confused by these words.

True, the nebula had recently learned this word “love.” Love seemed infinitely good. And yet, how could one fall into it? As an asteroid into a planet, or a smaller star into a greater one. These concepts simply didn’t go together.

“But why should I make a soul fall? Into what?”

“Into you,” Darkness explained.

Make one of Earth’s soul’s warm glow fall into this gaseous body?

But, falling was bad. Spatial bodies fell into other spatial bodies. A passing asteroid would sometimes drag some gas tendrils down into itself. A binary system would collide, and the smaller star would fall in toward the larger, being eventually consumed. Whenever this “falling” happened, the thing falling was lost. Those atoms spun into nothingness, never to return.

“You misunderstand,” Darkness cut in. “It is a good thing on Earth.”


“Humans fall in love and protect one another. They provide for one another. They support one another, hold the other up. Humans need love to live. To fall into it is to fall into the very thing that gives life.”

– from “A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” by Rei Rosenquist

The Interview

The main character in “A Froth of Starry Sea Foam” is a nebula, which is an interstellar cloud of gases and dust. What inspired you to write a fairy tale love story from a nebula’s point of view?

Although I’ve never been a research scientist myself, I am absolutely fascinated by all things science. I happened upon the field of astrophysics a couple years ago, and ever since, I have been utterly fascinated by what lies out in the furthest reaches of space. As a child, I was raised in a strict religious tradition that downplayed the importance of science for the sake of belief in a monotheistic god, and thus most of my early opinions of the natural world were skewed and inaccurate. Nowadays, when I stare up at the night sky, I often wonder what else have humans misunderstood about reality? As a fantasy writer, a fun way to explore this question is to personify a subject and see where the story takes me. For years, I was fascinated by the idea of personifying a nebula. Finally, when I was invited to write for Beauty and Wickedness, the retelling of an old fairy tale struck me as just the right story for this journey.
The two main characters (Neb, the nebula, and Wills) have different genders and pronouns. What is the distinction between the two forms in this story?

As Wills first indicates to Petra, Neb’s gender is unknown at the start. Wills doesn’t want to assume a gender, so ey use the gender-neutral “they” as a non-selective choice. However, once we re-enter Neb’s point of view, the gender-free pronoun fits best for how Neb feels. As a being outside of humanity and its gender roles and gender norms, Neb feels no personal association to such concepts. Later in the story, Orion is also referred to by the gender-neutral “they” for the same identity reason. Both nebulae would, if asked, identify as “agender,” which is a term that means “devoid of gender” or someone who simply doesn’t register gender as something to pay attention to.

On the other hand, Wills identifies as non-binary and chooses to use the pronouns ey/em/eir as a way to indicate their identity. Wills doesn’t use they/them/their because ey do feel and care about gender, as indicated by Wills strong attraction to both Ajax (who identifies as male) and Aria (who is portrayed in a very cis-female way). However, Wills’ identity doesn’t fit within the rigid lines of binary cis-male and cis-female, but rather it lies somewhere in the grey area of both/neither.

My goal in including these similar-seeming yet very different identities is to indicate to people who have no experience with such identities that there are many ways to be outside the gender norms of male and female. There are many identity expressions even within more open labels such as “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” and “genderfluid,” among others. Gender is extremely complex, and I feel the vocabulary of mainstream American English is still at the beginning stage of wrestling with new words to express just how complex it truly is. Part of the goal of this story’s pronoun usage is to give a helping hand to those lost in the waves of words.
“Seed,” which is set in your Broken Circle universe, received a Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. What appeals to you about the gritty speculative future you’ve created for this group of stories?

In truth, the Broken Circle universe was developed for a gritty science-fiction novel series I am currently working on. The world is a projection of my most pessimistic opinions of what the future of humanity currently holds. If the world we live in today doesn’t turn aside in some significant ways, the future vision of the Broken Circle could very well come to be. In writing this type of world, my goal is to post a black box warning to humanity. The Broken Circle universe itself cries out viscerally for help, and in experiencing that cry through the story, my sincerest hope is that when readers put the story down, they will feel compelled to turn inward and examine their own world. By shining a light on the darkest of futures, I hope is to bring more light to the here and now.
You call yourself a semi-nomad. What is it about travel that calls to you? Do the places you’ve lived in, and those you’ve visited, feature in your fiction?

Travel, for me, has been a way of life. My first memory is of the ocean through a hotel window. For me, packed bags are a sign of opportunity and arriving in a new place is a chance to grow and learn. I call myself “semi-nomad” because I find myself circling around to the same places where I set down a kind of root. These patterns are interspersed with going to entirely new places, but in truth, always landing somewhere new can be exhausting. So, as I’ve grown and listened to my own heart and body, I’ve found a deep peace in the return to places I love. Each time I return to one of these locations, it feels like opening the door to a well-worn and well-loved home.

Without traveling as I do, my stories wouldn’t be the same. Every time I go somewhere new, I find not just new details to add into stories, but an entirely new shape of narrative. I am inspired by different things in different places, and I am compelled to write different types of stories depending on the place and its people. Each location has its own narrative, I’d say, and tapping into that is what drives the stories inside of me. If I never traveled again, I feel I would write the same tale over and over again with the same perspective and the same ending. But, when the world shifts around me, so does my lens and the kinds of details I soak in.

In a more matter-of-fact way, I have stories set in future or fantasy versions of Tokyo, Osaka, Yamanashi, Kyoto, Lisbon, Paris, London, Venice, New York, Seattle, Portland, Waikiki, and many places that are a miasma of several real places. One thing I try to avoid is writing in length about a place I have never been
Why do you feel love stories are so important to tell?

Love, and the various ways people define it, is all about connection. That connection of hearts, of one being to another. That is what I think drives life forward. For my part, I think there is nothing as important as furthering, protecting, and upholding the cycles and patterns of life. As such, the most important story I can think to tell is a story of connection. One of deep sharing, giving and growing. That for me is a “love story.” It doesn’t always deal with romance or sexuality, but rather it looks at the question of how, where, when, and why do we connect? It demands big risks and takes many chances. And, in the end, it is the type of narrative that I truly believe can change the world. For without connection, we only end up in the same cycles of unsustainable choices which lead, ultimately, to death. On the other hand, reaching out our hands to one another with hope and trust, even if we think we aren’t strong enough, can save all manners of life.

You’re a baker! What do you enjoy about baking, and what are your favorite things to bake?

At its heart, baking is much like telling a good sci-fi or fantasy story. Each baked good like each character in a story has its own tale to tell. Both are made up of details and creativity. Just as each well-written character is entirely their own, so no two scones or loaves are bread are ever the same. The key to being a good baker is just like the key to being a good writer. First, one must learn all the rules. You must understand and internalize the nitty, gritty science of the act. You must take in and understand all the details that make the thing work well. You must try and fail. Then, once you’ve trained in good scientific habits, you do just like you do in writing – you take the rules and you throw them out. You internalize professor’s recipes and then, you burn them. You mix ingredients you’ve been told never to mix. You add in ingredients that should never fit together. You let bread proof too long, not long enough, not at all. You burn scones and see what that tastes like. And then, after all that wild experimentation – you begin to understand what your own creative sense is. And then, you train in those new skills by repeating the good ones, and eventually – you are making things no one else can make. Then, you have your baking story. And you can tell it with confidence and pride, sharing with the world your unique vision of what is good.

I’m not one for choosing favorites because I often find my preferences change frequently. However, currently, I am really into yeast starters. There is so much variety in things you can use to catch wild yeasts and so much that you can do with any single yeast to alter the flavor of bread! I love all the options and room for growth in my understanding.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Currently, I’m working on a long short story that’s a blending of European noir and Japanese anime “magic girl” genres set in a future version of Tokyo. This one should be out in the next couple months.

I’m also elbows deep in edits on the first novel of the Broken Circle Series, which will hopefully be ready for public release within the next year or so. But then, writing doesn’t like schedules so maybe I just cursed myself in saying that.

The funniest thing about writing I think is the process itself. Seeing a story start as a spark in my mind, some flickering little light that I often have to write down immediately or else it slips away. Then, that spark takes me on a journey through twists and turns, across bridges, climbing to staggering heights and stumbling through forests of the deepest dark. Then, once I have the heart of the story, the journey becomes one of making maps and charting out the territory I wandered across. I nit-pick and tear details apart. And at the end of this unforgiving surgery, what I have in front of me is a story: something I want to share with others who haven’t been along on this journey with me. At each stage, the process feels different and the outcome is always refreshing, and I think that’s what keeps me going. The newness of each new attempt and the shock of joy at the end of it when I get to share with others what I’ve poured my heart into. A kind of quiet, long-lasting love story all its own.

Rei Rosenquist is a queer agender (they/them) speculative fiction writer who depicts a wide variety of identities struggling to find a place in a wide variety of speculative worlds. They are also a lifelong barista, baker, and semi-nomad.
Rei first remembers life as seen out the high window of a hotel balcony. Down below is a courtyard, swarms of brightly dressed tourists, the beach. The memory is nothing but a blue-green washed image. Warmth and sunlight. Here, they are three years old, and this is the beginning of a nomadic story-teller’s life.

Over the years, they have traveled to many countries, engaged many peoples, picked up new habits, and learned new languages. But, some things never change. For them, these are stories, coffee, food and traveling. These three passions have bloomed from hobbies, studies, and jobs into a way of life.

These days, Rei can be found somewhere in between the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and Japan. There, you will find Rei cozied up with a laptop obsessively writing whilst intermittently pouring beautiful latte art, baking off a batch of famous savory scones, and sharing ideas on how homo sapiens sapiens can collectively make our awesome Earthship a better (not worse) place to live.

Find Rei

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

Interview: Deb Logan on “Faery Beautiful”

“Faery Beautiful” is in Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales. In this collection, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told – and make up some brand new fairy tales as well. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Meet Deb!

Deb Logan writes light-hearted fantasy tales for middle grade readers and young adults. She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Debbie Mumford. She loves mythology, and is especially fond of Celtic and Native American lore.

“Faery Beautiful”

Claire appears to be a normal teenager, but what most people don’t know is that she’s also a real live faery princess. In “Faery Beautiful” she learns how Princess Rhiannon and Eoin the Strong met and began the series of events that led to Claire becoming the heir to the throne of Faery.

Rhiannon’s faery steed raced along the enchanted river that divided Faery from the mortal realm. She glanced over her shoulder and urged the stallion to greater speed with hands and heels. She knew I would catch her if she allowed her pace to slacken. My charger, heavier boned than Rhiannon’s mount, couldn’t match her mare’s speed, but the charger’s depth of chest meant he could maintain his pace far longer.

Rhiannon, stop this nonsense. I sent my thought winging to her mind.

She bent lower over her mount’s neck and replied in kind. It’s my life, Rhydderich Drest Guerthenmach. I won’t be auctioned like a prize heifer.

You are a princess of Faery, I countered, layering my mind-voice with soothing overtones. You’ve known all your life this day would come, especially once we made it clear that we didn’t wish to marry.

Her misery bled through our mind-link and I fought to stay calm, to keep from empathizing with the tears I felt stinging her eyes. Her will faltered, and the mare slowed her pace. I had won. Rhiannon acknowledged my argument.

My princess had been raised with every comfort: beautiful clothes, rich foods, precious jewels, faery folk to entertain or obey her slightest wish. Every indulgence had been granted my dear friend. Everything but the desire of her heart. More than anything, Rhiannon craved her father’s love. The King of Faery had ensured his only child possessed every physical trinket a girl growing to womanhood could need or desire, but he had denied her his love.

– from “Faery Beautiful” by Deb Logan

The Interview

Claire, the protagonist in “Faery Beautiful,” is a teenage girl who attends high school and lives at home with her parents – but what most people don’t know is she’s also the heir to the throne of Faery! Why did you decide to have Claire have a (mostly) normal life even though she’s a faery princess?

Hmmm…this may be a convoluted answer! Claire is also the protagonist of my novel, “Faery Unexpected”, which tells the story of how she discovers that she isn’t just a normal teenager, but is in fact a faery princess.

The very first short story I published, “Deirdre’s Dragon,” held the seed of my Faery universe. It was a simple, 800-word tale written for the preteen set. But when I finished that story, I knew there was a lot more that needed to be discovered, so “Faery Unexpected” was born, and later “Faery Unpredictable” and “Lexie’s Choice.” This story, “Faery Beautiful,” is a frame story – beginning and ending with Claire and Roddy, but returning to the roots of Claire’s family and explaining how it is that a seemingly normal American girl came to be a princess of Faery.

What elements of traditional fairy tales have you incorporated into this story, and into the other tales in your Faery Adventures series?

The tale of Princess Rhiannon and Eoin the Strong is based on Welsh folklore of the Gwragen Annwn, fairy maidens who consent to wed mortal men … under certain conditions. Obviously, I arranged the details to suit my world, but the Gwragen Annwn provided the inspiration.

The rest of my Faery universe is simply inspired by a lifetime of reading, and absorbing, fairy tales!
Do you plan to write more stories in this series?

Undoubtedly. I adore Claire and Roddy and Lexie and Brent. I’m sure those characters, and the Realm of Faery itself, will call me back eventually!
In addition to Celtic mythology, you love Native American legends as well. What specifically calls to you about Native American mythology?

I’ve always been entranced by mythology in any form and dragons in particular. When I was working on “Deirdre’s Dragon,” one of the members of my writing group asked me what an obviously Celtic dragon was doing in America? Well, obviously, dragons can be wherever they want to be, but the question made me think. There are stories of dragon all over Europe and Asia, were there dragons on the North American continent as well? That’s when I decided that the Native American legends of the Thunderbird could be interpreted as a dragon … or possibly a dinosaur.

That train of thought led to my middle grade novel “Thunderbird” – featuring Native American twins Justin and Janine Prentiss who live in Bozeman, MT with their father, a renowned paleontologist. Since I once lived in Bozeman and happen to be the mother of boy / girl twins, I had a blast writing that one! A dragon-ish thunderbird and 12-year-old twins, what’s not to love?
Why are dragons your favorite fantasy creatures?

Honestly? I haven’t got a clue. They’ve just always appealed to me. Not the evil, demonic version so common in books and movies, but the misunderstood creatures of great intelligence who just want to be left alone to live their lives.

When I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, I was in heaven. Finally, someone who understood dragons! One of the highlights of my writing career came in 2005 when I met Anne in person at a Writers of the Future function in Seattle, WA.
In addition to writing middle grade/young adult stories, you also write fiction as Debbie Mumford. One of your series, Sorcha’s Children, is set in a world where a human sorceress and a dragon lord fall in love and create a new race of beings who can change form from human to dragon at will. What do you enjoy most about this series?

“Sorcha’s Heart,” the origin of the series, gave me the opportunity to play with an entire community of dragons, but from the perspective of a human woman. Sorcha, a young and rather reckless sorceress, finds herself transformed into a dragon and taken under the wing (literally!) of a creature she’d believed to be an enemy. I had so much fun allowing Sorcha to get to know these dragons as individuals of intelligence and grace, to find that many of her preconceived ideas were based on misunderstandings, and that humans had much more in common with dragons than anyone had ever imagined.

“Sorcha’s Heart” is a love story, but it’s also a tale of looking past our biases and discovering that our similarities matter more than our differences.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

As Debbie Mumford, I’m working on the final novel in my “Sorcha’s Children” series. “Dragons’ Destiny” has waited a long time to be told, and Luag and Eibhlinn are getting impatient to discover their happy endings … at least, they’re hoping I’ll give them happy endings!

As for Deb Logan, she’s launching a middle grade science fiction series tentatively titled “Galactic Cadets.” The first tale, “Cinnamon Chou: Space Station Detective,” is due to be published in May.

A prolific copywriter by day, Deb Logan has been published in WMG Publishing’s Fiction River anthologies, Dreaming Robot Press’s Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide anthologies, Windrift Books’ Chronicle Worlds anthologies, and other markets. She has also released several short stories, short story collections, and novels for young readers, including the popular “Dani Erickson” series. Find out more about Deb’s work at her website or follow her on Facebook. Be sure to join Deb’s newsletter list to receive an exclusive link to “Deirdre’s Dragon”!

Find Deb

Website ~ Facebook ~ Newsletter ~ Goodreads

Find Beauty and Wickedness!

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read ~ Goodreads

Interview: Alexia Purdy on “The Ruins of Oz”

“The Ruins of Oz” is in the Once Upon a Quest anthology, a collection of fifteen tales of adventure, all brand new fairy tale twists from bestselling and award-winning authors. With inspirations ranging from The Ugly Duckling to Snow White, and everything in between (including trips to Camelot and Oz), these fabulous tales are full of adventure, magic, and a touch of romance.

Meet Alexia!

Alexia writes fantasy stories about faeries, vampires, and magic. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Tovie Bryce.

“The Ruins of Oz”

The Land of Oz was the last place Thea thought she’d find herself after falling through her mother’s enchanted mirror. If the stories she’s been told are real, why is the Emerald City in ruins?

“I—I need to go.” I spotted my boots sitting at the end of the bed and yanked them on. “Is there anyone who could tell me where I might find someone who can return me to Kansas?”

Mally pressed her lips tightly, frowning at my question.

“Well, there is one person, but that old tart doesn’t enjoy visitors and is dangerous. She lives in one of the towers still left standing in the great city. It used to be a watchtower for the Emerald City. In the city… it’s dreadful, and most say it’s haunted. That’s why Minkin don’t ever go there.”

“What’s her name?”

Mally shrugged. “We don’t say her name. She’s just an old hag now.”

“Um, all right. How do I get to the Emerald City?”

“It used to be you could follow the Yellow Brick Road, but it’s been left to ruin for decades since the—”

“End of all things. I get it. Can I still follow it?”

Mally frowned, appearing frightened more than anything. “It’s intact in some places. In others, it’s only stones here and there, under the grasses, bushes, and darkness.”


“It starts near the edge of town by the old wishing well. Right by the old ruins of Dorothy’s house. You know, the one she used to kill the Wicked Witch of the East.”

– from “The Ruins of Oz” by Alexia Purdy

The Interview

“The Ruins of Oz” is based on The Wizard of Oz. What inspired this choice?

Honestly, it was a story I had stuck in the back of my head for a while. I loved the take that the movie Return to Oz took but it wasn’t exactly what I imagined a post apocalyptic Oz to look like, so I guess I tried to convey my own kind of spin to the original story ending in a not so cozy way. What happens if Dorothy was the whole reason Oz existed and what if she never came back?
You’ve been a part of the Once Upon anthology series from the beginning. How did the series begin, and what do you enjoy about participating in it?

I’m so privileged to be pals with Anthea Sharp whom I’ve partnered with in several Faery anthologies before these came about. When she suggested the first of the trio of Once Upon anthologies, I leaped at the chance to work with her on it. She’s a brilliant organizer and I love to participate in anything she does. So much love for the woman.

What are some of the traditional faerie myths you incorporated into your Dark Faerie Tale series, and why did you choose them?

My Dark Faerie series is loosely based on the Unseelie and Seelie courts of Celtic mythology, which I loved to read about and was so immersed into, I had to write something with my own twists and turns. I was fascinated by the idea that faeries could be good and could be evil but you wouldn’t really know until you faced them, and even then, loyalty was something that wasn’t easily given. Magic is always fun to write about, especially when I could spin my own lore and modernize it in ways readers could understand could happen in today’s world. Now eight books into it, I seriously can’t believe there was so much to say about that world but it’s been quite the adventure to meet the characters and flesh them out. They are each unique and fantastical in so many ways.

You’re turning “The Glass Sky,” your short story in Once Upon a Kiss, into a series. Why did you decide to provide early access to the chapters of the first novel on Patreon?

The Glass Sky has been my favorite story to write for the Once Upon Anthologies and I recieved amazing feedback on it from my readers. They wanted more! I’ve held off for several reasons but when I decided to open a Patreon account to deliver stories and exclusive content more easily to my readers without having to deal with the low views that Facebook and Amazon now provide, I researched Patreon after seeing a couple of my favorite authors on there getting up close and personal with their patrons and really getting to connect far easier than the platforms I traditionally shared on. The Glass Sky was the perfect project! I’ve been wanting to expand it into a trilogy and this was the perfect chance to do it while still keeping it exclusive and not out in the full public. I seriously am having fun jumping back into this fairytale retelling world loosely based on the tale of King Thrushbeard. I hope people check it out.
How much of the city in your Vampires of Vegas series is based on your real-life experience living in Las Vegas?

So much of it is based on my experiences of places in Las Vegas. I practically wrote all the sites from memory of being in each place. I’ve been here in Vegas for 28 years now and I used to work in a Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It never ceases to amaze me how many hidden corridors, doorways, nooks and crannies are kept from the public view and the thought occurred to me that it was the perfect scenario to get lost in when the world really died off and a new species of people emerged.

In addition to writing fantasy, you write contemporary romance under the name Tovie Bryce. What do you have planned for this pen name?

I honestly am trying to build a contemporary romance readership, and I’ve been trying to do so for years, but under my own name. After much failure on that part, I decided separating the genre from my best selling stuff in YA Fantasy/Paranormal would be the best way to get a more focused audience. My readers don’t cross over. Yes, it’s been like starting over but I have another book in my City of Lights series planned plus a contemporary sweet romance based on some of my experiences coming of age. You can see why I wouldn’t want my name associated with it as much but I am not keeping the pen name a secret, just in case I do have some readers following along the romance branch.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m currently working on my Accursed Archangels series. It’s basically taken over almost every working hour lately and I literally attempted to write it in a month. The outline for it came to me in just a couple hours, literally this story possessed me. I got book 1 done in six weeks, so a bit over the timeline I wanted but it’s been an amazing time honing down my organizational skills in writing. The first book is titled The Unbreakable Curse and is due out March 27th. Book 2 is titled The Cursed Labyrinth due out in late May 2018, and book 3 is called The Irredeemable Soul due out July 2018.

Alexia currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada–Sin City! She loves to spend every free moment writing or playing with her four rambunctious kids. Writing has always been her dream and she has been writing ever since she can remember. She loves writing paranormal fantasy and poetry and devours books daily. Alexia also enjoys watching movies, dancing, singing loudly in the car, and Italian food.

Find Alexia

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Find Once Upon a Quest!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play | Goodreads

Interview: The Editors of Electric Spec

Electric Spec

Founded in 2005, Electric Spec is a not-for-profit speculative fiction magazine published four times per year. The primary goal of the editors is to get great speculative fiction into the hands (or screens) of readers; they’ve published short stories from authors all over the world.

Meet the editors!

Grayson Towler has a lifelong fascination with dragons, dinosaurs, magic, and the telling stories. His first book, a middle-grade fantasy titled The Dragon Waking, was published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book was a finalist in the 2012 RMFW Gold contest.

Grayson has worked as a copy writer since 2004 for Sounds True, a publishing company for books and audio programs concerning meditation, spirituality, and self-help. He is also an illustrator, and he has been writing and drawing an urban fantasy webcomic, Thunderstruck, since 2004. He also created “Tales from the Vault” – a popular collaborative fiction website active from 1996-2001.

In addition to writing, Grayson has also been a web designer, substitute teacher, comic artist, and small business owner. He and his wife, Candi, live in a house owned by three relatively benevolent cats in Longmont, Colorado.

Lesley L. Smith has a Ph.D. in Elementary Particle Physics and is the author or coauthor of many scientific articles. Her speculative short fiction has appeared in a variety of venues, including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Lesley is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Minta Monroe writes darker fantasy, particularly involving the occult or supernatural. She is the author of The Mound Dwellers and several collections of short stories. In addition to fantasy, she writes science fiction and mystery under other pen names.

Nikki Baird writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, both long and short form. Her short horror story, “Devastation Mine” was published as part of the anthology Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for a Colorado Book Award. She has been a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold contest for the two years in the Speculative Fiction category, and is a regular contributor to Littleton Writers Critique Group, an open critique group in southwest Denver. She is currently trying to place her second fantasy novel with a publisher.

The Interview

What’s your sorting process for stories that come in?

Grayson: Lesley handles this, and I believe she randomly divides the stories evenly between the slush readers.

Lesley: I randomly assign each story to an editor.

Minta: I start with the earliest subs and read in the chronological order in which
we received them.

Nikki: I don’t sort at all, I take them in the order received.
How far do you read into a given story?

Grayson: This very much depends on the quality of the writing! So writers, all that guidance you’ve heard about how important the first lines and pages are… it’s true. If I’m confused, bored, turned off by a cliche, or annoyed by basic errors of grammar and spelling, the odds are I’m not going to force myself to push through to the end. I might skim a story and see if it picks up, but it’s really important for a story to make a good first impression.

That said, I really do try to give every story a chance. A story doesn’t have to start in medias res to capture my attention (in fact, that technique has as high a failure rate as anything else). If the author’s writing fundamentals are good and the story doesn’t seem derivative, I’ll generally stick with a story to the end.

Lesley: I basically agree with what the others said: I read until I stop reading. 🙂

Generally, I’ll give it a page. If my attention hasn’t been grabbed by then: sorry! We get hundreds of stories submitted for each issue and we just don’t have time to keep going.

Minta: Until something makes me stop reading. Usually it’s something about the story itself, and usually this becomes clear in the first 2 pages, although sometimes much sooner. Almost half of my subs make me read the entire story.

Nikki: Until I get bored or irritated. Sometimes that’s half a page in, sometimes it’s half a page before the end. Very rarely will I read a story I plan to pass on through to the end, but it does happen every once in awhile, when I’m so confused about what the story is about or where it’s going that I just have to know how the author thought it SHOULD end. But that’s definitely not a good reason to finish a story!
How many readers does a story have to pass through before a decision is made about it?

Grayson: There are two stages of evaluation. In the first stage, one of our slush readers will engage with the story and decide if it is good enough to make the finals – that’s upward of 170 stories per issue in total. When we have the finalists selected, we generally have a list of 20-22 stories left. Then all three editors read everything on the finalist list, and we select our top 5 by consensus.

Sometimes that last cut involves leaving some very good stories out of the issue, which is tough.

Lesley: As Grayson said, we have two stages of evaluation. In stage one, a story will get one or two editors to read it. If a story reaches the second stage, then a minimum of three more editors will read it. So, potentially, all five editors might read a story that we publish.

Minta: If I think a story isn’t right for us, then it has only one reader: me.
But if I think a story is worthy of publication, then I ask another editor to read it also. If the second editor agrees with me, then it goes on for review by the remaining editors. In that case, a story will have 4 readers, because in the end, we all love the stories we select for
What do you like/dislike about editing?

DISLIKES: I dislike rejecting stories. I’ve been on the other end of that process often enough that I know how it feels.

I dislike having to send form letters out for rejections–every author wants to know why their story wasn’t selected. After all, without feedback, how are you supposed to improve? I get it. But we just do not have time to engage at that level. It’s that simple.

I dislike getting excellent “first chapters.” The experience is this: I’m reading along in a submission, I’m really getting into story and loving where it’s heading, and then all of a sudden it stops. It’s as if I’ve gotten the first chapter of a book but I don’t get to read the rest. An open-ended ending is one thing–those can be great. But a good story that just cuts off mid-stream? That’s the most frustrating sort of submission.

LIKES: I love finding that stand-out story in the submission process. Having to reject a bunch of stories in a row starts to feel so depressing, and I begin to wonder if I’ve become too jaded to enjoy anything. But then, a gem of a story comes along, and it’s a bit like falling in love.

Once we settle in and get our stories assigned, I love working with authors. Maybe I’ve been fortunate, but my experiences have been universally positive once an author and I get down to the actual editing process. Helping an author find the rough spots in their story so the whole thing can shine is infinitely rewarding.

Lesley: I like having the opportunity to encourage other authors and give them the opportunity to share their work with the world.

Minta: Editing is not part of my tasks for Electric Spec, but I enjoy the
challenge of figuring out why a story either works for me or not.

Nikki: I actually like editing. I feel like it helps me cast a stronger critical eye over my own work. It’s so much easier to see what’s not working quite right in someone else’s writing than your own. I was “raised” in the critique methods of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which subscribes to the sandwich method of good-bad-good. I always try to say something positive in the note I send back with edits – what I liked about the story that got us to offer publication. And I try to point out 2-3 things in a story that I thought worked really well, in amongst all the edits. I try to offer concrete explanations for why something doesn’t work, and also a suggestion for what might work better. I try never to say “This doesn’t work – fix it”. That’s completely unhelpful. And I try to end with a positive comment or two at the end of an edit.
Once Electric Spec buys the rights to a story, what’s the editing process like?

Grayson: Speaking for myself, I scrub through the story in detail and look for any spot where the author could be more clear, more succinct, or more engaging. I generally don’t do too much developmental editing, but if I see a spot where a plot point might go a different way to strengthen the story, I’ll offer the suggestion.

In general, I find that an editor’s most useful function is to spot problems and explain why they’re problems. The actual solutions are better when they come from the author. My goal is to support the author in making this the best version of their story it can possibly be.

Once I’ve engaged with my first editing pass, I send it back to the author for their review. The author then reviews every suggested change and either accepts it, improves it, or contacts me to discuss whether the change is needed. There may be a bit of back-and-forth, but by that point the story is generally ready to go on to proofing.

The time frame we’re talking about here is about 4 weeks from signing to publication. So when we select stories for the issue, we keep that time frame in mind. What that means is we look for stories that are already quite solid. In submissions review, I’ve seen many “diamonds in the rough” that have a lot of potential but would simply take too much polishing. Stories have a better chance of getting accepted if the author has put the time and effort in to make them as mistake-free as possible.

Lesley: I print out my stories and then critique them as I do for my critique partners’ stories. Then, I email the authors back this edited doc and we go from there… From there, it differs quite a bit. Some stories need very little work. Some need more.
What’s your favorite part of working on Electric Spec?

Grayson: Well, apart from what I mentioned above about the editing process, I really enjoy working with Lesley and Nikki as editors. I’ve learned a lot, and I think we have a good rapport. Most of all, I love good stories. Being able to give authors a platform to share their stories is incredibly fulfilling.

Lesley: I really enjoy encouraging other authors. I’m also honored to work with such a great group of editors (who are all also great authors)!

Minta: Finding an unforgettable story. When a story sweeps me away, I form my own
list of stories that I hope will also sweep away the other editors. It’s a sweet moment when one of those stories ends up making it into the current issue!

Nikki: Getting the exposure to so much creativity. I get to read literally hundreds of short stories for free, and get a look into basically the “raw psyche” of spec fic writers out there. That’s pretty cool! And E-Spec wouldn’t be possible without a
crew that is dedicated and organized – and Lesley most of all keeps us all running

Find Electric Spec

Website | Facebook | Blog | The Editors