Publisher Spotlight: Black Mirror Press

Tell me a bit about yourselves. How did Black Mirror Press come into being?

Scott: First, thank you so much, Cynthia, for this opportunity.  In terms of background, both Clint and I spent a great deal of our careers in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).  Currently, I’m a consultant and Clint is currently a background check consultant for the State of Indiana, Department of Child Services.

In terms of BMP’s origins, a few years ago, Clint and I found ourselves working in the same IC office and discovered that we were both writers and both very interested in horror, thrillers, fantasy…basically dark fiction.  As an interesting aside, one of Clint’s stories—which I actually read while I was in grad school—was published in the very first Horror Writers Association anthology, Under the Fang,  so it’s been a privilege to work with and learn from Clint.

So after working together for a while, we decided we should form a small press as we had a number of ideas for anthologies and other products and established the Company in early 2015.  We greatly benefited from the help and experience of members of various writing groups within the IC, especially the LEA, which produced its anthology, Bill of Frights, in 2014 or so and Clint and I were both a part of that process.

Clint: Thanks, Cynthia. I have to give Scott full credit for coming up with the idea of forming a small press and even with the name of the press, which I thought fit perfectly for what we wanted to do. We both liked the idea of doing anthologies for themes we saw no one was doing. We saw there was an opportunity to do something fun and creative and give readers something completely different. We also knew there were other voices out there wanting to be heard, and that to me is the joy of an anthology, introducing new and up-and-coming writers to the world. I have been thrilled and pleased to see how writers responded to our first effort, Snowpocalypse.

Your new anthology, Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World, sounds intriguing. What was the inspiration for the anthology’s topic?

Scott:  Much as I would like to take credit for this inspired choice, this was Clint’s baby.

Clint: I have to say it would still just be an intriguing idea if Scott had not initiated the effort to create Black Mirror Press, so he was the great north wind that pushed the storm along.  Scott and I both recall the big winter storms that hit Virginia a few years ago, when we had something like over three feet of snow that closed schools and the government. I remember walking along empty roads gleaming with ice to the grocery store. It was then people started using the terms “snowpocalypse,” “snowmageddon,” and the like. Trudging back over snowdrifts, the wind chill nipping at me, I wondered “What if it stays like this? What if spring never comes?

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Are you planning your next anthology project?

Scott: We have several in mind, including: a Poe-themed anthology and one based loosely on that classic comic book, Weird War.  However, next up will be an espionage-themed anthology and what we think will set this apart is that it will include stories written by current and former members of the IC…as long as they go through the appropriate pre-publication approval process, of course.

Clint:  I think our niche is doing anthologies that are always a little different and not the same stuff you can find anywhere. We want to offer readers collections they will find nowhere else. The espionage anthology will be like that, and will be worth the time it will take to put it all together, for you won’t be able to find anything else like it.

What advice would you give to authors submitting short stories for your consideration?

Scott: First I would say, definitely submit, don’t ever let the fear that your story is not good enough hold you back and we love hearing from authors.  When I think about the Snowpocalypse submissions we ultimately rejected—and let me say that as authors ourselves, we know how disappointing this can be—there were several commonalities in many cases: the stories did not address the theme of the anthology (suggesting they had one on hand and were resubmitting rather than creating for our anthology), they had far too much narrative exposition, the ending was inadequate and/or they were fraught with craft errors (e.g., jarring POV shifts), there was nothing all that original, and/or in some cases it was good but either just didn’t fit.  So, in terms of advice, aside from avoiding the preceding, I would suggest asking a trusted reader (someone objective) to review, taking a hard look again at the anthology requirements, and giving it a thorough edit.  Also, in terms of craft, one of the best books I’ve found is The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante and would highly recommend that.

Clint:  Scott is absolutely right in saying some stories sent to us didn’t address the requested theme. We got one story in which there wasn’t even any snow! So, yes, please read the submission call carefully and look at what they want you to send in. I would even say ask the anthologists what is it you want but don’t have if you are having trouble coming up with an idea. I know we will gladly tell you. I got a story into an anthology one time because the editor said I would really like a story about this particular aspect, and so I came up with one responsive to what she wanted. Editors will give you clues. I was hoping to get a good Yeti story, but never got one. ; )

Also be supportive of any suggested editing or tweaking, as the editors want you to succeed. We had to suggest a few things so stories fit our theme a little better, and I think everyone was really pleased how it worked out. We have a collection of stories unique as snowflakes, with a myriad of perspectives of what it means to be caught in a snowpocalypse.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? Tips? Advice? Thoughts about the Horror genre?

Clint: Keep writing as you have a unique voice. No one else has the ideas you have, so send them out there. Not all will fly, but some will make it into the night sky. Horror is a great big carnival tent and you’re invited. Just bring something new and different as your ticket in.

Scott: I definitely agree with Clint on both the importance of continuing to write and the inclusiveness of horror.  I’ve also been struck by the increasing popularity of horror across mediums (movies, TV, etc.) which I think (hope) bodes well for the genre.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be interviews.  If anyone is interested, you can find the Snowpocalypse anthology—in both Kindle and trade paperback—on Amazon.

 

 

Does It Ever Get Easier?

Editing. It’s on my short list for “The Most Challenging and/or Annoying Things I Have to Do.” Rewriting the same piece of work over and over again would make the most patient of people want to slam their laptop against a wall. (Deep breath) Why do we do it then? Editing is critical to the quality and success of your work (novel, short story, non-fiction piece, poem, fill in the blank).

New Authors: I can hear you out there. You’re wondering if editing gets any easier. Yes and no.

Let’s take the “Yes” first:

  • The more you write, the more you get to know who you are as a writer.
  • You learn how your brain works and alter your habits to optimize your editing
  • You have more confidence. Hey, you made it through one book. You can make it through another. Right?

Let’s tackle the “No”:

  • Each book is unique with its own set of challenges
  • If your book is part of a series, then you have to make certain the tone stays the same while you increase the quality of your writing
  • Complacency is a constant threat. You have to keep your passion level up. Constantly challenge yourself. Don’t succumb to laziness.

I know it can be difficult staying the course, but your readers can tell when you don’t try your best. They instinctively know a bad editing job (whether you do it or pay someone else). Next time you want to half a** editing that chapter, remember this:

“Your many competitors are editing their fingers off right now.”

 

DTJ Is Back in A Big Way

You may have noticed DTJ posts have been scarce this summer. I’ve been spending most of my time attending a Program Management certification course in Frederick, Maryland. Was it fun? No. Was it hotter than (fill in the expletive)? Yes!

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I’m so happy to be back home in Colorado and am looking forward to getting my life back on schedule. My second book in the Heart of the Warrior series is coming along. I have some fun plans for cover reveals on the blog and of course a big time celebration of the Scary Season in October.

 

Stay Tuned!

A Case for Trying New Things

Do you recall the tomato plant video drifting around Facebook a few months ago?  A guy claimed he could grow several plants by covering a slice of tomato with dirt and keeping it watered. I watched the video several times with a healthy dose of curiosity and a bit of trepidation. Tomato growing is serious business.

It’s widely known I’m a tomato addict. Roma, Beef Steak, Early Girl, Cherry, Heirloom – I love them all. My favorite, however, is the Campari. I could eat these by the dozen. Finding the plants in my area has been a challenge. I decided to try tomato guy’s technique. Setting a pot of dirt by the window in my dining room, I sliced up a Campari and covered it with potting soil. Water and early spring sun kept the soil happy. Did it work? See for yourself!

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It’s easier to stay with the status quo rather than trying new things. Life is about taking risks. Be brave! The rewards can be tasty.

Are You Preparing Your Foundation?

Sometimes the hardest part of building your dream is preparing the foundation. I’ve lived in my house for ten years. Each day for 3650 days I’ve walked by an empty stretch of dirt along the front fence. My gardener’s heart wants to see every last inch of dirt cultivated and beautiful. This ugly patch of dead was a wild weed in my Eden. It was evident from the discarded bricks and flower tags, the previous owners had attempted to make a garden in this shady spot. Tried and failed.

Late spring of this year, I lost several old growth shrubs. One of them was in this little patch of dirt. I cut it down and found something surprising. There was a working sprinkler head hidden under its dead branches. The shrub had cut off the rest of the little garden’s supply of life giving water. Perhaps this patch could be salvaged and turned into the shady garden I’ve always dreamed of having.

I cleared out the rest of the dead things. Brick, concrete and other bizarre objects went into the trash bin. I added a thick layer of mulch and let the soil rest for a few months. Water and wood began to renew the once neglected garden.

July is here. It’s time to test the soil. The first steps toward my dream garden have been completed. I’ve risked time, money and hope on this project. Wish the little plants luck!

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How many neglected gardens do we have in our lives? Is there a change you’d like to make, but the space isn’t ready? Do you need to clean out old hurts and negative preconceptions before you can make the soil fertile again? It all starts with exploring the foundation. Find the source of life for your dream. It’s there, waiting for you to find.

A Tale of Two Blogs

Ah, Social Media. That beast we love to hate. It sucks away our time with cat videos and political rants. Despite our misgivings, we post, share and blog. Why? If you’re an Indie author, you pray those posts lead to new readers and more sales. Do all those countless posts and shares really work? It depends.

Let’s take a closer look at blogging. Conventional wisdom suggests we blog in order to build our platform.  We set up our fancy blog sites on WordPress or some other provider we like. Publishing our first post gives us a little thrill. Then the readers start swarming the site, devouring each and every word. Yeah right. Reality: We post our first, second, third…tenth post to a trickle of views.

By the show of virtual hands – how many of us dropped from blogging once a day/week to maybe every four months or so? Inconsistent blogging is a waste of time. You’re better off deleting the site and focusing on a venue you enjoy.

I write two blogs. This one (Deep Thoughts and Junk or DTJ) and a corporate blog called, “Bright Spots.” One is very successful and one is doin’ okay.

Let’s look at DTJ first: I’ll be totally honest. I started this blog, because a marketing book told me I should. The first few months were focused on information about my books. While my friends and family may have tolerated boring introspections into my writing life, not many others did. Perplexed, I gave up on conventional wisdom and started blogging about everything under the sun. I came to enjoy blogging and have managed to post once a week for the past few years.

Now to the corporate blog: I manage a social collaboration platform for my organization. My team consists of marketers, communications folks, Techies and project/ community managers. These talented folks are experts in social media and collaboration. They know the ins and outs of pulling readers to sites. The success of my monthly blog, Bright Spots, came as a bit of a surprise to all of us. Each time I post this interview format blog, it gets an impressive amount of views, likes and engaging comments.

What’s the difference? I don’t have the magic answer to social media or blog success, but here is what I’ve observed:

Know your audience:

Bright Spots is a corporate blog. I share a common experience and interest with my readers. My topics are focused on our commonalities

DTJ’s most viewed posts focus on Indie Publishing stats and advice.  My “author’s wanderings about the world” don’t do as well.

Know the mission of your blog (in one sentence):

Bright Spots – “Highlighting new and creative innovations within the organization to promote collaboration and improve employee engagement.”

DTJ – “Provide encouragement and insight designed to help Indies become successful.”

How about you? Why do you blog? What is your blog’s mission?