Publishing; Which Way?

Indie April

Self-Publishing and submitting; what I’ve learned so far, which admittedly, may not be much. It is what it is.

I’ve never considered traditional publishing, potentially because I can be a bit of a control freak (I hate waiting) coupled with a (sometimes stubborn) passion for self-learning and autonomy. In my view, it seems that there’s a lot of faff down the traditional route to wade through; from finding an agent and/or finding publishers that align with your style/genre/concepts. Jumping through many hoops for potential (likely) repeat rejection. Not that rejection is a bad thing, that too can be a very useful, if not utterly essential, learning and evolution tool. Then there’s if you’re accepted, you may have to change your writing significantly to fit into someone else’s ideals and target audience — a form of censorship and creative dilution, absolutely. Of course, I’m sure when (if) you get through the hoops, the potential for higher earnings and being considered a reputable writer because you’ve been approved and accepted by a higher power may well be worth the faff and hoops. Personally, all that feels like an elitist, bureaucratic headache for the most part.

Self-publishing has a lot of stigma thanks to the structure and standards set by publishing powerhouses. It’s a reflection of many of the institutions of life; be approved by the institution to be accepted by the masses, or you’re worthless. Music is like that too right. I don’t buy it, do you? I’ve read my fair share of tripe churned out by traditional publishers (sometimes due to who the author knows more than what they write), I’ve worked with highly educated fools who think their PhD gives them superiority even with a gross lack of real-life or business experience. They got approved, though. Better than you off the bat, right? Nope, I’m not buying that either. It filters right down through parenting as well — inescapable — must tick the boxes. All a despicable institutionalised, ritualised validation process, a façade that ignores the real nitty-gritty and that thing again — autonomy, passion, grit and authentic nurturing, in life as indeed art. Like the paper, age does not always bring wisdom, especially when one is stunted in their sole path and idealised view, selectively dismissing poorer choices. Or indeed highly institutionalised, even when it comes straight from the patriarchy (or matriarchy in some instances).

To self-publish, there are more and more platforms arising to help support and facilitate those with the desire to do this. There’s a load of work involved, even with a decent host. One must consider the writing, first and foremost, then, of course, there is editing, cover design (eBook/audio/paperback/hardback), book design, formatting, layout (yes, there are some basic standards for that, in respect of front-matter, back-matter, copyright declaration and numbering), narrator/producer (if producing audio). Sure some make it appear easy, but it’s far more involved than many may expect – it’s seen as the easy route to publication after all, right? Wrong. All of this takes time, dedication, learning and money. Of course, corners can be trimmed, but that will affect the end product. And we cannot forget attracting readers and reviewers to the work once it is out there — marketing really is another beast in itself. No, self-publishing is not easy by any stretch. Accessible — yes, easy — no.

I started self-publishing to get to know the process, and while I do love it, I’ve found much value to be gained in submitting pieces to small press and indie publishers. Gaining contacts, connecting with different audiences and driving creativity by rising to challenges I may not have considered solely. I’m not driven by pressure, and much prefer to go with the proverbial flow. There’s no cut and dry Pro-forma of right and wrong when it comes to art, creating it, and sharing it. It comes down to trying different things, and seeing which one resonates and fits with your flow best. In dealing with other publishers, I have quickly established in mind traits that I like and those which are huge turn-offs for me as a (submitting) writer. It’s fair to say once you begin submitting, you’d be mad not to have a ‘list’. Here are a few things that have landed publishers on mine after submission, which ultimately boils down to etiquette and communication:

  • Poor communication. Submission guidelines are not only a way for publishers to outline what they want and specify the format, but it’s also a key component for publishers to manage writer’s expectations upfront. What I find massively disrespectful is publishers who don’t respond to a submission – it doesn’t have to be big; a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ is better than zilch. That’s just rude.
  • I don’t like arrogance and indie publishers mimicking traditional publishers – if I wanted that, I’d chase traditional.
  • When a call says ‘No simultaneous submissions’ but a publisher holds a piece too long, only to reject it, thus removing opportunities for the work to be considered elsewhere. If ‘No simultaneous’ is stipulated – considerations and responses should be swift.
  • Editorial changes and queries – I’ve had pieces published with errors that were not present when I submitted, and the queries ignored. Again, poor communication adds to the uphill battle many indies (writers and publishers alike) face. Sometimes support is as simple as acknowledging and owning mistakes.

While I can’t speak for traditional from any sort of experience, other than a reader, it is clear that one size does not fit all — in writing, publishing and indeed life. Sometimes one has to stop dreaming and just do it. Leaving expectations at the door. Jump in, flail around a bit, get over the panicked shock of ice-cold and learn to swim — however that looks. Jump back out and watch by the edge for a bit if you have to breathe again.

But don’t be afraid to at least try. As a good friend of mine often says — fuck it!

NaNoWriMo — Not this Year

This year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo didn’t hit the goal. Winter always seems to be a time of heightened drama, in opposition to the slower, warmer, more reflective side I long for at years end. Quieten the noise, slow down the pace.
It doesn’t seem to matter the ingredients placed in the cauldron; there’s no slow and steady blending and simmer, it’s a sporadically exploding bomb — spewing shrapnel into the eyeballs and the roof, and right now it’s barely holding up. With that my focus was and still is in tatters, December may be more about finding all the pieces again and trying to fuse some sanity and peace.
Anyway, my Backyard Asylum novel project only reached 14k – quite a distance from the 50k goal! I beat myself up throughout November with exhaustion and lack of creative time to drive into it. That’s been quite prevalent this entire year more than just the month, but it did feel more saturated. Such is life; she likes her curveballs and depression likes to wrap her fingers around my throat for periods of total torment. She’s a cruel demon indeed. So, it’s been a case of prioritising basic practical needs over desire. Although creativity is certainly a need, when it’s embedded deep, which fuels desire — without the sparks of passion there is little will to trudge through the more mundane, life has to be more than that — the fight continues. I’m rambling now, this slump shall pass!
So, while Backyard Asylum is written in my head, I have to sacrifice some sleep, muster some energy from the ether and hit the keys — though maybe without the daily word-count pressure, which did me no good this first time around.
Regardless, I am happy with what’s down for this WIP novel — its bones are horrific in a promising way. There’s a lot to work through and develop, but I’m confident it will in time progress so I can nail this first draft and go deep into sculpting and editing through the rough edges. The characters have meat, and there’s some strong scenes pinned already. I spiralled off into research more than physical writing a little more than planned, such is the ‘panster’ way.
As much as I tried to avoid the temptation, I have my eye on a few open-calls for short stories. Nothing new and substantial has been written on the front yet, but there are some ideas stewing, so I’ve some snippets of poetry to go back to and work on to develop into a full-blown piece.

In summary, my first NaNoWriMo died in week two. But, the story itself will come into being, I am pleased with what’s been written so far, it’ll just take a little longer to get there. It’ll be a priority for 2021.

Speed-Meat

Bumbling sedate-like, a year on, rotters are no different to the local junkies. Except, the rotter isn’t coming at you with its drooping face, skin pulling down at the darkened cavernous eye-sockets, hanging loose off the jawbone, slurring; “Any spare change pal?”

They’re still using that old line, except by change they mean anything that can be offered to dealers in exchange.

I prefer the real dead-walking — even they won’t touch a junkie for their fix. Shame, maybe that’d help us all; thin the heard. Though, I’m not prepared for the sight of the dead on something like speed-meat.

This drabble was first published by Reanimated Writers Press in their anthology 100 Word Bigger Zombie Bites.

The Stranger By G G Flavell

As she slowly opened her eyes, a wailing from across the dark, candlelit hall instantly reminded her of the waking nightmare. Strands of hair were embedded into her forehead and swept across her face accentuating her pale, gaunt jawline. Her eyes rolled around in fits of agony and curiosity to see what had changed, if anything, in her death chamber. The dank smell of death hung heavy in the air. It was difficult to differentiate the floor and the ceiling, the walls and the windows. It was a wooden room, almost a box, containing her contagion, awaiting the final, tighter wooden box.

The light and colourful rooms from her family estate seemed like the memories of someone else now. The songs played by her sister, Elizabeth, on the family piano, which would fill every room in the house with joy and life, swirled around her head like a wasp. The last memory she had was of her father’s face as he closed the carriage door. He had paid the doctor to bring her to London to die. There was no hope for her now. Not since the blisters emerged. He couldn’t risk infecting the rest of the family. So, his youngest and dearest daughter Emmanuelle was sent to die, alone and in agony.

Upon arriving in London, she felt what it must be like for a corpse. She was tossed about, covered up and talked about as if she weren’t there. Occasionally, a kind nurse would try to comfort her, stroking her hand and dabbing her forehead. The doctors were never kind. Poking, prodding, retching and writhing. They were equal parts fascinated and repulsed by her.

“Money can’t save you from the plague,” they would often say.

She fell in and out of consciousness so often that the living and the dream worlds sometimes merged. The fever had played wicked tricks on her. She saw herself riding back home on her beloved horse, Daisy. Naked and radiant, she galloped through the fields of Hampshire where her family awaited her arrival, dancing in jubilation. More oft than not she was floating above her own corpse, wrapped in white linen, stained by the still seeping wounds from the blisters. Her family hadn’t come to say a final farewell, she was there, dead, cold, alone and insignificant for eternity.

But sometimes, her fever brought a strange gentleman to her bedside. He had long, thick black hair that was always neatly held back and under his top hat. His eyes were grey, like when the sun bursts through a rain cloud. He had a funny moustache and an exotic accent.

“And you say she is from aristocracy?” he would ask the nurses.

Always grinning from their affirmative answers.

Of late, he was visiting her at least once a week. On this particular night, Emma had been very lucid, lucid enough to realise he had no face mask, no covering at all to protect himself. She reached up to stroke his face, for reassurance that he was indeed there. But she passed out from exertion before she could feel anything.

The nurses started wrapping her feet and legs. A sign the blisters were getting out of control. Water was the last thing her body could ingest. It seemed hopeless. It had always been so, but Emma hadn’t quite accepted it until now.

The farmer across the room from her had succumbed just an hour before. He could only have been 17. Strong like an ox, with hands like shovels and voice deeper than a well. He looked like a man of 80 as they carted his body to the mass grave.

Emma felt as though she were crying, but the sweat rendered her senses of touch useless. She no longer knew if it was night or day. It seemed a shadow had filtered her eyes; making it so that only the candle from a nurse’s hands permitted her to see so far as in front of her face.

Tonight, that candleholder was, in fact, her stranger. A Count, from what she had heard the nurses say about him after he left.

“My dear sweet Emma, a beauty such as yourself cannot be left to die here, I beg of you, let me take you to my estate, where you shall have the best of care until you are brought back to life.”

This fever truly was the devil — encouraging hope hours before her last breath. But suddenly, it slipped and lost its grasp of her. She felt a cool facecloth on her forehead as she opened her eyes. Something the fever forbid her to feel since she was first bedridden in her family home.

A fire was roaring on the other side of this grand bed-chamber. A doctor gently lifted off the cloth, rinsed it in ice-cold water and dabbed her face again. He turned to talk to someone in the corner of the room. She couldn’t make out who, but it was an unusually tall shadowy figure with piercing white eyes.

“It has broken, sir” the doctor exclaimed, “the infection is rapidly regressing, and I believe in a matter of moments she will be clear. As we both know with the last patient, this may not last long.”

The shadowy figure spoke solemnly, “you can go.”

Emma was exuberant — pinching herself to ensure this wasn’t the last, most deceitful trick of the fever yet. Rubbing her arm as she sat up in the huge bed. She remembered suddenly that the shadow was still in the room as the doctor closed the door.

The white, unblinking eyes started coming towards her. The shadow began to take form as the fire cast its light upon it. A naked male body moved toward the bed as if floating. His skin pale as snow and crooked in ways she had never seen. But he looked so powerful.

Emma froze when she saw his face. It was her stranger. His thick black hair now let loose around his shoulders. His eyes would not stop staring into hers. As he got closer, his skin was almost transparent, it was truly revolting, yet it continued to come closer.

She had wanted to say thank you. Thank you for saving her life, but she no longer felt saved. She felt…hunted. The stranger lifted his arms out as he neared the bed. Emma tried to move, but before she could blink, his teeth sunk into her throat. Drinking her in. Her virginal, thick youthful blood soaked her hair, and his, as he made noises that would haunt her soul into the abyss.

© G G Flavell 2020

About the Author:

G G Flavell is a new author based in Scotland. Inspired by the worlds created by JRR Tolkien (with the tattoo to prove it,) George RR Martin and Charlaine Harris to name just a few. He also enjoys reading philosophical works, with Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus among some of his favourites.
Unsurprisingly, his writing leans towards fantasy and dark fantasy genres. He lets his imagination take him places the real world can’t.
When he’s not writing, reading or daydreaming, he is most liking to be found cuddling the life out of his French Bulldog Romy. Yes, like Romy and Michelle.

He writes with fun in mind, with passion and with wine.

https://www.instagram.com/wandering_avthor/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/G-G-Flavell/

NaNoWriMo November 2020

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. I’ve decided to participate this year for the first time. I reckon that this would be a rewarding challenge to jump into.
Being somewhat of a panster when it comes to writing, I am going to try blend that with a little structure and daily (nightly) target over the 30 nights. The push is very much needed! I am only at the very early (late by the schedule) planning stages. It’s decision time as to whether to use this exercise to really bite into one of my two parked WIPs, or whether to start something entirely from scratch. Either way, the aim is to plan to reach a goal of 50k words as a completed first draft in those 30 nights. No editing – this in itself will be a personal challenge, as I am a constant (probably obsessive) editor when writing.

So, with that 50k target, that gives a daily goal of 1,667 words. This is undoubtedly a mammoth task considering other life commitments to work around and for a loose gardener like myself.
But, it’ll be an epic achievement to end this crazy year on for those who participate. Decisions will be made, planning is underway, and come November 1st I’m on it!

Are you? Sign up over at https://nanowrimo.org/ to access support material for your novel writing month!

The Macabre Ladies – Drabbles of Dread

Upcoming release from the Devilishly Devine ‘Macabre Ladies’ is their Anthology ‘Drabbles of Dread.’

As listed in my Books page, it is live for Pre-order from Amazon now, for release on the 15th July 2020!

This will be the 4th Anthology from the talented duo – Eleanor Merry and Cassandra Angler, and I’m excited to be a contributing author in 3 of these; Dark Valentine, Dark Solstice and this upcoming Drabbles of Dread. From all accounts this one promises to be the Darkest yet! So, if you enjoy dark micro horror check out this collection (and their back catalogue!)

If you’re a writer and have a dark drabble you’re itching to share with the world, then submissions are still open for a few more days – check out their website or Facebook for details on how to submit!

https://macabreladies.wixsite.com/website