Our company went through the same thing that almost every gaming company that started up in the early 200’s went through: the industry died. It was almost overnight, but the role-playing game industry had a huge collapse, and it damn near took us with it. We were lucky in that Xcrawl and our second game, Meddling Kids, had both been successful, so we were able to weather it—sort of. We changed from a publishing company to a design company, and did our best to work through things, but we could never shake the publishing bug. So, in 2010 we went back and started publishing fiction. And now we’re even back to publishing games again.
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I’d been working on starting up Queen of Swords Press for several years, but hadn’t reached the stage of actually publishing books until January of 2017. It’s been amazing to see the cover art in progress, interior design work by our designer and the reception the books have gotten so far. I’m not sure that small press publishing had a great year, however, Lots of small publishers have folded recently, some of them quite dramatically. I think that’s always hard on readers as well as writers and the whole publishing ecosystem. It’s been a tough year for me personally, with lots of juggling and some health issues, but I’m hoping that I’ve got enough of a handle on things to apply what I learned last year to this one and work smarter.
We won the British Fantasy Society Award for best small press in 2015. It was awesome. I was completely flawed and there were so many people we have worked with in the room, it was a lovely feeling. We have had a number of works shortlisted and it’s always nice to get that acknowledgment of our authors and all the work we do. In some ways when a writer we work with gets an agent or sells books that feels the same as when we get shortlisted for an award, James Bennett and Ren Warom have got amazing trilogies with Orbit and Titan and every time something like that happens we celebrate a little at FS. That’s partly the ‘I was right, they rock’ dance and partly the ‘good things happening to good people’ dance btw. I would love Fox Spirit to be seen as somewhere to discover new writers you might enjoy as a reader and seeing our writers go on to bigger better things is confirmation that that can be the case.
In the world of writing, we spend a lot of time talking about the mapping of plot, our audience, and the marketability of topics and themes. But what about the simple art of writing? The passion that makes us put words on paper. The editor of Underground Book Reviews takes an afternoon to talk to a local self-published author in Lexington, Virginia, and comes away with a new take on the art of writing.
Before starting Blind Eye Books, I worked as a line cook and as a bookseller for the now departed Waldenbooks. I was not a tremendously good bookstore employee. (I don’t like to alphabetize and I refused to upsell the company credit card.) However, I truly excelled at suggesting new books for readers. This was before the amazon.com algorithms had been invented so I spent a lot of my time thinking about what different kinds of readers enjoyed. That’s served me very well. Blind Eye Books titles have won several awards. To date we have three Lambda finalists and one Lambda Best Novel win. We also have a Gaylactic Spectrum Award, a Carl Brandon Parallax Award and a handful of Rainbow Awards. It’s always wonderful to win awards. It really helps authors believe more firmly in the clarity and validity of their own voices and visions.
Two projects in 2015 launched the publishing arm of Argyle Werewolf, such as it is: an illustrated chapbook version of a short story I originally wrote for a Hic Dragones anthology, and Werewolves Versus The 1990s. The former was a function of self-indulgence – my wife had done some wonderful illustrations for my story The Librarian, and I wanted a stand-alone artifact I could sell at conventions. The latter was the first issue of a digital anthology of short stories, poetry, comics and art produced by friends that I pestered for the purpose. Something happened and now we’re on issue six and I don’t have to pester anyone anymore.
I am in the sixth generation of my family to live in New Jersey. I was going to go to NYU. I was going to do it. I was going to be a city girl. Wasn’t for me. I’m too Jersey. I like the suburbs. I like being able to have the quietness while also being able to go and do things. The city is too loud to live in all the time but to visit it’s great and only a quick train ride away. I say I have the best of every world here. I can work on the beach, go to the city, visit the library…go anywhere really, whenever I please. I was raised in an entrepreneurial household. I grew up in my parents’ carpet store from a week old. My parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams. I went to a specialized high school for students who wanted to be doctors, but, deep down I always enjoyed literature. I had my first national story published when I was 12 years old, had a position working for Scholastic at 13, and self-published my first book when I was 17, so literature was always a big part of my life. I started taking it really seriously, though, when I was in college. As an English major, I won some great awards for my writing in college and that encouraged me to write my book which was published by a midsize publisher and success. The success of my book made me want to help others with their books.
I met Peter Frycki very early in 2017 at my first LGBT networking event. It was a hard sort of thing for me as I’m terribly uncomfortable if I’m near real people and away from the keyboard. Next to the host of the event, Brian Blatz of Fiddleheads Bistro, Peter was the first person I screwed up the courage to talk to. The shiny magazine covers attracted me. I’d never seen them before in my part of New Jersey. And I wanted one, so I had to approach him, if only to buy one. Turns out they were free and my life has improved just a little bit but snagging them. Peter turns out to be one of those great conversationalists and when his eyes lock on yours, you instantly feel engaged with the pleasant weight his attention. So, I thought I’d let you meet one of my newest friends, a publisher who doesn’t publish the books we usually share here on Underground Book Reviews. He’s very much an Indie Publisher that you should know!
Jaffa Books is an independent publisher/retailer of fiction based in Brisbane, Australia. They have a lot of genres, but I know them mainly as a Furry publisher. But that might be because J.F.R Coates and I both belong to the Furry Writer’s Guild. Plus, Jaffa Books will be publishing Bill Kieffer’s collection of furry noir crime stories in the next few months: Cold Blood: Fatal Fables.
Inspired Quill is a not-for-profit traditional publishing house. This means that our authors don’t pay us a penny (we pay our them decent royalties), and any profits we make get put straight back into IQ to expand our processes, marketing budget, etc. We currently publish across 7 genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Dystopian, YA, Literary and LGBT. We used to be a ‘we’ll accept every genre!’ publisher, but over time we realised that in order to do a great job on each title, we needed to focus down. We haven’t gone totally niche, but we actually have a list of accepted genres now. We’ve always published both paperback and eBook versions, so we’ve been pretty ahead of the curve when it comes to formats. And while we’ve always been keen on publishing works that show diversity (PoC, LGBT, Disability, Gender, etc), over the past year or so we’ve really been focusing on the importance of these elements and have redeveloped our social mission statement.
World Weaver Press is an independently owned and operated publisher of fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction, currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They publish many short story anthologies, and also novels and novellas. Learn more in an exclusive interview with the one and only Bill Kieffer!
Within a few months of finding the bi community, I started looking up when I came into the building and seeing this sign that said “Lesbian and Gay” but not Bisexual or Transgender. That started to bother me. I brought the issue up to the other women in my women’s group and we started talking about it. A whole bunch of us formed a working group. We wrote a letter. We got some other people from outside our group involved: men, a bi woman black poet that I hadn’t known before – other people connected us up. We had three or four representatives go into a meeting with The Center. That was the beginning of that. It took them about ten years to actually change the name and become fully inclusive. The purpose of these awards is to acknowledge and reward the authors, the publishers who publish bi-themed books, and to encourage them to continue to do it. From the time we started that one little category in the Lammies, where we identified maybe 18 books, ultimately winnowed down to 10 that fit our guidelines. Now, this year, for the Bisexual Book Awards, with 13 categories, I started with 200-something books and wound up with 106 submitted. That’s a lot of progress.
URB is a micro press (we only publish 2-4 titles/year). We have two series: the Floodgate Poetry Series, which is published annually and contains three poetry chapbooks per volume, and the Women Up To No Good series, which is published more irregularly and features dark fiction by and about women. We also publish anthologies, novellas, and single-author poetry and short story collections. … My best business decision so far was one that I didn’t realize would be a good decision when I made it. I was pitched an anthology by H.L. Nelson of dark, horror, and speculative fiction by women, which eventually became Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good. I thought it would do alright, but would mostly just be a lot of fun to work on. I released it the same month as our immigrant science fiction anthology How to Live on Other Planets: A Handbook for Aspiring Aliens, which got a decent amount of press for a small press title, getting mentions in Strange Horizons, Dark Matters, Gnome Reviews, and Boing Boing. But Choose Wisely, which was mentioned only in Best New Fiction and InDigest, outsold How to Live on Other Planets two to one, and eventually got a nomination for a This Is Horror award. (And it was every bit as much fun as I expected to put together.)
Today we are interviewing the fictional Ed Earl Burch, anti-hero extraordinaire. Burch is the driving force behind Jim Nesbitt’s crime series, LAST SECOND CHANCE and THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER – two Top Picks here at Underground Book Reviews! If you’ve read these books, take a deeper look into the man that makes them move. If you haven’t read them yet, get to know your new favorite retired cop.
Learn more about Ginger Bensman, an outdoor enthusiast with an interest in mythology and indigenous South American cultures, and the author of TO SWIM BENEATH THE EARTH. She talks about the extensive research that went into the novel, her methodology, organization, and how she turned a personal obsession into a stunning piece of fiction.
Turtleduck Press grew out of a small online writers’ community. Several of us were ready to start publishing, wanted to go the indie route, and decided to band together to pool our skills, marketing power, and resources. Our mandate has always been out-of-the-box works. We started with a broader mix of genres – including poetry chapbooks and novellas – and later sharpened our focus to SF&F romance. We launched in November 2010 with three books: Knight Errant by KD Sarge (gay science fiction romance), Hidden Worlds by Kit Campbell (a short YA fantasy novel), and Life as a Moving Target by Erin Zarro (a poetry chapbook about living with chronic illness).
THP started when I volunteered—after self-publishing two titles—to edit and publish a charity anthology for the National Wolfwatcher Coalition in 2014. Throughout the submission process, a handful of authors expressed interest in me publishing their work, despite my limited experience. C. R. Benson, Roland Jenkins, and Justin K. Arthur was some of the first ones to request my services. As more clients came in, I realized I needed a full staff to handle the clientele.
My name’s Weasel. I got my Bachelor of Arts in Literature and I now use the damn thing as a piece of scrap paper fueling Weasel Press and our projects. I’ve published quite a few books with some publishers, most are now out of print. I do have two current books: “a warm place to self-destruct, (Self-Published),” and “We Live for Half-Moons (Thurston Howl Publications).” I don’t like to talk much about my childhood. All I can say about it is that it happened and now I’m here. I got into literature in late high school early college. I was going to be a horror writer, that is until I found the Beats. The first time I read Ginsberg’s Howl my heart stopped. I went crazy. I started writing beat literature. I don’t know how well I’m doing, but I write a bit of furry lit as well. I try to have a Burrough’s take on Furry or a Bukowski take on Furry. I’ve just not seen a furry Kerouac haha! Aside from that I’m mainly a poet and I fight hard for poetry as it doesn’t get a lot of respect nowadays. But we need it, more than ever.
Today I’m interviewing British author Rosemary Johns, author of Blood Dragons. Here she tells us how she researched the novel which spans several decades, how she climbed into the mind of a vampire, and what we can expect from the next books in the series.
Let me introduce you to Brian Kaufman of Dark Silo Press, a Colorado based micro-publisher of supernatural horror. If there was ever a good place for a zombie stronghold, it would have to be somewhere in Colorado. Since 2013, Mr. Kaufman and Dark Silo Press have shared nightmares with the world via insidious ebooks with covers of primitive, outsider artwork. They’ve earned the honor (or the onus) of being the first publisher to be interviewed for Shelfies.
Today I’m talking to Kyle V. Hiller, author of The Recital. Kyle is a West Philadelphia native. He attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, with discipline in English and Filmmaking. The Recital is his debut novel, and his inspirations include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Harriet the Spy, Stargirl, Age of Miracles, and anything by Haruki Murakami and Hayao Miyazaki.
Bonds of Blood and Spirit is an exciting series authored by Deb Dorchak and Wendi Kelly. Loyalties is book one in this series, and in this interview, Deb explains how the story came about and what it’s like writing books with another author!
Victoria Valentine is an accomplished author in both the romance and horror genres. Agony Of Being Me, however, is a contemporary and gritty YA novel, which concludes with Part Two; Finding You. Here, Victoria tells us the story behind Agony, takes us through her writing process and talks about her writing and publishing journey so far.
Dominic is the author of our 4.5-star book, THE IMPROBABLE RISE OF PACO JONES. He is an 8th grade Endligh teacher who writes about identity, class, and relationship issues through his fiction. He talks about his journey in self-publishing and his upcoming novel.
“I have learned a lot of stuff through trial and error. Sorry, that’s a wrong term. Through trial and more trial. It’s not about errors, it’s about improving on what you do and making it better, faster, more elegant, more professional.”
“…the hardest thing about writing is staying focused. The internet is incredibly distracting. I have to fight to keep myself from checking my email or social media. I try to take a break every hour, give myself five minutes of online time, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. The easiest thing about writing is letting my imagination run wild.”
The author of LIGHT RUNNER discusses astrology, LA and character building… Philip grew up with three strong sisters and a lineage of strong women. He learned to appreciate their fortitude and determination. In writing LIGHT RUNNER, he wanted to convey his own heritage of their powerful resilience through the character of Dara.
Robert Cowan is a Scottish author with three titles out to date. Searching for Ethan, Daydreams and Devils and the recently released For All Is Vanity. Having thoroughly enjoyed Daydreams and Devils, a book I can only describe as being a bit like The Commitments meets Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, I was keen to interview Robert and find out more about the inspiration behind Daydreams and Devils, as well as his indie journey so far.
Tony Wirt’s debut novel, A Necessary Act, is a gripping psychological thriller about the moral dilemma a sixteen year old boy faces when he realizes the school bully shows every early sign of becoming a serial killer. Should he do something to stop him before it’s too late? Here, Tony tells us where the idea for A Necessary Act came from, and whether or not there is likely to be a sequel…
>Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Darrah Whitaker, author of the fast-paced, fun and thought-provoking novel, My Life as a Sperm. Darrah’s background in screenwriting really comes through in his work, with dialogue and action that jumps off the page and begs to be heard and seen on the big screen.
Meet the author of THE SIXTEEN BURDENS. Born in Orange County, California David Khalaf studied print journalism at the University of Southern California, where he served as editor of the Daily Trojan newspaper and held court on the patio outside Carl’s Jr. He later went to graduate school at USC for creative writing. He has been a waiter longer than he cares to remember.