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chizmar author pic Richard Chizmar is the founder and publisher/editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and the Cemetery Dance Publications book imprint. He has edited more than a dozen anthologies, including The Best of Cemetery Dance, Night Visions 10, October Dreams, and the Shivers series. His fiction has appeared in many publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He has won two World Fantasy Awards, four International Horror Guild Awards, and the HWA’s Board of Trustees Award.

Thanks to author, editor, and publisher, Richard Chizmar, for stopping by and answering a few questions.

VWC: When did you decide you wanted to be an author? What are some of the things you did to reach that goal?

RC: I started writing stories when I was a little kid. Usually war stories or tales of monsters lurking in the shadows. I still have my first “published” book from when I was 10 or 11 – about a lonely snowman who couldn’t melt. It even features my own artwork, which clearly predicted a career that had nothing to do with drawing pictures. But it wasn’t until college that I started writing seriously and submitting for publication. I started selling my stories my senior year at the University of Maryland.

As for things I did to reach that goal…I read everything I could get my hands on and I wrote a lot. That’s the key. Plop your butt down in a chair and do the work. I sent out a lot of stories and received a lot of rejections. But they didn’t discourage me. I looked at them as a sort of badge of honor. Eventually, I started selling stories to small magazines and anthologies. Then, larger, more professional markets. I was twenty-two years old at the time and doing exactly what I felt I was born to do…

VWC: How has your background as a publisher helped you with your career as an author?

jack5.500x8.500.indd RC: Well, it has certainly helped by allowing me to work with many of the genre’s top editors and publishers and agents and authors. I have access to a lot of cool projects that a beginning writer would never be exposed to. But, to be perfectly honest, my job as publisher/editor is probably more responsible than any other factor for me not writing that much for a period of 10-15 years. I was simply too busy building a business and working with other authors on their own books. Something had to take a back seat and unfortunately, it was my own writing time. This is something that I have finally been able to change. I have written more in the past 6-7 months than I have in the past decade, and 2015 should be a banner year for me.

VWC: How did you find a publisher for your first book?

RC: My first book, a short story collection called Midnight Promises, was published way back in 1996 by Gauntlet Press. I knew the publisher, Barry Hoffman, from other projects and he was kind enough to ask me to publish my first collection. Of course, I was thrilled.

VWC: How do you find a publisher for a book now?

RC: Pretty much just like you always have. Usually an author will send a query letter with a short bio and a very short synopsis of the book, asking if the publisher would like to see a complete outline and sample chapters, or if they are very lucky, the full manuscript. If the publisher agrees to read either the samples or full manuscript – and the odds are as tough as ever on this happening – then the waiting game begins. Usually anywhere from a couple months to a couple years before you hear back from them. It’s NOT an easy business, and you better LOVE it if you are going to do it!

chizmar2Of course, there is a somewhat different process if you have a literary agent, but finding an agent in today’s marketplace is a whole other subject and challenge!

VWC: Have you ever self-published a book? If yes, what are the greatest challenges for a self-published author?

RC: I haven’t. I have been very fortunate in that I have sold everything I have written to other publishers. But self publishing – if done correctly and professionally – is a viable way to reach a wide audience and earn good money, so it’s certainly something I would consider in the future. There are a decent number of self-published authors making a good living at it these days, so it’s definitely something more and more writers are trying…with widely varying degrees of success.

VWC: Four books written by you are to be published in 2015. Do you work on more than one book at a time?

RC: I do, usually by necessity. Sometimes, I’ll set aside one manuscript to work on another if I feel stuck or uninspired. Or if a deadline is looming!

VWC: Do you have any time-management secrets for writers?

RC: I wish! If anyone out there knows the secret, please ask them to drop me an email and share! I write when I can. At home. At my office. In the car waiting for one of my boys to finish practice. Anywhere I can squeeze in a few paragraphs…

VWC: What book that you’ve written is your favorite, and why?

chizmar3 RC: Ahh, that’s too much like asking me if I have a favorite child! My stock answer – which usually ends up being true – is whichever story I am currently working on is my favorite.

VWC: What projects are you working on now?

RC: I’m juggling a bunch of things right now. I’m finishing up a novella for my next collection, A Long December, due this Summer from Subterranean Press. Another novella for a British publisher, SST Publications, as well as a number of short stories for various editors and a movie script.

VWC: What advice do you have for writers trying to get a book published?

RC: Be dedicated, be stubborn, believe in yourself and your story, and do the work. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s the opposite of easy. But it’s all part of the process and worth it in the end.

VWC: Who was your favorite author as a child?

RC: Dr. Seuss and Stephen King. King’s stories are what made me want to become a writer.

VWC: Who is your favorite author now?

RC: Still Stephen King. I also really enjoy John Sanford, Ed Gorman, Robert McCammon, and dozens of other writers. My “To Read” pile isn’t a pile; it’s a tower.

VWC: When is your favorite time of day to write?

RC: If you had asked me this question 20 years ago, my answer would have been late at night, after most other people are asleep. I loved the hush and stillness of those hours, and they really worked for me as far as productivity and inspiration. I would write until 2 or 3am and sleep in. These days, I tend to write whenever I can find the time. Mornings seem to be working best as of late.

VWC: What was the most valuable piece of writing advice given to you?

RC: Do the work. Read. Write. Expect the rejections. Embrace the process. Don’t give up.

VWC: And now, the final and most important question: What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

RC: Chocolate Chip!

To learn more about Richard Chizmar visit the Cemetery Dance website. You can also find him on Twitter @RichardChizmar 

To purchase Richard’s books, you can visit Amazon.

Thanks, Richard, for stopping by. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, Writing Tips, Recipes, and lots of other interesting posts. Have a Cemetery Dance kind of Monday – Vonnie

PS. If you want to show some love, visit my Amazon page and buy one of my books. 🙂

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       In two writing groups (to which I belong),  I discovered lots of Facebook and email chatter asking what an editor really wants in submissions for a themed anthology. I think the anthology which began this discussion is one I’m currently editing (along with another writer-editor). So I’m taking this opportunity to talk about what editors want (at least the editors of projects I’ve worked on).
     When editors announce the guidelines for a themed anthology, we list exactly what we were looking for. No games. No tricks. It’s a themed anthology, so address the theme!
     Using the themed anthology I’m currently selecting stories for as an example: The editors of Hides the Dark Tower have rejected dozens of marvelous stories that failed to include a tower or tower-like structure. That said, we’ve taken stories in which authors found a creative take on the theme (a lighthouse and towering circus structure for example). The first images which pop into your mind (Tower of Babel, Rapunzel, a castle tower, etc.) also popped into the minds of other writers. Perhaps your take on those quick-to-pop-into-the-head ideas is so unique and marvelous that no one else has submitted something similar – but be assured we’ve received many stories on Babel, Rapunzel, and castles.
     As to length, the story needs to be the length necessary to tell the tale. If the story fulfills its mission in 500-words or 5,000-words or anything in between, then it’s the correct length. Many writers have ignored the 5,000-word limit set for Hides the Dark Tower. The other editor and I will usually read the first 2 pages, then look at the last page (or 2). If the story seems compelling, we’ll ask a writer to shorten the length and re-submit. Some of those re-submits have been accepted, some have not. But if the over-5,000-word tale doesn’t “grab” us in those few pages – it is rejected without a complete read.
     Though it sounds terrible, the reality is editors are looking for not only reasons to accept your story (professional presentation, thematically appropriate, correct word length, good writing, unique and interesting story, etc.), but also reasons to reject the story (weird font, off theme, too long or short, poor writing, inconsistent point of view, over-used ideas, 2-dimensional characters, etc.)
     Give your story the best chance possible by eliminating the reasons for an editor to reject it! Read the guidelines for the anthology or magazine (believe me, a science-fiction magazine doesn’t want to see a fantasy story, a paranormal romance magazine doesn’t want to read a slasher tale, etc.) – so magazines often have a thematic vibe, too. Then, just follow directions.
     Lastly, write a fabulous story!
     One other thing about themed anthologies: Themed anthos are great writing prompts! I’ve found in my own writing, trying to create a unique take on a theme has often pushed me to write a story which I might otherwise not have written. Many of those stories don’t make it into the anthology which was the impetus for the tale (they’re often completed and polished after the deadline). But most of them have made it into another anthology or speculative magazine.
     Best of luck to any of you wading into the world of anthologies, whether as a writer or an editor (or maybe both). And for you readers, anthologies are one of the best ways to read the kind of stories you enjoy while being introduced to new writers.
     Want to show some love for my blog? Visit my Amazon page and buy one of my books.
     Interested in learning more about Pole to Pole Publishing or Hides the Dark Tower?
     Happy reading and writing!

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© 2013 | Kristina Sherk Photography | www.Kristinasherk.com Thanks to author-editor Katherine Pickett for stopping by and sharing some thoughts about writers, the writing community, and life. Enjoy! (By the way, in 2 weeks, Katherine will return with information about agents).

Give More than You Take by Katherine Pickett

“Human beings can tend toward the selfish side, taking from others more than they give out or giving only so they can get something in return. This is particularly true when resources are slim and people become concerned that their livelihood is at stake. This phenomenon plays out on the large and small scale, and the writing community offers one excellent case study of how it happens and why it is not the best approach when trying to achieve personal and professional success. Don’t be one of these people. Give more than you get. When you do that, your writing will be improved and so will your relationships.

Read Other People’s Writing
Many writers spend their time reading their own work, rarely looking up long enough to read something from someone else. However, reading other writers is a great way to improve your own writing. Offering your time as a beta reader is one way to do this. Reading one of the many literary journals available to you is another. Before you submit your next flash fiction or essay for consideration, take the time to read the other authors included in the journal. Read related journals as well, and think about how you can learn from those who have gone before you.

Buy Other People’s Books
PerfectBound-cov1-600x900 Some writing communities are home exclusively to budding writers, while others also include traditionally and self-published authors. It’s easy to feel competitive with the ones who have already reached what you yourself are striving for. You may feel tempted to tear down what they have done, perhaps feeling they had some unfair advantage or their book really isn’t all that good. The negativity this generates takes its toll on you as well as those around you. Instead, support these writers by purchasing their book and sharing it with others. Add to their success rather than knocking it down. This is the essence of community.

Turn Off the Self-Promotion
We get it: you have a book coming out or a manuscript to sell or a signing to host. Now turn off the self-promotion and start paying attention to what other people are doing. Once again, it’s about supporting those in your community. Contrary to what some people think, there are no self-made men. We have to engage with the world in a meaningful way if we want to achieve any level of success that matters. Attend someone else’s signing. Help get the word out about someone else’s news. Be involved in more than your own small world. Then notice how many more opportunities come your way because you were willing to get involved.

Erase the Scoreboard
‘Tit for tat.’ That is the attitude some writers seem to have when they decide whom to help and whom to ignore. When you support someone in a tangible way, it is normal to expect a little support yourself down the road. However, that is not the reason to do something nice for a fellow writer or other publishing professional. Rather than keeping score with each good deed you do for someone else, waiting to cash in that favor, put good things out into the world and let them go. People can tell when you have an ulterior motive, and it’s a turnoff. Give selflessly and others will notice that too. You may not get back exactly what you put into your relationships, but it will likely be more valuable than whatever tangible gift you have given.

When you’re trying to ‘make it,’ it’s easy to become self-absorbed. With every new person you meet you may think, ‘How can this person help me get where I want to be?’ The thing is, life is much more enjoyable when you turn that around. So, when you receive help with writing opportunities, speaking engagements, a new job or publication in a coveted journal do what you can to return that to the universe. I truly believe giving more than you get makes for a much more rewarding life and career.”

Katherine Pickett is the owner of POP Editorial Services, LLC and the author of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro from www.HopOnPublishing.com  Since 1999 she has edited more than 300 books in a wide range of topics and genres. She is an active member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and the St. Louis Publishers Association, and is president of the Montgomery County chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association.

Want to discover more about Katherine Pickett and Perfect Bound? Visit her blog and follow her on twitter.

And you can purchase Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro on Amazon.

Thanks again to Katherine Pickett for her wonderful guest post. Make sure to stop back on Monday, September 8, for an excerpt about agents from Perfect Bound. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, Saturday Owl posts, blogs from me, and occasional Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a pay-it-forward day! – Vonnie

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