Going live in October. Captive Mermaid is a 3 part trilogy, an erotic romance.
Going live in October. Captive Mermaid is a 3 part trilogy, an erotic romance.
I’ve only just begun to get to know the inimitable, triple-threat that is the innovative and dynamic editor Matthew Bright; a graphic designer by day, as well as a lauded editor which Publisher’s Weekly proclaims we should keep our eyes on, he’s stepping out into the podcast realm.
Here’s the link to his call for submissions open to anyone in the gay/queer/lgbt community. He’s looking for queer horror specifically in anticipation of a Halloween special.
Australian artist Dustin Tebbutt continually delights me with his music. Ethereal vocals prove the perfect complement to diving into those deep streams of unconscious creativity. Nothing pleases me more than being able to draw attention to independent talent, talent that thrives outside of the mainstream. For now, I feel like Dustin Tebbutt is my little secret — but nothing is so wonderful as sharing a secret as beautiful as this. Lisa Mitchell also duets with gorgeous presence.
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. However, as we reach the close of the series, we now have the opportunity to turn our attention to the guiding forces behind the anthology — the editors themselves!
Welcome author and editrix Alisha Costanzo to the blog!
How did you begin your writing journey?
Honestly, I always have a hard time pin-pointing a beginning, and I wonder if other authors feel the same way. I’ll start here. I had sixty-seven imaginary friends before I started public school. My mother made me a cocoon in the far corner of the living room to hide and read Goosebumps books when I was eight. I had a shelf in my closet full of binders with over a hundred fanfiction stories when I was twelve. I finished my first full short story when I was fourteen, in which I killed off my protagonist. I started my first draft of my first novel when I was sixteen. I wrote ten drafts of that novel and could probably tweak it until the end of time. Really, I don’t know when it started, I was in the middle before I knew I’d begun. Total cheesy reference to a vlog version of Pride & Prejudice there. Don’t mind my geek showing.
You’re quite accomplished with an MFA from University of Central Oklahoma, where you also teach. You’re an author, editor, and publisher at Transmundane Press. Can you share with us how you’ve moved from this creative background to wear other hats, particularly as a publisher? What new challenges have you faced in that arena?
It’s funny. As long as I’ve wanted to be a writer, I’ve wanted to be a publisher. I remember filling up notebooks and binders with research on magazines and publishers and modeling agencies that I schlepped through on the internet. And I’m talking the 1999 internet, not the fancy 2016 internet. I wanted to write, take photography for, and publish my own magazine.
Well, obviously, that didn’t pan out when I was fifteen. It did, however, push me in some interesting directions when I attended college. I’m not one of those normal college graduates. I’ve only missed a year of school since I was four. The year between my undergrad and graduate work. The math says I’ve been in school for twenty-seven years. I still have homework. Always. (Okay, I’m tangeting, let’s rein in this dragon.) I started as a photo major, moved to an accounting and marketing double major, then PR and advertising. Then communication studies and rhetoric. Then English writing. Along the way, I also got a business minor and a plethora of obscure classes on my transcripts. I spent ten years as a college student and have earned three degrees amongst my 256 credit hours.
During that time, I’ve worked for online publishers as a line-editor, a tutor, a TA, and a secretary at a funeral home where I wrote hundreds of obituaries and edited plenty of newsletters/ads.
Once my MFA was safe on my shelf, I rebelled against everything—well, not everything—my degree taught me about what qualified as real fiction. I love genre fiction and vampires and weird creatures or outrageous worlds, and I love clean language and character, more often found in literary fiction if I’m honest. So, as my goal stated on my application to graduate school, I was going to find a way to lift genre fiction to comparable levels as literary fiction.
And that’s what our goal is as a publisher, Anthony’s and mine. And I have no doubts that school is what narrowed me down to this path.
That…and I might have a bit of a control freak problem…
My biggest fault, really. I struggle with not imposing my voice on the stories I edit. I struggle balancing time between publishing—editing and marketing and project creation, writing, and teaching—you know, besides having a personal life and family, so I really need to let others do some of the work and be okay with it. I’m getting better at it. A work in progress.
Wow, can you tell I’m a novel writer?
You and your co-editor and co-publisher, Anthony S. Buoni, were instrumental in putting this project together. Can you tell us the experience of sorting through subs from the perspective of an editor?
Anthony and I had similar reactions to this project when the call for submissions seemed to sky rocket overnight, especially when we received stories from award winners and other professional editors. I was simply stunned. I actually asked my husband, “Why do they want me to publish them?” And I was bluntly reminded that I am an adult and an authority in my field, whether I felt like one or not.
Sorting through the subs needed a system. In comes Anthony, creating a list in excel where we could keep our decisions in order—a serious life saver for me. I admit, reading was 120 submissions was strenuous, but I found myself surprised by how many I wanted.
As many who have worked with me are aware, I am not afraid to dig my fingers into a story and rip out some organs if need be. Not the vital ones, I’m not a murderer. Okay, that’s a lie, I totally am. So I wasn’t merely looking for stories that were complete and ready for publication, although some were quite close. I believe in being a mentor and working with authors who want to keep growing.
Deciding who we invest our time into is a bit of a gamble. We can only predict so much off of a cover letter and a story. It’s hard to tell which authors are going to put in the work and which ones will fight our aesthetic. Again, I’m working on being more flexible and allowing authors to maintain control of their stories.
I have trouble saying what exactly makes the decision for me as an editor. I spent a lot of time debating and going back and forth between yeses and no’s for some stories. So I left what I could up to my intuition and how the story made me feel. It might merely come down to voice.
When I reached out to you about interviews, you mentioned your contribution to the anthology, a “007 version of Snow White and Cinderella infiltrating the kingdom as undercover agents.” I was quite titillated by that concept! How does a writer draw a connection between espionage thriller to fairy tale? Do tell us how this happened.
Oh boy. Sometimes, I’m not quite sure how my brain works. It likely has something to do with the ten years of a liberal arts curriculum and learning how to make connections across subjects.
The more fun version, and the simpler one, was that I watched my first 007 movie at my Uncle John and Aunt Karin’s house over the summer. Side note, I stay a week with them every year, and they’re amazing. I already knew that I wanted undercover agents infiltrating the Charming kingdom. This was the actual inspiration for the anthology as a whole as you might have seen it in the call for submissions.
When I saw Daniel Craig as James Bond, my story clicked, and I started playing with fairy tale gadgets in my notebook. Enchanted DEW drops, electrified scarves, a sleeping serum. I had no plot, at least not one as action-packed as the 007 brand, and I do love action. New to the series, I researched the tropes and found myself able to reap valuable bits for satire. From there, I was rolling in a familiar direction, listening to my husband rant about conspiracy theories, and my plot was formed around vaccines, the Zika virus, chem-trails, and GMOs. And my favorite part is the acronyms, like the DWARVES, which stands for the Dangerous Wee Assassins of the Royal Villain Eradication Society.
You also teach at the University of Central Oklahoma. You’re a busy woman! Is there any secret you can share with us about how you stay fresh for creative work, when you’re engaged in creative work of some type for long hours every day?
I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but they’re not likely much in the way of innovation. I work out regularly. I work off stress by cooking or baking. I watch TV with my husband. I read a book to remind myself why I love writing and how much I love reading.
Honestly, I have stories inside me that will send me on a long, slippery slope to the insane asylum if I didn’t give them their own place in the world.
Writing itself rejuvenates me. It’s my form of meditation. Not that it doesn’t suck sometimes, but inevitably, when I sit to my own story I’ll get somewhere—sometimes fifty words, sometimes five hundred, and sometimes, a couple thousand. As long as I keep going back, my creativity won’t let me down.
Can you share details about your next project?
Ooo, my next project.
Wow. I have a lot of them on deck.
The closest to finished is out to a few alpha readers and should be published in February/March. Blood Phoenix: Imprinted is the third book in Ria’s story. It’s a satirical vampire/phoenix novel with some really strange characters, like Mindless who predicts the future and the past using ratios. Or my seven-foot-tall Scandinavian leprechaun, Boden, that a great number of my readers have dubbed grade A book-boyfriend material.
This part of the saga connects Boden and Ria all the more, challenges Ria’s new status as a vampire and her humanity by sending her to hunt and kill a group of shifter wolves, and brings to head a three-book-long rivalry with a fellow vampire, resulting in beheadings, magical implosions, and some serious scars.
I have another novel awaiting editing about a mermaid-unicorn hybrid and a vampire-lion. It takes place in the same general world as my other novels but is set in Egypt. I love how it creates a larger view of how the characters’ actions in my existing books effects characters on the other side of the world.
Other than the novel I’m drafting—and seriously, twenty other projects on deck that have some type of substantial notes—Anthony and I are throwing out ideas for our next anthology call. Think fire.
Alisha Costanzo is from a Syracuse suburb. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she currently teaches English. She’s the author of BLOOD PHOENIX: REBIRTH, BLOOD PHOENIX: CLAIMED, and LOVING RED, and co-editor of DISTORTED and UNDERWATER; her new anthology, AFTER THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, is undergoing serious edits for its 2016 release. Her new novel, BLOOD PHOENIX: IMPRINTED, is set for release in 2017. In the meantime, she will continue to corrupt young minds, rant about the government, and daydream about her all around nasty creatures.
You can keep up with Alisha at her website.
If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology,this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. However, as we reach the close of the series, we now have the opportunity to turn our attention to the guiding forces behind the anthology — the editors themselves!
Welcome author and editor Anthony S. Buoni to the blog!
You and your colleague Alisha Costanzo have been instrumental in putting together the anthology for After Happily Ever After. Can you give us some insight into the genesis of this project? How did it come about?
Alisha was originally planning the project with someone else, and I figured I would do some light editing on it. The other party fell through around the time she and I were getting UNDERWATER into the world. I love fairy tales and stepped up because after UNDERWATER and DISTORTED, I couldn’t imagine not being a serious part of the project.
This anthology is not your first creative project. In addition to this, you have participated in editing other anthologies and writing novels. How did you get started on this writing journey?
I started writing poetry and creature stories in elementary school. In second or third grade, I had a teacher call my parents in for a meeting because I had written a poem about gloomy skies and creeping darkness and therefore must have been suicidal or depressed. I wasn’t, I just loved the tone I saw in horror movies like THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, DRACULA, THE FLY and those early Tim Burton flicks.
By middle school, I was listening to a lot of the Doors, the Damned, and the Cure, emulating the music’s beautiful, dark poetry. By high school, I was making music and writing shorts, always horror. To this day, I never outgrew the goth stage that began after my first stint in New Orleans.
I got serious with fiction in college. I burned a lot of that dreadful material I was writing in high school, chalking it up to my apprenticeship. How many times can you rhyme “bliss” with “kiss” and still look at your reflection without laughing? Under the guiding hands of Lynn Wallace, I learned how to harness the writing reigns by being concise, entertaining, and finishing what I started.
As an upperclassman, I interned with FSU PC’s physical and electronic newspaper, editing and paginating. Taking those lessons, I began self-publishing a zine called MEOW and making chap books, mostly comprised of absurdist vignettes or filthy prose that was crudely illustrated.
Michael Lister discovered my work and showed me the ropes around the publishing business: the marketing, event planning, public appearances, etc. Through his house, Pulpwood Press, I organized two anthologies of fictional ghost stories, BETWEEN THERE vol. 1 & 2, and released CONVERSION PARTY, a screenplay novel about a party kid trying to catch and spread HIV in the club scene.
I met Alisha through a facebook author exchange, a virtual meet and greet for writers to gather and talk shop. She contributed a story for the 2nd BETWEEN THERE, and we began editing each other’s novels-in-progress. Our styles jived well, so we began working together.
Can you share with us how you’ve moved from this creative background to wear other hats, particularly as a publisher? What new challenges have you faced in that arena?
In college, I was getting placement here and there, but I wasn’t landing as many stories as I wanted. Articles in tourist magazines and the occasional anthology acceptance simply weren’t enough.
Through the zine MEOW, I was able to publish my more unpolished and experimental work. Published with the punk rock spirit, MEOW went from a few pages featuring fake news stories, song fragments, flash fiction, and poetry by myself and a few other authors local to the Florida Panhandle to a full-color sub magazine complete with pin-up girls, serious film and music articles, drink recipes, and advertisements featuring authors, artists, and photographers from all over the country. It got too complicated for me to produce with a laptop and home mimeograph, so I dug a hole and let it rest…for now.
Using the same methods that went into creating MEOW, I produced several chapbooks, most notably …A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT, a collection of absurdist and surreal vignettes, and THE ABSINTHE BUTTERFLY, a dirty book with nasty illustrations by myself and CONRAD YOUNG.
Piecing all of these projects together became as rewarding as creation process, so I learned how to design book interiors when paginating the physical and electronic paper for FSU PC. Working with Pulpwood Press helped me put all the pieces together in a mature way.
When I returned to New Orleans, I wanted to start fresh. Alisha and I had already began DISTORTED, we released it as a team. When UNDERWATER followed, we realized it was a serious collaboration beyond editing each other’s novels and decided to make the partnership legit.
The real challenges rest in balancing time.
We both have families and other jobs. Alisha is a teacher, and I tend bar on Bourbon Street, so a lot of our time is consumed before we can write, edit, market, and brainstorm. Now when I sit down to work on my own stories, novels, or songs, every word has to count. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room for false starts or projects that might shipwreck on rocky, unlit shorelines.
I’ve never been great with deadlines, but now we have to meet them and follow through. That can be tough when I am in the mood to play guitar, mix records, make dance loops, or tinker with my camera. I have to distribute my time so that I can work on all my interests.
Can you tell us what it’s like to sift through all the stories that came in from the submission call? What perspective can you give us as someone sitting in the editing chair?
The call for submissions went up, and we were inundated with entries, mushroom clouding the scale of the anthology. The sheer volume of submissions took me by surprise and made the reading period take longer than anticipated. We had authors following up on their work, wanting to know if they had made the cut, but we were still chopping through the vines, trying to figure out the overall tone of the anthology and how many we were going to accept.
We bounced around the idea of three books: one for the aftermath of the fairy tales we grew up with, one of retellings, and one for the bizarre and unusual. When we started talking, we remembered those huge volumes filled with fantastic stories and how they looked on a shelf. We wanted AFTER THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER to have home next to those tomes, the ones that inspired our own fledging imaginations.
The range of the stories was intense.
We got tales so good they make you question your own writing abilities. It would be amazing to come across one that stopped me in my tracks, contact Alisha, and have her say that she just read it, too, and it also blew her away. Those moments make the process magical.
Then there are some that we requested another draft—that one of us wasn’t quite feeling but the other defended. Most of the rewrites exceeded our expectations.
And then we got a few that simply were not ready for publication. It’s hard telling someone no, especially when their work is close, but their rewrites might not be finished in time for release. We want to produce established authors as well as open the door for newcomers. Those gates were unlocked for us along the way, and so it’s only fair that we help others with their journey. Neither one of us likes writing rejection letters, but we got a few that didn’t seem to tell any story or were so riddled with grammatical or storytelling errors that we had to pass.
Maybe next time they’ll resubmit and blow us away. We’re all learning together.
Your bio mentions that you hail from the south, NW Florida and New Orleans respectively. Southern gothic has experienced some popularity within the past decade or so. Does geography play into your creative work, or do you build worlds from brand new?
My work is rooted in the South.
I travel, and my parents raised me nomadic and free, but my heart and soul rests somewhere between the swamps, beaches, pine tree forests, and cities that line the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve come up on the white sandy beaches of the Miracle Strip and the nightclubs of the French Quarter, so they both factor in my writing.
Writing and music are spiritual pursuits. My inspiration comes from the moon, stars, and clouds—the cyclical dance of nature. Something new from something old. Circles.
Living and creating in New Orleans, Louisiana, Anthony S. Buoni haunts swamps and bayous along the Gulf of Mexico, writing, editing, producing, and lecturing about his craft. A practicing pagan, he’s responsible for the BETWEEN THERE anthologies as well as his screenplay-novel, CONVERSION PARTY, available through PULPWOOD PRESS. Recently, he’s co-edited and co-produced two exciting anthologies with Alisha Costanzo with their independent imprint, TRANSMUNDANE PRESS: DISTORTED: vol 1 and UNDERWATER: vol 1.
You can keep up with Anthony at his website.
When I was a teaching assistant, I taught an essay called the Adaptation/Variation, which allowed students to choose a text and change it in form, in character, in style, in any variety of means with one task in mind—interpretation. Most often, students chose fairy tales because they were familiar from their youth and had seen an array of adaptations.
I stopped teaching this essay because a task of this magnitude—to not only create a brand-new text but to also write an essay analyzing the changes made and how it builds meaning on the original and on its own—needs more than a few weeks’ time. Thus, I’d tossed it out of my classroom for a while.
But it lingered in the back of my mind as the semesters continued because I had written this paper before I taught it. I loved the lessons I’d built for it. So with the opportunity to…
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If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. In Candace Gleave’s “The Emperor’s Pig Princess”, a wary emperor sheds swaps his clothes for the challenge of matrimony.
Every writer comes from a different background, and most end up taking a winding path to where they eventually end up. How has the writing journey taken shape for you? How did you start?
It all started with a movie…. Romancing the Stone. The opening cinematic, the gritty western, love, loss, and of course the handsome cowboy Jesse…. Mmmm. The storytelling is through the heart and passion of the writer, you seen Joan Wilder at her type-writer, finishing up her book, in tears. That’s passion… that’s what I wanted.
This romantic dream of being a writer embedded in my tiny 8-year-old brain and has never left… It’s something that has always been a part of me, the nagging, the desire, the inner pull… and I absolutely love it.
You’ve chosen the tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” with a new challenge for the Emperor — the prospect of matrimony. Is there a particular aspect of this tale that attracted you? How did you come to choose this one and generate this idea?
The Emperor’s New Clothes is a fantastic story. The deeper origins of wanting to believe in something bad enough, that you trick yourself into actually seeing it. This deception, pride and vanity is what ultimately made me choose this story. Not only did the emperor walk around naked, but he did it with his head held high. That’s confidence… and true, I envision a very good looking emperor, don’t we all. So taking this confident, somewhat arrogant man, and helping him search for a wife was too good to pass up.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale you’d like to share with us?
Peter Pan. The story of Peter Pan has deeper undertones that are often overlooked. I think there is a romantic longing inside of everyone to preserve the innocence of childhood. Imagine, living in Neverland, the adventures, thrill, and never worrying about the ugliness of reality.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is very much a story about human nature, and to some extent, the ways we lie to ourselves and the lengths we will go to in order to save face and not confront a mistake. Have you ever come across an Emperor in your own life?
No, never seen a naked emperor…. My life is so unfilled. Human nature is really fascinating, especially when we want something really bad, we tend to lie. Writers make excellent liars, haha, not sure what that says about us…. I think Oscar Wilde said it best, “Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.”
Now that your work is appearing the After Happily Ever After anthology, do you have something else you’re working on for the future that you’d like to share?
I’m always dabbling with short stories… the little darlings will get published in their own due time.