What Reply All Taught Me About Publishing

Reply All: that venomous email ability that you must use in some settings, but absolutely shouldn’t use in others. It also seems that several people always use Reply All, no matter the context.

I have been in several email chains for the anthologies in which my shorts have appeared, and there’s usually at least one chain in which someone loses their minds and does an ill-advisable Reply All. It’s bound to happen when there’s 10+ people per email and several emails out there. However, it’s also an enlightening experience; many people don’t view publishing the way I do. Without someone screwing up, I might never have found the following out.

The Power of BCC

Blind Carbon Copy is amazing.

Shooting out an email to a large number of people, but don’t want those people to annoy each other with Reply Alls? Send it BCC. That way when people inevitably do click reply all, it just goes back to you and perhaps one or two organizers.

The other big time to use BCC is if you don’t have permission to blast another person’s email address out there in the ether. As someone whose real name is very private, I made a “writing email” so that I show up as H.R.R. Gorman no matter what I do. However, if I used my personal email to sign up for something, I wouldn’t want you weirdos finding out the legal name.

Lastly, BCC will prevent embarrassing hiccoughs or instances where someone explodes. Publishers and other authors are trying their best, but sometimes we just fail or disappoint other people. If someone’s trying to be malicious, BCC will protect the innocent sensibilities of those who don’t need to see that.

Anthology Publishers and Editors Have Limited Time

When one publishes in an anthology, usually the publishers do editing – sometimes all of it if editing is their thing. Sometimes they send it off to a professional editor. Either way, you can be certain someone is looking over your work and polishing it up.

Reply All has taught me that many people don’t care about this until it’s too late, or they’ll get back a couple weeks/months late and say “it’s ok.” No matter how hard editors and publishers (and you!) work, books are large and it’s easy for small things to get by us all. It’s good to do your agreed part and take a look at everything. Do your work on time; other people could have used that money the publishers paid you, even if it’s a small amount. You don’t want the black stain of being “unresponsive” or having a typo in your story!

Publishers BOUGHT Your Story – Let Them Have It

You also know there’s two main types of editing: copyediting, which includes proofreading and fixing for grammar or simple language/structure errors, and content editing, which includes changes to story elements. A lot of times I’ve seen submission places online say they will no longer accept short stories that will need content editing because it “takes too much time” or requires changes to the story.

My friends, Reply All taught me what “too much time” means. The reason these people will no longer accept good ideas is probably due to people being overly protective about it and fighting. If you agree to the editing process and sign the contract, abide by the contract. The publisher wants to publish, and holding them back helps neither of you. No story is worth blowing up over.

If you send out a story and an editor wants you to make edits you don’t like, certainly say you don’t like them, but never, never Reply All saying so. Think about how you sold your story, and now it’s up to them to get what they wanted to purchase from you. If the edits make it such that you wouldn’t want it going out into the world, read your contract and see what you agreed to do. Explain what you liked about your story and think the edits took away from it, then suggest a path forward. Construct with your editor, not against them.

What about you?

Have you been on any interesting Reply All chains? Have you learned anything when in anthologies or working with other authors/editors? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

2022

So, it’s 2022, and I guess we’re still here. Mostly.

Here’s a gif with a Pomeranian in it.

And, because of this, it’s time for everyone to start making their plans for the next year and sharing them as if it’s important. Not going to lie, I’ll join in that too because it seems fun.

Collective Fantasy

First off, Collective Fantasy: An Unsavory Anthology releases on January 3rd! I’ve got a story in this upcoming anthology, and it is dope as hell. I say this about every story I write, but I think this one may be the best I’ve ever published to date. “Come and In My Chamber Lye” is a book of witchery and laundry. Snippits incoming soon!

Amazon Link for pre-order – only paperback right now, but the indie publisher usually gets out an audiobook and Kindle version soon after.

We’re also having a “Book Signing” party on January 4th from 8 to 11 pm EST! If you’re in the Salt Lake area, the physical party is going to be at Under the Umbrella bookstore, and there’s a virtual Zoom link (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9630443174) for those who (like myself) are in other places. I’ll try to be on during the early parts, but no promises past 9:30 eastern, given my bedtime!

I’m going to try to be there, but I’m on eastern time so we’ll see how late I can stay awake!

Lastly, there’ll be another story in an anthology coming up in the next few months… I’m super excited to tell you all about that one, too, but it’s still a bit of a secret. Shhh…

Books To Read Lists

Last year (and every year before that), I made a list of books that I’d review every Monday. This list would come out on the first Monday of the month, and I’d coast through on those books for the rest of the month. That gave me 3 or 4 books to read per month.

Though I might not read as much this year as last, this limitation to 3 or 4 books per month meant a couple things. One, and probably the most important, is that not every indie book I read got a slot on the blog. That bothers me because indie books need reviews – including blog reviews – more than the big guys. It also meant a lot of other books didn’t get a spotlight even if they probably should or could have; instead of talking about books I liked, I spent all of August 2021 flogging a series that I hated.

Instead, what I’m going to do is just push out a post when I read a book (assuming I get it written quickly enough). That will both reduce my need to make “to read lists” and also give me more opportunities to post book reviews. It also will mean I don’t have to theme my months.

Life Updates

I want to do more life updates, mostly because blogs with a life update every now and then keep me engaged more. At the same time, I really don’t want to post about other people in my life. We’ll see if I manage to get anything along these lines done.

Obligatory dog picture.

The Fountain of Forgiveness

My beloved: so dear and tender,
Soft beneath my fingers, 
Iron beneath your skin. 

I wonder how you render
My image into goodness
When I feel like a sin. 
My beloved: so bold and daring,
Don't fret about softness -
Steel is in your resolve.

I love your heart, your bearing;
Could I be so thoughtless
That your faults I don't absolve?
There is no cloak so opaque
As love, covering all things
With brightness and splendor. 

Love's appearance is not fake, 
But it must be maintained
Lest passion burn to cinder.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Reading List – November 2021

I read a lot of history books in my preferred era, but there’s always something missing. When I read about the Jacksonian Era without reading about the Revolutionary Era, it would be like a future historian reading about today without understanding the Vietnam War or who Reagan was. This month, I’m reading a variety of “prequel” books to my preferred era.

1776 – David McCullough

David McCullough is what one would call a “super famous” pop historian. 1776 is one of his more famous works, and I know it’s alright because I read it before (long ago, albeit). The focus of the book is on, of course, the year 1776 (which, for you non-Americans, is well known as the year history began).

From this book, I hope to glean information about the Revolution, including what average people thought and how infighting between tory and rebel contributed to the coming political age. If I remember correctly, though, it may just be a military history, which is interesting in and of itself.

Union 1812 – AJ Languth

The War of 1812 is a war easily forgotten in American classrooms. Even I, who really cared about my American history class, noticed that this important event was only briefly spoken about. Perhaps it’s because the capitol was burned, or perhaps it’s because the treaty of Ghent pretty much gained Americans nothing, but people just don’t know that much about the war unless they go looking.

Me? Oh, you know me. I’ve read up on this baby, but I admit my knowledge is quite stacked. I’m familiar with the Southern Theater and the associated Creek War, but I know little to nothing about the Northern Theater. I want to read this book with the intention to draw more information regarding that less-successful-theater, as well as look into the roles of the Madisons, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams.

You Never Forget Your First – Alexis Coe

The quirky title and a CNN article praising Coe’s You Never Forget Your First got me interested enough to rent this one from the library for a little perusal. This is actually a biography of George Washington, which I thought would go along well with 1776 up there.

Washington is one of the more interesting founding fathers (if only because he’s not Jefferson who, regardless of your opinion on him, I find incredibly dull to read about), so I’m excited to see what Coe has dug up. The articles I’ve read praising the book indicate she brings a new vision and interpretation of the historical documents, so perhaps I should have boned up on the more typical works first! 😉

Hint, however: I have already read this book as of posting, and I did read another George Washington biography in the meantime. I have a brief aside comparing the two, but you’ll have to read the review when it comes out to discover my thoughts!

Cherokee Mythology – James Mooney

I believe, wholeheartedly, that the history of Indians has been so woefully overlooked that it’s a sin. As a North Carolinian who grew up in the western part of the state, I’ve always been at least a little interested in the Cherokee. I even wrote about Sequoyah, an important Cherokee inventor, on the Carrot Ranch. Though it’s not terribly difficult to find information on the Cherokee post-colonization, I was looking for something more foundational and old. I wanted to see what pre-columbian history and thoughts are available to us.

This book contains a pretty in-depth history of the Cherokee people as well as a pretty large collection of myths. It was sanctioned by the government, and most of the information comes from primary source documents. There’s a companion, The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee, that may be of interest to me later. Both are free on Project Gutenberg as they are now in the public domain.

The Tradewater

Across the water is a country of luxury. My family loads our keelboat with goods and drags a raft of timber behind us. Across the river we float, trickling down to the exotic city where we trade.

Our family trades logs for some silk, corn for new shoes, and furs for sugar. We sell the raft to lighten the load back upriver.

I ask Pa, “Why do they trade their riches for our poor goods?”

Pa pushes the keel. “They live in a desert. To them, we’re the rich ones, but we’re all rich once we’ve shared our treasures.”

This was written for this week’s Carrot Ranch Challenge, “Across the Water.” Rivers often serve as borders, even if they also serve as connectors between us all. Today, which is World Communion Sunday in my tradition, I wanted to look at that combination in this 99 word flash.

Photo by Rachel Xiao on Pexels.com

5 Steps to Design a Fantasy Religion

Religion is extremely important on a personal level to many people, and it affects everyone indirectly if not directly. Conflicts over differing opinions on the essential qualities of deity, creation, and human society as it relates to mystical importance abound in the real world.

Fantasy worlds can be equally convoluted. Even a fantasy world in which everyone is atheist or agnostic is still a world with a designed religion, but it can be elevated to a world with designed intent.

5. Know What Beliefs Real Religions Espouse

People can be led to believe in almost anything (just research QAnon), so it doesn’t really matter how mad you make the premise of your religion. What does matter, however, is how your religion makes adherents feel. How does it encourage your characters to act?

Successful religions have all encourages some form of morality and altruism tied into their beliefs. Do good things for the poor, don’t steal things, and respect your elders are common traits. At its core, a fantasy religion should include elements of good. Why?

Well, I’m glad you asked. See, remember that horrible set of books I read last month? Remember The Tombs of Atuan? In it, the gods only take, harm, and maim, and the king uses the reality of their existence to enhance his power. The gods in Tombs of Atuan don’t do anything good – so what was the use of worshipping them? Solely to prevent evil from happening? That lack of benefit – even lack of a theoretical benefit – to the gods in Tombs of Atuan made the entire religion a bit less believable.

People prefer to believe:

  1. The deity will bring peace and health in return for faith and worship
  2. The deity will support their people group, even at the cost of other people groups
  3. The deity will bring prosperity to the faithful
  4. The deity will enforce a social order, especially one beneficial to the adherents

Read up on how a religion uses these promises in order to attract followers. If you don’t know much about the Abrahamic religions, I encourage boning up on that because of their importance in English language literature. If you’re interested in polytheistic beliefs, study Hinduism, currently the polytheistic religion with the most followers. Strangely enough, I also strongly suggest watching Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath – if nothing else, it shows you how religions can successfully draw people in (though Scientology is a bit crazier than others) by using good acts as a sort of bait.

4. Define Your Society’s and Characters’ Goals

In that last section, we defined what a religion can give an individual. Individuals, though, don’t enforce religious rules and standards: communities do, and communities need reasons to keep the religion going. Society as a whole has goals, just like characters in a book. People often imagine countries as characters, and any group of people can be seen similarly. What does this group want?

Some societies struggle for survival. The Pentateuch (the Torah or first five books of the Old Testament) tell the story of a people fleeing persecution and establishing themselves with the safety God provides. Safety for yourself, even if it means the destruction of others, is a very interesting societal goal. I love that sort of thing because it can be easily twisted to develop a genuinely evil society while still giving the relief of moral goodness. Whether or not God physically did much to help them, the faith at least allowed the Jewish people to band together for their survival.

Remember, society tends to be out for itself. The word “genocide” wasn’t even invented until the 1940’s; even Winston Churchill called the Holocaust a “crime without a name” because nothing had been invented yet. That’s right – people didn’t care about wholesale slaughter of a people group enough to make a word for it until less than 80 years ago. Your society will want to survive and win.

3. Make a Creation Myth

There’s elements to every religion that go beyond creation myths, but almost unilaterally there needs to be a creation story in order for it to work. Part of what has empowered atheism in recent decades is the extremely plausible creation story* that didn’t exist prior to the increased pace of discovery in the Industrial Age. Atheism has always been around, but a “creation myth” was necessary to give it a boost and make it palatable to masses.

The order in which things are created is important in all myths. In Cherokee myths, there is the heavens and there is an expanse of water below. Animals came down from the heavens and dug up the mud from beneath the ocean, then tied the land to the heavens with cords so it wouldn’t sink.

Now, what does that say about the power of animals? How do you think a believer of that story would feel about animals vs. someone who believes animals a passive creation of a human-like god? They’d probably think the animals are much more important!

So what is important in your mythology? Start them early, give them a job, and give them power. Consider when “evil” is created, because that will determine much about the morality of your world.

Your myth can be as crazy as you want.

2. Create a Power Hierarchy

Your religion starts with one prophet, for whatever reason, but then the prophet leaves or dies. What next?

All groups, from companies to unions to religions, must have a hierarchy dedicated to protecting itself. Just like any society, as mentioned in number 4 above, church hierarchy will organize itself to carry out its goals of 1) spread religion and 2) get power for the religion. The Catholic church has a very complex and well-defined heirarchy, and honestly you really can’t get a better example when it comes to religious hierarchy and how it works. They have everything planned out, and it just gets deeper the further you look into it. Though the church hierarchy has done a lot to spread goodness and charity, it has also been used to cover up heinous abuses as well as entrench heinous beliefs. Whether or not the deity of your fantasy religion is good, the believers of the religion are still people, still flawed.

I grew up Baptist, and I didn’t realize there was a church hierarchy beyond just your deacons and a pastor until I got into high school and took history classes. Believe it or not, Baptists have no creed, no real external leadership structure beyond each individual congregation (there are “conventions”, but honestly churches leave those and get kicked out or join all the time, and no one really cares). There’s probably a looser-structured religious group out there, but believe it or not, Baptists have very little structure to their church despite the outsized political power they enjoy.

1. Entrench Your Hierarchy

After you’ve created an organization (or a lack of one, in the case of Baptists and the like), it’s time to look at the part that will really make your religion pop: how does it interact with politics?

There are two main ways you can entrench your hierarchy politically: an outright state with a theocracy (think Iran), or a sort of shadow state that influences government leaders and enforces itself through the power of a deity. A religious hierarchy with sufficient elaboration and order will be able to organize itself effectively and perform both its moral duties and lobby governments of any kind to do its will. Hold souls hostage, get what you want.

If you don’t have a great hierarchy, you’ll probably need to have extremely charismatic individuals that carry a lot of power. As a Baptist, I immediately think Billy Graham. He was crazy influential in politics, and it was probably him who made Baptists so much more powerful. He was able to move masses with a word and cause voting blocs to shift. Following his death, there is no single voice to fill the void, and that is also a risk for a less-organized religion: lack of continuity and lack of singular goal. It’s way harder to entrench loose confederacies for long periods of time.

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Do you include a fantasy religion in your works? I’d love to hear about your deities and myths! Let me know more in the comments!

*These creation stories can be entirely right and still don’t disprove most mythos. However, they can be taken alone, which makes them both interesting and powerful.

Reading List – July 2021

It’s the summer indie book month, and boy do we have some hot reads this July! You’ll want to stick around for these.

1NG4 – Berthold Gambrel

I recently met Berthold Gambrel through his website, and I then also followed his twitter. Peter Martenuac (of His Name Was Zach fame) retweeted that 1NG4 was on a free weekend, so I had to check it out!

Not only that, this is a pretty short book. That’s why, on THIS WEDNESDAY, I’m going to be posting one more review than usual on my blog!

Amazon Link

Liars and Thieves – Diane Wallace Peach

I have reviewed three D. Wallace Peach books in the past (See reviews for The Melding of Aeris, Soul Swallowers, and Legacy of Souls). Peach is a reliably good author, and I’m excited to see what this new series entails. One of Peach’s sneak previews that she posted on her blog indicated that at least one of the main characters was going to be a goblin, and any sort of non-human character excites me. I don’t believe I’ve read anything published with a goblin main character, so it’s time to see how Peach pulls that off!

Amazon Link

His Name Was Zach – Peter Martuneac

Last year, Peter Martuneac submitted his book Her Name Was Abby through my review request form. Though it was the second book in the series (Zach, here, was the first), I was blown away. I assume Martuneac experienced some artist growth between the two books, but I was very into Abby and looked forward to reading this installation. The third book is out, too, so I have to catch up!

Amazon Link

We All Die In the End – Elizabeth Merry

Elizabeth Merry and I follow each others’ blogs, and I know she’s got great style. Her characters are vivid, and her prose beautiful. This collection of shorts (“scenes”) look to be connected by setting, and I think the book as a whole may benefit from this connection. Definitely looking forward to what each tale may hold for me.

Amazon Link

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Rainbow Cat and Cheeser the Mouse

Cheeser the Mouse followed his nose. He peeked around a tree.

A cat’s claws tapped on a pot filled with cheddar. “Hello there, little mouse.” His voice cooed, attractive. “Come, ingratiate me. Do a dance and call me Rainbow. Perhaps I’ll give you this cheese.”

The smell of the cheddar was irresistible for a field mouse. Cheeser stepped out and danced a jig. “Is that good enough, Rainbow?”

Rainbow, while sitting on the pot of cheese, snatched up Cheeser and ate him. “Good show indeed, Cheeser – and at the other end of this Rainbow, you’ll get your cheddar gold.”

This was written with inspiration from the Carrot Ranch prompt “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a cat named Rainbow on an outdoor adventure.” I also wrote, a while back, another story about a different Cheeser the Mouse and a cat named Chaircat Mao. The combination of ideas brought me to write this little ditty.

Photo by Katarzyna Modrzejewska on Pexels.com

Reading List – June 2021

It’s well known out there in Internet Land that June is Pride Month.

I’ll admit that with my upbringing, I have very little knowledge about LGBTQQIP2SAA+ things (and, by the time you’re reading this, there may even be more parts to the impossible acronym). This is honestly a travesty, and I have taken it upon myself to at least attempt rectifying my lack of information.

This month, I’m reading some books that I’ve found with the intention of exploring a new facet of life that I’ve not done any official reading on before.

Johnny Appleseed – Joshua Whitehead

I don’t get the title at all, but Johnny Appleseed is supposed to be a novel about a two-spirit (a.k.a. a person who identifies as a member of a sexual minority but in an American Indian sort of way) man who has to deal with his identity. I don’t know much about Canada or the tribes there beyond “Canadian whites really bad to their land’s indigenous population, too,” but this seems interesting. I’m not usually a fan of contemporary works, so I’m hoping this is intriguing enough to keep me coming back for more.

Sissy – Jacob Tobia

One of the most popular LGBTQQIP2SAA+ pieces of media I’ve ever enjoyed was She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. One of the characters in that show, Double Trouble, was a non-binary shapeshifter voiced by a non-binary actor. Not only that, but this actor is from North Carolina.

And you people know about my feelings surrounding the greatest state in the Union.

So of course I had to read Jacob Tobia’s autobiography/memoirs or whatever. I simply had to.

Transgender History – Susan Stryker

History is one of my jams. As much as a novel and memoirs matter in terms of individual experience, history will always be essential for granting context to works. I have consumed some podcasts on lesbian and gay history that focused on the Stonewall riots, but the history of the modern transgender movement interests me more. I decided to read this book as a result since it’s written by a historian (rather than a rando) and seems from a first glance to be well-researched.

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

Reading List – May 2021

May has become my “hardcore classics month,” and this year I’ve got some doozies for you.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickinson

Charles Dickinson is pretty famous, and I can dig him. I enjoyed Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol is of course a good annual read (also, I played Scrooge once while in school!). I have no idea what A Tale of Two Cities is supposed to be about, but that’s why we’re here: to read old books and realize what kinds of mistakes life is made of.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’ve never been a fan of Sherlock Holmes in any shape, form, or media. Even the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock didn’t do it for me. I didn’t like the Robert Downey Jr. version, and I didn’t even like it when Data played Sherlock Holmes in Star Trek. I also know I don’t like another of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, The Lost World. So why am I doing this?

Two reasons: for that stupid “100 Books to Read Before You Die” (I’m not even sure what year my list is – is it 2018? 2019?) and because I like to give authors two chances. I’m almost certain I’ll hate this one, but it’s shorter than the others on this list and by god that’s going to be necessary as I prep for this month. I’ll go ahead and reveal that I had to start WAY early on reading this stuff.

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Last year, I read The Count of Monte Cristo and thought it was really good – unexpectedly good. This book, for whatever reason, gets associated with The Count of Monte Cristo in my mind a lot, even if that’s stupid. As a result, I decided to give this one a shot with great hopes.

Also, my mom hates this story. She refuses to tell me why, so I do fear that it’ll get a bit too erotic for my typical tastes. That’s just the way my mom operates, though – one penis, and it’s curtains. Tears for days with her. We’ll see.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

One of my favorite books from 2020 was Gone With the Wind. The printing of Gone With the Wind I borrowed from my library included a forward from someone (Pat Conroy, maybe? I don’t know for sure). In this foreword, Anna Karenina was mentioned as an earlier work with an unlikeable, female protagonist that works. 

After finishing Gone With the Wind, I was like, “By God, Scarlett was one of the best-conceived characters I have ever read.” And, if Anna Karenina has some similar traits, I want to know. I want to see if Margaret Mitchell has a stranglehold on cold-hearted bitch.

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here