Thursday, 8 December 2011

Just A Quick Note

Daverana Enterprises has released the 9th installment of Janrae Franks Dark Brothers of Light series, Blood Lies. It and the rest of her works are currently available as e-books via Smashwords and can be purchased here. I really enjoyed working on this book and am pretty chuffed to see it released.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Gentle Rebuttal

As I was sipping my cup of brew this morning it was brought to my attention that a certain individual had launched an attack on the company I work for via Yahoo’s Associated Content service. This individual, Mr. Nickolaus Pacione, is a well known trouble-maker on the web however he has levelled some pretty serious accusations at Daverana Enterprises within this* article and as acting Editor in Chief I would like to take a moment to set the record straight.

Mr. Pacione’s opening line is sheer fantasy. Since I took over Daverana’s small editorial department in early 2010 we have had little to no interaction with GUD magazine. This isn’t because we don’t like Kaolin’s work or feel that GUD is a bad publication on the contrary, GUD has beaten the odds as a small operator and I have to take my hat off to them. I honestly wish that Flashing Swords Magazine had weathered the economic crunch as well as Kaolin’s ‘zine has. We aren’t associated with GUD at the moment due to the fact that we have been busy revamping our website as well as preparing new titles for release in various formats. That is not to say we haven’t associated with GUD in the past. My boss and the owner of Daverana Enterprises, Janrae Frank, has sold Kaolin a piece of flash fiction called The Tale That Launched a Thousand Ships and did participate in a banner exchange with GUD on it’s previous website. I fail to see how any of this can be construed in such a way as to link either venture in such a ridiculous conspiracy.

Mr. Pacione's second accusation, that Daverana ‘rips people off’ is also load of bull. We have always taken great pains to make sure authors are appropriately compensated and to our knowledge, there are no payments outstanding for either the press itself or Flashing Swords at this time. He also seems convinced that Davarana has never actually published a ‘print title’. A quick product search over on Lulu seems to tell a very different story as we have plenty of titles available in several formats at the moment and our brand new website will certainly be showcasing these along with our upcoming releases.

I am aware that a couple of Daverana’s authors have reviewed Mr. Pacione’s writing in the past. However none of them have actively plagiarized his work and openly asserting that our authors and limited staff would waste their very valuable time vandalizing his listings or websites smacks of pure childishness.  To put it simply we are a very small company and as such are just too busy trying to get books out the door on time to invest that much time in harassing this guy.

In the end, I can only speak for myself. As Editor in Chief of Daverana Enterprises, I have never, ever ‘leaked’ a submission to another publication or editor. I have never withheld payment from any author associated with Daverana projects. I have never plagiarized Mr. Pacione.

A quick Google search was extremely educational and it seems that this is pretty much par for the course with Mr. Pacione. Normally I would ignore such ludicrous accusations but it is clear to me that once Mr. Pacione become fixated on an idea he worries at it endlessly, building even more elaborate fantasies about people he believes have slighted him in some fashion. I feel passionately enough about the company I work for that I cannot sit by silently when someone has the gall to insinuate that I am helping to run a less than professional operation based on pure conjecture rather than solid facts.

*Update 11/4/2011  20:40 GMT Associated Content have removed the offensive article and apparently terminated Mr. Pacione's account.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

I won't buy that for a dollar

Today one of my really lovely twitter followers tweeted about seeing certain types of books on offer at a dollar store.

MsM: Found myself in the book aisle of a $1.00 store today. All they had were Bibles & inspirational books = poor folks don’t like info. or lit.

To which I replied with: I’d be more inclined to think the buyers feel that the poor only deserve those selections considering content and dom(inant) culture.

This tiny exchange has pricked a bubble of venom I’ve probably been sitting on for quite sometime. I may say things in this post that cause folks to take umbrage. In some ways that can be a very good thing however I’d like to lay out some personal facts very quickly to head off any spurious arguments or accusations. First: I, personally, have shopped in American style Dollar stores within the last year. As a matter of fact, I’ve shopped in those types of stores my entire life because I have never made a wage or been part of a household that made a wage over the US federal poverty line. Second: While I hold a degree in a relevant field and am currently pursuing a career in publishing I am neither attacking nor defending ‘the industry’. Third, please don’t assume I’m trolling anybody or any organization deliberately as I am more than aware dollar stores are pretty much a necessity for many families in today’s hellacious economic climate. I’m also aware that any fool can print a book these days (vanity presses) and if they can swindle an even bigger fool, get a distribution deal. I feel that the types of books MsM noticed and that I, myself, have seen on the shelves of various dollar stores reflect a certain type of attitude towards poverty and a stereotype that needs to be constantly challenged; that of the ‘deserving’ poor.

There are so many issues surrounding the state poverty in America that desperately need to be addressed. Especially now that more and more of us are feeling that nip at the end of the month, the swamp hot breath of debt on the back of our necks as we juggle credit cards to pay off ridiculously toxic student loans or mortgages or cars. This however is the issue that speaks to me the loudest. I honestly feel that it isn’t a matter of poor folks being interested in finer literature or books featuring primarily facts and information, it is firmly a matter of availability. That lack of availability is directly tied to assumptions about what it means to be poor.

Let me take a moment to clarify some of these common assumptions. If you’re poor in America you are: stupid or lacking education, lazy, lacking in morals, self-discipline, confidence or a commitment to just work that much harder to get ahead. It’s almost always considered a personal failure on the part of an individual rather than a symptom of bigger issues and that, in my eyes, is where the lie of the ‘deserving’ poor is born.

Historically there has always been a class of people that no matter how hard they worked, how often they went to church or how honestly they lived, cannot seem to rise above being impoverished and these are the people those bibles and inspirational books are aimed at. Since everybody knows that being poor is such a miserable state of existence surely the deserving need some sort or comfort and IF someone not so upright purchases such a book surely it can only improve them.

I’m fully willing to entertain the idea that I’m reading too much into such a simple thing. Maybe my own experiences are tainting an innocent practice and I’m bitterly talking out of my ass. What do you think?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

On the Bookstore**

So Andy took me to Fort Kinnaird on Sunday to visit the ‘big’ HMV/Waterstone’s outlet. It was an exercise in heartbreak and frustration although in the end I walked out with some good things. First off books only make up about a third of the floor space in a very roomy unit but considering that particular location is not solely dedicated as a book store that is pardonable. I headed straight for the SF/F section which was shamefully TINY. Four wall mounted units of SF/F titles, one wall unit of Paranormal Romance, one wall unit of ‘Dark’ Fantasy/Romance (aka twilight-esque train-wrecks) and one side of a free-standing floor unit of Horror titles. It was smaller than the SF/F Section in Waterstone’s Dundee, I was flabbergasted even though I should not have been.

I started looking for some of the newer titles that I felt should be easily available like Sam Sykes’s Tome of the Undergates or Black Halo. No copies. I found a single softback copy of City of Ruins by Mark Charan Newton but no copy of Nights of Villjamur. A lone hardback of The Wiseman’s Fear lingered on a bottom shelf but I already had that at home. I started to get irritable.

I flagged down a staff member to make an inquiry, just to see if I was maybe missing titles or a special display. No joy, neither that outlet nor the one at Ocean Terminal had copies of Nights of Villjamur but one of the branches on Princes’ Street did*, they had twenty copies (!) or they could order it in and the title might get there in seven to ten days. I grabbed the fraying ends of my temper tight and thanked the staff members politely, telling myself things like ‘It is not their fault, they aren’t in charge of ordering’ and ‘You know SF/F is a niche market and sometimes you can’t get what you want, when you want it’.

As I stood in that sliver of floor space and strained to find something I really wanted to read, thankfully, a copy of Horns by Joe Hill jumped out at me. Then, three more titles made themselves known in little flashes of interest as I remember bits from a couple of blogs I follow.

You might be scratching you head at this point or think that maybe I’m overdramatizing this experience but let me clarify one very salient point, I am dirt fucking poor right now. Buying books, even just 24£ of books, is a huge deal as that money could be put to better use in the petrol tank or putting cheap food on the table. Andy was trying to do something really nice for me and I NEEDED to make this work out as a positive so that he understood how grateful I am; not just for that day’s purchase but that he tolerates my addiction and at least tries to understand the world I live in most of the time.

When he circled back out of DVDs to check on my progress, I was still pretty frustrated but ready to go. I remember telling him how frustrated I was that everything I consider entertaining tends to be labelled as ‘trashy’, ‘ghetto’ or ‘a waste of time and resources’. He is well aware of how I feel about the publishing industry’s saturation with widely accepted, mass marketed Lit-Fic; shit that I’ve been encouraged to lap up, gestate and re-birth/ reproduce especially since I have a Lit degree that is somehow magically supposed to impart good taste and the ability to excrete the high brow equivelent of literary gold at a whim. It might be frustrating and much more discouraging than the usual course of things in publishing but I’d rather keep slumming, thanks.

*Due to the Edinburgh Trams project (which is a whole different flavour of government fuck up) getting to shops on Princes Street is a right laugh, especially on the weekend. It would probably be safer and more productive to book a cruise that ends in R'lyeh.

**This was originally posted to my tumblr on the 30th of May.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

On Zombies

Otherness is a key component of genre Horror and is most frequently expressed or personified through monsters taken from folklore, myths and legends. Today I’m thinking about otherness in regards to Zombies and why they are still gaining in popularity as pivotal antagonists in modern literature rather than quietly rotting away in the safe corner of cult fandom. Whether they are the shuffling through the darkened and deserted streets of small town America or darting after harried survivors in hive-like cityscapes, Zombies have emerged to take centre-stage.

I am not the first person to turn an analytical eye towards this subject nor am I an expert in zombiology, literary study or psychology. This post came about from catching a tweet Saturday from a follower of mine participating in the chat on urban fantasy. She and I share a love for monsters drawn from folklore and urban as well as rural legends in general and both of us have an interest in seeing them used more frequently in fiction. However the undisputed heavy hitters in Horror at the moment are Vampires, Lycanthropes and Zombies as well as other human beings. I feel that the popularity of Zombies is tied into what they can represent as ‘others’ and that to an extent they are functioning as an expression of our collective unconscious.

Zombies are amazingly flexible antagonists, able to reflect the shared fears of society and have evolved far beyond their historical roots. Originally, Zombies were portrayed as people enslaved after death due to a type of spiritual debt through arcane ritual and curses. Completely lacking free will, emotion and morals, the animated body could only follow the direction of their controller.

Glossing over the obvious factors involving humanity’s instinctive fear of death, a lack of free will is definitely a major fear point as generally people do not seek to be or enjoy feeling powerless. Yet on a daily basis we often find ourselves trapped by circumstances where we must bow to authority on some level, whether that is by acting as a law-abiding individuals or fulfilling the requirements of a job that keeps food on the table. We are constantly frittering away our freedoms as individuals and thus we fear that those we give our power to might abuse it. And yes, those people in authority do abuse it as everyone finds themselves taken advantage of from time to time; by the government right down to those that should be closest to us.

Over time the Zombie has changed to reflect this, most notably embodied in Romero’s interpretation of them however something new emerged at the same time. The controller became non-existent and spiritual debts became much less important. The Zombie was emancipated into spontaneous generation, rising up as a creature of gnawing and ceaseless hunger. Nearly mindless, this type of Zombie functions more as a force of nature, a fact which has been touched upon in multiple interviews and previous attempts at analysis. Through multiple incarnations in film zombies began to take on more signs of intelligence although it remained low more akin to predatory, animalistic cunning. Zombies became a symbol of uncontrolled chaos and consumerism.

The literary Zombie however is a much different creature and reflecting new fears as well as circumstances. The origin of Romero’s Zombies was never clearly explained* although they multiplied through their bite. Even though no one knows where the first Zombie in his universe came from, the spread of zombification followed the same transmission process as other infectious diseases. If one is unfortunate enough to survive the initial contact of a Zombie attack they face a period of incubation and illness as the body fights back only to succumb to death and reanimation as the very object of their terror.

This is an interesting development and plays a rather large part within the cannon of the modern Zombie. A fear of disease is pretty basic and closely tied into our fear of death. Over the last two decades as disease has become a component tool of terrorists the majority of literary Zombies are generated through engineered plagues either accidentally or deliberately released on an un-expecting and woefully unprepared population. This incarnation of the Zombie covers a boat-load of fears; distrust of authority, of our fellow men, the seemingly limitless power of medical science, incurable disease and an end to civilization as we know it through absolute anarchy.

The Zombie is and will remain popular due to the fact it is a view through a mirror darkened, of a collection of the very worst of our human flaws running unchecked. Its flexibility allows for the development and exploration of both the worst and best humanity has to offer through narratives of devastation as well as hope. It is a safe expression of primal as well as modern fears ... so long as it stays firmly on celluloid and on pages.

*Although it is theorized by one scientist in the film, Night of the Living Dead, to have been caused by radioactive contamination from an exploding space probe, the actual cause of the zombie outbreak remains ambiguous. Thanks to the ever-lovely @ruiner85 for checking my facts =)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

And the Saga continues

As most of you know, I’ve been staying in the UK on a Student Visa. There was a lot of drama involved in getting that visa, securing a place at the University of Dundee and then keeping my studies funded yet I managed, with the help of a fantastic group of supportive people, to push through and graduate last June with my Masters in English. Graduation of course meant that there was a change in my immigration status but Andy and I had already decided which Visa I’d be trying to transition to and we relocated to Glasgow, intending to fill out the forms once we had everything sorted after moving.

Earlier this week I started filling the forms in. While Andy was cruising the UK Border Agency website looking for some answers, he found that as of October 1st 2010 the rules applying to Student Visas had changed. Suddenly it looked like I had unintentionally become an illegal alien under the new regulations.

It is difficult to describe just how scary that thought is especially when as we searched for specific answers we found less and less information publicly available. We decided that the best course of action was to start planning my immediate departure, in an effort to show instant compliance with the law as it now stands and that I visit Citizens Advice to figure out exactly what had happened and what I should be doing. If it turned out I had violated my Student Visa, even by accident, there could be serious complications with getting my new Visa issued. Overstaying, even through innocent ignorance, is seriously frowned upon.

Thankfully Citizens Advice came through in spades by providing special information and reassurance. While it isn’t clear whether I’m currently an illegal alien or about to become one, the course of action remains the same. I’m leaving Scotland on Friday the 19th of November and will be applying for my new Visa state-side as the process can take upwards of three months at the minimum. There are several reasons besides legality that this is best course of action. My Mum’s health has been declining in fits and starts since the autumn of 2008 so I’ll have plenty of time to get her sorted out properly. It also means I’ll be able to spend the holidays at home, that if the worst comes to pass and the Visa is denied I’ll be in the right place to just get on with things.

To say the situation sucks is a gross understatement. No wants to leave their partner, pet and home for three months while a faceless entity decides the ‘best’ course of action. Even if the Visa is denied, Andy and I have already agreed that we aren’t going to throw away the last few years. We will figure things out as they happen, as we have always done. There are other options, it’s just they aren’t ideal but then that is nothing new either. It will be business as usual, just in a different time zone. If you’d like to see me before I leave Scotland OR you would like to make plans to catch up once I’m stateside, either text my mobile or Facebook me.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody that helped this crazy situation come to fruition and are supporting its continuation. While I may never fully understand why so many of you are willing to step into the breach for Andy and I, whether it’s financially or just through good will, it is deeply appreciated. I will do my damnedest to make sure that your belief and faith in us, as individuals, are repaid in kind.

Thank you,

* you can read past episodes of the saga on my Live Journal here

Friday, 5 November 2010

A Pair of Shining Examples of What Not to Do

Yesterday as I was cycling through my list of interesting blogs, I came across John Scalzi’s post regarding Judith Griggs, the editor of Cooks Source magazine. You can read that here.

There are two reasons this situation regarding plagiarism caught my attention. First, I often bang on to friends about the intricate ethics involved in working as an editor. Quality aside, I see the work of many people on a regular basis and those people have taken a leap of faith by trusting me not to steal it. I also have very strong feelings about professionalism as well as commitment, to the authors that I work with. Ms. Griggs would appear to be severely lacking in either of those departments. Turning around to berate the author in an attempt to extract gratitude is extremely poor form especially when the majority of so called ‘edits’ were to correct deliberately included archaic spellings. Talk about disregarding the author’s intent, sheesh! The waving of credentials paired with supposed fatigue is also pretty shameful. Thirty odd years of experience should only lead to actual care and competency in the craft rather than a smug sense of entitlement. ‘My bad’ doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of fail in this situation. Public apologies and financial compensation are both just the tip of the remuneration iceberg in what has become a very public scandal.

The second reason this situation pushes my big red button is that the company I work for, Daverana, is involved in a confrontation with yet another plagiarist on the behalf of one of our authors. You can read the details of that here and here

David Boyer is pretty damned despicable in my eyes; he has not only tarnished the title of editor by cheating people out of money left and right but he went one step further by stealing their work and putting his name on it. He has also made a habit of threatening and bullying folks that try to call him on his bullshit. This side of him is being documented in detail over on The Rusty Nail as well as on Writer Beware. So not only is he murdering the trust implicit in author/ editor relationships by stealing work as well as violating agreements or contracts in regards to payment, he is a cowardly bully.

I admit that working with authors is difficult. Ego can be a huge factor on both sides of the relationship along with misconceptions about the industry and at times sheer bad luck or honest mistakes. However there is never a reason or situation in which full out plagiarism becomes or is an acceptable course of action. People like Griggs and Boyer place smaller publishers and publications in a really negative light. They generate horror stories that instil more fear in new authors which makes them even less likely to take a chance with a smaller press or a low paying market like Flashing Swords. There has also been quite a lot of talk about the profession of editing in general lately, most of it being pretty negative. I feel that morally and ethically corrupt individuals like Griggs and Boyer put more pressure on the rest of us to perform above and beyond the bar of what would normally be considered an acceptable standard.

I’m not only angry at Griggs and Boyer on a professional level; Jane Timm Baxter is well on her way to becoming a good friend of mine. It’s hard not to care about the person behind the project that you spend long periods of time, up to your elbows in the literary guts of, on a daily basis. Boyer’s actions and false accusations have caused her a lot of stress and grief which I resent. When an author does agree to work with me, I do my very best to treat them fairly not only because it is important to me on a personal level but that I want them to feel good about partnering with Daverana as a whole.

*edited at 17:10 BST to fix my link-spam!