Hello, my darklings!
I’m going to take this post in a rather different direction than the usual waters in which I tend to swim. I honestly think this is a worthwhile deviation from my norm, and I’d really like to share it with you all.
Earlier this year (February 6, 2021, to be exact), I had the great fortune to be introduced to Angelique Fawns thanks to one of my editors at Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores Magazine. A freelance journalist, fellow dark fiction writer, and now a podcaster (if you like horror, you should really check her show out—she’s got a few episodes up and they’re quite good stories), she’s quite a busy lady! On top of that, she’s raising a family and also does interviews for Horror Tree. In fact, she did one with me that went live on February 14—which you should also check out…haha!
But yeah…those interviews? They’re often with publishers talking about the industry.
Anyway, a few days after the interview, Angelique asked me if I’d like to review her latest book, The Story Behind the Stories.
In the name of honesty, I must say that, at first glance, I thought that it’s a little out of my niche when it comes to reviews. My initial appraisal was that this was mostly a guide on getting your work published. And it is most definitely that…BUT it’s also so much more.
Let me address the “guide” part, and then I’ll address the “more.”
Now, I won’t lie—I love writing for the sake of storytelling, but like most writers, I do want someone to read my stories beyond my immediate friends and family (who, let’s face it, generally only do so out of kindness and love, not because they actually like our writing). I’m not all that bothered about how much I get paid (though I have had the odd daydream of reaching Stephen King fame), but I do want to share these stories that rumble around in my brain. If I don’t, I may go more insane than I already am. And I love getting constructive feedback and talking about the fantasy, horror, and sci-fi genres, in general.
That’s part of the reason why Angelique’s book caught my attention for a review, even though it wasn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse.
Anyone who has been through the publishing process will tell you that doing so is a lot of work. For writers, in particular, it takes a thick skin, a lot of research into marketing strategies and query writing, some trial and error, and a willingness to keep going despite receiving what seems like a mountain of rejection letters. It also helps if you listen to people who have been through the process.
Frankly, while the debilitating introverted side of me feels like I have no idea how to navigate the canals of social networks, platforms, and the like, I also don’t want to scream into the void forever. So, anything that might help me be heard, especially by publishers, is of vast interest to me.
And I get that satisfaction from Angelique’s book. In The Story Behind the Stories, she details the path to publishing for twelve of her stories. This includes the inspiration for each one, the lessons she learned along the way, and even the rejection letters (transcribed verbatim) that she received before each piece was finally picked up by a publisher.
There is a lot to be learned here for the would-be published author. From networking to just having the fortitude to keep submitting, the ins-and-outs of the business, the insight into what various publishers might be looking for…you’ll find it here. To me, that is invaluable insight.
I also see myself in a lot of the advice that she gives in the “lessons learned” sections. For example, in chapter one, “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine,” she mentions the importance of not self-rejecting before you submit a piece.
I absolutely self-reject. Constantly.
I have a bad habit of talking myself out of doing submissions and queries because I feel like I won’t get selected anyway. It’s a self-defeatist attitude that I really am trying to kick, but seeing how others work through that mindset gives me an idea of how to get through it myself.
Another snippet of advice I find really useful is found in the chapter dealing with “Czykmate Productions” (or Hauntedmtl.com). The bits from the publisher about how rhythm in a piece can really make it eye-catching. As writers, we’re repeatedly told that those first few lines, the “hook,” really need to reach out and grab the reader by the throat. Good rhythm, well-written beats, will make your work stand out. To me, that’s an important thing to remember when I’m crafting a piece, especially if I plan to submit it.
On a side note, I’m also extremely envious of her ability to garner contacts in the publishing world. I can only aspire to be that outgoing. Sigh…Maybe one day, right? In the meantime, I’ll just have to live vicariously through works like this.
Alright. Moving on to the “more” part of the book.
What you might not expect—what I didn’t expect—is that The Story Behind the Stories is a bit of a “two-for-one” deal, which I think is pretty damn awesome. Each chapter dealing with a particular publishing venue is followed by the story that they published. They run the gamut in terms of genre: horror, mystery, science fiction, literary fiction…you get the idea. But they’re all really good stories, and I’ve picked out a couple of my favorites to discuss here.
Take “Inked,” for example.
What would you do if the person on whom you’ve just cast a super-strong love spell turned out to not be who you thought he was? The premise is horrifying in general because it could go so terribly wrong—and it pretty much does for the protagonist, Lily. Of course, this particular cursed item story has a fantastic thread of humor running through it which lightens the mood considerably, but yeah…Be careful what you wish for, indeed!
“The Rougarou” is another fantastic tale, this time solidly in the horror camp.
When Louisa and her husband, Benoit, move to the County of Frontenac where he’s been hired to clear some land for a wealthy family. The accommodations they receive aren’t the best (it’s a rundown mobile home in the middle of nowhere with some strange stains on the interior walls), but Louisa can deal with that. It’s the howling that gets closer with each passing night that has her on edge. I’m familiar with European werewolf legends (love them to bits, honestly), but this story makes me want to read up on the Cajun version. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but that’s not an issue because I’ve got a good idea what happens next.
Overall, my main takeaway from The Story Behind the Stories is that it’s a fantastic resource for anyone looking to get their work published. The stories themselves are a bonus because they keep this from becoming just another writing advice book. Not only are they fun to read, but they lend an extra bit of oomph to the advice.
Honestly, even if you’re not a writer, pick it up anyway. The stories are worth it, and you get to learn something about the publishing industry along the way. To me, that’s a big plus, no matter how you look at it. I’m just sad it’s taken me so long to get around to writing this review!
If you’ve had a chance to read Angelique’s work (any of it), let me know in the comments!