Publisher Interview: Andy Lee

After reaching out for author interviews and guest blogs in a women's writing group on Facebook, I met Andy Lee, one of the founding members of Pub518, an all-female tiny press in New York. We decided to exchange interviews, and got to know a lot about each other along the way!

You started Pub518 back in 2016. What was the turning point for your group that finally made you decide to go into publishing?

The four of us met during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014. I’d done it seven or eight times before, finished it three times. Shannon Kauderer, one of our co-founders, is the Area Leader for Albany NY, she does an amazing job setting up neighborhood write-ins and other events. We kept up our friendship, and our write-ins! At one point, we were moaning about how hard it is to get published. One of the prizes for completing NaNoWriMo is the opportunity to send in work to publishers and editors, but even those folks rarely get published. We decided we wanted to open up opportunities for local writers, many of them are really good! It really has taken off, in terms of submissions, the hard work now is selling enough books to pay for the next one.

What hardships did you face when building Pub518 versus the difficulties or issues you may face now?

Our first year was full of potholes! None of us had ever started up an LLC before, so it was a sharp learning curve getting our business and tax status squared away with New York State and the Federal Government. We also spent a lot of time figuring out what we wanted to do, or start doing, with Pub 518. Obviously we wanted to give local and other writers a chance to get in print, but we also wanted to create a quality product, and we didn’t want to go ‘boutique’, charging writers to publish their work. We decided to initiate a Kickstarter campaign to get the money for our first anthology, Dark and Bitter (https://smile.amazon.com/Dark-Bitter-518-Publishing-ebook/dp/B077QNV838/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1548269800&sr=8-2&keywords=Dark+and+Bitter). That was a pretty intense time. There was a lot of excitement generated around the anthology, and people were amazingly supportive. Even Neil Gaman tweeted a link for us!

Now things seem a little calmer, we know what we’re doing a little better, but there are always ripples we are dealing with. We switched to a new web server recently, and have to make more time for conferences, workshops, readings, and other events. Trying to sell books to make enough for the next publication is a challenge. We’re thinking about taking on individual novels, which is a lot to add, since none of us are able to dedicate ourselves full time to this. So far, all our profits have gone right back into more publishing, paying for advertising and recouping expenditures for conference and other expenses. Our second book is Exploits in the Adirondacks ( https://www.amazon.com/Exploits-Adirondacks-Shannon-Yseult/dp/1720619905/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548272830&sr=8-1&keywords=exploits+in+the+adirondacks ), it came out last year.  Our third is already in production, we’ve been reading submissions and will be out later this year.

As publishing is a full-time endeavor, how do you manage to balance work and writing creatively?

None of us work full time at this, none of us could, yet! We divide up the work, and most weeks all we have to take care of are our marketing commitments. Obviously we get busy when it’s time to decide which submissions get into the next anthology, sending emails, marketing, and so on, We can only give the time we have. We make time to attend conferences and fairs, as well, to sell our books and to network. There are a lot of little details that we divide and conquer. Finding writing time for all of us is a challenge. We still meet weekly, not just the four of us, all the NaNoWriMo folks! It’s a super supportive community of people. I go when I can, and it’s always very satisfying when I can make progress on my own work.

You have a degree in Creative Writing and Anthropology, as well as an MFS in Forrest Science. How did having knowledge in such different fields help with your career and/or personal works?

I’m not sure it’s helped much with my career, but having a diverse background has been a real blessing in many ways. Mostly, it’s fed my curiosity about things, from human culture to ecosystems. How things work, especially interactions, interdependencies. I love when I write about something, delve in and mine a gem, bringing up a little nugget of understanding that I can share with others. It’s so satisfying!

All the women that are on the executive board for Pub518 have such different collegiate and career backgrounds. How does that influence the jobs you do at Pub518?

Not sure how we decided who does what, it’s more about what we were good at, how much time we each have, and what we want to learn how to do (because we all had to learn a LOT). We all have a lot of respect for each other, we’re different in a lot of ways but it’s brought a vastness to our interests and skills. I think Pub518 has seen some terrific success so far because we each bring a fresh and deep perspective, and commitment, to our work.

How does your work differ from that of a larger press? What are the pros and cons?

Pub518 is a Tiny Press. Our intention is to give unpublished writers a chance to build their resume. We don’t charge (we try to compensate at least a little), and we provide final editing (we do an initial read and recommend edits that the author has to do) and a cover as part of our service. It’s really satisfying to get to know these wonderful writers who haven’t yet been ‘discovered’. Authors may not get much money from us, not right now anyway, but we do try to get out in public, market the books, and give folks a chance to start writing more professionally.

Book Spotlight: The Shady Side: Shortcut to Uneasy Street

In an attempt to broaden my reading horizons, as well as connect with other authors, I reached out to people in writing Facebook groups I belong to, asking if anyone wanted to guest blog on my website. That was how I was introduced to this book and I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Noble does a fantastic job of weaving the supernatural and macabre into a suburban-esque setting. Her characters are compelling, and each story (this is a collection of six short stories) is as interesting as the last.

I want to spotlight my two favorite stories here. The first is "Defensive Driving." It follows the story of a man who cannot, for the life of him, stay calm behind the wheel of a car. It certainly doesn't help that his truck is named The Beast, either. When he's gifted a hula dancer to put on his dash, things seem to look up. But, of course, the peace doesn't last for long. Noble manages to create an interesting story in just a few short pages, keeping the readers guessing as to what the insidious factor of the story will be.

My second favorite is "Wrath," simply because it's told from the point of view of a crow, and there's a hippie woman who reminds me a lot of Cosima from Orphan Black. It's seriously one of the more interesting stories to unpack, but I won't give any of it away.

Noble has 160 published works ranging from poetry to nonfiction. And I bet each story is as artfully crafted as the last. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories; they reminded me of the ghost stories I used to read in summer camp as a kid, the ones where you'd put a flashlight under your chin and try to frighten all your friends.

Do yourself a favor, if you're into horror and suspense, grab yourself a copy of this book. The nostalgia, alone, should be enough to compel you. And if not, Noble's artful writing surely will be.

You can get a copy of the book on Amazon, grab the eBook, or visit her online at www.shannonraenoble.com.

Mission Log #257

By: Josh Klafter

Team: The Protectors of the People

Team ID: 6264545

Team Leader: Sensori

Mission Log # 257

RECORDING STARTED:

    Every team has that one mission, the unforeseen disaster waiting to happen. It’s inevitable in our line of work. If you don’t believe that, you must be new here. For all you hotshot rookies who think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, here’s what’s in store for you. You get cocky, you go in arrogant and come out crippled. Crippled by a clear defeat, or the loss of innocent bystanders, is one thing. Crippled by the loss of a team member is entirely another.

    To the council, I apologize for the delay in this recording. With the funeral this past Sunday… no…  I’ll be honest. I’ve been delaying the inevitable of this recording out of fear. This log will be the hardest I’ve had to record yet, but, without a doubt, the most important. I hope this will serve as a lesson in caution to all the other career heroes in New York... no... the world. I hope you’ll bear with me through this log, and be patient if I find myself tearing up. The message is too important.

    Ok, here goes nothing.

I had gotten a lead from my buddy Paulie Ramirez down at the Nassau County Police Department. He believed that a group of registered villains had moved into a small house in Franklin Square, a family-centric residential area under his jurisdiction. While he had their location, what he didn’t have was a bite, a warrant to get him through the front door. Of course, that’s when you turn to registered heroes.

     I saw this as nothing but a small-time gig, checking out the house, seeing if there’s anything suspect about the fucks living there, and taking them down to the station if anything goes awry. So rather than take my whole team, I grabbed Connie… oh, excuse me, registered hero alias: Force of Nature… and Brickbreaker. We even grabbed a couple of beers at Pig n Whistle down on 36th before hopping on the LIRR (we didn’t want to use up any of Force of Nature’s stamina in the off chance we would need it later).

    After about an hour on the train we found ourselves at the front door of a small home, as nondescript as any of the others. The neighborhood was silent, as you would expect from a family town at 11:30 on a Saturday night. However, the first thing I noticed walking up to this house was that the front room’s light, though dim, was clearly on. When you’re surrounded by completely darkened houses on all sides, you notice this. The two cars in the driveway didn’t do them any favors in concealing that they were home. Strike one.

    KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK “Global Heroes Alliance open up,” (standard procedure).

    No answer. Repeat, no answer. This would have deterred me if I didn’t know better. I gave the third obligatory knock and announce, but no one inside budged. Wiggling at the doorknob, it gave me no resistance, and the front door slid open. Strike two. I should have known right then and there to turn back, but I was naive, buzzed, and, to be honest, looking for some action.

    As the three of us tiptoed our way into the front den, we immediately noticed the room was empty. I used my difference to track all of the five occupants of the house down to the bedroom at the end of the hall. Motioning for my teammates to follow, I took the lead as we snuck our way down the narrow, darkened hall. The only thing illuminating the way was a dull, yellow light leaking out from the farthest door. Seconds later we found ourselves in front of it.

    “I know what this looks like, probably just a family getting ready for bed, but be ready regardless, we never know,” I whispered to my teammates.

    Looking back, that was the first wise thing I had said all night.

    Three, two, one, and we burst into the bedroom.

    In front of us was only a bed. At its center, in a mess of blankets and pillows, lay a little boy. The face of this boy will never leave me for as long as I live. His long, blonde hair drooped down over his peachy, smiling face. Remember how he looked, I beg you. Surrounding him were four adults, all of whom dawned the black, striped brand of a formerly-incarcerated villain on their necks. All of whom except one, Paulie Ramirez. Strike three.

    “Wait,” I remember audibly taking a second to process what was in front of me.

    As soon as I understood, I acted.

    “FORCE, GET OUT OF HERE, NOW,” I screamed, pulling out my staff.

    She understood immediately, and hurtled herself through the window ahead, forcefield on, of course. This sent shattered glass raining down on all of us, but that wasn’t much of a deterrence; the fight had already begun. I hated myself for even thinking I wouldn’t need my staff, but thank God I brought it. Brickbreaker’s fists were locked and loaded, so I was still confident we could take them at this point.

    His voice, I remember it vividly.

    “Please, stop fighting…”

It was meek, timid even, but its power was unquestionable. All four of them, including Ramirez, stopped what they were doing and moved back into their positions at the side of this kid.

    It was at this point that I realized we were dealing with a mission way over our ranking. I’m going to try my best to recall our conversation, for the sake of finding this bastard, but... I’m not in the best frame of mind and may be forgetting the exact wording.

    Kid: Ah the Protectors of the People, here at last.

    Me: What do you want, who are you?

    Kid: I guess you could call me a fan. I admire your team’s work.

    Me: Are you hurt, are you in danger? (ugh… so naive)

    Kid: Especially you Sensori. Your passion, your energy, I could really use that.

    What happened next really is unexplainable, but I’ll try my god damn best. It felt like the weight of the world crushing down on me. I could hear Brickbreaker shouting my name, feel him trying to shake me, but it was so... minimal. My senses were muffled, the pressure was killing me. My vision was blurred, but I could see the kid glowing, illuminated in an orange, yellow tinge. Only then I realized that this glow was flowing from me to him.

Then it happened. Brickbreaker threw himself in front of the glow, pushing me away from its grasp. I immediately felt the relief, my lungs clenching, gasping for missed air. I turned just in time to see him floating feet off the ground, spasming, shaking, and screaming. Sparks were bursting from his body; I’d never seen anything like it. Suddenly, the boy shrieked, the aura stopped, and Brickbreaker crashed down onto the carpeted floor, steam oozing from his body.

Before I could even attack the kid, Brickbreaker roared, shot up, and grabbed me in his arms, hurtling us down the hallway and out the front door in a manner of seconds. Down the block I saw the familiar purple energy of Force of Nature’s difference; she was ready to teleport us at a moment’s notice.

The face she made when she saw us racing toward her… God. She burst into fuckin tears, I couldn’t bear it. I looked up and saw, for the first time, what really had happened to Brickbreaker when he saved me. His skin… or lack of… was ripped raw, blood gushing at a rate I had never seen in my entire time as a career hero. He roared through the agony he must have been experiencing… I’m sorry… I’m sorry. Give me a minute here.

    RECORDING PAUSED (66 seconds)

    RECORDING RESUMED

    He didn’t make it back to the city, whatever life he still had left him in the portal.

    If any of you were at the funeral… you would already know that I didn’t make it out of this either… not really. Whatever this kid did, whatever this kid took from me, he succeeded. I’m a cripple… A FUCKIN’ CRIPLE!
    RECORDING PAUSED (153 seconds)

    RECORDING RESUMED

    I may not be able to walk, or fight... or use my difference. But I still have my mind. I won’t stop until this kid… if he even is a kid… is buried in the ground. I hope this log will give the council the ammunition it needs to declare a level 10 threat. No hero is safe… no different is safe. Together, we can stop him. Divided, he’ll take us out one by one, until he’s the only one of us left.

    … Stay safe heroes.

RECORDING ENDED

Book Spotlight: Harley Merlin

By now, you’ve probably seen my mini reviews of the Harley Merlin series and picked up on my love for these novels. If not, you can read about it here.

Let’s start off by getting a bit of background on these novels. They follow 19-year-old foster kid Harley Merlin who, after trying to understand why she can feel the emotions of others, discovers she’s a witch. The first book unfolds in her hunt to understand who she is and where she came from, ending with her learning more about her family than she bargained for.

The rest of the novels thus far follow Harley in her quest to right the wrongs her family committed, all while trying to save her new home. As campy as that might sound, there are more nuances to consider, making this series far from cliché.

First, Harley is 19-years-old. Can I just say how refreshing that is, to have an older protagonist? It’s difficult to find good NA novels, as the genre is relatively new, and most YA follow 15-year-old protagonists (though they are far from being young adults). And Harley doesn’t read as a 30-something in a 19-year-old body, as many characters are want to do. She’s a true 19, with all the quirks that come with it. Plus, she’s a spunky redhead!

Second, Harley is a strong female protagonist. It might not seem like much, but to have a character that doesn’t immediately despise themselves based on their looks (I’m looking at you Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen) is really great. Plus, she’s a badass. Let’s be real, a strong woman who takes no prisoners, but is still relatable, is difficult to write. Forrest does a great job of creating a great character.

Third, the Big Bad, other outlying villains, and supporting characters are all relatable and understandable. What they do and the reasons they do them aren’t simply because they’re the antagonist or best friend. They’re just as compelling as Harley.

Lastly, the plots and timelines make sense. Of course, there’s the big fight at the end, like any good season of Game of Thrones, but the build up to it is nicely paced. Plus, the course of four books takes place over a couple of months. Which make the romances happening, and the time it takes to get to them, believable. They don’t fall in love at first sight or declare their undying affections for each other after a few days. These things take time, and Forrest does a great job of making them all as realistic as possible.

As a side note: Forrest also delves into other kinds of magic from around the world, such as Santeria, Kolduny, and djinns. There’s elemental-based magic, ESP-based magic, superhuman ability magic, and anything else you can think of. Forrest’s world building and incorporation is on point.

Please do yourself a favor and check out these novels, as long as you’re a fan of YA fantasy novels. You won’t be disappointed.