Archive for the ‘Writing and Publishing’ Category

The Plight of the Harried Anthology Editor

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Oh no, not another one!

Read my lips. Or should I say, READ MY SPECS. I guess it was a matter of time before I had to let loose with a tirade about writers who just can’t follow directions. Aside from being a writer myself, I’ve edited a number of anthologies, so I have some experience seeing things from the editor’s seat.

It isn’t what you’re likely thinking, ie having to sift through dire pieces of fiction to unearth the jewels. No. It’s receiving submission after submission that bear not the slightest resemblance to the detailed specs I set out in my calls for short stories. Frankly, I don’t understand it. The entire point of listing these specifications (aka “submission guidelines”) is for writers to understand what it is I’m asking for, with the goal being to inspire them to write something that might fit the bill. It’s a proven method and generally works. Most of the time.

Or make that some of the time.

Or make that less and less of the time.

All I can think of is that some of these writers must have been clearing out their knicker drawers (or, in this case, their short story drawers) and said, “Oh, here’s a story I wrote about an auto mechanic and a duck living on a desert island. I’ll send it over to Mitzi for her sexy epic-fantasy anthology, Thrones of Desire. After all, she doesn’t have anything else to do!”

Err… think again, mate.

As an editor, I always try to be polite when rejecting a story. I know how tough and heartbreaking this business is, and I likewise know that the people who work in it often don’t give writers the time of day, let alone a polite note of rejection (or any kind of note even acknowledging their existence on this planet). But it’s getting harder and harder to be polite, especially when many of the submissions that show up in my inbox are so far removed from what I’ve asked for that the chances of my accepting the work (even with a LOT of revising and editing) is as likely as former Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi returning from the dead to lap dance in a Texas truck-stop strip joint.

Why do writers do this? They are not ingratiating themselves in the minds and hearts of editors by sending over completely inappropriate material. Heck, we’re not even talking about the quality of the story, but the fact that the story is just plain WRONG. I compose detailed guidelines so that writers will know exactly what I’m looking for and, even more importantly, what I’m NOT looking for. It’s supposed to save time – both my time and the writer’s time. But far too many people are not paying attention.

There are a lot of anthologies out there and a lot of editors. However, each anthology is different and each editor is different – that’s why we put together these writers’ guidelines! They’re there to help and guide writers and give them a fighting chance to compete in the submission process. It’s no wonder that so many publishers have slammed their doors on writers, electing literary agents to be the gatekeepers of what comes through the door rather than leaving that task to editors.

I don’t understand what’s so difficult about following directions, especially when they’ve been clearly laid out and are accessible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Is it just a sign of the times? – a general sloppiness and laziness combined with an increasingly poor work ethic? Because I doubt this occurred to such a level in Dickens’ day. Heck, I’ve lectured in creative writing at several universities and I didn’t have this much trouble getting my students to follow directions! Maybe it is a sign of the times, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get anyone to do any job right, let alone do the job at all.

I’m certain many writers who have appeared in my anthologies will tell you that I offer a lot of encouragement, support and sage editorial advice on their work, so it’s not a matter of “grumpy editor.” I work hard to put out a quality project, and I expect a modicum of attention paid to the submission guidelines by those who aspire to be in it. And that includes appropriate formatting, and attention paid to grammar, spelling and punctuation. I’ll remember a writer with more fondness who can’t write his or her way out of a paper bag, but who sends me a properly formatted and tidy story that at least tries to fit what I’m asking for. Writers can always improve their writing. But sloppiness? There’s no excuse for it. Nor is there any excuse to send me a story that has nothing to do with the theme of my book.

I can only assume that the acceptance of electronic submissions is adding to the problem; after all, it’s free to send material by email, so writers can send anything willy-nilly without having to pay for it. Perhaps they might think twice if they have to make a trip to the post office and open up their wallets, especially if the cost involves international postage.

If my blog post has ruffled a few feathers, so be it. After all, I’m the author of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, so a few ruffled feathers are water off the author’s back. Nevertheless, if you’re a writer and can see your reflection in the mirror of my words (how’s that for literary?), then maybe it’s time to do something about it. You are not serving your best interests by sending an editor inappropriate work. It’s pointless, it’s annoying, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Time is money. And most of us don’t have enough of either.

Talk Radio Europe interview with Mitzi Szereto

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Mitzi Szereto takes some time out of her schedule to chat with Talk Radio Europe presenter Hannah Murray about books, writing, Jane Austen, and sexy vampires. Find out more about Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales, and her autumn release Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romanceas well as Mitzi TV!

The interview can be found at:

http://mitziszereto.com/Talk-Radio-Europe-interview-with-Mitzi-Szereto

 

Pitchforks, Jane Austen and Me

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Property of the Pitchfork Coalition

Warning: the following material contains commentary that might offend literary purists and those who lack a sense of humour.

The recent controversy swirling around my new book Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts has come as a bit of a surprise to me, particularly after the tremendous success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Having written my version in the same spirit (minus the zombies), I assumed the reception would be, for the most part, along similar lines. After all, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ended up on the bestseller list and is being made into a film, so a lot of people obviously enjoyed what was clearly intended to be an outlandish parody of a classic novel.

However, with Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts (which is likewise meant to be a parody, albeit a sexual one), a number of people appear to have misplaced their sense of humor. If they ever had one, that is.

I quickly discovered that some journalists, along with a pitchfork-wielding mob of so-called literary purists and Jane-ites, were vilifying both my book (and me as its author) before it had even come back from the printer. It seems odd that there was all this frothing at the mouth from individuals who hadn’t even seen a copy of the book, yet had plenty to say about its contents. You would think I’d penned a how-to guide advocating the cannibalism of young children, judging from the vitriol being spewed in my direction.

There appears to be this presumption by the pitchfork coalition that Jane Austen was some prim and proper spinster who wouldn’t have dared to be so impolitic as to address sexual matters in her novels. Therefore who was I, a lowly writer, to tamper with such purity? I wonder if these hecklers from the peanut gallery have even read the original Pride and Prejudice, since it alludes to matters most impolitic, indeed. Considering the time in which Jane Austen wrote and the fact that she was woman writing in what was a man’s profession, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there was only so far she could go with her characters. I’m certain if she were alive today, we’d see a very different Pride and Prejudice.

Although Austen’s novels dealt for the most part with matters of the heart, she was also a keen satirist and social commenter. Pride and Prejudice was, in many people’s opinion, the wittiest and most satirical works of her career. Writers such as myself have simply carried on in the spirit of Jane Austen, albeit taking a few artistic liberties. Indeed, there’s a long-standing tradition of authors taking pre-existing works and creating something new from them. We see it all the time. Yet for some reason when this is done with Jane Austen, the practice is suddenly denigrated to the ranks of amateur “fan fiction” or else labeled a “rip-off.” Why is that? Why do the re-imaginings of Austen’s works push so many buttons with these “literary purists” – especially re-imaginings that don’t follow the traditional romance route? And why the vitriol, some of which is not very gentlemanly or ladylike? If it’s the sexual content that’s getting these naysayers’ knickers in a twist, perhaps said naysayers should pay closer attention to the original Pride and Prejudice and ask themselves exactly what a fifteen-year-old girl (Lydia Bennet) was doing with Mr. Wickham (a man in full adulthood) or, for that matter, what he was doing with her predecessor, the very young Georgiana Darcy. I doubt Jane Austen intended for us to believe they occupied themselves in games of whist after running away together, since a popular card game wasn’t likely to cause scandal or land disrepute on these young ladies. Whether Austen fleshed out the unsavory details is irrelevant. As stated previously, it was unlikely she would have allowed herself to or, for that matter, been allowed to when the book was written – not unless she was willing to go “underground” with her novel.

Taking pre-existing works and having a bit of fun with them is something many contemporary writers do, just as it was for writers from the past. The fact that some of us have chosen to do so with Pride and Prejudice merely corroborates the longstanding popularity of the novel and the rich fodder it contains. Jane Austen’s book is an amusing satire full of characters both romantic and ridiculous. Authors such as myself have been inspired by what Austen gave us and decided to take it in a new direction.

Perhaps the members of the pitchfork brigade need to pull that stick out of their backsides and get a sense of humor. After all, Jane Austen had one!

♥♥♥

Postscript: The text of this article first appeared in similar form as “Pride and Prejudice and Pitchforks” in the Huffington Post. Interestingly, the vitriol continued even there, so much so, in fact, that Post moderators were forced to remove many of the readers’ comments. due to their inappropriate nature and language. I doubt that Jane Austen would have approved such behaviour! It only reinforces my “peanut gallery” argument about those individuals who have neither read my book (nor, for that matter, anything I’ve written!). Readers are perfectly free to love or hate Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts (just as they are perfectly free to love or hate Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), but at least read the books before passing off what claims to be “critical commentary.”

In closing, I’m pleased to say that Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts was selected by the Jane Austen Society of North America (Greater New York region) to be a raffle prize at their Jane Austen conference this past spring. Evidently it was a pitchfork-free zone!

 

Writers Call for Short Story Submissions

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Writers call for submissions: THRONES OF DESIRE: EROTIC TALES OF SWORDS, MIST AND FIRE (formerly Kingdoms of Desire: Erotic Tales of Fantasy) – an anthology edited by Mitzi Szereto

To be published by Cleis Press in autumn 2012.

Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire is a place where lust and legend abound, and adventure, passion and danger entwine. Think mystical lands and creatures, kings and queens, knights and renegades, heroes and villains, warlords, maidens and princesses. Think battles and danger, honor and dishonor, good and evil. Most of all think hearts filled with passion and secret desire. This is a place where romantic chivalry is alive and well, but so too is romantic wickedness. This is a place where the good do not always win, and the bad are often more captivating and desirable than their altruistic counterparts. In these lush and timeless landscapes, the battle for flesh can be as important as the battle for power. Intrigue, sorcery, revenge, lawlessness, dark secrets and mysterious elixirs; entanglements with supernatural beings – everything is possible in these magical mythical landscapes. Think Game of Thrones and you get the picture!

Word count: 3,000 to 6,000 words.

What I’m looking for: Well-developed story lines and well-crafted prose told in a unique voice and containing interesting characters and settings. Think atmosphere, passion, desire… imaginative steamy tales that transport the reader to fantastical realms. Stories from female and male writers are welcome, as are stories containing characters of any sexual orientation.

Note: Although sexually explicit content is acceptable as well as a more subtle approach, absolutely no stock sex scenes or formulaic writing/terminology. Please refer to my previous anthologies (especially Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance) to get an idea of the variety and style of content I look for. Even though the stories need to have a strong element of eroticism and sensuality to them, I do not want stories that are one-dimensional sex stories or smut. The erotic element is an important part of the story, but it should not be the sole basis for the story or a replacement for plot and character development. No reprints (be it print, digital, or online). Original fiction only. Please do not send me science-fiction or stories that have no fantasy element or plot.

Payment: One-time payment in the range of USD $50-70 (payable on publication) and 2 copies of the anthology.

Submission requirements:

Stories must be formatted as follows: double-spaced Arial 12-point black font Word or RTF document (sent as an attachment). Indent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch. Do not add extra lines between paragraphs or irregular spacing between words. American spelling and punctuation only (i.e. quote marks, etc). Include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable), postal address, and a fifty-word maximum author bio written in the third person. Contract is for one-time, non-exclusive anthology rights with one year’s exclusivity from date of publication. (This may be waived if your story is selected for a “Best Of” collection). No simultaneous submissions please.

In the subject line of your email, please state:  Thrones of Desire

Send to: submissions @ mitziszereto.com

Submission deadline: December 15, 2011. (Stories will be read on an on-going basis, so early submissions are highly encouraged.)

I look forward to reading your work!

About Mitzi Szereto:
Mitzi Szereto is an author of erotic and multi-genre fiction and non-fiction, an anthology editor, blogger for her own blog “Errant Ramblings,” and creator/presenter for the web TV channel Mitzi TV (http://mitziszereto.com/tv), which covers quirky London. Her published titles include Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance; Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts; In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales; Getting Even: Revenge Stories; Dying For It: Tales Of Sex & Death; Wicked: Sexy Tales Of Legendary Lovers; The New Black Lace Book Of Women’s Sexual Fantasies; the Erotic Travel Tales anthology series; and The World’s Best Sex Writing 2005. A pioneer of erotic writing workshops in the UK and mainland Europe and lecturer in creative writing at several British universities, she’s been featured internationally in publications and broadcast media. Her anthology Erotic Travel Tales 2 is the first anthology of erotica to feature a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

 

 

Does My Countenance Look Fat in This? (Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto

Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto

Countenances are integral to literature. Authors would lose a lot of content if we didn’t discuss countenances. Countenances help the reader envision the characters. With this in mind, I decided to write a novel that replies heavily on countenances.

And what better place to start than with Jane Austen’s literary classic Pride and Prejudice?

It all began in the spring of last year with a pilgrimage to Jane’s house in the lovely English village of Chawton in Hampshire. I, along with my ursine sidekick Teddy Tedaloo, decided to visit for a bit of research and inspiration in preparation for the writing of my new book Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. Little did I realise what would come of it.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo call on Jane Austen

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo call on Jane Austen

Yes, folks, you heard it here first. I met Jane Austen (or at least the non-corporeal version). And boy, did she have a lot to say! Apparently when she wrote Pride and Prejudice way back when, she had to tone things down. A lot. There was no way she could get away with telling us all the juicy stuff that really went on behind closed doors (or in the garden or out by the stable). It wouldn’t have been at all politic! Of course, she hinted a bit here and there, hoping the more savvy of her readers would pick up on these tidbits.

Whether they did or not remains to be seen. Therefore the task fell to me to… err… spill the beans.

I must admit that while writing the story behind Pride and Prejudice, even I couldn’t believe what manner of activities the characters were getting up to. Indeed, I found it positively shocking! As my fingers clicked and clacked on the computer keyboard revealing all these hidden lusts and outrageous goings-on in Longbourn, Netherfield, Hunsford Parish and Pemberley, my countenance grew heightened till I could scarcely draw a breath. I had to consume endless cups of tea to calm my nerves as well as take refreshment out of doors before I could continue on to the next chapter. Had it not been for the kind patronage of Miss Austen (not to mention the not-so-kind condescension of Lady Catherine de Bourgh), I don’t know what would have become of me. It’s most fortunate that I also had the pious (or should that be priapic?) council of Mr. Collins available, should I have required it. After all, I didn’t want matters to get too out of control. Not that the fellow had much time for me, what with his various duties in his parish, not to mention in everyone else’s. For a village parson, he sure got around!

I suppose I should be grateful for the wisdom of the Bennet family patriarch, whom one could always count on to be level-headed and not disposed to bouts of excitability like his wife. Though I suppose everyone needs an outlet to blow off steam now and then. Surely you didn’t think Mr. Bennet spent all that time in the library reading?

But what of Mrs. Bennet and her poor nerves? Were they merely the result of a naturally high-strung temperament or was there another reason for her condition? And what about the youngest of the Bennet sisters, dear impetuous Lydia? All those dishy young soldiers passing through Meryton – what’s a young lady to do? Surely she had to sample them all! As for Hill, the Bennets’ housekeeper, perhaps those details are best left to the heartier of folk.

Mitzi Szereto with Mr. Darcy

Mr. Darcy! Be still my heart!

And then there’s our protagonist Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who observed all with a keen wit and a critical eye. She was not the sort to suffer fools gladly. Nor, I suspect, was her creator, Miss Jane Austen.

As for the handsome and prideful Mr. Darcy, well… that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Let’s just say that it was no wonder the buttons on his breeches came loose, what with all that straining going on.

To be made privy to all the sexual madness and mayhem transpiring in Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts,  I recommend you avail yourself of your favourite bookseller and buy a copy today. After all, you don’t want to be left out of all the fun!

Visit the official Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts website.

“Like” the Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts Facebook Fan Page.

Interview with Mitzi Szereto on Visual Radio with Joe Viglione

Friday, July 8th, 2011
Teddy Tedaloo confiscates the Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts author copies

Teddy Tedaloo confiscates the "Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts" author copies

 

Mitzi Szereto chats from South Florida with Boston’s Joe Viglione on Visual Radio in a two-part interview about books, writing, publishing, and her controversial new release Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts.

Click here to listen to Part 1

Click here to listen to Part 2

 

Interview with Mitzi Szereto on Book Talk

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
Portrait of Miss Caroline Bingley (courtesy of Jane Austen Prequels and Sequels)

Portrait of Miss Caroline Bingley (courtesy of Jane Austen Prequels and Sequels)

 

If you haven’t heard about my soon-to-be released book Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, now’s your chance! Check out my interview with Kory French on the Book Talk show at BreakThru Radio, where I discuss how I approached the writing of my version of the Jane Austen classic, along with a whole bunch of other bookish (and not so bookish) topics.

So get listening now at:

Book Talk interview with Mitzi Szereto

 

 

 

 

Pirates Aren’t Always in the Form of Johnny Depp

Monday, May 16th, 2011

pirate (public domain image)Contrary to popular opinion, writers aren’t writers because they have nothing better to do and are merely killing time until they end up at the cemetery. The majority of us who toil with the pen (and keyboard) need to earn off our labours, just like everyone else on the planet. If you ask a bricklayer if he/she would work for free rather than be paid, what do you think the answer would be? How about accountants, librarians, school teachers, electricians, farmers, architects, graphic designers, nurses, shopkeepers, janitors, clerical workers, street cleaners, and so on and so on?

Unless they’re offering their services for charity, I suspect the answer would be a resounding NO. We all have to make a living. We all have bills to pay. And we all have to survive.

So why is it that some individuals out there seem to be under the impression that the product of our labours should be given away for free and without any form of compensation? If you wonder what I’m on about, I’m talking about pirates – and by pirates I don’t mean Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean pirates who steal copyrighted content and upload it to websites so others can read it FOR FREE. We all know this has been going on with music, but how many of you are aware that authors are likewise having our work stolen and, consequently, the food taken out of our mouths?

Despite the existence of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, many authors such as myself have had the displeasure of discovering that our work has been pirated in the form of our copyrighted material being illegally copied and made available for free for download on the internet. It’s all well and good that hugely successful (and wealthy) authors such as Neil Gaiman think it’s just fine and dandy to have our work ripped off and not be paid for it, but hey, Neil can afford to be ripped off. The majority of us cannot. “You’re not losing sales by having stuff out there,” he says. Get real, Neil. Don’t compare your international sales levels to that of the overwhelming majority of writers whose wallets really feel the pain when their work is pirated.

Contrary to what many people might believe, this form of theft isn’t always a matter of scanning print books. These pirates have managed to bypass the digital security measures put in place by electronic publishers such as Amazon Kindle and do their copying that way. (Clearly a lot more work needs to be done on the part of Amazon and others to prevent this from happening.) I’m assuming that these pirates were interested enough in these books to buy them in the first place. So what’s the motivation behind copying them and uploading them to be read for free? Isn’t that what public libraries are for?

Frankly, I just don’t understand what these book thieves are getting out of it. Have they nothing better to do? Do they not have a job or a family or a dog that needs to be taken for a walk? What’s the point of this exercise? Are they serving a greater good? Not if the greater good is a crime, they’re not. Is what they’re doing any different to that of a shoplifter stealing a book from a bookshop? If a shoplifter is caught, he/she would be prosecuted for theft.

Theft is theft.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only copyrighted works that are being pirated. A growing number of authors (many self-published) have been discovering that content they’ve written and posted on websites for free have been stolen and offered for sale on Amazon Kindle as electronic books. Talk about ballsy! But yes, there are opportunists out there stealing work that’s already being offered for free, putting a different author’s name on it, and then selling it for money. It’s bad enough to be cheated out of money, but to be cheated out of getting credit for your own work as well? Talk about adding insult to injury!

Some of the file sharing sites that have uploads of copyrighted material work in conjunction with an organisation called the DMCA (apparently nothing to do with the governmental statute), therefore pirated material can be reported (and hopefully removed) by them. However, for those sites that don’t have a relationship with this group, you’re sort of shit out of luck, especially if you can’t find anyone at the site to report the stolen content to (which is often the case, especially if they’re outside the USA). Having said that, if the site collects a subscription fee from its users, you can report them to the financial services they employ, be it PayPal, MasterCard, etc, which may or may not result in the financial relationship being terminated (and therefore causing inconvenience to the site offering the pirated material). The point is, writers need to be vigilant and chase after these bastards themselves – and be prepared to make it a part of their regular work routine. Further to this, book publishers need to become pro-active about this issue, because they too, are losing money. The responsibility should not be borne entirely by the author.

For those of you out there who have no sympathy for writers and can’t understand why we’re bitching when our work is at least being read, let me pose the question again: Would YOU work for free?

 

Win a copy of “Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts”

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Teddy Tedaloo receives his advance copies of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts

Teddy Tedaloo receives his advance copies of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts

Step right up and enter to win a chance to receive a pre-publication copy of my raunchy and outrageous new novel, Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts! The book won’t be out till July, but if you fancy a sneak preview, speak now or forever hold your peace! (Or whatever it is you prefer to hold…)

For more details on how to enter, please visit the official Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts website. Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, you can become a fan on Facebook and keep up with all the news! After all, you don’t want to be left behind, do you?

 

Mitzi Szereto chats on BBC Radio Shetland

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with the BBC Radio Shetland "Sideways" crew

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with the BBC Radio Shetland "Sideways" crew

During my recent appearance at the Wordplay book festival in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by BBC Radio Shetland presenters Jonny Polson and Amz Fisher for the “Sideways” programme. Topics discussed include how I got started writing, teaching erotic writing workshops, my upcoming books (including Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts), and pretty much everything else I get up to that’s suitable for broadcast on the BEEB!

Listen to the interview here:

http://mitziszereto.com/Sideways BBC Radio Shetland with Mitzi Szereto