Friday, July 12, 2013

Six Questions for Terrie Leigh Relf, Editor of Bloodbond

Bloodbond is a new, bi-annual magazine that publishes short stories, poems, articles, reviews and interviews related to vampires, werewolves, and shape shifters, with special interest in those stories that include a science fiction element. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

TLR: The top three things often shift for me. In general, however, I will look at the author to determine if I’ve read anything by them in the past and/or if they’ve been published by other publications I’ve edited. I like to assist new writers, so if it’s someone I’m working with, that’s also something I look for. We do like to have regular contributors for obvious reasons. What are those obvious reasons? We already know we like their brain matter!

The second thing would be the story itself. Do I like it and/or would our readership like it? There are some stories that may not grab me personally, but I still know they would appeal to our audience. I also might choose something that is unusual. Does that make sense? 

Probably the main reason I’ll accept a story, poem and/or article is that indefinable something (often defined after pondering. . .) that coalesces in my body-mind. Does the writing give me chills? Does it freak me out? Does it cause me to pause? Does it gross me out? Does it inspire me? Is it clever? Do I wish I wrote it? And so forth and so on. . .

SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?

TLR: There are several and they can all probably be categorized into three columns with permeable membranes. I’ll let you (or your readers) create the columns, so here are the contents (in non-hierarchical order): 1. The submitter clearly hasn’t read the guidelines, or if they have, they don’t believe the guidelines apply to them; 2. The submitter hasn’t read an issue (note: We’re currently focusing on issue 1, so this doesn’t apply to Bloodbond, but it does to the other publications I edited for Sam’s Dot Publishing.); 3. The submitter doesn’t proofread, edit, or use correct document formatting; 4. The story needs revising; 5. While stories (or poems) don’t necessarily need to make sense, there needs to be some ground (or a space tether hooked to a Mother Ship) or entrance to the piece (preferably not too large of an obstacle course); 6. The submission is from someone who spams us regularly; 7. The submission is from someone who is high maintenance (i.e., acts as if I work for them, which I do, in a sense, but I think you know what I mean, and if not, ask me!); 8. The poem (or short story) is really a novel in disguise and so I encourage them to handle it accordingly; 9. The submission is an unsolicited revision (and I haven’t been encouraging. . .) and it’s still not grabbing me; 10. While the proverbial everyone is entitled to have an off day or two (or even three), if I kindly decline your offerings, please respond in kind. Remember Patrick Swayze in Road House!; and 11. Because I prefer odd numbers. . .In the case of articles and other non-fiction submissions, I’m a stickler for citations and other professional writing accoutrements. 

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

TLR: Sometimes. It depends on the space-time continuum, though. For example, if someone submits a story to me and it’s not a good fit, I may recommend another publication. If the submission doesn’t resonate with the guidelines at all, I will usually include a note about reviewing our guidelines. I know that some people may read the guidelines and believe their work is a good fit when it’s not. I’ve done this before myself and always appreciate a note from the editor. If the submission needs a lot of editing, and I think it might be a good fit, then I ask the submitter to please take care of that and resubmit. Some people are more than happy to do this, while others don’t respond at all. Sometimes, when I decline a work, if I do so because I’m confused, I will inform the submitter of this. Occasionally, I’ll go back-and-forth with writers about their work without ever having published them. It’s nice to talk shop!

The guidelines are there for a reason. . .I can be persuaded, on occasion, to stretch them a bit, however.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog?

TLR: It’s possible. It would, of course, depend on several factors. Since we’re only planning to publish a few reprints per year, if that, it would need to fill a niche or be something I begged the author to submit for consideration. When I beg, which is rare, that would definitely constitute grounds. Alban Lake is going to have an e-version of Bloodbond, so the fact that it’s already online wouldn’t slide in under the radar in that regard. 

A possible exception would be if it could be classified as a “Letter to the Editor.” While we don’t pay for those, we do appreciate them!

SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive?

TLR: When I decline work, I do want the submitters to know why. I may not go into gory detail about it, but I have in the past, when prompted. Some nice dialogues and cyber relationships have developed from these types of queries! How do I want the authors to respond? Politely, of course. I do appreciate some sort of response, and usually receive one. It can be something as simple as responding with a “Thank you for considering, and I’ll submit something again soon”, to a “Would you please let me know which aspects weren’t in keeping with your guidelines as I did read them.” Be yourself, but be polite and proactive. If an author were to write something like “I’ve been rejected over and over by you. Why won’t you ever accept my work!?” (which someone did write more than once. . .), and if they are dedicated to working on the craft, I may launch into a polite professor-esque commentary. Some people say I’m too nice, but hey, I do this because I love it! I suppose this balances out the fact that other people think I’m way too intimidating! Regardless of how people perceive me, I am willing to provide a somewhat detailed response when queried. Patience, however, is necessary, as these types of responses usually take the back-burner to reading slush and compiling issues.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

TLR: This is one of those questions that I always ask when interviewing! I also offer an extra credit assignment to my students: What did you learn in English 240 that wasn’t measured in the traditional fashion? Another version of this prompt might be this: What did you REALLY learn in this class?

I’m not avoiding your question, just applauding it. . .Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything right now that wouldn’t necessitate an article in response! Now that I’ve thought further, I might ask me what I want to see more of. Response: I want more science fiction tropes, as I’m becoming inundated with contemporary urban tropes, skillfully wrought as they are. I’m also not interested in receiving more rehashes of typical storylines and/or characters. If someone wants to retell Dracula, then please do it from a fresh perspective with enough back-story to situate it. Since Bloodbond, is going to feature shapeshifters, remember that vampires are only one type. Delve into folklore! 

Thank you, Terrie We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 7/16--Six Questions for Emily Wenstrom, Founder and Editor, wordhaus

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