Archon is a smash!

We had so. much. fun. at Archon last weekend – so much fun, indeed, that it’s taken me six days to write it up because I’ve been recovering.

Archon is always one of the highlights of our year, and it’s our home con, so it’s also a family reunion. Literary Underworld authors were out in force, including Sela Carsen, T.W. Fendley, Nikki Lanahan and Michales Joy. At any given time you might have seen any of us at the booth, or our Minions, Cole and Ian – who have actual minion badges now. We’re very proud of that. Our good friends from Pro Se Publishing and Yard Dog Press were also there, and it was great to catch up with them in meatspace. We also launched preorders for A Woman Unbecoming, a charity anthology from our friends at Crone Girls Press to benefit reproductive healthcare advocacy. Click here to preorder your copy.

And, of course, there was the Traveling Bar. As is our custom, we opened our doors both nights to serve drinks and talk shop. Jim served as bouncer with backup from our good friend Scott Cousins, and Sela was our Social Butterfly keeping the conversation light and friendly and alerting either of us if there was a potential problem. At this point, we’ve got it down to a science.

On Friday, we opened the doors at 9 p.m. and I started serving drinks about 90 seconds later. My arm literally did not stop moving until I yelled union break at 11:45 so I could hide in the bathroom and stretch my poor arms for five minutes. Then I was back behind the bar until we yelled last call at 1:30 a.m. Saturday was almost as crazy – there were a couple of five-minute spells where I didn’t have anyone asking for a drink, which did not occur on Friday.

Oh, was I tired. I’m still tired just thinking about it, and I’ve slept since then. But everyone had a fantastic time, and that’s the important part. Well, that and making a living, of which Archon is always a major part. But there’s something really fun about being the bartender at a con party, and that’s the people. Most people are happy when they come in and happier with the drink in their hand, but some people are so happy, so grateful, and greet me so cheerfully, it creates this lovely positive energy that I absolutely love. It really felt like the vibe at Archon was back to normal, or as close to normal as we can get with the spectre of the Voldevirus still looming over us.

And around the corner were our friends at SausageFest, raising money once again for cancer research. Sadly I did not get over there to try this year’s snausages, but fortunately everyone else at the con did, or so it seemed. If you want to kick in a little toward their fundraising, click here. They are the bestest neighbors.

Many thanks to all our friends who greeted us so warmly, to our customers who bought books, to our guests who drank the booze and partied with us, to the Underlords and member presses who were there or who supported us from afar, and especially to Minions Ian and Cole, who hauled all the books and booze back to the van and to LitUnd’s dungeon until the next time. (Okay, it’s a storage unit we like to call the warehouse when we’re feeling grandiose, but “dungeon” suits, don’t you think?)

Click here for the photo array. Because what is Archon without costumes?

Stubbornness as a tool for success

By Jason Sizemore

 

There are many variables that dictate how successful you will be as a small press author, publisher, or indie writer. Some are obvious: quality of content, branding, personality. But every hero’s journey has that moment where everything is darkest and the hero is on the verge of failure. How do you respond to this challenge? Personally, I answer with stubbornness.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting next to Literary Underworld Supreme Leader Elizabeth Donald for nearly 20 hours. It was for a local regional convention where both of us were hoping to make a few bucks for ourselves and our authors via bookselling to waves and waves of readers dying for new genre fiction. I pictured Elizabeth and I smoking stogies while counting fat stacks of money.

The throngs of adoring readers never appeared. I sold a total of five books over three long days of sitting behind a table, smiling and waving at people. Staring woefully at Elizabeth Donald. Elizabeth staring back at me, surely wondering why I was staring at her.

Live events are like that. Some weekends you’ll hit the jackpot. More often, you’ll sell enough to break even. Once in a while, you’ll have a soul-crushing “five-books-sold” type of convention.

I have a bad habit of letting a bad weekend get me down. After this recent poor showing, I fell into a funk. Some of it was self-pity, much of it was self-hate. I had decided that I was the reason for the failure to sell books. There had to be something about my personality, appearance, demeanor that was off-putting to people who approached the Apex Books table.

I posted my fears to Facebook. Thankfully, no one admitted to finding me creepy (though I’m sure some were just being polite). Instead, many offered insight into sales tactics. Others shared their similar bad experiences. The confidence boost put me back on my feet. That familiar stubborn notion that I would not let one bad weekend keep me from continuing my trek as a small press publisher.

As creators, it is easy to be too hard on ourselves. We are already rife with anxiety and the usual problems of being introverts. Our failures feel magnified more than they should be. For example, all weekend at the convention as I sat there staring at Elizabeth Donald, I kept thinking about how others must be seeing how poorly the Apex Books table was doing. Apex Books, the little company with the Nebula Award finalist and multiple Hugo Award wins, drawing no attention. “Sizemore must be doing something wrong.” I should be more aggressive and not be a passive introvert when people come to the table.

Obviously, nobody pays attention to how much business a certain vendor is doing. Most readers don’t care about awards and award-nominations. Being friendly and helpful when someone approaches the table beats an overbearing, aggressive approach.

While using stubbornness as a shield, I recommend personal introspection as a means of making yourself feel better about the time and money lost. Only once have I ever done a convention and sold less than five books. Yet, that same convention is where I first met Lesley Conner. A decade later, she’s my editing partner and the other half of Apex Books and Apex Magazine. At Scarefest some years ago, I paid an exorbitant sum for table space only to sell about $100 of books that weekend. But my table was next to Midnight Syndicate. I became pals with the band and consider them friends.

At this convention where I only sold five books and pouted online afterwards about my lack of sales, I had ice cream with Ellen Datlow. Had a bonding moment with Jeff Strand about Anton Cancre’s weird antics. Accepted the gracious praise of numerous people who sought out the Apex table to tell me how much they appreciated the work we did.

These things, though intangible, have value. Social capital. Networking. Friendships. These things are often far more valuable than a few hundred bucks at a live event.

It’s okay to feel disappointed in the moment. I certainly do every single time I do poorly at an event. But I encourage you to fall back on stubbornness and introspection so that you can properly assess the actual value of your time spent at the event.


Help Jason not feel like a failure and support the Apex Magazine 2023 Kickstarter! Apex has been part of the Literary Underworld for many years and we have always been proud to offer their titles. Apex’s Kickstarter launched on July 27 and runs for one month, offering preorders for the amazing content they’ll be offering all next year. Exclusive content, free fiction, and awesome stretch goals await! 

 

 

Jason Sizemore is the publisher and editor of Apex Books and the award-winning short fiction genre zine Apex Magazine. He’s a multi-Hugo Award nominated editor who also occasionally writes a short story or two. His debut collection, Irredeemable, is available from Second Star Press. For more information visit www.jason-sizemore.com or you can find him on Twitter @apexjason.

Old Home Week at Midsouthcon

It was a delight to return to Midsouthcon, in many ways a “hometown con” for some of the Literary Underworld. Finally back in person after two years of COVID hibernation, Midsouthcon also has returned to the famous airport hotel where it was held waaaaaay back in the 1990s when Literary Underworld co-founder Elizabeth Donald was in college and attended far too many literary panels as an aspiring writer, which she remembered fondly years later when she was a Guest of Honor at the Memphis show.

It’s also home territory for Jim Gillentine, born and raised in Memphis, and for some time, Midsouthcon was the only con he knew. Joining us this weekend were the usual suspects, including Underlord J.L. Mulvihill, the good folks at Pro Se Publishing and Dark Oak Press, and our newest member, Rachel Brune of Crone Girls Press! We threw poor Rachel into the deep end of the pool with a full LitUnd con marathon including two nights of the Traveling Bar, and she’s still speaking to us.

We also got badges! (We don’t need no stinking…) Underlords and Minions each got a badge identifying them among the LitUnd crew, and David Tyler received the one and only Henchman badge after all the many many cons he has done through the years. These will be upgraded to actual buttons when Management gets her act together.

 

Rachel meets Yorick, booth mascot lo these many years. She shook him and asked, “Why does he rattle?” Of course, we vets know that Yorick has had a screw loose for many years….

 

The current state of the Traveling Bar. Hm. I think we’re out of vodka…

 

Two philosophy majors found Jim at the party. There may have been discussion of Kant and Nietzche; the rest of us were too busy drinking.

 

Jen Mulvihill asked them to watch her purse.

 

The Literary Underworld Bouncers. Fear them.

 

It’s been a hot minute since Elizabeth say Tyrone Tony Reed Jr. and his lovely wife, and they got to do a signing together!

 

The inevitable signing.

 

Many panels were rocked, many books were sold, many drinks were poured, and Jim had a baptism of fire on the Dark and Stormy panel, which Elizabeth has sworn to never do again. We all had a terrific time, are thoroughly exhausted, and thank the con staff for their hard work and showing us such gracious hospitality.

Rachel says Yorick demands his own badge. We will take this up at the next staff meeting.

Welcome to Crone Girls Press!

We denizens of LitUnd Towers are absolutely thrilled to announce that Crone Girls Press has joined our cooperative! Some of us have already had the pleasure of seeing our work published by Crone Girls in its fascinating and creepy anthologies, and we’re looking forward to many more terrific volumes from this up-and-coming new press.

This coming weekend is our triumphant return to Midsouthcon after four years or so of missing out on the Memphis fun, and we’re delighted that Crone Girls publisher Rachel Brune will be joining us for the first time there! (That means Rachel also hasn’t experienced the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar. Shhh, no one tell her.)

We hope you enjoy the offerings from Crone Girls as much as we have, and look forward to sharing them with you! And now, a few words from Rachel.

 

In 2019, I sat down to publish a collection of my sister’s short horror fiction. When she sent a grand total of one story, I decided to recruit some of my writing friends who also wrote horror, and our first anthology, Stories We Tell After Midnight, was born.
With our first title under our belt, I decided to branch out and publish two anthologies in 2020. The first, Coppice & Brake, was a full-length anthology of horror and dark fiction with distinct Ray Bradbury vibes. Its publication also coincided with the Great Plague of March 2020 and beyond.
Even though writing, reading, and publishing horror in the midst of a life-changing pandemic isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we’ve managed to put together a decent slate of horror anthologies that feature the work of authors from all over the world. In addition to the full-length projects, we began a series of three-novella mini-anthologies, Midnight Bites, the first of which featured the work of Literary Underworld’s own Elizabeth Donald.
So, what’s next for Crone Girls Press? We’re currently working on a sequel anthology to Coppice & Brake, titled Tangle & Fen. We have several Midnight Bites volumes scheduled for 2022, and are currently reading submissions for more. You can find us at a number of fan conventions throughout the southeast, as well as with the Literary Underworld.
And, finally, if you’d like to come hang out with the Fiendish Readers of CGP, come check out our Facebook group.
______________________________________

 

As a military journalist, Rachel A. Brune wrote and photographed the Army and its soldiers for five years. When she moved on, she didn’t quit writing stories with soldiers in them; she just added werewolves, sorcerers, a couple of evil mad scientists, and a Fae or two. Now a full-time author and writing coach living in North Carolina, Rachel enjoys poking around former military installations and listening for the ghosts of old soldiers… or writing them into her latest short story. In addition to writing, she is a contributing editor to the Writerpunk Press anthology series, which benefits the PAWS no-kill animal shelter in Lynnwood, WA. She also contributed her editing talents to the Pride Park anthology, proceeds of which benefit the Trevor Project. She lives with her spouse, two daughters, one reticent cat, and two flatulent rescue dogs.

Contra!

There’s a no-photography rule at Contra, but it doesn’t apply to our inanimate objects! Delighted to be here with our friends in Kansas City, and to return to Contra after the Voldevirus-induced year off.

We’ve had a wonderful time. We missed you!

Imaginarium ahoy!

We here at LitUnd Towers are absolutely thrilled to be returning to the convention circuit with Imaginarium! Literary Underworld has been attending Imaginarium for every year of its existence with the exception of last year, when a stupid virus ruined everybody’s fun.

Now we’re back, and delighted to bring our booth AND the famous Literary Underworld Traveling Bar back to Louisville, Ky.! Many thanks to Stephen Zimmer and the good folks at Seventh Star Press for helping to make this possible. We always love attending Imaginarium, as we not only get to hobnob with our fellow wizards, but we usually learn a thing or two ourselves.

Imaginarium will be offered as a hybrid convention, with both virtual and on-site events for the weekend of July 9-11. Literary Underworld authors in attendance virtually include Sela Carsen; if you’re on-site in Louisville, you’ll meet Elizabeth Donald, Steven Shrewsbury, Stephen Zimmer and J.L. Mulvihill in person!

If you’re able and comfortable doing so, we hope you’ll join us in Louisville! Look for the Literary Underworld booth in the vendor hall, and watch our social media and signs on the booth for the location of the Traveling Bar. And if you’re not ready to travel, consider joining us virtually! We’ll try to post the panel schedules of our members as we can, including which ones can be accessed online.

Here’s to a fun, safe and delightful return to the con circuit, and to a better year than the last! (Not that it would be hard….)

Also! Mark your calendars for Archon in October and ContraKC in November, because we’re back, baby!

 

Patreons! New projects! Return to cons!

We’ve got a bunch of news to share, but first we’re going to talk about PATREON.

If you’re under a rock and don’t know what it is, Patreon allows people to subscribe to a particular writer, artist, musician etc. and receive regular content on an ongoing basis. Much like the patrons of the Renaissance, you get to be part of supporting independent artists in a culture and economy that doesn’t really make space for the arts. For many of us, it’s a really important part of making our living, and your $1 or $5 a month goes a lot further than you think.

And we have several authors with terrific Patreons and awesome content!

New to the club: Underlord Frank Fradella is launching a brand-new Patreon this month. Frank is the Renaissance man of our time, I swear: he’s been a novelist, a blogger, an editor, a publisher, a stand-up comic, a filmmaker, a podcaster, an educator, an artist, a pirate radio show host, a game designer, a comic book writer, a tarot deck creator, a mindset and empowerment coach, and the dad of three amazing boys. His Patreon will offer art, blogs and other writing, podcasts, serialized fiction, webinars – stop it, Frank, you’re making the rest of us look bad! Check it out here.

Nick Rowan is offering crafts and pictures, writing and Sexy Saturdays. Some higher levels get goodies in the mail! He writes: “My goals are to improve my writing, both novels and short stories and to continue providing quality content. (Also to decrease my yarn stash!) Welcome to my little corner of the universe. Where drunken PIs stalk the undead, where even demons fall in love and where the Space Exploration Rangers make life a little better for everyone.”

Sara M. Harvey is offering fiction and art history at her Patreon! “This Patreon will be devoted to a series of short stories called Starcrossed about two immortals who are dreadfully ill-matched but become lovers anyway. These tales will span hundreds of years from Ancient Greece to the present day and will be told in the order in which our narrator shares them (so, not necessarily in chronological order). While nothing will be explicit, this is a romance so expect some naughtiness… In addition to Starcrossed stories, I will also be filling in with some blog-type posts about the art history and clothing of the time period I’m writing about. My goal is one piece of fiction and one instructional post per month. (And maybe some bonus silly content like dog and kid stuff.)

Elizabeth Donald does essays, travelogues, photography, fiction, poetry and blogs from the MFA Circus at her Patreon! Posts range from wordcraft and publishing discussion to poems created in workshop to photo shoots on the road and travelogues from around the country (at least when the pandemic isn’t locking her up in her tower).

In other news….

• Congratulations to Underlord John McFarland, whose new collection The Dark Walk Forward is getting great reviews. His earlier novel The Black Garden is being re-released by Dark Owl Publishing with a lovely new cover. We carried the first edition of Black Garden for many years, and it’s a lovely, ethereal gothic horror novel sure to chill you! We will be delighted to carry the new edition, and in the meantime, pick up your copy of The Dark Walk Forward! And check out this interview with John about his work.

• We’re happy to announce that Literary Underworld is going back on the road! After more than a year staring wistfully at the boxes of books, we are booking cons again. First up will be Imaginarium, taking place July 9-11 in Louisville, Ky.; then Archon in Collinsville, Ill. on Oct. 1-3 and ContraKC in Kansas City on Nov. 5-7. In the meantime, of course, all our books are available at our online store!

• Underlord J.L. Mulvihill has a TV show! On the Page focuses on writers and writing, as Jen interviews Michael West, John Hartness, L.A. Story and others. Check it out here!

• Congratulations to Underlord Steven Shrewsbury on his nomination for the Imadjinn Award for best horror novel, honoring Along Came Evening. We don’t have that one yet, but you can bet we’ll be picking it up soon! Good luck, Shrews! Here’s the full list of nominees.

Thanks for sticking with us, friends. Hopefully we’ll see you on the road soon!

Conflation!

This weekend is CONFLATION! Always a pile of fun, Conflation was the last con we were able to attend before the world fell apart. Everything afterward was canceled. Stupid virus.

Conflation is not taking place in real life this year. Instead, the organizers have developed an online convention that goes beyond the basic Zoom-panel deathmarch into a Second Life world, gaming site and more. Literary Underworld has been going to Conflation for years – in fact, a few years ago Conflation named LitUnd founder Elizabeth Donald as queen! (They don’t have GOH, they have royalty. Like I said, a pile of fun.)

We’re really looking forward to exploring this virtual playground with our friends from Conflation. In honor of the event, we’re offering a discount to attendees. In addition, we are donating a portion of all sales this week to the Metro-East Literacy Project, which promotes reading and literacy awareness on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area.

Here’s hoping more conventions will be able to return in real life soon, and in the meantime, remember to support small press authors by shopping at Literary Underworld.