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Doug Wood, the publisher of Notorious Press who is doing the Hardboiled Horror anthology, wrote me today to talk about our end game.  The deadline is approaching, and he'd like to know how long it will take me to make my final selections.  He also was interested to see if I noticed a trend in where the submissions/acceptances were coming from, since this is a crossover anthology between horror and mystery.

Here's what I told him:


What is remarkable to me (it shouldn't be) is how few of the names I recognized, so it's hard for me to make a good guess at the authors' writing background.  Not everyone said much about themselves in the cover letters.  I got a lot of serial killer or police procedural from folks who said they were members of the mystery writers' organization, and those didn't do much for me if they ended up to be run of the mill disturbed personalities at the heart of them.  But I also have a few really well written, interesting character pieces from the mystery writer crowd that were very effective.
It's a toss up.
What I haven't seen are very many interesting mysteries in our horror/crime/detective antho.  I mean the kind where there are twisty clues to follow and shifting suspicions, culminating in a reveal at the end that gives me that nice doubled reaction of, "Wow!  I didn't see that coming," followed by a slap to the forehead and an, "Of course, it had to be that way."  Those have to be extraordinarily hard to write!
I've learned something about what I think about horror by doing this process.  The stories that are in the hold folder right now have a tendency to have more emotional punch to them, I think, than just cinematic horror.  I don't know if I can explain this well.  Hmmm.  Body part horror didn't work for me.  There could be a gruesome image (the cinematic part), but if I as a reader didn't feel involved in a visceral way so that the horror got to me, then I didn't keep the story.  It didn't matter if the piece was science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, historical, western, romantic, etc.  The horror had to get to me.  Horror truly is an effect, not a genre.
I think I should be able to wrap up a table of contents to send your way with the stories within three weeks after the deadline.  I'm already culling the hold file to toss the close stories that I know now are a miss.
With two weeks to go, I've seen 319 manuscripts.  I may get a flurry of submissions in the last days.  I'm not sure, but I don't think it will take much time after the deadline for me at least respond to the immediate rejects.  After that, I'll have to make the harder decisions on the stories that are good but have to be sent back because of lack of room.
I'll be interested to hear your reaction to the choices.  There are some stories that I think are just dynamite but definitely hung out at the edges of our guidelines.  There are some very cool pieces here.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 17th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
Editing Report #7: Closing in on the End Game
>> There are some stories that I think are just dynamite
>> but definitely hung out at the edges of our guidelines.

Got to love "the edges" if you like modern horror. For me, anthologies are there to showcase variety, even within an overall theme.

-dougwood, notoriouspress
Sep. 18th, 2007 10:38 am (UTC)
I hope that you tell authors that you thought their stories are when you reject those that don't fit the theme.

I agree with Doug Wood's comment about stories on the edges of the theme - they could be refreeshingly good.

Question for all ANTHO editors:
How would you feel about a two-short-sentence notes with promosing story rejections.
Sep. 18th, 2007 12:12 pm (UTC)
I find that I'm writing personal replies more the deeper I get into this process. The close ones, or the ones that are well written but just the wrong kind of story for this antho certainly get notes from me.

I think that is generally the case with most editors, though. When an editor sees someone who she/he thinks is almost there, a personal note is standard behavior. The food chain of rejections goes like this: uninviting form rejection, pleasant form rejection (many magazines don't have two flavors of form rejections), rejection with a personalized comment from the editor, an invite to rewrite, a contract.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )