AMA: Horror Writing, Editing, Small Press Publishing and Dragon's Roost Press' upcoming anthology and current Kickstarter Campaign.

Michael Cieslak
Jan 12, 2018

Dragon's Roost Press is the publisher of a number of horror and dark speculative books. We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund our new anthology -- a two volume collection of over 30 stories featuring various cryptozoological creatures. As with our previous anthologies, a portion of the proceeds of all sales of the new anthology will benefit the Last Day Dog Rescue organization, a group which adopts dogs from high kill shelters and fosters them until they can go to their forever homes.

Ask Editor in Chief Michael Cieslak about small press publishing, putting together anthologies, writing, editing, and horror  in general.

Comments are locked

Conversation (62)

In three easy steps and under a minute you could be hosting your own AMA. Join our passionate community of AMA hosts and schedule your own AMA today.

Let's get started!

Thank you all for your amazing questions. I had a great time chatting with you all.

Jan 12, 7:11PM EST0

Who's that little redheaded YA author in Dragon's Roost Press?

Jan 12, 6:33PM EST0

You mean the formerly redeaded YA author? That would be the incredibly talented Mary Lynne Gibbs, author of the Jericho novels and Maiden's Courage and absolutely no relation to the voice of Boo.

Jan 12, 6:36PM EST2

I've spoken a lot about writing, reading, Dragon's Roost Press, and the GLAHW, but I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention one other thing that is near and dear to my heart: Penguicon. It started out as a convention for Linux users, but soon everyone realized that they shared a lot of similar interests. There are tracks on computer programming, literature (which I am the track head of), food, animee, life, science, DIY, costuming, action/adventure, and of course the After Dark track. It is easily one of the most inclusive conventions I have every attended. No matter what you area of geekdom, you are sure to find kindred spirits at Pengiucon.

Jan 12, 6:12PM EST0

I mentioned in one of the comments that we have some exciting things coming up for our Kickstarter campaign https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dragonsroostpress/hidden-animals-a-collection-of-cryptid-fiction

If we reach the half way point by the end of the weekend ($2000 by Sunday midnight) we are going to do a Livefeed which will feature the two most exciting members of our team -- the dogs Tesla and Titus!

I wanted to announce that hear first!

Jan 12, 5:58PM EST0

"Here" Sorry about that.

Jan 12, 6:13PM EST0

Hello everyone and welcome to the AMA! I'm ready for your questions, so fire away!

Sorry, didn't mean to rhyme there.

Jan 12, 5:01PM EST0

Is there a particular writing work that made you interested in horror?

Jan 12, 5:09AM EST0

I've always been kind of drawn to the darker side of things. I loved Ray Bradbury and Roald Dahl as a child. 

I know that the first real "horror" book that I read was Stephen King's Nightshift. The paperback had one of the creepiest covers I have ever seen. Night Shift Cover. Both of my parents were big readers. That book was on the end of the shelf in the living room, those creepy eyes staring at me every time I sat down on the couch. I finally decided that I was going to see why some guy had eyes all over his hand and read it. I was probably 10, maybe younger at the time. Probably too young for that particular collection, but I was a precocious child. I jumped into Mr. King's world and I've been hooked ever since.

Jan 12, 5:47PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

Can you tell us more about your other writing works?

Jan 11, 4:44PM EST0

You mean you want me to brag about the things that I have written? Thank you for the opportunity :)

The bulk of my published work has been in the horror genre. I am an officer in the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (http://glahw.com) since its inception. We put out two anthologies a year. One is a themed anthology entitled Erie Tales (which I have edited for the last few years) and the other is entitled Recurring Nightmares. We hold a Halloween party each year to benefit a number of local literacy organizations. One of the ways we raise money is to raffle off items, including a chance to be named in every story in the Recurring Nightmares anthology. You can be the hero, the villian, the victim...

I've also written superhero fiction and a graphic novel script for Source Point Press (who will be publishing a collection of my short stories later this year entitled Urbane Decay), some steampunk, and a little sci-fi. Most recently I have written a portion of an RPG supplement for the Pugmire game. It's rather like D&D, but all of the humans have disappeared and the world is populated by intelligent dogs, cats, etc. The supplement I worked on was in three parts -- the game scenario, the rules applying to that scenario, and how one of the legendary characters worked through that scenarios. I wrote the latter part from the viewpoint of Pan Dachshund which was really fun. I still can't believe that I got paid to write from a dog's viewpoint. Amazing!

In addition to the material that Dragon's Roost Press will be publishing this year, I am working on an urban fantasy novel set in the Detroit area (which may or may not have Cthulhu-type beings making an appearance), and a couple of non-fiction books.

Thank you for letting me blow my own horn!

Jan 12, 5:42PM EST0

What made you take interest in cryptozoological creatures?

Jan 11, 2:58PM EST0

I've always been fascinated by the idea that there are things which we, as humans, don't understand or even recognize. 

The thing which first got me interested in cryptozoology was learning about the celeocanth, a fish which was thought to have been extinct for eons before being discovered off the coast of Madagascar. Like most children I was fascinated with dinosaurs. The idea that there were living dinosaurs was astounding. 

From there I started reading about theories that Nessie was a pleisosaur and it was all downhill from there.

I also grew up in the '70s where there were shows like In Search Of which took a slightly scientific look at odd possibilities.

Jan 12, 5:30PM EST0

Did you do any research in this field?

Jan 13, 5:58PM EST0

Can you tell us about a writer you look up to?

Jan 11, 10:54AM EST0

Good question! I love to talk about authors that I enjoy.

The obvious answer for any horror writer is, of course, Stephen King. I've read just about everything he has written, regardless of genre. If you are looking for a great book on writing, I highly recommend On Writing.

One of my all time favorite authors is Ray Bradbury. He had an amazing way of adding just a touch of creepiness. The reader is often presented with a world that looks almost perfectly normal on the surface, but the closer you examine it, the more you realize that it is just a little off kilter. 

Dandelion Wine is one of my all time favorite books and I recommend it to anyone.

I'm also a huge fan of Elmore Leonard. His mastery of dialogue is without par. He could go for pages without including dialogue tags, but because of the vocal nuances he used, the reader had no problem knowing exactly who was talking.

A recent addition to my favorites list is Grady Hendrix. My Best Friend's Exorcism and Horrorstor are absolute masterpieces. His exploration of the horror explosion and implosion of the 1980s-2000s, Paperbacks from Hell, is seriously laugh out loud funny. 

Jan 12, 5:26PM EST0

Bradbury is one of my favourite writers. Most of all I like  Fahrenheit 451

Jan 13, 3:27PM EST0

How is your Kickstarter campaign going?

Jan 11, 6:22AM EST0

Thank you for asking! Thanks to a few large donations, we're pretty much right on track. I'd like to have a little more breathing room so we're not scrambling at the end, but I'm OK with where we are now.

I will admit, I'm a little nervous. Our previous crowdsourcing campaigns have been on Indegogo, where you don't have to meet your goal. 

I do have a few promotions and other special things in mind. I will be attending a local convention next weekend and hope to get a bump from my appearance there. If anyone is going to be at ConFusion (http://confusionsf.org) look me up. I'll be walking around in one kilt or another.

And, of course, if anyone is interested in backing the Kickstarter the link is https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dragonsroostpress/hidden-animals-a-collection-of-cryptid-fiction.

Jan 12, 5:18PM EST0

Why do you prefer working with the horror genre?

Jan 10, 6:50AM EST0

Hmm, this is a bit of a tough one. Thank you for wording it nicely. Usually I get people who kind of look at me funny when I say that I write horror. To be honest, my business cards read "Dark speculative fiction."

Short answer, I'm just one of those weird people who likes to play on the darker side of things. I'm also a huge fan of Halloween. I'm the guy with "that house." One of my proudest moments was when the police had to come and direct traffic in front of my display.

A more direct answer is that I think that horror allows writers to explore fascets of the human condition that other genres can only touch on. With a lot of fiction there is an expectation of that things will work out, if not right, at least well for the protagonist. This isn't the case with horror, where the heroes can do everything right and still fail miserably.

I also think that examining the darker side of things allows one a more realistic view of the lighter side as well.

Plus, I just like the creepy stuff! 

Jan 12, 5:14PM EST0

What is your ideal work environment?

Jan 10, 12:49AM EST0

Excellent question. I do much of the editing and formatting at the dining room table, which I can tell you is certainly NOT an ideal place to get work done :)In a perfect world I would own my own bookstore and have an office upstairs. It would be nice and quiet, but I'd still be surrounded by books for inspiration.

And there would be a wet bar.

Jan 12, 5:09PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

What challenges did you have as an editor in chief?

Jan 9, 11:04PM EST0

The main challenge is to make sure that everything gets done in a timely fashion. Given how small our press is, this means taking on most of the work myself. I try to juggle deadlines as well as possible. I use both a calendar app and a large white board to make sure that I don't miss anything, or that I'm not jumping the gun as focusing on something that I can do later while ignoring something which needs to be addressed sooner.

Jan 12, 5:07PM EST0

If you could transform into any cryptid for 24 hours, which would you become and why? 

Jan 9, 10:39PM EST0

Oh, I love this question!

I think that I would have to go with the the Tasmanian tiger/Tasmanian wolf, the thylacine. They have supposedly been extinct since the 1930s, but there have been reported sightings in the wild which continue until today. If I could change into one, maybe I would have the chance to find a cache of them living in the wild.

Jan 12, 5:05PM EST0

How is it like to lead a small press?

Jan 9, 12:38PM EST0

Hmm, I'm not really sure how to answer this one. The toughest part, without a doubt, is that you are in charge of everything. In my case this means reading submissions, editing, marketing, production. If I fall behind on any of these, the whole project falls behind.On the plus side, this means that we can be very selective in what we publish. Our publication schedule is lean, to put it mildly. We typically publish one to three books a year, so we can throw all of our time at each project.

Jan 9, 6:00PM EST0

Which project you had worked on was most memorable for you as a writer?

Jan 9, 9:08AM EST0

Tough question Amna! Last year I worked on a couple of collaborations, which was fun and frightening at the same time. It was the first time my work was really restrained by the world building of someone else which was challenging but fun at the same time. 

When I am on panels, I usually mention the zombie themed haiku that I have had published. It was definitely not a big earner, but I'm ridiculously proud of that one.

There are others like "Digital Media" which appeared in DOA: Extreme Horror, and a few romance titles I've worked on under a pen name. These were times when I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone just to see what I could do.

All of that being said, I think the most memorable project was a short story called "A Matter of Perception." It's awful, absolutely wretched. It was, however, the first thing I ever submitted for publication. It was rejected, and rightly so. I don't have a copy of my first acceptance letter, but I have that first rejection letter framed and over my desk.

Jan 9, 6:10PM EST0

What is a motivational quote you live by?

Jan 9, 7:55AM EST0

My initial response was "Do, or do not. There is no try."I do have one quote framed in our bedroom which reads:"Courage does not always roar. Somtimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.'"

Jan 9, 6:13PM EST0

Very wise quote. I'll remember it

Jan 13, 3:57PM EST0

Why did you choose the Last Day Dog Rescue organization as your chosen charity?

Jan 9, 6:24AM EST0

Short answer: we adopted our current dogs from them, litter-mates Tesla and Titus.

Long answer: the people there do amazing work. They rescue animals from high kill shelters and those that sell animals to research facilities, often literally on their last days. They then foster the animals in private homes until they can be adopted by their forever families. The foster families pay for food, vetrinary bills, etc. with help from the donations. I know that we can not be a foster family, but I wanted to make sure that I could help in some way.

Jan 9, 6:16PM EST0

Can you tell us more about how a small press publishing house works?

Jan 9, 3:53AM EST0

I don't know if I can speak to how the average small press house operates, but I can certainly explain how we do things. 

Things usually get rolling when I come up with a theme for the book. For our first anthology, Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails, we knew we were going to spend a lot of time talking about canine adoption, so we put a spin on that and required all of the stories to have an element of iolation, lonliness, or abandonment (things which disappear when you adopt a dog). Eldritch Embraces: Putting the Love Back in Lovecraft arose when my neighbor bet me I couldn't use the "love in Lovecraft" part in a story. I did him one better and put together a entire collection of stories which melded romance and the Cthulhu Mythos. Our current project came from my love of cryptozoology.Basically, I like to put together collections of fiction I would want to read, under the assumption that others will be interested in the same things. Yes, I suppose that is a bit egotistical, isn't it?

We then put out a call for submissions on our home page and list it on the big sites like Ralan and Duotrope as well as on a number of Facebook groups and other sites we belong to. Maintaining a social media presence is a constant part of our work.

Once the submissions start rolling in, we arrange for crowdsource funding. Previously we have used Indiegogo, but for this anthology we are using Kickstarter for the first time. We edit the stories, send out corrected copies along with contracts to our authors, and arrange for cover art. We use InDesign to format the books, which are published via CreateSpace and Smashwords.

While all of this is happening, we are working on marketing our current catalog. A lot of this is done digitally via interviews, podcasts, guest blogging, and the like. Our books are available in a few independent bookstores which are always happy to have authors come in for events like signings. We also attend a number of conventions around the midwest as both vendors and as panelists.

I hope this answered some of your questions, feel free to contact me with more specifics if I missed anything.

Jan 9, 6:30PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

What efforts are you doing so far to boost your Kickstarter campaign?

Jan 8, 10:53PM EST0

Great question! So far we're relying digital word of mouth. i've announced the Kickstarter on the various social media platforms for Dragon's Roost Press and my personal accounts. In addition, we've let everyone know through a variety of groups that we belong to. We're also fortunate enough to have some of our publications available in local independent bookstores which have been kind enough to advertise our campaign as wellOh, and the AMA of course!

Jan 8, 11:52PM EST0
Show all 3 replies
About #AuthorsAMA

Welcome to #AuthorsAMA, an AMA Event channel for authors and their important work sharing their knowledge with others.

The #AuthorsAMA channel (http://www.AuthorsAMA.com) is owned and operated by AMAfeed, LLC.