About Art

I bet you’ve seen these pictures already:

A combination of three documents provided by the Centre de Estudios Borjanos on August 22, 2012 shows the original version of the painting Ecce Homo (L) by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, the deteriorated version (C) and the restored version by an elderly woman in Spain. AFP PHOTO/ CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS BORJANOS
A combination of three documents provided by the Centre de Estudios Borjanos on August 22, 2012 shows the original version of the painting Ecce Homo (L) by 19th-century painter Elias Garcia Martinez, the deteriorated version (C) and the restored version by an elderly woman in Spain. AFP PHOTO/ CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS BORJANOS
(Text and image from The Toronto Sun)

In case you hadn’t seen them before, this is a painting of Jesus that is over a century old. It became water damaged and some lady decided to restore it. The result of her efforts can be seen in that last picture there — it’s ruined. I’m sure that the woman who wanted to restore the painting had good intentions, that is evidenced by the fact she turned herself in once she realised (far, far too late) that she wasn’t making the painting better, but the fact is it’s ruined.

This painting was created 102 years ago by a man named Elias Garcia Martinez. It is his art. His creation. And now it’s been destroyed. I find that incredibly sad. The lady who attempted to restore Ecce Homo wasn’t working on a reproduction or a copy but on the original painting. The original painting. And it is very likely damaged beyond recovery.

If someone did that to my art, no matter how wonderful their intentions might be, I would be devastated.

Control Issues

Control issues. I haz em.

When you say it like a Lolcat it sounds almost cute, but they aren’t. They are a huge pain in the ass, for me and everyone else around me. I’ve been working on them for years and years, and one thing that has helped more than anything else is Niteblade**.

When I published the first issue of Niteblade, way back in September 2007, Jo (also known as Jonathan) did the layout for the .pdf and Marge Simon and Shawn Zinyk provided the art (Marge has done all the art since the first issue). I did everything else. Everything. I created and maintained the website, solicited submissions, made editorial decisions, worked on promotion, etc. etc. It was a lot of work, but it was all under my control and that was just the way I liked it.

More or less.

As Niteblade grew so did the workload. You might be surprised how much time can be sucked away answering emails about submission guidelines, for example. Or interview/book review requests. It all adds up, quickly.

Soon I realised I wasn’t going to be able to handle all the book review requests, so if I wanted to accept them I’d need help. That’s where Amber Stults came in. She was our first book reviewer. At one point we had a whole team of book reviewers but managing them and all the finicky little details associated with doing book reviews began to take up too much time so we canceled that aspect of Niteblade. Amber is still here though. Not reviewing books but doing author interviews for our News blog. She’s awesome, works independently and provides regular content for our blog readers without any effort or supervision on my part.

Richard Fay used to do the same thing on our blog, only he was showcasing artists and their work. We canceled that feature, not because of anything on Richard’s end, but because finding artists who wanted to be in our spotlight was becoming more work than it was worth. Go figure.

Anyway, even with Amber and Richard taking slender slices from my Cake of Control I was still responsible for the bulk of the work at Niteblade (and did I mention that it’s a lot of work? It is.). At one point I was feeling very overwhelmed. Niteblade was taking over my life. I wanted to be a writer/editor, not an editor/writer but the magazine was sucking away so much of my time and energy that I didn’t feel like I was getting anything else done, and also we’d been “hacked”. Argh!

“Argh,” I vented to my best friend BD Wilson, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I think I may need to close the doors on Niteblade.”

That was when BD saved Niteblade. She joined our staff and took over control of the website. She’s totally automated everything, made it look super purdy and she does all the web-based layouts. She’s fantastic and if it weren’t for her stepping in and taking over that huge responsibility Niteblade wouldn’t be here today. Everything runs smoother now because of BD.

And Niteblade kept growing.

That meant my workload didn’t really decrease despite the fact I had so many people sharing it. Argh! I said. I wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as I had been before when I considered shutting the doors, but I was frustrated. I couldn’t keep up on submissions and my submission email addresses were starting to get more and more spam. But along came Submittable, which made it super easy for me to get help dealing with submissions. We got our first set of slush readers and TA-DA! It was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The slush readers* helped weed out the stories that are absolutely inappropriate for our magazine (or the ones from people who don’t follow our guidelines) and so suddenly I only had to read about a quarter of the submissions I used to. Sweet!

Then, one of our slush readers, Alexandra Seidel, wrote a blog about her adventures in the slush pile and mentioned that she was sad to not be reading poetry slush. I began sharing the poetry slush with her and, eventually, she took over completely as poetry editor. Giving her that responsibility, that control, was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Ever. But it was a good decision. Alexandra is a fantastic poetry editor. She makes some editorial choices that are quite different from the ones I would were I poetry editor, but the calibre of the poetry we’re publishing has increased dramatically since she took over from me, so I think she’s doin’ it right. I *loved* every poem she picked for the September issue. So much so that choosing which one to put on our cover was a freaking nightmare. She’s an awesome poetry editor and Niteblade is stronger for her presence.

My point is this. Over the past five years Niteblade has taught me how to delegate, how to give away bits of power, slices of control to worthy people. Not only has it made the magazine better, it’s made me better. It’s a huge thing, and maybe it’s something I would have learned just over the course of aging over the last five years, but I dunno… Even if that’s the case, Niteblade, and all the people involved in making it the awesome publication that it is, sped up the process immensely.

I used to like saying that Niteblade was mostly a one-woman show, but now, as we near our five year anniversary, I’m proud to say that it’s takes a whole team of people to put it together, and I think we do an awesome job.

*Our slush readers change from issue to issue, but right nowย  Megan Engelhardt, Sheri White and Andrew Patterson are the ones toiling in the trenches to make sure our submitters get responses in a timely manner.

**Becoming a mother and “inheriting” a litter of kittens who were only three weeks old also helped LOL A lot.

~*~

This blog post is just one stop on the blog train we’re holding to celebrate Niteblade’s fifth anniversary. Please check out Chris Lewis Carter’s blog if you haven’t already. Chris wrote the awesome story, The Cord, in the March 2012 issue and this train stopped at his blog yesterday. Tomorrow it’s chugging along to Alexis A. Hunter’s blog. Alexis wrote the fabulous short story, Dragons of Fire that we published in our June 2012 issue.

As for me, in trying to decide what to write about for this blog I realised I have a lot to say about Niteblade, so I expect to blog about it more often (for the next little while anyway).

 

Niteblade: Some Past Favourites

Niteblade is nearing our 5th anniversary, so we’re celebrating with a little blog train. Yesterday our illustrator, Marge Simon, did a blog about her love affair with Niteblade, and tomorrow our poetry editor, Alexandra Seidel will be blogging about… something. LOL I’m sure it will be awesome ๐Ÿ™‚ Today is not my scheduled day to blog, but the train had to be detoured so I’m filling in. Alas, that means I need to post a blog pretty quickly with no time to think up a great and profound subject to blog about. Okay, maybe I could think of one, but I’m unlikely to be able to write it in the fifteen or so minutes I have to get this posted.

So instead I’m going to share some of my favourite pieces from the first ten issues of Niteblade. The first ten web issues, that is. I feel like the back issues sometimes get forgotten and since there is so much fabulous work within them that seems a shame. I’m going to pick one favourite from each past issue. These are going to be the stories that are my favourite right now. At this exact moment in time. Favourites, for me, are things that change depending on my mood, and the day, so what stories I pick now are probably not the same ones I’d pick tomorrow or next week, but if you check them out, I bet you’ll like them.

September 2007 – Shine On by J.A. Tyler Dude, there are images from this story that still stick with me today, several years later. It’s dark and creepy and I love it.

December 2007 – Servant of the Gods by A. J. Kenning Gods, demons and brutal punishments. This story is pretty long, but well worth the read. “I think that. Sometimes. I screamed.

March 2008 – Philosopher Quinn by Jenns Rushing I think this is the funniest story Niteblade has ever had the pleasure of publishing. It’s fantastic and lines from it get quoted within our family on a regular basis — just like you might quote a favourite movie or television show.

June 2008 – Women of Straw by Kyle Hemmings This story is simply-written, but beautiful and exotic. It’s the kind of tale I see layers of depth and meaning in and I’ve read it several times over the past few years.

December 2008 – Oh, Christmas Tree by S. Alan Fox Another funny story, though far shorter than Philosopher Quinn. I think this is a fun little Christmas tale.

March 2009 – The Pacifier by Beth Cato This is an end of the world story that will linger in your memory, I promise. I also love Following Rabbits by Gregg Winkler which is a retelling of a familiar tale. I couldn’t choose between these two, they are both favourites ๐Ÿ™‚

June 2009 – Dream Spinner by Robert E. Keller This is a great example of a twist ending done well. I was engaged in this story from the moment I started reading it, and now, many, many readings later, I still love it.

September 2009 – Prison Dreams by Fred Warren What would you do if your dreams were taken away?

March 2010 – Happy Halloween, It’s a Bloody Puppet Show by Bill Ratner There are so many fantastic stories in the March 2010 issue that I honestly cannot pick one favourite, so I’ve chosen this story by Bill Ratner because it’s pretty unique among Niteblade stories — it’s radio play and comes complete with an audio version you can listen to. Once you’ve done that, be sure and check out the rest of the fiction for this issue. Truly.

June 2010 – Survivalist by Kevin Brown This story is a reprint and I still picked it as my favourite, that’s how you know that it’s fantastic. Read it. It’s a story about a unique soldier and you’re going to love it.

And there you have it. Ten of my favourite short stories from the older issues of Niteblade. If you want to check out all our archives you can do that right here –> Niteblade Archives. Maybe someday in the future I’ll pick some favourites from the poetry we’ve published over the past few years, if you’re interested.

Do you have a favourite Niteblade story? What makes it your favourite? I’d really like to know.

Lawl! I was just about to post this and discovered that the blog train didn’t need to be detoured any longer… but I’ve got this all written up, so I’m going to share it anyway. Enjoy!

Published: Lizabeth

The Glass CoinMy poem, Lizabeth, was published on The Glass Coin yesterday. You can check it out and leave a comment on their webpage:

Lizabeth by Rhonda Parrish

The acceptance letter for this one said “I don’t usually like rhyming poetry but…” I hear that a lot ๐Ÿ˜‰ Also, contrary to the whole theme and point of this poem, I freaking love magpies. Love, love, love them.

This poem began as a warm-up piece. Sometimes when I sit down to write a poem I either have no ideas at all or I have a particular rhythm/rhyme scheme stuck in my brain that I need to purge before I can write. In those cases I just write whatever comes to mind until inspiration strikes or I find a rhythm I like. On occasion the poems I come up with during that process seem good enough to revise and find homes for. This was one of those times.

And then the magic happened…

The Gloaming - Photograph by Rhonda ParrishI really wanted to submit something to the Masked Mosaics anthology. I first learned about the anthology from my friend Beth. She writes a fair bit of superhero stuff, but I’d never written a superhero story in my life. It sounded like a fun challenge so I got to work.

By ‘got to work’ I mean I went through all my story idea notes, post-its and such to see if there was anything there I could put a superhero spin on. There wasn’t. So I started brainstorming. Eventually I came up with an idea and wrote a first draft. A very ugly first draft. I let it sit a while, then revised it. Something was wrong but I couldn’t figure out what. So I sent it to Beth to critique. She helped me identify what (at least a few) of the problems were and I started revising again.

The deadline for submissions was getting closer and closer, and my progress on the revisions was getting slower and slower.

Usually when a story fights me as much as that one was I take it as a sign I need to let it rest a while longer and come back to it with a fresh mindset, but I couldn’t do that, I had a deadline!

To cut a long story into a shorter one, three days before the deadline I decided to let the story I’d been working on rest and to write something new for the anthology. Something that would fight me less. Something short.

While taking a walk with Jo I was sorting through ideas, trying to come up with something that would be a good story, and short enough I could get it done in just a few days. He asked what I was thinking so hard about and we started talking. We brainstormed ideas back and forth until we settled on a concept and plot I thought would really work. There was just one problem. Jo had contributed just as much as I had to the idea’s development. It would feel wrong if I took all the credit for it.

So I suggested that we write it together and share a byline.

And then the magic happened.Jo - Photograph by Rhonda Parrish

In less than a day and a half we went from rough concept and story idea, to a polished short story that I’m super proud of. I’m a fairly good writer, and Jo is an awesome one (You can read his short story The Sickening Thud at the End of it All by clicking that pretty link right there. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You won’t be sorry) but when we worked together we created a story that is, I think, better than anything either of us could have written on our own.

Working with Jo brought out the best in me. I wanted to make each word perfect and wonderful because I wanted to show off for him. And the parts of the storytelling where I’m the weakest? Well, those are areas he’s strong in so he was able to carry me a little. And, I’d like to think, the opposite is true as well. We complement one another well, in writing as in life. How awesome is that?

The story, sadly, though fantastic (even if I do say so myself), earned us a (very awesome, personal) rejection letter from editors and , but I’ve since sent it off elsewhere and I’m optimistic it will find a good home in time.

In the meantime, Jo and I are planning on working with one another more in the future and I am using what I learned working on that story to make all my future solo work better. And someday I’ll even go back to the original superhero story I’d been working on and figure out what’s wrong with it and how to fix it.

Have you ever worked in a collaboration like this and had lightning strike, or magic happen? I’ve done quite a few collabs in the past (I love them.) but never anything quite as fulfilling as this one. I’m curious to see how rare it is in other people’s experiences.

I’ve also had some disasterous collaborations LOL but that’s a subject for another day, eh?

Round Up and Fanstory

I forgot to post a W1S1 update for June. In my defense July (which is when I would have posted it) was pretty crazy around here. We had two house guests (one of which was a toddler) in our very small house, someone I love was in crisis and we had a family vacation. All in all, a pretty stress-tastic month and I’m pretty pleased everyone involved made it through still upright and breathing ๐Ÿ™‚ So, in the grand scheme of things, not such a big deal that I missed a check-in, right?

The good news is that my check-in would have said that I was still on track for my W1S1 goals. I’d written stuff, I’d subbed stuff, hell, in June I even managed to sell two poems and see a third get published. It was a good month.

As it turns out, July was also a good month ๐Ÿ™‚ I sold five poems and saw a sixth get published in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. When it comes specifically to W1S1 goals I managed to meet those too. I wrote a couple short stories for this year’s Whittaker competition and submitted a few things to publishers.

I feel like I’m building momentum and it feels good ๐Ÿ™‚

My Whittaker scores have been less than impressive so far. Each round’s score is out of 100 and so far I’ve earned a 72, 64, and a 71. To be fair to my poor little stories because of the nature of the competition and my uber procrastination skillz they have all be completely unrevised first drafts so far.

It’s a slobby segue, but that brings us to another thing I wanted to talk about, something that came up just this week. Last year when I was doing the Whittaker competition I wanted to have some feedback on my stories and to revise them before I sent them in for judging, so I signed up at Fanstory.com.

Fanstory is one of those online communities where you critique people’s work in order to earn karma/points/dollars that you use to get your own work critiqued. There are loads of problems with sites like these and I was very aware of them going in, but I thought I could just shut my eyes to the ridiculous bits and get a couple critiques of my work from strangers (aka people who have no reason to be nice to me LOL).

I only posted my first drafts, no finished works, and I disabled them from public view once I’d received feedback on them. I hung around there for a couple months, until I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the problems with the community anymore, and then I left (I was too busy to keep posting critiques there anyway, to be honest).

Last week I submitted one of the poems I’d posted at Fanstory to Every Day Poets. It was declined within hours because it was previously published.

O_o

That was what my face looked like. Previously published? But… um… no. I hadn’t published it anywhere yet. What the?

It turns out the poem was still visible online at the mobile version of Fanstory. That despite the fact I had ‘disabled’ it (which was supposed to make it invisible to anyone but me) and I had actually closed my account.

I was not happy.

I re-activated my account and sent an email to the admins asking them what was going on and why my stuff was visible when it shouldn’t be. I was told “That was strange because it was our mobile version. So we didn’t have that set to be private. We updated it. So it is now. That is true for all your work.” At that point I didn’t trust their settings so I actually deleted all my work from the website, which seems to have fixed the problem. The admin also tells me that there was a check box I could have clicked when I posted my work for critique that would have kept it from being visible to anyone who wasn’t logged into their own Fanstory account.

I should have clicked that box.

I am not blaming Fanstory for what happened. It sounds like there was a bit of a bug with the mobile site, but it’s still my fault. I should have been more careful. I should have clicked the check box that would mean the general public couldn’t see my work, and when I left Fanstory I should have deleted all my work, not just disabled it.

I screwed up.

Learn from my mistake.

Also, if any editors from Every Day Poets happens to see this? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to send you something that was online elsewhere. It won’t happen again.

**Insert Clever Segue Here**

One last, completely unrelated thing? I’ve decided to discontinue my Two for Tuesday posts. Not because I’m suddenly uber with consistency but because they allow me to be lazy. I don’t want this blog to turn into weekly posts of two photographs I’ve taken. It’s not that I don’t want to show off my pictures, I do, but this is supposed to be primarily about my writing. If I give myself permission to post pictures and have them count toward my one blog a week goal, well, that’s all I’ll do. Because I’m lazy. So buh-bye T4T. Buh-bye…