Six poems by Leilanie Stewart for the sixth of March

It has been a while since I’ve published any poetry. Just because I feel like it (why else does anyone do anything, right?) I have decided to publish six poems for the sixth of March. These are a random bunch, no theme, no connection. So, here goes:

1. Living for the moment

Sitting here
in a moment of shut-down
no longer in self-pity that I have the flu
but simply stationary
not even reflective,
sitting,
looking at the picture
of blue roses and skulls
and picking a spot
wondering,
why on earth the woman outside
would chain smoke when she has that nasty cough
and thinking,
why aren’t there any birds singing
in the trees outside?

Don’t tell me winter is on its way
already
I need to fuel this blissful delusion
for only a few more days
only…

2. Don’t wash that chicken, lickin’

Campylobacter
is not a holiday park
where you can take the kids
for an adventure weekend

Only an idiot
would soap up that chicken
to wash away
the fingerprints
of the farmer.

3. I hope

I hope
the maggots
have had four generations
of flies off his bones.

4. A sternly worded letter to God

Why
the hell
did you make
a woman’s damn urethra
two fucking centimetres long?

5. The Art Student

One of them
has no make-up on
the other wears
the war-paint in force
one wears only jeans
and scruffy trainers
the other is dolled
up to the nines
one wouldn’t be
out of place in Tesco
the other is in
her nightclub best
one is an artist
but which one really
is the blank canvas?

6. Friendship for the cynical

It might look like
the biggest gold nugget
you’ve ever clapped eyes on
but in actual fact
it’s an aluminium sphere
that’s been painted with a copper tint
and is hollow on the inside.

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Keeping hope alive when submitting a novel manuscript

January is just past the halfway mark and already I’ve received my first novel manuscript rejection for the year. Hurrah! I say that of course with a sardonic sigh. What every writer wants is good news from a publisher, naturally.

It’s important to stay mindful of the smaller victories on the bigger journey though. For me, that has been receiving responses from publishers within a few months of submission, making the wait a short one. Getting one or two personal comments at the end of a form rejection is also a bonus; clearly the novel made an impression if a publisher gave their time to provide feedback. These little pick-me-ups along the way is what helps to keep the motivation high. Publication is a marathon, not a sprint, after all!

Happy New Year 2019

Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyful Kwanzaa, fun-filled Festivus, Smashing Saturnalia…Seasons Greetings, whatever your season may be! For us, it has been a much needed time of rest after a rough flu season and a hectic house move to a much nicer house in a much better area! As you can see from my lack of posts since Halloween, things have been busy around here. I’ll admit it is getting harder to manage running Bindweed Magazine completely independently (Joseph Robert and I manage it entirely under our own steam as a labour of love) while submitting our own work to publishers, managing this literary/promotional blog and looking after a lively little one. This is where I could do with an extra set of hands to write and an extra brain to focus on literary pursuits aside from day to day life!

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Hopefully 2019 will bring more time for regular blog updates. Scratch that – hopefully I can make time for regular blog updates. Joseph and I have wound down our submissions of poetry and short fiction to magazines to conserve our energy for pursuing our novel publications along the traditional route; we’ll keep you updated if there is any good news. In the meantime, Happy New Year and here’s hoping 2019 is a good one!

Death to an Idol – fiction by Leilanie Stewart

Death to an Idol

Leilanie Stewart © 2018

I worry. I worry a lot. I worry that my story will have no direction. I worry that the story I’m about to tell you doesn’t make any sense. I’m too pedantic. But not too pedantic to stop telling my story. No, never that pedantic.

The moon was high in the sky. It hung behind a thin veil of fog. Not fog; fog is on the ground. This was cloud. It hung behind a thin veil of cloud.

I looked at the moon and I wanted to reach it. I stretched my fingers towards it and it slipped between my index and ring finger. It fit snugly in the V. Snugly. Smugly. Snug because it sat comfortably on the web of skin. Smugly because the moon mocked me. It mocked me like the prostitute who was ten pounds too dear for my miserly budget.

I did it. I did it again. I’ve made myself worry. I was getting into the groove of my story and I worked myself up all over again. I told you too much. I told you about the whore who was out of reach.

She was out of reach and she mocked me, like the moon. Her teeth were white, like the moon. And the bruise on her thigh was yellow; piss-coloured. A faded, piss-coloured stain as yellow as my cat’s eyes.

My cat will probably eat me when I’m gone. Cats eat meat, and when I go, I will be meat. There’s no reason that I can surmise as to why my cat would not eat my decaying remains after I’m gone. Continue reading

The Lady and the Tiger – fiction by Leilanie Stewart

The Lady and the Tiger

Leilanie Stewart © 2018

The glass tower block called The City, shone before me in the morning sun. I popped a mint in my mouth and took a deep breath, then climbed the front steps and walked through the revolving doors into a wide lobby. My interview letter said I had to go to the thirtieth floor, so I made my way to the lifts to the left of the reception desk.

I pushed the button and waited. The doors opened and I saw a smartly-dressed woman in her mid-thirties, wearing a tweed jacket and pinstripe trousers. Next to her, on a leash, was a Siberian tiger.

“Are you getting in?” she asked me.

“Really? Is it safe?” I replied.

She smiled. “Sure. A lady can’t be a lady without her tiger. And a tiger needs a lady for balance. Up or down?”

“But- aren’t we on the ground floor?”

She shook her head. “No, it gets much lower than this. Rock bottom.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I got in and stood with the tiger to my right. I raised my hand towards the panel on the left side, but noticed that the numbers only went as high as twenty-five. The doors closed, but the lift didn’t move. Continue reading

Coco and The Black Box – fiction by Leilanie Stewart

Coco and The Black Box
Leilanie Stewart © 2018

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The black dog crouched in the corner of the kitchen. Its teeth were bared and a low, steady growl rumbled from its throat as it fixed its eyes on Mandy. Any minute now the animal would spring and devour her. Mandy’s shaking hand gripped the phone. The dialling tone sounded in her ear.

“Pick up, Deanna, please pick up,” she whispered.

Deanna’s voice cut across the tone. “Hello?”

“Oh thank God – it’s Coco. I don’t know what to do.”

“Not again Mandy. I’ve told you, you have to get rid of this thing for once and for all.”

“Please. I don’t know what to do. This devil dog is gonna kill me.”

“Because you let it. If it eats you up, it’s your own fault. Kick this beast to the curb – put it to rest for your own good, I’m telling you.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“You let it take over your life. Look, I’ve given you my advice, take it or leave it.”
The call ended. Mandy listened to the dead tone. And then, in a flash of black, Coco pounced. Continue reading

Spooky stories for Samhain – the countdown to Halloween

To celebrate all things horror, during October I’ll be publishing my strange and/or spooky stories in the build up to Halloween. Admittedly, none of these are straight horror stories; my fiction always tends to be a hybrid of sorts, mainly surreal or incorporating magical realism, but I have written a backlog of weirdos that should keep fellow horror fans entertained, nonetheless. Enjoy!

Paying to be published: a personal view

Over the years I have been promoting poetry competitions and advertising literary magazines from external websites that are free for writers to submit their work to. If you have been following my blog posts on these topics, you will know that I disagree with any literary platform that charges authors upfront payments to publish their work, whether that be in the form of ‘submission fees’, ‘reading fees’ or any  other contribution towards production costs.

 

If a publisher charges fees to an author to submit their work, I would be inclined to call this business a vanity press, not a publisher. If they are charging the writer, say, a £20 submission fee to even have their work considered for publication, I’d bet my boots they have an almost 100% acceptance rate of submissions. The publisher may state on their website that there is no guarantee of publication, but if they are making money from the author, not book sales, then why would they worry about the quality of the writing? Publishing a new or little-known author is a risky business: sales may or may not do well. But if a ‘publisher’ eliminates the risk of losses by charging an author upfront fees, then why worry about sales? If an author will pay £20 upfront, then they will surely pay more once they have signed a contract. Why not charge them to buy 50 copies of their book, as a contractual condition? Why not make them commit a couple of hundred, or even several thousand pounds towards production costs, so that they can “have control over design of the finished product”?

 

Yes, publishers need money to survive and make more books. They may need start-up funds to get their business going in the first place. Nevertheless, a reputable publisher should make money from sales, or subscriptions, not authors. I have absolutely no problem with a publisher asking a would-be author to buy a book from their bookstore to support the publisher and to see if their writing fits with the catalogue. But asking a writer to fork out a tonne of money as a condition of being published in the first place is wrong. With all this in mind, let’s end with my checklist of publishing red-flags:

 

Continue reading

Rejection letters: the road to novel publication

Since my last post, I’ve been adrift on the endless sea that is the submissions process. While it may be a calm sea so far, I can’t yet see land in sight. One or two patches on the horizon that I thought might have been islands have turned out to be mirages.

But, enough of the poetic melancholy; let’s get to the point. The ultimate goal of any serious writer is to get that much anticipated acceptance, negotiate a good contract and take their work forward from manuscript to published book, preferably reaching readership through shops and libraries. Isn’t that the dream?

Of course, there are always obstacles along the way. Mine of late have been in the form of rejection letters. Being optimistic, it is good to acknowledge that every rejection is a step closer to acceptance. It’s important, however, to honestly assess just how close those steps are. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some recent responses to my fantasy novel, which has been on the publication rounds since November. The first is rather short: Continue reading

Novel submissions and tackling the slushpile

It has been a while since my last post, mainly because my maternity leave ended in April; my writing took a temporary back seat while I got into the groove of returning to my full time day job. This month has been easier as I am back into the swing of both work and writing. However, I have found that getting my novel out to publishers is not as straightforward as it seems. Having to change formatting from one publisher to the next is to be expected: Times New Roman for one, whereas Book Antiqua for another, page numbers in the footer versus the header, etc. Occasionally though, a publisher wants the synopsis to be one paragraph instead of a page, and in one instance, I had to expand my synopsis to six detailed pages. After spending many edits whittling it down to fit it onto a page, it was a good challenge to have to expand it, while still keeping the details relevant to the plot.

Standing out from the rest

The real challenge for a writer though, is getting their work noticed on the slushpile. How does one go about making their work stand out from the rest? Continue reading