LM_InstaPro_Product Photo2It all started with a birthday gift for my little sister back some fifteen-odd years ago. My sister was really into the idea of becoming a vet, so for her birthday, my parents saved up a bunch of old medicine containers and filled them with tic-tacs, Pez, Skittles, and Chiclets to use as “medicine” for when we played vet. It was a great–and rather inexpensive–gift that we enjoyed the heck out of for months, carefully doling out tic-tacs to our stuffed animals (and, of course, eating them ourselves) and writing prescriptions, delighting in “curing” their faux aliments.

The funny thing is that the placebo-effect is actually quite strong. A couple of years ago, my husband (currently finishing up med-school himself) found an article regarding “the placebo-effect” that showed not only that placebos do–in fact–make a measurable, positive impact on people. More surprising than that, however, was the finding that even when you know what you’ve been given is just a placebo, it still creates a placebo-effect. You can take a tic-tac, for example, and say “If I take this, I’ll feel better,” and lo and behold! You just might. Might, of course, is the key word. It’s not actually changing anything in and of itself, but the brain is a powerful (and apparently suggestible) organ.

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A number of years ago I decided to play with the placebo-effect myself, and used a little antique glass bottle wrapped in a Post-It Note for “Productivity Pills.” I put white Tic-Tacs in it, and whenever I was feeling sluggish, or didn’t want to write, or didn’t want to focus at my day-job, I’d pop a “pill” and get back to work. Did the Tic-Tac actually do anything? No, of course not! Well, it may have made my breath a little minty fresh, but otherwise, no. However, popping one from that silly little bottle reminded me that I was supposed to be focusing on getting stuff done, and I got a LOT of writing and work stuff done during those years. Beyond that, it was just seriously fun and made me smile.

Which got me thinking–what if I could make little snake-oil bottles for all the various “writerly ailments” I suffered from? Things like writer’s block, or self-doubt, or rejection blues? When I really got to thinking about it, there were tons of “ailments,” so I decided to start making those snake-oil “cures” for them under two brands: Lucky Muse and Dr. Eponymous.

DrE_RutRemedy_PourLucky Muse is the snarky, snake-oil, cheater’s brand–the “cures” that promise instant success, brilliant prose, loads of money, and all without really having to work at it, because who wouldn’t love a book deal to fall into their laps? Dr. Eponymous is a bit more serious (though still quite snarky, because–hey, it’s me.) writerly ailments for those committed to improving their craft and surviving the day-to-day pains and aches of being a writer.

I’ve also created a few that are for a general audience, which I had a ton of fun giving as gifts this Christmas.

With a little prodding, I’ve finally opened an Etsy shop (called, what else? The Placebo Emporium!) where I sell some of these silly things, and I must say, I’m having a wonderful time! I’ve got quite a list of new “cures” to get designed and put up there, mostly for my own growing apothecary than anything else! Curious? Check out The Placebo Emporium here! Any particular writerly “cures” you’d like to see? Let me know!



ZombiesMoreRecentDead_coverJacques L. Condor (also known as Maka Tai Meh) has written one of the spookiest tales in this collection, and one of the hardest to put down. “Those Beneath the Bog” is a story of culture and spirituality running up against deadly secrets of the past. Prunie and her husband Martin are hunting for moose along with her aunts, an uncle, and several other members of her aunts’ home town. The hunt is difficult, and leads them at last to the shores of Rabbit Lake, where there are rumored to be not only moose aplenty, but also dark, evil spirits lurking in the sink hole at the center of the lake’s northern bog. But when Aunt Rosie prophecies the death of two of their hunting party, will the others listen? And if they don’t, will two be the only ones who die?

This story is super chilling. On my tight time-schedule with the Little Guy, I saw the page count on this one and thought there was no way I’d be able to gather enough minutes to read the whole thing, but I’m telling you: two pages in, and you won’t be able to stop even if you wanted to. Mr. Condor’s descriptions of Rabbit Lake and the truly terrifying creatures lurking there will have you shivering even in the summer heat. Spooky and delightful, this is one not to miss!

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: Do you have an element of writing (plotting, characters, world-building, dialogue, etc.) that comes more easily to you than others? Any you find particularly difficult?

For me, it’s the the dialogue. I have been a people watcher for 70 plus years. I love to listen to the way people talk, their accents, their use of colloquial words and phrases, and my mind stores them all away. Also, I was a professional actor for fifty-odd years before I came to writing, and for an actor, dialogue is the first clue to your character.

The most difficult thing for me is plotting. It is almost always drudgery for me.

2. The Zombie Question: What is your favorite work of zombie fiction (literary, film, comic, etc.)?

At age 86, I am probably the grandfather of all the other authors in this collection. I came into the world of zombies in the 1940’s during the Second World War, when America sent troops to the Caribbean and Central America, and they brought back stories of zombies. My two favorites are antique films: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, and Gail Sondergard in “The Cat and the Canary” and the utterly terrifying performance of Boris Karloff in “I Walked With a Zombie”. Incidentally, there was never any talk of “brains” and eating human flesh in the early zombie world of film and literature.

3. The Random Question: Where is one place you think everyone should have the chance to visit in their lifetime?

That’s easy. Alaska and the Yukon and the northern portions of British Columbia. IT is such a different world, and the many cultures of the aboriginals are a source of inspiration to any visitor.
Jacques L. Condor (Maka Tai Meh, his given First Nations tribal name) is a French-Canadian Native American of the Abenaki-Mesquaki tribes. He has lived in major cities, small towns, and bush villages in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for fifty-plus years. He taught at schools, colleges, museums, and on reserves about the culture, history, and arts of his tribes for twenty years as part of the federal government’s Indian education programs. Now 85, Condor writes short stories and novellas based on the legends and tales of both Natives and the “oldtime” sourdoughs and pioneers. He has published five books on Alaska. Recently, his work appeared in five anthologies: Icefloes, Northwest Passages, A Cascadian Odyssey, Queer Dimensions, Queer Gothic Tales, and Dead North.

ZombiesMoreRecentDead_coverIf you’re tired of all the modern-day twists on zombies and want something eerie from a deeper past, look no further than “What Still Abides” by Marie Brennan. Set in pre-Christian England among druids and runes, Brennan weaves a chilling tale of death gone wrong. When a corpse refuses to stay down in his grave, the strongest magics and warriors come to the ruling eorl’s aid. But can anything be stronger than Death itself?

This story is chock full of mood and atmosphere; I dare anyone to turn the page on this one without feeling the chill of the  moorish winds.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: What is your typical writing routine? Do you write every day, some days, only when inspired?

I’m a night owl, and always have been. It’s like my brain turns on at ten p.m. Since I’m lucky enough to write full-time (thanks to the support of a gainfully employed husband), this means I work at night, usually going to bed somewhere between one and three a.m. When I’m working on a novel, I write nearly every day, with a minimum wordcount I have to hit before I let myself stop for the night. In between novel drafts, though, it’s much more hit-or-miss.

2. The Zombie Question: What enticed you to writing this zombie story?

“What Still Abides” is inspired by the English folksong “John Barleycorn,” which is one giant metaphor about the making of beer. The last line is “and we shall drink his blood!” — i.e. the beer — but that made me look back at all the lyrics about the awful, violent things they did to try and kill John Barleycorn, and ask myself what would happen if I took them literally . . . .

3. The Random Question: What other projects do you have forthcoming that you’d like to share with us?

I’m currently writing Chains and Memory, the sequel to an urban fantasy called Lies and Prophecy that I published in 2012. That will be out in early 2015, around the same time as Voyage of the Basilisk, the third of the Memoirs of Lady Trent.

Marie Brennan is the author of nine novels, including the series Memoirs of Lady Trent: A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, and the upcoming Voyage of the Basilisk, as well as more than forty short stories. A Natural History of Dragons is a finalist for the 2014 World Fantasy Award. More information can be found at


August 29, 2014

Uncanny Magazine’s Looking For Slush Editors!

Posted by maggiedot under Apex Magazine, Publishing/Editing, Slush Lesson, Writing
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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you’re an aspiring author and want to really improve your chances of being published, slush-editing for a good market is one of the best things you can do. Slushing for Apex was a great learning experience for me, and sparked the SLUSH LESSONS I’ve reposted here since they first appeared on the old Apex blog.

In brief: 30-60 submissions a month is essentially 1-2 stories a day, so while it’s a volunteer position (as was Apex’s), it’s pretty easy to keep on-top of. In exchange, it’s 1) a great learning experience if you’re a writer to see why X story gets pushed up and why Y story gets rejected outright, and 2) it’s a great way to build personal relationships with great authors and editors.

I slushed for Apex for almost five years, including under Lynne and Michael, and it was one of the best experiences if my career thus far, personally and for how it helped me look at my own fiction. I joined up with Apex originally for the love of short fiction, and to get to read some really great stuff, and to better understand the industry from the inside. Through that position, I got to attend several conventions (for free!), talk about slushing and working for a small press on panels, and meet a ton of amazing authors and fellow editors in the pro rooms. It also led to working as an interviewer for the magazine, and to a paying gig with Apex Book Company as a book formatter.

Since that day when I submitted my application to Apex, I’ve never looked back. If you get a chance to get in in the ground floor of Uncanny, do it! I’d apply myself if the Little Guy wasn’t already stretching my time too thin. So take a look and see if this might be for you!

August 25, 2014

THREE QUESTIONS: Jonathan Maberry

Posted by maggiedot under Journal, Publishing/Editing, Three Questions, Writing, Zombies: More Recent Dead | Tags: , , , , |
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Would you like one catastrophe with your story? Two? How about a zombie apocalypse on top of it all? “Jack and Jill,” Jonathan Maberry’s story in Zombies: More Recent Dead, is not for the weak of heart. Evil comes in threes, as a family struggles to cope with not only the cancer gradually consuming young Jack, but a massive supercell crashing down on top of them. But if straining levees and possible tornados aren’t bad enough, Jack’s twin–Jill–is bitten in a strange riot at their elementary school.

This is no Zomb-nado from SyFy. This is a cataclysm of the worst circumstances possible. The storm, the cancer, and the strange pale-faced people smeared in blood are bearing down on them, and Jack and Jill may not make it out alive.

This is a great, terrifying story, compounding so many mortal fears into one story, it’s impossible not to feel the chill running up your spine.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.


1. The Writing Question: What is your typical writing routine? Do you write every day, some days, only when inspired?

I’m a full-time professional writer. I write, on average, three to five novels per year, along with two monthly comics (V-WARS and ROT & RUIN), as well as short stories, novels and novellas. In order to hit all my deadlines without driving myself batty, I’ve learned to be efficient. Much of that discipline comes from my background as a journalist and fifty years of jujutsu.

I write eight to ten hours per day. A little less on weekends. I do fifty minutes of writing each hour, and ten minutes of social media.

I generally outline my work, then dive in and write the opening and then the ending. Then I go back to the beginning and aim everything at the ending. Naturally I vary from my outline during the organic process of writing, but I find structure allows me to be usefully devious when building the plot. Knowing where something is going gives you plenty of opportunities to build clues, develop characters, and sew motifs into the fabric of the story.

As far as ‘waiting for inspiration’, I’m not one of those writers who buys into the self-created mythology of the writer. A writer writes. I don’t sit around like a tortured artiste waiting for the muse to whisper in my ear.

2. The Zombie Question: It’s a zombie apocalypse! Which three people (fictional or not) would you want in your survival team and why? What’s your weapon of choice?

My ideal zombie survival team would include Sherlock Holmes (we need someone who is both hyper-observant and detail oriented), Jack Bauer from 24 (high-degree of combat skills and utter ruthlessness), and my nephew, Chris, who can repair and drive anything with motors and wheels.

3. The Random Question: What other projects do you have forthcoming that you’d like to share with us?

I’m in the middle of my busiest year. I’m currently writing a novel inspired by the DEADLANDS role-playing game and will then launch into a new standalone horror novel about a recovering addict searching for her son, and the monsters who want to stop her. I have a new zombie novel, FALL OF NIGHT, due out on September 2. I also have two new comics –V-WARS (a humans vs vampire ethnic war saga) and ROT & RUIN (based on my bestselling young adult zombie novels). Two of my books, V-WARS and EXTINCTION MACHINE have just been optioned for TV, so I’m working with producers on those. And I’ve recently begun work as editor on a series of anthologies of new X-FILES stories.

Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics. His novels include CODE ZERO, ROT & RUIN, GHOST ROAD BLUES, PATIENT ZERO, THE WOLFMAN, and many others. Nonfiction books include ULTIMATE JUJUTSU, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, ZOMBIE CSU, and others. Several of Jonathan’s novels are in development for movies or TV including V-WARS, EXTINCTION MACHINE, ROT & RUIN and DEAD OF NIGHT. He’s the editor/co‐author of V‐WARS, a vampire‐themed anthology that will also be released as a board game; and is editing a series of all original X-FILES anthologies. He was a featured expert on The History Channel special ZOMBIES: A LIVING HISTORY. Since 1978 he’s sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, and poetry. His comics include V-WARS, ROT & RUIN, CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, BAD BLOOD, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN and MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE AVENGERS. He lives in Del Mar, California wih his wife, Sara Jo and their dog,

August 20, 2014

THREE QUESTIONS: Alex Dally MacFarlane

Posted by maggiedot under Publishing/Editing, Three Questions, Writing, Zombies: More Recent Dead
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The title of Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story, “Selected Sources for the Babylonian Plague of the Dead (572-571BCE),” may be nearly as long as the story itself, but its relatively short word count packs a punch. This is a wonderful, colorful tale allowing a stolen glimpse into a long-lost civilization governed by three powerful princesses whose cities are suddenly overrun with hordes of walking dead which all traditional zombie-slaying wisdom fails to eradicate. The detail and styling of this tale make it a delight to read, and the imagery–at once beautiful, then horrifying–will linger.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: What is your typical writing routine? Do you write every day, some days, only when inspired?

I write fiction alongside other work: freelance work, my column, postgraduate study (although I’m in-between degrees at the moment). I’ve also discovered it’s advisable to take time off and regularly exercise. Some weeks I write daily, some weeks I don’t write at all – it really depends on deadlines.

2. The Zombie Question: What enticed you to writing this zombie story?

There’s an Assyrian tablet about a fox falling into a well. I saw it and thought: oh, I need to put this in a story! So I did. The rest of the story grows from an article I read on my MA about the Babylonian princesses Innin-Eṭirat, Kaššaya and Ba’u-asītu: the three women in the story. They were real. The article is “Ba’u-asītu and Kaššaya, Daughters of Nebuchadnezzar II” by Paul-Alain Beaulieu. I wanted to write about these women sending letters to each other. Because I wanted to send a story to a zombie-themed anthology, Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages edited by Steve Berman, they’re sending letters about solving the problem of a plague. I wrote it in one day about a third of the way through my MA.

There’s another letter I love, from Šerua-eṭirat – eldest daughter of Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria – to Libbali-šarrat – wife of Assurbanipal, crown prince of Esarhaddon – where Šerua-eṭirat admonishes/encourages Libbali-šarrat to improve her literacy. The history of women is often flat, uniform, oppressed – the reality is more complex and varied than this. Though it frustratingly omits Babylonian evidence, after opening with a criticism of Herodotus’ oft-cited quote about Babylonian sexual practises, Women in the Ancient Near East: A Sourcebook edited by Mark Chavalas is an interesting introduction to the sources for this region. It includes Šerua-eṭirat’s letter.

In hindsight I wish I had put all of the story in letters instead of using a reconstructed oral tradition for part of it, but that’s perhaps a sign of how my fondness for letters grew during my MA.

3. The Random Question: What are you reading currently?

As I write this, I’m reading a few books! Are All Warriors Male? Gender Roles on the Ancient Eurasian Steppe is a book of articles edited by Katheryn M. Linduff and Karen S. Rubinson trying to examine the piecemeal evidence across millennia and a vast geographical region for evidence of gender roles: a daunting and difficult task, which can at best reach a conclusion of uncertainty, but very worthwhile. The best articles question how we ascribe gender on the basis of skeletons, grave goods and other evidence. Destabilising stereotypical assumptions and perceived uniformity is, in its way, the most important thing. I’m also slowly reading Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences, which looks at contemporary ideas of sex and gender and deconstructs a lot of bullshit. On the fiction side, I’m reading Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eight (short stories!) and Iain M. Banks’ Surface Detail (space!).

Alex Dally MacFarlane is a writer, editor and historian. When not researching narrative maps in the legendary traditions of Alexander III of Macedon, she writes stories that can be found in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Phantasm Japan, Solaris Rising 3, Heiresses of Russ 2013: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2014 and other publications. Poetry can be found in Stone Telling, The Moment of Change, and Here, We Cross. She is the editor of Aliens: Recent Encounters (2013), and The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women (2014).

August 18, 2014

THREE QUESTIONS: Matthew Johnson

Posted by maggiedot under Journal, Publishing/Editing, Three Questions, Writing, Zombies: More Recent Dead
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ZombiesMoreRecentDead_coverI really enjoyed Matthew Johnson’s story in this anthology. “The Afflicted” follows Kate as she wanders the quarantined national park where those carrying the virus have been relocated. The afflicted are the older generation, those primarily in nursing homes but also living on their own, and the disease has an unpredictable development pattern that can switch some into the vicious end-stage overnight and leave others lingering in anticipation of its onset. Kate’s background as a nursing home nurse has confined her to the quarantine park, where she continues to administer help and first aid to the individuals stuck there. But when a young girl shows up in the park unexpectedly, Kate may find she’s responsible for more than just the ailing.

This is a very sweet story of love and familial loyalty, and I highly recommend it. There’s a definite reason Johnson’s story was chosen to kick off the collection.

Prepare yourself for the coming apocalypse and save yourself a copy of Zombies: More Recent Dead before it’s released in September! You can pre-order a copy from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, or Amazon.

1. The Writing Question: What is the best or worst piece of writing advice you’ve received?

The very best piece of writing advice I’ve ever encountered was from John M. Ford’s essay “Rules of Engagement,” about leaving things for readers to imagine for themselves: “If I told you, you would know less than you know now.”

The worst piece of advice is probably “write what you know,” because it’s so vague that it’s always going to make you worry that you’re doing something wrong.

2. The Zombie Question: What enticed you to writing this zombie story?

“The Afflicted” was actually inspired in part by my annoyance at the second season of The Walking Dead, in particular the stacked “debate” over whether the characters should kill the zombies or corral them in hopes of curing them later. The way the show had defined things, having compassion for them was not only wrong but dangerously foolish — and I’m always suspicious of anything that tells us not to feel compassion for anyone.

3. The Random Question: What are you reading currently?

My reading right now is dominated by the books nominated for the Endeavour Award for which I’m one of this year’s judges.

Matthew Johnson lives with his wife and two sons in Ottawa, where he works as Director of Education for MediaSmarts, Canada’s center for digital and media literacy resources. Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, a collection of his short fiction, was published in 2014 by ChiZine Publications. You can follow his work at or on Twitter at @irregularverbal.

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