In this ‘The Write Advice’ article we speak with one of our judges, Tim Marquitz from Ragnarok Publications. Tim tells us a little about his own work and experiences before we delve into the intricacies of publishing. We talk about anthologies and crowdfunding; find out about some of the roles within a small press; and get to grips with the writing and submission of short stories. So if you want to hear from a man whose beard is worthy of those that drink in the halls of Valhalla, then read on.
Do you remember your first story that you wrote and published?
Absolutely. My first published work was a novel back in 2009, Armageddon Bound, book one in my Demon Squad series, which is currently at ten books. It’s an urban fantasy book wherein God and the Devil have abandoned humanity and left the supernatural world in chaos, angels and demons suddenly granted free will, leaving them lost and confused.
You have numerous novels and short stories out there, however the Dead West series in particular caught my eye. What is the general storyline behind these?
Thanks. Dead West is a collaborative work between myself, Joe Martin, and Kenny Soward, with Kenny doing the heavy lifting regards to the writing. Basically, it’s a wild west story with a supernatural twist. There are zombies involved, but they’re not your average walker. They’re being used as a weapon by a malevolent bad guy.
Where on earth do you start when co-writing a book and how did you find the whole process?
Often, co-writing begins with us sitting down and brainstorming, getting an idea for what kind of story we want to tell and making sure we’re all, more or less, on the same page. After that, one of us will sit down and draw up a basic outline to keep us in line, then we’ll decide who writes what. For Dead West, Kenny Soward wrote the bulk of the material, Joe and I going behind him and adding our bits and pieces, editing, or simply adjusting what we felt would work better another way. For other co-written works, I’ve written specific characters when they appear while my co-author wrote other characters, the two of us kind of going over each other’s work at the end to make sure we were consistent.
How long have you been involved with Ragnarok Publications and what prompted you to create the small press?
Joe Martin and I established Ragnarok about three years ago. From my perspective, I wanted to diversify my work in publishing as well as promote and support authors whose work I felt deserved more attention but never seemed to manage to get it. It was a hope that I could parlay my small success into success for others and, maybe, even earn a living doing it.
As the Editor-in-Chief of Ragnarok what are your main roles and responsibilities?
That title is a bit of misnomer with regards to Ragnarok. I’m essentially in charge of looking at prospective projects, editing the work we have set for release, formatting our books, preparing eBooks, and all around whatever needs to be done make sure books are released on time and properly edited.
You’ve recently completed a Kickstarter for the Hath No Fury anthology which looks great. Can you tell us the motivation behind this project and any exciting news or future plans that you have in the pipeline for Ragnarok?
I didn’t have much to do with Hath No Fury, that being Joe and Melanie Meadors’ baby, but the idea was to have a book that showed how powerful women could be and to tell stories from their perspective. As for future projects, there are a number in the pipeline but they’re not at the point where I can say anything. There are some big changes coming to Ragnarok soon, so keep an eye out.
What has been Ragnarok’s most successful publication to date and why do you think the readers liked it so much?
Overall, I think Blackguards is our most successful work to date. The number of amazing authors in the book, each telling a story based in their already published literary worlds, really opens it up to so many different audiences. Outside of that, Seth Skorkowsky’s Valducan series has done amazing for us. Great urban fantasy.
Ragnarok artwork and cover designs really stand out and are very impressive. Who does these for you?
We hire a number of folks to do our art, and Joe Martin is a wizard at picking the right artist for the job each time. Then we have our not-so-secret weapon, Shawn King. Shawn’s covers and work are the backbone of Ragnarok’s aesthetic. He makes our books shine, each and every time.
In your opinion, what makes a good short story?
That’s a tough question. Ignoring all the technical aspects, I’d have to say a good story is simply one that draws you in and leaves you wanting more. If you, as a reader, can lose yourself in the story, then the author has done their job.
What do you find is some of the most common issues writers have when submitting to short story markets?
I’d say the most common issue with short stories is that the author doesn’t create it to stand alone. A lot of times, authors approach shorts like they do novels. This causes them to squeeze way too much into the tale, confusing or boring the reader, leaving them unsatisfied at the end of the story.
As Editor-in-Chief I’m sure you’ve written and sent numerous rejection emails in the past. What overarching message and words of encouragement do you have for the recipients of these?
That every rejection is subjective. I’m no expert, and neither are the other editors they’re submitting to. We just know what we want. That’s doesn’t mean, because we rejected your story, that it wasn’t any good. It simply means it didn’t work for us and the project we envision. Keep writing and keep submitting.
If you could share three top tips with prospective short story authors, what would they be?
We’d like to thank Tim for taking the time to share his experiences with us and for the priceless tips. If you’d like to connect with him or keep up to date with his work then you can follow him on Twitter @Marquitz, his website or at Ragnarok.