A Chat With Jennifer Miller

This year I have received the honor of being invited into the 2016 edition of The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror. This anthology is put together by the very nice Jennifer Miller. She and I sat down, computer screen to computer screen, and had a chat one evening in late February.

A.J.: Jenna Miller, tell me a little about you.

J.M.: Well, I’m 38 years old. I live in the Rocky Mountains. I have three gorgeous kids (my inspiration). I love the outdoors, video games, various crafts, writing and helping other writers.

A.J.: Video games? A woman after my own heart. Which video games do you like to play?

J.M.: LOL – Oh, you know, they change. I’m a huge fan of MMOs, so currently that’s Lord of the Rings Online (so fun). I love Magic the Gathering, so I’m really into that new Magic: Puzzle Quest (for mobile), and those two are all I’ve really been playing lately.

A.J.: I have never played Magic the Gathering—I hear it is addictive.

J.M.: To say there are a few decks around here is an understatement. We all like to play (the kids too), but I almost prefer digital versions to real cards.

A.J.: I love Munchkin. Have you ever played that one?

J.M.: No. I’ve heard it’s fun though.

A.J.: It’s ridiculously fun. It’s like a goofy version of Magic.

Let’s see, you write?

J.M.: Sometimes.

A.J.: What do you like to write?

J.M.: I’m drawn to dark fiction, mostly horror, though I do like to do darker fantasy and sci-fi as well.

A.J.: How long have you been writing, Jenna?

LGOH CoverJ.M.: I’ve been writing forever, but only more seriously since 2005, after my daughter was born.

A.J.: Was she part of your inspiration to write seriously?

J.M.: Not really. Though I did write a lot of my first novel while holding (feeding) her. A lot of it was that I had always wanted to. Then a buddy of mine had been published, and that was like a kick in the pants. I knew that if he could do it, I could do it.

A.J.: So it became proving ground for you? Did you have to prove to yourself that you could do it?

J.M.: In a lot of ways, yes. As you probably know, a lot of writers, or any artists really, are not often all that confident in what they are capable of. I’m no different, though I’m a wee bit more confident now than I was back then.

A.J.: Did the publishing help you get your confidence?

J.M.: It did, and it didn’t. It did, because I did it! It didn’t, because the publisher I went with (my mistake for not doing research on them beforehand) was a total scam.

But, because of that, I met people who read my stuff and liked it, and published it. I made friends who encouraged me. THAT gave me the confidence to really write and also made me want to do that for others. A lot of the time, all it takes is one person to believe in you. I have people who did that for me, and I like to do it for others.

A.J.: I know exactly what you mean. All it takes is one person to believe in you. So you help other writers now? What do you do to help them?

J.M.: Well, I run a writer’s group through Facebook called, Word Weavers. I try to post things that encourage creative writing. I invite other writers to ask questions, seek advice, start discussions, etc.

I work with a few writers behind the scenes with their editing and writing skills (mainly new writers who have come to the group or through my anthologies).

And that brings me to the anthologies I do. Though, it hasn’t been plural in a couple years. I run two anthologies, The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror and The Ladies and Gentlemen of Fantasy. In both I encourage, both old hats and new writers, to contribute, hone their craft, and challenge them to a unique writing experience.

A.J.: Word Weavers? Tell me about that. How did that come to be?

J.M.: It was actually a few of us who all had that first scam publisher – and we wanted to start a group for writers by writers that would help fight against things like that. It evolved from there to doing weekly spotlights to promote our authors, we made trading cards (like MTG cards, but for writers we used them like virtual business cards), we encouraged folks to social network, make writer buddies, share publications that were accepting subs, give and seek advice, ask and answer questions, etc. etc.

That was all on MySpace. Once we migrated here, the group kind of died, but we still post things weekly, and I still even offer to make trading cards now and again.

We even did a few anthologies through the group – which is what got me started on my own.

A.J.: Do you have this group on FB also?

J.M.: We do – though we don’t do near as much with it now as we used to. Mainly it’s me posting weekly writing prompts and challenges, as well as a thread for folks to promote themselves each week. Word Weavers Facebook Page

A.J.: Let’s talk about LGOH. How did that come about?

J.M.: Well in 2007 I wanted to start an anthology series that would feature women in horror. I wanted to have photos and more in-depth biographies so that people could learn more about the writers behind the stories. I wanted to call it Ladies of Horror.

At the time, a few of our guy friends thought I should do one for men as well, The Gentlemen of Horror.

I did one in 2008, and started another, then I had life hit pretty hard, so I handed it off to an indie publisher, who put out the 2009 edition. I got the rights back at the end of 2010 and started again in 2013.

I feature seven men and seven women in each edition. They are each allowed 10k words of horror fiction used how they see fit (though it is less if flash or poetry). Each contributor gets an in-depth bio and photos.

It gets better every year, and I’ve worked with some amazing writers and artists over the last three years, and I hope that I’ll get to work with many more over many more years.

A.J.: What makes LGOH different from the other anthologies out there?

J.M.: I feel there’s two things that make it different. One is how I run it. I do “invite only” in which writers must query beforehand with sample writing and reasons for wanting to do the anthology. Then I decide who to invite. Then I invite, and then we work on the writing, the bios, the photos.

And that is the second thing. The bios. They are longer than the norm at around 700 words. They contain more information than most “little blurb” bios. And, they are written by other contributors. I pair up the writers in male/female teams and they write the biographies for their partners (not their own), so that is unique. Then I ask for four photos to lace in, to show more of who they are.

I can add a third in that each contributor section is unique and can have anywhere from one epic yarn to ten pieces of poetry and flash and anything you can think of in between.

A.J.: And you try to make it fun?

J.M.: I do. I also try to encourage each group to social network, make friends, expand their “groups,” so to speak, as each year I do get writers from all over, new and old, and some who have worked together, and some who never have at all.

I add them all to a little FB group and try to keep them as in the loop as I can about what I’m doing (editing, formatting, herding cats, promo stuff, whatever) and how things are going at each stage of the anthology.

A.J.: Am I correct in saying all the profits go to charity?

J.M.: Yes, everything that we get in royalties from both KDP and Createspace I send to The American Cancer Society. I do this in May and October (which is, just before each anthology comes out, on Halloween for Horror and April fools for the fantasy (but, there has not been a fantasy last year or this year – next year’s is in the planning stages, woot!)). I don’t recoup any costs. Every penny that comes in from sales goes to them.

A.J.: That is awesome. How has your experience been with the authors of LGOH?

J.M.: I have worked with some of the most amazing and wonderful people. The writers who contribute to the LGOH are really dedicated, caring and fantastic people to work with and have fun with. I love getting to know them and their work each year.

A.J.: So, what is slated for you, the writer, in the future?

J.M.: This year I am a Lady of Horror, so I’m working on one big story for that. Then I am re-doing my personal anthology, Ceremony of Chaos. And lastly, my son and I are working on a project (slowly) that will be a web based choose your own (dark) adventure kind of thing in which we’ve got a couple other writers on hand who will be helping us with.

“Who will be helping”? That reads funny.

A.J.: Yeah, it reads funny, but that’s okay.

I have a couple more questions, one of which revolves around your son. He has taken up writing, right?

J.M.: Yes, he has – fairly diligently as well.

A.J.: Is he following in his mom’s footsteps?

J.M.: Gods, I hope not! I hope he does better than I do. But in all seriousness, yeah, I think that’s part of his reasoning behind wanting to write in the first place. However, now that he’s done it, like the rest of us, he finds he wants and needs to.

A.J.: That is an awesome influence to have on your child. I bet that felt good the first time he told you he wanted to give it a try.

J.M.: It really did. I was hard on him though, which made me feel awful, but I knew I needed to be.

A.J.: Wow!. Crack the whip.

Okay, Jenna, one more thing, and I’ll let you go. Where can readers find you?

J.M.: My website is probably the best place and that is: Jennifer Miller’s Dark Fiction

A.J.: Jenna, thank you so much for your time.

J.M.: You rock. Thank you.

A.J.: Any time, any time.

You guys, please check Jenna out. She’s a great person and I have been fortunate to have known her for a while and to see her vision with the LGOH anthology. Also, all the proceeds go to The American Cancer Society, so not only can you get a great book, but you can also help a worthwhile cause.

Thank you for reading, and as always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror 2015

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