Our short story “Thunderbird” was published in DarkFuse Magazine as part 7 of their online EROTIKOS series on August 7, 2017. The story was also slated to appear in a collectible hardcover edition of EROTIKOS, which would eventually have been released in a boxed set along with the other volumes of the series.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
“Thunderbird” was available for approximately two weeks before the recent announcement that, after eight months of financial trouble, DarkFuse has filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. All stories have been removed from the site, and rights to all of our DarkFuse works have reverted back to us.
This is not the first time we’ve been through this. The world of independent publishing is a fickle game. In the early 2000’s, myriad small presses sprang up, only to die before they published more than a handful of titles, if any. The climate was different then. There was an uptick in horror sales. Shocklines was the independent retail juggernaut for all things underground horror, and many horror authors did well. Leisure was publishing mass market horror novels again. It’s wasn’t exactly another horror boom, but things definitely improved for a while. During those years, Delirium Books, run by Shane Staley, was a leader in the small press market, publishing limited hardcover editions by many successful writers. Getting published by Delirium was a dream of ours. From the very beginning, every communication I had with Shane was purely professional, even when that communication was a rejection letter.
Fast forward to March 2011, when I received a call at work from Larry Roberts. The previous year, our novella BLACK MERCY FALLS had been accepted by Larry for a limited hardcover release from Bloodletting Press. He was calling to let us know that he was shifting his focus to work on Miskatonic Books. My heart sank and my stomach dropped. Did I mention we had been through this a few times before? The disappointment was premature. He had talked to Shane about the book; Shane had read it and agreed to take it on as a part of his new novella line. He would honor the terms of our contract, including the advance, which was very good for a novella. It was a roller coaster discussion, down and straight up. We were finally going to have a book published by Delirium. It only took 11 years to break into that market (albeit via fairly unconventional means).
Things moved fast after that. Shane reached out to us, we signed new contracts with the same terms. He accepted a second novella from us, SORROW CREEK, which was published the following year. I finally sold him a story for a Delirium anthology, HORRORWIRED 2. And then came the news that he was restructuring, shutting down Delirium Books, and starting a new company, DarkFuse. To make an already long story somewhat less lengthy — he picked up my story for a new anthology, accepted a new novella from me, and another new novella from Angeline and me, ELDERWOOD MANOR, which received great reviews and reached our widest audience yet. He also rejected three other novellas before accepting a novelette and short story just prior to the end.
Some authors online are feeling burned by the bankruptcy. One author posted on Facebook that he had “no idea why so many people were singing this guy’s praises.”
Shane dealt with us professionally in every regard. We were always paid on time, in the full amounts we were due. We were provided professionally generated royalty statements that gave us sales numbers for the applicable time periods. Payments arrived on timelines promised. Our submissions were tracked and responded to in a timely manner, whether they were acceptances or rejections. The books had high quality cover art, and we always received boxes of author copies well in advance of release dates. Books were published on time. We worked with Dave Thomas as editor on most of our work, and developed a lasting professional relationship and friendship with someone who believed in our work and supported us in every way. Shane himself replied to queries on any number of subjects promptly and cordially.
These reasons alone put our experiences with DarkFuse in the golden category.
We’ve seen a lot in independent publishing. As of this writing, it’s kind of staggering to realize we’ve been working with small press and independent publishers for 17 years. After almost 20 years, our personal experiences with stupendous levels of unprofessionalism and just plain bad luck could fill a book. The good guys are few and far between. Hence, I feel it necessary to point out that our experiences with Delirium Books and DarkFuse were among the best so far. We’re very sorry to see them go.