Monthly Archives: November 2022

Do Cowbots Get Blue Balls? An interview with S. Park

S. Park’s new short story collection, Even Cowbots Get Blue Balls, is part of our Queering Consent erotica series. He’s as prolific in turning in polished copy as any editor could dream of, and we’ve also published a series of short-story zines by him, with more books and zines in the works. We spoke with him for our latest episode of the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, and he was kind enough to answer some written interview questions below.

What inspired you to write your book?

As it’s a collection of five stories, there were five different inspirations! Overall, though, given the book’s theme of loving the “other” my own thoughts and feelings about queer identities had a large impact. The mainstream likes to make their villains and their monsters queer for a reason, and while I think fighting back against that is a valid response, embracing it is as well. If you tell me that a man loving another man is monstrous, then how about a man loving a demon? A robot? A vampire? If you are going to be horrified by how strange and alien my love is, then I might as well go all the way and be as strange, monstrous, and horrifying as possible! And yet in this collection especially once you read the stories, they’re not horrifying at all. They’re consenting people who care about each other finding ways to bridge divides that vary from two princes, one of whom merely happens to be a fairy, to a human being who’s meant to slay demons instead finding pleasure with one.

What was it like to publish with Microcosm?

It’s been pretty smooth sailing so far. I’ve been lucky to work with an editor whose style and approach suits me pretty perfectly, and my prior experience with other small presses meant that nothing in the process was a shock, though I was mildly surprised when I found out there was a “marketing team” (Microcosm is by far the largest publisher I have worked with, several have been single individuals running “basement” passion projects!) and that said team wanted to change my book’s title to be more provocative. I can’t help my continuing urge to point out that the cowboy is the human and the robot is the city-slicker in the story in question, but I will admit that Even Cowbots Get Blue Balls is both more memorable, and gives more of a clue to the steamy nature of the contents than The Only Chance Inn does!

What was the submission/query process like for you?

I was incredibly lucky to be able to compress that process, due to knowing my editor Lydia personally before submitting to Microcosm. They had read a number of my fanfiction stories, so when their work on the Queering Consent series came up in conversation, they already knew that I wrote the sorts of things that would fit well under that label.

What else have you written?

I write a lot! I’ve written millions of words of fanfiction across fandoms from the silly to the obscure to the incredibly horny. (My Little Pony, The Chronicles of Amber, and Hades the video game, to name one in each category!) I’ve also published a few previous books, ranging from erotic romance (The Sacrifice, published by JMS Books under my previous pen name of Stephanie Park is probably the best of those) to post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure featuring vampires (Blood Choice, a book originally published by the Austrialian Jaffa Books, alas now defunct, but that was picked up by Thurston Howl Press, and is still available through them.) I’ve also had quite a few short stories in assorted anthologies, and I even self-publish some zines on my own.  I am constantly full of thoughts and ideas, and I can’t help but have some of them come out as stories!

What are you currently reading? 

I have a stack by my bed that includes Flipping by R. Lee Fryar, which I’m only about a third of the way through but which is an interesting world where ghosts depend on their haunted houses to continue to exist as ghosts, so of course a flipper messing with this ghost’s house isn’t going to go over well! I’m also slowly working my way through Antifa Splatterpunk, an anthology from Cursed Morsels which is fascinating reading but which I find I have to take a small chunk at a time, as it’s intense, and Your Body is Not Your Body, a trans-themed horror collection from Tenebrous Press with much the same problem. And I just started—as a pleasant break from those—Trans-Galactic Bike Ride, from a publisher called Microcosm, you might have heard of them! In non-fiction I am reading War Before Civilization by Lawrence H. Keely which is a stellar book and an amazing look into the fundamentals of human nature as relates to violent conflict, “civilized” or not.

What’s the best book you read in the last year?

I write more than I read these days, which is probably a failing of some kind or other. I would probably have to say Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher, which falls short of being perfect by about one millimeter.  Said millimeter being that I think the male “hero” character was actually unnecessary and could have been written out entirely, though I understand why he got put in and why he wasn’t written out.  Sometimes “good enough” is good enough, and oh WOW is this a “good enough” book! More than good enough, it has everything I could ever want in a dark fairy tale world, including perhaps my favorite fairy godmother of all time.

What’s next for you? 

More of whatever inspires me, which could be anything, but also definitely more of the same. I adore writing queer relationships, happy sex, and strange, inhuman beings who maybe turn out to be awfully human after all, and I’ve already pitched and had accepted another collection of similar stories to Microcosm, not to mention the direct sequels to several stories in the Cowbots book that are in the works as well! So there are many steamy, consensual, kinky, queer, and monster-loving tales to come. I’m also enjoying self-publishing a zine series of queer horror stories, in which queer people aren’t the real monsters, bigots are, and the queer “monsters” get bloodily satisfying revenge.  So if, for example, a trans man being able to summon a demon to send after the cis transphobe who assaulted him sounds like a fun time, those might be up your alley.

Where can people find you online?

On rare occasion when I have coherent thoughts, I blog on Dreamwidth at bladespark.dreamwidth.org but I’m most active on twitter @bladespark, where you can see my every little hummingbird notion, and also quite a lot of NSFW artwork, craft projects, and so on. I also have my self-published zines on Etsy (sparkcreatures) and in digital format on itch.io (bladespark).

Any in-person events coming up soon?

No dates yet, but I will eventually have a book signing at As You Like it in Eugene, Oregon. Their event room is unfortunately out of order, but I’m promised I’ll be booked in after they have it repaired, and I’m quite looking forward to it.

The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World

Born in 1878, bicycle racer Marshall “Major” Taylor became the first Black sports star to become a global celebrity when he won the world cycling championship in 1899. Throughout his bike-racing career, he won awards and set records on and off the track. But in his native United States, he faced racist discrimination and violence at every turn, causing him to spend most of his time in Europe where fans saw his value. After he retired from racing, Taylor wrote and published his autobiography and traveled the world promoting it. Written in the 1920s, his story feels fresh, contemporary, and readable. His life was too short, but his legacy lives on in the many organizations and clubs that bear his name, and the generations of new cyclists who look up to him. His intelligence, good humor, and global perspective shine through on every page in this candid account of a remarkable life. 

This new edition features a foreword by bicycle advocate Adonia Lugo, author of Bicycle / Race, as well as a preface by Ayesha McGowan, the first Black American to be a member of a professional road cycling team. 

The Enduring Legacy of Portland’s Black Panther Party

In the 1960s through 1980s, the Black Panther Party rose up throughout the United States, envisioning a world without systemic racism and police violence. This is the story of Portland, Oregon’s chapter of the Party, told from original interviews, first-hand accounts, and extensive research, including police surveillance documents. This account shows a vivid picture of neighborhood activists determined to improve their community by creating their own social services, and wildly succeeding—despite the best attempts of police, city officials, and media to paint them as violent extremists, and to spy on, infiltrate, and violently suppress their activities. Portland’s Black Panther chapter innovated healthy free breakfasts for children in poverty, the longest-running Panther free health clinic, the Panthers’ first dental clinic, and a powerful system of self-directing neighborhood associations.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal

A new edition of the 17th Century classic, with a new introduction and annotations by herbalist JJ Pursell, with your choice of a white or black cover.

For the last 350 years, since the reign of Elizabeth I, Nicholas Culpeper’s encyclopedic compendium of the uses and properties of medicinal herbs has been unrivaled in completeness or charm. From Adder’s Tongue to Yellow Loosestrife, each of the 316 herbs is described in detail, along with its “government and virtues,” remedies and cautions—much of which has held up remarkably well through many advancements in scientific understanding. This new edition has been updated and annotated by Dr. J.J. Pursell, author of The Herbal Apothecary. Dr. Pursell has added modern scientific names, usage notes and contraindications, and a fascinating new introduction that frames Culpeper’s remarkable life and work through a modern lens. This timely upgrade to a classic work retains the brilliance of the original while making its valuable information available to new generations of herbalists, house witches, students, and anyone who wants to know more about the plants growing in their backyard. 

We’re expanding our trade representation!

Last week we sent out a press release that began: “Microcosm Publishing is making some changes in our US trade representation, effective Jan 1, 2023.” 

For the uninitiated in the publishing industry, this means that we will be working with a broader array of outside salespeople to get our books into bookstores (aka “the [book] trade”). Most publishers of our size (probably best described at this time as on the smaller end of “medium-sized”) work with a large trade distributor to get their books into bookstores. Microcosm has worked with several distributors on and off in the last 28 years, until the beginning of 2019 when we announced our return to independent distribution (which also ended our relationship with a certain giant online retailer). Since then, we’ve been working with three different independent groups of trade sales reps who really get our books, have relationships with bookstores across the US, and have done a stellar job connecting our books with those stores and their buyers.

As we grow and learn what works best, we’re making a few changes in this trade representation:

Abraham Associates will now represent Microcosm’s titles in the midwest US, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Bob Barnett (PW’s Rep of the Year for 2020) at Third Act Sales will represent Microcosm in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. 

Imprint Group (which is merging with our existing rep group, the former Book Travelers West—the head of which, Kurtis Lowe, was PW’s 2022 rep of the year) will continue to represent Microcosm in the western US.

Como Sales Co. (group head Maureen Karb was nominated for PW Rep of the Year in 2020) will continue to represent Microcosm’s books in the eastern and southeast US.

Microcosm has been an independent publisher since 1996, and was named the fastest growing publisher of 2022 by Publisher’s Weekly. Microcosm’s year-to-date sales are up 37%. 

Microcosm CEO Joe Biel commented, “We are thrilled to continue to expand our reach with these new sales reps, in order to create a world we want to live in and for everyone pushed to the margins to help themselves feel recognized.”

Abraham Associates Principal John Mesjak said, “Everyone in our group is excited to get started working with Microcosm, talking up their books in our territory. We’re always looking for publishers who bring interesting, passionate voices to the world; present a worldview that aligns with our own; and have a crew of smart publishing folks that we can work with. We love that all three of those boxes are ticked in Microcosm, and we can’t wait to get started!”

Microcosm is the distributor for Birdcage Bottom Books, Don Giovanni Records, and GOBLINKO, whose books will also be sold to stores by these groups.

Unfuck the Holidays, a giant ebook bundle

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered up with Humble Bundle again to offer a rare, massive discounted bundle of our most popular ebooks of the last two years. It’s called Unf*ck the Holidays, and true to its name it’s packed with books to help you get through this season with aplomb. Mental health? Got a lot of that. Sex and relationships? Hmmm, apparently that’s been on our minds, too. Pagan spirituality? No problem. Want to learn to sew or forage for mushrooms? Help is on the way.

We’re pretty sure we’ve got something for everyone here. If we don’t have anything for you, maybe it’s time to consider pitching a book to us!

Born to Be Weird: An interview with Set Sytes

On this week’s People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we’re joined by author Set Sytes, whose collection of wry horror short stories Born to Be Weird is out now, joining his underground hit How Not to Kill Yourself and a host of other books.

Set joined us from his home in York, England to talk about creativity, depression, the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, the editorial process, and the life saving power of imagination.

The economic theories behind our publishing

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly entertain a reader question about the economic theories behind how we run Microcosm. Neither one of us is an economist, though we do sometimes play one on the internet. So this question kind of caught us off guard. But we have fun dredging the depths of our brains for the very serious reading of our youths that made a lasting impression.

Do authors need a platform?

This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, Joe and Elly are joined by Ariel Gore, whose brand-new book The Wayward Writer is a stellar practical and personal guide for authors finding their own path to publication.

We talked about the question of platform—specifically the idea that authors need to bring a ready-made audience along with their manuscript. It’s not so straightforward, and have fun getting into the weeds about that.