Friday, December 30, 2011

A Buddy of mine, Aldo Calcagno

Meet Aldo Calcagno.  The head guru for his Powder Burn Flash and Darkest Before The Dawn emags. Two emags that have been a kind of seminial birthing point for writers.  The guy is an avid lover of books and short stories in general.  But he has a real softie-spot when it comes to dark noir and calloused hard boiled.

Thus Powder Burn Flash and Darkest Before the Dawn.

If my limited memory serves me correctly it was to his Darkest Before The Dawn I sent one of my first Turner Hahn/Frank Morales short stories.  Apparently he liked'em from the get-go.  Everything I've submitted to him, so far, he's snapped up readily.

Let me make a confession here;  it was Aldo and his DBTD website which suddenly infused my writing short stories with an energy, and acceptance,  not seen  before.  Suddenly I began to find people enjoying my writing.  Kinda changed my luck running into him.  For that I'm very grateful.

Thought it would be good to interview him.  Kinda tap into his mind and see how the man ticks.  Out came some interesting stuff.  Especially take mind to his ICE idea.  I like the concept very much.

So here you go.  Here's Aldo!

1. Busy working in the corporate world, what in blue blazes made you decide to enter the emag business?

A few years ago there were few markets or opportunities for writers to practice their craft online. The few places that I would visit were all starting to close down or decreased their publishing schedule from monthly to quarterly. even at that only a few writers were getting published.
So, I decided that since I loved reading and discovering all these new stories and writers that I would open up Powder Burn Flash ( to open a market for mystery/crime fiction stories under 1,000 words.
A year later, after several requests and submissions of longer material which didn't fit the flash fiction guidelines, I decided to open Darkest Before the Dawn ( for stories in any genre up to 10,000 words. To this day both of these sites receive 25 - 50 submissions per month.
All of this has been a labor of love over the past five years. I think in many ways it has helped with keeping my sanity from the pressure and demands of the day job. A kind of release and escape, which I hope has been beneficial to all the writers that I have been able to publish.

2. Darkness Before the Dawn has been one of those seminal emags which has seen quite a few talented writers contribute to it. DBTD looks for the longer stories to exhibit. So tell us, do prefer the long short story? Ones with perhaps more of a complex story line and plot? Or do you prefer the shorter pieces?

That is a great question. For me, as a reader, I read all the time, across genres and all types of written material. I guess that I don't have a preference. I would say on a monthly basis that I read a ton of flash, dozens of short stories, a few novella length works and about two to three novels a week. I'm able to do all of this as I'm a very fast reader. However, when I'm in the editing mode, that speed drops dramatically.
So. let me finally answer the question. Yes and No.

3. Writing dark noir and hard boiled. What is it about this genre which is so attractive to you. (I've had this impression for a long time--I hope I am right in this assessment.)

Yes, I like this area of writing particularly. I guess what attracts me to it is the what drives our inner thoughts to these dark edges and how we are able to regulate these thoughts and not act upon them. In all the material that I have read over the years I enjoy reading how these different authors dissect the minds of their characters and how they craft their stories. I find that this is one genre where I'm not bored as a reader.
In addition, I think the Mystery/Crime Fiction genre has allowed discussion and exploration of our society's ill. What I mean by this is that the genre has allowed writers to delve into what problems society is facing and via a good story explore those issues. In many ways I think many of these stories are doing just that.

4. What factors do you look for when a new story and writer comes up for consideration. Is there a formula you use to decide which goes into one of your emags and/or rejected?

First, I'm looking for a good story. I want to read about characters that I care about. If you combine both of these elements in your story, you're in. In the flash market this is a real challenge. You have to think and plot carefully to set up and resolve the story in less than 1,000 words.
As for rejections, I really try not to reject material. The number one pet peeve is not following the submission instructions. However, I try to give everyone their due. The majority of material is fairly well edited upon submission and I may only have a few suggestions or comments. Others, I will send back with notes and have them try again. My goal in both of these formats is help writers get better at their craft and to provide a forum to expose readers to material.

I think we are in an exciting time in regards to publishing. I think we need to keep in mind that technology has affected all aspects of our society and if you are unwilling to adapt to those changes then you may ended up fighting every new thing that comes down the pike. The new generation is highly screen driven and has a short attention span. They are constantly multi-tasking and I fear few of them are able or know how to relax outside of staring at a screen. I think this affects the book publishing world greatly.
On the other hand, what an exciting opportunity there is for all writers, agents, publishers and readers is emerging. The ability to write, publish and market your own material at a relatively low cost and within a very short timeline, is upon us. I believe that is good for the publishing world. Many new and talented writers are getting their material out there and making money at too.
I don't think the paper book is ever going to disappear, at least not in my life time.
As for the genres that I enjoy, well, let's say that they are alive and well. I'm excited to see the rebirth of the short story and the novella and look forward to some interesting experimentation with multi-media and writing in the future.

6. The vehicle known as the short story seems to have been, in a fashion, re-invented with the arrival of epublishing. Two questions; is this reinvention a good thing? And how does a talented writer lift themselves above the sea of mediocrity that invariably floods the open market that is today.

Yes, a very good thing. As I mentioned above, a multitude of today's readers are reading short stories. They seem to perfectly fitted to time constraints that are present and are great for the commuters in the world, lol.
Seriously, this under appreciated format is back with a vengeance and that is a good thing. The sheer number of anthologies that are being produced and sold verify this fact, not to mention the talent that come forward over the last year.
So, how do you rise to the top....practice and volume. The number of new markets looking for material is quickly growing as well as the number of sites or societies that are recognizing good material with awards. What I would like to see is a cross platform publishing of short stories and see magazine publishers reintroduce this format in their print journals. It seems to me that too many of the print journals are too literary in nature. My experience has been that readers like a variety of materials, so they will continue to peruse the internet and search for sites that meet their needs. So, getting bak to the question, find the market that you are interested in publishing your stories in, find a good editor and fine tune those submissions. Submit to many markets and get your name around. One thing that I always encourage writers to do is to take risks. Take risks in your writing to grow and don't be afraid to submit to a market, even if you think you're no ready. You are ready!

7. You mentioned once agents and other publishers have contacted you about one writer or another. Does this happen on a regular basis? Have you seen an increase in interest from the traditional publishing world contacting emag entrepreneurs?

It has been happening more and more with me. The exciting thing for me is seeing these talented authors being offered opportunities to be published in larger markets and/or book contracts. This is my personal goal for writers; to help make this happen. What I find interesting about this process is that these major publishing people ask me permission to contact the authors. I tell them the reason I insist on submissions to my two sites have a bio is so that anyone can contact the author. My guidelines state very clearly, that you as the author retain all writes to your material. Therefore, if you look around at a few emerging upcoming authors you will see their work previously published on one of my two site now being published by the big
New York house. I couldn't be prouder of those authors.

8. What are your plans for in the near future for your publishing empire? Plan to go the traditional publishing route? Plan to create more emags?
Wow! I have an empire? lol. I would like to expand my efforts to assist more writers achieve their goals.
At some point I want to explore adding to my sites in the way of making material available via ereaders simultaneously when posting to the ezine. I know that Amazon can do via blogs, but I need to think through the amount of work and associated costs. My two sites are a labor of love and deeply grateful to Jason Andrews who maintains the server for both sites out of his shared love and interest in these endeavors.
I would also like to continue and expand my work with Seth Harwood ( on CrimeWAV ( CrimeWAV is a podcast program of crime fiction. Over the years we have been successful in attracting and promoting work from upcoming authors to the New Times Bestselling authors like Michael Connelly. I think podcasts are a powerful tool for promoting writing and a great medium for storytelling.
One area of interest is putting together a society of e-published writer called ICE - International Community of E-Publishing. This would be an open society to help more authors with their craft and help vet the good material that is out there. I plan to explore and implement this idea in 2012 and anybody out there that would like to get in on the ground floor and assist with this is welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. Aldo published my first flash crime piece, In The Dog House,and he is certainly one of the people responsible for me annoying the internet so much.