It was a dark and stormy night.
It's alive, ALIVE!
"Bedtime!" Mother yelled. I clicked off my flashlight, pulled the covers high above my head and stared at the latest issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
For years, I read monster magazines and scared myself silly thinking of those stories and those faces watching me. As I grew older the magazines faded and vanished. Patiently, I waited for another magazine to come along and return me to those terror-ific giddy-filled nights of non-stop reading under the covers. I'm happy to say... the wait is over.
Before my wondering eyes a delicious morsel of literature did appear. A magazine born of uber fandom that I just had to sink my teeth into. And I am so glad I did. If you're like me and love a classic spooky yarn or a tale of whimsical candlelit magic then you should look no further. Crow Toes Quarterly is your magazine.
It goes without saying that I had to know who was the monster behind the mask of my favorite new magazine. I fired up the torches and searched the dreary hills to find him perched atop a crumbled gravestone. His name is Christopher Millin, and he is the managing editor and publisher of CTQ. Let's take a walk with him through the dark forest and hear what he had to say.
Can you talk to me about the decision to create the magazine, where the inspiration came from and is there anything behind the name Crow Toes that we should know about?
Christopher Millin: A few of years ago I was in a Publishing Program at a local college and one of the assignments was to create a business plan for a magazine of our choice. I had been having some success in the world of children's literature with the acceptance of one of my middle-reader novels for publication, so I thought I would carry that through into my assignment. In my research I came to realize that in Canada, and North America as a whole, there were very few literature magazines for children. The majority of the magazines that did exist were filled with literature written by children. As an adult writer of children's literature I began to wonder what kind of opportunities existed for me in terms of getting my work published and I came to find very few. The consensus among my fellow students and peers was that there were a lot of people out there just like me writing quirky, playfully dark stories for children, but not knowing what to do with those stories once they were finished. I wanted to change that. After school, I was compelled to take my assignment and make it a reality.
The name of the magazine was born out of my admiration for crows and science fiction. A friend of mine was sharing his idea for a new sci-fi novel he was planning on writing. I had always been fascinated with sci-fi (and secretly, always wished I could write a sci-fi novel) and was in awe of what I was hearing. One of the planets in his novel was called Crotos. I had been planning on using the word Crow in the name of the magazine since day one, but I wasn't sure how to incorporate it until that moment. The whole thing just kind of clicked for me when I heard him describe this planet and its inhabitants. On a side note, he never ended up writing that novel.
I would like to know what the day to day is like for the Crow Toes gang. Can you give us a little inside into the process of running a magazine and getting an issue launched?
One of CTQ's more charming characteristics is its staff. There is a real CTQ Staff, which includes myself, my wife Laura and a couple of volunteer proofreaders. And there is a fictional CTQ staff which includes The Narrator, Poinsettia Park, The Staff Villain and Ogilvy the Lackey. Each character is based on an aspect of my personality. Ogilvy is the quiet, people pleaser in me. Our Staff Villain is the perfectionist in me. Poinsettia Park is the traveler in me. And The Narrator embodies the storyteller in me. Fictionalizing my staff allows me to have a little fun with this process, which can be quite taxing at times. They also help me fill up some of the space between production times. All the goings-on at the CTQ office are well documented in The Narrator's Blog (http://www.thenarratorsblog.blogspot.com).
Tell me something that most writers don't understand about the publishing process?
Besides editing and publishing a magazine, I read that you are also a writer! Can you tell me a bit about your book The King of Arugula? (Where can we find it?)
CM: The King of Arugula is the first book in a series of books titled The Hole Stories. It was released in 2007 by Thistledown Press and is currently available on Amazon.com and Chapters.ca (in Canada). The King of Arugula begins with me falling into a deep, dark hole on my way home from my Uncle Sol's funeral. At the bottom of that deep, dark hole, I meet a man name R.E. Flex. I can't see Mr. Flex, but I can smell him. He's been down there for days, waiting...waiting...waiting. I ask him how he ended up in the hole and he proceeds to tell me a collection of amazing and unbelievable stories that all tie together and end up with him at the bottom of the hole. His first story is about a couple of ten-year-old boys in pursuit of a magical tomato that will restore the sight of one of the boys. Along the way the boys meet a villainous man named William Fang (who has an obsession with collecting human legs), a caffeine-addicted monkey named Felix, a tattooed teenager named Clay and a plague of locusts set on destroying the world.
How much of your writing has been affected since becoming an editor/publisher?
CM: My style of writing has remained the same. The King of Arugula (and the two other books in the series I have completed) are dark and playful, like the magazine. What has really been affected is the amount of personal writing I get to do. I still try to write something new every day, but since starting up Crow Toes Quarterly, my writing has been limited to the stories in The Narrator's Blog and The Narrator's Humble Words at the beginning of each issue.
The magazine drips with dark creepy things that live in shadowy corners of the world. What are your biggest influences - monster books, movies, monsters themselves, etc. How often does this effect the theme of the magazine (issue to issue)?
CM: Our main inspiration at CTQ is Lemony Snicket. After each issue is done we like to ask, "Would Lemony Snicket like it?" Snicket's wonderful stories came to me by way of a young cousin. She handed me The Bad Beginning seven or eight years ago and since then, my whole writing/publishing life has changed. I started out writing adult fiction and completed two massive novels that now live in a shoebox in my closet after suffering more rejections than I can count from publishers around the world. I almost gave up writing and then this amazing gift was handed to me. I read The Bad Beginning in one go and was so inspired by the style and the voice and the darkness and the freedom that I began writing The King of Arugula the very next day.
I mean, I grew up reading Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, Ray Bradbury and the Brothers Grimm and I loved (and still do) early Tim Burton movies like Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, but I never thought of heading in a creative direction like this.
Each issue of the magazine is built around a loose theme. For our current issue (The Fourteenth Issue), the theme is wings. We like to leave our themes open to interpretation. This allows us a little more freedom with the content we relate to the theme. Past issues have focused on isolation, change and deception. These themes are prevalent in the works I have been influenced by and the experiences I have had in life.
Writers can read about your submissions and the guidelines to see what you would like. Can you tell me what kind of stories you don't want to see and what kind of stories you are not getting (that you would like)?
CM: The only stories I'd like to see less of are vampire stories.
Seriously, a huge amen to that!! Hasn't the blood well run dry on these people? C'mon, there are other monsters out there! Okay, sorry, I'm stepping off the soap box. Please continue...
CM: Right now, every single angle/idea seems to have been explored in this realm and I think it's time to give vampires a little rest. That being said, one of my goals is to publish unique takes on the stories we've all read a dozen times. So if a vampire story that had an element or idea I had never heard of before crossed my path, I'd definitely consider it. This is the same way I view ghost stories. CTQ was built on the classic ghost story. And I receive a lot of ghost stories. A LOT OF GHOST STORIES! Again, I'm looking for the ghost story with that unique element that sets it apart from all the rest.
As for the type of stories we're not getting enough of, there are a couple. Folks who read the blog and the magazine should know that the CTQ Staff really likes robots and zombies. Oddly, we receive very few stories about these wonderful things. I would love to see more unique zombie and robot stories.
That means as soon as you are done reading this you should be working on your next great robot zombie story or zombie robot yarn or robots vs. zombies - okay, fine, you get the idea. I know I've already started writing mine.
This was a true pleasure for me to speak with Christopher and learn a great deal about my favorite new magazine. I hope that I might be introducing several of you out there to a wonderful and amazing magazine to add to your subscriptions (which by the way is a cost of a large coffee - seriously - for a Venti Latte, you could have four issues sent to you). Thank you, Christopher. And Thank you, Crow Toes for the hours of entertainment.
Read the stories, see what they publish and put your best story forward. To submit to Crow Toes Quarterly - click here for guidelines.