Yours, in Dark Arts…
By John Everson
Like most ventures, Dark Arts Books started out as an off-the-cuff idea. In March 2006, Bill Breedlove, my friend and fellow Chicago author of the fantastic, said to me, “Hey – you design books, why don’t you put together a quick promo chapbook for the World Horror Convention in San Francisco — ‘a boys from Chicago’ kind of thing?”
‘Why not?’ I said…after all, I’d just left a four-year gig doing book design for Twilight Tales, and I didn’t have a deadline to produce one of my photo collage bookcover projects for Delirium Books for another few weeks…so I was temporarily without a home for my design jones.
Of course, that “quick chapbook” quickly turned into the 152-page, 12-story, four-author collection Candy in the Dumpster, featuring stories from me, Bill, Martin Mundt and Jay Bonansinga, complete with color cover and ISBN number. Bill served as editor and I handled design and distribution. Enter Dark Arts Books.
After working on editing, book layout, cover design and distribution for other people for years, I’d been thinking that eventually I would dive in and form my own small press… I just hadn’t counted on doing it just then. But… from a chapbook idea quickly evolved a full-fledged small press!
For the 2007 World Horror Con, we followed up Candy with Waiting for October, another 12-story, four-author collection, this time featuring Jeff Strand, Adam Pepper, Sarah Pinborough and Jeffrey Thomas. Again, Bill wrangled the words and I slotted them into 152 pages of book.
Our third title, Sins of the Sirens, was released in January 2008, this time with me at the editor’s helm, since this was a project I’d wanted to do for some time. At 260 pages, (100 more than our first two offerings) it was the first of our full-sized anthology line.
Sirens featured Loren Rhoads, Maria Alexander, Mehitobel Wilson and Christa Faust. As I worked on that title, Bill pulled together our next anthology to debut at World Horror 2008 at the end of March. Like A Chinese Tattoo hit the streets at WHC 2008 in Salt Lake City and featured Cullen Bunn, Rick R. Reed, David Thomas Lord and JA Konrath.
In 2008, another Chicago-based author, Martel Sardina, volunteered to help the press out with marketing and promotions. She’s been frequently seen since carting books and helping Dark Arts out at convention tables!
In March 2009, three years after the first “splash” page announced Dark Arts on the Internet, we launched a full-scale Dark Arts Books website redesign. We also debuted our fifth title, Mighty Unclean, featuring fiction from Gary A. Braunbeck, Mort Castle, Gemma Files and Cody Goodfellow, at the Bram Stoker Award Weekend in June.
The following year, we returned to our tradition of launching books at the World Horror Convention. When The Night Comes Down was christened at the con in Brighton, England at an all-night bar party DJed by Bill Breedlove. The book featured Joseph D’Lacey, Bev Vincent, Robert A. Weinberg, and Nate Kenyon.
In 2011, I returned my hand to the editing side of the press, co-editing our seventh title, Swallowed by the Cracks with Bill. This one featured Lee Thomas, Gary McMahon, S.G. Browne and Michael Marshall Smith, and debuted at the World Horror Convention in Austin, TX, where I hosted a Launch Party / Reading Hour with McMahon and Browne. Lee Thomas was also on premises, but as the chair of the convention, he couldn’t get pinned down for an hour!
As I write this, the World Horror Convention 2012 has just wrapped up, and no Dark Arts Book debuted there. That doesn’t mean the press is resting. Late last year I decided that instead of pushing forward with another title, I really needed to pull back for a few months and spend my energies moving our titles into the e-book age. So the reality is, in the first quarter of 2012, we published almost as many titles as we had in the past five years! Each e-book has been a re-invention, and with each one, I’ve added features and formatting (necessitating that I go back and RE-publish the earliest of our e-book offerings). There will not be a new four-author anthology from Dark Arts this year, but there now are e-books. And there is news of an exciting, different project for the press to come…
Dark Arts Books continues to grow. That “quick chapbook” thrown together in 2006 garnered Bill and Marty a couple of Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 2007 and launched a successful small press. One of Jay’s stories went on to form the basis of an indie movie starring Marilyn Chambers and Tim Kazurinsky. Not bad for an off-the-cuff idea that generated a “dumpster.”