Tag Archives: small presses

Santiago Caruso and The Songs of Maldoror

What’s this strangeness? Illustrated book covers from Spanish language editions? And of weird or obscure books? But look, the marvellous Santiago Caruso is involved. So we did it. We are fearless. Our weird art theme has returned.


We’ve long been admirers of the exquisite covers on the books of Editorial Valdemar, an independent Spanish publisher based in Madrid. The company was set up by Rafael Diaz Santander and Juan Luis Gonzalez at the end of the eighties, and now has a fantastic range of Spanish language gothic fiction, horror, fantasy and science fiction literature. Thomas Ligotti, H P Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes in Castilian, no less.


Not only do Editorial Valdemar cover some of the greatest classics in weird literature through their Gothic collection, but they have also introduced translations of contemporary works via their Insomnia range. They now offer Caitlin R Kiernan, Graham Masterton and others as well.


It’s those illustrated covers, though. Valdemar recently announced that they were issuing The Songs of Maldoror (about which more later), with a cover and illustrations by one of our favourite weird artists, Santiago Caruso. In his honour, we have chosen his and some of the other striking Valdemar covers, to display today.


For those people interested in the particular book in question, here’s Valdemar’s release information in our (very) loose English translation, with the original Spanish below it.

Valdemar-cabra“Finally, three months late, we just sent to press the 100th of our Gothic publications. There have been some problems, yes, we have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but in the end it was worth it. It is a work that we wanted to edit almost from the beginning of the founding of Valdemar, and it would have been a perfect number 1 of the collection of “The Cursed” or “A Library of Hell” we never got to do. So we thought it was a good idea for it to be the 100th Gothic publication – The Songs of Maldoror. The edition is illustrated by the great Santiago Caruso, and is complemented by the poems and letters of Isidore Ducasse, and a profuse collection of notes by Mauro Ermine. I want to thank all the fans of the Gothic collection by making it possible that we have come this far.”


“Por fin, con tres meses de retraso, acabamos de mandar a imprenta el número 100 de la Gótica. Ha habido algunos problemas, es cierto, hemos estado al borde del ataque de nervios, pero al final ha merecido la pena. Es una obra que nos apetecía editar casi desde el principio de la fundación de Valdemar, habría sido un número 1 perfecto de una colección de “malditos” o “una biblioteca del Infierno” que nunca llegamos a hacer. Así que nos pareció una buena idea que fuera el número 100 de la Gótica: LOS CANTOS DE MALDOROR. La edición va ilustrada por el grandísimo SANTIAGO CARUSO, y se complementa con los poemas y las cartas de Isidore Ducasse, además de un profuso aparato de notas a cargo de Mauro Armiño. Quiero agradeceros a todos los seguidores de la colección Gótica por haber hecho posible que hayamos llegado hasta aquí.”


Despite the fact that we really want to look at the pictures, we feel that we should tell you a bit about The Songs of Maldoror. The work itself is somewhat mad, and has been compared to a romantic version of William Burroughs going off the rails. It’s not exactly a greydogtales recommendation because quite frankly some people say that it’s too difficult to follow. Others find it inspiring (it has some good imagery in it, certainly).


It’s either a prose poem or a poetic novel, with six long cantos (or chunks). It’s not exactly linear, and it is rather surreal. Written around 1868-69 by Isidore-Lucien Ducasse when he was in his early twenties, it has no plot as such. It might be easiest to use the Penguin Classics blurb to try and describe it:

“…it follows the experiences of Maldoror, a master of disguises pursued by the police as the incarnation of evil, as he makes his way through a nightmarish realm of angels and gravediggers, hermaphrodites and prostitutes, lunatics and strange children. Delirious, erotic, blasphemous and grandiose by turns…”


The world of Maldoror is violent and confusing, and is said to have been a major influence upon the surrealists, French symbolism and the Dadaist movement.

el horror sobrenatural en la literatura valdemar

Ducasse, a French writer born in Uruguay, wrote it under the pseudonym Comte de Lautremont. He died at the age of only 24, probably from fever during the 1870 siege of Paris.

Amazingly he thus managed to endure two sieges in his short life. When he was a boy he was caught up in the siege of Montevideo which was part of the war between Argentina and Uruguay. This makes his misfortune at being besieged in Paris by the Prussians rather weird in itself.


Apparently Ducasse had meant to write a ‘good’ counterpoint to The Songs of Maldoror, but never finished it. Paris surrendered two months after his death, by the way.



Regular listeners, who will therefore have no need of laxatives, will know that we love trivia here, and so we cannot help but mention that Valdemar the Great won the battle of Grathe (Grey) Heath in 1157 and went on to ruled Denmark. Greyheath, greydog – we couldn’t miss that out.

In addition, Bodegas Valdemar in Spain produce a nice rioja, and Valdemar is the overall title for Mercedes Lackey‘s famous series of fantasy novels, starting chronologically with The Black Gryphon. Which brings us back to weird fiction rather nicely.


You can drool over more Editorial Valdemar covers here (or even buy some of the books if you read Spanish)

valdemar main site

And there is a sadly Caruso-less translation of The Songs of Maldoror still available from Penguin. Nice cover, though.

41-0W3Oc2qLthe songs of maldoror


Next time on godknowswhatwe’redoingtales, David Senior shares his striking photography and talks about his writing as well.

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Once in an April Moon

Do you want to be published? Do you want to be a publisher? Is that a big YES? Is that your life-long dream, the one which will finally justify your expenditure on catfood? Which ever way your keyboard hangs, we have a great interview with publisher Neil Baker of the Canadian small press April Moon Books.

Neil is also a writer, of course, and the author of the wonderful children’s book A Picnic at the Mountains of Madness (which all parents should steal from their kids and read themselves).Today, though,  we’re focusing on his company. Settle yourselves quietly, listeners, and let Uncle Neil tell you the ins and outs of what it’s like to run one of the presses which give so many writers their first big break.


Warning to starving authors: This article is absolutely nothing to do with submission calls. It doesn’t mean that Uncle Neil wants all the boys and girls to send him crayon copies of their latest story about zombie elves. Don’t get over-excited now. Although, hmm, zombie elves – must make a note of that one.


April Moon, based in Ontario, has published a fascinating selection of books, from madness in the English countryside (Black Star, Black Sun) to A Picnic at the Mountains of Madness for young and old. Then there are their anthologies, such as a new look at the werewolf trope in Flesh Like Smoke, and the Dark Rites of Cthulhu collection, which features two writers we’ve already interviewed here on greydogtales, Ted E Graua voice from the nameless dark ) and Willie Meikle ( william hope hodgson: the inheritors ).

So let’s get the lowdown…

moon logo

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Neil, and many thanks for participating.

neil: Thanks for having me.

greydog: You’re our first publisher on the site, so we’ll be gentle and start with a basic question. Some would say that it’s an insane idea to set up a small press, given all the known trials and tribulations of such a venture. What inspired you in particular to do it?

neil: You are right about it being an insane idea, but then most acts of passion are. There are a couple of reasons why I set April Moon up; firstly, I was at a low point where nothing seemed to be panning out in the other avenues I was pursuing (film/animation), and I needed to do something creative to keep the drive going. I have always been a writer, but for most of my life I have forced my stories into other fields. Then I saw some sub calls on Facebook and thought I might as well have a bash at it – and enjoyed some success straight off the bat with my first couple of stories. However, that brings me to the second reason. I wasn’t happy with the overall experience and thought I could make a better job of it. I had sent a story to Brian Sammons around this time and we became social media buddies – then he learned of my ambition to start publishing, and pitched The Dark Rites of Cthulhu to me. From that moment on, there was no turning back.

Dark Rites of Cthulhu Front Cover

greydog: They say that everyone has a book inside them, though possibly some should stay there (we know, we’re being mean). With so many books competing for publishers, where do you start when building up your list? Do you approach authors you admire, or do you sift through hopefuls who contact you first?

neil: I regularly have writers contact me with regard to publishing their work, but I have to let them down gently. I am fully aware that this venture is a long game and really, as a small (some might say micro) press, I’m in no position to make anybody rich. That puts half of them off straight away.

I have always been about the short story – I grew up reading Frederic Brown, Harry Harrison and Roald Dahl’s horror fiction – and I find that just putting out the call attracts the talent hungry to get their work out there. That said, once I have a roster of authors who have written for me, and whom I love, then I regularly dip into their secret plans to see if I can get involved. Now my short stories are getting longer, novellas have crept in, and now there appears to be a novel on the horizon. April Moon is morphing.


greydog: Harry Harrison bought us a whisky or two in the old days, when we were eager fan-pups. Happy times, before we got serious and authorial. You’ve already managed to publish some cracking stuff, as we said earlier. Do you have a set of guidelines in your head which says, oh yes, this could be an April Moon book?

neil: I come from a film background, and I like my stories to entertain me the same way a tent pole blockbuster or a B-movie would. If a story is visually grand, pulpy and well-written, then it has a very good chance with me. You’ll find many of my anthologies laced with humour – this is deliberate and important. I’m always on the lookout for stories that take me by surprise, that lead me by the nose and then spin me around. The short story is not an easy form to do this in, and I admire everybody who succeeds. There are many other excellent publishers out there who produce stories that make you think, that force you to contemplate your very existence. I just want everyone to have a bloody good time.


greydog: Do you keep in touch with many other small and micro presses, or is it a fairly lonely road to take?

neil: We nod politely at each other via social media, but other than that, I haven’t sat down for tea and crumpets with another publisher yet. I’m hoping to get over to downtown Toronto this year and butt heads with some fellow writers/publishers, but in the meantime it’s just me and the shadows in this basement.

april moon headquarters, yesterday

greydog: We imagine that promotion must be a bit of a headache. Do you find it hard work getting your books noticed in the crowd, or do you find that quality wins out in the end?

neil: This is the hardest aspect of small scale publishing, and one that I continue to investigate. You’d be fooling yourself if you thought a hundred Facebook posts would sell your book – you really need to put the big money in to get your name and product in the trades in order to sell well. There are certainly other avenues, but I’ve been crunching the numbers and Goodreads giveaways, Facebook adverts and Google ads amount to nothing. It all comes down to playing with the big guns, and right now I’m in no position to drop $400+ on a full page ad in a magazine, let alone two or three. So, I beaver away, building up trust and good relationships with writers and readers – when the time comes (and I can afford it) I’ll unleash the April Moon catalogue upon the world.


greydog: One thing we know nothing about is the attitude of the large publishers to their feisty kin. Do they connect with small presses and watch what they’re doing – or is there no common ground?

neil: None at all. I suspect the large publishers have no idea April Moon exists.


greydog: Their loss (or maybe it’s safer that way). Now that you’ve been going a while, what sort of advice would you give someone starting up, or hoping to start up, in the business?

neil: First up, do it. If you love something, pursue it. That said, if you are getting into the game because you want a luxury yacht, get out now. You will need capital to get started. Even publishing through someone like Createspace, which is print on demand thus eliminating printer costs, will cost you loads if you intend to pay your authors (and you do, don’t you?), pay for a cover illustration, pay for promotion, send contributor copies out, send copies out to reviewers etc… Also, don’t forget that Amazon, or whomever else you publish with, will be taking a hefty cut. That $15 book will net you about $2.50 after everyone has had their slice.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom and purse strings! You are publishing stories! Little lumps of escapism that other humans will (hopefully) treasure and that will be around forever. That makes you a God.


greydog: We’re aiming for Fallen God at the moment. That way there are less expectations. So, small press or self-publishing? With the rise of easy-to-use self-publishing platforms, what would you say are the pros and cons for aspiring authors?

neil: The main pro is the ability to get your work out there, the con is that it might never be seen by anyone other than your aunty. True, there are several astonishing success stories connected to self-publishing, but for every one of those there are about five million who still languish, unread, in the bowels of Amazon’s top list for books>YA>vampires>glitter.

Hooking up with a small (or big) publisher means that your story has a better chance of being seen. That publisher will push your book, promote it every way they can, as they also have a stake in the book’s success. It also means that a pair of eyes that reads many, many stories, day after day, will be reading your work. You need those fresh and experienced eyes. Then there is access to artists, a built-in reader base and other networking opportunities.


greydog: All good points. It’s hard for emerging writers, but at times you need someone with publishing experience who says no, that really doesn’t work. Right, we like to signpost a wide range of authors and books on greydogtales. Apart from people on your own list, which writers are currently vibrating your antennae, either as a reader or a publisher?

neil: I tend to go through phases when reading outside the current selection for one of my books. To that end, I sometimes find it hard to squeeze in authors that I’m not working with. However, there are definitely some books that I have enjoyed recently by authors I hope to work with one day: Red Equinox by Douglas Wynne was one, as was God Bomb! by Kit Power. Rich Hawkins’ ‘Last’ books are awesome, but I suspect I’m not allowed to mention him as I published his first novella. Also, someone else I shouldn’t mention as he appears in my first anthology, ‘AMOK!’, is Rob. E. Boley, but his ‘Scary Tales’ books about a zombified Snow White are by far my favourite reads of last year.

flesh like smoke

greydog: Finally, what’s coming from April Moon over the next year? Give our readers the low-down on your plans – with a bit of luck they’ll rush off to check their wallets.

neil: Mad plans are afoot. First up will be volume 4 in my Short Sharp Shocks collection – ‘Spawn of the Ripper’, a loving homage to the Hammer and Amicus films that made me the man I am today.

That will be followed by a couple of Kickstarter campaigns (remember how much it cost to produce a book?), one for a new collection of original James Bond stories spliced with Lovecraft’s Mythos (the first one has stories by Ed Erdelac and Willie Meikle) and the other for a secret project that involves some top authors and monsters.

Then I am working on publishing the debut novel from Patrick Loveland called ‘A Tear in the Veil’, which will knock everybody’s socks off, plus a follow up to my children’s book, probably based on Jules Verne, and then a sci-fi anthology called The Stars at my Door which will be optimistic pulp of the highest order. That one will be co-edited by George Anderson, who knows a thing or two about awesome stories. So, a quiet year then…

aa24ba_4a162019697a4beaae55802011c379e2greydog: Thank you ever so much, Neil Baker.

neil: Thank you for taking an interest in my little company!

Full details of April Moon Books’ publications can be found at:

april moon books

flesh like smoke

Next time on greydogtales, an exclusive interview with Scott Handcock, producer of the new Carnacki audio-tales for Big Finish Productions. We’re so excited we could build a pentacle…


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