Interview with Cynthia (cina) Pelayo, author and publisher of Burial Day Books

I am very excited that horror writer and anthology publisher Cynthia (cina) Pelayo has stopped by to talk about her chilling new book LOTERIA. I'm a big fan of hers and all that she has accomplished, and she was kind enough to spill with's readers about how to get involved in the writing community in Chicago and how she started her own publishing company. A must read for indie writers everywhere!

So cina, can you tell us about your writing background and what drew you to the horror genre?
I majored in journalism as an undergraduate at Columbia College in Chicago. I had always wanted to be a reporter. As a little girl, before I started kindergarten, I remember sitting at the kitchen table and my father would read the newspaper to me. That was always very important to him and it became important to me – to know and understand what is going on in my world. After Columbia, I worked as a freelance journalist for several local publications covering arts and community news, including inner city crime. I grew up in inner city Chicago and still live in the inner city, and so it was a strange experience to hold the responsibility of a reporter, to write as accurately and clearly as I could when arriving at a crime scene or writing about homelessness or drug addiction. 

My love of journalism soon became complicated. I had these grand dreams of becoming an investigative reporter for a great newspaper but that world is so small considering the closures of so many papers. Then, due to economic reasons I went back to school, obtained a masters in marketing and went on to work for a marketing research firm (my dreaded 9-5 that really takes more time out of my life than simply 9-5 Monday through Friday). While working full-time, I realized if this is what my life would amount to I would be miserable, because I already was miserable. I missed writing and sharing people’s stories.

I had always written short stories but had never really explored them too in-depth.I just knew I needed a creative outlet for my writing and fast. So I went on to pursue a Master of Fine Art in Writing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  I knew I wanted to write but I was torn what type of writer to be; non-fiction using my journalism background? I had never written fiction and shared it with anyone and I was unsure of where to start. I just started writing and what came out were dark tales. Horror just came naturally. Perhaps it is because I had seen so much suffering living in inner city Chicago and seeing firsthand the perils of gang, gun, and drug crime. Perhaps horror is my way of tapping into my upbringing and communicating the dance between good and evil that exists everywhere.

You recently released LOTERIA, a short story collection based upon a Mexican card game. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
I’m Puerto Rican. My husband is Mexican. For the holidays, when we’re killing time we play Loteria. I had always seen the game in the neighborhood bodegas, but had never played. It’s really like bingo except you match up the cards, not numbers. I became fascinated with the images – the hand, the little devil, death. They just seemed like very strange images to incorporate into a game. They seemed to be screaming to tell a story. 

Growing up, my mother would tell me folk tales from Puerto Rico, like that of a young girl who married a man who later turned out to be a devil, and it was funny when I learned that my husband’s culture had similar folktales told. Somehow I just connected the cards with folktales. I wanted to tell their story but not make it exclusive to Mexico. I wanted to dig up folk tales from throughout Latin American, Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean. I then wrote one short story or poem per card. For example, for the card El Gallo I wrote about an old man who is tormented by the chupacabra, the mythical goat sucker. For the card La Dama, I wrote about a stressed out tourist couple who had an encounter with La Llorona, the weeping woman damned to walk the earth searching for her children whom she murdered. 

Overall, I wanted to tell Latin American folktales that had yet to be communicated and I used a popular Latin American game as a vehicle to tell those stories. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
You may have heard this a thousand times and if you have, it’s because it’s true – read every day and write every day. Writing is a solitary life, and so, you also have to like yourself and the people in your head because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them if you want to be a writer. You have to be willing to spend long spans of time on your own, undisturbed, allowing yourself to write and explore your characters, their stories and the places they want to go.

You are also the publisher for BURIAL DAY BOOKS, a boutique publisher of supernatural horror. Can you share with our readers how you created the company?
While I was at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago working on a Master of Fine Art in Writing I encountered a lot of discouragement from my peers and the faculty because I was a horror writer. While everyone was off writing these abstract poems or deeply emotional bits of prose, I was exploring villains and monsters. I found myself always having to challenge what it was I wrote. 

I felt banished to the basement as the secretive red-headed step child. So, what did I do in response to all of these emotions, feeling unwanted and underappreciated? I wrote. I wrote a lot. I researched a lot, pulling in my journalism background and I wrote some more. 

Through my work I learned that I wasn’t the only one that felt this way, that there were other students in other schools who had written darker, but literary works that their schools didn’t like. Then, I encountered something much more interesting, that horror markets had begun to skew heavily toward violence and gore. I felt blocked in: My school didn’t really give me the tools to branch out like I felt they were doing for others. I couldn’t find the right markets for my work, and again. Then, I was finding all of these people who had been writing for some time who just could not find a place for their work to be published. Therefore, I told my husband one day, ‘I’m going to start my own press. We’ll publish good, literary classic horror and we’ll do it for the authors.’

The whole point of Burial Day is to get exposure for emerging horror writers who write literary horror. I want them to succeed, to get book contracts (which one did shortly after appearing in our first anthology). 

Burial Day Books is going strong after two years. We have published a new authors story or poem each month. I post blogs about superstition and myth and last year we published our first anthology and this year we are set to publish our second anthology. I’m most proud of the work I’ve done with Burial Day. Sometimes, it takes people to ignore you, or to say you can’t do something to get you fired up.

You are very involved in the writing community in Chicago. What tips would you give to a new writer to also wants to get involved with his or her local writing community?
I’m a big fan of readings! In Chicago, there are many locations, indie book shops, pubs, and restaurants that hold readings. First, reach out to your neighborhood bookstore, find out if they have a writers group or if they hold monthly readings. Attend those events, introduce yourself to those readers/writers. There are also writer’s workshops that are conducted for free sometimes at art centers, cultural centers, schools and libraries. Those are great place to meet other writers, and learn about the tools for writing – for free. Finally, get in touch with independent literary magazines or publications in your area seeking submissions. Local publications love local authors.

So, get involved in the writing community by going where the writers go – whether they’re readings or workshops and then reach out to publications looking for submissions in your area and submit your work! What’s the worst thing they can say? No. 

Finally, get a few live readings of your work under your belt. If there aren’t any regular readings in your neighborhood, reach out to your favorite coffee shop, indie book shop or pub and see if you can schedule an event. Organize some folks to come and read their work to a live audience. They’re free to organize, as they bring people to the location, and reading your work to a live audience (while it sounds frightening) is a great learning experience. 

Thank you for sharing your information. Anything you would like to add as we wrap up?
I’m not a particular fan of writing groups, as those can go sour, but find a small network of dependable friends and family to review the drafts and final versions of your work. You want someone to tell you the truth if something is not working, and if something is working!

Also, you’re a writer – grow thick skin and take criticisms and rejections and move on. Yes, they hurt. Yes, they make you want to die. Yet, you learn from them and move on and become a better writer. 

Finally, if you’re a writer and you don’t carry a pad and pencil with you everywhere you go then shame on you! Carry your pad and pencil because you never know when the ideas will come.


CYNTHIA (CINA) PELAYO is the Publisher/Gravedigger of Burial Day Books.  Her short story collection, LOTERIA features 54 stories based on Latin American superstition, legend and myth. Her first horror novel, Santa Muerte, about the Mexican cult of death will be released in 2012 by Post Mortem Press. Pelayo is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Master of Fine Art in Writing program and she is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Burial Day Books


Cynthia (cina) Pelayo’s website

How to gain Twitter followers if you're not Kim Kardashian

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber have millions of Twitter followers because of their fame, but how can a non-famous person gain even a fraction of a celebrity's audience? If you believe it will just happen by you being awesome, then good luck to you for playing the lottery, but for everyone else it will take a lot of work.

The following  process takes time, but if done right, it is a rewarding way to build and maintain an online audience.

Even those who are not actively trying to build a large amount of Followers will still more than likely have a few followers, which consists of friends, family, and people who like their content. This group of people should be who you engage with on Twitter first. Mention them in tweets. Retweet their content. Interact with them. In turn, they will likely spread your name through the Twitterverse through mentions and retweets and that will get your name out there. Furthermore, if they know you personally, you already have a strong connection with them, and at the end of the day, it is about quality and not quantity.

For example, I ran the Twitter for an erotic blog, and the Twitter only had 200 Followers. However, the percentage of engagement with users was higher than other Twitter accounts I had managed. The reason for this is that not everyone is comfortable following erotic content, but for those who do, they REALLY LIKE erotic content. The Followers of that Twitter account repeatedly clicked on links, retweeted the blogger's work, and interacted with her. She didn't need large numbers because her niche was strong enough.

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez have nothing to do with this article
For those who want to expand their following beyond people they know, the next step they should take is deciding their own brand. Who are they? What are they about? What content are they providing? For instance, I write young adult fiction, so I seek to follow YA bloggers, writers, literary agents, and avid readers.

Once you figure out who you are and who you want to connect with, the next step is to find and then add the people who share your interests. There are different ways to do this:
  1. Look at the "Who to Follow" list on the left hand side of your screen. The Who To Follow list is a list generated by Twitter of three people who share common interests with you.
  2. Type a keyword in the search box. Twitter will generate a list of tweets or usernames that contain that word, and you can then find people who tweet about your interests. 
  3. Think about another Twitter user who shares similar content to yours and add everyone she follows and who follows her. 
  4. Buy Twitter software such as Tweetadder that will automatically find followers based upon specifications that you set. 
After you Follow people, wait a few days and see if they follow you back. More than likely they will. If they don't, then I recommend deleting them unless you want to continue receiving their content. Otherwise, if they chose not to reciprocate following, then it is best to move on to someone else who is more responsive. 

By offering unique content and not appearing like a Bot (See my post from last week), people will start to follow you to see what you have to say. The methods you used from above to find people will also work in the reverse. They will also find you.

Note: Only writing quotes, repeatedly sharing the same links, only retweeting, and frequently writing several handles in a tweet does not qualify as unique content. In fact, that is behavior that will make people think you're a bot.

This is one of the hardest things for most people. Because Twitter is a live broadcasting tool, if you don't tweet daily, your tweets could get lost amidst the sea of messages. I recommend to maintain your social media presence to tweet morning, in the afternoon, and at night. However, there must be a balance. When you tweet, don't go crazy and flood the Twitterverse at once, annoying your followers. Each time you tweet, try to be strategic and only tweet three times at the most.

For details, please see my previous post: How to use trends on Twitter

Do you know of other methods to gain Twitter followers that does not include buying followers? Has anyone bought followers and if so, would you share that experience with this blog? Let me know. Thank you!

How to create a successful Kickstarter campaign: an interview with Liz Manashil

One of the biggest challenges in getting a film made is finding funding, and for independent filmmakers who do not have cash or connections, crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide a possible solution. The art of fundraising, however, isn't easy, and not everyone who creates a campaign reaches his or her goal.  

Indie filmmaker Liz Manashil recently ran a successful campaign on Kickstarter to raise money for her debut feature film, Bread and Butter. She was kind enough to stop by and answer questions about why she turned to crowd funding, how she ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and what others can do to also be successful with their own campaigns. 

Teresa: Thanks for stopping by! First off, what is your project about, and why did you decide to fund through Kickstarter? 
Liz: My project was to fund my first feature entitled "Bread and Butter." Crowd funding was just hitting the mainstream, and I had no means of funding the production of the film with my own money- so I took some time and did research on which avenue was the better one for me: Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Time and time again, I was prompted to go and do Kickstarter- there's something about the drama and risk of Kickstarter that inspires people to give money in a way that Indiegogo cannot channel. 

Teresa: How much did you ask for? 
Liz: I asked for 35k, and I was terrified we would not hit our goal. We met our goal I think a day or two before the deadline and raised over a thousand more than our goal number! 

Teresa: How did you prep for your Kickstarter campaign?  
Liz: In prepping I reached out to volunteers in the community to help me gather a list of film blogs to contact to help promote our campaign. I also reached out to a good friend of mine who is a composer/lyricist, Robert Hill, to help write a catchy and transparent song to inspire people to donate money. The song was called "We Need Money" and the concept revolved around a clunky looking kids show involving music and puppets. I cast and wrote a Kickstarter pitch video with my boyfriend who is also a writer/director.

Above is Liz's Kickstarter campaign video "We need money" You can also check out her Kickstarter page at:
In addition I had friends help me post the links in forums, online and via twitter. Every few days I would send out a mass e/mail to friends and family- and throughout the campaign I would send personal messages thanking people for their kindness. A good portion of time was devoted to asking people to donate incentives for the campaign. People were incredibly kind, we were very lucky. 

Teresa: How did you choose your fundraising goal? 
LizI chose my goal by picking the absolute minimum we needed to start production on the film. I looked at the most recent successful campaigns by my colleagues. It wasn't a number that was calculated through long involved research. We chose the number that we had to raise. 

Teresa: What were some challenges you faced during your Kickstarter?
Liz: The challenges that I faced were all personal ones. I felt so tacky reaching out to friends and family and asking them for money. I felt selfish and irritating. The majority of people I reached out to, however, responded positively and supportively. I had assumed everyone would hate me, maybe they do! But we still hit our goal! Before we start to fundraise, however, I reached out to people who had led successful campaigns. They told me the same thing again and again: Get Over It. Get over asking for money. Just do it. 

Teresa: If you could do it again, would you do anything differently? What would that be?
Liz: I think I would have asked for more! We are now in a phase of donator fatigue. A lot of people have donated to KS projects already, they have supported their friends and supported projects they believed in. Now donators are tired of donating. We're in a situation where people have to be extremely savvy in how they run their campaigns. If I read a mass e/mail that sounds like a robot, I immediately delete it. 

Teresa: Any other advice you'd give to someone who wants to use crowdfunding?
Liz: Pick a lower number. Due to donator fatigue, underestimate yourself. With Kickstarter, a lot of people will continue to give after you hit your goal, pick a number you feel secure you will hit. 

  •  With Kickstarter, they have an "all-or-nothing" policy. If a person does not reach her goal, then she receives no money and her backers do not have to pay. 
  • Indiegogo, on the other hand, allows Flexible Funding, which means if a person does not reach his goal, then he may keep the money raised but he must pay a higher percentage fee to the website. 
Teresa: Thanks so much for sharing your crowd funding experience. Anything you'd like to add?
Liz: Running a Kickstarter campaign was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. Random strangers will astound you with their generosity. It was a fantastic validation that there are people out there in the world who want to support your dreams.

For more information about Bread and Butter, go to

My post for the Horror Writers Association will go live on October 25!

The Horror Writers Association hosts a Halloween Haunts blog tour every year during the month of October to celebrate the holiday, horror writers, the genre, and the HWA.

This year, I participated, and my post about my love for children's and YA horror fiction will go live on October 25th, 2012 at

Please check it out if you have a chance. I will also be offering a giveaway of my Halloween-themed debut novel HELL'S GAME.