This issue, we sit down with Jennifer Lyn Parsons, founder of Luna Station Quarterly. Having just released her first science fiction novel, A Stirring in the Bones, Jennifer takes time out of her busy writing and editing schedule to discuss her devotion to Odin and Loki, and the perils and joys of running a woman-oriented speculative fiction ezine.
Eternal Haunted Summer: How would you describe your spiritual path? And was it a fairly straightforward route to get there, or rather roundabout?
Jennifer Lyn Parsons: Is there any such thing as a straightforward spiritual path? I love this question and don’t get to honestly answer it often enough. As with most people, this could be whole book in itself, so I’ll try to be brief.
I was raised Methodist, but my family was never strict about religion. It was more of a ‘live by the Golden Rule’ kind of spirituality, but psychic dreams and little signs from those who had passed on were no big deal.
College brought the wandering spiritual path and interestingly, the first thing I was drawn to was Wicca. It felt mostly right, but there were some things that never gelled for me. In the end, I just wasn’t ready for the commitment that path deserves, though the appreciation of the natural world, personal connection to spirit, and the duality of deity made me keep identifying as pagan, even when I wasn’t doing much of anything with it.
Fastforward a bunch of years where I explored all sorts of New Age modalities and then a few things happened in rapid succession. A little group of friends gathered to discuss pagan spirituality. We were (and still are) all solitaries, but it’s nice to have that community connection and talk woo-woo shop with those you trust. I also found myself attending regular shamanic circles and experiencing their transformative power first hand.
Within all that, Odin showed up along with a god identifying himself as Pan. I always figured I was going to align myself with a Celtic goddess, if anyone, so the All-Father showing up, unannounced, was a bit of a surprise. Not long after, I understood that Odin has been with me since he first appeared to me in dreams when I was about five or six. I hope to one day understand why he chose me, and why so young. Right now, I’m just happy he’s been around, waiting patiently until I was ready to work with him.
In fact, he’s still waiting. He’s gone off on a wander and handed me to Loki (yeah, I know, I know) because there’s some work I need to do before we can get down to business. Needless to say, I’m getting my ass kicked right now, but having opened myself up to some deep shamanic work, it makes perfect sense to have him with me for the moment. And I know the big guy will be back as I go ’round the shamanic wheel to the next direction.
So, in short, my path was anything but straightforward, beautifully full of surprises, and currently centers around attending shamanic ritual, making Loki cups of coffee, and reading various interpretations of the Eddas backward and forward when I’m not ‘holding the bowl’.
EHS: In 2010, you founded Luna Station Quarterly. First, why an ezine dedicated to speculative fiction by women?
JLP: Originally the idea came to me because I was not seeing the kinds of stories I knew were out there that I wanted to read. I had started my own writing journey in the fan fiction world and I saw the kinds of stories the women there were writing (and yes, fan fiction is vastly dominated by female authors). They were filling in plot holes in their favorite films, writing these lovely, character-driven pieces that got to the heart of the film’s story and made it feel fuller, more emotionally satisfying, in a way much genre fiction does not. They were writing good, compelling stories with gut-wrenching drama and beautiful romance. When I turned to look for the same kind of thing in the professional short story medium, I had to work much harder to find the stories I was drawn to. I knew they had to be out there, but no one was publishing them. I also got swept up in writing fairy tales and, once again, found no quarter for the stories I loved. So, I created Luna Station Quarterly and got the ball rolling.
I also want to make a special note that this has never been about excluding men with any kind of malice. It’s about creating a safe space for women to step out and tell the kind of stories they want to tell.
EHS: How did you go about creating LSQ? Do you have any advice for others who might be considering creating an ezine, too?
JLP: I already had a hosting service. All I had to do was choose a name, build the website, and put myself out there. Of course, the whole thing started small, but I was patient and before long things started catching on.
I know it sounds sort of easy and it’s actually not that hard to get started if you’re well-organized and make sure you use your resources like social media and sites like Duotrope’s Digest and ralan.com to get listed where authors can find you.
What’s really hard is staying committed and keeping things running. Make sure this is something you want to dedicate some serious time to before you begin. I’m happy to say that I’ve managed my own expectations well and still have a great time putting together every issue.
As for nuts and bolts, for anyone with a day job, I recommend quarterly issues. Anything more frequent and once you start growing it’ll become tough to handle the submissions. I have two lovely assistant editors now, with my time stretched even thinner handling the Press on top of my full time job.
I admit I had a huge advantage on the website end, because I build and design websites for a living, but there are simple (and free) tools out there to get you started. Do it up right and make it look nice and readable and easy to navigate.
Make sure you can actually edit and proofread these stories! This is not just about getting to read stuff for free. The authors you publish are putting their reputations on the line, so do your best to put out a great, professional magazine, every time. This does not have to take money. LSQ doesn’t pay its authors yet (though plans are in the works), so my only costs are time and site-hosting fees. It does take a strong intention, a thorough attention to the details, and a willingness to put in the work.
All that said, and I could say more, my biggest piece of advice is to be friendly and communicative with your authors and your audience. A strong community atmosphere is what keeps LSQ going and I am so appreciative of that. Support your authors, treat them well.
EHS: What, exactly, are you looking for in submissions?
JLP: In short, I look for stuff that I would love to read myself. I started LSQ because I wanted to find stories that I wanted to read and then share with others. That is why this is a genre fiction magazine (and Press) and not a true crime or western-themed magazine. Want me to vague that up for you a bit more? Space Opera is going to go over really well with me, personally. So is soft sci-fi of most varieties. We’ve gotten a lot of creepy stories lately, which I’m loving. Not horror, just creepy. I also love fairy tales, and I don’t mean rehashing of Cinderella where she’s living in Greenwich Village, I mean real, new fairy tales. Basically, give me anything speculative, encompassing fantasy through sci-fi and I’m a happy camper.
EHS: You just released your first novel, A Stirring in the Bones. What is the origin of the title?
JLP: Yes, I’m very excited to have it out there! I do all of this editing work, which I love, but it’s lovely to be able to talk about my own writing for a change. I’ve gotten to the unfortunate point in my editorial career where people don’t realize I’m a writer anymore unless I stamp around a bit. <LOL> As for the book itself, I would love to give details on the who’s and why’s of the title, but it would be a bit spoilery. What I can say is there are three characters in the book who do things or have things happen to them that ‘stir the bones’ in some way and shifts them out into the world. Every good novel will move a character from point A to point B and have them change and grow in the process. This is a little more directly related to bones. I admit it all makes it sound a bit like a horror novel or something, even though, in reality, it’s a Space Fantasy.
EHS: Religion plays a central role in A Stirring in the Bones. Did you draw on real-world theologies and mythologies, or create the Synod of the Hantirri and the Ilandu cult and so forth out of whole cloth?
JLP: I love this question. It’s making me think about where it all came from at the beginning. I didn’t really sit down with any one particular religion or mythology in mind. I’ve exposed myself to so many spiritual modalities and theologies, both in the real world and in fiction, that it felt natural to write the type of characters that showed up to tell me their story and sort of build it out backwards to create a spiritual path they might inhabit. The characters themselves appeared in a few short stories and within those tales there were many references to spiritual work and sacred orders. The fun part was then figuring out which bits of those mysteries I could cherry-pick and explain further in the novel.
In other words, it was all a big mishmash in my brain until it got onto the page. After the first couple of chapters, the whole thing just coalesced, though there was a major twist that caught me off guard about halfway through. That’s the fun part of not being an outline-oriented writer.
EHS: You recently founded Luna Station Press. Why?
JLP: There were a couple of really good reasons that all ganged up on me and made it impossible for me not to do this. First, I know a lot of really good writers. While I could support them by accepting their short stories, I was useless to them when it came to their longer works. I also, of course, wanted to find a home for my own work. I debated trying for an agent, but nothing of mine is trendy right now, and I was not up for being reminded that no one reads space opera or fairy tales any more. I seriously considered self-publishing, but the debate still rages on whether that is ‘legitimate’ yet and besides, it would feel really lonely. It’s always friendlier with a community.
In addition, while I was loving all the work that LSQ was doing, I wanted to find that next big step that would take my quiet little mission of publishing women speculative fiction authors and push it further.
The more I talked to people, slyly mentioning the idea, the more the excitement built and the more support I found. From there, it was just taking a deep breath and jumping off the cliff. I’m still building my wings on the way down.
EHS: Is Luna Station Press accepting manuscripts? If so, what are you looking for?
JLP: Yes, I am! I have received a nice mix of submissions, but I’m still open for new stuff. I would love to see some cool non-fiction books, pagan-oriented essays or craft books or something. I would also love to see some short story collections. Of course, I’m always on the lookout for speculative fiction novels and a bit of poetry, too — all women-authored only, sorry guys.
EHS: Where can curious readers find books from Luna Station Press?
JLP: So glad you asked. The starting point would be the website. From there the catalog has descriptions, author bios, pdf samples, and the like, as well as links to buy direct through the store and links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the ebook versions. There’s also a link to Lulu.com if you’d like a print copy.
EHS: Speculative fiction is obviously a passion of yours. Which books are your absolute favorites, at the top of your recommendation list?
JLP: Anything by Neil Gaiman. I was reading Sandman when it was still coming out monthly and it was probably my first introduction to alternative spirituality. And now we share a love of the Norse gods. Ray Bradbury was a poet and a passionate, joyful person. That shows in his work. I also love Tamora Pierce’s young adult books and anything by Jane Yolen. My top favorites tend to skew fantastical, so I’ll finish off with my all-time favorite book: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
Jennifer: As I’m writing this I’m prepping the next issue of LSQ (which will be out by the time this is read) and then when that’s done I’ll be working on editing a collection of fairy tales I’ve written. I’m hoping to have that out as part of the Press‘s February release cycle, and then I have about five different novel-length book projects I’m itching to write. It really never ends and that is a good thing!
EHS: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
JLP: I would love to go to one of these book fair things you speak of. <LOL> Alas, I don’t currently have plans to go to anything anytime soon. For now, if anyone wants to find me, I’m here on the internet, most likely plugging away at writing some code or trying to keep up with a bazillion different social media platforms.