Founder and Editor, Blue Murder Magazine

By Denise Baton

David Firks Mysterical-e has the goal of providing writers and readers with information on the leading personalities and artists in the realm of mystery, crime, supernatural and fantastical. Iíve been following Blue Murder Magazine and have enjoyed watching it develop. The editor, DAVID FIRKS, is a natural for an interview because he is such an impassioned personality. One really gets a sense of him and his love for crime fiction.

How does it feel to be at the helm of the coolest cutting-edge electronic magazine for short murder mystery with a decidedly noir slant?

Thanks for your kind words. I enjoy this project so much. Blue Murder grew up as a labor of love and it's very rewarding to see the positive response it has been receiving world-wide.

You're such a nice guy and yet your magazine focuses the reader on the bad, dark, secret desires and weaknesses of characters who are often less than admirable. Can you explain that?

Noir fiction is a very seductive art form. The more you read, the more you want. Besides, noir is in all of us. We all have secret desires and weaknesses. Many times it's easier to explain these elements through street characters, P.I.'s and shady types.

I've noticed the artwork for Blue Murder always features the back of a mysterious man in a suit, a window, a half naked woman and a smoking gun. The images are classy and quite effective. Why did you choose them and how do they connect for you as editor?

I've always been a fan of '40's and '50's noir and hardboiled cinema. I must have collected every title available. Black and white color/mood/theme was my design direction for BMM since the innocent days back in '97. I thought the images you mentioned above were a compliment to the subject and quality of stories we publish.

What do you feel are the most burdensome responsibilities of owning and managing and e-zine?

As far as big responsibilities in owning a web-zine, they hit you from all sides. Keep in mind, we're talking the internet now, a world-wide audience. I receive approx. 80 emails a day and 100 submissions a week. Time is a valuable commodity. There are the writers to be attended to. There are the readers to be attended to. There are memberships to send out and keep track of. There are publishers in NY sending books to be reviewed. There are headaches when the technical hardware/software malfunctions. There is cost. It's much more expensive than people might imagine.

Blue Murder is a labor of love and patience for me. It takes a year or two on the web to prove you're strong. Then the advertising comes in. If I can make a profit with the BMM project after the second year, I will have succeeded. Blue Murder is basically a one-man show. I own and maintain it. I am very fortunate to have quality contributors as far as columnists, reviewers, writers, etc.

Presently I am holding down two jobs to help subsidize this project. I wouldn't change it for the world. My goal was to publish a professional looking magazine and website that was appealing to the internet audience. I enjoy it so much.

What is it about the personalities and/or talents of your staff that made you feel they were worthy additions to your fare of hard-boiled fiction? Beginning with Charles Shafer with whom Iíve had the pleasure of several email conversations.

Charlie was with me from the beginning days of this project. We both grew up in Chicago, but met through the Internet when he sent me his first story submission for BMM. Since then, his column, SO ANYHOW, originated. Our audience loves him. So do we.

Kevin Smith?

Kevin contacted me shortly after the first issue of BMM was launched. He is a world of information regarding P.I.'s in literature and film and is the web guy for the Thrilling Detective Website. He has fun with words in print, and is very enjoyable to work with. Our audience really enjoys his columns.

Kate Appleyard?

Kate is class. Period. She is so professional to work with and her columns exude that aura.

Timothy Sheard?

Tim. Great guy. Came to me when BMM was a child. He helped promote the site in NY for the pure enjoyment of being a part of it. He is very supportive and a tremendous interviewer-writer as well.

G. Miki Hayden?

Gail is a real find! She loves what she does and it shows in her work. I am grateful to be associated with an individual of this high caliber.

Paul Duncan?

Paul is one professional columnist-writer and has recently joined BMM with his new column, DARK HIGHWAY. He is probably one of the most knowledgeable writers I know in regards to everything noir/hardboiled. I thought this might be a good addition for the segment of our audience that enters our site craving to understand what noir is all about in literature, film and pulps.

Gary Lovisi?

Although Gary is really not a member of our staff, he has been very supportive of the Blue Murder project. Gary was doing the noir/hardboiled thing with his mag, Hardboiled, long before it recently became popular again. He's a great guy to work with and dedicated to the genre. Hell, Gary is the genre.

What is Loft Works, Inc.?

It's my corporation umbrella Blue Murder is included under. If I may let the cat out of the bag, Loft Works is launching an exciting new on-line magazine for general short fiction and serialized novellas. I will still oversee the publishing/web design aspect, but the editor is Troy Dufrene. We will be posting guidelines/announcements the third week of August '99. First issue is scheduled to launch late October/early November. There is a third sister magazine launching at the end of the year 2000, but I cannot disclose that info yet.

As a reader of Blue Murder, I have to admit that I'm more than a little amazed by your accessibility as editor. When I inquired about writer's guidelines I received an immediate response from you. When I had trouble downloading the mag and asked for help you were there to advise me and promptly solved the problem. It's obvious that you have a wonderful rapport with your staff and a writing career of your own. How do you pull it off?

I don't sleep. This project has been most exciting and rewarding for me. The incredible caliber of people I have met through this endeavor has been inspirational. I enjoy responding to my audience. It's all part of the process.

Do you have a heavy submission load? How much do you personally read?

The submission load is very heavy. I read all of them. Sometimes my response time to this scenario is not what I'd hoped it to be. Although I try my best to respond to every submission in a respectable amount of time, I fall short once in a while. But I do respond to everybody and thank them for their patience.

What prompted you to add the writing contest to your format?

The pure enjoyment of it. I believe contests are as equally fun for the writers as well as the judges. It also gets the audience involved with the Blue Murder project. The quality of the unique submissions we receive for our contests is incredible, considering the strict guidelines we require.

The Editor's Desk is a wonderful intro to the mag. What seems to be communicated overall is support from the editor, meaning you. I've noticed that you are even letting people know about unique job opportunities. It would seem that you love this art form and you love the people who love it.

You're absolutely right. I love this art form. The on-line market for fiction magazines/related subjects is still very new. I believe the more websites involved, the stronger the market. That's the beauty of the Internet. We all support each other to a certain degree.

Mysterical-e, a new ezine with a desire to create a market for longer format short stories and to include supernatural and fantastical with mystery and crime has a philosophy of strong support for the writers. We are a group of editors that works together to make creative decisions and to create magazine policy. What advice would you give us, the collective staff at Mysterical-e?

This one is a tough question to answer. I think editing, like writing, is a very personal thing. Like too many cooks in the kitchen, this scenario might pose a challenge for your group. If you all agree on some basics though, and determine guidelines that cannot be broken, it might prove to be a new exciting venture on the web. Could be a great weaving of minds, views and endless editing possibilities. So, with that in mind, here are some ideas that may answer your question. These are simply guides I created. If they work for anyone in your group, I'm glad I could pass them on. If not, no worries.

1. Rejection of submissions is tougher on the editor than the writer.

2. Although it's good to have friends and fans, they should be separate from an editor-writer relationship.

3. An editor is many times perceived as the "bad guy."

4. A good story submission should jump out of the manila envelope and say, "Hey man, read me. You will not forget me. I won't let you down."

5. Never give advice to friends or family about their stories when you're an editor.

6. Many critics will put you down for your literary publication as an editor/publisher, (especially an e-zine). Understand this is a constant. Usually is most apparent on list-serves and other forms of accessible media.

7. If you can wake up in the middle of the night and start reading new story submissions, you should be an editor.

8. Everything said and done, this process can be most rewarding. It just depends on how tough you are.

What do you have to say to the editors of Mysterical-e about those times when vision is not so clear? You know, when it's not so easy.

Sometimes things can get tough for an editor. How far does he/she push their market for their publication? If the stories are too cutting edge, will they turn off the audience? If they are too watered down, will they have the same effect? I think what is hardest for me is keeping the magazine consistent in quality and still improving with each issue.

Every time a new issue of Blue Murder launches I hold my breath and wait to see how the critics react to it. That is a very soul-searching process for me. Because each issue of BMM takes endless hours to prepare. The last thing an editor wants after this process is for his/her publication to get negative responses in list-serves, website editorials, etc. It is by far the hardest rejection to deal with I know of.

Finally, in the beginning stages of your website/ezine development, you will have many fans who are the writers you will be publishing. After a few issues are out, a newer audience will develop. This is your bread and butter, the true test of your publication becoming viable. They are the ones who purchase memberships/subscriptions, don't write but love to read. They will be honest with you about your publication. This is when you find out if you have what it takes.

I want to wish the staff at Mysterical-e the most success possible with their project. It takes guts to do what you're doing and I respect that. It's also good to see another mystery ezine on the net. Makes the market stronger.

Copyright © 1999 Denise Baton