So you want to be a writer…

nunIn light of the recent controversy, and as promised in the Writers Beware blog (because I hate seeing newbies learn the hard way), I thought I’d throw out a little life preserver (read as beating stick) to tell new writers a few rules and help their learning curve…  Mandy DeGeit has been at my house for several days now (visit planned before the Calvacade of Bullshit happened) and after some lecturing and learning, she said it would be helpful to have something like this… So here it is. Or here is the start maybe. I was debating a semi-regular thing with this, and apparently I’m leaning that way, as I made a category just for these: 101.

Rules are something the nuns back in Catholic school had, to go with their rulers. This is not that. This is more like guidelines… since writers are much closer to pirates than they are nuns, and no writing career or experience is ever exactly like anybody else’s. I think maybe we’ll start with a basic list and expand. If I get long winded, I guess I’ll have to make it a serial blog and cover the others later (read as, “Hello?! Have you met me? Of course I’m going to be long winded… expect a serial.”)

1. RULE NUMBER ONE. This one is NOT a guideline. This is, without a doubt, and with Sister Hank’s ruler to back it up, a rule: Money flows to the writer. aka, Get Paid. aka, Real Money. I don’t care if you want to forgo guideline #3 and only get $5.00, get something. Anything. Seriously. Because if they have to pay you, they tend to give a crap about where their money is going. I have tried to beat this into the thick skulls of several newer writers who refuse to listen in the light of the vile word “exposure” and in the miasma of excitement that comes with the idea of being published. After the recent whirlwind, a couple are suddenly listening. Mandy took an “ouch” to learn and another received a very nasty phone call where Bob and I channeled everyone above us on the ladder who had yelled at us about the exact same thing once upon a time. Get Paid. Non-negotiable.

If you’re not willing to go to your dayjob and tell them at the end of the day, “no no, don’t pay me. knowing you appreciate me (read as “exposure”) is enough” don’t do it with your writing. It took time and effort, skill, thought, sweat and, if you did it right, blood to do… why the HELL would you just hand that away for nothing? WHY?! So don’t. And here’s your one warning… If I know you saw this blog entry and I ever, and I do mean ever, hear you bitching about a publication or even excited about one that didn’t pay you, I will come down on your head like the wrath of gods that have been dead for so long their pent up anger makes Coop look like the Dalai Lama. Kapeesh? Paid. Period. The End.

Questions on that one? No? Good. Let’s move on…

2. Do your research. This is a multi-parter, so pay attention. (a) There are several good websites to find publishers and publications looking for submissions. I’ve always been partial to Duotrope. It’s got a happy little search engine you can fine tune. Check it out. (b) After you’ve found a place you think is home for your story/novella/whatever, check them out! Look at the website. Are there typos? Grammatical errors? Glaring red flags of bullshit that you wouldn’t buy in a book so why would you want your work associated with it? And check out the publisher, both the company on a whole and those running it. Ask friends. Ask other writers. Look at who else they publish. Watch how they behave online. Do they belittle writers? Start flamewars? Act in a way you want to claim association with? Because you will, whether you want to or not.

Little tidbit: when I was just starting out with short stories, I had a hitlist of authors I admired, who’d been around the block and knew what the hell they were doing. If THEY published somewhere then I would submit there. It wasn’t “really” stalking, so much as trusting without having to ask. P.S. if you haven’t read the Writers Beware blog, stop now and go read it. Then you’ll understand the importance of researching your market and the person you hand your baby over to.

3. Start at the top. You don’t apply at McDonald’s after you get your degree, you apply somewhere appropriate to your training, education, etc. Think the same way here. You don’t start with non-paying markets. Hell, if you read number one, you shouldn’t even be submitting to them… ever. You start with those paying pro-rates. Newsflash: “pro-rate” is not a contributor copy or flat rate, unless the flat rate works with the math. Pro-rate is five cents a word or better. Two things here. (a) Yes, that’s what Poe was getting paid. Everyone else in the world has gotten a raise except writers. Why? Because there are enough who will accept less so publishing never had to adjust. (b) There is such a thing as better than five cents. If you use Duotrope (or other avenues) you’ll find them, because I’m not going to tell you everything…

Now you can choose to ignore this in particular situations. Say you have a vampire vs ghost story and the two open markets are a pro-rate general market and a vampire vs ghost anthology at semi-pro. I can completely understand wanting to go with the antho. (adjust this example as you need, to further understand that “sometimes” the “guideline” of “start at the top” can be altered…but it should never be ignored for the bottom feeders. Ever.) And one last thought on this section… no, we’ll make it a different section. We’ll call it #4.

4. Accept the trunk. To be a writer you need a few qualities. Thick skin and reason are essential. Be able to take the rejections, but also be able to honestly look at criticism and take from it what you can. Not all rejections are form letters. Some include ideas for improvement or other suggestions. Read them. Absorb them. Decide and take action—or do nothing, your call—but have the ability to both handle it and recognize when it’s valid. On the heels of that, know when enough is enough. Accept the trunk.

So you had this story that was awesome. You edited it to death and everyone who read it loved it. You started at the top of the submissions list and worked your way through pro-rates, semi-pro and even dabbled in a few desperate token pay markets. You may have gotten some feedback and made changes, you may not have. But at this point, you need to stop before you do something stupid (like give it away for free—see rule number one). You need to “trunk” the story. You never know. You may see an antho it’s perfect for in six months. You may re-read it in a year and know exactly how to fix it and resubmit (starting at the top) and find it a home.

Fun tidbit: a story of mine went through all that. It came dangerously close to getting into a magazine I really want to get in to before I die. It got a little feedback but I didn’t want to change the size to chop stuff or add stuff. I really liked it as it was. I trunked it, and now it’s one of the most popular stories in my collection Black Bubbles. Just sayin’…

5. Never say die. I don’t care if you haven’t sold anything for a while. We all have dry spells. I sold a bunch of stuff, had a REALLY sucktacular dry spell that lasted almost enough to make me climb a tower with a rifle, and then suddenly my world exploded. I didn’t give up. I didn’t quit writing. I didn’t quit submitting. And I didn’t self-publish because mommy said it was good but no real publisher would touch it.

Yes, self-publishing rules have changed a bit since I first formed my opinion about them, but this portion of my opinion stays. If you’re self-publishing because you’ve been rejected by “everyone and their brother,” stop and think about that. If they ALL agreed to reject it, you probably need to look at it a little harder. Be a little more honest with yourself. Your answer should be to trunk it, come back later, move forward. Your response should not be “screw them” and self-publish. God forbid they were right and it sucks. Now it’s out there forever. Better to sit back, hone your craft, and do it the right way. (Of course, there are plenty of times when self-publishing is okay. So long as it’s not attached to a list of rejections.) One more time, for the people in the back… never quit. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep trying.

# # #

Now then, there are the basic guidelines. There are plenty more—including “contracts” and “submission guidelines” but those are bigger and deserve their own blogs… damn it, this is going to be a serial thing—but these are the basics. This is enough to steer you down the right path. And as a reward for sitting there and reading this whole thing, now I’m going to pull out my ruler and wave it around like a pissed off nun. Why? Because you’re still sitting here. Go. Write. No, really… go. Get the hell out of here! I have a novel to finish.

Writers Beware

Welcome to Undead Press, we are a zombie/ horror publisher, as well as apocalyptic fiction.”

Or as it should have been edited to say… Welcome to Undead Press. We are a horror publisher specializing in zombies and apocalyptic fiction.

Except they can’t edit. No wait, they can. Or at least they think they can. And they do, to others, recklessly and without notification or morals. Oh but I’ve gotten ahead of myself… let’s back the snark up just a touch.

Undead Press’s welcome message should be enough to scare a writer away. Unfortunately, when we’re young and new to this, we get excited. We don’t like to say no, or walk away, and cannot fathom ignoring any opportunity we see. So we ignore our gut instincts. We pretend not to see red flags. We see other writers being published here or there, and think nothing of giving away our sweat, blood and tears.

Eventually we learn not to do that.

New writers, however, have to learn the rules—sometimes the hard way. It’s a passage of youth, so to speak. But that does not give the publishers a right to abuse their innocence. Of course, a real publisher wouldn’t do that. This blog actually has a dual purpose. A. Tell the new writers a few rules and help their learning curve. B. Call out the publisher that caused this blog in the first place. Let’s start with B…

Undead Press. Created and run by hack writer Anthony Giangregorio. Note he’s a “writer” as well as a publisher. And considering his skills, I feel it’s safe to put him in that category of “publisher” that is really just a bad writer no one wants to publish, so they publish themselves under this publishing house or that (sometimes, like in Tony’s case, under several entities—occasionally at the same time, most of the time one after another failed attempt to hide the truth). They’re not really interested in being a publisher or the responsibilities that comes with that. They’re just interested in seeing their name on books.

Which is why it’s so odd. I mean really… They do what they do out of desperation, so isn’t it cannibalism of some sort to take advantage of those who are just as desperate to see their names on the page? Anthony Giangregorio of Undead Press is a cannibal of unbelievable proportions…

Mandy De Geit was his latest meal.

I say we make him regurgitate.

Mandy’s story is in full on facebook and her blog. Read them. The short version is that Tony “edited” her story. He didn’t fix grammar and spelling or help her tweak her sentence structure. Oh no. Tony turned a non-gendered character into a boy, named the best friend, created a memory for the main character about animal abuse, and added a suggestion of rape. He didn’t fix the its and it’s, or their and there. He changed the essence of the story. He changed the feel. He took away the suspense. He rewrote her words into something that wasn’t hers. And to make it worse, he added new issues. His own inability to edit (or hire a competent editor) is apparent right from the title of her story. It should be She Makes Me Smile, as she put on both the contract and the submitted file. His version—because it’s got a professional editor and everything—is She Make’s Me Smile. Go ahead. Take a minute. Try to make that work in your head. Bob’s eight-year-old couldn’t when we asked him.

When she reacted by expressing her disbelief, he turned into a complete doucherocket. No, doucherocket is way too nice for him, and completely mean to doucherockets worldwide. What he did was a deplorable transgression of the trust a writer puts into a publisher. How he reacted only proved just how low on the food chain he lives. I’ve met pond scum with more morals…and I know some pretty horrible pond scum. He’s so bad, he’s got a blog dedicated to his suckiness.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. No no. Her blog and facebook page have both exploded—with even Neil Gaiman piping in. (Read. Jump in. Stand up for your rights as a writer.) But the explosion actually started when I told her to stand up, be vocal, and we hit twitter with it. And everyone started coming out of the woodwork.

Alyn Day (aka @Z0mbiegrl) had a very similar experience. And with a little nudging, she’s got a blog and facebook page explosion of her own. Check them out. Several people on twitter spoke up. Mandy’s blog and facebook are full of people with similar situations. It goes on and on…

Read the atrocities. Comment. And then go share the love/hate relationship with Undead Press. Leave a message on their facebook, twitter them, feedback on their website, however you’d like to take up arms and join the fight. Because that’s what this is, a fight. If we let him get away with this, he’ll do it again. And again and again. If you write, make a noise. If you read, make a noise. And for the love of all that is holy, if it happened to you, tell your story and spread the link.

Why? Because it’s not just a fight. It’s what’s right. And Tony-boy needs to do more than just tell her the story is now NON-exclusive. He needs to give back her FULL rights, void the contract, buy back the copies she bought for her family and friends (since the story in them isn’t hers anymore), and he needs to remove her from that TOC completely. This isn’t a representation of her work, and as a fledgling writer, she cannot afford to have people thinking this is her voice, her style or her story. He’s a fly-by-night hack. He’s probably nothing but a POD (can’t confirm that, if you can, tell us). He can change that manuscript and remove her… if he’s not POD, too bad. He needs to remove her at whatever cost. Regurgitate his latest victim. Like a bad dog that’s eating something it shouldn’t, I say we continue to hit him over the head with a newspaper until he spits it out.

Now then, that other part: tips for new writers to avoid things like this… I think that’s going to be longer than I anticipated and will take the steam from this one, so let’s come back to that later. For now, just remember: any publisher webpage with blatant grammatical issues should be avoided at all costs!

And Tony G, if you’re listening, this isn’t going to just go away. Not until you do the right thing and run off with your tail between your legs.


1. For any that may have misunderstood me wondering if Tony uses POD for his publications, it was not meant as a slur against POD publishers, but rather pointing out how easily he could remove her from the TOC before any more are printed. Addressed here.

2. New links to check out:

  • Interview with Mandy De Geit
  • Interview with Vincent Bilof (the editor for the anthology in question)
  • Podcast of Robert Swartwood & JF Gonzalez discussing the Undead Press fiasco and other things
  • Nick Mamatas shares Tony’s possible* threat toward Alyn.
  • And if you haven’t been there since this started, you may want to revisit Mandy’s blog, as she now has over 400 comments—some supporting, some sharing similar experiences.

3. And finally… while I’m glad that you’re confiding in me through email and facebook your horror stories of Tony G, please, please, please—for the love of all that is holy—post them online somewhere. Share them. Stand up for yourself. Help others realize how deep this issue goes with Tony so when he reincarnates himself (again) with a new publishing name, people are warned. Post them here, on Mandy’s, or better yet… your own facebook, blog, whatever, and then post links to it here and on Mandy’s. Help us use social networking the way Satan intended…


Black Bubbles

Available Now!

Horror is pessimism at its bleakest. Worst-case scenario. The darker side of reality. The glass half-empty. The situation unfathomable. In Black Bubbles, Kelli Owen presents classic genre tropes—ghosts, murderers, zombies, what you’d expect (sans sharks)—but it’s the characters, rather than the tropes, that experience the story, speak of the horrors, and sometimes survive the inevitable.


An decades-old crime shocks a family as evidence points to one of their own… An ancient evil hitchhikes its way to freedom… A child has an unusual fascination with decay… A woman excuses premeditation… Death takes a holiday… Science and good intentions make horrific bedfellows… A man hides from nightmares that invade his waking world…

Over 60,000 words, including a handful of out-of-print, difficult-to-find previously published work, a plethora of new pieces, story notes, and Carson Ford interior drawings inspired by the title story. Introduction by Thomas Monteleone, Cover Art by GAK.

Only 85 hardcovers available (White Lightning Series)… BUY NOW from Thunderstorm Books



FREE ebook

Gypsy girl say what?!

That’s right… FREE. For a limited time (ohhh how about through Friday the 23rd) only, you can download the kindle version of Waiting Out Winter for FREE.

Find out what the hubbub is all about. Beware the flies that are coming out of hibernation now that the weather is warm. And learn for yourself why the world doesn’t end with a boom, but rather, with a buzz…

It’s Spring today, and we should celebrate. Let’s call it my birthday present to all of you.

All I ask, leave a comment and rating after you’ve finished it. On the amazon page or on my message board. Let me know what you thought…

Nick and the boys return from the summer’s last hunting trip to find the streets empty, the beachfront and park abandoned, and the windows of their own homes boarded shut. The hunters have become the hunted, in an apocalyptic plague that pits man against beast—very tiny beasts. And Nick is determined to keep his strength, courage and family alive during what could very well be the last winter of their lives.

The 6th installment of the Elemental Series from Thunderstorm Books… Cover art by Nick Tripiciano… FREE for a limited time.

Happy Spring!

Starving Artist

SURPRISE! Not always a fun thing. Not always a good thing. And definitely not known for always being something you want to hear. Surprise truck repairs + starving artist = bad, bad things.  Other things have come up…

However, before I go and put things up on eBay, I figured I’d give all of you a shot at them.

Back when I was reviewing, I got a lot of ARCs—those are on the chopping block, in the name of truck repairs everywhere bottomless wishing wells. The first bunch, shown at left, will be put IS on eBay tomorrow night unless any of you are interested in something in the pile.

They are all perfect bound from the publisher with standard ARC information either on the back cover or inside. Heart-Shaped Box, Broken Angel & Home Before Dark have color copies. The rest are standard off-white stock. All are in good shape with no damage, as they’ve only been sitting on the shelf looking pretty for most of their lives, with the exception of Corpse Blossoms, which has a nicked corner on the spine but no internal damage to pages.

The pile includes:
Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (published by William Morrow) *25
Broken Angel, by Brian Knight (Delirium Books) *50
Deep Night, by Greg Gifune (Delirium Books) *20
Play Dead, by Michael Arnzen (Raw Dog Press) *27
The Dust of Wonderland, by Lee Thomas (Alyson Books) *25
The Monster of Florence, by Douglas Preston w/ Mario Spezi (Grand Central) *26
Corpse Blossoms, edited by Julia & R.J. Sevin (Creeping Hemlock Press) *40
Home Before Dark (vol 2), by Gary Braunbeck (Cemetery Dance) *50
Halloween & Other Seasons, by Al Sarrantonio (Cemetery Dance) *40
Prodigal Blues, by Gary Braunbeck (Cemetery Dance) *40
Black Fire, by James Kidman (Cemetery Dance) *40
Sliver of Bone, by Ray Garton (Cemetery Dance) *40
Poe’s Lighthouse, edited by Christopher Conlon (Cemetery Dance) *40
Madman Stan and Other Stories, by Richard Laymon (Cemetery Dance) *40
The Number 121 to Pennsylvania & Others, by Kealan Patrick Burke (Cemetery Dance) *40
The Devil’s Wine, edited by Tom Piccirilli (Cemetery Dance) *40

(*cover prices listed for actual book, not ARC. As the ARC is a collectible version, I’d like to get at least that much, and would be really okay with more.) If you are interested, and please, serious inquiries only they are NOW ON EBAYas there is a truck repair bill at stakerespond by letting me know which item(s) and how much you’re willing to donate to the truck fund for it(them). You may leave a comment in the comment section below or email me directly at Christmas is coming… is there anyone on your list that would appreciate something off my list?

These are spiral bound, oversized ARCs with interior color art representing what would become their covers.
The Wicked, by James Newman (Necessary Evil Press) 60
She Loves Monsters, by Simon Clark (Necessary Evil Press) 40
In The Midnight Museum, by Gary Braunbeck (Necessary Evil Press) 60

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