My Religious Roller-coaster Part 1


My religious experiences from birth to about—I’d have to say nine or ten—were virtually nonexistent. My parents had both been raised Catholic, but other than having me baptized at birth, I don’t recall setting foot in a church as a young child. I’m sure I did once or twice, for Christmas or Easter at least, and they would have held Mass for my grandmother when she passed. I do have a picture of myself as a small boy dressed for Easter in a suit matching my father’s, but I don’t remember attending Mass. I knew about He-Man and Optimus Prime and Lion-O, but not Christ or the Devil or angels.

After my dad left, we were able to stay in the home we were renting for a few months. When we got evicted, my mom and the pot-head she was seeing at the time went to stay at a friend’s place and I went to live with my aunt and her lesbian lover. After at least six months, but maybe as much as a year, I moved back with my mother when she and her new fiancee found an apartment. Shortly after that, Mom rediscovered her Catholic roots, for the most part, with an eclectic twist.

She started taking me to church with her—Saint Anthony of Padua on Lorimer Street, near Jones Park, for any Rochesterians reading this. It’s been gone for something like seven years now, but their sister church, Holy Apostles, is still up and running. At any rate, I was entranced by the Mass. The music, the chanting, the participation—the only thing I had participated in up until that point was school, and as a poor, scrawny, white kid in a New York public school, to say I tended toward introvertedness would be an understatement. The best part is that I came into religion for the first time already in a question-asking frame of mind. I wasn’t taught from birth that things happened ‘because the Bible said so’ or anything like that. I went to church from day one because I wanted to.

Our robes were brown rather than white, but you get the idea.

I volunteered to serve as an altar boy maybe a month after we started attending. For some reason, with regards to religious practices, I’m in all the way or not at all. You’ll see that thread in these recountings. In this instance, I wasn’t content to just sit in the pew. I wanted to help make the Mass happen. The parish deacon taught me what to do—Deacon Bill Hunt, his name was. We had a couple of other servers, but I became known in the church for being an altar boy before too long. On more than one occasion the little old Catholic grannies would pull me to the side and give me a hug for doing a good job—sometimes a buck to buy candy, too. I was Confirmed—I chose the name Patrick, for those interested—and took my first Eucharist as soon as possible. I even attended Confession on a fairly regular basis.

After a couple of years—not more than two, I don’t think—my mother stopped going to Mass regularly. It was within walking distance, so I still went. She’d begun to collect these books with strange symbols on the covers; some about rocks and herbs, others about fortune-telling and others I had no idea about. She still believed in God and encouraged me to go to church. She also forbid me to read the books. On occasion she’d still go to Mass with me. The last time I remember us ever attending was a week or two before our priest, Father David Mura, died. One of the last things he did on Earth was perform an off-the-record exorcism in our apartment building at my mother’s request.

More about that next week.


The Fantasy Series Fête


Those familiar with my writing would most likely guess the books nearest and dearest to my heart, read during my formative years, would be the works of Stephen King. Now, the King of Horror is fundamental to my existence as a author and gets his very own Secret Origin installment next week, but before I ever cracked open a horror book, I was irrevocably altered by several series’ of books by fantasy authors.

Here are three that will always mean the world to me. I’m not sure you can call them obscure, but I do get a good amount of blank stares when I mention them to other people my age—even avid readers. When you read my books and wonder where I may have drawn some of my inspiration—this stuff here is some of the earliest. The first time I cracked into these books, I was between the ages of ten and twelve.

The Magic Kingdom of Landover series by Terry Brooks in some ways surpasses the Shannara series he’s better known for—not least of all because he quit writing them before they stopped being interesting–he waited fourteen years before releasing the sixth in 2009. The first three books: Magic Kingdom for sale-SOLD(1986); The Black Unicorn(1987) and Wizard at Large(1988) were released within a year or so of each other and are the best of the six, in my estimation. The main character is a middle-aged trial lawyer from our world who buys the throne of an actual magic kingdom from a mail order catalog. The plot of each book is rooted in both Earth and Landover, which makes for an exciting and novel read. High King Ben Holiday deals with such crises as a demon knight who seeks the throne, a group of disloyal barons, the seduction of his young daughter to the dark side by a vengeful witch and the twisted schemes of the exiled former Court Wizard who sold him the kingdom in the first place. His companions include a scribe who was magically transformed into a dog, a Court Wizard who isn’t always in full command of his magic and his wife, a sprite who turns into a tree a few days of every month.


The Tower and the Hive by Anne McAffery is a science-fantasy sort of series. Its set in outer space, and the planets are connected to each other by the mental powers of Prime Talents—powerful telepaths and telekinetics in the employ of FT&T. The Primes move spaceships and cargo and deliver messages with the speed of thought. The first three books: The Rowan; Damia and Damia’s Children, each deal with subsequent generations of a family began by the pairing of Talented orphan Rowan and untrained Prime Jeff Raven. The last two books pick up right where Children leaves off, continuing the story of Damia and Afra Lyon’s eight Prime-talented children and their fight against the alien invaders first faced by The Rowan and Jeff in the first novel. These aren’t detail-oriented, hard science novels, but instead are driven by characterization, romance and action.





The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony was originally intended as an five-book series, and expanded to seven a few years later, with the edition of an eighth book over a decade after that. The first five deal with regular human beings assuming the physical aspects of Death, Time, Fate, War and Nature from their prior office-holders. The latter three books deal with changing of the guard of Good, Evil and Night, a popular and intriguing supporting character from the series. While the series isn’t airtight (I thought Time’s book kinda sucked, having more to do with the main character playing out fantasy story arcs than anything else), taken as a whole, its altogether fun. I enjoyed discovering the Incarnations’ powers along with their office-holders, and Anthony makes even Satan seem sympathetic in his own book despite the dastardly tricks and challenges he presents to the other Incarnations in their books. An added bit of intricacy is the manner in which the Incarnations are related to each other: by the end of the series, Death is the lover of Nature’s cousin, Nature is married to Satan and is a former lover of War, Nature and War’s daughter becomes God and is the former lover of Time and Fate is Nature’s mother. I’m not sure how Night figures into the picture, as I’ve yet to read her book.

Come back next week for a discussion of my first-ever Stephen King book and my solitary year of Catholic education.


But WAIT…There’s MOAR!


I’ve covered the douchebaggery of Tony Giangregorio and Undead Press here and here if you need to get caught up. Those of you already in the know might be interested in knowing that the guy is still at it. Even more outrageous is that he’s contacting people who pulled their stories from his most recent anthology, CAVALCADE, and asking them if they’d care to send him their pulled stories for a new project.

Can you say facepalm, boys and girls? I knew you could.

Brent Abell:


This evening while at my son’s baseball game, I received an e-mail from Tony G. at Undead Press.  The e-mail asked if the story I submitted and pulled from Cavalcade of Terror was still available.  He was wanting it for a new horror anthology.  I politely declined and I left it at that, trying to be courteous and professional.

Wes Southard:

 A few minutes ago I received an email from the now infamous Undead Press editor asking me if I’d like to re-publish my former Cavalcade of Terror story in a new anthology of his–complete with new name, new cover art, and all the Thanksgiving fixings.




Because you can’t possibly come here every day wanting to hear moar about me:

Since enrolling in Select six months ago, my monthly sales have gone from around $50/per month, to surpassing my day job income in three of the last four months.  I’ve reached thousands of new readers by enrolling in this program (Kindle Select–ed.), and these readers have, in turn, bought my other works.

Depending on how quickly you work, I think it’s vital to come out with new material at LEAST every few months. Debuting new material allows you to promote it and simultaneously call attention to your other works. I’m aiming for new stuff every other month. I’m not necessarily talking a new novel every other month – it can be as small as a new short story.

The Rules of Writing

  1. You MUST Write Quickly
  2. You MUST Write Slowly

Undead Press: They’ll Add Shit to Your Story.


At least two authors of my acquaintance have spoken up this week about a publisher, Undead Press, and an editor, Anthony Giangregorio, who accepted their stories for anthologies and published them after making major changes—to include changing the name of the story (a move of debatable immorality, to be sure), and adding in a touch of RAPE (much less debatable!) in another—without any consultation with the authors. The authors didn’t even know the damage was done until after the books went to print because they didn’t receive galley proofs—not even electronic ones. I submit the blogs of authors Alyn Day and Mandy DeGeit for your consideration:

The anthology was released under the name of a different publisher, Undead Press, and my story was no longer my story. It had been butchered. I sat in my livingroom with one of the 6 copies I had purchased, flipping through the pages, eager to see my words in print… only they weren’t my words. It wasn’t even my TITLE. Parts of my story had been cut out, names and details had been changed, things I was never made aware of and had never agreed to. –Alyn Day

They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end… –Mandy DeGeit

If you’ve been around the block a bit as an author, the rest of this post is TL;DR. Please just disseminate as widely as possible so that everyone knows who sucks and why. But since the authors in question are new, and got sucked in by a predator, and because I, in my larval stage, had a near miss with similar idiocy, I want to say a few things to the new authors who may be reading my blog.

  • What Happened Was Bullshit.All of it. The only changes an editor has the ethical right to make without consulting the author are grammatical and typographical corrections. Plain and simple. As an editor, I’ve been privileged to edit authors’ first published stories and the work of Bram Stoker Award winners, plus everything in between. I am not afraid to offer suggestions to any of them. But all they are is suggestions. If an author doesn’t like my suggestion, these are the ONLY options:
    • The author makes the changes;
    • The author says not happening;
    • The editor says I’d rather have the author’s preferred version than nothing and takes the submission without suggestions being used;
    • The editor says it’s my way or the highway.

Note the distinct absence of Editor Does Whatever the Fuck he Wants with the Story.

  • You Should Always Get a Galley. I’ve NEVER had to ask for one. EVER. My publishers have always sent me a copy of what the finished work is going to look like before going to print. I began editing my first anthology a mere three months after my first serious publication, and published the book six months after that. Guess what? I sent the contributors a galley before it went to publication. I was a NOOB and I understood that concept. If this assclown is calling himself a publisher, he should have understood that, too. Which brings me to my last point.
  • It’s Only Your Fault if you Get Fooled Again the Same Way. I knew from the get-go that authors get galleys. It’s not any new author’s fault if they didn’t know that. Some people have a different learning curve, and honestly, I was surrounded by an amazing group of mentors and fellow authors from Day One. The blame for this shit is firmly on the shoulders of Undead Press and Mr. Giangregorio. If you call yourself an editor, or hang your shingle out as a publisher, you are saying  I have my shit together. I want to enter into a professional arrangement with authors and I know how to do this. An author has a right to expect this of a publisher and/or editor—though, granted, those of us who’ve been around a bit know how to smell a rat. If I had made a mistake like this during my first stint as editor, the only appropriate response would have been a sincere public apology and immediate implementation of a solution.

Having said that, I’d like to conclude by asking Mr. Giangregorio to come on out—in the comments section of this blog, even, if he’d like—and discuss what he’s going to do to make this shit right.