undead

The Only Three Books to Seriously Mess Me Up

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Author’s Note: I came across this guest blog while answering a friend’s question about Stephen King books on Facebook, and realized I’d never brought it over here for safekeeping. So, you get it now. It originally appeared on the Undead Rat’s website, preceded the previous day by a review of WILD, the book I was touring (virtually) for in March 2011.

Let’s face it; when you write the scary stuff like I do and review horror books on a regular basis, it’s easy to… take the chills for granted, so to speak, or to become jaded. Kinda like how you can eat your dinner while watching the evening news because you see the same murders and genocide night after night.

Now, there have been quite a few novels that made me cringe; I made the mistake of reading Brian Keene’s Urban Gothic and J.F. Gonzalez’ Survivor while eating meals, for instance. Grossing me out isn’t the same as really sticking with me, though, and while I don’t want to take anything away from the authors I enjoy reading every week, I read horror for entertainment and only three books come to mind as having actually horrified me.

I first encountered Pet Sematary by Stephen King while in high school, though the novel was released the year after I was born. I’d been reading horror for a couple of years by this point, was a freshman at a local Catholic high school and routinely broke the religion teacher (a priest)’s balls by ignoring his lessons in favor of Stephen King but still maintaining an ‘A’ average. Even at that age I didn’t lay awake for hours after reading a horror novel or get creeped out by reading about the various bad guys.

However, I almost didn’t finish Pet Sematary, the story of a family’s dealings with an ancient Native American burial ground. I put it down about 2/3 of the way in and couldn’t pick it back up for two months, as I recall. Imagine how gratified I was when I discovered that King almost didn’t publish the book and considers it the most horrifying of his works.

Last year I had the pleasure of personally telling Jack Ketchum how affected I was by his novel The Girl Next Door. In return, he shared with me how affected he was by the real-life story that inspired the book, of a girl in 1965 Indianapolis tortured to death by a family friend and her children. My autographed mass-market paperback of the book is probably my favorite signed book of all because of the impact the story had on me, but I have to admit it’s the book I’m least likely to ever read in public again.

The first time I read the book I didn’t know what to expect; I’d heard good (bad?) things about it, but I read horror daily, you know? There were certain points in the story that I reached while sitting in a large group of people, praying that no one would look over my shoulder and see what a sick freak I was, while at the same time unable to put the damn thing down.

Finally, Succulent Prey by Wrath James White really did me in, to such an extent that I still found myself thinking about it weeks later. It starts out intriguingly enough, with an unorthodox theory about the propagation of serial killers, but quickly degenerates into a horrifying string of brutal cannibal episodes interwoven with the protagonist’s quest to discover whether serial killers create other serial killers.

Wrath’s a good writer, but so are a lot of the other authors I read for fun, too. There’s something about cannibals that really screws with me, though; I guess everyone has their thing, right? For some people, it’s clowns. Succulent Prey not only has the gore-factor going for it, but the emotional impact of the story, especially the end, was the icing on the cake.

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June Reviews

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Dying to Live: Last Rites by Kim Paffenroth is the third in a series of post-apocalyptic novels—this time, focusing on four characters from the previous books that were exiled from their community at the end of the second book, Life Sentence, two living humans and two intelligent undead. When one of the humans falls ill, the group takes refuge with a different community, which is run a bit differently—they have an economic system and luxuries, for one, and no respect for the undead, for two. Needless to say, once the group discovers the truth about their benefactors, they aren’t too pleased. While the philosophical content common to this series is still present, it rarely takes the form of long, plot-slowing lectures, which is always welcome. You wouldn’t imagine half a novel could be told well from a zombie’s POV, either, but Paffenroth does it well.

Ghoul by Brian Keene has been the target of a lot of hype since it’s publication in 2007. While Keene always turns out a superior product, there are certain novels of his that most every fan of his will tell the uninitiated they simply must read—The Rising and City of the Dead, The Conqueror Worms, Terminal and Ghoul—and while I’ve read almost all of Keene’s available output since first picking him up around 2008 or so, I’d never read Ghoul. The Deadite re-release of the novel seemed like a perfect time to fix that. It’s definitely everything you’ve been told—an excellent coming-of-age horror story firmly rooted in the Eighties, with conflicted characters and a bit of an unhappy ending. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, die-hard horror fans and people who rarely pick up the scary stuff alike. You may also have heard about the movie based on the book. I can’t imagine it holding a candle to the novel, but I’m picking up the DVD the first chance I get.

The Infection and The Killing Floor by Craig DiLouie are a pair of novels set after an Infection sweeps across the planet, turning people into mindless zombies. The first novel introduces a mixed group of civilians and military personnel. The plot is very organic—the group hides out in a hospital before breaking out and making it to a FEMA community. Once there, the story takes a more solid direction: the community is sending out a small group to blow up a bridge in order to reduce avenues through which the Infected can approach.

The second book picks up right after the bridge is blown, and follows many of the characters introduced in The Infection as they go their different ways: a few strike off in separate directions of their own, another returns to the community and yet another discovers that he’s the result of another of the Infection’s many mutations: a carrier who, while not Infected himself, spreads the disease by releasing airborne spores. It also introduces another group of military personnel, charged with guarding a scientist who just might be able to cure the Infection—if he can find a pure sample.

DiLouie has an electic writing style that is catchy for the most part, save a sentence or two here and there that jolts you from the story momentarily. What pulls you right back in are the excellent characters he’s created, and the relationships built between them. DiLouie’s apocalypse comes with an additional twist—there are not just zombies to content with, but grotesque monsters created by evolutions of the virus: two headed, giant, fanged worms and hairless, jumping monkeys with infectious stingers, just to name a couple. While DiLouie says there are no plans for a third book at the moment, The Killing Floor ends in such a way that begs for another sequel. He’d be crazy not to write it—and I just might go crazy if he doesn’t.

The Undead Situation by Eloise J. Knapp wouldn’t have been disappointing at all had it not been billed as “Hannibal Lecter during the zombie apocalypse.” But, having seen that, I was prepared for the novel twist of someone eating a fellow survivor’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti while all hell broke loose outside. Instead, we get an unemotional asshole who lets a girl into his house and hangs her out the window for kicks, and then pretty much does nothing too heinous—he kills some zombies, and a few bad people, and that’s about it. A couple of past murders are mentioned, but they come off as being included solely to establish Cyrus’ credit as a bad man. The best part of the book is the blossoming relationship between Cyrus and another sociopath-type, a female ex-Marine named Blaze, who eventually warm up to each other. The ending is killer, too, I’ll give it that. But, a sociopath-in-the-apocalypse story is the sort of thing that deserves to be done all the way, and this wasn’t it.

The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines is a quartet of short stories set in a world where a virus has spread across the planet—a virus that makes people impulsive to the extreme for several weeks before killing them. By impulsive, I’m talking murder, nymphomania, cannibalism, etc. They just can’t help themselves. The stories are interconnected: I don’t want to ruin everything, but by way of example, a sniper who kills a Junkie at the beginning of one story and is never seen again for the rest of the tale is seen again in another story, and is the main character of a third. The characters in all four stories are similarly connected. By the time you read the last one, you learn the secret of the Junkie virus. It’s a complete, satisfying collection with a novel concept that I highly recommend.

The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People by William Todd Rose is two stories in one: the modern-day narrative of a mental patient who can jump into the bodies of people in the future and who kills a woman in his time to prevent the outbreak of a zombie infection, and the story of Ocean, a girl in the future who is rescued from zombies by a small group of survivors who might not exactly have her best interests at heart. While the title makes the book sound like a self-help spoof, it’s actually a quick, fun read.

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Links-n-Shit

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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
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In the Aftermath… (UPDATED)

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…of the viral social media SLAUGHTER of Anthony Giangregorio and Undead Press, there have been some interesting developments (yes, I know–passive voice, but it worked with the post title I wanted to use, so screw it). I still haven’t received any response to my public call for response from Tony G here on the site, nor to the private message I sent him. His Facebook profile also appears to be gone.

The editor of the anthology that started the whole mess, Vincenzo Bilof, on the other hand, has a much larger pair of balls than his illustrious colleague. He’s just as guilty, in my book, but at least he had the stones to submit to an interview and tell his side of the story. The same venue, James Roy Daley’s Books of the Dead Press, also has an interview up with Mandy DeGeit, the screwed-over author whose blog post started the avalanche. Also, author Mark Scioneaux details his lengthy, and unfortunate, business relationship with Tony G on his website.

Tony G does, however, apparently have just enough testicular fortitude to threaten to visit another author he screwed over, Alyn Day, in her home, “to talk. 

There have been some good advice posts for budding authors to come out of this; my own addendum to my initial blog post on the matter, of course, has been joined by posts by Kim Krodel, Jon F. Merz, Greg Chapman, Elizabeth West and others. Anything that results in budding authors getting a new wrinkle on the brain isn’t a complete waste, as far as I’m concerned.

Interestingly enough, the more I’ve thought about this matter over the past couple days, the more involvements I’ve had with this guy over the years than I thought. Two buddies of mine had near-misses with Tony G–one rescued by a colleague beforehand, and another who got his short story collection back and released it elsewhere. The funniest, perhaps, is from January 2011. I wrote to Living Dead Press (one of Tony’s other ventures) in my capacity as a reviewer for Shroud Magazine, asking for review material. He responded that his press didn’t send stuff to reviewers and that I was welcome to buy the books. I remember ranting on Facebook after receiving that email, and predicting that his press wouldn’t last a year.

Goll-lee.

UDPATE (19 MAY 12): Tony G might have a warrant out for his arrest, and Mandy DeGeit is putting her story up for sale next week with profits to go toward paying Cavalcade anthology authors and hiring a lawyer to review Tony G’s contracts for other authors who’ve been screwed over.

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

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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.

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