I just realized this blog is at 49,983 page views, so by the time you read this, it’ll probably be past 50,000. That seems like a pretty cool achievement since I still have no idea what I’m doing with a blog.
To those of you who’ve been reading my work, I just wanted to say thank you for your support. There should be a lot more to come in 2013. In the meantime, here are my five “most-read” posts on this blog if you want to kill a few minutes:
Basically, the winner will get $5,000 a week for the rest of his or her life, and then when he or she dies, another person that the winner has selected will start getting $5,000 per week for the rest of his or her life.
Does anyone else see how this story is going to end? Maybe with a headline along these lines:
“Publishers Clearing House Winner Dies In Mysterious Accident!”
So, if you’re the winner of the “Publishers Clearing House $5,000 A Week ‘Forever’ Prize,” I’d say you should enjoy the $5,000 a week for the rest of your life… however long or short it might be!
I had a bunch of boring titles for this post, but upon a final re-read, I realized I needed something a little sillier so people would be alerted to the fact that my very subtle sense of humor is at play in this post and there’s actually little reason to read it. I apologize to everyone who does not share my sense of humor. Also, I say hi to the two other people in the world who do. Anyway, here is the post that will leave you wondering why you stopped by this blog today: Continue reading
We receive so many emails from students who need information for term papers, articles, and research reports. I love that they’re writing about horror, or publishing, or the authors we publish. I hate that they think we’re idiots and will write their paper for them.
I started this post back in November because one student’s email really made me laugh, but then I decided to wait to post it until after the semester was over, just in case this somehow got back to her professor. Who knows with the Internet, right? Here is the email that inspired this miscellaneous thought:
From: “XXXXXXXXXXX” <XXXXXXX@capecod.edu>
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2011 11:52:15 -0500
To: “‘firstname.lastname@example.org'” <email@example.com>
Dear Sir or Madam:
Hi! My name is XXXXXX, and I am a fan of Stephen King. I
am doing an analytical review of Blockade Billy for my English Composition
class. I was wondering does your publishing company have any book critics
that have reviewed Blockade Billy and have published their review on the
Internet. Could you tell me where to find these reviews? Where do I find
these reviews on the Internet? Could you cite these reviews in MLA format
with the author of the review, name of article, publishing source, and date
of publication or date of when the review was written? Where would I go on
the Internet to find more reviews on Blockade Billy? How was Blockade Billy
originally released by your publishing company, and how and when did
Scribner originally publish Blockade Billy? Please e-mail me with the
answers to my questions and send me any other information about the novella,
Blockade Billy. I need the information by next Friday. Thank-you. My
e-mail is XXXXXXX.
There’s so much in here that I love! The way she asks three times where she can find reviews of Blockade Billy on the Internet, for example. And there’s something about “Could you tell me where to find these reviews? Where do I find these reviews on the Internet?” that sounds almost musical to me.
But the best part, of course, is where she asks: “Could you cite these reviews in MLA format with the author of the review, name of article, publishing source, and date of publication or date of when the review was written?”
Well, yes, I can… because I actually paid attention during my college classes and wrote my own papers. The better question is… can you? 🙂
In the spirit of My Mother’s Secret Stash of Stephen King, I thought I’d post another essay I wrote about that summer when I was 12 years old. I mostly want to post this because the essay was written a few years after “My Mother’s Secret…” and it’s completely different. One of the things I’m very curious about is how our memories work. Not sure what that means in this context, but here’s what I wrote:
Like most life changing events, this one came out of nowhere:
One summer when I was very young, I stood in the basement of my family’s house staring up at the bookcase by the pool table. This was where I had discovered my mother’s collection of Stephen King hardcovers a few months earlier.
On this particular day I saw a blue paperback jutting off the edge of a shelf high above my head. I reached up and grabbed the paperback. I turned it over in my hands.
There were eyes peeking out through holes cut in the front cover. The eyes were part of a bigger piece of artwork under the cover: a hand wrapped in bandages with eyes growing in the flesh! How horrible! How awesome!
I sat on the basement floor next to the bookcase and read the introduction by John D. McDonald. He wrote something there I’ve returned to many times over the years. “If you want to write, you write.” (It really is that simple, isn’t it?)
Next I read Stephen King’s “Foreword” and was instantly hooked. I realized this was the author himself inviting me to join him on a journey. He was talking about fear and the scary things in the dark closet, and yes, I totally understood what he was saying. It was as if he knew me and my secret fears.
I skipped “Jerusalem’s Lot” because I didn’t understand the epistolary tale yet (why are these characters writing letters to each other? where’s the story?), but I started the second piece, “Graveyard Shift,” and was sucked right in. There was a basement full of ruined junk! And big rats! What’s not to love?
And I was off to the races, reading story after story. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. This continued for the better part of the afternoon while my father was at work and my mother slept. (She worked the night shift at the local hospital.) The sun crossed the sky and the day slipped away and I just couldn’t get enough of those short stories.
My favorite in the bunch was “The Last Rung on the Ladder.” Oddly enough, after all of the killer trucks and toy soldier assassins and scary boogeymen and a very bizarre lawn guy, this story was nothing like the rest and yet it easily affected me the most. (Spoilers to follow.)
Instead of another scare fest, this was the story of two farm kids–a boy and his little sister–playing a game in their family’s barn when something goes terribly wrong. The sister was climbing a ladder to the top of the barn when the rungs splintered, leaving her hanging high above the floor, her hands barely holding on. Her brother frantically built a pile of hay to break her inevitable fall. The ladder was going to give way, but he kept telling her to hold on… and then, right before the ladder finished breaking, he told her to let go… and she did… and she landed in the hay with a sickening thud… but she lived! She had let go without looking because she knew her big brother was going to do something to save her. What a happy ending!
But then the story went on. And the two farm kids grew up. And in the end, the reader was left with a man dealing with his sister’s suicide and his regrets about the distance that grew between them as adults while he was busy chasing the brass ring in life — and the fear that, had he been a better bigger brother after they left the farm, he might have been able to break his sister’s fall one more time and she wouldn’t be dead.
Powerful stuff. Emotional stuff. And what the heck was it doing in a book of horror stories? Some readers might have been turned off by this heart-wrenching tale of loss if they were just expecting more gore and scares, but I loved it. I had never experienced a story quite like it before. I read “The Last Rung on the Ladder” a second time that day and I’ve read it a dozen times since then.
Night Shift was marketed as “excursions into horror” and it was my first taste of grown-up short stories. Soon after, I discovered a huge anthology called Dark Forces, and soon after that I dedicated myself to writing and selling my own little stories. I had dabbled with writing since the second grade, but now I had a concrete goal: my stories needed to appear in an anthology like Dark Forces or a collection like Night Shift.
Since then, my short stories have been published in many anthologies, including Borderlands 5, which featured Stephen King and a lot of other great authors I was humbled to be published with; my first collections of stories will see print next year if all goes well, although I harbor no illusions that they’re anywhere near as good as the tales in Night Shift; and a few years back Lonely Road Books published a brand new edition of Dark Forces.
When I think about it, I realize just about everything I do today is because I happened upon Night Shift one summer afternoon when I was a kid.
If you ask me, there isn’t a better foundation for a lifetime of reading than the short story. Short stories will take you to worlds you never imagined and help you examine your own world through new eyes.
What better way is there to spend a summer afternoon… or an entire life?
Several times over the years I’ve written about how I first stumbled upon the work of Stephen King, which launched my full-blown love affair with horror in the 1990s. This is an essay I wrote for the always amazing Robin Furth when she was editing the Book of the Month Club Stephen King Desk Calendar a few years back:
The summer I turned twelve years old, I stumbled upon a secret stash of Stephen King books hidden away on the bookcases in the basement of my parents’ house. It’s not that the books were being hidden from me — my parents never seemed to say “no” to a book or movie I wanted to try, especially considering I saw Aliens on VHS as a kid — but I just hadn’t noticed this particular bookcase before for some reason.
Those same bookcases were also filled with my father’s huge collection of paperbacks by authors such as Donald Hamilton, Ed McBain, and Robert B. Parker–which I would go on to read another year–but the hardcovers with STEPHEN KING emblazoned on the spines were what caught my eye.
There was an old couch in the basement and I often sat there when reading during the summers when it was too hot to play outside. This was where I spent most of the summer when I was 12. Usually the books would follow me up to bed at bedtime.
I started with Carrie, possibly because it was the shortest, but before long I had tackled the first three books of the Dark Tower series and The Stand and Misery everything in-between. I spent that summer devouring each and every one of King’s books, usually late into the night, finishing the day by reading with a flashlight under the covers.
King’s stories seemed to grow from a seed into a great big forest, all right there in front of me on the printed page. Each story was simply written the way it was meant to be — as if it had always existed. King had me in his clutches from the very first page, and I never looked back.
By the time I was in high school, I was still reading every new thing by King I could get my hands on, and thanks to King I had discovered authors like Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, Richard Matheson, Charlie Grant, Dan Simmons, David Morrell, and many others. Not a day went by that I wasn’t reading some used paperback or another at lunch or in study hall.
I was also writing my own stories on a regular basis and soon I was selling some of them to small publications. Although most of my teachers were encouraging, there was the occasional negative reaction to my writing from time to time, and not everyone was pleased with my subject matter. I was actually dropped from an Honors English class without any explanation. The exact reason was never officially confirmed for me, but it was suggested that my writing wasn’t “literary” enough for the teacher’s tastes. Too much of that “commercial Stephen King influence” for me to be taken seriously, you know?
Of course, I didn’t want to be taken seriously. I just wanted to have fun and tell the stories I was hearing in my head.
I’m still doing that now, when I have the time and energy. And now, when I travel home, I find my mother’s Stephen King collection front and center on the bookcases in the living room instead of the basement, with my own books right there next to them. How cool is that?
Of course, I’m still a huge Stephen King fan, and every year I look forward to his next book. Then, when that new book arrives, I take my time and savor every word late into the night, and it feels like that summer when I was twelve all over again.
Since this is a really common question, I thought I’d answer it early: how did I end up working at Cemetery Dance Publications?
In the spring of 2002, I was graduating college, getting married, and looking for a job in the Baltimore area — and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was graduating with a Journalism degree, but didn’t want to be a journalist. (Now that’s planning!)
But I had been doing freelance book marketing on the Internet since I was 15 years old, which had always been fun, and I had done some freelance work for Rich Chizmar the previous summer — basic marketing stuff, putting together plans to promote a few books, etc — which I liked a lot.
I’ve always loved publishing, I’ve been fascinated by the business since I was a kid and started writing my first stories, so it made a lot of sense to me to try to land a job at Cemetery Dance — even though the company was just two employees at the time (Rich and Mindy) and Rich had never hired any outsiders before.
Instead of just emailing or calling Rich to pitch the idea, I decided I should make it blindingly obvious that I could help his company immensely so he had to say yes.
I put together a 17 page proposal, complete with charts and graphs, outlining everything I could do in the first year alone to increase the company’s visibility and alert more casual horror fans to CD’s existence. This was a really over-the-top, well planned, kind-of-crazy proposal — complete with a presentation folder!
Off into the mail the proposal went… and then the waiting began.
I tried to follow up via the phone the next week. Mindy said Rich was in a meeting.
The next week: he was in a meeting.
The next week: still in a meeting.
(Maybe it was just one really, really long meeting, right?)
Finally, an email arrived from Rich: “Let’s talk about this!”
The details came together quickly and by the end of the summer I was married, living in Baltimore, and working at Cemetery Dance Publications. I have no idea what Rich and Mindy thought in those first few months when Kelly Laymon and I — the first two “real” employees as they called us — started helping out, but it was a blast for me. Everyone at Cemetery Dance does a bunch of different jobs and no project could get finished without the help of someone else. Like many small business, everyone works together and that’s the only way everything gets done. It’s very much a collaborative workplace in the best sense of the phrase.
In August 2002, I started by packing orders in the basement of Rich’s house. I can’t remember what Kelly was doing at the time… maybe reading submissions and editorial work? My memory is pretty fuzzy now because everything was happening so fast and life was changing in so many ways that year.
In September, we moved to our current offices in Forest Hill. (There are photos on our website of what the office looked like in those first six months. Some things have really changed, others… not so much!)
Before too long, I was helping with the email newsletters and updating the website and selling ads in the magazine.
Not long after that, the newsletters and website were all mine and I was helping Mindy with customer service, too.
Soon after, Rich gave me my first project to take through the production process. This is where things got really interesting!
The small press isn’t like a New York publisher where a bunch of people each have one important role to play during the publication of a book. In the small press, when you manage the production of a book, you might handle ALL of the steps from beginning to end: negotiating and issuing contracts; editing, copyediting, and proofreading; working with the artists and the designers; sending the signature sheets to the contributors; getting review copies printed and sent out; creating the “spec sheets” that tell the printer what materials to use; working with the media to get coverage for the project, etc.
Basically, you take the manuscript and make sure everything gets done to turn it into a real book. It’s a ton of work and extremely rewarding when you hold the final product in your hands.
Thanks to Cemetery Dance, I’ve worked on projects by many of my literary heroes over the years, which is an awesome experience that I never imagined possible when I was a senior in college trying to figure out what I was going to do for a career.
Nine years later, I honestly can’t imagine working anywhere else. There have been some stressful times over the years — after all, there are just five of us trying to do all of the work a publishing company does, so 60 hour weeks are just kind of the norm — but the work itself and the people I work with and the readers and collectors I’ve gotten to know so well can’t be beat.
PS: By the way, I’m still running the website and the newsletters and writing all of the product sales copy and announcements, so any problems you see with those are all my fault. Feel free to email me about them. 😉
Thanks for stopping by my new blog. My name is Brian James Freeman and my purpose here is to discuss writing, editing, reading, and the publishing business. In case you’re wondering if we’ve met at a convention, check out the photo to the right. I was probably the quiet one in the corner, wearing a baseball cap and not saying much.
A little about myself to get the ball rolling:
I’m the author of The Painted Darkness, Black Fire, Blue November Storms, and The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (with Bev Vincent), along with some short stories and a few essays, too. I wrote Black Fire in college and sold it to Leisure and Cemetery Dance Publications. It was published in 2004 under the pen name James Kidman. At some point I’ll probably discuss why that pseudonym happened and how I view that decision now. Blue November Storms was a novella for the Cemetery Dance Novella Series and The Painted Darkness is a novella I gave away to 30,000 readers for free last summer as part of a marketing experiment to promote the hardcover. Did it work? Absolutely. I want to discuss that and some other thoughts on eBooks and marketing in the near future.
Like most writers, I have a day job to pay the bills. My day job happens to be kind of awesome, in my opinion. In 2002, I was hired by Richard Chizmar to work at Cemetery Dance Publications. These days I juggle the book production (35+ books last year), handle anything on the web (like updating the website, listing new products, writing all of the sales copy for the newsletters and customer updates, updating Facebook and Twitter, etc), organize and write anything for our marketing and publicity efforts, issue contracts, and basically try to take care of whatever seems to be falling through the cracks before it falls too far. I’m also the Managing Editor of Cemetery Dance, which is a job I started with Cemetery Dance #61 and like very much. We’re hiring some more editorial staff right now to help me with all of the work that goes into putting a print magazine together, and we have some really exciting things in the works for readers who love horror and suspense.
I’m also the Publisher of Lonely Road Books, where I’ve worked with authors such as Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, Stewart O’Nan, Mick Garris, Douglas Clegg, Ray Garton, and editor Kirby McCauley to produce beautiful, high-end collectible books. I’ll post some examples of our projects soon, but you can check them all out on the official Lonely Road Books website in the meantime.
That’s probably enough to get us started. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for future posts, feel free to comment on this post or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook, or you can use the “sign me up!” button to the right to be notified via email when there are new updates. There is also a RSS feed for those who are interested in being updated that way.
Thanks again for stopping by and feel free to say “hi” in the comments if you’re so inclined.