Author, Editor, Publisher

Tag: Cemetery Dance (Page 3 of 3)

My Mother’s Secret Stash of Stephen King

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.


How I Ended Up Working at Cemetery Dance Publications

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 Communication/Journalism degree from Shippensburg University, 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 (during the 1990s when the Internet meant AOL to most people), 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’d been fascinated by the publishing business since I was a kid writing my first stories, so it made a lot of sense (to me) that I should 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 anyone outside of family 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 CD 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 book 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 distributed; 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 CD, I’ve worked on projects by many of my literary heroes, which is an awesome experience that I never imagined possible when I was a senior in college just trying to figure out what I was going to do next.

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 anymore — 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:  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.


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