Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

There’s been a lot of commotion happening in the online horror writing community this week over the editorial work of one Anthony Giangregorio of Open Casket/Undead Press – and with just cause, I might add. So before I launch into this, let’s get two things clear. ONE: A good editor works WITH a writer to shape a story into the best piece of fiction it can possibly be. TWO: A bad editor insinuates themselves all over the work and gives the writer absolutely no recourse in the matter, except to scream about it on the internet after publication when it’s too late to do anything about the travesty that his or her name has been attached to. And that is exactly what Giangregorio did, with a side helping of freshly grown grammatical errors (in the story’s title no less!) and an extra serving of beastiality for the plot. Who wouldn’t be upset?

I feel for Mandy DeGeit and the other authors involved who are starting to come out of the woodwork and tell their stories. I had a similar experience once upon a time, as a newbie author, with a different small press. It was so devastating and embarrassing that I actually stopped writing for a whole two years of my life. Unscrupulous companies like these find easy prey in new writers who don’t know what to expect from the publication process or how they should demand to be treated during it. When it happened to me, in my early twenties, I didn’t know that I should be asking for a final proof of the book to sign off on before it went to print – I trusted that the publisher knew what it was doing. Trust, as I quickly discovered, is a dangerous thing when put in the wrong people.

I ended up starting Burning Effigy Press as a direct result of this humiliating experience. It was my way of turning a major negative in my life into a positive, and moving on. The original idea behind the press was to give up-and-coming authors a supportive and quality first publication experience. Over the past thirteen years that direction has changed fundamentally as we’ve become a genre imprint for more established talents, but the love and care and author involvement in the publishing process hasn’t changed one iota.

For those who care – and for Mr. Giangregorio, who seems to need a primer – this is how we do a book:

Once we buy a story, we do a full edit complete with fully visible notes and changes. Minor things such as grammatical errors, duplicate word usage, occasional adjective replacement, issues with sentence structure and other mechanical errors, I tend to correct and/or make suggestions for. Larger plot problems, namely continuity errors, unbelievable character arcs, scenes that require a little bit more emotional weight and/or resonance all get sent back to the author to correct themselves, with specific notes from me. It is still their story after all, not mine, even though I paid to publish it.

The author then gets this entire edit to go over, tweak, sign off on and make the requested changes to. The author also works with their edits/changes fully visible, so that I can see what has been done to the story when it returns to my desk.

At this point I do a sign-off/copy-editing pass. If there’s anything we are still butting heads over or not quite seeing eye to eye about, we have a meeting where the author can argue his side and I can relay mine. The meeting does not conclude until we are both in absolute agreement about the story. That’s not to say I’m a push-over – anyone who has worked with me knows that there are certain things as an editor I slam my foot down on firm and hard about – but I always like to give an author a chance to prove me wrong, and I kind of love it when they do. I think these sorts of debates and challenges only make for a stronger, tighter, toothier story. Editing should be a collaboration, not a steam-rolling tanker truck.

And as an editor, I don’t want to steal your story or splatter myself all over it – I have my own writing to do that in – I just want to finesse it into something we are both 100% proud of publishing, which is why nothing at Burning Effigy goes to print without full sign-off from myself and the author, and this includes both interiors and covers. I would rather delay a book, than release it without these checks and balances in place.

Maybe that’s why four of our titles have made it onto the final Bram Stoker Awards ballot, and maybe that’s why we have the reputation that we do.

Either way, I don’t buy that excuse about writers not being able to edit. I’m both a writer and editor professionally and other than struggling to find the time to do both, I’ve never found it particularly challenging to keep them separate. I don’t edit because I can’t write or can’t succeed as a writer, I edit because I love stories.

In fact, I’ve often thought that being a writer may make me an even better, more intuitive editor, because I know how writers like to be/should be treated, and I have a unique perspective of both sides of the business. If anything, a writer should have more respect for his or her colleagues, because they are members of the same creative tribe. But just as not everyone is meant to be a writer, not everyone is meant to edit.

But how do you protect yourself as a newcomer from the bad eggs? Talk to people. Google the company. Read a book they’ve put out. Don’t just blindly submit. Find out about a publisher’s reputation first. Ask someone who has worked with them what the experience was like. The internet was still in its infancy when this happened to me, but now information is as close as your fingertips twenty-four hours a day – so use it!

When people ask me about what Burning Effigy and I are like to work with, I encourage them to ask some of our authors. After all, why should they just take it from me? Go to the source, see if it’s an experience you want to have.

Remember, writing is a job, so treat it with that same level of commitment, even if you are just starting out. You wouldn’t apply to work at a sketchy sweatshop, so don’t allow your fiction to get the same ghetto treatment. And when it does, don’t be afraid to name names and point fingers. Because if this week has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that the genre world is wonderful at self-policing and calling out those committing wanton douche-baggery. So yes, use that too.


I was in the middle of posting my long out-of-print 2002 poetry chapbook on Wattpad, when I decided to take a break and post this poem here as well.

I wrote this piece ten years ago when I was intensely involved in the spoken word scene. Looking back on it now, it seems almost like a creed for our little collective of outsider artists back then (never mind a pretty accurate representation of what it felt like to be coming into our own in that moment of time).

Some other interesting facts about “We Are Poets”: It’s easily the most popular poem I’ve ever penned. It’s been covered by multiple poets/spoken word artists in multiple cities and has even ended up as someone’s deviant art signature. I have recorded a performance of this poem in the studio, but for whatever reason it never got finished and has since gone missing. The piece itself was first published in August 2002 in the now long out-of-print chapbook the sound of one girl screaming (which you’ll soon be able to read for free here) and also appears in Some Words Spoken.



We Are Poets

We are poets at the end of the medium.
We are masters of verse in a time of media masturbation.
We are the last analog voices in the great digital void.
We are the rebels –
we march with language, not rocks or guns.
We dream in “color by deluxe” yet are comfortable
deconstructing Hollywood icons
and runway model beauty tips.
We are bored with anorexia.
We are beyond bipolar manic anything.
We are the screamers, the sinners, and the dreamers
who won’t go quietly, quietly into the rat race
without a fight.
We see the light
and know that it is neither shining from heaven
nor from the end of a long tunnel.
We thrive in the darkness,
not afraid to close our eyes and just feel,
just be for a moment.

We are interested in more than the what and where,
we want to know the why for too.
We are the artists.
We are the mad scientists.
We don’t fear what we don’t know,
we only fear what we can’t try.
We may be open to interpretation
but our art is concrete
our attitudes were born in the struggle
(in the years from birth to here).
We may be subject to change
but only by our own heads and hands and wills.
We see through popular culture
as if it were an overhead transparency.
We are not marketable
in any of the traditional, accepted ways
nor would we ever want to be.

We don’t believe everything we see on CNN
or read in the Toronto Star.
We are the revolution.
We are the cause and the effect.
We are the next big bang, baby.
We are the antidote to the corporate mentality
and the capitalist scandals.
We are both the good time drug,
and the shoulder to break down forever upon.
We are the listeners and the philosophers,
we are the underemployed intellectuals.
We’re jammed somewhere between X and Y
stuck trying to create a new alphabet.
We still read books.

We are the painters with cameras, and brushes,
and things we find on the street.
We are the last analog voices subverting the digital beat.
We are poets in the last gasp of the word.
We are not afraid to ride this rush, this emotion, this devotion
right to our graves… and beyond.
We can not be defined by MTV labels
or prime time stereotypes.
We will be remembered for what we are not
and we are spastically happy about that.
We are the voices challenging you to hit mute,
challenging you to shut up and listen.
We are poets at the end of a medium
not willing to lay down and play dead just quite yet.
We are poets.
Amen and art bless.

© 2002 Monica S. Kuebler, an online magazine and burgeoning social network for genre fans, recently grilled me about writing BLEEDER, teen lit and the state of horror. You can check out the interview here.

While there, you should definitely consider taking part in the community they are building, especially if you have a passion for the darker side of the arts. Horror fans unite!

If you are not yet reading BLEEDER, you can find it at and on Wattpad at, where I’m giving the YA vampire subgenre back its teeth one fang at a time.

The latest issue of Rue Morgue (#119, Jan/Feb 2012) hit newsstands this week, and features my cover story on the upcoming feature film The Woman in Black. I had the opportunity to interview director James Watkins, screenwriter Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) and Daniel Radcliffe (yes, Mr. Harry Potter himself) for the piece. The mag can also be obtained digitally from and for iPhones/iPads via the Apple App store.

Also in this issue, my Library of the Damned column where I discuss the upcoming House of Night comic books with P.C. Cast, author of the best-selling YA vampire series of the same name, and a whole bunch of other incredibly cool stuff, including our annual best and worst of the year round-up and an exhaustive list of horror cons and film fests. Essentially, everything you need to plan your next twelve months in horror.

I’m probably crazy for even attempting it, but I’m writing a serial YA vampire for the web called BLEEDER. My reasons for doing this are threefold.

One: To force myself to get over my stage fright of sharing my fiction with people, something I absolutely have to do if I am ever to fulfill my dream of becoming a YA novelist. Also, to tame my fear of failure – same reason. I need to learn to be brave.

Two: To give readers a flavour of the world I’m crafting. BLEEDER and THE COLD ONES trilogy are both set in the same universe, as I expect several other stories will be. It’s a place where monsters are monsters and tangling with them is never a good idea. This is a free introduction to it.

Three: To introduce people to myself, or at least my writing. I’m a journalist, a poet, but most of my fiction has remained tightly under wraps, except for the occasional publication in tiny zines and chapbooks. I’m not particularly adept at short stories – probably because even when I read I prefer my narratives sprawling and epic – so this is my way of saying, “Hello, this what I write.”

New chapters will be posted every Sunday at and on Wattpad at

Bleeder cover

Here’s the official teaser:

What if everything you knew about your life was a lie?
What if the truth was much, much worse?

Mildred “Mills” Millhatten’s life changed forever the day she found out it wasn’t hers at all.

Forfeited as retribution for the alleged crimes of a father she’s never met, she’s cast into a strange, vicious world that she didn’t know existed and has little hope of understanding.

As a Bleeder – one whose lifeblood feeds the Nosferatu – her continued survival hangs ever in the balance. The creatures are keeping her alive because they believe her blood has mystical properties. Mills fears what will happen when they realize they are wrong – or are they?

If she hopes to survive and discover who she truly is, she needs an ally. She needs to befriend a bloodthirsty monster. Because she lives in their world now, and if she doesn’t do something fast, she’s going to die in it too.

Stuff I Wrote