Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Doctors: Flash Story

Topic "Competitive Vivisection" as suggested by Garrett Cook.

The Doctors

Doctor James Vander scrubbed his hands vigorously, working the creamy pink soap into a rich lather over his skilled hands. Behind him, the door swung open, swooshing almost soundlessly on its oiled hinges. Jim glanced over his shoulder to see who had entered the clean room outside of the O.R. A smile tugged at one corner of his mouth, producing a sort of lopsided half grin on his thin face.

“How’re you, Kyle?” he asked, turning from the sink with his arms raised, hands held out in front of him as droplets of water gathered on his fingertips before falling to the green tiled floor. The newly entered doctor shrugged. “Same old, same old.” He said, stepping towards the great metal sink. “Marcy’s on my case about Kyle Junior’s behavior again. That kid has a bit of the devil in him, I swear!” Kyle shook his head, depressing the plastic pump on the bottle of soap with his wrist. Dr. Vander nodded sympathetically. “Kids’re tough.” He said.  “Do you remember what you were like at that age?” Doctor Kyle Jennings snorted. “Heh, yeah. Marcy doesn’t know how good she’s got it! I was a hell raiser back then!” “Me, too!” Jim laughed heartily, fingers splayed like a shadow puppeteer getting ready for a show.

“How is Marcy?” James asked, holding his hands out as a nurse placed a surgical mask over his ears and nose, tying the ribbons in back into little white bows behind his head. Kyle finished lathering his hands. Streams of warm water cascaded over them, rinsing the suds into the sink and whisking them down the drain. “She’s well. She’s been volunteering over at the library the past few weeks. It’s good for her, I think. Gets her out of the house. Say, you and Robin should come over for drinks sometime. Maybe next week?”

Jim Vander shook his head. “Can’t do next week.” He said, “Taking the wife down to Cabo. Maybe when we get back.” Jim pulled on a pair of sterile blue latex gloves, snapping them as he released the stretchy material. Bits of white powder briefly clouded the air around his hands before dissipating. The nurse had finished tying Dr. Jennings’ mask on. He donned his own pair of gloves before he and Jim turned and pressed their backs into the large double doors, pushing them open while preserving the sanctity of their gloves and face masks.

Two wide eyed teenage girls were strapped to twin exam tables in the center of the spotless operating room, thick bands of plastic wrapped tightly over their mouths. At the doctors’ entrance, they began to struggle anew, straining at the leather bonds that bound them to their respective tables. Next to each of the girls stood an instrument tray displaying a variety of sharp looking surgical equipment, sparkling under the bright lights that had come on overhead. Jim looked sideways at Kyle, eyes crinkling at the corners as he grinned. “Race ya!” he said, picking up a scalpel.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Black Bubbles by Kelli Owen

Black Bubbles by Kelli Owen
187 Pages
Release Date: 4/10/2012
Available from Thunderstorm Books and Amazon Kindle

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Kelli Owen's work. It all started back when I was a scared little girl in a Big New City who wandered into a little used book store while waiting for her take out sushi order to be ready. I happened upon a copy of Kelli's novel, Six Days, as I browsed the heavily stocked shelves of the tiny shop. I was drawn to it in part thanks to Russell Dickerson's awesome cover. Figuring it was worth the $5 investment (and boy was I ever right! I later found out that it was part of an extremely limited run from Thunderstorm Books' Maelstrom set and has since sold on ebay for over $200.00!) I paid for my prize and left. Back at the sushi bar, I sat down with my purchase (which I carried in a recycled shopping bag from a defunct home goods store) and began reading. I was instantly engrossed. Kelli has a way with words that few people are lucky enough to possess. As I've said before, she has a really remarkable talent for setting the scene, and the opening of Six Days completely drew me in, so much so that I actually sat there until I had finished the first three chapters despite the fact that my sushi was ready... and for those of you who don't know me, it takes something pretty remarkable to keep me away from sushi.

After I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Six Days, I was hungry for more. I hopped on to to check out what else she had available, and I highly recommend that you do the same, starting with the collection I'm reviewing (though it has taken me a bit to get to that, heh.), Black Bubbles.

As someone who works a day job, writes whenever she can, and somehow manages to squeeze in a social life including a boyfriend and two adorable dogs, I appreciate short story collections. I like being able to read a story from start to finish on my lunch break, before bed, or whenever I can grab a few minutes of spare time. Part of the price so often paid for this convenience is filler stories - not the author's best work, but included to pad the rest of the collection and satisfy whatever length requirements were set forth by the publisher. You won't find any of that here. Nosiree, Black Bubbles is 100% USDA Prime story telling. Every single story included in this volume is fantastic, diverse, and remarkably enjoyable. As much as I admire the awesome glittery toed gypsy that is Kelli Owen, I was not expecting the range of themes she was able to expertly pin to the page. I was blown away by how radically different, yet somehow wholly cohesive, this collection is. It runs the gamut from gory zombie stories to black humor, ghost stories, tales of serial killer depravity, and the horrors that can be found in every day life. Among my favorites (although it was really, really tough to pick just a few) were Spell (based on a Nick Cave song of the same name) which is an utterly heartbreaking story that does the song justice in a truly horrifying way, The Rabbit, which, though brief, is fascinating and dark, and the title story, Black Bubbles, which is utterly unique and completely terrifying. This is a collection you definitely don't want to miss. I can't give it high enough marks. Oh, hell, this is my blog, I can break my own rating system if I want to, and this is a book/ebook that most definitely warrants it.

6 Black Bubbles out of 5.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It's been 10 days since my initial post about my experiences with Undead Press. Other authors such as Mandy DeGeit and Lincoln Crisler shared their experiences as well, with Mandy's post going viral and thus drawing tons of attention to Anthony Giangregorio and the way he operates. Things got rather out of hand when good ol' Tony G. sent me a veiled threat via Facebook. I won't lie, it was scary. I felt incredibly naive for having given him all of my information on both the cover letter I sent with my submissions and the contract I signed for both anthologies. I have since gotten a P.O. Box and will be using that for all professional correspondance. While I know that the issues I experienced with Tony were one case, one isolated incident, I plan to be a lot more cautious going forward, not only in regards to being far more selective about who I send personal information to, but also in regards to where I send it, as well as my work.
I'd like to say that if I had done my homework and googled Giangregorio, Undead Press, or Open Casket that it might've prevented me from sending in my stories, but in all honesty, I doubt it. I was (and yes, I still am) a hungry young writer. A publisher, albeit a small, local one (local for me, anyway... which made that threat all the scarier) actually went out of his way to ask ME to submit something. There really wasn't much thought required. I jumped at the chance, as I know far too many young writers are willing to do. I know that hunger well. I experience it daily. That burning, powerful desire to see your name in print can overwhelm all else, including common sense, if you let it. It's so very easy to succumb to that bitter temptress, the one that whispers things like "Sure he screwed around with other people's work... but that was them! I'm sure you'll be fine!" and "It doesn't matter what happens, it's YOUR NAME IN PRINT!" But I'm here to tell you not to listen. Pay attention to the reputations of the markets you're submitting to. We live in a wonderful age of free information that is readily available at all of our fingertips 24/7. There is absolutely no reason NOT to research a publisher before sending something in. Don't fall victim to your own desire to be published. It's like anything else, if you're patient and persistent, and if you practice your art until you've honed your skills, you'll find a home for your labors. More importantly, it'll be the right home, hopefully with an editor who knows what editing means, one who respects you and the effort you put into those words and will work with you to clean up any rough edges or awkward phrases. It's worth the wait, I promise. Yes, I had one negative experience, sure, but I've also had positive ones.
Matt Nord at Collaboration Of The Dead is just one example. They published my very first printed work, 78154, in the anthology So Long And Thanks For All The Brains. Matt was a consummate professional. He kept in touch with all of the authors during the process, provided updates and proofs, and edited the works involved without changing the authors' words. He was a pleasure to work with and I do hope one day to work with him again.
Good publishers/editors/human beings are out there, you just have to be willing to work to get to them, and not to sell yourself short for a shot at seeing your name on a TOC. As a friend of mine once said, Make sure the publisher is worthy of your talent.

As a post script, the amazing Mandy DeGeit has published the story that started it all, She Makes Me Smile (this time without the unnecessary apostrophe) as originally written. It's available on Amazon. She intends to use the profits to pay the authors associated with Cavalcade Of Terror as well as hiring a lawyer here in Mass to help with legal issues stemming from Undead Press's treatment of its authors. Please make a purchase. Not only is it for a good cause, but it's from a great new author who is sure to go places.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Suffering in Silence

A few months back, I wrote a two part short zombie-esque story entitled "Rejuvenation/Rejuvenated". I liked the story from the moment I got the idea. I thought it would be cool to show what the scenario looked like from multiple perspectives without retelling the same thing. I finished the story and began looking for a market for it.

I had previously placed a different short story of mine, Finishing Last, with Open Casket Press in an anthology called Women Of The Living Dead. I hadn't gotten galleys or been allowed to review my work before it went to print, but I didn't think much of it. After all, I was (and am) still pretty new to the publishing world, what did I know? I read my story after the book was sent to me (I didn't even know when it went to print, let alone when it would be available) as my payment for that story had been a contributor's copy. There were a few sentences that had been rewritten, but on the whole it seemed fine. I added the story to my bibliography after tracking down the link on by myself.

Later on, publisher/editor of that anthology posted on facebook about another book he was working on, a project tenatively titled "Zombie A Day". I sent him one story I'd done a while back entitled "Blind". He accepted and asked if I had anything else. I mentioned the two part story I'd finished and he said he'd like to read it. I sent it to him, hope shining in my eyes like the eager little writer worm I was. He liked it, and wanted to print it, but not as I had intended. There was a bit of back and forth between he and I about combining the stories into one, which I didn't want to do, as I liked the idea of keeping them separate but related.
A short time later, he announced that he hadn't gotten enough material for the proposed Zombie A Day collection, but would be printing my stories in another anthology called Zombie Tales. I was thrilled, as I had found a home for not one, not two, but three stories... Or so I thought.

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. I sat there in numb shock. Here was my name, attached to a story I no longer felt connected to. People were going to read this, it might be their first, possibly only, exposure to my work and what they were going to find were the words the editor had ascribed to me, which were very different from my own. My heart sank. I threw the book at the wall. What the hell was I going to do?

In the end... I did nothing. I bit my tongue and kept silent about my interactions with Anthony Giangregorio and Undead Press/Open Casket. I was afraid that he, as a publisher, would somehow blackball me within the industry if I spoke up or opened my mouth in any way. So I didn't say a word to anyone other than my close friends and family. And I'm sorry for that, because the very same thing happened to a friend of mine just recently. Mandy DeGeit had a story published in Undead Press's Cavalcade of Terror, which was similarly mistreated. I learned my lesson about being quiet. If someone does you an injustice, murders your artistic creation and sews the pieces back together in some sort of Frankenstein's Monster parody of your original work, speak up. SHOUT. Tell everyone you know and ask them to tell everyone THEY know. Get the word out. Don't let this kind of thing happen to others. The industry as a whole suffers when tainted by the warped vision of one so-called "Editor" who thinks he has the right to make changes to your vision without consulting you.