A Few Simple Things

Cover to Simple Things, an anthologyLots going on the past couple of weeks and plenty to catch everyone up on, but first things first. The blog. No, not forgotten, but tried doing the trendy thing and using Facebook for updates. Can’t stand Facebook, though, the Replies function sucks, so, while I’ll keep sharing stuff there, back to blogging. That blogging is now considered ‘old school’? Well, that’s tech for you, eh?

On to this week’s good news. Couple months back, got a tip on a new horror anthology that was looking for subs. The book’s premise was, ordinary, everyday, simple things that had the potential to be forces of evil. The kinds of things you’d find in a secondhand store, thrift shop, you know the type of place I’m talking about. Well, the summer’s been crazy what with some family issues, some travel (planned & unplanned), things going on here at the house and life in general. I almost bailed out on the story twice. I started a couple of times, things went haywire outside of writing, and it got real iffy for a while.

The good thing was, I had a concept I felt was solid, had a decent idea of where I wanted to go with it, and figured unless I hit the wall deadline-wise, I’d find a way to carve out the time and make it happen, especially because the guy who tipped me is a great storyteller and was going to be running the show. Lo and behold, got on a roll a few days before relatives came to town, stayed up three nights straight to finish the first draft, went three days on 8 hours sleep to get a really good final done, and, even though Pam was out of town (she always sends out my attachments because my software is so out of date), it got there.

I was sent the contract for Simple Things, by Lycan Valley Press, last Friday. Cover appears.well, somewhere in here. Damned if I know. Release date is – you guessed it – October, just in time for Halloween. I’m not gonna spoil anything, so click thru to see who I’m lucky enough to be sharing the table of contents with – it’s an impressive list of fellow sickos. Also have subs out at a couple of other new places, and will update on that as I hear those tales’ fates. In the meantime,  working on two new stories, one that’s likely to go into my next anthology because I’m not sure there’s a mag or publisher out there looking for material this unspeakable, but if any fellow scribes or avid readers are aware of an outlet looking for a story you’d describe in a word as: reprehensible, let me know. Hope all you guys out there are doing well, and enjoying the summer as much as I am.

Currently listening to: “Let the Day Begin” by The Call

Holy Miniseries, Batman?

Cover to Villain & HeroAtlanta, couple of blocks from the Omni hotel, where we’re staying. Think it’s 1992, but maybe ’91. Me and Joe Linsner, the guy I was working with at the time, are waiting in a restaurant for a table, and the place is packed. Of course it is. It’s the Diamond Sales Seminar or whatever they called it, and the whole town is full of comic book people. Store owners, publishers, sales reps, business partners, supplies retailers – you name it, everyone is there. Along with a host of creators.

So, we’re starved, it’s been a long day, and we were sick of fast food. We wind up talking to some folks from DC comics, and the hostess tells us we’re looking at another 35 minutes or so, unless.

“Would you mind being seated together?”

I didn’t mind. Joe didn’t mind. The DC crew was in the same boat-starving and not terribly interested in continuing to forage. So, we get seated, order some drinks, start talking shop, and have a general good time.

Now, keep in mind, I was never a big comic book reader. Creepy and EERIE? Sure. House of Mystery? Chamber of Chills? You Will Believe In GHOSTS? That was my thing.  But, much of the conversation at dinner is superhero talk, which I was still enjoying, but mostly listening to. At one point, Vince (I believe it was Vince Letterio, but it’s been forever, so if I’m wrong, chalk it up to that) says, “You’re awful quiet.” (Which of course, I rarely am, and we’d met before, so he knew it.) I mentioned that whatever book they’d been talking wasn’t my thing. So he says, “C’mon-like you wouldn’t want to write a Batman miniseries.”

And, truth was, I couldn’t have cared less. I didn’t read Batman, I didn’t think the movies out at the time were very good, and while DC money would’ve been nice, only one thing made the possibility appealing, and I told him so.

“Only way I’d write a Batman mini is if I could add a villain to the rogues gallery.”

Huh??? That was the reaction. Vince, the woman and guy – think his name might’ve been Dave – couldn’t imagine why that would be my lone requirement. (I probably said ‘Demand’, but even I wasn’t that much of a hard-ass.) So, I explained:

“Batman never kills anyone of consequence. Sure, the Penguin’s always losing henchmen and the Joker’s goons are cannon fodder, but why would I want to try and tell a different version of the same story? Plus, unless you throw in a stranger, why would anyone ever set up shop in Gotham? Batman lives there for chrissakes! He’s always thwarting villains’ plans. Why not go be a bad guy in Aspen, or Dallas?”

Well, that gets things rolling. And sure enough, that subject carries through all the way to dessert, which Joe and I bail on. But Vince mentions to me before I split, something along the lines of, “You oughta stop by the booth and run that by so-and-so tomorrow.”

But I never did. Not that I wouldn’t have followed through should someone in charge been willing to give me the shot. The DC credit alone would have helped me further hype my comic, which was, at the time, Cry for Dawn. But I had tunnel-vision. I only wanted to focus on making Cry for Dawn bigger. Banking more Cry for Dawn stories. Finding artists good enough to stand alongside Joe between the covers. So I never tested those waters. What I did do, though, because guest appearances were becoming hot in crossovers and inter-publisher partnerships, was come up with my bad guy. And so, the seed for what would eventually become the Villain & Hero ashcan – released in 1993 – was planted.

This past week, I’ve been cleaning out my garage and locating a lot of old books. Stuff that goes back to 1989 and the genesis of Cry for Dawn, short stories that were originally slated for the book but never made it in because the title couldn’t stay on schedule, etc. And I thought, “You know, I could rework the Villain & Hero short story to bring it up to date, but pretty much leave it as it was otherwise.” I dunno if I’ll do anything with the character(s) beyond that, but you never know. I still have a lot of friends in comics, doing stuff here and there. Would I want to do another comic? A horror comic? No question. A superhero comic?

Probably not. But, and there’s always a but, isn’t there? I’d sure consider guesting somewhere. Maybe not DC (or maybe DC, though I have no clue if I still know anyone over there), but somewhere. Why not? I’d be happy to throw a villain at just about anybody if they’d let me wreak the kind of havoc I like without too much hand-wringing over who dies and how.

I’ll letcha know how it goes. Pam’s gonna be scanning the originals into the computer and spitting me out a file to start workin’ on. I’ve already reached out to an artist I think would do a good job bringing the key character to life

Maybe even death. We’ll see.


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Currently listening to: “Enchanted” by Stevie Nicks

What Lies Beneath & Behind

Lots of prints and posters.

Lots of prints and posters.

For the past couple of days, Billy and I have been clearing out the garage (well, half of it at least), because Pam wants to park her new car in there. As well, was trying to find something I thought I had laying around because my nephews have been talking about San Diego Comic Con, asking me about people I’ve met, done panels with, interviewed or worked with (some of whom they’ve heard of now). Well, talk about a convergence of events.

Being in the comics biz as long as I have, you wind up accumulating quite a collection, especially when you work with a lot of people. Plus, early on, you start to get a feel for whose stuff might be valuable down the road. So, you wind up with stuff like a whole run of the original FAUST series, copies of The Crow and Deadworld, art prints and portfolios by some of your friends or favorite artists, etc.

When we moved from Miami, I remember filling up the moving truck (several times), but it was getting down to the wire. We were forced to make an extra trip we didn’t want to. And so, when we got here, a lot of stuff just got stacked and packed wherever it fit. Today, moving through a wall full of boxes with Billy, he started running through a list of stuff I thought we’d sold off right after I went blind and lost my day job. I mean, stuff I thought was gone almost 15 years ago. Boxes of first print comics. Art prints Pam and I had invested in. Bernie Wrightson originals. Cry for Dawn stuff that I couldn’t even find a listing for on eBay, even though I know all three of us – Linsner, Horan and I – all got a stack. I guess either those guys never sold theirs either, or it’s been so long they just don’t show up anywhere online.

Loads of books and comics.

Loads of books and comics.

So, when Pam gets home, we’re going to start cataloging this stuff, and then selling it. And I mean all of it.  How much are we talking about? I’d say, conservatively, well over a hundred grand worth of collectibles. And, I’m not talking the retail price we had on things, either. I’m talking the wholesale value if I was going to list through Diamond. And, a lot of it’ll be reasonably priced, too. Yeah, I know, one of the titles I looked up today some clown is charging ten bucks a copy for. Pffft. That jackass is probably sitting on hundreds of ’em, so why he’d bend you over for one is beyond me, but oh well, screwing fans is something he’s known for. We’re probably gonna put those up for a couple bucks each and price shipping accordingly for what you order, no more. Everything, with the exception of some Cry for Dawns that are marked as such, is a first printing. Mint condition. Some Kevin Taylor ltd ed art prints. Jim O’Barr prints I bought a couple of when I did an interview with him for a GEC show back in the day. Universal Monsters goodies. I mean, some really, really cool stuff.

Universal Monsters Collectible Figures

Collectible Figures

Keep checking back. It isn’t like we’re going to just throw it all up at once, it’s gonna take a while just to get it all sorted out. But there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t turn up on eBay every day, trust me. I have a couple of different Google alerts set up on my own name, so pretty much every time someone lists comics and stuff, I know about it. My VHS copies of the Cry for Dawn documentary? Probably gonna get moved now that they’ve turned up. I mean, I do have different priorities these days.

Room to park the car so it won’t get destroyed by the sun? That’s one of ’em.
Currently listening to: “All I Want Is You”, Live version, by U2

Again to the Winterlands.

As most of you know, I don’t do a whole lot of fantasy writing. So, when I had an idea for a story that I could set in the Winterlands, the fictional, frozen continent where my story The Lost City appeared in 2012, I checked with my bud Alex Ness to see if anybody was thinking of returning to that cold, dark place for another go-’round.

Cover to The Lost City

Well, that seems to have kicked a number of scribes into gear, and yes, there’ll be a second Winterlands anthology, sometime in 2015. I wish I could tell you who’s committed, but I’m not sure. I can say yours truly, Alex and newcomer Valerie Valdes will all be penning tales, as will some of the other Hunt the Winterlands veterans.

If you’re a fantasy fan, click the image to get a closer look at what the first volume contains, and how to get your hands on one. There’s some good work in there by authors you may not be familiar with, and, heck, the price is right, so why not give it a shot? If you do? Let us know what you think. There’s no better advertising for writers involved in an indie publishing venture than reviews and ratings, and the input of readers is not only appreciated, it’s critical, especially since we’re now taking another trip back to the frigid environs of that hostile landscape. A couple of lines from you folks would sure warm things up a bit.

Hunt the Winterlands Cover

Check out Hunt the Winterlands (Amazon)

Currently listening to: “No Shows” by Gerard Way

Free—and Without Requiring Piracy!

The year may be winding down, but the workload sure isn’t easing up any. Got a new Kindle project we’re launching on October 25th that’ll take us through New Year’s; we’ll be teasing my new horror anthology (due out next Spring); we’re wrapping up our foreign distribution deal for The Bunker; we just released two commercials, and right now, we’re preparing The Bunker and the Making of… documentary, for IPTV.

My e-mail is thus filled with all sorts of technical mumbo jumbo. Codec specs. Audio encoder information. Video encoder information. Pixel aspect ratio data. Multi-pass. I could go on, because all this gobbledygook makes my head spin, but you get the idea. We’re going down another uncharted road, but at least this time I’ve got directions and plenty of folks who do this for a living willing to help out.

This has been a pretty good year payoffwise on the creative front. Back in 2011, my U.S. distributor and I signed a foreign distribution deal, and we feel we got great terms. A big part of that was not having to tie up the film for 7 years, and not having to practically give it away in certain territories where they’d want unlimited extensions on a basic deal for very little royalties. Now, with the film out in several major markets, including Europe and Asia, we’re ready to make the movie available for free via IPTV. This is going to allow people to watch the flick for nothing, either on their computer or via hook-ups from their streaming devices to their TVs or home theatre systems. The format is still profitable, although I won’t bore you with the details of how all that works. But if you haven’t gotten a copy of The Bunker DVD, and you’re not interested in the limited edition comic that comes only with that package, well, here’s your chance to see both the movie and documentary without having to go to a torrent site or otherwise utilizing video pirates, the types of lowlifes bimbos like Michelle McKee support. Want to see my movie for free? Want to support the people who made the film instead of ripping them all off? Want to help keep distributors like Commodity Films in the business of making and distributing cool indie flicks without having to reach into your wallet? This is how you can accomplish all that. We make a couple cents a viewing, our distribution partners and IPTV partners make a few cents, everyone’s happy.

I’ll be posting more about the launch of the stream the closer it gets, but wanted to let you in on the good news. If you’re an indie fan, I hope you’ll put in the effort required to see the film: a click of the mouse button. That’s not askin’ for too much, is it?

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Currently listening to: “Other Side” by Red Hot Chili Peppers


Okay, so the graphic design and cover took a little longer than expected (although, be honest. If you were working on this cover, wouldn’t *you* take your time?), but SKIN FLICK is now live and available for those of you with a Kindle, tablet, smart phone or PC. You Nook-sters will have to hang on a little longer, sorry, but I think it’ll be worth the wait.

Skin Flick Cover

Porno. Gore. Zombies. Drugs. Religious zealotry. Murder. 85 pages (no, that’s not a typo), all for only .99 cents.

Get SKIN FLICK at Amazon

Reviews welcome, the more, the merrier. Love it, hate it, doesn’t matter. If you’re willing to give it a shot, I want everyone on Amazon to know what you thought. I’ve got thick skin. Maybe not zombie-proof-thick, but without question, review-proof-thick. 😀

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Currently listening to: Guns of Brixton by The Clash

Free for all

NOTE: This is an expired event.

Well, not quite the Ted Nugent kinda free-for-all, but free enough. If you like mysteries, today and tomorrow you can download mine for nothing. Yep, nada. Zilch. Zip. The big zero-point zero-zero. You get the idea.

Amazon says this kind of promotion works, so I’m putting it to the test. Here’s where you come in. Download a copy of my critically praised debut novel, Torn to Pieces, for your Kindle, smart phone or PC/Mac (you can get the Kindle app for free and read on your computer if you don’t currently have an e-book reader) and…well, that’s it. Just enjoy.

The novel, which runs about 400 pages, is about a series of grisly dismemberments in downtownManhattan, and the two detectives who are tasked with finding the murderer. And now you can check it out for nothing more than a few mouse clicks.

Torn to Pieces Book Cover



That’s not to say I’m not going to at least try and put the screws to you for something in return, though. I mean, c’mon—fair’s fair, right? Even so, not like I’m askin’ for much. I’d like your opinion. Make a comment. Put up a rating on Amazon, so other folks can see if you dug it or not. Be honest, I’ve got thick skin. But say something about it, all right? I’d like to know, fellow readers would like to know, and Amazon would sure as hell love to know folks are actually reading the books we’re releasing.

So, have at it. I doubt my horror fans are going to be disappointed. Yes, the novel’s the most mainstream thing I’ve ever written, but that doesn’t mean I left out the edgy stuff I know you horror-hounds love.

Hope you enjoy the book, and if you have something to say about it directly, well, come on back and comment here, too. I’ll be happy to discuss it with you guys, because you’re the best fans there are.

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Currently listening to: Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants

Torn to Pieces

I had expected to be blogging pretty regularly last week, because for the first time in a while I’ve got a number of things going on to talk about. But, as luck would have it, things didn’t quite work out the way I’d expected. First, my Dad went back into the hospital. Two days later, I began sleeping up there, keeping vigil. My mom joined in on Thursday, my sis on Friday.

But on Sunday, he was gone.

Torn to Pieces, my debut novel, was approved by Amazon on Saturday, which makes me feel a little better. Sunday’s an anniversary I didn’t want shared. I’m not quite sure how much of Dad was still hanging around on Friday, but I let him know the book was finally being published. He was the first person I let read it, in a draft very, very close to the one now available for Kindle. Is that important? To me it is. I don’t usually show anyone anything I write until it’s ready for publication, so I’m sure glad I didn’t do that this time around. Dad loved mysteries, and we enjoyed many of the same authors. John Sandford. Michael Connelly. Nelson DeMille, and so on. Usually, my genre is horror, and that really wasn’t Dad’s thing, although he read anything I had published. But mysteries and thrillers… He really liked those, and he compared my effort favorably to several books we both thought highly of. The good thing about that is, Dad didn’t shine me on about my work. If he thought something could be better, he’d tell me. He even made a suggestion about a different plot twist at the end, thinking it’d do better with the masses. We discussed that a lot. I didn’t want to make the change because it’s the kind of twist you expect in mystery novels today. He thought that might be exactly why I should try it. But we decided the book was commercial and mainstream enough, and talked about sequels, other stories, etc.

Torn to Pieces by Joseph M. Monks

I’m glad I had time to get that input. It made the novel that much stronger. Next to my film, The Bunker, it was the single biggest project I’d undertaken, creatively. And, he got to see it. Got to see my film on the big screen, in a real movie theatre, on a state of the art projection system with surround sound and all the bells and whistles. Popcorn, even. That he got to enjoy my book and movie ought to be enough to make me happy, but of course, it’s not. He won’t be here for the next one, which hurts. But, if you enjoy mysteries and thrillers as much as Dad and I did/do, perhaps you’ll give the sample chapters a look-see, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your comments (preferably through Amazon, of course), no matter whether you like the book or not. Remember, I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve got thick skin. If you pick up a copy? Give it to me straight.

I promise—I’ll let Dad know how the response is when I talk to him.

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Currently listening to: The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

Torn to Pieces (2012)

Torn to Pieces by Joseph M. MonksWhen NYPD detectives Jack Whelan and Burton Carver are assigned to investigate a grisly Greenwich Village homicide, the first-on-scene offers dispatch an ominous warning: “Tell ‘em it’s a nightmare. A total freaking nightmare.” After sizing up the scene, the pair agree on one thing: the responding officer got it right. With the discovery of a second dismembered victim, the pair are caught up in an internal department power struggle, and blindsided by a newspaper reporter intent on sabotaging their investigation. Kept out of the loop by the lieutenant running the task force and having run afoul of the brass, Whelan and Carver find a pair of allies in the crime scene unit and make it personal—enlisting outsiders and working the case from the shadows. When a key player disappears, Whelan and Carver have to decide which rules they can follow and which ones they’re willing to break in order to locate the missing woman, and bring down a killer who is, quite literally, butchering his victims alive.

Release Date: Aug. 25, 2012 (Kindle format)

Get it now at…

Amazon.com (for Kindle)

Not-Quite Fictitious Horrors

MonsterthologyFeel terrible about not blogging more, but have been swamped with editing work, as I’m readying a zombie anthology for release in October. That’ll coincide with my appearance at the Ft. Myers ZombiCon (more about that the closer it gets).

Recently, got invited to a Facebook list that posts open markets for fiction. About a year and a half back, I had a story that I’d begun but hadn’t finished, for a classic monsters oriented anthology. I missed that deadline, so let the story sit in the ‘draft pile, figuring I’d get to it sooner or later.

Well, sure enough, I get a post from the Facebook list, calling for classic monsters stories. What better incentive than a new antho to get me to finish up my tale, right? So, I spend a couple of days, beat the thing into shape, run it past several friends and my wife (former journalist and writer for the Texarkana Gazette), and got to the point where I felt pretty good about it. Publication date was November, so figured I had a while to wait before acceptance/rejection letters went out.

Not the case. The deadline for the anthology was fast-approaching, and I got the acceptance notice in short order. Contract soon after. Not bad, huh? Meant that while I don’t often submit to other publications, my last five or six such efforts had all been picked up.

I sign the contract, mail it back, and wait. But not long. Get an e-mail two weeks later, announcing the book is available on Kindle. Wow, I thought. Fast turnaround. Which of course, to a cynic like me, made me wary. My pal Frank Wales, too. He’s also been around the block a time or two, and voiced the same concern I was sharing with Pam that same evening.

Well, here’s how it all ends. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the book, and to say I’m disappointed would be an enormous understatement. I don’t want to burn any bridges, and I don’t want to throw fellow writers under the bus. But this book was most certainly not ready to be released, and it shows on almost every page. Typos. Missing words. Grammatical errors. Punctuation errors of an egregious nature.  I mean…whoa. Things that shouldn’t get past an initial read-through made it into the finished product. Not good.

Listen, I’ve had issues with publishing projects before. When my first anthology came out, I had just gone blind, and only had WordPad to use to write new material. I couldn’t use the function keys, couldn’t handle the editing myself. So, we hired somebody who overstated their creds, and as a result, the book is a piece of crap. (And, don’t even get me started on the jerkoff who wrecked the cover.) The stories? They’re all right. The editing? Absolutely reprehensible. (One of the reasons I’m handling the editing on the re-release myself, and bringing in a pro who’s got a background doing this very job.)

Running spell-check isn’t editing. It never has been, and it’s no substitute for the effort needed to really make a publication ready for readers. This book wasn’t ready. The final few tales might be impressive—I truly hope they are. But with less than 70 pages to go in a 200+ page tome, it’s already fallen too far short of the ideal to make a difference. A Joe Hill story couldn’t rescue this thing now, even though the tale might be fantastic.

The Kindle edition of the book is going for ten bills, too, and for the life of me I can’t see any publisher getting that for an anthology that’s lacking in so many areas, and doesn’t have star talent to make it appealing to readers. There’s some names you may recognize, to be sure, especially if you follow the speculative fiction mags and are familiar with the non-household-name members of the HWA. If you read a lot of e-books in the horror genre, sure, there are folks you’ll know who are in here.

But they’ve been done a disservice by not having a real fine edit done to save them from the embarrassment of mistakes showing up in print that should have been caught by the publishers. When the main character in a story is named Arthur and due to a typo appears as Author (because spell-check didn’t see anything wrong), well… You get the idea. When the formatting for Kindle introduces spacing errors, such as no carriage return between alternating lines of dialogue? Yikes. When dialogue ends with a period inside the quotation marks, followed by a comma and then the: he said/she said/so-and-so yelled? That’s the kind of thing that dooms your effort, no matter how cool the concept or hard-working the creators, or how passionate the people behind it.

I don’t even let my wife see early drafts of a story. I probably go through a dozen before I feel ready to let her take a look. Even then, I run my stuff past guys like Frank, my friend Mike, my buddy Mario (who I worked with for a major publishing company in New York way back when), or other writers I know who are going to catch things. Many of them do. Which usually means, by the time I sub something? It’s either ready, or damned close.  It’s to the point that an editor shouldn’t have to be fixing grammatical errors or retyping the word the because it came out teh when I was first blazing away. That shouldn’t happen, but even the best of writers occasionally miss something in their own work, and that’s understandable. When we write, we’re too close to the story. We’ll mentally fill in a gap or a missing word and not notice. We’ll forget the age of a character mentioned two thousand words back and he’ll be 34 instead of 32 next time.

That’s why everyone needs an editor. And I mean it—everyone. The more pairs of eyes you run your work past, the more chances the little things will get caught before you send something out that isn’t ready for prime time.

I’m not going to tell you not to buy Monsterthology. Read the sample pages. Decide for yourself. Maybe you’ll love it, and you’ll be able to look past the problems because you’re such a die-hard classic monsters fan you just can’t get enough of this type of material. Cool. That’s your call. But I’m in it, and I’m terribly disappointed. Won’t stop me from subbing to other, similar projects when I have a story that fits, because I enjoy this kind of stuff and I have a slew of new, unreleased horror fiction available. It’s always nice to get acceptance letters, and have your stories appear in other publications, so I won’t let this most recent experience slow me down.

Just wish things would’ve worked out differently, because now that anyone can upload something, anyone can be a ‘publisher.’ Now that anyone can put out an e-book, anyone can be an author. Whether or not you’ll be successful? Well, that’s where I think projects like this do more harm than good. The competition is staggering now that the cost of printing has been taken out of the equation. There are thousands of new publishers on the web every month. If you want to carve out a niche for yourself, you’re going to have to be as professional as the big guys. The good thing? That isn’t tough. Invest in the AP Style Guide and learn the basics, put in the hard work making your project the best it can be, and yes, you too can compete with Penguin and Simon & Schuster, etc. Those companies don’t have access to anything you don’t, not insofar as the tools to produce a well-crafted book. There’s no secret to punctuation, to sentence structure, and so on. Unfortunately, a lot of the upstarts will continue to be dragged down by issues of professionalism, not of financial resources or anything that used to be an obstacle to competing in the publishing world. Shame, that, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Currently listening to: Bottoms Up by Nickelback