Monday, February 11, 2008


One of the real pleasures of being a professional writer and of having been in this business for a long time (30 years and counting) is that sometimes you get to see young writers at the beginning of their careers and can watch them blossom.

I want to introduce you to a writer that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for his entire life (actually his dad directed the traveling production of GODSPELL I was in back in the late 1970s!).

His name is JADE SHAMES. Take a moment and get to know this young man.

He’s a poet, a playwright, a singer-songwriter, performance artist, and novelist. He wrote his first novel when he was fifteen, and it was a real killer about sex, drugs and psychological manipulation in high school. Not exactly Disney Channel stuff. Since then he’s studied playwriting and poetry in Paris and published a chapbook of poetry. He’s 22.

I first heard Jade read his poems at a night of spoken word we held at the Writers Corner USA. Words like ‘powerful’, ‘disturbing’, and ‘riveting’ seem inadequate, considering that most of the poems he read were written during his teenage years.

Here are a couple of examples...two of my favorites.


That guy at the bar
With that woman
With the cherry lipstick
And the stem of her glasses
Pinched between her perfectly white
Perfectly straight
Perfectly mint fresh chloride baking soda teeth
Letting her fingers slide out flat
Her cuticles rubbed with oil just a few hours ago
Her eyes locked and ready
Her nail polish
Her shampoo
Her blush
Her scent
Ready for him to take
That guy is Jim, a regular
He worked blue collared jobs
Until he became a famous poet
Where he wrote about his blue collared jobs
And regulars

So many times stared from across the room
Trying to sit like him
With his spine straight
Shoulders slouched
Fitted into a plaid red shirt
Beer in one hand
A grin so natural you..d think he had been grinning on the ultrasound photos
His other hand squeezing into his tight worn at the knees workman’s jeans
For another dollar
For another beer
For another woman
I am four thousand miles from him in this bar
Over with my friend, Thom
Who has one gimpy eye
Wild oil spill hair
Hunched over and hunched over again
Half a white Russian in one hand
And god knows where the other one is
A waitress with two handfuls of breasts keeps passing us
Keeps speaking in secret to a manager
Keeps pulling up her blouse and crossing her arms over her chest

And more than another drink
All I want is for everyone to be naked right now
And everyone would laugh
And be in love with everything.

For a moment I lose myself
And approach a blonde bartender with a LIVESTRONG yellow rubber bracelet
She looks busy but I get her attention anyway
..I would like to buy that guy over there another MooseHead,.. I point to Jim
..Say it..s from Jade,.. I say with a cranked smile
..From who?..
..No..uh, you know what, never mind...

I sink back into my seat next to Thom who is now part of the furniture
..What the hell am I doin.. here?.. He says.

No matter how many times I come here
I will never be a regular.


Category: Writing and Poetry

I am staring at the clock.

Kara isn't home.
It's 1:15 AM.
She's out with someone else.

Last summer,
We decided to share the apartment
Even though we were breaking up.

Now it's winter.
1:18 in the morning.

She told me last night that she met him at the bar.
She told me about how he fucked her so hard
She bled.

I'm making myself little snacks
Of cheese and crackers and tea with honey.
I am watching commercials on TV,
To pretend that I am not staring at the clock.

And I told her this morning that I want her to see him again.
And I told her this morning that I want her to be happy.
And I told her that the reason I still say, "I love you" before bed,
Or before I leave, or hanging up the phone,
It's in the hope that those words will stay with her
Though out her day,
And make her life just a little easier to bear.
This morning she cried in my arms.

It's 1:23.
And time is moving on.
And I am not.

********************** yourself a favor: check out his page at Subscribe to his blog.

And support the arts and offer to buy a copy of his chapbook, MOMENTUM. Every page is a jewel.

Would I be saying all of this if I didn’t know him and just stumbled onto his stuff online? Yeah. Absolutely. Check it out. See for yourself.

-Jonathan Maberry

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bram Stoker Award 2007 Preliminary Ballot

Bram Stoker Award 2007 Preliminary Ballot

Superior Achievement in a Novel
The Guardener's Tale by Bruce Boston (Sam's Dot)
Mr. Hands by Gary Braunbeck (Leisure)
Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand (Small Beer Press)
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
Ghoul by Brian Keene (Leisure)
The Missing by Sarah Langan (Harper)
Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry (Pinnacle)
The Midnight Road by Tom Piccirilli (Bantam)
The Terror by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
The Dust of Wonderland by Lee Thomas (Alyson Books)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
I Will Rise by Michael Calvillo (Lachesis Publishing)
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
The Memory Tree by John R. Little (Nocturne Press)
Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth (Permuted Press)
The Hollower by Mary SanGiovanni (Leisure Books)
Vacation by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines by D. L. Snell (Permuted Press)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
"Afterward, There Will Be A Hallway" by Gary Braunbeck (Five Strokes to Midnight)
"Almost the Last Story, by Almost the Last Man" by Scott Edelman (Postscripts)
"Survival of the Fittest" by Scott Edelman (Summer Chills)
"You Never Got Used to the Needle" by John Everson (Needles and Sins)
Blood Coven by Angeline Hawkes & Christopher Fulbright (Dead Letter Press)
General Slocum's Gold by Nicholas Kaufmann (Burning Effigy Press)
Placeholders by John R. Little (Necessary Evil Press)
Blood Wish by Michael McBride (Delirium Books)
Frayed by Tom Piccirilli (Creeping Hemlock Press)
Lost in Translation by Gord Rollo (NYX Books)
"An Apiary of White Bees" by Lee Thomas (Inferno)
"Trolling Lures" by Steve Vernon (Hard Roads)

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
"The Death Wagon Rolls On By" by C. Dean Andersson (Cemetery Dance #57)
"The Heart Of The City" by Sandy DeLuca & Michael McCarty (Hungur #4)
"Longtime Gone" by Kurt Dinan (Chizine #34)
"Letting Go" by John Everson (Needles and Sins)
"Hungry for the Flesh" by Lisa Manetti (Space and Time #100)
"The Wizard of Ooze" by Michael McCarty & Linnea Quigley (Midnight Premiere)
"Mr. Creator" by Joe McKinney (The Sound of Horror)
"The Teacher” by Paul G. Tremblay (Chizine)
"There's No Light Between Floors" by Paul G. Tremblay (Clarkesworld)
"The Gentle Brush of Wings" by David Niall Wilson (Defining Moments)

Superior Achievement in an Anthology
Five Strokes to Midnight edited by Gary Braunbeck and Hank Schwaeble (Haunted Pelican Press)
Horror Library Volume 2 edited by R. J. Cavender & Vincent VanAllen (Cutting Block Press)
Inferno edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor)
Dark Delicacies 2: Fear edited by Del Howison & Jeff Gelb (Carroll & Graf/Avalon)
High Seas Cthulhu edited by William Jones (Elder Signs Press)
Horrors Beyond 2 edited by William Jones (Elder Signs Press)
Astounding Hero Tales edited by James Lowder (Hero)
History is Dead edited by Kim Paffenroth (Permuted Press)
Midnight Premiere edited by Tom Piccirilli (Cemetery Dance Publications)
Gratia Placenti edited by Jason Sizemore & Gill Ainsworth (Apex Publications)

Superior Achievement in a Collection
Proverbs for Monsters by Michael A. Arnzen (Dark Regions Press)
The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books
Darker Loves by James Dorr (Dark Regions Press)
Needles and Sins by John Everson (Necro Publications)
When it Rains and Other Wreckage by Christopher Fulbright (Doorways Publication)
Voyeurs of Death by Shaun Jeffrey (Doorways Publication)
No Further Messages by Brett Alexander Savory (Delirium)
Sparks and Shadows by Lucy Snyder (HW Press)
5 Stories by Peter Straub (Borderlands)
Defining Moments by David Niall Wilson (Sarob Press)

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction
Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshue Gee (Scholastic)
The Science of Stephen King by Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)
The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich, and Powerful Really Died by Michael Largo (Harper)
The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange & Downright Bizarre by Jonathan Maberry & David F. Kramer (Citadel Press / Kensington)
Storytellers Unplugged by Joe Nassise and David Niall Wilson (Storytellers Unplugged)

Superior Achievement in Poetry
Being Full of Light, Insubstantial by Linda Addison (Space and Time)
Mary Falls: Requiem for Mrs. Surratt by Christopher Conlon (The Word Works)
Tango in the Ninth Circle by Corrine de Winter (Dark Regions Press)
Heresy by Charlee Jacob (Bedlam Press [Necro Publications])
VECTORS: A Week in the Death of a Planet by Charlee Jacob & Marge Simon (Dark Regions Press)
Phantasmapedia by Mark McLaughlin (Dead Letter Press)
Sometimes While Dreaming by Marcie Lynn Tentchoff (Sam's Dot)
Your Cat & Other Space Aliens by Mary Turzillo (VanZeno Press)



In a previous blog I mentioned that when you pitch your novel you need to have a strong synopsis ready to roll. Next to query letters the synopsis is the single most dreaded piece of writing a writer faces. But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some notes on writing that pesky synopsis.


*****: A synopsis is a narrative summary of your novel, written with brevity but with style and feeling.

*****: A synopsis is always written in present tense.

*****: A synopsis is always written in third person.

*****: A synopsis is written in the same style as your book, which means if the novel is spooky and moody, then so is the synopsis. If your book is action-packed, fast-paced, filled with dialect, or any other style, your synopsis should be as well.

*****: The synopsis introduces all of your main characters and each of their essential conflicts, all woven together in the narrative. (It does not list your characters.)

*****: Weaving, by the way, is important. One paragraph should flow logically to the next. If you are switching ideas, you need to make sure you build in a transition to connect your paragraphs.

*****: You do not have to include every character or every scene, plot point, or subplot in your synopsis. But your synopsis should give a clear idea as to what your book is about, what characters we will care about (or dislike), what is at stake for your heroes, what they stand to lose, and how it all turns out.

*****: Yes, you must put the conclusion to your novel in your synopsis. No cliffhangers or teasers. Agents and editors want to know that you know how to successfully conclude your story. (Often agents don't read the synopsis until after they've read the entire ms--but not always.)


In the upper left hand corner you should have the following info: Synopsis of "Title here" Genre:................. Word count: By__________

Synopsis of PATIENT ZERO
140,000 Words
By Jonathan Maberry

*****: If the synopsis is going to run one page, single-space it.

*****: Synopses longer than one page should be double-spaced. Its paragraphs are usually indented, with no spaces between paragraphs.

*****: Don’t use a cover page or any fancy headings or fonts. Stick with Times New Roman or Courier, at 10-12 points (12 is preferred unless you’re really trying to fit it to one page)


*****: Does the opening paragraph have a strong narrative hook to grab the reader and keep him reading?

*****: Are your main characters' conflicts clearly defined?

*****: Are your characters sympathetic?

*****: Can the reader relate to them and worry about them?

*****: Have you avoided all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes?

*****: Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book?

*****: Did you resolve all important conflicts?

*****: Did you use present tense?

Monday, January 21, 2008

FINDING AN AGENT Part 3 we’re onto the next phase of finding a literary agent.

When you have your manuscript nice and clean, then the next stage is to build that list of agents. First, a quick recap of one important bit: I recommend using to search for recent deals in your genre/subgenre. Look for deals by the significant authors in your genre. The deal listings will name the agent who represented the book and the editor who purchased it. Here’s an example of a one of my own deal listings from Publishers Marketplace.

Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry's PATIENT ZERO, in which a Baltimore police detective is recruited by a secret government organization to help stop a group of terrorists from launching a weaponized plague against America that turns its citizens into zombies, to Jason Pinter at St. Martin's, in a three-book deal (including PATIENT ZERO), by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger.

When you see “to” before a name, that’s the editor; “by” indicates the agent.

You can then do searches on the editor to see the other books they’ve bought (and the agents who repped them), and you can search the agents by name. You can also search the categories (fiction debut, thriller, young adult, etc.) and that’ll pull up a couple of years’ worth of listings.

Make sure you double-check to see if the agent and/or editor is still at that firm before you pitch. These folks move like nomads. For example, the editor who bought my books at St. Martin’s Press, Jason Pinter, is no longer there. He scored his own book deal and has left editing to writer crime novels for Mira.

Also, when compiling your list of agents you have to remember that the better ones typically have very few spots left on their lists, and that means that they’ll be very picky when agreeing to look at works from new authors. You have to pitch the hell out of it.

In one of my earlier blogs I posted a sample of a book pitch letter to an agent. Go take a look at that. I landed an agent with that letter; students of mine have used variations on it to sell their works.

Okay, so now you have your list and your query letter. The next step is to get that letter out to everyone on your agent list. Never do the one-at-a-time method. Years pass, you get old, stars burn out to carbon cinders before you get through the whole list. This is your career, be pro-active.

The way I did it, I sent ten copies of that letter out to agents. I got six go-aheads to submit material (four partials and two complete manuscripts).

Normally agents take anywhere from 3 months to an entire age of the world to get back to you. They’re busy, yeah I get that. I suggest following up with a note or an email after a few weeks, just to see if they’re aware that it’s in their office. Some may snap back at you for pestering them. Too bad, this is business and follow-up is a part of any business. The trick is to be very brief, business formal, and business casual. Something like:

“Dear Kira,

Just following up to see if you received the partial on BIG FAT NOVEL, which you requested last month.

Joe Schmoe”

When approaching an agent, here’s what you should have ready:

QUERY LETTER: Use good quality stationary and matching envelopes; do not hand write anything except your signature; include either a self-addressed and stamped envelope, or SASE, or request a reply via email. Or both.

COMPLETE MANUSCRIPT: Have it clean, edited, and in final draft. Never query with an unfinished manuscript –not unless you already have an agent and books in print. NOTE: Your manuscript should be in Times New Roman (or Courier), 12 point type, double-spaced, with the default margins of Microsoft Word. Paragraphs should be indented and there should be no spaces between paragraphs. Print only in black on paper that is 94 or 96 brightness (or better). Don’t bother with expensive watermarked paper; just make sure it’s as bright and opaque as possible. I also BOLD the entire manuscript as it creates better contrast between paper and ink, which makes it easier on the eyes of the editor or agent. This courtesy costs a little extra, but courtesy is always appreciated. Also, when mailing the manuscript, mark the envelope with REQUESTED MATERIALS; otherwise it’ll vanish into a slush pile somewhere.

MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS: This is a list of books that would in your same genre/subgenre. List about a dozen and include the title, author, publisher (including imprint), date of original publication, page count and format (paperback, trade paperback, or hardcover). I usually offer this in my query and include it, asked or unasked, with the manuscript. You want the agent (or editor) to know where you think your book belongs; you want to make it clear that it’s part of an established genre; and you want to send a message that the genre is active. This marketplace analysis is your argument that your book can and will sell because there is a ready market out there made up of readers of these other authors.

SYNOPSIS: Have a short 3-5 page synopsis of the entire story, written in present tense (weird, yeah, but that’s how they do it). Be lively and have fun with the writing. Run this by a few friends to see how it reads, and try reading it aloud to look for clunky sentences.

Now you’re ready to roll.

There’s more to say on finding an agent (particularly in regards to networking), so we’ll come back to this topic later this week.

Good luck!
Jonathan Maberry

Friday, January 18, 2008



After you’ve made the “Hey, I need an agent!” decision, the next step is to identify the right one for you. And the first step in that is to make sure you don’t fall prey to some of the many, many unscrupulous agents in the business.

Literary agents get 15% of your gross and that fee is taken out of the checks sent from a publisher. They also get percentages of foreign sales, film rights, etc., but the bottom line is that agents make their living off of fees based on actual sales. And, take note, you’ll know the exact amount of your advance from the contract you sign with the publisher and you’ll get an end of year accounting from the agent that clearly shows what monies were received by the publisher, the amount of their fee-based deduction, and the monies disbursed to you. With royalties you’ll be given a copy of the royalties breakdown, which is sent by the publisher to the agent along with the royalties check. The agent will deduct the agency fee and send a check along with a copy of the royalties breakdown to you.

Since I posted the first part of this thread the other day I’ve received a lot of email from writers who have been gouged by agents who charge all sorts of fees: submission fees, reading fees, evaluation fees, marketing fees, and even editing fees. Even though these practices are technically legal (though prohibited by agent trade organizations), I always advise my students and friends to avoid those agents like the plague. An agent living off of incremental pre-sale fees is in business to make those fees. There’s no incentive for them to ever sell anything.

Some agents will offer to sell additional services, such as website design, PR kits, catalog placement for book events and fairs, print and Internet ads, book cover designs (publishers always use their own designs, so these would be a pointless waste of cash), business cards, writing class enrollments, etc. These are all money-gouging scams.

There are exceptions, sure. Some good agents do charge fees for copying and postage. Of all the fees discussed those are the ones a writer might agree to. Making copies of a hefty manuscript and mailing copies around is expensive. Okay, that one’s a maybe. But if they ask for submission or reading fees then look elsewhere.

I know a lot of agents, and every legitimate agent I know holds most kinds of fee-charging agents in contempt. Yes, I understand it’s a way for a start-up agency to get operating capital. Sorry, I have no sympathy for that. Take out a business loan or mortgage your house –don’t fleece the author.

Agents that charge to edit your book are also suspicious. More often a good agent who likes your book but believes it to need work will suggest that you go out and find a book editor (not a book doctor –a topic for another time) and then come back with the revised version. They will seldom if ever even suggest an editor. It’s an ethical point, a conflict of interest.

Freelance editors abound (but check them out, too). Get references if you can and follow up with those references. A rare few agents may work with you to edit your book, but this is less common and it chews up an agent’s time.

I’ve heard of a few agents who routinely steer their clients toward self-publishing, POD (print on demand), vanity press, e-publishing, or other services where the author has to pay some or all of the expense of having their book published, distributed, or placed. Don’t go there. Legitimate agents SELL your book, they don’t pimp it for vanity press ‘publishers’.

There’s a great resource for writers who want to check to see if an agent has a shady track record. is great. It’s not complete, of course, but it’s pretty damn far-reaching.

Also, there’s a pretty scathing expose of these fee-based agents, TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell by former FBI agent Jim Fisher (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004; hardback). And check out THE STREET SMART WRITER: Self Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World by Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven (Nomad Press, 2006; trade paperback).

In my next blog we’ll talking about how to build a target list of reputable agents who are positioned to sell your kind of book and have the track-record and connections to do so.

Please feel free to use this blog thread to share your experiences (good and bad) with finding agents. The more everyone knows, the better everyone’s chances are in getting sold without getting fleeced.

If you have a question you don’t want to post on the blog thread, drop me an email at

Tune in tomorrow and until then...write like you mean it!

Jonathan Maberry

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


For the first twenty-five years of my writing career I didn’t have a literary agent. Most of my early sales were magazine features and columns for which you don’t use an agent; and then a few textbook sales which tend to yield money so small an agent would like set himself on fire rather than bother with making that kind of deal.

When I decided to try and break into fiction --something totally new for me—I figured I needed an agent. Now I needed to find one. Any writer who hits that moment realizes how daunting it is. Unsigned writers fear agents because they know that to a very great degree there’s no way to get sold without one.

First thing I did was to ask everyone I know who had an agent for suggestions on how to go about finding one. They all said the same thing, and the advice they gave SOUNDED right at first, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it. What they said was: “Find a low-level or mid-level agent, someone who is just getting in the business, and sign with them. They’re the only ones looking to take on new clients and you can rise with them.”

Sounds good, right? Sounds reasonable. Think again.

Business is all about messaging. There’s always a subtext to anything said in business. That said, think of the message that you send out if you only try for agents who are either bottom-rung or brand new to the business. It says: “My work isn’t good enough to be represented by a top agent.” Sadly that message comes across loud and clear.

That didn’t work for me. I have more faith in my writing than that (as subjective as that might be) and I wanted a really good agent.

So I sat back and thought about who and what an agent is and made some reasonable deductions:

Agents are human. Not Olympian gods. I’d met some at writers conferences. None of them had horns, none of them threw lightning bolts.

Agents are working stiffs, too. There have to be good and bad agents. There have to be lucky or unlucky agents. There have to be rising stars and has-beens. There have to well-connected agents and those to whom most doors are still closed. That’s the way every business is, no matter what business we’re talking about.

Some of today’s top writers are still repped by the agents that handled their first works. The biggest deals are made by agents on the inside track of the business. Read the market news, this bears out most of the time. If so, then big agents must be taking on new clients (who then go on to make big money).

One of the common pieces of good advice for writers trying to find an agent is to look in the dedication and acknowledgments pages of books by writers of the same genre. Writers often thank their agents (and editors) and that’s a great way of beginning to build a target list.

Other resources include using (which costs $20/month) and (free) to search for agents whose recent track record shows that they have the chops and connections to make decent deals for authors. It’s worth checking those resources to see who is representing debut authors as well.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the next steps to take.

Keep Writing!

Jonathan Maberry (my author website)

Career Doctor for Writers (my consulting business)

Writers Corner USA (the writers center I co-founded)


Monday, January 14, 2008



Only four months and counting...

BAD MOON RISING, the final book of the Pine Deep Trilogy (which began with 2006’s GHOST ROAD BLUES and continued with 2007’s DEAD MAN’S SONG) will be released everywhere on May 8.

I’m getting pretty excited about the release of BAD MOON RISING, and for a number of reasons. First, the book has one hell of a lot of action in it. The growing threat discussed in the first two books explodes in the third and the second half of that book is basically one big, rolling battle between the dwindling forces of good and the swelling forces of evil. The dead rise to attack the world of the living with a Red Wave of murder. I had sooooo much fun writing that book.

The book also has a fun twist in that I’ve written a lot of real-world people into the book. I tapped a number of good folks in the horror industry and asked if I could write them into the story. Since the book deals with a massive Halloween celebration (during which very bad things happen) I wanted to have some fun with blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. So... I contacted a bunch of friends in the horror biz and asked if I could write them into the book. They all agreed, so in BAD MOON RISING you can expect to meet TOM SAVINI (make-effects wizard), STEPHEN SUSCO (screenwriter for the Grudge flicks), JAMES GUNN (screenwriter of the new Dawn of the Dead), BRINKE STEVENS (scream queen), DEBBIE ROCHON (scream queen), KEN FOREE (star of the original Dawn of the Dead), JIM O’REAR (stuntman and haunted attraction consultant), and JOE BOB BRIGGS (drive-in movie critic and actor). Also making a brief appearance is MEM SHANNON (one of my all-time favorite Bluesmen!).

And these folks aren’t just doing walk-ons. They actually get into the action. Question is...will they make it out of Pine Deep alive?

This is going to be fun!

Jonathan Maberry